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Former NFL Player Discovers Vegan Diet

              Friends and co-workers pick at me often because I’m constantly making tweaks and subtle changes to my diet.  This is in large part due to the fact I am always learning something new that can further optimize both my workouts and my overall physical health. 

                One of my oldest friends, Alvin Pearman has a similar mentality.  Alvin and I went to the same high school and spent countless summers as workout partners while I was in college and he was preparing for his final high school seasons.  I graduated three years prior to Alvin, then he went on to break nearly every touchdown and rushing record at our high school.  He finished his career as the all-time leader in rushing yardage for Mecklenburg County in North Carolina.  He earned a scholarship to the University of Virginia and finished a brilliant career as the school’s all-time leader in pass receptions by a running back, as well as posting 1,938 all-purpose yards in his senior season, the fourth highest total in ACC history.

                In 2005, Alvin was selected in 4th round of the NFL Draft, #127 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.  He spent five seasons in the NFL with the Jaguars, Titans, and Seahawks (where he would meet his future wife during time off due to a knee injury).

                Beginning the latest chapter in his life, Alvin has become more serious in educating himself about his diet and nutrition.  While neither of us enjoys being categorized or labled, his latest pursuit has taken him down the path of a Vegan diet. 

                Since I have been down this path myself (and am headed there once again as of this writing), I asked him to share part of his story and some of the things he has learned so far:


(1) Compared to now, what was your diet like as a high school and college player at Virginia?

In high school, my diet consisted primarily of meats and starches. In college, the cheapest food definitely outweighed the healthiest food- especially when I started living off campus. Chicken Parmesan was my staple meal of choice. 


(2) When did you decide to switch to a more vegan/vegetarian approach?  What was your motivation?

For the last few years, I have become increasingly aware of the environmental and physiological benefits of a whole grain, plant-based diet however I was reluctant to make the switch due to the physical demands of football. Specifically, I have always had a difficult time maintaining the weight that I felt I needed to keep. Once the season would start, I would find myself loosing the weight I packed on during the offseason. I was afraid that if I stopped eating meat, I wouldn’t be able to maintain the weight I needed to for football. I finally made the switch to a whole grain, plant based diet when I hung up my cleats and transitioned away from the game in September of 2010.


(3) Were there any books that were key resources in educating yourself?

Three books that drastically influenced my diet are "The China Study", by Thomas M. Campbell and T Colin Campbell; "The Food Revolution", by John Robbins; and "7 Pillars of Health", by Don Colbert.



(4) What sort of physical changes have you noticed since the change?

The first thing that I noticed was my core body temperature decreased. When I was single, I would keep my house at 67 degrees. Once I got married, my wife and I compromised at 70 degrees. Once I made the diet switch, I soon felt more comfortable around 75 degrees, which made my wife happy. This may sound weird but I actually feel more in tune with my body. I seem to be more sensitive to what my body needs. I have also dropped about 15 pounds to a weight I feel more natural with.


(5) What does your meal plan menu look like on a typical day?

Sample day:

Early morning: Whole grain oatmeal with strawberries, bananas, and soy milk.

Mid-morning: cashews, carrots

Early afternoon: spinach salad with apples, cranberries, pecans,

Late afternoon: whole grain toast with hummus, pear

Early evening: quinoa with sweet potatoes and avocados

*3-4 quarts of purified water daily.





(6) Are you still able to stay active and have productive workouts?

My workload has dropped drastically since transitioning away from football. Gone are the 5-day-a-week, 4-hour, grind-till-you-can't-think-straight workouts and in are the 3-day-a-week, 30-minute maintenance workouts. My goal is no longer to be as strong or as fast as a possibly can, rather it is to be as healthy as I can. My workouts are productive and I have high energy levels throughout the day.


(7) How has your wife reacted to the change?

She's been supportive. Meals are always interesting since she cooks most often and still eats meat. She will normally prepare a meal and make some meat for herself on the side. Yesterday I had vegetarian chili with brown rice and she cooked ground lamb meat to put in her chili. Besides the tree hugger jokes she throws at me, we have a pretty good balance.


(8) Is this something you might teach to your son (just a few months old as of this writing) as he gets older and learns about nutrition and eating habits?

