I’m doing the Whole30

3 Jan

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I need a reset.

I eat pretty clean most of the time, but naturally, I slack off on clean eating and workouts after big races and, like most people, around the holidays.

I felt like I was going through the motions: planning healthy meals, going to the gym, tracking everything in MyFitnessPal. I let it all slip the week leading up to Christmas and now the week in between Christmas and New Year’s.

And I’m OK with that. I believe we all need short periods of time away from the rigid tracking, the strict workouts, and even the semi-clean meals.

But I need a reset. I need to tame my sugar monster and my snack dragon. I need to amp up my workouts again. I need to be better about drinking enough water.

I want to reinvent my relationship with food. I want to clear up my skin. I want to get rid of my somewhat chronic (of late) bloating.

The Whole30 is the answer.

What is it?

The Whole30 is a 30-day clean-eating plan designed to clean up your diet and reset your cravings by cutting out foods that might be having a negative impact on your health: sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, and alcohol.

So what can you eat?

Lots and lots of protein, vegetables, and (healthy) fat. And coffee. Black coffee is allowed. (Halle-freakin’-lujah!)

And what can’t you eat?

No sugar, not even the natural stuff, and especially, no artificial sweeteners. No grains, not even the ancient ones. No beans or legumes, which means no peanuts, peanut butter, or chickpeas. No soy either. No dairy. No alcohol. No processed foods.

 

 

The Whole30 has some legit benefits–that come from eliminating, then carefully reintroducing foods that commonly cause a lot of health problems and from rebuilding your relationship with food. Consider these:

Weight loss, fewer headaches, fewer digestive problems, clearer skin, more energy, better workouts, improved sleep, fewer cravings, and a better relationship with food (i.e. more knowledge of the foods that make us feel like crap).

The Whole30 prohibits weighing yourself and tracking your calories. Its focus is on feeling good–like really, truly good–from the inside out.

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Ordinarily, I am not one to advocate for diets (or even whole lifestyles) that completely eliminate entire food groups (i.e. grains, dairy), unless it is for a specific health reason (e.g. Celiac disease, lactose intolerance). But I am fine with cleanses that last for a specific and reasonable amount of time (i.e. 30 days) and are done correctly — no shakes or supplements, just real food, quality meals, in satisfying quantities.

My friend Mindy and I, along with our incredible group at Healthy Living Blogs, are hosting a Whole30 that runs from Jan. 9 to Feb. 7.

You’ve got just enough time to prepare, and you’ll wrap up just before Valentine’s Day, so you can celebrate without feeling restricted.

We hope you’ll join us. We’ll have a private Facebook group, where participants can check in as frequently or infrequently as desired, share recipes and meal ideas, share struggles and non-scale victories, ask questions, and above all, find support and accountability. We also have a hashtag, #hlbwhole30, that you can use on social media, to help us all stick together.

Join me?

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Merry Christmas

25 Dec

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Race recap: Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon

16 Dec

It has been more than a month since Christopher and I ran the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon…

I thought I might just skip this recap. But I know I would be remiss if this recap wasn’t here in the archives.

So, here it is, abbreviated and completely from memory!

First, some notes:

My training went pretty well until about the final month.

I started getting sick Oct. 1 and cut a scheduled long run of 18 miles down to 12 miles. I felt well enough to tackle 20 miles a week later, but I experienced aches and pains through most of the run, especially from Mile 13.5 and on. I slogged through a step-back run of 13 miles Oct. 15, again with aches and pains, mostly in my left IT band. I tackled another 20 miles a week later, tired and ready to be done with training.

I started feeling really sore and fatigued the next day. I thought it was related to the long run, but I soon developed a nasty, productive cough, along with other symptoms that persisted for two weeks. I went into the doctor the Tuesday of race week to see if she could give me anything to knock it out in time for the marathon. She diagnosed me with near-pneumonia and prescribed a Z-pack of antibiotics.

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And now, the recap:

I toed the starting line feeling decent, but extremely nervous. I had not run in 2 weeks, and I had barely worked out other than my regular yoga classes and one BodyPump class. I went into it knowing it likely would be difficult, but hoping it would be wonderful after a couple of weeks of true rest for my legs.

I lined up with the 4:30 pace group and planned to stick with them as long as it felt comfortable to maintain that pace.

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Through the first several miles, I felt remarkably good. We were clocking a bit faster than our prescribed pace, but we were chatting and laughing, and I remained comfortable, so I just ignored it.

We headed north up Lincoln Memorial Drive, then back south 0n Lake Drive toward Brady Street. We ran across what is (unbeknownst to me) called the Marsupial Bridge past Lakefront Brewery and then down the brick Old World Third Street.

But around this point, I started to feel some tweaks in my knees and IT bands that, truthfully, never went away.

