Fitness Update & Natural PMS Remedies

I haven’t posted a fitness update since I ran my half marathon in May. Since then my routine has completely changed because my fitness goals shifted from building endurance to building muscle. My body is very slow to build muscle in general, and when I’m doing any type of cardio in my weekly routine it becomes even harder. Since weight loss is the opposite of my goal, my current training and food plan reflects that. I’m so excited to share the progress I’ve made, and as a bonus, a couple of dietary and lifestyle changes I’ve made to maintain energy levels during those lethargic and headache-y days during the Luteal Phase* of my cycle.

*The Luteal Phase is one stage of the menstrual cycle that occurs after ovulation and before your period starts. Often times this is when “PMS” symptoms arise.

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My Current Workout Routine:

As many of you know from my previous fitness updates, I’ve been working with my good friend and personal trainer, Katie Berrey for nearly three years now. She owns Rebel Fitness & Nutrition in Eureka, California and is certified in plant based nutrition. If you’re interested in learning more about her business, check out her interview on my Women in Business Series.

https://thereallifeveganwife.com/2019/03/16/women-in-business-preview-katie-berrey-rebel-fitness-nutrition/

As a courtesy to her time and expertise I will never publicly post exact workouts or the exact plan that she puts together for me. I encourage all of you with serious fitness goals to try working with a personal trainer at least a few times to see how amazing your results can be when you trust a professional to help you.

For the last six months I’ve been doing an amended version of what Rebel Fitness calls the “Transformation Program.” Essentially the program includes customized daily workouts, training sessions when applicable, progress photos, measurements, muscle quality assessments, etc. Because Katie had a new baby (Asher, he’s adorbs) in September, the parts of the program that I can’t do myself have been put on hold until future notice. Currently I have an at-home program that Katie puts together that looks a little like this:

Monday: Arms

Tuesday: Heavy Hip Thrusts

Wednesday: Quick 30-45 minute glute and legs focused light weight circuit.

Thursday: Heavy Deadlifts

Friday: Quick 30-45 minute glute and legs focused light weight circuit – different than the first one.

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Rest or light exercise like yoga, Pilates, or a walk.

I absolutely love this routine because I’m working out five days a week instead of six. But here’s the deal – Last week I ran six miles on one of my rest days. So for me, the idea of resting is nice, but doesn’t always happen. It just depends on my mood, and more than anything I appreciate the flexibility in my schedule.

With this routine I’ve been able to “PR” (beat my personal record) in hip thrusts, deadlifts, and backsquats (when they were in my schedule). Going from running and lifting light weight, to occasionally doing cardio when the mood strikes, but mostly lifting heavy has been a great change for my mind and body. And I’ve definitely gotten substantially stronger, lifting more than pre-surgery for the first time. BUT I haven’t been going to Pilates or yoga for the last few months. During bridal season it can be extremely difficult to get workouts in if I have to leave my house to do them, or if they’re at any time other than 5am. Therefore, that part of my plan has been put on hold until this week. Now that my busiest season is over and we’re back from vacation, I can get into the routine of at least two classes per week to strengthen my core and improve flexibility, which in turn, improve my lifts and form.

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Food:

Other than my experiments with raw plant based eating, I’ve kept my nutrition fairly simple. I meal prep for work days and eat intuitively. Usually my daily food plan includes a smoothie for breakfast, a bowl of fruit for a snack, a salad for lunch, some mixed nuts and seeds as another snack, and then an unplanned dinner, because my husband likes them to be flexible. Because I found my results from eating raw to be so amazing, I’ve tried to incorporate as many raw foods into my daily routine as possible, but we do cook most of our dinners and sometimes I eat cooked foods during the day.

I don’t track macros or count calories at all. I don’t have a cheat day, or any rules regarding vegan junk food other than no refined sugars. I just eat (mostly) good plant based food, in whatever quantities satisfy me and give me enough energy to get a good workout in the next morning. The other day I went and got Beyond Burgers from Carl’s Jr for dinner – it’s all about balance.

