Saturday, January 31, 2009

Playlist enhancer: The Killers' "Spaceman"

I have to get this CD. I've heard two songs from The Killers' Day & Age CD. I have their first three CDs and was disappointed with Sawdust, their third CD. But I've heard two songs from this new album and they're very good.

I imagine sliding this song in the middle of a playlist to help me maintain a good rhythm. I haven't yet thought about my half-marathon playlist but I anticipate that this will be on there. Sorry for the sound quality but it's the best I could find.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Blog biz

I've often brought up different topics based on some of the things I'm exposed to on a regular basis. For instance, I subscribe to Men's Health magazine and will sometimes post something from an issue that catches my eye. I've also referred to my heart rate monitor on many times, and now with my Garmin Forerunner I'll have more and more personal experiences and anecdotes to share.

But I get tired of typing out the same thing over and over again and explaining what it is that I'm explaining. For instance, I usually say something like "in a recent issue of Men's Health" or something to the effect.

I'm introducing some lingo that will help cut that short, so familiarize yourself.

* The Mag: this is Men's Health, so if I say "The Mag suggests" it means Men's Health suggests

* The Book: this is the Competetive Runner's Handbook, which I got a few weeks ago. It's a great resource, but has a long name and then I feel I have to explain what it is every time I bring it up so from now on it's The Book.

* The Polar, or Polar: that's my heart rate monitor. I registered an average of 167 on the Polar means my average heart rate was 167 on my heart rate monitor.

* The Garmin, or Garmin: that's my newest toy, my Forerunner 101. I haven't used the Garmin yet so we'll figure this one out together.

* One other thing... I did subscribe to Runner's World magazine but have to get receive an issue so I may call it The Other Mag or something, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

No run

I had wanted to test out my brand-spankin' new Garmin on Thursday. I had a two-mile run slated for the day and wanted to run outdoors. But the day dragged on and before I knew it I'd missed my chance to run in the morning.

I had thought about running before my game but ended up not having enough time to do so. I probably didn't run two miles but I was particularly active during the game, running around the field and everything, so I felt good about my physical activity for the day. Had I been scheduled to run more than three miles, I probably wouldn't have but two miles is relatively light, considering the other amounts I'll have to put in later during this training portion of my half-marathon.

After the match, I sat in horrible traffic en route to my other assignment; I picked up some referee assignments at a local university as I'm officiating some intramural co-ed games; basically a league for grad students studying to be doctors and dentists and pursuing other such careers.

All told I officiated over four games on Thursday with no true run. While I feel good about having put in some work, I feel like I wasted a chance to test out my new toy. Oh well. Perhaps Saturday I will try it out. After all, I've got a two-mile run scheduled for Saturday. And if that weren't enough, I've got a six-miler scheduled for Sunday, so my using the Garmin is a question of when, not if.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Special delivery

Guess what I got in the mail on Wednesday?

I'll give you a hint: It starts with G- and ends in -armin.

And it helps measure pace, distance and time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who fartleked?

I did.

Okay, now that I got that bit of a humor that would make any 12-year-old boy proud, I need to tell you about today's run. Today was Week 1, Day 2 of my 12-week long path to hell otherwise known as my half-marathon training regimen. The program I'm following had me fartlek for two miles today.

According to my book running book I've invested in, a fartlek is "a few bursts of speed included within your normal endurance run." So for instance you are running like you always do but every now and then you speed up. So if there is a street corner you are approaching, you can run fast towards it, then go back down to normal speed, run to a certain house or building or another landmark, back down to normal speed, etc.

This is a sort of interval training, when it all comes down to it. I suppose the only difference is that you don't go down to a walk like you do with intervals, you just run slow and run fast, as opposed to walk, run slow and run fast (and sprint sometimes too). But a fartlek run can be shorter in time because you are working a little harder and thus can finish a little quicker.

I had originally thought about doing intervals but I the plan only called for three miles today so I didn't really bother with the interval run since it's closer to four and I'm all for shaving miles... I mean, sticking to the plan. So instead, I fartleked (I'm pretty sure it can be used as a verb).

Here's what I did: I walked for about a minute or so after warming up a bit on the bike. I started at a 5.5 and did that until minute three. Then I raised it up to 7.5 for three minutes, back down to 5.5 for two, up to 7.5 for three, back to 5.5 for two, then raised it to 7.5 for four minutes and alternated until I got to three miles. It took a little under 30 minutes, and it felt great. I felt so in control and felt in a great rhythm that I didn't want to stop, I wanted to keep running. But I have a plan and need to stick to it so I grudgingly went down to 3.7 to walk a cool-down portion.

I was encouraged by the second part of the section on fartleking. The author recommends 4-8 bursts of 2 minutes each with 2 minutes of slow running recovery in between. I must have read that section but I don't recall it specifically but I had good instincts apparently in figuring out a good way to fartlek.

Of course, the bad thing is that I don't have any more fartlek runs scheduled. I have variations of tempo runs and intervals the rest of the way. Still, it doesn't mean I can't throw in a fartlek run every now and then. It was really enjoyable and something I'd do again.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I weighed in even though I figured that was a bad idea. I checked in post-workout at 187.5, so I'm guessing I'm around 188 or so, which is freakin' fantastic because it's under 190, where I was at the last time I weighed myself. Already this training regimen is kickstarting my metabolism and helping drive some weight loss. Awesome.

New morning fuel?

A little admission: I'm cheap sometimes, especially when it comes to bread. See, once a week I get free bread from a local church mostly to pass along to my parents but I usually come away with some loaves that I can use immediately or freeze for later use.

But at my local grocery store, every trip I make I peruse the day-old bread rack and usually find some good deals. Sometimes the bread turns not-so-edible in a couple of days but usually it lasts just fine - especially when I freeze it - and at 59 or 99 cents a loaf or package, you can't beat that.

After blogging about morning runs and the affects of not eating breakfast may have on them, I decided to see what else would be a good breakfast fuel. I read in my new book on running that bagels serve as a good breakfast for running.

In the book The Competitive Runner's Handbook, the author suggests several options for pre-run meals: a small high-carb meal (500-1000 calories) two to four hours prior to running; a high-carb snack an hour before running or a sports drink or sports gel 5-15 minutes prior to a run. A high-carb snack includes bagels, the author suggests.

I made a mental note of that and was going to bring it up here at some point. So, I went to the grocery store on Monday and while checking out the day-old bread rack came across a bag of bagels. I picked them up and just had them for breakfast... not the whole bag of five but I did have two.

Each bagel has 110 calories so it was about the same as an energy bar. Each bagel also has 26g carbs and 7g protein as well as 8g fiber. So already I'm quite close to meeting my daily fiber intake recommendation. Yay for me.

Anyway, I didn't have coffee with the bagels even though I'm always up for a cup of joe in the morning. I don't know why but I just can't drink coffee and run effectively afterward. It just doesn't do it for me.

I'm running intervals today so we'll see how well the bagels held up. Another thing, the bagels were 39 cents so if they don't work out, the investment wasn't grand.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Run

I was going to name this post "The ___ Run" with a word to go in the blank that would best sum up my experience.

However, everything leading up to and including the run itself was a combination of things, so many that I can't really accurately describe it one word, hence "The Run."

I finished my run. I got in 3.25 miles, which is what I needed to do to keep in line with my training plan. But as I mentioned in my post earlier, everything was up against me when I woke up this morning. Anyway, to help relieve some stress and anxiety that was pent up from this morning, and to avoid doing any actual housework, I'm going to try to best describe my run from the moment I left my 3-year-old daughter at her preschool.


