Friday, November 16, 2012

Food Friday: A man's perspective

Allow me (Mark) just to first state that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about (my History of Art professor in college told me so), so don't take offense. I certainly can't lay claim to the kind of intense devotion that Kim shows to her love of all things fitness. With that being said, the product that I tasted, enjoyed, spit-up and sat down to write about appears below. Enjoy.

Brace yourselves Healthy Strides readers. I often get home to find my porch inundated with an assortment of products that I routinely assume to originate from Kim's blog/giveaways/corporate agreements/etc. I also assumed that Kim was either overworked, going insane (or both) when she approached me with an opportunity to review one of the many aforementioned products that often adorn my front doorstep. With nervous trepidation, I accepted Kim's generous offer to grace my writing skills on her blog.

Really, I'm not generous. I simply found the caloric content of the products (280+ for a bar) to be outside my comfort zone. 


Unboxing Premier Nutrition's Premier Protein bars and shakes was an uplifting and pseudo-patriotic experience. The inside of the box was wrapped like a finely-crafted gift from Macy's footwear department. Unfortunately, half of the bars I tried tasted like they came from there, too. The wrapping was red, white and blue, and even the photo of the happy, fit man jogging was wearing the same colors. (Perhaps you're patriotic if you eat these things?)

 Reading the directions on a product is always a good thing, so, of course, I neglected to do so when I tried first Premier Protein's “Original Chocolate Shake.” I know that these shakes are intended for fitness-minded individuals, and that they won't exactly resemble what you'd drink during happy hour at Steak-N-Shake, but I couldn't even finish this protein shake.

 “It wasn't properly chilled, Mark,” said an always astute Kimberly.

True, fair enough, so I braved on to try their other variety of shake called “Original Vanilla.” Being a bigger fan of vanilla over chocolate anyway, I thought this would turn out better. Having been chilled appropriately for over 24 hours, and consumed on the way to work in the morning, well, um, it wasn't any better. The shake tasted, well, bland, like it was entirely crafted from artificial this and artificial that. I spit it out about halfway through.

Word to the wise, from Kim: I drank the vanilla shake, blended with a frozen banana and cinnamon, and I found it to be enjoyable. Sweet but good. 

My tasting experience with Premier Protein products not quite thorough enough (hey, I'm dealing with Kim here), I decided to test my luck with two varieties of their protein bars, Double Chocolate Peanut Butter and Yogurt Peanut Crunch Bar. The double chocolate variety was bland, and smacked of the same mediocrity that the aforementioned shakes had. I couldn't finish it. I mean, if the world was suddenly overcome with the walking dead and I was forced to consume immediate calories to stave off starvation, pass me a bar. Other than that, I can't see myself going out of the way to ever eat one again.

 Fortunately, my blog is not all piss and vinegar, as their yogurt variety of protein bar was not just tasty, but extremely satisfying. I'd like to think that I used a scale to rate their products' quality; “1” being just tastier than a steaming dog turd, and “10” being a Snickers Marathon Energy Bar, I would give the Premier Protein Yogurt Peanut Crunch Bar an “8.” I would highly recommend them for extra calories before, during or after an athletic event. Even if you're a couch potato, I'd recommend them over their less-than-healthy candy bar or nutri grain bar alternatives.

 Thanks, Kim, for giving me a concrete deadline and forcing me to write again.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Oh, the places you will go: A book review

I was compensated for the following BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.

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I had my life all figured out. I was going to go to college, where I would major in journalism but most importantly meet a very nice guy. We would date for several years before getting engaged, and we would be married after graduation. We would buy a nice house and have good jobs. I would have our first baby at 25.

I was 16. And oh so naive. I might have met a nice boy in college but we broke up before either of us were ready to put a ring on it (despite four years of dating). I graduated but had a mediocre job - two actually - and rented a house that was never described as nice. 

Even then, as my life dreams seemed so out of reach, I still made a plan. I was going to work in Sandusky for two years, before moving to a bigger newspaper. I would become a news editor and then set my sights on becoming a managing editor. All before I was 40.

