Friday, January 31, 2014

Almost the weekend!

Yesterday's Workout:
2 mile walk outside with Jasper
3.5 mile HIIT treadmill workout (I'll post this next week!) 
Ab work on the stability ball

Today is a great day. For one, it's Friday - and that's never a bad thing. It's going to be 40 degrees here in the Boston area, which is a heat wave, and I plan on taking full advantage of it with Jasper this afternoon. I'm donating blood this morning. My brother has been in the hospital this week after undergoing major surgery to remove part of his colon, and it was inspiration for me to provide what can hopefully save other lives.

It turns out my brother is type AB positive, which is one of the rarest blood types out there (only 3% of Caucasians have this blood type!) He is doing really well post-surgery. We went out to visit him in the hospital the other night, and even in his condition, he has the nurses and doctors laughing; he has been making efforts to get up and walk around a few times a day, and hopefully he'll be able to eat solid food soon for the first time in about 3 weeks. At this point, I think he'll welcome even JELLO and scrambled eggs, as long as it means he isn't getting it through a tube!

On a completely unrelated but hilarious note, this is why everyone should have a dog. 24/7 entertainment, I tell ya.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chicken Noodle Soup

Yesterday's Workout:
3 mile hill run
2 mile walk 

It's been a lot colder than usual lately, even for winter. Even places down south are seeing snow this year. So much for the concept of global warming, huh?

In this weather, my go-to dinner is soup. I eat soup pretty much every day actually, even in the summer. Weird? Maybe. I just love how you can throw a bunch of random food in a pot, add some broth, adjust spices, and it magically comes together as a completely satisfying meal.

So when we were full of roasted chicken the other night and still had about 75% of the bird left, I couldn't pass up the opportunity at some homemade chicken noodle soup.


I did everything in stages. Day one was roasting the chicken, day two was preparing the broth, and lucky day number three was rounding it all out with the soup. I cannot recommend enough making the stock from scratch. It adds so much more flavor to soup than any store-bought brand I have ever tried (and I've tried a lot!)

This soup was a labor of love, my friends.


Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:
5 C chicken stock 
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2" thick circles
2 celery stalks, diced into 1/2" thick pieces
2 shallots, diced (so much more flavorful than a yellow onion!)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning 
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1.5 C diced chicken, reserved from roast
1 C dry egg noodles

Preparation:
  • In a large pot, bring chicken stock to a simmer over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, shallots, garlic, salt, thyme, and rosemary. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until vegetables are tender. 
  • While vegetables are simmering, in a small pot, bring water to a boil and cook egg noodles for 8 minutes, until just al dente. Strain and set aside.
  • When vegetables are tender, add chicken and egg noodles to the stock and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes so that the noodles and chicken can absorb flavors from the stock. 
  • Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot...preferably with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese - yum!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Homemade chicken stock

Yesterday's Workout:
3.1 miles
Upper body strength


I feel like I finally became a real grown-up this weekend.

Sure, I may be married, work 40 hours a week, own a house, and spend my weekends consignment shopping. But all that amounts to nothing.

Until you've made your own chicken stock. It's like a right of passage for a woman in the kitchen.

And guess what - all these people who say making your own stock is so easy - well, there's a reason they are saying that. It's probably the most hands-off, rewarding thing I've ever done my kitchen. My husband was pretty much smitten as I threw that chicken carcass into the pot to simmer all day. Every time he walked back into the house, he was hit by a wall of stock aroma, basically falling in love all over again. And when he got to use his beloved chinois for the second time ever, it was all over after that. I have a feeling we won't be buying the packaged stuff after this.


We had a nice, quiet date night in on Saturday. We roasted a chicken using this amazingly simple and delicious recipe courtesy of Martha. Also, I determined that pretty much everything roasting a chicken is much more fun with a glass of white wine in hand. We ran into a bit of a dilemma when we realized we had no kitchen twine to tie the legs together. Mr. Easy-Way-Out wanted to chance it by leaving the legs wide open, but the perfectionist in me was screaming "NO! The chicken will dry out!" Enter: aluminum foil. I twisted it into a make-shift tie, and voila, we were set to go. Worked like a charm!


