PictureAt the lab and no tears!
Getting blood work done isn't exactly my idea of a good time.  Unless you're a vampire, no one really just likes the site of blood. But sometimes a few vials of blood can provide you with a wealth of knowledge you didn't have before.

That's exactly what happened when I decided to give Inside Tracker a try.

Disclaimer: I received a membership to Inside Tracker thanks to Bibrave's BibRavePro ambassadorship. You can learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro & check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews. As always, all opinions, typos, and silly pictures are my own.

Inside Tracker is a company based out of Boston that uses your own blood to tell you what habits or focus foods you need to add to your lifestyle/diet to live a healthier life and perform better. They look at several different bio-markers and tell you if you're in the optimal zone for each one or not. If you are not, they give you in-depth tips and a long list of foods to add to your diet to improve those areas. 

Spoiler Alert! I had several areas that were not in my optimal zone! 

The process sounds simple right? Here's a quick overview of the process:
  • I set up an account on Inside Tracker's website. 
  • I found a local lab
  • I set up an appointment online to visit the lab and have my blood work done. 
  • I fasted for 12 hours and went to the lab. 
  • They took my blood. 
  • I didn't cry once!  
  • I waited 2 or 3 days and got my results back. 
  • Then I freaked out...

Side Note - If you try this out, you should probably skip the freak out step. 

I ignored the email that notified me that my results were ready for a full day. I didn't want to open it. 
Turns out, the email doesn't actually have your results in it, but tells you to log into your account to see your full results. Imagine that...

I was hesitant for a few reasons. Do you remember my whiny baby post? Yeah, that. I've been struggling with running since September and failing to use nutrition to control my PCOS. So I was nervous to see just how bad things were. No one likes bad news, right? But bad news or not, I needed to know. I needed to get informed so I could take steps to get better, to get healthier. 

It's important to point out that Inside Tracker is not meant to treat or cure diseases or medical conditions. But it just so happens that the top prescribed treatment for PCOS is diet and exercise so I found it to be a helpful tool. 

This tool is something that I've wanted for a long time. I've tried to find a nutritionist before but felt that due to my hormonal endocrine disorder they would never be able to tailor a meal plan that would really fit my needs. What do I need to eat? I remember thinking "I just wish somebody would tell me exactly what I should eat." 

Then finally, I logged in.
I was surprised and not surprised at the same time.
I saw some results that I expected and a couple that totally floored me. 

I had no idea...

Let's take a quick look at the different bio-markers they test.
The ones in Green are the ones that were in my optimal range. The ones in Orange were borderline either getting close to too high or too low. The ones in red, well, those need the most work. 

Iron, Liver, ALT (Liver enzyme), Magnesium, Creatine Kinase (Muscle Health), Folate, Potassium,
Sodium, Zinc, White Blood Cells


LDL, Triglycerides, Ferritin (Iron Storage), Glucose, hsCRP (Inflammation Indicator), Total Cholesterol, HDL, Calcium

Testosterone, Vitamin D, Cortisol, Vitamin B12

My Results

Picture
Any of the markers listed above in orange or red will need work to get in my optimal zone.

I wasn't shocked to see my HDL, LDL, and Testosterone were in need of work. Those are typical results of women with PCOS. But I was shocked to see that my Testosterone had gone up 5 points since my last labs were completed!
I spent 6 months on a medication that was supposed to help reduce my testosterone and it made running almost impossible for me. Since getting these results back, I've scheduled an appointment with my doctor to talk about what's going on and my treatment options. 

The other result that I was shocked to see was that my Vitamin D level was low. Umm, hello! I'm a Ginger and that is our one and only super power! We are super proficient when it comes to Vitamin D and in fact, we need less of it than others! 

In reality, this test was done in early March and I attribute my low VitD level to it being the winter months with less sunlight available.  So if I re-test this summer, I suspect this wouldn't be an issue. 

What Now?

Picture
Now that I know which areas I need to work on, I can visit another part of the Inside Tracker Portal and start looking at focus foods that I should incorporate to my diet. It's called the Food Basket. It has over 7,500 unique foods to suggest to you and even gives you your suggested caloric needs for each day based on the information you provided. Mine is around 2160 a day based on my activity level. And yes, Dark Chocolate is on the list! 

