Friday, December 31, 2010

Cooking Challenge Wrap Up

After 52 weeks, several fabulous recipes and a few kitchen failures, it's time to wrap up my 2010 cooking challenge.

Last January, one of my goals was to cook something every week. I wanted to challenge myself to get out of my lazy rut and stop falling back on PBJ and oatmeal when I didn't want to make a real dinner or lunch.

I'll admit, coming up with a new recipe or cooking idea every week wasn't easy. I admire all the food bloggers who are so creative in the kitchen and constantly come up with new healthy recipes. Many of the dishes I tried were recommended by other bloggers.

After my 52-week experiment in the kitchen, here's what I'm taking away from this challenge:

1. You don't need fancy kitchen supplies to whip up a good meal. The kitchen in my townhouse is old and tiny. My oven is so small, I can't fit a traditional size cookie sheet in it. I have to use the mini-sized ones. I also have tons of pots with lids that don't match and a mishmash of random plates and bowls that previous roommates have left behind. But despite my kitchen shortcomings, I was still able to make good food.

2. Trying new foods is fun. Before this challenge, I had never tried couscous, quinoa, spaghetti squash or many of the other ingredients I used over the past year. This challenge really expanded my horizons when it came to food choices, and I know I'll be open to trying new or odd ingredients in the future.

3. The farmer's market is amazing.
I spent most of my summer and early fall picking up fresh ingredients from the farmer's market and I miss those things immensely now that winter is here. I was able to get the most fresh apples this fall and really tasty veggies all summer long. The farmer's market blows my grocery store selection out of the water.

3. You will have some major kitchen fails.
Not everything you try will come out perfect. There were some recipes I tried that were just disasters. Nothing about them tasted good and I wouldn't even bother going back to make changes. You might also end up getting jalapeno juice in your eyes. Stuff happens, and a bad recipe won't kill you, so don't be afraid to experiment.

4. I learned I like cooking for groups. When I would have people over for dinner, I loved whipping up something new and I didn't mind spending a few hours in the kitchen getting something ready. When I'm just cooking for myself, I don't find it nearly as enjoyable. In this same vein, I learned Matt's a pretty willing test subject and would try just about everything I made, even if it wasn't up his alley.

Moving in to the New Year, I plan to keep up my cooking, but I won't force myself to try something new every week. After a while, it got really hard and there were just some weeks when I had zero motivation to spend any time in the kitchen. I may still share the occasional recipe if I have a moment of brilliance, but my Friday Cooking Challenge posts will go away and be replaced by something new. I'll keep the Cooking Challenge page live, so you can easily find the recipes I tried this year all in one place.

Thanks for following along with this challenge. I hope you found at least one recipe you enjoyed sometime during the year.

On that note, I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Healthy Living and Running Blogger Survey

When Katy and I were chosen to speak at Fitbloggin' 2011, we wanted to get as many people involved in our presentation as possible, whether or not they were attending the conference. That's where we came up with the idea for our newest project to gather information about the healthy living and running blogger communities. I'm really excited to share it with you, and I hope you will all take a few minutes to help us out.

As part of our branding and social media presentation at Fitbloggin’ 2011, Katy and I are launching an extensive, anonymous and hopefully transformative survey. We want to know some of the reasons why you blog, how you do it and what goals you have for the coming years. The running blog community is very unique when it comes to the rest of the blogging world and we want to know more about why we all do what we do.

The results of the study depend completely on YOU and your response. Five surveys won’t help us. 500 will. 5,000 would be better. But to get that type of attention, we need your help.

What we’re asking:

  • Please answer our survey as honestly and completely as you can. We’ve allowed you to opt out of some questions by saying “Rather Not Answer” but the more open you can be, the better.
  • Please share the survey link with your friends, your readers, your social networks and anyone else you can think of. We do require that people who take the survey have blogs but there’s no requirement for how you blog, how often or whether or not you make any money.

