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Back At It…

I had always identified as a runner.

And then.

I didn’t.

It was sort of an unintentional, cold turkey decision.  One day I woke up and decided I needed a change.  I was tired of having injury flareups and didn’t feel the same usual calling to go out for a run.  It was like suddenly that large piece of me had left and I was okay with it.

For the past year or so, the extent of my running has been running through the rain with my 2-1/2 year old nephew.  Or scurrying through a sketchy parking lot (not that I often find myself in a sketchy parking lot, just so you know.)  You get the picture.

My weekly activities have mostly consisted of…

  • Yoga
  • HIIT
  • Upper and Lower Body Strength Training
  • Walking

I’ve loved it.  Every delicious moment of it.  HIIT gets my heart pumping.  It makes me feel powerful…like an athlete.  Strength training has made me realize that I’m stronger than I think.  I feel well rounded.  In better physical shape than when I was at the peak of my running mileage.

But.

I woke up one morning and realized that something was missing.  I started to envy the runners on the side of the road, up at the break of dawn.  I missed that feeling of training for something big.  I longed for that sense of camaraderie that one feels at a local race or in a simple wave from a fellow runner.

My heart says I’m a runner.

So.

Here I am.

Back at it.

 

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Thanksgiving + Running Thoughts.

“Imagine if tomorrow morning you woke up and only had that which you thanked God for today.” – church sign

At the risk of playing favorites, I must announce that Thanksgiving is THE most wonderful holiday of the year.

Seriously.

I love all the holidays.  Christmas, July 4th, New Years, you name it (except Halloween, go figure!)  But when it comes to playing favorites, Thanksgiving always wins.  It’s like the chilled out cousin of Christmas.  A day to simplify…to soak in family, good food, and long walks (and even longer conversations.)  LOVE!

My family spent Thanksgiving at my parent’s house.  I overate on stuffing, turkey, potatoes, sweet carrots, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.  And then I did it all again for the second time in one day.  I think my body is THANKFUL that Thanksgiving comes but once a year. 😉

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Left to Right: My Mom, Sister and Me.

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My Nephew, Brady (aka, Mr “B”)

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Left to Right: Dad, Mom, Me, Brother, Sister

I headed out for my usual turkey trot this year as well.  A trusty, steady, slow-paced 5-miler.  It felt delicious on my legs.

My brother and Dad joined along as well, but I only saw them, oh, I dunno…once or twice when they decided to turn around and check in on me.  A fast runner, I am not…ha!

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In other news, I (a) finally registered for the half marathon that is now only two weeks away and simultaneously (b) have been stricken with some sort of virus.  Fever, swollen lymph nodes, burning throat, etc.  Lovely!  I’m trying to stay as positive as possible with all of this, reminding myself that it’s more important that I take care of myself versus putting in some extra last minute mileage.  I’ve trained hard for this upcoming race.  I’ve put in the miles.  Taking off a few extra days for rest or cutting back on this upcoming weekend’s long run will not deter me.

As a side note, I have discovered that the Registered Dietitian side of me tends to flair up even more when I’m sick.  I’ve been focusing as much as possible on eating the healthiest foods possible for my immune system, while really keeping up with adequate fluids.  My appetite isn’t what it normally is, but I have been consistent with meals and snacks.  Even if I can’t run like normal this week, I’ll for sure be eating really well. 😉

And, for the record, dark chocolate is part of my plan for eating really well.

And that is all.

QUESTION: What is your most favorite holiday and why?

 

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My Weekend + IT Band Rehab

MY WEEKEND.

Hello, Friends!!

Can’t believe the weekend has already come and gone.  How does that happen?

Did you do anything fun over your weekend??  Mine was pretty full with lots of good stuff…

1. I ran 8 miles.

In preparation for my half marathon, the mileage is really starting to see an increase.  I’m still only running 3 days per week with cross training on the 2-3 other days with one full day of rest in between.  It’s mostly the weekend long run that’s really starting to pick up.

I felt really good this time around.  I invested in a nice, new (to me) water bottle that is easy to carry (review coming soon,) and packed along some Clif Shot Bloks.   I liked the shot bloks and found that they really did kick me into gear around mile 4.  But, man on man, I had a hard time chewing them.  Temperatures were around 27 degrees and I think this may have made them harder or something (sorry to my dentist!) Next time I’m trying the gels, which will hopefully be easier to get down. 😉

2. I picked up the Thanksgiving turkey.

There’s nothing (nothing!!) like farm raised and local turkeys!  My Dad and I went to a farm together to make the purchase, which instantly put me in the Thanksgiving mood.

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It also made me hungry.

We noshed on pesto pizza with chicken and artichokes.  Amazingness.

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3. I celebrated my nephew Brady’s first birthday.

Cake, balloons, my favorite baby, family…life is good.

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What did you do this weekend?

Continue reading “My Weekend + IT Band Rehab”

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Steel Cut Oats (on a busy morning)

I’ve been following one of my favorite oatmeal restaurants on instagram (oatmealsNY) for some time now and I finally decided that (a) it will be a while before I actually make it back to NYC to try this amazingness and (b) I could probably make my own amazingness at home if I just took the time to do it.

