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A Vegan Athlete Rows a Marathon and Finishes 4th in the World!

6 Jan

Proud of my husband who has accomplished so much for someone who has only been rowing for 2 years.

Proud of my husband who has trained for months – even during the few weeks when a bug visited our house and we all just wanted to be in bed.

Proud of my husband who decided to stick to his Vegan diet.  Having turned Vegan 2 years ago, he persevered the rigorous athletic training on a plant-based diet.

Here are some thoughts from my husband post his indoor rowing marathon today.

We are an indoor rowing family.  My son is dressed as Wolverine with a serious look on his face.  He wants to beat his record too!

My son, on the rowing machine, is dressed as Wolverine with a serious look on his face.  When he found out his dad came in 4th, he exclaimed: “What? Is that it? I wanted you to finish 1st!”

What is 42,195 meters?

It’s the same distance people run for a marathon – 26 miles and 385 yards.  To cover this distance on an indoor rower, it took me 2 hours 51 minutes and 36 seconds, which currently ranks me 4th in my age group and 7th overall in the world for lightweight male rowers of any age.  It took me close to four months of training to prepare.

What does it feels like?

” Marathon runners talk about hitting ‘the wall’ at the twenty-third mile of the race. What rowers confront isn’t a wall; it’s a hole – an abyss of pain, which opens up in the second minute of the race. Large needles are being driven into your thigh muscles, while your forearms seem to be splitting. Then the pain becomes confused and disorganized, not like the winded-ness of the runner or the leg burn of the biker but an all-over, savage unpleasantness. ” — Ashleigh Teitel, rower

What energy is expended during this row?

About 2,800 calories which are more calories than the average American eats in 24 hours.

My weight dropped by 5.6 pounds (mostly water loss).

What effort did it take?

Heart rate averaged 80% of maximum.

Wattage output average was 193.

12 new blisters, one was big enough to pop with 1 hour of rowing remaining.

Leg muscles still twitching 3 hours after completing the row.

Why do it?

To overcome a fear of failure.

School Lunches versus Packing a Lunch: How to Keep Both Healthy

23 May Proper Nutrition is integral to our health.

We homeschool, but we are out and about a lot.  Here’s an example of our packed lunch.

How do we keep our children’s lunches healthy?  According to the World Health Organization“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”   So, we can rephrase our question as: how can we ensure our children’s lunches contribute to their physical, mental and social well-being and, by consuming them, they will not be afflicted by disease or sickness?

I recently watched a short documentary called Lunch, a film based on interviews about ‘Green School’ lunch programs, instilling healthy habits in kids and organic gardening in a school setting.  It seems to me that most people talk about kid’s lunches from a single viewpoint: the food. They say: let’s improve food quality, organic is better, no more GMOs, add more fruits and vegetables, no more fried foods, add healthier options, grow a school garden, add nutrition to the curriculum…  While I think these are all wonderful and much needed, the most important thing we can do is to empower children themselves to make the right food choices.  

At the end of the day, the children are the only ones who can control what they eat, therefore it is not enough to simply create a healthy nutrition environment for them. Children need to be taught that any kind of food can keep us alive, but it is the nutritious food that helps maintain our body, mind and social capacities well. We need to teach children about a whole lifestyle that emphasizes not only nutritional choices, but also how the choices they make affect their own physical, mental and social well-being.   When children are educated, when they understand, when they are given proper role models and when they are given tools to help them choose health, then the responsibility for parents and guardians to create a healthy nutrition environment for them becomes easier – simply because children will WANT it for themselves.  

Proper Nutrition is integral to maintaining our physical, mental and social health and well-being.

We can teach children the value of eating to live, not living to eat. We can teach them the value of maintaining physical, mental and social well-being (these are a few examples):

    • show them what happens to their bodies when they consume junk versus nutritious foods, for example:
      • what happens to teeth when they eat processed sugar (place a tooth in Coca Cola and see what happens)
      • what happens to bones when people eat too much animal protein and cow’s milk (show rates of osteoporosis in different communities)
      • teach them to look at their own poop and explain what healthy poop should look like
      • teach them how different foods create different energy levels (discuss athletes and their diet)
      • watch Wall-E and discuss why the humans are obese (foods they eat, exercise)
      • show videos like Supersize Me and Forks over Knives to older children
    • show them what happens to their minds depending on the food consumed, for example:
      • discuss how mental performance suffers/improves due to diet (i.e. Food For the Brain study)
      • show them that learning challenges and problem behaviors may decrease/increase according to diet
      • discuss how exercising the brain is just as important as sports is for the body
      • discuss how quality foods help the nerves in the brain function properly (memory, problem solving, etc)
    • show them that their nutritional choices have social implications, for example
      • discuss what “social well-being” means vis-à-vis proper nutrition within the community, the nation and the world (according to the United States Institute of Peace: “Social well-being is an end state in which basic human needs are met and people are able to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement. This end state is characterized by equal access to and delivery of basic needs services (water, food, shelter, and health services), the provision of primary and secondary education, the return or resettlement of those displaced by violent conflict, and the restoration of social fabric and community life.)
      • discuss composting, recycling, reusing and reducing in the community and at home
      • discuss pollution and toxicity
      • discuss what stress does to us
      • discuss how the quality of food we eat affects our emotions and therefore our social well-being.
As we teach them to grow their own food and to prepare their own meals from scratch… we can sit back and see what happens.

