Tuesday, 22 May 2012 09:54

Eating, Running and Winning with Scott Jurek

Written by  Meaghan Igel
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Ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek wasn't always the mile-conquering fitness expert he is now. In fact, the winner of ultraRunning's top honors and advocate for veganism used to be a hunting, fishing Minnesotan carnivore, who hated running.

"[Running] was kind of like punishment; we would have to run laps in gym class and at soccer and basketball practice," Jurek said. "While I was involved with Nordic skiing in high school, I ran because I wanted to get in shape for ski season, but it wasn't something I enjoyed."

Fast-forward through workouts with buddies like Dusty Olsen and other mentors from whom Jurek drew inspiration and drive. Now, Jurek wins competitions like Greece's famed Spartathalon (153 miles) and Colorado's Hardrock Hundred, among others, in between training sessions.

"I don't go out and do 80-mile training runs," Jurek said. "Sometimes I'll do back-to-backs; a long run on Saturday followed by a long run on Sunday. It's about 30 miles with lots of climbing, and then doing it again the very next day when your legs are tired and sore and you're saying ‘What am I still doing here?' It's a good way to replicate how you'll feel at mile 30 when you still have miles to go. I usually follow that up with an easy recovery day with a six-to-ten miler or cross-train by biking, swimming or skiing to mix it up and balance things out."

Given that Jurek's "easy" recovery days are a normal, if not fairly ambitious, workout for the rest of us, it's essential for him to stay well fueled, which brings us to the "Eat" in Eat and Run. Jurek manages his workouts eating a 100 percent plant-based diet, which he says is crucial in maintaining his overall health, fitness and well being.

"There's so many things in the food out there that aren't necessarily good for us," said Jurek.

He finds inspiration for his diet from ethnic foods and staples from countries across the world.

"These staples are very simple, whole, plant-based foods in cultures that have survived for thousands of years. I changed my way of thinking to embrace different flavors and try different things I thought I wouldn't like."

Jurek chooses to see this diet as a positive challenge, rather than culinary austerity.

"I think of it more as ‘What can I eat?'" said Jurek. "For me, it's really a diet of integration and looking at things I can incorporate rather than a diet of deprivation."

For example, Jurek's favorite recipe in the book is tempeh and brown rice with a red curry almond sauce, which features three grams of protein for every gram of fat (his lentil mushroom burgers claim a close second).

In both eating and running, Jurek emphasizes the importance of finding mentors or looking to those who have made things work and drawing inspiration from them.

"The biggest thing is to stay motivated, stay positive, draw inspiration from others, and above all, keep learning."

Other Literary Events

Three Months to a Better You
Grand Rapids Public Library, Main Branch
June 20, 7 p.m.
grpl.org, (616) 988-5400

Scott Jurek's incredible story is featured in one of GRPL's GR Reads picks chronicling the lives of ultrarunners -- Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. McDougall's book began with a wish to find out why his foot hurt and what he was doing wrong in his running workouts. By following the stories and secrets of runners such as those in the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons, who are capable of running hundreds of miles in a single stretch without tiring, McDougall proves that any of us can be born to run. In conjunction with this GR Reads choice, the library will host a personal fitness expert to show everybody -- from beginners to seasoned veterans -- how to slim waists, shed pounds and gain energy by making your own personalized fitness plan and maintain a consistently healthy lifestyle.

Michigan Notable Book Discussion
Kent District Library, Krause Memorial Branch
June 14, 6:30 p.m.
kdl.org, (616) 784-2007

Every year, a juried selection chooses a book set in Michigan or the Great Lakes region, which is written by a Michigan author. This year's selection is Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike: From Sand Trails to US-31 by Christine Byron and Tom Wilson. The West Michigan Pike, originally M-11, opened west Michigan to automobile travel. The book  traces Michigan's tourism from vintage postcards and photographs to the Tim Allen-voiced commercials of today. (Well ... not really that far, but the vintage maps are pretty cool.)

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