Categories
Food

Milk and Cereal

They say the most important meal of the day is breakfast.

I say the most important meal of the day is my office’s 3 p.m. champagne ration, but sure, breakfast is a close second.

(Just kidding. This is from that day we won a Pulitzer. Usually champagne’s at 4.)

I’ve been an advocate of breakfast for as long as I can remember, though it’s taken different forms with each passing decade. As a kid, breakfast meant the five of us squeezed around the kitchen table over Cap’n Crunch and the comics. As a college student, breakfast meant strawberry yogurt, Cracklin’ Oat Bran and the immediate dissipation of hangovers because 21-year-old bodies are resilient like that. When I moved to New York, breakfast meant bacon, egg & cheese sandwiches; homefries; bagels and – surprise surprise – what I like to refer to as the Manhattan 15.

Or the Manhattan 45. Semantics.

It was really only in January 2011 when I started to wise up to my unhealthy ways that I began to give some serious thought to my breakfast composition. I mean, I knew from body-conscious DJ Tanner I was supposed to eat breakfast every day, but I had never really stopped to think about whether a bowl of Fruit Loops was actually cutting it. As I began to learn more about energy, calories and the importance of nutrition, I swapped my kids cereals for what I was sure were more sensible varieties. You know, the brands with important things like fiber and fruits and whole grains and riboflavin. Mmm. Riboflavin.

I ate Special-K. I ate Kashi. I ate Bare Naked granola. I felt like a grown-up!

And then this winter, I decided to look at the nutrition label on my beloved granola.

granola

Adding a box of raisins and a cup of almond milk, and it brought me to a whopping 40 grams of sugar — or 74 percent of my daily intake — before 7 a.m. Eating granola every morning, I felt like a grown-up all right. One about to be diagnosed with diabetes.

With that realization, I decided this year to revamp my breakfast routine. After decades of carb-laden morning meals, I pledged at the ripe age of 29 to find creative ways to work more fruits, vegetables, legumes and protein into my a.m. routine., and I’ve (mostly) so far stuck with it. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not always easy to forgo free cereal at work, and I have been known to backslide into the delicious world of Basic 4 when the mood strikes. But planning ahead and packing my own nutrition-dense breakfast brings so many positives — from feeling fuller all morning long to giving my sore muscles the protein they need to recover — that I’ve mostly been able to justify the added prep work and planning it takes.

I’ve tried several morning combinations with a healthy make-up of protein, carbs and fat, and these are some of my favorites:

  • Half an avocado on whole wheat toast with two hard boiled eggs for 19 grams of protein and just 6 grams of sugar.

    photo 1 (71)
    Paas Easter egg dye optional.
  • A smoothie with peanut butter, banana, cashew milk and baby spinach for 7 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein and two servings of fruits/veggies before sun-up.
photo 2 (65)
Why cashew milk? Because the full-page ads in Runner’s World clearly worked for me.
  • Chia seed pudding (chia soaked in dark chocolate soy milk) with a sliced pear for 18 grams fiber, 13 grams protein and one delightful day of finding chia seeds hidden in your teeth for hours on end. I ate it before I remembered to take a picture, so here’s a photo of a wheaten terrier — not Keira — I dogsat last weekend instead. You’re welcome.
She prefers dining on duck.
She prefers dining on duck.

Are there still going to be days I choose the buttered bagel or bowl of French Toast Crunch over the healthier options? Absolutely. But if I can swap out my sugar-filled breakfasts for something more wholesome at least three days a week, I know I’m making strides toward health.

And that’s worth toasting with a bloody mary.

What’s your breakfast routine?

Categories
Running Training

Slim Chance

I recently mentioned to my boyfriend that I was aiming to lose a few pounds to get down to racing weight before the Philadelphia Marathon on November 23.

“Well, that’s pretty inevitable, isn’t it?” he said. “How can you train for a marathon and not lose weight?

Oh Ben, you beautiful, naïve, sophisticated newborn baby.

Weight loss during marathon training is about as likely as getting your niece to return your phone calls after forcing her to complete the #icebucketchallenge against her will.

dog goggles
Hashbrown: plotting revenge.

But how’s that possible? Weight loss during marathon training is supposed to be easy. Like taking candy from babies. And interviewing central bank governors.

