Sunday, September 30, 2012

Workout Log

Good News! I signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago! I wanted to do another half to redeem my Chicago Half Marathon time but there weren't any good races left this fall. I've heard the the Hot Chocolate 5K is fun but I wanted to do a longer distance so I signed up for the 15K, which is 9.3 miles.

Tuesday, 9/25 - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: find 3-rep max push press: 75 lbs. (new PR by 5 lbs.!)
WOD: 6 rounds, taking 1 minute rest every minute
5 knees to elbow
10 push press (45#)
20 lateral barbell jumps
Time: 10:48 (including rest time)

Wednesday, 9/26 - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: find 1-rep max front squat: 115 lbs. (new PR by 7 lbs!)
WOD: 12-minute AMRAP
9 hand-stand push ups (from box)
26 box jumps (20")
154 single unders
35 hang power clean (33#)
Total: 1 round plus 35 hang cleans
This was a hard workout and I was originally going to do 55# hang cleans but my shoulders were sore from Tuesday and 35 reps is a lot. I feel like I've been setting new PRs every workout, which is great! I think I've finally got my form down on a lot of these movements so I feel much more confident increasing weights. This workout was supposed to be double-unders which I really need to work on because I just can't get the rhythm down.

Thursday, 9/27 - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: practice double-unders, I just can't get it!
800 m run
10 rounds:
10 burpees
10 box jumps (10")
then, 800 m run
Time: 26:50
This was a long and difficult workout. My legs were getting really tired about halfway through. And, burpees always suck. But, what a great cardio workout!

Friday, 9/28 - LSD Run
6.8 miles in 58:58, that's 8:39-minute pace!
Although my legs were sore from Thursday's workout, this run felt great! The weather was windy but in the low 60s. I actually ran much faster in the last 2 miles because I just felt so good! I seriously should have done better in the Chicago Half but its time to stop dwelling about that. This upcoming 15k is going to be great :) My route is below, more of the usual, just running through downtown to the lakeshore and then back. My route sometimes looks weird running through the city because I just make turns depending on the lights so I don't have to stop.

Saturday, 9/29 - CrossFit
Partner AMRAP for 20 minutes:
7 kettlebell swings (35#)
7 burpees
7 wall balls (10#)
(one partner works while the other rests)
Total: 16 rounds + 15 reps
I did this workout with Sarah who was visiting from Naptown CrossFit in Indy. The workout seemed easy on paper but was much harder than it looked. Each round took only about a minute so there wasn't much time for rest.

Sunday, 9/30 - Rest Day!

What was your best workout this week?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vega One French Vanilla Smoothie

I've been drinking a lot of chocolate protein smoothies in the morning after working out lately, so I decided to try Vega One's new French Vanilla flavor and it is amazing! I've been using Vega's products for a couple of years now and they, by far, have the best line of natural, plant-based products. It's essential to eat protein and other nutrients after tough workouts, and the Vega One powder provides just that. It is completely plant-based with no added sugar, contains 15 g of protein,  6 g of fiber, 1.5 g Omega-3, antioxidants, probiotics, greens, and 50% of your recommended daily value of vitamins and minerals. Therefore, Vega One is a great way to start your day, especially if you workout in the morning. I hardly ever need to also drink coffee after having my breakfast shake.

You can get the new french vanilla flavor on Amazon for 20% off. I know it still seems expensive at $55, but the large tub has 22 servings which comes out to $2.5 per smoothie. This is a pretty good price for a meal (since your should be replacing meals with protein smoothies).

This new french vanilla flavor is so good that I'm going to experiment more with the ingredients in my smoothies. I like to keep my smoothie recipes simple so I can quickly make it in the morning. Here's my base recipe, I'm also going to try pumpkin and chai!

3 ice cubes
1 banana (can use frozen banana and ditch the ice cubes)
handful of frozen baby spinach (for added nutrients)
1 tbsp. peanut or almond butter (for added protein and healthy fats)
1 tbsp. chia seeds (more protein and fats)
dash of cinnamon (for various health benefits and good taste)
1 scoop Vega One French Vanilla
1 cup or more of almond milk

Mix together in a blender and enjoy! I use my handy-dandy Hamilton Beach Personal Blender which turns into a to-go cup. The spinach, peanut butter, chia seeds, and cinnamon are really optional in this recipe if you don't have them around. However, they add more nutrients that make this smoothie more of a meal.

