The Runner and the Gym

img_6834-editIf you are avid runner, there’s a good chance that all you do is run – little or no time is spent stretching, weight training, or cross training. And let’s face it – when you are short on time, it’s common to only get done what feels necessary – for many of us that means those miles towards race training. The old school thought was that runners simply needed to run in order to improve. Some coaches and runners still practice that method, but many of us are fans of runners doing other things too. In this blog I am going to give you the rundown on why I as a coach and athlete am a fan in runners weight training, stretching and cross training. I am going to ask you to be open-minded and to remember that no two bodies are the same.

  • In order to improve as a runner, you must run. There is no real substitute for running, and so you will spend most of your training time pounding the pavement.
  • Runners often develop extremely strong bodies, but rarely balanced. This imbalance is often what leads to injury.
  • Running tends to tighten the human body’s hips, muscles, and sometimes compromises range of motion. Even if you don’t notice your range of motion changing, a tight hip may slightly change your stride, causing potential pain or problems anywhere in the body from your hip to your toes. We are rarely designed to be 100% even on both sides, and very few of us are ambidextrous. We usually favor one side of our bodies. When doing something extremely repetitive like running, those imperfections often come out.
  • Our arms counter our legs as we run, and can be a huge source of power and strength on the race course. Totally ignoring your upper body means your arms won’t be as strong as they could be, or in balance with our heavy, strong legs. Weight training and strengthening your body from the waist and up will give you the strength and power you’ll need for PRs.
  • Our arms and legs swing from our core. Ignoring your core (front and back) means you won’t have a strong anchor. With a strong core, your entire body will feel like a harmonious running machine. You’ll be less likely to sink into your hips, collapse your shoulders, and fall apart on the race course.
  • Weight training should work in harmony with your training. Lift heavy, 2-3 times per week, ideally on your hard run days, a few hours after your hard run. Be sure to refuel with a protein-dense snack after your workout.
  • Weight training your legs will give you power, and ideally balance your body. That forward motion with running doesn’t tax or legs evenly. Becoming strong all the way around will prevent injuries due to imbalance in strength.
  • Cross training is a great way to get in some active recovery. Swap in some time cross training (swim, bike, row, stair climb, elliptical) for an easy run day. Some time away from the pavement, while flushing out your legs is a great way to prevent minor aches and pains from getting worse.
  • Every runner is different. Some runners can simply go out and run, and never experience pain, injuries or weakness. Many of us, however, benefit from not only running, but instead focusing on total body strength and wellness.

Think of the big picture – not just this season. In a prefect world, you want to stay injury-free for decades of running.

Body Image in Athletics

img_6222-editPeople come in all shapes and sizes. Athletes come in all shapes and sizes. It’s often an odd transition viewing yourself as an athlete, but I ask all my clients to do so. When you slightly change your perspective of yourself, you’ll view your nutrition choices, sleep, training, priorities, and life differently. I find this shift is extremely important for folks who struggle with nutrition/weight and with time-management and sleep. Instead of viewing food as “good” or “bad,” you start to think about your training, and what choices will properly aid you in pre-run fuel, post-run recovery, or general nutrition. Suddenly you won’t feel “bad” about a food choice, because your perspective of you as a human being will be different. The same is true with sleep – you’ll suddenly be aware of how it’s an important component of training – and that if you want to train harder and improve, you’ll need to get more Zzz’s.

I remember when I personally went through the shift, and how I finally felt settled and had an “identity” as far as food goes. I’ve been pretty open about my relationship with food and body image in the past, and I know I am not the only person who has struggled with it. But running and training for challenging race goals gave my body a purpose, a hunger for achievement, and I became excited and dedicated to doing what it took to morph my body for those goals. I too referred to myself as “not a real runner” for a long time – dismissing my involvement in this sport because I wasn’t professional, fast, or taking it seriously.

Over the last 5 years, my body has changed a lot. There have been years where I was curvier, years where I was rail-thin and friends voiced concerns, and years where I have been muscular with relatively low body fat. My size has swung from 6-0 and everywhere in between, and changes depending on what I am training for, how hard I am training, and honestly how I am feeling. There are some months where all I want to do is eat, and I need to pull myself up off the couch and into the gym or the park. There are other months where I feel so motivated and energized, I forget to eat and am struggling to take in enough calories. As you can imagine, this changes my body. And though I hate to admit it, it changes how I feel about myself.

