Running Backwards — Part II

Welcome back to the world of the running!

I’m determined to stop having to start over every time I lace up my running shoes. So — just as any normal, sane, non-over analytical person would do — I’m looking back on my relationship with running to find out where we (me and running) got off track.

Disclaimer: This series of posts isn’t intended for any purpose other than to keep me from giving up, yet again. Because this serves as proof that through my running ups and downs, I am much less cranky when lace up on a regular basis.

Wondering what you’ve missed so far? Catch up on “Part I”!

I’m not sure what the bigger draw was for me — the actual running, or the fact that I COULD run and I WANTED to run. Almost more than I wanted to surf.

So as soon as I could comfortably knock out 5+ miles on the treadmill, I decided I was going to run outside. In public. On the boardwalk.

Half a mile later, I was toast.

Up until this point, all of my running had been done within the safety of the walls of my gym, on a softly humming contraption of plastic, rubber, and a digital display.

But I thought I was past the hard point. I was comfortably running 18+ miles each week at the gym. How could half a mile outside be so miserable?!

I didn’t get it.

My first summer of surfing

But what I did get was the joy and relief I felt at being in the water. After so many months of working my way back into running shape, I would be damned if I was going to have to start over just to run outside. Forget it. Instead I’d focus on my swimming, minimal surfing ability, heavy drinking talent, and soaking up every second of beach time as I could.

Circa 2007: Looks fun, right?!

Here we go again…

So I stopped running. For the first time.

It would take a few pounds and a fantastic gym buddy to get me to reconsider my abandonment of running.

But I did come around. Eventually.

And I started in a familiar spot. On a lone treadmill before heading into my kickboxing class.

Before long, I remembered how much I loved the soft hum of the treadmill and the rhythmic landing of my feet on the belt. I was coming back to life.

But no matter what my level of success was in the gym, the outdoor run still taunted me. So I avoided it at all costs. I didn’t want to lose my momentum again.

Gradually I completed my move from the city to the beach — with a brief stint in Brooklyn. Once living on the beach full-time, I realized maybe I could have it all. Surf whenever I wanted — or at least whenever I had the inclination to shove myself into a wetsuit. Swim whenever I wanted to get wet when there were no waves, and without having to haul my board down to the beach. Or run — or walk — whenever I wasn’t in the mood for either of the other options. But I had no treadmill to fall back on this time. I was on my own.

My new running path — who wouldn’t love this?!

And as could be expected, I lost my running mojo again. I would dabble in a run here and there. Mostly to beat away some random life annoyance. But it was nothing that would stick.

I’m not going to get my running legs back by sitting on the couch. Want to see where I’m at in my comeback? It’s all there on Dailymile.

Warning: it’s not pretty.

June Foodie Penpals

Great summertime treats!

Another month has come and gone — and with it another great round of Foodie Penpals! And it couldn’t have come at a better time, or with a better set of penpal partners. Being back home in the country is not exactly all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to my healthy eating plans — surprising, right?! Luckily this month I was set to receive my box of treats from Farrah of Fairy Healthy Life.

Not only is Farrah’s story amazing, but her love of running? Right up my reborn running self’s alley. I was pretty sure I could not only count on her for some yummy treats, but I was positive I’d end up with some useful, and healthy, pantry items as well.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love being right?! No? Well — I do. A lot.

Cooooooooookies!

Okay, I won’t lie. The first items I squealed over were the cookies. Farrah sent me two kinds — a package of fig cookies and a package of vanilla bean-green tea cookies. The first thing I thought was how PERFECT the fig cookies would be to shove down my throat at 4:45am, when I’m trying to get myself up and ready for a run. The second thought was how good the vanilla bean cookies would taste after said run. Again — I love being right!

Hot, spicy, and local — all great things in a Foodie Penpals box!

Next up were two spicy treats — a bottle of Cholula sauce and a package of dried chile peppers from a shop local to Farrah. Love, love, LOVE! I barely had these out of the box before I was thinking of ways to put them to good use. Farrah suggested using the peppers as a topping for soup — and I can definitely see that happening, at least once the temperature drops back below 80 degrees. In the meantime, they’ve been a perfect addition to steamed vegetables, marinades for fish and chicken, and even in omelets. And that Cholula? I can happily put that on just about everything.

