Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

“Turkey Trotting”

Monday, November 17th, 2014

TurkeyTrotI can’t help it.

The holiday season is bearing down on us, and I simply have to write about the importance of keeping fitness top of mind.

Since Thanksgiving is first up in the holiday queue, let’s talk turkey trots, shall we? Specifically, let’s dispel the myths surrounding turkey trot events.

Before we get started, let me clarify.

A turkey trot is not a dance, an alcoholic beverage (that would be turkey “shot”), or code for a gastrointestinal problem of the genus meleagris.

But you know this, right? A turkey trot is a Thanksgiving Day (or somewhere close to it) run/walk event of varying distance. Come on, you know you want to do one, so read on and let me encourage you to actually sign up.

MYTHS

  • You must be an expert runner to participate.
  • You must be in tip top shape to participate.
  • You must wear a turkey outfit in order to participate.
  • Participating in a turkey trot negates every bite you put in your mouth at Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ll dispel these one by one.

  1. It’s perfectly acceptable to WALK a turkey trot. In fact, many races have both runner and walker registration. Likewise, it’s just as acceptable to “sorta” run a turkey trot. You can be a beginner, a weekend warrior, a runner “wannabe”. Just listen to your body so you don’t overdo it and injure yourself. Spending Thanksgiving at the urgent care may cause you to miss the pumpkin pie – and that’s just wrong.
  2. If you’ve spent the majority of your time since mid-August on the sofa, of course you’re not going to be super fit, but you’re at least willing to participate – and that’s fabulous! However, you may want to keep your enthusiasm in check, because now isn’t the best time to get caught up in the crowd frenzy and go for a PR. You want to feel accomplished and energized when you cross the finish line, not beat up and defeated.
  3. For some, turkey trotting in a turkey outfit is de rigueur, but when making your own decision, here are a couple of things to consider. Turkey outfits look toasty warm – a plus if the temperature is sliding south, not so great if it’s a mild day. They also look really cumbersome, and personally, I like unencumbered running. A “beakless” hat (easier to shove in your pocket if you overheat), plenty of layers, and a pair of gloves are both warm and practical. But hey, who ever said this event is about practicality? It could be rather fun to dress like a turkey. Just remember to not ACT like one, okay?
  4. This is perhaps the BIGGEST myth of all. You would have to run a ridiculously long turkey trot in order to cancel out every calorie from your delicious, once-per-year special meal. And even considering doing so begs the question – why? Run the turkey trot because you want to have fun, get some exercise and fresh air, and start (or uphold) a holiday tradition. Then join friends and family, enjoy their company and the revelry, and count your blessings. The BEST part of Thanksgiving Day.

 

Want To Reach Your Goal? ‘P’ On It.

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

2014 Half Mara1On September 7 I ran the Chicago Half Marathon, my fourth 13.1 mile race. In 2011 I ran my first Chicago half, and in 2013, due to an odd set of circumstances, I ran two; Chicago, as well as the Christie Clinic Half in Champaign, IL.

My hope is that in sharing a bit of my 2014 race journey here, you’ll find INSPIRATION to set and reach your own health goals – by ‘P’ing on them.

‘P’ersistence pays off, perfection doesn’t exist.

My goal – Three training runs per week; 3-5 miles on Tuesday and Thursday, and a long run (distance determined by where I was in my training schedule) on Saturday or Sunday.

My reality – Some weeks those Tuesday and Thursday runs wouldn’t budge above 3 miles, as my work (or sleep) schedule left too little time to get in the full distance I aimed for.

‘P’ on it – Even on days when I knew my actual run would fall short of my goal, I ran. The P’ersistence and consistency of running week in and week out, regardless of the distance, is what continually moved me forward.

‘P’erspective determines outcome.

My goal – Head into each run feeling rested, strong and prepared to do the distance required.

My reality – On Sunday, July 6, 2014 my scheduled run was 9 miles. Two days earlier I’d run the Glen Ellyn “Freedom Four” 4 mile race – a hilly course that I look forward to every year. I ran it fast. Thanks to perfect weather and consistent training, I felt strong, the run felt effortless. Fast forward 48 hours to Sunday, where my run followed the beautiful Chicago lakefront. I HATED every, single, step. I never felt rested, I didn’t feel strong, and I slogged agonizingly through all 9 miles.

‘P’ on it – I could have quit, feeling like I wasn’t making progress, but that was simply my perspective, not the reality. In truth, I needed more recovery time, but I was tied to my training schedule and not listening to my body. Changing my ‘P’erspective reminded me there was a valid reason for my tortuous experience, which in the end I found strangely comforting.

Create “I’m ‘P’ossible” out of impossible.

My goal – Run 13.1 miles in under 2:20.

My reality – 13 miles is a LONG distance. The next time you drive 13 miles, pay attention to just how far it is! If before I signed up for my first half marathon I’d focused only on the total distance, I could easily have second guessed my ability. But I’d already run a 10 mile race that same year (what’s 3 more miles?!), and lots of people – including people I actually knew – ran 13 miles. Having a frame of reference helped.