What we’re providing:

  • Totally anonymity. The responses that we collect will not capture your IP address or any other information. We are asking some personal questions and understand that if you are worried about being identified, you might change your answers. Neither Katy nor I could figure out who you are if we wanted to.
  • Results, both at Fitbloggin’ and in data that you may use. We will be publishing the results and making them accessible to all. In addition, if you want to be notified about the results, we’re providing a way for you to leave us your contact information without attaching it to your survey responses.

Why you should do it:

  • Because you're awesome and want to help us out!
  • We truly believe that the more you know, the more powerful you can be -- in your posts, in your understanding of community and in your service to your readers. This will be a way for you to see where you fall compared to others!
  • It’s fun! We have tried to make the survey simple and easy to complete. You’ll see a status bar letting you know how far you have to go, and eliminated certain questions based on your previous responses.


Again: YOUR ANSWERS WILL BE COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL, and no identifying information will be stored or shared. You'll be able to opt in to receive an electronic copy of the results, but if you choose to provide your contact information, it will not be connected or attached to any of your responses.

If you have any questions or concerns about the survey, please leave me a comment or send me an email to: jess@jessruns.com.

Take the survey!

Thanks so much for taking a few minutes to be part of the project! And please spread the word!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goals for the New Year

I love how the New Year gives us all a chance to wipe the slate clean and set some new goals for the upcoming year.

I firmly believe in setting goals, not making resolutions. Goals are something you can measure and take actionable steps to achieve. Resolutions are too wishy-washy for me. You lay out all these things you'd like to do, with no plan of how you're going to get there.

With goals, you give yourself a roadmap. They're focused. You have a plan and know what you need to do to get to your desired end result.

As always, I have tons of things I'd like to work on in the New Year, but I've decided to focus on just a few goals, whose progress I can consistently measure through out the year to gauge progress.

1. Break two hours in the half marathon. This is a bit of a reach goal for me. My current half marathon PR is 2:07. To shave more than 7 minutes off my time is going to require some hard training, dedicated speed work and flat and fast race course. I'm considering possible spring and fall races with fast courses. I'd like to use the spring races as a good baseline, to trim the PR a little bit and then really focus on the fall race as the place to break two hours.

2. Strength train twice a week. This is something I've done successfully for about four weeks now and I'd like to keep the momentum going. I know the added strength training will help even out some of my many muscle imbalances and should make me a stronger, faster, less injury-prone runner. I'd like to keep up my two-a-days throughout the rest of this training cycle and carry them over into training plans for the spring and the fall.

There you have them, my two big goals for 2011. I will be tracking my progress here and in my paper running log with hope that more dedicated tracking will help me more easily identify areas where things work well and areas where I could use some improvement.

What are your goals for the New Year?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Goals in Review

With 2010 about ready to end, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at my goals for the year and see how I did.

Goal #1: Get better at tracking my mileage. End result: So-so. I did OK with this goal for the first bit of the year and then got pretty lazy about it until I got my Garmin. Once Garmin came into my life, tracking my mileage became super simple. I didn't have to do anything other than plug Garmin into my computer and save the mileage. There's still room for improvement here, but I did OK.

Goal #2: Cook at least one meal a week. End result: Success. My cooking challenge was a huge success this year and I'll be doing a longer post about what I learned from my time in the kitchen on Friday.

Goal #3: Run lots of races of lots of different lengths. End result: Success. I ran a total of eight races this year: Three half marathons, two 10-milers, one marathon, one 10K and one 5K. Only two of the races were ones I had previously run. I love running new races and for the coming year I hope to include a good mix of old favorites and new races.

Goal #4: Access overall knee health and injuries and make final decision about whether I can run a marathon. End result: Success. After strong spring and fall training cycles, I decided my legs were ready to run a full marathon and I completed the Philadelphia Marathon in November.

