CIM, Marathon, Nutrition

All the Small Things

Bonus points if you read the title of this post in your head to the tune of blink-182.

As I am about to embark on this marathon training journey, I’ve been thinking a lot about the little things outside of the actual running that I can do to make this training cycle, and hopefully the race that ensues, the best one ever! For me, the actual running isn’t really a problem. Don’t get me wrong, the actual running is VERY IMPORTANT. The principle of specificity tells us that if we want to get better at running, we need to … run. At this point in my running “career,” I know that I can and will do the work. I also know that there are plenty of other small things, that potentially become big things when all combined, that I have neglected a bit in the past.

I’ve been training and racing pretty consistently now for close to 10 years. Consistency has always been something that I’ve had going for me in various aspects of my life and it’s been especially beneficial with running. I’ve run over 150 races since 2010. I’ve improved tremendously since I first started running. My dad jokingly told me one day that he was surprised that I stuck it out with running since I wasn’t really very good at it when I first started. Ha! I’ve taken my 5K time from 24 –> 18, my 10K time from 50 –> 38, my half marathon time from 1:48 –> 1:24 and my marathon time from 3:24 –> 3:02.

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I’ve worked very hard to get where I am now and I am very proud of where I am. I feel like I have almost reached my full potential as a runner. While I definitely think that I have some more PRs left in me, I am not going to be making drastic improvements. I am fighting for every second of improvement at this point.

This got me thinking, what else can I do that I haven’t really done (or maybe haven’t been consistent with) in the past? I came up with a pretty good list of things!

Strength Stuff 

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I have pretty much completely neglected strength training during past training cycles. I actually have been somewhat consistent over the years with keeping core exercises as part of my regular routine, but that’s been the extent of it. I was looking for something that I could easily add to my routine that would complement my running. Enter Pilates.

I have been going to Pilates for about four weeks now and I am really enjoying it. I am only going once a week for 45 minutes, but that time will definitely add up over the course of the entire training cycle. Pilates has reminded me that core strength is not just about abdominal strength. The term “core” encompasses your entire torso, including your hips, abs, back, shoulders and neck. Your core acts as a stabilizer and a center for you to transfer forces through when you are running or doing other activities. A stronger core enables you to better produce force during activities such as running and helps you to better control and maximize the forces you are producing.

Pilates also increases your joint mobility and improves flexibility. Flexibility is definitely a weakness of mine. Specifically, I have zero hamstring flexibility. If Pilates can fix that, it’ll be a miracle! I am also doing regular stretching and foam rolling. I plan to keep that up throughout the training cycle as well.

Fueling Stuff

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Another thing that I have pretty much completely neglected in past training cycles is practicing my race day nutrition during my long runs. I know. It’s terrible and it’s basically a rookie mistake. For my first marathon (pictured above :)), I really didn’t know any better, but now … I really have no excuse. I *know* all the things that I need to be doing, but I just haven’t actually done them in the past like I should. That is going to change this training cycle!

A general rule of thumb is that you need 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates for each hour if you are running longer than 75 minutes. You should be fueling as early as 30 to 45 minutes into the run. Another general rule of thumb is that you need to drink approximately 5-7 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes (enough to replace fluid loss). I am terrible about carrying water with me when I run (read that to mean that I NEVER carry water with me). I drink plenty of water throughout the day, but I don’t drink it on the run. I’ve got to start practicing with both gels and water during my long runs.

I’ve had good luck with Generation UCAN for a couple of my past marathons (specifically, for my two best marathons). For both of those races I took one packet of UCAN (using a flavor with protein) before the race and then I had half a packet of UCAN (using a flavor without protein) at two points during the race (at miles 13-14 and 19-20). I got away from using the UCAN before my long runs during my last marathon training cycle after I had one run where I felt like it didn’t sit well in my stomach. Of course, that could’ve been due to a myriad of other factors and I think I will probably need to give the UCAN another try (especially since I still have a lot of it at the house).

I might experiment with taking UCAN before the run and then taking gels during the run. I used Huma gels during my last marathon and there are some flavors of those that I really like. I’ve never had an issue with them upsetting my stomach either, which is definitely a plus. Using gels during the race would definitely be a bit more convenient as well.

Another important piece of the fueling equation that I would be remiss not to mention is that it is of the utmost importance to make sure that you are eating a balanced diet filled with protein, carbohydrates and fats throughout your training. You can’t run well if you don’t fuel your body properly! I would say that I do pretty well on this front, but there is always room for improvement. My biggest concern is not getting overly obsessed with what I am eating. There’s a fine line between keeping track enough to know that you are getting enough and going down the rabbit hole of obsessing over all of the numbers. I definitely won’t be counting anything, but I will be trying my best to make sure that I am getting enough of everything that my body needs.

Mental Stuff

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I haven’t done a ton of work on my mental game in the past. I guess it’s probably fortunate that I haven’t really needed to! I am usually just thankful and happy to be running. With that being said, I know there are definitely things that I could do to up my mental toughness. I actually started reading Matt Fitzgerald’s “How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle” during my last marathon training cycle and I just couldn’t get into it. The only logical conclusion I can come to is that I must not have wanted it badly enough! I’m going to give that one another shot this training cycle!

I must say though, I am really jazzed about this training cycle. I haven’t been this excited about running a marathon in a long time (possibly ever!). I feel like I am giving myself every opportunity that I possibly can in order to be successful. I mean, I’m flying across the country to run a marathon on one of the best courses in the United States! If that isn’t setting yourself up for success, I don’t know what is. I am going to approach the race with an A, B & C goal. I don’t know exactly what those will be at this point, but I will likely share them with you guys when I get it figured out. I appreciate it when other runners put their goals out there and I’ve done the same in the past.

