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All posts for the month September, 2011

Doubt Your Limits

Published September 26, 2011 by Jasmine

I haven’t posted in awhile, but this past week was a break through for me. Ever since I started running this past January, my runs have always been run/walk intervals. Prior to July I hadn’t been following any plan, just whatever one I made up for that day! I even did run/walk intervals when I completed my first half-marathon this past July. After running the half I decided I was going back to square one.  I was going to start an official run/walk program like Couch to 5k so that I could build a solid running base.  I wanted to be able to run without walking, but didn’t think I would be able to do it without starting over and building a solid base.

One day when I was talking about one of my runs on Facebook, a friend told me I needed to stop walking. He told me walking was my crutch. I didn’t necessarily agree with him. I was out of running for a little over two months with an IT band issue. This was only about my sixth run after starting up again, and even on my one minute running intervals I was questioning how I made it through a half-marathon. I didn’t think there was any way I could run without walking. My friend told me I needed to go out and run until I could no longer run (it didn’t matter how slow I was running), but once I stopped that was it.  I would need to walk the rest of the distance. I would need to continue doing this on every run until I could run the entire distance. Another great piece of advice he gave me was that you either run for time or distance, but never both unless you are in a race. So I had a challenge for my next run, and I am not going to lie, it scared me. I told him I probably would only be able to make it two to three miles, and in my head I was thinking “crap, I don’t know if I can even make it two miles without walking.”

It was time to run. I knew that in order to have any kind of endurance I was going to have to start really, really SLOW.

So I started out as slow as I could go without walking. I made it a mile, and I had to stop for a minute to stretch my calves as I was getting shin splints. For me the first mile of any run always seems to be difficult probably because the body is just warming up.  I think this particular run was supposed to be four miles or so. So as I started up again I kept thinking how am I going to make it another three miles.  I DID IT! I ran 3.75 miles without walking. I think I was speechless.  I didn’t even think I was going to make it two miles, and I did almost double. I was stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. I even had even to negative splits which has never happened.  My pace always get slower towards the end of a run. I remember the first time I ran outside, it was about 2.3 miles, I didn’t run the entire distance, and I am pretty sure I never wanted to run outside again.

This past Sunday I went for my last long(er) run before the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Mile this Sunday October 2nd. I was aiming for eight to ten miles, and I was hoping to run the first six to eight. I made it 5.16 miles (4.93 running…the first .29 were my five minute warm-up) before I faced my worst race fear…having to poop! Yes, you read that right! I have had GI tract/digestive issues my entire life. They are only exacerbated by the fact that I refuse to use public bathrooms, unless I have to pee, in which case I squat. So the thought of having to use a porta-potty during a race disgusts me even if it is just to pee. If it happens, it happens and I will have to suck it up because I won’t be sneaking off in the bushes. In order to avoid this, I just take an Immodium or two or three before the race begins.  Before leaving the house Sunday my stomach wasn’t feeling well, but I thought I would be okay. Turns out I was wrong!! In fact, at one point (while I was calling for someone to come pick me up) I actually had to sit down because I was afraid if I didn’t I was going to poop my pants. So I am hoping I got that fear out of the way, and everything will be good on Sunday! So I didn’t make my distance, but I had another victory.  I ran 4.93 miles without walking! I still can’t believe, I, did that. I’m still slow, my pace actually slowed down after the third mile.  Right now I am not worried speed, and I won’t worry about it until I can run a decent distance without walking.

He was right, walking was my crutch. I realized that the reason those one minute running intervals seemed so hard is because I was running too fast for my body. It wasn’t a sustainable pace for me, but I figured since I was only running a minute I better make it fast. What I realized in these last runs is that anytime it starts getting difficult and my breathing is labored, I need to slow down regardless of how slow I think I am going. That is how I am going to make it without walking. Start doubting your limits, you might surprise yourself!

Gluten Free…Is It For Me?

Published September 15, 2011 by Jasmine

I love to eat! I particularly love to eat sweets. Lately my three favorites have been: 1) Ghiradelli 60 or 72% Dark Chocolate squares; Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate and Caramel squares; and orange scones from Au Bon Pain. My favorite non-sweet snack is a double jalapeno cheddar bagel also from Au Bon Pain. And I wonder why my weight is constantly fluctuating! If you are working out to lose weight, make sure you are watching what you eat.  When it comes to weight loss, your diet trumps exercise.  If you are simply looking to maintain your weight, exercise will be more important.

