Review of “Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager

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I first heard about this book through the Another Mother Runner podcast several months ago but I only recently borrowed it from the library. Why the long wait? Honestly, I just didn’t really think it could be that good. I’ve read other books written by female athletes, although not a ton, but I just wasn’t that inspired by them. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything special either.

“Roar” is not only a book for female runners but for female athletes in general and I can honestly say it’s one of the best books for women that I’ve read. Dr. Sims is not only a nutrition scientist and exercise physiologist but also an athlete herself. One quote I really like from the book is “You are not a small man. Stop eating and training like one.” This sums up the book well.

There are 17 chapters in “Roar,” covering everything from pregnancy to menopause to the female digestive tract, although there is some redundancy in places, but I found the book to be laid out well and easy to follow. “Roar” is filled with scientific information and while I’m a scientist and may be a bit biased, I thought it wasn’t too scientific for most non-scientists to follow. I also liked the “Roar Sound Bites,” brief summaries at the end of each chapter.

Not only does Dr. Sims lay it all out there for women by explaining how hormones effect athletic performance, she gives advice on how to control hormonal effects on our bodies. For example, women should take in protein high in leucine before exercise and within 30 minutes of  exercising to help maintain muscle when hormone levels are high. One thing I learned about myself is I need to be consuming even more protein than I previously thought. Dr. Sims recommends 1 gram of protein per pound per day for athletic women (this is much more than is recommended for non-athletic women).

Dr. Sims also has examples of daily diets for athletes of all kinds including triathletes, cyclists, and runners. She sometimes will give comparisons of their current diet vs. what Dr. Sims recommends they eat. There are also exercises with photos that take up two chapters of the book that she recommends for female athletes. A not-so-fun fact is that women who don’t strength train lose at least 3% muscle mass per decade after age 30.

There are also of course large chunks of the books devoted to diets, sports-specific fueling, and hydration. In addition to specific examples of recommended daily diets for athletes, there are recipes for snacks. Not surprisingly, women’s hydration needs are different from men’s because of hormones. One interesting tidbit is that Dr. Sims partnered with nuun hydration to help re-formulate nuun performance hydration powder in 2016; the partnership was announced shortly after “Roar” hit the publication stands but there are no references to any of this in the book.

There are also sections on how women can deal with extreme temperatures and high elevation including specific ways to cope and a section on recovery after a hard workout. One interesting point is that when men take an ice bath, they can start shivering and get microspasms in their already-fatigued muscles, which leads to more soreness and stalled recovery. Women, however, need help speeding up vasoconstriction after a hard workout, so women can still benefit from ice baths.

The chapter on supplements was interesting to me because it’s part of what my field of study has included for my job. Many women may be surprised to read that the only recommended supplements mentioned in the book include iron, vitamin D, and magnesium. Calcium and antioxidants such as vitamin C are not recommended and in fact can be harmful. Dr. Sims’ opinion on supplements is in agreement with what I’ve also read from other scientists but this information doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the mainstream yet.

Finally, the last couple of chapters are about how men’s and women’s brains are different and how we can use this information. For example, women tend to have a greater ability for social interaction so we would benefit from things like group runs or cycling sessions. Also, positive thinking and mindfulness can be especially important for women who often need help in these areas. The final chapter is about biohacking (looking inside your physiology) and discusses everything from pee sticks to blood testing to the simple but often overlooked question, “How do I feel?”

As I said earlier, I feel like “Roar” is one of the best books geared towards female athletes that I’ve read, and I do recommend picking up a copy. I read a review on Amazon that this book isn’t for the average athlete, but is more for elite athletes, and I disagree. I’m by no means an elite athlete and there was plenty I could take away from this book. OK, now I need to go eat more protein!

Have any of you read “Roar?” If so, what did you think? Are any of you intrigued about the book now and would like to check it out? You can see if you public library has it or Amazon has it for sale here.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

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Running Resolutions for 2018

New year= new goals, right? Well, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten fitness and running goals for 2018. Let me know what you think!

Number 1- Only runs that get posted to Facebook/Instagram/Twitter count as valid miles ran. If it’s not on social media, it didn’t exist.

