I am Riley Flynn, I am a competitive runner in the St. Louis area, currently running for my college, Webster University, going into my Junior year. I have been running for the past 7 years only for the last 5 years has it really been a main focus in my life. I fell in love with the sport of cross country, a longer distance race that is over varying terrains other than roads. The distance for cross country is the 8k (PR 26:34) in college and the 5k in high school. I also run track which is a completely different type of racing, going from varying terrains to a track that is flat with not variations. In track I run a few different races, the 1500 meters (PR 4:14), the 3k steeplechase (PR 10:01), and the 5k (PR 16:06).
Fitness had always been a huge part of my life, before I started running I had spent that last 6 years progressing through the ranks of a martial art called Kuk Sool Won. Individual sports like martial arts gave me no room for slacking off and whatever the results were, it was always on me, which is one of the reasons I fell in love with running. Running is a unique sport because no matter how fast or slow you are, you are always in the race because you are not always running to win the race, but instead you are racing the clock. A lot of running is also self motivating, getting yourself up early to run before the heat or getting out and running on days where you are really not feeling the best, or you are tired from a long day’s work.
Everything fitness related has one thing in common that there is a lot more that goes into running then just running. When training for races you have a lot of running related workouts where you are running faster paces and running intervals, and days where you are running slower recovering from the previous workout. Then there are the days that distance runner hate the most lifting. Lifting is something that will help you become more powerful and more efficient runner as well as helping you run without your form breaking down.
Another huge part of fitness is nutrition for runners nutrition is a huge ongoing experiment for , especially if you are running long enough that you need to eat while on the run. First, before we get to on the run eating, the biggest question that I hear is what to eat before I run. Like I mentioned this is all a big experiment but the best thing that I can tell people is to eat only light foods. Dairy is heavy and can cause cramps so it may be better to stay away from milk, cheese, yogurt, and eat maybe a bagel or drink juice instead. For me I eat up till I run but some people need time to digest their food before they run. For eating while you run, there are so many different nutrition companies with different products the most common being the gels and the chews. I love the chews which are like fruit snacks with some more nutritional. People tend to take them every 45 minutes during the run to help you from hitting the “wall”.
"Dairy is heavy and can cause cramps so it may be better to stay away from milk, cheese, yogurt..."
You need to keep up your nutritional diet even when you are not running though. There are a couple of diets that runners tend to lean towards. The first and most common of the two is a high carb diet. So when you hear of carb loading before a race, eating a lot of pasta a couple of days before your race. It is all about filling up your carb storages so that you will have good quick energy. While on the other hand there is a high fat diet which is pretty new and becoming more popular in the marathon and ultramarathon community. The idea is that you never really fill up your carb storages so it forces your body to go to fats which is a more calorie dense fuel and your body holds more fat than carbs. Now there is not one right answer, everyone is different and their bodies will react in different ways you have to try the different diets to know what is right for you.
The last big point to hit on for running is sleep. Of course 8 or more hours of sleep is ideal. If for whatever reason you are not able to do that on a regular basis then get as much as you can your body is great at adapting. Making sure you get good sleep two days before a race is a good idea. To make sure you are well rested especially if your race is early in the morning. It is ideal to be up and moving around 3 hours before your race so when you warm up you do not have to exert as much energy to get your blood moving and your muscles warmed up.
"It is ideal to be up and moving around 3 hours before your race so when you warm up you do not have to exert as much energy to get your blood moving and your muscles warmed up."
Everyone has different motivations, different reasons for running. Now I put a lot into my running because I have a passion for the sport and competing. I want to better myself in every way I can. So I spend a lot of time taking care of my body and making myself lift and get up early to run making sure that I do the workouts to the best of my ability. Now for others it can be to better yourself by losing weight or to fill a void that is left after you are no longer on a team sport. I believe that the overall motivation of people who are running is to better themselves and to be a little bit better than they were the day before. Running is now something that I want to do, it used to be a have to do. I have to run today because my coach says so. I have fell in love with pushing my limits and it has become something I look forward to. Eventually anyone can hit that as long as you know why you are running.
Riley Flynn is both a cross country and track runner a Webster University where he studies Exercise Science.
He is a representation of how to properly guide your physical lifestyle through fitness, nutrition and sleep.