Juice Feast, Take 2

Before we start, let’s get one thing out of the way.  Whoever euphemistically called this a feast should be shot.  While it’s not a fast, it’s no Fat Tuesday either.

sweet potato orange juice image 225x300

Sweet potato, orange, and pineapple juice. Yum, for realz.

I didn’t beat myself up over failing at my ill-fated first attempt at a juice cleanse.  It ended, one and a half days after it started, in my chasing my wife around the kitchen for a loaf of bread, followed immediately by a glass of wine, followed immediately by a beer.

I like to think that failing in my attempts to qualify for Boston for so long taught me to handle failure pretty well.  To use it as motivation to do better, rather than as a reason to quit trying.

So this time, I did it better.  Last night I completed four days of taking in nothing but liquids in my first successful attempt at a juice cleanse.

Why I Did It

In short, I got all pumped up after going to Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within seminar earlier this month.  (If you click the link, you can see me over Tony’s right shoulder for about a quarter of a second at 6:06!)

When my wife and I got back from that, we committed to a 30-Day Challenge, an extended version of the 10-Day Challenge that convinced me to go vegetarian.  More on that once it’s finished in about another week.

Part of that challenge though, is a cleanse in some form or another.

Did I need a cleanse?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it was a challenge and a chance to experiment, and I’m not one to turn those down.

The ‘Clean’ Details

With talk of cleanses comes talk of shitting.  I’ve kept that to a minimum, and relegated it to the “Dirty” Details section so as not to contaminate the food.  Here’s the happy puppy-dogs and lollipops stuff.

I based my cleanse on the guidelines Tony gives in his cleanse pack, which are somewhat flexible.  Here’s what I decided on for the daily rules:

  • At least 32 ounces of fresh, raw fruit juice per day
  • Lots of fresh, raw vegetable juice
  • 64 ounces of water per day, with greens powder
  • Cold-pressed oils
  • Lots of sea salt
  • Supplements, including Senna Tea, fiber, probiotics, and antioxidants
  • Seasonings okay, including a tablespoon of miso soup mix

(Big thanks to my experienced juicing friend, Shane, for helping me figure out what to eat.)

As you can see, the diet is almost entirely fluids and completely raw, except for the seasonings, which I used sparingly.  The point here is to give your digestive system a vacation by letting the juicer do most of the work.

But what made this cleanse SO much easier from the last one I tried is the inclusion of fruit juice.  Fruit juice tastes good.  To drink it for breakfast and throughout the day is Christmas compared to drinking pure vegetable juice, especially the green variety.

Dinner was the hardest part.  Come 5 or 6 pm, Daddy wants his dinner and he wants it salty.  Not fruity.

Problem is, every soup recipe I could find was either (a) not raw or (b) pureed, not juiced.  So I had to improvise, and I couldn’t believe how great the results were.  At the end of this post, I’ve included two soup recipes, one that I made up and one that I adapted to juice-only from here.

At the end, I’ve also listed every single thing I ate during these four days, for those who are thinking about giving it a try.

The ‘Dirty’ Details

So here’s how it went.  I bought Tony’s cleanse pack, which consists of Senna tea, some antioxidant pills, some fiber pills, some immune system pills, and probiotics.  (As it turned out, I think I could have saved myself 150 bucks and assembled it myself at Vitamin Shoppe for around 30 dollars.  Oh well.  Tony has done a lot for me.)

I’ve seen Senna tea sold as “Smooth Move tea,” in case you were wondering what it does.  The fiber pills do the same thing, the antioxidant and immune pills keep you from getting sick, and the probiotics repopulate your intestines with good bacteria, since you pretty much shit out whatever is in there.

Really, this part wasn’t that bad.  Let’s just say the cleanse wasn’t quite as “gentle on my body” as advertised, but it wasn’t that horrible.  And if nothing had happened, well, I’d have wondered why I was drinking all this juice.

How it went

Day 1: Love it.  Fun.  Exciting.  Amazed at how you can mix any three fruits together and get something delicious.

Day 2: Hate it.  Craving chocolate chip cookies, kettle corn, and anything that smells like anything.  Taco Bell Grilled Stuft Burrito on TV looks fantastic, as does raw piece of steak I see in woman’s cart in grocery store.  Grocery store trip derailed by emergency bathroom run.

Day 3: Easy.   Cravings have subsided.  Completely sick of miso soup and vow to never eat it again.

Day 4: Body has calmed down and seems same as yesterday.  Realize I’ve slept six and a half hours or less the previous three nights and not felt tired during the day. Thinking about food less, as cravings disappear once I put some juice in my stomach.  Noticing that I feel good, but nothing extraordinary.

So why did I stop after four days?

