Better Training (take 2)

This past fall I ran my first half marathon, The Middle Half in Murfreesboro, TN, on a bit of a whim. I registered for the race for many reasons: I needed some motivation to stick to a running routine and run longer distances; I’ve never run a real race before and always wanted to; I was on the tail end of a pretty rough two years and needed something to get excited about; but mostly because of my crippling FOMO. I have 6 siblings and almost as many in-laws. 5 of them were signing up.

My brother sent me the training plan for, “experienced runners” provided by the race and I kinda sorta followed it. I’d never really trained for anything before. I’ve always been a pretty active person – fairly consistently running, practicing yoga, and climbing when I can – but always just for fun/my own peace of mind. So, sticking to a training schedule was a new experience for me and it taught me a few things. For example: it is important to wear a shoe large enough to accommodate your unusually large toes and the swelling of your feet – elsewise you’ll lose a toenail (or three); cheap Chinese takeout is not a suitable meal the night before your weekly long run; chafing is a real thing that happens and should not be taken lightly; and drinking coffee before a run is awesome and can provide a great energy boost but must be timed just right or things will get real sketchy around mile 3.

The training plan involved running three times during the week, cross-training once, and going for a long run every weekend. Honestly, I was lucky if I got in all three runs during the week and I rarely (if ever) got to the cross-training but I always made the long weekend runs. After several weeks of trial and error and two pairs of running shoes – I figured out what worked best for me. I’m proud to say I finished the race next to my brother in under two hours. The photos are heinous. I always thought I had pretty good form, but crossing the finish line I looked more like this. I will try to be more prepared for the paps at the next race…

Now, I’m training for my second race – The Country Music Half Marathon. At first, I was really hesitant. The race is on April 27th – that is RIGHT at the start of sandal season and my toes are just now recovering from the damage done training for the race in October. I decided to go for it anyway and am training with my brother again and a group of our fellow UT alumni. The second time around I am striving to be more diligent about following the training plan, though getting to the cross-training is still not so much happening as it is not happening. I like to think that since most of my mid-week runs alternate between me fighting Emmett (my 50lb pit mix) when he decides to sprint and pulling him along when he decides to sniff everything in sight that I am somehow getting an extra-tough workout and therefore need the cross-training less. Plus, I sit on an exercise ball most of the time at work so… don’t worry about it.

My basic running day routine is as follows:

Wake up an hour(ish) before I will be running and have an english muffin with peanut butter (maybe a tablespoon), a cup of coffee, and some water. I used to wake up with just enough time to scarf a banana, run, shower, and get to work but it’s been really nice to have the extra buffer to allow myself to fully wake up, do some reading, and enjoy a good digestion before going for a run.

running breakfast: i live life better than you

Then, I run.  The mileage varies during the week from 2 and 3 towards the beginning of the plan to 5 and 7 towards the end. I’ve tried a few different shoes (New Balance, Nike Free, Saucony, etc.) with mixed results and finally found my soul-shoe: the Brooks Pure Cadence 2. They are perfect for me – the perfect amount of support and a sock-like upper which is exactly what my toes need. Fingers-crossed my feet won’t be too wrecked after the race and I’ll be able to wear sandals with minimal shame. I also recently purchased my first running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 10, to keep track of my pace and have been really happy with it – it’s a rather basic model but it covers all the action I need.Half Marathon Training: i live life better than you

When I get back from the run, I stretch for about 15 minutes, and make this green smoothie to enjoy on the way to work.

Better Green Smoothie: i live life better than you

For dinner, I’ve been eating a lot of pastas and generally making sure to get a lot of protein and carbs – mostly carbs. This is really no different from my usual diet. If I could bake pasta into garlic bread, I would. In fact, I’ve seen it on pinterest and have every intention of trying it someday very soon. Every Friday night, in preparation for the long run on Saturday, we make this very fancy dish: Cheesy Rice and Beans.

Cheesy Rice and Beans: i live life better than you

Here’s what you’ll need:

Cheesy Rice and Beans: i live life better than you

  • 6 eggs
  • 1.5 cups brown rice (dry)
  • an avocado
  • 1 can cannellini beans (or great northerns if you can’t find cannellinis) rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 C (ish) shredded Mexican-blend cheese
  • A dash or so of garlic, salt, and pepper
  • Tapatío to taste

Make the rice according to package instructions – a few minutes before the rice is done, get ready to fry the eggs.

Prepare the eggs over easy, sprinkle with salt and pepper, set aside and keep warm.

Stir the beans and cheese into the rice – add garlic powder to taste.

Cube the avocado.

Divide rice and bean mixture between two bowls, add avocado cubes, top with three eggs per bowl and as many dashes of Tapatío as your heart desires.

