Applying Rich Roll’s Top 10 Rules to Running

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Photo from Rich Roll's YouTube channel.

Rich Roll went from being an unknown overweight lawyer to one of the best ultrarunners on the planet after having a major health scare. He’s a best-selling author, plant-based nutrition advocate, ultra-endurance athlete and an inspiration to millions around the world. What’s incredible about Rich is that he didn’t even own a bike two years prior to competing in his first Ultraman race.

I watched Evan Carmichael’s video on Rich Roll’s top ten rules and think they can be applied brilliantly to running.



1. Embrace pain

Rich Roll says that the world is built in a way that help us avoid pain. Everywhere you look, there’s an ad trying to sell you the idea of luxury, comfort and ease. Ultimately, avoiding pain and discomfort is the lie to finding happiness that many believe.

Rich Roll says that he’s able to find happiness when he goes to the edge of his pain threshold, pushing his limits to new levels. When he does this, he’s able to experience a new version of himself becomes a better person.

Similar to David Goggin’s belief that ‘on the other side of suffering is greatness’, Rich believes that it’s only through doing incredibly uncomfortable things that we’re able to grow.

Clearly, Rich is no stranger to hard things. As just one example, he has completed numerous Ultraman’s. Whilst the distances may vary, in general Ultraman’s are three-day 515km multisport races consisting of a 10k open ocean swim, a 421k bike ride, and an 84k ultra-marathon run to finish.

To complete these, Rich had to get comfortable being uncomfortable and believes that by embracing pain we’re able to grow.

We can apply embracing pain to running as you can use pain to your advantage in a number of ways.

You can use pain to your advantage during a race. When you’re battling it out with a few runners for the position you’re in, you can try using the pain of your competitors to give you a burst of energy to surge ahead. This links to David Goggin’s famous trick called ‘taking souls.’

A healthy amount of physical pain can also signify muscle growth and fitness development during and after training. It’s natural to have sore muscles and feel tired after a workout where the body will then repair itself to a stronger state. As the saying goes, ‘no pain no gain.’ The obvious caveat is that you don’t want to be running through excruciating pain as this is definitely an indicator that you are injured.

2. Find your true purpose

‘It’s great to derive inspiration from the superstars but what’s moist important is that you choose the right path, the right goal for you.’Rich Roll

Rich says that we all have something special that makes us unique and that we should all try and share more of who we are with the world.

He says that it’s important to set big goals and, no matter how many times you get knocked down by day to day obstacles, what’s important is to keep showing up.

Ultimately, he says that people need to set goals that align with who they are and what their purpose is.

Running relates to finding your true purpose. Whether running is a sub-goal on the way for someone achieving their main goal (e.g. a CEO who uses running as a means for being more productive and energetic in his role) or the main goal itself, it’s important to think about how running will contribute to your ultimate purpose.

For example, someone might have a purpose of wanting to be the best parent they can possibly be. To live this purpose, they decide to set a role model to their children that exercising is important, so they take up a running habit.

Alternatively, someone might realize that running – whether short, medium, long or ultra-distances – is their calling in life and decide to set huge goals for achieving their purpose.

What maters is that you’re running for reasons that relate, in some form or another, to who you are and what you want to achieve in your life.

3. Improve your diet

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

When asked what would be the most important first step for someone who wants to turn their life around out diet, mediation and exercise by Lewis Howes of the School of Greatness podcast, Rich Roll says diet immediately.

He says changing your diet is a ‘portal to the soul.’ Being known as an ultra-runner with a 100% plant based-diet, Rich gives the sort of advice that you’d expect. He advises people to eat real foods as close to their natural state as possible and recommends fruits, nuts, vegetables and seeds. What’s interesting is that Rich says a healthy diet can be the catalyst for massive transformation in other areas of life.

Rich says he wasn’t ready to start anything productive in his life (running, writing, meditation), until he finally changed his relationship with food. He says that food impacts you on every level. Emotionally, spiritually and physically.

A healthy diet is a fundamental condition for being a successful runner. I always use the analogy of diet and health being like the foundation of a house. Without a sturdy foundation, it’s impossible to build a beautiful house. Similarly, without the foundation of a healthy diet it’s impossible for someone to build a fulfilling running life for themselves.

Improving your diet will make you feel better so that you have the energy and the motivation to run more and to run better. Your confidence will also improve during training as you know that you’re actioning the right dietary choices that will lead to better running.

4. Be present

When Tom Bilyeu talks to Rich about the moment when he changed his life around (buckling over whilst ascending a flight of stairs in a heart attack scare), he asks him what his process is for transformation.

