Running Strong Book Review

On the cover of Running Strong, beneath the name of the author, Jordan D. Metzl, MD, is, in parentheses, “32 Marathons & 12 Ironmans.” Why is this information so important that it’s featured on the cover of the book? Because runners don’t trust doctors who aren’t runners. At least, most of us don’t. I once had a doctor (not a runner, but a well-known orthopedist who had treated professional football players) tell me I should quit running as it appeared from an x-ray that running was doing more harm to my hips than good. I was 27. It’s a good thing I was (still am) stubborn because I ignored that advice and promptly found an orthopedist who was a runner and who gave me a completely different diagnosis.

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Dr. Jordan Metzl is, it’s evident, a runner. Moreover, he’s a runner who has experienced severe injury (torn ACL), and has not only recovered from the injury but has also kept at bay the resulting arthritis with a strength training program he created called IronStrength. Running Strong is a perfect book for me with lots of pictures. 😉 There’s also an app called Blippar that you can download in order to step inside Dr. Metzl’s virtual office and watch a number of helpful videos (there are over 30) that accompany the book.

The book is a great resource for runners who’ve had or who currently have injuries. The first section of the book, “Nuts and Bolts,” describes the kinetic chain and why strengthening this chain is so important for runners, and explains why we get hurt and how running mechanics play a part.

Section 2, “What’s That Pain?” is further divided into sections for parts of the body.

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IMG_2804It’s easy to look up an injury based on the affected body part. The images of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are fantastic and really help me see what the text is describing. I went straight to the lower leg section to research calf muscle injuries, since those have plagued me for some time. Each injury is further divided, describing first symptoms, then “what’s going on,” followed by “what to do” and “prevention,” which includes stretches and strengthening exercises. There’s also a blippar video accompanying each injury description, for more information about prevention and treatment. Dr. Metzl also explains how to recognize the difference between good pain and bad pain, when you can keep running and when you need to stop.

Part 3, “Getting the Most from Your Machine,” provides descriptions and images of the IronStrength training exercises Dr. Metzl recommends all runners do to prevent injury, as well as correct foam rolling form. There are blippar videos accompanying these exercises so you can see how to do them correctly. I’ve been following the Iron Strength program, and can attest that it’s challenging but a lot of fun. The plyometric jump squats are definitely the exercises I love to hate!

“Tools of the Trade” covers the foods athletes should/shouldn’t eat, shoes and clothing, and touches on the barefoot debate. The final section, “His and Hers,” discusses issues specific to women and those that apply to men. The appendix features training plans for distances 5K to the Marathon.

I read the first section of the book in its entirety, enjoying Dr. Metzl’s passion for and obvious love of running and its benefits (as he notes, running has been shown to treat mild to moderate depression), along with the great tips and advice. The information is laid out in an easy-to-read format, with sidebars and images to break up the text.  I read “Tools of the Trade” and the women’s section of “His and Hers” in similar fashion. I consider the other sections of the book to be perfect for reference, parts that I’ll dip into when I want some more information. I plan to keep doing the IronStrength program and accompanying stretching/foam rolling exercises.

Running Strong debunks the myth many of us runners hear: “Running is bad for your knees” and asserts that runners tend to have less arthritis in their knees than the general population, and advocates daily foam rolling (more important than stretching) as well as strength training to run faster and with less injury.

Overall, I think this is a great read as well as a fantastic resource for all runners, young or old, beginners or old-timers, injured or injury-free. Especially good for those who like books with pictures. 😉

Disclaimer: I was sent a complimentary copy of Running Strong by Rodale/Runners World in exchange for my review. However, the views expressed in this post are entirely my own. I never guarantee a positive review and rarely give one that is 100% positive. 

SoulCycle DC: Sweating in the City

I never promise a complimentary review. What I do promise is that I will share, candidly and openly and with an attempt at wit, my experience, which may or may not come with a hint of bias because, after all, being objective is boring.

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SoulCycle opened its first Washington, DC location in August and I was sent a free pass and some SoulCycle goodies. Let me start by saying spin really isn’t my thing. Being in a dark room with thumping music, in close quarters with other sweaty bodies isn’t what appeals to me in terms of a workout. I’ve done it enough times to know that  I prefer riding in a small group, outside, exploring the mountains of Western Loudoun County, breathing the fresh air, and enjoying the gorgeous views. I wouldn’t trade that with any studio in Washington, DC, even if it is very hip and the workout is awesome.

That being said, there are times when riding outside isn’t possible. Like on a weekday. When it’s raining. In winter. When I don’t have time. When my bike is on a truck on its way back from Canada, enjoying the scenery without me. And spin offers a great alternative. I say alternative loosely because it clearly isn’t the same thing. Spin is more like an interval workout. The SoulCycle format is 45 minutes of fast paced riding with some light reps with weights thrown in at the end. To quote the press release I received along with a free pass and some other goodies, “SoulCycle is a motivating, joyful, full-body indoor cycling dance party on a bike.” I wouldn’t argue with that.

With my free pass I signed up for a 7am class on a weekday morning with Abby. Online signup is pretty much a must because the 55-bike studio is often full, and because you get to pick your bike. Yep, no pushing and shoving when the doors open to get a good spot. You’ve already reserved yours. The image below is the 6am Monday class. The grey circles are the bikes that are already reserved. Apparently, Washington DC is full of teacher’s pets who like to sit at the front.

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I reserved bike #2 because I wanted to be able to see the instructor, but I also didn’t want to be slap bang in the middle of all the sweaty bodies. I arrived 15 minutes before class, as the web site advises. SoulCycle is pretty welcoming on a gray morning in DC.

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The location at 23rd and M is close to GW University, and so I shouldn’t have been surprised to be surrounded by a bunch of 20-somethings clad in Lululemon and sipping SmartWater. SoulCycle includes bike shoe rental as part of the class fee ($20 for first time riders, $30 regular, 5 classes for $145, etc.) but since I own four pairs of bike shoes and have compatible cleats (that’s important, check your cleats are compatible before bringing them) I just wore my own shoes.

The SoulCycle space consists of the bike studio, bathrooms, and a locker area. Given that it’s small (3,000 sq. ft. but feels smaller) and a large area in front is given to the SOUL boutique, the locker area and bathrooms are pretty cramped. The shower area is so tight that I elected to walk to my office, just four blocks away, and use the comparatively spacious showers there. There is nowhere to wait for class, so I stood along the wall while waiting for the studio to be readied for the 7am class. The 6am class had just let out and the locker area was packed. Someone threw a wet towel into the laundry bin and it almost slapped me in head as it flew past.

We were let in just before 7 to find rows of closely-packed bikes, each with a towel atop the recently sanitized handlebars. Abby bounded in and announced that if we needed assistance adjusting our bikes, just raise a hand and an employee in a yellow shirt would come help us out. I’ve adjusted spin bikes before but I raised my hand anyway as I wanted the full SoulCycle experience for my review. Also, my bike had clearly just been ridden by a giant and needed serious adjustment. The girl who had checked me in came right over and got me set up, then made sure I was comfortable before moving on to someone else.

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Class got going pretty pronto. Abby cranked up the music, put on her mic, and started giving us instructions. Her bike was on a platform with candles on the front (of the platform, not the bike) so we could all see her. Abby was bubbly and lively, bouncing around on the bike, spinning fast and talking at the same speed about happy hour the night before. (This was a Tuesday morning…if I didn’t feel old before, I did now.)

The workout was fast-paced and fun, with lots of “how are we feeling?” – audience participation mandatory. It wasn’t intimidating, but it wasn’t a piece of cake either. I was just getting into it when the fire alarm went off and the music cut out. Abby kept going. I was wondering if we should be evacuating when the staff ran in with a duffle bag like some SWAT team. They quickly and expertly hooked up a set of speakers to get the music working again. Clearly, focus on the important stuff first. The fire alarm went off a couple more times but apparently it was just a drill so we kept going.

