The Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving has come and passed already! Last Thursday I was one of those crazy people burning off a few extra calories in the morning before engorging myself with food. LOTS of it!

I remember doing turkey trots when I was in high school. That was a good 10 years ago already! Back then, I remember going to a turkey trot near my hometown that had around 200 runners. That’s a lot! But compared to what races have grown to today, that is hardly any. Today that race has well over 2,000 runners. WOW! That same race was an hour away from where my hometown was. Now, there are turkey trots EVERYWHERE! There is one that is only 10 minutes from my hometown. Convenient? Definitely. Convincing? Absolutely! You can’t pass down a 5K that is that close!

So how did the turkey trot start? Well, surprisingly it started way back in 1896 in Buffalo, NY. Six runners competed on a dirt oval that measured 8km. From 1947 on, Buffalo, NY held an annual turkey trot. This has become one of the largest turkey trot events, hosting 8,000 runners. The largest turkey trot race is held in Sacramento California, with over 22,000 people. That’s quite a difference from that mere race I did back in the day with 200 participants!

So there you have it. A little knowledge about how this crazy tradition began. It seems to serve as a fun family outing, or friend meet up for those who may live elsewhere from where they grew up. This was my first 5K I have ran in almost a year, and it was certainly tough! I would say that I earned my turkey that dayūüôā.

Did any of you participate in a turkey trot? If so, how large was your turkey trot?

Carbohydrate Loading – Does it help?

Ahh carbs! Looks like I must be on a carb craze since my last post talked about my recent bagel addiction. But in reality tomorrow is my long run, and so I thought it would be wise to examine whether carbohydrate loading truly benefits a long run or a race.

I generally am not too picky about what I eat the day before a race or before a long run. However, I think it is something I should give more thought to. One time I ate mexican food the night before a 10 mile race. That did NOT make my GI tract happy. I made it through the race fine, but felt pretty terrible afterwards!! Lesson learned!

So what is a carbohydrate? It is a starch or sugar, which is your body’s main source of fuel. It is stored in the body in a structure known as glycogen. Generally your body only stores small amounts of glycogen in the muscles and liver – enough to get you through general recreational exercise. It has been shown that after 90 minutes of intense exercise, your body begins to run out of these glycogen stores, causing you to become fatigued (sometimes I think my body must run out of energy by mile 2 or 3! just kidding, but fatigue sets in way before 90 minutes for me many times!)

The role of carbohydrate loading involves the week of your long run or race, such as a marathon. According to mayoclinic.com they recommend consuming 70% of your calories from carbohydrates 3 or 4 days before your endurance event. Mayo Clinic also recommends cutting back on your activity and resting the day before, which has been shown to allow for increased glycogen stores in your muscles. There have been studies on men that showed carbohydrate loading increased glycogen stores from 25 to 100 percent the normal amount in muscles. Fewer studies have been shown in women, and many of the studies done are in fact controversial, not showing as much of a benefit.

There is controversial information on whether carbohydrate loading is in fact beneficial for anyone. There are a lot of other factors that also play into the role of fatigue during an endurance event – the shape you are in, hydration level, amount of fuel consumed during the event (which especially in a marathon is crucial).

Carbohydrate rich foods must also be consumed after the endurance event to ensure adequate replacement of glycogen stores. These types of foods include: breads, pasta, fruits, milk, starchy vegetables (like corn), legumes.

So is it really worthwhile? Again, from personal experience, I have not noticed any difference.¬†I generally try to just eat a well balanced meal the night before a long run or endurance event – including a protein, carbohydrate and vegetable (but not too much vegetables – too much fiber!). I do not focus a whole week out on the foods I am eating, or specifically make sure that I am eating 70% worth of carbohydrates. Perhaps I would have more energy, I can’t honestly say. But, I have not noticed any deficits to this point in my training. The biggest thing for me is to make sure that if my event is long (such as a marathon) I consume fuel DURING the event. OH, and to not consume mexican food the night before :)!

Do any of you carbohydrate load before an endurance event?

Picking the Best Breakfast Food

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You should never skip breakfast. It is the meal that literally breaks your overnight fast. You’ll be more inclined to snack more/choose more unhealthy options if you skip breakfast. Yada, yada, yada. We’ve all heard it – how important breakfast is. But since it is so important shouldn’t we also be conscious of what the best selection for breakfast may be?

