Thursday, November 20, 2014

Try It: WIN Detergent

It may be cold outside, but that doesn't mean you won't work up a good sweat during your next workout. And when sweat happens, stink tends to follow.

Unless you use a cleaning product like WIN Detergent.This sport-specific laundry detergent eliminates embedded odors in technical and athletic apparel.

While synthetic (tech) fabrics are great for hard sweat sessions because of their ability to wick moisture away from your skin, those same properties trap and hold onto oils, which is where stinky smells come from. WIN is optimized to break those bonds, removing the source of the smell and truly cleaning your workout gear. The result is the elimination of odors!

WIN detergent comes in two varieties - an original and GREEN formula, which is fragrance free and dye free. I've been using both varieties for the past month and both are great! I really couldn't pick a favorite between the two, although I do think it's awesome that the GREEN formula is available for those of us with sensitive skin. For those of you that like a little scent in your detergent, the original formula is pleasant and not overpowering. Unlike with some sports detergents, the scent that doesn't cling to your clothes for days after washing! 

So who's interested in winning two bottles of WIN Detergent (original and GREEN)?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Best of luck to all who enter! If you just can't wait to get your hands on a bottle or two of WIN Detergent, you can also purchase it on Amazon. Use the code WINGIVE1 to save $1!

- ST

Monday, November 17, 2014

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Recently, I found myself in the mood to whip up a batch of cookies - only to discover I didn't have any eggs. I was feeling way too lazy to make a special trip to the store so I had to get creative. 

Fortunately, I didn't have to try too hard, as I found this simple recipe for no-bake cookies. No eggs. No bake. No fuss. I like it ;)

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe from The Comfort Kitchen by Katie Lee

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 - 3 cups rolled oats

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cocoa powder, milk and vanilla. Heat until sugar has dissolved, then add the peanut butter. Remove from heat and stir in the oats. The mixture should be thick.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the parchment. Let the cookies sit for about an hour or until firmed up, then enjoy with a glass of milk!

Tell me: What is your favorite no-fuss treat?

- ST

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reunited - And it Feels So Good!

These past few weeks, I've been coasting. No real goals, no real training. It's been a nice little reprieve from the usual rigors of training. 

But as fun as this little break has been, I'm back to working with Coach Matt and ThunderDome Running. Over the weekend, I received my first plan since Lakefront Marathon. It was a bit of a reality check, but it feels so good to finally have some structure and accountability back.

The time has come to start paying the price for a future goal race!

This week's plan is:

Monday: 4 5 mile run + Strength Training
Tuesday: 6 mile workout
Wednesday: 4 mile run + Y-Fuse + Absolution
Thursday: 4 mile run + Y-Blitz
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 10 mile run
Sunday: Rest Day

Total: 28 29 miles

Notice the lower mileage? It's a result of taking a few weeks off without a lot of running. The break was smart but now that I'm starting back up, I need to continue being smart. And that means not doing a huge increase in mileage right away. 

I know soon enough Coach Matt will have me running higher mileage and tough workouts again. Runner and coach, reunited after a short break. I can't wait to see what's next :)

My questions for you:
  • What have these past few weeks of running looked like for you?
  • What do you miss most about running when you are taking a break?
  • On the flip side, what do you love most about taking a break from running?

I love sleeping in and just running when I feel like running. And if I feel like skipping out and baking cookies, I do so with zero guilt ;)

- ST

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Try It: Running Evaluation + Video Assessment

After this fall's Lakefront Marathon disaster, it was time to face the facts: my knee issues were not getting better. In fact, by continuing to train and race, I could be making things worse. At the very least, I wasn't allowing the area to fully heal so I could get back to training and racing the way I want. Steps had to be taken.

So I went to see Calvin Deutsch at Deutsch Physiotherapy for a running evaluation, including a video analysis of my running, and a plan to fix things. And I have to say, this was the best decision! 

My appointment started with running on a treadmill while Calvin recorded me from the front, back and side. After, we went back to his office and reviewed the video. Here's what I learned:

Good ankle position during mid-stance phase.  Mild underpronation.

Good heel height at level of back of knee during swing phase.

Good foot strike, landing under center of mass

Right hip weakness​ allowing left pelvic drop and knees getting too close together

Calvin knows his stuff. It was super helpful to have a PT expert point out my running strengths and weaknesses and areas that need some work. Because I'm such a running nerd, I found it fascinating to learn about how even small breaks in form are related to bigger issues. For example, my right arm sticking out a bit more than my left arm. Calvin explained this is likely due to my hip weakness. That arm sticks out a bit more to help compensate for the weak hip and helps me keep my balance while running. 

After watching the video, we worked through a series of exercises. For the next several weeks, single-leg squats, hip hikes and hydrants will be my best friends. He also recommended single-leg deadlifts and a dynamic hamstring and opposite hip flexor combo exercise. Doing these exercises will hopefully help my hip (both hips actually) become stronger so I can kick this knee pain to the curb for good!

I really can't say enough good things about this type of running evaluation. If you're currently injured, Calvin can get to the root of the issue and determine a proper treatment plan. This type of session is also helpful even if you're not currently injured. As most runners know, many injuries start with just a small twinge or niggle. Catch it early enough and you can avoid a longer recovery. Plus, who doesn't want to know how their form stacks up? :)

Tell me: Have you ever had a running evaluation? If so, what did you learn from the experience? If not, what would you most like to learn from one?