On my way home, I couldn't help but think of how little I wanted to run. I was sneezing quite a bit and the faintness of a cold was just starting to settle in. My calf was not in pain but I could feel the spot where my wife's foot (her heel to be precise) made contact with my leg, just between the bone and the muscle.

Great aim!

It had been nearly three hours since I ate my energy bar, so I deduced that all the energy was gone from my body by then. I wasn't trying to find an excuse not to run but I wouldn't have had to have looked far had I wanted to.

Oh no? What's this?

I got stuck behind a line of cars waiting to get around some traffic construction near my house. That's all I needed, to get home well after 9:30. As it was I wasn't going to have a lot of time to get my run in and then get ready to get my older girl from kindergarten but getting home closer to 10 would have been mentally strenuous.

But I finally got home, right around 9:30, and immediately went inside to find my shoes. I put on some running socks, my shoes, grabbed my watch (my heart-rate monitor part that straps around my chest was already in place), the Vaseline and got ready. I was not going to change out of the t-shirt I had on so some Vaseline was in order.

Don't want any post-run souvenirs today.

It was cold so I grabbed some gloves and a beanie. I needed a long-sleeve something though but I don't have the widest selection. I found just two things that would work but both were remnants from my 300-pound days; both XXL sweatshirts. I actually threw one on and was going to run in it. But when I went to put my iPod on I said forget it.

Don't need any extra weight dragging me behind.

By the time I finally stretched and got out the door, it was after 9:40. Time was starting to become a factor, so I needed to get going. I walked my usual short distance to get my legs warmed up and started. I felt stiff as cardboard. It was cold and windy and my lips were already screaming for chap stick.

What about the music?

Oh great. I'd actually started my run without music. That's how focused I was on the distractions, or rather that's how much the distractions caused me to lose focus. I had my iPod strapped to my arm but it was silent. I decided on The Killers because I needed something soothing yet rhythmic and I had just listened to Flogging Molly, so DJ Bueno settled on The Killers.

Just put it on Hot Fuss and move on.Italic
The first song of the album started playing but I heard a combination of "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" and wind scraping in my ear. I tried to turn it up and then heard my left earpiece go quiet.

No! Forget it, I'll suffer the wind.

My earpiece has been going out on me forever and sometimes I ruin it by messing with the volume. I decided I'd rather listen to wind and music on both ears than music on one ear and wind on both.

All right, 1:07 in. Yay.

I didn't want to be discouraged but I had only gone one minute and all that had happened. But I plugged along, trying to let the music distract me, trying to just get into a rhythm and forget about the distractions. It was tough but around eight minutes I finally started to feel... I won't say good but felt more comfortable.

Like clockwork.

I was around the mile mark and that always helps me. The first mile is my hardest mile so now I was encouraged to push on. I turned the corner and started a long ascent up a hill. I encountered one major obstacle: the wind. Now, it wasn't something that was present before then but then again I had houses and walls to slow the wind. Now, I was getting a mouthful of wind and I was jogging slowly, but not by choice. I just couldn't break through the wind.

Still, I made it up to the turnaround point, the entrance to a golf club, and went down the other side of the street. I eventually got past the final traffic light and began the last leg of the trip, which I always take in relative solitude. My route takes me behind the entire subdivision of homes and it's heavy traffic if I encounter two or more cars there.

This is where the glory is.

Maybe not on the backside of our tract but running alone, running early in the morning, running without anybody to witness my feat... that's where the glory lies. I'll run in the half marathon, sure. I'll run in the Mud Run and in another race or three this year. But merely participating in that won't matter if I don't do the dirty work first. If I don't get out and run, no matter what obstacles might try to stop me from doing so, then I won't be able to run the races as I would like. Glory for me is meeting my goals, overcoming challenges, exceeding expectations. The tangible part of running is the time you ran the race in. And while that is important, it's also important to put yourself in a position where you can finish a race and meet your goals at the same time, whether it's a time you want to meet or just finishing the race, period.

And for me, that only comes when I put in the miles like I did today.

Wrench in the road

I'm all set for the official start-up to the half-marathon and I've got a couple of things working against me this morning, as if I didn't already have enough challenges.

* I woke up sneezing and although I don't have a full-on cold, I think I can sneeze my towards one. Not that I want to but I fear that could be in my near future.

* It's cold and windy. Okay, cold is relative term I know. I realize that in some parts of the country the weather is on the wrong side of zero. However, we've had a mild winter mixed in with some days that have dipped back to normal levels, at least levels we're used to in January around here (again, not too cold comparatively). But when the weather changes I get sick. Every year, when the weather goes from cold to warm and warm to cold, I get sick. It hasn't happened yet since fall and winter were quite mild so I hope that the dip in temperatures hasn't finally messed up my equilibrium.

* I got kicked yesterday. My wife playfully kicked me yesterday - I think it was playful - and now I've got a knock on my calf. It doesn't hurt but I can feel something down there, and I'm really hoping it doesn't swell up or flare up during the run.

I will go on a run, though. I don't have any jitters or anything - that will be for the 10-mile run on Feb. 14. But I guess nothing can go off without some sort of initial start-up problems. The good thing is though, with this training program I have to stay on. And not that I would have necessarily skipped today's run had I not had a training program, it certainly would have been easier to do so.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Motivational Mondays (Jan. 26)

It's the start of a new week, and for me the start of my challenging 12-week training regimen leading up to my first half marathon. This is it, no turning back. I'm set and ready to go.

Now, before I get to the motivation part, I have to fill you in on Day One of the training: today I have off. Mondays just happen to be a rest day, along with Friday, so today is a bit misleading. However, I'm taking it seriously today and am already in a training mood.

Even though the training will come fast at me, I think that I'm ready for it. I know I'm ready for it. I've been running not even a year now but I feel excited at the opportunity to really stretch my legs and get out there and run. I've been trying to get more organized in my life in general, from cleaning out my garage to organizing my kitchen to planning meals... pretty much all aspects. Running is right up there with it.

When you start something new, and this training thing really is new to me because I've not been so organized in this way before, it's easy to harp on the negatives. It's easy to see the challenges that lie ahead and feel as if you've bitten off more than you can chew. To me, running 10 miles seems like a challenge, let alone running 13. And if I think about 26.2... forget it. I'll never run more than three miles in my life again.

But I'm focusing on the positives. I can run several miles at a time. Running five miles does not seem mentally challenging to me like it used to. Running seven miles doesn't seem like something I can't do. Even the double-digit barrier is one I'm looking forward to tackling.

It's easy to get down on yourself and doubt yourself. I remember having those sorts of feelings when I first thought about signing up for a trainer. I remember the conversation precisely, as my wife called me and suggested it to me back in early 2006. I was scared and I knew it was a recipe for disaster. I just knew that it was going to be a waste of time and money and that we'd end up right back where we started, eating fast food five times a week.

But I didn't know that I had it in me all along, that I just had to tap into that part of me that is motivated, that wants to succeed, that thrives when facing challenges.

I may be a bit of an optimist but I know we all have that part in us. I know we all have that drive and that motivation somewhere. Maybe we're not all motivated to run 13.1 miles but motivation exists for all sorts of different things.

You have to be true to yourself and commit to yourself, be accountable to yourself because you ultimately reward yourself by succeeding.

You just have to want it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Savory Sundays: Pasta and spinach

Pasta is not one of my specialties, I'll admit that. I'm not one to just boil up some pasta, toss it in some sauce or whatever and then serve it with whatever. But when I see recipes like this, I feel like I should be doing that. This recipe, which is from Giada de Laurentiis, is great because it is so simple.

