The beauty of examining the ugly

I was mortified.

Snap from my running form reel

Snap from my running form reel

Earlier this month, I had the awesome privilege of enjoying a 5-day running camp with ZAP Endurance in the beautiful mountains of Blowing Rock, NC. One morning, after a fun speed workout in a humid, misty park, coaches captured short videos of us running to review later and assess our running form in action.

I had assumed we would review those clips with the coaches one on one.

I assumed wrong.

We would be looking at those clips as a group. I had a minor internal panic as I realized all my weaknesses would be pointed out in a public setting.

My stomach tightened as we sat down in the lounge to watch the videos on the big screen. I felt myself trying to melt into the couch cushions. I imagined Coach Pete and Matt shaking their heads as my clip appeared on the screen and saying something like, wow, this woman is a hopelessly terrible runner, or suggesting perhaps I should dump this running thing and take up knitting.

I had all these feelings despite all my accomplishments as a runner, including achieving progressively faster marathon times year after year, qualifying for the Boston Marathon at my last marathon, and zillions of hours of rehab/prehab in the gym, barre studio and pool to build myself into a stronger runner.

When my clip came up, I felt my face get hot. Then the coaches asked really insightful questions, a few light jokes were made (apparently I’m a gifted performer of the Marathon Shuffle!), and areas that need work were pointed out, along with specific exercises I can do to work on my weak medial glutes (damn glutes!). It was extraordinarily helpful.

This session also reminded me is how unbelievably brave my clients are.

Every time I meet with a client, I ask them to lay out all their dirty laundry for us to pore over. There is such tremendous courage shown and benefit gained in laying it all out there, looking at facts without emotion, and learning where we can improve.

Check out all the cool goings-on at ZAP here, and please be in touch if you have questions about this experience, or working with me to build healthful lifestyle and diet habits that stick!

Takeaways for this injured runner at running camp

Back in the spring, I excitedly signed up for a summer running camp for grown-ass women. During the course of marathon training this summer, I developed a femoral stress fracture, and when I emailed the organizers to request a refund, I got a hard NOPE. What should have been an empowering weekend for strong women to come together over running...actually was.

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Getting out of the comfort zone

I eat a rotation of similar meals, I buy the same clothes over and over again, I do specific workouts on specific days, I order the same meal from the same small group of restaurants I frequent, I run the same roads and trails, and while I like to challenge myself and try a new thing here and there, I am very much a fan of staying in the comfort zone. 

When some friends were talking about forming a team of eight to run the Ragnar Trail race outside of Richmond, VA, it didn't even cross my mind to join them. It's a relay race where each runner completes about 15 miles of trail running broken into three segments, coming to a total of 120 miles over 24 loops and 24-ish hours, while camping out to complete the feat. The running trails part sounded great, but the camping part? Not so much. I have never slept outdoors in my 40 years, and I saw no reason to start. Plus the group is a tight clique of friends with their own vocabulary of inside jokes, and I'm somewhat on the outside

So yeah, outside my comfort zone.  

At one point months ago, I offered to be an alternate if anyone dropped, figuring no one would drop. 

And then someone dropped, and to my own surprise, I didn't hesitate to say YES when I was asked to fill in. 

The race was this past weekend. Holy smoke was I outside my comfort zone, and damned if I didn't have a great time. While the group was generally laid back, we had good leadership and we planned well in the weeks leading up. We had a few camping pros in the group who made sure we'd have the right equipment. We made new inside jokes. We ate ALL THE CARBS and endured a damp, cold, mostly sleepless night together. The trails themselves were fun--well-marked and very runnable, but with big muddy patches providing their own source of challenge. We were each other's best cheerleaders in completing each loop, and we celebrated wildly as our final runner came through. 

The comfort zone is a great place to be, but the occasional trek outside the zone--under the right circumstances--is an awesome place, too. (Just to be clear, though, I am NOT lining up my next camping trip!)

Photo: Mud Not Blood

Photo: Mud Not Blood

 

 

ONE MORE TIME!

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Wow--the response to the lectures I've presented this spring on being a vegan athlete has been amazing! Clearly the topic of fine tuning our diets for sports performance is of interest, likely in part due to hubbub around films like James Cameron's The Game Changers, and the forthcoming book by vegan ultrarunning record-breaking Scott Jurek. 

