Victoria's health and fitness site

From musician to elite runner, Seattle’s Shaun Frandsen has done well.   Shaun has had a successful musical career and has decided to turn his efforts to running after many years.  Since he has started running again last year, he consistently places in the top ranks.  In the May 2011 issue of Northwest Runner Magazine, he is ranked #4 on the Best Times List for both the 5k (15:56) and Half Marathon (1:12:43) – (30-34 division).  I’m proud of his success and impressed by how well he has done in such a short period of time.  I’ve asked him a few questions and here’s what he has to say:

You were a runner in high school.  What made you decide to go back to running?

It started out as a resolution to get back into shape around the time I turned 30. I’m a physically restless type of person, and I need some way to get that anxiety out of me before it builds up and weighs me down.  Music and touring around the world was an active outlet for me, but buying in to that lifestyle wasn’t contributing to a healthy existence. Running has always been good therapy. There’s nothing subjective about it. You get out of it what you put in, simple as that. The personal rewards are far greater, in my opinion.

What are your running methods or techniques (long slow distance, interval, etc.)?

A typical week for me would include one long run on a Saturday or Sunday, and interval training (preferably on a track) on Wednesday. You naturally get a lot of hill training running around the Seattle area, which is great. 

How many miles a week do you run? Do you take regular breaks from running and how long do they last?

Depending on what I am training for, it varies. Right now I run between 50-80 miles a week. I might break it down by running 80 miles the first week of the month, then 75 miles, 65 miles, and 50 miles. I listen to my body when its time to take a break. Going for that total number isn’t worth it in the end. No matter where I‘m at in my training… If I feel something begin to strain, I’ll pull back and take a break. Taking a day off is a lot shorter and safer than a month or two of nursing a negligent injury.

Training can sometimes get monotonous.  How do you stay motivated?

I like to vary my running routes. Sometimes running the same loop the opposite way works. I try to vary my weekly training as much as possible… Hitting it hard one week with double days and interval training, then taking a week to concentrate on tempo running and distances… throw in a race every other weekend and it never gets dull for me. Having a new pair of training shoes or a new piece of gear can get me motivated to run too.

Do you do any core strength work or cross training and if so what?

Not enough. I would say my core strength is my weakest element right now. It’s the most vulnerable area to be weak because it leaves you susceptible to injury, but I’m working on it. I like to hike and swim when I have the chance.

I’ve found that a lot of people who want to take up running get defeated because they think they are not fast or strong enough.  What’s the best advice you can give someone who wants to start running?

I find that running, as a whole, is not as biased as “who’s the fastest runner.” There will always be someone physically superior out there unless you are in the small % of elite world-class runners who live in training compounds and get paid to be coached everyday. When you let go of your limitations, the personal rewards are endless. Buy a Nike+ watch and track your mileage. Share it with your friends online. Do a local 5k run/walk and dress up with your friends and family for a St. Paddy’s Day race. Seriously, I think the advent of Facebook and other social-media has caused the running community to boom in recent years. I see more and more organized events now than I‘ve seen in my life. There’s something for everyone out there: Age divisions, themed-races, ultras, mud runs, Beer belly divisions…  My advice to someone who’s just starting out running is to concentrate only on yourself and achieving your personal goals. Don’t worry about the people around you. Set a goal like: I want to lose 5 pounds in 3 weeks…. Or, I want to be able to run 4 days out of 7 in a week. I mentioned earlier, you get out of it what you put in. It’s one of the rare things in life where you can do that. If you keep at it and maintain a healthy lifestyle, you will grow stronger, guaranteed… and who knows? You could be the next Yuki Kawauchi.      

What is your inspiration?  How do you gear up for a race?

I have faith that when race time comes, I have put in the work it requires to have a successful race. Like the great Steve Prefontaine once said: “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” I go to a race feeling relaxed and look at it as the “dessert” or reward for my hard work and training. It’s like playing a concert for me. You spend hours making music, or training… then you get to rip it up and have a blast onstage. 

You’ve just won the 5k at the Seahawks race this month with a 16:17 time.  You came in 3rd in the Mercer Island Half Marathon in March with a 1:12 time.  Do you plan on running a marathon in the near future?  If so, how will you prepare?

Yes. I’m planning on running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon. It will be my first full marathon. I won’t do anything too dramatic in my regular 5k-10k-Half Marathon training. I see a lot of runners bump up their mileage to the 100’s and get hurt right away.  I’ll gradually build up my long run from 12 miles to 22 miles, and I’ll keep doing fast-twitch speed workouts every week, which I think is very important.   [Fast twitch refers to the muscle groups in charge of speed.  Slow twitch muscle groups are in charge of strength and endurance.  Mid and long distance runners work on their ability to speed train.  There are various workouts you can do like track workouts at short distances (200 meters, 400 meters).]