From salad to dessert — a full meal right in the box!

I try not to play favorites when it comes to my monthly Foodie Penpals treats, but sometimes I just can’t help it. And this was one of those times. All three of these treats were huge winners for me — starting with the tabouleh mix. Once upon a time, in a land not so far away (the north side of Chicago, to be exact) I was introduced to this dish. And have been hooked ever since. So to have a box that I can make up on my own at home — that I don’t have to share? Sweet!

Next was the GoPicnic Ready-To-Eat Meal. I know, I know — what happened to my commitment to unprocessed foods? Well, when I’m working 6 to 7 days a week at a diner surrounded by fried potatoes, burgers, and danishes — I’ll take any reprieve I can get. And this made a perfect midday snack to hold me over between my morning smoothie (when I even remember) and dinnertime. I think I may need to keep a couple of these on stock for such emergencies.

And last, but definitely not least, was the sorbet — with Sicilian lemon juice. These adorable little cups came ready to be popped in my freezer before enjoying. And that’s exactly what I did. After I smuggled them away from my niece’s watchful eye. For some reason, she thought since there were two cups of sorbet she should be able to have one all to herself. I considered it for a minute. Luckily, her 6-year old attention span kicked in and before I knew it, she was licking my bowl of hummus clean. Small sacrifice, really.

And all it took was one late night run in 90 degree weather to make me extremely grateful she had forgotten about the magic cups of sorbet. Because I sure didn’t forget — shortly after wringing myself out from my run, I grabbed a sorbet and a fresh bottle of water and enjoyed every single bite. All to myself.

Thank you so much, Farrah, for such a great month of #FoodiePenpals!

Half of the fun of Foodie Penpals isn’t about what I get — it’s about what I get to send off to another person, and hoping they love their package as much as I loved mine.

Normally, I am sitting on the edge of my seat — waiting for the “yay” or “nay” verdict from the penpal to whom I sent a box. But not this month. I got to send my box to Shawn — a blog reader (for now…) — and quickly got the sweetest email response. What can I say? Spreading the #FoodiePenpals love makes me happy!

From Shawn…
“Thank you so much – you made my first FPP box fabulous! The assortment was perfect, especially the quinoa and the Tate cookies. Yum! And the bonus nonfood item was a great surprise. I’ve already put it to good use. But I especially appreciated the handwritten note talking about your selections and sharing your recipes. It made the connection so much more personal. My first experience has been great. I’m hooked and can’t wait for next month. Thanks Lena – you rock!”

A glimpse of the treats I sent off to Shawn!

Want to see what else I’ve gotten (and sent) over the past few months?

Want to join in the fun next month?
Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean organizes #FoodiePenpals, so in her word’s here’s what it’s all about!

  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe … use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
  • Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!

    ***If you’re in the UK, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at rocksalt@thisisrocksalt.com to get involved!

If you’re interested in participating for June, please send an email to Lindsay at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:

Your full name
Your email address
Your blog name/address
Your twitter handle (if applicable)
WHETHER YOU ARE A US RESIDENT OR CANADIAN RESIDENT. – this is SUPER important so she can get you on the right list!

** Lindsay will need to hear from you by July 4th as pairings will be emailed on July 5th! *

Breakfast Quinoa — Take I

Every kitchen-minded friend of mine has one or two key ingredients that they just can’t imagine surviving without — and I’m no different. Fresh garlic, olive oil, avocado, kale… Those are definitely some of my favorites, but there is one thing I am even more loyal to — and that’s quinoa.

I remember the first time I heard about quinoa. I was a newly recommitted Weight Watchers member (for possibly the 3rd or maybe 4th time) and I was on a mission to find some new-to-me healthy, whole grains that didn’t involve the words “brown” or “rice”. And after searching high and low, I finally came across a small package of this mysterious new ingredient. And it didn’t take me long to become attached, finding recipes to eat this for every meal — dinner, lunch, and even breakfast.

