Should You Care What Other People Think? with Robert Cheeke

Red treadmill, track running at the stadium

You’re an athlete. You’re a vegan. You’re a runner, bodybuilder, yogi.

Should you care what other people think of how you take care of your body?

In a world where posting each workout to social media is standard, and sharing what you eat, or how many steps you take each day is celebrated, it’s hard not to care what others think. In part, because the approval (or disapproval) is almost instant.

That’s the topic of today’s episode with vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke, and whether sharing all that information is actually a good thing for your health and goals.

Here’s just some of what we talk about in this episode:

  • Perfection and putting yourself out there
  • How Robert’s new book is more honest
  • Does social media help or hurt our goals?
  • Robert’s history with standup comedy
  • The power of being honest with yourself and others

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Julie Piatt on Demystifying Vegan Cheese

julie

Cheese. I can finally make cheese!

Cheeses (from nuts, not dairy, of course) that the recipes I really want to cook call for. For example, long before I went vegan, my signature (slash, only) dish was gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.

Well, thanks to Julie Piatt’s recipe on page 99 of her brand new cookbook This Cheese is Nuts, now I can make gorgonzola — and the dish again, in full, plant-based glory.

Same goes for authentic margherita pizza (mozzarella) and any number of Mario Batali recipes like fava beans with burrata and mint.

(Haha, can you guess what my favorite cuisine to cook is?)

Wouldn’t you know it though, Julie put recipes for both these cheeses (and about 30 others) in her book.

So that’s my somewhat quirky reason for loving This Cheese is Nuts, but much more importantly, the book is an answer to that most tiresome of “why I could never go vegan” excuses… called “I could never give up cheese.”

Not the first book to attempt to be that, but judging from its Amazon reviews and ranking already, I get the sense it’ll be the first one to do it on a bigtime, mainstream, somehow-your-weird-non-vegan-aunt-knows-about-it kind of level.

In today’s episode of No Meat Athlete Radio, I speak with Julie about just that, and what it could mean for the community.

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Can Vegans do CrossFit? How to Thrive as a Plant-Based CrossFitter

Athletes Doing Box Jumps At Gym

This post was written by Jeremy Cronon.

I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count the number of times someone has sent me a meme to the tune of:

9-22809-if-you-are-a-vegan-who-does-crossfit-what-do-you-tell-people-first

Hilarious, right? For the purpose of this article, I must talk about both.

I officially became a walking stereotype when I paired my veganism with CrossFit in the fall of 2013. Despite a strong fitness background, I started from scratch, taking the week-long Foundations class for newbies and using beginner’s tools like a PVC pipe to ease in and learn proper form for many of my workouts.

Over the next two years, I became stronger, more flexible, healthier, and more coordinated than I had imagined possible. I also discovered that I had an alarming appetite for sweet potatoes.

That journey taught me that, despite what everyone seems to think, plant-based athletes can not only survive in a CrossFit gym, but thrive as part of the community.

Don’t Let Them Scare You Away

For the uninitiated, venturing into a CrossFit gym may conjure intimidation, angst, and even a little fear.

You might be envisioning a cave-like, spartan warehouse populated with savage, overbuilt brutes, grunting and gnawing on slabs of meat as they lift draconian objects cast in cold, unforgiving steel and iron.

Hardly a positive learning environment for your average plant-based athlete, or anyone for that matter.

Though hyperbolic, that vision speaks to some of the reasons why someone might dread experimenting with CrossFit. Trust me, you aren’t the first person to ask yourself:

  • Will my plant-based diet be adequate?
  • Will they laugh at me and call me “herbivore”?
  • Will they force me to do things I don’t feel ready for?
  • What if I get hurt?
  • Will they say that eating meat would solve all my problems?
  • Am I too weak to even try CrossFit?
  • Am I too skinny or too overweight?

Don’t let your imagination get the better of you. CrossFitters are all human, just like you. They all started where you are now, strangers both to CrossFit and its community.