I filled out a simple food questionnaire to let them know if I had any dietary preferences or restrictions. For example, when I'm creating a food basket I can tell it that I don't like fish, or that I'm a vegetarian/vegan, or that I want to eat a Paleo diet and it will tailor the suggested foods to meet those needs. 
It also suggested that I add a few vitamins to help out. 

Let's take one of my bio-markers and look at their suggestions to help me improve it.

Calcium

My calcium was too high. 
It gave me a quick list of foods I could add including: peaches, pears, cauliflower, mushrooms, kiwi, lima beans, lentils, squash, black beans, tuna and cod. 
It gave me a list of foods to eat less of: Whole milk, Cheddar cheese, pancakes, and ice cream. 
The tip it gave me was to eliminate any supplements I'm taking that include calcium. 

Bonus - One tip it gave me to help my cortisol level was to each dark chocolate! (70% cacao or higher) I've never heard of a diet tip that included eating chocolate! 

Is It Working?

Picture
It's probably too early to re-test and see if my levels have improved so I'm basing this answer off of my recent training runs. But I have been adding focus foods into my diet for a couples weeks now. 

My energy has been slowly getting better but the biggest results that I can tell so far is that my running is getting stronger. I just made a few simple tweaks to my diet and I've already seen a big improvement and had stronger runs lately.

I recently ran my longest run of this training season, 17 miles, and it was good! It was one of my best long runs I've had in months. I've had a few good 10k runs with my group as well. Even some of my volunteer coaches and the Hubbo have said they can tell I'm running better lately. 

Also - usually Sundays are a rest/recovery day but the last two Sundays I've found myself wanting to get out and do a fun activity. We went for a bike ride and we went on a hike. Before, I would just prefer to rest all day and work on my Netflix marathon skills. I like that my energy is increasing and helping my motivation to creep back in for fun activities. 

If you want to check out Inside Tracker for yourself you can visit their website and look at the different packages they offer. I was given the Ultimate package. 
They start at $49 and range to $499. Two of their packages are available worldwide. 

If you want to see what my fellow BibRavePro Tom thought about Inside Tracker from a male's perspective, check out his blog here!

Question! What is your favorite super food? 

 
 
PicturePhoto Cred: Blanca Zavala
Hi Running Buddies!

How is your training going? My next race is just under a month away and I have two more long runs left with my running group. But this isn't a training recap blog, this is a review of a new product I've been testing over the last couple weeks, Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves.

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Zensah Ultra Compression Sleeves thanks to Bibrave's BibRavePro ambassadorship. You can learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro & check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews. As always, all opinions, typos, and silly pictures are my own.

Picture
If you look at this picture really close, (but please don't) you can see that I have two bruised big toe nails. Gross! That is what happens to me when a race is hot and humid and my feet swell a bunch.

This tells me 2 things.
1. Running is hard
2. My feet swell

In the past when I've worn compression socks or sleeves, I've had a love/hate relationship with them. I need them but they don't make my legs feel great. My legs feel tired when wearing them. So when I got news that I would be able to try Zensah, a brand of compression socks/sleeves I hadn't tried before, I was happy to give compression another shot. 

According to the Zensah website, "Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves give athletes a tighter fit in the calves and shins to increase performance and decrease muscle recovery time by stimulating blood flow while stabilizing the muscles to help prevent injury."

If you are a runner who prefers tight compression, then these are the sleeves for you! Some people need that tight support and I feel this is definitely one of the tighter compression sleeves I've tried. 

I ended up trying these on several runs. A Monday night 6 mile recovery run, a 9 mile base pace run, a 13 mile race pace run, and my last run was a 17 mile run where I put them on at mile 8.  Yes, I sat down in the middle of my run, took my shoes off, and put these on. It's all for science and the love of testing out products! 

I ordered a medium in the sleeves based off of my calf size. After testing these out, I feel like I got the right size and the best practice for me is to go by calf size and not necessarily my height. I also feel like I may be a person that needs a lighter compression. 

What I Learned

I actually learned a lot trying these out.

