saving the rail trails

There’s a group based out of D.C. called the Rails to Trails Conservancy. They work on converting old rail lines to trails across the country, and also help to maintain those trails and raise interest in their use and protection.

Here in the Pittsburgh area, we’re blessed with an abundance of these type of trails – Montour, Panhandle, and Three Rivers Heritage just to name a few. The Heritage trail (left) is used as a commuting route for many people. I run on that trail at least twice a week and have done so for over a year now. Mark uses the Panhandle frequently, and we both have used the Montour before. I even had my first half marathon there. Those are just three that are within the metro area. Go out a little further and they are everywhere.

Which makes it even more ironic that recently, it was Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania who proposed an amendment to the Preserving America’s Transit and Highways Act that would eliminate funding for the Transit Alternatives Program (TAP). TAP is the largest dedicated funding source for walking and biking infrastructure, and it would seriously jeopardize the trail system in this country that many rely on for recreation and fitness.

Thankfully, the Rails to Trails Conservancy rallied ordinary citizens as well as civic groups in PA to lobby the senator to withdraw his amendment. And he did. TAP funding is safe – for now.

This is yet another example that community activism and calling your representatives can work. (I wish I would have known about this before he withdrew the amendment or I would have added it to my list of letters to write this year!) I’d venture to guess as a Pennsylvanian, he’s probably been on a converted rail trail before, for one thing or another. Many races and community events are tied to the trails – there are too few parks in the city to accommodate them and the trails help to do that. 


These trails are really important, especially in a city center like ours where there wouldn’t be many places to run, walk and bike outside of traffic. While we do often mix up our routes with combinations of trails and city on the weekends, it’s nice to have dedicated places to go where no matter what’s going on traffic-wise, you can just GO. It encourages people to walk, run and bike when they know they can do it safely. 

And while any scenery gets boring when you’re running 16 miles, our trails are quite lovely, too. Not a lot of areas of the country where you can mix city scapes, riverfronts and forested areas. The trails conserve and expose people to nature, as well, serving as an oasis from the urban sprawl.

To find rails to trails near you, visit Trail Link, a service of the Rails to Trails Conservancy. It’s also a handy tool if you’re on vacation or camping and need to find a place to fit that run in! But if you live in Pittsburgh and haven’t made use of the trails, do it. Start with the riverfront near the stadiums and you’ll get hooked on the view. (And if you see a short brunette huffing and puffing by you in the early morning, that’s me. Say hi and offer me water. :)

Photos from the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and Panhandle Trail in Pittsburgh and the W&OD Trail in Virginia.


2014 resolution update – July

This is the first year that I’ve made a concerted effort to work on actually completing my resolutions for the year. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t aim too high and made them realistic. Here’s an update on how I’m doing at the halfway point in the year.

Mind
Read 75 books.
Today I will finish book #46, so I’m well on my way to that goal. I do have to get the sub-goals in of finishing Margaret Atwood’s canon (6 more books) and one Russian door-stop novel. I’ve been reading a lot of books that are part of a series, so I end up going through the series and it delays my next choices. Even if I don’t hit the sub-goals, I will still read more this year than in any year since graduate school. I’m also reading in genres outside of my comfort zone, which is pretty cool. (I am a total graphic novel and comic convert.)

Write letters on three issues to my elected representatives.
I haven’t done another one since this post on the DARK Act. I need to get on that. I might write next about funding to reduce hunger.

Body
Run a marathon.
I’m in my 8th week of a 23 week training schedule. (Most plans are 18 weeks, but I am drawing mine out due to previous injuries and lingering issues with my IT bands.) Last week’s long run was 13 miles, and it was the first time I ran that far when it wasn’t a race, and only my fourth time at that distance at all. It was quite honestly one of the most difficult runs I’ve ever had – humid and disgusting outside, dehydrated big time. Everything was screaming at me to stop, and even though I had to walk more than I had hoped, I finished. (Which was really only because of the two awesome ladies I run with.) 


It’s been good to be on a training schedule and to be following it. I’ve put in 246 miles so far this year and that number is about to go way up because it’s going to get hard soon – after the holiday weekend we bump up to 15 miles for a long run and I go into distance territory that my body has never traveled. It’s an adventure, this marathon training. Don’t forget, I’m posting photos on Instagram under the hashtag #yearofthemarathon in case you want to follow along on the adventure.


Drink 64 ounces of water a day.
I really need to kick this into high gear during this marathon training, because even though I do drink water constantly, I am always fighting being dehydrated in this weather. And I was doing some research this week that dehydration while running can also increase your heart rate, which is something I’m hyper sensitive to as an asthmatic.