So when I heard about someone using quinoa in place of oatmeal, my interest was piqued. After some trial and error, I found success with this recipe. Fun fact? This recipe was even featured by FitSugar during their “Get Fit for 2010″ challenge — go me! And while that may have been well over 2 years ago, that recipe is still going strong in my kitchen.

This is also a great recipe to make ahead for a week full of healthy breakfasts. I usually whip up a batch of this on Sunday afternoons, so all I have to do is add my fruit of choice and the yogurt, or almond milk, before sitting down to breakfast.

Summertime Breakfast Quinoa

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and picked clean of any debris
1 cup water
1 cup juice, cider, or nectar — I prefer something fresh-squeezed, or a no sugar added variety
2 tbsp walnuts, chopped
2 tbsp chia seed
1 cup blueberries, rinsed
2 fresh plums, pitted and diced
2 cups of plain yogurt, or almond milk

Directions:

Bring the quinoa, water, and nectar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Let cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the quinoa cool completely. Carefully mix in the walnuts and chia seed and divide the mixture among 4 bowls.

Top each bowl with an equal amount of fruit and 1/2 cup of the yogurt or almond milk just before serving.

Additional Notes:
There are plenty of seasonal variations that work with this recipe as well — proving that something this good never goes out of style. Keep tuned here and I share a few more of my favorites over the next few months!

What is your favorite “go to” recipe that you enjoy all year-long?

Running Backwards — Part I

Welcome back to the world of the running!

Let me make one thing clear — I’m not a runner by nature, instead by influence and peer pressure (I’m looking at you Sara, Chanthana, Des, Heather, Shannon, Kate, Kevin, Sean, etc.). That being said, one of the best feelings I’ve ever known is stepping outside my door and taking off for a 3, 5, or even 8 mile run without any other thought, or care, in the world.

So why did I ever stop running? This is the question I’ve asked myself nonstop the last few months. And to get back to where I once was — and eventually move forward — I decided to take a look back at how I fell into running. Maybe then I can pinpoint where it — or I — fell apart.

And someday — when I get frustrated and miss a run or two — these posts will be here to remind me of exactly how far I’ve come and why I don’t really want to throw in the towel. Again.

Taking a look back…

Despite being on my high school’s track team — getting me to run any farther than 1 – 2 miles took the help of a higher power. Namely that of my throwing coach, Mr. Marchewka (aka “Chewk”) — who I swear stood 8 feet tall and at least 4 feet wide. Not the kind of guy you’d think to argue with — although that didn’t really stop me when it came time for our weekly team conditioning run. I’d rather spend my time running sprints, practicing jumps, working on my throws, in the weight room, even trying to nail down my hurdling — ANYTHING but a long run.

Loved my school — hated the workouts.
Photo: Crystal Lake-Cary Patch

And everything over 1 mile was something I considered a long run in those days.

Not surprisingly, my track days weren’t in my top 10 list of things I’d miss after I graduated. Heading off to a brand new fitness center at DePaul meant I could do whatever, whenever. Learn to play racquetball? Done. Start practicing yoga? Check. Kickboxing? Loved it. Club volleyball? But of course. Anything but lacing up my running shoes.

Fast forward a few years and a move to New York after my college graduation and I slowly got myself settled into a good routine — yoga, kickboxing, spin class, dance, circuit training. Nothing crazy — just consistent. But notice the one thing that doesn’t appear on that list? You got it. Running. I still wasn’t ready to go there.

And then one day it happened. See — the one thing I wanted more than anything was to surf. I’d been dreaming about surfing since I was a little girl growing up in the middle of a cornfield, as far removed from the ocean as you can be but with enough knowledge that it existed — somewhere — to make me want it. Bad. And here I was — finally, living on the coast with the ocean just a subway ride away.

All I ever wanted — at last.

And somehow — it was in my pursuit of living out my surfing dreams that I found my way back to running.

See — I had decided to restructure my regular training in order to best prepare for my upcoming summer on the beach and in the water. The biggest concern I had was my core. I even hired a personal trainer to get me through to Memorial Day weekend.

During our first session, my trainer asked me if there was anything I absolutely would not do. My response — “running”. No way, no how. She said okay and made a quick note on my evaluation forms.