* 1 pound whole wheat or multi grain penne
* 3 garlic cloves
* 2 ounces goat cheese
* 1 ounce reduced fat cream cheese
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 6 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
* 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

First up, here's what I used. I failed to notice that when buying the baby spinach, I was actually buying a baby spinach salad. Luckily I had enough baby spinach on hand to make up the difference.

Mix up half the spinach with the garlic, goat cheese and cream cheese as well as salt and pepper.

Place the other half of the baby spinach leaves in a bowl.

Toss the pasta with the spinach in the bowl, add the sauce and then toss altogether.

And then you've got yourself a tasty bowl of pasta.

Now, I'm not a big fan of cream cheese nor do I care for goat cheese. However, the spinach had enough flavor to carry the plate. It's something I'll be making again... probably soon since the goat cheese is just sitting in my fridge collecting, well, collecting nothing really, just sitting there.

Savory Sundays: Creamy Broccoli Soup

I never used to be a big fan of broccoli. It never looked quite appetizing nor could I really eat it raw; if I ever ate it, it was in a soup. So I can't explain why I first tried this recipe. I never cared for broccoli and I certainly didn't care for broccoli soup but there I found myself interested in broccoli soup of all things.

I think I made a wise choice though. I think deep down inside I knew it was healthy and should be part of my meal plan. I made this recipe for broccoli soup which I found on All Recipes. The first time I made it was sometime in early '08, about a year ago, and when the weather finally started to get cold here I found myself wanting to make it again.

Here is the broccoli before I began dicing it up.

Honestly it wasn't going well. It was taking too long to cut and the pieces were big even after I cut them. So I just tossed it all in the good processor.

I doubled the recipe so I needed five cups of cut-up broccoli. I tossed in a pan with some chicken broth and onions.

Afterward I added milk which had been slightly thickened with flour. I added some cheddar cheese too.

The soup was great and because I had used the food processor I was able to get more broccoli in and the soup tasted quite like broccoli, more so than in my previous attempts at it.

After dinner my wife said I owned that recipe, that I had made it my own. It's safe to say that I never would have I would enjoy making - and eating - a broccoli recipe, but that's the case.

Savory Sundays: shredded chicken quesadillas

I've become a fan of poaching chicken. Before I thought I was scared by this technique but I was just unaware of how it really worked. In general, cooking chicken has always been a bit of a challenge because I'm always a bit worried that it will be pink on the inside. Poaching it, though, pretty much takes all the struggles of checking the chicken out of your hands. Just boil it, let it simmer, take the pot off the heat and let it sit in the water for at least 30 minutes. It's really that simple.

Here's my favorite way to poach chicken. I found this recipe online somehow, just randomly really.

* 3 to 4 chicken breast halves, with bone and skin (about 3 pounds)
* 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
* 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
* 2 bay leaves
* Pinch of dried thyme
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 (14.5-ounce) can low sodium chicken broth

And here's what all that looks like in a saucepan.

Now, I don't buy canned chicken broth. I buy the boullion and make my own so I add about two cups instead. This time, I doubled the recipe and used four cups worth of water that I made into chicken broth. I use boneless, skinless breasts so the bone-in one probably would have a bit more flavor but this has quite a bit of flavor as is. Here's half of them shredded up ready to go.

Now, my favorite thing to do with these is to make quesadillas out of them. Here's what I do. First I shred up some Monterey Jack cheese.

Then, I heat flour tortillas and put some cheese in it, followed by chicken, red onion, cilantro, sea salt, pepper and then some more cheese.

Then, I fold the tortilla in half, put it in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or so. They come out looking good and tasting great.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Get up and run?

One of the first things that appealed to me about the 12-week training course I'll follow for my first half-marathon was the Tuesday/Thursday runs. They are shorter runs as they start off at 2-3 miles and I believe don't get any higher than 5 at their peak. For a more experienced or a competitive runner, this may not be ideal but for me it's going to work well.

Anyway, the shorter runs got me to thinking about running in the wee hours of the morning. There was a time last year that I was running before 5 a.m. Most days, I wake up before 5 a.m. During the week, my wife gets up between 4:40 and 4:50 usually (that's around the time the alarm goes off) and I get up with her every morning. I've been accustomed and conditioned to wake up early so no sleeping in for me on the weekends either.

I don't remember for how long I ran early in the morning. I remember blogging about it here so I may go back into the archives to figure that out.

Still, I was wondering about running early and eating. I eat breakfast every day without fail. It may not be a full-on eggs-and-bacon-and-toast-and-coffee breakfast... mostly because I don't like eggs... but I eat something. Usually it's either an energy bar or cereal. But if I were to get up early and run, I would just get up and run. I wouldn't get up, eat, wait for a few minutes to let it settle and then run.

But is running without eating good for you?

This story from Runner's World says no, that eating something before a run is essential. Now, I tend to agree with that. I need fuel in my body before I push it to its limits. I hate the way I feel when I run and/or exercise without having eaten properly or eaten at all beforehand. I like a cup of coffee as much as the next guy but I won't drink coffee if I know I'm going to run or play soccer. I just won't do it. I struggle with it (But it's funny because I was talking to a professional soccer player last year about this very subject and he drinks several cups of coffee about an hour before games which I thought was insane!).

Still, I'm not sure that squeezing in a 2-mile run at 4:50 a.m. without breakfast would be a bad thing necessarily. As the article says, the body has been fasting for quite a few hours by the time you wake up and the glycogen levels are down and all but would it really be that bad on a shorter run? I guess to me it seems as if I ran within 15 minutes of waking up I'd be good to go for 2-3 miles. More, I'd probably not want to go about it that way but for a short run it doesn't seem like my legs would seize up on me midway through the second mile.

I'll be debating this until I actually try it again - if I try it again. I don't remember having any sorts of problems before when running in the pre-dawn hours. I kept the runs short back then, so it'd be about the same types of distances as they are now. And one thing I enjoyed about that was that after my run - maybe not right after but sometime that morning - I could still drink my coffee!

I think by the midway point of the schedule this will all be a moot point as I won't try a 5-mile run without an energy bar beforehand. That's a 45-minute investment in time and I'll need as much fuel as I can for that.

But unless my wife's schedule changes drastically - and I don't foresee that happening since she has a great job with the only drawback being the daily commute required to get to it - runs at 4 a.m. will be an option for me that I may want to explore either for this training or in general for the future. It's nice to get a run in early in the morning and get on with your day afterward, but it's not nice to struggle through a run, no matter what time of day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The end of innocence

Well, maybe that's too dramatic. But today, Saturday and Sunday have the feel of the end of something. Really, it's going to be the beginning of something on Monday, the start of a 12-week training schedule.

So these next three days are free. I'm free to run how long or how short I see fit, or not run at all. I'm not really free to eat what I want (dang it!) but I anticipate tightening up my meal plan a bit, maybe changing it up to include more pasta, less Mexican food (sad!) and of course lots more fruits/vegetables.

In many ways, though, next week is what I've been waiting for. I want to get back into a real routine and rhythm, challenge myself by pushing distances I've not yet experienced and maybe shed some pounds in the process. I'm going to weigh in on Monday (frightening!) and I'll try and record my weight on a weekly basis to see if there's any change in that. Of course, having the ability to measure my body fat percentage and other things like that would help more but I'll track my weight nonetheless.

Anyway, I'm going to enjoy my weekend probably a bit more than usual. I'm going to get a run in on Saturday, may play soccer on Sunday and just take it easy and hope I don't get injured.

