Knowledge is Power

I don’t post here every day but I share my running, training and life happenings on Instagram daily!

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They say knowledge is power. And it’s incredibly true in this case. I am grateful that I finally know what has been causing me to feel so incredibly awful the last 4-5 weeks.

Four weeks where every single run felt like a struggle. Where an 8:00 pace felt like sub-7. Where my legs were as wobbly and tired after 2 miles as they used to feel after 22 miles.

I love the feeling of being tired on a run – when it’s expected. Those day-after-hard workouts runs where everything hurts and you are running slow. But, this was different. It was week after week of feeling wiped out and not having any answers or explanations why.

It’s been a hard few weeks for me. Both physically and mentally. More than anything, I missed the feeling of enjoying a run. I felt drained. And running felt more like a chore. So I stopped. I’ve run enough to know when my body is sending signals to slow down. I ran 27 miles two weeks ago. The week before was 29. Took more rest days than run days.

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    InsideTracker: Taking a Step in the Right Direction

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    I don’t post every day but you can find me on Instagram sharing my running, training and everything else related to running along the way!

    As I mentioned last week, I went for a whole bunch of bloodwork the day after the marathon. I received those results and spoke to and received some feedback and guidance from my physician. I knew the results would be a bit skewed the day after the marathon so I wanted to get tested again.

    I had begun interacting with Jonathan – one of the leads at InsideTracker – on social media back in the fall. I had first learned about InsideTracker from Mary‘s blog – she is one of the runners whose hard work and dedication I admire. I knew it could benefit me to have the same type of bloodwork done. But between work, running, family, holidays, I kept putting it off. I have the tendency to stay super organized with things that are fresh in my mind – and completely let other things just fall off. That’s what happened with this.

    Honestly, in the back of my mind, I had begun to question the need. I’ve always been a big proponent of trying to get all of my nutrients and minerals from food rather than supplements. I don’t take any sort of pill or supplement – nothing. If I’m missing something, I’d rather change my diet that take a pill.

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      Nutrition + Fueling for Marathons

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      Last week I talked about my training for Wineglass. One of the questions I was asked was about nutrition – if I changed anything, how I fueled on runs, etc. You can have the perfect training plan, but if your diet is not meeting the needs of your body, you can get injured, sick or not make it to the start line as trained or healthy as you could be.

      For many years, I had a general rule of thumb that I fueled on any run over 90 minutes. Even when I was running long in Iraq and didn’t have access to gels (during my 2nd deployment), I still found ways to fuel. I carried little packets of peanut butter or handfuls of peanuts/trail mix in bags in my sports bra.

      I’m a big believer in making training harder than races. So less fuel, water, carb-intake, etc during the training cycle and during each run than I would give myself on race day. I want my body to be able to run longer miles with less fuel so that on race days, it will feel easier (or at least provide a mental advantage) when I have consistent calories and water coming in.

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        NOW® Immersion Event + Giveaway!!

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        Last week, I had the privilege of attending an immersion event with 10 other bloggers at NOW® Foods in Bloomgindale, IL.  I cannot even begin to explain how excited I have been about this event. A few weeks ago, I briefly touched on some of the changes my family has been making in our home, in our food and in the products we use. NOW® Foods not only has the products to help support these changes, but their entire mission is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives.

        When I was first invited to this event, I didn’t realize the extent of products NOW® provides. I was very familiar with the supplement line but I don’t take supplements regularly – and so I didn’t really see how I would be a good fit for the program. But, after spending some time on the NOW website, I realized how wrong I was. NOW has four distinct product categories – supplements, sports nutrition, foods and personal care.

        You can read about these categories and the 1,400 natural products (!!) they offer here.

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          Life, Food, Home Changes

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          For the last year or so, my family and I have made some changes in our lives. We are embracing a much more natural and holistic lifestyle – everything from food to cleaning solutions to medicine. It’s way too much to explain it all in one post, but I wanted to kind of give an overview of some of the major changes we have made. Even though it’s technically not running related, I feel that it does directly affect my running and performance so I wanted to share.

          One of the best quotes I’ve heard recently is from Organic Living Magazine – the new magazine that Rodale is launching next week (which, coincidentally, I’m attending their launch event in NYC next week!)

          “For us, organic is a mindset or an aspiration. It’s not a rule.“- James Oseland

          That really sums of the approach we are taking lately. For us, it’s not black or white. It’s a process. We are slowly transitioning more and more in our lives to a natural, organic lifestyle (free of GMOs, pesticides and harmful ingredients). A lot of it has come from things we have read. Some has come from my sister and other friends who are on the same page as us for a lot of these things. And some has come as a result of wanting to change the way we physically felt.

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            Homemade Tomato Sauce

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            I’ve never been one to eat out constantly – it’s not that I don’t enjoy the food or the “time-off” from cooking – but I much prefer to know what’s in the food I am eating. I find that I feel much more bloated and just “blah” after a meal out at a restaurant than I would if I ate a similar meal at home.