Just look at that ridiculously crispy skin! We added some red potatoes and carrots to the bottom of the roasting pan along with the onions - I could not recommend this enough! As the chicken roasts, the juices collect on the vegetables and create a caramelized coating on the outside. Phenomenal.

We had quite a bit of chicken left over, so naturally, chicken soup came to mind. As we dissected the rest of the meat off the bones, I couldn't help but look over and feel a bit sorry for the empty carcass. I realized I was sort of an idiot for feeling bad for a pile of chicken bones, so instead, I threw them all into a pot and decided "tomorrow will be the day I create my own chicken stock." It was a very profound statement, and I may or may not have pointed my finger up in the air while repeating it aloud.


So the next morning, I found this simple recipe for making both chicken stock and got to work. And by that, I mean I dumped water, celery, carrots, onions, thyme, rosemary, and peppercorns into the pot of the chicken carcass and turned the stove on. Then I left the house for 4 hours to go shopping. Gosh, that was exhausting.


I ended up adding about 16 cups of water instead of the 12 the recipe called for - I wanted the final volume of stock to be higher so that I could store a bunch of it in the freezer. This turned out perfect. After straining, I ended up with about 10 cups of chicken stock. And then I turned some of that into the most delicious chicken soup ever...recipe coming tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jasper's archenemy is...a snowman

It was above 10 degrees yesterday - these days, not only is that hard to come by, but you learn to take advantage of it. So I bundled up and took Jasper for a brisk 2 mile walk. When we got back home, it was still pretty light out, and the fast walk had my body temperature (briefly) up, so we played in the backyard for awhile. Like every dog, he loves to play catch - and snow is a whole new category of awesome for him. Snow + catch = mind blowing. I find it very amusing. I throw a snowball, he jumps up to catch it like 5 seconds before it actually reaches him, then by the time it hits the ground, he is startled, so he pounces in the general area of where it hits, and grabs an entire mouth full of snow, and just like that, in his mind, he has caught the snowball. We're working on it...


So while Jasper was off enjoying the sunset in his own little world of trying to dig for the snowball he recently did not catch, I couldn't help but think the snow was the perfect consistency for a snowman. Fast forward 30 minutes later, and Frosty Junior was born...aka Jasper's Archenemy.


Jasper really wanted to run away with Frosty's arms in a bad way. He would revisit him every few minutes, eat a chunk of snow off the base, look to see if I was watching (I always am, Jasper!), then continue doing whatever he was doing. But Jasper's memory works in such a way that - well, it sort of doesn't work. He's more of a "live in the moment" kind of guy. So later that night, when he went back outside to do his business after dinner, when the backyard was in total darkness besides the one spotlight that happened to shine directly on the snowman in the center of the yard, he realized something was there that wasn't supposed to be. And just like that, they became enemies. Jasper barked at him relentlessly for awhile, pacing back and forth crying on the deck. Finally, he gave up and came back inside. The next time he went out, he ventured a little further in the yard, but still managed to completely avoid the area of the snowman. 

Even this morning when I let him out, he wouldn't go near him. He stood on the porch for a few minutes, staring out at Frosty, and decided it just wasn't worth the risk, so he came back in. I made a mental note to knock the snowman down when I got home today. Then I got a text from Brent saying:

HE MADE PEACE WITH THE SNOWMAN.


Frosty, you live to see another day, my friend. Also, this proves my dog is a high school girl with his friendships.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Treadmill Interval Workout

Yesterday's Workout:
3.5 mile HIIT run
1 mile walk
Leg strength training

Like clockwork, right around this time in the winter, I get really bored with running on a treadmill and lusting for the spring outdoors. So it was time to add a little fun into the mix. I know a lot of people hate treadmills - endurance training while essentially standing still staring at a blank wall or TV screen can be ridiculously mundane. But one of my favorite things about a treadmill is you can have complete control over speed and incline, which is perfect for interval training!

