Friday, December 28, 2012

Thrive Forward - launching next week!

Hi friends! I'm participating in Thrive Forward as one of my New Years Resolutions, starting next week. I've really been slacking in my healthy diet lately, especially since Thanksgiving. (Cookies are my enemy.) Thrive Forward is a new personalized program formulated by Vega founder Brendan Brazier to help you eat a more nutritious plant-based diet to feel better and have more energy. I've read Brendan Brazier's books on plant-based nutrition and have learned how to eat healthy plant-based diet from them. I strongly believe in the power of plants for nutrition and I'm excited learn even more through this program. I encourage all of you to at least try it! Even if you don't want give up eating animals, you can still learn a lot from a plant-based diet. It's free and you have nothing to lose!

Like I said, I already follow a mostly plant-based diet based on what I've learned from Brendan Brazier and Vega. He is a triathlete that figured out, through research and trail and error, that a plant-based diet is the best diet for sustained energy and generally feeling good. I strongly agree with this through my own experiences. He also proves that even athletes can eat a plant-based diet and still build muscle and be successful.

So, the Thrive Forward program doesn't launch until January 1st, but you can pre-register today and get  a Clean Eating 101 e-book. Watch the introduction video below to learn more about the program.

You don't know how bad crappy food makes you feel until you stop eating it. If you have headaches, digestive issues, trouble sleeping, always feel tired, etc, plant-based nutrition will likely make you feel much better (it worked for me). Plus, you will reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and many other diseases.

Are you going to Thrive Forward with in 2013?? Comment below!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays! Time to splurge!

Happy Holidays everyone! I'm in Florida now visiting my family for the week. My workplace is closed  until January 2nd so I'm excited to get some much-needed rest and time off...I haven't taken a vacation since I started working! 

My favorite thing about coming to Florida in the winter is the weather and opportunity to be outdoors without freezing. I grew up in Florida so I am definitely a warm-weather type of person, although I also like the change of seasons up north. It was a little cold here when I arrive but it's warming up tomorrow and I'm excited to go for a run with an old friend and then hopefully hit the beach.

It's definitely easy to splurge over the holidays, and I have to admit that my diet has been less than healthy since about Thanksgiving. I've been eating sugar and other unhealthy things, which I plan to stop next week. For now, I think it's OK to splurge. Giving in to delicious unhealthy foods (like cookies and pie) once in a while makes me realize why I don't like to eat them often. I honestly feel less healthy because I've been eating unhealthy foods. Things like sugar, white rice, and wheat have been making me feel bloated and sluggish. I'm actually really looking forward to eating healthy again just so I can feel better! But I'm going to leave that til next week, because cookies and pie are calling my name this week :)

These are traditional Slovak "moon cookies" that my Mom makes for Christmas.

What's your favorite holiday treat?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Raw kale tastes better with a massage!

I know that you don't believe the title of this post, but it's true! It's taken me a long time to discover how to eat raw kale without pain. I usually eat kale in the form of kale chips or cheezy kale chips, but any leafy green is best eaten raw to get the most nutrients. Kale is a type of cabbage and contains loads of pretty much every vitamin, especially A, C, and K. It also contains antioxidants that reduce your risk for certain types of cancer. In my mind, kale is a "hearty" leafy green and therefore I like to eat it more in the winter, rather than baby spinach or romaine. I think kale goes better with squash, sweet potato, and other fall/winter foods.

So kale looks pretty unappetizing and dry in it's raw form, right? I've made a few kale salads in the past that I didn't even finish eating because I hated the kale. Well, I did some blog research and raw kale is much more appetizing and easier to eat/chew when you massage it first! I never thought of massaging my vegetables but it worked! Massaging the kale with an oil-based dressing adds some moisture and breaks down the fibers to make it much softer. I actually like raw kale now that I've figured this out, so I suggest you give it a try!

Raw kale before and after massaging with oil

How to Massage Kale
First, rip your kale leaves into bite-size pieces. Leave the stems out because they are tough to chew. (They can be used for juicing!) Places the kale into a large bowl. For the dressing part, you have to do some estimation. You don't want to use too much oil because it's high in calories. Try to estimate how many servings of kale you have. For 1 big serving to be used in a salad base, I added 1/2 Tbs. of olive oil, 1 tsp. of vinegar, and juice of 1/4 lemon. Drizzle the dressing mixture over the kale. Now, simply massage the dressing into the kale, for about 2 minutes. You will notice the kale turn dark in color and become softer (see picture above). Once all of the kale looks like this, you're done massaging. Since the kale won't wilt like lettuce or spinach would, you can do this massaging a long time before actually serving. This also lets the dressing marinate the kale more. For example, for lunch the next day, simply massage the kale the morning or night before and keep refrigerated. Then, just add more ingredients to make a salad!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Years Resolutions

