Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Mango Pork Tenderloin

Remember the dish I taunted you with earlier this week? It's definitely a "make ahead" kind of meal but what's great is that I prepped everything and go it in the oven, then had plenty of time to run while it cooked. Here it is:

Step One - toast your spices. 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp annatto seeds (aka achiote), 1 tsp black peppercorns, and 2 tsp (more, because they're larger) Jamaican allspice seeds. Toast over low heat 'til the kitchen smells awesome.

No Smell-a-Vision here, but trust me, toasting = best flavor ever.
Once nice and toasted, grind your spices in your coffee grinder. Alton Brown will tell you to use separate grinders for beans and for spices, but I have a metal grinder that doesn't leave a lingering aroma between uses so long as I wash it well. Combine ground spices with 1 TBSP each honey and olive oil and 1 tsp. each of  molasses and lime juice. Last, add a generous pinch of salt (about 1 tsp). This should form a nice gooey paste.

Next, we deal with the meat.

Preheat an oven safe nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 1-2 TBSP olive oil. Take a 1.5-2lb cut of pork tenderloin and cover it entirely with your seasoned paste. Get into it- make sure your seasoning gets into all the little cracks and crevices. This will feel dirty, but maybe you can do it when no one is looking. Once coated, dust the tenderloin with flour until completely covered. Place (carefully!) in hot pan and allow to sit for a couple minutes on all sides until completely browned, like this:

Not as dirty as it looks, I swear.

Remove your meat and set aside, loosely wrapped in foil while you start the fresh ingredients. To your hot pan, add 1 diced onion (Spanish is best, as it will get nice and sweet). Add a dash of salt to season and cook until most or all of the onion is translucent or lightly golden in color. Next, add chopped bell pepper and mango. Stir frequently to keep mango from sticking and cook until you notice your fruit and veggies starting to brown.

Sweet + Savory = YUM

Make space in the middle of your oven-safe skillet to place the pork back in the pan. Add one 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes, one clove of garlic, minced (I used Hunt's fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic to save a step), one 14.5oz can of black beans (rinsed and drained) and 1 cup of low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock. Bring the juices up to a simmer then cover tightly with a lid or foil and place your skillet in the oven for 2-3 hours.

Check for doneness by pulling at the pork with two forks. Comes apart easily? You're done! At the shorter end of this cooking range, you'll still have a touch of pink in the middle of your tenderloin.

You can enjoy this as is - just slice your pork and spoon the mango-y onion-y goodness over top, or serve it up with some warm tortillas or over some rice.

I get zero points for presentation here, I realize, but I should get at least a thousand points for taste.

Someday, I'll get a real camera and make you really want to make this food :)
Ingredient shopping list
One 1.5-2lb pork tenderloin
Whole coriander
Whole peppercorns
Whole Annato/Achiote
Whole Jamaican Allspice
Olive Oil
Bell Pepper
One 14.5oz can tomatoes
One 14.5oz can black beans
Chicken stock
rice or tortillas to serve

Suggested wine pairing: Alamos Torrontes.
Alamos Torrontes

Suggested beer paring: Shiner Ruby Redbird.

This meal is best consumed post-exercise, as it will make you want to recline to digest for the rest of the evening. It is especially good following a strenuous trail run. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday Wish List - gettin' ready for the pool

It's getting hot out there, or for those of us south of the Mason Dixon, it's been hot already for about a month. Are you ready for bathing suit weather?

I'm starting to get a lot of those bathing suit body related questions. Someone will approach me after class and ask, "How do I get rid of THIS?" as they pinch whatever excess skin and fat they want to burn. I don't want to dishearten them by telling them the hard truth - that you can't choose where you gain or how you lose - but I can give them what I feel to be the best formula to reveal the fit body that is inside all of us.

#1 Lift. Now, even today I hear women (and even some guys) complain that they don't want to hit the weights because they don't want or need to "bulk up." Well if you're one of those people who has that fear of turning into the jacked-up meathead with protruding veins, try to shake that image from your minds. The people in the gym that look like they stepped out of a bodybuilding magazine have been doing a very specialized routine that will not apply to us average Joes and Janes. If you haven't started doing this already, you need to be working "The Big 10": Up top, that's the chest, back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Down low, that's your abs, back, quads, hamstrings, and calves. If you've never picked up a dumbbell before, check out the terms and descriptions here and hop on YouTube to see some demonstrations. Already have a gym membership? Go to the trainer's desk and ask someone to show you around the machines. At most good gyms, they should be happy to do this. If they try to sell you a personal training package, don't give them the cold shoulder, either. It might be something worth considering at least for a  month or two to get started until you are comfortable taking over your own routine.

#2 Move. Muscles have a high metabolic rate, but that won't show if you have layers of fat over top. You need to incorporate 30-60 minutes of some cardiovascular activity into your routine to help those muscles keep the burn going.

#3 Move faster. The old thinking used to be that there was a specific "fat burning" cardiovascular zone that was the ideal range to remain in for optimal results. This range does not typically require intense efforts, the idea being that if you work at a lower rate your body will only mobilize its fat stores for energy. The problem with this is that while a higher percentage of calories burned come from fat at lower intensities, you will still burn more calories overall if you can incorporate some bursts of higher levels of activity. And ultimately, if you burn more calories than you put in, you WILL lose weight! So once you get a grasp on simply moving a little bit each day, push your self to move a little bit more.

#4 Rethink how you eat. Now, I'm not going to tell you to try this diet or that... but just think for a second before you eat. The tricky thing about hot weather foods is that they are ALL the wrong things for a summer body! Sure, it's Bud Light, but how light is it when you drink five of them? Hot dogs, potato salad, chips, some goopy "blueberry" pie covered in whipped cream? About the healthiest thing I see on most picnic tables or baskets is watermelon. The rest is just.... blech. Clean up your act a little and pass up those mystery meats for something a little better.

Alright, already done steps one through four? Let's do a little shopping...

I need an athletic-style swimsuit that's got a little bit of sex AND flex appeal, if you know what I mean. But it's hard to find the middle ground between this:

    And this:

I want to look sporty and somewhat modest when I'm at the pool with my toddler. No need for the pre-teen boys in the neighborhood to gawk. But I work hard for this body and I do want to rock it, just a little. Maybe this:

Or this:

I really like the TYR suits (and their prices). Plus, they look like they'd stay put if I dive in or go all-out with a cannonball :)

Are you ready to bare it all at the pool?

What do you do to get your birthday suit ready for your bathing suit?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Funny Thing About Trail Runs...

I'm going to go into my playlist vault for spin class tonight and instead share about my trail run yesterday. As the hubby and I both had yesterday off, I was able to make a kick-ass meal (recipe to come Thursday) and get out for an awesome (and steamy) trail run.

First, there was the obligatory Memorial Day pool party. We attempted to join our neighbors at the Y for some kiddy play time, but that was short-lived. Too many children, and not enough grown ups to yell at them to stop using their wake boards as paddles to whack each other with. Also, the Little Miss did not understand that to be in the pool to swim, she needed a little help, which she didn't want. So we went home for a nap...