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Tips to beat the lethargy that happens right before your period starts:

I get tired before my period, not regular tired but so exhausted that I can barely keep my eyes open for at least one to two days. I also get a headache that is lingering, terrible, and sometimes morphs into a migraine. When my nutrition is on-point (all raw plant food) the headaches go away and the tiredness lessens considerably. Here are two things that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine that have helped me tremendously without having to change entirely into a raw vegan.

#1) Magnesium

A very basic search of what magnesium does for the human body includes: Maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, supporting a healthy immune system, keeping the heartbeat steady, helping bones remain strong, adjusting blood glucose levels, and aiding in the production of energy and protein. Additional benefits include boosting exercise performance, fighting depression, lowering blood pressure, and preventing migraines.

During all my research to try and discover what I could do to help with my headaches, and why a raw plant based diet was so effective at curing them, I discovered that this one mineral was responsible for many of my positive results and is found in particularly high levels in leafy greens, nuts, and seeds – huge staples in a raw plant based diet. Our bodies also absorb much more of it if we consume it in food, rather than in a supplement form.

I started making myself (what I now call) my Chocolate Headache-Curing Smoothie. I drink one every morning and because of the high levels of magnesium found naturally in the plant ingredients, my headaches completely go away when I am drinking them on a regular basis.

Recipe:

1 Cup Coconut Water

3 Medjool Dates

3-4 Frozen Bananas

2 Tbsp Cacao Powder

1-2 Tbsp Raw Almond Butter

2-4 Tbsp Raw Hemp Seeds

Because of the hemp seeds, this smoothie is also high in protein. And because of the cacao, you can also enjoy a boost of energy. So add as much as you’d prefer!

#2) Mushroom Tea

I know, I know, I know. Mushroom tea sounds disgusting and conjures up an image of privileged college kids trying to dress like hippies and drink weird things for the sake of being holistic or whatever. But I have to admit they’re onto something. I’ve been drinking the Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir Mix with Lion’s Mane. The loose tea or “elixir mix” comes in tiny packets that I pour about two cups of hot water over, mix, then enjoy. You can add creamer to it, but I don’t. There is a touch of stevia added to the mix, but as someone who cannot stand the taste, I do not notice it. It tastes like an earthy tea, and I get mine from our local health food store. Four Sigmatic’s website is awesome, and there are several different elixirs, coffees, and teas to choose from so I plan to try more.

The reason why I love this particular elixir is because it’s organic, vegan and decaf yet it gives me a huge boost in energy that lasts most of the day. This is especially useful to aid in intense workouts and during long days at my shop when I’m about to start my period and I’m experiencing that intense lethargy. The lion’s mane mushroom supports memory, concentration, cognitive function, and nervous system function, so I’m also able to produce more meaningful work on projects that require concentration. I find that the energy it creates feels cleaner and more sustained than the temporary boost caffeine gives.

https://us.foursigmatic.com

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I hope that you’ve found some of this information useful. Leave a comment if you try my magnesium smoothie, and let me know what you think about mushroom teas!

How I Went From Non-Runner to Half Marathon

Spoiler alert: It was not quickly. If training “hacks” or tips are what you’re looking for, this post isn’t that. I played the long game, and I’ll be successful because I wanted to earn it, and I put in the work.

I haven’t run my half marathon yet, but I am 100% confident that eight days from today I will, and it will go smoothly. My body will hurt, my mind will get tired, but I will finish and my time will be decently average. Everything I read when I first started researching runs was that the goal of your first race should be to finish. Just to finish. And honestly, that’s great advice and an amazing goal. Typically I function from a fairly competitive standpoint and this would never be good enough for me. It’s just too low a benchmark. Finishing is fine, but beating my previous time on each training run is better. Finishing the half marathon in record time (for me) is the only way to do my best. These are the thoughts I’ve battled over the last six months I’ve trained to be a “runner” – The real accomplishment I’ve found is in quieting those thoughts and learning to settle into the discomfort week after week, keeping a steady pace straight to the finish.

