Sunday, February 28, 2010

Talk about motivating

Have you watched any cross-country skiing during the winter Olympics? I've caught a couple of races, but today the only Olympic event going on while I was at the gym for my 5-mile run was the men's cross-country skiing 50k race. That's 31 miles. YIKES.

Turns out it's a good thing that that race was on during my workout -- I definitely needed some motivation to get the run done since I'd been ill yesterday, and seeing this happen helped a lot:
Source: AP
Nothing like a bunch of huge Scandinavians cross-country skiing over 31 miles to make me think, "You know, 5 miles isn't so bad...I think I can do that..." My other alternative was Fareed Zakaria interviewing George Soros on CNN -- call me crazy, but that's not motivating. At least not for running.

Now I'm watching the hockey game -- go USA! Though really, I think it'd be pretty cool if Canada won. I mean, it is their national sport, after all. Wouldn't the U.S. be angry if Canada beat us at baseball or football? Yes. So either way I'll be happy with who wins.

What's your workout plan today?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Under the weather...

I've been good with my workouts this week -- this week was a "pull back" week where I'm only running three easy 5-mile runs, so Monday and Wednesday were 5 miles easy, Tuesday and Thursday I did total body conditioning and the elliptical. The final run of the week was supposed to be today, but when I woke up with a terrible stomach ache, chills, and a headache, I knew I'd have to postpone the run until tomorrow. I was in bed pretty much all day. Fun way to spend a Saturday, eh? Ugh. I'm hoping it's a 24-hour thing and I'll feel better tomorrow.

Bedtime for me! I hope you all are having a more exciting Saturday night than I am!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Recipes for Health: Risotto with Broccoli

Can you think of a more comforting winter food than risotto? I couldn't, and I was so taken by Martha Rose Shulman's recipes that I had to try one. I had purchased some chicken broth a couple of weeks earlier, I'd had a bottle of white wine chilling in the fridge for well over a month that was begging to be used, and I have this one Recipe for Health per week when I was cold last weekend I decided it was time to try Martha's risotto with broccoli.

From what I understand, risottos are generally made the same way: onion, garlic, arborio rice (it absorbs the chicken broth better than other rices, I think...), wine, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and any add-ins you'd like to have (mushrooms, peas, carrots, etc.). You continually add chicken broth as it becomes absorbed by the rice until it turns into a creamy, delicious dish that you can eat as a main dish or as a side.

This was only my second time making risotto, and the first time I had done an excellent job of chopping an onion and drinking wine while my friend C made the really, this was my first time making risotto. I picked up some broccoli, an onion, garlic, and arborio rice and went to work!

Here you can see it's not quite done yet and there's tons of broth to be soaked up by the rice:
Here's the finished product:
Mmm creamy... I paired mine with some roasted asparagus:
It's a rather laborious process - tending to the pan to see how the rice is absorbing the broth, stirring consistently, making sure the rice is cooked... But let me tell you, it's worth it. This dish is sooo you can see, this recipe made a TON of risotto. I'm STILL eating it and I've been eating it at practically every lunch and dinner this week! Luckily it's delicious, so I'm not yet (too) sick of it.

Enjoy, and check out Martha's other risottos! Come spring, I will definitely be returning to that page to try some of her spring risotto recipes.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Need some inspiration?

Please witness a G-chat conversation I just had with my friend L:
L: i just had the most awesome workout!
me: yay!!!
what did you do?
<3 endorphins
L: haha i <3 endorphins too!
i did 4 miles straight through on the treadmill
then i did all the weight machines, and for the first time ever, i was able to increase the weight on the arm machines
me: that is awesome!!!                       
L: but the best part is i didn't even feel like going to the gym
i had a splitting headache and an upset stomach
and then i had the BEST WORKOUT EVER 
This just goes to show you -- even if you're feeling awful, or just don't feel like going to the gym, you can (and probably will!) have a great workout and you'll leave feeling awesome!

Thank you, L, for the inspiration!!!

See you at 5:30, alarm clock!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Featured question: What should I wear?

Whenever the seasons change, I stare at my closet and determine that I have no appropriate clothes for the new season...even though I clearly did not walk around Manhattan naked the year before, so I must have something to wear. This weekend I found myself in a similar predicament involving what to wear running on a warmer day like Sunday was (think 45 degrees and sunny, with little to no wind...ahhh...the taste of spring!). My friend E felt the same way, and sent me a Facebook message asking for my opinion:
So I figure this question has a lot of answers, but since you are the only running expert/blogger I know, I'm going to ask you :)
What do you wear to run outside when it's cold but feels warm like it was today? I have general problems figuring out what to wear to run outside until it's warm enough to want to run with as few clothes as possible.
(Note: As I'm sure you've noticed, I'm no running expert (yet!) but I'm definitely learning!)

