Better than before

This past month, I’ve had to reevaluate who I thought I was. Whenever I’ve gone through a life change or a bump in the road, it’s both depressing and invigorating. Note, I do not get depressed nor do I suffer from that mental illness, I am using it as a describing word in this context.

Having this lingering injury, which is getting better and I have run a few times this past week, actually has broadened my horizons in other aspects. Also, I’m not going to lie, disconnecting from the vegan community and therefore spending less time on social media has given me more time to get interested in other stuff.

For example, I’ve never really been interested in organic or local food. Not to say I didn’t appreciate it, but largely I didn’t care very much where my veggies came from as long as I was eating them. Well, spending a lot of time on the bike gave me a big excuse to watch Netflix documentaries which made me aware of their importance. More on that in some other post. Not only that, but I kind of started to get interested in growing some of my own food.

This is such a shift and really surprising in my mind, because I grew up on a farm and actively admitted it was not for me. I just wasn’t interested and when I was of age, left for another job (make ice cream all summer? Sure!) 

Taking a step back, I wondered if this interest was due to simply being bored or the glorification farming gets in my community. Not to bash people, but most of us don’t understand how hard farming is. We see the beautiful bounty and don’t get it that it took a lot of work and most of it sucks. 

Early mornings, cold temperatures, stubborn animals, equipment that breaks, manual labor, all of it is disguised when those hardworking people show up at the farmers market smiling and offering us delicious food. Those people have a gift, and not everyone has it. Do I?

Honestly, I have no idea, but I love reading about it and can see myself out in those fields and growing healthy food. Whether that’s another unrealistic ideal or not, I’ve decided to scratch the itch and start an indoor garden in my apartment. Not only does it seem doable, it might scratch the itch enough for me to say I’m doing what I can and I’m happy with that.

I am better than before.

Coming back to this lingering injury, I’ve been able to improve myself in ways outside of running, but also have taken time to work on my imbalances, flexibility and core which I had been lacking before. It’s not that I didn’t take time to do them, it’s that I’ve changed the cool down and stretches to better serve me. I’ve made the things I’m doing serve my running rather than wearing me down.

For example, my job is very physical, so any strength training or heavy lifting I’ve done before serves no purpose except it makes me sore and ripe for injury. My job is my lifting, my gym work is about form, balance, mobility and strengthening ancillary muscles. Taking more time to relax or do some easy cross training appeases my need for movement and makes me happy.

I may not be at the same level yet, but in many ways, I am better than before.

I know my body

I am a few weeks into “non-training” and prioritizing the information given to me by Inside Tracker. The first two weeks were spent completely off movement outside of work. Then this past Sunday, I jumped into a local small trail race.

Race recap: it was fun, felt amazing and scratched my itch to get on some trails.

I haven’t run since then, but if the urge comes, I’ll take it outside for a few miles. Not training for me does not mean not running or moving. Not training means listening to what I want to do, keeping my HR pretty manageable and stopping if I’m not feeling it.

No workouts, no heavy breathing, all enjoyable.

What I’ve learned so far in this process is that I know my own body. I can hear what it’s telling me. I do not always listen, but I know what it is saying.

I was not afraid to run on Sunday because my intentions were pure enjoyment, I knew I would walk if I wanted to and I missed this small town trail scene. That’s exactly how the race turned out.

If I decide to run from now on, I’m confident I can handle it. Of course, I’m not planning any workouts or anything specific. Simply if the urge to run comes, I’ll go with it.

My life has slowed down considerably at work with the students gone. That is both a blessing for my body, and a curse for my mind. I get bored easily, but am trying to embrace the slowness. Being the social media manager has given me a creative outlet, while also allowing me to rest my legs. Check out the Instagram @strongheartsonthehill to see my work. You can also follow us on Facebook (shameless plug).

Do I still consider myself an athlete in this period? Hmm, I think yes because it keeps my eye on the eventual goal of training again when I want to. It helps me remember to foam roll, do some hip mobility, wear my recovery gear and eat properly. It also gives me confidence that running will not hurt me. I’ll be fine if I jog a few easy miles. Just not everyday.

