Freelance Writing

Hi, friends! Just a quick little update to tell y’all that I’ve been a bit quiet here because I’ve been blogging for those cool folks over at One Green Planet. I talk all about plant fuel, athletics, and health stuff on the site, so feel free to check it out! http://www.onegreenplanet.org/author/jen_porto

And as always, Remember to Breathe.

Open Water Swimming Tips for Triathletes

Every time someone finds out I enjoy triathlons, they remark the same way, “Oh, that sounds like fun, but I could never do the swim.” Somehow I’m in a minority of people who love to swim, but only kinda-sorta like the bike. (Sidenote: Seriously though, why is the bike portion 56 miles, yet the swim is only one? Ugh.) Since open water swimming is a sore spot for a lot of folks, I thought I’d share some tips with y’all to help you conquer the weakness — and hey, if you love biking, please feel free to share some tips with me, please and thanks.

1.) Stay Calm: Everything in swimming comes down to three things: Form, breath, and pace. In fact, that’s true for most things in fitness. But the only way you can focus on those things is if you stay calm. That’s a lot easier to do when you’re in a pool where there are straight lines at the bottom, a lifeguard next to you, and you’re about 2 feet from an edge to grab onto at any given moment. So, when you step into the lake or the ocean, you have to keep your mind clear. Tell yourself that there is no creature from the black lagoon waiting for you at the bottom. Focus on your breathing, and count your strokes. Whenever I feel myself start to panic a bit, I clear my mind and focus on my strokes and my breath: 1-2-3-4-5 *breathe* 1-2-3-4-5 *breathe*. Swimming is extremely meditative if you let it be that way.

Swim caps make me look like an alien.

Swim caps make me look like an alien.

2.) Be Confident: Depending on where you’re swimming, the current can be a bit unpredictable. The best thing you can do is have confidence in your strength, and go with it. Anecdote time! Last summer, one of my races was an ocean swim, and I wanted to practice at the race venue. I went alone (which, incidentally, I really don’t recommend ever doing), and swam straight out into the middle of the cove. I was about 20 minutes or so from shore when the tide changed — Oh, frick! It would have been pretty easy to panic in that moment since no one knew I was swimming there, and it wasn’t a popular swimming spot. But, I’d been training all summer, so I stayed calm, and put confidence in my strength to get me back to shore safely. Basically, everything about that situation was stupid except for my strategy to get back. If you’re in a race situation, and people are bumping into you, and the waves are crashing everywhere, you just have to think strong. Trust that you deserve to be there, and power through it. It’s kind of silly, but you have to treat open water like it’s an animal that can smell fear. If you’re intimidated, it’s going to be that much harder. Be stronger than the water, so to speak. And remember, you can always doggy paddle or turn on your back if you really need to.

3.) Practice: This is probably the most obvious of all the tips you’ll ever receive in your life, but it’s still true. Open water swimming is quite a bit different than being in a pool. Yes, your form is the same, but you have to follow sight buoys, maneuver waves and people, and get comfortable with seeing a whole lot of nothing when you put your head under water. The only way to get comfortable is to do it. If you don’t live somewhere where that’s easily achievable, try to schedule a few extra days to your trip before your race so you can at least have a few practice sessions. For sighting, I found this website to be pretty helpful. If you find that you’re having a hard time, try just standing with your torso out of the water and going through the motions with your arms and your breathing, so you get used to the timing. Then try the motions with your face in the water, but with your feet touching the ground. That will help you feel more comfortable having your head under water when it’s dark. The more you practice, the better you’ll be.

Let swimming be peaceful instead of scary

Let swimming be peaceful instead of scary

Here are some links for help with proper form and a workout to help you with pace.

Is there anything else you’re curious about? Any other advice you’d like me to share? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan

Half marathons are super cool. They’re long enough that they’re a big accomplishment, but not so long that you’ll be knocked on your butt recovering for days after. I think there’s a misconception about distance running, though — people seem to think that you have to run 5-6 days a week to be ready for a half marathon, and that’s totally untrue (of course, if that’s your jam then go for it)! Since some of my friends expressed interest in tackling their first 13.1, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share the plan I created for my first half (remember that story?) It’s loosely based on Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan, but tailored to the athlete who likes variety and doesn’t want to run more than 3x a week. Everyone’s body is different, but I believe that if you can run a 5k, then this 12-week plan will be perfect for getting you across that finish line feeling strong.