‘P’ on it – I created “I’m ‘P’ossible” out of impossible. By taking an objective look, breaking the race down in my mind to one, single mile at a time, and consistently adding bit by bit each week, I knew I could do it – and that the timing would take care of itself.

 

 

 

Countdown To Half Marathon – RECAP – Christie Clinic Half Marathon, Champaign, IL

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

This blog update is something like 6 weeks overdue – but I’ve finally written it! I feel like I can’t continue with new posts until I add this, so here goes.

I ran the race with my brother – so meeting up with him and his grandson (he’s old enough for that; I, on the other hand, am definitely NOT) at our hotel was great fun. And rather than fight the crowds and risk dining on food that left us wanting something delicious and fulfilling, I suggested we bring food and prep it in our hotel rooms. Mind you, we’ve stayed at this hotel before and it’s a laid back spot, complete with microwave and fridge. Simple to pack up a cooler and bring along our own delish/nutrish food. And that’s just what we did! Here I am, ready to heat up my pre-cooked whole wheat pasta. Simple and spectacular.

Hotel Room Gourmet

Hotel Room Gourmet

I realize this suggestion wouldn’t always be an option, but under these circumstances, it worked brilliantly! And because I do so many healthy cooking demonstrations at corporations all over the Chicago area, I’ve got this down to a science.

After a good night’s sleep, we were up and prepping for the big day. The weather was beyond cooperative – sunny and (eventually) warm, no rain or wind – perfect running conditions. I took it as my gift for slogging through all of the horrible winter weather training sessions. Thank you.

Start Line

Start Line

At the start line, complete with my warmer sleeves (best running-with-comfort invention, ever), I was ready to go (that’s my bro just in front of me). I always start slow, conserving my fuel and energy rather than burning through it up front – so after I hit somewhere around the first mile and a half, I fell in with a pacer group running a 10:07 pace. Initially I thought, “There’s no way this is 10:07, it’s too slow”, but somewhere around mile 8 I changed my mind; definitely a 10:07 mile pace. It was challenging to maintain that pace for an extended distance, because I don’t train that way. But it was a challenge I relished; I loved experiencing how my months of training paid me back, it was oh so gratifying.

I’m eternally grateful to Michelle (her name was scrawled on her bib) the pacer. I don’t know her, but I kept her in sight and my body within a few stride lengths. I held that pace until mile 11 when I broke from the pace pack and ran out ahead to finish in 2:11:40. I felt good throughout the run, and finished strong. All my training, good nutrition, and hard work paid off!

Now I’m on the hunt for a September half, and I’m already doing a few summer runs (have a 15k this weekend). Until then, I’ll keep you posted on my running adventures – and please share yours with me; I’d love to hear how good nutrition and consistent training help you meet your fitness goals.

Happy summer, happy running, everyone!

Victory!

Victory!

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 2

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Tomorrow is the long-awaited, big, big day. I feel ready, I feel strong. I’m excited to be here. I’m honored to be here.

I know I’ll shed a few tears at the start line – especially when they play the national anthem. I’m assuming there will be a nod to Boston – no doubt tears will fall then. I got teary at the packet pickup when I purchased my Boston sticker – I’ll wear it proudly on my bib.

I can’t help but think how only two short weeks ago, thousands of runners felt the same excitement and anticipation, never once considering what was in store.

I’m running for me, for all those who can’t, and I’m running for Boston.

Bring it.

Boston Sticker

Boston Sticker

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 3

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

48 hours from now, I will have completed my half marathon. I can’t believe it’s so close!

Essentially, I’m finished training – completely. At this point, there’s nothing else physically that I can do to get stronger, faster, or fitter. I follow a religious foot, Achilles, and calf stretching and strengthening routine that I’ll do tonight and tomorrow; can’t really ever overdo that, and it’s helpful, even in this final hour.

Today I walked 1/2 mile to warm up, then ran an easy two miles. By easy, I’m referring to intensity. I followed that up with a yoga class – it felt really good to fit in some extended total-body stretching. The instructor’s emphasis for today’s class was on stretching and opening the sides of the body; loved it! Yoga is a wonderful antidote to running and strength training, and I try to fit it in as often as I can – unfortunately, I’ve been neglecting it because my training has taken precedence. It’s ironic that we offer Vinyasa yoga for beginners here at the NutriFit studio http://www.eatwellgetstrong.com/yoga.html, but since I’m working when class is in session, I never get to reap the benefits. Too bad. . .it’s an awesome class!

A couple of days ago I was kicking around the idea of bringing food along so that once we check into our hotel we’re not held captive by over-priced, underwhelming restaurant food. It’s rare that food bothers my digestive system, but now would be a ridiculously horrible time for it to be one of those rare times. . .bringing my own food just makes more sense, especially since we’re driving. My brother likes the idea as well, so that sealed the deal and I decided to go for it.