This is a great question, and gives me the opportunity to share with you a little-known secret:
Here you can enter the temperature, the wind (calm, breezy, windy, storm, gale), conditions (sun, overcast, rain, snow, other precipitation) and how you like to feel when you run (cool, in-between, warm). I wish the current weather was the above, but today it's raining in Manhattan (can't wait for California next month!!! I might not come back).

Once you enter in the information, it spits out a suggested outfit for you. If I were running in the above conditions, it would suggest the following:
Ughhh WHY can't it be SPRING yet?! I'd like nothing more than to have to wear this outfit running...

It's a really handy tool and it's great for those days when you're just not quite sure what would be right to wear. There was one day in November when it was sunny and chilly, but not windy or cold, and it suggested I wear shorts with a couple of layers on top. I thought it was crazy for suggesting shorts, but went with it - I was so glad that I did! There's nothing worse than overheating during a run and having to remove layers!

I hope you find this tool useful!

What's your favorite weather to run in?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gone with the wind

Today was a gorgeous, sunny day for a run. It was still cold, but the sun helped a lot and it was definitely warmer than last week's run. I fueled up around 9:45 with half a wheat bagel with peanut butter and half a banana - I try to eat something that will help me get through the long runs about an hour before I run.

My roommate B and I set out just after 11 a.m. for an 8-mile run along the Hudson. We were pretty ambitious last week, somehow managing to average 9:09 for our pace. This week was similar - I told B we should try to go a little slower and somehow we ended up going at a 9:07 pace! So much for slowing things down...but it was a really great run and I really like how B pushes me to go faster.

Here are our splits and course:

For the first 4.5 miles we were going with the wind and we had a pretty good pace, as you can see. We turned around and were suddenly hit with a wall of wind that slowed us down significantly (see mile 5 split). I'm not totally sure what is happening in that first mile - is it really possible we had an 8-minute mile going on? It seems like it might be off, but maybe not...oh well! It was a really good run!

I read last year that drinking chocolate milk after a hard workout is better for your muscles than plain milk or other drinks (here's a great Fitness magazine article about it). It has double the carbs and protein -- excellent for replenishing sore muscles. Plus, it's tasty! I've never been much of a Gatorade drinker (I prefer drinking SmartWater to replenish my electrolytes rather than sugary Gatorade), so when I read that chocolate milk is great after a tough workout, I knew I had a new way to replenish. Not that chocolate milk has electrolytes, but I'll take any good excuse to drink chocolate milk! I'm a big fan of the Horizon organic chocolate milk boxes (I'm like a little kid, I know), but I've recently started drinking the Trader Joe's chocolate soy milk boxes.

Did you have a good run today? How did you replenish?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Recipes for Health: Red Velvet Cupcakes and Steak

OK, fine, so Martha Rose Shulman does not have any Recipes for Health involving cupcakes or steak. But I did make one of her recipes this week, as I said I would try to do! I just also happened to celebrate Valentine's Day with cupcakes and steak, and I thought I should share that with you.

Check out our home-cooked Valentine's Day dinner
and Pinisi Bakery dessert.
(By the way, these are links to my other blog that I do with my roommate - all about food and bars in NYC, along with some of our own recipes. You should probably check it out.)

On top of all the cooking, eating, and wine-drinking, I've also been doing a lot of training. I know I've been a little neglectful on the blogging front, but I've definitely not been neglecting my training. I did 3 easy miles on the treadmill Monday, elliptical and total body conditioning on Tuesday, 5 miles indoors (1 at 5.8 mph, 3 at 6.8 mph, 1 at 5.8 mph) on Wednesday, and today was 3 easy miles followed by total body conditioning. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to my rest day tomorrow, but I'm also really pumped about Saturday's 8-mile run with the roomie. All said, I feel pretty great this week!

I even managed to stick to my goal of cooking a Recipe for Health each week (though to be honest, my roommate made this last week and inspired me, and conveniently there's a Recipe for Health with the same ingredients!). This week's feature: stewed peppers with tomatoes, onion and garlic.
Martha's version doesn't call for sausages, but I cut up two Trader Joe's andouille chicken sausages and they were perfect in this dish. It was dinner last night, and for lunch today I'm having it on top of whole wheat spaghetti. Yum!

