Sunday Funday!

Ah, Fall is finally here to stay! I will admit, this Summer I never thought I would see a high below 100 degrees again. I am so happy that it has cooled down enough to enjoy my favorite season and all it has to offer. After all, who couldn’t love Fall? Boots, sweaters, crisp air, and the return of my most desired seasonal treat – the pumpkin spice latte. Fall is the perfect time to be outdoors, which is what I have been trying to do.

Recently, I have been hiking a lot more. I have found that it is a much bigger stress reliever than my usual go to, running. I really enjoy it because it gives me something to focus on. I have found that running sometimes gives me too much time to think about everything going on in my hectic life. Hiking, on the other hand, allows me to focus more on the moment. I have to concentrate on where I am going (aka – trying not to break my ankle), taking my mind off of other stressors.

Last Sunday, my friend Cali and I took a day trip to Harper’s Ferry, WV. It was a beautiful day and our decision was definitely spur of the moment, but well worth it. After a quick stop at our local WaWa to pick up some sandwiches, we drove for about an hour an a half  (windows down, country music blaring), to reach the quaint town. At a glance, it appears to be stuck in time. It is situated on a hill with a main cobble street lined with “old timey” restaurants, stores, bookshops, and museums. It would be a great place to spend the day as a family since there is a lot to do and the town offers so much history, but we were there for something more rigorous. We had looked up trails before we left in the morning and decided to try the “Maryland Heights” trail. From the reviews, it was supposed to be challenging, but didn’t require too much experience – PERFECT!

Cali and I before we started up the mountain, we HAD to gamma pump! Also, my running pack is good for hiking too!

The hike to the top was tough to say the least. I am almost certain that at one point I was stepping more vertical than I was in front of me. It wasn’t until we reached the top and were chatting with some people that we found out we took the “hard way”. The view from the look out, as it’s called, was spectacular and in itself made the climb worth the effort. From the top, we looked out over the town of Harper’s Ferry and the Potomac River. It took us about 3 hours round trip – granted we did take the longer “blue” path as opposed to the shorter “red” path. If anyone is into hiking and is looking for a good day trip, I would recommend this! It is not too far away, but just far enough that you are out of the hustle and bustle of the city.

The view at “the lookout”.

 

Happy Trails!!

10 Miles Of Fun!!

Ah! I have finally reached double digits in my running! I am still a little nervous about the last 3.1 miles; but according to my training plan, I am supposed to let ‘inspiration’ carry me through. If inspiration can magically make my blisters and sore muscles go away then BRING IT ON. However, I imagine the last 3 miles will be the most challenging both physically and mentally. Since I have been running longer distances lately, I invested in a few ‘tools’ to help me along the way!

 

Jelly Belly Sport Beans – These actually aren’t too bad! You are supposed to consume them 30 minutes before you run and as needed thereafter to maintain energy. They usually hand things like this out during the race, so I wanted to practice using them before hand to make sure my stomach can handle them.

My Trail (Fanny) Pack – I have come up with several ways to deny the fact that I wear a fanny pack when I run; but the truth is, I do. I look somewhat comical but the truth is, it works! This holds all of the necessities: sport beans, iPod, tissues, keys, etc. Even though it is heavier because of the water, I think it helps your training! When I run without it now, I feel 10 lbs lighter and running is a bit easier. I also SWEAR that it does not bounce around, it is great!

Running Hat – Okay, I will admit to a little excessive online shopping in order to find this (and maybe a few other items to add to my Fall wardrobe) at Zappos. I got a great price for it though! It was on sale for $20, which I think is totally worth it. I sweat A LOT when I run, and I hate wearing sweat bands; and head bands just don’t quite do it for me. I believe that a running hat is the perfect solution! It keeps sweat from running into my eyes (gross, but true), and also keeps my face shaded so I don’t have to bother with sunscreen or sunglasses! I have only worn it once so far, but I love it!  I was also a little worried that it might give me a headache and/or make my head really hot, but neither of the two bothered me!

Headphones – For me, the MOST essential element of running. I have tried, and just can’t manage to run without music. I swore for a long time that I had misshaped ear canals or something because my headphones would ALWAYS fall out. WIth these, I no longer have that problem. They are guaranteed not to fall out, and they work! I found them at the book store on campus and was so surprised that they have kept up with me. They were a little pricey, about $40, but once again, totally worth it. Yes, they do look like some funky ear torturing device, but I promise they are comfortable and have great sound!

