Ready for Anything

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In an interview the other day, someone asked me what I feel the biggest impact I have made on someone’s life is.

It wasn’t a hard question to answer.

Eight years ago a sedentary couple came to my bootcamp class to get fit before they started having children. The wife, Kim, knew that it was way easier to stay fit than get fit after kids and she dragged her previously active husband along hoping she might inspire him back to an active lifestyle.

Colin was a sporty type and had a heck of a lot of power and agility under a very large frame. He was a linesmen in university and could out sprint me with his arms tied together if he gave me a thirty second head start. After 100m though, he was done.

And he made that clear.

I remember forcing him to run “the mile” across the bridge that bordered the park and back. He cussed me out the entire time. Every time.

And then one day he just kept running. He ran 5k’s, 10k’s, a half and a full. Then he started doing Ironman distance triathlons. And doing well. Once again he could crush me… only this time covering great distances from the water to the bike.

For a dude, and sturdy one at that (I believe his left femur weighs as much as most triathletes)… it’s tough to qualify for Kona (AKA the Hawaii Ironman World Championship) but Colin isn’t about the easy way. He was on his way to completing his 8th Ironman of the twelve he needed to get to Kona the hard way.

All while training and completing seven Ironmans (his PB is under twelve hours), Colin and Kim had the four incredible kids they wanted. He found the teaching job of his dreams. Life was pretty much perfect – until he got a tummy ache.

His wife brought him to the hospital expecting they’d send him home with some laxitives.

He left with stage four colon cancer.

In the course of the next month he would discover that of the forty-five lymph nodes they removed, forty-five were cancerous. He would be told he had between six months and six years to live. He would cancel travel plans to Ironman to learn about the chemo that he would have every two weeks for the rest of his life.

The time he spent so diligently readying his body and mind for Ironman, would now save his life. That initial decision to improve his fitness to be a better father, would give him the chance to see his four children grow.

Sometimes we get swept up in the joy of overcoming challenges in training and racing and loose sight of what’s really important… preparing ourselves to be able to meet whatever comes our way in life with strength and fitness.

I didn’t even consider the impact that I had on Colin’s outcome until his mom wrote me a message thanking me for getting him hooked on endurance sport and saving his life before he knew it was in jeopardy.

Sometimes it’s the little things you do in life… like inspiring people to find their fitness… that create ripples you could never anticipate.

You can find Colin’s hilarious blog at http://trifattytri.blogspot.ca

Iron and the female athlete

Iron and the Female Athlete

Iron is a major deal for female athletes. Not only do athletes require more iron than the general population – but being female multiplies those needs. Being an endurance athlete is hard work and requires increased dietary iron. Every time your foot hits the ground, blood cells are damaged. Iron is lost through sweat. Red blood cells and blood vessels are constantly being turnover. And then you have a monthly blood loss on top of that. Yikes.

Low iron or iron anemia can cause fatigue, fogginess, frequent injury or illness, loss of power or endurance, high exertional heart rate, pale skin, cold hands, headaches and irritability. It also drags your performance down. Not only for the above mentioned symptomatic problems, but for the fact that iron builds the hemoglobin that carries oxygen to your working muscles and carbon dioxide away. Pretty big deal in endurance athletics.

There are two types of iron found in food. Non-Heme iron is found in plant foods and absorbed at about 2-20%. Good sources are lentils, beans, molasses, raisins and dark leafy greens. Heme iron is found in red and dark meat and absorbed at about 15-35%. Liver is an especially good source. Crazy good.

As with any vitamin or mineral, more is definitely not better. Supplementing iron causes a whole list of gastric upset from nausea to diarrhea. It is best to get iron from whole foods, and any good doctor will encourage those with slightly low iron profiles to eat better. If you do feel like you need to supplement, I would advise getting your levels tested beforehand by your GP with a simple blood test. Outside of some very unpleasant side effects, iron supplementation has been shown to be a contributor to heart disease and cancer in some studies. This is due to the potential for iron overload when popping pills.

The other trick is to always eat your high iron food with a good source of vitamin C since it increases absorption. A bowl of oatmeal sweetened with molasses and blueberries for breakfast will certainly start the day off right. And yum! Just try to take your latte later on or well in advance, as the caffeine in coffee and calcium in milk reduces the effect. Cooking in cast iron also helps – especially if you are cooking acidic foods.

Regular: Female athletes with regular periods should look at getting over 18 milligrams per day.

Pregnant: You may be training less intensely and not loosing iron each month but making a new person and nearly doubling your blood volume takes a lot of iron. Aim for at least 27 milligrams each day.

Postpartum: Iron is one of those minerals that is passed in very small quantities in breast milk. However, it has been shown that babies can use over 50% of the iron found in breast milk as compared to the less than 12% that they can extract from infant formula. Therefore, if breast feeding, you should ensure that you eat rich sources of iron to make it as available as possible to your baby. At least 10 milligrams per day is recommended, 5-10 milligrams than that more if you are also menstruating. Don’t worry though… babies are born with an iron store that lasts 5-6 months… I am sure no coincidence that this is also when their bodies become ready to process food.

Of course, there are other factors. For instance, vitamin K helps mobilize iron from their stores. You may have a malapsorption disorder or issue.

I feel like the big reason that 30% of the world’s population may have iron deficiency anemia (WHO) is the prevalence of low nutrient, high calorie food that has flooded our lives. Nature in all her wisdom has provided us with everything we need to thrive. Thrive on.