Lately I’ve been on this bagel kick. Usually I’m flying out the door and grabbing a bag of pre-measured dry cereal to eat on the go. But now my grab on the go breakfast has been a huge piece of bread – a soft, chewy bagel. YUM! So is it so bad that I have been craving this carbohydrate heavy bagel? Let’s break down a list of common breakfast foods.

Bagel – 1 plain bagel (Thomas plain bagels) yields 260 calories, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein. The problem with bagels is that they are loaded with sugar spiking carbohydrates – 53 grams! A typical piece of toast has only 21 grams of carbohydrates for 1 slice (Dave’s Killer bread – white bread done right), and a low carbohydrate bread has approximately 8 grams per slice. A serving of cereal has on average 23 grams of carbohydrates.

Not only is the amount of carbohydrates high, the source of the carbohydrates typically come from refined flours, which are flours that have all of the B vitamins removed.

And who eats a plain bagel with no topping? The toppings can even further wreak your nutritional diet. Slathering on more nutrition empty calories.

 

Cereal – Phew. This is another exhaustive category that is super confusing to EVERYONE! Aren’t we all told that kid cereals are the worst for you? They are loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, etc. Well, in recent years there has been a good amount of reformulation that has existed. Let’s take a look.

Fruit loops are a classic kid cereal Рbright colors and a toucan. That does not scream adult to me. Cracklin Oat Bran on the other hand, sounds eloquent, sophisticated, healthy. However, when compared directly to one another, the froot loops actually pull out on top, yielding less calories, fat and sugar. It is very important to read food labels, and not just pick something based on a name. http://www.eatthis.com/cereal-packages-fool-parents

Cereal typically has a variety of vitamins and minerals added into the cereal, making it a decent choice for breakfast, as long as you stick to one serving. The problem with cereal is that it is typically again made with refined grains, and does not yield a lot of fiber per serving Рleaving you to get hungry shortly after you eat your breakfast. This breakfast food certainly requires willpower to resist loading up on a bunch of snacks shortly after breakfast.

Eggs –¬†Scrambled eggs, sunny side up eggs, however you prefer them, an egg is one of the most complete sources of protein. Eggs help you stay full longer and provide you with more lasting energy then the quick rise and crash provided from a bagel or cereal. A study done in 2007 from Louisiana State University looked at overweight women who were on a calorie restricted diet. One group ate eggs for breakfast, while the other ate bagels. Both had the same amount of calories in their breakfast foods. However, at the end of the 8 week session, the women who ate the eggs for breakfast lost more weight. This was because the group of women who ate eggs felt full longer, and hence snacked less than the group who ate bagels.¬†http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-452282/How-eating-eggs-breakfast-help-lose-weight.html

Fruit – Fruit is always touted as healthy due to its fiber and nutrients that it provides. And don’t get me wrong, it IS certainly healthy. But as a stand alone for a breakfast item, it is missing protein and fat to make it a complete meal. These missing items mean that the fruit by itself will not provide you with a full feeling for long, again lending one to snack more often. Pairing fruit with something like greek yogurt can add in a healthful source of protein to a breakfast meal.

WINNER? 

That’s a tough question. It looks like eggs provide the most adequate meal as a stand alone itself. It provides protein and nutrients, like vitamin A, D and choline for brain health (a nutrient that is hard to come by in other foods).¬†https://www.washingtonian.com/2012/08/29/why-eggs-dont-deserve-their-bad-rap/

On the other hand, it looks like my bagel craving may be one I need to put on the sidelines. While it is okay to have any of these food choices for breakfast, some should be reserved in limited quantities.

As always, in my book, everything boils down to moderation.

And I guess I can say, I’m glad I enjoy exercising!!

What is your favorite breakfast food?

The long run

A long run. How long is long? Well a year ago, my long run was 1 mile, if even that! I was injured due to an anatomical foot injury which sidelined me for over a year. I craved to get back into marathon shape, having previously completed 3 marathons. This year marks 5 years since I have been able to run a marathon. It’s been a long haul to get my body back in shape to run a long run, no pun intended.

I have been fortunate to work my way back into shape, and work my mileage up to achieve a true long run – 12 miles. The past few weeks, this has been my long run of choice. The reason the long run is so special is because it requires so much from your body – strength, stamina, mental positivity, endurance. A year ago when 1 mile was my long run, it required all of those same aspects. It was extremely intimidating to me to look at a track and realize that I was about to embark around the oval 4 times!!! My previous runs had been broken up with walking breaks, and those walking breaks were certainly needed. So to run 4 laps without a walking break …wowzers!

