Friday, November 2, 2012

Food Friday: The big trick?

I felt so proud of myself. I had bitten the bullet, and I was going to hand out food items to trick-or-treaters. We had pretzels, Teddy Grahams, fruit snacks and some Dum-Dums that a co-worker had leftover from a neighborhood Halloween celebration. With enough for 200 glammed up goblins, we were ready.

But the test would be when the munchkins arrived at our door.

The first costume-clad child arrived at 5:45 p.m. - 15 minutes before the scheduled start. I decided to be the bad witch and turn him away. After all, Miles wasn't even in his Pout-Pout Fish costume yet.

Once we were donning scales and had a few pictures snapped, we were ready for the festivities. The first trick-or-treaters got dibs on the Teddy Grahams. I had lots of ohs and ahs as the little ones saw the packages drop in their bags. There was even some excited, "Look. Look! These are the bomb."

Yes. Apparently, I am the bomb. News to me.

We handed out a few Dum-Dums and pretzels before heading out to trick-or-treat ourselves. I wanted to hit up just a few houses so Miles could get the experience.

OK. I'll be honest. I really wanted to check out the house down the street that had been taken over by zombies.

We scored some Nerds(!!!), a Hershey bar, pretzels and a Tootsie Roll. For me, obviously.

And then it was back to passing out treats. Our neighborhood gets what seems like an insane amount of trick-or-treaters. We actually ran out of goodies within an hour. Shortly after our little trek, we were down to just pretzels.

The kids didn't seem to mind. Many had bags with plenty of treats and were into the idea of trick-or-treating. However, one little kid (the same one who rang the bell at 5:45 p.m.) looked at the bag and then looked at Mark.

"Do you have anything else?" he said. "I don't like pretzels."

Umm, no. No, we don't have anything else. Maybe I was just done by this point but I thought the kid was a little rude. If he had a gluten sensitivity, I would have ran in and got the Hershey bar out of Miles' bag but ... yeah ... I'm not going to ... well, no.Just no.

It made me wonder if the other kids hated the pretzels just as much and were merely more courteous. Are pretzels really that much of a Halloween no-no?

I'm not sure but it is something to keep in mind for next year. I could do just Teddy Grahams and fruit snacks since those were well-received. Or, I could do what our daycare provider does: raisins and fruit cups.

Big hits, for sure.

P.S. Thank you for reading this post. While I did want to recap what was popular, I also wanted to post pictures of Miles and the costume I made. Because I'm self-involved like that.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Dinner remix

At my gorgefest on Friday, my friend Heather and I were talking about dinner. Not the meals we were eating, mind you, but the meals we had prepared for our families. Boring, uninspired meals.

We had both fallen into a cooking rut and despite our best efforts to climb out (read: our addiction to SkinnyMs), we weren't winning any blue ribbons. Heck, we weren't even winning smiles from our husbands.  The dishes that we had high hopes for flopped, and we were relying on basic, easy to prepare foods to simply satiate our bellies.

Not good. Not good at all.

Heather and I decided that we needed to put on some carabiners and get some spikes and climb the hell out of that ravine as fast as we could. And then report back to each other with the results. Of course. Because we're friends (and mothers desperate to talk about something other than how a certain toddler pooped himself awake at 5 a.m.).

It hasn't even been a week since our challenge, and I'm happy to share that this week in cooking has been far better received than the few that preceded it.

1. Autumn = soups and once the leaves start to turn, I try to make one pot a week. It's great for leftovers, and it's a dish that lends itself well to the slow cooker. My recipe of the  week didn't use my favorite appliance but it was just as easy to prepare. I made the Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup from Smells Like Home, paired with BLTs, and I'm happy to say that it really is creamy. And delicious.

2. Mark would probably make me sleep on the couch if I didn't make pasta once a week. I'm serious: I have to consciously plan a pasta night. It's usually Sunday but this week, I tried Mel's Kitchen Cafe's Spaghetti Pie. I prepped it before work Wednesday, and Mark popped it in the oven he got home. It's not overly saucy, making it perfect for Miles, and offered the opportunity to lighten it up. I made it with low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat cream cheese and ground sirloin. I bet you can guess who's eating dairy again.

3. I tried something different on Monday: Thai Chicken Tacos. While this didn't work out quite the way I had hoped - Mark didn't eat the slaw, I skipped the tortilla and Miles seemingly skipped it all - Mark and I both agreed that the chicken had a lot of flavor. Good flavor. We also liked that it was something different, and I appreciated the opportunity to make a burrito bowl with Asian flair.