I’m not quite sure.  I kind of just got tired of drinking juice.  If my body had still been expelling random things from it, I might have been tempted to stay longer, and with the right motivation, I have no doubt I could have.

A lot of people say that with a cleanse, Day 3 or 4 is the worst, and then you feel great afterward.  I hated Day 2 the most, and then Days 3 and 4 were very similar and pretty good, so I figured maybe I was just a day or two ahead of schedule.

Next time, in six months or so when I do one of these again, I’ll try to stay on it a little longer.  For now, and  in comparison to the last one I tried, this was a victory.

I figured out at Unleash the Power Within that I need to celebrate my victories more by rewarding myself.  So that’s what I’m going to do now.  Maybe a cup of coffee. icon smile

The Blow-by-Blow

carrot ginger juice soup image 300x225

Raw carrot-ginger juice soup

This is me harking back to my food blogger roots and listing everything I ate for several days. Enjoy!*

Day 1

  • Senna Tea
  • Apple/Orange Juice
  • Water with Greens Powder
  • Miso Soup w/ Bragg’s Amino Acids
  • Apple/Orange Juice
  • Rooibos Tea
  • Water with Lemon
  • Tomato/Celery/Cumcumber/Basil Soup
  • Pineapple/Mango/Coconut Water Juice
  • Carrot/Ginger/Lemon Juice with Flaxseed Oil
  • Yogi Bedtime Tea

Day 2

  • Senna Tea
  • Apple/Orange/Grapefruit Juice
  • Water with Lemon and Greens Powder
  • Miso Soup w/ Bragg’s
  • Apple/Lime/Carrot/Celery/Kale Juice
  • Water
  • Apple/Carrot/Grapefruit Juice
  • Carrot Soup with Ginger (recipe follows)
  • Coconut Water
  • Grapefruit Juice
  • Grapefruit Juice Again

Day 3

  • Senna Tea
  • Grapefruit/Orange/Mango/Apple Juice
  • Water with Greens Powder
  • Apple/Lime/Carrot/Celery/Kale Juice
  • Carrot-Ginger Soup
  • Water with Lemon Juice
  • Sweet Potato/Orange/Pineapple Juice
  • Butternut Squash/Apple Soup (recipe follows)
  • Honeybush Tea
  • Orange Juice

Day 4

  • Senna Tea
  • Carrot/Celery/Apple Juice
  • Grapefruit/Celery/Carrot/Apple Juice
  • Water with Greens Powder
  • Carrot-Ginger Soup
  • Peppermint Tea
  • Carrot/Celery/Apple Juice
  • Miso Soup with Braggs
  • Water with Lime Juice
  • Grapefruit/Celery/Carrot/Apple Juice

*Bowel movement schedule available upon request.  (That’s a joke and if you actually request it, you are banned from this site.)

Carrot-Ginger Juice Soup

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 5 large carrots
  • 1 celery heart
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • thumb-size piece of ginger
  • 1/4 small shallot
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Seasonings:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • sprinkle of cayenne pepper
  • cold-pressed olive oil to drizzle

Juice all ingredients except lemon juice and coconut water. Warm soup in a saucepan until just barely warmer than room temperature.  Add seasonings to taste and finish with lemon juice, coconut water, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Butternut Squash and Apple Juice Soup

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled
  • 1 apple
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/4 small shallot
  • 1/2 cup coconut water

Seasonings

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
  • cold-pressed olive oil to drizzle

Juice all ingredients.  Warm in a saucepan until just barely warmer than room temperature.  Add seasonings and adjust to taste, then finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

What do you think?  Ridiculous?  Ready to try it?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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Wishing You and Yours a Precious Black Friday

Happy Black Friday!  If you’re reading this post, you’re part of a rather intimate audience today, so thanks for showing up.  Perhaps you were part of the 4 AM doorbuster crowd and your day of shopping is over?

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and along with the great food and time with family, took some time to actually be thankful.  The sole fact that you’re on the internet reading this (or any other) site right now means you have a TREMENDOUS level of abundance relative to most of the world, as easy as that might be to forget.

So if you didn’t do it yesterday, stop reading for a second and really take a minute or five to recognize just how fortunate you are.

Done? Great.  Now let’s get back to rampant consumerism and talk about shiny new websites and Black Friday sales!

The New Look of NMA

If you read by actually visiting the site, then you’ve no doubt noticed the new design.  If you normally read via email or RSS, come visit the actual site to check it out.

The design was done by Charlie of Charfish Design, who was amazing to work with and very reasonably priced, for all you other bloggers who are about ready for an upgrade.  And I’ve got to thank my friend Karol Gajda for telling me about Charlie, among about a million other pieces of good internet business advice in his free Freedom Fighters ecourse.

I’m still making a few tweaks to the design, but the goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to find things and enjoy the site.  If you have any comments or suggestions about that, I’d love to hear them.

