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Re-United: 11-Day Yoga Cleanse, Day 7 Update

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.


Re-United: 11-Day Yoga Cleanse, Day 2

Pain and steak. These were two unexpected parts of Day 2 of the 11-day yoga and eating cleanse I’m doing.

The pain came first. First thing in the morning. I woke up and for a moment couldn’t lift my head up, turn, or lift my body from bed. It seemed my trapezius muscle had been replaced in the night by firey soreness and stiffness. Hmm, I remembered trying especially hard to find comfortable neck positions in some asanas in yesterday’s yoga class, but otherwise couldn’t pinpoint the vice grip on the back of my neck.

Physical pain was almost immediately overshadowed by mental pain. As always, my day began with a long, meticulously scheduled mental to-do list. First item on that list was an easy 5-mile run, to squeeze some miles in the only available time to do them. Seeing how nodding my head was causing something to roughly grab me by the scruff of my neck, I knew I wouldn’t be running today. Luckily my week’s meticulously scheduled training plan has room to swap today with a scheduled rest day, but my half-awake reaction was that my day was already off to a lousy, run-free start.

I tried to meditate, another part of the cleanse. But it hurt to hold my head up, and as soon as I got sort of comfortable the phone rang. Discouragement. Now I had to scurry to get ready for work, anyway. Tuesday happens to be my Monday, and though I’m very grateful for a good job that I actually like much of the time, I admit I’m struggling with a bit of burnout the first summer of my teaching career where I’ve taught a full load rather than had complete freedom. So I downed Advil and drove with a stiff throbbing neck and thoughts that throbbed worse. I despairingly hoped the 11 days would also result in a cleanse of my attitude!

Now for the steak. No, I didn’t follow the “natural” remedy of placing it on my hurting neck. A small cut of lean steak was prepared for dinner by my boyfriend, who bought it because he kindly did all the grocery shopping this week and wasn’t aware of the 11-dafruit salady cleanse requirements. Animal protein isn’t on the “avoid” list, but the suggestion is to stick with organic lean poultry and fish. But, I figured a small lean portion prepared with love couldn’t be too toxic, so I enjoyed it with a large side of veggies sauteed in olive oil and the company of my partner.

Despite, or maybe even including the pain and the steak, Day 2 of the cleanse went well. After work I took an inspiring yoga class from an instructor who’s obviously a gifted teacher and devoted student of yoga with much wisdom to share. My appetite was still very strong all day. Other than the steak it was no problem to stick with the cleanse program, except I again couldn’t believe how hungry I was!

The cherry on top of Day 2 was this divine fruit salad I mixed up. All the gorgeous colors and flavors we get to enjoy for the next few days make me feel both decadent and blessed.

Re-United: 11-Day Yoga Cleanse, Day 1

First in a series.

Eighteen months ago when I created this blog, I thought I’d write more about yoga than I actually have. My yoga practice, in the various forms it’s taken, has been an invaluable stabilizer and teacher for me. I’ve been practicing – and teaching – yoga longer than I’ve been dedicated to running, the subject of probably 99% of my posts here.  In The Distance’s description even mentions “a yoga journey.”

Sadly, in the last year, I would describe my yoga journey as a journey away from all the wonderful physical, mental, and spiritual practices I’ve discovered since I walked into my first yoga class 12 years ago.  I can make the excuse that the lapse was the result of demanding new job stress and relocating and setting up and keeping a household in order and the wonderful and welcome change of going from living alone to living with a partner, but the plain truth is I didn’t properly take care of my yoga practice. I let it go. I still taught my beginning yoga classes to college students and enjoyed that, but with yoga if you aren’t walking the walk, it’s impossible to effectively and authentically talk the talk to your students.

While I felt bad short-changing my students, the one who suffered most was me. Cracks started emerging. I replaced morning meditation with another cup of coffee. I noticed I was getting more “reactive” and letting emotions control me. My energy level ebbed big-time, and I struggled with regular cravings for unsupportive foods. Or another glass of wine. Or both.

