A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Friday Favorites: Gotta love a short week!

These short work weeks always throw me off a bit. My brain hasn’t quite caught up to the fact that it is already Friday, but believe me I’m not going to complain about it! There’s something nice about Friday even when you’re working for the weekend (which I will be).

That little blue blob in the front of the dancing girls would be my kid. :)

That little blue blob in the front of the dancing girls would be my kid. ๐Ÿ™‚

My first favorite I’ve got to share is my favorite moment of the week. After O’s run (more on that here) at Boys Town this weekend, he and Darrell went into the gym to watch the dancing groups while I watched a friend’s daughter finish the one mile run. I came back to find them before I headed out for the 5 miler and they weren’t where I’d left them. Eventually I realized that the reason I couldn’t find them was because I was looking in the audience, not out on the dance floor! They apparently invited any kids who wanted to dance to come up and join the girls on the floor. O was definitely the most enthusiastic kiddo out there, trying to imitate the clogging moves the girls had been doing. It was hilarious! My favorite part was when some other women watching told me that “that little boy just got his cast off and already ran the race this morning – isn’t he cute” and I had to explain that he was mine. ๐Ÿ™‚ You just never know what kind of things will happen when you leave Dad in charge for 5 minutes.

I think because I’m spending this week thinking about what I want to do with my diet in order to really get to a happier place, I found myself tagging a lot of things to re-read this week that focused on keeping that mental balance. I read a couple of things I loved this week about framing things in a more positive light when it comes to our relationship with food, fitness and ourselves. I really appreciate that Laura incorporates a realistic look at positive language and the importance of mindset on overall health in all of her writing and have linked to her posts on this topic here before. This week, she wrote about using positive language to motivate change (here) and I absolutely agree that her rephrasing of that “A year from now you’ll wish you had started today” is more positive. I’ve always hated that quote because while I can see where it can be motivating for some people, really for me it reads like “great, one more thing to beat myself up about.” It’s important to think about what words really feel empowering for you or what words are triggering for you. We all bring our own perspective to things, so my “good” words may be different than yours. Recognizing those things about yourself will help you recognize why you feel out of whack sometimes after reading fitness magazines or Pinterest or Instagram or anywhere you run across these (like those annoying motivating gym posters!). Similarly, this post with comics reframing common fitspo images is interesting. As someone who has been contemplating that cycle of exercising to earn calories and how it might not be the most functional, I found the first one about the cookie particularly interesting! Of course, limiting it to just one cookie is the hard part. ๐Ÿ™‚

Taking a step back to look at the big picture, whether it is to keep a cookie in perspective or to react to a bad race or a bad weigh in or whatever else, is so crucial to finding that mental balance that is so helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Jennifer wrote a wonderful post over at Running on Lentils about appreciating the journey, when unexpectedly harsh weather left her with a goal race outcome that wasn’t what her stellar training cycle had set her up for. It is such a great read, especially if you’re struggling with the same issues. I know it was a great moment of perspective for me, coming out of the Lincoln Half Marathon where I didn’t meet my time goals for the day. One of the things I really love about the blog-o-sphere is that we get to hear from so many great, honest voices who are struggling with and triumphing over many of the same issues we all face. The breadth of experience and conversation that is out there is so helpful, for me at least, in feeling like the things I’m mentally wrangling with are common themes for so many of us. Just knowing we aren’t alone is so validating and hearing from lots of perspectives and strategies for dealing with these things can be really practically useful!

Any big plans for anyone? I hope all of you down South are staying safe and as dry as you can with all of the rain and flooding! We don’t have any big plans since I’m working, but sometimes weekends with nothing on the schedule are the best kind. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Boys Town Memorial Days Runs 2015

This weekend Oliver and I again took on the races at Boys Town for Memorial Day. It is a great family friendly race event and I highly recommend it if youโ€™re in Omaha for the holiday weekend.

Warming up before the race

Warming up before the race

Weโ€™ll start with Oliverโ€™s race. As you guys know, Oliver broke his leg at the beginning of April. He got his cast off in the first week of May and weโ€™ve been watching his walking and running gradually get better over time since then but it is slow. We didnโ€™t decide until the week of the race that he would really run this little 400 meter run. He loved it last year and has been looking forward to it this year as well. He still has an awkward gait, with his leg really externally rotated and not bending completely normally. The orthopedists warned as that this would continue for the rest of the summer. Despite that, heโ€™s been getting stronger and faster every day and was excited to run, so we decided to let him try it.

He told he needed a hat for running because they were cool.

He told me he needed a hat for running because they were cool.

He was really excited and took off really quickly at the start-fast enough that I was caught off guard and had to weave through a bunch of kids to catch him. After 100 m or so, he started to slow down and got passed by a lot of people which frustrated him.

A quick start!

A quick start!

He got up on the sidewalk to walk and then he said he wanted to sit down. I convinced him to keep walking for another 100m or so and then he wanted me to carry him for a bit. I certainly didn’t want to push things, so I picked him up and we walked the course together for a bit.

Pooped and taking a break :(

Pooped and taking a break ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

We approached the corner where the course proceeded to the finish line and I asked if he wanted to run again. We were very near the back of the pack (and may have actually been last) so all of the people on the street just had him to focus on, which was cool. People were calling out his number and as I told him that those people were cheering for him got this super determined little look on his face. His leg is still wonky and he slowed the longer he ran, but Iโ€™m so proud of him for sticking with it.

