Preparing For A Half Marathon: Thirteen Tips For A 13 Mile Run

As I was running I started thinking, “What tips can I take back that might help someone getting ready to run their first half marathon?”

 Take Your Camera and Extra Clothes and Check Your Adrenalin At The Door. 

Seasoned event runners don’t give much thought to getting up on a Saturday morning to run a half, or even a full marathon.  For me it was different.

I put in some on-the-clock training hours but also considerable time figuring out how to make my training pay off so that I could enjoy the event without being too cold or warm, tired, or stressed.  The secret lies in getting organized well ahead of race day so that nothing is left to chance when the time finally arrives and your nerves are standing straight up.

Race Track

I did the Indy Mini half marathon last year. This is the Indy 500 race track that’s part of the course.

Two Weeks Before The Race

1.  Nutrition - Two weeks ahead of race day you’re still doing some good training runs so now’s the time to focus on the best nutrition possible.  Stay away from food and drinks that have simple sugars or are high in fat.  Now more than ever, you want foods that are nutritionally dense.  Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins.  A green smoothie for breakfast or lunch is a good option too.

2.  Hydration  – Increase your water intake.  You should be drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.  If it’s summer or you live in a warm climate bump it up to ten glasses a day.

3.  Game Day Shoes – Pick out the shoes you plan to wear on race day.  Running shoes should have between 40 and 50 miles on them before you race in them so if your event is two weeks away it’s probably too late to buy new shoes.  But, if your shoes are worn and don’t have enough life in them to give you proper cushioning  and good support, consider buying a new pair and wear them throughout the day for the next two weeks to get some extra miles on them.

4.  Jelly Beans – Sports jelly beans are loaded with caffeine, sodium, potassium, and carbohydrates and can provide just enough energy to give you a second wind if you start to fatigue around mile 9.  Don’t wait until race day to test them out.  Pick a couple of brands and try them while you’re out on your training runs so you’ll know that you like them and they like you. On race day save them until you really need them.

  • One word of caution.  I have a friend who popped one in his mouth while he was running an event and he sucked it into his windpipe and wasn’t able to finish the race.  I’m sure this was just bad luck for him but it doesn’t hurt to slow down, or even pull over if it’s time for a bean.

One Week Before The Race

5.  Music Is Magic - I started experiencing some nervous energy one week before the marathon. Finding new music to download and putting a play list together helped channel  that energy into something that would pay off later on.  I have a playlist with 100 songs on it that shuffle.  I know that every song on the list is one that I enjoy running to.  This works for me because I can turn the iPod on, hit play and never touch it again until I’m done.  I don’t want to be hunting down the songs that I want to hear while I’m running an event.  I have a play list that I created a few months ago (check it out here) and continue to add songs to it including Mr. Saxobeat, Who Dat Girl, Call Me Maybe and Wild Ones.

6.  Unpredictable Weather – Check the weather so you’ll know what you need to wear before, during and after the run.  For the Illinois run we hung around before the start in gloves, hoodies and wind breakers.  We left most of that behind.  I would rather be on the side of having too many clothes in the car to take on or off rather than not enough. If rain is predicted take a big green garbage bag and cut a hole in the top of it so you can put it over your head.  If you have to stand around at the start line in the rain it will keep you dry. These garbage-bag raincoats were all over the place at the event on Saturday.

7.  Clothes: Lots of Them – Pack a full change of clothes for after the race.  You’ll hang out after the race for awhile in the damp clothes you ran in but there is nothing like dry clothes – and shoes – to put on for the drive home.  I packed my drive-home-clothes in a separate bag so they would all be together and easy to grab when it was time to change.

Three Days Before the Race

8.  A Real Camera – Pack your camera and make sure it has working batteries.  You will want a picture of you at the finish line taken with a real camera, not one that is taken with a Smartphone.  You need a quality picture.  Trust me on this one.

You will want a picture of yourself when you finish.

You will want a picture of yourself when you finish.

9.  Smart Carbs (Not A Carb Load) – Add an extra serving or two of complex carbohydrates to your diet such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, beans and fruits.  Complex carbohydrates will provide your muscles with an adequate supply of glycogen which will enhance your performance on game day.