Black Friday Specials

Two awesome deals on health products for Black Friday only:

1) All Vega products are 20% off today! Go here and use the code CJ-BLACKFRIDAY2010 to get the 20% discount.  The Vega products that I use and can highly recommend are Vega Sport Performance Optimizer (amazing natural sports drink), Vega Sport Performance Protein (high-quality vegan protein powder), Whole Food Optimizer (meal replacement shake), and Shake ‘n Go (convenient smoothies that blend without a blender).  I’m a Vega affiliate, so I earn commissions when you get their stuff.

2) My friend Robert Cheeke’s book on vegan bodybuilding is half-price today! Robert is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met, and for me his book was worth as much for the inspiration as it was for the vegan fitness advice.  You can get the deal at his website, Vegan Bodybuilding.  No affiliate arrangement here, just a good book by an awesome guy.  Check out my interview with him while you’re at it.

What I’ve Been Up To

I haven’t written much recently about what I’ve been doing.  Since we’re a small group today, now seems like a good time to do that, since in theory, the readers who read on slow traffic days are the ones who care the most!

I haven’t run much since the Marine Corps Marathon, when I ran a little more than I probably should have on a weak knee.  But it’s getting better, and I’m hoping to be back to full strength in another week or two.

I signed up for a 20K trail race on January 2nd, where I ran my first ultramarathon last year, and I’m hoping that Erin and my friend Pete will be running part of that race as well.  After that I’ve got the HAT 50K in March, where I hope to break five hours this year.  That’d be like 40 minutes faster than last year, but I’m kind of looking for a reason to train really hard again.  And finally, the Boston Marathon in April, which I CANNOT wait to run, since I had to miss it last year when my son was born.  (Not that he’s such a bad consolation prize.)

And Another Month as a Vegan!

As for diet, Erin and I have been doing really well.  Since the Tony Robbins seminar, we’ve been doing his 30-Day Challenge, a longer version of the 10-Day Challenge that inspired me to go vegetarian for good, and to start this website.  What that means is that we’re essentially vegan for another month, which is going really well this time.  My diet is finally to a point where I knew I could get it, and I’m excited about that.  I’ll write plenty more about the 30-Day Challenge in an entire post once we’re finished.

Alrighty, that’s it.  Time to go spend some quality Black Friday time with loved ones, on this most special of American holidays. icon smile

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27 Things Your Training Partner Won’t Tell You

This is a guest post from Susan Lacke, who has recently overcome a debilitating phobia of Twitter. You can now follow her to learn everything you never knew you needed to know about cupcakes, beer, and triathlons.

iStock 000010339559XSmall 300x200Even between friends, some things are best left unsaid.

But at No Meat Athlete, we’re happy to do the dirty work, and we think it’s about time you and your training partner got it all out in the open.  It’s time you heard a few of the things they’re dying to tell you, but never will.

What Your Training Partner Won’t Tell You

1. You will not lose momentum if you stop moving during a run. So quit jogging in place at the stoplight. You look like an idiot.

2. There are at least two embarrassing songs on everyone’s iPod playlist. There is no need to pretend you don’t know how they got there. Just own up to your love for N’Sync.

3. Everyone pees in the pool at some point. Everyone. Anyone who says they haven’t is lying. The same goes for the mass start of an open-water swim. There’s a reason that water feels so warm.

4. Please limit yourself to no more than two electronic devices when we work out together. Anything more and you have more wires coming out of you than an ICU patient.

5. Newton shoes are the Ed Hardy shirt of running.

Read more »

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Protein—A Primer for Vegetarians

This is a guest post from Matthew Ruscigno, MPH, RD, whose personal blog, True Love Health, is about veganism, adventure, and being stoked.

“But where do you get your protein?”

jpg 225x300As a vegan, a nutrition professional and an athlete, I get this question more than any other.

At a recent talk I gave on vegetarian nutrition to 200 dietitians at the American Dietetic conference, my message about protein was that it should be a non-issue: High quality protein is abundant in plant foods.

Yes, even for athletes.  So what happened at the end of my presentation?

A dietitian approached me and said, “I understand what you are saying, but where do you get your protein?”

If you’re confused about protein or have a feeling in the back of your mind that you aren’t getting enough, relax—you are not alone. The good news is that vegetarians (even vegans!) can and do get enough protein. Easily.

This is the message I have to share with the world.  I’d like to start with this article for No Meat Athlete, one of my favorite blogs.

What exactly is protein?

Protein, most simply, is a combination of amino acids. These amino acids have specific roles in our bodies, from metabolism to muscle development. Nine of them are absolutely essential to our basic functions, because they can’t be created by our bodies.

