Do THIS, not THAT!

Jannine Myers

You’ve probably heard of or seen the book series Eat This, Not That. It’s a great reference for those who want to make healthier food choices but don’t know where to start. It’s fairly obvious that some foods are all about taste and less about nutritional value, so in this case, we can all agree that choosing to “eat this, not that,” is probably good advice for those looking for better options. In other instances however, where sports and training methods are concerned, the best choices are not so discernible.

In a day and age where nothing stays the same for too long, and where today’s trends get left behind by tomorrow’s, we’re frequently forced to consider new training methods, new running shoes, new strength and rehabilitation techniques, and new diets. It’s difficult keeping up with them all, and even more so trying to logically weigh up each of their pros and cons.

I remember reading a blog post some time ago about an ongoing “tit-for-tat” argument between two elite athletes, each a staunch advocate for their choice of sport. The argument had begun with a somewhat damning and public report of a particular style of physical training, and not surprisingly a retaliatory confrontation ensued. The author of the blog post pointed out that all the controversial bantering is unnecessary, and that any type of sport or exercise which promotes greater health and fitness should be celebrated rather than criticized.

I have to agree! Given that more than one third of U.S. adults are obese (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), I think that athletes in general, and collectively, should set the example for the non-exercising population and encourage them to find an enjoyable form of exercise, whatever that may be.

I admit that in the past I have recommended, or not recommended, certain sports or workout routines, based on my own biases and what has worked or not worked for me. The problem though, is that it’s not about me; it’s about the other person and what might might work for him or her. In that respect, I think a more admirable approach to how we view the workout choices of others, is to recognize that their chosen sport or training method keeps them from living sedentary lives.

One thing we athletes all understand, is that we are dedicated to being healthy and active because we love what we do. But like other things in life that people feel strongly about, there are always opposite schools of thought; in the fitness world there will always be people telling you to train this way not that way, or to wear minimalist shoes not support shoes, or to follow a paleo diet not a high-carb diet.

As long as the recommendations are given in a spirit of goodwill, then the recipient can gratefully receive the advice and act on it if they so wish. It’s when a person’s choices are violated by the cutting remarks of someone who insists they know better, that arguments like the one mentioned above spiral out of control. Why can’t athletes, regardless of their leanings towards a preferred choice of sport or type of exercise, simply support one another?

Getting back to the point made earlier: wouldn’t it be better to shift the emphasis from one which reeks of superiority, to one of respect, and then ultimately to one which applauds any type of lifestyle that moves a person towards greater health and fitness?

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Improving Success Odds By Managing Race Day Nerves

Jannine Myers

When getting ready to compete, whether against other runners or against yourself and the race goal/s you have set, mental preparation is key to determining your odds of success. Just as diet plays a key role in achieving health, weight, and fitness goals, mental fortitude plays a key role in achieving race and performance goals.

Getting to the finish line in a performance-worthy time (and a still physically composed manner), often has to do with how mentally strong you are. In a previous post on overcoming pre-race nerves, I offered some hopefully helpful tips; the following is an add-on:

1. Practice winning in your mind! Not necessarily a literal win, but a win in terms of the goal outcome you’re hoping for.

I can’t say it enough; visualization, and playing out in your mind what your ideal race-day will look like, is an incredibly powerful technique. During the week leading up to races, I like to use my final few training runs to hone my mental skills and get my thoughts in line with how I hope to perform.

More often than not, I am tired by this point in my training, and even though tapering runs are not terribly taxing on the body, they can still feel quite hard after weeks of focused training. The problem with this, is that a tapered run that feels like a struggle to finish can easily result in the body sending a false message to the brain; a message that produces a considerable decrease in confidence. Hence, it’s important at this time to combat false messages and thoughts by practicing techniques such as visualization and positive declarations.

2. Know what your “calming” rituals are, and if you don’t know them, learn them!

I have three specific calming rituals on race day: isolation, deep breathing, and focused self-talk. I enjoy immersing myself in the company of other runner friends as I’m checking in at races and getting myself organized, but as the start time nears the best way for me to calm my nerves and get the adrenaline working for me (not against me), is to excuse myself and go find a place to be alone. A few solitary moments afford an opportunity to meditate, breathe deeply, and practice visualization one last time.

3. In addition to visualization, practice “re-centering” your thoughts.

At my last race, my mental focus strayed a few times and I had to work quickly to recenter my thoughts. The first occurrence was at the start line, before we had even started running. A female who carried the obvious stance and posture of a competitive runner, and who was wearing a pair of Adidas Boston marathon shoes, positioned herself right in front of me. For a moment I was slightly intimidated and questioned my decision to be up front amongst the starter group.