Now that I have shared my fabulous running tools with you all, go out and grab some for yourself! Hit the trail and use these items to push yourself a little further than you went before 🙂

 

Happy Monday!

Bend. Stretch. Breathe. SWEAT.

These are the four words that best describe bikram hot yoga. Recently, one of my friends and I purchased a living social coupon for bikram yoga classes. I have always wanted to try it so I took advantage of this right away. We went for our first class a few days ago, both a little nervous about what to expect. We chose to go to an ‘open’ level class, even though we are both regular “yogis”. I don’t know if it was because we went to a lower level class, but the pace was slower than a normal yoga class. I really enjoyed that you were given time to hold the positions instead of rushing through sun salutations. By the end of the class, I was dripping sweat from pores I didn’t even know existed! I felt awesome though. I will vouch for anyone who claims it is ‘cleansing’ because I was on my ‘yoga high’ for a full two days. I was more relaxed, calm, and felt purified. Unless you have a health condition that would not allow you to participate in hot yoga, I would recommend trying it at least once.

What to bring: yoga mat (although most places do provide them), a hand towel (that you don’t care will get drenched with sweat), and definitely a bottle of water. I would suggest freezing your water bottle before hand because it is H.O.T. in there. Most people also bring a beach or bath towel to cover their mat. It is difficult to hold poses when your mat is sweaty and slippery. I have a yoga may cover that I found at a bargain outlet for under $10, a steal! It works just as well as a bath or beach towel.

I hope everyone can find their exercise adventurous side and try out a hot yoga class! If you like yoga, you’re going to love it!

OMG! Shoes.

It’s no secret that I have a slight soft spot for shoes. Last I checked my collection, I had racked up 42 pairs! Running and exercise shoes are especially hard to say no to since new styles and fun colors are always being developed. I usually like to stick to Brooks running shoes. I have found they offer great support and don’t wear out easily. My Nike LunarGlides are a close second, I just love them because they are bright orange!

Recently, I have been hearing so much about the new Nike Free and Nike Free Run shoes. Generally, I like to stick to the more supportive running shoes, but I decided I wanted to try a more flexible, free, style. Also, I of course was intrigued by the idea that you can design your own pair on Nike’s website. This was obviously not going to be a cheap splurge so I kept holding out on buying a pair until my boyfriend (bless him for knowing the exact pair of shoes I want), led me to an online sale. Just for the record, online shopping is 100x more dangerous than in-store shopping, for me. The $50 mark down, free shipping, and the fact that they had my size in PURPLE, were the deal breakers. I ended up getting my new Nike Free’s (not Nike Free Run’s) for $49 from Jimmy Jazz.

Ummm…I LOVE THESE SHOES! They arrived in the mail 5 days ago (in a package that I was concerned was empty because it was so light), and I have worn them running twice since. I don’t think it is a coincidence that these two runs have been my longest in a while (4 and 5 milers!). These shoes offer awesome support for the heel and arch of your foot, but at the same time are super flexible and give you an extra spring in your step. I also love that the tongue is sewn into the shoe so it doesn’t slide around. I swear these shoes make it hard to stop running because they are so light! My last, but certainly not least, comment is that they look awesome!

What do you think??? I can’t wait to wear them again!

Just for a laugh, in case you didn’t get the title of the post:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCF3ywukQYA

