I Quit Sugar. I don’t think so!

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Sugar, please!

I thought about quitting eating red meat. I did it. I thought about quitting eating chicken and fish. I did it. I thought about quitting eating animal products and byproducts. I did it for two years. I thought about quitting caffeine. I did it for three days.

I never thought about quitting sugar, but I have reduced its consumption. I became more curirous when I listened to audiobook Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover, where he mentions about the difficulty his athletes had in cutting off and/or diminishing sugar from their diet. He knew exactly if his athletes were cheating or not.

So when I saw Lindsey’s posting on Instagram about her quitting sugar for one-week and inviting followers to join in, I was intrigued about the calling. I wanted to know if I could do it and I wanted to know how my body would feel without this substance that some label as “drug”. With good luck wishes from my husband, after he had baked two dozens of gluten-free cookies, I went on a journey of one-week sugar free and minimum added sugar food challenge.

DAY 1

It’s a Monday and four hours into this challenge, I found myself starring at my cup of coffee in shock of its bittersweet taste with a slight feel of dizziness. It was not the sugar-free challenge I was scared of at this point. It was the “don’t take my coffee away from me” possibility that I was fearful of. I had to be creative with this, and on the first day of the challenge, I was grateful to borrow a co-worker’s tiny packet of stevia. I had totally forgotten to bring my container of honey from home.

I pushed through the morning, afternoon and evening. I realized how much sugar is present in just about every food we eat, especially in processed food, which I try my best to stay away from it. Anything with high corn fructose or fructose is a NO in our home. The occasional dizziness feel continued throughout the day, but nothing that I felt I should be concerned about.

DAY 2

It’s Tuesday and this time around I remembered that my husband had got us a sweetener derived from sugar cane called erythritol. Erythritol is known as a sugar alcohol. It occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods, but the kind you see added to low-sugar and sugar-free items that is man-made. It has definitely helped with the bitterness of the coffee and worked well with the placebo effect that I added “sugar” to my coffee, although I used only half teaspoon of erythritol.

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My energy was certainly low in the morning and I could not do my morning workout. This part I certainly didn’t like it because I’ve been on a quest to fix this problem and not add more to it. For an afternoon pick me up, I’ve been drinking unsweet ice tea that I make a home with a combination of mint tea, citrus sunset and blood orange rooibos tea. It’s delicious! I was adding a splash of non-dairy Silk caramel coffee creamer, but this time I had to add plain almond milk. As the day went on, I noticed my body and mind feeling somewhat confused. My body was going through a no-sugar reaction for sure.

DAY 3

Wednesday morning I felt a lot more energized and I was up at 4:45 a.m. to get my workout done. I noticed waking up very hungry and I immediately sipped on my bottle of BCAA’s workout mix along with GenerationUcan to help me keep going. I was feeling a lot more focus today and more energetic. Although I also noticed episodes of energy crash. The feel of being always hungry not matter how much carbs I was adding to my diet was starting to get out of control. My sleep had felt more steady, but not this night. I was tossing-and-tossing around and it was difficult to fall sleep and wake up early for my workouts.

DAY 4

It was crash day! I had zero energy to get up and had a horrible headache. Besides the lack of energy and headache, I had symptoms of the flu and body ache throughout. It wasn’t a great feeling at all. After getting up at 5:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., then 7:00 and 8:00 trying to get something going, it was clearly a no-go. I had to call in sick. I went back to bed and didn’t get up until noon. It is possible it could have been a compilation of stress or busy life, but I can’t disregard that perhaps the no-sugar week challenge had something to do with it. As the day went on, I felt irritated. At 7:00 p.m., I had to go to the grocery store for some sugar free cookies. Ahhhh, I was then satisfied.

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DAY 5

Two more days to the end…, hang in there! I was already vested in this challenge, I wasn’t going to give up now. I got to get up at 5:00 a.m. for my workout, felt energized and ready to tackle the day. I was excited and focused. Today I didn’t feel much of an energy crash, but I had more difficulty falling sleep.

DAY 6

When I finally get to sleep, I usually sleep well. But this time wasn’t the case. I didn’t wake up rested for my long run with Beata. At 4:50 a.m. as I settled in to eat my pre-long run meal, I noticed a text from Beata. She was not running due to a migraine. And that was my out to sleep in. It was cool, I wasn’t fully rested, so I went back to bed. I woke up at 9:00 a.m.  Going to my 7-miler LR, it was already late (10:30 a.m.) and getting hot by the minute. Because of a silly mistake of pushing the “save button” as I removed my top at mile .99, I went on for 8 miles. I could not just run .99 and 6.01. It doesn’t look good on Training Peak, hehe. My energy and focus to get these miles done was motivated by the reward I was going to give myself: pizza and wine for dinner. I am sure these food contains added sugar, but I had already avoided all the added sugar food all week. 8 miles in and I was absolutely done on the last mile. I felt hungry all day even though I had a good meal and I was snacking throughout the day.

