NEDA Week: The War on Women’s Bodies Infographic

I found this informational infographic on the NEDA website. It’s unbelievable to read this information and see just how widespread eating disorders are in this country. More so, it’s incredible to learn how misunderstood eating disorders are in the U.S. by those unaffected. But the truth is, everyone is impacted by the culture of negative body image and it’s time to change that. To join the fight against negative body image, disordered eating, and excessive exercising, visit the NEDA website.

NEDA Week Infographic

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Love Your Imperfections

(via Pinterest)

(via Pinterest)

Perfection. My whole life, I’ve struggled with this word. It was an unattainable standard I set for myself- something I could control. I tried to be my idea of perfect when I was in 8th grade, and it almost killed me.

From about 8th grade until the end of my sophomore year of high school I struggled with a serious eating disorder. For me, my eating disorder was more than just wanting to be thin, it was my means to becoming perfect- something that would always be in my control. What I didn’t realize at the time was my eating disorder had total control over me. My every thought revolved around food, what I was going to eat next, every calorie that went into my body and every calorie I burned. I refused to eat during the day and every dinner with my family was a battle. I was miserable to be around and I hated myself.

At my lowest point I weighed 82 pounds (at 5’6”) and had a Body Mass Index of 11 (a healthy body mass index is between 20 and 25). It was a long road to recovery for me and after almost three years, I was finally back to a healthy weight and learned how to build my self-confidence in a healthy way. Years have passed since I made my recovery and while I am much healthier now, I’d be lying if I said I don’t have negative thoughts towards eating from time to time. I still think about everything I eat, but now, I look at food from an athlete’s perspective, from a runner’s perspective. Food is fuel to keep me healthy, happy and strong for running and for life.

Why am I bringing this up now? I never wanted to write very much about my eating disorder on my blog before because it is not the reason I started running. I also didn’t want anyone who may be struggling with eating or body image issues to be encouraged to run, especially if they are starving themselves. But, the week of Feb. 24 – March 2 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and the theme is “Everyone knows someone.”

I wanted to call attention to this because it really is true, everyone knows someone, yet sometimes we can be too scared to reach out and help them. You might be worried they’ll reject your outreach or even become angry with you, but it is important to reach out and help. If anything, it’s important to spread awareness of eating disorders because they are on the rise and a very real thing in our society today. This week, I will be donating $1 to the National Eating Disorder Association, for every mile I run and while I won’t ask you to do the same (although have at it if you’d like!), I would ask for your support in raising awareness.

If you know someone, don’t be afraid to reach out. If not, you know me, so spread the word of the fight against eating disorders; you never know whose life you might save. This week is meant to call attention to the battle that is being fought by millions of women and men in the United States every day. With more awareness of the fight against eating disorders maybe we can change the discourse going on in our society today. I don’t think there’s any better community than the healthy living and running communities to call attention to this rising epidemic. Instead of focusing on weight loss, image and calories burned, let’s try to focus on self-confidence, positive thoughts and learning to love our imperfections. It’s our imperfections that make us so unique anyway, right?

To encourage people to get involved in the eating disorder awareness campaign, NEDA is organizing walks across the country. With eating disorders on the rise- in the U.S., 30 million women and men will suffer from a clinically diagnosed eating disorder during their lifetime- it’s important to raise awareness and highlight the importance of early intervention. Research for eating disorders is significantly underfunded but the NEDA Walks have worked to raise over $1.7 million since they began in 2009. I’m hoping to attend the Boston NEDA Walk in April. If you’re interested in participating check out the full schedule here.

If you need help in figuring out how to approach someone who may be struggling with an eating disorder, visit the NEDA website.

If you yourself are battling an eating disorder or having thoughts about starvation, binging or purging, please call the NEDA helpline. It is anonymous, toll free and you can get a lot of information 1(800)-931-2237.

Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Five

Pre-rainy long run selfie!

Pre-rainy long run selfie!

Training went really well this week and I didn’t have any problems getting my runs in. I had my first two-a-days experience because I had to run 7 miles on Wednesday, which is too much for a lunch run so I split up my runs. I also adjusted my training plan because the plan I was following had me run three 20-milers between now and Big Sur and after consulting with a bunch of my coworkers, I thought it would be best to cut it down to two 20-milers. I want to make sure I make it to the starting line injury-free and not burned out. I’m looking forward to this week’s runs though because I bought new running shoes (Brooks Ravenna 4s) and I can’t wait to try them out!