In advance, I’ll cook up a big pot of whole wheat pasta (extremely difficult to find at a restaurant), saute’ veggies and vegan meatballs for me, and bring shrimp or chicken for my brother, nephew and husband. I’ll toss a huge salad of spinach, mushrooms, and strawberries, mix up my special olive oil-based dressing, and bring fruit and dark chocolate for dessert. When it’s time to eat, I’ll simply plug in the wok, heat the pasta and toppings, and serve up the rest. Cheap, delicious, nutritious, and smart. Well, except for the dish washing; bathtub? Nah. . .just kidding.

I’ll take pics and let you know how it works out in my post-run follow-up blog.

For now, here’s the recipe for the salad dressing – it’s divine!

VERSATILE VINAIGRETTE

1 tablespoon orange juice

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, smashed

½ teaspoon ground, black pepper

In a small glass jar, combine orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, garlic and black pepper. Put the lid on the jar; shake contents vigorously until thoroughly mixed.

This salad is actually tossed with this dressing. Yum!

This salad is actually tossed with this dressing. Yum!

 

 

 

 

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 5

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Taper week continues.

Today I ran the shortest distance that I have run in months – a mere 3 miles. I’m not saying “a mere 3 miles” to downplay how challenging running 3 miles truly is. . .it’s just that when you’ve been logging anywhere from 5 – 13 miles per run for the last few months, it truly becomes “a mere 3 miles.”

Tapering requires a huge amount of mental discipline and toughness; just like the actual training. I wrote a bit about this yesterday, when I lamented just how difficult it is to scale back on my workouts. Think about it. If someone has been religiously training their body to get stronger, pushing themselves a little bit further each week in order to tackle an endurance fitness event of any sort, once they get to that deadline, they’re going to be fit – really fit. Cardiovascularly fit. Muscularly fit. Mentally fit. They’ve been training themselves to GO, and to pull back in the final hours is just so counterintuitive.

But it’s smart.

So today, because I finished my workout earlier than I normally do, I was talking with one of the guys at the gym. He asked me about my Friday night meal, like what it may be. And I’ve actually been thinking about this. Restaurants, depending on what area of the country you’re in, can be completely hit or miss. Last year, at this same race, we unequivocally dined at a miss. Call me crazy, but I’m considering packing my electric wok, a cooler full of prepped ingredients, and cooking up dinner in the hotel room. Why not? I do healthy cooking demonstrations in all sorts of places – corporate conference rooms, exhibit halls, and hotel ballrooms to name a few. Why not a hotel room?

I’ll have to give it some more thought, but I can honestly say it’s one way to insure our pre-race meal is balanced, healthy, adequate, and perhaps most importantly, delicious. What do you think? Am I crazy?

 

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 6

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

It’s been only 1 week since the Boston Marathon bombing, and it has been for me, as it has for countless others, a week of tremendous emotion.

When I ran my last long run on Saturday, it was such a beautiful day, and a beautiful run, but Boston loomed. As I head into the final week before my race, the pall of last Monday is woven through the excitement I feel. What to do? What every other runner in America (and beyond) is doing; run strong for Boston. In fact, this evening there are two informal runs taking place; one in Chicago and one in Deerfield that are doing just that. Wish I could participate, but work calls, so I’ll be there in spirit.

Now, a quick recap of today. Just when I thought that running through wind, rain, and snow, up seemingly never-ending hills, and putting in the long training mileage even when my body wasn’t cooperating was as hard as it would get. . .I hit taper week.

OMG! Let me be very clear. When I work out, I work out. I don’t get myself to the gym at the ridiculous hour that I do to socialize or do a few spins on the stationary bike. I’m focused, I sweat, I squeeze out every ounce of determination I’ve got, whether it’s lifting weights, doing cardio, yoga or core.

And this week? I can’t. Well, of course I can – but I’m cutting back in order to save energy and strength for the run. And it’s so hard!

Monday’s are my strength training days, and when I lift, I lift heavy (for me). Lots of women don’t lift beyond 10 pounds, give or take a couple pounds on either side of that number. It reminds me of the joke, “You should always lift weights that are heavier than your purse.” Well, plenty don’t. But I do (and so should you). You may think that lifting weights won’t impact running energy, but think about it, every extra ounce of energy your body spends repairing and getting stronger (which is essentially what happens when you lift weights) takes away from energy stores you need to run strong. If lifting weights during training impacts your running by making you stronger, why would it not have an impact now? So I had to ease back. Wicked hard.

But backing off on running? Now that I’m looking forward to. It’s a huge psychological boost to realize I only need to run 3 miles tomorrow and 2 on Thursday. Piece of cake!

So this week requires a different type of determination; scaling back, after I’ve spent 4 months pushing. And by the way, after tossing my purse on the scale in my office (hey, I’m a dietitian/nutritionist), it weighs just under 5 pounds.

My 4.75 lb. purse.

My 4.75 lb. purse.

 

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 7

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Yesterday was the last long run I’ll do before the big event – now a mere 7 days away. My plan was to run 10 – 12 miles, depending on how I felt. In the end, I ran 13.18. And I felt great.

Several things contributed to such a strong run.

