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Black Feminist Runner: Tackling Hills With Hemp Seeds and Nursing on Demand

One of my deepest passions are intense hill running. I absolutely love it.

Dr. A. Breeze Harper, Tassajara Zen Center, California 2019

I was thinking of actually writing my next book and titling it, Black Feminist Hill Runner because I literally get my best ideas during my “runner’s high”. Running hills keeps me “more sane” because of the intensely stressful work I do (antiracism and Black feminism) coupled with the triple work day of raising 4 young children. My head explodes with ideas as I run up and up for 30 minutes. One of my favorite things I love to do is to create absolutely superior plant-based nutrition for my specific needs. I realize that despite a pretty demanding day, I have optimal endurance to run intense workout and I actually don’t get tired while running up the hills. The only reason I have to turn back around after 30 minutes is that I can only be away for about an hour total because I need to get back home to the kids.

Four Silly Harper-Zahn kids.

Some folks have asked me about my muscle tone and glowing skin. I have to admit that it could be genetic or it could be my diet and exercise. I don’t want to say that a plant-based diet will yield glowing skin or optimal performance. But, it’s probably a significant factor. Below is simply what I do and I’m guessing it does impact my exercises and skin health, but I don’t know to what degree genes play into that.

Also, folk ask me how it’s possible for me to have so much energy and endurance, stay fit within what applies to my needs (as everyone’s definition and goals of ‘fitness’ are subjective and tailored to their own needs), while nursing non-stop for the last 10 years and raising/running after 4 kids while doing my professional work. Anyway, here are the habits I engage in, below, that I do for my hill running that have been shown to create better muscle tone and healthier skin:

  1. No coffee. No Black tea. I do not and have never consumed hot caffeinated beverages to wake me up in the morning. I realized that what I need is a nutritional regimen that is holistic and will help me with stamina, endurance, and mental acuity without sugar and caffeine. I discovered Siberian Ginseng (aka Eleuthero root) and Ginkgo are excellent!. I take them in the morning and swear by it, either as a hot tea or I put the herbs in my smoothies.

  2. Spirulina and Chlorella. Spirulina is a salt water algae. Chlorella is a fresh water one. I take 1 tsp of each per day, usually mixing it in my plant-based smoothie. Full of vitamins and minerals, combining them is like a builder and a detoxifier together.

  3. Raw hemp seed hearts for protein. I do 3/4cup to 1 cup per day, blended in a smoothie. High in protein and omega 3, 6, 9, this is my pure awesome PROTEIN source that is easily digestible. It is high in magnesium which is great for workouts and recovery, along with plethora of other minerals like Zinc. Great for skin health. I use Manitoba or Nutiva.

  4. Fresh ginger root and turmeric. I throw a lot of fresh ginger into my raw smoothies in the morning as well. Gives me energy and jumpstarts my stomach and intestines. It’s naturally anti-inflammatory and an immune system builder. I take ginger along with fresh or organic turmeric powder, which is highly anti-inflammatory too and great for those who are trying to avoid inflammation in joints when running. I use high Curcumin Turmeric by Anthony’s. I buy the ginger root fresh and ad about 1/8 tsp of black pepper to ‘activate’ the turmeric.

  5. No fast carbs in the morning for breakfast, like white bread, sugary cereals, etc. My breakfasts are usually raw plant-based smoothies, with a little fruit like organic mango or grapefruit added.

  6. Dates. Low glycemic index and a great boost of energy, I put a date in my smoothie , or I will eat one before I go running.

  7. Fresh Peppermint or spearmint. I throw in copious amounts of mint into my smoothies in the morning as well.

  8. Vitamin D3 (vegan). I take 5000 IU of plant based Vitamin D3 per day. Country Life is the company I use. I have been doing this for about 3.5 years now , as before, I had no idea that I wasn’t getting enough—- especially as a Black person with more melanin then lighter skinned folk. Great for bone health and immunity.

  9. Lypospheric Vitamin C, 1000mg a day. Before I put any food or drinks in my tummy in the morning, I take Lypospheric Vitamin C on an empty stomach with about 4 ounces of water. It is highly absorbable and better than standard Vitamin C supplements on the market in which the body hardly absorbs the C. Wait 15 minutes before you eat, after taking it! This form of C rebuilds my body and adds a glow to my skin as well as boosts my body’s ability to repair damage. It is great for skin health and creating that ‘glow’.

  10. Living Silica by Orgono. Silica is great for vibrant skin and hair… but, it’s also excellent for joint and bone health. I take 2 tbsp of this per day, on an empty tummy.

  11. Water, water, water, with electrolytes. I rarely drink anything else. I drink at least a 1/2 gallon of water per day mixed with electrolytes. My favorite is TraceMinerals brand. Regular water while running won’t do. This also helps me prevent leg cramping and is high in magnesium. I hydrate a lot since I’ve been nursing for 10 years non-stop. You may not need 1/2 gallon a day.

  12. Castor oil, shea butter, and tea tree oil soap. Though not something I eat, after I go running, I shower and use Dr. Bronner’s Tea tree oil soap for my hair and body. After showering, I apply castor oil mixed with shea butter (I buy both in bulk) on my face and body which help with the glow and making my skin more supple. I notice that this works well AFTER I have workout out that day and SWEATED a lot. I also put the same thing in my hair. People have asked me about my hair “glowing” and looking healthy. Well, even though I do eat herbs and foods that help that, I like to apply castor oil and shea butter for that ‘outer glow’ and hair strength. I have received a lot of compliments on my French braids because of the ‘luster’ it has, along with my skin health. The secret topical cosmetic really is castor oil, which is REALLY cheap.

I also cannot emphasize enough that I have been nursing nonstop for 10+ years which can put a lot of stress on the body if you aren’t putting in what is coming out. Doing hill running while still nursing is a lot and so far, my bone density and health are excellent. Many nursing people can lose valuable minerals and vitamins while nursing and don’t know how to replace them. It is vital you know how to exercise and eat in a way that replenishes your body while creating optimal breastmilk for your baby/toddler.

So, that is my hill running hack recipe/regimen. With it, I notice that I repair and recover quicker when I abide by these 11 rules above. I’m never constipated, I rarely feel bloated or my system “sluggish”. I did a similar regimen for my last few pregnancies and all my babies were 9-10lb, vaginal births, full term. I know each body is different and you can plan as well as you can, nutritionally, and it may not guarantee these particular outcomes.

Photo of Dr. Harper with french braids, wearing a halter dress for her 43rd birthday in 2019.

Dr. Harper celebrating her 43rd birthday in 2019

However, I just wanted to share this with you since I get a lot of people asking me this, mainly because of the misconception that one cannot have given birth to 4 children, be over 40, and continue to engage in intense workouts without being ‘exhausted’. For me, it has been possible and I think I personally owe it to this personal journey I have had with nutrition and the fitness program that is right for me.

Pregnant? Check out this webinar below:

Take me to the pregnancy webinar! (Click here)

Have fun discovering what fitness programs and plant-based nutrition work best for your needs.


Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutions, a seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best know for as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked off FoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system.

Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives Matter. In tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”

In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

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