Thursday, December 15, 2011

Exercise Log

Sorry for not posting anything interesting lately.  I will write something other than my exercise on here very soon!

11/28: Walking (3.35 miles); Running group (2.56 miles) + drills @ TSD; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 1)
11/29: Walking (3.71 miles); TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 2)
11/30: Running group (2.49 miles) + hill training drills @ 7th St; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 3)
12/01: Walking (3.62 miles); TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 4)
12/02: Elliptical (5.38 miles); TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 5)
12/03: Running group (5.06 miles)
12/04: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 6)
12/05: Running group (2.50 miles) + drills @ TSD; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 1)
12/06: Walking (3.62 miles); TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 2)
12/07: Walking (4.14 miles); Running group (3.06 miles) + hill training drills @ hill by Long Center
12/08: Walking (4.00 miles)
12/09: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 3 & 4)
12/10: Running group (1.38 miles) + circuit training + boxing drills
12/11: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 5 & 6)
12/12: Walking (3.72 miles); Running group (2.62 miles) + drills @ TSD; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 1)
12/13: Walking (1.67 miles)
12/14: Elliptical (5.43 miles); Running group (2.44 miles) + hill training drills @ 7th St

Monday, November 28, 2011

Exercise Log

11/18 continued: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 3 & 4)
11/19: Running group (1.49 miles) + circuit training; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 5)
11/20: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 6)
11/21: Running group (2.07 miles) + drills @ TSD; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 1)
11/22: Hiking at Barton Creek Greenbelt (3.94 miles); TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 2)
11/23: Running in Hyde Park (3.00 miles); TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 3)
11/24: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 4)
11/25: Walking (3.66 miles); TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 5)
11/26: Elliptical machine (5.21 miles)
11/27: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 6)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tracking my miles now with RunKeeper

At a recent potluck, I was talking to my friend Erick about running, and I mentioned that one of the many things I liked about running is that it's so low-tech.

"I never run with my phone, " I said.

"You don't run with your phone?!!" He responded, clearly thinking that I was insane.  He then proceeded to tell me about how he used the RunKeeper app to track his miles.  Even though I knew such apps existed, I really hadn't given them much thought until then.  So, on November 10th, I started to use my phone on my walks and runs.  I think I might have been overestimating the distance of some of my runs, so it's nice to have more accuracy.  Also, this will allow me to increase my distances over time on long runs.  I decided that I am going to start doing an extra run on my own, in addition to the ones that I do with my running group.  I started today at lunch with a run that was exactly five miles.  For now, I don't plan on doing drills on my personal run unless I miss one of my group runs.  I want to keep the drills to three times a week and keep my focus on the running when I do my personal run.

11/10: 3.71 miles walking; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 4)
11/11: 6.64 miles walking; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 5)
11/12: Running group (1.49 miles) + interval training + boxing drills
11/13: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 5)
11/14: 4.60 miles walking; Running group (2.65 miles) + drills @ TSD; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 1)
11/15: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 2)
11/16: Running group (1.70 miles) + drills @ Long Center
11/17: 0
11/18: 5.00 miles Running + 5 minutes walking

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some pics from my 5K on 10/29

10/29: 5K running 27:19
10/30: 0
10/31: Running group (~3 miles) + drills @ TSD
11/1: 65 minutes walking
11/2: 65 minutes walking; Running group (~4 miles) + hill training @ Norris Hill
11/3: 65 minutes walking
11/4: 0
11/5: Running group (~1.5 miles) + interval training + boxing drills
11/6: 0
11/7: 65 minutes walking; Running group (~2 miles) + drills @ TSD; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 1).  400 meters timed at 2:04.
11/8: 65 minutes walking; TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 2)
11/9: 65 minutes walking; Running group (~4 miles) + pull-ups (3 sets x 5); TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 3)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dell Children's Medical Center 5K results!

I ran my second 5K ever this morning and have established a new PR!  The Dell Children's Medical Center 5K this morning was to benefit the Carl Teel Music Therapy Endowment at Dell Children's Medical Center.  My first 5K was the Run With the Heroes on September 11.  You can read about the last run here.  My time in that race was 30:29.  My coach, Alexis Camacho, told me this week that shaving off a minute would be great.  Well, I'm pleased to say that I shaved off 3 minutes in just under 7 weeks!!!  My time today (and my new PR) was 27:19.  Not only that, but this course had some slight hills whereas the last one was totally flat.  I guess the training is working. :)

Today I felt great when I finished, which is nice considering how achy and exhausted I felt last time.  I am going to do a few more 5Ks just to keep an eye on my time, but my next big goal is to run the Capitol 10K in March!

ETA: 4th in my division! Overall 37 out of 162.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Exercise Log

10/20: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 1&2), walking 65 minutes
10/21: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 3&4)
10/22: Running group (~1.5 miles) + interval training + boxing drills
10/23: 0.  Drove to and from Dallas to attend Texas State Veggie Fest.  Ate oily, salty food at Quickstart Veggie Garden.
10/24: Running group (~3 miles) + drills at TSD
10/25: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 5&6), walking 45 minutes
10/26: Running group (~1.5 miles) + small (easy) hill training
10/27: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 1&2), walking 45 minutes
10/28: Walking 65 minutes

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ginny Messina blog post on monitoring versus supplementing

This post by Ginny Messina, a vegan RD, is worth reading:

Her recommendations on vegan supplementation are not too different from my own and are certainly worth reading:

I have purchased her book (co-written with Jack Norris, RD) Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet, though I've only skimmed it so far. I have great respect for the nutritional expertise of both authors, so I am really looking forward to reading it.  When I do, I will be certain to post a review.

