BambiRunsBey42K: The Training Begins

This is the 1st installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Warm-up Weeks
The first two weeks of the NRC Beirut Marathon training are done meaning we’ve got a few more months until #BambiRunsBey42K. Seeing that there are a lot of marathon newbies in the group (myself included), these were considered the warm-up weeks to the intense training that will kick-off as of this week. Every time the coach would say that, my brain would say, “Ha. It’s a warm-up. That’s cute.” and then I’d wring out my sweat-soaked jersey.

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Taken by Ricardo Chalhoub

Cross-Training on Off-Days
To properly train for the marathon, we need to cross-train on the off-days when we’re not running around Beirut. Cross training activities should be aimed towards strengthening our core and lower back muscles, mainly upper body since our legs are being put to the test the rest of the week.

I opted for swimming but my breathing and technique need work so we’ll see how this goes. I also need to add some lower back exercises after feeling the pressure building right above my bum as our distances got more demanding by the end of week 2. What can I say, Bambi got back.

Mark

Long Slow Distance Sundays
We’re tackling long slow distances 1x/week. During these runs, each NRCer runs at their own pace while also learning to be a self-motivator. Week by week, the long distances will get longer so the stretches when it’s just you & the road will get longer too. This also means that every Sunday, I’ll be hitting a new longest distance.

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NRC in Salaata, July 17, 2016 – Taken by Ali Itani

Our first long-distance Sunday was in Salaata, a town right before Chekka. Our starting point was 10K followed by a 12K in Mar Mikhael yesterday. You’d think that waking up early would be the most challenging part of this (sleep in your activewear, then you’re half done when the alarm goes off!) but it’s actually the heat of July/August. Which brings me to my next point…

Fuel & Hydration
The dedication that this training takes seeps into all aspects of your entire lifestyle. The way you eat, the hours of sleep you get, and how you think can all impact your performance and stamina on the track. We have to make sure we eat good carbs, drink lots of water, and refuel wisely. Avoiding alcohol the night before a run is advisable because of the high sugar levels and rewarding ourselves with honey chipotle chicken strips after a 10K is counterproductive. A banana and water will do.

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I’ve got to say though, some days I just want to have a halloumi bacon sandwich followed by an old fashioned doughnut smothered in sugar glaze. Luckily, none of the doughnut shops here do it right. That, and I can already feel my lighter weight translating to being lighter on my feet.

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Bambi Stats & Mini Victories
When I started running with NRC in December 2015, I could barely make it past the warm-up kilometer without needing to stop to walk. However, during week two of BM training, I ran 7km nonstop and I felt like a BEAST. My main goal now is to shave seconds off my pace. Based on the last 6 months, it should see a major shift after this program.


Just for Kicks

Every ~350K, you need to get a new pair of running kicks so that your feet get enough support and shock absorption. I used to think this was a marketing ploy to get you to buy more sneakers but after yesterday’s 12K, my shoes have hit over 310K and my feet got destroyed. After that much mileage, the cushioning is worn down and the soles start to suffer. With the numbers we’re adding to the roster, it looks like I’m going to run through 3 pairs by November. But it’s okay: the cost of being healthy, safe, and active is less than that of the hospital bills you’d be stuck with otherwise.

The Mental Madness

After the back-to-back training runs, I’ve come to accept that I will be spending as much time with my NRC family as I will with my own and that’s saying a lot considering I work/live with my parents. Previous participants say that the 42K is not as scary as it seems and I’m trying to think of it as a less intimidating series of four 10K runs instead of one long endless marathon. You’re going to need stretching/potty breaks in between anyway, no?

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Upon leaving the office to head to a Friday session, dad asked if I was running every day. When I explained that we were training for the 42K, he said, “but that’s like…from here to Saida. HOW are you going to be able to do that?”

I’ve got 16 more weeks to make sure that I can.

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Embrace Mental Illness: A Helpline that Could Save Lives

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Being an ex-pre-med student, I have a handful of doctor friends who keep me in the loop about the state of our country when it comes to health and public services. One of my besties is a psych researcher at AUBMC and besides his tendency to diagnose anyone we meet on the fly, he is part of a department that is providing a special kind of aid to a chunk of our population that is kept under wraps. He tells me that so many of these cases are manageable if patients get the right treatment, medication, and care. It’s not like having a damaged liver or a ruptured appendix; many conditions can’t be solved in one episode of Grey’s Anatomy. They require long-term maintenance. Although they are linked to brain chemistry, mental illnesses are more abstract but also very intertwined with our region’s opinion of them. There is empathy for cancer patients but not for those with a debilitating mental condition even though both are medical scenarios not in the person’s control.

Let’s talk numbers:

  • Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death in young adults ages 15-29.
  • More than 90% of suicides are people who are suffering from mental illnesses that can be treated.