Coming down the finish line all alone - what a tough guy!

Coming down the finish line all alone – what a tough guy!

He was excited to get his ribbon and sunglasses and bottle of water (the bottle of water was the most exciting).

I think we'll get a lot more use out of the sunglasses than last year's frisbee. The ribbon is already on deck to be taken to show and tell tomorrow!

I think we’ll get a lot more use out of the sunglasses than last year’s frisbee. The ribbon is already on deck to be taken to show and tell tomorrow!

Itโ€™s really a great little run and the crowd support was wonderful. After the race, Darrell & Oliver went off to watch the dancers, play with clowns and meet Batman while I went off to run my 5 mile run. There was definitely a lot of stuff to keep my guys busy while I ran.

Meeting Anna and Elsa kept them busy, along with Batman and dancers and lots of other things. They didn't actually see me run at all!

Meeting Anna and Elsa kept them busy, along with Batman and dancers and lots of other things. They didn’t actually see me run at all!

I had no real goals for the race other than finishing in around an hour, running all of the downhills and running at least half of each uphill. It sprinkled on us off and on and between the humidity and the hilly course, I had no plans to push anything. This is going to be a month of EASY running for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

The course is hilly, but nicely tree lined and with some good scenery.

The course is hilly, but nicely tree lined and with some good scenery.

I enjoyed seeing all of the families running and the many glimpses of the spectators (the course loops near the central hub of the campus several times so it is easy to move around to see your runner several times). The volunteers were also really friendly and enthusiastic with their cow bells. All in all, it was a good run.ย  I didnโ€™t have my Garmin, so I don’t know any splits but it felt like a steady effort. I confess did kick it in a bit in the finishing stretch, A) remembering O’s great effort and B) the older guy just in front of me kicked it up at the end and I decided did need to pass him. My finishing time was 57:49, definitely less than my goal of an hour even if it didn’t beat last year’s time. We’re definitely going to keep this on our family race calendar. It’s a great way to spend the morning and supports a good cause, so it’s a win-win. Eventually, O will even grow into his race t-shirts he’s gotten for this event the last two years.

Do you run races with your kids (human or fur)? My races with O are such a treat! He got to dance out on the gym floor while I was running and as much as he lovedย  that, he says he liked the running best, which warms my little Mother Runner heart. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Weight Loss Wednesday: 6 month update with My Fitness Pal

I’m 6 months into my experiment with My Fitness Pal (see why I made the switch from Weight Watchers here) and it seems like a good time to stop and reassess things. At this point in the weight loss game, I’m patient enough to know that I have to look back at several months before I can decide how well something is working for me or not because things just don’t shift as quickly for me here in the last ten pounds end of the spectrum as they did in the first hundred pounds. I made the switch the MFP because I was watching my weight creep up and up and up on Weight Watchers. Perhaps not surprisingly, that really hasn’t been any different on MFP. I’ve drifted up and down in the 170s but haven’t made any real progress back to the 160s where I’d like to be (176.7 this morning). Counting calories definitely isn’t working any better for me in terms of losing these extra pounds to get down to the 160s again.

The bigger concern I have is the other thing I was worried about when I made the switch to MFP. With calorie counting, 150 calories is 150 calories whether it comes from a cookie or a sweet potato, no matter how nutritionally different they may be. I’ve found myself, the further I get into calorie counting, drifting further and further into those empty calorie choices or eating a huge night time snack because I had the calories, rather than because I was hungry (an issue I had on WW too). I’ve gotten into the habit of eating 1-2 of those Nature Valley Oats & Honey granola bars in the car on the way home from work because hey, I have the calories, right? And even if I don’t, I can go for a quick walk to “earn” them back. That’s definitely not the mindset I want to be in. I want to be eating healthier snacks and because I’m actually hungry. I want to be going for a walk after dinner because it’s good for me, not because I need to balance the calorie scale a bit thanks to my snacking.

So, MFP isn’t helping my bottom line on the scale and it isn’t helping me get closer to my goal of improving my food quality. I have to point out that neither of these is the fault of MFP. Lots of people lose weight with calorie counting and MFP is a great, free way to do that. I could decrease my calorie target or stop eating the workout calories or any of a multitude of different tweaks to move things along. This little experiment has just reinforced for me that I need to focus on my own behaviors in terms of eating, rather than on the numbers.

On the plus side, I have essentially maintained my weight in the same five pound range for over 6 months now. I have not had a slide into the 180s like I was worried about. I still fit in (most) of my pants, a big goal for the year in my attempt to get beyond the scale. However, I think it is time to step back a bit and think about what my real issues are (night time snacking, empty calories from “healthy” snack foods like granola bars and Fig Newmans) and my real goals are (healthier relationship with food, improved food quality).

It won’t be a long break. I know myself enough to know I need concrete goals, especially since I’ve got two trips coming up in June and July. For the next week or two, I’m going to focus on eating healthy foods and trying to see if I can actually tell when I’m truly hungry. I need to think about some strategies for that, as well as strategies for improving the quality of the food I’m eating. One thing I think I may toss out the window is the idea of earning indulgences with exercise. An occasional indulgence is part of life, but with the mindset of “earning” them from my exercise, I find myself a) indulging too often and b) losing sight of the real purpose of exercise, which is really more about fitness and stress relief and overall health at this point in my life.

