Running and Fasting... a 21 Day Journey to Spirituality and ... hunger!

I'm hungry Yo!

Like seriously, I'm hungry. As I type this out, my stomach is growling in protest. And, it's only a little after 5 o'clock...in the morning! Thank you LORD for coffee! It's my only saving grace!

When Pastor David (Pastor David Stine, Lead Pastor, Metro Church) mentioned we were doing a 21 Day Fast as a church, I must admit, I was a little excited. Both for the spiritual journey it might offer, as well as the nutrition protocol experience.

Being a nutrition coach, I love testing various, different nutrition protocols. I have faith in my standard tried and true method of eating mostly whole, fresh, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, and/or beans and legumes and that's always where I start for beginners. Everything else is irrelevant until we get the basics down. But, there are times, when a little extra "push" is needed. When a client has the basics down and is still not seeing the results they want. That's when I reach for a non-standard protocol. And, intermittent fasting is one such protocol I keep in my arsenal. But we will chat about that in a bit. First, let me start with the spiritual journey. 

I have known about God for most of my life.

But, I certainly didn't "know" God. My background centered around my parents making me go to Sunday School and Church service when I was younger (though they didn't attend with me). That was about it. As a family, we didn't practice regular bible readings, prayers at mealtimes or take part in any religious discussions around the dinner table. 

Throughout my early adult life I wasn't involved in church and I didn't actively practice any religion. I was pretty much indifferent to it all. Agnostic. I assumed the things that happened in life were simply due to circumstances, luck, hard work (or lack thereof) and coincidence. My belief stayed that way until my late 30's, when I met my husband, Ken. 

Ken slowly started to share with me how he thought God was active in my life. He introduced me to "mini" prayers at meal times and to Joel Osteen. Although I was still a skeptic at large, I listened. I noticed. I observed. I became aware that things started to turn in my favor when Ken told me he prayed about our circumstances: Zara (my now 4 year old) was accepted into the daycare near my work right as my maternity leave was ending (though she was on a long waiting list). My early retirement from the Air Force was approved - this would allow us to live together as a family instead of Ken living in DC and me living near St. Louis MO (though it was clearly an exception to policy that people told me would never be approved). My house sold within weeks of being put on the market (though it wasn't a seller's market and many other houses in my neighborhood had been on the market for months and they were not selling). Ken received a promotion at work (though a few months earlier, there didn't seem to be any position open to promote to).

Could all these things merely be coincidence?

Then, one Sunday morning, out of the blue, Ken asked me "Do you want to go to church today?" I laughed and said "Where?" He mentioned that someone he was in school with (he and I are both currently working toward our second graduate degree in Leadership and Management) had told him about the church she attended and invited us to attend as well. It was this "new" type of church. Non denominational. Loud music. And, there was even a Starbucks on site. What?! Starbucks. That's all you had to say. "Sure. Let's go." I replied. And, I guess you could say, the rest is history. We loved the church, the environment, the atmosphere, and the children's ministry. We've never felt so welcomed and at home in any other church. And, after attending for about 6 months, we became members. 

But... I digress... back to the 21 Day Fast.

The church-wide, 21-Day Fast began Sunday, January 15th. Paster David's intent for this fast was simple: When we fast and pray at the beginning of the year, we release the principle found in Matthew 6:33:

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.''

He encouraged the church to set the course for 2017 by devoting the first few days of the year to prayer and hearing from God! And, not only that... it got better! He also announced that his newest book "Hearing from GOD: 5 Steps to Knowing His Will for Your Life" would be released at the same time. This book included a 40 day challenge for how we, as followers, can position ourselves to hear from God!

This was for ME! Exactly for me!

I had struggled in this area of my faith. I desperately wanted to know God's purpose for me, but I struggled to hear His voice. How could all this be coming at a time when I so desperately needed it? Coincidence? Nah... 

coffee.jpg

And, so it began. My husband and I started our 21 Day Fast on Monday, January 16th. And, we decided to fast breakfast. The idea is to give up something and replace that something with prayer and scripture. So, by giving up breakfast, I afforded myself an hour to prayer and scripture in the early AM. About that only time in my life when I get peace and quiet... and, coffee! Yes! Coffee! Since we get up bright and early at 3:50AM (yes, you read that right!), we break our fast at around 11:00. Sometimes 11:30, sometimes 12:00.

And, now, we enter day 10!

And, honestly, it hasn't been that bad. Of course, I'm hungry, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my prayer and scripture time. And, more importantly, I have heard from God. He's directed me in so many important aspects of my life. From the direction of my coaching business, to a particular book on my bookshelf that needed a revisit to having people speak directly to me and reaffirm that I am on doing His will. I've asked a question or struggled with a problem early in the morning, only to find the answer given to me via a passage in a book I felt called to pick up later that night.

I encourage you, if you are struggling to hear from God, check out this book. Block off some quiet time and listen for His guidance. 

So... on to the running part. How does fasting affect my running? 

Well, as it turns out, I am smack in the middle of half-marathon training for a race that I have pretty high goals for. And, yes, more than once I have laced up my sneakers with a belly that begged for nourishment. Although I normally do train fasted (i.e. I don't eat prior to running...), I guess the deficit of calories is catching up to me. I wake up really hungry and run hungry. However, besides being hungry, only twice has fasting had an impact on my running. And, it turns out, it was totally my fault. I had let my carb intake drop too low. So, once I adjusted that, I was back on track. And, hey, I've even lost a couple of pounds, though I totally wasn't trying to. 

What does my running schedule look like during this fasting period? 

Monday - Legs and Core

Tuesday - 1 x 60 minutes at 7:52 pace; finish with 6 x 20 second strides

Wednesday - Legs and Core

Thursday - Easy Run - 7 miles at 8:44

Friday - 2 Mile warm up; 7 x 3:00 @ 6:41 pace with 2:00 recovery between; 1.5 mile cool down

Saturday - Easy Run - 6 miles @ 8:44

Sunday - Long Run - 1 x 11 miles @ 8:44 pace; finish with 6 x 20 second strides 

As you can see, I am logging some more intense workouts. And, again, other than an oversight on my carb intake for a couple of days, I haven't had any problems maintaining speed or endurance. Side note: I don't add Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) to my diet during my fast. 

As with anything, your mileage may vary.

My biggest piece of advice: Monitor your macro intake. Since you are cutting out an entire meal, and maybe even a snack, you might notice a decline in endurance and energy levels if you don't make up for those calories. 

Will fasting for breakfast guarantee weight loss?

No. As always, that's more of a scientific equation. Calories in must always be less than calories out to lose weight. Is it used to reduce body fat in certain nutrition protocols. Yes, but that is something that requires some pretty specific tweaking and personalization. 

If you are looking for a spiritual journey to push you past your normal limits, this is one I recommend! 

In fact, I like the extra time and mental clarity that I have in the morning so much, I am going to extend my breakfast fast to 40 days (although I will break fast early on my half-marathon race day - 18 February). 

Share with me, how do you connect with God or the Universe? What spiritual journey are you on? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Trails! 

Val