Let’s Talk Recovery

As I’m patiently making way through this injury recovery what helps me is to approach it as I would a training block for a goal race. A healed bone and returning to running will be my “finish line”. I have to lay out my plan week by week. I need to listen to my body and make adjustments to the plan on the fly as needed. Most importantly, I need to prioritize rest, recovery and nutrition.

“Use Pain as Your Guide”
I despise this guideline. Pain is a 4 letter word. Using pain as a gauge is not very helpful and basically places me in a state of constant anxiety. Am I feeling pain or just discomfort? Is this feeling due to de-conditioning and then trying to use my right leg again? Is it just pulling and soreness from the muscles that had shut down and are now coming back to life? I don’t have a great track record when it comes to respecting pain. It’s very difficult to trust myself but I am trying…

I had a meltdown recently – the evening I first rode my bike outside. It felt great – no pain, not really any discomfort that I could tell. It left me feeling optimistic well beyond what I was expecting. Later that night as I got up to go to bed it hit me hard. I stood up and couldn’t walk properly – there was a lot of pain – it took me right back to where I was in May. I was lying in bed feeling stabbing pain and crying – not from the pain – from the feeling that I just fucked things up and would need to start all over. No. Freaking. Way. I told myself that in the morning I would get back on the crutches full time and figure out what to do next. Luckily when I awoke the next morning the pain was gone. I cautiously stepped out of bed and things felt back to “normal.” Phew. I really wanted to ride my bike again that day – the previous evening was the best I’ve felt mentally in 2 months. Instead I honored my recovery and erred on the side of yet another rest day. It shouldn’t be this hard, I know. I wish it were easier.

Progression
√ 90% crutches – non-weight bearing
√ crutch & touch – to slowly introduce minimal impact
√ upper body strength work while seated/core work
√ crutches outside of the house only
√ riding (w/o “pain”)
√ yoga without balance poses (w/o “pain”)
_ walking without crutches!!!
_ RUNNING!!!!!  🙂

I’m getting so close!!! My next MRI has been scheduled on August 14th and will be reviewed that day. Wish me luck…

Results
I had the following tested:
· CBC w/ auto differential
· Ferritin
· Comprehensive metabolic panel
· Magnesium
· Parathyroid hormone, intact with calcium
· TSH
· Alkaline phosphatase, bone specific
· Inorganic phosphorus
· Vitamin D – 25 hydroxy

The only level I was concerned about was Vitamin D as it was on the low side the last time I had fractures. Although there is always room for improvement (you will see how I’m achieving that below) it was at a safe level. I felt confident that everything else would be great but it’s always good to take a look. As expected, all of my levels were where they needed to be! (I’m not going to post everything but if anyone wants to see any of my results please let me know)

Next up was the bone density test. Although my T-Score puts me in the lower end of the normal range, I am still within that range and the Dr. is not concerned. The more important score is the Z-Score which compares my results to a person of the same gender and age as myself, and she was happy with this score.

With the results of these tests my physician confirmed that my fracture is most likely due to a combination of the following:
1) biomechanical issues (*I am fully to blame for slacking off in this area.)
2) long term damage from prolonged use of Depo Provera (*I have been off this, and all birth control for almost 9 years. Please DO NOT EVER use Depo.)
3) exercise/nutrition imbalance (*this is a big one that deserves way more attention but I will touch on it briefly.)

Nutrition
The first order of business was to add some weight. This is standard protocol when you have a stress fracture as your body needs to heal, and the best way to facilitate that is by providing it with abundance. Any hint of deprivation is stealing resources that your body can use to mend itself. I learned the importance of this after my last set of fractures 9 years ago and now anytime I am taking a break (or off-season) I make sure to put on a few pounds. It’s a healthy practice that everyone should incorporate.

Time for honesty – it’s not easy. I don’t feel comfortable putting on weight so while I am always willing to do so for my health I’m also anxious to take it back off (safely). When my physician said we couldn’t rule out “female athlete triad” my initial reaction was to defend myself and dismiss it because she doesn’t really know me. However I am seeing her for this exact reason – real talk and an understanding of female athletes. So I am not taking it lightly. My plan was to initially put on some weight while I heal, then slowly start to take it back off so that when I’m cleared to run again I will be back to my “comfortable” weight. My physician informed me this week that I need to continue focusing on weight. So I will.