I did this 30 minute HIIT workout yesterday, and it kicked my butt. If you follow the exact speeds below, your total mileage will be just over 3.5 miles in 30 minutes. Feel free to adjust the speeds to suite your fitness level. I did the workout at 0% incline, since I still had leg work to do after, but the workout can be easily adjusted to include hill intervals by adding a 1-5% incline during the "Sprint" intervals.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

MLK Day with Jasper

Sunday's Workout: 3 miles
2 mile run (16:00)
1 mile walk 

Monday's Workout
Jillian Michael's Body Shred (45 min) - this was a killer!! 
3 mile hike with Jasper

Tuesday's Workout: 5 miles
4 mile HIIT run on treadmill
1 mile walk

Yesterday's Workout: 5.5 miles
5 mile run, increasing speed every mile (41:10)
1/2 mile walk
Ab work on stability ball


Happy Thursday, all! It's been a busy week over here on this end, and that's even with Monday being a holiday.


We got hit with a bunch of unexpected snow this past weekend, and the only one in our house that was remotely happy about it was Jasper (please refer to the joyous dog in picture above). I spent the majority of the MLK Day off from work outside with the pup, enjoying the last warm day we would have for awhile. We went park hopping and ended up doing about 3 miles on the trails in Acton. We had such a great time!


We got home and cozied up on the couch together for awhile until I peeled myself up to make dinner.


Just love this lil dude :-)

Friday, January 17, 2014

4 SHORT

Yesterday's workout: 3 miles
2 mile run (16:00)
1 mile walk (14:00)
Ab work on the stability ball

I intended on doing my usual 4 miles at a nice 8:00 mile pace yesterday, but about 1 mile in, I was winded and my body felt exhausted. My legs were like dead weights. Then about 1.5 miles in, I was hit with really severe lower abdominal cramps. The cramps never eased up, so at the 2 mile mark, I stopped and walked. Sometimes, these things happen, and it's best to listen to your body when it's telling you to take it easy. Today, I plan on going for a long walk with Jasper and taking the day off from running entirely. Those cramps were extremely unpleasant, and quite frankly, I'm a little hesitant to run right now after that.

On a more positive note...I just want to thank American Eagle for being the ONLY store that makes it possible for me to order jeans online without trying them on first. For those of you who know me, you know I'm vertically challenged. My body is also not very proportionate: my legs are short and my upper body is long (for my height). Having short legs is really only beneficial when traveling. Every other time - it sucks - especially when buying clothes. Most of the time, even petite lengths are too long by an inch or two, and I have to hem them. I guess I take after my two grandmothers that were both under 5'2"...

And not only is length an issue, but lady's jean sizes are not consistent. EVER. Does anyone else encounter this issue? Maybe it's because I don't buy designer jeans with the European sizes. Some stores, I find I can fit in a size 2, other stores, I'm jumping off the bed to squeeze my thighs into a size 5. Nothing is more frustrating to me.

So anyways, back to American Eagle and how thankful I am for them. 4 SHORT. No matter what style: skinny jeans, jeggings, ankle, bootcut, low rise, high rise (ugh, just kidding - I hate high rise jeans!). 4 SHORT and I'm golden. I ordered a new pair of jeggings and bootcuts the other day, they showed up in the mail 4 days later, and both pairs fit like a glove. I even took this ridiculous picture to show you guys. (BTW - selfies...ESPECIALLY butt selfies...not my thing). How does Kimmy K take herself seriously when she snaps these photos all the time??


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Upper Body Strength Training + Jasper's First Run!

Yesterday's Workout
Cardio: total 4 miles
3.5 mile run 
1/2 mile walk 

Upper body strength:
1x12 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x18 (16 lbs) Shoulder Press | [shoulders]
1x15 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x20 (16 lbs) Deadlifts | [lower back]
1x12 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x18 (16 lbs) Bicep Curls | [biceps]
1x12 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x18 (16 lbs) Tricep Kickbacks | [triceps]
1x15 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x20 (16 lbs) Dumbbell Press | [chest]
1x12 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x18 (16 lbs) Front Raise | [shoulders]
1x12 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x18 (16 lbs) One Arm Dumbbell Rows (each arm) | [upper/mid back]
1x12 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x18 (16 lbs) Hammer Curls | [biceps]
1x12 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x18 (16 lbs) Skull Crushers | [triceps]
1x15 (20 lbs) *superset* 1x20 (16 lbs) Dumbbell Flyes | [chest]

*superset* = two exercises performed back to back with no rest in between. 
[target muscle group]

My upper body was burnin' after yesterday's workout! I was able to target the major muscle groups of the upper body with this quick 25 minute workout. In between every set, I would rest for about 30-60 seconds. This workout can be easily adjusted depending on your personal strength by decreasing or increasing weights as well as reps. My favorite part about this workout is beginning with a set of heavier weights then repping out after slightly decreasing the weights. You will feel a deep muscle burn when you do this, as it stimulates your muscle fibers to twitch. Performing rep-outs like this will help to build muscle, and it is through the repair and growth of those muscles that you will reap the most benefits of caloric burn and eventual decrease in fat, as your muscle cells continue to grow.


On a fun note, I took Jasper out on his first official run yesterday! We have a nice 2 mile loop that we usually walk together when I get home from work, but yesterday, he was jumping with energy, so I thought maybe it was time to introduce him to a faster pace. We get out to the road, and I begin to jog - and of course, Jasper sprints full steam ahead. Instead of keeping him back at my pace, I allowed him to do it. I knew he couldn't hold that pace for long, and sure enough, after about 3 blocks, he slowed down to a nice jog. He kept looking up at me with that "this is so much more fun than walking!" look. We made it to the end of the 2 mile loop, and he decided he had enough of this new fast-paced exercise. The second we got home, the little dude curled up onto his spot on the couch and was asleep in 5 minutes. I continued my workout downstairs on the treadmill, and he was still asleep 45 minutes later when I came back upstairs. I'm going to go ahead and call that a successful first run with my new workout buddy!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stretch those hips!

Yesterday's Workout: 6.7 miles 
6 mile run (50:00)
0.7 mile walk (10:00)
15 minutes of deep stretching, focusing on hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors

I've been much better about stretching lately, and I'm starting to gain some of my flexibility back - yay! After a long run, when my muscles are really warm, I love giving my hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors a nice deep stretch. I hold each position for about 2 minutes, focusing on deep breathing, and with every exhale, I push the stretch slightly further.

The main purpose of the hip flexor muscles is to bring the thigh upward toward the stomach. So naturally, distance runners have a tendency to develop hip flexor tightness due to the repetitive use of these muscles, which makes it VERY important to properly stretch these muscles after a run. Here is a great article that goes into more detail about the importance of stretching your hip flexors.

The hip flexor muscles are tucked away and are a little more difficult to stretch than muscles such as the hamstrings and quadriceps. However, if you want to avoid groin and hip injuries, it's a must. Here are some of my favorite hip flexor stretches:

 1) Lunge: I begin with the lunge, moving deeper into the stretch by dropping my hips closer to the ground with every exhale, for a total of 2 minutes. It's important to keep your back and leg in a straight line to get the optimal stretch.

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 2) Kneeling Lunge:  I transition to the kneeling lunge by slowly dropping my knee to the ground, moving my hips forward with every exhale to deepen the stretch, for about 2 minutes.

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 3) Advanced Stretch: I transition into the advanced stretch by reaching one hand back and clasping the foot behind me, placing my other hand on my front knee for support. For a deeper stretch, with every exhale, I pull the foot I'm holding onto toward my body while moving my hips forward, which will give a really deep quad/hip flexor stretch.

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I'm working on building up my flexibility in the stretch so that I can stretch my back foot all the way to reach my butt - it's tougher than it looks!

If you want to really challenge yourself, you can try to Twisted Hip Flexor Stretch:


I tried it for the first time last night and toppled over. Baby steps...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

MUST-try recipe

Yesterday's Workout:
3 mile (brisk) walk with Jasper
20 minutes of Pilates ab work

I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful 50 degree, sunny weather we had yesterday, so Jasper and I headed out on a brisk 45 minute walk. We've had to work a LOT with him on leash-walking. See, he has two speeds: fast and sprint. So he naturally wants to pull on the leash. We've tried the gentle lead collar, which had the opposite effect - he opted not to walk at all and spent the entire time trying to rub it off on the grass. When he entered obedience training, we learned a great method of leash-training using treats as a guide, and this worked wonders for him. What can I say, the dude LOVES his food. He still pulls a little more than he probably should, but usually about 5 minutes into the walk, he calms down and eases into the pace I set for us. It's worth all of the initial struggle just to see how excited he gets by any moving object we come cross - leaves, rocks, people, other dogs, kids - his tail starts whipping around like crazy, and I swear he smiles. Big-hearted, I tell ya!


