No Boring Salads Here & Kid’s Deconstructed Salad

You might think this is boring, but I love salads in the summer.  Sure I am a Health Coach, and you would assume that I love all things healthy.  However, my family would tell you I have a deep love for Cool Ranch Doritos and Crunchy Cheetos.  In fact, a few days ago, Mary and I took a date day and went out to the lake to enjoy these treats on the dock.  It was a special moment for this mom!

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Back to the salads.  As soon as the warm weather arrives, I crave a fresh pile of greens and toppings.  Over the years, I have learned there are so many ways to spice up a simple salad and save a ton of time in the kitchen, leaving you more time to play outside with your family.  Even better, most of the simple ingredients you use, can be plated for kids (or salad hating adults) to enjoy as their meal.

Grab a few ingredients, and you can easily switch things up throughout the week for a different dinner every night.  You can also throw leftovers together for lunch the next day.

It’s all about the base.  These days, there are so many types of pre-washed greens.  You can buy these by the bag or container.  You can also buy salad kits.  I discovered last year that my 2 year old loved Caesar Salad kits and now she loves the kale and Brussels sprout with poppyseed dressing.  The cool thing about kits is that you can use the fixings, or skip their dressing and add your own favorites.  I personally love the kale kit, but usually just use the greens and then make my own creation.

Veggies are great, but think beyond the produce section.  Sure, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, and carrots are great.  But don’t forget about canned and frozen veggies.  Canned black beans, corn, and chickpeas can easily be rinsed and thrown into the mix.  They are also budget friendly!

Frozen veggies are picked at their ripest and flash frozen.  You can often find them in steam packets that go directly into the microwave.  Warm them up and then pop some onto your plate.

It’s okay to add a touch of carbs to the mix.  One of my favorite meals is the Caesar salad from a place called The Noodle.  As you might guess, they are known for their homemade fresh pasta and even the salad comes topped with noodles.  It is a delicious addition.

Orzo is easy to make and let cool off in a colander.  Rice packets are another great addition.  Toast some day old bread and break into croutons.  

You can always add dairy.  Add this for some extra flavor and protein.  There are so many delicious options from shredded cheddar and parmesan, to bleu cheese, feta, and crumbled goat cheese.

Maybe you protein.  Maybe you don’t.  I do love meat, but I have been making a conscious effort to eat more plant based meals.  By adding a bunch of other flavors and textures to my plate, I don’t always need meat.  But when I do, I sometimes think beyond the traditional chicken, steak, or salmon.  You can find tuna packets, which are a lower calorie protein with high Omega 3 healthy fats.

Morning Star farms offers traditional black bean and Mediterranean chickpea burgers.  I also really like their veggie “chicken” patties.  Boca Burgers have a surprisingly great texture and taste pretty darn similar to a regular burger.

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Meat free “chicken” patties with BBQ and ranch.  So good!

 

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The girls had a taco.

Deconstruct your salad and please even the pickiest eaters.  Before I go further, I urge you not to underestimate your kids.  I never thought my oldest would love Caesar salads at 2 years old.  I didn’t know my one year old would beg for bites of cabbage.  Try adding a small salad to a plate.  Don’t make a big deal about it.  Don’t refer to it as “healthy.”  Just make it part of the meal.  If they decide they don’t like it, no big deal.

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Whatever “tools” you use to build your salad, plate them out on your kids’ dishes.  For example, if you decide to make a Mexican salad, add cheese, beans, meat, and peppers to your little ones’ plates.  Add some dip or salsa and a tortilla.  Let them roll theirs into a taco or burrito.

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I can’t pass on some Annie’s mac and cheese shells!

What I love about this approach is that you are never eating a salad while the rest of your family eats something different.  This isn’t about healthy vs. unhealthy or one person eating healthy while others are eating a different dinner.  You are eating together as a family.  When you put together ingredients for the week, you can easily whip up a meal in minutes for everyone.

What is your favorite way to eat a salad?