What’s your overall diet like?  What do you eat pre and post runs?

I have the best wife ever and she has trained me to become a “Jedi” in the realm of eating a healthy diet.  She has some food allergies, so we cautiously have to stay away from a lot of unhealthy foods when it comes to cooking meals.  I go for a lot of natural anti-inflammatory foods.  The main things I avoid are corn syrup, refined sugars/carbs, and processed foods. Golden rule would be: If I don’t know where it came from, I don’t eat it.  My wife and I also buy locally grown organic vegetables (Full Circle Farm).  I’ve pretty much stopped drinking alcohol too, except on traditional occasions. There will be plenty of beer when I’m too old to run.  Pre and Post running meals: many people believe the myth of “carbo-loading” before the race and overdose on pasta.  For a pre-race dinner I’ll just stick with my normal diet:  a chicken curry with vegetables works well for me.  Post-race I’ll carbo-load and stuff myself silly with meat lover’s pizza. Y our body needs protein and carbohydrates more than ever after the race.

What’s your philosophy on sports related injuries?  How do you care for them?

Flexibility. If you don’t stretch you will not prosper.  If you can’t touch your toes you shouldn’t be running.  I always used to think my coaches were cold when I would get hurt, but I later learned that most of the time it was because I did not stretch properly at some point, or I wasn’t doing my core exercises.  Defiance against nature is unforgiving. Look at animals… what’s the first thing your dog or cat does when they get up from a nap? There’s a lot to be learned from your pet! Also, Yoga-laties!

Do you have any favorite books about running?

“Once a Runner” by John L. Parker Jr. is a good one.

What’s your favorite running shoe?

Right now, I train in Nike Zoom Structure Triax 14+ and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11. I race in the Nike LunaRacer+ which is an awesome shoe for any distance from the 5k to the Marathon. The Brooks Racer ST 5 has been with me for some great PR times this year on the road, and it looks pretty sweet too. 

Not running related but still an important question: who is your favorite band at the moment and why?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Oasis.  I love their attitude and their homage to good old fashioned rock ‘n roll.  Nothing gets me going like listening to “D’You Know What I Mean?” while driving up to a mountain to do some trail-running.  Liam Gallagher’s new project Beady Eyehas a great new album out.  Noel is working on his solo, which I am READLLY looking forward too…


I sent out a poll last week and was surprised to see that some people do not eat before a workout.   It is very important that you get the right amount of energy to sustain a workout.  I don’t mean eat a traditional English breakfast or anything, but a healthy snack to maintain energy is appropriate.  Eating the right kinds of food post work out is important too, especially if you do high energy high impact sports.  Eating after a workout helps build muscle and makes you lean.

Sorry to say that exercise doesn’t really allow you to eat whatever you want.  If you run a 5K, your reward of a eating a doughnut puts you in worse shape than before the run (you’re only burning about 300-500 calories on a 5K run which isn’t much).  Plus you aren’t helping yourself recharge and you won’t recover as quickly for the next run.

Pre workout

Pre workout snacks should be eaten within 1 hour of a workout and can be beneficial to those who exercise for an hour or more.   The rule of thumb for fueling before an event is 1 hour for every 50-100 calories eaten.   

Carbs:  Eating carbs before a workout is ideal because it is easy to digest and can be readily converted into fuel (glucose or sugar).  A good example is a piece of fruit, or oatmeal and a banana.  Think something low in fat and fiber.   You essentially want something low on the Glycemic Index (GI) so glucose energy (sugar) isn’t released too quickly.  Although some fruits are high GI, that’s okay—you would just eat that closer to your workout.  The GI index classifies food by how high or low it raises blood glucose.  Here are some indices for reference: ; 

Water:  It’s important to drink water before exercise.   Drink 1 pint of fluid 2 hours before your workout. 

Post workout

Many experts say that you should eat 30 minutes to 1 hour post work out because you deplete muscle glycogen which is the storage form of cabs (glucose).  After you’ve worked out your muscles act like sponges and will respond quickly to what you eat—that’s why it’s important to eat the right foods.  It’s important to feed your muscles the right carbs and protein as a result.  If you eat the right foods, you increase insulin, a growth hormone which makes muscles get strong and grow. 