10/17: Running group (~3 miles) + drills at TSD.  Difficult as always, but I took a bigger water bottle and think that helped. 1200 meters in 7:51.  Last lap in 2:25.

10/18: 65 minutes walking in the neighborhood.  Right knee locked up in the morning and felt excruciating pain for a few minutes any time I tried to stand up.  (Runner's Knee?)  When I was confident that I wouldn't injure myself, I took this walk to help loosen up the tight muscles around my knee.  I haven't experienced the issue again, so I hope this is all it was.

10/19: Running group (~3 miles) + drills on 7th Street hill.  This hill always kicks my ass, but I am noticing that it takes longer to do so each time.  This was my third time, and I noticed significant improvement from the last time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to work

Last Monday, my girlfriend Jessica had her third surgery this year for an injury she sustained in February. I took off all of last week from work so that I could focus on taking care of her, driving her to physical therapy, and just being able to be there for her without any work distractions.  Her surgery went well, despite a complication and some pretty intense bruising.  We are hoping that this is the final surgery and that she regains the full motion and function of her hand soon without any symptoms of RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome), which was something that she dealt with after a previous surgery.  Despite the fact that I work from home and have some flexibility with my schedule, I still believe that working last week would have been difficult to pull off.  I do wish that I could have spent more time outside hiking because the weather was BEAUTIFUL around here.  Oh, well. I still have some time off in November and December coming up.

I'm back at work today and am trying to get back in the groove of things. I've had some issues with our VPN this morning, which makes that a little difficult.  Luckily, that gave me a little extra time to write this post.  For that I am happy.

My exercise regimen was a little less consistent last week.  I actually missed a day of my running group for the first time since I started, and I only used the Total Gym one evening.  Of course, I had a good excuse, and I'm very happy to be back at it.  I still need to incorporate some yoga into my routine, but I just need to find the time to work it into my schedule.

10/6: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 3&4)
10/7: ?
10/8: Running group (~3 miles) + interval training
10/9: 0
10/10: 0
10/11: 0
10/12: Running group (~3 miles) + drills on 7th Street hill
10/13: 0
10:14: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 5&6)
10/15: Running group (~1.5 miles) + interval training
10/16: 0

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hill Running/Drills

My running coach Alexis has started to incorporate some pretty extreme hills in our running drills once a week.  While I've never had much trouble walking up hills, it's an entirely different matter to run up them or to do any of the following while going up: sidesteps, over/under foot drills, buttkicks, skips, and high knees.  It doesn't seem like it would be as hard as it is, but it's unbelievably difficult.  First, your legs start to burn in key areas like the quads or calves.  Then, as the pain intensifies, breathing becomes more difficult.  By the time you get to the top, you find yourself practically out of breath and your legs are struggling just to move.  Walking back down isn't even easy.

Last week, we ran from RunTex through the trail alongside Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake), up Robert E. Lee (alongside Zilker Park), and turned on a couple of streets until we got to Norris Drive.  Just getting there was difficult, as Robert E. Lee is pretty steep.  I pushed through and then we arrived at Norris.  The hill was pretty brutal, but I worked through the drills.  I do think that Alexis gave me a little bit of a break on the last couple of drills and let me do them halfway because I was severely dehydrated and in pain.  We found some water at Zilker and ran back.  Up until yesterday, this was the most difficult workout I'd had since joining the group.

Yesterday, we ran from RunTex to West 7th Street (at Blanco).  The run there wasn't as intense and the hill up 7th didn't look that bad.  When we started doing the drills, it quickly became apparent that the hill was worse than the one at Norris Drive.  The first third or so is not too bad, but then the incline gets really steep.  By the time I would get to the halfway mark during each drill, I'd be breathing heavily and struggling to maintain the exercise.  It was so difficult that after finishing my third or fourth drill, I had to sit for a minute because I was a little dizzy.  Alexis reminded me that he'd found himself needing to crawl that hill once before.  Laura, another group member present for the torture, said she loved the hill because it truly was an equalizer - everyone struggles regardless of fitness level.  As much as I struggled, I finished all of my drills, and after a recovery walk I was able to run back to the store.

I have a love/hate relationship with these hills.  I hate doing them in the moment, but I love having done them. This is where it's really great to have a coach.  There's no way in hell that I would have pushed myself to keep going up those hills.  It hurt too much.  But because I had a coach who did push me, I did more than I thought I could do and that means more growth.  And I think the consequence of surpassing these self-imposed limitations will be that I will learn to push myself more and believe in my power and strength to succeed.

10/4: 60 minutes walking
10/5: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Days 1&2), Running class (~3 miles) + drills on 7th Street hill

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Now that I am in my 11th week of running at least three times a week for my cardio and now that I am using the TotalGym for resistance training, I've decided that it makes sense to add yoga to the mix to work on my flexibility.  I'm going to be looking at different types of yoga and will probably try out some introductory packages to save money and to experiment with different teachers and schools.  Eventually it would be nice to find a yoga that I can stick with, but for now I will experiment.  Of course, if something just knocks my socks off and nothing else compares, then I will reserve the right to go back to it and stick with it.

I have done yoga in the past, though not many times. I am, however, very familiar with at least some yogic philosophy. (Much of the spiritual/philosophical side I believe comes originally from Jain teachings, though I would guess that many Hindu yogic practitioners would disagree.)  What I am seeking right now, though, is less of the spiritual side of yoga and more of the physical side.  While I am someone who deeply values spirituality, I believe that spiritual practice is very personal and there are many "spiritual" people out there with agendas and products and gurus to sell.  Don't get me wrong.  I will listen and be open to those whose teachings seem genuine to me, but I will also feel free to reject those things that don't make sense.  

