10/18/14

Family-style meals - pizza and tacos

                                           


Growing up, my brother and I were on different schedules all the time. Whereas my brother had gymnastics practice for a few hours every day in the evening, I started my day super early with my dad driving me to swim practice at 4:30am most days during the week. After school, my day would finish with another swim practice, piano lessons and perhaps some after school activity squeezed somewhere in there. Oh, and then there was time for homework in the evening before it all started over again and again and again until I graduated High School.
Then I re-created my similar lifestyle in college with swimming, school, studying, swimming and studying....with eating throughout the day with my swimming teammates.  

Although eating was not scheduled with my family growing up, I always enjoyed the times when we could eat together. And still today, I not only enjoy eating with Karel but also with friends and family. 

Why should we eat together with others? 

Regardless if it is with family or friends but we should all be able to enjoy sharing our day with others. Whether it is first thing in the morning or in the evening (or somewhere in between), eating with others is a very meaningful and powerful to connect with others.
We all need to eat so why not enjoy your eating time with someone else who also is eating.

(And this should be a big message that we all should slow down and take time to sit down and eat a real meal. At a table. Eating slowly. With minimal distractions.)


I'm sure many people could not imagine eating alone on the holidays, even if it does happen every now and then. So, why should we limit the wonderful experiences of eating together to just the holidays? 
Laughing, smiling, smelling, tasting and listening. 



In today's society, with so many food intolerances, allergies, preferences and dietary habits, perhaps some people feel as if there can not be a positive eating experience with friends/family or if tried, it would be too difficult to enjoy special diets around others.  Well, I want to prove you/them wrong.

As a 22-year lacto-ovo vegetarian (since the age of 10 yrs), I have never once felt as if I need to eat alone, I can not eat around others or if my dietary preferences are extreme compared to my friends and family. Yes, it was a little challenging for the first few years as there were a lot of new eating experiences for me (especially as an athlete) to get use to but once they were all achieved, eating time became much more enjoyable for me and my family/friends and now I don't even feel as if I am eating any differently than others. 

Eating together is an opportunity to connect with others over food. Not every meal needs to be the same for every person (or be super complicated) to be enjoyed. 

Part of the fun of eating together is preparing food that everyone can enjoy. Not always do you have to eat everything that is served and never should you put yourself in a food-centered experience with friends and family and feel as if there is nothing for you to eat.


Conversations around food can certainly be about food but I find that the eating experience should be more about being together and celebrating the day, the past and the future. 

To create the most positive and healthy meal-time experience, it is important to make meal time a happy, relaxed, fun and non-stressful time. So to help you out, I will give you two delicious meals that the entire family (and friends) will be sure to enjoy!

FAMILY-STYLE PIZZA

INGREDIENTS
Fresh dough (from your local pizzaria or grocery store. Plan 1 ball of dough per 2-3 people)
Pasta sauce
Mozzarella cheese (chopped)
Fresh basil
Chopped garlic
Tempeh
Cooked/seasoned chicken
Broccoli
Zucchini
Onions
Mushrooms
Corn
Artichokes (canned/jarred)
Asparagus
Peppers
1. Roll out dough on floured surface. Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Place dough on pizza dishes.
2. Every person get his/her own personalized pizza to decorate with sauce, cheese (optional) and basil and then with individual toppings. 
3. Bake for 20-40 minutes.
4. Yum together!


 FAMILY-STYLE TACOS

INGREDIENTS
1 package taco shells
Cabot cheese (Shredded)
Black beans and chickpeas (rinsed from canned)
Brown rice
Tri-colored quinoa
Boca veggie "meat"
Cooked/seasoned chicken
Sauteed mushrooms/zucchini/onions
Chopped romaine
Steamed mixed veggies (from the bag)
Plain Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream)
Salsa

1. Every stuffs their own taco with warm ingredients.
2. You may also omit the shell and create a taco salad in a lettuce bowl.
3. When your taco overflows, use your extra toppings for a side dish
4. Yum together!


10/16/14

Post-race indulgences - RD approved!


Indulging on cheese curds the day after IMWI after placing 6th female amateur/3rd AG (this was an appetizer to my juicy "veggie" burger and salty sweet potato fries).


I was joined by Karel who also enjoyed indulging on a juicy burger with salty regular fries after qualifying for his first IM World Championship after his 3rd IM. 


Racing in endurance racing, at any level, requires extreme attention to every detail. Triathletes and long distance runners are known to be a bit driven, obsessive and competitive and more often than not, a bit food-obsessed.
 
Because achieving perfect race-week and race day nutrition may make the difference between having a dominating race day performance and struggling to make it to the finish line (or get out of the port-o-potty), triathletes who have a healthy relationship with food and the body intuitively understand the best foods for their body that will ultimately support health and race day goals.


But oh how circumstances change after an athlete crosses that finish line!
Pizza, burgers, wings, fries, beer, donuts and the occasional “healthy” orange slice to cleanse the palate.

