Thursday, April 26, 2012

Primal Marathon - The Experiment

I'm currently coaching the summer Team in Training marathon and half marathon team. The group is training for the San Diego Rock and Roll Half and Full Marathons as well as the Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. We began in February, and the season wraps up in June. I am lucky enough to be assigned the Event Coach for Alaska, so a long weekend trip to the wild is on my calendar this summer.

Team in Training is a huge part of my life. I've been involved for 11 seasons now, and have been a coach for the past three years. My best friends are from the program. Running marathons (and ultimately ultramarathons and an ironman) transformed my life. I am certainly not the same person I was back in 2007 when I started. Yet, after this season, I am planning on hanging up my running shoes (except for Goofy!) and trying out new sports within the TNT Program (did you know they offer cycle and hike events?!)

In my mind, I am closing a door on running marathons. Not locking it, but closing it for at least a couple of years. My mind and body need something different. I made this decision about a month ago. However, an email I got this morning has caused me to make one final exception...

The Nike Women's Marathon is supposed to be one of those events that falls into the "once in a lifetime" category. The race is not exclusively women, but they make up a significant portion of the field. Additionally, this is one of the TNT major events, meaning that LLS is the designated charity, and all TNT chapters from around the country attend it. In fact, my friend Javier will be coaching the SFV TNT group that will be there. And his wife Rachael is a participant on that team. And if that is not enough, my Mom will be making the trip to San Francisco for the weekend to see me complete it. And we are hopping a plane to Hawaii the day after for a much-needed vacation!

I have many reasons to do this race. So I will. However, I'm going to keep my training as primal as possible.

How? I'm going to experiment.
- My goal is to avoid Chronic Cardio like the plague that it can be. I will be "training" specifically for this event twice a week only.

- I will complete two "long runs" during the week. I am going to train by heart rate and keep my HR below 144 (my 75% max) to efficiently burn fat instead of carbohydrates. Essentially, my "play" days become slow run days.

- I will monitor how happy I am doing these long runs, and adjust them based on my mood, not on my schedule.

- I will do one of my two long runs/week on trails.

- I will get my carbs from veggies (and fruit on occasion) and stay away from grains.

- I will continue to Lift Heavy Things twice a week.

- I will continue to sprint once ever 7-10 days.

Will it work? I have no clue. It's a rather odd marathon plan. I'm certainly not setting myself up to break any speed records. But that's not my goal. My goal is to run/walk the race at a low HR, enjoy the scenery, and take in the experience of being amongst some great folks and a great cause. And through my training, refrain completely from burning out, running too fast or suffering under the dictatorship of a "training schedule".

This will be a very fun undertaking!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vanity, Thy Name is ...

6 weeks into the Primal Blueprint switch. Less working out. More eating meat. Less running. More walking. Less not lifting. More, well, lifting. But certainly not a lot of lifting dumbbells, plates or resistance bands. Just lots of lifting myself - over the pull up bar, off the ground with my arms, up after squatting. And occasionally holding myself up in a plank position.

Turns out these workouts are making me a bit stronger. Not Superman or Stretch Armstrong, yet. But strong enough for me to be vain. Case in point: I am sitting in my boss's office during a meeting. My arm is stretched out over the top of the couch where I sit. My arm is slightly twisted back, causing my tricep to face me. Midway through the meeting, I notice it. And I flex it. And there is an unfamiliar bump there. I flex it a couple more times - hey, that's my muscle! I poke it. It's definitely stronger.

And then I realize I am still in a meeting. And it's not a meeting about my triceps, so I should probably pay attention. But later on my lunch break, I knocked out 60 pushups, just to make sure the the muscle-bump doesn't go anywhere. It's growing on me.