But, as you know, mornings can be pretty crazy.  If I don’t put something together the night before, like overnight oats, then my breakfast is usually toast with smashed avocado or a bowl of cereal over greek yogurt.  Quick and easy, that’s my motto these days!

Until I decided to try my hand at steel cut oats…

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They’re notorious for being the “healthier” version of the oatmeal world.  Basically, they are the same as rolled oats, but they just haven’t been…well…rolled.  For that reason, they take our bodies longer to digest and contain more of the outer bran that is not lost during the rolling process of rolled oats.

They’re also notorious for being delicious.  Which is the main reason I am jumping on the steel cut oat bandwagon.

Since steel cut oats are so nice and thick and chewy, they hold up well in the fridge.  Which means I can make a big batch ahead of time and eat it throughout the week.  Busy morning or not, steel cut oats are now a part of my everyday life.

In other words…

…Life is good.

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I like to cook my oatmeal with milk for the added protein and calcium…and also for the creaminess that it brings to the table.  Once the oatmeal is cooked, I separate into four individual bowls, cover, and refrigerate until I need them.

Who doesn’t want Monday morning to look like this?

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Yep.

Still planning my next trip to NYC.  For a bowl of oatmeal (okay, and other things too…I’m not that obsessed…maybe.)  But for now I’ll happily make my own bowls of amazingness right at home.

Banana Steel Cut Oats (makes 4 servings)

  • 4 cups milk
  • spices of choice (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger)
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  1. Bring milk to a boil in a medium sauce pan, stirring now and then to prevent scorching.  Add steel cut oats and a sprinkle of your favorite spices.  Stir with a whisk and reduce heat to low.
  2. Cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, over low heat.  Stir with your whisk now and then; about every 5 minutes or so.
  3. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add bananas.  Oats are done when they reach your desired consistency.  Pour into 4 bowls and serve immediately or let cool and refrigerate for the week.

**TOPPINGS: Don’t forget to add your favorites!  Berries, walnuts, maple syrup, crushed flax seed, almonds…even dark chocolate chips if you’re feeling on the sweet side.  Enjoy!

**REHEATING: If you refrigerate for the next morning, stir well before heating and then pop in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes, stirring half way through.

QUESTION: What are you favorite oatmeal toppings?

fitness · food · running

Weight Maintenance (while training for a race.)

Approximately two years ago, I was smack dab in the middle of running (on average) 30 miles a week.  Half Marathon training was keeping me fit and happy and healthy.  Or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise, when stepping on the scale one morning, I saw a 10lb increase from where I had been pre-half marathon training.  Wait.  How can a girl who’s gone from 10-miles of weekly running to 30-miles start gaining weight?

What’s going on here people?

Surprisingly enough, this is actually pretty common.  Runners up their mileage, and their weight simultaneously creeps up as well.  Here are some of the common pitfalls and problems that we face when starting a training program…

…and, most importantly, some tips on how we can all outsmart them.

Day 57

Problem #1: “I’m hungry ALL. OF. THE. TIME.”

You know what I mean.  That feeling of being insatiably hungry.

Like.

“Give me the food and nobody gets hurt” kind of hungry.

I don’t know about you, but an increase in training always brings me to a whole new level of hunger.  One of the best ways to outsmart this is discussed in Problem #3.  Feed your body with scheduled snacks, don’t be afraid to eat a little extra, stay hydrated (since dehydration can mask as hunger,) and choose the right foods that will aid in satiety (think healthy fats, protein, fiber.)

I have found that including 3 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner) along with 2 snacks a day (morning, afternoon) is enough to keep me full without feeling the need to graze all day long.

Problem #2: “I’m not hungry after I run, so I’ll just wait and eat later.”

Most females I talk to feel as if they could eat a horse right after they run (figuratively speaking, since many of my friends are actually vegetarian…ha!)  On the other hand, some runners feel nauseous afterwards, and the thought of eating directly after a hard, long and/or fast run is just too much.

The idea and the general recommendation is to eat within the hour of finishing a run.  Your muscles are repairing themselves and need some carbohydrates and protein to do just that.  Choose something with both of those nutrients, such as a glass of milk, some peanut butter on a banana, a bowl of cereal, etc..  I personally like to plan my run around my meals, so that I’ll be sitting down to a nice balanced plate to replenish with.  One of my favorite post-run meals?  Whole wheat toast with avocado and scrambled eggs.  Deliciously balanced and satisfying.

However, if you’re one of the nauseous runners (sorry, I know that sounds rude) who can’t stomach the thought of eating a big plate of food after you run, at least grab a glass of milk or a small dish of yogurt and fruit.  Because in addition to helping replenish your muscles, eating within the hour may also fend off the munchies later in the day.

Day 49

Problem #3: “I ran 10-miles, so I can eat whatever I want today.”

This is one of my biggest problems, and is the probably the number one reason I gained weight during half marathon training.

Even though I had previously been running, say, 5 miles on a given weekend, the fact that I ran 10 miles made me suddenly feel that I was entitled to eat whatever I wanted.

Chocolate cake?  Sure!!  Why not?  I deserve it.