So back to today’s topic.  I am in a class at the gym called E.A.T. which stands for Education, Accountability, and Teamwork. In all honesty I wouldn’t be in the class except for the fact I had free Lifetime dollars to use and the trainer is great, she is very knowledgeable and passionate when it comes to nutrition. Each week we have a new topic and a new challenge.  This week our topic was gluten, and our challenge was to go gluten-free for a week. I’m on day two and so far it is not so bad. I am not a big bread, cereal or pasta eater.  My downfall will be baked goods, and my double jalapeno cheddar bagel!

I decided to write this post because I wanted to share what I learned in case it could help someone else. Gluten doesn’t just affect those with celiac disease. “Non-celiac gluten intolerance is a lesser-understood but no-less-serious condition capable of igniting inflammation, the first stop on a path toward chronic illness.  Yet not all doctors understand the condition or take it seriously,” says naturopathic doctor Donielle Wilson, ND. So just because a doctor tells you that you don’t have celiac disease that does not mean that you don’t have an intolerance to it. There are two ways to determine if you have an intolerance to gluten.  1) You can have your blood tested for IgG antibodies.  2) If you want a free test, you can eliminate gluten from your diet for two to four weeks, and then reintroduce it. If your symptoms (which I will discuss shortly) improve without it, but come back when reintroduced, you have an intolerance to gluten.  Only about 1% of Americans have celiac disease, but 30-40% of Americans have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

The problem with eating gluten if you have a sensitivity to it is that it causes inflammation in your body. It damages your intestinal lining, and undigested food particles get through gaps in the damaged lining and enter your blood stream. The immune system then treats those particles as bacteria or a virus, thus causing more inflammation. According to the 2002 New England Journal of Medicine, at least 55 different disorders have been linked to eating gluten. A few examples are anemia, epilepsy, type 1 diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and hypothyroidism.

Gluten is primarily found in the following grains: wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, and sometimes oats (due to cross-contamination). So what is the big deal? Why does gluten cause so many problems? Grains have only been around for about 15,000 years, but humans have been around for about 2 million years. For many, many years we never had grains, and many of our bodies have not yet adapted to them. However, the average American consumes 150 pounds of wheat each year. You are among the average American if you eat toast or cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner, or 100 calorie snack packs. It adds up quick!

So do you have an intolerance to gluten? There are a number of possible symptoms, and some people will have no symptoms at all. Keep in mind that symptoms can be delayed for up to a few days after eating gluten. The following are possible symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Gas or belching, especially after meals
  • Indigestion
  • Swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes or issues
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Bone density loss
  • Irritability
  • Depression
Obviously many of these symptoms could be indications of something else.  So the best thing to do is cut gluten out of your diet and see if the symptoms go away. I personally have many of the symptoms and have had them for quite some time. As far as bowel movements go, I feel like I am always at one extreme or the other.  The next three sentences might be TMI so skip ahead if you would like.  A few years ago I was just doubled over with pain in my stomach.  I went to the doctor and they did a few x-rays.  He told my I was literally full of shit.  I ended up having to take a prescription laxative for two weeks. I have digestion issues…seems like more often than not I have an upset stomach after eating. I swell/retain water like we are in a drought. I am always tired, lately I believe this is due to my decreasing hematocrit. (I thought working out was supposed to give you more energy?) I also get a fair amount of headaches. So this gluten-free week will be interesting.  The only problem is that I have been feeling sick to my stomach for about five weeks now, so I may not actually notice a big difference because something else is going on in my body.
So if you are anything like me, the first question is what can I eat?
  • Meats: chicken, turkey, beef, buffalo, lamb (stay away from processed or imitation meat)
  • Fish, shellfish, tuna
  • Eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Beans, lentils, legumes
  • Nuts, seeds, nut butters
  • Oils
  • Grains: rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, teff, sorghum
If you are a big bread and pasta fan, there are gluten free options available.  However, it is always best to opt for foods that are naturally gluten-free. So if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above I challenge you to go gluten-free for at least a week and see how you feel.  I would love to hear from those who try it.
I would like to thank my friend, and trainer, Sherry for sharing all this great information with me this week!

