Motivation for mere mortals

In my last post I covered an excellent article in the Costco Connection and promised Scott Jurek’s tips on health, nutrition and exercise. So here they are. I could really have used these back in the days of my serious running.


RECOGNIZING THAT NOT everyone is talking about running extreme distances, The Costco Connection asked ultramarathoner Scott Jurek for some exercise, nutrition and motivational advice that could apply to anybody looking to perhaps up his or her physical conditioning. Here’s what he had to say.

The Costco Connection: What motivates you?

Scott Jurek: Others. At the Hardrock 100 [Endurance Run], I didn’t have a place to stay; all the places were booked. So, I just camped out on track, cheering for the finishers as they came in. [Staying at the finish line] became a tradition. There is something magical about experiencing that energy; it’s motivating and inspiring to watch. You get a sense of what people have gone through to get there and you can relate to it. I recommend anybody who isn’t a runner to go to a finish line and get inspired. Everybody assumes you have to be a serious athlete or super-fast to race; it’s really neat to see a wide range of people competing.

CC: What motivational tips do you have for others?

SJ: Dedicate your goal, whatever it might be, to something, to someone. It will help you in moments when you feel like you can’t go on. When I set the American record at the 2010 [International Association of Ultrarunners] World 24-Hour Championships, my mother had passed away a couple of months earlier. I dedicated that race to her. There were times I wanted to quit, but then I reminded myself: “I’m running this for her.”

CC: Exercise tips?

SJ: Stretch throughout the day, even at your workstation. I sometimes do yoga poses after a run. I also integrate core workouts into my routine. Strength training will help injury prevention.

CC: Other tips for avoiding injury?

SJ: Train smart. Don’t try to do too much, too soon. Listen to your body, and give it time to adapt when you are trying something new. It might help to work with a physical therapist, or someone who can help you safely reach your goals. Get the proper nutrition you need to support what you are doing athletically. Staying healthy is about the whole picture, not just one workout. It’s about eating well, and doing things throughout the day to improve your health.

CC: What food items should we all eat more of?

SJ: Dark, leafy greens, like kale, collards, arugula and romaine. Fruit—I am a fan of fruit in the morning or for snacks. Whole grains and whole beans are inexpensive, and you get a complete protein when they are combined together. Tempe and tofu: Tempe makes great sloppy Joes and chili. Tofu is great to cook with because it can take on so many different textures and tastes. Healthy oils, such as extravirgin olive oil, coconut oil and flaxseed oil.

CC: What advice can you pass along for anybody who wants to eat healthier and get active?

SJ: Preparation is important. Go to the store with a list. Have a cook-off on Sunday, where you make meals you will eat during the week. Plan your meals and exercise a week ahead of time. Having groups to run with and have meals with can help you reach your goals. Have an exercise plan the day or night before. Setting out clothes the night before makes you more apt to wake up and do your workout.

CC: You are vegan—do you see health advantages to a non-vegan diet?

SJ: There’s nothing wrong with eating some meat; [our society] is just eating too much. The beauty of the human body is that we’re omnivores. We can eat anything. For me, a plant-based diet keeps me on track; it helps me keep focused. For other people, they might keep healthy by choosing to integrate good quality meat or wild game into their diets.

CC: Other tips for diet change?

SJ: Focus on integration instead of elimination of food. Think about what you can eat, instead of what you can’t. Experiment gradually. Pick one or two foods a week that you don’t normally eat. Try to incorporate them into a few meals a week. Be flexible. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off your diet regimen or goal. It took me a year and a half to transition fully into a vegan diet. If you are looking for consistency and sustainability long term, give yourself transition time. Involve others. Form a support system. Invite your family or your co-workers to get involved. Prepare and share meals together. It will make reaching your goal a lot easier.

For my perspective on nutrition for sports, you can watch my webinar: Fueling For Peak Performance.