Fitness

The LEO Running Guide

We don’t need to sell you on the fact that running is a religion to some and fresh hell for others. Regardless, there’s no denying the benefits. We rang up expert and USATF (United States Track & Field certified coach) Jeff Naples to spill on all the tips: favorite running gear—from the best sneakers to the top tech, his 5 tips for beginners, how often you should change your running sneakers, as well as what to eat before a big run and why beets should be your new best friend.

TOP 5 RUNNING SHOES

“Depending on the shoe, you should change out your running sneakers anywhere from 250 miles to 600 miles. I like to have different types of running shoes for different environments. Having the right shoe in good working condition can make all the difference in preventing day-to-day aches and pain and long-term injuries.”

FOR NEWBIES

“If you’re a beginner or just need a solid ‘old faithful’ running shoe, the Rincon from Hoka is an excellent shoe at minimal investment. It’s very stable for those who may have weak ankles or need a bit more stability due to knee problems. It’s super comfortable and comes in a variety of colors that are easily matchable to your favorite running gear.”

BUILT FOR SPEED

“If you’re looking for a shoe for a bit more speed work or just need a shoe that is ready to run on the road and the track, the Saucony Endorphin Speed is another midlevel shoe that has great technology, comfort, and durability at a midrange price point.”

PRACTICAL AND PRETTY

“The Invincible is a shoe you can wear all day, looks stylish, and is insanely comfortable. This Nike shoe has superior mid-sole stability and a nice rear cushion on the track or on the road if you’re a heel runner. It also has a wider toe box than some of the other shoes in the Nike family, which makes it one of my favorite everyday, multi-purpose shoes.”

A STEP UP

“The big brother to the Endorphin Speed, the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 is a step up to a super competitive running shoe with carbon plate technology. It has the same speed roll technology as the Speed to help keep you on your toes and is built to have a super-responsive turnover to get you to those new PRs.”

THE MIRACLE WORKER

“The super shoe! Want to wear the same shoe as the pros and the shoe that has re-written the record books? The Alphafly NEXT% is a full on miracle worker when it comes to road running. Ultra-light and responsive, this shoe is a game-changer. I didn’t believe the hype until I put a pair on and took 3 minutes off my 10k time. It might hurt your bank account a bit to buy a pair, but it will surely help your race times. These shoes are rated for about 250 to 300 miles, so at about a dollar a mile to race, you better leave nothing in the tank.”

BEST RUNNING CLOTHES

BEST RUNNING HOODIE

“Both of these stand up to the elements, are wind and water-resistant, and super lightweight.”

BEST RUNNING TOP

“These have cooling technology to keep you feeling fresh while you run.”

BEST RUNNING TANK

BEST RUNNING SHORTS

 “Lululemons are the best for workouts, and Aeroswifts are my favorite for race day.”

BEST RUNNING PANTS

BEST RUNNING ACCESSORIES

BEST HAT

“Both are great for the long runs and can easily be transitioned into a Saturday morning hat to be worn around town.”

BEST SUNGLASSES

“Goodr glasses are my go-to running, everyday shades. They are lightweight, polarized, no-bounce sunglasses. The best part is they are inexpensive at $25 to $35 a pair, so you can rack up a collection of different styles and lens colors. You will be easily recognized by your fellow running community buddies while chasing the pavement around town.”

BEST RUNNING SOCKS

“Balega socks feature seamless toe design, anti-slip heel, and moisture management for both hot climates and cold running days.

BEST RUNNING GEAR

BEST WATER BOTTLE

“Hidratespark 3, the world’s smartest water bottle, or Hidratespark Pro which has bluetooth.”

BEST SOUND

“Simple and sleek with easy connectivity to any Bluetooth tech. With safety in mind, AirPods don’t cancel too much noise, so you can still be aware of your surroundings while running in busy metropolitan areas.”

BEST WEARABLE TECH

“My personal choice for health, recovery, strain, and goal-based data tracking with personalized coaching is Whoop 4.0. It’s easily wearable and also accessorizable with colored wrist bands. It has a built-in alarm to wake you up in the morning. It also stays out of the way while running and is easily secured out of sight on the wrist.

It helps runners track sleep patterns, daily straining while running and while not running, heart rate, calories, and most of all, recovery. My data shows me when I need to go to bed to be best recovery to peak for performance. It has a log to track my daily activities, water intake, and other important biometric markers.”

BEST RUNNING APPS

“I use both Nike Run Club and Strava.

Strava has a large community and has easy access to pro runner workouts plus route recommendations and records. It makes it easy to track your miles, speed, workouts, and the miles you put on your shoes. 

Nike Run Club is good for getting started with a running habit because they have a big library of workouts to download that feature coaching to help you through your run.”

FAVORITE FUEL

“Pedialyte Sport has simple classic tastes for simple, fast hydration and can be found at every major food retailer. 

My real secret weapon for long runs and long days at the track as a coach and sprinter is Organic CHI energy bites by the Running Nutritionist, Lisa Dorfman. They’re professionally tailored nutrition in a bite-size ball, whether you’re looking to empower yourself with a bit of caffeinated chocolate to get through a long run, sustain yourself on an endurance run, or grab a low-calorie snack for nourishment. They come in various flavors like Rich Chocolate Brownie and Key Lime Splash.”

MY DIET AHEAD OF A BIG RUN

“Depending on the style of running I am doing, my food plan might change. I like to start by eating three to four hours before my run, so I don’t feel overly full. I usually add a tablespoon of Garden of life MCT oil to a bowl of full-fat greek yogurt, followed by 3 tablespoons of hemp hearts, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grain-free granola. If carbing up, I might add in some dried raisins or an omega-3 trail mix pack, and you’re good to go. This way, I have a high-calorie, slow-burning food source to sustain me through my run. 