I started training mid October as a post-wedding fitness goal. Up until our wedding I had been weight lifting six days a week for about a year with the goal of muscle-building and body re-composition. It was working well but I was on the verge of burnout from that routine so I knew I needed to change my goals. The idea of a half marathon popped into my head – something completely foreign to me. I hadn’t run more than a few miles at a time ever. If I did, it was in sprint/walk intervals with absolutely no emphasis on pace, form, or long-distance endurance. Or it was with one of my dogs, casual with rest breaks as needed. At one point all cardio was cut out of my routine entirely so I wouldn’t burn off my hard-earned muscle, and I rejoiced. Just the thought of running took me back to elementary and middle school track team. I was taller than everyone, with the longest legs. My dad thought that meant I should be fast so I’d run short and mid-distance races, miserable because I really wasn’t fast. I’d dread relays, always feeling like I’d let my team down. Turns out I would’ve been much better at something like cross-country but that never seemed like an option to me. Finding self-discipline and learning to quiet your mind just for the sake of being a better person weren’t big in middle school sports. Winning was, from what I can remember.

I rested for about a week after we got back from our honeymoon and then I began. I asked my clients who had run a half marathon how they trained, and eventually I liked one of the plans. It was a six week training plan, which I knew for me would be misery. I believe with every fiber in my being that you can train your body to do almost anything if you can get your mind right. So yes, I could’ve trained for six weeks instead of six months, but I was interested in taking my time to enjoy the process, hopefully not getting injured, and finishing. I never doubted that I could do it, but I did have an expectation for how difficult it would be. It’s funny how our minds create a completely fabricated gauge of how “hard” something will be even though we’ve never done it before, and really have no idea. That just goes to show that retraining your mind in the other direction (to be positive) can be just as big a factor in your success as actually putting in the physical work to get there. If you tell yourself it will be impossibly hard, it will be. If you tell yourself it will be difficult at times, but you’ll do it. You will. It’s that simple, almost always.

Every time I have a new goal that I want to pursue, but that scares me, I say it out loud so I can’t take it back. From the universe, from myself, and from other people – it’s a real, tangible thing once it’s outside myself. I’m also the type of person that has to complete a goal once I tell other people about it. I have to follow through and be held accountable, otherwise your words start meaning nothing. So I started telling people I was running a half marathon. Not “I want to” or “I might” or “I’m going to try to” but “I am.” I like to set my intention early. I’m going to put in the work and time necessary to actually do this. Excuses don’t exist. With the exception of injury, if I don’t complete this it’s because I didn’t really want to, period. And I’m the only one to blame.

The Inspiration For My Training Plan

I decided that I would run each segment of the training plan for six weeks each, and instead of running four days a week, I’d run three, omitting the long run until I got closer to my half marathon. Once this became “easy” I’d run the next segment for only four weeks. For example, “Week 1” which consists of a three mile, four mile, another three mile, and a seven mile long run, I’d run for six weeks in a row but do only the 3, 4, 3. And in the beginning, this was difficult. I had to stop and walk during my first few weeks of running three and four miles at a time, and I’d let myself. My mindset was: Do your best and it’ll get easier. Don’t cheat yourself out of running, but also don’t kill yourself. Stay consistent. This seemed to work for me and eventually I’d walk less and less, and then not at all. Once I was done with my first six week segment of running three times a week, I could complete all my runs without stopping.

The six weeks after that I began “Week 2” which was a 4, 5, 3. At the end I was completely capable of cutting the rest of my segments down to four week plans. From there on out that’s what I did. Each “Week” of the chart essentially represented a month of training time to me, but I only ever did three runs a week so I could incorporate lifting and Pilates on other days. After I completed the “Week 3” segment in four weeks, I decided if I could run six miles, I could definitely run seven, or eight, or more. So I moved into week 4 and 5 segments running two short runs and one long run instead, increasing incrementally to eight miles. I did this until I hit the real marker for six weeks out and then I’d complete the actual chart as intended. And that’s exactly what I did, and what I’m currently doing.

