RWF–Running While Female

Just about 2 months ago, my fiancé and I moved to a new neighborhood in Jersey City. We went from living downtown in the “happening” area to a more “up and coming” area because we went from renting to buying. It’s a neighborhood we’re still learning a lot about, but I do know a few things–I’ve never felt unsafe walking around or going for a run by myself, a lot of families live there, and it has a TON of potential. Up until this morning, I’ve been nothing but overwhelmingly happy and excited about our decision.

One of my big concerns was finding a new running route. I had a really good one in my old neighborhood, and I like consistency during the week when I need to get in a few miles and then get to work on time. Within a couple days of moving, I found a great new route around a reservoir and a park. It’s hard in cities, finding a good route that minimizes the number of streets you have to cross. I hate getting interrupted by traffic lights, so I liked that a full lap of the reservoir and park meant a whole mile of uninterrupted running. Two months in, and I’ve gotten very comfortable with the route. I even run into a few “regular” people that I see quite often along it each morning.

Today, I woke up for my run at my normal time and headed out. It was like any normal run, except I’ve been incorporating some quick sprints lately in between jogging to get my speed up, but that’s a post for another day.

Anyway, toward the end of my run, as I was finishing up my last lap around the park, I ran into a man walking toward me who had his phone camera out, pointing at me and having it follow along as I ran by him, presumably recording me as I ran. He was also waving at me, fully acknowledging what he was doing. I was immediately taken aback–confused. Then, I was angry. What nerve! I approached him. I told him he had no right to do what he was doing. I told him he was being a complete creep. I cursed a little in between. He looked completely perplexed as I ran away. I felt completely violated.

I know it was a bit of an emotional reaction and probably not the safest thing I’ve ever done. If I thought about it for a minute longer before reacting, I probably wouldn’t have done it, and I’d never do it again because I know that you can’t control how someone is going to react. It’s hard, though, to justify letting him get away with this. Is this something he does often and gets away with? Does no one ever speak up? Does he think what he does is ok? Does he win if I start to change my running path to avoid him now? I feel like I have no control now. I don’t feel safe running in my own neighborhood. I don’t want to alter my behavior but now I feel like I have to run somewhere else.

It’s hard being a woman. Seriously. Women get objectified on a daily basis. I was literally just running in my neighborhood, on a chilly, rainy morning bundled up in pants and a long sleeved shirt (though I should be able to wear shorts and a tank top and also not feel like I’m asking to be objectified by anyone) minding my own business and I was harassed by some ignorant moron. And what can I do about it? I don’t think he technically did anything illegal, but I feel violated all the same. What can we do, as women, to feel safe and also not violated without having to put ourselves in danger by speaking up? What a conundrum.

I’m still pretty down about it, and I don’t know where to go from here. What am I going to do tomorrow morning? I don’t want to give up the thing I love because of one idiot and I don’t want to have to change my routine to avoid him, but I’m extremely nervous to go running there again.

Our neighborhood is safe, and I love our neighborhood. I hate him for making me feel like I’m not safe and that my neighborhood is somehow betraying me. I know it can happen anywhere too, which is the scariest part. Has anyone else run into a similar situation? How did you deal with it?

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When Life Gets in the Way of Training

The weather’s changing so I’m feeling a cold coming on. I’ve been training 5-6 days a week for 14 (or more) weeks. I’m planning a major move that will leave me and my boyfriend and the kitties (and all our stuff) temporarily without a home for a day/night. I’m exhausted.

But I’m still waking up every morning and doing SOMETHING.

In the beginning of this training plan, I mapped out my goals. The plan actually calls for 2 days of rest a week, but my goal was 1. I built that in with the caveat that if I’m having a rough week I can still take 2 days off. I needed that more than ever last week.

Last week’s training culminated in a 13 mile (recovery week) trail run because I was out at my boyfriend’s parents’ house getting some moving logistics taken care of. I don’t do a lot of trail runs…and I never wear my glasses when I run. Needless to say, 2 miles in I tripped over a really sneaky rock and fell. I finished the run but it wasn’t easy. Usually, the day after my long run I’ll take a nice easy 4-5 mile run. I elected to skip on Sunday, and let me tell you, it felt great. I NEEDED that day off.

