Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

“Help! My Motivation Is Missing – How Can I Get It Back?”

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Getting your motivation back couldn’t be easier.

It’s simply a matter of “choosing between what you want NOW, and what you want MOST.”

Do you believe that?

I read that quote recently, somewhere, but since I can’t remember where, I’m unable to give the author credit.

Anyway, I get it.

Yet even if you get it, too, you may be hard pressed to believe it’s that easy, or actually put it into practice. Especially now, when we’re well into 2016, and all of those intentions made eight or so weeks ago are gone.

Here are three ideas to get you back on track.

  1. Identify what you want most, more than anything, when you think about your long-term health. Is it. . .
  • Permanent weight loss?
  • Eradication, avoidance, or management of disease?
  • Taking no or minimal medications?
  • Aging strong – the ability to do anything, anytime, anywhere?

Whatever “it” is that you want most, that’s your decision driver.

  • Do you want the extra cookie or your clothes to fit better?
  • Do you want to stay up an extra hour or be able to get up and exercise?
  • Do you want to load up on sugar, fat, salt, and preservatives, or eat to reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence?

You decide what you want most. You act with intention. You get the outcome you want most.

  1. Create a “Jar of Awesome!”

Awesome Jar

Jar of Goodness 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wrote in my January enewsletter about the “Jar of Awesome”. Essentially, take a jar (a BIG one), label/decorate it with “Jar of Awesome” – or something close – on the outside. For the remainder of 2016, every time you do something awesome for your health, fitness, or nutrition – write it down on a slip of paper and feed it to the jar. At the end of each month (or the year, if you can wait that long), dump out the contents and review all of your awesome accomplishments. Bam! Instant motivator.

3. Use a visible tool that speaks to YOU and works for YOU.

Donna Calendar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my clients came to the studio last week with this calendar. She fills out a sheet for each week, recording all of the actions done to support improvement in the areas of her life she’s working on: exercise, meals, balance, blood sugar testing. She found this calendar at Walgreen’s, for heaven’s sake! It’s not fancy, it’s not expensive, it’s not high-tech. . .but she knew it would work for her, because it spoke to her through its simplicity.

And there you have it. Three ideas to help you in “choosing between what you want NOW, and what you want MOST.”

I hope this helps – let me know if and how. I’d love to know about your successes!

P.S. Did you enjoy this post? If so, please share on social media! [Follow me: Twitter @cathylemanrd]

 

 

(w)Ringing Excuses Out Of The Old Year, And Leaving Them Behind.

Friday, January 1st, 2016

As I write this missive in anticipation of the final day of 2015, I’m recalling the multitude of reasons people have shared with me throughout the year as to why they don’t take better care of themselves.

The litany of “yes but’s”, “if only’s”, and “I can’t’s” littering the previous 12 months is enough to goad any mere mortal doing my job into throwing up her hands in an act of despair and surrender.

Fortunately, I’m no mere mortal – or so I like to think.

My unwavering personal and professional belief is that every person has the ability to elevate their health from any level; and because I’ve seen it demonstrated time and again, I can say with 100 percent confidence and conviction that excuses be damned, it’s never too late to care!

I’ve had the inordinate privilege of walking the path of improved health and wellness with so many clients this past year, helping them slay excuses left and right, and I feel incredibly grateful for the lessons they’ve taught ME along the way.

Like, for example, the “Turkey Pan Process.”

One of my newer personal training clients told me about encouraging a friend who is considering engaging the services of a fitness professional (a friend who has long struggled with his weight, fitness and health) to work with someone who will hold him accountable and call him out on his excuses – something she feels is absolutely essential (and one of the main reasons she’s working with US) when undertaking the “turkey pan process.”

Which is this.

Say you’ve prepared a gorgeous turkey for your holiday meal, a turkey enjoyed immensely by all in attendance, a turkey designated “the best ever.” Yet once the festivities are over and you’re faced with the dregs of turkey cookery, are you thinking about how delicious that turkey was? Of course not!

