Calories For The Athlete

Hey boys and girls!

So if you read my last post, I talked about counting calories, or for me, the fact I don’t.  I say that until last year when I was in the heaviest training I’ve done since I started getting all athletic(y).

When you’re pushing your body hard most days of the week it comes into focus that your nutrition and caloric needs need to be brought up to speed too.

I was eating healthy but quickly realized on some days my caloric needs were going to be greater than other days. It meant  taking a look at my caloric output for the day (roughly) and adjusting my needs accordingly.

No, I didn’t start counting but knew I had to realistically eat more food. The tricky part for me as a distance runner is that it usually shoots my appetite. After a long run I often drank/ate  because I knew my body needed it for recovery versus true hunger ( ha that often came hours later 🙂

If you have days of high intensity workouts, you need to make adjustments to your overall intake. Obviously, a day I’d run 20-23 miles my needs were greater than a day I only ran say, 4 miles.

I was recently asked how many calories I took in on those high mileage days. Technically, for my personal age and size, after a 23 mile run it was pushing 3,000 calories…. of which I can tell you I didn’t tap into. I ate as my body was hungry and feed it good food when I did.

Although, I have to say there were times when I felt like a bottomless pit haha

It’s very helpful that you understand what your BMR is. This is the number of calories you need to maintain your body doing pretty much nothing all day. I did a blog on this before or you can google up the harris- benedict calculator to find out your exact caloric needs. It then helps you figure what you need with your daily work and purposeful exercise.

I know my BMR is roughly 1500 calories ( can you see why I never managed to exist on diets that let me eat that…all day long ?? It’s not enough food!) quick figuring also showed me based on my day and my physical active level I could take in about 2,400 calories… yes!

A quick assessment if I knew my day was much more physically demanding than the “norm”  told me I’d take in about 2,900 calories.  I will say, I really don’t consume them all, but on some days maybe I should. It’s just hard for me to eat when I’m not hungry, even understanding at that point, food is fuel to help my body recover from the demands I put on it that day.

The beauty of this is understanding and adjusting your needs based on your exercise level. I really am addressing high intensity and duration workouts here ( long cycling or running) usually lasting over an hour or more.

By understanding this, you can feed your body adequately on hard work days, and cut back on easier days.

I found two books to be extremely helpful in the past year as I’ve plowed through my training.

20150924_175442Whereas I found this book helpful athletically, it’s also written and is good for the rest of the world too. Solid, sound nutritional advice can guide an individual to successful  weight loss.

If I could pull one chapter out and make everyone read it that would be Chapter 15… “How to lose weight without starving”  Nancy Clark offers sustainable and realistic nutritional advice and expertise. It’s a book well worth having in your personal library.

Of course she covers meals and nutrition for the athlete, the importance of good fueling for success, snack ideas and lots more.

endurance bookThis book I picked up training for my marathon and 50K. It gets into the science of nutrition for endurance athletes, the need for good fuel, ways to understand and know your fuel needs, how and what to eat for training and everyday life. Areas covered are running, cycling, triathlons, mountain biking, swimming and rowing. If you’re an endurance athlete I highly recommend it.  There is a new edition out, but the one I’m showing I got on half.com for .75 plus shipping… what a deal!

Ok… I’m done plugging books haha 😉 I only plug ones I think are super helpful and beneficial.

You don’t need to count calories as an athlete, but being educated and understanding your nutritional needs is key to success in whatever activity you pursue.

If you do endurance activities, do you follow a certain plan ? Do you adjust your days nutritionally depending on your training ?

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To Count Or Not Count Calories

In the ways of health and fitness stuff there are some common questions that I get frequently.

One being… “Do you count calories?”

Short answer. No. I find it to be a total drag.

Nowwww… if you’re a happy calorie counter don’t get upset here 😉 it does and can have it’s place in helping you understand your calorie intake. It just doesn’t need to be a life long thing you must do. With all the apps out there today keeping track of your intake has never been easier. (just make sure you’re brutally honest about exact amounts of everything you eat) AND understand exactly how many calories you need to lose weight and sustain your activities.

