Runner Allie Ostrander is a chameleon. The 20-year-old Boise State University standout is a cross-country tactician in the fall, an aggressive steeplechaser during track season, and a sure-footed trail runner in summer. This July, she won Alaska’s infamous Mount Marathon race, a roughly 3.1-mile trail run where competitors scramble up about 3,000 feet before hurtling back down. She notched the second-fastest women’s time ever—and did it just one month after winning the NCAA title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Ostrander also finished eighth last year in the 5,000 meters at the Olympic Trials.
We asked her how she manages to perform at her peak year-round in a sport plagued by burnout. She sticks to these ten tips.
- Blaze your own trails. “Comparing myself to others is pretty detrimental to my own training, and it’s never really done me much good. I try to stay off FloTrack, LetsRun, all those websites.”
- Snack well. “I always have a really big snack before bed. It’s almost like a fourth meal, around 9 or 9:30 p.m. Otherwise I’ll wake up hungry in the middle of the night. I don’t usually eat much before I go run in the morning, so that snack carries me over.”
- Get creative with your training. “I’ve moved some of my mileage to the underwater treadmill—between 18 and 19 miles per week.”
- Ramp up gradually. “Before I start any training block, I build up really slowly and make sure that my body can handle it. Mainly for injury prevention, but it’s also mental: I want to know that when I do eventually jump into a workout, it’ll build my confidence instead of tearing me down.”
- Maintain perspective. “A lot of athletes, myself included, judge their selfworth based on how well they’re performing. It’s hard to remember that you’re still a valuable person whether you’re competing or not. Your sport isn’t who you are, it’s just a part of what you do.”
- Rest and recharge. “I am a sleep fiend. I have a really incredible capacity to sleep. I have slept 15 hours consecutively, and I’m generally in bed by 10:30.”
- Take recovery seriously. “On my easy days, I slow down and really let myself recover. That’s usually somewhere around a 7-to-7.5- minute-mile pace. If I want to have consistent training, I need to hold myself back from doing too much.”
- Get the right nutrients. “My coaches require my team and me to get our blood tested and to supplement accordingly. So I take liquid iron every day, usually right after I run. Your body typically absorbs liquid iron more easily than a pill, so it’s fast-acting.”
- Cross-train. “Twice a week I train in the gym. I do light weights, focusing on hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves. I’m trying to make sure that all my stabilizer muscles are strong.”
- Appreciate the moment. “It’s important for me to think back to all the times when I was injured and would’ve given anything to be able to run. It helps me appreciate the times when I can consistently perform and enjoy the whole process.”