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In this episode I transparently share about my experience as a distance athlete, the trials and tribulations I faced, and revel in the expertise of my friend, Tina Muir. Her guest appearance originally appeared on Nutrition Without Compromise, but now I’m sharing it from start to finish with all of you.
Tina Muir is a former elite distance runner of the UK and Ireland, who has become an inspirational leader and podcaster with her podcast and website of the same name, Running For Real. She is presently training for the Boston Marathon, the UK Marathon, which she will run as a guide, and is prepping for the release of her book (which you can preorder now), Becoming A Sustainable Runner: A Guide to Running for Life, Community and Planet.
To perform at a high level, you need the proper fuel for your body. For athletes and those who engage in high-performance activities, you need to have right and real nutrition. In this episode, the founder and CEO of Running for Real, Tina Muir shares her journey as a runner and what she learned about the importance of having the right and balanced nutrition. Tina also tells us her diet, some of the great advice she got on running, and what it means to be a sustainable runner. Full of wisdom and insights on what it takes to be a runner and why real nutrition matters, Tina gives us an insightful conversation you won’t want to miss!
Key takeaways from this episode:
- The science of health and nutrition in relation to running
- What it means to be a sustainable runner
- The gift of Together Runs
- Exciting things from the world’s most comfortable shoes, Allbirds
- Running myths to dispel
Guest Social Links:
Running for Real Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/runningforreal/
What It Takes To Be A Sustainable Runner With Elite Distance Athlete, Tina Muir
I’m joined by my friend and collaborator, Tina Muir. Tina is the Founder and CEO of Running For Real. She’s a mother of two and a former elite runner for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She hosts the Running For Real Podcast, a collection of conversations about running, the climate emergency, and social justice, which has amassed over six million downloads.
She also hosts Running Realized, an NPR-style podcast with Knox Robinson called the “Invisibilia” of running podcasts by Women’s Running. Tina has worked with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and has been featured in The Guardian, The Telegraph, People Magazine, Outside, SELF and Women’s Health. Tina, all the acclaim, welcome to the show.
I have to say that feels very uncomfortable to sit here and listen to that. If you’re someone who’s not good at taking compliments, it’s like, “Can it be over now?” Thank you. It’s nice.
Those that listen to your show already know that about you. You’re conversational with your community in a way that is genuine, self-effacing, connected, and real. The name Running For Real has always well-suited your podcast and your message.
It has. It’s funny, when I was trying to come up with business names, I was going through it with a friend. We were talking back and forth about what could it be called. He said, “Running For Real?” We were like, “Yes.” It’s one of those moments where you’re like, “Perfect. That suits you down to the tea.” I made a good choice with that one. The word real is good now. It’s a bit of a buzzword so I landed well in that way too.
You and I share a love for great nutrition, social and sustainable impact and also running, though I’ve had to retire my running sneakers for my hikers, given a trick ankle, a bit of a bunion issue and an unwillingness to address these things for surgery. That’s where I probably stand out from some of my peers. They go under the knife and they’re fine with it but I was like, “No, not for me.”
I’m with you there. That would be an absolute last resort. I’m scared of being cut open. That creeps me out so I’m 100% with you.
I don’t like being put under. I’ve had to go through that once in that whole concept of going into the deep sleep of medically induced semi-permanent feel. It’s just not for me. I understand that you’re prepping for both the Boston Marathon and the UK Marathon. How are you feeling? How’s your body? Are you ready?
In both of those instances, it’s a little bit different from when I’ve done those races in the past. Although Boston, I’ve done once as what I’m about to do and once as it was my first marathon postpartum. In the past when I’d done races, it was very serious and intense. At this point of where I am, it was in the thick of it. I was exhausted all the time. Whereas now, it’s more of a fun thing. I’m very fortunate that my body can handle it.
One of my friends sent me a message. She was like, “It’s so funny to me that you can just say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do a marathon in April 2023.’ Just like that. That’s so inconceivable for 99% of people.” I am training but I wouldn’t say for me it’s normal. I don’t know. That’s where my body is. It’s so used to doing these things.
