Thursday, April 23, 2015

Try It: Pearls Olives to Go + Giveaway

For as long as I can remember, olives have been a favorite of mine. As a kid, I would sneak green olives out of my parents' Manhattans. And if olives of any kind were part of an appetizer tray during the holidays, I would pretty much devour them all.

As an adult, I still love to snack on olives. So when asked to review Pearls Olives to Go through a Fit Approach and Sweat Pink campaign, I immediately said yes. I love olives and I especially love olives that are easy and convenient to transport and eat on anytime, anywhere.

Pearls Olives sent me an adorable insulated lunch tote plus four types of olives: Green Pimento-Stuffed Olives, Black Olives, Sliced Black Olives and Kalamata Olives. I immediately began snacking. 

You know how some days you just want something salty? For me, this particular craving usually strikes mid-afternoon. Olives are the perfect fix. I brought my green olives to work and the little containers disappeared within just a few days. 

Beyond snacking, these small containers of olives are just right when you want to add flavor to a salad, stew, casserole, etc. For example, the Kalamata Olives were the perfect addition to my lunch salads. And when I made chicken burritos for dinner one night, the sliced black olives added a bit of extra deliciousness. 

In case you need even more reason to snack on olives, they are a great addition to a healthy diet. Five Kalamata Olives come in at just 45 calories. And you can have three Green Olives for just 25 calories. Although admittedly, I can never stick with only three ;)

So who wants to win their very own set of Pearls Olives to Go with lunch tote? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Milwaukee readers should watch for a Pearls Olives coupon in The Journal Sentinel, The Wall Street Journal and many other Milwaukee-area newspapers on Sunday, May 3. Because life can always use a few extra olives! 

Tell me: What is your favorite type of olive? 

- ST

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Training Update: April 13-19

During every training block, there are valleys and peaks. Late last week, I was down in a valley. It was a few rough days of training but I am feeling back on track this week after watching the Boston Marathon. Did anyone else watch? I found myself itching to run as I watched the male and female elites power through the miles and then tracked my friends that ran the race. By the end, I was almost tempted to sign up for a marathon myself! 

Anyhow, back to last week. I'm giving my training a B. There were some really good things this week - my Tuesday workout comes to mind - but also some not-so-good things, such as my weekend miles. 

Monday: 5 glue miles w/strides + TRX Cardio Circuit + Strength Training
A promising start to the week. The miles felt fine and I had fun in TRX. It was good to do some extra strength training, too - focused mainly on my hips and glues - two weaker areas. But the best part of the workout was getting to test out some new Oiselle gear. My new Keyhole Tank is a keeper!

Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 10 hill repeats
This was a really strong workout. I started with a 4-mile warmup then hit my hill of choice. My plan from Coach Matt called for 10 hill repeats with every other repeat run at an all-out effort. The downhill portions were the recovery between repeats. 

I felt really good during the repeats. Since I haven't done much hillwork lately and nearly died during the hills in my last race, I wasn't expecting much. However, I surprised myself! The all-out repeats were tough but it helped to know they were only every other trip up the hill. During my cooldown run, I felt on top of the world - I conquered the hill! 

Wednesday: 5 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + TRX Cardio Circuit
Ran these miles over the lunch hour and could tell my legs were still tired from the hill workout. This was confirmed during Fuse when I couldn't run a decent fast lap. Felt like I was dragging during every one of them. 

Thursday: 6 glue miles + Y-Blitz
Planned on doing my miles during lunch so I could do Blitz after work then head home. But ... instead, I opted to go to lunch with a co-worker, eat a giant slice of pie, then do Blitz followed by my miles. Ha, I will never do this again. Felt like a giant slug during Blitz and then barely finished my miles. The pie was delicious but having it slosh around in my stomach for 6 miles was an experience I don't care to repeat. 

If you ever visit MKE, visit Honeypie for a slice of pie - just not before a run!

Friday: Rest Day
Much needed. Rested up and was excited to run long the next morning. 

Saturday: 11 miles, inc. 45-second surges  5 glue miles
This run was unexpectedly bad. My legs felt heavy from the start but even worse than that was a horrible 20+ mph headwind. I tried to battle it out but gave up after a few miles. Decided to do my 5-miler instead and save the 11-miler for Sunday morning. I was really disappointed in myself for giving up but just couldn't find the will to get through the run.

