Post related to fitness, eating well, living well and generally just leading an awesome life.
The national anthem started and I had tears in my eyes. Was it my national anthem? I don’t even really know what that means anymore, so sure. I’m in America now and I got tears in my eyes during the national anthem.
I have no idea why I got tears in my eyes. Maybe the tears were for the fact that right after Mika was born I couldn’t imagine ever running again, let alone racing half a marathon. Or maybe they were for the fact that late that night before the race, Ivan had cycled to Walgreens to get my watch fixed which I’d only just discovered had stopped working, even though he has so much work to do, just so I could get to bed early. Or maybe I was crying because of all the 5am starts and cold rainy runs that I’d done, knowing that I was working towards this. Or maybe it was out of love and respect for my body – my body that had been feeling achy and ill all week leading up to the race – that was somehow able to pull this off. Or maybe it’s because for the first day in more than a week, there was no rain, and later the sun would come out.
I didn’t cry. Just so you know. But then the starting bell went and as we passed our first group of supporters, cheering and yelling, I welled up again. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I laughed to nobody at how ridiculously happy I felt and how surprisingly good I felt as I followed the feet of the pacer infront of me.
Running 13.1 miles is much easier than running 21.1 kilometres. For one, writing 12 splits on my hand is much easier than writing 20. And mentally I found this race possibly the easiest I’ve ever run. This is how I broke it down:
- Run 5 miles at target pace. Assess how I feel at 5 miles. I was following the 1:45 pacer for the first 5 miles and I felt super.
- Feeling good? Bump it up slightly and run another 5 miles. So I dropped the pacer and bumped up my pace until I was coming through 2 minutes under my goal splits for the next 5 miles.
- Now I’m at the 10 mile mark. Only a 5k to go. Run that 5k as hard as I can. I was hoping I would pick up the pace even more. But my thighs were cramping up and I wasn’t even sure if I was running anymore. I kept up my pace, maybe increasing it a fraction, and wasn’t sure if I’d make it over the line in one piece.
- Boom. Done. I made it. In one piece.
My PB for a half marathon is 1:30:00. There’s no way I’m training at that level now, but considering my training I’m extremely happy with my time of 1:42:48 for this Seattle half marathon. Only 10 minutes slower than my best!
Waiting for the bus to brunch, check out that amazing christmas train set!! Mika couldn’t take her eyes off it.
Ivan and Mika were at the finish line to see me cross and although my body was like ‘whaat?’ seeing them there in the super cold at 9am was possibly the best thing in the world (brunch at Chaco Canyon an hour later was a close second).
Alright, I’ve run my post-baby half marathon, we can have another baby now.
(playing silly games on the walk home today)
You know that I love not owning a car. But then sometimes I really wish we owned a car. We probably will end up owning a car at some point. One car for the family, as we grow from 3 to 4 and when we move to an area further away from our work.
But until then, I’ve been constantly reminding myself of the benefits of not owning a car:
- Passive exercise. Even if we take the bus, we still walk half a kilometre from our house to the bus stop and back. The round trip to the nearest grocery store is 2km. And each day Mika and I walk to a park or an activity and we end up walking between 5-10km each day. If we owned a car, that would drastically reduce.
- Saving money. Taking into consideration bus fares ($2.50 for 3 hours ish), Zipcar costs ($50 a year and $10 per hour of car use) and taxi rides ($20 ish on a night out), owning a car always comes out as costing more. The upfront cost, the ongoing gas, the insurance, the servicing, the repairs…
- Feeling closer to our community. When we own a car, we usually spend most of our time traveling to places in other neighbourhoods. But when we’re limited to our feet, the bus and our bike, we tend to spend much more time in our own community. I love this. I love how we can bump into people in the street. I love how when we run errands, we can stop for a little while for Mika to jump in some leaves or to follow a squirrel. The people who are always hopping into cars seem to be in such a rush and much harder to have chance encounters with.