The second occurrence was soon after; I hadn’t even made it to the 1km marker when a cheering spectator – who thought she was being supportive – yelled out, “You’re doing so good! Keep it up!” WHO DOES THAT? An endurance runner with a competitive goal in mind, does not want to hear, at mile .05, that he or she is doing “good!” Heck, there’s still 20.5km to go at that point!

Spectator tip: crowd support is the best – it truly is – but the best time to encourage a runner and let them know they’re doing good is closer towards the end of a race, when both stamina and mental strength are running low 😉

OR, the face you make when someone tells you you are doing great - at mile 0.5 of a half marathon!

OR, the face you make when someone tells you you are doing great – at mile 0.5 of a half marathon!

The third occurrence was when a male runner decided to attach himself to my side and stay in line with my pace. It’s hard enough to concentrate on controlled pacing and breathing as it is (especially when you’re working hard to keep to a set pace), but when you have another runner right beside you mimicking your every footstep so that both sets of footsteps sound like one, it can become quite distracting and annoying.

In all of these situations I momentarily lost my focus, but that’s where meditation can be a game saver! Knowing how to quickly re-center your thoughts when your focus is diverted is key to overcoming such distractions and confidence drainers. You don’t need to be an expert at meditation, but practicing during training runs how to combat drifting or negative thoughts, can really help on race day.

4. Don’t underestimate your ability!

I heard an interview between Lewis Howes and 8-time Olympic Speed Skater medalist, Apollo Ohno, in which Ohno said the following about race day performance: “Somehow we have this unexplainable ability to perform beyond what previous physiology has shown.” With that in mind, Ohno would go into his competitions with a mindset that assured him of greater success, because he believed that in addition to all of his hard work and training, an underlying strength, unconsciously reserved for race day only, would also come into play.

5. And finally, play mind games that help get you from one mile or km marker to the next.

I almost always have some strategy in place, or what I will refer to as a “mile marker game,” going into every race. Giving myself little mind games to play as I run from one mile or km marker to the next, or from one aid station to another, really helps to keep me focused, motivated, and happy. It’s easy to feel excited and on a high when you first start running, but you all know how dismal it can feel towards the end of a race when your energy reserves are low and motivation is seriously waning.

At my last race, I had two things in mind at the outset:

The first was to run for one of my co-workers whose 21st birthday happened to be the same day. I told her that I would count down every kilometre as if it were a year of her life. As I passed each km marker, I would smile and imagine Hannah celebrating a new age and year, and as the finish line drew nearer, I felt motivated to get there faster so that I could imagine in my mind’s eye Hannah turning 21 and celebrating a significant milestone in her life.

The second was not so much a game as it was a source of inspiration. A good friend had sent “good luck” wishes, along with a message that her husband was running his first triathlon the same weekend. Her husband however, had been in a serious hit-and-run accident a year earlier, and was coming back from major surgeries and rehabilitation. Consequently, I made a conscious decision to show up at my race with feelings of gratitude and joy because unlike some, who are physically limited, I am only limited by my thoughts. I not only am capable of moving my legs and running; “I GET to run!”

I hope these tips are helpful; race day nerves can feel quite overwhelming but with strategic attention given to them, they CAN be managed :)

Spiced-Apple Tofu and Millet Bake

Jannine Myers

A co-worker asked me recently how I cook with tofu; she had been using it mostly as a stir-fry ingredient but was lost for other ideas on how to use it and how – specifically – to turn it into a palatable dish that the whole family might enjoy. I find tofu to be a very versatile ingredient that can enhance almost any recipe and please even the pickiest of taste buds; the following is my latest tofu creation, and listed further below are links to a couple of other tofu recipes that you might like to try:

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INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup uncooked millet
¾ cup almond milk
¾ cup water
3 or 4 green apples
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp minced ginger
1 packet firm tofu + a little almond milk to blend with (use soft tofu if you prefer a less dry texture)
¼ cup raw honey
1/4 cup raisins
¼ cup chopped brazil nuts
Additional milk (if needed)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a pie dish.

Remove the tofu from package and wrap in paper towels to absorb excess liquid.
Add the millet, almond milk, and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer covered for about 15 minutes.

Skin and dice the apples and add to a small saucepan. Add a little water, as well as the spices and minced ginger. Bring to a boil then turn heat down and simmer covered until all the liquid has absorbed and the apples are soft and mushy.

Melt the honey, and add with the tofu to a blender, then pulse until a smooth texture is achieved (add a little almond milk if necessary). In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked millet, the pulsed tofu, the stewed apples, and the raisins and brazil nuts. Mix until well combined. If the mixture is still quite dry, add a little more milk.
Pour the mixture into greased pie dish and bake for about 20 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

Serve warm with plain yogurt and fresh kiwifruit slices, or your choice of fruit.