Monday: Cross-training day. I did a 20-minute yoga for recovery class from Lululemon to recover from my 18-miler the day before. I also did 15 minutes of ab exercises which included planks, plank variations, Russian twists and crunches.

Tuesday: 5 miles in 47:00 at 9:12/mile pace. I had 5 miles at easy pace on my schedule for Tuesday and I decided to do them on the treadmill because it was raining/snowing/sleeting and I just didn’t feel like getting soaked.

Wednesday: 7 miles total at easy pace. I split this into two runs, I ran 4 miles at lunch and finished in 33:58 at 8:29/mile pace. This was an amazing run and felt really great. I surprised myself with my pace but it didn’t feel like I was really pushing it, it actually felt kind of comfortable. I then ran 3 miles after work in 27:20 at 9:00/mile pace. I also did some ab exercises and arm strengthening exercises.

Thursday: 5.6 miles in 51:00 at 9:06/mile. This was a really great lunch run with two of my coworkers. We did a new running route which was nice because we usually stick to the same loop.

Friday: Rest and foam roll!

Saturday: 15 miles, long slow distance, in 2:20:38 at 9:22/mile pace. This was by far the best long run I’ve had for this training cycle. Despite the dreary weather, it was misting pretty heavily during my whole run, I felt really great. My legs felt fresh, I didn’t have to stop or walk at all and my pace was really solid the whole time. I also conquered all of the hills of this run without a problem.

Sunday: 20 minutes of yoga for recovery, foam roll and planks.

Weekly Mileage Totals: 33 miles

See all training recaps here.

{Friday Faves} Reads, Runs and Raves

  • Paying homage to the not-so-new Harlem Shake dance, Tracktown USA (a.k.a. Eugene, OR) made this video, as choreographed and organized by world record holder in the decathlon, Ashton Eaton – Tracktown USA Harlem Shake via YouTube 
  • Great post by Roisen McGettigan, a professional runner and co-founder of Believe I Am training journals, about the fluidity of running and yoga. – Yoga for Runners- The Yin for the Yang via Believe I Am (blog)
  • By far my favorite post of the week, and quite possibly my favorite post in a long time, was a post by my friend Laura Schwecherl, on her blog, Camping Out in America. She writes about our tendency as bloggers, runners, fitness enthusiasts and just normal people, to compare ourselves to one another and seek perfection, which really is unattainable. It’s a great read, so please check it out. – on comparison via Camping Out In America
  • I learned about a new blog this week (via a tweet by Erica Sara) and needless to say I’m obsessed. What really caught me was their tag line: “The Fitness Site for Badass Women. Be Pretty on Rest Days.” – Spikes and Heels
  • I’ve had a bit of an emotional week and while I know a lot of people don’t like Taylor Swift (I like her) this quote really spoke to me and has helped me not get sidetracked by people from my past. I hope it can help some of you too.
(via Pinterest)

(via Pinterest)

Fueling Up for Long Runs

One of the key parts of marathon training is figuring out what works for you during runs and what doesn’t. This goes for everything from shoes, to gear, to hydration and finally, to fueling. I’m still trying to figure out the best fueling strategy for me, and while every runner is different, I decided to seek some advice from my followers on Twitter. Here’s what they had to say! – H.M.
  1. Any other fuel suggestions for long runs? #runchat #marathontraining http://pic.twitter.com/LUQMD8mfKt
  2. Question for runners for my blog: What’s your favorite long-run fuel? #runchat
  3. “@FitHappyGirl: Question for runners for my blog: What’s your favorite long-run fuel? #runchat” sandwich! :)
  4. @FitHappyGirl water and Gu and sometimes jelly beans. Everything else hurt my stomach even Gatorade
  5. “@FitHappyGirl: Question for runners for my blog: What’s your favorite long-run fuel? #runchat”WE ARE GU PEOPLE!
  6. @FitHappyGirl starburst!! Or mint chocolate gu. But really… Starburst :)
  7. @FitHappyGirl at the Vanguard Way 65 Ultra @Helen_10pt and I fuelled ourselves on sausages & cheese. Yum! LSD is fat burning pace…
  8. @fithappygirl gu chomps and sports beans. Basically I want to be eating candy.
  9. @FitHappyGirl Strawberry Banana PowerBar Gel! Not as thick as other gels. Tastes like melted fruit snacks!
  10. @FitHappyGirl pre: loaded oatmeal. During: Clif shots and Gatorade
  11. @FitHappyGirl Peanut butter sandwich crackers. I generally have 1-6 of ’em stashed on my person at all times, long run or not.
  12. @FitHappyGirl honey stinger pink lemonade chews or peeled brand unsweetened dried cherries