And then, it will be off on a 12-week journey (exciting/scary!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Playlist enhancer: Flogging Molly's "Requiem for a dying song"

I think this is my new favorite song to run to. I don't know though, since I've only run to it once. Earlier today, I fired up Flogging Molly's newest CD "Float" on my iPod and ran to it. This song was song number one, and I usually don't care for hearing the best song or a song I really enjoy right off the bat because the rest of the run can be a letdown but this was different. It's Flogging Molly, after all.

Anyway, this song is my kind of running song. It's upbeat but not a dance song. It's not light at all but it doesn't make me want to tear across the sidewalk (or treadmill) when I hear it. And I'm guessing it would go well with a lot of different types of music from lots of different types of bands.

Here's the song, not a video but just the music.

Mileage looming

I found a training schedule that I will use as a guideline for my own half-marathon training. It's from the book The Competitive Runner's Handbook by Bob Glover, which I recently picked up. It's a great book as it explains a lot of different aspects of running (and will provide plenty of fodder for this blog!).

It's 12 weeks and that would start Monday, as my run is on April 19, the end of the 12th week.

The parts I will modify are the Wednesday training sessions. He includes fartlek runs, tempo runs, hills... and I will do those but I will also do intervals and I will adjust things accordingly. The part I won't deviate too much from is the distance runs. It calls for runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as long runs on Saturdays. The midweek runs are shorter.

Here are the Tuesday distances in succession: 3, 2, 2, 2, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3.

Thursday runs in succession: 2, 2, 2, 2, 4, 5, 5, 4, 5, 4, 4, 4, 2.

Saturday runs in succession: 6, 8, 10, 12, off (10 on Sunday), 13, 13, 2 (6 on Sunday), 13, off (8 on Sunday), 10, 8, off (Sunday Race Day!).

As for the total weekly mileage... 16, 18, 20, 24, 27, 30, 30, 26, 30, 26, 25, 23, 11 + race.

That's a lot of miles and I hope to do the majority outdoors.

Yes, it's daunting but I'm looking forward to it and hopefully I'll embrace it soon enough.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

All crackered up

Who doesn't enjoy a good cracker every now then? I'm actually not a huge cracker guy but I can appreciate some tasty crackers on occasion. They're versatile and can be a nice complement to several different meals for both lunch and dinner.

Like every food, though, there are good crackers and bad crackers. Men's Health took a look at both ends of the cracker spectrum and there was at least two crackers that are eaten often around here that made the bad list.

First, though, here's what you should be eating (according to MH):

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Cheddar Crackers (55 pieces): 140 calories, 5g fat, 250mg sodium
Triscuit Reduced Fat (7 crackers): 120 calories, 3g fat, 160mg sodium
Premium Low Sodium Saltines (10 crackers): 120 calories, 3g fat, 50mg sodium
Carr's Table Water Crackers (4 crackers): 60 calories, .5g fat, 40mg sodium
Keebler Cinnamon Crisp Low-Fat Grahams (8 pieces): 110 calories, 1.5g fat, 140mg sodium

My daughters enjoy the goldfish cheddar crackers, or the fishie crackers. We usually get the big box of them at Costco. I should probably give them those more often around lunchtime. And I picked up some Premium-brand crackers recently but I opted for the regular ones and not the low sodium kind. I guess I'll have to change that the next time I go to the store.

And as far as the avoid list...

Wheat Thins Lightly Cinnamon Crackers (15 crackers): 140 calories, 5g fat, 125mg sodium
Cheez-It Original Crackers (27 crackers): 160 calories, 8g fat, 250mg sodium
Carr's Whole Wheat Crackers (2 crackers): 80 calories, 3.5g fat, 100mg sodium
Ritz Crackers (10 crackers): 160 calories, 9g fat, 270mg sodium
Wheat Thins Reduced Fat (16 crackers): 130 calories, 4g fat, 260mg sodium

My daughters love Ritz crackers and in fact just had some for lunch. They finished off the box (there were only about eight left) and I had made a mental note to pick some up at the store the next time I went. Maybe I need to re-think that. Also, my wife enjoys some Wheat Thins as well, and I've bought her the reduced fat kind before. Looks like they should be "Wheat Thins Reduced Fat and Increased Sodium" kind to be a bit more accurate.

Anyway, I suppose I've got some food for thought now, and my poor daughters will have to get by without their beloved Ritz. I may go for the Keebler kind instead. Sounds like it could be a good and healthy swap.

The toughest mile

Every time I run, I encounter challenges. Runs are never easy per se, as the only easy miles I encounter are when I'm behind the wheel and driving them instead of running them.

But within each run, I've noticed that there is one mile that always challenges me, always makes things difficult and sometimes puts bad thoughts in my head:

The first mile.

Whenever I run, and it doesn't matter if it's outdoors or on the treadmill, whether it's a distance run or intervals, the first mile is undoubtedly the hardest mile. I don't know why. I can't figure out the root of my mental block about this mile.

And it doesn't matter if I warm up a lot or just a little, to be honest. On Tuesday I ran intervals, four miles worth, and I walked the first .25 as I always do. I was motoring along, alternating between 6.2 and 7.7 and I didn't feel in a groove, didn't quite feel in a rhythm. Then, quite suddenly, I felt myself get in sync, felt like I was more in my element. I looked down at the mileage and it read 1.28.

I can actually feel it now, when I cross that mile-marker. It's actually quite amazing how much I can feel my body and how well I've gotten to know it. That first mile is tough but once I get past it, I'm good to go. I got through the latter portions of the interval run quite nicely, and when I ran my two-minute sprint at minutes 35 and 36 I was hauling, I gave it my all and it felt great. In fact, I felt better doing that when I was already exhausted than I did when I was just starting out and my heart rate was still in the 140s.

Perhaps that's it, perhaps it's the heart rate. I've always felt that I run my best when I'm in the high 160s and low 170s. I think that's when my body responds the best, and getting to those heights doesn't happen instantaneously for me during runs.

But this is actually a good thing, my struggling first mile. This actually makes me feel like I have the ability to run long distances. Mile 2 and Mile 3 and Mile 4 are not as difficult for me as Mile 1, and I'm hoping that means Miles 5 and 6 and 7 and 12 and 13 will be like that, less challenging as they go. Of course, there will come a point during a long, double-digit mile run that I'll hit a wall or struggle and maybe then I'll blog about how Mile 14 is the most challenging mile.

Until then, though, the first mile still stands as imposing as ever.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fell off the veggie wagon

Well, my streak reached 10 days. For 10 consecutive days I had gotten at least five servings of fruits/veggies, but Day 11 never came. I had all of three servings of fruits/veggies. It was dinnertime and I was well aware of this but I had no vegetables to eat around here, so I sadly did not get to my goal of five fruits/veggies.

It's not quite dinnertime right now - still kinda trying to figure stuff out - but I've already got my five fruits/veggies in - had an apple for snack; spinach, orange and pineapple with lunch and banana for PM snack. So my dinner veggies will be going toward the magical number nine, that is you are supposed to get nine servings of fruits/veggies per day.

Not reaching your goals happens. I got caught without fruits/veggies and was unable to meet my goal. I had meant to get to the store over the weekend but that never happened, so it wasn't a lack of desire but rather just an empty fruit tray and veggie drawer that ruined it for me.

Never fear, though. I went to the store and stocked up. I got apples, oranges, bananas, sweet potatoes and a pineapple. All that should last until the end of the week but if it doesn't, I'll make sure and run out for another trip so I don't get caught again.

Ten miles on the horizon

I've made a decision. I will start training for my half-marathon on Monday. That will give me 12 weeks to properly train for the half-marathon, which is scheduled for Sunday, April 19 in Redlands.