Spoiler alert: I did one of those things today. Next goal: Taking candy from a central bank governor.

It may seem unlikely that upping your mileage so dramatically in the months leading up to a marathon doesn’t give you free reign to snack with abandon or always have dessert or order the porterhouse for two for one.

Who’s to blame for this sad reality? Math. Blame math.

Let’s break it down. Running upwards of 40 miles a week burns about 4,000 calories every seven days, which averages out to about 571.4 extra calories you can consume a day — but that’s only if you’re trying to maintain your current weight.

Since it takes cutting out 3,500 calories a week to lose a pound, that means you can only eat an additional 500 calories a week during marathon training if you’re trying to slim down before race day. Five hundred calories a week divided by seven days, and that’s 71 extra calories a day – or the equivalent a smallish apple NOT dipped in peanut butter. (Gross.) Or half a Bud Light. Or one solitary lick of this New England lobster roll.

photo 1 (53)
I still can’t believe they asked if we wanted butter.

Trying not to overeat is always hard, but curbing your calorie intake after running seven miles before work? Downright impossible. Which is why, despite my best intentions, I had a chocolate croissant for breakfast today and why, despite valuing my intestinal health, ate at a $9 all-you-can-eat Indian buffet for lunch. Good thing Ben’s out of town.

I know I wanted to shed a few pounds between now and November, but marathon training is hard enough as it is — physically, socially, emotionally — that I just don’t have it in me to also count calories so closely. Sure, I’ll try during the next 11 weeks of training to maintain my regular healthy eating habits (five fruits/veggies a day, cooking at home, only putting ice cream on my cereal on the weekends), but if I go over my daily count, I’m not going to beat myself up.

I’m going to have my 71-calorie apple every day — and I’m going to dip it in peanut butter.

Have you ever lost weight during training? 

 

 

Categories
Food Recipes

Reality Bites

In most of life’s situations, when it comes to choosing between real or unreal, reality wins out. In today’s 24-hour reporting cycle, for example, the most successful news is real time. One of the best things about your late 20s is knowing who your real friends are and taking real (i.e. non-megabus) transportation up the Eastern seaboard. People buy real estate, watch Real Housewives and use the real unemployment rate to discuss the state of the economy. And let’s not forget soccer. There’s a reason everyone loves Real Madrid. (Spanish jokes!)

But for all the time we spend pursuing authenticity in our friendships and love lives and day-to-day existence, there’s one major component of many of our lives where we don’t strive for reality – our food.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to go on some healthy-eating rampage or try to convince you to make your own yogurt. Heck, just today, my boyfriend and I shared a family-sized box of knock-off cheez-its and called it lunch. For years, I thought the word “organic” was little more than a punchline, and even now, some of the violent opposition to genetically-modified agriculture can come off sounding a bit like a Portlandia spoof.

But at the same time, in the years since I’ve cleaned up my diet and started thinking more critically about my nutrition choices, it’s become glaringly obvious that much of our food intake has gotten far more complex and unnatural than it ever needed to be.

Take, for example, a loaf of bread. When made from scratch, bread requires little more than flour, yeast, water and salt. Now go to your kitchen and check out the ingredients list on your store-bought loaf. Even if it’s boasting buzzwords like “whole wheat” or “multigrain,” odds are good the ingredient list is dozens of items long, and some of the additions – from corn syrup to soybean oil – don’t sound like necessary add-ons at all. Despite what every locally-sourced menu in Brooklyn might lead you to believe, the vast majority of the food that passes through our lips is complicated and processed and anything but simple.

And this is especially the case in the lucrative world of so-called healthy items. When I was trying to lose 30 pounds in 2011, I remember I stocked my drawers full of 90-calorie Special K cereal bars because, well, that’s what the commercials told me to do. I’d inhale one every morning and another every afternoon, and while I’d successfully keep my calorie count under the 1,500 goal I was targeting, I was never, ever satiated.