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 plump garlic cloves, minced
3 large red peppers, or a combination of red and yellow peppers, thinly sliced or chopped
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, drained of some but not all of its juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
I added two chicken sausages

  1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or heavy casserole over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes, and add the garlic and peppers. Cook, stirring often, for five minutes, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook for another five minutes until the peppers are tender.
  2. Add the tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper, bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, stirring from time to time, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat, about 10 minutes. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer over low heat for another 15 to 20 minutes (or longer), stirring from time to time, until the mixture is thick and fragrant. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve as a side dish, as a topping for pizza, pasta, polenta, rice or bruschetta, as a filling for an omelet, or stir into scrambled eggs.
It's super easy and really delicious. Give it a try!

What did you do for Valentine's Day this year? Did you cook? Go out to eat?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Cross Training Day!

Um, I mean, Happy Valentine's Day!

Today was a cross training day for me and as lazy as I was feeling, I decided I'd feel better if I went to the gym. I usually just do the elliptical for 45 minutes or so, but I wanted to jazz things up today so I took some advice from a Runner's World column and did three different machines. Today I did the erg, the elliptical, and another machine that I don't know the name of and can't find online...

Being a former coxswain, I've been around the erg (rowing machine) quite a bit. It drives me crazy when I see people misusing the machine (and abusing their bodies), but who am I to go up and correct their form? (Though honestly, sometimes I really really want to!) Today I just hopped on and did a 2k (not pushing too hard, but I was sweating) and then just did some easy strokes. I spent about 12 minutes on the erg.

Next up I did the elliptical for 28 minutes. I always do a cross training or variety option instead of manual so I get some built-in changes in elevation. I also bump up the resistance to 7 or 8 to make it a more challenging workout. I know a lot of people say the elliptical is boring, but if you do a program and watch something interesting, it's not so bad! It works your arms and different parts of your legs, and it has a lot less impact than a treadmill.

The last machine was part-StairMaster, part-hip adductor machine. It was interesting...not a favorite, but it was good to change it up.

All in all it was a tough workout, and I'm feeling pretty good right now! I'm glad I changed it up and tried something new.

Now for the Valentine's Day festivities! I'll be cooking dinner with a couple of friends - should be tasty!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Breakfast of champions

My roommate is training for the same half-marathon as me so we set out on a 7-mile run around 11:30. She's a little faster than me (OK, a lot faster), but I decided to step it up a little bit for this run and try to keep up with her. We ended up running it in a little over an hour at a 9:09 average pace (not bad, eh?! I was pleased).

 Our splits

Our course

I usually run by myself with my iPod, so it was so fun to change it up and run with a friend to chat with along the way - it made the run fly by and I even (almost) forgot about the cold!

Needless to say, after this speedy (and hard! It was freezing out!) run I needed to refuel. The most recent Runner's World magazine has a great spread on breakfasts, so I looked there for some inspiration:
Yummm! Who doesn't love breakfast? And I'm always looking for new things to eat (Cream of Wheat, oatmeal, and yogurt only go so far...). When I read the article and saw the pictures, I knew that I had to try to make the pancakes topped with yogurt and blueberries as soon as possible. Last weekend I picked up some Arrowhead Mills oat bran pancake mix at Whole Foods and was ready to use it after this run. I topped it off with some Trader Joe's nonfat Greek yogurt and blueberries.
Don't you think mine looks just like the picture from the magazine? Hahaha...OK, mayyybe not. It was the perfect meal to help me refuel after a tough run. You should definitely give it a try - good carbs, protein, and antioxidants make for a delicious breakfast!

What's your favorite way to refuel after a hard workout?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

One of those days...

Today was just one of those days. Despite the fact that I knew it would be snowing outside, it was (relatively) easy to get out of bed, but I was sore from total body conditioning on Tuesday and just had a feeling it was going to be one of those days where I wouldn't go very fast. On a speed interval day. Grrreat! (Note the sarcasm.)

It was darker than this when I went outside to head to the gym (no outdoor running today, but I usually treadmill it up during the week), but this was what I found outside my door this morning on my way to work:
Quite a sight, eh? Unfortunately, nothing could motivate my legs to move any faster on the treadmill this morning - not even the blizzard I knew would be waiting for me post-gym!

My training plan called for a five-mile speed interval run with a one-mile warm-up, and alternating between one mile at 8:52 pace and half-mile jogs, followed by a one-mile cooldown. Since I was feeling a bit sluggish, I decided to change it up, alternating between a half-mile at 8:52 pace (about 6.8 mph on the treadmill) and a quarter-mile jog (I warmed up, cooled down and did my jogs at 5.5 mph. I tried to do it at 5.8 mph and it was just too quick for me today!).

