Who Are You Running Against?

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It has been so long since I have written a post that my blog page fell off my commonly clicked sites. Hmm…Time to write. My lack of writing has not meant lack of living, thinking, or cooking. Just distracted with new developments.

Recently we discovered that I am pregnant…again with our now third child. This has been an exciting curveball, as I also signed up for my first half marathon. My swollen feet will be lined up at the starting line in just 2 weeks, 6 days, 22 hours…etc. This is not how I imagined things would be happening, but here we are. It has been a real challenge to keep up my regimen for training. Honestly it has dwindled down to a few strength and agility exercises here and there, along with the occasional run. Never have I felt more disappointed in my efforts. What only helps is when my eyes pass over a story about a 9-month pregnant rock star who runs a marathon and delivers a few hours later. What human strength and perseverance!

Then something occurred to me. A new perspective was brought about after a recent 5k. The crowd was huge and people of all sorts of fitness levels came out for the fun run, but for me I pay to compete with myself. Or so I thought. All this time of training and years of hitting the pavement I have been comparing myself to the best I know. Their performances push me to achieve as good a performance. When I fall short of whatever unrealistic expectation I set, the belt tightens and more rigorous guidelines apply. Perfection has kind of always been something I knew I could never be. I’m too ____(You name it)___. However, I somehow deceived myself into thinking that if I were only ___(You name it)___ I would be able to meet these ridiculous goals.

Before you get worried that I am a highly demanding person, you have to know that I am only this way with myself. When it comes to others my eyes are pretty accurate and I tend to extend others far more grace. My husband says that when I look at myself it is like looking into a fun house mirror. The races I have been running up to this point have been races against myself by comparing myself to unrealistic expectations. For this race I decided to change my mentality. This race I accepted that I am pregnant and haven’t been at my best. The race I run needs to be against the self I am now and not the person I wish I could be.

Crossing the finish line of the 5k, an amazing feeling swept over me. My eyes glanced at the timer and it said a time of 23 minutes. This was not my fastest time, but somehow it was acceptable. The old me would reprimand myself all the way home and come up with a solution to fix it for next time. This time being healthy and carrying a baby was success enough.The other runners began to fade from my concern and being strong in the moment became at the forefront of my mind during the run.

One friend reminded me in a conversation recently that you never know how you will feel on race day, and that feeling is a big indicator of your time and performance. Sometimes training your mind is an important factor forgotten in race prep. To be healthfully competitive, you have to race against who you are today. Maybe in a session you had a 5:30 min/mile, but the day before the race you sprained a muscle or became ill. Is it fair to beat yourself up for not performing as well as your best training time? Think of the successful races as a reward for your training and not just what you run for.

No matter if you are running a race, striving for weight loss, or are working on other health-behavior changes, we all need to cut ourselves some realistic slack. When we beat ourselves up, we are not helping, but hurting progress. We all have a bad day or fail a meal (or several). It is not about where you messed up, fell short or even if you won. The important factor is how you ran towards your goal. So, be strong in the moment and hold on the best you can. Let less than perfect be okay. Each moment is a new opportunity to improve and enjoy the journey you are on. The end result will take care of itself.

Recipe Review: Creamy Pappardelle with Leeks and Bacon

creamy Linguini with Leeks and bacon

What carnivorous human doesn’t love bacon? Just add cheese and cream and who can resist? Sara Jenkins from Bon Appétit did just this. Searching for something fairly quick and satisfying, I decided to try this out. The first steps in this recipe are to heat the olive oil and add bacon. Sounds of sizzle and smoky flavors filled up our home with a warm welcome for my husband, who just walked in the door. I rarely cook with bacon, so it was a pleasant surprise for him. He swooned over the aroma as the leeks and seasonings were added in and warming up.

This dish kind of sounds like a ho-hum Alfredo sauce. The amount of fat in this recipe could make your heart stop as much as the actual dish if eaten in large quantities. Still we all love the combination of cream and bacon over a bed of grains soaking up all the yummy bits. The leeks here add a sweet twist on the pasta but do not come out in a strong powerful way. If you have never cooked with a leek and are slightly intimidated by it, don’t be. It doesn’t have a powerful destructive flavor nor is it difficult to use. You can play with it after you try a recipe. You will see what I mean. It is a savory sweet addition that adds a layer of warmth to this recipe. Mac n’ cheese may have new competition as a favorite comfort dish.

