Friday, November 30, 2012

100th Post and Indy 500 Mini Marathon!

This is my 100th post! I was trying to think of something special to write about and then I decided, why not sign up for a race? The 500 Festival Mini Marathon in Indianapolis is a half marathon that I've been wanting to do for a while. Many of my friends run it yearly and it's also the biggest half in the country. The coolest part is that you get to run a loop around the Indy 500 track. Today is the last day before the race fee goes up so of course that enticed me to sign up.

The race is on May 4, 2013, so I still have a while to train. I probably won't start doing long runs outside until the end of February because I'm a little bit afraid of Chicago winter (this is my first year actually living here during the winter). For extra cardio fitness besides CrossFit, I'm planning on going to spinning sessions at Real Ryder Revolution about once a week this winter. I tried it out earlier this year in the spring and really liked it but decided to focus on running and CrossFit. Now that it's cold, indoor spinning will be a great alternative to running. Plus, they are having a great special of 10 rydes for $99 that ends today! (Notice how deals and saving money always get me to buy things...I still have that grad student mentality haha.)

Emily and I at the Indy 500 in 2008! She's also doing the mini in the spring!

Have you signed up for any races next year yet?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Red Velvet Vega Smoothie

I caved in at the grocery store this past weekend and got some red velvet cupcakes...ooops! I normally don't eat sugar because it is toxic, but it's the holiday season, so I can't resist splurging a little bit. It turns out, the store-bought cupcakes weren't very good so I probably won't buy them again. However, the red velvet cupcakes did inspire me to make a red velvet smoothie! The secret ingredient is Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate! You should have a bottle of this at home already because tart cherries are good for sleep since they are a natural source of melatonin (tart cherries don't necessarily help you fall asleep but the melatonin helps you stay asleep, so you can drink it any time of the day). I'm surprised that I haven't thought of putting tart cherry juice in my morning smoothie before. Tart cherries are also good for after working out since they reduce inflammation and therefore help your muscles repair.

Ingredients (feel free to alter to your taste)
4-6 frozen strawberries
1/2 banana
1 scoop Vega One (I used natural flavor)
1/2 tbsp. cocoa powder (unless you are using chocolate Vega One)
2 tbsp. tart cherry juice concentrate
1 cup or more of almond milk

Directions: Mix in a blender! I love my handy dandy 1-serving/travel cup Hamilton Beach Blender :)

Also check out my other smoothie recipes: Vega One French Vanilla Smoothie and Vega One Pumpkin Smoothie.

What's your weakness during the holidays?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Working out for 365 days?!

I just came accross this blog about a girl who worked out every day for a year. Is it an impossible goal or one that's totally feasible. I've always tried to break a sweat once a day but I let life get in the way and really only work out 3-5 days a week. Rest days are important, but you should still move on a rest day with a short run, long walk, or a calmer workout like yoga. I tend to slack off the most on days that I'm tired or lazy because I think that I won't get a great workout so I might as well just put it off until  tomorrow. Perhaps a seemingly intimidating goal like working out every single day would not let me give myself excuses for not being active.

I'm tempted for this to be my New Years' resoultion and to use my blog to hold myself accountable. However, I'm really afraid that I'll fail like 10 days in! What do you guys think? Should I work out every single day in 2013?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet Potato Mash for Thanksgiving!

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! What are you doing for the holiday weekend? I'm spending it with my boyfriend's family in the suburbs of Chicago. I offered to bring a healthy side dish this year and so I experimented with a mashed sweet potato recipe last night and tested it with Ryan. The first try was kind of bland so I added more spices and it came out really good! This recipe only takes minutes to make and can feed plenty! Again, the picture below doesn't look that good because my plates are green but I promise it looks more appetizing than in the picture!

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp. Earth Balance butter
3 tbsp. pure maple syrup or agave nectar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add chopped sweet potato. Boil for about 5 minutes, or until sweet potato is tender (test with a fork). Drain the sweet potato and add the rest of the ingredients. Mash by hand or use a food processor until the mixture is smooth. Taste and add more butter, syrup, or spices as necessary. I recommend adding a smaller amount of the other ingredients at first and then adding more as necessary, especially if you are making a bigger batch. I'm hoping people like my side dish tomorrow!
What are you making for Thanksgiving tomorrow?
Is any of it healthy? haha

Monday, November 19, 2012

Airplane food upgraded!