If you're not replacing a meal with this smoothie (as in, drinking it after working out in the evening and then also having dinner), then I would either eat a light dinner or just make a smoothie with a smaller scoop of Vega One, ice, and almond milk or water. Protein smoothies have a lot more calories (and nutrients) than you realize and should really be a meal replacement. Also, beware of protein smoothies that you buy at a juice bar because they are usually loaded with sugar (and made with non-vegan things like whey and milk). Eating tons of sugar after a workout will erase all of the hard work you just did. If you workout in the afternoon, I would suggest have this smoothie for breakfast in the morning anyway and then just eating a high-protein meal after your workout.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tempeh Stir Fry

I was craving some Chinese food this week and wanted to make stir fry. I adapted this recipe from the Happy Herbivore Cookbook. It uses a sauce that is really good but I can't quite describe the flavor. I added tempeh and rice to the recipe. Tempeh is fermented soy and can be found in the health food section or a health food store, usually close to the tofu.Tempeh actually has more nutrients in tofu and is firmer so better to use in recipes like this one.

Ingredients (makes 2-3 servings)

1/2 cup uncooked or 1 cup cooked brown rice
2 cups water
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
8 oz tempeh, sliced 
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 tsp cornstarch
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Red pepper flakes to taste

First, start cooking the brown rice according to the package directions (usually takes about 45 minutes). Next, make your sauce by mixing the water, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, mustard, garlic, onion, ginger, and Worcestershire sauce. Add half of the sauce to a saucepan and turn on medium heat. While the sauce is heating up in the pan, cut up your vegetables and tempeh into strips. Place the tempeh and broccoli into the pan and simmer for a couple of minutes, mixing the contents. Add the cornstarch to the rest of the sauce and mix. Pour over the pan and then add the bell peppers and cooked rice. Note that you may want to delay the cooking until your rice is almost done. Keep mixing the ingredients in the pan until most of the moisture has evaporated. You want to end product to be creamy but not runny or dry. Finally, before serving, add red pepper flakes to add some spicy heat to the dish, if you want. Enjoy!

Do you have any good stir fry recipes? Share in the comments below!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fitness Log 9/17-9/23

Even though training for the Chicago Half Marathon, I still want to keep track of my workouts on a weekly basis. It helps me track my progress in crossfit and also holds me accountable to trying to workout daily.

Tuesday 9/18/12 - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: find 1-rep max jerk: 80 lbs. (new PR!)
WOD for time:
5 jerks (55 lbs.)
400 m run
100 air squats
400 m run
5 jerks (55 lbs.)
Time: 7:57
I thought I did surprisingly well today for taking off crossfit for a while for the half. I think I could jerk even more than 80 lbs. next time.

Wednesday 9/19/12 - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: 5-5-5-5-5 Front Squat (Max: 85#)
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 of:
Kettlebell swings (35#)
Pull-ups (red band)
Time: 7:41
I'm writing this on Friday and my hands/arms/back still hurt. I did a higher-than-normal kettlebell weight, I've finally moved up to the prescribed weight for women. I also did a thinner band than usual because I really want to get to unassisted pull-ups (I can only do like 3 at a time). After the workout, I could barely lift my arms or grip anything so washing my hair, driving to work, and typing were all difficult. I had to take Thursday off.

Friday 9/21/12- CrossFit
Pre-WOD: 3x3 Turkish Get-ups
WOD: “Diane”
21 – 15 – 9
Deadlift (85#)
Handstand Push-Ups (from box)
Time: 4:31
Post-WOD: 3x10 kettlebell presses and 50 GHD sit-ups
I kind of felt like a zombie this morning, probably because it's Friday. I honestly didn't give the workout my all and I was still sore from Wednesday.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Standing Desk!

