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17 Life Lessons I Learned from Running in 2017

“Running is like a blooming rose – each petal encapsulating its own beauty amidst thorns. Running is also peeling off the layers of life one petal at a time to achieve the ultimate magic.”  Carmen Micsa

 

At the end of each year, there is reflection and remembering all the lessons we have learned.

 

Physical Fitness Lessons

 

  1. When your first injury as a runner strikes, learn to let your body heal through cross training, such as swimming and biking.

I consider myself pretty fortunate to avoid injuries, as I do have a decent form and I am good about listening to my body if something hurts me during a run. However, this year I got my first injury that sidelined me from running for almost two months after doing a tough track workout with my Fleet Feet Sacramento Racing team. We did mile repeats and I felt great during the workout. However, when I returned home, I was visibly limping, which is why my husband asked me if I got injured. I replied that I felt great during my track workout and that it is probably just temporary. I was wrong: I had peroneal tendonitis, which hurt my foot when I walked, so I had to take time off and heal using acupuncture and my new best friend the TENS machine, which is short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.

 

Although my tendon was not completely healed, I have decided to race my favorite 5K race the ZooZoom Run. I finished second in my age group, but at the end of the race, I was barely able to walk. I knew I had to listen to my body and start healing and take time off from running. Poor decision to run the race.

 

2. Let aqua jogging be thy medicine!

Although we runners believe there is no such thing as swimmer’s high, swimming is one of the best methods to recover from an injury. I did different pool jogging intervals to keep my cardio fitness up and the tendon loved the gentleness of the water. http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/cross-training-101-swimming-for-runners_82017

 

 

I was lucky that my California Family Fitneess club had the hydro-fit belt that helped me do pool running, gave me joy, strength, and helped me heal my tendon.

 

3. Biking is another great cross training method for runners. 

Biking is extremely beneficial to keep your cardio level up, as well as one of the favorite with injured runners, but I have decided to continue biking as cross training when not injured.

 

Preparing for my first triathlon. Combining swimming, running, and biking is quite fun and challenging. I have also enjoyed doing bricks workouts, such as biking followed by running.

 

4.  Getting injured can help one put perspective on things, as well as become more adventurous in trying other athletic endeavors, such as a triathlon. 

After I healed from my injury, I gained a new perspective on things and learned to appreciate swimming and biking, which is why I have decided to do compete in my first triathlon on Sept. 9 organized by Total Body Fitness. To my great delight, I finished third in my age group, doing very well in swimming, OK in biking, and outstanding in running.

 

I finished third in my age group, even though I did my very first triathlon. Yet, the highlight was the discovery that I can have stamina and strength to swim, bike, and run.

 

5. Learning to trust our bodies after an injury and come back stronger. 

It took me almost a month to regain my speed and confidence in my ability to run strong and continue to get PRs in all my half marathon races, my marathon, and my 10K. At first, I tried to stay away from track workouts, but I realized that I needed to continue my running journey with passion and confidence.

 

Running together with my friend Andrea Brizendine helped me bounce back from injury and made me look forward to my runs.

 

6.  Learning to respect my body and to strengthen it with key workouts and specific exercises to avoid future injuries. 

 

One of the best exercises to strengthen muscles are kettle bells thrusts. My gluteal muscles often hurt after long runs, so I knew that I needed to do specific exercises to keep strong and be a better runner because of weekly strength workouts.

 

7.  Learning to trust your body when running higher mileage weeks in preparation for a marathon.

Getting my own coach to prepare me to run my strongest marathon so far was the best decision I made, as Robert-Ressl Moyer, a top ultra runner and winner of many 50k races, taught me to trust my body when running between 50 to 70 miles a week. He helped me get my body stronger by having me do a few easy runs after every tough speed workout, which kept me healthy and uninjured through California International Marathon.

 

Running strong and faster with the help of my amazing coach Robert Ressl-Moyer.

 

8.  Running fast on tired legs is not a myth!

With the help of my coach, I have learned to finish my races with negative splits, meaning running faster at the end.  The main workout to help me accomplish this were my weekly progressive runs for the first month I trained with him to get me to run faster on tired legs at the end of our workout.  I succeeded to negative split the Urban Cow half marathon finishing with a 3-minute PR in 1:43:56 with a 7:56 pace, The Mandarin half marathon finishing in 1:41:21 with a 7:45 pace another 2:30 mins PR only a month later after running Urban Cow half marathon, and the California International Marathon, where I had a 7-minute PR and qualified for Boston for the first time.