The Base and Summit

Published September 5, 2011 by Jasmine

I recently came across Bill Phillips book “Transformation: The MINDSET You Need, The BODY You Want, The LIFE You Deserve” and decided to embark on his 18 week transformation. Each week I will be posting a blog talking about the transformation for that week. Most of the blog will be directly from his book with my thoughts interspersed. I hope to hear that many of you will join me and embark on your own transformation. What do you have to lose? 18 weeks are going to pass whether you start or not, so you may as well start now!

In order to set any goal you need to know your base and your summit. Your base is where you are starting from, and the summit is where you want to go. Without these two coordinates it would be impossible to measure your progress and success. Once you’ve clearly defined those points, then and only then is it possible to choose the right path for getting there. Once you get started, you have to take it one step at a time and stay focused on the moment you’re in. This last statement is so important. How many times have we missed things because we are so rushed, and only thinking about what we have to do next? Runners, how often do you actually enjoy the moment you are in? Probably not often as we are paying attention to so many other things that don’t really matter in that moment.

The beginning of this chapter he is talking about climbing a mountain, hence the “base” and the “summit.” As I was reading it, it reminded me of running. It is also essential to properly plan and prepare for the climb before you begin. This is especially true for long runs and marathon training. What route do we need to take to make sure we cover the proper distance for this week’s training run? What should I wear? Am I properly fueled and hydrated? And, once you get started, you have to take it one step at a time and stay focused on the moment you’re in. This is exactly on point for runners. Any distance can seem daunting depending on your background in running. You can’t look at the mileage as a whole because it might seem too overwhelming. So you take it step by step, mile by mile only focusing on the moment you are in not the fact that you have to do 5, 10, 20 miles. As Walter Elliot so wisely stated, “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Another lesson I learned is that there is a high probability that you’ll experience adversity, even setbacks, during the climb. How many of you have wanted to quit during a run? I know I have. We are not always going to have perfect conditions or perfect runs. You will have some setbacks, but you’ll also have some comebacks. Remember, what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. Any time I’d slip and fall, I’d simply reach out my hand and someone in the group would be there to help lift me back up. I know that many of us don’t run in a group, but we don’t have to read this literally. One of the greatest attributes of the running community is how supportive it is. We know the struggles of others because at one point or another we have been there. Anytime we have a bad run, get injured, feel like quitting all we have to do is reach out to our running friends for inspiration and support. There were times when I didn’t ever think I would get to the summit; it just seemed too far to go, and my body was doing a remarkable job of convincing my mind that I had reached my limit. But halfway up the mountain is never a good time to quit. I think we can all relate to this. Our bodies are capable of so much more than we do or ever will give them credit for. Yet we still allow our minds to dictate the limits of our bodies. Halfway through a run is never a good time to quit. Anytime you feel like giving up, just remember all the reasons you held on for so long.

The simplest meaning of transformation is to go from one state of being to another. Whenever we try to change ourselves from the outside in, it never lasts. You see, as long as we are still the same on the inside, at the level of our thoughts, beliefs, patterns, and emotions, we simply haven’t undergone true transformation.

Where are you now in regards to your state of being?

This transformation will require work on your part each week. The goal of this week is to identify where you are now (base) and where you want to be in 18 weeks (summit) in various areas of your life. The first set of questions will help you determine where you are now in regards to your heart and soul; emotions; mindset; and your body. The second set of questions will help you determine where you want to be in 18 weeks in regards to your heart and soul; emotions; mindset; and your body.