As I sit here with my lentil soup, next to my Throat Comfort Yogi Tea and my honey, lemon, and ginger, planning out our move, I am anticipating an ugly week ahead. Moving in a week and a half and dealing with closing and money and moving out on day and moving in the next–on top of a possible cold–it’s all pretty stressful.

But I still wake up and run. And hopefully I will next week too. Maybe getting a cold now is a blessing because I’ll get it out of the way for the fall season before Nov. 1.

Life happens and you get sick and you get busy. It’s important to build in at least 1 optional rest day into your training. Mentally I see it like this–every week that I’m able to get 6 workouts in is a huge win because it’s more than what my plan calls for. Every week that I need to take an extra day feels great and I don’t feel guilty for skipping a day.

Since you’re training for a marathon, are you losing a ton of weight?

When you run an average of 35-45+ miles a week, people probably expect that you’ll lose a TON of weight. If weight loss is your primary goal, training for a marathon probably isn’t the best method. That amount of exercise will destroy calories, absolutely. However, calories are energy and energy is what you need to complete a 10-20+ mile long run–so you need to eat, and you need to eat a LOT.

I’ve never exercised this much or this consistently in my life–even before my NYC Half PR a few years ago my longest run leading up to the event was 10 miles. Not only am I running 40-ish miles a week (I’m up to 17 miles for my long run), I’m spending at least one day a week cross training. With the amount of calories I’m zapping, my body is BEGGING me to replace them. After a long run, I’ll immediately replace calories with coconut water or a smoothie before I eat my first meal of the day. On a good day, I’m hungry every couple of hours–but I typically find myself hungry again an hour after I eat. I find myself eating constantly, and needing to consume larger meals, and snack frequently in between meals. I find myself seeking out the most filling foods (which also happen to be pretty calorically dense)–beans, hummus, carbs. My appetite is a result of my body needing to replace the calories I burn working out so I can keep going. Increased activity leads to increased calorie intake leads to a relatively stable weight.

In the beginning, I shed quite a few pounds pretty easily, but now I’m evening out. I’d say overall in the last 2 months I’ve lost maybe 10 pounds. That’s not so say I don’t LOOK a lot more fit. I’m gaining muscles I’ve never seen before and I’m losing fat. But I’m not losing a TON of weight. And I didn’t expect to. I would never deprive my body of the calories and nutrients it needs to perform its best leading up to the marathon. Lately I’ve been worried about whether or not I’ve consumer enough the night before a longer run to ensure my energy level is high enough to get me through the run.

If you want to run a marathon, prepare yourself to eat a lot during training. Don’t expect to lose a ton of weight. If you do, you’re going to deny yourself what you need to perform your best. Eat when you’re hungry and make sure you’re getting enough calories. You’ll still lose a little weight and you are going to look and feel fit. Just think about all you can eat without feeling guilty, and ENJOY it. You’re going out on 3-4+ hour long runs and working out almost every day. You’re experiencing aches and pains you never thought were physically possible. You are sacrificing hours upon hours of your free time. You’re going to sleep early on Friday nights (and waking up early on weekends). You’re missing out on countless happy hours and drinks with friends. You DESERVE to eat and enjoy things you’d normally feel a little guilty about. Pasta and bread, yes please and thank you!

What do you eat before/during your long runs?

This is probably the most consistently asked question I’ve been getting since I started training. I actually spent a really long time thinking about the perfect pre-run snack before I started off on my long training runs. Everyone is different, and different things work for different people. My blood sugar dips rather quickly compared to most people, so I’m pretty conscious of it when I run.

