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The Dynamic Impact of Micronutrients: How to Achieve Peak Performance

Running isn’t just about putting one foot in front of the other; it’s a holistic experience that requires proper nutrition to reach peak performance. Macronutrients– carbohydrates, proteins, and fats- often steal the spotlight. It’s the lesser-known heroes, the micronutrients, that play a crucial role in supporting a runner’s journey. Let’s explore the importance of micronutrients in running and how they contribute to overall performance and well-being.

What are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients encompass a variety of vitamins, minerals and organic acids that are essential for various bodily functions. These include vitamins such as vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K, and carotenoids. Minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and organic acids such as lactic acid, citric acid, choline and taurine. While they are required in smaller quantities compared to macronutrients, their importance should not be underestimated.

Vitamins role on Running Performance

Vitamin A

Vitamin A’s role in bolstering immune function ensures runners can maintain consistent training without succumbing to illness. With muscle repair, promoting bone health and acting as an antioxidant, vitamin A aids in minimizing the risk of injuries. Also, vitamin A reduces exercise-induced inflammation, contributing to enhanced endurance and faster recovery times.

B Vitamins

B vitamins include thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12). whew, those are a mouthful! Let’s refer to these as the B complex vitamins. These vitamins act as coenzymes in various metabolic pathways crucial for energy production. They play a synergistic role in macronutrient metabolism, ensuring a steady supply of fuel for our running endeavors. Moreover, B6 and B12, are involved in red blood cell production, contributing to optimal oxygen delivery to working muscles. Incorporating a diverse array of B vitamin-rich foods like whole grains, lean meats, dairy products, legumes, and leafy greens into your diet can help sustain energy levels and support peak performance.

Vitamin C

For runners, maintaining a robust immune system is paramount to sustaining consistent training and performance. Enter vitamin C, a potent antioxidant renowned for its immune-boosting properties. This vitamin helps protect against oxidative stress induced by intense exercise, reducing the risk of illness and promoting faster recovery. Additionally, vitamin C supports collagen synthesis, aiding in the repair of connective tissues and minimizing the risk of injuries such as tendonitis. Load up on vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli to fortify your immune defenses.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”. Beyond its well-known contribution to bone health, vitamin D influences various physiological processes crucial for endurance and recovery in runners. Adequate levels of vitamin D are associated with improved muscle strength and coordination reducing the risk of injury during runs. Its impact on mood regulation and mental well-being further enhances running performance by promoting motivation and resilience. As such, ensuring sufficient vitamin D intake, whether through sunlight exposure or dietary sources like fatty fish and fortified foods, is essential for runners seeking to maximize their potential.

Vitamin E

As runners push their bodies to the limit, they generate oxidative stress, leading to muscle damage and fatigue. Vitamin E swoops in as a potent antioxidant, neutralizing harmful free radicals and reducing exercise-induced inflammation, ultimately promoting faster recovery. Moreover, vitamin E supports cardiovascular health by protecting against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which can contribute to plaque buildup in the vessels. Enhanced blood flow and reduced muscle damage translate to improved endurance, enabling runners to sustain higher levels of exertion for longer durations. To harness the benefits of vitamin E, incorporating sources like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and vegetable oils into the diet is essential.

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are a group of pigments found in various fruits and vegetables, and wield a notable influence on exercise performance and recovery. By scavenging free radicals generated during physical activity, beta-carotene aids in protecting cells and tissues from damage. Moreover, certain carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, have been linked to improved eye health and visual acuity, enhancing coordination and agility during exercise.

Minerals

Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral involved in muscle contraction, enabling runners to move efficiently as well as regulating nerve impulses, ensuring proper communication between the brain and muscles. Additionally, calcium contributes to maintaining electrolyte balance, supporting optimal hydration levels and preventing muscle cramps during prolonged workouts.

Iron

One of the most crucial micronutrients for runners is iron. This mineral serves as the cornerstone of hemoglobin, the molecule responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. Adequate iron levels are paramount for maximizing aerobic capacity and staving off fatigue during long runs. Without sufficient iron intake, runners may experience decreased energy levels, impaired endurance, and even symptoms of anemia. Incorporating iron-rich foods like lean meats, leafy greens, legumes, and fortified grains into your diet can help maintain optimal iron levels and support peak performance.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a micronutrient that often flies under the radar but plays a pivotal role in energy metabolism and muscle function. As runners, we rely on magnesium to convert carbohydrates into energy, regulate muscle contractions, and maintain electrolyte balance. Deficiencies in magnesium can manifest as muscle cramps, fatigue, and impaired performance. To ensure optimal magnesium intake, incorporate magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens into your diet, and consider magnesium supplementation if necessary.

Quercetin

Quercetin

Potassium

During exercise, potassium works alongside sodium to regulate fluid balance and hydration levels within the body. Potassium is also involved in nerve signaling and muscle contractions, including the contraction of the heart muscle, which is essential for maintaining a regular heartbeat. Potassium also plays a role in supporting kidney function by aiding in the elimination of waste products.

