Thursday, December 19, 2013

Haiti Update: Two Weeks!

We are now exactly two weeks away from leaving for Haiti and things are (very quickly) falling into place! Our passports have arrived, we've completed required shots and immunizations and submitted all the official paperwork. In the past few weeks I've had the blessing of connecting with others to better prepare myself for what's to come and to make the most of my trip.

First, I did some research regarding Haiti, food, nutrition and hunger. According to the 2012 World Hunger Map by the World Food Programme, Haiti ranks a 5, meaning greater than 35% of their population is malnourished :( The biggest need seems to be in improving access to locally produced foods for the most vulnerable families in Haiti.

It's hard to see Haiti on this map so click this link to view the interactive version.
Second, through twitter, I was able to meet and strike up email conversation with another registered dietitian named Kristina who has served in Haiti in the past. According to her website:

"My mission, as an R.D., is to work towards reducing the rate of malnutrition in third world countries through nutrition education, menu planning, meal costing, and helping communities be creative with nutritious dense foods available in their markets. I believe in being a good steward to the earth, to local communities, and the body. I strive to make nutrition recommendations that are sustainable, nutritious, cost-effective, and helping to support locals."

She's cute as can be!
Kristina has been a huge help by giving me a better perspective of what to expect from a nutritional standpoint, educating me on the food culture of Haiti and mobilizing me with resources to take with me to more affectively address hunger in orphanages (which we will be visiting) and malnutrition. Thank you Kristina!

Third, I met with my coach's lovely wife, who has served in Haiti on several occasions in the past and happens to be VERY familiar with Jacmel. Personal perspective from those who've been there before = priceless.

We also recently had a skype session to "meet" our Haiti team, consisting of 6 students from Shenandoah University, which was pretty fun! Everyone was stressed regarding their upcoming finals but buzzing with excitement regarding what's to come! The meeting was productive and we were able to hash out some important details regarding the trip, traveling, final fundraising efforts, etc. Special shout out to Abigail Trader who is heading up the group from SU and handling the majority of the logistics through CCH. Our team seems like such a lovely group and I can't wait to meet them all in person.

Finally, our fundraising deadline has passed and thanks to a few last minute donations, I'm SO Happy to say that we met our fundraising goal!! Jumping into this Haiti mission's trip with little notice and little time to fundraise was a huge leap of faith... I am amazed by God providing to fill in the gaps and we're ever so appreciative to those who have helped to make this trip a reality. Thank You!

The next two weeks are going to FLY by. Between work, training, MOVING (yes, we're moving TODAY!) and Christmas, I am going to be one busy girl. Exciting times, indeed :D

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Crew's Perspective: Hellgate 100k Ultramarathon

Every athlete seems to have a "special race." One that they hold near and dear to their heart and make a concerted effort to return to year after year. For my husband, that race is the Hellgate 100k.

Set in the Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia, this point to point trail ultra, advertised as 66.6 miles by Race Director David Horton, seems to have a special aura among it's athletes. It's mysterious, starting at midnight and running through the night. It's challenging, held in the unpredictable winter weather of mid-December while featuring close to 13,000 ft of climbing. It's special, the volunteers, aid stations, pre-race dinner and awards all make for a fun adventure and quality race experience.

This year was my husband's 7th attempt at Hellgate. The race is his baby, he's only missed one year since he first raced in 2006. His goal is 10 finishes before turning 30, and I have no doubt he'll be successful! Since he says he's not going to post a race report, I decided to share my perspective of his race and the ins and outs of a typical race crew experience.


We arrived Friday evening around 6:30pm to Camp Bethel, the location of the finish line, and enjoyed some pre-race festivities. I personally was ecstatic to be in attendance without the pressure of competing! We dined, chatted with friends then settled in for Dr. Horton's typical pre-race talk.

Pre-race shenanigans: With Jordan on the left and Dr. Horton on the right!
Center photo by Scott Livingston.
After prepping his bags, Jordan and I along with crew teammates Matt and Kelly headed to the starting line. With a midnight start, we had about an hour to rest beforehand. I was relegated to the trunk of our Honda Fit, along with the dog, and managed to snooze for a few minutes before awaking to familiar voice of Dr. Horton on the bullhorn taking roll call of athletes before the start. After a flurry of activity leading to a gathering at the start, the national anthem was sung (by the athletes together) and at promptly 12:01am the athletes headed off into the cold, dark mountains. Hellgate had begun.

