Thursday, May 26, 2011

Running Class!

I'm a runner. I decided I wanted to be a runner about 2 years ago. I was trying to lose weight, and increase my fitness level so I thought I'd start running. It started out as run/walks around my neighborhood. I never thought I'd be able to run even one mile without stopping.

But I kept it up. I would go out and run/walk every day. I started to really enjoy it and it became something I wanted to do rather than just forcing myself to do it. I decided to run a race. I ran my first 5k and came in second place in my age division! That's when I realized I was kind of good at it. Then I decided I wanted to add distance, and signed up for a half-marathon. I completed it in November, with a time of  2:13:45.

This picture is hilarious. I was pretty spent. 

This past winter, however, I stopped running as much. It was a very cold, snowy winter and I'm not a fan of running on the treadmill, so of course, my training suffered. At this moment, I can only run about 5 miles at a time, so I'm trying to get back into "half-marathon" shape so I can run the Charleston Distance Run (15 miles) this fall.

One step I've taken is to obviously try to get more running in. This is harder this time around, I have less time to run because as opposed to last summer, I have a full time job and Zach, who I spend a lot of time with. I haven't reinstated long runs on the weekends yet, but I really need to get back into that.

Also, I've started taking a 5k running class, which is really helping me get my speed and endurance back. This class is great. It's taught by two trainers at a local gym, and they are really pushing us.

Finally, I've really implemented (as I said in a previous post) more weight training. More muscle = more power = faster times and more endurance.

Hopefully I'll be ready to run 15 miles in November. I just need to focus on adding distance and training regularly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recipe: Broiled Tofu Tacos and Beans and Rice

Yesterday morning after my workout, I ran to the grocery store to get a few necessities (Mother Hubbard's cupboards were bare), and when I walked in there was a shopping cart full of hard taco shells on Manager's Special for 69 cents!

Not one to pass up a deal, I grabbed a couple boxes and planned a quickie dinner on the spot. I also grabbed some extra-firm tofu, an avocado, a pint of cherry tomatoes, a red onion and some cilantro. With that, dinner was born! 
Oh. my. goodness. This dinner was lick-your-plate-clean great. And that massive quantity of food (beer included) was less than 800 calories. Which is a perfectly acceptable amount of calories if you've had your morning workout!

I started out with my basic Broiled Tofu recipe (calling it mine is a matter of convenience -- I've adapted it from a few sources) . Take a block of extra firm tofu and press it. I do this by lining two cutting boards with paper towels, putting the tofu in the middle (like a sandwich), and putting 3-4 heavy books on top of it. I leave it like that for at least 30 minutes. After it is pressed, cut the tofu into 1 inch squares. 

For the marinade, I use a simple marinade that I adapted from one that Sarah (aka Mama Pea of Peas and Thank You) put on her site a while back. The precise amounts aren't really important: 

about 1/4 c. vegan Worcestershire sauce
about 1 tsp. chopped garlic
about 1/4 c. water
a squirt of agave nectar (really just to taste. You could use stevia or maple syrup too)
cumin, to taste

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a container that tightly closes (I like the kind that have the snapping locks around the lid) and put the tofu in with it. Give it a good shake, and put it in the fridge to marinate for as long as you can. I usually will prepare my marinade when I'm home on my lunch break and let it sit until dinner time. If you can, give the container a good shake every now and then to really get the marinade to soak into the tofu. 

When you're ready to broil the tofu, spread it out on a pan and put it under a hot broiler. It doesn't take long to be done, so keep an eye on it. I'd say about 5-6 minutes on the first side and 3-4 on the second side. Burnt tofu is no fun, so watch it carefully. 

If you don't like tofu, I urge you to try it this way at least once. It's SO good. It's tough on the outside, chewy on the inside and just delicious. If you wanted to use it in different recipes (perhaps a stir-fry?) you could adjust the marinade to be more asian -- soy sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce and ginger instead of cumin -- and there you go. Since I was doing "Taco Night", however, I threw the corn taco shells under the broiler for a minute, put a few pieces of tofu into the shell, topped it with some pre-made broccoli slaw (I bought a bag at Kroger) and Sriracha hot sauce (my favorite thing ever), and gobbled it down. I even had some leftover tofu to eat on the side, and it's just as good by itself.

 I know, I know. It's not like Beans and Rice is rocket science, but I really think I make the best there is! Here is how I do it: 

1 cup dry brown rice
2 cups water
1 can beans of your choice (I usually use Pinto beans, but anything will work)
7 oz. (half a can) organic crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
chili powder
chipotle pepper (optional)
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 Tbs. olive oil
Chopped cilantro (optional)

Prepare the brown rice as usual (bring rice and water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes). In the meantime, heat oil and garlic in a small pan on medium high heat. Add the peppers and onions and cook until lightly browned (about 5 minutes or less). Add the tomatoes and beans, and cook until hot. Add your spices. When the rice is done cooking, add the contents of your pan to the rice and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in chopped cilantro. Simple, but SO delicious. 

The last dish you see there is an amazing corn, avocado and tomato salad from -- shockingly -- Paula Deen! I'm not trashing Paula, but I've not really ever known her to not include some sort of dairy or meat in her recipes. This one is absolutely vegan and it is INCREDIBLE. I wanted to devour the whole bowl, as I do with anything that contains avocados. 