The face of a broken heart :( Maybe next time, sweet girl.
I took advantage of nap time to prepare the feast for dinner. Here's a teaser:

Slow-roasted mango pork tenderloin. Knife optional.
Okay, now onto the running part.

I decided with the few extra hours afforded to me by having a hubby willing to stay behind (playing PS3) while I head out for a run, I'd leave the heat of the pavement for the woods. Off to Kennesaw Mountain, where the plan was to do most or all of a simple out-and-back trail.

The funny thing about out-and-back runs, is that the "out" typically needs to be the same as the "back." Whoops. It had been a while since I'd run in the park on my own and sure enough, I went the wrong way. Miles that were supposed to be logged on a wide, slightly rocky but mostly packed trail wound up taking place on tricky switch-backs with rocks, roots, and boulders.

Of course, being as hard-headed as the stones around me, I plugged on thinking, well, I've already gone the wrong way for this long, may as well keep going!

And I'm glad I did.

Sometimes, when I hit the roads the only thing I'm focused on is the end of the run. I put on my tunes, skip the quiet tracks, and push the same pace from start to finish. The great thing about trail runs - even the wrong turn ones - is that you're forced to change and adapt. It's practically impossible to maintain the same pace for the entire run, especially if you find yourself scrambling up a steep, rocky climb, such as I did yesterday. But what you lose in pace you gain in amazing views and calming seclusion. Yesterday was some good "zen" running for me and it's something I'd like to try to get back to at least once every other week.

Among the obvious reasons why trail running rocks, there were some great non-running highlights:

* I saw a fawn dart across the trail about 30 feet ahead of me, which was fascinating. Then I saw what I assumed to be its mother staring me down a little further back. That was a little frightening. I stopped still in my tracks and waited for both to retreat back into the woods to avoid getting trampled.

* The weather was still hot, but a good bit cooler than in the city. For a girl who fries to a crisp if she puts on anything less than SPF 50 sunscreen, retreating to the cover of the trees is a nice break from running in the [almost] summer heat.

* While the trails were pretty quiet, there were a few couples and families out there, which is always great to see. I think that families that start off active together, remain active together. The best was seeing two pregnant couples hiking together.

* I did get a chuckle though at one other young couple. It seemed like they were maybe dressed for something else (a movie date, maybe) but decided to go for a hike instead? I'm talking about jewelry and make up on her, nice button-up shirt on the guy, both wearing perfume and cologne, as far as I could tell. I wanted to say, "Hey guys, there's horse s**t on the trail. I don't think you need to worry about how you smell."

Do you have a great trail run you love to go on?

What's the funniest/scariest/weirdest thing you've witnessed in the woods? (keep it PG-13!)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Monday: Memorial Day Motivation and Making it Through the Heat

I know I usually brag about my Mondays off, so I hope you're actually enjoying in the day with me. Of course, this being Memorial Day, I feel somewhat obliged to have a somber moment and give my heartfelt regards to those of you who have a loved one overseas, or have lost a loved one in battle.

With that said, if you do have this day off, I hope you are getting out there and enjoying it however you can!

We have the day off together as a family, now that my girl's grandparents have graciously returned her to me. I had my doubts that I might get a letter written with suspiciously good penmanship for a 2-yr-old stating that she would not be returning for the rest of the summer. But she came home and I couldn't be happier to have my sweet girl back. Sure, it's been nice to go about my daily routine without having to wrestle with twisted seat belts, negotiate which stuffed creatures stay home and which can come with us to the store, and drinking a whole cup of coffee each morning while still warm, but I never could shake that "I should be doing something feeling".

It's kind of like sitting in a bustling room when suddenly the noise drops out in one of those weird moments when everyone has reached a lull in the conversation. The quiet after all the noise feels... awkward. It doesn't fit. That's how I felt after a few days without her here.

Still, the time apart always gives me something new to appreciate about my awesome child. To me, she's the brightest kid on earth (naturally), but it's great to get her back and to hear so many other people say the same thing. When I'm facing a tough day, all I have to do is think about getting to see her after my shift or the next morning when she comes into our room to jump on us (like she did today). I often wonder how our men and women in uniform can stand being apart from their families to fight other peoples' battles. But if it were me, fighting for what I stand for to provide for my girl, I would do whatever it takes to make sure she has the best future possible. How could I not? Just look at her!

How did I go nine days without this face??

On the running front, it's getting steamy out there. It's that time of year when I need to consider buckling down again to do my runs earlier in the morning or retreat indoors to the treadmill. I'm still in base-building mode for whatever Fall race I settle on, so working around the heat (or braving to run in it) isn't so much of an issue. But as my mileage increases I know I'll have to be careful with my runs. Some running-specific complications include (from Runner's World and my handy-dandy exercise physiology notes):
  • Cramping. We all know an electrolyte imbalance can cause us to cramp, but for me this is not limited to the muscles of my legs. One of the more uncomfortable side-effects of running in the heat for me is that my digestive muscles cramp, sometimes for a few hours following my run. I hope I'm not alone.
  • Higher heart rate for the same pace and distance. Ever sail through a run at race pace on a cool spring day, only to find yourself sucking wind a month later when the temps start to climb? Simply put, as our internal body temperature rises, we need more O2 to keep our bodies moving. More O2 means our hearts have to work much harder to pump oxygenated blood through our bodies. Well-conditioned runners will have to decrease their work load regardless of ability to remain within their target HR range (American Council on Exercise).
  • The ambient temperature is not an accurate measure of how hot it REALLY is. Heat indexes can exceed 90 degrees, or even push 100 even when your thermometer is still reading just 85. It's the humidity that makes it hard for your body to cool itself off, because your sweat doesn't evaporate. Running in the heat AND humidity is dangerous for any runner.
  • If you've had a mild spring or been exercising predominantly indoors, do not dive head-first into a big training run in the heat. It takes at least a week to become acclimated, so start with just 15-20 minutes outside a day and slowly build from there. Don't forget to bring fluids!
This evening looks good for me, heat-wise:

5 PM

Partly Cloudy 
Partly Cloudy

6 PM

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy

7 PM

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy
So while dinner slow-cooks (I have a vision in my head for some mango pork tenderloin- recipe to come if it's successful!), I think I'll hit the trails this evening for a solid 8-10 miles.

Happy Memorial Day and Happy Running!

How are you going to enjoy your 3-day weekend?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Working Parent's Conundrum

To live, we must work. We don't aspire to live beyond our means but do enjoy the occasional night out. We could live on one paycheck and never do anything outside of the house, but my daughter is more than ready for preschool. We don't even need a bigger home, now or in the immediate future, but it would be nice to save up for a down payment on something we can own. So we work.

And honestly, I like to work. Sure, every now and then I have to content with a grumpy guest, crazy kitchen, or shooting myself in the foot with my own fallibility. Still, the nature of the food and beverage industry is that it's unpredictable, very dynamic, and - let's admit it - not for the sanest of people. I like the challenges of working in that kind of environment, and I never claimed to be of 100% sound mind, so really, it's quite a good fit.

But I can't do it forever.

First, let's backtrack to what got me here to begin with.

