stepping away from the sneakers.

Cooking isn’t the only thing that flew south over these past two months…

Running.

Running slowly but surely transitioned from a typical 15 mile week to a 10 mile week to a 6 mile week.  I became solely focused on afternoon walks and a twice weekly yoga session (kitty play time doesn’t count, even while I *am* the one who does most of the running.)

I did just enough to make me feel energized, healthy, fit.

Despite having my own personal hangups with taking a hiatus or a cut in mileage, I’m actually a really big supporter of resting.  Many trainers send their best runners into a hiatus during the holiday months, as a way for them to both physically and most importantly mentally take a break from the regime of running.

Anyone who loves running will tell you that a good run makes them feel on top of the world (the legendary “runner’s high.”)  But running can and does become exhausting.  It’s important to know yourself; to know when you need to step away.

 

Returning to running after a complete hiatus or a drastic cut in mileage doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world, by the way.

I’ll admit that my fitness level did deteriorate some, but not a lot.  I continued running, just not nearly as much, which kept me in the groove.  And while I’m not exactly ready to go out and run a marathon anytime soon, I can still keep a pretty steady pace for my typical 3-5 mile loop.  The body can retain its fitness. as long as it’s continuously moving along with some form of cardio.

If you find it difficult to rest, like I often do, it’s important not to lose sight of what fitness is really all about.  Health.  And sometimes being healthy means taking a step back, lowering the intensity of the workout, and just enjoying the very movement and strength that your body possesses.

Sometimes, it’s okay to say cut back, which in the end helps us to move forward.

Sometimes, resting is a very good thing.

QUESTION: Do you have a favorite “high intensity workout”?  Do you take regular breaks/hiatuses or do you stick with your regime?  

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active and shopping.

Yesterday’s workout:

5 mile run.

Today’s workout:

6 hours of retail therapy.

And for the life of me, I just can’t decide which I enjoy more. 😉

Today’s Steals and Deals:

H&M polka dot peasant blouse, $13

H&M Black and White Floral T, $10

The Loft’s green 4-inch shorts, $39.95

(thinking summer already :mrgreen: )

JCPenney Top, $18

I think I was following some sort of color scheme!

You can really get a lot of walking in during a full day of shopping.

And there’s lots to show for it at the end of the day.

What’s not to love about that? 😉

QUESTION: What activity have YOU been most enjoying lately?  I’ve really been getting back into a running groove, which I’m really excited about.  I’d also like to reintroduce the 100-day burpee challenge (and actually stick with it!)

Fitness Friday

I always tell people that I’m not competitive.

At all.

In fact, if someone is racing me up a hill (even in an actual race,) I simply let them pass.  There is absolutely no rise in my inner, deep-down, somewhere-hiding competitive spirit.

But then again.

This isn’t entirely true.

I am  competitive.

Just not with other people.

I’m competitive with me.  I want my fitness to continuously grow stronger each year.  I want to increase my strength.  Increase my endurance.

Last year, I ran my first half marathon.

I was practicing yoga twice a week, running on average 20 miles a week.

I was on.top.of.the.world.

Now?

Now I’m just getting back into the groove after a lay off due to injuries.

And honestly, it’s not easy seeing a weaker version of myself out on the roads.  My speed has dropped.  I’m heaving on hills.  During yoga, I enter child’s pose more often than I care to admit.

(I imagine this must be what the competitive person feels when their arch nemesis beats them by a mile. 😉 )

Fast forward to this morning.

I was out for a testy 6-mile run, something I haven’t done before achilles tendonitis flared its ugly head.

I started to warm up.

I felt slow but I felt good.  And mile after mile, none of that other seemingly silly self-competitive stuff seemed to matter.

My shoulders relaxed.

Tension escaped with one strong, windy breeze.

The sand crunched like glass beneath my feet.

I could almost taste the fragrant smells of pine and dirt and rainy day puddles.

The world appeared to be asleep.

But I wasn’t.  Not today.

It was one step.  One step at a time.

I was becoming the very best of me.

Polenta Casserole with Winter Squash and Greens–modified from a Moosewood Restaurant’s Cooking For Health Cookbook

After a run or a tough workout, it’s nice to fill up with something warm, satisfying, and deeply nutritious.

I have been completely sold on the casserole bandwagon lately.  I like that once all the prep work is done, I have time to clean up, do dishes and set the table while dinner just cooks itself.  The prep work takes some time, but the recipe is worth the effort now and then.

I used kabocha squash for this recipe, but feel free to use butternut, acorn or another form of winter squash.  Also feel free to use whatever green you have on hand in place of the kale and/or another favorite type of cheese in place of cheddar.  Enjoy!

