Recipe: Super Fast Beef and Veggie Bowl

I have been planning on doing this recipe for weeks, maybe even months.  Finally I took the time to whip this delicious meal up and then sit down to share it with you.

A few months ago Rock and I had an event to go to and being the pregnant lady that I was, I wanted dinner ASAP.  We happened to be right next to a Noodles and Co. and decided to find something fast and healthy there.  I was thrilled when I saw that they had new “Power Bowls” that did not include any noodles and rang in at around 350 calories for an entire meal.  I ordered one of these bowls and was a bit apprehensive.  I assumed that there would be very little food for that calorie count and likely very little taste.

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Was I ever surprised!  It was such a simple concept and also incredibly delicious. Rock and I both agreed that we needed to try and recreate the recipe.  And then I stopped cooking all summer!

I whipped this up the other night in just about 10-15 minutes, which is perfect because I had a howling dog and a crying baby on my hands.  We both loved the results and agreed that this would be an excellent option as a winter salad because many of the ingredients are warm but it still has that salad feel.

Give this a try and then add in your own personal favorites.  This is one of those great meals that you can change every time you make it.  Keep in mind that the “sauce” I made was based solely on what I had on hand.  I wanted it to have a nice Asian flavor to it, so I used whatever ingredients I found in my cabinet.  You can easily switch this around to your preferences.  A little spicy kick of red chili flakes would be delicious with this too.  Rock thinks some crushed peanuts would also be a great topper.

Ingredients:

Baby spinach

Broccoli

Portabella mushrooms (I bought the presliced caps)

Steaks (I used beef tenderloin)

Minced Garlic

1 cup lower sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Optional: dash of sesame oil and oyster or fish sauce

Directions:

If time permits rinse your mushrooms and place in a bowl with soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and oyster sauce.  Place in the fridge for an hour to marinate.  Then place in a covered pot on medium high heat on the stove for 10 minutes and allow to lightly simmer.

While the mushrooms are simmering steam your broccoli in the microwave.  I purchased a steam in the bag pack from the produce section.  You could steam your own or you could also get the steam bags in the freezer section too.

Put a grill pan on medium-high heat for your steaks.  I like to lightly season mine. I highly recommend the Miracle Blend from the Alden Mill House.  This is my preferred steak seasoning when I grill them over the stove.  I also add just a touch of butter under the steak because…..well, butter is delicious!  Grill to your preference.  We like a nice pink center here.

Once everything is finished start by laying a nice bed of spinach on the bottom of a big deep bowl.  Top with a generous serving of steamed broccoli.  Spoon some mushrooms and sauce on top and then add your sliced steak to finish.

It really doesn’t get easier than this and in the end you have a pretty delicious and healthy dinner.

What would you add to your bowl?  Any other sauce ideas to switch this up?

Practice Makes Perfect

Can you believe fall is almost here?  I hate to think about it.  I love summer and I feel like I missed out on a lot of my favorite summer activities this year.  But the good news is that fall racing season and more importantly,especially fall marathons are really just around the corner.  This is an exciting time for runners.

With only a few weeks left in most athlete’s race training, now is the time to perfect your game plan.  Things you need to consider are what you will be eating in the days prior to and immediately before your race, what you will wear, how you will attack your run, and any other potential things you might need to plan ahead for.

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The best way to really prepare for race day is to treat each long run as a dress rehearsal for the big day and to use your weekly eating and hydration as a measure for what you will need on game day.  Now is the time to determine just how much water you need during the week to avoid overheating during your long run.  Fridays should be the time to figure out what dinner fuels you the best for the following morning.

One of the most important factors you should have figured out by now is what you will eat the morning of your long run.  It would be unwise to eat something different each Saturday or to pick out a breakfast on a whim before your run.  Plan it out and decide what will keep you fueled the longest and won’t upset your stomach.  If you stick to the same food and after a few weeks find out that it no longer works for you, switch it up.  But once you know what works, stick with it and train your body to handle this.

I love wearing new running outfits, but now is also the time to figure out which outfit feels comfortable, makes you feel good about yourself, and most importantly doesn’t chafe.  Once you have found the perfect outfit, start wearing it for every long run to make sure that it lasts right along with you during the heavy mileage.  The same goes for fuel belts,  Experiment and find the one that carries what you need and doesn’t chafe and then wear it every time.

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Fuel and hydration during the long run are extremely important.  Some athletes love Gu and many tell me that it runs right through them.  By now you should have your fuel of choice picked out.  Have that on hand for every run and stick to the game plan.

