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For the Win – Missy Franklin Takes Gold

I am sure  most of you are watching the Olympics, or the news, or reading the paper; however, I thought I would do a few posts over the course of the next 11 remaining days about inspirational athletes.

Missy Franklin won her first gold medal for team USA last night at the age of 17. At age 17 I was in my final years of highschool. I was worried about getting into university, making the highschool rugby team (let’s be as clear as possible – highschool level, not Olympic level), and seeing my friends on a regular basis. I most certainly was not:

  • Swimming 5-6 KM per day
  • Training 2-3 hours per day, 6-7 days per week
  • Watching my caloric intake and monitoring my diet quality (I am unsure I knew about macronutrients at that stage of life)
  • Flying to London to participate in the Olympics

Yes, Franklin swims 5-6 KM per day. Have I mentioned she’s 17?

Her list of accomplishments is to long to list. Suffice it say, she is superhuman. If you wish to know her medal count, click here.

As CTV has relentlessly pointed out, Franklin is half Canadian. Her parents, both Ontarians, moved to the USA some years back – her father was a professional football player until injury took him from the field.

To me, what’s most impressive is Franklin’s unwavering commitment to her education. She has refused to go professional as it would remove the opportunity to swim for her college team. Both Franklin and her parents understand that sport does not last forever – the body will eventually say ‘no’.  Franklin has aspirations of majoring in journalism (for the time being), and intends to make college a reality in the very near future.

And lastly, Franklin is a consummate professional. She is friendly and engaging with each spokesperson. She is complimentary and encouraging of her fellow teammates and competitors – a true sportswoman. Ego she has not.

All in all, a tremendous athlete with so much awaiting her in the future.

M

 

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The Olympics Has Arrived

Who doesn’t love the Olympics? For 14 days we are delighted by perfectly sculpted bodies, intense crossing-the-finish-line-faces, pure joy, and a deep feeling of pride when our countrymen/women bring home the gold.

As you may have deduced, I am very excited to watch the opening ceremony tonight. I wonder, “What will Britain do to delight our senses?” and “Can it top that of the Chinese?” and I answer, “Likely not, but who cares – the Olympics has arrived!”

A Facebook friend posted this video (below) and it got me fairly excited for the next 14 days (12 of which I will not have access to cable, but I will find a way to watch). I am constantly in awe by the dedication, drive, and tenacity of each competitor. The time, practice, training, and heartbreak that goes into that one  race, throw, jump, game is much more than we as viewers can comprehend (unless you are a past Olympic athlete).

Enjoy the video and the next 14 days of incredible talent.

M


Wednesday Workout Tip: Master Hill Training

So most runners hate hills. Especially runners in the Netherlands. Yes, there is a story behind that comment. I did a 10 KM while on exchange there and halfway through the course was faced with a very very very slight incline. In my periphery I noticed every single runner gradually slowed their pace to almost a walk. I was fairly shocked at the time, but can understand why now – they’d likely never done any hill training.

Hill training, especially at the outset, sucks. You feel as though your lungs will soon burst into flames, that your quads are quickly disintegrating, and that your inner champion has fallen asleep. It is not a pleasant experience.

Yet, there are reasons to do it (I promise).

1. Improves endurance

2. Allows for a maximal workout if you’re short on time (and who isn’t short on time?)

3. Evokes feelings of self-mastery and preparedness (you know you can kick the metaphorical ass of the next hill you tackle whether during practice or on race day)

4. Is both a cardiovascular and muscular challenge (thus, improves muscle strength)

5. Improves your body’s efficiency – you will expend less energy tackling the next hill

In case you’re wondering how you should look when chugging up an incline, check out this blog post found on Runner’s World. It provides an excellent breakdown for hill-running form.

On a personal note, I love hill training…now. It has made me a stronger runner overall, better able to deal with challenges on the course, and has had a noticeable impact on my cardiovascular capability.

The only potential downside? A stiff lower back. So be sure to engage in stretching post-run which includes lower back, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hip flexors. As I have said before, stretching is imperative for long-term functionality and flexibility.

Happy hill training!

M


The Importance of Your Hips and Thighs (Part #1)

This post is mainly directed at the ladies, specifically the pregnant and/or the soon-to-be pregnant. However, fathers-to-be are pretty critical and will more than likely play a role in child development (I am being sarcastic here, they will play a HUGE role), so hopefully there are some nuggets in here they can pass onto their respective beloveds.