When I began my CrossFit career, I started with a week-long introductory course. There were only three people in the class, including the coach. That week focused on the fundamental movements, training strategies, nutrition advice, and gave us ample time to ask all our questions. When I broached the subject of plant-based nutrition, my coach barely skipped a beat, instantly tailoring her information to fit my needs. She even lent me her copy of Brendan Brazier’s Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life.

I don’t generally broadcast my veganism, but it didn’t take long for the word to get out. After all, I was the only plant-based practitioner at the gym. There was an initial surge of questions, predominantly about my protein intake, and there was some thinly veiled skepticism about my dietary choices. They had every right to be curious, even cynical; it’s not like there were many vegan athletes in eastern North Carolina.

Undeterred by the questions, I kept at it, showing up everyday without fail. By the time I traded in my PVC pipe for a barbell, the people surrounding me weren’t strangers anymore. They were some of my best friends. Even though we ate differently, we still respected one another.

I never did escape the lighthearted vegan jokes and I doubt I ever will, but I knew that their initial skepticism had been replaced by appreciation.

That was enough for me.

CrossFit, an Introduction

At a fundamental level, CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. But for someone new to CrossFit, that doesn’t tell you much. Here is what you can expect:

First of all, going to CrossFit is taking a “class,” not a workout session on your own. This means there will be a coach working with a group of athletes, generally for one hour. That coach will begin by leading the class through a warm-up meant to target the muscle groups that will be used later on in the class.

This is generally when you start sweating.

After that, you dive into the skills portion of the day. Whether the focus of the day is a powerlifting movement like the back squat, an olympic lifting movement like the power snatch, or a gymnastics movement like the pull-up, this segment creates structured time to improve your capacity with that skill.

By this point, you’re really sweating.

Last, but not least, comes the Workout of the Day (often shortened to “WOD”). These can come in all shapes and sizes, flavors and colors, but will generally fill the last three to thirty minutes of class with a high intensity pandemonium. Every athlete can modify the WOD to fit their ability, but you’re all focused on the exact same workout.

And … you’re soaked.

That, in a nutshell, is what you are likely to experience at a CrossFit class. Every day will be different, but the variety should be contained within that familiar framework.

4 Steps to Thriving Within the CrossFit Community

Being successful with CrossFit is about much more than just having strength. It’s about understanding (and pushing) your limits, building community, and constantly learning.

As a plant-based athlete, there are a few strategies I follow to thrive not only within the sport, but also the community.

1. Check Your Ego

Whether you’re attempting your first 5K or kicking off your CrossFit membership, ego represents your greatest risk factor. We can blame our coaches, programming, or lifestyle choices, but we’re often personally responsible for pushing ourselves over the edge into injury.

There’s no denying that CrossFit fosters a competitive environment. At some gyms, it is palpable. At others, it is an afterthought. And it’s that competitive nature that, unfortunately, has led to CrossFit’s storied relationship with injury.

Competition does not, however, inherently generate dangerous situations. I truly believe that removing ego from the athletic equation would reduce the risk of injury across the sporting spectrum. Sadly, we can only expect so much from our species. You, on the other hand, can make a concerted effort to manage its impact on your life.

And CrossFit can help.

CrossFit is known for its “high intensity” workouts. That phrase, however, has infinite interpretations for all of us. CrossFit solves this problem by providing options for athletes to scale workouts that they cannot effectively complete as originally programmed.

Which means, no matter if you’re brand new to CrossFit and these exercises or a diehard CrossFitter, every athlete in the gym will be exhausted by the same type of workout, even if their skill levels and strengths vary significantly.

So how do you know when and how to scale? Your coaches, an active a part of every class, are there as a resource whenever you need them. Every workout is an opportunity to attack your weaknesses and to grow as an athlete, whether or not you modify the workout doesn’t change that.

