Name: Ellen Jaffe Jones
Birthplace: St. Louis
Current Residence: Anna Maria Island, FL
Sports: Running, Personal Trainer, AFAA Certified
RRCA Certified Running Coach
5K PR 27:50 at age 58 (faster than when I started running at age 28!)
Frequent 5K Age Group winner
1st Marathon at age 58, 5th oldest woman to finish Palm Beaches Marathon 2010.
Florida Senior Games 2011, Bradenton/Sarasota (1st track meet ever!) 2 Gold Medals (1st PL)
800 Meters 8:03 (Would have placed 8th in national 2009 games, the last time games were held)
1500 Meters 8:03 (Would have placed 7th in national 2009 games)
Have run 5 half marathons, many 10Ks, 5 and 4 milers. After training with a coach, PR’d in most races in 2009-2010.
Ellen Jaffe Jones spent 18 years in television news as an investigative reporter and anchor. She has won the highest honors in broadcasting, including two Emmys and 1st Place for the National Press Club's Consumer Reporting Award. After leaving television, she earned high returns for her clients as a financial consultant at Smith Barney, where she was dedicated to socially responsible investing.
As the only healthy person in her immediate family, Ellen's passion is helping others avoid the pain and suffering she's witnessed since early childhood. Her mother, aunt, and both sisters had breast cancer. After nearly dying from a colon blockage at age twenty-eight, Ellen was told by her doctors that she needed to do things differently to avoid her family's fate.
The media have reported on the significant weight loss and improved health that Ellen's students have experienced after taking her cooking classes, which are affiliated with The Cancer Project, part of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a national nonprofit organization. The media have also called Ellen's life "an experiment to beat the odds." She often places in 5K running races and ran her first marathon at age fifty-eight. She coaches adult running groups and is certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America as a personal trainer. Ellen's weekly column, "Feasting on Fitness," appears in the Anna Maria Island Sun, and her monthly column, "Running Fitness," appears in the Running Journal. She wrote "Eat Vegan on $4 a Day" after watching too many news stories that said food stamp recipients could only afford Twinkies and mac & cheese. Visit Ellen's website at www.vegcoach.com.
Ellen became vegan for health and ethical reasons. As a reporter, she saw some of the early undercover video of elephants being abused by trainers at circuses. She brought her young children to protests of circuses and belonged to some early food co-ops, aswell as encouraged her children to help in the backyard organic garden. As a reporter, Ellen saw that newsroom management didn’t take animal rights seriously. Yet she continued to focus on other ways to get animal friendly stories covered focusing on animal shelters and puppy mills. While her current book is about the economics, environmental and health reasons to eat vegan, her heart has always been in all sides of the issue. Ellen is totally convincedthat a vegan diet enhances her current race running performances.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I have been going to gyms since jiggle belts and Jane Fonda. We used to have family reunions at hospital bedsides and joked about the hospital wings that the cost of our current family’s illnesses had paid for. When my aunt died of breast cancer in our home when I was 5, I began the lifelong investigative reporting job of my life trying to dodge the family genes that not only gave all women except me breast cancer, but in addition, many got heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, osteoporosis and varicose veins. All my life, I’ve been told those conditions were hereditary, but I have not gotten a single one. I didn’t get all the good genes. As the youngest in my family, I had plenty of time to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Although my parents were active, especially my father, diseases prevented them from lifting my children, let alone baby-sitting them. As new vegan Bill Clinton is fond of quoting my lifelong mantra, “I want to be around for the grandchildren.” ;)
Every race I do is for my three daughters and in memory of those who could not be at the finish line.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
Low fat, plant based. When I need to drop a few pounds, I revert to my fav weight loss plan, Dr. McDougall’s Maximum Weight Loss book. It is also similar to PCRM’s recommendations, which I have outlined in my book.
How would you describe your training program?
Since I am a certified running coach, and am a volunteer running coach for our local high school girl’s cross country and track teams, I have had many years of studying what works. As I have aged, I have followed some excellent senior fitness advice to drop running every day and run only every other day. So I run at least 3 miles 3-4 days a week, including a long 5-10 mile longer run. I also do speed work on one day at a local track or park. I cross train on the off days, and rest one day a week. Depending how much I’m working out weight training with my clients, I’ll add more weight training once or twice a week.
I’m a huge believer of anything core and try to hold a plank position 2-6 minutes once a week. I also do lots of crunches and medicine ball tossing. I incorporate dynamic stretching exercises into warm-ups before running, such as lunges, squats, twists and swings. I make sure I have a recovery protein/carb combo within an hour of exercise to promote good muscle rebuilding. I try to always do at least 10 minutes of stretching after any aerobic or weight training workout. I swim in the Gulf of Mexico at least once a week right after a long run during warm months. Local runners swear by it! Heaven!
