I hinted last week that something pretty darn awesome was coming to the blog today, and the time has come! But first, we need to get all deep and feely for a few minutes.

Last Tuesday I turned 29. While spending a really lovely weekend visiting my dad in Victoria, I had a chance to look back on the past year at how I’ve changed. It seems that in this latter half of my 20s, every year seems to be an even bigger learning experience. 28 was no exception. There have been a number of new influences that have entered my life, altering what I choose to think and do, what I choose to be a stand for and who I spend my time with.

Looking back, there were also some key realizations and mindset shifts that have happened. Due to the fact that much of what I’m passionate about falls under the health and wellness category, it won’t come as a surprise that the learnings are about those topics.

Angela Simpson - culinary nutrition expert and blogger at Eat Spin Run Repeat

Goals to gain instead of goals to lose

At the beginning of 2017 I set a goal to become my strongest and fittest yet. After a number of events (chronically low iron, a few injuries, etc) made me challenge whether or not continuing along the endurance sports road was the right thing for me, I decided to make a shift. I put lifting weights as my primary focus. It’s an area I’ve understood the importance of, yet still put on the back burner as an endurance athlete.

Fitness

For so many years I was all about cardio – mileage numbers, times, heart rate monitoring, calories burned, and sufferfests – long bouts of training that left me feeling completely exhausted afterwards. I think a lot of long-distance athletes use the fact that more time doing cardio = more calories burned as justification for eating ALL the time – sometimes the right foods, and sometimes the wrong foods. Admittedly, I used to take comfort in knowing that as long as I was getting my morning miles in and achieving that oh-so-familiar runner’s high feeling, I could pretty much eat however much I wanted. I was burning plenty of calories to compensate – my heart rate monitor told me so. Combine that mentality, constant stress on the gut due to exercise AND repeated bombardment with huge quantities of high-fibre fruits and vegetables, and it’s no wonder my digestion was a disaster. More about food in a second.

Back to the strength training thing. In my own experience described above, and in the experiences of so many other people I know, fitness has become about a reductionist outcome. It affects both genders, but particularly women Pushing our bodies harder and harder to lose an inch off the waist. To achieve slimmer thighs. To lose 10 or 20 pounds. We get trapped in a mentality of wanting more, doing more, buying more, burning more – all for the desired outcome of looking and weighing less. This isn’t the way things should be!

Angela Simpson - culinary nutrition expert and blogger at Eat Spin Run Repeat

That whole reductionist mindset has had me doing a lot of thinking. Having personally fallen victim to it several times during my 20s, not to mention my own 60lb weight loss in my late teens, switching to an opposite approach of setting goals related to gaining something rather than losing something was partly what motivated my 2017 goal of being my strongest ever. What would what life would look like if I focused on gaining? Gaining strength, mobility, power, and the ability to do things my body couldn’t do before like chin ups, snatches – even something as simple as a below-parallel squat.

We still have 4 months to go in 2017, but so far I’ve seen my own body transform into one that is so much physically stronger than it was last fall. I’m logging far fewer miles, have seen the weights I lift increase significantly, witnessed positive changes in my body composition, and the limited mobility I used to have in my hips and hamstrings from so much running and cycling has improved tons. The former cardio junkie in me would never have believed all this would be possible without training harder and longer. But it turns out that actually giving something new a chance and trusting the process for a while can lead to some pretty impressive results. Oh, and taking rest days (really taking them). Humbling? Absolutely.

Nutrition

As I mentioned above, the combo of decreasing my cardio time and being more careful about fibre intake in order to let my digestive system really do its job was a game changer. Other nutrition shifts included reintroduction of red meat and chicken (the sustainably-sourced, organic + hormone/antibiotic-free kind). What didn’t feel right about those things once upon a time actually seems to be serving me better now. I’m sure that the additional iron intake is partly responsible for my much healthier lab results as of late, as well as my improved energy and alertness.

Angela Simpson - culinary nutrition expert and blogger at Eat Spin Run Repeat

Gut health, sleep and stress

We all know that holistic health extends far beyond fitness and food. In my 28th year, I truly noticed the impact of sleep, relaxation, stress reduction and social connection on how I felt. With digestive health being such a hot topic right now, studies are showing that things like sleep and stress have direct impacts on the gut microbiome. In the past year I’ve made some solid efforts to evolve myself in all these areas, as opposed to just thinking about health in terms of working out and what I eat.