Back before I started training for my first marathon, trained mostly in the 3-10 mile range. A lot of times, I found myself low on energy, sometimes feeling on the verge of passing out. I typically just powered through. I knew this would obviously be an issue going into training. I did a lot of research before I started my 18 week plan–reading, podcast listening, etc. My biggest takeaway–in the past I was constantly training in my anaerobic zone and not giving myself the chance to build an aerobic base. When you train in your aerobic zone, your body relies on stored fat for its energy. When you train in your anaerobic zone, your body relies on sugar and carbs for all its energy. It made total sense to me–once I burned off all the sugar from my small pre-run snack, I was toast. I completely ran out of energy. When you train aerobically, you have an unlimited source of energy re: fat.

How do you know if you’re training aerobically? It’s all based on your heart rate. Everyone is different. The best thing to do is find out by getting a blood test. I don’t have time or patience for that, so I used Phil Maffetone’s formula to figure out my maximum aerobic heart rate for training.

It’s been a really hot and humid summer, so it’s been very, very challenging staying below this number, but I try my best. Not, when I go out on my training runs I eat a peach or a few dates beforehand. On my first 15 mile run last weekend, I brought dates in a snack bag and I ended up needing them about halfway through. That was the first time I needed any kind of sugar during any of my long training runs. I got up to 14 miles the week prior without needing any type of snack! I was shocked!

I still have a long way to go to figure out my perfect formula but typically before a long run:

  1. pasta the night before
  2. lots of water the day before
  3. in the morning, wake up and eat a peach or other sugary fruit or some dates
  4. bring dates in case I feel low on sugar during the run

Before a race:

  1. pasta the night before
  2. lots of water the day before
  3. in the morning, wake up and eat a peach or other sugary fruit or some dates
  4. on the way to the race, eat a Larabar (very few ingredients, usually just dates and some kind of nut and dried fruit)
  5. bring dates in case I feel low on sugar during the run

AFTER the run or race I make sure I get protein into me immediately, and usually try to have some kind of juice or coconut water to replenish my sugar and nutrients.

This seems to work really well for me, but everyone is different. In general, the key is to experiment with different routines and see what works best for you!

NYC Marathon–the 9 week countdown

The end of this week will mark my official halfway point of my NYC Marathon training. I’m starting to write about it a little late in the game, but, you know, all this training means I’ve been PRETTY busy…but now that I’m getting into the real swing of things, I can start to make the time now! I’ve been loosely following the Hal Higdon Novice 2 program. This will be my first (and maybe last) marathon, but I’ve run several half marathons in the past, and I’ve been running in some form for the past 3 or so years, so I thought Novice 2 was the right fit for me. By “loosely” following I mean that the program suggests workouts 5 days a week with 2 rest days–and I’ve been working out 6 days a week with 1 rest day. I also switch around some days to suit my needs, and for any of the 3 mile days I’ve bene doing 4 instead. I think, when training to run 26.2, the minimum mileage for a single run should probably be 4.

This past weekend was my longest run ever. Since I’ve only ever run half marathons, anything beyond 13.1 is new territory for me. I ran 15 really tough miles along the Hudson River on Saturday, stopping once to fill my water bottle in a fountain. Yes–I do bring water with me if I’m going over 8-ish miles. I needed it. Summer running has been brutal this year. It’s been ridiculously hot and humid this Summer, of course. This is the first year I can remember that I’m actually excited for the Fall. Those last 2 miles this weekend were probably the most brutal 2 miles I’ve ever run in my life. Getting to past 15 and running another 11 is going to be a challenge. I’ve also found that working out 6 times a week is taking a toll on me. I’m pretty exhausted, and it definitely takes a lot of getting used to . Especially when you don’t want to compromise on going out, having a few drinks, and sometimes staying out a little (too) late.

While I’m no running expert, I have found that, throughout my training, many of my friends have been asking me advice about getting into running, training for events, nutrition, etc. Soooooo I figured I’d start writing it all down. Over the next 9+ weeks, that’s exactly what I’ll start to do here.

