Breakfast + Limited Diet=Still Yummy Options!

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I get it – with my limited diet (lots of food allergies and sensitivities), people always want to know what I eat, especially to fuel my training. Today, I’ll start with the “most important meal of the day,” breakfast.

Swim Days

If I’m going to morning practice, I need a little something in my tummy despite the early hour, so I toss back a quick drink: One cup of hemp milk with two tablespoons hemp powder. My current brands of choice are Pacific original hemp non-dairy beverage, unsweetened (the “vanilla” version has a TON of sugar) and Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro 50 Powder.

During the car ride home after practice I have a few (very small handful) pumpkin seeds to start on at least some proteins per recovery process. I also finish my water/Ultima electrolyte mix if I have any leftover from practice.

Once home, I have one of the following:

Quinoa bowl: About 1/2 cup quinoa* (cooked before and stored in fridge to save prep time), two eggs fried in ghee, whatever veggies I have on hand steamed (e.g. broccoli, squashes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot), topped with one tablespoon of ground flax seeds (to get the nutrients, you have to grind the seeds. You can buy pre-ground, but I like to freshly grind mind right before eating.) *Sometimes I swap 1/2 baked sweet potato instead of quinoa.

Breakfast burrito: Rice tortilla stuffed with two scrambled eggs, veggie assortment, topped with 1/8 avocado. Added perk on days when I need a few more calories: A few slices of salami.

Millet bowl: About 1/2 cup millet (cooked before and stored in fridge to save prep time) warmed in one-cup hemp milk, big ol’ dash of cinnamon, with about 1 1/2 cup mixed fresh berries, and two hard boiled eggs on the side for more protein (cooked millet has 11g of protein per half-cup, which is a good start, but I need a tad more per meal, especially to stay satiated until my next snack or meal).

Salad: Romaine, cabbage, assorted chopped veggies, two hard-boiled eggs, two slices bacon, two tablespoons olive oil with basil, one tablespoon freshly ground flax seed.

Omelet: This is my “special perk” breakfast, meaning I have it once a week or less, and it’s after a particularly long practice (and I have time for a bigger breakfast)…two-egg and assorted veggies omelet, two slices of either rice or teff toast, berry jam, hot chocolate (I highly recommend Silly Cow Farms hot cocoa mixes – worth the price/shipping – no chemicals, very chocolate-y), with hemp milk.

Non-Swim Days

My new thing is to have a lighter breakfast on non-swim days, so that means a smoothie of some sort. My favorite is still pumpkin (one cup hemp milk, one cup pumpkin, cinnamon, two tablespoons chia seeds and two tablespoons hemp protein powder if I’m not having eggs), but lately I’ve been into this mix: one cup hemp milk, two tablespoons chia seeds, big ol’ dash of cinnamon, tons of spinach, about one cup mixed fresh berries.

One other key menu item: I always have at least two squares of dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher) with breakfast. I rotate brands, and may have something a little flair (e.g. cocoa nibs, lemon/poppy), but usually I prefer something plain and strong (e.g. Ghiradelli 72% or higher, Lindt 70% or higher), sort of like my version of starting my day with black coffee (which I don’t drink).

I follow the pattern above and rotate among the cited breakfast dishes because it’s what I’ve found to work best for me. This means keeping me satiated (but not over-full), providing me with an array of fresh produce (and their nutrients), some variety per flavor/appearance at meals, a more carb-based meal (millet bowl) option when needed, and most importantly, foods I digest well (reduce inflammation and I reduce illness rate and duration!). I’m always fascinated to learn what other people rely on per meals — readers, what are your go-to breakfasts, and why?

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Breakfast + Limited Diet=Still Yummy Options!

My Crone Claws

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One thing that’s getting faster as I age (no, it’s not my sprinting, and how I wish it was “recovery”), are the growth of my crone* claws. Middle-aged peeps know what I’m talking about here – thickening nails with vertical ridges that need filing every freakin’ week. But even regular filing doesn’t keep me from slashing lanemates (apologies always to those whom I gouge the most: Eric, Chip, Dave) and swimmers one lane over – doesn’t matter – I manage to rake a lot of skin by accident each practice.

