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Being True to My (Fitness) Self

clare and ryan run      I met Ryan while working for the USDA the summer after graduating high school. I was seriously crushing on him and decided one way to keep his attention would be to show interest in his favorite hobby: running. I wasn’t being fake–I cared a lot about fitness. I was eating well, went to the gym a few times a week, and would run a mile every once a while in City Park. But for some reason (blinding love?) I wanted to take running a step further.

     It turned out that my very first roommate in college was also a runner. She was the only person I’d encountered  who was willing to get up before an 8am class and go for a run. I figured there must be something to this magical running experience, so I dove into the sport. For the next two years, I had a rather unhealthy relationship with running. It was all or nothing. In my “nothing” mode, I overate and didn’t move a muscle because–get this–I was angry with myself for not moving a muscle. In my “all” mode, I ran too many miles, at too few calories, lost too much weight, and developed tendinitis in my shins that bothered me all day long.

By my junior year in college, I’d managed to screw my head on straight and found a healthier relationship with running. (It also had a lot to do with support from Sarah and Ryan. 🙂  ) After being in a “nothing” mode all summer, I read a book published by Runner’s World called Run Your Butt Off. This book outlined a feasible, straightforward approach to running and how to gradually improve. It was a book for beginners who had never run before, but it was perfect for me because I could manage my re-introduction into the sport slowly. It never asked me to run more than 4 times a week. I also began reading fitness blogs and consuming all kinds of information on the benefits of strength training.  I still ran on and off during my junior and senior year, but I was overall much healthier and found other exercise routines that didn’t involve hours of pounding the pavement.

we re hikers

I’d rather be hiking most of the time. We love the Smoky Mountains.

I am not meant to be a runner. I very much enjoy some of my runs and I have trained well for a few of my races, but my body was not built for it. It was built to do a bunch of squats and planks, actually. I completed two half marathons two years in a row, and I described it to a friend as “the most fun you can have while being in that much pain.” I genuinely enjoyed the race. It’s really cool running through downtown, the French Quarter, and finishing up in City Park with a bunch of people cheering you on. But the training process? Not as enjoyable. I dreaded those 10-12 mile training runs, and when they were over I was worthless for the rest of the day. I am not meant to be a runner.

both half marathons

March 2012 and 2013. New Orleans Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I ignored an injury while training for my second half-marathon. The following year I decided to opt out of a third half-marathon because I was afraid training for it would cause me to re-injure myself. (Yes! Good life decisions.) At first, I was terrified of gaining weight because I wouldn’t have those unnaturally long fat-burning distance training runs. As it turns out, unless you consume 3000 calories a day, they are entirely unnecessary.  Instead, I went to the gym regularly for pilates, boot camp classes, and a rope circuit class. I felt strong, and it was a pretty wonderful feeling. Once my ankle healed I rarely went for a run, and I never gave it much thought.

I used to read Runner’s World magazine and was inspired by the incredible feats long-distance runners could accomplish. On more than one occasion, I have tried to turn myself into “that” kind of runner. It’s quite boring. I have friends who genuinely love running, and that’s great. I have to remind myself I’m not them. Half of the time, I think running is awesome and I have a great time. The other half of the time, I wonder what I’m doing with my life.

birmingham hiking

Ryan took this goofy picture while we were hiking/trail running in Alabama last summer. I was happy because I was walking. 😉

If running, or some other form of cardio, is what helps you get through the day, that’s fantastic.  If you haven’t figured out your “thing” yet, it’s time to get started. Humans are meant to be active throughout the day. It’s in everyone’s genetics. We all have the potential to love fitness; you just have to find what you love. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that because I love hiking, and New Orleans and Houston couldn’t be worse locations for hiking. ( I’m crossing my fingers we’ll be near a ton of hiking trails in Georgia!) I also really enjoy strength training and body-weight fitness, so that’s usually the focus of my workouts after a little boring-ass indoor cardio.

Whenever I get bored with my exercise routine and begin to restrategize, I think about going back to running. In fact, this past month I’ve been in a running phase…that is, until my ankle decided it had better plans. So today I completed an exercise I hadn’t done in a while–I went for a walk. A really long walk. I downloaded a bunch of podcasts from Mark’s Daily Apple and listened to three of them while I walked along Buffalo Bayou. I loved it.

buffalo bayou 2

Downtown Houston in the distance

 

(The following paragraph is really just me projecting my issues onto anyone still reading. I should take my own advice.) We can get caught up in calories or the “cardio burn” and forget that simple activities like walking have many of the same benefits. We have to remember that we don’t need to be the same athlete (yes, we are all athletes!) as our friend or neighbor or spouse. Be healthy, be active, but do it your way. Sometimes that means you give it 100%; other times (like my weird run the other day) it means just getting outside and doing something.

Question: What exercise do you love??? And what about it makes you love it so much? (Scroll ALL the way down to comment!)

