I never expected to run a complete marathon. Running a marathon may sound like something only elite athletes or future Olympians would do. It just didn’t seem plausible for me to run for hours straight, especially since I grew up like anyone else. I was involved in cross country in high school, went to class, work, and lived my daily routine normally. But this year on March 18, 2018, I ran my first ever marathon. After I graduated college, I wanted to take on a new challenge and decided to get back into running. I thought to myself that I might as well “go-big or go-home.” Next thing I knew, I signed myself up for the LA Marathon.
While I did run cross-country in my senior year of high school in 2011, long-distance running was still new to me. Cross-country races are 5 kilometers, or about 3.1 miles, while a marathon is 26.2 miles long. Not only that, but I didn’t keep up with running after high school since I got into weightlifting. As some may know, weightlifting builds muscle, which contradicts the effects that long distance cardio has to break down muscle and build endurance.
Signing Up- May 12, 2017
The first thing I did to prepare for the marathon was to give myself ample time between when I signed up for the marathon and when it actually took place. I signed up for the LA Marathon on May 12, 2017. That gave me a little over 10 months to prepare. Yes, I could have just started my training early and signed up later on, but by signing up early, there was an added motivation because actually doing the marathon became “real”. It also helped that once you sign up and pay for the LA Marathon, there are no refunds, which means there was no backing out now!
When I signed up for the LA Marathon, I signed up for two other races as well: The Santa Monica Classic 10k (6.2 miles) on September 10th, 2017 and the Pasadena Half Marathon (13.1 miles) on January 21, 2018. This three-race series was known as the “Conqur La Challenge” that gave me a bundle deal and helped me pace my progress throughout my training cycle.
The First Milestone- September 10, 2017
Now, I was almost ready for a 6.1-mile race by September. As time passed, these smaller run checkpoints ensured that my mileage was going up. I felt stronger and better with each practice run I made and noticed my time was improving, a critical factor when training for a race this long.
Besides my mileage going up over time, my running frequency also went up over time. I was still going to the gym and lifting weights in addition to my running as part of an experiment I was doing. I wanted to see if I could maintain my strength and minimize muscle loss while still building running endurance. Most people focus on bodybuilding or stamina, but balancing both at the same time was a challenge I wanted to overcome.
The Second Milestone- January 21, 2018
Next came the half-marathon in January. I prepared for this by signing up with one of my closest friends. While we may not have trained together very often, we did go to all three races together. Knowing I was going through this marathon experience with a friend helped out a lot. I had someone to talk about training with and had support during the actual races. This was another great source of motivation and was very important to my training.
As the official marathon date approached closer and closer, I cut back the number of times I went to the gym to lift weights and increased the number of times I ran. Before beginning my marathon training, I was going to the gym 4-5 times a week and only running once a week. I slowly changed that to going to the gym 3-4 times a week and running two to three times a week.
Marathon Day- March 18, 2018
As the marathon approached, I, unfortunately, had a minor setback. I hurt my knee after running some very steep hills a few weeks before the marathon. I realized I had neglected incline training but overcorrected by running too steep of an incline. While it was a tough decision, I decided to take some time off before the marathon to let my knee heal. Looking back, this was the right decision because I had already prepared a substantial amount up to this point. One extra week of running was not going to make a difference, but if I had chosen not to take some time off, I could have hurt my knee worse.
When the big day finally approached my knee had gotten better, but I was still a bit nervous about the grueling run I was about to partake in. However, I just remembered to have fun with it and before I knew it, I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!
“I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!”
Training for the LA Marathon and then actually running it were such great experiences and I hope to run another marathon sometime again in the future. I will take what worked from training for this marathon as well as what I learned (such as preventing injuries) to have a better experience next time around. Finishing a marathon helped me feel like I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to and it is a challenge I would want to conquer again. I hope that by sharing my experience in how I prepared for my first marathon, others can take something away or be inspired to run their first marathon soon.
Getting Back Into Shape After Quarantine
California has officially begun reopening businesses, including gyms, bars, and retail stores. The gym is the long-awaited reopening for those who can finally use athletic equipment rather than relying on bodyweight exercises to stay in shape.