Needless to say, we enjoyed this dish. My husband, who tends to eat modestly, had 3 full servings! I had 2. My daughter enjoyed it so much that she rolled her sippy over to Bubby’s plate and stole his fork with one hand and grabbed a fistful of his pasta with the other. She is my foodie. At 20 months old, there is a lot of work to be done with her on table manners. My son tends to be pickier, but gobbled it right up. There is a feeling of complete fulfillment when your family enjoys the love you put on a plate.

Here is the link to the original recipe:

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/creamy-pappardelle-with-leeks-and-bacon

The calories per serving of this dish, as the recipe prepared, was 580/serving with 6 servings. My version was only 263 calories/serving with 8 servings or 351/6 servings. Here are the changes I made to the dish:

1. I used 1 slice less of bacon

2. I used Dreamfield’s Linguine Pasta (because of my disorder I choose to use this for a lower-carb option.)

3. I opted out of the butter addition since the dish was pretty creamy and had lots of fat already.

4. I drained the bacon grease before adding the leeks.

5. I used 1 cup of 1% Milk and dash of cream (about 1 tbsp) instead of the 3/4 cup cream and 1/2 cup of water.

6. I added 1 shallot in with the leeks to add another layer of flavor.

7. I took half of the pasta and half of the sauce and saved it for another meal this week.

Is Plyo for You?

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Remember when you used to play hopscotch, leap frog, or basketball? A fitness trend is bringing those memories back in an adult version. Recently there has been a lot of hype about plyometric workouts in the fitness realm. For those of you who have not been exposed to it, plyometrics is a jumping, dynamic movement performed as powerfully as possible. It has gained popularity and buzz for good reason. Plyometrics have a lot to offer for strength training and can bring about cardiovascular improvements as well. These movements rely on your ability to cover a certain distance at high intensities over a short period of time. It can really be great for increasing speed and strengthening those muscles. Jumping has shown to increase energy overall and mobility when done right.

So it sounds great right? Before you jump into plyo there are a few things you may want to consider. One consideration is the strength of your ankles, knees, abs, shoulders, and even wrists. When performing high intensity exercises, you must have your support systems in good shape. Otherwise you risk injury. Secondly, is balance. This is actually two-fold. Balance in the sense of equally strong/trained opposing muscle groups. Imbalance here could result in injury. The other type of balance is how well you can stabilize yourself in a position where your base of support is compromised. You will not perform most plyo exercises slowly, so it is important to know that you can handle sudden changes in balance without falling or injury to tissue. Your range of motion also matters here. In order to move through the full range of motion, you should have the flexibility to do so. When you do not take form seriously, you can get seriously injured. Do you have the right shoes? The shoe needs to support your ankle, so running shoes are not a good option. A court shoe or cross trainers may be good options. Shoe specialists can help you find a perfect shoe for you.

Never be afraid to be in a stage of progression. Life long fitness is better than a get-fit-quick scheme that leaves you unmotivated and injured. If you feel you are not ready for it, start with stabilization exercise and basic posture exercises. Incorporate yoga to ensure you have a good range of motion. Lastly, add cardio in for endurance and overall health. For those who feel they are ready to start, Begin with smaller movements and build up to more dynamic ones. It is helpful to use isometric exercises in between plyometric exercises to help avoid injury and increase stability.

If you are not sure what programs are best for you, talk with a trainer and work together on a plan. Most importantly keep it fun, safe, and challenging.

Graduated Success

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Hello Everyone! It seems like forever since I have written. You will be hearing from me much more now that I have GRADUATED! I am so excited to announce that all my work can now be put to great use…YOU! Many who graduated before me talked about how overwhelming it can be immediately post-grad. My head nodded in acknowledgement, but little did I know how tough it would really be. As a proactive person it can be disheartening to hear “So do you have a job lined up yet?” Being a mother of two, working a part-time job, and being a full-time student there was not a lot of time for me to court potential employers or seek employment for postgrad. So immediately I applied for 50+ jobs online. It has been over a month and no word. As a go-getter sitting still is not my strength. My decision is now to focus on what I can do to gain experience in the meantime. There are still people who need my help even if it is not a company employing me. So down this foggy path of trust I go, pursuing my own business. It is exciting and scary.

Thinking about the path of this new change and challenge before me, it reminds me a lot of how people feel starting a new wellness program. Whether you are trying to eat better, get fit, attain a fitness goal, failure is a possibility. No one wants to fail. It is a reason many do not take the leap. We come up with barriers and put ourselves in boxes with excuses we falsely see as truth. It is time for us to wake up and see the facts. Yes we may fail. No failure is too big that we cannot learn and grow better from. Failure could be the key to our success. It tells you your limitations and focuses your attention on what you can actually do now.