Ryan loves running. Today, he ran near the hospital before coming home from work, so he was still wearing scrubs.  🙂

ryan in scrubs

Happy Runner!

Good night!

Crock Pot Carnitas and a Killer Leg Workout!

  I have so much to share today! (And about half of it involves food.) I’ll start with my workout. I’m taking a week off from running because of an old injury flare up, and it’s actually fantastic timing because this is one of Houston’s hottest weeks of the summer. I am not usually a fan of indoor cardio, but I suppose it’s a welcome escape from the heat this week. 

Once I dragged my butt to the gym, I could not force myself to stay on one cardio machine for a full 30 minutes. So, I split that portion of my workout into two 15 minute segments: 15 minutes on the elliptical, followed by 15 minutes on the upright stationary bike. :Yawn: Even with the resistance hiked up on both machines, I still wasn’t feeling it. I may just skip cardio all together tomorrow. 

lazy cat

This picture nicely sums up my attitude towards ellipticals and treadmills, or really any cardio exercise that doesn’t actually involve moving forward.

 

Now on to part two: the killer leg workout. I try to push myself here because I have a more natural lower body strength. I just find it easy to build up muscle in my lower body and it’s difficult to get sore….this is not the case with my upper body!!! I may be disproportional, but at least I’m not at risk of tipping over like those top heavy men at the gym. 

Below, you will see the leg workout I completed today! I used two 15 pound weights for most these exercises, but obviously they can be completed with any set of dumbbells or no dumbbells at all.  If there are any exercises you don’t recognize or need to re-fresh, keep scrolling to find links to a few helpful (and super short) videos.

quads and hamstrings workout

Woohoo!

Links for exercises:

Pulses: What are pulses? Here’s another example.  

Squats: Narrow stance, wide stanceballet squatBulgarian squat

Jumps: Squat jumpslunge jumps

One-Legged Deadlift

I have found that my best workouts are the ones that are PLANNED. I often browse Pinterest for ideas and then tweak someone else’s idea to fit mine! This workout, however, was completely self-created this morning while I was watching Good Morning America (I have an odd affection for this morning show that I rarely get to watch), and  going in prepared helped me stay focused and push myself.  

Speaking of our gym, I just need to make a quick side comment. Look at how pink it is. I really can’t complain because it’s a really nice gym for an apartment complex, but it’s just so pink. The floors are pink, the walls are pink, the ceilings  are pink, and unfortunately I was pink too. 

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And here’s a pink border to go around the pink picture.

I did mention I had a couple of recipes to share. Last night, Ryan and I had meat sauce and spaghetti squash. The reason I consider this a share-worthy recipe is because the featured spaghetti sauce from Target left something to be desired, and this problem needed to be remedied. I don’t like wasting meals on food that’s not very good. It was pretty much just a jar of pulverized tomatoes. So I had to spice it up a bit. Here’s the recipe:

1.34 lbs of ground meat (Costco has oddly sized portions)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 large red onion, diced

2 teaspoons chili powder (I really like chili powder, so you may want to put less if you’re not a fan)

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon Tony’s

1 jar of mediocre spaghetti sauce (unless you just find something better….then skip all of the above steps and just pour it on your meat.)

salt, to taste (it shouldn’t need much after Tony’s and store-bought sauce)

Begin to brown the ground meat, and then throw in the garlic, pepper, and onion. Continue to brown meat until cooked through. Pour in spaghetti sauce, chili powder, basil, cumin, tony’s and salt. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve over paleo-friendly noodles, like spaghetti squash or zucchini squash, or just lettuce.(Meat sauce on lettuce is strange, but I eat it that way frequently when I need to use up leftovers!) 

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Taaa Daaah! One heaping spoonful of meat sauce over another heaping spoonful of spaghetti squash. Add more veggies with a salad =)

Ok, one last quick item (or two ) to share! Tonight we made Crock Pot Carnitas and Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower rice. These are in no way, shape, or form my own recipes, so instead of typing out the recipes I’m going to link to the creator’s (Popular Paleo) blog posts. I’ll throw in pretty picture as well! =)

crock pot carnitas

That’s how food pictures are supposed to look. Gosh I need to figure this out. (popularpaleo.com)

Click here for Crock-Pot Carnitas!. It’s not one of those recipes you can put in the crock pot at 7am and have ready when you come home because you’d destroy the defenseless pork, so read carefully before planning! It’s more of a weekend recipe. I paired this meal with cilantro-lime cauliflower rice, and you can click here for the recipe. The author of Popular Paleo compares the combination of these two recipes to a Chipotle burrito bowl…I’m not sold on that comparison, but it was still a good dish. 

