Buffalo Wings Meets French Fries

On Sunday night I made a giant batch of my healthy turkey meatballs.  We had them three consecutive nights in a row with no complaints.  But on Tuesday evening as I wrapped up a 7 mile run I had a hankering for something different.  In fact I wanted buffalo wings and fries.  I decided to go with that idea and whipped up something a little less harsh on the waistline but just as (if not more) delicious!

This recipe is ridiculously easy and I think it would be a perfect side for a Super Bowl Party (or with turkey meatballs).  My husband loved this and it will be a go to for burger nights I am sure.  It is definitely one to save for after a long run or hard workout but not nearly as bad as eating the wings and fries!

Introducing…….Buffalo Tater Tots:

BuffaloTots

Ingredients:

1 package frozen tater tots

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/8 cup blue cheese

Buffalo Wing Sauce

Directions:

Bake tater tots according to package.  Once they are cooked through and golden brown sprinkle with the cheddar cheese and blue cheese and then drizzle with buffalo sauce (more or less depending on your preference for spicy food).  Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes and then serve!

BuffaloTots2

And yes they are even more delicious with a side of blue cheese dressing!

Alternative Training Plans

Monday I discussed the idea that not everyone needs or will find a cookie cutter training plan to be helpful.  Each of us is different and has specific needs within our training.  Typically you will find somewhere around 18 week marathon plans and 13 week half marathon plans, but those are not always the norm.

Sometimes we have the best of intentions when we set out on our training.  We feel great and are motivated as we get started.  But our bodies don’t always comply and soon enough we find ourselves injured.  These setbacks are frustrating but they don’t have to be the end of your training.  They often do require you to rest and take some time off of training but if you are an experienced runner you can take a week or two off and come back with a modified plan.  I wouldn’t always recommend just jumping right back in where your training picks up.  You might have to alter your plan to allow for easing back in, but with enough time out before race day you can make the necessary adjustments to delve back in there.

gowiththeflow

Experienced marathoners might not necessarily need or benefit from a full 18 week training plan.  If you have already run a marathon or two and tend to keep your mileage high throughout the year, a 16 or even 14 week plan might be more ideal for you. This type of athlete doesn’t need those base building weeks at the beginning of their plan and instead needs a solid build up in miles along with focused speed work to reach their goals.

Another type of athlete who might benefit from a shorter training plan is an experienced runner who tends to get injured on longer training plans.  I have worked with a few athletes who are strong runners but tend to get overuse injuries on a full 18 week plan.  For an experienced runner a 15 or 16 week plan with a shorter base build up in mileage and a 2-3 week taper might be more beneficial in order to avoid injuries they might be prone to.

On the flip side, I would recommend a longer training plan for some inexperienced runners looking to do their first full or half marathon.  Adding a few weeks of focused base mileage and a slow build up might help these athletes avoid burnout or overuse injuries.  Mentally they might find this type of plan to be less daunting as well.

I personally prefer a six day training week but know that this isn’t always feasible for many reasons.  Some athlete’s work and family schedules do not always permit this. Most athletes prefer a second rest day somewhere during the week.  Other athletes that are injury prone need strong running days as well as proper rest in between.  I have worked with a few athletes whose bodies tend to scream at them half way through training.  Adding in a 3rd rest day in the middle of training seems to keep their legs refreshed before their longer runs.

I also have worked with experienced runners who were very honest from the start of training.  Their schedules and family life are not conducive for typical marathon training.    While they wanted to complete a particular race, they could not commit to a typical training schedule.  They were also willing to sacrifice a PR to just be out there in the race.  Under these circumstances, and knowing their running history, I felt comfortable putting them on a three day a week program as long as they stuck with other forms of cross training 2-3 times per week on top of the running.  This is not the ideal and I would not recommend it for most runners but it can work if everyone is on board.

Although running is an interesting study, it is not an exact science.  When looking for a plan or a coach make sure all of these factors or any factors specific to you are taken into consideration.  Training is always a commitment but it doesn’t have to break you.

Picking The Right Training Plan

Happy Monday!  Tis the season when I start writing a lot of training plans for the coming year.  I am not going to lie, I kind of love this part of coaching.  Being the running nerd that I am I like learning about my runners and their specific needs and creating a plan that works perfectly for them.  As a coach I find it frustrating to see so many people doing quick online searches for training plans and sticking religiously to a cookie cutter plan they found on the internet.

