Find your own way

True or false?  I have a slight obsession with diet/fitness podcasts.

Ummm that would be true.  Very true.  Yep, that and country music are pretty much all you find me listening to these days.

And, most of these podcasts are produced by proponents of the paleo diet, or some other form of lower carbohydrate diet, most from an endurance training-based perspective.  Lets just say that most of them propose alternative ideas for nutrition than those traditionally adopted by endurance athletes.  Some propose a paleo and/or low carb diet for optimal endurance performance.  Some propose the idea of “minimalist” training, where individuals may do much lower volume and higher intensity when training for very long endurance events than what is often prescribed.  But all of these challenge traditional approaches to health and fitness, and all proclaim huge changes in these variables by adopting these alternative approaches.

So, whats a girl to think?  We know that performing high volume training to prepare for endurance training works.  But, what if (at least for some people), this “minimalist” approach works better?  Research demonstrates that carbohydrate supplementation helps with endurance performance.  But, what if (at least for some people), paleo or low carb or something in between works better?

This is what I DO know.  I train much differently than I used to.  I used to try to put as many miles in on my bike, running shoes and in the pool as I could.  What was the result?  I was 25-30 lbs heavier, and a heck of a lot slower.  My legs constantly felt like crap.  Not really sore, but just completely and totally dead.  Now if you are training a lot this happens…but I think I spent about 4 years of my life like this.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best way to train for me.  I was definitely sacrificing quality for quantity.  And to be fast, you need some quality.

I stopped doing traithlons and other endurance activities and spent about two years just working out like the “average” American…30-40 minutes of cardio most days of the week.  I drastically changed my diet, decreasing carbohydrate intake and counting calories.  I lost weight, along with fitness.

But then in 2011 I decided to try to run again.  And this time I approached it from a different perspective.  Instead of the traditional plan where you increase your long run each week for 2-3 weeks in a row, then take a “recovery” week, I decided to only increase my long run every OTHER week.  And on runs in between I actually did some hard, high quality workouts.  This was vastly different to my previous training plans.

And wouldn’t you know it, I got faster.  Ok, I know the weight loss had a lot to do with it.  But when I ran the Pittsburgh half marathon that year I broke my previous PR by about 25 minutes.  For those of you not familiar with half marathon times I will break it down….thats a hell of a lot of time to take off.  And Im sure my training and diet had a lot to do with it.

I remember talking to a man after a 10k I ran that year.  We were discussing what runners typically discuss…running!  We were chatting about our race and our times and then training, and somehow it came up that I was only running three times per week.  His mouth gaped open in disgust and he said “you only run three times a week.  Thats not enough!”  I just smiled and nodded and muttered something about cross training and recovery…but all I could think was “well, I just kicked your ass by 5 minutes.”  Not sure he had much room to talk about my training plan.

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Now Im back to training again, and minus some IT band issues (which is a whole different topic) things are going better.  Im still focusing on lower volume and higher intensity during the week, and a longer run on the weekend.  In terms of diet, Im experimenting with a lower carb approach.  Im not counting carbs, but trying to limit grains (1-2 servings per day at the most) and avoiding wheat and added sugar.  Therefore, my carb intake is naturally decreasing.  Not sure what the end result will be, but for now Im just my own personal science experiment.

I think this post and random stream-of-consciousness on training can be summed up by a quote I heard from Dean Karnazes on a episode of “The Paleo Runner” that I was listening to last week:

“Listen to everyone…follow no one.”

Thats what Im trying to do.  Listen to what works for lots of people, pick and choose what I want, and figure out what works for me.  Again, not sure what the end result will be.  But Im crossing my fingers that it means breaking my PR in the half marathon in a few weeks!!!

So my advice to everyone is just to follow what Dean said.  Pave your own path, listen to your own body, and find your own way.

Happy training! 🙂

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Fresh foods and recipes

Well summer is slowly coming to an end.  At least I hope the end will be ssssssllllllllooooooooowwwwww and we will still have a little bit of warm weather and a long and glorious fall.  Lets be positive people!

Anyway, the point that one of the best parts of the end of summer is the bounty of fresh, locally grown (and cheap) fruits and veggies.  And I am personally in healthy eating heaven!  Some people may look forward to superbowl sunday treats or christmas cookies….but I am most content when my fridge is overflowing with fresh produce.

So I haven’t written much about this, but I signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share this year.  Each week I get a bag full of whatever they picked that week at the farm.

In the beginning this was a little…err…challenging as for a few weeks we got a huge bags full of nothing but greens!  I mean, I love lettuce and kale as much as the next girl, but some weeks it was a little out of control:

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Luckily I found I have a hidden love for collard greens, and managed to blanch and freeze several bunches to break out in the bleakness of winter.

But recently things have gotten a little lot more interesting!  Here is this week’s bag.  I could barely carry it upstairs…

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What was inside?????

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Here we have a cantaloupe, several apples, spaghetti squash, regular tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, cucumber, a zucchini, peppers, broccoli and beets/beet greens.

I havent used much so far, but here was some of my food prep for the week:

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I just chopped up the zucchini and larger tomatoes and cooked them up in the grill pan with just a little bit of Trader Joe’s “Everyday Seasoning.”  I go through several containers of this a year.  Thank goodness I go back to Pittsburgh frequently enough to re-stock!

I also had some corn I roasted and then cut off the cob (random fact about me….I hate corn ON the cob.  But cut it of and Im a happy, happy girl).  I didn’t get corn in my CSA, but they were selling it for @2.50/half dozen at the farmers market across the street…and I couldn’t resist.  So now these veggies are prepped and can easily be added as side dishes or to salads, etc.

I did also do some “real” cooking the other night, and finally got to try out a recipe that I have been coveting for quite some time, yet has just been sitting on my Pinterest board. I made Thai Turkey Burgers with Peanut Sauce by Iowa Girl Eats, and then also found this recipe for Lemon-Lime Cilantro Spaghetti Squash to help me work on my squash supply and use up some of the cilantro as well.

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Both were super yummy.  I made a few changes to the turkey burgers, but nothing really worth  noting.  I say stick with Kristin’s recipe and adapt to suit your own needs.  The spaghetti squash was also great, except I think my squash was on the smallish side so there was a little too much lemon and lime juice.  But thats my own fault!

Hope everyone else is enjoying the “end of summer” bounty.  I guess it’s a consolation prize for the academic year starting again?

If anyone has any recipes to share please do!