I will encourage my son to make informed decisions with what he eats.


(9) In your opinion - why are more college and NFL players hesitant to go this route?

I believe most college and NFL players are hesitant to go the vegetarian/vegan path due to fear and misinformation.


(10) What has been the most difficult part of your transition so far?

I am reluctant to label myself as a hard pressed "Vegetarian". As a dinner guest, I won't allow food to get in the way of fellowship. In other words, if I am presented with a meal, I will not turn away food that has been prepared for me- even if it includes meat.

A difficult part of my transition was moving away from the idea that a good meal is prepared quickly. We have found that we need to be more intentional with our prep time and cook time in order to make a flavorful, nutritious meal. I have grown to appreciate this time and dinners have become more of an evening experience with my wife.



While some may feel that a vegetarian or vegan diet is not optimal for them, it’s always important to learn as much as you can about the human digestive system and what foods work best for your body.  Alvin comes from an athletic family (his father was our Track & Field coach, and his wife was a Track & Field athlete in college) so to some degree he will always be an athlete. 

                I am admittedly biased as his friend, however I think Alvin is a positive example of someone who continues to pursue not just optimal athleticism, but optimal health overall.  He has certainly inspired me to be more diligent about my nutritional pursuits as I learn more about what constitutes vegan nutrition.

                You can also learn more about Alvin Pearman’s latest venture in the world of photography.



Fitness Spotlight: Demi Goodman

For this edition of the Women's Fitness Spotlight, I wanted to highlight one of the butt-kicking instructors from the Charlotte YMCA system - Demi Goodman.  Not only does Demi put together dynamite fitness classes, but as you'll see, she is also currently in-training to earn her pro card as a Figure Competitor. 


After fielding so many of my endless questions about her diet and training, she was generous enough to take time out for a quick interview:


What event/contest are you currently preparing for?

Currently I’m getting ready to compete for a Pro Card in the NPC National Masters Figure in Pittsburgh
this July. Figure competitions highlight a conditioned physique, with fuller muscles. Yes it is similar to

bodybuilding, but not as vascular or lean, and slightly more feminine with competitors wearing high
heels, jewelry, hair, make- up, the works.


In what events have you competed in the past?

Track and Field, Junior High and High School
2001- Galaxy Nova (military obstacle course)
2001- NPC Mountaineer, 2nd Place Figure
2002- NPC Metrolina, 3rd Place Figure
2004- North Carolina State Bodybuilding, Figure and Fitness, 6th Place figure
2010- Elite Muscle Bodybuilding, Figure, and Fitness, 1st Place figure


What’s your athletic background?

I’ve always been athletic and played all kind of sports but concentrated mainly on Track and Field. I was
on the track team in Junior High and High School and qualified for State Finals during my high school
years. I ran mainly short sprint events, 4X 100 m relay, 200 m, 100 m, as well as the Long Jump.


What sort of classes are you currently teaching?

I’m currently teaching Athletic Conditioning, Total Strength, Core, and ROC IT circuit at DOWD, Childress
Klein and the Ballantyne Village YMCA. I’m also certified to teach spin, but I haven’t had enough time in
my schedule to get started yet. I’ve also been a personal trainer for about 12 years with the Childress
Klein YMCA and recently started training at the Ballantyne Village YMCA. Between the two Y’s as well as
a few home clients, I’m staying very, very busy with personal training.


What’s does a typical day look like for you?

Whew, my days are usually pretty busy, at least for the first half of the day. Generally I get up about
4:30 a.m., to get ready to teach a class and/or train clients. After that, I head off to yet another gym
to get my own work out in. I usually hit weights for about 45 minutes, and then proceed to do a round
of cardio for 30-45 minutes.

I will do a second round of cardio later in the evening (around 7:00ish) for
another 30-45 minutes or so. I don’t do two rounds of cardio every day in the offseason, but when I’m
getting ready for a show, this becomes a daily ritual.

 For fun, I play flag football every Tuesday night on a co-ed team with my husband. I’m the quarterback blitzer as well as a receiver and periodically the quarterback as well. Because I’m on the field for the entire game sprinting, I get an easy hour of cardio in! As well as I get to let off a little steam!



