Eat To Run

run and eat

How much does what we eat impact how we perform? There is a group of runners who subscribe to the belief, “I run, therefore I eat what I want,” which is a pretty unhealthy diet.

There is a mistaken belief that the higher mileage you run, the unhealthier you can eat since you’ll just run it off on the weekend with your twenty mile or longer run. There is lots of research out there about what is the healthiest diet for runners and athletes in general.

If you look, you can find support for many diets including low-carbohydrate, paleo, fruititarian, vegetarian, and vegan. There is not support for the eat whatever I want diet and still perform well as an athlete.

Food supplies the body with energy and nutrients. It provides you with immediate energy and long lasting energy. High sugar foods lead to crashes and cravings for more high sugar foods. Food with high calories can lead to weight gain and an increase in fat mass because you get more calories than you are burning off.

Running requires a large supply of oxygen to be transported through your blood to your working muscles. Foods rich in trans or hydrogenated fats cause buildup in veins and slow the blood flow, which means your heart, lungs, and muscles don’t get the oxygen they need and you slow down.

The insulin gait connection is something new research has uncovered. Consumption of a high carbohydrate diet causes your body to increase production of insulin. Too  much insulin in our bodies means we are not able to maintain a healthy balance of blood sugar levels. Imbalances in blood sugar can cause irritability, cravings for sugar, excessive appetite, afternoon drowsiness or headaches, getting the shakes, and trouble sleeping.

People with blood sugar imbalances have irregular gait patterns and thus some chronic ache, pain or injury. How does this happen? High levels of insulin affect the brain directly and not just mental functioning but physical functioning too. The more the brain is lacking proper nutrition the more impaired the more physical movement will suffer. An impaired gait leads to other muscles compensating and then to injury.

Foods that are going to benefit your running are nutrient dense whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, brown rice and protein from lean meats or plant based. Healthy fats are also important to decreased inflammation and build strong cell membranes that are resistant to damage during exercise. Good sources of fat are avocados, olive oil, nuts, and coconut.

Finally, getting enough calories to fuel your body is just as important (perhaps more) as what you are eating. Without enough calories, your body begins to consume your own muscles when you are underweight. Muscle loss is not the goal of any athlete. The recommendation currently is 2800 calories a day for middle aged active men and 2200 calories a day for middle aged active women. Here is a chart to find your age group.

Eating healthy gives your body the building blocks it needs to recover quickly and repair damage done through training.

Food as Fuel

food as fuel

Many runners, both new and more experienced, ask me if they should change their diet. I tell them, “You don’t have to change your diet to run, but you probably will once it starts holding you back.”

If all you ever want to do with running is complete 5k’s and 10k’s comfortably a few times from spring until fall, your diet probably doesn’t matter too much unless you are overweight. If you are overweight, the extra pounds will make running harder so changing your diet will be beneficial even if you never plan to compete and never plan to run more than a 10k.

If you want to be competitive or run farther than the 10k, you will reach a point when you realize that the bucket of movie popcorn, French fries and a double bacon cheese burger doesn’t feel good the next morning on your run. Once your diet is holding you back, you’ll change it.

Food is fuel and if you fuel your body with crap you will get crap back.

When I use the word diet, I don’t mean “dieting” or the restriction of calories to lose weight. I mean your food life style.

I don’t usually have to tell my runners to change their diet. Eventually, they will ask me about mine and see the difference in my running and their running. Most of the time they don’t adopt the same diet as me, which is pretty strict, but they make adjustments choosing more fresh fruits and vegetables along with lean white meats over fatty red meats.

The biggest change you can make in your diet is awareness. Think about what you are putting into your body. Most people don’t stop and think about the food they are eating. They see it, it looks good, and they eat it. The empty calories, sugar, and fat content doesn’t cross their mind.

If you are able to slow down think about what you have already eaten during the day, what the actual nutritional value is of what you are about to eat, and what you plan to eat later in the day it will make a huge difference in your diet.

I use a low carbohydrate life style. It can be hard to follow for many people, which is why I tell people about it and the benefits, but I don’t push it on people. I don’t eat starchy vegetables, breads (regardless of what it is made from), pasta, or rice. I’m very selective about the fruits I eat because most are high in sugar. My body has been taught to primarily burn fat rather than sugars as fuel.