In the meantime I will try to stay focused and patient, trusting that my training and all of these “small things” that I am doing will get me where I want to be when the time comes.

Faith, Nutrition, Thinking Out Loud

Daniel + Donald + Dave = A Post about Meal Plans & Eating Disorders

Greetings!

Long time no see. Daniel asked me yesterday why I hadn’t blogged this week and I kind of brushed the question off by saying, “I don’t really feel like I have anything to say.” He was not satisfied with my answer excuse. He thought about it for a second and then said, “Isn’t that usually when you really have the most to say?”

Why yes, yes it is. Daniel has gotten so wise in his old age.

Here we are. I don’t even know where this post is going or if I will even hit “publish” once I write it, but let’s just see what happens, shall we? My hesitation is likely due to the vulnerability factor of the things that are on my heart.

I’m sure this crazy election is at the forefront of the minds of most Americans. I am not turning this into a political post, but I just want to acknowledge that all of this talk about sexual assault and the objectifying women is HARD. It’s difficult to hear and to be talked about as a “statistic.” It stirs up feelings that I don’t like and make me say things like “I don’t have anything to say” when in fact it is quite the opposite.

Moving on.

If you’ve been following along for a little bit you know that we somewhat recently started Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We have learned a lot and we are already seeing results and making progress towards our goals. The one thing that I have really noticed about going through this class is how over-arching some of the concepts are. In some ways I feel like Dave Ramsey has permeated our lives (in a good way).

We aren’t just learning how to create a budget for your money. Let’s face it. Budgeting is not rocket science, but sticking to a budget … now that is more difficult. It takes planning, communication, discipline and self-control.

So far I would say that the biggest positive takeaways have been in the areas of planning and communication. The planning relates to more than just money. Dave says that if you don’t tell your money where to go, it leaves on its own. The same thing relates to your time. If you don’t have a time “budget,” your time gets away from you. Seriously! Where does it go?

Communication is not one of my strengths. If you call me on the phone, I’m probably not going to answer (it’s really nothing personal, I promise) and to add to that, I don’t have voicemail. I don’t know what it is about the phone, but I strongly dislike it.

If you are in my life and we see each other on a regular basis, I am pretty good at staying in touch, but if we don’t see each other regularly, I majorly drop the ball on the communication front. In general, I’m not a big talker. I tend to keep my thoughts to myself (which is somewhat ironic as I sit here typing every single thought that pops into my head).

Daniel and I have been communicating well and collaborating on the budget. I even showed him how to use QuickBooks (proud wife moment). This might not seem like a big deal and it’s not like we didn’t communicate with each other before this, but I can tell that there has been a positive shift and for that I am thankful.

Every Sunday afternoon we watch our lesson, then we discuss what we plan to eat for week and then we go to the grocery store and try to not blow our entire budget in one fell swoop. He gave an example in one of the videos about a couple that didn’t have any retirement savings, because they “ate it” (i.e., they spent all of their money eating out). As it turns out, food is hands down the biggest “expense” for us as well (not necessarily eating out, but the combination of groceries and eating out).

There have been some positives and negatives from this so-called meal planning. I don’t really like to use that term for it, but I haven’t come up with anything better thus far.

Patience is not one of my virtues. When I get home from work (or running or whatever extracurricular activity is going on any given evening), I am usually hungry and ready to eat. Like I want to eat 10 minutes ago. I reach that “hanger” phase (hunger + anger) and it is very unpleasant.

We got an Instant Pot (it’s basically the opposite of a crock pot, for impatient folks like myself) and we are actually cooking stuff, so that’s definitely a positive. I like to use our lack of stove as an excuse as to why I don’t cook, but that is just a really big cop-out. We’ve had an oven before and *spoiler alert* I didn’t cook then either. Cooking is not something that I enjoy. I don’t know that it ever really will be, but who knows. I won’t write it off entirely just yet.

The thought of spending hours (or anything over 15 minutes really) on a meal that is going to be eaten in less than 15 minutes and then all that is left are a bunch of dirty dishes, well y’all, that just doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s kind of like ironing. I don’t understand it. It’s a totally foreign concept that I can’t wrap my (ignorant) brain around.

Back to cooking though. It is one of those necessary evils, especially if we have kids one day. Please read carefully: that if was very intentional. If we have kids, of course I want them to have a normal relationship with food and a healthy body image, which means that they will need to eat “normal meals.” I don’t want to “mess them up” and that is a very real fear (#realtalk) and also a little bit off topic, but not entirely off topic.

Let’s talk about meal planning for a minute. At first the thought of it was totally overwhelming to me. In typical all or nothing fashion, I had envisioned going from basically no meal planning whatsoever to creating this beautiful, healthy, nutrient-rich meal plan for us to follow for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Of course that didn’t happen. Daniel (the wise old man that he is) suggested that we take it in smaller chunks. Let’s figure out one day’s worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner and try to have that each day of the week the first week. Then we can add variety gradually.

Small chunks. I liked the idea of that. I could handle that.

Having a meal plan is an important part of recovering from an eating disorder. It is the backbone of your recovery, because without it you aren’t able to do the deeper, emotional healing work that sustained recovery requires. The only time that I have specifically followed a “meal plan” is during recovery, which is why I am not real keen on the phrasing of it now. I just associate it with eating disorders.

Eventually you move away from following the “meal plan” and learn to eat intuitively (p.s., if you have mastered this CONGRATULATIONS and please share your pointers). You don’t want to be so rigid with your meals that you can’t deviate from what the plan says.