The start. Photo by Stephen Hinzman.
Shortly after the start all of the crew members retreated to our vehicles to make our way to aid station 2. There are 9 aid stations in the race, but due to crowding, parking and other issues, crew only has access to a select few. Shortly after 1 AM (WELL beyond my bed time I should say), the first athletes arrived (approx mile 7). A few minutes later my husband came through with a quick wave, no stopping or special needs, he just kept on moving. A bit anti-climatic, yes, but this is the reality with being support crew: wait, wait, wait.... wave, wait some more...

After the last athlete had ascended the mountain, the crew drivers caravanned to aid station 5, Jennings Creek aka the "breakfast" aid station. During the drive it began to sleet/snow A LOT, only 4-5 hours earlier than predicted. My stomach turned at the thought of Jordan being out there in the cold mountains, hoping his gear would be substantial enough to keep him warm and dry.

Aid Station 5 was roughly mile 27 in the race and the first athletes were predicted to arrive around 5-5:15am, so we had the opportunity to sleep for about two hours. Two of us were in the front seat, one in the middle and the dog in the trunk. It was tight and not exactly comfortable. I slept for about an hour in the drivers seat with my legs on the dashboard straddling the steering wheel (fun!) before awakening to the sound of more rain/sleet/snow. At this point (4am) I was too worried to sleep, so I got out of the car and headed down to the aid station to wait.
Cold, dark but festive with Christmas lights!
I stood by the fire and watched as one by one the top runners came through. Many familiar faces, some unfamiliar. Some hurting badly early, others cruised through with no issues. Nonetheless it was interesting to watch each athletes style, nutrition strategies in action and general reaction to the challenges of the race. Fellow VT Ultra-runner Rudy Rutemiller was running solid in 3rd place overall... and Jordan came a while later right around 6am. A little behind his usual pace but looking great overall. We refilled his hydration pack, encouraged him to eat and with a kiss, I sent him on his way.

Upon leaving this aid station, I handed over the car keys to Kelly who took over with the driving responsibilities. After going through the night on a little over an hour's rest, I desperately needed sleep (and NOT while behind a steering wheel!). I guess I was tired because I next awoke to daylight and the parking lot of the next aid station, #7 Bearwallow's Gap (mile 43).

The sunrise over the mountains (that I missed!) Photo by Guy Love.
The further along you get in the race, the more spread out the athletes become and the more waiting that's involved. We hung out here for a good 2 hours, sitting by the fire to stay warm and listening to Horton's antics. It wouldn't be a race without Horton standing around making fun of you (thanks Horty!) Standing around it got VERY cold quickly, so I'm thankful for the fire and to Kelly for bringing me an awesome superhero onesie to wear and keep warm. What fun they were too!

The athletes slowly trickled in and each was welcomes to cheers, cowbells and the smiles of willing volunteers. We waited patiently for Jordan and he finally arrived, moving steadily and all smiles!

Here he is finishing one of the toughest sections of the course, nicknamed the "devil trail."

At this point he took off with his first pacer, Robbie, to assist him through the next trail section. The rest of us drove up the mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway to aid station 8, Bobbet's Gap. As we ascended the mountain, the weather conditions deteriorated and a steady downpour of freezing rain set in. Kelly and I planned the rest of our journey and I finally changed out of my PJs in preparation for running later. Jordan came through 50 miles close to 11 am, switched pacers, ate some more food, put on a water proof jacket (smart move) and began what is called the "forever section." I have run this section with him probably for the past 5 years, but this year my pacing duties were pushed back to the very end (with no complaints by me!)

Gotta love the enthusiasm!
Aid station 9 Day Creek: The final aid station! Kelly and I arrived with an hour to spare and Robbie went to get some MUCH needed coffee. We repacked the car, which by this time was a bit of a disaster, and then stood by the fire to keep warm. It was steadily spitting cold rain, which wasn't exactly motivating to me to get ready and run. Nonetheless, I changed and set off with the dog running backwards on the course to find my husband. After 12 hours of little sleep and sitting in a car, everything hurt! I was stiff beyond belief and barely moving up the mountain. Good thing I wasn't in a rush. About 15 minutes later, our paths intersected and we all turned around.

Jordan and his BFF Matt.
We made it back to the last aid station and then the two of us took off up the mountain, the final climb before the finish. Jordan had a garden burger (thanks Robbie!) in hand, and me, nothing. Just as he finished his burger, I realized just how little I had eaten all day, that I was actually quite hungry and bonking. NOT a good feeling when you're facing a 3 mile climb...and rule #1 of pacing is NO complaining to your athlete (but I might have anyways hehe).