If you think about it, for somebody who hasn’t done distance running, it does feel like it’s something that you would never imagine being able to do and it sounds like torture. If I didn’t have my ankle sprained constantly and I was stepping on a pebble wrong, then I could be ready for a marathon in four months and feel confident that I could do it but it wouldn’t necessarily be in my best performance. I might need an extra few months if I was going to do that but you’re someone who has done these distance runs for your entire adult life. It feels like you get back in the swim a little bit easier.
Boston isn’t 100% at the moment because I am running as a guide so I will run with a visually impaired runner on day one. That’s what I did in 2022 in Boston. It’s not 100% because it’s not dependent on me. In London, I will be doing something in terms of sustainability, like paying attention to their sustainability measures. That in itself will be different because it’s not going to be running hard. It’s paying attention to what they’re doing. Both of these runs are more fun ones with passions of mine and then I am doing an ultra in May 2023, which I haven’t signed up for. Hopefully, that will be more of the goal race.
It’s such an amazing experience to consider running with someone who is sight-impaired so that you’re essentially their eyes and ears while you’re running along. That’s phenomenal. That would be so much fun. Particularly in Boston, because Boston is like the victory lap of so many runners.
That’s the thing though. People always say, “That’s amazing. That’s so good you do that.” I feel like I get the biggest amount of appreciation for it. It’s such a gift and an honor to be able to be trusted with that and have that experience, for me, it doesn’t feel like giving back. It feels like I’m the one receiving. I recommend everyone at some point give that a try. It doesn’t have to be running but something. It’s amazing.
Having run Boston, I ran it back in 2009. I can put myself in that mindset and think about what it would be like to be there at the start line that very early morning and what would probably be a cold day, to then the crowds, the chairs and everything that comes with the running of it, especially as somebody who can’t see. All of the auditory nature of it is an incredible experience.
It’s an instance where you can feel the energy, not just see it or even hear it. You can feel it in the air.
It’s palpable. I did not know that. You took me by surprise. I love it.
I love to do that. I’ve done it many times.
Before we dig into the science of health and nutrition as it relates to running, I’ve got to share this simple disclaimer with the world. Anything that we discuss is not intended to be advice for you. What we share is offered for informational purposes. If you have specific health concerns, you’ll want to connect with your healthcare provider. Let’s get started. What does nutrition without compromise mean to you, Tina?
I’m going to take it in a bit of a different way from what I would imagine most people take it. Nutrition without compromise means to me listening to your heart, your body and what feels right. Sometimes that’s going to mean that you’re craving some nutrients. Our body knows it’s missing from our diet and that’s why we crave things. It might be you are craving something crunchy and lots of textures, like a nice, big, hearty salad.
Nutrition without compromise means listening to your heart, your body and what feels right.
Also, sometimes that might mean that you are craving something sweet, in which case that’s your body saying, “I’m a little low on calories here. Can you top me up of something?” For me, that means trusting in my body. We’re so taught to use outside factors to know what our body needs. While that’s great, in many cases, if we learn to get back to that skill of listening, we’re going to find ourselves in a place where our body is happy because it is being listened to and telling us what we need.
Few people listen to what their body needs and then try to interpret that. If we understand like, “I’m craving sweets now. Why,” sometimes it’s simply that you have low blood sugar, you’re low energy or you need a little bit extra. Often, we villainize sugars and carbohydrates. We talk about proteins and fats as being the positive things that you want to get in your life but carbohydrates sometimes are somehow bad.
In an earlier episode, I talked about this with another athlete who is transitioning from being solely in the gym and sculpting her body via weights to looking a certain way, being a fitness model and an LA Lakers Girl because, at one point, she was a cheerleader for the LA Lakers to then saying, “I’m going to go the distance,” and having to get over this hurdle or concept that carbohydrates are bad. I would love for you to talk about the nutrition needs of somebody performing at this elite level and how it can be different. Perhaps, how important specific carbohydrates can be in the right balance and with the right training.
Most people reading this would know that if you want to do any kind of distance running, there are a few ultra-athletes out there I know who do high protein and very little carbs. It seems to work for them but the vast majority of us are not going to get very far. I tried this. It worked for a little while and then the wheels fell off of not having enough of those carbs.
