I have always been very interested in the science behind how our body works, and how that applies to nutrition and exercise. In fact, although I almost failed chemistry in high school, I had an incredible understanding once I started taking nutrition courses in college. Along with that…I have also been very interested in Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and how they affect so many great things in our bodies.
BCAAs have so many positive benefits, especially for women who lead active lives. The problem for me has always been finding one that was all natural and that did not make me feel like I was adding chemicals and artificial “stuff” to my body. I’ve done a lot of research about them and made sure I was educated in making a decision of what brand to try. So when I came across Momsanity’s BCAAs I felt that they were a perfect fit for me. . They are completely free of any artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, or preservatives and made by moms with busy moms in mind. I was excited to try it out and have not been disappointed.
Here are some of the benefits I have found since starting to use BCAAs for the past few weeks:
Blood Sugar levels
This is a big one for me. I have been dealing with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) my entire life. I cannot tell you how many times I have fainted from my levels dropping, and I feel faint if I do not have something to eat almost every hour. But taking these I have noticed a huge difference in the way I have felt. BCAAs work like a carbohydrate in your body, so they help maintain sugar balance and also reduce sugar cravings. After a hard workout a lot of times I will feel my levels drop and now instead of reaching for a Gatorade for sugar, I add a serving to my water and get the same effect. I really feel a difference taking them post-workout.
As a working mom of two who leads an active lifestyle this is huge. BCAAs also help regulate cortisol levels which can be raised from stress. I feel like I can think clearer and am more balanced from them. Because as I mentioned they work like a carbohydrate in your body, they also help prevent fatigue. There are times that I am so exhausted at the end of the day that I literally cannot sleep. I have noticed a really big difference in the quality of sleep I am getting since my energy levels are higher during the day.
As women, the older we get the harder it is for us to maintain muscle mass. The amino acids help to build muscle and help to prevent this from happening. It also helps reduce muscle soreness, so after a hard workout I feel I can recover quicker.
Although this isn’t necessarily something it’s known for, for me personally I have always been one to struggle with drinking enough water. Having some yummy flavor in there helps me tremendously. What I usually do is fill my 32 oz bottle with water, and then once I’m down to the 10 or 12 oz mark I add a scoop and finish it. It dissolves easily and I like the fruit punch taste!
BCAAs are also gained through foods in our diet, but when taken as a supplement they are absorbed immediately into the bloodstream. And let’s be honest, most of us do not eat completely balanced or healthy every single day. I love that I can take 2-3 servings mixed in with my water and know that no matter what I am getting these benefits.
Although I was able to try the Momsanity brand before it was available to everyone, it is now up on Amazon for purchase! You can find it here and use the code: BCAA4YOU for $10 off your order (expires Sunday, May 29th at midnight). You will also get a free cookbook with your order which has some fun recipes to use the BCAAs with, including gummies and smoothies. Do you use BCAAs? I’d love to hear others experiences with them as well!
This past weekend we went down to Wildwood, NJ for not only a half marathon, but a quick fun getaway with some of my family and friends. I did this half marathon last year as well, and it’s a really fun race and Wildwood is a great family beach town, so what’s not to like?
My parents, sister, niece, and my kids headed down Saturday afternoon after swim lessons and gymnastics (tired them out to ensure a good nap on the ride). Also joining us were my friend Beth (the same friend who did her first half with me in Asbury) and her two daughters. Her older daughter, Faith is a former swimmer of mine who signed up for this to be her first half marathon!
The trip was easy, and we got there right in time to check into the hotel. Little did we know when we made the reservation that it was directly across the street from the bib pickup site on the boardwalk, and only a few blocks away from the start! I just love when things work out like that! We headed up to the boardwalk, and easily got our bibs, packets, shirts, and ride wristbands. One of the great thing about this race series is that with your registration you get a free 2-day pass for the rides at Morey’s Piers!
So at that time, Beth, Faith, Ava, and myself split from the group and headed down to the beach. The rest of our crew headed to the rides but we met up with a group of runners for some beach yoga, also a bonus of this race series. The instructor was great and it was perfect after a long morning and ride down.
When we were done, we met back up with everyone and continued to enjoy the rides and fun atmosphere of the boardwalk. The kids had a blast. As far as I’m concerned, this is what these weekends are about. Sure, I put in the time to train for the runs, but making it a whole family event is the most important to me. In fact, it is probably my number one motivator in my training!
As we were deciding to head back to the hotel and get ready for dinner, the dark clouds started rolling in. We made it back to the hotel just in time before the thunder and lightning and as soon as the storm passed we headed to the Boathouse for our pre-race dinner. We went to the same place last year and the food and atmosphere is perfect to bring kids and the view over the water is beautiful. We headed back to the hotel and I got everything organized for the morning.
On the morning of the race, we grabbed a bite to eat, got dressed, and walked up to the start just before the playing of the national anthem. The starting line was super organized and not too crowded the way they space out the pace groups which was a nice change! A few minutes later we were off.
