Thursday, August 30, 2012


Is motivation something that we are born with a certain amount of?  Does will power run out after you've used all of yours up, or does it recharge?  What enables some people to charge on at full speed for months on end while some of us can't seem to even get started?

I like to think that inertia has something to do with this.  Once we make that heroic effort to get up off the couch and put on our running shoes every subsequent effort becomes a little easier until it becomes a habit and something to look forward to rather than a chore.

I have a habit of seeing things in black and white, it is all or nothing.  I don't think I'm alone in tending towards this absolutist view.  If I've missed one workout it's easy for me to get discouraged and start thinking negative thoughts.  Despite having worked out at least five times a week since February and successfully running a marathon I still feel like a sedentary lifestyle is just one missed workout away.  I feel that motivation also works in reverse.  If I miss that one workout it gets a little harder to push myself towards the next one. 

I called my dad and told him I was feeling bad for not having run since Sunday.  He quoted one of my favorite motivational books, Scott Jurek's Eat & Run and said, "Do you want to be somebody?"  Well, yeah.  I just don't want to have to go running today.  Let future me deal with this.  Also, I should divulge that I harbor aspirations of becoming an elite ultrarunner.  A weird, niche, offbeat dream, I know, but it's mine. 

Luckily, I have backup.  Bemoaning my several attempts at getting in a workout yesterday I was curled up on the futon and my body felt like lead.  I had a bunch of food (mostly healthy, but still) right when I got home and couldn't convince myself to get up.  I had tried all day and it just wasn't happening, sometimes life gets in the way of working out. 

Enter my loving boyfriend.  "Get up, or I'll sit on you."  Me, "No, I don't want to.  Be nice to me."  This went on for several minutes until he literally pushed me off of the futon, made me stand up and told me to go run.  I felt awful.  After those walking lunges the day before I couldn't sit down without my butt hurting.  The thought of running just sounded exceptionally painful.  But I put my running shoes on and shuffled out the door, too full of food with my butt hurting on every stride.  I was crawling along at a 12:30 pace for half a mile, feeling like a first time, severly obese jogger.  I picked up a little bit and stretched out.  Then I did 6 miles is 49:25, just over an 8 minute mile.  It didn't feel good, it didn't feel easy, but I did it.  The good news is, now I know that even if I feel awful I can still run, and fast.  This is the bad news as well.

  So I guess my motivation comes from a lot of places:
  • Inertia
  • Paul pushing me up off the futon and encouraging me to workout more in the first place.
  • My dad (an LTC Orthopedic Trauma Army Surgeon and an ultramarathoner)
  • Thinking about how whenever I'm thinking about running, Scott Jurek and Dean Karnazes have probably been running for hours and still have hours to go.
  • Oh, and and their "Daily Motivation" posts. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Eating Healthy Isn't All That Complicated

We make eating well out to be much more complicated than it is.  Here's the big secret: 


This is the new food pyramid.  I eat as much as I want up to the third row of the pyramid.  If you eat a lot of veggies, legumes and fruits your stomach will be full of fiber and nutrients.  This signals to your body that you are full.  Unlike eating food weighed down with lots of sugar, fat etc. when you eat healthy food your body loses the desire to stuff itself.  Think about it this way: Your stomach is a container.  When the food that we eat is very concentrated in fat, calories and sugar your stomach does not become full, this is why we stuff ourselves.  We have a ton of calories in our stomach but the stretch receptors are not activated, so we do not feel full.    On the other hand, when you fill your stomach with very low calorie, fibrous food like all of the things listed above your stomach gets full and you stop eating naturally.  

It can be difficult to start this pattern of eating, but once you get started it becomes much easier.  Eat way larger portions of any of the things above than you are used to.  Eat as much of that as you want, just avoid cooking with oils and butter.  For example, yesterday I had:

Breakfast: 1 mango, 1 tin of blackberries, 1 banana, 2 tblsp. chia seeds, walnuts
Lunch: Leftover Quinoa with mushrooms, butternut squash & walnuts
Snacks: A handful of wheat thins, a fruit and nut bar and a couple handfuls of fruit/nut trail mix.
Dinner: 8 ball zucchini stuffed with veggies cooked in a bit of olive oil, tomato sauce & pesto, a bit of goat cheese and an egg on top.  On the side 3 slices whole grain bread, a large helping of the stewed veggies (zucchini, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, onion).
Dessert: Peanut butter, honey & banana sandwich on whole grain bread.

