Blog

Nutrition

When it comes to nutrition my advice never replaces that of a dietitian or nutrition specialist. What I will speak to is having a healthy relationship with food and seeing food as the fuel that starts the engine. As a female, I would lie if I told you that I have had no issues with food and how it affects my body image. There was a period in my life when I had disordered eating patterns and was heading towards an eating disorder faster than any split on the track. Fortunately, I had the best support system with my family, friends, coach and training partners who halted the process of my decline. I experienced my unhealthy relationship with food and distorted body image when I was in my early 20’s. I cannot say that it came out of nowhere, but I can say that it caught me and everyone who knew me by surprise. I am telling you this because disordered eating can impact anyone at any age and runners are a cohort that is particularly vulnerable to eating disorders.

Basically, I was told that if I did not fuel my body properly, running was not an option for me. At that time in my life, running was everything because I had just put the rest of my life on hold for it. This message scared the shit out of me and I wanted nothing more to prove to myself and everyone around me that I could be an elite marathoner. It was not a clean processing breaking up with my eating issues, rather one that I have to keep in check even to this day. I have learned to acknowledge the negative thought or feeling about my body/eating, assess what may be driving the desire to restrict or critique and then I make a plan to address what is really going on in my life. This process is difficult and I have found that identifying aspects of my running and life that I really appreciate helps me move on from the negativity faster. As your coach I want you to talk to me if you are struggling with disordered eating patterns. Keeping it a secret will only fuel the disease more and if it is manifesting itself into an eating disorder it is essential to receive adequate care.

So, I digress from the topic of nutrition a bit, yet needed to make you aware of how I came to approach my own nutrition as an athlete. There are so many philosophies on nutrition and basically it comes down to what works best for you. I do not prescribe to any diet or nutrition plan that is not balanced or that can cause deficiencies. There is no harm in trying various approaches to see how your body responds. I recommend doing this during an off season or when you are not training for a key event. As an athlete, and for those female athletes out there, it may be beneficial to have blood work done to make sure you are getting everything you need through your diet and if you are using supplements.

I like to keep everything simple and quite honestly I am too frugal to adopt any nutritional/supplement plan with fidelity. I listen to my body and can tell when things may be a bit off and adjust accordingly. This has allowed me three healthy pregnancies, regular periods and maybe a couple of illnesses in the last decade. Bottom line, do what works best for you, don’t fall prey to the latest fad and eat to train.

 

 

Don’t Look Back

Has anyone every told you to not look back when you are racing? It takes a great deal of discipline to maintain your focus in a race without assessing who is coming from behind. This race tactic, which is incredibly valuable, can also be applied to your training and race goals. I sometimes make the mistake of comparing my current running self to who I was in my early 20’s. However, I will never be that person and quite frankly I don’t want to be her because she was an asshole. I may have been younger and fitter, but I appreciate all of the wisdom that I have acquired throughout the years and the stories that can be told from my experiences. I try to look back only to reflect on what I have learned in the process about who I am as an athlete and I encourage you to do the same. If you have had a structured training plan before, then I would benefit from knowing how your body responds to specific stimuli. If you have been racing for any length of time then I need to know what your personal bests are and how got you to those personal bests. Looking back for this information is beneficial, comparing a workout from one several years ago could be a positive or negative. I will need to know how you respond to this information because if your comparisons cause you to become self deprecating then I will avoid similar workouts. This holds true for selecting race schedules. Every athlete has a different emotional attachment to a race and I want your races to be a celebration of the hard work that you have put in. Despite the outcome, I want you to leave the event knowing that you gave it your best and that you feel good about yourself as a whole. I never want any athlete to measure their self-worth by a workout or a race. This is a dangerous slippery slope that can lead to low self-esteem and depressive feelings. Running is a choice and a lifestyle that should bring fulfillment, excitement, health and happiness. As soon as one of those things are compromised we need to readjust what we are doing.

