Who’s ready to seriously kick some butt this week? I am! To be honest, last week was a little rough for me. I had a lot going on at work, it was the first week back at school after Spring Break, and I just didn’t have any motivation to run. None. I got in two runs the entire week. Neither of which were over 3 miles and both of which were without a care in the world for pace. Now, I am not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing. From time to time and I think it is important for runners or anyone who works out regularly to take a week of easier workouts so you can come back the next week stronger than ever. There are two key things in that last sentence. First, a week, as in only one week. If a break goes any longer than that, it can be hard to get back on the running wagon. Secondly, easier workouts, as in you are still doing something, but just not at the same level as your normal training. If you take a complete hiatus, it is that much harder to get going again. Remember, My First Step in the Hardest post. That is exactly what I am talking about.

So my training plan wasn’t exactly on point last week, but I did have some very special things happen that motivated me to take on this next week stronger than ever.

For starters, I had a nice little weekend getaway to see some amazing athletes race. These athletes are the fastest, strongest, most beautiful creatures I have ever seen race. Although they have a mind of their own and aren’t always the most predictable, they are respectable for the sheer determination they put into each and every race. Yes. I am talking about horses. I was invited to Los Angeles for the weekend to watch some family friends’ horse race at Santa Anita. We were lucky enough to go see some of their other horses workout in the morning, and then went to the races for the afternoon. The entire time I was watching these beautiful thoroughbreds run, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between runners and race horses. We both run because we can. We both put our heart and soul into every workout. We both sweat like crazy. We both want to win. And we both get put out to pasture when our glory days are over. It is humbling to think that racing is all these amazing animals live for and even then, they still have setbacks. But with will and determination, both species can pull through. That is what is on my mind this next week.

IMG_9877The next motivating thing arrived in my mailbox on Friday. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time and it might just be the best medal hanger to ever be created. I ordered this about a month ago and have been checking my mail every day in hopes that it would be waiting for me. Maybe it took so long to come for a reason, because when it did, was exactly when I needed it. Going through all of my old medals and hanging them up one by one on my shiny new hanger, reminded me of every race and the story that went behind it. Whether it was a story of victory, a story of defeat, a story of training my ass off, a story of traveling to a destination, or a story of being with family, friends, and motivating people, each medal was a flashback to why I have loved running for so many years.  Not to mention, I really do have a thing for beer (maybe not PBR, I prefer a craft IPA, but in a pinch… PBR fits the bill). I thought it was fitting and reminds me that I can have an occasional beer, and drink it, too, when I balance it with a solid running plan. So now my medals are out of the drawer they were in and hanging on my bedroom wall for me to see and be inspired by everyday. I can’t wait to put some 2015 bling on it!

How do you get motivated when you need it most?

Foam Roller: Friend or Foe?

The OPTP Pro-Roller on the right is what I use. Image credit.

The OPTP Pro-Roller on the right is what I use. Image credit.

The foam roller and I have always had a love-hate relationship. Sometimes I just want to roll around on that guy all day long, other times I hide him in the laundry room, not to reappear for weeks at a time, but it is mostly the latter. Earlier this week I was doing laundry and saw the old guy shoved away in the corner. I decided it was time to give it a try again and was quickly reminded why I stashed him in the laundry room in the first place. That sh*t hurts! Who ever came up with the foam roller is obviously sadistic. The only problem is, I know how amazing it is supposed to be for recovery and want to make this relationship work. This old body can use all the help it can get. So, what is a girl to do?

I have been seeing some social media buzz lately from other runners who have committed to the “30-Day Foam-Rolling Challenge.” The general consensus is that dedicated rolling really has improved their recovery, flexibility, and sore muscles. The action of rolling your tight muscles back and forth on a dense roll of foam is supposed to resemble a deep tissue massage and help break-up scar tissue and improve flexibility. The fancy term for it is self-myofascial release. (Here is a great article on what exactly it is and how it works).