I think I really freaked out a few weeks ago. I was over tired, stressed and wondering how to manage it all. Then I got bloodwork confirming that. I hadn’t been listening to my body. Instead of going completely nuts and calling my sister in the middle of the night, I should have done what I’ve been doing, took enough time off to want to run again and adjusted racing goals.

My future plans have a few races, but they are not goal oriented events. I have zero planned training, am going to show up at the race and just run. Not fast or go anaerobic, but just have fun. That’s how I started racing, and that’s how I want to do it right now.

Racing as a social event, not an opportunity to test myself or compete.

That actually sounds lovely!

I know my body. I’m listening to it.

The Changes I’ve Made Based on My Inside Tracker Results

Since getting my results from Inside Tracker, I’ve made a few changes in my daily life.

I had already decided to take a break from longer endurance exercise before I got the results, but my levels of testosterone and cortisol solidified this decision in my mind. Since that time, I’ve been doing more relaxing activities like reading, napping or working instead of running.

Read how I'm fixing my blood markers from @InsideTracker #themoreyouknow #bloodwork Click To Tweet

The first week was rough, because my job was crazy busy. It’s the nature of the beast. However, since I cut out the other strenuous activities, I found that even if I worked a 10 hour day, I generally felt pretty good. I got tired at the right times, didn’t feel like I needed to nap all the time and was more present at my job.

On the nutrition standpoint, I am starting with foods I can easily incorporate. I took the foods and thought up breakfasts and lunches where I could add them in.

For example, to improve my Vitamin D, I was instructed to increase my intake of mushrooms, soymilk, chocolate almond milk and toasted oat cereal (Cherrios).

To improve my inflammation from running, in addition to taking a much needed rest, I should include soybeans, chia seeds, avocado, edamame, various nuts, beans and quinoa.

To improve my iron and ferritin, I should include dark chocolate, spinach, beans, teff flour, amaranth and oats.

To improve my DHEAS (sex hormones), I should include dark chocolate, granola, nuts and avocado.

To improve my Vitamin B-12, I should include soymilk, chocolate almond milk, Cherrios, fiber cereal and rice milk.

From this data, an example day for me would be:

Breakfast: Cherrios with soy milk and peanut butter

[note, this is not Cherrios…but it’s pretty]

Lunch: Sandwich with avocado, mushrooms, hummus, spinach, oil-based dressing, tomato, sprouts and onions. Side of an orange or soup.

Snack: smoothie with spinach, chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chocolate almond milk, almond butter and banana

Dinner: Bowl of rice, avocado, tofu, beans, roasted veggies, nutritional yeast, salsa and sunflower seeds. Side of veggies.

Dessert: Ideally I’d have dark chocolate, but I’ve been hitting the Oreo train hard recently, and a raw chia seed protein bar.

Some days, I don’t always do this, but I try. I try hard. This is important.

The first week, nothing really seemed to change and I was still exhausted most of the time. However, increasing my sleep and relaxation and incorporating these foods have begun to have a positive effect (duh.) I feel more positive in general. I’m not worried about injury (because I’m not running so who cares?). I have gone out to eat with friends more times this past week than in the past month. I am more present with others as I am not thinking about how to optimally rest/train. I feel more optimistic about my future as an athlete.

I’m letting myself heal. I am enjoying the process.

I can’t wait to get back out there, but you know, here is cool too 🙂

Inside Tracker Results

Last Thursday I had my blood drawn and sent to Inside Tracker. A few days later I received an email that my results were ready and a link that took me to my personal profile on their website.

Read about why I wanted to work with Inside Tracker here.

Another email also came with comprehensive results that I could bring to my GP or health care provider if I chose.

Before I received the results, I decided to take an off season from running. I was feeling run down and my Achilles soreness just needed time to heal. My head was not into running and I was more focused on my job. It’s silly to train through that and do races. I want to compete well in races, so I cleared my schedule (after Flower City, which I decided to do with friends) and am taking a nice break from training.

After the race on Monday my results came. I am going to break it down into three categories: at risk, moderate risk and optimal. I will provide levels where appropriate.

At Risk:

The test confirmed what my body was already telling me: I am overtrained from trying to be 110% at both running and work.