10.  What Time Does It Start? – Double check the start time and location of the race.  If you’re not familiar with the area make sure you have a map that shows where you need to be, at what time and what arrangements there are for parking.  Is parking free?  If you have to park on a city street or metered lots you’ll need quarters.

The Big Day

11.  Early To Bed – Get to bed early and get up early so that you can eat breakfast at least three hours before the race and take your time getting ready.  I’ve read many times how important it is to eat a breakfast that you have eaten before.  Don’t try out anything new the day of the event.  If you want to find the best pre-race breakfast start working on that a few weeks before.  Oatmeal is my standard breakfast so that’s what I had.  It’s an easy, warm, comfort food that stays with me all morning.

12.  Feel The Rush? – Don’t underestimate the power of the adrenalin rush that takes place when the race starts.  That rush has the potential to throw you off of your game and leave you drained before you’ve completed the 13 miles.  Standing at a half marathon line with 10,000 other people is exciting. Look around.  No one is standing still.  You can feel the enormous energy oozing out of the crowd and into your body and it’s really cool.  But if you get taken up with it and go out of the gate too fast you’ll lost your momentum once the adrenalin level tapers off.  Start out slow and then push yourself after the halfway point if you’re feeling great and have a lot of energy left.

13.  Experience It.  You’ve worked hard and are ready to do something others can only dream of.  Take it in.  Look at the people and scenery around you.  Say thank you to the folks along the way that are cheering you on even though they have no idea who you are.  Be gracious to the volunteers handing you Gatorade or water.  Return the high five to the boy standing on the sidewalk that reaches his palm up to you as you run by him.  Have someone take your picture at the finish line with your medal on then post it on your Facebook page.  Give yourself a high five. Let it all soak in. Savor it. Celebrate. It doesn’t get any better than this.

No doubt number 13 is the most important, but if you skip 1 through 12 enjoying the race might be more of a challenge.

What tips do you have for someone that is going to run their first half marathon?

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Fitness Tip Of The Week: Increase Upper Body Strength With This One Move

Most people don’t use the muscles in their arms, chest and back nearly as much as they should.

If you go for a brisk walk or a quick run that’s great for your heart and will help keep the legs strong, but these common workouts only use the muscle groups in one half of your body.

Unless you’re doing specific strength exercises to prevent muscle loss, the upper body gets weak.  The muscles begin to atrophy and day-to-day activities become more of a challenge.  Eventually you’ll find that you look more frail and aren’t able to stand up as straight as you’d like.  This is the result of both muscle and bone loss.

Push-Up

Basic Push-Up (Flickr photo by mewall82)

You can turn that upper body muscle and bone loss around with one simple exercise. The push-up. When you do a push-up you’re working your shoulders, chest, triceps, biceps, and core.

How To Do A Basic Push-Up 

There are a number of ways to execute a push-up (we’ll talk more about that in a minute) but the same, basic rules apply to all of them.

1. Get down on the floor on your hands and toes. Position the arms so that they are wider than your shoulders.

2.  Slowly lower your upper body down to the floor. Make sure you keep your back flat and your core muscles tight. It’s important that the body stays in a straight line throughout the exercise.  If you’re able to check out your form in a mirror, that’s a good way to make sure you’re doing it right.

3.  Once your nose is almost down to the floor, slowly push back up to starting position.

4.  Try to be aware of your breathing so that you’re inhaling on the way down to the floor, and exhaling on the way up.

Push-Up Tips

If you haven’t done push-ups for a while just one will get you started.  Rest and then do one more.  Do as many as you can each day and don’t get discouraged if you can’t do many at one time.

You get the same benefits if you break up your sets and do them at different times of the day. For example, rather than trying to do 20 push-ups at a time, do 10 in the morning and 10 in the afternoon.  Make it a goal to increase the number of push-ups that you do each week.

As you progress you can add some variety to your push-ups by placing your hands in a staggered position on the floor, decrease or increase the distance between your hands, or put your feet on a box or bench that is slight higher than your hands for a decline push-up (pictured below).

Decline Push Up

Decline push up (flickr photo by shawnbrowntraining)

At first push-ups might seem hard  but in no time your upper body strength will increase and you’ll be able to handle the workload without resting.

The increase in muscle mass that you’ll gain from doing push-ups and squats every day is crucial to maintaining precious muscle and bone mass and will help keep those extra pounds away.  Plus adding muscle to your frame will improve your body composition so you’ll look and feel better.