Last week, I stumbled across this recipe for roasted garlic parmesan green beans with tomatoes on Ambitious Kitchen's blog and immediately added it to my "must try" list. I made it as a pre-dinner snack yesterday (does anyone else do this, by the way?!)...not only was it ridiculously easy (5 minute prep + 12 minutes in the oven = less than 20 minutes total!), but it is absolutely delish. The minced garlic and parmesan cover the beans and tomatoes as they roast and form an addictive coating that can only be compared to culinary crack. Before I knew it, I had housed half the pan. I had to exercise serious self-control not to keep picking at them so that there would be some leftover for Brent to try when he got home. He devoured the few remaining and asked when I'd be making them again. I kind of don't want to ever have green beans any other way ever again. Next time, I'm going to add some broccoli florets to the mix - because who doesn't love roasted, cheesy broccoli?


Monday, January 13, 2014

What I've watched, read, and chowed lately

Television

There's a mid-season break going on right now, so I took the opportunity to try out some other not-so-new-to-TV shows...

Breaking Bad: I'm well aware I'm years behind the trend, but Brent and I slowly made our way through the entire five seasons over the holidays, and all I can say is WOW. I totally get it. The finale is one of the best I've ever seen. Oh, and if you were a fan of the quirky character, Saul, rumor has it the spin-off (Better Call Saul) will be premiering November of this year.

Orange is the New Black: Meh. I think this show was way over-hyped. The first few episodes reeled us in and had us laughing, getting to know all the different personalities in the prison, but the main character, Piper, was such a disaster that I grew to wish one of the other prison characters had been the center of the show. I couldn't relate to her character at all. I lost interest about halfway through the season (there's only one season so far), but plugged on anyways, hoping to catch a glimpse of why exactly this show was such a hit. Needless to say, I won't be tuning into season two.

Sherlock: I'm two-thirds through the first season and totally hooked. If you have Netflix, take advantage!

Books

The last book I read was Born to Run by Christopher McDougall...loved it! It was slow to start, but the big 50-mile race at the end is totally worth it. It's a great story - I always love reading about people who excel above and beyond what I can ever imagine accomplishing. There is a Mexican tribe that can run hundreds of miles at a time...HUNDREDS of miles...without injury. The book gets into the subject of body mechanics and how the tribe members learn to run barefoot, which naturally forces their body to land on the ball of their foot instead of heel-to-toe. The book even went as far as attributing many running injuries to the development of the modern running shoe, which encourages the body to strike heel-first and causes eventual injury to joints. I confess, I was very intrigued by this idea, and pretty much the second I put the book down, I had to test it. Have you ever tried running barefoot? I hadn't. I also never got into the Vibram shoe trend; I always preferred my Nike Frees, arguing that they at least had SOME sort of support for my feet, which I assumed was a necessity. I read online that for first-time barefoot runners, they recommend to start small. Of course, I went in swinging, assuming I could punch out a few miles like nothing - but 1 mile in, I had to stop. I could feel muscles that I didn't know existed in my lower legs, and I knew if I went any further, I wouldn't be able to walk the next day. So I waited a few days in between, then attempted barefoot running again. I was slowly able to build up to 3 miles. I felt no pain, and I noticed I was able to breathe much easier, likely because my posture stayed upright and therefore, my upper body wasn't bouncing all over the place. Once the weather gets nicer, I'd like to incorporate more barefoot running into my routine on the grass at the track down the street from me. So in summary, if you are a fan of running or if you are looking to get into running, this is a great motivational read.

Food
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Coconut Date Rolls: I found these at a local store, and I'm addicted. I've been eating them when I have a sweet tooth. They're raw, vegan, and made of only 3 ingredients (coconut, dates, almonds). I might take a shot at making these myself this weekend.