I'm so excited because I finally got a sitting to standing desk installed in my new office! I've been wanting this for a while and when I found out that my boss was getting one, I asked to get one too. Since leaving grad school and starting my job, I've definitely noticed a difference in how sedentary I am. I spend a total of 2 hours in the car commuting, 9 hours sitting at work, and the rest by the TV or sleeping. I only spend about an hour working out and maybe a half hour standing cooking. I don't think our bodies were meant to be sedentary all day and being active is important for your health.

Read these articles from NPR and the Chicago Tribune. The fact is that even if you workout everyday, it does not counteract the rest of the day the you spend in a sedentary state. Multiple studies show that sitting all day increases your risk for heart disease and obesity and substantially increases your risk for dying early. When you're sitting, the major muscles in your body (legs and back) are not contracting and therefore your metabolism slows down. Sitting all day is also bad for your workouts because it makes your hips less flexible. (My hips actually hurt at the end of the day sometimes from too much sitting.) Finally, sitting promotes bad posture because you tend to hunch over your keyboard.
I didn't have as much of a problem with sitting when I had a desk job in DC because I commuted to work by walking quite a bit and taking the metro. Now that I have to drive (25 miles, no train or bus), I can really feel the difference. I've been taking a lot of afternoon walks this summer but 20 minutes is still not enough compared to hours of sitting. Plus, its starting to get cold and outside walks aren't going to be as pleasant anymore. Therefore, I ordered the adjustable desk pictured below! I simply moves up and down electronically in a range of 22 to 48 inches, so you can set it to your ideal sitting and standing heights.

While standing at your desk doesn't seem like you're being active, you really are. When standing, your leg, butt, and back muscles are engaged and contracting. Standing versus sitting most of the day can really make a difference. Read this persons post on 5 months after switching to a standing desk.

Last winter, I took a really long winter break at my parents house in Florida. I still had to work on some grad school stuff so I set up my lap top on the kitchen bar and sat at a bar stool. Without noticing, I actually switched to standing at the bar to work on my lap top and stayed standing the rest of the morning. I continued to stand at my lap top the following days, as well. I really just felt more energized and alert while standing doing work instead of sitting. So I'm looking forward to working at this new desk at work.

More and more companies, and especially the progressive ones like Google and Groupon, are offering standing and even treadmill desks to their workers. I think its a great idea to combat the unhealthy habits of our sedentary lifestyles that are leading to the rising obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates in our country. The desk I got is from SIS-USA. They are quite expensive but I think it's worth a shot to ask your employer if you can order one. Companies are always all about ergonomic chairs, but ergonomic desks is where the focus should be.

Switching from sitting to standing all day can be a difficult transition, so I going to take it slow by alternating from sitting to standing. I'll update you with my progress in the upcoming weeks!

How do you stay active at work?

Would you ever try a standing desk?  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Healthy Food Staples

I'm writing a few posts about eating more natural and plant-based foods to help some of my friends and readers get to a healthier lifestyle. Read my first post about starting out here. Healthy eating takes some work because you need to cook more meals from scratch rather than eating something out of a box or bag. E.g., when my boyfriend makes a chicken alfredo frozen meal, he just needs the bag of food, a pan, and a spatula, whereas, my meals can involve several appliances and tons of fresh and dried ingredients. It also takes more "active" time to cook my meals. He waits for the frozen meal to heat up, while I spend that same amount of time chopping and preparing. So, healthy eating takes work and its smart to cook in big batches and then refrigerate or freeze your meals.

Healthy and vegan eating was very new to me when I first started changing my diet and lifestyle. I try to avoid many processed foods now and make meals from scratch. To do this, you have to have a really good spice rack, otherwise your food will be bland. Spices are a large initial investment ($3-$6 each) but most of them last for a long time because you only use a pinch at a time. Some of my favorite spices are cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes to add heat, ginger and cinnamon for "sweetness," and oregano and basil for that italian taste. I also have some pre-made mixed spices like "southwest" and "bayou blast." But be careful when buying mixes because some of them contain sugar or a lot of salt. Spices not only add flavor but can also be very healthy for you, see Dr. Oz's post on it.