The more I learned about nutrition, the more I began to understand why. Sure, the bars were low-cal and tasty, but they had virtually no protein or fiber, and the ingredient list was longer than a Saturday night wait at the Meatball Shop:

CEREAL (RICE, WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT, SUGAR, WHEAT BRAN, SOLUBLE WHEAT FIBER, SALT, MALT FLAVORING, MALTODEXTRIN, THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2]), CORN SYRUP, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, FRUCTOSE, STRAWBERRY FLAVORED FRUIT PIECES (SUGAR, CRANBERRIES, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL STRAWBERRY FLAVOR WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, ELDERBERRY JUICE CONCENTRATE FOR COLOR, SUNFLOWER OIL), SUGAR, VEGETABLE OIL (SOYBEAN AND PALM OIL WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL OIL)†, MALTODEXTRIN, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF DEXTROSE, SORBITOL, GLYCERIN, NONFAT DRY MILK, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL STRAWBERRY FLAVOR, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, NIACINAMIDE, COLOR ADDED, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), BHT (PRESERVATIVE). †LESS THAN 0.5g TRANS FAT PER SERVING

I soon realized that for nearly the same number of calories, I could have a string cheese (7 grams protein, four ingredients) and a handful of cherry tomatoes (lots of fiber, just one ingredient), simplifying my diet and leaving me feeling full. With that realization, I started swapping out increasingly more processed “health” foods for fresh fruit, roasted nuts and “clean eating” choices, and by that summer, I was out of a size 14 and training for my first half marathon.

Clean eating has been a goal of mine in the three years since, but between my long working hours and the hundreds of delivery options on every New York City block, it’s easy to let home cooking and other good habits go by the wayside. And it certainly doesn’t help that my office stocks its free-food pantries with all the processed deliciousness a hungry employee could ask for.

Fudge stripe cookies = the elixir of the gods.
Fruit snacks. Neither fruit nor snacks. Discuss.

But January is about recommitting yourself to the things that are important to you — and about changing your stance on snow from amused to infuriated — so I’m vowing here to recommit myself to clean eating, at least when the option is available.

And I’m going to brag here for a second. I got off to a pretty good start last week. On Monday night, I roasted my own chicken.

x
No big deal.

The following night, I simmered the bones to make a homemade stock.

x
Mildly big deal.

The night after that, I used the stock to make homemade Brussels sprout risotto.

x
Big F-ing deal.

And then I ate aforementioned box of cheez-its for lunch today and undid a week’s worth of toxic-free eating. But what the heck. Cheez-its are delicious.

The truth is, I know I’m not always going to choose the “real” food option, especially with Cadbury Crème Egg season so fast approaching, and at least a good portion of the time, I’m still going to choose convenience over health. But at least trying to keep these goals in mind in the months ahead might help me choose the fresh fruit over the crab chips during my next trek to the office kitchen. Hell, even if we go best out of three, I’ll still be moving in the right direction. (And, as much as it pains me to admit as a Baltimore native, away from the crab chips is probably the right direction.)

photo (94)

How does clean eating fit into your lifestyle?

Categories
Running Weight Loss

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I’m no behavioral psychologist – or any psychologist for that matter – but spend a few minutes observing mankind and it becomes rapidly apparent that we are hardwired to resist change.

And why wouldn’t we be? Our species’ history is rife with evidence that change doesn’t always work out so well. Build the world’s largest passenger liner? Hit an iceberg. Invite your new neighbors to Thanksgiving? Catch smallpox.  Add apples to your diet? Get expelled from paradise.

It’s no wonder fiscal conservatives coast to coast are pushing to drop from circulation the U.S. penny: when it comes to change, most of us would simply rather go without. (Punny enough for you?)

There’s indubitably a good evolutionary reason behind human beings’ tendency to resist change: enter a situation with a tested outcome and your survival rate is bound to skyrocket; venture into uncharted territory and you could be eaten by a saber-tooth. Even today. They’re rampant in Brooklyn.

But while I have no doubt natural selection is the driving force behind our inherent fear of the unknown, a refusal to leave one’s comfort zone can also have disastrous effects. How many times have you witnessed a friend stay in a floundering relationship far too long because he was afraid to start over? How many times have you watched someone remain in an unfulfilling career because she didn’t want to begin again from scratch? How many times have you re-watched Jumanji on TBS, commercial breaks and all, instead of starting Breaking Bad like everyone tells you to? I rest my case.