{Infographic} 30-Minute, Bodyweight Workout

As many of you might know, I’m a Greatist ambassador. Greatist is a really awesome, fun, quirky and intelligent health and fitness website with endless resources on everything you need to know about wellness, but in language you can actually understand. One of the reasons I love Greatist so much is because of their simple but really informative infographics. They just came out with a new one featuring a 30-minute no gym, bodyweight workout which will be perfect for strength training while I get ready for Big Sur. For runners, bodyweight exercises can help strengthen and build muscle but you probably won’t be as sore the next day as you would if you were lifting weights. So, if you’re interested, test out this workout, I know I will!

Find more bodyweight exercises at Greatist.com

Monday Motivation: Don’t Stumble Over Something Behind You

Sometimes, the past has a way of creeping up into the present. Unfortunately for me, this happens more often than I would like. I have gotten better at not letting the past impact my present or the future but it always helps to have a little reminder. I have big dreams and goals for the future and I can’t let something (or someone) in the past cripple my future. I’m moving fast and I have no time to stumble.

via Pinterest

via Pinterest

Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Four

Leave Fears BehindI was a bit nervous about training this week because my work week/schedule was a little hectic. While my workouts didn’t exactly happen in the correct order, I got all of them done and had my highest mileage week ever and ran another distance PR with my 18-mile long run. I’m hoping this upcoming week will be a little better in terms of my schedule but I’m learning to not be so rigid with the training plan, if I have to swap training runs, it’s not the end of the world! Here are my workouts from this past week:

Monday: Cross-training day. I took a 50 minute flow yoga class at the gym at work. Because I ran my long run the day before, I was a bit sore still so I thought doing a yoga class would be a good way to relax and stretch out my muscles. I definitely need to work on my flexibility but I really enjoyed this class. I also did 15 minutes of ab exercises which included planks, crunches and other exercises.

Tuesday: Easy 5-miles in 47:15 at 9:26/mile pace. My legs were definitely still feeling the 16-miler from the weekend before so I took it slow on this run. I also tried out a different route which was a lot hillier than my normal 5-mile lunch run route but it was good to mix it up. I also did about 10 minutes of planks when I got home.

Wednesday: 4.15 miles in 39:00 at 9:23/mile. My legs were still tired and I was just actually tired because I went running before work. I haven’t gotten up to run before work since the summer but it did feel really good to get my run done for the day. Also, I ran with my roommate which was really great because if it weren’t for her it would have been much easier to press the snooze button when my alarm went off!

Thursday: I was supposed to do a 5-mile run with 4x800s at marathon pace but my day at work was so hectic I couldn’t run at lunch. I wanted to run after work but when I got home and ran to the track, it was locked and the lights were off. So, no run. Instead I did a 30-minute power yoga session online and ab exercises. I was pretty bummed I missed my workout but it was out of my control so there wasn’t much I could do about it.

Friday: 5-miles in 44:00 at 8:48/mile pace. Since I was angry with myself for missing my workout the day before, I went balls to the wall with this 5-miler. My average pace was 8:48/mile but my last 3 miles were hovering around 8:20/mile and 8:30/mile which was really good for me, especially during a middle distance run. I felt SO much better after this run!

Saturday: Easy 3 miles in 26:52 at 8:57/mile pace. I switched my long run from Saturday to Sunday because I had to cover the Millrose Games in NYC for Runner’s World on Saturday evening and knew if I ran my long run the same day, I would be absolutely dead. So, I opted for an easy shakeout with my roommate and it went really well!

Sunday: 18 miles in 2:58:00 at 9:52/mile pace. Another distance PR this weekend with my long run! It definitely wasn’t easy though. My legs felt pretty dead from standing at the Millrose Games all day the day before and I didn’t realize how much that would affect me. Also, the wind was incredible during this run (20mph+) and it was VERY cold. But, I powered through it and finished the run strong. I was really proud of myself too because I ran by myself which is definitely not easy, especially towards the end of the run when my mind is trying to give up. Besides my tired legs, I felt pretty good throughout the run. I wish my pace had been a bit faster but the wind was just too much and I had a headwind the entire second half. Overall, good run!

Weekly Mileage Total: 35 miles

See all training recaps here.

