Thursday, January 31, 2013

Update on New Years Resolutions

It's the last day of January, how are you doing on your New Years Resolutions? I listed my health and fitness goals in my blog post on January 1st and since they are measurable goals, I want to provide an update on them every month or so to hold myself accountable. So here's a list of my goals and an update on how I'm doing:


  • Learn double unders - I have been practicing but no noticeable progress yet
  • Do regular push-ups (not on knees) - No progress :(
  • Do all pull-up workouts without a band (unassisted kipping pull-ups) - I've done 3 workouts with unassisted pull-ups this year so far with about 40-50 pull-ups per workout, so I'm doing good!

  • Pull-up at RNCF

  • Beat half-marathon PR of 1:55 in the Indy 500 Mini Marathon - It's been too cold to run outside but I need to start running in the next week or two. I did outline my training plan and put it on my calendar.

  • Eating
  • Participate in the Thrive Forward program - I've been going through the videos and learning even more about clean and healthy eating. I highly encourage you to check out the website!
  • Go gluten-free - I've eat gluten free all month with one exception! (There was absolutely nothing for me to eat at a layover on the way back from Puerto Rico earlier this month so I had to opt for a tuna sandwich.) 
  • Go back to not eating sugar - I really have been good about this except for on vacation in PR where I ate some flan...but that's ok 

  • After going to a free seminar at Karyn's Raw and participating in Thrive Forward, I also decided to add "Eating mostly raw" to my list of goals this year. I was not good about eating raw vegetables last year and I need to get more creative than just eating salads to get my raw veggies. I think basing your diet on raw fruit and vegetables is absolutely imperative to maintaining optimum health. Instead of changing my diet overnight (like I did 3 years when I turned vegan), I'm going to transition to raw food slowly and gently. I've experimented with a few new recipes this month but haven't perfected them (which is why I haven't been posting many.) This transition phase will lead up to March, when I will do a raw food detox with Karyn Calabrese. I'm really excited to do this and also share it with all of you! I'll keep you posted on my raw food journey.

    Do you have any tips for me for doing regular push-ups instead of on my knees?

    How are your New Years Resolutions going?

    Monday, January 28, 2013

    Eat Your Vegetables!

    I had the chance to participate in a nuclear science workshop for Girl Scouts this weekend and it was really fun! I love teaching young students about nuclear science and doing fun activities with them. I also think it's important to get young girls excited about science so they're not afraid to pursue it as a career. I don't get to hang out with kids very often so it's nice to meet some young girls that look up to you. Anyway, I had a chance to eat lunch with some of the girls and their packed lunches got me thinking about what parents are feeding their kids.

    Some of you may have heard of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution in either the UK or US. Jamie Oliver is a famous UK chef who has worked hard with his foundation to try to curb childhood obesity by revitalizing the food that is served in schools. He worked with the school district in Huntington, WV, in the first season and then took his fight to L.A. in the second season, where he was met with a lot of resistance. I especially liked a scene in which Jamie Oliver was chasing kids and telling them to "Eat your vegetables!" I strongly believe in his cause and you should watch his TED Talk below:

    When I sat down to eat my lunch with a few 4th-grade girls, I unpacked my quinoa salad from my lunch box and was immediately met with a couple of questionable gazes and asked "What is that?" So I explained to the girls that I was eating quinoa (one of them had actually heard of it), with lots of veggies and that it was healthy. One of the girls then exclaimed that she also likes to eat healthy and then held up her packaged blueberry muffin and said "this is good for me." I'm not kidding! She said that her sugar-filled, white-flour, probably-doesn't-even-have-real-blueberries packaged muffin was good for her! The rest of the girls then proceeded to show me some things in their lunches that they thought were healthy, including Cheez-Its, string cheese, and a white-bread sandwich with deli meat. Not a single girl had a single vegetable in her packed lunch. Not even lettuce on a sandwich! I could have lectured the girls on how important it was to eat their vegetables and such, but it's not my place to interfere with parenting. 

    And then, later in the day, we gave the girls candy as prizes in a Jeopardy game. I felt really bad about doing this and I was trying to think of alternatives to candy that would get kids excited enough. The problem is that a kid would do just about anything for a piece of candy, and not the same for an apple. I'm going to have to brainstorm more about cheap prizes for kids for these types of events.

