Nutrition is obviously a hot topic these days, with everyone touting gluten free this and sugar free that. Basically if you read enough on the internet, everything is going to kill you. Here’s a bit of a hint – everything IS going to kill you eventually. Really what you want to focus on is staving off the effects for as long as you possibly can and not letting yourself develop a chronic degenerative disease that might make it happen sooner. My grandmother recently turned 100 years old, and still puts salt on things, eats butter and has two sugar cubes in her instant decaf coffee every day plus a hit of sherry once in a while. I also share a Coke with her once a year. She also lives an incredibly stress free lifestyle, which I think is one of the major contributors to degenerative disease today – but I digress.
While at the store this morning I thought I might post about exactly what I shop for and why, and hope that it might give you some insight into what a “fitness person” eats. So here’s what was in my grocery cart this morning, which is pretty typical of 90% of our food intake:
Apples Tomatoes Bananas Cheese
Grapes Cucumber Green Beans Whole Wheat Wraps
Broccoli Strawberries Kale Lactose Free Milk
Greek Yogurt Brussels Sprouts Oranges Brown Rice
Peppers Sweet Potatoes Peppermint Tea
Tofu (we feed this to our daughter for fat and protein – and she loves it – yes, I know about soy)
Cheerios (my daughter also loves these as a treat but I eat them too for breakfast sometimes)
Total Cost: $53 (at our local FreshCo) for enough to cover us for about four to five days. We typically spend about $80 per week on groceries.
We get our meat from a local butcher because it is better quality – I rarely buy meat from the grocery store unless they are having a big sale on something in bulk. Most of our meat is fish and chicken, but I also buy ground beef and sometimes a roast for convenience. Once a week we do a slow cooker meal which covers us for 3-4 meals so it is easy for my wife to simply reheat if I am working late.
You might notice that there’s nothing from a box or that’s frozen. This isn’t always the case – we buy frozen fish because it is cheaper and my butcher doesn’t carry it and we buy frozen peas because they are convenient and cheaper as well. We don’t drink pop, or any juice. I drink coffee that I sometimes make at home but I typically buy one from Tim Horton’s 5 days a week when I’m on my way to work. I put cream and sugar in it because it tastes better that way. If I want a snack I’ll eat fruit, yogurt or banana chips from Bulk Barn since I’m allergic to nuts and can’t eat those. My post long run recovery drink is chocolate milk and sometimes my wife puts it in her coffee at home.
Here’s another shocker – I don’t take supplements. No protein shakes, no BCAA’s, nothing beyond a simple Vitamin C to help reduce the risk of illness. I found through trial and error that protein powders don’t make my system happy and the added juice and sugar add up to a ton as well. Not that this is necessary, but I made a decision a while ago to basically cut back on anything artificial or that has chemicals in it, which any protein powder does. And you can tell me until you’re blue in the face how yours comes from 100% natural ingredients, but the truth is, your powder still got made in a factory with 20 others that are simply boxed and shipped to other companies and there are still fillers and additives in it. So basically I get 80% of my nutrition from real food, and the other 20% is the occasional 1-2 times a week I grab something when I’m out. About once every other week my wife and I order in Thai food like normal people. I follow the 80/20 rule – if you do the right thing 80% of the time it likely makes up for the 20% that you don’t.
I also have a ten month old at home – we feed her pretty much the same stuff that we eat at this point because she loves to feed herself and imitate Mom and Dad. She loves beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, tofu, brown rice pasta, and especially strawberries. For breakfast we often make her toast with almond butter and she loves it. She has been exposed to pretty much everything (all fish, nuts, major allergens except for honey) and has no food allergies. She doesn’t like too much animal protein because of the texture at this stage, but she will eat fish and chicken if we hide it or if she’s hungry enough.
So there you have it – the grocery and eating habits of a not perfect personal trainer and a regular human being. I know that nutrition is a personal choice for many people so if you want to comment, that’s fine – I just might not listen. I’ve spoken about nutrition before, and lots of people either over complicate it or simply don’t manage their time well. They hit the snooze button 3 times and skip breakfast. They don’t bother making lunch at home and spend hundreds a month eating out – which also leads to unhealthy choices. Instead of whipping something up that’s healthy and easy at home (which you can easily do in 15 minutes) they stop and pick up something packaged or fast food. Always remember – this is a choice. If you choose to do that, then fine, but don’t complain about it. It is really easy to make a simple change and manage your life and time better so you can live longer and feel better. If you’re going to make a change, don’t make it for 6 weeks or a “90 day challenge” – make it for the rest of your life and commit already.
