Did you know that approximately 80% of Americans have a magnesium deficiency? No, that is not a typo. 80%. If you are one of those Americans with insufficient magnesium levels, you might not even know it. I didn’t. That is until I started taking a magnesium supplement on a regular basis and felt a gazillion times better than my old self. All the sudden things that used to bother me, like muscle cramps while running and hitting a 3 o’clock afternoon slump, started to disappear. But that’s not why I decided to give it a try.

I decided to try out magnesium because I was having a hard time falling asleep at night. On nights I have class at UNR, I get out of school late, have to drive 45 minutes over a mountain pass, and by the time I get home, I just want to sleep. But I could’t. It seemed like it took me forever to unwind and actually fall asleep. That’s when I started to look for natural calming remedies that weren’t dependent or addictive and I came across a suggestion to try magnesium.

I did some research on magnesium and found tons of reputable sources that stated its benefits and why it is so important to over 300 of our bodily functions. Magnesium is essential for your heart, muscles, bones, and kidneys. Additionally, magnesium is an anti-inflammatory mineral and helps fight things like high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and constipation. The recommended daily amount is 310 – 320 milligrams for women and 400 – 420 milligrams for men; however, most of us fall incredibly short of this number and it is hard to get enough without supplementing.

IMG_9797After I started to supplement with magnesium citrate, I noticed some pretty kick-ass benefits after just a couple of weeks. I fall asleep and stay asleep better, have sustained energy levels throughout the day that carry me through work, running, and school, don’t have random muscle cramps in the middle of a run, and my bowel movements are more pleasant than ever. TMI? Sorry, but it’s true.

The supplement that works well for me is Natural Calm. I like the unflavored version and take 2 teaspoons every night when I am getting ready to go to bed. I simply put the powdered magnesium citrate into a glass and add about 2 ounces of warm water. After it has fizzed and dissolved in the warm water (about 45 seconds), I fill the rest of the glass with cold water and drink up. It is like you are drinking plain old tap water with a slight taste that is not that noticeable at all.

If you aren’t that hot about adding a new supplement to your diet, you can always try to incorporate lots more of magnesium-rich foods to reap the benefits. Some of the best options include:

  • Almonds
  • Avocados – My fave!
  • Bananas
  • Black beans
  • Cashews
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Swiss chard

While I encourage you to give magnesium a try, do your own research and check with your physician. If you are looking for some more information on the benefits of magnesium, check out some of these sources:

YouTube – Dr. Josh Axe

CNN – “Magnesium, an invisible deficiency that could be harming your health”

University of Maryland Medical Center

Comment below if you take a magnesium supplement and have any other benefits you would like to share. Has it helped your running performance?

I can’t believe the semester is halfway done, and am halfway done with my MBA. After this semester I will only have two semesters left. Weird how I am already missing the thought of being in school. Really. Weird. Anyways, with the halfway point of the semester comes midterms. On top of working the usual 40 – 50 hours a week and trying to get my workouts in, the thought of midterms is downright stressful. I know work won’t wait for midterms to be over and getting my butt back into shape won’t wait for midterms either, so with a big test looming over my head tomorrow, today was a bit of a struggle for me. So what were my options?

I thought about skipping the 2 1/2 mile run I had planned for this afternoon and using Flexible Discipline to fit it in later in the week. But let’s be honest, I knew that I would probably have spent that 30 minutes I could have been running procrastinating on Facebook or writing this blog post anyways. So, I got out there, ran, and as per usual, was incredibly happy and filled with a sense of satisfaction afterwards (despite my nagging hip, but that’s a different story…).

While I was running, I was thinking of other ways to make up some time and thought about ordering takeout from my favorite local rotisserie. (PSA: If you have never been to T’s in Incline Village, you are missing out. Seriously. So good.) T’s sounded amazing, but I knew I would just want one of their to-die-for burritos and that doesn’t exactly fit into my Whole30 plan. I thought about what I had at home in the fridge and decided to cook up one of my favorite recipes from my mom growing up.