Goal #5: Increase cross-training with a focus on strength training. End result: So-so. I did OK with this last winter. I was pretty good about doing my Jillian workouts, and I've really picked up the strength training again this month, but during my peak training times, I didn't cross train much at all and I definitely didn't strength train. There's definitely room for improvement here.

I definitely had some highs and lows when it came to training this year. I battled hip and knee problems all winter long, which in the end I determined were a result of my form on the treadmill. But I also seriously kicked butt during my races, setting several new PRs. Overall 2010 was a pretty decent year of running for me and I can only go up from here in 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Very Fit Christmas

Just a few gifts that Santa left at the Run Girl Run house this Christmas.

Pull bouy and towel
Pull buoy and pool towel for my Mom

Running socks
Running socks for my Dad

Reflective tape and LED light
Reflective tape and an LED light for Dad

ROAD ID
Road ID for Dad

Groupon to the running store
Groupon to my parents' running store for Mom

Garmin for dad
A Garmin for my Dad

Food steamer
Food steamer, for me, this will be great for veggies

Saucony pullover
Saucony pullover for me

Ice pack
Perfect for icing my knees

Pro marathon pictures
The digital download file of my Philadelphia marathon pictures from Matt

Pro pic 2

Pro pic 3

Pro pic 4

Pro pic 6

Pro pic 8

What did Santa leave under your tree this year?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Christmas Cookies

After the stockings were hung,

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and the presents were wrapped,

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it was obviously time to bake Christmas cookies.

Matt and I spent hours in the kitchen this year, whipping up batches of different cookies. I was so impressed with how soft and gooey these peanut butter cookies came out that I just had to share them.

We got together all our ingredients and then got to it.

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We started by mixing the sugar, brown sugar, butter and peanut butter.

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Then we added two eggs and mixed them in too.

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We combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

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And then folded that into the wet ingredients, and of course proceed to nosh on the raw dough...I know it's bad to do, but man raw cookie dough is the best.

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The recipe said to chill the dough for an hour, but I was impatient and didn't want to. So we split the dough in half, started baking with some of it right away and threw the rest in the fridge. We should have chilled it all, those cookies came out so much better.

We rolled the dough into little balls and then used a fork to make the criss-cross pattern.

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Then we popped the cookies in the oven for about seven minutes, anything longer than that made the cookies too crunchy.

When they were done, we let them cool on the cookie sheet for a minute, before transferring them to cooling racks.

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These cookies were simply delicious!

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two-a-Days

Mondays and Wednesdays are my "two-a-day" days. I run in the morning and strength train in the evening. I remember two-a-days from pre-season in high school and absolutely hating them. But these two-a-days are becoming my favorite days of training.

The Run:
After experiencing knee pain during my run on Monday, I wasn't quite sure what to expect yesterday. The schedule called for another four miler, nothing too intense, just another run to get my legs used to regular running again.

The first two miles went pretty well, but what I noticed toward the end of the run was tightness in both of my hips and a really strange feeling of being out of alignment. It almost felt like my hips were moving in two different planes. My left hip would swing farther forward and my right hip was oddly cocked to the back.

I could tell that really was messing up my stride, but I wasn't quite sure how to fix it on the run. I tried to focus on good form, but my hips wouldn't release.

When I got home I spent tons of time stretching my hips, rolling my IT bands and in general trying to loosen everything up.


Circuit Training

About 15 minutes into class I was a so tired and hot that I was wishing the gym would turn on the AC. The teacher kept us moving from station to station the entire time. We did jumping jacks and push ups, planks and mountain climbers, and all sorts of other intense exercises. I left a sweaty mess with spaghetti arms. I know all the strength work will pay off in the end though. I can already use heavier weights than when I started three or four weeks ago!

I'm really enjoying these days of double workouts with a run in the morning followed up with the strength training classes in the evening. I'm even considering extending my gym pass so I can keep doing them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My First Zumba Experience + Winners

I took dance class from about the time I was four years old until I was a senior in high school. It was a mix of ballet, jazz and hip hop. I can count an eight beat. I can do choreographed steps. And in college I used to bust a move at the bars.

