Jul 9, 2013

Getting back up to speed: The 4 corners of my new life.

What a wild crazy journey the past few months have been.   But such is the roller coaster of life, right?

I went through a whole depression/ mourning period the past bit and now I am finally feeling myself.  Not my old self, but rather a new self.  Mike and I have been defining our "new normal" and in this journey I finally feel like it is life again.  Our life again.  My life again.

So in the midst of trying to figure out how to be happily married given the 1500 miles that lie between us, I became injured at the end of April which threw me another curve ball as it meant that I had to stand down from the one thing keeping me moving forward consistently.  Without physical activity I lost focus and started to spin a bit out of control with depression and all the things that come along with that.  Anger.  Sadness.  Pain.   Lack of motivation. 

I have since found a solid recovery plan for myself. 

Eat Clean, Train Mean, Recover and Do It All Again Tomorrow. 

This mantra, the 4 corners of the base for my new lifestyle, has become the new road map for me to get back on track mentally and physically.   I have been living this way for a month or so now and I can say that it has all become such an inherent part of me a complete health habit. 

It was not easy at first, but after putting in the time day in and day out it now is really second nature.  The longer you do something, the easier it is to just do it.  I find fewer excuses now and way more success.  In my first month of eating clean, training mean, recovering and doing it all over again each day I lost 11 pounds without trying.  My lifestyle and my goals were, are, finally aligned. 

About freaking time.

So here is what I learned along the way, with a shorter (much shorter) summary at the end. 

Eating Clean
In my long transition to veganism I have relied on some crutches of sorts, namely processed vegan foods,  in order to get me through.  I guess this is the path that one takes, right?  You make baby steps towards your goals tweaking and refining yourself along the way. 

I started out vegetarian - eating eggs, dairy, cheese and vegetables.  I then swapped out the eggs, dairy and cheese for vegan alternatives and relied heavily on processed fake foods to replace the processed meat containing products I was trying to avoid.  Processed food is processed junk  no matter if it comes from nuts, animals or plants.   Fake is fake.  Crap is crap.  Junk is junk.  No matter how you slice and dice it, whole foods are the best foods.

I have since done some research and through the help of Brendan Brazier's Thrive series, The Happy Herbivore, and Engine 2 I have learned more about fuelling my body without relying on processed foods.  I am ditching the tofu and eating more raw fresh foods which has had a huge improvement in my day to day quality of life.

I have given up the white refined sugars and get my sweet on using fruits to keep me in check.  I use mainly sprouted, non-GMO whole grains and pseudo grains, and tons of dark leafy greens to bulk out my meals.  For protein, I simply eat a wide variety of foods all day long to keep the fire stoked and the body working and supplement with Vega Performance Protein in smoothies and recovery shakes from workouts to get a healthy dose of BCAA's to aid in recovery. 

I try to use whole legumes firstly, with nuts and seeds (hemp, chia, flax) and tempeh.  I am trying to avoid the overly processed and mainly nutritionally devoid tofu whenever possible. 

I track my food intakes so that I keep on target.  I am focusing on the nutrients I need, versus calories per se.  I am active by nature and have realized that food is a fuel, a life source - but not something to live for.

If we are working out to make up for the poor food choices we make during the day - then we are wasting our energy and will never make progress.  Real change must come from habit.

Train Mean
Before endurance triathlon I was a cross-fitter.  I absolutely adored cross functional fitness and power lifting.  I am a strong person, so I found an activity that I could do that tested and pushed me and that I could grow with long term.

Well, long term until I decided that every minute not swimming, biking, or running was a moment that I should be swimming, biking, and or running.  Enter injury.   I ignored my body and as a result it gave up on me.  My injury is 100% due to my lack of recovery and balance in training. 

This injury was the set-back that I needed to reset and refocus.  I am now back in the gym 2x a week doing Alpha Training (Lifetime Fitness's version of Cross Fit) and have been finding my happy place again.

I realize now that after completing an Ironman that I can balance strength, power, and endurance.  I just have to set the limits in each that allow for balance understanding that none of the three will be at 100% full potential, but rather at a level that will allow for diversity and balance.  And each phase/month/week/day/hour/minute the balance may change. 

Right now I am not following a plan per se, but I am getting close to pulling the trigger on a half Ironman in mid November.  I guess that it will be a dry run to see how I refine the current balance of my life to include much longer efforts. 

My Alpha coach knows that I am an Ironman triathlete and that I will not be giving that part of me up, so he is allowing for modifications to the workouts and weights so that I can get the benefit of weight training without over taxing my body.

I am now seeing a Fascia Stretch Therapist (FST) twice a month to help with my recovery, as well as I take rest days as needed and stretch after every workout.  I am no longer taking recovery as a luxury that I cannot afford.  Recovery is MANDATORY and I will not sacrifice that part of myself any longer. 

If we spend days tearing our bodies down in order to rebuild how long can we sustain and grow without allowing some down time for our bodies to evolve and get ready to do it again?  Maybe some can sustain longer than others but in the end it will catch up to each and every one of us.  Recovery is just as important as nutrition and training. 

Do It All Again Tomorrow
I have gotten into a routine now with managing my Michigan household solo.  I am balancing work, travel, home responsibilities, doggy responsibilities, health, and overall wellness.  It sounds like a lot, and honestly it is but that is where prioritization comes in.  If I want to focus on health and wellness - balanced health and wellness, then I have to live the part 24/7, 365. 

I have started getting to bed earlier (9-10pm) and waking up earlier (5:15-6am).  I find that with this I can squeeze in a morning long walk with the doggies, then a quick run or short bike around the hood - even just 20 minutes is enough to start my day off right. I can also ride my bike to work if the weather cooperates.

During the day at lunch I can swing by the gym (which is directly across from my office) to swim or stretch should my work day allow.   After work I am either at the gym for Alpha training or out at the parks for endurance training.   At night before I go to bed I take the doggies on their 2nd walk of the day.

Weekends I get in the long endurance stuff - which is really the only time my training volume will change depending on Ironman, Half Ironman or sprint/maintenance work. I start off my Saturdays (the ones that I am actually in Michigan)  with riding my bike to the local Farmer's Market to stock up on produce and the whole foods for the week.  I then get on the road for my workouts and then when back at home I catch up on DVR'd television shows and hang with the pups taking in some me time to reflect on how things are going as well as to look over what I have going on in the next week. Sundays are food prep, endurance workout, house work, and a once a month a vegan dinner party with friends.  

Having a routine is making life easier as it becomes more manageable for me.  I know pretty regularly what my requirements are for the week, so I can make adjustments as I see fit.  I am blessed with as busy as this life is for me it is pretty consistent.    I always make it work somehow, compromise being the key to that success.  

Sometimes the day is just about survival to get to the next day, other times it is about fulfilling my dreams and working towards my goals in big ways.  No matter how the day starts out or ends up, I am in control of my reactions to what comes my way.

I guess the Cliff Notes version is pretty simple:

* Eat clean, whole foods all day long
* Fuel your body, listening to what it needs
* Do something. Even 20 total minutes of something a day (be it in 1 20 minute walk or 5 4 minute bursts of random activity) is better than 0 minutes of nothing.
* Get good quality sleep and more of it.
* Get into a routine that works for you, not against you.  If it isn't working tweak and compromise until it works. They key to routine is often COMPROMISE.
* You can have it all - you just cannot have it all at 100% all of the time.
* Recovery and rest are important
* Understand and accept that how the day starts is not indicative of how it will end.
* Know that it takes 21 days to form a habit.  Tough it out for the first week and then see how much easier it becomes every time you hit the alarm to start your day.  

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