Get Those Kids Moving!

An article I recently read on ScienceDaily.com is the motivation behind this post. That article  covered a study that was recently published in Sports Medicine on how high-intensity (this is measured, not simply just an extreme or inhumane amount of exercise) exercise can reduce the amount of adipose tissue of 6-8 year old kids. Obvious right? Get a kid doing sprint intervals on a track or sign him or her up for a daily boot camp session at your local gym and he or she is bound to burn off some fat and lose some weight, extra or not. But in this study, just 10 minutes (yes, 10, not an hour or 2 hours)  of high-intensity exercise resulted in less central adiposity (when fat is stored in the mid-section, it is a risk factor for many diseases and other health problems).

Ten minutes is nothing right? Wrong. It maybe used to be “nothing”, but in a time where recess at school is not necessarily the norm and physical education, or gym class, does not happen every day, those 10 minutes of healthy activity–exercise, if you will–may be more hard for your children to come by then you would think.

So here’s an idea: on days that your child doesn’t have gym class or soccer practice or gymnastics practice, etc., plan to do something active with them for a minimum of ten minutes. You may think, “Oh, they have soccer practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a game every Saturday. They really need those other days off to just relax.” Not necessarily. First off, they likely won’t get burnt out by playing at your local park,  scootering, skateboarding, or biking around the neighborhood, or playing some frisbee in a nearby safe open space. They’re kids! In fact, they’ll probably love the extra time they get to spend with neighborhood friends, mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, babysitter, aunt, uncle, etc. If having kids exercise in a fun, healthy way isn’t great enough, here’s a bonus: if you’re involved, this idea gets you out the door as well! Heck, stay inside and play some DDR or whatever has replaced DDR at this point (I haven’t played video games in quite a long time); if DDR isn’t high-intensity, I don’t know what is!

But here’s something you must, must remember to do or else the “health” aspect just goes right out the window: fuel your kiddo(s) with some healthful, nourishing, love-filled foods before and after this exercise time. If your child is grabbing a handful of Skittles or downing a bag of Doritos before you start your bonding/exercise/playing time, they’re not going to be getting the same health effects that should be resulting from the healthy activities. The same thing goes for if they walk in the door after a half-hour of playing at the park and go right for the cookies or whatever else is their go-to. This applies to us as adults so why not foster these healthy habits in our youth. It’s kind of our moral obligation in a way.

So how do we do this? How do we abide by our moral obligation to help keep our youth healthy? We teach them. We talk to them and with them. We learn together–no matter how much you already know–that an apple (classic example so please substitute this with any other fruit, vegetable, etc.) is healthier than the Skittles and we learn why that is as well. We learn that we can add peanut butter to the apple slices and maybe a dash of cinnamon and we have a delicious treat. We make our own granola bars or we get really smart about what bars we bring into the home. We strive to make at least one recipe a week with our children to teach them the importance of preparing our own meals, and we have fun while doing it.  We model what we preach. We walk our talk. We don’t grab the cookies when we walk in the door. We don’t buy the potato chips but then tell our kids that they can’t have any…they’ll just have some when you’re not looking. We need to be great, not just good, at role modeling what we want our kids to do or not do. And lastly, we need to build on what our kids are learning about in school when it comes to food and nutrition. There are some great programs and articles for kids out there that do a great job about teaching our children the importance of eating healthily and limiting the junk food, but all of these articles and nutrition programs have very little effect if these conversations and new ideas are not continued and fostered at home. Let’s change that!

Let’s make healthy fun. Let’s make “exercise” fun (maybe without even saying the word exercise!). Let’s make food fun and engaging and something we can all look forward to learning about together.

So get going. Go have some fun with the kiddo(s) in your life!

PS: That’s me in the picture above with my niece. This was taken a few years ago so she was either 6 or 7. You may be thinking, “How is she ‘moving’ if she’s on your shoulders?” She’s on my shoulders because she and I “ran” the entire first mile off and on and had a blast while doing it. She would sprint. I would chase her. She would chase me. We ran in circles. We pet dogs. We had so much fun and I put her on my shoulders to pose for this picture, but we continued running off and on for the next mile. She didn’t want to complete the 5k and there was no harm in that!