Rarely is our resistance to change more apparent than in the realm of weight loss and fitness, where our bodies literally fight back against change at all cost. Run three miles after a month of idleness and your quadriceps will hate you. Swap out real dessert for fruit salad and you’ll go to bed feeling downright deprived. Push back dinner so you can go to the gym and your stomach will growl louder than those bulky bros in free weights. Our hominid bodies were wired back in our nomad days to retain calories and build energy stores, and when it comes to corporal memory, old habits die hard.

But sometimes it’s the hardest things in life that are the most worth doing. I’m not going to lie – changing my lifestyle between January 2011 and today was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In order to lose 30+ pounds and keep it off, I had to change practically everything I knew and loved: my snacking habits, my love of calorie-laden craft beer, my indolent lifestyle, my lackadaisical gym routine. And once I got my weight down and started training for the Marine Corps Marathon last fall, I had to shake up my routine further yet, sacrificing prime Friday night real estate for Saturday long runs and swapping Wednesday happy hours for mid-week hill sprints. It was change and it was hard, but when I crossed that finish line at 3:51 and immediately started planning for my next marathon, I knew it was worth it.

I still fight change – to do so is in my very nature as a human – but I’ve learned in recent years that sometimes a little change-up is worth embracing. That’s certainly the case in fitness, but the same can be said of most things in life, from date night destinations to professional advancement, the latter of which has been very much on my mind as I begin my new job at a new company in a new part of town.

I’ve just finished day four, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been strange forging a familiar work environment for something  totally new and different. In fact, as I walked into my new building Monday, my nervous self could have used a little reminder that change is usually a good thing.

And what do you know? It got one.

As I picked up my visitor’s badge on day one, the welcome desk opted to use a stored headshot of me from a guest visit to the building in 2009, rather than snapping a new photo. They printed my temporary ID badge with this flattering photo:

photo 1 (16)

A few hours later, I went to pick up my new, permanent ID with an up-to-date headshot, and this is what I found:

photo 2 (18)

Nothing like a little pictorial evidence to drive the point home: despite our born and bred resistance to it, change is more-often-than-not a very good thing. Perhaps it’s time we all changed our attitude about it.

How are you embracing change this summer?

 

Categories
Running Training

Heavy Weights

I’ve done a lot of reading on the inception of running, and while the etymology of the word jog is reportedly unknown, this much I know to be true:

When distance running came into fashion in the 1970s, much conventional wisdom surrounding the sport was misguided, sexist or downright wrong.

Take a quick glance back through the past five decades of casual and competitive road racing—fine, I’ll do it for you—and it becomes painfully clear that in the 70s, sports science related to my favorite pastime was still in its infancy. Also in their infancy in 1970? Current forty-three year olds, if my math serves me, the odds of which, uh, requires more math.

Take, for example, the following popular misconceptions of the early running boom. These since-refuted claims—while not held by everyone—were oft repeated nonetheless in the literature of the time, or so this non-time-traveling 1985 baby has read:

  • Marathon running causes sterility in women.
  • It’s best not to hydrate at all during a 26.2-mile race.
  • Weight lifting has no place in a runner’s training schedule.

The first two have been overwhelmingly refuted in both scientific study and anecdotal evidence in the generation since, but the third—that weight training and running are mutually exclusive—has somehow persisted.

Many runners—including this one—shy away from strength training even in today’s day and age because:

  1. We don’t want to gain bulk that will weigh us down come race day.
  2. We don’t want to injure ourselves or increase muscle and joint soreness.
  3. We don’t want to waste precious time in the weight room when general consensus says the best way to run better is to simply run more.
  4. We can’t do a push-up. Oh? What’s that you say, other runners? Huh. Well, good for you. I guess that’s just me then.

Or in other words, for the last two years of race training, every time my schedule read this:

schedule

I saw this:

schedule2

(I could upgrade to Photoshop, sure, but the rebellious teenager in me would miss Paint’s spray paint tool too much.)

Skipping strength training (and, let’s be honest, stretching as well) didn’t seem to do me much harm as I trained for my first marathon, having little goal in mind except to finish. But with my race times having since plateaued, I’m starting to think running alone isn’t going to cut it for me anymore as I look to improve. Enter strength training.

