Category Archives: Diet

Open Heart Surgery for My Dad…

My dad, Russ Perlman, age 60, just eleven days after open heart surgery and five bypasses. I’d say he’s looking pretty good!

Well, I haven’t posted for a while as I’ve been super busy but I am excited to catch up on a few subjects this Thanksgiving holiday weekend…

Just two weeks ago, my dad Russ Perlman had open heart surgery and five bypasses. The urgent surgery came out of no where for all of us – my dad included. He’s 60 years old, not overweight, in overall good health and very active (plays softball up to 5 times a week).

Apparently, over the past couple of months my dad has been feeling a little out of breath while playing softball. He even vomited after running the bases one day and nearly passed out another. He ignored the signs until feeling that his jaw was going numb one afternoon while standing in the outfield. At that point, he told his girlfriend Patty and they made an appointment with his internist. He was immediately sent to a cardiologist for a stress test, which led to a surgical appointment for angioplasty and to have stents put in. Unfortunately, the doctor realized my dad’s arteries were 100%, 99%, and 75% blocked. There was no way a stent could be inserted and at that point a heart surgeon was called for open heart surgery.

Considering that my siblings and I just lost my mom to breast cancer in 2008, the idea of my dad going under for serious open heart surgery was scary. As I told him before he went it, he would need to fight as hard as he could. He couldn’t leave us now. We were so lucky that he was getting this second chance – as the doctor said my dad already had two silent heart attacks – either of which could have killed him.

My dad’s surgery was scheduled at Palm Beach Gardens hospital with Dr. Heitman last Thursday, November 8th. He was on the bypass for more than 8 hours. But he came out, five bypasses later and did great! It has been two weeks since his surgery and my dad has been home for over a week, is walking and doing everything else on his own. He was recently okayed to drive on his own. And the only thing he’s not permitted to do…play softball for the next two months! He’s a little upset with that but he’ll make it 🙂

So why I am writing about my dad’s open heart surgery here? Because this is a warning to all my readers to have the people in your life get checked, have their stress tests done annually, and listen to the signs. My dad was and is healthy. It was hereditary reasons that led to his blockage more than anything. So, take this is as a sign, a warning, a push to get your loved ones check out…before the New Year.

And, my dad is not along. Coronary artery disease, also called coronary heart disease, or simply, heart disease, is the No. 1 killer in America, affecting more than 13 million Americans. Heart disease is a result of plaque buildup in your arteries, which blocks blood flow and heightens the risk for heart attack and stroke. Learn more here.

Tired? Energy Low? Get Your Iron Levels Checked!

Earlier today I visited my doctor for a regular check-up and had my recent blood test results reviewed…I am happy to report most of my levels were normal, including my Iron and Total Iron. However, my Ferritin levels are low. In fact…very low. According to the test results, the recommended levels are between 10 and 154 ng/mL. My doctor upped that to between 50 and 150. My numbers? 6L. And while my doctor wasn’t very concerned (she said the Ferritin really only comes into effect if you need to go into your blood storage…), running experts say otherwise.

With that in mind, I figured I’d share some information about Ferritin levels and recommend that we all get our blood tested and checked at least once a year (especially if you are feeling tired and run-down)! And with that in mind…I anticipate my running only improving and my times only getting faster (once I start my iron pills)! I will be starting with an over the counter supplement (sulfate) first thing tomorrow morning!

Courtesy to

Outside of training deficiencies, low iron levels in runners is one of the most common reasons for poor results during workouts and races. Recent research indicates that almost 56% percent of joggers and competitive runners suffer from an iron deficiency that severely hampers performance. By closely monitoring iron intake and supplementing if needed, you can quickly boost performance and prevent lulls in your training.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency in Runners

Determining if you have an iron deficiency can be somewhat difficult if you’re a runner. The main symptom of low iron levels is fatigue and a slight shortness of breath. You can appreciate the dilemma here if you’re a runner – you’re always tired after a workout and shortness of breath defines our preferred mode of transportation.

If you are worried that you might be iron deficient, you should schedule an appointment with your physician for a blood test. It’s a simple test that most doctors would be willing to provide if you tell them you’re running a lot of miles and feeling more fatigued than usual. Even if you are not iron deficient, you can establish a good baseline for your iron levels, which could help you identify an iron problem down the road.

