July 8th, 2013

First Trimester Wrap-up

First trimester was an adjustment, both nutritionally and exercise-wise.  The sleepiness and afternoon nausea added a real challenge to my workout routine.  The tricky part (after finding the motivation to actually work out) was finding the right exercise intensity level.  With all the conflicting information, I was terrified I caused harm after any workout session that left me a little winded.  But, it’s amazing what our pregnant bodies do to adapt.  I couldn’t push it as hard and I definitely enjoyed a few more off days during those first 13 weeks.

3 Tips for the First Trimester:

  1.  Sign up for a race!  I led a training group for a half marathon taking place at week 17.  This was a great motivator to keep me moving on those mornings I really wanted to hit the snooze button!  Whether it’s a 5k or marathon, I highly recommend registering for an event (or 2 or 3) to keep you moving during those first few months.  Just don’t beat yourself up if you slow down considerably!  And, remember to take it easier during your training — limit sprints and hills, and keep it at conversation pace.
  2. Stay hydrated:  Staying hydrated during pregnancy is super-important; since you’ll be keeping up a steady workout regimen :), it’s even more important.  Be sure to plan ahead — I went skiing at 12 weeks (I kept it to easy slopes and was very cautious) and was sure to carry my camelback for easy access to H2O.

    12-Week Ski Trip

  3. Aim to keep your current diet, but if you can’t, find healthy cheats:   Eating for two only means you’ll have to lose for two; no thanks!  Ideally, a pregnant lady is at her healthiest – no drinking, cheese restrictions, vitamins, etc.  But let’s be honest, changing hormones during pregnancy means it’s even harder than usual.  I was drawn to carbs – chips, crackers, pasta, etc.  But I stuck to pop chips, whole wheat crackers and whole wheat pasta without added sugar.  Don’t get me wrong, I gained a significant amount those first four months (definitely more than recommended); at least it was somewhat healthier calories!

Key first trimester takeaway:  Enjoy it and don’t be too hard on yourself, BUT don’t use pregnancy as an excuse to leave all of your good habits behind!  


June 28th, 2013

Pregnant & Fit!!

BIG news!! K and I are expecting our first child!  I am 25 weeks and feeling pretty great.  But it’s been quite the roller coaster thus far.  Everywhere I turn, inconsistent information is thrown my way; I’ll focus on the fitness myths:

  • Stick to light, 30 minutes of exercise.


  • No triathlons: you’ll fall off your bike.
  • Never exercise on your back.
  • Don’t let your heart rate go over 140 BPM
  • No endurance training/racing.

I am thankful to have a great OB – at my first appointment she said I could keep running and teaching/taking group fitness classes at fusion.  More importantly, she acknowledged the difficulty (and absurdity) of only considering heart rate to set an appropriate effort level.  Instead, she recommended keeping it at conversation pace.  That means fitness classes, spin, running and swimming are in!  The falling off my bike thing does make me a little nervous, so I’m sticking to the stationary option.

I’ve been following that guideline thus far, working out 5-6 days/week at lower intensity, and I am hoping to keep going strong throughout my pregnancy!!

June 17th, 2013

A Very Vegan Lie

I am slowly making my way to a predominantly vegan lifestyle.  Predominantly being the key word.  While there are some great vegan restaurants in KC (e.g., Café Gratitude and FuD), vegan options are rather limiting (and boring) at other restaurants.  I just can’t get excited at a side of steamed vegetables when K is devouring a delicious steak tartar appetizer at my favorite KC happy hour spot, Blue Stem.  So, I’ve been a 90% vegan, straying about twice a week when I’m out to eat.

The most interesting thing about being a (fake) vegan is the reaction I get from others.  People are fascinated.  The reactions range from surprised and interested to appalled.  They want to know what I’m eating, if I’m hungry all the time, why in the world I would ever give up meat, if it gets boring, etc.

I always come clean and admit that I’m only vegan 90% of the time.  It takes a little extra prep time, but it hasn’t been too difficult.  As far as variety goes, I already have a few go to meals:

  • Extra firm tofu cooked with pineapples and teriyaki  sauce (thanks to my sister Cam), with sautéed vegetable medley.

    via http://vegan-quotes.tumblr.com/

  • Couscous with Trader Joes’ Yellow Curry Sauce, chickpeas, raisins and broccoli.
  • Al dente whole wheat pasta with broccoli and sun dried tomatoes.
  • My cold quinoa salad.
  • Sweet Potato Chips (olive oil, cinnamon and chili pepper), served with veggies.
  • Brussels sprouts baked with olive oil; add cranberries and sliced almonds.
  • Lentil soup.
  • Hummus wrap.
  • Avocado and black bean wrap.
  • Vegan lasagna (courtesy of The Engine 2 Diet).