In addition to my food photography failure, I also failed at dinner presentation. Instead of a neatly organized plate with sliced limes and perfectly placed pico de gallo, Ryan and I threw all the ingredients (pork, cauliflower rice, salsa, guacamole, avocado, and more adobo sauce) over a giant bed of lettuce. I know…second recipe in one post where I mention throwing a perfectly normal meal on top of lettuce. When you like food as much as I do, it’s a good idea to put lettuce at the bottom of it. Then it’s a salad. 😉

Question: What’s your favorite ingredient to put in spaghetti sauce? (Scroll all the way down to comment!)

Good night!

 

 

How Penny-Pinchers Decorate

  Ryan and I do not like to spend money unnecessarily. Ever since I was little, I have always been shocked at how much things cost. Why does a 5×7 rug, which is nothing but dyed cotton fibers, cost over $100? Why does a canvas print from Bed, Bath, and Beyond cost $75? Why on earth are THROW BLANKETS almost  $100? It doesn’t make sense. So, being the frugal souls we are, most of our furniture and ‘decor’ are bargain finds or have been given to us from family members. 

We were given a table and these interesting sun & moon chairs from my aunt when we moved in together.  We can’t put holes in the wall to hang anything, so we have to do what we can with command strips. The flower panels above the television are fabric-covered cardboard, and the New Orleans art above the chairs is a poster Ryan won from the Crescent City Connection Bridge Run. (Yeah, it’s cheap, but we’re happy with it!)

apartment corner

Sun and moon chairs! Entertainment center is from Costco. Is it weird to have a Costco membership at age 25? 

The rug in the picture above came from Big Lots, which was a wonderful find because most of the carpets there were just plain ugly. It was $60, while a nearly identical carpet from Target was $110.

garden table

This is the table that my aunt gave us to go with the sun and moon chairs. We decided to make it a “garden” table to put on our itty bitty balcony. Mrs. Kathy gave us the succulents, which are super easy to take care of!

On the wall directly across from the kitchen, we hung three plastic Target plates. I really liked the designs on them, so I bought them for just $1.50 each. They weigh practically nothing, so they are the perfect decoration to hang with command strips.

target plates

Target plates. I’m sorry you have to look at my low quality pictures. I’ll work on it =)

And I love this piece from Athens, GA that my friend Emily gave to me! We found a nice little nook for it in the kitchen. 

athens folk art

Athens folk art, by “The Cap Man”

I also gave a Pinterest idea a try. I’ve seen a few tutorials on a no-sew fabric pillow cover, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. It’s….okay. I haven’t decided if it looks too cheap, even for me. 

couch

It’s the one in the middle with the pink flowers. Oh, and the blanket came from Tuesday Morning. $15 throw blanket? Yes, please.

So my question today should be obvious: What cheap decorating tips/tricks do you have? I would love to hear about it =)

Tomorrow, I have two recipes I’m excited to share: Paelo meat sauce and slow-cooked carnitas with cauliflower cilantro-lime rice. 

Good Night!

 

Upper Body Workout and Paleo Workout Fuel

  One of the bloggers whose posts I love to follow closely is Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers. Her blog is simple, open and honest, and full of some great workout ideas! I completed one of her upper body workouts today, and I’ve had jelly arms all day. It’s posted below so you can feel as exhausted as I do! It was awesome =) 

upper body super set workout

I made a few revisions. Instead of doing 15 reps of everything, I did 10 reps with heavier weights. Except for the pushups and tricep dips…I did extra reps of those! (www.pbfingers.com)

 My workout today was also supposed to involve a run, but last night while playing frisbee with Ryan, I felt an old ankle injury flare up. About two years ago, I started feeling this weird twinge on the outside of my right ankle. It felt funny early on during my runs, but I didn’t feel it so much after a few minutes. Well, I ignored this twinge from September all the way through a half-marathon in March. The pain was sharper by then (duh, Clare), so I went to an Orthopedist to get it checked out. After viewing a couple of x-rays, he told me I had a stress fracture and needed to take it easy for a while. My initial doctor’s orders of six weeks rest turned into three months. Even after waiting three months, I couldn’t run pain-free for nearly six months. The silver lining was that it forced me to look into other ways to stay active. I joined a gym so I could take group strength classes, which I quickly fell in love with. Being strong is important! 

  So now to my actual point: my workout today consisted of a hill-interval bike ride (which kept pressure off of the spot of the fracture) and the upper body workout from pbfingers.com. I warmed up on the bike for a couple of minutes, and then I alternated the resistance every minute between levels 12 and 17. I had to literally wipe my sweat up off the floor when I was done. 

So how do you fuel a workout when wheat bread, granola bars, and lowfat dairy are off the table?On this lazy Saturday morning, Ryan and I ate breakfast (and watched NatGeo) before working out. I knew we were going to sit around for a while before heading to the gym, so I ate more than I usually would before a weekday morning workout. 

3 potatoes

Yum. Breakfast.