What’s interesting is how I am perceived – often by strangers, casting directors, acquaintances, and friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I must always look “athletic,” because the topic usually comes up in conversation. I have had casting directors and the like ask if I am a gymnast, yogi, dancer, Pilates instructor, CrossFit activist – the list goes on. Ironically, few guess “runner.” Perhaps, to be fair, this is because runners come in all shapes and sizes. But to hear “Really? You don’t look like a runner -” it somehow feels like a stab in the gut. I usually am quick defend myself, saying I am not a sprinter (so I am not rocking large powerful muscles and very low body fat), and I am also not an elite middle or long distance runner – folks who are often associated with looking unhealthy, waif-like, and gaunt. Here’s the thing: while I am indeed a runner, I am not a professional athlete. Folks expect to see the stereotype on magazines, winning marathons or track events – not the folks who are “better than average” but also are not training full-time.

I assume if I struggle with being judged, and often have to defend my body and my choices, that other folks out there do too. Unfortunately, females are judged based on how they look before they can even open their mouths. And while I shouldn’t assume this is only a female thing, being female myself, I can only speak for the ladies.

To the folks who judge – I say go watch a race. You will see all body types cross that finish line – 5K through Marathon. You will see the elite runners you expect us all to resemble, you will also see body types doing amazing things that will honestly catch you by surprise. Don’t judge, be inspired. After all, they are the ones training and clocking miles while you sit there on your ass and point a finger.

And while some folks are probably not aware that making assumptions or judgements about a person’s body and sport can be hurtful, we should all remember to think before we speak. It’s the same with fat shaming, or assuming someone’s life is easy because they look like our idea of a “model.” You have no idea how hard someone might work for their sport, or to maintain a healthy weight. You also probably don’t know how hard that person has worked to achieve where they are today.

Being an athlete is hard. It’s a huge time commitment, which makes it a big part of your identity – whether you realize it or not. Wear that identity with pride. Train for your sport and your body will reflect your hard work, and hopefully give you the result you want. There is no perfect body or size. What’s perfect for you is what will help you achieve your goals and feel your best. If I was told gaining 10lbs. would make me faster and set crazy PRs, I’d be the first in line to pack on those additional pounds – assuming it wouldn’t hurt my health, of course. Sadly, that’s not true. Your body is your tool in this world, and we are only given one. What we do with it is our choice.

Recently when given the whole “Really? You’re a runner?!” response, I carefully explain that indeed I am – and that runners come in all shapes and sizes, and their bodies will usually be different depending on the distance and pace one runs. I figure if I cannot stop that awkward comment from arising, perhaps I can educate the person asking and they’ll think twice before assuming something about body types in the future. And for the record, I have never taken one yoga, Pilates, CrossFit or gymnastics classes – so all of those guesses are WRONG. Go figure, right? And while I used to be a dancer, it has been a few years since I have been in class. Again, proof that many snap judgements are totally off-base. I am ever going to look like Shalane Flanagan? Nope. Am I ever going to be as fast as Shalane Flanagan? Nope. And that’s OKAY!!!!!

I hope if you are struggling with your own relationship with food, body image, weight, or role in your sport that you are kind to yourself. Don’t let a stranger’s uneducated opinion sway how you feel. And if you are looking to become lighter and leaner, remember that there is no quick fix – it’s a process. You don’t owe anyone anything. But you do owe it to yourself to be happy in your skin.

5 Tips for Novice Runners

As temperatures slowly start to warm, we are all anxious to get outside and active. Even for experienced runners, taking an off-season means coming back slowly. Novice runners are usually very eager to get out and go from 0-60. Taking on too much too soon can often lead to injury and burnout, so I am giving a few pointers getting in those miles carefully.

  1. Start slow. Your pace for all of your runs in the first few weeks should be comfortable. An easy pace should feel comfortable, relaxed, and sustainable. This pace is also sometimes referred to as “conversational,” meaning you could talk during the entire run without huffing and puffing. If you cannot hold a conversation or sing a song, you are going too fast for you easy miles. The purpose of easy miles: active recovery, building weekly mileage, maintaining or building current fitness.