I have to say that I truly feel healthier, stronger and more energetic than ever. Of course, not every day is an awesome day, but at least now when I’m feeling less than ideal, I know that I’ve probably let one of these less-sexy-but-just-as-important things slip.

Angela Simpson - culinary nutrition expert and blogger at Eat Spin Run Repeat

What I know to be true (at least for me in this moment)

To sum up my learnings as a now-29-year-old:

  • Exercise should enhance who you are, not deplete you. The motive behind it shouldn’t be purely to lose or become smaller, because that just makes us less of who we are and we were all made to live great big, exciting, fabulous lives! Instead (or perhaps also) we should ask what it can help us to gain.
  • Don’t be afraid to give something new a chance.
  • We use labels because the human brain likes to categorize things into boxes as a memory tool. Runner, vegan, Crossfitter, triathlete, paleo, yogi etc. But no matter how long you’ve had a label, don’t be afraid to shed it if it doesn’t feel right any more.
  • Nutrition is simple. Regardless of whether you’ve got weight to lose or some other nutrition goal, choosing MORE real, whole foods will eventually crowd out the ones that are probably slowing progress.
  • If gut health and digestion are a problem, chronic cardio and doing high intensity training too frequently could be the culprit. If you think those areas are dialled in, consider sleep, stress and your social connections. The gut needs rest to do its job, and no amount of expensive probiotic supplements or juice cleanses are going to change that.

Angela Simpson - culinary nutrition expert and blogger at Eat Spin Run Repeat

SO.

Now that I’ve had you reading for long enough, let’s have some fun, shall we?

I wouldn’t be as excited about all of the things I’ve just talked about above if I didn’t have people like you to share it with. Having you along to share these experiences with is THE BEST, and I’m so thankful that you guys take the time to join the conversation. So in the spirit of self evolution, holistic health and being our best selves, I’ve partnered with some of my favourite companies to bring you one of the biggest giveaways in Eat Spin Run Repeat history.

Here’s what’s up for grabs:

(Note that the photos aren’t reflective of the exact products in each package because I didn’t have everything at the time of taking these.)

Vega Sport Prize Pack (1 winner, CA + US residents eligible)

Vega Sport Performance Protein, Electrolyte Hydrator and Sugar Free Energizer - Eat Spin Run Repeat

Navitas Organics Prize Pack (1 winner, US residents eligible)

Navitas Organics Essential Blends and Daily Superfood Boosts - Eat Spin Run Repeat

Raw Elements Prize Pack (1 winner, CA residents eligible)

  • Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with Cordyceps and Chaga (1 box of 10 packets)
  • Four Sigmatic Hot Cacao with Reishi (1 box of 10 packets). This stuff is so amazingly relaxing, I’m sure it will quickly become part of your night time routine!
  • Dandy Blend Instant Herbal Beverage with Dandelion (100 servings). I’m not a coffee drinker, but Dandy Blend is a fantastic alternative to coffee, and I looooove this first thing in the morning with breakfast! Dandelion is amazing for detoxification and this powder dissolves instantly in water.
  • Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener (1 bag classic, one bag golden blend). As the name suggests, monkfruit is a fruit and this calorie-free natural sweetener is made by extraction from the fruit. It’s has zero impact on the glycemic index and can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio for sugar. I love that it has no aftertaste, and also comes in a golden version which works in any recipe that calls for brown sugar.

Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixirs and Hot Cacao - Eat Spin Run Repeat

Anti-Inflammatory Eating 101 Guide (3 winners, open to anyone!)

3 winners will receive a free downloadable PDF copy of my latest guide, Anti-Inflammatory Eating 101. This includes all the must-know info about inflammation, why an anti-inflammatory lifestyle is beneficial, a meal plan and easy recipes to try.

Anti-Inflammatory Eating 101 - Your Essential Guide by Angela Simpson, Eat Spin Run Repeat

Here’s what to do to enter:

  • Leave a comment below telling me about one of the big learnings or mindset shifts you’ve had related to health and wellness this year.
  • Bonus entry: Follow me @eatspinrunrpt, @vega_team, and @navitasorganics on Instagram. Be sure to comment below and tell me you did.
  • Tweet about this post and leave a separate comment below with the link to your tweet. Something like…

Angela Simpson - culinary nutrition expert and blogger at Eat Spin Run Repeat

This giveaway will be open all week until Friday August 25th at 7pm PST. All winners will be contacted via email. Good luck, and thank you again for your amazing support!