First thing’s first: this training plan allows for a fair amount of variety in your activities, BUT you must understand the importance of consistency over time. What does that mean? That means, feel free to mix up your non-running days with yoga, lifting, cycling, kickboxing, or whatever else you like, but don’t overwhelm yourself and start skipping workouts. Yes, sometimes life happens and you might have to do your mid-week run on a Thursday instead of Wednesday, but in general, try not to tinker with your training schedule too much. If you find that heavy lifting sessions are zonking your legs and compromising your runs, then dial it back. Maybe schedule a second rest day in there instead. Use your intuition. And the most important rule of all: DON’T CHEAT ON YOUR LONG RUNS. The long run is where you build endurance. They increase in mileage each week, so pick a day of the week that you can consistently have time for these and stick to it. **Note: Run your long-runs at 30-90 seconds slower than race pace. Take your time.

You’ll notice that on Monday, it switches from 30-20-10 to sprints & HIIT around week 6. Feel free to keep doing 30-20-10 or any other running speed workout of your choice. That’s mostly in there because I find that switching things up a little keeps it from getting stale. But do whatever you feel works best for you. Wednesday switches back and forth between moderate runs and goal race pace runs.

Above all, be patient and trust the process. Small increases each week will get you where you want to go. Oh, and remember to have fun :)

 

Week           M                    T                   W                 TR                 F                 S            Su

1             30-20-10            Lift            3m  Run          Rest        Cross Train       4m        Pilates

2            30-20-10            Lift           3m  pace           Rest        Cross Train       5m        Pilates

3            30-20-10           Lift            3m  Run            Rest       Cross  Train       6m        Pilates

4           30-20-10            Lift            3m  pace           Rest       Cross Train        7m         Pilates

5          30-20-10             Lift            3m  Run           Rest       Cross Train        8m         Pilates

6     Sprints & HIIT        Lift           4m  Run            Rest        Cross Train      5k Race    Pilates

7    Sprints & HIIT         Lift           4m  Run            Rest         Cross Train        9m          Pilates

8     Sprints & HIIT       Lift           4m  pace            Rest          Cross Train      10m        Pilates

9     Sprints & HIIT       Lift           5m  Run             Rest          Cross Train      11m        Pilates

10    30-20-10               Lift           5m  Run              Rest          Cross Train    10k Race  Pilates

11     30-20-10               Lift           5m  pace            Rest         Cross Train      12m        Pilates

1 2    3m & Core           Rest           2m  Run             1m             Pilates            Rest         RACE!

 

All of the training schedules I’ve created over the past couple of years have used the same basic principles outlined in this training plan: Speed work, pace work, long/ slow distance to build endurance, strength training, and stretch/rest days, so I hope it can help you prepare for your own endeavors. Now, pick a race and get going!

Got questions? Did I miss something? Are you digging this plan? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not a certified coach. Workouts I post on this site are what work for me and my body, and you should use your own judgment about attempting them. Consult your healthcare professional before starting a new diet or exercise regimen. 

Bike-Run Brick Workout!

Triathlon season makes me the happiest kid on the planet. Especially right now because I get to wake up with the sun, and the weather is still reasonably cool. Ahhh, the best! Long workouts are tougher as the weather becomes more hot and humid, so I’m soaking up as much of this month as I can. Today’s session was so much fun, I couldn’t not share it with you all. If you’re looking for something different to spice things up, or if you’re a triathlete and want to work on your bricks, hopefully you’ll enjoy this as much as I did!

Bricks are workouts that combine two or more athletic disciplines. In this case, biking and running. They are especially important for triathletes because it helps the body become accustomed to the bike-run transition so you can avoid running on legs that feel like lead. Even if you’re not a triathlete, bricks are advantageous; they help you strengthen different muscles in the same workout and allow your body to adjust to different types of demands. Plus, they’re fun :)

For this, I set up my bike on my indoor trainer and ran hard outside, but do whatever is most convenient for you!