In no particular order:

1. The weather. While it was still cold enough that I ran in 5 layers up top, two on the bottom, my ever-present red hat, and mittens (which I eventually took off), it was DRY. A week ago it was raining/snowing, gray, windy, and raw. Since those aren’t the best conditions for muscles to feel really good, for me anyway, my body never completely loosened up. It was SUNNY. Hallelujah. No need to say anything else about that. It was only occasionally WINDY. It really is more difficult to run in the wind; 20 mph headwinds can cost 20% of your energy.

2. New playlist. To run with or without music is an individual choice, but for me it’s a no-brainer. I run better with music – preferably something with a strong bass line, something in the “funk, R & B, blues” genre. I finally created a new compilation of music that contains these sort of tunes and more, and it was like putting rockets in my shoes. In fact, there are studies showing the positive impact of music on performance, and this study in particular suggests how syncing music tempo with pace will either slow you down or speed you up. But if you’re a run-with-music type, you don’t need a study to tell you that!  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22828457

3. Well-fed, well-rested. Again, a no-brainer. Eating well and getting plenty of sleep is pretty consistent for me. I’m never at my best without adequate sleep, so I make sure that I get it. And crappy food? Even when I’m not training for a race, it doesn’t feel good to eat bad food (by bad I mean heavily processed, artificial, poor quality), so I just don’t do it. Oh, and this is a good time to skip the alcohol; save it for later!

So the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, in this case anyway. All of these things combined make for a strong practice run and/or a strong race, but because only #2 and #3 are in your control (don’t stress about the weather, just prepare for it) put your focus and energy there.

Did someone mention quality fuel? Here’s a recipe for a post-workout smoothie full of antioxidants, protein, and carbs. Enjoy!

 Blueberry-Spinach Smoothie

1 1/2 cups coconut water

1/2 cup non-fat, Greek-style plain yogurt

1 cup packed fresh spinach

2/3 cup blueberries (frozen is fine)

1 Tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Place all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth.

Blueberry-Spinach Smoothie

Blueberry-Spinach Smoothie

 

 

 

 

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 9

Friday, April 19th, 2013

As a running dietitian (or a dietitian who runs), of course I can’t overlook the nutritional component of training. I wrote about nutrition here http://eatwellgetstrong.com/blog/?p=677, and included a recipe for the most amazing waffles. I hope you’ve had an opportunity to try them – did I mention they’re amazing?

At this point in a half marathon training program (7-10 days out from the actual race day), tapering begins. Tapering is a fancy way of saying “Cut back on your training.” It may sound counterintuitive, but cutting back on the mileage and number of training days you’ve been doing allows the body to rebuild muscle and energy reserves – two things definitely needed on race day.

From a nutrition perspective, it makes sense to eat well THROUGHOUT your training, but especially in the last 1-2 weeks, loading up on high quality food is a good strategy, and it certainly won’t hurt!

Focus on lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Lean protein, both plant-based (beans, soy, nuts) and healthy animal choices (eggs, lean red meat, fish, chicken and turkey) provides amino acids and iron. Grains (preferably whole wheat) contribute critical carbohydrate, B vitamins and iron. Healthy fats like those found in olive and canola oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish keep you full, help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and may help reduce inflammation. And don’t forget sources of calcium, from both plants AND animals; soy or cow’s milk, cheese, broccoli, yogurt, navy beans and almonds are just a handful of options.

It’s not a good idea to try a new food or drink the day before or day of your race – you don’t know how your body will react, and this is definitely not the time to find out!

In an effort to help you load up on quality, nutritious food, I’m sharing a delicious tempeh dish that I prepared last night. If you’re not familiar with tempeh (a fermented soybean cake that tastes so much better than it sounds), here’s a light-hearted overview (and a recipe that looks delicious); http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-kanner/meatless-monday-the-joy-t_b_673162.html. And if you just can’t summon the wherewithal to try tempeh, simply substitute chicken, shrimp or lean beef.

My made-up recipe:

Sautéed Tempeh and Veggies With Quinoa and Peanut Sauce

1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola or olive oil

2 packages tempeh, diced

1/2, 10 oz. bag fresh baby spinach

1/2 lb. button mushrooms, sliced

1 bunch green onions, sliced

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 cup water

1. In a large skillet (I like to use cast iron) over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the tempeh and let cook until it begins to brown on one side. Toss it about to brown on a couple of sides (to brown all sides of each piece you’d be at this step forever – do the best you can). The tempeh will quickly absorb the oil; to prevent it from sticking and to add another layer of flavor, stir the soy sauce into the water and add to the skillet.

2. Let the tempeh cook, stirring every now and again, until it absorbs all of the soy sauce & water mixture.

3. Once the tempeh has absorbed the liquid, transfer it to a bowl and set aside. Add 1 teaspoon additional oil, and sauté the green onion for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to brown. Add the baby spinach (no need to chop, just add the whole leaves) and sauté the whole thing together for just a minute or two, or until the spinach begins to wilt. Don’t overcook or the spinach will be soggy.