Slowcooker Cheesy Ranch Chicken

I’ve been going through a salad phase lately and was recently looking to make a big batch of protein to top my salads.  At the same time, I wanted to find a family friendly recipe that could be used in versatile ways.  My three year old loves salads and my one and a half year old has yet to meet a food she doesn’t like.  I started looking at chicken with ranch recipes, hoping to appease our Midwestern tastebuds.

I found a few recipes that I liked and decided to switch things around and make one that I thought my family would enjoy most.  The result was that we ate one batch for three days straight and then made another double batch by request of everyone in our house.  The picture below doesn’t do it justice.  It’s not the prettiest shredded chicken.  Let me promise you, this is a crowd pleaser!

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My husband commented that the chicken tasted really decadent, and while it does have a lovely combo of cheese going on, it isn’t as decadent as it tastes.  It is delicious topped on salads, in wraps or burritos, or simply for dinner with some veggies and rice on the side.

This recipe takes less than 10 minutes to prep and then does it’s thing in the slow cooker while you are doing your own thing.

I threw down a bed of romaine and added diced tomatoes, red onion, a variety of beans, and corn.  When I make salads I chop up a variety of veggies and keep them in the fridge so I have quick options for dinners or lunches during the week.  You can also grab a microwaveable pack of rice and add a bit to your salads or wraps too.

The fun thing about salads is that you can change the fixings and feel like you are having a different meal every night.

Slowcooker Creamy Ranch Chicken:

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (or water)

2 packets ranch dressing mix

1- 8 ounce package cream cheese

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

Directions:

Spray the inside of your slow cooker and then place chicken breasts in the bottom.  Pour broth or water on top of chicken and sprinkle one packet of ranch on top.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Remove lid and discard most of the liquid, leaving a few tablespoons inside.  Shred the chicken and then add cream cheese and another packet of ranch to the slow cooker.  Let cook for 30 minutes and then remove lid and stir ingredients.  Add the cheese and stir again.  Put lid back on and keep on warm until everything is well mixed and you are ready to eat.

Note:  I added the second packet of ranch because when you discard the juices, much of the mix is also removed.  Since most of the liquid is removed before the rest of the ingredients are added, it might not be necessary to use broth, as it doesn’t add a lot of flavor.  The liquid simply keeps the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If you are concerned about sodium intake, it might be helpful for you to skip the broth.

We also served this at a party as a dip.  Try it with crackers, pieces of tortilla, bread, or veggies.  A few people even made mini quesadillas.

Colds & Flu- To Run Or Not To Run

Many runners ask me if they should continue running when they have a cold.  The answer isn’t always easy, but it certainly is if you have the flu.

I’ve touched upon this subject in the past, but I wanted to take a look at this topic again, because we were visited by both in the past few weeks.  Firsthand knowledge is always helpful.  Or at least, that is the positive spin I am trying to put on this situation.

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The whole family got hit with a bug!

Several years ago I attended a fantastic presentation given by Matt Fitzgerald, one of the leading experts in the sport of running.  One of the attendees asked Mr. Fitzgerald his opinion on running with a cold.  He firmly replied that if you have a cold and are not running a fever, it is fine to run.  In fact, some research shows that running might help shorten your cold and ease some of the symptoms.

Running releases adrenaline, which not only boosts your mood after a workout, but it can also work as a decongestant.  This can help break up some of that stuffiness you might be feeling.

Many runners ask me what they should do when they have a cold and are training for races and I always recommend that you listen to your body.  If you are feeling achy or really under the weather, skip a workout and enjoy the rest.  However, if you are experiencing a runny nose and nagging cough, a slow and easy run might give you that boost to feel better for the rest of the day and get rid of some of that stuffiness that is making you feel so miserable.  Just plan on bringing along tissues or turning into a snotty mess.

A few weeks ago, I started the weekend out with some annoying stuffiness and chest congestion.  I used my runs as a way to get things moving along and generally felt better.  By Monday morning, I woke up feeling like my stomach was on fire.  I chalked it up to eating a lot of crappy food that I normally don’t consume over the weekend.

