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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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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It Takes Guts to Build Mental Strength

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“It’s hard to beat a person who never GIVES UP.”

~Babe Ruth

September was another hectic month; add Hurricane Irma’s stress to the occasion and you’ve got some real stress and some tight muscles as a result of it. Since surpassing 100 miles for the month, I started to get hooked and excited to find out how many more miles I can accumulate in a month. However, I kept in mind that a healthy month was and is more important than the accumulation of miles, especially in the final stretch of training cycle.

My awareness towards my body’s well-being was in higher frequency this month. I paid attention to every detail and unusual discomfort my body was feeling. This time my left calf and shin area was more than I wanted to. However, it is was not a surprise as I was exiting August with 120 miles for the month.

Two days after Labor Day weekend, the news were blasting us with updates on the fast approaching arrival of Hurricane Irma and its deadly force of a Category 5 hurricane. Seeing the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Matthew in Texas, Florida wasn’t going to be the one state to play with its strength, and a state of emergency was then effective. The prediction of the storm’s arrival in Central Florida was for Sunday evening, so up to Thursday, I was able to log in my miles. But my right calf wasn’t too happy.

After my husband examined my left calf, he found a dense knot and it hurt. I took a rest day from running on Friday, rolled, iced and stretched, but I was not 100% sure if it was in the best interest to run my 11-miler on Saturday. I knew it was due to stress and I know that when I run on a tight muscle, nothing good happens. The entire week was about Hurricane Irma prep – going to the store to stock up on water and food, maneuvering through hectic traffic frenzy, arranging for a tree company to come over and cut tree branches hanging on top of our roof, helping my father-in-law remove flying debris from his backyard, removing our patio and yard furniture out of harm way, and really doing the best we could given the situation and time we had was exhausting.

All of that added up and my body felt unrested. It was no brainer that I’d be better off sacrificing 11 miles out of training than to run the risk of losing the entire cycle and possibly missing another race. My Coach could not had agreed with me more!

Going through the storm on Sunday evening was one of the scariest experience I’ve ever had. The storm started around 8:00 p.m. and it lasted for a good 12 hours. The rain and wind intensified around midnight as the eye of the hurricane passed through. For most part,  it was a steady rain fall with an occasional 10-minute break between gusty winds. At 2:30 a.m. I could not take it anymore and had to go to bed, not that I really feel sleep. Kurt came to bed around 4:00 a.m. when the storm appeared to be lessen. When we got up around 8:00 a.m., the rain was gone but the wind gust and tree branches were all over the place. We were very grateful that all we had to do was clean up. Many people lost electricity, we did too, but we only lost for 16 hours whereas many people in Central Florida didn’t have electricity as much as two weeks.

The before, during and after Hurricane Irma left me drained for days. It was exhausting, bust I used the non-running time to rehab my tight calf with icing, tens-unit sesh, rolling and lots of stretching. By the time I got back into the running routine again was on Tuesday after the hurricane. It felt good, but I was still lacking on energy. After that, the rest was history as I kept moving along with training and tackling one speed workout after another. The mental strength training this time was even tougher, especially preparing and executing what I’d say was one of the toughest run yet.

8 Mi Speed Workout

 

2 mi easy warm up

6 x .5 mile @ 7:45-8:00 pace with .25 jog between

Cool down to mileage

2 mi up @  10:31

.50 @ 7:38 (death pace for me!)

.50 @ 8:00 (yep, slow down a bit, Celia!)

.50 @ 7:49 (crank up a notch, you can do it!)

.50 @ 7:48 (steady and fast, find a sweet spot)

.50 @ 7:48

.50 @ 7:49

1.50 cool down @ 9:20

 

TOTAL: 8.0 / 1:23:23 / AVG 10:25

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I did it!

The mental strength and toughness I had to dig for this month was no joke! I constantly used watching Breaking 2, Breaking 2 Special edition, the 2016 London Marathon, part of the 2016 Berlin Marathon, the New England Patriots post games press conferences as part of mental training as I logged another massive 57 miles just on the treadmill. In addition, I’ve been listening to Peak Performance audiobook and the fascinating TB12 Method by Tom Brady audiobook.

The heat and humidity in September was still intense. It seems that such weather conditions do play tricks in your head as I started to feel unsettled on whether I could run a slightly faster pace under these conditions. My Coach had a 13-miler on the schedule, and I saw that as a great opportunity for a trial race training; however, its success was possible to my husband’s assistance. On a Saturday, I headed to the trail with the intention of completing 13.1 without stopping. Kurt rode the bike and followed me with water and nutrition. I felt like I was having Kipchoge’s special treatment throughout the run. And that, made a huge difference! That Saturday was a 6-day running streak, so my legs were tired, and unfortunately due to heat, humidity and a late start (6:50 a.m.), I started to feel the crash in the last 5K. Completing this 13.1 training run gave me a huge confidence boost – just what I needed to finish the month strong.