We ran West down Wisconsin Avenue, through the Marquette University campus, then north toward the Sherman Park neighborhood. The half marathoners turned around at the 9.5-mile mark, while the marathoners pressed on; the marathoners cross paths with each other from about Mile 11.5 to Mile 14.5 on an out-and-back stretch of Sherman Boulevard.

At about the halfway point, I started to incorporate more walking breaks. I tried to make it from aid station to aid station and just walk a bit longer leading up to and coming out of the stations.

We wound through Washington Park, then down Hawley Road toward the Miller Valley.

I saw my dad at the corner of Hawley and State, and I was sore and tired and I just threw my arms around him and lamented my pain and struggle. He told me to keep going, so I did.

The crowd of marathoners was really sparse by this point. It was very quiet and lonely, which is just terrible when you are struggling to keep your head above water.

We jogged past Miller Park and then joined the Hank Aaron State Trail for about a mile. We even did a lap around a football field just before Mile 21.

Around this point, a pair of girls sidled up along either side of me and asked if I wanted to walk and talk — and maybe run a little — with them. The three of us would go on to finish the race together, mostly walking the last 5 miles, complaining that the hills were brutal, that the course was long, that none of us was having a good race.

I saw my dad again at Mile 23 in the Third Ward.

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We pressed on past the Summerfest grounds, across Lakeshore State Park, then past Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum before we finished in Veterans Park.

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Another marathon finish in the books. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t my fastest. It wasn’t my slowest, either. (That title is reserved for my first one back in 2012.) But it was another marathon. And every single mile of the race and the training for it tells a story.

This just wasn’t my race. Maybe next year?

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It’s worth noting that the course was, in fact, almost a half-mile long. There were two errors, according to organizers, the first in the 17th mile and the second in the 20th mile. The exact amount of extra distance was 0.489583 miles. The organizers updated our times to reflect the added distance.

Distance: 26.7 miles
Duration: 5:27:03 (5:20:56 for 26.2)
Average pace: 12:14 per mile
Through 10K: 1:04:37
Through half: 2:20:59
Through 20 miles: 3:53:31

Race recap: Quad Cities Half Marathon

10 Oct

I’m back! And I have another (belated) race recap!

If you follow me on social media (my Instagram link is down and to the right on my sidebar), then you know I am training for another marathon — the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon Nov. 6. Christopher is training for it, too.

We wanted to work at least one half marathon into our training plan — just to give ourselves some incentive for logging all these miles, and to practice our race-day routines. We chose to return to the Quad Cities Half Marathon, a race we ran way back in 2012; it’s a well-organized race with a neat course and it’s only an hour from home.

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We were blessed cursed with unseasonably hot, humid weather, so Christopher and I agreed to go for our goal paces but let the chips fall where they might, given the conditions.

He lined up toward the 1:45 pace group, while I lined up closer to the 2:00 group. My friend and fellow fitness instructor, Andrea, who was running her first half marathon, lined up with me; we agreed to run together for as long as it made sense — if I wanted to and could go faster, then I would cruise on without her by my side.

Andrea and I ran together for maybe the first 2 to 3 miles before she hung back and I plodded ahead.

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I felt alright through the first half of the race. I was running at a consistent 9:30-9:45 pace, keeping my breathing in check and taking water and Gatorade at every aid station to stay hydrated given the climbing temperatures and bright sun overhead.

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Christopher waited for me (for 10 minutes!) at the halfway point, then we ran together for about 3 miles, along the river in Davenport and then across Government Bridge onto Arsenal Island. We separated at mile 11; Christopher was feeling like speeding up, having caught a wee bit of a second wind, while I was feeling like slowing down.

I was sore, but more than anything, I was just sapped of any get-up-and-go. I grabbed a piece of candy (sugar-coated gummy fruit slices–one of my favorites!) near the exit from the island, and I couldn’t even chew it because I was so tired.

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I ran my slowest miles (10:49 and 10:36, miles 12 and 13, respectively) on the island and then across the Moline Arsenal Bridge and back to downtown Moline. But I picked up the pace as much as possible through the final straightaway and clocked my fastest pace (9:24) to the finish.

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I breathed very rhythmically, in through my nose, out through my mouth over that last tenth of a mile. I crossed the finish line and got pulled over to the medical tent to sit down and slow my breathing, because it felt like every ounce of oxygen was caught up in my chest with nowhere to go.

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Christopher and I milled around the post-race party for a bit, grabbed some chocolate milk and then beer to refuel and celebrate another race–and a course PR! We waited for Andrea to finish, and then for a couple other friends to finish.

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Given the unseasonably brutal temperatures for a race, I was happy to have maintained an average of about 10 minutes per mile and finish only 7 minutes off my half-marathon best (and almost 15 minutes better for the course). It was just another marathon training run, just with aid stations along the way and a sweet medal at the end.