    Since my own days in school I hadn't really experienced firsthand the children's food problem that Jamie Oliver is trying to fix. Seeing the girls eat their packed lunches really opened my eyes to the misconceptions about food that are being taught to kids by their parents, teachers, the government, and the food industry. Blueberry muffins and Cheez-Its are healthy? No wonder there is a childhood obesity epidemic. 

    Do you feed your kids fresh fruits and veggies?

    If you're a teacher, I'm curious to know what's being taught in school about nutrition?

    Friday, January 25, 2013

    Strengths Finder for Health and Fitness?

    As part of a big team meeting at work this January, my co-workers and I took the StrengthsFinder assessment developed by Gallup and then shared our results. It was a very interesting assessment and activity so I wanted to share it here, and discuss how it might relate to health and fitness.

    StrengthsFinder was developed to help people uncover their inherent talents and use them to better themselves and their work. Our society has often been one of exploiting weaknesses rather than strengths. We often devote more time to overcoming our shortcomings rather than developing and using the talents we already have. The whole mantra of "you can be anything you want to be" is fundamentally flawed because people are going to be more successful when they are using their inherent talents rather then trying to be something they are not.

    At work we are often evaluated on our weaknesses. Quarterly and yearly reviews often include questions like "what could this employee improve on?" But employees are more likely to be successful when they work on things that they are good at rather than something that comes naturally to them. I definitely agree with the philosophy of the StrengthsFinder book and assessment in that we should figure out what our talents are and run with them. Developing our talents will be more successful in the end than trying to overcome weaknesses. Also, employees and managers are better able to work together when they know each other's strengths.

    The StrengthsFinder assessment involves a series of rank-type questions that then produce a result of our top five strengths. The report produced from the website is quite detailed and I was surprised at how much true insight it gave me into my own personality. I was also impressed at my coworkers' evaluations and it was interesting to learn more about what makes all of our personalities unique. I really did learn quite a bit about myself so I highly recommend that you purchase the book and take the online assessment.

    I was a little surprised by my top five strengths and wouldn't have picked them out on my own. They are 1. Futuristic, 2. Intellection, 3. Input, 4. Strategic, and 5. Self-Assurance. I won't share my whole report but some things that stood out to me were that:

    • I often imagine and share my ideas for the future
    • I gain insight that enables me to forge linkages between facts, statements, events, or data
    • I yearn to increase my knowledge by being kept in the information loop (twitter!)
    • I gravitate to people who converse about ideas at a deeper and more thoughtful level
    • Making small talk seems like a waste of time to me (so true! probably why people think I'm shy/quiet)
    • It is imperative that my work be both invigorating and challenging
    • I accomplish more and deliver better results when I use my natural abilities
    This assessment gave me some great insight into my personality and confirmed what I already knew, that I like challenging and entrepreneurial work where I can use my strategic thinking. I think I'm going to post this on my website/resume!

    What does StrengthsFinder have to do with health and fitness and being a goddess? I'm not sure yet but the philosophy of exploiting your natural talents rather than overcoming your weakness can perhaps be applied to being healthy. In the case of fitness, it could be true that you should do things you're good at physically in order to be in your best physical condition. For example, if you enjoy yoga and are good at it, then you should use yoga as much as possible to reach your fitness goals. Conversely, if you're a bad runner, then forcing yourself to run and not enjoy it will not help you reach your full physical potential. I think this is very true to a certain degree. We all have natural physical talents, some much more than others (e.g. professional athletes.) For example, I played basketball when I was younger and I really wanted to be really good at it but I just wasn't aggressive enough in the game. I am just not inherently aggressive and never became a basketball star. However, I was much better at running because it didn't involved the same reaction time and aggression as basketball. If I had perhaps spent more time developing my running skills rather than basketball skills, I could have become a much better runner.