Here are some pointers to good carbs and protein post workout:

1.       Whey protein:  whey protein is a co-product of the cheese making process.  It is turned into a powder, i.e. it is the powder from cow’s milk.  Milk has two proteins:  casein (80%) and whey (20%).  Whey is more soluble than casein and also has a higher quality rating.  Grass fed whey protein is better over commercial whey protein.  It’s good for you post workout because it is the most comprehensive and easily digestible type of protein.  It contains natural branched amino acids which aids in building muscle.  You can make a shake post workout out with whey protein.

2.       Carbs:  you want carbs high on the Glycemic Index (GI).  This doesn’t mean you eat tons of pizza and pasta.  Fruit, veg, hummus, yogurt, brown rice, wheat bread are all good.  However, there have been studies out there that state low GI foods have also been beneficial to some athlete’s performance as well. 

3.       Electrolytes:  potassium and sodium are lost during exercise.  You can replenish those by eating something like a banana and a glass of juice.  After a run, I always feel better and less sore if I eat something like this.  A great natural sports drink I have tried out is the following:

500 ml water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lime
3-4 tbsp. of maple syrup
1 tbsp. of sea salt

4.        Enzymes:  enzymes post workout help eliminate muscle soreness.  Bananas, pineapple, kiwi fruit are all good options.

5.       Tart Cherry juice:  this is my own personal favorite.  If you workout really hard, drinking tart cherry juice has been found to help block an enzyme that causes inflammation—think of it as a natural ibuprofen.

I hope this guidance helps!

Gluten Free Diets

I often eat at a restaurant by my place that serves delicious gluten free pancakes.  Why? Because it sounds better than eating regular pancakes, of course.  Makes sense, right?  🙂  I thought this is pretty ridiculous; I’m eating gluten free pancakes because I think it will make me bloat less than regular pancakes.  So I did a bit of research into gluten and what it means.  Gluten free seems to be the diet du jour these days.

Gluten is a special type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley. However, not all foods from the grain family contain gluten.  Examples of grains that do not have gluten include wild rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, oats, soybeans, and sunflower seeds.

Gluten can be removed from wheat flour, producing wheat starch.  All of the gluten in wheat flour, however, cannot be removed.  Still, according the Food and Drug Administration, if a certain amount of the gluten is removed, the food product can be labeled “gluten-free.”  In January 2009, the EU’s Food Standards Agency revamped its gluten free standards to only foods that contain less than a certain amount of gluten in order to be allowed to use the term ‘gluten-free”‘on their packaging.

Some people have an allergy to wheat.  This is sometimes called gluten intolerance or celiac disease.  This condition causes stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.  Over time, the lining of the small intestines is unable to absorb nutrients properly, leaving its sufferers malnourished.   About 1 in 133 people in the US, and 1 in about 100 in the UK have celiac disease, according to a study published in the US Archives of Internal Medicine and the Food Standards Agency, respectively.   

In terms of being active and going gluten free, keep in mind there’s no scientific evidence that going gluten free when you do not have an allergy is going to make your athletic performance improve.  However there is a trend now with some athletes cutting gluten out that are seeing increased strength and performance.   I suppose if you eat healthier you will increase your performance which is always a great thing to do.  However, if you do go gluten free and you are extremely active, you need to get creative about how you get your carb intake. 

I’ve asked a friend of mine, an aspiring restaurateur and future nutritionist Brandi Milligan about her gluten free diet and her allergy.  She’s currently gearing up for studies at Bastyr University located in Seattle.  Her focus will be in Nutrition and Culinary Arts.  Here’s what she has to say:

When did you first discover you had an allergy?  Did you have to take some sort of test?

After years of suffering from poor health, I saw a naturopathic doctor in 2003 who immediately put me on an elimination diet.  Within two weeks my health had improved drastically at which point I began introducing different foods into my diet.   At the time I found that wheat, dairy and sugar were my worst enemies.  At first modifying my diet was very difficult.  After a few years of being pretty strict with my diet I started feeling like a healthy person.  I have yet to have a doctor test be for celiac disease.  I keep being told “if what you are doing works, keep doing it.” There is a blood test that tests for specific antibodies that would be in the blood if your immune system had been triggered by the gluten protein.  Gluten is very similar to a protein that is pathogenic to humans.  When an individual who has celiac disease ingests gluten, their immune system is triggered to attack the protein.  Gluten gets caught up in the microvilli of the small intestine and when the immune system attacks the microvilli are destroyed diminishing the ability to absorb important nutrients.  There is evidence that the destruction of the GI tract due to celiac can lead to lactose intolerance, yeast overgrowth, even diabetes (among other things).   After the blood test, doctors would then do a biopsy of the small intestine to look for damage.

