Friday, February 26, 2010

The Newbie: Food for Thought

Editor's Note: The following post is from my fabulous guest-blogger, the Newbie. And these pictures are from my birthday at work (I know, you're SO JEALOUS!). So read the following post...then note the irony of these pictures accompanying it...then just get over it and have a great weekend!

Sorry for the later-in-the-day post, NYC teachers and students got another snow day! Wooo! Not surprisingly I needed to catch a few extra zzz's after returning to my slightly insomniac ways this week.

Now we can all agree that exercise is an amazing thing, whatever activity you do. According to webMD (yes, your guide to scaring yourself silly over a common cold) they list some amazing and agreed upon benefits from regular exercise such as strengthening bones, increasing your immune system to fight off chronic illness as well as improved moods and less stress. And of course one of the most popular reasons to exercise in this day and age, weight loss!

I am a firm believer that diets are stupid. Any changes, whether physical or mental, can only come from and stick with lifestyle changes. For the past two years a goal has been to learn to take care of myself, in all senses: mental, physical and emotional. (Hence my agreement to run and therefore train for the NYC Half as part of this on-going process.)

After being on a competitive swim team for almost 10 years, I quit because I had lost some of the joy. One of the first things I noticed was how much my body changed post-swimming. I wasn't eating as much because I wasn't expending as much energy (definitely loved the excuse to carbo load before a swim meet!), and I lost a ton of muscle. Suddenly I could fit into everything meant for my age. It was exciting and shopping became a much less stressful ordeal.

While I could have become another girl ravaged by an eating disorder at the new-found weight loss, I was lucky enough to have had that team athletic experience early on. I appreciate strength in my body over the inches of my hips. And I've kept that mindset: I would rather have a healthy and strong body than a sample size one.

As you get older it's harder and harder to eat what you like and figure you'll work it off later because well, nowadays it doesn't work itself off quite as fast! Before running I was doing Bikram Yoga three times a week. One of the things I loved about this exercise is that I had to be cognizant of what I ate because you aren't supposed to eat at least 2hrs before the class....and it is a 90min long session. So in total, you need enough energy to sustain you for 4hrs!!

Now, I am a clean-plate-carb-loving-portion-challenged eater who loves some snacks and sweets, so this was definitely hard for me. But the benefits far outweighed the challenge. My skin got better because I was making smarter choices in energy-dense foods as well as drinking TONS of water, and I was so relaxed at work from all meditative activity. Plus my core muscles shaped up and my balance became stellar!

With running I've felt so strong and been able to get up the 4 flights of stairs at work faster without being as tired. I also have way more energy and don't end up as spent at the end of the workday. Towards the end of my first 8mi run I was feeling uncharacteristically tired, I realized that I hadn't eaten enough. Other days the combination of work stress and the energy used to run throw me for a loop and then I am late-night nibbling into the wee hours.

It is easy to trip up---taking care of yourself is a full time job! Active people need to be more mindful than anyone because we're eating not just for our health but for our performance. Even if you're not world-class, we all want to feel our best when we're out punishing the pavement.

These days I've been using a food tracker online to keep a record of my meals as well as how I'm feeling from them (i.e. bloated, sluggish or content). While this may not be for everybody there is a lot of valuable information in terms of figuring out what's "well-balanced" for you and how your eating is affecting your daily activities. I find that lately I've been way more energized and satisfied throughout the day, as well as feeling less pain/injuries. 

I think health and happiness are all about arranging different pieces to fit in a way that works for you. Sounds ideal but it can get tricky sometimes. I am keeping my goal in mind (my secret mile pace that I'd like to run in the Half!) and remembering to keep eating an ever-enjoyable activity as it was before...just perhaps a little more thought-out. ;)

Much love and happy running,


RW Article: The Best Food For Runners