Saturday, January 26, 2013


I read many very cool blog posts about others' new year's resolutions and they got me thinking about this year for me and the family.  Our biggest news is the following:

We are very excited to welcome a new little one later this year.  Arrival is expected in early June and so far everything is going well, which is such a blessing.  This is the reason I am currently not training for any particular races.  I'm working to keep moving as much as possible, which worked out well for me with our first bundle.  My first trimester was a challenge between some busy schedules, a work trip for my husband and not feeling so well.  I seem to have more energy during the second trimester though and I am getting a decent workout in 4-5 days per week, preferably 5!

I am struggling with running.  I know other mamas who have kept up some significant mileage during their pregnancies and I admire them for it.  When pregnant with our daughter, I did not run because I had been given a guideline to keep my heart rate at 140 beats per minute by the doctor and no matter how comfortable of a pace I ran at, my heart rate was always in the 160's when jogging or running at an easy pace.  After my first pregnancy, I wore my heart rate monitor more often and the high heart rate when running, even at a comfortable pace, seems to be the case for me pregnant or not.  I am not sure what that means.  Since then there also seems to be more advice being given that pregnant ladies should monitor their exercise level with perceived level of exertion, not specific heart rates.  So, I should be good to go if I'm comfortable enough that I can carry on a conversation at the level I am exercising.  I like that!  With that information in mind, I slowed my pace down and was running 2-3 x 3 mile runs per week with spinning, yoga & strength work in between once I got my wind back after my first trimester of easier workouts.  One particular day when I was feeling ok but not great while jogging I checked the monitor and had a heart rate of 170.  I scaled back to an inclined walk as I was a little nervous about the numbers.....11:30-12 minutes a mile with a heart rate of 170??  I'm aware I would have lost some conditioning but it just seemed high even for me and I came into the pregnancy with some decent conditioning under my belt after doing my first Olympic Tri this summer.  Next appointment, I ran it by the doc.  He indicated that if I am comfortable and non-symptomatic that everything should be ok but he would like the heart rate closer to 140 than what I was reporting.  So at 21 weeks along I think I am focusing more with inclined walks (perhaps some jogging intervals in there), spinning, strength work and I need to get back in the pool for laps.  I swam laps very close to delivery with my daughter and it was great- I am just being a baby about motivating to get into the pool in the wee hours of the morning during the cold, winter months right now!

Of course, I seem to be constantly thinking of running now that I have scaled back.  Murphy's law.  I'm thinking about it A LOT.  I'm addicted to running blogs, scouring the internet for my dream treadmill, contemplating when and how I will get quality runs in once I go back to work after maternity leave and even wondering about what race distance I want to first prepare for.  Three years ago, I trained for and completed a 1/2 marathon when my daughter was about 10 months old.  It was a great race and it left me right over the 2 hour mark, which of course set in my mind the thought that I need to break 2 hours :)  I don't see myself setting out for anything longer than a 1/2 at first.

My other thought process is that I have so much room for improvement in speed.  Seriously, me and speed were not meant for each other- that goes as far back to my high school cross-country and track coach.  Speed is not my natural thing- I remember my coach telling me that I was the type of runner that would fair better on the longest, more challenging courses (probably because I'm too stubborn to quit anything) than the track or short, fast courses.  I would rather run 12 moderately paced miles than 3 x 1 mile repeats- I have always dreaded speed work.  That's just me, BUT part of me thinks that is exactly why I should focus on something shorter.  It would be challenging and the reality is that time will be tight and I could feasibly fit in quality training for 5Ks or 10Ks in less time than a 1/2 marathon.  I'm thinking....I'm thinking....what should I do?

For now, when the slight feeling of guilt sets in over my scaled back workouts I remind myself that there is a time and place for everything.  I can't wait to meet this new bundle and I will be back training in what I am sure will feel like the blink of an eye. The prospects of signing up for a race for after delivery keeps me motivated to stay as healthy and strong as possible for me and baby during the pregnancy.  Has anyone else planned for races to sign up for post pregnancy?  How did you set out for your training plans and goals?

Have a great week!
Sunday, January 20, 2013

Our Flour and More Winter Fun

Over two years ago (time flies!), we began to use grain to grind our own whole wheat flour.  We started this process using a manual grain grinder because we didn't feel it was justified to spend a ton of money on this new endeavor when we were not yet sure if it was something that we would like and stick to.  Well, we did like it and came to the realization that we needed something other than a hand cranked grain mill if we were going to keep up with it.  I do love a good workout, but it just wasn't realistic to hand crank the grain mill at the rate we needed flour.  It turns out that cranking 3 cups of whole wheat flour for one and only one pizza dough takes more time than I thought it would.  There are a lot of products out there that are highly recommended, but we settled on the Kitchen Aid Grain Mill that fits with my beautiful red kitchen aid mixer.  It is simple to use.  We store our grain in air tight containers and then dump them into the mill's hopper.
We set the mill to the finest setting to get the smoothest flour possible, crank the motor on and Voila!
Fresh Flour!

We love it.  The mill does work the mixer pretty hard and the manufacturer recommends grinding no more than 10 cups at a time and then giving the mixer a 45 minute rest before using again, which is no problem for our use. 