Although common knowledge used to dictate strength training was detrimental to the distance runner, science now suggests the addition of some lean muscle can actually improve a runner’s VO2 max, strengthen joints and connective tissue, ward off injury and prevent muscle imbalances, particularly when it comes to the smaller stabilizer muscles that are often underutilized when logging flat mile after flat mile. With that in mind, I rolled up to a group strength training class at my gym last week, and while the bicep curls left my forearms screaming, I’m optimistic the net benefit will be well worth the strain.

Weight training scares me, sure, but just like corralling up at the Verrazano Bridge this November 3 isn’t going to make me sterile, I think pumping some light iron on a weekly basis can only serve to improve my overall fitness, making me a better runner at the end of the day. Yes, it might leave me aching, but I think given the reported benefits, I should just grin and bear it.

Smile.
Grinning and bearing.

Do you supplement your running with weight training? Have you seen improvement and/or been elected California governor as a result? 

Categories
Food Weight Loss

Guest Post: RiledUpRunner + InspiredByMollie = Skinny Success

Note from the real RiledUpRunner:

Below is a guest post from my college friend, Tara, whose simultaneous appreciation for delicious food and healthy ingredients makes for some awesome recipes that are impossible to pass up. Tara is just two months away from her big wedding date (what up, Mike? Let’s meet someday, fo’ real.) and three-and-a-half months out from our five-year college reunion. Start gathering your favorite 80s gear now! (More for the latter event, but you never know…) Enjoy her post, and check out her blog for more recipes. 

———-

There are so many diet gimmicks out there – pills, shakes, drinks, juices, superstitions, tricks – and the list goes on. However, losing weight isn’t magic (unless you use Photoshop) – it’s a science, or a simple mathematical equation: calories in < calories out = weight loss.  For those of you who hate math, let me rephrase: eat less than you burn and you will lose weight.

Unfortunately, no matter how many math or science courses we took at college, they did not teach us this equation. What they did teach, however, was how amazingly delicious calorie-packed food can be. Anne and my small liberal arts college was ranked No. 1 nationally for food, and with an all-you-can-eat dining hall, we indulged – a lot. Between the delicious meals, intense studying and a lack of physical activity save for dance parties, we were eating more than we were burning for four whole years, which meant we quickly packed on the freshman 15 (or in my case, 50).

Before shot.
Before shot.

So when graduation came and we entered the real world where sweatsuits were no longer acceptable everyday attire, it was time to drop the freshman 15 (or 50). And instead of giving in to gimmicks, Anne and I each separately decided to do it the good old fashioned way (and the only way proven to work): we resorted to healthy eating and exercise, or calories in < calories out. While running became a passion for Anne, my passion became cooking and eating healthy food.

After shot! Woo!
After shot! Woo!

Two years (and negative 50 pounds) after making the switch to healthy food, I decided to start sharing my recipes with the world, and my blog InspiredbyMollie.com was born.

The philosophies I follow in my blog – and life – are as follows:

Use healthy ingredients. This means incorporating ingredients that are packed with nutrition so the calories that are consumed are beneficial to your body, including vegetables, protein, fruit, whole grains and healthy fats.  At the same time, it’s important to avoid empty calories, or foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition (e.g. processed white bread). Also, you can typically find low-calorie nutritious substitutes for high calorie favorites (e.g. spaghetti squash for traditional spaghetti or fat free Greek yogurt for sour cream).  Here are a couple of my recipes that are packed with healthy ingredients and incorporate such substitutions:

Mediterranean Chicken Meatballs

Greek Yogurt and Chive Mashed Potatoes

Light and Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Make this. And send it to Anne for taste-testing, please.
Make this. And send it to Anne for taste-testing, please.

Exercise portion control. This is especially important when eating rich foods or treats. It’s simple: if something is higher in calories, eat less of it. And if you are anything like me, and you don’t have self-control, use portion-sized bowls and plates to help you. Also, if you just need a “big” meal, increase the volume of your meal by adding a bed of lettuce or a ton of low calorie vegetables.  Here are some of my portion-controlled favorites:

Mini – Crust less Mediterranean Quiches

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Mac, Cheese and Veggie Cupcakes

Yum.
Yum.