I have a training schedule that I'll use as a base and while it still needs some tweaking to fit my specific needs, the long distance runs will remain intact.

I'll have more of the schedule itself here later this week but the part that scares me the most right now is the end of the third week. See, every Saturday will be long-distance run. It breaks down into five days of running and two rest days, and the longest runs will be on Saturdays.

At the end of week three, I will have to run 10 miles. I've never ran 10 miles before. I've only ran seven. That's the longest distance I've run before and it's been a while since I did that. But this plan is perfect for me I think since seven is a little more than half of the distance I'll need to run on April 19.

There are multiple double-digit runs in the training schedule so my second one won't be as daunting as the first, but that first one sure seems intimidating. It's scheduled for Feb. 14 so hopefully that won't be my own personal Valentine's Day Massacre.

As for the rest of this week, I'm not exactly taking it off. I will run intervals today and will get out to the gym once more this week and hopefully I'll get in some mileage on Saturday to sort of replicate the Saturday training regiment. Not sure yet how many miles I'll try and get in but I've got to get something in.

After that, then, everything will take on a bit of a heightened importance. Not that these miles aren't important - they are, each and every one of them -but when you're training for something, I don't know, it just seems like you place a bit more significance and at least you pay a lot more attention into those miles.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Motivational Mondays (Jan. 19)

It's Monday. Ugh. Mondays are no fun. Today, though, is a holiday so it's only a little above average than your typical Monday.

For me, though, it's a great day. It's a culmination of a week's worth of positive thoughts. I'm spending my Monday at Disneyland, the happiest place I know. I've been longing to go there for days now. The park is near dead these days, as the holiday rush has subsided and the January gloom has struck. Rides have had little if any lines and the park is anything but a madhouse.

Since it's a holiday today, it may very well be crowded. But even if it is, I know I'll have a good day there with my daughters.

So why should this motivate you? Well, the way I was able to make it from last week until today might drive you a bit. See, I was a little sad when I heard that the park was not a lively place, that you could walk on to many rides without having to sit through any sort of lines. A friend called me from there on Wednesday and said that even if you get there at 3 you could still do most of the park before it closed at 8.

Only problem was I had games I needed to officiate on Thursday and Friday. And this week, I have games Tuesday through Friday, so today is the only day I can go.

I made it a point to focus on Monday and to go about my business on Thursday and Friday without putting too much thought on what else I could be doing.

That's sort of the approach I've taken with my meal plan. I try to focus on my next meal, on what I will eat then instead of thinking about what I could be eating. Whenever we go out to eat, the options are plentiful usually, but most of the time those options include unhealthy foods with loads of calories. I try to pick something that's reasonable and go with that. I don't think about the hamburger or pizza I passed up but instead am happy to have made a reasonable choice and content with myself that I made it through a night out intact.

Same thing with runs. Sometimes I dislike running. Sometimes I'm not even a mile into a run when I feel like stopping. But if I can focus on the end and think about how happy I'll be with myself when I finish the run, it helps me push through.

Sometimes, life can be pleasant. For me, today is one of those days. But when things get rough and challenges come flying at me, I consider the end - and there is usually some sort of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Focus on the end or the end results and everything will be easier to endure.

Starting a new way of eating, a new meal plan for you or your family? Think about the positives that will bring (new clothes, change in appearance, healthier you) instead of the negatives (no more pizza!).

Trotting out for a seven-mile run? Consider the finish (a sense of satisfaction of a job well done, extra energy, a jolt of confidence) instead of the run itself (mental anguish... argh!) and the miles will fly by.

Focus on the end and the steps in between will fly by. I promise.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Savory Sundays: Wrap it up

Before last year, I don't know if I knew what a wrap was. I think I'd seen them and dismissed them as something I wouldn't want to try, but a trip to Costco changed that. I was starving but I didn't want to eat pizza or hot dogs (too many calories). So I opted for the turkey wrap, because I figured it would have less calories. Not sure if this is true but I was willing to take my chances. Now, I'm not sure if it was the fact that I was hungry or if it was the wrap itself but it was fantastic. I was immediately turned on to wraps.

Months later, I've concocted my own little wrap, which is one of my go-to lunches. Although, funny thing, right before making it I changed it up. The other wrap I call my Pepperoni Pizza Wrap but this one, well, I changed one ingredient.

First off, here's the ingredients:

(From L to R): sea salt, black pepper, mozzarella cheese, pepperonis, extra virgin olive oil, baby spinach, garden spinach wraps. I had intended to use marinara sauce instead of the olive oil but I changed... for no apparent reason... Anyway, first thing you do is heat up the wrap like you would a tortilla.

Now, you don't want it extra crispy or anything. You want it warm but not too hot so that it folds. You need to be able to wrap it, after all. Next, put it on a plate and put the cheese on as soon as possible so you can melt a little bit of the cheese down. That's followed by the pepperonis.

About 10 pepperonis is 130 calories or so, and I think i used less than that. Baby spinach (a half-cup), a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and cracked black follows.

Roll it up then (and that's tricky, so maybe next time I'll do a step-by-step process of that, although, it's difficult to roll and take pictures at the same time). After rolling it up, I like to slice it in half.

Now doesn't that look good? It's not quite filling so definitely plan on having a side dish with this. Fruit or some yogurt usually does the trick for me.. chips when I'm not being good. Hows' the caloric info? Well, you've got 210 calories for the wrap, about 110 for the pepperonis (though usually I get up to 130), the cheese depends but sometimes I'll use sliced mozzarella or provolone and those are 70 per slice and I don't count the spinach, if anything I'll round up.

That would be around 400 calories for this, give or take. It's worth it in my opinion, considering the ease it takes to prepare and the flavors this has to offer.

Savory Sundays: Loadin' up on veggies

This is the Fruit and Veggie Challenge in action. I got this recipe from an e-mail I received from Everyday Food Radio upon signing up for their challenge. It's Asian Chicken and Cabbage Salad.

Here are the ingredients written out:
3/4 cup coarsely chopped scallions, (about 6)
3/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 small red cabbage, halved, cored, and shredded (8 cups)
2 cups shredded or coarsely grated carrots, (about 4 medium)
12 ounces poached chicken breast or skinless rotisserie chicken meat, shredded (3 1/2 cups)

And here they are in picture form:

I didn't have any rotisserie chicken so I poached some, threw in some onion, garlic and ginger while poaching. Anyway, here are the first six ingredients in the food processor.

Now, I think I may have said I get flustered when I'm trying something new? I think I said that here. Anyway, I was getting a bit flustered and forgot to take a picture of what it looked like after it had taken a spin on the food processor. But imagine a chunky green sauce and that's what it looks like. I got a picture of the cabbage, carrots and chicken though:

Now, just mix the dressing in with the above and you get:

Nice looking salad. But what does it taste like? You might not want to ask a five-year-old for their opinion on it though.

I saw my blog buddy Lissaloo do this on her blog a week ago or so, and I just couldn't resist doing the same. My younger girl usually has daddy's back but...

Not that day. Oh well. I thought it turned out well. At the very least, I went way over the recommended five servings of fruits/veggies that day.

Savory Sundays: Playgroup Granola Bars

Well, here we are, the second edition of Savory Sundays. Some good stuff for you today. First up, some granola bars. Never thought I'd make granola bars but these were getting lots of good reviews on All Recipes, so I decided to try them out. I'm glad I did. Click on the link for the recipe. The ingredients:

I had to buy wheat germ for this but since it's healthy I knew it was worth it. Aside from that, I had most of the ingredients handy. So first thing, you have to mix the dry ingredients, toss in the wet ingredients like so:

And then - the fun part - you mix with your hands:

You get your fingers pretty sticky but that's the only way to mix. It starts to come together pretty well.