It should be known that Karel and I are not strict with our diet and we choose to fuel on many healthy foods but also perhaps, some foods that may be taboo for some endurance athletes (ex. dairy, whole grains, bread).  But even though we have no off-limit food list, there is a strong emphasis on nutrient dense foods in our plant-strong diet (even though Karel is not a vegetarian like me, both of our diets are clearly plant-strong as our diet is primarily whole-food based).

So when it comes to indulging, there are so many reasons as to why we (that is all of us endurance athletes) should and deserve to indulge after a hard, long race and not feel guilty about it. 
I reserve the "need" to indulge for races only....and perhaps the occasional "it just feels right" post long workout occasion. 

Here are some reasons why we should all accept and enjoy the post-race indulging experience. 

The most obvious reason is because your body is compensating for the glycogen depletion, dehydration, brain fatigue and the 7,000+ calories that were burned during let's say, a 140.6 mile, arduous event. Bottom line, besides the copious amount of gels, sport drinks, cola and bananas that you consume during a long distance race, the body is famished.

If you have ever found yourself craving a salty, sweet and/or fatty meal within the 24 hours after crossing your endurance event finish line, you are not alone in this common ritual. Beyond the physiological reasons to refill your empty tank, the post-race food fest often unites exhausted athletes who need to de-stress. Although the body may be drained and covered in sweat, we all have foods that bring comfort to the soul. Post race, this is no exception. The Ironman competition, for example, is far from normal yet the post-race norm is to celebrate a great feat with some type of comforting indulgence.

It’s likely that you and hundreds of your fellow competitors may crave similar foods that were recently, not seen as performance-enhancing in your daily diet. An “off-limit” food list is likely the first thing that you want to tackle after you cross your long distance finish line.
Whether you indulge on sugary food to replace depleted glycogen stores, quench your thirst through electrolyte-rich fruits and beverages or salivate over calorically dense fatty options to comfort the body, do not feel bad about your post-race indulging.  Regardless if you finish an Ironman or marathon or celebrate the holidays with your family, indulging feels good and we all deserve it! 
(As for how it feels after you have over-indulged…well, you probably know how that goes)


Unlike sport nutrition, there is no clear science to post-race indulgences but from a physiologically stand-point, a depleted body is not always going to crave “healthy” foods. But we should also agree that foods that are often “off limit” are very easy to crave when they are eventually allowed or deserved. And just like hot dogs and cracker jacks are to baseball games, is very ritualistic and to no surprise, that many athletes share similar food-related cravings after racing for 3+ or 8+ hours. 


So that you do not feel alone in your post-race indulging, here is my recent IRONMAN.COM article so you can learn what you will find the pros chowing down on after they cross the Ironman World Championship finish line.   


(Thanks to all the pros who provided me with some yummy insight for my article!) 

10/13/14

Athlete (not-in-training) - Off Season tips



Athletes are tough people. 
They can push when the body says push no more. 
They can accomplish a lot before 9am and know how to squeeze a lot into an already busy day.
They have this amazing ability to seek out information to make improvements, always reflecting and analyzing as if there are no personal limits but instead, consistent constant improvements.
Athletes are smart, hard working, passionate, dedicated individuals but sadly, many athletes do not know how to do the off-season properly. 

For the first time in 8 years, I have intentionally taken 5 weeks off from any type of structured activity with minimal running (2 runs on the track, gadget free), a handful of short bike rides (gadget free) and a few times a week swimming (after waking up without an alarm, no more than 30-45 minutes of swimming). I say intentionally because I was not injured, sick or burnt out after IMWI so the rest was planned by me and not forced by a doctor.
And I still have one more week to go of my off season!
(Karel is also joining me in this off-season as we are both getting unfit (not unhealthy) and rested for 6 weeks.

And guess what..... I feel amazing and yes, I am surviving for those who feel it is just too hard to take time off. 

I am actually so busy right now that I could not have asked for a better time for this break in training to occur. We are working on our Trimarni 2015 Roster with our new coaching services (and application) as well as putting together our 2015 Trimarni camps. 
Honestly, I could not even imagine exercising every day right now so thankfully there is absolutely no guilt if I do absolutely nothing active for the day except for walk Campy (which this has happened at least twice a week for the past 5 weeks). 

Although many athletes are cool with a 1-2 week break from activity there are other athletes who think they are taking a break but the lifestyle pretty much resembles the season but without gadgets or sets. And for some athletes, there just no stopping them all year long.  

It is important to recognize that the off season is not base training. For our athletes (us included), the off season is simply the break in the year to turn into a healthy, balanced non-athlete who is active without much stress on the body and without a structured routine. The problem for many athletes is that the training never stops because there is always a race on the schedule. After the off season, we believe that athlete must focus on building a new/improved foundation to turn on neuromuscular pathways, to improve skills and form and to identify weaknesses in the body. This is our transition phase which will know call our foundation phase.