Total time: 60 minutes(ish)

Warmup: Bike 5 minutes easy

Main Set:

-Bike 10 minutes hard effort

-Run 1 mile

-Bike 5 minutes easy, 5 minutes hard effort

- Run 1 mile

-Bike 5 minutes easy, 5 minutes hard effort

-Run 1 mile

Cool Down: Bike 5 minutes easy

Feel free to play around with this to fit your fitness level and goals. For example, you could:

1.) Include three 30-second sprints in each mile run

2.) Run the first mile easy, second mile moderate, third mile hard effort

3.) Add 15-second pickups at the end of each minute on the bike portions

4.) Alternate biking hard with biking easy every minute for 10 minutes

5.) Do two rounds of bike-run, rather than three

There are endless ways to customize this to fit your needs. Have fun, work hard, and try something new :)

Triathlon transition area -- everyone was out on their bikes!

Triathlon transition area — everyone was out on their bikes!

Did you try this brick workout? Leave a comment and let me know how it went!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a certified coach. Workouts I post on this site are what work for me and my body, and you should use your own judgment about attempting them. Consult your healthcare professional before starting a new diet or exercise regimen. 

 

Pilates Fun!

Happy spring, friends! It’s a little ridiculous that I’ve had this blog for 3.5 years and I’ve never once featured the amazingness of pilates, so today, I’m correcting that. Ready to change your life? Cool, let’s go!

Picture 5

Pilates is hands down one of the most incredibly beneficial forms of exercise you can do. It stretches while strengthening your muscles, helps improve your balance and posture, teaches you to use your breath to ease through movements, and helps you build strong core muscles, which are SO important for everything single activity you do. As if that’s not enough, it’s an energizing workout. You should leave a pilates class feeling calm and ready to take on the day, rather than exhausted like some other types of exercises. It’s especially perfect for people who are new to the fitness world because it teaches essential movements, without being overwhelming. Plus, you can do it from the comfort of your own home, which is great if you’re not quite ready to venture into a gym. And by the way, don’t think it’s just for women. I see a lot of men in my classes, and they always do great. Health welcomes all ages and genders :)

In my own life, pilates is the foundation for everything I do. It’s the reason I am able to be a distance runner. It’s the reason I could comfortably swim on day 1 of training last year, despite never swimming competitively in my life. It helps me retain proper form and timing when I lift weights. And when I first became interested in fitness, pilates is what helped me become strong and confident enough to venture into other forms of exercise.

Teaser is everyone's fav.

A blurry version of Teaser :)

In any type of workout routine, stretch/strength days are truly important to include. If you’re like me and you have a hard time being patient enough for yoga, this is a great alternative (Although, I recently took an Iyengar yoga class with LB that was amazing, so maybe there’s hope yet!).

So, of course I’m going to provide some YouTube recommendations so you can start your pilates journey right away, but first I think it’s important to state a few key points:

1.) Breath and proper form are the most important things in pilates. Exhaling through a movement can make everything instantly easier. Adjusting your body 1 inch during another movement can make everything instantly harder. This is why I really recommend going to a pilates studio at least once if you’re a beginner so a certified instructor can help show you the proper way to perform the exercises. If you can’t do that, try and find a YouTube video that offers modifications for moves, or provides breathing instructions for each movement.

2.) Be patient. Like anything, it takes time to become comfortable, especially if you’re new to it. If you can’t do something with proper posture, modify the exercise. For example, if you’re unable to balance in a High V pose at first, you can bend your knees to 90 degrees and keep them at chest height. Do what you can and leave the rest. The great thing about pilates is that you can reap benefits no matter what your ability level is.

3.) Keep your core engaged at all times! Don’t let your stomach just be chillin’. It’s a workout, remember? Keep it tight and strong.

Ready to try it out? Choose one of the videos below based on your ability level:

Beginner: 

I LOVE Ellen Barrett! This video is perfect for beginners because she offers modifications, and gives you breathing cues. Even if you’re not a beginner, I recommend it. This is actually the very first pilates video I ever did and I still incorporate it into my routine every once in a while before a big race, or if I’m in the mood for an oldie-but-a-goodie.

Beginner/Intermediate:

Aside from the weird green unitards, this video is great because it includes a lot of very standard pilates moves. Plus, it’s only 20 minutes. If you’re just starting out, this video can help you become familiar with a lot of traditional exercises.

Intermediate:

No, really, I love Ellen Barrett. Haha. How cool is ballet pilates?! I sent this to a friend of mine who just started getting into pilates, and she told me that this video was challenging, so I’m rating it as intermediate. I work this into my routine about once/week, and it’s been great for maintaining calf strength. Let me know what you think!

Intermediate/Advanced:

This video is great because it’s broken up into 10 minute segments based on body part. I like to do this if I’m in a rush and want to focus on one area. I wouldn’t call it crazy advanced, but some of the moves can be challenging.