I am achieving this by following the same nutrition guidelines I follow during training, just with slightly smaller portions. Since 2009 I have been following a “5 servings of healthy fat per day” rule and I continue to do that even though I am not training. Healthy fats are always my number 1 focus – avocado, nut butter, hemp hearts, seeds, nuts, coconut oil – are among my daily servings. Equally important for recovery is protein, as protein is called upon to rebuild bone. Again I’m eating the same things I would eat if I were training – tempeh, beans, lentils, pea protein powder – I am not cutting out any protein during my time off from training. The biggest change has come in allowing treats, because who doesn’t need some vegan ice cream when you’re feeling down? 🙂

Supplements
I am in great hands when it comes to receiving direction on what supplements I should take to ensure proper healing and am extremely grateful that Unived provides a lot of what I need to stay on top of my recovery. A company dedicated to athletes, run by athletes who devote so much time to researching and obtaining the highest quality ingredients. I consider myself very lucky to be a part of their family.

Morning
Blood Builder – I’ve been taking MegaFood’s Blood Builder since 2010. It’s my source of B12 while also providing a hefty dose of iron and folate.

Mid-Morning

Unived D-veg – each serving has 2500 I.U. of pure vitamin D3 derived from Lichen. D3 is a fat soluble vitamin, so it is mixed with coconut oil which aids in fast transport to the bloodstream and maximum absorption.

Afternoon
Unived Colox
Colox offers natural relief from joint pain and inflammation which is superior to and safer than OTC NSAIDs. It contains Boswellia serrata, Ashwagandha, and Curcuma longa extracts.
Curcumin – in addition to the Colox I am taking 500 mg of Curcumin C3 complex. Again this is a great anti-inflammatory which also helps increase the antioxidant capacity of the body and can even improve your mood! **Unived will be releasing its own highly bio-available Curcumin soon!
Cissus Quadrangularis –
clinically proven to accelerate fracture healing and reduce the recovery time.

Evening
Unived CalDVegI’ve been taking this daily prior to the stress fracture but a supplement for enhancing bone health is definitely a priority. CalDVeg is sourced from algae and also contains Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2, and magnesium which will enhance calcium absorption and utilization.
Unived Colox – dose 2 for the day
Magnesium –
I use a powdered magnesium fizz blend to assist with enhancing bone density through assimilating calcium absorption and activating Vitamin D. It’s also great for relieving anxiety and providing calm, which is why I like to drink it before bed.
Zinc –
zinc supplementation aids in callus formation, enhances bone protein production, and thus stimulates fracture healing.
Curcumin –
dose 2 for the day
Cissus –
dose 2 for the day Overall I’m feeling very optimistic about my results and progress, so now it’s just a matter of giving my bones optimal time to fully heal so I can come back even stronger!

Beyond this my focus is on relaxing – the biggest challenge of all – but it’s a good opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends, reflect on the mentality that broke me, set positive future goals, and most importantly be thankful for everything I have.

I hope everyone is having a great season of training and racing – run some stunning trail miles for me! 🙂

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#FridayFuel – Ultra Bites

This recipe features Unived Ultra Butter which has become a staple for me before races and big training days. Ultra Butter contains peanuts, cashews, virgin coconut oil, dried coconut, pea protein, dates, himalayan pink salt, cocoa powder, and vanilla flavor. It tastes great on its own and comes in handy packaging so that you can eat it on the run. I’ve also been enjoying it in my oatmeal, as a waffle topping, and with my apples 🙂

Ultra Bites

  • Servings: ~15 balls
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


Ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted dates, soaked for 10 minutes & drained
  • 1 packet of Unived Ultra Butter
  • ¼ cup vegan chocolate chips (or sub any add-ins like dried fruit)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds (or sub flax or hemp seeds)
  • 2/3 cup gluten free rolled oats

Directions

  1. After dates have been soaked and drained, pulse in a food processor until combined in a dough-like consistency.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients & pulse until combined. You want them to be chunky, so don’t overprocess.
  3. Scoop mix and roll into balls of desired size. Should yield ~ 15.
  4. Allow to chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Store them there as well.