Also in my pantry I keep my dried foods in stock in mason jars. This lets me easily see if I'm running low on something. You can usually buy dried foods in bulk at your health food (Whole Foods) store for cheaper. Some essentials that I keep in stock are brown rice, lentils, quinoa, popcorn, flax seeds, almonds, and walnuts. Quinoa is a great high-protein grain to add to many recipes, including salads. You can also see in the picture that I have tea. I love drinking tea and there are so many to choose from. Yerba Mate is great for energy and chamomile is good for sleep.

There are even more things in my kitchen cabinets! I use coconut oil and olive oil spray sparingly for cooking. While these oils are healthy, their caloric/fat density is still extremely high so try to use only a tablespoon at a time when absolutely necessary in a recipe. The same goes for honey and agave nectar as sweeteners. Just because they are healthier and more natural than processed sugars, they should only be used sparingly. Balsamic and apple cider vinegars are good for adding flavor to recipes and salad dressings. Earth Balance Peanut Butter is my favorite because its sweetened with agave and very creamy. I eat it as a snack with apples. I keep nutritional yeast flakes in a parmesan shaker to easily add to recipes. Nutritional yeast is an excellent supplement for vegans because it contains vitamin B12, which is difficult to find in plant sources. It also has a lot of protein and actually has a kind of cheesy flavor so it's used in recipes mimicking cheese. I love it on popcorn or kale chips. It's kind of weird at first but trust me, give it a try! Finally cocoa and/or carob powder are great for smoothies and healthy dessert recipes.

Moving on to the fridge, there are some condiments that are worth keeping around. Unsweetened ketchup and dijon mustard can be used for various things. Low sodium soy sauce is great for making sauces and adding taste. And, I go through lots of almond milk in my morning smoothies.


Being able to freeze food is something that early man didn't have (except during winter or the ice age), but you should really make use of your freezer. Leftovers, like soup, are really easy to freeze and re-heat later. I also keep frozen fruits and spinach for smoothies and snacks. Next time you're craving something sweet like ice cream, just eat a handful of  slightly-thawed blueberries, they are amazing! Buy while on sale and stock up. By far the healthiest type of bread you can eat is Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted whole grain bread. You'll find it in the freezer isle and I just keep it frozen until I'm ready to eat it.

Finally, I keep a lot of (unfrozen) fruits around as snacks. Some people (like those on the paleo diet) limit fruit consumption because of the sugar content. I personally think that's stupid. First of all, fresh fruit comes from trees and is not processed, so it's better for you than any other kind of snack (besides plain fresh vegetables of course). Second of all, you need sugar/carbs for energy.  And finally, fruits contain tons of fiber and vitamins! One thing I also do every morning is drink lemon water on an empty stomach and throughout the day. It is very cleansing and quite healthy for you.

There are also some dairy substitutes that I buy and try to use sparingly. Daiya cheese shreds are by far the best vegan cheese substitute that I've ever had. The cheese actually melts and works great on things like pizza and grilled cheese. However, you should not be eating this cheese everyday because, although it is healthier than real cheese, it still contains a lot of calories and fat and is low on nutrients. I mainly keep this cheese around to satisfy any "greasy food" cravings that I might get because its still better than eating a regular pizza, for example. Finally, I absolutely love Earth Balance vegan butter. Even my boyfriend eats it instead of regular butter! It works well in any recipe calling for butter but takes a little more effort to soften up. Again, this butter is healthier than regular butter or margarine but it is still high in fat and calories and not high in nutrients. I use is sparing except that I like to put it on my popcorn. Air-popped popcorn with earth balance, nutritional yeast, and salt is amazing. I obsessed with it, ask any of my former roommates haha.

I know this was another long post but I think it contains a lot of valuable information about the kinds of (sometimes weird or different) foods that I buy to maintain a healthy plant-based diet. (Notice that I don't have any meat substitutes, but that's a whole different post.) You can find many of these things in the natural or ethnic section of your regular grocery store. Amazon (where all of the links above lead) is cheaper when buying in bulk but Whole Foods or Trader Joe's are also a good place to go. I only go to these places about once a month to stock up on some of this items that aren't available in my regular grocery store or don't have good price online. Also, don't go out and buy all of these things at once, that would cost a lot of money. Instead, buy them as you need them in recipes. And don't buy things in bulk that you haven't tried before because you may end up hating or never using it. 

