Remember when running seemed so simple? Back when I started running 14 years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about leaving on a run without my watch. I listened to my body and ran whatever distance and pace felt right that day. Now I often catch myself being a slave to my GPS watch; waiting and waiting for my watch to locate satellites so that it will “let” me run, telling my exact mileage, time and pace. It’s apparent that running has become much more complicated over the years with upgrades in gadgets, shoes and accessories. Maybe it is time we reexamine all the new gimmicks and trends and go back to simpler ways. Here are four tips on how to fall in love with running all over again by taking a more minimalist approach.

1. Fuel your body with real, whole foods.

In 2013, a few months after my first marathon and shortly after graduating from NC State with a degree in Nutrition Science, I began working for Viva Raw, a local cold-pressed juice company in Charlotte. I started paying better attention to my body and noticed that a mostly whole foods, plant-based diet was providing more energy and making me a stronger athlete. I didn’t feel so sluggish anymore. While I don’t follow a perfect 100% plant-based diet, I do concentrate on eating more vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, quinoa and tofu. I try to drink a lot of water each day and I incorporate Viva Raw cold-pressed juices into my lifestyle as a supplement for added nutrients. I avoid the standard Western diet of meat, dairy, refined carbohydrates and processed foods as much as possible and it makes a world of difference.

Post Injection Ortho 5K

Ortho 5K

Beet juice is my go-to for running as it can help improve stamina. Beets are a rich source of healthy nitrates, which our bodies metabolize into nitric oxide. This in turn increases dilation of the blood vessels and improves blood flow, making it a great natural performance enhancer. I drink one bottle of Viva Raw’s Beet Boost about an hour and a half to two hours prior to long runs or races and the benefits are astounding. Step aside energy gels!

2. Wear running shoes that promote natural movement of the foot.

Major running shoe brands are always coming out with new gimmicky running shoes that have more of this or more of that. Instead of extra thick, cushioned shoes, give a minimalist running shoe a try for more injury-free movement. I prefer Topo Athletic zero drop shoes, such as the ST-2. If you are unfamiliar with Topo, their philosophy is to “encourage a better running and fitness experience through instinctive and natural movement.” They develop footwear that honors the shape and biomechanics of the human foot. Gumbo, the sister store to Okra Yoga, is currently the only store in Charlotte where you can find Topo running shoes. They even offer a free ChiRunning/Walking Workshop with any minimalist shoe purchase.

3. Disconnect during your run.

It seems most people who exercise around me nowadays are bogged down by smart phones, smart watches, iPods and more. I understand they are sometimes necessary for an intense training or a long run, but every now and then try shedding the technology and become in tune with your body and the outdoors. Technology is a running aide only; we should never let it become the center of our attention. Which leads to my last tip…

4. Don’t take training so seriously.

We are all human. Training for a race is not always going to be perfect. You are not always going to feel your best. As I said before, be in tune with your body. Switch up your workouts or take a rest day if you feel it’s necessary. Running should be challenging, but it should be enjoyable and satisfying above all else. It is very important not to run yourself into the ground.

Take some time to think about what is essential to your running routine. Let go of the excess and just have some fun!

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] I would love to hear any thoughts you have on the minimalist approach to running.

Photographer credit: Jordan Allen

Jordan Allen