  1. Having looked inward to do some soul searching, three heartfelt reasons for making the decision to transform my health and life are? The deeper and more heartfelt your reasons, the better and more satisfying your results will be.
  2. In recent days and weeks, the three most predominant inner feelings I have been experiencing are? It is important to both identify and then document your feelings at the beginning of this process.
  3. Three patterns of thinking or beliefs which may have limited my ability to change in the past are? It is important to bring these kinds of limiting thoughts and beliefs into the light of our conscious awareness so we can see them for what they are: misperceptions.
  4. Three objectively verifiable statements which reflect my physical condition right now are? To describe your starting point in even more detail, you can document health indicators such as your total cholesterol level and blood pressure. To complete the process of self-evaluation, it’s time to take a before photo.
I need you to look forward to a point 18 weeks from now and envision what you want the results of your transformation to be.
  1. Looking forward, 18 weeks from now, three changes I will have made that show I’m more aligned with what’s important to me at a heart and soul level are? What I believe you’ll discover by going through this process is that your heartfelt reasons for making the decision to transform will become part of your new and improved life.
  2. Looking forward, 18 weeks from now, the three most predominant inner feelings which describe what (emotions) I’ll be experiencing are? Very often, the most profound changes people experience by going through this process are in their emotional condition. That’s because, more than anything else, we experience life through our feelings. It’s not really about being out of shape or overweight that bothers us; it’s how we feel about it.
  3. Three new patterns of thinking or beliefs which expand my ability to make healthy changes for the better will be? …when you set your mind in the right direction, your transformation will take off.
  4. Three objectively verifiable statements which will describe the new and improved condition of my body 18 weeks from now are? Please note that these statements are your physical health transformation goals. It’s important to write them in a way that’s specific, measurable, and objectively verifiable. Saying “I want to be in great shape,” isn’t enough. That’s like telling the GPS system in your car that you want to, “Go to some place that’s really beautiful.”
I hope you are as excited about this process as I am. Once you have your goals written down, make sure to read them everyday. Visualize yourself as the person you want to be, and then start acting as if you were that person. Before you know it, you’ll no longer be acting!

DISCLAIMER: Most of the information contained in this post is from the book “Transformation” by Bill Phillips. Everything directly (i.e. word for word) from the book is italicized, and my thoughts are in normal font.

Starting Over

Published September 5, 2011 by Jasmine

Fall is in the air, and I just love this time of year. For many, tomorrow is the start of a new school year, which to me always signified a new start. I miss school dearly, and if I had someone to finance my education I would be in school forever! I will always be a lifelong student, just not always in a real classroom rather in the classroom of life. I love to learn, to read, to study.  I love sharing what I learn just as much. Just as we exercise our bodies we need to exercise our minds.

I decided that I am starting over with my running. I was on a very consistent schedule with my running up until my first half-marathon in July.  Since then I have been struggling with an IT band issue and have done very little running, or any other physical activity. I can definitely tell that my aerobic capacity has decreased, and that disgusts me. In addition to the IT band issue, I found out my hematocrit (volume of red blood cells) is low.  This explains why I am so tired and worn out by 1:00 or 2:00 everyday. Another thing that I realized was once I started running outside, hence not getting to the gym, I quit biking, stair climbing, and strength training. I need to get back to place where I am doing all of those things.

Another reason I want to start over is that I never built a solid base when I first started running in January. The only problem with starting over is that I am signed up for a 10 mile race on October 2nd. The farthest I have been able to run in the last two months is four miles due to pain in my knee caused by my IT band. So I am doing a modified “start-over.” I am sticking with the mileage that will get me prepared for the 10 mile, but am following a run-walk program from the beginning (if that makes any sense).

When I first started running I was following a program that called for running five days a week. Following this schedule I eventually stopped cross-training as well as strength training. I have since realized what a mistake that was, along with never stretching! This time around I am going to do my best to stick to three days of running, and two days of cross/strength training. I am also going to try and sneak in some pilates and yoga.  I have never tried either of them, but believe they will be beneficial.

I have learned a lot dealing with this IT band issue. The number one thing I learned was how indispensable stretching and using the foam roller are. I hated taking time to stretch as I was already at the gym for too long. I learned that my glutes were weak, and weren’t firing when they were supposed to be. For the first three months or so, I did all of my running on the treadmill. Once I ran outside for the first time, I realized how much work the treadmill was actually doing for me. I think my biggest piece of advice for new runners is stay off of the treadmill if you can, and stretch. I’ve learned that my hips are really tight. I can imagine this has an impact on my running because my range of motion is limited. I have also learned that I carry an enormous amount of stress and tension in my neck and shoulders.

So although it has sucked not being able to run without pain, it has been a learning experience. There were numerous issues I had going on that I wasn’t aware of, and this IT band issue was my body’s way of making me slow down, take note, and learn. I can’t imagine how great running is going to feel once I have a good running base, and all of these kinks worked out.