            But I also really love cooking. I credit most of that to my mom who cooked six nights a week for us when we were growing up. Dinner was always a time to sit down at the table, as a family of six and talk about the day. I’m thankful that the boys are such great eaters – I don’t ever have to make them something special when we eat – I cook one thing and we all eat it.

            One of my go-tos is a made-from-scratch tomato sauce that takes ~30 minutes. There’s nothing fancy about it – but it’s a meal that my little guys LOVE – and it’s light and easy enough on my stomach to eat the night before long runs. I can also use it on a variety of main dishes – whole wheat pasta, black bean pasta, broccoli, chicken (for chicken parmigiana), salmon (baked in the oven with the sauce).

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              Healthy Snacking for Marathon Training

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              I’ve written several posts the last couple of years on my fueling/nutrition for marathon and Ironman training. I feel like I’m always tweaking or changing something to try to find what works best for me, what’s going on in my life (pregnant, nursing) and what I am training for. I’ve gone from a non-restrictive diet (Ironman training) to one that was pretty close to being vegan/vegetarian (last fall for Philly).

              For the past six or seven months, my husband and I have settled into a diet that gives us the energy we need to train while not feeling restrictive. The staples in our diet have returned to things like greens, raw veggies, beans and quinoa – similar to how we were eating in the fall. But we are also eating meat and dairy more frequently these days.  Most importantly, however, are my smaller meals throughout the day – something that I have not been the best with.

              As I’m sure anyone who has their hands full with work, kids or a combo of both know, if you don’t plan ahead for your meals and snacks throughout the day, you’ll end up eating something unhealthy and/or not getting the nutrients that your body needs. That was the routine I found myself in at the start of the summer. My main meals were healthy and packed with the good fats, nutrients and calories I needed. But the smaller meals throughout the day were empty calories, high in fat (not the good kind) and often whatever was easiest and quickest.

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                Changing the Way I Eat

                During Ironman training, I felt hungry ALL the time. There never seemed to be enough food in the house to keep me full. Because I was always starving (and tired), I was reaching for things that were the quickest to cook/prepare: grilled steak, cold cuts, chicken cutlets (fried), a huge dish of pasta. Add to it that my portions began increasing (tremendously) to the point where I was eating an 8-10 oz steak at dinner at least 3x/week. I don’t think I was eating too many calories – my weight stayed pretty consistent during the high intensity months (May – July). But I do think that I was not making the smartest decisions in regards to food. I was choosing the easiest options to fill me up rather than what made me feel the best and give me the most energy.

                Despite being arguably in the best shape I’ve ever been in, I constantly felt “blah”. I would wake up most mornings with a bloated and upset stomach that would often last until midway through my early morning workout. It seemed like most nights after the boys went to sleep, I was on the couch complaining about my bloated stomach or the sometimes sharp, throbbing pain I had.  Tums and other antacids were taken almost nightly to try to combat the pain.

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                  Menu Planning for Ironman Training

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                  Don’t forget to enter my Motivational Sign Giveaway!!

                  After my first week of swimming for Ironman training (coupled with marathon training), I realized I needed to make some major changes with my daily routine.  One area I knew I needed to focus on was my family’s meals – especially dinner.  They had become boring, sometimes very unhealthy, and often lacking in the nutrition that I would need to swim + bike + run.

                  The last two weeks I have been meal / menu planning throughout the week for our weekend supermarket trip.  I’ve tried to include 2-3 new recipes each week while also ensuring a few are crockpot recipes.  I have found that trying to cook past 5pm is often difficult with the two little ones – they are much more self-entertained in the early afternoon hours.

                  Some of these recipes have come from cookbooks, websites, blogs (check out The Lean Green Bean and Making Good Choices for some yummy recipes), Instagram photos…

                  I’ve been posting some of the dinners on Instagram and have been asked to share the recipes.  Let me preface this all by saying a few things:

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                    Random Things I’m Loving

                    I have a lot of random thoughts going through my head lately and decided to share some of the things that I am currently LOVING!!

                    – Third Trimester  – Today officially marks the start of the 3rd trimester.  Knowing that I am in the home stretch is a wonderful feeling.  I will do a pregnancy update next Wednesday as well as a 2nd trimester running update soon!!  One of the books that I utilized SO frequently during pregnancy #1 (and again this time around) is the Runner’s World Guide to Running & Pregnancy.  My favorite quote from the book:

                    When I reached the 20-mile mark in my first marathon, a man on the sidelines yelled, “Congratulations! You’re halfway there.” I knew instinctively what he meant: The hardest part, the real test of my strength, lay ahead in those last 6.2 miles. And he was right.   So goes it with the last trimester of pregnancy…Running typically becomes less and less enjoyable as the weeks pass.

                    Cooler Temperatures – I don’t know about you, but last week’s heat and humidity came a little too soon for me. I am fully expecting days like that in August but was not ready for them in June!!  The last few days have been blissful – A/C off and windows open in the house, long sleeve running shirts in the AM, and sweaters for early morning/late night walks with my son.  Perfect.

