Close Out the Year with Self Love

As the holidays approach, media and marketing will sell you on thinking it’s the most wonderful time of the year (and hoping you spend that pretty penny too). While I hope nothing but good cheer for all, sometimes this time of year brings forth heartbreaking reminders of those we’ve lost, failed resolutions, being stuck in careers, relationships, or unsatisfied life choices, or just simply feeling lonely. I’m here to remind you that even though these times may play havoc on your emotions, you’re still amazing and now, not just January 1, is the perfect time to practice some self-love.

I’ve come up with some practical ways for you to bring back that lovin’ feelin’, woah that lovin’ feelin’:

De-stress Monday’s

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There’s an account on Instagram I follow called @destressmonday and they also have a webpage here. Stereotypically, Monday’s are the “worst” but the account gives you little reminders to breathe, smile and think positively, not just on Mondays but for everyday of the week.

 

Start Saving Weekly to Give Yourself a Present/Trip

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Chanel Boutique in Paris

It may seem ironic to put away money when you know you probably should spend it towards the gifts for others this holiday, but how can you be your best for them if you don’t take care of yourself once in a while? Practicing some budgeting and rewarding yourself for making the means to grab something you really love or a getaway you’ve been craving for is not selfish, it’s making a goal, being diligent, and taking pride in your work. That’s an achievement!

 

Pay it Forward

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Be Kind from Momentum Jewelry

If you are feeling slightly guilty for thinking about yourself, which you SHOULDN’T, you can always give back to those in need or just do random acts of kindness. Smile and hold a door open for someone, buy the person’s coffee behind you, volunteer at the local food pantry, give to charity. There are literally millions of ways to help and be kind and in the long run, you’ll feel better because you brightened someone’s day!

 

Listen to Inspiring and Interesting Podcasts

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This American Life Podcast

I might get a little heavy here. Personally, losing 3 family members over the past 5 years actually makes the holidays suck, to be brutally honest. My mom was the champion of Christmas with the decorations, several little ceramic villages, lights, dinners, pies, and presents. She made the holidays feel lively, animated, and she made everyone around feel loved. This will be my 4th Christmas without her. It doesn’t get easier, but I know that by holding everything in could be disastrous. When I’m out on long runs, I like to listen to podcasts to pass the time, like This American Life with one episode in particular talking about a way to speak to loved ones who have passed and reconciling with others who are still here. The first act is discusses a documentary in Japan about the Wind Phone. It’s a non-working, old, rotary phone in a white phone booth box on a man’s garden that over 10,000 people have visited or used. It’s popularity began following the 2011 Tsunami and became a way for friends and family members, of those lost or taken from the disaster, to find a way to speak to their loved ones and grieve peacefully. I did end up watching the documentary here at this link, but be forewarned if you’re human, you’ll probably cry. The second act is about two elderly brothers, in their 80’s, who held a somewhat unknowingly grudge and hadn’t really spoken in about 20 years. The son of one helped to reconcile them, knowing time was not on their side and helped guide them to have an adult conversation about their grievances which helped to take some ‘weight’ off their shoulders. Both stories are healthy reminders to allow for time to think about your loved ones who are no longer here and to not wait to reach out to those who still matter to you while they are still here.

 

#12days12ways

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Brady the Cat, named after the GOAT Tom Brady

On a lighter note, because there are only 12 days left until Christmas there’s a hashtag going around called #12days12ways. It’s a reminder to reflect back and document, however you wish, 12 ways your life has changed positively over the past year.

Here are mine:

January: Got to celebrate the new year with my friend Liz, who visited us in France from NYC

February: Watching the Patriots win the SuperBowl

March: Spending a week in the Swiss Alps snowboarding

April: Completing my 9th Marathon in Rome, Italy and during that same week watch Julien crush his PR in the Paris Marathon

May: Completing the Luxembourg night half marathon, the hottest race I’ve ever done in my life

June: Growing my influence in the running, fitness and wellness community on Instagram and having my hard work, “little hobby”, get recognized with sponsorships and ambassadorships from companies like Under Armour and Nordstrom

July: Getting a new kitten and fur baby, Brady

August: Visiting my one of my oldest friends Dorothy, in Rotterdam, Netherlands while at the same time being lucky enough to have her on this side of the pond with me

September: Twofer, sneaking home on a super discount flight for Labor Day weekend to go on, one of my best friend’s, Katie’s sailboat and completing my 10th marathon and 3rd World Major in Berlin

October: Having my Dad visit for a couple weeks and then all of us flying back to the US for 3 weeks, 2 weddings and an east coast adventure

November: My birthday in Budapest, Hungary with my American bestie here in Metz, Carmen

December: Having Julien’s family embrace and welcome me into their home for Christmas this year

Here’s to ending the year on a positive note and feeling optimistic for what is to come!

 

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Following a Keto-ish meal plan as a Runner

*Let me preface that I am not a nutritionist. I’m new to educating myself on what I’m putting into my body. My trial with the ketogenic meal plan is a self experiment on my energy levels while training for a marathon. 

