Happy Birthday Team Momentum!

I am so excited to say Happy Birthday to Team Momentum today as it turns the big 1 year old!  Woot!

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Less than a year ago I was introduced to Team Momentum through an e-mail looking for a coach in the Chicago market.  I can easily and happily say that my life has changed immensely from that e-mail.

Team Momentum was created by the Muscular Dystrophy Association as a charity program for full and half marathons across the country.  Last year Team Momentum participated in races in Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C. and most recently in Dallas.  This year they are also adding race locations including the Chicago Spring Half Marathon in May, where we are the official charity!  In just the first year alone hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised for people and families affected by muscle disease and hundreds of runners and walkers crossed finish lines of both full and half marathons.

Team Momentum offers a special and personalized experience for all of it’s athletes.  If you don’t live in the city of your race choice you can participate in training virtually or even fundraise and run the event of your own choosing through their Endurance Series. Each participant receives awesome official team gear, their own personal fundraising website and customized training from a certified running coach (like yours truly!).  On race weekend you are treated like absolute royalty with help at the race expo, a very inspirational team dinner and a post race party.

If you have ever considered running or walking a half or full marathon but aren’t sure where to start, joining this team is the way to go.  If you have a local team in your area you will be provided with weekly group runs and clinics.  Even through virtual participation you will gain dozens of friends through their online community as well as the help and support you need to make your training a success from start to finish.  Coaches will be on the course with you on race day to make sure you cross that finish line.

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Your fundraising dollars go towards incredible opportunities for those affected with muscle disease.  You can help send a child to the MDA’s summer camp where kids get the opportunity to spend an extra special week at sleep away camp.  Fundraising money goes towards research to help put an end to muscle disease, clinical trials, and assistance for families in need.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association covers over 40 different muscle diseases including ALS.  This is a charity that can feel really great backing as they put 77 cents of every dollar back into funding and research.  That is huge!

Personally I find this to be a very special organization to be working with.  All of my life I have been blessed with the opportunity to either be competitively playing or coaching a sport.  Using my muscles has been an integral part of my life and career.  What better way for me to give back as a runner than to be able to use my muscles in a way to help fundraise and support those who might not be able to?

If you have ever considered running or walking a half or full marathon this is a great opportunity.  Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions.  I would love to see you become a part of the team!

Nice Curves!

Yesterday Rock and I rode the train down into the city to visit the Christkrindlmarket.  It was a fun afternoon of rain, warmish weather, and wandering fun little shops.  I love the holiday season and this was a perfect way to celebrate all of the fun with ornaments, handmade treasures, baked goods, and hot chocolate.  I even picked up some hard to find incense for a German smoker given to me by my grandmother when I was a little girl.

On the train ride home I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and came across a Women’s Health tweet about Britney Spears on their new cover.  The tweet read “.‘s are hotter than ever on this cover ” I usually ignore these tweets but I had a long train ride so I clicked on it and started reading through the comments.  During a quick train ride this became one HOT topic.

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Years ago Britney went down a bit of a rough patch.  In fact I thought she had lost it so much that I told my husband her career was over.  She had shaved her head and had Dr. Phil counseling her.  None of it looked good.  With all that had gone on in her life she put on weight and kind of let herself go.

But she proved me and a ton of other people wrong.  Really wrong!  Britney came back and she came back big.  She cleaned herself up, became a great mom, and took back control over her career.  In a short period of time she rebuilt herself into a beautiful, fit and strong woman.

So what is the problem with her cover?  Nothing and everything.  First of all, no one can deny that she is a beautiful woman.  But the girl on that cover looks nothing like her.  Everyone was commenting that it looked like Heidi Klum had been photoshopped onto her face.  I showed the picture to my husband and asked him who it was.  He too said Heidi Klum.

So here, in my opinion, is the problem.  I absolutely understand that magazines must do some airbrushing.  Heck, if I were in a magazine I would hope someone would airbrush a few parts of me.  I have acne and scars and lumps in places I wouldn’t want people to see.  But Britney is a beautiful girl.  I think most of us can look at her and recognize the progress she has made.

Her progress is something we can admire and realize that we too can improve upon ourselves.  Yesterday I was watching the Today Show and they were discussing how the average woman not only doesn’t lose her baby weight but in fact tends to put on weight after having children.  Here on the cover of Women’s Health is an example of a lady who isn’t just a mom but a single mom.  She rose up from some rough times and got her act together.  She clearly has worked out and it shows (of course I realize she has time and money for trainers that most of us don’t have but even so it is great).  Isn’t that what a fitness magazine should want to highlight?