You’re face-to-face with a cold roasting pan full of cold turkey juice. Blobs of grease. A layer of fat.
Charred turkey bits. In effect, your pan is A DISGUSTING MESS!

The mere thought of cleaning it is enough to make you want to toss the pan and simply purchase a replacement. But because it’s a family heirloom, something that HOLDS VALUE, no way could you do that. So you begin to clean.

You dump out the juice, scrape out the grease and the fat, dislodge the charred turkey bits. And as you begin to make your way through the sludge, you see it – a small, shiny twinkle of that beautiful heirloom roasting pan, winking at you through the diminishing turkey sludge, and it encourages you to keep scrubbing and cleaning and scraping, because in the end, what are you left with?

A shiny, sparkly, beautiful roasting pan that you take pride in tucking away until the next big turkey roasting occasion.

And as my client shared, to her, that’s what it’s like when starting back on the path to health. You have to dig and scrape and work your way through the sludge of an unhealthy body, scrubbing and cleaning until you begin to find that shiny bit of healthy – at which point you’re encouraged to KEEP GOING.

And finding that shiny bit of healthy doesn’t take that long, really, once you get over the hurdle of JUST STARTING.

However, if you let that myriad of excuses take over and lead the way, you don’t clean the roasting pan, and you’re unable to appreciate the beauty and value that pan brings to you and those gathered around your holiday table.

Think about that.

Is the value and beauty a HEALTHY YOU brings to the world buried in sludge?

As 2015 fades into a memory, I encourage you to skip the short-lived resolutions and instead, START THE “TURKEY PAN PROCESS”.

If one (or more) of these sounds like you, get out that scrub brush!
* Yes I could go for a walk, but I’m so out of shape.
* If only I had more time, I would cook.
* What’s the point in exercising and eating better, something’s going get me.
* I can’t exercise because I have a bad knee (ankle, elbow, wrist, etc.).
* I have to grab my breakfast where I get my coffee, I have no time in the morning to eat.

WISHING YOU A HAPPY, HEALTHY, SHINY 2016!

“A Lunchtime Tale of Love, Hate, and Obsession”

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

It happens every, single, workday, Monday through Friday. LUNCH.

I LOVE lunch, especially the lunches I make for myself (nutritious, delicious, and FREE!). I’m definitely not a lunch skipper; I’ve got to be on top of my mental game for afternoon clients, meetings or speaking events. Low energy and blood sugar, and foggy, sluggish thinking don’t allow me to do my best work, and that’s a disservice to anyone who entrusts their health and wellbeing to me.

What I’m definitely NOT a fan of, however, is actually making my nutritious, delicious, free lunch every, single, day. Truth be told, I hate it. When I get home from my office, I only want to decompress, eat dinner, and spend a little time with my husband before heading off to my crazy-early bedtime. See? No space for lunch making.

With no private chef or housekeeper to make my noon meal, I had to get creative to solve my love/hate relationship with lunch. Here’s what I came up with; prep once, eat 5 times.

The solution is pure genius, and involves three of my obsessions. I’ve outlined my approach below – I’m certain it will work for you, too.

Obsession #1 – I’ve become obsessed with Snapware® http://snapware.com/, the GLASS version. I use two large rectangular containers,

IMG_1454

and on Sunday I pack them FULL of salad fixings. I haven’t measured the volume (the volume indicated on the bottom is in milliliters, which doesn’t translate well to cups of veggies), but I would say they easily hold 4-5 cups of chopped veggies. These two containers provide five generous salads, which means I only have to do all of that chopping ONCE!

Obsession #2 – A wide variety of fresh, “heavy-hitter” vegetables. I don’t want a salad that’s wimpy on quality nutrition, nor one that’s “just lettuce” – I’d be STARVING within 20 minutes of polishing it off!  Here’s a sample of what I typically include:

  • Carrots
  • Red or green onion
  • Fresh kale or spinach
  • Red pepper
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Red cabbage

IMG_1455

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I top each salad with a sprinkle of raw, unsalted sunflower seeds and raisins. Heaven!

