Saturday, April 20, 2013

I am a runner... (?)

Over the past couple of years, I have started collecting all sorts of running clothes, shoes, water bottles, compression socks, racing bibs, and sports tape... more than I ever thought I would.  In my closet, I currently have two pairs of running shoes, a pair of cross training shoes, and a pair of trail runner hiking shoes.  Two or three years ago, there would have been maybe one pair of athletic shoes in there, maybe.

If someone asks, or it came up in conversation, I would say that "I run" (which used to be "Ha! I try to run" or "I jog slowly").  However, I never considered myself a "runner."  

True, I go to the gym 5 days a week.  I run 2-3 days a week, depending on the week, my schedule, how I'm feeling, etc.  But I never run that far (the farthest length I have run since our Half Marathon is 6 miles, and typically run 2-3). I also have 6 racing bibs from the past year and a half, and by the end of January, I'll have 8-10.  I'm not sure exactly what in my mind would define being a runner.  Perhaps it's because I've never run a marathon? Or maybe because I don't compete for time, but rather just run to run and finish the distance?

And then, on April 15th, the Boston Marathon bombing attack occurred.  One of my first thoughts was, do you know how hard those people work to get to that race?? The night before, I had just been reading an article in Runner's World magazine, with a big story on the Boston Marathon.  Just to qualify to compete in this marathon, you have to have the following times:

To put this in perspective, in November, I ran my HALF in 2.5 hours.  They are running double the distance.  These people are runners.  

When I was at the gym that night, all I could think about was the people who qualified for the race, maybe for the first time, and then couldn't finish.  Or the people who finished, and lost a limb, and may never race again.  Or the people who were there, and may be fearful to ever cross the finish line again, afraid of what may happen.  All I wanted to do at this point was go out and run.  I wanted to go and run for those people who would never race again.  I wanted to train for a full 26.2 marathon, because these people are inspirations for me to keep going.  

The next morning, I received an email about a new blog post on the "No Meat Athlete" website.  Matt is a vegan marathon runner training for his first ultra.  He wrote this amazing post on what it means to be a runner (his blog post can be found here).  This man had run 6 marathons and still didn't consider himself a runner until he felt the emotions as a runner, watching what happened to the Boston Marathon.  Suddenly, I realized that he took the words right out of my mouth! 

For the first time, I started thinking of myself as a runner.  

Running is hard, and can be grueling on your body, and exhausting, but I NEVER regret doing it. I feel exhilarated and energetic, and proud of what I completed.  It's emotional.  It's a stress reliever and incredibly therapeutic.  Only another runner can truly understand it.  It's become a part of who I am, and I am proud to be apart of the community.

And now, because this makes me laugh, I leave you with this:

Friday, April 5, 2013

The 5 Day Juice Fast

This past week I did a 5 day juice fast.  Last year I did a 3 day juice fast, and seeing as how I am equiped with a fancy blender and an actual juicer this time, I figured I could handle the 5 days. 

I had been integrating a lot more juices into my diet, but with the past couple of months of sickness, injury due to coughing my ribs out of place, and lack of exercise (from the rib pain), I was feeling pretty awful.  I have been looking for a kick start to get back to the place I want to be from a health and fitness perspective, so juicing seemed to be the best way to start.  Here's a few reasons why: 
  • Juicing can strengthen your immune system.
  • Juicing can regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • Juicing can give you a more efficient digestive system.
  • Juicing can give you clear, smooth, hydrated skin.
  • Juicing can give you energy and vitality, and honestly aids in clearer thinking.
  • Juicing feeds every cell in your body with water, vitamins, minerales, and essential enzymes.
  • Added bonus: Juicing can aid in weight loss and assist in dropping water weight while flushing the system.
My timing was impecable; the day before I started my throat started hurting AGAIN.  I about panicked, since starting a juice cleanse and requiring antibiotics don't necessarily go hand in hand.  I was determined not to need it.  I am happy to say that I warded off this cold without being loaded on medicine all week! I was able to fight it with sleep, lots of vitamins, and all of my fruit/vegetable juices.  Guess my immune system is starting to get a little better. :)

The awesome thing about juicing is the sheer amount of fruits and vegetables you consume on a daily basis.  While you aren't getting all the fiber you normally would with normal consumption, or even blending into smoothies, juicing is an immediate fit of a TON of amazing, natural sources of vitamins, and in turn, energy.  I would dare say that the juice is more effective than drinking a cup of coffee (and you know I loooove my coffee...). It would be impossible to eat that many fruit and vegetables in one sitting.

That being said, while some people do their cleanses 10 days, or even a month, I don't think it's incredibly healthy or good for your digestive track to consume a liquid diet for that long.  I did long for protein and to chew normal foods. 

So... juicing!

This was all of the produce I bought on Sunday for 3 days worth of juice.
In my cart: carrots, celery, cucumber, romaine lettuce, zucchini, parsley, kale, mint, ginger, kiwi, oranges, pears, apples, limes, blueberries, and strawberries.

My plan of attack was to aim for 3 juices a day (which grew into 4).  My first juice of the day I would blend up with a banana and some added natural protein: hemp seeds, chia seeds, and spirulina powder.  I would juice 2 days in advance, and then jar it up in the fridge:

Day One:
I woke up hungry.  Seriously? Not a good sign.  Drank my protein smoothie and shockingly stayed full until 11.  Yay! But could someone really be this addicted to caffeine? I was seriously foggy and forgetful, and the caffeine withdrawl headache was starting to hit. On top of it, I was starting to really feel sick (achy, tired, swollen throat) and I was starting to wonder which symptom was what. I was also irritible.  Seriously? I haven't had coffee, please don't bother me with that. Went for a walk in the park that afternoon, which distracted me from wanting to eat.  Drank lots of water.
Note: The first couple of days of juicing are ROUGH. Your body is confused, and as you detox, it is not uncommon to feel flu-like symptoms (achiness, headache, etc).  Sicne my sore throat started the night before, I knew it wasn't related, sadly. :(

Day Two:
I made it through day one! I only worked for part of the day, since I was really feeling bad by this point.  I went home to sleep off sickness, drinking my juices between naps.  Had a tiny bit of miso soup (broth only) to help out my system and then went back to bed.