Just to start off…
If I’m going to be totally honest with my race experience, I will have to apologize for sounding slightly negative. I really struggled during this race but hope it does not come off as sounding like I had a bad experience.
So as soon as I started to run my hip, which I never have issues with started to hurt. It scared me a little since there was no warning and I actually thought that maybe I should stop. Instead I decided to just hang back and run a bit to see if it loosened up. Eventually it did, but I was worried about it.
Within the first mile we were heading north on the boardwalk. The spectators were really great. I remembered from last year how supportive the crowd and race volunteers are for this series and it helped to regain my stride knowing the support I would have throughout the race. The WildHalf series is not just a half marathon, there is also a 5k and 8k option for runners. They do a great job of clearly marking the course for each distance. It was super windy that day, so some of the mile marker signs were blown down, but my Fitbit takes care of that for me anyway.
I still cannot tell you exactly which direction the wind was blowing that day, but I can tell you that no matter which direction we ran, it seemed to be against us. It was a challenge, but growing up running around the beach, this is nothing new to me, and I don’t mind the challenge. When you run into the wind, however, your core and upper body become even more engaged which for me anyway, means more soreness the next day.
Around mile 4.5 is where the challenges of this course that I love really begin. The course is pretty much an “out and in” loop. At this point you cross over a highway overpass with a nice steady incline and down to an old high drawbridge. As I climbed the bridge, I was actually a little scared of being blown over! I had no one around me at that point so nothing to block the wind and it was strong!
I made it out to the turnaround, which I was really looking forward to. This was the first race in a while where I knew a good amount of people running. Once you turn around, you see all of the other runners for about a 3 mile stretch. So I got to see everyone I knew that was also out there! It’s a great distraction and really makes this race fun. The other runners were really enthusiastic and we all gave thumbs ups and words of encouragement, high fives, waves, whatever. I was almost laughing at this point as I headed back over the high bridge because I was being blown into the other side of runners. I won’t soon forget that!
I really did not feel right through this race. If it wasn’t for the volunteers and the high number of water/powerade stations they had I am honestly not sure I would have finished. My blood sugar felt off, my legs felt dehydrated, and the wind was definitely tough. At one point a man at one of the stations ran over to ask if I was ok, I’m thinking I must have been pretty pale at this point.
As I passed the 12 mile mark, I started to realize that I wasn’t doing as poorly as I thought and there was still a chance of going under 1:40, which is a personal goal I have. I just kept pushing through and at this point being up on the boardwalk with lots of crowd support I started to feel a bit better. Before I knew it, I could see the finish and crossed just above my goal, at 140.11. Still a personal best, and I was just so relieved that I pushed through those miles and never gave up on myself.
I found my family and headed over to Fox Park where the food and stage were for the after “party”. Ava joined me and picked out some goodies, the volunteers were awesome and gave her some of her own too…chocolate chip cookies, bananas, apples, bagels, soft pretzels, and more. I sometimes think my kids really only enjoy these races for all the food I get after! We took a quick pic on the step and repeat and then headed back to the finish line to watch everyone else finish.
I always enjoy watching the finish line and seeing the variety of people who run these races. Young, old, some finish holding hands, some sprint past people and keep that competitive spirit going until the end. There were even dogs crossing the line! This race just has a great vibe at the finish and the announcer was great too. So fun. Soon I saw Faith and Beth who both looked amazing and happy and I was so proud of them! Faith had completed her first half marathon with a smile on her face, and Beth had taken close to 20 minutes off her time from her first 13.1 only a month before. So awesome!
I headed back to the park with Beth and we checked out the tents once again. At this time the band was playing at the stage so the kids were having a blast. We sat down to listen for a few minutes and they began to announce the awards. Ava asked if she could come up with me for mine, and I laughed and told her I would not be getting one today. A few minutes later, they were announcing women 35-39 and wouldn’t you know it…they said my name as placing 3rd! I was shocked and Ava was over the moon excited to go up! We took some pics and then quickly headed back to check out of the hotel.
The day of the race just happened to also be my niece Rowan’s second birthday! I was honored that she woke up way before her usual wake up time to come cheer me on, and was looking forward to spending the rest of the day celebrating her. Between the wind and the cooler temps, our best bet was to find an indoor activity. We drove up to Atlantic City to the aquarium, which is really a cute place if you’ve never been. They have some touch tanks, turtles, stingrays, jellyfish, and lots more fish plus an observation deck on the top floor and a pretty garden area out front. It’s right on the water in a very pretty spot away from the hustle and bustle of the casinos.
