On the Effects of Eating Clean and Running

Last year I decided to start eating clean which resulted in me eating vegan for about 7 months. I felt that something must be wrong with me because I was having stomach issues that my doctor could not find an medicine could not treat. I have never been a fan of taking medication and less I absolutely have to so being on stomach medicine for almost a year without any real results was starting to really bug me. I decided that what I needed to do was go back to the basics and remove all potential foods that could be causing problems. Eating clean is not easy in the world we live in today. Everything has been touched by chemicals or some sort of treatment. I am not good at preparing my food in advance so most of the time I was eating foods that could be prepared quickly or came from a box.

Years ago I cut out most fast food and soda as I know that those foods are no good at all. I felt like my eating habits were good. When I compared my eating habits to others, I felt like I was doing pretty good. Going vegan is basically what I did for 7 months and I still eat more vegan than not. About a month or so ago I started having meat once or twice per week. I still rarely eat dairy. Now that I am noticing results, I plan to move closer to a full vegan diet without plan to end it. What started as a test to see if I could fix my stomach issues resulted in me learning a whole lot more about my body that I was not even thinking about.

I have struggled with running since I basically got out of high school. Once my bike was no longer my main mode of transportation I became rather sedentary. Though I have always worked out and tried to be active from time to time, I was not being as active as I should be and was not feeding my body properly. When I turned 30 and had my first child, I really started to notice issues with my body internally. I developed bad acid reflux that not only made me more sedentary but also effected me mentally. I was not ready to slow down, I was only 30. I knew that I had not given my body the attention it deserved in my 20’s but I was not that hard on my body during those years. For a few years I let myself believe that I was just slowing down and might not ever get back to where I was.

A few years ago, in an attempt to regain stamina I had not been able to find since my very early 20’s I started running. I used the Runkeeper app to track my progress and it was pretty sad. I would walk for about 1/4 mile to warm up, then run for 1/4 mile and be out of breath. I would walk for a while and try to run again and barely get another 1/4 mile out of myself. The last time I remember being able to run for 10 minutes straight was on a treadmill when I was about 20 years old and even making it to 10 minutes was hard for me. After going running about 5-6 times over the course of about 2 weeks my legs were so thrashed I could not concentrait from the soreness. I had my Chiropractor and a Massage Therapist work on my legs which were full of trigger points and very tight tendons. This was very disheartening for me as I felt I had let to much time go by not having taken good enough care of my legs to be able to run. Even my lungs would burn after running for more than 5-10 minutes. I felt that my whole body was fighting against my desire to run.

Two weeks ago I was at a conference in Seattle. When I am at conferences out of town I tend to work out a lot because I don’t have anything else to do in the early mornings or evenings. Because I was staying 1.5 blocks away from the water I decided to go for a jog. To my surprise I was able to jog for quite a while with out experiencing any pain. Knowing that I was going to be on my feet all day at the conference I did not push myself very hard. Even with that mindset, I was able to put down 2.8 miles at an average pace of 13.5 minutes. I was walking and jogging at what I was hoping would be a manageable pace that would not kill me. I was really quite surprised at the fact that I had no pain in my legs and knees. I could have jogged another 2.8 miles and increased my pace if I had wanted to. While in Seattle, I walked a lot and ran two more times. When I got back home, I went for a couple of runs. The first run was 2.4 miles at an 11:40 minute per mile pace and the second run 2 days later was 4.6 miles at a 12:17 pace. At this point I was really surprised at what was happening. I would get home from a run and ice down my knees, shins and ankles preparing for the worse. I would eat some food and take some ibuprofen just to make sure. I was expecting to break down or have issues at any time, but I have yet to do so. All I want is more.

Yesterday afternoon I ran just shy of 6 miles with an average pace of 10:26 and then woke up this morning and rode my mountain bike for 11.5 miles at a 3:54 pace. It’s 4:30pm and I feel like I could go run another 6 miles if I wanted to. It’s crazy, almost unbelievable. Besides pleading to God asking Him to fix whatever is broken with my body I believe the answer came in my decision to eat clean. There have been a few times that I have fasted in an attempt to grow closer to God and I feel that I have relied on Him the same way through my decision to eat clean.

As I mentioned before, eating clean is not easy. We go out to eat a lot and it is hard to find vegan friendly food in my area. When I was in Seattle for those few days it was easy to find restaurants that only served vegan and clean foods but not in Modesto, CA. I have found that at most restaurants you can modify what they have on the menu and make it work. There were times I would just eat a salad with no dressing because that is all that I could make work while eating out. Some of my family treated me like I had a terminal illness because I told them I was not eating any meat or dairy. It’s almost unheard of around here especially coming from a guy who has a 55 gallon meat smoker in his back yard. I love meat and I like it medium rare. I love cheese on pretty much everything. For a while it was a difficult transition.

There are right ways and wrong ways to eat vegan. Grocery stores have vegan items you can buy. For a while we were using vegan ground beef which is basically veggie protein to make tacos and stuff like that but I would still feel bloated or have acid reflux issues. Even though many of those products seem healthy, and for the most part they are, they still had something in them that my body did not like. Regardless, I was eating a lot cleaner than I was prior to my decision to eat vegan. Though I did not lose any weight or notice any physical changes on my outside appearance I continued on.

The first time I noticed any difference was when I went on that jog in Seattle and then later read about clean eating and recovery times in a book called “Eat Run” by Scott Jurek. I had read “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll, but was to early into my vegan diet and had not started jogging again. My goal in reading these books was just to find out what extreme athletes like this were feeding their bodies to be able to sustain that level of endurance. I never imagined myself being able to run again, I had mostly given up on running altogether. Now that I have been able to log a few miles gaining speed with each attempt, I have realigned my goals with my new found enjoyment. Never did I assume I would be able to enjoy running. Now I am planning to attack some goals I set for myself a few years ago but was assuming I would never be able to achieve. I plan to run a 10k in the next 30 days and run a half marathon in the next 90 days.

If you can relate in any way to how I have described my struggles, I suggest giving clean eating a try. Some people can tolerate the chemicals and toxins in most of the food out there but many of us can’t. I surely can’t handle them. They only explanation I have for being able to once again run and bike as often as I have been with out any pain is the change in my diet. I am actually excited about this change in my life and new discovery. Running is something I can do that I can measure and can only be done with my body. God willing, I will continue on this path in an attempt to endure more and care for my body even better. Though I have slipped a little bit over the last month with my clean eating regimen  I am going to get back to where I was and strive to eat even cleaner than I was before now understanding it’s positive effect on my body.

What’s next?

As I mentioned above, I have some goals I feel I can put on the fast track to achieve. I need to focus more on the foods and fluids I put in my body. I want to track how my body performs not just in miles traveled or average pace. Once I have a better handle on eating cleaner and vegan I would like to attempt to eat raw. I like to measure, I am an analytics junkie. The more data I can gather the better. I look forward to achieving new goals, setting personal records and then working to break them.

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