I hope it helped – feel free to comment, subscribe and share!
Weekly (actually almost daily) on my Facebook feed I see debate and discussion about various fitness modalities and “the best way” to exercise. Wow, that was an awesome leg workout! I almost puked! I can’t walk today thanks to @awesomeharcoretrainer! #feelbeatenup. Inevitably these are posted by folks in their 20’s and 30’s who are getting into workouts that are pretty advanced, and likely in no way appropriate – but they do get the desired results. For a brief time people can have bulging muscles, lower body fat (or nicely flexed pictures) and post pictures of themselves doing things like obstacle races or really heavy lifts, even if they have terrible form.
Then there is the other side of the equation. The majority of my practice deals with injuries, and a lot of these are things like tears of various things, joint replacements, spinal herniation and overuse issues. Most of these people are in their 40’s and older, but this is not a hard rule. My youngest client who had a hip replaced was 46. Knee replacements are fairly common once people who are active get into their 50’s and 60’s. Disc hernation when younger tends to lead to chronic back pain for many people until they decide to either get surgery or figure out a way to manage their lives in order to live without pain. I see this as a really sad thing.
My aunt (who was obese at the time) announced one year at Christmas that she was getting a knee replacement because it was the only solution to her knee pain. When I suggested that possibly losing 50 pounds might help her more there was a bit of an awkward silence in the room. As you all know, holding my tongue isn’t exactly something I do well.
One thing I often say to people is that “I wish I had seen you ten years ago.” My belief is that if people were properly educated on what exercise can do to their body long term they might think twice before getting into hardcore heavy lifting, fast ballistic movements and things like hardcore competition without properly progressing themselves.
The point of this article is very simple: people don’t think about the long term damage they are doing to their bodies and what it is going to be dealing with years down the road. This could also apply to the general population, but especially applies to people in the fitness industry who are supposed to know a bit more about their physical well-being and how to improve others than the average person. Just recently there was a gentleman who during a CrossFit competition actually severed his spine during a heavy lift and will never walk again. Another recent article had a high level runner fracturing her femur – 500 meters from the finish line of a race – but she dragged her self across the finish line anyway, risking her life in the process. She likely will never walk properly again either and she has small children at home. Professional athletes, while achieving incredible things in their careers often have their physical health or even their lives cut short dramatically due to the abuse their body has to adapt to through training. These are obviously outliers, but for every one of these examples, there are thousands of regular people who suffer daily with things that likely could have been either prevented or eliminated entirely given the right amount of care.
There are also people who commit to fitness (for a short time) and do a cycle of working out for a few weeks, then come up with every excuse under the sun why they can’t continue – until the next time. In January these are called “resolutionists”. For a lot of people they will be inspired by something and maybe follow through for a few months, and then go back to the same cycle they had in the past. Then, in five years they are heavier, sicker or get injured and wonder why. Here’s a thought – make a commitment for a long period of time and stick with it. You should be exercising regularly (in whatever capacity you want to) for the rest of your life. Time after time I meet with people, they stick with a program for a few weeks or months, and then something happens in their life so that they won’t continue (notice I said won’t, not can’t) and then a year later it’s “oh, yeah – I should start working out again.” Then I meet with them a few more times, with them fully committed and then inevitably it happens again.
So my simple words to you: look forward. See yourself in 10 years and ask yourself what type of body you want to have. What do you want to be able to do? What do you want to have accomplished? We do this all of the time for our careers, but neglect the one thing that is going to carry us forward for the rest of our lives. And get started. Now. Just do it the smart, responsible way and don’t let your body hate you. It really doesn’t want to, after all.
Every spring brings with it clear roads, nice lush trails and always an explosion of new or reborn runners outside. The year seems bright and shiny and new goals get set, sometimes held over from the year previous. That ½ marathon that didn’t get done last year – this is the one! I’m going to finish my first 10k race in under an hour! I’m going to set a new personal best in May! After coaching endurance athletes for over a decade I’ve pretty much heard all of them before. This applies to those of you who ran regularly last year and haven’t consistently since November (when you finished your last race) too. So I thought I might list off some of the biggest mistakes that I see new or renewed runners make early in season and hopefully it will make sure that a lot of those injuries I end up fixing in the fall don’t happen – at least to you.
1) Start as easy as you need to.