The motivation to stay active during quarantine is quite difficult trying to use garages or bedrooms as a personal gym without any equipment or legroom available. As gyms reopen, it may be a little intimidating getting back into shape, and you may be wondering how to ease back into your gym routine safely.
Keep in mind that your level of progression is widely based on your total time off, and your level of fitness before it. If you start by placing a high demand on your body, you risk the possibility of injury and a quick regression backward. Being extremely sore the next day does not indicate a quality workout. Here is an outline to guide and help you ease back into your workout without losing motivation or risking injury.
1. Start with Flexibility Workouts
Your first progressive step should be to incorporate a couple of days of flexibility workouts to increase blood flow and circulation while supporting range of motion and joint mobility. Developing flexibility is one of the most overlooked protocols of fitness routines, and building these protocols early on will allow your body to properly readjust to the new demands that will be placed on it. Signing up or participating in a beginner yoga class or videos you can do at home to increase flexibility and build strength. Choose 10 to 15 stretches, performing each flexibility movement for up to one minute.
2. Add Easy Cardio
The next step is integrating light cardiorespiratory workouts after a couple of stretching or yoga sessions. An excellent way to start is a brisk 20-minute outdoor walk that will revitalize your mind and get your body moving again. Other options you can include in your workout, such as low impact HIIT workout (high-intensity interval training) for beginners. Machines you can use at your gyms include treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes are great indoor options. If you had a well-established fitness base before a month-long break, your first week might consist of light jogging instead of walking.
3. Start Strength Training
After your first week of flexibility and light cardio, start to incorporate strength workouts into your routine by trying gentle strength training workout for getting back into the gym. The time apart from the gym most likely involved a fair amount of sitting that causes weakness in your posterior chain, which refers to all the muscles on the backside of the body from your head down to your heels. These particular muscles are essential for basic everyday movement and keep your spine upright when at the desk. That is why incorporating exercises that improve your posture, develop core strength, and activate muscles throughout your glutes and hamstrings are essential.
Exercises like squats, lunges, bridges, TRX hamstring curls, stability ball mobility, and core work will help activate these muscles. Bodyweight workouts are ideal for working these muscles and establish a safe transition back into your fitness regimen, and you can work within your fitness level.
4. Begin your workout with a proper warm-up and end with a good cool-down
It is important to begin your workout with a proper warm-up that prepares your body for the increase in activity, and a cool-down helps your heart rate return to normal resting rate. Don’t jump into any physical activity without easing into it. Muscles that have not been accustomed to strenuous activity for a while, and will experience some form of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which means you will be tight and achy for 24-72 hours after your workout. You may also experience this when you work out regularly but up to your intensity. With a proper cool-down session, you can help some of the soreness you could experience the day following your workout.
5. And spend a few minutes stretching.
Stretching is an important dynamic when getting back into your fitness routine to help loosen those tight muscles before starting your workouts. After your workout, its good to release that muscle tension.
6. Focus on your form
When you’re getting back into your regular routine, quality will always trump quantity. Maintaining proper form will help target and work your muscles without straining or overexerting yourself. Take your time to focus on your form, breathing, and control. This is extremely important because proper technique and form are crucial to help prevent injury.
7. Don’t skip rest days!
Don’t jump into working out a six-days-a-week workout routine too soon. Recovery is a big part of being active. When you don’t take a day off, your body doesn’t get to take the necessary time to replenish your muscles. Rest days are vital to long-term wellness, and the lifestyle you are recreating for yourself now should consist of frequency. Promoting recovery is a good way to build habits of your workouts without leading to a sprain or strain delaying your workout and fitness routines.
8. Listen to your body
Your body will let you know when it is working hard, but learning the difference between hurts-so-good and hurts-not-so-good will save you a trip to the doctor’s office. If something feels uncomfortable or causes you pain, stop doing whatever is causing your body to feel that way. There is a not-so-fine line between muscle discomfort from a good workout, and pain lets you know something’s not right. Be attentive to your body to help you progress through your workouts safely.
Slowly easing your way to recreating your fitness regimen will help you stay consistent and achieve your fitness goals. It’s important to remember we are all on our fitness journey, so take your time and stay motivated!
