Monday, August 27, 2012

Michelle's Super Simple Chicken Salad-- NO mayonnaise!

I have found that the best way for me to eat healthy meals is to make them ahead of time. If I leave my lunch or dinner up to chance and my fridge, then I probably end up eating something I shouldn't at a time when I am really hungry. It is ludicrous to think that driving or walking a few blocks from my house to wait in a line to get food is faster than making something myself, but I (and maybe you too) have justified many a poor decisions by saying that I am too hungry to wait long enough to cook something to eat. That is why I am trying to make my lunches at the beginning of the week. Sunday night I will make lunch and possibly snacks that need to be prepared in order to keep me on track. I made chicken salad this week, and I am going to share the recipe below!

Michelle's Super Simple Chicken Salad

10oz can cooked chicken breast meat
3 1/2 tbs plain Greek yogurt
2 1/2 tsp spicy brown or Dijon mustard
3-4 tbs chopped raw unsalted almonds
3-4 tbs finely chopped or matchstick carrots
3-4 tbs dried cranberries
dash of salt and pepper

Directions: drain and finely shred chicken, then mix all ingredients together. It's that simple!!

I love this because it is super simple, easy, and quick to whip up! I didn't cook the chicken myself, but it is most certainly an option, and I would do it that way any time I am already planning to cook a chicken dish that would allow me to cook all the chicken at once and pull some out. It is super yummy, and there is NO mayonnaise!! And if you think you don't like Greek yogurt, don't worry because you seriously cannot taste it! I am not the hugest Greek yogurt fan, although I am working toward it, but I seriously couldn't even tell.

Today I ate my chicken salad on a single piece of whole wheat bread, but it is also delicious on crackers, a tortilla, Granny Smith apple slices, or leaf lettuce! For other mix-ins, you could put boiled egg, grapes, celery, green pepper, onion, Granny Smith apple pieces, walnuts, pecans, or pineapple tidbits! I made mine with my favorites, which just also happened to be what I already had on hand!

Take the recipe, and make it your own! And if you are anything like me, make it ahead of time!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Let's Get Real

Ok, it's time to get real. I really did not want to run Tuesday night. I ate way too much for dinner, and I just didn't want to go, so I whined all the way out the door. For a split second, I thought about not going, but then I remembered that I promised to check in with a friend and reader from back home. I knew that I would feel so guilty if I messaged Hannah at the end of the week knowing that I didn't do all my workouts. There are so many reasons I didn't want to run, and I kept finding all kinds of things to complain about in my head as I ran. Some of them are legitimate downfalls to running in the area I live in, but then I decided that I needed to start making a list of the things I love about it here too. Today you will get an accurate picture of what my life is like, and a list of pros and cons for the area I live in.

First of all, I am slowly on the decline from the heaviest weight I have ever reached in my whole life. This spring I tipped in at around 165lbs.  I remember thinking I was so fat in high school because I was constantly comparing myself to the other girls at my school who were all so tiny, but looking back I realize how stupid I was to think I was fat when I weighed 130lbs. Now, I will share a picture of myself shortly after moving to Philadelphia, but I will admit that there are two contributing factors to how terrible I look. 1) The picture was taken at a terrible angle because Matt was at a lower vantage point than I was, and 2) I was wearing a shirt that I have had since high school. It is a fact that nothing that fit you when you were 30lbs lighter actually fits you when you are 30lbs heavier, even if you can still put it on.

165lbs with street art by GetUp
in Center City Philly.

Now I started gaining the weight before I moved to Philly, but I can say that living here has not at all helped my cause at all. However, I do know that it is not the area, but rather my lack of self-control that is currently causing me to pack on the pounds. If you were unaware as I was, I am going to drop a bombshell on you right now, but Philly is the land of Phood! I have eaten the best foods ever since I moved here, but of course they are all super bad for you, and I have been indulging like a tourist instead of acting like a townie. I am going to do something strange for a fitness blog and show you some of the best foods I've had here.

My first and second Philly Cheesesteak, the best thing ever: Grilled Cheeseburger, and CRACK-like chips!
And let me tell you, this is only the very tip of the iceberg! I didn't even show you any pizza!

This brings me to the first thing that sucks about running here. When I started my running journey in Missouri, I lived in a rural community, so traffic was not something that I really had to worry about. Now that I live in an urban area on the outskirts of Philadelphia, I have to worry about all that comes with that from the second I start out on my run. I start on a very busy street that runs from where I live, all the way into the heart of Philly. The cars speed by at speeds more than double the posted speed limit, which more than anything just messes up my pace in the most annoying way. It also sucks because I have to run right by pizza parlors, sandwich shops, bakeries, hoagie and hot dog stands, and a drive-thru grocery store all on just the first two blocks of my route. Seriously.