When my mom was younger she owned a pretty successful catering company, and luckily, the apple didn’t fall far from that tree. I love to cook and love using her old family recipes. While I have no desire to go into catering any time soon, this is one of those recipes I make all the time. It is simple, delicious, fast, healthy, and completely gourmet. After all, when you are running your own catering business, you need all of the above. On top of that, there is something about the combination of chicken, raspberries, green onions, and a slight hint of vinegar that make this so incredibly mouth-watering. It is seriously love on a plate. And you can love it even more when it only takes 15 minutes to make.

Chicken Strips with Raspberry Vinegar Sauce

Ingredients:IMG_9770

  • 8 to 12 oz. fresh chicken tenders
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 6 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons honey (omit if you are doing Whole30)
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt butter or coconut oil in frying pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add chicken and saute until cooked through (about 3 minutes per side). Transfer cooked chicken to a plate.
  4. Add broth and vinegar to frying pan. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring up the browned bits.
  5. Add onions and honey (if using), then half the berries.
  6. Cook until sauce thickens (add cornstarch or tapioca starch to thicken if desired) and berries begin to fall apart, about 2 minutes.
  7. Return chicken to sauce, heat through, about 2 minutes.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Transfer to dinner plate with some of the sauce and remaining berries.

I also roasted up some broccoli to go with this and am feeling good and fueled with lots of time left in the evening to hit the books. Now I just need to stop procrastinating on this post and get cracking.

What are some of your meals to save time on crammed weeknights? Comment below.

IMG_9763

After we finally got some snow in Lake Tahoe last weekend, this past week warmed up nicely and allowed both me and my crazy jack russell terrier to get outside for some runs. It was a breath of fresh air (literally) after being tortured by the dreadmill for the past week. I was even able to get outside for walks with my mom on a couple of days this past week. It’s amazing that she had half of her lung removed just over three weeks ago and is able to get outside and walk during her recovery. It is a true testament to her determination and strength, and a reminder that I should never take any run for granted. Some people are not as lucky.

Although my old-competitive-runner-self is still frustrated with low mileage and legs that feel like lead, I know that with consistent discipline I will get back to where I once was. While it is hard for me to get excited by 2 and 3 mile runs, I did put them in as scheduled on my training plan and feel accomplished for continuing to take strides toward getting back in to fighting form. Here’s the week-end rewind:

  • Monday 3/2 – Run/walk 3 miles on treadmill. Total run distance was 2 miles at 5.5 mph.
  • Tuesday 3/3 – Rest.
  • Wednesday 3/4 – Run 2.5 miles outside. I have no idea what my pace was. I didn’t bring my watch and just enjoyed the time outdoors with my dog running, even if she did want to stop every tenth of a mile to stop and smell something (#runningwithdogproblems). I followed up my run with some free weights and strength training.
  • Thursday 3/5 – Rest.
  • Friday 3/6 – I had every intention of running after work, but decided to go for a nice walk with my mom instead.
  • Saturday 3/7 – Run 2.0 miles outside with some random strides mixed in. It felt good to feel my legs move fast again. After that, I joined my mom for a nice walk on the golf course. It was a beautiful day and great company.
  • Sunday 3/8 – Run 3.2 miles outside with the pup. Once again, I didn’t bring my watch. While I am just trying to get some miles back in my legs, I don’t care to worry about my pace. It is nice to run without having to worry about that and just be able to enjoy it for what it is. Followed up my run with some free weights and strength training.

On top of getting outside to run, I also had another good week of Whole30 eating. Since I started eating Whole30 five weeks ago I have noticed much more consistent energy throughout the day, sleep like a baby, and focus. I am not sure how long I will continue on the Whole30, but plan on taking it day by day. I also perfected a sauce this week that I have been putting on just about anything and everything from sweet potatoes to meatballs to salmon. Dill is a completely under-appreciated herb. Why is that? It’s bright, fresh, citrusy. and this dill-icious sauce is the bomb. Seriously. Whip up a batch and slather it on anything that could use a little more love.