But that’s globally, it’s different in Lebanon…

Actually, our numbers are even scarier. Based on an unpublished study conducted by the Embrace Fund and the Psych Dept of AUBMC, it’s estimated that, in Lebanon, one person dies of suicide every 2.5 days. 

International stats say that for every completed suicide, there are 10-20 suicide attempts. In Lebanon, that would mean 1 attempt every 5 hours. What we must keep in mind is that these statistics are based on reported figures; there are other cases that may have been kept hush-hush so, knowing that suicide has a social and religious stigma and is not talked about openly, this number could be higher in reality.

The most alarming part of this is that it is avoidable. Not only is suicide a social taboo but so is mental illness. We are too quick to label therapy as “treatment for the unstable/crazy” and deem it as unnecessary if you consider yourself “normal.” Those who wish to seek help feel ashamed rather than comforted which further damages the healing process. It takes courage to reach out and be vulnerable. As a community, we should create a supportive network for our fellow humans instead of making them think twice about seeking assistance.

The Embrace Fund is doing its best to combat this way of thinking and the first step is by creating the first emotional crisis and suicide helpline in Lebanon. This helpline is focused mainly on suicide prevention but also “emotional support, risk assessment, crisis intervention, linkages to local services, and follow-up for persons with potential suicide risk factors.” Those working at the call center would be trained professionals who can be a lost person’s guiding light.

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Right now, Embrace are in the planning & development phase: adapting and translating training material to Arabic, finalizing standard operating procedures, monitoring & evaluation plan, referral system coordination with the Ministry of Public Health, national conference and key stakeholder interviews, and ongoing fundraising.

Sounds like they’re on the right track but how can I help?

Embrace is having a fundraiser shindig at Myu this Tuesday night. It’s $60/person for 2 premium drinks or $120 for open premium bar and seated dinner. There’s live entertainment, good music, and, more than likely, lots of attractive people. Tickets available here.

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Mental illnesses are not reserved for any type of person, we are all equal when it comes to matters that affect the brain. This is an initiative that could help your best friend, your boo, or you. You can spend the 60 bucks on an overcooked steak dinner or you can spare your arteries and put it into a fun night on a rooftop that will finance a service greater than yourself.

It’s a harsh world out there, if we’re the city that parties our troubles away, let’s prove it.

Support Your Girls: Invest in a Decent Sports Bra

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Like many other females, I would spend wads of cash on the lace & silk pieces from Victoria’s Secret but skimp when it came to activewear; I couldn’t justify dumping so much lira on undergarments that were going to be worn at the gym and eventually soaked in sweat. I’ve been reading up on the effects that running and hardcore training have on your body and one red flag went up when the articles started mentioning boobs.

Everything I read, I could relate to. Needing a bra that was secure enough to support the girls while allowing you to breathe and keep you dry, a bra that didn’t irritate or exacerbate chafing, a bra that was comfortable yet didn’t remind you of your grandma’s laban cloth bags in terms of style and material. For me, it was always too tight, too loose, or too…wet.

Next thing I know, I’m reading reviews on sports bras, realizing how many bad ones I have in my drawers, and worrying about my Cooper’s ligaments.

Wait, what are Cooper’s ligaments?

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These are the connective tissues in the breasts that help them retain their form or structural integrity. Basically, they’re the suspensory ligaments you want to strengthen to avoid having flapjacks with age. Many different factors can affect them but running and training without proper support can exert intense force on these tissues speeding up their deterioration, a problem that can be avoided.

Not only do bouncy boobs affect their shape in the long run (pun intended) but they also affect your form when running. Subconsciously, you may be altering the way you run to decrease bounce and you’re more likely to get injured because of this. According to Runner’s World, “Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in England found that excessive breast movement can result in heavier, injury-promoting landings.” Running and training without thinking about your girls would allow you to focus on what’s important: improving your pace, breathing, and stride.

Sports Bra Shopping Criteria Recap

  • Snug Factor: being aware of how tight is too tight, the bra should be supportive yet comfortable. You don’t want to feel like your bust is going to bust out.
  • Breathability and Sweat Absorbency: the material should keep you clean and dry, a bra that wicks away the sweat while staying in place is key
  • Workout Intensity: get the bra that corresponds to your workout regimen, what bra you need depends on whether you’re doing low-key strength training sessions or high impact sprints
  • Style: make sure you feel good in the bra you buy, it’s the most subtle form of motivation when trying to get/stay fit

5 Events for 5 Causes: Beirut Summer 2016

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Courtesy of Stokpic

We’re halfway through the summer as of today but there’s plenty on the calendar until September. Summers can be expensive with all the visitors, weddings, and beach entrance fees. But if you’re looking for a way to have some fun while still doing some good, put your money towards a cause and check out the below:

MONDAY JULY 18th
17th Kunhadi Taxi Night
Seven Sisters, Beirut Waterfront

Kunhadi, an NGO that promotes road safety and combats drunk driving, has been doing these parties for quite a while. This time, in partnership with Pepsi, Kunhadi is hosting its 17th Taxi Night at the hip open-air Seven Sisters at the Beirut Waterfront. As the tradition goes, you are not allowed to drive to Taxi Night and the ticket price covers the round-trip to & from your house. Given the horrendous traffic jams out there, I would gladly fork over the money for that peace of mind alone. Tickets are being sold at Malik’s but hurry up because you’ll need to book your rides 48 hours in advance to avoid delays.
Sponsors: Diageo, Zaatar w Zeit

WEDNESDAY JULY 20th
ZWL Documentary Screening
Metropolis Sofil, Ashrafieh

The documentary “A Zero Waste Lebanon” will be showing at Metropolis followed by an interactive sharing session. It’s free entrance but you need to get there early to snag good seats since it’s first-come, first-serve. The documentary, stemming from garbage superhero Ziad Abi Chaker, tackles our lovely trash crisis and presents a simple solution that can be implemented. Go watch, participate, and volunteer your braincells so we can get this country on track.

THURS JULY 21- SAT JULY 23rd
Karama Beirut Human Rights Film Festival
Metropolis Sofil, Ashrafieh

This film festival focuses on films that put human rights issues (just to name a few: child abuse and exploitation, workers and unemployed rights, mental health and social care, HIV/AIDS, LGBT rights, human traffickingat the forefront of their story lines. The festival includes a seminar titled “The Others” and tackles racism & the refugee crisis in Lebanon. Entrance is free and you can check out the program here.

TUESDAY JULY 26th
Embrace the MYUsic
MYU, Dora Seaside Road

This fundraiser is for Embrace, a group working towards establishing the first Emotional Crisis and Suicide Prevention Helpline in Lebanon. I’ll be writing a full post on this initiative in the next few days so stay tuned but in short, it’s a hotline for those who need help and can’t find any when they need it most. Suicide is more prevalent here than we’d like to believe making it all the more necessary to get this up and running. Tickets can be purchased from Virgin (stores or online).

SUNDAY AUG 21st
City Picnic Beirut
Beirut Hippodrome

You can’t bring your own food and drinks so it’s not exactly the definition of a picnic but who wants to haul a cooler full of melted ice from the car anyway. This isn’t directly for a charity, NGO, or fundraiser but it is in support of our green spaces. It’s important to show our municipalities and officials that the people make use of these properties and that they can also be used for commercial purposes. I know that being outdoors in August isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but there will be food, drinks, and shade. It’s pet-friendly too. Tickets are sold at the door for $10, $5 for kids.

City Picnic is in partnership with Virgin Radio Lebanon.
Sponsors: Dolly’s, XXL Vodka Mix – LB, Mike Sport, Trident , LBCI Lebanon and Grand Cinemas Lebanon

One Year of El-Tanein Diet: 52 Weeks Later

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When El-Tanein Diet began, it was supposed to be a 6-month test to turn my life around and rectify the damage that my office job had done to my body. Once I had hit the 6-month mark, I wasn’t satisfied with where I’d reached and I extended it another 6 months. It was all in the hope that I would keep improving instead slacking off once the recording stopped.

If I were to assess my progress based on the original goals I had set for myself when I started ETD, I wouldn’t be able to strike through every single one of them. However, I will report what I did achieve because it’s even better than what I had in mind one year ago.

Below are the goals I hit + wins I didn’t see coming:

Went to a dietician and committed to a new diet: I wasn’t shedding pounds before I got my portion intake in line and started being conscious of what I was ingesting. Now, I’m slimming down, toning up, and my visceral fat percentage is in the safe zone. I didn’t want to admit that food was a big part of the process but it is. Only when I changed my diet did I really start seeing the results of my workouts.

Worked my way up to 7kg weights at my strength training classes: Up from 3kg, I don’t plan on going higher since I have a naturally muscular build so reps>weight for me.

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NRC’s Monday Beginner Session

Became a regular member of NRC: As Adriana Lima said, “For those who hate running, I’m sorry, but it really does the trick. I notice that my body really transforms from even just 30 minutes a day. If you don’t like doing it, find something to motivate you—cute new workout clothes, an amazing playlist, a great scenic path, or a [fitness] buddy.” The Brazilian hottie has a point. Running with this group has changed my opinion about it as a sport. Plus, I got my best 5K down from 39 to 35:13 and I regularly run at least 8K/week total. That wouldn’t have happened without NRC. I’ve even participated in races and I’ve graduated from shorts-for-men to the teeny tiny shorts for women. #ChubRub


Running 10Ks at the crack of dawn:
The road trip runs that were planned periodically with people who have contagious energy surprised me every time. Even now, when a run is proposed, I confirm before giving my brain time to punk out. The NRC group and the endorphins that accompany the runs give me the release and boost I need to push through the week. The workouts wear you out so sleeping is easier but they also make you feel better, faster, and stronger.