First of all we are not cookies.  If we were I would be incredibly happy (you know I have a sweet tooth).  But each and every one of us is different.  Our bodies are different, our experiences leading up to races are different and our needs are different.  While those plans are often very useful we need to be careful when looking at them and referring to them as the one and only way to get to a race.

There are several factors I take into consideration when working with an athlete and I think that these are important for you to look at when figuring out the proper plan for you:

•Have you run/raced at this distance before?  If it is new to you that is a very important factor, while if you have already done this distance it can allow for some wiggle room in your training.

•What is your running experience?  Have you been running for years or did you just start?  Do you run 10-15 miles per week or are you logging 35+ miles per week.  I have numerous runners tell me they want an advanced plan and then I find out they are running 15 miles per week  While this is great, it would be a recipe for injury disaster to throw them into an advanced plan which requires a lot of mileage.  I most likely wouldn’t give a beginner a 22 mile run on their marathon plan, just as I might hold off on adding speed work for a first time marathoner.

•What are your goals for this event?  If you are doing a distance for the first time it is best to aim for finishing.  But if this isn’t new to you it is totally find to set a time goal or aim to beat a PR.

•What other factors need to be taken into consideration?  Do you suffer from asthma or tend to get tendinitis when mileage picks up?  Are you coming off of an injury or just wrapping up another training session?  These are reasons that might call for training plan adjustments.  If you have a hectic work schedule you might need to rearrange a training plan so that you don’t struggle to fit in runs.  If you are injury prone you might need to add in some forms of cross training.  Sometimes that even means changing up the number of weeks that you train.  You might benefit from a longer training plan but an experienced runner who needs some adjustments might be fine on a 14-16 week training plan for a marathon.

This by no means says that you have to hire a running coach to create a training plan for you.  But you should always take into consideration what your own specific needs and goals are for each race.  It is important to be honest with yourself about the level of running you are at as well as what your body requires of you to make it through training healthy and in one piece.  Make sure you do some research and don’t be afraid to seek out advice.  Coaches and running groups are there to help and want to make sure your race/event is a success.

Happy running!

Thanks Oprah, You Made The Marathon Awesome

The other day I came across an old article that I somehow had never read.  In short, “How Oprah Ruined The Marathon” discusses the birth of the marathon boom thanks to Frank Shorter and then, according to author Edward McLellan, a second boom that brought about the demise of the original marathon concept thanks to Oprah.  Forty years ago the New York Marathon had no sponsors and less than 250 participants.  There were no Garmins on wrists, no Spibelts or fuel belts, and no one was carrying packets of Gu to get them through the race.  According to McLellan, most of these marathons consisted of very serious runners who dedicated their lives to finishing with impressive times.

I remember when Oprah trained for the Marine Corps Marathon.  I wasn’t a “runner” at the time but I used to watch her show.  I recall being amazed to see a woman who had so openly struggled with her weight all of her life tackle such a huge goal.  McLellan claims that Oprah inspired thousands and lowered the bar for everyone with her marathon finish.  Let me be the first to say that Oprah’s 4:29 marathon is actually relatively impressive.  I have coached hundreds of athletes over the years and of the several hundred who have finished a marathon, there is a big percentage who would give anything to have a 4:29 or less  finish.  As their coach, I can also tell you that those people who ran 5-6 hour marathons worked incredibly hard and dedicated months (if not years) to finish that race.

Oprah1

There are very few runners (and yes they are all runners regardless of their 3 hour or 6 hour finish) that I have trained who did not put forth a full effort.  I have watched them lose dozens of pounds and struggle through injuries and mental obstacles.  I’ve seen the tears when they have to sit out with stress fractures or IT Band Syndrome.  I’ve listened to stories of inspiration for their reasons to get out there.  Some run to become healthy, some run to honor a loved one, others run to prove they can.  But they all pushed themselves harder than they ever had.

Many of those first time marathoners became lifelong runners.  Several were so inspired by that first race that they rededicated themselves to the distance and shaved half an hour or even an hour off of their first time.  Take that low bar!

These people aren’t the reason Americans aren’t winning marathons. The top trainers and coaches in this country can’t figure out why we aren’t winning races.  But it certainly isn’t the fault of that 5:30 marathoner who finishes hours after Ryan Hall comes across that line.

Sure there are thousands more people running these races than there used to be. But that can only help the situation. When Chicago has a field of 45,000 participants that is a lot of registration fees.  Races can in return have those incredible amenities and offer prizes to attract elite fields.  There can be a fully stocked course (and great beer at the finish).  AND it can inspire a new wave of young runners who line up along the course or watch from their televisions in small towns far from the actual race.

