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Living Fearless

Over the years, many friends have encouraged me to start a blog. So today, I decided to take a stab at blogging. They encouraged me for a couple reasons. First, my husband and I have a unique story that many couples do not share. One thing that sets us apart is that sisters from my family, married brothers from another. Let me explain, I have one older sister and my husband, Michael, has one older brother. My sister and his brother got married, a few years later, God brought us together and Michael and I got married. The second, unique side to our story, is that we train and compete together in athletic competitions. Michael and I share a strong drive to train, compete and get faster/stronger/better in our sports. Third, I am a Registered Dietitian who loves to practice what I preach. My friends feel that I have some insight regarding food, health and fitness that others may be interested in reading about. Using my knowledge as a Registered Dietitian to enhance athletic performance has been very helpful in both mine and my husbands athletic adventure.

My husband and I have been competing in races since we were dating in 2004. We have competed in Spartan races, 5k to full marathons as well as 70.3 & 140.6 Ironman triathlons. Throughout our journey, we have faced fears, pushed through tough experiences, grown stronger as individuals and a married couple. You know what they say, “The couple that trains together, stays together.” In our case, training has been a huge part of our relationship.

In past experiences, I have learned, fear is one thing that can hinder success. Learning to face your fears and growing from tough times has and I am sure will continue to be a part of my life. In days to come, the focus of this blog is going to be all about living fearlessly no matter what you face! I will even throw some Dietitian stuff in here too…like some of my favorite recipes and nutrition tips. Enjoy!

Fearless God

Keep Moving Forward

If you had asked me a week ago, what my blog was going to be about, I would have told you it was going to be a race report on what I learned and experienced at Tri Fort Worth 70.3 triathlon. Unknown to me, Mother Nature had other plans for my Sunday, May 20th.

Going into the race, I had certain expectations for myself but also understood that 7 days before the race, I fell on my bike and was nursing my knee back to health. Fortunately, the fall was not at high speeds. I call it a “brain fart”…I was stopping at a light and thought I had unclipped from my bike pedal…well I hadn’t and down I went. Initially, it didn’t seem like a bad fall. I had about 20 miles left of the 40+ mile bike ride and figured everything would be just fine. As the training ride went on, my knee started hurting more and more. After the ride, my coach had us running, but when I tried, my knee was not going to tolerate the pounding. With Tri Fort Worth in 7 days and having way more pain in my knee than expected, I decided to take the week off from training. The focus became taking care of my body, icing and elevating my knee every night and I lived on anti-inflammatory meds till the day before the race.

fort worth 1.jpg

Fast forward 7 days to May 20th, my knee was still hurting but most of the swelling had gone down. I figured I would just take the race easy and everything would be fine. Michael and I woke up around 3am and were out the door by 4am. My mom and friend from Moldova, Alina, met us in the hotel lobby and we all headed out together (dark and early). Tri Fort Worth has two transition spots (T1 & T2); the busses were picking up athletes at T2 and shuttling us down to the swim start. We decided to ride the bus out to the swim start instead of drive due to being unsure of the parking situation. Michael checked his email for information regarding the swim being wetsuit legal, but instead he found an email about severe weather in the Fort Worth area. It was not raining on us but was windy. We got on the bus as scheduled around 4:30am. Then we proceeded to wait, and wait, and wait. The busses were supposed to constantly shuttle athletes and supporters from 4:30-5:30am, but we were not moving anywhere. Finally, a volunteer from the race informed us that there was severe rain at T1 and we were to stay put until the storm passed through as there was no shelter out by the swim start. It wasn’t until after 6:00am that they started the busses up and headed out. (An hour and a half sitting on a school bus was not as fun as one might think.)

As the busses headed out, all was going well and even though the morning had been a bit of an emotional whirlwind, we were on our way out to the race start and I was feeling good. I nodded off for a few moments and when I opened my eyes, we were heading back to downtown where T2 was…why were we heading back to where the busses picked us up? Well, our bus driver was having some navigation trouble due to road closures and got lost…athletes promptly got us back on track and we finally arrived at T1!

I thought, ok, smooth sailing from here…we got body marked, set up T1 with our nutrition and hydration and were heading down to the swim start. The race was scheduled to start at 7:00am. It was about 6:40am and Michael and I were getting ready to put our wetsuits on when we heard a race official come over the loud speaker. He proceeded to tell us to take shelter as the storms were coming again. A bunch of athletes took shelter in cars and under the medal roof structures (I know shelter under medal structures is not smart but that was the only thing there) until the busses returned out to T1. As we sat and watched the rain I stayed hopeful that it would be a fast moving storm and the race could continue. When the busses arrived, we moved from the medal structure to the busses and proceeded to watch as our bikes and gear were poured on and lightning was all around. Time passed, I continued to be hopeful. I thought, well at least I am spending time with Michael. Finally around 8:00am we were told that the race was canceled.