Rigidity. Discipline. Self-control. Those are a few things that I typically excel at. For several years now I have shied away from meal planning by convincing myself that following a meal plan was too rigid and I wanted to be more spontaneous with my food choices. While this is good in theory, unfortunately I am quite possibly the least spontaneous person you’ll ever meet. Cereal for dinner? So spontaneous! Oh my.

The first week of our “plan” we spent WAY more at the grocery store than we typically would have. Not gonna lie, that was kind of disheartening. We were trying so hard to be smart about what we were getting! After that first week though, we’ve been doing a lot better. So far our staples have been chicken (or some other type of meat), lots of grains (oatmeal, quinoa, couscous, etc.), beans, potatoes, yogurt, fruits and veggies.

The key for me is to actually prepare some of this stuff ahead of time (due to above-referenced lack of patience when hungry). We’ve been cooking the grains on Sunday and putting them in individualized containers to have during the week and then cooking the meat and vegetables the night of. It’s worked pretty well for us so far.

We are still working on adding the variety in there and I want to make sure to continue to work on that. I am really bad about falling into food ruts and I can feel myself doing that now, so I want to nip that in the bud. Being in a rut with a balanced dinner of protein, carbs and vegetables is definitely better than being in a rut with a dinner of cereal though! Baby steps.

I tend to fall into food ruts when I am avoiding dealing with something. It’s so bizarre to me how that happens, but sure enough it does. It’s almost like disordered eating is so ingrained in me that it is my first coping mechanism to deal with anything life throws my way. I am saying disordered eating instead of eating disorder there on purpose. They are not the same thing.

Someone with an eating disorder has disordered eating, but not everyone with disordered eating meets the criteria for an eating-disorder diagnosis. Eating disorders are psychiatric illnesses. Disordered eating, however, can just involve abnormal thoughts about food and episdoes of restriction or binges that do not amount to a psychiatric illness.

I haven’t gone into a lot of detail about my eating disorder and/or disordered eating on the blog, except for acknowledging that is something that I have struggled with and that I will likely struggle with (in a sense that I have to stay cognizant of it) forever. As bleak as that sounds, it is the truth. Everyone has something that they struggle with, whether or not they want to admit it, so we might as well be open about things so that we can help each other out.

I might do a post of “my eating disorder” story at some point. I’ve thought about it a lot, but I can’t decide what, if any, good would come from it. It would probably be very therapeutic to write, but I also think it might come across as hurtful to a few people who I care about. I’ll try to do an abbreviated version …

I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating … I have all of the intrinsic traits (perfectionistic, inflexible, disciplined, cautious, etc.) that set me up perfectly for this struggle. It was really just a matter of what would send me over the edge. It’s no one person’s “fault.”

A few mean comments and I was there. It started in high school. I lost some weight (I honestly don’t know the specifics of amounts, etc. and if I did I likely wouldn’t share that anyway … comparison is not a good game to play, especially in this area) and it got to the point where enough people expressed concern that my parents took me to the doctor.

My doctor (family practice) told me to gain weight and I did. It really didn’t seem like a very big deal at the time. I didn’t see a nutritionist or go to counseling or anything like that. Looking back I think this would’ve been super helpful. I would highly recommend any young girl that is struggling with weight or body image issues to talk to a professional about it.

Some people have awesome college experiences and remember it very fondly, but that is the absolute opposite of my college experience. I went to a big school, joined a sorority (I am NOT a sorority girl … learned that lesson the hard way) and was a small fish in a big pond. I was used to being a big fish in a small pond. The adjustment was too much for me. I threw myself into my school work (I graduated with a 4.0 and had no social life) and unsurprisingly, I started to lose weight again.

Same song, slightly different verse. I went to the doctor and was told to gain a few pounds. Got it. This time, however, I felt more “out of control” with the weight gain and that was not a good feeling. I was healthier physically, but mentally I was not. It was while I was at this (already) low point that I was raped. Talk about an earth-shattering, life-altering event. Bam. I was left feeling so broken that I didn’t think I would ever be happy or live a normal life again.

I was terrified. Of life. Of death. Of everything. After spending a few weeks at home, I went back to school and I tried to carry on as normal as possible, but I couldn’t. I was too scared to do anything. I had to withdraw from classes (another low point for little miss 4.0) and this is when I spent 45 days at an inpatient recovery center in Arizona. I am so grateful for my time there. I learned a lot. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready or able to process everything that I learned. I still had a rough road ahead of me when I got back home.

I don’t recall ever really having one “aha” moment where things started to click and I was all of a sudden “healed.” Perhaps that is because I am still broken. We all are. While there was no one moment, there have been a series of moments, years, decades even that have allowed me to heal gradually.

Running has been instrumental in the healing process. I know that “exercise” in general is a slippery slope with eating disorders, but I truly do not see running as an issue at this time in my life. Exercise has been an issue, but I don’t run for “exercise.” I’m sure that sounds absolutely crazy. I don’t know if I will ever be able to adequately convey what I am trying to say with that. Running is part of who I am. It makes me a better version of myself. It gives me strength and confidence. It gives me friendships and love.

Daniel is a saint of a husband. He is supportive, caring and compassionate. God knew exactly what I needed in a husband. We both have struggles and in this oddly complex, perfectly imperfect way, we’ve helped each other overcome them. I couldn’t have asked for a better husband. When he said that I likely had “a lot to say” … #nailedit.

The ultimate TRUTH is that I am a child of God, created in His image. He is the ultimate HEALER and the one that sets us free from the chains that enslave us. He gives us great worth that nothing and no one (not even Donald Trump) can take away from us. He is the one that deserves all of the glory, honor and praise. Regardless of the results of this election, He is still King of King and Lord of Lords. He will reign forever.

