Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Mantra: Find Joy in the Little Things

On days when I'm feeling down or struggling to stay positive, I try to scale back my expectations and refocus on the things that truly matter. Sure, owning a home, having a job, chasing dreams and working hard are all part of life and "living." But most often, it's the simple things in life that can bring us the most joy. This morning I took the pup on an impromptu walk before work and allowed myself to just get swept up in the morning air, the scenery, the smell of summer and getting lost in my own thoughts. Because, why not? Life may be busy, but that does not mean one always has to be in a rush! It was nice to slow down, take my time waking up and reflect on the "little" things in life that make me smile...

A random gift in the mail from a friend... 

Meeting and holding a good friend's baby girl for the first time.

Treating myself on a Tuesday... just because :)

The general thought of knowing someone's got my back...

Hanging out in the grass, enjoying the flowers and a cool breeze.

Hearing about the successes of others.

Hand-picked berries for breakfast.

Chatting with my neighbors... I am not all that talkative but I love having neighbors!

Morning walks with my pup...

Peanut butter, chocolate... need I say more?

Playing with my food... tehehe

Spinning in circles in the middle of the street. 
Better yet, convincing the husband to do it with me!

Messy hair... Sunday mornings ... hanging out with my guy :D

And relishing in the fact that on my best days or worst days, in times of success and or times of struggle, and without having to do anything to earn it, I am never alone and my God loves me just the same.

What are some of the "little" things in life that bring you great joy?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sports Nutrition Tidbits: A Healthy Athlete Is A Well Fueled Athlete

Back in April I had the opportunity to attend an afternoon workshop on "Fueling the Elite Athlete." There were a lot of great takeaway messages and I was more recently able to properly "digest" them all in giving a presentation to a group of high school cross country athletes "Fuel Right, Train Hard."

Fueling for physical activity without a doubt varies based on sport and overall goals. Most competitive athletes eat to train and compete at their best, and it's important to remember that both the quantity and quality of calories consumed matter. Fueling patterns over the long term are important for overall health, maintenance of immune function and maximization of energy levels so we can train at our best. While many athletes get caught up in the philosophy that getting "leaner" or "lighter" will boost their performance, one must remember that a chronic calorie deficit (even a small one!) over the long run can be a contributing factor to illness, injury or impaired performance.

In my recent presentation, I shared a commonly used metaphor of fueling a car appropriately to emphasize the importance of each macronutrient in the athlete's diet as explained by Randy Bird, Sports Dietitian for UVA:

Credit goes to Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS

Each of the macronutrients are an important piece of the puzzle and uniquely contribute to successful fueling over the long haul. Let's break it down, shall we?

Carbohydrates are the main fuel for physical activity. We store about 60-100 minutes of carbohydrate via muscle glycogen, THAT is IF we are replenishing those glycogen stores day to day. The higher the intensity of training, the more our body relies on carbohydrates.

Drop the notion that carbs will lead to weight gain.  Instead, fill up with complex carbs that are nutrient dense and a source of fiber with each meal and snack (my favorites include oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice). Simple carbs in the form of fruit or fruit juice are important at times also, as they are  more quickly digested and taken up into muscles for fuel/refuel. I personally love a good post workout smoothie, fruit & yogurt parfait or orange juice or tart cherry juice post-workout to refuel!

Most people know that protein is an important part of any diet to maintain lean body mass and build new muscle. After a hard training session, we create tiny tears in our muscle fibers that must be repaired. Protein plays an essential role in the repair process, as does adequate REST. What many people do not realize is that protein also plays a critical role in carbohydrate uptake into muscles to refuel glycogen stores post exercise. So pair those carbs with a little protein to maximize your refueling potential! Just remember, extra protein does not build muscle without the hard work to go behind it! For overall health, choose lean cuts of meat and try to include some plant-based proteins too!

Healthy fats are a critical component in any diet to support immune health and hormone production, but they also function to fight inflammation. While exercise and training are GOOD, physical activity actually creates an inflammatory state in the body and releases free radicals (NOT good). Rest assured that this is a normal process in muscular adaption that in the long run and that adaption makes you faster and stronger. Healthy fats via omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, avocado, olive oil, nuts & seeds) are known to my for their heart health benefits, but did you know they are effective in reducing the inflammatory state of the body post-exercise? Healthy fats should be part of any athletes diet to boost immune health and protect the muscles against injury. Peanut butter, anyone?!