Number 2- This year I will run farther. I normally run half marathons since I have a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, but this year I plan on running an ultra. 100 miles sounds about right.

Number 3- I will do more cross-training. I already do yoga, lift weights, do core work, and cycle each once a week, but I think I’ll add in the rowing machine at the gym because well, four days of cross-training doesn’t seem like enough.

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Cycling, yoga, and weight-lifting just isn’t enough!

Number 4- I will lose 20 pounds even though I really don’t need to lose that much weight. It doesn’t sound “bold” enough to just say I’ll lose a few pounds, so I’m going to go for 20!

Number 5- This year I will never skip a workout, even if it’s during a family vacation, funeral, wedding, graduation, or other “important” event. If it means running 3 miles through an airport, so be it.

Number 6- I will stretch even more. I already stretch after every run but this year I will stretch for at least an hour after every run.

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I’d better plan on doing lots more of these!

Number 7- Following up on number 6, I will do yoga even more. I’ll do yoga seven days a week, because I have loads of free time on my hands so I might as well do something productive with it.

Number 8- I will set a PR in 2018 even though I’m no longer in my 30’s and will most likely not PR again at my age, but hey, a girl can dream!

Number 9- To top number 8, I will win first place in my age group in a race. Maybe that will happen at the ultra I plan to do.

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My first in Age Group award. Think I could win at an ultra?

Number 10- I will not take myself so seriously when it comes to running and I’ll forget every single one of resolutions one through nine!

This isn’t to knock any of you that have set serious resolutions for 2018. It’s just my way of saying I plan on having fun this year and I’ll do the best I can and not beat myself up for not doing more.

Do any of you have any running resolutions for 2018? Serious or not, I’d love to hear them!

Happy Running!

Donna

 

Never Give Up! A Story of Inspiration Many Years in the Making

My daughter was 4 years old when she broke her arm. She was riding her bicycle, made too sharp of a turn in a cul-du-sac, fell, and broke her arm. I had a similar experience, only I was a few years older and broke my leg instead of my arm. Perhaps the biggest difference between my daughter’s experience and mine was I didn’t stop riding my bike once my leg was healed. For all intents and purposes, she stopped riding once she broke her arm.

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Elmo tricycle

That is, until recently. Yes, 7 years after breaking her arm, my daughter started riding her bicycle again. It had been so long she had pretty much forgotten how to ride so my husband and I paid for private lessons with REI, which I highly recommend. Within those two-hour-long lessons she was riding her bicycle, albeit a little shakily, but she was riding nonetheless.

We started going for family bike rides, starting out on the widest, flattest roads we could find near our house. My poor daughter’s calves were bruised from hitting them against the pedals. She would get spooked by a car coming or something else, hit the curb, and fall off her bike, but this time, she’d get back on. Sure, there was plenty of complaining, yelling, and frustration from her. Things weren’t all rosy, but I told her, yes, riding a bike is hard at first. It will just take time.

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Picking strawberries with a broken arm

The main thing is, she stuck with it this time. I’m extremely proud of her that she didn’t just give up, saying it was too hard. Truth be told, riding a bicycle after an injury is hard, mentally, as I know firsthand. You get nervous when you pick up speed or when you’re going around a sharp turn. You have flashbacks of when you were injured. But after a while, you realize that you are safe and the chances of getting badly injured aren’t that great. Sure, you’re cautious, but every good cyclist should be cautious, honestly.

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My daughter is also on a year-round swim team and runs 5k’s. I have no doubt that adding cycling to the mix will only enhance her swimming and running. Does she have plans to do a triathlon any time soon? No, but maybe in a few years. You never know, because just a few years ago, she would have told you she didn’t ride a bike, but now to look at her you’d think she’s been riding for years.

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She’s an inspiration to me and even though I’m her mother and am certainly biased, I’m extremely proud of her for not giving up. I guess her stubborn nature has its benefits at times.

When I let her read this post while I was working on it, her response was that I was making too much of a big deal out of it. I don’t agree, though. I think the fact that she didn’t give up learning to ride her bicycle despite everything she went through is a message worth getting out. If there’s something you’ve been putting off or too afraid to do, just get out there and do it. It’s never too late!

Back in the Saddle Again!