The low carb life style allows me to recover faster, maintain  higher cognitive functioning along with mood stability throughout the day and during 100 mile events, and prevents the BONK. I can run 50 miles without taking anything but water in. If you are interested in learning more read “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” by Jeff S. Volek and Stephen D. Phinney. It’s only 150 pages and easy to understand.

Awareness is the essential part of eating smart.

It’s that time of year…

new years resolution 1

New Year’s resolution time! Woot!

It’s been one week, have you stuck to yours?

I think it is wonderful that we begin the year with so much desire to better our lives and optimism. It’s really a shame that many people are not able to stick to their goals. About fifty percent of people who do make resolutions stick to them through the six month mark and then through the end of the year.

A major part of sticking to your goals is making them achievable. Be reasonable with yourself. Look at where you are currently in your life. Be honest with yourself not judgmental. Facts only no emotion behind it and no labels. Achieving a small goal is better than failing at a big goal. Resolve to change one or two things at a time. Trying to make major life overhauls all at once is overwhelming.

new years resolution 2

Your resolution must also be specific. Such as lose five pounds a month, save 100 dollars a month, exercise 30 minutes five days a week, eat a salad every day, or spend fifteen minutes a day meditating. Whatever it is, make it as specific as possible.

Part of the reason you want to be specific is measurability. You need to be able to track progress. Nothing inspires a person like seeing the changes. Buy a notebook where you can write your progress down. Make it detailed and include how you feel. Sometimes we don’t anticipate how a change will impact our lives so in the beginning especially the more information you can write down the better. How is your mood? How is your relationship with others? How is your productivity? These are important factors to consider in addition to the numbers of weight loss, miles, speed, or money in the bank.

Once you have decided on an achievable goal TELL OTHER PEOPLE. By involving other people, you gain a support system and accountability. Make sure you tell people who are going to support you and advocate for you. Resolutions are hard enough to keep, having someone who doesn’t believe in your ability to accomplish it is definitely not going to help you. Voicing your goals makes them more concrete too. There is something about hearing them out loud rather than just inside your head. Write them down and post it where you can see it each day. Try multiple places: on the dashboard of your car, on your calendar, and next to the mirror in the bathroom.  Create a goal collage by cutting out pictures or printing them off the internet that show your goal tack them up on a pin board where it reminds you visually of what you are striving toward.

new years resolution

Be positive about the changes you want to see. Try to frame them in the most positive light you can. Use words and pictures that are positive and inspire you. Don’t use words that trigger bad experiences or failures in the past. For many people the words diet and exercise are loaded with negative feelings and pictures. Choose other words, fuel and training or gymtime and energy. It doesn’t matter, just something that doesn’t make your stomach turn into a pretzel every time you thing about it.

The final thing is to celebrate your success. Choose ways to celebrate that do not compromise your goal. If you have a goal of losing weight cookies and ice cream are probably not a good way to celebrate. But you could buy yourself a new outfit or have a manicure and pedicure done. Go for a massage if you would like. Think outside the usual reward box.

Best of Luck! I hope you all succeed in your goals.


Getting Going and Mantaining Motivation

4 weeks

People are motivated by different desires such as to be fit, lose weight, make friends, and finish a particular distance/race. Most people’s motivation is not fueled from just one source either, it’s a combination of various desires.

Underlying these desires are the core needs of people everywhere: to survive, be accepted/loved, and accomplish goals. These basic needs are what you are tapping into to keep your fire going.

The more of these underlying needs that are wound up in your motivation, the stronger your motivation will be and the less likely you are to become burned out.

You have to be able to stick to the program long enough to feel your needs being met. This usually takes about four weeks of consistent exercising especially if the need is survival AKA weight loss and other health benefits.

People who have never exercised or stuck to an exercise program start with goals, which are too big and they get discouraged when their progress is slow. Or they become exhausted and can’t keep up the program. Goals must be achievable and measurable to help maintain motivation. Start small, starting is better than not starting, so even if your goal is to run one lap at the elementary school without stopping it is better than doing nothing. You can’t start too small.

Find a way to track your progress. There are a million apps for smart phones that will help track fitness. You can also get a notebook and track your speed, distance, and weight. Watching these numbers change is encouraging.

Let go of any slip-ups. If you miss a day, don’t just give up. If you miss two days, so what, get back on the wagon. If you have a hard day, that’s okay everyone does. Guilt is not very motivating, progress and change are, build your foundation on progress.

