I’m now a week into an 11-day yoga and nutritional cleanse. Physically I’m having fun with the experience overall, although it hasn’t been without challenges.
Finding a “generally healthy” by mainstream American culture standards meal in most restaurants is difficult enough. Dining out and staying “cleanse-friendly” proved almost impossible Thursday at a post trail-running group dinner at a great local restaurant in town, The Courtyard. It has a huge and diverse menu, with most items prepared from scratch. I chose the best entree I could find, grilled shrimp with sauteed tomatoes, onions, rice, and guacamole. I focused on the shrimp, veggies, and guac, and left most of the rice. The problem was I did not stay strong. Very hungry after running twice, teaching pilates, and lifting weights that day and surrounded by fellow runners enjoying beer, bread, and french fries, I allowed my resolve to weaken and partook of the Simple Carbohydrate-Laden Trifecta. Rather than beat myself up I resumed eating according to the cleanse guidelines the next day, but I felt sorry that I had given up a chance to reap benefits from food.
The other difficulty occurred on today’s 15-mile run. Though I normally avoid high fructose corn syrup when possible, I do drink Gatorade on warm long runs because it is the most common sports drink served during marathons and I like its taste. I usually fuel with breakfast before running, but keep an emergency gel handy. Though they are used by the body immediately for energy when taken during exercise, both of these ergogenic aids are high in simple sugars and therefore high on the 11-day cleanse “avoid” list. This warm morning, I replaced Gatorade with a no-sugar electrolyte supplement made by Alacer and never felt my hydration was off. But again I ran into problems. Despite a good breakfast of steel-cut oats with organic peanut butter and a little stevia, I had gnawing hunger pangs by mile 7. I tried mind-over matter for another 2+ miles before breaking into the “in case of emergency” monosaccharides.
Again, I didn’t beat myself up. I ate cleanse-approved foods for recovery fuel and the rest of the day. I told myself this is all new and whatever I choose to integrate long-term from the cleanse eating plan, it will take some time to re-pattern and re-learn. Sports nutrition in particular requires a lot of trial and error and individual experimentation.
On the plus side, I’m having a great time discovering some delicious recipes, foods, and resources that I might never have tried since starting the cleanse and will definitely incorporate into my long-term diet. Last night we had colorful peppers stuffed with lean ground turkey, sauteed veggies, and a little brown rice. I found the recipe in the great new magazine Clean Eating, a slightly more relaxed and more “realistic” nutritional lifestyle than a detox cleanse. Huge creative salads have always been my favorite thing to prepare, but I never experimented with additions like chopped kale, snipped fresh basil, and homemade garlic balsamic vinegrette dressing. I found out that unsweetened puffed brown rice cereal also goes “snap crackle pop” and sampled refreshing coconut water, a natural sports drink high in electrolytes. Tonight I savored a glass of Our Daily Red organic red table wine that far surpassed my expectations of a $9 bottle.
It goes without saying that without a consistent personal asana practice for about a year, returning to my yoga mat has been physically challenging. The power yoga style emphasized and expertly instructed at Cleveland Yoga is the most physically challenging activity I’ve experienced other than marathoning. Deconditioned aching muscles shake, balance is wobbly, and poses that used to feel freeing now serve as an opportunity to realize all the tight and weak places in my body. My poor Upward-Facing Dog is doggone tired. Like nutrition, yoga can detoxify the body, and some poses like twists and hip openers are notorious for releasing toxic emotions. I’ve been surprised at some feelings that have come up this week. Even though I understand the process and can step back and recognize that moods pass, in their present moment they aren’t exactly a party!
Looking on the very bright side, on the fifth day of yoga I could already feel more openness and suppleness in my body as it more easily remembered Upward-Facing Bow, Seated Forward Fold, Eagle, and Double Pigeon. It will take longer than five days to come back to the calmer mindset I arrived at after a regular daily meditation practice and long to return to, but I feel certain that renewed enthusiasm for practice will motivate me in that direction.