Fruits and veggies are an important source of nutrients, including the all-familiar antioxidant, which plays a key role in reducing free radicals created during exercise and supporting immune health. Intense training is taxing on the body and, just like providing regular maintenance to a car keeps it running smoothly, choosing quality fuel on a daily basis by including colorful produce in your diet is essential to keep your body functioning at its best!! Plus, a colorful plate is just plain FUN!

It takes a lot to keep a hard working athlete healthy. Adequate rest, stretching, injury prevention, strength conditioning and overall lifestyle balance are part of that equation. Fueling right on a daily basis is like the glue that holds all those pieces together! It boils down to quality in, quality out and eating enough to cover your match your daily caloric expenditure. And don't forget to indulge every once and a while too! Eating the foods we enjoy and that make us happy (though sometimes not the most nutrient dense) is an important aspect of balance! Indulging in moderation can be beneficial in keeping up with demanding calorie needs and for boosting mental health :-D

A few of my favorite fueling eats :)

Fuel Right, Train Hard... and ENJOY the Weekend!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Weekend Adventures: Training, Family Time & Celebrating with Dad !

This past weekend was my third in a row traveling... Not something I prefer to do but this trip was well worth the effort in making. While I haven't been able to visit my hometown since the Shamrock Marathon in March, this particular weekend was the perfect timing for a visit as we celebrated my dad's 65th birthday!

Friday afternoon I hit the pool after work then packed my bags. By the time I got on the road it was already 6pm, which put me in VB just past midnight. Nonetheless, I was up bright n' early to join Dad on his typical Saturday morning long run with his buddies. We started off together and I picked it up after a few miles, and by the end of the morning I logged a solid 15 miles while he did about 10. We may not run all our miles together anymore, but it still brings me much joy to be out there with dad and to know he's running healthy and strong. His love of running and general dedication to training have been such an inspiration to me over the years. I am QUITE the lucky gal to have the honor of calling him MY dad!

Sunday morning I had planned to get up early and do a long-ride preview of the Patriots Half course, which I'll be racing in early September. As much as I was hoping to fit in this ride, extra sleep and family time took priority and I opted to let it go. Instead I rode from home and decided to do a little exploring of new areas of Virginia Beach... And beyond! I rode about 10 miles easy towards the coast, then turned south for about 20 miles beyond the NC border until the road ended at the Currituck Ferry. It was long, straight, flat and windy... Perfect practice for Beach 2 Battleship!

Exploring new places with my bike!
Yea, probably should turn around at this point...
The ride only ended up being just over 50 miles as I cut it short and let dad came to my "rescue." Mainly because I was having breathing difficulties (again) and decided to not overdo myself, but it worked out well because I was also suppose to be the one to distract dad while my mom and grandma snuck out of the house with his birthday cake. Either way, I called dad to come get me and shortly later he was there to take me home... Always reliable and willing to go out of his way for his daughters :)

I had a quick 30 minute turnaround before heading out the door again. The two of us made our way down to a Norfolk Tides Game, where unbeknownst to him were 40+ close friends and family members waiting to for his surprise birthday party!! Yes, this party as a surprise and a successful surprise at that! It was a hoot. He was truly honored to have such a great turnout, and what a blessing to know my dad is surrounded by such wonderful friends. We all had a great time eating, chatting to catch up and watching the game.

My sister and I with dad!
Look at that youthful smile!
I am thankful for the productive weekend of training, but even more so, I am thankful for the much needed and overdue quality time with family. While the drive to visit home was long, family time is always well worth the extra effort. I am a blessed daughter and thankful to have such a great role model as a dad, thankful for the years of running we've shared together, countless training sessions and motivation and encouragement we've shared along the way. This morning we booked our hotel for the B2B Ironman in Wilmington, NC in October, and as much as I'm looking forward to the race itself, I know the day will be all the more special having my entire family by my side in support of this next big racing endeavor!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Race Report: Colonial Beach International Triathlon

There are lessons to be learn and opportunities for growth with each race. As we were making our 5 hr trek last weekend towards the east coast for the Colonial Beach International Triathlon, the hubby asked me a pretty common pre-race question: "What is your goal?"

"Why do I have to have one?" I replied. Then I simply recited our ol' time VT Triathlon team motto:
"My goal is to survive the swim, beast the bike, and rock the run. Does that work?"

While I had some idea of what time range to expect to potentially finish, this was my first international distance triathlon in FIVE years. I had no clue what to expect of myself, nor did I care to set that sort of numerical expectation for myself in the form of a goal finish time. Rather, my goals for this race was to get out there and enjoy being a triathlete, get my feet wet in the racing scene again, race relaxed yet strong, enjoy the process and to gain a better idea of my current fitness level.