The major results of interest to runners are: hemoglobin (Hg), hematocrit (Hct), iron (Fe), total iron binding capacity (TIBC), and ferritin. In anemia, your hemoglobin and hematocrit, which are a measure of your red blood cell count, are low. In iron deficiency, your iron is low, your total iron binding capacity is high (meaning there is lots of extra room to bind more iron), and your ferritin (a measure of your iron stores) is low.  In my experience coaching elite runners, a ferritin level less than 30 ng/ml in women and less than 40 ng/ml in men is often enough to reduce performance and impact your running.

Why is Iron Important for Runners

Red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin (an iron-containing protein), transport oxygen to your working muscles when you run. If you have low iron levels, you will generate fewer red blood cells and your hemoglobin levels will decline. Therefore, less oxygen will be transported to your muscles, and running performance will suffer. Studies on how low iron levels can cause injuries (especially in runners).

How Runners Lose Iron

Runners lose more iron than non-runners for a multitude of reasons.

Through your feet – First, a process called foot strike hemolysis occurs in runners, especially those who run high mileage. Foot strike hemolysis is a process where red blood cells are damaged when the foot hits the ground, thus reducing your hemoglobin levels.

Through sweat – Iron is lost through sweating. While the amount of iron loss isn’t staggering, for a runner working out in hot and humid conditions, the losses can easily add up.

Through the intestines – Loss of iron through the GI tract (primarily the stomach or large intestine) is a problem for some athletes. Iron loss through the GI tract is fairly minor, but there may be a cumulative effect over months of running that leads to iron deficiency.

Female runners – Finally, female runners have an especially difficult time maintaining proper iron levels since they also lose iron during menstruation.

How to Supplement

As you can see, the cards are stacked against you as a runner when it comes to maintaining your iron levels. Therefore, it is important that you consciously monitor your iron intake through your diet and with supplements, if you already have low levels.

Iron rich foods

Good food sources of iron include: lean meat, oysters, egg yolk, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, dried fruit, and whole grain or enriched cereals and bread. If you are worried about your iron levels, avoid drinking coffee, milk, or tea with iron-rich meals, as calcium inhibits iron absorption. In addition, you should drink vitamin C with your iron rich foods since vitamin C aids in absorption.


I suggest most runners be on an iron supplement unless their iron levels have tested high in the past.

  • When you go to buy an iron supplement, make sure it’s in the form of ferrous sulfate. Usually, you can find iron at a health store like vitamin world or a GNC. You can take iron in a pill or liquid form, whichever works best for you. Pills are often easier to find, but liquid absorbs better.
  • Like when you’re eating, avoid calcium an hour before and an hour after taking your iron. Likewise, take with vitamin B (a pill or orange juice) and a B-complex supplement to aid absorption.
  • I suggest taking your supplement before bed. Iron supplements can sometimes cause minor stomach issues and gas. If you take them at night, it probably won’t bother you. If your stomach does bother you, taking ferrous gluconate rather than ferrous sulfate can be easier on your stomach. Iron supplements can also cause constipation, so you could consider a stool softener if needed.
  • If you’re just looking to maintain your iron levels, supplement with 30mg of elemental iron. If you are iron deficient, supplement with 60mg of elemental iron.

By paying attention to your iron levels, getting tested if you think you may be low, and increasing your iron intake through diet or supplements, you can avoid lulls in your training and boost performance.

Read more here and here.

Low ferritin levels have also been shown to substantially increase the risk of injury.

During the cross-country season, there were 71 injuries severe enough to cause lost training time. Those runners who were injured had average ferritin levels which were about 40-per cent lower than those found in non-injured runners. In addition, the 34 runners with the lowest ferritin concentrations had twice as many injuries as the 34 runners with highest ferritin.

The researchers concluded that low ferritin is related to an increased risk of injury in female cross-country runners. Since iron is a key component of haemoglobin, the compound which carries oxygen to muscles and other tissues, it’s possible that athletes with low ferritin had decreased oxygen delivery to tissues and therefore became fatigued more easily during workouts and races, compared to individuals with normal ferritin. Their exhausted muscles would then be less able to stabilize and support the knees and ankles – two key sites of injury in the study. Low ferritin might also decrease the rate at which muscles and connective tissues are repaired, allowing minor injuries to blow up into major problems –Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 25(5), Supplement, p. S25, 1993

Perfectionism: The Double-edged Sword

Every once in a while I come upon really insightful and interesting case studies and white papers that touch on a nerve, get me thinking, compel me to share the piece with others…And here is another one straight from the University of South Florida’s “The Counseling Center for Human Development.” (Circa 2000.) Enjoy – and let me know if you recognize someone while reading this. Potentially yourself? Your spouse? Your child? I know I sure did…not mentioning any names!