I started college a year after graduating high school. I was a bit lost after graduation so I gave myself a "float year" to just work and be an irresponsible teenager. I wanted to date, go out, drink coffee into the wee hours of the morning, and go to open mics. There was a bit of drinking, too. Sometime during this period I eventually calmed down and found myself drawn to the field of child care. I honestly don't remember what made me gravitate toward letting screaming toddlers run around me eight hours a day, five days a week, but that's what I ended up doing for five years. I took classes on program design and early childhood development to be able to demand a higher hourly salary (which, compared to a "real" job, is still laughable pay... just so you know, whoever is watching your kids isn't making shit) and to better understand the little hellions I was in charge of. But eventually, I was burnt out.

When I moved to South Carolina to start my family life as my husband's wife, I knew I needed some more credits under my belt but was unsure what I wanted to do. I had recently undergone my own kind of fitness and wellness revival, having realized that to do everything I wanted to do - which in NY, was work, go to school, and play in a band - I needed to treat myself better to have more energy. So I wanted to take this new-found passion and switch gears entirely. I decided to start taking classes in general sciences and start waiting tables for its flexible scheduling. Four semesters and one terrible restaurant job later, I was no closer to my goal, but DID know that if I was going to wait tables, it needed to be in a respectable establishment.

I took another half year or so just to work and run. I trained for and ran some races and worked. I was getting in the best shape of my life but there wasn't a formula behind my methods, or a method to my madness. I wanted to learn more about the physiological changes I was seeing to better develop my own training regimen and maybe, someday, help others. So I went back to school, again, entering a one-year personal trainer program.

I wasn't convinced initially that I wanted to enter the field full-time until I learned of the need for qualified professionals. I'm sure you've all seen the creatine-chugging meat heads that pose as trainers at big box gyms. It was the goal of my instructors, and many other influential trainers in the industry, to make personal training equivalent to other licensed health trades, such as massage therapy, chiropractics, and physical therapy. Their passion really woke me up and I knew I wanted to be a part of this fitness revolution.

Then, I got pregnant.

Granted, this was *somewhat* planned. I was ready to have a child and we hadn't exactly prevented it from happening. Ideally, I would have finished my program beforehand and maybe even landed a job in a gym. But my Little Miss came along the summer following my completion of the program and while I possessed some skills necessary to train in certain gyms, it would be a while for me to truly complete all necessary steps to the process to get all the qualifications most reputable gyms require. When I learned I would need to shell out another several hundred dollars for a certification from one the top-four accredited certifying bodies (ACE, NASM, ACSM, or NSCA), I put the brakes on my goals yet again.

Truthfully, I didn't have to. I could have plugged away and probably started training before my little girl even turned one. I had set up my own roadblocks though: Not enough time, not enough money, I didn't want to put her in daycare, nor did I want to call on her grandparents to watch her every day of the week (as much as I'm sure they would have). In hindsight, I don't really regret staying a server, as it afforded me the opportunity to raise my daughter and be her primary caregiver. We bonded better than I had even imagined on that first day that I got to see her face to face. And with all the changes we encountered within that first year after her birth, with my husbands job changes and eventually, moving to Georgia, I'm glad I waited.

Which brings me today. Well, yesterday. I had gone into the gym simply to run (as it was 5:00PM and 92 degrees). I checked in at the front desk with my employee ID when a man standing up front said "Oh, where do you work?" I explained that I was a spinning instructor at another nearby location. "Cool. Do you want to be a trainer?" Yes, eventually, I said. "Why not now? When would you be ready?"

Granted, this job offer was more about the gym's desperate need to have female trainers, but this is now the third time I've been asked to start training where I already teach group fitness. At first, I started putting up roadblocks again, especially knowing they wanted at least 20 hours a week and I did not have regular child care arrangements. But yesterday, the man I spoke with basically said that he'd be willing to go with whatever availability I had. No more roadblocks. Now, I can only say yes or no.

The conclusion to this long-winded post seems clear, but it's something I'm still feeling some trepidation about. I want to do this. I need to do this. Of course, I'm apprehensive about some of the costs associated with working, as you typically want to net more than you pay to work to begin with. But if I don't say I will do this today, then I might not tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. I can't keep myself caught in this holding pattern. Just as I tell my classes: "Don't think about yesterday or tomorrow- they have nothing to do with the effort that you put forth right here and right now."

Time for me to take my own advice.

What are your ultimate goals? How did you get there - or how are you getting there?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Blurbs

Happy Friday! Well, it's more like Hump-day for me, but I'm going to ignore that fact for now because I actually have a daytime shift today and will get to enjoy a Friday night date like a normal person.

First, my "breakfast of champions": Puffins (cereal, not the actual bird) & bananas w/ almond milk, coffee (of course), OJ, and a little vitamin cocktail.

I'm not a huge fan of pill-popping or supplementing with fortified bars, shakes or powders. However, I am also a mom and a mere mortal who has not figured out how to clone herself, which is to say that I can't always put together a full meal with everything I need to eat.

I think most people are wasting their money with those jugs of mega-protein energy powders, and I tend to shy away from people who suggest a new pill for each new ailment. But I do make an exception for a few supplements:
  • Daily multi-vitamin: I prefer a low-dose multi, one that I could take two in a day if I wanted to, but one is usually sufficient. It supplies me with lots of essentials that I know I won't get enough of in diet alone, like iron, B-vitamins, and vitamin D.
  • Base chain amino acids: Specifically, L-lysine, although there are several amino acids you can find in vitamin form. These amino acids will combine with others that I will consume in my diet to form complete proteins to repair and rebuild tissue (muscle).
  • MSM: Methylsulfonylmethane, a sulfur compound that also aids in building and repairing tissue, including muscle, joints, and skin. 
Now, I am not a doctor, so I would not tell anyone else to take these without first getting a degree in nutrition, but I can tell you what works for me. And I can tell you that whenever considering supplementation, I generally feel the simpler the better. If you don't recognize the components in a particular supplement as vitamins or nutrients you might otherwise be able to get from whole food sources, it might be best to skip it!

Are you a pill-popper? Any vitamins you swear by?

Switching gears entirely to the news, did you hear about the students who were sent home for riding their bikes to school? The principle has since apologized and admitted her reaction to this senior "prank" was severe, but it came a little late, as she had already sent the students home, making them miss their last day of school and the "senior walk-through".

What's sad to me about this story is that of all the pranks seniors pull, this was probably the coolest, and hardly a prank at all as they notified local officials they would be on the roads and even had a police escort. I understand that we live in a fear-based society and, let's be blunt, bad things DO happen, but it's sad to think that trying to do something fun and healthy together would be as heavily reprimanded as if they had graffitied their school.

I hope this changes with my and my daughter's generation. I hope we can get back to a place where we form a community with our neighbors instead of secluding ourselves because it's not safe out there. What makes a place safe are the people who take ownership of it, so that our kids CAN ride their bikes to school and play outside.

What's your reaction to this story? Would you let your kids bike to school?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

3 Things: Eating On a (Weird) Schedule

It's going to be a super-quick post today, as I'm busy pretending to be all productive and stuff.