As we arrived at packet-pickup late Saturday evening (5 minutes to spare!), I realized we had traveled from one side of the country (Pacific coast, California) to the other side (almost...Potomac River, eastern shoreline of VA) within less than a week's time! Yikes! I knew I was still tired from our trip the previous weekend as I napped twice in the car, and napping these days is a rare occurrence. After getting my number and gear, I spent a good while chatting and catching up with friend (and wine-buddy) Janie before hitting the sack for bed.

A few pre-race sights and scenes.

I am thankful to another good friend, Jennifer, for the opportunity to race on a tri-specific bike for the first time. While I LOVE my road bike, I really struggle to stay aero with the geometry even with multiple adjustments for fit. Her bike fits me almost perfectly and I am able to ride comfortably aero for extended periods. I am so thankful for her willingness to share!

Race morning preparations were simple and relaxed. for once, I was organized (with my new transition bag!) and we camped on site. Janie opened up her camper as a our temporary home which was a huge blessing (no long port-o-pot lines for me!) 

Taking in the view as the pre-race meeting was taking place...
Of course I wanted a pre-race picture with the dog :)
Hanging out at the swim start.
No warm-up, but instead took extra time to make sure I was fully relaxed and ready to roll! I headed down to the water only moments before the start. The horn blasted and we were off, and I surprisingly found myself swimming comfortably and smooth despite the chaos of 75 swimmers starting at once and aiming for the same buoy. I focused on getting out of the pack, taking quick strokes and swimming straight (in the right direction...that helps too!)

Wave 2: Age Group Women 1-39, starting the swim!
It was a choppy swim, and my body seemed to bounce up and down with each wave as I tried to make steady forward progress. While a river swim is my least favorite and typically produces a lot of anxiety, I stayed calm and found a solid rhythm. After about twenty minutes I remember feeling a bit bored thinking, "is this thing EVER going to end?" I looked at my watch (20 minutes in) and took a quick look around and I was still no where near the shore. Nonetheless, I focused on one stroke at a time and on getting back to shore!

Swim finish... this time T1 went much faster without a wetsuit to deal with...
I've had this aero helmet for about 5 years and used it for the first time in this race. Mainly because it fits better and more comfortably than all my other helmets!
I was slow to get moving on the bike, yet tempted to track down all the racers in front of me asap. I was good and resisted, aiming to ride strong and steady while slowly increasing my effort as the miles ticked by (warming up certainly helped). Since it was an out and back course, I tried to count the number of female racers in front of me, but honestly, there were too many and I lost track! It's easy to get caught up in judging performance on that of others, but instead I opted to focus on my own race and in putting forth the best effort possible. Again, I didn't see the point in judging the quality of my race on a numerical outcome. Competition varies, and I was up against some pretty fast ladies! Overall, I really enjoyed the bike course, even with the "hills," which weren't bad compared to those in Southwest Virginia...

I enjoyed the novelty of running along the ocean!
The run started off well, but never really took off. I actually didn't have the "jello" sensation that normally occurs in running off the bike, which is a GREAT sign. And while I had hoped there would be some ladies close by for me to chase down, instead I had the fortune of getting stuck in "no-man's land."

I felt steadfast and strong during the run, but just I couldn't seem to find that extra "racing" gear that I had hoped for. It was hot and sunny and the wet towels and cheers provided by the volunteers were a godsend! Thank you volunteers! 

Same deal. I loved running along the water!
I know I could have run faster in that run, but on this day I was lacking the racing mentality to achieve it. Racing the 10k at the end of a triathlon is very different than racing a 10k or any road race by itself, and that's something I will aim to improve upon with each race. Having three sports in one to master in triathlon presents plentiful opportunities for improvement, and the desire to improve that keeps us motivated and moving forward. While I could be disappointed with my run, I'm instead looking at it as motivation to continue to work hard. Racing is not always about the final outcome, but instead, and opportunity to identify areas of strength, areas of improvements and the lessons learned along the way :)

Right before the finish line.
At the end of the day I finished with an overall time of 2:34:55, 19th female overall and 3rd place in my age group. Again, those are just numbers and don't mean too much to me right now. I have a solid base of fitness and am looking forward to building upon it in the coming months. I am committed to the process: to each week of training that will make me a better triathlete overall, to the small details of life that will keep me healthy and happy throughout, to developing the mental skills I will need to race even longer distance triathlons in the future. I'm excited to be back out in the triathlon-scene, and it should be a fun ride ahead with plenty of challenges along the way.

