In addition to working as a virtual marathon coach, I also work as a dental hygienist. A few years back I worked with a dentist that was also a long-distance swimmer, cyclist and participated in sprint triathlons. One day while on a long bike ride with his brother, a medical doctor, the dentist didn’t feel well. He had a pain in his chest and numbness in his arm, so his brother took him to his office and hooked him up to an EKG. That same day he was admitted to the hospital next door and had heart surgery. Later in the hospital room, he said the cardiologist on call walked into his room and said, “You need to change to a vegan diet ASAP”. Looking the overweight cardiologist up and down, he was offended! When he told me the story, he was still offended. The cardiologist was an overweight vegan. What does that mean? The dentist was a lean, mean, working out machine and needed stents placed in his heart. What does that mean?
A few years back, I was training with a dietician for a marathon. Her fueling (eating) habits at the time were horrible. She just didn’t eat because she was too busy. She had a lot of stress in her life with her young family and work, and she ended up getting sick several times during the season. I remember saying to her, “You have all the right answers to your health, yet you ignore them”. I am pretty good at giving it to people straight up, whether they like it or not. I give it to myself too by the way and that is a big part of this blog.
I have been a little low on time lately. I suppose being busy is better than being bored, but sometimes being busy comes at a cost. At this time last year, I picked up whooping cough and I lost a lot of fitness. This year, my business went off with a bang. That is good news! But as I got busy, something happened to me. It became difficult to get out of bed in the morning. I am fortunate to say in all my adult years, I have never woken up and said, “I don’t want to go to work today”. That is the truth. Starting a couple of months ago, my alarm would go off and I just felt like I didn’t get enough sleep, even when I knew I had a decent amount of sleep. Okay, so I don’t get 8-hours, but I sleep hard and have functioned in the past on less sleep. This just didn’t feel right. I would go to work and I would drag for the first part of the morning. One time, I went to workout before work and cut it short so I could take a nap in the office. This is not good. What is wrong with me?
It is true I workout far less than I used to before I basically had two full time jobs. I used to run five days a week and now I run three days a week or do a gym workout. My body composition has changed and when I look in the mirror, I see fat where I used to be firm. Yikes! That scale hasn’t changed though, so that is always deceiving. It must be my lack of consistent exercise. This is sad, I’m the coach. Is the saying true, “those that can, do and those that can’t coach”? Is this a do as I say, not as I do situation? To be honest, the fluff doesn’t bug me as much as how I felt when I woke up in the morning. I have always hit the floor running figuratively, if not literally. I don’t even know how to turn on snooze on an alarm. I felt like I was just so fatigued and had no reason for it. I felt so odd in my own skin that I even went to the doctor for blood work and have my follow up in a couple of weeks. I know, something is off.
This week I went to continuing education classes and took a couple on wellness and nutrition. The majority of the information was not new to me, as I have taken many of these classes at every level; continuing education, certifications, undergraduate and graduate school. However, unless you are submerged in something, sometimes you forget reality. My fluff and fatigue aren’t due to my reduced exercise. Let’s be honest, I still exercise more than most of America. At just under 5’5” and 125 lb., I am still within healthy limits and dare I say, “skinny” compared to most Americans. The answer to my fatigue and my fluff are in my nutrition. Yes, I said it, in my nutrition. My name is Coach Gina, and I give nutrition suggestions to my clients. Hello! Shame on me.
The athletic Gina, the one that used to work out sometimes twice a day and qualified for the Boston Marathon in every marathon she didn’t pace someone else, used to food prep. She used to measure all her food and log it in a journal, long before apps could expedite it for you. As a non-meat eater, I used to eat spinach salad daily that I made at home, packed with all kinds of phytochemicals. I was by far one of the healthiest people I knew. Not just because of the exercise, but because of the way I fed my body. This is where I have failed myself the most. I exercise less now, because I prioritize the sleep I do get. This doesn’t mean that I should feed myself substandard fuel. First, I just don’t eat enough in the day and when I do, it is lacking the nutrient dense phytochemicals. Where are phytochemicals found? In fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds. Yep, everything that was in my meal prep salads and less likely to be found in the quick take-out meal.
Here is the reality. I still exercise enough that my body composition fat/muscle ratio would have not changed much had I been eating the way I did for many years. But more important to me, is my general health and well-being. I am not a fan of staying in bed after the alarm goes off. I have places to go, things to do, and people to get to and that feeling of fatigue sucks. I’m happy to say that I haven’t experienced it in the last couple of weeks. Now that I have a grip on reality again, I hope to move forward with my old, healthier habits as my priority.
So, what does all this have to do with the first two stories in this blog? Everything! First off, there are a lot of things that are out of our control. Maybe the overweight cardiologist has an endocrine issue. Maybe the lean, working out machine dentist has a genetic predisposition to heart disease. What about the dietician and her poor diet? Despite her education, time just wasn’t on her side at that point in her life. But it came at a cost, she was sick a lot during that time. All three of the people and four if you include me all could use food as their medicine. This is how it was intended to be anyway. Come on, we all know this.
Have you ever heard anyone ask, what is more important, diet or exercise? Most people in healthcare have an ethical responsibility to say “both”. Have you ever heard you can’t out train or out run a bad diet? Whoop there it is! It isn’t just about weight loss or maintenance. It is about heath and well-being. It is about living life with vitality. That runners high will run out during the day at some point. You aren’t supposed to drag through the day. This comes down to the fuel you put in you. Both the quantity and quality.
In the nutrition and wellness class I took this past week, the lecturer said, “Nutrition is your shield and exercise, your sword”. If you want to keep illness away from you, to protect yourself, you need a shield. I couldn’t get this saying out of my head. I asked a group of runners this question, “If you were in battle and needed to protect yourself, what would you choose, a shield or sword”? They knew nothing more. I didn’t ask, what is more important to your health, diet or exercise. That would be a debate that may go on and on. But I wanted to see if the analogy of a shield or sword would make sense in terms of protecting oneself. What was the outcome of the blind survey? 61% of the runners chose a shied over a sword.
To all my runners or anyone that stumbles upon my blog, your health and wellness can be found on your plate. It will shield you from illness, both genetic and during stressful times. Food is your medicine and hey, it enhances athletic performance too!
Check out this link for more about phytochemicals. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/090313p70.shtmlwww.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/090313p70.shtml