Quick Tips for Staying Injury Free

  1. Start slow. Most CrossFit gyms offer introductory classes for new athletes to learn the movements in a smaller class size. Take it. Building a strong foundation will pay huge dividends later on.
  2. Don’t add weight or try a movement just because everyone else is. Modify each exercise to fit your ability, even if that means using a PVC pipe. It may not be glamorous, but the PVC pipe is easily one of the most important pieces of equipment at the gym. Spend as much time working with the pipe as you can.
2. Allow Yourself to Learn

From olympic lifting to bodyweight gymnastics, from powerlifting to metabolic conditioning, CrossFit employs diverse movements that each present both challenge and opportunity for growth.

Achieving efficiency and stability in each movement is undoubtedly a lifetime pursuit, something that Games’ (the CrossFit competitions you see on TV) athletes and beginners face together.

CrossFit tackles this complexity by providing qualified coaches who instruct, encourage, and monitor your development. They are there to support you through the final seconds of a workout and to intervene when they see you putting yourself at risk. Those coaches will be your lifelines when you have movement-related questions, need help setting your monthly fitness targets, or want some advice on maximizing your recovery. The more your coaches know about what you want to get out of CrossFit, the better they can help you achieve those goals.

Communicate with them. Listen to them. Utilize these coaches as your main resource.

But, as much as CrossFit is about your own fitness, camaraderie is part of what keeps people coming back.

The athletes working alongside you each and every day will often be your loudest cheerleaders, representatives of a supportive, nurturing community. Moreover, they can often provide insight and instruction gleaned from their own experiences with CrossFit. Cultivating relationships that allow you to learn from your peers only strengthens the community that proves so fundamental to CrossFit.

But even with coaches tweaking your body position and fellow athletes pushing you through an exercise, ultimate responsibility still falls on you.

You must listen to and learn from your body. The diversity of movements that CrossFit employs can tax muscles that you may not have known you had, and uncover physical and mental weaknesses, and nutritional deficiencies. Pay attention to what your body is telling you, adjust, and learn from it.

Quick Tips for Learning with Each Workout

  1. Keep a journal. Having a record of your lifts and workout scores will help you track your progress and highlight strengths and weaknesses. Not enough CrossFitters log their workouts; you should.
  2. Don’t be afraid of complex movements with intimidating names (or acronyms) like the Sumo Deadlift High Pull (SDHP) or Handstand Push-up (HSPU). Instead, work with your coaches to identify progressions and scaling opportunities that will help you achieve your goals.
3. Embrace Your Common Purpose

It’s no secret that many CrossFit athletes adhere to the paleolithic or Zone diets, where meat is often a primary focus. So many, in fact, that Paleo and CrossFit often feel like twins conjoined at the Neanderthalic hip.

But even though it can sometimes feel especially primal and carnivorous, plant-based athletes need not feel neglected in the CrossFit universe. In the end, no matter your diet, following any dietary program demonstrates a willingness to make intentional decisions about the way that you eat.

You may eat different foods, but you are working towards a similar goal. In fact, once we got past the labels, some of my vegan recipes became crowd favorites among my paleo peers and I adopted a few paleo recipes that happened to be vegan into my arsenal.

Fitness communities and dietary programs of all flavors and persuasions often share a foundational goal: to strengthen and nurture your body. Whether you are a paleo cyclocross enthusiast or a raw vegan powerlifter, a gluten-free triathlete or a carnivorous kick boxer, those principles hold true.

That is the bedrock of the CrossFit community.

Quick Tips for Connecting with the CrossFit Community

  1. Not everything has to be about CrossFit all the time. There are plenty of ways to test your fitness or grow friendships that can happen anywhere, whether at a backyard bonfire or through an intramural volleyball league.
  2. Consider signing up for a team competition. This may seem like a long way off, but team competitions (which can be scaled, just like workouts) are a great way to work together with your fellow athletes towards a common goal. Plus they’re a ton of fun.
4. Eat to Perform

Not all plant-based diets are created equal. Oreos, after all, are vegan.

When I graduated from college, I understood plant-based diets and vegan nutrition at a basic level. I had figured out how to stay lean, while prioritizing muscle growth. That diet, however, proved wholly inadequate once I started CrossFit.