Zinc

Zinc plays a role in immune function, helping to support the body’s defenses against infections and illnesses that could sideline training efforts. Involved in protein synthesis, zinc aids in the repair and growth of muscle tissue damaged during exercise. Furthermore, zinc contributes to the production of testosterone, a hormone important for muscle growth and strength.

Organic Acids

Organic acids, such as citric acid and malic acid, are involved in the Krebs cycle, also known as the citric acid cycle, which is a central pathway for energy production in cells. During exercise, organic acids help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary source of energy for muscle contractions. organic acids can help regulate pH levels in the body, buffering the acidic byproducts produced during intense exercise. While organic acids are naturally produced in the body, certain foods and supplements, such as citrus fruits and tart cherry juice, contain high levels of these compounds and may offer additional benefits.

From providing energy and oxygen transport to supporting immune function, bone health, and muscle repair, micronutrients contribute to every aspect of a runner’s journey. Ensuring sufficient intake of micronutrients through a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, as well as supplements when needed, not only optimize running performance but also promote longevity and overall vitality.

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Embracing the Benefits of Clean Eating: A Nutrient-Rich Journey

In a world filled with processed foods and tempting indulgences, the concept of clean eating has gained significant traction among health-conscious individuals. Clean eating involves consuming whole, minimally processed foods that are rich in nutrients, providing the body with the fuel it needs to function optimally. This approach to nutrition offers a myriad of benefits, ranging from improved overall health to increased energy levels. Let’s delve into the advantages of clean eating and explore a delicious recipe that exemplifies this wholesome lifestyle.

Benefits of Clean Eating:

Nutrient Dense

One of the key benefits of clean eating is the emphasis on nutrient-dense foods. Whole fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support various bodily functions. These nutrient-rich foods contribute to overall well-being, boost the immune system, and promote optimal organ function.

Weight Management

Clean eating encourages a balanced and sustainable approach to weight management. By choosing whole foods over processed options, individuals can maintain a healthy weight more effectively. Whole foods are often lower in calories and higher in fiber, promoting satiety and reducing the likelihood of overeating.

Increased Energy Levels

The nutrient-packed nature of clean foods can lead to increased energy levels. Unlike the temporary spikes and crashes associated with processed sugars, clean eating provides a steady release of energy throughout the day. This sustained energy helps improve focus, productivity, and overall vitality.

Improved Digestive Health

Whole, unprocessed foods are rich in dietary fiber, promoting healthy digestion. Fiber aids in maintaining regular bowel movements, preventing constipation, and supporting a balanced gut microbiome. Clean eating can contribute to a healthier digestive system, reducing the risk of gastrointestinal issues.

Enhanced Mental Clarity

The connection between nutrition and mental health is gaining recognition, and clean eating plays a crucial role in supporting cognitive function. Nutrient-rich foods, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts, have been linked to improved concentration, memory, and overall brain health.

A Wholesome Recipe: Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Herb Dressing

Now, let’s explore a delicious and nutritious recipe that exemplifies the principles of clean eating: Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Herb Dressing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

For the Lemon-Herb Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until quinoa is cooked and water is absorbed.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, and parsley.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the Lemon-Herb Dressing: olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
  4. Pour the dressing over the quinoa and vegetable mixture. Toss gently until well combined.
  5. Serve the quinoa salad chilled, and enjoy a nutritious, flavorful meal that embodies the principles of clean eating.

Embracing a clean eating lifestyle brings numerous benefits, from improved nutrient intake to enhanced overall well-being. By choosing whole, minimally processed foods, individuals can nourish their bodies with the essential nutrients needed for optimal health. Incorporating wholesome recipes like the Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Herb Dressing can make clean eating not only beneficial but also delicious and satisfying. So, take a step towards a healthier you by making clean eating a part of your daily routine.

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Transform your Health: Ultimate Whole 30 Meal Plan with Recipes!

With Grocery Lists and Recipe Links!

Truth be told, I failed my first attempt at Whole 30 two years ago, (eek, shamed face). Now you may be asking, why in the world would I start by saying that?! That’s not encouraging at all! But that’s just the opposite. We are all on our own Whole 30 journey at different stages. For some this is your first try too, and if you’re in that category I am so happy to share what mistakes to avoid. Some of you have completed several Whole 30’s before and you’re here for the most simple and elaborate whole 30 menu with grocery list and recipe links from start to finish. No matter your reason, I’m glad you’re here!

The Whole 30 Recipes

There are SO MANY amazing Whole 30 recipes! So I’ve actually spent the past few months taste testing dozens in preparation for my next Whole 30. That leads to recommendation #1 for success- plan your meals! My first attempt at Whole 30, I planned only a few meals, and then thought I could just ‘wing it’ for each additional meal based on what I felt like eating. Well what I felt like eating was Dr Pepper and sourdough bread, duh! haha Lucky for you, I’ve done all the hard work for you with this complete Meal plan.