The idea to do this arose from not only my need to become more flexible and remain injury free; it also was inspired by a really good movie called Enlighten Up, where the director takes an unemployed skeptic and has him go to different yoga schools to try them out.  The director who is into yoga wants a certain outcome, but the experimenting student doesn't always follow the path that she wants him to.  He does score a trip to Hawaii and India, where he meets some yoga gurus and stays at some cool Ashrams.  I may not get to go where he did, but I will definitely try some schools in Austin and post my thoughts here.  Hell, maybe, I'll even try some classes in Houston or Dallas.  We'll see where this leads me.

10/3: 45 minutes walking, Running class (~4 miles) + drills

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My 21st Veganniversary

This weekend marked 21 years of being vegan for me.  It's interesting to think back about all the changes in my life over those years. Some changes I expected and others I didn't, but I knew from the start that for me being vegan was a lifetime commitment.

When I started out as a vegan in 1990, I knew no other vegans personally, but I was ready to make a break from animal exploitation and so I did.  I know that some people assumed that it was just rebellion, but it was something I felt very strongly about.  Today my feelings about commodifying animals are as strong as ever.  I've learned a lot of new information over the years, and I am amazed and heartened by how the vegan movement has expanded.  Still, I think that we still have a long way to go.  We are still just a very small percentage of the population, and being vegan is easier than it's ever been before.  If you're vegan, share a vegan meal with someone who isn't vegan.  If you aren't vegan, please consider going vegan.   It's easy, healthy, and delicious.  There are many amazing vegan cookbooks and more and more vegan restaurants are popping up all over.  I am glad to help if you have any questions.

9/30: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 5)
10/1: Running Class (~3 miles) + circuit training drills
10/2: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 6)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Exercise Log

9/14: Running class + drills
9/15: 45 minutes walking
9/16: TotalGym Starter Program
9/17: Running class + drills
9/18: ?
9/19: Running class + drills
9/20: TotalGym Starter Program
9/21: Running class + drills
9/23: TotalGym Starter Program
9/24: Running class + circuits
9/25: 0
9/26: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 1), Running class + hills (first time to conquer hill near Zilker)
9/27: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 2), 60 minutes walking
9/28: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 3), 45 minutes walking, Running class + speed drills
9/29: TotalGym John Carleo 6-day training (Day 4)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Run With the Heroes 5K - success!

I ran my first 5K on Sunday!  It was very exciting, even though I am very slowwwwwwww.  It was great because there was a significant presence from my RunTex running group.  Everyone gave it their all and deserves to be proud.  Our awesome coach, boxer Alexis Camacho, placed third overall and first in his age group running it in just under 17 minutes!  Wow!!!  I set my first PR at 30:29 and plan on beating that at my next 5K.

I went through a range of feelings in the race.  It was exciting that morning before the race.  I was nervous, but I felt pretty confident that I could run the entire race.  Alexis was the most excited.  He was smiling uncontrollably and actually bouncing around!!!   He suggested that some of us go to the front to the starting line.  I didn't expect people to let us up there, but no one objected.  We listened to remembrances of 9/11, as well as to a moving piece by a Special Olympics race participant, and talks by the APD Chief Art Acevedo and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell.  Then, we lined up and were off.

Immediately after we started running, a lot of the runners behind me started to pass me.  My ego started to kick in, but I kept going in spite of it.  I reminded myself that I was there not to beat anyone but to challenge myself.  It was hard to fight against some of the feelings, especially when I'd see a 10 year old pass me, but I tried to focus solely on finishing.  Alexis was too far ahead for me to see, but every once in a while I'd see Wilson from my group at one of the loop-arounds.  She was also very far ahead of me, but it was helpful somehow seeing her.  Marcy, also from the group, was behind me initially.  She was beside me later at a time when I was really feeling particularly challenged and was losing steam.  I think she just asked, "How are you doing?" before passing me.  Somehow that got me to refocus and continue.  Not long after, I saw Alexis on the side telling me that I was getting close.  This made me push harder, and I ended up passing about 7 or 8 people before getting to the finish line.

Jessica was waiting for me, cheering me on, as were those on my team who had finished before me.  I have to say that finishing was a damn good feeling, and I can't wait to give it another go.

As far as I can remember, this is my first race ever, with the exception of perhaps some little races during a very short track stint in elementary school or informal races in PE or against peers or siblings.  I wasn't very athletic, but I do remember making it to a single track meet.  Unfortunately, that's all I remember.  I can't remember if I ran or just sat in the bleachers.  For sure, I had never run in a 5K before September 11, 2011.  I'm excited to start this new chapter in my life.

Here are some pictures:

9/8: ?
9/9: ?
9/10: Running class + drills
9/11: 5K
9/12: Running class + drills
9/13: 45 mins elliptical trainer

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Supplementation in a vegan diet

I often hear vegans state that if one follows a vegan diet, supplementation is unnecessary.  While I used to believe that for the *most* part (I was educated on B12 pretty early on), I consider it irresponsible and potentially dangerous to tell vegans not to supplement.   There are some key areas that need to be addressed in a vegan diet (just as there are in non-vegan diets).  If they are not, the results can be devastating.  Does this mean that I don't think a vegan diet is healthy or that I don't recommend it to others?  Not at all.  I want EVERYONE to be vegan, but just like I would not recommend an unhealthy donut-based vegan diet devoid of vegetables I'm not going to recommend that someone follow a vegan diet that is missing key nutrients, even if some of those nutrients have to come from a pill.