Us taking off up the mountain
Photo by Robbie Poff.

We walked, holding hands, VERY slow moving but steadily covering the distance. Jordan gave me an update on the days events and I sang random songs. That's just how we roll! As we climbed higher, the temperature was noticeably dropping. It was also still raining and I was not in rain gear, which made for a very cold and wet Kristen. We were both exhausted, achey and now cold/wet, but we were together and nothing else mattered: misery loves company and we were happy.

At the top of the mountain, we crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway and reluctantly began running again. 3 miles of downhill... seems easy enough? It hurt... we were moving slower than usual and it seemed to drag on forever, so I joked that our slow moving just meant more time for us to spend together. Optimistic right?! The rain was relentless, in fact, it was getting worse, but the finish line eventually came into view and Jordan went on to finish his 7th Hellgate in a time of 14:23. 14+ hrs of running, no sleep, freezing rain/sleet/snow. Yup, he got the full Hellgate experience... !!

Photos by Robbie Poff, etc.
Hellgate is a special race for runners, crew members and volunteers alike. For me personally, this was only my 2nd time getting the full overnight experience! Honestly, I haven't been the best of "crew" for my husband in the past... I'll go ahead and confess that this girl needs her beauty rest and gets cranky on little sleep, so I usually show up in the morning at mile 43. Committing to the full thing was HARD, and I only ran 8 miles of the course. It's just simply incredible to see what these athletes can endure regarding the difficulty of the course, fueling for the distance and pushing through weather extremes. 

Inspiring? Absolutely. 

Insane? Most definitely. 

Is my husband amazing? Of course! 

Will I eventually run the entirety of Hellgate myself? Considering who I'm married too, probably so... just let me get past being scared of the dark first = P

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Food for Fuel: Mindful Munching for a Healthier Holiday Season
The holidays are never easy when it comes to diet and weight control. Every year, it seems to be a toss up between enjoying life and food and risking a layer of extra pounds by the time the new year rolls around. Luckily, it doesn't have to be that way and with a little extra mindfulness, you can have your cake and eat it too!

I recently participated in a webinar regarding mindfulness throughout the holiday season and followed-up with my latest wellness seminar at work "Food For Fuel: Mindful Munching for a Healthier Holiday Season." This time around, I had a VT dietetic intern to help me out, which was SO wonderful! She had a lot of great ideas to contribute, and having an extra two hands went a long way in making the presentation go more smoothly.

Anyways, here are some top take-away points and tips for navigating the holiday season:

Top Tip: Don't Take an All-or-Nothing Approach!

So you stuffed yourself as full as that turkey on Thanksgiving, don't let that turn into a downhill spiral for the remainder of the season. Each day is new and the opportunity to make healthful choices. Drop the guilt of overindulgence yesterday and live for a healthier today.

Prioritize Your Indulgences and Mind the 3-Bite Rule

The holidays usually mean indulgences surround you all on sides. Some days are overwhelming with the number of fatty, sugar-laden foods you will encounter this time of year. In advanced, make a list of "seasonal" items that make the holidays most special for you. Whether it be grandma's cheesecake or your co-workers sweet potato casserole, spend your indulgences on foods that are most meaningful and leave the cookies and other foods that are available year-round for another occasion.

Likewise, be aware that the first few bites of any treat tend to be the most satisfying. Share that piece of cake with a friend or spouse, or reassess after a few bites and ask yourself if you really want or need more to attain the same level of satisfaction. Sometimes less is more.

Make Family Time Active Time

The holidays are usually centered around gathering with those we hold near to our heart, whether it be friends or family. Use these occasions to your advantage as an opportunity to motivate each other. Spend quality time together in an active manner, whether it be playing at the park, a family run or walk or by participating in a local seasonal road race (santa shuffle, anyone?) Balance out the sitting around the fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa with something that will get your metabolism burning and release a few endorphins in the process!

My dad, sister and I enjoyed a quick run together during a recent family gathering.

Surround Yourself with Foods You Want to Eat

Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean your pantry and home have to be filled with cookies and desserts galore. Keep your pantry well-stocked with healthy essentials and the fridge packed with fresh produce. Out of sight, out of mind, so stick those cookies someplace they don't easily catch your eye and instead place a display of fresh fruit on the counter. Little changes in our food environment can make all the difference in the long run. Note: this is a great tip to follow year round!