Cue embarrassing college pictures:



But throw me in a room full of women doing Zumba and I develop two left feet and look like the most awkward white girl trying to follow along while the cool kids do their thang.

Zumba was a disaster. So much so, that I bailed half way through the class because I wasn't having fun.

I think part of the problem was the instructor. She didn't wear a mic, so I couldn't hear a word she was saying over the music. She also didn't really teach the steps or explain what was going to come next. She just started her really awesome dancing and we had to follow along.

You could tell the regulars knew what to do, but for those of us newbies in the back of the class, it was terrible. It was hard to see the instructor because the room was packed and so half the time I was three moves behind everyone else and scrambling to try to catch up.

I also didn't like the heavy emphasis the instructor put on the number of calories we were burning. As a former fitness instructor, that's a personal pet peeve of mine. People should come to your class because they want to have fun and leave feeling good. The calorie burn shouldn't be the main focus.

Despite all my fumbling and flailing about, I did manage to work up a good sweat.

I can see why people say Zumba is such a great workout. It's very high energy and you're moving constantly.

After this experience, I haven't totally ruled Zumba out, I just prefer an exercise class that is a little more structured and easy to follow along. Give me a good step or kickboxing class any day of the week. Or I could just stick to running, no weird dance steps required.

---------

Social Media Makeover Winners

First off, I wanted to thank everyone who entered the contest for a chance to win a social media makeover from me and Katy as part of our Fitbloggin' presentation.

I had fun reading each and every blog and checking out a bunch of new Twitter feeds, but man did you guys make our decision tough! There were so many good entries, we had a hard time choosing. So in addition to the big makeover we're offering our two winners, we want to offer "mini-makeovers" to the rest of the applicants. More details to come on the "mini-makeovers."

And now for our makeover winners:

The Concrete Runner and A Healthy JD

Congrats ladies!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Orleans Half Marathon Training Plan

My goal for the New Orleans half marathon in February is to have fun and cross the finish line. I'm not looking for a PR. I'm looking for a good race to cap off a fun vacation in the Big Easy.

After some tinkering, I think I've put together a training plan that will get me there.

Here's a look at what I'll be doing for the next several weeks:

Mondays: Mid-length run in the morning. Starting at four in the early weeks, these runs will eventually cap out at 8 miles. Bike and Ball class in the evening.

Tuesday: Cross train or rest.

Wednesday: Speed work either in the form of tempo runs or intervals in the morning. Strength training class in the evening.

Thursday: Yoga

Friday: Three to five mile run.

Saturday: Long run.

Sunday: Rest

One of the big things I'm working into this training plan that I was lacking in the fall is a serious focus on cross-training. I know I have muscle imbalances all over the place and I'm hoping with the addition of strength training twice a week, I'll be able to fix some of those issues. I'm also hoping that helps clear up the nagging pain left over in my knee. I'm also going to make an extra effort to take yoga class at least once a week to help stretch out lingering muscle tightness.

If this sort of varied training plan works for New Orleans, it's something I plan to adopt when I move into spring race season and serious training begins again. For now, I'm using New Orleans as a test race. It's a low key event for me and a good chance to experiment with a new type of training plan to see what kind of results I get.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A New Training Cycle Begins

Nothing rings in a new training cycle like my alarm blaring at 4:30 a.m. on a Monday morning.

Lucky for me I only had four miles on the training schedule and it wasn't too freezing cold outside. After about a mile I had warmed up rather comfortably.

Unfortunately my right leg never got the memo that it was supposed to warm up too and from about mile 1.5 on I had nagging knee pain similar to what I experienced in the marathon.

Not the best way to kick off a new training cycle.

After almost a month off running and instead focusing on cross training to give my legs I break, I wasn't expecting to have any problems coming back to running. Needless to say I was quite frustrated when I got home this morning.