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Thanks to my hubby for helping me 🙂

Even after losing the 11-miler LR, I was still able to close the month with a PR – a PR by just one mile, but nevertheless it’s hard earned miles that I am proud of because I managed to close the last week of September with my highest weekly mileage at 35 miles to bring to a total of 121 miles. Yes, I did it! And I still managed to take a day off from running during this week to respect my body and be cautious as I’d be entering taper week on the following week.

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And as if you already didn’t know, to celebrate the month and to keep my body healthy, I had my monthly chiropractor adjustment, therapy and cryotherapy sesh as the week and month closed. And to my surprise, Saq was there doing cryo too! That was an interesting experience as I met the former Orlando Magic and LA Lakers basketball player in the same place I do cryo.

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Whether you are 5’3” or 7’1”, athletes do cryo! That’s a wrap for September guys!

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3-minute, temps as low as -255F

(P.S. I also hit my cryo sesh PR at 3-minute as temps went as low as -255F = take that to the mental strength bank!

“Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly.”

~Shaquille O’Neal

Run Rest Recover Rehab Prehab Repeat

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“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

 Many times we do tasks that doesn’t bold well with our likes. They are necessary in order to get from point A to B; that is, if we really want to get to point(s) B, C, D and further. Bottom line is, whether we want to get from one point to another based on want or need, the tasks still need to get done, especially if such tasks are for a dream we chase.

Every day I am reminded that training to one day become a BQ it is not easy. The struggle is real – and it is not just the physical struggle, it is the mental struggle too. There are days that lacks motivation and energy, but when injury is added to the equation, it is even more challenging. It is then a time to really think and reflect, how bad do you really want it? Are you willing to do the extra work?

I came to a point once in which I doubted myself and wondered if my body was even made for this. At that time, I was starting to think that my body was not made for going single-digit paces because every time I pushed it hard or amplified mileage, something would set me back. And there I was, back in square one, only more frustrated than the previous time.

After taking time off from running, some meditation and an encouraging conversation with my physical therapist at the time I was injured, I picked myself up again. I was brave enough to try another half marathon and find out what I had left in the tank before I committed to working with a Coach again. Coach Victoria continues to train and teaches me that I can reach faster single-digit paces. She continues to work with me on my mental game and showing me ways to slowly get where I need to get.

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Easy run with my furbaby R2-D2 on a Saturday morning at the West Orange Trail

But none of this support will make a difference if I don’t apply it myself. Yes, I do want it really bad to BQ and run the Boston Marathon; therefore, there’s no doing half way training or recovery. As my PT said, “you just have to stretch more than other runners”. Okay then. That’s what I will do and more.

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The strained Adductor injury was really tough to get over with. It took more time than any other injury I’ve experienced. The pain was initially located on the left groin, then it was experienced on the hamstrings, quads, glutes and hip. It took about 4 weeks without running with the exception of some test-runs here and there at the end of week 2. This injury has taught me that my body needs constant help with recovery from a workout to the next. The best way to do it is through strength training, PT workouts, stretching, rolling and a sessions of AIS (active isolate stretch by a LMT). Also, icing, heat, tens units, Epson salt baths, ice baths, cryotherapy and chiropractor adjustments therapy are a must.

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Cross training on spin bike and rowing was what helped me stayed in somewhat cardio shape.

So here’s my plan to a steady rehab/prehab routine:

*Disclosure: I am not a doctor or physical therapist and this is not to serve as an advice to anyone’s medical treatment or condition.

   
MONTHLY

First week of the month

cryotherapy session

chiropractor adjustments, graston and ART

 

 
WEEKLY Once or more per week:

Epson salt baths and/or dry sauna

Pool therapy, ice and heat therapy, Tens Units

 

 
BI-WEEKLY Massage Sports Therapy

AIS (active isolated stretch) therapy by a LMT

Ice baths  (as needed)

Yoga

 

 

 
DAILY Active Isolated Stretch with resistance band or yoga band

Static stretch –free or with yoga block

PT workouts (Bosu, stability ball, resistance band)

 

 
3 or 4 TIMES PER WEEK Strength Training – weights, body weight (TRS), HIIT

Cross Training – spinning, rowing, walk, elliptical, swim

 
REST DAY

(Sundays or when needed on weekday)

PT resistance band workout

Stretching

 

 

That’s it! I’ve been on the plan for the entire month of May and it has been working for me so far. This is not to say that I will never get injured again, but I believe that it will help me to continue to build my body for stronger runs and perhaps lessen the time of injury. During injury month of April, I was only able to log in 34.20 miles. However, my hours of strength training, recovery methods and cross training increased significantly.

As I started to get stronger and run 98% pain free, my mileage for the month of May increased to 60.45 miles. This time around, my strength training hours spent was just 7 hours less than April, but my recovery methods hours increased to 2 hours more. My goal is to continue the practice of recovery methods to keep my body happy because you know, Summer is coming!

And here’s this post’s end quote with a bonus picture!

BB Do Your Job

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