4. Serve the veggies and tempeh over cooked, hot quinoa, rice, or a mixture of both. (Why this strategy? We had leftover rice in the fridge, but not quite enough, so I started a pan of quinoa while the tempeh was cooking. We combined the quinoa and rice – nice way to add different texture.) Don’t know quinoa? Try this: http://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/cooking-with-quinoa-00412000073996/

5. And finally, we had peanut sauce left over from a tofu dish we’d prepared a couple of evenings prior http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2013/03/peanut-sauce. Since tempeh and peanut sauce are simply made for each other, I drizzled it over everything – heaven! My two cents, cut back a little on the amount of ginger called for; although I love it, I felt it was a bit overwhelming.

Tempeh

Tempeh

Baby Spinach

Baby Spinach

Fresh Mushrooms

Fresh Mushrooms

Countdown To 1/2 Marathon – Day 10

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

So excited – got my bib number today. That’s the number I’ll wear during the run, and what I need in order to pick up my race packet at the expo. It’s an IDENTIFIER. . .4 numbers that determine my runner identity (for 13 miles).

At this point, all the training is pretty much wrapped up – I have one more long training run on Saturday, and a short run next Tuesday or Wednesday; haven’t quite decided which day will be best yet.

This is one of my shortest posts, ever. Long day, long week – brain is tired. Boston still weighing heavy, always at the back of my mind, regardless of what I’ve been doing over the past few days.

More tomorrow, I know when to bag it and call it a night.

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 12

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

The heavy heart I felt last night lingers – this morning I started my 5 mile Tuesday run thinking of little else but the Boston tragedy. Honestly, I can’t imagine there’s a runner anywhere today who didn’t have the same experience. I dedicated my run to the victims, but somehow, it didn’t ease my mind as much as I thought it would.

This afternoon I received an email announcement from the race director of my upcoming run (it’s a marathon AND a half marathon race), acknowledging the Boston tragedy and offering assurance of and outlining security precautions for the event. While I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the message, the fact that it was even necessary saddened me further, and sent a slight chill up my spine. There is no doubt that the cloud of this tragedy will hang over the start, race course, and finish of this race.

Running is about joy, freedom, peace. All of the things that terrorism (regardless of where it originates; foreign, domestic, or any other sort) is not. So as I was running, I decided not to participate in the ugliness by letting the “bad guys win” and the sadness overwhelm me, nor further antagonize myself by playing an endless loop of negative messages in my brain. Perhaps most helpful of all – I haven’t viewed news coverage since last night. I believe in staying up-to-date, but the media takes it too far, makes it too sensationalized.

Instead, I decided to run for peace and kept my mind occupied with this:

P – Perseverance

E – Equality

A – Acceptance

C – Consideration

E – Enlightenment

Join me. You don’t even have to be a runner. You can walk for peace, sing for peace, dance for peace, jump rope for peace. In the end, it doesn’t really matter how we get there, only that we do.

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 13

Monday, April 15th, 2013

It is with a heavy heart that I write today’s post.

I’m listening to coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and have only two questions. How can such an evil act touch such an innocent, joyful event? When will it end?

Just yesterday, I wrote about envisioning the actual day of an event you spend months training for. The joy, the excitement, the thrill.

In my wildest, most obscure thoughts, terrorism, bombings, and mass destruction weren’t even considered.

Tomorrow is a run day. Every step I take will be in honor of the Boston Marathon victims, their families, and their loved ones.

boston

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 14

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

When you’ve spent time planning for and/or working toward a big event, two weeks out from the actual date feels a bit surreal. A wedding, a vacation, a milestone birthday celebration (I’ve done all three), the ACTUAL event really doesn’t matter. You’ve envisioned what you want and taken small steps daily, weekly, and monthly to make it happen – you know, “working toward achieving the goal.”

Yet while you’re in the moment doing all the stuff that moves you forward, it’s not uncommon to lose sight of the ACTUAL DAY. Maybe not completely lose sight of it, but at times it can seem so far off that it feels like the ACTUAL DAY will never arrive. We all know THAT’S not true.

As I look two weeks into the future, I’m really getting excited for the race. Wait. I’m going to stop calling it “the race”, because I’m not racing – I’m just running. To finish. I’m not worried in the least that I won’t finish; this is my second ½ marathon, and I’ve long lost count of how many organized runs I’ve participated in. But I’m excited for all of the excitement that surrounds a running event.

My brother is training for the same race, er, run. In fact, he’s the reason I’m running this particular ½, so that makes it even more fun. I’ve never run a “travel race event” before; every event I’ve done has been close enough that I just get out of my own bed and show up at the finish line. Oh wait, except The Soldier Field 10-Mile that I ran two years ago – we stayed at a hotel downtown. But that doesn’t count – Chicago’s loop is a mere 25 miles from my driveway :). The race I’m doing on the 27th actually requires several hours of driving and a hotel. And a restaurant. More on that in another post. So a travel event is fun, too. It’s different – I love different.

So yesterday, as I ran my second to last distance training run (I did 12 miles again!), practiced using my Honey Stinger Acai Pomegranate Flavor Organic Energy Gel (which I just can’t get enough of, seriously,) and staying adequately hydrated (there’s the dietitian/nutritionist in me again), I thought about all of the hours I’ve put in for a (hopefully) 2.5 hour run on the ACTUAL day.

