Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kickin' it up a notch

For the past year and a half, I have been a runner.  I have run at least 2 - 3 days each week, although I usually run 3 - 4 days.  I typically do 2 - 3 short runs (3 - 4.5 miles) and one long run (7 - 10 miles).  When I began running, I could barely make it through 1.5 miles, so this is quite the accomplishment for me.  I have completed numerous 5K's and two half marathons, and I'm already signed up for my third half marathon.  Through it all, my pace has remained relatively the same.  Sure, I run a bit faster than I did when I started running, but I'm not much faster than I was when I ran my first half marathon last April.  I keep justifying it by saying that I'm just a slow runner.
Recently, I have noticed myself running a little faster.  It's not something that I can maintain for miles, but when I look at my garmin, I often catch myself running 9 minute miles, and sometimes even 8.5 minute miles.  Unfortunately, seeing this pace blinking at me on my watch causes me to instantly panic and think that I'm pushing myself too hard.  After all, I don't want to puke or collapse at the end of a 3 mile run.  But, I now realize that I'm never going to get faster if I don't push myself a little.  When I first started running, I struggled through 1.5 miles.  It wasn's easy, and I thought I was going to die the whole time, but I didn't.  I now realize that I have to let myself feel that way again if I am going to build up my speed.  So, I'm going to incorporate some interval training into my weekly runs.  I'm confident that I can go faster, if I just let myself.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bum Ankle = No Turkey Trot

Last Thanksgiving, I ran in the Peru Turkey Trot 5K.  It was my first ever organized running event, as I had just started running in July.  I remember the nervous excitement the night before as I worried about whether I would complete the run and what it would feel like to take off running amongst the crowd of people. The run itself was short and extremely cold - the temperature that day was 12 F - but it is the run that changed me forever.  Sure, it wasn't a daunting 13.1 or 26. 2 miles, but it was still a huge accomplishment for me.  I walked away from that event knowing that I would run in more races, and it was only a couple of weeks later that I signed up for my first half marathon.  That 5K made me realize how much I love running races.

So, as I'm sure you can imagine, the Peru Turkey Trot has a special place in my heart.  I plan to run it each year.  Unfortunately, those plans were halted this year.  My bad ankle, the one I injured this summer, has been bothering me a bit lately. It hurt a lot throughout the day yesterday and into this morning.  So, with great disappointment, I decided not to run the Turkey Trot this year.  I felt so sad this morning as I looked at the clock and knew that the runners were lining up and preparing to start the race.  I know it's only one race, and I will be able to run it next year, but it just felt so sad to me.  It was my first organized run, and I have been so excited to do it again this year.  Plus, I really wanted to beat my time from last year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Just what we needed

The past few weeks have been pretty crazy and overwhelming for all of us.  Paul started a new job, the kids had numerous activities, and I have been in the midst of trying to finish up the semester as a part-time instructor, student, and full-time employee.  So, in an attempt to get some much needed family time before things get even crazier, we planned a quick weekend getaway.  We booked a suite in a hotel in Burlington, VT, which is only an hour away and spent the weekend doing fun family stuff. 

We spent a chunk of time at Pizza Putt.  It's an indoor family fun center that is similar to Chuck E. Cheese but even cooler.  The kids were in heaven!


We went to ECHO Science Center and played with all of the cool hands-on activities and the Grossology exhibit.



We went shopping along Church Street and enjoyed ice cream cones at Ben and Jerry's.  And, we spent quality time in the hotel enjoying each other's company, playing games, swimming, watching TV and just hanging out.  After two days, we returned home refreshed, rejuvenated and reconnected.  It was exactly what we needed to recover from the past few weeks and make it through the next few.  Sometimes, you don't need to go very far to have a great vacation!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I'm in between training plans right now.  I don't have any major events scheduled until April, and my last half marathon was on October 15th.  So, I'm in that funny limbo place right now - maintenance mode.  In the beginning, the maintenance phase is refreshing.  After training for an event, it's nice to have the freedom to relax a little and not have to worry about getting in a specific number of runs on specific days each week.  But, it gets a little boring after a while.  I'm definitely someone who does well with a training calendar on my fridge.  I like having a goal to move towards...something to prepare for.

So, now that I'm in the midst of a maintenance phase, I'm going to use the time to build up my overall endurance.  I have two goals for myself.  First, I want to be able to run my half marathon in April much faster than I did last year.  I have been holding steady as a 10-minute miler.  I want to increase my overall speed so that I'm closer to a 9-minute miler.  That means interval training.  Since the winter is nasty in Upstate NY, I'm going to be running on the indoor track at work quite often.  I'm going to use this to my advantage and do some speed work.  Second, I want to build up my overall weekly distance.  Right now, my weekly mileage only increases when I'm at the end of a training cycle.  I want to build up my weekly mileage so that I'm basically always prepared to run a half marathon.  That means running at least 4 times each week, with three, 3 - 5 mile runs and one long run of 9 - 11 miles.  I know I can do this, I just have to make it part of my routine.

I also have my sights set on a triathlon in the summer, which I have never done before.  So, I'm going to add swimming and spinning to my winter workouts so that I build up a core foundation in those areas before I begin seriously training for the triathlon.  I'm nervous and excited about the whole thing, but that's another post for another day.

