POUNDING PAVEMENT

Three and a half weeks ago, I laced up my sneakers and began my annual 3 season sport of pounding pavement and I struggled. I truly struggled to get through the 3 mile route I had mapped out. After a winter solely focused on weight training and minimal cardio my body was no longer the long and lean machine it had been last summer. However, one of the biggest lessons running has taught me is one of perseverance. My mind always tries to chicken out before my body does and it’s pushing through these moments where the magic happens. This is where I grow.

Once again, I am reminded how quickly the body adapts. We evolved from athletes. While some of us are more athletically blessed than others, we are all programmed to physically adapt to our climates. Three and a half weeks ago, I finished my 3 miler with every muscle in my lower body aching, my heart pounding, and my lungs starving for oxygen. I had pushed myself to the point of nausea and I felt like a failure. Fast forward to week four (this week) and I am pushing through 7 milers with strong stems, a steady heartbeat, and abundant air in my lungs. This is a big win for me because I tore both of my iliotibial bands in high school and long distance running has always been out of the question.

Last night I finished my run with a .25 mile sprint and literally had to force myself not to keep going. The truth is though that while runners look forward to the runs where they feel literally feel invincible, we immediately start formulating a way to create complete exhaustion again. We have learned that pain equals reward. Running is a hard sport. It requires self discipline in the purest form, a lot of heart, commitment, and a tad bit of crazy.

This year I have decided that I wanted to run for more than just exercise and endorphins. I want to run for self-awareness. I want to learn my physical and mental “limitations” and then surpass them.

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BUNLESS BEEF SLIDERS

Ingredients:
• 1lb 92% Lean Organic Beef
• 1/2 Bell Pepper
• 1/2 Zucchini
• 1/2 cup Cherry Tomato
• EVOO
• Pampered Chef Crushed Peppercorn and Garlic Rub
• Low Sodium Cheese (I did American because well, it fit my macros!)

Directions:
1. Finely chop veggies and sauté with 1 tsp EVOO until brown.
2. In a bowl, combine beef and seasoning.
3. Fold cooked veggies into meat and form in to mini paddies.
4. Sauté, grill, or bake burgers.
5. Once almost cooked add your chose of low sodium cheese.

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CARDIO KINGS & QUEENS BEWARE

As a former cardio queen myself, I cannot speak enough about all of the benefits of aerobic exercise:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Improved blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Improved heart function
  • Reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • Improved muscle mass

(IDEA Health and Fitness Association)

However, most individuals fail to comprehend is how much is too little or too much! People tend fall into those two categories (overwhelmingly the first). None the less, I think it is important to be informed of the dangers of excessive cardiovascular exercise

So what’s too little aerobic activity?

Experts claim that an individual must perform cardiovascular exercise for at least twenty minutes in order to increase heart rate enough to promote fat loss and muscle growth. Studies indicate that interval training inhibits the most muscle growth, while running promotes the most fatloss.

I advise switching up cardio for maximal caloric burn and muscle growth. When your body gets used to the same activities, they no longer become challenging and thus, require less effort. The harder your body has to work, the more calories you burn, and the greater physiological adaption!! (See blog: High Intensity Interval Training)

When does cardiovascular exercise become impair health and weight-loss goals?

Last semester I took an Exercise and Nutrition course where I learned first off the dangers of overtraining–including muscle fatigue, altered hormonal functioning, increased risk for injury, lowered psychological health –“burn-out,” insomnia, irritability, overall decreased performance, and impaired immune function.

If that was not enough to change my cardio habits this was:

Excessive cardio over time causes heart damage and inhibits weight loss goals by slowing the metabolism.

Two years ago, The New York Times published an article discussing a study British scientists conducted comparing hearts of  male marathon runners to those of non-endurance athletes. They discovered that half of the lifelong endurance runners (age 50-67) had a condition known as fibrosis. However, the hearts of the non-endurance athletes as well as the younger marathon runners (below age 50) did not. “Fibrosis, if it becomes severe, can lead to stiffening or thickening of portions of the heart, which can contribute to irregular heart function and, eventually, heart failure. (Reynolds, The New York Times)”

Canadian and Spanish scientists have also performed similar studies on rats, mimicking excessive training conditions. After a month trial (equivalent to 10 yrs in humans), the scientists found themselves comparing originally healthy hearts to those with symptoms of fibrosis. However, after eight weeks (~7 years) without running, the animals hearts returned back to normal.

Although most people do not spend nearly as long in their sneakers as marathon runners, studies indicate that doing more than 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise begins to produce diminishing results (The Mayo Clinic, 2012).  All the benefits of aerobic activity are reached within an hour. 

Why the slowed metabolism??
Evolution. Just like when we starve ourselves, our bodies react to excessive energy loss by reducing metabolic functioning. We need energy to perform many bodily functions and if we are exerting to much of it, our bodies assume we may not refuel enough. At the same time many individuals over-compensate caloric needs, assuming they burned more calories than they actually did and thus, over-eating. These two factors combined inhibit weight-loss and often cause the opposite, weight-gain.

Stick to 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 5-6 days a week and don’t forget to weight train!!! Remember your body needs rest in order for your muscles to repair. I still struggle with this. My overachiever personality doesn’t know how to “rest,” but as I have learned along my fitness journey, always always  listen to your body.

references: nasm.org, wedmd.com, The Mayo Clinic, The New York Times, Dr. William Lunn SCSU

PROTEIN CONSUMPTION POST EXERCISE

Our bodies are extremely efficient at using carbohydrates and even fat for fuel, but in a typical moderate intensity workout, protein contributes very little. In endurance and/or resistance training however, once carbohydrate fuel stores run out, significant protein catabolism takes place, depleting those stores as well.

It is important to understand that our muscles do not store protein. Amino acids can be found in 3 places: bound muscle protein, muscle intracellular free amino acid pool, and then the free amino acid pool in the blood. These molecules are constantly moving and changing to perform both protein breakdown and synthesis. During recovery, BOTH protein breakdown and protein synthesis increase. By consuming a high-quality/complete protein snack (a protein with all the essential amino acids, typically an animal source or combining two incomplete proteins) within an hour of exercising then helps to even out synthesis and breakdown. This is significant for athletes because when we break down more amino acids than we take in, our muscles begin to shrink.

Keep in mind that we also need an energy source to help our bodies repair. Pairing a high-quality protein with a carbohydrate prevents protein from being metabolized for energy so that it can do its job in synthesis and breakdown.