Moderate Portion Sizes

When it comes to calorie control and balance, often moderation of portion size is the best approach. If you have the option, choose a smaller plate and you'll naturally eat less. Fill that plate once rather than returning on multiple occasions. Follow the my-plate model where possible: 1/2 a plate of fruits and veggies, 1/4 plate lean protein and 1/4 plate starch. For parties, it may be helpful to "pre-load" with a healthy snack such as an apple or salad to you don't arrive ravenous.


This year the holidays will be especially busy and chaotic for us. We are moving less than a week before Christmas, then leaving for our Haiti trip just over a week after. While I still haven't gotten completely back on track with my normal nutrition plan since Mountain Masochist, I've been practicing moderation to keep my indulgences in check. It's working out pretty well!

In health,

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting Back On Track

This past month has been about optimizing lazy-ness on the couch...
with a cuddly pooch of course!
I'm coming up on almost 4 weeks post-50 miler and the itch to get moving again is hitting hard! Lucky me, this week I started back with organized training and I couldn't be more happy about it. Surprisingly enough, I've missed the structure... and since I now know coach will probably read this... Hey coach, I've really missed you telling me what to do! :D

The past month of down time has been a good thing: I've put exercise on the back burner and let other life priorities take over (ahem, like work). As with the exercise, nutrition has also taken a back seat and, as I often preach to my resident's at work, I've been enjoying a much more liberalized diet. It's been fun and it's an important part of the "balance" thing. I may have put on a few pounds in the last month but that's totally okay!

The amazingly delicious chocolate lava cake
my boss made me for my 1 year work-aversary!

That being said, my mind and body are feeling rejuvenated and I am motivated to start working towards my next goal, which may possibly (read: most likely) be a spring marathon. It's been over a year since my last road marathon and I need to re-qualify for Boston if I expect to enter for 2015. I was originally not too excited about training for any marathon other than Boston, but this week I realized how much I've MISS road running and I've MISS the marathon-specific workouts. Though, I do not miss running in the COLD, which it definitely has been. Looking ahead to my biggest goal for 2014 (sorry, not telling yet!), I probably won't put in an all-out effort towards marathon training, but enough of an effort to PR and hopefully be well under my BQ standard of 3:35. Then again, I'll leave those details up to coach.

I get the feeling that things won't really pick up until after the holidays and after my trip to Haiti...  which too is okay as there's a lot going on in my life between now and then! More than anything though, I am looking forward to (slowly) getting back into the weight room, rebuilding cardiovascular fitness, getting back into the routine of cooking, eating healthier and re-establishing a more regular work-life routine. That being said, I gotta run ... the gym is calling my name!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Ya'll !

Monday, November 25, 2013

Food for Fuel: Roots & Veggies

The bounty of summer may be over, and with the temperatures we've seen this week, it looks as if fall may be over too. Not to worry though, as it's still possible to successfully build a diet around seasonal produce, even through the winter months!

I'm a little late in recapping my latest Food for Fuel talk at work since it took place oh, only 3 weeks ago ;) Oh well, life's been a bit busy for a few (very fun) reasons which I (might) tell you about (later). Anyways, November's edition of Food for Fuel was focused on fall-winter produce, Roots & Veggies!

Eating seasonally is a great way to enjoy the bounty of fresh produce without breaking the bank. Even though we're past the main gardening season of summer, there's still an abundance of fall and winter vegetables to choose from and experiment with. The following tips can help you to eating seasonally even through the chillier months of the year:

1. Learn to love squash... all varieties of it!

Acorn, butternut, spaghetti, hubbard, pumpkin... the list and possibilities go on and on! The most simple way to enjoy squash is to roast it in the oven. It can also be peeled and diced and incorporated into casseroles, soups, stuffings or stews. Of course, don't forget to save the seeds, season and enjoy as a delicious snack! Step outside your comfort zone and try a variety you've never tasted or heard of.

Our collection to date.
Since I haven't been a very good cook lately (read: no cooking whatsoever), the squash from our farm share has been piling up! The nice thing? It doesn't really go bad! The manager of our farm share said they would last until spring if kept in the right conditions... so I will be slowly working on picking off this pile. 

2. Fill up on greens.

Our winter farm share has been full of greens! Bok Choy, Kale, Collard Greens, Chard, etc. These greens can be eaten fresh, or sauteed or roasted. Have you tried a delicious kale salad or kale chips yet?! I've admittedly been slacking on my greens! Time to get back on track.