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
B12 most days. Sometimes a Fuhrman Vegan Gentle Formula multi, if I feel I haven’t been getting enough variety or have a big race coming up. Occasionally I’ll add a pea/hemp/quinoa powder to a smoothie post-run, just for fun. Mainly, I’m addicted to Larabars post race/recovery. Though just dates and nuts are a cheap, frequent recovery snack. Most post race food still has a long way to go to be vegan-friendly.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
The old, “you don’t get enough calcium, protein, energy, or fill-in-the blank.” I was really annoyed to sit through my Road Runners Club of America certification class in which the instructor ranted about high school girls who asked questions about a vegan diet are a sure sign of eating disorders and poor health. I raised my hand and respectfully disagreed asking if she had any science/research to support it. She said, no that it was just her own experience. I said I worked with high school girls for years, and all the cases of eating disorders came from a long family history of meat eaters. I never knew any girl with an eating disorder who was vegan or who had expressed an interest in it. Despite my repeated attempts to change her PowerPoint slide through e-mails, including links to research, information and your website, she refused. As far as I know, she still continues this misinformation in the many certifying classes offered around the US.
What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
Remaining positive in a crazy world. Having energy and focus to deal with all that life throws our way. Beating disease. And it’s just great fun!
What do you like best about being vegan?
Too many to list, really. But if I must, knowing that animals are being saved, human lives are being saved and so many diseases averted.
What do you like best about being fit?
Energy and disease avoidance. I’ve stared death in the face with too many friends and relatives. It is not easy, fun or convenient to have your chest cracked open from heart disease, take daily insulin shots for diabetes, or lose an eye or limb to diabetes. In my cooking classes, I’ve seen too many people get desperate on their death beds. My best friend, who died of breast cancer tried to change her diet the last year of her life. By then, it was too little too late. The last thing she said to me was, “take care of my kids.” This (keeping fit on a vegan diet) is how I have best honored that request.
Inspiring others, especially children, and even more especially…my own.
What are your strengths as an athlete?
Compassion, keen sense of observing other’s form which helps in my own performance as well as when I coach/train others, endurance, speed and incredible shoulders. I have only learned the latter in my plank-holding competitions and when I witnessed my daughter break her high school pole-vaulting record and place 15th in state.
What advice do you have for vegan athletes who are just starting out?
Listen to your body. Avoid the terrible “2s.” Too much, too soon.” Start slowly, learn and respect your body’s limits. Find a good coach/trainer you respect, preferably someone older who understands that the high-impact class or tomorrow night’s adventure run may not be in the best interest of your long-term fitness or injury prevention. If remaining fit throughout your lifetime or in my case, running until I’m 100, is your goal, then make each decision with that in mind. I love sprinting, but I also know there is more risk of injury than slower endurance running. I try to balance both, but I also recognize that it would be great fun to train and then break some records. Ultimately, you are only competing against yourself. The only real race is the race against time.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
Be sure to get your eating information and research from reliable sources, such as PCRM, Dr. McDougall, the Essylstyns and others who have been singing from the same songbook for years. These are the most courageous doctors who have taken on big pharma and big business to do right by their patients. Much money is at stake and as a result, money has been poured into disseminating misinformation. I’m still in shock that a book with fried chicken on the cover and an Atkins book can be in Amazon’s “vegetarian” cookbook section and on the bestseller list. Go figure. But always ask, “who stands to gain financially from this research, this medicine or this book?” Follow the money, then ask your doctor if veggies are right for you. ;) I always tell a new doc, “I’m the broccoli rep.” Please quote me on this.
What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?
My best personal records of my life in running have come in the height of my healthiest vegan eating. I also see how my clients have lost weight so easily. It is important for me to be a great vegan role model for them as they wrestle with their life-long beliefs about eating, whatever they happen to be. If they see me outperforming on a vegan diet, I know it will go a long way to encourage them to possibly change too.
My children have had to struggle with many difficult issues in their lives. I know that my youngest daughter’s venture into running two years ago was indirectly a result of my modeling. One of her friends came up to me and said, “oh you’re the one who does all these races that your daughter talks about.” Yeah…
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
It is my #1 link I refer people to, and have for years, when the questions come up about performing well on a vegan diet. I recognize most of my clients won’t want to spend the time and effort it takes to look like Robert and others in body building competitions. However, as I always say, a pictures says 1000 words. Photos more than anything, show that you can have amazing strength, agility and ability in any athletic competition.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your vegan fitness lifestyle?
I hope that more people will use vegan eating to enhance performance, as I have.