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Interview With a Plant-Eating Athlete On-The-Run

Posted Oct 13 2011 9:00am

Running Shoes This week I’m kick-starting what I hope to be the first of many interviews with fascinating people eating plant-strong food to fuel rich lives.

Today’s guest, Brooke Magni, is an old teammate of mine from high school track! Ahh the good ole’ days. :-)

Thanks for sharing your story Brookie, welcome to!

Elisa: Hey Brookie why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself.

Brooke: I am a mother of a 2 1/2 year-old wild child, 3 furry children (aka: very large dogs) and a wife. Presently, I take 12 college credits, work part-time, and help to coach the Franklin and Marshall cross country (XC) women’s team.

I run somewhere between 30 to 40 miles a week and I also bike about 30 miles per week. Most weekends I run races anywhere from 5k to a half-marathon. I have competed in a gazillion road races (5k to 10k), 4 half marathons and 1 full marathon.

I was finding that post-pregnancy I had a bit of extra weight hanging around and I was constantly lethargic. I was always feeling inadequate and run-down. I could barely keep up with my classes, much less a small child/husband/job, etc.

Since switching to a mainly plant-based life style I have experienced an almost 180-degree turn around.  I find that my energy is way up, I get a higher quality of sleep and I just feel all around better throughout my day. My race times have also gotten back to (or close to) my p.r.’s from high school. I have also avoided injuries, which I was chronically experiencing before.

Elisa: What inspired you to eat more plant-based meals?

Brooke: I was influenced to try a more plant-based lifestyle by some of the college athletes that I coach as well as the easy access to fresh and local foods that we have in Lancaster county. I have always been an adventurous eater, but this experience has made me truly appreciate the fertility of the area. I also want to set a good example for my son and husband. I believe the best way to influence another is by your own actions.

Elisa: When did you start eating a plant-based diet?

Brooke: I started to eat a more plant-based diet during the spring of this year. In April, I quit my night shift job as a hospital admissions specialist, and with this more normal schedule of actually being functional during the day I wanted to take full advantage of what the bounty of summer had to offer. My son and I also loved exploring local farmers markets and Lancaster’s central market. When I was offered the coaching position for F&M cross country, I decided it was really time to get in shape and cut out a lot of the junk that I was eating before.

Elisa: So what changes did you make to your diet?

Brooke: As for changes, I decided to follow a few simple rules: If I can’t pronounce the ingredients, I don’t eat it. If it doesn’t resemble a shape or color that is found naturally: I try to put it back. Pretty basic, but it works.

Elisa: That’s awesome! What did you eat previously and what does a typical day look like now?

Brooke: Previously I found that I was snacking a lot on stuff that was highly processed and made of completely unnatural ingredients. We were also drinking a lot of our calories, which is totally worthless. While I was working night shift, there was not a lot of good stuff that was available so I found that I consumed a lot of empty calories, even if I tried to take decent snacks along with me.

Now, my diet revolves around a lot of whole grains, fruit, and veggies. I also have tried a bunch of new stuff like almond milk and soy products. I usually start with oatmeal or a whole grain bagel with home-made peanut butter or jam, lunch is typically a salad with fruit and a grain (I love wheat berries on salads) and balsamic vinegar. Snacks are mostly fruit or granola. If we have a big workout in the evening I usually throw in a locally made peanut butter cookie (oats, honey, raisins, pb) and tea. Dinner is usually a soup or stir fry. I absolutely cannot get away from the evening snack and I have found that I am totally in love with sorbet and gelato.

Elisa: What sort of running and training do you do as a runner?

Brooke: Since August I have done most of my weekly training with the XC team. We typically do distance days on Monday and Wednesday, a track or XC workout of 5 to 7 miles on Tuesday, a distance or pre-race easy day on Friday and race or hard workout on Saturday.  It seems like most Saturdays I am running races, so I usually take Sundays off.

Thursdays are my bike only days (spin class for 45-60 mins– 20 miles). Tuesdays I make my intense days with a spin class in the morning (15-20 miles) followed by a hard workout in the afternoon. Right now, most of my races have been 5k, but I also threw in a 1/2 marathon a few weeks ago. (At which point she killed it with a time of 1:29.20.)

Elisa: It’s incredible that you can keep up with college workouts! Have you ever experienced a lack of energy eating this way while being so physically active?

Brooke: I have actually found that my energy has increased. I won’t lie and say that I have gone completely vegan–we do sneak some meat in about 1 time per week, but I would say that 90% of my diet is now plant based.

Elisa: What outcomes have you witnessed in your body, your health and your athletic performance since adjusting your diet?

Brooke: For outcomes, I found that I have finally taken off the last of the baby weight and I have gained back a lot of muscle tone. My running times have also improved drastically (5k in April was 21:02, 5k in October down to 19:04; half marathon last Oct 1:36.40, this year 1:29). I am also able to come back after a hard workout and run the next day, when before it took me a few days to recuperate.

Elisa: What did you struggle with most when initially changing your diet?

Brooke: The main thing that I have struggled with is finding time try new things. I have done much better lately, but some days it is still a pain to prep food, make it, clean up, etc and still have time for the billion other things I have going on at the time. It is so much easier to grab something out of a vending machine or the microwave.

Elisa: How have you dealt with this challenge? Any tips for us?

Brooke: I have simply MADE more time. Delegation is key. I have put Frank in charge of some of the dinner preparations, and allowed for more flexibility. I have also found some stands at our local farmer’s markets (Roots and Green Dragon) that carry pre-made pasta/quinoa/bean salads that are at least vegetarian if not vegan. It is so easy to add them as a side or even an entree. It has taken some research, but all in all worked out pretty well. My main tip would be to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.

Elisa: Are you glad you made the switch?

Brooke: I am totally glad I made the switch. Like I said before, I have not gone totally veg 100% of the time, but we are getting closer and closer.

Elisa: What suggestions do you have for others looking to transition to a whole food plant-based diet?

Brooke: I would absolutely suggest a plant based diet to anyone! And even better–find new ways to go local!

This is good stuff, I love it!

If you have an experience we can learn from, send a brief description to

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