Another factor to keep in mind is the weather.  Right now it is hot and humid in most places but in a few weeks it could easily be dry and chilly.  Last year on the final long run before the Chicago Marathon we actually had snow!  I hate to even think about that.

Do you have a rainy day game plan?  Have you had the chance to run in the rain yet?  If you come across a day of inclement weather, don’t avoid your run.  Use this as a time to figure out how you will race in the rain.  This past June Rock ran Grandma’s Marathon.  At the start of the race it didn’t just rain, it down poured.  Fortunately, Rock had done several rainy runs leading up to the race and felt confident that he could handle the weather.  He did plan ahead and grabbed an emergency poncho to wear while he waited at the start line.

Finally, remember that most long runs are meant to be done at a slower pace than you will be racing.  But do keep in mind that you can still use these long runs as dress rehearsals for game day.  Know when you will need to stop for fuel, hydration, or even a porta potty.  Get to know your body and when you will start to struggle.  Being prepared allows you to have a plan of action.

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Practice truly makes perfect.  Planning ahead now and staying consistent with your plan will ensure a successful race day.

How do you prepare for race day?

Post Pregnancy Update: Back In The Saddle (Sort Of)

It has been just over two weeks since little Mary arrived into our lives.  We are all trying to get to know each other and get used to not sleeping at night.  Why is it that babies like to sleep all day and then stay up fussy all night?!

Last Wednesday I had my first postpartum appointment with my doctor.  She was really happy with my progress and asked me if I had been running yet.  When I was discharged from the hospital I had been told I had to wait at least four weeks before resuming activity and likely closer to six weeks.  I of course told her no but did mention that I had tried two very light arm workouts in the days before I saw her.

I was surprised to find out that it was okay for me to go ahead and start running again.  She said to take it easy and just listen to how my body responded.

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My doctor noted that I had recovered remarkably in the two weeks since Mary’s delivery and credited this 100% to my running during pregnancy.  In fact, I mentioned to her that in the days after delivery I started to feel like an elastic band.  I could see muscles returning and feel my body coming back to where I had been.  I was of course sore and tired, but I was starting to feel like myself again, for the most part.

With the go ahead to start running, I opted to start off at the local track across the street from where we live.  I thought this would be a great way to measure how far I could go and also feel comfortable enough to easily get home if anything should go awry.

For my first run back I did a nice and easy 3 mile run.  I felt great and despite feeling slightly winded, my body responded pretty well.  I did note that my hips felt achy and a little “wobbly.”  During pregnancy your body releases a hormone called relaxin that helps your pelvic region relax and expand to allow for delivery.  This hormone affects your entire body but near the end of pregnancy I was really feeling it in my lower back and hips.  This run made it clear that my body still was going to have some issues in this area.

After my run I did start to feel some nausea and light headedness.  I started sweating profusely and had to cut my shower short and sit down on the couch.  It was a little scary.  However, after thinking about it later I realized that I was likely dehydrated and should have made a better effort earlier that day to consume more water before I ran.

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We have to wait a few months before we can use the running stroller to team up for runs. But we are enjoying walks together in the meantime.

The following day I was having some pretty good hip pain and very tight quads and hamstrings.  It is crazy how three weeks can take a toll on your body!  However, as a running coach I often encourage athletes dealing with injuries to allow themselves some time off to recover.  I am always reminding them that a week or two off from running to properly recover won’t ruin their training.  Despite my sore legs, I can definitely say that my endurance was still there.

On Saturday I tackled the three mile run again.  This time I left my GPS at home so that I didn’t worry about my pace.  I spent all morning and afternoon downing water and headed for the track in the evening.  I kept to a slower pace and let the tightness in my quads and hamstrings slowly work their way out of my body.  It of course returned after the run but I was happy to report that I didn’t experience any of the previous sickness from that first attempt.

Over the past week I have also added planks back into my morning workout routine and I can already feel a big difference in my core.  Arm workouts have also slowly returned and the combination of all of this is making me feel like myself again.

I honestly give running a ton of credit for keeping me healthy and happy both during and after my pregnancy.  I can absolutely feel how exercising during pregnancy really helps bring you back to your old self after delivery.  And of course, running always makes me mentally feel like myself again too.

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Check out this awesome tank I wore for my return.  My friend Gloria sent this to me.  She runs for MDA Team Momentum in honor of her son Harry.  She is an amazing woman and friend.  Check out her inspiring blog and follow her as she trains for her first ever marathon.