Many people make New Years resolutions, but how many actually keep them? Gyms are always packed in early January, but come February, back to normal. I actually found out from a gym owner that 80% of his monthly members don't even come to the gym after the first month! I think that the problem with New Years resolutions is that people tend to make generic goals like "I'm going to eat healthier" or "I'm going to workout more." These are really difficult resolutions to keep because they involve immeasurable goals. Your resolutions have to be something specific, like "I'm going to run a 5K" or "I'm going to cut sugar out of my diet." These goals are specific and measurable and therefore easier to keep.

I've actually had some pretty big New Years resolutions work out in the past because they were specific enough for me to actually measure if I reached them. In 2010, I decided to drastically change my diet and eat vegan. Going "cold turkey" like this worked for me, but it might not work for everyone. I threw out all of my non-vegan food (including a huge stash of Cheez-Its that my friend compiled for me from the dorms haha) and started the difficult process of learning how to eat healthy vegan food. While I'm not strictly vegan anymore, I do still eat a plant-based diet, so this resolution was a huge success! In 2011, my resolution was "to eat healthier and work out more." I have no idea if I actually attained this goal because it was so vague. In 2012, I decided to start this blog, read my first post here. I'm still writing so this resolution was definitely a success! I also wanted to do unassisted pull-ups; it's the end of the year but I finally got them! See picture below, I am not using the band hanging there :)

Me doing an unassisted kipping pull-up (on the right)

I've been thinking about some New Years resolutions for 2013 and here are some of my ideas:

  • Learn double unders
  • Do regular push-ups (means practicing every day)
  • Do all pull-up workouts without a band (unassisted kipping pull-ups)
  • Beat half-marathon PR of 1:55 in the Indy 500 Mini Marathon
  • Be active every single day
  • Go gluten-free

What are your past successful resolutions/goals?

What are some of your New Years resolution ideas?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fitness Log: 12/10 - 12/16

Monday - 12/10: CrossFit
PRE-WOD:  Max Snatch: 60 lbs.
10 Overhead Squat (45)
20 Pull-Up (red band)
5 burpees
Time: 13:08
Mondays morning workouts are always really blah for me. I couldn't even do my previous max snatch at 65 lbs. I also started doing unassisted pull-ups but ended up using the small red band. Well, I'm hoping tomorrow's workout will feel better.

Tuesday - 12/11: CrossFit
Pre-WOD: 5-3-3-2-2-1-1 Shoulder Press (up to 60 lbs.)
WOD: 30-20-10
Kettlebell swings (35 lbs.)
The shoulder press is so hard! It's amazing how much better I am at the push press when I can use my legs.

Wednesday - 12/12: CrossFit
Pre-WOD: "Annie" 50-40-30-20-10
Double unders (I did singles)
WOD: 15 minute AMRAP
10 push press (45 lbs.)
10 front squat (45 lbs.)
20 box jumps
Time: around 13 minutes
The pre-wod was hard enough today!

Thursday - 12/13: CrossFit
Pre-WOD: Max effort pull-up. I did 7 in a rown without a band! New PR!
WOD: 10 rounds:
250 m row
2-minute rest
Lowest time: 1:03, Highest time: 1:05
I didn't think I would but I actually really liked this rowing workout. I was also proud of myself for 7 pull ups. I even practiced double unders afterward and got about 5-10 in a row. I just got my own jump rope so hopefully I can get much better at these!

Rowing in a circle at RNCF, I'm on the right!

Friday - 12/14: Rest Day
I didn't sleep well so I decided to take a rest day. Probably needed it after 4 straight days of crossfit.

Saturday - 12/15 CrossFit Track WOD
3 rounds:
400 m run
30 burpees
20 toes to bar
30 squats
20 body rows
30 lunges
This workout was kind of miserable because it was cold and raining but I'm glad I got up to do it!

Sunday - 12/15: Rest Day

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Karyn's Raw in Chicago

I went to Karyn's Raw with a couple of friends (one of them is also vegetarian) about a month ago and I've finally gotten the chance to post about it! Karyn Calabrese is a vegan chef that has three restaurant/market locations in Chicago. She offers wellness seminars and even weekly meals that you can take home. I was definitely excited to try some of her food and it was even better than I expected!