Two days later, my stomach was still feeling awful.  I was lethargic and my muscles felt wiped out.  I tried going for a run, hoping a good sweat would help, but ended up doing run/walk intervals to get me through.  It was then that I realized, I wasn’t just dealing with a cold.  Something had hit me and I needed to graciously bow out of the running game.

Later in the week, we got a call from school.  Our 3 year old came home with a sick tummy.  After several days of fevers, she was on the mend.  Her good friend Daniel Tiger gave the best advice she needed, “When you are sick, rest is best.  Rest is best.”  Thank you tiger friend for giving our wild 3 year old the understanding that sometimes we just need to slow down.

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Rest really is best. Two days later!

When it comes to the flu, or times when you have a fever, muscle aches, or lethargy, it is time to rest.  Skip the run and spend some time on the couch or back in bed.  We runners know all about recovery when it comes to our training plans.  Sometimes our health has other plans.  If you have the flu or other symptoms that sideline you, push the training plan aside and opt for rest.

Don’t fret that it will hurt your training.  In fact, if you try to push through with a plan while you are truly sick, you are going to delay your recovery.  A few days or even a week off, if carefully planned, will not sideline you.  Take a look at your plan or chat with your coach and find a way to adjust.  You can almost always find a way to make things work.

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Listen to the expert.

If you have a cold, ease up on your runs.  It might be a good idea to skip speed work.  Slow your runs down and focus on quality aerobic workouts.  These are your base, the foundation, of your training.  In the long run, you aren’t going to get faster by pushing the pace when you are run down.  Instead, focus on building that base of your training by slowing down and just getting in some miles.

Never underestimate the power of a healthy eating plan and hydration.  Drink plenty of fluids when you are feeling under the weather and avoid dairy, which might worsen your congestion.

What do you prefer to do when you aren’t feeling well?  Do you find that you feel better after a run when you have a cold?

The Plan Is, There Doesn’t Always Have To Be A Plan

Many people often mention to me that they are interested in getting started with running but don’t know where to start and aren’t quite ready to hire a coach.  This is totally understandable.  There is an abundance of information available on the internet about how to get started, such as Couch to 5k Plans.  While these can be very useful, it is often difficult to read through everything and know what is actually helpful and what might not be such great advice.

The truth is, running doesn’t always have to be a science.  Sure, if you are looking to improve your speed or increase your distance for a longer endurance race, having a set plan or a coach to guide you can make the process much easier.  However, if you are simply looking to begin running, you can make it just that: running simple.

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As I have mentioned in other posts, running isn’t always easy.  It gets easier, but there will always be an element of challenge in nearly every run.  This is what makes you feel so invigorated and accomplished when you finish!

To make the process easier, it is often helpful to start with shorter distances and use run/walk intervals.  Set a goal of doing 10 minutes your first time.  Try running for a minute and walking for two.  You can gradually increase the duration over time, as your body begins to adjust.  If you prefer, the run/walk intervals can also lengthen out.  However, I have many clients and friends who use the run/walk method exclusively for all distances from 5k’s through the marathon.

A helpful tool to decrease your risk of injury is to follow the 10% rule.  When you feel that you have comfortably accomplished a certain amount of time or distance, increase that amount by 10%.  You should also start your run intervals at a shorter amount than your walking intervals.  Follow a 1:3 or 1:2 run/walk at first and lengthen or decrease as necessary.

Remember any amount of running is running.  There is no rule that states how fast, how far, or how often you need to run to be a runner.  If you run, you are a runner!

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Running is your own personal journey.  This is about you feeling good about you and the experience.  Remember that it will be challenging.  It will take time for your body to adjust and become more comfortable.  Give yourself the freedom to make it work for you.

With some time and patience, you might find that you are ready to start looking for an appropriate plan for you or to hire a coach.  Until then, just run as you wish.

How do you like to approach your running?

Training Doesn’t Always Have To Be Perfect + Riding The Wave

This summer has already been a whirlwind for us.  The first half of June was spent preparing for our 2 year old’s first dance recital.  That was a crazy foretaste of what our lives will like be in a few years as our kids grow, and sports and other activities take over.  Rock was in NYC until the end of June and that meant the majority of my runs were on the treadmill while children took naps.