Our little family hanging out post-race :)
Kenya modeling my new transition mat... I'd say they picked the right color! 
Celebrating properly post-race! A little indulgence does the body good...

One thing that I love about racing (training also) is that it provides a platform to learn more about oneself, and more specifically, about one's strengths and weaknesses. We all have things we are great at and things that we desire to improve upon. The important thing is to remain positive and optimistic and remember at the end of the day that we're all unique and we're all "a work in progress."

Wishing you a happy and successful weekend of training!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Day in the Life of a RD

One of the biggest reasons I love being a Registered Dietitian is the vast opportunities that the profession imparts. A major reason why I chose to become a RD is my passion for nutrition (duh!). However, I was also in search of a career that would be flexible to my varying interest and allow a "change of scenery" without a change of career if need be. The relationship between food, health and quality of life is an all pervasive aspect of everyone's life and because of that, I figured I would have a variety of options to choose from in terms of actual practice and application as a RD. This variety and ability to adapt the profession to my interests is fun and keeps my motivation high. I absolutely love what I do and want to do more to share about it! 

In the past week, I've had three particularly fun experiences that I want to share about. First is my recent Food for Fuel talk on Healthy Snacking for our independent living residents! The group is growing steadily with each month, and I enjoy the opportunity to share on pertinent nutrition topics while expressing my creativity and passion for cooking through the recipe demonstrations. I also have this thing about making handouts... while they're a huge time-killer because I spend forever perfecting them, I just love making handouts! As the title implies, this I discuss the role of healthy snacking in meeting overall nutrition needs and healthy weight maintenance, them showed the residents how to make english muffin mini pizzas-- it's a delicious snack for kids, athletes, older adults and anyone in between! So click on the pictures below to enjoy two free downloads, because I'm all about sharing the love :)

Two days later, I did my monthly Chef Stage Center for our long-term care and assisted living residents. This is probably my favorite day of each month: not only does it fall on a Friday (I love casual fridays!), I get to start my work day jamming in the kitchen to good music, chatting with fellow employees and whipping up something fun and delicious. Step 2 is repeating those steps in front of our residents as part of a food-demo, then watching them enjoy something new, different and healthy to eat. They are quite an appreciative crowd, and my heart just melts receiving hugs and kisses and thank you's for my efforts. BEST.GIG.EVER.

This month the resident's enjoyed Quinoa & Black Bean Mini Sliders & "God Bless America" Sangria
Yesterday, I had the fortunate chance to delve into another passion of mine. I gave 60 min sports talk on performance nutrition,"Fuel Right, Train Hard," to a group of high school students participating in the High Performance Distance Academy at Virginia Tech. Speaking to a crowd of 140+ officially breaks the record my largest guest speaking gig, and while I was totally nervous, the kids were interactive and asked some great questions! My primary goal was to offer some evidenced-based sports nutrition fueling guidelines and examples of application, while "fueling" the students to have greater interest in their personal dietary choices and promoting a healthier lifestyle for both the achievement of athletic goals and lifelong health.

That's a big audience! Photo credit goes to J. Chang.
Discussing the importance of each macronutrient for physical performance and best dietary sources.
Many days at work, you'll find a student or intern following me around who is there to learn and gain hands on experience in preparation for becoming a RD. I LOVE that I have the opportunity to teach, share my passion for being a dietitian, and help others grow as professionals and I hope to share more about this sometime! It's pretty neat that as as a young professional myself to pass on knowledge to future professionals in the field and empower them to use that knowledge to make a difference.

That's all for today in "Edition 1" of "A Day in the Life of a RD." I hope to share more as I have time and as I continue to have fun and different opportunities! Next time I'll share my race report for the Colonial Beach International Triathlon that I raced this past weekend! It was a great experience and a lot of fun... but the longer distance and it being a Sunday race really made for a REALLY rough Monday morning! Here's one of my favorite pics and a preview of how the day began:

Waiting for my good-luck kiss :P


Friday, July 11, 2014

California Part 2: Enjoy the Ride!

The good 'ol bucket list... What's on yours? 

While California has not been a top priority destination for me, I have never been to the west coast of the US and THAT has been on my list. During our trip to Cali, I had two major goals in mind: witness a west coast ocean sunset and check out the pacific coast highway. 