I'm a little nuts (of course) and so is my schedule. For several years now, I often don't eat dinner until 10PM or later at least half of the week. On those days, I have to be especially careful how I eat from the time I wake up until when I leave for work, especially if I need to work out in that timeframe, too. So today, I figure my "Three Things" could be what I've had to eat so far today.

This morning started off with a great spin class. Of course, to make it great I had to make sure I had energy and to do that, I had to get some quick, easy-to-digest calories. I don't like to eat a huge meal, so I instead break my breakfast into two parts:

1) Breakfast I.

What: Six oz. Silk Almond Milk and half of a peanut butter pretzel Clif Mojo bar.
Why: Easy-to-digest yet filling carbs via oats and pretzels in the bar, protein and antioxidants in the almond milk.
When: Half and hour to 45 minutes before my workout (8:30), then the other half of my Mojo bar immediately following the gym (11:00) to refuel after an hour of spin and 30 minutes of upper body and core resistance.

2) Breakfast II.

What: Handful each of raspberries, blueberries, and sliced strawberries with about six oz. Greek yogurt. I just tried this Greek Gods yogurt and it's delicious but the strawberry honey flavor does contain full-fat yogurt, so watch out for that. I'd suggest opting for fat-free plain and adding your own honey.

For good measure, I added some manganese with some toasted pine nuts (which, as I've already shared, I love on everything!)

Why: Protein from the yogurt, vitamins and nutrients from the fruit.
When: Post-gym, pre-dog walk (11:30).

3) Lunch

What: Grilled turkey, egg and cheese on Arnold Health-full 10 Grain Bread. For a little zip, I used some chipotle Gouda. Hot spice is a great way to add variety to your plate without a ton of extra calories.
Why: Protein (again!) + complex carbs to tide me over until whenever I might eat again, which is I-don't-know-when.
When: As late as I can get away with eating it and still have time to brush my teeth before work (3:00PM)

The name of the game for me is to reach satiation without feeling like I need to curl up and take a nap. My meals and snacks almost always consist of protein and complex carbs for the sustained energy they provide. And of course, I'm drinking water throughout the day because if I DO get hungry later (very likely), I don't want to be dehydrated on top of it.

What's on your plate when you have a full plate?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

To Lead or Be Lead, That is the Question.

Last night's spin class was killer. Great turn out, good energy, and lots of sweat. I took my own advice and and cranked it up a notch for a few of the drills, adding two gears at times when telling the class to add one. Effectively, I want to train my legs to push harder and faster in a higher gear, which I certainly can't do if I'm tentative with the resistance on an indoor bike.

The tricky thing about teaching class, though, is that I not only need to shout out instructions and physical cues, but I need to gauge how hard the class is working and use that to determine if I stick to a drill as I originally planned or make modifications. In doing so, I sometimes might back off my own intensity. But since my class is also my workout, I need to find that balance between guiding my class and pushing myself. Of course, I can only work hard to a certain extent: if I'm gasping for air and crimson red in the face, I imagine that wouldn't leave a good impression on my class.
I recently picked up a few Thursday morning classes, which seem to be small and quiet. I realized last week I was going to have to change my style for this small handful of people and perhaps trade the Flo Rida and Foo Fighters for Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac. This class would be an example of when I might need to dial back my own intensity to better lead the class, several of whom seem to be new to the class, new to the gym, and generally unsure of what they are doing there. I would not be doing my job if I were to intimidate them out of the room.

Have you ever trained with a group or met up with another runner who you had to adjust your intensity and pace for to better lead them?

It's hard sometimes, to swallow your pride and stuff your ego for someone else's workout, but it's why I am an instructor. And often times, friends rely on each other much in the same way for group rides and runs. You wouldn't want to turn every run into an easy run for the sake of your training partner, but I think it is a good experience to put your goals aside for a moment to help encourage your friend and push them to their own next level.

Because I'm sure we have all been there before: Struggling, gasping, dying to quit. Maybe you were dragging behind on a group run and someone doubled back to keep you company. Maybe you were attempting a first ever group fitness class and considered throwing in the towel because you couldn't keep up, when the instructor made a poignant and inspirational comment to keep you going. Maybe you were about to give up on a workout because the alarm went off too early or you were too tired after work, and your spouse, friend, or parent reminded you of how important you said it was that you exercise that day no matter what.

So take a cue from your instructors and find someone you can lead, even for just one workout, on their fitness journey. You don't need a degree in exercise science or a certification to train to be a motivator and a positive influence. We are ALL teachers, in some way!

Who has been one of your biggest motivators?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Night Spin: Sweat & Salt

As I sent him off to work, I told my husband since I have to focus on putting together tonight's playlist and brushing up on my exercise physiology, he's in charge of dinner. He's not exactly the apron-wearing, beurre blanc-making type, and honestly we've both learned a lot from trial and error in the kitchen. But that's not to say I wouldn't enjoy seeing him sampling sauce while comparing it to to the flavor profile of the bottle of wine he picked out.

Actually, there's a lot I needed to learn when it comes to cooking. The ghosts of dried out chicken and overdone steaks still haunt me every time I fire up a burner. Many a main dish has gone cold on my counter because I forgot to start the rice. And seasoning! It took me forever to learn how to make food taste good!

One thing I discovered, much to many a health professionals' chagrin, is that everything needs salt. The pasta water needs salt. Chicken needs salt. Veggies need salt. Even desserts need a dash of salt. Fleur de sel caramel? Yes, please!

But if you're concerned about sodium and hypertension, here are a few tips, based on information in Exercise Physiology: 6th Addition (Powers, Scott K. and Howley, Edward T.):
  •  Reduction of sodium in the diet can help lower blood pressure in individuals sensitive to excess sodium. This can be as easy as not eating fast food and cutting out processed meats. This does not mean you can't season while you cook. In fact, I'd say the best way to reduce sodium is to cook at home, where you can control what goes in to what you eat.
  • Reduction of sodium is not THE one solution to eliminating hypertension. Above reducing sodium in the list of recommendations for lowering blood pressure is to lose weight, limit alcohol intake, and exercise moderately 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
  • Any exercise is good, but cardiovascular exercise that focuses on increasing VO2 max (simply put, trains your body and heart to learn to work harder for longer), such as interval work or maintaining a "comfortably hard" effort for a few workouts a week, is especially effective in lowering blood pressure.
The flip side of sodium intake is when you don't get enough. As a profuse sweater - seriously, you can see the salt streaking my face after a run - I know I have to make sure that I get my electrolytes. We know they are vital for extended duration of exercise, but why? And how much? Again, I turn to my text books (see, I'm already studying like a good girl).
  • Most Americans take in enough salt at mealtimes, but those new to moderate to intense exercise will sweat more salt than an acclimated individual. So it is important when embarking on a new exercise regimen, not to eliminate all sodium from the diet at the same time.
  •  Exercise lasting less than an hour requires .5L to 1L of water consumption during exercise. Carbohydrates and electrolytes are not required for efforts lasting less than an hour. If you plan on running in the heat or sweating a lot (like coming to my class), however, and are concerned about electrolytes but maybe don't want the extra calories, an electrolyte-enhanced water is a perfect option. Smart Water and Victory H2O are great, and Trader Joe's even makes one, too!
  • Exercise lasting one to three hours (for us mere mortals, say a half marathon) requires .5L to 1L of fluids per hour containing 6%-8% carbohydrates (by volume) and 10-20 mEq (don't worry about that unit) of Na+ (sodium) and Cl- (chlorine). What this means for those of us who don't like numbers and math is that a basic sports beverage is more than sufficient. For a half, I usually like to alternate taking water and sports beverage every other aid station starting after 5 or 6 miles. On a less supported course, you might consider wearing a belt with one bottle of water and the other with Gatorade or Powerade.
  • Exercise lasting longer than three hours is a bit beyond my territory. Save for the occasional marathon, I don't typically run for this long. Additional nourishment containing carbs and electrolytes might be necessary beyond fluid consumption. I might take a gel every hour in addition to alternating between water and a sports drink. Ultramarathon territory is a completely different game. There's where you'll read about runners drinking pickle juice and eating salted pretzels.
As with everything else, it's about moderation. I salt my food, I cook with butter, and I enjoy chocolate. That is because I run and spin like a crazy mother. I can tell you what I don't do: I don't eat McDonald's or Burger King. I don't always clean my plate. I don't eat fried candy bars or butter (*barf*). In a nation of excess, it's easy for us to want to believe something as simple as not salting our food will be the answer to our waistline woes. I'm here to tell you that it's not. Show restraint and caution before putting food in our mouths? Yes! Live a dull, bland, tasteless life? Absolutely not!