I learned that I prefer tight compression sleeves for recovery.
I learned that putting compression sleeves on half way through my run is better than starting out with them on for me.
I learned from one of my fellow BibRavePros that it can take a few weeks of consistent wearing of compression for your legs to become fully acclimated to them. Who knew!?
I learned that not everyone loves compression for running, but compression for recovery is key!
I learned that not all compression socks/sleeves are created equal and if I wasn't loving these, that I may be a better candidate for the regular compression socks. 
I learned that Zensah has some CUTE argyle socks!

Zensah Discount Code

Picture
If you want to try out some Zensah socks or sleeves, you can save some $ by using the code Zenbibchat20 to get 20% off until 3/31. If you buy a pair, be sure to Tweet me and let me know what you think! 

Photo Cred: Jenn at www.thecupcakerunner.com

What Did Other BibRavePros Think?

Question! Socks or Sleeves?

 
 
Hey Running Buddies,

Last time we talked, I went on a long rant about my issues I had been facing while running and my loss of motivation. It's been a little over two weeks since I wrote that post. I have now humorously dubbed it "my whiny baby" post. 
But in all honesty, it has been one of my favorite blog posts I've written in the 2+ years I've had RGR. 

So what happened?
A lot.

I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) and amazed at the outpouring of support I got from all corners of my life! I got texts, emails, tweets, Facebook comments, comments on my blog, people approached me at work, people approached me from my running club, and everyone had nothing but nice and encouraging things to say! It was truly the best thing ever and it has really helped me start to turn this burn-out feeling around. 

And I realized something.

I'm not alone. 

There are others, that I know personally, that are experiencing the same feelings. I was so consumed with my own issues, I didn't stop to look around and see what other people were up to.  

I don't want my running buddies and friends to have these feelings, but it made me feel more normal to know that this is just something that happens to people sometimes.
I had this self-inflicted feeling that I would be viewed differently as a run/blogger if I wasn't loving it all the time. Looking back, that was dumb.  But when so many aspects of your life, such as your blog, social media, social life, friends, travel, etc. are tied to one activity and you find yourself not loving it, it's hard to see clearly. 

And then I learned something.

I've been training consistently since Fall 2011. That's a long time with very few breaks sprinkled in the mix. I learned that I'm a person that needs an off-season. I need a break. 

I know! Gasp! To say running has an off season is absurd to some. After all, we are runners. We run in the winter, the rain, the heat of the summer, and all sorts of conditions. If you are one of those people who can do the same activity for multiple years straight, and not face burn out or a loss of motivation, rock on! 

I remember a little over a year ago I was participating in #runchat on twitter and we answered a question about what running in the summer means to me.
I replied "Off-season!"

You would have thought that I told people I punch babies for fun! My twitter blew up with people, probably joking, telling me there is no such thing as an off-season when it comes to running.

By the way, I DO NOT punch babies for fun.  

So what have I been doing the last two weeks.
A lot and not too much.
Super helpful answer, right? 
That answer is complicated. In my last post I told you all I stopped taking my medication that was causing my body to overheat and making my running life a living hell. I feel that now I'm a month off that medicine, it has finally worked its way out of my system and it's getting better. I even had my first run where I felt "cold" and it was amazing!

I've been taking baby steps.

I've gone to the gym to cross-train a couple times a week. But it's not the same as before. Before, I would join an instructor-lead class. Now, I go and do my own thing. If I feel like doing push-ups, I do push-ups. If I feel like doing squats, I do squats. For the record, I'll never feel like doing burpees! Burpees are dumb! Joking...kinda.

I've had a few days in the gym where I just spent the 45 minutes foam rolling and stretching. 

I've been joining different groups within my running club to get my miles in. Before, a few of us would just meet up and run how far we felt like going. This week, I went to two organized runs my club hosts and that was helpful. I had a really strong run on Monday night. 

I've also been digging deeper into my nutritional needs because it's something I struggle with. I've been working with a company from Boston called InsideTracker to see what I need to add to my diet. They test your blood for 20 different bio-markers to see what you are missing so you can add it to your diet to perform better. 
My results are back and it was VERY eye-opening to say the least.
More on that in a future post, but I'm very happy to have this opportunity through my BibRave Ambassador program. 

So, long story short (too late), It's all going to be alright. And I can't thank you all enough for outpouring of support I received through my blog and social media and in real life! It was amazing and truly helped me get back on my feet!