Friday, November 25, 2011

RECOVERY: My Personal Recovery Plan for the Holidays

With IMAZ (Ironman Arizona) now in the books, and the indulgence of Thanksgiving behind me, it's time to start thinking of how to heal my body.  I don't want to become a couch potato over the holidays, although it is healthy and common for athletes to gain a bit of weight/fat over the winter (which will be used up later in the spring and summer).  Also, I don't want to resort to eating crap and drinking myself into least not for a couple weeks.  So what can I - and you - do during this holiday season to keep yourself healthy, while still enjoying this time of year?  Well, here are my non-scientific, personal recommendations, that will allow you to enjoy the holiday season, while still maintaining your health:  

  • Beer and red wine:  Beer and red wine (in moderation, of course) have certain health benefits.  According to Runners World "[t]he malt and hops used to make dark beers contain flavonoids, the same heart-healthy compounds in vegetables and wine that counter cell damage, thus reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer.  Beer also contains B vitamins and chromium, which aid in converting carbohydrates to energy."  Ye-ah!!  Beer, however, can hinder the healing of injuries by limiting the body's production of anti-inflammatories, so Runners World recommends waiting at least 36 hours after the injury before consuming beer.  Check!  

I'm ready with the flavonoid-containing beer...
  • Raw Multivitamins and Raw or Organic Foods:  Food coming off most farms today contains 25-50% less vitamin and mineral content compared to the 1960's and 70's because of the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizers. And don't even get me started on what happens to most food after it leaves the farm and before it gets to your plate...the adulterations most food undergoes to maintain a "shelf life"!  Basically, your food doesn't pack the punch it did 40-50 year ago.  Plus, most Americans are rushing around much of the time and aren't eating a healthy diet as it is...even a lot of triathletes and runners.  Here are three things you can do to help with any nutritional deficits you may have from eating over-processed, nutritionally sparse food: 
    • Eat some raw foods:  Cooking and heating foods over 116 degrees Fahrenheit destroys some of the nutrients and enzymes your body needs. Now let me be clear (particularly for my Nebraskan family and friends):  eating raw does not mean eating raw hamburger (like we used to do growing up...sheesh!)  Not the same thing!  I'm talking about veggies, plants, etc., and this also includes grains, nuts, seeds, sprouts, and legumes, which can be cooked without destroying the nutritional value.  For some great, easy raw food recipes, see The Best of Raw Food.  If your body has a hard time digesting totally raw foods, you can cook or heat them at a lower temperature, which still will preserve much of the nutritional value.  Bottom line - while you're out running around this holiday season, throw some raw food in your purse or car.   
    • Eat organic foods:  I'm planning a future blog on organic food, but for now, suffice it to say that eating organic foods yields benefits not only for you, but also for the farm workers.  There are various standards for what constitutes "organic" (the familiar USDA standards are but only one).  In general, however, organic foods are grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers, meaning that the farm workers aren't exposed to those chemicals and neither are you.  Unfortunately, organic foods usually are more expensive. Fortunately though, you don't need to break the bank for your health - you can consult the Environmental Working Group's Guide to the "Dirty Dozen" - the best 12 foods to buy organic and foods that are lowest in pesticides.  
    • Take a raw multi-vitamin:  Taking a raw multi-vitamin may help with any nutritional deficit you have (**legal disclaimer (because I am a lawyer) - consult your doctor first!).  Why a raw multi-vitamin as opposed to a regular one?  Well, I'm a big fan of the Vitamin Code products, and their website explains that its formula results in a "process that mimics plant activity" so that the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are surrounded by probiotics, enzymes, and phytonutrients that create a more beneficial source of fuel for the body.  The vitamins in Vitamin Code are not treated, adulterated, or cooked, and there are no binders or fillers.   
This is what I take...
  • Accupuncture (or Massage):  This past year I started seeing an accupuncturist recommended by some ultra-runner friends of mine. We lovingly refer to him as Mr. Miaggi (even though he's a tall, skinny white dude who also does triathlons and marathons) because he literally works wonders.  He (along with my re-vamped running form) have fixed injuries that plagued me for 14 years.  Accupuncture can be used to treat everything from running injuries, to headaches, to insomnia.  Here's an article for how accupuncture works, but if it's been around for over 5,000 years, that's proof enough for me.  If the small little needles aren't your thing, then maybe a massage? A massage for tired, overworked people isn't really a luxury.  Massage can increase your flexibility and circulation in addition to alleviating your pain.  

Accupuncture needles are teeny-tiny
  • Cross-Train or Sign Up for a Fun Race:  Winter is the perfect time to change up your fitness routine (or, ah-hem, start one...) and focus on the ease and fun of exercise.  For triathletes and runners who abide by the "periodization" plan all year (breaking up your training season into specific periods so that your body doesn't have to maintain the same kinds of stresses all year long), winter is the time for relaxation, which doesn't mean plopping on the couch; rather, it means ratcheting back your workouts and do something other than triathlon- or running-related workouts. Take the opportunity this winter to ratchet back your normal workouts, or to ease into a new workout program, and have fun with it!  Sign up for a Jingle Bell run.  Take a Zumba class (although you won't catch me dead in one of those).  Lift weights.  Go cross-country skiiing.      
What's your personal recovery plan for the year?  It's been a tough year for many of you and so what better time than this next month to try to figure out how to recover and start next year off on a better foot?  

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