In reality, the difference of calories burned while running an extra 5 miles a week span really didn’t make that much of a difference.  Let’s think about this for a second.  An average runner will burn approximately 500 calories over 5 miles.  That is about 70 calories per day over the course of a week.  Which is basically eating an extra orange or a cheese stick every day.  That’s all fine and good, but what happens when a runner (e.g., me!) decides that she can eat that extra piece of cake, while also nibbling away all afternoon?

Yep.  You guessed it.

This is exactly where the weight gain happened.  I’m not saying it’s not a good idea to treat yourself and enjoy fun foods after a tough run.  However, if you’re looking to maintain your current weight through training, definitely be aware of how this mindset may cause you problems along the way.  Treat yourself to something special but don’t let yourself go crazy all week long.

Also.  Remember that certain food groups will keep you feeling full longer than, say, a piece of cake will.  Include protein (think chicken, beans, fish, yogurt, etc.), whole grains (think brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, etc.) and fats (think avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, etc.) in your meals and snacks to keep you feeling satisfied.

Problem #4: “I don’t have a run planned for today (rest day!,) so I should eat less.”

Wrong!

Rest days are just as important to your training process as your long run days.  When your body is not training hard, it’s still refueling and repairing.  You still need to continue to eat balanced meals and snacks in order to get the most from your training.

Don’t skimp on calories just because you’re not out for a run.  This day will make a big difference when you do hit the roads, and it will prevent you from feeling overly hungry on your training days.

Day 86

Problem #5: “If I run, that is enough exercise to keep me healthy and fit.”

Again…wrong!

I used to proudly call myself the cardio queen.  I don’t need weights or strength training, people!!!  A friend in college once told me that “someday you will learn to love strength training.”  I thought that was the silliest comment ever.

Until, one day, I learned to love strength training.  Go figure.

Truth is, we as runners are constantly working the same muscle groups.  But if you want to get the most from your runs while maintaining your current weight and avoiding some common injuries, strength training must be incorporated.  It will likely even make you a faster, stronger runner.  My fastest 5k time came during the summer when I fell in love with kettlebell workouts and yoga.


**Keep in mind that increasing your weekly running mileage while training for a race can be taxing on the body.  When in doubt, my personal belief is that a little bit of weight gain is better than weight loss.  Under-eating can lead to injuries and impaired racing performance, so it is important to also make sure you are eating enough during training.  Train hard, eat well, have fun!

QUESTION: Have you ever trained for a race (5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, etc.)?  Do you have any tips/thoughts/suggestions on eating and training?

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Weekend Long Run.

My nerves always get the best of me, prior to the weekend long run.  Especially now that I have a half marathon to train for.  I’m always fearing the worst.  Like, what if my IT band flares its ugly head once again?  Or what if some new injury rolls around (always, always, always, I am fearing those pesky injuries!)  Hello, Miss Injury Queen!

My goal for today, however, was to simply enjoy the 6-mile long run that I had planned.  No expectations or time limits.

Just run, Sarah.  Run.
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So I did.

Slow and steady (because that’s how I roll.)  And whenever I started to worry about injuries, I reminded myself to stay present.  I also did a lot of praying.  It’s amazing how quickly the 6 miles zipped on by, when I prayed for a different person during each mile.  Why haven’t I done this before?

Anyways.  My knee felt great and I really did enjoy myself.  No complaints, not a one!

There was also a fabulous meal to refuel myself with afterwards, which is always a good thing…

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I like having a balanced meal after a run, with some healthy carbs, fat, protein, veggies.  Usually this means eggs on toast with avocado and some fruit.  Simple is what I do.  But on Sundays, my dad makes a killer grilled salmon (lucky me!)  It’s actually this exact salmon that turned me from a vegetarian into an omnivore.  Not even kidding.

Goodbye Weekend, Hello Monday!  I’m feeling ready for a brand new week.

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Running; When Less is Way More.

I was once convinced that the more days I could run, the better.  Five days a week with two days rest.  That was my plan.  Or lack thereof.

Perhaps it was my lack of energy that taught me otherwise.  Or perhaps it was the plantar fasciitis.  Or the achilles tendonitis.  Or the (now) seemingly chronic ITB issues that I comlain of.  (Yep, injury queen right here, people!!)

Day 134

I’ve now come to the conclusion that at least for some of us, when it comes to running, less can be way more.

So.

What am I currently doing?

Including lots of strength training, that’s for sure!!  As runners, we often focus on simply cardiovascular health.  That is, working up our endurance.  Strengthening our legs.  But good running form requires strong abs.  Strong arms.  Correcting all those pesky muscle imbalances.

I’m currently running just 3 days a week but I include 2 strength training days (e.g., yoga, kettlebells, Jillian Michaels DVD’s, etc.) as well as 2 stretching days (e.g., strengthening my weak hips!!)  And 1-2 days of absolute, complete rest (no stairs, no walks, no nothing!)  As a result, I’ve become faster and stronger.  While I haven’t completely eliminated my injuries altogether, I’ve become more aware of them and I’m much more cautious in the way that I go about running and training.

I like to train hard.  But I’m also reminding myself that with running, less can be way more.