As previously mentioned, I decided to follow a vegan lifestyle nearly 21 years ago (my Veganniversary is coming up!)  to avoid exploiting and harming animals.  This remains my primary motivation as a vegan.  I wasn't sure if avoiding animal foods was the healthiest thing to do, but I had no doubt that it was more ethical than consuming non-vegan foods.  It didn't take long for me to become acquainted with some of the health arguments of a vegan diet, and I soon came to believe that veganism was the perfect diet and that supplements were largely a waste of time and money and were "unnatural."  I was a Natural Hygienist for a long time.  While I still believe in many of the tenets of Natural Hygiene, I have learned a few lessons since then, some the hard way.   I'm not nearly as rigid about living in accordance with NH now, and I recognize that NH philosophy was missing some key components.  

But, getting back to veganism, particularly to the health aspects of vegan diets, it's important to note a few things.

First, there is no single vegan diet, so statements about "the" vegan diet being healthiest are not accurate.  A vegan could subsist wholly on potato chips and beer while another vegan could live on organic fruits, vegetables, legumes, nut/seeds, etc.  The chip-eating, beer-guzzling vegan is almost certain to be more unhealthy than the average omnivore whereas the whole foods vegan is likely to gain some benefits over the average omnivore.  Few would disagree with that, but it's worth noting because there are too many generalizations made about how a vegan diet prevents ABC or XYZ diseases.  Which vegan diet?  The first one or the second one or some other one?  It may seem obvious that it is not the first, but we can't assume that everyone knows this when we state it as a generality about vegan diets.

Second, from a health perspective, even the best diet can have certain pitfalls.  A healthy whole foods vegan diet can prevent/reverse heart disease, reduce chances of cancer, and help prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes, but if not supplemented in key areas it can lead to a host of issues.  Even "whole foods" such as fruit, grains, or nuts can be over-consumed, leading to obesity.   

Third, animal foods are not the only foods that lead to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  Vegan junk food can do the same.  Most vegans that I know are *NOT* eating healthy whole foods vegan diets and still have a considerable amount of junk food in their diet, though they may or may not be including some very healthy foods.  

Getting back to supplementation, there are three key areas to which vegans should pay attention: Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Omega 3 fats.  It is possible to be deficient in other areas, but a healthy diet and good multi will generally cover you.  Of course, it's always wise to get checked out regularly just in case you are falling short somewhere.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is nothing to toy with, particularly considering that you could end up paralyzed or with irreversible nerve damage. (See some videos from vegan physician Dr. Michael Greger on the topic of B12 here:

Vitamin D is an area of concern for everyone vegan and non-vegan, but vegan sources in the diet are even more limited (certain mushrooms and fortified foods).  I'd recommend an annual blood test to everyone (vegan or not) to ensure that they have adequate levels.  It is imperative to supplement even if you go outside regularly if your levels are insufficient or sub-optimal.  Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to a lot of problems, not just rickets but also cancer, issues with glucose metabolism, multiple sclerosis, and cognitive impairment among other things.  See

Another area of concern has to do with Omega-3 fats.  Dr. Fuhrman has clinical experience with many thousands of vegans over a ~25 year medical career and has stated that in long-term vegans he has seen a lot of issues with Omega-3 fatty acid levels.  Some of this has to do with overconsumption of Omega-6 fats and underconsumption of Omega-3 fats,  but even in people consuming adequate Omega-3 fats in the form of flax and walnuts and other seeds/nuts there can be issues because the short-chain Omega-3 fatty acids need to be converted to long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids.  Long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA are now available in completely vegan forms, so vegans can take them to avoid issues.   Vegan DHA has been around a long time now, but vegan EPA is relatively new.

There are other areas that can also get low in vegans or others who rely on non-animal foods for the bulk of their calories, so if you don't get annual blood tests, it's a good idea to take a multi to avoid issues with trace minerals.

I was a non-supplementer for much of my early vegan career.  I didn't have any significant issues, but was experiencing some fatigue and fogginess at one point after 10 years.  I went to a physician and had my blood tested.  We found that my B12 was on the low side of normal, even with some fortified foods.  (Dr. Greger doesn't recommend relying on one fortified source like nutritional yeast because it is too inconsistent and instead says to also include a regular supplement.)  A low normal on a B12 test can actually still indicate a deficiency, so I should have taken an MMA test to rule one out.  Unfortunately I didn't know that.  Still, I was concerned enough that it was in the low end of the normal range, and so I changed my attitude towards supplementation.  The last decade I have been an on-and-off supplementer, getting more serious and regular in the last year or so.   Unfortunately I did not get regular blood tests, so it's hard to assess if I was supplementing properly or not.  I also struggled with my weight and binge eating, so it's tough to determine whether I had symptoms from unhealthy eating and excess weight or from improper supplementation.  The two may even be interwoven.  

Last year, I decided to have some of my levels checked.  I was concerned about Vitamin D after reading about the connection of deficiency to disease and I was experiencing fatigue and back pain.   The doctor tried to talk me out of getting tested, saying that most of what was being said about Vitamin D was hyperbolic.  He looked at me and said, "You look pretty tan, so you must get enough from being in the sun."  I pushed the issue until he agreed, and I found that my Vitamin D was in fact a deficient 15.  Everything else was normal.  My B12 was in the adequate range (no additional tests). 

I recently had a lot of labwork done, because I changed (improved) my diet, started exercising more vigorously, and wanted to make certain that I didn't have any underlying issues not only from my new stricter diet but also from years of not always eating a balanced diet or supplementing right.  I've gotten most of my results back now, and it's kind of interesting.  I will post more about my blood tests separately.  I am going to start testing annually to avoid future issues but also to see what effect physical fitness, an improved diet, and smart supplementation have on my blood levels.

