Compare less. Be You.

Two weeks ago, Campy and I had a sleepover at my mom's house while Karel was in Jacksonville for RETUL bike fits.
I borrowed my mom's car to go to the Y for a swim on Saturday morning and when I returned home, I learned that while walking Campy, my mom had locked herself out of her rental home on accident.
We finally managed to get inside but throughout a 30-minute freak-out situation, I couldn't help but think about Campy who was really just having the best morning ever.

He got to go for a really long walk that morning, he was able to play outside in the morning and by the time we finally got inside, Campy was exhausted from his morning of fun.
Campy had no idea he was locked out for over an hour because he was just having another great day of life. 
Although I realize that Campy does get a bit stressed out when Karel and I leave him at home, Campy's perspective of life is so different than it is for the rest of us.
Campy doesn't live on a strict time schedule, he isn't worried about what he looks like and he is totally fine with a change in the routine (so long as he is with his mommy and daddy). Campy is so easy and when life gets stressful for us, we always think about Campy's life  and how he makes the most out of every day. 

Although I have no scientific evidence to prove it, I am pretty sure that Campy thinks he has the best life ever. He may not live in the biggest house, ride in the most expensive car, be the biggest dog in the 'hood or eat specialty food but he sure is happy about his life. 

Campy doesn't spend his day of social media comparing himself to others. He doesn't let the lifestyle of someone else be the benchmark for how he needs to live his life.
He doesn't know his ideal weight or what he is suppose to look like because he is just being Campy. He is just being himself.

 Small dog, big personality. We love him just the way he is. 

Comparison can bring feelings of low self confidence, low self worth, depression and anxiety.
As we inch closer to the New Year, I find it important to stress how great it is to be an individual. To be the best you that you can be.

The best you doesn't have to be what you may be comparing yourself to on social media. Social media is a fantastic platform for sharing positive emotions and to feel inspired and motivated but it can also take up a lot of time in your life while wasting a lot of your positive energy, depending who you are comparing yourself to.  
Remember, you always want to surround yourself with people who give you energy, not take it away from you. 

When comparing to others, do you draw much of your attention to what you are not? Do you feel insecure about your body, lifestyle, eating choices or training regime because your life doesn't look like someone else's? 

Every person has a "behind the scenes". Often, you just see clips or perhaps just the final show. The grass may look greener on the other side but you have no idea what it may take to keep the grass looking so perfect all the time. 

As you reflect on 2014 and you dream big for 2015, I encourage you to stop being so hard on yourself if you find that you are always comparing yourself to someone else.

In 20,30 or even 50 years, you want to be able to look back at your life and remember your own personal experiences and accomplishments.

Although it is inspiring and motivating to share success stories with others, do not let the triumphs of someone else trump your achievements.  

I'm sure Campy would agree that life is just too short to worry about what everyone else is doing. It is so much fun to share life with someone else and to celebrate with others but never lose sight of your purpose in life and that is to be the very best you that you can be. 

Campy doesn't know anything about body weight, diets, PR's or money.  Campy is a happiness machine. He is filled with it and loves to give it to us every day.  He has the best life ever and he is just so happy doing the same things every day. But somehow, he makes every day a little more exciting and fun than the last day.

Rather than comparing yourself to someone else, think about your own life. What choices are you making to better yourself? Where were you last year and how has your life changed? Are you moving in the direction of life that you wanted to move in when you found yourself in this exact same spot one year ago?
What habits have you broken and what new choices are you making that are helping you be consistent with your awesome lifestyle?

Have you given thought to the idea that you have accomplished a lot and perhaps done more and have achieved more than a past you?

So, your goal is to be more like Campy.

What makes your tail wag?
What makes you get excited to get out of bed, even though it is just another day? (or is it just another day?)

What makes you so happy about your life and what are you willing to change to help you move closer to your life-long goals?


Fueling the vegetarian endurance athlete - Part 2!

Thank you Girls Gone Strong for letting me share my thoughts on fueling the vegetarian endurance athlete. 

As a 22-year vegetarian and 9x Ironman finisher, I had so much to say on this topic so we decided to make it a two part series and finish with a Q&A on the Girls Gone Strong Facebook page!
To read the articles: Part 1 & Part 2 

Q: On Tuesday, in this article you gave some guidelines for protein, carb, and fat requirements for female endurance athletes. Do the numbers look different for women who mostly strength train, and whose goals are strength-based?  If so, how do they differ? 

A: Thanks for asking The main focus of fueling an endurance athlete is ensuring that glycogen stores are not the limited as we want to keep our bodies energized for the long haul. I am a firm believer that endurance athletes need a healthy amount of fat in the diet to stay satisfied and healthy as well as protein for recovery/repair but the carbohydrates would be on the greater range for endurance athletes compared to strength-focused athletes. There is also a timing issue because endurance athletes need to consider how digestion affects the gut so I encourage athletes to focus on more low fiber energy dense foods around workouts which should be low in fat/protein and fiber. Example, whereas a strength athlete may be fine with eggs and oatmeal before a workout, an endurance athlete may find this too hard on the gut before a long run so she may opt for cream of wheat with a little nut butter and maple syrup.