Alright, now let's get sweaty.

Hot Spin #2 (click here for Hot Spin #1 and other hydration tips)

1) "Mr G" (original mix) Deadmau5 - Warm up, flat road, alternate lead legs and spend a little time in all 3 positions. Add a gear half-way through song.

2) "Sweat" Snoop Dogg vs. David Guetta - Add another gear. Seated steady pace with bursts in position three (no added resistance, just pick up the pace)

3) "All Along the Watchtower" Jimi Hendrix - Hill #1: Sit and climb for the burst, add a gear and take it up to 3 for the chorus. This time, leave it on when you sit.

4) "The Boys of Summer" The Ataris - Runs on a flat road (or light resistance) on the chorus.

5) "Hot in Herre" Nelly - Jumps! Add a gear and jump on an 8-count, 4-count, 2-count, then repeat for 2nd half of the song with an added gear.

6) "Firestarter" Prodigy - Hold steady drill: Starting with light resistance, try to match your cadence to the beat (we're looking for 70-80bpm, not double-time, which would be too fast at 140). Starting at 40s in, add a gear and hold your pace. Add another gear every minute and don't slow down!

7) "Santa Monica" Everclear - Hill #2: Seated, heavy climb. Don't dip below 60rpm, but crank that resistance until it feels challenging to do so. If your legs aren't aching by half-way through, add a gear.

8) "Cupid Shuffle" Cupid - Back to a flat road for a second to recover, then add a gear or two (for the safety of your knees). We're going dance a little and go through all 3 riding positions. Starting at 15s in, we'll start in position 1 for 20s, then 2 for 20s, then 3. Then we'll cycle through each stance for 15s. each. Then 10s, then 5... etc. Work your way down til shifting every 4 beats

9) "We Will Rock You" Queen - Hill #3: start at medium resistance and add a gear and take it out to 3 every time they sing "we will rock you!"

10) "We Are the Champions" Queen - From where you left off, sit (if you can pedal smoothly - if not, take off a gear or two 'til you can) and grind it out to get to the top.

11) "Lonely Boy" The Black Keys - Take a couple gears off and start in position 2 at a nice jogging pace. We'll pick it up a little in position 3, taking 1 gear off at a time as we recover.

12) "Sandstorm" Darude - Freestyle runs - these 2 sets of runs are your last 2 chances to get that cadence up, push yourself to your limit, and give it all you got!

13) "Mad Season" Matchbox 20 - cool down

14) "Traffic in the Sky" Jack Johnson - stretch

Happy Sweating!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weekend Rewind and Monday Motivation

We've been a little indulgent this weekend following my shifts at work. I gave myself a hall pass to skip my runs since my workouts from last week combined with some pretty busy shifts had my body begging for a break. This break just happened to involve a little food/pub crawl in Decatur on Saturday night, including Brick Store Pub and Cakes & Ale. We may have eaten ourselves silly.

Cakes & Ale -- don't remember what it was called, so I'll name it "The Chocolate Gut Bomb".

Cakes & Ale -- Caramel Bundt Cake aka "The Caramel Gut Bomb"
As if that wasn't enough, we decided that for Sunday night, since we were already going out to finally see "The Avengers" (AWESOME, by the way), we'd do the whole dinner and a show thing and went to CineBistro. If you've never been to a theater that combines dining with the theater experience, you really need to. CineBistro, for one, is 21+ only after 6:00PM, which is fantastic if you don't want to be in a theater with a bunch of giggling teenagers who can't stop texting for two seconds (for the record, seeing a phone lit up in a dark theater is as annoying as hearing it ring). Another plus is that everything is in one spot, so if you're so inclined to eat a whole meal before or during your show, you save yourself the rush of driving first to a restaurant, then to the theaters. Also, the chairs are HUGE, and COMFY. My legs still felt like lead from work so I welcomed the chance to slouch and recline.

After all the food, beverage, and Robert Downy Jr. I could handle, it was time to get back to being good this morning. My body, now finished begging for rest and calorie-dense foods, was ready for some fruit and exercise!

Breakfast was early as I had a meeting/motivation seminar to attend at work. It's a two-part thing the company I work for hired an outside consultant to run. At first, I thought he was going to tell us how we suck and what we need to do to get better. But it wasn't like that at all. This guy was... intense. He was all about completely turning our minds inside out and forcing us to shift our paradigms, even those of us who claimed to have a pretty nice disposition to begin with (such as myself). I mean, he nearly made me cry... about four times. A lot of what our speaker had to talk about was gratitude and understanding, as well as living in the moment instead of walking around carrying the burdens of our past on our backs. And while the stories he had to share about cancer patients and wounded war vets broke my heart, I definitely got what he was driving at.

I left the meeting armed with several motivational quotes and mantras to meditate on for today's run:

If you don't know where you're going, it is impossible to get there.

You can not become the person you wish to be tomorrow if you make an excuse for not being that person today.

If you are happy 80% of the time, you will spend 80% of your time worrying about the other 20%.

Confidence is not built by doing only what we know to be safe.

You see, this guy is just a quote machine!

Armed with all of this motivation and inspiration, I left work for a flat and fast 8-miler at a nearby recreation along the Chatahoochie River. I always enjoy running here, not just for the reprieve from Atlanta's hills, but for the fact that I can feel somewhat removed from the choking congestion, horns, and exhaust of the city. Don't get me wrong, I love being a city runner, but when it's already hot and humid you I need a nice tree-lined path or road away from all the noise.

I thought a lot about living in the moment. We certainly did THAT this weekend. I still feel the residual guilt of calories consumed lingering at the back of my conscience. I thought about how lucky I am to have those moments of indulgence along with the will and desire to come back to doing something good for my body. I tried to identify anything from my past I still allow to hold me back. I rethought my approach to the grandiose goals for my future that are so intimidating I've held off on attempting to achieve them. I thought about our meeting, and a question the speaker posed to all of us, "Use two words you would want others to perceive you as."

