Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Virtual Yoga or Finding Down Dog in My Living Room

I decided that to save a little money and to incorporate (hopefully) more yoga into my life, I would try virtual yoga, based on this New York Times article I read a few months back.  I spent a fair amount of time over the last few days googling, researching and trying to find what my best options were and the best bang for my buck.  Tonight I decided I would try Yogaglo, which is a pay-per-month service of streaming yoga classes.  For $18 bucks a month you get access to unlimited streaming classes divided up into style (Vinyasa, Hatha, etc.), length of practice, type of practice ("energize," "hip opener," "insomnia," etc.) and by instructor.
I was a little overwhelmed with trying to pick my first practice, and I actually went through a couple before settling on one, a 30-minute Energizer Vinyasa Flow.  I rolled my mat out onto the living room carpet and settled down, closing my eyes and trying to ignore the hum of the A.C. and the click of the keys from my boyfriend's keyboard in the other room.  I was more or less able to tune out external noises once I settled in, but I did have trouble gaining the amount of focus I have in a studio setting.
My achievement of the night though?  For the first time, I understood - and was kind of able to do - Crow.  Several months ago I went to a class at a new studio and saw that pose for the first time, and could not figure out how the hell it worked.  Then I had my friend the yoga instructor demonstrate for  me, and I still didn't get it.  My 30-minute Energize flow with Dice?  Totally made something click so I was able to do it.  Yay!  My arms are killing me from the effort but I totally want to keep trying.
So I deem tonight a success.  Next time I might have to try to light some incense, though I don't know how crazy the boyfriend would be about an entire house that smells of patchouli.     

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Joining the Gym

I've known for a while that a hole in all of my training has been the lack of strength work.  I have about zero muscle tone that doesn't come strictly from running and cycling and a bit of yoga.  In high school, to get out of gym that required lots of running or being outside, I was one of three girls that elected to take Weight Training.  Honestly, I really liked it.  I liked that by semester's end I could see a change in my posture, in my arms, in my overall fitness.  But I didn't stick with it.
Then, a few years ago, I started again.  I decided I wanted to get in shape again, so I started going to the gym in the apartment complex I lived in at the time.  No one was ever there, so I went 3-5 days a week, and it worked. I found my muscle tone again, and along with adjusting my diet, I lost weight and got in shape.  I loved it.  I'll admit, I even started wearing tank tops when I worked out for the sole reason of being able to see my newly toned arms in the mirror while I worked out.  Michelle Obama, eat your heart out.  Then I moved, and the strength training stopped, and I've been talking about starting again for a while now, but haven't quite made it (this includes a brief stint where I belonged to my local Y for a year but only managed to go a grand total of three times).
So today I went and joined a gym about three blocks from my job.  I really have no reason not to go, and if I run near work in the mornings, I can shower and get cleaned up there.  So, I'm telling myself, that if I have a great view of the river while I work out, and I have a place that's so close I can go on my lunch break that it will work.  I also get a complimentary personal training session as part of joining.  I go next Tuesday.  I'm curious to see what all my measurements, body fat, etc. are, but I'm also a little terrified of what I'll find out.  Fingers crossed!

Falling in Love with Training (Again)

These past couple weeks have brought me phenomenal training runs.  Like, they're all I can think about, I can't wait for the next one great runs.  When I was in tri training, the heat of the summer overwhelmed anything and everything I loved about running.  But now....oh, it's amazing.  I'm having to restrain myself from doing too much too soon.  I've made that mistake before, and burn myself out before I get far enough along.  As it is, I'm looking forward to my run tonight.  I am finally able to feel  the difference in fitness that I've been building for the past year.  It makes me believe that I will be able to do a marathon next year, and maybe even a half Ironman one day.

So instead of overtraining, I'm working on finding a gym membership, and I'm finding ways to do yoga at home, so I don't have the excuse that I haven't found a new studio and instructor that I like yet.  Oh yeah, and I'm baking.  A lot. 
Apple Muffins with Strudel

Apple Pie (not the prettiest I've made, but delish!)

Light Strawberry Cheesecake

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Week of Almost Following My Training Plan

I am famously enthusiastic when I start training for an event, like most of us are.  And like most of us, I also vow that I will follow that plan, that I will stick  to it, that I will reach the end looking like a slightly less cut Chrissie Wellington.  I always wind up falling over the horse after about the first 6 weeks.  This time, I (inadvertently) have taken a different approach.  I started out really half-assed. 
Like I went on vacation the first week half-assed, ate and drank a lot, didn't get a lot of sleep and only ran twice.  And I use the term "ran" loosely, it was more like walking slightly more swiftly than I normally would. 
Week was comprised of me more or less following the plan, at least running but not really doing any of the cross training, and I think I may have missed a run or two, and week three was pretty much the same. 
In this past week, I have done every run as I was supposed to, but have still failed to incorporate strength training.  So, my goal for training next week is to start lifting some iron.  I have vague memories of a time when I had really toned arms and whatnot.  Those were the days. 
I did however discover this week a gym walkable from my work with a nice low monthly membership.  I am checking that out on Monday - I have the feeling it might be the way to go! 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Best. Run. Ever.

