Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Optimizing the Treadmill Workout

I know, I know, why, WHY, why would anyone run on a treadmill when it's summertime and everyone knows running on a treadmill is BORING?

In the last ten years since I started running, I've had my share of running on treadmills and I've had my share of running outside.  When I lived in San Diego for six years there was NEVER a reason to run inside.  Even on "hot" days, you could run in the mornings or try and run as close to the beach as possible and that would keep the day cool.  On rainy days, it was never enough rain to keep me indoors.

But now that I live in Colorado, I'm still adjusting.  I see other runners out there running in 80+ degree heat and I don't know how they do it.  I'm also adjusting to running alone.  It's been three years since I ran with the San Diego Track Club and as I'm going it alone right now, finding the motivation to enjoy my runs while running solo has been pretty challenging.  When you've got company, it's easy to keep going.  Now that I'm running alone, it's just too easy to stop and take a walking break.  And then another.  And hey, why not one more?

I've only been running solidly for two weeks now (it was off and on before that, despite running outside in scenic places, and I wasn't averaging more than two runs in a week).  So I decided something had to change.  I realized my biggest obstacle was convenience.  I don't have time anymore to jump in my car and drive somewhere to run where it's pretty.  And I'm not ready to commit to a running club with my mom-wife-work schedule (again, the need for convenience), so I decided I needed to figure out how to get my runs in nearby and I needed a run that would push me, no matter what.

Enter the treadmill.

I got my first idea for making the treadmill work for me from Kelly at No Thanks to Cake in her latest blog about "tricking" herself to going to the gym: she likes to listen to audiobooks and decided to limit listening to her latest book: she's only allowed to read the book while working out at the gym.  I listen to tons of audiobooks, primarily at the end of my day, after my son is in bed, and I am winding down. It helps me go to sleep.  So, I gave it a try: I listened to my book while on the treadmill and that wasn't bad.  But I realized that it wasn't enough.  So through the course of the last few weeks, I've been trying different motivational methods here and there, and here's the list of what seems to be working.  I'll keep you updated as I continue my quest to make the treadmill a reasonable place to run.

Heart rate monitor.  I think the heart rate monitor is awesome.  I've had one for almost seven years, but I found I didn't need it when I was running with the San Diego Track Club.  Now that I'm running solo, I wear it, and make sure that my heart rate is in the right range for the type of running I'm working on right now (building endurance).  I can also use it while resting to see if I'm overtraining.

Treadmill options.  To recreate the challenges of outdoor terrain, I am constantly fiddling with the incline and the speed.  I found a great source for a variety of treadmill workouts from beginner to advanced, including one workout that supposedly simulates what it would feel like to go for a run in San Francisco.  Having lived in SF, I'll have to try it out and see how true it might be.

Playlists!  Music has been by far, the best motivator for my running.  I downloaded Kara Goucher's Playlist for National Running Day.  Kara chose some great music with BPMs that made sure I didn't start out too fast.   I was so inspired by how that playlist helped my run that I went trolling for more good running music so that I could build my own library of playlists.  I found a fairly recent article with music of all genres with 180 BPM -- the rate at which most runners find their most efficient stride.

Any one else have any good tips for making the treadmill drudgery seem less fatiguing?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Happy Friday!

Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego.  July 2013.

I'm dreaming of our recent trip to San Diego.  Recent, as in just last week.

Prior to Colorado and the Bay Area, we lived in San Diego for six years and still have a few friends out that way so it is a frequent getaway destination.  From Denver, it's a two and a half hour plane ride, which is probably near the top end of my two-year-old son's travel limit. This time around, we stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado, which is on the beautiful island of Coronado just south of San Diego's downtown.  Some may also know the hotel as the location for one of my favorite movies, Some Like it Hot, starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

As you can see, the photos make the weather look very un-beachy, but coastal fog in the morning time is a common weather pattern in San Diego.  Often known as "May Gray" and "June Gloom", the fog is particularly bad during those months as the fog doesn't always melt away by midday.  The good news is if you just head inland, away from the beaches, you will find sun.  So if you're done with the 60 degree weather, just head east.

We will be heading back to San Diego at the end of the summer, so hopefully I'll capture more great photos of San Diego later this year.  These photos just don't do the lovely San Diego area justice!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Exploring the Blogosphere: Healthy Eating Blogs

One of the things I love about the blogosphere is that I can look up any topic I have a question about, and I will inevitably find a blog on that topic.  And through that blog, I can often find a community of people interested in discussing that topic, which is great.

When I first started my blog, I was looking for a community of women like me: new moms with an interest in fitness.  I still visit those blogs regularly, but since then, I've branched out.  I've found a blog community around fashion, another community around crafting, and my latest discovery fully supports my current goal: healthier eating.

After two frustrating months of trying to lose weight strictly by exercising, I've accepted that all my efforts just aren't going to cut it unless I fix my eating habits.  In an effort to find new cooking ideas and motivation, I've started to explore the world of healthy eating blogs.

Here are some of my favorites so far:

Green Kitchen Stories
I won't lie: I love the beautiful food photos.

No Thanks to Cake
I love the writing.  Kelly's weight loss story is also inspirational.

Say Yes to Salad
Maggie has some recipes that are fairly uncommon -- which I am open to trying out.

Happy Herbivore
A friend recommended this site.  He's not vegan, but he does try to go meatless as often as possible for health reasons.