In many ways, we do demonize carbs in a lot of areas of society. I was heavily bought into that at one point in my running career. However, I found that many of us have experienced that when you do put nutrient dents, you’re very thoughtful with the food that you’re putting in. You’re getting a wide range of colors, textures and food groups into your diet. You do start to crave more of those foods and you love that mix of things.
I also have been at the other end in recent years, where with two young kids, it’s been easy to reach for the stuff that’s easy to grab. I would say, “I don’t have the energy to make myself a salad so I’m going to eat another slice of bread.” I have seen both ends of that. During my elite career, I loved getting most of my carb sources from those vegetables. I guess it would be starches, like sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, quinoa, farro, rice and more whole sources, I suppose. I found that those fueled me well and took care of me.
I also felt like sometimes sugar is made out to be the bad guy. Sometimes it was good for me to have a croissant sandwich rather than it being a load of vegetables on a plate but having a loaded California club. I’m a vegetarian now but at the time, it was Turkey, cheese, mayonnaise and tomato in a croissant. I loved things like that.
There’s a place for everything. While performance is a focus, you want to be getting a lot of those nutrient-dense foods. I also think for a healthy mental and emotional mindset, we also can’t expect perfection. As I know from my past, it’s going to take over your thoughts if you are policing everything going into and out of your body, especially when it comes to carbs.
While performance is a focus, you want to be getting a lot of those nutrient-dense foods. For a healthy mental and emotional mindset, we also can’t expect perfection.
You mentioned something I was going to talk to you about but it’s on the plate. You would have the California club back in the elite training days. How has your diet changed for distance running now that you are a vegetarian, other than not having animal products? Just to ensure you have the proteins and that you can perform over the distance.
I want to begin by saying I am far from perfect with that. I have a lot of space to grow in terms of protein. I’m still learning how to do that. I’ve been a vegetarian for a few years. It’s the steep learning curve in terms of sounds easy and it is easy.
You stop eating eggs, milk and animals.
I do still eat eggs. I don’t like eggs very much. The texture is not my favorite but I will do it. It’s more of reaching for the simple carbs because they are within reach. It’s trying not to lean on those all the time or put too much weight into how much peanut, almond, cashew or butter I’m going through and thinking that that’s good enough.
I have had to add a protein shake to my days most days because I don’t think I was getting close enough to my protein intake. Beyond that, more than it is a change from my elite days to whatever this stage of my running is. For me, it’s more about the kids’ aspect of things. You know this, being a mother too. It can be quite difficult to find the energy to put into yourself to make food when you’re making food for other people. Half of the time, you’re making dinner and it’s rejected.
You’re putting this energy that you might as well have not bothered and done something simple. I do find that that’s something I’m constantly working against the mental energy. I’m spending on all the different areas of my life, including being a mother, that it can be very easy to put aside and grab the easy thing. I’m trying to plan. Like making a chia seed pudding and having that for breakfast. Remembering to put that in the day before so I don’t open the fridge post-run and be like, “What should I make today?” It’s already there for me so it’s making it easier.
Freezer foods can stay in the freezer and you can get something a little fresher.
A lot of those good nutrient-dense foods, for example, berries, are quite expensive. There’s also that piece in terms of trying to justify that I too am worth spending a little bit of money on those fresh fruits. I’m on a learning curve but that hasn’t been as difficult to switch, particularly around dinners, as I thought it would be.
There are so many good options for vegetarian meals for dinner that aren’t just impossible burgers which you’re sliding in the fake meat for the “real meat.” It’s like a Lentil Dahl or a pesto that’s made with broccoli and cauliflower. Just lots of different nutrient-dense things in one place. I have found that pretty easy to find recipes that are solid nutritionally for me. I’ve got to work on the breakfast a bit more.
You do have eggs to lean on if you chose to do something like that. For example, if you were going out on a training run of 20 miles in prep for something like the full marathon, you need something a little quicker and easier on your digestion. Maybe not quicker but easier on your digestion than perhaps a chia seed pudding might be. For me, I found that oatmeal was the perfect breakfast before a run because in my mind it sticks to the ribs. I wouldn’t bonk midway through the run but I also wouldn’t get an upset tummy.
