Quick healthy food from quick and healthy Midlothian runner

Picture Michael Gillen.  Ex-Olympic runner Freya Ross has published a cookbook.
Picture Michael Gillen. Ex-Olympic runner Freya Ross has published a cookbook.

Freya Ross was back out on the run last weekend for the East of Scotland in the Inter District Championships at Stirling.

But the Lasswade runner is also giving her cookbook a second run – appropriately named for an Olympic marathon athlete – Food on the run.

Speed is of the essence for the 36-year-old juggling family life, work and training with the local athletics club. And that’s where the book comes in.

A collection of her recipes from home, it’s her go-to-guide when people invariably ask the question – just what does a successful Olympic marathon runner eat?

“I never followed a very rigorous diet – it was always a healthy balanced diet, and really the book was just a collection of recipes and foods that I ate to give people an idea of how to quite easily follow a healthy balanced diet without having to eat weird ingredients only available from specialist shops and sources.

“I wrote it a few years ago now off the back of the 2012 London Olympics. When I was invited to give talks and seminars people would often ask me what my diet was like and if I ate specific things or specialised foods, and the truth is I didn’t.

“I did a lot of cooking when I was competing and this book is a collection of food I would make.”

Cooking seems to come naturally to Freya too, who now lives in Larbert after growing up in Midlothian and running with Edinburgh. She learned to fuel her body for long-distance running, representing Scotland in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Team GB in the London Olympics’ marathon two years later and being a regular podium placed finisher on the Scottish athletics circuit.

She added: “I enjoy cooking – my mum was very good cook and that helped and through the experiences and trips I’ve enjoyed with running I had the opportunity to try different foods in different places and I’d maybe bring a few ideas back and try to re-create something at home – I enjoyed experimenting with the food.

“When I was competing and in the sportScotland institute of sport I’d meet a nutritionist at certain times and she’d give me pointers and I picked up knowledge from her too. I just became aware of how to fuel myself properly. For marathons that’s quite important so it was a case of finding the right amount of calories to cover the 80 miles a week and the right foods to keep yourself properly fuelled up.

“When I was training for the Olympics, I was working long hours as an engineer so I was looking for nutritious food I could make easily and quickly without faffing about.

“I’ve got a wee one now so we are always strapped for time so you just want to make things that are quick, easy and are also healthy and can be eaten as a family. You want to give them good food without having to cook different things or deal with awkward ingredients.

“It’s not a book of foods for runners or athletes, they’re all pretty straightforward and easy to follow recipes. It’s not things that are going to take you two hours to prepare.”

Fellow runners snapped up the first editions and now with healthier lifestyles in the new year after festive indulgences in focus she’s embarking on a second print.

“It’s new year so these things tend to be at the forefront of people’s minds around this time of years and hopefully this can be a help to some with a view to keeping fit and healthy into the new year. It’s nice to hear at races that people bought the book and are using it.”

Some may be on the start line this weekend too and the book will be utilised as Ross fuels up for training ahead of the Scottish Cross Country championships in February along the road from her at Falkirk’s Callendar Park, where she’ll be representing her local club.

“I joined Falkirk Victoria Harriers a couple of years ago, I’d been with Edinburgh and then when I moved back from Newcastle where I’d been working I thought it would be nice to be part of my local club. While I was pregnant I was going down and coaching four times a week and got to know people that way.

“It’s nice when I go to races I really feel part of the club - it is a very friendly club, and nice atmosphere. It’s good to be a part of the team.”

But it still begs the question that sparked it all off - what does an athlete eat? Well, she’s already explained – a healthy balanced diet but Freya has her favourites too.

She added: “The lunches are great because they’re just super quick. For me, I enjoy making the banana bread and fajitas and spaghetti bolognese – that’s food we make all the time here at home.

“The feedback is good and I’m sure there are certain things people make more than others but it’s good that people are using it.”