Other ideas here too: Top 10 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Part of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop! Click on the image for more links to Gifted/2E Health and Wellness Issues!

Doing It Right

11 Jan We are an indoor rowing family.  My son is dressed as Wolverine with a serious look on his face.  He wants to beat his record too!

Our son dressed up as Wolverine. He wants to beat his record too!

After a week of Vegan Athletes in the news, exercise has been on my mind. Vegan athletes aside, I think Vegans need to be aware that besides a plant-based diet, they too need to properly exercise for health.

Last month, I rowed about 120,000 meters on my indoor machine. I thought I was fit – after all, I was now world ranked in a sport and I had never exercised so much in my entire life. But then I recently took The Four Minute O’Neill Fitness Test, a test “designed to give a simple and reliable test of aerobic fitness.” Well, I discovered I was below average! I was shocked. My husband (a.k.a. my personal trainer – that is when I want one) recommended I start cardio training as soon as possible. Not one to change my exercise regime so easily, I had a lot of questions for him.

My Husband and Exercise

My husband spent six years as a competitive cyclist in the US and Europe. Not satisfied with just being good, he wanted to understand why and how to become better; so, he got a Masters in Exercise Science. He’s used these experiences to help others train for competition and for the ability to do activities more easily. Recently, he’s taken up indoor rowing and is currently top 5 in the world for his category.

Needless to say, my husband is my in-house expert on anything to do with exercise. So, I decided to interview him – for myself and for you!

The Interview: Doing It Right

Why exercise?

A quick answer is our muscles (and neurogenesis) will slow or reverse without increasing stimulation. The key phrase is increasing stimulation.

Why do we have to increase stimulation? Why can’t we stick with the same old exercise program that we are used to?

Just like counting by 2 until 100 will not increase your mental abilities much once the pattern is learned and walking around your yard will not increase muscle or cardiovascular strength once you can do it without shortness of breath; intensity of effort, physical or mental, needs to increase or our body will not continually adapt.

What do you mean by “our body will not continually adapt”?

This means that our muscles are not getting stronger and may actually weaken.

Resistance training leads to trauma of the cellular proteins in muscle. This prompts cell-signaling messages to activate satellite cells to begin a cascade of events leading to muscle repair and growth. Once this adaption is complete, continual exercise at the same intensity will not generate repair and growth and, as one becomes more efficient at that set intensity, muscle strength can actually decrease.

If I understand correctly, our muscle strength can actually decrease if we don’t continue to challenge our exercise regimen? It really doesn’t just remain the same?

Yes. However as we age, muscle strength will decline. Challenging the muscles will slow the process but not return your youthful power.

How do I know that my muscles are getting stronger?

Your muscles will, at times, experience a low-grade ache. This mild trauma to muscle fibers from resistance training, coupled with the inflammation that accompanies these tears, causes the pain that we often feel 24-48 hours after exercising. Longer lasting ache, or more painful ache, is more likely a sign of over exercising and if continually repeated, will lead to muscle decline.

Is there a way to ease the pain?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but lightly exercising at a level that elevates body temperature will help reduce this pain. Increased body temperature causes blood flow to increase, bringing fresh oxygen and healing nutrients to the traumatized area which assists in removing the chemical irritants responsible for pain.

I get it. There is just no escaping exercise as a means to better health! We need to exercise even more just to ease the pain of exercise itself.

Now, how can I properly monitor my exercise by myself? How do I know I am challenging myself?

