I successfully completed my first night run of training season – which is kind of impressive considering we were doing hill repeats on my LEAST favorite bridge in the city! It’s not even a steep elevation gain (The Purple People Bridge in Cincinnati) …I just mentally HATE that bridge because it is always the last section of our long runs, so running it six times last night was a definite accomplishment for me!!!
Before our run I had a conversation with a friend who told me she’d struggled with the first night run last week because she’s not a night runner… And it got me thinking – conditioning your body to run at different times of day can be challenging. And there are several variables that go into the difference between a morning and evening run –
Body & Leg Fatigue from the Day
When we run in the morning, we are basically operating on a clean slate (assuming we made good food and hydration choices the night before). We’ve rested. We’re ready to go… But with a little conditioning – and proper prep – night running can be very invigorating and stress-reducing after a hard day.
When I first started running, I was operating under the myth that ‘Runners have to carbo-load before a run.’ I was almost obsessive about it – filling-up on pasta before evening runs and bagels before morning runs. (Trust me, if you’ve ever been on Mile 15 of an 18-Mile Run when your sugar drops and you realize you have no fuel left in the tank…you probably obsess about food too!)
But the longer I’ve been doing this; and the more people I’ve talked to – I’ve learned that our bodies thrive on more natural, unprocessed forms of carbohydrates.
YOU DO NOT NEED A PASTA DINNER BEFORE A RUN!!!!
I was as skeptical about this as anyone – and I’m still experimenting on shorter runs to see what works for me – but I am finding that I perform BETTER when I avoid processed sugars.
Here is what I had for dinner before my run last night. Baked Lemon-Dill Chicken with a Mushroom Glaze, Baked Sweet Potato Fries and Brussels Sprouts with a Bacon Cranberry Sauce
*I was a little nervous about how the Brussels sprouts would affect my stomach (I’ve learned that broccoli is NOT my friend) but the Brussels sprouts did fine.
*Also, I have to eat within the one – two hours before I run, but for people who prefer to run on an emptier stomach, this would be a great lunch the day of a night run or evening meal before a long run the next day.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Prep chicken by drizzling olive oil in the bottom of your baking dish (I use Pampered Chef stones for all of my baking)
Place chicken breasts in dish and turn a few times to coat in the oil
Cut a lemon and squeeze the juice evenly on chicken / Slice a second lemon and place over each chicken breast
Sprinkle with some dill weed seasoning
Bake chicken for 30-40 minutes
Peel a large sweet potato and cut into long, thin strips
Place on another baking dish and drizzle with olive oil
Toss the sweet potato fries to coat with oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper
Bake sweet potato fries with chicken (same temp and time – although I watch my fries to turn during cooking and for the crispiness I desire)
Fry four slices of bacon (I know…bacon? But you can use a low-sodium or turkey bacon variety…you really want the bacon for the grease – so I’m assuming you could make this vegan using coconut oil heated to a high temp…but I have NEVER tried it that way.)
While your bacon is frying – or beforehand if you’re really on top of things – chop your Brussels sprouts in halves…don’t forget to remove the stem-stumps (I know that seems pretty obvious – but it also seems like something I might forget to do the first time…hey, I was born a blonde)
Crumble the extra crispy bacon and save for later
Carefully place about a pound of Brussels sprouts into the grease (I buy the mesh bags of sprouts and use one bag)
Stir your sprouts so they evenly get crispy as the grease evaporates
Once most of the grease is gone, pour chicken (or veggie) stock in the pan to surround the sprouts (you don’t want to cover the sprouts completely…just enough to where the stock is about half-way up the height of the sprouts)
Reduce the temperature until you have a simmer on your stock and cover the dish and let it simmer
Heat another pan to medium heat and add olive oil or butter
Add a 4 or 8 oz. container of fresh, sliced mushrooms
Stir occasionally for 5-6 minutes (until mushrooms are brown)
Sprinkle mushrooms with 2 tbsp. of flour and stir until mushrooms are coated (you are creating a rue for the gravy, so if you are uber dedicated to no processed ingredients, this step could be removed and you could just have your sautéed mushrooms)
Add ¼ c of chicken (or veggie) stock and stir until thick
Remove the lid from your Brussels sprouts and allow the remaining stock liquid to evaporate as you stir in your bacon bits and some dried cranberries
If you’re really on-top of things – and prepped properly – it should all come together about the same time and be ready to serve in the 30-40 minutes it takes the chicken and sweet potato to bake…I usually have a little overlap on some items, so I put my oven on Warmer and stick any finished dishes in there until everything is ready
*Since this blog originally appeared, I have gone to a plant-based lifestyle - meaning no meat or dairy. This is still a great option for paleo-based athletes though.