What is your diet like most days?

My diet stays pretty healthy all year round. I eat around 6 meals a day which look a lot like this:

Meal #1 - 5 egg whites, 1/3 cup of plain oatmeal
Meal #2- Low carb protein shake, with 1 tbsp. of omega peanut butter

Meal #3- 4 ounces of lean chicken, fish or red meat, with either potato, rice or quinoa, coupled with a nice, small salad

Meal #4- Low carb protein shake
Meal #5- Chicken, fish, or turkey, with some type of vegetable (no starches here)
Meal #6- Protein shake (good to do before bed, helps the body from getting catabolic)

For competition, I eat A LOT of fish throughout the day for the first half of the week, and then switch it
up to chicken on other days. It is so boring and bland, but it really helps the body burn off any kind of
extra fat you may have while maintaining lean muscle. During my offseason, my coach has pity on me
and allows me to have 2 cheat meals (not days) on the weekend. I generally don’t go too nuts, but it
does help keep me sane. However, when it gets about 2
½ months out from competition, those cheat
meals are taken away. It’s time to get really serious!!!!

Are you a fan of cycling your carbs or keeping them low in general?

I like how I look when I keep the carbs low, but my energy level is so much better when the carbs are

Are you a fan of “empty stomach morning cardio” or not? Why?

For me, no, I have a pretty tough tummy and usually can get down a low carb protein shake since
it absorbs pretty quickly. I need to eat in order to have enough energy to power through the more
strenuous cardio I have to do while prepping for a show. And I do not believe in fat burners. Yes they
give you energy, but they can really mess up your adrenal glands. However, because of my class and
client schedule, I don’t usually do cardio (outside of classes that I teach) before I train with clients so
unless it’s the weekend, I usually don’t have time to do cardio first thing in the morning.


What’s the one cheat food you can’t live without?    

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I have a sweet tooth, so instead of narrowing it down to a specific food, I will
just say, I have to have a sweet treat on my cheat days. It could be a couple chocolate chip cookies, or a slice of really good cheesecake. Whatever it is, I enjoy it since I only get to cheat twice a week.


What’s your favorite exercise/activity?  What’s your least favorite?

I LOVE to lift heavy! I have made some of the best, most significant changes to my body by lifting with
heavier weight. As far as a favorite weight exercise, I’m going to say pull ups. Again, by consistently
doing these over the years, my body has developed good, solid strength and nice muscle. My arms,
back, shoulders, and core really have benefited greatly from this movement. As for a cardio activity,
I love, love, love to jump rope. I can go for a straight hour especially when I have some good music to
listen to.

My least favorite would be running long distances. I have such respect for folks who can get
out there and just run, but I’ve never been good at it.

If you could send a message to women out there about eating right, being afraid of weight training, etc. what would it be?

1.) Women need to be weight training period! Yes, cardio is very important, but I see so many “skinny fat” girls (really thin, but high body fat) because they do not participate in any kind of weight training, it drives me nuts. I just want to tell these girls, step away from the elliptical and pick up some iron!!!!

2.)  Another thing I would share is when you hit your 30’s, keep an eye on your hormone levels. If your hormones get even a little out of “whack”, it can totally effect how you look and feel. I have seen so many women struggle with their weight even though they were eating well and exercised consistently. But because something was off in their system, they were not reaping the rewards of their hard work, at least not visually. So, if you are in your mid 30’s and beyond, and have begun to notice you are actually back sliding ( start to gain weight even though you’ve been eating right and exercising hard), it may be time to see your doctor and inquire about testing your hormone levels as a possible culprit.

3.) Last bit of advice, take time off from the gym! Don’t over train! Doing high intensity athletic conditioning classes, for example, every day of the week is overtraining. If you don’t allow at least one day away, your body will never have a chance to recovery thus setting you back. Trust me, a day of rest will do absolute wonders for your body and your mind!



Fitness Spotlight - Kelly Fillnow

My initial aim was to introduce this in the same theme as other Regular People features, however it seems apparent that the days of calling Kelly Fillnow "regular" are long gone.  