Karyn's Raw Cafe on Halsted offers gourmet raw vegan food. Raw food can be cooked up to 118 F, so it retains all of its nutrients. I definitely agree that a raw diet is very good for you and I try to eat raw vegetables every day. However, I prefer soups and hot food in the winter so it's more difficult for me this time of the year. Eating at Karyn's made me realized that raw food doesn't have to be a salad. There are many creative things you can do with soaked nuts and sprouted grains. During the whole meal, my friends and I were trying to figure out what everything was made out of because it tasted so amazing! We were saying..."how is this raw?!" Even the meat-eating friend thought it was amazing :)

This tasty and filling meal definitely inspired me to try more creative raw recipes. I actually have Carol Alt's recipe book Easy Sexy Raw. Carol Alt is a famous supermodel that was big in the 80s and she looks amazing for 52! I'm sure that's party due to her supermodel genes but I'm sure that it also has a lot to do with her healthy lifestyle. Karyn's on Green is actually offering a free seminar on Tuesday so maybe I'll try to attend!

Here are pictures of the wonderful meal we had. The quality is not great because they were taken with my iPhone and the lighting was pretty dark. I think the appetizer and dessert were my favorite, I need to learn how to make them!

Appetizer: Sea Dim Sum
Avocado meat puree with wakame and kalamata olives wrapped in nori
Served with Pacific dipping sauce
Flax and corn masa pastry dough stuffed with three pepper chorizo and house blend chili spice
Served with a side of authentic raw chocolate mole and a salsa verde

Portobello Napoleon
Thinly sliced Portobellos layered with scented vegetables, fresh herbs and a cashew blue cheese
Drizzled with homemade primavera sauce

Basil Scented Ravioli
Half moon shells filled with macadamia whipped crème dressed with an Italian olive marinara sauce

Tiramisu Cheesecake
Macafe infused cream layered with date lady fingers and whipped marscarpone

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thai Curry Soup

I went to Noodles last week and was surprised at how many vegetarian options they have. However, they're not all that healthy because of the noodles, ironically. I had the pad thai and thai curry soup, and I really like the soup. I haven't had soup that good at actually thai places so I'm not sure what their secret ingredients are, but it is really good. Anyway, it inspired me to make my own thai curry soup. The spices in curry, like turmeric, have unique health properties, including anti-aging properties. Curry is not usually spicy-hot so I added cayenne pepper. I looked up some recipes online and combined them more or less to make the following:

Taking good pictures of soup is so hard...
2 oz brown rice noodles (linguine or pad thai, find in Asian or gluten free section)
32 oz. carton of veggie broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp lemon grass, minced (my grocery store didn't have lemon grass so I used 2 tbsp. of lemon juice instead)
1 tsp. grated or ground ginger
3 tsp. red curry paste
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. agave nectar
1 can reduced fat coconut milk
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 tbsp. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup cilantro
6-oz baby spinach leaves

Cook the noodles separately according to package directions. Meanwhile, add about 1/2 cup of the veggie broth to a large saucepan. There should be about a 1/2-inch layer of the broth covering the whole bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer on low heat. Add the garlic, lemon grass (if using), and ginger and saute for about 1 minute. Stir in the rest of the broth and the curry paste. Once, the paste is dissolved, add the soy sauce, agave nectar, and lemon juice (instead of the lemon grass). Let simmer for 20 minutes, covered. Add the coconut milk, mushrooms, and cayenne pepper and bring back to a simmer. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the cooked noodles, and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Serve warm!

What is your favorite Thai recipe?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Daily Habits of Healthy People

The easiest way to be healthy is to make it a habit or a way of life. I hate the phrase "I'm on a diet" but do use the word "diet" a lot because it's actual definition is the types of foods that someone eats daily. A lot of people will say that I'm on a diet because I avoid certain foods, but really, your diet is how you eat normally and not during some 2 weeks that you're trying to lose 5 pounds. Therefore, I think that it's important to constantly say the phrase and remind myself that I "eat a healthy diet" or "lead a healthy lifestyle" so it's something that's constant. Rather than, "I'm on a healthy diet" which implies that it's temporary. Getting into the mindset of leading a healthy lifestyle will help you make it a habit.

I've listed some healthy habits that I try to do everyday. Our bodies really are habitual and I don't feel as well when I don't do even one of these things in my day. I miss working out and eating fresh (uncooked) vegetables more than I'd like to admit, but this is a really good list to strive for daily.

1. Be Active. Being active is the single best thing that you can do for your health according to the video below. (I would argue that sleep is just as or even more important.) Being active doesn't have to be running or crossfit everyday. A 30-minute brisk walk is all that doctors recommend to significantly reduce your risk of preventable diseases.