Polenta Layer

  • 2-1/3 cups water
  • 2/3 cup whole grain cornmeal (not instant polenta)
  • 2 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Greens Layer
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium/large bunches of stemmed and chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup water
Squash Layer
  • 1-1/2 cups mashed winter squash (about 6 cups of cubed squash that has been steamed will create this)
  • 1 egg
  • pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  1. For the polenta layer: Bring the water to a boil in a heavy saucepan and whisk in cornmeal.  Add tomatoes, thyme, basil and salt to taste.  Cook on low heat, stirring frequently until the polenta is thick and creamy, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cheese.  Pour into an 8-inch square baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. For the greens layer: In a medium pot, cook garlic in oil over medium heat for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add greens and water.  Cover, cook, stirring occasionally until greens are tender, about 10 minutes.  Salt to taste.  Spread greens over polenta.
  3. For the squash layer: In a bowl, stir together the squash, egg, pepper and half the cheese.  Spread the squash mixture over the greens and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
  4. In a preheated 350 oven, bake covered for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.  Enjoy!!

QUESTION: Are you a competitive person?  In what ways? 

tofu kale lasagna.

This is Part 27 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

I hope you’re not a lasagna purist.

I hope this doesn’t look too much like cheating.

(insert embarrassed face here –> ______)

I hope you don’t mind the thought of tofu in lasagna.

Or kale, for that matter.

I hope you’re not a lasagna purist.

Because we all went back for seconds.

And I bet you will you too.

Tofu Kale Lasagna–modified from the Clean Eating Cookbook
(Serves 8) 

Shhh…don’t tell anyone the secret ingredient!!

Eating soy in its most basic forms of soy beans, tofu, tempeh, edamame, etc. can be a very healthy addition to your diet.  It has as much complete protein as meat and is a good source of those healthy omega-3′ fats  that our bodies need.  In addition, soy may help lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension and it may also help to reduce cholesterol.

I modified this recipe from the original by using whole wheat noodles, decreasing the amount of oil, and subbing in silken tofu for the firm tofu and rice wine vinegar for the mirin.  Feel free to make your own changes based on what you have on hand!  Enjoy!

  • 5-7 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles (such as Hodgson Mills)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8-oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 pounds silken tofu
  • 2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 bunches kale, finely chopped
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 5 cups tomato sauce
  • 1-3/4 cups reduced fat mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375.  In a small bowl, soak sun-dried tomatoes in enough hot water to cover.  When soft, drain, chop and set aside.  Cook lasagna noodles until just soft.  Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, saute garlic and onions until soft.  Add mushrooms; saute 3 minutes.  Add tofu, rice wine vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and parsley; saute 5 minutes.  Fold in kale, cover, and cook 3 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
  3. Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce over bottom of 9×12 inch lasagna pan.  Place single layer of noodles over sauce and cover with half the kale mixture.  Cover with 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese.  Cover with another layer of noodles and remaining kale and tofu.  Add 1-1/2 cups sauce, 1/2 cup cheese and final layer of noodles, 1/2 cup sauce and remaining cheese.  Cover tightly with foil and bake 35 minutes.  Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes before serving.

QUESTION: Do you eat soy-based products?  What are some of your favorites?

happy, healthy bones.

This is Part 22 of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

Five little ways to keep your bones big and healthy…

1. Monitor your Vitamin D status.

Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to many various health issues and is strongly linked to osteoporosis and less than favorable bone health.

Vitamin D is found only through the sun, supplements or (minimally) through our diet in fatty fish (i.e., salmon) and certain mushrooms.  However, since direct sun contact is discouraged for skin care reasons and since many of us are bundled up during the winter months anyways, supplementation is the answer for most.

I take a daily supplement of 1000 IU’s Vitamin D, which is well above the recommended 400 IU’s.  Some people need more than this, if they are already deficient.  Ask your doctor to get checked and consider taking a daily supplement.

2. Eat the right amount (and types) of protein.

Studies have routinely shown that protein protects bone health.  If we get too little protein, our bones lose their strength which puts us at increased risk for fractures.

However, on the flip side, too much protein can increase how much calcium we excrete through our urine.  This is especially true when we eat high amounts of meat protein, which further increases how much calcium we lose.  For example, studies show an increase in the risks of hip fractures when we eat excessive amounts of animal-based protein.

Eating plenty of plant based protein in the form of beans, vegetables, nuts and seeds, on the other hand, has a protective effect!

3. Exercise.

Yoga.  Walking.  Hiking.  Running.  Resistance training.  Weight training.

All of the above (and more) have protective effects for your bones!  Just be sure to fuel well and to increase how much you’re eating if you start unnecessarily losing weight.  Being too thin is harmful for your bones.

