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Food that We Can All Agree On
Updated on February 11, 2012
Eating - What we can all agree on?
There are seemingly more diets out there than there are types of food. No fat, no carbs, no wheat, no dairy, no sugar, no meat, organic... The list goes on. It may seem like there is almost nothing left to eat. However, as seemingly contradictory as these regimes seem, there is common ground.
Leafy greens. I have yet to see a diet that denies you of this low calorie, high nutrient super food. If did exist, I wouldn't want to be on it. I try to include one in every supper. My favorites are kale, spinach, swiss chard, bok choy, guy LAN, beet tops and dandelion leaves. Most of these need to be cooked (some are even toxic if you don't) - which is a good thing because wilting them down allows you to get more in anyway.
Berries. Berries are the kings of the fruit world. High antioxidant, low sugar, low glycemic index, proven to be your winning general in the fight against cancer.
Protein. We don't all agree on how much but it's hard to argue that you should be meeting the daily recommended amount. Protein is key for building your body but it is also satisfying and keeps hunger at bay.
Water. Again, more is usually not better in matters of the body but few of us get enough. We now know that thirst is a great indicator... if we are in tune enough to listen to it.
In the end it's all about what fuels your body and mind best. So listen to yourself first and don't be afraid to try different things out. I find it funny/frightening that most diet programs advocate healthy food in their menu plans but sell you absolute junk nutritional products. You are almost better eating cake from Safeway every snack than a Body for Life Bar! If high fructose corn syrup is the second ingredient and it is loaded with fructose, why do you need to poison it up with sucralose? It is of course laden with artificial flavor and vegetable oils to boot not unlike said cake. There is nothing of quality here and yet people pay big money for them being falsely led to believe they are doing themselves a favor. Same goes for most of the popular nutrition supplement bars and drinks out there... Powerbar, Zone, Atkins. Scary stuff since many people use then every day as one of the corner stones in an otherwise healthy diet. When you look for convenient food, less ingredients is usually better. You should be able to pronounce all of them. Lara, Cliff and Kashi make tasty natural bars... but as they are also high in naturally occurring sugar they are likely to cause a crash. I love Simply Bars for this reason. The Lemon Coconut bar is 140 calories, has 16 grams of protein and I feel satisfied and healthy after eating it - no crash. And yet it's made with real ingredients, just more taste less sugar. Hopefully more companies will start coming out with products like these as demand increases!
So what are you having for dinner tonight? Me, steamed greens with a chicken breast, berries with Greek yogurt for dessert, and a big glass of water to wash it down.
Run Baby Run
Updated on February 11, 2012
The time has finally come. Your baby is old enough to take that first spin in their running stroller. It's exhilarating and it's frightening all at once. Not only is your baby old enough now to head out the door with you on your workouts, but you now have the unfettered freedom to workout with your baby. No more excuses. Gulp. It's a big step for you both.
First, recognize that your baby is still your first priority and that's OK. You can stop your workout at any time - just the same as you have adjusted your life every day since that little baby came. Give yourself permission to be a mom first, even if it means walking home and calling it a day. I keep a hip sling in the back pocket of my BOB Ironman so that should today not be the day for running, I don't give myself an arm cramp carrying my daughter Ama home. Even if we only make it two blocks before Ama decides that today is not the day for a run, it's two blocks we wouldn't have gone if we never left the house, and a nice little walk home.
Secondly, make sure your baby is comfortable. I have the BOB sheepskin pad under my baby, a nice fluffy blanket, and since I live in Vancouver, often the rain cover on top. Since you are working out and generating heat, and your baby is not moving, you will likely need to dress your little one quite warmly. That being said, while you are starting out with stroller running, be sure to check their hands, toes and the nape of their neck often (every red light works) to make sure they are warm/cool enough. You will need to check less and less as you and your baby get more accustomed to heading out the door in the various weather conditions. Keep in mind too that conditions can change in a snap; I always carry my rain proof cover, sun shade, baby SPF lotion (if they are old enough) and an extra blanket just in case.
Thirdly, if you are just getting back into running yourself, go at it gradually. If you do too much, too soon, you are setting yourself up for injury or burn-out. Little steps make big impact. Congratulate yourself on every achievement. Also, since pushing a stroller is more difficult than running solo (and thus, a more effective workout even walking), be generous with the walk breaks and rest. Start with one minute of walking and two minutes of jogging at a pace that is not much faster than a walk, and work your way into jogging further by adding on no more than 10% each week in terms of distance or time. So two minutes of jogging week one, 2:15 minutes in week two, 2:30 minutes in week three, and so on... always with a one minute easy walk rest in between. 20-30 minutes total should do at first. Once you make it to ten minutes of jogging with one minute of walking you can increase the time with the same gradual 10% increments to 40-60 minutes total time. Don't forget to do some easy walking beforehand and afterwards for your warm-up and cool-down.
Lastly, make sure your equipment is in good working order (for instance if one tire is deflated more than the other it will constantly pull in one direction) and that you are dressed comfortably. Good shoes will go a long way to keeping you injury free and working toward your goals. A good jogging stroller will go a long ways to making your job as stroller pusher easier and more fun. Running with your baby is a lot less expensive than taking classes or hiring a sitter so give yourself permission to buy good equipment (a jogging specific stroller is a must). Again I have raced with and had some great outcomes against non-stroller pushers using my BOB Ironman, so it's amazing what a difference a light, agile jogging stroller can make! Do go to your local jogging stroller supplier and try a few out for yourself as your comfort and the ease of which you are able to push it makes a huge difference. Also be sure to purchase some both blinking lights and a head lamp that can be secured to your handle bar should there be any possibility of you being out after dark.
