Thursday, December 29, 2011

Healthy Food Items You Need to Try in 2012

A few weeks ago, I’d posted about how a some friends and I started a weight loss challenge and instead of resolving to lose a certain amount of weight, I would resolve to consistently try to eat better. While I’m not down a huge amount (the holidays really took a toll…I’m weak when it comes to sweets! I’m sorry!!!), I have been trying some new things in our kitchen inspired by some of my favorite bloggers and healthy lifestyle experts that I just had to share with you all.

Tosca Reno's Carrot Muffins
For Christmas, we had a cookie exchange at the office where we each had to bring in either cookies or a something sweet. Everyone was to bring 24 of each item whether it was brownies, cookies, chocolates, you name it. I figured I would bring something healthy. I relied on someone I knew could help in this situation, the lovely Tosca Reno. Shelved behind some of my Nicholas Sparks books, there she was. For those unfamiliar with Tosca Reno, she is all about clean eating which in a nutshell, is eating foods that are not processed—sticking to the basics—fruits, veggies, whole grains, pretty much anything natural. There are a lot of health benefits to this and have always wanted to try eating this way but it does get difficult sometimes. Going back the cookie exchange, I’d found something in Tosca’s book that I knew would be a hit…her zucchini muffin recipe! I modified the recipe and used carrot instead but boy did they come out good! A perfect solution for your sweet cravings!

Tap'nApple Butter Spread
While out grocery shopping for some more healthy alternatives, the boyfriend and I stumbled upon this FANTASTIC spread for our toast called Tap'nApple. I can’t tell you how much time we spend in the peanut butter and jelly aisle looking for the healthiest options. I swear if we could live off of PB&J sandwiches, we would. The problem I have with most jellies is that they’re way too high in sugar and if they don’t have sugar, they’re sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as Splenda. I love Splenda but I really want to wean away from processed sweeteners…alas the all-natural apple butter spread. A MUST try!

Food Blogs (Homemade Salad Dressing & Chiobani Greek Yogurt)
Since getting into the blogging world, I’ve come across some great blogs that I absolutely love. A couple of my favorite ones are The Athlete’s Plate and The Athletarian....ironically both have the word “athlete” in them but my intention for following actually has nothing to do with their athleticism but more so the great advice and recipes they offer. My new favorite recipe is for a butternut squash salad courtesy of The Athlete's Plate. I’m so hooked to the salad dressing! Again, salad dressing is another condiment I spend much of my time contemplating when at the grocery store. I needn’t search any further. Most salad dressings are either too high in fat content, sugar or made with things I can’t even pronounce. This one only requires four and a dash of salt and pepper. Try it out!
In addition to this recipe, I was also convinced via The Athletarian to give Chiobani Greek Yogurt a try. I'd always been concerned about the sugar content (again) but there is a huge difference between natural sugars found in fruit and processed sugars. I'm horrible at remembering this because the word sugar often scares me. The one pictured is blueberry but I highly recommend pineapple...mmmm, mmmm, mmm!

And lastly, I know I promised no New Year’s Resolutions BUT I couldn’t help but push myself toward a SMALL goal…run 500 miles in 2012. It’s an average of almost 10 miles a week. It’s not much but I do have my weeks that I tend to slack off and think this would be a good little incentive for me to get out there. Wishing you all and safe and wonderful New Year…make it your best year ever!

Monday, December 19, 2011

My First Triathlon!

I want to preface this post by apologizing for how long it is...I'm still really excited about this experience. You never forget your first:

In 2010, I did my first half marathon, 2011 my first full and told myself that in 2012, I would do my first triathlon. Well, I completed my goal just a few weeks before the New Year and I feel GREAT! A couple months ago, I'd met Ironman Brain Boyle. If you haven't heard his story,
check it out! He was such an inspiration and the reason I ultimately decided to stop saying I would do a triathlon and actually sign up for one! On my 29th birthday, I registered for Vineman 70.3. Yikes! It was a crazy move considering I'd never done one. Knowing that I had to get a few under my belt, my friend Deb convinced me to do the Beach Blast Triathlon.