Dealing With The Running Blahs

I love running.  And sometimes I hate running.  We runners seem to have a huge sense of guilt when we don’t feel the love.  It comes in all sorts of different forms.  Sometimes training wears us down, sometimes we are just plain worn down, the weather gets to us, and other times we just need a break.  So what do we do when this happens?

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Training Blahs:

I hear this a lot lately, especially with marathoners that I work with.  Marathon training typically last 16-18 weeks.  It is a big commitment.  The marathon itself is a major endurance event that wears down even the most fit and accomplished of runners.  Therefore, you can see why it is necessary that your training wear you down.  The only way to get to the finish of the race is to break down and then build back your body in this way.

As we feel our bodies getting exhausted and at times even injured it can feel tiresome to continue putting on our shoes and pounding the pavement each day.  This can be as much mental as it is physical.

When you start to feel the training blahs you need to assess what is going on.  Are you exhausted and near the point of injury?  Or are these normal aches and tired moments that come with participating in an endurance sport.  If it is normal wear and tear, you need to force yourself to get out the door.  Put some new music on your playlist or change up your route to make things a bit more exciting.  Use this as an excuse to get some new running clothes.  Remind yourself that these are necessary moments to get you to the finish line.  Odds are that once you get going, you will feel a heck of a lot better.

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Injury Blahs:

Sometimes when we are dealing with the aches and pains that come along with running, we start to feel like things are never going to get better.  I have had several injuries that I was able to run through without making things worse.  During one marathon training session I had terrible piriformis pain.  It was literally a pain in the butt to get started each time and this can make the thought of going for a run seem miserable.

Having an injury plan of action is the best start.  If foam rolling or wearing compression sleeves helps, do it!  For my Achilles tendinitis I found that heat really helped.  Therefore, I would heat the affected area before a run to give it some relief and then repeat the process when I would return home.  Knowing that something helped to take away some of the pain made it more manageable to get started.

Switch up your plans to provide an every other day schedule to give your body some relief in between runs.  Or make a temporary change to run/walk plans until the pain has subsided.  Even better, schedule an appointment for a massage or a spa day to treat your body.  Any of these will provide the physical help you need and also make your injury easier to deal with mentally.

The Plain Old Running Blahs:

Some days (or even weeks) running can seem just dreadful.  It can be frustrating as well as disappointing.  We are supposed to love this sport, right?!

When this happens it is often a perfect time to take a little vacation from running.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Switch to a different sport for a few days or weeks.  Let that love come back into you heart and then return when you are ready.  Even the most elite of runners take a break from their sport each year to give their bodies and minds a rest.

Weather Blahs:

Not going to lie.  This happens to me in the winter.  I hate the cold (I have no idea how I ever became a figure skater).  Cold weather makes me procrastinate like nothing else.  I drag my heels and find reasons not to get out the door.

You have a few options here.  The first is to just get your butt out the door.  The longer you wait, the harder it is to get out the door.  Make it like a band-aid.  Do it all in one quick action and it is a lot less painful.

Or, head to the gym.  This is my new preferred way to get past this.  As much as I don’t love hitting the treadmill I have found a few reasons why this works for me.  In the warmer months I run outside and listen to my playlist.  Then when it is cold I hit the treadmill and switch to watching TV and catching up on some shows.  This keeps the playlist fresh by taking a break.  I also use the treadmill as a time to do interval training which makes the time go by faster and builds my running up in a different way.

I love this shirt!

I love this shirt!

How do you combat your running blahs?

Stomach Issues When Running

One of the most common problems I get asked about with longer distance running is stomach issues and nausea.  Running tends to get the GI tract a pumping and makes things happen faster than normal.  Typically this causes things like the need to get to a bathroom immediately or nausea right after finishing a long run.  Both of these are frustrating to deal with and take some practice to figure out what helps each individual.

Generally we runners tend to do our workouts in the morning.  This means we need to figure out what breakfast will work and how to hydrate.  If you are like me, this also is an essential time to get some coffee in the system.  After spending the last 9+ months not drinking caffeine, let me be the first to say that this stuff is a wonder drug.  Not only does it give us our pep back in our step in the wee morning hours but it also can work some magic on your GI system.  Coffee is a diuretic and that means that a cup or two can actually help to flush out your system.  The key is to get to know your body and know how long it takes for it to work for you.  I personally know that I need about an hour to an hour and a half to feel that caffeine kicking in and also have the diuretic component take effect.  It would be disastrous for me to try and head out the door before then because I would immediately need to return home.