The absolute most important thing of course is that you have fun! It's great for both you and your baby to be able to get outside for some fresh air and movement. You will probably end up with a happier baby and you will almost certainly end up being a happier mom!
Updated on February 21, 2012
Running and walking have similar launch points in terms of how they are executed. The same basic posture is key: lower abs engaged, tail bone dropped, spine long, and shoulders heavy and sliding down the back. In both cases body symmetry is important. The pelvis and shoulders should be level, the head should not be tilted. From the side view, the ankle, hip, shoulders and ears should line up. Since most people do not think about their basic posture enough, and hence, have come into some very bad postural habits, it is then no surprise that when motion is added to the equation, their form falls apart.
For both walking and running, it is important that your hip can support you when weight is lowered onto it. Simple enough, yes, but for most people, this is not the case. I for one am on the extreme end and really crazy stuff starts happening to compensate for a hip break I sustained years ago. In most instances however, the hip buckles to the side due to the main lateral stabilizer of the hip (glute medius) not firing. I have heard estimates from reasonable sources, such as the Running Injury Clinic*, that upwards of 90% of leg injuries are from weak hip muscles. A simple test is to see if you can stand one on leg without your supporting hip dropping to the side. You can then do this while performing a one leg squat or hop to see if movement changes your hip's ability to stabilize (it likely will). There a number of exercises you can do for weak hips: monster walks or the like where you are pushing outwards on a band around your knee or ankle; various side lying, kneeling or standing leg raises; hip dips and one legged exercises that focus on good hip alignment.
When you move, everything should be moving forward in a straight track. Your knees, toes and arms included. No side to side, no pointing out. If you run on the sand or in the snow, turn around and wonder why it looks like a duck is in hot pursuit, you know you have a problem and should work toward your feet being neutral as if you are on skis (and NOT only when you are running... at the gym... at home... everywhere!)
The critical piece to running versus walking that most people get wrong since most runners have seen a lengthy hiatus from running for a substantial portion of their lives, is the forefoot strike. When walking, the ankle is not in a locked position since it takes so long for the body's mass to travel over the foot. Thus, it is important that the ankle be flexible and adapt to whatever is below it (be it a rock or edge or hole.) When running, your body moves much faster over top of your foot (or rather, it should) so your ankle does not need to be responsive to changing terrain underneath it. It simply touches down rapidly and moves on. Therefore, when running, you should touch the ground with your forefoot first, heel second. This is the most stable position for your ankle. It also supports you in transitioning off of that foot quickly so that you do not waste too much time on the support leg. It is very awkward to land out in front of your body when you are landing on the forefoot (that said, I have seen it done more than once). Any amount of 'overstriding' or landing in front of you COG (centre of gravity) is harmful... not only are you are essentially breaking, but is usually accompanied by a straightened knee, so you are slamming your forward momentum and weight on a locked joint... and to add insult to injury, you are going to be on that foot for longer since it now has to support your mass as it travels from out in front of you back to where it needs to be to leave the ground again. Finally, forefoot striking hairs in allowing your body to fall forward in a gravity assisted lean that propels you effortlessly forward in space.
Your legs should always stay bent when running. If you straighten your leg to land it is unnecessarily hard on your body and takes more time to 'get your body over it'. If you straighten it during take off, then you are leaping. If you could see your head as you run, you should see should little to no up and down movement. Your arms should swing straight forward and back, and stay bent at about 90 degrees. All movement should take place at the shoulder joint and run in a linear front to back fashion, with the emphasis placed on driving the elbows backward to drive you forward and your chest up. Your arms move at the same rate as your legs so if you are in need of some extra punch while running fast you can increase the rate of your arm swing to quicken your turnover.
So what should your turnover be? That is, how many steps should you take in a minute while running? The golden answer is about 180 strides/min or 90 on each foot. So, if you set your timer to 1 minute and count every time your right foot hits the floor, you should have counted to about 90. If you are slower than that, chances are good that you are overstriding... certainly you are spending too much time on your foot when it lands. If your number is way higher, say 110, than either you counted both legs or you are probably taking way to many strides (shuffling) and could use some work on increasing your stride length. Typically this is a case of low hip flexor flexibility (the muscle in the front of your hip) and low functional strength of glute max (your butt).
It may all sound very difficult to you... as if finessing your running technique is about breaking down such a complicated movement into little snippets. It's not. They all work together. If you are swinging your arms from side to side, you are far more likely to hunch up. If you have weak hips, likely it will be hard to fix any part of your form since your foundation is the issue. Most importantly though, is to relax and feel good. Watch videos of runners with great form winning world class events with effortless flow. If you can't make it, fake it, as they say. It will get easier and easier. It is most important to stay fluid... like water moving down a creek. If you are tense or struggling, slow down, reconnect and find that connection to who you want to be as a runner. Like yoga, swimming, dancing, golf or any other discipline that requires dynamic flow, you cannot fight your way through it. So get out there and be a better runner one set at a time.