Friday, April 27, 2012

Food Facts Friday: Tart Cherry Juice

After Wednesday's workout, I had an aching pain in my left butt cheek ...and no, it wasn't my kids, this time! This pain went down the back of my leg, knarled up in the back of my left knee, stayed there, and oddly reappeared in the heel of my left foot. As the day went on, the pain made my left hammy tighten up so much that I couldn't bend over to touch my knees, never mind my toes.
What the heck?
Where did this come from?
So, later that afternoon, I ran to my chiropractor. I freak out when I get any sort of pain: in my feet, ankles, knees, quads, hammies, butt, back, neck, shoulders, head - those are all the parts that I've had some pain, over the last few months. I just think, if something interferes with my running, I will go 'full-crazed'.
And with each ache, and pain, I've gone, well ...crazy! 
Okay, half-crazy! 
Hey, if the name fits ....

My chiropractor said it sounded like sciatic pain.
My chiropractor, Dr. L., and his wife own a family practice. I love them both - they are one of those really cute couples - and they love, love, love their patients. Just one of those practices, that when you go in, everything from A to Z, is done to make you feel good, better or best as possible. Well, this past Wednesday, I was hoping for at least, a 'best as possible'. I don't like medicine, I have to take some for my Crohn's, or else it gets really ugly, but other than that, I like to use food as my medicine, running for stress and Dr. L for pain!

So, there I was, with Dr. L. adjusting my back - and hey, it was not fun! It friggin'
I'm not kidding!
The muscles up and down my spine were tight as a drum. He really had to press to align my back. And after that, he adjusted my neck and the room was spinning - I got really dizzy and light headed. I haven't been to get adjusted for a few months, and I have been ignoring all my recent aches and pains 'cause I haven't had any time. It seems as if they caught up to me.

I plan on going back to Dr. L. next Wednesday - I do feel a bit better. This morning I was able to bend over and touch my ankles, with just a bit of discomfort.

In the meanwhile, I am going to start drinking tart cherry juice. There has been tons of research out on this, lately:

like this ...

... and this ..

Running can cause acute muscle damage, which results in inflammation. This inflammation can negatively affect how much power and force a runner produces. Since tart cherries are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, they can reduce muscle damage and pain during strenuous exercise (i.e., running).

One study suggests drinking tart cherry juice for 
7days prior to and during a strenuous running event
to minimize post-run muscle pain.

Okay, but what if the damage is already done, or occurs over a period of time, and ignored, like I did for the last several weeks?
Turns out, it's actually not too late.
You can put the cart before the horse when it comes to tart cherries!
Research shows that tart cherries can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with osteo-arthritis and fibromyalgia!
If tart cherry juice can help with chronic pain,
where do I sign? 
How much? 
How often?
Looks as if researchers suggest:
One X 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice per day, for 7 days, before strenuous exercise, to minimize post-exercise muscle soreness
One X 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice per day, for three weeks, to reduce pain and minimize muscle soreness
Two X 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice per day, for 10 days, to help reduce chronic pain and muscle soreness.

There are about 45 tart cherries per 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice and about 260calories per 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice - so, if you are concerned about calories, one 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice can be used to replace a snack and/or a recovery drink.
This is my favorite!
Here's to some pain relief:
Bottoms up! 
And ...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday at the track: Fuzzy, Fast & Furious!

Today, it felt as if my track work out went by in the blink of an eye. The Special Olympics were being held where I normally train on Wednesday mornings, so I met Coach at another local track. I drove, to this other local track, parked and started my 2mile warm-up. I had something like a hot flash (yeay), so the cool 50*(10*C) temp felt great!
The Fuzzy:
I'm fortunate. I'm not a true allergy sufferer. My nose doesn't get all stuffy, my sinuses don't ache from pain and my throat doesn't get scratchy. Unless ....the pollen count is really up there. Today's count:
It's not like I suffer terribly, but my eyes & sinuses do burn and my head kinda gets like a fuzzy feeling. I'm blaming it on the Oaks - it rolls around the streets like tumbleweed and then the landscapers blow it up into the air with their leaf blowers, so you can get a nice good dose in your face when your running by!
Love the Oaks, Hate Their Sperm Cells!
So, when I finished my warm-up and dove into my 100meter strides, I felt very fuzzy. This was no time for fuzzy - Coach planned a fast and furious work out: 12 sets of 200meters at 42-44second pace. Each set had a 200meter jog to give the 'ole ticker a break.