I think these goals will help keep me focused through the winter.  Once the end of January hits, I'll be back in full training mode.  I can't wait!

Friday, November 11, 2011

My New Pal

OK, so a few weeks ago I wrote about my plans to start tracking my calorie consumption on sparkpeople and my realization that I was healthy and active and didn't need to worry about calorie counting.  So...that lasted until last week.  I put on a few pounds over the summer, and it isn't muscle.  I have been feeling puffy and bloated, and I'm sick of it.  Even though I have been running and using the elliptical, it has been pretty sporadic, and I'm not feeling as fit as I was before.  Plus, I never followed through on my exercise goals that I set in September.  So, even though I touted myself as healthy and active, I wasn't really being honest with myself.  I had been very healthy and active, but over the past few months, something changed.  I started snacking on junk a lot more, justifying each time as a "special occasion."  Well, let me tell you, special occasions don't happen every afternoon and evening.  I let work and other stress get in the way of going to the gym and going running as regularly.  This was apparent during my last half marathon.  Overall, I just feel frumpy and lethargic.  So, I finally decided that I have to do something to get myself back on track.  After all, I'm a healthy living blogger.  How can I let myself slack off when I try to encourage the rest of the world to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

Enter my new pal...My Fitness Pal.  I downloaded it as an iPhone app, and I LOVE it.  Seriously, it makes keeping track of my food and exercise so easy (and fun too).  Since I want to lose about 7 pounds, it limits my calories.  I have a daily calorie allotment of 1200 calories, but each time I exercise, it adds calories to my daily allotment.  So, if I run three miles, it gives me 300 more calories to eat that day. 

If that's not motivation to get to the gym or lace up my running shoes, I don't know what is.  But, the app isn't just about counting calories to lose weight.  It lets me see how much my mindless snacking actually adds to my daily caloric intake.  Trust me, the numbers can be pretty shocking sometimes.  A handful here and there really adds up.  Plus, it gives me a breakdown of the nutrients I consume each day, so I can make sure I'm getting everything I need.

I know that calorie counting can be a dangerous habit for some people as it can cause eating disorders and other issues. I am very sensitive to eating issues, having struggled with them for many years myself.  In fact, I am very aware that counting calories can become a slippery slope for me, but I try to find the balance with it.  I don't freak out if my calorie count goes over the daily allotment.  I still let myself have fun and indulge, but I'm not doing it every day anymore.  For me, it keeps me accountable and aware of what I'm putting into my body.  However, if I ever feel like it's getting out of hand, or that I'm becoming too focused on the number of calories, I'll remove the app from my phone.  I know that I can easily succumb to eating issues, so I'm being extra vigilant about it.  But, for now, My Fitness Pal is my new best friend.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Last week, while driving five hours to a conference, I started listening to the audiobook version of Born to Run.  I know, I know...that's so last year.  All the bloggers have already read it.  What can I say, I tend to be behind when it comes to trends.  I'm only about halfway through the book right now, so I can't really give it a full review, but I'm definitely enjoying it so far.  I plan to do a post about it once I'm completely done.

In the book, the author, Christopher McDougall, talks about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their ability to run extremely long distances at fast speeds without tiring.  He attributes it to a number of factors, one of which is a special energy drink they consume before a race.  I was intrigued as I listened to the section of the book that describes the drink in detail, and was completely surprised to discover that the drink was made by combining chia seeds, honey, lime juice and water.  Here I was waiting to learn some secret elixir that would transform my running, and the Tarahumara were drinking a beverage made from ingredients I have in my freezer and cupboards.  I couldn't believe it!

I returned from my conference on Tuesday night, and decided to go running on my lunch hour the next day.  In preparation, I made my own version of the chia drink discussed in the book. 

It looks funky, but it tastes fine.

About 30 minutes before my lunchtime run, I consumed the chia mixtrue.  My run was fabulous.  I really felt like I was running faster and stronger than usual, and I felt like I could run forever.  I didn't give the chia seeds full credit, because I had just come off a 1.5 week rest period following my half marathon injury, so I was already itching to run.  But, I did wonder if the chia seeds might have had anything to do with it.  So, I started experimenting.  I have been consuming the chia mixture each time I plan to run, and I have to say that I definitely notice a difference in my running endurance.  I'm running faster and stronger, and I'm able to hold my faster pace for the entire run.  So, either I suddenly moved to the next level of running (which is possible), or the Tarahumara are really on to something. 

Ultimately, even if the chia seeds don't actually make me run faster or longer, they are really good for me.  Chia seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals and are highly recommended as a nutritional supplement.

Chia Seed Nutritional Information

I will definitely keep consuming chia seeds as I think they are a great way to get some extra nutrients into my system.  Some people are grossed out by the chia seed gel that forms when they're soaked in water, but I really like it.  It's an interesting texture.  But, you don't have to soak the seeds in water.  They can be added to smoothies, sprinkled on salads or oats, or ground up and baked into muffins or breads.  Regardless of the preparation/eating method, they still pack a nutritional punch.  So, rather than spread your seeds on some red clay sheep, eat them and give yourself a nutritional boost!