Now that I’m nestled quite comfortably in 2017, it’s time to reflect on my nutrition last year and head into the new year with renewed vigor and nutritional focus.
I had an incredible season of events in 2016. From Tough Mudders, to marathons, to satisfying work and a book deal, the year was pretty excellent. Things were great, except my nutrition.
Traveling and writing meant that I spent a lot of time in the car, in airports and on my butt. Not a great combination for overall health and wellness. Essentially, my nutrition flew out the window. I stopped sleeping regular hours, making desperate attempts to write 1,000 words each day. When I couldn’t, I would stay up late to make it up. I managed to grow my caffeine addiction too, inhaling 8-10 cups of coffee a day at times. I know, that’s a lot of coffee even for this coffee-addict.
I ended the year feeling fatigued, spent and nutritionally toxic. I know that I’m going to have a similar year in terms of being busy, and with a book launch, a big stage race, a couple of ultras, marathons and Tough Mudders to do, I’d better get my nutrition in check. We know these nutritional things intellectually, right? Yes. It so happens that my nutritional intellect decided to go on vacation and I want it back.
So I turned to a nutritionist for some much needed guidance—because I needed some badly.
Tara Mardigan, also known as The Plate Coach, is a nutritionist and co-author of the book Real Fit Kitchen. Tara, a former competitive child-gymnast, became interested in how food can increase and enhance athletic performance when she noticed that her teammates were doing “funky” things with eating. She was intrigued by how her teammates restricted their food and began to understand how some folks don’t reach adulthood having a great relationship with food.
Today as a nutritionist who has worked with many professional athletes and a host of private clients, she has an approach to food that I can dig. Eat good food that actually tastes good. Make good choices. Plan for interruptions. Practice positive behavior so that you become good at it.
This is why I turned to her, to figure out how food could make me feel better (recover) after an incredibly crazy year, and how it could promote my well-being as I continue to train for longer and more intense events. I needed to practice positive nutritional behavior so that I could get good at it especially when life intervenes. I asked The Plate Coach how we can reset ourselves so that we have a successful year.
Here’s what I learned from her:
Make small but effective food choices.
“The best place to start comes down to being realistic about what you can do.”
For example, if you know you’re traveling, Mardigan recommends creating a list of things that you can bring to the airport in case you don’t have healthy options. Or, you can get the burger and leave off half of the bun, but have some water, cashews and a piece of fruit on hand.”
“Sleep ties into nutrition and making better choices,” says Mardigan. “We must get better quality sleep. It ties so much into food choice. Sleep is part of our hygiene.”
And then it hit me. We work out, and we’re really good at it. We are runners. Some of us adhere to a strict training schedule. Others of us run three miles a few times a week. Others combine a balance of strength training and cardio….all to achieve whatever fitness goals we might have. But are we sleeping regularly and enough? Probably not. Want to reset your nutrition? Get more sleep.
Master one piece of your day
Mardigan recommends starting with one part of your day to begin. Whether it’s getting to sleep at a regular time, cooking your own tasty and healthful dinner every night, or making breakfast your focus meal, focus on one part of your day that you can be successful at.
So here’s the first part of my plan to reset my nutrition for 2017:
I will sleep more. I work in a boarding school, so this can be hard sometimes. But I’ll try at least three times a week to get in bed by 10:30 p.m. so I can be refreshed for my 5:00 a.m. wake up call.
I will focus on dinner. This is the meal that gets me every time. I will make and eat dinner at home, and not in the dining hall at my school at least three times a week.
I will prepare my snacks for the long days at work at least three times a week. I usually work out early in the morning so I often get hungry at around 9:30 and I don’t have a snack, all hell breaks loose.
I can do this. Small, achievable steps to get me on my way to nutrition that works for my busy athletic life.
What’s your plan for the New Year?