I had some leftover honey cinnamon sweet potatoes from last night’s dinner, so I mashed those up, mixed in an egg, and made somewhat of a sweet potato fritter. Add a small handful of almonds, and you have a fuel-packed Paleo breakfast. (Yes, potatoes are paleo!) Before you get confused about my inclusion of carby sweet potatoes after shaming my own bowl of cheerios yesterday, just remember to look at your day as a whole. And if you’re about to go sweat your butt off in the gym for 45 minutes, it’s okay to include some Paleo friendly carbs! You also need to test the waters and see how you feel. My stomach did not like working out after cheerios and milk. I have yet to experience problems after paleo breakfasts. 

Because I had a small meal before I worked out, I did not eat immediately after leaving the gym. I don’t think it’s necessary. Unless you’re looking to really bulk up, there’s no need to pound a protein shake mixed with peanut butter after a workout. I don’t eat again until I’m hungry. Hunger struck a few hours later and I made lunch. I loved my lunch today. Eating delicious food makes me happy. I had to finish up some leftovers, so I sort of threw a bunch of things together. I had spaghetti squash with paleo meatloaf covered in tomato sauce and carrot sticks dipped into a homemade ranch dressing. 

paleo lunch

No, that’s not a bowl full of meatloaf. Beneath the layer of meatloaf is an enormous serving of spaghetti squash. Just try it one day. It’s delicious.

So I didn’t exactly need special workout fuel for my schedule today. In general, I think it’s a good idea to plan workouts around meals. Plan to eat an hour before or eat shortly after you’ve finished your workout, if you’re hungry. However, I know life gets in the way and that’s not always possible, so here are a few ideas I’ve tried and had success with:

paleo workout fuel

Some of the choices (like sausage for a pre-workout snack???) may seem strange, but I prefer them to specially marketed workout foods that are only a waste of money and calories. I won’t eat granola bars (please don’t waste your money on Special K bars in any shape or form), Cliff Bars, protein powders, Gatorade, Belvita, Fiber One, lowfat waffles, or anything else that appears gimmicky and isn’t made of real food. This morning, I simply grabbed something leftover from the fridge and decided it would be breakfast. Our olive oil roasted broccoli would have been a good choice, too, and it would have required no more work than popping it in the microwave. 

Gosh that paragraph sounds too preachy. I’ve just found what works for me, and if it works for someone else too, then that’s great! I’m also a real person who drinks beer and eats ice cream with my husband on occasion. (Has anyone tried the new Magic Cookie Bar by Blue Bell? So good.)

So tomorrow, I will have to get creative with my workout because I need to avoid irritating my ankle for now. I’m not a big fan of doing most of my cardio inside of a gym, so we’ll see what I can come up with. 

Good night!

Question: What is your favorite pre/post workout snack?

Paleo Fuel

I have two links and some charts (woohoo get excited!) to share with you today. I mentioned in my Paleo Conversation post that I would talk more about the Fat vs. Carbs issue. Instead of talking your ear off, I’m posting two links here with some information about the new dietary shift that calls for more fat and fewer carbs in your diet. 

time butter

It really doesn’t focus on butter all that much.

TIME Magazine- Ending the War on Fat: This page links to a short video and the beginning of an article about why our country went low-fat to begin with and where dietary guidelines went wrong. You actually need a subscription to read the article, but the video works. This article on slate.com discusses the same issue. 

23 Studies on Low Fat vs Low Carb Diets: This site links to 23 studies and offers very brief summaries of their results. Can you guess what they show? Fat doesn’t make you fat. 

Just think about it for a minute…what do you eat each day?  The following items are actually loaded with sugar:  Lowfat yogurt; smoothies made with lowfat yogurt, fruit, and honey are also loaded with sugar, whether or not you threw in a handful of kale; granola and granola bars; belvita; bread, including wheat bread; any type of juice, even if its homemade or “all natural”; corn; salad dressings; cereal; lowfat milk; and dried fruit. I used to start my day with 2 cups of plain cheerios, skim milk, and a large grapefruit. It seems pretty harmless. I thought it was a perfect breakfast. Here are the stats below:

Picture1

In case you scrolled down and didn’t read, this is an example of what I no longer eat!

Eating like this turned me into a grumpy, irritated person who could only think about the lunch that was still hours away.  It also made me much more likely to dig into candy I bought for my students or cupcakes they brought for birthdays. The following breakfast is similar in total calories, but it lasted me until lunch without making me grumpy. I also didn’t feel the need to stuff my face at lunch.

good bfast

Delicious

(These engaging charts are brought to you by My Fitness Pal.) I ate only ten more calories and was much happier. This meal has half of the carbs as the cheerios/grapefruit breakfast. It also has 23 more grams of fat, and this is where you think I’m a little crazy. We are brain-washed to freak out over fat. Eating fat won’t make you fat unless you load on the sugary (and even not-so sugary) carbohydrates. Let me stop you before you assume my metabolism can just handle the fat and yours can’t. Since 9th grade, I’ve had to watch what I eat and workout. I weighed more my junior year of high school than I do now.  I wasn’t one of those girls who could pull off a size 2 pair of skinny jeans while downing a coke and a bag of Ruffles for lunch. 