So there you have it -- Taco Night, Kristy-style. Confession time: I made Zach chicken for his tacos, and he added sour cream and cheese to his version, but I think that says a lot about me -- I'm flexible :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Weight Training and Michi's Ladder: Weight Loss/Healthy Living for Life!

First and foremost, I'd like to say a big THANKS to Anna, who commented on my last post. If you have a minute, go to the Forks Over Knives post and check out her comment. It's good to hear from someone who has actually reversed disease symptoms with diet! So, thanks Anna. I'm glad to know at least one person is reading!

I'd like to talk a little about weight training.

If you're like me (read: A Girl), you've heard some things your whole life:

Weight training will make you bulky!

If you want to lose weight, cardio is the way to go!

It turns out that women don't need to be afraid of getting bulky, and doing cardio alone isn't the way to your best body. So, I've recently been trying to implement a serious weight-training routine. I've been doing weight training in some form for years now, but I decided that I wanted to develop a plan I could stick to: working different sets of muscles on different days, lifting heavy -- basically, I want to lift like a man.

So, yesterday was Chest/Back. My plan consisted of this:
Bench Press
Dumbbell Flys
Standing cable flys
Dumbbell power row
Seated lat pull-downs
Standing cable pull-downs
Wide-grip row

I'm feeling it today, exactly where I should be feeling it.

Tomorrow's Plan (legs/abs):
Walking Lunges
Running butt kick
Jump squats
Barbell squats
Leg extensions
Leg curls
Jump rope
Standing calf raise
Seated calf raise
Ab crunches
Ab crunches on the ball with dumbbell
Hanging leg raise
Bent over cable crunch

Hopefully this, combined with my running (which I haven't kept up with very well this week!) will really get my butt into shape. My plan is to run the Charleston Distance Run this fall (15 miles), which will be my longest distance. Right before I ran the half-marathon last year, I was doing 10 mile long runs on the weekends, now I can barely run 5 miles at a time. I think weight training will really help with my endurance and leg power.

On to nutrition. Have you heard of Michi's Ladder? This is a really cool concept developed by Beachbody Fitness (they are the people that brought you the P90X and Insanity workouts). Now, typically I'm skeptical of these money-making businesses -- especially fitness companies that make outrageous claims about weight loss ("I lost 20 lbs and 10 inches in 3 weeks!") While Beachbody isn't innocent of that, I do really like the company.

I subscribe to the Beachbody newsletter in my email, and there are ALWAYS vegetarian and vegan recipes available. The workouts REALLY work, too. I'm an Insanity graduate, and while I didn't lose 50 lbs in 3 months, I did lose a significant amount of inches on the program and really saw results.

Anyway, they tout this thing called "Michi's Ladder" -- basically it's a tiered system of foods, and you're supposed to eat as many foods from the top rungs as you can, while either avoiding or sparingly eating the foods from the bottom rungs. I've included a photo of it. I think this kind of visual representation of foods is really simple to grasp, and sometimes nutrition can be confusing. Luckily, most all of the foods that I eat come from the top rungs, so I think I'm doing alright. It's cool because they ask you to substitute foods from the top rung in when you can for foods from the bottom rung. If you stick to it, you WILL lose weight. You WILL feel better, be healthier -- it's that simple!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Forks Over Knives: What does that mean?

I thought I'd start out with a post about this upcoming film, because I'm very excited about it. The reason I stick to a whole food, plant based diet, to me, is simple: I do it because it's the healthiest way to live. However, I don't see anything inherently wrong with eating meat or cheese -- even twinkies. Ok, well, maybe twinkies.

Forks Over Knives is a new movie based, in part, on the research of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and others (you might have heard of his book The China Study). It's a basic principle: The Western Diet causes disease. That's why The United States has such a high prevalence of Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Obesity, etc. Of course, you knew that, right? I mean, it's pretty simple. You've heard the saying: You are what you eat. So if you're eating crap, you are going to be crap. You're going to feel like crap.

It turns out that not only can your diet CAUSE disease, but diet can also REVERSE disease. Anyone who eats a mostly plant based diet will rave about how great they feel. I urge you to give it a try -- you'll see.

I haven't seen the movie, but I'm very excited by the prospect of it. Unlike Food, Inc. and Earthlings before it, where we learn really hard lessons about how the food industry works against us and how animals are treated before they make it to our plates, Forks Over Knives promises to show us how changing our diet (with actual case studies!) can actually reverse disease.

With the state of health care how it is in our country, preventative medicine and diet may be our only hope to affordable health care. When Michael Moore said it in Sicko, it sounded hopeless, but now researchers and dietitians are giving us hope by saying: "Just don't get sick."

I'm not sure if this movie will come to little 'ol Huntington, WV, but I'll be first in line to buy it when it comes out on DVD. When it does, you are all invited to watch with me. I'll make you some healthy snacks :)

Save this Space

I will be blogging about:

  • How to be both frugal and healthy -- they aren't mutually exclusive
  • Why preventative medicine (read: living the healthiest life you can) is our best approach to health care
  • Fitness plans
  • My weight loss journey (which, while I'm at my goal weight, continues!)
  • Being happy with what you have
I hope you all will enjoy it!