Vegan Fitness

Every day it seems more athletes are making the transition to veganism and reporting positive results.

There is a wealth of information surrounding elite exercise and veganism and I have spent a lot of time over the past few years researching and incorporating that information into my own habits. This page is a place to share my own experiences, favorite products, vitamin and supplement regimen and challenges.

My Training Schedule

So what do I mean when I say 'elite athlete'? When I use that term, I simply mean that I exercise at a higher frequency and intensity than the average person. Specifically, I work out 7 days a week for at least an hour and, while my focus is running, I also incorporate weightlifting, yoga and other forms of cross training.

During marathon training times my weekly mileage hovers somewhere between 30 and 50 miles per week and in the "off season" it rarely dips below 20. I recently acquired a beautiful road bike and have since been biking like a crazy person (hopefully in preparation for a triathlon!!) and going to spin classes 2-3 times a week. Biking is beautifully low-impact compared to running and my body has been thanking me for it!!

Usually, I run 5 days a week with long runs on Saturday and recovery runs on Sunday.

Mondays I typically cross train (stair stepper and/or easy treadmill/stationary bike) and do core strengthening or weights.

Tuesdays I usually do pace-work in the mornings (I love fart-lek type runs because I can do them in the park with Wyatt) and then an easy 3-4 mile treadmill run or 30-40 minutes on the stairstepper before yoga in the evening.

Wednesday/Thursdays I usually do splits - some kind of cardio in the morning and then cardio again at lunch or cardio/weights in the evening.

Fridays I do easy cardio or cross training to prep for my long runs on Saturdays.

After one particularly gnarly race where I ate it at mile 3 :)


I do weight routines first and foremost to supplement running which means I aim to build lean, lengthy muscles and not to "bulk-up." It is possible to bodybuild in a more traditional sense on a vegan diet but that is not my aim. The routines I recommend and the type of work I do incorporates full body, integrated movements in short, high intensity periods of time.

For example, a particular favorite circuit of mine goes like this:
  • Round 1 (plank position, 10 lb weights): 10 pushups, 10 plank-arm rows with each arm, 6 plank tricep kick-backs with each arm. Repeat round one 3 times, never leaving plank position and with as little rest as possible between each repetition before moving on to round 2.
  • Round 2 (standing, 10 or 12 lb weights): 12 squat thrusters, 10 bicep curls on right arm while in lunge position with your reverse leg, 10 bicep curls on left arm while in lunge position with your reverse leg and then 10 bicep curls using both arms (legs together). Repeat round two 3 times with as little rest possible between each repetition before moving on to round 3.
  • Round 3 (standing, 10 or 12 lb weights): 10 shoulder flys while in plie squat, 15 kettle bell swings (using one weight only), 12 overhead tricep presses while in seated chair position (using one weight only - being extra sure to keep your abs tight to support your back so you don't injure yourself!!) Repeat round three 3 times with as little rest possible between each repetition.
Additionally, I try to do core workouts as often as possible. My core workouts include sit-ups, medicine balls, lots of plank stuff, bridges etc...

If I had to recommend two weight-related exercises to improve running ability it would be (1) CORE - it is absolutely crucial that you keep your core strong. It will make you a better runner and improve your overall breathing, recovery and enjoyment, I promise and (2) SQUATS - squats build many of the leg muscles that running doesn't so they are probably the best thing you can do to make your legs stronger overall which will, in turn, improve your pace and reduce your risk for injury.

Things I don't do: Elliptical. Weight Machines. I see both of these things as crutches. I think they are inefficient in terms of exercise and I simply believe you can get better results from other cardio equipment and free weights or weight circuits that utilize more of your body and don't isolate particular muscle groups.

Food as Fuel
I look at every meal as an opportunity to maximize nutrient intake. It's that simple. If you plan your meals with the idea that every ingredient you incorporate should benefit your body in some way, it is surprisingly easy to make healthy choices and to stop focusing on things like calories or fat or carbs or whatever trendy diet plan is all the rage at that particular moment.

If you are aiming to eat for your health and to fuel your body in a positive way, aim to understand the nutritional components of each ingredient you incorporate into your meal. The more you do this, the more in-tune your body will be with what it needs and the more you will crave whole foods and stop craving junk. It's really amazing how your body responds and heals the more you transition your diet to whole, real foods and cut out crap. Our bodies are meant to eat real foods, not processed crap and dairy and chemical GMO stuff. Just realizing that as a general principle makes it a heck of a lot easier to start changing your eating habits which, I promise, will positively change your body.