DAY 7

Yes, the final day until midnight! I truly felt well throughout the day. Perhaps because it was Sunday and didn’t have to wake up early for a workout. I woke up hungry and had to eat a piece of bread before proceeding with my workout. Throughout the day I felt energized and focused on the tasks that needed done. But again, I was feeling hungry constantly. Trying to get everything set for the next day, got me to bed at 11:00 p.m., super late for someone who needed to wake up at 4:30 a.m. Again, I was tossing-and-tossing around without being able to fall sleep. I was STARVING! At 12:22 a.m., I could not take it anymore. I had to get up and eat a bowl of cheerios with cinnamon, blueberry and a squirt of blue agave. I finally fall sleep, but I didn’t wake up rested for my workout. That was a bummer.

CONCLUSION

I tolerated the challenge and I’m grateful for the experience for now I have a lot more awareness that sugar is about in every food we consume; the worst are the high corn fructose. I am already aware of what I eat, so I believe that all I need is to continue being mindful. The pros don’t make up for the cons, at not least not for my body. I’m not looking to lose weight, so a few extra calories for me is important, especially because I am a runner and only weight 108 lbs. The amount of sugar I already eat, I don’t believe it causes me any harm. I don’t feel the sugar-high and then the crash like some other people might feel due to overdoing on the sugar intake and extra consumption of added sugar food. The energy derived from the sugar amount I consume feels consistent with the level and intensity of sports activity I perform on a daily basis. I don’t feel a high or crash due to sugar intake or lack thereof. To normalize my hunger perhaps I should had add even more carbohydrates, protein and fat (the healthy ones like from avocado) to my diet while on the challenge.

But make no mistake, I don’t consume the usual white table sugar guys! Remember, I’m a vegetarian and I was vegan for two years! I only use organic unbleached sugar cane. Why? Because the popular white sugar is the most processed type of sugar you’ll see. It’s white because it has been bleached using cow bones. And let’s not even mention about the further processing of stripping all the natural goodies from the product and using GMO.

As a result of this experience, I stopped adding sugar to my coffee. Instead, I’m just using the non-dairy Silk coffee creamer and it’s really good just like this! I also stopped adding sugar to smoothies and to super food juice I make every Sunday as part of my meal prep.

But to say that I am happy to practice a less restricted sugar free diet routine is an understatement.

Be mindful!

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There’s NO PR Without Pain

“Someone once told me not to bite off more than I can chew. I told them I would rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity”.

~Unknown

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There’s no doubt I ran OUC half hard with grit and pleasure on pursuing a big-time PR. I ran strong and everything felt in sync, except that my foot got tired of the 2.5 miles of brick road and wearing race/tempo shoes. As they say, there is NO PR without pain. So here’s how it went.

20-minute Post Race:

Just about 20-minutes after the race as my body is starting to cool off but still running high on runner’s high, I felt a flare on the lateral of my left foot. I told my husband I felt something sharp on my foot and I thought that perhaps it was from the edge of my Superfeet insole. I stretched and putting on my flip flops. The pain went away and I proceeded with the post-race festivities, visiting vendors’ tents, meeting IG friends and searching for some running friends until it was time to go home.

At Home:

At home I got to stretch a little bit before it was time to take a shower and head out with my husband to an introductory sesh of Transcendental Meditation course we wanted to sign up. I feeling very good, nothing really bothered me at all. After the course, we headed back home and I was finally able to relax, wear my compression socks while sipping on ginger latte to diminish any inflammation I might had.

By the evening time, my foot was starting to ache. I massaged and iced. By the time I started to settle-in in bed, the pain was intense. It did not stop. I had to take pain medicine to be able to fall asleep. By morning, my foot was really swallowed up, the pain was still sharp and localized in one spot. I was scared. I limped to the homegym for a stretching sesh and I barely could wrap the stretch wrap on my foot, much less use R3. All I could do was to massage my foot.

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I spent the entire day on the couch watching football while my foot was wrapped in a towel with ice packs. During that time, my foot seemed to feel better, but as soon as I needed to walk, the pain was right back. At night time, the pain usually got worse, especially when I laid down in bed. I just could not fall sleep as the pain tended to become intense. I had my foot elevated and wrapped with ice pack. It was another sleepless and painful night. By now I was petrified that perhaps I suffered a stress fracture; just because the way the pain was manifesting and intensifying without much relief.

I make my own Doctor’s Appointment:

Comes Monday morning and I was up at 6:00 a.m. with eyes wide open. I was on a mission to be seen by Dr. Mason, my podiatrist, and NO I did not had an appointment. I am an athlete and I just could not take a NO for an answer, so I went there, checked-in and waited to be seen. I said that I could wait for as long as I had to. I’m grateful that Dr. Mason is a kind doctor who is also a runner and cyclist. He knows me well, and if I was there, it was because it was a serious situation.

After a 90-minute wait, my name was called. I actually double-checked if Brian had called my name. I was thrilled. Dr. Mason entered the examination room surprised to see me, and for a moment, I was apologetic for showing up without an appointment. But he immediately started to take care of my foot and directed me straight to the X-Ray room. Thank you Heavens the X-Ray didn’t show anything, but because my pain was so unbearable, he ordered an MRI with a follow up appointment in 7-days. I was prescribed with anti-inflammatory meds but no cortisone shot because he wanted to make sure I was being treated for inflammation and not an actual stress fracture.