  2. Focus on time, not miles. Start small. Perhaps the goal for the first week is 20-30 minutes of walk/run, 3 times per week. As your fitness increases, you’ll naturally be able to handle more time on your feet. Many folks getting into running want to go out and run a hard 5 miles. While the enthusiasm is great, our bodies take a little more time than our brains to adapt. Look at the big picture, not just what you want to accomplish that one day.

  3. Take rest days. I recommend that when getting into running, focus on 3 non-consecutive days for the first few weeks. For example, Monday-Wednesday-Saturday. Rest days are just as important as your running days, and should be spaced between those running days. While you rest, your body rebuilds and recovers from the stress you put on it while running. You need to take days for the rest and rebuilding process, or you will break yourself down too much and risk injury. Again, the stronger you become, the more you will be able to handle. But start small.

  4. Sleep. If you are cutting back on sleep to train, your rest days become that much more important. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to properly function day-to-day. Many of us don’t get in that kind of sleep, and often sleep is the last priority for busy people. You need to rethink the value of sleep. There is nothing “badass” or “warrior-like” about averaging 4 hours per night. You are harming yourself, plain and simple. Get some more sleep, and your world will change – especially when running or exercising regularly.

  5. Be patient. It takes some time to settle into new habits. Most of us take 4-8 weeks before a new routine feels truly comfortable. It’s normal to have setbacks, struggle with your new priority, and to juggle everything else in your life and your running goals. However, there is nothing that says one crazy week or an overwhelming weekend will ruin your goals of becoming a consistent runner in a few months. Simply get back at it, and take your time. Don’t try to skimp on rest days, or double up to “make up” those missed workouts. They are gone. Just be patient and take it one day at a time.

Frigid Weather? Tips for Training

conditions1Winter training can be tough. It’s dark, cold, and icy. Some Winters are easier than others. Last Winter was a real doozy, and this Winter is shaping up to be pretty darn challenging too. As a coach, I am constantly checking the forecast. I keep hoping I’ll see a week where we break out of the single digits or teens for the low, but week after week my hopes are crushed. I keep thinking we need to have a “warm spell” here sometime soon where we stay above freezing or at least around freezing for a week. No luck. And add the wind chill to some days, and it’s enough to feel completely defeated.

Runners, I hear you. At times I’ll say “suck it up.” After all, I didn’t force any of you to sign up for a Spring Marathon, or to set training goals during the Winter. If you want it, you need to work for it. However, I also can totally sympathize. When it is truly painful to be out there day after day, it’s easy to lose focus. Especially if you are battling icy conditions and constantly moving your training to accommodate the most recent storm.

So what can you do? I have a few tips that may help you power through the next few weeks. And hopefully at some point we’ll get a break.

  • You cannot change the weather, so don’t fight it. If you can move your training around bad weather, do so. If you cannot, get creative.
  • Running in extreme cold, snow and ice can actually be fun – as long as you are safe and keep your time out there to a minimum. In ice or snow, wear YakTrax and/or be careful. Abandon any pace goals and simply enjoy your run. In extreme cold, be mindful of how long you are out there and if body parts go numb or become painful.
  • Take your training inside. Perhaps you can swap out a run for a cross training day, or run intervals on a treadmill.
  • Avoid routes that are not cleared. In Winter conditions, some side walks, roads and running paths are commonly cleared, while others are last priority.
  • Be aware of wind chill, and stay away from large bodies of water or exposed routes. Protected routes from the wind will be warmer than routes out in the open or along rivers.
  • If you schedule allows it, run at the warmest time of the day. Even if it’s bitter cold, some sunshine can lighten your spirits and make it easier to see any ice ahead.
  • Refuel with something warm. I’m a fan of hot chocolate, or hot tea with a snack. Drinking cold water will only make you feel colder.
  • Avoid cotton at all cost. I’m am totally a fan of being a runner on a budget, but running in cotton during Winter is a major n0-no.
  • Get out of wet running gear and into something warm and dry or a hot shower ASAP.
  • Make your cold miles more enjoyable by running with a buddy or listening to music. You probably know other dedicated Winter warriors.
  • Don’t panic if your training gets slightly sidelined. If you need to swap in a rest day or cross training day for your “easy” runs, it’s not a huge deal. Focus on accomplishing your “quality runs” and consider that a success.
  • Remind yourself that at some point, weather will improve. Take it a day or a week at a time. Try not to despair because April seems so far away.
  • The odds are that other runners are struggling too. You are not alone. But the ones with big goals are digging deep and getting their miles done – one way or another. When you line up next to them for your race, they will have the edge. Either accept your modified training, or dig deep and be that person on the starting line with the edge.