My plan of attack is to spend some quality time each day with my foam roller to loosen up my IT band. I'm hoping the combo of foam rolling and an additional focus on stretching I'll be able to keep training.

More details on my training plan coming tomorrow.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rest Day Reading

Happy weekend! Enjoy this week's reads!

Tech and Social Media:
If you used Delicious as a bookmarking service, check out Lifehacker's tips on how to save your bookmarks before Delicious shuts down.

Work:
Jenn and Jill's newest project DreamChamps.com

Phillies Phun:
Some great pictures of the Phillies pitchers with the addition of Cliff Lee.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Fettucini and Shrimp Alfredo

I should note in no way is this recipe healthy. There is not one fruit or vegetable involved and it uses lots and lots of cheese and half and half.

Here's what you need:
Box of fettucini noodles
8 oz cream cheese
1 c. half and half
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese
1 stick of butter
1/2 lb shrimp
Garlic
Pepper

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Start by boiling water and throwing in the fettucini noodles to cook while you work on the sauce.

Then in another pan, melt the stick of butter.

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Then add in the garlic. Matt and I used about two cloves and it definitely wasn't enough. So don't be afraid to use plenty of garlic.

Then scoop in the cream cheese in hunks and cook until the butter and the cream cheese have blended into a creamy sauce. This will require a good amount of stirring to get everything to combine nicely.

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Once the butter and cream cheese are mixed, pour in the half and half and cheese and season the sauce with plenty of pepper. Your sauce will end up nice and creamy.

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When it's all blended pull the sauce pan off the stove so the sauce can begin to thicken.

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In the meantime, toss precooked shrimp in a pan and let them heat up.

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When everything is warm, drain the pasta.

In a bowl scoop some pasta and toss in a few shrimp. Then cover everything with a scoop of the alfredo sauce.

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The sauce was very rich, but we definitely didn't use enough garlic or pepper because it was a little bit bland. We found that adding a couple shakes of red pepper flakes added a nice kick to the sauce.

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This recipe didn't take long to whip up, but because it's so heavy, it's definitely one I'll only be using on special occasions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Three Things Thursday

1. The heat is broken in the fitness room at my gym and the temperature in the room when we were ready to start class last night was 47 degrees. To prevent us all from freezing, our instructor took us to a smaller room the gym has in the basement. Despite the fact the instructor had to completely make up her class on the spot to accommodate the new space and the new equipment available, I still got an awesome workout. The instructor was quick thinking and made the best of a crappy situation and instead of just sending us home with no workout, she really kicked our butts.

2. With still a week to go until Christmas, I'm proud to say I have all my presents wrapped! Wrapping presents isn't my strong suit, and I usually end up with tape stuck to all my fingers and packages that look quite sad in the paper. But this year everything looks sort of normal, evenly the oddly shaped gifts.

3. There is snow in the forecast for today, but I think I'm still going to try to get out for a run at some point this afternoon. I really miss running and I need to get back out there. Must get over my wimpy ways.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Right around this time last year, I was constantly all bundled up going out for runs. I even ran a race in the freezing cold rain and while it wasn't ideal, it wasn't terrible.

Jingle All the Way 10K 2009

This year I have become soft. Instead of getting outside to face the cold, I'm all for heading to the gym or diving under a ton of blankets.

Time to HTFU.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bike and Ball Review

For the most part, I have mixed feelings about hybrid classes at the gym. If they're not done right, I feel like you don't get a good workout and you get cheated out of the part of class you find most fun.

So going into last night's Bike and Ball class, I wasn't sure what to expect. The class was to be 30 minutes of spin followed by 30 minutes of strength training using only stability balls, medicine balls and other weighted balls.

It ended up being one of the most fun classes I've ever taken largely thanks to the instructor. She was high energy throughout the class and played awesome music.

You know you're going to get a good workout when the instructor walks in to the spin studio and starts class by saying, "The bitch is back."

I worked harder in that 30 minutes of spin than I have in some full-length spin classes. After sprints, hills, and intense seated climbs, we hopped off the bikes and headed to the fitness studio for the strength training portion of class.