Later that day:

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Final synopsis: A fun, sweaty, energetic workout. Great way to start off the morning. SoulCycle markets itself to a young, hip crowd but honestly once we got in the studio I no longer felt like the old lady. Well, except when Abby played her favorite song from high school and I swear it was a tune that came out last year. It’s a bit pricey; 10 classes are $280 and even a package of 30 classes at $780 works out to $26/class. And it’s only 45 minutes long, which is perfect for the time-crunched DC crowd (especially when the Starbucks line is 15 minutes long) but not really long enough for me. But, if you enjoy spin and are looking for lively, energetic instructors, clean bikes, and a quick workout, then SoulCycle may be the thing for you.

Aside from DC, SoulCycle has studios in NYC, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Here’s a complete list of SoulCycle locations: https://www.soul-cycle.com/studios/full-list/

Run for Another with Janji

These days, I have to decline most product review requests. While I love reviewing products and providing honest criticism, my full-time-and-some job, as well as my hefty triathlon training schedule (my coach is doing a countdown to my ITU World Championships race, while I prefer to live in oblivion about how few weeks I have left), has left me little time to even write a post, let alone conduct a thorough product review.

But when Janji contacted me, and I took a look at their Web site, I had to accept. Janji makes the most beautiful running apparel (I actually wanted to buy a pair of their Kenya shorts at Santa Barbara Running Company over a year ago, but they didn’t have my size), with a twist. Founded by former collegiate runners Dave Spandorfer and Mike Burnstein, Janji is a running apparel company with a conscience. And by purchasing from Janji you are supporting the fight against the global food and water crisis.  

How do they do it? I learned from an infographic (a great tool to provide information visually, by the way) that Janji selects organizations that provide innovative, sustainable solutions to the crisis, and supports these organizations’ efforts through the sales of their apparel. What I like about Janji is that I know exactly how much help my purchase is providing. For instance, I know that each purchase I make of Janji’s Haiti apparel provides 8 packets of nutritional medicine to a child in Haiti, while also creating jobs and supporting local farmers…

The Hispaniolan Trogan, Haiti’s national bird...Janji's #1 selling item!

The Hispaniolan Trogan, Haiti’s national bird…Janji’s #1 selling item!

…while a purchase from the Kenya line provides a growing season’s worth of water for a family in that country, through a partnership with KickStart.

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Kenya Elephant Shirt

The ability to choose where and how to donate is, I think, a more satisfying experience than a donation where you have no idea how and to what degree it is helping. With Janji, you can select from seven countries, including the United States, for your donation. Sales of the United States collection provide meals to Americans who need them through a partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank. (Janji is headquartered at mile 23.4 of the Boston Marathon route.)

Janji sent me their women’s logo short sleeve, a purchase of which provides 8 meals to a family in need in the Greater Boston area. I immediately fell in love with the softness of this tee. I wore it several days in a row until I started getting strange looks from my neighbors.

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Next time you’re looking for some new performance apparel, check out Janji, and run for another. AND, through August 2014, get 20% off your order using the code GITTELMAN. 

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I am hopeless at this selfie thing…

 

Book Review: The Runner’s World Cookbook


I’m not much of a planner when it comes to cooking. The closest I get to anything resembling a plan is taking some fish or chicken out of the freezer the night before I plan to cook it. I have a set of staple recipes I use over and over. Occasionally I might try something new from Joy of Cooking or Epicurious, but that’s as interesting as it gets in my kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike cooking. Actually, I enjoy it. I just don’t like planning. And I like simple recipes with few ingredients and even fewer steps, probably because I don’t plan.

So when Laura from Runner’s World asked me if I’d review The Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes for Fueling Up and Slimming Down–While Enjoying Every Bite, I really wasn’t expecting to be bowled over. I hoped to find some quick, easy, healthy recipes that I could add to my limited repertoire and that would possibly help me clean out the veggie drawer. But this cookbook is clearly so much more than that. Let me take you on a tour of my new favorite cookbook.

The foreword is written by Deena Kastor. By the look of Kastor you’d think she doesn’t eat anything, but it quickly becomes clear that she enjoys food: “training makes us better athletes, but not without also eating good food that strengthens our bodies…” Kastor started running at age 11, which is the same age I was when I ran my first race. Clearly, I have not lived up to my potential. 😉

The introduction, “How to eat like a runner,” is divided into the following steps:

1. Eat a rainbow of produce every day. Yeah, so we’ve all heard this many times over. The difference is that The RW Cookbook lists foods under each color grouping, such as beets under red and eggplant under purple, and then explains why and how these foods benefit us. Did you know, for example, that “nitrates in beets may make your muscles work more efficiently during exercise by reducing the amount of oxygen they need”?

2. Choose the right carbohydrates. Here, whole grains are listed and explained.

3. Get the right fats. This step explains healthy vs. unhealthy fats and provides a list and descriptions of healthy oils.

4. Meet your protein needs. “Runners’ protein needs are higher than the average person’s.” This step is accompanied by lists of vegetarian, meat and poultry, and seafood protein sources.

The recipes in The RW Cookbook are grouped into categories much like you’d find in any other cookbook, but that’s where the similarities end. Because each individual recipe is accompanied by any of the following color-coded lables: Prerun, Recovery, Fast, Vegetarian, Vegan, Low-Calorie, Gluten-Free.  This makes it easy to quickly glance at a recipe and see which needs it meets.

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But that’s not all. A description provides information on the benefits of certain ingredients, helping runners understand why they should be including these foods in their diets. In the recipe above, turmeric is mentioned as it has anti-inflammatory properties. I added a little extra turmeric when I made the curried coconut-squash soup, just for good measure, and because I happen to have a massive container of it, which I bought after reading Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, where he also mentioned the spice’s benefits.

squash soup ingredients

In the recipe for chickpea and spinach stir-fry I learned that chickpeas “are loaded with a range of vital nutrients, including B vitamins, iron, magnesium, protein, carbs, and fiber.” They’re also very filling. And did you know that shrimp “provides the mineral selenium, which may help reduce join inflammation…”?

I really enjoyed hearing that runners should be eating egg yolks. I always felt that the egg got a bad rap when people starting blaming it for their high cholesterol. That’s more likely to come from the bacon and other fried foods that people like to eat with their eggs. Eggs have so many benefits: one egg provides 6 grams of protein and the yolk “contains vital nutrients that protect your eyes and promote brain health.”

The first recipe I made was the Curried coconut-squash soup. I just happened to have a butternut squash from the farm that delivers my veggies every week. I often stare at these veggies wondering how I’m going to eat them all. I think this book is going to help. The recipe was very straightforward and there weren’t a billion ingredients. First I had to peel and chop the squash and microwave it.

butternut squash

It was so pretty I had to take a picture. Next, I threw the squash, coconut milk, curry powder, (extra turmeric), and chicken broth in the blender, and then once that was all blended, poured it in a saucepan and heated it up.

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I thought it looked  a bit watery so I pureed some extra squash that I’d microwaved, since I’m not good at following directions and so had cooked the entire squash rather than the 3 cups specified. But I was glad I did because that made it much better.

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Yum. And looks like I’ll be making more because another squash arrived in the veggie delivery the day I made this.

Bouyed by my success with the soup, but still focused on the drawer full of veggies from the farm, I decided to try the More-vegetable-than-egg frittata. I used to make frittata a lot during the 7 years I was a vegetarian, but haven’t made it much since converting back to carnivorism 10 years ago. This recipe was different from the one I used to make. As the title states, it’s heavy on the veg, light on the egg. In fact, it called for 6 cups of veggies. True to form, I never actually measured out six cups but just chopped a load of summer squash, mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes. Heated some oil in my trusty cast iron skillet and threw in the veg.

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So pretty. Because I used mushrooms and tomatoes I had to cook the veg for a while until all the liquid was reduced (the recipe told me that, don’t think I know stuff like this) before adding the eggs and parm cheese and letting the thing set for 10 mins.

fritatta cooking

I actually let it set for 13 mins because I forgot to set the timer and lost track of time. Then I put it under the broiler for a few mins (kept a close eye on this part due to prior mishaps with the frittata I used to make) to brown the top.