Make the Park or Your Backyard Your Personal Gym

Attention parents (and babysitters, guardians, older siblings, etc.): Want a surefire way to get exercise into your day? Use your child.

People use their children all the time. They’re the perfect excuse to go out for ice cream. They’re “the only reason” you have cookies in the house, but because you want your children to be healthy you limit them to one per night and then you grab three when they are in bed!  Oh and let me guess:  You ordered all the classic Disney films on DVD because you don’t want your child to miss out on the wonders of these cinematic stories you experienced as a child, right? Sure…Like your heart doesn’t flutter when you see this on the screen:

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Hey, I’m not judging you. I’ll likely do the exact same when I have children. I pull that ice cream move on Val all the time as it is! It works for gluttonous pancakes, too… Just saying.

But kids can also be used to get some healthy exercise in even if you’re not necessarily wiping sweat from your brow. You read that correctly. Your babies no longer have to be a reason for why you don’t have time to work out.

Like most people, you probably wish there was more time in the day. I definitely wouldn’t have a problem with a few more hours. We’re all knee deep in work, emails, and other errands. You’ve got deadlines, bills, and to-do lists constantly on your mind. But being the super parent that you are, you still try to make sure your child gets fresh air and Vitamin D by getting outside. For those of you who sit on the park bench or swing or watch your children from your kitchen window: join them instead! The park and/or your own backyard is a great place to get a quick workout in while your children are playing.

Here’s how to lifehack the great outdoors and make it your personal gym:

  • Monkey bars: I know what you’re thinking: blisters and calluses. Probably true. But here’s what you can see from now on: pull-up bars. Why not do some pull-ups or the classic monkey bar swinging routine while you’re watching your children? Challenge them to a “Who can do it faster” contest or try to cross to the other side as many times as you can without letting go. This can make it more fun for them and difficult for you!
  • The physical space: Tag! You know what playing tag looks like? Running. You know why? Because you are doing just that. Playing tag is such a great way to engage your children in healthy exercise—not that they’re not already running around like they haven’t seen green grass in years. This game involves you and your children engaging in cardiovascular exercise that is really good for the muscles, immune system, and so much more. All of the stop-and-go involved in tag is also a benefit for your fitness!
  • See-saw: What does see-sawing looking like? Come on…Nothing? Okay , I’ll give it to you: Squats! Suggestion: Hold onto 3-5 lb dumbbells or strap ankle weights around your ankles for more of a workout for you (and maybe for your child?).
  • Park bench: Instead of sitting on the bench, use it as workout equipment. Dips are great to do on a sturdy and stationary park bench. The act of dips targets triceps and your core. Extend your legs straight out instead of bending them for added difficulty.

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  • Trees, light post, or something similar: Just wrap a resistance band around something of a cylinder shape and you’ve got the perfect station for some arm workouts. Of course you can use resistance bands without anything to aid you, but something sturdy may make the workout a bit easier to do. Simply pulling the handles or gripped ends to you can be enough. It’s difficult to explain these workouts, but a quick search on YouTube should help you out.post5post6

As you can see, the park is a great outdoor workout gym. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the park playground is really a condensed bootcamp facility for children. The colorful equipment may trick them, but it sure as heck isn’t tricking me anymore! Seriously, though: Next time you go to the park, imagine the rubberized ground or woodchips as mud and tell me you don’t see a military-style obstacle course.

Your backyard can also be your gym used for similar workouts or more.

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If your backyard has stairs similar to those in the picture, this is a great way to get a quads and glutes workout in. Start at the bottom and walk up slowly, skipping at least 1 stair but maybe even two (this may feel a bit like doing lunges). Be sure to engage your glutes and your core for the most benefit. Walk down normally and repeat several times. You can add dumbbells or ankle weights for added resistance.

Do you have a seating area in your yard?

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Where you see chairs, I see a dip station.

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Do you just have mostly grass where your child brings games and toys outside for fun?

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Know what I see? A lot of space for playing any variation of tag (Sharks and Minnows, anyone?) and also performing exercises such as push-ups, walking lunges, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and so much more.  There is actually a great chance that if you make it sound fun, your children will even join you in these exercises!