So yesterday, I made movement back toward the place where I must have wandered off the course of my yoga journey. I began an 11-day yoga and eating cleanse offered by a studio near work, Cleveland Yoga. The most common English translation of the word “yoga” means “union,” so I am calling this 11-day experience my “Yoga Reunion.”

vegetablesThe 11 days combine daily yoga with a nutritional cleanse. Unlike more “legislative” type cleansing programs, this one offers a list of food substances to avoid for the most powerful cleansing. A second, more detailed “to-do” list of foods to include each day reads like a beautiful, pure grocery list: whole fresh foods like green and cruciferous veggies, citrus, berries, eggs, foods known to support liver and colon function, good oils and fats, friendly carbs, lots of filtered water, and optional extras including (thankfully!) a daily cup of organic coffee. As long as you avoid the “cleanse-blocking” foods and check off your “to-do” list, you can eat as much or as little as you like of anything else. The emphasis on awareness and doing your best each day is empowering rather than prohibitive. It is an excellent mindset for anyone who eats, whether or not they are following a cleanse program, so will be a powerful practice to keep after the formal program ends.

Day 1

This morning I woke up excited to start new. I had my coffee with stevia rather than hazelnut Splenda and copious low-fat half and half. I won’t lie; it wasn’t nearly as delicious. But, I was willing to give the cleanse a chance. Breakfast was steel-cut oats (instead of instant oatmeal for my impatient tastebuds) with raw almond butter and blueberries. The texture and flavor were both much more interesting and very appealing. I also drank about twice the water I normally would in the morning.


Mid-morning I ran 8 hilly miles and it was Hot and Humid and not shady enough. Somehow I felt strong and energetic the entire way. I didn’t whine to myself about the muggy weather or fight feelings of lethargy.

After running I enjoyed lunch: lean chicken with a little brown rice, and veggies sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and onion. Plus two big glasses of water to rehydrate.

I thought that would hold me until a pre-yoga snack. Usually it would. But all afternoon at work, I felt hunger pangs. It took an apple, and orange, more raw almonds than I would normally eat at once, some dried edamame, organic green tea, and plenty of water to take the edge off. My appetite was crazy! I was still sort of hungry when I went to yoga, but luckily the sweat-triggering practice tamed my rumbling tummy.

After yoga I got home as excited as Snoopy for suppertime! Lloyd and I made an amazing huge green salad and shared some lentil soup. For dessert I savored a frozen whole fruit bar.

snoopy suppertime

I enjoyed the first day of 11 and feel great, although I suspect at this point the good feelings come from knowing I’m taking better care of my body – and spirit – again, rather than from being scrubbed and polished from the inside out.

May 18-31 Training

Running in the surf on gorgeous Hatteras Island NC

Running in the surf on gorgeous Hatteras Island NC

I’ve had a productive and very fun two weeks of running! After Lloyd’s lifetime accomplishment of completing the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run, we continued south to the little corner of North Carolina I called home for four years before moving to Northeast Ohio last summer. Though relocation was  welcome and serendipitous, I have really missed the li’l swampland hamlet and was overjoyed to reconnect with some of my favorite people and places around the Outer Banks and Albemarle Region. Returning to the 7-mile course I’d grown bored with after the millionth time before I left, I savored the feeling that my legs knew each step by memory and the realization that a tiny bit of my heart would always belong to this friendly little river city. I was also able to explore a few new places I hadn’t made it to when I lived in the Old North State, and it was extra special to share them with Lloyd. All my runs felt effortless, probably a combination of vacation, recovery from Boston, and happiness to be back where I initially became a “good” runner.

Arriving back in Ohio refreshed, I found myself also pleased to return to the new routes I’ve found over the last nine months.  The nearby hills felt great after a week of coastal flatness, and the towpath I run when I want a flat course looked completely different thanks to late spring’s thick greenery and colorful blossoms. Lloyd and I rejoined the new Thursday night Cuyahoga Valley trail group, and we both had successful 5K efforts at an inaugural race in Lake County.