- Not contributing to all the negative environmental aspects of owning a car. We’re just not. So that’s cool.
90% of me feels extremely lucky that we don’t need a car to have a great life here. And 10% of me keeps wondering if our life would be much cooler if we had a car. Such is life I suppose!
Sometimes I can spend an entire 90 minute yoga class thinking about tattoos, menu planning, blog posts and tanning. Sometimes I sit down to eat my lunch and I spend 20 minutes reading a book whilst mindlessly inhaling a salad. Sometimes I’m in the shower and I spend the whole time planning my day or thinking about the day that has just been.
Some research suggests that people are significantly less happy when their mind is focused on something other than the task at hand. In other words, people are happier when they’re present.
It’s an easy thing to say, and it seems like a very easy thing to do, but I find it unbelievably difficult at times to be entirely present. A few months ago I started putting aside 5 minutes a day to ‘practice’ being present. It’s much easier (in my opinion) to be present when you’re doing something (ie. focus on your actions, notice your surroundings) than to be present when you are just sitting.
You could call it meditation I suppose. I call it a practice and I use it to calm my mind. It feels difficult – as though my mind is actually working out. It can feel frustrating and tiring. But this is usually when I know that I need it the most.
Here’s what I do:
- Sometimes I set a timer on my phone so that I can know when 5 minutes is up. This way I can allow myself to completely relax rather than always wondering what the time is.
- I put a notebook and pen next to me. Sometimes if there is a thought or an idea that just cannot go away, writing it down can help get it out of my brain (safely knowing that I won’t forget it) and then I just start again.
- I start by noticing my breath. I notice the way the air feels against my top lip and the way my tummy and chest rise and fall.
- I imagine ‘sending’ my breath to different parts of my body, really noticing each part of my body as I do this. I might try to relax a part of my body, or just simply acknowledge it and feel it.
- When I notice my mind wandering (and it can wander faster than I thought possible), I have a few different techniques that I use:
- I imagine that the thought is a cloud and that it’s floating across the blue sky in my mind. I try to imagine a clear blue sky with no clouds, so if one comes in, I watch it drift away again.
- I quickly try and bring myself ‘out’ of my body. I imagine that I have just walked in the room and I can see myself sitting in the room. And I just watch myself. This is one of my favourite techniques and can make me feel extremely present.
- I focus on my breath again. I think about my tummy rising and falling with each breath.
- Sometimes my mind can get so crazy it feels like a crowded mall at christmas time. (And I hate crowded malls at christmas time). I have no idea why I find it so hard to stop thinking about things, but sometimes I give myself a pep talk like ‘you can think about this again in 5 minutes. Just stop right now. There will always be time to think about things, but for now, just be present. Listen for something. Focus on the breath.’ Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
And that’s it. If I manage to do this a couple times each day, I feel noticeably more relaxed, calm, collected and present. Do you meditate? Or practice being present?
I mentioned previously that we were working on a new blog….and here it is!
Plant Strong Happy is a place where we will talk about our journey into optimal health – trying to cure eczema, manage allergies, lose/maintain weight, gain energy, feel strong and enjoy life.
It all started for us when my Dad was trying to reverse his diabetes and started experimenting with diet. My mum read The China Study and we were in Mexico at the time but decided to order it online and try reading it. I feel the need to emphasize that we were in Mexico when we read this. We were eating 1.5 kilos of beef for lunch, topped with cheese and sour cream. There was no such thing as a vegan in Mexico. Until we read The China Study.
It was tough at first and Ivan took a little longer to make the switch than I did, but after both of us had finished the book we were pretty much convinced. My Dad was receiving incredible results with his health (cholesterol/blood sugars etc) and we continued our research through documentaries (Forks Over Knives, PlanEat), websites (Engine2Diet, Dr McDougall) and many different articles and books.