Dill-icious SauceIMG_9734

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Mix everything together and allow to chill in your refrigerator for a few hours before using.
  2. Put it on anything and everything. My favorite is to slather it on a piece of raw salmon or chicken and then bake in the over on 400 degrees until the meat is cooked through. It keeps whatever you are cooking super moist and the cooked sauce is dill-icious!
  3. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. The sauce is even better the next day after the flavors have had a chance to get all personal with each other.

Make up a batch and let me know what else you put it on. The possibilities are endless…

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Dill-icious Sauce on salmon about to go in the oven.

There are two different types of cuisine that I seem to make over and over and over again, Italian and Asian. Italian is a given for me, being that I come from a big, crazy Italian family where every single family get-together revolves around food. Whether it is my aunt’s amazing antipasto or making gnocchi from scratch with the whole family, there is always food involved. Always. Asian on the other hand, I am not sure why I am so drawn to this type of cuisine. I didn’t grow up with it by any means, but there is something about the combination of garlic, ginger, green onions, sesame oil, and a little bit of spice that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Traditionally, both of these cuisines entail a lot of grains, whether it be a big plate of pasta or rice. Since i started eliminating inflammatory foods from my diet, including my beloved pasta, I have had to look for ways to incorporate these flavors into healthier meals so I don’t feel completely deprived. After all, I strongly believe that food should be something that you enjoy and fuels not only your body, but your soul. This is a little harder to do with Italian, as I strongly believe that there is no point in recreating grainless versions of traditional family recipes. And don’t get me wrong, I will NEVER pass up an home cooked family Italian recipe. But, I have definitely taken a look at how I can still enjoy the flavors in a different, more healthy package. For purposes of this post, the package happens to be potstickers in the form of a melt-in-your-mouth, umami burger.

Now if you search the Internet for “paleo potsticker burger,” you will come up with various different variations, all of which center on the same premise and definitely inspired this creation. After making this over and over I have found what I like best and I have to say, I don’t miss doughy potstickers at all. To make things even better, these are super simple and fast to whip up and perfect for a healthy work night meal.

Potsticker Burgers and Slaw (makes 4 burgers)IMG_9683

For the burgers:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup prepared slaw (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil for cooking

For the slaw:

  • 1 small head of green cabbage, shredded
  • 5 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 c. homemade mayo (good recipe here)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon coconut water vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • pinch of cayenne

Directions:

  1. Start with the coleslaw. Whisk everything in a large bowl except for the cabbage and carrots. After your dressing is mixed well, add the cabbage and carrots. Mix until all pieces are evenly coated.
  2. Transfer 1/2 a cup of the slaw mixture to another large bowl where you will mix your turkey burger ingredients.
  3. Cover the remaining slaw and place in the fridge to sit while you make your burgers.
  4. Add all burger ingredients (except for the coconut oil) to the bowl with the 1/2 cup of slaw. Use your hands and mix well. Don’t be afraid to get dirty!
  5. Divide your meat mixture into four even portions and form into burger patties.
  6. Add the coconut oil to a large skillet over medium heat.
  7. After coconut oil is melted, add your burger patties and cook for about five to seven minutes on each side until cooked through. You can also do this on a grill if that strikes your fancy.
  8. Once the burgers are done, top with mountains of slaw and enjoy!

Best Online Training Plans

Example of what my training plan looks like on paper. Note everything is in PENCIL for when life's hiccups cause you to rearrange.

Example of what my training plan looks like on paper. Note everything is in PENCIL for when life’s hiccups cause you to rearrange things.