Why Food Revolution Day Matters

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I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes life gets in the way of eating healthy. For the past four years, I’ve been working full-time and taking classes for my MBA part-time, and two years ago I also found myself starting to write for and edit StartSomeGood’s blog part-time. Convenience became the name of the game and, while I was a physically healthy weight throughout this entire period of time, I doubt that I could call myself healthy from the inside, out. Lean cuisines, Skippy peanut butter, and Morningstar veggie-everything ruled my life. At the time, health to me was all about counting calories and limiting my cravings. And I was unhappy.

While I do acknowledge that I could’ve been in a worse situation—I was thin and at no risk for any diet or weight-related diseases—I didn’t feel great and I could see my relationship with real food slipping away. For goodness sake, I had only Ikea kitchen knives up until a couple of years ago! I attribute my healthy weight during that time period to my portion control abilities and the naturally constricting limitations of a vegetarian diet—I could eat that sodium-laced Lean Cuisine, but I couldn’t eat a package of over processed Tyson chicken nuggets so, I suppose I was a bit better off than some people (again, I suppose). But, again, I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t healthy on the inside. I was hungry and lacking energy and I wasn’t active.

Anyway, I digress. I can’t exactly pinpoint what changed and when, but REAL food came back into my life and has literally become my obsession. I find myself scrolling through recipes on Sprouted Kitchen and Oh She Glows for hours on end. Real food is beautiful and, when cooked right, brings out the most amazing natural flavors. Real food is FILLING and I can eat more of it because I know it’s helping to make me healthy. I’m no saint—I can’t say I don’t have a couple of bags of tortilla chips in my pantry at any given time or that I don’t have a few Trader Joe’s frozen meals as back-up for lazy days—but in general I find myself craving real food more and more. I even recently discovered a hidden love for brussels sprouts—go figure!

And the results are really noticeable! I may have actually gained a few pounds from my skinniest Lean Cuisine eating days, but I’m still the same size I was a few years ago. I’m just healthier. I have more energy. I’m super active. I attribute this mostly to all the long hours training to run half marathons and eating whole foods rich in healthy fats (i.e. avocados, coconut oil, cashews, etc.) that have allowed me to replace my fat with muscle. In fact, I’m positive my body fat percentage is lower now even though I don’t have the measurements to prove it. I couldn’t power through 13.1 miles on a frozen meal, but I can with a healthy helping of whole grains and a side of delicious green veggies (I must admit, I looooove carbo loading before a big race).

Now I eat a mostly vegan diet (when I cook, that is—meals out are another story…goat cheese and good burrata are my weaknesses). Vegetarianism and veganism, however are not the answer to health. I know plenty of “junk food” veg friends. The key is a diet rich in real, whole, fresh foods. I recently got the results back from a blood test that I had as part of my annual physical and I was pleased to find I am not deficient in any vitamins even though I choose a mostly plant-based diet. That and my cholesterol was lowered significantly from my last blood test two years ago. Guys—I’m telling you this works! I am happy because I no longer feel limited. And now when I do satisfy a craving for some takeout pizza every now and again, I literally don’t like the way it makes me feel after and I don’t crave it again for a long time.

All that AND my relationship with the kitchen grown drastically over the last few years. I find my cooking skills are evolving and I’m learning how to adapt recipes and make them my own. I am starting to love cooking. Discovering this passion has given me some serious direction in life and for that I am seriously grateful.

So, my point is, Food Revolution Day is May 17th. Check out foodrevolutionday.com to see what you can do to get involved. Go cook something! Host a dinner party. Cook a meal with your kids. Spread the news around your friends’ news feeds. Go ahead; annoy the crap out of them. They’ll appreciate it in the end. Help yourself and others discover a love for REAL FOOD!