- ST

Monday, November 3, 2014

Try It: TRX Foundations at the YMCA

One of the best parts about belonging to a gym like the YMCA is there are endless possibilities for getting fit - and there's always a class to take to provide that additional motivation to push as hard as you can to get there faster.

For a few months, I've chatted with Travis - Downtown YMCA Fitness Director and TRX Instructor - about the gym's TRX offerings. He's been encouraging me to try a class so after my fall marathon was behind me, I switched up my routine to include TRX Foundations.

During this 30-minute class, you'll learn all the basic TRX moves. During each four-week session, the classes build on each other and by the end, you'll know how to combo the different moves and also increase the pace of the workout. Although the class is called TRX Foundations, it's appropriate for everyone from beginners to the super fit. For more of a challenge, you can always work the angles a bit more to make the workout more difficult. Doing so is the equivalent of using a heavier weight or kettle bell.

This is a different TRX class but gives you an idea of what the set-up is like!

This is a fantastic class for anyone, but especially runners. For all of you rehabbing your hips, knees, lower legs, etc., the straps make the moves lower impact, so there's less stress on your joints. But at the same time, you'll built incredible core strength. Even during moves that target the upper or lower body, you'll still activate your core muscles to help stabilize your body.

I've found that using the straps allow me to squat lower and lunge deeper, with better form. And this has also helped me get a better workout when doing squats and lunges without the straps. Improved form = increased workout benefit.

I definitely recommend giving TRX Foundations a try. It's open to both YMCA members and community members so give it a try in November!

The Downtown YMCA also offers other TRX classes, including TRX Core, TRX Cardio Circuit, TRX Strength Zone, TRX Fusion and TRX Kettlebell. For the complete class offerings, view the YMCA class schedule.

Join the conversation: Have you tried TRX? If so, what did you think of the workout? 

- ST

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Pumpkin Run 5k Race Recap

After taking a few weeks off after Lakefront Marathon, to say the Pumpkin Run 5k on Sunday was hard would be an understatement. But, it did feel pretty awesome to run faster again and also be back in a racing atmosphere!

I set the bar pretty low going into the race. Anything faster than 7:30 pace was fine with me! I wore a watch but didn't use it during the race - I really didn't want to know how slow or fast I was running - basing pace solely off effort was the goal.

And the effort was hard. After Lakefront Marathon, my running has looked like this:

Week after the marathon: No running or cross training
Week 2: 10 miles total - all slow
Week 3: 14 miles total (not including the race) - all slow

So ... I'm not exactly in racing shape ;)

Despite how hard the miles felt, I didn't do too bad! I ran better than I expected so that is always a plus. The main thing that got me through the miles was focusing on whoever was directly in front of me and working on passing him or her. This was especially helpful during the last mile when I was ready to throw in the towel. I knew I had to keep going because there was a woman directly behind me - who was probably using me as her target - and another woman in front of me that I wanted to catch. I slowly worked my way up until we got to the mile 3 marker then took off! No matter how tough a race is, I always look forward to sprinting toward the finish line at the end.

My results:

Time: 22:03
Pace: 7:06 min/mile
AG Place: 3/64
Gender Place: 9/XXX

This race totally energized me to train a bit more this week and continue building these next few weeks. I'm looking forward to my next few races to see what I can do and to hopefully see some improvement as I get back in shape!

Post race with Mom

My questions for you:
  • What has your running looked like these past few weeks? 
  • How soon do you start to do workouts again after a major race?
  • Any fun plans for Halloween? 

My workplace is having a costume day on Friday and I'm debating dressing up as ... a runner ;) Is that too cliche?

- ST

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mexican Spaghetti Squash Bake

It seems I'm on a spaghetti squash kick lately! Once again, I found myself craving this vegetable so decided to try preparing it in a new way. 

While I love eating spaghetti squash with traditional Italian sauce, I thought a Mexican twist might be fun. So I combined some of my favorite Mexican ingredients - black beans, corn, jalapeno, lime, cilantro and so on and created a simple but tasty casserole!

And the best part about making healthy comfort food is you don't feel guilty about eating a second helping ;)

Mexican Spaghetti Squash Bake
Serves 4-6

1 medium spaghetti squash, halved and cleaned
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced*
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn
1 can diced tomatoes
Juice from half a lime
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used 2 percent)
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle flesh side of squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set on a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil and bake for 35-40 minutes (bake time depends on the size of your squash) or until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set squash aside until cool enough to touch. Using a paper towel, blot up any excess liquid in the squash halves. Then, shred the inside of each half with a fork to create your strands of spaghetti. 

While the squash is baking, you can prepare the black bean and corn mixture. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper and jalapeno and cook until softened - about 3-5 minutes. Then add the corn, black beans, tomatoes, lime juice, cumin and chili powder. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until mixture is warmed through. 

Combine the spaghetti squash with black bean and corn mixture in an 8x8 baking dish. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven, then top with chopped cilantro. 

And that's it! My incredibly indulgent tasting, but still healthy, Mexican casserole. Perfect for the chilly nights ahead this winter. 

Tell me: What's your go-to dinner on a chilly night?

- ST

*If you aren't a fan of spicy food, I recommend using less jalapeno