    However, utilizing only your natural talents for fitness is really not the philosophy of CrossFit. In CrossFit we are constantly working on our weaknesses (upper body moves for me), but should we instead be working even more on our strengths to reach optimal fitness? Should I be doing many more squats and sprints instead of constantly working on push-ups? In a workout, I'm always focusing on the moves that I'm bad at, should it be the opposite? I'm not sure how to apply this philosophy to CrossFit but I think the main point is that you will reach your own optimal level of fitness if you do activities that you and enjoy and are good at. (Also, is yoga a waste of time for me because I'm so bad at it?)

    Finally, I think that the StrengthsFinder philosophy can definitely apply to eating healthy and reaching a healthy lifestyle. One single type of healthy diet will not work for everyone. While I think that there is a baseline optimal human diet (fruits and vegetables), what other healthy (or unhealthy) foods you add to the diet are different for everyone. Reaching your optimal health is really a journey in which you try different things until you feel your best. I'm still learning a lot about my own health and well being, which is the purpose of this blog!

    My takeaway point for this very long post (sorry!) is that you should focus on what you are good at and what you enjoy for optimal well-being in your career, health, and personal life. Stop dwelling on your weaknesses and develop the talents that you already have. Your life will be much more satisfying!

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    100 Days until the Indy 500 Mini Marathon!

    I just got back from my vacation in sunny Puerto Rico to freezing Chicago, so running outside is the last thing I want to do, but I just realized that the Indy 500 Mini Marathon is only 100 days away, so I better get running! I'm going to do a similar training plan to what I did for the Hot Chocolate 15K last fall. This basically involves a lot of CrossFit during the week and then a long run on the weekend to build up to the 13.1 miles. I have every other Friday off as a flex day so some of these runs are on a Friday, and others on a Saturday (and sometimes on Sunday).

    Running outside at RNCF on a "warm" Chicago winter morning.

    In the short term, I have to run outside a bit to train for the Frozen Five Trail Race that Ryan and I are planning to do on February 10 in Hoffman Estates, IL (outside of Chicago). This race could be quite challenging if it snows and/or the temperature is sub-freezing. I'm also not looking forward to running on days that it is extremely cold and windy. Hopefully this winter will be another mild one and spring will come early :)

    Here is my long-run schedule!

    January 27: 3 miles
    February 1: 4 miles
    February 10: Frozen Five Trail Race
    February 15: 6 miles
    February 23: 6 miles
    March 1: 7 miles
    March 9: 8 miles
    March 15: 9 miles
    March 23:9 miles
    March 29: 10 miles
    April 6: 11 miles
    April 12: 12 miles
    April 20: 13 miles
    April 26: 10 miles
    May 4: RACE DAY!

    Do you have any races coming up this Spring? How are you training?

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Free Seminar on Raw Food at Karyn's Raw

    A couple of months ago I had an amazing raw vegan meal at Karyn's Raw in Chicago (read my post) and it inspired to look more closely at the "raw diet." Karyn Calabrese is a 65-year-old raw foodist that owns three vegan restaurants in Chicago and hosts raw food events like cooking classes and detox programs. My friend, Alison, and I decided to go to a free introduction seminar at Karyn's Raw on Halsted. Here's what I thought!

    Like I said, Karyn Calabrese is 65 and looks (and feels) amazing. The video above is pretty recent and includes a lot of what she talked about during the seminar. Karyn has been raw, plant-based for about 44 years and claims that she hasn't been sick once the entire time. She has no pain, lots of energy, and always feels good. More than just looking great, what really struck me about Karyn was just her energy and vitality. She is 65 and nowhere near retiring or slowing down and it seemed like she had more energy than I do at 25! During the seminar she talked about why being raw vegan is good for optimal health and then also promoted some of her programs and products.

    I've been eating mainly plant-based for 3 years now and I've definitely seen a change in myself. I sleep better, have more energy, and generally just feel better than I did when I ate meat and dairy. I can definitely attest to Karyn's claims about feeling better and healthier on a plant-based diet. Karyn explained that consuming dairy is probably the worst thing you can do for your health, which is what I've been trying to explain to people for the past 3 years! We are the only mammals that consume milk in adulthood and of another doesn't make sense! It's not natural! Karyn also said that cheese, in particular, is actually addictive, which I didn't know. People always say, "I could be vegan but I couldn't give up cheese." It turns out, when the human body digests casein, it produces casomorphins, which have an opiate-like effect on humans. Cheese, compared to other dairy products, has a much higher concentration of casein, thus making it more addictive. I used to think that cheese would be the hardest thing to give up in my plant-based diet but I actually don't miss it at all. In fact, it kind of grosses me out and the few times I have eaten it in the past couple of years, it hasn't tasted good to me either.