2. Drink Lemon Water. There are countless benefits to drinking lemon water daily, including acting as a cleanse and getting a dose of natural vitamin C. The best way to do this is to squeeze a wedge of lemon into a glass of room-temperature water in the morning and drink it on an empty stomach, before breakfast.

3. Eat Fresh Fruits and Veggies. Unprocessed fruits and vegetables are the only foods that are 100% healthy and beneficial. Cooking gets rid of some of the nutrients so eating fresh fruits and veggies should be a daily habit. By the way, if you're eating the recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies, then you shouldn't need a multi-vitamin.

4. Drink Tea. I know a lot of people that don't like tea, it probably is an acquired taste that you grow up with. That's too bad because tea is an excellent way to hydrate yourself and get antioxidants. Antioxidants in green tea especially have been proven to reduce the risk of cancer. If you don't like tea, try drinking fruit teas first with honey as sweetener. Plus, tea is a much better alternative to coffee.

5. Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep. I think that this habit is the most important for leading a healthy lifestyle. Even if you think you're getting enough sleep on 5-6 hours, you're not. Your body is not properly recovering and you are increasing your risk of disease. If you have trouble sleeping, try drinking chamomile tea before you go to bed and drinking less caffeine. Also, spend the hour before bed in the dark and made sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible. Any light, even from your alarm clock, affects your body's ability to produce melatonin and thus sleep deeply. Speaking of melatonin, tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin and will help you stay asleep and sleep more deeply. They are also anti-inflammatory, thus helping your muscles recover and reducing your risk of cancer. Drink tart cherry juice about 1.5 hours before bed.

Do you already follow any of these habits?

Do you have any healthy habits to add to the list?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fitness Log: 12/3 - 12/9

Monday - 12/3: Rest Day
I was lazy and slept in so I just walked a couple miles at lunch because it was so nice outside!

Tuesday - 12/4: Crossfit
Pre-WOD: Max Shankle Complex (3 hang clean shrugs, 1 hang squat clean, 2 jerks) - 80 lbs.
Power Clean 7,000 lbs in 10 minutes
I did 128 reps of 45-lb. Cleans, total: 5,760 lbs.
I wasn't sure that I wanted to do the WOD today after checking the website the night before because it seemed really technical. This was my first time doing the "Shankle Complex" and I basically was able to do my clean and jerk max. The WOD was actually kind of a neat workout because you realize how much weight you can lift in 10 minutes. I didn't quite reach the 7,000 lbs goal for 5,760 lbs. is pretty good!

Wednesday - 12/5: Crossfit
Pre-WOD: 3 rounds:
1 minute hand-stand hold, 1 minute rowing, 1 minute plank
Benchmark WOD "Diane"
21 – 15 – 9 of:
Deadlift (225/155)
Handstand Push Up (from box)
Time: 3:51
My lower back was really hurting from the cleans yesterday (this is not supposed to happen so I need to work on my form) so the deadlifts didn't feel that good. Regardless, a good workout day!

Thursday - 12/6: Rest Day
I stayed up too late because a friend was staying over at our house so I didn't go to sleep early enough to get up early to work out. Oops!

Friday -  12/7: CrossFit and Run
Pre-WOD: Push Press 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 (55-60-65-70-75)
WOD: 10 Minute AMRAP
1 Curtis P (55)
2 Kettlebell Swings (35)
2 Curtis P (55)
4 Kettebell Swing (35)
3 Curtis P (55)
6 Kettlebell Swing (35)
I got up to 5 Curtis P/10 KB swings
Then: 4-mile run to Navy Pier!
Today was my flex day off from work so I decided to also go for a run after CrossFit. It was a bit chilly but I made it to the end of Navy Pier and back, which is about 4 miles. My legs were deifnitely tired later in the day! The Curtis P is a barbell move where you clean the barbell, then do 2 lunges (1 on each leg), and then a push press. The lunges plus running made my glutes really sore!

Chicago skyline from Navy Pier

Saturday - 12/8: CrossFit
Partner 25 Minute AMRAP
10 Power Clean (55)
10 Wall Ball (10)
10 Toes to Bar
My partner, Alvin, and I completed 12 rounds plus 7 cleans (I completed 6 rounds).
This was a good workout and having a partner really made you push through each round quickly. The toes to bar were the hardest pat for me. My abs are never sore from toes to bar so I'm not sure if I'm doing it right?