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The next thing you need to figure out is what works to fuel you before a run.  I cannot emphasize enough that it is important to get something into you before a run of more than about 5-6 miles.  Personally, I need breakfast no matter how far I plan to run.  Even if I did a 3 mile run without breakfast I would feel tapped out before I finished.  The trick is to figure out what fuel will keep you going and not make your stomach rock and roll.

Before a shorter run of 7-10 miles I can handle just about any cereal or bread.  However, for a longer run of 10-22 miles I have learned that a bagel or even a bagel and a half gives me enough fuel to make it all or most of the way through without needing to refuel.  I have of course had to experiment with various foods to get to this point and believe me that you will have some “rough” runs as you figure out what works best for you.

The key is to try and find a combination of carbs, protein, and fat.  These will work together to keep you fueled for a longer time period.  Some great options are toast, English muffins, or oatmeal.  Cover your toast or other bread with peanut butter or cream cheese to get that protein in.  Keep in mind that dairy can be tough on your system so peanut butter is often a better option.  If you have trouble eating in the morning or have a queasy stomach, a great one is a full banana with peanut butter.

One of the biggest causes of stomach issues is dehydration.  While it is essential to hydrate before and during your training session, the biggest culprit is the days leading up to your long run.  It is necessary to hydrate every single day of training.  I aim for two liters of water every day and find that this keeps me going.  If you aren’t properly hydrated going into a workout, you have a recipe for disaster.

While you are running it is important to aim for even a sip of water every three miles or 30 minutes, whatever comes first for you.  However, every individual is different and some people need more water while others require less.  Remember though that once you get dehydrated it is nearly impossible to reverse the situation during a run.  If you start to find that you are not sweating, feeling chills, or beginning to feel nauseated, you need to get water in you and fast.

Finally, how you fuel after your run will also determine how your stomach cooperates.  Getting some fuel in you and especially electrolytes will help you recover faster and avoid feeling crappy, for lack of a better word.  Sometimes I reach for Powerade Zero after a hot and sweaty run.  I find at times that drinking this or even sparkling water is easier for me to down quickly than tap water after a hot and sweaty run.  Another great option is Nuun tablets which provide a touch of fizz to settle the stomach and lack those artificial sweeteners and colors that the Powerade contains.

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Hydrating and fueling post run are key to getting your body ready for the next round and avoiding some of those stomach issues associated with dehydration.

What are your techniques for avoiding stomach issues and nausea?

The Awesomeness of the Run/Walk Plan

One of the things I love about the sport of running is that there is a place for every one.  There is no rule that says you have to run a certain pace, distance, or amount of time to be considered a runner.  In fact, one of my past fave posts is a great reminder that as long as you get out the door and run, you are a runner.

No other sport that I can think of really embraces all levels, ages, and abilities like running.  Races have a spot for everyone and there are different types of events to fit the needs of just about any type of runner.  There are qualifying races and Boston for those who are looking for a more competitive event.  Most races acknowledge the top three overall as well as age group placers.  But many races also hand out medals to acknowledge all finishers.  There are also fun events like color runs and costumed races that have a nice recreational vibe.Regret2

Since this sport embraces just about everyone, it is also great to embrace different goals.  One of my favorite ways to get new runners involved in the sport is to use the run/walk method.  This approach has been made popular by coaches like Jeff Galloway who is known to lead run/walk groups at Disney races and other events.

What I love most about run/walk plans is that you can make it as structured or unstructured as you desire.  For the very beginner it is a perfect starting point to get a few minutes (or even just one) of running in and then allow your body some recovery time as you walk.  For the runner who is trying to improve their pace or distance, this is a great way to set interval goals and over time increase the running time and decrease walking breaks.

Either way, this is a wonderful concept that allows any athlete to approach the sport in a far less overwhelming direction.  Breaking a run up into sections of running and walking allows you to look at parts of the whole as opposed to attacking a workout as one giant run.

I have many athletes who use the run/walk plan as their everyday approach to running.  They prefer to stick to planned out intervals such as 5 minutes of running followed by a 1-2 minute walk break.  Many of them have done multiple full and half marathons this way and have found great success.  Some choose to use this approach because they just plain prefer this method.  Others do it because they have various health issues and this allows their body to handle longer runs better.

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The other great part of this plan is that it can be a way to continue training during injuries.  Sometimes our bodies need a break but our training doesn’t completely allow for a full rest.  Under certain circumstances this approach can allow your body to handle distances better and also take some of the impact off of your muscles and joints.  I also like to use this when an athlete has had to take a few weeks off during a training session and is looking to get back on plan.  It is a fantastic way to come back into their training without pushing the body too hard.  When they just need the time on their feet and to fit in the mileage, this is a great way to ease back into training.