In short, during May’s second half I appreciated the good fortune of time, health, and beautiful places as I began rebuilding mileage.  What more could a runner ask?

May 18-24

Monday – 3 easy (roads, Strasburg VA)

Tuesday – 7 easy (roads, Elizabeth City NC)

Wednesday – 5.2 easy (roads, Kill Devil Hills NC); 75 min. yoga class at Outer Banks Yoga & Pilates

Thursday – 4 easy (trails, Hatteras Island NC)

Friday – 6.2 easy (roads, Kill Devil Hills NC)

Saturday –  travel and rest day; returned to Ohio

Sunday – 12 easy/long (roads)

Totals: 38 miles running; 75 minutes Yoga

May 25-31

Monday – 5.3 easy (roads)

Tuesday – 4 easy (roads)

Wednesday – 8 fartlek (roads)

Thursday – 5.25 (trails); 1 hour Pilates

Friday – 13.5 easy/long (towpath)

Saturday – rest

Sunday – 2 easy (warm-up), Concord Distance Classic 5K, 3 easy (cool-down)

Totals: 44 miles running, 1 hour Pilates

Good stuff: I am almost superstitously afraid to even write this down for fear of “jinxing” myself, but the pain in my right groin/pelvic area of the last 8 months decreased substantially while in North Carolina. Perhaps I left it there? I am feeling considerably less sore and tight, and only hope it does not flare up again.

Stuff to keep an eye on: I did a great job of logging my nutrition intake daily during our trip, and it really helped keep me on track. Since we’ve returned home and dove right in to summer semester, I’ve been a bit sidetracked with new classes. Time to re-start daily logging. My approach is making good nutrition choices almost all of the time and practicing portion control all the time, rather than dieting, to lose about 5 more pounds. If that does not work in another month, I’ll revise, but I believe if I apply this every day I will succeed.

Goals for the week: My core/functional strength program and personal Pilates and yoga practices have been neglected. The goal this week is one quality session of each and one cardio cross-training session (either swimming or cycling).

May 11-17 Training

I intended to run closer to 40 miles this week … but a mountain got in my way.  Trip preparations, travel time, and crewing for my boyfriend Lloyd during his smart, successful, and inspiring Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run put my own plans on the back burner this week.  Usually I will do everything short of move mountains to get all my scheduled miles in to the nearest tenth, with a couple extra if I’m feeling good.  The only way to do that this week would be to sacrifice sleep time, which was already too low a priority. The 24 hours and 175 miles spent following Lloyd during his Massanutten journey included sleep deprivation, navigation, and trekking – that has got to count for some type of training benefit, right?

The rest of this week we’re on vacation, most around the Outer Banks. After a demanding academic year and very busy past two months of races, I’m looking forward to some much-needed days with minimalistic agendas and new running routes to explore.

May 11 – May 17

Monday – Rest day

Tuesday – 7 easy (roads)

Wednesday – 8 easy with 8 X 30 second strides in last mile (towpath); core exercises

Thursday – 5 easy (towpath); core exercises

Friday – rest day

Saturday/Sunday – 4.5 miles (roads in Strasburg, Va.); 27 hours of crewing for Lloyd in 100 mile run

Totals: 24.5 miles running; can I count 27 hours of crewing?

Good stuff: Wednesday’s towpath run was one of the best “birding runs” I’ve had yet. I was rewarded with sightings of an Indigo Bunting and mated pair of Baltimore Orioles, as well as the usual feathered cast of cardinals, goldfinches, and bluebirds. 

Stuff to keep an eye on: My left Achilles area is still tight and right groin is still achy. These ongoing pains are more annoying than limiting so far (which is lucky), and do not get worse during runs, but are lingering so long I am starting to wonder if they are permanent “trophies” of my running career.

Goals for the week: Log highest mileage week since Boston.  Log food intake each day of vacation, rather than my historic M.O. of letting vacation = vacation from mindful nutrition.

Motley Mountain Crew

It’s not every day that you know with 100% certainly that you’re on the brink of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  Thanks to my wonderful partner Lloyd, I have such an infrequent opportunity.