Self-esteem and Expectations

80878c12b0a0c28265093158861948c8This week I’d like to talk about body image. While many of my clients are driven by race-day goals, PRs, and breaking through their athletic barriers, I have some clients who are also driven by toning up, feeling confident in their skin, and sometimes simply dropping pounds – ranging from 10lbs. to 50lbs. While I absolutely love helping my clients with their goals, sometimes my heart breaks for those who they compare themselves to or how bad they feel about themselves. Having a client want to lose 15lbs. by next week is like having a new runner expect they can race a 5K tomorrow – it’s unrealistic. Not to say those goals aren’t achievable, they may absolutely be, but tomorrow. Change takes time.

I am a firm believer that everyone deserves to feel good in their own skin – and is capable of achieving that. For some of us, it takes longer than others. One thing that often sabotages folks is their expectations. And who can blame them – we are bombarded by “standards” every single day. Thanks to Hollywood’s standards, our concept of beauty, aging, and fitness are completely unrealistic. Courteney Cox, Marisa Tomei, Sandra Bullock, Demi Moore – do these look like 50-year-old women in your life? Nope. Not unless you live in Miami or LA. Yet that’s a standard thrown upon us and one we assume upon ourselves. We are dooming ourselves to fail.

Personally, my self-esteem finally changed when I stopped reading tabloid magazines and watching Hollywood-related news. I couldn’t let go of the images I’d see, and the “secret diet” of some star. Or watching celebrity after celebrity in interviews or on the red carpet credit their genetics and a healthy lifestyle for their appearance. I call bullshit. They should be thanking the folks truly responsible for their appearance: their personal trainers, nutritionists and chefs, makeup and hair stylists, dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons. I don’t doubt some have good genetics, but good genetics alone aren’t responsible for most of what we see – or are told we should try to attain.

So if you are struggling with your goals and your self-esteem, please be kind to yourself. We cannot change Hollywood standards, but we can change our expectations of ourselves. Compare yourself to you, and no one else. Mark your progress by you and your starting point, no one else’s. Once you let go of all that pressure, success is that much closer.

Fad Frenzy and Detox Domination

28200_574974599374_24301763_33376923_2796281_nThe New Year always brings with it an odd array of health choices. My twitter, FB and Instagram accounts are flooded with the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve blogged about the topic of fads, detox supplements, and all that loony business, but apparently America is still full of suckers willing to drop their dime on any possible “too good to be true” gimmick. America, STOP IT. Seriously. You are smarter than this. I totally understand wanting to buy into Dr. Oz’s newest “miracle whatever,” or some Buzzfeed trend started by someone who received some sort of Nutrition Certification online, and therefore is “the voice of science.” Again, STOP IT. Do I need to reach through my computer and shake you?!?

Okay, so some of you are shouting “yes, Coach Corky – preach!!!,” while the rest of you are like “but I read somewhere, or so-and-so swears by…., etc.” Take a deep breath. I am going to assume that you are all intelligent people. I am also going to assume that you work hard for your dollars and are not looking to go out of your way to waste your hard-earned cash. Let’s also just agree that the health/fitness/weight loss industries are multibillion dollar industries. Because that’s true. And that’s a lot of dollar bills.