I was nervous when changing my diet last year because I thought I would gain a lot of weight. I read a book, nearly 20 articles, and a handful of studies before I dove into the dietary change, but I was still taught to think that fat was bad. Here’s what actually happened: nothing. I may have lost a couple of pounds, but my goal was just to prove that significantly increasing my fat intake and lowering my carb intake wouldn’t make me fat. And it didn’t. If you’re skeptical, read through many of these success stories here: Mark’s Daily Apple Success Stories and Chris Kresser Success Stories. Oh and Tim Howard eats Paleo.

Image: Round of 16 - Belgium vs USA

I said I didn’t want to talk your ear off about fat, and that’s what I did. Oops. I even intended to talk about workout fuel, but I have a feeling that’s an entire new blog post. 

Before I say good night, I want to make sure that no one thinks I’m telling you to eat this way or that this is the absolute  “correct” way to eat. I just really enjoy reading about nutrition, and I was tired of always being irritated and weak between meals.

Question: What foods keep you full during the day?

Ok I’m done. Good night =)

Impending thunderstorms mixed with a little bit of crazy make for a good run

I run…and more often than not, it’s a positive experience. Running is good for you–we all know that. It’s not only good for you physically, but it has a very therapeutic quality as well. My first year of teaching was a solid reality check, and to say that I was under-prepared is quite accurate. That year, I signed up eight months in advance for the Rock N’ Roll half-marathon in New Orleans. I used to tell myself on my long runs that if I could deal with that third class of terrifyingly challenging kids, then I could certainly make it through this run. That year, running provided me with a daily opportunity to sort out what happened each day and how I would most certainly not get so frustrated with the kids tomorrow.

Upon reflection, I like running. Don’t ask me mid run. And I will never be on the same page as those mutants running enthusiasts who run six or seven days a week. Some weeks I enjoy 3 or 4 runs combined with strength training. Other weeks, I’m just really not in the mood to run. Today, I did not want to run. I didn’t sleep well, I woke up early, and once Ryan left for work all I wanted to do was get back in the bed and go to sleep. But I also have two papers due on Monday. Write a paper or go run? I tried to talk myself out of it. I began with my typical I’ll run later thought process, which was promptly crushed by the mid-morning thunderstorm warning lurking at the bottom of the TV screen. Then I told myself that I didn’t have time for a 30 minute run because those two papers were due Monday, and losing 30 minutes would truly be a tragedy. So I opened my computer, re-read what I wrote yesterday about Rachel Carson, and got up to put my running shoes on. I didn’t want to write that paper either, so today running won.

buffalo bayou

I’m getting too wordy, so it must be time for a picture. This is my running path along Buffalo Bayou in Houston.

Don’t you hate those articles that tell you “Getting out the door is the hardest part! Just lace up those shoes and you’re 90% there!” Unbelievably false. I could still just walk. I could make it to the bottom of the stairs and turn around. I could walk to Dunkin Donuts. Today really wasn’t my day, but I managed to push through it. If you’ve made it out the door (congratulations) but you’re still feeling like going for a run would too closely resemble torture, don’t let your sluggish state bring you down. Even if you don’t run the whole time, you can throw in bursts of speed that will actually help you improve your stride and average speed. Here are a few tips and tricks that I tried out on my run today:

bizarre running tips

I need to download better fonts.

NUMBER 1: Bring music. It really helps, until that Waka Flocka song you hate comes on. 

I was listening to Pandora Fitness, which is a great station if you need fast-paced songs throughout your workout. But it’s a real bummer when that song you hate comes on. So here’s how I handled it. I pictured myself racing Waka Flocka Flame at the end of the Greek Fest race in City Park. I won. He lost.I cheered, internally. Don’t be afraid to actually cheer ( or at least crack a smile). Other people on the path may think you’re nuts, but now you’re having more fun than they are. (You can apply this same strategy to anyone who’s not your favorite person. Yes, it’s weird, but no one will know.)

NUMBER 2: See that person in front if you on the sidewalk? Don’t let him win. 

Now this sounds ridiculous, but no one can read your mind so it’s really okay. Look up at the people in front of you on the sidewalk. You’re better than at least one of them, I promise. The race is on, and you’re going to win because that unknowing individual isn’t expecting you to fly past them in an imaginary race.

NUMBER 3: There’s a wasp and I hate wasps. 

This tip is brought to you by the enormous wasp (or bee…I didn’t feel the need to get a closer look) that followed me all the way across the bayou bridge. I accidentally brushed up against some flowers, and a waspbeemonster followed me. Nothing will make you run faster than fear, especially childish fear.