 

My awesome friend and training partner Andrea and I after finishing a smooth progressive run together.

 

Boston-Bound at California International Marathon, where I finished my fourth marathon in 3:40:41.

 

Mental Fitness Lessons

 

9.  Dig deep literally means just that when you use your mental toughness during your training runs or races. 

Digging deep as a runner, or a human being on the quest of achieving a big goal means just that. Although I am not a gardener, I find this expression to represent physical and mental strength when digging a hole, but more importantly, the strength is imperative to dig one’s way out of the hole. As runners we have to find that inner fortitude to run strong through the pain when our bodies rebel against us. My revelation came during the middle miles of my fourth marathon that I ran on Dec. 3rd, 2017. I was getting really tired and my gluteal muscles were sore and hurting. I slowed down by 30 seconds from my goal marathon pace of 8:16 and I was even thinking that marathons are not my cup of tea and why was I insisting on abusing my body like that. I even wanted to stop and use the bathroom, but I decided to harness my mental strength and focus on good form technique, and running the best I could to Loehman’s Plaza past the 20 mile point. Sure enough after that my body stopped hurting, or was it my mind overwriting the body? I started to run at 8:14 pace and felt rejuvenated and confident in my ability to finish strong.

 

I was able to run part of the CIM with my wonderful friend Karen Clark who ran ahead of me during the middle miles. I managed to catch up with her around mile 22 when my mental strength helped me dig deep and get out of the pain hole that slowed me down.

 

10.  Find another gear. 

How do runners differ from bikers? They just don’t have as many gears. Nevertheless, once we allow our brains to process and transcend physical pain, we become stronger and able to find faster gears that we did not know existed and were available to us. The way I learned to access my faster gears was by finishing many key track workouts with a few 200 meter repeats on tired legs. The first time I discovered that I could run super fast at the end of the workout on tired legs, I felt like a legit athlete.  Running strong at the end felt like pulling a rabbit out of a magician’s hat, since the pain had disappeared and allowed the legs to do their thing.

 

My super fast and supportive team mates Genevieve Clavier and David Pai made me look forward to our 5:20 a.m. Tuesday workouts, when we all gave it our best and felt as if we were hanging off a precipice, but somehow managed to stay in control of our tired legs and finished the workouts strong.

 

11.  Overwriting our doubts and mental weakness.

I was doing 800 meters on track with my awesome team mates, when my body and legs rebelled and started to slow down. My coach who was timing us noticed that I slowed down, so he said: “Your legs are not tired; it’s all in your mind.” I smiled and tried to process that statement. My next 800 was stronger, and the last one was the strongest. I had to simply overwrite my brain that was giving wrong signals to my body. All of a sudden, I found renewed energy in my running and knew I could do it! I felt in control of my body, thoughts, and managed to subdue the doubts that were creeping up like tiny spiders ready to weave their web of lies around my tired legs that were capable to give more that morning on track. Positive thoughts and reinforcement are an important tool for runners to have when needed.

 

Doing track workouts with friends is always more fun and motivating.

 

12.  The power of visualization.

It is essential to visualize our goals and even more important to let our friends, our social network and media know about our goals, so that they can keep us accountable. Besides visualizing our goals, it really helps to repeat to yourself what you wish to get out of a race. For instance, when I ran the MandaRun half marathon, I kept telling myself that I wanted to finish with a 7:45 pace, since my pace during my Urban Cow half marathon was 7:56. During the race, I felt great and the speed was effortless, but I kept pushing myself to run a little faster than 7:45 to account for slowing down on a few hills. To my great surprise, I finished the half marathon in 1:41:21 with a 7:45 pace. I was elated and surprised that I finished third in my age group, as half marathons are harder to place. This was my first time finishing in the top three at a half marathon and felt that repeating the magic pace numbers worked well for me. The brain and the body were focused on the same goal and worked as a team!

 

Showing off my two medals that I earned at the Mandarun half marathon. First time getting an age group award for a half marathon race.

 

Spiritual Lessons

 

13.  Jumping with Joy.

To me running is the perfect harmony between body and mind. In order to celebrate that inimitable feeling, I often jump with joy suspended between Heaven and Earth and rejoicing in the runner’s high.

 

No description needed. Too much joy and exhilaration!