When we can look at a big picture and are flexible to changes in that vision, failure seems much less stressful. Make a plan with graduated steps towards that vision. Refine your goals to 3 priorities and then break it down into more and more tangible steps. Look often at your progress and goals. Do you need to revise the plan? Revisions may be due to an evolved vision or complete change. It is okay to change and grow. If something doesn’t work out, use it as information and not an attack on your potential. Flexibility allows you to use failures and success as supporting steps towards ultimate success.

The toughest aspect for me is the patience. Understanding that things take time. For some reason I can extend more grace to others than to myself. We need to be fair and kind to ourselves. Getting down or frustrated doesn’t really make us more productive. Identifying complications, flaws, and strengths along with a positive attitude does. Be passionate about what you do and do the best you can. At the end of the day you can at least walk away knowing where you stand when you test your limits. If you never test and try to grow, you never can achieve your potential.

Unwrap the Gift Only You Can Give

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     Hello again! Finals are over and now a different chaos is settling in. Christmas. With so many events to attend, from cookie exchanges to several dinners, it can be easy to run short on time. The kids are home for break and you have even less time for your to-do list(s)! How can you make this time of year less stressful and enjoy the ones you love? Being pulled in so many directions it is easy for many of us to feel out of control. Put yourself back in control and save your sanity! Here are some tips:

  1. Breathe– Oxygen helps remind your body that it is not in emergency mode. Even if you feel like it, your hair is not on fire.
  2. Make a List. Check it twice. Prioritize people, events, recipes, etc. Check with those you will be dragging along, to see what events they find important. Then you can come up with a combined priority list.
  3. Make a New Year’s Resolution to show the people in your life how much you care through out the year, instead of trying to fit it into one season. Out of guilt we often try to see everyone this once a year. Then we vow to meet up more after the holidays. How about actually planning time in the year to get together? Set a reminder on your phone to get a hold of one person each month. This lessens the obligation to see EVERYONE during the holidays. 
  4. Find one outfit that works for you and change up the way you wear it. It can be stressful to pick out the perfect outfits for parties. If you pick one piece, and change up the accessories, add a jacket, loose a jacket, pair with leggings, or wear your hair differently, you can have different looks and keep it simple. You can get ideas from online magazines like http://www.modcitymag.com for tips. 
  5.  Make some of the to-do’s something the kids can join in on. Carve out extra time to complete them. Kids take a little patience and lots of paper towels. The trade off is worth the effort, because kids also make memories special.
  6. Communicate with those who more or less fall lower on the priority vs. time list. Show appreciation for the invitations, and try to reschedule a time after the holidays to get together. This way you can do your part in avoiding drama and letting them know you care about his/her feelings.
  7. Rethink gifting. The commercials will tell you to buy expensive gifts and convince you that it is not fabulous to live within your means. You are not a bad parent, spouse, or friend for not going into debt for Christmas. One of my favorite gifts of all time was a great coffee mug. My friend knew how much I loved coffee and I use it almost every morning. Think about the person and do something to show you care. Maybe you and your spouse could do a coupon book for each other? How nice would it be to redeem a coupon for a back rub or breakfast in bed, or babysitting duty while one enjoys a night out with friends?
  8. Recall your favorite memories. Take time to remember the good moments either of the year or of Christmas’ past. It does the heart good to reflect on positive thoughts. Maybe you have had some tough Christmas’ but you have people who care about you. Thinking about the good things in your life can enhance everything about your life.  
  9. Be a kid. Enjoy the events along with your kids. If you don’t have kids, take the time to be a kid. Soak in all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the season. Don’t just get through Christmas, enjoy it.
  10.  Lower expectations. Mainly this probably applies to you. You are one person. You are amazing, and can probably technically physically manage to do most if not all on your list. Think about this though, how are those you care about seeing you? What message are you sending when you are rushing everyone out to be somewhere, pushing your children out of the kitchen so you can make the perfect dish, or freak out about messes? What really matters? If we stop expecting perfection out of ourselves, maybe we can stop expecting perfection out of others. This trickle effect may promote a society change. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.” (Sy Miller and Jill Jackson) 
  11. Make meals easy. If you are doing a lot of cooking and baking, meal time can be stressful. Lower the stress by making a breakfast strata for well… breakfast. You could do chili and have it as soup for one night, spaghetti for another(over pasta with reduced-fat cheese), and then a walking taco for yet another (add Frito chips and low-fat sour cream, shredded lettuce, and reduced-sodium taco seasoning). You could also do a shepherd’s pie or other tasty one dish wonders. If you need something light, roast a chicken in a crock-pot and use it to top a salad, shred it and add bbq for a sandwich, or use it for chicken tacos. This way you can feel good about what you are feeding your family without the hassle of preparing big meals every night. You simply make one item work for several days. 

