Add Pumpkin to Your Diet

indexThanksgiving recently passed and chances are, you ate a slice of pumpkin pie. Luckily, if you’re going to eat dessert, pumpkin offers plenty of health benefits. Plus, the calories in pumpkin pie number significantly less than fruit pies. Pumpkin-flavored food is everywhere during the season, and here are a few reasons to add pumpkin into your diet. Just be cautious with all the sugar-laden treats.

– Pumpkins aid in digestion. We’ve all experienced gastrointestinal distress during a run and it makes for a painful workout. Anything high in fiber can help.

– Pumpkins are one of the best post-workout treats. We’ve all heard bananas are a runner’s dream food with its high potassium levels. Actually, pumpkin offers even more potassium. One cup of cooked pumpkin has more potassium with 564 mg to a banana’s 422 mg.

– They are an immune booster. No one wants to get sick before a race–adding in pumpkin with its high iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin E content will keep you healthy and your cells working properly.

– They help with weight loss. For runners, the lighter you are, the less work your body has to do while you run. Lighter weight is better for your knees, back and overall speed. Because of pumpkins’ fiber content, three grams for one cup serving, it makes you feel fuller longer.

– Pumpkins may aid in keeping cancer away. Because the majority of runners take their workouts to the trails or pavement, risk of skin cancer can be high and the oxidative stress causes the body to age much faster than normal. The carotenoids in pumpkin  help keep cancer cells and wrinkles away.

– The seeds help your heart. Because pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols, which research has shown to help reduce bad cholesterol, runners eating pumpkin seeds can strengthen one of their most vital organs necessary to their sport. Try eating them for a snack a couple of hours before you workout.



Running and Giving Thanks

529628_143654692483796_997524455_n (1)I started running a long time ago, as evidenced by medals I found in the back of my closet when doing a little fall cleaning. I never take it for granted. I remember once stopping at a gas station on my way to a run up a small mountain along the outskirts of Phoenix and a woman in a wheelchair had such a difficult time crossing a street. No car would stop to let her go.

I’ll never forget that day. It made me realize how blessed I am and how at anytime, running can be taken away from me. For this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for running despite how slow I am right now.

Here are a few things you can do to say thanks during this time of thanksgiving:

1. In a previous post on France, I list some ways you can donate your running shoes and how you can run for charity. Perhaps this is something you can put on your New Year’s Resolution list.

2. Thank a volunteer. In every race, I make it a habit to thank at least one volunteer. They get up in the dark and cold when I’m sure they’d rather stay sleeping in bed. But they arrive with cheerful dispositions to hand out aid to the runners with no compensation. They deserve at least a thank you.

3. On one long run coming up, spend each mile thinking about a specific person who has helped you in your life and how grateful you are to that person. Then later that day, send an email to these people listing out why you are happy they are in your life. It’s easy to do and that person will remember that email for a long time.

4. Volunteer for an event yourself. Maybe it’s time to give back and help out other runners achieve their goals.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Running for France

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I spent the past week in Cuba, running a half marathon for the first time legally in the country since the Cuban Revolution. However, the day’s events were tainted with the news of France. I couldn’t help but think of what could happen as I stood at the start line. I was lined up with thousands of people getting ready to begin the race and someone from France standing near me mentioned what would happen if a similar event took place now.

We all started to panic and I even thought about the Boston marathon bombings and how this could actually happen here in Cuba. Luckily, I made it through the race completely unscathed. However, I did think about France for most of the race.

At a half marathon I did the week before, I had a race director tell all the runners to think about how we could be better people as we ran  the 13.1-mile endurance event. He said we should spend the race thinking about how to live life better and be better. We have time to kill out there running alone and it made the race really powerful for me.

Here are a few things I thought would be helpful:

1. Start running for charity. You don’t even need to ask friends to donate money (which I hate doing). You can join a website in which you track your miles and then those miles will convert to money to go toward various charities. It’s called Charity Miles and the website states:

Bikers earn up to 10¢ per mile; walkers and runners earn up to 25¢ per mile, all courtesy of corporate sponsors in accordance with our terms of service.


2. Donate your shoes. In Cuba, I had many people stop and ask if I would donate my running shoes. I did. I don’t need the shoes as much as they do. Running shoes were a luxury item to Cubans. I can get mine on FTTF website easily.

One World Running is one charity I found where you can donate shoes, but plenty of organizations do it. Their website states:

Donations currently go to washing, sorting, storing and transferring shoes to youth and adults in need, including the U.S.


Here’s to safe running!

Social Media Can Improve Your Fitness

FTTF_Background_3-BIGI can’t count how many hours I have wasted on social media. From Facebook to Twitter, I find myself reading news feeds and looking at a lot of unnecessary information. I feel like it makes us all even more sedentary. But I found a little nugget of good news in regards to our health and social media.

In a new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports, researchers found a way to make social media improve exercise habits: a program-assigned “health buddy.”

In a randomized controlled trial, researchers created a website in which 217 graduate students enrolled in free exercise classes at the University of Pennsylvania gym. They separated the group into two:

1. The first group received promotional messages that included motivational videos and infographics with fitness tips.

2. The second group saw no messages. This group was placed in a social network with six others. Participants then updated each other on their exercise achievements and could monitor each other’s progress on the website, making them feel more accountable. Also, when a member signed up for a new fitness class, everyone received an email telling them about it.

The test lasted 13 weeks and the results were obvious:

1. The first group receiving the promotional messages bumped up class participation initially, but then it quickly fizzled. The advertising messages had no effect on keeping students in the class for the long run.

2. The second group were more effective at motivating each other to exercise. Enrollment levels grew.

What does that mean to you?

As a runner, especially if facing burn out or lack of motivation, finding like-minded partners may help you get off the couch and lace up your shoes. You can start your own Facebook group for free and post every day what you ran and receive emails of what other people are doing to keep you inspired.





Take Your Vitamin D

santa monicaWinter is approaching. Holiday music is playing at my local coffeehouse, and the mornings feel crisp. With the change in time this past weekend, nightfall comes faster and my ability to run during daylight  decreases.

If you work full time or go to school during daytime hours, you’ll not spend much of the approaching five months getting direct sunlight. This means your Vitamin D levels can drop.

But you need the Vitamin D, as evidenced by recent research. In a study published in the Society for Endocrinology, researchers found Vitamin D can improve your exercise performance.

In this study, researchers from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh gave 13 healthy adults of all the same age and weight a vitamin D  or a placebo once per day over a two weeks. Adults supplementing with vitamin D had lower blood pressure compared to those who took the placebo. In addition, a fitness test found that vitamin D group could cycle 4.7 miles in 20 minutes, compared to 3.2 miles at the start of the test. Despite cycling 30 percent farther in the same time, the group taking vitamin D supplements also showed lower signs of exertion.

“Our pilot study suggests that taking vitamin D supplements can improve fitness levels and lower cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure,” said Dr Raquel Revuelta Iniesta, co-author of the study. “Our next step is to perform a larger clinical trial for a longer period of time in both healthy individuals and large groups of athletes such as cyclists or long-distance runners.”

How can you get your Vitamin D?

-Take a supplement
-Look for milk with Vitamin D added
-Add fatty fish to your diet such as salmon, swordfish and tuna
-Drink orange juice fortified with Vitamin D.
-Add one egg to your diet everyday and include the yolk–that’s where the Vitamin D is found.