Sunday: 5 recovery miles  9 miles, inc. 45-second surges
After Saturday's long run fail, I was really anxious about Sunday's run. On the plus side, the weather was like 500 times better. There was a bit of a breeze, but nothing like the wind the day before. On the not-so-awesome side, my legs still felt crappy. It took a full six miles for them to feel even somewhat normal and even then, not 100 percent. Because I ran so slow for the first six miles, I ran out of time and had to cut my run a bit short. I was again disappointed I didn't run as well as I had hoped. Told myself I'd have to do better this upcoming week. 

I'm trying to remember that not every week can be perfect. Hopefully since last week was a valley, I'll climb this week and then peak next week - just in time for my next race!

My questions for you:
  • How do you deal with a disappointing training week?
  • Have you ever cut a run short? 
  • What's the worst thing you've ever eaten before running?

Happy Tuesday!

- ST

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cheeseburger Casserole

Recently, I was browsing through recipes at Skinny Taste when I came across one for Cheeseburger Casserole. Immediately I thought to myself, this doesn't seem skinny at all - but it sure sounds delicious!

Somehow, this casserole comes in at fewer than 300 calories per serving. However, all of the deliciousness you'd expect from a good cheeseburger is there. Add to that an extremely simple prep. This one's a winner!

Cheeseburger Casserole
Recipe from Skinny Taste

2 cups uncooked rotini pasta (I used Creamette 150 to further reduce calories and increase fiber)
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1lb lean ground beef
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
28 oz diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cups reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese (I only used 1.5 cups - I found you don't need it all)
Dill pickle slices for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet, then add the diced onion. Cook until softened before adding the garlic, followed by the ground beef. Cook until beef is no longer pink then drain excess oil. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and Dijon mustard. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Toss the meat mixture with the cooked pasta and spread in a 9x13 casserole dish. Top with the shredded cheddar and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and top with pickle slices. Serve with ketchup and mustard.

Tell me: What are your favorite burger toppings?

- ST

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You Snooze, You Win

You know that old saying, you snooze, you lose? When it comes to running that's not really how it works. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite! So lately, I've been all about getting more zzz's.

I recently read an article in Running Times about elite Kenyan runner, Betsy Saina. The article discusses how sleep is key to her success. She logs 9-10 hours per night plus 3-hour naps daily! It seems like a lot of sleep, but the benefits of getting that kind of rest were further confirmed when I read an old Competitor article about the correlation between getting 10-hours of sleep per night and an improved athletic performance.

While sleeping, your body is able to absorb and recover from training so you can run strong and avoid injury during your waking hours. However, just like nutrition, the amount of sleep everyone needs is different. The key is getting enough for your body.

I tend to need at least 8 hours to feel my best - and 9 hours is even better. For awhile, I was kind of slacking in this area and trying to get by on 6.5 or 7 hours of sleep. I found myself staying up later - but still having to get up at the same time in the morning. And paying the price with low energy levels and sluggish legs during runs. 

So these past few weeks, I've put a stop to this and have been turning out the lights at 10pm. And then, it's just a matter of getting quality rest. Here are a few things I do to sleep better:

Keep the temperature down. I find I sleep best in a cool room. Hot, stuffy rooms lead to a night of tossing and turning.

Invest in a good pillow and sheets. A higher thread count and comfortable pillow make a difference! I was recently sent a Tempur-Pedic pillow* and absolutely love it. The pillow provides great support while conforming to my head and neck. And after each use, it bounces back to its original shape!

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. My exception to this is a Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar before my Tuesday workouts. 

Silence your phone. Your phone likely has a Do Not Disturb setting. I have mine set so my phone doesn't ring or vibrate between the hours of 10pm and 7am except for family members. This helps avoid waking up every time a new text or call or social media notification arrives. Because let's be honest - the vast majority of that stuff can wait to be addressed until the next day!

Hopefully the extra rest will pay off at my next race. I believe it's already making a difference in my training not to mention my mood and energy levels! 