Still Need Convincing?

New research from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that people that have more muscle mass live longer. One of the doctors associated with the project said that instead of worrying about weight or body mass index we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.

What’s your favorite upper body strengthening exercise?

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Good Bye To Collage Video. You Will Be Missed.

Collage Video is out of business.  The exercise DVD company that has been reviewing and selling at-home workouts for more than 20 years has suspended operations.

I have shared links to workout DVDs at Collage Video many times on this site.  In fact, the first indication I had that Collage Video was no longer in operation was a notification I received alerting me to several  broken links on my site.  All of the broken links led to Collage Video.com.

The best thing about Collage Video was the video clips and reviews.

The best thing about Collage Video was the video clips and reviews.

Over A Thousand DVDs Reviewed

Collage Video offered something unique to consumers with the thirteen hundred plus workout DVDs it had for sale.  You could browse through the site, watch snippets of the workouts and read detailed reviews before you made a selection.  I used this site a lot to find the perfect workout for friends and co-workers.

What I liked most about Collage Video was being able to see the workout trailers for so many DVDs.  I discovered instructors that I might not have known about – Patrick Goudeau for example – if it hadn’t been for Collage Video.  I’m guessing the instructors that were highlighted on the site will miss that exposure.

Collage Video indicates that their reason for closing is because they are not able to compete with larger companies. Do they mean Amazon?

That might be one reason, but no doubt the free workouts channels like Be Fit, that can be found at YouTube have affected their sales as well. Why purchase a DVD when you have access for free?

Add to that the fact that most of the instructors that had DVDs for sale at Collage Video have their own web sites where customers can download the video, receive it instantaneously, and not spend money on shipping costs.  Collage Video also did not support affiliate marketing which may have resulted in a loss of consumer awareness and missed sales for their products.

As much as I liked visiting Collage Video.com, I have to admit that I sensed they were struggling to keep up with the current trends in today’s market.

What Now?

Collage Video is still alive and well in the YouTube archives so you can view short clips of all the videos that they had for sale on the site. You’ll just have to purchase them somewhere else

If you do a Google search for Collage Video.com you’ll land on a splash page that indicates the company still has plans in the works for a different operation but there’s no hint as to what that might be. I’ll be anxious to see if they will be able to re-invent themselves so that they can become relevant again in today’s market.

The official announcement from Collage Video.

The official announcement from Collage Video.

Were you a customer and fan of Collage Video?

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Are Processed Foods Bad For You (or is this just another diet fad)?

We’ve been through the low-fat-high-carb and the low-carb-high-protein phase.  We’ve read about Paleo, intermittent fasting and green coffee beans. Now ‘experts’ are telling us to forget everything we’ve learned so far.  What we need to do is remove the processed foods from our diet and eat ‘real’ food.

That sounds pretty simple but what exactly does that mean? And, more importantly, is this just one more fad that we’ll find doesn’t work either?

This is where it all began.

This is where it all began.    Flickr photo by (Bayswater 97)

Is Swanson To Thank (or blame)?

When the Swanson TV dinner made its debut in 1954 the convenience food blitz began.  The Swanson TV dinner was a novelty and  moms that needed a break from the kitchen were crazy about them. Mom would heat up the frozen meals (on occasion) as a treat to dad and the kids for dinner.  More than 10 million TV dinners were sold during their first year in production.

The spin-offs that came from the original Swanson turkey and dressing dinner with corn that was packaged in a tin foil tray are beyond imagination. Today supermarkets are lined with heat-and-eat dinners and other easy-to-prepare packaged foods that provide meals for millions of Americans three times a day (plus snacks) every day.

Each time you buy one of these easy to prepare food you’re getting more than you realize.  Along with your Swanson turkey and dressing and Kraft mac and cheese you’re getting preservatives to keep the food from rotting, colorants that increase eye appeal, flavor enhancers for taste, and texturants that make the foods more palatable.

Processed foods also contain varying amounts of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and vegetable oils. Processed foods are typically low in fiber and nutrients and are easy to digest so we want to eat again sooner than we would if we ate a whole food.

To top that off, researchers are now convinced that these foods that we’ve all become so accustomed to are addictive.  People that eat them develop cravings that keep them coming back for more. The more you eat the more you want and the harder it is to stop.