CrossFit’s intense focus on pairing metabolic conditioning with heavy lifting propelled my metabolism to stratospheric heights. I was always hungry and noticed that certain workouts left me completely drained. I immediately bumped up my caloric intake, devouring massive portions of roasted vegetables with homemade seitan.

More importantly, though, I started to work with my coaches to tailor my intake for athletic performance. If I was going to overhaul my diet, I figured I should target any imbalances or deficiencies that might be affecting my performance in the gym or my body’s ability to recover.

I spent countless nights poring over resources about supplements vs. whole food approaches, the impact of branch chain amino acids on recovery, omega-3 absorption, and vegan sources of creatine, before discussing my findings with my coaches, all of whom had both personal or professional backgrounds in nutrition.

In the end, I figured out what worked for me. And so can you.

All it takes is a little time and a willingness to learn both from yourself and those around you.

When I think about the ways that CrossFit has changed my life, I think about the people who have become family, the body awareness I have gained, and the nutritional consciousness that now governs my day-to-day choices.

It has made me a healthier and happier person in every aspect of my life.

Quick Tips for Maximizing Your Plant-Based Diet

  1. Try new things. Don’t just toss in a few exotic recipes every now and then, test out entirely new ratios of macronutrients or a dedicated meal vs. grazing approach. See how your body reacts and adjust accordingly.
  2. Prep your meals beforehand. Having a stockpile of healthful meals in the fridge ensures that you always have the right food to eat, even if you don’t have time to cook that night.

Now the Hard Part … It’s Time to Show Up

When you walk into your first CrossFit class, you automatically have something in common with everyone in the room:

You showed up.

CrossFit claims you did so to improve your capacity for work. I don’t necessarily see it that way.

Instead, I see CrossFit as way to improve your capacity for life, whether that means climbing mountains, playing with your grandchildren, or landscaping your backyard. The simple act of showing up makes a statement that everyone in the room hears loud and clear. Despite the myriad other things going on in your life, you’ve made your fitness, and your health, a priority.

That merits not only respect, but admiration from the entire group.

By attending a class, you’re celebrating the commitment of those around you, which is why every CrossFit class ends the same way … with sweaty high fives for every single athlete in the room.

About the Author: Jeremy Cronon fell head over heels into the CrossFit universe back in 2014, completely disregarding the rumors that vegans and vegetarians weren’t cut out for that level of intensity. As an outdoor educator and semi-professional wanderer, CrossFit allows him to maintain his fitness while on the road. Follow his travels and share in his love of handstands via Instagram and his blog, Chasing Cairns.

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Is it Possible to be 100% Vegan?

Vegetables and fruits, text space.

It all started with a Facebook comment, where a non-vegan proudly proclaimed, “It’s impossible to be 100% vegan.”

My first thought was, “whatever, I’m 100% vegan!” But then it got me thinking.

Am I? Is Matt? Are you?

I subscribe to this label, but what does it even mean?

In today’s episode Matt and I break down that question. We start with the definition of veganism, then explore how realistic it is to follow a 100% vegan lifestyle. And finally, is that even important?

Here’s just some of what we talk about in this episode:

  • What does “vegan” even mean?
  • Ordering at non-vegan restaurants
  • My leather wallet (and other non-vegan clothing)
  • Representing the movement

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Real Food on the Run: 10 Homemade Running Fuel “Pouch” Recipes

Raw Organic Red Beets

Note from Matt: This post was written by Stepfanie Romine, co-author of the new No Meat Athlete Cookbook. Unlike other recipes we’ve posted, this one isn’t from the book — but it nicely captures the practical, real-food spirit of the Fuel & Recovery chapter (my favorite part of the book).

Experiment and enjoy this one, and when you have a minute, check out Sports Illustrated’s recent article about The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, in which they condensed the first few chapters into a nice piece that I think is perfect for helping this movement reach mainstream awareness, plus shared a substantial and delicious lentil-mushroom pasta dish from the book.