My questions for you:
  • How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Is it too little or enough?
  • What tips do you have to get better quality rest?

Wishing you all a week of fantastic sleep!

- ST

*I was provided with a free Tempur-Pedic pillow but was not asked to write or compensated for a review. All views and opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fun With Kale!

Recently, I've been eating more kale. Spinach will always be my favorite dark, leafy green, but kale is a nice alternative - it's a bit heartier and has a different flavor and texture. I've found it's perfect for adding to homemade soup as well as using to make salads in advance. While spinach can sometimes get mushy, kale tends to hold up well!

So here are two recent recipes featuring kale. Both take no time at all to assemble and are great for food prep since they keep pretty well for a few days in the fridge!

Chicken Sausage & Kale Soup
Serves 8

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced*
1 stalk celery, diced*
1 carrot, diced*
5 chicken sausage links (I used Trader Joe's Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry quinoa - rinsed and drained
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups water
1 Tbsp Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle seasoning (or use a blend of basil, oregano, thyme and garlic powder)
1 Tbsp dried parsley
6 cups kale, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
Salt & Pepper to taste

Drizzle olive oil in a large soup pot and warm over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook 3-5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add chicken sausage and cook an additional 3-5 minutes before adding the garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes, quinoa, chicken stock, water, Pasta Sprinkle and parsley. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30-35 minutes. Stir in kale and cook until wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Laddle soup into bowls and top each serving with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Fruit & Nut Kale Salad
Serves 4

4 cups kale, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
1.5 Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried apricots, diced into quarters

In a large bowl, massage olive oil into the kale leaves. Let sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature. Add almonds, cranberries and dried apricots. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.

Tell Me: What's your favorite way to use kale?

- ST

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Training Update: March 30 - April 5

Over the weekend, I realized ... my next goal race - Nicolet Bay 5k - is less than a month away! Although I'm sure race nerves will hit as the date gets even closer, I'm mostly feeling excited about spring racing - it's time to see results from winter training.

Last week's training went really well - I give it an A-. It would have earned an A, except I missed Y-Fuse, aka my plyo work for the week. But overall, really solid miles!

Monday: 5 glue miles w/stides + TRX Cardio Circuit + Strength Training  
The Monday usual. Nothing too special about these miles. I ran them a tad faster than planned, mainly because I wasn't really feeling the track and just wanted to be done.
Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 3 x 9-minute intervals  
Another challenging workout from Coach Matt. I've noticed that running distance intervals - i.e. 400m or 800m - is so much easier than time intervals. I think it's because when running a time interval, it's more about how far I can get so I always end up pushing harder. The last 9-minute interval was particularly hard - I was running out of gas and had to dig deep to finish strong. Perfect race practice!
Wednesday: 5 7 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + TRX Cardio Circuit
I intended to run during lunch but ended up getting scheduled for a meeting. So instead, I ran after work, which meant I had to skip Fuse. To make up for skipping the class, I did a 7-miler. The weather was perfect outside and the miles went by pretty fast even though I ran a slow recovery pace.
Thursday: 7 6 glue miles + Y-Blitz  
I ran during lunch and my phone app said 100 percent chance of rain. I don't think work would appreciate me coming back from a run looking like a drowned rat so I decided to run to the Y, do a few miles on the track and then run back to work. Of course, it ended up not raining so I could have run all of the miles outside. Boo :(

Blitz was all about kettle bells - super exciting since I've been missing this type of workout lately!

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: 10 mile run, inc. hills 
Coach Matt said to go out of my way to include some hills during these miles so that's what I did! Additionally, he said to break the run up into 2.5 mile segments and aim to run each one 10 seconds faster than the last. Although I started the run feeling kind of slow and sluggish, after about a mile I perked up and had a really nice Saturday run. 

My reward was meeting my friend Sara for dinner and then watching the Badger Final Four game! 

Sunday: 6 5 recovery miles
I cut this one a mile short for time but didn't feel bad about it since I still hit my goal for the week. I kept the pace super slow for recovery and enjoyed every minute!