Let me also just remind you all that for YEARS, I was one of those Americans after the quick fix, and would drop money on anything promising a miracle. I cannot tell you how much money I spent on diet pills in college. College. When I was super poor. Or the money spent of different colon cleanses, detoxes, juice cleanses – you name it, I probably bought into it. If a talk show doctor mentioned some miracle whatever, I was that hopeful person that thought maybe this was the answer I’d been searching for. Why? Because I was unhappy with my body and had zero self-confidence. I also thought that anything “detox” or “cleanse” was truly beneficial and healthy. When you are desperate, you will grasp at straws. So please understand when I say I have been that desperate American who tossed science and logic aside when tempted by trends, and I didn’t care to stop and question what was being promoted. Truthfully, a small part of me wanted to assume that not everyone would sell lies – something being marketed had to be the real deal, right?!?

Okay, so back to today. If you are tempted to try a juice fast, oil pulling, no GMO, sugar-free diet, etc., be the smart person that you are and DO YOUR RESEARCH. And I don’t mean “go find websites that back up what you want to hear.” No. I mean look for medical journals, articles posted by doctors (NOT celebrity doctors!), and reach multiple sources. Anybody can post their thoughts and theories on the internet. It’s your job to be skeptical and play Devil’s Advocate. If I wrote an article swearing by the “Ice Cream Diet,” gave reasons why it worked, and then listed my credentials, it could very possibly become the next fad. Which obviously is ridiculous, right? Right. But come on, that would sound amazing. If you are still confused, pick up an anatomy book. If you knew anything about the body, you’d know toxins aren’t something you can “detox” with a cleanse – you have organs in your body that do a brilliant job keeping your body clean and healthy without your insane desire to interfere. Your personal doctor is the only one qualified to suggest you interfere or change your body’s natural process.

Okay, so now some of you are going to swear that your detox, oil pulling, cayenne pepper, juicing, whatever is making you feel like a million bucks! You have more energy, your skin is softer, you have lost weight, etc. – you will swear your magical new lifestyle is working. Guess what? It probably isn’t. What are you experiencing? One of a few things. The placebo effect should not be underestimated. You WANT your product or new lifestyle to work, so you are already looking for every possible sign that pill is what’s making something better. Or you are losing water and poop weight (sorry, it’s true!) if you are on a cleanse of some kind, so obviously with less stuff in your gut you’ll weigh less. This is temporary. And if you are in fact, actually feeling better, it probably isn’t due to the one thing you are doing but how that shift in choices is altering the rest of your life. For example, if you are juicing for breakfast, perhaps that is replacing your typical breakfast of processed junk – so of COURSE you are going to feel better – you are starting your day with something nutrient-dense instead of empty. Most people also find that if they make smart and healthy choices for breakfast, they are more likely to eat healthy the rest of the day.

I implore that instead of funding the fads and trends of the health/fitness/weight loss world, toss your money where you KNOW it will do good. Eat a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Go to the gym and be active every day. Get 8 hours of sleep per night. Drink lots of water. Despite what everyone out there in the media wants you to think, there is never a quick fix that will give you longterm results.

In the end, you’ll just end up frustrated and with less $$$$ in your pockets if you chase after the fads. Instead, always seek out the advice of a professional you trust. And there is absolutely no reason why a smart person should trust the likes of Dr. Oz or anyone in his circle and making money off our desperation. Your best resource is a doctor or nutritionist you trust, who doesn’t have endorsements, a book, or other financial incentives to swing their advice.

Indoor Coaching in NYC

elizabethOne of the main excuses I get from runners this time of the year is the weather. While some folks find ways to power through, embrace the weather, and simply refuse to let bad weather compromise their training or goals, others look for alternatives. For those of you fair weather runners in NYC, I have some good news! Mile High Run Club is a new running study, 100% dedicated to runners. And beginning in 2015, Coach Corky is joining their roster of coaches!

Unlike many treadmill classes, MHRC is all about improving as a runner. This isn’t a place dedicated to vanity training. It’s a studio that welcomes runners of all abilities, and pushes each person to improve their form, focus, breath, strength and running potential. The two different class structures are designed to challenge every runner, and are interval-driven.

Personally, I cannot stand running on your average treadmill. I hate it. Hate. I’d prefer to fight high winds and freezing rain pelting my face for a 17-miler than strap my legs up to a moving belt for 2 hours. So it must say something if I am on board with treadmill running classes!

Anyway, come check out a class! Every coach comes from a different running background, and brings their individuality to their classes – and they music selections. Don’t let the dark, cold Winter get in your way. Make 2015 awesome.