I decided I want to be Funny and Fierce. Because I know exactly when I do or do not wish to be taken seriously. I want the liberty to talk about bodily functions and the grosser aspects of being a runner, but I want to be perceived as someone with the drive and conviction to be taken seriously as a trainer and an athlete.

FIERCE! Grrrrr.
So, enough dawdling from me. It's time to get serious about what I want to do and stop using excuses to hold myself back. Will I start a business from scratch like I wanted? No. Does that mean I should give up on getting a full-time job as a trainer? Absolutely not.

Step 1: Dusting off those ACE books....

What two words do YOU want others to think of, when they think of you?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Blurbs

After spending an inordinate amount of time online window shopping on Wednesday, I actually went back to Sierra Trading Post and got myself the Moving Comfort Alexis I had been eyeing. If you missed my post, go back and check it out for current deals and sales. My purchase came to about $15, which is less than I've spent at Target on sports apparel! I might even go back and buy another bra or two so I can finally get rid of the old ones I've held onto in my undergarment drawer as my "just in case," back-up bras when everything else is in the laundry. I do not replace my bras often enough, so they have the support, elasticity, and for some, the feel of a burlap sack.

Does your workout drawer need a cleanout? Mine sure does!

These potato sacks can no longer hold my potatoes.
It's a lazy day around here. The Little Miss is on vacation again in South Carolina and I am sitting here with that weird feeling of I should be doing something. But really, without having to think about getting in a run before nap time or squeezing in a workout before the gym daycare closes, my morning is wide open. I am pretty sure I'll enjoy this for another two days and then go into toddler withdrawal. But until that point, I'm taking my cue from my furry "babies" and taking it easy for a moment.

What would you do with a responsibility-free day?


In the news, an unregistered runner is suing the organizers of a Mud Run for an injury sustained in a shallow mud pit that resulted in paralysis from his chest down. I hate to say this, but I'm on the fence about whether I sympathize with the participant or the event organizers.

The runner was not registered and had not signed a waver. He ran using a friend's bib (she had signed a waiver for herself), which he claims was permitted by race officials. They say this is not true, which leads me to think that if this runner should not have participated in his friend's place, he alone is responsible for the injuries he sustained. It's just unfortunate that the injuries were as severe as paralysis and not something more benign like a twisted shoulder or sprained ankle. He claims the obstacle was created carelessly, yet none of the other nearly 1,300 finishers were hurt.

The race organizers can not ignore that this injury did in fact happen on their watch, however. Waiver or no waver, if one person gets hurt they must consider that others could have been just as severely injured as well. While I think a lawsuit of $30 million plus legal fees is a bit excessive coming from a man who admits he was not a registered participant, I think the organizers owe it to him to at least acknowledge that they need to rethink how the obstacles are constructed.

What do you think? Is anyone clearly right or wrong in this case? It's still hard for me to say. I'm interested in what others might think.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Recipe of The Week (with pictures!)

I don't have time for 3 Things Thursday but I will share my "recipe" (by which I mean "bunch of ingredients thrown together with a small prayer to the heavens that it tastes OK") for some yummy sauteed chicken with pasta and veggies.

First, let's talk produce. If you've been following health news and trends, you'll know that eating a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables can help you add variety while losing weight and getting tons of vital nutrients. There are many artciles you can do a Google search for to find more information about which foods in particular pack the healthiest punch but generally speaking, the brighter the color, the better it is for you.

So my dish starts with some nice, vibrant bell peppers, yellow squash, and red onion:

"Vitamin C, lutein and lycopene, Oh My!"
Note to busy parents: I'll often slice and dice everything during nap time so that it's easier to throw my meal together in the evening instead of trying to tackle it all at once.

Next, I coat my sliced vegetables in some lovely, spicy, aromatic arugula pesto and sprinkle with a dash of salt. Depending on my mood, I might use either raw or roasted garlic in my pesto (raw = spicy, roasted = sweet) and trade sharp asiago for peppery aged parm, or even a blend of cheeses. I always add toasted pine nuts, though. And you can do the same thing with traditional, basil pesto or just buy a jar of your favorite if you don't have a food processor. I love the arugula because it has so much flavor and is cheap (a bag is just $1.99 at Trader Joe's).

Everything goes in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until veggies are tender and onion is mostly translucent.

Line your baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up.
While the veggies roast, it's time to talk chicken.

If you're like me, the thought of chicken as a staple protein in anyone's diet has me thinking of dried, boring chunks of chicken breast on a plain salad. But trust me, your chicken does not need to be tired and tasteless! It just needs a little love.

For starters, if you can handle a little bit of labor and trust your skills with a knife, buy whole breasts (ribs, bone and skin). It will be cheaper, and although I'm probably imagining this, I think the chicken retains more moisture the less it's handled and process beforehand. Also - and again, this is just a mental thing - I think the less the chicken is handled between the time your poultry meets its Maker and the time it hits your plate, the better it is for you. You can, of course, buy a whole chicken and save even more money, reserving whatever cuts you don't use for your next meal.

For tips on poultry dissection, watch this, or or thisor this.

Note to busy parents: do this ahead of time, too! Maybe while you let Curious George babysit for half an hour (Don't lie and tell me you don't do that from time to time.)

I like using the whole, bone-in breast because once I filet it I get two breasts for my hubby and me and two tenders for the Little Miss.

"Don't look at me, I'm naked!"
If you cut your chicken ahead of time, great. Pat it dry with a paper towel then leave on a plate, uncovered in the fridge until ready. Of course, keep it separate from other food items to avoid cross contamination, but I suggest to leave it uncovered because this will actually yield a much juicier chicken. Trust me.

When ready, pat chicken down one more time to remove excess moisture from the surface and season with lemon pepper salt. That's it. Heat your non-stick skillet on medium with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, place the chicken in (breasts first, tenders more toward the end). You may wish to use a splatter screen. Cook for 5-7 minutes each side, covering with a lid and turning off the heat for the last couple minutes of cooking time to really seal in all the juices.

If you're going Paleo, you can skip pasta all together and simply serve your chicken over your pesto-roasted veggies and call it a day. Otherwise, you can bring water up to a boil and prepare your favorite pasta according to package directions while everything else cooks. For a yummy twist that will compound the breath you'll have after eating all that pesto, I suggest you try Trader Joe's garlic basil linguine.

Plate and serve. If you have left over pine nuts and cheese, garnish as you please. For me, that means generously!

Bon (Healthy) Apetite!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday Wish List

I am in desperate need of some new apparel. As I'm sure I'm not the only runner/mom/wannabe blogger on a budget out there, the thing I struggle with is the price tag attached to certain items. Still, it doesn't stop me from web window shopping...

The most essential of essential piece of clothing for any woman who engages in cardiovascular activity is, in my opinion, the almighty bra. My all-time favorite bra has been the Moving Comfort Fiona, which I got a couple sizes ago when I returned to running after having my daughter. I'll spare you the picture of WHY I needed this bra, but if you're a woman who has nursed... you know. Well a couple years and a few inches off my bust later, I'm ready for a new favorite bra.

