Recovering from injury – story of a self-treatment

I never really trusted doctors and consider them as a last resort rather than the remedy to every problem. I am glad to have friends that are doctors. That helped me to get advice from people I trust not because of their education but because I know by other means. Of course, not all doctors are bad and you might get lucky. But until now, experience shown that many are driven by many factors that are not related to your well-being (mass-thinking, return on investment, fear of lawsuits, etc). For my last injury, I did not use the doctor after the day of my CT-SCAN. I just recovered by listening to my body.injured

Most of the time, medical advice is useless: your body is designed to recover from most injuries and issues so that if you give it enough time, it will recover. Many countries do not over-medicate their patients and have a better life expectancy (compare the Netherlands with the USA), healthier people and spend much less on medication. This should also show that medical advice is not always related to better treatment. For sure, in some case, looking for medical support is not questionable. But in proportions, many health issues do not need any support (again, think again of The Netherlands where the doctor likely send you home without any treatment and just ask you to come back if things get worse in the next few days – which almost never occur).

There is no magic: for most injuries, you just need to let your body heal, rest. Medication or special treatment could improve but could also make things worst. That is why understanding and trusting your body is more important than anything. Many consider the physical therapy as a must-do but as a matter of fact, they will rather decrease the balance of your bank account than the recovery time (for example, in France, we do not use it, only serious injury go to dedicated rehab centers).

This post is not a medical advice. I am not a doctor and I have no knowledge on what is good or bad for anybody. I really believe that every case is different and this is by understanding how your body works that you can treat injuries. I hope that I have learned enough about myself so that I know how to recover from an injury. I wanted to share this story because it might give idea for others. But in any case this is a prescription and this post will not replace expert advice.

The Story

It was nice morning, ready to hit 7 to 9 miles in Frick Park and go for barbecue afterwards. I was meeting a new trail runner freshly met on social media. Roads and trails were icy and of course, did not put add any traction or screws. The run was great and, at mile 7.3, when coming back on the parking lot, my foot hit an icy spot and I fell and crashed on the ground.

At first, it was not possible to stand up. It took a minute or two. When standing up, I was feeling I was about to pass out. But it already happened during runs or ultras,where you start to be outside your comfort zone. No big deal. I walked home, thinking it will eventually go better. I went for lunch but was barely able to walk. I did not want to go to the Emergency Room but after few hours, I had to face reality. I was seriously injured.

After spending 4 hours in the hospital, the diagnosis was simple: a public ramus fracture with multiple muscles contusion. According to the doctor, the expected recovery time would be at least two months. When leaving the hospital, I was told that I will not be able to stand the day after. Less than 10 hours after, I was moving on my crutches. It was the start of the healing process.

The expert diagnostic

At first, the doctor from the Emergency Room recommended a special therapy from the UPMC Sports Medicine. Having been at UPMC sports medicine twice before, I was not convinced but gave it a shot. My experience was then the same than before: I waited 90 minutes to see a doctor for 5 minutes. Before the visit, a student came and asked me the kind of activities I was doing. During this discussion, he discovered that it was possible to run more than 50 miles a week, which makes me wonder if this place was appropriate to recommend a treatment.

After a few more minutes, the doctor came and finally asked me to come back in 6 weeks if it did not go any better. He recommended physical therapy treatment at the UPMC Sports Medicine. His prognostic was that it should recover in 2 to 3 months. Nothing else, even not an explanation of my CT-scan. Great.

futurama-injured

Establishing a Recovery Plan

I just decided not to follow the physical therapy and to avoid coming back again. This was basically just a waste of time. I needed to establish a plan to recover without loosing the base I built during the last months. With already several ultra on the agenda, I had to keep the body trained so that running again will not be too hard.

Basically, the physical therapy consists in training your muscles so that they do not become weak while you do not use your body at its full capacity. I had to do something similar but also trying to preserve my cardio-vascular capacity. The trade-off is that there is a likelihood of making things worst if you try to be active. So, you have to choose low-impact exercises that will provide the expected benefits without creating any more damage.

The recovery plan focuses on three major aspects:

  • training: maintain the cardio-vascular activity and train the muscles as much as possible
  • nutrition: reduce the calories intake while taking appropriate nutrients to recover
  • sleep: give plenty of sleep hours (8+ hours) every day to make sure the body heals properly

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Training

First of all, it was important to locate the pain and identify what parts of the body need to heal and what are the ones I can train. By still using the operational muscles, I can limit to make further damages. After 4 days, I was able to walk again again with pain. So, I started to swim, reduce legs movement and focus on the upper body. This provided enough activity to keep high-intensity training and cardiovascular. Then, after a week, I continue to swim but also walk to work.

After two weeks, I was able to walk without so much pain and decided to start exercising on an elliptical bike (which mostly reduces the impact) and work on my core (that so I exercise other muscle groups that will support the overall body). The objective was about 2 hours of training a day.

After three weeks, I was able to run for a while. But it was painful and quickly realized that I was making more damage than good so, I chose to stick to the elliptical. As I was supposed to run a half-marathon in two weeks. The strategy was then to keep what can keep the cardio activity in a good shape and go on an elliptical bike for one hour about every day. I also added some weight training to make sure the muscles will not be too impacted: push ups, pull ups, squat, etc. This was also supposed to make the core stronger.

After four weeks, I start to run on a treadmill 6 miles a day: 3 miles in the morning and 3 miles in the evening. Separating runs avoid exhaustion early in the morning and let your body quickly recover between sessions. I started to run at 10 minutes per mile and increase according to my own feeling. Quickly after a few days, I no longer feel any pain. Sounds like it was correctly healed and I was ready to be back on track.

Nutrition

The nutrition aspect was probably one of the most important: maintaining my usual calories intake without exercising will lead to weight gain (which will then decrease performance later). Running about 10 to 15 miles a day burns about 2000Kcal, which double my basal metabolic rate. In addition, recovering requires appropriate nutrients to rebuild damaged tissues. As soon as I was injured, I stop drinking any alcoholic beverage (which not help) and started eating a lot of protein, calcium (greek yogurt anyone?), fruits and vegetables. The basics is to increase the load of nutrients that help the recovery process. I cut significantly the calories intake, reduce the carbs and stick to healthy fat and protein-rich food.

Over the weeks, I managed to even lose a couple of pounds, staying at the same weight while running twice a day. It can be challenging for some people, especially in a social environment (when you have the opportunity to drink with friends) but this is rather a matter of balance: you drink less than usual (e.g. one drink max) and balance over the next days (eat less and increase slightly your exercise).

injury-recovery

Sleep

Last piece of the plan: sleeping. Getting enough sleep is an under-estimated contributor in recovery, either during training and when recovering from injury. This is when your body is sleeping, resting that he will rebuild the damaged tissues. For that reason, this is of primary importance to give him enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation not only makes you cranky or reduce your attention but reduces the overall ability to recover. For that reason, I stayed home every night and sleep from 8 to 10 hours a night. And even before sleeping, the main activities were watching a movie or reading – things that do not require to move too much. All of these decisions were done to maximize the recovery time, reduce the likelihood to party (and potentially overdrink or overeat) and help the body to repair.