For anybody who’s training for that marathon, you have to understand that there’s a lot of anticipation and possible anxiety on the morning of the big race. The best advice I got when I was running my own was to have something in your system. When you arrive at the start line, get in line for the bathroom. When you finish, get in line again because you almost have a nervous bladder thing happen. The last thing you want is to have to use the porta potties on mile 17.
Back to your point about oatmeal, just another thing on that. Oatmeal is, by far and away, the easiest and best thing to do. I also used to like sweet potatoes with almond butter. I found that sat well for me. Whatever it is that you do, make sure you’ve practiced it for the exact duration to go that you will be using it.
Let’s say your race starts at 7:00 AM. Yes, unfortunately, that means at least three times getting up at 4:00 AM to practice. If you’re going to run at 10:00 AM, get up at 7:00 or whatever it would be. If you have that practice, your body knows like, “I’ve got this. I’ve done this before.” Especially once you add on that nervous energy, your stomach is like, “I already know what’s going on with the food.” It’s not a new stimulus thing for it to deal with. Oatmeal is a great shout, for sure.
The other great advice I got that I felt came home, especially after my first race running the full distance was in my first marathon in Hawaii. It was a different climate than I was used to running in. I run in Santa Cruz County. It’s perfect weather here almost all year for running. You go somewhere like Hawaii where the humidity is intense. It can bake by the time you’ll be finishing the race. I was not accustomed to running in the heat.
I also had the challenge of the excitement at the start line of allowing myself to be sucked out with the other runners, which means that I was not running my pace and race. I had friends who were running the half marathon and they had also at the Honolulu Marathon done a 5K. You had these massive runners that were running different distances. Some of them were starting at the same time and it made for a very challenging day and the most painful run I’ve ever been on.
With that being said, go slow to start, get in that bathroom line, eat something that is not going to disrupt the system that you’ve tried before and also get in the rhythm of it. If you are going to run that race or going to do that big event, it’s important to do it a couple or three times the few weeks before the marathon would occur so that your entire circadian rhythm gets the, “I get this.”
I would even start it may be a little further out with the food at least. One of the complaints people say is oatmeal feels too heavy in their stomachs. Maybe for you, oatmeal isn’t. You instead want to try sweet potato or a bagel. Trying a bit further out means if something goes wrong, then you have time to try something else and make sure that works instead.
You mentioned something also that is on people’s minds as they are going about their lives. That’s being a sustainable runner. What does that look like? What does that mean to you?
To me, that means that you are in this for as long as you want to be in this. There are plenty of 100-year-old runners. If you want to be in it for life, you can be in it for life. If you decide at some point, “My time has passed. It’s time for me to move on,” that’s fine too. Being a sustainable runner means that you are doing what you need to do to stay healthy in terms of strength training and taking care of parts of your body that are not working during running that are moving in different planes of motion.
It also means emotionally. With a sport like running, people can get invested very early and get too caught up in it. You get those newbie gains at the beginning doing well and people get into it and then either get injured. The doctor says, “You weren’t meant to run anyway so maybe it’s not for you,” and then they stop. Maybe they can’t seem to reach where they were before or they stopped getting faster and they think, “This is the end of it.”
Being a sustainable runner also means recognizing that there are going to be ups and downs and plateaus. There are going to be times when goals, times and performances, whatever that means to you, are the focus. There also should be times when the focus is, “I’m stressed in my life. I need a run each day to work through all the stuff in my head.” It means using running for what it brings to you at that moment but also giving to it in terms of the best that you can do at that moment. We are going to have periods of life where no matter how much you love it, it can’t be first. I’m in that stage.
Parenting and having young children. I understand that you’re getting ready to release a book on this subject as well. If anything, what can you share about it at this early stage?
Becoming a Sustainable Runner is coming out on August 1st, 2023. It’s available for pre-order. The book is looking at sustainable running in three areas. The first is what we’ve talked about there, how to have a healthy relationship with the sport and how to be in it for as long as you want to be. The middle part is about community and connecting to your community. It doesn’t have to be local. It can be online. It can be through giving back through guiding, volunteering or mentoring.
When I say mentoring, I don’t necessarily mean someone has to be like me, a former elite athlete. It could be someone who has never run in their life and you’ve been running for a few years. Exactly like you were saying, “Here are some things I learned.” People often think mentoring means you know everything. Anyone reading, your advice is helpful to someone.