Day Three:
Starting to feel so much better! It's amazing what sleep can do! But, since I was sick the day before, I did not have time to blend any of my juices with any protein.  As a result, my juices did not stick to my system very well, and I was starting to feel the hunger.  Bad.  It became very apparent that I was going to need to juice more juices than my original plan.  Decided to run on the treadmill at lunch.  Two exciting things!:

1. I did not even think about my ribcage once. I realized this after I ran, and I got very excited. This is huge progress since my rib alignment has been keeping me at the chiropractor 2-3 times a week for the past month or so.
2. I had a ton of energy! I expected the run to be so much harder.

Note: There are mixed reviews about exercising while on a juice fast.  The general concensious is that if you feel up to it, light exercise is good for you.  However, pretty much everyone agrees that you should skip the weight training or any intense cardio, because you are not eating enough amino acids to protect your muscles.  The last thing I need is angry muscles, so I listened to this wisely.

Day Four:
This is the first day that I really felt like myself. I woke up and my mind was very clear. I was in a better mood. I felt energized and was very excited that I was over the hump and almost done!  We decided to hike after work... the hike was great. The desert was blossoming and gorgeous. I was full of energy and powered up hills.  The moment I got in the car to return home, however, was a different story. Suddenly I was RAVENOUS. Like I couldn't focus on anything but food.  At this point, if I had been doing this cleanse alone, I might have caved in.  But since I wasn't, I went home and chugged a juice and instantly felt better.  Then I had a bunch of miso soup.  Not many calories there, but it was warm and it fooled my stomach into thinking I was really consuming more.  Good deal, time for bed.
Note to self: Do not do that again.

Day Five:
Halleluyah, it's day 5! And it's Friday!  I made the decision on Thursday night that Friday night was going to be a small, light dinner.  It's important to ease your body back into real food so it doesn't mess with your stomach, digestion, and overall feeling.  If I gorge, I will pay for it in many ways.  Smoothie for breakfast, juice for lunch and snack.. Salad for dinner.  I've earned it.   :)

I learned some important lessons during this cleanse:
  • It is amazing how good I feel after I drink my juice.  Not only do I feel healthy, I feel clear headed and energized, and it's all from a natural, plant source.
  • For a vegetarian diet, I really don't eat enough fruits and vegetables! I thought I did, but this was an awakening to how little I actually get on a daily basis.
  • My 3 cups of coffee per day dependency has to stop.  It's too dehydrating.  I LOVE COFFEE. I truly enjoy drinking it. But I should not NEED it and 1 cup in the morning should suffice (with the occasional afternoon treat).
  • You never know what foods your body really needs and wants, and what you can live without, until you can't have it. I thought I had truly realized this concept when I started my restricted diet, but a juice cleanse really brought those thoughts to fruition.
  • When I was starting to really crave foods, I wasn't craving crap. I didn't want potato chips, or greasy pizza, or pasta.  I wanted a salad with black beans and corn. I wanted tofu and brown rice.  I wanted hummus.  Namely, I wanted protein, but I wanted fresh, healthy foods.  I wasn't even tempted by the thought of chocolate, when ordinarily I would be.
  • I don't drink enough water, nor do I regularly take the vitamins I need to.  This was a great exercise at making that more of a priority.

I'm pretty sure that this is going to be a yearly ritual for me.  My gameplan for now is to have a great smoothie for breakfast (which I have been doing), a big salad for lunch, juice for snack (in lieu of coffee and salty snacks), and a good, healthy dinner. 

Here were some of my favorites!

*  *  *

Summertime Mojito
1 cucumber
1 pear
1 large handful mint
1/2 lime
(this doesn't make a lot, so I suggest doubling it)

*  *  *

Zucchini Juice
2 lg zucchini
2 apples (I used green)
1c spinach
1 lime
2c parsley
(this was surprisingly sweet and delicious!)

*  *  *

Mean Green Juice
6 kale leaves
1 cucumber
4 celery stalks
2 green apples
1 lemon
1" fresh ginger
(If you've seen the documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," this is the one they use)

*  *  *

Minty Fresh Berry Juice
2c blueberries
2 kiwi
16 strawberries
2c mint leaves
1/4 pineapple (optional, I had to omit)
(Berries can stick in your juicer, but if you turn this into a smoothie, it's delicious!)

*  *  *

Blue Green Lemonade
3 kale leaves
1 cucumber
2 pears
1/2c blueberries
1 lemon

*  *  *

Very Berry Elixir
1c strawberries
1c raspberries
1/2c blackberries
1/2c blueberries
1 cucumber

*  *  *

Citrus Surprise with Ginger
1 orange (or 2 clementines), peeled
3 strawberries
1 lemon
2 large carrotes
1/2" fresh ginger
(Yum! Tart. I also suggest doubling this one)

*  *  *

Super Sinus Juice
1 large orange
1/2 lemon, peeled
1 medium sweet or tart apple (I used sweet)
1" fresh ginger
dash of cayenne pepper
(How fitting that this is immune boosting when I was sick? And ps, clears your sinuses!)