About six months ago, I met another American here in France. While I was excited to have drinks with a native English speaker, I was amazed to find out she was a big time leader in the Beachbody world; one that I participated in a couple years ago, but have since decided to step away from. Full disclaimer: I’m still a huge fan of the home programs and still do them for strength and cross training.

Anyway, I became Facebook friends with her and signed up for her blog (Fit With Rachel). If you have a Facebook account you are fully aware that it is the largest platform for all multi-level markets to use, so through it I discovered her previously recorded live videos about following a ketogenic meal plan. I saw her before and after pictures of toned abdominals and decreased leg cellulite (since losing 80lbs post-partum) thanks to workouts and change in diet. Although aesthetically, I was impressed that was not the reason I was intrigued by the meal plan. I did a little bit more googling and reading from other keto minded sites like Ruled.Me and Dr. Hyman and was pretty much convinced to give it a go.

What they were basically telling me was that I could, not only be heart healthy and tone up with foods considered high in fat but also, change my energy sources from sugars to fats by being in a state of ketosis.

What is ketogenic?

The short version, essentially you minimize your carbohydrate intake (usually <60g per day, hardcore <20g per day which I found to be extremely difficult considering fruits and veggies have carbs!). By doing so, you put your body into a state of ketosis in which it chemically changes to get its energy from burning fats instead of sugars (digested carbohydrates turn to sugar). 

If this program sounds familiar to the Atkins diet, you’re not far off except for the fact that the foods are much more heavily monitored. For example, you can’t just start eating all the red meat and cook with all the vegetable oils you want and expect that because it’s high protein and high fat that you’ll automatically start losing weight (although there are probably people who will, but what’s more concerning is that it’s not healthy). Instead, you can eat red meat that has been grass fed and oils that are comprised of saturated fats, like coconut oil. 

Why? The difference is that non-grass fed beef has developed over time with chemicals, producing stressed meat that we ingest which can lead to an inflammatory response in our own bodies. When we eat unsaturated, trans, or hydrogenated fats like vegetable oils such as soy, corn or canola, the fat process has been damaged creating free radicals which again leads to inflammation in our own bodies and can lead to i.e. heart disease and diabetes. 

Seems opposite of what some food industries has been informing us for years by stating we should eat advertised low-fat foods. But, unfortunately, the process in which to reduce FAT (damaging the fat particle, as I mentioned above, by producing free radicals) can ultimately lead us to eating more carbs because they have been advertised as lower in fat!  Seriously, wtf?!

As an endurance runner, it’s been ingrained in me to carb up! In fact a former co-worker of mine, when I ran my first marathon, bought me a headband that read ‘will run for food’. Some large races even incorporate a pasta dinner the night before the run included with the race fee. Honestly, I never educated myself on macros and nutritional values. I used to run so I could eat what I wanted regardless if it improved my performance. But after 10 years and 9 marathons with increasing times, I figured my go to plan of eating what I wanted wasn’t working to help my performance anymore. I know, I’m a late learner.

So hearing about a change in energy sources from a ketogenic meal plan inspired me to try it more so than dropping 5lbs or reducing leg girth.

Four weeks ago I started the plan. The first week was the hardest, you’re ridding your body of processed sugars which act like drugs to your body. Some people even develop something called the ‘keto-flu’. I read recently a study in which they gave a group of mice cocaine laced water bottles and another group sugar laced water bottles, and the sugar mice ended up drinking way more. Science. 

Game Plan

To start the process, your first grocery bill will also be quite expensive. You have to buy typically from an all organic market and get essentials like ghee or grass-fed butter, coconut oil, almond and coconut flour, coconut sugar, protein powder, all natural nut butters, full fat cheeses, grass fed, pasture raised and free range meats and eggs, fish high in omega 3’s like salmon or tuna, avocados, olives and fresh vegetables and fruits that are low starch (think a lot of above ground legumes like spinach and less root vegetables like potatos and carrots and for fruits more berries than bananas or apples) etc. 

Here is an example of my first weeks meal plan…

Example keto meal plan

Example keto meal plan


Results

Luckily for me, I didn’t experience any sort of carb withdrawals that first week. The meals were of course tasty but moving forward into week 2 and 3, there were days when all I wanted was an ice cold beer, bread or pasta with my meal. The hardest times were when I went to eat at a friend or family’s place, in my opinion. But I persevered! And although they recommend not drinking alcohol at all because of its lack of nutritional value, essentially spirits like vodka and wine have virtually no carbs so I was still able to have a few cocktails on the weekends, especially when I was traveling to Portugal and Switzerland the past couple of weekends. 

My goal was to complete 3 full weeks and I can proudly say I went 19 out of 21 full days without having bread, and the full 21 days of not having beer or pasta. And while I should have taken my weight and measurements to find objective changes, I didn’t. But here is a before and after picture.

Before Keto/After Keto

Before Keto/After Keto


As for my energy, I did feel low the first week but now feel less tired on runs or training sessions that are less than an hour. As my Berlin marathon training cycle continues to increase in mileage, I’m going to try to continue being in a state of ketosis but I may experiment with carbs again on pre-day runs greater than 90 minutes, depending how I feel on that first longish run. 