Processing all the emotions that morning was a bit taxing. I felt everything from wonder, confusion, unbelief, excitement, joy, hope and disappointment. We have never had a triathlon, bike or run race cancelled on us. Cap Tex was the only triathlon the swim was cancelled due to weather, but we were able to do the bike and run portion of the race.

This weekend, was a true test of flexibility and being able to Keep Moving Forward no matter what has been dealt to you. I was also reminded to embrace each and every moment because our future is uncertain.  Life is full of roller coaster moments and every day is a gift. Sometimes it does not go as we anticipate, but it is our responsibility to make the most and continue moving forward. Even though the weekend did not go as planned, what really mattered is that I got to spend priceless time with family and the man I love exploring a new city and loving every moment!

fort worth 2.jpg

The last image in this collage is of delicious coffee. On our way home from Fort Worth, we stopped in Marble Falls at this local coffee shop, Mojo Coffee. The service was great and the coffee was tasty!

So Simple It’s Crazy

Often times, I have clients tell me that they need new and exciting ways to cook vegetables. Roasting is one of the tastiest ways I like to make vegetables. Today, I wanted to talk about how easy it is to roast delicious veggies and potatoes!

When roasting vegetables, I set the oven to 400 degrees and then get to chopping. This blog is going to discuss potatoes, squash and zucchini. For the potatoes, I diced them up into small pieces. Placed them in an oven safe dish, topped with canola oil, ground pepper, thyme and garlic powder. About 30-40 minutes later (depending on how many potatoes you do) they are nice and soft. I recommend stirring them half way through the cooking process. If you like them to be a tad on the crispy side, leave them in a little longer till golden brown on the edges.

Roasting squash and zucchini is just as easy. These veggies were diced, placed in an oven safe dish and tossed with canola oil, ground pepper, garlic powder and oregano. I also cooked these at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes. If you like them a bit more firm, try cooking them for 15-20 minutes.

Next time you are at a loss of how to cook veggies in a tasty way…hopefully you will think of my blog!

 

*The photo of the potatoes and veggies in the oven also feature my baking sweet potatoes. I did a little batch cooking today. Maybe, I will write a blog on how to bake the best sweet potatoes ever in the future…if that’s something yall are interested in.

Self-Acceptance in the Pursuit of Success and Greatness

Self-acceptance is easy for some, but very difficult for others. As athletes, we often want to pursue becoming faster, stronger, fitter, healthier, wiser…the list goes on and on. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our pursuit that we forget why we ever got started. For most of us, we began our athletic career because we were passionate for the sport and fell in love with the training and competing. I know I get an awesome feeling of accomplishment when my times get faster, power gets stronger and weights get heavier.

Lately, though I have been struggling with my athletic self-acceptance because I am not at the level of fitness I feel is needed. In two weeks, I will be competing at Tri Fort Worth 70.3 Triathlon and feel as though it is not going to be the performance I hoped for.  (For non-triathlete individuals a 70.3 triathlon consists of 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run.) Training levels have not been optimal ever since March 21st of this year. That day marks the first day of competing for the title of Woman of the Year for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The campaign is a 10 week fundraiser where 16 people compete against each other to raise the most money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I have a goal of raising $100,000 in just 10 weeks. This campaign is like having a second full time job. It has been an amazing journey so far and I know it is all worth it in the end, but WOW is it exhausting and time consuming. June 2nd is the last day of the campaign. When June 3rd comes around, I want to look back and have no regrets! As a result of investing the necessary time into this campaign, triathlon training has had to take the back burner. This season, when I struggle with self-acceptance, it has been important to remember that raising money for cancer research is far more important than competing in a triathlon.

Once the campaign is over, the focus will be on other various half Ironman and Olympic races I have lined up. When this year comes to an end I want to ensure that, even though my athletic performance may be less than what I hoped for, my self-acceptance is not impacted. I do not want to settle in my race expectations, but rather accept where I am in the journey of my athletic career and continue to pursue bettering myself every race and every year. Self-worth cannot be solely related to the pursuit of athletic greatness…it has to be found from within and in relation to all the other positive aspects of life we are participating in; such as fundraisers to cure cancer. If you would like to learn more about the campaign, check out my website by clicking HERE.