When I started my health and fitness journey ( 8 years next month!) one of the things I set out for myself was to not have to follow a certain set of restrictive rules.

By that I honestly mean, I got rebellious with those rules every time I decided to knock a few pounds off. I didn’t like being boxed into what worked for someone else.
I didn’t want to be told what to do when or what I “had” to eat.

Consequently, I dropped it like a bad habit after a couple weeks of dieting/calorie counting/ eat this meal thing.

You know what worked and what I developed over time ?

I built new habits.

Slowly, steadily, one day at a time plodding along. If I had a day that bombed ( and trust me, I did) I didn’t throw in the towel, I just kept on going.

My new habits meant listening to my body’s God given signals for hunger and being satisfied. When you sit down and are truly hungry food tastes amazing in a different kinda way. I ate enough to satisfy my hunger and stopped.

I learned if I wasn’t hungry at the next meal I wasn’t obligated to eat just ’cause the chow bell dinged.

I didn’t restrict foods or label any as “bad” or eat only salad and rice cakes.

Moderation became my motto. I ate what I wanted but listened to my body’s signals.

I didn’t need to clean my plate…. when I was comfortable I stopped… not when I felt stuffed or heavy feeling… gosh I hate how that feels and rarely let myself go there now days.
Unfortunately, most of the world loves to continue to feed their mouth long after the tummy is satisfied. The outcome? excess pounds.

So in building some new habits of eating when I was truly hungry, and stopping when I was satisfied, and training myself to eat natural and healthy foods the majority of the time I lost weight but wasn’t dependent on calorie counting. I was listening to my body and it’s specific needs.

You can do the same thing. It takes daily discipline and a tenacious, stubborn spirit to not give up, but I tell you it’s complete freedom when you nail down these new habits. Complete freedom.

After almost 8 years… I think it’s working 🙂

Tell me… do you count calories? Do you find it helpful? Or feel it’s something you must do? And if so, do you ever feel enslaved to having to do it ? Or do you know your needs and listen to your body and go by that as your guide?

The Scale Experiment

It’s no secret I’m not a huge fan of “the scale”.  In fact, I’ve already written a blog on it (which you can read later called, “That Stupid Scale)

No, I won’t be repeating myself here. And no, I don’t have issues with the scale ’cause I don’t think it offers up numbers I want.

I don’t like how it can be a random object that can be controlling of so many lives.

Let’s establish this truth. It’s a tool. A TOOL.

When I was actively trying to lose weight, I used that tool, maybe once a week to check my pounds lost progress. If you are actively trying to lose weight, I’d encourage you to use it only once a week as well, note your numbers and move on with life.

What I knew and understood, and you need to understand too, that tool isn’t a measuring line to your overall health. It can’t measure how good you feel after your workouts, how many inches you may have lost, the confidence and empowerment building in you as you take on new things, your improving lab work or all the good food choices you’ve learned to make and a long list of other things.

For me it meant knowing those numbers didn’t define how fast I could run, how many miles I can cycle, how many pounds I can lift over my head, how long I can hold a plank, or how many push ups I can do.

Because so many seem to be a “slave” to this tool, I thought I’d do a little experiment. My experiment involved me weighing myself from morning and through out day at various times, up till bedtime.

I hope you appreciate my guinea pig status in doing this. I haven’t weighed myself this much in the past couple years, and I don’t exaggerate that.

I think I’m on a scale maybe twice a year.

The point of my experiment ? To show how our weight can fluctuate through out an entire day and look at what “changes” actually occur.

Seriously, how many times have you hopped on all excited, and instantly get deflated by what you see ? Or on the flip side, if the numbers are what you want, the day just went all major sunshine on you.

A tool controlling your happiness …no… just no.

So what follows is my experiment and what I noted through out an entire day of charting my numbers.

6:30 a.m. morning weigh in. This weight is accurate based on a visit with sports doc last month.