Odd Frog and Toad story in O's bedtime book about cookies and will power. Darrell definitely agreed with Toad - after giving away all of the cookies, the only thing left to do is make a cake. :)

Odd Frog and Toad story in O’s bedtime book about cookies and will power. Darrell definitely agreed with Toad – after giving away all of the cookies, the only thing left to do is make a cake. ๐Ÿ™‚

With all of this healthy lifestyle stuff, we’re just an experiment of one, right? It’s a matter of frequently checking in to see how things are going, what’s working, what isn’t and what your goals really are.

How long do you give yourself on a new fitness or eating plan before you stop and reassess? Do you schedule regular check ins? What do those look like for you?

 

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TotR: Compression Gear

It’s always an odd feeling to start the work week on a Tuesday, isn’t it? I feel very discombobulated today but will appreciate how quickly Friday gets here. Before we get to today’s Tuesdays on the Run topic, check out my race photo from the Papillion Half Marathon:

A perk of a hilly course was the ability to see the photographer before I got there so I could be sure a) I was smiling and b) I was running. :)

A perk of a hilly course was the ability to see the photographer before I got there so I could be sure a) I was smiling and b) I was running. ๐Ÿ™‚

A perk of this race is that they give you a coupon code to download one of your race photos. You could of course buy the whole package, but for non-runDisney races, I tend to just get one to document the day. I liked that I looked happy in this one and it caught me looking more like a runner than a walker. I still get a little thrill out of that, I confess.

This week’s Tuesdays on the Run topic is Compression Gear: Yay or Nay? I confess, as warm and humid as it is around here these days, the idea of anything compressing and sticking to me seems incredibly unpleasant! That said, I’m a big fan of compression gear for a couple of reasons:

– I love compression bottoms (pants, shorts, capris) because they hold all of my jiggly bits in a bit when I run. TMI? I have a lot of loose skin and in non-compression bottoms, I really feel things flapping around. It’s physically a lot more comfortable for me to be in a compression bottom and for sure I’m a lot less self-conscious.

– On a less vanity-driven front, I also feel like compression socks help my legs bounce back a little faster after long runs. This can be particularly helpful for runDisney events, where I’m usually out walking miles in the park not long after a race. I also felt like they helped when I was doing the Rebel Challenge and wore them after both the 10K and half marathon. I’ll probably bring them to Wine and Dine to wear between the Jingle Jungle 5K and the half marathon and to wear after the half marathon. Thankfully, I got a second pair of compression socks for Christmas last year so I can rotate them as I need them (both 2XU compression socks, not sleeves, which I’ve liked a lot so far).

For Christmas, I got several new running recovery toys for the Rebel Challenge. Those will come in handy at Wine & Dine as well!

For Christmas, I got several new running recovery toys for the Rebel Challenge. Those will come in handy at Wine & Dine as well!

– They can also be really helpful if you’ve got to travel right after a race, either in a car or plane, to help decrease the swelling that can occur when you’re immobile for that long. I’m flying to Italy in July and may actually wear my compression socks on the plane even though I’m not racing right before the flight. Well, unless I decide to run that superhero themed 5K that morning. Running a 5K a hour before I have to be a the airport would be a bad idea, right?

Some people also wear them during runs themselves, because they can be fun and flashy and may potentially help mitigate fatigue/swelling and decrease extraneous muscle movement during the run itself. The data on how calf sleeves or compression socks affect actual running performance and mechanics isn’t clear cut (check out a nice summary here from Runners World). Like everything else with running, I think you have to experiment and see what works for you. For me, I like to wear the socks after a 10 mile or greater run or if I’m running back to back races. Wearing them during a run makes me feel like I’m smothering my legs and drives me bonkers. Everybody will find a different set up that works for them.

Do you use compression gear? What do you use and how do you use it? Definitely share any recommendations for anyone else who may be considering trying it out!

Be sure to head over to April, Patty and Erika to check out their recommendations and as always, ladies, thanks for hosting!

Tuesdays-on-the-run1

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Weekly Wrap-Up: Happy Memorial Day!

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy Memorial Day! My guys are both napping, so I thought I’d take a quick minute to wrap up our week while I’m enjoying a moment of peace and quiet. ๐Ÿ™‚ This week was light on workouts while I was recovering from the Papillion Half Marathon (although truly, my legs felt fine on Monday and I had to keep reminding myself I’d just run two half marathons in 14 days so I needed to take it easy!). True to my goals for the month, I focused on strength training this week, including the May challenge, and getting in movement wherever I could. I enjoyed this low-pressure week, fitness-wise.

Workouts

Monday 30 pushups for the May challenge, plus a workout with my 15 pound kettlebell including swings, goblet squats, one legged dead lifts, around the world and some arm lifts. I also got in a 15 minute walk around the hills on campus.

Tuesday 35 pushups and not much else

Wednesday A really easy 20 minute run Wednesday night to work off my frustration with O getting in trouble at school. I know we’re blessed with a really well behaved child, in that the occasional hitting or other bad behavior is rare enough that it catches us and his teachers off guard a bit. I have to remember that he’s three and while he knows these things are bad choices, he may not always resist in the moment. After that little run, I was able to do a much better job of remembering he’s three and remarkably good for the most part, so every little blip is not the sign of budding serious behavior problems.

My neighbors all have gorgeous peonies (not these - these are from the botanical gardens) and I keep meaning to plant some since they do so well up here!