This was a pretty heavy eating day for me, I was really hungry, but I kept it pretty healthy.  Everything I ate gave me nutrients that help my body function better, there were no gratuitous calories.  You just have to learn to build your meals in a new way.  Fruits are the center of lunch, veggies/legumes are the center of lunch & dinner.  Throw some lean meat in there if you want.  The key isn't necessarily eating vegan or vegetarian, it's eating things with a high nutrient contect and a low caloric content.  A vegan that eats a lot of non grain carbs as the basis of their diet will be a lot more unhealthy than someone who some meat every day but also eats a lot of fruits and veggies.  And that's my spiel on healthy eating.  It's common sense. 
And here's the key: The more you eat healthy, the more you lose your taste for unhealthy things.  When you start eating healthy, unhealthy foods lose their appeal and don't make you feel good.  It's all about inertia.  Start working out, start eating healthy and it all snowballs until it becomes a force of habit.  It gets easier, a lot easier.  It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle choice.  For more information about it, read Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman or go to his website at

My favorite quote of the week: Real strength is breaking a chocolate bar apart with your bare hands and then eating only one small piece. 

I've just been staying off the sweets altogether because one does not simply consume only one oreo. 

I've been slacking off on my running since Sunday.  It's difficult trying to balance crossfit and running, especially trying to do crossfit on my own since I haven't been able to go after work.  It's a lot harder to stay motivated and push yourself during the workout without other people doing it as well.  I've been making up my workouts or basing them on exisiting workouts since I don't know the form for a lot of the crossfit exercises.

Monday: 10 rounds total with 2 min rest in between each round:
4 rounds 1 km bicycle
3 rounds 500m row
3 rounds 400m run
It might sound easy, but I pushed each of those intervals to max effort.

Tuesday:  30-30-20-20-10-10 with five pushups in each set
Walking Lunges
Abmat butterfly situps
Kettleball swings (15 lbs)

I was exhausted after work yesterday, so I neglected running.  I'm trying to learn to listen to my body and give it rest when it needs it.  No way I'm getting sick before Greece.  We leave on Friday for our Santorini/Athens trip!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Belgian Float Trips

Thursday's Crossfit Workout:

4 rounds:

1 min. burpees
30s rest
1 min. toes to bar (I did knees to elbows)
30s rest
1 min. doubleunders (I did regular jump roping, which was surprisingly harder than I remember it being)
30s rest
1 min. pullups (Well I tried my best, anyhow)
2 min rest

It was kind of a bummer not being able to do most of the exercises to their full potential.  My hands were all torn up from all the bar work and I didn't feel like I got as good of a workout as I could have.  Luckily that left me pretty rested up for Friday.  I brought my Garmin in to the gym so I could explore some new areas around work during my run.  I ran a pretty epic 7 mile run (in 58 minutes)!  I was flying.  I don't know if it's all those box jumps, or just feeling like I'm stronger but I was able to push it really hard.  I'm pretty sure that was my fastest 7 miler ever. 

Saturday was planned for a nice kayak workout and then some crossfit with Paul, Tim & Elisa.  That was before we realized that there were pubs along the way during the float.  It turned into an all out drinking float.  We turned a 3 hour float into an 8 hour float.  I got knocked on my butt a couple times and one of the British guys with us tipped our canoe over, on purpose!  It was flipping cold.
 If it weren't for the castles along the way I could have completely believed I was in the Ozarks.  It was an unexpected, super fun time.  Needless to say I was feeling pretty crappy on Sunday from all of the debauchery.   So I made egg & chorizo burritos and a batch of super sweet blueberry muffins and continued my health rebellion.
 Somehow, I managed to get myself off the couch and go for a run.  No matter how fit you get there are still days when the idea of running just freaking sucks.  I flew my first mile because I was pretty pissed off at myself for slacking off so hard.  I wanted to get my body as far away from home before I gave up, so that at least I would have to drag myself back and would get some exercise that way.  So I ran a half marathon (and maybe burned 2/3 of the muffins I devoured), in a minute slower than my record time in Oberstdorf at 1:51.  So there's that.  You never know how hard you can push yourself if you don't put on your running shoes. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oh My God, Zoos.

So whenever its a sunny day in Belgium (which is rare, but it's been great lately) I like to run to the zoo at lunch.  It's a five mile roundtrip and a great way to break up the work day.   I was feeling pretty good on the way out, thinking about how I could probably become an awesome elite athelete pretty easily.  On the way back, not so good.  I was sore from crossfit the past few days, and I didn't eat a snack before I went.  I was cranky, miserable and pretty sure that I could never run so much as a half marathon ever again.  It's amazing how perspective can color things. 

The highlight of the trip was getting to pet a giraffe.  My zoo adventures so far include:
  • Feeding an elephant some apples and petting his trunk.
  • Having a bat fly into my hair and watching a ton of them during feeding time in the creepy old watchtower underground of the abbey ruins. 
  • Having a lemur sit on my shoulder.
The Europeans are a much more interactive zoo kind of place.  The place is built on old abbey ruins and is rustic and beautiful.  I like being able to be somewhere so entirely different from work in the middle of the day.  I get to see tons of kiddos playing with baby goats and seeing these animals for the first time.  It's nice, it's zen.

