How Stella Got Her Groove Back

A couple of days ago, I posted a photo on Facebook & Insta of a spreadsheet I’ve been using to [religiously] track everything I can relating to my body and training. After a couple of messages with concerned friends, I felt maybe I should clarify exactly WHY I am tracking to such an extent!  Hint, I’m not super anal or crazy.. Well.. not always! Seeing as I’ve only been on Facebook since October, I haven’t shared much of what happened to me last year.

In May of 2016, I ran my 7th 100, Cruel Jewel. Scratch that. I ran the first 100 miles of it, but seeing as the race was 106ish miles, I zombie death marched the last stretch and lost my mind in the process. (You can read about that here!) The entire event took me 40 hours to complete. It nearly killed me. As these things always do. A week after the race, I traveled out of the country with Dan and the kids for our family vacation.

When I came back home, I started to notice some serious health concerns arising. And since you guys aren’t my doctors, I’ll keep the complete details to myself. However, they were very significant problems, and I spent the rest of the year in and out of specialists, super depressed, hormones shot, and unable to race. Once again, I had officially destroyed my body via running just too dang much.

After lots of testing, significant rest, tons of blood work and trying anything and everything to get better with zero results, I eventually settled into the realization that this was to be my new normal. I felt pretty hopeless!

When my 30th birthday rolled around in the Fall I still felt miserable. I decided I didn’t want to go into the next decade feeling terrible. I needed to fight back harder.

I was ready to do everything in my power to get my health back. I started with the first thing I knew I needed to improve: my eating.  While my diet had never been super terrible, it had never been stellar either. With how much I ran and trained, I could get away with eating a lot more processed junk than most and not have it “show up” on my body.

Yet after multiple trips to docs and consistently bad looking blood work results, it dawned on me that just looking in the mirror and being okay with what I saw did not indicate good health.

I began to monitor what I put into my body. I first tried eliminating obvious junk: Goodbye airheads and Krispy Kreme! I replaced that junk with things I didn’t necessarily enjoy, but knew I needed: Kale, radicchio, cauliflower, lentils, flax, chia– you know, all that delicious stuff. Where’s the sarcasm font when you need it.  

I hated it at first. And I kept reading things like, “Don’t deprive yourself! Eat what you love!” ..which made my decision to change even harder. But, I reminded myself that just because you want and love something doesn’t mean it’s always a great decision for you! So instead I started hunting down nutritious recipes to sub out for my favorite foods. My focus became “How much nutrition can I pack into a day?” instead of “how many bad foods can I avoid?” This changed everything for me.

I stuck with this mentality and I started loving it.  And lo and behold, after about a month of disciplined and consistent choices, I began to feel better. My energy started to come back. My body began functioning well again. I started sleeping again. I pulled out of a deep depression. I watched fat I didn’t even know I had to lose melt off my body. I felt 1000 times better! I even fit into jeans I had when I was 15, ha! Overall, feeling healthier and enjoying life again simply outweighed any desire for the less nutritious food I used to love and devour.

Me shocked in my “too big for me jeans from high school”. Also why did I keep jeans from high school? #hoarder

In short, everything changed because I started eating my dang vegetables. Mom was right. Ha!

No more frequent trips to the cardiologists, the gastrointerologists, the endocrinologists, my primary… I didn’t need them. I cancelled follow-ups, because I simply started to feel good!

I continued my nutrition efforts into 2017, and early this year, I began to feel strong enough to actually train hard and race again. It was such a nice surprise after a very long and terrible 2016. And that, my friends, is when the neurotic #spreadsheetLyfe made its debut.

I’m very aware now that what goes into my body has a direct impact on my quality of life.

I used to not focus on these things, and instead I’d “just run”.  This is partly due to that I’m so care free, but also due to the fact that the crappy eating and drinking mentality is pretty rampant in ultrarunning. Aid stations are full of candy, races are centered around beer, we fuel our runs with sugar, etc. I’m not saying it’s bad,  I’m just saying it is easy to get caught up in unhealthy nutrition habits in this environment. Especially if you lack a lot of will power like I often did!

For me though, there is now no denying the connection between nutrition and better health. It definitely exist. I want to be smart, and I do NOT want another repeat of last year! And so far, I haven’t had one! I ran a hard half marathon off 8 weeks of training with a time only 5 minutes off a PR I set 4 years ago. I am signed up for Never Summer 100k, a really difficult mountain race, and I’m actually looking forward to it and not dreading it. I have energy for Dan and our kids. I’m enjoying jaunts in the mountains again. And lastly, I’m actually stronger than I was in my early 20s! Things are going well!

So yes, the spreadsheet is pretty OCD, but it’s also incredibly helpful. Paying attention to how much I’m eating, what my heart rate looks like in training, how much I’m sleeping– all of these things are helping me understand what works for me and what does not, and THAT is helping me squeeze a little more life out of myself every day.

Anyway, I wanted to share this with you guys, because these changes I made were totally free. Anyone can swap out their food with more things straight from the earth.

If you have health issues that you can’t seem to find answers to, maybe switching to more nutritious food will work for you…And yes, maybe it won’t, I don’t know, but it’s definitely worth a shot! Simply change your mentality to “How much nutrition can I fit into my day?” and see what happens.

I should also mention that after I started training hard again and began burning more than 500 cals daily, I felt I needed to enlist the help of a nutrition coach. I contacted the guys at my gym (Forge-Rx) and asked for their help in making sure I could sustain this way of eating while training as hard as I do. And yes, if you were wondering, I can! I just have to eat a lot more! My coach Evan goes over my spreadsheet every couple weeks and offers regular tips and feedback on what I can improve on and maybe what I’m doing wrong. It is a huge help. If you don’t know what you’re doing nutrition wise, I’d recommend hiring them (or at least someone like them!) who can give you good advice.

So that’s it! Pretty simple stuff, right? Are you surprised I didn’t try to sell you on any shakes and detoxes? Ha! Oh, and PS I do have a donut every now and then, but it’s not a diet staple, nor do I crave it like I used to. Ha ha. See, I’m not a total scrooge! 😉… If you’ve had a similar experience, let me know! I’d love to hear your feedback! Appreciate you reading, friends! Lots of love- Ash