Remember my post on Flexible Discipline? Well, last week I definitely had to take a dose of my own medicine. Despite best-laid plans, the team I was assembling for the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey decided to pull out of the twelve-person, 178-mile relay. We were four runners short and we made a group decision to wait until next year when we didn’t all have so much going on in our lives. Being a little bummed about that, we decided that we definitely had enough team members for the seven-person, 72-mile Lake Tahoe Relay, which happens to be two weekends later than the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey. The Lake Tahoe Relay is a race I have done with coworkers five different times and we always have a good time. So regrouping and refocusing, the Lake Tahoe Relay is now in my sights.

Being the type A personality that I am when it comes to training plans, I immediately reworked my training schedule for the next 3½ months to fit the Lake Tahoe Relay. Each person on the team runs anywhere from 9 to 13 mile legs, and half marathon training plans have worked really well for me in the past. Over the years, I have picked up quite a few variations of the half marathon training plan, some duds and some really successful ones, but I always seem to come back to what I think it is the absolute best, those from Hal Higdon.

The training plans found on Hal Higdon’s website have helped me through two marathons and countless half marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, and various other distances. Not only are the plans structured well and nonsensical, there are also different levels for novice, intermediate, advanced, personal best, seniors, Boston qualifiers… the list goes on. And to boot, the plans are all free! Most running websites like Runner’s World and others try and charge $20 or more per plan. Don’t ever waste your money on a training plan when there are great resources like Hal Higdon, who has been doing this since the ‘60’s. Although you can purchase an interactive app on your phone for $9.99, it isn’t necessary if you just want a PDF version of the plan. Hal has trained some of the best runners on this planet and he shares all of his experience on his site for free. Check it out. You can thank me later.

So back to training for the Lake Tahoe Relay…with 3 ½ months out, there are a little less than 15 weeks till race day. The Intermediate Half Marathon Training Plan that I will be following is a 12-week schedule, so I have three extra weeks to work on my base conditioning, which I can really use since it has been so long since I trained for a race. Below is what my schedule will look like as I get race ready, which is pretty close to the training plan on Hal’s website. I modify some of the training days based on school and other obligations, but this is what will work for me over the course of the next 15 weeks.

LTRRaceCalendar

With everything laid out, there is only one thing left to do…run. That is where flexible discipline comes into play to stay on track when life happens. It will and it always does, but having a good plan in place helps me stay focused and on track when I have a goal in my sights. What are some of your favorite training plans you use to prepare for a race and stay motivated?

Get Spiralized: Zoodles

It’s still warm and sunny here in Lake Tahoe. As much as I wish we had some snow to hit up the slopes and end our drought, I have to say that I don’t mind getting outdoors after work instead of slaving away on the treadmill. Today I did an easy 3 mile jog along Tahoe’s East shore above Skunk Harbor. The beaches were empty and it was an absolutely perfect afternoon.

IMG_9719All the while I was running, I was thinking about dinner when I got home and using my favorite kitchen gadget, the spiralizer. If you don’t own a spiralizer, I would highly encourage you purchase one. They are inexpensive and make everything more fun. I mean, who doesn’t love food that has been spiralized? It brings back warm memories of greasy, salty curly fries. The kind you got in college at 2 o’clock in the morning after a night out with friends. Although curly fries are a thing of the past for me, this spiralized zucchini (aka zoodles) and macadamia nut pesto gives me warm fuzzies. Top it with chicken, shrimp, salmon, or…more pesto. What are you waiting for? Get spiralized.