Processed Foods and Chronic Disease

There’s some pretty compelling evidence that shows the impact that the deluge of processed foods has had on our health since families sat down to the Swanson TV dinner 40 years ago. Over the last four decades there has been a sharp increase in the consumption of processed foods.  Processed foods now make up 70% of the Americans diet.

The rise in overweight, obesity and chronic disease runs parallel to that trend.  Diseases that were at one time associated with aging – diabetes, fatty liver, cardiovascular disease and cancer– are now being diagnosed in children as young as three and four years old.

Scientists have also linked processed foods to autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, alopecia, asthma and eczema.  And a 2012 study suggests that the epidemic of autism in U.S. children may be associated with the American diet.

Not All Processed Foods Are Bad

Most foods that you purchase have been through some processing. Whether it’s a bag of fresh-cut spinach or a container of frozen blueberries, something has had to take place to get the food from the farmer to the grocer.

Frozen and fresh packaged fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are minimally processed foods that have been prepped for packaging. There’s no reason to avoid buying and eating these foods unless you have access to fresh foods all of the time.

Foods with ingredients added for flavor, texture, and preservation are more heavily processed. These foods may not need to be completely avoided, but a quick look at the label will tell you if they contain ingredients that are risky to consume. A long label with a list of ingredients that you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce is a red flag. So are foods that have added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and trans fats.

The most heavily processed foods are the most convenient.  Ready-to-eat foods like frozen pizzas, microwave meals, and foods that can be prepared by adding boiling water all indicate that they have been through a radical procedure and are the farthest away from resembling a real food. A dependence on these foods increases your risk for obesity and chronic disease.

Take Care Of Yourself First

The idea that eating ‘real’ food is the solution for weight management and overall better health is here to stay.

The correlation between processed foods and poor health has been proven. What you can do is look at what foods you’re eating and feeding to your family and decide if that’s the healthiest choice you can make.  It’s up to each of us to stop buying the crap that the food industry is trying to sell us.  That alone will inspire them to change.

If you want to learn more about the food industry and the products that are on the shelves of groceries everywhere, check out the trailer of the documentary “Fed Up” that reveals how processed foods have led to one of the largest health epidemics in American history.

If we are going to change our health, we have to change the way we eat. Giving up convenience foods might not be easy but it will be worth it. To get started, head over to the 100 Days of Real Food web site and sign up for the 10 Day Challenge. If you take it 10 days at a time you’ll find it’s easier to get off the heat-and-eat-train and on the road to better health.

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Prunes: A Sweet Swap With No Added Sugar

When’s the last time you ate a prune?  If it’s been awhile it may be because you associate them with your grandma or another ‘person of age’ in your life.

Prunes aren’t just for mature audiences.  They are a sweet, nutritious treat that can tackle a sugar craving and keep you from giving into some of the less desirables (like candy and pastries) as you work to reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet.

Prunes

Why Prunes?

Dried plums, or prunes, are full of phenols that function as anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants are effective in neutralizing potentially dangerous free radicals that can cause cell damage and over time lead to chronic disease.

The abundance of soluble fiber in prunes helps normalize blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which the food leaves the stomach.  Soluble fiber increases insulin sensitivity which plays a role in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Eating foods that are high in soluble fiber also decreases the risk for colon cancer and provides food for healthy gut bacteria

Plus, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as prunes, helps prevent heart disease.

Prunes are also a very good source of vitamins A and B6, potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, and niacin.

A Sweet Swap

Try replacing the Fiber One bar that you eat for breakfast or the afternoon 100 calorie snack pack that holds you over until dinner (but offers nothing in the way of nutrition) with a serving of pitted prunes. The prunes are naturally sweeter and lower in calories yet higher in nutrients than granola and cereal bars.  A fourth of a cup of prunes is only 104 calories.

Prunes have made a comeback because of their health benefits and versatility. Prunes can be added to brown rice, steel cut oats, Greek yogurt and salads.  Use them as you would raisins or dried cranberries to add flavor, fiber and nutrients to your favorite dishes.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy one of the world’s healthiest foods?

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Fitness Tip Of The Week: 100 Squats A Day. Everyday.

You can get big results from doing 100 Squats A Day. Everyday.

