Sniffle Season

UGH! It seems no matter how hard you try to avoid it, it finds you. The inevitable cold. Unless you’re a hermit and never come in contact with the germy people of the world, you are bound to succumb to this snotty mess of a condition at least once during the winter.

I am a whiner when I’m sick. It just feels highly inconvenient to be knocked on my butt when I work so hard all year to stay healthy. Luckily, I have some tricks that work in my favor to nip it in the bud at the first sign of symptoms.

Antioxidant rich fruits and veggies are your best friends. I like to sneak handfuls of spinach into berry smoothies for a mega dose. You can’t even tell it’s in there, promise! Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, carrots, etc, etc, etc. Basically, the more colorful your diet is, the better off you will be.

Aside from yogurt and its highly beneficial live bacteria (it stimulates the production of white blood cells), I tend to avoid dairy while I’m sick. It coats the throat and creates mucous which is the last thing anyone wants.

Chicken Soup is good for the soul and for a cold! Homemade versions are said to have immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory compounds that are perfect for helping your respiratory system get back on track.

Garlic reduces bacteria growth and production. It’s not like you’ll want to kiss anyone when you are sick anyway.

Echinacea can be helpful when fighting symptoms of a cold. It helps activate chemicals in the body that decrease inflammation and is thought to stimulate the immune system. It is important to get a quality product as there are many out there that are labeled Echinacea abut don’t actually contain it. Be sure to read the label!

Vitamin C is perhaps the most important way to boost your immune system. There are endless varieties available and choosing one can be a chore. A high vitamin C dosage is your best bet for knocking out your sickness.

And of course, STAY HYDRATED. I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to water intake but with good reason!

So while I try to prevent my developing cold from manifesting fully, I hope you are able to use these tips to prevent one from attacking you. Stay healthy!

 

Pain is Not Gain

Any athlete, amateur or professional, knows that injuries are common. They should also know that they are highly preventable. It takes a lot of effort, beyond practicing the actual activities that make up your sport, to perform at your best. I say if you get injured it is most likely your own fault. Avoiding the bench is easy; it just may take more time than you’d think.

Perhaps the simplest method of preventing muscle strain is stretching. Sure, you stretch. But for how long? Most people I see stretching do so for about five seconds before they get bored and make a mad dash for their triple-tall Americano. I try to set aside at least 15 minutes before AND after my workouts. Stretching should be relaxed, gentle and slow. You should consider it your most important preparation before activity. Avoid bouncing or jerky movements during your stretch as this could cause tears in the muscle tissue. Here are some great basic stretches for runners.

While I am adamant about stretching before and after my workouts, I still carry a lot of tension in my lower back due to hamstring and hip-flexor tightness. This is very common with biking and running and has caused spasms in my back that have taken me out of training completely. Infuriating. This is why I started doing hot yoga 3-4 times per week. Dedicating 90 minutes to lengthening my muscles in 100+ degrees has been THE BEST thing I have done for my training. The heat is incredibly detoxifying and the flexibility I have gained has drastically improved my performance and stamina. But hot yoga isn’t absolutely necessary. I started with room temperature Hatha yoga and recommend it for any beginner yogi. There are many different types of yoga and each one has its own benefits. All the ‘om’ chanting and hippy crap may seem over the top but after you ride that first yoga high, you’ll be hooked.

Finally, after working as a professional massage therapist for about a decade, I can tell you a thing or two about how awesome regular bodywork is. Finding a therapist who specializes in sports or rehabilitative massage is your best bet for beating knots into submission. And I do mean beating. Deep tissue work is no joke and it’s common to feel sore after your first session. I sometimes equate it to being hit by a truck but once the soreness fades (downing H2O helps greatly), you’ll feel like a million bucks.

Alas, professional massage isn’t always in the budget, especially when participating in a gear-heavy sport. This is when I turn to two of my favorite tools: a foam roller and the stick (or tiger tail). These self massage tools are AH-maz-ing for breaking down those hard to reach knots, especially in your back and legs. I contribute my ability to successfully finish my first triathlon (The Nation’s Tri) to the stick.