Now along with the hustle and bustle of living in an urban area, comes locked buildings. I did not have to carry my keys with me when I ran in MO, but I can't even get in my building, let alone my apartment, if I don't have my keys with me. I thought I had come up with a way to carry my keys on my shoe, but it ended up being super annoying, so I just carry them in my hand now.


Before I moved to PA, I always pictured a beautiful fall scene with gorgeous trees turning to autumn golds, reds, and oranges. Trees was definitely the correct picture to have in my head. There are even trees everywhere in the city! I love the tree cover because I can run at night without the heat billowing up from the black pavement like it does in the evenings in Missouri. I also use the trees as a way to take my mind off of wanting to start walking. When I feel the mental barrier kick in, I start reaching up as I run under a tree to see if I can grab some leaves. This game is way better to play as an adult than it was as a kid because I can actually reach most of them now!

I am far from reaching my goal weight at this point, but I am working. There are still times when I indulge in those delicious Philly Phoods, and there are weeks where I don't loose a single pound, but I am going to keep working. I know that I can meet my goals if I am willing to put in the time and effort. This is one of those goals that will take a lot of time and effort, but I know it will be worth it in the end. 

Thanks for reading and motivating me to stay on track, and remember that you can do anything for 10!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

When in doubt, bling it out!

Ok, so I will admit that ever since my fiance, Matt, and I moved in together, I have been telling him repeatedly that this is not a college dorm room. He of course doesn't see the need to decorate or any of that jazz, but I have broken my own decorating rule. I taped some things up on my closet door, and he doesn't know it yet, but I taped something up on his closet door too. I know that he will say something about the college dorm feel when he sees it, but I needed some motivation because I have signed up for my next race!

For those of you who don't already know, my last race was a disaster to say the least. You can read about that gem of an experience here if you haven't already. My sister wisely suggested that I take some time off from running, and I agreed that I should most definitely not run a fall half this year. I recently had a debate with Matt about whether or not I could run a 10k within a few months, and he thought it was crazy that I wasn't sure if I could do it. That got the wheels a-turning in my head. Then I got the final push when that same crazy, Anything for 10 and take a break sister, called and asked if there were any 5k's in the area during the weekend she is planning to come visit me in October. Well, I did her one better, and now she, Matt, and I are running the Runner's World Festival 10k. I am pretty pumped because I have never done a 10k in terms of an organized race, but I am also nervous since I have taken so much time off from regular running.

The nervousness is what spurred the college-like decorating spree in my room today. I had actually just written out a training schedule and inspiring quote I saw today before I talked to her about the race, and then once we made solid plans, I went super motivational on my closet so that I will hopefully be on top of my running to ensure a much better experience at my 10k than I had at my last Half. Here's what my closet doors look like right now.

I am one of those people who needs constant reminders and motivational tools to keep working toward a goal that I might not always feel like working toward or that I might have times when I doubt by ability to reach the goal. So right where I will see it every single day, I have hung my two half marathon bibs (top), a training schedule that I made myself and a quote that I need to commit to memory (top middle), three bibs from 5ks that were important to me (bottom middle), and my two half marathon finisher's medals (bottom). The quote just happens to be from one of the best experts at Runner's World. Bart Yasso, RW Chief Running Officer, once said said in an interview, "Don't ever doubt that you are a runner just because you are slow. I hear people all the time say, 'I'm not a real runner.' We are all real runners, some are just slower than others. I've never met a fake runner." I super love this quote because I am super slow! I have never been fast, and I most likely never will be, but I have made it to the finish every time, and that's what counts. And in  two months from today, I hope to be making it across the finish line of my first 10k, thanks to my motivation and determination.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Top 5 Most Embarrassing Favorite Workout Songs

Growing up, music was a pretty big part of my life because I come from a very musical family. My grandfather taught the 19 time Grammy winning artist Pat Metheny to tune a guitar. Not only do various members play instruments, but I have a brother who once went two weeks without speaking a single word because he wanted to see how long he could go around singing everything that came out of his mouth, and I have a sister who is an opera singer who has sung in England and Scotland. You are probably wondering what this has to do with fitness, and I am getting there, trust me. I myself played a couple instruments, and was in show choir and musicals. I was also a cheerleader, and as a young kid I took dance lessons. You would think I would be able to pick up the beat in a song pretty easily, but that is apparently not the case when you throw me on a spin bike. My sister-in-law and good friend, Rachel, would be so sad considering they are music teachers who have probably had more success teaching rhythm to kindergartners than my spin instructor did with me today. We did an interval class based of the beat of the songs as the changed, and for some reason I just could not pick up the beats today.