Sometimes just doing one simple thing can make a big difference.  It’s easy to get into the habit of thinking that if you’ don’t have at least 30 minutes to work out you might as well forget it.

No true.

A lot of days I’m busy too but I’ve decided that I am going to add 100 squats a day to whatever it is I’m already doing.

There are a lot of reasons to add 100 squats a day.  The main one is to look better in jeans and a swim suit. Bikini season will be here before you know and, I don’t know about you, but my body isn’t ready.

Plus, doing 100 squats a day is easy.  It only takes a few minutes, you don’t need any special equipment or a gym membership.  You can do them in your bathroom while you’re brushing your teeth in the morning, in the evening while you’re preparing dinner, or in front of the TV at night.

It doesn’t matter where or when.  Just get them done!

There are many ways to squat but to get results the basic squat will do:

Squat

Add some weights to your squats (as in dumbbells, a weighted bar or medicine ball):

Squats with weight

Or do a plyo squat by adding a jump at the end:

 

Plyo squat

However you decide to do your squats, make sure that you’re in good form. You want your hips to drop behind your knees and over your heels.  Be careful not to push your weight out over your knees. The best way to make sure you’re doing the perfect squat is to pretend you’re sitting down in a chair that someone is pulling away from you.  You have to stick your booty way to the back to reach it.

The baby in this picture (from Pinterest) has the 411 on squats. (You don’t have to go quite that low though.):

Baby Squatting

Within 10 days you’ll start to see the results of your squats. Your hips and thighs will begin to feel stronger and leaner.  Your winter body will be closer to being bikini ready.

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Seven Is Is Your Lucky Number When It Comes To Fruits and Veggies

Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat each day can have an impact on your longevity.  A recent study shows that seven servings of fruits and veggies a day is the magic number and vegetables have a greater impact than fruits do.

The study, led by Dr. Oyinloao Oyebode, of the Health and Social Surveys Research Group in the University of London, looks at 65,226 participations age 35 years or older. The participants were asked about all of the fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables they ate each day over a period of seven years.

Giving children Cuties and other soft fruits and veggies will get them in the habit of eating healthy foods.

Giving children Cuties and other soft fruits and veggies will get them in the habit of eating healthy foods.

The researchers found the average participant ate 3.8 portions of fruit and 1.5 portions of vegetables a day. During the study period, 4,399 participants died which is about 6.7 percent of this group. Of those 4,399, 1,398 died of cancer and 1,554 died of heart disease.

Participants who ate at least seven daily portions of fruit and vegetables had a 42 percent loser risk of death from all causes. They also had a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from cancer and a 31 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.

The researchers concluded that vegetables offer more protection than fruits and that adults should eat seven or more portions of fruits and vegetables per day.

“The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age,” said Oyebode. “Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.”

What This Means For You

If you have trouble getting enough servings of fruits and vegetables, don’t get too hung up on the number seven.  If you’re eating zero and you add two or three, you’ll still better off.  Every serving is worthwhile.

In fact, Oyebode encourages people to not “feel daunted by a big target like seven. Whatever your starting point, it is always worth eating more fruit and vegetables. In our study even those eating one to three portions had a significantly lower risk than those eating less than one.”

If you want to set a stretch goal for yourself to get up to seven servings a day, here are 10 easy ways to add more fruits and veggies to your life:

1.  Add fresh, chopped vegetables to eggs, pasta and poultry dishes.  They add flavor, color and nutrition.

Greek Chicken

Greek chicken is loaded with fresh vegetables and olives.

 2.  Have a fruit smoothie at least twice a week with breakfast or lunch.  Throw in a bunch of spinach or other leafy green for an additional serving of vegetables.

3.  Take mini sweet peppers and baby carrots to work each day to snack on. Keep them visible throughout the day.  You’ll be surprised how quickly they disappear. You can also stuff them for a healthy appetizer.

Sweet Mini Peppers are an excellent replacement for chips and other crunchy snacks.

Sweet Mini Peppers are an excellent replacement for chips and other crunchy snacks.

4.  Make salad the main dish for supper at least once a week and load it up with a variety of green vegetables and fruits.  Add grilled salmon or chicken for protein and the salad will seem more like a real meal.