After five minutes, my arms were like mush and all I was doing was holding a stability ball over my head. We hadn't even touched the medicine balls.

When we did, the instructor had us work with partners. I felt like I was at middle school basketball practice. We did bounce passes and chest passes and then rounded things out with some soccer moves.

The whole time it just felt like I was playing, not working out.


If you're gym offers a hybrid class like this, I definitely recommend checking it out. The hour flew by and I got one of the best workouts I have in a long time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mini-goal for December

I've been enjoying my time mixing things up and trying different classes at the gym. It's been a nice mental break from running, plus I think my legs are happy to get a break too.

To help keep me a little extra motivated, I decided to set a mini-goal for myself.

For the remainder of the month, my goal is to get to at least three classes each week at the gym.

Last week I discovered a great circuit training class on Wednesday and a really awesome yoga class on Thursday, so I think I'm going to be a regular at those until my gym pass expires. To get my third class in, I have a choice of a great spin class on Tuesday night or some interesting sounding classes on Monday night.

And maybe one of these days I'll get myself into a Zumba class. Zumba is a dance-based class that pulls from salsa, hip hop and many other styles of dance. I took Zumba once back in college and while it's definitely a lot of fun, I always feel like I'm making a fool out of myself because I can't exactly follow along.

As much as I'm enjoying my little break from running, I know it's about time to get back into it. With the New Orleans half marathon in February, I know I need to start putting together a training plan soon. I'm hoping I'll be more inspired to cross train during this training cycle since I'll have access to great classes at the gym.

I hope to design my plan sometime this week, so I can jump right into it next week. I'll share it once it's finalized!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rest Day Reading

Happy weekend! I'm off decorating the tree and catching up on a lots of life things that got shoved aside since I've been out of town for three weekends in a row.

Here's this week's great reads!

Health and Fitness:



Productivity:



Personal Finance:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Grilled Veggie Sandwich

There was a restaurant by my old office that served the most delicious grilled veggie sandwich. For this week's cooking challenge, I decided to try to re-create it.

I started by taking out my grill plate and chopping up a bunch of veggies.

I used portobello mushrooms, eggplant, and green and red peppers.

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I grilled each vegetable for about five minutes on each side. It was enough heat that the veggies softened, but not so much that they became mushy.

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Once the veggies were all grilled, I smeared two pieces of wheat bread with zesty garlic hummus and started stacking the veggies.

I started with the peppers.

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Then added the mushrooms and finally the eggplant.

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The whole sandwich was a leaning tower about to fall apart at any second, but I managed to eat it up before there was any sort of disaster.

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This ended up being not nearly as good as the restaurant version. I think part of the problem was that I used a different hummus and I didn't grill the peppers long enough. They were still a little too crunchy compared to the mushrooms and the eggplant.

I think in the future I will just stick to ordering this.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Three Things Thursday

Welcome to another addition of Three Things Thursday!

1. Last night I finally mustered some motivation to get my butt to the gym. I was expecting to take a yoga class, but it turns out I read the schedule wrong and I showed up for the circuit training class. It wasn't a bad mistake though. The circuit training class was pretty awesome and I can feel some soreness in my butt this morning after all the squats and lunges from last night. It's obviously been way too long since I've done any form of strength training. I might become a regular at this class while I have my two-month pass.

2. The yoga class I thought was last night is actually tonight, so my plan is to head over and give it a try. It's a 90-minute class and I've never taken a yoga class longer than 60 minutes, so that will be different. It's a Hatha-style class, something I've also never taken (I usually do flow-style classes) so I'm not sure what to expect. I'm hoping I get a good stretch!