My neighbors all have gorgeous peonies (not these – these are from the botanical gardens) and I keep meaning to plant some since they do so well up here!

Thursday 40 pushups, a 20 minute walk, and some core and leg work while I was reading bedtime stories. #wycwyc, right? O is totally used to Mommy working out while she reads, which entertains me a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚

Friday I was supposed to 45 pushups today but got distracted and only got in 20. Oops!

Saturday 25 pushups, to finish up Friday’s assignment, plus over an hour of hiking around the botanical gardens with my guys. I was going to run, but after all of those hills, I decided to call it good for the day.

Oliver wanted us to be quiet on the woodland trail because there might be giraffes and we didn't want to startle them. :)

Oliver wanted us to be quiet on the woodland trail because there might be giraffes and we didn’t want to startle them. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sunday I was supposed to 50 push ups, but completely forgot! I did go for 15-20 minute walk and spent a great morning puttering around with Oliver on a mommy-son date, which was lovely.

I promise I did run today, but that story is for later. ๐Ÿ™‚ This week, I am grateful for all of those mothers who send their sons off to defend our country, knowing they may not come back. I found myself dwelling on the strength and sacrifice of those families as I ran today, looking at the flags that remind us that today is about so much more than the grill and a 3 day weekend. I have a friend with a son currently deployed in a theoretically safe-ish station, but have no idea how she can handle knowing that nowhere is truly safe and he could be moved at any time. The strength of our military members is something to be proud of, but the strength of their families astounds me at times.

We may keep this donation jar going on the counter, with a quarter for chores to be donated to the red kettle drive or somewhere else later in the year.

We may keep this donation jar going on the counter, with a quarter for chores to be donated to the red kettle drive or somewhere else later in the year.

Our good deed this week was wrapping up the food drive at Oliver’s school with the donation of all of his quarters that he’s earned this month doing chores, as well as those he took out of his piggy bank to donate. He’s really gotten into the food drive and wants me to buy extra food to bring to school every time we’re at HyVee. We’re blessed, so I’m happy to do that and I’m happy to see that he’s starting to recognize how important it is to share. My NSV this week has been the fact that this week’s part of the Lovely Ladies Losing It challenge – eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day – was no challenge at all for me because that’s what my diet always consists of these days. That’s a great shift from when I first started trying to lose weight and totally thanks to the fact that fruits and veggies were “free” on Weight Watchers. If I wanted to eat, I had to learn to love produce. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hopefully the weather is more cooperative this week so I can get outside and move a bit more! It’s been too rainy to feel summery so far and I’m more than ready for that to change. Here’s hoping everyone has a good week and is enjoying their Memorial Day!

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Friday Favorites: Happy Memorial Day weekend!

This week has just flown by! I can’t believe it is already Friday. This is our first week with Oliver completely back to normal, running and playing walker-free, and naturally he’s already grounded. ๐Ÿ™‚ The end of schoolย  year crazies hit pre-school just like a big kid school apparently. Part of his penance this weekend is going to be helping me in the garden to get things weeded and cleaned up now that we have a three day weekend. It’s supposed to rain here Sunday and Monday, so we’ll have to get busy Saturday.

It's been a crazy week with a lot of little stressors, so I decided that I'd definitely earned a glass of wine instead of my usual Diet Coke during my hair appointment yesterday.

It’s been a crazy week with a lot of little stressors, so I decided that I’d definitely earned a glass of wine instead of my usual Diet Coke during my hair appointment yesterday.

While I’ve never really used Spark People to track my food, I do love the site as a source for workout videos when I travel and for sane, rational advice on making healthy changes to your life. There’s so much trendy pseudoscience out there, it can be hard to sort out the real wisdom from the junk. A while back, I saw this round up of advice from people who’d lost 50 pounds or more with Spark People and was impressed yet again at how attainable and sustainable these ideas are. You guys know my approach – don’t do anything you can’t maintain forever and don’t discount the importance of little victories – and I was pleased to see those concepts reflected here as well. Along those same lines, Shelley is a role model for me in so ways of finally reaching that place where you can be sane and healthy about fitness and maintaining a big weight loss. Definitely go over to her page to celebrate her seven year anniversary this week! Happy anniversary Shelley and truly, truly, truly thanks so much for sharing!

In follow up to this month’s book club pick, Tales from Another Mother Runner, Wendy has a really fantastic interview with one of the authors, Dimity McDowell Davis, up this week. Dimity’s essay in the book, about her struggles with depression and how running fit into that, was one of the most gut-wrenching reads in TAMR. Reading this interview and her thoughts on the mother runner tribe that she and Sarah helped to build, her love and support for all of us comes through so strongly. I have to say, having met Sarah at an Expo in Walt Disney World, this really is genuinely who they seem to be and I love that. I love their sincere encouragement of any mother runner (or any runner at all) who wants to get out there and find a way to make a little time for themselves amidst everything else we do so that we can pound the pavement for a while. I don’t know that I would have stuck with running in those hard early days if I hadn’t known this tribe was out there.