Except, after some research, I’ve learned that I can’t blame everything that’s bugging me about my fossilizing nails on my fave scapegoat du jour, menopause. For sure, those ridges are another sign of “aging.” But my nails hyper-growth? Nope.

Turns out quickly-growing nails are the consequence of an improved diet (yay me!), particularly one rich in protein. And it’s not just me that’s working it lately per diet – nail growth rate has been increasing over the decades (who knew?!) Why? More access and affordability to fresh fruits and vegetables, better quality foods, more variety, etc. Just one fun factoid that backs this up: In the ‘50s, the average thumbnail growth rate was 3mm/month. Today, it’s 3.55mm/month.

Another reason given to explain the middle-age nail-growth spike? Older adults see the handwriting on the wall, and thus start to make healthier lifestyles choices. Although, Im partial to a third study, which claims it’s the “decrease in manual labor as one enters middle age” that’s boosting my nails.

All said, you’d think I’d maximize my nail growth by dashing off to the nearest salon each week to have my nails re-done in a fresh, gorgeous color. But, while I love the look of perfectly polished nails on others (so elegant – I’m looking at you, Suzy Cotton TAG!), I gave up on polishing my nails years ago – two seconds in pool and they chip, chip, chip. And, I’m not into spending hours on applying and drying what seems like 60 layers (ridge filler, color, top coat) to deal with my crone’s claws ridges to achieve the look.

Scientific explanations now in hand, I see the big picture — ridges and speedy nail growth are not complain-worthy, especially when stacked up against other telltale aging signs. Instead, better to focus on staving off attrition in other key areas affected by aging – strength, flexibility, power, agility, balance, etc.

*Right before my surgery, my friends (female, of course!) encouraged me to celebrate imminent cronehood by choosing a crone type to embrace the new phase. I selected “wind crone.”

 

My Crone Claws

The Power of New Gear

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With the holiday season over and the New Year underway, I’ve been appreciating how motivating new gear can be, both in the pool and in the gym, thanks to the lovely array of new gear I received as gifts.

If you’re like me, you’ve often worn a suit, a pair of sneakers, a swim cap, etc., beyond that “sort of works” phase. For example, you’re aware that your current practice suit is a bit “tired” – it swishes around as you swim, the material is becoming see-through in patches, the colors have faded. Or, that same suit has had some annoying fit issues since day one – for ladies this ranges from having to untwist straps, pull down on the butt, or pull up the front up every repeat. But, you bought it, and as it sort-of-works and isn’t at the “wardrobe malfunction” level yet, you’re determined to wear that suit it until it falls apart. After all suits aren’t cheap and don’t last as long as we’d like…

But once you put on a new suit, (especially one with that rare, magical fit) you finally realize just how annoying the old one really was. That’s because new often translates to better fit requiring less fussing when working out, and so much more comfy (e.g. cushy, springy new sock or sneakers). And, don’t forget the higher technology upgrade if it’s been awhile since your last purchase (e.g. the various generations of tech suits, the newest in wicking and lighter-but-warmer fabrics for dryland-wear.)

There’s also truth in the old saying that you’ll feel a bit better if you just brush your hair and put on a little lipstick. You do feel better when you look better in new gear – fresher, tidier, cuter, cooler. You even stand a little taller.
Finally, luckily for those of us who train year-round and often need a boost in morale and training focus, “feeling better” is just a skip away from “more motivated.” First, the “can’t wait to try it” excitement propels you to the pool or gym. Once there, and not constantly distracted by annoying gear (my most recent situation I addressed: Constantly readjusting a it’s-become-too-stretched-out sliding cap in practice), you can focus on the actual training.

Here’s hoping that you are amidst the post-holidays-new-loot-boost phase right now!

 

The Power of New Gear

Food Combining

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This post was inspired by (and thus is dedicated to) the “locker room ladies,” who’ve asked a lot of questions lately about food combining as we’ve prepped after swim practice.

First, the disclaimer: I am not a registered dietician. But, I’ve spent decades reading everything I can get my hands on about diet and nutrition while using myself as guinea pig to find an optimal food pathway among my numerous food sensitivities and allergies. And, as I recently entered this big “I’m 50. I’m aging!” phase, I’m adding a second disclaimer: Your body is always in flux. A diet that really works for you at one stage of your life is still going to need tweaking, or even overhauling, later on (e.g. middle-aged masters swimmers know they can’t eat like they did as a young age grouper or collegiate swimmer!)

Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Food combining principals are not new. Rather, think “ancient yogi gurus” and such. Yet, it’s got that new-age-y fad-diet feel despite its long history because not many people are familiar with food combining, and it shares some similarities with other recent popular (e.g. “cave man”) diets.

There are a lot of books that cover (and well, thanks to modern technology now we have the scientific explanation down to the molecular level) all of the fine points of food combining. Therefore, I just want to cover the basics here as in introduction. After all, if this post piques your interest, you can hit your local library for more detailed reading.

In a nutshell, food combining is based on “no magic digestion enzyme.” Most human bodies (there are exceptions – I know people who can’t digest protein, for example) don’t have just one enzyme that can digest all food and drink substances. Instead, there are types of enzymes, each which excel at digesting a certain substance, such as sugar. Trying to digest a whole bunch of different foods (think of any typical American-style meal) is tough on these specialized enzymes. And if they can’t work properly, food is left not-so-digested, which in turn leads to symptoms many are familiar with: Gas, cramping, bloating, headaches, stomach aches, brain fog, and much more.

So…food combining is a diet that defines which food combinations are good (easily digestible) and which aren’t. Here are a few basic principles to get you started:

–Protein and fats is a good combination (beef hamburger with cheese and mayo, no bun though!)

–Protein and complex carb veggies are a good combination (steak with spinach, not baked potato)

–Mixing several proteins in one dish is a bad combination (e.g. a stew of sausage, beef, and chicken, or a mixed-seafood dish)

–Fruit should always be eaten separately (but it’s fine to mix several fruits together, as in fruit salad.)

–High starch-y carbs should be eaten separately (e.g. dry toast, nothing else)

–Veggies can be mixed together (a nice, big tossed salad)

And, to help clarify a bit more, here are some examples of typical dishes and meals, and why they’d be deemed as “good” or “bad” examples of food combing:

–Typical brunch meal of waffles with syrup, fruit salad, scrambled eggs = BAD. (Combines everything! High starch-y waffles, fruit, proteins, and fats.)

–“Meat lovers pizza” = BAD (Another “combines everything!” example with the high –starch crust, the fat from the meats and cheese, proteins from the meats, and fruit from the tomato sauce.)

–Salad of mixed greens, radish, carrot, cucumber, cauliflower, dressing, hard boiled eggs, and ground flax seed = GOOD (mixed greens and veggies are all complex carbs, the dressing and seeds are fat, and the eggs are protein, and fat, protein and complex carbs are a good combination.)

–A handful of whole-grain crackers for a snack = Good, eating high-starch carbs on their own means easier/quicker digestion.

–A piece of fruit for a snack = Good (fruit is best digested on it’s own. You can experiment with how long before your stomach empties and is this ready for another food type. This varies among people.)

–A handful of cheese and nuts together as a snack = Good (fat + protein)

One thing to keep in mind (and here’s why those detailed books come in handy) some foods aren’t what they seem, such as tomatoes being a fruit, not a vegetable, ditto for avocado, and many other seemingly “unusual” classifications. But just think – if you start food combining, you’ll become a whiz at food classification and easily impress others! And, there are some exceptions to the rules that are complicated to explain (e.g. yogurt and fruit is actually a good combo despite being a protein + fat + fruit combination) without the entire scientific explanation of both the breakdown of a food and the chemical reaction in a body.

It’s recommended that you start by following the tenets 100% for at least a few weeks to a month. This way you can see how your body responds before tweaking and fudging a bit to personalize, as in, does your system tolerate chicken, veggies and brown rice well, can you have toast with butter every so often, etc.

Again, this is a very broad swipe of food combining, just to give you a sense of what’s involved. If you’re interested in trying it, I highly recommend reviewing at least one comprehensive book before starting. Good luck, and as always, I love to hear what you have tried and learned, and how you’re faring, so feel free to drop me a line.

Food Combining

The Swimmer’s Bookshelf: Relentless Spirit: The Unconventional Raising of a Champion

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While I lived in Denver, I often overlapped with Missy Franklin in the pool—the Stars would be getting out as masters got in, or we shared pool time—so I had the honor and pleasure of getting to know her, and to see some of her training and races leading up to both London and Rio.