Gym/activity becoming a necessity: This may be because of my need to escape work and the daily drudgery that accompanies Beirut life but any form of exercise has become a much needed release. It’s my me-time where I can unplug and be one with the road. The pitch in Mel Gibson’s What Women Want pops in my mind whenever I’m running anything more than a 5K and all I can hear is my own breathing.

Running in foreign cities: I was once a person who would travel and chuck my gym routine out the window when abroad. Even if flying for work, I would enter vacation mode and eat my way through recommended restaurant lists. When in Barcelona, I depended on walking to stay fit. That doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, I’ve tried to be more selective about meals that are worthy AND I’ve taken the gym with me by using runs as a portable workout that also grants you free tickets to a resting city. Morning light has never been so flattering.

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Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy at 7AM (June 2016)

Registered for the Beirut Marathon 42K in November: I NEVER thought I would sign-up for such a thing voluntarily, much less commit to an intensive training program to prepare for it. But I have. I initially wanted to sign up for the half but Mark, NRC coach, convinced me that I might as well give the full thing a shot since I’ll be training for it anyway. If I feel like I can’t make it, I can always stop after 21K.

As a follow-up to this series, I will track the struggle, the pain, and the literal steps forward in a new biweekly series titled “BambiRunsBey42K” covering the marathon training that starts today. This series won’t be solely about my headway because it will be a NRC program: we operate as a team meaning their successes matter just as much as mine do.

El-Tanein Diet Week #52

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This is the final ETD report. Happy to say that I’m down 2.5% body fat and, as promised, a new series is coming as a follow-up. I’ll divulge more on that in the ETD recap post that will be published later today.

Workout Tally

– 3 NRC runs
– 30min elliptical

Outdoor Activity

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The NRC team was turned away from doing drills parallel to the Zaitunay Bay boardwalk (shocking) so we headed over to the Beirut Waterfront. I prefer its fresh asphalt anyway even if it’s not ideal for planking. Scuffed up forearms are nothing a little coconut oil can’t cure though.

Nike+ App

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I had some makis from Sushi Circle – a mango crab salad and 5 pieces. Gone are the days where I’d order by the dozen. Is it the diet or could my tummy actually be shrinking?

Other Highlights

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Eid in the South: Besides waking up at the crack of dawn to head to the border, the Eid breakfast and BBQ lunch was a good mid-week pause away from the city. We forget how much beauty this little place has until you ignore the emails, drive away from the office, put your phone down for a second, and just see it.

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Iris Beach Club: After last year’s successful day in the pool with vodka watermelons, we decided to have a repeat visit in 2016. Iris is one of the private pricey beaches in Damour; however, I designate one or two expensive beach days a month when/if deemed worth it. In other words, when it’s with a big group of friends who aren’t usually here or for special occasions. Blame it on the expats.

Workout Track of the Week

 

Cheese of the Week

I had manchego cheese with truffle oil at Bar Jamon this week. I miss Spain.

El-Tanein Diet Week #51

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So we’re coming up on the concluding week of ETD. It’s time to go HAM at the gym & on the streets with NRC to go out with a bang. But fear not, the effect of ETD will live on with a new identity. After next week’s final post and recap of ETD, I will start a new series to track my marathon training journey. Half marathon, that is.

Workout Tally

– BodyPump, 30 min elliptical
– 5K NRC Run
– (2) 30min elliptical

Outdoor Activity

We had a 5K run in the midst of a sticky Tuesday. I made a bad judgment call and wore pants and sleeves. Let’s just say it’s time to invest in some new summer gear because our climate causes you to develop an aversion to any unnecessary additional cloth or insulation.

Nike+ App


Best Meal of the Week

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image from Cheesecake Factory website

It wasn’t a meal. It was a couple of bites from my mom’s birthday slice of red velvet cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory. I wanted to be guilty but it didn’t work. If you ever have this, avoid the white chocolate frosting edge. It’s better without it.

Other Highlights

Hishik Bishik Show at Metro el Madina: A tribute to 1920s Egyptian cabaret. It was good but I want to check out Bar Farouk, Metro’s Lebanese version, and make a comparison. Hishik Bishik is on until August and the team will be putting on a full show with a symphony orchestra for this summer’s Byblos Festival. As hipster as Metro may be, they’ve got lots of shows that’ll change up the usual evening plans of boozing in Mar Mikhael.

Workout Track of the Week

Cheese of the Week

Appetito Trattoria in Hamra just got a new shipment of burrata from Italy. WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING AT HOME? Go eat.