Plus, these races often offer guaranteed entries to faster runners.  They also offer corrals based on paces.  Ryan Hall isn’t taking off at the start next to someone running a 6 hour marathon.  Because of these larger fields, races have become well oiled machines.  Runners are packed together based on paces and leave in waves to ensure everyone gets a fair chance.
And those charities like Team In Training?  Those offer opportunities that go beyond just the race.  Charities programs offer the training assistance that new runners need.  They offer a lifeline for friends and family members dealing with illnesses and other issues.  They give reason for inspiration, which is often necessary for pushing through 26.2 grueling miles.  Beyond that, they raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for incredible causes.  I find it beyond amazing that running can offer such a grand experience while touching the lives of so many people.  Not many other sports can provide such an opportunity.
Boston
As I have coached so many marathoners I have heard countless stories off how training has changed their lives.  Dealing better with depression.  Coming off of blood pressure medicine.  Being a happier and nicer husband and father.  Losing weight to be able to start a family.  Those are just the beginning of the countless stories I have personally heard from people I have worked with.
Most people I train couldn’t tell you who the Penguin is (unless we are discussing comics).  However, the great majority of them know about Meb, Ryan, Deena, and Shalane.  But honestly, who cares?  The marathon is an incredible journey.  For some it is a dream to make an Olympic team, or to qualify for Boston.  For others the marathon is a bucket list goal or a lifelong dream.  Whatever it is, I love that running allows everyone the same opportunity on their own terms.
I am so proud of Oprah and her accomplishment, just as I am of anyone who tackles the marathon and follows through.  Thanks Oprah for showing so many of us what a great experience it can be!
Oprah2

A Heat Wave Leading To Some Outside Running and Winter Safety Tips/Reminders

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day friends!

I don’t know about you guys but we have been hit with a most wonderful heat wave the past few days.  Saturday was 40+ degrees out and I was loving it.  I went for a nice slow eight mile run and I swear it felt like spring.  Funny how a week of chilly temperatures and hibernating indoors will make 40ºF feel like 60ºF.  You certainly appreciate those warmer days and fortunately they are sticking around for awhile.

During those previous colder days I was hanging out on the treadmill, so it was nice to be back outside, even with all of the slush and snow to contend with.  This was a great reminder of a few precautions we should all take during the winter months.

Out with pace, in with safety:  When the snow hits the ground it is important to sacrifice your pace for safety.  Stop looking at your GPS and just go with the flow.  Running on snow or ice will undoubtedly affect your pace but it is far more important to be safe than fast.  Pay attention to where you are running and watch your footfalls.  Be aware of what surfaces you are running on and if you see ice, go ahead and allow yourself to walk around it.  It would be much better to finish a slow run than to end up seriously hurting yourself.

Running on snow and ice also forces you to change your gait.  You will most likely not be running with perfect form.  So slowing down allows you to run more easily and not forsake your form too much.

IMG_4946

Fall like a skater:  As you may know, I have been coaching skating for 18 years and one thing I have taught a lot is how to fall (or hopefully not fall) safely.  One thing we adults tend to do when we are about to fall is stiffen up and fall straight backwards.  This is extremely dangerous and could lead to a head injury.  The first thing I teach anyone during their first skating lesson is: If you think or feel like you are going to fall grab your knees.  This one simple trick can help brace yourself, avoid a fall, and protect your head as well as wrists (the next place you are likely to injure).  By leaning forward to grab your knees you will likely avoid falling altogether.

Wollman3

Be a defensive runner:  Now, I didn’t say “offensive” so don’t start snot rocketing without looking. But one thing I learned in driver’s education was to be a defensive driver to avoid accidents.  The same holds true to running and especially with other drivers.  For some reason when the snow comes out drivers seem to think that runners hide inside.  They suddenly stop looking at intersections and alleys.  Always assume they aren’t looking.  Assume they aren’t going to stop.  I understand that you have the right of way at times.  But it is better to be safe than sorry.

Always play safe:  As usual you should always practice runner’s safety.  Bring your phone and a form of identification.  Let someone know where you are going and how long they should expect you to be gone.  Choose a safe route and dress properly for the weather.

Happy safe running!

UP24 by Jawbone-My Review

Today I wanted to share a review of a product I have been using for several months now.  This review is completely my own.  I was not asked or compensated by Jawbone.  I was given the UP24 as a birthday gift and haven’t taken it off since.