Now sometimes, music is the most important part of a workout like the instructor tried to make it today. Music can really pump you up and get you to keep pushing when you just really want to give up. I am somewhat ashamed to say that there are times when I listen to songs when I am working out that I would not normally listen to. I am an indie/piano band kind of kid for the most part, so you would not normally catch me listening to any kind of country, rap, or pop music. I did admit in my last post that I occasionally get pumped up to Garth Brooks of all things, but today I will share the top five most embarrassing songs (in my opinion) that I listen to when working out. The songs and an explanation are listed below from least to most embarrassing.

5. Good Feeling by Flo Rida: I had really hoped that I could have gone my whole life saying that under no circumstances did I ever like a song by Flo Rida. Darn you Flo and your Good Feeling! Although I can't stand rap music, I am putting this song at number 5 because if you are ever really struggling in a workout, this song turns that struggle into a good feeling for about 4 minutes.

4. Just Dance by Lady GaGa: I really don't want to like her music in general because she is freaking crazy, and I don't think it's good to indulge people who are nuts. Now, I can justify this by saying that although this song is all synthesized, she really is very talented and a great piano player. Check out her acoustic stuff, and you might be surprised and sad that she doesn't just stick with that...I was. BUT Just Dance has a pretty peppy beat, and it gets me moving at the beginning of a run.

3. Toxic by Britney Spears: Oh Britney, you may have gone absolutely crazy, but this song is one of those that just makes me want to dance along to the beat...when I can find it. Now, this song really sucks because of it's dance factor. I may or may not have been pulled into accidentally doing a little bit of really crappy white girl dance as I was on my recovery lap at the HS track the other day... and no, I was not alone. I haven't really been back to the track since then...

2. Bringing Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake: And along with the nostalgia of Britney pre-freakout, there is Justin Timberlake. Now, I don't really like his music at all, but the one thing that draws me to this song during a workout is that I like songs that have a small single message that I can turn into a mantra for my workout to remind me what I am working for. That's all, and I REALLY wish I didn't like this song. And I do not listen to this if I am not working out...just to be clear. 

1. Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry: I seriously hate Katy Perry with a passion, and I am so happy to say that I still hate this song even as it plays during a workout, and I am even more delighted to say that this one is most definitely NOT on my ipod. This is a song that my instructor plays during spin class sometimes, and I am always so sad to hear it because I know that for some strange reason it will push me harder on a tough hill, but I just don't want it to because I would like to continue hating it on every level. It is perfectly fine for you to disagree with me, and you can love her, her music, and her videos, but I just can't get behind someone with crappy lyrics and crap shooting out of her boobs in every single music video she does. Why does this have to be a good hill climbing song, and why does the instructor have to play it..ever?

I am so sad after writing this post that I have decided that I will be writing a post in the near future listing my top 5 favorite workout songs from the music I would actually listen to without being embarrassed. There will be redemption, but for now, you can have a nice laugh.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Quieting the White Noise

I know it's been a while since I have posted anything, but I have just started working now that we moved to PA. for those who don't know me personally, I am a teacher, but I have decided to leave full time teaching, so I am currently teaching K-12 remedial reading part time. I am very fortunate in that I only have to earn a supplementary income, which has sparked a decision for me to really focus on my health and fitness. I have never been an athletic type person even though I participated in various sports growing up and swam competitively for more than 10 years. If every person who knew me well wrote a list of adjectives to describe me, I can guarantee that none of them would contain words like athletic, fit, strong, or any of the other things that I would like for myself. And if you have read the Anything for 10: Background Story, then you know I basically started this journey because people told me I couldn't do it. I have come a long way, but I still have so far to go. I would really like to become that strong, fit, HEALTHY, athletic person that I know I can be.

Although I haven't been to the gym this whole week as I started my new job, I have been going to walk at the local high school track in the evenings after dinner. Each night brought different internal battles. Away from the white noise of the gym, my mind was able to tear me down and build me up. I was dragged down by the thought that I was so weak because all I was doing was pitifully walking laps when I have completed two half marathons! I should be able to run! I could, but the truth is that I just didn't make myself do it. And there is also the truth that brisk walking is also a good activity for me to engage in, even if my inner-self was telling me that I was a failure.

I decided during my walk last night to pick up the pace. I was provoked to start jogging after my first mile when Garth Brooks' "Callin Baton Rouge" came on my ipod. As  Garth belts, "Hello, Samantha dear, I hope you're feeling fine," who isn't filled with a surge of energy? Come on, people! I am not myself a country fan per say, but I was raised in a rural community, so it has a bit of a nostalgic spark for me. I started thinking about so many things as I ran. I thought about my Grandmother who is one of my favorite people in the whole world, and how she is dying from ALS, which is a terrible disease that robs its sufferers of the ability to walk, stand, move, and eventually the ability to breathe. I felt a sense of shame for all the times I have taken those simple, yet beautiful, life-sustaining actions for granted. I thought about how shameful it is to let that little voice inside tell me who I am or who I am going to be. I cannot let that voice, or the voices of nay-sayers define me.