NUMBER 4: Take your mind somewhere completely different.

This one isn’t bizarre unless your wandering mind gets a little weird. One of my favorite songs to run along with is Usher’s Yeah. When that song comes on, (please don’t judge too harshly) I simply pretend I’m up on stage with him at a concert doing some super complicated, fancy choreography. TRY IT. If Britney is your thing, I’m sure your imagination can come up with some fantastic Vegas costume and choreography combos. The song will be over before you know it, and you just ran for 4 minutes completely forgetting where you were.

NUMBER 5: If your run still didn’t go well, throw in something challenging at the end.

I felt good about my run today. I had a steady average pace with random bursts of speed when I was mentally chasing someone down or running away from a bug. There was one last obstacle to overcome. The end of any run along Buffalo Bayou always presents a challenge because there are some daunting sets of stairs where at least one person with a total of 5% body fat is sprinting up and down like a maniac. I didn’t feel the need to add anything too intense, so I ran up and down twice and went on my way, leaving the stairs to those who enjoy suffering.

And that concludes my strange collection of running tips. I’m not a physical trainer or a coach (heads up, neither are Shape, Fitness, and Women’s Health Mag), so I probably won’t ever suggest a particular training program. I’ve never followed one, myself.

After my run today, I did a quick strength set:

15 push ups

20 supermen (Lay on your stomach with your arms above your head. Arch your back, lifting your arms and legs at the same time, and try your best to resemble a flying superman. Seriously. Lower back down and repeat).

15 crunches/bicycles/leg raises, whatever ab work you’re in the mood for

Repeat above exercises 4x each

Before I leave you with this inspiring video of a 5 foot, 100lb gymnast who completed an amazing feat, let me pose a question:

What does it take to get you outside or to the gym when you’re feeling sluggish? Don’t be afraid to be completely honest =) To comment, scroll ALL the way down.

 

 

 

A New Couch and a Yoga Face-Plant

no couch WE HAVE A COUCH!

couch

Tah Daaaah!

  Please ignore our ill-aligned couch and rug. I can’t quite decide where I want it. I’m afraid to sit on the couch because it’s not Scotchguarded yet, but at least it’s finally here! Ryan and I ordered this couch from Rooms to Go a week and a half ago, although it seems like we’ve been waiting much longer.

   While I was waiting on the couch to be delivered, I spent most of my day writing a paper on the gifted characteristics of Rachel Carson. (It’s a great way to take a fascinating woman and break her personality into a bunch of boring little pieces.)

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    I hate sitting on my butt at the computer all day. It’s not natural or healthy. (Yes, the previous sentence is a link to an post about sitting too much on a Paleo blog. Read up!) So after working on this paper until my contacts dried up, I decided to stretch out a little bit with yoga and a gymnastics stretching video. The 30 Minute Power Yoga video was intended for those who are intermediate-advanced. I consider myself intermediate, so I figured there was no harm in attempting the more challenging poses. Everything was going well until the woman, out of nowhere, folded her foot to her chest and lifted herself off the ground. No warning. This form of gravity rebellion is technically called the ‘flying pigeon’ pose. I gave it a try, and I’m sure I did resemble a pigeon. Below, I have provided a useful picture that demonstrates the discrepancy between properly executing the pose and my attempt at the pose:

yoga fail

                                                                   Yoga is graceful.

 So after I face-planted into my yoga mat, I shook it off and tried the other side because the girl in the video said to do the other side. Nope. But at least after 30 minutes of doing chaturangas (their fancy word for really long push-ups) and lunging, I was ready to play a much shorter video and stretch out my legs a bit more:

   Annnd I’ve had my butt kicked by a bunch of muscular ten year olds. So let’s talk about food! After yesterday’s post on why I follow a Paleo diet, I figured I would include a couple of simple lunch ideas. When I changed my diet last November, the first challenge I encountered was the increased amount of time it took to make breakfast and lunch. My daily breakfast of Cheerios and skim milk was replaced with scrambled eggs, avocados, and sometimes bacon. I discovered that I didn’t turn into a ravenous, fire-breathing dragon a mere three hours after breakfast. (And because breakfast was at 6 and lunch was at 12, I had a long way to go. Being a teacher doesn’t lend itself to snacking.)

    So if there are no leftovers, then lunch is cooked in the morning along with breakfast. Today’s lunch consisted of chopped red onion, bell peppers, a large handful of spinach, and chicken sausage. I threw it all in a pan and sauteed with a two heavy-handed tablespoons of coconut oil.

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 Here’s another lunch from a couple of days ago. This is something that would be simple enough to throw in a lunch bag in the morning, no cooking required. I had a spring mix salad with oil and vinegar dressing, half of a leftover chicken breast, celery, and almond butter. Now before you think this meal too closely resembles rabbit food, I’ll be honest and tell you I’m pretty heavy handed with the almond butter. Veggies alone will turn me into the aforementioned fire-breathing dragon.