The beans and eggs provide plenty of protein and fiber while the rice gives you a solid amount of healthy carbs. The avocado is great for those omega-3s that are so good for your brain and the cheese and Tapatío are just delicious. I try to eat this as late as possible the night before a long run. It might be all in my head – but so far, it is the best night-before meal I have tried to date. So much so that I don’t even bother branching out anymore. Maybe I’ll consider it for the pasta-stuffed garlic bread…

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Better Lentil Soup

Simple Slow Cooker Lentil Soup : ilivelifebetter

I’ve really been craving a lot of warm, hearty foods lately. I can’t imagine why – it’s been so lovely out. Anyway, one of my favorite foods of this variety is lentil soup. Mostly because it is a vehicle for crusty bread but also because it is healthy (I think, I really can’t back that up – but it sounds right) and delicious. My friend, Christine, makes the most amazing lentil soup I have ever had. This soup recipe is not as good as hers – but it is a bit less labor-intensive and quite tasty if I do say so myself. The thing about lentils is that they aren’t so easy on your digestive system – which is why they make you so gassy. You, not me – I don’t fart. Supposedly, if you cook or soak them for a really long time they are easier to digest. So, I thought soaking them overnight and cooking them in a crock pot all day should do the trick. I looked on the world wide web to figure out a basic fluid:lentil ratio for slow-cooking and here is what I came up with:

  • 2 Cups dried lentils (soaked overnight)
  • 4 cloves garlic (at least) – minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 3 carrots – chopped
  • 2 boxes low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 onion – chopped

Instructions:

  • Throw all ingredients in slow cooker (I do not know what size – whatever size the one in the picture appears to be…)
  • Set to low and let cook all day
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Take your immersion blender and immersion blend the shit out of all that action
  • Serve with very large slices of crusty bread

Simple Slow Cooker Lentil Soup: ilivelifebetterUpon further review, I think you could use a little less fluid to avoid the overflowage in the crock pot. I mean, it wasn’t THAT serious of an overflow but, it could be averted. Also, parmesan cheese never hurt anybody. Let me know what you think!

Better Breakfast Smoothies

As I’ve mentioned before, I intend to do a cleanse many times a year. Seasonally, I will get the urge to detox, get distracted by something sparkly (and/or a doughnut), and move on. The urge to cleanse is strongest around this time of year; with all the rich foods, booze, sweets, booze, cheese, booze, etc., I feel like I need to spend a few days in a sweat lodge consuming nothing but water and wheatgrass juice to get rid of all the poison. I could practice moderation and not buy a half-gallon thing of peppermint ice cream knowing I’ll eat it all. I could also avoid the white fudge covered Oreos entirely but I’m obviously not going to because they are LIMITED EDITION and who knows when they’ll ever be sold again?! I could even pass on the various cheese balls, logs, plates, and so forth but, come on, cheese is delicious – it is the number one reason I gave up being vegan long ago. That and hot dogs. Anyway, my point is – holiday food is super-tasty and I am going to eat it all and wash it down with a poinsettia so I need to do something daily(ish) to counteract the abnormally high levels of shit I’ll have in my system between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

Enter green smoothies, hot yoga, and apple cider vinegar drink.

Green smoothies are amazing for all kinds of reasons – mostly because you get a huge serving of nature’s little scrub brushes into one quick drink hidden beneath the taste of yogurt, fruit, honey, and whatever else you decide to throw in. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying the following combination:

1 cup (ish) packed baby spinach
1 cup (ish) frozen blueberries
1 cup green tea (brew 1 tea bag in 1/2 cup boiling water for 5 minutes, remove tea bag and add ice)
1/4-1/2 cup plain Kefir
Local Honey to taste
before
I blend all this up using an immersion blender (the most amazing kitchen appliance EVER – thank you Mom and Dad!) and it is ready to go in minutes with minimal effort and clean up required. Greens are good for everything – they are rich in iron, potassium, phytonutrients, and vitamins E, C, and K which means they improve your skin, your immune system, your heart, your bones, and they help get things moving through your digestive system so you can make room for more artery-clogging cheeses. I used spinach because it’s what we’ve had around the house lately, but you can use any dark, leafy, green you like. The blueberries are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and magical antioxidants which fight free-radicals, help you age gracefully, and prevent various diseases. Allegedly. The green tea does all those wonderful things PLUS it gives you a pleasant little caffeine boost to help get rid of any hang-over related head-aches you may have. The kefir (I really wish they’d change that name) contains lots of friendly bacteria and yeast to help balance and maintain a healthy environment in your colon. It can even, supposedly, help reduce flatulence. Although, drinking it in combination with lots of fruits and veggies probably won’t have that effect. Local honey not only helps sweeten this delicious dish, it helps strengthen your immune system, too.
after
It turned our more purple than green, but that’s OK. As magical as green/purple smoothies are, they aren’t going to handle all the nasty business of cleansing my system of holiday funk alone. So, I started going to hot yoga again after many, many months off and it is even more amazing than I remember. After class, I feel like my body has been completely wrung out. I’m sure the rest of the class feels that way, too – I sweat even more than one might expect while doing yoga in a 100+ degree room. It really is almost alarming. But, when class is over, I feel clean inside and out. Granted, everything is sore and I’ve been walking funny as a result, but that will pass.