Foods I eat: Everything on this blog :) Some particular favorites of mine are: Oatmeal, fruit of all kinds but especially apples and berries, leafy greens of all kinds, lettuce, quinoa, lentils, beans of all kinds, edamame - frozen or raw, raw almonds and hazelnuts, CHIA SEEDS, zucchini (especially when noodled!), asparagus, applesauce (unsweetened), whole grain breads and cereal (i.e. Kashi, granola, Dave's Killer Bread), whole wheat pitas, sweet potatoes, avocados, Annie's light salad dressing, Amy's veggie burgers, Trader Joe's frozen black bean enchiladas, millet, wheatberries, frozen fruit bars, bananas, and lots and lots of nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew - preferably raw and unsalted but I also love Justin's nut butters!

I also love wine. And beer. I don't recommend those things as an athlete, but I would rather have a glass of wine than dessert any day!

Foods I don't eat: Aside from the obvious (anything that comes from an animal - I mean this is a vegan blog after all) I also try my hardest to refrain from fried foods, highly processed foods, food made from refined, bleached flour or sugar, white rice, pasta or any other nutritionally devoid carbohydrate and really just anything that does not meet my high standards for nutrient-value. I try to never deprive myself if there is something that I really really want and I can't promise to been seen mow-ing down a side of french fries but as a general rule, I cut out foods that have little nutritional value as much as possible :)

Vitamins and Supplements

I have a really hard time with sports drinks and gels. I just don't like them very much and again, the whole nutrient to calorie benefit just doesn't quite do it for me.

Fortunately, there are a wealth of amazing products and supplements to fuel an athlete for any distance and activity level that are portable, vegan, and whole.

My absolute favorite electrolyte water enhancer is Nuun. Nuun tastes great, has a kick ass environmental and sustainability commitment and gives you a whole wealth of necessary electrolytes as well as vitamins and minerals. Nuun comes in tablet form and you simply dissolve it into your water. Nuun is vegan with no added sugar and a mere 4-11 calories (depending on the type). I recommend the Tropical and Pink Lemonade flavors :) I put half a tablet in my hand water bottle during my run and the other half in a water bottle for after the run is over.
Another good electrolyte enhancer and the one that Portland Marathon uses is Ultima. I tried it for the first time a couple weeks ago and checked out their website and it seems pretty great. It is a powder form which is slightly less convenient than the wonderful little Nuun tablets in my opinion, but it's still a great option. With no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, Ultima comes in larger containers (60-90 servings) or individual packet-size servings.

What I Run With
I run almost exclusively with Larabars and some kind of salty snack like Annie's Organic Whole Wheat Pretzel Bunnies. Larabars are great; they are a quick, easily digestible form of energy and have an ideal balance of carbs and protein. They are soy free, sweetener free, preservative free, vegan and all that good stuff. The only sugars in them are natural sugars which are so much more readily usable by your body. Annie's pretzel bunnies are small enough to pack along and have a great combination of salty and sweet. They really hit the spot on a ong run.

Larabars are pretty easy to make yourself and I have done it before...but now I buy them at Costco instead. I like the simplicity of just being able to grab one, cut it up and go.

Some mega-athletes like Scott Jurek and Brendan Brazier also make their own mid-race goodies like nori balls and homemade energy bars (and now Brendan's plant-based line, Vega, has a whole slew of endurance bars and gels which I have yet to try but, based on all of the other wonderful things that Vega has produced, I'm sure are wonderful).

If I ever decide to run an ultra or anything longer than a marathon I may use those products too but for now, I'm content with my Larabars, Nuun and the occasional Swedish fish (like Clif's shotblocks only cheaper! And more delicious).

Favorite Products

I am absolutely obsessed with Lululemon. I really can't afford it, but they consistently make the most quality running clothing so it's worth it to spring for a few nice things.

My main staples are anything from Nike's Pro Combat Line. Simple, classic, fits well and I never have problems with chaffing or weird fits or anything. And because I wear the same size in everything I can hit up my friends who are members at the employee store to pick stuff up for me ;)

Shalane rocking the compression
socks at the NYC marathon

CEP Compression socks. Totally worth the money. Makes recovery from long-runs so much faster and decreases foot and leg swelling. Love these babies. And they seem to be all the rage these days ;)!

Fortunately, most running clothes and shoes are made from synthetic products so, as a vegan, I don't have to worry too much about animal products sneaking into my gear, but I do always try to support companies with sustainable environmental policies and that avoid animal testing.

I run in Asics GT 2170's (they stopped making the 2170's and I have transitioned to Mizuno Wave Inspire's which-I didn't think this was possible-I love even more!!). They are medium stability, medium cushioning and are the most comfortable and natural-feeling shoes I've ever worn.

My gorgeous Mizuno Wave-Inspires

I love my SPIbelt. Some people run with larger belts or water bottle caryring packs but usually I prefer running with a hand bottle and my SPIbelt because it is much lower profile and less obtrusive.
Foam Roller. Best recovery tool ever. I don't even bother stretching anymore, I just get right to my foam roller.

  • Thrive by Brendan Brazier
  • Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  • The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
  • Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
  • Finding Ultra by Rich Roll
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