Moving Comfort "Alexis"
I love that this bra still seems to provide outstanding support for high-impact sports without the thick, heavy straps. As I have learned through my many sizes and the bras that went with them, it's the support around the bust that makes for a great bra, not just the straps.

A current runner-up that is in heavy use (as in, must soon be replaced because Tide + Fabreze can only do so much) is my Under Armor Duplicity. While the product specs say it's for light-to-moderate impact activities, the compression style makes it great for running. Despite my smaller size, I really don't like a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. to move when I'm running. Under Armour's got me covered, there!

Women's UA Duplicity® (A/B Cup) Sports Bra
I know that bras can wear out over time and multiple washings, it's just so hard to drop money on something I know I need when there's a certain little person who needs to be fed and clothed. I'm still at the place where if my choices boil down to a new bra or a cute outfit for the Little Miss, I'll deal with chaffage and irremovable stench for the sake of making my daughter's fashion.

More stylin' than mom will ever be, that's for sure!

I'm on the hunt for promo codes and good deals. So far, I've come up with these:

Champion is having a sports bra sale and giving 20% off new items until 5/21.

Skinny Runner has a great promo code for Road Runner Sports for either 10% off all sports bras, or 20% if you're a "VIP" member (which I'm not, but I might get on that).

Sierra Trading Post has ridiculously low prices on great brands like Moving Comfort and New Balance. Use promo code ALFUN2 at the checkout for an additional 20% off!

(someone might go shopping... like right now)

Girls, what's your favorite bra brand? Moving Comfort gets the clear win, but I do have a couple great Champion bras, too.

Boys, do you have an equally essential piece of apparel? I imagine sweat-wicking material would be a must for certain areas...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Night Spin - What to Eat for How You Burn

This week I will recycle a playlist or do a mix-up of previously used songs, saving my time and resources to put together a new "Rock of the Ages" class next week. I will definitely need to include last week's Queen as well as some Zepplin, especially because it comes up on my Black Keys Pandora station all the time. Actually, I may just use Pandora to make my whole list, since it has that crazy psychic ability to read my mind and know exactly what song I need to hear and when.

We'll get back to the music next week. For today, I'm going to stray from my usual post and talk a little more about food.

I give a lot of food-related advice to people, but without a degree in nutrition it is best for me to share what works for me. I can not prescribe a menu plan, but I can definitely give some good meal suggestions that have worked for me to feel nourished, enjoy something delicious, and - most importantly - not be full of crap and junk.

Now, keep in mind, I burn a LOT of calories. I am very anti-diet, save for the food choices I feel like everyone ought to make, such as eating more fresh produce and fewer boxed and bagged items. But I do need to eat a lot of food, trying to make sure *most* of it is nutritious, albeit somewhat calorie-dense. So if you are reading this blog and trying to lose weight by cutting calories, here are a few substitutions for some of the food and beverage items I might talk about:

reduced fat or skim milk, or unsweetened alternative "milk": Alternative milks have high nutrient content but if they are flavored they will contain a good amount of sugar as well. If you are cutting calories, use traditional non-fat milk in your cereal and coffee, saving the sweet stuff to enjoy a glass of after a hard, hour+ long workout. Personally, I use vanilla almond milk all the time, but that is because of my own personal caloric requirements (read below).

more carbs vs. fewer carbs: I eat a lot of carbs, and there are a lot of different opinions out there as far as what someone's carb, fat and protein ratios ought to be. If you are training for a major endurance event, up to 70% of your calories can come from carbs. Mid-range athletes, like myself, might enjoy 60%, and people looking to balance out their diets and lose weight would benefit from 50%. I see a lot of carb-reduction or elimination diets out there that I think can be narrowed down to one basic principle: eat less processed junk. So many of our carbohydrates come from junk food and sweets that just about anyone would benefit from simply switching from processed foods to whole grains and eating more fruits and vegetables.

meat vs. meat: No substitution here, unless you're vegetarian in which case, I'm sorry. (kidding) I do have a few suggestions for choosing and eating meat, however. When possible, choose meat from eco-conscious suppliers whose animals are free range, given natural feed, not treated with hormones or antibiotics, or any combination of at least two of those qualities. Save money and calories by only eating meat for one meal of the day (there is no reason to eat meat at every meal, there are plenty of other great sources of protein). Learn your cuts of meat so you know what is leaner, but don't discount all parts of the animal. Dark chicken meat, for example, has more B vitamins than it's paler counterpart.

breakfast vs. no breakfast: If you haven't heard by now - which is to say, if you've been living under a rock - you need to eat breakfast! But for the record, you shouldn't skip any meal. Whether you make yourself smaller portions and include snacks throughout your day or attempt to stick to three square meals, you should not make yourself go more than 4-5 hours without eating to avoid stalling out your metabolism. Not hungry or too crunched for time? Start small, with a piece of fruit, and work your way up. For myself, my breakfast must include a little protein, carbs (of course), a little fruit, and coffee.

Trader Joe's Vanilla Almond Granola cereal with TJ's Vanilla Almond milk and diced Anjou pear. This week's coffee is Pete's French Roast. And my bowl was much fuller than that to start, I just didn't want to seem like a piggy.

Having a kid, it's easier to think this way, but my approach to breakfast is this: What should I eat to hold me over, should I not get to eat again until 2:00PM? And I can tell you that if you have been eating to lose weight but are now maybe embarking on a new fitness routine that will greatly increase you activity, you need to consider adding foods BACK in. Try not to focus so much on quantity as you do on quality and pick foods that pack a punch. For my next food installment, I'll go into some of my favorite "multitasking" foods. Don't worry, they're good multitaskers, not weird ones, like ketchup made with squash, sweet potato and tomato. (Honestly, if it's not too late, just avoid the whole ketchup fiasco by not keeping it in the house.)

What did you eat for breakfast today?

What's your one, must-have health food?

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Monday Mother's Day

Today has been a much-needed break from, well, everything.

Since yesterday was Mother's Day, I first want to send my well wishes and love to all the mothers out there for being awesome.

Second, I have to say I hope to all that is holy you didn't go out to eat for brunch yesterday as your one and only opportunity of the year to either treat your mother or be treated by the rest of your family.

If you did go out, I hope to all that is holy that you did not place huge and unrealistic expectations on it being the best, most absolutely perfect dining experience - or day, for that matter - ever. Because hello, if you're a mom, you know there is no such thing!

I have no problem working on Mother's Day. I love seeing happy families and serving them delicious food. Every now and then you get that one rotten egg who just can't be satisfied no matter what you do, but for the most part, I like to go into the day with a positive attitude because I know how I'm feeling shows. If you work in any other field of customer service, you know this is true, too.

I think of it like this: In public speaking, I was taught that to deliver an eloquent and effective speech, I need to speak slower than what I feel is slow. So, really slow. Compared to the way I ramble on, anyway. My teacher said it will feel unnatural and exaggerated, but to the listener, it will make me sound knowledgeable and precise. If I take the same approach with my facial expression and attitude with my guests as I do with my speech - smile a bit wider, stand up a bit straighter, and be confident almost to the point of being blunt ("I don't think you should make any changes to that dish. The Chef knows what he's doing.") - I will be able to take command of any guest interaction.