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I left his office feeling a little more relieved. I was still worried because the pain was still present and strong, but at least I had something to take care of the inflammation. At home, I was still icing it and drinking ginger tea and tart cherry juice to help out with my healing. Mentally, I was trying to stay as positive and calm as possible. Three-days after the race, and I was still limping pretty bad but it was only Day-2 on anti-inflammatory meds, which Dr. Mason predicted that I should be feeling better my Day-4. Day-4 after the race I was starting to walk normal. The pain was dissipating and my hopes were blighting up. On this same day, I had my MRI scheduled and I was happy to get it done. The week progressed with great results, inflammation and pain was fading and healing was at full-force.

Dr. Mason’s Follow Up Visit:

It was great to go back to see Dr. Mason without any pain this time. As he went over my MRI results, he was glad to have it ordered because the report mentioned “suspicious stress reaction”. I was happy to hear no stress fracture, but at the same time, I realized how close it was from actually being one or a stress reaction. He recommended no-running for another four days. Of course I cried by telling I was feeling better and that I was already on no-running for the past 9 days. He then changed his mind and allowed me to run easy on the next day. However, I was still uncomfortable with the idea.

Reporting to the Coach:

Well after receiving some good news, I had to share with my coach to have some running back on the schedule. To my surprise, Coach Victoria’s reply wasn’t what I was expecting. She didn’t schedule or clear me to run just yet. She wanted me to give more time for healing. I was emotional and worried that going on a 15-day streak without running, I was going to have to start everything from scratch like I did before. After some pep-talk and uplifting feedback, I came to realize that it was for the best. It was best to give more time for healing. If I were to lose some fitness, it would not be by much because I know I am strong and I do have untapped speed in me.

Focus on Recovery:

Recovery. Recovery. Recovery. It was not different this time; keep doing what needs to be done. I am glad that I scheduled my monthly chiropractor appointment with Dr. Sabrina a day after seeing Dr. Mason. I reported to her what happened, Dr. Mason’s and MRI’s findings and my coach’s recommendations. Dr. Sabrina did her usual thing of adjusting my body and providing incredible guidance on body mechanics and strength methods to work properly with my body mechanics. She concluded that my injury simply was a “circumstantial injury”. There was nothing I could have done based on the circumstances of the race and how hard I ran. The only difference perhaps was not wearing a race/tempo shoe on brick road, but that was too late. Moving forward, I will be focusing on strength routine for my beautiful peroneus muscles. Having graston technique done on my feet was something to be remembered for sure!

Do What You can So You Can Do What You Want to Do:

There is not a boring moment if you are runner. Even if running is not an option, there was plenty of other things to do that will supplement running. Stretch and roll is a must do every day whether I’m actively running or not. So on the days I wasn’t running, I was working to get ready for running. I did some yoga, core work, some weight work, rowing, sauna and I walked for 10 miles on Disney Day. Kurt and I have our annual Disney Day and between visiting Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot, I’m pretty sure I logged 10 miles easily for the day. Too bad that my Garmin died at mile 6.65.

Get Back in Business 100% Healthy

I was so excited to get back into running again and very grateful that Krista didn’t mind going for a 3-mile run on Saturday. I felt good throughout my run, but at times, I noticed that my body was still trying to figure out what was happening after 15-days of no running. Krista acted as if I was on taper for 15-days and this run was my “race day” as she picked up the pace at mile 2 at 8:46 pace. It was a great run and I was still “on observation” as I was mindful on how my foot would feel after this run.

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First Run Post OUC Half Marathon

The following week started to look like a normal training schedule and I was gradually picking up where I left off. My husband and I made sure that Transcendental Meditation is now part of our lives and routine with two 20-minute sesh daily. I am in love with Transcendental Meditation! It’s the simplest thing ever. I was never able to dig into meditation and follow through, but practicing TM technique it is possible to follow through. I feel centered, grounded, focused, positive and calm. My running is becoming more relaxed, focused and breathing is more settled which helps me with my performance.

This week’s fartlek was fun and emotional at the same time. I exceeded the recommended pace and I felt that my body was ready to give me these paces; otherwise, I wouldn’t never pushed this much. I was watching Breaking 2 Special (again), but this time it felt different. I felt more alert and more connected with Kipchoge. I felt his moment of distress as he was pushing his limit, and yet, he appeared so calm and relaxed. And so I cried, as I was finishing up my 6 miles for the day with so much gratitude and humbleness. It is a beautiful thing to watch and feel someone chasing their dreams; knowing and feeling how hard it is. All of the sudden, I didn’t feel so alone chasing mine because it is just a matter of time until it becomes real.

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2 mile warm up; 6 minutes @ 9:00 pace; 4 minutes @ 8:30 pace; 2 minutes @ 8:00 pace
2 minute jog in between; Cool down to mileage

I am enthusiastic for the new year and to find out what my body and mind can do; where running will take me this time. But first, respecting the body and mind is a priority. Recover well, I must. That’s rule # 1 in chasing dreams.

Cheers!

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“Hope is a waking dream.”

~Aristotle

Breaking2 13.1: Piece of Cake Recovery

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“No Rest is worth anything. Except the rest that is earned.”

~Unknown

JAX Marine Corps half marathon is in the books and it will be one to remember. The hard training, the mental challenge, and the climate adaptation to the minor details – it has all paid off. It’s not one thing I did, it was everything I did under my control.