Nutrition

InsideTracker Results

Hey guys!

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I had some blood work done for InsideTracker (ICYMI: I got my blood drawn the Friday before Labor Day).

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What is InsideTracker?

InsideTracker is a blood biomarker analysis service. I have read several reviews about InsideTracker and I have been wanting to try it for quite a while. There are several different plans to choose from, based on how in-depth you want to get with it.

They measure biomarkers for overall health and well-being and for athletic performance. You fill out a general profile and a specific lifestyle, nutrition and fitness profile. After your blood work is analyzed, you receive personalized recommendations based on your lifestyle and your needs. An athlete’s blood work results can be very different from the general population and InsideTracker helps athletes establish personal metrics for optimal health.

Just as an example: I had blood work done by my primary care physician a few years ago and my iron level was 15.8. A “normal” range for females can be anywhere from 15 to 150 ng/mL. My doctor told me that everything was perfectly fine, when in actuality the normal range for a female endurance athlete is between 60 and 150 ng/mL and I was pretty far under that. No bueno.

Your results that are labeled as at-risk, needs work or optimal based on the following categories. The biomarkers used to measure each category are in parenthesis.

  • Bone & Muscle Health (Vitamin D)
  • Cognition (Vitamin B12)
  • Inflammation (White Blood Cells & High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein)
  • Strength & Endurance (Creatine Kinase, Cortisol & Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin)
  • Oxygen Transfer & Blood Function (Ferritin & Hemoglobin)
  • Liver Function & Toxicity (Alanine Aminotransferase)

Side note: For accuracy sake, I just wrote out the complete names of the biomarkers that were tested straight from my results. I don’t want you to think I was some sort of medical genius or something. If you need confirmation about my lack of medical knowledge, please consult with my husband. He will fill you in (and the good news is that it will only take 2 seconds, because there isn’t much knowledge there to talk about). In fact, if you are reading this, it means that I already had him proofread the post to make sure I didn’t say something silly.

This knowledge (or lack thereof) is actually one of the reasons that I was really excited about trying InsideTracker. The presentation that they put together with your results explains why each biomarker is important for athletic performance (in an easily understandable fashion) and they give you clearly defined action steps for how to make improvements based on the goals that you want to focus on.

The results come back within 5 to 7 business days and I got them in 6. Right on time! I was pretty excited to see what they said. As per usual … #nerdalert.

What did my results show?

Let’s start with the good news! None of my biomarkers were categorized as at-risk. Yay (insert happy dance)!

I was so relieved to hear this. I consider myself to be a healthy person in general, but I still sometimes worry about the potential negative effects that endurance training can have on your body. The results were a welcome form of reassurance and confirmation that physically I am doing just fine.

Disclaimer: InsideTracker did not, however, test the amount of crazy in my head. It is possible that I am walking around with a full-blown case of crazy-head (it runs in my family). We’ll save that test and those results for another day though!

So even though I didn’t have any at-risk biomarkers, I did have 3 that were classified as needing work: Vitamin D, Iron & Liver Enzymes. After seeing the categories that need work, I was able to select two goals to work on. I chose 1) prevent injury/speed recovery and 2) boost energy (sayonara nap-time).

I’m going to go through each category that needs work below.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium to maintain bone strength and health. Only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Our bodies produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun. Inadequate calcium and vitamin D increase the risk of low bone mineral density and stress fractures (um hello, biggest fear and thing we want to avoid at all costs).

My vitamin D level was 39 ng/mL and the optimal level is 40 to 48 ng/mL, so I am not very far away from the optimal range on this one. The recommendation is to begin supplementing with 2000IU of vitamin D3 daily and to eat fatty fish at least twice per week to increase levels.

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Ferritin is a protein that stores iron, and therefore it is a good marker for the amount of iron in the body. Iron is required for the formation of the oxygen-carrying proteins hemoglobin and myoglobin, and for enzymes involved in energy production. Low iron is a common nutritional issue for anyone who regularly participates in intense exercise, such as running, and cycling. Regular, high-volume, strenuous training may impair iron absorption and transport and cause iron deficiency.

I already knew that low iron was fairly common among endurance athletes (and my iron has been low in the past), so I was already taking an iron supplement. I have been taking 130 mg of iron a day regularly for 6 months (if not longer). I was really surprised that even though I am taking iron supplements every day, my iron level was still low.

My iron level was 34 ng/mL and the optimal level is 60 to 150 ng/mL. The recommendation is to increase the intake of red meat to twice per week, to avoid drinking coffee with meals (I really only do this at breakfast, but still … bummer!) and to avoid eating legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, etc.) or whole grain cereals at the same time as iron-rich foods, because this impedes the iron absorption.

I knew that certain minerals (calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper, etc.) blocked the absorption of iron, but I didn’t know that legumes did. After learning this, I think that I am likely getting enough iron (mainly from my supplements), but I am just not absorbing it properly.

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ALT is an enzyme primarily found in the liver that helps chemical reactions occur. It plays a role in changing stored glucose into usable energy. When there is liver damage or disease, then ALT enters the blood stream. Damage to your liver can result in fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and weight loss. Your liver has some ability to regrow after injury and damage so it’s important to take action that will help your liver repair itself.

My ALT level was 20 U/L the optimal level is 10 to 16 U/L.  The recommendation is to consume regular or decaffeinated coffee (3 cups/day), take a probiotic supplement daily, and to reduce intake of soda, juice and other sweetened beverages.

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Where do I go from here?