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The take away

The main takeaway? Most of the time and except obvious extended damage, when injured, you do not need any medication or exam and rather need time to recover. We live in an over-medicated world where everything needs to be inspected, treated and medicated. This approach is stressful (going to the doctor) and intrusive (use of medication your body is not used to). You rely on somebody else who will make choices based on reasons that have nothing to do with your health (making money, avoiding lawsuit, etc.). By listening and understanding your body, you can establish your own recovery plan. This will also help you to recognize a major injury from a major one and manage post-race recovery at best.

In the current example, doctors estimated two months before starting running again but I was able to train again pretty quickly and even race before. Being active, running and bodyweight activities probably help to have a stronger core and recover faster than other folks. This also contribute to recover quicker than expected. But this base should be complemented with an appropriate recovery plan which associates activity, nutrition and (too much underestimated) sleep.

Happy to be back on track, hope to see you soon on the trails.

Mill Creek Half-Marathon – race report

How we got there?

We all do stupid in our life and I get my share when I signed up for a March half-marathon when the temperatures were still ok in January, just two days before getting a fracture with multiple contusions (special injury combo!). At that time, this sounds easy and was hoping to run it fast and run it under 2 hours. But after a serious injury and recovering for more than a month, what was a simple half-marathon became a challenging hilly/snowy post-injury race.

The race is in Youngstown, Ohio and organized by the Youngstown Road Runners Club (YRRC). The race is very affordable ($30 with a tech-shirt and a post-race pasta dinner!) and all profits of the race support YRRC charities: YSU Cross Country Scholarship Endowment and a Shoe Program for High School runners in need.

To get there from Pittsburgh, this is a 90 minutes drive. But with Snow Alert, this can take more than you expected. This was actually the case for this 2015 edition. So, if you plan to run this race, plan accordingly to be at the race site on time (race starts at 08:45). On my side, I drive safety and fast enough to be at the race site 5 minutes before the race. You have access to indoors (yaisse!!!) bathrooms before the race. Packet pickup is also indoor and the packet contain a long sleeve t-shirt and your bib. Nothing fancy, just what you really need.

millcreek-map

The course map

 

The race

The 2015 edition of the race took place on March, 1. The weather is really unpredictable at that time of year, so, do not have any expectation. During this 2015 edition, the course was totally covered by snow, which exhibits two interesting characteristics

  1. The entire course is scenic and beautiful. After not running outside for more than a month, this was exactly what I was looking for. All the race takes place in the park and you run from one scenic area to the other. Tree are covered with snow, rivers seem to rest: this is the perfect environment for people who like nature.
  2. You must push more than expected. With the snow, you do not get as much traction as you expect so that it requires more efforts from your legs. In addition, these conditions make the downhill part hazardous.

The course can be challenging if you are not used to running hills. There are about 19 hills (according to the race description). While they are not really though, they can be challenging in snowy conditions. For people used to steep hills (Pittsburgh runners anyone?) or on trails, this should not be an issue. You would highly recommend to use special  assistance in case the course condition is hazardous. Putting screws on your shoe or using a Yaktrax would provide more traction (uphill) and stability (downhill) and potentially avoid falling!

There are a lot of volunteers to check on you and give directions all along the course so that you cannot get lost and will get assistance if you get injured. Also, there was four (4) aid stations along the course, providing water and gatorade. Once you finish the race, you get a medal and can refuel indoors with different types of snacks (bagels, peanut butter, fruits, etc.). There is also a post-race pasta party (Penne with meatballs/tomato sauce) in a restaurant located few miles away from the course.

 

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Elevation Profile

 

Let’s do it?

It all depends on your objectives. If you are looking for a simple and easy race, forget it. The weather can make you miserable and the course condition will make you forgetting any desire of getting a PR. This is a challenging course, not because of its elevation (obviously, the hills are not so though) but because of the potential condition: going uphill in the snow require way more efforts and attention in snowy condition than on a sunny day. This can be exhausting and mentally challenging. On the other hand, if you are not obsessed with your time and love running in a scenic course, go for it: this is a cheap and wonderful race to try!

Back on track, baby!

Back on track, baby!

Pros

  • Very scenic, especially with snow!
  • Good support for directions along the course
  • Good test on hills
  • Cheap (about $30)

Cons

  • Potential hazardous conditions
  • Difficult course if you are not used to hilly races

Informations

 

 

 

 

 

Steel City Road Runners is better than Ever (aka “Stepping Down – Last Part”)

Several months ago, after being involved as an ambassador of the Steel City Road Runners for few weeks, I left the ambassador groups and I authored a first blog post. The goal was to list the issues I noticed while being on board. After several weeks, several folks discussed their frustration which motivated me to write a follow-up. The reception to these articles showed how much people care about this group. The main reported issue was the organization of the leadership team and a focus on non-running activities whereas there were several emergencies to deal with.

No need to run in the cold, SCRR offers indoor training when it is freezing!

No need to run in the cold, SCRR offers indoor training when it is freezing!

But change happened. The organization of the leadership team has been reseted significantly and this is noticeable to see how much change there is. Let me list some of what has been introduced during the last two months, congratulations to the folks (such as Dave and Shannon – and all the others !) that are behind the scene:

  • Pacing team: there is pacers for Saturday and Sunday runs so that each runner can train according to their need. Also, if you want to take part of the community and become a pacer, the group welcomes participants, which can be a great idea if you want to pace a race.
  • Sunday Training runs: you cannot make your run on Saturday? Join on Sunday! SCRR is now offering Sunday runs as well so that you can log your long run on Sunday as well. Just a great idea if you have constraints on Saturday, have family business to take care of or any other reason. Just a convenient option.
  • Indoor Training: concerned about the ice when it is freezing and still want to run with your running buddies? the club has worked indoor running options with local gyms. Obviously, this is a very good option: running outside when freezing can be hazardous (and will not argue, especially after being injured because of it) and can jeopardize your racing schedule for the next days/weeks/months. The club provides a very cheap training options with cardio machines, which can also be a good option for cross-training.
  • Communication Improvements: most of the communication was done on facebook but many members do not use social media websites and felt isolated. Now, a weekly e-mail sent on Monday lists all the club events. Simple and very efficient, it does not discriminate anybody who is not on social media platforms.
  • Fall Marathon: the club has negotiated a discount for the club to go to the Baltimore marathon on October, 17. This should be a new invasion of Pittsburgh runners. Sounds like there is an effort to change the location of a fall marathon periodically so that people can explore different races around the Steel City!
  • RRCA coaching: SCRR is organizing an RRCA coach training in Pittsburgh and has initially announced it to the club so that interested members can save a spot! Such classes can be old out very quickly. Having a coaching class in our city is a real privilege: you do not have to flight, travel, everything is on site. This also strengthen the community: having more certified coaches within the members is a good opportunity to have qualified people when organizing events (such as running with kids, pacing, participating to a race as an organizer, etc.)