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I often use our large cutting boards as food trays.

Tomorrow, I have the unpleasant task of scotch-guarding the couch. I think it takes a while. Don’t worry…I won’t blog about it. 

Question: If time weren’t an issue, what would you eat for breakfast everyday? (Feel free to comment by scrolling to the title of the post and clicking ‘leave a comment’ or scroll ALL the way down to the bottom of the page to comment.)

Good night!

The Paleo Conversation

Before we get into the lifestyle recently described as the caveman diet, let’s talk about workouts! This morning I went for a run along Buffalo Bayou. I ran for 43 minutes and followed up with an ab workout. The run wasn’t easy. Houston in July is not ideal. If you are one of those who manages easy summer runs in Houston, then congratulations on being the chosen one.

workout
Fortunately the picture does not portray the insane amount of sweat that resulted from my run. I would drench the carpet if I didn’t have the mat.

 

Below is an ab workout that is nearly impossible to complete. I can’t say I had anything to do with it. When we were living in New Orleans, I went to a Saturday morning circuit class with Terrance Allen. He created this ab routine, and it’s a killer.

Terrance’s Ab Workout

Part 1: 1 minute plank (2x)

Part 2: 15 double crunches

15 regular crunches

10 V-ups (begin with arms above head, lift arms and legs at the same time making a V,                  touch your toes and come back down slowly.)

*Complete 3 rounds of Part 2

Part 3: Bicycle holds, 20s each side x2 ( it’s like playing freeze frame with doing bicycle crunches)

Bicycle crunches, regular, 10x each side

*Complete 3 rounds of part 3

Part 4: 20 flutter kicks

20 leg crosses

20 v-kicks

10 leg circles

*Complete 2 rounds of Part 4

Part 5: 6 inches, 1 min. (hold your legs straight out with your feet six inches above the ground)

If you completed this with no problems, please let me know and I’ll send you a medal.

Now let’s have a chat about cavemen…although hunter/gatherers bring about more pleasant images. Many recipes I plan to include will say ‘Paleo’ and I just want to be clear on why I eat this way and what it really means (to me, anyway).

cavema
He seems pretty content.

Now is as good a time as any to have this conversation. I kept most people out of the loop on my dietary preferences because the term ‘Paleo’ freaks people out or draws unnecessary and uneducated comments. If you promise not to judge my high egg consumption, then I in return promise not to judge your rice cake consumption.

I’ll begin with WHY: because real food matters. It really, truly does. If it didn’t come from an animal or didn’t grow naturally from the ground, then I don’t want it to be a regular part of my diet. Many of the criticisms of the diet have to do with historical accuracy. Critics point out that people ate differently all over the world so there can’t technically be a singular Paleo diet. We say thanks for that…we agree. I would like to emphasize that I am not trying to reenact history. The lifestyle is based on a set of simple principles.

Here’s a pretty, colorful picture showing what I eat:

paleo foods
No cavemen consuming raw bison legs? Gasp.

In the middle we have eggs, shrimp, chicken, beef, ham, and nuts. Surrounding those foods, and also making up more than half of the picture, are vegetables. Let me give an example of one day’s menu. This morning I had an apple with almond butter before my run. Later I had two scrambled eggs with 3 cups of sauteed spinach. For lunch I had chicken sausage and two cups of mixed balsamic vegetables from last night’s dinner. I ate a small bowl of berries as a snack. For dinner, we had Paleo meatloaf (no breadcrumbs…everything else about the meatloaf is pretty straightforward) and cauliflower “mashed potatoes.” Between the two of us, Ryan and I consumed  8 cups of cauliflower in the “mashed potatoes.” And then I had some dark chocolate, which is not Paleo and brings me to my next point…

I don’t follow it 100% of the time. One of the most useful sources on the Paleo lifestyle I’ve found suggests an 80/20 relationship with Paleo. Do it right 80% of the time. Now, that doesn’t mean the other 20% includes giant bowls of macaroni and cheese followed by  a meat lovers pizza. It means I make certain conditions. Notice there are no legumes, dairy, or grains in the picture above. I’ve always been fine with dairy, so I do include the occasional cheese and plain, full fat yogurt in my diet. I also like chocolate and eating at restaurants about once a week. That’s my 20%. Someone else’s 20% might involve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Maybe that should be next week’s 20%…yum.) To each his own.

There’s also an entire portion of this topic dealing with the “fat dilemma.” If you’ve heard anything about the Paleo diet, then you’ve heard that we like our fats. Now, before you assume tomorrow’s breakfast will consist of a bowl of melted grass-fed butter and a side of bacon-fried-bacon, keep in mind that everything must still be done in moderation. I’m going to save this discussion for another time, but if you’re interested, here are a few places you can read about it: How Consuming Fat can be Healthy and Safe, Fat as Fuel, and Healthy Fats vs. Unhealthy Fats.