Most of my numbers were awesome (protein, calcium, iron, cholesterol, glucose) after 21 years as a vegan and three months on a strict Eat to Live regimen,  but there is definitely room for improvement in some areas.  My B12 was normal, but I went ahead and did a separate MMA test and will post the results when I receive them.  My Vitamin D was a 26, which is considered sub-optimal by the new standards.  This was actually up from last year when I was a deficient 15.  I have been supplementing regularly with a lot of Vitamin D2 (4,000 to 8,000 IUs) but still was lower than where I should be, particularly after more than a year of supplementing and several hours of sunshine a week.  

Vitamin D2, aka ergocalciferol, is the non-animal version of Vitamin D.  Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is generally derived from animal sources so is not usually vegan.  There is a lot of debate about whether D2 is as effective as D3, but it is generally agreed that D2 is not as well absorbed and requires higher dosages to match D3's effectiveness.  This has always been kind of bummer for vegans.  Just recently, though, an exciting product came out!  It's called Vitashine Vegan Vitamin D3 Spray, and it is derived from lichen.  Because I've had such a tough time getting my Vitamin D to an appropriate level, I'm excited to be trying this new product.  I started taking 15 sprays a day (3,000 IUs ) on September 1st.  I plan on retesting my level in December to see if it has been effective.  I have to say that the spray tastes kind of odd, like movie theater popcorn "butter," so hopefully they will encapsulate it in vegan gel-caps at some point.  (Edit: My new vegan grocery store is now carrying the vegan D-3 in vegan capsules:

I have never had my Omega 3 fatty acid levels checked.  I didn't check mine because I rely on a supplement already, so my levels would reflect that rather than show whether I am an efficient short-chain to long-chain converter.  If you want to determine whether or not you actually need a supplement and you are not taking any currently, you can have a test done that determines if your levels are sufficient.  I'm okay with taking the supplement and since conversion can get more inefficient as one ages, I just take it without worrying if I might be okay not taking it.  At present, I am taking the vegan EPA by Futurebiotics. I have taken V-Pure in the past, which contains both DHA and EPA, but it was sometimes unavailable for months.  I may add DHA back into the mix at some point, since it's possible that there are some benefits found in DHA and not in EPA.  I'll have to evaluate that and decide.

In summary, for vegans, I suggest the following:

1) Eat as healthy as you can.  I am a big fan of Eat to Live.  While Dr. Fuhrman doesn't only promote vegan diets, E2L is very compatible with veganism and easier to do if you are vegan.  It is groundbreaking stuff.  In a nutshell, base your diet on dark leafy greens, a variety of vegetables, beans, some fruit, nut/seeds, limited grains, and avoid or minimize oils, sugars, and other unhealthy items.  Read the book to get complete details.

2) Take a good quality vegan multivitamin that includes B12.  I take Gentle Care Formula because it's the only one I found without some harmful and possibly cancer-causing toxins.  Dr. F is good about keeping it up to date based on the latest research.  If you are female and of child-bearing age, you may want to consider his Gentle Prenatal formula.  Generally he recommends non-pregnant females who still are of menstruating age take one capsule of the Gentle Prenatal and one of the Gentle Care.  Pregnant females should take two of the Gentle Prenatal.  Of course, individual needs may vary, which is why blood tests can be helpful.

3) Get your Vitamin D levels checked annually to see if they are in a good range or more frequently if sub-optimal or deficient.  Take a regular Vitamin D supplement unless your levels are too high.  You may have to experiment with the dosages some, but 2000 IUs is safe for most.  If you are deficient, you may want to try Vitashine Vegan Vitamin D3 Spray (As mentioned earlier, I just started taking 3,000 IUs.  Check back in December, 2011 to see if it raises my levels as desired.)

4) Check your B12 annually, as some people may need more than what is in the multivitamin, particularly if they have been deficient for a long time.  Get an MMA test if you are under 500 pg/ml.

5) Take some long-chain vegan Omega 3 fatty acids.  There are several good ones out there.  The best bet is probably to take something that contains both DHA and EPA.  Read my blog regularly for updates on new products.

6) Don't forget to engage in some form of healthy exercise!

9/6: 0
9/7: Running class + drills

Monday, September 5, 2011

First Race coming up

Jessica and I have been keeping up with our TG workouts a few days a week on my non-running days, and I'm still religious about my running group.  So far I'm the only person who has never missed a class, and that's including our coach!  I'm excited to say that my running has improved significantly in the past week.  I am now able to run continuously rather than having to stop and walk in the middle of my runs.  This is a HUGE accomplishment for me.  It started last Wednesday, when I just kept running at the point where I was supposed to walk.  Then, Saturday I repeated the same thing on a longer run, and I even had a really strong finish.  Today, I also went for a relatively long run and I actually felt good the entire time!!!  I think I'm starting to get the hang of this after 6 weeks!

My coach talked me into running in the Run with the Heroes 5K that's taking place on September 11th.  I was initially worried that I wouldn't be able to run the whole race, but with my improvement over the last week I should be able to handle it!  The goal is to set a PR for myself, so that I can beat it the next time.  No problem, I can run slowly. :)

8/28: Total Gym Beginner's workout (2 miles + drills)
8/29: Running class
8/30: 0
8/31: Running class (2 miles + drills + speed work)
9/1: Total Gym Beginner's workout
9/2: 0
9/3: Running class (4 to 5 miles + drills)
9/4: Total Gym Beginner's workout
9/5: Running class (3.5 to 4 miles + drills)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Running and the Total Gym (or is it TotalGym?)

