Natural, Plant-based Fueling: One Thing I Swear Fueled My Recent Marathon Success

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This past Sunday, I ran my fourth marathon (and fourth Marine Corps Marathon to be exact).
I also shaved over 14 minutes off my personal best, with a time of 3:46:28!
And, I only walked once at 3 miles from the finish (this is HUGE for me, as I’m someone who walked at least about 10 times in all my other prior marathons)!

Days later, I’m still absolutely elated! After coming off a pretty hefty PR (personal record) at the half marathon level in September, I knew my speed had improved over the past several months, but I was skeptical about how my marathon would go because I have been dealing with a nagging hip injury for the past few months now – some weeks I’d feel fine, only to be driven to limping for days the next. I was honestly kind of just hoping I would be able to finish! Boy, was I surprised!

My hips started bothering me around mile 8, and I instantly got worried. I also was already feeling the nasty blister on my ankle that I got the prior weekend from some new moccasins I wore and walk around in for hours. Luckily, the pain was definitely manageable and ended up waxing and waning until about mile 17, at which point it got consistent… and worse.

The way I run distance races is that I keep running until I absolutely must stop, because the inertia required to get me going again is always so much higher than to just keep running. That’s just how I am, and I’ve found that’s the strategy that works best for me. So I kept going, knowing walking was more than likely in my future, but as long as I could at least “Beat the Bridge” (at mile 20 – the point runners must reach by a certain time or else be cut off from the finish), I told myself I could pretty much guarantee a finish, even if that meant walking (or hey, even crawling!) across the finish line. So I did, and then I just kept pushing, playing mental games with myself and repeating my go-to mantra: “MIND OVER MATTER” until I stopped at 23.2 to shake out my hips. Then, as I kept looking at my watch and knew I had a great chance to actually PR if I could run the rest at about a 10min/mi pace, that was enough motivation to get me moving again. I had put so much of myself into my training and into the race that I knew I just had to give it a shot and keep running as hard as I could. Then, happening to see my loved ones at mile 25 (love you guys!!) cheering me on, gave me the bursts of energy I needed to plug even harder for that last mile and 385 yards. I crossed the finish in a run and with a smile.20131031-184932.jpg

After races, I always reflect on how my training and the race itself went and why. This past weekend, I learned I am so much tougher than I thought! However, I believe that a lot of that “toughness” is due to how I trained my body this time around. And most of all, I attribute my recent marathon success to a whole foods, plant-based fueling plan (see below) and an increase in my strength training (which I’ll cover in my next post!).

Back when I created my marathon training plan this summer, I decided to make nutrition and recovery a key focus.

I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for years now, and I’ve been slowly progressing from that typical college junk-food vegetarian to a mostly whole foods, natural, fairly vegan diet. However in the past, my recovery meals in particular, were my excuse to eat bonafide junk – like pretzels and pop tarts and candy – after a whey-filled Starbucks chocolate potein smoothie, and my fueling during runs still consisted of Powerade and SportBeans. I decided to change that this year by:
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  • switching my recovery smoothie to a homemade green smoothie, filled with Perfect Fit Protein (a sprouted, raw, organic, non-GMO, vegan brown rice protein)
  • changing up my post-long run “treats” to healthier versions because I still wanted to treat myself since I don’t eat much processed food during the week. My personal favorites: So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream and organic sprouted sweet potato chips.
  • really honing in on my weekday nutrition as well – more fruits and veggies so that they made up the bulk of my day’s calories – to create a diet full of nutritious goodness, alkalinity, and anti-inflammatory foods.20131031-185350.jpg20131101-090037.jpg
  • altering my running fuel to consist of medjool dates and plain old water (and coconut water as needed). Perfectly natural and free of artificial flavors and colors.

By making these dietary shifts, I noted some small, but very noticeable changes throughout my training:

  1. my stomach was less rambunctious during my runs
  2. I didn’t get as fatigued after my longer workouts
  3. my digestion was better
  4. I recovered faster. I was able to work out much harder and longer this time than ever before. And despite that hip issue, I was never completely sidelined due to an injury.
  5. my energy levels never bonked during my long runs. I actually never even “hit the wall” during this marathon, which always happened in my ones prior.

Sure, maybe these things can be attributed to some other aspect of my training or my lifestyle this time around, but I really think my change in nutrition played a big part:

When you fill your body with health-promoting, inflammation-busting food packed with vitamins and minerals, that’s what your body has to use to build itself back up after a hard workout, a long run, or even an illness or injury. You’re giving it the building blocks it needs, rather than making it sort through all the processed, chemicalized junk found in the Standard American Diet. Your body doesn’t even recognize that stuff.