There are obviously other reasons and facts that show how much the club has improved during these past weeks but these are facts: a measure of how things improved over time. For sure, we can still argue that some stuff can be improved (some stupid geeks will complain about the website) but actual leadership team is focused on improving this running community and focusing on what people want to do: run. I am surprised how quickly things improved within the last few weeks and the changes that have been made.

This probably makes Steel City Road Runners the best running community in Pittsburgh (call it “premier running club” if you want!). For the $30 membership per year, no other club matches its benefits (mostly: 4 training runs per week, indoor training, pacers and Pittsburgh marathon week end, discount in local and online stores, t-shirt included with each membership). The value is just great and other clubs charge more and/or have less benefits (no pacer, only one or two training runs, no indoor trainings with cardio and weight machines when temperature are unsafe). These changes make me very proud to be part of this community and hope to be able to support it in the future as I wanted to do. If you are looking for a friendly running club in Pittsburgh, Steel City Road Runners is just what you need.

 

Coding Marathon – come to codefest!

Since a few weeks, running has been challenging – the recovery is going well but running is still challenging. In addition, because of travels and other constraints, keeping a consistent training has been hard while it is always doable. The next race (half-marathon) is in ten days in Ohio, it will be fun to try the recovery strategy and the ability to race after an injury without any pre-run training.

tshirt

However, this pause in the training log is the opportunity to join new challenges and experiment new things! I am happy to announce that I will participate this week-end with a coding partner in crime in the Steel City Codefest, a coding marathon where developers have to design mobile applications mostly for non-profit organizations. We will try to complete the Citiparks challenge and design an application to locate and find meals offered to young and senior over the city. If you are not aware of that program: citiparks delivers meals to families and individuals that cannot afford food. The goal of the project we will try to build is to facilitate the location where meals are delivered and get more information (hours, menus, etc.).

If you have nothing to do this week-end, please come on Saturday and check out what is going on! The challenge will take place in Oakland at the Carnegie Library. You can of course cheer me or just throw peanuts on my face like a monkey while I will be coding the mobile application. I should be there almost all the time and might also sleep there to remember the good old time when I used to code several days in a row. So, please and join the fun anytime!

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – Review

Over the last few years, documentaries and TV shows about diet and fitness have been popular. It started with Supersize me and a lot of other movies were about the same topic (such as Fat Head – the anti-Supersize Me). Over the last months, several folks asked me to watch Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, reporting it has been a inspiring movie that motivated them to lose weight. As I cannot run so much these days, my workouts have been focused on indoor activities, which offered the opportunity to review the Netflix catalog while exercising.

cleanseI was then able to watch the initial movie as well as the follow-up. The pitch: Joe Cross was the typical cliche of our society: he was obese and ate enormous amount of food while focusing mostly on his wealth (and not his health). He was severely overweight and that might reduce is life expectancy. In addition, he was really sick and his health metrics (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) were not very good. He decided to change his lifestyle to adopt a cleanse diet, which consists in having meals made with vegetable and fruit juices. The general idea is to clean the system from the bad stuff and load on nutrients (what he called macro-nutrients and is obviously wrong – but we will come back on that later).

After a diet of 60 days with only juice, he lost weight and improved his metrics significantly. Since then, he has its own website to promote his method and inspire people. Great. The second movie is mostly a follow-up and shows the impact of the first movie. In this reboot, Joe talks with people that experienced the method all over the world. Basically, the second movie is more a promotion of the method, nothing really fancy. Now, let’s have a look at the good and bad aspects of the movie.

The good

  • Joe is not dogmatic during the movie and does not say this diet is the only way to lose weight but one over several. This is something really appreciated because in nutrition and diets, people are mostly dogmatic, telling you that if you do not follow their rules, you are doing it all wrong and gonna die/be fat again/lose your toenails (pick one or several of these).
  • The diet is also about having more balance and adding more vegetables. Not having eating only vegetables. On the other hand, the movie does not educate about how to balance and with what other food you can balance your diet.
  • Joe is seeking for medical advices during his study, which is a great decision. Many other folks are starting a new diet that could be potentially dangerous (pineapple diet anyone?). By seeking medical advice and compare his health metrics, he shows also that the objective is not only to get thiner but mostly improve your overall health.

The bad

  • There is no real emphasis on the activity, which is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Movies such as Fat Head includes this aspect, emphasizing that Americans became very lazy over the last years. For sure, you cannot run if you are obese but starting to walk will exercise your body, develop your muscles and make your core stronger (and add more calories burned every day).
  • The nutrition details are confusing and even totally wrong. For example, Joe talk about macro-nutrients for vegetables, saying he “needs to get his macro-nutrients”. But vegetables and fruits are not about macro-nutrients. This has been pointed out by other critics as well.
  • Even if the movie mentioned to mix with other food, there is no example about the ratio of juice and other food. Telling people to drink juice is one thing but educate the audience with information on food, the content, where to seek protein, fat could be even better and avoid any potential mistake: somebody that drinks juice everyday can ruin his efforts by mixing them with high-calories/low-nutrient food.
  • The change is too radical and hard so that many people will not keep the pace. Who want to drink juice for the rest of their life? This diet is clearly not realistic and rather than focusing on drinking vegetables, I would rather recommend to have a balance between food, exercise and sleep.

cleanse2The ugly

  • The method is not too bad and Joe not dogmatic. But nutrition is like a religion for many folks and once they find their church, they try to convince you at all cost. And some newly converted to the cleanse diet are trying to justify their choices using ridiculous arguments. For example, on the second movie, one guy explains that he cannot eat anything but veggie because his body rejects them. He also argues that his son, when seeing the veggies on the table, have his digestive system lubricated to digest his vegetables to put down the good fiber. At first, I thought the dude was joking but after seeing the platters of veggies, it turns out he was pretty serious!
  • The juice diet is really hard to follow and too many give up. During the first days, people experience change of mood, lack of energy, dizziness and other effects that can have an impact on your life, relations or work! Obviously, this diet seems too restrictive, hard to integrated in everyday constraints. I would rather adopt just reasonable changes rather than suddenly changing.

Let’s watch or try?