The Fast & Furious:
I wasn't alone, Ms Fast-ee Pants was there ..."Wish you came a bit earlier, we could have run together."
Wait, she schools me when I'm not all fuzzy!
Seeing the horror in my face after her suggestion, and hearing my time for one set, Ms Fast-ee Pants went with some encouraging words, "See, your doing the same pace, we could have done this together." Thanks for the vote of confidence, but if you haven't noticed ....

this is what I look like when I'm doing my sets:
Feel my pain!
while this is what Ms Fast-ee Pants looks like doing her sets:
Only 12 sets, really, that's it?
Yes, that is one happy whippet!

She was right, though. It's nice to have someone next to you - you get to push each other along. Besides, I like training with her - even if my social skills are not quite up to par ...I just gotta work on getting that talking and gasping for air thing down pat.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Food Facts Friday: Chocolate, "Food of the God's"

In the days of the Olmec, Aztec and Mayan populations, the cocoa bean was consumed raw and lightly fermented. It was then thought to be, and still thought by today's standards by some, the "Food of the God's".
Raw Cocoa Beans
But you know, people hear, "Chocolate is good for you", and they go hog-wild!
Mmmm, mmm, good!
Well, I hate to rain on your chocolate parade, but a little perspective here, wouldn't hurt. On the down side, chocolate candy is still full of refined sugar and lots of saturated fat from the cocoa bean, added milk or milk powder, and some even have added vegetable oils, like palm oil.

So why is chocolate being touted as having health benefits?

Some scientific evidence has proposed that dark chocolate, in small amounts, can be a rich source of antioxidants and plant flavanoids, which have some unique anti-inflammatory effects on our blood vessels, increasing blood flow, decreasing blood pressure and increasing HDL (good cholesterol). Dark chocolate has even been linked to increased cardiometabolic health, like increasing insulin sensitivity!

Maybe you remember some other foods that I have posted which are high in plant flavanoids and help improve aerobic endurance (re: quercitin, found in dark fruits, onions, scallions, kale and broccoli)? So, there are plenty of other ways to look for a daily healthy dose of plant flavanoids - but there is something else that makes letting that little piece of candy melt slowly in your mouth. Maybe it has to do with the fact that besides the physical benefits, high quality chocolate offers some emotional benefits because cocoa contains a chemical, very similar to some of our own body's chemicals (dopamine and adrenaline), which act as mild antidepressants and positively stimulate mood.
Serenity, NOW!
The key is to savor this heavenly guilty pleasure 
while maximizing the health benefits. 

This can be done by choosing a healthy variety. Carefully read the label and make sure that the first ingredient is cocoa, not sugar. Also the cocoa content should be at least 70%. And you may want to avoid varieties formulated with mannitol or sugar alcohols, which could lead to tummy problems.

These guys got all their bases covered: Organic, Dark chocolate
& 73% cocoa content!
So, indulge, a little,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday at the track: You whistle, I run

It was about 20 degrees cooler this morning than it was this past Sunday! I decided to stick to my plan from last Wednesday and run my warm-up and cool-down on the grass and dirt trails that run along the paved path throughout the little park I train in on Wednesdays. This slowed me down and allowed me to focus on my breathing. I just wanted to relax before training my fast twitch muscle fibers - I was so uptight last week at the track.
Such a great little park!
After my 2mile warm-up, Coach only assigned me 4strides. He always goes a little easy on me after a race (Thanks Coach!). I felt strong today. It showed in my 100meter strides, too. I broke 20 seconds a few times.

Then, Coach told me that I was going to run 2minutes 30seconds, walk for 20seconds, run 2minutes 20seconds, walk 20 seconds, run 2minutes 10seconds on and so forth down to 20seconds. I had to run a 7minute pace, but I averaged about a 6:40pace.

So, when I started to feel like I was gasping for air, I would look at my Garmin to see how many seconds I had left, but for the most part, the only way I knew to stop running was by Coach's whistle. And after the 20second walk-breaks (which were heavenly I might add), the only way I knew to start running again was by Coach's whistle and a scream, "Go, Go, Goooo!"

I was like a dog, waiting to hear a whistle to know when I should start running or when I should heal. It was actually pretty hysterical!
Go, go, gooooo!