Here’s an idea that will probably help get your children to be more interested in joining you for your exercises (not that they have to be!): If you have one or choose to invest in one, set up a Bluetooth compatible speaker with your smartphone and have a playlist or station ready…one with music and songs that your child loves or will enjoy. Every minute or two or every time you are ready to switch up the exercise, change the song and have a good time exercising with your child. During your rest, don’t rest! Have a freeze dance competition with your child(ren) and show them that mama or papa’s still got it!

There you have it. So, the next time you head to the park with your kiddos, don’t forget to pack the yoga mat, light dumbbells, resistance bands, and whatever else you would like to bring with you. You may just decide to leave it all in the car and just chase your child around the park for 20 minutes and that’s perfectly okay!

Playing and cardio? A resounding Yes to that!

PS: You obviously don’t need a child to tke make use of what’s included in this blog post!

Dynamic Stretching for Runners

If you haven’t realized yet…it’s getting cold out there! Here in Portland, it hasn’t been too too bad, but it’s definitely getting colder. I ran mile repeats on a nearby track a couple of days ago and did so in my usual short shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, but yesterday’s sprint workout on the track left a chill in my bones!

It’s the cold temperature outside that made focusing on dynamic exercises such a well-chosen presentation at Portland VegFest and it’s what makes this post that much more helpful as well.

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Speaking of helpful, it’s rarely not helpful to stretch. We stretch to prevent injury. You could try to sprint full speed with cold muscles or as soon as you wake up and you will get your body to move forward, but injury is much more likely to occur. Stretching is also important depending on the time of day that is run and the season. Morning runners could probably benefit a ton more than afternoon runners since afternoon runners have been warming up their muscles all day versus morning runners who have likely only been awake for 30 minutes or an hour. But when it’s cold, muscles need a bit more time to get warm and primed for an optimal workout. But the warming up of the muscles is often missed when stretching is solely done in a very common way. This less encouraged kind of stretching is called “static stretching” and while it is less encouraged, it is more known and common than dynamic stretching.  This is probably because team coaches and gym teachers drilled in phrases such as “Touch your toes” or “Reach for the sky” as early as 7 years old and they’ve been commonplace stretches ever since–ready to be used in a pinch when we actually remember to stretch.

23 Stretching before a track workout.

Dynamic stretching, though, involves, as the name implies, movement. This kind of stretching may also be referred to as “active stretching” or even “drills.” There are 4 main reasons why runners and other cardio enthusiasts (e.g. swimmers, cyclists, recreational sports players) should be including dynamic exercises in their stretching routine:

  1. Increase your heart rate  – Going right into the workout plan without adequate warming up is not something I’ve ever heard as advice. Warming up with dynamic stretching and/or with an actual warm-up jog is highly encouraged to get the heart rate a bit higher so that it’s not spiking from low activity level to all-of-a-sudden intense activity such as whatever the training plan is calling for.
  2. Mimic the muscle movement the activity calls for – Touching your toes does not take place when running and so it get your muscles moving in the direction you’re about to have them moving when you start your workout. A Skips and B Skips do, however, move your body forward and mimic the running movement of your workout, as will high knees and butt kicks.

22 Doing some butt kicks before a summer workout.

3. Open up the joints – This past July, I completed my first 12 hour ultramarathon event. I won’t go into details except for what is pertinent for this post. For the first 10 hours, I was feeling really good. My movement was fine; my spirits were high; and my pacing and place were both where I wanted them to be. I was on track to win the 12 hour road option with a total of 64.2 miles, but I had to complete the last 10.7 mile lap by the time the clock ticked 12 hours. During this last lap, I could not turn to the side; the slightest turn of my head to the side would cause my hips to turn and it would feel like someone just clamped vise-grips to my groin and hip areas. My point? I clearly neglected strengthening my hips and lower back and definitely did not open up my joints before beginning the ultra. Doing certain dynamic stretches such as leg swings and high-knee-hip-rolls (or high-knee hip abduction) will do wonders for allowing you to get the most of our workout without putting extra stress on your body and thus helping to prevent injury. The same can be said for movements that actively move your lower back muscles and ankles (e.g. ankle rolls or ankle rotations).