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Distance: 13.1 miles
Duration: 2:11:52
Average pace: 10:04 per mile

 

Easy, Cheesy Quinoa Fritters

29 Jul

First, let us mark this moment in history: I made two healthy, well-rounded recipes for the girls for dinner this week, and they ate both–including spaghetti pie, which they ate for three consecutive nights!

And second, let us dive into the recipe that got several requests for publication–the first recipe on this little ol’ blog since April!

Quinoa is such a healthy and versatile grain. It packs a nutritional punch, for a grain, as it’s high in protein, fiber, and calcium!

Anna and Elise are still (after many, many long months) fairly picky and predictable in terms of food. The things they once ate with zeal they now do not even touch. So we try to “sneak” fruit, vegetables, protein, and fiber into their meals and snacks in subtle ways.

These fritters are a great vehicle for this powerhouse ancient grain because they are laced with familiar cheesy flavors and look like an everyday pancake. And while Anna and Elise aren’t your typical toddlers, in that they don’t go ga-ga for dips and spreads, they loved dipping their fritters in Ranch dressing.

It’s a family-friendly recipe that can be dressed up for adults:

  • For a vegetarian meal, top the fritters with burst cherry tomatoes and feta and a drizzle of garlicky yogurt sauce
  • For meat eaters, top the fritters with olive oil-and-lemon-dressed arugula and serve them alongside grilled chicken or kielbasa

But it’s also a recipe that can be simplified for kids.

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Easy, Cheese Quinoa Fritters

Makes 8 fritters

Ingredients

1/2 cup quinoa

1 cup chicken broth

4 Tbsp flour

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp finely chopped spinach, parsley or basil (or 1 tsp dried parsley, basil or Italian seasoning)

Sprinkle each salt, pepper and garlic powder

1/4 cup cottage cheese

2 Tbsp milk

2 eggs, beaten

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Directions

In a fine mesh sieve, rinse the raw quinoa under cold tap water, then in a medium saucepan, combine it with the chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer; cook for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Fluff with a fork, then set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground flaxseed, Parmesan cheese, and chopped spinach or herbs (or dried herbs). In a small food processor, process the cottage cheese and milk until smooth, then set aside.

Add the cooled quinoa to the flour mixture, then add the cottage cheese mixture and the beaten eggs. Mix well to combine.

Place the mixture in the refrigerator for just a few minutes to firm up. In the meantime, heat a bit of butter in nonstick skillet or griddle over medium to medium-high heat.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, drop the fritter mixture onto the skillet or griddle and using the back of a rubber spatula, flatten the lump into a pancake. Cook for a few minutes, then flip and cook a few more minutes. The fritters should be browned and firm.

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These fritters are delicately cheesy and so versatile and come together so easily. Add them to your summer menu post-haste!

Race recap: Dam to Dam Half Marathon

29 Jun

It’s only fitting, really.

We haven’t run an official half marathon in four years, so I haven’t written up my recap until now—three weeks later.

Tardiness aside…

The Dam to Dam Half Marathon in Des Moines was a hot, humid, and challenging race, but it ended with big PRs for both Christopher and me—even if they were a wee bit shy of our pie-in-the sky goals.

As race day approached, I could not help but feel underprepared for the hot, humid weather in the forecast and undertrained for (hilly-ish) miles on the map. After training (to the letter) for and setting personal records at not one, but two marathons last year, and not really focusing on speed or shorter distances, I could not help but feel like I hadn’t given this half marathon its due.

Truly, I had, though. I had put in the miles, albeit mostly on the treadmill. I had put in the speedwork. And I had even put in some mild hill workouts, as our usual route includes some decently steep hills.

So, on race day, I just went for it. I knew I would set a personal record. And I knew I would be close to my big, scary goal of 2 hours. I didn’t know how close, though, given the circumstances. So, I just went for it.

Christopher and I were up at about 5 a.m., at which point we changed into our running gear, grabbed our breakfast, and headed out to the car, where we listened to the radio and ate bagels with peanut butter and bananas.

We drove over to the nearby mall, where dozens of yellow school buses were lined up to take runners up to Saylorville Dam, about a 20-minute drive. We arrived at the dam—on a winding, narrow two-lane road—and got an incredible view.

We used the porta-potties, finished a bottle of Gatorade, and headed to the starting line. Christopher and his buddy, Andy, who joined us for the race, headed to the front of the pack, while I stayed toward the middle. The runners were lined up by pace, but it was so crowded that it was hard to maneuver through the sea of people to the appropriate pace group.

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As such, the first few miles seemed to pass slowly, as I bobbed and weaved through the pack until the course and the crowd opened up.

Around Mile 3, I finally felt like I could start running and thinking about my goal pace, which was about 9:09. At that point, and for a few miles after that, I hovered around my goal pace, if not a few seconds slower.