If every evening run is as great after a morning of yoga as my run yesterday, it will be even more encouragement to do yoga daily.  Typically, I practice Vinyasa yoga, however, as my previously mentioned friend and instructor was subbing an Anusara practice, I decided I would try it out.  Anusara focuses a lot on alignment techniques, and this class was no exception. It was less cardio than I was used to, but the slower pace forced me to focus more on my body and how I was actually feeling.  The discipline's focus on alignment also made sure that I was paying attention to my hips and hamstrings, which tend to always be tight and a little sore.  75 minutes later, I knew I would feeling the day's session the following day.  It was also a great workout for my upper body.

Following a day of household chores, I went out for my weekend long run, which this week was only 4 miles.  In addition to a hint of fall in the albeit windy air, I felt AWESOME.  I mean, I never feel like this when I run.  The kinks, the hurts, anything sore was gone within a few minutes and I cruised along at a great clip.  I totally want every run to be like this.  It was one of those runs where you finish and think "This is why I run."  It may have been a fluke, but I suspect that just being loose and having worked out the kinks in my hip flexors and ham strings made for an overall fantastic run.   

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Cookbook Club - First Recipe: Mega Meat Stuffed Shells

I was recently invited to take part in The Cookbook Club,  and our recipe for this month was Mega Meat Stuffed Shells from Rachel Ray's 2, 4, 6, 8 Great Meals for Couples or Crowds.  I will start by saying I tend to tweak recipes a lot - for the most part I try to follow them, but from years of baking and experimenting in that realm, it's bled over into my cooking (baking experiments = tasty results, cooking experiments= bland or not-so-delicious results).   
Pre-oven shells
For this, I started by substituting the ground beef with lean ground turkey, which does naturally have a little less flavor than ground beef, but is still pretty tasty.  I also skipped the diced onions, due to Elton's dislike of them.  And my last sub was entirely inadvertent because I don't always follow directions well.  I neglected to add "Parmesan" to my list, so instead it was done with fat-free shredded mozzarella.  In hindsight, I should have balanced the blander cheese and meat with a heartier flavor in the sauce or blended into the meat.

The red sauce turned out quite tasty, though I didn't extract all the red pepper flakes and garlic like the recipe called for (this was more due to my inability to get it all out than a premeditated desire), I think.

The ease of the recipe was great, and it was really fun to try something a littler different - I haven't made stuffed shells in years!  Overall, I really enjoyed this recipe.  I have done a few Rachel Ray recipes before and they have never disappointed and this was definitely no exception! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Spending Time on the Mat

Triathlon training is great for keeping you balanced, right?  Three different disciplines that work almost every part of your body, at least 6 days a week.  The one thing I really missed through triathlon training and the tri season, because I just didn't have time, was yoga.  I've been doing yoga off and on for a couple of years, having come to it first when I needed some nourishment, body and soul.  After sporadic practice, I had the luck of beginning the new year as the "guinea pig" student for a dear friend finishing her yoga teacher training (check out her website here:  She helped me find a deeper connection in my practice than I had experienced since the first couple classes I ever took.  After my "guinea pig" months, I went to a few classes at different local studios before plunging into tri training, effectively curtailing my yoga practice until my tri was over.

Sunday morning found me at my local LuluLemon store for Sunday karma yoga, taught by my same yoga teacher friend.  Putting on my yoga clothes, rolling out my mat and towel, preparing for all felt great.  I was reminded quickly why I love yoga, and found myself longing for the scent of incense, the stacks of blocks, the warm, dense air of the studio.  All of those things have come to mean peace to me.  As an extension, my mat, my place on the mat and everything it entails also means a great deal to me.  It was a great reminder to find that place again, that  place of peace and grace.  It encourages me to keep up with my practice, and to find my happy yoga place again.  The sore muscles I have this morning in my shoulders, back and arms were also a great reminder of the places I have neglected to train!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vacation Diets

One of the wonderful things about visiting a new city is the food.  Elton and I both love to eat (see also:  part of the reason for an active triathlon lifestyle) so vacation often involves finding and trying new and interesting food establishments, from the littlest hot dog vendor to the more upper crust fine dining establishments.  Since my tri, and my subsequent week off from diet and exercise, it's been hard to get back on the wagon.  My half marathon training started this past week,  so I figured this trip to San Diego would be a great last hurrah before I really clamped down on diet and exercise.  We went on two runs while we were there, short runs mind you, and I haven't had runs that dreadful in a long time.  Oh yeah, this is why I don't eat like this or drink all the time. first In-N-Out burger
This past week encompassed for rich food and alcohol than I normally eat in a month.  Today is my first day back at home, which means it is going to be organizational day.   We have fallen into a healthy eating rut - we pretty much cycle between fat-free ground turkey and lean chicken breasts, and do the same 3 or 4 recipes.  I've determined to up my nutritional cooking IQ and learn some new healthy recipes and healthy snacks.  I also eat the exact same thing for breakfast and lunch every day:  A 100-calorie english muffin with fat-free cream cheese and Kashi Go Lean Crunch hot cereal, while lunch is a spinach salad with a Morningstar Chicken Patty, almond slivers and a diced tomato and onion mix.

So what to do to shake up my diet and my routine?  I used Hal Higdon's 15k training plan when I ran the Gate River Run earlier this year, but really only followed the run portions and did a weekly yoga class.  I'm using his half marathon plan for half marathon training, so I'm thinking in addition to revamping our diets, I will also work on introducing strength training and cross training to my routine.  I'm ready to get back on the horse.  This last month of excess has not left me feeling terribly proud.