4.  Reinforce proper posture – Lastly, dynamic exercises are great for getting your body to remember what proper posture feels like when exercising either in the gym or cardio on the road (i.e. running). Typically, when you are doing dynamic exercises, you are focusing on stretch so much that you are nearly hyperaware of your body’s position and this tends to lead to better posture. Even if you aren’t hypeaware, you are likely to be stretching in a controlled environment at a moderate pace where you can pay extra attention to your posture to ensure you are doing them properly.

Now that you understand WHY you should actively stretch before running, here is a routine that I have found works for me and one that I use with my track athletes that I coach. They are done in the order they occur in (I suppose this can be adjusted as you see fit) and in a distance of about 30-40 feet.

  • High knees – not in place; go forward 30-40 ft.
  • Butt kicks – same as above
  • Calf Raises – foot movement is: step forward slowly heel-to-toe; raise your body on your tippy toes of the forward food, then repeat wtih other foot. Your body should be moving in a walking motion.
  • Forward lunges- do this while moving forward 30-40 ft.
  • Leg swings – Leaning on a wall or a tree or even a lamppost, swing your leg side to side (or forward and backward) about 6-10 times and then switch to the other leg; I sometimes repeat up to three times until I feel loose
  • Side lunges 
  • Monster walk – I don’t use the band as in the video although you certainly could. I also alternate legs each time.
  • High knee hip abductions
  • A Skips
  • B Skips

I end with the skips to get the heart rate back up and ready for the run! I also add a warm-up to every run I do for an additional injury prevention measure. Again, you can find many other exercises that seem easier or better for you. Try them out and build a routine that works for you! My routine is as follows: I jog back and forth in the parking lot; complete the stretching routine in about 5 minutes; begin my warm-up and immediately transition to my planned run or workout. After my workout I’ll stretch only what I feel needs stretching which is typically my calves and my quads. I won’t complete a whole routine again, but that’s just me!

If static stretching is what you typically do and have been doing, try swapping a couple dynamic stretches with static ones to get your routine more active until you can get to an all-dynamic stretching routine.

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Do you do any dynamic stretches that aren’t included here? How has dynamic stretching affected your running or exercising?

Here’s a great video that shows what A Skips and B Skips look like. You can find all of these exercises somewhere online to help you visualize them.

 

A Quick Workout for Busy People (and anyone else!)

So you don’t have time to work out? Not even 15 minutes? I doubt that. I’m not calling you a liar. I’m only saying that if you just can’t seem to be able to fit in exercise daily, you should think about how you’re spending your down time. For example, you can put rice on the stove and do a quick exercise or workout routine or you can workout while you’re watching that TV show or football game you just can’t go into work the next day without seeing. Finding time to workout may seem like a serious challenge, but not every workout needs to be an hour long. They also don’t have to take place at the gym or on a track. If you believe that the time to exercise is scarce in your day, then it would help to rethink how a workout can look. I sure had to!

During my six months of teaching, I barely had time for anything else but grading and working on creating lesson plans and materials. On top of that, I was coaching soccer for the first few months so I was really pressed for time. Having a looming Philly marathon scheduled in November of that year helped motivate me to do anything active instead of just eat my stress away, which I absolutely did (gained at least 5 pounds during this time and not one of those five was from muscle! On soccer practice days (3 days a week) I would run and complete drills with the kids because I knew I wouldn’t have any time to run when I got home. On days I knew I had a lot of material to plan for the next day or for later that week, I included bouts of exercise during my prep breaks while in school (chairs are great for doing dips and who needs dumbbells when you can use the floor and do pushups!). Cardio suffered a great deal, as I was not willing to break a sweat during these quick exercise routines, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t if you wanted to! There are various ab workouts (e.g. mountain climbers and bicycle crunches) and aerobic routines such as jumping jacks–and various types of this classic exercise–that can definitely get your heart rate up in a short amount of time.

So without delay, a quick workout routine that will get that heart rate up (hope you have a shower at work! If you don’t sweat much then maybe baby wipes will be adequate):

15 Minute Workout*

*This workout involves quick transitions between exercises. Try to keep the amount of break time in between each exercise to what is included below. Ways to reduce or increase difficulty is to play around with the break time or the repetitions (e.g. 10 jumping jacks instead of 15, etc.)