Every summer for the past few years Rock and I have participated in Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival of Races.  I realized this year that of all the races we have done, this is the only one we make a point to sign up for.  The Cherry Festival is a really fun event for all ages and their races are beautiful and well organized.  Despite the fact that Rock had been logging 30,000-40,000 steps each day in NYC but not always having a chance to get in a run and my lack of hitting the pavement, we decided we would do the half marathon again.

We also convinced my brother-in-law to come join us.  He had done his first half marathon in May and finished just under 2 hours.  Shortly after, we discussed his goal of aiming for a 1:50 half and decided that with some smart training, it could be a potential A goal for this particular race.  I created a plan for him and we worked out some game plans to get him through race day.

The week before the race, Rock and I decided that regardless of how little actual training we had done, we needed to get at least 10 miles in before race day.  I had been logging daily 7 mile runs, but hadn’t set foot in the hot summer conditions yet.  Obviously, we picked a day when the temps were to hit the mid 90’s.  By the time we dropped the girls off at daycare and started, the air was already soupy.  I knew it was only a matter of time before things fell apart.

Fell apart they did.  At mile 5 we stopped for a water break and by mile 6, I was down to taking a break every half mile.  I was dehydrated and felt ill.  I made it home, but was left feeling pretty defeated.

Then we left for our annual week in Northern Wisconsin where just about everything I ate was fried and every run was done pushing our double stroller up and down hills in the hot summer heat.  Things were not looking good!

Friday night we arrived home with our bellies full of the only fast food we could find along the interstate, leaving me up at 3:30am with heartburn.  Not exactly the ideal pre-race dinner!

An hour later we were up and fueling again, ready to hit the high school where buses were waiting to ship us out to the Old Mission Peninsula where the race would start at a winery.

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I would be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous.  I was beyond nervous.  I knew that my body could handle 13 miles.  I love double digit runs.  However, that 10 miler the week before was really playing hard in the back of my mind and race day was going to be relatively warm.  While it was 50 degrees when we started, I knew it was going to climb by 20 degrees over the next two hours.

The first two and a half miles wove up and down through dirt paths of local cherry orchards, before spitting us out on the road that runs along West Grand Traverse Bay.  From here we followed the bay for the next several miles.  The view is beautiful and the homes along the water are quite spectacular.

I felt good, but noticed that the heat was getting to me and I was waiting to see when my body would fall apart like before.  I had a mile where I started to feel like I was fading and feared the end was near.  Then I began to feel a renewed strength in my legs and my pace slowly increased.

I kept assessing how I was feeling, but at times I was reading into it too much.  I was trying to find the negativity.  Once I realized this, I worked to clear my head.  I turned my music up and just let my body settle in.  I had done this distance many times.  In the past, I was in better shape or more prepared, but my body and mind knew how to do this.

I forgot that every mile can be so different.  Some miles will feel great.  Other miles, your body will struggle.  There will be miles where your mind tries to fool you into giving up.  And there will be miles where you are ready to tackle just about anything.  The key is, you can’t let any particular mile take over your race.  You have to remember that things will change.  The good will come with bad.  The bad will eventually wash away.

When I remembered this, my mind gave my body renewed strength.  I had no idea where I was in the pack of runners, but I knew I would be okay and I decided to stop worrying about everyone else around me, and just run the rest of that race.

I crossed the finish line surprisingly better than I had expected.  When the results were posted I was walking to the car and happened to look on my phone.  I was shocked to see that I had finished 26th for the women and 3rd in my age group.  What a pleasant surprise!

You never know what might come of your training.  There might be injuries or other setbacks.  Life can get in the way.  The key is to do the best with what you have.  Make it work and then go forward on race day and trust your body.  Let your mind trust you.  Training will rarely be ideal.  That doesn’t mean that your race can’t have great results.  Roll with the wave and you never know where you will come out at the end.

 

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I also have to give a huge congrats to my brother-in-law who finished with a 12 minute PR in his second half marathon ever.  He’s seriously a rockstar!

