‘I’m an Olympic Runner and Here’s How I Push Through When the Miles Get Difficult’

Photo: Getty Images/ Matthew Stockman; Graphic: W+G Creative
Every runner—whether you log a few miles a week for fun or if you're competitively training for races—is familiar with The Wall: the point during your run when it feels impossible to keep going. You start questioning why the heck you decided to hit the pavement in the first place, thinking of the bed you could be lying in or—literally anything else you could be doing. When you hit The Wall, you need to dig deep to push through.

As a competitive runner, Emma Coburn is no stranger to pushing beyond her limits. In 2016, Coburn took home the bronze at the Olympics for the 3,000 meter steeplechase—the first American woman to place in that event. "Since running is my job, I run twice a day, generally between 85 and 95 miles a week," Coburn says, adding that she also weight trains three times a week. But even though Coburn is no stranger to intense workouts, it doesn't mean they always come easy—and she says it requires physical and mental toughness to cross the finish line. Here, Coburn shares her top tips for prepping her mind and body for endurance runs.

Experts In This Article
  • Emma Coburn, Emma Coburn is a professional runner. In 2016, Coburn took home the Bronze at the Olympics for the 3,000 meter steeplechase—the first American woman to place in that event. Besides being the fastest steeplechaser in the country, Coburn has also...

1. Banish running boredom

Guess what: Even Olympic runners get bored of logging mile after mile. But Coburn says that being a part of a team motivates her to lace up even when she's feeling less than motivated. "I'm never going to skip a run because I don't feel like it or because I'd rather be cozy inside," she says. "So I never skip a run, but I do have different ways to continue finding the joy in it."

Coburn says one of her favorite way to keep her runs fun is doing it with someone, like one of her teammates. "Running with people really helps," she says. "I'll go on an hour-long run with a teammate and we'll just chat and gossip. That really helps eliminate boredom."

On days when Coburn is doing her long run solo, she says she listens to music, a podcast, or book on Audible. Just think about how many books you can get through running miles into the double digits...

2. Fuel up

Of course, it takes more than mind games to build stamina. Properly fueling your body is important, too—even if you aren't running as many miles as an Olympic athlete. Coburn says her general diet is a balance of protein, carbs, and lots of vegetables, with protein being especially important for having enough energy to sustain her runs. In general, the average non-active person should aim to get 50 grams of protein a day; a moderately active person should get 75 grams; and someone who is highly active should consume 100 or more grams of protein.

3. Focus on hydration

Besides her nutrient intake, Coburn says she makes sure she's getting enough H20. "Instead of chugging a lot of water right before I run—which then sloshes around in my belly or make me have to pee—I focus more on hydrating throughout the entire day," she says. She aims to drink a gallon of water over the course of the day to stay properly hydrated.

She's also a huge fan of Nuun hydrating tablets, a brand she's a sponsor for. "I was introduced to Nuun in 2014 through a close friend who's an athlete and have been using the products ever since," she says. Coburn alternates between the different types of tablets—such as the Immunity blend ($22 for a 4-pack) and Energy blend ($26 for a 4-pack). She also likes using the Rest blend ($23 for a 4-pack) when she's traveling, to help with jet lag.

Without the proper mental and physical preparations, you won't have the energy stores needed to keep you going when the going gets tough. And even when there isn't an Olympic medal at stake, finishing every run is a victory.

You pushed through. Looking for a way to recover? Watch the video below for a stretching routine that will feel so good:

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