This Whole 30 meal plan is unique in that it doesn’t have you cooking every night. Which leads me to Recommendation #2- set your expectations realistically! Ideally, I’d love to make a home-cooked meal with fresh diced vegetables and slow cooked meat everyday. But that time-consuming plan doesn’t exactly fit in my daily Full time work and two busy kiddos schedule! This Whole 30 meal plan focuses on prepping wholesome delicious meals every 5 days, with grocery lists to accommodate every 10 days. I know that every 5 days is a bit odd and will land on some weekdays of meal prepping, but as a Nurse Practitioner working 12 days on and 9 days off, making three meals every 5th day is doable for everybody! (even on a weekday). So without further ado,

A Complete Whole 30 Meal Plan

Click on each meal for the recipe link!

Know that you won’t be alone on this journey, there are so many wonderful resources out there to support you, myself included! I am starting my second attempt at Whole 30 in TWO days, eek!! I’ve signed up to run a Half Marathon in March and this time around I’m dedicated to Whole 30 for that ‘TIGER BLOOD!’ Which leads to Recommendation #3- know that Whole 30 is temporary! The first time around my goal was to quit sugar, (primarily my addiction to Dr Pepper). And although quitting sugar for good is an honest goal, it was not a goal I could sustain for the rest of my life. So I figured, what’s the difference of no sugar for 30 days vs the 16 days when I quit.

Look at this Whole 30 adventure as a new discipline

Let me explain. Ever since my two year old first tried Halloween candy he asks me daily, “I wan canne mama” and most days I have to tell him “No” and endure the 10 minute temper tantrum to follow. But when was the last time you or I told ourselves no? If I want Halloween candy, I eat it. This upcoming 30 days we get to enjoy delicious food that nourishes our body, but that comes with discipline for our mind! So help yourself out just a bit more to ease your mind, Recommendation #4- Eat food you normally eat! Our family eats Tacos and spaghetti (Yum!) nearly every week. So that’s what we get in our Meal plan, delicious Spagetthi squash with meat sauce and Taco Salad!

The Grocery Lists

How the Meal plan works

As mentioned above, we’ll be meal prepping three meals every fifth day, and then making one dinner in between. All the meals on the plan have a link to the recipe if you click on them! (That’s my favorite part of the simplicity of the plan! 🙂 The grocery lists are broken down so you’re only going shopping 3 times during the 30 days- that way your veggies are still fresh, but you’re not spending all your time at the store. The first ‘Stock your pantry’ day I’d like you to CHECK your pantry first! I had nearly every one of these spices already in my cabinet, so please don’t spend the extra money if you don’t have to. And if you happen to have a deep freezer, make one big trip to Costco before you get started and you can have all your meat ready to go also.

So here we go! God give me the strength to be mindful of what I eat and drink and enjoy this journey of Whole 30!

I’d Love to hear your comments on which recipes you enjoyed and tips to your success of Whole 30 below! Also Be sure to subscribe and follow our journey as We Run the States!

15 of the Most Inspiring Running Quotes

I am so Thankful to be able to run! Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner, a casual jogger, or someone just lacing up their shoes for the first time, there’s something undeniably transformative about hitting the pavement or the trail. With that being said, there are many times where I lack the motivation to just get up and go! Here are 15 of the most inspiring running quotes to help keep you motivated!

In this post, we’ve curated a collection of 15 inspiring running quotes that encapsulate the essence of why we run, the challenges we overcome, and the triumphs we experience along the way. From world-renowned figures to everyday enthusiasts, these quotes serve as reminders of the resilience, determination, and joy that running can instill in us.

Looking for a Half Marathon training schedule? Got ya covered!

  • “Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles”
  • “The race always hurts. Expect it to hurt. You don’t train so it doesn’t hurt, you train so you can tolerate it”
  • “There will be days when I don’t know if I can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime knowing that I have”

In essence, running quotes serve as catalysts for inspiration, motivation, and reflection, empowering us to push past our limits, embrace our potential, and find joy in the journey, one step at a time.

  • “There is something magical about running; after a certain distance it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul”
  • “The person who starts a race is not the same person who finishes”
  • “That’s the thing about running; your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is”
  • “While I was running today I heard someone clapping, it was just my thighs cheering me on”.
  • “Wake up and go to work on yourself, before you go to work for anyone else”.
  • “One day I won’t be able to do this. Today is not that day.”
  • “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run”. – John Bingham.
  • “Run the mile you are in”

Running quotes offer a source of motivation during challenging times. When the miles seem endless and the finish line feels out of reach, a well-chosen quote can reignite our determination and push us forward.

  • “Years ago, women sat in kitchens drinking coffee and discussing life. Today they cover the same topics while they run”.
  • “Running is a grownup’s lost link to playing outside”

So, whether you’re seeking motivation to tackle your next race, looking for a push to start your running journey, or simply in need of a dose of inspiration, we invite you to join us as we explore the profound impact of running through the wisdom and words of others. Lace up your shoes, hit the pavement, and let’s dive into these uplifting running quotes that remind us why we love to run.