If you have some time and like informative and inspirational shows about diet, this is a good entertainment for sure! The story is funny, there are some good information (except some nutrition basics) and this can be a good inspiration for people looking to lose weight.

Now, does the juice diet really work? On paper, the equation is really simple: to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. By eating only vegetables (that are very low in calories and high in vitamins), this is almost impossible to reach your basal metabolic rate so that you will lose weight if you stick to the plan.

On the other hand, during this loss of weight, your body will need calories and will burn fat but also muscles. In addition, as you do not provide enough energy, you will quickly feel low on energy and sleepy many times during the day. There is a fair chance you will become cranky or irritable, which is another side effect that will potentially impact your personal and professional relations.

“Do you really want to do that?”

Probably not and the change should not be radical but just to re-adjust the balance in your lifestyle: be reasonable most of the time but treat yourself, when you go to a party or a special occasion. Food has also a social aspect in our society: we go for ice cream with our girlfriend/wife/kids, we celebrate birthday at restaurant, we go for lunch or dinner with colleagues. And we remember these moments. They are special and connected to a special occasion.

For that reason, you do not need to make a radical change. You can still eat the high-calories/low-nutrient food on special occasions but stick to a reasonable diet routine (see some recipes examples) and still exercising for a couple of hours every week (if you are a dad or mom, this can be walk or play with your kids). This should be more than enough to keep people healthy, active while still enjoying good times with relatives and share social events.

Firefox is not dead, we need it more than ever

A recent post on slashdot argued that Mozilla has succeeded in its goal with Firefox by supporting choice and innovation on the internet. Before Firefox, there was almost no diversity in the browser world and the only choice was Internet Explorer, which was, from a developer point of view, a disaster. By bringing innovation in browser-land, Mozilla attracted users so that Internet Explorer became the outsider. Since then, Apple improved Safari and Google released their own browser, Chrome. So, one can legitimately wonders: is the war of the open-web promoted earlier by Firefox over? Do we still need Firefox? funny-cat-lolcat-browser-history In fact, we need Firefox more than ever. Before the war is not over. Firefox was initially the starting point of a major technical change that ended by promoting web-standards. Thanks to the hard work from the Mozilla foundation and its community, Firefox changed the browser landscape, which reboot the browser war. But now, the war is no longer about the support of standards or performance (they almost have similar performance – at least for the end user – some review put also Firefox first) but on the protection of user privacy. From a technical perspective, major browsers are built on an open-source engine (KHTML/Website for Safari, Chromium for Chrome and the next engine from Internet Explorer), but the full source code is not disclosed. Only the rendering engine is public, not the complete software and especially not the parts that process your data (thinking about people that synchronize Chrome with their google account?). For that reason, is almost impossible to check how each browser manages your data and if some of it is sent/used to/by an undisclosed third-party. Recent news show that many software have built-in backdoors as requested by various governmental or commercial authorities. On the other hand, the full source code of Firefox is available so that technology experts can precisely analyze what the software is doing and prevent any data leakage. This ensures to the user that the software can be reviewed by security experts. And that any potential defects or errors is fixed as soon as possible. Using such a browser on your computer or mobile phone is thus of primary importance. cookies-enabled.meme.stevepiper.net The war of making the internet free and open is still going on. The first battle consisted in taking back the internet from a technical point of view: promoting  standards and make the web inter-operable again between various devices and operating systems. This is one was a success for Firefox. The nest battle is to take back the internet from a legal and freedom perspective, ensure that the tools we use preserve our privacy and primary rights. That each of us we can use the web and express their opinion. Considering the actual political context, this is a big challenge, let’s hope Firefox will be one technical solution to this issue.

Running as a transportation alternative: the introductory guide

Since more than a year, I started to do my daily commute by running. I run between 10 to 15 miles a day, depending on my mood, the weather, the temperature and the age of the captain. This decision was primarily based on transportation and timing efficiency, incorporate my daily workout into my schedule and avoid to waste time when commuting. Also, as Pittsburgh offers a good and heterogeneous elevation profiles, it is easy to use various routes with different characteristics (elevation profile, type of path, etc.), this was a great opportunity to vary the type of training every day.

This article constitutes an introduction to run commuting. If you want to try it, I recommend to read the run commuter website and get more tips, info and gears reviews.

Where to go now? So much possible routes!

Where to go now? So much possible routes!

Planning ahead

Planning ahead is one of the most important aspect. Do you have a shower at work? How can you change? You’ll need to plan to get several clothes but also snacks or food at work. Plan accordingly. I usually pass by my office during the week-end to drop clean clothes (jeans, shirts, etc.), food (several packages of soups) and take back dirty clothes to wash them at home. I have approximatively enough for two weeks without coming back so that if I am very busy during one week-end, I will still be ok. For food, I usually take packages I can keep for several weeks so I do not have to worry about expiration dates. Also, using something easy to prepare is a must: the focus when being at work is being efficient when preparing, not spending one hour to cook. Favorite items are Black Bean Soup or Lentil Soup. Not very exciting but they have a great nutrition profile: organic with a lot of protein, low-glycemic index carbs and very cheap when buying big quantities at Costco. Just enough to be fueled without being overloaded during the afternoon. Also, for snacks, I use Protein Bar: these are also less than 200 Kcal with more than 10g of protein, which is great for a post-run recovery snack.

On the other hand, when you need small items, you can carry in your backpack (underwear snacks for the day). The goal is to plan and have all the big stuff on site so that you can just adjust and carry small items. You might also just buy your lunch at work but it might be expensive and not so healthy (restaurant portions are huge and this is difficult to control what is inside).

Wash and change

Ideal scenario: you have a shower and a locker at work. In that case, you can wash at work and do not have to worry about getting to dirty and have a bad smell. On the other hand, if you do not have shower, you can still use baby towels. The run commuter provides tips to clean but this is clearly not optimal.

Also, as part as your weekly trip to drop food and clothes, drop new towels. I always have one or two clean and dry towels at work to replace the current one. Also, bring your own soap and do not assume there will be soap in the showers!

Using the right gear

Using the right gear is really important. You do not need to spend thousands to get many items, a couple of hundreds bucks for the right one is more than enough. Consider to have at least the following:

The ideal backpack

REI Stoke 9: a good backpack that will not fool you!

