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Chicago Running Blog Lyfe Reviews Sustenance The Long Run

Fueling and Active Recovery; The Long Run 1

Obviously, I run. And I run long. But I’m also a waitress at a high-energy, high-volume, trendy restaurant,and my days at work can range from 4-14 hours of being on my feet, feet and legs that I have likely put 20-45 miles on that week. Furthermore, I have to wear Converses to work, which majorly complicates this whole “recovery” thing. You might like Converses for their hipster-casual vibe, but I hate Converses because they are the WORST SHOES EVER for long-distance runners, particularly those with pronated ankles and a myriad of other structural issues.


I love you. Come back to me.

I love you. Come back to me.

So how do I balance the two and try to prevent injury? A combination of factors, which I will discuss in parts. First up? Sleep and Nutrition

These 2 ingredients are indispensable to the life of my runs and the runs in my life. Waitressing can make getting in proper nutrition quite difficult–calories are not necessarily difficult to come by, but quality, balanced nutrition can be.  I don’t bring pre-prepared meals to work because a) we don’t have a microwave b) that is often my one chance to leave and take a break, and c) we have some very healthy options nearby. You just have to be willing to $$ for it. I always pack heat, ie snacks–smaller options are better, but I have to get fats, carbs, and protein in for good muscle recovery: string cheese, greek yogurt, pretzels, popcorn, vegan seitan jerky, almonds, crackers, both low-sugar, high-protein nutrition bars as well as protein bars with a bit more sugar content (but never more than the protein amount), cereal, apples. And yes, candy.

This is how I might break up a dinner shift, snack-wise:

  • 3:30-4:30: a little bit of commida (family meal), if it is something that I like/can eat; some tortilla chips (either now or during shift, as I want) and flatbread/lavash (used for our ceviches); then I will eat a mini meal of greek yogurt and pretzels/popcorn/carbs, or a substantial protein bar.
  • 4:30-8:30 or 9:30: typically difficult for me to eat, but we have the garnishes at the bar, which sometimes I may or may not nibble on (DON’T TELL MANAGEMENT), we often have to taste a new dish, and we have to taste test the different drinks as they come out to assure quality control and make sure that the guests will like them (we’re not knocking them back, we are using a straw, dipping, sealing and then into-mouth-ing). This actually is very important because if a drink is off-balance or something is awry, it is a PAIN IN THE A$$$$$$ to deal with taking it back to the bar, etc. No, these are not HUGE amounts of cals, but you would be very surprised how how quickly this adds up.
  • Also, candy is usually needed at some point for a short bolt of energy, and also for a different flavor than what we are getting from the bar.
  • Once the big rush is over, or if I really need something, I will grab one of my packs of almonds (can be squirreled away in an apron) or my string cheese, if I have a little bit more time. If I didn’t have my pretzels earlier, those will likely get consumed around then.
  • 9-End of Shift: Nutrition bar or greek yogurt (whatever I didn’t have before),
  • After work: Ice cream (you better believe that I don’t short sell myself even if it is 1 in the morning). Also, sometimes I go get froyo on the way home (it is literally on my path). But now they close earlier #asshats so this will be fewer and father between.
  • At home, post work: I have the ice cream and a meal–this is typically toast/english muffin/bagel thin with pbj, turkey/eggs, cereal, and some carrots I also make protein baked goods, and so those are often involved. With the ice cream added in, it is pretty substantial in terms of calories, but it can be difficult to curb the EVERYTHING IN MY MOUTH (twss) when you are exhausted and get started. Also, it actually can be a little bit helpful by keeping me from waking up quite so starving, so I can eat a smaller meal pre-workout the next morning, rather than making myself ill from over eating.