    While much of what Karyn said during the seminar about why plant-based is good wasn't new to me, I did learn that coffee is extremely acidic and thus promotes an environment in your body that is favorable to cancer and other diseases. I have gone through various phases of drinking and not drinking coffee. Now days, I drink it about once or twice a week, and it's normally on a day I don't work out in the morning. We just got a Keurig and I love the taste of coffee so giving it up completely may be a challenge. Has anyone tried maca root coffee?

    I've definitely seen the healthful effects of my plant-based diet but I still feel like I am not reaching my body's full potential. I do still get sick occasionally (sinus infections) and I feel like I don't have all the energy I should have even after a good 8-hour sleep. I think that this is because I put poisons in my body, like coffee and alcohol, and don't eat enough raw vegetables. Cooking vegetables is believed to leache enzymes and vitamins that are critical for proper digestion. Plus, you end up eating a lot less processed and refined grains and sugars on a raw food diet. According the the Paleo Diet, all grains and legumes are believed to cause inflammation in the body. I think that we should eat what we were meant to eat, which is raw vegetables, fruits, and nuts with the occasional animal snack (read my post).

    Towards the end of the seminar, Karyn talked about her 4-week detox program that involves raw eating and cleansing the digestive system. It's a little pricey at $250 but then it's half-price for returning students and $50 off if you sign up early. It involves class once a week and I think the price includes the necessary supplements. I'm planning to do the class in March if any Chi-town people want to join me!

    I don't know if I'm going to ever going to eat completely raw or give up coffee and alcohol, but I do want to eat more raw foods so I can really optimize my health. I don't want to get sinus infections anymore and I want to reduce my risk of cancer and other diseases as much as possible. I want to have more energy now and live a long, healthy, and active life. I know that eating right is the way to accomplish that.

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    Fitness Log: 1/7 - 1/13

    The first few days of 2013 did not go so well for me because I came down with a bad sinus infection and even missed days of work! I finally got to the gym on Tuesday and it has been tough getting back in shape, even just after not working out for a week. (I also didn't do any really hard workouts the week before on vacation in Florida.) I've mainly been having trouble breathing because my nose is still stuffed up. Still, I did better with workouts this week than I thought I would!

    Tuesday - Crossfit
    Pre-WOD: Front Squat 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5
    WOD: Every Minute on the Minute for 14 Minutes
    -on the EVEN minutes = 7 Thruster (45)
    -on the ODD minutes = 10 Burpees
    I did a light weight for the front squats because I didn't want to push myself too hard on the first day back, but my hamstrings are still sore (I'm writing this on Friday).

    Wednesday - Crossfit
    Pre-WOD: 3-rep max shoulder press  - 55 lbs.
    WOD A: 15 Minute AMRAP
    -10 Pull Up (Rx!)
    -10 Deadlift (65)
    -10 Box Jump
    Total: 4 rounds plus 10 pull-ups
    I went light on the deadlift and wasn't able to do too many rounds because I did Rx kipping pullups! Meaning, I didn't use a band! I did a total of 50 unassisted pull ups!

    Box jump! Courtesy of RNCF

    Thursday - Rest Day
    I was really sore from Tuesday and Wednesday so I just jogged a bit on the treadmill and practiced double unders and stretched.

    Friday - Crossfit
    Pre-WOD: 1 Rep Max Clean & Jerk - 95 lbs. new PR!
    5 Power Clean & Jerk (60 lbs.)
    10 Wall Ball (10 lbs.)
    200 m RUN
    Time: 17:39
    I couldn't breathe!!! This sinus infection needs to go away. But I did at least beact my clean and jerk PR by 15 lbs.