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Wow. If only I had smellablog because it smelled amazing. I inhaled half that thing before I found my decorum and offered my husband a taste. He said it was good too, once he’d added some tabasco to it. What can I say? He likes to spice things up, especially since he knows I generally forget to even add salt when cooking.

Flipping through the book, I’ve gained some other ideas, such as adding steel cut oats to smoothies (“steel cut oats contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which can help slash LDL.”) and to burgers, which I plan to make tomorrow. Took the ground beef out of the freezer already!

burger and steel cut oats

I highly recommend adding The Runner’s World Cookbook to your repertoire. With a wide variety of healthy recipes – from snacks and smoothies to fish, vegetarian, and meat entrees, and of course not forgetting dessert (I’ll be finding an excuse to make the Sticky toffee figgy cupcakes soon…oh, already found one: “Dried figs are surprisingly rich in minerals, including iron, calcium, manganese, and potassium.” Winning!), this may very well be the only recipe book you need.

I was provided with a free copy of The Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes for Fueling Up and Slimming Down–While Enjoying Every Bite by Runner’s World in return for a review. The opinions stated within this post are my own and Runner’s World was not guaranteed a positive review, especially since I am not a very good cook. 

Book Review: The Jade Rabbit by Mark Matthews

At the center of The Jade Rabbit is a girl who runs. Fast. She defines herself – and is defined – by her Chinese heritage, the birth mother she never knew, the sub-3 hour marathon she seeks, and the “ghost” children of Moonlight.

I was sent this book by the author, Mark Matthews, who thought I might like it. I had no idea what it was about before I started reading, but was instantly drawn to the character of Janice, not just because she’s a runner, but because of the psychological, emotional, and, to a degree, spiritual benefit she seeks from running. She deals with her challenging job as director of a shelter for runaway and neglected youth and her own feelings of abandonment through running. For Janice, her marathon training runs strip the issues, baring their bones and enabling her to find solutions…but not always.

The book itself is like a marathon. It’s a little slow to start, holding back, as we’re supposed to run at the start of a 26.2 mile race, and then it picks up as the story builds. Just as you’re becoming intrigued, however, the chapter ends and a new one begins on a completely different track. I was annoyed when this initially happened but then got caught up in the next element of the story…until it happened again. Matthews knows how to build suspense.

Although, the direction that the story appears to be taking from the start turns out to be a mere distraction, as the character disappears from Janice’s grasp and therefore from the story, only to be referred to in later chapters. The character who replaces her comes and goes for a while, and I thought that she, too, might disappear, but Janice is able to keep her close and not lose her, although her fear of abandonment is a constant.

Janice often does her training runs late at night, in downtown Detroit, to and from the center. I’ve never been to Detroit but I imagine this is not a safe place for a woman – or anyone, for that matter – to run, especially at night. I wonder if this was an oversight by Matthews as a male author writing as a female protagonist, or if it were deliberate; her way of showing she has no fear. Janice’s training runs are interwoven with the story of her clients, her husband, and the questions that still remain about her birth mother.

Matthew’s style is choppy, at times messy, adding to the pathos of a story that takes several turns, speeds up, slows down, endures suffering, and, finally, prevails. An evocative read.

About the Author

Mark Matthews is a therapist who has worked in the behavioral health field for nearly 20 years. His first novel, STRAY, is based on experiences working in a treatment center with an animal shelter right next door within barking distance. His second novel, The Jade Rabbit, is the story of a Chinese adoptee who runs marathons to cope with her history of trauma and her struggles to save youth in a Detroit area runaway shelter. The author is an avid runner and has completed 12 marathons, including 5 Detroit Free Press Marathons, the 2010 Boston Marathon, and is training to run the Ann Arbor Marathon and New York City Marathon in 2012. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, a licensed professional counselor, and lives near Detroit with his wife and 2 daughters. The author and his family have a personal interest in Chinese adoption and donate monthly to the Half The Sky Foundation.

Vitafusion Gummy Vitamin Review OR How I Learned to Take My Vitamins

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Vitafusion.

I have a confession: I haven’t been taking my vitamins. For about a year.

I have another confession: I’ve been stealing my kids’ gummy vitamins. They are so much better than the horse-pills I’ve been avoiding.

I used to be really good about taking my vitamins, all of them. I even took these humungous glucosamine pills that were pretty tough to swallow. I took all my vitamins at night with a big glass of water. For years. And then, a couple of years ago, the problems started. First it was the glucosamine pills that started to make me feel sick, so I stopped taking those. But eventually, even the regular size pills were causing a gag reflex. I switched to a different multivitamin brand. But I still had problems. So I stopped taking the pills at night and started taking them in the morning.

Giant glucosamine horse pill...quarter for size reference

Giant glucosamine horse pill…quarter for size reference

One morning I must have stared at that little package of fairly innocuous pills for half an hour, as if they were some instrument of torture. And that’s when I knew I couldn’t take it/them any more. So I started taking my kids’ gummy vites.

Can't take it/them any more...

Can’t take it/them any more…

And I found that they were delicious. But of course kids’ vitamins are formulated for kids and I’m a 40 year old female, so I was a bit worried they weren’t right for me. One day, while wandering through Costco, I came across vitafusion Calcium Gummies. I was told about 10 years ago to start taking calcium, and I’d been taking them on and off but had completely stopped taking the pills. I don’t like the taste of those chocolate chews, either. But gummies are another matter. I actually have to be very disciplined in only taking two of these, they taste so good.

So when FitFluential contacted me and asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing Vitafusion MultiVites, I jumped at the chance. Turns out the MultiVites are very similar to my kids’ gummy vites, but I think they actually taste a little better. One thing I really like is that the colors and flavors are natural – they use annatto extract and blueberry and carrot concentrates.

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In a word...tasty

But do the gummies provide all my vitamin needs? Well, according to Vitafusion, Multivites:

– Are a complete multivitamin with 200% of the Daily Value (DV) for Vitamin D3 (as much as 3oz of salmon)

– Support energy metabolism

– Contain antioxidant vitamins C and E

– Support immune health

– Are an excellent source of vitamins B12 and B6, folic acid and pantothenic acid

– Contain as much vitamin A as one cup of broccoli

– Contain as much vitamin C as one tangerine

They really do make nutrition taste good! Not only are they much easier to take than pills or capsules, but, since there’s no need for water, they’re convenient, too. And they’re made in the USA.

Vitafusion gummy vitamins are available at drug and grocery stores nationwide including: Costco, Walmart, Target and CVS. You can find more info at www.gummyvites.com.

Do you have trouble taking vitamins? Ever eaten your kids’ gummy vites? Ever swallowed a quarter? 😉

 

Aquaphor Healing Ointment Review and Giveaway

I’ve been using Aquaphor healing ointment for several years, mainly in the winter months when my skin gets very dry, especially on my hands, where it’s not unusual for it to crack and bleed if I forget to use the ointment for a couple of days. I started keeping it beside my bed so I’d remember to put it on just before going to sleep, rather than right before washing my hands, which is what tends to happen during the day! The people at Aquaphor recently asked me to provide a review of their healing ointment, along with some tips on summer use. I’ll have to admit, I wasn’t sure about how to use it during the summer. Sure, I swim year round and do experience dry skin from chlorine, but nowhere near as badly as in the winter.

Aquaphor

And then the pools opened in our community and my youngest son spent several happy hours there on the first day, playing on deck and in the pool. At the end of the day the soles of his feet were red, raw, and swollen, from the deck or the bottom of the pool I’m not sure, but it was definitely painful. I was looking around for something to put on his feet when I remembered the Aquaphor. I put it on his feet while he was watching TV and then put his feet in plastic bags so he wouldn’t rub it off all over the couch… In a day or two, his feet were completely healed, which was a huge relief as he’s on the swim team and I was worried the foot pain would bother him at swim practice. Aquaphor contains petrolatum to soothe and protect, plus moisturizing ingredients like panthenol and glycerin. It’s dermatologist-trusted and not only helps to relieve cracked skin but also cuts, scrapes, and minor burns.