Of course everyone needs some touch ups here and there.  But what I would like to see is a real Britney on the cover of a magazine.  I would like to see her work in progress and be able to celebrate her and all of us who work so darn hard to balance life, workouts, and our diets.  It isn’t easy and we all slip up.  And the truth is, we all have a flaw (or two, or three, or four).

We live in a society these days of all or nothing.  Obesity is an epidemic in our country and at the same time our models are sickeningly skinny.  Wouldn’t it be nice to highlight the balance?  Wouldn’t it be great for people to pick up a magazine and see a fit, athletic person on the cover and think, “Hey I would like that and I can strive for it.”  I don’t want to look like a stick.  But I sure do want to have some lean and muscular runner’s legs.  I want to work those abs and be proud of the progress I see.  When someone feels like they are at their worst, seeing what looks like impossible perfection on a magazine doesn’t give much hope.

Obviously I am not calling out just Women’s Health.  There are dozens of magazines out there and I almost exclusively see super skinny models on the covers, even on fitness magazines.  But I would love it if we could all take a moment and realize what is real and what is achievable.  I want us to recognize how hard it is for so many people to get in shape or to find the time to dedicate to achieving a healthier lifestyle.  It isn’t easy but progress is progress.  And curves?  Well those are beautiful.

 

Look at those legs! www.popsugar.com

Look at those legs!
http://www.popsugar.com

Nice work Britney!

1 Runner= 1 Healthy Spouse?

The other day my UPband (review to come soon) gave me one of it’s daily notifications.  It said that when one spouse or partner runs the other one, in general tends to be healthier and more fit.  My husband and I both found this to be quite interesting.

If we were to look at our situation this certainly rings true.  Years ago I took up running after a long hiatus.  Honestly I had the summer to myself and some pounds to shed.  I switched up my diet and started running approximately three miles per day.  Over the next year I stuck to this a few times a week but it wasn’t until the following summer when I packed away the treadmill and made outside running a full time hobby.  It was then that I also started lengthening my runs and 5-6 miles soon because my daily minimum.

That year my husband started joining me for my runs.  He didn’t love it, but he saw how it had changed my fitness levels and he wanted to get some of that good stuff for himself.  At times he would run shorter distances, and definitely had a love/hate relationship with the sport but he soon began to shed some of the weight he had gained in college.

As we both began to see results we started to change up our diets and try all those funky things that runners end up introducing into their lives.  Kale, chia, kefir, almond milk….you get the drift.  Our bodies started to crave these healthy treats.

We also began adding in more strength training to help benefit our running and also to help tone different areas of our bodies.  It was almost as if when one of us started to see changes and results the other became even more motivated to stick with a fitness routine.  These days we have done multiple full and half marathons and run way too many road races to be able to count.  Together we have also coached hundreds of people across the finish lines of 5Ks to full marathons.

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So does UPband have a valid point?  Probably but I have to think there are several factors involved:

First I do believe that as one partner sees results it is definitely motivation to join in on the fitness bandwagon.  Peer pressure doesn’t always hurt and in this case I think we all feel a bit of it.  This definitely works well if you can train together.

Second, when people live together they are often forced to join their partner’s healthy routines when it comes to their diets.  In our case, if I want to have a salad for dinner we both end up having a salad because we like to dine together.  I of course know that the wife isn’t always the one in the kitchen doing the cooking, but if the partner who tends to do meal preparations is living a healthy new lifestyle they will likely be making meals fit around that plan.  Lucky for your other half because they will reap the rewards and unlucky for them if they don’t enjoy eating healthy!  I would assume that this would lead to a lot of those fitness changes simply by default.

On top of that, if you see your partner heading to the gym each morning it might also be easier to throw a bag together and get your butt out of bed simply due to guilt.  Again, if it works I say go for it!

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However it works I have to say that having a partner in crime can be a great aid.  Years ago my husband and I left behind some pretty unhealthy habits and changed our ways quite a bit.  It wasn’t always easy and I could have quickly turned back to those old habits if I hadn’t had another person to both keep me accountable and not want to let him down.  Anytime you are trying to add healthy changes into your life it will always be easier if your family or partner are there to back you up.  If you have someone who understands what you are trying to do and is there to encourage you or even better, make the changes with you, the odds are in your favor.  Making changes solo can be done but is definitely not easy.

This time of year many of us are looking to add a bit more healthy into our lives or do a bit of damage control around the holidays.  I personally have noticed that I need to make a serious break up with sugar in my life.  It isn’t easy but by telling my husband what my plan is he is game for at least not eating cookies in front of me while I enjoy a pear for dessert!