You know those runners who can eat or drink whatever they want during a workout or race? The ones that scarf down anything and everything, and never seem to have any trouble?

Yeah, I’m not one of those runners. Chances are you aren’t either.

Whatever the reason — a finicky digestive system, a food sensitivity or allergy, or simply a preference for knowing what’s going in your body — most of us have to pack our own food and drinks during rides and runs.

And if you’re anything like me, you’d much prefer to make your own fuel than buy processed gels with ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Awhile back, while discussing the “Fuel & Recovery” chapter of the new No Meat Athlete Cookbook, Matt shared with me one of the quirky foods he ate while training for an ultra…

Baby food.

More accurately, fruit-and-veggie-based squeeze pouches for toddlers that he discovered at Starbucks (yup, Matt and his then six-month-old son were pretty much eating the same food). While they were made with real food and served their purpose, the disposable pouches and hefty price tag made them less than ideal for regular consumption.

But it got me thinking: Could I create a cheaper version on my own? A homemade, real-food, energy-packed running fuel that’s easy to eat on a long run?

Turns out it’s simple, and since I’ve started using reusable silicone pouches there’s much less waste, too. But if all you’ve got on hand is plastic baggies, that works too — just bite off the corner and squeeze when you’re ready to eat, just like you would with an energy gel.

Introducing the Homemade Running Fuel Pouch

Since Matt first discovered the pureed food pouch several years ago, several other companies have gotten on board. Most notably CLIF, who has a line of squeezable pouches they call Organic Energy Food (I hear Scott Jurek fueled much of this Appalachian Trail speed record with them).

This type of fuel has taken off because it’s easy to consume — no chewing necessary — and consists of real fuel instead of the junk in energy gels.

And as I discovered, they’re really simple to make. You either mix or puree the ingredients together with enough water to achieve your desired texture, then use a funnel to pour them into your pouch. That’s it.

It’s not haute cuisine, but it is good, simple fuel to mix into your regular rotation of mid-exercise eats. Below I share the versions I love most, but you’ll notice that these are not detailed recipes and, in some cases, offer ranges rather than exact amounts.

That’s not us being lazy. It’s because we know that each athlete is different, and you’ll want to customize these to your palate and that day’s workout.

Tips:

  • Use a mini blender if you have one since these are made in such small batches.
  • If you have leftovers, freeze them in ice cube trays and add to your next smoothie.
  • Speaking of smoothies, each of these makes a delicious but simple smoothie (especially the beet-ginger one).
  • reusable silicone pouch is your best bet for bringing these on your run, but like I said above, plastic baggies work too.

10 Easy to Carry Running Fuel Pouch Recipes

1. Salty Sweet Potato

If your palate prefers savory to sweet, start with this simple sweet potato version.

Puree ½ cup roasted or steamed sweet potato (peeled) with ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ cup water until smooth. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Season to taste with additional salt. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to three days).

Optional: Add 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast to change up the flavor and give yourself a boost of B vitamins.

2. Date-Espresso

Dates are a classic form of homemade running fuel, but carrying and chewing them can be a hassle. This pureed version removes that hurdle, and the added espresso powder gives you a boost of caffeine.

Soak ½ cup pitted dates in water for 30 minutes. Puree the dates and soaking liquid with 1 teaspoon espresso powder until smooth.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to three days).

3. Banana-Date

Prefer to tone down the strong flavor of dates? Pair it with banana in this mild, sweet puree.

Puree 1 large banana with 3 dates (soaked in ¾ cup water for 30 minutes) and soaking liquid until smooth. Add a pinch of salt if desired.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

4. Pina Colada

Feeling adventurous? Turn your workout into a tropical getaway with this one. Pineapple, banana, and coconut water keep you fueled and hydrated.

Puree 1 banana with 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pineapple, 2 tablespoons shredded coconut, and ½ cup coconut water until smooth. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

5. Apple-Banana

The original baby food pouch Matt told me about inspired this flavor. It’s a classic taste and easy on the stomach.