After 12-weeks of training for a total of 307 miles for the cycle, 13.1 (Garmin stats 13.26) in 1:59:35, I am fortunate to exit this cycle and finish a race 100% healthy! I never thought that my body would be able to hold on to such a demand – miles and speed training. And that’s exactly what I need my body and mind to do in order to keep moving forward to attain my dream – to adapt, grow and recover.

If you dig in deeper in my blog, you’ll see previous posting on recovery methods (stretching, rolling, tens units, chiro adjustments, cryo therapy, ice baths, Epsom salt baths, nutrition, etc) sharing what I have been doing, my routine and focus to avoid setbacks. The result of this race and thereafter has shown me that what I’m doing is working for me, and it’s possible that it could work for you too! My post-race issue: sore calves. That’s it!

As soon as we got in the hotel after the race, Kurt was kind to give me a sesh of active isolate stretching on both of my calves and also some pliability work as Tom Brady uses daily and explains in his TB12 Method book. I could feel the release of lactic acid immediately and also the flexibility back.

Leading up to recovery week, I did not rush the recovery process. I allowed rest on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before I went back to running. It the meantime, my recovery days were like this:

SUNDAY (day after the race)

  • 20-minute Spin Sesh – 21:33 / 6.5 miles

5:00 low resistance – warm up

5:00 moderate resistance

5:00 hard resistance (hill)

5:00 low resistance – cool down

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

  • Tens Units Sesh – 1:00:00

It’s Sunday afternoon football, so I got to use the time wise J

MONDAY

  • 20-minute Spin Sesh – 20:45 / 7.0 miles

5:00 low resistance – warm up

5:00 moderate resistance

5:00 hard resistance (hill)

5:00 low resistance – cool down

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

  • Tens Units Sesh – 50:00

TUESDAY

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

WEDNESDAY

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Yes to Mental Break Day!

  • Mental Break Day – off from everything including stretching! I used this day to allow my body to soak in everything I have been doing up to this day. My mind clearly needed a day-off as well in order to regroup from training, race and recovery.

THURSDAY

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Back at it!

  • First recovery run – 5.0 miles / 52:33 / 10:30 / AVG HEART RATE / 156
  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

FRIDAY

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

SATURDAY

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Super fun run with Krista!

  • Mid-Run Recovery Run – 8.0 miles / 1:16:01 / 9:30

SPLITS: 9:55 / 9:43 / 9:42 / 9:26 / 9:19 / 9:24 / 9: 13 / 9:17

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 30:00

Extra focus on calves

SUNDAY

  • Active Isolated Stretch / Roll with R8 – 15:00

Extra focus on calves

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NUTRITION

Nutrition is just as important to me as stretching, rolling and strength training after a race and whether it is for rehab or pre-rehab. You know that I was chugging all week on beet/ginger/turmeric smoothie, added some extra plant-based protein (yummy to red lentils and Ripple pea milk) to my diet and amplified on foods high in anti-inflammatory nutrients. Two weeks before the race, I started to give my body an extra dose of anti-inflammatory natural remedies. It has paid off big time! This time I purchased a tart cherry concentrate; used two TBSP mixed with 6 oz of water every day and I continued doing so from now on. Of course my calves were still sore, but the fact that it only took 3-4 days to heal is remarkable to me. It’s proof that my methods of recovery are working for me.

It has been an enlightening process and I’m eager to take this learning and work-in-progress to my next half marathon – the OUC half marathon in December here in Orlando. It will be my fourth consecutive OUC and I can’t wait to PR and have tons of fun in my neighborhood. #ontoOUChalfmarathon

“Let yourself rest.”

~Unknown

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Breath In Breath Out and Let Qi Flow

 

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“To be inflexible to the change around you is to live in fear. Qigong is a useful tool to improve your flexibility, both mental and physical.” 

~Garri Garripoli

 Since my husband is a licensed massage therapist, I try to absorb all the different modalities he comes across with to enhance his life, health and practice. As I’m growing wiser, I’ve been more open to learn and be involved with relaxation methods, practices and overall methods that contributes to a healthy physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

My husband introduced me to Qigong ten years ago. At the time, I went along with him and even did the instructor certification course. I loved learned about different breathing methods, Qigong movements and food healing. But all the information did not sink in much and the exposure to such training started to fade away.

My husband retook the course several times later to refresh his mind and to earn CEU credits. I stopped by in one or two of these occasions but my mind wasn’t into it. After getting back into steady running for the past three years and with bigger dreams in mind, I decided to go with my husband and be fully engaged in the 3-day Qigong seminar; however, I was not able to attend the first day (Friday) due to work schedule.

Running has taught me a different side of gratitude. It has also taught me to connect more with my environment, nature, body, mind and spirit. I thought that Qigong would open doors that I left unopen since last time I participated in the seminar. Part of got me more curious this time is because I heard of a running technique called Qi Running in which it teaches to focus on breathing, body alignment and foot placement. It also helps prevent the most common running injuries. I discovered a Qi Running coach in the proximity of Orlando area, made the appointment, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the appointment got cancelled and I have never made connection again. That has been almost 2 years ago.

Jeff Primack is the pioneer of Qigong Revolution in the USA. He is amazing and so knowledgeable. He brings simplicity to a complicated world of self-made chaos, and the answer is actually within ourselves and within the plant-based realm. That’s when food healing, breathing methods and movement of energy flow comes along.