And…I recently learned that it’s great for triathletes, too! You can use it to create a protective barrier against friction caused by clothing or skin rubbing. Try it anywhere skin gets red, chafed or raw.

I love the fact that it doesn’t smell and comes in a big container for home as well as a flip cap tube for travel. I now keep one in my bag at all times.

Aquaphor was kind enough to provide me with several full-size samples, a CamelBak water bottle, and $50 VISA gift card, and is offering the same to one of my readers. Just enter via Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is only open to US Residents who are 18 years of age or older. Winner will be selected at midnight on July 20th.

Aquaphor provided me with the products listed above in return for a review. The opinions stated in this review are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Week with FRS: Review and Giveaway

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of FRS.

It’s interesting how many products used by athletes were originally designed for medical use. Take, for example, the ubiquitous compression sock, now standard attire at every marathon. Compression socks were originally designed to promote bloodflow in diabetes patients. I recall working in a pharmacy as a teenager and selling a lot of compression hose. Then Paula Radcliffe started sporting flesh colored compression socks and, IMO, that’s how it all got started.

Similarly, FRS was developed to deliver sustained energy to chemotherapy patients while supporting their immune systems. Packed with vitamins and green tea extracts, FRS contains the powerful antioxidant quercetin, which is found in the skins of blueberries, apples and grapes and has been shown in clinical trials to provide sustained energy, increased endurance and immune system support. Some bright spark realized that this would also be beneficial for anyone looking for natural, healthy, sustained energy without the crash, particularly athletes.

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My free sample package of FRS conveniently arrived right after my Half Ironman in Raleigh. I say conveniently because post-race tends to be a time when my immune system is at its lowest. Also, while I took a couple of days off any type of workout and an entire week off running, I needed to keep training as I still have several races coming up. Plus, believe it or not, it’s almost time to start Fall marathon training, and I needed to start rebuilding my mileage base for that.

So I was intrigued to see if FRS could give me the energy boost I knew I’d need to recover from one race and keep training for the others.

The products I tried were:

– Chews – very tasty, pomegranate blueberry flavor, disappeared immediately

Chews on the right

Chews on the right and yes, that is a pumpkin. We are a little out of season at our house.

– Ready-to-drink beverages – variety of flavors, all of which I liked, although I did find the apricot nectarine a tad sweet. Just poured it over ice to water it down. My favorite flavor was citrus pomegranate. Got some jealous looks when I pulled that out at swim team meeting, while everyone else sipped on their sodas! Note that most of these drinks are low cal, with just 20 calories and 2 grams of sugar.

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– Powdered drink mix – I think these are my favorite. They come in single servings which are easy to add to my water bottle. The orange flavor tastes great and I found myself reaching for this more than the other products.

FRS

So, how did I feel? Well, I had no trouble getting up at 5:20am three times last week – twice to run and once to swim – and, given that I usually struggle to do this once a week, I think that was a good sign. I was just doing easy runs since I was increasing mileage, but my 32 mile week after a series of weeks in the 20s didn’t feel hard, I definitely had more energy in the evenings, and slept better, too.

FRS is available at GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, Kroeger, Whole Foods, Rite Aid, Meijer, Walgreens, Harris Teeter and FRS.com, where you can sign up for a free 10 day supply. You can also download a coupon for $1 off 2 cans or bottles of FRS.

I’m also giving away an FRS trial pack with a retail value of $30! Just visit FRS.com and tell me in your comment which product you would like to try! I’ll randomly select a winner on Monday, June 24th.

 

 

How I won more than money in a #DietBet

Last month, I entered into a DietBet.

While most people would tell me I don’t need to lose weight, and while I would happily agree with them and take another cookie, the fact that my body fat percentage was 22 irked me. And I figured that if I could lose a few pounds I might find those abs I’ve been working hard on all winter, not to mention gain some running speed by carrying around a lighter me.

What exactly is a DietBet? It’s a four week online social dieting game. Anyone can sign up to play, and all the players compete for a share of the “pot” – the money paid to play. You win by losing 4% of your bodyweight. It’s not a competition to lose the most weight, just to lose 4%. If you lose 4% or more, you win. If you don’t, you lose. I entered the FitFluential January DietBet, which had just 4 players at the time I signed up but 582 and a pot of $14,550 by the time the game started!

Dietbet header

Here’s a short video explaining how the DietBet works:

 

So why a DietBet? Why not just lose the weight on my own? The answer is because I have no self-control. This may sound strange from someone as driven and competitive as me, but when it comes to food, it’s true. I don’t eat fast food. I don’t drink soda. But I have issues when it comes to the cookie jar. I needed motivation and accountability. I found both when I laid down $25 to enter the DietBet. I hate losing. To steal from Brad Pitt (as Billy Beane) in Moneyball, “I hate losing more than I love winning. There is a difference.” It’s true. I didn’t care about winning a huge wad of cash (although that would have been nice), but I didn’t want someone else to get my $25. To me, that would have been like handing $25 to a stranger on the street. I wouldn’t have it.

The other reason people enter a DietBet is because of the social aspect. They get to chat with other players, post their results online (facebook and twitter), and see how they’re stacking up against the other players with self-reported progress indicators. I chose not to post to facebook but did have twitter enabled, and was surprised every now and then to see I had posted an update! I also signed up to receive e-mails, which would tell me how other players were doing as well as remind me to weigh in. Players choose which of these tools to use so you can make it as public or as private as you like.

My husband (the sceptic) asked how people could be kept from cheating. Granted, it was a valid question. After all, no-one’s standing over you reading the scale. You have to submit a picture of yourself on the scale and then another of your feet on it with the readout visible both at the beginning and the end of the bet, but I guess as with everything there’s a way to fudge it. Not that I’m suggesting anyone did. But here’s the answer I gave my husband: if someone really feels the need to cheat, then they have bigger issues than losing weight. I’m certainly not going to waste my energy worrying about other people. I’m entering this for myself, because I need to motivation and accountability, and if I’m honest, with myself, well, that’s all that matters to me.

So I put down the money, stepped on the scale, and entered the bet.

I thought it would be easy. I just had to lose a little over 4 pounds, and I had 4 weeks to do it. I actually hit my target in 3 weeks. But it wasn’t easy. I had to work for it. What I hadn’t bargained for was how much I’d learn about myself in 4 weeks:

– I thought I was a “grazer” but I’m actually a chronic snacker. I snack all day long. Sometimes I don’t even eat a meal and so I think I’m not eating much, but all those snacks…they add up.

– I reward myself with food. Ran a few miles? Have something to eat. Swam for an hour? Eat. Biked for two hours? Eat, eat, eat. Yes, I know I’m supposed to refuel after exercise, but this was different. I wasn’t refueling as much as restocking as if the shelves had been emptied after a winter storm warning. I was a rabid animal loose in the pantry.

– I actually weigh more first thing in the morning. I would step on the scale in the morning and freak out. I would have breakfast, get the kids off to school, go for a run, come back, weigh myself again, and I’d have lost 2 pounds. I don’t think I was losing that weight on the run. I think I just wake up full of water weight or something. One night, I actually gained weight while asleep. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t raid the cookie jar in my sleep.

– I won’t pass out if I go for a few hours without food. In the past, I’ve gotten a little lightheaded or have felt nauseous if I didn’t eat every couple of hours. I always carried snacks with me “just in case I get hungry,” which, of course, I would eat regardless of my hunger. My body had become accustomed to being fed every couple of hours and simply needed retraining.

– I can say no. And I did. I thought I had no willpower. That wasn’t true. I managed not to eat the bad stuff at several parties and just focused on the healthy stuff. I knew once I started I wouldn’t be able to stop, so I didn’t start. And I found that the less I ate the bad stuff, the less I wanted it.