Have you had a winning dinner lately? I'm planning next week's menu and would love some ideas.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I trained like a mother: A review

If you Google "marathon training plan," you will get 157,000 results; 3.5 million if you search without  the quotes. There are the respected and well-known plans from Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway, pay-to-run plans from Runners World and a dizzying number of free plans from a number of sites sites from MarathonRookie to Harvard to individual race sites.

It's a bit overwhelming to sift through, especially for a first-time marathoner, and I found myself struggling to select a plan (or plans) that would best fit me. I initially looked at Hal Higdon, having successfully followed his plans in the past but felt like I was somewhere in between his levels. Other plans offered a challenge but required a significant time commitment that I feared I couldn't meet.

As I tried to mix and match, a copy of "Train Like a Mother" landed on my desk. I was instantly drawn to the orange cover and tagline - "How to get across any finish line - and not lose your family, job or sanity." Sarah and Dimity were describing exactly the plan I needed. Especially the sanity part.

The book offers schedules, designed by Christine Hinton, for nearly every distance - 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon - with two options for each. You can "Finish It" or you can "Own It." And though the "Finish It" plan is the less challenging of the two, it still incorporates speed work, hill work and long runs with race pace. With the option of four or five days a week, I was sold.

I began the plan in earnest in June and, despite a few hiccups along the way, completed it successfully. That is if you call running 26.2 miles a success.

That's not to say the plan is perfect - no plan is - and as I try to stretch out my Columbus Marathon glory, I thought I'd share my thoughts on the plan. Good and bad.

A short training run in Boulder
Good: There is some flexibility. Many of the weeks have five runs scheduled, something I had resisted up until marathon training, but one is always labeled optional. You can call that run a rest day or cross-train if you want. I never skipped one of these runs but it was nice to know I could. (Note: I also liked that it eased me into five days a week running.)

Good: Incorporates shorter runs. Marathon training can feel like a huge time suck. Three hours on the weekend for a long run and another 90 minutes for the mid-week long run. It can be overwhelming. Many weeks included one or two 3-mile runs, which felt blissful and stress-free with the other demands of training. These shorter runs also worked well when I needed to double up workouts to teach BODYPUMP.

Bad: No specific cross-training. While "Train Like a Mother" encourages cross-training and the fifth run can be swapped for spin, there is no specific strength or non-running workout scheduled. I can't stress enough the importance of cross-training and how vital I think it has been to running. I'm obviously partial to BODYPUMP but cycling, Zumba and circuit classes are all great.

Good: There are quality runs - tempo, strides, repeats , hills - but it all seemed fairly manageable. This training cycle was the first time I resumed speedwork seriously since having Miles and it was a nice introduction. I didn't feel like I had to nail 800 repeats at a certain pace or do a 7-mile run with 5 at tempo the way I had pre-baby but I still felt like I was pushing myself, working harder and getting faster.

Bad: Hill work. One, there are almost zero hills accessible to me on regular routes. Two, I think there were only two specific hill workouts in the plan. There's no way that Christine, Dimity or Sarah could foresee the steady climb on the Columbus course but given the structure of the plan, I think they could be more regular.

Good: Aggressive long runs. I've looked at marathon plans, and many of them start off with single-digit long runs and slowly ease past the half mark. I felt like TLAM gave you a push toward being real comfortable at the half mark and beyond. There's a number of runs of 15 miles or more, which help build endurance. There's also race pace/finish strong elements to some of the runs to help mentally prepare you for running harder over distance. I didn't focus on that part of the plan but with strategically planned races and running buddies, I was able to incorporate it.

Bad ... maybe: One of the things that psyched me out most about the plan was the length of the taper. TLAM is a 20-week plan and the longest run, 20 miles, is ran in week 16. Other 20-week plans have the longest run during week 17. I know marathon taper is longer but having my longest run an entire month before the marathon was not good for me mentally.

Good: The goal of the plan was to finish the marathon, and I finished it. I'm not sure I finished it in the time my training runs would have suggested but I'm not sure that's the plan's fault. After all, I did have to pee at mile 18.

By the way, if there is a plan that factors in potty breaks into a projected finishing time, I'll be all over it.