It seems that we women begin preparation for pregnancy at age 1. OK – slight exaggeration. More like age 13. It’s around this time that we are delighted by the wonders of mother nature and begin to develop breasts, hips, and thighs. And over a period of time, these particular regions of the body continue to grow (or not…). The reason (other than overindulging) is that we are preparing ourselves for motherhood.

It has been found that women tend to store more DHA (or docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid (found in fish, seafood, milk, eggs, etc.), within the hip/thigh region. Apparently this particular fat depot is a real hot spot for the stuff. What’s so good about this DHA stuff? Well, it ensures the healthy growth and development of a baby’s brain. It is incorporated into the nerve cell membranes, allowing for the rapid transmission of information. Pretty essential stuff.

During the later stages of pregnancy and breast-feeding, women tend to lose a greater amount of fat from the hip/thigh region relative to the upper body. This alteration in fat deposition adds further credibility to the finding that this fat depot is critical for the developing infant – obviously there is something good locked within those fat cells. The reason being, just to repeat myself, is that the mother cannot supply enough DHA from her diet and must rely upon the DHA she has stored up within the lower limb fat depot. Apparently, each child depletes the mother’s store, with the first child getting the most (I need to find the paper that backs this up, however, very interesting notion).

What interests me the most – children who live in countries where mothers have high levels of DHA in their breast milk score high on international academic tests, regardless of income. More specifically, children earn the highest scores in places with very high DHA such as Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Women in these countries have four times the amount of DHA in their blood than American women.

I wanted to dig a little deeper (as I was reading the magazine, Psychology Today). I found two studies with incongruent results. One study (a randomized control trial (RCT)) had mothers supplement with a DHA rich fish-oil pill while another (observational study) looked at dietary intake of DHA via seafood. The RCT found no difference between the experimental group and the control group. In fact, they found the intake of DHA to be detrimental in some areas of cognitive function (measured at 18 months of age). Yet, in the observational study found that women who consumed more than 340 g of seafood per week had children who scored better on Verbal IQ, Performance IQ, and Total IQ than children whose mothers at less than 340 g.

Now, an observational study is an observational study. It relies on self-report which is always a challenge. In the RCT, women did not start taking the supplement until around 22 weeks of gestation. That’s approximately 5.5 months into the pregnancy – a potential issue as that is fairly far into the pregnancy. Additionally, the measures used to assess cognitive function in addition to the assessment time points were different between the two studies. To summarize, a fair comparison between the two is not possible. Yet, perhaps the different findings are explained by the fact that one study provided an oral supplement whereas the other looked at seafood intake. Perhaps consuming DHA via seafood (a more natural substance) leads to a greater benefit than oral supplement. I don’t know the answer, I am merely hypothesizing.

Don’t worry, the end is near.

To finish, I want to say two things. First, don’t always accept what you read as dogma. As a pregnant woman or soon-to-be pregnant woman you need to do your research. There is always going to be two sides to a story, you need to read both before you make a choice. And second, I believe the story that says seafood is good for pre-pregnant, pregnant and post-pregnant women. I think oral supplements are OK, but I think accessing the fatty acid in a natural form is much, much better. So start storing up that DHA now, even if childbirth is a few years off! I am sure you will reap many benefits in the interim.

Happy seafood eating!

M

References

Hibbeln, J. et al. 2007. Maternal Seafood Consumption in Pregnancy and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Childhood (ALSPAC study): An Observational Cohort Study. The Lancet 369:578-585.

Lassek, W. et al. 2006. Changes in Body Fat Distribution in Relation to Parity in American Women: A Covert Form of Maternal Depletion. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 131:295–302.

Makrides, M. et al. 2010. Effect of DHA Supplementation During Pregnancy on Maternal Depression and Neurodevelopment of Young Children. JAMA 304(15):1675-1683.

Lassek, W, Gaulin, S. Psychology Today. 2012. New York, New York. ISSN 0033-3107.


A Return to Regularity

Good morning!

I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be writing this post. It signifies a change and return to normalcy (somewhat). I couldn’t be happier to be returning to the blogosphere.