  • a small and lightweight backpack: probably the most important part. You will then be able to carry your belongings (wallets, ID card, cell phone, etc.) without even feeling it. Check the run commuter website for an extensive selection. I have the REI Stoke 9 backpack and I am more than happy with it. Very light (14 ounces), you do not even feel it, you get used to it after a few days.
  • headlamp: very important during winter, when the night come quickly and early. The headlamp will then help you to see in the dark. Do not take the cheap model and do not hesitate to put a few bucks more for a good model. I use the Black Diamond ReVolt that has the huge benefits to be rechargeable via USB. So, as soon as you are home, you can recharge the batteries for the next day. For less than $40, this is a good option!
  • rain/wind jacket: there is a high probably that one day or another, you will have to run home on a rainy day. And while the rain can cool you down, it can also be very uncomfortable, especially when temperatures are low. You cannot carry your own furnace on the run but can protect yourself from the rain/wind. A rain/wind jacket (about $80 to $100) is a great investment and you will not regret it when it will start pouring.
  • hat:  a good hat is not mandatory but will be appreciated during cold days to protect your ears from the cold. Any regular hat will do the job, you do not need a fancy one!
  • gloves: try to use gloves made with technical fabric so that it brings moisture away.
  • hydration bottle: always keep water with you in case you need a sip or two! No need for a full bottle, a small one (8 to 12 ounces) will be more than enough. Also, they often have a pocket so that you can put some money in case of emergency.

Evaluating the benefits and drawbacks

Benefits

  • Efficiency: you do not have to worry about when and where to do your workout. This is already integrated in your daily schedule
  • Schedule predictability: you know exactly when you start and when you arrive. When taking the bus or driving, you depend on the traffic and other potential factors (road closures, accident, etc.). Running at work on time depends only one your running ability.
  • Health Benefits: as you exercise twice a day, you quickly see the benefits on your health. Lower health-rate and blood pressure, fewer sleeping disorders and so on. Also, your overall health is better, the likeliness to be sick is lowered and you recover quicker from minor issue (cold, etc.)
  • Cost saving: you do not take your car, so, you save on gas and insurance (low-mileage insurance). However, this has also to be put into perspective because you will eat more and also buy more running shoes

Drawbacks

  • Bootstrap the process: when starting, making the full trip can be hard. It mostly depends on how many miles you have to run. There are alternatives to get started, we will come back on that later.
  • Control potential eating disorders: in the beginning, you will feel hungry all the time. After a while, you will fine your routine. I usually get a light breakfast before starting (a toast with peanut butter) and take an energy bar one I am done and showered.
  • Planning ahead: you have to plan and prepare change, dry clothes, soap and shampoo at work. This needs to drive from time to time, prepare a package and drop it at work. It also means that you have a place to keep your stuff.
  • Work organization: if you are working at home, you have to make sure to synchronize your documents. You can do it by sending documents to yourself by e-mail, using online services such as dropbox or google drive. Be careful, some companies have a strict policy about sharing documents and you might prefer to transfer your data using a USB stick.

How to get started?

In the beginning, running to work can be intimidating and you will wonder if your colleagues will think you are crazy and if you can go the distance all week. Obviously, regardless of what your colleagues will say, the most important is to get used to commute by running. It will easily increase your mileage and make a good training. On the other hand, you have to consider that you cannot increase your weekly mileage suddenly and commuting every day will take time.

Start by commuting only one way or just some days so that you do not increase your weekly mileages by more than 10% (follow the 10% rule padawan!). Then, each week, adds 10% to your weekly mileage. On another note, be careful about your food intake and make sure you get enough to recover. It is easy to increase the miles without taking care of the food intake. If you do not adjust it, you will get tired and increase the likelihood of injury. Also, if you do not feel ok to run a day, just use the bus.

After a couple of weeks, you will probably love to run everyday and be free of any vehicle constraints. You will log more miles, can vary the routes and be more efficient during your workout. It will then give more time to focus on other activities rather than focusing solely on running.

Resources

 

 

 

Celebrate the failure, embrace the injury

Nice one!

Nice one!

Pittsburgh is a great, beautiful but .. icy city! And while it has many advantages for runners (such as training in terrain with various elevation profiles), it can also add some potential hazards. I’ve recently learned it the hard way: on a 8 miles run, I have fallen at mile 7.3. And what seemed like a minor injury turned out to be a fracture with a muscle contusion that calls several weeks without any physical activity. Everything was great during the training: we’ve climbed steep hills, run on ice without problem. We were at the end of our run and needed to take a small loop to come back in the parking lot. And when taking one of the last turn, the fall was brutal.

When something bad happens, there are two ways to look at it: either discussing and thinking about it forever or move on and learn from it. After this fall, the decision was to follow the latter option.

This injury is an opportunity to step back, look at the coming events and learn. My best buddy is probably asking for some rest, that he was not treated appropriately and needs care. With the coming season, one objective was to lose 5 pounds, which was done within a month but probably at some expense. Also, the legs experienced pain on some intense training runs. So, after all, this break could be for the best? And instead of worrying about not training for a few weeks, this might be the best opportunity to look around, focus on other things, contact or help friends and work on new projects.

Accessory for the next race

Accessory for the next race

While doctors are calling for more than 2 months without training, there is a feeling that the recovery will be less than expected. The same doctors predicted that it would not be possible to stand for a couple of days after the injury but this is already possible to (barely) walk. Since the damage is minor, the best approach is probably to use common sense and listen to the body: rest as much as possible, start exercising when it sounds feasible with a focus and priority on low-impact activities (swimming, elliptical and some core training movements). For sure, this approach is probably not so popular nor the one that would fit everybody, but long distance runners might also have additional recovery ability that could speed up the process (but could also be confusing and lead to over-confidence as well). This might be interesting to see how long it will take to fully recover.

The most important? We are all human, and by design, make mistakes: let’s celebrate our failures and learn from them. Try not to fight the unexpected or try to change the future. Just embrace them, improve ourselves, give our best to what we do and who we love.

Hope to see you soon, on the road, on the trail, with a handled bottle full of water or a pint full of (good) beer.

Guide to discover Paris and France (before or after the Marathon)

As some running friends are going to run the Paris marathon in April and because I spent more than nine years in this city, I wanted to give some tips to discover the city and find good spots to go around. This guide is for everybody willing to discover Paris, not only for runners. If you have any suggestion or question, please contact me.

A note about the marathon. I never ran it but check out the route and the race information. It seems to be a great race: it will bring runners to many beautiful historic spots! This is mostly close to the Seine river but this is also where most the attractions are. During the marathon, you will see the Eiffel Tower, the Place de la Bastille, the Champs Elysee avenue, the Concorde Place or also Notre Dame de Paris. Obviously, this will be very scenic as long as the sun is shining!

But if you are flying to run the marathon, you might want some advice to discover the city! So, follow these traveling tips to explore Paris!