Obsession #3 – Homemade salad dressing, which is ALWAYS tastier (and better for you), than store-bought. I have a few I rotate through, but here’s my current fav; http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-miso-tahini-dressing-172942 (I use white miso). I make enough for the entire week – if there’s any left over, I take it home and use it up over the weekend.

What rounds out the meal is a good protein source, so I’ll add a week’s worth of hummus or bean-based soup. I also bring five pieces of fruit (typically oranges and apples), which serves as a sweet finish to my feast.

I also keep crackers and raw almonds stashed at the office; the crackers serve as a crunchy accompaniment to my salad, and the almonds are a satisfying side to my fruit.

Bring it ALL in on Monday, and essentially, you’re set for the week. So there you have it! My secret weapon in managing my love/hate lunch relationship. Pure genius.

“Francene In The Kitchen!”

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

If you follow my NutriFit blogs and Facebook postings regularly, the declaration below will come as no surprise, as I unfailing lend my voice to the cause for cooking. For those of you new to my work, please join me in this most important cause!

“I believe everyone can benefit from preparing more home cooked meals and snacks.”

There, I said it.

And I said it knowing full well that:

  1. not everyone likes to cook
  2. not everyone knows HOW to cook
  3. not everyone is interested in learning to like or how to cook

Before you list all the reasons why more cooking will never happen in YOUR kitchen, let me clarify.

I’m not suggesting you spend ALL your time preparing home cooked meals, nor preparing every dish from scratch. I’m simply advocating for devoting MORE time to a practice that gives you more control over the nutritional content and overall healthfulness of the food you eat – two benefits that support efforts to eat better – and who doesn’t want THAT?

And while some of the latest “fad” recommendations for achieving a healthy lifestyle call for herculean efforts (often discouraging a person from even starting), a gentle nudge to spend a little more time in the kitchen feels attainable to the most rudimentary cooks.

To further encourage you, I’d like to share what one of my clients is discovering in her quest to cook at home more often.

First, a little background.

As a rule, Francene (permission granted to use her real name) and her husband eat their main meal at a restaurant – pretty much every, single day. Francene is a beginner cook, intimidated by meal preparation, and lacks confidence in her culinary skills – not the best skill set for retreating to the kitchen and whipping up a quick meal.

Through nutrition sessions based on education, encouragement and guidance to start small, Francene became determined to give cooking a try. As it turns out, she did more than merely try.

When we met following the Thanksgiving holiday, Francene shared the lineup of dishes she’d prepared over the long weekend, and completely blew me away. She prepared not one experimental dish – but five – and brought photos of her masterpieces to share (spaghetti photo missing, as is the cauliflower and sweet potato sides that accompanied the roasted chicken before it became soup).

20141207_130429[1]

“Perky Salads!”

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“Pork Roast”

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“Roasted Veggies”

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“Chicken Noodle Soup”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Francene googled “beginner cook” recipes, and after finding several that looked appealing and called for familiar ingredients, she set to work simply following the directions – drawing on inspiration and encouragement provided during our nutrition sessions. How amazing is THAT?

At our meeting this week, Francene reported that she and her husband have eaten out only once in two weeks; which made me curious to learn what benefits she’s recognized from “eating in”.

  1. More time. It takes them ~2 hours to drive to a restaurant, order, wait for their food, eat, and drive home. That is NOT an unreasonable estimate, either.
  2. More energy. Says Francene, “It’s “tiring” to put the energy into going out; getting dressed and presentable,” vs. simply sitting down to the kitchen table.”

I hope Francene’s story has inspired you. Hopefully you see that home cooking doesn’t have to be elaborate, just simple, homey and nourishing – the best cooking there is.

So what are you waiting for? Get in that kitchen, and cook for a cause – your health. There’s none better!