Unlike vegetarianism, where it’s easy to eat fatty foods with dairy products (i.e., ice cream, cheese, etc.), veganism is a much cleaner diet.  But it’s still important not to overdo the carb department.  And, to stay away from those processed foods, like oreos, that are vegan.

December 9th, 2012

Going Vegan … Maybe?

I’m totally guilty of buying into overhyped crazes like Chia seeds – the superfood of the  Aztecs.  It’s only natural that after reading Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, I’m inspired to go vegan.  The author and ultramarathoner, Scott Jurek, outlines the success he had by going Vegan.  I tried it once before, but this time I’m going to track how I feel during my training.

First things first; here’s a look back at my diet and how I felt during a race/training:

via The Vegan Project

  • Sensible meal the night before a run = great.
  • Carbo loading the night before a run = bad.
  • Pizza early evening before a marathon = ok; garlic and cheese were a poor choice.
  • Chicken and rice the night before IM = ok.
  • Peanut Butter & Banana sandwich the night before 70.3 = great.
  • Overload of gels/bars before a run = bad.
  • Longer run on an empty stomach = good.
  • Long runs after eating Core Warrior Bar = great.
  • Long run relying only on infinit = great.

No huge surprise with the above, but it’s noteworthy that I do recall waking up feeling more prepared for a race/training after eating sensibly and avoiding dairy and meat the night before.  So, I thought I’d see if a vegan diet really makes a different to my overall training.  Will it speed up recovery as Jurek suggests?  Will I get enough protein from a plant, non-dairy diet?

More importantly, what am I going to eat?  Here are a few websites with good Vegan Recipes:

We’ll see how it goes!

November 28th, 2012

Post-Season Blues

I’m finally getting over my post-season “blues”… That transition time right after a big event, when, after months of training, there is no race ahead (and shouldn’t be to allow sufficient time to recover physically and mentally), and you are working through that inner conflict as you cut back on weekly exercise.  Don’t get me wrong, the added free time and sleeping in on weekends is nice, but, it takes time to re-adjust your caloric intake and figure out how much exercise you can do to stay fit while allowing your body to recover.

It’s been over two months since the Ironman and I’m pretty sure I lost most of the endurance conditioning I built up … I finally accepted the fact that it’s okay; in fact, it’s best to take a step back before diving back into training.  For starters, I don’t want to burn out.  And, I can use this winter season to build muscle and start thinking about my goals for next year.

I’m realistic and know I need to focus on indoor exercises during midwest winters.  This holiday season, my workout routine will include Fusion classes, spin classes, and shorter sprint intervals/fartleks/tempo runs.  [For treadmill workout ideas, see Runner’s World and Active.com.]  As noted in my prior post, it’s important to work on all three muscle types (Type I, Type IIa, Type IIb); so, I plan to squeeze in fusion cardio classes (i.e., classes that incorporate plyometric moves to hit those fast twitch muscles) and add heavier weights to my weekly workouts (e.g., Mark Allen Triathlon Strength Training).

November 22nd, 2012

4 Ways to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays

This year, let’s focus on staying healthy over the holidays.  Note that this does not mean dropping pounds or going on an exercise craze.  I’m taking on the challenge of “staying healthy” with the following: (1) try a new “clean” recipe each week, (2) avoid excessive drinking, (3) add one yoga class (or video) per week, and (4) take the dogs for a walk/run twice a week.

1.   Clean Eating = actual food cooked without excessive sugar/butter/oil

The holidays are such a busy time and worrying about your diet at this year’s holiday party is the last thing you need to add to your list.  Instead of focusing on what you shouldn’t eat, find easy “clean” recipes that you can eat without guilt.  Try it at home and make it again for your work holiday party.

By “clean” eating I mean natural, unprocessed foods.  Look for recipes centered around vegetables and avoid sugary, butter-heavy dishes.  I’m not saying cross them off your list, but look for alternate recipes (I promise, sweet potatoes are delicious without mounds of brown sugar).  You can find plenty of great healthier recipes on pinterest!  I just made an awesome Brussels Sprouts Salad that I intend to replicate for K’s family’s Thanksgiving.  It contains Olive Oil, cheese and bacon (I used turkey bacon), so it’s not exactly low-cal/low-fat, but you get a good serving of vegetables and it’s really tasty!

