Do you think of your body as a complete ecosystem, or do you view it as a bunch of disparate parts?
I think the gut response is that we are obviously much more than the sum of the different parts of our bodies.
But how well do we, as runners, do at actually accepting this idea?
As runners, I think a lot of us get a bit of tunnel vision.
We think that if our legs are good, then we are good to go.
But that isn’t quite the case…
In case it’s been a minute since you took a biology class, you may not have heard the word ecosystem in awhile.
So let’s review some ecosystem basics real quick.
An ecosystem is basically all the things, living and non-living, in a given area and how they interact with each other.
As such, anything that impacts any element of the ecosystem has an impact on every other element of the ecosystem.
And our bodies are no different.
The Human Ecosystem
When I say our body is an ecosystem, what do I mean?
I simply mean that everything is “connected” within our bodies.
Meaning that you can’t do something to one part of your body without it impacting another, seemingly unrelated, body part.
And as runners, that very often means that something that is totally unrelated to our legs may possibly impact our running.
A Few Examples
You want an example?
How about a few?
I’d say it’s more or less common sense to not do a bunch of squats, lunges, or other lower body strength training the day before a long run, race, or hard workout.
In each of those cases, you kind of want your legs feeling pretty good, right?
But what about a good upper body lift?
Surely maxing out on the bench press the day before a long run isn’t going to mess you up, right?
At the end of the day, as far as our bodies are concerned stress is stress.
It doesn’t matter if the stress is in the form of a speed workout, an ass chewing from your boss, or a big fight with your spouse.
As far as our bodies are concerned, and our internal ecosystem, serious stress is going to impact us not just in the moment but also for the next few days.
Does what you eat impact your running? Obviously!
And no, I’m not just talking about something that causes some GI distress and a hurried waddle to the nearest bathroom.
But certain foods, and the specific foods will vary from one runner to the next, can impact how your body functions for as much as a day or two.
Everything Matters in an Ecosystem
Sometimes the impact of any particular change on your body’s ecosystem is so subtle you’ll hardly notice it, and sometimes the impact is clear as day.
But the more mindful you are about recognizing some of the inputs that have a negative impact on your running, the more you can try to control the variables that are at play and set yourself up for success in your workouts and on race day.
However, since we do live in an open ecosystem there may be some variables that are beyond our control.
In those cases, the best thing you can do is just trying to roll with the punches.
Because stressing out about something you can’t control has a tendency to impact your running.
You know, because stress…