But yet — just 3 short weeks later — I found myself on a treadmill going faster than 4 mph. Somehow, I had 15 minutes to warmup before my training session. There was more than one elliptical machine available, a couple of stairclimbers, as well as one or two stationary bikes open. But none of those seemed appealing. Instead, I walked over to the closest treadmill and started walking. A couple of minutes later, I decided I didn’t want to just walk and I turned up the speed. Just a light jog at first. And before I knew it, I was running full-out for at least 3 – 4 minutes before I noticed my trainer had arrived and was standing next to me. Laughing. I slowed myself down, stepped off the treadmill, and simply said “I don’t want to talk about it.” as we walked over to the mats.

A week later she asked me what changed, and I said I didn’t really know. I was bored and decided to give it a shot. And I enjoyed it.

Before long, I was heading out of work as fast as possible to snag a treadmill at the gym. And if I couldn’t, I’d rush home to claim one of the sad, outdated machines in my building’s “fitness center”. Anything to get my run in. Every mile I ran and every second I knocked off my any previous run made me feel just a little bit more alive.

And that was the start of my return to running. My first return to running, anyway.

Ready to run!

May Foodie Penpals

Every month I participate in Foodie Penpals, I feel like it just gets better and better. And this month was no exception. While I had done a good job at keeping my upcoming move under wraps, I had to wonder if I let something slip when I got this month’s box from Lizzie, of The Weekday Vegan. Filled with treats that are either perfect snacks for the long drive from Boston back to the midwest, or are perfect to share with my family once I get back.

More coffee!

My friends in Boston think I drink a lot of coffee — and I do — but they may be in shock at how much coffee we go through when I visit my family. Whether it’s a farm thing, or a Norwegian thing, I don’t know — but there is coffee brewing from early in the morning until late at night every day. So to have my very own stash of good coffee — from one of Lizzie’s favorite places in Charlottesville? A great thing to have on hand to kick off the next seven months.

Crunchy and chocolatey goodness — a perfect snack for a long drive

I have been on a wicked granola and nut crunch bender lately. Whether I’m snacking on it straight, or mixing it with some of my almond milk — not a day goes by that I’m not enjoying it in some way. And since I had procrastinated on everything else for my trip, making a fresh batch of my homemade granola was not going to happen. So I was ecstatic when I pulled out a big bag of Back to Nature Chocolate Delight Granola — a perfect snack for the long drive.

More treats!

Next up were more treats that I’m looking forward to taking with me on the road — including a bag of Pretzel Crisps and a chocolate bar. A perfect combo to satisfy both my salty and sweet tooth (tooths? teeth?) on the drive. The last thing I pulled out was a spicy “super-condiment” that is local to Lizzie.

Once upon a time, I couldn’t stand anything spicier than the mild salsa you can buy at any supermarket or gas station. But now, I am enjoying the heat more and more — I’m definitely looking forward to trying this out as a marinade when I get grilling privileges at my dad’s house. Although, that could take a while — so I may end up using it as a dip instead. Either way, I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

Thanks again, Lizzie for all the great treats! You really did a great job — and totally saved me from some horrendous rest stop vending choices along my drive!

The Foodie Penpals fun doesn’t just stop at what I got in my box of treats — I had just as much fun putting together the box I sent off to Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean, blogger extraordinaire and founder of #FoodiePenpals. Want to see what I sent her? Check out her reveal post!

I hope Lindsay enjoyed everything I sent as much as I enjoyed everything I got from Lizzie!

Want to see some of the other treats I’ve scored?

Want to join in the fun next month?
Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean organizes Foodie Penpals, so in her word’s here’s what it’s all about!

  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe … use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
  • Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!

    ***If you’re in the UK, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at rocksalt@thisisrocksalt.com to get involved!

If you’re interested in participating for June, please send an email to Lindsay at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:

Your full name
Your email address
Your blog name/address
Your twitter handle (if applicable)
WHETHER YOU ARE A US RESIDENT OR CANADIAN RESIDENT. – this is SUPER important so she can get you on the right list!

** Lindsay will need to hear from you by June 4th as pairings will be emailed on June 5th! *

%d bloggers like this: