Lent

I have given some thought to what I should give up for Lent.  But everybody seems to be giving up food, and I feel like I’ve already given up plenty of food.  After all, I’m a vegan.  You want me to give up tortilla chips, too, my last bastion of snackery?**  Nope.

But then I remembered my religion classes from elementary school: I could DO something every day rather than SACRIFICE something.  After all, this will instill discipline, too.

So here’s my Lenten promise: I will run every day.  Not just exercise, not just stretch or do an ab work-out, but run.  I’ll keep you updated on my observation of this stricture.

This corresponds well with an article I read this morning about your brain and exercise.  The research is still in very early stages, but it states that the brain runs on glycogen and suggests that exercise definitively makes your brain sharper and more alert.

**(Actually, I considered giving up chips, but I already ate some for breakfast.)

Valentine’s Day Gifts

Need a cool Valentine’s Day gift for a cool runner in your life this chilly February?  Consider Yak Trax.  They’re these interesting things that strap onto your shoes and allow you to run on ice and packed down snow.  The traction is key to successful winter runs.

{Image from http://www.yaktrax.com}

If you’re like me and you hate running on treadmills in gyms with comfortable temperatures, but you love running outside in brutal wind and icy roads, then Yak Trax are for you.  My chapped skin thanks them.

Fun Facts

Just some nutrition information for your Sunday reading enjoyment: the amount of sugar in food expressed in sugar cubes.

{Image from http://imgur.com/gallery/rKwc6}

PS-I’m in the midst of perfecting a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I made a batch this week that were passable, but not good enough to share with you, dear readers.  And I’m ignoring any recipes that have weird ingredients because you know how I hate to buy weird ingredients because I resent it.  I promise I’ll share soon!

Klutz

Perhaps a better word would be “injury-prone.”  In the past year or so, I have accumulated enough stupid, niggling injuries to make me wonder how anyone ever makes it through a track season.  They aren’t serious or surgical, but they are painful and irritating.  And the fact is, it’s not like I’m training for a marathon, folks.  I’m starting to believe that I evolved to be a sedentary being.  I’m worried that I’ll never be the runner I want to be.

Today, the NYTimes posted an article saying that more than half of all runners, male or female, competitive or otherwise, become injured every year.  I guess I’m not alone, and I’m taking comfort in other people’s injury.

The focus of today’s post is a study done at Harvard on the foot and its relation to running injuries.  The focus group consisted of 52 of the college’s cross-country runners.  This study found that 59% of the Harvard running teams were consistently heel-strikers and 31% were fore-foot-strikers (a different article from 2004 points out that not everyone is primarily one kind of striker or another because of terrain, speed, fatigue, etc).  Approximately 74% of the runners studied experience a moderate to severe injury each year.  However, of that number, those who were routinely heel-strikers experienced twice the rate of repetitive stress injuries than their forefoot-striking teammates.  I’ll stress that again – those numbers pertain to repetitive stress injuries.  There was no significant difference found in traumatic injury rates between the two groups.

The study concluded that all competitive distance runners incur high injury rates, but runners who primarily heel-strike have significantly higher rates of repetitive stress injury than those who strike with their forefoot.

The study also pointed out the need for further study, specifically the hypothesis that the absence of marked impact in the forefoot strike contributes to lower rates of injuries in habitual forefoot strikers.

The study’s authors highlighted two important things: (1) their study did not examine or promote barefoot running in any way, and (2) if you’re not getting hurt with your current stride, don’t change your form.

Finally, they have a word of advice for those who do want to change to a forefoot strike: start slowly.  Mr. Daoud suggested that one land on the ball of one’s foot for only the last five minutes of the run and gradually work up to longer periods of forefoot landings.  Mr. Daoud used his own injury as proof: he broke a metatarsal while running his first marathon on his forefeet because he transitioned too quickly.

Link

Body-building

I recently embarked on a diet designed by a body-builder.  It’s aimed at maintaining muscle and focused on fat loss only.  More diets should be like this – I can already see greater definition in my abs.  It’s day 5.  Anyway, this particularly diet has sparked my interest in vegan body-building.

The NYTimes just posted an article about this growing niche in the competitive world of body-building.  It just goes to show that you can get enough protein, build muscle mass, and see muscle definition without eating animal proteins.  Some do it out of environmental or animal concerns, and some do it to rebel against the rampant steroid culture that exists among gym rats.  Any of those reasons are groovy, but I tend to relate most to those who want to achieve results naturally.  As I stated the other day, supplements freak me out.  I guess I’m learning to accept vitamins, but some of the stuff you can get at GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe is terrifying.

Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.

Fun fact: my brown rice protein powder has only 3 ingredients and dissolves in liquid WAY better than any whey protein I’ve ever tried.

Vits

I’ve always had a hard time accepting that I should consume things besides food.  To me, it seems like a caveman ate food, so I should eat food.  Also, I seem to be in a constant battle with my body, and I really want it to suck up and just perform properly.  However, the last few months have forced me to concede that these are irrational views.  Mind over matter only goes so far, my friends.