Kelly Fillnow is a fellow Davidson alum with a very interesting path that brought her to present day.  There are quite a few recent pieces both print and online (all very well-written) that outline her unique road from college tennis star to cross-country team walk-on to Ironman triathlete, so I won't attempt to re-tell her story once again.

Anyone who competes at the level Kelly does cannot be called "regular" anymore, however as you will see, Kelly is still a normal person whose drive and dedication made such great achievements possible.

Fresh off of competing in her first Ford Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, Kelly was gracious enough to make time for an interview with me. 


1. First of all, how was your experience in Kona? 

No words can truly capture the experience of competing against the world's best endurance athletes.  It was an experience that I will remember for the rest of
my life. I had such a surplus of emotions circulating in my brain
moments before the cannon went off, as I had no idea how the rest of
the day might unfold.  But I kept telling myself that the work was
done, and my journey was almost complete.  All I needed to do was just
enjoy the day and the results would take care of themselves!

2. As a dual-sport athlete in college, was there ever a point where
you could feel your emotions shifting from Tennis towards Cross
Country, or was it always an equal balance?

Tennis was always my first love, but there was something that intrigued me about running
when the sport came so naturally to me.  I had no background in
running (besides running as a punishment in basketball, soccer,
softball, and tennis growing up.)  I had quick success in cross
country, while daily balancing three hours of tennis practice with my
run training.  My Davidson cross country coach inspired me to try and
get a scholarship to compete post-Davidson.  She encouraged me to see
where I could take the sport, without having to balance two sports

With her encouragement, I competed for Duke during my
5th year of NCAA eligibility.  It was a dream come true, practicing
with some of the best runners in the United States.  I have the same
struggle now, as I am attempting to balance both running and
triathlon.  But to truly be the best you can be, a decision has to be
made and a sport has to be chosen to pursue.  Excellence is hard to
reach while juggling multiple sports demanding such specific & diverse


3. As another former dual-sport Davidson College athlete, my
“nutrition” was 99% junk food. Did you have a more disciplined
approach to your nutrition back in college or did better eating habits
develop during the latter years?

During my high school years, my mom
took care of providing the most wholesome, delicious meals for my twin
brother, and me. 

*(editor's note: Kelly has a twin sister Meghan who was also a college tennis star at Davidson and is still an amazing athlete as well. More on her to come from Kelly below.)

We typically trained about 3-4 hours of tennis a
day, so our bodies needed proper fuel.  She would make well balanced
meals consisting of protein, vegetables, a starch, and then a loaf of
bread per person because we would always fight over the bread!!  When
I went to college, I had to make the decision myself to eat healthy.
I made wise decisions at the dining hall where I ate all my meals, and
began to get interested in nutrition in order to properly fuel my body
for optimal performance.  I wanted to be the best that I could be, and
in order to do that, I needed to be as metabolically healthy as
possible, and nutrition plays a huge part in that state.


4. What does a typical training day look like for you, including
meals, workout, post-workout nutrition, etc?

There really is no such thing as a typical training day, except for Mondays and Fridays when I
swim for an hour and do light lifting/core. The rest of the week is
very diverse.  Some days I will have an intense 90 minute computrainer
ride and an additional 60 minute swim.  A weekend day might be a 4
hour bike ride and a 30 minute run with intervals at race pace.  But
the training load changes throughout the year depending on if it is
triathlon season, and I have to be on my bike, or if it is winter
season and I am focused on just running and swimming.


Normally I eat about 6 times a day, at the very minimum every three hours.  I need
the constant fuel because of my rigourous training schedule.  Quality,
quantity, and timing of nutrients is very key to recover properly
between my workouts, as some days I will be having multiple workouts.
I like to eat about 20 minutes after I finish my workout to optimally
refuel my depleted glycogen stores so I can be ready for the next day
or the next workout.  I try to eliminate processed foods, and focus on
whole grains, lots of vegetables, fruit, and lean protein.


5. For early morning workouts are you a fan of breakfast
pre-run/workout or just coffee/empty stomach?

I actually don't drink coffee!  When I do a light morning workout, I do not have to eat
anything, but if it is anything over an hour, I definitely eat
breakfast pre-workout.  I have an iron stomach, so I can literally eat
and run out the door.  I do not recommend that to most people though!!