It forms a solid clump that when you drop it into the baking dish, but that can be easily resolved.

This is after pushing it down with a spatula for a minute or so.

You can bake it for anywhere from 25 minutes or and up. I like to keep it in for exactly 30 minutes. When the edges brown, it's done.

I like to cut it in pieces when it's still warm. In fact, that's the only time you can cut it.

Just a little warning, though. These are highly addictive.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Settling in

Following the New Year, I told myself that I would start running even on days I had to ref soccer games. I did so Jan. 2 and it worked out well and have been slowly trying to get into a rhythm when it comes to runs. After all, I will have to start training for my half-marathon soon.

So far, the results have been well. I initially feared that running would slow me down during games and cause havoc on my legs but so far that hasn't been the case. I felt great again during my game on Friday, which started about six hours after I was done with my grueling interval run.

I'm planning on another run, probably more intervals, on Tuesday and have a game scheduled there, and I foresee more distance runs after that - and I have games scheduled for Tuesday through Friday of next week.

I think at some point in the next week or so I will start to consider just how I want to approach my half-marathon training. A 12-week training schedule seems ideal to me but I want to take in all sorts of different ideas and opinions before deciding on something. There's a book I've been eyeing at Borders that I may splurge and buy, and that would help me train for the half-marathon as well as running in general.

Whatever the case, I feel as comfortable now as I did when I was training for the Mud Run. And that alone is a great feeling.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lots of running

I've gotten in lots of running over the last 24 hours or so.

I actually didn't run Thursday morning as I had planned, just kind of got overwhelmed with errands and stuff. But I went to my game about 20 minutes before I needed and ran a mile on the nice all-weather track that encircles the soccer/football field. I probably ran it in about 8:30, maybe a little slower, not that I was trying for speed or anything. I just wanted to get warmed up, and it worked out great. I felt so rejuvenated during the game, I pushed my legs, they responded and my heart was able to keep up just fine. Usually when I ref a JV game (which means I'm alone) I average about a 150 heart rate but yesterday I was closer to 160, and that's a good thing.

Today I went to the gym and ran intervals. I challenged myself though. I had to up the ante. Usually I run them at a 6.0 and 7.5, that is one minute at the low end and one minute at the high end and alternate between the two with some walking mixed in. Today I moved it up to 6.2 and 7.7. I don't know, maybe I should be higher than that, maybe I should be at a 6.5 and 8.0 but I suppose that I'll be there soon enough. When I started I was at a 5.5 and 7.0 and that was challenging.

At first, the 7.7 was kind of brisk, almost too brisk. But it made me realize why I like intervals so much. When I slowed down to a 6.2, it seemed slow. I figure if I get enough of these intervals in, over time my slow pace outdoors will still be at a decent clip. The high pace after a while didn't seem so fast and that's also good. When I run outdoors then I'll be able to run faster for longer periods of time. That's actually what the tempo run will be for, to endure harder paces for an extended period of time, so for instance I can run four miles but the middle two I'll run at a much more strenuous pace... and no, that doesn't sound like fun.

I adjusted my iPod accordingly too. I started off with the Raconteurs but that was a little too slow for my pace once I got going so after the first 12-minute stretch I switched to Flogging Molly, which was perfect. But towards the end of my run I had a 2-minute sprint at 9.0 so I brought out the heavy artillery and put on Metallica's Dyers End. That worked magnificently as I tore right through that sprint. It felt good. I was exhausted and I don't know how much more I could have ran, but that's good because that's how I like to finish off interval runs.

I'm fine now as I type. Of course, I need to be. I have a game here in a few hours. I don't foresee a mile warmup run today but my legs will probably still feel refreshed when I get to the field.

A rousing success

I've been on the Everyday Food Fruit & Veggie Challenge for one week now and although I don't like to measure success over such a relative short amount of time, this week has been great in terms of my fruit/vegetable intake.

I thought I had been doing well to incorporate fruits and vegetables into my meal plan but having taken this challenge I became aware that I had been falling short on many days. It's easy to snack on fruits/veggies and that was the way I was consuming a majority of my fruits/veggies but with this challenge before me, I was forced to look at different ways to incorporate them into my daily meals.

As a result, I opted for more healthy foods for dinners instead of choosing what was easy or possibly a more desired option. For instance, I made an Asian Chicken and Cabbage Salad recipe (from Martha Stewart) that was loaded with veggies. That was a direct result of this challenge. I may have opted for nachos since we had some ground beef that needed (and still needs) to be used up. And just a quick heads-up, that will be part of this week's Savory Sunday so keep an eye out for that.

All told, I met my five servings for the first couple of days but wound up exceeding my five servings toward the end of the week, and in some cases by quite a few. Nine servings of fruits/veggies is what is recommended and while that figure still seems high it doesn't seem that ridiculously high as it had at the start of the week. I think I may have reached that yesterday as I had a lot of zucchini with dinner and then a lot of pineapple for "dessert" - it was just cut-up pineapples, not like an upside-down pineapple cake or anything.

Anyway, I'd recommend joining up even if you don't have Sirius Satellite Radio. The challenge is not necessarily just for listeners but for anyone who wants to increase their fruits/veggies and to get a much-needed shot of fiber and nutrition into their respective meal plans. You can join by e-mailing them at everydayfoodradio [at] yahoo [dot] com. And tell them I sent you.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A commendation

Thought I'd share this with you.

A week ago, I called in to the Everyday Food Radio show on Sirius 112. I got to talk to the host Betsy Karetnick, who I'm enjoying more and more with each passing show. Anyway, she got me to sign up for the Fruit & Veggie Challenge, which I did and I've done well to hit my five servings a day each day.

Anyway, on Friday's show she gave me a plug, which caught me off guard. It was at the very end of her show and it was surprising and humbling, to be honest.

What did she say?

Well, listen for yourself.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Indecision clouds my vision

"Just get yourself the Garmin thing - that's what you want anyways."

My wife can be so... convincing sometimes. Thing is, I haven't made a decision on how to spend some extra money I got during Christmas. I've told her that I want/need a new pair of running shoes but I haven't bought them so I believe that gives her the idea that I don't really want new shoes and would prefer "that Garmin thing."

And there is some truth to that. I like my shoes that I have now. I only use them for running and that's it. And they are working well right now. I don't feel the need to change them. But I've been told by other people that I should probably change shoes every six months or so if I'm going to be running, and I've had those shoes for a few months more than that.

But the Garmin thing is great. Ah, it seems like a toy. The shoes are clothes and the Garmin Forerunner is a toy, and who wants to unwrap boring old clothes? Not I!

Okay, well, maybe my wife is right. Maybe I do want "that Garmin thing" and I'm not really being honest with myself. It seems really cool. Now, I already have a heart rate monitor, which along with my shoes and iPod are indespensible parts of my running/workout equipment. I have a feeling that the Garmin could take a spot up there as well.

It comes highly recommended by a runner who is far more experienced at running than I am, has run longer distances than me and knows first-hand the positives this expensive hunk of machinery offers.

What are those features? Glad you asked. It measures speed, distance, pace and calories burned. And what do I use for those things right now? Well, for speed... uh... and distance I use the site when running outdoors. For pace I use the same thing as speed and my calories burned are calculated by my heart rate monitor, although honestly to me that's the thing I care about the least. I'm much more interested in how my heart rate rises and falls during workouts than I am knowing I burned X amount of calories per workout.