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                      Foodie Penpals Reveal (& Chobani Champions Giveaway Winners)

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                      Before I get into the Foodie Penpals post, I realized I didn’t announce the winners of the Chobani Champions Giveaway…here they are:

                      Tia and Christine – please contact me so I can arrange to have the yogurt shipped to  you!  Thank you to everyone who participated! =)

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                      Lindsay, a fellow FitFluential Ambassador and one of my new blogger/twitter friends started this awesome program in September called Foodie Penpals.  The idea behind it is simple – each month, she pairs up all the participants (over 200 this month) and a box of fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats are exchanged!  I had read about it on her blog a few months ago and finally got the courage to sign up and give it a try this month! (For more information on participating in the Foodie Penpals Program, check out Linday’s blog or the information section at the bottom of this post)

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                        What My Family Ate Last Week (Wk 3)

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                        The week started off great – we kept to the schedule perfectly!  Unfortunately, by the end of the week, a few unexpected events occurred and we ended up ordering out twice.

                        Monday: (Pasta Primavera) I found this recipe in Giada  De Laurentii’s Everyday Italian cookbook. (The full recipe can be found here.)  It was a light, tasty, and healthy pasta dish that contained fresh, roasted veggies: onions, peppers, squash, zucchini, and  carrots. My two complaints: prep time took me a bit longer then the suggested 25 min (I must not be a quick chopper!) and I needed to add a good amount of salt to the finished dish (Note: I don’t add the recommended salt when I am cooking because I try to limit the amount of salt on food that my son eats.)

                        Tuesday: (Chicken Spezzatino). Another recipe from Giada’s fabulous Everyday Italian cookbook. (Full recipe can be found here). This is one of my favorite recipes over the last few weeks!  It was a hearty, healthy, filling dinner.  Spezzatino literally means “cut of meat” in Italian.  The chicken gets cooked in the stew, taken out, cut up, and then put back in.  The stew is a mix of tomatoes, celery, carrots, onions, and kidney beans.  I recommend this for a cold, wintry night!

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                          What My Family Ate Last Week (Wk 2)

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                          My cooking schedule did not go exactly as planned this week.  I had forgotten that my husband was going to be away Thur-Sun to play in a hockey tournament with some of his friends (aka reliving their college glory days!!) so I postponed some of those meals until this week!

                          Monday AND Tuesday: (Leftovers and Taco Tuesday -> Leftovers x 2) We over-ordered wraps and sandwiches for our son’s 1st Birthday Party on Sunday and decided to have what was left rather than let it go to waste.  Eggplant and fresh mozzarella, chicken cutlets with roasted peppers, and Italian subs were only a few of what we got to eat!

                          Wednesday: (BBQ Brisket -> Salad) My son was not feeling well most of the morning and I completely forgot to start the BBQ Brisket (requires 6-8 hours to cook in the slow cooker), so I opted for a quick and easy salad option. I added tons of fresh veggies (cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, squash), threw in some cold cuts and cheese, and a little homemade guacamole!

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                            What My Family Ate Last Week

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                            My post last week “Spicing” up Dinner discussed how I am making an effort to meal plan and add variety to my family’s nightly meals.  This is my first post detailing what my family ate last week.  So without further adieu, here it is:

                            Monday: Stuffed Peppers: DE-LICIOUS recipe that Victoria from Victoria Runs posted on her website.  The full recipe can be found here.  There were a few changes I made to the recipe:
                            – Did not use canned sauce – I have never been able to use canned sauce due to my grandmother and mother’s influence on me from when I was a little girl. I just made a quick and easy marinara sauce (I will post my mom’s at a later time!)
                            – Substituted lean turkey in place of beef
                            – Did not use the Italian seasoning -> basil and parsley are in the marinara sauce that I made
                            – Added a little mozzarella cheese on top when they were finished cooking
                            Notes: Very easy, quick, and yummy recipe!  The best part was that my 1 year old was a huge fan of the rice, turkey and sauce mix.

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                              “Spicing” up Dinner

                              Source: Naturalmamas.com

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                              I officially started meal planning this week.  It was a loooooong time coming.

                              It came on the heels of several weeks where my husband, 1 year-old son, and I had the same 5-6 things over and over again.

                              I was in a cooking rut – my desire to cook was non-existent and as a result, we had pasta, grilled chicken or take-out more times than I would like to admit the last few weeks.

                              After reading a few great healthy cooking / lifestyle blogs and seeing how delicious the food they were cooking sounded – and looked – I decided to start menu-planning and try out some of the recipes. (Sweet Tooth Sweet LifePeas and CrayonsMeals and Miles, and Victoria Runs, are only a few of the many I have found.)

                              9 Benefits of Menu Planning:
                              1. Save money on unused food that gets thrown away
                              2. Save money on last minute trips to the local deli
                              3. Save money by ordering-out less
                              4. Add variety to meals
                              5. Eliminate the daily spike in stress levels (around 3pm) due to:  What are we having for dinner?
                              6. Maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet
                              7. Give my family something to look forward to each day
                              8. More order in my life (dinner is ready and on the table at the same time each night)
                              9. Expand my 1-year old son’s palette

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