 

14.  Running is divine.

I have enjoyed doing trail runs for the change in scenery and for the divine beauty I see all around me. Just like we need to break up the monotony in running and run trails instead of road all the time, it is the same with life. We need to find the divine in various activities, in the people we meet, and in the ordinary that we can easily transform into extraordinary. The divine is within each of us and once we learn how to access it, we will feel our hearts expand with love for others and ourselves.

 

Serendipity and divinity.

 

The divine nature of  wild flowers.

 

15. Running is finding God in nature.

Even though we need to watch our feet and pay attention to each step we take on the trails, I always rejoice in connecting with God during my runs. This year, I saw a cross in the sky right before Easter and I teared up thinking how much God loved us and how much I enjoyed discovering and talking to God during my runs through nature.  Then on Christmas Eve when I ran the Foresthill Divide Loop with a few wonderful friends from our racing team, I stopped on the trail enthralled to discover God’s Temple.

 

I took this picture on Good Friday before Easter this year. At first, I thought it was just the evening sky right before sunset, but when I looked at the picture on my phone, I was in awe to see the clouds forming a cross in the sky. I cried, prayed, and wrote a poem about this divine apparition in the sky.

 

 

The light filtering through this old, mature bent over tree stopped me in my tracks. I felt God’s infinite love for me and all mankind. This deep spiritual connection filled my heart with love and gratitude for the existence of a higher BEING and for being ALIVE and closer to GOD.

 

16. Running is transcendence. 

Whenever I run, there is a calmness descending over me that transcends any worries, crazy thoughts, doubts, or fears. Moreover, running becomes my way of transcending time and space and propels me in the NOW.

 

I love bridges, as they connect two ends, two worlds, two souls, two hearts, and many transcending moments in time.

 

17. The Zen of Running.

 

Running is controlling the shallow and deep breaths into a rhythmic breath, which I call the Zen of running, for it gives me inner peace, calmness, and composure to be the best human being possible. I also feel serene when I enter the Zen realm and know that no matter how difficult or long the run is, I will end up overcoming pain and come out cleansed and elated.

 

This art reminds me of the Zen of running, of breathing and living a meaningful and joyous life.

 

I am humbled to share what I have learned from running in 2017 and hope to hear your stories, too about your ultimate running experiences. Please share any special moments and lessons  you have learned during your runs. Namaste!

 

For more info on running and real estate, whether buying or selling, please e-mail me at carmenmicsa@yahoo.com, or call me at 916-342-2446. Running for real estate with joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Lose Weight, Have More Energy, and Run Faster on Real Vegan Food!

Sports, Nutrition, and Energy

 

I loved sports since childhood and have been blessed with tremendous energy to keep going for hours, doing gymnastics, playing soccer, tennis, handball, basketball, and running, which has become my greatest passion next to tennis. Having been so fortunate to have all this energy, I never thought that I could increase my energy levels even more by becoming vegan, but once that happened, I was amazed. I also felt that I fully earned my nickname the “energizer bunny” that a lot of my friends bestowed upon me.  However, the main difference in my stamina came in 2012 when I decided to become pesco-vegan http://www.livestrong.com/article/98689-pescovegetarian-diet/ after watching Tamra, one of my tennis friends who is vegan eat after our tennis matches. She was my inspiration! One day after our singles match, I told her I was ready to become vegan, so she gave me many good pointers. I thus made the switch right away and turned fully vegan for the first month, after which I added the seafood to my diet.

The pesco-vegan diet

 

It follows the vegan diet, meaning no dairy products, no meat, no eggs, but adds seafood and wild fish, which are good sources of Omega-3s and are great for brain function.  In less than a month, after I changed my diet, my energy level doubled and I felt twenty years younger. I also lost weight, even though I was never big, but the belly fat after giving birth to our sweet children would not go away until I changed my diet and dropped from size 8 to size 4 in just two months.

As a pesco-vegan, I used to enjoy wild-caught salmon with a variety of side dishes. Always buy wild-caught fish if you decide to eat fish.
Salmon and sweet potatoes

 

The Fully Vegan Diet

 

In December 2016, while taking a Pilates class at California Family Fitness with Linda, a vegan for more than 27 years, I decided to become fully vegan and not eat any more seafood. Last year, I had a phenomenal year in running winning seven races in my age group and setting 16 PRs (personal records) out of the 18  road and trail races that I ran,  and I never ran low on fuel or energy. I also got accepted into the Sacramento Fleet Feet Racing Team, so fueling my body properly is super important. I have fun making big pots of lentil soup, vegan burgers, salads, pizza using the fresh herbs dough from Trader Joe’s, and pasta.

