In April, I celebrated my 30th birthday. For so much of my life, 30 seemed… so far away. I can still remember the days of thinking “When I turn 30, I’ll be married with two kids, own a house in the mountains, and be the CEO of my own business.” Lofty goals for an age that seemed so distant yet came so quickly. Not shockingly, most of those aspirations are still in the works, but what I do have is something I never expected: at 30 years, I am the healthiest, fittest, strongest, and fastest that I’ve ever been.
The good news is you don’t have to be an ultrarunner—or even a runner—to lead a lifestyle of health and wellness. In fact, if you’re not already a runner, finding balance with your health may lead to an interest in giving running a try.
Here are 10 tips, learned over the last 30 years, to incorporate into your life if you’re in search of health, wellness, and happiness.
Be your own advocate.
When it comes to your health, no one knows your own body more than you do. If something feels off, don’t let others, including health professionals, be dismissive. More than once, I’ve been told “oh, you’re fine” or “you’re just stressed”, to later find out it was something more serious.
Get a blood test.
Most people only get a blood test when it’s the doctor’s order. Even then, how many people ever actually see the results or know what they mean? Most of the time, you’re just hearing and doing whatever your doctor tells you. New services, such as those offered by InsideTracker, make you a stakeholder in the process because you see and learn your numbers and what they mean. Moreover, they can make suggestions to help get you on the right track. For example, my blood test revealed that I was quite low in vitamin D and iron. Both are now essential components of my daily routine. For iron, try Floradix, Flora’s liquid iron supplement or Floravitalif you’re looking for a yeast- and gluten-free option. Travel a lot? No problem! Flora also makes an iron tablet that is super easy to travel with.
Snacks, snacks, snacks.
Nail your snack game and you’ll forever avoid being hangry. I like to snack at least twice a day. On days when I’m really active, four times. Make a list of easy snacks. I have a mid-morning snack list (Clif Bar, muffin, mixed nuts with dried fruit and Flora Baobites), a pre-run snack list (fruit with honey, pretzels), post-run snack list (sweet potato with nut butter, package of oatmeal with Greek yogurt), and a bedtime snack list (Greek yogurt with dried fruit, hot chocolate, cheese with crackers). Most of these items can be purchased in bulk for the week and don’t require a lot of prep. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to a nutritionist. Working with a nutritionist is one of the best health investments I’ve ever made. Unless you’re a nutritionist yourself, it’s hard to know exactly what your body needs, in what quantity, and when, especially when there are so many nutrition fads floating around the internet.
Develop your cold remedy.
Feeling super tired all of a sudden? You might be getting sick. In addition to ensuring you get enough sleep, start helping your body fight back as soon as possible. When I start to feel a cold coming on, it’s time for some serious antioxidants. My favorite cold fighters: Flora’s Elderberry Crystals (in just about everything) and Flora’s Cold Stop tea with their new Manuka Honey.
Track your cycle.
This one is for my ladies out there. While having your period can be unpleasant, there are so many reasons to celebrate. Your period is essentially a “monthly” health check. Irregular periods or loss of your period (amenorrhea) should be addressed with your doctor. Beyond other causes, simply put, you do not need to have an eating disorder or disordered eating to have an energy imbalance that can lead to loss of your period. Women of all shapes and sizes, especially those who are physically active, can experience this. Why so much concern? Among other reasons, loss of the menstrual cycle is associated with decreased estrogen levels, and lower estrogen levels can lead to osteoporosis. Even if your periods are regular, tracking your cycle can help you determine where in your cycle you are, which can help athletes, in particular, understand how to properly fuel their bodies and explain any noticeable trends in training and racing. Check out this article by Megan Roche on the relationship between running and your menstrual cycle.
How many times have you checked your email today? Facebook? Instagram? We are a society that is insanely connected and constantly has our heads down. I recently met a woman who, after realizing that she was walking along the beach with her head down the whole time, literally had the words “look up” tattooed on her feet. Try spending an entire day disconnected from technology. Put your phone on silent, keep your laptop closed, and turn the TV off. Instead, spend time outdoors. Nature is its own magical kind of medicine—and it’s free!)—so much so that doctors in the UK are even prescribing it to their patients.
Don’t be afraid of quitting.
Quitting comes in so many forms, from leaving a job you dislike to ending an unhealthy relationship. I have quit so many things in my life, it’s almost comical at this point. But I’ve learned the things I’ve stuck with are the things I really care about. Quitting or leaving something behind can be gut-wrenching and heart-breaking, but instead of dwelling on the potential disappointment of what I’ve left, I try to focus on the things I am still invested in. By shifting your focus, you can start to understand why you’re still doing the things you do and find ways to cultivate your passion for that endeavor. Not sure what to do in a situation? Follow your gut. It’s usually right.
Leaving behind everything but the essentials can be so freeing. Spend enough time away from all of the extra stuff and you’ll realize you don’t need much of it. I feel that the lightness on your back will also lead to a lightness on your mind. You’ll be less stressed and feel freer.
Join a local running club.
I promised you didn’t have to be a runner to have a life of health and wellness—and I stand by that! Joining a local running club can be about so much more than running. If you’re not into running, most groups have events where you can walk, too. If you’re not interested in walking, local running clubs are a great way to get involved with your community. Most are part of or put on local races, so you can support other people doing healthy things by volunteering at events! Lastly, your local running club is a great way to be social and connect with other people, something that can be hard as an adult. Joining my local running club in Albany was the best thing I ever did. Not only did I meet my husband through the club, but 90% of the people at our wedding were mutual friends from the club.
Turn your frustrations into comedy.
This one comes from my coach, David Roche, the modern-day guru of happiness. The book he wrote with his wife Megan is appropriately titled “The Happy Runner”. Initially, I had a hard time figuring out how to put this one into practice. Then, one day while I was visiting a friend in Washington DC, just before I was about to head out the door to run, I made a quick stop by her bathroom. Upon trying to leave the bathroom, which was quite small and didn’t have any windows, I was unable to. The handle had broken, and I was stuck in a tiny bathroom with no phone. It would be hours before someone else was there. I was going to miss my only window of the day to get a run in. After my initial frustration, I just started to laugh. On a micro level, it really put a dent in my day, but on a macro level, what was happening was actually hilarious. As if it was straight out of a Comedy Central special. Ever since then, when the little things in life go wrong, I try to rewrite it as a comedy skit. You might end up laughing at yourself a lot, but it works.
Michelle Pratt is a Flora ambassador who grew up in the Catskill Mountains of NY where she spent a great deal of time wandering around the woods. This eventually translated into an affinity for mountain and trail running. While her main motivation to train and run long distances is to foster a life of adventure and exploration, she also enjoys the competitive yet tribal aspect of trail racing. In particular, she favors routes with the greatest number of rocks, roots, and peaks.