General Advices

  • In Paris, many folks will speak english. Do not hesitate to try to speak english if you are looking for something rather than trying to speak french at all cost.
  • Always have 10 euros in you in case of emergency. This can help: a taxi fare is most of the time less than 10 euros (so, no regardless where you are, you can come back safely), if you are really hungry, you can always come back, etc.
  • Be careful, many credit cards work with a chip (pin). Be careful about that
  • For small amount, shops do not take credit card. So, have some cash available in your wallet
  • When traveling, please double or even triple check your health insurance policy. If you get sick abroad, it is going to cost you a lot (more than a couple of thousands euros)
  • If you are in trouble, the number to call are : 17 (Police), 18 (Fire) or 15 (Medical Emergency). In Europe (including France), you can also always call 112. See this website.
  • We do not give a tip to a server. Except when you have awesome service, you can give 1 or 2 euros. But the servers/waitress are not paid by the tip
  • When going to a restaurant, you can always ask for tap water. We call that “carafe d’eau”. In opposite, the water bottle (spring or mineral water) is about 5 euros per bottle. Obviously, in Paris, the quality of the water is more than ok and you can just take tap water. To ask your server, gently ask “une carafe d’eau s’il vous plait”.
  • Also, in restaurant, bread is also included and you can ask as much as you want. Just ask gently “du pain s’il vous plait”. However, most of the time, the quality is not so good (it depends on the restaurant of course).
  • French people and salesperson do not know what customer service are. Yes, French are asshole. Now, you know.
  • Looking for wine? Get a bottle at Nicolas (a wine chain in France). They carry good wines overall and many managers have good taste. Sure, this is not very fancy but it might reduce the likelihood to get a bad bottle!

Understanding Paris

Paris is a city separated in different districts (arrondissements). Each arrondissement has its own specialty. You might not notice it when visiting but there are important differences between them in terms of population, activity, etc. There are 20 arrondissements. The 1st arrondissement is in the center of Paris and the arrondissements are spread over the city as a snail. The following picture show their distribution.

Map of the arrondissements location in Paris

Map of the arrondissements location in Paris (from parisnet.com)

Generally speaking, most attractions are in the center of the city, in the first arrondissements. The more you go away from the center the less you will see historic buildings. However, this is also in these other arrondissements that the new Paris is growing, so, depending on what you want to see, it can be interesting to have a look at them.

Move around

From the airport to the city

First of all, the Paris CDG airport looks like a Russian prison. Not easy to go around, this is very not well designed and going around is just a painful experience. Once you get there, you have two main options to go to the city: public transportation (about 8 euros per person) or taxi (about 50 euros for the cab). If you can afford, I would recommend the taxi: the public transportation is really not convenient if you have a lot of baggages, take forever (up to 1.5 hour) and go through unsafe area (the North suburbs). This can definitively be a bad and disturbing experience and if you can avoid it, I would highly recommend it.

Metro Station from Outside

Metro Station from Outside

Metro/Subway

The metro system is managed by the RATP. Each line has a number and an associated color (for example, line 1 is in yellow). The subway system is the main public transportation system used by people living in and around the city. Obviously, the subway within the city is well maintained and very efficient. You can expect a new train every five minutes (or even less during high traffic – when people commute). You can check the maps and schedule online on the RATP website. There is also a howto to get you familiar with the system. The metro map show you the location of each station. You can see this map in the street, this is printed at the entrance of all metro stations. This is a great way to know where you are in the city. Look at the picture: a metro station has always a panel with a map, the name of the station (here: “Charles Michels”) and the number of the line (here: 10). Also, see the sign “Metro” that notifies a station is here.

The subway operates from very early in the morning (about 5/6am) to lately at night (about 1 or 2am). A ticket is 1.8 euro per fare. Tourists can purchase a pass for 1 t o5 days. Prices vary from 11 to 35 euros, depending on how long you plan to use it. You need to purchase the pass at a metro station before taking the train. Be careful that prices are different as soon as you go outside the city. So, be careful and take appropriate information if you plan to go outside the city.

Map of the subway stations in Paris

Map of the subway stations in Paris

Bus

The bus is as the taxi and go all over the city. Basically, this is a great (and cheap) way to discover the city. The stations are outside and you can recognize the line with a color and a number. However, bus speed depends on the traffic, which can be very unpredictable in Paris. Hopefully, there are some dedicated bus lanes but not for all of them. In addition, you have to be very careful if you want to change lines and/or connect with others.

If the bus is a great way to move around the city, I would not recommend it as a tourist: it can be confusing, hard to understand, slow and very packed. The schedule is not as predictable as the subway and finding your way or the station you are supposed to stop is more difficult.

Taxi

For many US persons, it does not sound reasonable to take a cab when you are going somewhere in the city. This is mostly because US cities are very big. However, Paris is very small (for my Pittsburgh friends, think that the city is basically as big as a 6/7 miles circle). Without traffic, a taxi fare will be less than 10 euros for sure. So, if you are tired or late, the taxi might be a good option (in case of no traffic jam). If there is traffic, you can be stuck and it might cost you a lot. So, be careful!

I want to ride my …. bicycle!

Paris offers a bike sharing program called Velib. You can rent a bike with your credit card. I used the system when I lived in France and as far as I remember, it requires a subscription. This might have changed, you can check on the website: http://en.velib.paris.fr/

Walking

It sounds insane for a US person to walk in a city because many cities in the US are not very walkable: you drive from neighborhood to neighborhood and walk inside the neighborhood. But most of the time, you do not walk from one neighborhood to another. In Paris, the whole city is easily walkable. You can go from east/west or north/south in less than 2 hours. I used to walk in Paris a lot. In fact, the last year, I stopped taking the public transportation and walk all the time. As a tourist, this is something you might enjoy because you will discover many small things you would not notice if you just take the public transportation.

Some tips if you walk:

  • the whole city is less than 2 hours walking east/west or north/south. So, the worst-case scenario to go somewhere is two hours walking
  • use the metro map to locate yourself if you are lost. You will find metro maps at metro stations entries and most of the metro stations are located in big boulevards/streets

 

Safety

Generally speaking, Paris is a very safe city and you are not likely to have any safety issue. Observe all the rules you follow when going to a big city: keep your valuable in your pockets so that nobody can take them, avoid any spot/area that might not safe, etc. I would recommend some area to avoid, especially at night:

  • La Goutte d’Or: located close to Stallingrad and the 18th district, this is not a very safe area
  • North of 19th district: the 19th district has some troublemakers. When going around, you should not have any issue but in case, you might to avoid the area.
  • Barbes: lots of traffic around Barbes, I would recommend to avoid.

 

What to see in Paris?

Major Places

La Tour Eiffel

La Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is one of the major touristic spot in Paris … and of course, you can take the stairs or the elevators to visit it! There is also a restaurant inside with a beautiful view. Go to the restaurant for the view, not the food.

Unfortunately, there are long lines to visit the place with lines starting to be full more than one hour before it opens. However, you can cut the line if you book your visit online within a dedicated time frame. Be careful, these tickets can be sold out pretty quickly so I would recommend to book very early. In that way, you skip the line and can visit this site quickly, which can be very good in terms of bad weather.