When we talk about dietary protein and getting enough, our concern is with these indispensable amino acids.

So how much protein do you need?

In the U.S., the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  To calculate your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.  (For those whose eyes have already glazed over because you’ve now seen two numbers with decimal points in them, the USDA provides a handy DRI calculator.)

This equates to roughly 10-15 percent of your total calories—remember that every gram of protein has four calories. Vegetarians and vegans easily get this amount of protein.

Why the advice that “athletes need more protein” is misleading

Sure, athletes need more protein than non-athletes.  But we also need more carbohydrates and fat—our overall caloric needs are much higher since we burn so much energy in our training.

So because we’re eating more calories, we’re automatically consuming more protein if we stay at 10-15 percent of the total.

For example: I’m about 80 kilograms and I need 2500 calories most days. If I want ten percent of those calories to be from protein, then I need about 63 grams of protein.

When I’m Ironman training or have an otherwise heavy load, my caloric needs double. Therefore, so does my protein, to 126 grams.

I tell the vegan athletes I consult to shoot for 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight.  You can see from my numbers above that even when protein is only ten percent of calories, I’m getting 1.5 grams per kilogram body weight.

Contrary to what most people believe, more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to protein.  The body can only process so much per day, and any additional protein is inefficiently converted to energy or even stored as body fat.

Don’t stress over combining incomplete proteins at meals

If I am going to rid the world of ignorance about plant proteins, I’m going to start by eliminating the phrase “incomplete protein.” It is misleading and biased and vegetarians should stop using it.

The problem with the idea of complete and incomplete proteins is this: It assumes we only eat one type of food!

It’s an example of a common mistake in the nutrition field: focusing on the specific nutrients of one food without seeing it in the context of an entire diet. Saying a protein is incomplete ignores the big picture and is often used by pseudo-nutritionists as a critique of vegetarianism.

While it’s tempting to want to combine these “incomplete” proteins to form a whole, the truth is there’s no need to combine protein sources within a given meal.

Really.  I know you have heard this one over and over—even the college textbook I teach from says it’s a must!—but trust me, it is not necessary to form complete proteins within single meals. Our bodies pool the amino acids we need as we eat them, and we use them when needed.

Some combinations happen naturally—think pinto beans with rice, chickpeas with couscous, or granola with soymilk.  But this is not a requirement in order for us to get all of the indispensable amino acids. Combining proteins was popularized in the 1970’s, and even though it has been deemed unnecessary for decades, the idea lives on.

What it means when people say animal protein is “higher quality” than vegetable protein

When you hear about one protein source being better than another, it’s in reference to the amino acid makeup.

It’s true: Animal foods contain all of the amino acids in the amounts we need.  So if you ate only beef and nothing else for months and months, you would not get an amino acid deficiency (but probably a host of other ones).  Do the same with only lentils, however, and you may not get enough of the amino acid methionine.

Fortunately, no one eats like this. We eat a variety of foods, most of which have some protein, and at the end of the day, we get all of the amino acids we need.

Okay, okay, enough with science and numbers, what do I eat?

If you’re eating enough for your activity level and consuming a variety of whole foods, you will get all the protein you need. Guaranteed. No need for supplements!

For example, lentils and soymilk are over 30 percent protein. Fifteen percent of the calories in whole wheat pasta are from protein, and even brown rice has protein, at about eight percent of calories.

See? It’s that easy to reach 10-15 percent of calories.  If you want more help in creating a nutrition plan with adequate protein, see a fantastic list of vegetarian protein foods and meal plans compiled by my colleague Reed Mangels.

Now go fight for vegetarians!

The choice to be vegetarian, like the choice to do anything beyond what’s considered “normal,” constantly puts us on the defensive. But with the knowledge I’ve now given you, you can speak confidently the next time you get the protein question.  Oh yeah, and you can tell Uncle Jerkface at Thanksgiving that you aren’t about to die of protein deficiency.

Also check out:

Matthew Ruscigno, MPH, RD is a 15-year vegan and Chair-Elect of the Vegetarian Nutrition Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association. He has completed numerous marathons, iron-distance triathlons and ultra-cycling events including the Furnace Creek 508, a non-stop 508-mile bicycle race through Death Valley. Matt worked with Isa Moskowitz on her upcoming book Appetite For Reduction. You can read more from him at his personal blog, True Love Health, or follow him on Twitter.

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6 Little Known Factors that Could Affect Your Energy Levels

Let’s face it: Kicking ass in life takes energy.

You can have all good intentions of running your first marathon, completing an Ironman, starting a business, or being an awesome mom or dad to your kids.  But if the energy isn’t there, you’ll be fighting a losing battle once the initial surge of excitement wears off.

iStock 000012300237XSmall 300x260Doing life-changing stuff isn’t as hard as most people make it out to be.  But it absolutely requires showing up.  That might mean getting up when it’s still dark out to get your run in.  Or burning the midnight oil while your family sleeps.  (As Gary Vee says, “7 PM to 2 AM is gametime.”)