Parsnips: I bought a bag of these for the Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad I made last week, and I had a bunch left over. I peeled them, chopped them into cubes, and roasted with a little oil/salt/pepper/nutmeg/cinnamon combo. I then processed the roasted parsnips with a little bit of butter and milk to form a puree, and served it with some grilled chicken. It was ridiculously delicious!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Recipe: Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad


If you haven't hopped on board the winter vegetable train yet, take this opportunity to consider it. I have been dying to create my own version of a winter salad, which I've seen so many times pop up on other blogs. Most times, other recipes fall a little short for me. I wanted to include some of my favorite veggies, all of which are 10x better when roasted, and I really wanted the vegetables to take on the whole winter-theme in flavor. So instead of going the Earthy route, I went with good old fashioned warm spices: cinnamon and nutmeg. For me, the addition of these two really made the dish. By adding a touch of agave or honey to the dressing, this really cuts the tartness of the citrus and went really nicely with the peppery arugula as well as the slight warmth of the cinnamon and nutmeg.


Guys, this is one of the best salads I've ever had. I don't even want to call it a salad because I feel like I enjoyed it way to much to put it in the salad category. I've never had a salad like it. I went a little crazy on my portion size, thinking I'd get about 3 servings out of the entire batch, but turns out, this salad was much heartier than I thought, and it will end up being 4 generous servings. This was a huge win for me, because that means I get to have it all week. In order to do that, of course, I am storing the arugula separate from the roasted veggies, separate from the dressing - nobody likes a soggy salad! So if don't plan on eating the whole thing at once, I recommend you do the same.

This is the perfect salad to serve at a dinner party because you can prepare the roasted veggies ahead of time and combine it all last minute. Brent isn't big into the whole "salad for dinner" thing, but he was raving about how good it was. I opted to add a little grated Pecorino Romano cheese on mine because I love it, and I think tonight, I'll add some chopped walnuts as well for a nice crunch. I also will end up having a bunch of the dressing leftover, which I plan on adding to some roasted kale this weekend. Enjoy!


Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad
Serves 4 

Ingredients:

Salad:
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 medium sweet potato, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
3 parsnips, peeled
1 crown broccoli
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
8 C arugula

Dressing
Juice of 1 small orange
Juice of 1 lemon
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp agave nectar (or honey)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
  • Cut the butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, and parsnips into roughly 1" cubes (you don't want to cut them too small because they will shrink as they cook). Chop the broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Transfer vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well to combine. 
  • Place the vegetables in a single layer onto the two baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring and turning once halfway through. Once vegetables are roasted, allow them to cool for about 10 minutes.
  • While the vegetables are cooling, prepare the dressing. Combine all dressing ingredient into a small bowl and whisk together well to mix. 
  • To assemble the salad, combine the arugula and roasted vegetables with about 4 Tbsp of dressing, adding more if you like. I sprinkled my salad with a little bit of freshly chopped parsley and a dash of Pecorino Romano cheese. 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Flexibility, where did you go?

I know I'm not alone in this, as it seems half the country is dealing with it, but HOLY CRAP it's cold! Yesterday, we were "blessed" with 55 degree temperatures here in the Boston area...and tons of rain, which melted away the majority of the snow we got at the end of last week, so that was a plus. However, temperatures dropped real quick overnight, and it's now a balmy 11°F (feels like -8°F!!!). So far, this winter sucks. End rant.

Anyways, now that my legs have finally recovered, I was able to get a great run in yesterday:

Yesterday's Workout: 5.5 miles
5 mile run in 40:97
1/2 mile walk
Ab work on the stability ball


I really need to be better about stretching lately. I stretched for awhile after my run yesterday, and my usual flexibility is pretty much nonexistent at this point. I attacked a forward bend as if it would be nothing and winced when my fingertips barely reached the floor. As someone who can typically put their entire palms on the floor with ease and be able to admire the entire scene behind me in a forward bend, this is a sad state of affairs for my poor body. Hamstrings, I really do apologize for the neglect you have experienced in the last couple months. No wonder my back has been in more pain than usual after a run! I think it's about time to start incorporating some more yoga back into my life, even if it's just a quick 5-10 minutes after cardio. My personal trainer (above) has agreed to support me through this endeavor. Isn't that sweet of him?