Q: If you would like to transition to eating more vegetarian meals what would you consider the core staples that can be used to make quick healthy meals and build the right nutrition behaviors for early adopters? Sorry, I know I am not a girl but I know you are the best at building strong healthy bodies!

A: Thanks for the question!  Whenever transitioning to a more plant strong diet we want to make sure a good solid foundation is in place. So if the diet is already rich in fruits, veggies, grains/starches and healthy fats then the modification to take place would be swapping out animal protein for plant strong protein. For example, if a standard lunch is a salad with a chicken wrap we could replace the chicken with any plant protein (ex. beans, lentils, edamame, tofu, tempeh) as an easy swap. If a standard lunch is just a chicken wrap, then my suggestion would be to get this meal more plant strong by adding some type of veggie component to this meal (salad or stir fry or raw veg) as a starter and then once that habit is in place, swap out the protein option.

Q: For a female athlete (or family) who is looking at having protein strong plant based meals. What would you suggest as an appropriate equivalent of protein in non animal protein sources

 A; In reference to the guidelines in the article (~1.3-1.8g/kg body weight of protein per day) this would be a nice starting point for total protein. I recommend to break up protein consumption per meal, around 20-30g is a nice range. 1 ounce of animal protein = ~7g of protein as a guideline so to swap out 4 ounces of chicken (28g of protein) this would look like 1/2 cup lentils, 1/2 cup peas and 1/2 cup cooked tempeh for around 29g of plant strong protein.

Q: A question we get a lot is whether or not endurance athletes need to strength train? Is it an important part of their overall program?  Where does it fit in? How often? What kinds? Does it ever take priority over endurance training?  How does this differ between in-season, post-season, off-season, and pre-season?

A: I actually went into this in great detail at the The Women's Fitness Summit because I think many endurance athletes do not understand the importance of strength training OR they don't make time for it. I am a firm believer that strength training needs to be part of an endurance athletes training plan but it must be periodized with the season plan. For my athletes/myself, I emphasize foundation building first to work on good motor patterns and mobility. Pretty much breaking down sport-specific movements and refining the movements. We take about 6-8 weeks in this phase while the cardio is focused more on strength (ex. using bands/buoys and paddles in the pool, heavy gear and climbing sets on the bike and slow form focused running with a few pick ups at the end of the workout). The next phase I transition my athletes to is more complex and dynamic training. Plyometrics should come to mind. Whereas the intensity and volume of the cardio training will increase a bit, the body is in a good place to accept this added stress. The goal for cardio is to keep the hard workouts hard and easy workouts easy and to plug in the dynamic strength movements that will yield favorable results to swim, bike run fitness. We call this the build phase and this will take us to the peaking phase of the season for the first key race of the year. Around 4-6 weeks before this race, the frequency of the strength increases but it is still good to keep the body primed for power in the gym once a week and then the other cardio workouts take priority as the focus is race specific workouts. There is always a continued focus on glute, hip and core/lower back strength to ensure that this is never a limiter. The #1 goal of strength training for endurance athletes is that the strength should make the athlete better at the sport she is training for. So strength training should not be designed to get an athlete strong just to be strong but to be strong, fast and powerful at her sport.
A great book for triathletes to better understand a quality approach to training alongside focusing on the strength and recovery component is from Matt Dixon with Purplepatch fitness - The Well Built Triathlete. 

Q: I'm more of a paleo eater now, but my doctor suggested vegetarian for my PMS/PMDD symptoms. Have you seen any evidence to support this or would high protein be better?
Thanks for asking Katrina Skurka Howard - I personally do not advocate a specific diet for athletes as I strive to encourage variety and balance in the diet and no food rules. But when it comes to PMS symptoms, it is important that female athletes understand how their menstrual cycle is affected (or may affect) training and fueling. Stacy Sims discussing this topic in great detail but to help manage these symptoms, I don't feel a specific diet will alleviate these issues but instead to focus on your own individual needs. You may want to start with a lab test to see your vitamin D and ferritin levels which can affect PMS symptoms if inadequate or deficient. For women who are not on the pill or other contraceptive and have a natural menstrual cycle, metabolism will be affected by the different phases (follicular and luteal) but I personally am opposed to any restrictive style of eating that eliminates major food groups. I hope this helps a little. I feel you on the symptoms, I have had my menstrual cycle naturally for the past 7 years every month so I am no stranger to these symptoms  
This is a fantastic reference from Stacy Sims.

Q: As a female endurance athlete how would you suggest balancing the nutritional needs of sport with the desire to lose weight?