3. Experiment with root vegetables.

Some root veggies are more commonly used than others such as onions, carrots, potatoes, but what about rutabaga, turnips or beets? One nice thing about our farm share was that it exposed us to root vegetables we would not commonly buy. Not sure what to do with them? Incorporate into soup or toss with a little olive oil and bake for oven roasted vegetables. Beets and sweet potatoes can be wrapped in foil and baked whole. Make chips or fries, mash or make into an au gratin dish. The point is to play around, discover what you like best!

4. Satisfy with soups. 

What could be more comforting on a chilly day? Not only are soups a great way to pack a punch with veggies, broth based soups can leave you feeling fuller, longer, without the heavy calories. Add in beans, lentils or grains such as quinoa, brown rice or barley for added fiber.

Interested in learning more about benefits of and how to cook with common root vegetables? Download this fun handout :)

Recipe: Oven Roasted Vegetables

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, and since there will be no turkey for the Changs, I'll be looking to use up the massive quantities of root veggies we've been hoarding in our fridge. I made this recipe for oven roasted vegetables a few weeks back and it was delightful! Warm and comforting, perfect for the chilly nights that have now arrived. Enjoy!

Dice and combine: 

2 sweet potatoes, 1 lb white or fingerling potatoes, 3 small eggplant (I used fairytale variety), 4-5 beets, 2-3 large carrots. Adjust quantities as desired, feel free to include whichever vegetables you like best! Toss in a few (3-4) whole garlic cloves. Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, oregano. Bake @ 375 F for approximately 1 hour. Easy peasy!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Simple Tips for Choosing the Right Energy Bar

We are surrounded by an overwhelming number of choices each day when it comes to nutrition and choosing the right "products." While my philosophy is simple, eat and emphasize real foods, I also realize that energy bars and the like are a convenient option for the busy individual and CAN serve a positive purpose if used correctly.

I recently had a client ask me how to choose the "best" energy bar and what factors go into making that decision. Honestly, I was a bit caught off guard by the question! Simple, relevant, yet not something I commonly sit down to think about since I don't buy them too often. Here's a summary of my response and my (personal yet professionally-infused) criteria for picking a healthier energy bar:

  • For a snack, choose something that's 100-200 calories. In my book, anything 300+ would be considered more of a meal replacer (but truly depends on your overall calorie requirements and activity level).
  • Look for a combination of protein, carbs and fiber: 3-20g protein, less than 15-20g sugar and at least 2g fiber at a minimum. Be wary of bars with greater 20g protein (sorry, that's just not natural) and bars with excessive amounts of added sugars.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners. Just don't go there! I don't see them a whole lot in energy bars but some brands (i.e. Special K bars) do use them.
  • The shorter the ingredient list, the better! Look for ingredients such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, oatmeal, whole wheat flour, rice. Avoid bars with excessively long ingredient lists, especially if you have trouble recognizing or pronouncing a few of those ingredients. 
  • Added sugars and syrups of some kind are pretty routine with these bars. Look for those ingredients to be towards the end of the ingredients list, which means that they are in lower percentages that the good stuff.
  • Don't be fooled by health claims such as "all-natural" and "healthy." Many bars state these health claims and the criterial for including them are very loose.

I'm not loyal to or a fan of promoting any one brand, but I do think KIND bars are a great example for the many of the reasons I just explained:  

There is no perfect "energy bar." Different bars serve different needs, and the only way to truly control what goes into them is to make some at home (which I totally recommend!) If you haven't already tried making these quinoa energy balls, you should give'm a whirl!

There's a lot out there to choose from and try. Aim first to rely on real foods and make educated choices otherwise. As with all things, even if it's "healthy," keep moderation in consideration... if half your diet consist of these energy bars then you may want to reconsider =)

Eat happy, choose healthy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'm Re-Writing My Job Description

Today, in honor of my one-year anniversary working full-time as a Registered Dietitian, I'm reflecting on the professional and personal growth that I've experienced and the thankfulness that stems from having a job I love.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. 
~ William James

I think we all have an idea of what our "dream job" would look like. We go to school, get the education we need and then enter the workforce with hopes that we can be engaged in a manner that we're passionate about. You know, the whole "do what you love and never work a day in your life" thing. For me, since early college, that dream has been to be a dietitian.

Despite being a relatively reserved and shy individual, I found myself wanting a job that was built around interaction and not a desk. And as someone who struggled with their health throughout early college, I wanted to invest in a career that promoted health and wellness rather than the opposite. The combination has been wonderful and these days, I'm finding that I thrive off my daily interactions and the opportunity to share the "good news" that is health, nutrition and wellness.