6. What’s your eating approach (ex: carb load, etc) in the final 24-48
hours before a big competition or race? What about in the hours
immediately after?

My eating approach is to eliminate fiber the last 48 hours before a big race.  Two days before the race I focus on lots of carbohydrates, lean protein, and lowering my fat intake.  I always have a few tablespoons of honey at breakfast 48 hours prior to the big day. 

The day prior to the race, I have a big breakfast, an energy bar like a Clif bar for a snack, then a big, carbohydrate friendly lunch. I eat dinner between 530-6 and prefer to have a sweet potato, grilled chicken, a low fiber vegetable, and bread. 

My favorite post-race splurge is a calzone from Mellow Mushroom and a large oreo cookie blizzard from Dairy Queen.


7. What’s the one food/desert that you still can’t give up, no matter

 I love my ice cream, low fat of course :). 


8. What’s your advice for someone who might be thinking of attempting
a new challenge like a half-marathon or sprint triathlon (or even a
simple fitness class) but hasn’t found the courage yet?

 I truly believe that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to
accomplishing.  I have witnessed countless clients who have not even
been able to run two minutes, compete half marathons!

This past weekend, I was truly inspired by my twin sister, who had a goal to PR
in her marathon (3:04).  She ended up getting sick to her stomach and

started vomiting at mile 19, ten times before she finished the race.
She had a goal, however, and her mind overcame her body's inability to
function properly, and she hit a new PR of (3:03), solely because of
her belief and desire to achieve her goal. You will be surprised what
your body can achieve when you stay positive with yourself and stay
patient in the process of development.

I think it is very important to set goals for yourself, and write them down.  Then, tell a friend or your husband or a coach so that they can help keep you accountable along the way.  The hardest part is taking that first step.  But once you take that first step, there is no limit to what you can
accomplish.  The most important thing is to enjoy the journey along
the way!


Fitness Spotlight: Regular People - Volume 3

It's been a while since I have highlighted an everyday person that provides a great fitness example for the rest of us, but I met one recently in Philip Ciccarello

We "met" originally through Twitter, which is one more testament to the power of social media.  By day, Philip is the Director of Technology for the Charlotte Regional Partnership, an economic development organization. His real passion however, is running.

As you can tell by his photos - Philip is a very in-shape dude.  His blog highlights a wide variety of things, but among them you can find shoe reviews, and several informative running/training recaps.  He's also a fan of the post-long run ice bath (which I can attest is one of the true signs of both physical and mental toughness).

I'm always up for learning new things from people more experienced or knowledgable than me, and Philip has put me on to a couple good online training programs for my upcoming half-marathon, in addition to the littany of running information on his blog.

I hit him up recently for a look into his typical day's approach to nutrition around running workouts, and he was good enough to share:

"Most of my diet is very clean though. Try to eat a lot of vegetables, potatoes, rice, whole wheat breads, chicken, fish, and fruits. Basically I *try* to stay away from fried foods, high fructose corn syrup, pre-processed foods, red meats, desserts…it’s tough. Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally fine to cheat on your diet once a week, but that’s where it should stop."
My Monday – Friday diet looks something like this:
6:30 Workout – coffee or vitamin B
8:15 Breakfast – either bagel or oatmeal (the real kind) w. peanut butter or cereal if no workout
10:00 Snack – Fruit or some nuts
12:00 Lunch – Usually a turkey sandwich on wheat bread with cheese and chips (with multi-vitamins)

3:00 Snack – More fruit
5:30 Run – depending on the day either a light to moderate run or speed work
7:30 Dinner – Pasta, Chicken, Fish, Potatoes, Vegetables and once a week sushi

His long runs are typically Saturdays, preceeded by a pancake dinner Friday night for carb loading, and usually a bagel or toast an hour or so in the morning pre-run.  For anything longer than 13 miles, he'll bring a Gu gel for consumption 45 minutes into the run.  

Post-long run, he may use Gatorade to get simple carbs back into the system and feed the drained muscles.

You can also learn a little more from his interview with RunnerDude's blog back in July.

Philip is one more example that despite having a regular everyday job and busy schedule, you can make time to get out on the road or in the gym for exercise and still find balance to fit it all into your lifestyle.

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