My calves were in AGONY the day before the race and no amount of stretching helped. To be fair, I was fine until I spent an entire day walking the majority of Washington, DC in flip-flops. I can’t help but cater to the tourist in me. It was my first race and I was about to chicken out, fully ready to throw all my training out the window because I made a crappy shoe choice. Then I stumbled on a simple little gadget at the pre-race expo. Sweet relief! I spent a good hour ‘testing’ the product on my calves while getting dirty looks from the reps. I finally bought one and it remains a staple for training recovery.

So, as you can see, there are many things to help keep injuries away. It may seem like a full-time job but believe me, it is WAY better than being laid up on the couch in agonizing pain. So suck it up and keep your body happy!

 

Party Like an Athlete

Being a twenty-something (I’m NOT 30 yet!) single girl, a crazy night on the town happens more often than not. Seattle is full of fun activities and events that help keep our minds off of the cold. There are stellar events year-round! But all of these events seem to be centered around alcohol. Fine. I’m not one to turn down a good Guinness and/or a shot of Jameson. The problem arises when I have an early training session the following morning. In the moment, it seems way more rewarding to imbibe with my friends rather than call it an early night to get up and keep my work out schedule.In an attempt to enjoy the best of both worlds, I have experimented with different hangover prevention methods and remedies. I have found that prevention is key to avoiding that excruciating nausea inducing migraine the morning after.

Hydration seems like a no-brainer. How can one exist solely on soda or energy drinks (a discussion for another day)? Maybe I have an unnatural attachment to my stainless steel bottle, but being without water drives me batty. One sure way to have an advantage over alcohol is to be hydrated in the first place. I make it my rule to have water in between each drink. One of my favorite things to keep on hand when at home is coconut water. It’s such a great natural way to replenish electrolytes before bed.

Although hydration is the biggest factor for me, I have found that vitamins really pack a punch for recovery. I swear by B12 and Omega 3s with a couple of ibuprofen just before bed. I have read that taking Tylenol is harmful to the liver when mixed with alcohol so I stick with ibuprofen. Waking up hydrated and alert makes these extra steps a must. And just to ensure I do remember to take my little prevention cocktail, I leave it on my night stand right next to my water bottle. Then it is staring me right in the face and I don’t have to take any extra steps when all I want to do is crawl under the covers.

The best part is my workouts usually eliminate any symptoms that may have surfaced. I can wake up feeling foggy but pounding the pavement helps raise my metabolic rate, which helps clear toxins and delivers much needed oxygen to my cells. That alone is motivation to pop out of bed. I know at the end of my run I will be feeling like a champ with no evidence that I partied like a rock star just hours ago.

Sometimes, especially on weekends, I am more lax about prevention and have to face the painful reminder of how much fun I had the night before. In this case breakfast is key, something simple like eggs. I still find that vitamins, coconut water, and ibuprofen work but you just have to get through the suffering while they kick in!

I highly recommend doing research and discovering what works for you, because life is too short to spend in pain, especially self-induced pain.

Garbage Eaters

It seems our society is becoming more aware of how the food industries are affecting our lives. Maybe we are just fed up with all the disease and obesity. Maybe it is due to the fact that social networks and blogs allow the masses to have a voice and rely less on mainstream news sources. Maybe it is from all the documentaries revealing the truth. Or it might be all of the above. Regardless, it pleases me to see people making smarter choices and finding ways to educate themselves rather than just sticking to government issued diet suggestions. I mean, Congress wants to allow tomato paste on pizza to be counted as a vegetable for school lunches.  Really?! How is that okay?

I am not saying I’m perfect – late night frozen pizza on the weekends may or may not be my guilty pleasure. But if it hadn’t been for finding ways to enhance my athletic performance, I’d still be blindly shopping the food isles without so much as a glance at a nutrition label. Educating myself on ingredients has led me to abandon most of my former favorite foods which was sad at first.  However, after switching to low or no processed foods, they don’t even taste good to me anymore.