As you know I went on a trip to Ukraine last week and I was actually pleasantly suprised by the airplane food! This was my first long internaitonal trip since I've changed my diet to more plant based so I requested vegan/vegetarian food for the meal when I booked my ticket. Airplane food is notorious for being bad so I really didn't know what to expect but I must say that the veggie option was better than some "vegetarian" options that I've been served at banquets at conferences!

Above is a picture of the main meal on my way back from Europe. It was a rice and bean dish with a slight curry flavor. I'd prefer brown rice but I thought it was excellent! The salad was also good with herbs and some other veggies, and even a vegan dressing. The dessert was tropical fruit, my favorite! I already feel like crap on long flights (dehydrated and tired) so eating healthy food made me feel a little better. Fruits and veggies contain a lot of water to help dehydration.

I was also suprised that the snack at the end of the flight was also vegetarian (made special for me). It was a sandwich with veggies and cheese (which I attempted to remove). The best part was the banana!

I would suggest ordering a vegetarian meal (you have to do it when you book the flight) even if you're not vegetarian because it definitely looked healthier than the regular options. Your body is already stressed and prone to getting sick when you're travelling so eating the right food can really help.
What's the best/worst airplane food you've ever had?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hello from Ukraine!

I'm in Kiev right now! It's difficult to stay in shape on the road and I don't have any tips for you so I'm just going to write about some of the good food that I've eaten. My co-workers have been here many times before so they've taken me to some good Ukrainian restaurants, although tonight we are headed to an Irish pub. My family is from Slovakia, which borders the Ukraine, so I'm actually pretty familiar with the culture and food here, and I can even understand quite a few words (unless they're written because I don't know the cyrillic alphabet). The architecture (especially Soviet-era) is also pretty familiar. Below is a picture of a cathedral that I saw while taking a walk.

Below is a picture of a traditional Ukrainian dish called deruny. They are basically just potato pancakes, and these came with mushrooms inside of them. There haven't been a lot of vegetarian options so I've eaten these at almost every meal, plus they are delicious!

Rus Borshch (pictured below) is a type of beet stew that is also a traditional and very popular Ukrainian dish. It's probably not vegetarian because most soups here are made with chicken broth (I know that from my grandma's cooking), but still delicious! The basis of the soup is beets, and it's often served with sour cream, which gives it a pink color. I tried to stay away from the sour cream because dairy makes my stomach hurt! I might try to make this soup at home.

Being in Kiev has really made me miss Slovakia. I haven't visited in almost four years, and I used to go every year! Grad school and internships have really interfered with my travel. I haven't seen most of my extended family in forever and I haven't even met some of my cousin's new kids. But my family is planning to go next summer so I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup

I've been experimenting with a lot of soups this fall and this one is another hit! Sweet potatoes are very healthy and make a nice hearty fall soup. This is a very quick and easy recipe that I got from the Happy Herbivore Cookbook -- definitely a good purchase! Check out my other fall soup recipes: Butternut Squash Soup and Creamy Curry Pumpkin Soup. Coincidentally, all of these soups are very orange but they don't photograph well with my light green bowls haha. I also only use my iPhone camera...

Ingredients (about 1 serving)
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups diced sweet potato, no skin (about 1 medium sweet potato)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ginger
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne (optional)

Add all ingredients to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 5-10 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft. Blend the soup using a hand or regular blender, be careful of the hot liquid! Add more broth or water to adjust the thickness of the soup. You can add cooked wild rice or quinoa to the soup for a fuller meal. You can easily double or triple this recipe by adding more broth/water and sweet potato, but be careful with the spices. Also, if you don't have vegetable broth, you can just use water and then add some onion powder, bay leaves, celery salt, and other spices for more taste.

What's your favorite fall soup?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chicago Hot Chocolate 15K!