So how do you get yourself to show up?  If your goal is compelling enough—and by “compelling,” I mean it’s an obsession—then what it comes down to is energy.

The more you use, the more you have

It’s a strange thing, this energy.  Anyone who has ever stuck with a fitness plan knows that once you’re a few weeks in, you have way more energy throughout the day than you did before you started exercising.  Counterintuitive, considering exercise expends energy.

Similar for food: From a caloric standpoint, a McSupersized extra value meal should provide you with plenty of fuel to use.  But how do you feel after you eat one of those?  Unless you’re starving, less is more when it comes to food.

Same for sleeping: Logging in 12-hour sessions seems like it should ready you for the day, but usually it leaves you dragging.  Unless you’re sleep deprived, it’s worth seeing what happens when you sleep just a little less.

So the big three rules most of us already know: Eat less, exercise more, and don’t go nuts with the sleep.

But there are other factors that could affect your energy.

They’re science-based.  Yet they’re controversial.

Why?  I suspect it’s because of people who overstate their importance.  In my experience, none of these factors have the impact that the big three do.  So when someone takes one and builds (and sells) an entire health plan around them, the result is a bunch of hype, a diet that doesn’t deliver, and our writing it off as a fad.

But this stuff shouldn’t be totally ignored.  If energy is your goal, every one of these aspects is worth considering.  Pick a few, try them for a few days or weeks, and judge for yourself.  I doubt any of them will kill you, and you might just find you have some extra energy for ass-kicking after work or early in the morning.

6 Factors that Could Affect Your Energy

1. When you drink water (or any liquid).

Healthy people drink a lot of water, as well they should.  But consider when you’re drinking that water: If you’re drinking it with your meal, you could be impairing your digestion.

Not only does water dilute the gastric juices required to digest food, it also exits the stomach after just a few minutes, taking those juices with it and making digestion difficult.  And since digestion accounts for 5 to 15 percent of your energy expenditure, that’s something you should care about.

A half hour fluid-free buffer on either side of your meals is a good place to start.  It’s strange at first, but you get used to it.

2. How you combine your foods.

There are diets based entirely on this principle, and I think that’s overkill, especially when the scientific tests of its efficacy are mixed.  But the biggest tenet, which says that carbohydrate-rich foods should not be mixed with protein-rich foods, makes sense to me.  The enzymes required to digest each nutrient tend to neutralize each other, again making digestion harder and slower than it should be.

So what does a meal look like, if it’s not a “square” meal of protein and carbs?  Try a big pile of non-starchy vegetables (salad, perhaps), and either a protein- or carbohydrate-rich food, but not both.

(Side note: The Wikipedia entry on food combining has an interesting paragraph about how some cultural rituals around eating may have evolved to maximize energy.)

3. Breathing.

We multitask, we achieve, we stress, we worry.  And so often during all of this, we forget to breathe.

Nobody breathes anymore.  At least, not the way we’re designed to, from very deep within our bodies.  The result is more stress, less breathing, and more stress.  (As an athlete, however, you’re at a huge advantage.  Your daily training encourages deeper breathing.)

Give your cells some oxygen.  Take a few minutes every day and just breathe.  If you need something to occupy your mind, try breathing exercises.

4. How acidic your body is.

The idea behind the alkaline diet is that our modern lifestyle produces an acidic environment in the body.  In this acidic environment, disease thrives, the body stores fat and leeches minerals from bones in an attempt to become alkaline, and relative hell breaks loose.

Is the acid/alkaline balance worth building an entire diet around?  In my opinion and limited experience with it, no.  But I find most of the arguments compelling.  And it’s not only quacks who are promoting it: In Thrive, Brendan Brazier advocates paying attention to acidity and alkalinity to what I consider a healthy extent—not obsessing over it, but not denying that it’s a factor in our health and energy levels.  (For more of Brendan’s thoughts on energy, check out the second interview I did with him.)

5. Not just what you eat, but how you eat.

Eat at the table.  Turn off the television and talk while you eat.  Eat slowly.  Chew your food.

We hear it so much, it’s starting to become nagging.  But really, do you do this stuff?  I don’t (enough).  Eating slowly and relaxed happens to go beautifully with not chugging water to wash down every bite before it’s chewed, and with breathing as well.

6. Whether you burn fat or sugar for fuel.

This is one that I can totally get behind.  I’ve noticed a major improvement in my endurance since I phased out most sugar on the mornings of my long runs, up until the very end when you need a boost to get to the finish.