Advanced:

Full disclosure, this one is nuts. Enjoy.

 

If you try any of these, please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you think! How has pilates played a role in your life? Do you have any questions or want more recommendations? Let me know, I love hearing from you all!

And as always, Remember to Breathe.

Choose Kindness

This post is admittedly going to be different than others I have written in the past, but I think it is the most important of them all. Health is so much more than being physically fit or seeing that “magic number” on the scale (By the way, do yourself a favor and throw your scale away. Seriously. Throw. It. Out. Not because you’re afraid of what it says, but because it can’t tell you anything important about yourself.). True health is about a positive unity between your mind, body, and spirit. So many people focus on spending hours in the gym, carefully measuring out portions in the kitchen, or scrupulously marking down progress in notebooks that they forget how important it is to work on what’s going on inside the mind. And really, that’s where true progress really starts.

When I was growing up, my mom always used to tell me, “Thoughts are things.” Her point was that your thoughts ultimately create your entire reality. And it’s so unbelievably true! How you perceive yourself, how you perceive others, what you perceive to be threatening or exciting — these things make up your world. You can change your body, you can change your house or your car or your clothes, but real change starts from within. A few years ago when I struggled during training for my first half marathon, I eventually realized that altering my thoughts and taking all the pressure off of myself ultimately led to having one of the greatest, most rewarding experiences of my life. It wasn’t just about how far I could run, it was about feeling the joy of being alive. That lesson is true for absolutely everything in life. Maybe you’re someone who feels continually frustrated with your body. Or maybe you are someone who has finally reached a goal weight, but now you find yourself more miserably tied to schedules and macros and the scale than you ever were before. The solution is this: Understand that life is too freaking short to be unhappy. Adjust your thoughts and always choose to come from a place of kindness.

What do I mean by that? I mean that whenever you start to pass judgment on someone (whether that’s yourself or someone else), take a step back. Are those thoughts coming from a place of kindness? Are you adding something positive to the world by thinking them? If not, stop them in their tracks. Think about the situation with compassion. It’s important to understand this because thoughts induce action. When you start thinking kind, everything inside of you starts to shift. You start to glow from the inside out, and it affects everything in your life. That doesn’t mean that life is always easy. It doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to have sad days. But it means that you actively work to see the positive in a situation and in others. Eventually, it becomes automatic. Remember that fear gives power to things that are not real. Focus on what is real and good. When you feel gratitude, you start to see the little miracles in every day. I know this post may sound a little hippyish, but honestly, who cares? Joy is the most important facet of life-long health. Period.

The point I’m trying to make is this: when you are ready to stop the self-sabotage, when you’re ready to commit to living your best life, when you’re ready to radiate happiness, start by choosing kindness. Tell yourself and believe that You Are Enough. You are not on this planet to simply exist, you are here to LIVE. And living starts with positivity. Listen to my mom because she’s always right: Thoughts are things. :)

I’ll leave you with this thought from a book called “A Course In Miracles” that really resonated with me: “A miracle is never lost. It touches many people you do not even know and sometimes produces undreamed of changes in forces of which you are not even aware. The miracle will always bless YOU.”  There is nothing to be lost from being kind. It will only positively impact you and those around you. And if you ask me, that’s pretty darn cool. Here’s to a life filled with peace, love, and happiness.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Look for the beauty in every day.

Look for the beauty in every day.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Vegan Living

Happy 2014 everybody! While I whole-heartedly believe that every day is the best day to invest in health and happiness, there’s nothing quite like a new year to inspire a fresh start. Until now, I haven’t said much about plant-based living in this blog, but it’s hands-down the best decision I’ve ever made. So, if you’re considering making a change this year, read on to learn more about how veg life can help you achieve your fitness goals!

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Hi, Miriam! <3

For some reason, no one ever believes me when I say being a vegan athlete is both easy and affordable. Let’s be honest here: I rarely have enough patience to make meals requiring a prep time longer than 15 minutes…so when I say it’s easy, I really mean it’s easy. For those who don’t know, dietary veganism (as defined by those smarty-pants contributors at Wikipedia) is the practice of abstaining from including animal products (meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, and other animal-derived substances) in one’s diet. Before I share the major details, grocery must-haves, and two deliciously simple recipes with you, I think I should first address the biggest question: Why Go Vegan? 