Fitness Model Day – Danskin Sports Bras

10849955_725984670830502_834625735480259426_nA few weeks ago, I was hired to shoot for Danskin. I’ve known about Danskin for their dance attire for years, but I didn’t realize until I was called to attend the casting that Danskin now has a line of athletic wear. Incredibly unexpected – especially with being so close to the holidays, I was thankful for the booking!

On most shoots for a brand, you’ll find yourself modeling most, if not all, of the line. You will change dozens of times, have your hair and makeup sometimes changed, and will execute dozens of fitness moves and stretches. It’s a long day, but you are constantly moving, thinking on your feet, and onto the next thing – so the shoot often flies by. Mad props are always given to the hair and makeup stylists for making me look fresh, awake and energized 7 hours into the shoot. I also always rely on lots of water, coffee and snacks to keep me going. I should probably mention I was up at 4am to coach clients before the shoot, and then dashing to coach after – so the team that kept me looking fab and fresh went above and beyond the call of duty on this one! Looking good when you’ve been up and working a 16-hour day is no easy task!

10389227_725984707497165_3207036411883445646_nSo if you happen upon Danskin activewear, look for my face on the tags, perhaps in the ads, on the wall, or in a magazine or billboard. The jury is still out on exactly where the photos will be used, but definitely on the tags.

Much thanks to an amazing team, Carrie at MSA Models, and the other model, Desiree.

Resolution Road

img_6959-editI cannot believe how neglected my blog has been the last few months. I am changing that, starting NOW. For some reason it became less of a priority, which isn’t like me. Even when I am super busy, I alway make time for my blog. No excuses. I’m back at it.

It’s the time of the year when everyone is extremely busy with holiday parties, gift shopping and wrapping, baking, end of year work responsibilities, kids home from school for Winter Break, travel to see family – this time of the year is often one filled with love, laughter, and a whole lot of things on the calendar. It’s also the time of year many folks start thinking about the new year, and the new hopes, dreams and goals they see with it. And that’s where I come in.

I am a firm believer that we can all turn over a new leaf, set new goals, and choose to change habits TODAY. We don’t need a fresh month or new year to finally make ourselves do something, but that seems to be the trend. As you probably know, New Years brings with it more fitness, weight loss and physical goals and resolutions than anything else. Sure, there are people who set career goals, finance goals, travel goals, etc – but fitness is the overwhelming winner of resolutions.

It never fails that the first few weeks of the new year my email and my phone will be filled with inquiries from new people with big goals. I love those emails and calls. I am excited to meet new people, hear about their goals, and discuss how I can help them. It’s part of what I love about what I do – helping people achieve something for themselves that betters them and their quality of life. The excitement, motivation and energy each person brings with their call or email is something I wish I could bottle and save for them. It’s infectious. And yes, out of all the messages, calls, meetings and even a few weeks into training, a certain percent of those hopeful, motivated New Years Resolution clients fall of the face of the earth. The motivation and focus slip once they realize how much effort it takes to train or eat the way they need to, or they become impatient when the scale doesn’t show a magical number within the first week, and so on. The excuses start rolling in, and I know it’s a matter of time before they are off the Resolution Ride, and they will move off my roster. Look at the gym on January 1-5 compared to February 1-5 and you’ll see just how few people stuck with their plan for a month. One month. Thirty-one days, people.

I don’t think any less of the people who can’t commit to their training goals than the ones that do. I get it. It’s hard. It’s also really frustrating to continue that cycle of training/dieting and falling off the wagon. I want to hug and shake and give a pep-talk to the people who fall off. I know that progress takes time, and it takes WEEKS to form new habits, and a lot of work, focus and persistence to make the changes often necessary to achieve goals so momentous that they are saved for the New Year.