It’s taken me years to develop mental positivity. I struggled with this through high school and college. Once my legs began to get tired, all I wanted to do was walk. I usually didn’t, but my running pace¬†probably became pretty close to a walk on a few occasions ;)! I eventually overcame this once I realized that there was never any criteria for me to finish in a certain time, or beat a specific team color.¬†I was never expected to beat anyone, not even myself. I was only expected to run as well as I could on that given day.

Each time I run a long run, I don’t view it as an intimidating thing. I view it as an opportunity that I gained back after having it taken away from me for so long (the past few years with bilateral anatomical foot injuries). I don’t expect to run a certain time, or even a certain distance, as each day is different in the running world. I set small goals, and am delighted when I achieve them. And when I don’t, I take a step back and set my sights on another day.

I am blessed to be running again, AND to be achieving the distance I am on my long runs. Plus, it gives me bonus time to listen to a few extra Christmas songs Рyes, I am one of those nutty people that LOVES listening to Christmas music early!!

What type of run is your favorite run?

How to…GET MOTIVATED!

Getting motivated is too often a very hard thing to do. OR, if you are motivated, sometimes about halfway through a task that motivation fades. Let’s rewind a week. I had an unusual amount of energy and became very excited to clean (yeah I’m not sure where that came from). I got halfway through cleaning the house and decided I no longer had motivation to clean nor was I very excited about it. However, I was already halfway through, and at that point wanted to just complete my task. I did, and I felt great and accomplished afterwards.

So what is the secret to get motivated?¬†That’s a tough question. So many people ask me why I run, and what motivates me to run. It’s a daunting sport, especially if you decide to do a workout. My secret to garnering motivation is picking something that is reasonable for me to achieve. I ran track and cross country throughout high school and college. It truly burned me out from the hard, rigorous workouts. As I found my way back to running, there was something I left out of running – those hard, rigorous workouts. I am not by any means motivated to do those, well maybe once in a blue moon. There are times when I plan to do a faster run, then right before I step out the door to go run, I become intimidated / unmotivated. Instead of beating myself up and telling myself I better run fast, I mentally convince myself that it is OK to just have an easy, slower run. Fortunately for the way my brain works, this ease allows me to relax and I usually end up running fast (I think my brain already has it set that it will be going fast that day unless I truly am too tired).

So here’s my go to list for how to get motivated for a run or a daily household chore:

  1. make a small goal for yourself – if you are going to clean, tell yourself you’ll at least dust the furniture and you can vacuum later (maybe you’ll be like me and once you begin, you’ll think it’s silly to just stop); if you plan to go for a run and run a faster run, try to convince yourself to just run a short amount at a faster pace – perhaps do 10x 1 minute pick ups with a 2 minute jog in between.
  2. Don’t put a lot of stress on yourself – if you don’t complete your task, it’s OK! There is always tomorrow. Don’t pressure yourself to get your job done that very day, but try to at least get part of it done. That small bit may motivate you to do a little bit moreūüôā.
  3. Remember that once you are done with your task you will feel good about yourself. You just have to get through the hard task of your job. Sometimes I picture myself running a tough workout then having a reward of just laying in the soft, fluffy grass when I’m done. Pick a good reward or task to do after you complete your task!

What do you do to motivate yourself?

Injury Prevention Starting at the CORE

Sports demand a lot of commitment. If you want to improve upon yourself, you must practice…a lot! Most often people think that in order to get better at something you must practice that one thing. While that is true, it doesn’t always offer¬†what the body truly needs.

Let’s focus on the core of your body – your abs!¬†When you lift your legs to walk or run, you greatly rely on your core muscles. Well, if it relies that much on your core, shouldn’t your core be really developed? Unfortunately not. It is important to do core work every day. If your core is underdeveloped or weak,¬†your pelvis wobbles around. The purpose of your core muscles is to stabilize your pelvis so that your leg muscles can function properly to lift your legs. If your pelvis wobbles around, other muscles act to try to stabilize your core, including your hamstrings and hip flexors, among others.¬†Surprisingly it can even cause back pain!

Your core is so important for everyday function. It seems nowadays that everyone allows their “busy” schedule to take over and they set exercise time aside. If for nothing else, I challenge you to set FIVE minutes of time a day aside to do core exercises. It will serve you well, and hey who doesn’t want a six pack!?ūüėČ

I personally have had both hamstring and hip flexor problems when I slacked on doing my core exercises. It wasn’t until I began doing core exercises that those problems truly began to go away.