The UP24 is a small, lightweight band that fits on your wrist.  It snaps into place and is barely noticeable when you wear it.Jawbone2

The UP band measures your steps taken per day as well as calories burnt.  You can also log your daily workouts to help accurately reflect your activities for the day.  While I do not use this function, the UP band also allows you to add in what foods and liquids you consume during the day so that you can see calories in versus calories out.

My favorite feature of this particular model is its Bluetooth capability that sends info directly to your phone.  Without having to press a button or plug anything in you can check your phone and see your stats as they update throughout the day.

You can set goals for your steps, water consumption and other factors and add information as you go through your daily activities and meals.  For example, I set a daily goal of 20,000 steps and my phone notifies me of my progress each day and lets me know when I have hit or exceeded this goal.  I also get fun notifications when I reach 3, 5 and 10 day streaks along with other milestones such as 1,000,000 steps logged.

Jawbone

One of my recent daily logs.

UP also allows you to join teams with other members and friends so that you can share your progress and encourage each other.  You can invite friends to join or choose to keep your information to yourself.  My husband and I are on the same team which can be both humorous and slightly competitive (of course I want to get more steps in than him!).

My take:  I think this is a fantastic tool for anyone who feels like they could use a little help honing in on their fitness or weight loss routine.  While it might not measure calories perfectly it does provide some really helpful insight into just how many (or how few) calories you are actually burning throughout the day.  Being able to see the numbers from each workout can be very enlightening as I think many people far overestimate the amount of calories they burn (especially if you follow what the cardio machines read).  It helps provide a realistic picture of what you are burning versus taking in on a daily basis.  Having the option to set goals can also give you an extra incentive to get those extra steps in each day.

I did have a few times that my UP band fizzled out on me or wasn’t loading data but I had excellent customer service over the phone and even on Twitter.   One time my band was replaced within days and the other time the issue was quickly resolved with a little assistance.

The Jawbone UP24 can be found online or in stores for about $129.99.  In my opinion this is a great tool for helping monitor your fitness activities.

Do you use a fitness tracker?

For Better Or For Worse

I have an amusing memory from marathon training with my husband just a month or two before we got married.  We had finished a drizzly 22 mile training run and we were exhausted, cold, and extremely hungry.  After dinner we ended up at a diner in New Jersey.  Trying to be Miss Healthy I ordered some fruit for dessert and my husband got what at the time seemed to be the most delicious piece of chocolate cake.  As we sat eating our dessert I scooped a large dollop of his chocolate frosting and ate it.  He gave me a sideways look and I said, “For better or for worse right?”  His response was priceless, “Yes but it doesn’t have to be for worse!”

Fitness and healthy eating routines are kind of like marriage.  They should be a life long contract.  We often hit the gym or eat healthier foods after we have been at our worst.  Gained a few pounds?  Enjoyed too much holiday deliciousness?  Feel out of shape?  Those are easy reasons to jump on the healthy bandwagon.

But so many times we often reach our goal weight or start to feel better and we start to slip.  “It’s okay I can skip the gym today, I’m back to my goal weight.”  Or we look at the scale and see a number we are happy with and we figure what the heck, a donut can’t hurt.  Right?

And this is how we end up on the forever cycle of diets and gym memberships and self loathing.  We work our hardest when we feel our worst.  And we treat our bodies the worst when we are feeling our best.  A vicious cycle for sure!

ForBetterOrWorse2

Instead we need to look at our health in much the same way as we would a relationship.  Through good times and bad we need to stick with it.  When our jeans are too tight and when we fit into those pants we’ve had since high school we should continue our fitness routine.  Whether we despise the number on the scale or we love what we are seeing, we should continue to eat those healthy foods.  By doing so we can sustain that level of fitness.  And with that level of fitness comes the endorphins and happiness.  When we stick to fitness routines we feel better about ourselves and are more apt to make better choices in what we eat and how we treat our bodies.

Even better, as we continue to exercise and eat well, we can allow ourselves those times when we have a burger and fries and not feel guilty about it.  We know that most of our choices have been wise and we can enjoy an occasional treat.

The benefits of sticking to a healthy lifestyle year round are endless.  We are more likely to be happy, less likely to get sick, our relationships tend to be happier and we feel better about ourselves.  Aren’t all of these great reasons to stick with it for better or for worse?

ForBetterOrWorse1