The third piece is planet. Being sustainable humans, trying to be good stewards of our planet and standing up for what is right when it comes to climate change through the big things like voting. Also, taking action in other ways and considering the experiences of others and why saying to them, “Go for a run,” maybe isn’t quite as simple as it may seem. It’s looked at through three pillars and my co-author, Zoe Rom and I worked hard on it so we’re excited.
I can’t wait to get my copy. I am inspired by listening to your podcast. Even though I am not a runner any longer, I take it with me on my long trail runs. I call them runs but I’m jogging along with my dog here and there. Whenever there is any uneven ground, I resort to the hike because that’s when my ankle will go. I don’t think I would call it running if I was comparing myself to you.
Comparison is another thing we talk about in the book. As we know, comparison is the thief of joy.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
You’ve mentioned this deeply in an episode where you brought one of your best friends on the show and talked about the competition between women. It’s a strong episode and perhaps a departure from what you typically cover on the show. What is that episode called so people can find it?
I don’t know.
It’s with one of your best friends. What was her name again?
If they went for that one, you’d interviewed her a few times. You’re 339 episodes in and still going strong.
The person I have coming I have in ’17. It was very strange being like, “I talked to you in November 2017.” That makes it seem like such a long time ago when I think about 2017 that I started this.
On this theme of being a mentor, I wanted to offer you the stage to talk about for a moment what you’re doing with the weekend shows that you run where you’re taking people training with you. Can you talk about that?
During the pandemic, when we were in the scary part and we didn’t know what was going on, I noticed that everyone was feeling very lonely. We were all panicked through the fear of the unknown. I missed running with other people. I thought to myself one day, “I know I can talk while I’m running because I do it when I run with other people. People are feeling lonely. What if I took my phone with me and pretended I was on a phone call with someone?”
That began what is known as Together Runs. I take a microphone with me on my runs and talk to people. The part I love the most is that the first 15 to 20 minutes of the episode are very much meditative, grounding elements. We check in with nature. I make everyone touch some element of nature or feel their feet on the ground. We do a body scan. We check in with the various parts of our body, which I lead and guide people through. We then go through a sense check-in where we pay attention to each of the five primary senses and then I do a mental health check-in.
With each of these things, I ask a question, “What do you hear?” I’m then quiet for 45 seconds. “What do you see? Make sure you pick some detail that you wouldn’t normally pay attention to.” Give people a minute. The final piece is, “How are you, really?” In that, I leave a two-minute space for people to reflect on how they are doing. Not the, “Yeah, good. You,” that we all tend to do it in our daily lives but like, “How are you?”
People have connected with that and they do enjoy the conversational piece which is talking about whatever comes into my head. People love that grounding piece because it’s enough time to be in your head without getting that discomfort of, “I don’t want to listen to this because it’s making me think I’m crazy.” I take people with me once a week on these Together Runs and the community has loved it. It’s a gift to me too because I can imagine people running with me.
I love hearing you talk about this because while I have listened to your Together Runs, I didn’t realize how much intention went into that. One of the things I will say for anybody reading, you might think, “That’s an uncomfortable silence. I might be sitting there thinking, ‘What happened to the podcast? It’s dead air now.'” She’s running while this is happening so you hear the footfalls, the sounds of nature and sometimes a truck is going by.
It does make you feel like you’re powerfully connected and with you. The tone that you undertake for the whole thing is like you’re just talking to a friend. It makes people feel closer to you and more connected. It serves as a gentle reminder that each of us, even with the power of influence and this perspective of mentorship, can develop a close connected feel with the people that we impact. This is my experience also in the world of podcasting. I feel like the podcasters I listen to I get to know too. I feel like there are almost people I could walk up to and say, “Do you remember when,” even though they have no knowledge of who I am.
I’ve had plenty of people come up to me and say things like that. In my head, Brené Brown and I are best friends. She just doesn’t know it yet. It’s the same thing that I have with her. I feel like we’re friends already.
You’ll get there. You’ll have a conversation with her at some point in the not-too-distant future.
I believe that. Someday.
It’s the power of intention. Perhaps it will be that you come on her podcast and talk about your book or something along those lines.
You’re in a dream world.