My last “favorite read” this week is not really fitness or running related, but I did enjoy it from a “learn to love yourself” perspective (and really, if we can’t learn to love ourselves first, we’ll be miserable and unlikely to succeed with the rest of this anyway). This list of 15 things to pack on the trip to loving yourself might have a super cheesy title but I really enjoyed some of the points it raised (and loved the phrasing of:ย  You are not an avocado; only enjoyable when fully ready.ย Start loving yourself now. When I saw that line item – say no to avocados – I wondered when avocados had gone on the “bad” list). I still need to work on having the confidence to struggle, to know that bad races or days with weight gain aren’t signs of failure and rather just midpoints in a larger journey. It’s okay that hard things seem hard sometimes, right? Definitely check it out if you need a dose of cheesy inspiration to think through this weekend!

This weekend we have the Boys Town kids race and 5 mile race. If it’s raining, O won’t head out but I still will. What’s a little rain, after all?Do you have any big plans? Stay safe, especially ifย  you’re traveling or out on the water!

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Cookbook Review: Lighten Up Y’all

For Mother’s Day, I got two new cookbooks and we’ve already tested out several recipes in Lighten Up, Y’all (link just FYI – no perks for me). We’ve loved this one so far so I didn’t want to wait to share it with you!

Love new cookbooks for Mother's Day!

Love new cookbooks for Mother’s Day!

The author, Virginia Willis, is a French trained Southern chef who created these recipes when she herself needed to lose a little weight. I love that the focus is more on making healthy switches than on “diet” food. These are real Southern dishes, with the robust flavors and homegrown ingredients my husband and I grew up with, with a healthier profile.

The introduction talks a lot about Willis’ history as a chef and how her personal history with her family influenced these recipes. It also includes discussion of tools to get started in the kitchen, the rationale behind some of the swaps made in these recipes (like healthier fats, filling up on the good stuff like veggies and using lean proteins) and the approach to the nutritional information that is provided with every recipe.

Yet again, we see the "what you can when you can" approach - small tweaks to your food add up!

Yet again, we see the “what you can when you can” approach – small tweaks to your food add up!

While not every recipe includes photos, the photos that are in the book are exquisite and take me back to my grandmother’s house. My husband and I are both native Southerners (Louisiana & Arkansas) and as such, have a high standard for anything calling itself Southern food. I can promise you that many of these recipes graced the farm tables both of us grew up eating around. She doesn’t give up flavoring ingredients like sausage or bacon, but rather uses them in smaller doses. I particularly enjoyed her sense of humor about the bacon that features frequently in these recipes and about the frustrations of small portion sizes of steak in some recipe guides. ๐Ÿ™‚

I totally agree - no matter how much I might logically know that 1 lb of steak feeds 4 people, it just feels wrong!

I totally agree – no matter how much I might logically know that 1 lb of steak feeds 4 people, it just feels wrong!

So far we’ve tried the Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak, the Quinoa Cobb Salad and Darrell’s favorite: New Soul Creole Dirty Rice. That one is such a big hit we’ve already made it twice!

Not the best pic, but trust me it is delish!

Not the best pic, but trust me it is delish!

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 chopped sweet onion, 2 stalks celery, chopped, and 1 chopped poblano pepper (**subbed a bell pepper the second time I made this – still delish). Cook 3-5 minutes until soft and add 3 cloves garlic; saute until fragrant. Add 4 oz sausage and cook another 3-4 minutes (**NOTE: Recipe says use chicken livers or chicken andouille sausage. We used turkey andouille sausage and closer to 8 oz of it). Add 1 tbsp fresh thyme (**subbed 1 tsp dried thyme), 2 tsp paprika and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper. She also suggests salt and pepper to taste. I added a couple of grinds of pepper but no salt since we had plenty of salt from the sausage. Add 1 cup finely chopped collard greens and saute for another 5 minutes.

**Note, at this point she suggests adding 1 cup long grain rice and 2 cups water and then cooking the rice with all of the other ingredients like you typically would for rice (bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover for 18 minutes for white rice, 35 minutes for brown). I actually used two packets of boil-in-a-bag brown rice, that cooked as I was prepping the rest of this. I tossed the ends of my sausage links into the water I was using to boil the rice to just a little extra oomph of flavor in there. Then I stirred the cooked rice into the whole dish after I’d sauteed the collards, along with a splash of chicken stock to loosen up anything yummy stuck to the bottom of the pan. The flavors melded wonderfully and it makes this a 20 minute weeknight meal.

This makes 6 servings of 2/3 cup each, with 194 calories. Really, we ate bigger servings than that (probably twice that) as a main dish for dinner and loved it. You don’t taste the collards at all so it is a great way to sneak in extra greens and flavor. Even Oliver was interested in trying it and he’s very anti-greens. Look around for a variety of greens and leaner sausages you could use to switch it up based on what’s available in your area.

The dessert section is going to get a workout this Memorial Day, with a yogurt based pie crust I’m curious to try and several gorgeous fruit based cobbers and cakes. There’s even a healthier brownie recipe I may use for Darrell’s treat at work next week to see if they notice that it is healthified.

This was a great addition to my giant collection of cookbooks, as Darrell has already decreed that the dirty rice will be part of our regular rotation. Have you gotten any new cookbooks? My birthday is coming up in July so let me know if there’s anything I should add to my list. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Weight Loss Wednesday: Strengths & Weaknesses

Last week, Katie posted about her Weight Watchers homework assignment, reflecting on her strengths and weaknesses when it comes to weight loss (check it out here). It’s definitely an interesting topic and one that makes me miss my old WW leader Noreen, who would have done a great job with it! Knowing our own strengths can help to find a weight and lifestyle management strategy that really suits each of us as individuals.