Do you have a fitness partner?  Who do you look to for support or do you prefer to go it alone?  Did your partner gag when you brought home kefir for the first time like mine did?!

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Happy Monday!

Happy Monday!  I am still feeling great from a most amazing weekend.  We have had a “heat wave” roll through Chicago and it made for a fantastic few days.  Over the weekend the weather soared into the 50ºF temps.  Something about unusually warm weather during winter months does wonders for my mood and energy levels, which was perfect because we had an action packed few days planned.

Saturday morning I got up bright and early and did a nice 30 minute workout before I taught a small group training class.  I have mentioned before how much I like starting my day off with a brief workout and these days they have become a bit more interesting.  Louie, our new dog, is a major cuddler.  If you sit on the floor he will run to sit in your lap.  Apparently he will also run to you if you are doing planks.  My morning workout involved him sitting on my back and laying underneath me.  Extra challenge points thanks to Louie.

Blurry I know but not easy to take a pic while doing a plank and having a dog walk on you!

Blurry I know but not easy to take a pic while doing a plank and having a dog walk on you!

After my small group training class I decided to get a quick run in because later that evening we had a pizza party planned.  If I know anything about myself, I have zero self control when it comes to pizza.  I rarely have it; maybe once or twice a year.  So when I get around pizza all bets are off.

When I stepped outside it was so pleasant out.  I had planned on running six but I quickly decided that it was going to be a nice brisk ten miler.  It was so unexpectedly wonderful and my pace was better than it has been in weeks.  Talk about a confidence booster!

After my run I quickly cleaned up and my husband and I joined my sister-in-laws and nieces for an afternoon at the Nutcracker.  I hadn’t been in over ten years and it was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Something about the Nutcracker really evokes some of the best feelings of the holiday season.  I also find it just mesmerizing about being at the ballet too!

Keeping with our weekend of nonstop action we went right from the theater to the church next door.  Over the past few months I had been attending classes as part of a process to join the Catholic Church.  I grew up in a Lutheran home but after getting married I really wanted my husband and I to be part of the same church.  So  Saturday evening was my confirmation.  My husband and a lot of his family joined us at the church.  It was a really special evening.

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And then there was pizza!  What better way to celebrate my confirmation than to have everyone back to our place for pizza, a chocolate fountain, and playtime with the puppy?  It was such a fun night with some of our favorite people.

But the fun didn’t stop there.  One of our friends, and a fellow Team Momentum member, was hosting a holiday party in our neighborhood.  So I kicked off my heels and threw on sneakers with my dress and we headed out the door to a killer holiday party.  It was so fun and so festive.  Everyone was wearing awesome holiday sweaters, minus my husband and I still in our clothes from the ballet/church.  By the time we got back home I was beyond ready for bed.

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My husband is a saint and let me sleep in on Sunday.  As I mentioned recently in a post about sleep I try to get to bed early and avoid the late nights to bed and late mornings to wake.  But Sunday was a real treat.  Once I finally dragged myself out of bed we took Louie for a walk to Lincoln Square to grab a cup of coffee and just wander in the moderate temperatures.

When we got back home I spent the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen making holiday gifts.  I can’t reveal here what I made but I have to say that some special people in our lives will be receiving lots of delicious (and healthy) treats.  I absolutely love the holiday season and as I have gotten older my favorite part is being able to share with family and friends.  It doesn’t have to be something big or expensive.  Some of the best gifts are the ones you make that come from the heart.  It is always nice to be remembered.

Last week we even got the chance to go to a cookie baking party with some friends.  Seriously, the holiday fun just doesn’t stop.  Everything about this time of the year is my favorite.  I say that now because it isn’t cold out.  Remind me about what I said when it drops into the 20’s again.

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Look at me trying with all my might not to eat EVERY single one!

Look at me trying with all my might not to eat EVERY single one!

There were a few more walks and a strength training session thrown in but most of the day was spent enjoying heavenly scents in the kitchen.

What is your favorite part of the holiday season?  Do you have something you like to make for gifts?

A HUGE congrats goes out today to Patrick and Steve.  Both are Team Momentum members who completed the Chicago Marathon back in October.  Being the loyal team members that they are they signed up in November to run the Dallas Marathon on December 14th.  They trusted me to coach them for a second marathon and not only did they finish but they finished STRONG!  Steve even beat his PR by almost 20 minutes!  Way to go guys!

Congrats to everyone who ran the Dallas Half and Full Marathons yesterday and a special shout out to Team Momentum!