It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted, and things are progressing along exercise-wise.  I actually took it easy and only focused on my running the week immediately following my last post.  I bought a new pair of shoes (ASICS Men's GEL-Kayano 16 Running Shoe,White/Royal/Lightning,13 M) that was recommended by my running coach.  Of course they're vegan, as most running shoes are, and they address my overpronation while giving my knees some cushioning.  I'm still very, very slow, but I am running for longer periods of time and noticing an improvement in my technique.  My coordination in the running drills is also getting better, so I am feeling pretty good.  So far, I am the only person in my class to have attended every single time.  What can I say, I'm motivated!  The more I train, the better and fitter I'll get.  As I drop more weight and the weather cools, the running should get easier.  I'm excited about that!

I'm planning on signing up for a run in October, and the Dell Children's Medical Center 5k looks perfect as far as giving me enough time to train for it.  Even though a 5K may seem relatively easy, this will be my first race.  My goal is to run the entire race.  I'm not at all concerned with speed right now, particularly since I am regularly passed on the trail by young and old, fit and fat. :)  I haven't signed up for the race yet, but I'm fairly certain that this is the one that I want to participate in.

As expected, the Total Gym XLS that I ordered arrived on Monday, August 22nd.  (Jessica likes to say "TotalGym" running the two words together.  I was giving her a hard time about it, and then I noticed that one of the personal trainers on the beginner's DVD says it like that too. :-/) I also purchased the Total Gym Ab Crunch and Total Gym Dip Bars and a boatload of DVDs with a variety of workouts.  I opened it up immediately and have to say that I am impressed with it.  It allows you to do a variety of exercises, is easy to store, and both Jessica and I are having fun using it so far.  We've only done the beginner workout, but I anticipate that we'll move into the more sophisticated exercises within a couple of weeks.  One of the criticisms I read on the web is that it isn't for people who are very advanced, and that at some point, you will surpass the machine.  If that's the case, then I am okay with that because that means I will have reached a certain level of fitness.  There are so many things you can do to amp up the workout that I think that is something I won't have to worry about, at least for a long while.  For right now, it's very challenging as it is.

I'm certain that training with the TG will help me with my running, so it'll be interesting to see what kind of difference I notice in the next few weeks.  It will be impossible to know how much of the improvement is from the TG and how much is just from running itself or from the drills.  Regardless, it has been proven that cross-training makes a difference in running and improves overall fitness.  Besides, anything I can do to lose fat and gain muscle will help me achieve my goals.

8/15: Running class
8/16: 0
8/17: Running class
8/18: 0
8/19: 0
8/20: Running class
8/21: 0
8/22: Running class + Total Gym beginner's workout
8/23: 45 minutes walking
8/24: Running class
8/25: Total Gym beginner's workout
8/26: 65 minutes - treadmill incline work
8/27: Running class

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Current Status

I have started to enjoy my running class a lot more and am going to start doing runs outside the class soon.  I finally had my running coach assess my feet and running stride to determine what shoes I need.  I'm an overpronator, with medium to medium-low arches.  Unexpectedly, he told me that the shoes I have are perfect for me, except that these are worn out.  I'm also wearing a shoe size smaller than I should for running.  I need to be in a Size 13.  That explains the pain in my toe and the black nails (bruising).  Ouch!

He made some recommendations for me, but I have to wait for RunTex to get my size in next weekend.  I will definitely buy from them, since they have helped so much. I am wondering if I should go ahead and get another pair online though.   It would allow me to have another pair to alternate so that I could run every day.

I'm also really excited because I ordered a Total Gym XLS.  Yep, that's the one that bad-ass Chuck Norris hawks on paid infomercials.  I've heard a lot of good things about them over the years, and I think it would allow me to work out on a more regular basis.  I have a gym membership that I don't use enough, mainly because the gym is not that close or convenient for me.  I'll keep that because it only costs me $54 a year (yes, you read that right), as long as I keep it active, and they do have some good equipment there and free classes.  But, you can't beat having something in your home that lets you do all kinds of crazy exercises that easily stashes under your bed.    Now I have no excuse to not exercise!

8/10: Running class that was pretty intense
8/11: 75 minutes walking
8/12: 0
8/13: Running class
8/14: 0

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Running Gets Easier

My right knee is still acting up a little after each run, but I noticed on Saturday that I was able to run much longer.  I also became aware that when I run, my right foot doesn't land pointing forward but points to the right instead.  On Monday, I consciously tried to land with it pointing forward and my knee did feel better.  I still need to get some new shoes.

8/4: Not sure, so I am going to call it 0
8/5: 50 min walking
8/6: Running class with a long run
8/7: 0
8/8: Running class
8/9: 65 minutes walking

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Vegan Story

I've shared my vegan story a few times over the years in discussion boards or with people who know me well, but I think it's especially important that I share it here. 

As a child, I always had a fondness for animals. We used to make trips to Guatemala every few summers to visit relatives. I remember going to my aunt and uncle's house where they basically had a small farm.  My cousin had a baby chick that they called Piolín. I adored that baby bird. I played with him every chance I got that summer. I was deeply disturbed when I heard sometime later that Piolín had eventually become their dinner.Though I don't recall changing my eating habits, I remember feeling really sad about Piolín and angry toward these particular relatives. They found the whole situation amusing, which horrified me even more.

My family has always loved eating, and my parents were usually pretty open to different types of cuisine.  They went to a Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant and loved the food.  It was pretty far from where we lived, but they started taking us there occasionally.   It was always a pleasant experience.  I loved the food and really enjoyed visiting the temple with the aromas of incense and the soothing chants.  I was a little scared that they would try to recruit me into their fold, but I sometimes would take some literature.  I would skim it, and then it would go on the bookshelf.

