Sleep Matters: 7 Ideas for Doing It Better

bedding sheets and pillow sleep bedThis post is sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute, the third in a series of six I’m doing in partnership with them this year.

Back when I was in college, I used to hear the joke that of good grades, sleep, and a social life, you could have whichever two you chose … but only two.

Replace “good grades” with a job, and you’ve got a pretty accurate description of the real, grown-up world, for most people. And when “social life” now includes mostly non-negotiable activities like spending time with your kids, exercising, and taking the time to prepare healthy food for yourself and your family, skimping on those eight hours of sleep we’re supposed to get each night starts to become a pretty attractive option.

It’s not news that as a culture, we’re sleep deprived. Starbucks wouldn’t be a $15-billion/year company if we all woke up smiling and chipper every morning. (Check out this week’s issue of Brian Clark’s Further, my favorite weekly email digest about “health, wealth and wisdom,” for loads of compelling reasons to get your z’s.)

And if you’re an athlete …

… then sleep matters even more. In his ultrarunning talk from the Woodstock Fruit Festival (starting around the 18:00 mark), Michael Arnstein says that how much sleep he gets the night before a 100-miler is one of the most important factors in how he’ll perform — he even goes as far as to wear a blindfold, earplugs, and a hat to bed; sleep in isolation; and several days before the race, start hitting the sack in the early evening so that he’ll get used to the early bedtime and be able to log eight to ten hours before waking up at 4am on race day.

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The Step-by-Step Guide to Finally Making a Plant-Based Diet Last

farm fresh vegetablesThis is a guest post by Luke Jones, a plant-based blogger at Health Room.

I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for a few years now, and that change was the catalyst for a whole load of other positive changes in my life which have made me a healthier, happier human being.

Eating this way is now second nature, but it didn’t come easy at first. More than once, I nearly gave in to temptations and went back to my old habits.

I’m not alone in this regard: adopting a plant-based diet and making it last is easier said than done.

If you don’t currently eat a plant-based diet, it’s likely you’ve tried in the past, only to fall short and end up back where you started, feeling like you’ll never have the willpower to bring about lasting changes.

In that case, I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret. Here it is:

Changing your diet and maintaining it isn’t about willpower. Instead, it’s about taking the right approach.

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Check in from the Holistic Holiday at Sea Cruise!

Sadly, today is our last full day on the weeklong Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise.

And while that’s a shame, I’ll be leaving with a distinctly different feeling than I’ve ever had at the end of other cruises I’ve been on — namely, a renewed sense of enthusiasm for this diet and lifestyle.

Oh, I’ve been motivated to eat and live better by cruises in the past — but that motivation is always of the rock-bottom, “I can’t believe I ate and drank that much” variety. This time, it’s an inspired, enlightened motivation, owing to dozens of talks and classes from amazing lineup of speakers, and a menu much lower in oil than what we usually eat at home. Not to mention being surrounded by 1800 other people as passionate about all of this as I am.

Don’t get me wrong; we’ve done plenty of “normal” cruise stuff this week too. The massages (hot stones!), the beaches, the pina coladas, the gambling, the devouring of all five courses at dinner when three would have done just fine.

But all that has been balanced by the packed schedule of health content on the ship: my wife and I have attended talks by T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, Michael Greger, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Robert Cheeke, and Chef AJ, to name just a very few. We’ve gone to yoga, pilates, meditation, and Qi Gong classes most every day, and still found time to relax and just be.

And none of this is to speak of what we’ve done off the boat — finding an off-the-beaten-path vegan Rastafarian restaurant in Jamaica that served just one dish, relaxing at a beach in the Cayman Islands with water so clear you could see your feet at any depth, and renting scooters in Cozumel to go to another secluded beach. Today, we’re in the Bahamas, and tomorrow we’ll round out the trip with the NMA Miami running group for a few meals and a run before heading back to Asheville.

And when I get back, I’ll have some changes to make. New books to read. Blog posts to write. Podcasts to record. And lots of thinking to do. This cruise has been exactly the refresher I needed, and I hope I succeed in capturing some of that here over the next few weeks.

Longer recap coming when I get back!

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David Clark on Addiction, Recovery, and Losing 160lbs

david

Just a few years ago, David Clark was addicted to drugs and alcohol, obese, and watching his business and life crumble before his eyes. What happened?

Reality hit. And it hit hard.