Here’s a quick set of abdominal exercises I like to do. I do each exercise for 1 minute, for a total of 5 minutes.

  1. Plank – get in a pushup position, but don’t go down into a pushup. Hold this position for 1 minute.
  2. bicycle – lay on your back. Put your hands behind your head. Move your legs in a “bicycle” motion, touching your right elbow with your left knee and your left elbow to your right knee.
  3. toe touches – lay on your back. Put your legs straight up in the air and straighten them out as much as you can. Touch your toes with your right hand, then your left hand (or get as close as you can to touching your toes).
  4. right side crunches – lay on your back and bend your knees with your feet touching the ground. Put your hands behind your head. Touch your right elbow to your left knee, then lower your shoulder back down to the ground. Repeat this for a minute.
  5. left side crunches – same exercise as above, but touch your left elbow to your right knee.

As always with any exercise, monitor for any abnormal pains. I don’t want you to pull an abdominal muscle!! If you have never done abdominal exercises, perhaps it is best to do each exercise for 30 seconds initially. You can work your way up to doing each exercise for 1 minute. Good luck!

Butternut Squash Recipes

Butternut squash. YUM. What a fantastic fall food. Not only is it good for cooking, but it is also excellent for decorating your front porch!

I love Fall. In the area where I live, there is plenty of fall foliage. The magnificent burgundy, burnt orange, yellows and greens make for a glorious landscape. My boyfriend informed me on a fun fact of just how this color changing process occurs. As the Sun begins to be less prevalent, the chlorophyll in the leaves decrease, causing the leaves to change color. Cool, huh!?

Alright, cooking. Butternut squash is probably most known for, well according to my Mother, to be made as a side dish. It is cooked and caramelized with butter and maple syrup – similar to a candied yam.

I have used this squash as the main dish, as part of a casserole and even as a sauce, replacing other less nutritious products with the squash.

Last night for dinner, I made butternut squash burgers. I know, I know I just wrote a post about burgers! But they are so good, and when I find a fun new substitute that is nutritious, I just have to share it! The butternut squash was flavored with spices that gave it an extra kick and some spices that blended well with its earth tones. Pair that with a whole wheat bun and you have a health packed dinner! On Monday, I made butternut squash apple curry. Typically this recipe utilizes chicken, but since I was out of chicken, I substituted butternut squash. I also tried two weeks ago, a butternut squash taco recipe (replaced the hamburger meat and seasoned it with taco seasoning).

Let’s look at the nutrition for a second. One cup of cubed, cooked butternut squash packs in 6.6 grams of fiber, 1.8 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, sodium and cholesterol, a low glycemic index and only 82 calories. It also provides well over 100% vitamin A, roughly 50% vitamin C and plenty of potassium. Check out¬†http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/butternut-squash-packed-with-vitamin-a-and-delicious for more information on the nutrition of butternut squash.

Below is my recipe for the butternut squash burgers. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Spicy Squash Burgers

  • 1 medium sized butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 egg or egg substitute (1 Tbsp flax seed + 3 Tbsp water)
  • 3/4 Tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 Tbsp turmeric
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • lettuce and onion for garnish
  • barbecue sauce for on top of burger
  • pack of 4 whole wheat buns
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cut the neck of the squash apart from the body. Reserve the body of the squash for another dish (I used mine for squash apple curry). Cut the neck horizontally in half so that it has one flat side and one rounded side.
  3. Place flat side of squash on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook in 350F oven for 1 hour or until squash is soft.
  4. Once squash is cool, scrape out the insides of the squash into a medium sized mixing bowl. Add bread crumbs, egg, spices. Mix well.
  5. Heat skillet with 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Form patties with the squash mixture, roughly 1/4 cup sized patties. You should be able to form roughly 4 patties.
  6. Once oil is hot (can test by sprinkling water into the oil, it should sizzle), place 1 squash patty into pan. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until patty is slightly browned/caramelized.
  7. Remove patty from skillet and place onto bun. Repeat the process for the next 3 patties. Note that when you remove the patty, the patty will still be soft. This is expected. The squash patty will never become hard and crunchy.
  8. Top squash burger with lettuce, onion and barbecue sauce. Enjoy!

**These burgers may also be saved for another day. Place cooked burgers into an airtight container. When ready to use, take out of container and heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Assemble into a sandwich. May be stored for 3-4 days in refrigerator.