BONUS: “Do not regret getting older, it’s a privilege denied to many”.

These 16 inspiring running quotes keep me motivated, and I hope they motivate you as well!

Looking for a Nutrition plan to Fuel your running? This Whole 30 Meal plan is complete with grocery List!

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Run to the Stars: Boston bound, NASA unbound

Hey fellow running enthusiasts! Lace up those running shoes and get ready for an out-of-this-world adventure in Huntsville, Alabama. This charming city is not only a haven for avid runners who are Boston bound, but also home to the iconic NASA Space and Rocket Center. This makes it the perfect destination for a weekend full of fitness and cosmic exploration.

Location: Huntsville, Alabama

Date: September 11, 2022

Distance: 13.1 miles

Lace up for the “Boston or Bust” Half Marathon

The Boston or Bust Half Marathon is not just your typical race; it’s a celebration of determination and the pursuit of personal goals. The fast and flat route winds through the picturesque trees of Huntsville. But beware, the humidity was pretty intense and took time to adjust to. Another race that guides you through the overarching trees that I highly recommend is the famous Idaho potato half marathon. This run offers runners a unique blend of southern charm and urban beauty. The camaraderie among participants with the small intimate race created an uplifting atmosphere that fueled my every step.

As I approached the finish line with the iconic Boston Marathon qualifying goal in mind, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Although I am nowhere near a Boston qualifying time, I still completed race through the tough humidity and continue on the Boston bound journey. The support from both volunteers and fellow runners made the experience unforgettable.

NASA Space and Rocket Center

Exploring the NASA Space and Rocket Center: No visit to Northern Alabama is complete without a trip to the NASA Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. Just a short drive from the marathon venue, this iconic space exploration facility offers an immersive experience for visitors of all ages. From awe-inspiring rocket displays to interactive exhibits detailing the history of space exploration, the center provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of astronauts and the marvels of outer space.

Travis in his Astronaut suit

Highlights at the Space and Rocket Center:

  1. Space Shuttle Pathfinder: Get up close and personal with the Space Shuttle Pathfinder, a full-scale model used for astronaut training.
  2. Saturn V Rocket: Marvel at the Saturn V Rocket. The iconic vehicle that carried astronauts to the moon during the Apollo missions.
  3. Interactive Exhibits: Engage with hands-on exhibits, simulators, and educational displays that make learning about space exploration a fun and enriching experience.

Soak in the local experience

Huntsville isn’t just about running and space exploration; it also boasts a vibrant local scene. After the race and museum visit, unwind at one of Huntsville’s charming local eateries or craft breweries. The city has a burgeoning food and beverage scene, offering a variety of culinary delights that cater to all tastes.

Huntsville, Alabama, provides a unique blend of physical activity, intellectual stimulation, and local charm. Whether you’re conquering the Boston or Bust Half Marathon, exploring the NASA Space and Rocket Center, or savoring the local flavors, this destination promises an unforgettable experience for runners and space enthusiasts alike. So, lace up those running shoes for your last opportunity before the Boston marathon cutoff. Get ready for a stellar adventure in the Rocket City!

Looking for more Out of this world runs? The Zion at night half marathon, Great Ferry Race and Happy Girls Run are all beautiful, highly recommended runs along the West coast. Check ’em out!

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How to use brain chemicals to improve running and reduce anxiety


Running a half marathon is an exhilarating experience that challenges both the mind and body. While physical training and endurance play crucial roles in completing this feat, another critical factor often goes overlooked: neuroscience. The intricate network of neurotransmitters in our brain greatly influences our performance during long-distance running and helps reduce anxiety. Let’s explore the impact of neurotransmitters on running a half marathon and shed light on how understanding their functions can enhance our training and race-day experiences.

1) Endorphins – Our Natural Performance Enhancer:


Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and mood boosters, released during intense exercise such as running. These neurotransmitters not only reduce pain perception but also create a state of euphoria, commonly referred to as “runner’s high.” Increased endorphin levels have been associated with improved endurance, decreased fatigue, heightened motivation, and increased tolerance for discomfort.

2) Dopamine – Fueling Motivation:


Dopamine is known as the “reward” neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation. During a half marathon run, dopamine helps maintain focus by rewarding small achievements along the way. By setting smaller goals throughout the race (such as reaching each mile marker), runners can trigger dopamine release to stay motivated mentally.

3) Serotonin – Regulating Mood & Confidence:


Serotonin plays an essential role in maintaining mood balance within our brain. As physical exertion increases during a half marathon, serotonin production is boosted significantly. My physical exertion was particularly high while pushing a double stroller in Vacation Race’s Grand Teton half marathon, but that race was the most rewarding to date. Higher serotonin levels contribute to elevated mood states that improve mental resilience against stress and fatigue while fostering self-confidence.