#FridayFuel – Muir Energy Gels Product Review


During my spring training trip I decided to test a new gel on the market. Muir Energy caught my eye when I saw they are using simple, clean ingredients. I also love that the products are hand-made in small batches in Southern California. SoCal is where I got my start in running – a place close to my heart! Here is what stood out to me on their site:

  • Muir Energy uses only 4-6 ingredients for all of its products. That’s it!
  • Muir Energy is 100% Organic, Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-free and non-GMO.
  • Muir Energy is loaded with nutrition. For example, each serving contains 290-350mg of Potassium. Comparable to eating a small banana!
  • Muir Energy’s taste. You will have to decide for yourself, but everybody who’s tried it says it is unbelievably good, unlike any other gel you’ve ever tasted.
  • Muir Energy contains 115-150 calories per 30g serving – 15%-50% more than other energy gels.

I also like what founder Ian Muir McNally had to say:

“Like many endurance athletes, I struggled to find the right nutrition to keep me going while pushing my body to its limits. Most food bars are dry, heavy and not very healthy. Most energy gels are sweet and synthetic tasting, and contain ominous sounding ingredients. I wanted something simple. And quick. Something that tasted really good and was made with real organic ingredients – derived from nature, not in a lab. Something clean, reliable and good. Clean Nutrition. Pure Energy.”

Let’s start with the ingredients. On their site they do an excellent job going into detail about some of their key ingredients and how they will help you not only during activity but with overall health. Check it out here.

Now to move on to the taste… Gel haters rejoice because Muir Energy gels are not like your typical gel! The gels are known to be thick which made me apprehensive – I’ve always steered away from the thicker gels. There is even mention on their site that you actually “eat” the gels. There’s no liquid to them at all. The reason?

Bacteria and pathogens proliferate in an aqueous environment. To keep their products food safe, thinner or watery gels must use synthetic preservatives. We use exclusively real food ingredients with no synthetic preservatives. We have accomplished this by reducing water activity in our products. This results in a thicker, more viscous – as well as more flavorful, nutritionally and calorically dense – product.

Back to the taste…I started out with the Passion Fruit Pineapple Banana gel and my first reaction was “this is unlike anything I’ve ever put in my mouth!” I don’t always like to be a follower, but they can add me to the list of people who say it’s unlike any other gel I’ve tasted. Yes, it is that different from other gels on the market. I immediately understood the comment about “eating” the gels – you can actually chew on them. Unreal! The best way to describe it is an airy taffy – but without the stickiness and sugariness. Like a light and fluffy whipped taffy. I was sold after the first one. Throughout my week I tried many other flavors (see list below). I noticed that on colder days they are a little tougher to squeeze out of the packet. Their suggestion for that is to pre-cut the gel pack a little further down from the neck so that you can rip it open there and get more out easily. Having them against my body seemed to do the trick for me.

The only one I wasn’t too fond of was Blackberry Thyme. That’s really a personal preference as I’m not a big fan of thyme. I would totally eat it again – just not one of my favorites. My hands-down favorites are the Passion Fruit Pineapple Banana and Pineapple Kale. I’m a fruity kind of girl (keep your comments to yourself) and they really nailed it with these flavors! I also really enjoyed the Cashew flavors I tried (especially Cashew Vanilla because…vanilla!) In the past I have used nut butter packets for fuel but Muir Energy makes ingesting nut butters on the run even better by adding ingredients like blackstrap molasses & pink himalayan salt. Be still my heart!

My favorites ❤

FLAVORS

Fast Burning
*Blackberry Thyme
*Red Raspberry
Red Raspberry Matè
*Passion Fruit Pineapple Banana
*Pineapple Kale

Slow Burning
Cacao Almond
Cacao Almond Matè
Cacao Almond Peppermint
*Cashew Lemon
Cashew Lemon Matè
*Cashew Vanilla
Cashew Vanilla Matè

(* flavors I have tried)

That’s right – they offer both slow burning and fast burning gels – how awesome is that? As you can tell by the flavor names the fast burning gels are fruit and berry-based while the slow burning are nut butter based. Not only does this provide options for short, intense vs. long endurance sessions, but it will also appeal to the fat-adapted athletes who want to stick with higher fat fuel towards the beginning of the race and then transition to quick metabolizing simple sugars during later stages.

They also offer Energy Jams and Spreads. On their site they state you can eat them like the gel, or you can spread them on toast, waffles, bananas, and even add it to hot water or an espresso. I will be ordering some of the Jams and Spreads next!

Photo: Muir Energy

There is a growing list of stores where you can find their products – just check on their web site. Or you can go the online route where they offer a custom variety pack so you can create your dream team!

​I’ll be using Muir Energy gels to fuel my run at UROC next weekend!!