Massanutten Mountain Shenandoah Valley

Poster of Massanutten Mountain

We’re in final preparations to travel to Virginia’s gorgeous Shenandoah Valley, where this weekend Lloyd will be one of 180 runners participating in the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run.

Lloyd is a smart, tough, talented, and fairly experienced distance runner who has successfully completed one previous 100 mile event. Still, he has the challenge of his running career looming before him like, well, a mountain. He knows it, too. A normally sound sleeper, he has been thrashing and restless most of the week despite being as meticulously prepared as if he is poised to deploy on a solo, unsupported operation.

He isn’t. Not by a long shot.

With barely two years of my own occasional, solely amateur participation on courses and sidelines of a handful of ultramarathons, I don’t pretend to be an expert on this inspiring sport. But I  have observed that many ultrarunners really do, as The Beatles harmonized, get by with a little help from their friends. The people around the runners, from race volunteers to loved ones to the random stranger who helps a disoriented and exhausted runner change her socks at mile 87, often keep participants upright and moving forward — and thereby have the honor of sharing a small part of their achievements.

So Lloyd has two great pacers, friends Courtney and Brandon, who will drive from Ohio to join him on the trail after 6 p.m.  He hopes to be about 60 miles along the course by then.

My job is crew chief. As Lloyd travels from aid station to aid station on the course, I will navigate to his next check-point and nap (I mean, wait earnestly!) until he comes through. When he does I will trade empty for full bottles of liquid fuel, provide food or clothing in exchange for discarded items, and administer limitless encouragement. I will watch out that he doesn’t dawdle and lose time in the aid stations. It’s sort of  like a smaller-scale, more eco-friendly version of a NASCAR pit worker.

MassanuttenMtnThe joke in the ultrarunning community is that “CREW” abbreviates “cranky runner, endless waiting.”  In my fledgling crew career I’ve had the pleasure of assisting cheerful and gracious, although sometimes groggy and pained, runners. While waiting, there’s nothing like a short hike or making a new friend as you trade stories with a fellow crew person. Ultras have small fields of diverse participants, and it is easy to quickly become emotionally attached to the athletes and their quests after seeing them pass just a few check-points. This makes the long hours exciting enough and, when each runner finishes, thrilling.

We’ll be traveling 100 miles around the mountain for the better part of 30 hours beginning at 5 a.m. Saturday. Follow the journey online for live reports, or if I’m among your Facebook friends check my status for as many updates as I’m able to post.

May 4-May 10 Training

I know quite a few early spring marathon runners who are preparing to tackle the 26.2 distance for a second time in a matter of weeks in May marathons: Cleveland, Vermont City, Madison, and more.  I had fleeting thoughts of joining in on the back-t0-back fun, but doing so would be ignoring what my body needs. My recovery from Boston has not been swift, and I have a few lingering achy spots that deserve some TLC.  So recovery continued this week of training, and at long last seemed to be working. I felt stronger and smoother again on the run.

Now I should be ready to rebuild an even better training base, so it’s time to start thinking about goals for the second half of 2009.

May 4 – May 10

Monday – 4.5 mile hike (Brecksville Reservation trails)

Tuesday – 5.25 easy (roads)

Wednesday – 1300 yard swim

Thursday – 6.5 easy (Buckeye Trail); core strengthening exercises

Friday – 5.3 easy (roads); core strengthening exercises

Saturday – 11 miles (towpath)

Sunday – Rest day

Totals: 28 miles running; 4.5 miles hiking; 1300 y swimming

Good stuff: Although my legs still feel fatigued earlier in a run, by the end of the week the sluggishness and heaviness had finally cleared out. 

Stuff to keep an eye on: My right shin is a little achy/inflamed again, since Saturday’s run. It did not hurt during the run, but I must have aggravated its somehow. As always, continue to log my food intake each day, along with permanent sensible, balanced, more mindful eating habits to achieve goal weight.

Goals for the week: Look ahead and put some events on my summer calendar, as well as think about fall. Make plans for the rest of the year so I can train with more purpose.