Lexi started Superfood Runner 2 years ago in June of 2015. At the time, she was running competitively for Amherst College, mostly competing in long distance events (3k, 5k & 10k). I (Beth) coached her throughout high school, so we have always shared a special bond when it comes to running and nutrition, which I always made a priority in my coaching program. When we both discovered we are intolerant to dairy & gluten, we had to essentially reprogram our bodies & make significant dietary changes, which eventually led us to follow a plant focused diet.
She.is.beautiful: What is the most challenging part of eating more plants?
Eating out, especially in mixed groups, can definitely be a challenge if the restaurant is geared more towards more traditional dietary choices. We’ve come to learn that it’s important to be able to adapt and prepare ahead of time when possible, but also to go with the flow when necessary.
Another challenging aspect can be consciously incorporating sufficient plant based protein into your diet. Even more importantly, we have to make an effort to include iron rich foods into our diets more often, especially in periods of high intensity training.
SIB: How has eating this way influenced how you feel in your everyday life? Has it had any influence on your running or fitness?
Beth: It really helped to reduce some of my menopause symptoms. I also feel that I have a lot more energy and a clearer mind. I used to suffer from severe headaches, stomach distress, and skin rashes almost daily, but they immediately began to clear up when I switched to a plant focused diet and haven’t been nearly as bad since.
Lexi: For my entire first year of college, I struggled with severe stomach issues that prevented me from competing to my ability. When I adapted my diet to eliminate gluten and dairy, I immediately noticed significant changes in my daily life & my ability to compete as an runner: more energy, fewer stomach “episodes”, better mental clarity, and more happiness, of course.
SIB: Tell us a bit about your running backgrounds.
The running gene is strong in our family! Beth’s grandfather is in the Athletic Hall of Fame at Miami University in Ohio for running. He was undefeated in Cross Country during his collegiate years, and at one point, he was ranked in the top 7 in the nation for the 2 Mile. Her father was All State multiple times in High School and qualified to nationals while competing collegiality. Beth’s grandfather and her uncle were the first father-son duo named to the Coaching Hall of Fame in Ohio, and her uncle still coaches. He coached current running phenom, Emily Infeld, when she was in high school.
Beth: Back in high school, I was actually the first woman to compete in cross country at my high school. I started the women’s team by convincing a bunch of my friends to join, and went on to qualify for State Finals the first and second years I ran. After high school, I ran for a year in college at Miami University of Ohio, but after 2 stress fractures in the same foot, I changed gears a bit and took up long distance cycling/racing instead. In 2009, I took over as the head women’s cross country coach at Lexi’s high school. In two years, we went from last in our region to first in our region, sending the whole team to State Finals for the first time in many years. I stayed there for 5 years, and then moved on to my son’s all boys Catholic School as their first ever female assistant coach for cross country and track. Our team won back to back State Titles in Track, and the 4 x 800m relay team was All State, setting the school record in the process. Lexi’s brother, Bryce, who ran for the team is now competing for Ashland University in Ohio.
Lexi: My running career technically started in 3rd grade, when I beat out all of the boys in our school mile competition while wearing a dress (true story). Fast forward a few years; basketball was my primary sport (I’m 5’10”), but after a successful Freshman track season, I decided to fully commit to running. 3 years and one All-State title later, I headed to Amherst College in MA, where I competed mostly in long distance events (3k, 5k, 10k). It was certainly a tumultuous four years (far too many injuries), but I was still lucky enough to have the opportunity to qualify for NCAA’s 3 times with my amazing teammates, and was the NESCAC 10k champion in 2015. After a year off from running to heal a bone spur, I’m finally ready to start training again!
SIB: As a mother-daughter duo who is passionate about healthy food, how do you think mothers can lead daughters to live a healthy life without being too strict or critical about health?
Beth: I think it is important to lead by example, and to not worry so much about food. If you are leading a healthy life in all ways: exercise, eating, mentally, you shouldn’t develop unhealthy relationships with food. It is ok to indulge a little and enjoy life if most of the time you are making the right choices for your body. When we are constantly trying to deprive ourselves of things, we are setting ourselves up for failure and unhappiness and this message gets passed on to others. I don’t always love how everything looks on me, but I also don’t talk about it in front of my daughter. I think a lot of mothers make this mistake of always saying that their thighs are too fat, or their butt is too big, or they ate too much, or they have too many wrinkles. Women judge themselves and each other a lot, and when we do this we are teaching our daughters to do this as well.
Lexi: Growing up in a world of omnipresent social media, where the “norm” is to be thin and beautiful, makes it difficult to avoid succumbing to the pressures of diets, fitness fads, etc. For people my age, I think it’s all the more important to have a strong mother figure in your life that steers you away from all of that online pressure. My mom has always emphasized health and strength over anything else, whether that meant getting enough sleep, or taking more rest days, or even treating myself to a massage every once in a while. It’s important to remind daughters that health and wellness is not about your physical appearance, and it’s certainly much more than dieting and eating the “right” foods.
SIB: What is your favorite plant based dessert and what is your favorite non-plant based dessert?
Our favorite plant based dessert is vegan cheesecake made with cashews. They’re actually pretty easy to make and are easy to customize with different fruits, chocolate, layering, etc. Our friends and family are always shocked to find out they’re eating cheesecake without any dairy!
Our favorite non-plant based dessert is probably anything covered in real caramel! It’s actually easy to make vegan caramel from coconut cream and it’s delicious, but it’s just not the same as the real thing!
SIB: What keeps you motivated to eat more plants and why do you think it’s important?
Beth: My mother, who passed almost 8 years ago, led a very unhealthy life. She had many health issues and many were self-induced from poor dietary and lifestyle choices. She was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes for the last 4 years of her life, and during that time I resolved that I would learn something from the experience. I ate very poorly during this time and my health suffered greatly. It motivates me to want to be as healthy as I can for my children so that they don’t have to live with the choices that I made.
Lexi: Every so often, I go through a period where I eat really unhealthy for a week or so (hello, vacation), and I’m always reminded afterwards why I need to eat more plants! My body simply feels better when I’m consuming more fruits and vegetables, and I’ve been sick enough times to know that I’d rather avoid the foods that disrupt my health. I’m a strong believer that everybody is different- the same thing that works for me may not work for someone else- but I think we can all agree that plants are a vital part of any diet.
SIB: What does living your healthiest life feel like?
Living our healthiest life feels like waking up and getting to do what makes us happy every day, and inspiring others to do the same for themselves. “Healthy” means something different to each person, and its definition changes and morphs over time. To me (Lexi), my healthiest life a year ago meant doing everything in my power to recover from an injury. Today, my healthiest life means doing what I can to reduce my stress, whether that means taking a day off or organizing my schedule. Whatever your current definition of “healthy” is, take time each day to make sure you’re doing what you can to make yourself happier and healthier.
Check out Lexi and Beth on Instagram: @superfoodrunner and stay tuned to Part 2 and Part 3 as Lexi and Beth share some great recipes and insight on how to incorporate more plants into your life!