Rich responds by saying that an awareness and constant presence is crucial for being able to identify the moments that visit us as an opportunity to turn our life around. For Rich, the big life transformational moment came to him when he felt truly present during his heart attack scare.

Had Rich not been truly present during this moment and had he not taken the time to think about what had just happened in the context of his life, it’s likely that he wouldn’t have made the decisions that he did in becoming a world famous ultra-athlete.

Being present applies to running as it’s important to constantly be aware and in the moment during each run. This way, you’ll be able to identify how you’re feeling, how your body reacts to changing demands, what you’re capable of and – if you’re able to – you’ll be able to identify when a change in training strategy is required.

Also, being present applies to many runners who have started running due to some kind of epiphany. I know a guy that started running after being told a few years before when they were morbidly obese that, if they didn’t lose a significant amount of weight and become healthy, they’d be dead in a year.

This guy, let’s call him John, told me that he had a massive epiphany at that moment; if he didn’t get his act together, he would never see his kids grow up. This shook him to massive action and, just two years later, he is running five times a week and tackling multiple marathons every year. It was through being present and knowing that he had to make a huge decision that John was able to turn his life around thanks to the magic of running and a good diet.

5. Go for it

Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash

In Evan’s video, Rich stars this tip by referring us to a difficult time in 2008 where he and his wife Julie were going to lose their house.

Luckily, friends and family helped them out and Rich was able to pay for his first big ultra-race. He says that he and his wife cried after driving to the airport when she was about to leave him because they knew that the race was setting something in motion, something that would shift things for their entire life for the better.

Fast forward to today and Rich has written best-selling books, has his own clothing line, a hit podcast, and is an ultra-famous ultra-runner and ultra-triathlete. He says that if you have a dream or a big goal then you should go for it because life is so short and it’s easy to fall into routines and ruts. You never know where things are going to lead if you just give them a try.

Going for it beautiful applies to running. You never know where your running will one day lead you.

I started running properly in 2017 after a few years on and off and never would have been able to predict at that time how much value I have gone on to gain from the sport.

I can confidently say that running has been a massive part of my life and contributed to the person that I am today. Through running, I’ve travelled to new cities, met new friends, started this blog, become more productive and increased my general sense of wellbeing.

The point is, we never know where our decisions are going to take us in life. If you have a dream, you should just go for it and sees what happens.

If you want to one day complete an ultra-marathon of 65 miles, go ahead and give it a try. The worst that can happen is that you fail and learn a huge amount which you an utilize for your next ultra-attempt. Better yet, you could succeed. As Rich says, be sure to just go for it.

6. Delegate

This one doesn’t really apply to running unless you have a running team and are running in the Olympics. Luckily, Evan has a bonus tip at the end of the video so be sure to stick around for that below to make up the 10 rules as promised.

7. Go all in on something

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Possibly the most interesting of Rich’s rules on the list, going all in on something is all about knowing when it’s appropriate to hone focus into one goal with tunnel vision for an extended period. We’re all taught to have balanced lives when we’re children but, as Rich says, this isn’t necessarily the recipe for feeling alive and achieving great things.

Rich says that when he wants to achieve big things in his life from training for ultra-marathons to writing best-selling books, he always goes into these projects super deep applies huge amounts of his time and effort over the course of weeks and sometimes months to achieve them. He says that this is when he feels most alive.

At the same time, he knows when it’s appropriate to zoom back out and live more of a balance so he doesn’t become totally obsessed and can focus on other areas like finance, children, wife, family etc.

He says people should think about casting aside the traditional idea that balance is good and, for a short while, should try embracing the one important thing by going all in. Knowing when it’s appropriate to zoom in and focus on the one thing might be what brings you back to life and engages you after sinking into a rut.

We can apply Rich’s rule of going all in on something because it’s sometimes appropriate to go all in on running.

For example, when you’re just starting out as a beginner you don’t know much about the sport. This is the perfect time to go all in and spend some extended time blocks focusing solely on learning about running. Read running books, learn about form, study nutrition and training plans, read blogs, watch YouTube videos. Do anything that’s required in order to lay the foundation down for a successful running career.

Sure, going all in on running learning at the very start is a huge amount of effort and not the most enjoyable prospect for everyone. But once you’ve built up a decent amount of knowledge, you’ll then be able to ease off the gas and enjoy running with the knowledge required to improve your chances of success.

You could use the same principle when you’ve got an important race coming up. Research the course to formulate your strategy and adjust your training plan for the distance and terrain. Going all in on the race preparation means you’ll be increasing your chances of success come race day.

