Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Save on deliciousness!

GU Energy Peanut Butter 8pack Promo
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A little inspiration

 I AM A RUNNER because I run. Not because I run fast. Not because I run far. I AM A RUNNER because I say I am. And no one can tell me I'm not.

John Bingham, author and runner

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Yum yum!

After my post on nutrition, I heard from some folks that it would be nice to have a few recipes that fit along with my preaching, er...advising.  Here are a handful of easier recipes that I really enjoy and make often. Sorry I wasn't able to include pictures. 
Please share your favorite recipes in the comments.

Almond crust
This is a delicious alternative to any flour or grain based crusts. I use it for pizza and quiches.
2 cups almond meal/flour
2 eggs
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. You can add herbs like rosemary or basil for a more savory crust or honey for a sweeter crust. The mix will be wet and sticky. Plop the mixture onto a non-stick cookie sheet or glass pie plate. Spread the mixture out with a spoon or your fingers to your desired thickness. This is a lot easier if you coat your fingers or the spoon with olive oil.  Baked at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until it turns golden on the edges. You can then top or fill the crust as you’d like and bake again to cook toppings, melt cheese, etc.

Kale chips
A batch of these never last very long around my house! They are so tasty and highly addictive.
1 bunch of kale (I find traditional leafy green kale works best)
Olive oil
Nutritional yeast

Wash your kale thoroughly. Remove the stems and chop the leaves into bite size pieces. In a bowl, toss the kale leaves with olive oil, salt, and nutritional yeast to give the leaves a nice even coating. Lay the leaves out on a non-stick cookie sheet and cook at your lowest oven temperature until the leaves are crispy….this could take several hours. Alternatively, you can do this in a food dehydrator, which is what I do. You can also cook them at a higher temperature in the oven so they will cook faster, but I don’t think they turn out as well. You can also experiment with different flavors. I like the nutritional yeast because it gives them a “cheesy” tatse.

Quinoa Tabouli Salad
A twist on the classic salad, using healthier quinoa rather than barley.
1 ½ cups soaked and cooked quinoa
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup olive oil
1 cup parsley, chopped
½ cup scallion, chopped
½ cup tomato, diced
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in bowl and serve at room temperature.

Shrimp tacos
If you’re not lucky enough to have a supply of local shrimp, you can easily make these with chicken or scallops.
12-15 shrimp (peeled and deveined)
½ cup olive oil
1 tsbp chipotle powder (vary depending on how hot you like it)
¼ cup lime juice
 1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. salt
Dash of hot sauce
1 onion – sliced
1 red pepper – sliced
Feta cheese
Sprouted grain or sprouted corn tortillas

Combine olive oil, chipotle powder, lime juice, cumin, salt and hot sauce in a bowl. Add shrimp and set aside for at least 20 minutes, but no more than an hour. While the shrimp are marinating, caramelize the onions by cooking them over low heat in olive oil or coconut oil. This will take a while, but it’s worth it and you’re waiting for the shrimp to marinate anyway. When the onions are done (or very nearly so), add the red peppers and let them cook for about 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook until they are no longer translucent, which shouldn’t be more than a couple of minutes. Serve in tortillas with feta cheese.

Double Sesame Bok Choy
You can use other greens, like kale or chard, easily in this recipe. This is good one to try with greens you get in your CSA box and don’t know what to do with them.
1 large head Bok Choy
2 teaspoons light sesame or olive oil
2 teaspoons toasted (dark) sesame oil, or to taste
2 teaspoons tamari
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (optional)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Wash bok choy and cut the leaves away from the stalks.  Cut stalks into 1/3- to ½-inch pieces and set aside.
Place leaves one on top of the other, roll up, and slice into ½-inch strips.  Cut in half if they are too long.  Set aside.
Heat a large wok or pan over high heat.  Add the oil and swirl to coat sides.  Do not burn the oil.  Add the sliced leaf stalks and leaves and stir-fry over high heat to coat with the oil.  Cover for about 30 seconds to create some steam.  Check greens and stir-fry until bright green and crisp tender, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon water, if necessary, to prevent sticking.
When greens are done, season with the toasted sesame oil, tamari, and rice vinegar, if using.  Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

“Reese’s Cup”
4 oz plain full fat yogurt
1 tbsp nut butter
1 tbsp dark chocolate pieces or cocoa mix
Stir everything together until smooth and creamy. Freeze for added deliciousness.