After our 23 hr travel day and long run up Mt. Lee, I was very much in need of some horizontal time to rest and refuel...and while that lasted for a while, I did not want to waste an opportunity to check off the first item on my list! We grabbed dinner to-go and headed to the ocean just as the sun was beginning to fade. Family time, good food and a stellar sunset really makes for a great evening! We found a perfect spot in Laguna Beach and I enjoyed each breath of that ocean infused air!

We found a PERFECT viewing location!
First time on the US west coast!
Couldn't resist :)!
Sunday was a busy but great day! I had hoped to fit in my run workout, but honestly it was low on the priority list next to rest/sleeping in, church, my father-in-law's 60th birthday and the wedding we attended in the late afternoon evening. I managed to get in a quick 20 min shake out run and that was more than enough at the moment for my tired legs...

Monday was our last day (quick trip!) in Cali and also our most flexible day. I woke up early to complete my run workout and then we enjoyed some delicious pancakes before dropping off my brother-in-law and sis-in-law at the airport.  The day was beautiful as can be and we had planned to make our way back to the beach for some good 'ol R & R. BUT Kristen can only sit still for so long...and what I truly and dearly wanted was to get in my long ride!!  I had packed my cycling clothes, shoes and even my pedals in my suitcase (yes, there was perhaps some pre-planning involved ;-) All I needed was a BIKE and helmet. The cool thing that I learned about Cali is that cycling is a pretty big deal and bike rentals are fairly commonplace/easy to come by. I had researched a few places prior to our trip but hesitated to actually rent one ahead of time since I did not know our exact plans. Anyway, Monday morning, after essentially having begged the husband the entire trip thus far, I finally made some phone calls. An hour later, I was at the beach with a shiny red bike in hand to ride... yes, it was that easy! 
Dana Point Harbor
I started from Dana Point Harbor and road south along the Pacific Coast Highway. I was very impressed by the roads and felt very safe. The roads were very wide plus had designated bike lines, and in some areas the bike lanes were divided by a concrete wall for added safety. I didn't really know where I was going, so for a while I followed another triathlete that happened to pass by :) A few miles later, I jumped off the PCH onto a "cycling" path right along the ocean. It was pretty, but not as "bike-friendly" as I thought because it involved hard packed dirt, a max "speed limit" of 10 mph (which I didn't adhere to...ooops) and I spent my time weaving in and out of people walking. At one point, I had to dismount and walk across a quarter mile long bridge ($250 fine if I did not!)

Heading south towards San Clemente. Can't beat the view!
In San Clemente the path came to a sudden dead end and I got a bit turned around in some neighborhoods trying to get back to the PCH. Again, I'm thankful for my phone GPS for sending me in the right direction. I rode the PCH through the town of San Clemente and there was a fair amount of car traffic and lights, but then again, with my own bike lane I had the fastest way through town!

My route: ~ 30 miles and 2hrs moving time.

I made my way north again towards Laguna Beach, which was my intended final destination. I reach LB much faster than intended though, and so continued northbound toward Newport Beach. The stretch north of LB was my favorite part: rolling with even wider roads and more beautiful stretches of coast, much less traffic and lights than I encountered in the earlier portions of the ride... exactly what I was in search of!

Does "no stopping" apply to cyclist too?!

My favorite lookout: Crystal Cove State Park, just north of Laguna Beach.
I made my second turn around just south of Newport Beach and made my way back to LB to meet the hubby for lunch. I was met by some delicious pizza I and a few east coast friends who just so happened to be in California too! Next was some beach time! I have to say, though I'm not a fan of cold water, the chilly waves of the Pacific felt wonderful after my hot and sunny ride. The waves and rip current current were much too strong for swimming, but I enjoyed a low-key dip in the water followed by a nap in the sand. The MOST perfect way to recover after a longish ride and from a busy few days of travel.

The view from the beach ! I just love the rocks and cliffs.
Hello Mr. Seagull!
Keeping up with training while traveling can be difficult and stressful, but getting in this ride was not! Instead, I chose to look at it as an opportunity to enjoy the journey (wise words from coach a few weeks ago :), explore and experience new things. It was maybe not the most productive ride, but I certainly enjoyed each moment!

This Sunday I am racing finally... it will be my first international distance triathlon in 5 years! While I don't have any specific goals in mind, I'm pretty excited to get out there and see what I can do and EnJoY tHe RiDe!!

p.s. Also wear sunscreen :)

A little "souvenir" from my ride. It's a bit sunny in California!

HaPpY FrIdAy tO yOu!!

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