It's been a pleasure talking about the potential and pitfalls of choosing this lifestyle, and I've fielded some fantastic questions. 

Those in attendance have ranged from long-time vegans, to new vegetarians, to those just curious about this diet and lifestyle. I met new runners, a couple ladies pursuing a half-marathon in every state (they even have plans for the boring states!), and runners of all ages looking to raise their game.

Thanks, Instagrammer @runwithjoy26.2, for sharing this post after the talk on April 4!

Thanks, Instagrammer @runwithjoy26.2, for sharing this post after the talk on April 4!

By popular demand, I'm hosting this talk ONE MORE TIME: Join me at TriSport Junction in Sykesville on Wednesday, April 18th, and let’s talk about the plant-based athlete! RSVP HERE.

Questions I'll be sure to answer include:

  • Will going vegan make me faster?
  • Do vegans recover more quickly?
  • Will I have to supplement?

...and the big one:

  • Where do vegan athletes get their protein?

Hope to see you on the 18th!

Got too many questions for a group talk? Let's meet one-on-one! Contact me here to make an appointment. 

 

Can Runners Thrive on a Plant-Based Diet

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Thanks to everyone who joined me Thursday evening to answer the question: Can runners thrive on a plant-based diet?

No doubt you’ve seen fitness influencers posting their impossibly lean bodies posed with green smoothies, espousing the benefits of going vegan. And you've likely read about or seen documentaries on how athletes are trying out this way of eating with amazing results.

But can a runner like you or me really thrive on a plant-based diet?

Maybe.

Let’s back up for a minute for some definitions: A vegan diet is one that eschews all animal products: No red meat, poultry or seafood; no dairy, eggs, gelatin or honey. (These choices also extend to a vegan’s lifestyle, where they avoid animal-derived products like wool, leather and more.) A vegetarian diet excludes all animal flesh, but depending on the individual, may have more flexibility to include animal derived products, like dairy or honey.

From an ethical standpoint, a vegan diet is a compassionate choice, and there are tremendous environmental benefits to eliminating or even reducing meat consumption.

But here’s the kicker: Other than the exclusion of animal products, there are no other parameters around this way of eating, so being vegan is not synonymous with being healthy. In fact, there is a ginormous range of heavily marketed vegan junk food, from cookie dough to highly sweetened yogurt alternatives, to boxed mac and cheese. Active people adopting a vegan diet need to do diligent research to make sure their diet adequately meets their needs, not just as a runner but as a human. Additionally, if one chooses this diet without a supportive network of family or friends, it can be socially isolating.

Following are the five most common questions I hear from veg-curious runners:

WILL GOING VEGAN MAKE ME A BETTER RUNNER?

Eschewing animal products does not guarantee you’ll be a faster runner, better fueled, or faster recovery. ALL runners benefit from eating a health-promoting diet like the model from the Harvard School of Public Health, which is adaptable to omnivores, vegetarians or vegans:

  • Half of a nutritious diet is made up of non-starchy vegetables and some whole fruit
  • A quarter of the diet is healthful proteins
  • A quarter is whole grains and/or starchy vegetables.

If your way of eating falls way outside these parameters, whether you're a vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs.


DO VEGAN ATHLETES RECOVER FASTER?

Principles of healthful fueling apply to plant-based athletes, too: Vegetables, whole fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains + legumes are vital to a healthy body, as is eliminating inflammatory foods, including many animal products, fried food + sugary junk. Fueling well before and after workouts is also key for speedy recovery. More on that what and when to eat before, during and after workouts HERE.


WILL I NEED TO SUPPLEMENT?

Some vital nutrients do not occur naturally in significant amounts in a whole food, plant-based diet. They must be consumed via fortified foods, in supplement form, or very deliberately eaten as whole foods:

B12 is required for healthy blood and nerve cells, as well as production of DNA, and it’s the one non-negotiable supplement vegans must take. B12 deficiency accumulates over years and can be devastating to the body. To achieve the recommended 2.4mcg/day, supplements are the most convenient option. There are some fortified foods, like nutritional yeast, some cereals + plant milks, but this route is tougher.