So what are my strengths and weaknesses at this point?

– I’m very goal-oriented. If I have set a specific goal that is realistic, measurable and attainable, I will get there. Little mini-challenges like the Lovely Ladies Losing It challenge this month are great for me because I can check off boxes each day of achieving each specific goal (this week: 5 fruits and veggies). When I first started exercising, I had a goal to get a certain number of little shiny stars on my calendar:

One of my old calendars with stars for my workouts (yes, those are the shiny teacher stars from elementary school).

One of my old calendars with stars for my workouts (yes, those are the shiny teacher stars from elementary school).

This works in my favor because I know that the goal needs to be something I can control, like adding a good habit, rather than something I can’t like losing X pounds by X date. I know the goal needs to be short term enough that I don’t get bored and challenging enough that I don’t succeed to easily. Even for big goals, like this year’s goal to improve my relationship with food, get broken down into smaller concrete aims like using olive oil to cook my veggies, drinking more water instead of soda and upping the nutritional value of my snacks (all going well so far!).

– I have a fairly analytical mindset. I like to study, both in terms of self-reflection on my own thoughts and patterns, and in gathering a lot of external information from scientific sources. I can step back and look at those things rationally (most of the time) to make a reasonable plan for managing my course. Most of the time, the keeps me from falling prey to transient whims in the diet and fitness world and helps me stay motivated as I learn more about the physiology of why and how our body does the crazy things it does. If I understand the why, I am much more likely to follow through on things, whether it is understanding the why of my own triggers or understanding the why of eating more eggs. You guys frequently see the result of this (over?) analysis when I talk through things here. ๐Ÿ™‚

– I’ve developed a pretty healthy barometer for “is it worth it” foods. I make treats to send to Darrell’s job almost every week, frequently of the chocolate peanut butter variety. I’m not even particularly tempted by them anymore. It’s not that they aren’t good – I always taste enough to be sure it’s good before I send it out the door – but they aren’t enough of a temptation to throw myself into a tailspin. It isn’t hard to say no to grocery store sheet cake or mass produced cookies at the office or that scone they’re going to offer me at the coffee shop this morning. I’ve somehow become someone who can taste a dessert and only finish it if it is truly worth it. Most of the time anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

– I can be patient with this process and keep things in perspective. This was definitely not true of me at the beginning of this journey and while I’m steadily improving, this is definitely an area I have to work on constantly to keep building up this strength. Still, almost 3 years into this, I can now step back (again that analytical mindset) and see the big picture for the most part. I can remind myself that I didn’t really gain 3 pounds this week. I know I’m always up right after a long run (and I’m right – most of that gain is already gone). I can remind myself that while I’m unhappy that I’m in the 170s instead of the 160s, at least I’m not in the 270s anymore. With time, this will settle out too. At this point, this is all small stuff in the grand scheme of things.

In addition to continue to work on my patience, my other area for improvement or weakness is my tendency to let that negative self-talk voice into my head a little too loudly and a little too often. That kind of self-talk is dangerous – it leads to bad food decisions, outright binge-eating, bad exercise decisions and an all around grumpy Jessica who doesn’t do so great in any of life when that takes hold. That is definitely not something that magically gets better when you lose weight. If anything, I might be more self-critical now than I was then, especially about my body. Then, I just tried not to look too closely at myself or let my mind dwell on how I looked. Now, I find myself noticing my sad walrus belly or lumpy thighs or a million other little things that I know don’t matter. I find it too easy to let that little voice whisper in my ear about all of those fears we talked about last week. This kind of negative self-talk only gets better when we confront it and actively negate it. I really need to work on this more if I’m going to continue to be successful in this whole healthy lifestyle endeavor. I need to remind myself that I would never say those things out loud where Oliver could hear them, so I shouldn’t be saying them internally either.

I was a little intrigued thinking about this over the last week because I don’t know that my self-identified strengths and weaknesses would have looked like this 3 years ago when this started. I know I greatly overestimated my weaknesses and underestimated my strength back then. I guess my self-respect for my current strengths is a sign that I’m doing better with the negative self-talk than I give myself credit for, right?

What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle or losing weight? Do you actively try to develop them or deal with them?

 

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Papillion Half Marathon recap

This week’s Tuesdays on the Run topic is favorite inspirational running books and movies. I’ve read lots of running books that I loved (check them out here) and my current favorite is Tales from Another Mother Runner, but I’m definitely going to use everyone’s ideas in the link up to create my own personal “to-do” list for summer reading and movie watching. Be sure to head over to April, Patty and Erika to check out their recommendations and as always, ladies, thanks for hosting!

Tuesdays-on-the-run1This weekend I did a new thing for me – I ran a half marathon “just for fun.” Not that all of my half marathons aren’t for fun, because it isn’t like someone is paying me or forcing me to run them, but this one felt different since it was one I just registered for on a whim without specifically training for it or setting goals for it. I was reasonably sure my training this spring would carry me through a second half marathon in two weeks so long as I didn’t push it but I was amused at myself for being one of “those” people who run 13.1 miles just because. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cute shirt but big! Need to remember to size down next year.

Cute shirt but big! Need to remember to size down next year.