Most Delicious Energy Gel Ever!

Most Delicious Energy Gel Ever!

And I smiled. I thought about how it reminded me of planning for and anticipating my wedding, our vacation trips to all sorts of different (I love different) places, and that other ½ marathon that I ran two years ago. Life is essentially one, long, goal setting, planning and achieving event – what’s yours?

 

Daffodils & Mittens Should Not Appear In Same Pic.

Daffodils & Mittens Should Not Appear In Same Pic

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 16

Friday, April 12th, 2013

This week has been quite the week at the NutriFit studio for nutrition questions and discussion about who is qualified to know their (nutrition) stuff or not. I know this post is starting off a bit differently from my other Countdown posts, but at the end of the day, let’s not forget that I AM a dietitian/nutritionist, who also happens to be a fitness professional and a running junkie.

First up, the nutrition questions. I received two separate questions about SUGAR, and one, just this morning as I was working out, about PROTEIN SHAKES. I’ll save those for a future post, and for now will address the issue top of mind for me; who, exactly, is qualified to work as a nutrition expert? Two things got me going on the topic.

The first: The gym where I work out each day (no, I don’t work out at my own studio, I’m too busy WORKING when I’m here) is kicking off a series of nutrition programs led by a woman who, to the best of my knowledge (because if she had credentials they’d be highlighted on all of the program materials, right?) has only the experience of “The Academy of I Lost Weight” as her nutrition training. No nutrition degree, no credentialing by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Wait, she is listed as a “Healthy Living Adviser”. . .which is what, exactly?

The reason this sticks in my craw is because I worked long and hard to earn my nutrition degree, complete my internship, and earn my masters degree. I do medical nutrition therapy, and work as a nutrition therapist, helping people each and every week make changes that literally save their lives. I take the work that I do VERY seriously, and am privileged to be able to do it.

Not that this woman doesn’t take nutrition seriously. In fact, I’m sure she’s very enthusiastic and pro-nutrition, and probably a generally lovely person. I mean, good for her that she wants to help people be healthier – nothing wrong with that. But when, during the course of her programs she receives questions that can’t be answered from her book of “life-experience-with-losing-weight”, I shudder to think how she’ll respond. People frequently receive erroneous (and potentially harmful) nutrition information from people not qualified to be sharing it. This is also how nutrition myths and untruths are fueled.

The second: This article,”Actually, No You’re Not A Nutrition Expert”, by Dr. David Katz, eloquently and brilliantly captures the essence of the madness that surrounds the “everyone eats, so everyone is a nutrition expert” school of thought. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/nutrition-advice_b_3061646.html. Thank you, Dr. Katz, from a highly credentialed and experienced nutritionist who can proudly and legitimately call herself a nutrition expert.

The moral of this post? Check out the cred of anyone who calls themselves anything other than a registered dietitian/nutritionist. To be fair, I know there are qualified nutrition experts who aren’t RDN’s, but then, I know what to look for in credentials and can ferret them out – but I’m not confident the general public can.

Whew. Thanks, I feel so much better.

Generally Agreed Upon To Be a Healthy Choice.

Tossed, Green Salad. Generally Agreed Upon To Be a Safe, Healthy Choice.

 

 

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 17

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Another treadmill running day – almost afraid to comment on just how good I’m feeling AND running. I do shorter runs during the week, but regardless, I ran my last mile at 9.20 mph – woot! Well let me just stop while I’m ahead. . .no more comments (for now) on strong running. And speaking of strong running, know what else makes it happen?

A strong music playlist.

Unfortunately, my playlist is a tired playlist. I’m terrible about keeping my music up-to-date, which is such a shame, because you should NEVER underestimate the power of music. Research actually supports how music can have a positive impact on a workout, and I experience it every day; even with my tired playlist.

iTunes, here I come.

 

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 18

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

2-day (Days 19 and 18) summary!

Yesterday (Day 19) was a treadmill running day. Have you ever had one of those days where you’re glad to be working out, happy you can fit it into you day, thrilled when you check if off your “to do” list, but while you’re in the middle of it, fight to keep your mind from completely wandering somewhere else?

Well that describes yesterday. My running was strong, I felt really good in my body (no aches, pains, tightness – yay!), and I ran at 9.30 mph for the last mile and a half (fast for me). But my mind? I really struggled to manage it.

What to do? I practiced a made-up form of running meditation. I focused on my breathing. . in, out, in, out. I concentrated on my breath filling my lungs and then leaving through my exhale. I practiced visualization, pretending to see the FINISH banner hanging in front of me, and imagined running my last half mile as if I were actually at the race. I focused on body mechanics, uncurling my toes (why I curl them when I run I have no idea), intentionally landing on my heel and rolling through to my toes, I relaxed my shoulders.

Guess what. It worked. Thankfully I don’t need to regularly employ that much mental effort to run – but it’s good to know that when I need ’em, I’ve got some tricks. See if they don’t work for you next time you’re struggling. . .