8:45 a.m. After workout weigh in. Down 2 pounds.

No, I didn’t get all happy and proclaim I had “lost 2 lbs!” More like, I knew I needed to consume 32 ozs of water to replace the fluid I had sweated out ( 16oz for each pound lost) THEN continue drinking to stay hydrated.

9:45 a.m. After an hour and plenty of water my weight is now back to what I started morning off at. This tells  me I’ve replenished what I lost through sweating.

12:45 p.m. After lunch. Add a half a pound.

3 p.m. After spending over an hour in the sun mowing grass, I checked in with the scale. I was almost down to my weight from my morning workout. 1 1/2 pounds “lost”. Time to replenish fluids again from sweat.

5 p.m. Still down a half pound from my first morning weigh in.

7 p.m.  After dinner, I’m up 2 lbs, but only 1 lb over from my morning weigh in.

10:00 p.m. Before shower weigh in. Back to my morning start weight.

Do you see the “ups and downs” in my day ? I lost no fat. My losses in my day were fluid. It’s important to replace fluid lost through heavy sweat and exercise.

Do you see how if I were looking at the scale for validation for “losing weight” how my moods could have been on a wide swing ? I want you to see how our weight can literally bounce all over the place in a single day so weighing in for the purpose of weight loss is best captured on a weekly basis. Take that number and don’t be worried if your numbers bounce in a couple pounds in either direction through out your day.

Measure your fitness and health success by more than just numbers on the scale =)

Weekend Adventures

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That’s a wrap…. 15 miles on my maiden voyage into the big town haha 😉

I love new adventures. Let’s just blame it on the free spirit in me, but I do, and no apologies for it.  Particularly I love adventures that push me, once again, out of my comfort zone. Those my friends, are the best kind. Challenging myself with new athletic endeavors that demand new things from my body, mind and spirit.

It’s no secret as I’ve been recovering with a running injury that I’ve been well, actively, recovering. And by that I mean spending a lot more time on my bike than I typically had been. I got a cheapy little road bike for my birthday in July and took it to the bike shop and let him tweak it to the best of the best he could make it.

Oh my… I will say… there was a big change when I got it back so that’s a good thing =)

I live in the rolling hill country so I have been burning miles up all over the place and doubling back on roads to get some distance with each ride. I have great terrain to train on whether I’m running or on a bike.

Flat roads, small rolling hills, inclines, and well, monster hills that are really paved over mountains.

I plot out where I run/bike based on the workout I want… I consider it the best of both worlds. However, in doing this, I have to encounter very few cars as the roads are fairly quiet and most are dead end.

I had decided this past Saturday would be my maiden voyage into town on the main road ( meaning a lot more cars and having to be a part of the “traffic”) when I run I of course run against traffic and that feels a bit safer to me… I can see what’s coming… as you know a bike moves with it…. so this was a whole new, and semi-heart stopping thought for me.

I plotted everything out Friday and that night I ran everything through my head just like a do the night before a big run….ah…it’s hard to settle in for sleep!

I was up and on the road by 7…. all was quiet…. and I quickly remembered how much I loved being out for these early athletic activities. Passing houses where people were still asleep, hearing nothing but the sound of my tires swish down the road, watching the sun coming up, feeling the wind in my face flying down the road…. awesome… seriously… it makes leaving your bed ALL worth it.

The miles flew by a lot faster than running them and I had covered ground quickly so it didn’t take long to get to the main road that led into town. I already knew from running this distance that the hardest miles were still in front of me…. lots of constant never ending inclines that were challenging to put it mildly.

However, my happy little bike and I, churned through those inclines and only once did I really feel like an out of shape sea walrus haha 😉

The fun part was the big hill I knew I would get to sail down close to town… seriously… my bike speed said 40… it was so crazy….

Cars and big trucks had passed me at several points on my journey, but thankfully, cut wide around me.

