Marathon Mom: Reap What You Sow

Dear Marathon Mom,
I’m planting a garden for the first time this year, and I’m starting to design my garden and plan what I’ll plant where. I’m really trying to increase my self-sufficiency with foods, knowing that will also inspire a healthier diet (you can’t grow ice cream, right?) Can you suggest some running-friendly foods – meaning, foods I can grow and then eat for optimal running fitness?

Sweatband Gardener

Dear Sweatband Gardener,
I am so excited for you taking this huge step toward more self-sufficiency and intimate knowledge of where your food comes from–kudos!

You didn’t mention where you live, so I can’t tell you the best time to start planting (although a quick internet search, a library book on the subject, or someone at your local gardening store would easily be able to tell you), but I’d love to name some of my personal top picks for runner-friendly foods.

Avocados–This ‘alligator pear’ of the gods is the best food on earth in my humble opinion, so if you live in California or a similar climate, please consider adding some avocado trees to your garden or yard. Chalk full of healthy fats, consuming a half or whole avocado the evening after a hard run is not only going to make your taste buds thank you, but it will also help you feel more recovered in the morning.

Kale–This has been a rising star in the ‘superfood’ category for awhile now, but don’t let the hype annoy you and turn you away; this fibrous green leaf has become famous for very valid reasons. Kale is super rich in some of runners’ most necessary nutrients, including calcium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D, among others. If you can’t bring yourself to chew it raw, try it baked into chips (simply drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt over broken up leaves and bake for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees), or blended into your favorite smoothly mix.

Spinach–With many of the same benefits as Kale, spinach is sometimes preferred by people who like the less bitter flavor. Plus, it’s about as versatile as greens come; the only think I wouldn’t be inclined to add spinach to is cereal and ice cream…although now that I’ve started thinking about it, I’m sure some cunning culinary genius could find a way to make that work too. Need more convincing? Spinach just may be one of the easiest things to grow–at least here in Seattle. In more mild winters it will grow year-round, ensuring you always have one of nature’s antioxidant snacks just a quick wash away from feeding your hungry runner tummy.

Potatoes–sweet, russet, purple…they are all a powerhouse of nutrients and carbohydrates that are excellent for runners leading up to a big run or recovering from a long run or race. Potatoes make a great side dish to just about any healthy meal, or you could let it be the star by piling on vegetables, quark (a healthier alternative to sour cream), and a reserved amount of cheese for a mouthwatering baked potato feast.

Berries–I tried, but I couldn’t pick just one. Whatever berry you’re able to grow in your climate–blueberry, raspberry, huckleberry, blackberries, strawberries, currants, etc.–do it! Edible berries offer tons of antioxidants, fiber, and more minerals and vitamins that I have room to list. You just can’t go wrong with berries, so pick your favorites and remember to water those little nutritional powerhouses.

At the end of day, a diet very rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, with a side of carbohydrates and as little refined sugar as you can function without (preferably none), is going to lead you to positive health results, improved mental clarity, and more enjoyable running overall. I’ve only listed my favorites above, but rest assured the list of runner-healthy garden foods is pages long.

Gardens can be a lot of work to set up and build, but once you have it established, you receive near-constant rewards for your efforts with a regular bounty of delicious, healthy food. Any gardener or farmer can attest–food simply tastes better when you grew it yourself, as nothing beats the seasoning of satisfaction

Best of luck and happy digging!
Audra Rundle, Marathon Mom