Since one of my goals during this training is to get outside my comfort zone (more on that in a future post) and push myself a little harder, I figured it was probably a good thing that my legs weren't in the mood to move very fast. It would be a challenge, and it was a challenge I was up for!

The great thing about speed intervals is that they make the time go by really quickly on the treadmill. I had my usual CNN's American Morning on the treadmill's TV, which always does a great job of (a) passing the time and (b) informing me on what's happening in the world, but there's something about varying the speed that helps the time go by even faster. Slow as my legs felt, those 50 minutes flew by and before I knew it I was on my way home!

If you're looking for a way to spice up your workouts, try doing intervals. Not only will they help you pass the time, but they'll help improve your speed, too. For the higher speed, try a pace that's a little bit uncomfortable for you but one that you can sustain for about a half-mile. This is something that I'll be working on a lot during my training for both the half-marathon and the Chicago marathon so you'll be reading more about it!

I know that we all have those days where we feel sluggish and slow (even my superfast marathon-running boss said he's been feeling a bit sluggish lately!), but by showing up at the gym and pushing through that feeling, we might be surprised by what we can accomplish. I know I certainly was today!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Recipes for Health: Eggplant, Tomato and Chickpea Casserole

I love the fitness and nutrition section of the New York Times website, and one of my favorite features within that section is Recipes for Health.
The author, Martha Rose Shulman, features a different ingredient every week or so, typically a vegetable or grain, but she also features some more unusual items every once in a while, like stale bread, Swiss chard, or gluten-free pasta. Along with each ingredient suggestion comes four or five healthful meals you can create around that item. I've noticed that now you can look up recipes by ingredient or by theme, which is a great feature if you've got something in the pantry you're dying to cook and need to find a recipe for it stat.

I have to admit, as much as I love to cook, I've spent more time gazing at the recipes and dreaming of what they'd taste like than I have actually making the suggestions. That will change this week: I've decided that I'm going to do a much better job of cooking the things that good ol' Martha (not Stewart, though her recipes are also amazing) suggests, and maybe aim to do one per week.

Last year I stumbled across a recipe called tomato and chickpea bake (which also involves an onion and an eggplant) on another great recipe site, BBC Good Food. Being a recent convert to the deliciousness that is eggplant, I decided to give the recipe a whirl and loved how it ended up. When I saw chickpeas were a featured ingredient on Recipes for Health, I clicked and saw what appeared to be a more delicious version of my beloved tomato and chickpea bake. I made this over the weekend and I think you should, too. It lasts for several meals, the chickpeas are a great source of protein, and there are a ton of veggies in it. If you'd like a little meat, add a diced-up sausage - I've used a chicken sausage before and it turned out great. Topped on a slice of toast, with a side of hummus and pita chips, or on its own, it's a delicious meal.

Not the most photogenic dish, but certainly a healthful one!

Eggplant, Tomato and Chickpea Casserole
by Martha Rose Shulman

1 large eggplant or 2 medium (1 pound), peeled if desired, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced about 1/2 inch thick
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thin across the grain - I used a yellow onion
2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes - I used a 15 oz can of no-salt-added diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Pinch of sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 sprig basil - I did not use this
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and brush the foil with olive oil. Place the eggplant slices on the foil, sprinkle with salt and brush each slice lightly with oil. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the heat, and carefully fold the foil in half over the eggplant. Crimp the edges together, so that the eggplant is sealed inside the foil and will continue to steam and soften. Leave for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes, and add the garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, cinnamon, basil and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered, stirring often, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is thick and fragrant. Add freshly ground pepper, then taste and adjust salt. Remove the basil sprig, and stir in the drained chickpeas.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin. Cover the bottom with thin layer of tomato sauce, and make a layer of half the eggplant. Spoon half the remaining sauce over the eggplant, and repeat the layers.
  4. Bake 30 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle on the parsley before serving.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I didn't freeze to death!

And I met my goal!
It was absolutely frigid, but I think my legs were numb so it made the race in the cold slightly more bearable. I had a really great time at this race, and it was definitely good for me to see how the NYRR races are set up since I'll be running a lot of them this year!