I first learned this from Greg McMillan (see his approach to training your body to burn fat).  Then I heard Stu Mittleman talk about it.  These guys are talking about endurance running, but the same goes for the rest of your life.  Your body stores far more energy in the form of fat than it can sugar.  (Not an insult; this is true whether you have a cottage-cheese ass or washboard abs.)

So if you can train your body to burn fat at low intensities for a long time before it switches to sugar, you can go on with ass-kicking for hours before you shut down.  If instead, you rely on sugar, as most people do, even at pretty low intensities, the fuel burns out quickly.  If you’re running, you’ll bonk when your body shuts down to save some to keep your brain operating.  To a lesser extent, the same goes for the rest of what you do during the day.

Brilliant? Hogwash?

The way I see it, very few of us have the physiology background to really say whether this all is legit.  We’re left with three options: You can buy in completely and blindly, you can call it all bullshit, or you can do what I like to do.  Which is to try it.  As long as it won’t kill me, I’m pretty much game if there’s the chance it’ll take my energy to the next level.  What about you?

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The Shoe Made of Old Bottles, Tires & CDs—That’s Breaking Distance Records

“It’s good for anything up to a half marathon or so.”

When I asked the Brooks sales reps at the Marine Corps Marathon about the Green Silence, that’s what they told me.  Light, fast, and minimal—just not meant for long distances.

Brooks Green Silence Black Kelly Green 1 300x134I didn’t let it deter me.  I had fallen in love with the Green Silence when I learned about it this summer: Not only is it all of the above, and in my opinion a perfect minimalist alternative to barefoot-style shoes for road running, but it looks awesomely-weird and is eco-friendly.  More on that later.

Good for a marathon and (way) more

Long story short, I wore them in the marathon the next day.  If people can run a marathon barefoot, there’s no reason I can’t do it with a pair of flimsy shoes, I figured.  And in this case, I was right.  No problems other than the (unrelated) IT band issues I expected, and even those could have been far worse.

But get this—after I got home, I found a card in the shoebox listing some of the features of the Green Silence, including the fact that Scott Jurek (everyone’s favorite vegan ultrarunner) wore them at the 2010 AU 24-Hour World Championships.  But he didn’t do much there—he only ran over 165 miles and set a new American 24-hour record.

Let me repeat that.  24 hours, 165 miles.  And yet the Brooks people told me the Green Silence isn’t really for anything more than a half marathon!  Now, I realize Scott Jurek is superhuman—but that doesn’t mean his feet don’t hurt like yours and mine.  And it’s not like he’s a huge barefoot guy, either.  So why Brooks sells the Green Silence as a short-distance shoe, I have no idea.

CD’s, Tires, and Bottles…Oh My!

I knew the Green Silence was eco-friendly, but I didn’t know how or why when I bought them.  Here are just a few of the remarkable “green” features they boast:

  • The laces, meshes, and webbings are made from recycled plastic bottles.
  • The heel counters (the plastic pieces that reinforce the back of the shoe) are made from recycled CDs.
  • The outsoles are made from 30% used tire material.
  • The sockliner foam is fully biodegradable.
  • The packaging is 100% recycled material, with chlorine-free tissue, water-based inks and adhesives, no silica packs, and only minimal stuffing.
  • Brooks uses 50% less material to make the Green Silence than is used in standard shoe manufacturing.

Pretty neat, huh?  I don’t consider myself much of an environmentalist, but even I found this all pretty awesome.  A nice bonus for a shoe I’d probably wear anyway.

Where the rubber meets the road

So all of this greenness is great.  But it doesn’t matter much if the shoes are terrible.  Fortunately, they’re not.  Here’s my personal experience with the Green Silence.

The first thing I noticed about the Green Silence (other than the funky look) was the weight.  They weigh 5.9 ounces, only about 20% more than Vibram Fivefingers.  The upper of the Green Silence is really flimsy—nothing like the stiff material that most shoes are made of, so there’s really no breaking-in to be done to these.

The sole is shorter than that of most running shoes, and the heel isn’t built up much higher than the front of the sole.  These two things were important to me—I wanted a shoe that was a lot like barefoot running or running Vibram Fivefingers, but with just slightly more cushioning, since I find road running in Vibrams to be uncomfortable after a while.  I want these shoes to be my everyday road shoes.

When I put on the Green Silence for the first time to test them out, I noticed that I ran differently.  I naturally landed on my midfoot rather than on my heel, something that I’m still not convinced I even do in my Vibrams.  (I have no idea why the Green Silence should encourage midfoot running any more than the VFF’s, but for me, that’s how it is.)  I could definitely feel the lack of cushioning though, even walking around the expo—if you want a soft feel when you hit the ground like most fancy running shoes give you, the Green Silence are not for you.

green silence laces image 225x300My only complaint about the shoes is the lacing.  Rather than running straight up and down the top of the shoe, the laces curve along the top of the foot.  I’ve found I have to tie the laces pretty tight, due either to this curvature or the flimsiness of the shoe, and by the end of a long run the tops of my feet hurt from the tightness.  I also found that my toes hit the front of the shoe a lot, leaving me with a not-so-pretty nail situation after the marathon.  (Maybe getting a larger size shoe would have prevented this.)