8. Seize every opportunity

When asked by Tom Bilyeu about what kept him going when life was throwing obstacles at him left, right and centre,  Rich responds ‘I worked my ass off and exploited every opportunity that presented itself… it was really just a function of showing up.’

Rich hits on a really good idea that, in order to achieve great things, it’s crucial to continue to seize the opportunities that you have and exploit them to your advantage.

When you wake up and it’s cold, rainy and dark out, and you’re feeling uninspired without a care for running, don’t give into the temptation of going down the negativity rabbit hole. Instead, flip the seemingly negative situation around into an opportunity.

Ask yourself what can be gained from the situation. Instead of saying, ‘it’s so horrible outside and I don’t feel like running right now’ you could say something like ‘it’s an incredible opportunity to be able to train run in a range of weathers and I can’t wait to learn from the experience.’ You might say, what could there possibly be positive about running in poor weather conditions and running even though you can’t feel like it? Here’s a few suggestions:

  • You get to run and enjoy all the associated benefits like improved move, productivity, and energy
  • You have the choice to continue pursuing your training plan
  • It’s a good opportunity to (as Rich advocates) embrace pain and grow from it
  • You’ll be able to transform your low mood into a bundle of motivation and drive

If you start thinking about where opportunities are in each situation as a runner, no matter how seemingly difficult it might be, you’ll soon start to enjoy the sport more and you’ll progress much quicker. As Rich says, seize every opportunity.

9. Help others

Photo by Sherise VD on Unsplash

Rich is happy to know that, through his work and example, he has shaped and impacted the way that people live their lives in a meaningful way. He says that receiving heartfelt feedback from people that he’s helped which details the progress they’ve made thanks to him is a ‘gift from the universe.’

As a runner, you can find huge meaning and value in helping others. You can help others in a number of ways including:

  • Motivating others during training
  • Providing feedback for form and performance
  • Helping people create race strategies
  • Offering your thoughts, insights and tips for improving as a runner
  • If you’re skilled enough, coaching others
  • Raising money for charity through a sponsored run

There are tons of ways to help others through running. By doing so, you’ll find a new level of fulfilment in your life.

10. Prioritize quality sleep

In what starts as a seemingly bizarre clip, Rich tells the audience that, for the last two years he’s been sleeping outside in a tent. He says that this is because of three reasons:

  • He sleeps better in a tent outside
  • It helps him to connect with nature and the outdoors
  • Because it’s a stoic practice

Whilst sleeping in a tent isn’t for everyone, Rich’s reason behind doing so lies in the fact that it’s the best way for him to have deep and restful sleep for his mind and body.

Rich says that ‘we live in this super-fast paced culture where you’ve got to get your hustle on and work 24 hours a day and if you’re not being productive in every moment of your waking existence then your wasting time and you’re falling behind and, with that, comes a reprioritization of sleep. Sleep is for slackers, right? Nothing could be further from the truth.’

Rich hits the nail on the head in that in order to be productive and perform at our best, we need a decent night of sleep that matches our bodies needs. 7-8 hours is usually a good benchmark to aim form.

Quality sleep is crucial for us runners. When we run, the physical activity puts strain and stress on our muscles and tissues which need sleep for repairing so that they’re stronger.

Sleep is also crucial for runners to feel well rested and ready for putting in a decent workout or race performance. If you want to achieve running greatness, use Rich’s advice and prioritize sleep.

Bonus tip: Mediate

Rich is a big advocate of meditation. Meditation is a practice where individuals use a technique – such as mindfulness or focusing the mind on a particular thought or object – to train awareness and attention. It’s all about trying to build a calm and stable emotional state.

In Evan’s video, he says that it’s important to show up to meditation consistently and that it’s okay to not judge yourself if you start to notice your mind wandering throughout the session.

Whilst I’ve never tried mediation myself (I’m going to very soon), I imagine that by meditating consistently, you’re able to train yourself to be emotionally stable during important moments.

As a runner, we could all deal with more emotional stability. It’s tempting to get emotional and be controlled by our feelings during a demanding workout or testing race.

Instead of reacting to the emotion, having a battle with yourself inside your head shouting ‘you’re not going to win this race!’ or ‘this is too hard, you might as well give up!’ wouldn’t it be better if we were able to silence these thoughts and literally run through the noise?

Through regular mediation, it’s apparently possible to do just that. As someone that’s committed to trying out new things, I’m going to try meditating everyday for 30 days to see if it impacts on my running. I may even do a blog post about it in the future.

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