3. This is my last day in the office this week. Now that we're in the new building, we've been given two telework days per week. Mine are Wednesdays and Fridays. I'm thinking this new schedule could do some great things for my future training, especially in the winter months. Those are two days when I'll be able to run during daylight hours when it hopefully won't be so bitter cold. Plus I'll be exposed to more sunlight, which will hopefully keep my nasty case of the winter blues at bay. I'm stilling settling into my new schedule and didn't actually run outside yesterday, but I think those two days at home open a bunch of doors to great training possibilities.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Motivation, Where Are You?

Remember how I wanted to take a week off after my marathon to let me legs rest and to give myself a mental break from constant training?

Somehow that week went from one, to two and now I'm in to the third week post-marathon and just have no motivation to work out. I've fallen off the wagon hard and at this point, it's so far gone, I'm having a hard time catching it so I can jump back on.

Since my marathon, I have run once and gone to spin class once. Two workouts in two weeks. Yuck.

I also feel like I've been so busy the past few weeks, I just can't muster extra energy to run. Between getting my office packed last week, my Grandma's 90th birthday, Matt's birthday and then unpacking the office in the new building yesterday, I just want to collapse in bed and sleep.

Plus the winter isn't helping. I was planning on running this morning before work, until I saw the real feel temperature was going to be 8 degrees. Yeaaa, I'm just not ready to face temperatures that cold yet. So instead of doing some other exercise in the warmth, I decided to stay asleep in my warm, comfy bed.

Maybe it's time to put some sort of off-season plan together, just so I have something to follow. I tend to do better when I've got a plan.

How do you find the motivation to work out when it's cold and miserable outside, and you don't have a race in the immediate future?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Grandma's 90th Birthday

I spent the weekend in Ohio with my dad's side of the family celebrating my Grandma's 90th birthday. My dad is one of six, with siblings scattered all over the country from California to Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland and it was the first time in ages all of us were together.

It was a fun, but exhausting weekend.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the party.

me and matt at lunch
Me and Matt at lunch

cousin and her fiance
My cousin, Laura, and her fiance, Nate

grandma blowing out candles
Grandma blowing out her birthday candles

cousin and son
My cousin, Paul, and his 10-month-old son, Leo

Abby and balloons
My cousin Abby playing with balloons.

Matt, Abby and balloons
Matt and Abby playing with balloons

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Rest Day Reading

I only have one for you this week, but I thought it was such an awesome idea that I had to share it.

I'm a huge planner. Matt and I were just talking about how I have my entire life planned out (and we were only half joking), so of course I loved this post from the Simple Dollar about putting together a five year plan.

I love exercises like this, where you sit down, figure out what you want out of the next five years and then hammer out some concrete things you can do to get there.

Do you put together plans like this or are you a more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type?

What have you been reading this week? Leave your links in the comments.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Cooking Challenge: Colorful Pasta Salad

I know I mentioned in yesterday's post that my office is moving. Yesterday was our last day in the office, and this week has been spent cleaning out, packing and of course throwing one last office party.

As part of the party, we were given permanent markers to write some good-bye messages to the building.

Outreach team goodbye

Wall graffiti one

wall graffiti 3

And of course we held one of our famous office potlucks. My office is full of very talented cookers and bakers so there is always a ton of delicious food at our potlucks.

My contribution was a colorful pasta salad. It was quick and easy to make and full of veggies.

To start, I boiled tri-color pasta for my colorful base.

While the noodles were cooking, I chopped a red pepper, green pepper, broccoli and some baby carrots.

Chopped veggies

Look at all that color.

Noodles and veggies

After draining and rinsing the noodles, I moved them to a large bowl and began mixing in the chopped veggies and a can of sliced black olives.

Black olives

Then I set the salad aside and made the dressing.

Dressing ingredients

It was a simple mix of oil, vinegar and a dressing packet.

I whipped it up and poured it over the noodles and veggies and topped the whole thing with some Salad Supreme seasoning.

Pasta salad completed

If you're making this to eat the same day, you'll want to chill the salad for an hour or to before serving.

The pasta salad seemed to be pretty popular at the potluck because I didn't end up with a lot of leftovers.