Indulge! Sometimes. Just because you are watching what you eat does not mean you have to deprive yourself of flavor or fun.  Use low-calorie flavors like spices and herbs to enhance the flavors of your healthy food without destroying their nutritional value.  Just beware of salt, as it causes water retention and thus apparent weight gain. And if you’re a sweets person, don’t skip dessert!  It’s OK to eat a small treat once a day. Just remember – portion control is key. Here are some great portion-controlled desserts that won’t break the bank:

Mini Blueberry Cobblers

Mini Crust-Less Pumpkin Pies

Mini Pink Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes

Yes, please.
Yes, please.

Plan and prepare. Plan ahead and prepare your own food. This allows you to make good decisions, rather than impulsive hungry decisions AND it also allows you to control what you are putting in your mouth.  I try to avoid eating out more than once or twice a week and when I do eat out, I look at the online menu ahead of time and make my selection when I am not hungry. I know this could be considered a bit OCD, but if it allows me to order the beet salad (which I love) instead of the mile-high nachos, it is worth it. Also, if you are really busy and thinking to yourself you don’t have time to make your own food, think again. Make healthy food in bulk on a day when you have time and freeze individual portions for a healthy meal when you are pressed for time.  Here are some freezer friendly recipes:

Veggie Lovers Vegetarian Chili

Chicken Soup

Slow Cooked Bolognese

Heat up before eating, idiots.
Heat up before eating, idiots. ❤

Drink water. Lots and lots of water. This is very important when you are running and working out and also when trying to lose weight. It helps flush your body and also helps fill your stomach – and it’s calorie free!  Sick of water? Add some sliced fresh fruit to a pitcher of ice water for flavor. Lemon, limes, strawberries, watermelon and cucumber are all delicious options!

Of course, I do not always stick to these rules perfectly, but I do my best to make one good decision at a time. Like training for a race, you can get derailed and face challenges or temptation.  But overall, if you stick with the training and healthy eating, you will find success, just like Anne and I did.

For more information on my recipes and cooking, please follow my blog (www.inspiredbymollie.com) and like me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/InspiredByMollie). 

Categories
Running Training Weight Loss

Marathon Weight Gain

There are plenty of good reasons to run a marathon: the sense of personal achievement, raising money for a cause, offending a bear on a 26.1-mile-long chain.

There’s also at least one bad reason to run one: to lose weight.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, signing on to run a four-hour-long road race is not a sure-fire path to watching the pounds melt off. In fact, if my statistically sound survey of one respondent tells me anything, it’s that 100-percent of runners actually gain weight during marathon training and the subsequent recovery process. (Note: I may or may not know the definition of “statistically sound.”)

But you just spent an entire summer running more miles each week than most Americans run in their entire lives! How is marathon weight gain even possible?

A lot of things don’t make sense in this world, dear reader, and marathon weight gain is one of them. Also, cats.

Any coach will tell you some modest weight gain during marathon training is normal, since you’re amping up your muscle density and keeping more hydrated than ever before. And when you really start carbo-loading in the final week of your taper, you can expect to see the scale spike as much as four pounds, this Runner’s World article says, since your body’s retaining three extra grams of water for every gram of carbohydrates stored. As you make your way to the finish line, those extra pounds of water weight will quickly melt away.

Try to spot me! Also, try to find Waldo’s binoculars.

Unfortunately, the other weight gained during marathon training – the real, tangible weight – is a lot harder to get rid of. And how did those extra pounds get added in the first place? Well, let’s do some simple math:

Conservative estimates tell you a runner burns about 100 calories per mile, meaning a would-be marathoner on a 40-mile peak weak is burning an additional 4,000 calories every seven days. Sounds like a get-out-of-vegetables free card to me. But when you break it down, spread over the course of a week, that’s only an additional 571.4 calories a day, or 83% of a basket of ShakeShack cheese fries. Add in your voracious marathon runner’s appetite and you’ll shift from a calorie deficit to a calorie surplus faster than ConEd restored power to the Rockaways.

What’s that, you say? Rockaways homeowners are still without power 15 days after the hurricane? Oh. Awkward. Hey, let’s all take a page from New York Road Runners and donate to the very-much-still-ongoing recovery efforts. Cool? Cool.