What does it feel like when you eat wheat?  What happens to your body?

I found that if I ate any foods containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kumut) I would suffer symptoms associated with celiac disease.  I would get intestinal cramping, bloating, the feeling of being “full” after eating very little, frequent headaches, difficulties concentrating and overwhelming sense of fatigue.

What steps do you take to keep gluten out of your diet?  Is it very difficult to enjoy food as a result?

It was very difficult in the beginning, especially back then when it was still relatively unheard of and there were not many quality products available.  Now there are a ton of really good products available and increasingly more restaurants and chefs that are recognizing the demand for high quality gluten free food experiences.   In the beginning I didn’t eat carbs in the way of grains at all; I ate a lot of fruit and veggies in place of grains.  The main grain for me is rice.  Even the baked goods and pasta’s available today are mainly made from rice flour.  The better quality goods are often made with other flours such as garbanzo bean flour, tapioca, quinoa and nut flours.  The most difficult part is going to dinner parties. I don’t want to be rude and not eat the food people cook for me, I don’t want to be difficult or picky and I don’t want to make other people feel bad because they didn’t know of my allergy.

Do you think that people can actually lose weight with a gluten free diet?

Any diet will help people lose weight in the beginning because people are eating fewer calories. Ultimately, it isn’t what you are or are not eating: it’s how many calories you are consuming.  I think people who are using the gluten free diet to lose weight are just making life more difficult than it needs to be.   In addition, whole grains are SO important for overall health and it is difficult to get enough whole grains with a gluten free diet.  Depending on what your personal calorie goals are, if you do not have an allergy, eat 4-8 servings of whole grains in as many different forms as you can while keeping in mind that one serving is one slice of bread, 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice, or one fourth of a large bagel. People so often forget what a serving size looks like 🙂

You are active: you run, hike and do a fair bit of cardio.  How do you get your carbs for energy?

Rice! (brown of course) Gluten free pasta’s and breads.  Bananas are wonderful sources of carbohydrates as are many beans and squash.

I’ve been making food that I can freeze in preparation of Baby A’s arrival as we probably will not have time to cook 🙂  Here’s a couple of my favorites.  They are vegetarian and very healthy.

Recipe #1  Carrot and Ginger soup (makes about 6 servings)

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

1 ginger root about 3 inches, peeled and chopped

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

5 cups chicken (or veg) stock

1/2 cup orange juice

In a large sauce pan, throw in the onion and ginger with a bit of oil and fry until onions are soft and fragrant.  Then pour in carrots, stock and orange juice.  Bring to boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes or until carrots are soft.  Cool and then blitz all ingredients in a blender.  Done!

Recipe#2:  Cashew Nut Roast (makes about 6 servings)

1 yellow onion

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (Ben recently told me about the difference between chopping versus crushing garlic:  crushing produces a stronger flavor than chopping so you use one over the other depending on the desired result you want in your dish)

1/2 lb cashew nuts

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

3 parsnips, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon Marmite (Vegemite)

3/4 cups stock

butter to grease the loaf pan

1/2 lb of mushrooms, chopped

Preheat the oven to 356F (180C).  (Or you can freeze this before roasting for later.)  Fry the onions and garlic until the onions are soft.

Boil the parsnips in a separate pan until soft and then drain.  Place them back in pan and mash with some butter and the rosemary and thyme.

Heat the stock and dissolve the Marmite in it.

Grind the cashews in a blender but stop before they become too powdery.  Get a bowl and throw in the breadcrumbs with the cashews.  Mix a beaten egg in with the cashews and breadcrumbs.  Add the fried onions, garlic, mashed parsnips, stock with Marmite and mix thoroughly in the bowl.

Use the frying pan that you used to fry the onions and garlic and sauté the mushrooms.

Grease the loaf pan with butter and put in half the nut mixture.   Then add a layer of the sautéed mushrooms.  Add the rest of the nut mixture.

Bake for about an hour.  This dish goes well with gravy.  It is also a great veg dish to serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Nutritional Requirements

Some people workout and “diet.”  We seem to go through fad diets like “no carb” diets.   Check out this photo I took at a bookstore recently:  get thin by cutting entire food groups out!  Ugh…

If you balance your diet, you can have a bit of everything.  In this article I briefly write about the US nutritional requirements.  Since I am moving to the UK in the near future and have friends in the UK, I also provide some information about UK nutritional requirements.  I end this article with a formula you can use to figure out how many grams of protein, carbs and fat you should have in your diet.