Iodide regulates thyroid and supports metabolism and is found in eggs, fish, dairy and sea vegetables in small amounts. ¼ teaspoon of iodized salt contains nearly half the recommended daily value.

Omega 3 fatty acids DHA + EPA are vital in managing inflammation, and necessary for brain + heart health. They’re found in cold water fish (the fish get them from algae). Omega 3 fats as ALA are in flax, hemp + chia seeds, you may need to eat 10-50 times the amount of ALA to convert it to adequate DHA + EPA. Eating less Omega 6 fats from processed foods like soybean oil is also key.

Depending on your unique needs and diet, whether you’re plant-based or an omnivore, you may need additional supplements, such as vitamin D (which many are deficient in regardless of diet), zinc or iron. There is no need to self-diagnose vitamin and mineral deficiencies when they are easily detectable by blood tests ordered by your doctor. 


WHAT ABOUT CALCIUM?

The RDA for calcium for adults is 1,000 mg/day (1,200mg/day for women >50 + men >70). This is achievable with whole foods: There are 80mg calcium in 1 cup edamame, 100mg in 1 cup cooked kale, 160mg in ½ cup white beans, 140mg in 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds. Fortified plant milks have 300-450mg/cup. You can see how an intentional combination of foods could easily add up to meet daily needs.


AND THE BIG QUESTION: WHERE WILL YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN?

To determine your Recommended Daily Allowance—the amount you need to meet basic nutritional requirements—for protein, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. (You can also get a more detailed calculation based on your gender, age and activity level on using a calculator HERE). For example, the basic protein requirement for a 130-pound woman is about 47 grams daily, and a 180-pound man is 65 grams daily. A more active person will most definitely require more.

If your diet follows the Healthy Eating Plate proportions, your protein needs can be easily met without ever touching protein powder or bars. Whole grains, nuts + seeds, and legumes (including whole soy) all provide excellent protein, and even fruit and vegetables provide small amounts that add up to your daily needs. This example of a fairly light day of eating shows how easily 75.9 grams of protein add up:

Breakfast - 13 grams

  • .5 cup oats: 6g
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds: 2g
  • 1 banana: 1g
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter: 4g
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk: 0g

Snack - 6.5 grams

  • Apple: 0.5g
  • Handful of almonds (1 oz): 6g

Lunch - 25 grams

  • 2 slices sprouted grain bread: 8g
  • Avocado half: 2g
  • Green salad: 2g
  • 1/4 cup cooked farro: 3g
  • 3 Tbsp hemp hearts: 10g

Snack - 5 grams

  • Handful of carrot sticks: 1g
  • Hummus, 1/4 cup: 4g

Dinner - 30 grams

  • Green salad: 2g
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste): 3g
  • Whole wheat pasta serving: 7g
  • Green beans: 2g
  • Marinated cooked tempeh: 16g

Final verdict: If you’re driven by a strong motivation to choose this lifestyle, and if you’re willing to do a bit of extra homework to make sure your nutrition needs—as well as social and emotional needs—are adequately met, veganism can be a healthful choice that supports an active lifestyle.

Even if you don't want to commit to a fully vegan lifestyle, we can all benefit eating more vegetables and adopting the proportions of the Healthy Eating Plate, where protein represents a smaller portion of the diet than most American's consume.  

Got questions? Please be in touch!

This information is not intended to prevent, treat or diagnose any disease, and should not supersede recommendations prescribed to you by a medical professional.

"But what do YOU eat after a tough workout?"

I've been making the rounds to running groups and talking to runners about eating well to fuel their workouts. One of my favorite topics is what to eat before and after a workout. I'm always surprised at just how few people make a consistent habit of eating after their tough workouts and long runs.

Eating a nutritious snack after workouts an hour or longer helps you gain strength and recover more quickly. Skipping that snack could lead to poor recovery and an out-of-control appetite. Following a workout with greasy or sugar-loaded foods doesn’t help you recover, either. A broadly accepted ratio for a perfect long run snack is about 3 or 4 to 1, carbohydrate to protein. That means a nice chunk of carbs and some protein, and the next meal should be rich in quality protein to speed recovery.