But beyond keeping tabs on your fueling during marathon training, it’s even more important to step back and re-evaluate your nutrition and exercise routines after the race comes to a close. Not for the first 72 hours, mind you – those days are unquestionably meant to be spent cramming your face with bacon cheeseburgers – but in the weeks that follow, you’ll need to reteach your suddenly less-active self to once again ignore the caloric cravings your high-intensity marathon training had allowed you to indulge. Once the post-race aches and pains subside, you’ll also need to reintroduce moderate movement into your daily routine. Burning 300 calories on the elliptical doesn’t give you free reign to, say, butter your cheese curls (that’s what she said), but it will help you get back on track now that your 26.2-mile achievement is a thing of the past.

Pysche! I wasn’t even in that first photo! But I’m in this one, I promise.

Of course, if you do find yourself needing to shed a few pounds post-marathon, the most important thing to remember is this: be kind to yourself. You didn’t train your body to run a freaking marathon in a week, so don’t expect to get back to your goal weight in a blink-of-an-eye, either. Drastically cutting down to a 1,400 calorie diet is not going to help you maintain all that lean muscle you built over the course of your training, and there’s no greater crime than skipping the cake(-flavored vodka) at your 27th birthday party this Saturday.

As I always say, moderation in all things. Except crepe cake.

Here’s your damned shout out, Keirnan.

How do you keep your weight under control during or after a big race? 

Categories
Running

A New Milestone

My boyfriend may be in Costa Rica this weekend doing all sorts of fun things that are bound to get him killed–from unlicensed scuba diving to waterfall repelling to dining with cannibals, only one of which I made up–but my solo New York City weekend promises to offer something perhaps even more exciting: my first ever 30-mile week.

 

I realize a 30-mile running week means virtually nothing to any experienced competitor, but for this novice athlete, it marks a major milestone in my drive to become a marathoner. Initially logging just 4.5 miles during my first seven-day stretch as a runner in January 2011, I’ve since boosted my stamina more than six-fold in a little over a year. I’m not really one for late-night infomercials, but a six-fold stamina boost sure sounds like the kind of thing you’d pay for with four easy payments of $19.95.

“I would like to have a product that was available for three easy payments and one f-ing complicated payment! We ain’t gonna tell you which payment it is, but one of these payments is gonna be a bitch. The mailman will get shot to death, the envelope will not seal, and the stamp will be in the wrong denomination. Good luck! The last payment must be made in wampum.”

– Sir Mitch Hedberg (1968 – 2005)

What’s that?  You demand at least one Mitch Hedberg joke be included now in every future blog post? Done and done.

Of course, my planned 30-mile accomplishment is fully dependent on my completing a scheduled 9-mile long run tomorrow, which is fully dependent on my ability to decline what I expect will be a very compelling argument from my roommate to go out for drinks after a screening at the TriBeCa Film Festival tonight. Go ahead, Liz. Give it your best shot.

Now I usually end (or start, or pepper throughout) my posts with gratuitous photos of anonymous puppies, but since there will soon be a new addition to my nuclear family, I might as well share the good news – and photographic evidence – here. Much to my sister’s and my insurmountable jealousy, my kid brother is now the proud owner of his very own golden-doodle, Keira (right).

 

She will never replace our one and only (dog) love, Ellie, but I’m excited to watch her try.

Eleanor Roosevelt
(Dec. 3rd, 2002 to Feb. 18, 2011)

What’s in store for you this weekend? If you live in NYC and don’t want me to have to run 9 miles all by myself tomorrow, I’ll give you one good guess.

Categories
Food Running Weight Loss

Back on Track

Sometimes the temperature grazes 80° for the first time this calendar year and your mom offers to buy you an ice-cream cone. Sometimes you go to a gorgeous Southern wedding and you can’t pass up the mounds of barbeque beef brisket vying for space on your plate. Sometimes your little (grown-up) brother doesn’t want to share his box of Cheez-Its, which – in proper sibling fashion – only makes you want them more.

Sometimes all these things happen the same weekend. Or perhaps I should rephrase: Sometimes you return home to New York from an excursion to Maryland to find you’ve gained three pounds in as many days.

In years past, whenever I’d go on a “healthy eating spree,” one weekend of caloric debauchery was enough to see me throw in the towel and revert back to my earlier ways. I’ve already ruined my diet – I’d say – so I might as well test that all 6 burger options at Shake Shack have the same meat-to-bun ratio. You know, for science.

