Melissa Rockwell is both a wine pro and a committed runner. She’s competed in several full and half marathons and trains most days, and she’s also a WSET Level 3 certified sommelier and direct-to-consumer sales manager for Sparkling Pointe, an independent sparkling wine producer on the North Fork of Long Island, NY, that uses traditional Champagne grape varietals and techniques. PSC nutritionist Dr. Chinara Tate caught up with Melissa this week to find out what makes her tick—and weigh in with a dose of science.
At A Glance
What gets you out of bed? Early AM runs - rain, wind, or sunshine!
Healthy Habits Daily exercise, water, mindful eating & adequate sleep.
Vices Wine and TV binges.
One piece of health/wellness advice Be active. Appreciate the ability just to move! If you are a beginner, take it slow. Don’t rush past your fitness level. Progress takes time. It is a forever journey, but such a great one!
Melissa’s Morning Routine
I wake up around 7:30am each day. My work schedule runs from 10:00 - 6:00, so I like to take advantage of my mornings to exercise. I run five days a week, on average, anywhere between 4 - 9 miles, sometimes longer distances if I am training for a half or full marathon. I will run rain, wind, or sunshine! I live by the most beautiful state park in the world (my opinion) and do every single run there. It never gets old! I always run listening to music or a podcast. The park has a wide bike/running lane, so I feel comfortable with my headphones. I ditch the headphones when I run with friends or when running out on the roads with traffic.
✔ Running. In addition to widely known cardiovascular benefits and endorphin rush aka ‘runner’s high’, running is also associated with enhanced memory, attention and reduced risk of dementia. Running, among other forms of cardiovascular exercise, has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, build brain volume and increase brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) - a chemical critical to both individual neuron development and building connections between neurons.
If I am doing a longer run I prefer to eat breakfast about 30 minutes before heading out, usually an O’Doughs vegan, gluten free bagel with Big Spoon Nut Butter. I am neither gluten free nor vegan, but I just can’t get enough of these O’Doughs bagels! Maybe it's the poppy seeds! For a shorter run, I go on an empty stomach and eat later. After my run, I am quick to get ready for work. I give myself about 20-30 minutes to shower, get dressed, prepare my coffee (I have a single serve to-go cup from the Aeropress every day) and gather my things. My drive to work is about 15-20 minutes. I enjoy my coffee and breakfast, if I haven’t eaten already, when I arrive to work and begin checking my emails.
~ Going gluten free. While it’s perfectly fine to occasionally eat gluten free items, it’s important to recognize that many gluten free items lack the vitamins and minerals found in their gluten containing counterparts and thus gluten-free foods aren’t necessarily healthier. Gluten-free diets are only advised when medically indicated (eg. Celiac’s disease) and often require guidance from a knowledgeable licensed medical professional to ensure nutritional needs are met adequately.
My healthy habits include daily exercise, between running and strength training, I always get from 30 - 60+ minutes, 6-7 days a week. I try to make sure I drink water, but I admit it's a push. I have to remind myself constantly and keep track of ounces to make sure I get enough each day. I try to eat healthy. I always eat breakfast and for lunch it is usually a salad with protein or a yogurt with fruit and granola. My husband is a wonderful cook and makes us dinner most nights, especially now during the stay at home orders. We eat a wide variety of foods for dinner. I am not a big snacker, so rarely do I mindlessly eat throughout the day.
I also like to get 8-9 hours of sleep every night! That is super important to me.
✔ Water intake. Water is essential for ridding the body of toxins, regulating body temperature, lubricating and cushioning our joints and protecting our tissues. While water needs vary based on a host of factors including overall health, activity level and body mass, generally, 8x8 (8 ounces, 8 times a day) serves as a good rule of thumb. About 20% of our daily fluid intake comes from food, which provides another good reason to ensure adequate fruit and vegetable intake.
✔ Mindful eating. In addition to normalized eating - eating for both nourishment and pleasure with flexibility, I’m a huge proponent of eating mindfully. The opposite, mindless or distracted eating, reduces our ability to derive pleasure from our foods and sense when we are comfortably full. To eat mindfully means to engage all of our senses in the experience of eating so that we are fully present for it and sets the stage for us to derive the most joy from it.
Being in the wine industry, I do enjoy wine. My husband is a winemaker too, so it is something we enjoy together. What I love about wine is how complex it is. There are so many grape varieties, with all different aromas and flavors. Then those broaden based on where the grapes are grown and what style the winemaker has chosen. It is such a thoughtful beverage to enjoy. Add food pairings and you can delve even deeper. However, because I like to exercise each morning, I hate to feel any “hangover” effects the next day! So, I always try to keep it to one glass (6oz) of wine with my dinner. If I have more, I usually regret it! Every few days I skip alcohol all together.
I also really enjoy TV. I have so many favorite shows, and I am no stranger to after dinner binge watching.
✔ Wine in moderation. The health benefits of wine are inconclusive, requiring additional study to understand how positive effects weigh out against deleterious ones - including hangover and dehydration. One 6oz glass of wine every few days is a good moderate target.
In addition to promoting general physical health, evidence suggests that running (among other forms of cardiovascular exercise) also supports brain health - enhancing our memory and attention and helping to protect us from neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.
The practice of staying mindful of not only what we are eating but being fully present in the experience itself is essential to our ability to listen to what the body is communicating about how foods make us feel and whether or not we are satisfied - in terms of physical fullness as well as in terms of pleasure derived.
When it comes to beverages, water and high water content foods - namely fruits and vegetables - are always our best bet to maintain balance, enhance cellular function and prevent dehydration. While wine may offer some health benefits, it should be consumed in moderation to optimize hydration status and support restful sleep.