I plan to take the following action-steps (based on the recommendations above):

  1. Add a vitamin D3 and probiotic supplement daily.
  2. Add more peanut butter, spinach and black beans to my diet.
  3. Eat fish and red meat twice per week.
  4. Drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages and try to not drink coffee with meals.

After a couple of months of incorporating these changes, I will have my blood work redone to check my progress. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Question: When was the last time you had blood work done? Did you learn anything interesting or helpful from it?

Nutrition, Running

Blood, Sweat & Goals

Happy Friday friends!

I have almost survived #restweek2016! I have run less than 20 miles this week (which is not much compared to what I have been doing the last few months). It has been a really nice week and I am feeling good!

I think the burnout that I was experiencing was 90% (or more) mental and 10% (or less) physical. I decided to go ahead and take it one step further (just in case my evaluation of the situation isn’t exactly accurate) and this morning I got some blood work done with InsideTracker.

InsideTracker is a blood biomarker analysis service. I have read several reviews about InsideTracker and I have been wanting to try it for quite a while. This seemed like as good a time as any to go ahead and follow through with that. There are several different plans to choose from.

They measure the most important biomarkers for overall well-being and athletic performance. You learn how each biomarker is affecting your health and are able to pinpoint previously undetected areas for improvement. You are then provided with a personalized plan to track your progress and measure the effectiveness of your actions.

The process has been seamless so far. I signed up yesterday, scheduled my lab appointment at a local Quest Diagnostics location and got my blood drawn at 7:45 this morning. By 7:55 I was done and headed home. I should have the results in a few days and I can’t wait to see what is says. I’ll keep you posted!

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Now that we have the physical well-being part covered, let’s talk about the mental burnout for a minute. After a little bit of self-evaluation, I came to a pretty big conclusion.

I don’t love the marathon.

Mind = Blown.

Last year I signed up for NYC only because Daniel and a few other guys that we run with were going to do it. Well, the same thing happened this year with Baton Rouge (I haven’t signed up yet, thankfully). Daniel and a few of his buddies are training for it and so I was just like “ehh, why not.” My heart was not in it (at all) and I started putting off and dreading my workouts. At this point, I’m just thankful that I realized it when I did and not a month or two from now.

Somewhere along the way, the marathon just ended up being one more thing that I thought I was “supposed to do,” and not in a this is my calling sort of way, but in a people expect me to do this sort of way. I think I started feeling this way after Rock N Roll New Orleans. I am realizing now that this was just my perception of other people’s expectations, because let’s face it … no one really cares whether I run a marathon or not.

Side note: I think I need to write an entire post dedicated to all of the “supposed to do” traps that I have fallen into over the years. You’d think I would learn eventually … I feel like I am at least making progress at this point. Baby steps guys.

I love running. Running does not have to mean running marathons.

I’m not saying that I will never run a marathon again, but for right now it’s not what I want to focus on. For now I am going to train for shorter distances, basically from the mile to the half marathon. 1 mile, 2 mile, 5K, 4 mile, 8K, 10K, 15K, 10 mile, half marathon … you name it, I’m game!

Even though the half marathon is only half of the distance of the marathon (hello captain obvious), I feel 10X better after a half than after a marathon. They are so much easier on your body. My favorite part of training for marathons was just that, the training, not the race itself. Even with this new focus, I still plan to get in a few long (ish) runs with friends. I LOVE camaraderie of long training runs with friends and I’m not willing to give that up completely. I just might have to join them for part of their run or something like that.

I’m going to be focusing on QUALITY > QUANTITY. I’m pretty excited about it too! Focusing on the shorter distances (up through the half marathon) over the next year or two will give me an opportunity to (hopefully) improve my times in those races.

I know that some people just like to run for fun (hey, I like doing that too!), but I also think that having goals is important. Goals give you short-term motivation and long-term vision.

Here are some concrete goals that I want to focus on:

Short-Term (current) – General: Focus on speed and shorter distances. Specific: sub 18 5k, sub 37:30 10k, sub 62 10 mile, sub 1:23 half.

Mid-Term (1 to 2 years) – General: Continue focusing on speed and shorter distances. Specific: work down to 17:30 5k, sub 37 10k, sub 60 10 mile, sub 1:20 half.

Long-Term (2+ years) – Consider running a couple of marathons and continue working on half marathon time.

Bigger picture: I want to be able to run healthily and happily my whole life. That’s really the most important goal of all!

While we are on the topic of goals … I am currently working on some non-running goals as well. As a celebration of our first “official” year at the new firm, Nathan and Sharee gave all of the staff members the DVD home study edition of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University!

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We will be watching the videos with our spouses and working on household budgets, etc. and we will also discuss some of the principles during our weekly staff meeting at work.

Financial Peace University (FPU) is a plan for your money. It teaches God’s ways of handling money. Through video teaching, class discussions and interactive small group activities, FPU presents biblical, practical steps to get from where you are to where you’ve dreamed you could be. This plan will show you how to get rid of debt, manage your money, spend and save wisely, and much more!

I’ve never been through the classes before, so I am really excited to get started. I know that it is going to be a challenging, yet rewarding undertaking.

Whew. Lots of good stuff today! I hope you all have a nice long weekend ahead of you!

Nutrition

2016.008: Friday Five

Hey guys!

I’m linking up with the DC area bloggers Mar at Mar on the Run, Cynthia at You Signed Up For What?! and Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC for the Friday Five linkup. This week’s topic is “food and drink.”

The USDA released the new nutritional guidelines this week (they are updated every 5 years), so I figured that I use the new recommendations as a way to categorize the Friday Five post. MyPlate illustrates five food groups (how convenient, right?!) that are the building blocks for a healthy diet.