Automatic Stress Reliever – One of My Favorite Things…

I’m not sure about my readers, but one of the struggles I have is that I carry stress in my shoulders and neck. There comes a point that the discomfort and stiffness will make it difficult to fall asleep. I typically wait until I cannot bear it anymore and then finally set up a massage to release all the tension. One of my favorite things is to go spoil myself with a massage!

When training for my first Ironman, I had immobilizing neck pain after long training rides on the bike. It would get so bad that by the end of the ride, I had a really hard time turning my head back to look for oncoming cars. That’s kind of a necessity when riding on the road. My poor husband gave me countless massages trying to just keep the mobility in my neck. When stress and training combine, the stiffness is even worse. It seemed like just as I found a masseuse that I loved, they would disappear. Finally, I had a friend and fellow Ironman tell me about Yolanda Guadiana (Yoli), from Pro-Health Therapies. She is AMAZING! She also has a partner, Cleo Ovalle, who is quite good too! The only reason I was able to maintain mobility throughout the intensity of training for two Ironman races was because of my one or two monthly massages by Yoli.

While I would LOVE to get a massage every week, my budget would not appreciate that. In order to prevent breaking the bank, I purchased a Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager off Amazon. It has been wonderful in between massages from Yoli. During Ironman training, I try to use the Shiatsu massager before all long bike rides and have noticed a significant increase in my neck/upper body mobility.

If you struggle with neck and shoulder pain, I highly recommend looking into a massager as well as going to Pro-Health Therapies! They will both make a world of difference.

I wanted to give a shout out to the best masseuses in San Antonio: Yoli and Cleo! Check them out if you are close to San Antonio.

Pro-Health Therapies (85 NE Loop 410, Ste 214, San Antonio, TX 78216)  phtmassage@yahoo.com, Tele: 210-375-4408     |     Fax: 886-381-5557  

How to Maneuver NIOSA from a Dietitian and Athletes Perspective

If you have ever visited San Antonio during Fiesta, you won’t forget your experience. Back in 1891, Fiesta began as a one-parade event that honored fallen soldiers from the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto.  Fiesta has developed into one of San Antonio’s largest celebrations that recognize the diverse cultures within our city. This 11 day celebration has something the whole family is sure to enjoy.

During Fiesta, one of the memorable events is called NIOSA which stands for “A Night in Old San Antonio”.  NIOSA is a four night celebration in downtown San Antonio. Today’s blog includes a few tips on how to maneuver NIOSA in a way that will hopefully not impact training as much if we approach it with mindfulness and preparation.

Tips for NIOSA

  1. Plan Ahead –It may be hard to believe, but there are better choices that can be made when at NIOSA. Below are a few booths that will provide a better choice when eating at NIOSA.

Frontier Town – Texas Bird Legs

Haymarket – Beef Fajitas

Main Street – Pulled Pork Sandwich

Mexican Market – Fruit Kabob

Villa Espana – Shrimp Parilla

Villa Espana – Baja Fish Tacos

  1. Share – Trying the food at NIOSA is a must. If you are going to choose something less than optimal for training the next day, share the food with friends. Again, be mindful of choices and at the same time, do not fret over eating something unique and a little less than healthy. Smaller portions through sharing is a great idea!
  2. 1 for 1 Rule – After every alcoholic beverage consumed, drink a full glass or bottle of water. We can only handle so much liquid so this will help you slow down and enjoy your night a little more. On a side note from your local Dietitian: the general recommendation is that women have 1 drink per day and men 2. Alcohol and training never blend well so be mindful if you have an early training the next day. try to re-arrange your schedule or get it done earlier so you can relax a little more when out with friends at NIOSA.
  3. No Savings– Often people want to “save” their calories for later when they are going to an event like NIOSA. It can be dangerous to save calories because that may lead to overeating due to excessive hunger. Whereas you would be better off eating meals and snacks leading up to NIOSA and starting the night less hungry with more self-control.

If you are interested in checking out any of the events for Fiesta, click HERE.

Viva Fiesta from San Antonio!

As a fundraiser supporting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), I created Fiesta medals (featured photo above) and will be giving all the proceeds to LLS. If you are interested in donating to receive a medal, check out my fundraising website by clicking HERE. : Click on “BUY MERCHANDISE” on the right side of the page and make sure to put your name, contact info and a note that says you donation is for a medal so I can get it to you.

Photo courtesy of Jess Baerg, the owner of Two Run Zero. Jess is a small business owner in San Antonio who loves to coach one-on-one or in group settings. I have sent many of my athletes (of all abilities/levels) to her and they all have LOVED her! 