4) GABA – Reducing Anxiety & Stress:


Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for calming neural activity within our brains. During long-distance running events like marathons or half marathons, GABA helps reduce anxiety and stress levels, enabling runners to achieve a more relaxed and focused state of mind. This neurotransmitter aids in warding off negative thoughts or self-doubt, thus improving overall performance.

5) Norepinephrine – Boosting Alertness & Concentration:


Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter associated with focus, attention, and alertness. During a half marathon run, norepinephrine is released in response to the physical exertion, heightening mental clarity and focus. This heightened concentration reduces stress by allowing runners to make split-second decisions necessary for maintaining pace and navigating the racecourse effectively.

Understanding how neurotransmitters affect running performance can significantly enhance our approach to training for a half marathon. By tapping into the power of endorphins to boost endurance or utilizing dopamine as motivation fuel, athletes can optimize their mental state during training sessions and reduce anxiety on race day. Additionally, balancing serotonin levels helps maintain positive moods throughout the journey while GABA mitigates anxiety-inducing thoughts.

To succeed in running long-distance events like a half marathon requires not only physical strength but also mental fortitude. Harnessing the power of neurotransmitters through proper training techniques can help runners conquer challenges that may arise during races. As we deepen our understanding of how these brain chemicals influence our performance, we unlock new avenues for personal growth both within sports and beyond.

Next stop, Too cold to hold half marathon in Austin, TX!

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How Meditation takes the Pain out of hard running

This blog post took me a long time to write, more than two months actually. From the start I knew exactly what I wanted to say- how important meditation is for running- but I couldn’t find the words. Like most Americans, meditative practice does not come easy for me. I wasn’t raised to routinely get out of bed, brush my teeth and meditate. It takes practice. And I think that’s why this post was so hard for me to write. As much practice and repetition as running has taken me to get a personal record, and as much practice meditation takes to quiet my mind; Writing for a blog takes a lot of practice too. So here’s my attempt. 🙂

I think we’ve all hit that running pain threshold before. You’re out on a long run, with a set distance in mind. Half way through your run, you start to endure pain. For me in particular, it’s a sheering pain on the lateral (outside) aspect of my right knee. Ouch! This knee pain happens every run over 8 miles for me, and I’ve come to expect the pain, even after ten years of running! I know it’s not an injury because the pain passes shortly after finishing my run. But meditation has taught me to shift my focus and lessen the pain. Let’s start with how to practice meditation.

group yoga and meditation in Bali

Learning how to meditate

I set myself up for meditation like a newborn novice always imagined this practice would go. By sitting in a still-water hot tub, with my thumb touching pointer finger, Legs crossed in a pretzel and gently close my eyes. I start the meditative practice with a humble “Oooooommmm” – long on the exhale- and chuckle. “I must look like a real hippy,” I think, “hopefully I don’t get caught. That would be embarrassing.”

Although slightly embarassed, I continue meditating because I strongly desire the benefits meditation has promised for running improvements.

I then start on breath work. Slow inhale, counting in my head to One. Slow exhale, sighing with my mouth slightly open. count to Two. Again, One…. two. It’s now that I finally notice how uncomfortable I am. My shoulders are slouched. This puts a twinge of pain between my shoulder blades. There’s a bead of sweat on my forehead from the heat. “Maybe this serene hot tub was not as ideal as I had imagined“, I think.

Our newborn goats are bleating in the background and I wish they would be quieter. ‘Can’t they see I’m trying to meditate here?’ I peek one eye open, making the movement sly, as if I’m cheating in Jr. high science by glancing around the propped up folder. There’s nobody around to catch me, I’m only cheating my own practice. With a side glance, one eye open, I look at the clock. It’s been two minutes. A measly two minutes and my mind has already wandered. I feel like I’m failing at mediation entirely, and that I’ll never get it right.

meditating in Bali

Meditation snaps us out of autopilot and into awareness.

I need more meditative practice, I think. Let’s try again. I close my eyes once more and start a slow, steady breath in. It’s very intimate to feel all of your senses. The goats continue to wail in the background, but I’m able to dim them. I hear the echoing of the black-capped chickadee bird whistling three syllables, which has an uncanny consistency sounding like “cheese-bur-ger”. The wind has a very soft rustle through the fir trees close to me that carries a breeze to caress my cheek and cool me down. This gently pushes that bead of sweat from my brow to my raised cheekbone.

During meditative practice, this uncomfortable perspiration is no longer irritating, rather comforting.

sweat is my body’s automatic protective measure to keep me cool. I am grateful for that salt-filled bead of sweat and resist the urge to wipe it away. I’ve always been dependent on sight as my primary sense. But during this meditation, my other senses flourish. The smell of fresh cut grass fills my brain, and although I know the grass was recently mowed, with this sense of smell I can now “see it”. The fragrance is clean, almost moist and reminds me summer is ending and Fall is drawing nearer. “Don’t forget to plant your winter squash”, my mind reminds me.