Home
Start my home brew kombucha.
Done and done. Completely knocked this one out of the park, and it might be the coolest thing I accomplished this year (unless I do complete the marathon, that is). Read about it here

Sew a t-shirt quilt.
Making slow progress on this one. I finished cutting all of the squares for my quilt this weekend. (I’m technically getting materials together for two, planning to start with my own quilt to get the hang of it before I do Mark’s.) Now it’s time to fire up my grandma’s sewing machine, which will hopefully happen in July.

Can one new thing.
Technically I’ve met this goal with our strawberry vanilla jam, a variant I hadn’t made before. But since I think the spirit of this was for me to do something entirely new, I won’t count this done yet. But it will be full on canning season in the next couple months.

Plant a bee-friendly flower garden.
Didn’t really get around to planting specifically bee-friendly plants, but we definitely have more flowers this year compared to last, which is at least a step in the right direction.

Make the chickens some treats.
I actually completely forgot about this one, so this is a good reminder. Perhaps because of the heat and humidity, I’ll make something that’s refreshing for them.

Organize the basement.
The basement has stayed relatively organized since we transitioned one side of it to a work area for Mark. I still have a few things I’d like to do down there, especially to get a root cellar ready for later this year. But it’s better than it used to be (at least when Stormy and Vader don’t knock food bowls all over the place).



How are you doing on your goals for 2014? Share them in the comments!



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2014 resolution update

Usually by this time of year, the resolutions I made in January are like a distant, vague memory. But this year in a stunning turn of events, I’ve been staying on track. So seeing that we’re about one third of the way through the year, I thought I’d check in.

Mind
Read 75 books.
I just finished #23 this week, so I’m on track to meet my goal. I need to still pick up a Russian doorstop novel along the way, as well as several more Margaret Atwoods to finish her canon. But so far, so good. Man do I love to read! 

Write letters on three issues to my elected representatives.
I have one down, two more to go on this front. For my most recent letter, see this post on the DARK Act recently introduced in the House. Bad news.

Body
Run a marathon.
Well, I’m in training. 
This Saturday marks my first race of the season – the Boston Trail half marathon (not in Boston). That’s followed up by my town’s 5K the following weekend, and then the Pittsburgh Marathon Half on May 4. Don’t forget there’s still time to donate to my fund for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank! Shameless plug! I’m only $5 away from $600!


Also, I’m posting photos on Instagram under the hashtag #yearofthemarathon in case you want to follow along on the adventure.

Drink 64 ounces of water a day.
Doing pretty well with this one, especially through the day at work. I also carry my water bottle around with me at home, and really it’s only after runs that I don’t do so well rehydrating. Going to keep working on that.

Home
Start my home brew kombucha.
Fail. Still nervous. Will make it happen this summer though.

Sew a t-shirt quilt.
Making good progress on this one, especially since it’s something I have zero experience in. I have Mark’s shirts all prepped and ready with interfacing, and mine are almost complete. Then it’s time to get the sewing machine cranking! I’ve even had an apprentice. Isn’t he helpful?

  

Can one new thing.
Not quite into canning season yet, so this one will be a summer thing.

Plant a bee-friendly flower garden.
I recently did some research on bee-friendly plants that do well in our area, with info from the Penn State Extension. Look for a post about that in the near future!

Make the chickens some treats.
Winter has made me not want to go outside with them more than necessary, so probably once I’m in the backyard with them more often, I’ll be more inclined to start making some treats.

Organize the basement.
The basement has come light years from what it was. This is a pretty significant accomplishment, as it’s now a more usable space for both Mark and me. And we’ve kept it relatively in order!


How are you doing on your goals for 2014? Share them in the comments!

Food Bank team fun run

Monday morning I set out for the Waterfront to meet up with some runners who are participating in the Pittsburgh Marathon events Run for a Reason, raising money for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Even though I love to run races, it’s actually pretty far out of my comfort zone to run with strangers, particularly on a trail I’ve never run before (Steel Valley). Oh yeah, and in the snow.

We set off from the trail head at the historic Homestead Pump House and ran just over 4 miles down the trail to the Food Bank’s building in Duquesne. (Though I ended up running 5, since I didn’t heed anyone’s directions and in the zone, just kept going down the trail for another half mile until I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore and had to turn back. Well done, Joanna.)