I have to preface this whole post by saying that since we’re all built differently, what works for one person might not work for another. But from a health standpoint, veganism rocks. In addition to increased mental focus, many people experience dramatic improvements in athletic performance, faster recovery times, and more restful sleep. It’s possible this is because plant-based foods require less energy to digest than meat or dairy, so the body is able to be more efficient. More interestingly, an overwhelming number of people have reported that switching to a plant-based diet helped them recover from an eating disorder. This is particularly relevant to binge eaters; Even though it’s certainly simple to create scrumptiously unhealthy vegan desserts, many convenience trigger foods are eliminated. That’s not to say that veganism can CURE an eating disorder, but it’s possible it could aid in the recovery process. Other benefits of a vegan diet include a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Pretty rad, right? Of course, all of these things rely on eating balanced meals. This website offers easy solutions for the most common obstacles people face when eliminating animal products: http://www.vegkitchen.com/nutrition/vegan-athlete/.

One of the greatest benefits of adopting this lifestyle is the positive effect it has on mental health. I won’t dedicate too much time discussing the ethical and environmental impact of going vegan in this post (though I strongly encourage everyone to educate themselves by watching Earthlings for free HERE), but eating animal products can have a huge impact on depression. It’s no secret that factory farming is a pretty disturbing business. Phrases like “Free-Range” or “Fed a vegetarian diet!” mean practically nothing because regulations on these terms are so loose. The animals still suffer abuse, and when stressed they release hormones and other toxic substances that remain in them all the way to your plate. So, essentially you’re ingesting those hormones into your own body. With that in mind, it makes sense that so many folks feel a much greater sense of peace and happiness after switching to this lifestyle.

So, now that you’re well-versed in some of the perks of being plant-fueled, I think it’s about time to answer the 4 major questions that most people ask. Here we go!

1.) But Where Will I Get My Protein??!?!?!?!:

 You probably already know that beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds are the main sources of protein for a vegan. There’s also tempeh, tofu, and other soy products if that’s your thing. But did you know that vegan protein powder exists too? These types of powders are actually extra awesome because most of them only have one ingredient rather than a lot of the sugars, soy, or other random additives that can be found in many whey or casein options. It takes trial and error to find the kind that best suits your taste, so here are a few to consider with the brands I recommend most (all available on Amazon):

A.) Brown Rice Protein- I recommend SunWarrior brand

B.) Hemp Protein – Nutiva

C.) Yellow Pea Protein – Now Sports

D.) All-In-One Nutritional Shakes – Vega. I can’t recommend this brand highly enough. The shakes have several flavors, no freaky ingredients, are low in carbs and sugar, and are absolutely DELICIOUS. They’re great for travel because you can just add water, but I usually have mine with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and it is literally like getting to drink a chocolate milkshake every day. It’s pricier than some other brands, but for the taste and quality, it’s worth it.

2.) Aren’t vegans weak and scrawny?

Only the ones who don’t work out or eat properly. Whether you’re an endurance runner, body builder, triathlete, or a regular gym rat, you can dominate your workouts and crush your goals while being vegan. If you need proof, just look at the pros. Scott Jurek, author of the well-known book “Eat and Run”, is an elite ultra-marathoner; Alexander Dargatz was the 2005 Body-Building World Champion; Dave Scott is a six-time IronMan Triathlon World Champion; Edwin Moses is a four-time Olympic Gold Medalist in Track and Field. So…. No, vegans aren’t weak and scrawny.

3.) What do vegans eat? Isn’t it expensive?

You can eat SO MUCH as a vegan! So many people think that this lifestyle is too extreme or too limiting, but I can honestly say I have never once felt that way. In fact, I eat more variety and delicious meals than I ever did as an omnivore. Think about some of your favorite dishes…Ok, got them in your mind? Chances are they can be easily veganized. Take tacos for example: Instead of meat you can heat and crumble up chickpeas, tempeh, or seitan (a type of wheat that is scarily similar in texture to beef) and mix it with some taco seasoning. Throw it on a warm tortilla with some guacamole, vegan cheese, and veggies, and you have a delicious mexican dinner. It’s really easy to recreate your favorites, especially since there are a lot of vegan substitutes for things like butter, milk, and cheese. Or if you’re cooking and need to use eggs as a binding ingredient, you can mix 1 TBS of flaxmeal with 3 TBS warm water and it works the same way. There really, truly are so many options. *Helpful Tip: Try to always keep homemade veggie burgers, Lara bars, soups, or other leftovers in the freezer for use on days when you’re traveling or in a rush*

