Tough Long Run With a Surprise

clove lakeSaturday’s run was one of those runs where you feel achy and it’s hard. It was a rough week and I was tired. My husband had surgery and had come home from the hospital the night before. I was worried about him, my allergies were kicking in and I was sleeping on the wrong side of the bed, literally. We switched spots since my side is easier mobility wise for him.

The run felt tough from the start. I generally ignore the first mile, it’s rare that it’s a true indicator of a run. The second mile didn’t feel any better and by mile 3 I was checking my watch – it’s only 3 miles?! How is that possible? Meh. That pretty much continued until I got to mile 6.

I was running alone and I was regretting not strapping on my iPod. I rarely run with music when I’m outside. I prefer to be able to hear my breathing, my foot strikes and what’s going on around me. (When I do wear my iPod I only put one ear bud in, essential for safety when you run alone and/or on streets). I could have used the distraction and I missed my running buddies.

I made bargains with myself. Just get through the first park lap and you’ll have 4 miles done. You can get one more mile in and then jog home. Would it be terrible to run 6 miles instead of 8? No, honestly at this point in my training it does not matter if I run 6 miles or if I run 8. I’ve had a couple of 10 and 11 mile runs plus a 12 miler, this week wouldn’t make or break me.

Somehow that did the trick for me. I was able to finish up my second lap in the park and run home, hitting my 8 miles. When I looked at my time on my watch I saw that I ran my fastest long run since my injury. What!?

Wednesday I ran the fastest time period since my injury and now I’ve had my fastest long run. Both felt physically hard but my hip felt okay both times. Little twinges but not hard aching. Yes I’m ready for my half-marathon but I’m happy for the taper!

How have your runs been lately?

Have you started running after an injury? How did that go for you?

9 Foods That Cause Inflammation

inflammationIn the past week I’ve been asked by 4 different people about inflammation, what foods aggravate it and which foods help it. As a runner I’m constantly trying to reduce inflammation and as a health coach I work to help my clients reduce their inflammation. Some inflammation is a good thing, in the case of injury or illness it cues the body to start healing. Chronic inflammation, however, can lead to or be a sign of serious health problems.

Chronic inflammation is the root of many diseases as the infographic above shows. While culprits such as environment, stress and sitting on your butt too long can contribute to inflammation, the main cause is often diet. This week I’m going to focus on foods that aggravate inflammation.

Highly Processed Foods – Foods that are highly processed often have trans-fats which promotes inflammation, raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol.  Manufacturers are allowed to list 0 trans fat if there is less than 1% in the ingredients. Sneaky, huh? Partially hydrogenated oils listed in the ingredients is your red flag, otherwise you could end up consuming quite a bit of trans fat this way.

Sugar – Sugar is biologically hard for our bodies to break down, especially when we eat it in large quantities. Too much of the sweet stuff causes poor memory, swelling, pain, and breaks down collagen in your skin (hello, premature aging and wrinkles!). Check your food labels, 4 g of sugar equals one teaspoon.

Dairy – Dairy can be hard to digest, especially for the lactose intolerant. Despite the marketing by the dairy board you do not really need 3 servings a day. Unpleasant side effects include swelling, gas, diarrhea or constipation.

Highly Refined Carbohydrates – Bagels, pizza, white rice and packaged baked goods quickly turn to sugar when broken down and the body needs to get rid of that sugar quickly; triggering an inflammatory response. Skip the breads and empty carbohydrates in favor of whole grain choices, like brown or red rice, quinoa or barley.

Omega 6 Fatty Acids – You want a healthy balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Too many Omega 6’s, found in seeds and the oils extracted from them, can cause inflammation. These oils are commonly found in processed snacks and fast foods. Choose olive oil or coconut oil when cooking and eat foods such as salmon and walnuts, which are rich in Omega 3’s.

Alcohol – Alcohol is sugar and it irritates the body. Yes, a glass of wine can be beneficial to the heart but recommendations are 1 glass per day for women and 2 for men, less if you have an existing health condition.

Coffee – I know coffee is delicious and has some health benefits and it can trigger the stress hormone cortisol causing inflammation. Acidic beverages can also irritate the GI tract and cause swelling. Choose teas, preferably green, when possible. If you must drink coffee, and I know many of you love it, do not drink it on an empty or full stomach. Eat, digest a bit and then enjoy your coffee.