Many beginners start out with a walk/run protocol until they can run continuously for 20 minutes – and you should too. One mistake many beginners make is thinking that they can instantly hop out of their door and run forever without walking. They get 1 kilometer down the road, are gasping for air and their muscles are screaming, limp home and never go out again. I wonder why? This applies to reborn runners as well – sometimes those first few runs are hard on the body and it needs time to adjust and get used to the movement again. Try walk 1 minute, then JOG (not run) 1 minute and repeat for about 10 cycles – this is 20 minutes total, 10 minutes of jogging. This is a good starting point. Start with 3 times a week on non-consecutive days. You will know you are improving when things get easier and then you can progress to 2/1, up to 10/1 and then try for a long continuous run.
Also, it has been proven that aerobic conditioning is incredibly important. The majority of running at the starting stages should be at aerobic pace (meaning at least conversational). This can be very difficult for beginners, so watch your perceived exertion levels!
2) Warm up and Cool Down properly
Just putting your shoes on and going full speed right away is something even experienced runners shouldn’t do. My athletes all start out with mobility movements and drills before starting, then slowly ramp up to their workouts. High level athletes sometimes warm up for over an hour before their main workout starts! This is important for blood flow, getting your brain into movement and making sure all is okay before you start pounding on your joints. At the end of a workout, take some time to walk, evaluate how you feel and don’t just plop yourself down and stop moving right away. Don’t necessarily just stretch, either – often your muscles are too taxed and you are potentially doing yourself more harm than good by stretching immediately afterwards anyway. Treat every workout seriously, because if you want to perform well over time this is an essential habit to have right away.
Historically my athletes all tell me that if they had a crappy run it was because they didn’t warm up or do any movement before they went into their workout. It also significantly increases injury risk.
3) Progress yourself slower than you think you need to.
I can’t stress enough that the majority of overuse injuries I see are caused by their name – overuse. Some days are going to be a lot better than others for running, so ramping up mileage needs to be done weekly with a deload week once in a while (meaning just drop your total mileage by about 20%). There are lots of good plans out there and if the plan calls for 3 miles, don’t suddenly do 5 just because you are feeling great that day. My marathon runners spend months increasing weekly mileage from 50km per week to 70 and many more to 100 – you have to give the body time to adapt to stress under load. I often explain it to people that if you walked into the gym after hardly bench pressing 100 pounds and suddenly tried for 150, likely it wouldn’t go very well and you could easily hurt yourself, right? Running (and any other form of muscular stress) is the same thing. Start with alternating days, then add in a day once you feel capable. 4 days a week is generally plenty for most runners unless you are trying for a very fast time, especially when you add in other components, like…
4) Strength train. Both with resistance and while running.
Huh? How can you strength train while running, you ask? Well, the funny thing is that the body adapts to stress under load. Especially for beginners, getting into the weight room and lifting weights (properly) has been proven to be better for your running efficiency, allow you to recover from workouts faster and severely reduce your risk of injury. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean bench presses – the strength movements should be tailored to the muscles that you need to be better at running. A good strength coach (and I happen to know an excellent one!) can be your guide here. Strength training while running can be done with things like hill workouts, hard track workouts and even simple drills you can do at the end of a good run. Again, like anything else care has to be taken to do things properly at the start. There are lots of good beginner strength programs out there for endurance athletes.
It also doesn’t require a gym membership. I can outfit a decent home gym for less than $100, so if you need any guidance there or even if you don’t have a lot of space it can definitely be done. In fact, you can get a lot of strength from bodyweight movements alone.
5) Be realistic.
If a person comes to me having never run consistently and tells me they want to run a marathon, I tell them it will take 2 years to do properly and injury free. They usually walk out at that point. So many of us want that big goal without giving our body the time to adapt and get stronger while doing it. If you want to do a ½ marathon (without walking) be prepared to be running up to 50-60km per week. For a 10k it should be at least 30-40 – which requires time, commitment and preparation. Don’t be afraid to downgrade your goal if you find you haven’t put in the training time, you are better off to do that then do the race you set and possibly set yourself back for the future as a result. There are races pretty much every weekend during the summer – they will always be there. Would you rather have a bad experience or a good one? The road is long and if you take your time and do things right the first time, you can enjoy running for years without any issues.
All of this being said, a good coach is invaluable and will give you some perspective. Just please make sure you don’t come to them with a list of goals – pick a top one and have a secondary one, but don’t expect that you will lose 30 pounds while also running a ½ marathon. They are separate things and should be treated as such. If you are interested in exploring either your first race or your twenty-first and are going for a personal best feel free to contact me. I have helped dozens of runners get to that target goal they have been waiting for, whether you are just getting off of the couch or heading towards the Boston Marathon. Feel free to comment, subscribe and follow me on Facebook!