Monthly Archives: October 2010

No pain no gain?

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about the impending Marathon which is now 20 days away – not that anyone’s counting.  How the heck I am actually going to run 26.2 miles is beyond me.  Some people say that it’s a lot easier if you think about it in increments (four 5 milers, and then a six-mile run with whatever you have left).  But regardless of how I think about the run,  I know that it’s going to hurt.  A lot.  And no matter how much you prepare yourself, you cannot prepare yourself for the pain that your body feels around mile 20 when you’ve run out of gas.

This morning I was perusing the health section of the New York Times when I chanced upon this SUPER interesting article on how professional athletes are so good because they are able to push past the pain (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/18/pushing-past-pain-to-improve-performance/?ref=health).  Mary Wittenberg, president of New York Road Runners states, “Mental tenacity — and the ability to manage and even thrive on and push through pain — is a key segregator between the mortals and immortals in running.”  Granted, we aren’t elite athletes that are vying for medals, but the article goes on to argue that even mere mortals can benefit from training your brain to endure pain.

One of the most interesting takeaways from this article is that elite athletes focus on the activity that they are doing rather than trying to take their minds off of it.  Dr. Jeroen Swart, a sports medicine physician who has done research on this topic states, “Our hypothesis is that elite athletes are able to motivate themselves continuously and are able to run the gantlet between pushing too hard — and failing to finish — and underperforming.”

So whether you’re climbing a grueling hill in spinning class, swimming your 20th lap, or running intervals around a track, rather than trying to take your mind off of the discomfort of the activity, focusing on your form, your surroundings and your competitors may help you improve your performance.  Or at the very least, help you get through the end in one piece!

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Important PSA that may save your life

Hey folks.  So today I’m writing about something that has nothing to do with nutrition — but honestly I feel so traumatized that I had to say something.

This morning, I went out for a short run on the West Side Highway.  I was just hitting my stride 5 minutes in, when I saw in front of me a woman lying on the ground and a young man holding a bike.  As I approached I could hear her screaming in pain.  I saw in the distance some construction workers looking on.  I got closer and asked what was going on and the guy told me that she was running and he was crossing the bikepath too fast and ran into her.  I got closer and looked at her arm, and the bike appeared to be attached somehow, then she tryed to touch it and screamed “I think the brake pedal went through my arm.”  I didn’t want to touch her arm for fear of damaging something, but it was very clear that the brake pedal was stuck in it, and although she wasn’t bleeding, this was incredibly serious.  I yelled to one of the construction workers to call 911.  Another biker stopped and tried to detach the rest of the bike from her while we held the bike steady.  We stood there for 15 minutes, trying to keep her calm and waited until emergency services got there.  Two firetrucks and two ambulances came and swarmed on the path, and we stepped aside to let the professionals take over.  They managed to saw the handlebars from the bike, so they could take her to the hospital with the brake pedal in her arm.  After I spoke to some police they took her away.  The brake pedal had punctured her brachial artery.  I hope to God that she is ok.

I am writing because this can happen to anyone.  We all need to be aware of ourselves and our surroundings.  Bikers — always watch the path, be aware of signs (especially the yellow yield ones), and know the rules of the road.  Runners — it’s so easy to tune out your surroundings with music blaring in your ears, but always obey the rules of the road and keep your eyes open.

After the accident, I continued on my run, shaking the whole time, and thanking God for every step I took.  Two seconds earlier that could’ve been me.

The perfect vegetable

With this fall weather in the air, I’ve been craving one of my favorite foods — butternut squash.  It is by far my favorite vegetable (although it is TECHNICALLY a fruit because it has seeds).  While my Dad may disagree with me on this one, preferring his orange cheez-its, the tangerine flesh of butternut squash is a nutritional powerhouse.  It provides plenty of dietary fiber, vitamin C, it is also provides significant amounts of potassium, good for muscle recovery and bone health.  Perhaps its most significant health benefit is that it provides beta-carotene, a vitamin that is shown to enhance immunity and guard against various types of cancer.  Pretty sweet, huh?

Butternut squash is great in soups, stews,  mashed up (like potatoes), and thrown into pastas.  But my favorite way to make it is roasting, which brings out it’s delicious sweet flavor.

Skinny roasted squash:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Take 1 butternut squash, cubed into one inch pieces.  Toss pieces in a baking dish covered with cooking spray.

Add 1 tsp walnut oil and 2 tsp brown sugar.  Add salt and pepper (just eyeball it).  I usually throw a little more cooking spray just to coat all the pieces and toss them around to make sure all the different ingredients coat the squash.

Pop these little suckers in the oven for 30 minutes or until browned and tender (make sure to flip them at the 15 min mark)

Enjoy a a side dish, in salads (I make a mean butternut squash, goat cheese and chickpea salad), or as a delicious snack!

Our diets, our selves

Every night before I go to sleep, I brush my teeth, read a book, and write in my journal.  My food journal.

Sounds a little odd right?  But let me let you in on a little secret — food journaling helped me lose  almost 40 pounds and is probably one of the most effective and least expensive weight loss tools that I know.  In fact, a weight loss study conducted by the Kaiser Permanent Center for Health Research found that “participants who kept a food journal lost almost double the weight of their nonjournaling counterparts”.  Food journaling was the single best predictor of whether participants in this study would lose weight, trumping exercise habits, age, and body mass index!

If you’re looking to lose 40, 20, or even 5 pounds, food diaries can be incredibly powerful because not only do you get a sense of what you’re eating during the day and can make more balanced choices, it provides a sense of accountability.  So if you eat that chocolate chip cookie at lunch, it counts!  The trick to food diaries is that you be as HONEST as possible.  Eating with a purpose — that you’re hungry, becomes more of a focus, rather than mindlessly munching throughout the day.  Food diaries are also great if you have any digestive problems or energy issues because they can give you a great sense of what foods upset your stomach, how satisfying things were, and how much energy you gained from having eaten them.

So how do you start keeping a food diary?  Keith Bachman, MD, describes the process quite well, “Keeping a food diary doesn’t have to be a formal thing. Just the act of scribbling down what you eat on a Post-It note, sending yourself e-mails tallying each meal, or sending yourself a text message will suffice. It’s the process of reflecting on what you eat that helps us become aware of our habits, and hopefully change our behavior.”

The simple act of becoming more aware of what you’re eating can help you reevaluate your diet and make healthier choices.  Furthermore, food journaling can help you understand the circumstances which may cause you to pig out or eat unhealthily (stress, sitting close to a vending machine at work, etc..) and help you to combat those circumstances.

While I don’t write in a food journal regularly anymore, from time to time when I feel like I’ve been making unhealthy choices I’ll scribble my meals down for a couple days to get back on track.  Food journaling isn’t about obsessively detailing every morsel you put in your mouth, it’s about getting a general sense of your diet and finding constructive ways to improve it.  It’s about recognizing your pitfalls and celebrating your strengths and taking control of your food choices, one day at a time.