Since it is touted as one of the best ways to recover and heal sore muscles, what is there to lose? After talking it out with my foam roller, we decided we are in this together. 30 days. That’s it. If I still want to throw the guy off my deck at the end of the 30 days, at least I gave it a fighting chance. Here’s the plan in a nutshell:

  • 10 minutes of foam rolling every single day for the next 30 days.
  • Spend 1 minute rolling each side of the following:
    • Quads – this one I actually like
    • Glutes – this one isn’t too bad either
    • Adductor – this is where I start to cringe
    • IT Band – more cringeworthy
    • Hip Flexors – most cringeworthy (which probably stems from an old running injury I had in high school)

It’s been a whole 2 days since I started and unfortunately, I am not seeing any changes in my attitude toward this torture system yet. I’m going to be consistent with this and will give you a recap of our relationship at the end of each week in the Week-end Rewind. In the meantime, let me know how you roll. Do you love or hate it?

I don’t know about you, but I eat broccoli at least once a week. Right now, you might be reliving images from your childhood. You are sitting at the dinner table trying to figure out how to sneak your limp, un-flavorful broccoli to the family pooch sitting at your feet. If this rings a bell, you know that broccoli gets a bad wrap with kids, who then become conditioned to dislike it as they grow older. If you are a broccoli skeptic, do me a favor. Go buy some organic broccoli, break it into florets, toss it with olive oil and salt, roast it on a sheet pan in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes until it starts to turn a little golden brown, and enter into the world of deliciously wonderful broccoli.

Not only is broccoli one of my favorite veggies because it is delicious, but it is a nutrient-rich, cancer-fighting powerhouse. It is loaded with potassium, folate, iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, and B6. Plus it has a healthy dose of sulforaphane, which is thought to combat prostate, liver, lung, bladder, skin, and stomach cancer. It is also high in fiber to fill you up. If that wasn’t enough to get you grabbing for the nearest broccoli stalk, additional research has been found it also helps:

  • Prevent osteoarthritis
  • Protect skin against damaging UV light
  • Reverse diabetes heart damage
  • Detoxify air pollutants in the body

If you’re bored with broccoli or still a little hesitant to try the veggie that haunted your childhood, I’ve got a recipe for you. Not only are the tops of broccoli wonderful, but don’t overlook the leftover stalks. They are just as nutritious as the florets and can be transformed into something delicious that doesn’t resemble broccoli in the slightest…broccoli fritters. Even the most adverse person to broccoli would come back for seconds of these.


Broccoli Fritters

Ingredients:IMG_9859

  • 3-4 leftover broccoli stalks, trimmed of any extra leaves
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg white, whisked together
  • 1/4 cup almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Coconut oil for cooking (I use Tropical Traditions)

Directions:

  1. Shred your broccoli with a hand grater or shredding attachment on a food processor. Do the same with the onion. (I highly suggest using a food processor if you have one.)
  2. Place shredded broccoli and onion in a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth and squeeze! There is a lot of moisture in the broccoli and onion that you want to remove so it cooks up nice and golden brown.
  3. Place the squeezed shredded broccoli and onion into a large bowl.
  4. Add the egg, almond flour, salt, and pepper and mix well.
  5. Place a large pan over medium-high heat and add about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.
  6. Once coconut oil is melted, take a couple of tablespoons of the mixture in your hand and form a patty. Add into the pan.
  7. Cook the fritters for about five minutes on each side until golden brown.
  8. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any of the extra oil. Sprinkle with a little additional salt and enjoy.

These fritters are great on their own, but they are also amazing topped with some crispy prosciutto and eggs for a more complete meal. Give these a try and let me know if you have converted to a broccoli lover! I also want to hear how else you enjoy this powerhouse of a veggie.

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Week-end Rewind: 3/16 – 3/22

The first few days of spring definitely did not disappoint in Lake Tahoe. Although it is now raining outside. Not sure what that is all about. We don’t get any snow all winter and now Mother Nature wants to give us some precipitation the first weekend of spring. Whatever. No complaints here. Anyways, beautiful weather means great runs outside! It was also Spring Break this week, so no school for me. Although, I have to say that Spring Break doesn’t have the same glamor as it did in my undergrad years. Now, it’s just no class for the week but work and everything else continues on.

With the nice weather, I did a 4 mile run this weekend which I know doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is the furthest I have run without stopping in over a year. I know with persistence that same 4 mile run will one day feel like a warm-up, like it did in the past, but for where I am right now with my fitness, it is a personal victory. Time to party! Just kidding. I’m still on the wagon getting some healthy habits in order, but I did celebrate in my own little way.

