Fasted Running Is Your Best Friend: 3 Reasons To Try It

by | Jan 26, 2019

For thirteen miles, I felt invincible.

For the final three, I wasn’t sure I’d finish. I felt like I did near the end of my first 100 mile race, although with much less lower body-body pain.

It was an ultra marathon replication.

I smiled during those long, arduous final three miles; this is what I’d been looking for.

The hurt.

I set out last weekend to do a distance fasted run. I planned on doing sixteen miles and didn’t eat for twelve hours before; I also didn’t eat or drink water during the run.

I started the run hungry, but energetic and eager to see where this Wicked Trail would take me.

I wanted to find the point when my body would no longer have the energy to push on.

Where was my ‘wall?’

Could I dismantle it?

How would my mind and body react after running for over two hours without food?

This wasn’t an experiment of fat-loss or metabolism boosting, this was the purest expression of Go Farther So You Can Go Further: when I take my body to unfamiliar, painful distances, my mind will grow exponentially.

[If you run or train for fat-loss, to ‘look great,’ or because beach season is right around the corner, click here. I’d like to change your life.]

When I hit that ‘wall,’ the wall I sought to dismantle, I was 13.3 miles in. Prior to this point, I had been clipping along at around 7:40 per mile, which is fast for me.

When I stopped just after mile thirteen, I did a few light stretches and felt fine in them.

When I stood up from those stretches, it was like someone flipped on the ‘fatigue switch.’

My hands shook, my knees were weak, and even my breathing felt labored.

“This is it? This is nothing…” I’d been plenty tired before. “Let’s hammer out these last three miles and have some lunch!”

None of those last three miles got ‘hammered out.’ I did. I stopped six times, walked up the slightest of inclines, and as the fatigue grew massive, I felt my mental state slipping.

My physical state was long gone.

And as I saw my pace slow to over 11:00 per mile, I smiled.

I was here. I wanted to see where the hurt lived, where my body would say “No more!” and the point where I would have to actively refocus my thoughts on the task.

I’m going to start regularly rejecting comfort and include fasted running in my ultra marathon training.

Here’s 3 reasons you should too.

 **Disclaimer: Wicked Trail Running, LLC is not responsible for injury or death associated with practicing any of the training, exercise, or workout information posted anywhere on this site. Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program**

1. Fasting Is Ultra Marathon Replication

When I hit mile fourteen, fifteen, and finally the last mile, I felt as though I’d just run fifty.

It wasn’t the same foot, knee, and hip pain experienced at miles 70, 80, and 90, but the fatigue and mental exhaustion were each present.

I stopped multiple times in those last few miles and had to talk to myself in order to realign my focus on actually finishing the run. I was distracted by thoughts of just walking it in or resting for a few minutes; it was almost as if I could have DNF’d my sixteen mile run.

My mind wandered away; I walked up slight hills and checked my watch incessantly.

When will it end?”

I felt like an ultra marathon runner praying for the next aid station to peek through the trees. I craved the social buzz, the picnic-style food, and the volunteers.

Except I wouldn’t actually find any of that.

I just wanted my apartment, a peanut butter sandwich, and a tall glass of water.

Being able to realign your focus through massive fatigue and practicing the resistance of the ‘quit’ is essential to finding success in ultra marathon running. Maybe it won’t be apparent in your first race, or your second. But as you continue to venture down the Wicked Trail, there will come a time when your fatigue, mental exhaustion, and the voices whispering ‘quit’ create the perfect recipe for a DNF.

Be prepared. Know the effort your body and mind are capable of putting forward.

Every training session is a microcosm of the ultra marathon, whether you realize it or not. Even the easiest of runs and lightest of weight sessions have elements of the ultra marathon.

Fasted running is just like these. Sure it’s larger scale; but it’s rooted in a discomfort mindset.

2. Comfort Is A Lie

You can’t begin your day without a cup of coffee. Your sugar cravings are answered with a trip to the vending machine. Exercise is simply a justification for body-image. A soft couch and large television occupy all of your evenings. Any sign of physical ailment is met with medication.

You’ve dedicated your life to comfort.

It lurks in the familiar: air conditioning, a soft bed, a cup of coffee. When these familiar comforts become mindless and habitual, your armor begins to crack.

The coffee, the sweet food, the aimless exercise, the soft couch and large television, the medication, the air conditioning. Mindless engagement in daily routine develops an addiction to comfort.

An addiction to comfort creeps on slowly until it envelops a person. Others don’t notice it; the person enveloped in the lie sees nothing wrong. It is an emotional and mental death most can’t see.

There is a cure.

It’s not to train harder. It’s not to run faster. It’s not to sleep less and work more.

To draw comfort’s toxic grips out into the light, ask yourself one question: “What do I not want to do?”

“I do not want to do a fasted run tomorrow.”

I sure didn’t. It’s much easier to excuse the fasted run as counter-productive or even damaging to your training cycle. Maybe you’re worried about the impact it will have on the rest of your workouts…

Comfort Is A Lie.

These runs, your upcoming race or event, your current training cycle: what is the end goal?

Is it six-pack abs and an Instagram photo shoot?

Or is it claiming control of your mind, your life? Is it venturing to explore challenge and adversity and use those ventures to become that which you desire to become?

Yes, training harder and running faster and working more is uncomfortable, but these things are the products of a discomfort mindset. There are building blocks that lay the foundation for a person to mentally be capable of training harder and running faster and working more. It’s doing what one does not want to do every single day -habitually- that frame a discomfort mindset.

The fasted run, or fasted training session, is a dive into discomfort. It is a tool worth keeping handy for sharpening your mind, numbing your ears to the voices screaming “Quit!” at mile 80 of whatever race you’re running in life.

3. Fasted Running Primes Your Mind To Go Further

“What else am I capable of?”

I couldn’t believe I ran 16 miles with no food or water; this was an accomplishment for me.

This accomplishment however, wasn’t about that run: it was about all of the future races, training sessions, and workouts.

“What else am I capable of?”

I proved to myself that I am capable of diving into discomfort and intentionally exposing myself to adversity; what comes next? How have I raised the bar? What will my next challenging training session look like?

I went farther, fasted and fatigued. My mind went further.

Go farther, fasted and fatigued, in training sessions, around the office, and in your daily duties and chores.

Your mind will go further, it will grow and mold itself to discomfort and adversity, and only one question will remain: “What else are YOU capable of?”

Written by: George C.

Written by: George C.

Writer, Wicked Trail Running

When he's not running with his Cattle Dog, Cowboy, in Raleigh, North Carolina, George likes to kick back and keep the content on Wicked Trail Running fresh and engaging. He's got a few Ultras coming up in 2019, so if you need to get in touch with him, the local parks and greenways around Raleigh are a good place to start looking.

He really doesn't like cooking, so if you've got any quick vegan smoothie ideas or recipes, shoot an email to george@wickedtrailrunning.com. He also enjoys talking about running, mental toughness, and the art of mindset alteration.

Follow George on Instagram @georgecarterc!

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Book of the Month:

Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds is a dive into the demons that plagued David Goggins -elite ultra endurance athlete and Navy SEAL- through his early life and an exploration of what it took for him to become a master of his own mind against all statistical odds. His tools for mental stimulation and growth are useful for anyone interested in venturing into endurance sports, becoming a better person, and mastering his or her mind. A must read!

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What is your perspective on ultramarathon running? Adventurous and exhilarating? Calming and therapeutic? Full of pain and suffering? Pain management has much to do with your perspective on running an ultramarathon. What is your perspective? Why do you run an...

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