I think this proximity led me to follow her career more closely than other current swimmers. It also led me to speculate much more about her condition heading into Rio, because while I saw that Missy was as bubbly, hard working, and considerate of others* as ever, she never got back to the level of “crispness” she had in the pool prior to London. I was worried and concerned, especially due to the added mountain of returning-gold-medalist pressure she faced.

This familiarity, in combination with her Trials and Rio results, made me anticipate the release of her book, Relentless Spirit: The Unconventional Raising of a Champion, (Missy, D.A., and Dick Franklin with Daniel Paisner, 2016) more than most. I wasn’t sure how much time the book would cover, but I hoped to learn more—why she chose Cal, was/is she truly happy there, was McKeever a good coach choice, what exactly is wrong with her back, was swimming two years collegiate then going pro the best pathway, and more on her decision to move back to Colorado to train (although I totally understand taking a year off from classes to train for the Games.)

I won’t spoil any reveals from the book here, but I will say this—I got all of my answers, and Missy was very brave, honest, and humorous while sharing the “back story.” I wasn’t sure how it’d work to have three people “speaking” (Missy, her mother, her father), but this narration ploy was never distracting or confusing. Rather, as Missy noted, it’d would have been boring to spend a lot of time on race recaps because that’s already been covered to death by the media, but it was refreshing to hear her parents’ perspectives on the same events, and some of their own amusing adventures on the deck and beyond.

In conclusion, I’m relieved to know that Missy does in fact, love being a Cal student. My hope for her right now is that she can allow herself to back off from heavy training for a bit in favor of being a student, finding the fun in the water again, and developing a maintenance plan to keep her back healthy. Sure, I’d love to see her crush it in Tokyo—it’s certainly possible if she chooses (and I entirely understand if she feels she has “unfinished business” in the Olympic arena)—but hopefully that’s not a focus for her right now. And, if she chooses to retire before the next Games, I’m confident she’ll be fine. (Knowing what I do about her, I’ve always thought that out of the majority of Olympic-caliber swimmers, she’s the most well balanced and grounded with a promising non-swim career of her choice ahead). Certainly, she’s already accomplished so much, and so gracefully, to always be a wonderful ambassador and role model for the sport.

*On a blazing hot outdoor LCM training day (near 100 degrees, at altitude, right before noon), Missy saw a coach’s toddler knock over my water bottles, spilling all the water and electrolytes I had on me that day. Without saying a word, she got out of the pool and grabbed two ice-cold water bottles from their team cooler and placed them behind my block. Thanks, Missy! Also, a shout-out here for Stars coach Todd Schmitz who was unfailingly welcoming and kind—he’d consolidate his swimmers to offer us a lane or two whenever possible affording us precious extra pool time and always took an interest in our training and results.

The Swimmer’s Bookshelf: Relentless Spirit: The Unconventional Raising of a Champion

End of Year Housekeeping

 

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We’ve almost reached the end of another year, so it seems timely to review my posts then devote this one to addressing any outstanding updates or loose ends. Here’s what I found:

Fall 2016 USMS 3K ePostal: Both swims, one for age group 45-49, one for 50-54, were accepted, and I placed third and second respectively. It was tricky to find pool-windows to do two 3Ks a few weeks apart, but am glad I made the most of aging up this year because effective January 1, the following new rule will prevent me from doing this again when I straddle two age groups again in five years: “Individual Events: Men and women compete separately in age groups of five-year increments: 18-24, 25-29, 30-34…100+. PLEASE NOTE: New rule regarding age of entrant this year! The swimmer’s age as of Dec. 31, 2017 will determine his or her age group. (Reference: USMS new rule 301.4: “In open water and postal swims, the eligibility of a swimmer shall be determined by the age of the swimmer on December 31 of the year of competition, except for 18-year-olds, who must be 18 on the day that they swim.”) Therefore, each swimmer can only swim in one age group for the 2017 1Hour ePostal National Championship.”

Try my new-ish MP silicone dome race cap again: I bought one at LCM Nats this past summer, and wore it for the first time during my first of two 3Ks this past fall. I liked a lot of aspects about it, but knew then that I still needed to try it for shorter races, especially ones that include stroke, to see if it stays put before officially declaring it as my go-to race cap.