 

2014 Holiday Season’s Eating & Exercise Challenge #1

Monday, December 1st, 2014

HolidayCheer

 

 

 

I tend to think of Thanksgiving as eating and exercise preparedness for the remainder of the holiday season, which typically wraps up (or hits a fever pitch) somewhere around New Year’s Eve. In other words, it sets the tone for the next five weeks.

Yep, we’re five Monday’s and four weekends away from 2015, unless you push your requisite January resolution off to Monday the 5th (January 1 lands on a Thursday), in which case you just bought yourself an extra weekend.

How did you manage the long Thanksgiving holiday? Did you stick as closely as you could to your typical exercise routine, or abandon it completely? Did you enjoy your favorite holiday foods and bypass those that weren’t appealing, or eat anything and everything simply in the spirit of Thanksgiving excess?

There’s a saying I’m quite fond of, “How you do anything, is how you do everything”.

I think it’s especially spot on when you apply it to eating and exercise. Consider the following. . .

If, regardless of what’s happening in your life you consistently do everything you can to take care of yourself – eat well, exercise regularly, get adequate rest and manage your stress – you’re likely to follow those practices week in and week out. A holiday (or string of them), vacation, tight work deadlines, sick kids or parents will simply present themselves as slices of your day to schedule your self-care around.

Conversely, if you eat well and exercise only when you’re dieting, trying to be healthier, or your schedule allows, you’ll repeatedly drag yourself out of an extended food and inactivity coma and fail to reach the level of consistency that confers vibrant good health and a strong, fit body.

My challenge (the first of several) to you as the holiday season heats up? Identify one thing, nutrition or fitness-wise, that you can do every day for the next week – then do that one thing, every day for the next week.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Eat 2 cups of vegetables.
  2. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier.
  3. Do 10 minutes of stretching.
  4. Eat out one less day than usual.

 

“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.

 

“October Means Halloween & “Breast Cancer Awareness”. . .Coincidence?”

Monday, October 6th, 2014

October OFor me, the month of October has two highlights – my wedding anniversary and Halloween. Other than being great ammunition for bad jokes, they have absolutely nothing in common.

October is also breast cancer awareness month, which compared with Halloween has absolutely everything in common.

I don’t know a single woman, myself included, for whom simply the thought of a breast cancer diagnosis is not terrifying.

A little over a year ago, following news of a cancer diagnosis for two people very close to me, I titled my newsletter “Too Much Cancer, Dammit!”, and received more personal responses than I ever had before or since.

There IS too much cancer, damn it, so much in fact that I would argue that even without a month devoted to breast (or colon, or cervical, or liver, or brain, or ovarian, or prostate, etc.) cancer awareness, our collective awareness would remain steadfastly high.

We’re not winning the war on breast cancer. We may be winning the war on early detection, better screening, and treatment; death rates from breast cancer have fallen 1.9% per year since 2002, yet rates for new breast cancer cases have remained steady for the past 10 years. (1)

The theme of my aforementioned newsletter was prevention. I’ve devoted my career to educating on preventive lifestyle habits, primarily nutrition and fitness. The data is overwhelmingly strong – the choices we make on a daily basis directly influence our health. It’s what I advocate for, believe in, and strive to live in my own life.

Yet, regardless of how staunch my position on prevention and cancer, there is no guarantee; for anyone. In no way (and believe me, I could win a gold medal for trying) can we control every aspect of our environment – an environment that is toxic in so many ways. While we all carry cancer genes, some of us (yep, my maternal relatives) have the added risk factor of genetic pre-disposition. Sometimes the deck is simply stacked against us.

I occasionally wonder what would happen if I were diagnosed with cancer (my secret fear, by the way). I wonder if it would change your perspective on taking care of yourself, as in, “Well, if Cathy Leman has cancer, there’s no hope for anyone – I give up.”

If that were the case, it would make me really, really sad.