With fresh flour on hand this weekend, I set out for some baking after I saw the photo from this recipe for Chocolate Chip Spelt Bars over at MsFitrunner.  They looked so good.  I had different ingredients on hand and modified the recipe, which is something I regularly do.  I review recipes and get an idea as to the proportion of wet and dry ingredients, use what works for me and give it a whirl.  These turned out pretty good.  Thus far they are toddler, Mom and Grandparent approved.  Here's the recipe I used:

Chocolate Chip Coconut Bars
~1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
~1/2 cup wheat germ
~3 tbs Trader Joe's Organic Hemp Protein Powder (chocolate of course)
~1/3 cup honey
~1 3/4 cups organic low fat milk
~1 tbs olive oil
~1 tsp almond extract
~3 small eggs
~ 2 handfuls of dark chocolate chips
~1 heaping handful unsweetened coconut (optional)
Mix honey, eggs, milk, olive oil and almond extract in one bowl.  Mix flour, protein powder and wheat germ in another.  Combine the wet & dry ingredients.  Fold in the chocolate chips and coconut.  Spread in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 18-20 minutes.  Let cool, cut into bars, enjoy and store the rest in an air tight container in the fridge to grab and go during the week, or you can freeze for later eats!  These bars have a muffin like texture and are a nice treat with a hot cup of tea or coffee.


As for winter fitness, I am not currently training for any particular races and my running mileage is down.  I have been keeping up with spinning and have made it out snowshoeing a couple times the past two weeks, which I love.  It's a great workout for the legs and the hills are no joke either.  I head out to one of our local golf courses and time flies by out there.  It's so quiet and refreshing.  Did I mention I love it?  I just wish there was more daylight so I could fit more of it in.  I think it's a great substitute for running and perhaps I will invest in those snowshoes designed for running some day.  Running on hills in those things has to be an amazing workout! Until next time, here's a shot of my furry training buddy who loves it out there at least as much as I do. Have a great week!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Our Real Food Challenge

We participated in our real food challenge in August (Remember my long blogging vacation?).  I looked at my daughter's lunch one day and thought "when did this happen?"  Mostly everything was packaged, processed and I did not feel good about it.  Life had become really busy and organization had obviously slipped.  I had briefly read the 100 Days of Real Food blog before and loved its message.  I knew proposing 100 days to the family was a stretch but the blog also offered a 10 day challenge.  Bingo!  Something to get back on track, regroup and get a little guidance about everyday folks just trying to make the healthiest lifestyle possible.  I reviewed the rules of the challenge and then asked for the family's support for the ten days. 

With the family's support behind me, I set out to prepare.  Truthfully, I thought preparation would be a breeze.  I didn't feel I was a novice at health and fitness and some people have even used the words "you eat so healthy" when I unpack my lunch at work.  My first step was to remove food from the pantry that would be unauthorized during the challenge.  I thought our pantry was stocked pretty healthfully....until I overflowed 2 large grocery bags with items that had to go.  I was shocked. Convenience snacks galore had crept into our pantry.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I let convenience snacks galore back into our pantry and in most cases I was an active participant in their purchase.  Items with the glorious words of "low-fat," "100 calories," "Good Source of Vitamin X, Y, Z," and other "healthy" things filled the shelves.  Upon closer look at the ingredients list, these foods sounded more like a science experiment than something I wanted to be feeding my family.  Out they went. 

Next, I set out to pre-plan ideas for meals each day.  I enjoy cooking, which is a bonus (the cleaning afterwards- not so much).  We did this challenge in August, which also meant that there was plenty of seasonal produce around at the time.  The website has an extensive list of recipes to help with planning if I was stuck for ideas, which was fantastic.  The last thing I prepared was an incentive "sticker" system for each day of completion for our little one with a promised trip to a Chuck E. Cheese's for rides and games when we finished the 10 days.  I know that bribery may be controversial but she enjoyed seeing the stickers accumulate and it gave us an opportunity to talk about the importance of healthy food each day when her sticker was awarded.  Off we went.

Overall, the pledge went really well.  I definitely felt better.  My sweet tooth ached a little at times, which reiterated to me that my indulgence in sweets had become out of balance.  I did not bake my own bread during this time period.  I strongly thought about it as I have dabbled in baking our own bread before, but I settled on purchasing bread that complied with the challenge from When Pigs Fly Bakery instead.  Was it more expensive than most other bread? Yes, but it was delicious and the list of ingredients on the back of the package was much easier on the eyes.

There were two specific recipes that were hits in our house.  The first is the granola cereal that has become a staple around here.  It quickly became a breakfast favorite of our daughter.  I love it with fruit for breakfast or sprinkled on plain greek yogurt for a snack.  It also can make great granola bars, but unfortunately our daughter's school, like many schools, does not allow nuts to be sent in her lunch so making it into bars for lunch snacks was not an option.  I got into a routine of making this recipe about once per week and didn't buy boxed cereal for months.  I even have a container of it sitting in my pantry right now!
The next recipe that was a hit was spaghetti and meatballs. Yummy.  This recipe was particularly a hit for my husband who is definitely looking to eat a hearty meal.  It was easy to put together and perfect with a fresh salad.  It has made more appearances on our table since and I have tweaked the recipe by substituting onions for the carrots and it worked great.

After the 10 days wrapped up, we sent in our feedback to the 100 Days of Real Food website and a few weeks later these green bracelets showed up in the mail, which was another hit for the little one.

I would highly recommend the challenge to anyone looking to bring a more healthy balance to their eating habits.  Do I think that we need to eat as strict as the challenge's rules 100% of the time? No, not all of the time.  There are times when we meet friends and family out at restaurants and I make the healthiest choices I can.  There are occasions when we intentionally set out for a particular indulgence and work to keep it in balance.  My daughter goes to birthday parties and has cake....I have a piece too.  I think the key is keeping a healthy balance, ensure to exercise and make sure that those "indulgences" do not become the norm of everyday living.  Give it a try!  There is nothing to lose- only benefits of eating great food and feeling better!