After the run, Mom and I went to brunch for Easter then I did a bit of food prep for the week. I chopped a bunch of veggies for snacks, made a chicken, black bean and cilantro mixture for burritos and salads and even tried a new recipe - Skinny Taste's Cheeseburger Casserole. I also made a delicious kale salad for dinner. 

All in all, a pretty great week! This week is a recovery week to absorb all of the training from the past few weeks. Then, the final push before Door County!

My questions for you:
  • What was your most successful run or workout last week?
  • Did you do any food prep over the weekend? If so, what did you make?
  • Did you do anything fun for Easter?

- ST

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Week That Was

To switch things up a bit this week, I decided to do a recap of last week's training instead of going through this week's plan. I've seen a few bloggers do this and love reading about their runs and workouts. 

Before getting too much into the post, I'll say it was a solid week! I give myself a B+ - because I did skip a mile and wasn't completely successful with my Tuesday workout :)

So here it is - the week that was!

Monday: 5 glue miles w/stides + TRX Cardio Circuit + Strength Training
The first run of the week always seems to go good for me and this week was no exception. Ran this one on the Y-track and the laps went by pretty fast. I was pretty successful sticking within my glue miles pace and nailed the strides after. TRX was a challenge as always, especially the core work. I can't decide if my inability to do a plank in the straps is a strength or coordination issue! 

Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 8 x 3-minute intervals 
The trick to this workout was that I had to run further for each 3-minute interval. So if I ran 0.44 for the first one, the next one had to be 0.45. And so on. Needless to say, I was nervous going into this workout knowing that it would likely include a ride on the pain train toward the end. I did my 2.5 mile warmup at a snail's pace then did my usual workout prep. Downed a GU, then took off!

I had mixed success. Did the first 3 intervals as planned, but then ran way too fast during the 4th interval. Felt like dying during the 5th interval and only ran as far as the 1st interval. But was able to get back on track during the 6th and 7th intervals. Ran the last interval all out and nearly made it a full half mile! I should add that I developed a nasty foot blister during this workout so the last few intervals were extra fun ;)

Wednesday: 6 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + TRX Cardio Circuit
With a giant blister on the bottom of my left foot, I wasn't sure I would make it through these miles. But, I laced up for a runch and told myself I'd go as far as I could. I wore my heavier Brooks Defyance trainers for this run and they did a great job cushioning my feet so the blister ended up not being a factor during the miles. 

I was a little off my game during Fuse - couldn't get going to run my laps as fast as I would have liked but told myself it was okay since I was supposed to be taking a recovery day, plus TRX after! 

Thursday: 5 glue miles + Y-Blitz
I ran these miles during lunch and they were okay. Oddly enough, they actually felt slightly harder than my miles yesterday. Ended up working late, so no Blitz. Later in the evening I got a bit of exciting news - I won my age group for this year's Winter Run Series! Totally unexpected since I missed a few races!

My medals from this year's Winter Run Series

Friday: Rest Day
A much-needed day off!

Saturday: 12 mile run, inc. 75 sec pickups
Seriously, the best long run I've had in awhile. Usually, the first mile - sometimes the first few miles - are a drag for me but today my legs felt great from the start. Every 10 minutes I ran a 75 second pickup, which made the miles fly by. Plus, I knew after the run I was going to Performance Running Outfitters to pick out a new pair of shoes!

Cute, right?

Sunday: 5 4 recovery miles
With rain and mega winds, I decided to do this run on a treadmill. Because of that, I kind of dreaded these miles. However, I really wanted to get the run in as part of the Rock 'N' Roll Las Vegas Kickoff Virtual Run. I think because I was dreading the miles so much, the run actually turned out great. Even though I was running a slow recovery pace, the time went by fast and before I knew it, I had my 5k plus a bit extra :)

Snapped right after the 5k was complete!

P.S. If you haven't checked out the Kickoff Virtual Run yet, I recommend hopping over to the website stat! To participate, all you need to do is run or walk 3.1 miles and upload a pic of your watch, treadmill, etc. It's free and all participants get a cute t-shirt or tank!

Total: 40 miles

My questions for you:
  • What run or workout are you most looking forward to this week?
  • Which shoes are your current favorite and what do you like about them?
  • What did you do over the weekend?

- ST