2.   Avoid Excessive Drinking

Via Mitzi Dulan's Nutrition Blog

No need to explain this one.  And don’t tell yourself you’re drinking your calories; we all know you’ll only get drunk faster, which leads to mindless eating and a morning-after greasy meal instead of your morning spin class.  [Tip: alternate your alcoholic drink with a water. For more, check out Mizi Dulan’s nutrition blog.]

3.   Yoga Class

Holidays can be stressful and taking the time to calm your mind can keep you (or get you back) on track.  It doesn’t have to be yoga, meditating for 20 minutes can do wonders for your mental health.  You’ll feel more in control as you tackle this holiday season, thereby making every party that much more enjoyable!

4.    Walk/Run Twice a Week With Your Dog (/Friend/Spouse/Child)

If you have a dog, make the time to take the pooch for a walk at least twice a week.  It can be a short, fifteen minute walk around the block.  If it turns into an hour, great, but don’t feel pressured to put that much time into it.  The goal here is to get some fresh air and clear your mind.

With these four tips, you can be on your way to smooth holiday season and welcome the next year with a health body and mind.

November 18th, 2012

Success!! I survived the 140.2, and I’m ready for more!

After months of training, I’m happy to report I completed my first full Ironman on September 15, 2012!  The event took place in Grand Coulee, Washington, about 4 hours east of Seattle.  The full Iron distance consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run.  My goals for the event were, (1) survive; (2) finish; (3) finish between 12 and 13 hours.  I’m happy to say I met all three.  My final time was 12:30, and it would have been under twelve had I not encountered problems on my bike …

Pre-Race Meeting with K & Cam

2.4 Mile Swim:  It was a smooth lake swim, and I finished towards the front of the pack in 1:07.  This is a great event for anyone intimidated by the iron-distance swim for two reasons: (1) they had sight lines to help keep you on track and (2) it’s a smaller event, so participants spread out relatively quickly.

112 Mile Bike:  The bike was another story.  It was a challenging course with 4,000 feet in ascent, and biking just happens to be my weakness.  To make matters worse, I ran into some (preventable) issues … it took me 55 miles to realize my brakes were off center and rubbing against both my front and back tires.  I was in pain during the first three plus hours on the bike and just couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  (It didn’t help that I wiped out at a turn-around on a gravel road; it was not a pleasant time).  Frustrated at the situation and at myself, I put it behind me and continued on to have a great second half of the ride.  Thankfully, my legs had enough time to recover and I was able to run through the marathon.  My bike time was a rather slow 7:04 –  per my training rides, around 60 minutes slower than I should have done without the stops and brake issue.


26.2 Mile Run:  Most of the run was on trail-like terrain, which was great, and there were only 2 big hills.  I was reluctant to push too hard because I was treading in unfamiliar terrain: I’d done several 100-mile bike rides and even with the added swim, I knew it wouldn’t be too different from my prior experiences, but a marathon after riding and swimming that long, that is entirely different than a solo marathon.  I’m surprised at how good I felt throughout the run.  I finished the in 4:07.

Race Fuel:

  • Breakfast: I had a Core Warrior Bar for breakfast, a banana and fluids.
  • Swim:  I took a caffeinated cliff shot right before the swim and a non-caffeinated one (along with water) right before hopping on the bike.
  • Bike: I primarily relied on the Infinit:Go Far mix to power through the bike.  It contains a good mix of protein and carbs to keep your muscles going during long distance events.  I also had one mini cliff bar on the bike to get in some real food.
  • Run: I took another cliff-shot before the run and headed out with two small water bottles – one with water, the other with infinit.  I don’t like pop, but the regular (flat) coke they offered on the course hit the spot!!

Post-Race:  I added the option of having an IV after the event to speed up the recovery process.  The IV is a speedy way to rehydrate.  Because this was a smaller race, they provided participants the options of purchasing an IV.  I had a super-quick recovery (hardly any soreness after the event when I was limping after the June marathon), so it apparently worked for me!!  I also had an Ultragen Recovery drink (LOVE their cappuccino flavor).

Transition: My transitions (time it takes to go from swim to bike, and bike to run) were very slow – almost 10 minutes.  I will be working on my transitions for my next IM!

Thanks C, K & A!! Overall, it was a great experience and I plan to do another.  I could not have done the training without K’s support.  It involves a lot of long hours, two-a-day training, not to mention my incessant blabbering on about the Ironman, training and fueling.  K was always patient and doubled his work around the house and taking care of the dogs.  I also have to thank my sister Camille, K and my mom Anne for their support leading up to, during and after the race.  They followed me around cheering for me and photographing the entire event.  It’s a long day, and they had great attitudes from 4 a.m. until we got home around 10 p.m.