Next time?:  The test of any plan or set of plans is whether you would use it again. Look at Hal Higdon - he's popular because people go back to him time and time again, moving up levels or changing distances.

Looking forward to 2013, with my sights set on getting faster and PRing the half, I've been looking at plans - TLAM, Higdon, Runner's World. No matter how many I look at, though, I find myself going back to that glorious orange cover. Maybe it's because I have girl crushes on Sarah and Dimity. Maybe it's because the plans are challenging without being intimidating. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because the plans are that solid.

Have you used a TLAM plan? What were your thoughts?

When things don't go your way

My plan said run today.

But my plan didn't say it was going to be in the 30s, windy and rainy.

And the plan didn't say that my husband would call dibs on the treadmill.

So I made a new plan.

I decided to try a DVD I had borrowed from the library - Pure Barre.

 At 5:15 a.m.

My body was not pleased with this new plan.

I was sluggish, and I had to stop for the bathroom.

The DVD was nonplussed with it as well.

It paused. Skipped. Went back to the main menu.

As if my real life were actually the movie, Miles woke up just as I put in a new DVD.

So I tried to make do.

After Miles was changed fed, we visited the basement.

He chased balls; I jumped rope.

I threw balls; he ran.

He cried; I stopped.

We went upstairs.

He watched "Thomas;" I did hammer curls.

I did push-ups; he laughed.

He cried when Denali took his ball; I did overhead presses.

He cried harder; I picked him up.

Gave up.

Called it a day.

After 20 weeks of doing everything possible to squeeze in a training session, it was difficult to call this one a draw. It almost felt like quitting, and my attempts to momentarily spike my heart rate seemed vain. I (read: soul) really needed a good sweat session, and I am antsy to see some good numbers on the scale.

However, I will say that it was nice that my Type A self didn't have to have a panic session that a workout didn't happen. A Zumba class tomorrow night or Piloxing on Friday morning, and I'm good for the week.

Actually, I'm good no matter what.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How the marathon cookie crumbles

It was the week that tipped the scales. Quite literally, I'm sad to say.

For one week, I rode the "I just ran a marathon high," proceeding to put every calorie I could find into my mouth. There was post-race ice cream at Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. There was the stop at McDonald's on the road for lunch, where I fashioned a junior Big Mac and enjoyed the salty fries. I had heaping bowls of stir-fry at Flat Top Grill. There was popcorn and Skinny Cow sandwiches after dinner.

And then, on Saturday, there was the group date to Granite City Brewery where the wheels not only fell off - they flew off.

Mark and I split the Idaho Nachos (after a more than filling healthful dinner at the daycare Halloween party) and I ordered a stout float. I wasn't even hungry and yet the waffle fries covered in cheese, then dipped in something creamy, went into my mouth over and over again.

The float had sounded delicious but was unimpressive and yet I still ate the ice cream.

It wasn't a real shocker then when I stepped on the scale yesterday morning and found it read 5 pounds more than a few weeks ago. So much for not gaining weight during marathon training.

As I track my meals on MyFitnessPal and my burn with the Bodymedia Fit, I'm fairly certain that I didn't eat the additional 17,500 calories needed to gain 5 pounds. However, I'm not so certain that my post-Columbus eating spree didn't cause some damage.

And now it's time to control it. A fact I'm not so excited to embrace but neither is being over my "weigh limit." I was all set to wallow but stopped. I know it's beter to be proactive, and nip this situation in the butt.

Pre-track food. When I was losing on Weight Watchers, I would plan out my meals for the day the night before. I had a very sophisticated system of mini Post-It notes in my tracker, each meal on a note, and I could move things around as needed. The Points value of each meal was known, allowing me to appropriately budget snacks or swap meals if a recipe was worth more than anticipated. I've gone back to this for the past two days, and it seemed to help. I'm no longer trying to skimp at meals because I snacked too much in the afternoon.

Hydrate. Drinking water is a continual struggle for me. I am more likely to go for Diet Coke or coffee and now that my office seems to be refrigerated, hot chocolate. While I do think those beverages offer some hydration benefits, they don't come close to water. I need to go back to spiking my water - whether it's with my old friend True Citrus or the Dasani Drops I recently found on my door step - to keep me drinking. I'm also making it a goal to imbibe a tall glass before lunch. I often eat my mid-day meal very early, which leads to over-snacking in the afternoon. I'm hoping proper hydration would help me delay lunch and curb my eating between 1 and 4 p.m.