Juicing- Fact and Fiction

The other day I was at the gym and had just finished a six mile treadmill run.  When I got into the locker room there was a girl sitting by my locker literally chugging a gallon of orange juice.  Next to her was a half gallon of lemonade.  I was kind of shocked to see this and it took awhile of observing her behavior and hearing conversations to understand what was going on.  Sadly, she was “juicing” before her workout.  The gallon of orange juice was for before her workout and the half gallon of lemonade was for after the workout.

Juicing is something that can most definitely help your diet or even help you kick start a lifestyle change.  However, if you don’t clearly understand what juicing is, you can completely destroy your diet.  This was the case of what was going on at the gym and it made me extremely sad.

This isn’t the first time I have seen this happen.  I have had family members that started juicing plans in an attempt to lose weight.  However, they just added the juices to their normal diet and didn’t make any other modifications or changes.  While they were getting an added amount of nutrients to their diet, they were just adding on calories to an already unhealthy diet.  Drinking a juice doesn’t counterbalance a Big Mac.

On the flip side, swapping out a meal or having a light lunch and a nice detox juice can work wonders on your body.  I know people who wisely add these to their diets and not only look amazing but they feel great.

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What is juicing?  Basically juicing is the act of extracting the liquid part of raw of fruits and veggies to get a concentrated amount of their vitamins and minerals.  Many people use this as a meal replacement or a way to get vital nutrients into their diets.  Juicing can also be used as a detox.

What is not juicing?  Typical store bought juices such as orange juice or lemonade are loaded with sugars and additives.  The average gallon of orange juice has approximately 1,760 calories.  It would take 18 minutes of running or 38 minutes of bicycling to burn off a cup of orange juice.  That’s over four hours of running just to burn off that gallon!  These are not full of nutrients and you are much better off eating a whole orange than consuming a small glass of store bought orange juice.

Juicing Facts:

•This is a great way to get a variety of fruits and veggies into your diet if you don’t normally eat them.

•By juicing raw fruits and veggies you end up with a liquid that is both low in sugar and has no added sugars.

•This type of juicing gives you a load of nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, all of which are great for your diet and for athletic performance.

•It is a great way to quickly fuel your body and can especially make for a great breakfast.

•Replacing some meals with juices can help you lose weight or detox.

Juicing Myths:

•This is not the perfect meal replacement to do for every meal for several days.  Juices do not contain protein, an essential part of your diet and necessary for muscle and nerve function.

•By extracting the juice from the fruits and veggies you do lose the fiber component because the pulp is removed.

•Contrary to some beliefs pulling the juice of the fruits and vegetables does not help your body absorb the nutrients faster.  Our bodies are already capable of absorbing these in their natural form.

The Bottom Line:

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There is nothing wrong with juicing.  In fact, if you are looking to jump start your diet or feel you are lacking some key nutrients this might be a great way to go.  Keep in mind though that these juices are typically meant to either be a meal replacement or a light snack during the day.  Adding these to your normal daily diet can lead to weight gain.  If you do want to juice, invest in a nice juicer and don’t purchase generic juices from the grocery store.

 

 

Fiesta Salad- Remake Your Tacos

I love Mexican food.  The main problem is that when we go out for Mexican I blow my calorie intake on the chips alone.  It is so dangerous.  But when I have a hankering for tacos or burritos I have a great go to taco salad recipe that does the trick.  Top that off with a delicious and slow cooked chicken and you have the perfect fiesta salad.  The best part is, I added the “unhealthy” part of the taco salad back into this meal in a much healthier way.

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You can still have the shell of your taco salad but the key is to find medium sized tortillas and to read the ingredients.  I found some great tortillas that came in at only 100 calories each.  Use the cans from this recipe to bake your shells for 10 minutes at 350° and you have a version that tastes just as good if not better than the fried shell you find at restaurants.  All you have to do is spray the shells with a little cooking spray (I love coconut oil spray) and then drape each shell on top of an empty, cleaned out can and then bake.  Once they are hard to the touch and golden brown you have the base for your dinner.

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Ahh! There’s ghosts in my oven!

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Ingredients:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 cans of diced tomatoes with chilies

3-4 tablespoons of taco seasoning

1-2 tablespoons lime juice  (Whatever your preference is, I add more because I like the zesty flavor of the lime with the tomatoes and seasoning.)