Zoodles and Macadamia Nut Pesto (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large zucchini
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (I like Tropical Traditions)
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from half a lemon

Directions:

  1.  You want to start off by making the pesto because the zoodles take hardly any time at all. Toast the macadamia nuts in a pan over medium heat. Toss them every so often and toast until you can start to smell their delicious nuttiness and they are golden brown.
  2. Pull out your food processor or if you prefer, a mortar and pestle. Toss in the toasted macadamia nuts, peeled garlic clove, salt, and pepper. Pulse (or grind) until you have a coarse mixture.
  3. Add the basil and lemon juice. Turn on the food processor (or keep grinding) and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it is a good, thick consistency and holds together well. You might have to scrape the sides of the food processor down a few times.
  4. Set the finished pesto aside and try not to eat it all while you make the zoodles.
  5. Spiralize your zoodles (or you can also use a mandolin with a julienne attachment, but you won’t get the fun, long zoodles).
  6. Heat a large pan over medium and add the coconut oil.
  7. Once the coconut oil is melted, add the zoodles and sauté until they start to turn bright green. I like mine a little on the crunchy side, but you can cook them as long as you like.
  8. Add as much pesto as you like (I typically have about 1/2 of the pesto leftover for the next day) and toss with the zoodles until well incorporated.
  9. Serve with your favorite protein and enjoy!

IMG_9709       IMG_9721

Try these and let me know what you think or if you have any other variations. The possibilities are endless…

Do you remember me telling you how beautiful my hike up Tunnel Creek was yesterday? Well, today looked a lot more like February is supposed to in Lake Tahoe. I woke up and looked outside to see snow falling and I knew that if I was going to get a run in today, it was going to be me and my treadmill. Feeling pretty sore after yesterday’s butt-kicking workout, I decided to take it pretty easy and did some intervals of 7 minutes of jogging, followed by 3 minutes of walking, and repeating 4 times.

After my workout and it being a lazy Sunday morning, I decided to cook up one of my favorite breakfast recipes, which also has a good nutrient profile for post-runs. I was originally inspired by these Rutabaga Egg Nests from PaleOMG, but prefer it with sweet potato and I finish the eggs in the oven to keep the sweet potato from burning.

Baked Sweet Potato Egg Nests (this serves one but you can multiply for as many mouths as you need to feed)

Ingredients:IMG_9679

  • 1 small sweet potato or yam
  • ¼ yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (I like Tropical Traditions)
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Turn oven on to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. While the oven is preheating, grate your sweet potato on the large side of a box grater. After you have worked up a sweat grating the sweet potato, do the same with the onion.
  3. Add the coconut oil to a large nonstick frying pan. After it has melted, add the sweet potato, onion, and salt/pepper to taste (potatoes love salt, don’t be stingy here).
  4. Cook over medium/high heat stirring regularly until the onion is translucent and the sweet potatoes are starting to turn light golden brown.
  5. Transfer the sweet potato and onion mixture to an oven safe baking dish.
  6. Make a little nest in the potatoes for the eggs.
  7. Crack open your eggs and drop them into their little nests.
  8. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the eggs no longer jiggle when you give them a little shake.

Try this for breakfast, or even dinner, and let me know what you think. Also, make sure to follow my blog for more practical running tips and healthy recipes that give you the fuel you need to hit your stride.

Today was one of those beautiful Tahoe days where being outdoors was a given. I decided to hike one of my favorite trails that I was first introduced to in x-country running in high school. We fondly referred to it as the “death hill,” for there was one area in particular where our coaches used to make us do hill repeats, over, and over, and over. I can’t run it the same way I used to in high school, but even a hike up it will still make you suck some serious wind. So, why would you do this for fun you ask? Because the views are amazing and you might just find a monkey in the woods.

IMG_9685

Monkey Rock enjoying the view of Lake Tahoe.

Tunnel Creek Trail

Getting there: park by the Tunnel Creek Café, located on the East end of Incline Village. Walk behind the Café and follow the paved road behind it that goes up and heads South. The paved road ends in a few hundred yards and gives way to a Forest Service gate. You will see the sign for the trailhead and a new sign saying that access is going to be $1 for hikers and $2 for mountain bikers starting Summer 2015. What is the Forest Service coming to? Charging for people to access Tunnel Creek? I don’t agree with this, but oh well. Moving on.