Finally, the apple cider vinegar drink. Not as delicious as the green smoothie. Not even close. BUT it does all these wonderful things and then some for your body. So, I’ve been mixing one shot (2 Tbsp) of the good stuff in my 32oz water bottle and drinking it over the course of the day. There are many other recipes online for more delicious apple cider vinegar tonics using honey or maple syrup, but I’m keeping it simple for now. It’s tart, but I’ve grown to like it.

It might just be a placebo effect, but it’s working for now.

Better Training

I did something quite impulsive today. I signed myself up for a half marathon. One (of my 5) brothers sent me a text asking if I wanted to join he and some of our other siblings for The Middle Half. I signed up post-haste because I was bored and work and because I suffer from FOMO. I’ve been “running” since I was about 13 or so and by “running” I mean jogging. Slowly. I have certainly never run any significant distance. I once ran 7 miles on accident with my sister. We were on a trail in Chattanooga, got distracted by our riveting conversation, which I’m certain was not at all gossipy in nature, and completely missed our turn-around. That went fine. Surely now, almost 10 years later (holy shit I’m getting old), I’ll be able to run 13.1 miles. No problem.

There are 19 weeks till the run. I began looking for training programs this afternoon and was relieved to find some 12 week programs for beginners. Beginners! I’m a kind of experienced runner AND I’ve got 19 weeks to train! Piece O Cake. The training programs all seem pretty simple. Here is an example from halfmarathons.net. Every program I’ve seen suggests running, or at least doing some sort of cardio, 5 days a week. Seeing how I currently run a few times a week, sometimes, this should be totally fine. Right?

Better Detox

Every year since somewhere mid-college career, one of my many resolutions has been to complete some sort of cleanse seasonally. I have yet to complete any sort of cleanse. Ever. Unless, of course, you count those two times I got mono and survived off Jell-o and Sprite for a few weeks. I usually start strong, spending a lot of time Googling “detox” and whatnot but, then I remember I get awfully cranky when I’ve not been fed in a few hours and decide it’s in the best interest of everyone around me if I just continue eating whatever I want, whenever I want. Really, it wouldn’t be fair to my friends and family – I’m doing the right thing.

With the solstice approaching, I’ve decided it’s time to start the process of thinking about maybe doing a cleanse all over again. After doing some research, I’ve determined I need to just make up my own plan. My B.A. in Spanish and National Certification in Massage Therapy obviously qualify me to do such a thing. I have a few stipulations – most importantly: I must be able to eat for most of the cleanse. I must! So, the Master Cleanse and any juice fasts are out. My goal here is not weight-loss; it is giving my liver a well-deserved break from all the hard work it does for me so it can perform even better post-cleanse. Because, let’s be real here, my liver gets a pretty damn good work-out most of the time. The cleanse will be Ayurveda-based, (I found a great, 13-day plan in The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amrita Sondhi) focusing on gradually eliminating the more “toxic” foods from my diet and then slowly reintroducing them after a two-day siesta from solid food during which I will only drink water, which I can spice up with ginger and lemon to aid in detoxification if I’m feeling fancy.

BUT, I’m not ready for that shit yet. I’ve gotta get my mind right first. TWO WHOLE DAYS WITHOUT FOOD?! Besides, the solstice isn’t for another few weeks. So, today I decided to dip a toe in the detoxification pool and start my day with a little yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for about 10 years now, which is pretty sad given the current state of my practice. I know yoga is supposed to be all about accepting where you are in your practice and in your life and moving forward at your own pace and namaste and OM and BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, but, the perfectionist inside me is having a difficult time accepting the fact that I usedtocould hold a headstand for as long as I wanted and now I can’t quite get my toes off the ground. It did feel good to start my day with yoga again, though – even if I didn’t stop sweating till I got to work because, well, I’m a beast, and we still haven’t gotten around to breaking out the ole AC unit. Who am I kidding? The AC unit had nothing to do with it. Hopefully, over the course of the next few weeks, keeping up with the yoga and maybe even doing some meditating will prepare me for my first big-girl cleanse. One baby (crunchy hippie) step at a time.