Shredded lettuce

1 can black beans

1 can corn

1-2 chopped red and green peppers

1 chopped onion

Guacamole

1 package of 90 second Uncle Ben’s Spanish Style Rice

Salsa

Ranch Dressing

Cheese (optional)

Directions:

In the slow cooker place the chicken breasts, canned tomatoes and taco seasoning.  Stir and then cook for 6-8 hours on low.  Shred, add lime juice, and stir to combine before serving.

Bake the tortilla shells according to the directions above and place on plates.

Combine one part salsa with one part ranch dressing.  This gives your dressing a nice kick and basically cuts your fat and calories in half.

I like to create a buffet style setting with the fixings for the salad.  Go ahead and pile the veggies high in your shell.  Remember that veggies are your friend.  I love salads because I can load up on the healthy stuff and feel full without the guilt.  When you are really hungry go ahead and add some extra base to your salad.  Mixed greens, spinach, and kale are super low in calories but high in nutrients.  Just take it easy with the cheese, chicken and guacamole.  While the dressing is nice and light you will find that you hardly need any with how delicious everything is in this combination.

Happy fiesta!

 

If It Works For Tom It Must Be Good

I recently read a great article about Tom Brady in Business Insider.  As a loyal Peyton Manning fan it is hard for me to admit this but I do admire Tom as he is undoubtedly one of the best players in the game and has had some impressive staying power.  In the interview Tom discusses his love for the game and his desire to do what it takes to continue to play for as long as he can.  One of the biggest factors Tom attributes to his ability to play the game for so long is sleep.  Tom is in bed early most nights and likes to get up early each morning.  You can read his interview here.

Sleep is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your running.  So many great things happen to our bodies during the night that we cannot see, but make a huge difference both mentally and physically.  Every person is different but the ideal amount of sleep time tends to come in around 7-9 hours per night.   I personally do my best with eight solid hours but seven works well too.  Anything under that and I am foggy and a bit cranky.

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When we sleep our bodies go into repair mode.   All of those muscles you stress and ask so much of during the day work to refresh themselves while you are in bed.  Tissues get repaired and a growth hormone is released to help our bodies heal.

Our metabolisms are also affected by our time catching up on Z’s.  When we deprive ourselves of sleep our appetites get out of whack.  Our ability to metabolize carbohydrates doesn’t work well on inefficient sleep.  This can cause us to gain weight and also impair our ability to convert carbohydrates to glycogen.  That right there is a recipe for disaster on your long runs, causing you to hit that wall faster and experience more cramping.  When we exhaust our bodies and don’t give them proper time to heal we are more susceptible to injury.

Elite runners are early to bed and early risers.  They know the value of a good night’s rest and often times take an afternoon nap too.  I like to use this as a perfect excuse to live like an elite and nap whenever I get a chance!

Over the years I have gone from being a night owl to a bit more of a morning person.  It wasn’t always easy for me.  I spent years staying up late and waking up exhausted each morning.  I would swear every day as I dragged myself out of bed that I would get to bed earlier that night.  Of course, I would stay up late and continue this viscous and exhausting cycle.  Now I enjoy getting some extra rest and prefer my mornings.  When I sleep in I feel like I waste valuable hours of my day.  However, I am definitely not in bed at 8:30pm each night like Tom.

If you find that you struggle to get that extra sleep or to fall asleep in he first place, there are a few things you can do to help the process.  The first thing is to turn off technology an hour before you plan to go to bed.  Put away the laptop and cell phone.  Relax on the couch and watch the news or read a book.  Enjoy a nice warm cup of decaffeinated tea to help you unwind.

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Make your bedroom a sacred sleeping place.  You won’t find a television or computer in my bedroom.  The only thing I do in there is sleep.  Over the years I have upgraded to a nicer mattress and bed linens.  When I go into my bedroom at night I look forward to crawling into my comfy bed.  That right there is a game changer.  When you watch TV or do work in your bedroom it confuses your mind and body.  By making your bedroom simply a sleeping room your mind knows it is time to sleep when you walk in there.

Try some essential oils like lavender.  I love the scent of lavender and it has proven effects on helping you to relax.  Try a small dab on the back of your earlobes or on your temples.  The scent alone will send you into relaxation mode.

Don’t panic.  If you lay in bed for awhile and sleep isn’t coming to you, try to relax.  I often do deep breathing just as I would in a yoga class.  Usually when I do this I quickly drift off without even realizing it.  But if sleep still isn’t coming to you, instead of panicking go ahead and pick up a book and read for awhile.  Just keep relaxing and it will happen.

Sleep is such a powerful tool for your running.  We spend so much time pushing and working all of our muscles.  We really owe ourselves those extra hours to keep our bodies functioning at their highest capacity.

What are your techniques for getting to bed at night?