The Chicago Hot Chocolate 5K/15K was yesterday and it was so much fun and I did great! I beat my goal of 1:20 by finishing in 1:18:52, that's 8:28/mile pace! I was 215 out of 2862 in my age group and 890 out of 11,258 for females, not bad! The weather was pretty good for November, it was a chilly 40 degrees but thankfully not windy. The course was along the lake so the wind could have been bad. I felt pretty good during the race and I'm glad that I prepared adequately. I didn't really start getting tired until mile 8-9, but then I saw Ryan at the end and sprinted to the finish! He was a great boyfriend coming early with me and carrying my stuff so I could wear my jacket until the start. Although, even though I warmed up, I was pretty cold by the time we started because my corral had a half hour delay. I was even in one of the beginning corrals so other people had to wait out there even longer! The course was a little bit crowded, especially before the 5k split. There were already people walking in the first mile, they should have done a slower corral! A race I ran in DC a couple years ago was very crowded and I've learned that it's good to try to get in a fast corral. But it was a good race and I'll probably do it next year again!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why the Marathon Should Go On

There is a lot of controversy today about whether or not the NYC Marathon on Sunday should go on. Many people, both NYC residents and not, strongly disagree with Mayor Bloomberg's decision to not cancel the marathon despite the widespread destruction from Hurricane Sandy. While I'm not in New York, I have seen the aftermath of many hurricanes since I grew up in Florida. The one thing that seems to help hurricane recovery the most is the community coming together. This race will not only bring the community together, but also bring outsiders into the community to help.

If this was any other event, like a concert, I wouldn't agree with holding it in the wake of a disaster. However, runners are kind, compassionate, and fundraising people. A good portion of the NYC marathon runners are already running it to raise money for a good cause. Runners are determined and willing to go the extra mile (pun intended). Marathoners put in a lot of hard work for little or no reward. Runners are good people and they help each other out. Wouldn't you want 50,000 determined and compassionate people coming to your city after a disaster?

I heard that many runners are using social media to meet up to help the community this weekend. The organization running the marathon is donating $1 million to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and asking each runner to donate $26.20. Major sponsors of the event are also donating money. Plus, the marathon weekend brings in over $300 million in revenue to the city. These donations and revenues wouldn't happen if the race were cancelled.

While Mayor Bloomberg says that no resources will be diverted from disaster help to the marathon, I think this is untrue in some sense, which is what most people are complaining about. The extra city employees (e.g. police officers) and race volunteers could spend their time instead to help hurricane victims. However, New Yorkers should think of the marathon as a fund raising event rather than a resource-draining event. The small investment of time from city employees and volunteers will yield a much bigger reward in donations and revenue. NYC can't afford not to have the Marathon this weekend.

Race Prep - the right way

If you follow my blog, you know that I completely bombed the Chicago Half Marathon due to poor pre-race prep, even after month of training. So I'm making it a point to prepare well for this Sunday's Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago. I've been eating (clean) carb-heavy meals all week consisting mainly of brown rice and sweet potato. Loading up on wheat products is never a good idea, in my opinion. (Gluten is difficult on your digestive system, even if you're not intolerant.) I made some easy vegetable paella and added soy sausage to make it more of a meal (pictured below). A simple paella is pretty much just risotto, add a bunch of rice and vegetables together and cook on a pan with broth. I also made a healthy tempeh stir fry with brown rice. I'm also going to make some sweet potato soup!

For my last race, I ate toast with peanut butter before the race and I think it made my stomach hurt. I've actually been eating pumpkin pudding/pie before my runs for the past month and it works really well! I'm not kidding! The main ingredients are pumpkin, agave nectar, and silken tofu. They are easy on your stomach and provide lots of natural carbs to sustain energy. So, I made another batch this week and am going to eat pumpkin pie before my race! Along with Vega's Pre-Workout Energizer and probably a banana immediately before the race. I'm also going to take along 1 packet of Vega Sport Endurance Gel to eat at the water station right before mile 5. Here's the course in case you're interested. I've used all of these products before/during long runs. It is essential to not try new things before/during a race. This includes gear, clothes, shoes, food, gels, drinks, etc.