Exercising within a set heart rate range is a reliably way to ensure intensity increases as strength improves. With increased strength, the effort to do the same intensity decreases which lowers the heart rate associated with that set level of intensity. By keeping the heart rate within a set range, one needs to increase intensity as one becomes stronger: this is what challenging the muscles/increasing intensity means. Researchers from Rush University examined the exercise stress tests of over 5,000 women and found that those whose exercise capacity was less than 85% of their age-specific maximum were twice as likely to die of any cause during the eight year study. For people with heart disease who followed a similar intensity for 30 minutes 3-5 days a week, there was approximately a 25% reduction in mortality over a one–three year time period and for those without documented heart disease there is a 50% reduction in risk of death from a heart attack. Increasing intensity to match increased strength is also noted for helping long-term weight loss. When you lose weight, your muscles get more efficient (change in the ratio of carbohydrate to fat enzymes that a muscle burns), resulting in using fewer calories when you move around. Overtime, this increased muscle efficiency can lead to the return of weight gain. Exercising at increasing intensities, rather than longer duration, was found as an effective strategy for keeping weight off over the long-term.

Is it better to exercise longer or harder?

More research is concluding that the benefits of exercise continue to climb even at the most intense levels of exercise. According to a 2005 study from Great Britain, Just six minutes of intense exercise a week does as much to improve a person’s fitness as a regime of six hours… The catch is the level of intensity is much greater than most are willing to tolerate, but the findings support the point that harder exercise is better than longer exercise.

So, for better health, we have to get the heart pumping for a shorter time rather than exercise at a relaxed rate for longer?

Assuming you are not someone with heart disease or risk factors for developing heart disease or stroke, then the answer is Yes. A similar correlation is being discovered that the results of exercising harder (not longer) could surpass the results from lengthy periods of moderate exercise in preventing and treating type 2 diabetes to increasing the cardio and muscular strength of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.

OK, increasing the intensity of our exercise is good for our body’s health and longevity. That’s a lot.

Actually, there are more benefits. Increasing exercise intensity has been found to increase neurogenesis. The hippocampus is important for the acquisition of new memories and is one of the few regions of an adult brain that can generate new nerve cells. Studies have found that exercise increases neurogenesis in this area and other research found that a lack of exercise reduced neurogenesis. More studies are supporting the belief that exercise alleviates major depressive disorder through hippocampal neurogenesis similar to the therapeutic effects of antidepressants. A study from University of South Carolina found that physical exercise strengthens the brain by creating new mitochondria (the power plants of your cells) in your brain. A school in Pennsylvania installed fitness centers and added 10 minutes to the school day to increase daily gym time. Standardized test scores have risen from below the state average to 17% above it in Reading and 18% in Math. A German researcher found that people learn vocabulary words 20% faster after exercising. And, University of California at San Francisco researchers found that stressed-out women who exercised vigorously had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and not active.

Is this research saying exercising can make you smarter and happier?

That is the direction of the findings: getting stronger, living longer while also being happier, less stressed, and possibly smarter. All for a reasonable, chemical free, exercise schedule.

What kind of exercise schedule would you recommend for non-athletes?

Given that for the majority of individuals, the most common cited barrier to regular exercise are a lack of time, it seems increasing intensity to maintain 75%-85% of maximum heart rate (208 minus 0.7 times age) is a viable, time-efficient strategy to improve physical and mental abilities over the long-term when one exercises 3-4 times a week, 20-25 minutes per session.

Vegans Need To Exercise Properly Too!

11 Jan Kayaking on the Oleta Rivera in Florida

Kayaking... it can be so relaxing, but is it considered 'proper' exercise? Well, it all depends on how hard or far you go!

Do You Want To Exercise Just To Get By?

“Why can’t I just exercise to get by?  The CDC recommends only 2 1/2 hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity and 2 days of muscle training!  That’s what I do.” I rationalized.

Eating processed foods is getting by.  Do you just want to ‘get by’?” my husband responded.

Hmm… that’s a good point.  He’s always known just how to get through to me!

For many years I thought my exercise regimen was just fine.  I was content with its predictability.  In fact, it hadn’t changed much since high school.  But when I married an athlete, who has a Masters in Exercise Science, he made it clear I wasn’t doing enough for my health.  What I needed was to constantly challenge myself once I got used to my exercise routine, if not, my muscle strength could actually decrease.

Veganism and Exercise In Mind

Since Forks Over Knives came out, more and more people have turned to Veganism. We usually hear about famous actors and, of course, how can we forget, Bill Clinton. But in the past week alone, we have heard more about athletes choosing a plant based diet: Venus Williams is now a Raw Vegan to improve her recently discovered autoimmune disease and Vegan Bodybuilders are now on the rise!  This got me thinking about Exercise and recent Vegan non-athlete converts:

Are non-athletes choosing to change their diets in order to “control, or even reverse” “most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us,” as claimed by Forks Over Knives? And will they exercise just to get by – rationalizing that eating a plant-based diet in itself will take care of a lot of possible health problems?

Vegans Need To Exercise Properly Too!

So I decided to interview my husband, a National Cyclist, World Ranked Rower and Master of Exercise Science to find out exactly why and how we need to exercise.  Here’s the interview!

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