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During Qigong seminar break. It’s a very laid back atmosphere and setting. Everyone brings their yoga mat. 

As Qi Revolution’s website states, “GiGong is about Strength and Building Energy. Breath, Mediation and Movement are combined in a seamless practice.” Days leading up to the event, I started to focus on my breathing while running. I noticed that I was able to help keep my heart rate close the 150-155 under range (zone 3) during my easy runs. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not, but I believe that on hotter days there was a major contribution to spiking up my heart rate.

For two-days straight we practiced on the 9 Breath Technique, Qigong movements, walking Qigong and meditation. In all aspects of Qigong there is a higher sense of gratitude, especially when we discussed food healing.

My favorite part of food healing was when a smoothie recipe called for beets. Yes!!! I love beets! Energy, movement, flow and breathing are part of the realm of well-being. Therefore, it does starts with what we eat. Does the food nourishes our bodies or does it cause to clog with toxins?

As a runner, I know exactly what kind of food helps me perform better and which kind makes my performance go down the drain. Qi Revolution Food Healing has made me even more aware of the importance of nourishing my body with the highest phytochemicals foods in order to expedite recovery and healing from one workout to the next. Jeff highly emphasizes on the power of food healing to reverse diseases and certain forms of cancer. I could not pass on this opportunity to own the most recent Food Healing SmoothiesFormula book that Jeff has updated, and this time, I even got it autographed.

I highly recommend checking out Qi Revolution’s web site to see if a tour is near you. Jeff travels all over the country to share this valuable information that I have never heard anywhere else.

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To better health and runs!

“Eat from the TREE of Life Avoid the Surgeon’s knife.”

~Jeff Primack

Cheers to Beet Smoothie

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“No matter how much it gets abused, the body can restore balance. The first rule is to stop interfering with nature.”

 ~Deepak Chopra

Who doesn’t love beet roots? Seriously, this is not a trick question. Well, I am sure a few hands will go up to represent the dislike for beets. On the other hand,  I can’t live without beets. I remember when my mom used to make us beet salad; it was the first item I served myself to make sure I got my fair share. My mom used to cook beets, but never would cut it before cooking so that the red color and nutrients would not fade away in the boiling water.  As time passed and I had to take care of my own cooking, I learned not to cook beets to preserve its nutrients to the maximum.

When I started to learn more about nutrition in order to help me become a more efficient runner and assist my body with the healing process due to the demands of training, I was very intrigued to know that beet roots is rich in betalains, a class of potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that battle free radicals and inflammation-related chronic disease. Beets are also valuable in providing the body with the everyday nutrients like B vitamins, iron, manganese (good for bones, liver, kidneys and pancreas), copper, magnesium and potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function). That’s a huge plus for me since I’m a vegetarian and I need all the iron, Bs vitamins and daily vitamins I can get from a natural source.

In addition, beet roots is known to contain rich nutrients that may help lower blood pressure, fight cancer and inflammation, boost stamina and support detoxification (supports phase 2 of the body’s detoxification helping purify the blood and liver). Beet greens is also rich in nutrients and it should not be thrown away. It helps strengthen the immune system, support brain and bone health and it can be eaten as much as one wants. Beet roots on the other hand, it is recommended with moderation because of its high content level of sugar, the most of all vegetables.

Turns out that my favorite veggie is full of nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide – a compound that relaxes and dilates blood vessels, turning them into superhighways for nutrient and oxygen-rich blood. That is, it improves circulation and possibly lower blood pressure. On top of that, because nitrates turn into nitric oxide, it helps with stamina if you drink beet juice prior to a workout. I say hello oxygen to my muscles and low HR!!! Please give me more and thank you! However, I have to say that I have not yet drunk beet juice or beet smoothie prior to my workouts because I try to not deviate from my pre-workout meals. I truly can’t afford an upset stomach, but I do drink beet smoothie afterwards.

Whether I drink beet smoothie before or post a workout, I believe that it is a win-win not matter what. Beet contains many phytonutrients that have been shown to function as anti-inflammatory and presents a unique source of betaine which helps protect cells, proteins and enzymes from environmental stress fighting inflammation, protecting internal organs and improving vascular risk factors.

Now that we have a healthy idea of the benefits of beet roots, here’s my beet smoothie recipe.

The same can be followed if you choose to substitute beet for kale or spinach.

  • 1 small beet – cut into small pieces to better blend
  • 2 or 3 cups of water or milk alternative (depending on how soupy or thick you prefer)
  • ½ cup of frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup of frozen pineapple
  • ½ cup of frozen dark cherries
  • ½ cup of chopped dates
  • ½ cup fresh papaya
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ½ cucumber
  • ½ of a hass avocado seed (seriously, this little thing is full of phytochemicals)
  • ½ thumb size of ginger root – this will help gives an extra kick to help with inflammation and balance out the taste of beet. It also helps when making spinach or kale smoothie
  • Thumb size of turmeric root
  • 1 table spoon of olive oil
  • A pinch of black pepper – pepper and olive oil will help activate the fighting nutrients contained in the turmeric root that helps with inflammation
  • Add ice cubes
  • Add protein if you would like (I use plant-based protein)
  • Blend well in a power blender – my favorite blender is Blendtec blender

Cheers and enjoy!