So that’s my take.  Anyone else run in the Green Silence yet?  I’d love to hear if your thoughts are the same as mine.

All I know is this is the first time I’ve been excited about a shoe in a good while (especially one that doesn’t have individual toes on it!). If you decide to buy a pair from Amazon using this link, I’ll get a cut and we’ll all be winners. icon smile

Looking forward to hearing what the barefoot crowd, the racing flat crowd, and the environmentalists think of these babies.  I know you’re out there, so chime in.

“good for anything up to about a half marathon.”
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Don’t Let This Mental Mistake Ruin Your Race

Today I want to talk to you about goals.

No, not life goals and all that self-improvement stuff (though I must say I’m still enjoying the taste of all the Tony Robbins Kool-Aid I drank at a fantastic seminar this weekend).  Instead, I’m talking about the goals you bring into a race, particularly a marathon or half.  And sometimes, the goals you invent during that race.

A Sure-Fire Way to Ruin a Race

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Being old is cool, but finishing like this is not

Ever wonder how to wreck a perfectly good race, and make a day that could have been wonderful turn out to be miserable?

Easy. Here’s how.

  1. Start with a reasonable time goal in mind.
  2. Get all pumped up when your adrenaline surges a few miles into the race.
  3. Change your well-thought-out goal to a new, faster one, based on the fact that you “feel good today.”
  4. Crash and burn, shuffle/walk the last few miles, miss your original goal, and have a terrible memory of the day.

Seriously, I’ve done that so many times.  And I bet most of you have too.

A Rule of Thumb Worth Remembering

I learned something interesting while reading Run Less, Run Faster that’s helpful in combating this all-too-common occurrence.

Here’s the idea.  Imagine that on race day, all your training has resulted in a single race time you have inside of you that you’re capable of running, if you pace yourself perfectly and nothing goes wrong.  Let’s say, for example, that you’re running a marathon and your true (but unobservable) ability is a 3:28:00.

Here’s the interesting thing.  According to Run Less, Run Faster, for every minute you run the first half of your marathon faster than that pace, you’ll lose two minutes in the second half.

Let’s put this in terms of a real race. (Any similarities to the Marine Corps Marathon I just ran are entirely coincidental.  Really.)

So we’re saying your true ability on a given day is a 3:28, but you don’t know it.  You just know you have a goal of 3:30.   Let’s say the first few miles of the race go well, and your adrenaline convinces you to that you’re far more awesome than your “modest” 3:30 goal would indicate, so you decide that today is your day to run a 3:20.  You run that pace for a while, and hit the halfway point at 1:40 (four minutes faster than the 1:44 you should have run it in based on your true ability).

In these terms, the two-minutes-slow-for-every-minute-fast rule means you can plan on running the second half in 1:52, eight minutes slower than your ideal 1:44 pace.

The result?  You hate yourself as you shuffle/walk/limp/crawl through the second half, crossing the finish line in 3:32 (missing your original “modest” goal) and kicking yourself for letting your adrenaline get the best of you like that.  Oh yeah, and your whole day sucks.

One Goal and One Goal Only

I have no idea how many people’s races, especially first ones, are ruined this way.  Even with some experience, I still do it, almost every time I race.  The one time that sticks out in my mind where I didn’t make this mistake was when I qualified for Boston.

Why?  Because on that day, qualifying for Boston with a 3:10 was the only thing I cared about.

I couldn’t have cared less that day if I ran a 3:05 or even broke three hours entirely; that wasn’t why I was there.  If my head were some kind of weird video game where qualifying for Boston was worth 100 points, then running a 3:05 would have been worth 101 points.  Almost no difference.

But a 3:11 would have been worth absolute zilch, and that’s why there wasn’t even a hint of temptation to run faster than my goal pace.  My half splits were almost identical, and I crossed the line in 3:09:59.

So that’s your solution: Pick one goal.

Pick one goal and care enough about it that there’s zero temptation to go faster and risk f’ing it all up because you get swept up in the excitement of race day.

Pick a time that matters to you, and that you think you’re capable of, and just stick to it.  It’s so funny how easily convinced we are to run faster on race day when we’ve been planning on something else for months.