As for cost, it’s actually about the same or cheaper. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already a pretty healthy eater. You likely already buy fresh produce and nuts, which are the most expensive items. Non-dairy milks such as Coconut, Almond, Rice, or Soy are comparable to regular milk, maybe about a dollar more expensive. The major difference is in the protein source. Depending on where you shop, a pack of chicken breasts will cost anywhere from $4-8. A can of beans costs $.80. That’s a pretty significant amount of savings, and if you buy in bulk you save even more. I suppose it could be more expensive to eat a plant-based diet if you were to go out and buy a ton of faux meat products…but eating excessive processed food isn’t a great idea anyway– vegan or not. Embrace those leafy greens!

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Did someone say leafy greens?! Mmmmmm.

4.) Why don’t you eat eggs and milk?

The answer to this really depends on the individual you ask. Some of the reason is because of the stress hormones I mentioned earlier. A lot of it is because many people are lactose averse without even realizing it. Humans are the only species that drink milk after childhood, and we’re not even drinking the milk of our own kind. That’s a little weird, isn’t it? For a lot of people, eliminating dairy gets rid of bloating and digestive issues. There’s also been a lot of research that shows milk not only leeches calcium from your bones, but is also linked to cancer (*Note: It’s pretty easy to get adequate calcium from plant sources like kale, broccoli, or collard greens). For the majority of vegans, however, the choice comes down to ethics. Cows are impregnated repeatedly so they’ll continue to produce milk, but when they give birth, their calves are immediately taken from them and slaughtered. The conditions for both egg-laying hens and dairy cows are not compassionate, and when their production slows, they’re sold to slaughter houses as well. So basically, the egg and dairy industries are immediately tied to meat production, and that’s a major reason why vegans choose to abstain.

5.) OK, But Where Do I Start?

If you’re considering giving veganism a try or if you just want to learn more about the food system, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed about where to start. Don’t worry, the internet is your best friend. Here’s a list of great resources:

Films:

Vegucated, Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, Food Matters, Food, Inc. (Most of these are available to stream on Netflix)

Blogs/Organizations: 

Mercy For AnimalsOh She GlowsPost Punk KitchenVegan LunchboxVegan Outreach (Note: While I am not personally a supporter of PETA, they do offer a lot of handy food information that is great for new vegans HERE)

You can also follow me on pinterest where I post a lot of dinner and dessert recipes: http://www.pinterest.com/jentoyourhealth. There are a ton of great books out there as well, such as the 30-Day Vegan Challenge by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. Once you have an idea of what sorts of meals you want to make, it’s time to hit the grocery store. Everyone likes different things, but here’s a basic list of some of my grocery must-haves to give you some ideas:

Fruit:  Apples, Bananas, Berries, Unsweetened apple sauce, Raisins/Dates
Veggies: Carrots, Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Onions, Bell Peppers, Cauliflower, Sweet Potato, Broccoli
Beans: White, Black, Chickpeas, Lentils
Dairy Alternatives: Almond milk, Earth Balance (vegan butter), Daiya (Shredded cheese), Canned coconut milk
Miscellaneous: Quinoa, Hummus, Oatmeal, Bread (Check the label for eggs/honey), Coconut flour, Flax meal, Tempeh or Tofu if you aren’t avoiding soy

Now that you’ve got the building blocks, I challenge you to give veganism a try—even if it’s just for a week! You never know what something is really like until you try it. Ok, ok, I know this post wouldn’t be complete without a couple of recipes, right? Both are simple, delicious, and filled with protein. Enjoy!

JP’s 4-Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  1. 1 TBS olive oil (to sauté with)
  2. 1 onion, diced
  3. 4 garlic cloves, minced
  4.  1 Green and 1 Red bell pepper, diced
  5. 2 cans diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  6. 1 can tomato paste
  7. 1 cup marinara sauce or 1 can tomato sauce
  8. 2 TBS chili powder
  9. 1 tsp cumin
  10. 2 tsp black pepper
  11. 1 tsp red pepper
  12. 1 can chili beans (do not drain)
  13. 1 can black beans, 1 can white beans, 1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)

Directions:

1.)   In a pot, sauté onion, garlic, and bell peppers until onion turns translucent

2.)   In a separate bowl, combine the 2 cans of diced tomatoes with the can of tomato paste

3.)   Add tomato mixture and all other ingredients to the pot

4.)   Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

 

Spinach and Broccoli Chickpea Curry

Ingredients:

1.)   1 TBS olive oil (to sauté with)

2.)   ½ onion, diced

3.)   2 cans chickpeas or beans of your choice (I sometimes like to use cannellini)

4.)   2-3 garlic cloves, minced

5.)   1 TBS ginger

6.)   1 tsp curry powder

7.)   1 can lite coconut milk (*Note: you must use the canned kind, not the kind from a carton!)

