Thursday, February 14, 2013

Feeling the Love for Running

Dear Running,

I hate you sometimes.

But it turns out I love you more often than not.

Look at me! I'm running!
And I look like I like it!

In the spirit of Valentine's Day the folks over at #runchat have asked runners to spread the love and proudly proclaim to all the interwebs what we love about running. May I present to you things I love about running:

  • Running is my break from the insanity that comes with being a full time working mom. I run so I can deal with the other 23 hours in the day without completely losing my shit.
  • Setting goals for myself and working towards achieving them. Some goals are easier (get out the door and run today) and some take a lot of work (PR my next half marathon). But working towards a goal and accomplishing it is pretty freaking rewarding.
  • Learning valuable life lessons when you don't quite reach some of those goals. I didn't PR in my last marathon. Instead of wallowing in self pity and quitting altogether, I put on my big girl pants and started working harder. Boom.
  • That feeling you get when you are in the middle of a long run and moving along at a pretty good pace and you feel good. You can breathe, your legs don't hurt and your mind isn't telling you how much this all sucks. This moment is fleeting, but when you realize it is happening RIGHT NOW...that is my favorite part.
  • Finding new ways to become a better runner. Working out to me now has a bigger purpose. I am not going to the gym just to do it anymore. I am doing it to become a better runner. That to me has been way more motivating.

If you say so Bob

  • Running has introduced me to a whole community of other runners, bloggers, tweeters who are just as consumed by running as I am.

Tell me, what do you love most about running?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Small Changes

First I need to give a shout out to my BFF, Carrie, for helping me with my new blog banner. 
I *may* have annoyed her with my pickyness, but she hung in there as any true friend would.


I just finished reading Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, the hugely successful ultramarathoner who also happens to be a vegan. While I am not an ultramarathoner or even aspire to be one, I was mostly interested on his views towards diet and nutrition. According to Scott, the better he ate, the better he felt and performed. I know, shocking, right?!
Just like I have no plans to jump from half marathons to ultras, I really have no plans to adopt a 100% plant based diet. But the book got me thinking about the small changes I am making (and plan to make) in my diet in an effort to eat cleaner.

These days a typical day looks like this:

Breakfast:  Greek yogurt with granola mixed in.

Morning snack: Fruit - banana or grapes.

Lunch: Spinach salad with veggie mix (corn, peas, carrots, cauliflower), chickpeas. Sometimes I will mix in a little chicken or feta cheese to add a bit more flavor. Add a serving size of balsamic vinaigrette, 

Afternoon snack: Usually an apple or granola bar.

Dinner: This is where I completely fall apart. I need to research healthy and easy meals to prepare when I get home. We are stuck in a rut of some sort of chicken or pasta variation. Right now there is also entirely too much reliance on pre-prepared foods and I feel like it is sabotaging my whole day's efforts.
I am pretty happy with how I have been eating during the day. I am able to avoid the afternoon slump by eating a healthy and light lunch. Dinners are my main challenge and something I am working on.

I've committed myself this year to making small changes that I hope will add up to overall weight loss and health  benefits. Here are a few of the main things I have been working on lately:

In the past I usually had at least one soda per day. I craved the fizzy sugary goodness of it and ignored the fact that it is just terrible for me. I tried to fool myself that a diet soda is WAY better that the real thing. But at the same time, I have never and will never let my children near it. I started thinking, why is it ok for me and not my own children? Then I started calorie soft drinks are still linked to a number of health problems and are pumped full of artificial sweeteners. 

So in a effort to clean up my diet, soda was the first to go.  At first I didn't realize I was doing it. I was sitting in a restaurant one day and when the waitress asked what I wanted to drink it occurred to me that I had not had a soda in a few days. It was a snap decision to keep going. I asked for water with a lemon and never looked back. It was a little difficult at first. I definitely had cravings. But it has been about a month and a half and I just don't think about it anymore.