It’s Not Very Chilly-5 Minute Slow Cooker Chili

Apparently long weekends leave me a few days behind on catching up!  We had an awesome long weekend playing with family at Shanty Creek Resorts.  If you recall, we were there a few years ago when Mary just started crawling and we basically had the place to ourselves.  A year before that, we got married there in the summer.

Things have changed just a little bit!

This time, these non-skiers enjoyed a winter weekend playing in the snow.  Well Mary and Rock played in the snow and I sat at the Lakeview Restaurant and watched them tube down the runs.  They had a blast.  Lucy and I chowed down and had fun too.

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Just watching some Olympics.

We finished the weekend off by enjoying a delicious meal and flight of beers at Short’s Brewing Company.  I didn’t get any pics because I was fresh off of an 8 mile run and was both ravenous and seriously into my tasting of five delicious IPA’s.

Between our trip to humid Mexico, some dry and stuffy aired flights, and a chilly return to reality, my throat has been soar for a few days.  My tonsils are swollen and I am trying to remedy things with sweaty workouts, lots of hot and cold hydration, and some warm soothing meals.  While I have enjoyed a few meals that involved meat, I’ve stuck to my plant based eating most of the time.  It has been surprisingly easy.

I scoured a few websites to look at various planted based recipes and then decided to try my hand at making my own slow cooker meals.  Last night I made this Slow Cooker Lentil and Quinoa Chili.  I wasn’t certain how this would turn out, but I was pleasantly surprised.  This meal cost around $10 to make and as the lentils and quinoa cooked up, the slow cooker was filled to the brim.  This will last us for several meals.  There’s no browning of meat or veggies.  Just dump the ingredients in and turn your crockpot on.

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Enjoying some chili with her post ballet Happy Meal

I missed the last episode of “This Is Us” when it aired after the Super Bowl.  So I don’t know how things ended up, but I did see the episode when the fire started and I do cringe a bit each time I turn my slow cooker on.  But give this one a try.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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Slow Cooker Lentil and Quinoa Chili:

Ingredients:

1 onion (chopped)

1 green bell pepper (chopped)

1 red bell pepper (chopped)

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can pinto beans (drained)

1 can black beans (drained)

1 can chili beans (drained)

1 can tomato sauce

4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups lentils

1/2 cup quinoa

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon paprika

3 cloves minced garlic

Salt to taste

Directions:

Pour all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Top with your favorite fixings.  Enjoy!

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Check out my other chili recipes!

3 Cans And 6 Veggies Chili

Super Easy Turkey Chili

 

Staying Healthy On Vacation-Back From Mexican Adventures!

Happy Thursday!  It’s been a bit longer than I had planned on being away from posting, but we were on vacation.  Our internet was so spotty, I couldn’t get anything to load.  It was the perfect time to put down the computer and just enjoy being with my family.

We headed out two weeks ago for an 11 day vacation at the Sunscape Sabor in Cozumel, Mexico.  Staying at all inclusive resorts can be both awesome and terrible in many ways.  On the bright side, you can pay for your trip up front and then spend very little during the rest of your vacation besides tips and excursions.  This is nice because you can easily budget for your trip without too many surprises.

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On the other hand, these resorts can be really hard on your health and wellness because it can be very easy to fall into a trap of eating too much, too often, and consuming a ton of calories in alcoholic drinks.  Meanwhile, there are sunny beaches and pools to lounge at and avoid activity.

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From my experience, there is an interesting mentality that occurs when people head to a buffet.  Even in a cheap hotel where the food is of relatively poor quality, people flock to the buffet and start piling tons of food they typically wouldn’t consume.  Did you ever notice that the eggs that sit in those containers are usually some sort of liquid egg substitute that doesn’t always even taste like eggs?  Sit back the next time you are in this situation and watch what happens.

Being mindful of what we ate at the buffet was key to a healthy vacation.  I’ve been continuing to eat mostly plant based foods and this actually made eating easier on this trip.  The quality of food at the resort wasn’t that great but they always had a ton of vegetable options.  I was able to make salads each afternoon for lunch and each evening I stuck to mostly veggie based options.  With a buffet this is surprisingly easy.