20 jumping jacks

Do the first ten moderately and the remaining ten a bit quicker.

– 5-10 second break

High Knees: 15x = 1 set

Bring each leg/knee to waist height to create a 90 degree angle with your leg. Follow this order and stay on the front of your feer for quicker turnover: Left, Right, Left-HOLD, Right, Left, Right-HOLD, Left, Right, Left-HOLD. Each combination (e.g. Left, Right, Left-Hold) is 1 rep. Do 1 set then break before transition…

-5-10 second break

Bicycle crunches: Do 20; 10 touches to each knee

bicycle crunch

Lay flat on the ground facing up. With your hands behind your head, try to touch one elbow to opposite knee in a bicycle-pedaling motion similar to the illustration above.

-10 second break then roll over to…

Push-ups

5-15 push-ups; proper form is a must! Straight back, no arcing.

– 5-10 second break

Mountain climbers: 20-30x; 10-15 for each leg

Make sure you feel the crunch in your abs. You want to do mountain climbers with your core tightened.

-5-10 second break

6 Inch Abs

Laying on your back, place your hands behind your head (head should be resting on your hands) and keep your legs together. Feet to feet, raise your legs without bending the knees, approximately 6 inches above the ground and hold for 5-15 seconds and then lower them down to the ground. Repeat this 3-5 (if holding for 5 seconds, repeat 5 times; if holding for 15 or more seconds, repeat at least 3 times).

END OF ROUTINE:  Take 1 minute to 90 second break then repeat whole routine. Do this routine 3-5x or until you’ve been exercising for about 15-20 minutes.

Shoot! Now you’re hungry, but you don’t want to ruin your workout at the office. Right? 1) You don’t ruin workouts when you eat food. Please don’t think like this. Food is great and your body needs the nutrients. 2) I understand this kind of thinking, but if you can make mindful, healthy choices then you’ll be fine! What are some of these choices? Some options that I love after a quick workout like this or a quick 15 minute running workout are:

  • Nondairy yogurt with about a teaspoon of chia, hemp, or flax seeds mixed in

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  • Banana with a few nuts or sunflower/pumpkin seeds
  • Carrots or celery and a tablespoon of nut butter (carrots and peanut butter?? I’ll just say: You’re welcome.)

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  • Slice of bread/toast with thin layer of nut butter

Do you have another quick workout routine or exercise hackout that you’ve come up with? Share with us any comments you have!

My Top 4 Breakfast Choices As A Runner

We all have heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well I’m here to tell you that…It’s true! Oh,  come on! What’d you expect me to say?

Skipping breakfast can have so many effects on the rest of your day and can lead to unhealthy habits such as snacking a lot, and often on foods high in fat and sugar. Skipping also means it can be more difficult to get all of the necessary nutrients your body needs on a daily basis and if you’re a runner or exercise regularly, you’re looking at an even more difficult time achieving proper daily nutrition. This doesn’t mean you can’t get all the nutrients you need if you skip breakfast; it will just require more effort.

Why in the world you want to skip breakfast anyway?! Let’s be real…the breakfast food category has the best foods: Coffee, pancakes, oatmeal, coffee, fruits, (tofu) scrambles, pastries, pancakes, hashbrowns, coffee, homefries, french toast, pancakes, bagels, donuts, coffee, pancakes, coffee, pancakes, coffee, pancakes, and fruit. And pancakes. With coffee. And a side of roasted potatoes.

For many reasons though, people do skip breakfast. It could be they don’t have time for it (popular one, especially from my track athletes) or that they don’t like eating too early and when they get to work, they’re too busy to eat. I’ve even had a track athlete tell me that she forgot to eat breakfast. Important: If you are a person, but especially an athlete (even more especially, a young, developing athlete) you it’s a big risk (and ask) to skip meals and think your body will continue to meet all your demands. I think eventually, if this habit is long-lasting and your activity levels are more than moderate, you may experience the consequences of such a habit (e.g. fatigue, poor skin health, poor eye health, lower brain activity/performance, low energy, or other possible and likely outcomes of improper nutrition).