Accept that I need chocolate daily to function: I’m always tweaking my diet to improve my nutrition (the latest: fewer carbs to deal with the carb sensitivity that accompanies shifting into menopause), but after a few attempts to go cold turkey with chocolate, followed by epic fails, I’m not longer going to stress about having 2-4 squares of dark chocolate after every meal. As they say, “Life’s too short,” and the bulk of my diet is mostly produce, proteins, healthy fats, seeds and rice. 

I’m celebrating my short course improvements: It’s no secret that I love LCM, especially outdoors. Which is fine, except for when it makes me approach indoor SCY training with a lackadaisical “I don’t care, I’m not a SCY swimmer” attitude. Thankfully, I’ve largely turned this around this past year. My turns and streamlines are improving, and I’ve cultivated the “it is what is it” mind set when it’s packed at SCY indoor practices. This means keeping my head down at all times rather than being on hyper alert to avert collisions, swimming the pace I need to push myself even if it means being lapped or lapping others, not fearing to switch to stroke when everyone else is swimming free, using fins for only one or two kick sets per week, and telling myself that getting up early and swimming no matter what happens is still better than not swimming at all. I also really appreciate all my teammates’ and coaches’ efforts to get me swimming beyond my limiting notions.

What’s ahead for 2017: Foremost, I’m hoping for a calmer year to achieve more consistency—simply staying well and having availability (both time and training facility access) to swim five times and lift three times/week most of the year. I’d like to compete more—I’ve already signed up for the 2017 Postal Swimtathlon League, and fingers crossed, would like to go to Short Course Nationals, get back to open water (it’s been years), try the 6K and 3K next fall (same age group, I promise!) and do some local age group meets (I dual-registered for 2017). Improving technique is never not a current goal for me—I remain focused on turns, starts, streamline position, back and breast, second kick in fly, best free catch/rotation. I’d love to read more “as told to” swim autobiographies (I reviewed six here in 2016), so I hope a slew of new titles come out in 2017. I’d like to step up my swim viewing by seeing the Santa Clara Arena Pro meet in person. Finally, I’d like to find more ways to give back to the sport that has given me so much.

 

End of Year Housekeeping

The Ant-Like Approach to Training

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The Ant and Bee (Angela Banner) books were, and still are, one of all-time my favorite children’s books series. I’ve read each so many times as both a child and an adult that I have them all memorized. This is probably explains why I often catch myself viewing my life from an Ant and Bee perspective.

For example, lately I’ve felt very Ant-like when returning to a Sierra Nevada Masters team practice after swimming either on my own or with the Carson Tigers Sharks because I’ve worked on different things and learned a new drill or two.

Here’s the Ant and Bee explanation: In Ant and Bee and the Secret (my favorite in the series!), Ant and Bee do various activities (draw with colored chalk, tell stories, play hopscotch, jump rope, make sandwiches for a picnic). At first, Bee excels at everything, Ant, not so much, which causes Ant to become cross and run away for the rest of the day. img_0350

But when Ant returns, he’s somehow acquired new skills. img_0351The “secret” is, of course, where Ant goes to improve himself. (Spoiler alert: Skip to the bottom of this post if you wish to know the secret.)

While I don’t often become cross at practice and run off in the middle of a set, I do benefit from mixing it up. Swimming SCM on my own (especially if I have a lane to myself) at my local gym is an automatic focus day—no rush, no crowd means I can slow down and concentrate on a ton of drills and practice “perfect” technique per turns. Swimming LCM on distance day with the Carson Tiger Sharks boosts my endurance, and thanks to the age group/Masters mash-up, I always come away with a new drill or two and often a new set perspective from the coach.

I greatly value swimming with my base team—the coaches write and guide us through terrific sets and have created such a fun, inspiring atmosphere while my teammates push and encourage me (e.g. Nadia “suggesting” we do the last repeat of any set fly when I really, really don’t want to.) But I also like learning new things, meeting new people and coming back refreshed from being in a different environment for a day, so I’ll continue my Ant-like ways, at least from a swim training perspective.

*The secret: Ant runs away to school.

 

The Ant-Like Approach to Training