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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

 ~Hippocrates

Post-race blues: Is it worth the effort?

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“Effort is the best indicator of interest.”

 ~unknown

 After running Lighthouse Loop I was still feeling unsettled. I knew I had put my 110% effort, I knew the circumstances of the training cycle and race day were indisputable to expect better results. So why am I being so hard on myself?

We live in an environment where we tend to always asks for more and more and hardly ever pause to appreciate what we already have. We compare ourselves with other’s successes, looks, haves and have nots instead of looking deep inside ourselves to appreciate the true essence of what makes us. It’s very easy to get carried away trying to play catch up with the latest on social media and be like the people in the web world. But it’s also an inspiring tool if used to our own enrichment instead of downgrading ourselves. Again, it’s up to us to choose what is good for us or to choose what is not so productive to the body and soul.

As soon as I got home from running Lighthouse Loop, I started to feel the mental and physical drain from the race. Having already nourished my body with a yummy meal I had prepared to eat right after the race, I just went straight to bed for a long nap. After a 3-hour heavy nap, I woke up in tears. I was just feeling so emotional about it and I started to question if everything I had been doing was even worth continuing. I never hold tears back because letting it go allows me an opportunity for physical and spiritual cleansing.

Although feeling depressed, I still had the energy to approach the following day as recovery day by doing some light stretch, massaging, foam rolling my calves and update my coach on the day’s activity. I also focused on nutrition – lots of live food and chugging some beet smoothie with tons of  ginger and turmeric. I wasn’t sure what to do next other than trying to get my calf to heal, but I knew that I had no desire to run for this entire week. I was out!

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My very own recipe of fresh beet juice/smoothie with plenty of ginger, turmeric, blueberries, mango, tart cherry juice, olive oil and pepper. Yummy!

The IG running community shows tremendous support to one another. Posting daily workouts serves as encouragement and ideas for other followers as well as an accountability tool for doing our own workouts. So far, I still had some motivation to post some shots in the week following the race, but at the same time I didn’t want to feel obligated to to so. On the other hand, I was very glad I did because the support I got from the IG running community was priceless and caring. By no means had I forgot how grateful I was in having finished the race and for such an experience; therefore, I made sure to express it.

My next move was to schedule an appointment to see my physical therapist. Ed is a super talented runner (who is also a member and group leader of Marathon Fest group with Track and Shack) and PT. There’s no better PT in Central Florida area better than Ed in my book. We went over the problem I was having and over my frustration. Ed gave me hope when I needed the most because I was starting to think that perhaps my body was not really made for a faster pace. However, I didn’t feel the desire to run that week, but I was slightly hopeful to restart on my terms on the following week.

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The BEST physical therapist in Central Florida, Ed Dullmeyer with Pro Form PT in Maitland, FL

As the days passed, peace started to settle in. I came to the realization that I needed a time out. Unfortunately, I could not just unplug everything such as work, house chores, etc, but I unplugged from whatever I could such as from social media, checking e-mails less often, worrying less and taking the time to simply observe. Yes, call it a meditation retreat of some short. Since my running life had little sparkle, it only made sense to put a pause on my run coaching services. It was a hard decision, but it felt right until I could figure out exactly what I needed if I were to decide to keep moving forward. There was only one thing I knew for sure. If I were to continue to run and have any hope of improving my time, I had to focus on strength training, get professional help and meditate.

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The desire to run started to come back by the end of a zero mile week. In the back of my mind, I knew that I should at least give it a try and see how it feels. Tuesday morning came and I had to no energy to get up for a run. I spent the day pondering if should run when I get back home from work. I finally decided to run. My motivation was to run for the first time around our new neighborhood.

The weather was a nice 73 degree and only 57% humidity. I laced up my shoes and just ran like Forrest. I ran without a purpose and without a pace in mind. I felt free from pressure to perform and I just did what my body was comfortable with. I ran around the neighborhood for a mile and headed to the middle school track’s to finish up the rest before returning back home. At mile 3’ish I cried and by then I was already picking at my Garmin (aka as MAsshole – really, who doesn’t name their running gadgets?!) in shock at my pace. My crying episode didn’t last long because it really takes a lot effort to run and cry at the same, but I was so happy that my calves were holding up well and that my quads and hammies were a little more powerful this time around. My mind was set to run just 4 miles and I was surprised with my pace. My splits were 9:24, 9:29, 9:48 and 9:35 with an average of 9:34. I had never ran this fast before.

I was in shock with this run’s performance, but I kept it low key without making such a big deal out of it. I continued the week with the scheduled PT exercises, core workout and calves stretch. I was also curious to know if my next run would be in this pace range. Due to lack of energy for an early morning run, I decided to run after work in the downtown Orlando neighborhood. Again, I was just focused on a 4-miler and I ended up with very good splits at 9:04, 10:25, 9:50 and 9:24 with an average of 9:41. The weather started at 70 degree, but by midway through my run it dropped around 68, so I’m sure it has a lot to do with a better performance.