I hope these tips help you and your family better enjoy this season. Feel free to share your ideas below or comments about my tips. Do you feel they are practical? 

Fighting the Good Fight of PCOS

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Things have been pretty crazy around my place lately. This senior year workload has kept me pretty busy, along with having a 9 month-old and a 2 year-old! Sorry if it seems I have been absent. This week I won a big battle in my fight against PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I sat in the waiting room in excitement to speak with my doctor. 5 years ago I was in that office and she diagnosed me with the disorder. At 209lbs and struggling to find something that worked for me, it was nice to put a face on my opponent. From that moment on I was determined to do something about it and to help others as well. I knew she would be proud of the progress i made. She has been there as I have struggled over and over again, watching me feel hopeless. She has also watched me succeed.

I understand what it feels like to be frustrated, cranky, hungry, and overwhelmed in weight-loss battles. I have since lost the weight, have 2 children, and ran my best time. As of that office visit, I am officially off my Metformin medication! That is right. You can get healthy and get off some of your medications by changing your lifestyle. In this economy, who couldn’t afford to have their doctor drop a prescription or two? Think of all the pages of side-effects from medications you are on. There are a lot of medications your doctor could eliminate by your change in lifestyle. Less chemicals entering and running through your body. You take control back from the medications by becoming disciplined. Obviously you should NEVER attempt to go off a medication without your doctor’s orders. This is simply a goal you can set for yourself to motivate you for healthier living.  

You have to first understand that you are worth the time and effort. Your loved ones deserve the best you possible. Life has battles great and small. We have to have the courage and gumption to face them head on. We cannot control everything that happens to us. We can choose how to deal with them and do our best to prevent damage. Respond. Do not let life keep you juggling with symptoms health-related or in general. Use what power you do have to make the best decisions you can. I personally believe that God will handle the rest. At the end of the day, come what may, I want to know I did what I could and didn’t sit idle. What battles have you won? Please share and encourage others to keep pushing! Feel free to comment or share a story below!! 

Moment of Greatness

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   School has started at Miami University in Oxford. I have to say how excited I am at the prospect of graduating in the Spring! Someone once told me that the world of people who need help is just waiting on me to graduate. Though I doubt my influence will be so great, my care for people is pretty huge. Sometimes I feel like a Leslie Knope of health and fitness at heart. Though I may not be able to reach the whole world, I think it could still feel like a moment of greatness for me.

 Think of some favorite moments in your life. Think of what you see, how you felt, the smells, and who you were with. To me, great moments in my life involved great food, great company, and sharing a special moment. We can create more positive moments in our life by changing perspective and by setting the stage. It may not always work, but the effort in the end pays off.

What is the last great meal you ate? I mean a meal that made you utter unintelligible words. It may have been a while, or you may not have had that chance. When you use that standard and compare it to what you have been eating, you see there have been a lot of wasted bites. If budget or time tends to of concern, plan it out and work on your confidence in the kitchen. Practice using proper utensils and following basic recipes. Otherwise, keep an ear out for some great places and try new things, maybe once a week or so. Make food an adventure. 

How does the discovery of being down a size in a store’s fitting room make you feel? Embarrassingly, I dance and jump about. Maybe you experienced being able to move around better than you used to. How does it make you feel to do more with less effort? These things come with moderation in eating and exercise. We know this, but the discipline to keep at a lifestyle of it can seem daunting. Even if your goal is to maintain, keep a goal to keep motivated. 

Putting in the effort can help you create great moments like this. Moments you can reflect on later as moments of greatness. You don’t have to invent something or lead a group of people to achieve greatness. You just simply have to do the most you can with what you have.  I am sure when I graduate it will feel like a moment of greatness, simply because I will have worked so hard to get there. Your moments of greatness did not end and neither will have mine, unless we choose to not change or press forward. Allowing moments to be great and being great in a moment might seem unrelated, but they both involve effort and standard you set for yourself. So get out there and have a great day!