5.  Before you toss a pizza in the oven, top it off with some chopped fresh mushrooms and colorful bell peppers.

6.  Make a batch of tasty fermented vegetables.  Delicious!

Fermented Vegetables

7.  Add thinly sliced cucumbers and bell peppers and coloful lettuce and to your sandwiches.

8.  Try roasting cherry tomatoes in the oven. You can find the recipe here.

Slow roasted tomatoes

Slow roasted tomatoes

9.   Instead of buying yogurt with the fruit in it, buy plain Greek yogurt and add you own fresh or frozen fruit.  You’ll cut back on sugar and get in a couple of servings of fruit.

10.  Incorporate Meatless Mondays and focus on vegetarian dishes that supply an abundance of vegetables.

There are many more ways to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet each day.  By making fruits and vegetables the main dish a couple of times a week will give you a surplus.

What are some of the things you do to ramp up your fruit and vegetetable consumption?

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The Five Diet and Exercise Myths No One Is Talking About

Whenever I click on an article that’s attempting to debunk weight loss or exercise myths I skim through it and think, “Tell me something I didn’t already know.” Many of these myths are common knowledge because they’ve been written about over and over.

For example, did you know that it’s a myth that if you’re a woman and lift weights you’ll bulk up like a man? How about that doing 100 crunches a day isn’t the secret to flat abs or that a steady state cardio workout isn’t the best way to burn the most calories?

Yes. We know.

Yet, there are plenty of untruths that circulate in the world of diet and fitness that no one seems to care much about. Many of these myths are being perpetuated – some even endorsed – by fitness and weight loss experts.

Get the body you want without giving up the foods you like is a myth.

Get the body you want without giving up the foods you like is a myth.

Here are the five myths that I wish people were talking about.

1. You Can Get The Body You Want – Usually this myth is accompanied by six or seven tips that tell you what you need to do to get your dream body. (Google it. You’ll see what I mean.) Then the secrets to getting the body you want are things like drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables, and move more.  While these are good for your health, they won’t give the body you want.

LOTS of hard work in the gym and getting ridiculously strict about what you eat is what will give you that body. Now add to that the role that genetics plays in your physiological make up.  Getting the body you want might not just be unrealistic. It might be impossible. It’s unfair to tell people they can have the body they want by making a few simple changes. The picture (above) is from Pinterest.  It is on a page full of hard-core bodies with captions that say “get the body you want without giving up the foods you like”. That’s more than a myth. It’s a lie.

2. I Can Undo What I Ate With Exercise –The fitness phone apps and trackers are fueling this myth.  They let you put in and subtract calories based on what you’re eating and how much you’re burning through exercise. Unfortunately, no tracking mechanism that you wear on your belt can tell you how many calories you’ve burned during an hour of interval training, Zumba or other physical activity.

Your metabolism and the way you burn calories is as individual as your fingerprint.  Even the best tracker can only give you an estimate of how many calories you’ve burned based on your age and weight. That will get you in trouble with the scale if its guess is too high.

3.  Drinking A Lot Of Water Will Help You Lose Weight – Drinking a lot of water is good.  Water helps every organ in the body function properly. Staying hydrated keeps us cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and can prevent chronic low-level fatigue. However, to date, there is not one scientific study that shows that drinking a lot of water leads to weight loss.

If you replace the high calorie beverages you typically drink in a day (sweet tea, soda, energy drinks and fruit juices) with water, that will help you lose weight.

4. Jumpstart Your Weight Loss With A Diet Cleanse – We have Dr. Oz and Oprah to thank for perpetuating this myth. Both have promoted detoxing and cleanses as a way to kick off a weight loss program.  Most physicians and nutritionist will tell you that there is no need to spend money on detox products.

Not only do you lose a lot of precious vitamins and minerals when you undergo an extended detox, but the weight that you lose is almost all water and will come back once you start eating again. The human body is a wonderful, complex system that has its own built in detoxification system that isn’t enhanced by modern day fasting and cleansing systems.

5. The Myth that Isn’t A Myth: No Pain, No Gain – A writer for Philly.com writes, “No Pain. No Gain. Whoever came up with this horrific adage deserves to be punched square in their six-pack, oiled up gut”. (The best thing about this article is the picture of the shirtless, ripped guy getting ready to do a bench press that I am absolutely certain has endured some pain in order to look that way.)  She goes on to say the idea that someone has to endure pain in order to benefit from exercise is wrong because it demotivates people.  I get that, but there is some truth to the no pain, no gain adage.