That kind of thinking didn’t get me anywhere (or more accurately, it got me here) because it was fatalistic, short-sighted and – pardon my French – le dumb.

But now that I’ve finally given up on short-term fixes in favor of what I hope will be a lifetime of nutrition and fitness, a weekend off the wagon no longer carries the same weight. I ate both the chocolate and the vanilla wedding cake on Saturday night – I said to my slightly hung-over self the following morning – so I’ll just stick to oatmeal and coffee at the hotel breakfast buffet, even though they have all the free sausage a carnivore could hope for. When you’re thinking long-term, it’s easier to bounce back from a few days of bad habits, Episcopal guilt and all.

That said, I’m still using this weekend’s free-for-all as an opportunity to revisit my goals and recommit to some of the healthy practices that helped me drop 30+ pounds by this time last year. For example, I’m taking a page from my girl Tara’s book and trying to pack my own lunch four out of five days this week. I’m also recording everything I eat over the next few days in a drive for mindfulness. And I’m not sneaking any more rest days than Coach Hal allows as I enter Week 8 before my most important race of the season.  I even upped my Monday 3-miler to a 6-miler just for good form. Who knows? If I sneak in one extra, unscheduled mile by Sunday, this may even be my first ever 30+ mile week.

And that kind of accomplish warrants an ice-cream cone.

How do you get back on track nutritiously/fitnessly/navigationally after straying?

Categories
Races Running

The Philadelphia Broad Street Run: One Year Later

I may tell people I’m training this year for the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon, but there’s one race scheduled this spring that’s nearer and dearer to my heart – the Philadelphia Broad Street 10 Miler.

That’s the race that started it all for me. An unfathomable distance in January 2011 to my then sedentary self, I’d initially laughed at my friends’ suggestions to join them and scoffed at their declarations that they would “run slow.”

“How slow?” I’d asked in my early 2011 e-mail reply. “I’ve never run so far before in my life and could only do it at a pace of about 2 mph.”

Clocking in at my all-time heaviest, my weight may have been through the roof, but my self-confidence –particularly when it came to my athletic prowess – was off-the-charts low.

If you’ve been reading my blog since the start (Hi, ClaireBear!), you know that I ended up manning up, registering for the race and sustaining a surprise 9:20.29 pace.

What you may not know, however, is that I had tears streaming down my face for all 10 miles (hello dehydration) because I was just so proud to be achieving something that four months earlier I’d known to be impossible. As I mustered my last ounce of strength and sprinted my way across the finish line into the Philadelphia Navy Yard, I felt a sense of unparalleled gratification like I’d never before felt in my life.

My Dad, who had driven 100 miles that morning just to see me race, summed it up in an e-mail the next day: “I am SO pleased that I got to see you at The Finish Line after yesterday’s Broad Street 10-miler.  I think I will always remember you best at that moment: pumped, euphoric, glowing, and so-very-happy.”

And I was.

So imagine my heart-wrenching disappointment when I went to register for this year’s race in mid-February only to be alerted on the website that all 30,000 slots had already been filled.

With six spring races already on my schedule, it’s not like I needed to race the Broad Street Run again this year. But with this event carrying for me such personal and powerful memories of my running debut, it pained me a little inside to know I wouldn’t be back this year to show Philadelphia the same love it had shown me, especially when two of my best friends had secured spots of their own.

I was just about prepared to resign myself to the role of spectator (and non-racing cheesesteak taste tester) this year, when I stumbled across a new link on the Broad Street Run website: The Second Chance Lottery.

“Because registration for the 2012 Blue Cross Broad Street Run exceeded wildest expectations with over 30,000 runners registering in a record five hours,” the fresh new webpage read. “We have institued a second chance lottery for an additional 2500 runners to be permitted into the event.”

Lotteries – like British accents and Middle Eastern peace talks – have never been my strong suit, but I knew I had nothing to lose, so I threw my credit card information in their faces and waited.

And waited. And waited.

Ten days – or how long it takes Kate Hudson to lose a guy – later, having concluded Oscar season and all but forgotten about the lottery, I opened my e-mail this morning to find this note:

I’m in! I’m really in! And I’m so very, very thankful.

And now tell me something wonderful that’s happened to you today!