Mark Sisson claims that one of the side effects of going primal is something called LGN - Look Good Naked. Well, I can't speak for the rest of my body, but these arms will be in short-sleeves for the summer.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Vocabulary

In my workout life, the terms negative splits, threshold, tempo and LSD have been replaced with a new set of words to describe what I ask myself to do each today. I find myself rattling off more acronyms than exist in half a block of Washington DC. But what I like about these new-found vocab words and phrases is that they are simple, and therefore they entrench me in a flood of statistics. My refrigerator displays the following:

LHT - Lift Heavy Things - in other words, spend 15-minutes once a week and 30-minutes another day lifting heavy things. Vary your movements. Carry a log up a trail. Do incline pushups. Burpees! Anything that includes body weight is fair game, and any weigh added is a plus!

PEM - Primal Essential Movements - of which there are FOUR:

Push Ups
Pull Ups

That's all you need to build upon. For me, since I have a stronger lower body and weaker upper body, I have been doing modified pull/push ups and extra weighted squats and planks. What's significant is not the amount of variation of exercise completed, but the simplicity of FOUR movements that make your workout whole. You need not do more than this!

Play - Basketball, playground, wide open field. Do what you feel like doing! Sometimes I ride my bike. Sometimes I jog slow. On Wednesday, I jogged to the local playground and hanged from the monkey bars. Twice this week, I took 40 extra minutes to walk to work, simply to enjoy the spring flowers. Play is just that ... PLAY. Everything we knew as kids but put aside for other obligations.

O6:O3 ratio
- I know that the ratio of ingested fats - classified as Omega 6 and Omega 3 - should be 1:1 per the primal lifestyle. Mark shares more on this. I need to dig deeper into this info to really understand it.

The whole point of my primal experience is to detach from all of the numbers and just enjoy the experience. All of these little phrases are helping me do so.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Week 4 of the 3-Week Experiment

I thought I'd try this new way of eating and exercising for the three weeks leading up to my birthday. Which I shared with Easter this year. And because I LOVE eggs, I take that as a sign of good things to come for age 28.

I hit my birthday milestone feeling happier, calmer, more content and stronger than I ever have. This isn't to say that I have spent the first 27 years of life as a sorrowful, anxious, malcontent weakling ... but rather, I spent that Sunday feeling very positive about my future. I attribute a lot of this feeling to my new primal approach to life.

My Workouts

For the past month, I have not gone on a single, traditional weekday run workout. Yes, I have run. But I have done so slowly, randomly and without my GPS watch. This feat alone has been life-changing. Like clockwork for six years, I would log workouts, and keep track of the pace/mileage/calories/heart rate. I was an endurance machine who could run farther and bike faster than most. Now? I just don't care hit those peaks anymore. I've removed the "numbers". I run to feel free and happy. Not to hit any goals.

I sprint once a week. A 10 minute workout that gives me a head rush that lasts the rest of the day. I enjoy the challenge of tabata sprints, though on occasion I pop off some straight 20-second efforts with a walk break in between. I'm looking forward to hill sprints next week.

I jog on the beach - on the sand. In Vibrams. No music, no watch. Just me and the shells and the waves and the other happy people. It is relaxing.

A Happy Place

I lift twice a week, though have not set foot in a gym in a month. It's about body weight exercises - push ups, pull ups (I have a bar), squats, and planks. Two rounds, max out or hit two minutes on each workout. I spend 10 minutes after that 20-minute workout "playing". Playing in that case means doing whatever moves I want. Sometimes it's a run around the neighborhood. This morning it was extra core work and random arm exercises. And some scissor kicks!

I cycle frequently, but go much slower than I normally would. Instead of averaging 19 mph at a 80% heart rate, I stick to 15-16 mph at a 50% heart rate. I stop and take pictures. I am much more polite to pedestrians too because they are not longer selfishly "in my way" and "holding me back".

Morning Bike Ride along Ballona Creek


I love food, and as you can see from my recent posts, I love to talk about food. On Google+, all I write about is food. This is a picture of this morning's meal - a true break-fast because fasted for 12 hours (11 of which I was sleeping!). It was a garbage can of deliciousness - pepper, broccoli, garlic, avocado, broccoli rabe, onion, beef bacon (cooked in Kerrygold Butter) and two eggs. Black coffee on the side.