The way we eat has changed drastically in the past 6 months and if someone had told us a year ago that we’d be eating like this, we probably wouldn’t have believed them. But we are, and we’ve stuck with it because a) it seems to be working extremely well b) we enjoy the food and the benefits c) we are constantly reading new research that suggests we are on the right track and d) our family doctor fully supports our decision (not that it would be a deal-breaker).
So we have started Plant Strong Happy to hopefully give you some ideas and inspiration. Check it out, follow us on Facebook to keep in touch and leave a comment on this post to win a copy of the book that started it all for us – The China Study.
“I propose to do nothing less than redefine what we think of as good nutrition. You need to know the truth about food, and why eating the right way can save your life.” – Dr Colin Campbell, The China Study
See you over there!
P.S We won’t be stopping this blog just yet….
I have never felt so strongly about staying alive.
Sure, I’ve tried my best to stay fit and healthy in the past, but the motivation has almost always been to look good and feel good, not necessarily to live a long and awesome life. Sometimes I would even sacrifice feeling good, if it meant I could look good.
This has always been motivation enough!
But now things are different and it’s all because of Mika. Whereas in the past, my present self would often win over my future self, my future self is now as convincing as ever – waving to me from my daughter’s future – and I will do everything I can to make sure that I’m there with her.
So this is what I want to tell people who ask me why I don’t eat meat, dairy or eggs. Sure, I care about the environment and the animals too, but the strongest motivation for me to avoid eating animal protein is simply the desire to maximise my chances of living a long and awesome life so I can share it with Mika.
If I tell people this they often get defensive and say things like ‘but meat/dairy/eggs are good for you!’ and ‘my doctor tells me to eat those things!’ and to that I say:
- People once believed smoking was good for you…
- And doctors smoked.
- Doctors get minimal training in nutrition
- Most of the sources that we trust for nutritional information are funded by the meat, dairy and egg industry
- It has been proven that animal protein is not good for us
And so when you consider the fact that we don’t need animal protein to be healthy, I see absolutely no reason to spend my money on animal protein whilst contributing to environmental issues, supporting huge profit driven industries and most importantly – increasing my chances of dying sooner or having a poorer quality of life.
The main things people then ask are:
- What about protein?
- What about calcium?
- What about B12?
Each of these questions can have long and very satisfying responses, but in brief:
The belief that we need huge amounts of protein and that the best source of this protein is meat has been around since the early 1900s. Meat was a symbol of wealth and strength – just as we strive for big houses and big cars, families strive to have meat on the table. Meat is not essential for our protein requirements. Do you know how much protein is in plants? Do you know how much protein our bodies require? (A starting point…)
We have been taught that milk gives us strong bones. The dairy industry equipped our doctors and our schools with marketing material to reinforce this message. So now when we see statistics that show the highest rates of osteoporosis are in countries where the most milk is consumed, we scratch our heads and wonder why.
Vitamin B12 is created by bacteria in the soil. Animals then eat the grass and plants and they become our source of B12. At some point in the past we would have consumed our vegetables from naturally organic soil with no need to thoroughly scrub and wash them, just like animals do. Unfortunately today, soil is often contaminated with pesticides and so it is necessary to completely clean all our produce, making them no longer a good source of B12. This is probably the only thing that I need to consider now that I eat a diet free of animal protein.
B12 is kept in the body for up to 3 years, so it’s not a pressing concern – but B12 deficiency isn’t too pleasant, so it’s good to find ways to get this vitamin in your body. This is probably the only supplement I would consider taking.
And then people shrug it off and say something like ‘well, everything in moderation’. And I can’t help but think even a moderate amount of heart disease or cancer doesn’t sound too good to me.
How does this make you feel?
Where to start
If you are curious, then here are a few resources to fuel your interest:
- Forks over Knives A film that will save your life
- Planeat Nothing changes the planet as much as the way we eat
- The China Study The most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted
I have a cool giveaway for the end of this week, so stay tuned!