That might be a bit too high in the sky. I’m shooting for the next ten years. Maybe when she’s no longer relevant, she’s like, “I’ll talk to you now.”
We’ll dream bigger for you. We came together in the space of health and nutrition as it relates to what we’re doing with Orlo and omega-3s. As a vegetarian runner, you are looking to also fill nutritional gaps. I wanted to offer you this one question and see what your thoughts are. As it relates to maintaining your health and yourself as a runner, mother and podcaster, what are your favorite supplements and nutrition gaps that you’re looking to fill, anything you want to talk about in this space? I also want to talk about your work with a couple of sponsors that you’re working with. Let’s start with the nutrition side.
My nutrition is far from perfect. Part of that is good. It’s okay if we have ice cream or sometimes might crave chicken and waffles. I don’t even think I’ve ever eaten chicken and waffles but that’s a good example. That’s a very random thing that people might crave. Even being a vegetarian, I have cheated. I have had fish tacos a few times. I did have fried chicken one time. That was because I was listening to what I felt like.
The fried chicken in particular sounded good. It smelled and looked good and I thought, “I’m going to do this.” With that said, I do have a lot of gaps in my diet. For me, Orlo fills one of them, especially when it comes to not getting enough protein, not necessarily getting enough things that take care of my heart and my brain with the omegas.
Especially the absorption rate is so impressive and allows me to feel confident about what I’m taking there. I do also take Athletic Greens, which I find helps me to fill in the gaps of some of the vitamins and minerals that I probably wouldn’t get through food anyway. Unless I was living on some organic farm where I could eat fresh foods every day. I do find that helps.
I am taking some creatine powder with the protein powder because my strength coach feels like I need it with my diet being a vegetarian. Also, there is a lot of research coming out about the effect of creatine on women. I’m using that as an extra thing. Beyond that, I like to keep it pretty simple. I do have immune support from Orlo. Especially as my daughter was sick all week, I have been using a lot of it. I was desperately trying to keep this thing away from me and so far so good.
The Athletic Greens is something that can go with any lifestyle and as is the Orlo. For those reading, this show is brought to you by Orlo Nutrition. Why I love it so much is that it is the most sustainable and bioavailable algae-based omega-3 available in any market. That form that she’s talking about is a polar lipid, which is better integrated into your cells. That means it can get to work supporting your brain health and all of that.
I harp on omega-3s a lot but I am a bit of an omega-3 evangelist. For those of you that aren’t going to go and have the fish tacos multiple times a week, you probably need those omega-3s. Especially if you’re a vegetarian, it’s hard to get enough omega-3, EPA and DHA in your daily life. The audience of this show receives an extra 10% discount with the code NWC10 at checkout. If you go to OrloNutrition.com, you can use that code and get an extra 10% off.
This is a question I’ve had with regard to sustainable running for some time. I understand you work with Allbirds so I want to talk about this. I have pronation. Being somebody who has some pronation and who tends to roll my right ankle, if somebody throws a dice, 1 time out of 6, I’m going to sprain it on something minor. What is Allbirds, as this more sustainable shoe, offering runners if anything? What are they doing that’s different and surprising for you?
Here’s one quick thing I do want to mention when you said about pronating for any runners out there reading who might get confused by that when they’ve heard something else. Every single one of us pronates. To your point, you do it maybe a bit more than I do, which is why you mentioned stability shoes.
Allbirds does have some exciting things on the horizon with regards to that. However, they’re at the point where they’re known in the lifestyle space as having the world’s most comfortable shoes. For anyone who hasn’t tried Allbirds, they do deserve that title with the main shoes and the lifestyle shoes. I’ve spent thirteen-hour days working at an expo on them and still felt comfortable at the end of the day. They’re amazing. Their whole thing is doing better things in a better way.
They’re not going to throw a shoe out or throw a stability shoe, a racing shoe and all of these things out there just to get them. They want to make sure they’re competent and they get it right. They have the Dasher 2, which is very much like the up to 10K shoe. It’s the shoe that can go from lifestyle to running. If you had to pack one pair of shoes for your whole weekend on a carry-on, that will be the shoe.