Happy Training 🙂

#FridayFuel – Race Week Edition

Race season is about to kick off which means it’s time to focus even more on nutrition. As this continues to be the question I’m most frequently asked, here is what I’ve been eating throughout the week leading up to Boston.

img_6718Breakfast: I’ve been enjoying a version of my Ultimate Blueberry Beet Recovery Shake each day but every once in a while I mix it up by turning it into a smoothie bowl. I simply omit the ½ cup of water to make it thicker. Today’s smoothie bowl consisted of beet juice, tart cherry juice, a frozen banana and ½ cup of frozen strawberries, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of Flora Udo’s Oil, 2 large handfuls of kale, a chunk of ginger and a chunk of turmeric. To top off the bowl I’ve added some chocolate coconut granola for additional healthy fats, blueberries for additional antioxidants, and some chia seeds for essential amino acids.

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Lunch: It’s all about big salads for me. A great way to use up any veggies or leftovers in my fridge, my salads typically consist of the following base ingredients: one chopped romaine heart, (I’ll substitute/add spinach and/or mixed field greens when I have them on hand), 3 cooked beets (I save time by using Love Beets pre-cooked beets), 4 ounces of tempeh sautéed in coconut oil, ½ an avocado, seeds (typically sunflower or pumpkin) and lately I’ve been on a coconut bacon kick.

 

Dinner: I went with 2 dinner bowls this week. img_6689Monday and Tuesday was the burrito bowl featuring cauliflower rice. I’ve become a big fan of cauliflower rice and it’s really simple to make. Chop 1 full head, throw it into a food processor and pulse a few times until you get the consistency of rice. In a pan over medium heat I sauté ½ of a chopped yellow onion in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Once tender I add the “riced” cauliflower and cook, stirring consistently, for about 10 minutes. For my bowl I layered greens, cauliflower rice, cooked black beans, ½ an avocado, pico de gallo, and topped it with Chipotle Just Mayo.

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Wednesday through Friday I switched to a sesame tempeh and broccoli bowl recipe that I found at Mind Body Green.

 

 

 

img_6717Snacks: My smoothies and salads are very filling so during a taper week I don’t always need snacks during the day. However I always make sure to eat something before my evening run. This week it’s been brown rice cakes with almond butter and cherry chia jam, and these delicious new mint chocolate coconut beet bites I found on Love Beets’ Instagram page. You can find the recipe here.

 

 

And then of course there’s always my favorite – the banana!

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Happy Training (and fueling)!

LivWell Plant-Based Protein

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I know what you’re thinking…another vegan protein powder. As public perception shifts towards the many benefits of opting for plant-based nutrition and athletes in particular notice that they can recover and perform at higher levels when they switch to a vegan diet the market is becoming super-saturated with plant-based protein powders which can leave your head spinning. I have to be honest in saying that my interest in LivWell piqued when I learned that the company is based out of Philadelphia, PA – close to my home town. I always have much love for Philly and anything that comes from this fine city so I had to check it out.

The story is one I can definitely get behind as an athlete who cares a great deal about the quality of the fuel I’m putting in my body. The founder is a fitness and wellness enthusiast who grew tired of corporate influence over the food industry and began to question the quality of the ingredients going into some of the products he was consuming. After months of research, consulting and experimenting he came up with his own vegan protein powders that boast only high-grade, organic, 100% plant-based ingredients.
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Before I get to the fun stuff, the contents of LivWell Protein are definitely worth talking about. I’ll start with the protein sources:

Brown rice – 95% protein, fast absorption, aids muscle recovery, all 20 amino acids, lean muscle gains
Yellow peas – 80% protein, high levels of BCAA’s, high in lysine & arginine, healthy circulation, collagen formation
Sacha inchi – 60% protein, high in tryptophan, brain boosting, fatty acid omega 3, easily digested
Hemp seeds – 50% protein, packed with fiber, fatty acids, sustained absorption, easily absorbed

What you’re getting:
– 17 grams of complete protein
– state-of-the-art cold processed
– powerful amino acid profile (with all 20 amino acids)
– smooth texture
– fast & slow digesting proteins for sustained intake
– 3rd party lab testing of every batch – no heavy metals
– packaging made with recycled material
– free from soy, gluten & dairy
– no artificial anything – flavors, sweeteners or preservatives
– USDA Certified Organic – non-gmo, free from any synthetic fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics and chemicals
100% VEGAN 🙂

Now onto the fun part…testing the product! The first thing I noticed was the pleasant smell of both flavors when I opened the packages – this was a good sign! You can tell there is nothing artificial in these powders. LivWell uses organic wild vanilla bean pods and Ecuadorian raw cacao for natural flavors.