Ask yourself while reading this piece – if you do relate…what can you personally do to grow? Put a little less pressure and stress on yourself? Enjoy life a little more? And probably even succeed at a faster and greater (and more enjoyable rate)…

Perfectionism: The Double-edged Sword

Do you push yourself to be the “best?” The best student, greek, athlete or friend. Do you get upset with yourself when you’re anything less? While we all strive toward excellence, some individuals have a great difficulty accepting a personal role of less than “number one.” These people are considered perfectionists.

Many college (and high school) students are perfectionists. To these students, obtaining a “B” is considered a failure. (Not being the best on their team…not being the best in their class…all failures.) They are unwilling to accept an “average” performance or role, because to them, “average” equals “second-rate.”

Perfectionism is not the healthy pursuit of excellence, as most people tend to believe, but rather it is the compulsive striving toward unrealistic goals, declares psychiatrist David Burns. “Setting high personal standards and goals, and working hard to attain them is appropriate,” he says. “However, perfectionists set excessively high goals and strive compulsively to achieve them, punishing themselves for mistakes and lowering self-esteem because they can’t reach these impossibly high goals.”

Perfectionists believe compulsive striving is necessary for success. Aiming to be the “best” all the time virtually guarantees feelings of failure, however. In fact, studies suggest that perfectionists are often less productive and successful, and experience more stress and anxiety than their co-workers/students/teammates. For perfectionists, who measure worth entirely in terms of productivity and accomplishments, this vicious cycle is self-perpetuating and self-defeating…

So what’s the answer? First of all, be aware of the difference between setting high personal standards and perfectionism. Setting high standards involves the pursuit of success and realistic goals, while perfectionism involves setting impossibly high goals (all the time) and is motivated by the fear of failure.

Second, learn to focus on your successes rather than perceived failures. Perfectionists typically view success as an “avoidance of failure” and as a result rarely gain satisfaction from their achievements.

And finally, your worth as a person is not determined solely by your accomplishments. Feelings of self-worth are also affected by such factors as interpersonal relationships, physical health and appearance, spiritual beliefs and emotional well-being. Perfectionists often focus on only one area of their life to the exclusion of others.

10 Steps to Overcome Perfectionism

Runner’s Banana Bread 101

I’ll start this this post with a warning: I am not very domestic and rarely cook. I can follow recipes pretty well but typically don’t have time to spend in the kitchen cooking up a whole dinner or anything else. However, this is one recipe that I love and try to cook as often as I can. It usually takes a plethora of bananas to be dropped on my doorstep to get the motivation! After a high school cross country meet last week, where three bunches of bananas were left over and were waiting to be claimed, I had all the motivation I needed. I ran to the store and stocked up on all the other missing items and immediately got started. I’ve made two loaves of banana bread so far. With more more to come (for the cross country team!).

The best part about this banana bread recipe (which was given to my by a friend – Adam) is that it is full of healthy stuff. I call it the healthy version of your typical banana bread – only really really good. So I figured I’d share the recipe with others and maybe you’ll give it a try. It’s great for us runners – as it if full of fruit, nuts, whole grains, and all that other stuff that helps give us energy! Oh – and it’s so easy. Just mix up the ingredients and let them bake! (You could even go for a 60 minute run while you are waiting for the bread to finish!) Let me know your thoughts!

Runner’s Banana Bread 101

What you will need: 

  • 5 ripe bananas
  • 2 cups of whole grain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sweetener (I usually use a mix of honey and brown sugar;you can also sub in nectar for a lighter taste)
  • cinnamon to taste
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • handful of pecans, almonds, raisins and/or chocolate chips (your choice!)
  • 2 eggs
  • sugar in the raw

What to do:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix everything together in a bowl (except for the sugar in the raw)
  • Spray 9×5 baking dish (loaf style) with olive oil and then pour in batter
  • Sprinkle top with sugar in the raw (which will give it a crusty, delicious top)
  • Bake for 60-65 minutes
  • Let cool, slice and eat!



A Distance Runner’s Strength

On Monday afternoon, one of our runners – a senior girl – did something she had never done before. She won a major high school cross country invitational race. To make it even more special, it was our own school hosted Spanish River Invitational. The girl is Ellyn and her win was extra special for a number of reasons.