If I’m traveling and don’t have access to my go-to breakfast, I will search out whole grain avocado toast and a poached egg with beets and pickled red onions, if possible. Pickled onions contain vitamin C, vitamin B, and minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium. And here’s their big secret: they improve cardiovascular health, which we all know is the key to a great run. 

Beets are a runner’s superfood. If you don’t like them, well, find a way to take in their benefits like beet gummies or powder with smoothies. Beets have been shown to increase blood flow to fast-twitch muscles, which helps you get faster. Eating beets has also been shown to improve running results and lower perceived effort. Run faster and work less hard equals the best running day ever. 

If I’m running a 5k or longer, I’ll search out bigger whole-grain meals for dinner the night before—things like brown rice, farro, quinoa. I also add in some spinach or red peppers for taste and for the added benefits of more fiber and potassium, which is essential for maintaining muscle mass and decreasing injury.”

CARBS AS GASOLINE

“Carbs are the gasoline to your human motor. Everyone is different with their carb intake, just like every run is different. It’s important to know what your goal is with your running. Not just in general, but every day. If today is the day you run a marathon, then carb-counting shouldn’t be a focus, but if you’re running to drop a few pounds, then cutting back on low-quality carbs isn’t the worst thing. 

Suppose you’re a serious runner or are seriously committed to running off the pounds. In that case, I always suggest contacting a registered nutritionist and dietitian, as well as speaking to your health physician before deciding what’s best for you. I mean, you wouldn’t put mud tires on a Ferrari for a street race, right? 

Make sure to know the difference in your carbs— that’s right, carbs come in all different types. Starch, fiber, and sugar are the three main types. We want the smart carbs for running; those complex carbs that digest slower and give you the most bang for your buck. Complex carbs like whole grains are less likely to cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Spikes in blood sugar is exactly what we don’t want while running. It sure is hard to finish those last miles when your energy levels crash and the hunger pains start screaming at you. 

If you need higher-carb foods to get you through a run, consider adding in items like starchy vegetables at dinner the night before or with your breakfast if you’re going for an afternoon run. But give them time to process in your body so you don’t feel sluggish during your run. 

Fiber (or dietary fiber) is an excellent carb to add to your diet. They help manage blood sugar and even lower your risk for heart disease. Things with these traits, such as plant-based foods, including fruit, vegetables, and intact grains and nuts, help clean the body out of the bad stuff and keep you feeling full and less likely to seek out sugary snacks. This is perfect for both beginner recreational runners and the hardcore, PR-crushing runners alike.”

5 TIPS FOR NEW RUNNERS

“Being a new runner can be tricky. Maybe you were a former runner that used to run with ease. But with time, injuries, and life it is now difficult. Or maybe you’ve never run a day in your life, and it’s time to start. Either way, take it slow. Identify the type of running you would like to participate in—short sprints, long relaxing runs, or maybe ultramarathon.

  1. Start out simple. Day 1: Stretch, and stretch some more, and when you’re done with that, stretch again! You’re not 9-years-old anymore, and your body isn’t going to like the rapid change in identity.

    Go out or inside for a run. Again, start a simple start with a jog for 2 minutes. Don’t measure yourself in distance. If 2 minutes seems too easy, you’re probably right, but take it as a victory. Be proud of what you just accomplished, and then, well, stretch again.

    Plan out a running schedule. Make it a habit at the same time each day if possible. Work your way up from your 2-minute run to a 10-minute run. Don’t chase miles, just run 10 minutes. Eventually, you will make it a 10-minute mile pace, which is pretty average for most 5k-pace recreational runners, and you can start to chase times a bit—but not in the first week.

    Make sure to listen to your body. If something hurts, listen to it and back off. No Olympic medals were won on day one of working out.
  2. Have proper running shoes. Just because the shoe looks cool or the pros wear it doesn’t mean it’s right for you! Get fitted for a proper running shoe that’s best suited for your stride, gate, and body weight. Know if you pronate or supernate, and that your shoe is wide enough for your foot. Don’t be afraid to size up half a size as feet tend to swell and expand while running.”
  3. Listen to your mom. “You go to school to learn, not for a fashion show.” Luckily for us, running gear comes in some pretty cool looks these days, and with athleisure becoming a mainstream trend, your Hoka running shoes are the new Prada bags of the world. But seriously, have the right running gear. If it’s cold in your climate, buy things that make running fun. Lightweight, durable, cold-weather gear gets better every year, and often you get what you pay for in the running world. Make sure your clothing doesn’t leave you feeling awful, chafed, cold, or overheated. If you don’t enjoy the run, you’re not going to finish or stay with it.
  4. Find a running community. Just like long car rides, running is more fun with friends. People who keep you accountable and showing up. It’s also nice to have someone to discuss your new hobby with and geek out about the latest running tech you’re about to start accumulating in otherworldly amounts.
  5. Be your own biggest fan. Don’t get down on yourself if one day of running or week one of running isn’t as good as you expected. As Olympic runner Alexi Pappas described in her book Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas, the rule of thumb is 1/3 of your workouts will be great, 1/3 will be average, and 1/3 will be hard (or complete garbage). You’re never going to be completely happy with how you run, but you should often take a step back and remind yourself of where you started. Review your running logs and post your PRs and medals to social media. Create a medal and race bib wall (if your wife will let you). Take time to stop and take in the achievements of each accomplishment you have in your newfound running career. If you haven’t yet, sign up for a race, plan a trip around a race, or go to a track meet. Be inspired by running and celebrate the fact that you are now part of the running community.

CHECK OUT JEFF

IG @THEBEARDBEHINDTHEBAR

Editor’s note: this interview has been edited for clarity.

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