Almond sauce
You can use this sauce on just about anything…chicken, fish or red meat.
¼ cup creamy almond butter
2 tsp honey
2 tsp  tamari
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp grated ginger
½ cup coconut milk
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Cook until thickens – about 5 minutes.

Thai red curry
This is a super easy thai curry that can be made with the protein of your choice.
1 can coconut milk (don't think you're doing yourself a favor by getting the "lite" stuff...blech)
1 tbsp honey – to start
2 tsp red curry paste – to start
2 tbsp fish sauce – to start
Veggies - cut into bite size pieces (red pepper or broccoli are particularly good choices)
Fresh basil  - chopped

In a wok or frying pan, mix together coconut milk, honey, curry and fish sauce. Stir until the curry paste is completely blended. At this point you will want to taste your sauce to determine if it’s the right mix of sweet, salty and spicy. Add more of what you feel is lacking. I feel like every time I make this, my ratios are different, so go with what tastes best to you on that day! When you’ve reached the perfect flavor combination, let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes to allow it to thicken slightly.  Add protein and cook it through, adding your vegetables when you have about 5 minutes remaining. Serve over your favorite sprouted grain. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Training weeks 5 - 8

Can you believe we are in week 5 already? Did you run a 5K or do a 3 mile time trial last week? How did it feel?
Here are the next four weeks of the beginner half marathon plan. It continues to follow the same structure as the previous four weeks with four runs per week including a long run on the weekend.  Your long run will reach 9 miles. If you are new to running, this will probably feel like quite an accomplishment…and it should! 

Questions? Comments? Let's hear it!

Since all of the Run the Rock courses are hilly (except the 5K), it is a very good idea to incorporate some hills into your runs regardless of which race you are aiming for. Even better, would be run some of the course itself. 

As your long runs getting longer, recovery and rest become more important. Savor and respect a full day of rest after your weekly long run.  Also use your long runs to practice your nutritional plan for race day. I will cover some tips and techniques for recovery in post soon.  
In the mean time...run for our lives!


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Training and race day nutrition

As with my previous post on general nutrition, the subject of training and racing nutrition is highly controversial. Drink a lot, don't drink, drink to thirst. Eat gels, don't eat gels, don't eat at all.  Eat fat, eat carbs, eat children. There are more theories and strategies than there are products it seems.

With that in mind, I am going to outline here are the current, mostly widely accepted approaches to this subject. They work for most people, most of the time. But everyone is different and not every plan is perfect for every person. I encourage you to experiment during your long runs to see what works for you in terms of sustaining energy and keeping the G.I. demons away. 

How much to drink is arguably the most controversial issues at present. There is constant debate on avoiding dehydration versus preventing hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is when you consume too much water in relation to electrolytes (namely sodium). It is a serious condition and becoming more and more prevalent.  Part of the reason for this is that, historically, recommendations for water intake during activities were based on giant football players exercising in the 90 degree heat of Florida. Clearly, those recommendations are not going to apply to very many people. There are all kinds of formulas out there designed to determine how much you should drink and there are tests to determine how much fluid you are losing, but they are generally not necessary if you follow one simple rule: If you are exercising for over an hour, drink to thirst. That's it. So clean and simple. Bring a water bottle along with you and sip as you feel you need it.  Fuel Belt and Nathan make great on the run hydration products. Oh, it's also a good idea to drink 6-8 oz of water about 15-30 minutes before you head out. 

First and foremost, you don't need to worry about fueling any workouts less than 90 minutes. Anything less than 90 minutes, you should have enough fuel onboard (in the form of stored carbohydrates) to carry you through these efforts. Greater than 90 minutes, you need to give yourself 30-45 grams of carbohydrate per hour. To put this in perspective, most energy gels have 25 - 30 grams of carbohydrate in them or 100 calories.  This number can vary somewhat on how hard you are working and your weight. Experiment with what works best for you; it's best to start with too much and work your way down. The number one sign that you've taken in more than you can handle is gastric distress (bloating, gas, diarrhea, etc.).