We can’t forget to pull back and consider the larger picture. Cancer doesn’t appear as the result of something unhealthy you did last week, it takes literally years to develop (for example, colorectal cancer begins with a single mutation to a gene, yet it takes on average 30 years from that point for the cells to acquire several other DNA mutations they need in order to spread and kill). (2)

If I were to be diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I haven’t lived my entire life with the attention to prevention that I have in the last couple of decades. I can assure you, in my early twenties, breast cancer prevention wasn’t even on my radar; many of my habits during that time weren’t exactly supportive of good health.

At the time of a cancer diagnosis, it’s only human to wonder “what caused it?”, yet other than testing positive for the breast cancer gene(s), it’s essentially impossible to know. Excess weight, smoking, inactivity, and too much alcohol have all been implicated in contributing to breast cancer, but so has exposure to chemicals in certain plastics (who hasn’t experienced THAT?), and a dizzying collection of toxicity we’ve not clearly identified, yet couldn’t avoid if we tried.

That said, I maintain that practicing preventive lifestyle habits puts us in a position to fight back hard at whatever health curveball life throws at us – even a ghoulish, macabre cancer diagnosis. A healthy, strong body stacks the deck in our favor, perhaps by slowing the rate of disease progression, having a less invasive form of the disease, or giving us the ability to withstand treatments with fewer side effects and stronger recovery.

During the month of October I encourage you to heed the recommendations for breast cancer awareness; know your risk factors, get screened, know what’s “normal” for you, and practice preventive lifestyle behaviors. . .like maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and limiting alcohol; then repeat – over and over and over.

(1) http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html

(2) Spotting Cancer In A Vial Of Blood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

“Acting On Body Wisdom”

Monday, July 14th, 2014

If you’re familiar with the concept of mindfulness, you know that essentially it’s a commitment to paying attention; to our breathing, to our stress level, to our hunger and fullness cues, to the beauty that surrounds us – it’s a commitment to actually increasing our awareness of what’s happening in our own little world.

At its simplest, mindfulness is a way to “tune in”. And I’m all for it.

Many of my clients spend lots of time and energy actively ignoring the messages their body sends – or, tuning OUT. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a plea for more movement, less junk, or more solitude – their body’s honest wisdom is too honest, and they’re happy to dismiss it, thank you very much.

Yet, what happens when we do “tune in”, only to disregard the messages because they’re too real, too painful, too scary, too uncomfortable?

Sadly, what happens is more of the same.

The same unhealthy habits, unhealthy behaviors, and a dearth of self-care. We continue a slow, steady spiral into the abyss of unawareness, until our doctor, therapist, even a family member gently (or urgently) reminds us, “You need to take care of yourself”.

Given all of that, while I’m all for tuning in, I’m an even bigger fan of hearing, and then actually ACTING on those messages. That’s right. ACTING on them, not dismissing them.

For example, say your body sends a message that you’re “too” something; too tired, too stressed, too bored, too lonely.

When you ignore rather than act on that message, you become vulnerable, which in turn may lead you to engage in “too much” of exactly the things you’re trying to do less of; eat, drink, exercise (yes, too much is unhealthy), watch t.v., get drawn into Facebook drama.

How can you learn to tune in, and then make the move to ACT?

One way is to listen, really, really well, in order to get a crystal clear message.

Here’s one suggestion for practicing  just that. Recently, a friend recommended this book, “Listening Below The Noise” http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/listening-below-the-noise-anne-d-leclaire/1111740120?ean=9780061353369. The author, Anne LeClaire, declared two Mondays each month – for 17 years! – a day of silence.

Silence Book

I’m not suggesting you jump full-force into that practice, easing in is never a bad strategy, but I certainly think there’s merit in quieting our minds and our surroundings. We’re overdosing on noise and external stimulation, both of which make it close to impossible to listen, hear the message, then act.

Can you make a commitment to becoming more attuned to your body? If this book (which is on my summer travel reading list), or even this blog post help you head in that direction – I’m thrilled.

Shhhhh, what do you hear?

 

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