    Saturday - Crossfit
    Partner WOD: "Murph" (only one partner works at a time)
    1 mile run
    100 pull-ups
    200 push-ups
    300 squats
    1 mile run
    Time: 40:03
    This was a partner WOD so I basically did half of the workout and my partner Garrett did the other half, with only one of us working at the time. This was a great workout although I felt slow because I was the only girl in the class. I also did 50 Rx pull-ups just like on Wednesday!

    Sunday - Yoga and Spinning
    I did a yoga class at RNCF and then a spinning class at R3! I need to do yoga more to relax and become more flexible. The spinning was a great workout too! (I should do this combo every Sunday.)

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    Pine Nut and Avocado Kale Salad

    I've been working through the videos and lessons in the Thrive Forward program and decided to make a salad that's filled with raw vegetables but also savory enough for winter. Pine nuts add crunch to the salad and are also packed with protein.

    A couple of weeks ago I posted about massaging raw kale to make it much more edible. Here's a great salad I made for lunch this week! The ingredients are very approximate because it's a salad, adjust to your own taste.

    Ingredients (1 serving)
    2 handfuls of kale (ripped from stem)
    1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
    1 tsp. red wine vinegar (white wine or apple cider work too)
    juice of 1/4 lemon
    pine nuts
    grape tomatoes, halved
    green onion, chopped
    1 avocado, chopped
    Dulse granules

    Add kale to a large bowl. Mix together the oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and drizzle over kale. Massage the dressing into the kale until it has turned a darker color and softened (about 1-2 minutes). The, add the rest of the ingredients to taste!

    P.S. Dulse is a seaweed that you can find as granules in a salt-shaker container. I add both dulse and kelp granules to salads and soups for a unique salty taste. Contrary to popular belief, seaweed does not have a fishy taste, you just think that because it's usually eaten with fish. It is believed that seaweed is even more nutritious than land vegetables. In fact, the traditional long life of the Japanese is largely attributed to their diet, including seaweed.

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    Time to Thrive Forward!

    Thrive Forward has officially launched! I wrote about this new program in an earlier post and I've spent the past few days going watching some videos and going through the lessons. I've read all of Brendan Brazier's and Peggy Kotsopoulos' books, so the information isn't that new to me, but rather a refresher. The program is all about teaching you how to be healthier by adopting a more plant-based and nutrient-dense diet.

    I like that the first lesson in the program is about "adding" instead of "cutting out" foods. When I first started a plant-based diet three years ago, I was all about cutting out bad foods and then I felt like I was depriving myself. Instead, you should focus on adding good foods to your diet, thus not leaving room for the bad foods. A good example is to add a plant-based smoothie to your daily diet, as suggested by the program. Of course, they are advertising their own products by suggesting Vega One as the protein powder to use in your smoothie, but it's honestly the best. I've tried other protein powders and Vega One is the best in terms of protein source (no soy or whey) and added nutritional content (e.g. B12). It's a little expensive but usually discounted on Amazon. Plus, for the nutritional content, it's worth the price. And, way cheaper than buying a Starbucks latte everyday, for example.

    I wanted to share with you the Thrive food pyramid presented in the Clean Eating 101 lessons. Your diet should always be based on fresh vegetables, and not grains or starches like the USDA food pyramid we learned in elementary school.

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    Happy New Year!

    Happy 2013! I hope that everyone had a good holiday season! My 2013 is off to a rocky start because I have a bad cold with a sinus infection :( It's making it much harder for me to start my New Years Resolutions, especially with working out. I listed some of my resolution ideas in a previous post but I've narrowed them down below. I've made sure to make my resolutions measurable goals, that way I can actually know if I've attained them. For your own 2013 resolutions, make specific goals instead of generic statements. For example, instead of "running more" sign up for a race, even if it's just a 5K. You will reach your goal of running more just by training for the race.

    Here are my 2013 New Years Resolutions:


  • Learn double unders
  • Do regular push-ups (not on knees)
  • Do all pull-up workouts without a band (unassisted kipping pull-ups)

  • Running
  • Beat half-marathon PR of 1:55 in the Indy 500 Mini Marathon

  • Eating
  • Participate in the Thrive Forward program
  • Go gluten-free
  • Go back to not eating sugar

  • I also have some personal and professional goals but I want to just share my health goals on the blog.

    What are your goals this year??