I understand that this is a lot of information. And honestly, I had no idea what I was doing when I began. All I knew was that if I had a plan I’d stick to it, and if I did that, I’d eventually get to a half marathon. I used the run chart as my guide and expanded on it in ways that I thought were reasonable. I also knew that spreading everything out over six months would make it nearly impossible to fail, and would make it less likely that I’d get injured. I went into it knowing not to rush myself, but just to let the process get me there. I broke the big goal up into a ton of miniature goals.

Below you will find my actual training plan:

Week 1-Week 6: 3 Mile / 4 Mile / 3 Mile

Week 7-Week 12: 4 Mile / 5 Mile / 3 Mile

Week 13-Week 16: 3 Mile / 6 Mile / 3 Mile

Week 17- Week 20: 4 Mile / 5 Mile / 7 Mile

Week 21- Week 24: 3 Mile / 4 Mile / 8 Mile

Week 25-Week 30: Use running chart exactly, as pictured above.

Tomorrow I have my last long run before the race – eleven miles, and I’m ready. Last week I ran a Ten-miler, and a total of 22 miles. That was my hardest week physically. I got sore and tired, my hips were aching, my hamstrings started to burn, and my pinky toes blistered. But mentally I felt dialed-in. Ready to run as much as necessary. Understanding of the fact that my mind will attempt to throw in the towel long before my body does. And after I meet this fitness goal, I’ll move on to another, but that blog is for another day.

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Miscellaneous tips:

1) Find a shoe that works for you. I was fortunate enough to have already found my favorite running shoes. Adidas Swift Runs. I was open to the idea of needing to change them, but as my runs got longer my shoes were just as comfortable, and my feet were almost never sore. I didn’t get a blister until I ran 22 miles in a week. If this isn’t the case for you, go to an expert at a run shop and have them assist you in finding shoes that work for you.

2) Supplements aren’t necessary, but they certainly help. I drink BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) before every run. They help me maintain my energy level, and aid in muscle recovery and soreness. I use the brand Truth Nutrition currently.

3) Know your physique goals going in and eat accordingly. I knew that I had worked extremely hard to build muscle prior to this race and didn’t want to lose it all. I also know that on average I’m burning about 100 calories per mile of running. On a ten mile run day, that’s 1,000 calories EXTRA that I’m burning. So, I’d eat at least 1,000 calories extra that day to make sure to not lose weight. And I will say this has been amazingly enjoyable and effective. I’m certain that my lower body has actually never looked better. I’ve definitely eaten more vegan junk food than I typically would, but I still try to have most of my calories come from whole plant foods.

4) Stretch and diversify your workouts. During this whole training period I’ve prioritized Pilates, going to two or three classes per week. I’ve also made sure to weight train at least two days per week as well. I think this has been a huge key to my success, maintaining strength and increasing flexibility and movement.

5) Don’t just plan your run schedule, plan your weekly runs into your schedule so you actually do them. Then stick to your plan, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you have to miss a run. I try very hard to keep appointments with myself because I believe that is one of the major keys to success. If I didn’t schedule time to workout, or write, or read, or take clients I wouldn’t get much of anything done. So I keep my plans. But, I’m learning to be flexible when needed. For example, Kanan and I had a planned out of town trip during my training period. Did I stick to my run schedule during the week we were gone? No. But I went to the hotel gym and worked out, and I did a couple of hikes. I stayed active that way I could ease back into running when I returned. Each Sunday before my week starts I schedule all my workouts around all my other obligations that way I know exactly when I’m doing them. That way, unless there’s an emergency, if I don’t keep those appointments with myself it’s because it’s not important to me and I should reevaluate my priorities.