On the Verge of Burnout

Preventing Overtraining Through Nutrition & Lifestyle

Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) can be detrimental to your training and success at an athlete. Last week, I discussed several hypotheses that can contribute to OTS. Today, I want to discuss several tips that can help prevent OTS.

Sleep

Research has shown that 7-9 hours of sleep a night is the best for our bodies for proper recovery. When an athlete gets 6 hour or less of sleep on a regular basis, they are more prone to a weakened immune system, slowed recovery, impaired glycogen repletion, pain, altered mental health and impaired cognitive function. All of the repercussions of 6 hours or less ultimately impact performance in a negative way and could lead to OTS over time. Therefore, athletes should aim for 7 or more hours of sleep to help reduce the risk of OTS.

Rest

You can never cure a problem with a problem…meaning, training more will not help you get faster or stronger when you are suffering from OTS. Resting for most athletes is extremely difficult. They fear losing progress, endurance and strength. The truth is, if you are suffering from OTS and continue to train, you will ultimately lose progress, strength and endurance anyways. So calm down and rest. Give your body time to chemically and physically reach homeostasis through rest, only then you will be able to improve performance.

Nutrition

The first priority is total calorie intake. Working with athletes, as a dietitian, I often see athletes undereating for their training load. Most athletes have a difficult time knowing how many calories they need on a daily basis and how to adjust with training load. Once daily intake needs are determined, the distribution of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) is determined.

There are varying thoughts on how macros should be distributed. One thought is high carb, moderate protein and low fat. Others feel a lower carb, moderate protein and high fat is better. Ultimately, it depends on the individual athlete, sport participated in and performance results. In my opinion one size does not fit all. There is supportive evidence for both differing methods. Needs should ALWAYS be determined on an individual basis.

Professionally, I have seen the majority of my long distance athletes (in racing season) perform better on a moderate to high level of carbs, moderate protein and low to moderate fat intake. This general breakdown seems to provide adequate satiety, sufficient levels of glycogen for performance, necessary protein for muscle preservation/building and maintains sex hormone production and drive. When my long distance athletes are out of season and focusing on strength/agility rather than distance, I usually tweak their percentage of macros to assist with the alteration in training and goals. My strength focused athletes seem to perform better with a higher level of protein, lower to moderate level of fat and carb. They are more successful in developing the desired physique and strength goals.

Ultimately, you will be able to find research supporting many different nutrition thoughts. It is my opinion that there are general recommendations you can find for your sport but you will always have to follow a nutrition plan and change depending on your own performance/recovery.

Stress Management

Each one of us has a certain level of stress in life. Intuitively, as athletes training volume increases so does their training stress. When an athlete allows other stress in their lives to elevate, inflammatory properties increase, they feel more sensitive and emotionally unstable as well as experience a reduction in performance and sleep quality.

When thinking about the word “stress” we often think of negative stressors, but sometimes good things can also inflict stress, such as training, relationships, friends, etc. While we cannot get away from stress, it is imperative we have ways to de-stress and learn how to manage it.  If training causes stress, which it does, then obviously we need a REST day in our weekly training plan. Remember, a REST day is not a day to mow the lawn and deep clean the house. It is a day to literally rest; that way when the next training session comes, you are rejuvenated and able to take on the stress of training. As daily stresses from other factors begin to increase, athletes need to be aware of how training is being impacted and whether changes are necessary to prevent OTS.

In Summary

It is imperative for athletes to be mindful of their health and wellness. Laying a sound foundation of health by managing their sleep, stress and food, overall performance will fall into place and improve.

As always, please feel free to leave your comments.

 Source:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/

https://sci-fit.net/overtraining-underperformance/

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-016-0492-2

Walking the Tightrope of Overtraining

Often athletes striving to become faster and better at their sport find themselves walking the tightrope of overtraining. During peak training times, most athletes feel fatigue, as their training plans are intended to create a similar fatigue that will be experienced on race day. Coaches do their best to create a perfect, personalized plan without overtraining or injury. Sometimes, even a perfectly planned training schedule can lead to overtraining, or athletes will push harder and go farther than the plan laid out for them in attempts to gain even more improvements.

There are several hypotheses behind why overtraining syndrome (OTS) occurs. This week, I decided to feature the research article “Overtraining Syndrome”. In the article, several possible causes for OTS were identified. I have summarized the main hypotheses as well as provided application below.

  1. Deficit glycogen levels in muscles – muscles use glycogen to perform; when there is a low level of glycogen in the muscles oxidation increases and branch chain amino acid (BCAAs) levels reduce resulting in fatigue and may cause OTS.