I’m going to include my 5 favorites of each of the 5 categories. P.S. I really love the number 5 anyway, so I’m really digging all of these fives. Nerd alert! myplate_magenta.jpg

  1. Protein
    1. Chicken
    2. Tuna
    3. Salmon
    4. Almond butter
    5. Nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
  2. Grains
    1. Quinoa
    2. Oatmeal
    3. Whole wheat bread
    4. Granola
    5. Wheat berries
  3. Fruits
    1. Raspberries
    2. Grapes
    3. Bananas
    4. Honeydew
    5. Strawberries
  4. Vegetables
    1. SWEET POTATOES
    2. Bell peppers
    3. Mushrooms
    4. Cauliflower
    5. Squash
  5. Dairy
    1. Greek yogurt
    2. Australian yogurt
    3. Frozen yogurt
    4. Cottage cheese
    5. Soy milk (non-dairy calcium alternative)

I have always been pretty interested in nutrition and I actually think that the new guidelines are very reasonable and easy to understand. It’s so important to keep each meal balanced!

 

Faith, Job, Nutrition, NYC, Running, Yoga

What a Week!

Well hello there! This has been a whirlwind of a week. Let me tell you about it …

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Monday

Monday got off to a fairly ordinary start. Daniel and I did an easy 5 miles before heading to work. On Monday afternoon, Runner’s World released the finalists of their cover search contest and I made the top ten! Wait, what?! In case you were wondering, that was a direct quote from the video linked below. Very profound, Sam.

In all seriousness, I can’t really even put into words how excited I am and how honored I am to have been chosen as a finalist. Please take some time to read all of the stories here. We have such a wonderful group of finalists! When I started the blog this summer, I wrote, “It has been a long journey with lots of highs and lows, but my prayer every day is that God will use my story and my running for His glory!” Well, never in my wildest dreams did I think that my story would be shared on such a large-scale in such a short period of time. It is truly amazing. God is truly amazing. He has been so faithful and my continued prayer is that He will be glorified!

Monday evening I headed to yoga. I must admit, I had a hard time relaxing with so much excitement going on, but the class was wonderful. I drove home with a heart of gratitude, and some very sore, tired muscles. Each week we work towards a key pose, and this week’s pose was the “Wild Thing.” I had to show Daniel what I learned when I got home and as per usual, Brooks was all about it. He definitely has the wild thing mastered!

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Tuesday

Tuesday morning we were up even earlier than normal, as Daniel had an outpatient procedure at the hospital and we had to arrive at 6 a.m. I managed to get a few miles on the treadmill in before we went, but I’m fairly certain I slept through most of that run. Thankfully, everything is a-okay and as my grandmother would say, “He is healthy as a horse.”

Tuesday evening I went to Running Wild for the usual group run. The weather was amazing! We had temperatures in the mid-60s and humidity less than 50% for a few days this week. It was quite glorious. Rebecca, Squishy and I got in an easy 6 miles and enjoyed the “cold front.” I even saw a few people out running in long sleeves on my way home, which cracked me up. Let’s not get carried away guys.

Wednesday

Mid-week it was time for workout Wednesday! I had a 12 mile steady state run on the schedule with a two mile warmup and 10 miles at 7:00 to 7:15 pace. Steady state runs facilitate the development of aerobic strength by challenging your aerobic system, but not making you too tired to run hard the next day. Building aerobic strength is one of the most important pieces of the training puzzle to make you run faster. The hard part is that developing aerobic strength takes time. I haven’t done a lot of steady state workouts in the past, and I was definitely a little bit intimidated going into the workout. To me, it was more mentally challenging than physically challenging and I ended up averaging 7:06 for the 10 mile portion.

Wednesday evening Daniel had the guys from small group over here, so he kicked me out. Not really (but kind of), so I headed over to Rebecca’s after work, and we did an easy run with Squishy. After that I worked on my nutrition presentation for a while. Actually, I stayed up way too late working on that. I think it was a combination of me wanting to make sure that I adequately conveyed the information (since it is such an important topic) and me just being really interested in what I was reading, but I got a little carried away in my research and was awake until almost midnight.

I also found out Wednesday that the Runner’s World finalists will be participating in a two-day photo shoot in NYC in a couple of weeks. Again … wait, what?! How exciting is that? I haven’t been to New York before and now I will get to go and get a lay of the land before the marathon. It will be so neat to meet the other finalists as well. It looks like a really fun group and they have lots of cool stuff planned for us. I can’t wait!

Thursday 

Thursday morning Lizzie, Daniel and I headed out for an easy 8 miles. I was so tired, and probably not fully awake. Around mile 3, I took a major spill after tripping on an uneven piece of sidewalk. I tried to do the whole “tuck and roll” thing (which I have successfully done in past falls), but that definitely didn’t work out for me this time. It was more like “tuck and splat.” I came away with some really awesome battle wounds and some extremely sore ribs. I’m still debating on whether or not I need to go get an X-ray. I think it is probably just a pulled muscle in my back or something, but whatever it is, is still very sore.

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At least the photo shoot is a couple of weeks away … If I am not healed by then, I will definitely need some photoshopping action!

Thursday evening was the nutrition presentation at the store. We didn’t have a very good turnout, which was kind of a bummer since I spent so much time preparing for it. Although I wasn’t extremely keen on speaking in front of a large group of people anyway, so it probably worked out for the best. At least I got a good blog post out of it and I will send the link to that out to my group so that they can reference back to it.