Now that winter is over and spring is most definitely where I live in North Carolina, I decided to take my bicycle out again.  I hadn’t ridden since the fall since I don’t like riding when it’s cold out.  It took a little doing to get out there too.

First, I had to get my bike out of the garage, which usually isn’t a big deal but right now we’re having work done on the house and the man doing the work has been leaving his materials in our garage so I had to maneuver around all of that.  Of course my tires needed air so I had to get out the pump. We have a pump that you have to hook up to a vehicle with the engine running for it to work (yes, I know; I need a new pump), so I had to go in the house and get my car keys then start the car, hook up the pump to my tires, and pump them up, then turn off the car and put away the keys, and put away the pump.

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When I went to put on my helmet, it needed tightened and adjusted, but finally after all that, I was off! I decided to keep it fairly short since I hadn’t ridden in months so I went for 30 minutes. It was glorious too! We’ve had some pretty hot days here lately (it was 87 when I went out today) so the breeze felt so refreshing. And then suddenly my chain fell off when I changed gears. Fortunately that was a quick fix and the only problem was what to do with my greasy fingers. I guess I should carry a pack of wet wipes or something in the future.

Last fall I wrote a post about cycling and how it complements running and can make you a better runner.  If you’d like to read about it, check it out here. I also have a link to a Runner’s World article about running and cycling in my post. Anyway, I really feel that cycling has made my legs stronger and has helped me be a stronger runner, especially as I’m getting older. I’m training for my next half marathon next month and want to get back into the routine of including a day of cycling in my training plan.

I won’t lie, either. When I got home and got off my bike after that first ride in months, my legs felt a little wobbly. They’re definitely going to take some getting used to being back on my bike again!

How many of you all incorporate cycling into your schedule when you’re training for a race or just cycle for the fun of it? I know some of you all have trainers so you can cycle indoors during the winter. Do you like that? I don’t have one but have thought about getting one. Any suggestions?

Tips for New Athletes (Runners, Cyclists, Swimmers, etc.)

When I was on a run recently, I had an idea to jot down some of the things I’ve learned over the years as a runner when I got home. These tips can be applied to many other sports as well besides running. I often have ideas for blog posts when I’m out running- funny how that is, isn’t it?

My top tip would have to be listen to your body.  Learn to know the difference between normal soreness and pain that lingers. It’s not uncommon to be sore a day or two after exercising heavily but if the soreness lasts for a week or more or feels more like pain than soreness, you should seek help from a professional.  For most injuries, if you catch them early you can treat them and your body can begin to heal much quicker than if you let it linger.screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-9-23-40-am

Another tip if you are serious about running your first race, be it a 5k, marathon, or triathlon and you have a specific time goal in mind or if you’re a seasoned athlete and want to go big, say to qualify for Boston Marathon for example, seek the guidance of a coach.  Coaches can do anything from give you training plans and advice online to meeting you at a local track in person.  A good place to start looking for a coach is to ask at local running or cycling stores or at Road Runners Club of America (if you’re in the United States).  Road Runners Club link  At the very least, look up training plans online or check out a book on running or triathlons for beginners from your local library.

You should also have appropriate gear before you start out. If you will be running, go to a locally-owned running store and ask to be fitted for running shoes to figure out the best shoes for your body and running style. While not absolutely imperative, it’s a good idea to get some athletic clothes made of synthetic materials that will wick sweat away far better than cotton. If you shop off-season or even shoulder season you can find some great deals. I personally like Kelly’s Running WarehouseRunning Warehouse, and Swim Outlet for great online deals but if you’re new to a sport, it’s always a good idea to try on the attire in person at a local store, plus it’s nice to support local businesses when you can. If you’re buying a new bicycle, you definitely want to find a local cycling store and try out the bike before buying it.

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Credit quotesgram.com

My final piece of advice is don’t give up. Running, cycling, and swimming are all hard if you’re training for something or you’re racing. Don’t believe anyone that tells you it’s easy. Some days are certainly easier than others but if every day you go out for a run/bike ride/swim feels easy, you’re not pushing yourself to your full ability.