At 31, I can check some of those things off my list. I left Sandusky. I moved to a bigger paper. And, for a couple years, I worked as a news editor. However, as everything seems on track, what I want out of my life has never been so cloudy. I need direction.

"My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future" helps people at any stage of life create a visual road map of both their past and their future in major life areas such as family, work, play, friends, and education. Charting the past highlights patterns you may not have noticed before. Seeing the years ahead encourages you to set goals and shape a future with intention and purpose. This interactive self-help journal includes innovative mapping and chapters on Creating Your Maps (warm-up exercises for envisioning your future and tips on how to fill out your maps); Sample Journeys (completed maps of fictitious people at different stages of life); My Life Maps (blank whole-life, ten-year, and subject maps to fill out); Putting Your Maps into Practice (tips and tools for establishing next steps and annual checkups); and Reflections (blank pages to record discoveries, challenges, or promises).
"My Life Map" is broken up into sections: Past, Present, Reflecting on Past and Present, Future, Maps and Putting Life Maps into Practice.

When I got the book, I instantly found myself journaling in the fifth section: Your Future. Well, my future. I have no idea what your future holds. I'm not Dionne Warwick. I went through the warm-up exercises, answering questions about places I could see myself living, activities I enjoyed, what I considered important. I found these exercises to be thought-provoking, and they allowed me to put on paper the things I've thought about but don't dare talk about - teaching fitness classes more than once a week, getting my personal training certification, doing a triathlon.

The book also gives you the opportunity to map out your life and set a timeline for things you want to happen, as well as things to think about when setting goals to make things happen. It can be a bit overwhelming to lay out your life's dreams on a piece of paper but the writers suggest setting three to five goals for a year and committing to make them happen. If I want to do a triathlon, I can register for a race, buy a training book and find a tri group. If I want to be a better wife, I can hide my iPhone at 8 o'clock every night, make sure to book a baby-sitter once a month for date night and stop calling Mark fat.
The key to the book, of course, is knowing what you want. There were a few sections - family, specifically - where I felt frustrated that I couldn't answer them. Do I see myself with a second child? If I did, when?  It also forced me to face the reality that some very special people in my life might not be with me in 10 years.
The book is not intended to be a downer - rather it's to help you organize thoughts and encourage you to actively pursue the things you want out of life. I found it to be a fun exercise in challenging myself not to accept the life I have but create the one I want. 
You can find out more about Kate and David Marshall's "My Life Map" in BlogHer Book Club. Read her bio, read and excerpt of "Matched" or join the discussion here. If you are interested in following the Marshalls via social media, you can find them on Facebook page  and Twitter

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

BOB, BOB, BOB around

I sat in the examining room, peppering the doctor with questions. I, of course, wanted to know what I could do to help Miles, how to best administer his breathing treatments and what exactly to look for if his oxygen levels (again) dipped dangerously low.

But I had an agenda.

What I really wanted to know was whether Miles' illness and the seeming quick escalation was my fault. I wanted to know whether I had done something wrong by taking him for runs on these chilly mornings, our breath visible in the thin air.

She looked at me, with the reassuring look she always has, and said no. It was not my fault; Miles has a virus, and it is the cause of his bronchiolitis and ear infections. If I wanted some advice on cold weather running, she did have some.

Use common sense.

Common sense winter stroller running tips

Feel the burn. Our doctor's primary indicator for whether it was OK to run wasn't a temperature rule as I've been adhering to. She said if the cold air burns as you breathe, it doesn't feel good for the little one to breathe, either. It's best to stay indoors.

Cover up. If you need a hat, the kid needs a hat. If you have gloves, so does the child. Of course, it's easier said than done. We've lost a hat on the trail, and Miles loves to kick off his boots. I've found that we can do a hat if we cover it with the hood. Mittens work but so do socks. Even better socks over mittens.

Get into gear. Buy the weathershield to help with wind resistance. It will also keep kicked off boots from flying off into the middle of the street.