Have you tried a ketogenic diet? What are your thoughts or concerns?

I need your help for a PR!

I am out here seeking the runners world advice once again. Help! (No, not to leave the US regarding our latest presidential election – I’ve already done that 😉).

As I begin to get myself organized with a running plan for the Rome marathon in April 2017, I’ve decided to create a goal to shoot for my Personal Record (PR). My motto with each marathon has always been to just finish, however with each marathon my times have mostly become progressively worse. I can probably blame it on several factors including mental blocks, inadequate training, age, weather, and/or nutrition, but after having watched an 85 year old man break a 4 hour marathon in Toronto this year, my mind is blown. I would like to get my butt on a real training plan, not just one that suited my lifestyle (although that is important) but importantly catered to achieve my goal for a PR. 


My marathon times have ranged from 4:13:15 to 4:49:59. A brief history, I’ve only played with Hal Higdon programs between novice and intermediate. My nutrition has become better as, ahem, my age increases (less processed, enriched white flour, fast food, more fruits, veggies, whole grains) but I’ve never cut alcohol out during a training season and I’m probably not sticking to appropriate serving sizes nor have I ever counted macros/calories, regardless to the fact I’ve not had much change in weight.

So my question to you running community, what program do you recommend for 26.2 to help me achieve a PR and are there any good nutrition meal planners for the endurance athlete? 

26 days until the Paris Marathon

As you may know I’m in the midst of training for my 8th full marathon which is 26 days away. I will be running the Paris Marathon on April 3, 2016 and aiming for a 4:30 finish. This is my first marathon where I’ve documented my 18 weeks of training on Instagram @thefitwanderluster and on Facebook.

  
This week is the hardest week of training. In total (Saturday to Saturday), I will have run a total of 52 miles (or 83.7 km). Not including hill training, which I will do today and cross training (consisting of body weight, resistance and core training) on Monday and Friday, along with active recovery on Sunday (rest day but typically includes stretching, yoga or foam rolling). This week, as in all of my past marathon trainings, is tough both mentally and physically. I will be running or working out approximately 10 hours and 50 minutes of my week.

Let me just break it down for you:

  • One week consists of 168 hours
  • Let’s estimate I sleep 8 hours a night or 56 hours of the week, 33% of my time
  • Daily chores, errands, activities of daily living (cooking, eating, showering, dressing) 48 hours of the week, 28% of my time
  • I’m working part-time at 16 hours of the week, 10% of my time with commuting 6 hours of the week, 3.6% of my time (total 13.6%)
  • Watching TV or doing other hobbies  and blogging 20 hours in a week, 12 % of my time
  • Hanging out with friends, entertainment, etc 12 hours a week, 7.2% of my time
  • So running/working out consumes 10.9 hours in a week, 6.6% of my time!

The importance of the mileage buildup gradually over time is to prep your body for the impact, increase your endurance and stamina, and prevent injury when it comes to race day. You may have seen “How I Met Your Mother” and Barney Stinson finishes a marathon without training, which sure there are few people that can do that, however when he does finish and takes the subway home he can’t get up from sitting. It’s actually pretty funny.

My long run this week will be 22 miles or 35.4 km. It will be a comfortable pace with some walk breaks for water and goo. But I still dread 4 hours of running. The only thing I like to do for 4 hours straight is binge on Netflix House of Cards Season 4! Marathon training isn’t just about the run itself, it’s the commitment and motivation. While training with others makes the process easier and more fun, the reality is your mind is what will keep you going in the end. Because I have been posting and blogging about my program, the process makes me accountable and gives me a goal to reduce my thoughts of failure.

 The next few weeks will be about my taper and nutrition. The last 3 weeks before the marathon the mileage decreases until race day. This allows for muscular and joint recovery to due to increases in aerobic enzymes and muscle glycogen. The taper also allows for mental recovery.

For my nutrition, I will be focusing on easily digestible foods that are high in carbohydrates and protein and lower in fat and fiber along with hydration. This means I will be cutting back on alcohol and processed sugars.

My typical meal plans will look something like this:

Breakfast:

  • Shakeology
  • Oatmeal
  • Muesli
  • eggs

Snacks (2x per day):

  • celery and peanut butter
  • carrots and hummus
  • oatbran pretzels
  • grapes
  • berries

Lunch:

  • turkey or roast beef lettuce wraps
  • egg salad or tuna fish
  • goat cheese salad
  • chicken quesadillas

Dinner:

  • Broiled Steak with mushrooms, cauliflower and acorn squash
  • Asian seared Pork Chops, broccoli and sweet potato
  • Pasta Primevera
  • Chicken Piccata with spaghetti and broccoli
  • Salmon Cakes with Tuscan Penne Pasta
  • Spicy Chicken and Veggie Pasta

And if I’m craving desert, I’ll treat myself to:

  • Fruit (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Canteloupe)
  • Yogurt or Sorbet

Wish me luck!