Today (Day 18) was a strength training day. No mental anguish or wandering there! Worked chest and back muscles, and did a few light leg exercises. Back muscles sometimes get overlooked in the workout routine – but strong back muscles really help you run strong, so make it a habit to include them.

Dumbbell

 

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 20

Monday, April 8th, 2013
Check Out Number 9!

Check Out Number 9!

I thought this sign was too funny! Especially number 9 – NEVER EXERCISE ALONE.

Last Monday I did a treadmill run at the Holiday Inn Express in East Peoria, IL. The hotel staff was extremely friendly, the room was quiet, clean and spacious, the bed was fabulous. But the fitness room? I’ll start by giving them a thumbs up for even having one. It was clean and not too cramped, with furnished towels and a water dispenser – and wonderfully outdated exercise charts that were fun to look at, especially the 80’s workout attire! Yet if you were interested in anything other than cardio, you were out of luck.

Outdated Hotel Workout Poster HIEP

Love The Bike Shorts

Outdated Workout Poster Holiday Inn EP

And. . .More Bike Shorts

Workout Room HIEP

Nice Light, Good Variety of (working) Cardio Machines

While one weight machine was available, exercisers were limited to chest press, chest press, or chest press. And the decline mini-bench? It was fit only for teeny, tiny, inhumanly short little people – I’ve yet to figure out what one could actually do with it. I used it as a resting place for my heels while doing tricep dips. . .not ideal, but it worked.

Chest Press Machine

Chest Press Machine

Now back home, today was my “regular” Monday workout – so thankful! That meant a 20 minute warm-up on the stationary bike followed by 45 minutes of strength training, WITH DUMBBELLS, working biceps, shoulders, and triceps, with a little light leg work tossed in. Seriously, dumbbells should be your new BFF – especially if you’re a woman. Building muscle builds strength, stamina, and energy, and helps you burn calories more efficiently (even when not working out). All reasons why I was so disappointed there were no free weights (aka dumbbells) at the hotel. I missed my BFF’s.

With that said, I give the Holiday Inn Express in East Peoria, IL a two dumbbell rating (out of five). My recommendations for an improved workout experience? Move out the chest press machine and slanted mini-bench, and move in a rack of dumbbells ranging in weight from 3 – 50 pounds. Add 4, 6 and 8 pound medicine balls, and a BOSU balance trainer. Voila! That’s plenty of tools for a varied, effective workout.

 

 

 

 

 

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 21

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Cooking Up Some Energy

Today was a day off from exercise. With last week being so unusual (traveling over the weekend, a late-night weeknight event), and yesterday morning spent running a full 12+ miles, today I needed to catch up on the homefront. Because. . .three weeks from today will be the day AFTER my 1/2 marathon – which means another weekend spent doing things other than what I really like to get done over the weekend. No, not laundry. Cooking.

Three weeks from today that 13.1 miles of focus, endurance, toughness and energy will be behind me, yet it’s not too soon to home in on the nutrition part of the equation (actually, I always keep an eye on that, but for those of you who are new to distance running, this may be surprising information. Uhmm and don’t forget; I’m a nutritionist, I simply CAN’T ignore the nutrition :)).

Good nutrition, just like good training, stokes energy. And you can’t get the sort of energy that keeps you going for 13.1 miles by only eating right 24-48 hours before your race. To get and keep enough energy for the entire 13.1 miles, you’ve got to start earlier.

For me, a large part of good nutrition means cooking. This weekend has been an EAT IN weekend. I love those. An EAT IN weekend is when every, single morsel of food I put into my mouth is something that I’ve prepared. Don’t get me wrong, of course I like to go out to restaurants. But I’m a little particular. When I eat out I want vegetarian/vegan options, and I want the  food to be fresh, nourishing (not just filling), and satisfying. I’m big on quality, not quantity.

Besides, I love to cook. Needless to say, I just spent the better part of this afternoon whipping up meals for the week, but that was after I started my Sunday with my favorite waffle breakfast. I know that spending Sunday afternoon in the kitchen isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. Yet if you’re planning to put quality fuel in your tank, see if you can carve out even an hour to throw together a pot of soup or whip up a batch of hummus. Every homemade meal you make counts.

I’ve shared the recipe for the waffles – what’s extra fun (and a time-saver) is that you mix them up the night before. This recipe makes enough for leftovers; delicious served warm with peanut or almond butter and a side of fresh fruit for a speedy, nourishing weekday breakfast. And prepare to STAY full! Unlike typical waffles made from white flour, the ingredients used here add protein and fiber to keep your tank topped off.

A quick word about the syrup. Use real maple syrup if you can; nothing beats the flavor, and there are no additives/preservatives. Adding the applesauce is a trick I learned from my sister – it gives you more “syrup” with fewer calories, an important point, because even though real maple syrup is quality, it’s NOT calorie-free.

