What I Learned: Third Annual 30 for 30

April has come to a close and May is officially here.  Events such as weddings, horse racing (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes) and graduations are taking over the calendar, which makes me happy that I blocked out the month of April to dedicate to my fitness and health. Health is a journey, not a destination and this year, there were a few lessons I learned.

Healthy Living

1) Stay hydrated.  This is especially important as the weather warms up and the humidity soars.  Water is needed by every metabolic and cellular function in your body, and when you are dehydrated — even slightly — your body has to extract fluid from your food and hold onto it, creating a supply reserve, to ensure your cells have enough to work properly.  This energy is used to take water from your foods rather than repair your body.  Dehydration also causes fatigue and mimics feelings of hunger. To make sure you are properly hydrated, divide your weight in pounds in half and drink that number in fluid ounces every day).

Water

2) Schedule workouts.  I have to put workouts on my calender and schedule them one week out.  If I don’t take the time to plan, workouts get pushed to the back burner and work, coffee dates and dinners take priority.

calendar

3) I have a hard time trying new “things” and in this case, workouts.  I’ve said for months (possibly years) that I’m going to take a Zumba class.  Guess what? This year’s 30 for 30 came and went, with nary a Zumba class in sight.  Or a barre class.  Or paddleboarding.  You get the point.  I stick to what I know: running, biking, swimming, yoga, strength work.  Exercise should be fun, and the above workouts are, but I often “forget” that hiking, hip hop class or kayaking count towards my daily activity.

4) Fitness is more than a number on a scale.  While I didn’t lose the 5 pounds I had hoped (I lost 3), I did notice that clothes fit better, which ultimately means a more toned body. I felt better from day to day, there was a smile on my face and a bounce in my step.  Working out until it breaks me or severely limiting my calories won’t provide any of those effects.

Thank you, dear reader and 30 for 30 warriors, for joining me on this leg of the journey.  But, as I said, this path continues and we continue to walk it together.  I LOVED reading all of your experiences and am grateful for all of the wonderful (and constructive) feedback.  Tomorrow, I will announce the winner of the Giveaway, which includes a Springy Danielle Nicole handbag and items (including nutrition bars!) from Vega.

Keep plugging along; update me on your progress and remember to enjoy the journey…

Until tomorrow (or next year for the challenge)…

slow and steady

PM P.S. for Monday, August 22

Here is what I’m reading today:

  • Flavorwire: While I look forward to spending time in London next summer, I really look forward to spending time here! At the end of the article, it talks about a comparison between this pool and the famed Beijing Water Cube, one which I’m happy to give in approximately one year from now.
  • Saveur: As we out of transition summer and into fall, these recipes are sure to please. With a hearty and substantial offering, they are suited for carnivores and vegetarians alike.
  • New York Times: Back to school! Are you sending a child off to college? (I know that some of you readers are taking your children to college and for the first time!)  Check out one parents perspective.
  • Huffington Post: Looking for a new job? Or maybe a career change? If you’re interested in moving to London, this might just be the job you’re looking for… and with excellent pay!
  • Women’s Health Magazine: Which yoga poses are most helpful for runners?

The Eating Deadline

I’ve stopped eating after 7pm.  Then, I stopped eating carbs at 7pm.  I’ve tried only eating fruit in the evenings, as an evening snack. I’ve read that eating any less than 3 hours from bedtime creates belly bulge, eating before you go to sleep permits the food to just sit in your stomach when your metobolic rate is null, but also read that eating healthy food before bed helps you body to absorb the vitamins and minerals from the food, allowing it to repair itself. Which is right? Logically, a calorie equals a calorie, no matter what time of day, right?

Most testing up to this date had been done on animals, and found that a calorie in is indeed a calorie, no matter what time of day or night one consumes the food. However, a recent study on men and women found that eating late does in fact have an impact on ones waistline and body mass index number.  Most participants were also lacking sleep, which is another contributer to weight gain, but scientists determined that one shouldn’t eat past a certain hour and there is an eating dealine: 8pm.

Think there will be a run in restaurant reservations for 6pm? Enjoy your weekend… eat early!

Thank Goodness for Active Recovery (Day 9)

Yesterday’s workout was really tough.  I had 5 sets to do, and to be honest, I was dreading the workout from the very beginning. Three sets was doable… five sets were going to be a challenge.  What do I do when I’m procrastinating? I clean and pick-up around the house.  That is, until I realize I’m stalling and then I get to the workout staring back at me.

What I realized is that when I workout, I have to stay in the moment.  Wishing I was finished with the workout or the race isn’t going to get me to the end any faster and it’s just going to make the process, and the entire experience, miserable.  This is where yoga is a huge help, and has been beneficial during long, grueling workouts and races.  When I was 56 miles in the bike during the Ironman, and knew I had another 56 miles left (before the marathon) I had to stay present, in the moment, and take notice what was going on around me at that precise second.

Yesterday was no different.

I took each of the four pieces of the workout (one piece of the workout included the 5 dreaded sets) as it came and practiced mindfulness during each, until the last part, which was a run, where I plugged in my iPod and (again) ran to Lil Wayne.  I supposed music is a meditation of a different kind, right?

