Friday, January 27, 2017

Running on Plants

In 2014 years ago my husband decided, after reading The China Study, that he wanted to try a plant based diet. I was eating very little meat as it was and it's easier when both halves of a couple commit to something like this, so I decided to join him. 

Before I go any further, let me say that this post is not about convincing you to switch to a plant-based diet or shaming anyone who likes meat. That's not at all what I'm about. I want to share my story because I know there are other vegan runners out there and others who are curious about it but have reservations.

Early Morning Run - Crested Butte Farmers Market

While the treatment of animals played a role in my decision, the impetus was a focus on our health. One thing I've learned over the years is that there are a lot of things out of our control. We can't select our genes, or walk around in a bubble to keep all carcinogens away, and we certainly can't control mother nature or random accidents. But we do make lifestyle decisions that have a big impact on our health. Getting regular exercise, not smoking and choosing to eat healthful foods, for example. And so I've chosen to make decisions on how I live my life to give myself the best chance - while knowing full well that it doesn't guarantee it - that it'll be a healthy life.

When we switched to a plant-based diet we went cold turkey and have only eaten animal products a few times a year since - usually a bite of something special at the holidays or our very favorite burger when we're back in NYC (hint: Delmonico's Grill). Because we love brunch, by far the hardest for me to give up was cheese, eggs, and yogurt. But now I don't miss it that much and we've found great vegan-friendly brunch spots around Denver.

With osteopenia and a history of stress fractures, I was a bit nervous about making the switch because I'd be missing out on a lot of the easy calcium and protein sources. My biggest fear was retreating back into that old pattern that had me hobbling around on crutches or in a boot and visiting physical therapists on a regular basis.

You know what? Two and a half years later and I'm going strong. (knock on wood!)

Early Morning Run - trail running the Dale Ball Trails

In fact, I'm feeling better than ever. I've only lost a few pounds (and I attribute that to my run streak more than anything else) while Matt, of course, has lost quite a lot and is looking better than ever (I'm a lucky woman). I still have days when I feel 'blah,' but don't we all? Especially in the middle of winter? Overall, I feel great and I've run 70 plus days straight with hardly a twinge. 

I shouldn't be surprised though. It's not like you have to eat burgers and wash them down with a glass of milk to be a good runner. We all know of Scott Jurek, one of the best ultra runners there is, who's a long-time vegan. (Not that I am, in any way, comparing myself to Scott Jurek) And Matt Frazier has been running on plants - and writing about it - for years. As have many others who run many more miles a week than I do.

While there are vitamins and nutrients we all need, we're all still different. Animal protein might be best for some, and others can thrive without it. Matt and I chose to follow a plant-based diet for health reasons and as long as we feel like it's working for us, we'll keep doing it. I will never judge someone for eating an omelette while I'm digging into my scrambled tofu, and I hope that goes both ways. 

The point is, you can be a runner and fully enjoy a vegan/plant-based diet.

Vegan curry from Heirloom Vegetarian (Vancouver)

I am more than happy to answer questions, and I do when people are interested in learning what we eat or just how we manage without the deliciousness of cheese in our lives. It's been a learning process for us and event fun to learn new recipes and get creative with grains, beans and trying new vegetables. We've also learned that Matt is a pretty great cook. 

Are you a plant-based/vegan runner? * What would be the hardest thing for you to give up if you switched to a plant-based diet?

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