Jen's Gone Paleo
I'm intrigued by the Paleo diet.  I'm hoping that Jen's ideas and recipes will educate me on this alternative eating plan.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Building a Healthier Pantry

I'm only a week into my goal of eating more fruits and veggies and I'm already noticing a few differences in myself and in my kitchen:

  • My cravings for processed food have decreased.  Ever since we moved to Colorado, I've fallen into a trap of eating potato chips, crackers, cheese, candy.  It's been a week since I've craved a sweet treat after dinner, which used to be a DAILY event.
  • The number of TV dinners in my freezer have fallen to an all-time low.  I've found it's just as easy to cut up some tomatoes & cucumbers and throw together a filling salad.  If I'm craving a little more, I'll add some feta cheese and/or some protein, but I am continuing to focus on letting veggies and fruit take up the lion's share on my plate.
  • The produce goes quickly.  I just buy what I need for 1-2 days so I can have a little bit of everything.  I also have my produce out on my kitchen counter so that my eye goes straight to the produce for cooking inspiration.

I've been restocking my pantry regularly, with a focus on the produce, so I thought I'd share what I currently have in my kitchen.  I used to be a "cook strictly by recipe" person and I've found that I'm getting better at just throwing things together, based on flavor profiles, or classic pairings (tomatoes/basil, tomato/cucumber, bananas/strawberries, onion/cilantro/jalapeno, etc.)

Bell Peppers
Onions (red, yellow, Vidalia)


Rotisserie chicken

Cherries (frozen)

Nothing earth-shattering, I know.  But I'm still proud of the fact that I have so much produce in my kitchen and even more important, I'm actively cooking with all of it...

I have other things in my pantry (quinoa, couscous, pasta, rice, flour, various oils and vinegars, etc.) but I'm not going to list those because the BIG change I've been focusing on with my pantry is making sure I've got lots of fresh flavors.  I think I'm starting to wander into the world of whole foods with an unplanned (but delightful) outcome of less cooking.  I like cooking elaborate meals now and again, but I'd really like to spend less time over a hot stove and more time doing other wonderful things like reading, scrapbooking, and exercising.

What about your pantry?  Do you cook often?  If so, what do you like to keep stocked in your kitchen so that you can throw something healthy together?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Simple Summer Salads: Only Veggies!

Tomato & Cucumber Salad
As my quest to load up on fruits & veggies continues, I have been searching the internet for tasty and flavorful recipes.  I've learned that there is no need to keep any cookbooks around anymore!  I found a bunch of recipes, all variations on my favorite flavors.  I'm going to work through this list and see which ones turn out the best.  I'll report back any winners...

Easy Tomato Cucumber Salad
Tomato, cucumber, red onion, and basil.  What's not to like?

Cucumber, Tomato, and Feta Salad
This Epicurious version gets a little fancier with scallions (instead of red onion), olives, mint, and lemon juice.

Creamy Avocado, Tomato, Cucumber Salad
Blogger "No Thanks to Cake" has a creamy version that I recently made... and will be making often!

Asparagus, Tomato, and Feta Salad
I love feta cheese!  And I love asparagus!  This one is definitely going to be on the menu this week.

Are you seeing a trend here?  Tomatoes... cucumbers... avocados...  Mmm.  I can't wait to try them all.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Roasted Veggies

In addition to promising to stick to my workout schedule, I've also decided to try and eat more veggies and fruit.  The idea is that if I eat veggies and fruit FIRST, there will be less room for the bad stuff (refined sugars, chips, and other empty calorie foods).

Last week I found a recipe for 10 layer roasted vegetable salad that was so good, my husband insisted that we make it twice in one week.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the salad, but it was delicious: you roast asparagus, zucchini, red onion, and bell pepper.  You toast up some fresh corn in an iron skillet, and then combine all these great ingredients with some black beans, avocado, romaine lettuce, slivered almonds, feta cheese, and finish with a delicious homemade dressing.  I'll be sure to get a photo the next time we make the salad.

This week we decided to do roasted veggies again, but this time we threw them on a pizza.  With homemade pesto!  It was so good we know we'll be making it again: Roasted Veggie Pizza Recipe.  We made the pesto from scratch, which we've never done, but was really easy.  I also like this version of the pesto because you don't need pine nuts, which can be a bit pricey, especially if you can't buy just the amount you need.

I took a few photos from our prep, which was not difficult: chop up some green bell pepper, red bell pepper, portabella mushrooms, red onion, and toss that with olive oil and garlic.  Stick the veggies in the oven for a little roasting, and while you're waiting make the homemae pesto.  Once the veggies are nicely roasted, get the pizza crust pre-baked, then top it off with all the goodies (pesto, cheese, veggies), and back in the over for another 15-20 minutes.  It couldn't have been easier.

Lastly, the basil, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese before it was turned into pesto:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Finding Inspiration

After spending a week on vacation, I am ready to get serious about getting back in shape the right away: exercising regularly and eating better.  To celebrate my willingness to start eating  healthier, I created a motivational "poster" for myself.

I found an old picture of myself (running the San Diego Marathon in 2010) and put it next to a current photo of myself. The text reads one day at a time to get from here to here. I've placed the poster next to my hand weights so that when I wake up in the morning, I see them first thing in the living room, on my way to the kitchen.

I'm so excited about my little poster, I may have to create additional ones.
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