What will I be doing? Loading up on some complex carbs to prep for my run in the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon the next morning! But don’t worry; I’ll cook up a nice side of kale too. 🙂

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my rooftop herb garden

October Challenge: The Weekday Vegan

I’m sure some of you know the concept of being a weekday vegetarian–Mr. Hill’s TED Talk is a much more eloquent explanation than I could possibly give about its benefits, personally and environmentally. Anyway, I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 15 years now, and the concept of weekday vegetarianism is great for some, but at this point I’m well beyond meat cravings. We all have different reasons for not eating meat. For me, what started off as simply advocating for the rights of animals evolved into a desire to be healthy while fostering a healthy environment by my early twenties. And, let me tell you, when I was a 15-year-old vegetarian, I was nowhere near eating healthy. Pizza, fries, Ralph’s cream ices, and Cheez-its were all staples of my vegetarian diet. But, hey, I was 15 and played softball every single day of my life–who could blame me? Anyway, I digress.

Lately I’ve been feeling pretty extreme fatigue even though I get about 6 to 7 hours of sleep a night. Some of it may have to do with not getting into a deep enough sleep, but I try to fix that with melatonin when I know I’m sleeping enough hours to justify taking it. Anyway, the point is–I can’t afford for this to be happening. I’m a busy girl–a day job, a blogger, a runner, and a grad student, among other things–like, you know, being a friend and daughter and sister. I need to have energy and I need to be healthy. I place a great emphasis on health and am actually mostly vegan, but I have an unhealthy relationship with goat cheese that just won’t allow me to take the full plunge. So, what’s a girl to do?

I’ve been obsessing over Oh She Glows all weekend (please check that site out, it’s amazing…Ah-mah-zing) and it gave me an idea–for the month of October, I’m going to experiment with a weekday vegan and gluten free diet–basically a plant-based non-processed food diet. Why no dairy, eggs, or gluten? I’m trying to figure out if any of these are the culprits behind my fatigue. Also, I just think any little bit helps and if I’m plant-based 5 out of 7 days of the week, I’m doing a pretty darn good job of staying healthy and doing what I can to beat my fatigue. I’m not the most amazing cook in the world, but I’m also not the worst. My latest concoction (mother tested and approved btw–so you KNOW it’s good) was roasted butternut squash with caramelized onions and baby portobello mushrooms, all stir fried with tofu shirataki noodles (better-known as miracle noodles, they are low carb and gluten free)  So, starting this week, I’m giving it a shot. Let’s see how this goes–feel free to try along with me, or just be a weekday vegetarian, or just try Meatless Mondays 🙂

MMmMmm-Mother Approved

 

Trials, Trails, and Travels.


Always looking for a new adventure–this one involves Peru, hiking the Inca Trail, 3 nights of below freezing camping, learning how to be extremely low maintenance, and traveling with some great friends (Ashley, Robby, Tejal) for the first time. I’m sure one can really learn a lot about herself while sleeping in a tent in 30 degree weather after spending three straight days doing nothing but hiking at 10,000 ft + altitudes–I’ll get back to you on that.

Leading up to this trip, I’ve mostly been planning and stressing out about what I have to buy–a warm sleeping bag, hiking boots, warm clothes, water purifying tablets, wool socks (I’m clearly not an avid hiker by any means)–but today I took a minute to sit down and think about the bigger picture.

One, I realize just how lucky I am to be able to spend my free time traveling the world and exploring new places. So many people all over the world cannot afford these same luxuries and, hence, spend their entire lives in one place. It’s a weird thing, feeling happy and sad at the same time. Happy for what I am able to experience in life but also sad for others who cannot experience what I am able to. I was told by a friend that the porters working on our trek love little gifts given by the hikers. After his hike, he gave his porters some of his hiking clothes and they were elated–such a simple gesture left such a huge impression. Not being able to experience travel themselves, they revel in the fact that people from all over the world give them simple trinkets that they can collect. I’m thinking I need to get myself to the closest souvenir shop and buy a few “I ❤ NY” t-shirts for my trip now.

Two, travel is a driver of harmony. In my humble opinion, experiencing new cultures and ways of thinking is one of the biggest driving factors for a harmonious world. Think about it–experiences lead to understanding, understanding leads to acceptance, acceptance leads to harmony.

My point is–let’s all travel a little more! Our very own way of contributing to a smaller, more peaceful and collaborative world.

Buon Viaggio!

Taken in Marseille, France