This was a small local race in one of the Omaha suburbs and I’d heard great things in the local running club’s Facebook feed about it. Registration was only $50 and packet pick up was at a local hospital near the race. There wasn’t an expo but there were lots of friendly volunteers pointing you in the right direction and lots of people advertising for other local races. There was also a free pasta dinner for runners that night, which was nice (but I skipped it). In addition to the long sleeved tech shirt, we got a one shouldered backpack (the yellow bag in the pic) full of little postcards for other races and a free gelato coupon that I will definitely be trying out for a splurge one day soon!

Flag at the starting line

Flag at the starting line

The race morning was damp and windy and chilly. I briefly wondered if I’d misjudged things wearing a skirt and short sleeved tee, but reminded myself that the “damp” weather meant I’d feel like I was melting about a mile into the run. I was right about that. It was fun chatting with people while waiting and realizing how small this race was really going to be. There were 850 people registered and less than half of those were doing the half (also a 10K and 5K that day). I knew from looking at the previous year’s results and my experience with other smaller non-themed races in our area that this race attracted fairly speedy people. These smaller races always seem to here. Thus, I was expecting to be in the back of the pack and lined up accordingly. The first mile or so was on a hilly dirt road and I very quickly had my suspicions confirmed: I was not going to be crowded back in my take-it-easy section of the race.

Foggy pictures at the beginning because my lens kept getting misty in the damp.

Foggy pictures at the beginning because my lens kept getting misty in the damp.

This course was almost all rolling hills, which really wasn’t too bad. None of the truly steep sections were long and none of the longer stretches of incline were very steep. Plus, lots of downhills, right?

I was warned that we'd be able to see the finish line (the stadium with those lights on the other side of the lake) for a couple of miles before we got to the finish, as an evil little tease.

I was warned that we’d be able to see the finish line (the stadium with those lights on the other side of the lake) for a couple of miles before we got to the finish, as an evil little tease.

After the dirt road section (which they say will be paved next year), we went through a little residential stretch with a few clumps of spectators, which was nice. I was running this race Garmin free so I only knew how far along I was when I would pass a mile marker. They’d released the 10K runners 10 minutes after the half and it was somewhere between miles 1-2 that the 10K leaders passed us up. Speedy kids. ๐Ÿ™‚ Throughout the course, they had the split points for the 5K, 10K and half marathon really well marked with lots of volunteers at every point. Our bibs were different colors so it was easy for the volunteers to pick us out and tell us where to go. All around, I have to say that the volunteers did an outstanding job with this race. There were consistently plentiful, cheerful and energetic. It was a really well supported course.

A lot of the course was along the fantastic trail system in Omaha and followed along the creek, which provided a lot of lovely scenery for an in-town run on such a steamy day.

A lot of the course was along the fantastic trail system in Omaha and followed along the creek, which provided a lot of lovely scenery for an in-town run on such a steamy day.

This course wound through town, which I enjoyed because Darrell and I spent a lot of time in the parks in this town when we first married and lived on this side of Omaha. I smiled every time I passed a park where we’d play bocce or the little miniature golf course we’d go on our weekly game night (miss those!).

That little glimpse of lighthouse through the trees is the national landmark themed mini golf course in Papillion - played many a hole there. :)

That little glimpse of lighthouse through the trees is the national landmark themed mini golf course in Papillion – played many a hole there. ๐Ÿ™‚

Because it was such a small and speedy group of runners, I was never crowded on the course which was SO pleasant after Lincoln and the near constant crowding there. I just tried to keep a steady pace, never walk too long and keep moving. I told Darrell I was expecting to finish between 2:40-3 hours because I was in no hurry and wouldn’t be pushing it at all. Every time I passed a new mile marker I was amazed at how fast the miles click by when you keep putting one foot in front of the other. True of so many things in life, right? About halfway through, when I realized I’d passed a handful of people as I moved up the course, I decided to set my one and only goal for the rest of the race: if I passed you, you stayed passed. I was going to finish ahead of you. It was fun to pick people off as I moved through. I was actually very excited to get passed by two people somewhere in miles 7-9 that I didn’t realize were behind me (and thus I hadn’t passed them, so it didn’t violate my goal to see them pass me) because that meant those girls were running a strong race to have that much left in their engines late in the race.

A lovely stretch of two miles or so that was mostly flat from miles 7ish-9ish.

A lovely stretch of two miles or so that was mostly flat from miles 7ish-9ish.

There were photographers on the course in the last few miles and one of the perks of a hilly course is that you can see the photographer for a bit before you get there. That is great motivation to pick it up and run again, right? I suspect I’m grimacing in a lot of my photos because while I was having fun, the humidity really did suck and my legs really were not feeling this as much as they normally would be. I will say that while it took me a lot longer than usual to get into the groove of this race – for the first 3 miles I seriously wondered if I’d lost my mind heading out to do this – I did not hit that point around mile 10 where I normally fall apart. Maybe I need to remember that and incorporate a more gradual warm up into my pacing plans for my next goal race?

There were some really lovely stretches through the trees toward the end, but it was unfortunately also a climb out of there and up to the stadium to finish.

There were some really lovely stretches through the trees toward the end, but it was unfortunately also a climb out of there and up to the stadium to finish.

The race finished on the track of a local high school. As I rounded the stadium to come finish, I saw people with the cute little butterfly medals and made lots of them laugh when I exclaimed “Oh good we get medals. And they’re cute!” Before that point, I wasn’t actually sure we’d get medals as I’d never run a half marathon this small before. That was good motivation to pass one more person as I picked it up to finish.