The following are the types of food we need each day to stay healthy:  grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans.  The US government provides guidance for evaluating food which can be found on the following website:

Below is the breakdown of the food groups based a 2,000 calorie diet (click on the photo below to zoom in):

The food groups in the chart above are self-explanatory but I did want to make note of grains and oils. These are all foods made from wheat, rice, oats, or barley such as bread, pasta, oatmeal, and cereals.  Whole grains are optimal.  Additionally, oil is important in your diet because you need it for energy.  Examples are oils from fish, plants, nuts, olives and avocados.

In 2005, the Recommended Daily Allowance, or RDAs, in the US were replaced by Dietary Reference Intake or DRI.  The DRI provides for 50 recommended nutrients.  Those include 14 vitamins such as C, D, E, K, folic acid, beta carotene; 18 minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, sodium, potassium and chloride; and 18 macronutrients such as protein, carbs and fats.

For my friends in the UK, I have done a bit of research into the nutritional requirements.  The US, UK and Europe generally have the same nutritional requirements so this is relevant information for you.  The RDA of foods for minerals and supplements has traditionally been set up by the government in a country.   In 1991, the UK issued a report and revamped its RDA with Dietary Reference Values or DRVs which consist of these terms:

  1. Estimated Average Requirement (EAR): which should meet the requirements of half the population
  2. Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI): replaces the former RDA which represent the nutrient requirement for 97% of the population
  3. Lower Reference Nutrient Intake:  nutritional requirement for those whose needs are low

More information can be found on the following website:  I also find it amusing that when you click on the  nutritional requirements section of this website, it clearly states that “[f]at, protein, carbohydrate and alcohol provide energy.”  The US pyramid chart doesn’t include alcohol in this way.  Ha!

In all seriousness, from a nutritional standpoint, alcohol in moderation is thought to prevent heart disease.  The UK website states that   “[a]lcohol should provide no more than 5% of energy in the diet, but as some people do not drink, DRVs were calculated for diets containing alcohol (total energy) and not containing alcohol (food energy).”  The US website provides separate studies on alcoholic intake.

General requirements for carbs, proteins and fat are as follows:

Carbs:  the primary role of carbs is to provide energy.  Recommended daily allowances are 45% – 60% of your caloric intake

Proteins:  the primary role of protein affects supplies of essential and nonessential amino acids in the body for supporting your muscles.  Recommended daily allowances are 10% – 15% of your caloric intake

Fat:  fat is not bad for you as long as you educate yourself as to what kinds of fat are beneficial.  Like carbs, fat provides energy in the body.  Body fat is important to insulate the body and serves to carry vitamins through the body such as essential fatty acids.  Recommended daily allowances are 20% – 35% of your caloric intake.  Fat intake may be higher for athletes.  Another important note is that it is recommended to consume 5%-10% of fat from omega 6 fatty acids (olive oil, chicken, pine nuts, flaxseed) and .6%-1.2% of omega 3 fatty acids (dark leafy veg, salmon, mackerel, tuna, flaxseed oil).

Here’s a calculation you can use to determine how many grams of carbs, protein and fat you should have in your diet:

First you need to know your daily energy requirements.  To calculate your energy requirement, multiply the following:

Weight x 24 hours x 1.3 calories (for every kg of body weight 1.3 calories is required every hour)

If you weigh 120 pounds or 54kgs calculate the following:

54 x 24 x 1.3=1684.8 calories is your daily caloric intake

If you work out, each hour of training requires 8.5 calories.  Therefore if you train for an hour:

54 x 1x 8.5=459 additional calories are needed

The total energy requirement is 2,144 calories.

The energy yield per grams of carbs, protein and fat are the following:

Carbs:  4 calories

Protein:  4 calories

Fats:  9 calories

If your daily caloric intake is 2,144 and you require 45% of carbs in your diet, here is the calculation:

Carbs: 45% of 2144 = 946.8 calories; 946.8/4 calories/gram =241.2 grams of carbs per day

Use the same type of calculation for proteins and fats.

If you stick to this kind formula you are bound to stay health and trim.  Everyone likes the occasional slice of pizza, beer, wine, CAKE! (we all love cake right?), but it’s all about moderation.

Stay happy and healthy!

Kara had a baby 7 months ago and has run a PR (stands for “personal record”) in this year’s Boston Marathon.  She’s my inspiration to get back into running.