People that haven’t exercised for a long time are going to experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness [pain]) when they get started. Those of us that work out on a regular basis experience pain when we do something different, new or more difficult. Not down on our knees, excruciating, debilitating pain but there’s definitely some ouchiness that makes us aware that we’ve done something we’re not used to. It’s not a bad thing. It’s part of getting and staying in good shape like the guy in the picture is. We’re lying to people if we tell them otherwise

These are just a few of my myth pet peeves. What fitness myths bug you?

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Fermented Vegetables: Probiotics in a Jar

Have you attempted to solve the probiotic puzzle? It’s hard to know whether or not probotics are something that you need or just another fad.

The fact is, probiotics play a huge role in maintaining a high functioning immune system and something almost everyone could benefit from. There are some options when it comes to making sure you’re getting what you need.

Fermented Vegetables

Why Do We Need Probiotics?

Most of us don’t have enough ‘good’ bacteria (gut flora) in our intestinal track. Gut flora consists of trillions of complex microorganisms that assist in the digestion process and contribute to our overall health.

Ninety percent of our immune system lies in the healthy bacterium that resides in our gut. Our traditional American diet is full of things that destroy this gut flora.  Sugar, antibiotics – not only the ones that we take, but those found in meat and dairy products – and genetically modified grains are all good gut flora zappers.

Not having adequate amounts of good bacteria weakens our immune systems and puts us at risk for autoimmune diseases and irritable bowel syndrome, and increases our risk of succumbing to viral infections. New research is showing a link between abnormal gut flora and Autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, and ADHD. Although more work will needs to be done to prove these theories, the preliminary findings provide hope that there may be help for people that suffer from these afflictions.

Because these healthy flora are so critical to good health and our western lifestlye leaves them in short supply, supplemetation makes sense.

Supplementing: The Easy Way

If you want to increase the good bacteria in your system, the easiest way is to purchase a supplement from your local CVS or health food store.  You’ll find there are a wide range of probiotics on the market that contain various strains of bacteria that provide different functions.

I am not an expert on the various strains of bacteria so I did some research to find out what we should be looking for.  There is an excellent article on probiotic supplements at Lean It Up.com that you should check out before you make a purchase. But . . . . .

before you do that, keep reading for an even healthier way to boost immunities.

Supplementing: The Natural Way

There are ways to increase your gut flora without purchasing expensive supplements. A better and less expensive approach is to make probiotics in your own kitchen by fermenting fresh vegetables. It’s an easy process, and not only do you get the benefit of the healthy bacteria, you get all of the vitamins, minerals and fiber from eating the veggies.

The Process For Vegetable Fermentation

What you’ll need:

- One or two glass jars with plastic or glass lids (I used jars with the lids that latch.)
- Sea Salt (you can add more salt to taste)
- Filtered Water
- Fresh Vegetables of your choice

 *You don’t have to use cabbage but I read that it will help the fermentation process, so I put some chopped cabbage into each of my jars.

Directions:

- Dissolve one and a half tablespoons of sea salt in one quart of filtered water.
- Chop the vegetables you’re going to use and put them in the jar leaving a half an inch at the top.
- Add spices, peppercorns or other seasonings.
- Pour the salt water in the jar to cover the vegetables.
- Place a cabbage leaf on top of the vegetables and press it under the water so that all of the vegetables are submersed.
- Allow the filled jars to sit at room temperature for five to seven days.
- Open the lids of the jars once a day to release the gases (and taste the vegetables to see if they’re ready).
- Once the vegetables have fermented, move the jars to the fridge where they will keep for several weeks.

Vegetable fermentation takes anywhere between three to seven days depending on the temperature of the room.  You’ll know when the vegetables have fermented because they will have a sour (pickled) taste.  If any mold or scum forms on the top of the jar, simply skim it off.

Fermented vegetables contain several bacteria: Lactobacillus brevis, Lb. plantarum, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Pediococcus acidilactici and Ped. Pentosauceus.

Kefir Is Another Option

Homemade kefir and  yogurts also provide an abundance of probiotics and the strains are different than the ones found in fermented veggies.  I wrote a how-to on making kefir awhile back that you can check out here: How To Make Your Own Kefir

Kefir

Most of us could beneift from a daily dose of probiotics and they are even more essential for people that have been taking antibiotics. Long term antibiotic use can result in a condition known as C.difficile which is life threatening inflammation of the colon.