So, on any other day, if someone told me I look like a dog, I'd be pretty miffed, but today, I'd just and agree with them and laugh ...or bark!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Cherry Blossom Run

Today's Essex County Cherry Blossom 10k was tough! I think maybe it was the sudden rise in temperature. This week was weird, too. My Crohn's was active and it just kicked the crap out of me ...literally!
Oh well, sh@t happens!
All in all, though, I recovered pretty good. I beat last year's time by 11seconds per mile. And I only fell short of my PR by 1second per mile. The disappointment fell in the trying. I really did try to beat my PR. I pushed. The course was hilly. Nothing major, but enough to make you envy the people who decided to cave in and walk.

The course is very pretty and it meanders through cherry tree groves. The park is pristinely maintained - it's a little gem in the very urban city of Newark, NJ.
Branch Brook Park, Newark, NJ
During the race, I saw Ms Fast-ee Pants. She was all smiles and waving, bright and chipper as ever. I was ...dying, and curious as to why she was on the course - I thought she was racing in Marathon Monday, up in Boston.
"Wow," I thought, 
"I can't believe she is running in this 10K. 
Shouldn't she be home doing gluconeogenesis or something?"

Well, if anyone could run in this 10K, and then do a marathon the next day, it would be Ms Fast-ee Pants ...she is amazing!

The absolute best part of the race was the end. Not because I was gasping for air and wanted the pain and discomfort to end, but because I met up with Ms Fast-ee Pants. I also met another female runner, who apparently is Ms Fast-ee Pants, The First. I don't even want to go there! Anyway, they were both so kind, they didn't laugh when I told them my time, but instead commiserated on how hot it was. That's when Ms Fast-ee Pants told me how the organizers of the Boston Marathon sent out an e-mail warning people of tomorrow's predicted race temperature. It's supposed to hit 85-90*F (29-32*C) up there, tomorrow! They told people they could defer, until 2013, because of the high temperatures. They are trying to avoid people getting hurt - it's serious. I heard people have died running the Boston Marathon - even with normal temps!
That's crazy, right?
Okay, so that's why Ms Fast-ee Pants was schooling everyone in this 10K - she came in first in her age group!
Congratulations, girl!

I, on the other hand, finished 6th in my age group ... these New Jersey ladies can move! Aaaagh day ....
Until then ....

Friday, April 13, 2012

Food Facts Friday: All the BUZZ from GMO Corn to Pesticides

I have shunned High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) for several reasons: 
it can be made from genetically engineered crops (GE) (at least 85% of corn is GE), 
it is enzymatically processed so that glucose is chemically changed into fructose to make a sweeter end product 
and it has been linked to obesity.
Well, now, HFCS, has been linked to the collapse of the honeybee colonies in North America. I have previously posted how the North American honeybee population is declining. At that time, the reports showed that something was going on with the bees' digestive system, and the evidenced was linked to genetically modified crops. Up until now, researchers couldn't exactly pinpoint what was going on. 

Now, a new study from Harvard reports that HFCS contains traces of a chemical used to coat seeds to rid the crops of pests. Why does this matter to bees? Well it seems beekeepers have been using HFCS to supplement the bees' diet to boost honey production. But, while boosting honey production, they are exposing the bees to this insecticide. (Yes, if you eat HFCS, you are also ingesting trace amounts of this insecticide! Wonderful, right?)

Harvard researchers reported that the insecticide responsible is called imidacloprid. Bees also come in contact with this insecticide when they are exposed to pollen from plants that have been sprayed with imidacloprid. It seems the chemical is absorbed by the plant, moves through the plant's vascular pathways and ends up in the pollen.
Listen, you can hear the bees, "I'll take the sweet nectar, hold the HFCS & the Imidacloprid, please!"
Why does this matter? Well, for starters, research determining the link between imidacloprid and honeybee colony collapse, showed that the exposure (to imidacloprid) responsible for the collapse of a honeybee colony is actually far less than that which is typically found in our cornfields! And since honey bees reportedly pollinate about $20billion dollars worth of crops each year, they're importance to our food supply and agricultural economy should not be taken lightly! Lastly, scientists do not even know how imidacloprid could hurts us when we eat it as a residue on plants that have been sprayed with this insecticide, or when we eat it in foods that are higher up on the food chain, and have a concentrated amount of this chemical.

One way to avoid this problem: Choose Organic
Organic crops do not spray insecticide, like imidacloprid.
Organic foods are pesticide free ...YIPPEE!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday at the track: Slow and thick!