My dad recently told me that I write better than I talk. Thanks dad … I think. I know that he meant it as a compliment, but it just sounds funny when I write it out 🙂 He was saying that I express myself well through writing. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I really enjoy writing and I hope that one day writing can be a bigger part of my life. Currently I get to write here for you guys and I get to write letters to the IRS when clients receive tax notices or are getting audited and believe me, that is really not all that exciting. Not nearly as exciting as writing about running, that’s for sure!

Friday

I was supposed to have a track workout Friday, but with the whole ribs/back situation I decided that it might be best to just take it easy and not push too much. I was able to run a few miles pain-free, so that was encouraging. The weird thing is that laying down hurts like heck, but running feels fine. I think I would rather have it that way than vice versa, so I’ll just roll with it.

I was worn out Friday evening. This seems to be a typical Friday evening thing for me now that I am back at work. I was in my pajamas by 5:30 and in bed not too long after the sun. Living life on the edge I tell ‘ya!

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Saturday

Saturday morning my training group ran 15 miles! This was their longest run so far by 2 miles and the longest some of them have ever run. They did great! Daniel and some of his training buddies ran 20 miles and they were out there while my group was running as well. Daniel ran right past me at the end of his run and he was booking it! He averaged 7:35 for the 20 miles, so that was a really solid long run and a good confidence booster.

Daniel and I met at Coffee Loft after the run for our usual post-run coffee and smoothies and I headed to work for a few hours after that. I missed some time this week, so I wanted to make that up and get a better handle on my September 15th projects. I am so glad I went in, because I got so much done and now I feel a lot better going into next week. How is September already here?!

Well, I’d say that pretty much catches us up. I majorly slept in this morning and missed my long-run, but I’m planning to get that in later this evening. We’ll see how that works out. I’ll let you know 😉

Have a great week!

Nutrition

Fueling

Hey guys!

I am preparing the nutrition presentation for the half and full marathon training groups at Running Wild this evening. I want to share the information with y’all as well, since it is such an important topic. Your nutrition and fueling can definitely make or break your training or your race. There is not one magic formula to determine what, when and how much you need to eat. There are lots of guidelines, sure, but different approaches work for different people. I will share what has worked for me. Something different may work for you, and that’s okay!

I am going to start off with some general information (about carbohydrates, fats, protein and hydration) and then break the post down into what to eat before, during and after your run. I will wrap it up by sharing my race-day fueling plan.

General Information

Your body needs more carbohydrates than any other nutrient, but not all sources are equally nutritious. Eating a diet composed 45 to 65 percent carbohydrates helps to ensure positive energy levels and increased exercise performance, mood and overall function. Carbohydrates pass through the digestive system and are broken down into glucose, which is your body’s primary source of fuel. There are two main categories of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates such as enriched flour, found in refined breads, pastas, and sugary foods, provide calories but few nutrients. Complex carbohydrate sources, such as whole-grain breads, starchy vegetables and beans, deliver fiber, as well as valuable amounts of vitamins and minerals.

At least half of the grains you consume each day should consist of whole grains. You can consume whole grains on their own, in dishes such as oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa, or as an ingredient within a food, such as whole-grain breads and pastas. Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, beans, peas and lentils, also supply complex carbohydrates.

When the label on a specific food claims that it has been “made with whole grains,” it is important to know what to look for. A better label to look for states “100 percent whole grain.” Exploring the ingredient list unveils sources of fiber and other nutrients in a packaged food. Look for foods that list whole grains within the top few ingredients. Additional examples of fiber-containing grains include brown rice, whole-grain sorghum, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, whole-grain barley, oatmeal, quinoa, whole wheat and rolled oats.

Here are some good examples of healthy, complex carbohydrates:

  • Raw and lightly steamed vegetables,
  • Legumes, beans, nuts and seeds,
  • High fiber 100% whole grains,
  • Raw, whole, fresh fruits,
  • Most low-fat dairy

Your body also needs fat because it is an important energy source and help maintain our immune system. Fats are our secondary source of energy (behind carbohydrates). They also help us manufacture hormones, like estrogen and thyroid, and help us regulate our metabolism. Be sure to include plenty of healthy fats in your overall diet. Runners NEED fat to lubricate and protect their joints and organs, to aid in recovery, to help their body with temperature control and the absorption of nutrients, and to keep their body fueled and appetites satisfied. Low-fat diets for runners can be very damaging. Make sure to include nuts, seeds, avocado and real butter in your daily intake.

Your body needs protein because it helps us build and repair muscles and it is the building block of many of our major organs. Protein is also an important source of iron.

Water is the main component of every cell and tissue in your body and if you don’t get enough, you’ll feel rundown and tired. It is estimated that under normal condition the average person loses 8 cups (2 liters or 64 ounces) of water per day. We sweat off several more cups during every hour of moderate exercise. The rate we lose sweat depends on a variety of factors including individual sweat rate, and the temperature, humidity, and length and intensity of your run. Determine your sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after your run. For every pound you lose, you need approximately 16 ounces of water. On a hot humid day an average sized person (110-165 lbs) can lose 1.6 to 2 liters of fluid, or 2.5% to 3.5% of body weight. So assuming we lose 2 pounds of water in sweat, we would need to replace at least 96 ounces or 12 cups per day.

Before 

As your mileage and training intensity increases, you will need to consider adding pre-training nutrients to your regular routine. How much you should eat before a run depends on your distance, your personal tolerance/preference and the timing of your run. Some runners can eat right up until the second they hit the pavement, but others need to let their food digest and stomachs settle first.