This is how I fuel the day before a long run: (ie my typical Saturday during training season)

  • Morning: bfast 1 prior to shakeout run; bfast 2 following–focus is on getting a bit more protein in for this bfast than usual–a bit more pb or egg in my oats, greek yog in addition
  • Off to work, nibbles of commida and chips
  • post work (around 2-3), “lunch”: very substantial-basically a meal from protein bar and a smoothie, or a decent sided sandwich and small salad
  • 5: greek yogurt typically (to get a bit more protein in); there will often be a little nap mixed in here as well, either before or after–my body has grown to expect this
  • 6: small, carb based dinner: Annie’s mac and cheese with tuna; bbq chix lean pocket
  • 7:30: ice cream with toast/original english muffin (white flour) with pb and jam
  • 8:30/9 (latest): nutrition bar (lower fiber/protein than usual)–Luna, Nugo Gluten free; low fiber/protein cereal with almond milk

Also, HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE-I typically have a gatorade the afternoon before a run to get in extra electrolytes.

Basically, I front-load the protein, fats, and veggies to the front of the day, carbs throughout, and tapering off volume as the day goes on.  After shift, I get off my feet, get Alex to work on my legs (if he’s available), and get comfy with my Roller and Lacrosse Ball. And go full compression 😀

He is my minion. Like Despicable Me but less prone to wearing overalls.


Best Pre-run Rituals. Only usually he is in a state because UVA is doing terrible things in football.

Best Pre-run Rituals. Only usually he is in a state because UVA is doing terrible things in football.

Then it is off to bed before 10 so that I can get at it a bit earlier the next morning.

I also am a snacker, remember, so this is not all that I am eating. I don’t shovel in all the foods the day before, but I don’t skimp either. My body is about to have a lot asked of it, and I owe it proper preparation.

So how can I gauge the importance of nutrition and sleep in my running? Well, how’s this for comparison: for one of my first long runs this marathon training cycle, I was unable to follow/properly prepare my nutrition the day before due to an unexpectedly busy brunch shift and a surprise double shift that night. Meaning I worked from 10 am until 1230 with 1 very short respite around 4. 80% of that time was spent on my feet, and the summer months lead to a very busy night shift as well. I hadn’t brought my usual snacks (I thought I would only be there a few hours!), I didn’t have backup plans, and I was completely flustered by the time I could eat, leading to the inability to make decisions. I think I had Special K and cashew butter as my snack? I don’t remember food for the rest of the night, but it was not what it should have been. And very little hydration due to my station in the restaurant.

Next day, I had 16 miles or so on the docket, and though the first 8 were ok, my stomach dropped out around 8.5 and I spent the next 1.5 miles fighting cramps, and breaking between walking/jogging as I frantically tried to find a bathroom. After dealing with the issue, I survived the rest of the run by run/walking and drinking as many fluids as possible. And then had a spectacular pratfall on the sidewalk that caused people to yell OH MY GOD across 5 lanes of traffic.


Didn’t feel good. I developed a massive hematoma, couldn’t sleep or be touched on that hip for about 2 weeks, and it was bruised a good month. Thank god, though, I had no structural damage-I have NO clue how, beyond my good instinct to roll myself mid-air, that I didn’t break something.

The next week, I developed my system of fueling, got a baby nap in, slept that night, and ran 18 miles no problem. I have since followed my system of fueling etc the day before my long runs, and knock on wood, the issues I have faced on my runs have not been related to GI or mental walls since when I follow this plan. The runs following late nights with odd eating generally don’t go well for me, and even if I can’t get my eating exact, as long as I follow the pattern as best I can, sleep and proper nutrition the day of can help to compensate. Like the situation the night before MCM.

Although I love this picture, I did not love the run that resulted the next day after dinner at 11:30 PM.

Although I love this picture, I did not love the run that resulted the next day after dinner at 11:30 PM.

Next up, I will discuss what I wear to get me through these shifts preceding and often just after my long runs or hard workouts.


How important have you found nutrition and sleep to be to your fitness success? How do you accommodate busy/abnormal schedules to improve your chances of success?

For those of you in situations that mean you can’t eat for long periods of time (doctors, nurses, etc), how have you adapted to overcome these constraints? Not just in prep for future runs, but on a daily basis?

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