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I started with one of my simple yet delicious smoothies – chocolate peanut butter banana. 1 cup of Califia Farms unsweetened almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1 heaping Tbsp of peanut butter, and 1 serving of LivWell Raw Cacao protein. I can tell you that the protein tasted as great as it smelled! And what I really noticed is how smooth it was – there was no chalky or grainy consistency that you sometimes find with protein powders. I was off to a great start!

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Next up I decided to use the Wild Vanilla Bean protein in my classic Protein Pancakes (topped with banana and peanut butter – do you notice a trend here?) One word: delicious!

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Then I went onto LivWell’s Instagram page which showcases so many amazing recipes it’s hard to choose where to start. However once I saw Vegan S’mores Protein Milkshake I was sold. I used 1 cup of Califia Farms unsweetened almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1 serving of LivWell Raw Cacao protein, 4 pitted dates, 1/4 cup cashews, and I topped it with aquafaba marshmallow fluff.

For my last taste test it was an easy decision when this Raw Vanilla Protein “Donut” recipe popped up on their IG page. Wow. These were super-easy to make and the flavor is incredible. I will definitely be making them again…and again.

Raw Vanilla Protein “Donuts”

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 6 soaked medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 scoops LivWell vanilla protein
  • ¼ cup pecans or walnuts
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Icing:
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients (except icing ingredients) in a processor until a dough forms.
  2. Roll into balls and freeze for about 20 minutes.
  3. Melt icing ingredients and roll balls into the icing once cool.
  4. Freeze balls again until solid and continue rolling balls in icing and freezing until desired icing is achieved (I rolled them twice).
  5. Store in fridge or freezer.


Credit: LivWell Nutrition

My verdict? I’m definitely sold on this protein and will be purchasing both flavors. The taste is superior, the texture is unlike any other protein powder I’ve tried, and the ingredients are clean and pure. Bonus: I’ll be supporting a local PA company! If you’re interested in trying LivWell you can order yours here. And make sure to check out their IG page if you’re looking for fun new ways to use their protein powders. Enjoy!

 

#FridayFuel – Peanut Butter Jelly Power Balls

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A quick and delicious handmade fuel for training, racing, or anytime you’re craving a sweet snack. I like to freeze a few in little baggies that I can pop into my vest when I’m ready to hit the trails! You can substitute any dry fruit or go big and use chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter Jelly Power Balls

  • Servings: 15-20
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Know exactly what's in your fuel by making your own energy bites!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted dates, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and thoroughly drained
  • 2/3 heaping cup of rolled oats
  • ¼ cup chopped dried cherries (or other dried fruit, chocolate chips)
  • 3 Tbsp peanut or almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds

Directions

  1. Pulse the soaked, drained dates in a food processor until they form a ball.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until combined. Try not to over-process as it will turn into a paste. You want texture!
  3. Roll into ~1 inch balls – this should yield 15-20 depending on your preferred size.
  4. Pop in fridge or freezer. They’ll last up to a week in the fridge.

#FridayFuel – Chocolate Cashew Pudding

img_2326I always enjoy finding new desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth while providing my body with proper recovery fuel. When Minimalist Baker posted this recipe I couldn’t wait to try this alternative to my beloved Avocado Chia Chocolate Mousse. This rich, creamy pudding loaded with protein and healthy fats surely didn’t disappoint! It tastes great as is, but for an extra indulgence add some coconut whipped cream and peanut butter drizzle, or fresh fruit.

Chocolate Cashew Pudding

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A rich and creamy pudding high in protein and healthy fats.

Ingredients

  • 1 scant cup (105 g) raw cashews
  • 3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml) unsweetened almond milk or light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup (24 g) unsweetened cocoa powder or cacao powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) maple syrup (or sub more dates)
  • 2 pitted Medjool dates (or sub more maple syrup)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions

  1. Add raw cashews to a mixing bowl and cover with boiling hot water. Let set for 1 hour, then rinse and drain thoroughly.
  2. Add to blender along with remaining ingredients and blend until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
  3. Scoop pudding into serving containers and cover. Chill in the refrigerator until cold and thickened – at least 2-3 hours. Serve as is or with my favorites: coconut whipped cream, peanut butter drizzle, or fresh fruit!


Credit: minimalistbaker.com