Puree 1 cup unsweetened applesauce with 1 large ripe banana and ¾ cup water until smooth. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

6. Beet-Ginger

Beets have been shown to support stamina by boosting oxygen uptake during exercise. They’re sweet on their own but still a bit earthy, so we paired them with ginger (a natural anti-inflammatory that can help curb nausea) and banana for sweetness.

Puree 1 medium steamed or roasted beet (peeled, about 1 cup) with ¼ teaspoon fresh ginger, 1 medium ripe banana (or ½ cup unsweetened applesauce), and 3/4 cup water.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

7. Maple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Turn leftover breakfast into running fuel. One of the great things about endurance exercise is the excuse to go a bit crazy with the sweet stuff, like maple syrup, since it’s a time when your body really needs those quick-burning simple carbs.

Start with ½ cup plain cooked oatmeal, cooled. Mix in 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more to taste or for additional carbs), a pinch of cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon salt with ¼ cup water.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

8. Apple Maca

This is one of the simplest pouch recipes we tried. Maca — a favorite among Inca warriors — adds a hint of nutty flavor and provides a boost of energy.

Stir 1 teaspoon maca powder into 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.

Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

9. Banana Maca

Another simple recipe, this blend of banana and maca offers a burst of energy with flavors that will be easy on the gut in the middle of a long run.

Puree 1 large ripe banana with ½ cup water, and 1 teaspoon maca powder (for a boost of energy) until smooth.

Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve desired texture. Pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to two days).

10. Chia Switchel

The grape version of this homemade sports drink is Matt’s favorite. It requires just five simple ingredients and tastes delicious. Adding chia seeds thickens it to help you retain water (in a good way)!

Start with 1 cup of our Switchel recipe. Whisk in 1 ½ tablespoons chia seeds, stirring every few minutes until the Switchel thickens. After 15-20 minutes, pour into your pouch(es), and refrigerate until ready to use (up to three days). (Chia can make a bit of a mess, but this recipe is worth it. Soak the pouches, then use a brush to remove stuck-on chia seeds.)

Bonus: We have two recipes for Slow-Cooker Brown Rice Porridge in the cookbook, one savory and one made with coconut and matcha. Those, once cooled and thinned as desired with water, could also become mid-workout eats.

For the savory variation of the porridge, omit the scallions, nori and sesame seeds. For the coconut-matcha version, skip the toppings, but do add the maple syrup.

Making Your Own Real-Food Running Fuel

If you’re a plant-based athlete who has spent months and years training for a goal, all the while prioritizing the food that goes onto your plate three times a day (or more often), then reaching for unidentifiable ingredients during the main event can feel like a letdown. And can impact your hard-earned endurance and stamina.

It’s empowering to be able to eat real food during your workouts, the same way you do when you sit down for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These simple purees are creative, cheap, and the perfect way for you bring that whole-food mentality to your run.

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The No Meat Athlete Cookbook Release Week Episode

NMA_product shot

It was a big week for hosts Matt and Doug. Doug ran a 100K ultramarathon, and Matt released his second book, The No Meat Athlete Cookbook.

In today’s episode we discuss the ups and downs for both, and the surprising sell-out success of the new cookbook.

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The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, In Stores and Online Now!

It’s finally here! Yesterday marked the official release of The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, and it far exceeded everyone’s expectations by debuting at #34 (out of all books) on the Barnes & Noble Top 100, and #43 on Amazon.

Doing the mom thing at Barnes and Noble. :)

Doing the proud mom routine at Barnes and Noble. 🙂

I’m so proud and grateful, already. This is a huge win for our plant-based fitness movement, and I’m so thankful to everyone who has supported the book so far (and if that’s you and you want to do even more, it would be awesome if you’d leave a rating and review!).

My friend Robert Cheeke, one of my original inspirations for going vegan and someone I’ve looked up to for as long as I’ve been doing this, posted this message on his personal Facebook page, which meant the world to me:

And of course everyone else involved with the book, especially Stepfanie Romine, deserves a ton of the credit.