My testosterone to cortisol ratio was very high indicating high levels of stress and fatigue: 21 units

Vitamin D: 20ng/mL 

Testosterone: high

Cortisol: 20ug/dL

Moderate Risk:

B-12: 470pg/mL

DHEAS: 183ug/dL

Inflammation: high

Iron: low


Glucose: 79mg/dL

Liver Enzymes

Creatine Kinase: 69U/L

Sodium: 142mmol/L

Potassium: 4.2mmol/L

Magnesium: 2.2 mg/dL

Cholesterol: good

Lipid Profile: good

Calcium: 4.9mg/dL

Folate: 23.5ng/dL

Take Aways:

Overtrained, high stressed, not absorbing nutrients.

My bone health is at risk due to levels of Vitamin D.

I do not have much expendable energy due to low B-12.

I have compromised RBC function due to low levels of iron.

My sex hormones are at a slogging pace.

My body is in a state of chronic inflammation.

I take the three supplements I am deficient in. This means I am either not absorbing them or this is not enough. Likely, it is a combination of those two things. When the body is in a state of high cortisol, it is hard to use its energy to metabolize nutrients. This is why in the later stages of a marathon or ultra, runners find it hard to eat or throw up. The body in a state of stress does not metabolize food efficiently.

After reading the bloodwork, I completed the profile indicating my goals. As of right now because I am not training, that means optimal health. Then, the algorithm created a list of foods to help both with improving my deficiencies and achieving my goals.

So, this is where I am at. Since that time I have taken the recommendations, which I will discuss in a future post as I realize this is a lot of information.

I am encouraged that before I got the results I was able to correctly read my body and decide to take time off. This test could not have come at a better time as I can fix this now, get to optimal health and begin training again.

Thank you for reading.

Why I’ve decided to work with Inside Tracker

There are things in life you can control and things you can’t. As a runner without the monetary access to state of the art facilities, coaches and chefs, it is important for me to optimize the opportunities I do have.

I know that one of the most important parts of training is diet and recovery. Diet in a sense that as an endurance athlete, I need to get in all the nutrients required for daily living…at a minimum. Let me explain this a bit. Rather than thinking about diet in terms of calories or macros, I think of it in nutrients. I must eat enough things and of diverse quality to get everything in. 100% of my daily recommendations for vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and the like.

Some days this bare minimum is 2,000 calories, some days it’s 5,000 calories, some days I get all the nutrients from 1,000 calories (when I’m eating nutrient dense, but calorically sparse foods like kale or spinach etc). However, just because I have all the nutrients in those calories does not mean I am done eating. Bare minimum means that I need to make sure I get in all the basic nutrients. The dessert I eat every night is the filler, the calories that make life fun, the emotional support I sometimes need and the calories that give me the energy to run everyday.

Basically what I am trying to say is it’s important to me to get in that base level of nutrients everyday.

In a long winded way, this brings me to Inside Tracker. I have wanted to get blood work done after my ultra season training simply because I knew I did damage, I just didn’t know how bad it was. Running 30+ miles is no joke to the body. Unfortunately, my insurance isn’t the greatest for this type of thing, so I decided to wait until I was done paying for school in July to get it done.

By chance, I was given the opportunity from Inside Tracker to get my blood taken and profiled for a bit less than my insurance. In addition to the niggles and slight injuries I’ve had this season and the fact that my emotions are all over the place, I was at a point where when they contacted me, I was very open.

I want to feel good again. All the time, not just here and there.

I am working on this psychologically, but I think that if Inside Tracker identifies a nutrient deficiency or something I can add to naturally feel better, I’m all for it.

Vegan. The elephant in this blog post.

I have made it no secret I think being vegan is an optimal way to live. I also admit that although I am a health coach, I do not know everything nor do I know what foods are perfect for my body. I know how I feel after eating certain things, but that’s about it. Using Inside Tracker will help me identify what foods will support me in both my vegan and athletic goals. I will take all their recommendations that follow an ethical vegan diet. I will stand by what I’ve always known to be true and that is I did not go vegan for health, I went vegan because I want to live my morals and ethics concerning non-violence, compassion and love toward all beings.

Today, as of writing this, I’ve had my blood draw and await the results.

Look for part 2 in the coming weeks.