Artificial Sweeteners – They are hard for the body to digest, cause gas and can exacerbate sweet cravings. Our bodies also see them as a foreign substance and may attack itself. Learn to enjoy foods without extra sugar or use natural sweeteners sparingly.

Carageenan – Carageenan is extracted from red seaweed and used as a thickener in many foods. It sounds healthy enough but is undigestible, increases inflammation and has been linked to many GI diseases.It’s found in low-fat milk, yogurt, almond, coconut and some soy milks, some ice cream, creamers and deli meats.

The upshot? Read your labels and make the best choices you can. Limiting the amounts you consume of these foods can leave you feeling and looking better. Next week I’ll share foods that reduce inflammation.

Is your diet causing inflammation? Need help in getting it back on track? Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and we can set up a time to speak. Not in my area? That’s what Skype, Google Hangout and the phone are for!

When the Training Goes Well and the Long Run Feels Good

sneakersI am almost afraid to put this in writing – I’ve had some really excellent runs lately. There has been some hip pain but overall I have felt stronger and faster. I started seeing a chiropractor for hip manipulation and he noticed this past week that the area of tightness was smaller.

I’ve been doing hill training and added in a fourth day of running. I had been sticking with three and doing strength, exercises from my physical therapist and cross training cardio. This week I felt so good on that fourth day I was able to add an extra mile and I felt fine afterwards.

Saturday was a down week, 8 miles instead of 12, and I took advantage of it. It’s crazy how much it makes a difference but I just did some stretching and went on with my day, no ice bath needed. Today I could have run but I stuck with strength, cardio and the PT exercises.

I think it helps that my training partner is pregnant and we’ve been running more slowly. I have a tendency to push and this forces me to take my long runs at an easier pace. I can run my shorter runs faster when I want to. Some days I do and some days I just run easy.

It seems to be working and I’m sticking with it for now. My half-marathon is 5 weeks away and I plan to have a good race. I have not signed up for anything else, I’m planning on taking a few weeks off to do interval training. After that I’ll see how I feel and what feels right.

I’ve also found my new favorite long run meal: Pineapple Coconut Curry. We hit a vegan restaurant in New Jersey, Kaya’s Kitchen, and the food was amazing. I was very surprised when my meat and potato loving husband suggested eating there. They have a lot of gluten-free options as well, so it was a win. We had Missy Dog with us so we chose to eat outside. Missy gives the dairy/gluten-free Mac N Cheese 2 paws up. (And she only had a few pieces – so no warning letters needed, thank you).

Do you have any races coming up?
What’s your favorite recovery meal?

How Thinking “I’m Taking Care of Myself” Gets Results

NappingI sent out a tweet the other day that seemed to resonate. Whether you’re working out or losing weight focus on “I’m taking care of myself.” This will lead to better choices and decisions. Being healthy is a choice, not a punishment.

It works for eating, exercising and self-care. When choosing a meal, snack or treat think about how it’s going to support your commitment to taking care of yourself. Even a splurge can be made healthier or kept to a small portion. For instance you might say, I’m going to eat bacon but I will choose nitrate free and keep it to a piece or two.

A meal should keep you satiated for a few hours. Choose a meal that has a balance of protein, healthy fat and fiber. Lean beef, a sweet potato and a vegetable is a healthy choice, as is a hearty lentil stew. Neither meal looks like the other but both would help you take care of yourself.

When it comes to working out or sitting on the couch and watching tv – what is going to help you take care of yourself? Generally speaking it will be some form of exercise. On the other hand, if you have been doing strenuous workouts for several days in a row and are physically exhausted you may need the rest.

With exercise it’s best to listen to your body. If you’re telling yourself you’re too tired to work out, that’s your brain. Ignore it. When you’re feeling achy and sore, that’s your body speaking. Listen to it!

Self-care is another important component. Make some time to do things you enjoy and nourish your soul. That could be a simple time out for meditation. It could be taking a bubble bath or doing a beloved project. It might also be meeting a friend for a catch up.

A few weeks ago I realized I hadn’t been reading for pleasure, all my choices were work oriented. I’ve made time to pick some things out just for fun and entertainment. It’s a great way to start or end my day.

What choices do you make that could use a few tweaks when it comes to taking care of yourself?

Do you need help in making better choices or in figuring out where to start? Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to set up a 30 minute power session.