A running day

Running means a lot to me. A good morning run will change my entire day and if I repeat it day after day then my body and mind transform to something better. On mornings when I don’t run, I feel down, I drag through the day without energy and motivation; I feel tired and resort to artificial means to make me go, like coffee. On my running days, I don’t need any caffeine.  My heart rate is up, my mind awake, and my body ready to take on the day’s challenges, both physical and mental. During the run, I think. I sort out problems, go over upcoming tasks or meetings, or dream up new ideas, some or which I have successfully implemented. That running hour is a perfect ME time. Sometimes I have unique encounters since in the wee hours when I am out, animals are often still active. I learned that armadillos take pleasure shuffling around in moist grass. Rabbits, startled by my sudden approach freeze, which allows me to admire them up close.  I truly enjoy the peacefulness of an otherwise very busy street. I never run with music in my ears, mostly as a precaution because I am quite alone at that time, but I also like to listen to the stillness around me.  All day I am surrounded by noise, so this is a nice change. The feeling of exhaustion following the run quickly changes into energy once I step out of the shower.  Although my weight does not change from a day without a run, I see myself heavier, fuller, pants tighter around the waist. Following my run, I feel slim, I use belts to keep my pants snug, and overall experience a sensation of being fit and in shape. Running also changes my nutrition.  My appetite longs for leaner, healthier foods. After 6 miles I am not in the mood for coffee and donuts, but rather stand in the kitchen and toss fresh food and protein powder into a blender and sip on it in my car (sometimes I also spill it and then that’s not so much fun – blueberry on khaki …. Not a good day). And then, usually it kicks in when I get to work, after I lock my car and walk through the parking lot into the building – I feel my legs tighten  and I know I have already accomplished something great that day while its only 7am.  I walk into the office with high spirits, motivated and happy.  Yes, running gives me happiness. And all day long, this sensation stays with me. In the afternoon I have a little sleepy phase where I may go and hunt down some chocolate but know I don’t have to feel so guilty about it. And when I drive home and see all the evening runners on the trails, I relax and tell myself – I am already done. I can hit the couch with my book and enjoy the rest of the evening, or I can do some upper-body exercises to tone and strengthen.  I don’t have any trouble falling asleep at night, nor do I need any additional fiber intake to get my bowels going. I love running – it keeps me healthy, alert, improves my performance at work and restores my balance which I need at home.  Not only is running the quickest way to drop a few pounds, it’s also an excellent workout for the heart.  

Tomorrow will be a running day.


Lunch Time

When growing up in Germany, lunch was always the most substantial meal of the day. Dinner consisted of salads made from vegetables and herbs that grew in my grandmother’s garden and open sandwiches, sometimes leftovers. These were simple salads such as lettuce with olive oil and lemon juice and chives. Or she would grate carrots, add some raisins and there was another side salad. Bread, usually rye, from the local baker was cut thinly and was topped with butter and lunch meat such as salami or cheese. But again, single layers, not over the top 10 slices of ham like here. I remember I would love to sometimes just add sliced cucumber and salt. And still today, I enjoy simple, filling meals. I keep weeknight dinners very light since I usually don’t get to sit down until 7.30pm. And yes, the common advice on nutrition is not to eat late at night. I agree, but everyone needs to adjust their eating habits to their lifestyle. I run in the mornings, fairly early, 4.30am most days. Without some food in my stomach I will not have the energy or strength for a 6 mile run. I recommend always considering your daily routine and adjusting your meals to that instead of following some pre-cut diet plan. These never work for me. The key word when it comes to nutrition is healthy. I choose wholesome ingredients that I know my body will love and digest easily.

During my work week, the key meal for me is lunch. After my morning run, my body is busy trying to recover, build muscle, use stored energy and does not require much food. My hunger kicks in at lunch time. My advice is to always be prepared for lunch so as not to become a victim of junk food from machines or cheap restaurants.  Even though my dinners are light and require minimal preparation, I do stand in the kitchen at night cooking – my lunches. The simplest lunch is soup. I can prepare a big pot that will cover three weekdays. I look for filling ingredients, because a summer vegetable soup in light broth will leave me hungry. I use lentils, beans, sometimes chicken or pasta in my soups. If I do fancy a light soup, then some other item goes on the side, maybe leftover grilled chicken from the weekend. You see, I like control over my food. Restaurants, as healthy as they appear, don’t give me the warm and fuzzy when it comes to nutrition. Even if I just eat salad, I don’t know what they added to the dressing or what types of spices or condiments they used. I often find myself with an aftertaste in my mouth, a bloated belly or some type of indigestion. I am also not as strong when it comes to selecting. After all, here I am paying for the lunch, so why not get

something hearty. So, I truly try not to go out for lunch when at work. Here is a list of easy-to-prepare types of meals that make a filling and healthy weekday lunch:

  • Raw Salads. Any combination of veggies works, depending on your preference. You can cut them the night before and combine them quickly in the morning. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice and add salt and pepper and a fresh herb such as parsley, dill, mint or chives. Top with a filler such as tuna, boiled chicken, even grilled sirloin.
  • Salads with cooked ingredients such as rice, orzo, quinoa, pasta or beans. These I usually prepare completely the night before and divide up into containers that I just grab from the fridge on my way out in the morning. They are usually more filling because of the carbohydrate-rich ingredients. I may eat some fruit following the salad to finish with a fresh note.
  • Sandwiches, filled pitas or tortillas.Great option for a healthy lunch. Even here I try to incorporate some type of legume,such as a garbanzo or bean spread that can be prepared the night before. I am not a big fan of processed meats anymore, so I try to add other items such as grilled tofu or boiled eggs. Avocado is a healthy alternative to processed spreads like mayo.
  • Simple meals. This could be a piece of salmon or halibut prepared the night before. Fish cooks so quickly, 5-10 minutes in olive oil and white wine, with salt and pepper. Steam some veggies and add rice or mashed potatoes and there you have a great meal that your coworkers will admire when they unwrap their greasy and sad-looking burger next to you.

I also always keep a stash of almonds and protein bars at work for the afternoon snack attack.

The great news is that after lunch, you still have half a day to move around and allow your body to use the meal you just consumed instead of storing it. If you exercise at night, the lunch you ate 4-5 hours ago will provide you with the energy you need to perform well. If you are trying to cut down on heavy dinners, a useful tip is eat lunch later, 12.30pm instead of 11 or 11.30. That way you won’t be hungry by 6pm and a small snack will usually do.

So, no matter your goals, whether weight loss, or simply healthy nutrition, it’s about control. I find that this country has made it so easy to access food that we stop to think about and plan our meals. In

communist Germany, stores closed at 6pm and only few opened on Saturday. Fast food joints did not exist so a family had to think ahead and plan the provisions for the weekend and holidays. Maybe that upbringing makes it easier for me, but I also always find that my meals taste so much better than the mass-produced stuff sold outside.