The chatter from my mind has wandered back into my meditative practice. I smile, acknowledge the thought and push it right back to the background. This is normal, and my todo list can wait.

I focus on breath work through the body. What is the purpose of breath work and it’s profound presence in the meditative practice? Slow, long inhale in, through slightly flared nostrils. The air is slightly chilled as the morning fog is clearing. I am deeply grateful for the hot tub water that warms me now. Inhale, One. My abdomen billows with air and my diaphragm expands my rib cage and my shoulders, that are no longer slouched. There is still a twinge of pain between my shoulder blades. The pain is neither good nor bad- simply present- like the rest of my body.

meditation for running
Meditation takes the pain out of running

Recognizing the pain in endurance running

During endurance running we anticipate pain. Whether you are pushing your pace for a faster personal record, or pushing for a further distance, pain ensures. Meditation allows us to snap out of running in autopilot and zoom out our perception of that pain. This gives us a ‘birds eye’ awareness into what you are actually experiencing. You are able to objectively tell yourself, ‘There is pain here right now’. This is the raw data that also assures you, ‘this pain will not last forever’.

During both meditative practice and endurance running, a strategy to lessen your pain will be to use the acronym,

R.A.I.N.

Recognize the emotion.

Running is hard, recognize that you are doing hard things! Pain is part of the living process. And It’s a normal process, to warn our bodies something may be causing harm. Recognizing you have pain allows you to tell yourself, “yes, you have knee pain, and this too shall pass”.

Allow life to be, just as it is.

After acknowledging that your pain is present during the run, accept this emotion is how you feel right now. Even if that feeling is unwelcome. Allowing your emotion towards pain gives you the space to create power over, and freedom from the pain.

Investigate with self compassion.

What does that running pain feel like? Narrow your focus. For me, my right knee generally begins to hurt after mile 8. This pain is on the outside portion of my right knee and has a dull ache. It will slowly radiate to my right hip and I am keenly aware how I could spend more time focusing on stretching my hips and foam rolling my IT band after my run. Thankfully this knee pain is not a prolonged injury.

Non-identification.

This is where your meditative practice is able to take the pain out of running. Pain is part of the living process, suffering does not have to be. When you’re able to view the pain in running as a passing event and temporary, it softly dissipates. My knee aches while running a half marathon, but all the other participants of the same race are also enduring pain as well. Perhaps in different locations in their body, but this pain is not fixed within you, and this pain shall pass.

(*Knee disclaimer* I feel it’s very important to emphasize running does not cause ‘bad knees’ with age. This is a very common misconception. I have knee pain because I neglect other aspects of running that are so important, mainly stretching my hips. In fact, running actually strengthens the knees and prevents osteoarthritis. By regularly running, the weight bearing exercise brings more fluid to the joints to keep them lubricated. This benefits your joints and overall health. This post is a reminder to myself to incorporate yoga into my running practice.)

Using RAIN during endurance runs has helped my mindset tremendously. My thought process has shifted from, “this hurts, I can’t finish” to an appreciation of how strong my body has become through training for half marathons. I hope you’re able to use this tool to improve your running performance.

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Well, after two months I’ve posted! Let me know any way I can improve the way I presented meditation, running endurance or my writing!

Clean Eating Weekly Meal Plan for easy weeknight dinners

I enjoy preparing an easy, clean eating weekly meal plan every week. Spending a few hours in my kitchen on Sunday ensures that the week runs smoothly and is well worth the investment. I’m like any other full-time working, busy-running-errands mom, so having a few “one-pot wonders” are great for planning and clean up.

With young active kids, we have soccer practice a few days a week, hence the crockpot cooking on Tuesday and “planned overs” on Thursday. I prefer using the term ‘planned over’ instead ‘left over’. There is always extra food after dinner, no how delicious the recipe, so let’s plan to eat it at another time! I know we’ll be in a crunch for time this week, so this way we’re set up for success. Today I’d just like to share how easy your week can be with this clean eating weekly meal plan.

Clean Eating Weekly Meal Plan

What’s on the menu?

Monday- Jambalaya. Let’s start our week out Spicy! but not too spicy, we’ve got kids to feed too! This easy weeknight meal is made in foil packets for super easy cleanup. (TIP: I generally will add Adele’s chicken sausage instead of skinless chicken breast)

Tuesday- Crockpot Chicken Enchilada soup. Top with sour cream, fresh cilantro, tomatoes and avocados in order to cool this hot summer dish down.

Wednesday- Tri Tip. Using the grill outdoors is an economical way to keep the oven off and your house cooler this summer. Any grill will do the trick, we just happen to have a Traegar, so I’ve linked the recipe accordingly. An amazing way to use Tri tip ‘planned overs’ for lunch is adding a French hoagie roll and au jus for a French dip sandwich.