It is one thing to allow sodium laden, trans-fat filled, corn syrup loaded, and petroleum colored “food” as choices, and another one entirely to allow manufacturers to deceptively “fortify them with vitamins” and label it as healthy. Between being bombarded by processed products that are falsely disguised as food in the grocery aisle and the cheap fast food on every corner, we don’t  stand a chance.

I could go on and on about our food system but it is easier to just keep it simple. I have a list of ingredients I avoid completely and make it a rule to only shop the outer perimeter of the store. Luckily, by avoiding most of the isles in the middle, you also avoid the most harmful processed foods. All the fresh meat, dairy, and produce surround them and, aside from choosing hormone/pesticide free, they are most likely your best choices.

Should you decide to venture down the cereal or snack aisle, I encourage you to read the ingredients on every label. If there are more than a handful listed, or if you can’t pronounce something, keep walking. Here are the most common culprits to avoid:

Trans fats – manufacturers are now required to eliminate trans fat from products but are still allowed to use it if it is under a certain amount per serving. In order to get around this, they usually just make the serving size smaller. Look for partially-hydrogenated oils in the ingredients and stay away from this heart killer.

Sodium – It is no secret that we love salt. But many processed foods have an unnecessary amount hidden away which increases our intake without our knowledge.

High fructose corn syrup – It’s nothing more than cheap sugar. It is in everything and I do mean everything, from breads, beer, and bacon to cereal, spaghetti sauce, and soft drinks. This sweetener upsets the metabolism and increases the risk for diabetes. No thank you.

Artificial colorings – Isn’t it nice when the color of your food makes your eyes glimmer? Not when the additive that makes it look so pretty is linked to tumors, asthma, and ADHD.

There are countless preservatives beyond these that are used in our foods. Obviously, the government is doing nothing to change things. So, we’re on our own. It’s up to us to choose what we put in our body.

Hobby is Just Another Word for Distraction

I’m Kim and currently sun-starved in Seattle. It is the beginning of winter gloom, but luckily it is December. Holiday cheer and bright lights serve as a pleasant distraction from my lack of vitamin D absorption. Festive, over-indulgent parties, full booze and edibles certainly help too. But once December ends, the distractions are few and far between. Yeah, I know: resolutions. Thing is, I don’t really do resolutions.

 

Sure, they make you feel better about partaking in all those parties. For a bit. But it just seems like a giant shock to your system to suddenly switch gears. That inevitably leads to failure, at least for me, having reached my late twenties without having had found much success with the once a year push for resolve.  I’m really not as pessimistic as this sounds. Really. I am, however, all about finding balance which is why I compete in triathlons and incorporate yoga into my daily routine.

 

Having a sport or two to focus on forces me to make better choices. Of course I still imbibe (maybe a little too often) in drinks with friends and the occasional late night pizza binge but the rest of the time I am pretty damn adamant about choosing healthy non-processed foods. And not just in January, but ALL year long.

 

So that brings me back to finding a distraction from winter gloom. Since I incorporate these habits throughout the year, I need something fresh to keep me occupied when it feels like 20 below and all I want to do is huddle under the covers. With my on again, off again dating life, I think it’s time to blog. I know. I’m a little late to the game; who doesn’t have a blog now? But better late than never! Right?

 

I already love micro-blogging (read: obsessed with Facebook and Twitter), so long form blogging seemed like the logical next step. An outlet for my random thoughts about life, rants about proper nutrition, struggles and triumphs in training, and maybe some juicy details about my  on again, off again dating life.

 

I’m not sure who will read this, maybe just me. I do hope to spark some inspiration or discussion with others who also feel  like they are navigating their late-twenties blindly but realize that it is possible to at least get through this and sun-deprivation with a positive outlook on what life has to offer.