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This view certainly doesn’t hurt!

We had a really great time at our resort but we were also very aware of how we approached this vacation.  First of all, Rock and I both really enjoy exercise and try to make a point to get some activity in each day and also spend time being active with our family.  The first day we were there we went for a 7 mile run together.  There is a nice one way road along the resorts that allows you to safely exercise outside.  However, we weren’t used to the heat and humidity and struggled pretty badly for the last mile.

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Fortunately the Sunscape Sabor had an excellent small gym that had really nice quality cardio machines and a really beautiful yoga studio.  I was able to get an 8 mile run in most days during the girls hour long nap time.  Getting a daily sweat in really helped keep me feeling energetic, which is important when traveling with an infant and toddler.  When you stick to a normal activity routine, your body and mind feel better.

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So grateful for the Simple Hydration bottle on these hot vacations!

Finally, when it comes to alcoholic drinks, I try to be aware of what I am consuming.  While I do enjoy beers, I avoid drinking them too often because they are loaded in carbs that go right to your belly.  I also avoid fruity or creamy based drinks because these are basically like consuming multiple alcoholic milkshakes or juices.  I personally enjoy wine and this is a lower carb, lower calorie choice.

Other great options if you choose to drink on a vacation are mixed alcoholic drinks with a club soda or diet cola base and a light amount of alcohol.  Moderation is always key and it is always important to hydrate plenty throughout the day.  Aim to drink a big glass of water when you wake up and then with each meal.  Sparkling water is also an excellent and refreshing option to mix things up.

Also keep in mind that sleep is vital to staying healthy.  Budget for good sleeping time whether it be a siesta or going to bed at a reasonable hour.  Waking up ready for the day not only is important for health and wellness, but also makes your vacation more enjoyable.

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How do you like to stay healthy on your vacations?

Which One? Healthy Eating Or Exercise?

The other day I was watching “The Doctors” and someone asked which was better: exercising or eating well?  Despite being an avid exerciser, I immediately shouted, “Eating well!”  As a certified health coach, personal trainer, and running coach, it has become increasingly clear over the years that what we put into our bodies is far more important than exercise.  Don’t get me wrong, exercise is essential to a healthy life.  But you can’t out exercise a poor diet, and you can’t outrun unhealthy eating.

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Sure, we have all put in an extra hour at the gym before, or run a few extra miles after a less than stellar day of eating.  And while that is a great way to bump things up when we fall behind, you certainly can’t rely on doing that every day.

Truth is, we need to eat well most of the time and exercise too.  There should also be some time for rest and relaxation, along with enjoying some indulgence as well.  I prefer the 80%/20% rule with this.  Keep it healthy 80% of the time and enjoy and indulge the other 20%.

When it comes to diet and exercise, what you put in is what you will get out.  If you eat poorly, you will get poor miles or poor results.  You can’t outrun a bad diet.

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This has been weighing on my mind a lot lately.  While I have been busy Netflixing, I spent a few hours watching documentaries.  Last year I had a client who told me she watched “Food Choices” and it changed her life.  She was focused on a plant based diet.  I watched the documentary and it hit me hard.  But it didn’t completely change my mind.

Earlier this fall I caught a bit of a segment on NPR where a doctor was discussing how Americans eat far too much meat.  He said that if you eat meat every day, you should work to go one day without meat each week.  If you eat meat once a week, you should aim for once a month….and so on.  Basically, he discussed how it causes inflammation in our bodies and Americans consume much more meat than most other countries.  I was intrigued, but still didn’t do much about this.

I don’t recall why, but I ended up watching “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix a few weeks ago.  This documentary emphasized again how we eat too much meat and showed a correlation between weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other issues.  As a health coach, I also know that if any diet can be recommended to clients, the Mediterranean Diet is the heart healthiest.

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DoctorOz.com

This information continues to show up and it was starting to make me consider what might happen if I adopted not a vegetarian lifestyle, but more of a plant based emphasis each day.  So while Rock was out of town for work last week, I set about finding recipes.