I know how hard change can be, but the hardest part is starting. I know I can help people who are willing and capable to make their health and goals a priority. I know anyone can make the changes they desire – but it takes a hell of a lot of willpower, support, knowledge and the acceptance that not every day will be easy for feel good. If say you don’t have time, I will call you out. Bull shit. You have no idea what I’ve made myself accomplish with VERY little time. You have no idea how many clients have succeeded with their goals while juggling an incredibly busy, stressful schedule. Yes, change often involves struggle and some setbacks, but again I will call you out. A setback or struggle doesn’t ruin all the progress or make you a weak person or a failure. It makes you human, silly. And if you find a trainer or gym hard to afford, I suggest you check out how much you are spending to eat out, have drinks with friends, and on medical bills. If you cut back on eating and drinking out, that’s money and calories saved. We almost always eat a better diet when preparing our own food. Cocktails with your girlfriends or with the guys at the bar add up pretty quickly. And if you get yourself healthier, in theory you’ll be spending less money on doctors appointments and medications.

So if you are looking to 2015 with fitness-related goals, be prepared to work hard and to also be in it for the long run. Look towards April, and what goals will be accomplished by then, not January 15th. A ton of progress can happen within four months, but very little will show for it the first two weeks. But the only way to get to April and those goals is to stick with the plan every day between January 1st and April 1st. I wish everyone with high hopes and big goals all the success in the world. There is no better gift to yourself than health, self-confidence and strength. And if you need help, there are tons of great trainers, gyms and programs out there in every city. The road to progress can be hard, but it is never impossible.

Healthy November Challenge

img_6899-editI announced on Facebook last week that I am making this month “Healthy November.” I set myself some rules, and am posting my progress, struggles and tips. If this sounds intriguing to you, come join along!

November is the beginning of holiday parties, comfort food, and hibernation. Some of this is thanks to daylight savings, post-marathon recovery (for runners), sweater season, and often holiday parties and the feasting that seems to never stop once we hit Thanksgiving. Statistically, Americans pack on those most pounds between Halloween and NYE. I decided that instead of embracing those desires to stay inside and eat cozy food, I would make the month of November the opportunity to reboot my relationship with food and hopefully hit December with a bit more self-control and in better shape than most years.

Therefore, I have given myself some nutritional rules and guidelines for November. I am giving myself a few “cheat days” – Thanksgiving Day and the weekend of the Philly Marathon. I figure it would be too cruel to give up Thanksgiving, and I need to be properly fueled for my 26.2 mile journey on November 23rd.

My rules: Nothing out of a box. No artificial sugar – the exception being GU for mid-run fueling. No grains, bread, pasta, pasta, pancakes, or rice – the exception being oatmeal. No chocolate, ice cream or beer. No juice – unless it’s V8. I CAN eat – all the fruits and veggies I want, dairy (but no ice cream!), beans, meat, nuts, wine, hard liquor, coffee – and that’s it.

So far (it’s been less than a week!), I am doing great. I miss my many carbs, and have to plan meals and shopping. Eating out is a challenge, but not impossible. I am finding it hard to get in all my calories, so weight loss may be super easy. I try to get some protein in every meal. Greek yogurt has become an even more important ingredient in my daily diet. Avocados, olive oil and peanut butter have been my source of fat. I find myself sometimes itching for a sweet snack, but otherwise my cravings have been few and far between.

I encourage you to make your own “rules,” and follow them. Find modifications for the month that can work for you. Then stick to it. Write them down so that they are clear. Take it a day at a time. It can be overwhelming to think about an entire month without a bagel.

A few tips: when shopping, stock up on lots of fruits and veggies. Avoid most aisles in the grocery store. At home, prepare a few homemade soups and keep healthy snacks handy. Budget a little extra time to wash and slice fresh food, and to cook. Find foods you really like that fit into your rules and eat them often. This isn’t a diet, so much as a temporary “reboot month” – so you aren’t giving up anything forever!

My goal is to get to December feeling good. I hope to feel a bit more energized, strong and perhaps without the few extra pounds I seem to find between Thanksgiving and New Years. I am sure I will still bake lots of goodies in December (I always do!), but I am hoping I won’t be tempted to graze on them the way I have in the past. I want these cold and nasty months to be the opportunity to continue improving health and fitness – not to take steps backwards. With any luck, I’ll get to 2015 in better shape than I currently am (weight training – let’s do this!), and faster than I currently am (goodbye Ultras, hello 5Ks and Half Marathons!), and nutrition is a huge part of those training goals.

Feel intrigued and want to join along? Come join me and let’s do this! You have everything to gain and nothing to lose!