What are some essentials that you keep in your kitchen?

The next post in this series will be about appliances!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chicago Half Marathon!

I know this post is long overdue, since the Chicago Half Marathon was last Sunday (Sept. 9). I really just wasn't on the computer last week and then went camping this past weekend. Also, I completely crashed in the race so I haven't been as excited to share it with you. But, I think its important for me to share my successes and failures because I'm human! On that note, maybe I should share my failed recipes, but that would mean a lot of posts haha.

I was really excited for this race and thought I trained pretty well. My last training run before the race, 11 miles, went well at a 9-minute mile pace. So I was shooting for this pace during the race and had it for about 3 miles and then I literally completely crashed and wanted to quit. But, I finished the race at a very slow pace and a horrible time of 2:13:39. I know that this isn't really a horrible time and that many people would be happy with it, but it was one of my worst half-marathon times and I definitely trained to do much better. I even did better at the Miami Beach Half Marathon last December without training, while injured, and during extremely humid weather. So, that's why I've been so disappointed with this race.

I'd like to dissect why this race turned out to be such a disaster for me. First of all, the weather was quite perfect, mid-60s for most of the race, which is what I was hoping for. The course was also very flat and not too crowded, so I can't blame it on those things. I think that ultimately, my preparation was bad and my mind wasn't in the race. I didn't eat much the week and days before the race because I was having a bad week and it made my stomach upset. I tend to not eat as much when I'm stressed out. During the race, I literally felt like I hit a wall and had no energy. I hadn't felt this way at all during my training runs. I posted on preparing for race day but I really didn't follow my own advice. I did not adequately carbo-load the days before the race and I'm pretty sure this is what caused me to hit the wall so early in the race. I definitely should not have crashed after 3 miles.

I mildly had a cramp in my stomach during the race and I think that what I ate before caused it. My picture below shows my fuel before, during, and after the race. I had toast with peanut butter about an hour before the race and I think this is what caused the cramp. I hadn't eaten this prior to running before, which was a mistake. I also had the Vega Pre-Workout Energizer about a half-hour before the race. I've been using this before crossfit workouts so I don't think that it made my stomach hurt. Finally, I had a banana right before the race which I've eaten plenty of times before races so that wasn't the culprit either. My stomach hurt so much from the cramp and being lethargic that I couldn't even eat the Vega Endurance Gels or Honey Stinger Energy Gel that I packed in the race. I've eaten these during previous runs and they are great for sustained energy. I really should have tried to eat them.

The final thing that I think contributed to my demise was the lack of sleep. I usually don't sleep well before races because I'm nervous anyway but our downstairs neighbors were having a huge part with very loud music (the kind that vibrates the whole floor). And regardless of my several calls to the front desk complaining, they didn't turn it down, so that was annoying. So I think that lack of sleep and food and a bad breakfast contributed to my much worse than anticipated race time. This really proves that preparation the hours/days before the race is just as important as months of training. And, in fact, I would call both of those aspects nearly equal because I had similar times for this half and the Miami half. During the Miami half, my legs were hurting a lot because I had been hurt and didn't do any long training runs (just crossfit and biking). But I didn't feel lethargic because I got adequate sleep and ate well before the race. This half was the opposite in that my legs didn't really hurt but I felt like I had no energy. Therefore, even though this race was a disappointment, I definitely learned something valuable and I'm glad that I can share it with my readers!

My boyfriend caught up with me around mile 11, I was dying and wanted him to take me home right there, don't let the smile fool you. By the way, I like how they write your first name on your bib so that people can cheer for you. However, I could tell that people would glance at my bib and start to say my name and then just give up or call me "Linda" or something haha.

My stomach hurt so much after the race that I threw up all of the lemon-lime gatorade I had drank (ewww). I finally ate this amazing Qdoba burrito after my stomach settled and it really hit the spot. 

Have you ever crashed during a race?