  • Go for: major monument in Paris
  • Do not go if: you do not have too much time
  • Location: Metro line 6 (Champs de Mars Tour Eiffel)

Notre-Dame

If you are a religious person, Notre-Dame is the place to go. Believe it or not, I have never been inside! I walked a lot around but never ever been inside it. Definitively, this is worth to have a look at it and just the architecture of the building is pretty amazing. Go around, walk around the Seine river, check out the open book stores close to the Scene, this is pretty nice.

  • Go for: major religious place in Paris, architecture
  • Do not go if: you are not a religious person
  • Location: Metro line 4 (St Michel Notre Dame)

Le Sacre Coeur

Le Sacre Coeur offers one of the best view in Paris! You start from Pigalle and climb at the top of the site which offer an amazing view over the city. This is something to do if you are around. Also, once you get there, walk around the Abbesses district: there are some local market in the neighborhood called “Montmartre”. This is the old Paris and they used to have vineyard in this area.

  • Go for: the view, the neighborhood
  • Do not go if: you do not like steep hills
  • Location: Metro line 2 (Anvers) or 12 (Jules Joffrin)
Place de la Bastille

Place de la Bastille

Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge is close to the “Sacre Coeur” in the Pigalle district (Pigalle metro station). Stop there at night to see the amazing building.

  • Go for: the history!
  • Do not go if: you do not have time …
  • Location: Metro line 2 (Pigalle)

Canal St Martin

The Canal St Martin is a romantic and beautiful canal within the city. Accessible from many metro station (Jaures, Republique, Stallingrad, etc), it is a nice way to spend some time with your loved one. At night, people used to have a picnic and hang out around the canal. If you see many people talking and hanging out together, do not be afraid! Check the wikipedia page.

  • Go for: a romantic moment along a canal
  • Do not go if: you are alone
  • Location: Metro line 2 (Stallingrad, Jaures), line 8, 9, 5 (Republique) and many other
  • Information: check the wikipedia page
Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges

The “Place des Vosges” is one of the most pretty place in the city. Located next to “Place Bastille” and in the wonderful neighborhood “Le Marais” (see below), this is a place to check out if you want to see nice architecture. The place itself is beautiful but the streets around are amazing (for example, the “rue des Francs Bourgeois” or “Rue des Rosiers”). Many famous people (including politics) are living around. Check out the wikipedia page with more information but this is typically a good idea to go around and see “Place Bastille”, “Place des Vosges” and “Le Marais”.

  • Go for: the architecture and if you are going around Bastille
  • Do not go if: you run out of time
  • Location: Metro line 1, 5 and 8 (Bastille station)
  • Information: check the wikipedia page

Le Marais

Le Marais is a neighborhood/district in Paris that has wonderful building with amazing architecture. This is also a very active neighborhood where the gay community hang out. If you are looking to walk around old and beautiful building, you should definitively go there. Also, the Jewish community has roots in this district. This is definitively an interesting area to hang out, in the center of the city.

 

  • Go for: the architecture and if you are going around Bastille
  • Do not go if: you run out of time
  • Location: Metro line 1, 5 and 8 (Bastille station)
  • Information: check the wikipedia page

 

Champs Elysees

One of the most expensive avenue in the World! I would recommend to start at the top of the avenue (where the “Arc de Triomphe” is – metro “Charles de Gaulles Etoile” line 6), walk down, continue to the “Jardin des Tuileries” and finish to the Louvre. This is a 2/3-ish miles walk which can be quite amazing.

On the avenue, lot of shops to see but not too much to shop. In fact, the stores are more here for the prestige. One thing you might stop for is the “La Duree” shop filled with Macaroon. If you have a sweet tooth, it is definitively worth to stop by. Be careful, this is expensive, but well, you are not in Paris every day, right? On the other hand, I would not recommend any restaurant on the avenue: this is not so good and definitively over priced.

Also, it can be interesting to go there during the day and at night. The avenue is definitively changing all over the day. Finally, keep in mind that this is open every day (while the other shops are closed in Sunday). So, might be a good idea to go here on Sunday!

  • Go for: one of the most famous place in the world!
  • Do not go if: you do not like flashy stuff
  • Location: Metro line 1 (Champs Elysee, Georges V) or 6 (Charles de Gaulle Etoile)
The Bibliotheque Nationale de France

The Bibliotheque Nationale de France

Bibliotheque Nationale de France

The Bibliotheque Nationale de France is composed of four giant building that contains books. Built during the presidency of Francois Miterrand, this is a masterpiece of modern architecture. I used to go very often in this area to get silence and admire the building during a couple of hours. Also, there is a bridge that connects the two parts of the river. Very cool bridge and interesting bridge in terms of architecture. If there is a secret gem in Paris in terms of modern architecture, this might be it! Check out the official website and the wikipedia page. Also, check out the pictures on flickr to see what is looks like.

  • Go for: the architecture, the silence, the view over Paris and the bridge over the Seine
  • Do not go if: you do not like architecture
  • Location: Metro line 14 (Bibliotheque Francois Mitterand)

Pigalle

Pigalle is the “red light district” of Paris. Plenty of sex shops and night life folks. You go here for the show in the street (no, there is no naked girl!): this is a pretty active zone with plenty of tourists. There are also theaters and the neighborhood is really active. Also, this is very close to Montmartre and Le Sacre Coeur, so, easy to visit when you are there.

  • Go for: the neighborhood and animation in the district
  • Do not go if: you are limited in time
  • Location: Metro line 2 (Pigalle)

La Bastille (with the Opera)

La Bastille is a central place in Paris that connects to the Republique place. Very nice place to go, you can walk over the Seine river to get there. Also, there is an Opera with Ballet and classical music. If you are in the mood for a nice show and have the time, this is worth check the schedule out on the official website.

 

  • Go for: the neighborhood and animation in the district
  • Do not go if: you are limited in time
  • Location: Metro line 5, 1 (Bastille)

Opera

Wonderful building, if you are fond of architecture, this is definitively worth to have a look at it. Also, if you like classical music or dance, you should check out the schedule.

  • Go for: the building and the show
  • Do not go if: you do not like architecture and/or are limited in time
  • Location: Metro line 3 8 or 9 (station Opera)

 

La Tour Montparnasse

La Tour Montparnasse

Tour Montparnasse

La Tour Montparnasse is one of the tallest tower in Paris (probably the tallest in fact). Here, this is mostly office, probably some attractions but nothing really fancy or impressive. However, you can go on top of the tower (by lift) and have a fantastic view of the city. To do so, you must see the details on the main visitor website. The tour is very famous all over the world. It is also famous for being the biggest European building contaminated with asbestos (and removing it is a huge problem which might lead to pollute all the city). If you like modern architecture, this place might be special for you!