I had a friend in high school who would constantly challenge me.  He'd ask all sorts of philosophical questions about my beliefs.  I would get frustrated with him because no matter how many answers I had, he always had more questions.  I eventually resorted to reading different religious and philosophical texts searching for some answers.  Included in my reading were the Krishna books, as well as some other books discussing similar principles and ideas.*

Now, this friend was NOT a vegetarian and never even brought up vegetarianism.  He was actually challenging me on other conventional notions that I simply took for granted.  I was already pretty introspective, but this was really the push that I needed to start thinking seriously about things.  Some of what I read really clicked with me.  I was amazed at how much sense some of these concepts made to me.  Why did we have to eat animals?  Was there any justifiable reason to treat a cow worse than the cats I loved so much?  What if I were a cow?  What if someone were raising me to eat?

I was actively thinking about all this for a couple of weeks.  I went around and around in my head.  Different things kept pointing me to the harsh realities of the slaughterhouse.  I think I may have not really been eating meat during that time, but I remember that I did on Thanksgiving even after all those thoughts.  It was done very reluctantly at my then-girlfriend's house.  Thanksgiving was a big deal to her, and I weakly succumbed.  I don't think she even realized my internal struggle.  I remember that guilt of participating in something that felt so wrong. It just made the drive in me even stronger.  I knew that I had to stop participating in this.  I couldn't dare eat another innocent animal.  On Monday after Thanksgiving, 1989, I stopped eating all animals.  

Because I knew that people would give me a hard time about it, I started out calling it an "experiment."  I knew deep inside that I had no intentions of changing back.  I couldn't look in the eyes of an innocent animal and imagine myself killing him or her, much less eating this other being.  Why eat an animal?  The transformation in me was complete.  It did take me a few weeks to realize the prevalence of the less-than-obvious meaty ingredients in food.  Twinkies and cinnamon rolls at school had beef fat. I learned about rennet in cheese (this helped to curb my cheese consumption somewhat in my pre-vegan days).  I found out that most refried beans had lard.  Gelatin was all over the place.  It soon became apparent to my family and friends that this was no experiment.  I know now that my mom still thought that I would give it up at some point, but most began to see that I meant serious business.

People would openly challenge me.  It was very difficult and painful, but it drove me to become a knowledgeable vegetarian.  I immersed myself and read as many vegetarian books and magazines as I could.  I learned all sorts of things.  I discovered veganism.  I was feeling somewhat guilty about leather from the very beginning.  In fact, I had a leather jacket that I would wear, and every time I wore it, I felt like a hypocrite.  I had decided that I would quit wearing leather from the very beginning, but I felt that I needed to learn about alternatives.  The worst part was that at Christmas my unsupportive girlfriend gave me a watch with a leather band.  I felt like crying.  She had initially asked me if I was going to quit wearing leather.  Because I was getting some attitude about my vegetarianism in general, I had said that I wouldn't, while knowing that I really had every intention of giving it up.  I started to see the problems with all animal products as I read more about veganism.  I got to a point reading about animal agriculture, when I knew that it was time to go vegan.  I wanted no connection to slaughter.

In 1990 in suburban Dallas, vegan was not something that people knew about.  I remember thinking of vegans as these sort of mysterious, other-worldly spiritual people that glowed brilliantly.  But I knew that I had to become a vegan.  One day in September, I stopped consuming all food animal products with the exception of honey (which I didn't know about) and started to get rid of all my leather, silk, wool products.  Shortly after, I learned about honey and dumped it as well, becoming a vegan.  I've never regretted that decision, only that I couldn't have come to it sooner than I did.

I have learned a lot in these many years of veganism.  I no longer think that vegans are free from all problems and sicknesses. I am all too aware of my own shortcomings.   But the one thing that I always stay true to is my veganism.  I have changed over the years in many ways.  I've been through all kinds of phases, friendships and relationships, but veganism is a constant.  Being vegan is practical and can be pretty easy in most cases.  It is not a fad, not temporary, not hip or political.  Veganism surpasses all of that.  It is based on the principles of compassion, freedom, amity,  and doing the right thing.  I don't view it as a good thing but as a necessity.    Veganism is not the solution to everything, but it is the best and easiest way to eliminate a great deal of senseless violence in the world.

* - I eventually found that Jain philosophy was what made the most sense for me.  That's a topic for another entry though.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Yesterday (Saturday) in my running class, we finally got a little more into actual running.  In the two prior sessions, our focus was just walking and then some running drills.  Since I walk almost every day now, that was no big deal.  Running is a whole other story.  It's tough!  While the running was difficult, it did feel good to push myself and get my heart rate up.  I started thinking that I should go ahead and sign up for a 5k in October.  The only problem is that my right knee started to hurt a lot.  This has happened every time I've taken up running as an adult.

Today I didn't have any knee pain at all, so I'm hoping it's just a matter of unused, weak muscles around the knee.  That's what I keep reading is the problem.  Of course, we did run on cement this time, so I wonder if that also had something to do with it.  I'm going to talk to the running coach about it tomorrow.  I really don't want to stop running.

We went to Casa de Luz yesterday, which was somewhat of a break from my eating pattern in that they use generous helpings of salt.  Since I've been eating salt-free for a while now, the Casa food tasted like it was drowning in salt.  Jessica who has been eating mostly the same food noticed it too.  I had to drink a lot of water and still felt overloaded with salt today.  I really didn't intend on breaking from E2L.  I just wanted to take Jessica somewhere for lunch, since she was working and we eat at home 99% of the time now.  Casa seemed like the healthiest option.  I guess Whole Foods would have been a better choice for me, since I could have stayed within the E2L parameters more easily.