Dietbet winners

At the end of the DietBet, 277 people had won. That’s just under 50%. And many others posted on the DietBet wall that they’d gotten oh-so-close.

So, how did I do in the DietBet? I made the 4% goal and lost 2% body fat. I made twenty bucks. Yeah, no big payday. Still, the biggest payout was in the things I learned about myself.

Interested in DietBet? Just go to the website to join any game or start your own.

Have you played in a DietBet? 

How do you keep yourself motivated and accountable?

Klean Athlete, Banned Substances in Sport, and Me

Way back when I was a teenager running the English Schools’ Cross Country Championships, we had a very talented athlete on our team who didn’t ride the team bus with us to the meet. The reason for this was because the previous year, when he did ride the team bus, he had been selected for post-race drug testing but was unable to produce a sample. When it came time for the team bus to leave and he still hadn’t managed to pee, he was forced to ride in the drug van behind the team bus until said sample was provided. So the following year his parents decided to drive him to avoid a repeat installment.

The English Schools’ Cross Country was my first foray into drug-testing at a race. Needless to say I wasn’t in any danger of being tested, as far back in the field as I finished, but I did have to provide a doctor’s note for a prescription I was taking at the time. This was required for any medications any of us were taking.

20130211_191149

Milk was in vogue back then…

Fast-forward exactly 20 years and travel 3000 miles. I arrived in Virginia Beach for the Shamrock marathon….and discovered that spring had sprung earlier than in my adopted home of Northern Virginia and the Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom. No sooner had I stepped out of the car than I started sneezing. My allergies rapidly worsened to the point where my eyes were so itchy and streaming I couldn’t wear my contacts and I was so congested I could hardly breathe. The morning before race day, I dragged myself to the nearest drugstore in search of whatever meds would alleviate my symptoms. The pharmacy was closed and so I was forced to buy some over-the-counter meds. Turned out the pharmacy’s closure was a good thing, because in my histamine haze I probably would have taken as much pseudoephedrine as possible and not only potentially screwed up my marathon but would also have been under the influence of a banned substance.

Granted, I was not fast enough to be tested, and probably could have protested if I had, but there’s a reason that a stimulant such as psuedoephedrine is banned, and I wouldn’t want to think that my BQ had anything to do with taking a performance-enhancing drug. For once, I was glad the pharmacy was closed.

I was not wearing the sunglasses to look cool but to keep the pollen out of my eyes!

I was not wearing the sunglasses to look cool but to keep the pollen out of my eyes!

Since then, I’ve discovered that banned substances can actually be found in multivitamins, dietary supplements, and sports nutrition products. And that the banned substances are not disclosed on the product labels. According to the NSF, a study funded by the International Olympic Committee in 2004 found that 15% of 634 supplements tested contained steroids prohibited in sport, none of which were declared on the label.

So how do you know if your supplement or multivitamin is safe? If it has the NSF Certified for Sport seal, it has been screened for banned substances and reviewed for toxicology, contaminants, and label claims. You can visit the NSF site for a list of substances banned in sport as well as products with the NSF Certified for Sport seal of approval.

One such range of products that carries the NSF Certified for Sport seal is Klean Athlete. The seven Klean Athlete nutritional supplements were designed to maintain the healthy lifestyle and promote peak performance of athletes, from the weekend warrior to the amateur and professional competitor. I was recently sent samples of  their multivitamin as well as a D-Ribose supplement called Klean Endurance. In addition to being certified free of banned substances, Klean Athlete products don’t contain yeast, wheat, gluten, soy, corn, sugar, or starch and have no artificial coloring, preservatives or flavoring. I’ve been taking the products for the last two weeks.

Klean Athlete collage

Klean Multivitamin

The multivitamin contains all the usual multi stuff as well as a “proprietary blend” of wild blueberry, strawberry, and spinach extracts. You take two tablets daily; they are coated to go down more easily and have a interesting but not gross smell that I can’t quite describe. For someone like me who hates swallowing horse pills, they are great. Do I notice any difference after taking these for two weeks? Well, I can tell you that my nails are much stronger than usual and look really healthy. And I’m someone who chews them off if I’m not in range of nail clippers, can’t stand manicures, and never wears nail polish. I haven’t really noticed anything else, but I was taking a different multi before switching to Klean Multivitamin.

Better than my nails have ever looked! Short-lived though; 2 days later I cut them off!

Better than my nails have ever looked! Short-lived though; 2 days later I cut them off!

Klean Endurance

This chewable tablet intrigued me. Its primary ingredient is D-Ribose which, according to WebMD, is used to improve athletic performance and the ability to exercise by boosting muscle energy. I am training for the Boston Marathon and am running some of my highest mileage weeks right now. While my muscles have definitely felt fatigued after a hard effort or long run, I have been recovering well and am able to meet all of the times and distances set for me. On Sunday I ran 12 miles easy and then jumped into a relay race and ran 5K pace for 3 x 1.4 miles. This is something I would normally have trouble doing but I felt strong throughout the entire workout. I think my training leading up to this is much of the reason for my current performance and certainly wouldn’t say this is a miraculous supplement that is enabling me to run longer, faster, better, but I am intrigued enough to keep taking it and see what happens.  Note that D-Ribose should not be taken by people with low blood sugar.

Timothy Monk, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing for Douglas Laboratories, which makes the Klean Athlete line, is a multiple marathon and triathlon finisher, including the Ironman World Championships. Monk states, “Many of us are athletes who are passionate about competing at our very best in a natural way and we recognized a need to create products which support – rather than enhance – peak performance.”

What’s nice about these supplements is that I know they’re safe, they are easy to take and don’t taste gross, and I haven’t experienced any side effects from taking them. I am not under the illusion that supplements will suddenly make me a better athlete, but if I am going to take something to support my performance and recovery, you bet I’d rather take something that carries the NSF certification. You never know, maybe that drug van will be looking for me one day…

You can purchase the range of Klean Athlete products, which included the two I sampled as well as Klean Antioxidants, Klean Cognitive, Klean Probiotic, Klean Isolate, and Klean Electrolytes, at kleanathlete.com.

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own.

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BelVita Breakfast Biscuits – Not Just for Breakfast!

One of my fondest memories from my teenage years in England is running cross-country in Northern France. My team-mates and I would hop on a ferry from Portsmouth on Saturday, run a cross-country race on Sunday, and be late for school on Monday. 😉 The cross-country courses in France were notoriously lame. We used to joke about how the organizers just asked a farmer to move his cows out of a field so we could run laps around it. Obstacles came in the form of cowpats and the occasional conveniently-placed log.

But the courses aren’t what I remember. It’s the fine French food that we teens gorged ourselves on all weekend that I can still almost taste. One time I was almost late for my race because I was enjoying cheese fondue with fresh bread at my host family’s house…that race didn’t go so well. Another trip, a team-mate overindulged on creme brulee the night before the race and had some unpleasant stomach issues on race morning! And then there was the meat that everyone was sure was horse, but tasted so delicious we ate it anyway.

You had Me at Bonjour

So I wasn’t in the least surprised when I found out that the breakfast biscuits I’ve been enjoying for much more than just breakfast were created in France. I discovered belVita in June last year, when I tasted a sample after a triathlon. I couldn’t believe how great they tasted and grabbed as many I could carry to share with my friends. Those didn’t last long so I stocked up at my local supermarket…thankfully they were on sale.

I started taking belVita biscuits with me on weekend bike rides. During 60 mile rides I like to have a tasty snack and belVita fit perfectly in my bento box. And with each package of 4 biscuits containing 8 grams of fat (only 0.5 of which is saturated), 35 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, they were just what I needed to keep me riding strong. They became a staple in my pantry; great for pre-and post-workout and on-the-go snacks that didn’t leave me hungry 20 minutes later.