A:  This is always a tough question because we want the body to be in a healthy place to tolerate the demands of training but we do not want to underfuel in an effort to lose weight. I think there are many approaches to this but it certainly can be done in a healthy way and depends on where the individual is with her relationship with food and the body. I think the focus needs to be on supporting the workout as many athletes underfuel around the workouts and end up overeating later in the day. As an athlete, making the effort to understand how to eat before, during and after workouts will help take training to the next level. I think another common issue is athletes undereating during the day which affects metabolism. Skipping snacks, not enough adequate carbs, skimping on calories/fat, etc. We need to eat enough to support the demands of training so planning out the day before it happens can be an easy way to see what the day will look like in the most balanced way possible with healthy and satisfying meals and snacks. Lastly, the evenings can be a time of overinduging or overeating so I encourage athletes to not beat themselves up if this happens in the evening but to identify any triggers during the day that may be tweaked to ensure a good balanced dinner in the evening and an early bedtime without excessive snacking. If all of this takes place and an athlete still finds it hard to lose weight, then additional modifications can be made in training to make sure that the workout routine is not too stressful for the body.


12 reasons why you shouldn't diet

Have you found yourself (for non clinical reasons) recently eliminating food sources or food groups titled dairy, sugar, grains, gluten, refined foods, carbs or un-natural in an effort to eat more “clean” or because those foods are bad?
It’s ok to have good intentions with diet changes as you want to better understand what foods work best for your body in motion but extreme dietary shifts in eating patterns are one of the most common red flag signs that you may be developing (or furthering) your unhealthy relationship with food and your body.

Sure, improvements in any area of life require attention and perhaps some degree of obsession but when your eating/food thoughts and habits are all-consuming and have taken over your life, it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship with food.

If you are a performance-driven athlete, keep in mind that rule-based eating does not take into account your personal needs, your performance goals, your periodized training plan, your lifestyle and your health goals. 

In other words, diets don't work. 

As an athlete, it’s very easy to critique your body and blame food, especially when you feel vulnerable or emotional or have a bad day or workout.
Fat, ugly, heavy, disgusting, off limit, bad, guilty, remorse, hate. 

Consider all the many thoughts that go through your head in regard to food and your body and now consider how much of your day you are spending thinking about food and your body?  

If you have an unhealthy relationship with food and your body, a diet won't solve underlying issues. Believe it or not, but improving your relationship with food and the body can actually help you improve your health, improve performance and help you reach body composition goals!

When you do not perform well, compare yourself to others, are unable to meet your prescribed pace expectations or feel overwhelmed with the training/life balance, you may find yourself taking out your frustrations on your body and seeking a dietary quick-fix to make the situation better.

It seems crazy, right? 
Focusing all your attention on what not to eat? Living life thinking about what you can't eat, what you shouldn't eat, what you regret eating.....I hope you agree with me that that is absolutely no way to live!

It is completely normal to want a healthier lifestyle, improved performance (speaking to the athletes) and a body composition that makes you feel great but you must also be realistic with the goals that you have and most of all, how you go about achieving them. 

Do I really need to explain why diets don't work?
Well, to make sure that you do not consider a diet plan come the New Year (or within the next 13 days), I want you to stop the diet mentality.
Here are 12 very good reasons why a diet is not the route you want to take when learning how to have a healthier relationship with food and the body. 

12 reasons why you shouldn't diet! 

1. Your body deserves food. A varied diet provides your body with a variety of vitamins and minerals.
2. Food is not bad. It is not out to harm you. Your food choices should make you feel good while you eat and even better after you eat. 
3. Being hungry is no fun. Your day should not revolve around when you get to eat and how much you are allowed to eat. Honor your biological hunger and fuel for performance. See food for nutritional value. 
4. Not being able to enjoy eating around others is no fun. Eating around others is special and an opportunity to connect. 
5. If the methods you have to take to lose weight are extreme, there is another way to be healthier/change body composition but it probably won't be as quick and you need to be ok with that. 
6. Your body doesn't suck. It is actually quite awesome. Just look at how old you are and how much you have accomplished in life. 
7. You can not count calories and measure food for the rest of your life. You must learn how to eat so that you can be anywhere in the world, at any age and in any situation and still feel great about the food you put into your body. 
8. Special occasions will always have food and you deserve to enjoy those foods on special occasions. Would you rather eat birthday cake on a Friday because it was on sale at the grocery store or enjoy a slice of cake when celebrating another year of life.  
9. You need to be a good role model for your kids or friends. A healthy relationship with food is just as contagious as an unhealthy relationship with food. 
10. Food is your medicine. Make time for healthy eating because a healthy body can do amazing things in this world. Food should enhance your life and fuel your lifestyle. 

Got a nutrition question?
Mark your calendars for tomorrow, Friday December 19th when I will be hosting a LIVE Q&A on the 
Girls Gone Strong Facebook page from 11:30-12:30EST to answer any questions you might have regarding fueling the plant strong athlete (omnivores are welcome too!!)