From there, you are on a trail that will be flat … for a little bit. After a mile or so, you will come to the new post where you are supposed to self-pay and another Forest Service gate. Walk around it and after a few hundred yards, you will pass the single track trail on the left that is the “death hill.” If you take the single track, it will meet back up with the main trail in a few more hundred yards, it is basically a really steep shortcut. If that’s your thing, go for it. At the top of the single track, go to the left and up to some rocks and you might just stumble upon Monkey Rock.

If you don’t take the shortcut, you will continue to go up until you reach a couple of wooden posts on the left side of the trail (a little over a quarter of a mile or so). This is also where the single track meets up with the main trail. Follow the trail up and to the left. There you will find Mr. Monkey.

Over the years, an ear and some nostrils have been carved in him. Rumor has it that an Incline Village local was going through a really tough divorce and his outlet was hiking up to Monkey Rock. I guess he wanted to make a friend in the monkey by giving him a more distinct face. Who knows.

If you want to continue on the main trail, you can continue to go for miles and miles. Although the trail starts at lake level, by the time you get to about 2.5 miles the road is covered with snow and ice. With the ridiculously weak winter Lake Tahoe has been getting, who knows how long the trail will be covered, but that is where we decided to turn around today. In the summer, you can take the trail all the way to Marlette Lake, which is one of my absolute favorite spots around Tahoe. Maybe after things have thawed a bit…

IMG_9697

View of Lake Tahoe from 1.5 miles up Tunnel Creek Trail.

That’s one of my favorite trails to enjoy, whether it is for hiking, running, or mountain biking. What is one of your favorite trails to get out on? Leave a comment or share on Twitter.

IMG_9706

We found a snow cover trail about 2.5 miles up and decided to turn back down.

Flexible Discipline?

shutterstock_228543910 (2)I am currently a little over 14-weeks out from the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey and I am starting to feel like I bit off a little more than I can chew. When I committed to running this race (and being team captain), I was having one of those moments where I felt like I could take on the world. As runners, I think this is something that just about everyone has struggled with at one point or another. This can especially be a problem for runners coming off a hiatus. Our mind is eager to go places, but our body might not be ready to come along for the ride just yet.

Fully committed with just over 14-weeks to go, what do you do to make it to the finish line in one piece? Two words. Flexible discipline. Discipline, in that it is important to flex your willpower muscle when you would rather skip a run after a hard day of work. Flexible, in that it is essential that you listen to your body and know your realistic limits. So, how can one remain disciplined while also being flexible to achieve your goals?

Don’t be a slave to your training plan. I am probably the most guilty of this. Typically, I will plan out 3-6 months of runs and when I miss one, I feel like my whole training plan is thrown off track. This can be mentally defeating and is a sure way to get sidetracked from your goals. Sure it is great to have the structure of a schedule, but it is also important that you rest when you need to. If your training plan calls for a 10 mile run, but after 3 miles you feel a pain in your knee. Stop. Walk back to your car, call a friend to pick you up, or get off the treadmill. There is no reason for you to put your body at risk of injury if it is signaling for you to stop. Take it easy for a few days and ice that baby as much as you can.

Find a cross-training activity you enjoy. As much as we love running, let’s be honest, it can really take a toll on our joints and tendons. By finding a low-impact cross-training activity you can substitute for one or two runs a week, you will still increase your fitness without all the wear and tear from pounding the pavement. Also, if you find yourself in a scenario like the above, you will still be able to do something without feeling like you are completely taking the time off. Some of the best activities include swimming, riding a bike, or even the elliptical (yawn).

Do you have any other tips that you can share to make sure that I make it to the finish line? I would love to hear from you in the comments section.

Conquering the Dreadmill

shutterstock_229972081 (2)[3]There will come a time for every runner where for one reason or another, they need to step on the dreadmill (ahem, I mean treadmill). I have never been a fan of this tortuous device. After all, one of the reasons I feel in love with running in the first place was to get outside and closer to nature. However, when you are snowed in or travel to an area that you don’t know (or might not be the safest place to run), the treadmill is sometimes the only option.