I can tell you this much, after Sunday, this girl is going to keep running on plants in the future!

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me and my wonderful sister – she’s always there supporting me!

I’ll also keep lifting those weights, but I’ll get to that next week 🙂

Thanks for reading!!

Do you spend time after a race to reflect on your race and training? What things have you found in your training that work well for you? What will you do differently next time? Leave a comment below..I’d love to hear your stories!

Hydration is hot! 5 ways to make getting enough water deliciously simple

It’s hot out there.

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We’re in the middle of summer here in south-central Pennsylvania, and all over the news I hear about the heat, its dangers, and how people are trying to keep cool. We’re always told to “make sure we drink enough water,” but during this hectic, hot time of year, it can be extremely difficult to not get dehydrated, even when we’re not actively exercising. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve realized just how dry my mouth is only at the end of a long day because my day was so busy, whether I’m working, enjoying a day trip away, or spending time outdoors with family. But really, does how much water I drink in a day actually impact my health? In short, yes. And if you, like me, want glowing, younger-looking skin, bounding energy, and to maintain a healthy weight, read on. And drink up!

Did you know that our bodies are made up of mostly water? It’s true – about half to two-thirds of your body is plain old H20! All of the body’s cells are bathed in a watery bath of electrolytes, minerals, hormones, and other nutrients and chemical signals; like a raft floating in a lake or river, these molecules need adequate fluid to transport them across cell walls (and throughout the body) so that they can reach their destination and do their jobs to keep our body’s organs working, communicating, and balanced. It then makes sense that this “osmotic balance” is crucial to our health. In fact, the negative effects of dehydration can occur after losing as little as 2% of our body weight in water.

Without adequate hydration, the body gets stressed, which can show itself in a variety of ways, including:

  • headaches, fatigue/low energy, difficulty concentrating, and moodiness
  • signs of organ stress: urinary tract infections, increased heart rate, and kidney stones
  • constipation
  • dull and/or blemished skin

Water helps cleanse the body, allowing it to more easily flush away toxins that accumulate from our diet and everyday environment. It’s also very filling – often times hunger pangs are actually the body calling for water, and drinking a glass can quiet a growling tummy as well as give you that extra energy boost you need in the middle of your afternoon (try this tomorrow rather than reaching for that 3 o’clock frap or candy bar)! Plus, water has ZERO calories and keeps your digestive system moving along…what a bonus for your waistline! H20 is also a wonderful asset to your skin; it helps plump it up, smooth out wrinkles and lines, and decrease blemishes. A hydrated face is happy face!

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Okay, so water is great, right? However, drinking just plain water all of the time can be so boring and tasteless! That’s why I’ve searched for easy and/or tasty ways to incorporate more of this wonderful molecule into my daily diet. Check them out for yourself:20130724-151345.jpg

  • Coconut water: full of electrolytes like potassium and magnesium, this is a tasty
    way to get your H20, especially after a sweaty workout. It’s basically nature’s sports drink!
  • Make it an AM ritual: drink a glass of water first thing in the morning (set a reminder on your phone until it becomes second nature!); then, you’ve already got 8oz. down, and doing so helps get your metabolism going too! Bonus!
  • Infused it: Add sliced fruit and herbs to your water
    20130724-151422.jpgpitcher (allow to sit a few hours before drinking) for a sweet or citrus-y pick-me-up! My personal favorites include lemon & lime and strawberry & mint. It’s so delicious, and you’ll get some of the added health benefits of the herbs and fruits you include! I use the plastic infuser (pictured here) to keep all the fruit together in the pitcher, but it’s totally not necessary!
  • Make it your travel companion: buy a cute, BPA-free reuseable bottle (I like SIGG stainless steel 1L bottles) and fill it up before you leave the house each morning and keep refilling as necessary. Set a goal for yourself, like aiming to drink one liter by lunch!
  • Eat it: Consuming high-water-content foods can definitely help you hydrate, and at this time of year, many of these foods are naturally in season. Perfect! Focus on fruits and vegetables (like cucumber, melons, peppers, leafy greens, berries, eggplant, tomatoes, etc.) and you’ll be sure to pick up a good percentage of your daily water intake. You can even pile them into a smoothie!

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Finally, in terms of how much to drink, the jury’s really out. The common adage is “8 glasses per day,” and another frequent guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day (so, if you’re 150 lbs, aim to get 75 oz today). And it’s not exactly pleasant, but you can also always check in the toilet: urine should be pale yellow if you’re well-hydrated (and not on any medications that effect urine color).

Are you a water drinker? What do you like to add to your H20 to “spice it up”? What other tips would you add to make hydration more fun?