A few weeks back, I participated in a corporate health and wellness fair. No big deal right? But after spending the morning interacting with a number of new individuals, engaging in uplifting conversation on small steps to making a healthier lifestyle less intimidating and more doable, I left grinning ear to ear, my heart full with a sense of purpose. On the long drive home, I reflected on how many people need to hear those words and have hope of making positive progress, that my role as a dietitian goes well beyond the food.

With that, I'd like to rewrite my job description to simply state:
Me at a recent wellness fair. I was incredibly stoked to spend a few hours in informal conversation, meeting new people and sending them in the right direction regarding heart health nutrition (area of focus for the day)
Yes, perhaps I am "tooting my own horn" with this one, but what I'm trying to get at is that I'm truly passionate about my role as a dietitian, that I do feel I can make a difference and that I want to live out my career with a purpose. In my eyes, there's much more to being dietitian than diet manipulation, nutrition education or being the "food police." Being a dietitian means promoting health, spreading hope that a better world does exist through cherishing and treating your body with respect, helping others to realize that eating healthy can be fun and a source of enjoyment rather than a daily frustration.

As a dietitian, my main goal is to enable people to take control over their nutritional quality of life. We all make daily decisions regarding food and I believe it's possible to make choices for chronic disease management, weight control and/or performance while also maintaining a high level of satisfaction. Food is a form of nourishment and life, not the enemy, and progress is about meeting people where they are now and instilling sustainable lifestyle changes rather than setting unrealistic expectations of attaining that non-existent "perfect" diet.

I like to think I look at the total package, taking one's overall lifestyle, emotions and relationship with food into context rather than simply stating "eat these foods and your world will be better." Because let's acknowledge reality: food is much more than just nutrition, it is a way of life. And if you're not enjoying what you eat, you're not truly living.
Whether it be blueberries or chocolate, it all "fits" in the big picture =)
As I mentioned, today marks my one-year anniversary at my first full-time job as the dietitian for Warm Hearth Village! I am blessed to say without a doubt that I love what I do and I love "my people." I have been entrusted with a role that goes way beyond the food in terms of building relationships with the residents, gaining their trust, earnestly listening to their needs and feedback and doing what I can to make their world a better place. Some days, a five minute conversation about life and a warm smile can be more beneficial than any dietary intervention I send their way.

The ability to make a difference is a gift we've all been entrusted with and it's with that very mindset that I am preparing for our medical mission trip to Haiti in January. While I hope to put my education and nutritional expertise to work for the greater good of the community down there, I know that my role in the mission and their daily struggles extend well beyond the food they eat.

Final thoughts, since November is all about thankfulness:

  • I am thankful for a wonderful family, to have a roof over my head, a kitchen to cook in and a source of daily nourishment.
  • I am thankful to be living out my dream job and that I can share my passion for food and nutrition while also spreading hope and happiness. 
  • I am thankful for the challenges and experiences that have given me such a deep appreciation for the gift that is health, and to understand the meaning of living life purposefully.
  • I am thankful for those whom I've had the opportunity to work with over the past year, that have made a difference in my life whether they realize it or not. 
  • And I am thankful for those who read this blog! I appreciate you listening to my random, happy musings about food, nutrition, wellness and whatever else I decide to write about =)

For me, this is just the beginning of a lifelong journey that is building a career and I can't wait to see where the years take me!

In Health,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Burn N' Learn: Real Food Approaches to Fueling Workouts

This past Thursday I had the pleasure of contributing to an unique event at The Weight Club that was a fun combination of exercise (burn), delicious food and sports nutrition (learn):

The exercise classes provided the opportunity to try something new, get in a great workout with the guidance of an instructor and camaraderie of a group setting all while jamming to great music. This was only my second real workout since MMTR, so I really enjoyed the motivation to get moving!

The evening started with a 30 minute session of B.A.S.I.C., a class based around functional fitness exercises of agility and stability drills, plyometrics, body weight exercises, interval conditioning, etc. I really enjoyed the combination of cardio and strength this class provided and the fast pace made for a lot of fun!

Finishing out B.A.S.I.C. with a superset of push-ups.
After a quick break, we moved into a 30 minute session of Bodypump,  a choreographed strength class that provides a full-body workout through the combination of weighted exercises at high reps. I choose to put the lightest weight on my bar as its been a while since I've lifted anything. Nonetheless, this class rocked my upper body (in a good way) and I could definitely tell the next day that I had worked my body well!