Alright enough about that. Tomorrow’s post will be lighter because we are finally getting a couch! Do me a favor and scroll back up to the workout picture and pretend it says ‘insert couch here.’ We’ve been in Houston for weeks without a couch, so I can’t wait!

Question: What do you like/dislike about the Paleo diet? (scroll ALL the way down to comment, if you’d like!)

Paleo Websites I’ve Found Useful:

Mark’s Daily Apple, and more specifically Mark’s Daily Apple Success Stories

Stupid, Easy Paleo (great resources, please don’t be put off by the name)

Robb Wolf

Beginner’s Guide to Paleo

I also watched the documentary Fat Head, which can be found on Netflix. It’s not about the Paleo lifestyle, but it debunks some of the “fat is bad” myths and discusses implications and assumptions in Supersize Me. It’s not the most sophisticated of documentaries, but it provides enough food for thought.

Good night!

 

Working Out with Rachel Carson

rachel carson

This book is perhaps the only interesting thing to come out of my graduate program so far.

  To be honest, I’ve found my graduate school program a little dull. My degree is in educational psychology, focusing on gifted/talented students. Right now I’m taking somewhat of a statistics class and another class on the characteristics of gifted children. I have never once found teaching children dull. That would be impossible. But I’m sure teachers can be honest with each other….the classes leave something to be desired. So when a project came up allowing me some flexibility, I chose to read a biography of a gifted individual and write a 7-10 page paper on that person’s gifted characteristics and eminence. I’m not exactly looking forward to the paper, but the biography is fascinating. I’m reading The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson. The title is actually misleading because about half of the book is devoted to the environmental history of the United States, which is fine by me. The author, William Souder, creates a genuine connection between the reader and Carson. Already knowing how her story turned out, I still cried when she died at only 56 years old. (I suppose that’s an overshare.) I enjoyed learning about Carson’s perspective on the parallel between radiation and pesticides. On one hand, certain populations were suffering from radiation fallout that wasn’t anticipated by the government when conducting nuclear and hydrogen weapons testing; on the other hand, Americans were also unaware of the harm that pesticides, DDT in particular, were doing to their bodies and to the surrounding ecosystems. Commercial airline pilots essentially earned a commission to spray pesticides across the country.  There was an eerily familiar article on a similar issue posted today by BBC. You may disagree, but I find these topics to be much more interesting than Renzulli’s Three Ring Model of giftedness.

   Because I dilly-dallied a bit too much this morning, I needed to be efficient during today’s workout. My solution was to read about Ms. Carson while I was on the bike. Whenever I multi-task on the bike, I have to be careful to keep up the speed and resistance. Nobody has time for wimpy cardio. I followed my 30 minute, hill interval bike with a 15 minute circuit.

Quick Circuit 

15 Push ups

20 Straight leg raises

15 Lunges with 15 lb weights, bicep curls at the top of each lunge

15 Squats with 15 lb weights, with shoulder press at the top of each squat

30s Mountain climbers

Repeat the circuit 3x, and adjust weights as needed

Stretch!!!

  Dinner tonight was simple and delicious. We love roasted broccoli, so today I threw in a few other items: butternut squash, red peppers, zucchini, yellow summer squash, and onions. I started out with a recipe, but I wasn’t too keen on the lack of rosemary. 1 1/2 teaspoons of rosemary? More like 4 tablespoons. Rosemary is wonderful. In addition to the rosemary, I also added olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and an Irish seasoning salt (which I believe to be salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic powder). I roasted them at 425 for 20-25 minutes. 

veggies

This should last us a while.

  Now the chicken. I was excited about this honey mustard chicken recipe that’s been sitting patiently in my Pinterest board. It took no time at all for me to replace half of the ingredients with my own choices. Here is the resulting recipe: 

Maple Dijon Chicken 

(Serves 6 if you aren’t a big meat eater. Serves 2 if you eat as much as we do.)

3 large chicken breasts, each cut in half lengthwise

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup all natural maple syrup (don’t be tempted to buy any sugar-free crap)

1 tablespoon of pomegranate vinegar (found at Trader Joe’s)

salt and pepper to taste

rosemary, as garnish

Instructions: Preheat your oven to 350. Mix together chicken, mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Place in a baking dish and cook for 30 minutes or until chicken has reached 165 degrees. Garnish with rosemary. 

dijon chicken

Simple ingredients with, of course, much more rosemary than originally planned

 

Happy eaters!

happy eater 1

Quinoa, balsamic roasted vegetables, maple dijon chicken, and a mint IPA. And a Ryan.

 

Many blogs I have read include a question at the end of their posts. So feel free to respond or talk about something entirely different. 

Do you have a go-to efficient workout when you’re crunched for time?