Unfortunately, when I say “exceeded expectations,” that also comes with some drawbacks.

Namely, that a lot of online retailers went out of stock on release day (and even before, in some cases), which made for one emotional roller coaster of a day. It’s a good problem to have, I know, but nonetheless one that has caused me a lot of stress and will continue to do so until the book is back in stock at all these places.

But here’s the good news. While a lot of places are temporarily out of stock, you can still get the book in several places:

  • In person at many bookstores, including Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and local independent stores (before you go, I’d suggest calling ahead to make sure they have it)
  • Online at Books-a-Million
  • Online at Indiebound (which supports your local bookstore as well)
  • Online at Amazon (where you can place your order now to make sure you receive a copy as soon as it comes back in stock in a few weeks)
  • In ebook format, just about anywhere ebooks are sold

And because there’s been such unexpectedly high demand for the books, the book is already into its third printing, and it won’t be long until those new books will arrive and everyone can restock.

So that’s where we stand: if you’re determined to get the book, you absolutely can with any of the options above … and I really appreciate your putting forth the effort to do so, to help keep it strong.

And of course, you can always go try out the sample recipes I posted last week or grab the Kindle or Nook version to hold you over.

In other NMA Cookbook news, last night Stepfanie and I did a book event at Malaprops, a great local bookstore here in Asheville, along with Heather Crosby of YumUniverse (whose book YumUniverse Pantry to Plate also hit the shelves yesterday!), where we did a panel discussion and Q&A led by Julie Wunder, a friend and fellow Asheville-based blogger, who writes Running in a Skirt.


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With Heather Crosby, whose work I’ve long admired

Tonight, we all head to Plant, Asheville’s best restaurant (in my humble, vegan opinion), to keep the party going with a special event featuring a three-course meal based entirely on recipes in the books, including Switchel cocktails and mocktails!

Once again, thanks for being a part of all of this, and really, for making it possible at all. I’m so excited about all that is to come and the bright future for this book and our movement, and it none of it could happen without your help.

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How to Nail Race Day: 4 Keys to a Successful First Ultramarathon

Sunrise trail run

Five months ago, my wife Katie gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Let’s call her Eliza (that is her name, after all).

For months leading up to Eliza’s birth, Katie and I attended birthing classes, read books on having a healthy pregnancy, and wrote birthing plans, all with the focus on getting that baby out of Katie as easily and naturally as possible.

And it went great. Two days later, we pull into our driveway from the hospital with a tiny, wrinkly, healthy, baby Eliza.

Exhausted, Katie immediately gets in bed for a nap while I grab Eliza and snuggle up on the couch.

That’s when it hits me.

“Holy shit. Now what?!”

We had spent so much energy trying to successfully get through the pregnancy and birth that we didn’t focus on how to actually raise this child — an actual human, I might add — for which we are responsible.

Over and over, I see runners doing the same thing during their first ultramarathons. They pour an enormous amount of energy into getting through the training, and they neglect the race — an actual ultramarathon — for which they set a goal to accomplish.

Even the best-trained runners can blow it on race day, because training is only the first step.

The real work begins after you cross the starting line.

4 Rules to Executing a Successful First Ultramarathon

Training for your first ultramarathon is a big deal.

It means running farther than you’ve ever run before, getting comfortable running trails, and testing your mental and physical limits.

Like I said … it’s a big deal.

But it’s not the training you set out to accomplish. It’s the race.

For the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of coaching runners through their first ultra-distance races. After witnessing what works on race day and how runners struggle, I’ve developed a set of hard and fast rules all new (and experienced) ultrarunners should follow.

These aren’t rules for how to train, but rather how to prepare for whatever race day throws your way and attack those challenges head on.

And it all starts with avoiding that “Holy sh*t! What now?” moment …

Rule #1 — Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into

A few weeks ago, at the finish line of the Mendocino Coast 50K, I started chatting with a runner (and NMA Radio listener) who ran the race as his first ultramarathon. He loved it, but crossed the finish line a full hour and a half later than expected.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I just had no idea what I was getting myself into,” he told me. It didn’t surprise me.