Since I started to feel better both physically and mentally, I decided to run long on Saturday with my group. It was nice to run with them, but for this 10-miler run, it felt somewhat hard but doable at 11:05 average pace. A 10-miler in the bank without feeling crippled gave me a slight glimpse that running the OUC half marathon in three weeks might just be possible. Running the OUC half marathon has become a tradition for me and I would love to keep the running streak going for a third year in a row.

My next run was another 4-miler which I made it to be a tempo run with 8:49, 9:50, 9:08 and 8:48 splits at an average of 9:08 pace. Next run was for a friend’s wedding day 5K celebration with our running family which I took it as a relaxing run with an average of 10:51 pace and I did skip Saturday’s long run due to lack of preparation and sleep.

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I was still thinking if this out-of-the-blue single-digit pace was a fluke. Strangely enough, from Monday to Tuesday morning, I woke up with some puffiness on the ball of my right foot and a strange discomfort between big and middle toe. I opted to run after work since I didn’t get enough hours of sleep. What appeared to be an inflammation was kinda of visible and the pain was noticeable when pressure was placed on the foot, but I thought that perhaps it was some phantom pain because I didn’t run in the past Saturday.

With OUC approaching in less than 1 week, I needed to run at least 5 miles. I ran this 5-miler with 1 mile worth of 40 seconds pickups without problems as my splits showed as 9:10, 10:19, 0.50 mile at 10:20; my pickups average at the 8’ish with my best being at 7:36, and a cool down mile at 8:50 to give me an average pace of 9:50. Voila! But minutes after the run, I started feeling a heartbeat on my foot and at that point, there was no ignoring or thinking this to be a phantom pain.

I asked my husband for his input on the pain and he said it had to with the way my middle toe is uneven with all the other toes, meaning, it’s elevating on top of the toe therefore creating pressure on the ball of the foot. I am like….here I go again with another injury and of course it had to happen 10 days before OUC and on Thanksgiving week.

The next day, I called Dr. Christopher Mason’s office (he’s the best podiatrist ever and a runner too) for an appointment on the same day. The only availability was for Monday after Thanksgiving so I took the spot. I was not settling for a Monday appointment as I had planned my long run on Thanksgiving Day. So I called again and asked to be seen on this same day. I’ve got the same unwilling-to-help answer. Minutes passed by and called the office for the third time and requested to speak with Kathy. I’m not sure what superpowers Kathy has, but she helped me with a same-day appointment before. She was not available so I left a voice-mail and begged for her to call me back.

In less than 30-minutes later, she called me back, I explained my urgent situation, and she booked me to see Dr. Mason at 2:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving eve! I was thrilled and so grateful. I practice gratitude every day, but during Thanksgiving week, it was even more special to feel more grateful and share the joy. I was happy to see Dr. Mason and to find out that there was no sign of stress fracture, but it was the case of Capsulitis an inflammation of a joint capsule between toes. Now that I knew what I was dealing with, cortisone shot, meds and rest for two days was on the tap. Yay!!! Seriously, YAY!!!

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Thanks for Dr. Christopher Mason healing was in progress!

The worst that could happen at this point was to postpone pre OUC long run for Saturday. I proceeded with strength training, core and upper body workouts on the next day. On Friday, I focused on upper body and played some racket ball with my hubby. Saturday’s long run results at 9:45 average pace with splits of 9:49, 10:04, 9:50, 10:15, 9:59, 9;52, 9:36, 9:42, 9:28 and 9:01 was very promising that running OUC was within reach. If I a sub-2 was not possible, I certainly had the possibility on my side for a PR (anything better than 2:08:25). I couldn’t be happier with this run!

Taper week approached very quickly and I kept on doing my thing by staying calm, getting the sleep I needed and adjusting my workout according to my energy level. Tuesday’s tempo ran ended up with a 4-miler at average pace of 9:25. For Thursday, I had PT scheduled at my usual time at 6:15 a.m., so it was a 5:00 a.m. run for me which I chose to make it a 5K. I didn’t want to run the risk of getting stuck in my thoughts about pace, effort or even running the risk of a last-minute injury. I ended up with 9:30 average pace and I was happy with it. Friday before the race was my usual pre-race day routine with lots of stretch, some core workout, foam rolling and massage/stretch by my husband.

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I was ready to go and I had never felt so excited and ready for a race like this one. And the IG community wished me some good positive vibes. It was up to me to bring home the negative splits.

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Packet pick up at Track Shack

“Today is another day to make yourself proud.”

 ~ Unknown

2016 Tomoka Left Over = Recovery

Never Give Up

Healing is not an overnight process. It is a daily cleansing of pain, it is a daily healing of your life.  

~Leon Brown

I was amazed that my petite body was handling Tomoka Marathon so well. I ran out of energy, but my discomfort was manageable – or maybe I was just numb that I didn’t even realized how much stress I was subjecting my body to.

Crossing the finish line was so unreal and powerful for me. I felt that with determination, hard work and support from family and friends, anything is possible as long as the flame to do what it takes is burning. I walked around and enjoyed some of the post-race festivities, grabbed a slice of pizza and some beet/orange juice from Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice company. It was delicious!

On our way to the car, my husband even mentioned how surprised he was to see me not limping as much like some runners were. “I’m amazed that I’m not feeling so bad but I know it’s coming; however, the chaffing is bothersome”, I replied back to him with some enthusiasm. He drove us to the hotel and when it was time to get up and move… Oh my goodness! Why did I gloat on feeling ‘almost pain free’?