Planking for Runners

DSC_0629No one can argue a strong core isn’t good for your overall health and fitness, but did you know having a strong core is especially good for runners? I have been slacking over the past couple of months with my core exercises but in the past few weeks I’ve really ramped it back up.

In my weekly training recaps I write about doing plank exercises and one reader asked me what are the best planks for runners? Well, truth is there are so many variations of planks and I try to do as many as I can but I’m no expert so I thought I’d reach out to the creator of the #plankaday trend that hit the Twitter-sphere and Interwebs by storm beginning in June 2011. Now, 7,000 plankers strong, what started out as an accountability exercise between Dr. Sherry Pagoto, a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and her longtime friend Mike Bauman. The two used the hashtag #plankaday to keep each other consistent and pretty soon their followers caught on.

“Because I am a behavioral scientist with an expertise in health and weight loss, I was fascinated by how Twitter facilitated such engagement in an exercise, so I began to study it scientifically,” Dr. Pagoto said. Her study will be published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health in the near future.

I first caught on to the plank a day craze this past summer. At the time I was more focused on being able to hold a plank for as long as possible (4:02 PR!) but when I stopped being so consistent, I really lost my plank endurance. Turns out however, duration of planking might not be so important for runners. I wanted to find out more about how planking helps runners specifically so Dr. Pagoto referred me to her sister, Julie Mulcahy, MPT, who is a physical therapist and runner.

What benefits will runners see from doing a plank a day?

Runners will see many benefits from adding planks to their strengthening routine. Planks strengthen core muscles, which include the spine, hip, and abdominal muscles. I use the analogy of building a house to teach the importance of a strong core. If you build a strong house with all the finest materials, but build it on a weak foundation, it will not be stable and may come crashing down. Your core is your body’s foundation. With a strong foundation the arms and legs can function from a stable base and can provide more power.

Should runners do different plank variations?

I always recommend variations of exercise for most efficient training. Doing the same static plank day after day will eventually lead to training plateaus. Dynamic planks are the best for runners. During running, the core must stabilize as one foot is on the ground and the other is in the air during the swing phase of running. There are many ways to train your core with planks for this phase of the running pattern. Performing planks with alternating leg lifts or mountain climber planks are two examples. Here is a video where I demonstrate a few variations: http://www.fudiet.com/2011/10/the-joy-of-planking-adding-variation-to-your-plank-life/

Side plank

Side plank

Side plank with raised arm

Side plank with raised arm

Alternating leg planks.

Alternating leg planks.

Spider planks.

Spider planks.

What is the benefit of being able to hold a plank for a long period of time? Do you get the same benefits from holding for less time but doing more planks?

The hold time for planks is very subjective depending on the person. Start with an amount of time that you can successfully hold your form perfectly. You may add multiple sets of planks at this same hold time. Performing multiple sets of shorter duration planks are preferred over one very long duration plank. Anytime you are strengthening your core, quality is preferred over duration and quantity. When you are able to hold a minute, start trying dynamic movements. Remember to include prone  (stomach facing the floor) and side lying positions. Holding very long durations, possibly over 5 minutes, is a test of your ability to tolerate significant discomfort and endurance, however not entirely functional for running. During running the core doesn’t need to generate and maintain such an intense force for durations of that length of time. 
Should runners supplement planks with any other kind of abdominal exercises as well?

For my running clients, I combine other abdominal exercises in various positions that facilitate core stabilization and balance, in addition to planks.  Using weighted medicine balls, tubing and pulleys in standing and semi reclined, pelvic neutral positions can also train core effectively for runners and can be a great complement to planks in an overall core strengthening routine. 

Some people say doing planks hurts their shoulders, is there any way to alleviate this but still reap the benefits of planks?

Another great benefit of planks is that they build upper body strength. However if a shoulder, elbow or wrist problem is present, planking can be difficult. To alleviate wrist pain from the extension and pressure from a plank, place two dumbbells on the floor and hold onto them instead of placing wrist directly on the floor. When planking with bent elbows, place a pad under elbows to alleviate pressure.  For anyone with shoulder pain, attempt planking with hands on floor and elbows straight. This helps distribute some of the force through more of the upper extremities. However, there are occasions when certain upper extremity conditions cannot tolerate the weight bearing required of planks and other types of core strengthening can be recommended. Always consult a health care professional based on your individual case.

To learn more about plank a day, visit Dr. Pagoto’s website, FU Diet.