This past week I found myself in this situation. I was staying at a hotel near UC Davis Medical Center, where my mom was undergoing surgery. If you know the area around UC Davis, you know it is not advisable for a 30-something-year-old-girl (or anyone for that matter) to go for a solo run. Knowing that I have the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey coming up in a few months, I had to find a way to get my miles in. This left me with one option, that awful, never-ending, conveyor belt, torture machine. (Fun fact: Did you know that treadmills were invented as a way to torture prisoners?)

So, what does one do to spice up those dreaded treadmill workouts? Below are some of the workouts I have found to both be effective and help the time pass.

TV Commercial Fartlek 

The word that make most people giggle and my personal favorite. If you are watching a TV show with commercials while on the treadmill, this is a fun way to mix it up in an unpredictable way. Warm up first for 10 minutes and then set into an easy jog. Every time a commercial break comes on, increase the pace by 1.0 – 2.0 mph. When the commercial break is over, resume to your normal pace.

Intervals 

These can either be run-walk intervals or run-jog intervals depending on your fitness level. Warm up and then pick a distance or a time for your hardest effort and about half of that for your recovery. For example, I will run at 6.0 mph for .25 miles and then jog at 4.5 mph for .15 miles. I will repeat this as many times as necessary to get my target miles. Note: this is also easily adaptable to hill workouts. Instead of increasing speed, you would increase the incline of the treadmill.

Pyramid

Also similar to intervals, in a pyramid workout you would gradually increase the duration or intensity of your hard effort during each interval. Once you are halfway to your target miles, you would decrease the duration or intensity gradually until complete. Think of your intervals becoming longer to the top of the pyramid and then getting shorter coming back down the other side.

By adding some regular variety to the otherwise mundane treadmill run, you will find that time goes by much more quickly and it is a great way to increase fitness. If you have other good treadmill workout ideas, please share in the comments below.

shutterstock_222191515 (2)No matter if you are an experienced runner who has taken an extended hiatus or a spring chicken looking to start a healthy routine, the first step out the door (or on the treadmill) is always the hardest. As someone who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with running for most of my life, I understand this more than I care to. Over the years, there have been times when for one reason or another, I ditched my running shoes in favor of focusing on other things. This last time I had to take the hard first step, was this past November after an 18-month breakup with running.

In the Spring of 2013, I found myself in a good routine. I was training for the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, I had lots of energy, and life was good. Then May came around. I started studying for the GMAT in hopes of being accepted into the MBA program at UNR (which I did), I realized my 3-year relationship was going nowhere, and my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. Life got complicated really quick. In between studying, stressing about my relationship, and worrying about my mom, running disappeared. It happens. Life happens.

A few months ago – with a dead-end boyfriend in the rearview mirror, a mom who is responding to treatment well, and an inspiring MBA class on Change Management – I decided it was time for running and I to go steady again. Overflowing with motivation and desire, there was only one thing standing in my way, my out-of-shape physical-self. For anyone that has experienced taking time off and then trying to start where you left off, you know just how hard it can be…especially that first step.

So, what are some tactics you can employ to get on the path to health again? For me, it is about embracing the small victories. Here are some things I do to help get me motivated:

  1. Commit to just ten minutes. That’s all. By the time I get to ten, I always want to go further.
  2. Set out running gear the night before in an unavoidable spot, like your bathroom. When I get up in the morning or home from work in the afternoon, it’s in my face and screams, ‘Go!’
  3. Plan a super-healthy breakfast everyday. It tends to set a positive tone and keeps me eating healthy all day.
  4. Keep a running log. Documenting miles everyday in a journal is rewarding and helps visualize small (and big) victories.
  5. Think of life in six months. Will I regret going for that run? No. Will I regret not going? Probably.

Those are some of the things that have helped me take the first step over and over again. Do you have any tricks you would like to share?