Finished Product

What I don't eat is - grains, much dairy, processed sugar. Do I miss them? Eh, not at the moment. I am too hung up on how good avocados taste to miss rice. Sushi, one of my favorite meals, can be a bit challenging. But seaweed salad and sashimi are plenty tasty to make me miss rolls.

I did have a small piece of ice cream cake a couple days ago to celebrate a coworker's birthday. I could have said no, but frankly I didn't want to make a big deal about not taking one. And it was Cookie Puss! But I felt sick after eating it (lethargic and stomach-achy) so that won't be happening again. Not worth the gut pain.

All of these changes have made me feel fulfilled. Of course, it is welcome to hear my doctor tell me that I've dropped 6 pounds and my resting HR is 5 bmp lower that it was just a couple months ago. That's not why I am doing this, but I can happily chew on those numbers.

Overall, I like this experiment. It is still an experiment. A lifestyle not a diet and exercise plan. It allows for mistakes, it gives me more time to focus on non-endurance-sports stuff (like hanging out at the beach or reading), and most of all, it has given me energy to be a smiley person. Still sarcastic, but now with a devious smile and laugh.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bison Burgers - I'm a Chef!

So the Primal Blueprint has me shopping at Farmer's Markets a lot more, and cooking a couple times a week. I have never been a chef. My dad is the meal-provider in our family, and I've learned from him. But I've never spent the time exploring my kitchen. Now that I have cut hours of workout time from my day, I can go play in the kitchen after work.

Yesterday I made my first recipe, sort of out of my head. Bison is leaner than beef, so I had to cook it in extra EVOO. You could add an egg to the ground mixture too, but last time I tried that it was a bit watery.

Balsamic Leek and Cheddar Bison Burger with a side of Brussel Sprouts.

Here it is. Give it a shot, it's good!

Balsamic Leek and Cheddar Bison Burger with Brussel Sprouts on the side.

8oz Ground Bison
1 large leek
1 cup brussel sprouts
1 tsp aged balsamic vinegar
2 tbs EVOO
1 small chunk of cheddar

1) Clean leek and chop into tiny bits
2) Toss with Balsamic Vinegar
3) Saute in Olive Oil til soft. Set to the side.

4) Cut up Brussel Sprouts. Toss with Olive Oil
5) Put in Toaster Oven for 10 minutes on 400 degrees

6) Mix Cheddar bits and Leeks with ground bison meat. Throw in salt and pepper.
7) Make 3 patties and put them on griddle pan
8) Fry til done!

9) Finish Brussel Sprouts under broiler (2mins)
10) Put meat on a plate with sprouts.

Prep and Cook Time: 15 minutes.
Eat Time: 8 minutes with moderate self control

The Result:

Melted Cheese and Leeks in the meat

Crispy Sprouts

Saturday, April 7, 2012


“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

To Laugh Often - if you were a fly on the wall of my office, you would scowl at the unbelievable amounts of time my boss and I spend laughing at our jobs. And at everything that is not our jobs. I am blessed with a good leader...

To Win the Respect of Others - This summer, I changed chapters in my coaching career with Team in Training. From the Westside of Los Angeles, I transitioned to the San Fernando Valley. And in that transition, I have formed bonds and friendships with amazing folks. It has been such a rewarding experience...

To earn the appreciation of honest critics: My closest friends Jess and Lori, have never met. But separately and together, I trust them deeply. To have such people in my life is a gift.

To endure the betrayal of false friends
: Whom I am lucky to not know. Friends, even close ones, have come and gone with the tide of my career and life. But I have never regreted their presence. I know pain, but not betrayal.

To appreciate beauty
: my lunchtime walks...

To find the best in others:
A Daily Habit. It is only rarely that people mean harm. The rest is just miscommunication.

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition: In a few words, why I am a part of Team in Training.

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

As of April 8, 2012, it marks 28 years. Many more to go. Thank you, to those of have gotten me this far. And thank you, to those with me for the future journey. Here's to perseverance (one of my favorite stories, linked).

Thank you,
Emily aka @goingforgoofy