Here is what I found:  My grocery bill was so cheap!  I thought it would be much more expensive to just buy fresh fruits and veggies.  But the reality was, between produce and some canned and dried options, I was leaving the grocery store with a lot more money in my pockets.

While this wasn’t my main goal, I ended up dropping a few pounds almost immediately.  It was  a pleasant surprise.  One day I was walking by a mirror and noticed that my face looked a bit more thinned out and my muscles looked more noticeable.

A few days in, I was cruising along on the treadmill and found myself bumping the pace up because it felt good!  I was hesitant to run at this pace because I figured I would hit a wall.  However, I suddenly noticed that I was maintaining this pace and I wasn’t tired.  I really did just feel good.

It didn’t end there either.  I was watching the new season of “Grace and Frankie” and I was having such a fun time that I didn’t want to stop running.  My mileage soared and I felt so good, I didn’t even realize that I forgot to take a day off.  I ran eight days in a row and averaged 8-10 miles each day.  I didn’t have a super long run in there, but there was some really great mileage and my muscles weren’t complaining.  In fact, I made a mistake in an earlier post this week.  I actually ran 58 miles last week!

The Verdict:  I still love meat.  I’m still going to eat meat.  But we as a family have agreed that we are going to focus more on plant based meals.  My body felt good and I enjoyed what I was eating.  I made a delicious Indian curry that warmed my body and had some awesome anti-inflammatory spices added in.  The whole house smelled amazing!

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Chickpeas, Onions, Tomatoes, Spinach, and spices over rice.  So fast and so good!

Everyone needs to do what is best for their own lifestyles.  But there is a lot of evidence that adding more fruits and veggies and enjoying even a little bit less meat can make a big difference in your health.  I highly recommend checking out “Forks Over Knives” and “Food Choices” if you are curious about this.

Do you love a good burger like me?  Any thoughts on eating a little bit less meat?

Still Rocking The Treadmill & My Favorite Workouts

Well that was a long, but fun week!  Rock was out of town for work and I had the girls to myself.  We had some awesomely fun times and also some incredibly frustrating toddler moments.  I believe I referred to most days as a rollercoaster this past weekend.  There were some highs and some definite lows.

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This awesome gift was waiting on our porch Friday for the girls.  They spent the weekend watching cartoons in it.

I have actually found that being a mom of two has made me love parenting more than ever.  I’m surprisingly more patient than I was in the past.  And that is a good thing, because an infant and a toddler present all sorts of “interesting” challenges.

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It’s a Hard Knock Life being two.  I introduced Mary to “Annie.”

We survived the week and I was able to get in 49 miles too.  The week started off super cold, which made very appreciative to have the treadmill.  On Friday we were at 52 degrees and I would have loved getting a run in outside, but I have been enjoying my Netflix and watching Lucy swing while I hit the mill.  Treadmill workouts have been my jam lately.

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I love running outside, but am slightly freaked out by the idea of pushing 2 kids!

January has been really good to me as far as mileage goes, and I attribute some of that to some changes I have made in my eating.  I will touch upon that a bit more later this week.  But regardless of those changes, I have been loving my running and upping my mileage.  I’m considering some fall marathon options and am excited to be representing the Simple Hydration Running Team again this year!

I know a lot of people absolutely despise the treadmill.  It can be boring, and let’s be honest, running long distances isn’t exactly exciting to begin with.  However, there are a few things you can do to make the mill a bit more exciting, namely by implementing treadmill workouts.

Sometimes I like the treadmill because you can just zone out.  This isn’t always easy or wise when you are running outdoors.  You really should be constantly aware of your surroundings when you are outside.  On the mill, you can blast music or binge watch Netflix and not have to worry too much about what is going on around you.  Sometimes this can be a nice change.  Please note, this does not mean you have the freedom to be obnoxious at the gym!

I also like to do speed and HIIT \ workouts when I am on the treadmill.  Many people don’t realize that the treadmill can actually be a great tool for interval training, especially if you have difficulty finding or holding a goal pace for these workouts.  This can also help create a little variety and avoid numbing the brain.