Safety first. Wear the strap, put on lights, run against traffic or on well-lit trails. I put Road ID lights on my hat and waist band, as well as one on the canopy of the stroller. I also plan to pick up some reflectors for the wheels. Winter means less daylight and, when on a tight schedule, it can be difficult to do the whole run in broad daylight.

Take it slow. I know I'm not going to break land speed records with a dog and baby in tow ... most of the time. Instead of focusing on speed or taking out the BOB for repeats, I use it for steady-state or long runs and focus on form, breathing and pacing. A slower pace is especially important as wet leaves or a bit of snow could cause slippery conditions. And seriously, pushing the stroller already counts as resistance - especially if there's any semblance of a hill or wind.

Inflate your ego. Just like a car, the stroller's tires need to be inflated properly. Or so Mark tells me. It's important in cold weather especially and properly inflated tires will make sure you go over any slick spots safely.

Create a soundtrack. On the occasion that Miles has been grumpy, I will turn on music on my iPhone - whether it's Pandora's Toddler station, Elmo CDs that I've downloaded to iTunes or the latest music from BODYPUMP that I'm trying to ingrain in my memory. And there was that morning, at 7 a.m., when we were looping the neighborhood as Christina's Aguilera's "Dirrty" blared. Oops. On the worst days, I've sang my own version of "Wheels on the Bus" - "Wheels on the Stroller."

OK. That last one is not really winter - I guess I just wanted to confess my inappropriate running tunes. I'm so a shoe-in for Mother of the Year.

Any mother runners have some tips for me?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sick day

It was quite obvious that something wasn't right this morning. Miles was super cuddly, his head felt warm and he was ready for a nap at 8 a.m.

So I did what any working mom would do: I gave him a dose of ibuprofen and shipped him off to daycare with not so much as a word that he wasn't feeling well.

Or not.

I gave the little man the ibuprofen, called in to work and put him down for a nap. A nap that lasted three hours.

I cleaned.

I watched "Parenthood" on Netflix.

I made cranberry sauce.

And a sandwich inspired by Panera - Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Flax with Laughing Cow Garlic & Herb, roasted chicken and some of that cranberry sauce. An iceberg wedge with yogurt blue cheese dressing on the side. Totally delicious.

When Sir Sleeps A Lot decided to break his slumber, it was quite obvious that he was not feeling well. He didn't want to eat the bean, cheese and guacamole burrito I had made. He didn't even want a cracker. And his breathing? He was aiming for a new rapper name -- Young Wheezy.

Side story: They all have rap names at day care for reasons that elude me, and Miles was dubbed Bean Head because he loves chili.

I was lucky enough to get Miles an appointment, during which I was sure that the doctor would tell me that there was nothing more wrong with Miles than a simple cold.

Wrong. Oh so wrong.

We have double ear infections and bronchiolitis, which require antibiotics, steroids and breathing treatments. It was pure torture (for both of us) to hold him down with the mask on his face. But it helped.

And while Miles is a pretty amiable child when he's sick, I still find it hard to be home with him all day. Maybe I'm not used to it or I'm missing the mom gene or I'm just selfish but all I could do was stare at the clock and count the minutes until Mark would be home. And pray that he'd take over so I could go for a run.

Thankfully, he obliged. Four miles later, and I was home rejuvenated and centered. Ready to help Miles kick bronchiolitis' ass.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Love muffin

Have you entered my Yoplait Greek 100 giveaway? Time's a tickin' ...

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I'm in a bit of a lull right now. Training is over and the holidays are a few weeks away. The weekends are quiet and time is seemingly plentiful. Well, unless of course it's nap time, and then there's never enough of that.

{insert mental image of nap time here. actual nap time image not Web appropriate since someone learned to take off a diaper.}

On Sunday, I tried to make the most of the 2.5 hours Miles gave me and went on a tear in the kitchen. I made Hungarian Goulash (later served over potato gnocchi), freezer breakfast burritos and Banana Coconut Muffins.

I might not have any holiday shopping done but damn if I can't be productive in the kitchen. Not only did the goulash make enough for dinner last night but there are leftovers for later in the week; Mark gave the burritos two thumbs up, saying they were better than McDonald's; and Miles actually ate the muffin. The whole darn thing.