I've mentioned this before, but a lot of runners make the mistake of not practicing running at the time of day that the race is at. For example, if you're an an evening runner and your race is early in the morning, your body will have a harder time adjusting and ramping up the adrenaline to run during the race. I run/workout in the mornings, which has many benefits (read my post), so this is not an issue for me. Waking up at 5 am may also be difficult and leave you sluggish. I would suggest that the 1-2 weeks before the race (if it is a morning race), that you wake up early and go running. Our bodies like habits and it really doesn't take that long to transition your sleep/workout schedule to align with your race time. If you keep a regular workout schedule, your body actually starts ramping up the adrenaline when it's time to workout everyday. (I think this is why it's impossible for me to sleep in.)

I'm hoping I can redeem myself and do well in this race, wish me luck!

Do you have any race advice?

Pumpkin Pie/Pudding

I LOVE PUMPKIN. I actually stock up on canned pumpkin in the fall so I can eat it all year round. I already posted some pumpkin recipes this fall: Vega Pumpkin Smoothie and Creamy Curry Pumpkin Soup. I love that you can make pumpkin sweet or salty. Pumpkin is actually very healthy! It contains fiber and lots of minerals and vitamins. It is especially high in beta-carotene (vitamin A) which is the same thing that makes carrots orange. Often, pumpkin is made unhealthy in the form of pumpkin pie with lots of sugar and cream. So, here's an easy pumpkin pudding/pie-filling recipe that's vegan and low in sugar. You can use cashews or tofu as the base (cashews are somewhat healthier). You can also just use the spices you probably already have instead of buying "pumpkin pie spice."
16 oz. silken tofu OR 1 cup soaked raw cashews
15 oz. can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
2/3 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice OR:
          1 tsp. cinnamon
          1/2 tsp. nutmeg
          1/2 tsp. ginger
          1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
Pie crust (optional)

If using cashews, soak for a few hours in the fridge before preparing. They get a light purple hue, this is normal. Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. You can just eat the pumpkin pie pudding like this, but place in the fridge for an hour or so to chill. If you want to make pie, just use this as the filling for a pre-made pie crust and cook for about an hour at 350 degrees. Chill the pie for a few hours before eating.
I love this recipe because it is easy to make and tastes delicious and is a much healthier version of pumpkin pie. I like it in both pudding and pie form. My boyfriend requested whipped cream on his pie because he doesn't like "sugar-free desserts." One day I will convince him that sugar is toxic. I've also been eating this recipe before running all month and it's worked out really well! The agave and pumpkin contain great carbs for sustained running and its easy on your stomach. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fitness Log 10/22-10/28

It's the week before the Hot Chocolate 15k!! I think I'm ready!

Monday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: Max double power snatch (60 lbs.)
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 hang power snatch (35 lbs.)
1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 burpees
Time: ~9 minutes
Hang power snatches are really hard, my shoulders were certainly sore!

Tuesday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: Back Squat 6 Reps at 60, 65, 70, 75, 80% of 1 Rep Max (135 lbs.)
WOD: 6-minute AMRAP
6 lunges (45 lbs.)
8 push press (45 lbs.)
Time: ~11 minutes
This workout was much harder than it looked! I'm writing this on Friday and my gluts are still sore! Also, I'm glad we're doing the back squat progression to increase our max.

Wednesday - CrossFit
WOD: “Eva”
5 Rounds:
800 meter Run
30 Kettlebell Swings (26 lbs.)
30 Pull-Ups (blue and red band)
Time: 39.42
This was a loooong workout, but great for running training. I think the 30 pull-ups were the hardest part, I had to use two bands rather than my usual one. Plus, my legs were tired from Tuesday.

Thursday - Rest Day
I had not taken a break since running 8 miles on Sunday so today was a much-needed rest day. I also got 9 solid hours of sleep which was great.

Friday - Long Run
Distance: 9.3 miles (race distance!)
Time: 1:20:42
Pace: 8:41/mile