What’s in your bag? Healthy eating on-the-go!

In November, I flew cross-country to spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend’s family in California.  Traveling is fun, but it can often throw us all off our normal eating patterns, especially when our food options are limited to airports or highway rest-stops.  These options are usually poor, ranging from sugar-loaded cinnamon rolls to greasy sandwiches and fries.  Some airports offer better options than others, but with a little planning and preparation ahead of time, you can avoid the pitfalls of travel and make healthy nutrition choices when you’re on-the-go.

So, what was in my bag when I flew to California?  Let’s take a look…

  1. Epic Bars

My favorite go-to for keeping in my bag or backpack at all times – whether there’s a flight involved or not – is an Epic bar (link to https://epicbar.com/). Epic bars are made from grass-fed / pastured organic meat; I can best describe them as a “fancy jerky”.  They are free from preservatives and contain dried meat (and often nuts, seasoning, or dried fruit).  My favorites are bison-bacon-cranberry and lamb-currant-mint.  You can find them at Whole Foods, some Giant Eagle stores, or online at Amazon.com or Thrivemarket.com.  I like these bars because they’re high in quality protein and have no added sugar, and keep me feeling satisfied.

  1. KIND bars

KIND bars are another staple when I’m traveling. KIND prides itself on making energy bars that have ingredients you can “see and pronounce”.  The sugar content of the bars vary by flavor, so I recommend checking the labels to find the varieties that have lower sugar content.   Caramel Almond & Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Mocha, Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan, Maple Glazed Pecan & Sea Salt or Madagascar Vanilla Almond are among the flavors with 5g of sugar or less.  KIND bars are available at most grocery stores, Target, drug stores, Amazon.com and various other retailers.

  1. Hard-boiled eggs

In addition to my store-bought snacks, I also stocked my carry-on with hard-boiled eggs (pre-peeled, for added convenience).  Since my flight was early in the morning, I ate the eggs for breakfast while waiting to board the plane.

  1. Fresh fruit

I packed an apple to take with me on this trip, and bananas are also a good travel option because they’re easy to peel and eat on-the-go.  Berries can be easily smushed, so you may want to put them in a plastic container to take with you.  Other fruit that require some peeling (oranges) may be easier if peeled in advance, too.

Other options that are good for taking on a trip include cut-up veggie sticks, yogurt (better for car trips than flying), nuts, olives, and individually-wrapped cheese (such as Babybel).

What’s YOUR favorite travel-friendly health food?

It’s the Off-Season… now what?

The holidays are here, the days are shorter and the weather is getting colder (well, at least that is the case in Pittsburgh).  It’s what most athletes consider to be the off-season.  Now what?

Here are my three tips for how to make the most of your off-season from a non-training perspective.  In a future post, I’ll talk more about off-season-specific training.

1. Take a break from training. Seriously, I mean a real BREAK. Not just a break from structured training, but ANY kind of training.

Many athletes are excited and revved up coming off the summer/fall race season.  They want to try to stay in peak competition shape year-round and continue to train at high volume to continue to build fitness.  Even high-level athletes need a total break, though.  Your body will get some extra rest and time to repair itself, and your mind will enjoy the breakfrom focusing on workouts, too.

Plan 2-4 weeks away from swim, bike and run training.  It may seem like a foreign idea… it may seem scary or uncomfortable… but I promise that you’ll enjoy it and will return to training refreshed and motivated to train!

What are some things you can do with all that would-be training time?  Here are my suggestions:

  • Schedule time with friends or family members to catch up.
  • Go do that indoor rock climbing class or Zumba class you’ve been wanting to try but couldn’t work into your schedule during the race season.
  • Take a cooking class or art class (aren’t those wine & painting studios popping up everywhere now?!), visit a museum, check out a new restaurant… you get the idea.
  • Start a new project around the house (even if it’s just organizing/cleaning out closets and drawers).
  • Research races you want to do next year. Look up course information, entry fees, travel costs, etc.  Read blogs from athletes who’ve done races you’re curious about to learn more about the race.  Let’s say you want to race Ironman Syracuse 70.3.  Google “Ironman Syracuse race report” and I guarantee you’ll have more than enough first-hand perspectives to decide if the race is a good option for you!

2. Reflect on the 2016 season.

Now that some time has passed since your 2016 race season, look back it at as objectively as you can.  Ask yourself:

  • What did I enjoy about the 2016 season?
  • What did I not enjoy so much?
  • What did I learn this season?
  • What did I do right?
  • If I could repeat this season, what would I do differently?
  • How was my work / life / training balance?

3.  Plan for 2017 and think about what want the 2017 season to look like.

Ask yourself:

  • What kinds of races do I want to do in 2017?
  • What are my goals? Do I want to get a Personal Record, complete a new distance, qualify for Age Group Nationals or the Boston Marathon?
  • Do I want to follow the same training plan that I used this year, or should I try something new?
  • What are my weaknesses that I want to improve?
  • What tools/resources do I need to reach my goals?

How can you connect the gaps between 2016 and 2017?  Everyone’s answers will be a little different, but here are a few ideas that come to mind.

  • Invest some extra time to work on strengthening weakness(es)
  • Find a training buddy or group to provide motivation and accountability for long runs
  • Spend time working on form / efficiency vs speed. For swimming especially, slowing down to focus more on form than pace goes a long way.
  • Start a strength training / mobility / flexibility routine.  All of these have been shown to improve performance, but few endurance athletes make time to do these regularly.
  • Consider working with a coach to help you reach your goals. A coach can help you to train strategically and efficiently to improve athletic performance.

My favorite things to do in the off-season are catching up with friends over food and drinks, going to a musical or concert, cross-country skiing, getting some extra sleep in the mornings, and trying new recipes.

What are YOUR favorite off-season activities?