Getting ready for a set of overhead barbell presses.
Some back and shoulder work.
Yes, more push-ups. No wonder my upper body was so sore!
After everyone was sufficiently worn out, dinner catered by my favorite restaurant, Gillies, arrived! We were served a fresh array of salmon fish tacos, tofu stir fry, quinoa and brown rice... probably the best meal I've had in a while (probably because I didn't have to cook it too!) We ate, changed, chatted it up and I met a few new people in the process.

I apparently worked up an appetite because this plate was gone pretty quickly!
Once everyone was fed, full and ready to sit still, I took the "stage" and gave a 30 minute sports nutrition talk on Real Food Approaches to Fueling Workouts. Okay, I'll admit I was really nervous as it was my first time talking in this sort of setting, I had no slide show to rely on for visuals and people asked some tricky questions! Overall though, I tried to set the tone that it's important to rely on simple meals and whole foods over processed protein powders and bars, that sports nutrition is not an exact science (though much is evidence based) and that there are no miracle "superfoods" or pills to success, only functional foods.

Handout + Recipe + Snackage = a simple but successful setup.

Here's a bit of what I discussed:

Aim for a snack with simple carbohydrates for energy and moderate protein and fat to promote satiety
  • Apple Almond Snack Wrap
  • PB Banana Toast
  • Avocado Toast
  • Fruit Smoothie
  • Cereal with milk and berries
  • PB stuffed dates
  • Quinoa Energy Balls

Aim for a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates and lean protein to restock muscle glycogen stores and build muscle. Where possible, incorporate veggies to provide antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which are also important in the rebuild process!
  • Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry served over Quinoa
  • Chicken Wrap w/ Veggies
  • Cherry Dark Chocolate Smoothie
  • Chili served over Brown Rice
  • Greek Yogurt, PB & Blueberry Parfait
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Watermelon and Tart Cherries
  • Greens

First and foremost, honor the fuel window: Your muscles are best equipped to receive fuel immediately following workouts. Eating a post-workout snack or meal with 15-60 minutes will optimize your body's ability to receive those nutrients.

Second, choose easy to digest foods: If your body needs to pull blood away from your muscles to digest a complex meal, that's less blood to aid in the rebuilding process.

Third, keep it simple: Post-workout is meant for recovery, not laboring in the kitchen. An extensive meal is great, but if possible, have something that's quick to throw together (wrap or smoothie) or planned leftovers.

With instructors DeWayne and Laurie ! (They make me look so short!)
Thanks to The Weight Club for sponsoring this event and letting me contribute, to Gillies for the amazing (as always) dinner and to all those who came out and participated! 
See you next time!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Athlete Spotlight! Graham Peck

For my second Athlete Spotlight, I want to highlight an endurance runner who's recent accolades include a 48th overall finish at the 2012 Chicago Marathon (2:25:40 PR), a 51st overall finish against a elite field at the 2013 NYC Marathon (2:32:08) and a 14th overall finish at the competitive 2012 JFK 50 (6:18). Graham Peck is an average runner turned triathlete, who later picked up the longer running distances and is currently crushing everything from the 5k to 50 mile. Graham is a great example of how training smart and dedication can result in improving by leaps and bounds, and how even the busiest of individuals can balance training, nutrition and life.

1. When and why did you decide to make the transition into racing marathons?

It wasn't until my fifth marathon attempt at Chicago that I truly 'raced' a marathon. My first marathon was at 18 years old and I successfully achieved my goal of breaking 3 hrs. My second was more of a late season addition (2:51), after which I injured my knee and opted to cross train via triathlons for a while. After those first marathons, I felt as if running sub-2:40 was NOT an unattainable goal. However, returning to road racing with a 1:13 half marathon at the 2011 Martinsville Half gave me inspiration to train harder and see what I could actually accomplish! My next marathon, the Wine Glass Marathon that following fall, was a 2:33.

2. Tell us about your experience at the 2013 New York City Marathon, how it went and your thoughts afterwards?

I enjoyed the race with my family though the logistics of navigating NYC during such an event were a bit insane. After seeing the pre-race forecast (cloudy, cold, very windy), I dropped my initial time goal and decided to just raced with the competition. I got sick and faded some around mile 15, at which point I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on catching on other runners. Most notable about racing the NYC marathon, however, was whole experience of being at the race and interacting with elites such as Joan Benoit Samuelson, Meb Keflezighi (who signed his bib) and getting a picture with the 2012 Olympic Marathon Gold winner, Stephen Kiprotich (pictured below).