Those are great features. I could use a more direct way of calculating distances. Not that the site isn't good - it is great in fact, particularly if I'm mapping out a new route. But sometimes I like to know how far into a run I'm in, and I don't have any way of figuring that out now during my run. If I look at the mile markers on the walkjogrun, then I know but it can get confusing if you are running more than five miles or so - that's five markers at least that you are going to have to memorize. And I'll be logging some heavy miles coming here shortly so that's not a great option.

So, how much does the Garmin thing cost? Brand new, about $120. But my blog buddy recommended ebay, and I've looked into that as well as other places. I can knock off about 30-40 so far but may have to wait for the price to go down on ebay or elsewhere to get more of a deal.

I don't know why I'm so hesitant. Part of me thinks that I should just get the shoes and be done with it. I'll have a new pair of shoes and between that and the ones I have now I'll be fine for the rest of the year. But the other part wants a toy, sees the potential in the Garmin thing and is willing to invest a little in what could be a valuable training tool.

My wife didn't give me a firm deadline, but did warn me that there are other ways we could spend the money - bills! What a waste! So as I go throughout my day, I'll be thinking Garmin, shoes, Garmin, shoes, Garmin, shoes....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fruits and veggies aplenty

I've been doing well in my Fruit & Veggie Challenge. Thus far, I've reached my five servings a day every single day. I blogged about Friday through Sunday so here's what I've got for Monday and Tuesday.

Monday: Apple for AM snack, banana with lunch, apple and 1 cup carrots for pm snack.

Tuesday: Apple for AM snack, 1/2 cup spinach and orange with lunch, Asian Chicken and Cabbage Salad for dinner (cabbage, carrots, etc.); carrots and pineapple for PM snack.

So far, so good. The dinner unfortunately wasn't exactly filling so later I snacked on... a carrot. I had skipped my PM snack originally - I didn't eat between lunch and dinner - so I felt I had a few calories to spare for a carrot and some pineapple... though the pineapple I ate while cutting it up... wasn't really a planned snack but oh well.

Anyway, there you go. I hope to meet the five-a-day for both Wednesday and Thursday before filing my log for the week on Thursday night. I went to the store and stocked up on apples, bananas, oranges, got me a pineapple as well as the carrots and the mashed sweet potatoes we still have here so things are looking good.

Say it ain't so

Not since the day-after-Thanksgiving fiasco have I tried to go to the gym. Right around that time I started refereeing high school soccer games and I ran outdoors a few times in December and some more times in January, so I haven't exactly been inactive.

However, it has been a long time between gym visits and part of that can be attributed to the Holiday Season Gorge-fest. And today I found out that I have not exactly gotten all the remnants of that off my body.

I weighed in at 190.9. Oh man. I haven't weighed in at 190 or more since Nov. of 07. I maintained my weight at 189 or less, and usually was around 182-185, for all of 2008. Even in the 2007 Holiday Season Gorge-fest I did not get above 190. I was certain that I would have but I weighed in at around 188 or so in my first trip to the gym in January.

Now, I can't say I'm necessarily surprised by this. I haven't been running consistently, even after the New Year. Of course, it's not like I've been sitting around doing nothing in that span. Really, I've been quite busy between refereeing and cooking and everything else that involves running a household, it's tough. Plus, I've been carrying an annoying ankle discomfort (not quite an injury) for about 10 days now, and I rested Sunday in an ultimately futile effort to get rid of the pain - otherwise I'd have ran a few miles at least.

But what I've learned is this: refereeing soccer games is a decent workout but that's about it. It's easy for me to think that running around for 70-80 minutes constitutes a good workout - my heart rate monitor usually tells me that I've burned about 800 calories minimum per game. And it's easy to get that false sense of confidence as well. But what I figured out is that, for me, there is no replacing running. There is nothing I can do that will keep me in top physical condition other than running. When I run, I feel at my best. Plain and simple. I was able to go from 200 down to under 190 and stay there because of running.

So that's why I'm not totally freaked out about this 190.9 anomaly. After that wake-up call, I did some bike, some core exercises and my favorite interval run (from which I cut three minutes of the warm-up/cool down) and got in 3.54 miles on the 'mill. Afterward I weighed again and was at 189.0, which is about average for me. My post-workout weight usually is two pounds less than my pre-workout weight. So I average it out (don't know if it's right or not) and that's the weight I go by.

I've got a plan now. I will weigh myself next Tuesday at the gym and report back. That will force me to get back on track with my nutrition, which I have been for the most part, and will force me to run more as well. I plan on running outside on Thursday, possibly another gym trip on Friday and one outdoor distance run on Saturday. We'll see what next week brings but for the upcoming days that's what I've got.

I predict.... that I won't be at 190 by next week. I think I can get down to 187 or so, if I know my body. As long as I get my runs in and stick to my meal plan (what a novel concept!) I think I should be okay.

Mixed results

There's some types of food that seem inherently healthy. You just pop a handful of whatever in your mouth, or slice off a piece of it on your plate, and you're fine. You're good. You don't have to worry about it because, well, how bad can it be?

Trail mix, mixed nuts and, especially, dried fruit can be like that. Dried fruit is good and good for you, right? It's better than eating candy or something similar, right?

Like most other foods, of course, there is something to be said about informing yourself. It isn't that straightforward with these types of foods. Men's Health took a look at what you should eat and what you should avoid when it comes to trail mix, mixed nuts and dried fruit. I was a bit surprised at some of the findings.

Now, it wasn't really the brand. Planters and Sun-Maid each had nuts and fruit that fell into both the good and bad categories. Sometimes, it's easy to pigeonhole a certain brand because they may seem unhealthy or believe in a brand wholeheartedly to the point that you will consume whatever the brand makes because their stuff is usually healthy.

In fact, Planters scored the top of the chart on both categories. It's recommended you eat the Planter's Berry, Nut and Chocolate Mix instead of the Planter's Nut and Chocolate Trail Mix. One ounce of the former has 120 calories and 5 grams of fat. The latter has 160 calories and 10 grams of fat, so more calories and twice as much fat for the same serving size.

Here's the rest of the good list:

Sun-Maid Dried Apricots (1/4 cup): 100 cal, 0g fat, 21g sugar
Pistachios (raw, 1 oz): 160 cal, 13g fat, 2g sugars
Woodstock Farms Natural Gonji Berries (1/4 cup): 112 cal, 1.4g fat, 4g sugars
Fisher's Nature Nut Mix (1 oz): 150 cal, 12g fat

Can't say I've ever noticed the Fisher's mix but I might look out for it next time I want to pick some up. I could also stand to try some dried apricots as well.

As for the bad:

Sun-Maid Vanilla Yogurt Raisins (1/4 cup): 130 cal, 5g fat, 19g sugars
Planter's Dry Roasted Peanuts (1 oz): 170 cal, 14g fat
Stoneridge Orchards Whole Dried Strawberries (1/4 cup): 140 cal, 32g sugars
Craisins Original Sweetened Dried Cranberries (1/3 cup): 138 cal, 30g sugars

The Craisins were unfortunate to have made this list. I've picked up Craisins every now and then but didn't study the nutritional info because I didn't think they were that bad. Now, they have zero grams of fat but the sugar content is quite high.

There are plenty more mixed nuts and dried fruits out on the market so this is just a small sampling of what's out there. But at least you have a little bit of a guide to steer your way.

Monday, January 12, 2009

More motivation

I'm also motivated today for several other reasons... five reasons actually. A week ago, I signed up for the Everyday Food Radio Fruit and Veggie Challenge, where you try and hit five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. So far, so good.

