"Do allow yourself a cheat day?"

I often receive the question, “Do you allow yourself a cheat day?” and my answer is No, and No.

This question has two of my very least favorite words in it: Allow and Cheat.

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To say I “allow” myself to eat something is to imply I must be under restriction and require permission to eat certain foods, which is not how I choose to live, and certainly not how I want my health coaching clients to live.

And to “cheat?” Shudder, shudder. There’s a moral implication around the word cheat that just doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t believe that there’s a morality attached to my food choices—I’m “good” if I eat vegetables, and “bad” or “cheating” if I eat cookies. The concept of cheat meals and cheat days again implies that most of the time I’m white knuckling it, living in deprivation…and likely counting down the seconds till my cheat.

I understand that this kind of thinking works for some folks and even allows them to manage their weight in some cases. I also regularly see how this kind of thinking can be miserable and oppressive, and easily spirals out of control. 

Instead, I choose to eat to support my health: Eating real, fresh food feels good! And sometimes eating a giant cookie made with love by and with loaded with huge melty chocolate chunks is good for my health, too. I don’t eat it with guilt or shame or regret. I savor every special bite because well-made indulgent food truly is a treat—not a cheat.

Credit to the baker: Little Fig Bakeshop, available at Stall 11 at R. House in the Remington neighborhood of Baltimore.

 

Takeaways for this injured runner at running camp

Back in the spring, I excitedly signed up for a summer running camp for grown-ass women. During the course of marathon training this summer, I developed a femoral stress fracture, and when I emailed the organizers to request a refund, I got a hard NOPE. What should have been an empowering weekend for strong women to come together over running...actually was.

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Getting out of the comfort zone

I eat a rotation of similar meals, I buy the same clothes over and over again, I do specific workouts on specific days, I order the same meal from the same small group of restaurants I frequent, I run the same roads and trails, and while I like to challenge myself and try a new thing here and there, I am very much a fan of staying in the comfort zone. 

When some friends were talking about forming a team of eight to run the Ragnar Trail race outside of Richmond, VA, it didn't even cross my mind to join them. It's a relay race where each runner completes about 15 miles of trail running broken into three segments, coming to a total of 120 miles over 24 loops and 24-ish hours, while camping out to complete the feat. The running trails part sounded great, but the camping part? Not so much. I have never slept outdoors in my 40 years, and I saw no reason to start. Plus the group is a tight clique of friends with their own vocabulary of inside jokes, and I'm somewhat on the outside

So yeah, outside my comfort zone.  

At one point months ago, I offered to be an alternate if anyone dropped, figuring no one would drop. 

And then someone dropped, and to my own surprise, I didn't hesitate to say YES when I was asked to fill in. 

The race was this past weekend. Holy smoke was I outside my comfort zone, and damned if I didn't have a great time. While the group was generally laid back, we had good leadership and we planned well in the weeks leading up. We had a few camping pros in the group who made sure we'd have the right equipment. We made new inside jokes. We ate ALL THE CARBS and endured a damp, cold, mostly sleepless night together. The trails themselves were fun--well-marked and very runnable, but with big muddy patches providing their own source of challenge. We were each other's best cheerleaders in completing each loop, and we celebrated wildly as our final runner came through. 

The comfort zone is a great place to be, but the occasional trek outside the zone--under the right circumstances--is an awesome place, too. (Just to be clear, though, I am NOT lining up my next camping trip!)

  Photo: Mud Not Blood

Photo: Mud Not Blood

 

 

ONE MORE TIME!

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Wow--the response to the lectures I've presented this spring on being a vegan athlete has been amazing! Clearly the topic of fine tuning our diets for sports performance is of interest, likely in part due to hubbub around films like James Cameron's The Game Changers, and the forthcoming book by vegan ultrarunning record-breaking Scott Jurek. 

It's been a pleasure talking about the potential and pitfalls of choosing this lifestyle, and I've fielded some fantastic questions. 

Those in attendance have ranged from long-time vegans, to new vegetarians, to those just curious about this diet and lifestyle. I met new runners, a couple ladies pursuing a half-marathon in every state (they even have plans for the boring states!), and runners of all ages looking to raise their game.

 Thanks, Instagrammer @runwithjoy26.2, for sharing this post after the talk on April 4!

Thanks, Instagrammer @runwithjoy26.2, for sharing this post after the talk on April 4!

By popular demand, I'm hosting this talk ONE MORE TIME: Join me at TriSport Junction in Sykesville on Wednesday, April 18th, and let’s talk about the plant-based athlete! RSVP HERE.

Questions I'll be sure to answer include:

  • Will going vegan make me faster?
  • Do vegans recover more quickly?
  • Will I have to supplement?

...and the big one:

  • Where do vegan athletes get their protein?

Hope to see you on the 18th!

Got too many questions for a group talk? Let's meet one-on-one! Contact me here to make an appointment. 

 

Walking is Wonderful!

Blame social media, blame extreme sports, blame human nature and our need to constantly one-up each other, but over the last few years, a dangerous perception has become normalized: On the day after leg day, if you can get off the toilet without gripping the wall and grimacing in pain, you didn't work hard enough.  

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There is a commonly accepted idea that only drastic, painful workouts will advance you toward your fitness goals--including weight loss goals. If your workout is not excessively complicated, and if you're not in pain during--and especially after--your workout, it won't have any impact on your fitness.  

This couldn't be further from the truth. Unless your fitness goals include being a model or competing athletically at a professional level, every workout doesn't have to decimate you.

And this on National Walking Day, I want to remind you that regular walking--especially outdoors--can be a fantastic way to gain fitness, manage and prevent lifestyle diseases, lift your mood, and yes, even lose weight. Multiply the benefits by drafting in a friend or family member (two- or four-legged), finding a tree-lined trail to explore, and--this is important--walking consistently.

More on the benefits of walking HERE. Need support becoming the healthiest version of you? Let's talk.

Snacking: Friend or Foe?

Snacking can go either way:

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A. It can be an opportunity to add more nourishment to your diet and to bolster your health and fitness goals, or

B. It can be a great way to really screw the pooch and negate all the healthful habits you've been practicing. 

Ironically, some of the worst "B" snacking happens when we try not to snack at all: White knuckling it for several hours between meals can lead to raging hunger and impulsive choices. Those chips in the breakroom that were so easy to ignore yesterday call out your name today when you're stuck at work an extra hour. 

Rather than stumbling into the B category of snacks, plan for the A category, especially on days when you're especially active. Not sure what qualifies as an A snack?

A truly healthful diet is about half produce (heavier on the veg vs fruit), a quarter protein (whole protein, not protein powder or bars) and a quarter whole grains.

Now consider your diet: How close do you come to these ratios? Look at the areas where you have the biggest need, and pack snacks to close that gap. 

Need support in planning more A snacks? Let's talk.