Bulk up. Back to my Weight Watchers heydays, I was also very good at preparing a pan of enchiladas or pot of taco soup on Sundays so that I had a healthful, Points-controlled lunch. This week, when I was planning our dinner menu and making the grocery list, I also added the ingredients for Pumpkin Turkey Chili. I made it on Sunday night, and I took it to work for lunch Monday and have it in my bag for today.

Tray-d off. One of the things I always scoffed at pre-baby was how moms talked about eating off their  children's plates. It didn't make sense to me - why they would do it and why it would be hard to curtail. Now I know. Now I know that animal crackers are the devil. The tray leg that's left on the tray or the last two bites of egg always seem to make it into my mouth - regardless of whether I'm hungry. My goal is to give pause before I grab that bite. If I choose to eat it, I need to track it.

I know that 5 pounds is just 5 pounds, and the number on the scale is just a number. However, I think it's naive to not give any attention to the scale. It might not be the only indicator of health but it is an indicator, and the number can affect how you feel. And when I see a number I like, I feel out of control - a feeling that I associate with being overweight. It's not a state of mind (or body) I want to relive. Ever, ever again.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Marathon Monday: What's next

I trained for the Columbus Marathon following a schedule based on the "Train Like A Mother" finish it plan. I completed it on Oct. 21 in 4:26:25. These posts document my training. 

The week, in recovery:

Monday: Walk
Tuesday: Walk + teach BODYPUMP
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 2.65-mile run (+stroller) + teach BODYPUMP
Friday: 2-mile run (+stroller) + random basement cardio
Saturday: Teach BODYPUMP
Sunday: 4-mile run

◊ ◊ ◊

Mark said he knew the moment he saw me with my medal. Me? I didn't realize it until a few days later.

It: The Columbus Marathon will not be a one-hit wonder. I will complete another 26.2-mile event.

Some day.

As I reflect on the accomplishment of tackling 26.2 miles and look forward, I can't help but be anxious to experience that challenge and glow again. However, the realities of training are still fresh and life is still busy, and I know that the marathon inside me will have to wait a few years. Or until 2014 as I promised Mark that I'd only run a half or two and local races in 2013.

In the interim, I am setting my sights on a few key goals.

Getting stronger. I would like to think I have good muscle definition and am fairly strong but I am struggling still with upper body strength. I'd really like to increase my weight on biceps in BODYPUMP to one big plate, and I think it would be bad ass to do all 36 of the push-ups in the shoulders track on my toes. I also really, really, really want to be able to do a pull-up. While BODYPUMP is great, I want to incorporate heavier, low rep training into my schedule.

Getting faster. Nearing the end of my marathon training, I was beginning to see some numbers on the MOTOACTV that were reminiscent of my pre-pregnancy days. I feel like my body is on the verge of making some gains, and I'm going to help it with some shorter interval and tempo runs.

Make it through winter. Above all else, I want to keep up a level of fitness and healthy eating when times seem to be most trying. The temperatures are already dipping, near freezing in the morning, and I'm beginning to feel the pangs of mom guilt when I bundle up Miles in the stroller. I'll need to be proactive about planning alternatives or setting the alarm to get in my workouts.

I had been hoping to formulate a plan using the "Insanity" program and the "Run Less Run Faster" approach but without either of those tools in my possession, I decided to wing it.

I scheduled "just" three runs a week, with an optional Sunday run. After a year or more of Sunday long runs, I wanted the chance to go out to breakfast or sit in my jammies and watch "Meet the Press." If the mood strikes, Mark and I might go for a late-morning run or I'll take advantage of Miles' nap time in the afternoon.

In terms of cardio, I picked up a few DVDs from the library including one from Tae Bo master Billy Blanks. (I'm guessing in 10 years that Shaun T. will be on the shelf, too.) I'm also hoping to try out a few classes here and there and maybe become a regular at TurboKick on Wednesday nights at TX.

If I want to. The caveat to this entire plan.

Monday: Interval run - either 400s or 800s, totaling 4 or so miles
Tuesday: Boot camp/weight DVD - getting up early
Wednesday: Tempo run - 4 or 5 miles
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Long(ish) run - getting up early to do it solo
Saturday: Teach BODYPUMP
Sunday: Active rest or easy family run

The goal was to keep it fun, low pressure and flexible, and I think I did OK.

How do you schedule the off season? Any suggestions?