While we often bemoan our everyday routine, our work schedule, or our weekend chores, they do provide us with something unbelievably important – consistency. And consistency, while we don’t give it enough credit, is crucial for maintaining a stable state of mind.

A change to our regular routine can come about in a number of ways. Travel for work. Travel for pleasure. Addition to your family. Marriage. Loss in your family. Going to University or College. New job. New home. Change in location. Change to your health – better or worse. You get the picture.

Yes, vacations are nice. They too are important to maintaining a stable state of mind. I’m not, however, necessarily referring to the change in routine that accompanies a hard-earned vacation. No, I am referring to the change in schedule that often accompanies a life change – big or small (of which some are listed above).

The majority of you will have experienced some change in your life. I know, I know, I did blog about change a while ago, but what I wanted to delve into was the notion and importance of consistency.

Humans are creatures of habit (well, for the most part). We like knowing where we are going. We like to have a plan of action, even if it is not quite the same each day. And while we sometimes get bored, which we inevitably do, we do like it (yes, I am speaking very generally). And when elements of our everyday routine are removed or the location of our routine alters, it affects us. Some more than others, but it definitely has an affect.

While change is unavoidable there are ways to mitigate its effects (if they be negative).

.Be sure to acknowledge the change and give yourself permission to grieve the losses that accompany it. Losses could include the following: a change to your morning coffee time, bus location, or office space. I know, grieving because of a change to your coffee time sounds funny, but it may be due to a big, unalterable change – a new addition to the family, a job loss, a change in mental health.

Yet, it is important to be aware that change is positive – that altering your routine is imperative for growth and renewal.

Give yourself time to adjust. Don’t be too hard on yourself if acceptance doesn’t come as quickly as you would like it. We need time to process adjustments in our surroundings. It is OK to be slow (or fast). Consistency will return. Routine will take shape and form.

Basically, I am encouraging you to be mindful of your change and the way you’re feeling about it. It will help. I promise.

Let’s see if I can practice what I preach. Regardless of my success on accepting my new surroundings, I am so so so happy to be returning to a more regular blogging schedule.

M


Fitting in Physical Activity During a Holiday – It’s Tricky

We are currently on a family holiday in England. While holidays are always lovely, they often involve a lot of eating and little walking. This largely depends on the type of vacation you decide to do, but it seems that excess eating and reduced exercise is somewhat of a standard.

To combat this particular issue, my mom said that following every meal we would engage in a 30 minute walk (minimum). So far, we are at a ratio of 5:1. That is 1 walk for every 5 meals. No, we have a way to go before we reach a 1:1, but there is still time and hope.

It’s difficult. Especially when you’re staying with family and you don’t want to seem too obsessive and/or rude. Yet, it’s important to fit in the activities you would like to do, even if it is a 30 minute walk around the back fields.

Here are some suggestions on to avoid coming of as either a) a physical activity nutter and/or b) a rude guest:

  1. Ask your hosts to join you
  2. Mention that you hope to get a few walks in per day (in advance of eating the meal so they have a heads up)
  3. Break up the walks – 15 minutes prior to the meal and 15 minutes after
  4. Plan an afternoon of hiking (again, ask your hosts to join you)
  5. Instead of driving to the pub, walk to one (and in England, this isn’t difficult as there is a pub around every corner (well, not quite, but almost))

There is never going to be a perfect solution unless you plan an active holiday. As in, you plan a trip around hiking, cycling, or horseback riding.

Another such issue during vacation are stomach pains due to excess eating (as already mentioned). To avoid constant bloat, I recommend the following tactics:

  1. Eat less (yes, it’s possible). Do so by taking a smaller plate or putting a smaller helping on your plate and going back for seconds if necessary.
  2. Drink less alcohol. This will reduce late night snacking.
  3. Drink more water.
  4. Drink less caffeine. This will prevent you from staying up later than necessary and thus, reduce late night snacking.
  5. Fill up on greens and protein.

While I recommend taking these exercise and eating ideas to heart, I also want you to enjoy your holiday. There is no point in going away and being more concerned about your diet and exercise than you are at home. Thus, if you are relatively healthy at home, follow a similar regime while away. I must be honest though, I have definitely been enjoying my Aunty Georgie’s desserts as they are absolutely impossible to resist.

All the best in your holiday health pursuits.

M

 



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