The event was
Rocket Racing Production's first triathlon. We decided on this one because it was local and great for the price. Rocket Racing capped the entries at about 75 participants so I thought it would be perfect for a first. I was a little bummed because it nothing like the marathon glory I was used to. No tech tee, no expo, and no medal. I went for it anyway knowing that it would be a good crash course in what a triathlon was like. My goal was simply to finish...

I followed one of the training programs from a book that had been recommended to me,
"The 12-Week Triathlete". Great book for anyone who's ever wanted to do a triathlon. I'll admit, the Thanksgiving holiday derailed my training a bit and the laziness continued on into December. I still swam, ran, and biked but I wasn't as consistent with my brick training as I should have been. I felt so unprepared physically, yet mentally ready...I even waited till the last minute (the day before the event) to even try on a wetsuit which was quite an experience. I rented the suit, came home, got my transition bags ready, and went out for a few drinks. Yes, guilty as charged! I had a glass of wine and a beer with dinner but like a good girl, called it a night early. I still couldn't sleep though. I can't say it was nerves because I felt confident in my ability to complete the event at this distance. I finally fell asleep at 3:30 a.m. only to have to be up a couple hours later.  

Next thing I knew, it was time to wake up. I grabbed my gear and off I went. I can't tell you how grateful I was to have Deb there. For some reason I couldn't get my front tire back on but she showed up and saved the day. We made our way to check in and set up our transition area. Once we were all checked in, the event coordinators explained the course to us; because it was a small event, the streets weren't closed off and there wasn't any signage. (A bit of advice, if you ever participate in a small event like this, PAY ATTENTION about the course). We made our way to the swim area and walked along the water to get used to the temperature. Not too bad for being December. I can honestly say, the water did not scare me at all. I credit this to being taught how to swim by getting thrown into a pool at a young age (thanks mom).The coordinators made sure we were all ready, I heard "GO!" and off we went. One arm in front of the other, kick, breathe, swallow some salt water and just keep moving forward. I kept at a steady pace alongside Deb but eventually she was a bit faster than me and I lost her. I kept looking for her but my eyes were more focused on the finish than findind her red swim cap. I got out of the water and started running to the next transition. As I was running, an officer who had been making sure we were safe crossing the street told me, "You're the second girl I've seen! Good job!!!" Come to find out, Deb was first, I was second and after us there were only about 3 or 4 other women participating out of 70 plus people. Pretty cool!

I slipped right out of my suit (much easier to get out of than to put on) and threw on my long sleeve, shoes, and my helmet. I was in such a rush, I forgot a few things like my sunglasses (not good because of debris on the road). Oh well. I kept going. I was worried about how I would feel in wet clothes but once you're on the bike, you just ride and don't think about anything but getting out there. Within the first mile, there was a pretty steep hill..."Be strong," I kept telling myself. I remembered a tweet from
Exmetal13 : @MissJewels212 be fear....and will do it. I got past the hill and kept riding. The bike part was great except for the fact that my feet and other parts of my body were numb from the cold. I got passed up by a few people but never once did I feel intimidated. I just kept pedaling along. At one point a couple people caught up to me and asked if I knew how to get back. I figured the same way we came but I honestly did not pay attention when we were being told where to go. Some chose to follow me and others went their own way.

I made it back, took off my helmet and threw on my cap. This is it...3 miles and you're done. Running 3 miles has never been an issue for me. I can usually do 3 miles in about 28 minutes...not today. I felt myself running really slow but I didn't care. It was my first time doing this and I didn't want to burn out. Come to find out, the distance was off (we recieved an apology from Rocket Racing; we'd done 4 miles in total). One of the guys I'd seen on the bike course who had asked me how to get back, passed me and said great job! It felt nice to hear that since there weren't volunteers, water stations or people cheering like in a normal event. I then saw Deb which again was great encouragement. I finally hit the turnaround and knew this was it...the last mile and a half (or in this case 2). I was still slow but again, I didn't want to clonk out. With my lower back begining to hurt a bit, I refused to walk at any point! Push through it Julie! As I neared the end, I picked up the pace. I could hear Deb saying "Go Julie!" I looked up and saw her but then I also saw something else that put a HUGE smile on my the finish was one of the event coordinators holding up a medal! Although it was a cheesy one, I was so happy because I wasn't even expecting it. I collected my medal and hugged Deb. It wasn't the finish I was used to with tons of spectators. I didn't cry like I usually do after a race; in all honesty, it felt more like a workout than an event but it really was a great practice for me. I never felt intimidated or scared. I just kept going knowing that every step I went pushed me closer to the finish and that one day I would be in Sonoma participating in Vineman. I loved this event for the fact that it was intimate, local, and the coordinators were so helpful. Thanks Rocket Racing for a great first time...both yours and mine!

