SU professor, marathon runner offers these 5 tips for a healthy lifestyle

SU professor, marathon runner offers these 5 tips for a healthy lifestyle

Although Cliff Davidson is an expert in engineering, he also has a lot to teach in fitness and wellness.
Published: November 19, 2019
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Professor Cliff Davidson teaches engineering classes at SU, but this is by far not the only topic he can talk and teach about. Davidson, now 69 years old, has run 100 marathons in less than 19 years since he turned 51. Now, he runs for an hour every other day, getting ready for the next marathons to come.

Davidson offers these five tips about how to stay fit and healthy:

1. Be Flexible

Since his schedule is often very tight and shifting, Davidson said it is hard to stick to a certain pattern when it comes to training. He runs whenever he has the chance – no matter if it rains, snows or the wind blows. 

“I had to change my route a few times, because I noticed the roads weren’t salted in winter,” Davidson laughed. 

Some of the races Davidson ran were actually during his travels between flights. 

“I travel a lot,” he said, “and that’s why I always try to book my flights with a long layover in a city, where I can run my next marathon.” 

One time, he had a conference in India and booked a flight with a 24-hour layover in Hamburg, Germany. He got on the plane in the United States, got off in Hamburg, ran a marathon near the city and got back on the plane to India. 

2. Stay away from processed food

Davidson doesn’t eat candy, red meat or fast food at all, and said he doesn’t miss the junk food. Fish is very important, but he tries to integrate some vegetarian days into his week. He said there’s no processed food he misses.

“There is not a single junk food that I would like to eat from time to time,” he said.

He started this healthy diet when he was in graduate school, about 45 years ago, after noticing that junk food made him feel really drained and low on energy. After reading more and more nutrition-related books, he decided to change his food plan. Now, he drinks around four liters of water a day, no tea or coffee at all. Sometimes, he dilutes Vitamin Water and takes it for his run for some additional energy. Appropriately enough, one of Davidson’s daily superfoods is citrus fruits, such as grapefruit. Kale and ginger are some of his secret ingredients he tries to include in many meals.

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Strong support: Davidson running the Honolulu Marathon 2012 with his son Ian. (Photo courtesy of Cliff Davidson)

3. Make sure you’ve got support around you

When Davidson started his healthy lifestyle in grad school, he had many friends that were interested in it too. That helped a lot, he said, and his friends were also the ones that motivated him to run long distance races when he turned 51. His wife is always there to help with the cooking and grocery shopping. 

When he is running a race, most of the people are strangers – but it never takes long finding the next running partner to have great conversations with.

4. It’s not about winning

All the marathons he ran were not for any sort of award or title, they were all for the experience. Putting pressure on yourself is unhealthy and doesn’t get you anywhere. When in a race, you should focus on the moment and the impressions, not on the competition. 

 “It’s about meeting new people, having interesting conversations and experiencing the long run in a group,” Davidson said. 

Cliff Davidson running the Texas Marathon in Feb 2019

Flexibility also means running in the rain: Davidson encountered some less-than-ideal weather at the 2019 Texas Marathon. (Photo courtesy of Cliff Davidson)

Cliff Davidson running Disney World Marathon 2017

Davidson at the Disney World Marathon in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Cliff Davidson)

5. Don’t forget about mental fitness

Davidson sees fitness as a whole: It’s not only about physical fitness, but also about mental fitness. He tries to take part in discussion groups as often as he can, reads the news and catches inspiring experiences on his travels. His job as a professor is a big part of it – conferences, classes and day trips make each day a unique experience and offer learning opportunities. 

Although his changing schedule presents a challenge for training, Davidson’s wellness habits are a necessary part of his lifestyle.

“This lifestyle is something I do automatically, without even thinking too much about it,” he said.