Many factors determine how efficiently and effectively you get back into shape after an extended break from training. One key factor that can sometimes take a backseat to physical training is nutrition. It can be easy to focus your attention on completing the workout, doing the necessary maintenance, and implementing the required supplemental training. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that, without paying attention to what I’m putting INTO my body, I will not get the most OUT of my body.
After I had my daughter, I had to learn to adapt to a new lifestyle, which included changing what I ate. I used to get away with eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, but this wasn’t the case anymore. I had quite a bit of weight to lose while still making sure I gave my body enough nutrients to feed my daughter and enough energy to start training again.
As they say, old habits die hard and mine were no exception. I have a huge sweet tooth and am practically addicted to carbohydrates. Rarely would you find a vegetable in my meal. But after months of constantly getting sick, having just enough energy to take care of my newborn (let alone ramp up my training), I knew something needed to change. I could try to work out as often as possible, stretch until I was a rubber band, and plank until I had washboard abs, but this wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be as a professional runner. I needed to not only pay attention to my physical training, but I also needed to pay attention to how I was fueling my body in order to sustain that training.
So how did I kill those old habits? I did it one meal at a time.
I started with breakfast. It’s the first meal of the day, so I figured I needed to start my day off right. Previously, I’d eaten sugary cereal for breakfast. As long as I had my multivitamin along with my Rice Krispies Treats cereal, I thought I was in the clear and my daughter was getting all the nutrients she needed. Wrong. How was I supposed to have enough energy to function throughout the day without any protein? And all that sugar first thing in the morning could not have been good for my immune system. So the first thing I did was substitute a yogurt for my cereal. It might have been a yogurt with crushed cookies to start, but at least I was getting some protein. Now, I have advanced and an organic non-fat yogurt with granola is usually on the menu.
Next was lunch. I usually ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because it was quick and easy but, again, there were no nutrients, barely any protein, and lots of refined carbohydrates. I soon learned that “quick and easy” usually meant “not so healthy.” I needed to take a few extra minutes to make a healthy lunch because the payoffs were well worth it. I was tired of getting sick and sick of being tired. A sandwich was still good a good option, of course, but maybe turkey on wheat, skip the mayo, rather than jelly on white. However, my new favorite healthy lunch is a smoothie. A personal friend and chiropractor suggested hiding a few handfuls of spinach in with some fruit and yogurt with a little peanut butter for some extra protein. For someone who hated vegetables and lacked any protein in her diet, this was perfect.
Dinner was by far the hardest hurdle. By the end of the day, I was exhausted from taking care of an infant and squeezing in a workout. The last thing I wanted to do was slave away in the kitchen, which is what healthy meals usually meant for me. So I would throw a frozen pizza in the oven or cook up a box of mac-n-cheese instead. But, again, this was not cutting it. So how was I going to start preparing healthier dinners? By planning. As I said before, I didn’t want to slave away in the kitchen, but already knowing what I was going to make was half the battle. So I’ve learned to plan my dinners in advance. By Sunday evening, I have a pretty good idea of what I am going to make each night of the following week, which now includes at least one vegetable. Then, when dinner rolls around during the week, I already know what healthy meal is on the menu and I don’t become victim to the frozen pizza again. It does take some extra time up front, but the end results are well worth the effort.
Yes, the physical side of training is very important when you’re trying to get back into shape, but you need to be careful not to neglect other factors, like nutrition. You can train all you want but, without fueling your body properly, the training will be ineffective. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation—maybe you’ve had a baby or, for one reason or another, needed a break from working out—pay attention to what you’re eating. And, if necessary, revamp your diet one meal at a time.
1 banana (frozen is ideal)
2 tablespoons oats
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 large handful of spinach
1/2 cup milk
Blend until smooth.
The spinach will make it a greenish color, but you don't taste it at all!
Dacia Perkins is a four-time NCAA All-American and 2008 Olympic Trials semi-finalist. She won six state championships before graduating from Lake Travis High School in 2004 and starting her college career as a University of Arkansas Razorback. After graduating from Arkansas in 2008, Perkins competed internationally before moving to Austin with her husband. She is currently training for the Olympic Trials in June as a member of Rogue Athletic Club, an Austin-based nonprofit with the goal to help aspiring Olympians reach their highest potential. Perkins is married Adam (also a former Razorback track athlete) and the mother of a rambunctious little girl. Website: teamrogue.org ; Running Blog: teamrogue.wordpress.com/news/ ; Personal Blog: daciaperkins.wordpress.com