It is recommended that you take in easily digested complex carbohydrates one to two hours before exercise. Complex carbohydrates are higher in fiber and lower in simple sugars, which means that they provide a good source of long-lasting energy. An ideal pre-run snack combines complex carbohydrates with low-fat and moderate to high protein foods.

Select pre-event meals and snacks that are 1) familiar, 2) high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat and 3) quickly digested. Steer clear of artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols (these can cause extreme irritation to the gut, even hours after consuming them because the body does a poor job processing them).

During

It is important to have a fueling plan going into your race. Fueling refers to the intake of fluids, electrolytes and calories during the course of a race. Practice in training what you plan to do in the race and don’t try anything new on race day.

In general, runners need to add in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate for each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes. You need to start fueling earlier than 75 minutes into a run. It is estimated that your body can hold about two hours of fuel while running at marathon effort. However, you can’t just wait until that point to start taking in fuel. By that time, your energy stores will be depleted and once you are empty, it is hard to recover. As you run farther and harder, your body becomes increasingly distressed and as your effort continues, your body diverts energy away from non-essential functions (such as digestion) to your muscles and brain to keep you going at the pace that you are running.

There are a multitude of nutritional products designed to help you fuel during endurance events (gels, sports beans, shot blocks, sports drinks, etc.). It is important for you to find out which type of product works best for you. Some people don’t like the taste or consistency of gels, but some people love them and don’t like the idea of taking in anything more solid. Once you find the right type of fuel, you also need to find the right flavor, as sometimes different flavors don’t sit the same in your stomach. Do some research on the official race website and find out what will be offered along the course, so that you can practice the exact flavors and brands that will be available on race day.

It is recommended that you start taking in fuel within 30 to 45 minutes. If you wait until you are thirsty, dehydration or glycogen depletion might already be setting in and it will be more difficult for your body to process the fluids and energy you are taking in.  When you take a gel, sports beans, shot blocks, etc. (basically anything with calories and sugar), take it with water, not with Gatorade. Most fueling products and Gatorade contain high amounts of simple sugars and so combining the two means you are getting too much sugar for your digestive system to process at once. I learned this the hard way, so just trust me on this one.

It is recommended that you drink at regular intervals during your run at a rate that replaces fluid loss, which would be approximately 5-7 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes. Try to select running routes that have water fountains along the way and carry a water bottle or drop a bottle along the route if possible. On race day, try to get a sip of water at each aid station, especially early on in the race, even if you don’t feel thirsty. I would recommend alternating water and something with electrolytes (Nuun or Gatorade) at the aid stations. Take water and the first one, something with electrolytes at the second, etc. and then just be sure to plan your gels, beans, blocks, etc. around an aid station where you take water.

As you try out fuel during your training runs, keep track of how much you took in and how your body responded. Keep track of answers to questions like: Did you feel totally energized? Were you able to keep your pace constant but then hit the wall towards the end of a run? Did your stomach not agree with the fuel?

After 

It is important to refuel post-run with both protein and complex carbohydrates and replenish your electrolytes. It is recommended that you eat carbohydrates as soon as possible (within 30 minutes) of the event. You can begin with sports drink after you finish your run. I like to use Nuun or G2 for my post-run electrolytes. It is also recommended that you eat a high-carbohydrate meal that also combines a lean protein source and a healthy fat source within 2 hours after runs to maximize muscle glycogen recovery (i.e., rebuild your energy stores) and to support protein synthesis in the muscles.

Taking in protein after running helps you to recover more quickly. When you run, microtears occur in your tendons, muscles and other tissues throughout your body, but specifically in your legs. After your run, these microtears elevate your body’s demand for the amino acids found in protein; these acids help with tissue repair and rebuilding. Protein shakes provide a rich dose of these amino acids your body can absorb faster than through whole foods. This can help enhance the speed at which your body repairs those tears, reducing the recovery time needed after your run.

What Works for Me

Now that we know the general guidelines and have some recommendations on what to eat before, during and after our runs, I am going to share my “magic formula.” After my PR marathon in New Orleans, I made sure to make note of my fueling before and during the race because it worked well for me and I felt great (for the first time) after the race! Here is what I did … Pre-race (1 hour before): 1 packet UCAN Vanilla Cream Protein w/ 12 oz. water (160 calories, 27g carbs, 12g protein) and 8 oz. coffee; Mid-race (Mile 15): 1/2 packet UCAN Lemon w/ 6 oz. water (55 calories, 14g carbs); Mid-race (Mile 20): 1/2 packet UCAN Lemon w/ 6 oz. water (55 calories, 14g carbs). I also took water at various aid stations along the course.

I am not a UCAN ambassador (I would love to be), but I 100% believe in this product. It is absolutely amazing! UCAN’s main ingredient, “SuperStarch,” provides sustained natural energy levels without spikes and crashes. SuperStarch is a complex carbohydrate that breaks down slowly over time, keeping you above baseline significantly longer. It enables you to perform better by allowing your body to use fat for fuel. UCAN stabilizes blood sugar and minimizes insulin response, delivering several scientifically validated benefits:

  • Optimized performance with steady energy when you need it, without the spike and crash of sugar and maltodextrin based products.
  • Sustained energy with time-released delivery of glucose, keeping you above baseline longer.
  • Enhanced fat burn allowing you to improve body composition as you burn fat for fuel during your workout and keep burning fat while you recover due to suppressed insulin response.
  • Speedier recovery as your body is able to use protein to repair and restore your muscles rather than for energy, since blood sugar is stable.
  • No gastric distress, because SuperStarch is a large molecule that passes through the stomach quickly and is digested slowly in the intestines.

Lots of information here. Hopefully you all learned something. Anyone have any other helpful tips or good marathon fueling strategies to share?