8.)   1 cup marinara sauce or chunky salsa

9.)    1 cup of chopped broccoli

10.) Handful of torn spinach

Directions

1.)   In a large skillet, heat oil and sauté onion and garlic.

2.)   When it turns translucent, add all other ingredients EXCEPT spinach

3.)   Cook 20 minutes, stirring often until thick

4.)   Add spinach and cook until it wilts

5.)   Serve on a bed of lettuce, rice, or quinoa

Picture 1

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2014! By the way, I’m always available by comment or email if you have questions or need advice, so don’t hesitate to reach out!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Fit For Life

The days are getting shorter again, and if you’re on the east coast like me, you’re experiencing winter’s familiar chill. It’s that time of year when your brain starts to go into hibernation mode and your motivation to work out goes straight out the window. So, how is anyone supposed to stay motivated?! Well, I’mma share three (not-so) secret tips with you:

  1. Do what you love
  2. Keep your routine fresh
  3. Listen to your body and your schedule.

Do What You Love: Sure, you can start a 60-day fitness program. Yes, you can plan to slog your hours away on a step-mill every week.  But if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’ll never stick with it. Long-term health and happiness relies on finding the activities that you enjoy, and figuring out how to integrate them into your daily routine. Life is short; Why spend it forcing yourself to do things you don’t like? (And if you don’t like working out at all, try exploring a bit. There truly is something for everyone.) Of course there are going to be days when it’s harder to get to the gym than others — that’s normal. But I can promise you that if you enjoy your workouts, it’s going to be a heck of a lot easier to get your brain on board than if you’re dreading what’s in front of you. And on those days when your bed is super warm but you know it’s going to benefit you mentally and physically to get your body moving, give this mantra a try: “Don’t think, just do”.

Now, I’ll admit, when you’re training for a specific event, occasionally you have to do things you don’t want to do. (Hill sprints, anyone? Blargh.) That’s just part of the game. However, ask yourself why you’re training for that event or that goal. Know it beforehand so you can draw from that during the hard times. As Coby Linder from Say Anything once said, “when your ‘why’ is strong enough, you can tolerate any ‘how'”. For me, I know that if I have to incorporate a less-awesome workout in my training, but it will help me reach my goal and it’s only once a week for x amount of weeks, then I can totally deal with that. The biggest thing is to sign up for events that you’ll actually enjoy training for. If you’re going to hate the process, why choose that particular goal? For example, I’ve had people tell me they hate running, but they want to run a marathon. K, well, why? Do you want to learn to love running, or is it just that you want to say you did it? Do what will make your soul happy. This summer, I had the most amazing time training for my Olympic Triathlon. There were a LOT of early mornings and a LOT of long workouts on weekends, but I had more fun than I’ve ever had training for anything because I loved what I was doing. Yes, sometimes it was rough getting up at 5:30 am to go on a 2-hour bike ride before work; but, once I was cruising along watching the sun rise, I was all smiles. In the end, reflecting on all of the quiet weekends spent in the lake and on the roads makes me just as happy as reflecting on race day. It’s all about finding what you love.

Who wouldn't want to swim here?!

Who wouldn’t want to swim here?!

Keep Your Routine Fresh: Depending on your goals and your schedule, try changing up your routine a few times per year. Maybe during the winter, you spend more time in the gym lifting, taking fitness classes, or doing at-home workouts. In the spring/summer, you can get outside more and go mountain biking, or hiking, or swimming. In the fall, you can enjoy the fresh breezes and enter a 5k, or take an out-door yoga class. Or, if you’re a gym rat year-round, try out some different lifting/cardio routines a few times per year. Whatever you need to do to keep your workout from getting stale. Your muscles and mind will both appreciate the change.