They have the Flyer, which is the one I run in but that is very much a neutral shoe. It’s not going to be the stability side of things. One thing I will say that is very exciting is the lightning speed that Allbirds is innovating continues to blow my mind in terms of sustainability. Also, the materials that they’re using and the carbon number which they put on every item they make of how many kilograms of CO2 is put out for every item.
How quickly that number is dropping is unbelievable. They are obsessive about getting that number down. That’s honestly what gives me the most excitement. Not only are they doing that but other brands are starting to pay attention to do it too. I love that they are the leaders and they are setting the bar in terms of what we can do environmentally when it comes to shoes and performance.
Allbirds is the leader and setting the bar in terms of what we can do environmentally when it comes to shoes and performance.
In the past, it was always viewed as you either care about sustainability and then wear these crunchy hipster shoes made of wood that are going to fall apart or break. You go for the full of petroleum, going to live in a landfill for 500 years plastic shoes. They’re horrible for the environment but they’re going to help you run fast. I love that they are blending the two.
I’m right there with you. I had run all of my marathons in an ASICS shoe that was comfortable for me and that I could wear for a long stretch distance. Since I’m no longer doing my distance running, I’m in a pair of Allbirds shoes. I have another pair that’s the first pair I bought specifically to go to trade shows. That was a collaboration with Adidas when I first got them on my scene. My criticism of big brands like Adidas and Nike in these running spaces is that they’ll release one product that is more sustainable and then it’s back to the norm for everything else.
When they jack up the price by $10 to $20, people are like, “I’m not paying extra money for that.”
Their shoes are already more expensive so you’re paying for this giant marketing machine and then also something that they’re targeting an intense premium for. People are going to make the choice for the lesser-priced item that boasts all the performance. It’s because they still have skepticism about how long the shoe can last, for instance.
I am heading to Expo West and I am packing my Allbirds. It will be in my tradeshow floor wear. I lean into the fact that they are not black and don’t go with that type of clothing. I’m like, “They’re white and they’ve got a splash of color on them.” I’m going, “Did you notice that on the tongue of the toe, it says the CO2 imprint?” To me, that is important. At a natural products expo, people should forgive me if I’m wearing them with a little black dress.
I had an orange pair for a while and I would wear it with everything. I was well aware that that didn’t match with anything but it’s about doing the right thing.
I appreciate the dedication of the brand. I also think you’ve got some interesting things coming out there. I will be very curious when they come out with more of a stability-enhanced shoe. What I found worked for me the longest was super low-profile trail runners because they would be less likely to rule my ankle. For distance runs when you’re running on pavement, those things become uncomfortable after a while so I needed something that is a cushion.
They’re working on that.
I still marvel at the fact that I’ve seen traditional people running the Honolulu Marathon in things like a wooden thong or barefoot. There are a few that have done ultramarathons barefoot and I can’t even imagine.
You got to think about it before we had shoes. That would’ve been the way people did things. It seems crazy to us but to them, they would’ve been like, “Why would you put things on your feet?” They would’ve thought we were crazy but I agree. When I see it, I’m like, “How do you do it?”
For those that are already in the wheelhouse of running and are doing distance runs, I have a few questions for you, given your expertise. What do you drink when you’re running?
When it comes to fuel for distance running, I like to have my fuel as a liquid. I prefer that to gels. I will do gels if I need to but I prefer to do the liquid. It’s also environmentally better because you can get a big tub. When I drink, it’s usually like fuel. It got calories and electrolytes in it. I don’t drink the typical sports drinks but I do drink some of the nutritional products in the running world. I’m alternating that with water. I like to keep it simple.
I did drink coke once at the end of my trail marathon. I’ve been told by trail runners that that’s the norm. If I’m going to enter into the ultra-space, having Coke will be something that I’ll get some sugar water at the tail end. It tasted better than it ever had before having Coke four hours into running. It tasted pretty good but not something I typically have.
For anyone running the Boston Marathon, don’t drink the BU Water. That was something else I did here. BU is Boston University. They’ll have a fake water standup and they’re giving beer out.
The guy I was with, the guide in 2022, had a fireball shot at mile 20 or something. People do all kinds of things.
What running myths would you like to dispel?