I bought myself a new running watch this week! I have never had a fancy schmancy running watch with more than a timer and lap feature, so this is a new-fangled-gadget to me (as my dad would say). It even has GPS! Now, I am not sure how well that GPS will work on the trails in Tahoe, but I will soon find out when what snow there is, melts. In the meantime though, I am looking forward to using it in town to keep track of pace and mileage. Long gone are the days of mapping every single run in gmap-pedometer. Yes!

IMG_9850After doing some research, I settled on the Garmin Forerunner 15. I elected not to purchase the accompanying heart rate monitor or footpod to track treadmill runs (as the reviews for those weren’t so great), but I would love to hear from any of you that might have this watch or had a Garmin in the past. What do you think? Pros? Cons? So far, it seems pretty simple and easy to use, and I am looking forward to taking it for some test runs next week. Not related to functionality, I like that it isn’t super big and bulky like some other GPS watches I looked at. And added bonus… it matches my current running shoes! Can you tell that I like that color?

Speaking of runs next week, I am looking forward to hitting them hard after this past week felt pretty good. As frustrating as it can be, it is also fun in the early stages of getting back in to running to feel yourself progress. What once were really hard runs, are now enjoyable. As a recap, here’s what this past week looked like for me.

  • Monday 3/16 – 3 mile run with the dog, which means lots of periodic stopping to sniff. Toward the end of the run, she almost got attacked by a wolf dog, it was seriously part wolf, so that got our adrenaline pumping. Strength routine after run.
  • Tuesday 3/17 – 2 mile run on the treadmill before work.
  • Wednesday 3/18 – Rest day, but I did have a nice 2.5 mile walk on the golf course with my mom after work.
  • Thursday 3/19 – 2.75 mile run on the golf course with the dog. The tables were turned from the wolf dog incident on Monday and this time, she almost got a cat on a leash, followed by a yappy bichon. First of all, who walks a cat on a leash? Secondly, she doesn’t like little fluffy dogs. Not sure why. Jack Russells will be Jack Russells. Strength routine after run.
  • Friday 3/20 – 2 mile run on the treadmill before work.
  • Saturday 3/21 – 4 mile run in the morning. Perfect, cool weather and felt pretty good.
  • Sunday 3/22 – Rest, but 2.5 mile walk on the golf course.

I’m ready to hit next week running (literally). What is on your agenda?

This time of year, when the running trails are still covered in snow, I often find myself running on a very popular paved path that meanders past the million dollar homes on the shore of Lake Tahoe. I have been running this same path for almost twenty years and while it has mostly stayed the same (with the exception of a few new obscene mega-mansions), there is one thing that has definitely changed, the people I pass. Not just in the sense that I pass new people on the path all the time, but in that there has been a noticeable attitude shift in the majority of these people.

I live in a small town (about 8,500 year-round residents) and one of the things that I love so much about living in a small town is the sense of community. To me, that means running into people you know at the grocery store every single time, especially when you really don’t want to see anyone. It means people finding out about your personal life, both good and bad, before you can blink an eye. It means the community coming together to support one another in times of need. And it means passing people on the street, path, or trail and always at least acknowledging their presence.

Maybe it is because I grew up with a small town mentality, but I always expect to smile and nod at people I pass, especially other runners. And if I am not in the middle of a strenuous tempo run and sucking some serious wind, I also usually add in a “good morning/afternoon.” But lately, I am lucky if I get the same in return from 25% of the people I pass. Have things changed? Or are these just transplants/visitors that might not have the same mindset from wherever they came from? Am I the one that is crazy and all these non-acknowledgers are the norm? Or have things seriously changed over the past few years?

To test if I was just being hypersensitive or if people really were ignoring others they passed, I decided to play a little game on my four mile run this morning. I mean, why not play games in your head while you are running? It makes things that much more entertaining. Out of the 17 people I passed traveling in the opposite direction on the path this morning, whether running, walking, or bicycling, only two looked my way and smiled when I passed them. Two! Seriously. I just don’t get it. Unless you are an olympian with laser focus in the middle of a crazy hard training run or engaged in a serious conversation on your phone (which I see a lot, too), wouldn’t it be common courtesy to look at those you pass and smile, nod, or raise a hand as a slight waving gesture? What has happened to “we are all in this together”? Isn’t smiling good for your health and the health of others around you? Don’t runners want to be more healthy? I am pretty sure that is why we run in the first place, but I could be wrong.

I want to hear from YOU. To everyone else that might stumble across this blog, no matter where you are located in the world, what do you do? Do you smile, nod, or ignore those that you pass when you are on a run? What do you feel is proper runnerquette and why?