The Good…

I was delighted when FitFluential LLC asked me to review belVita. I was already sold on them and couldn’t wait to share how much I liked them. When the box of samples (as if I needed samples, but of course I took them!) arrived via UPS I literally jumped up and down with excitement. I actually had not tried all the flavors; cinnamon brown sugar and chocolate were new to me as I had only been buying golden oat, blueberry, and apple cinnamon.

belvita boxes

I thought there could be nothing better than the fruit flavored belVita, but then I tried the cinnamon brown sugar and decided that was better. Until I tried the chocolate. Oh my. In England we have a biscuit (cookie) known as bourbon (yes, we name all our biscuits after liquor) and that’s exactly what the chocolate belVita tastes like, although a bourbon is two biscuits with chocolate cream in between. With so many choices of belVita, I started experimenting a little. I had chocolate belVita with an apple and glass of milk. Blueberry belVita with greek yogurt and blueberries. Cinnamon brown sugar belVita with choc milk and a clementine. And, for a party, I served golden oat belVita with starfruit and goat cheese.

belVita collage

….the Not-so-Good…

Now, given that this is a review by yours truly, there has to be something I don’t like. Much as I love (and I do, in case that wasn’t obvious) belVita, I think they could have less sugar. They are plenty sweet and I think they could get away with a couple less than the 11g of sugar per package. I mean, we’re taking about a breakfast biscuit here, not a cookie. I’d like to see that number in the single digits. One thing that I do find strange is that you find belVita in the cracker/cookie aisle. Shouldn’t they be in the cereal/breakfast aisle? The first time I went to buy belVita at the grocery store I couldn’t find them. I happened to be in the cracker aisle looking for goldfish for my kids when I stumbled across them. So are they a breakfast biscuit, a cracker, or a cookie? I think it’s confusing. Still, once I have them in my grubby hand I no longer really care about all that.

…and the Ugly.

Back to my sample boxes for a minute. Unfortunately, I think the UPS carrier was practicing his kettlebell swing with my package as some of the biscuits didn’t fare too well on their journey, and looked like this on arrival:

broken belVita

Seeing the broken belVita, however, gave me an idea. I wondered how a belVita crumb crust would taste. Some pears that had failed to ripen properly were languishing in the fridge and I realized that they would be great poached in a tart. I found a recipe on Epicurious and replaced the pie crust with a crumb crust. I then followed the recipe (mostly) for the rest of the tart. I know it’s a long recipe, but seriously, this was very easy to make. I avoid any recipe that looks complicated or has more than 3 a lot of steps. With this recipe I poached the pears and made the crust in the evening (the pears need to soak for 8 hours and the crust is best chilled) and simply assembled and baked it the next day. You’ll notice that, if I didn’t have something, I substituted something else…usually similar. That’s just how I roll…and why my cooking is so hit or miss.

The recipe follows this post. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to pick up a box of belVita next time you’re in the cracker aisle!

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FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own.

belVita Pear Tart
(or, as they say in French, belVita Tarte de Poivre ooh la la…)

BelVita pear tart

Ingredients for crust:

– 3 packages chocolate belVita biscuits (12 biscuits total), crushed in food processor or with rolling pin if you need to vent some frustration
– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
– 1/4 cup sugar

Combine ingredients and press into 10 inch pie dish. Cool in fridge.

Ingredients for pear mixture:

– 4 cups cranberry juice cocktail (I didn’t have this so used Cheribundi tart cherry juice, capri sun, and juice from canned cranberries)
– 1/2 cup sugar
– cinnamon stick
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– 3 large firm-ripe pears, quartered, peeled, cored, reserved in bowl of cold water with dash lemon juice
– 1/3 cup dried cranberries (I used a can leftover from Thanksgiving since I didn’t have dried)

In a kettle combine cranberry juice, sugar, cinnamon stick, lemon juice, bring to boil, and add pears. Simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove kettle from heat, stir in cranberries, allow to cool. Chill, covered, for at least 8 hours. (Can be made 3 days in advance and kept chilled.) Transfer poached pear and half the cranberries with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Discard cinnamon stick, reserve syrup with remaining cranberries.

Ingredients for filling:

– 3 large eggs
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup sour cream
– 1/4 cup milk
– 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
– 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (I didn’t have an orange so used a clementine.)

In small bowl whisk all the ingredients plus pinch of salt. Spoon half the custard into the crust. Arrange pear quarters and drained cranberries on the custard, then spoon remaining custard around the pears. Bake in the middle of a preheated 325 degree F. oven for 50 – 55 minutes, or until custard is just set.

In a saucepan boil reserved syrup and cranberries until syrup is reduced to about 1 cup and is jellylike in consistency. Transfer cranberries to a plate to cool. Brush pears with some of the cranberry glaze and arrange cranberries in the middle of the tart. Serve the tart warm or chilled.

C’est delicieux!

 

Book Review: It Starts with Food

 

The foods you eat may be making you sick, according to Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s New York Times bestseller, It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways.

It’s taken me a few weeks to collect my thoughts in some sort of organized fashion to write this review. This book presented a huge learning curve for me, especially given that I’d heard of Paleo but not much else. There’s so much I have to say about my experience reading this book and my reaction to it. I loved it. I hated it. I wanted to do everything the Hartwigs said. I wanted to throw it out the window. It made me excited. It made me sad. It made me think.

During my attempt to collect my thoughts, I read many of the other online reviews. No-one, it seemed, had the same response to the book as I did. This left me further confused. Did I not get it? Was I looking at it the wrong way? I decided not to write a review like the others. For a start, there are so many good reviews, it seems pointless to summarize the same information and package it differently. So, if you want a synopsis of It Starts with Food, please scroll to the bottom where I’ve linked to the reviews I read.

What I’m going to do in this review is share my response to the book and how I am going to make changes and NOT make changes based on that response.

A bit about me

A little background before I begin, so you can see where I’m coming from: I’ve never dieted in my life. That is not to say I have always had a good relationship with food, and for a year or two in college food and I definitely did not see eye-to-eye, but I’ve never actually dieted. Yes, I’m lucky that I’ve never been terribly overweight, don’t have medical issues, and can pretty much eat what I like in moderation. I believe in dieting for life, as in eating healthy all of the time and indulging occasionally. I don’t eat fast food. My downfall is sugar. I thought the Atkins Diet was a dangerous fad. I’ve been known to eat an entire box of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting.

A bit about the book

In a nutshell, It Starts with Food explains why certain foods make you unhealthy by doing one or more (in some cases all four) of the following:

– Promoting an unhealthy psychological response (granted, I never felt really good about eating all those GS cookies)
– Causing an unhealthy hormonal response
– Creating an unhealthy environment in your gut
– Causing inflammation and and unbalancing your immune system

The Hartwigs lay out the foods that can cause these responses and explain why. They then explain how to reset your body using the Whole30 program, by eliminating all these foods for 30 days. After the 30 days, you can gradually reintroduce the foods in order to determine which are making you sick.

To be honest, I felt that they made these foods sound so threatening, most people would probably never want to eat them again. This book reads like a Stephen King for junk-food lovers. Not an entirely bad thing, I suppose.

My initial response to what I learned

While reading the first few chapters, I found myself nodding my head a lot. There were frequent “a-ha” moments, like when I read, “The foods you eat exert a powerful psychological influence…” or when I discovered that our cravings for “frankenfoods” are caused by a rewiring of the ancient signals that help us determine sweet (energy), fatty (calories), salty (fluid conservation). In short, frankenfoods, foods scientifically designed to stimulate our taste buds, confuse the brain. But because these foods have no nutritional value, our brains do not tell us to stop eating them, since the brain only tells us to stop eating something when we’re nutritionally sated. They are “food without brakes” because we receive no signal to stop. That’s me and the Girl Scout cookies.

I learned that I have to retrain my brain NOT to crave artificial foods, but to crave foods that have nutritional value, that will fill me up like filling up at the gas station, and turn off the signal when the tank is full.