After the fishies we headed to the Rainforest Cafe for dinner (I was beyond starving at this point!). They sat us in a big booth, which normally is great but poor Rowan was terrified of the ape over the table next to us. Nolan was not a huge fan either, but Ava loved it! We all got burgers or dinosaur nuggets, and much to my husband’s surprise I even caved for some souveneer cups! We had a great family dinner with my sister and parents complete with a huge volcano cake and then headed home to open some presents with the birthday girl. I’m not sure I mentioned that Jeff was not on this trip with us due to baseball, but by then his games were over and he met us at my parents and got to celebrate her big day too.
The weekend was fantastic. Like I have said before, I love how running can bring us to so many fun places and love making these races into mini family vacations and new experiences. The Wild Half series is just so great and they really do take the steps to make it a great weekend for not only the runners but the spectators and families too. I plan on running it again next year.
A few days after the race we received an email that the course may have been slightly short. They apologized and offered runners a discounted rate for next year which I thought was really impressive. That being said, I’m actually very happy that I did not go under 1:40, and can now do so on a more regulated course. Everything happens for a reason, right?
Lately Ava, who is 5, has been very interested in working out as a family. We have started to practice some yoga, she has a tiny 2 pound weight, has really started to love running, and I love it. I’m so proud of her and happy to see that through both mine and Jeff’s example she is beginning to understand the importance of being healthy and making good choices for her well-being.
What I am even more happy about is that she has an understanding that working out is to help make us strong and not skinny. That eating balanced meals and having diets full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein is to fuel our bodies, not lose weight. And as proud of her as I am, I have to say that I am very proud of myself for this as well, because for a long time this was not the case for me.
For as long as I can remember, I was always worried about being fat. I had body-image issues that caused me to have low self confidence and there was not a day that went by that I wasn’t worried about gaining weight or was beating myself up over it. I grew up in a time where this was pretty common, and having a mother with an eating disorder, it was very close to home. As a swimmer and runner I saw many teammates struggle as well. Weight was a huge issue all around me and it was way more important than it should have been. For lack of a better word, it was normal for girls who were thin to complain about being fat. My mom, family and friends told me I was beautiful all the time. But this came from me; I was always so hard on myself and when you are constantly putting yourself down, you start to believe it.
A horrible cycle of binge eating and excessive exercise was something I dealt with for a long time, all the way up to college. I was consumed by it and although I looked like I was in fantastic shape, it was probably the most unhealthy I had ever been. I was eating and exercising to be thin, not strong and was obsessive about it.
Even into my mid to late twenties I struggled. I went to the gym for hours, secretly keeping journals of my workouts, food, everything. I would even take days off from work if I knew it was the only way I could work out that day. Through it all, however, I really had no idea this was a problem.
Fast forward to the year I turned 30. Jeff and I were married, and I was ready to be a mom. When Ava was born, it was like she saved me. None of that mattered as much anymore. I still worked out, usually by running with her in the stroller, but my reasons changed. I wanted her to see her mom making good choices. I wanted to make sure that she would never struggle with any of the things that I had. I never wanted her to see me stay home because all of my clothes made me look fat, which happened many times in my life. I had to consciously step back and understand that she would learn from my actions. It wouldn’t matter how many times I told her she was beautiful, if she saw her mother putting herself down that’s what she would do too.
So we never talk about working out to lose weight or even maintain weight. Even after my son was born, I never alluded to the baby weight or put myself down in front of her, no matter how badly I wanted to get back in shape. Yes, I felt that way, it’s completely natural after a woman has a baby. But she didn’t need to hear that. In her eyes my body was amazing for bringing her baby brother into this world. And you know what? She is right.
We as moms don’t give ourselves enough credit for that. Our bodies can do incredible things and we put them through so much. We need to be proud of what they are capable of and respect them for that. As a teacher and coach to middle and high school girls it breaks my heart to hear their comments and know some will struggle with these issues. We need to break this cycle and keep striving to teach our girls (and boys) that being strong is far more important than skinny. That being comfortable in your own skin and believing in yourself are the keys to being successful.
I allow Ava to call the shots when it comes to our workouts. I’m lucky she is still cool with the stroller for runs, so when she wants to head out I bring it along so she can hop in and out when she wants. I never force her to workout, I let her know what I am going to do and if she wants to join, great. If not, great. We live a mostly healthy, and organic lifestyle when it comes to food, but are always up for the occasional treat. We might explain that something isn’t the most healthy or suggest a healthier alternative, but I make sure I never tell her something she eats will make her fat. Or call something fattening. It’s always “unhealthy”. Fat just doesn’t exist in our vocabulary.
I won’t say that I don’t still struggle with some of the issues I’ve had. And maybe I always will. It may not make sense to anyone else, but I can honestly say that she has taught me so much about being self confident and self accepting. I learn how to just go about my life without concern of judgement or worry about what someone thinks of me or my weight. Funny how much we learn from our children. She doesn’t know that she could worry about these things. I hope to keep it that way.
I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures of Ava and I running and practicing yoga together. These moments are so incredible to me, and I’d like to think to her too.