 

My journey

When I reflect on my running career, I find a natural comparison to the life of a cat. My relatively long tenure as an athlete has allowed me to have multiple rebirths. Like a cat I have escaped the “end” repeatedly and always land on my feet. I started as a no name on the streets of NY running away from my problems and towards a new sense of self. I snuck up on the road racing community with quick success. I went from a rewarding college soccer career at Villanova University to a top marathoner all in the blink of an eye. My results led to opportunities that included shoe contracts, an agent, a professional training group and entries into the top road races in the country. I lowered my times to 2:35’s, 16:30’s, 33 minutes, you get where I am going, but this life would soon end. My internal demons were thwarting my efforts on the roads, so with my tail between my legs I returned to my other life as an educator. This part of my story looked a little different because I was working a full time job, but the runner self still earned a few visits to the Olympic trials marathon and doses of top performances at almost every distance. However, I yearned for a different setting with my newfound balanced life, which came via the trails.

When I moved to the mountains in Colorado, I began a love affair that started with mistrust. I wasn’t sure of how to take in the natural beauty while fueling the competitive fire that drove who I am as an individual. Naturally, when my trust was challenged I fled back to the roads that were familiar only to find myself emptier than before. During this time in my life, I diverted my attention away from running when I felt confused and embraced motherhood with the hopes that the fire could be put out and a sense of satisfaction could ensue. I heard comments like, “You are a mom now, running doesn’t matter”, but not one ounce of my being wanted to adopt this philosophy. I dabbled on the trails, but was not sure what distance or type of terrain was where I could find fulfillment. I was amazed by the fact that my body could return after each pregnancy and that my mental game became my strongest asset. My 30’s became a cycle of gaining optimal fitness and clarity around goals mixed with 3 births and the constant of my career in education. I felt pulled in three different directions knowing that each component of my life mattered in order for me to be the best version of myself

So, here I am at the ripe old age of 41 and I still dream like the 7 year old watching the ‘84 Olympics in my parent’s living room. I feel a sense of purpose and a drive to have an impact that goes beyond the podium and into the success of others in my treasured running community. I see myself as a sounding board for other women and men who feel torn in their busy lives. I want to take my enthusiasm for the sport and experience in balancing life with running into your journey. I am ready to spread the love affair, so contact me!

 

Identity

I have been a multi-sport athlete for over thirty-five years who found running after playing soccer, basketball, softball and lacrosse. The summer after I graduated from college I was depressed and lost because my identity as an athlete had seemingly disappeared. I decided to set the goal of finishing a marathon to motivate myself to stay fit and to hold onto self-worth that could only be found in sports. I trained all winter on a treadmill, starting with one mile and working my way up to ten. I had no idea what I was doing, but determined that putting in the work and training my mind through the monotony of the treadmill would get me to the finish line. I never doubted whether I would reach my goal; maybe it was due to ignorance or better yet the belief that I was a runner.

My best running performances came from period of time when I trusted the process and identified as a runner. If I believed in the training plan and my body adapting to the stressors, then ideal results followed. When my running performances suffered it was due to a pervasive self doubt. Early in my running career, I had the privilege of being coached by the legendary Joe Vigil. He often told me that running was 10% physical and 90% mental. I listened and processed what he was saying, but it took nearly a decade for this concept to truly resonate with me. Looking back at who I was in my 20’s, I see a woman who lacked the confidence needed to optimize performances and even questioned the training (despite being coached by one of the bests). I felt like a poser in the running world and sabotaged all of the work that I was putting in training because I did not believe that I belonged at the front of a start line amongst women who seemed different than me.

The question of identity has come up repeatedly for me as an individual and as an athlete. Throughout my day I wear several different hats that can define who I am. Whether I am running 3 miles or 30, finishing on the podium or dead last, I am and always will be a runner. As we work together I encourage you to see yourself as a runner regardless of what level you are at or working towards. This mindset will help you get out of bed in the morning to run, work through tougher days and make it easier to set long term goals.