7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation refers to your body’s method of protecting itself against things that harm it, including infections, injuries, and toxins. One way to treat inflammation could be a prescription for pain medication. Another way to combat inflammation can come from your local grocery store. Here are seven food items you can find at your local grocery store to help fight your body’s inflammation.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that is low-calorie and rich in folate, vitamins C, E, and K, and fiber, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Research has shown that consuming the right amount of cruciferous vegetables can decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. The vegetable’s high amount of antioxidants is related to its anti-inflammatory effects. Broccoli is high in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that combats inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which leads to inflammation.
Avocados are loaded with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. This superfood also contains carotenoids and tocopherols that helps lower the risk of cancer. One study found when people ate a slice of avocado with a hamburger, and they had lower levels of the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6. Other participants who ate the burger without avocado had higher levels of the inflammatory markers.
3. Green Tea
Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks you can find on the market. This tea reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and other medical conditions. Most of its health benefits derive from its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents, including the substance epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG helps to reduce inflammation by decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells
Bell peppers are not just known for their delicious flavor but are loaded with vitamin c along with chili peppers. Both peppers contain antioxidants that have substantial anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Bell peppers contain the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce one marker of oxidative damage in people with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease Chili peppers have sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which can lead to healthier aging and reduce inflammation.
Turmeric is a spice with a rich, earthy flavor that has a bitter taste and is often used to season or color curry powders, mustards, etc. The flavorful spice has received a considerable amount of attention for its content of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient. Turmeric lowers inflammation associated with arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases.
Sweet and sour cherries are packed with antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, that help fight inflammation. Although the effects of tart cherries have been studied more, sweet cherries also provide health benefits. In one study, participants who ate 280 grams of cherries per day for 1 month, had lower levels of the inflammatory marker CRP and remained low for 28 days after they stopped consuming cherries
7. Dark chocolate and cocoa
Dark chocolate is supplied with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and can decrease the risk of disease and lead to healthier aging. Flavanol-rich cocoa is responsible for chocolate’s anti-inflammatory effects and keeps the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy. Be sure to choose dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa; the higher the percentage of cocoa, the better to obtain these anti-inflammatory benefits.
Incorporating healthier options onto your plate won’t provide you with an instant cure for inflammation, but it could help reduce your flare-ups or lower your pain levels. Including anti-inflammatory foods into your diet is a more holistic way of addressing pain and inflammation, as opposed to taking medication.
The Rundown of the Impossible Burger
With the human population immensely increasing each decade, the concern of utilizing all of our resources and making the Earth uninhabitable has loomed over our heads. Fortunately, back in 2011, Impossible Foods Inc. seemingly achieved the impossible, creating a plant-based burger that mimics the color, smell, and flavor of the meat. By replacing meat with plant-based “meat,” Impossible Foods Inc. hopes to reduce the harmful effects of animal agriculture on the Earth to restore natural ecosystems. Food scientists at Impossible Foods Inc. discovered that heme is the ingredient that gives meat that “meaty” flavor that people crave. Heme, located in hemoglobin, plays a vital role in animals by allowing the bloodstream to carry oxygen throughout the body.
A common reason why many people switch to being vegetarian and vegan is to live a healthier lifestyle. However, are these plant-based “meats” really healthier compared to their meat counterparts? The answer is not really. One of the main ingredients in the Impossible Burger is coconut oil. Although it is perceived as a “healthy” fat, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. The American Heart Association also advises against consuming coconut oil. Upon comparing the Impossible Burger to its other burger counterparts, we see the following:
- Impossible burger: 240 calories with 8g of saturated fat
- Beef burger: 280 calories with 9g of saturated fat
- Veggie burgers are not meant to mimic meat: 150-160 calories with 4g of saturated fat
The Impossible burger has fewer calories and grams of saturated fat than the beef burger; however, it contains more sodium than its meat and veggie burger counterparts. Even though the Impossible Burger may be better for the environment, they are not necessarily nutritionally healthier for consumers. The Impossible Burger is a good alternative for people who are vegetarian to reduce the consumption of animal-based foods. However, a traditional veggie burger is a healthier choice due to its low-fat content. Overall, Impossible Foods Inc. has created a viable alternative to classic burgers, striving to achieve what seems to be impossible.
Megan Wroe, MS, RD, CNE, CLEC
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