With road marathons, variation between courses is limited unless a race specifically promotes a unique challenge. It’s generally safe to assume that city marathons are city marathons, and a traditional marathon training plan will suffice.

Ultramarathons, on the other hand, can vary wildly depending on the location. It’s not just the extra five miles you need to train for, but the terrain as well.

And knowing what you’re getting yourself into is key to optimizing your training.

How to do your research:

  • Study the course map and elevation profile to evaluate the amount of elevation gain and descent.
  • Read previous years’ race reports and look for videos of the course to learn about the terrain.
  • Prepare for typical weather conditions in that area on race day, which could be a lot different than what you’re running in at the start of training.
  • If the course is known to be muddy or wet, train your feet (and mind) to handle those conditions.
Rule #2 — Have a Plan

Ultramarathons take a long time to complete. Seems obvious, I know (go ahead, roll those eyes), but it’s so obvious a lot of runners neglect to think it through. A 50K could take six, eight, ten hours to complete.

That’s a long time to be on your feet, outside, in the elements, running.

Which means, you need a plan for just about everything:

  • Have a nutrition plan — Think 250-300 calories per hour either through gels, sports drink, or real food. Know ahead of time how much you need to carry, and what you can collect throughout the race at aid stations or from your crew.
  • Have a gear plan — Weather, terrain, and distance between aid stations will dictate your gear. Always have options and backup layers available.
  • Have a plan for your crew — If you’re lucky enough to have a crew supporting you on race day, treat them right. Make a plan so they don’t have to guess. Tell them ahead of time where to meet you, what to have available, and what you expect from them.
Rule #3 — Lock In Your All-Day Pace

I’m not sure where I first heard the term “all-day pace,” (I wish I did so I could give them credit) but it has stuck with me ever since.

Your all-day pace is the magical sweet spot where it’s just fast enough that you feel like you’re racing, but comfortable enough that you can maintain it hour after hour. I’m not going to lie, the concept is a little hard to wrap your head around in front of a computer, so go out and practice during your long runs.

You’ll know once you’ve hit it.

Consider this:

Pace is a misleading term in this situation. Unlike a road race, where mere seconds per mile count, ultrarunners run more often by effort than splits. As you approach a hill, slow down to maintain a consistent effort — which can be monitored by breath, heart rate, or general perception — and as the terrain levels out or drops downhill, speed up.

You’re aiming for a consistent, manageable effort level, maintainable throughout the race.

How to monitor your pace on race day:

  • With every new hill, trail, or surge of energy, check-in with yourself and your effort.
  • If it feels like you’re working too hard, you almost certainly are. Slow down.
  • When it feels too easy, trust yourself and put your training into practice.
Rule #4 — Stay Positive

I consider running an ultramarathon a microcosm of life …

… You face big highs, and major lows.

… You make friends, and encounter miles of solitude.

… You rely on others, but ultimately it’s up to you to do the work.

And just like in life, your outlook will dictate the result.

Positive thinking can boost energy and confidence, both of which could completely turn around a race once you’ve hit a rough spot.

How to stay positive:

  • Focus on a short, inspiring mantra.
  • Distract yourself by chatting with others.
  • Smile and cheer on other runners … even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Take deep breathes to keep anxiety down.
  • Use each aid station as a reset button.

These Rules Aren’t Meant to be Broken

I love a good rule-breaking rebel, and the ultrarunning community is known for its off-the-beaten-path (figuratively and literally) attitude, but there are times when falling in line pays off.

This is one of those times.

You just poured countless hours and miles into training for this race. Now all that’s left is a smart execution and crossing that finish line.

And maybe a beer.

About the Author: Doug is an ultrarunner, coach, and the co-host of NMA Radio. Pick up his free eBook, Why Every Runner Should Be a Trail Runner (And How to Become One).

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