  • Go for: a major piece of architecture
  • Do not go if: if are scared to be contaminated of asbestos or have no time to get there
  • Location: Metro line 6, 12, 13 and 4 (Montparnasse)

Museums

The Louvre

Le Louvre is a beautiful museum but … probably too packed. The architecture of the pyramid is great, the shops around are beautiful but the museum is really big. It takes a while to enter inside and you will never finish in a day. Do not misunderstand what I said: the museum is nice, the architecture wonderful but as a tourist, you might want to see something else. At least, go outside to see the architecture of the building and the pyramid.

Also, the Louvre is next to the Tuileries garden, a beautiful park that connects le Louvre to “Champs Elysee” and the “Trocadero” place.

Musee d’Orsay

The Musee d’Orsay is another museums of Paris that has less people than the Louvre and definitively worth it. You will not spend too much time visiting the Museum and getting there. I would recommend to visit it if you are a museum person. Plus, you can visit the whole thing in a couple of hours.

Musee Georges Pompidou or Beaubourg

The Museum “Georges Pompidou” also called Beaubourg is an “Art contemporain” museum. The building is amazing (built in the 70s) in the center of the city. If you like this type of art, this is definitively a must-go. If you are not a big fan, go and check out the architecture of the building (at least).

Versailles Palace

Versailles is outside Paris. So, if you want to visit the Palace, you will have to take the RER (regional train) – not the subway. Once you are at the train, you will need to walk to get there and there are signs from the station. You can visit the Palace and the garden. The garden are very huge and will take you a couple of hours of walk. These are wonderful, so, try to visit during a sunny day. To get faster, you can buy your ticket online, this will avoid to wait in line.

  • Go for: the history – damned, the king of the assholes french lived there!
  • Do not go if: you do not have time or history is boring for you
  • Location: City of Versailles, use the regional train line C at station/stop Versailles Chateau.
  • Information: official website and wikipedia

Parks and Gardens

Luxembourg

The Luxembourg garden is where the French senate is located. Beautiful park (with many runners!), it is also close to Notre Dame, so you can walk there if you visit the religious building as well. In case of good weather, it can be great to walk there and sit for a while (there are chairs around the lake).

  • Go for: garden, the french senate
  • Location: RER station Luxembourg (line B) or Metro Station St Michel (line 4)
  • Check the information on wikipedia

Buttes Chaumont

The Buttes Chaumont is a wonderful and hilly place in the 19th district. This is a very nice and friendly neighborhood and you would love to hang out over there for a couple of hours. When going to Paris, I logged my steepest runs in this park. During the summer, a good plan is to take a bottle of wine, some cheese and baguette and just have a wonderful picnic!

  • Go for: the outlook over the city
  • Location: Metro station Buttes Chaumont (line 7bis) or Pyreneese (line 11)
  • Information on wikipedia

Tuileries

The Tuileries garden is close to the Louvre. It offers a wonderful walk between the Concorde Place and the Louvre. A wonderful park to run in if you want to log some miles. Unfortunately, not too big!

  • Go for: peaceful park next to the Louvre
  • Location: Metro “Les Tuileries” or “Concorde”
  • Information on wikipedia

Open Markets

Paris has a lot of open markets open all year long. The same vendors come in these markets every week. So, you’ll have to find out where there are markets near to your location. When you go there, you can expect really good and local food (cheese anyone?). Check out this page for example, this one or even this one.

When I come back in france, most of the time, I do not go to restaurant and go to small market like this, take ham, cheese, fruits and buy a baguette in a good bakery. So, I have very good ingredients and food for a few days and avoid to waste money and time in restaurant (and more than 50% of Paris restaurant food is frozen food … you might not want to pay for that!).

The open markets are probably the best places to find fruits and vegetables. Look for the “agriculture bio” label which identifies organic food.

The Korcarz bakery in Rue des Rosiers

The Korcarz bakery in Rue des Rosiers

Where to eat?

  • Le Baron Rouge (wine, cheese and charcuterie): one typical wine bar that serves many different types of wine and cheese and meat platters. Very simple but one of the best wine bar I have been, this is definitively a must go if you want to taste good red wine! David Lebovitz wrote a critic about this place on his blog in case you want an evaluation by a US person! Check out the yelp page. Metro station line 8 Ledru Rollin.
  • Tricotin (chineese food): this is not a restaurant but an Asian institution in Paris! Tricotin offers good Asian food at a reasonable price. Located in the Asian (Chineese) district of Paris, this is a good place to have a good meal but also discover this not so typical area of the city. Lebovitz also wrote something about the place on his blog. Check out the yelp page. Accessible from line 7 at metro station “Porte de Choisy”.
  • Le Bambou Vietnamese food. Very (very) packed but really good food there! Do not expect to have a romantic and quiet experience here! Accessible from line 14. Check out the yelp page.
  • La Coupole (typical brasserie with art-deco style): a french institution, you go at la Coupole for the architecture, the place that is around since a very long time! The food is very good but probably overpriced. However, the place is wonderful and having a meal there is definitively an good experience when visiting the city. Information on the main website. Accessible from the “Montparnasse” metro station (line 6, 12, 13 and 4)
  • Chocolat Michel Cluizel: this is a chocolate manufacturer that won several awards for his chocolate and candy bars. He comes from Normandy (my country side!) and has even a shop in New York. So, if you like his chocolate, you can order it in the USA online.  Check out their website.
  • Mc Donalds: believe it or not but French people are the #2 consumer of McDonalds over the world! You will find McDonalds all over the city! Why? The burger chain managed to adapt its products to the french population and tastes. The recipe? McBaguette (yaisse!) or Big Mac with whole wheat bread, something you’ll never find in the USA! Interesting to see the differences with the US version, might be worth to make a trip!
  • Korcarz and/or Finkelsztajn. Korcarz and Finkelsztajn are two famous bakeries in the Marais in “Rue des Rosiers”. If you are hanging out around Bastille, Le Marais or Place des Vosges, these are good places to try!
  • Mariage Freres tea: if you love tea, you must go there! This is an amazing place for tea. Go there for the show with all the person selling tea and letting you discover the different flavors! Located in the same area as Le Marais. Check out their website.

Where NOT to eat?

  • Quick: this is the competitor of McDonalds. From Belgium, this is just a burger chain. Go to Mcdonalds instead, definitively better
  • Many sandwich or bakery chains: avoid at all costs all the stuff like “la brioche doree” or big nakery chains. Instead, try to find local places that shows the stickers “Artisan Boulanger” or even “Boulangerie Biologique” (organic place). These places care more about their ingredients than big chains and have probably better quality breads.

 

Questions and planning your trip

If you have any question regarding your trip, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I will try to do my best and update this article according to your needs!