Pasta with mushrooms and zucchini.

 

Lentil and mixed whole grains- Yummy!
Carbs are great for runners and all other athletes!
Salads are great and so easy to make! You can top them with beans for extra protein, tofu, Quinoa, and seeds. Delicious and so healthy!

While all this sounds good, you might wonder why you should accept my story. How about other runners or athletes? Do they share a similar story with mine? Pretty much so!

Interview with Josh Fernandez, writer, English Professor at Folsom Lake College, vegan marathon and ultra runner who is on the Sacramento Fleet Feet Racing team

Josh will run Boston this year, 2017!

What made you decide to become vegan?

“At first, it was my friend Toni Okamoto, who runs a website called Plant Based on a Budget http://plantbasedonabudget.com/.  One night, I was at dinner and I called her and asked her about being a vegan. That night, she convinced me that I could easily go from being a vegetarian to vegan. Eventually, we started running together and we ran the Running With the Bears marathon where I met one of her friends, a guy named Dave Wiskowski. He was really cool an ended up running a lot of the race with me. He is an ultrarunner and a vegan. Actually, at the time, he was a fruitarian. An ultrarunner who only eats fruit! I love weird stuff like that.  Anyway, he’s a really amazing guy. A true inspiration. Together, they convinced me that cruelty-free eating is the only way for me.”

 How did changing your diet affect your running?

“I became a vegan several months before the California International Marathon in 2015. I thought to myself, “Well, this will either help me or kill me.” I started eating a lot of avocados, veggies, and pasta. I could feel a difference in my body right away. I felt leaner. I had more energy. I started training with very little fatigue. I got this feeling that I could run forever. Maybe some of it was a placebo effect, but it didn’t matter. I felt strong. That year I knocked almost 20 minutes off my marathon PR and qualified for the Boston Marathon.” 

 Was your experience as a vegan only positive?

“Yes. I used to get tired every day at around 3 p.m., like this really low energy, sluggish feeling, especially if I was at work. At 3 p.m., I would literally rest my head on my desk and struggle to get up. Then I’d pound a coffee, which would keep me up all night. I don’t get that tired feeling anymore and I attribute that all to being vegan. Dairy, especially cheese and lard, weighs me down quite a bit. Cutting that stuff out produces really beneficial and exciting results if you’re an athlete.”  

 What is your favorite source of protein after a long run? 

“I love avocados. I really like to eat a big fat sandwich with avocados, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, and hummus. I wash it down with a smoothie made with kale, celery, ginger, apple, garlic and a scoop of Vega protein powder. I think when you’re vegan for a while, your taste buds morph, so even sort of gross food (like garlic in a smoothie) is somehow incredibly appetizing. That’s what my wife says, at least. “

 Any pros and cons of the vegan diet?

“The only con is when people invite you over to dinner, you have to engage in the awkward conversation where you let them know they’re either going to have to make a vegan meal, or you’ll just “bring something from home,” which never happens. But luckily, when you’re vegan, nobody really invites you to dinner, anyway.” 

Any specific advice for runners or anyone else looking to change their diet and become fully vegans?

 “My friend Toni suggested (since I really loved cheese, like in a sick way, enough that I would sometimes eat a block of medium cheddar for lunch) that I should become a vegan in phases–first you get rid of  milk, then eggs, then cheese, etc. So that’s what I did and it really worked. I don’t miss cheese anymore. When I’m craving pizza, Amy’s makes a really good frozen cheese-less pizza that hits the spot, since I don’t like the taste of imitation cheese. You’d think with all the technological advances in the world someone would engineer a cheese that doesn’t taste like toe fungus, but I guess that’s not really a priority. Anyway, I think everyone loves animals, so I would suggest that everybody go vegan. Don’t make me bust out pictures of what happens at factory farms.” 

 Why vegan vs. vegetarian?

“For me, it comes down to two things: health and compassion. I feel my healthiest when I’m not weighed down by meat and dairy. I also feel the most connected to the world when I’m not causing pain to other animals.” 

Now that you have two opinions on turning vegan, I urge you to find out what works for you as far as your diet, consult a nutritionist, read more about the vegetarian and the vegan diets, and embrace the change.  I wish you a healthier, speedier, and more amazing 2017. You can do it!

For more info on running and real estate, whether buying or selling, please e-mail me at carmenmicsa@yahoo.com, or call me at 916-342-2446. Running for real estate with joy!