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Kansas Beef Endurance Team promotes healthy lifestyles

Published 5/29/2012 in Beef Empire Days

By SHAJIA AHMAD

sahmad@gctelegram.com

Kelly Chanay admits she was never a long distance runner growing up.

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Courtesy photo Garden City resident Kelly Chanay, right, shown with her husband Jeff, is a member of the Kansas Beef team, comprised of athletes who live healthy lifestyle by combining physical activity and a nutrient-rich diet full of lean meats, especially lean beef. Chanay, a child nutrition consultant, runs between 25 to 35 miles per week when she is training for half-marathons.

Courtesy photo Garden City resident Kelly Chanay, right, shown with her husband Jeff, is a member of the Kansas Beef team, comprised of athletes who live healthy lifestyle by combining physical activity and a nutrient-rich diet full of lean meats, especially lean beef. Chanay, a child nutrition consultant, runs between 25 to 35 miles per week when she is training for half-marathons.

The Garden City resident, who played volleyball in college and ran track in high school, said the longest she ran in her early years was a couple of miles at most.

Around the age of 30, Chanay started running with a friend who also happened to be a personal trainer.

The Kansas native said her running partner pushed her both mentally and physically, ultimately triggering her own passion for the high-level exercise.

"Running is very therapeutic. It helps me, and it's a great stress reliever," Chanay, who runs half marathons a couple of times a year and logs about 15 miles each week in her off-training, said. "I run in the early mornings. It's so calm and peaceful and so relaxing, and you can hash out things in your mind."

Today, the 39-year-old is a member of the Kansas Beef Endurance Team, a group of athletes who hail from across the Sunflower State and promote healthy lifestyles by combining physical activity and a nutrient-rich diet full of lean meats, especially beef.

Chanay runs in races across the state, clad in her Kansas Beef Council-sponsored sports jersey. "BEEF," is written in large, capital red letters across the front.

"One of the benefits of being part of an endurance team is that it kind of connects people. When I'm running in a race, there will be other team members or people in the crowd, who'll say 'Go beef!'" she said. "It's nice because you instantly identify, and it also helps you feel like you're part of a group. It's very encouraging and (the team) offers a lot of support. It's also a lot of fun because people don't really expect to see a beef jersey in a half-marathon race."

Chanay, who has been a part of the team since its inception about two years ago, also happens to be a child nutrition consultant for the Kansas Department of Education.

The licensed and registered dietician said beef has played an important nutritional role in her long distance running and training. As part of the Beef Endurance team, it's Chanay's role to help actively spread the word about lean beef's health benefits.

"I've grown up eating beef, and — especially when you move out to southwest Kansas — you cannot not eat beef," she said. "I really started to see the value and importance of beef when I started getting into distance running. A lot of misconceptions with a lot of runners is an emphasis on carbs. Carbs are important, but sometimes distance runners forget the benefits of lean protein. ... Once I started implementing the lean cuts of beef into my diet, I found that I felt better, I performed better, and not just while running, but throughout the day. I felt more satisfied, and I wasn't hungry all the time."

Chanay, also a certified diabetes educator, said the protein in lean cuts help with muscle recovery, which is important for many endurance athletes. In addition, lean beef provides a host of essential nutrients, including zinc, iron, phosphorus, and B-complex vitamins.

"It's a great source of iron for female runners, especially young female runners," Chanay said. "That's very important. ... Young women runners need to be aware of that and not be afraid of beef."

Adequate nutrition combined with a healthy lifestyle — Chanay works out about six times a week in the very early mornings, running 25 to 35 miles a week when she is training for races periodically throughout the year — has proven to be beneficial for the Garden Citian.

Chanay also was diagnosed with high blood pressure at the age of 32. Running has helped her keep her blood pressure in check, she said.

"It helped me get off my medications, with running and CrossFit exercise," she said. "The strength training is really important for all runners, as well. When you incorporate strength training into your workout, that lean protein source becomes even more important. Without it, you wouldn't be able to (weight lift)."

As part of her exercise routine, she often goes on runs with her 12-year-old son, Mason, who is learning to love 5k races, Chanay said. The family also runs some 5k races together, with her husband, Jeff, tagging along, too.

Despite the bad rap red meat has received in recent years by some health organizations, the expert on diet and nutrition said it's a critical part of her diet that's made her life healthier, and can help others with their health issues, too.

"I think what happens is when you're eating too much of any one particular food or nutrient, it squeezes out a lot of others. The really important thing is getting a well-balanced diet. You can go overboard with any type of food group or nutrient," she said. "What we really stress is moderation — variety, balance and moderation. Runners shouldn't be afraid of protein sources like lean beef. It certainly helps fuel and support an active lifestyle."

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