I always see the biggest, most beautiful pieces of salmon at my local butcher that I just can’t resist. After getting it home and cooking it up with dillicious sauce I usually end up with quite a bit leftover that I don’t know what to do with. I am not a huge fan of eating leftover fish “as is,” so I am always looking for ways to recreate it. With salmon, it usually ends up in scrambled eggs, wrapped in nori, or as salmon cakes.

This weekend I had some leftover salmon and made up a batch of salmon cakes that are just too good not to share. You would never know that you are eating last night’s salmon because they take on a whole different character that almost makes them better than the fresh dinner you had 24 hours earlier. Not only are the salmon cakes amazing on their own, but the salmon cake leftovers are awesome under a poached egg the next morning.

Before I get to the recipe for salmon cakes, let’s talk about running. It feels like summer here in Lake Tahoe. Today, it got up to 61 degrees and the bulbs are starting to break through the earth and turn into beautiful flowers. As much as I like the weather for running, I am really hopeful we will get some more snow before the winter is over. We’ve hardly had any the past three years and I feel like I just keep donating my money to the local ski resort for my season pass that I hardly use. (End rant)

Anyways, the good weather is nice for one thing. Getting outside and running. This week I felt pretty strong during my runs and am slowly starting to take on more mileage. Coming off a hiatus, I always have trouble sticking to the 10% rule. If you don’t know what that is, it is said that runners should never increase their total mileage for each week by more than 10% from the previous week. Doing so is supposed to gradually ease you back into it and ward off injury. For example, last week I ran a whopping 10 miles (Sunday through Saturday). Sticking by the 10% rule, I should not have run more than 11 miles this week (10% of 10 miles is 1 mile, so 10 miles +1 mile = 11 miles). As much as I wanted to run today, I really held back so that I wouldn’t go over any more than I already had (#runnerproblems). So here is what my week looked like:

  • Monday 3/9 – Rest. Really, really sore from strength training the day before.
  • Tuesday 3/10 – Easy 2 mile run. Still really sore from strength training on Sunday. Trying to get this old body back in shape is NOT the same as it was when I was in high school!
  • Wednesday 3/11 – Strong 2.5 mile run. I really wanted to go further on this one, but held back.
  • Thursday 3/12 – Rest.
  • Friday 3/13 – 2 mile run in the morning before work so I could walk with my mom in the afternoon. Glad I planned this out because we were able to take the dogs to the beach in the afternoon and it was beautiful!
  • Saturday 3/14 – 3.5 mile run in the morning. It was cool and the perfect weather for running. Although I felt pretty strong, my legs were definitely heavy the last mile or so.
  • Sunday 3/15 – Rest. Tried to make it through my Yoga for Runners DVD but only got to about 15 minutes or so. For some reason, I can’t stand yoga. It is sooooo boring. How do people do it? I am hoping I will get through the whole DVD one day and then be able to provide you with a review. In the meantime, the struggle is real.

That pretty much sums up my week of training. How was your week?

Okay, now for the fun stuff. Salmon cake recipe time!


Salmon CakesIMG_9808

Ingredients:

  • Leftover baked salmon (I had about 6 oz. for this recipe), flaked into small pieces
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Annie’s dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • A few dashes of Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • Coconut oil (I like Tropical Traditions)

Directions:

  1. Saute the bell pepper, onion, and celery in about 1 teaspoon of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once they start to become soft (about 5 minutes), add the Old Bay seasoning and saute a few minutes longer. Transfer to large glass bowl.
  2. Add all other ingredients to the bowl with the veggies and mix well. If the mixture looks a little too wet, add more almond flour until it reaches a consistency that will hold together (error on the conservative side when adding the almond flour, you don’t want to add too much).
  3. Wipe out the frying pan that you sauted the veggies in and melt about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Once the oil has melted, scoop about 2-3 tablespoons of the salmon mixture into your hand and form a patty. Transfer directly to the pan. Repeat until all the mixture is gone. I made 4 small patties.
  5. Cook on each side for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Be careful when flipping the salmon cakes as not to make them fall apart.
  6. Serve with whatever you want (I like roasted sweet potatoes and spicy aioli) and enjoy!

Try these out the next time you have leftover salmon, or make salmon just so you can try these. Let me know what you think in the comments section.IMG_9816

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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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?