Thursday- Planned overs. I’m sure you won’t be too devastated to repeat Jambalaya, enchilada soup and Tri tip tonight.

Friday- Mahi Mahi with mango salsa. This is one of my absolute favorite summer recipes. The wild caught white fish compliments the tropical notes of mango perfectly. For added perfection, add a glass of chilled white wine, Happy Friday!

Meal plan to strengthen your Running

This Summer is filled with training for Fall races. And Nutrition is the core to all training plans. I have two half marathons and my first triathlon planned! Riding a road bike and swimming in open water are definitely engaging new muscle groups for me. What races do you have planned for this Fall? Never run a half marathon before? Here’s a list of reasons you haven’t run a half marathon, and how to overcome them!

Travel

Here are a few Fall half marathons. Rock ‘n Roll series, run the strip at night Las Vegas, Nevada and Happy girls run Sisters, Oregon. If there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s plan your running attire according to the most recent weather predicted. Otherwise you’ll end up running a half marathon in booty shorts at night in the snow!

Download the Clean eating weekly meal plan above and Click for a link to the recipe.

Decade of glorious Running: How to travel each state racing Half Marathons

Neural bias is the concept that, most people have a skewed idea of their accomplishments over time. If I ask you, How much do you expect to change in the next 10 years? Likely many will answer, ‘probably not much’. However if I reflect the same question, How much have you changed over the past 10 years? your answer will likely be, A LOT. In my case, 10 years from now, I still anticipate to be on a journey to travel each state racing half marathons, practicing as a nurse practitioner, and raising my kids; I don’t expect much to change. I originally read a decade of running from Runningtotravel. And what perfect timing it is to review, as I ran my first race exactly ten years ago…

2012 San Francisco, CA

I had zero experience running. The furthest I had ever run was the one-mile that was enforced in high school as part of the P.E. program. Even that one mile, (way back in 2004, may I add) was a slow jog walk. Still to this day, I don’t know what enticed me to run my first half marathon. My best friend was interested in the idea of running a race, and generally you tend to follow characteristics of those closest to you. So we both thought, why not?

If other people could run a half marathon, we could too.

So we signed up for Diva’s San Francisco half marathon. I don’t remember much else about that first race except, I never had any intention of signing up for another race ever again. That one run was supposed to be a one-time deal. Accomplish the goal, and then move on. Well we finished that race with a high five across the finish line! and the running itch began to travel each state.

2013 Humboldt Redwoods, CA & Puerto Rico

So what do you do when you feel on top of the world accomplishing your first half marathon? You got it, sign up for something bigger and better. Avenue of the Giants Marathon. This time we actually had intention of training properly for our endevour. This was before we had kids- or many responsibilities- so most of our time was centered around running. We trained up to 20 consecutive miles in Lake Tahoe elevation and felt pretty darn prepared to rock our first full marathon.

Let’s put it this way, this was my first and Only Full marathon. The mind grows weary after that many miles. After mile 23 my body and mind were both exhausted and I stopped pushing. I did finish the race, coming in over 5 hours. But this full marathon taught me to travel each state for half marathon’s as they are more more my vibe.

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Avenue of the Giants Marathon

I haven’t written much about running Diva’s Puerto Rico half marathon, but it was definitely worth the adventure. I was 11 weeks pregnant with my first child and had a shirt made for the announcement. Unfortunately, my luggage didn’t make the connection flight and I was left running in somebody else’s clothing and shoes. Add some pregnancy nausea, vomiting every mile along the course, and a downpour of rain; needless to say this was not my favorite run. I ended up sleeping 36 hours straight after the race, only waking long enough to take a sip of water and vomit. Running a half marathon pregnant was a lot harder than I expected.

2014 Las Vegas, NV Running the strip at night

Running the Las Vegas strip at night is an experience like no other. It really is magical to feel like the center of attention in one of the most iconic cities in America.

This happens to be one of my worst running experiences to date. I was definitely not used to running at night, and being sleep deprived as a new 5-month postpartum mom, I did not prepare accordingly. I had expected a hot desert night so I wore shorts and a tank. And to my surprise, the night started spitting out snow! I also had expected food options at the venue and there were none once you entered the gates. So I started this run after 12 hours fasting. I crossed the finish line nearly crying in pain and cold, and my husband had to carry me back to our hotel. There was no celebrating on the Vegas strip for us that night.

2015 Sisters, OR

Sisters, OR is absolutely stunning and I can’t wait to go back and visit. I believe that is one of the most amazing parts of this We Run the States journey, to discover all the beauty America has to offer. Jenn and I made a road trip up to Oregon, belting 2000’s hits with the radio the entire way, of course.

This was a trail run entirely downhill. I pushed my pace a little too hard in the beginning, hoping to break the under 2 hour mark that I had not trained for. The last mile was grueling and I planned to frown across the finish line.

The announcer read my name, “Laura Orange…. Orange you glad you came to Sisters?” The innocence of the joke made me laugh and the photographer caught me smiling across the finish.