Yummy Breakfast Fuel

Yummy Breakfast Fuel

Overnight Waffles with Applesauce “Syrup” *

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup ground flax (optional)

1/4 cup hemp seeds (optional)

1/3 cup millet (optional)

1 teaspoon yeast

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons butter (or vegan spread like Earth Balance) + 2 Tablespoons canola oil

1 large egg

1. Combine the flour, any of the optional ingredients, yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized glass bowl. Add the milk, and whisk until blended. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let it stand overnight at room temperature. (If the room is warmer than 70 degrees F, put it in the refrigerator).

2. In the morning, preheat the waffle iron and melt the butter. Beat the egg in a small, separate bowl, then beat it into the batter along with the melted butter and canola oil.

3. Lightly spray the hot waffle iron on both the top and bottom surfaces with nonstick spray. Add just enough batter to cover the cooking surface.

4. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on your waffle iron.

5. Blend 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/3 cup pure maple syrup. Heat 10-15 seconds in the microwave, then pour over the steaming waffle.

* This recipe is adapted from “Amazing Overnight Waffles” from Molly Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe. I used Earth Balance spread and all of the “optional” ingredients. Heaven. . . .

 

Countdown to Marathon – Day 22

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

The Benefits of The Buddy System

Since it’s Saturday, it’s a long mileage day, and I’m happy to report I got in 12 (and then some) miles by 10 am. The last two Saturdays, one of my good friends has joined me for the first half of my run. Last week we did 4.5 together, today 6.30. Why is it that the second six felt much longer?

Well duh, it’s because I was by myself. Watching the time or miles fly by is one of the benefits of running with someone. Normally I don’t. I like the solitude and time alone to let my mind wander and really connect with my body. But, for a variety of reasons, it’s been beneficial for her to join me – and as it turns out, I’m enjoying it.

For some people, the accountability of meeting up with a partner to work out is the only way they can get and stay moving. I say, go for it! It’s a great way to keep each other motivated and focused.

Arboretum Run

Arboretum Run

Countdown to 1/2 Marathon – Day 23

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Who knew? Well I knew. Sort of. It is really a challenge to blog DAILY! That was my goal for this project, but since I’m already three days behind. . . .

Here’s a recap of days 25, 24, and 23. I actually can see how this “realistic” blogging around my very real life carries some important messages. Bonus :).

Message #1 (Day 25): I will go to my grave saying that the best way to make exercise (and eating well) consistent and a priority is to plan for it. You absolutely cannot let your schedule take you by surprise (i.e. not looking at your upcoming schedule for commitments) if you want to stay on track. There will always be last minute issues that come up, but when you plan, and plan some more by looking at the big picture, those last minute glitches will wreak less havoc. That said, on Wednesday I did my usual strength training workout – chest and back exercises, with a few light exercises for legs. Since Thursday was a running day, I didn’t want to overdo it with lower body.

If you’re wondering how important strength training is for running a 1/2 marathon, consider that for 13.2 miles (for many of us, in excess of 2 hours!), you’ll be holding your body upright as you power along at your running pace. If your upper body and core are weak, you’ll fatigue much faster. Cardio endurance, as well as lower body strength are of course, important, but strengthening your upper body is a must.

Message #2 (Day 24): Thursday was a running day; indoor, on the treadmill. I did 5 miles (following a 1 mile walking warm-up) and felt amazingly strong and pain-free. This, is a really, really good thing, particularly this close to race day. When you come back from any type of running injury, you quickly learn that you don’t want to ever (if you can possibly prevent it) get injured again. Continuing to do the exercises and stretches recommended during your recovery will keep you injury free and running strong. Although they take extra time, and I often flirt with skipping them. . .I don’t. I’m too terrified to find out what will happen if I stop. So don’t neglect them. See if you can find a way to work them into your warm-up/cool down routine, because prevention really is the best medicine.

Message #3 (Day 23): Today was a planned rest day that I really didn’t want to be a rest day. Huh? For my husband’s birthday, I surprised him with Chicago Blackhawks tickets. Unfortunately, the ONLY game I could get us in to where we could actually sit down was on a week night. I honestly don’t like attending events during the week; I’m too tired from getting up so early, and, there’s always the possibility that my next-morning workout will become a victim of that late night event. Sure enough, those pesky Blackhawks tied the St. Louis Blues, went into overtime, and resolved the entire ordeal with a shootout. . .that they LOST. Sigh. Hockey isn’t even my favorite sport.

Since I got to bed too ridiculously late to even consider getting up at my usual early hour, and I needed to be at the office relatively early, I skipped my workout. And I am ok with that! Here’s how to know that it’s ok. Ask yourself: “What workout did I do yesterday (and the day before)? What workout do I have planned for tomorrow (and the day after)”? If the answer to all of those questions is NOTHING, then you are seriously behind in your workouts. Go ahead and get to the office (or wherever you need to be), but see if you can fit even 10-15 minutes of activity into your day, and be sure you get in a solid workout the day after. If you’re sandwiching that “day off that you don’t want to be a day off” between several days of activity – IT’S COMPLETELY OK!

Pesky Chicago Blackhawks

Pesky Chicago Blackhawks