Well, today, I was off. I ate too many rich foods this past weekend, and I have been paying for it for the last three days. My Crohn's has been super active. I'm dehydrated, in pain and slow as molasses.
Slow and thick!
Even Coach had to rearrange my workout because I couldn't run as fast as I was supposed to run.

Today, I ran a warm up mile(+) and then six 50meter strides. After those strides, I did four 100meter strides. Then I was supposed to run five 800meter sets with a 200meter recovery jog between each set. The 800meters were supposed to be done in 3':10". I ran the first one, okay. But then, I completely fell off the charts on the second and third set, running the 800meters in 3':50" ...or more.

Coach told me to stop. He told me to run the next 1600meters, in 400meter intervals, with a "standing" minute and a half recovery.
I felt so disappointed in myself.
Sorry, girlfriend, but today really sucked!
I felt a little better for the next two sets, and for the last two 400meters, I was able to finish in 1':35". I just couldn't sustain that speed for 800meters. Aaagh, a new goal to master.

I was supposed to run 1mile cool-down, but instead, 
I needed to just take my time, go slow, 
and run two more miles. 
I did something different during that two mile cool-down. I didn't jog on the paved path, instead, I ran along the edge of the path, on the dirt, grass and gravel. I took my time. I navigated over the rocks, through the dead, broken and dried up branches, and around the tree roots and stumps. I felt like a little kid, playing in the park.
It was refreshing!
I think I need to do that more often. Next time, I'm taking off the Garmin, putting some soulful blues on the iPod, and taking my time.
Sometimes you gotta go slow, to go fast!
(I hope so 'cause Sunday is a 10K and Coach's goal for me is a 7'mile!)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Food Facts Friday: No Food For You!

No Food For You!
Okay, I'll admit, sometimes I over react. And sometimes I misread people and cross that "personal-space" line. I always have to keep reminding myself that people are not as open as I am when it comes to talking about body fluids, medical terms and nutrition.

My side-kick has an expression for me goes something like this:
"I see you are...." 
(slight pause)
"....making friendzzz .....Ugh-gain!"

No where is this any more obvious, then when people start talking about exercise and food. I literally eat this stuff-up. No, really. I love medical nutrition (congratulate me, please, 'cause today was my first day volunteering in the dietetics department at an outpatient rehab center), I love sports nutrition and I love talking about how and what foods can make a positive difference on someone's health.

I need to get into my head to include in that old adage, 'don't talk about religion or politics' something like, 'also don't talk about how, what, how much or when people eat, why they should eat something or when they should eat it.'

I just need to remind myself that's what my Friday Posts are for - this way, if people don't want to read it/hear it, they can just click out!

So, this Friday, I'm going on a rant. I've held back, bit my tongue, and haven't offered any advice, today or this past week, but now, I'm gonna burst, if I don't say something! I am just in shock over how many females talk about going on, or having to go on, a diet!

First, I'm tired of the myth that 'everyone can achieve a certain look.' We are all unique, and if you are not super skinny, it does not mean that something is wrong with you. Granted, I am not talking about people who are obese and subjecting themselves to a plethora of chronic diseases. I am talking about your average healthy female, who looks at the number on the scale, or their pant's size, to determine their self-worth. More importantly, I am saddened by the extreme measures some females take to be a certain size. Many of these measures can in no way be incorporated into healthy lifelong/lifestyle eating habits that can and should be maintained.

Okay. There. I said it. Cat's out of the bag.
Nope. Actually there's more!
My absolute worst pet peeve: Active women who diet because they want to perform better. In 1992, the Task Force on Women's Issues of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defined the Female Athlete Triad, otherwise known as the Triad. I'm not just talking about elite athletes. The Triad can include recreational and amateur female athletes.

The Female Athlete Triad syndrome is defined as having three interrelated components:
disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis.

Disordered eating can range from skipping meals to restricting food groups, like fat, or restricting food selections, like meat and dairy to the more extreme measures like continuous fasting, binging and purging, diet pills, diuretics, laxatives or excessive exercise.

It's scary that some active females actually think these disordered eating habits are harmless. In reality, an inadequate intake of calories can do lots of harm. Instead of helping performance it can actually impair performance by depleting muscles of energy stores, and lead to dehydration, loss of muscle mass, electrolyte abnormalities, low blood sugar, anemia, amenorrhea and osteoporosis.

Amenorrhea is the absence of a menstrual period for three consecutive months (and not pregnant). It can be very seducing to able to avoid Aunt Flow. Many young active females get sucked into thinking, "Hey, this aint so bad."