I kept an eye on my Garmin to see what my pace was, but I started it a little early so the splits by mile are a little bit off. I'll have to be a little less trigger-happy next time and wait till I actually cross the start line to start the Garmin. Here's the first of many maps to come involving Central Park:
After the race, a bunch of people who met through Meghann's blog had brunch at Arte Cafe  - I met Meghann, Dori, Ashley, Melissa, and some other great girls who ran the race too. I had a delicious omelet with goat cheese and spinach, and was so full from the chocolate chip bagel I had after the race that I took half of the omelet home.

Brunch was followed by the obligatory post-race nap (after the obligatory post-race shower, of course), then lots of food for Super Bowl Sunday. My friend invited me over, and my roommate and I ate our body weight in homemade baked ziti, hummus, veggies, crackers, and of course, brownies, cookies and beer. All in all it was a successful race day and Super Bowl Sunday!

I'll be planning my future races for this year soon so let me know if you're running in any I should know about!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

First race of 2010!

Remember last week when I chickened out of a 6 mile run outside because it was too cold? Check out the weather prediction for my race tomorrow morning:
My race is at 9am. Which means it'll be 21 degrees and feel like 7 degrees. Which means I should not have been a weenie last weekend when it was 18 degrees and felt like 6 degrees. Oh well!

I'm super excited about the race though, and am thinking that maybe this cold will encourage me to run extra fast! I'm hoping for a 9-minute mile, but my main goal is to HAVE FUN! I'll be sure to update you tomorrow after the race!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lessons learned: Go with the flow

Over the course of my half-marathon training I plan on sharing little tidbits on lessons learned and things I hope to do differently during my training for the April half-marathon. The first one, and probably the one I will have to work the hardest at doing this time around, is to go with the flow.

In general, I'm a pretty go-with-the-flow kind of gal. I don't really make lists (except at work, but I need to stay organized somehow!), I like to take things as they come and handle them as best I can, and I think others would say I'm an easygoing person. When it came to my training for the first half-marathon, however, I shall I put this?...a nutcase. I pretty much let it rule my life, and that is really NOT the way to go.

I actually saw something in the "Ask Miles" section of February's Runner's World that reminded me of how I was when I was training:
Uhh...NOT the one about chomping energy bars. The other one. I swear.

I'm definitely on the same page as Miles: I'm sure my Exact Mileage Syndrome had to do with the fact that I was new to running and was channeling my nervous energy into something I could control. But when it comes to training, look at it as a guideline, not a rule. Except for the long runs. Those you have to do - even Hal Higdon says so!

Like my training program for the April half-marathon, I used SmartCoach from Runner's World and determined that I would have to follow the program to a T in order to finish the race successfully. No matter what, I would run the number of miles it told me to, on the days it told me to, at the pace it told me to, and no one could stop me. I pretty much pushed all the social aspects of my life aside and focused solely on training.

Here's how it would go most weekends:
Hey Margaret, do you want to come to a happy hour this evening?
No, no I do not because I am TRAINING for a HALF-MARATHON, thankyouverymuch.
What about dinner in the Lower East Side?
Oh I don't think so, I need to have a very particular ratio of carbohydrates to protein in my meals and that restaurant just won't do.
Can you come to your best friend's birthday party?
OK, I'll come, but I won't drink and I won't stay out very late because I have a VERY LONG RUN to accomplish in the morning.

Man, I must have been a BLAST to be around! Sorry friends! I promise I'll be more fun this time around!

Anyway, as you can see, I basically let it rule my life, I missed out on a ton of fun summer activities, and I allowed it become a stress in my life instead of something to look forward to.

So here's my advice: Chill out. Go with the flow. Have fun. If you miss a workout, don't beat yourself up over it. Use the pace suggestions as a guide, but if you want to go a little faster or slower, that's OK. Don't let training be the reason for not doing something. (Unless, of course, you need an excuse to get out of something. Then it's totally acceptable.) Even if you're a person with the most Type-A personality in the world, don't stress out over your training guide. Yes, the point is to finish the race, but with the long runs on the weekend and a couple of runs during the week, you'll be able to do that, and you'll be able to have fun while you're training.

That's one thing that I've really noticed since my race in September. While I've been running without training for anything specific, I've come to the realization that running is really fun! When you don't put any pressure on yourself, you'll be surprised at how fun it can be. I've gone out on runs saying, "If you have to walk, that's OK", but I end up having so much fun running that I don't even think about walking. It's a really great feeling!

So that's one of my goals during this round of training: Have fun.

Hopefully I can do that for the full marathon training, too!

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's official

I'm registered for the 2010 Chicago marathon!!!!!

 Woo hoo!!!