Habitude Fitness proudly introduces a familiar guest writer and member of our community, Moriah Simpson! I know you will enjoy her thoughtful article as much I did!
As I’ve moved along my wellness journey, I’ve always believed food — what fuels my workouts — is important. This weekend, that point was driven home in a new way during one long, painful, miserable run that I pushed through — and came away with two big lessons.
Earlier this summer, I decided to start training to run my first half marathon in October. I’ve done 5k fun runs, a 15k race with my dad and two good fitness friends, and two sprint triathlons. But conquering a 13.1-miler was something I never saw myself doing.
I enjoy group workouts, and the lonely pavement-pounding training required to successfully finish a marathon or half-marathon has never appealed to me. But I also like to challenge my body and push past my self-imposed boundaries. Thus this past weekend, a few weeks into my training plan, I had to complete my longest training run yet, an eight-miler.
I planned to do the run on Sunday evening, after spending the weekend at a family camp hosted by our new church. The camp itself was great — my husband and I got to meet lots of new people, hear some great messages about staying connected to Jesus as “the Vine,” and enjoyed a warm welcome from our church family in this new city. But the food was … well … camp food: white bread, canned vegetables, processed meats, potatoes from a box. Very little that was fresh, nothing whole-grain.
At one point in my life, I wouldn’t have even noticed. I used to eat that way, too. But having begun trying to wean myself off packaged foods and “white” ingredients in favor of fresh produce, whole grains and limited sweeteners, the options for my four meals at camp seemed pretty limited. Don’t get my wrong … having food on the table — of any kind — is a blessing many don’t enjoy, so of course I ate my meals without complaint. I gave thanks and enjoyed the company around me as we socialized over our dinners.
Then camp was over and it was time to put in my eight hilly miles. I swear I was no more than a mile into the run — with a side cramp the entire time — when my dear friend and instructor Cassie’s words came to me: “food is fuel.” My body had gotten used to the “premium” fuel I’d been treating it to, and now here I was, attempting to finish my longest run in a year on a quarter-tank of ineffective fuel.
After two miles, I had to stop and walk for a minute until the cramp loosened enough to allow me to jog with only moderate pain. Eventually, that went away and my legs started complaining. Miles six and seven were OK, and then in the eighth mile, I was certain I couldn’t go on. But I did. One slow and painful step after another. Years of working out with a group that never quits taught me I can do anything for the last mile. With each breath, I vowed to keep up my “real foods” switch, because I never wanted to put in another run like that.
Looking back at it, it’s good I had such a miserable time. I learned two important lessons: First, “food is fuel” is among the best pieces of advice for working out (and for life). Just try it and see. Second, I can push through feeling terrible on a long run. Should race day arrive and I feel like that again, I can still cross the finish line. My time won’t be great, but the personal victory will be that much more hard-earned. That goes for the “marathons” of life as well.
Speaking of premium fuel, while I was back visiting my awesome friends at Habitude Fitness (and competing alongside them in the Rugged Maniac race), I was honored to spend two nights with Cassie. One night, I made us these amazing vegan, gluten-free black bean burgers. They were a huge hit, and would have made for much better running fuel than what I had tried to run on. Try filling up on these before your next workout, and see if you don’t feel lighter, faster and stronger.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Cilantro and jalapeno sauce (see recipe)
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
¾ to 1 ½ cups rolled oats
2 medium carrots, shredded
½ medium yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks
½ medium red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 small garlic clove, halved
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained (divided)
Olive oil to coat baking sheet
6 to 8 large Portobello mushroom caps
¼ cup olive oil
Tomato and avocado slices for garnish
Make cilantro and jalapeno sauce.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In food processor, mix pumpkin seeds and ¾ cup rolled oats. Blend 30 seconds. Add carrots, peppers, garlic and spices. Blend an additional 30 seconds. Add three-fourths of the black beans and blend 15 more seconds. Transfer mixture to medium-size bowl and stir in remaining beans. Check texture and add more oats as needed. Wait a few minutes after each addition for the oats to absorb liquid. Mixture should be the consistency of a loose meatloaf. The amount of oats you use will depend on how large your vegetables are and how much liquid they contain. Very lightly oil a large baking sheet. Wet hand and pat mixture into 6 to 8 patties. Mixture may not hold together in a patty but can be transferred by hand to baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes or until crispy and browned on the outside. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. While vegan burgers cook, prepare Portobello caps by lightly coating rounded side with the oil. Set cap, hollow side down, on a baking sheet. Set in oven during last 15 minutes burgers are cooking. When finished, place Portobellos on serving plates with the rounded side down. Top with garden burgers, then some of the cilantro and jalapeno sauce. Garnish with slices of tomato and avocado. Serve with vegan coleslaw.
Note: This dish also can be made on the grill, but still needs baking time. For grill: reduce baking time to 30 minutes and grill for the remaining 15 minutes along with the mushrooms.
Cilantro and Jalapeno Sauce:
2 cups lightly packed cilantro leaves
½ to 1 medium-size jalapeno pepper, chopped, seeds removed
¼ cup raw pumpkin seed
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 small clove garlic, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
In food processor, pulse all ingredients – adding more or less jalapeno depending on heat level desired – until mixture creates a paste. Transfer to a small bowl and serve at room temperature. -Recipe courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Let us know if you try this recipe, and how properly fueling your body affects your energy and training!
Your Trainer and Friends,
Cassie and Moriah