Deb and I grabbed our gear and went off to celebrate our victory with some champagne and a yummy breakfast. A huge thanks to my friend for this moment and to our significant others for coming out with us after the race for support. I also want to thank all of you on Twitter for the well wishes. I sent a tweet at 5:30 a.m. about heading out to my first triathlon and many of you responded to wish me luck! Again, thank you!

Stay tuned for my triathlon lessons learned...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

If I had a nickel for every time I said I was going to start diet, I swear I'd be rich. You’ll actually notice a few of my earlier posts where I talk about my millionth attempt to drop a few pounds. As much as I hate to admit it, the truth of the matter is that I've struggled with my weight ever since I was about 10 years-old. I’ve never been extremely overweight; at my all-time high I weighed 180 pounds (I was only 5' 4" at the time so I was pretty heavy). Sadly, this was when I was about 13-yeards-old. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I finally decided to do something. I started playing sports and became more conscientious of what I ate. I was able to lose 40 pounds but all of that came at a price. I then became obsessive, weighing myself almost every single day up to 2 to 3 times a day. If I even gained 1 pound, I would get so down on myself that I promised I would lose 2 the next. Over the years it's been a constant struggle. I eventually learned that this wasn't healthy, and finally began to accept my body. I've become a little less stringent, weighing myself now about once a week. I’ve found joy in exercise, no longer seeing it as a weight loss method but more just something I do for fun. Yes, running is fun to me!

As much as I love to be active, I admit that my eating habits aren't always the best. I don't know what it is about me, but the minute you put something sweet in front of me I'll either resist the temptation or fall right off the deep end and eat way more than I should. I’m the all-in or all out type of person which has caused nothing but a series of weight fluctuations over the years ranging between 10 and 15 pounds. Again, not health either.

Before the chubiness kicked in.
Sorry, but I dare not share photos of my teenage years.

To this day, there’s still that little chubby girl inside of me that stresses out. I don’t consider myself overweight, but I know I could definitely afford to lose a good 10 pounds. Some friends say I'm too hard on myself, but I guess it's because I know I have the potential to do better. If I followed my runs with consistent healthy eating or treating myself to something sweet in moderation, I know I would feel so much better.

As we approach the New Year, many of us will resolve to eat healthier, workout more, or lose a few pounds. Last year, I resolved to quit smoking which went over very well. Yay for me! Well this year, I started mine a bit early. As of last Saturday a few friends and I decided to challenge each other on a little weight loss competition. I'm not looking to drop a lot of weight. We’re actually basing the winner off of percentage so my 10 or 15 pounds that I hope to lose will get me a fairly good number overall.

My motivation and outlook this time are different. For starters, the boyfriend has agreed to participate in the competition. I've mentioned in a previous post how we both felt like we've gained a little since we started dating almost three years ago. Another huge motivator for me is my half Ironman next year. Triathlon gear is just not attractive! Let me just say, for anyone who has done a tri, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Triathlon gear is usually very tightfitting and when you're out there on the course (especially since my event is right in the middle of summer), you want to wear the least amount of clothing as possible and still be comfortable. I don't mean that you want to go out on the course practically naked, but you want to avoid having to switch clothing or layer up on top of what you're already wearing during the transition.

Let me just say again, if I had a nickel for every time I said this. So here's to the New Year and starting it off right! What are your resolutions for 2012?