If it’s your first race and all you want to do is finish, a time goal is a pretty terrible idea.  (That’s how I ended up walking the last eight miles of my first marathon.)  Make finishing your goal, take it easy, and if you have a bunch of energy left to sprint the last three miles, well, you’ll be one of a select few whose first marathon ends that comfortably.

If it’s not your first race and you have a time in mind, but there’s nothing exceptionally meaningful about it, then think ahead about how much risk you want to take.  If you think you can run a 4:05, but breaking four hours would mean the world to you, then trying it might be worth the risk, if the idea of bonking and running a 4:20 doesn’t sound all that much worse than a 4:05.

But in most cases, I’d say err on the side of slowness in the first half of the race.  Think about it: Knowing you held back too much early on is still a pretty good day.  You finish strong, kick the ass of the last few miles, and can’t wait to get back out there and see what you’re really capable of.  When you consider the alternative of going out too fast and hating every minute of the last six miles of your marathon, even if these two strategies happen to result in the same finish time, the choice is pretty clear.

What do you think?  Do you play it safe, or always push it no matter what you decided going into the race?

This post is part of a series of posts designed to teach you how to run long and strong.  Go check out the rest!

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Put Down Your Phone and Drive (Before You Kill Me)

This is a guest post from our resident no-meat triathlete, Susan Lacke.

Are you reading this article on your cell phone right now?

iStock 000010832097XSmall 201x300If so, are you behind the wheel of a car?

Please. Put down your cell. NOW. Get to your destination. I promise, I’ll still be here when you come back. Go on.

Seriously. GO.

It seems strange, writing about your driving habits, when most of my articles on this site are about locomotion using the two-wheel variety or the old school hoofin’ it. But now, more than ever, I’m intimately familiar with how 2,000-pound four-wheeled vehicles impact the physical activity of every athlete.

I got hit by a car while riding my bike. Again.

I’m not sure what happened. First I was riding, and then I wasn’t. I was on the road, then I was in someone’s lawn. I was upright, then I was faceplanted in the grass. I was satisfied with a  great workout, then I was crying, scared, and hurting.

This is the third time it’s happened to me. What hurts the most is not the broken ribs. It’s not the concussion. It’s not the road rash and bruises. It’s my faith in humanity.

You see, when I’ve been hit while cycling, the drivers didn’t stop, but just kept on going. When talking with a police officer, I asked why this might be — the answer? They probably didn’t even realize what happened, or, if they did, simply didn’t want to get caught and admit they weren’t paying attention behind the wheel.

When I heard that, it took every ounce of strength I had to maintain my composure. I wanted to have a meltdown. I wanted to grab someone by the shoulders and shake them. I wanted to scream: G-dammit-how-do-you-hit-another-person-and-not-know-it-what-the-hell-ARE-YOU-AN-ASSHOLE-OR-JUST-STUPID-GAAAAAAAAAAH!

Ahem. Pardon my French.

Distracted driving is growing at an alarming rate. In your car, you probably multitask: You drink your coffee, eat your snack, check your e-mail on your BlackBerry, change the music on your iPod, talk to your child in the backseat, read the billboards on the side of the road, daydream, and text. You read about the texting-while-driving accidents in the news and “tsk-tsk-what-a-tragedy” but rest assured that it would never happen to you. You’re a much better driver than that.

Right?

Except for those times when you’re reading an e-mail on your phone and look up and quickly notice the car in front of you is stopped, causing you to slam on your brakes. Or those times when you’re looking for a specific song on your iPod and look up to realize you’re in the oncoming traffic lane. Or those times when you space out and realize you have no recollection of the last 15 minutes of driving.

I’m not really a fan of using scare tactics to make a point. But let’s face it: I’m scared. In a matchup between car vs. bike, the vehicle with heft, seatbelts and airbags beats a simple ultralight bike and helmet every single time. I could be dead. I should be dead. All because someone wasn’t paying attention.

It’s been three weeks since my accident. The road rash is almost all gone, and I can finally take deep breaths again without it hurting too much. But I still can’t bring myself to get back on the roads. I’m terrified.

I’ve written before on how you can stay safe while running, cycling, or swimming. Now, my plea has nothing to do with your participation in any of those activities.

When you drive, promise me you’ll remember you are operating a piece of machinery that weighs thousands of pounds. If you haven’t been hit by a car before, take it from me: You feel every single one of those pounds when you’re hit.

Put down the cell phone. You can wait until you get home to text your friend that you LOL’d (You know weren’t really laughing out loud anyway). You can pull over to the side of the road to call your spouse back about what kind of wine you’d like to pick up for dinner. You can read No Meat Athlete when you’re not behind the wheel of a car. When you’re driving, make that one task your priority. Everything else can wait.

I’ll get the confidence to get back on the road one of these days. When I do, I hope you see me pedaling away in the bike lane.

Really, I hope you see me.

I’d like that.

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