Sunday - 12/9: Rest Day
My friends and I went to TBOX (a huge Christmas-themed bar crawl in Chicago) all day Saturday so Sunday was spent on the couch haha, but I'm refreshed for a good week of workouts next week!

Crossfit workouts provided by River North Crossfit in Chicago.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fitness Log 11/18 - 12/2

I've been bad at keeping track of my workouts for the month of November...but I'm going to start again!

Sunday - 11/18: Run
4.6 mile run
Ryan and I went for a leisurly (slow) run downtown. The weather was nice so it felt great! Ryan is getting back into running (he's really good) after a back injury so hopefully we can do a race "together" soon.

Monday - 11/19: Crossfit
WOD: Crossfit Total
1 rep-max back squat (140 lbs.)
1 rep-max shoulder press (55 lbs.)
1 rep-max deadlift (155 lbs.)
Total score: 350 lbs.
We did this same WOD on October 1 and then proceeded to do a back squat progam, so the back squat should have been the most improved. However I only improved by 5 lbs on the back squat and 10 lbs on the dead lift. I couldn't even get my previous max for the shoulder press at 60 lbs. I was a little frustrated today at not improving much but I think it just wasn't a good day for me to PR. I went on a trip last week and didn't work out much and didn't eat the healthiest, not to mention the 8 hour time change and jet lag. I also didn't do the back squat program fully because I had a race this month and didn't want to be sore. So, I'm not trying to make excuses but I think that there are some valid reasons that I didn't PR today as much as I wanted to. Maybe next time!

Tuesday - 11/20: Crossfit
WOD: “Kelly”
5 Rounds:
400 meter Run
30 Box Jumps
30 Wall Balls (10#)
Time: don't remember...

Wednesday - 11/21: Crossfit
Find max snatch: 65 PR!
WOD: “Randy”
75 Snatches (35)
2 Minutes Rest, then:
1 minute Pull-Ups
1 minute Push-Press (35) or same bar you used for “Randy”
1 minute Kettlebell Swing (35)
1 minute Burpees

Thursday - Sunday: Thanksgiving!
I got a mild sinus infection on Thanksgiving so I didn't work out at all :( Unless you count Black Friday shopping as a work out...

Monday - 11/26: Crossfit
Clean Technique then Hang Clean 2-2-2-2-2 max: 70 lbs.
WOD: "Fran"
21 – 15 – 9
Thruster (45#)
Pull-Up (red band)
Time: 7:50
This was very close to my fastest Fran time but I used a thinner band for the pull-ups, which made it a lot harder so I think I did good. A very mean workout to have after Thanksgiving weekend...

Tuesday - 11/27: Crossfit
Max front squat: 125 PR!
WOD: 30-20-10
Toes to Bar
Push Up (hand release)
Box Jumps (24/20)
Time: 11:45
A good workout, although I can't quite get my toes to the bar that many times in a row.

Wednesday - 11/28: Crossfit
WOD: 7 rounds:
7 Hang Power Clean (45 lbs)
14 Burpee
2 minute Rest
Total Time: 20:42
I shared a barbell with Katie for this workout and we decided that we could have used a heavier weight for this workout, probably at least 55 lbs. The burpees were actually the hard part of this workout!

Thursday - 11/29: Crossfit
20 Minute AMRAP:
5 Pull Up
10 Push Up
15 Squat
Total: 10 rounds
I did this work out without a band for the pull-ups!! Although it wasn't completely Rx because I still did the push-ups from my knees. The pull ups were definitely a limiting factor for me in this workout because I had to pause often within the set. I always wasn't getting my chin up all the way for the last few sets. Regardless...I'm glad I'm finally moving on to real kipping pull ups! (Also, a blister on my left hand ripped open and it hurts and is gross.)

Friday - 11/30: Rest Day
My upper body was so sore from Thursday so I didn't work out

Saturday - 12/1: Real Ryder Revolution
45-minute spinning class on R3 bikes
Since I plan on not running outside this winter I decided to do spinning class about once a week for endurance cardio work. I tried Real Ryder Revolution earlier this year because one of my sorority sisters teaches classes there (plus there was a groupon). I haven't done other spinning classes before but what's different about the bikes at R3 is that they are suspended in their frame so you feel more like you're on a real bike because you can actually "turn." I think it's much more of a whole body work out than regular stationary bikes and also more exciting!

Sunday - 12/2: Rest Day
Another rest day, oops! Ryan and I went to a wedding at Purdue on Saturday (congrats Mitch and Lauren!) so I was too tired to work out by the time we got back in town. Sitting on the couch and watching TV sounded like a much better idea...