Here's what I have through Sunday:

Friday: Banana for breakfast, apple for snack, baby spinach and sweet potatoes for lunch and apple for pm snack

Saturday: Apple and banana for am snack, Salad for lunch - salad included more than two cups' worth of greens, including lettuce, carrots and

Sunday: Apple and 1 cup of baby carrots for am snack, orange for lunch, one cup of mixed greens at dinner.

Now, I had been doing well in eating fruits/veggies but wasn't necessarily consistent. I didn't keep track of my respective fruits/veggies so I figured this would be a good way to motivate myself. I can't completely say that after three days I'm well on my way for success but I can say that it is very motivating and I've been planning out my fruits/veggies thus far. Today, for instance I think I can knock out an apple and an entire cup of carrots for snack, which means that would be three servings in one sitting. I picked up some cabbage and sesame oil to make a recipe that seemed enticing and probably will have that ready for Tuesday. Plus I still have some broccoli that I'd wanted to make soup out of.

So if you haven't yet signed up, follow the link above or e-mail the show at everydayfoodradio [at] yahoo [dot] com. Oh, forgot to mention... I got a mention at the end of Friday's show! I recorded it and if the wonders of technology allow I might have a brief audio link for you to follow.

Motivational Mondays (Jan. 12)

I don't know if it's officially on the calendar but I think we are officially in the Dead of Winter.

And the Dead of Winter can be depressing.

Think about it: Christmas and New Year's are way over. A week ago, hearing an occasional Christmas carol or seeing some Christmas lights up wasn't the end of the world and in fact may have still made you happy. Now, it's time to change the CD or get the ladder out and take down those lights.

Spring is but a distant memory, even here in sunny Southern California. Sure, it's 70-80 degrees in the middle of the day but we've had terrible winds and it's still cold (for us Cali folks anyway) in the mornings and at night. March or April is way far away from this point.

So, it may be easy to revert back to some old habits. When the weather is terrible and when the outside world seems to have deserted you, it's easy to just say "Forget this" and go back to the way things were.

But you mustn't. Now might be the most difficult time of all, when the weather's against you and few else are for you. It might impede you from running outside for instance or going somewhere due bitter conditions. But that need only be an obstacle to your fitness/nutrition plan.

Even if the weather is cold, even if the calendar says no holidays until whenever, no Spring until whenever, it's still time to stick to your goals. Otherwise, you probably won't look or feel the way you'd like if and when the warm weather finally arrives.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Savory Sundays: Hearty Grain Quick Loaf

This was a first for me. I've made quick breads many times before but they've always been sweet. This one was a quick bread that yielded a sandwich-type bread, which was the reason why it appealed to me.

Here are the ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups 2 percent milk
3 tablespoons oil
1 egg
1-2 tablespoons quick cooking rolled oats

Now, I don't have whole wheat flour so I had to use 3 cups of all-purpose flour and I'm wondering if that made a big difference or not. Anyway, here's the ingredients all mixed together. It says you have to stir until moistened, so I think that qualifies.

Then, spread the dough in a greased 8-inch round cake pan. Again, I had to use a 9-inch cake pan since that's what I had.

Into a preheated 350-degree oven it goes and out comes a loaf. It doesn't look like the picture in the cookbook but it looks nice nonetheless.

The recipe suggests you serve it warm but I had to play taxi for an hour after this was made so I didn't eat it warm. I did take it out of the pan, though, and onto a cooling rack.

Once back home, I cut myself a pair of slices and made some a mini-pepperoni pizza grinder... sandwich... whatever. I baked it for about five minutes so the bread was warm but not quite sturdy. Still, it tasted good.

I also made myself this sandwich the following day, just put some deli meat with some provolone cheese and baby spinach. I also threw on some cilantro and jalapenos for some flavor.

The cookbook says this has 150 calories per slice but it was hard to determine how big a slice was so I just cut it up in fourths and approximated the calories. Although the bread was a bit crumbly, I think that's because I didn't use whole wheat flour. I'll make it properly the next time, and there will be a next time for this recipe.

Savory Sundays: Zucchini Bread

Welcome! The first installment of Savory Sundays. Now, this week I will bring you several different recipes, things that I made during the last six days. I'll be rolling out more than one thing today so be prepared for a few more posts with pics.

First up is Zucchini Bread, a recipe I've fallen for. I've made this multiple times both as loaves and muffins, and they are always quite tasty. This week I made two loaves, mostly because I had some zucchini that needed to be used up.

To start, I grated up three cups worth of zucchini. The recipe calls for two but one of the reviews suggested three and I tried that and it worked out great so I'm sticking to it. Originally there were four pieces of zucchini but two gave themselves up for the cause.

After mixing the flour, sugars, oil and all that good stuff you get:

I think it's the tablespoon of ground cinnamon that gives it such a great taste. Then, you need to make room for the zucchini:

Before I got into baking, I probably would have thought that this would have been strange at best. Now, it's appetizing. Pour into pans like so:

I gave one loaf away and the other one was nearly gone before I realized I hadn't taken a picture of the finished product.

Oh, that makes me hungry for zucchini bread all over again.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

You mean, as in Finn?

I might be wrong but I don't think I've ever had a huckleberry. I've had strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, cranberry... oh, I had one of those types of berries up in San Mateo, the olallieberry, but I don't think I've ever had huckleberry before.

So this giveaway caught my attention. Lissaloo of One Step at a Time is hosting a Huckleyberry Giveaway. You have the chance to win taffy, jam and gummy bears, all made of huckleberry.

Being conscious of nutrition, I decided to check out the huckleberry and compare it to strawberry (because it's my favorite berry) and raspberry (because... uh, I just randomly picked another berry). It's strange because the nutritional information on is limited when it comes to huckleberries. Five ounces, which is roughly a cup, of huckleberries has 53 calories and, um, probably some fiber... while the equivalent amount of strawberries has 45 calories and 2.8 grams of fiber. Five ounces of raspberries has 74 calories and - get this - a whopping 9.2 grams of fiber!

Okay, curiosity got the best of me and I did a bit more research on berries. Apparently strawberries, blueberries and raspberries aren't technically berries by the scientific defintion (but huckleberries are). But whatever, they're all berries to me.

Anyway, I'm tossing my hat into the ring. Here's hoping for the Sweet Montana Giveaway to come Sweet Californee-way.

New feature - Savory Sundays

In an effort to incorporate more of my interests into this blog - and in keeping with my meal plan's "cheat day" - I've decided to set Sundays aside for cooking/baking. I probably won't post about fitness and probably will keep it a bit light and, hopefully, entertaining.

I've been taking pictures this week of several things I've made and plan on adding pictures and step-by-step instructions on how to make the respective dishes. I had fun doing this once before here on this blog when I made wet burritos last month.

Now, I said it's sort of a cheat day because Sunday's likely won't revolve around fitness, and may or may not feature healthy recipes. For instance, one I have planned for Sunday is my favorite zucchini bread recipe, pictured here with my favorite coffee mug.

Now, you might think "zucchini is healthy." And while this is true, I'm not sure the recipe is really something healthy per se.

Anyway, just wanted to give you trusty readers a heads up for Sunday. I've already got a pair of culinary treats I want to share, although my proudest moment of the week - making the Pasta, Pesto and Peas is sadly not one of them. I get flustered sometimes when I try something new and that was something new that involved several steps and scaling down the recipe... oh, and my daughters were going crazy while I was trying desperately not to mess the recipe up. Needless to say, the camera was not on my mind during this time.

Luckily for you, I had it handy when making the zucchini bread and a couple of other recipes that turned out great.