I felt strong and invigorated when I sped into the parking lot where I had parked. 15 miles under me and it had been a successful voyage, leaving me feeling like the kid who’s been on a fun ride wanting to know when they can go again 😉

You know, riding a bike is something most of us learn as a kid. Yet today,cycling has become this big, pricey, almost intimidating thing to take on. I had to remind myself when I started running… I was doing it in non-name brand athletic shoes and cheap Wal-mart cotton shorts and t’s with no tech gear whatsoever… but I was out there running and learning along the way. It looks like I’ll handle cycling in the same way… just get out there and ride and learn the other stuff along the way.

I do have some future plans for riding… and running….. and well… maybe anything else that comes along too 😉

What about you? Did you have any fun, new weekend adventures ?

Beginner Basics For Running

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On course and pushing to the finish line of last years Rock n Roll Marathon. After 26 miles, why does the last “.2” seem to take forever to get to the finish line ??

Running.

A word that sends shudders through the vast majority of the population, and yet, wildly and enthusiastically embraced by the other small percent.

When we’re children, running is a part of our lives. It’s what we do at school with friends or in sports after school. It’s a part of our play.

Then something happens along the way… we stop doing it… we grow up and (for many) it’s then viewed as “work” “to hard” or something other people can only do.  Running definitely takes effort and honestly that’s an effort many prefer to abstain from.

Yet… a few of us grow up.. and wander back to running. Sometimes quite by accident. We’re fortunate to find it later on, still waiting for us. Our abilities to run still very much intact, although often long dormant.

So one day, we take those first tentative steps, and venture out . At first not far and not long and certainly no impressive speed. But we go. And if one stays with it long enough, a fire is kindled and a new romance is born.

Like many others, I came to running later in my life. It’s one of the biggest things I’ve ever done that has empowered me and given me a “I can take on the world” mentality.  It’s not only the most mind clearing activity I can do, it’s also the most physically demanding that yields some powerful results. If you’re looking for good cardio calorie burn, 100 calories a mile is pretty good.

So maybe you’re sitting out there thinking… ” I’d like to run again. I have no physical limitations to keep me from trying.. why not ? But… where do I start? How? Don’t a I need a bunch of things?”

Running is one of the easiest ( haha well I use that term loosely here) forms of exercise to get out your door and do. I’ll offer up some “Beginner 101 Tips” for you. I am not an expert… but I have learned a few things along the way =)

Consider this first of all. According to Runners World, almost 50% of new runners get injured in the first year because their bones, ligaments, and muscles aren’t used to the stress of running.

(Basically, running stresses your body, in a good way 😉 these adaptations do take some time though.

Ok you ready… beginning running 101…..

  • Shoes. If there is anything essential to running it’s a good pair of shoes. No, you can’t dust off those 10 year old ones you’ve used for lawn work. Go to a sports store and get fitted for a pair. A good pair of shoes will protect you from injury and keep you comfy on the road. Your feet absorb two to four times your body weight with each step… that’s extreme!  I joke my running shoes are the most expensive shoe in my closet …and it’s true.
  • Start slowly. If you are a walker already it’s a natural progression to put short mixes of running into your walk. If you are hitting the road with no experience walking (I believe) is the best thing to start for a week or so to let your muscles get used to that movement before starting with some running. If you are having a hard time talking or can’t carry a comfortable conversation…. drop into a walk break. Walk breaks also allow you to stay out longer building cardiovascular stamina as your bones and muscles adapt.  In time, you’ll need shorter breaks.
  • Try running by time and not distance. Add 5-10 minutes of running per week. Back off slightly every fourth week to let your musculo-skeletal system develop. If you do miles, increase each week no more than 10%.
  • Make a commitment, get an accountability partner to encourage or help you.
  • Food. Eat nutritious healthy foods to support your exercise. Don’t overdo on your eating. Yes, running burns calories, but keep in mind again, it’s about 100 calories per mile, running. It doesn’t take much to negate your calorie burn.
  • Finally, set a realistic running goal. A 5K is often a good first race for beginning runners. It’s easy to train for and a fun event.