Believe me when I say you’re stronger than you think you are.  If you train your body properly by gradually increasing your intensity or your distance but not both at the same time, your body will adapt and get stronger.  Just tell yourself when you’re out of breath and feel like you can’t go any further, “I CAN do this and I WILL do this!” and I think you’ll be surprised to see that you truly can.

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Biking, Broken Leg, and a Bribe- How to be a Better Runner by Cycling

I broke my leg when I was 7 years old riding my bicycle.  I was going down a cul-de-sac and when I tried to turn the corner at the bottom of the hill, I turned the handlebars too quickly and the bike fell on top of my legs.  After a few days of denying to my mom that my leg was broken even though I couldn’t put any weight on my leg, she dragged me to the hospital where I was told my leg was indeed broken.

Finally after suffering through months of agony with this heavy thing and walking on crutches, having to hang the cast out the shower curtain and balancing on my good leg while I attempted to take showers (back then, casts weren’t waterproof like they are today), not being able to sleep well, trying to stuff rulers, pencils, and anything else I could find to try to scratch the itches under the abominable cast, finally, it was removed.  Then began the true suffering.

My leg had become so weak, it was excruciating for me to put any weight on it.  Despite going to physical therapy and doing countless exercises, it still hurt too much to try to walk again.  Finally when I was told I may never walk again if I didn’t do it then, I started to think maybe I should listen to the doctor and therapist.  But again, it really, really hurt and I was only 7 years old.  Ultimately it was money that made me walk.

Being a poor 7 year old, I happily agreed to accept the bribe from my grandmother if I would only walk.  I don’t even remember how much money she paid me, but whatever it was, it was priceless.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if she hadn’t stepped in and paid me to try to walk again.  I probably would have eventually walked on my own, but I may have had a limp or worse.  I doubt I would have become the runner I am today.

One thing I did do after I broke my leg on my bicycle is dust myself off and get back on.  I don’t remember being scared to ride again, but maybe I was and it was just so long ago I don’t remember.  What I do remember is riding my bike with my neighborhood friends for hours during the long summer days when I was a kid.  I remember riding for what felt like miles and miles through woods surrounding our neighborhood on our bikes and not even being tired afterwards.  I don’t remember how old I was when I stopped riding my bike with my friends but it must have been sometime before high school.

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Photo credit charlotteonthecheap.com

When I was 25 years old and newly married, I bought a bike along with my then-husband. We would go out for long rides on quiet country roads or just around our neighborhood, and it reminded me of when I would ride bikes with my friends growing up.  However, that marriage ended and when I eventually remarried, I asked my current husband to ride bikes with me, and he would initially, but as the honeymoon stage wore off, so did our bike rides together.

At first, I would just go out by myself, but I missed having someone out there with me.  I found my bike rides getting less and less until it had been years since I had taken my bicycle out. Having a baby and young child to take care of can do that to you.

Finally, when my daughter was in grade school, I decided to take my bike in to get maintenance done on it so I could ride it again.  At first, I was a little nervous and went pretty slowly, but being a runner, my legs were strong; they just weren’t used to pedaling a bicycle.  Soon, I found more and more courage when I was out riding.  I wouldn’t put the brakes on quite so fast when I would go down a hill, and I wouldn’t be quite so nervous when taking sharp turns.

Then something else happened.  I began to love riding my bicycle again.  After so many years of not riding, I had forgotten just how much I love riding my bike.  I love the feeling of going down a hill, with the wind rushing by me, and I even love the feel of pumping my legs going up a hill.  I found myself smiling to myself when I was out riding.  How could I have given up something that gives me such joy?  I had completely forgotten just how much I love cycling but I felt like I had been given a gift by having  the courage to go out and ride again.  Even if it is by myself.

Even more than the joy of riding my bike, though, I found my legs getting stronger.  I was using muscles for powering my bicycle that don’t get used as much for running.  It turns out that cycling and running go rather nicely together. If you read this article, hopefully you will see what I mean: Runner’s World article.

How many of you that are runners are also cyclists?  Or vice versa, how many of you that consider yourself primarily a cyclist are also runners?  If you are a runner and have not discovered the joy of cycling, or maybe you had a bicycle as a kid but haven’t ridden as an adult, borrow one and see if you can rekindle that joy of cycling as I have.

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Photo credit Pixabay