I often suggest a home-blended smoothie with frozen fruit and nuts; or whole wheat toast with banana and natural peanut or almond butter; or a loaded sweet potato with yogurt and almond butter. Even with these great suggestions, I often get the follow-up question, "But what do YOU eat after YOUR workouts?," as if I'm hiding a big secret, like I've got some supplements, or commercial shake powder (sorry, Shakeology--I ain't buying your crap), or I'm hitting up a smoothie shop and getting kooky, expensive boosters. 

I'm revealing all today and sharing one of my favorite homemade post-workout treats: The Hot Pink Smoothie Bowl! It's got plenty of carbs from bananas, berries and dragonfruit (sounds exotic but easy to find), and who needs protein powder when I've got the real deal from seeds and nut butter! And with the bright colors in the fruit, I know I'm also getting plenty of antioxidants to aid in recovery. Here's my formula...

  • 1 giant handful of frozen banana chunks, maybe a couple bananas worth (check my freezer any day of the week, and I've always got a container of frozen bananas)
  • 1 packet of unsweetened, frozen dragon fruit (I like Pitaya Plus, available at Wegmans or MOMs)
  • A splash of unsweetened almond milk
  • A tablespoon of chia seeds
  • A heaping tablespoon of chunky almond or peanut butter
  • A handful of fresh fruit

Blend the bananas and dragon fruit with just enough liquid to make the blender work, using a tamp down thingy to keep, well, tamping it down so the blade can do its work. When it's blended, pour it into a bowl and add the toppings. Enjoy! 

Mastering patience

Thanks again to everyone who’s emailed, texted, posted on social media and otherwise checked in on my recovery since I tore a tendon in late March (in case you missed it and are interested, I break down the not-all-that gory detail of my injury during a 30.5 mile race HERE and a bit on my recovery plan HERE).

I ditched the crutches weeks ago and said goodbye to the ugly boot. The wicked swelling is gone, and I’m not limping. In fact, if you didn’t know something happened, you wouldn’t guess by looking at me.

But this injury was a doozy, and on the advice of my orthopedist and physical therapist, my body isn’t ready to run.  

In my mind, on repeat, I’m giving myself the same advice I give my health coaching clients with big health and fitness goals…

Trust in the process that professionals are guiding you through, and for the love of all things holy, BE PATIENT!

I truly empathize with how frustrated my clients feel when I give them this advice when they’re facing what seems like an insurmountable goal. And I have a BIG goal: To recover from my injury mentally and physically stronger, to have a great fall training season and to run a fall race I can be proud of.

It’s tough to delay that runner’s high I know a short run will bring. It’s been a real adjustment dialing down my diet to accommodate a less active life (oh, how I miss you, pre-run carby breakfasts and giant, fruity, peanut buttery post-run smoothie bowls!).

As much as I’m tempted to get out there for a short run, as tempting as it is to whip up a ginormous starchy, maple-syrupy breakfast on Saturday, I know that those actions keep me further from my BIG goals.  

So I’m resting, walking, and eating a solidly nutritious diet with fewer treats (not NO treats, but fewer). And if I treat my body well now, there are plenty of runs and starchy meals in my future. I’m counting on it!

If you need support in mastering the art of patience and making changes to achieve you health and fitness goals, let’s talk!

Update: When shit happens

From running a 50K to running my mouth to my acupuncturist! Heather is checking my pulses before applying needles to chill me out and promote healing.

From running a 50K to running my mouth to my acupuncturist! Heather is checking my pulses before applying needles to chill me out and promote healing.

Thanks to everyone who's been in touch to commiserate since I shared I tore the ever-loving stuff out of a tendon during a 50K race and am sidelined. I've had a few folks tell me that "Everything happens for a reason," but I'm unconvinced the universe is sending me a message by tearing into my connective tissue. I AM a believer, however, in the High Church of Shit Happens (HCSH).

You may think that as a practicing member of HCSH, about 4 weeks out from the day of my injury, I'd be feeling helpless, frustrated and irritable. That would not be wholly untrue (ask the most patient man in the world, aka my husband John).