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If you find that you are constantly watching the time on the monitor, these might be a great way for you to mix things up a bit.  My guess is that you will start to notice that you are so busy following your plan that you forget you are on the treadmill or how long you have been running.

These are also great ways to learn to mentally hold those faster paces.  You might hit your hardest pace and fear that you won’t make it, only to find that when the pace switches again, you recover well and really are capable of sustaining faster speeds.  This is great mental training for races or doing longer distances.

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The Pyramid Run:  This is one of my favorite treadmill workouts.  Start out with a short warm up at an easy pace.  After a few minutes start bumping up the pace every minute until you reach your hard pace.  You shouldn’t be running at 100% but should be to a point where it would be difficult to hold a conversation (about 75%).  Once you reach this point, hold that pace for one minute and then start bumping it back one minute at a time until you reach your starting pace.  Continue this pattern of building and falling back until you have reached your time or distance goal.

The Fall Back Run:  This is a great variation of the Pyramid Run.  Begin with a short warm up (around 5 minutes).  Then start building up as you would for your pyramid run.  Once you hit that difficult speed, fall right back to your starting pace.  I love this workout for anyone who is new to speed or HIIT workouts.  While it can be scary to push yourself at these harder speeds, it can feel less daunting knowing that once you hit that hard pace, you get to start back at the easy level.  Once again, continue these build up and fall backs until you reach your time or distance goal.

What are your favorite ways to make the treadmill more exciting?

Three Parties & We All Need A Nap!

Happy Tuesday!  I missed a Monday post because we didn’t even have time to catch our breath this past weekend.  It was fun filled and very active.

Friday evening we headed over to my parent’s house for Christmas dinner. We will be out of town, so this was the perfect evening for us to celebrate.  We had a lovely dinner and then Mary had a blast opening gifts.  It is so fun to see your child “get” the idea of Christmas for the first time.

A few months ago Mary made friends with a boy who is a drummer in a band and also the high school band.  He let her play his drums at the homecoming football game and she has talked about it every single day since then.

Her buddy showed up during our Christmas party and gifted her a drum set.  It was the highlight of her night and was all she talked about the entire weekend.

Saturday started out with a minor crisis in our house.  The belt flew off of the treadmill during Rock’s run and he found himself spending a few hours learning to be a treadmill mechanic.  It would be an understatement to say that my husband is a saint.  He worked like crazy to get it fixed so that I could get a run in before we hosted our own Christmas party.

Thanks to him I was able to run that day and the treadmill got me through 42 miles last week.

We cleaned and decorated and then I got to business on making a cheese platter for the table.  This year we did an appetizer and cocktail party and the centerpiece was my cheeseboard.  I bought these beautiful acacia platters at Target for $13 each and lined them with a variety of cheeses, meats, nuts, and fruit.  It made our dining room table the perfect gathering place.

Sunday morning we woke up and got ourselves together enough to go to church.  We coaxed Mary into going by promising her we would return quickly so that she could play the drums.  She went downstairs and wailed on the drums and even penned her own song.  Thanks to some lessons from Daniel Tiger she created a song where she simply shouts, “I’m so mad.  I’m so mad.  I’m so mad, mad, mad!”  Please trust me that she is not angry when she sings this but I think these are the only things she knows that should be shouted.

We were able to get her down for a nap with a promise that her friends would be coming over later for another party.  As soon as I walked in to wake her up she jumped up and said, “Oh!  I need my tights!”

We invited Mary’s friends and our friends over for a gingerbread decorating party.  We are so lucky that many of our good friends have awesome children that are so great to Mary.  Ages ranged from 1-11 and they all did a great job of making some pretty cool houses.  The older girls took it pretty seriously while the younger ones shoveled a lot of their projects into their mouths.

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Pre-party set up!

By the time we put the girls down to bed Sunday night and poured a glass of wine, Rock kicked his feet up and announced that we were officially done hosting for the holiday season.  While it was a little sad to see it come to an end, I am thrilled that there are so many more celebrations yet to come, and that we had some party successes over here!

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And this is how Mary decorates cookies. Can you figure out which ones she did?!

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How was your weekend?  

What would be your ultimate choice to have on a cheeseboard?