2016 no travel to a new state

Do you ever wish you could jump in the dolorian time machine from back to the future and do something over? I did not run a half marathon in 2016. (insert sad face here). I am quite disappointed this is the only year I did not run a half marathon over the past decade, (In 2021 I ran FOUR different states.) But this year also taught me a HUGE lesson, that running all 50 states is a JOURNEY. Reflecting back, it actually makes sense I chose not to run this year. I was pregnant, with a busy two year old, while also working as a labor and delivery nurse and finishing my graduate program as a Nurse practitioner. To say my hands were full was an understatement. Throughout this journey I have learned to give myself some grace.

The next half of the decade in review coming shortly!

we run the states

What To Do When Half Marathon Is Derailed With Unexpected Injury

Training for a half marathon is a commitment of time and energy to yourself. With 12-weeks of preparation, your training can be derailed with unexpected injury or illness and have such an impact on the outcome of the race. I’ve alway considered myself a particularly healthy individual. With an education in healthcare, I write about endurance running & form, clean eating, and how traveling the world improves your mental health and creativity. During my training for the Idaho potato half marathon, I was diagnosed with a new autoimmune disease that shocked my core to the very being.

How in the world did I end up being admitted to a hospital for a week with extreme gut pain? How could this happen to me? Then of course the subsequent self-doubt mind chatter follows. Did I cause this autoimmune disease? Did I eat too much sugar? Was this caused by recent stress during the pandemic and moving my family to a different state, or lack of sleep being a full-time mom and working?

According to national Institute for health, more than 7% of the American population suffers from Autoimmune disease and the prevalence is rising. Triggers of autoimmune disease include stress, diet, exercise, insufficient sleep, and yet again I’m angered with this diagnosis wondering,

‘I thought I was healthy, what the heck happened?

Moving forward, learning to control my symptoms of autoimmune disorder I appreciate the wealth of knowledge regarding clean eating and food to nourish my body. To gain perspective on the healing effects of clean eating for our bodies, let’s begin with the most underrated organ of our body, our gut. Here are a few facts that absolutely blew my mind about our gut’s amazing abilities.

  • One ounce of our stool (poop), has more microbes than there are people living on this entire planet! Wow! Each one of us holds our own ecosystem within our gut.
  • Your Genome has the potential to grow over 400 million different ecosystems. That translates to, if you’re not happy with your body‘s performance now, go and build one of the other 399 million options your genome has potential of. You’re microbiome changes every three days!

You can focus on changing your gut ecosystem from sedentary lifestyle to Elite athlete with proper clean eating nutrition.

Meaning, There’s Hope for you and me!

  • 95% of serotonin originates in your gut. Serotonin is a neurochemical in your brain that controls mood, which is why when you’re feeling loved you can get ‘butterfly’s in your tummy’. Also the use of an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) is the mainstay medication used to treat anxiety and depression. This means what you eat determines whether you have anxiety, depression, fatigue, fear, guilt.

With building entirely unique gut ecosystems, we literally become the phrase “you are what you eat!”

With more knowledge on gut health, let’s begin to provoke change. Finding a problem is liberating as it helps lead to a solution. The walls our our digestive tract are extremely thin, less than one cell in diameter. With certain foods the lining will become porous letting “bad bacteria” slip through the lining causing chronic inflammation.

Signs of chronic inflammation include:

  • Fatigue
  • abdominal or chest pain
  • mouth sores
  • fever
  • rashes
  • joint pain

(I have definitely experienced ALL of these symptoms personally, *and if you have, you should speak with your primary care provider*)

So what do we do about the rise of autoimmune disease, and how does this affect my running?

I had been training for a half marathon in Idaho. I highly considered cancelling my race after two separate admissions to the hospital to control my gut pain. Life had thrown me a curveball; just as it had done at the Grand Teton half marathon, when I unexpectedly had to push a double stroller for 13.1 miles.

But running a half marathon in each state is a journey within itself. The road trip across states with my best friends was be pivotal to my soul, and laughter I desperately need. Traveling to different states gives my body exposure to different microbiomes. And people with the ‘healthiest guts’ tend to have the greatest diversity of bacteria in their microbiome.

Plus, I have now given myself permission to walk the entire race with rest and bathroom stops as often as I need to.

This upcoming race will challenge me, even if I only walk the course. and that’s ok.

I can create one of the other 399 million potential microbiomes my genome is capable of creating. So I continue upon this clean eating lifestyle, and continue to learn and share my knowledge with you in hopes you can excel to your athletic potential as well.

For additional knowledge, I recommend taking Outside’s Learn “the gut health fix”, with Seamus Mullen. This master class has been pivotal in my understanding, and I highly recommend this course.

I write to you as a running coach to make suggestions to improve your performance. But YOU get to make the decisions. Choose options that honor your body and your practice.

I went on to start the famous Idaho potato Half marathon as planned, and I FINISHED the RACE STRONG!

we run the states
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