I am on a mission. I have decided to make myself the person I want to be. I can't let anyone or anything stop me because I don't know how much time I have left to utilize the body I have been given, but when that time is up, I would like to know that I have truly given it everything I've got. I know that this is going to be a very difficult path, but I will take it a day at a time. I want to reach the point where those who know me will have words like healthy, fit, strong, and athletic at the tops of their lists. It is time for me to push.

Reader Response:
I would like to know what I can do to make my blog better suit your needs as readers. If you have any ideas of things you'd like to see more or less of on my blog, then leave a comment letting me know. I have a few things that I've thought about, but have not yet written about like, my favorite home workout DVDs, confessions from a blogger, guilty pleasure workout songs, and a few others. Let me know if you are particularly interested in reading any of these, and I will bump them to the top of the list. Let's get fit together!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I workout!

Weight training is probably the most overlooked part of fitness. Most people think about cardio and diet, but when it comes to overall fitness, many people just don't pull the weight, literally. It may seem unimportant if all you want to do is lose weight or get healthy, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Weight training is proven to help accelerate fat loss, and as far as getting healthy goes, it actually improves overall health by strengthening not just muscles for poise and agility when coupled with cardio workouts, but it actually strengthens your bones and helps prevent osteoporosis! Many women think that weight training will just cause them to bulk up in stead of slimming down, but this is also untrue. Women do not naturally produce enough testosterone to bulk up from weight training naturally. But weight training can be intimidating, so how can you overcome the uncertainty and get lifting?

I completely understand that weight training can be intimidating. The gym I am member of literally has the weight room blocked off by a hip-high fence-like divider. It is like looking into a club that requires a membership complete with a secret password and very strong handshake to enter, and once you are in there, you had better know what you are doing, or stay out of the way. At least, that's what I've thought as I watched from the treadmills and ellipticals I felt I had been relegated to. I knew that if I was going to infiltrate, I would have to be prepared.

I started reading a book that explained everything I could want to know about weight training. I read all about the benefits and overall importance, the etiquette, the muscle groups, and examples and explanations of more lifts than I knew existed. I was ready to go. I got to the gym. I slipped into the weight room and no alarms started sounding as I'd secretly imagined would happen when an interloper crossed the threshold. I started to grab some dumbbells and get a workout going, and then I blanked. I wasn't sure which muscles to work or which lifts to do for what muscle groups. I retreated before I was exposed.

I went home, and I made a plan. I combed back through the pages of The Body Sculpting Bible for Women- that's literally the book I'd been reading- and I started picking out which lifts I'd need to do to work the various muscle groups in the legs, and I wrote them out in the order I'd planned to do them, complete with the reps and sets for each, and I put them into groups of no more than 4 and labeled them as rounds. I also listed exactly which muscle groups each one worked so that I could concentrate on that muscle as I performed each exercise. Remember, we are practicing being mindful of our actions! I did the same thing for arms, back, chest, and abs. Then I decided which days I would work each group. I marched back in the next morning, with headphones in and notebook in hand. I stuck to paying attention to what was in the plan for the day. For all those muscly guys knew, I was following a plan that an actual trainer had given me! Obviously I am no professional or a trainer by any means, but I felt a sense of purpose and entitlement. After all, I am just as entitled to use the weight room as any other member of that gym, and by golly, I am going to get fit!

Ok, so what if you can't shell out the money for a gym membership, or there isn't a gym in your area? It doesn't matter! It just so happens that there are all kinds of body weight exercises you can do. If you haven't done a push-up recently, then you either remember how hard they are and decided to let it kick your butt into submission, or you don't remember how much of a challenge those suckers can be, and you need to experience it again! How about pull-ups? If you don't have a sturdy place to do them in your house, then head to a local park and find a nice little rung on the money bars! And you might be surprised how much of a challenge just body weight squats are! And when I was trying to get fit at home, I would even use things like a table from my dining set, one of those giant bottles of laundry detergent, or even rinse out the gallon jug after the milk was gone and refill it with water! These things might all be more challenging than you might think. So no more excuses! You can do anything for 10, including weight training!

Spin Update!
I was finally able to get back into the habit of spin class lately, and I am going three times a week. I was also able to get Matt, my fiance, to go with me! He did concede that the class was more challenging than he had originally anticipated. And the best part of all is that as I was leaving the gym yesterday, a woman said to me, "Hey! you're that girl from spin class who really pushes it! I sat next to you yesterday, and I was really impressed!" I'm not entirely sure she is correct in thinking that I am really pushing more than anyone else. I generally feel kind of wimpy, but I try my hardest and push as much as I can, and I suppose that's all that matters!