But I'm trying to compartmentalize those feelings into brief moments. I'm also super motivated to do everything in my power to heal quickly:

I rested, iced, compressed and elevated for DAYS. DAYS!

I made big adjustments to my diet, which supported someone running 40+ miles a week, and now reflects my much less active lifestyle (sigh). 

I wore my giant immobilizing boot for three weeks, stomping around at first, eventually mastering a more graceful hobble. I am now bootless, and if it weren't such an expensive little accessory, I swear I'd hold a party to burn it.  

I visited my physical therapist Brett (BIG plug for Lifestrength PT!) weekly. While acknowledging the seriousness of the injury, Brett has been very encouraging and has not a shade of doubt I'll be running in a manner of weeks.

I made a visit to my acupuncturist Heather (plug for Heather Johnstone Acupuncture--she's great!) to help bring more blood flow to the injured area and to get some stress relief. Because apparently I'm a little on edge. 

And finally, I'm back at the gym trying to catch that runner's high by working on my weak upper body (so weak!) and doing boring core exercises. I'm not catching much of a buzz, but there's some satisfaction in knowing I'm priming my body for the day when I get the go ahead to crank out 5 super slow minutes on a treadmill. And then the next time, another 5 minutes, then a couple miles and a couple more.

So thank you again to everyone who's checked in on me. Shit most definitely happens, and though I can 100% guarantee more will happen in this lifetime, I'm finding some peace of mind in taking action where I can potentially make an impact.

Better, stronger, more badass together

A few of my training pals--Jenny, me, Scott and John--after a particularly tricky trail run that included crawling down the face of a ridiculous hill. Still smiling! 

A few of my training pals--Jenny, me, Scott and John--after a particularly tricky trail run that included crawling down the face of a ridiculous hill. Still smiling! 

Tomorrow I'll wake up early for a carb-filled breakfast, stress over something stupid (TBD--could be over socks or an imagined pain or whether to wear shorts or leggings), hop in the car for a ride to Susquehanna State Park, and line up with the goal of completing the HAT 50K trail run. It's going to be a long day of running with plenty of walking on grueling (hopefully not muddy) hills. I will have lots of company along those trails, but this effort is going to be a long internal conversation between me and me.

However, I most certainly didn't get here alone.

Ask anyone who's attempting to achieve a BIG goal, and you'll find that the most successful have a full team of support behind them. Whether your goal is to complete a race, to achieve in your career, to lose weight or to better your diet, even though much of the work is done solo, support or (lack thereof) from teammates, friends and family can put you over the top (or leave you broken at the bottom). 

I'm so thankful for all the folks I've run with over the last few months, who've provided good company, inspired me, made me laugh, offered me a hand up when I fell (literally, not figuratively--I fall ALL. THE. TIME) and pushed me past my comfort level to be a better version of me.

Thank you to the AMAZING Charm City Run BelAir trail training group, including coach Darren (2nd from the left on the back row), who's "that's what she said" jokes made freezing cold mornings a little funnier.

Charm City Run BelAir trail running group. Yes, I am as cold as I look (3rd from the right), and Mr Live Full (aka my husband John, 2nd from the left) is going to hear about it the whole car ride home.

Charm City Run BelAir trail running group. Yes, I am as cold as I look (3rd from the right), and Mr Live Full (aka my husband John, 2nd from the left) is going to hear about it the whole car ride home.

Thank you to the No Meat Athlete Baltimore running group, who gave me a reason to get my butt out of bed 1-2 Sundays per month to get in that recovery run with good company (and apologies to everyone who's gotten lost running with me in this group!). 

Thanks also go to the free Thursday night running group launching from Charm City Run in Baltimore. Whether I've run with someone or alone, just showing up for these group runs has provided a high level of consistency in my training, and helped me log some speedier miles in lousy weather that will pay off in my training. 

And I would be remiss if I didn't thank my family, friends and even my clients who've checked in on my training and supported me with words of kindness. EXTRA props to Mr. Live Full, who's been training alongside me (though a zillion times faster) and putting up with a crabby and tired version of me during tough weeks. Without all this love and support in my corner, there's no way I cold even consider lining up tomorrow. 

Here's to being better, stronger and more badass together!