Ellyn had a rough year last year (as she admits to during a PB Post and Sun-Sentinel interview which I’ve included below). Nearly six-feet tall as a 17 year old and running over 35 miles per week, Ellyn had trouble keeping her body at a solid and strong weight. As a result, her junior cross country season ended early and the damage was tough for her to handle. However, rather than falling in the win or wilting under the stress and pressure, Ellyn did something we could all take a lesson from…

Ellyn spent her junior track season building up strength. Then she spent this past summer building up distance and base endurance. And at just her second real meet of the 2012 High School Cross Country season, she won. She won with a strong, gutsy performance. And all who watched were just as impressed as those who know her and her story well.

Distance running is tough. Cross Country and Track are two of the hardest sports. There is no coasting, there is no cheating, there is no “just getting by.” You feed your body poorly – you’ll eventually do poorly. You skip your runs, it will show in your meet performance. Similarly, you put in the work and you take care of yourself – and your body will reward you. Our sport is sorta like life. And when you have champions like Ellyn break through and take a big step in the right direction of their personal journey, you can’t help but be proud!

Read the full article from yesterday’s paper (following Monday’s win by Ellyn). Also congrats to the entire Girls Cross Country team that won the overall team title at the 2012 Spanish River Invitational.


Exercising On Vacation…Is it Possible?

I just got back from an amazing cruise through Vancouver and Alaska and had an absolutely wonderful time. However, upon returning, I jumped on the scale and saw I put on nearly 10 lbs during my ten days away (well maybe closer to five after weighing myself the next morning)! How is that possible, you may ask? Well, I was on a cruise and I enjoyed every minuted of it – including the food, the desserts, the unlimited hot chocolates, the speciality snacks, and of course the midnight chocolate buffet!

In fact, I might say, I am surprised I didn’t gain more! And with that, I’d like to offer my tips as to how to eat whatever you want on your vacation (within reason – meaning don’t stuff yourself beyond feeling well!) and not gain too much weight!

1. Take the stairs! My brother, Michael, and I put this rule into effect way back when my family starting cruising in the mid-90s. We knew we wanted to eat a ton and basically enjoy whatever we wanted…so we decided that we would never take the elevator. And I am proud to say that I have stuck with that commitment to this day! It is very rare that you will find me on an elevator on a cruise. I think I made one or two exceptions in this past seven night cruise (once when I was dressed up for formal night in heals, and the other when I was having trouble with the rocking seas).

2. Take the stairs! Yep, I said it again. While traveling in the airports, take the stairs rather than the escalator. Of course – the exception being when you are carrying your luggage and can’t physically make it down or up the stairs. Same with the people movers…don’t use them…it’s faster (and better for you) to walk. And if you are traveling with someone who insists taking the people mover…just walk on the normal floor beside them.

3. Enjoy the stops and cities. Wherever you are, the best way to enjoy a new city is to walk or run it. You see so much more than you would in a cab or car. While some tours may require that you travel a farther distance away from the center city (and therefore cannot walk or run), there are many restaurants, sites, and experiences to be had close to your hotel…and you should try to always walk to them! (Make sure you bring comfortable shoes so that your three inch heals don’t ruin your vacation or your opp to get some good exercise!)

4. Get the heart pumping. While in Vancouver, B.C., my husband and I traveled to both Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain. Both offered amazing opportunities to enjoy the locations, weather, views and of course get some exercise. At Stanley Park, we walked along side the water banks and on the trails within the nearly 1000 acre park. But there were bike rentals available and we also saw many locals biking, roller blading, running, walking, and more. Then at Grouse Mountain, we took the tram up to the top, but there were many people that hiked what is dubbed the “Grouse Grind.” In fact, many locals said they hike the 1.8 mile, 2,800 foot elevation gain trail weekly if not daily! We decided if and when we returned, we would definitely try the hike. (It’s free when you hike too. The tram was $10 each way.)

So with these few, small tips, it is possible to enjoy your vacation, the food, and still keep the weight gain at a minimum…or at least low enough that when you get home — you can take off those extra few pounds pretty quickly.

Paul Ryan is hot. Does that mean he’ll get your vote?


With the GOP convention in full swing – as of today…there is lots of news and media out there on Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and their issues, politics. Well, since I am all about fitness and running, I thought I would highlight a fantastic Palm Beach Post article by my good friend Steve Dorfman – health reporter/editor at the Post. The column appeared in the paper today and truly gives a full summary of what is important about our politicians (wink-wink).

It’s been very common to hear about politicians running and jogging to keep in shape. Think of all the casual jogs the media just happened to see former Presidents Clinton and Bush taking – on vacation as well as around the streets of Washington, D.C. Additionally, former Governor Mike Huckabee got a lot of attention after he lost a massive amount of weight eating better and running (prior to his run for president in 2008). It could be said that his weight loss in fact renewed his chances as a potential presidential nominee…and while he did not win, he is now enjoying a prosperous cable TV career.