After the run, we had some refuel snacks and warmed up before we toured the facility and learned all about the organization we’re running for. (And we also met former Steeler Andy Russell, who is a huge supporter of the GPCFB’s efforts. He signed the mug pictured above!)

I thought I knew the general extent of the services the food bank provides, but until I walked around the warehouse and saw everything up close, I had no real idea of how vast an operation it actually is. The amount of assistance they provide is just amazing – 27 million pounds of food each year, to people in 11 counties through their 400+ member agencies. 

As if that isn’t impressive enough, the food bank has a focus on providing healthy food. I think people assume that food banks just focus on getting people food in general and don’t worry about the nutritional value. But the food bank has many programs that address nutrition as well – and many initiatives behind the scenes as well. For instance, their Produce to People program distributes fresh food in 15 different locations. It makes me really happy to know that – because everyone deserves healthy food.

They are still looking for more runners to Run for a Reason. If you’re running one of the Pittsburgh events this year, join the Food Bank team! They will be having more group fun runs throughout the training season (and hopefully beyond!) and it’s a great way to combine fitness with a good cause. 

You can donate to my fund here and even join the team from that site. After the event, I’ll randomly select one donor and he or she will receive the mug pictured above, signed by Steel Curtain Steeler Andy Russell

corporate involvement with kids: how much is too much?

Two recent news stories have highlighted the issue of corporate involvement with children on environmental and nutritional subjects. These incidents included advertising as well as education, and I think they illustrate clearly the importance of corporate responsibility – something we clearly lack.

In Ohio, the oil and gas industry under the auspices of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program created a program sponsored by Radio Disney called “Rocking in Ohio” to teach kids ostensibly about the importance of oil and gas. (I say ‘auspices’ because that group is funded by only oil and gas industry companies.) The group’s spokesperson was quoted as saying that “our country can’t survive without oil and gas” and that “kids are the best way to spread the message.”

I don’t think anyone can argue that it’s not important to teach science to kids – for them to understand what oil and gas are, how they are extracted, and what impacts they have on the economy and environment – both positive and negative. Science is awesome. And to be fair, the program did not educate children specifically about fracking, which is the most controversial issue in the oil and gas industry today (particularly in Ohio, where this program was based.) But is the best way to teach them to give an industry front group center stage and allow that presentation to be sponsored by Radio Disney? Why do children’s educational programs need to be “sponsored” at all? It’s a serious crisis if this nation needs to rely on corporate OR activist interests to educate its children. We need to give them facts and allow them to use their developing reasoning and analytical skills to draw conclusions. You know, like a scientist would.

Even more disturbing is the second of the two recent stories – Gatorade’s award-winning video game promotion in which water is made out to make your athletic performance suffer. Just the idea is even absurd – because anyone who has done anything remotely athletic in his/her life knows that water is essential to athletic performance. But Gatorade (owned by Pepsi Co.) specifically requested that ad agency OMD create a game for them to reinforce the message that Gatorade is superior to water. OMD specifically said that the goal was to convince kids that “water is the enemy of performance.”

In the game, Usain Bolt (the Olympic champion sprinter) runs through a course where kids try to collect Gatorade, which makes him run faster, and avoid water, which slows him down. Ok, really?

Even as a runner, I am not a fan of Gatorade for a multitude of reasons (read my post on it here). But the biggest issue is that there are few kids who are active enough that they even need to fuel with Gatorade or electrolyte replacements instead of water. Only kids who are heavily involved in sports and vigorous athletic activity even need to consider electrolyte replacement. For kids who just go to gym class? Water is fine. They don’t need the added sugar, and it’s flat out LYING to tell them that Gatorade improves athletic performance. What they should be doing is encouraging kids to get active.

Advertising to kids is a slippery slope, since their reasoning skills are still developing and their ability to discern between reality and advertisements is spotty, at best. (I’ve talked about this before too.) Putting a famous athlete on a Gatorade ad makes kids think they should drink it too – but the likelihood of a kid working out like a pro athlete? Slim to none. Even though Pepsi Co. owns its own bottled water brand – Aquafina – they push Gatorade for athletic performance. Aquafina is supposedly even a partner with the First Lady’s Drink Up campaign, to try to get kids to drink more water. It’s ludicrous to even try to claim corporate responsibility for children’s health and then turn around and tell them water is the enemy of athletic performance.

These two examples show how even programs with seemingly good intentions or benefits can have profit-driven corporate interests behind them. It’s important to understand where the messaging you are hearing is coming from and to discern facts from advertisements.

on resolutions

Happy New Year!