If he didn’t immediately make drastic changes, David would be dead in no time. So he decided to go vegan, start running, and fight his addictions. He’s now an accomplished ultrarunner and speaker, and Doug and I couldn’t be more excited to have him on this week’s podcast episode.

David’s story might sound extreme for some, but it’s these extreme examples that inspire me the most. When faced with what must have felt like an impossible task, he fought through it. We can all learn from that type of determination.

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How to Travel on a Plant-Based Diet

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How do you make a plant-based diet work when you’re traveling?

Like so many other things, it depends.

For example: I’m about to set sail on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise, where the menu is all vegan (even oil-free vegan, if you want!). Afterward, I get to hang out with the NMA Miami running group for a day and check out a few of their favorite vegan spots in the city.

In this case, eating plant-based on the road (or the sea) is simple: the trip is largely planned around this diet, so there’s nothing to think about.

Podcast co-host Doug, on the other hand, is running a 100K this weekend, five hours away from Asheville, NC where we live. While ultramarathon aid stations tend to be fairly vegan-friendly, it’s risky to bet on it. What’s more, Doug has to make sure he eats well during the meals before and after that race. Much trickier than my trip, but as you’ll glean from listening to this episode, Doug’s taking it in stride.

A host of other considerations make the “vegan travel” answer a complicated one: Driving or flying? Big city or middle of nowhere? Hotel with a fridge? Just one destination, or multi-city roadtrip?

In this latest episode of No Meat Athlete Radio, we dive into the question of how to travel with your PBD. It’s a fun episode, and if you’ve never taken the time to check out the show — which we’re putting much more effort and time into these days — now’s as good a time as any.  Enjoy!

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3 Ways I’m Training Smarter than Ever for My Marathon Comeback

Jogger checking the running timeNote: This post is sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute. Opinions are entirely my own.

It’s been a full three years since I last ran a marathon, and over five since I last ran one hard. Or, to be fair (since they’re all hard), the last time I was last in PR-shape.

Although I haven’t exactly sat around since then, the training I’ve done for ultras has been much more relaxed and slower-paced than what I ever did as a marathoner. Lots of hills because of where I live, but I can count on one hand the number of speed workouts I’ve done since qualifying for Boston back in 2009.

So a return to marathons — to gasping for air during workouts, to hurrying through water stops, and to not walking the hills — will surely be no picnic. But it’s a change, and as someone who will take change over boredom any day of the week, it’s one I’m ready for.

I don’t know if I’m going for PR. Certainly not in this first marathon back; I think it’ll take me two races and a full year to get anywhere close to my 3:09:59 best. I’d love to run Boston again, and because I’ll be 35 next year (whaaat?)3:09 would get me in again, even under the new, tougher standards.

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3 Habits to Turn to When You’re Just Not Yourself

If you’re anything like me, you go through inexplicable rough periods now and then, those times when you’re just not feeling it. Not quite depression … just a funk.

You know what I mean: Things don’t excite you the way they usually do. You wake up at night wondering if you’re doing what you should be with your life. And those demons you thought you had licked start to inch their miserable way back into your life.

And during these times — whether as a consequence or the cause — you tend to do fewer of your good habits, and more of your bad ones.

So how do you break out of the funk?

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No Easy Task: How to Balance Food, Fitness, and the Rest of Your Life

The prompt for this final post in my partnership series with Garmin and Whole Foods asks how to balance food, fitness, and life.

More than with any other prompt, I feel qualified to write this one: one of the things I believe I’ve done best as an adult is to follow an (arguably) extreme diet and chase down (less arguably) extreme fitness goals, and do both in a way that feels … well, normal. And for the past four years, my wife and I have made this lifestyle work with young kids.

But while living it is one thing, explaining it is another. That’s kind of what this whole blog is about, what close to 700 posts and a book are here for.

I’ve thought hard about how to boil down the essentials of balancing healthy habits with the rest of your life into a tidy bullet list to make it seem oh-so-easy. And I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s impossible.

None of it is easy; it’s a choice you make — and sometimes a difficult one. What people chalk up to “balance” in someone else who makes it look easy might look more like obsession when you view it from the inside, on a day-to-day level.

So instead of an “easy ways” bullet list, I’m going to list three things that are hard to do. But if you do them, I think you’ll all most certainly be able to balance fitness and healthy food and the rest of your life.

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