The port-o-potty background is only appropriate :)

3. Tell me about your training leading up to the NYCM and a little about how you fuel for longer workouts?

I averaged 90 miles/week for the first time over an extensive building period of 3 months (a first for me). As a taller male, I went through a lot of food during that time! Oatmeal, PB, banana and coffee are my main staples for breakfast and pre-long run. I don't like starting a long run on a full stomach so I time my pre-workout meal appropriately. Typically, I use 1 gel max for longer runs and 2-3 gels for the actual marathon. Half of a PB honey sandwich is another go-to fuel (but not during races).

4. You've improved quite dramatically over the past several years. What do you attribute your success to?

Being a little older helps, having a more mature muscle structure and attitude towards the sport. A year-long season of triathlon taught me to put into the hours, drop the excuses and develop the mental toughness it takes to make that improvement. Weather doesn't affect me anymore and off days are rare. But most notably, a solid year of a lot of triathlon work really build a solid endurance base and left me stronger, leaner and more mentally tough.

5. Big goals for you in Spring 2014 include the Holiday Lake 50k (mid-Feb) and the Boston Marathon (April). What do you think you might change in your training and/or diet b/w now and then to optimize your performance?

Preparing for Holiday Lake will serve as a build-up, base training period and I'll pick up with marathon specific workouts afterwards. I would like to incorporate more hill workouts and drill-form exercises in this next training cycle. Diet-wise, I could eat a better diet, but I'm unwilling to give up my love of beer (it's a quality of life thing!) 

Graham during his triathlon days with the VT Triathlon Team.
6. What's the toughest obstacle you've ever had to overcome to achieve your goals?

Balancing life (work, long distance relationship, maintaining a social life) and a high level of training is often the biggest challenge. Most weeks I work 45-50 hours and some leisure time is essential for me and important for long-term sustainability as well. 

Downtime is important for even the busiest of athletes!
7. Who inspires you as an athlete?

The guys that work full time, train 120 miles a week and run a 2:10 marathon in the process. This includes Bill Rogers, Yuki Kawauchi (a Japanese marathoner with a 2:08 personal best) and Mike Wardian (has worked a full time job while putting up world class 50k - 50 mile times for the past 15 years). It's a huge balancing act for these individuals and admirable to see what the everyday working individual can accomplish athletically.

8. How do you fuel on a day to day basis to support your training? What are some of your favorite foods?

I tend to eat a standard lunch but during peak training periods, I will add on an extra half or full sandwich. I can't recall any significant dietary changes, but instead, I rely on small tweaks to make up for the calorie difference. Snacking throughout the day at work on baggies of veggies, etc keeps me satisfied and post-workout I especially like to eat kale and spinach. Sunflower seeds are probably my favorite food. And if people think you can't get full on sunflower seeds, you should see the pile of shells I leave at my seat at Oriole games. I'm a machine. 

9. Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

One go to recipe that my girlfriend and I make often is a quesadilla with blacks beans, sweet potato, chicken and mozzarella. Simple, fast fuels are key to time management and I try to cook large batches of foods at once to make things easier. 

10. Any other thoughts, tips or words of wisdom ?

First, people generally try way too hard on days that are supposed to be easy. Most runners get their hard days and easy days muddled up which results in every day being close to the same effort. I'm not perfect by any means but on my easy days, I'll run anywhere between 6:45/mile and 7:30/mile. These are often un-timed. At the end of a hard long run, I might be under 6:00/mile, considerably faster than my easy trots. Many African elite runners will run 7:00/mile on their easy morning runs and they are capable of running 13.1 miles well under 5:00/mile. That's more than 50% slower! Whether your 4 or 5 easy days/week are 90 minutes easy with strides or just walking a few miles, keep it easy.

Second, working on getting a more efficient stride is much more time efficient than doing tough workouts. It takes A LOT of work on the track to gain 15 seconds/mile on your racing times. Bettering your running economy through drills and/or strides might only take 2- 15 minute sessions every week and many of us never take the time to do this. You're more likely to get injured slamming out 400m repeats on the track, too. There's a time and a place for doing timed workouts but I really only do timed workouts for 4 months out of 12. And that's assuming I'm healthy.

I'll leave you with this final picture, Graham on the front of the NY Times just a few weeks ago! 
Great job buddy!

Can you pick him out? Orange jersey front and center.

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