Listen to Your Body and Your Schedule: This really ties into what I talked about at the beginning of this post. Always listen to your body and give yourself options. If you’ve had 4 hard workouts in a row one week, and everything is screaming at you to stay in bed on the 5th day, then stay in bed! If you’re scheduled to have a heavy lifting day, but you really feel like doing yoga instead, then do yoga! Respect yourself enough to listen to what your body wants and respond accordingly. The same thing goes for fitting workouts into your schedule. If you know that it’s absolutely impossible for you to get up early when it’s dark outside, then find a different time to do it. Do some pilates in your office on your lunch break, take a kickboxing class after work, or break up your workouts into 15 minute sessions and spread them out throughout the day. Work WITH yourself instead of against yourself. This goes for training too. When I looked up triathlon training schedules last spring, I didn’t like ANY of them. I knew they wouldn’t work with my schedule or my body, so I made my own. It all comes back to knowing yourself, and doing what works best for YOU.

IMG_3102


Keeping a workout schedule where you can easily see and edit it is an easy way to both stay motivated and re-work your plans if something comes up.

If you want to be fit for life, learn to do what you love. What sorts of activities are you planning to do this winter? Do you have any tips to share? Comment or email!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Speed Workouts for Runners

Whether you’re training for an endurance race, trying to improve your 5k time, or just looking to spice things up, speed workouts are a useful addition to your routine. That’s why I’m sharing TWO excellent workouts to help you reach your goals: “30-20-10 “and “Over-Under”. To give you an idea of the benefits of these drills, last year, I slashed 2:30 off my 5k time in less than 2 months by incorporating the 30-20-10 drill into my routine once a week. So, read on, running friends!

I LOVE fall, but apparently it's already a little too chilly for shorts. My legs were so red after my long run!

I LOVE fall, but apparently it’s already a little too chilly for shorts. My legs were so red after my long-run this morning!

The “30-20-10″ Workout: 

This routine takes about 25-30 minutes and is best performed outside, though you can certainly do it on a track or treadmill if that’s your preference. To kick it up a notch, find a place in your neighborhood with a bunch of hills and get those legs pumping!

Warm up:  5 minutes @ comfortable pace

Round 1 :

5 sets of

- 30 seconds running at comfortable pace. A little faster than a jog

- 20 seconds @ race pace

- 10 seconds sprinting

After completing Round 1, take a 2 minute walking break.

*To clarify: you only rest after a full round is finished –there is no resting between individual sets. So, once you finish sprinting for 10 seconds, immediately drop back to a comfortable pace for 30 seconds, then go @ race pace for 20 secs, then sprint for 10 secs, and so on until you have completed 5 sets (5 minutes).*

Repeat for a total of 3-4 rounds, taking a 2 minute walking break between each round.

Cool down: 5 minutes

Fall is the happiest of all running seasons :)

Fall is the happiest of all running seasons :)

The “Over-Under” Workout:

 This routine is best performed on a treadmill, unless you own a Garmin and are able to track your pace. Performing 4 rounds takes about 50 minutes.

Warmup: 10 minutes at comfortable pace. 5 minutes into the warmup, do four 20 second pickups with 30-60 seconds jog between.

Round 1:

4 minutes @ 15-30 seconds faster than race pace

- 4 minutes @ 15 – 30 seconds slower than race pace

- 1 minute walking break

Repeat for a total of 4 – 8 rounds

Cool down: 5 minutes

*Note: It is important to be consistent through this workout. If your race pace is a 10 minute mile, then run a 9:30 for 4 minutes and a 10:30 for 4 minutes every round. If you find what you’re doing is too hard or too easy, you need to either recalculate your race pace, or adjust the number of rounds you do.

There ya go! I don’t recommend doing both of these workouts in the same week unless you’re a more advanced runner. Generally, one speed workout a week is enough. Now, lace up those sneaks, give these a try, and let me know what you think!

Happy fall!

Happy fall!

And as always, Remember To Breathe. 

NASM Certification

Hey friends!

Just wanted to give you all a quick update of some exciting stuff to come for this blog: I finally took the leap and am working toward becoming an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutrition Specialist! As I’m doing this on top of a full-time job and jam-packed training schedule, it will be a few months before I take the exam, but once I do, it’ll mean very exciting things for all of you! So, keep checking back for updates and please feel free to comment or email me with anything you need in the meantime.

Thanks for your readership :)

 

And as always, Remember to breathe.

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