So:

  • Don’t have time? Wake up earlier. 15 minutes. That’s all you need to prep and eat a minimally decent breakfast. 15 minutes is much time to shave off of your sleep? Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Solved!
  • Work is too busy? Grab something on-the-go. Oatmeal cups, nutrition bars, fruit, bagel (skip the butter and CC), and more.
  • Forgot? Err….Umm….What’s wrong with you!? Kidding. But, I don’t how to help with that one. I suppose a phone reminder or post-it note on your bathroom mirror could help.

All of this was just a long introduction to the crux of this post:

MY  TOP  4  BREAKFAST  CHOICES  (As a Runner)

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I hate that we categorize foods as breakfast, lunch, or dinner foods because it makes me feel bad for wanting pancakes for dinner, when everyone should want pancakes for dinner! 

Homemade pancakes are just too darn tasty to not be on this list. Of my favorite foods, they are only second to potatoes. But their taste and fluffiness only contribute to why they are #1 on my top 4 breakfast choices. The reason I included “homemade” is not because I have anything against going out and getting some delicious dairy and egg-free pancakes for brunch (hence the picture, taken at Portobello Trattoria in Portland). It’s just that when you make the batter yourself, you can add ingredients that would turn that fluffy flapjack into a nutrient powerhouse. Chia seeds, flax seeds, maca powder, cacao powder, cinnamon, berries, a pinch of salt…the list can go on and on. I won’t make pancakes before a run, but when I get back from a long run, I know I can rely on pancakes to replenish my glycogen stores and give me the nutrients I need to recover properly and quickly.

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Oatmeal is probably one of the foods that doctors, nutritionists, food professionals and breakfast enthusiasts can all agree is a top choice for breakfast. If you don’t like oatmeal, you’re not doing it right. Have you had Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal? No? Click on the link and start living. What you can do with a hot bowl of oats, like pancakes, is endless! For starters, before you cook ’em, you can make the oatmeal cold (simple take on Muesli, anyone?). Similar to pancakes though, you can add so much to oatmeal before it becomes too much (is that even possible?): cinnamon, chia or flax seeds, pinch of salt, banana slices, cacao powder, and some peanut butter are what I frequently add, but you can do so much more. Berries, apple slices, coconut flakes, sliced nuts, teaspoon of fresh jam, a dollop of thick non-dairy Greek yogurt…Such an easy way to pack a bowl of nutrients (fiber, protein, carbs, and vitamins from your add-ins) into a bowl of hot oats, steel cut or rolled! Oh, and for your busy people…Bob’s Red Mill has new cups of oatmeal for your busy mornings!

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6  Not pretty. Still delicious.

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1 Scrambled…Tofu. Or just “tofu scramble.” No matter how you call it, it’s delicious. And, again, it’s a great way to get a whopping amount of nutrients onto your plate! Organic tofu is something I frequently eat, especially for its protein value and versatility. Then I add all of the other ingredients as an easy way to increase my vitamin intake (K, C, D, A, B’s, etc).

tofu2    tofu

To make a tofu scramble, I add a bit of oil in a skillet and set the gas to low. Then I slice some onions and add them to the skillet on a higher heat. I then chop (?) the tofu into the desired bit sizes I want (you can use a knife, fork, or spatula for this) and add the tofu to the skillet.Then I slice and dice the rest of the veggies and add those a couple of minutes later. The color comes from the curry powder, turmeric, and the paprika, but I also add cayenne and garlic to taste.

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green smoothie  bananas

Fruit: Blended into a fruit smoothie with vegetables or just as it is in its delicious raw form. When you blend, you can, for the fourth time, add many ingredients to maximize the nutrients that end up in your glass, but the result could also be quite a bit of sugar in your glass as well. If you are limiting your sugar intake for health concerns or preferences then you may want to just stick to a few pieces of fruit as you’ll be full longer. As a runner, I make sure to eat fruit in the morning (bananas especially) for a couple reasons: the fiber keeps me full longer and I ensure that I am taking the first opportunity I get to get the nutrients my body needs.

So I’ll leave you with a bunch of stuff here at the end of this post. You’re treated to questions, a brief peek into the breakfast life of Lolo Jones, and wise words from the one and only Winnie the Pooh.