Individuals with chronic conditions or that have active auto-immune disorders should consult with their doctor before supplementing with probiotics.

Are you boosting your immune system with probiotic supplements or fermented vegetables?

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The Truth About The Baby Carrot Lies

As George Takei would say, “Oh my”.

A writer for the Huffington Post has gotten so carried away with her attempt to demonize the baby carrot it’s funny. Maybe that’s what she’s trying to be.

Baby Carrots

In the article “Getting To The Bottom of The Baby Carrot Lies” in the Huff Post on March 17, the author, Julie Thomson, tells readers:

We’re just going to come right out and say it: what you know as baby carrots are not, in fact, baby carrots. They’re just thin carrots that have been cut in half.

There, now you know. Sorry to lift the veil of cuteness off your eyes, but it had to be done. No longer can the carrot industry trick us into eating carrots just because we’re drawn to all things baby sized.

We know, this feels like the day you found out Santa was a sham — worse even. We’re sorry to be the ones to burst your tiny carrot bubble, but we can’t have you living this food lie any longer. Especially if it means you’ll stop buying those watery, stumpy carrots and start enjoying whole, full-flavored carrots again. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.

What follows are video clips (originally from Buzz Feed) that shows the way carrots are peeled, cut and washed in mass production and then bagged to sell to grocery stores.  And the clips have words on them to let you know they are “FAKE  FAKE  FAKE!” and it’s all a BAG OF LIES! Truly, if you don’t click this link and see it for yourself you’re missing out:  Click here.

To Julie and all of the other baby carrot haters out there I say, “Calm Down”.  It’s a bag of carrots that have been cleaned, peeled, washed, and cut and so that they are lunch-box-ready. You can open the bag, take out a half a dozen and dip them in hummus for a low-calorie healthy snack, or put them into a steamer for a nutritious side dish on a hectic evening.

The Truth About Baby Carrots

I was fascinated with “Getting To The Bottom of the Baby Carrot Lies” because I know that some people do think that baby carrots are a processed food.  I went to an outdoor barbeque last summer and someone brought in a tray loaded with fresh vegetables that included, you guessed it, baby carrots. One of the other guests pointed out that she wouldn’t touch them because they weren’t real.

Huh?

Just to be sure, when I got home I looked at the ingredients on my bag of baby carrots. There was only one: Carrots.

I thought before I started flapping around about how silly all of this is I would do my homework. What better resource than Lisa over at “100 Days of Real Food” to answer the question, “are baby carrots real food?”

Lisa says, yes they are and not only that, the stories that you may have heard about them being soaked in chlorine- enough chlorine to make them unhealthy and turn white – isn’t true either.

Lisa went straight to the source and talked to a representative from Grimway, a manufacturer of baby carrots, and learned that “the carrots are treated with WATER that contains a small amount of chlorine. And this water/chlorine solution is “well within the limits established by the EPA and comparable to the amount acceptable in [public] drinking water.”

Another baby carrot myth has been dispelled.

And, all of the leftover stuff that comes from skinning and chopping the big carrots to make baby ones becomes part of the food chain for livestock.

Don’t Freak Out About All The Lies

I think most of us know that baby carrots are not the offspring of a mommy carrot.  We know that they were not hatched or delivered or anything else. We know that ‘baby’ carrots are regular carrots that have been cut and peeled and packaged to make our lives easier. We did not need anyone to tell us that.

I’m guessing someone is trying to be cute using the sequence of videos to show us that what happens to a ‘real’ carrot is similar to what happens an animal at a slaughterhouse. Not true.

I absolutely agree that the flavor of a baby carrot pales in comparison to a fresh, whole, ‘real’ carrot. I always buy whole carrots when I’m making soups or stews for that reason.

The best snack for kids and adults - hummus with baby carrots.

The best snack for kids and adults – hummus with baby carrots.

To the manufacturer of the babies I say, “Thank you”. These carrots are helping people eat a nutritious, now-calorie snack that satisfies the desire to chew on something.  People (and children) can eat them by the pound and not gain weight.  They are a handy, crunchy, inexpensive snack in a bag.  They are not a Dorito.

What more do you want?

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