Amenorrhea is based on balance: energy in and energy out. 
If the right amount of foods are not eaten in adequate amounts, the body will run out of energy. So, not only won't there be enough energy for sports, competition, training or exercise, there won't be enough energy for some basic bodily functions, like menstruation, muscle and bone maintenance and repair, or worse, energy for the brain, heart and lungs.

Before 1984, amenorrhea was thought to be a benign condition that was reversible. It's important to realize that this condition is not benign, nor is it a "normal" result of "adequate" physical training. Fortunately, it is the most recognizable symptom of the Triad, but female athletes and their coaches need to realize that amenorrhea is serious and requires prompt attention.

Bones are very active tissues, they are constantly "under construction" building and remodeling. Young adults can build bone mass until around 30-35years old. So, it's important, during this window, that young female athletes build as much bone mass as possible.

Bone building is dependent on hormones. So, when females suffer from amenorrhea, the hormones that control bone building, also stop. This is the same reason menopausal women are subject to developing osteoporosis. Low bone mass subjects the Triad to stress fractures, especially in the hip and spine.

Complications of disordered eating, combined with menstrual dysfunction, increases the potential to lose bone mass. 

Treatment for the Triad is to regain balance: adequate nutrition, rehab for any sports related injuries and rest to restore the body's normal functions. 

The best treatment, though, is education: Be aware that amenorrhea is a serious matter, which could lead to loss of bone mass and the inability to achieve adequate peak bone mass. 

And, if someone you know is actively involved in some kind of disordered eating, speak up, say something ....
"....make some friendzzz. Ugh-gain!"


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday at the Track: Running with Ms Fast-ee Pants

I had a lovely little 1.5mile warm-up this morning. After my warm-up, I grabbed my water bottle filled with 1/2water-1/2Gatorade and trotted up to the track. Coach was already on the track, he was training someone I had never met before. We shook, introduced ourselves, Coach gave this person her orders, and off she went. Then, he looked at me and said that he wanted me to train with "HER". Nooo, not Ms Fast-ee Pants. I won't be able to keep up. Why?
Your gonna train with HER. You're gonna be her pacer!
Aahhahahahahaha! I'm gonna pace HER? Yeah, right!

The person I'm speaking of is not the new person, I just met. Nope. The person I am speaking of is the woman whom I have quoted before as saying, "I just love to beat the guys! The younger, the better!"
Oh, God ...I'm Scared!

Okay, I got through five 100meters. Ms Fast-ee Pants was very complimentary, "Oh. You're a much faster sprinter than I." Hello? I'm breathing like I'm dying here and you look like you just went for a nice stroll. Plus, as soon as we jogged back, she was into the next stride. I think I heard her say, "Don't wait for it." 
Okay, Yeah, (Major Panting) I'm right ....behind ya'!
Next, we moved on to six 300meters. Each one, we had a 100meter recovery jog. This is where it really got embarrassing. Ms Fast-ee Pants is gearing up for Boston. I think the idea here for me setting the pace was to make sure she didn't go too fast, but still kept up some speed. We had to run for each of the 300meters in 1'12".

Yeah, I ate her dust for all six 300meters. And the 100meter recovery, she was like still running, and talking, like she just went for a nice little jog. Me? Hah! I was thinking of plans on how to escape to my car without anyone noticing.
I apologized, "I'm not doing you any good. I'm not a good pacer."
"And by the way, how can you still be talking?
See I can't find any air!
I think there's just none circulating around me ...GASP this time!"

The torture continued, as Ms Fast-ee Pants schooled me on the 4 X 1/4mile hill training Coach assigned in the next part of our workout. If I were as fast as she, I bet you she would have kept up conversation the whole time. It made no sense for her to be yelling to someone lagging two yards behind - okay, so maybe it was three, or five, or six yards behind, but who's counting?
My legs are burning!
Next, we jogged back to the track for four more 300meters. These were also run within 1'12" with a short 100meter recovery jog in between.
Then, that was it. We were done. We did it.
I did it!
I hung in there with the amazing Ms Fast-ee Pants.
I hung in there!
Ms Fast-ee Pants truly is amazing - in more ways than just running fast. She is a strong female and a female role model on many levels - above and beyond the running. But, let's face it, she's fast!
Good Luck in Boston, Ms Fast-ee Pants! 
I'll be rooting for you!