But I also learned that it’s not that simple. In order to reset the body with the Whole30 program, a slew of foods I eat on a regular basis are off limits. Eliminating sugar, sweeteners, and alcohol, that would be OK. I think I could probably even manage without the seed oils such as canola, flax, sesame, and sunflower. Grains and legumes – that would be harder. I like my grains. I don’t know if I can eat my soft boiled eggs without dipping toast soldiers in them. Dairy. Hmmm. This is a tough one. My younger sister is a dairy farmer in New Zealand. I eat Greek yogurt every day. I like milk in my tea.

Can I Really Let Go of These?

Why should/would I even consider Whole30?

Of course, I could survive without these foods for a month. But do I want to? And does not wanting to mean that I am too emotionally attached to my food? I think what it boils down to is the fact that I have little incentive to do so. The Hartwigs claim that the Whole30 can eliminate a variety of symptoms, diseases and conditions such as: diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, acne, excema, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, asthma, sinus infections, allergies, migraines, acid reflux, Crohn’s, celiac disease, endometriosis, PCOS, autism, fibromyalgia, ADHD, hypothyroidism, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

That’s quite a list. I don’t have any of these conditions besides allergies, and I think the lack of a strong incentive is what makes this difficult for me. I’m sure the Hartwigs would say I’m too emotionally attached to my dairy and grains, and perhaps they’re right. But, honestly, the thought of eating eggs for breakfast makes me sick. I love eggs, just not for breakfast. The other day I stared at an egg for about 30 minutes before putting in back in the fridge and pulling out the greek yogurt. I just couldn’t do it. Eggs for lunch, no problem. Dinner, great. Just not for breakfast.

I thought I might share the book with my niece who has Crohn’s. Then I read the extra restrictions for people with IBS and IBD:

– Be cautious with fruit consumption; peel all fruit. Avoid berries, citrus, dried fruits and fruit juices.
– Avoid all nuts and seeds.
– Avoid coffee, even decaffeinated.
– Understand that your digestion may get worse before it gets better.

Well that sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Still, I suppose if there’s the chance it might cure her Crohn’s, she’d be willing to give it a shot.

This book answered questions for me I’d never thought to ask. It also made me ask questions I’d never thought of. I learned that the Paleo diet is based on what we ate during the Paleolithic era (approx. 2.6 million years ago to 10,000 years before present day), and assumes that we’re genetically predisposed to a diet of protein (meat, fish, eggs), vegetables, nuts and fruit. My question is, have we made no biological adaptations since that era? Perhaps not. I’m not a scientist and this book has a scientific backing for every one of its claims. But I like to question things nevertheless.

This book frustrated me. The authors went on and on for pages about how much is a palm-size piece of protein. I mean, how hard is this to determine? It reminded me of my college days when a professor would assign a 5-page paper and there were always a couple of bright sparks who wanted to know if that should be single- or double-spaced, what font size, how many paragraphs, if the first page should be the title page, ad infinitum. I realize that palm-size may not be obvious to some, but several pages of explaining exactly what this meant was nauseating. And yes, I skipped most of it.

Changes I will make based on what I learned

This book enlightened me. I have learned that, if I’m craving sweet stuff I should try some herbal tea. I have tried that a couple of times, particularly in the evening when for some reason I want to snack. I’ve learned that my cravings for frankenfoods are artificial and that if I ignore them for long enough, they’ll go away.

The book contains generous resources, including some great recipes. I’m going to try the Citrus Chicken, Butternut Squash Puree with Roasted Garlic and Almond Poached Pears with Raspberry Cream.  And the list of top 20 vegetables that you should eat often includes my favorites: bell peppers, beets, carrots, spinach, sweet potato, and winter squashes.

The Hartwigs recommend eating grass-fed beef and wild-caught salmon. I do this anyway, since eating meat/fish that has been loaded up with antibiotics and fed an unnatural diet is not healthy eating. I think the sooner more people adopt this lifestyle change the sooner we can eliminate feed lots and the healthier we’ll all be. Of course, all we really have to do to eliminate feed lots is stop eating McDonalds, but that’s another story.

I will eat less processed food. I have a habit of reaching for the “healthy” snack bars and other processed goods. I’ll be working on reducing this.

I will eat more vegetables. I will eat more vegetables. I will eat more vegetables.

Changes I won’t make based on what I learned or because I’m just like that

Fruit smoothies. I am not getting rid of my fruit smoothies. The Hartwigs say that liquid foods don’t promote the same satiety as solid ones. They also say we shouldn’t eat that much fruit in one sitting, because it burdens the liver. But since the people this affects the most are those who are insulin resistant and obese, I’ll keep my healthy smoothies. Today’s smoothie packed a punch with OJ, spinach, cherries, pineapple, chia seeds, almond milk, and protein powder since I’d just completed a 6 mile run and a 1 hr strength workout. Not giving that up.

Eat only three meals a day. No snacking. Now, I don’t know about you, but, as an athlete, I can’t go that long without eating something. I like the whole “grazing” theory. And weren’t we told a few years back that eating 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day is better than 3 large ones? Maybe three meals a day works for some, but for someone like me, training for 2 – 3 hours every day, that will never work. I will happily graze, just more healthily.

I just started training for Boston Marathon, which is one of my reasons for not trying Whole30. I admit that I’m curious to see if there is a health benefit; if I would, as some claim, feel better, sleep better, perform better. However, starting a diet as drastic as this while putting my body through marathon training is, I think, foolish. The Hartwigs do say that you’ll feel pretty rough for the first week, and that’s just not something I need when I’m increasing mileage and intensity.

At the end of the day, while I certainly don’t see myself eating Paleo any time soon and don’t subscribe to the theory that we should eat just like our Paleolithic ancestors (besides, no-one’s suggested using stone tools or hunting woolly mammoth), I give It Starts with Food credit for pointing out to me where I’m going wrong with my food relationship and how I can fix that.

For more information, visit whole9life.com

I was provided with a free copy of It Starts with Food via FitFluential LLC. I was not compensated for this review and the opinions stated herein are my own.

Other It Starts with Food reviews:

Go the Xtra Mile

Wellness Mama

Happy Fit Mama (I like that this review also questions some of the theories)

Losing It and Loving It

Badass Fitness

 

Have you read It Starts with Food? If so, are you planning on trying the Whole30 program?

What changes, if any, are you making to your diet?

 

 

Product Review: Shower Pill – A Cure for “Athletic Aroma”

I don’t mind admitting I don’t always shower after every workout. If I’ve got another workout later in the day (which, as a multisport athlete, I frequently do), I just change my clothes and carry on. I work from home so there aren’t any coworkers to mind the smell and, to be honest, I just don’t see the point in showering multiple times a day. Unless it’s summertime. Then I find myself showering as many as 3 times a day, I’m sweating so much.

But if I’d had a product like the Shower Pill last summer, I may have been able to reduce that number to 2 and save on my water bill. Created by three former college football teammates, Shower Pill is not a pill, (although the description ‘hygiene supplement’ might throw you…) it’s a disposable athletic body wipe. Shower Pill contains aloe vera and vitamin E, has no parabens and is alcohol free. It kills 99.9% of all germs, which is a real bonus as athletes, according to Shower Pill’s site, are “greatly exposed to community-acquired MRSA and other staph infections” that lurk in gyms and locker rooms. Shudder.

...Your answer to what lurks in the locker room...

I gave the Shower Pill a whirl after tonight’s spin class. This workout is always a sweatfest so the product was guaranteed to get a thorough testing. Post-spin, I unwrapped the package and took out the wipe. I was surprised at its thickness; I was expecting something like a baby wipe but it’s actually more like a little towel. The scent is pleasant enough, not overpowering or too “medicinal.” After using the wipe there was no lingering stickiness and I did indeed feel quite clean…

…The only problem was, I was feeling kinda cold after sweating so much and it wasn’t very pleasant using a cold wipe as an alternative to my nice, hot shower.