Monday, January 6, 2014

That time I needed 4 days to recover from my leg workout

This is my first day back to work in about 2 weeks, and I was welcomed back with a miserable commute...no bueno! Typically, I love my ride to work...15 miles of mostly pure country roads through farms, conservation land, and mansion-like colonials from the 1800's. I commute through some of the most gorgeous towns in the state of Massachusetts: Sudbury, Concord, Lincoln, and Weston. This time of year, the sky is still pitch black during my morning drive, but now that the days are getting longer, I'm looking forward to the return of the sunrise - that was definitely one of the biggest perks on my way into work this fall. Now, it's just...well, black. And this morning, Mother Nature decided to throw some rain in the mix with a whole lot of dense fog, making for an extremely slow, pray-I-don't-miss-a-turn-in-the-road kind of adventure. But nonetheless, I was actually pretty happy to get back into the normal routine today - even if it meant coming back to work.

Speaking of routines, today I plan on getting a nice, easy 5 miler in when I get home from work. My plans to run this past weekend got tossed as I was still recovering from my leg workout I did - last THURSDAY! It had been awhile since I had done any kind of strength training with my legs, beyond hill interval runs, and judging from the 4 day recovery needed, it was a good one. Back when I was training my legs regularly (1 day per week solely dedicated to leg strength work), this workout would have been laughable, but for someone who has been out of the game for a few months, it was a good way to transition back. Here's my workout:

CARDIO: 4.1 miles
Run: 3.1 miles (5K) hills (every 5 minutes, I increased the grade, beginning at 1% and ending at 5% incline); speed: 7.2 MPH
Walk: 1 mile at 4.3 MPH

STRENGTH:
5 x 10 weighted squats (20 lbs)
5 x 10 (each leg) lunges (20 lbs)
5 x 10 deadlifts (20 lbs)
5 x 10 sumo squats (20 lbs)
5 x 10 calf raises (20 lbs)

This strength workout can be altered to suit your fitness level by adding or subtracting weight. I used my two 10 lb dumbbells to complete the entire workout - no other equipment needed. I rested for about 30 seconds in between exercises. It took only 20 minutes to complete...and an entire 4 days to recover. I will be incorporating this with increasing weights in my weekly workout regime, that's for sure!

And then I will do this for the next 8 hours...


P.S. that's my not-so-little-puppy-anymore, Jasper. He's kind of my life now.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Back at it!

After a long 7 month hiatus, I'm back!

I won't make excuses...over the summer, life got pretty hectic and consumed me. I was in the middle of planning a big conference at work, we became puppy parents, and we moved into our new home. Posting updates became one of those things that I would put off as tedious work, and slowly, the desire to keep up with my blog phased out. Some time this fall, I began to really miss it. I sat down to restart it a few other times, but I had no idea where to begin, so I would close it out to revisit at another time.

So, with the start of a new year, here we are. I can't think of a better time to bring back FitterSelf!

Although I've been absent from this blog, fitness is still very much a part of my life. Lately, I aim for 15-20 miles of running a week - these days, on my brand new treadmill! When we moved, our old treadmill bit the dust, which was fine at the time because it was September and still warm enough out to run. Our new home is conveniently located about 1/4 mile from the high school track, which provided a nice little change-up to my usual routine. Then October came, which brought New England down closer to near freezing temperatures, prompting my usual asthma issues. During this time, I had cut back on running, only able to enjoy it when weather permitted, and I took up indoor workout videos instead. Unfortunately, I started to get bored with that and was down to working out only once or twice a week. After over a month without one, we purchased a new treadmill, and back at it I went.

It's kind of amazing just how out of shape you can get in just a matter of 6 weeks...terrible, really. It took me about 3 weeks of solid running to get back to my usual 8:00 mile pace. I had worked back up to running 30 miles a week again and was feeling great. I was motivated, I had dropped the extra weight I gained during the transition of moving, and I felt strong. Then December happened. Specifically, the holiday season. One event after the other with the majority focus on eating...and drinking....and eating some more. Then running in between to try and make up for it. Vicious cycle, I tell ya!

One of the things I missed the most about this blog was the accountability factor. It had become my fitness diary, and when I stopped keeping up with it, I lost my accountability. I stopped being creative in the kitchen, I cut back on logging my workouts, and I got a bit lazy about leading a healthy lifestyle and gave in to unhealthy decisions.

With the new year, I feel the need to hit the 'refresh' button and revisit my goals of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I'm excited to be back at this - here's to a new year!