This is all the fuel I brought with me for my Ironman race last fall.
I didn't use it all, but I was ready for anything!
As far as what to use to get those calories in, this really is a personal preference. Generally speaking, folks tend to handle liquid calories (i.e. gels or carbohydrate drinks) better than solid food due to the lack of blood flow to your gut during exercise.  There are many, many brands and options to choose from. Again, practice and find what works best for you. Don't forget that taste is a big factor to consider. If you don't like what you are using, you will like it even less when you are pushing hard on race day.

For what it's worth, I like GU and First Endurance products. I find that my body handles these well and I like the flavors they offer (Hello Peanut Butter GU!!!). Another big bonus is that these products include amino acids in their blends. Amino acids help protect your muscles against damage and aid in helping you go longer more comfortably. Also, the primary sugar in these is malodextrin...which is actually complex sugar that acts like a simple sugar because of weaker bonds.

I've really only just skimmed the surface of yet another confusing and controversial topic. The take home message is to practice, practice, practice!

Run for your lives,

Links of interest:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Up and over

Given the hilly nature of the Run The Rock race courses, I thought this article from Runner's World was particularly relevant.

On the Up Side

Simple adjustments make hill running more enjoyable.By Jeff GallowayImage by Adam Hester /Getty ImagesFrom the September 2012 issue of Runner's World 
On the Up Side
Nothing builds running strength better than hills. Running inclines forces your muscles to work harder with each step; as you grow stronger, your stride becomes more efficient and your overall speed improves. Despite the benefits, many newcomers (and old-timers) avoid hills–after all, defying gravity can be physically and mentally uncomfortable. But simple form adjustments and a go-slow approach can reduce the challenges and boost your fitness.

Maintain good form-> As you ascend, shorten your stride and keep your feet low to the ground. Try to keep your head, chest, and hips perpendicular to an imaginary horizontal line. On descents, take short, quick, light steps and keep your center of gravity over your legs.

Start easy-> For your first hill workout, jog for 10 minutes to warm up, then walk for two minutes. From the bottom of a gentle incline, run up at an easy pace for five seconds, then walk back to the starting point. Run up again for seven seconds. Walk down. Run for 10 seconds, then walk down. If you're feeling strong, repeat the sequence. Cool down with a 15-minute jog.

Progress slowly-> Do the Start Easy workout several times, then ramp it up. Perform 2 x 10 seconds–run up for 10 seconds, then walk down and repeat. Then do 2 x 15, followed by 2 x 20. On your next hill workout, repeat the sequence twice and finish with a 30-second run.

Stick with it-> Schedule a hill run every seven to 14 days. As you get stronger, add time to your segments and/or add an additional hill until you're running 10 inclines. If you're training for a hilly race, try to mimic in your workouts the types of hills you'll encounter in your race. When motivation lags, run hills with a buddy and take turns leading the upward charge.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

You are what you eat

I hesitated to even write a post on nutrition. Nutrition is such a dynamic and hot button issue that even broaching the subject is opening a huge can of worms and endangering me to a fate of tar and feathers. And yet, I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to stress that I am not a nutritionist (though I’m working towards it) and everything I go on about in this post is based on my own research, reading and experience.

Everyone knows we should eat a well balanced diet. A healthy diet supplies the body with the nutrients it needs to support basic energy requirements, maintain an optimal level of fitness and prevent chronic disease.   A good, healthy diet should be made up primarily of real, whole foods and very limited amounts of highly processed and packaged foods.  It’s also important to keep in mind that when you are training for an endurance event, like a half or full marathon, what you eat is going to have a significant influence on how you feel, perform and recover.

Daily diets, and the calories you eat, come from three main sources of macronutrients; carbohydrates, protein and fats.

Carbohydrates (60% of calories, 1 gram = 4 calories) - The majority of daily calories should come from carbohydrates, as the body burns carbs at its primary fuel source. Carbs come in two forms, simple (sugars) and complex (starches).  In general, consumption of simple carbs should be avoided.  We all know that sugar (including white sugar, brown sugar, “raw” sugar, and high fructose corn syrup) and processed (white) flours are actually made up of pure evil.  It’s true; I’ve been to the factory. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit and milk, can be eaten but should be kept to a minimum in favor of more complex sources of carbs. Complex carbs include breads, grains and vegetable starches.  A lot of grain sources of carbs have been vilified in recent years (primarily wheat due to its massive commercialization and the issue of gluten sensitivities). I’m not going to get into that debate here, but I will tell you that in my own diet I try to avoid wheat and only eat grains (1 to 2 servings a day), such as quinoa, amaranth and millet, that have been sprouted or soaked. Soaking grains (and beans and nuts) makes them easier to digest and makes their nutrients more bioavailable.  Personally, I try to get most of my complex carbs from other sources, such as sweet potatoes and squash.

How much do you hate me right now?  Well, I’m afraid I have some more bad news. Beer is not a quality source of carbohydrates. I’m sorry. I really am. The good news is there is a whole variety of “free carbohydrates” that you can eat to your heart’s content. Guess what they are?! Vegetables! More specifically vegetables with a high water content, including tomatoes, cucumber, broccoli, kale, spinach, mushrooms, cabbage, carrots… This really makes up for that beer thing, doesn’t it?

Protein (15% of calories, 1 gram = 4 calories) -  Most meat eaters exceed their daily need for protein quite significantly.  We really only need 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight per day. That’s much less protein than most people think. Still it’s important to include a bit of quality protein in every meal or snack you eat. Good sources of animal protein come from pork, beef and chicken. Of course in Alaska, we have one of the best sources of high quality protein in the fish we catch in our backyards, salmon in particular. Eggs and yogurt can also be used to meet protein needs. Of course, it should go without saying that all of these are made much more healthful if they come from organic, pasture-raised/grass fed sources. Nuts, nut butters and beans can are also good and tasty sources of protein.  Beans and nuts are made more healthful by soaking as with grains.

Fat (25%, 1 gram = 9 calories) – I’ve been called a fat Nazi on more than one occasion. But I am no such thing. Perhaps a more appropriate name would be fat snob or fat elitist. I love fat. I need fat. Fat is our friend and is sorely misunderstand. Let’s all take a moment to feel sorry for fat.
As you may have guessed, like carbs and protein, there are good sources of fat and not so good sources. Contrary to what most believe, fat from animal sources (provided they are grass-fed/pasture raised sources…blah, blah, blah) are actually GOOD for you.  Guess what else is? BUTTER (again with the high quality caveats)! Yay….I’m finally winning some friends. Other great sources of fat come from nuts, olive oil, avocados, flax seeds, chia seeds, and coconut oil. Fats to AVOID are pretty much all polyunsaturated oils (corn, vegetable, sunflower, safflower) and margarine. Cooking in butter, coconut oil or olive oil is a much healthier strategy than using margarine or canola oil. FYI… margarine is made in the same factory as sugar and white flour so it too as a healthy dose of pure evil.

Hopefully I haven’t confused or irritated anyone too much. Nutrition can be quite overwhelming and its seeming complexity can often turn people away from trying to learn more about it or follow a healthy lifestyle.  Start small and don’t try to tackle it all at once. And remember…we all have our vices and NOONE is perfect. Just ask me about my Diet Dr. Pepper addiction. A good approach to all of this is to follow the 80/20 rule. Eat whole, natural and nutritionally dense foods 80% of the time and allow yourself to “splurge” the other 20% and you’ll still come out healthier without losing your mind or your friends.  

I’ve only just touched the surface and I encourage you to check out these sites for more information:

As if I haven’t gotten myself in deep enough, I will cover training and race day nutrition in my next main post. Heaven help me.

Run for your lives,

P.S. I hope you are all enjoying the blog thus far.  If you are, I humbly request your support in my endeavor to raise funds on behalf of Team Continuum. Team Continuum, or Team Can, is a non-profit organization that helps cancer patients and their families cope with the expenses and stressed of everyday life.  I am running with Team Can at the New York City Marathon on November 4th and would be most grateful for any support.