Coffee Creamer
This one is proving to be a little more difficult. Coffee Mate Fat Free Vanilla has been my drug of choice in the mornings. Sweet sweet coffee - there is very little that makes a morning better. But again, it is something I knew was highly processed and full of sugar, trans fats and preservatives. Last week I bought vanilla almond milk as an alternative. It wasn't bad, but it was definitely not the same. I found myself on more than one occasion at the coffee shop on the way to work getting my non-fat, sugar free vanilla latte because I was craving sweetness. This change will take a little work and experimentation. I wonder if the end result will ultimately be giving up coffee all together. TBD.

This one comes directly from reading Eat and Run. I've added sunflower seeds to my lunchtime salads for an extra boost of health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins. Plus I love the flavor they add. I am careful to limit my portion size because they do have quite a bit of calories. I've also read a bit about the benefits of chia seeds and have been adding them to my yogurt in the morning.

Whole Grains
This one will also take some work to get to where I want to be. We have long ago eliminated white bread from our diet, opting instead for whole grain. I have made the transition from white rice to brown rice (although, this has proved a little harder for my husband). The pasta though is where we are stuck. We HATE whole wheat pasta. I wonder if we are not cooking it right or if it just doesn't taste as good as "regular" pasta. Right now we have switched to organic pasta, but I am not sure we'll be able to go 100% whole grain here.

Fruits and Vegetables
In order to broaden my choices I am going to have to expand my repertoire of fruits and vegetables. I am by nature a very picky eater. I will eat apples, oranges, grapes and bananas on their own. Berries not so much. But I can tolerate them in smoothies. Smoothies with protein added are going to happen soon. Vegetables also need to be expanded. Life would be easier if I liked things like tomatoes and mushrooms and peppers. This will also take some doing.

Anyway, these are just some of the thoughts I have about cleaning up my diet. Cooking real food and straying from highly processed stuff is a goal that I am going to break up into small parts. I feel like incorporating small changes will have greater overall success for us. We are venturing towards a more organic and natural diet, but this will take some more research and experience learning how to stretch our grocery dollars. But we're committed. In the meantime I am researching and reading what I can. I'm pretty excited about it all.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Long Runs are Fun Runs

I have so many blogs posts written in my head. I think some pretty profound(ish) things while I am running. I write entire posts in my head. But when it comes time to sit down and write....nothing.

Such is life.

Training for the Tobacco Road half marathon is going well, albeit not according to the training plan. If I have learned anything from being a full time working mom of 2 small children, it is that I have to adapt to my present situation.

Over the past few weeks I have dealt with a rash of snow days, a crazy busy work schedule and working around Brent's work schedule. Although this past week saw it's fair share of missed workouts, overall I am please with how well I am progressing.

Today I finished up one of my strongest training runs (like, ever) - a 10 miler on the American Tobacco Trail. It's been a full 6 hours since I finished this run and I am still all sorts of giddy just thinking about it.

The first 5 miles were just about as perfect as I could have asked for. I ran by feel and avoided looking at my Garmin as much as possible. I wanted to run at a comfortable pace. I didn't want the numbers to freak me out if they were higher than normal and I didn't want to beat myself up if they weren't where I wanted them to be. So for 5 miles I just ran. My body felt great and my head was in a great place. I didn't stop and I never paused my watch for a break. This is huge for me. And when I look at the splits and find that my "comfortable" pace is getting a bit faster, I am psyched.

At mile 5 I turned around and headed back. I walked while I took in a Gu but had trouble starting back up again. I ended up taking 2 walk breaks during this mile. By my 7th mile I decided to run a mile and walk 0.1. But when my Garmin chirped I didn't feel like stopping and just kept going. Mile 8 was the fastest (and funnest) mile of the run. I felt strong and my head was in a good place. I paid for it in mile 9 but was able to finish with a strong mile 10.

To see 8 of my 10 miles hovering between 10:39 - 11:09 is so incredibly satisfying for me. I can definitely feel myself getting stronger and it is fun to see my progress in number form.