The course has an overall downhill grade, especially in the first half, which is mostly through the quiet countryside. The big hill—Morningstar Hill or sometimes called Memorial Hill (so named because it is lined with American flags in honor of servicemen and women who have died since the first race in 1980) shows up around Mile 7. It’s about a mile long, starts out gradual, then becomes steep toward the crest. I slogged up the hill. But my pace remained sub-10:00.

The course has a few more rolling hills in the second half, which opens up onto city streets. The shade cover was absent in the first half, so the tree-lined residential streets offered some relief from the heat in the second half.

I saw my dad and the girls somewhere between Mile 7 and 8. It was so nice to see familiar faces!

Between Mile 9 and 10, the course ventures onto a bike trail, and about Mile 10, it takes runners over a wooden bridge over a ravine in total shade cover. It was fabulous, albeit brief.

About Mile 11, the course leaves the bike trail and enters the Principal River Walk, past the Botanical Gardens and over the really cool looking Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge.

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Then, just before Mile 13, there’s a steep, curving hill. It seemed cruel to send runners up another hill, under the beating sun, with less than a quarter mile to go. But it was exhilarating, because of the energy of the crowd, which lined both sides of the street, and the signage marking 400 meters to go, then 200 meters, and finally 100 meters.

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I blitzed across the finish line, and barely took note of my time, I was so drained. I had run the entire 13.1 miles, and I had stayed decently hydrated, but I was a sweaty, tired mess.

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After some water-drinking, bathroom-breaking, and wandering, we gathered near this water feature in the park. The girls happily played in the water, while Andy, Christopher, and I sipped Coors Light and rehashed the race.

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Christopher had a lofty goal of 1:40 and what he thought was a slam-dunk goal of 1:45. He came in at 1:47:11. He had been under the weather all week leading up to the race and just had lead legs—on top of the hot and humid conditions.

He still ran a great race and set about a 10-minute PR.

I came in at 2:05:07. It might be 5 minutes shy of 2 hours, but it also is a 21-minute PR and is only 5 minutes shy of 2 hours. I am proud of this race and know that, perhaps this fall, a 2-hour half is within my reach.

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Distance: 13.1 miles (RunKeeper clocked it at 13.23)
Duration: 2:05:07
Average pace: 9:33 per mile

Review: Illumin8 by Sunwarrior

7 Jun

Disclosure: I was sent a container of Illumin8 by Sunwarrior to review. I am not otherwise being compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

I’m a pretty au natural girl. I use very few beauty products. I don’t take much medication, even pain reliever. And I certainly don’t use supplements or meal replacement products.

For the most part, supplements and meal replacement products leave me wanting more–more in terms of results, more in terms of satisfaction, just more of something.

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But the new Illumin8 organic plant-based meal replacement by Sunwarrior is different.

Illumin8 covers your most important nutrition bases with superfoods, such as baobab, chia, flax, whole grain brown rice, kelp, holy basil, guava and coconut, among others. It combines clean protein, gluten-free carbohydrates, healthy fats, minerals, fiber, natural vitamins, enzymes and probiotics to make for a nutritionally sound snack or, with a few additions, a satisfying replacement for a traditional plated meal.

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Sunwarrior suggests combining a scoop of Illumin8 with 12 ounces of water, milk (dairy or non-dairy) or other beverage, then experimenting with the addition of fruit, greens, or other real foods.

For my first taste test, I combined a scoop of Illumin8 (in Aztec chocolate flavor) and 12 ounces of 1% milk. It was disappointingly chalky, artificially sweet, even crunchy (because of the milled chia and flax seeds). I honestly was not impressed.

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For my next test, I combined a scoop of Illumin8, 12 ounces of 1% milk and some frozen strawberries. It was much better in terms of texture, but still tasted a bit artificially sweet, and it lost that “Aztec” spiciness from cinnamon and cayenne.

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Finally, for my last test, I combined a scoop of Illumin8, 12 ounces of 1% milk, one to one and a half frozen bananas and 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. The texture was smooth, thick and creamy. The taste was balanced–not too much banana, not too artificially sweet, plenty chocolatey, but not without that little bit of spiciness.

That combination clocks in at about 450 calories, which makes it a very respectable, healthy meal thanks to the Core Eight nutrients.

I have occasionally had Illumin8 for breakfast, as a healthy start to my day, but I most often have had Illumin8 after a long run. The combination of protein, carbs and essential vitamins and minerals makes a shake akin to a glass of chocolate milk, which lots of sources argue is the best refueling option after a long run or race.

I don’t think I’d drink it as a snack–at least not doctored up with banana and cocoa powder, the way it seems to taste best, as it’s a little too calorie dense for my liking–plus I prefer to actually munch on my snacks, rather than drink them.

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Meet your new plate, friends! Give Illumin8 a try for a tasty, well-balanced, truly healthy meal.