There’s something about January that brings a sense of new beginnings. Maybe it’s the breath of fresh air after the hubbub of the holidays, or the fact that we flip a new year on the calendar that makes us feel like we can press the reset button and start anew. In 2013, I set some goals for myself – concrete things like “run a half marathon” and not just “run more.” I met most of those goals, and exceeded some of them. It gave me a sense of satisfaction to open my goals document every so often and check to see that I’ve made progress. 

So I’m setting my resolutions for 2014 and will keep myself accountable for progress on them during the year. They’re all reachable, but will be a challenge in one way or another. I don’t like to go overboard, since I know that my work and my commute take up a huge portion of my week and my attention during my waking hours. Plus, I don’t like setting myself up for failure. I’d rather succeed at a few small things and be content with that.

With that, here are my goals for 2014 in three categories: mind, body and home.

Mind
Read 75 books.
I read 70 books in 2013, and I’m going to up the ante by just a bit in 2014. Within those 75 books, I have a goal of reading one of what I call the Russian doorstop novels that I haven’t read before, as well as finishing up the rest of Margaret Atwood’s canon. I use Good Reads to help me keep track of what I’m reading when.

Write letters on three issues to my elected representatives.
I have no shortage of things that outrage me, and I know that battles about GMO labeling, Ag-Gag laws and farm bills will keep me occupied with this one.

Body
Run a marathon.
Yes, I’m putting it out there. I’m not going to beat myself up if I work on the training and my body doesn’t cooperate (I’m looking at you, knees!), but I’m going to try. I know in my heart I will always regret it if I don’t try, and that’s reason enough for me to start. I will begin training in February, with the goal of working up to a marathon by the fall. I’d also like to do several halfs this year, and to travel to at least one race outside of my area. The goal for the full marathon is just to finish, and my goal for a half marathon in 2014 is to get a PR, which I think is doable. 

Drink 64 ounces of water a day.
Rather than set a goal for weight loss, I’m focusing on health and fitness this year. Water is a big one for me – I feel so much better and have so much more energy when I’m properly hydrated. It also helps me with my running to be hydrated at all times, so I’m going to dedicate myself to hydration.

Home
Start my home brew kombucha.
Mark gave me the tools to make kombucha for my birthday last year and I have yet to start, out of fear that I’ll mess it up. I did stop buying kombucha in the store, like I promised myself, but I haven’t taken the leap. 2014 is the time.

Sew a t-shirt quilt.
I have my grandma’s sewing machine, and I’m going to put it to good use this year. I’m not particularly gifted in this area, so I’m starting easy and hoping to make Mark a quilt from a pile of old, beloved t-shirts.

Can one new thing.
I want to branch out this year and can something we’ve never canned before. Doesn’t have to be elaborate, but I’d like to try something new and different.

Plant a bee-friendly flower garden.
I want to do some research on bee-friendly plants and make the flower beds along our garage an all you can drink nectar buffet for bees. (Can you tell that Vanishing of the Bees inspired me?)

Make the chickens some treats.
I want to be more actively involved in the chickens’ care and I really want to make them some treats to give them a diversion.

Organize the basement.
I did a great job of simplifying and downsizing our house this past fall, but the largest work to be done is our basement, which is a mess of boxes and disorganization and junk that is just begging to be a functional space. If the only house related thing we get done at all this year is to organize the basement, I would count it a success.

I’m going to check in monthly here to keep myself accountable to these goals, and hopefully share some how-tos when I have some success! 

What are your goals for 2014? Share them in the comments – I’d love to know what you’re doing to make 2014 the best year it can be! 

managing thyroid disease

I was asked to write a post about my own experience with thyroid disease, since I often mention it here as something that influences my own lifestyle choices. But before I explain my own experiences and thoughts on it, I want to state two things for the record.

This is only my experience and shouldn’t be construed as advice or a judgment on someone else’s experience or the way he/she chooses to handle his/her own disease. I’m not your doctor and I’m not a licensed expert of any kind (unless you count book expert since I have a master’s degree in literature).

I do not believe that all diseases can be cured or even necessarily affected by lifestyle changes. I am not anti-medication and will always encourage people to seek actual medical advice from a legitimate, licensed professional. (And I’m NOT talking about Dr. Oz here, okay?)

About five years ago, at a routine physical with my then-PCP, I mentioned that I’d had great difficulty losing weight even though I was watching what I was eating and exercising, and that I also was experiencing severe hot flashes/night sweats and having major difficulty sleeping. I was fatigued all the time as well (falling asleep on the couch at 6 p.m. kind of fatigued). He told me that “some women just have a hard time losing weight no matter what they do” and that there wasn’t an explanation for these symptoms, but that he’d order routine blood work anyway.