Are there other things you need? Should have? For the longest time when I first started running, I ran in cheapy Wal-mart cotton shorts and tanks. Then one day I encountered Nike dri wick shirts… bought one… and fell in love. The fabric wicks moisture away from you, hopefully so you don’t have a soggy shirt hanging off you.

I learned about shorts. Everyone has preferences. I got rid of those windbreaker loose leg ones mainly ’cause that fabric tended to just get bunched up in annoying ways. When I stumbled on Nikes tight fit boy shorts, I never looked back. Sleek, minimal and easy to wear they are perfect for me. The bottom line ? Find what works best for…you. You don’t want to be bothered by your clothing, shoes or any other gear during your run.

GPS watches etc…. I ran for years without one. I drove out every mile I ran and knew everything in my head by miles. I’d lay in bed the night before a run and plot out which roads I needed to run to get my miles in. Don’t get me wrong, when I got my Nike+ watch a few years ago, I was a pretty happy camper. By then though, I also considered myself a pretty serious runner and knew I’d use it.

Ipod… or other musical devices. Again, I ran for years without music. One day I just bought a cheapy Ipod shuffle on E-bay… and boom… somehow… it kicked my pace down some. I like the shuffle cause it’s super tiny and I never know it’s on me.

I consider myself kind of a minimalist runner. I love running because it makes me feel free. I don’t want to be dragging a whole bunch of junk along.

So… yes… there are all kinds of things you can use for running. Running has lots of high tech stuff you can use now days. It comes down to total personal preferences.

Only a couple are really required to enjoy this sport…

Good shoes and a willing heart =) don’t get bogged down with things… just get out there…and as Nike says…. “Just Do It”

Happy running boys and girls!

On The Road Again, Sorta

Did the title of my blog just generate that old Willy Nelson song in your head ? It did mine. Please… please…make it go away….

Ok… on with business… I’m talking about… me… on the road…  running….finally… well sorta running. You gotta start somewhere and sometimes you gotta start small again, right ?

If you read a previous post of mine, “Not Running Sucks” you might remember me sharing I was sidelined with a diagnosis from my sports doc that I had insertional Achilles tendonitis. That’s a mouthful isn’t it ?

Ugh. My first running injury ever.

But hey, play hard, invest yourself into something 110%, getting hurt is a part of the game sometimes. In my opinion, it beats sitting on the sidelines, right ??

So I got the instructions from doctor… meds, icing, rolling the heck outta my calves/Achilles/hammies, modified exercise (no running) but I did get to spend a lot of time on my bike which was a second substitute for NOT running. On other days, boxing and strength training were my friends.

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No, I’m not cooking. These are runner recovery tools 😉

Overall, I guess you can say, I’ve been an “actively” recovering runner =)

Last Wed. I went in for my follow up with him to see how my 6 weeks had gone. Long story short, he gave me his blessing to hit the road this week. His words… “ok my ultra girl, we’re gonna start off short and sweet, no more than 1 1/2 – 2 miles to start”

*** the running gods were smiling down on me ***

Ok, I’ll take it, although secretly I had been thinking 3 miles would be a good first run back out….

You know I took the full two miles, don’t you ? 😉

It felt nothing short of amazing slipping into my running gear that morning, putting on my shoes that I only wear for running, strapping on my Nike watch knowing I’d use it for my mileage and not just for time, and then going through routine stretches and warms ups before I took off.

I had already given myself instructions… 2 miles… add in walking… no pushing hard, easy, easy pace… listen to my body.

With my first step, my heart was singing.

Being out with the sun coming up, the road under my feet, the wind in my face ( even though it was a lovely humid Tx morning) feeling the familiar response of pulling a hill and my body responding and doing what I’ve trained it to do….. priceless.

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Messy, happy, sweaty runner girl. First run after 2 months off ? Delicious.

I returned from my 2 miles sweaty and feeling amazing…. thinking I could still continue on… but knowing I still need to be careful and let my body adapt and not stress it with to much.