I'm a little pissed off at Whole Foods right now though, because they just canceled the cooking class we were going to take on Tuesday.  Now they don't have any vegan cooking classes until September.  What's up with that?

7/26: 60 minutes walking in the neighborhood
7/27: 60 minutes walking in the neighborhood + running class (drills + walking)
7/28: 65 minutes walking in the neighborhood
7/29: 0
7/30: More intense running class (walking + some running + drills)
7/31: 0

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Running Class

I've been really good about exercising six days a week (my goal is five times), but I've mainly just been doing some walking.  I wanted to step it up some and get into running, but I've been hesitating due to a fear of shin splints, knee problems, and all the other things that can make you quit after a couple of days.  I decided to get some help, so I began an 8 week beginner's running class today at RunTex.  So far, it's pretty good.  I struggled some with the coordination part of a couple of exercises, but overall I was keeping up just fine.  We are starting pretty easy, so I'm going to continue my walking as well.  I don't think I'll be running an ultra-marathon just yet, but I will be ready to run a 5k or 10k at the end of the 8 weeks.  :)

7/19: 65 minutes walking in the neighborhood
7/20: 65 minutes walking around Town Lake
7/21: 60 minutes walking in the neighborhood
7/22: 60 minutes walking in the neighborhood
7/23: 0
7/24: 65 minutes walking in the neighborhood
7/25: 65 minutes walking in the neighborhood + RunTex Beginner's running class with drills

Monday, July 18, 2011


I saw one of these beauties at the Town Lake Trail on Saturday.  It's an elliptical machine and bike in one.  I want one!!!  It's a little pricey for me right now at $2399, but maybe I can get a deal when someone has one sitting in a garage....


I ended my short fast on Sunday with a bowl of organic raspberries, blackberries, and cherries.  Yum, the first food after a fast is always the most delicious. 

7/17: 0
7/18: 65 minute walk in the neighborhood

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I've decided that I want to fast for two to three days every month or two primarily for the health benefits, but also for reasons of self discipline.  By fasting, I mean drinking only water and abstaining from all foods, even those in liquid form.  So-called "juice fasting" is a misnomer, as fasting means to abstain from; thus, juice fasting seems to imply that one is abstaining from juice when in fact one is consuming juice as the only food.  It is more appropriately called a juice diet.  While a juice diet can have some benefits, it has some drawbacks.  I will discuss those at a later time.  My point here is that fasting (taking nothing but water)  confers the greatest health benefits with the least risk, assuming that a person is not deficient in some nutrients or has a medical condition that contraindicates fasting.  I don't recommend that people undertake fasts longer than two or three days without medical supervision, as there are some complications that can arise that would require the fast to be stopped.  However, long fasts are ultimately where people gain the best and most amazing results.

I got into fasting when I was younger because of my interest in Natural Hygiene.  I read Herbert Shelton's book Fasting Can Save Your Life and was intrigued by the case histories and detailed information.  Shelton probably supervised more medical fasts than anyone else in history.  Even though some of it is medically inaccurate and out-of-date, the book has a wealth of information based on Shelton's experience.  It's a good read, as are Shelton's other books on fasting, nutrition, and health.  I did a few short fasts after reading the book, but the longest fast I ever attempted on my own was seven days when I was around 19 or 20.  I probably would have attempted a longer one, but I found it difficult to work while fasting.  This was probably a good thing, as I wasn't qualified to supervise my own fast. 

I eventually stopped fasting other than when I was sick, though I did occasionally try juice diets and the Master Cleanse to shed a few pounds here and there.  I do not recommend the Master Cleanse, and juice diets should be followed with caution.  Many people follow these for cleansing and weight loss purposes, and they are not the best solution for either.  Even fasting is not the best solution for weight loss, although it can help some.  Of course, weight management requires a change in eating when the fast is complete.  Qualified physicians who are experienced with fasting should be able to determine if it makes sense for someone to fast for weight loss. 

I resumed fasting recently after a terrible binge that I talked about in a previous post.  This time I pulled out Dr. Fuhrman's book that I skimmed many years ago,  Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor's Program for Conquering Disease, since I've grown to really respect his advice and am participating in his nutritarian program.  This book explains fasting from a medical perspective and discusses when, how, and why fasting should be used.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.  Dr. Fuhrman generally recommends longer, supervised fasts when needed but has also expressed that short fasts can have benefits if not done too frequently.  Once every month or two is okay, but every week would be excessive as the body needs to rebuild some after a fast.
Fasting helped me to get on track with my eating when I last fasted on Memorial Day, and I have adhered strictly to my nutritarian regimen with almost no exceptions.  I've eaten salad, greens, beans, nuts/seeds, fruits, and veggies and said no to all the vegan junk food and have avoided oils and most salt on all but a few occasions.  I feel like my withdrawal from the crap was hastened during my last fast, which helped to make the transition easier.

This weekend I'm fasting to give my digestive system a rest (part of the reason fasting is so beneficial) and to keep myself in check.  I just finished the second day of my fast, and this one was much easier.  I even continued walking for exercise during this fast.  I will likely resume eating tomorrow morning, unless I feel that one more day would greatly benefit me.

So what do I really hope to gain?  Mainly the benefits of caloric restriction (slower aging, less chance of degenerative disease), some self discipline, and maybe, just maybe, the toughness of one of my favorite TV characters:

7/12: 65 mins walking in the neighborhood
7/13: 65 mins walking in the neighborhood
7/14: 65 mins walking Town Lake
7/15: 70 mins walking in the neighborhood
7/16: 70 mins walking Town Lake