Isn't it a cute medal? Definitely one of my favorites!

Isn’t it a cute medal? Definitely one of my favorites!

Darrell and Oliver liked this race too because they got to hang out on the football field while they were waiting for me to finish. They were right by the finish line where they could easily see me as I came across. That was such a great moment for all of us. O was really excited because he was in charge of Daddy’s camera phone. I’ll have to share his pictures with you guys later this week – they’re a hoot.

There was a big spread of bagels and donuts at the finish, along with water and Powerade. I saw people with bananas, so they were there somewhere too but I grabbed my bagel and quickly got away from the temptation of Dunkin Donuts so I didn’t hang around to look for the bananas. They were doing the awards presentation as I finished and afterwards, the announcers did ask that people stay around because there were a few more runners still on the course (at least 30, from what I can remember passing and being behind me).ย  Unfortunately, right about that time the skies opened up and those guys had to finish in the pounding rain. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ We did make sure we stopped to cheer for them as we were heading out and they were rounding the parking lot.

All in all, this was a great local race and I would definitely do it again. I’d also run another race without the Garmin again. For a race where I don’t have a time goal set (like the 5 mile and 10K I have coming up in the next 3 weeks), that’s a great way to just relax and enjoy myself without worrying about pace. I like having a spring half marathon to train for to keep me moving through the winter, so I may train to run this again next spring with a goal of just beating this year’s time. I suspect I may settle into being one of those runners with a half marathon in the spring and in the fall, with the fall being the PR target time because weather works in my favor there and clearly doesn’t in the spring. It was also good to see that I can run a half marathon two weeks after completing a half that I raced, as I’ll be doing that again in the fall when I run the Des Moines half marathon again followed by the Wine and Dine 2-3 weeks later.

My official finish time (which I didn’t know until they emailed me because I didn’t bother to go check while I was at the race) was 2:41:57, 71/81 in my age group. I can definitely beat that time next year and will definitely back with a little more effort and oomph to my step. ๐Ÿ™‚

Have you ever run a half marathon just for the fun of it? Was it actually fun? I confess, this did leave me in a pretty good mood for the rest of the day. Gotta love long run endorphins!

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Weekly Wrap-Up: A little running & a lot of rain

It was a seriously wet week! Thank goodness I was only planning on running a couple of times to keep things loose before I was crazy enough to tackle 13.1 miles again on Sunday. I will confess, it felt really odd to go into a race weekend I hadn’t specifically trained for. I’ve never done that for anything over a 10K (although it’s a little funny to me now to realize I have run at least one 10K without specifically training for it). I kept reminding myself that the Lincoln Half Marathon, which I did train HARD for, was only two weeks ago and I should be able to still cruise on that training. I didn’t lose enough fitness in two weeks to make it totally nuts to tackle 13.1 miles. Thank goodness I was in it only for the sight seeing and the experience though. ๐Ÿ™‚

Workouts

Monday Nada but a few squats

Tuesday Two rainy miles in the morning – felt slow, but good to be moving again! Also, I did the 35 squats I had assigned for Tuesday in the Where’s the Beach May challenge (starting a week late!) plus the 25 I’d missed Monday.

It was chilly and rainy all week for my runs.

It was chilly and rainy all week for my runs.

Wednesday Nothing but lots of running around at work ๐Ÿ™‚

Thursday Two rainy miles in the morning (common theme in this week’s runs!) and yes, I forgot my squats again.

Friday 85 squats throughout the day to meet the challenge, plus some yoga so that my legs were at least a little looser before Sunday morning’s half marathon (and lots of nervously watching the weather!)

Saturday More yoga, foam rolling and a rest day from squats

Sunday 50 squats and oh yeah, a little half marathon. What was I thinking ?! Full report to come, but overall it was a good run. I would definitely do this race again. My favorite part was riding home with Oliver after the race while he serenaded me with Puff the Magic Dragon over and over while he drank my water and wore my medal. ๐Ÿ™‚

Such a lovely medal!

Such a lovely medal!

This month, the fantastic girls over at Lovely Ladies Losing are doing a series of weekly challenges and this week’s was just what I needed: drink 100 oz of water a day. I felt like I was going to float away sometimes, but it definitely got me back into that water habit instead of relying on diet sodas so much. Definite NSV. My other NSV was putting half of this banana back in the fridge instead of finishing it Thursdayย  morning before my run. I just didn’t really want it after I started eating it and rather than finish it because “it was good for me”, I set it aside to save for later. Yay for not finishing things I didn’t really want! Totally out of character for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

I know a banana is an odd NSV, but trust me it counts. :)

I know a banana is an odd NSV, but trust me it counts. ๐Ÿ™‚

My good deed came during race day. It was a small race and there wasn’t always a garbage can at the water stops so I made sure to hand my cup to a volunteer rather than just tossing it. Since I wasn’t pursuing a time goal, the extra few seconds didn’t hurt anything for me at all and it made the volunteers smile every time. I’m grateful that the race was small enough that Oliver & Darrell were able to wait for me right at the finish line. It was so great to see them as I was finishing! O took some hilariously bad photos for the occasion. ๐Ÿ™‚ He was so proud of himself for being in charge of the camera phone.

This week I’m planning on a couple of easy runs and the next week in the strength challenge (should probably go look up what this week’s exercise is!). Here’s hoping everyone has a good week!

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