4. Eat your fruits and vegetables.

Just like eating a moderate amount of mostly plant based proteins has a protective effect for your bones, so do fruits and veggies!

(Only too much is hardly ever a bad thing in this situation. 😉 )

Fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals that our bodies need for optimum bone health.  It’s not just about calcium, after all!  Magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K are all important in keeping our bones strong and healthy.

5. Watch the sodium.

A reduction in sodium is routinely recommended for people suffering with high blood pressure.

But it’s important for each and every one of us to moderate how much sodium we’re eating, for reasons other than blood pressure.  High sodium intake can promote high calcium output in our urine.  Not a good thing!  Try cutting back how much salt you add to recipes and try to choose foods with lower amounts of sodium in them.  Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, start cooking with herbs and nix the salt when you don’t need it!


putting on my running shoes.

It’s been almost a month since that running injury.  Meanwhile, I’ve been doing little bouts of running in between my daily walks, along with two yoga sessions a week.

I figured it was about time to test the waters, so I set out for a slow little jaunt.

First thought: “This is ridiculously hard.”

It was hard to enjoy the run when I was so focused on trying to gauge how my heel was feeling.  And apparently (as the huffing and puffing clued me in) the walking hasn’t kept me quite at the same running peak which I was at a month ago.

This made me feel frustrated.

Running has been a pretty consistent part of my life for 8 years.  It clears my head, keeps me focused, reminds me to slow down.  Enjoy the moment.  So when I lack the feeling of strength that comes from running, I feel slightly unglued.  Like something just isn’t right.

Second thought: “I’m running.  I’m breathing hard.  I’m really slow.  BUT!  I’m running.”

The first run that takes place, after taking some time off, is always the toughest.  But as I’ve learned from past experiences, it doesn’t take long to get back into it.  I’m just going to take things slow and let my body tell me when to back off.  My heel felt pretty good, but I don’t want to jinx myself by getting re-injured!

Slow and steady, Sarah.  Slow and steady.

When I came back from the run, it was time to hit Whole Foods.  Mom and I were on a quest to find the perfect piece of meat for Christmas.  I think we’re both feeling ambitious this year. 😉

Two women with a very important mission. 😉

Anyways, we found a nice top sirloin roast.  Which, thankfully, mom will be in charge of, come Christmas Eve.  I don’t touch expensive cuts of meat.  Too much pressure. 😉

Lunch came from the salad bar and bread department…

Spinach

Lentils

Shredded Beats

Edamame

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Vinegar and Oil Butter Beans

Sesame Tofu

Roasted Chicken

Seaweed Salad

And a whole wheat cinnamon raisin bagel.

Mmm.  The simple joy that’s found in the variety of a salad bar. 😉

A tall peppermint mocha soy latte became my drink of choice for the drive home.  (I may be slightly addicted.)

Off to decorate the Christmas tree while drinking some hot cocoa!

And.

Off to make some cheesy noodles with spinach.

Stay tuned for the quick and easy recipe to come!!

QUESTION: Have you ever taken a running (or other exercise) hiatus?  For how long?  How did you feel returning?

A Hike in the Whites.

Thank you all so very much for the Happy Birthday wishes!!  You guys are the absolute greatest. 😀

Yesterday’s hike turned out more than fabulous.

It was one of those perfect New England fall days.

The morning air was crisp and cool, softened lightly with summer’s lingering warm breeze and sun.  There were leaves zig-zagging across the air with a comical sort of ease.  There were silent morning bikers, fellow hikers with their big goofy dogs, and the smells of pine and dirt and leaves.

Instantly, I felt peace.  Instantly, I felt home.

One of my life goals is to achieve and conquer each of the forty eight 4,000ft. mountains of NH.  It feels a little overwhelming, a little out of reach, but both my Dad and my brother have accomplished it, so I’m determined that I can to.

(My brother also completed the Appalachian Trail, which I’ll forever be in awe of!)

Climbing Mt. Cannon has made this the 11th.  A long ways to go, but I’m enjoying each step of progression.  The views at the top were absolutely breathtaking, and I’m so glad that I could enjoy such a fabulous birthday experience with the family. 😀

The hike was a toughy (i.e., very steep!) but the views completely made it worthwhile. 😀

When we made it down to the base of the mountain, we were all starving for food, and so we hit the local pizza shop.  Nothing beats a salty slice of pizza and an all-you-can-eat fresh salad buffet after a long day of hiking. 😉

My 24th birthday was unbelievably delicious and fun.

Yes.  The absolute, most very best.

QUESTION: Favorite autumn activity?