You Are What You Eat

No one is able to make this point clearer than Michael Pollan, the author of multiple books, journals, and articles on the food system in the United States. My personal favorite, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals”, will truely change the way you look at food. While I have heard several stories of people converting to vegetarianism after reading Rory Freedman’s “Skinny Bitch”, I am sure that just one chapter of Pollan’s book will have just as great of an affect. In my opinion, “Part Four: The Feedlot”, is the most intriguing and informative. I will admit that I cringed a little (okay, a lot) at some parts, but if you’re looking for the hard truth in what really goes on in our agricultural system, look no further. Pollan discusses the unsustainable and unethical system of feeding commodity corn to cattle in US feedlots. Not only are cattle’s rumens unable to digest the grain, which causes bloating, increased stomach acidity, and can lead to fatal liver disease, but eating meat from grain fed cattle also affects our health as humans. E. Coli, a prominent bacteria in cattle’s stomachs, have now begun to adjust to an environment that is more acidic, allowing them to survive in the acidic environment of our stomachs. In addition to cattle being forced to eat grains they have not evolved to digest, on feedlots they are forced to ingest protein (usually in the form of feather meal and chicken litter), and antibiotics (which lead to resistance in humans). I don’t want to get too graphic, so I will leave you with that information. But I would highly suggest reading at least part of this book. Pollan also does a good job at explaining how toxins in run off end up in our drinking water. If you’re interested, google Des Moines Blue Baby Alert… GROSS! While I know it is more expensive and harder to come by, try looking for meat that comes from grass fed only animals. It is healthier for you (higher in omega 3’s and less saturated fat), because there are no grains in the animal’s diet, and also better for the environment 🙂

The ‘Disease Du Jour’

So, what exactly is ‘a celiac’? Well, for starters, they aren’t a tribe. She/He isn’t ‘a celiac’. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that is linked to gluten intolerance. It’s surprising to think that gluten intolerance has been around forever but everyone has just recently been wrapped up in the gluten-free craze. So what exactly is gluten and how does it affect us?

Gluten is a protein found in flour (types wheat, rye, and bulgar), that traps air during baking and gives foods their crumbly texture. People with celiac disease have an autoimmune response to this protein and are not able to digest it. This is the reason behind stomach pains that occur when gluten is ingested. For those who do not have celiac and want to maintain a gluten-free diet, it is good to know that it is not necessarily healthier. Unless you have celiac disease, there is not really any reason that you would need to ‘go gluten-free’.

People who do have celiac disease can control it by limiting the amount of gluten in their diet. To do this, stay away from products containing wheat, rye, and bulgar flour. This includes bread products, crackers, pasta, and beer (womp). There is a chance of ‘contamination’ in oats and certain soy products. It is also good to note that gluten is added as a stabilizing agent to some products you wouldn’t expect, such as ice cream and ketchup. Even though it is at much smaller quantity than in other products, gluten is also present in pastries.

Amy’s brand products  are gluten free and they aren’t half bad! I would recommend trying some of these if you are gluten intolerant.

Not All Produce Is Created Equal

It’s true! Produce is the most nutrient dense when it is picked. The nutrients break down as time goes on, leaving food that has traveled a long distance to get to grocery store shelves much less nutrient dense than its fresh counterpart. I am a huge proponent of buying locally grown food. Not only is the food better tasting and better for you, but it is also better for the environment. Not as much waste is produced from packaging materials and green house gas emissions are lower because the produce is not being shipped half way across the world. Today I went to a local farmers market with my mom and we got so much great produce! I also love that they sell flowers and herbs at this farmers market. Check out the coleus plants my mom bought!

We ended up spending $27 dollars for: 4 coleus plants, 1 package each of blackberries and raspberries, 5 tomatoes, 1 bag of salad mix (that was grown chemical free!), 1 bag of raw peas, a yellow squash, a head of broccoli, golden beets, and 1 yellow onion. I will admit that this is more expensive than the grocery store price, but I think it is worth it when you can really taste the difference!

Look at how fresh the veggies are!

I suppose I should revise my prior statement since some of the ‘vegetables’ in the picture are actually fruits. Yep! To settle the age old question: Tomatoes are a fruit. They are generally mislabeled because they are vegetable-like due to their savory flavor and cooking qualities. Yellow and red tomatoes, however, do have the same nutrient content (similar to the ‘brown vs white’ egg dilemma). The difference is in their pigments. There are three different categories of pigments: carotenoids, chlorophylls, and flavanoids. Tomatoes, along with carrots and some fruit such as pineapple, fall under carotenoids. Carotenoids impart yellow, orange, and red colors to foods. Lycopenes and carotenes are the sub-categories of carotenoids that are in tomatoes; lycopenes in red and carotenes in yellow/orange. Lycopenes have been proven cancer fighting agents because of their high phytochemical content. Phytochemicals are non-nutritive compounds in food that offer health benefits. In tomatoes, these are: antioxidants!
Therefore, the fresher your tomatoes, the higher the content of phytochemicals in lycopenes, the more antioxidants you get per bite! Is that incentive enough to buy locally grown produce?