Participating in an endurance event requires an efficiently trained aerobic system as well as exceptional muscular, mental, respiratory and cardiovascular strength. To perform optimally on race day and reduce risk for injury throughout the season (ex. muscular injuries, chronic inflammation and stress fractures, etc), athletes must not overlook skills/technique, flexibility, foundation strength training, diet and muscular imbalances/weakness that should be addressed after the off season (certainly some things like diet, personal weaknesses can be addressed in the off season). 
The off season is not the time to get in the gym and start lifting weights, train for a "fun" race or take part in an athletic challenge at the gym. Rest up in the off season so that come the necessary foundation phase, you have the motivation and excitement to use your healthy body all (upcoming) season long. You may think you feel fine just a week or two after your big key race and want to jump right back into something sport related (as I did 2 weeks after IMWI) but you will feel much better after a needed 4-8 week break after your last big race, particularly if your season included more than 3 races and stretched over 9 months.
Recognize that great performances come from consistency. And to be consistent you have to create a foundation that is durable and as resistant as possible to training stress. Be sure that throughout the first 3 months of your season (which follows your off season) you allow your body to adapt gradually. Do not expect to be at the fitness you were last season but instead, be patient so that you can take your fitness to the next level, this upcoming season. 


The big mistake that athletes make in the off-season is feeling an itch to race too soon or hear the buzz for a new or popular race and sign-up for race(s) without giving major consideration as to the season goals or even if they are the right races for you and your body.

It is extremely important to think about your season goals and how they fit into the races you are choosing to register for, the priority of those races, when those races occur and why you are picking them.

We believe that in order to peak appropriately, athletes must training appropriately throughout the year to build a strong foundation and ultimately, get stronger in order get faster and then go longer. Most importantly, you, the athlete, should want to do everything possible/right to help you arrive to your race healthy, injury free and confident to execute.

PLAN FOR NEXT SEASON
-Consider the time it takes to prepare for a race. For many athletes, the body can appropriately progress and tolerate around 14-16 weeks (3.5-4 months) of specific race training. 10 weeks may be too short to adapt properly and more than 16 weeks can increase risk for burnout and injury. Believe it or not but if you train smart (and consistently), 3 months is a long time to train for a key race when you are training smart.  You can race more than once throughout the season and perform well at both of those key A races but "peaking" is hard to do twice in one season. You can have two outstanding performances but you should keep in mind the training that is needed (overtime) to build a great performance and that if the season is too long (without a short season break in between training for key races) the body may get too tired and motivation will dwindle.
 Be patient with your fitness and understand that it takes time to build a successful race day performance.

-What did you learn from this past season in terms of training/racing? How did the weather impacted your training (ex. did you pick a key race too soon in the season, without adequate time to acclimate?). Do you need to choose longer distance races for late season and shorter distance races early season to accommodate your lifestyle/work schedule or vice versa? Did you find yourself burnt out at specific times of the year? Did you experience an injury or set back that could have been avoided? Did you peak at your races? Did nutrition affect your performance?  What are the best courses for you to race on? 

-What did you learn from this past season in terms of how you balanced life and training? Did you make the most of your available training time or did you try to squeeze in too much every day? What needs to be modified next year or changed to focus on quality workouts?  Did you feel as if you tried to balance too much on your plate? Did you find your diet, sleep and stretching neglected because you were trying to balance work, family and putting in the miles/hours? Was your racing schedule too ambitious that you could not peak appropriately? Was your family supportive of your racing/training schedule all season long? Be aware that there is no such thing as the perfect number of hours to train for a race. If you want to succeed, it all comes down to personal success. How many hours can you train and what can you do with those hours?


-What did you learn from this past season in terms of your body/healthy? Did you get injured, sick, have fluctuations with your weight/eating habits, get burnt out, etc. Although coaches should help athletes train smart with adequate rest and recovery, it should be understand that it is tough at times to balance it all. We all have “triggers” in life so rather than getting upset when things happen, learn from them so reduce the risk to make the same mistake twice.

-Are you figuring out what courses fit you the best? How about racing venues, logistics and anything else that can negatively and positively affect your race day performance and previous training. Races should make you excited to train for them but also to race appropriately. Sure, we all have anxieties and it’s exciting to try something new/challenging but consider what fits your strengths the best, what races work within your triathlon budget and work schedule and when/where those races occur. Again, don’t just sign up for races because they are new, open or all your friends are doing it, without giving those races some serious thought as to your goals for the race but also how you will prepare for them.

You have a lot to think about so this is why now is a good time to start brainstorming about next year. The most important thing when considering your season is to think about your short AND long term goals. Your racing/training schedule should make you happy and healthier, it should be financially reasonable and it should help you better yourself as an athlete, parent, spouse, employee, boss, friend and/or human being.