B: mango, strawberry, dried apricots, walnuts, chia seeds
L: vegan chili, carrots & hummus, a piece of salmon jerky
Snack: Nutrigrain bar, because I accidentally ate some hand sanitizer and I had to get the taste out of my mouth.  True story.
D: apple, gouda, walnut & spinach salad with homemade dressing by Elisa.
multigrain garlic bread with mozzarella
veggie, mozzarella and baked egg stuffed red pepper with brown rice
watermelon for dessert
a couple glasses of wine

Oh and in the interest of full disclosure I drink a lot of coffee, probably somewhere along the lines of 32 oz/day.  I just drink it black, I'm on some Jamaica Blue Mountain that Paul & I brought back from Jamaica.  So tasty in the french press.

My Story

Since the beginning of 2012 I have become pretty health obsessed. In February I decided I would work out every day at lunch.  A couple months later I started watching what I ate.  On May 20th I ran the Oberstdorf half-marathon with a time of 1:49:55 (350m elevation; avg. 8:23/mile) and got second in my age class as well as 21st woman overall.  I was addicted.  I had never won anything athletic (or much otherwise) as an adult.  Almost immediately I signed up for a marathon (Koln, October 14, 2012).  I trained regularly and then got restless.  I was in great shape, why should I wait until October?  So I signed up for the Monschau Marathon. 

I trained throughout the summer and started exploring a vegetarian diet, a nutritarian diet and a paleo diet.  I'm in the process of working out what will work best for me, but I feel a lot healthier having cut most meat, dairy, refined grains and added sugar out of my diet. 

On August 5th, I went on a hike with a couple of crossfit trainers and a bunch of friends.  Tim & Elisa had told me about crossfit, but running was my thing, so I didn't pay too much attention.  The hike was so much fun!  We did all sorts of crossfit workouts along the way.  I've gone to local crossfit sessions a few times and absolutely love it.  I'm starting to feel tough like I never have before.  It is already a big challenge trying to balance the two training methods, but I'm excited to try it. 

I ran the Monschau Marathon (my first) on August 12th and finished at 4:06:10 (750m elevation; avg. 9:27/mile).  I didn't walk, I was third in my age class and 22nd woman overall.  I was feeling pretty great up until mile 19, when the hurt set in.  I put on my headphones and somehow powered through the last 7 miles.  I'm pretty sure I was nearly crying as I crossed the finish line.  But I had made it.  I always felt like a  runner, but now I was a marathoner. 

Me immediately post-marathon, Paul & me at the awards ceremony
I'm hoping to drop my time for Koln in October with a blend of crossfit and running, and I will be joining my dad for Maratona di Roma on March 17, 2013.  I'm looking for a half marathon or a fun Christmas-y race in December, but haven't nailed anything down yet. 

I've never been overweight or had any real health problems, but I was no where near as active as I need to be from ages 16-23.  I'm in the best shape of my life and I don't want to backslide.  I really feel changes in my body and I feel like I could become competitive or at least reach a lot of my fitness goals over the next couple of decades. 

My biggest longterm goal right now is the Leadville 100 mile race in August of 2014.  26.2 miles hurt a lot, I can't even imagine running 100 miles at this point.  But, I'll take it one step at a time.  If I can train for and successfully run a marathon I believe I can do much more.  This blog is basically a way to make me accountable, at least to myself.  My goal is to post regularly about my training, diet, progress and my travels.  Since moving to Europe it's getting hard to keep track of all I've seen!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crossfit Isn't a Joke

Today was my third crossfit session at the Chievres gym.  There were a few people there that I handn't worked out with before, and none of us are too advanced.  We chose our own workout which happened to be:

Wall Balls (10 lbs)
Box Jumps (20 in.)
Kettlebell Swings (15 lbs)

Considering what I had done the day before, this was quite a challenge. 

40 Box Jumps
30 Burpees
20 Back Squats (35 lbs)
30 Burpees
40 Box Jumps

30 Bear Complexes (24 lbs)

But I love being challenged.  It's great to be around other people that want to get in better shape and don't mind sweating a whole lot to do it.  I never would have gotten through the workout without having other people to keep me going.  I didn't eat anything unhealthy today... for maybe the first time ever?

B: mangos, banana, strawberry, walnuts, chia seed
L: vegan chili
D: sesame encrusted salmon, quinoa, sauteed spinach & mushrooms
Dessert: A giant smoothie made with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple juice & coconut milk.