Practical Application: Ensure carbohydrates are a part of your daily intake. While there are general recommendations for carbs (40-60% of total intake) your bodies needs will be depended on the type of training you are participating in, event distance/time as well as personal metabolic rate. Sources include: fruit, grains, starchy vegetables, milk, yogurt, beans.

  1. Elevated serotonin levels – unbound tryptophan and BCAAs use the same door to be absorbed into the brain. As we are active, BCAAs are oxidized, which in turn allows tryptophan to enter into the brain and be converted to serotonin. Excessive exercise has been linked to higher levels of serotonin and its precursors which can result in higher levels of fatigue and depression. In a well-trained athlete, most of the time they are less sensitive to higher levels of serotonin, but in the case of OTS athletes seem to be more susceptible.

Practical Application: First off, follow your training plan from your coach and be open with them on how you are feeling. Talk to them about how recovery is going and if you think training level or intensity needs to be decreased for the week, listen to your body and address it with your coach. Second, it is important asses your ability to manage emotions. If it seems you are on an emotional roller-coaster, it may be due to OTS and you need to rest.  Third, sleep is incredibly important! Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep.

  1. Insufficient levels of glutamine – exercise bouts greater than 2 hours or reoccurring high-intensity training can lower the levels of glutamine. Low levels of glutamine may contribute higher susceptibility of upper respiratory tract infections.

Practical Application: Ensure your diet includes daily intake of glutamine. Sources can be found in plant and animal products: raw spinach and parsley, cabbage, beef, poultry, pork, dairy (milk, ricotta cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese).

  1. Oxidative Stress – A certain level of oxidative stress is expected and even desired for cellular repair. However, when oxidative stress is elevated above optimal levels, inflammation, muscle soreness and fatigue occur.

Practical Application: Elevated oxidative stress can have negative effects on performance. Unfortunately, the research in this area is limited and more research is needed.

  1. Autonomic Nervous System – The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the system responsible for functions that are unconsciously controlled such as breathing, digestion and heartbeat. This system is also the one that controls our fight-or-flight response. An imbalance of the ANS can result in fatigue, bradycardia, and depression or performance inhibition.

Practical Application: A week of rest may restore the imbalance in the ANS but research is not completely clear for this hypothesis.

  1. Hypothalamic Alteration – The hypothalamus helps regulate weight, body temperature, emotions, appetite, salt/water balance, sex drive, memory, sleep-wake cycle as well as our body clock. The pituitary gland is also controlled by the hypothalamus. The pituitary gland regulates the ovaries, testes, adrenal glands and the thyroid. Overtrained athletes may see/feel alterations in hormone levels such as cortisol, testosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormones. Adrenocorticotropic hormone is responsible for the production and release of cortisol. The level of negative impact OTS has on the hypothalamic function is individualized and may depend on exercise volume and other stressors in the athlete’s life.

Practical Application: Results from stress on the hypothalamus varies athlete by athlete. If overtrained, not only is performance impacted but sex drive/hormone production as well as ability to get pregnant may also be reduced. If you are noticing any changes in the functions listed above, get blood work done to see if hormones are out of normal range. Results may help you determine if you are suffering from OTS and take action and allow the hypothalamus to recover and function appropriately.

  1. Cytokine Hypothesis – Cytokines are proteins that assist with communications between cells in our body. There are both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. When an athlete is training, it is normal to have local acute microtrauma to the tissue as a result of muscle contraction and repetitive joint action. Adaptations occur from the microtrauma; tissues will naturally recover and strengthen with the help of cytokines over time and with adequate rest. If intense training occurs without the necessary recovery time, inflammatory responses from the microtrauma increase and the inflammation becomes local and chronic. Elevated levels of cytokines may impact the brain in overtrained athletes and as a result there may be mood changes and depression experienced.

Practical Application: Athletes will naturally have inflammation in their bodies due to training and volume. The body is capable of managing inflammation with cytokines as long as there is adequate rest and recovery time. If mood swings are occurring and you are finding it hard to manage your emotions, it may be due altered levels of cytokines and OTS.

Bottom Line: No single hypothesis discussed can be determined as the ONLY cause of OTS. More than likely, if an athlete is overtrained, it is due to a combination of causes. If you are having signs and symptoms of OTS, talk to your coach and maybe even see your physician for blood work, don’t just “suffer” through the pain and fatigue. It is always better to scale training back so that you can go into the season/event at your best rather than push through the fatigue and risk long term effects of OTS.

Source:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/Fulltext/2014/01000/Overtraining_Syndrome_in_the_Athlete___Current.13.aspx