Ten weeks down!

When I made the decision to register for this year's Broad Street Run and follow the Inquirer's 15-week program for beginners, I didn't realize how much training for the event would impact other areas of my life.

Beyond hitting the pavement for my daily runs, I gained a greater perspective on my overall health and lifestyle. After seeking help from local running and nutrition coaches, I'm at the point in my training where I have it (mostly) figured out. I now know what works for me and my body. Here's what I've found:

What’s tough?

I realized early on that the sport was more of a mind game than a physical one.

There were, and still are, days when I don't want to run. But these are the days that count the most. There's an indescribable satisfaction I get after finishing a run when it could have been easier to skip it.

I've also found that running on a treadmill doesn't work for me. It's monotonous and uninspiring. Running outside makes me feel more connected to the sport. There's just something about feeling the air in your face and taking in the community on foot. But the four nor'easters that rattled the region in March made running outside nearly impossible. Unfortunately, this meant logging many miles on the treadmill. Through this, I learned about the power of self-talk.

"It's all about what you allow in your mind," said Philly native and certified running coach Dawn Roberts. "There are days when you'll be excited to run and there are days when you won't be. But you have to want to be better. You have to want to strive for a healthier life."

That mindset was key for me. Ultimately, no matter what life (or the weather) threw at me, everything boiled down to one question: "Do I want to cross the finish line?" The answer was always "yes." And that "yes" keeps me focused —  even on the treadmill.

"Find what works for you," said Roberts. "You have to train your mind to be successful."

What works?

Running long distance requires having the proper fuel. My life is pretty busy, so making sure that my kitchen is fully stocked with nutritionally sound food took a good amount of planning.

Sundays were the perfect opportunity to load up the pantry and prepare food for the week. I enjoy cooking, so I made three different meals on Sunday to give me some variety during the week for lunches and dinners.

“Meal prep is essential. Choose foods that you enjoy and that make you feel good,” nutritionist Olena Zinshtein explains.
Brandon T. Harden
“Meal prep is essential. Choose foods that you enjoy and that make you feel good,” nutritionist Olena Zinshtein explains.

Snacks were a bit trickier. I didn't want to run on an empty stomach, but I also didn't want to run right after eating.

To fill in the nutritional gaps in my knowledge, I sought advice from the founder of Center City's Key Nutrition, Olena Zinshtein.

"Fuel, prior to workouts, is essential when exercising. It's important to get a nice balance of complex carbs and proteins to fuel the muscles and to repair them," Zinshtein said.

I quickly felt how true this is. Lacking the right type and amount of fuel became noticeable halfway through a run. If I had too much food, I would feel heavy, but not enough food would make me feel fatigued.

"I think the most important thing is not skipping meals," Zinshtein said. "When you skip meals, you throw off your blood-sugar levels and that results in cravings. When you have more cravings, it's harder to stay on track."

Five weeks to go!

Race day is around the corner, and I feel great about completing Broad Street's 10-mile race. What I've learned so far is that your mind is the strongest muscle you have. Train it and you can really accomplish anything.

See you on May 6!