November 16th, 2012

Heavy Weight-Low Reps v. Light Weight-High Reps

This topic has come up twice in the last week, so I thought I’d do a little further research and write about the difference between high weight/low rep and light weight/high rep workouts.  An easy way to differentiate the two is to think of a muscle builder, whose workout focuses on high weight-low rep workouts versus a ballerina, whose incredibly muscular built is developed over high repetition and isometric holds.

The same thing applies to endurance training: long distance training builds endurance in those muscles, while shorter more intense sprint-interval type workouts builds the Fast Twitch/Type II muscles.  Just think about your typical marathon runner versus a 100-meter olympian.  The marathoners always have leaner figures than the muscular sprinters.  Genetics obviously plays a role in one’s potential to excel in a sport, but training will build on to what nature provided.  That’s how you get big muscle sprinters and lean distance runners.

Slow twitch (aka Type I) muscles are more efficient at using oxygen to generate more fuel – these are the muscles that come in handy for those long distance events and  low-weight/high repetition based workouts.  Fast twitch (aka Type II) muscle use anaerobic metabolism to create fuel for bursts of speed (or heavy lifting), but they tire more quickly.  Fast Twitch muscles are further broken down into Type IIa muscles, a mid-range mixed-use of anaerobic and aerobic metabolism, and Type IIb muscles, which purely use anaerobic metabolism.

The proportion of fast to slow twitch muscle is genetically predetermined, for most, it’s 50-50 Type I:Type II.  While studies suggest physical conditioning can alter muscle fibers, your best bet is to target all three types.

How to Target all 3 Muscle Types:

  • Type I:  long distance running or jogging.
  • Type IIa:  high repetition of low weights, tempo runs, fartleks.
  • Type IIb:  plyometrics, sprint/hill intervals, low reps (less than 10) with heavy weight.

Now get out there and work on any of these three muscle types!

November 11th, 2012

Super-Healthy and Filling (and Easy!) Quinoa Salad

This recipe was inspired by a dish at Cafe Gratitude, a vegetarian, local-food, organic restaurant.  Don’t be turned off by the hippie ingredients; it’s AWESOME.  Trust me, if my husband K likes it, it’s not your typical wannabe-real food/soy replacement meal.  It’s easy, super-healthy, and – bonus – with around 10g protein and 5.25g fiber per serving, you’ll stay satisfied longer!!  You can use this as a side or complete meal; I go for the latter with a small plain spinach salad.

Ingredients (4 servings):

  • Quinoa (1 cup)
  • Tahini (1/4 cup)
  • Soybean mixed veggies (1/2 cup) (I use frozen Soycutash from Trader Joe’s; edamame works too)
  • Kimchi (1/4 cup)
  • Red cabbage (less than 1/4 cup)

Cook the quinoa w/ a pinch of salt (optional: I add a couple chicken bouillon cubes) and the soybean mix separately.  Allow both to cool [tip: stick them in the refrigerator to speed the cooling.]  Mix in remaining ingredients.  Voila!

November 5th, 2012

GET UP!!! Sitting Only Two Hours Can Have A Negative Health Impact.

the enemy

You read that right.  AND, it doesn’t matter if you work out regularly – in fact, continued sitting can offset some of the benefits of jogging.  Say what?!?!!  Prolonged sitting necessarily leads to muscle inactivity, which in turn affects molecules that play a central role in how the body processes fats and sugars.  (see NYTimes.com article, Stand Up While Your Read This!).  The implication, a crucial part of your metabolism slows down when you sit.

A recently published study out of Australia analyzed the impact of sustained sitting on metabolic health.  The results are staggering.  Uninterrupted sitting resulted in insulin and glucose levels 20% higher than in subjects that took light or moderate breaks.

Another similar study examined the influence of postmeal exercise and concluded that even a slow walk can reduce blood glucose response to a carbohydrate-rich meal (see Slow postmeal walking reduces postprandial glycemia in middle-aged women).

The Upside:  these studies tell us taking small breaks from sitting can offset the metabolism-slowing effect of uninterrupted sitting.  So, grab a cow-worker and take a walk around the block after your meal; take a 5 minute break for a quick office workout alternating body parts throughout the day (I’ll share some great office workouts in coming posts!); take an extra lap around the office when you need to use the bathroom or to re-fill your water pitcher (keeping a pitcher at your desk is the best way to get enough water).

Coming Up:  Office Workout series.