Do you have any races coming up this fall?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Preparing for Race Day

Only two days until the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday! I'm not sure I'm mentally prepared for the race, but I think I'll get in the zone when I pick up my race packet at the expo tomorrow. I also get really nervous for races. I mean, its not like I'm trying to qualify for anything or win money, but I think its valid to be nervous for something that you've been preparing for for months. I'm afraid that if I don't do well, then all those Friday nights I stayed in so I could do a Saturday long run were a waste. Of course, that's not really true because I sign up for these races to motivate myself to exercise. So, no matter what the outcome on Sunday, it wasn't a waste! Plus, the accomplishment of completing a half-marathon is more than most people can do.

Of course all of the exercise and long runs in the months before the race are important, but preparation the week/days before can be just as essential. I have to admit that I did not eat or drink the best last weekend and I even accidentally took a bite of a beef burrito (ewww!), but I've been trying hard to eat well these last couple of days.

Anyone that's a runner has heard of "carbo-loading." Usually this is done in the form of eating a huge plate of pasta the night before the race. I've read a few things from Runner's World and other places that actually say the second to last meal (lunch the day before) is most important, and that you should carbo-load 3 days leading up to the race. This ensures that the glycogen storage in your muscles is maximized, so that they have enough energy for the whole race. Since you shouldn't be working out hard the days before your race, the glycogen will store up after eating carb-heavy meals.

Traditionally, carb-heavy meals are composed of pasta. However, most pasta (especially at restaurants) is made from bleached flour and thus the nutrients have been taken out. These pastas have a high glycemic index and therefore spike your glucose levels (not good for the body). So, if you're going to eat pasta or bread, it should be whole-grain.

I've actually found that potatoes, especially sweet potatoes, work the best for me in terms of carbo-loading. They are in a much more natural state than pasta and don't contain gluten, which many people are sensitive too even if they aren't celiac. I made this sweet potato salad for lunch, I'll post the recipe soon!

Besides carbo-loading, you should also stay hydrated the week before the race by drinking plenty (but not an abnormal amount) of water. Pure coconut water (without added sugar) is also a great way to replenish your electrolytes. Fresh fruit is also perfect for electrolytes and carbo-loading.

Finally, some people have a hard time waking up for early morning races. I'm going to have to get up at 5 am to catch the train to the start line. This isn't a huge issue for me since I get up at 5:30 am during the week for crossfit and I do my long runs in the mornings. However, if you're a midday or evening workout person, you should switch to morning workouts a week or two before the race. I heard on the Jillian Michaels podcast that sticking to a routine for the time of day that you workout is pretty important because your body starts ramping up adrenaline levels when it's time to workout. So if your race is in the morning, try to get your body used to running in the morning.

How do you prepare for races?

Wish me luck on Sunday!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Training Log: Week 15/16

ONE WEEK until the half marathon!

Monday & Sunday - Rest Days
Resting up and tapering down for the race

Tuesday - CrossFit
Find 1-rep max shoulder press: 55 lbs.
Find 3-rep max push press: 70 lbs. --new PR!
AMRAP 10 minutes:
5 triceps push-ups
10 kettlebell swings (35#)
100 m run
Total: 7 rounds
I was really happy about my new PR in the push press although it made my shoulders really sore. The WOD was a good sprint met-con too. I did a higher kettlebell weight than my usual 26# so it was hard.

Wednesday - Rest Day
Trying to rest up this week so I can do my 11-12 mile run on Friday without soreness.

Thursday - Rest Day
The crossfit workout today involved quite a few lunges and I didn't want to be sore for Friday's run. So I took a long walk during lunch at work instead.

Friday - 11 mile run
Time: 1:40, Pace: 9:05/ mile
This was my last long run before the half marathon! It felt pretty good although I felt slow towards the end because it was getting hot and of course my legs were tired. I really hope it cools down next weekend. But, I think I'm ready for the race and I'm really excited for next weekend! The course I took today is outlined below...the lakefront was beautiful this morning! It's kind of confusing on the map but I went through downtown to Buckingham fountain and then along the lakefront trail south to museum campus and then I turned around north to North St. Beach and then back south to the fountain and back through downtown, similar to last week. I usually run on weekend mornings when downtown is deserted but is was busy this morning!

I rested all Labor Day weekend and will do a couple more short runs before the race on Sunday.