[✨ Spiced Apple Tofu Bake ✨ A great breakfast alternative! Millet contains various minerals and is high in Vitamin B, and tofu is too! Not to mention that tofu is a good source of protein]

For a little more tofu inspiration, try these tofu brownies, or these curried tofu strips with creamy coconut yoghurt dip.

Diet REALLY Is Eighty Percent Of The Equation

Jannine Myers

One thing athletes must contend with is the inevitable likelihood that their training will at times be temporarily interrupted by injury or illness. This is an aspect of training that cannot be controlled, but one thing that can always be controlled, is diet; we are always in control of what we choose to nourish our bodies with.

In the past few weeks I’ve been very fortunate to receive some excellent physical fitness guidance and testing, thanks to a management team that values the ongoing commitment of staff members to further their knowledge and application of research-based health and fitness truths.

My results from a VO2 Max test, as well as an Ultrasound Body Composition test, revealed that I am eating and training in a way that is producing a desirable outcome – despite being forced by recent bouts of both illness and injury to cut back heavily on training. With that in mind, I want to briefly address the diet component of maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle.

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Most people, when attempting to eat for reasons such as weight loss, increased energy, improved performance, or greater overall health, attempt to a) restrict themselves to a reduced number of calories, and b) eliminate from their diet what they consider to be “bad foods.” Initial results might suggest that progress is taking place, but the fact that the average person repeats this process about 8 to 10 times a year indicates that there must be a better way.

Calorie-reduction, coupled with the removal of so-called “bad foods,” fails to produce long-term results, most likely because individuals attach a dieting mentality to their efforts and make too drastic a cut in calories while also placing absolutes on what they cannot eat. In the short-term, as weight loss is achieved, it might feel like health and performance goals are also being achieved, but usually a tipping point is reached where the results curve starts to take a negative turn. When that happens, motivation to continue begins to dwindle; hence, progress is stalled, weight gain occurs, and the cycle starts all over again.

I am a firm believer that eating for health and performance should not feel too difficult or challenging. In my Women’s Group Nutrition Coaching sessions, I introduce my clients to a way of eating that involves mastering new and effective life-forming habits. Achieving a strong, fit, and healthy body does not have to be an undesirable process. Granted, it won’t be easy at first, but with the right mindset and approach, it is possible to learn a way of eating and relating to food that is completely liberating and conducive to your goals.

In just a few weeks time, I will be starting a new group coaching session. If you’d like to be part of this group, or would like to inquire about cost and session details, please send your inquiries to myersnz1@yahoo.com.

[Note: coaching is done online, so for my followers and friends in the States and Japan, feel free to also send inquiries].

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Which cycle are you on??? Change IS possible!

Protein Brownie Muffins For Active Teens

Jannine Myers

Protein bars are a regular shopping list item for many athletes and recreational exercisers, and provided they aren’t filled with unnecessary added sugars, “questionable” ingredients, or poor quality protein, they can occasionally add value to one’s diet. I find them particularly useful when travelling, or after races, or on days when my diet is lacking in protein.

But what about young athletes? I have a young athlete at home with me; my 13-year old daughter. She spends approximately 12 hours a week at her dance studio and besides the fact that she trains hard and puts her muscles to work daily, she is also still growing. She needs quality protein in her diet just as I do!

It’s too costly for me to buy extra protein bars (and I also wouldn’t want my daughter to get addicted to the sugary candy-bar appeal of them), however I don’t mind giving her occasional home-made “treats” that she can enjoy in place of generic supermarket muesli and cereal protein bars. The following recipe is one that she really enjoys, and one you might also like to try for your active teens:

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Ingredients

2 cups chickpeas, canned is fine but drain and wash first

3 tbsps coconut oil

1 tbsp of plunger or instant decaf coffee (optional)

250ml Unsweetened Almond Milk

3 scoops of quality chocolate whey protein (1 scoop = 25g protein)

2 tbsps cocoa or cacao powder

3/4 cup organic oats

3/4 cup ground almonds

2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup low GI sugar

1/4 cup molasses

2 tbsps tapioca flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Boil water and add about 4 to 5 tbsps to the coffee. Then, simply add all the ingredients to a food processor, pour the coffee over, and pulse until combined. If you are omitting the coffee, just add a little extra water. Pour the mixture into pre-greased muffin pans (recipe makes 16 muffins), and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (15 to 17 mins if you prefer a really moist brownie, or up to 20 mins if you prefer more of a dense cake texture).

Nutritional Data per muffin: Calories 160; Carbs 18.95g (Sugars 9.45g); Fat: 6.25g (Saturated Fat 2.49g); Protein 7.9g; Fiber 2.5g