Wednesday, April 25, 2012

K.I.S.S.

“Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature.” 
Thomas Kempis

While browsing in the library recently, I wandered over to the diet book section. I thought I'd pick up a book on eating Paleo (which I didn't find; note to self: sometime using the library search engine is a good idea). Even though I've been around the health and fitness world for 16 years or so, I was once again surprised by the vast quantities of diet and nutrition books that exist. So, I thought I'd blog about what I've found is the best "diet" (why not add my voice to the multitude?).

Keep It Simple, Silly. 
1. The best diet is no diet. Your best chance for success is to begin modifying what you already eat. You will have to say good bye to some foods, but I have found that restriction-- creating a list of "do not eat"-- only creates craving and obsessing about the forbidden. It's human nature, really. We want most what we cannot have.

2. Baby steps Make changes in the way you eat slowly. Instantly cutting out all of your favorite treats and cheats will only frustrate you and cause massive cravings. 

3. Snack and do NOT skip meals, especially breakfast. Yes, snack. Good healthy snacks keep you from over eating at meal times. Eat a small snack between every meal-- a handful of almonds, an apple with peanut butter or almond butter (be sure to check the label for added sugar and salt), Greek yogurt, home made granola, etc. Your body is the most complex machine on the planet. Keep it well-fueled.

4. Say good bye to deep fried food, sugar and artificial sweeteners. Stay with me and breathe. Ever notice that all fried food tastes pretty similar? It's because it's usually cooked in the same nasty oil. Gross! Use olive oil to sauté your potatoes, or zucchini, or chicken. Just don't drown it in oil. As for sugar and artificial sweeteners... "what's left?" you say. Use honey, or agave nectar, or stevia. I've read (and found it to be true) that artificial sweeteners trigger cravings.

5. Drink water. Not soda. Not Crystal Light. Not sweet tea. My exceptions are coffee and green tea, sweetened w/ natural, stevia based sweeteners.

6. Eat protein. Make sure you get enough protein in your diet. The amount you need varies, so find a good resource to determine your needs. 

7. Eat fiber. Fiber will make you feel full and also helps clean your system. Studies have shown that increasing your fiber intake, reduces your chances of getting certain types of cancer. I eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. I always add a scoop of either vanilla or chocolate protein. Oatmeal can be very versatile: add apples and cinnamon, or bananas and peanut butter, or pumpkin and pumpkin pie seasoning with walnuts, or blueberries, or a few dark chocolate chips.

8. Switch to whole grains. No white breads or pasta. Whole wheat pasta takes some time to get used to, but it's good. Brown rice is more flavorful than white rice and more nutritious.  

9. Eliminate processed food. The more packaged it is, the more processed. Eat natural foods-- fresh fruit and vegetables, and nuts. Eat real food, not chemically enhanced (aka artificially sweetened and colored). You will be amazed at how good real food tastes and how fake processed food tastes. 

10. Beware of labels. "All Natural" can still mean added sugar and salt. "Contains Real Fruit Juice" can mean 5% juice (fyi: fruit snacks are just glorified candy.). "Zero Trans Fat" can still mean high fat, added sugar, added dyes, etc. And that's just to name a few. Check the ingredients. If you can't pronounce it, then do you really want to put it in your body?

So, this is where I started. I've noticed an improvement in the way I feel-- balanced, not as many energy spikes and lulls, and not as many mood swings. I allow myself a cheat meal or two during the week (pizza night is a must!), and I don't beat myself up if I go on a dessert binge. I don't  get on the scale and obsess about my weight because I know that if I am feeding my body good, healthy fuel in reasonable amounts (watch serving size!) and working out regularly, I will stay at a healthy weight. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Glorious Run

I know you've had one. What's great about A Glorious Run is that you can't plan one. They just happen. They are unexpected gifts dropped down out of heaven. The weather conditions may be perfect, or not. Your state of mind may be perfect, or not. Your training may be going exactly as you have planned, or not.  It's nice if A Glorious Run happens on a race day, but if not, it's still a gift. I had one this morning.

After a very full race season, I found myself staring down the barrel of an angry knee. I kept pushing, and finally my knee said, "Enough!" So, I took two weeks completely off running, the longest break I've had since beginning my life as a runner 4 years ago. I had to miss a 5 miler that I had been looking forward to and a 5k obstacle race that I had WON an entry to. I ran exactly one mile last week. Being on Spring break this week allowed me to explore some different kinds of cross training-- yoga and lots of swimming. Well, ok, by "lots of swimming," I mean 5, 15-20 minute sessions of quasi-swimming.  I can't say I like swimming. However, I've learned that my knee really does, and so I've endured it. As a matter of fact, my knee has felt so much better that I've been able to log 4 miles this week.



I woke up to rain this morning. A steady, drizzly kind of rain with no end. I thought I might run this afternoon, as I have been doing with these short 1 milers lately. The rain slowed to a cloudy pause, so I thought, "Why not?" I dressed in my running clothes today (as opposed to the cotton tees that I've been rebelliously wearing during my short runs), left behind my iPod and watch and headed out the door. Just a few hundred steps in, and the drizzle began again. And it was perfect. I took it slowly, praying my way through each step, grateful that my knee was fairly happy to be running. I smiled at the guy walking his dog and the cars that passed by, imagining the drivers shaking their heads at the crazy lady who was out running on such a rainy, sleepy morning. It was 1.7 miles, longer than I've run in 3 weeks. It was A Glorious Run.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rest

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 
Matthew 11:28-30

So, I've been sidelined again. This time: my left knee. It has been bothering me since doing lots of walking back in November when I went to Chicago for a teachers' convention. I managed to run a marathon, a Spartan race, and a half marathon on it. But after a heavy leg day, my knee said, "That's enough." The pain was no longer an annoying ache; it was more like a screaming toddler demanding attention. 

The first two weeks of no running was a roller coaster. I swung wildly between, "That's fine; I'll focus on cross training," to "OH MY GOSH! If I don't start running again SOON I think I'm going to die." Once again, I'm left contemplating my running addiction. The two weeks I took off were the first two weeks that I had not run a single step since I began regularly running in 2008. I know that I struggle with finding balance. I find it interesting that every time I really begin to loose balance, I end up sitting on my butt with some type of ache or pain that prevents me from running. 

This time it feels different. Having pain around my knee is scary. It's different from a sore quad, which is just annoying. I'm taking it seriously, and I'm realizing how mindless my training is most of the time. I'm guilty of going through the motions: logging miles faster than I should; lifting faster than I should. I'm committing to being more mindful of each movement. Of being more careful about foot placement and form. My body is getting older and there is no room for sloppy training. I'm committing to more stretching. To yoga a few times a week. And to rest. Not just taking a day off of training, but taking my mind off of training as well.