Today is an active recovery day, which for me means an hour of self-guided yoga later this afternoon.  First, we’re off to a Duathlon, in which Doug is competing.  Then the yoga. Post yoga, we’re off again and headed to Baltimore, where I’m speaking at a She Does Tri camp for women triathletes of all abilities.  I’m really looking forward to meeting the women and sharing my triathlon experience with them. With all of the running around, it doesn’t sound like much of a “rest” day, does it?

Until tomorrow…

P.S. The key lime pie? It was delicious.  With homemade lime infused whipped cream, it was hands down one of the best food items I’ve ever made.  Doug is not a sweets person, but does really enjoy a slice of key lime pie every now and again, and even he was blown away.  (my words, not his, but still… was yummy!)

Doin’ the Dukan

Have you heard of the Dukan Diet? I had never heard of the diet until Kate Middleton was spotted in a bikini, and everyone was a buzz about how steller she looked.  Reports that weight loss by anyone who is anyone in Europe was accomplished using this diet, including Miss Middleton’s mum in preparation for her daughter’s induction into the royal family in April.  The diet, created by Dr. Pierre Dukan, is popular in France, before launching in the UK, and has sold 3.5 million copies of his first book.

Many haven’t heard of it here in the states, but that’s about to change.

The Dukan diet is set to launch stateside next month in a book titled “The Real Reason the French Stay Thin.” Stay tuned, as promotional materials and advertisements are about to hit Facebook, twitter and a magazine near you any day.

The high protein, low-fat approach, which has been compared to the Atkins diet, is broken down into four phases: attack, cruise, consolidation and stabilization.  The first phase allows dieters to eat mostly high protein, low-fat foods, no alcohol and throws in oat bran and copious amounts of water.  The second phase, cruise, brings in veggies, but no fruit.  The third phase, affords the dieter two slices of bread, a serving of cheese, one serving of fruit and two servings of carbs per day, with a two “celebration” meals that include wine and dessert.  The fourth and final stage sets up an eating pattern for life where “anything goes” for six days and one day of protein only, as seen in the first attack stage.

Along with a strict adherence to the food, the dieter must follow an exercise routine of daily 20-minute walks and total elevator avoidance.  Can you imagine if you worked on the 30th floor of a building? I wondered if the trek up the stairs, which just might take me 20 minutes, counted towards the walking time as well?

Critics say, much like Atkins, that while it is possible to lose weight in the early stages, it is hard to sustain weight loss and is tough on your kidneys.  The diet most likely wouldn’t work for vegetarians or vegans, with the high concentration of proteins, most coming from meat and is recommended to all dieters to check with their doctors before starting a diet regimen.

Trans fat, Trans fats, Trans fats!

By now, we’ve all heard the words, but what are trans fats, what do they mean to the average consumer from a health standpoint and are they really that bad for you?

Four Kinds of Fat

Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats found in nuts and vegetables, such as avocado, are seen as the good kind of fat, as they lower your cholesterol. Saturated fats have always been labeled as the bad kind of fat, but most doctors will tell you that trans fat is the worst kind, as it not only raises “bad” cholesterol (LDL) but also lowers the “good” (HDL). Having the high LDL and low HDL increases a person’s risk for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine,  “a 2% increase in trans fatty acids was associated with a 23 percent increase in the incidence of coronary heart disease….” In another study, participants were fed either a diet with trans fat or one with saturated fat. Researchers found that the ability of the blood vessels to dilate was 29% lower in people who ate the high trans fat diet compared to those on the saturated fat diet.  And just incase you weren’t totally convinced that it is a big deal, the American Heart Association made a “high-priority recommendation” that food manufacturers and restaurants replace partially hydrogenated oils with low saturated fat alternatives.”

Where do Trans Fat Come from?

Have you ever looked on the back of a package and read the words “partially hydrogenated oil”? Most often, you will find them on foods that are not refrigerated and highly processed, which affords the product a longer shelf life. The process injects hydrogen into vegetable oil (which could include soybean oil), changing the molecular structure of the liquid and turning it into a solid, creating a substance like margarine or shortening.  Foods like doughnuts, cookies, crackers and cakes often contain trans fat, as do french fries, which are often fried in partially hydrogenated oil.

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes?

Companies are taking notice of the growing concern around trans fatty acids.  McDonald’s has eliminated them from their oil in which they fry their fries and in 2006, New York voted and became the first city to ban trans fat in all of its restaurants. Now, it’s your turn.

What Can you Do?

  • Look for and avoid any foods that contain “partially hydrogenated oil.” Ironically, “fully” or “completely” hydrogenated oils DO NOT contain trans fats. Sounds counterintuitive, but true.
  • Don’t trust that the product has “Zero Trans Fats” as it may claim on the front of the box.  The United States Government deems it such if it has 0.5 grams per serving or less.  The AHA says that you should max out at 1% of your total daily caloric intake, which for a 2000 calorie a day person, is 2 grams of trans fat.
  • If you have a sweet tooth, bake your own treats at home.  You can control the ingredients and expunge the preservatives, eliminating the trans fatty acids.

Really, for the amount of damage these fats can have on your body, the changes are slight and minimal. And the silver lining to giving up the packaged, processed foods is that you can experiment with your own tasty goodies at home, with your boyfriend, husband or kids.  I’ve also found that Aunt’s like the treats just as well…