Making muffins might not be a feat of greatness but given that I totally winged them (and almost forgot the egg), I think I deserve some points. Preferably in the form of a brownie.

Many of the recipes I found were not what I wanted or required ingredients (butter, coconut oil) that I didn't have. With two very ripe bananas, though, I was determined to make something. Not only for me but to take to my grandma next week. The sweet thing had a nasty fall last week, and there's nothing she needs more than a basket of tasty, easy to grab goodies.

She loves coconut, and I love the combination of coconut and bananas. Even better: Coconut, bananas and pineapple. I think there's a drink like that somewhere ... Anyway, what came out of the oven was a moist, flavorful muffin that's just sweet enough.

Like my grandma.

Banana Coconut Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup pineapple juice (from can of pineapple tidbits)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pineapple tidbits

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray or line with muffin papers.

In a bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt and coconut. In a separate bowl, combine mashed bananas, pineapple juice, oil, egg and extract. Add wet ingredients to dry, whisking to just combine. Fold in pineapple bits.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out barely clean. Cool. Makes 13 muffins.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On the road again: A spectator report

Most people hit the wall at Mile 23 of a marathon. Miles and I? Well, we hit people's hands at Mile 23.

Well, I guess "hit" is a strong term. Love tap might be more appropriate.

Saturday was the Veterans Marathon in nearby Columbia City, and a little birdie had told me that Bobbi was gunning for a last-minute fall marathon and would be in town. Anxious to stalk meet her, Miles and I packed up the car and headed west.

I wasn't quite sure where I would set up to spectate - I was a total fool and barely looked at the course map - but found myself driving past markers, and I pulled over where parking looked safe enough. As it would happen, we were at mile 23.

The course was seemingly deserted when we got there but that's how it goes with a small race in a small city. Thankfully, it was a nice enough day - mid-50s - though it was a bit windy. And, oh, how windy it feels in the middle of farmland!

Miles and I had time to get situated and secure our sign. Well, the wind basically blew the sign up against the stroller and we just had to hang out. Miles in the stroller eating animal crackers, me at the corner {insert joke here} cheering on runners.

By the way, the sign says: It's OK, I poop my pants, too. On the other side, there was a message equally as classy: Run faster, I want to see your butt.

I haven't really spectated a race before, and I found it really fun and rewarding to be out there. It was interesting to see the runners at different paces follow the same course, many having the same struggles. The Columbus Marathon seems like such a distant memory (especially when you talk to my legs) but watching everyone reminded me of that experience and how I felt at mile 23. It made me cheer harder, be more supportive and get more excited as each one made her way past.

People were very gracious, thanking us for being out there, but - as usual - most were more excited to see Miles. As the race went on and more people were taking walk breaks, runners started asking Miles for high fives. It got to the point where he was expecting them as people passed, sticking his hand out in anticipation. So cute! It was just a shame I couldn't coordinate with his "woots" with the claps.

Soon enough, we saw Bobbi and her friend Kim. They stopped to chat a bit and catch their breath before moving on. They weren't having the best day out there but they were staying in it and fighting the good fight. Even when  I (jokingly) offered her a ride back to the finish.

Miles and I packed up - green beans and all - so we could head into town. Funny thing, Miles was the only one who wanted to eat green beans along the course. Same for the animal crackers. Who would have thunk it?

A chicken sandwich-Diet Coke stop later, we were in downtown Columbia City and  back on the sidelines. Perk No. 23 of small races: Park benches outside buildings from which to comfortably spectate. Or I assume comfortably spectate. Miles got so excited to see the folks he had high-fived cross the line that he tried to do the same. I swear he almost "completed" the marathon 15 times Saturday.

Soon enough we saw Bobbi and Kim on the horizon, running to bring it in. I was so proud seeing them stride across the mat. No matter what the day gave them, they still got the same medal as everyone else.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your day (and hugging me even though I didn't shower after BP).  Congratulations, girls!