You need to be a certain speed to be a runner. You need to look a certain way to be a runner if you get out the door. Like you were saying about running until it gets uneven, you’re still a runner in my eyes. Anyone who runs is a runner. There’s no better or worse. Technically, there’s faster and slower but it doesn’t make anyone any less of a real runner.
The same with body type. There is no look of a runner. I don’t believe in that. Do I believe if we want to get down to the science that there’s probably a weight that people would run fastest? Yes, but unless someone is going to the Olympics, I don’t think that’s worth registering. I love to see people of every body size coming into the sport and hopefully feeling like they belong. Any other running myths? I guess it would be running is bad for your knees.
I was sure that was going to be a problem for me because I had bad knees when I was growing up. My patella grew before the joint did. My ligaments were too tight on the outside and too loose on the inside. Every time I climbed stairs for a while, my knee would roll out a socket. I assumed that would always be a problem for me. Cycling didn’t improve my knee at all. I did competition mountain biking in my teens and early twenties and I would still have the problem. When I started running, my knee problems disappear. This is anecdotal but I did not have knee problems.
I don’t understand why that one’s still circulating because it was busted such a long time ago. I guarantee anyone here who runs has had some person in their life say, “Isn’t that bad for your knees?” I don’t know why that one never seems to go away.
There are plenty of other things that are bad for your knees but not that. Having an overdeveloped quad and hamstring is another that can create some problems. Even though doctors told me, “You need to have a strong quad to lift the patella.” All that did for me was worsen the problem because the ligaments were more of the issue. As soon as I started doing the distance runs, my knee problems disappeared and never returned. I’ve not had any issues since.
You’re not the first person to say that.
What do you wish was different in the world of running? You’ve already touched on this but it’s a different question.
I wish that we would recognize that we live in such a world of hustle mentality, that the way to get what you want is to dig harder, push further, eat clean, give it your all and try hard. It makes you tense, tight, stressed and miserable. I wish there was more leaning into the joy. For most of us, our best running experiences are not the races or the moments where we were like, “I’m going to dig.” It’s the moments when you were joyful, inflow and the moment. I wish it wasn’t so much focused on hustling and trying harder. It was more focused on what a gift it is to be out there.
What thoughts would you like to leave our audience with?
Everyone belongs. Especially if you’ve never tried running and your memory and experience of running is a miserable PE class or running to chase a bus, missing it and feeling annoyed at yourself, it doesn’t have to be that. If you’ve slowed down, which is the hardest thing to do, that is where people find the magic in it and where you will understand like, “I see why people like this.”
Those experiences that we have from our childhood or earlier in life are moments when we were running outside of what our body was capable of so it is associated negatively. There’s a place for everyone in the running world. You just have to handle your ego enough to slow down to access that. You’ll soon see it come out. Maybe that’s walking, to start with. That could be walking for 5 minutes and running for 1 minute. If you do it, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can improve.
That’s called interval training, even if it is just walking to jog and then walking to run. For people who want to hear the horror story of my pre-running journey, you can find an episode soon on Tina Muir’s podcast. I got to come on and share the horror stories of my awful experiences with PE and everything else, feeling like I would never be fast enough to be a runner, and all of those myths that we should shove under the deepest grave and say goodbye to forever. Thank you.
Thank you so much. This is great.
To find out more about Tina Muir, visit RunningForReal.com. Check out her Instagram page, @TinaMuir88. You can also find her @RunningForReal. You can find her from her website, to YouTube, to Facebook and beyond on our sponsor’s website, OrloNutrition.com. This was a treat. This show is all about serving each of you. If you’d like us to dive into specific topics or you have questions that you’d like from me or Tina to answer, send us a note via social channels or email me at Hello@OrloNutrition.com. If you learned something, I hope that you’ll subscribe to the show on your favorite platform.
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About Tina Muir
Tina Muir is the founder and CEO of Running for Real, a mother of two, and a former elite runner for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She hosts the Running For Real podcast, a collection of conversations about running, the climate emergency, and social justice, which has amassed over 6 million downloads, and Running Realized, an NPR-style podcast with Knox Robinson, called “the Invisibilia of running podcasts” by Women’s Running. Tina has worked with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and has been featured in The Guardian, The Telegraph, People Magazine, Outside, SELF, and Women’s Health.