Specifically, I’ve been suffering from a lot of muscle cramping.  At first I ignored it, but it worsened to the point that I couldn’t walk down stairs because my calves were so tight.  I stopped running, I stopped wearing heels, I stretched daily, I drank gallons of water, but nothing seemed to work.  One expert suggested I eat more bananas.  So I ate bananas, but apparently potassium wasn’t my problem.  Another expert saw me try to run, and she suggested that I wasn’t consuming enough salt.  I took this opportunity to eat more French fries, but it didn’t seem to solve the problem.  Finally, a sports med doctor opined that I was Vitamin D-deficient.

At first, I was afraid she was going to tell me to give up my veganism; I worried that my deficiencies came from an inbalance in my diet and a lack of nutritional understanding.  However, she explained that 75% of all people who live in Chicago are Vitamin D-deficient because we never see the sun.  I began taking 2000 units a day of Vitamin D, and 1000 units of B12 (which IS actually in response to my veganism), and my problem was solved within 2 weeks!

And so, I am ushering in the age of supplements!

However, it’s a murky, dark area to many.  And I’m no nutrition expert . . . which is likely why I have this problem.  So I wanted to point out that there are few things of which one should be aware: water is good for your body, you can easily eat at least one banana a day in order to get all the potassium you need, salt is not the enemy – those who exercise a lot are sweating much of it out, and Vitamin D is integral for muscle function.

What vitamins do you take?

Laugh of the Day

I’m a delinquent blogger.  I DO have some great new recipes (thanks to all my wonderful relatives who creatively and deliciously accommodated my veganism during the holidays) and some interesting fitness insights to share soon.  But for now, please enjoy this little laugh on me.  I wasn’t able to post the picture here, but I promise the click is worth it 🙂

 

2011 Holiday Gift Guide

  1. Versaliner gloves ($45)
  2. Cando Extra-Firm Black Foam Roll 6” x 36” ($18.34)
  3. Nike Pro Compression Training Crew Sock ($8.00) (These are made to compress my problem areas – ankles and calves – during a workout but also keep you dry via Nike’s Dri-Fit fabric.  They’re absolutely on my list!)
  4. iTunes gift cards
  5. Scape’s Athlete Sunblock ($14.95)  (Because, people, you’re not helping yourself by running if you just end up with skin cancer.)
  6. Brooks Infiniti Beanie ($24) (Not too thin, not too thick, and made to wick away sweat)
  7. Garmin Forerunner 405 Wireless GPS-Enabled Sport Watch with USB ANT Stick and Heart Rate Monitor (now $152.77 on Amazon.com)
  8. Tennis balls (The perfect thing for massaging tired feet and stuffing stockings.)
  9. DYNA-BAND 6ft Medium Resistance Band ($7.27)
  10. Saint Ralph ($12.99) (Love this movie)
  11. Birds of a Feather Wrist Wallet ($25.00)  (No pockets?  No problem!  Put your keys or ID in a wrist wallet from miamor.com)
  12. “Run Less, Run Faster: Boston Training Programs” ($17.00) (Seems foolproof to me)

(PS – I have a desk; I just don’t like sitting at it)

I’ve been wrestling with the take home exam from hell for days now, and I’m certain that my butt is flat.  Like a pancake.  I’m serious – I can feel that my ass is changing shape.

Normally, I completely abandon anything like health or fitness during exams and go back to comfort eating and complete lethargy.  I mean, I shower and brush my teeth, but that’s about it.  I think I should be allowed to abandon my self-discipline when I’m devoting every fiber of my being to something else, especially when the something else is miserable.

I’ve been trying to be somewhat conscientious about my health this year.  I don’t really have time to go to the gym or for long runs even though I know it would help me de-stress.  When I have to ration every second of my day, I get strategic.  So here’s a list of little tips for when you’re chained to your desk, but you don’t want to feel even more miserable than you are now.

1.) Drink water and coffee in equal proportions

2.) Put your notes on the floor so you can stretch and do planks

3.) Indulge in sugar-free candy (seriously, Sour Patch Kids are my weakness, and I’ll eat pounds of them if someone lets me)

4.) Put your laptop on the top of your dresser and work  standing up for awhile

5.) Do calf raises while you’re standing up

6.) Give your eyes a break and leave your contacts out

7.) Eat a lot of produce in addition to your pizza – raw food never steers me wrong

8.) Include sleep in your study schedule and stick to it!

9.) Have a glass of wine in your last hour of studying so you can sleep (am I the only one doing this?  Is it just me that wants to drink while studying?)

10.) Listen to Mozart – his music is so mathematically perfect that it stimulates your brain in ways that nothing else can

11.) Have study buddies – they keep you company AND keep you motivated

The last thing on my list was going to be, “Try to remember that you’re not the only person working hard right now, and everyone else isn’t having a party somewhere without you.”  But then I thought I might sound pretty pathetic.

 

 

 

 

Even though Facebook keeps telling me that other people are going ice-skating, Christmas shopping, decorating trees, and baking cookies.  Bah humbug.  For now, it’s just me and Smoocho trying to keep our holiday spirit

Happy Studying from me and Smooch