Then again, I don’t think the Shower Pill is intended as an alternative to showering. Given its portability, it’s great to take with you and use when showering isn’t an option. I can think of several occasions, such as:

– After a race, when I often sit around for a while festering in my own sweat and waiting to find out if I placed in my age group.

– During a relay such as Ragnar, when you’re sharing an enclosed space with several “friends” for an extended period of time. In fact, it would be a good idea to take several Shower Pills to share with said friends.

– On camping trips, even at campsites that have “bath-houses.” Last time I camped someone left the door to the bath-house open overnight and the place got infested with bugs. I didn’t shower the entire weekend, despite running 5 miles and swimming the first day, and racing the second.

– After swimming at my local pool, when I’m desperate to remove the chlorine from my skin but don’t want to wait for the one shower head that releases more than a dribble of water at a time, all the while trying to avoid the clumps of hair that have collected around the drain.

– During the entire summer, when even a short walk can leave you drenched in the nastiness of your own sweat.

Yep, while I’ll always prefer my nice, hot shower, I can think of several uses for the Shower Pill.

Shower Pill is available from Amazon for $9.99 for a box of 10. I also heard through MariposaFit that you can get a free box when you buy two with the code SPFRIDAY from 11/23 – 11/25. Just put 3 boxes in your cart, enter the code and the 3rd box will be free!

Many thanks to FitFluential for connecting me with Shower Pill, and to Shower Pill for providing me free samples to review.

The opinions in this review are my own. Shower Pill provided me with free product but was not guaranteed a positive review.

 

Kona Kase Review and Giveaway

Update! While the contest is over, you can get a case at 50% off!

I love surprises. I love receiving a package and not knowing what’s inside. So I was really happy when THIS arrived in the mail yesterday:

Kona Kase. Cute name. Let’s see what’s inside:

Posh tissue paper packaging. Swanky. But let’s cut to the chase:

That would be a rather nice selection of endurance nutrition products!

Now I know it might seem odd to get all excited about endurance nutrition, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who looks forward to trying out new products before, during, or after workouts, right?

Also included was this handy card explaining nutritional needs:

So what is Kona Kase? Basically, Kona Kase (the company) puts together and sends you a box of 8 – 10 products each month, for $15. You don’t know what you’re getting (there’s the surprise) and you can’t ask for particular items, but it’s kinda fun and a little bit like having a birthday…every month!

Now I’ll be honest, because you might be thinking this too, (and I believe in complete honesty in my product reviews) that I thought there’s no way this is $15 worth of products. I thought, well, there’s the packaging and the shipping, and so of course it’s not $15 worth of actual stuff. So I set out to find out the retail value of the products. I knew it would be hard to find them all in a store, or even several stores, so I went to Amazon.com and typed in the products. Granted, Amazon doesn’t sell the products individually but rather in packages of 10 or 12, which usually makes the individual item prices lower, but I figured I could get at least an idea of what my package of products was worth. Here’s a list of the items I received in my Kona Kase and their prices based on Amazon’s pricing:

Gatorade Prime Pouch – Berry (10 for $20) = $2

FRS Healthy Energy Powder (14 for $14) = $3 (there were 3 of these in the Kona Kase)

Larabar – Blueberry Muffin (16 for $26.40) = $1.65

Sharkies – Berry (12 for $20) = $1.67 

Powerbar – Banana (12 for $25) = $2.08

Builders Bar – Chocolate Mint (12 for $21.19) = $1.77

Accel 2nd Surge Energy Gel (8 for 416) = $2

Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator – Lemon-Lime (30 for $24.29) = $0.80

GRAND TOTAL = $14.97

I was surprised (again!) that the total was almost exactly $15. So while it may seem that it’s not $15 worth of products, it actually is…and that’s based on bulk prices! Plus, add tax and your trip to the store(s) to buy your goodies or the cost of having them shipped to you, and you’d be over $15. Granted, you might not be interested in all the products, but sharing is caring and I’ll tell ya that my husband was looking over my shoulder when I was taking my brilliant photographs and hoping I would let him “test” some of the products. Since it’s our anniversary tomorrow maybe I will let him try a Sharkie or a sip of my FRS energy drink.

And…I have even better news: The nice folks at Kona Kase have agreed to give a Kona Kase to one lucky winner! So if you’d like to get your own super secret surprise package, enter the contest! The more entries you submit, the better your chances of winning! Contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

The contest will run from Tuesday, October 16th until midnight on Friday, October 26th, which just happens to be my birthday! Winner will be announced on October 27th.

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kona Kase contacted me for this review and provided me with a free Kona Kase. However, the opinions stated are my own, I did not receive payment, and Kona Kase was not guaranteed a positive review.

 

 

Product Review: Vega Energizing Smoothie

Between watching Olympic women’s road cycling (where Great Britain won silver!) and swimming on Sunday, I managed to get in an 8 mile run and a 50 mile ride. I had a 3 hour break between the run and the ride so was looking for something to recover from my run but also prepare me for my ride. So I reached for some Pringles…just kidding. But only just. I do love Pringles.

I actually reached for something I’ve been trying out all week: Vega energizing smoothie. I have the big Vega containers of Vega Sport and Vega One and, while the plant-based protein doesn’t bother my stomach like whey and soy does, I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the taste. As my running friend Lisa mentioned a few weeks back, “Vega’s great…once you get used to the pond water taste.” So I tend to add a lot of fruit (fresh and frozen) to mask the taste, which means I have to make a smoothie every time, which isn’t very portable.

Vega energizing smoothie is different because it’s designed to be mixed with water, juice, or a non-dairy beverage.  You can get it in single-serve or resealable packages so it’s great for on-the-go fuel. Flavors are:

Tropical Tango

Choc a Lot

Oh Natural

Bodacious Berry

Vanilla Almondilla

 

Each serving contains approx 90 calories, 2g fat, 8g carb, 5g fiber, 1g sugar, 10g protein, and 90mg sodium. The protein is a combination of pea protein, SaviSeed (sacha inchi) protein, hemp seed protein, and sprouted whole gain brown rice protein. The mixes also contain flax seed, inulin, alfalfa, spinach, broccoli, and kale, as well as a digestive enzyme blend. What a great way to get your veggies! In fact, each package contains two servings of veggies as well as omega-3.

I went with the tropical tango first. Since this flavor sounded good I figured I didn’t need to mix it with juice so I went with water. I filled a bottle with 8oz water, added the powder, shook it up, and took a sip.

Fill bottle with 8oz water...

Add Vega smoothie powder...

Shake it up!

First impression: great taste. A little chalky but I can handle that.

Next up was the Bodacious Berry. I mixed it with water and liked it almost as much as the Tango. When I mixed the Choc a Lot, it clumped a bit in the bottle and I had to shake it a lot harder than the others. I mixed the Choc a Lot with some almond milk because I thought it might taste like a milkshake. It didn’t. This turned out to be my least favorite flavor and I gave up trying to drink it. I tried the Oh Natural with almond milk as well, since I figured it needed some flavor. It was drinkable but I was beginning to sense that the fruit flavors were the winners. For the Vanilla Almondilla I tried water with crushed ice, to see if making it ice cold would improve the taste. Eh. I wanted to like it but…just…couldn’t.

Bottom line: fruit flavors Tropical Tango and Bodacious Berry are real winners. I drank these with water that wasn’t even ice cold and really enjoyed them. They mixed well, had a slightly chalky taste, but were very drinkable. I would buy these but steer clear of the other flavors.

Because I’m picky, high maintenance, and a general pain in the neck, I would recommend Vega make the packaging narrower so it’s easier to pour it into a bottle. I know, I don’t ask for much do I?

You can buy Vega Energizing Smoothie, as well as their other products, directly from their site or put your zipcode into their storefinder feature to find a retailer near you.

 

Not surprisingly, the opinions in this review are my own. Vega sent me the products free of charge to review but did not compensate me in any way for my review. Vega was not guaranteed a positive review.