If you are interested in getting started with a running plan, I highly recommend taking a look online and doing some research on run/walk plans.  Take a look at Jeff Galloway’s website which is a great resource.  Runner’s World also has a fantastic 8 week Beginner’s Run/Walk Plan .  Both of these are great options and I am certain you can find many more with a quick search on the internet.

Do you use the run/walk method?  What is your preferred approach?

My Favorite Injury Prevention Accessories

One of the hardest parts of training for any race is avoiding the pitfalls of injuries.  Even the most seasoned and wisest athletes end up plagued with some sort of ache or pain.  Whether it is just something nagging or an injury that leaves you sidelined for awhile, there are a few things you can do to help yourself.

I have been injured numerous times.  From nagging plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis to stupid little aches that won’t go away; I have seen my share of annoyances.  Regardless of how well thought out a plan is or how well your body handles mileage, these things happen.  And your best defense is a sweet arsenal.  Below are some of my favorites and the best part is, most of them are super simple and easy to have around:

Lacrosse Balls:

Lucky for us, we coach a lacrosse program and we always have these on hand.  Lacrosse balls work incredibly well to get at knots in your muscles.  During almost an entire marathon training cycle of 16 weeks I had horrible piriformis pain one year.  It was terrible!  The one thing that provided relief was sitting on a lacrosse ball.  In fact, I kept one in the car and sat on it during every ride home from a long run.

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Just make sure you buy the white hard balls that are used to play actual games with and not the soft practice balls.  Those won’t provide nearly the same relief.

The Stick:

This is one of those “hurts so good” tools.  We runners are gluttons for punishment and our pain management is no exception.  The Stick is like a rolling pin with little wheels on it which allow the tool to get deep into painful and sore muscles.  You can use it on any “meaty” area of your body.  Go ahead and dig deep or have a partner help you out.  This bad boy can get deep into muscles and break down knots and areas of painful buildup.  Just don’t use it on a hard area of the body like your shoulders or spine.  It won’t do anything to help you and it will hurt like heck!

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Dixie Cups:

Funny story here.  I cannot type this out without thinking of the song “Going To The Chapel” by the Dixie Cups.  When I was in 7th grade my buddy Anna and I were in math together and were a team for a stock market challenge.  She insisted this be our team name and we killed it.  So lesson learned, always look to the Dixie Cups.

Honestly though, these work super duper well for icing.  Buy the size cups you would use at the dentist’s office to swish with (small).  Fill them up and leave them in the freezer.  When you need to do an ice treatment just pull one out, tear away the top portion of the paper and use the bottom of the cup as your handle.  This allows you to work the ice around the actual injured area as opposed to an ice pack plopped down in a general spot.

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Compression Sleeves:

I cannot sing the praises enough for these things.  Skip them on the run because then you just have a sweat rag wrapped around your calves.  Instead, throw these on after your run or do what I do and wear them to sleep (ladies the men go wild for this kind of nightwear!).

Compression sleeves after a run will help speed up recovery and keep swelling and inflammation away.  If you are experiencing calf or shin pain, or tend to be prone to a slow recovery after long runs, these are perfect for you.  I also recommend these for athletes who know they are prone to aches and pains at certain points in training.  There is nothing wrong with a preemptive strike when it comes to compression.

Just make sure you buy the right size for you.  You want these to be very snug on you without cutting off your circulation.  And while these can be rather pricey (around $40 a pair) I truly believe they are worth every penny and recommend having two pairs if you can.  If you are on a tight budget you can also find slightly less expensive brands at stores like Target.  However, this is one that I don’t mess around with because I know it makes a big difference in my training.

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Coconut Oil:

This stuff is crazy awesome for so many reasons.  In fact, at some point I will do a post on the dozens of ways I like to use coconut oil.  But I have found this to be the perfect massage treatment.  It comes in a jar and tends to be hard at room temperature.  Just run it under some hot water and then pour a little out into your hands.  Apply to the painful or tight area and go to town with your hands and fingers.  The slickness of the oil allows you to really dig deep into muscles.  It doesn’t dry up too quick so you don’t have to apply it over and over again.  And a little bit goes a long way.  Plus you will have silky smooth skin after each use.

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While you are at it, wet the ends of your hair and apply some oil.  I like to do this and pull my hair into a bun and then go for a run.  Typically the sweat and sun dry the ends of my hair out.  So I use an hour long run as my hair therapy.  When I get home I just wash it out and condition my hair as usual and my ends look healthy and shiny.  This one might not make you a better runner but who doesn’t feel better running when they like how they look?!