My goals are small at this point. I want to add another 1.1 miles to those 2 so I can be in at least in the 5k zone again.  I have plans for that distance 😉 I also know my days running in a week will be few for awhile.

Right now, if I can do that, stay injury/pain free then that’s a major victory. I know I might have to adjust goals I had for end of year ( marathon) and I’m not even sure of a half at this point.

However, I DO have a new challenge on my radar screen and that’s all I need right now. ( I will share more about this later)

So, yeah, not running DOES suck. I hate not doing it. I miss it. ( someone… when I’m better… and knocking out a 20miler…remind me I said this haha 😉

I want to remind you, my faithful 1.5 readers, whatever obstacles you might be up against right now, you can always find another way to continue to get you to your goals.

Oh, and being a little stubborn, persistent, and hard headed don’t hurt either  =)

Anyone ? Anyone out there up against any obstacles they are working to overcome right now ?

Eating Mindfully

Food.

It’s everywhere in our lives, isn’t it? Food is essential for life and health, but it’s also used for purposes other than nutrition.

food as a drug

Perhaps you’ve seen this quote floating around the internet. Food is used for everything from celebrating, comforting, helping our emotions, and perhaps even feeding deeper things in us that we are unaware of, like coping with life.

There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t at some point, eaten, without the need of hunger. There isn’t anything necessarily “wrong” with it… I mean come on… when we have room for chocolate cake after a meal… we aren’t hungry, are we? And I usually won’t turn it down… 😉

For any of us on a health and wellness journey, eating mindfully is crucial to long term success.

What does eating mindfully mean?

Let’s look at it like this… have you ever been in the kitchen and found yourself mindlessly shoving something in your mouth ? Are really thinking about it? You might have seen it and thought… “oh this…”  you might not even really taste it in the full sense of tasting. You’re checked out thinking about the laundry, or tomorrows to-do list.

You can put yourself in whatever scenario…there are times we are shoveling food in our faces without a purpose and well, quite mindlessly.

Or, we could feel stressed and emotionally strung out. A hard day. Kids making us nuts. Aging parents. Job that takes a toll on you.

We find comfort in our favorite food.

Trust me… I get it.

I think one of THE biggest things that clicked to me a few years ago was recognizing I often would reach for food, and not good stuff, and realize I was emotionally eating. I also understood I had seen it modeled in front of me my entire life in my family. To identify (emotional eating) helped keep me aware of that weak area in me.

I remember one evening, after a rough day with one of the kids, my husband walked in the kitchen where I happened to be shoveling BBQ chips in my mouth.

I told him… “I want you to know, I’m fully aware that I’m emotionally eating right now!” Now that is kinda funny… but for me… saying it out loud and seeing it…gave me some power. ( I didn’t eat the bag… I really had a couple handfuls and put them away… I started thinking of what I was doing)

As I’ve moved along, I have become more aware of eating mindfully. I think for a lot of people, that is a key element missing in their quest to lose weight and get fit.

What does that mean? or look like?

Think about what you’re eating.

Are you hungry? Do you need it ?

If you are (hungry) learn to eat slowly and savor what you are eating. The slower you eat the more satisfied you’ll feel.

Think about your meals… what do you need? Plan tasty and healthy options that you enjoy.

Be aware of how much you eat. The majority of people greatly over estimate portion sizes often eating two-three servings. These extra calories in a day all add up to weight gain.

Think about your snacks. Be mindful of how they support your goals of losing weight and getting healthy.

One example for me is, walking into a gas station. I went in to grab a bottle of water the other day and looking around I thought “there is almost nothing in here I should eat”.

I’ve become “mindful” of my eating habits. It’s a good change to make. I’ve learned to look at foods and mindfully determine if it’s what I need.

I’m mindful when I make food selections and portions.

Gaining control in our lives with food will require intentional thinking and readjusting of habits ( in the beginning) in time though, being mindful of how you eat, why, and what, will all be new healthy habits for you =)