Anyway – back to the topic at-hand. Paul Ryan, VP nominee for the Republicans, and religious follower of the popular workout DVD P90X. Politics aside (and I went to Brown University – one of the most liberal institutions in the country so no comments necessary), this guy is in pretty good shape. Speaking purely from a professional/runner/writer POV of course. While I personally have never used the P90x program, I know it is tough! My older brother Michael has used it for years and I know he loves it and of course the results. I say – if you have the discipline to workout in front of the TV on your own – this program can offer great all-around results. Of course, consistency and eating health (as with all exercise regimes) are key.

So read on – and ask yourself – can a politician’s body (or rather health) influence your vote? Do you feel more confident he or she will be around in the long run to make good decisions? Think back to the years before we saw our politicians on TV, in print photos and on the internet constantly. If you never saw them – but rather only heard their voice and policies, would it matter less?

Read more of Steve Dorfman’s column here. And make your own decision.

Women’s Running Magazine: “Blogger on the Run”

I am thrilled to announce that is featured as a Blogger on the Run by Women’s Running Magazine!! My goal with has always been to share my personal nearly two decades of running knowledge and experience as well as the expertise of the many contacts, coaches, doctors, athletes, and go-to sources I have had the pleasure to get to know over the years. (And there is much more exciting stuff to come – including interviews with athletes like the legendary Michael Johnson!!! Yes, I am serious!!!) I have also been a faithful reader of Women’s Running Magazine for some time now (since it launched) so to be featured as one of its bloggers to watch is very exciting!

Women’s Running is the only women’s-specific running magazine. As the number of female runners exploded over the past few years, interest in women’s specific running information also grew. Women’s Running covers all aspect of the running lifestyle. The Women’s Running mission is simple: to create a high-quality magazine for intelligent, successful, female runners who use running to balance and enrich their lives. Women’s Running seeks to set a standard of excellence through quality editorial that encourages women to train healthfully, participate in active travel, adopt healthy nutrition habits, and to nourish their minds as well as their bodies. In doing so, the magazines hopes to capture the attention of eager female consumers in a way that mainstream women’s fitness magazines and co-ed sports verticals do not. More information available at

Check out my feature as “Blogger on the Run” here. Also, even more exciting for you…is that Women’s Running Magazine is offering one of my readers the chance to win a 1-year subscription to the magazine!!!  All they have to do is visit the Women’s Running blog, view the RunningTips101 “Blogger on the Run” feature, and leave a comment to be entered to win. Good luck and please share around! (If my online feature is popular…there is a good chance I’ll be featured in the monthly hard copy issue!!)

Thanks in advance! And thanks Women’s Running Magazine! Are the Olympics Getting You in the Mood?

ESPN: The Body Issue, 2012

Are the 2012 London Olympics getting you excited, motivating you to head to the gym after work, take a few extra laps around the block – all with the intension of getting your body into better shape? The majority of us won’t be qualifying for 2016 games, so what is it about watching the highest level of athleticism and competition on television that gets us in the mood?

The Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) argues that “Sports provide an excellent opportunity to observe athletes in positive and negative situations; and watching the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and beyond can be a source of valuable life lessons.” And motivation?

Physiotherapy New Zealand (PNZ) President Gill Stotter adds: “The Olympics is one of the biggest sports events in the world today and it often inspires those of us watching to do more. The athletes can act as great role models and really help us dream a little more and set some of our own goals.”

And the statistics support the feeling:

  • On average, there has been a 25% – 37% increase in gymnastics student enrollment in each of the Olympic years.
  • In China, gyms across the country have reported a spike in new members already, with many residents inspired to get in shape by their new Olympic heroes (specifically those coming from their hometowns).

This phenomenon has also been proven by a recent national survey by 24 Hour Fitness. According to the corporate gym franchise, 89% of those surveyed are motivated by the Olympic games and admit that watching the athletes gives their fitness routines a boost and encourages them to live healthier lifestyles.

So what did members of the South Florida community have to say?

  • Adam Ardenfriend of Delray Beach said: “I’ve been watching the Olympics and I love it. The athletes are amazing, inspiring, and simply a pleasure to watch. I have to admit that I am quite addicted to the games, all of them, regardless of the sport. The athletes have certainly inspired me to achieve even more with my own personal fitness.”

Read more feedback and share yours here.

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