So then, my only trouble comes with that one table that has held this particular day up to some false ideal. Since I know I can't really do anything for them, I can at least be happy knowing I've done my best to take care of everyone else. I can also take comfort in the fact that I am easier to please and, in my mind, the ideal mom to have to wait on on my special day.

For one, I'll take a clean kitchen, folded laundry, and a well-rested toddler over sappy cards any day.
Roses are red, violets are blue. I couldn't think of anything to say so I paid someone else to. [source]
Also, if I can't do what I want because of work, then I'll be happy with a rain-check for the next nice evening to go run or bike to my heart's content.

Good weather is all I need.

Did you get to do what you wanted for your mom or yourself for Mother's Day?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Workin' On My Night Moves

I have been told, read, and even experienced many reasons why I should run in the mornings. Many boast that it buys them an extra hour or two in their day, getting their runs in first thing. Others love the sense of accomplishment that comes from being up before other people, the birds, and the sun. During my previous (brief) AM running kick, I personally enjoyed the peace and solitude, especially when I made it back to the house in time to brew and drink a cup of coffee before anyone else was up.

Not to knock those early morning go-getters, but generally speaking, I have found running in the morning is just not for me. From time to time, I can do it for a few weeks, but sooner or later I start slamming the snooze button again. And let's face it, when I work up until or past midnight, eat dinner at 1:00AM and then hopefully wind down enough to go to bed by 2... I'm not exactly setting my alarm to go off three hours later for anything.

In the summer time, I really love my night runs. At night, especially in the summer, the humidity has typically subsided, it's naturally cooler, and you get this neat sensation that you're just FLYING through your run. I especially love night running in the city. Everything is lit up, so there's little risk of stumbling or tripping (although, this is ME we're talking about... I find ways to fall) and it's fun to make fun of the people in my head who are already hammered at 9:00PM. Seriously, who gets drunk that early? Well, I guess if you're a nine-to-fiver who gets started at 5:15...

Another cool effect of night running is that in addition to feeling faster, I feel taller, leaner, and more graceful. Standing at a statuesque five foot two, I like catching a glimpse of myself in a storefront window, all lit up under the street lights, legs looking long and gazelle-like. I mean, everyone looks better in mood lighting, right? I feel like one of those gorgeous women in a gritty, urban, sneaker commercial.

Woman running at night

Now, if you click the link for the source of the image above, it brings you to a "Shape" article meant to help readers determine their roadblocks to maintaining daily exercise habits. One of their suggestions - of course - is to exercise first thing in the morning. Well I say, the best thing is to determine what time of day works BEST for YOU.

Sure, I could have gotten up and run after five hours of sleep to run before my husband had to leave for work. But, I like my sleep. So sue me. Plus, there was that whole pesky cold thing, and sometimes waiting an additional 8-10 hours makes all the difference in the world when it comes to trying to recover. Ultimately, I'll run whenever it fits into my day, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. Sometimes it's 15 minutes here, 20 there, but whether it's morning, noon, or night, doing nothing first thing the morning is exactly the same as doing nothing at the end of your day.

When is the weirdest/earliest/latest time you've ever worked out?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Three Things - Mucus (eew), Munchies and Mother's Day

Have you checked out my Relief and Refuel Giveaway yet? No, you haven't. You should :)

And now for three things...

1.)  It's a down week, running-wise. Spin was great on Tuesday but that following night I could not sleep at all. I tossed and turned, got up what felt like 103 times to blow my nose, and just generally could not get comfortable. A bowl of cereal at 5:30AM helped me get to sleep for a couple hours, but I knew Wednesday's double shift was going to be a challenge to get through. So as much as I'd love to tough it out and really get my sweat on, I'm going to play it safe and take it easy. Little Miss might get a short ride in the jogger to the playground today, but that will be it!

2.) Recipe of the Week!

Jerk-Glazed Salmon with Quinoa and Hericot Verts

This recipe could NOT be easier if I tried. See for yourself:

  • 1 cup dried Quinoa (I like Trader Joe's)
  • chicken or veggie stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • about a dozen whole allspice seeds (I used Jamaican allspice)
  • frozen "French Style" green beans aka hericot verts (also Trader Joe's)
  • however many filets of salmon that will feed your family
  • Penzeys Jerk chicken and fish seasoning - 1-2 tsp per filet (you can use any jerk spice blend, I just love Penzeys, well, everything)
  • salt - regular or ground sea salt - I prefer the texture of a coarser salt - 1/2 tsp per filet plus extra to season green beans to taste
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • honey - 1 tsp per filet
  • extra virgin olive oil - you guessed it, 1 tsp per filet, plus extra for quinoa and green beans
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • fresh-ground pepper 

  1. Heat 1-2 tsp olive oil in saucepan over medium-low heat. Add quinoa and toast, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until they start to turn golden and smell nutty.
  2. Add 2 cups stock, bay leaf and allspice and bring to a boil
  3. Continue preparing according to package directions - typically you will reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and allow to cook 15-20 min, until all the liquid is absorbed. Watch out for the allspice and bay leaf when serving- you wanna fish them out.
  1. Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Check filets for bones and de-scale or remove the skin completely. It's a matter of preference if you choose to cook skin-on or not; it's perfectly safe to eat. Once filets are ready, pat dry with a paper towel.
  3. In a bowl combine jerk seasoning, salt, lime, honey and olive oil. Coat filets with glaze on all sides.
  4. Carefully place filets in skillet and cook about 3-4 minutes per side, or once the filets appear white 3/4 of the way up the side of the filet. (my cook times are approximate, and will result in a medium filet)
  5. Once you flip the filets to cook on the other side, use a spoon to ladle any juices and glaze that might accumulate in the pan over the filets.
Hericot Verts:
  1. Preheat (another) non-stick skillet over medium heat with 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil.
  2. Once hot, add frozen beans, tossing to coat in butter and oil, then cover with a lid.
  3. After a few minutes, stir again and season with salt and pepper to taste. For more flavor, you can add a few teaspoons of dressing mix (it's a tasty trick: I use Penzey's Italian dressing mix. If you use a mix, skip the salt on your beans).
  4. Re-cover and continue cooking, checking and stirring every few minutes until beans are hot. For more tender beans, cook longer and add a few tbsp water.
Plate and serve!

3.)  Mother's Day is coming up. As if you didn't know that by now, what with all the chocolate, flower, and Hallmark commercials.

I'll be working (of course) and hubby is off the hook to do anything extravagant so long as there is beer and food waiting for me when I get home. Honestly, if I get nothing else for Mother's Day, I want to be able to go for a run or a ride on Sunday evening. That is, of course, if my sinuses are done trying to self-destruct and take my throat out with them.

Although, there is one thing I wouldn't mind, and that would be to have permission (not that I really have to ask) to do a little online shopping. In which case, I will get myself something for Mother's Day...
Women's Lust Camisole Back

If you're a mom, what would you get yourself for Mother's Day (or have someone buy for you)?