Don’t compete with other people, only with yourself. That way you always win. Focus on doing better than you did the week before. This is critical in the beginning. If you start looking around the gym at the people who have been exercising for years, you will get discouraged. Let it go and be ok with where you are starting because at least you are starting.

Hang out with people who are supportive of your exercise program, your cheering squad. Stay away from Debbie downers. Your internal critic is enough to deal with, you shouldn’t have to deal with external critics too.

Exercising is hard. You have to find the fun in it one way or another. There are lots of ways to add to the experience such as finding a partner in crime, listening to music, playing games with yourself, and rewarding yourself when you have completed your weekly goal. Try to not make rewards sugary treats, instead go for a nice pair of socks, new songs from iTunes, or a sweatband with a funny saying.

Make exercising as convenient as possible. Eliminate excuses of being too tired or not having time. Twenty minutes is better than zero. There are a bunch of exercise videos for free online. Youtube has a bunch as well. It’s too cold/hot outside, stay in and do around of kick boxing or yoga. Too tired, get up a little earlier and go to bed at a reasonable hour. You have to make exercising a priority.

If you can do these things and stick to the program for four weeks, you will start to see changes in your body and your attitude. Exercising will become a habit and easier to maintain. Your desires for weight loss, fitness, friends, and running a marathon get closer. Your needs for survival, acceptance/love, and success/accomplishment begin to get satisfied.

Exercise becomes the best addiction you have ever had.


The Impact of Running

No, I’m not talking about the physical impact of running. When I took up running, I had no idea just how much it would affect my life. As my family and friends know, I don’t do anything in a small way. Go Big or Go Home, that’s my mantra. Running has not been any different. Sure, it started out small and cute.
Diet: I’ve completely changed my food choices based upon my running. My body needs specific nutrients to be able to do what I want it to do. If you had told me eight years ago that, I would give up cake, bread, and snicker doodles just so I could run farther than 26.2 miles, I would have laughed hysterically in your face. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what has happened. My diet has slowly morphed into what it is today, low carbohydrate (less than 50 a day). At first, I just started to eat healthier, fewer fats and sugars. I tried to make a conscious decision about what I was shoving in my mouth knowing what I had already put in there that day or week. I noticed that I was more aware, less likely to overeat or choose cookies over fruits. I also noticed that the cravings for those things dissipated and then were gone. I don’t eat much processed food anymore. I eat a salad every day. I make my own bread from almond and flax seed flour. And I feel great all the time. I have energy that doesn’t roller coaster. My weight is stable, and so is my mental state.
Parenting: Running has provided me with wonderful insights into parenting my two boys. I know that things don’t change just because I want it and ask for it. I need to have a training program and follow it to its end. I know there will be good days and bad days. I know there will be challenges in the form of mountains, boulders, weather, wild animals, and strange people that appear along my route. I also know that I choose how to deal with them or not. If I choose to deal with it, I become stronger. I know I need rest days, and when I’m hurt, I have to take the time to heal, learn why it happened, and come up with a prevention plan. I know that sometimes in order to get better, faster, and stronger I need to recruit my supporting muscles and cross train.
Social: I have grown closer to my friends over the last four years that we have run together than ever before. Being locked in a van with five other people for 30 + hours running relays builds bonds of love and affection, just like any traumatic experience. Just kidding. No really, the bonds are unbreakable after ten relays and the trauma is easily forgotten. Running has also created friendships I would not otherwise have had because people like to know what is wrong with me to make me run 100 miles, morbid curiosity. It gets the best of us all. I’ve also become closer to my parents since becoming a runner, which is one of the greatest gifts because my relationship with them has not always been great. They are my number one and two support teams in all of my running endeavors.
Professional: I do a considerable amount of thinking about the families and children my professional decisions affect while I run. I compose opening statements and closing arguments. I go over possible outcomes and strategies to help put families back together. Running has also given me a chance to connect with at least some of the foster kids through a running group. I would love to start a group for the mother’s in residential substance abuse programs in the future.
I don’t believe that there is a facet of my life that running has not touched. Some people try to tell me that running as much as I do is harmful, and I’m sure there is research out there that supports their arguments, but so far, running has done right by me, and I intend to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I reach the final finish line in life. Run to live. Live to run.