QUESTIONS: What are your go-to breakfast foods/meals? Do you eat those same foods before a run? After a run? And what’s your reasoning behind your responses? Try to find a reason even if you don’t think you have one…I believe people should always be mindful about what they eat and this includes why they’re eating something.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”  p&p

Wise words. Pooh Bear. Wise words.

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Neglect The Rest Day

Some people despise exercising. Others are addicted. A happy medium is obviously the healthier choice, but even those who don’t consider themselves addicted may get down on themselves when they let even one day slip away that they don’t workout.

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When I fall asleep at any other point than nighttime, my body is telling me that it needs rest. Sometimes I can’t help but listen.

Rest days are something I used to struggle with a lot more than I do now. I always had this guilty feeling like I couldn’t eat normally that day or I got antsy because the weather was beautiful and I wasn’t sweating it out on the road. I still should probably get much more sleep than I currently do, but I have disciplined myself to take at least 1 day off a week for recovery and mental rest. Even someone who loves running as much as I do needs a mental period of rest to avoid the rut of not running for several days or weeks. This used to happen to me all the time!

To avoid forgetting to take rest days when I’m race training, I write the rest day into my training plan for the extra accountability. If adjustments to my training plan occur, I simply move the rest day to a nearby day that I know I could use a rest such as before a hard day or after one. Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner and running guru, once said, “You could spend a lifetime regretting the days when you continued running; you’ll never regret the three to seven days of rest.” He was speaking about resting or easing up when dealing with even a minor injury, but I think his main point can be applied to rest and recovery in general terms as well.

For runners, triathletes, swimmers, cyclists, crossfitters, rock climbers, speedwalkers, and everyone else who has a heavy weekly training regimen, taking a rest day is important for so many reasons. Let’s keep it short and dive right into the top 3 reasons why I think you shouldn’t neglect the rest day.

 It’s Important for Muscle Recovery and Strengthening

If you think exercising and working out is helping you become stronger and more fit…you’re not entirely correct. When your body is able to rest (and I don’t mean the 2 minute rest in between track intervals) it is also able to start repairing muscle damage accrued during your workout routine. When you run, lift weights, etc., you’re actually breaking muscle tissue and that tissue needs repairing if you want to continue your healthy lifestyle. Have you ever gone out for a morning run after a previous hard day and feel like your legs were lead? You probably could have benefited from a bit more rest.

Taking an entire day off to recover is a great decision for the benefit of your body’s health. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s necessarily okay to lay on the couch all day because you don’t want to use the leg muscles you use for running. In fact, walking is a great way to also help your muscles recover because it will promote oxygen and blood flow.

 It Can Help Reduce Risk of Injury

Exercising hard every day is a lot on your joints and muscles. Inflammation increases in the body after you run–this is natural–so you want to give your body the opportunity to reduce that inflammation and to prevent injury. Proper nutrition can help reduce inflammation, but rest is also essential. Stress fractures, strained muscles, soreness, tightness, and other injuries are much more likely to happen when you keep your body in overdrive every day without turning off the engine. Speaking of engines and overdrive…

 It Can Help You Avoid Burnout

If you’re running and working out 7 days a week, there’s a good chance you enjoy what you’re doing. There’s an even better chance that you at least enjoy the results of your efforts. But there’s always the chance that doing too much of what you enjoy doing can result in burnout. Hopefully you like your job; most people hope to. Do you think you’d want to continue working there if you didn’t get at least one day a week to yourself where you didn’t have to report to the office or check-in with your co-workers? You may have no choice due to bills and other responsibilities, but your feelings about work and productivity would likely take a turn for the worse if you suddenly found yourself in that situation.

Too much of a good thing, may not actually be a great thing. If you love running or any other type of exercise, you’re more likely to continue loving it by giving yourself at least one rest day–one day to recoup. Think of it as a mental health day. The best part is that your exercise of choice is not going anywhere. It will be right there waiting for you tomorrow and you’ll be much more refreshed to take it on!

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A rest day when on a vacation is never a bad thing. Especially when you have certain amenities to take full advantage of all day long!

So give yourself some TLC and treat yourself to some weekly R&R…You won’t regret it!