Lo and behold, I had hypothyroidism. He put me on generic thyroid hormone replacement (levothyroxine) and called it a day. So I started taking it and saw no relief, which led me to my first endocrinologist.

I am now seeing my fourth endocrinologist (who is fantastic and someone I plan on seeing until either one of us isn’t in the area anymore). That will give you an indication of how difficult it’s been for me to find real relief and support.

Throughout the few years that I was seeing other endocrinologists, I was misdiagnosed as being pre-diabetic (and took Metformin unnecessarily for almost a year, which was a total nightmare) and was also given different dosages of three different meds – generic levothyroxine, Synthroid brand levothyroxine, and Armour (synthetic porcine (pig) thyroid that includes T3). I was also made to feel like my symptoms made no sense, and therefore shouldn’t exist. I was also forced into the clinical “normal” range for my TSH (level of thyroid stimulating hormone produced by the pituitary gland) regardless of whether or not that was my body’s normal and told to just deal with the symptoms.

During that time when I was receiving no support whatsoever from the medical professionals I was seeing, I started to do my own research on behavioral/lifestyle modifications that might give me some relief. I realized that I had to take my health into my own hands and wanted to feel like I was doing everything that was within my own control to get relief. It was around that same time that I started to learn more about our industrial food system and its impact on health. Things started to make sense, and I decided to make changes in my diet.

I started small by eliminating soda and then moved to artificial sweeteners all together. I began to phase out unhealthy processed foods and then eventually moved to any hyper-processed foods, even if they were supposedly “healthy.”

Why? Because having a disease that creates chaos in my body’s levels of its own hormones and chemicals means I don’t need to add to that chaos by ingesting chemicals, many of them with unknown properties. To me, that’s common sense.

Did my symptoms disappear? No. But they were lessened, and I also noticed a dramatic shift in my energy levels, no longer being dependent on caffeine and stimulants in food for energy. When I felt good, I felt really good.

Later, I took a nutrition and fitness combination class called Project Jumpstart and I began to exercise. Exercise was something I had never incorporated into my life in any meaningful way, partially because I was so utterly exhausted. (This is a big way that hypothyroidism contributes to weight gain – it doesn’t necessarily make you gain weight, but it makes your metabolism so slow that you don’t have any energy to work out.) I started with a little bit at a time, and almost two years later, I’m about to run my first half marathon and I’m in the best shape of my life. Exercise has great energy benefits as well, and I notice my body feeling sluggish when I get out of my routine.

I also take the brand name thyroid replacement hormone, Synthroid. I take the brand because it’s recommended for people who need to have the exact same fillers with each dosage. When you take a generic pill, the fillers and dyes are different for each company that makes it and you don’t know what your pharmacy will be carrying from month to month. So for consistency’s sake, I take the brand. I have seen much better results with the Synthroid than Armour or the generic levothyroxine.

Essential to this entire thing is my new endocrinologist, who supports me keeping my TSH at a level where I have less symptoms. She also supports my own lifestyle changes with food and exercise, and helps me with other solutions for some of my symptoms, which she believed were triggered originally by my thyroid when the TSH was really high, but then continued even when the TSH came down (trouble sleeping and gastrointestinal difficulties).

In particular, she recommended a sleep therapy workbook that has really re-trained my brain to know how to sleep and rest properly, and I continue to use it to control my insomnia. It’s essential to find a doctor that listens to you and your needs, trusts that what you tell them about your symtpoms and your body is true, and wants to commit to helping you feel well, even if it means they spend 30 more minutes with you. 

My plan of attack for thyroid disease now consists of the following:


– Seeing my endocrinologist regularly and getting regular bloodwork to keep a close eye on my TSH
– Eliminating processed foods and hormones in meats as much as possible
– Reducing exposure to chemicals in household products that have been clinically shown to be endocrine disruptors
– Guarding my sleep and following the behavioral modifications to keep the insomnia under control

I hope that gives some insight as to how I manage my own disease. Leave any questions in the comments – it’s always good to share experiences!

this race brought to you by sugary chemical water?

Since taking up running in early 2012, I’ve participated in my share of races and adventure/obstacle races. Every race I’ve done, from the small community 5Ks to large races that draw thousands of participants, has had some sort of electrolyte-enhanced sports drink available post-race. I’ve never been tempted by sports drinks because of the taste. My mind associates them with sickness, since I would drink them during bouts of stomach flu when I was a child.