From the parking lot to the hotel entrance, to the elevator, to the room and to the shower, each step was becoming slower and slower. Not only was my left shin getting sore by the minute with each step taken, but the damn chaffing inward my right tight burned like hell with the contact of the cool-warm water from the shower. Yet, I was still running really high on ‘runners high’ – and it was worth it!

Marathon training has taught me to be in the present more than anything else I’ve done. Of course every now and then, I glimpse on what’s ahead, but I refocus right where I am. Here’s what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks of recovery-mode.

  • Enjoy the moment: I got up at 3:15 a.m. on race day to get going with my pre-race routine and get everything ready for the 6:30 a.m. race. From this time forward, I did not stop (nap? what nap?) for one minute. We headed to the hotel to check-out, grabbed something to eat, drove 1 hour ½ to get home, stopped by Kurt’s dad to pick up our pooch, R2-D2, and then we got home around 3:45 p.m. We immediately started to unpack and organize stuff and I headed out to meet my running family for dinner at Coach Chris’ favorite restaurant – Don Julios. I didn’t get back home until close to 7:00 p.m., took a shower, and ate some more, called my mom and caught up on social media updates. By the time I went to bed, it was around 11:00 p.m. It’s amazing the energy you can find and create when you love what you do and have fun with it. I would do it again in a heartbeat!
  • Stretching/Foam Rolling: I cannot imagine not stretching or using the foam roller during recovery phase or training. The benefits are tremendous in promoting circulation, flushing out lactic acid and regaining flexibility and range of motion.

Therapies

  • Spinning Workout: Any cardiovascular activity is a great activity mainly the ones that have low impact on joints, muscles, tendons and bones. A 30-minute or 6 miles on the bike has worked out well for me and I’ve noticed steady healing and decrease on soreness.
  • Ice bath: I’m a big fan of ice baths because I feel so refreshed afterwards. Throughout summer long runs training, I made ice baths a priority, but I don’t overdo. There’s still a big debate on whether ice baths impact the benefits of a hard workout in a sense that it precludes the body from adapting to inflammation; therefore, getting stronger. It’s debated that it’s more beneficial in closing the gap between a hard workout recovery to the next hard workout or race. I use my own judgment on that and tune-in to my body. I just finished listening to Meb Keflezighi’s audiobook, Run to Overcome, and he makes ice baths part of his recovery so I’m not going to argue with that – and do what works for you! I make ice baths less intimidating by filling out the bath tub with cold water to my waist, dropping the 10 lbs bag of ice, wearing a hoodie, sipping some hot ginger tea and catching up on some reading. You will not even notice when the ice starts to melt and the water gets colder!
  • Diet: Fueling the body properly after a strenuous workout deserves attention just as the same as doing any physical recovery methods. I’m a vegetarian, but the only animal-derived foods I consume are eggs, honey and occasionally cheese. I try to keep it simple by avoiding acidic-producing food (animal protein (meat), grain, sugar, fish, processed food, refined carb) and consuming more alkaline-producing food (fruits and vegetables). Lately, I’ve been craving my homemade kale juice and beet juice. I also have supplemented my diet with more chia seeds. Drink water, water and more water!
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I’m addicted to Kale juice!

  • Yoga/mediation: Years ago, I started to attend Kundalini Yoga, but got side-tracked with other things. After being more involved with running and reading Running With The Mind of Meditation – Lessons for Training the Body and Mind by Sakyong Mipham, it has given me a different perspective – a positive approach in being aligned with the body, mind and all things surround. Just as meditation presents different phases of learning and evolution, running is the same, and I’m grasping the interchangeable energy of physical activity and spiritual alignment.

Meditation

  • Warm Epson Salt baths and Massage Therapy: When massage therapy is not available, Epson salt bath is the answer. After a stretching and foam rolling session, I find Epson salt baths to be the most beneficial for me. Here’s a cool link on the benefits of Epson salt baths. Foam rolling is really good, but a massage therapist’s help in finding those tight knots where you had no idea it existed; it’s like winning the jackpot.
  • Chiropractor adjustments, graston, compression and hot therapy: I see my chiropractor as needed. I don’t like to overdo on adjustments, so I usually have one done before my longest run of training, four days before a major race and after a race. The combination of graston, compression boots and hot therapy is a remarkable tool to aid the healing process.
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Ahhh yes! These compression boots are awesome! 🙂

These recovery methods have been very helpful, but the recovery progress is not as fast I’d like to be. Meb’s recovery time after running the Olympics qualification trials this past February took three weeks. The effort I put into this past race was a high level for me so I guess I can chill out because three weeks is about the average time for recovery. I didn’t get to run until one week after Tomoka; my calves and shins were sore still – a slow 4-miler was all I could do for the day. I decided to rest more and focus on active recovery for the following week. A week later, I ran an easy 1.5-miler as a warm up and a 3.1-miler run with more effort. In terms of soreness I felt better, but the itchy on my tights (lactic acid) and sluggish feeling could not have been more evident.

Patience and patience. That’s what I need to keep in mind and be grateful for the small and big things. Thanks for reading, awesome people!

Gratitude

“Pain is nothing compared to what it feels like to quit.”

~ seen on marathon spectator sign