This weekend, Mark and I participated in Mud on the Mountain, a 7.7 mile, 26 obstacle race at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in the Laurel Highlands.  Gatorade was one of the sponsors, with its logo on the start and finish line banners. 

These photos aren’t the greatest quality. It was foggy, raining, and I was about to run up a mountain.

But who owns Gatorade? Pepsi.


What’s a race without giant bottles of soda? Should have made one of the obstacles carrying these up the mountain.

Along the course there were hydration stations with Gatorade (in Gatorade cups) as well as water. The Gatorade logo was everywhere. 

I also participated in the Pittsburgh Marathon the previous week, running on a relay team. Gatorade was also a sponsor of that race, and the hydration stations gave a choice of lemon-lime Gatorade or water. 

So what’s in Gatorade? The first thing I notice when I look at the nutrition label is that the traditional bottle is actually 2.5 servings. Most people drink the 20 ounces in the bottle, as opposed to pouring 8 ounce servings. For the lemon-lime flavor, which was the flavor available at the marathon as well as Mud on the Mountain, if you drink a serving, you get 14 grams of sugar. If you drink a bottle, you get 34 grams of sugar. 

Turns out you also get a lot more. Here is the list of ingredients, according to the company website: WATER, SUCROSE, DEXTROSE, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, SALT, SODIUM CITRATE, MONOPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, GUM ARABIC, GLYCEROL ESTER OF ROSIN, YELLOW 5.

Water, that’s good. Sucrose and dextrose are sugars. Sucrose is table sugar. Dextrose is similar to sucrose, but has a higher glycemic load, which means it can give you a boost of energy, but the crash afterwards is higher, so it is usually tempered with sucrose. Citric acid is a preservative and also gives some flavor (along with the listed unknown “natural” flavors). Salt provides flavor and also sodium (an electrolyte). Sodium citrate is a salt of citric acid and provides some flavoring. Monopotassium Phosphate provides another electrolyte (potassium) and also acts as an emulsifier and pH buffer. Gum arabic is a stabilizer, an additive that has replaced brominated vegetable oil in drinks recently, since Gatorade changed its formula in response to a petition. And finally, Yellow #5 (tartrazine) which is a synthetic food dye derived from petroleum. Yes, petroleum. Tartrazine/yellow #5 is required to be listed on labels even when used in small amounts due to health concerns about allergies or intolerance. 

And that’s what’s in lemon-lime Gatorade. I don’t know about you, but I’m not super interested in a petro-chemical, synthetic sugar water in the name of health and fitness. It’s basically glorified soda. 

But what about athletes? Don’t we need electrolytes? Electrolytes are minerals (like calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and sodium), and they affect the amount of water in your body, your muscle function, and other important processes. You lose electrolytes when you sweat. You must replace them by drinking fluids. 

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends sports drinks to replenish these electrolytes. That’s no big surprise, considering they have financial ties to Gatorade (British Journal of Sports Medicine). We’ve recently seen a lot of hoopla about nutritionists and health professionals teaming up with and having their meetings sponsored by large food companies, and the sports drink industry is no exception.

The fact remains that for most people, water is all you need to stay hydrated and balanced because you need to work out for 3 hours or so before you need to replenish electrolytes. Research is sketchy that sports drinks improve performance and much of what exists is industry-funded. People were running marathons and excelling in athletic competitions long before Gatorade existed. 

If you are doing high-intensity exercise and you really sweat or feel like you need to replenish, go for electrolyte-enhanced water. It’s water with the appropriate minerals added back in after distillation, but none of the other garbage. I drink this type of water sometimes during intense workouts and seem to feel less light-headed afterwards, though I acknowledge that it could be the placebo effect. (I don’t like the taste of our tap water, which usually has a small amount of electrolytes naturally.) Get your carbs from a healthy diet and you won’t need the sugar water boost of Gatorade.

I am appreciative that races and events like this encourage people to be fit and active. I love participating in them and love the motivation they give me to keep at my fitness goals. And I do understand the need for these events to have sponsors, since they cannot generate enough revenue to produce them on registration fees alone. But in a dream world, the events wouldn’t have to promote sugary, chemical-laden junk, either. 

On Saturday, I ran (okay, hiked) up this mountain:

And three hours later slid down this (yes, that is snow and ice in May):

And crossed the finish line without being dehydrated. Muddy, wet and disgusting with my bib number hanging on by a thread? Yes. But I was Gatorade free and pretty proud of it, too.