Saturday, November 19, 2011

Born to Run

I recently finished the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and have a newfound appreciation for the human body and ultrarunners (people who run distances longer than a marathon.) But seriously the human body is absolutely incredible! People trash it with shitty food and drink, even drugs, and they don't realize that our body is the culmination of our evolutionary history! We are the perfect machine: sweating, breathing, running, and thinking machines!

My university has a marathon team that trains for the Boston Marathon every year and is guaranteed by John Hancock (who sponsors the race) a certain number of spots for runners. I didn't start out planning for it, but I have been running with the group for a number of weeks now, between 7-10 mile runs twice a week and 2-3 miles of track work once a week, and now I am on track to run the Boston Marathon in April. Its no where near official and I have to stay healthy and uninjured, but at no other time in my life will I be able to run in one of the countries most exciting races with such ease. We have an awesome coach who provides us with food and water, training tips and takes care of paperwork and keeping a relationship with John Hancock and Boston Athletics Association. And we have a team of novice and experienced marathoners all a part of the university community. I have a feeling that I have to take advantage of this opportunity to be able to possibly run one of the most historic marathons in the country.

On Thanksgiving I'll be back in Dallas to run the 8 mile Turkey Trot with my cousin which I'm pretty excited about and then I'll try to find some half marathon to run after the new year if possible. I'm kind of getting into the running thing a little bit backwards of most people who compete in triathlons, where running is what leads them into triathlons, but I had to do it a little different because now I know what my body can be pushed to do and what my mind can be pushed to do. It will also help me on my way to my next goal: a half Ironman next summer. That sounds crazy to most people - 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and then a half marathon. Not most people's idea of fun, but I want to train for and complete one so bad that I research them all the time, think about it all the time and made my academic schedule for next semester conducive to training for it. Sounds insane but I've got people encouraging me to do it. The three separate races I did over the last year in total don't quite add up to the milage of one half-ironman but I still know I can do it, especially if I am able to run a marathon beforehand.

That's my plan right now and I'll probably be tracking my fitness and nutrition along the road to fulfill those goals. Again, there are a ton of steps to take in order to make this possible and keep me healthy and uninjured along the way but my first step is to announce it. By making this public on my blog I hope it holds me a little more accountable for its completion. When I actually get to the half ironman I won't even be an undergrad anymore and might have to change the name of this blog, but this outlet will hopefully help me on this journey. First step complete, now its time to hit the road running and biking and the pool swimming!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What happens when you decide to race a triathlon the week of the triathlon

Last weekend I was looking through websites to see what triathlon races were coming up since I knew that the season, at least in the northeast, was ending soon. There were two races the next weekend and that was it. There I was with a week to decide if I wanted to race the next weekend. 

Let me take it back to what had happened in the 5 weeks since my last triathlon. I hadn't been swimming at all for a month afterwards. I had crashed on my mountain bike in Vail and banged up my knee pretty bad, not to mention my shoulder and hand sustained some injuries. I had been running long runs on Wednesday and doing speed work on Thursdays with my schools marathon team, I had not been focusing on 5ks off of the bike. Plus I had been been travelling like crazy through Dallas, Colorado and back to Boston then a trip down to DC.

Basically I wasn’t really thinking about racing very much in those five weeks, until I realized that I only had this one weekend of races if I wanted to squeeze in one more. I ate extra clean, got back in the pool, went to spin class and continued running but I had an incredibly busy week so I couldn’t devote that much time to training. I decided then and there that I wouldn’t try to PR or anything, I just wanted to prove to myself that I am maintaining good enough shape to be able to just go run a triathlon on a whim. And that is exactly what I did.

I dragged two friends with me to watch (and be there in case I crashed and I needed someone to drive my car back) and we left for Newport at 5am. Newport, Rhode Island was beautiful even with bad weather and an eerie fog over the water and roads. I registered on site and there were two transition areas so I was a little rushed before the 7:30am start but I made it to the start and organized all my transition gear in time.

The water was cold even with a wetsuit but fairly calm since the rain decided to stop before the race. I wasn’t quite ready for the saltiness of it after swimming in lakes and rivers and pools. But soon I was in the water, swimming, at the turnaround buoy then stepping carefully over rocks to make my way out of the water. The bike ride was beautiful. 16.1 miles along coastlines and old historic homes. A few big hills but I just tried to enjoy it as much as I could. I rolled into the transition to see my friends cheering, changed into my crazy colored shoes and a hat to keep the mist out of my face and started running. My legs were in pain. I had only given them one day to recover from a hard track workout and it wasn’t enough. I was running at a snail’s pace. But it didn’t matter, I didn’t stop, I kept going and made it over the big hill knowing I just had to run down it on the route back. Way off my 5k pace, I got enough in my legs to sprint through the finish line with a smile.

So there you have it. That is what happens when you decide to race a triathlon the week of the triathlon!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Amica 19.7 Triathlon

I now consider myself a bit of an experienced triathlete! Yesterday I competed in the Amica 19.7 sprint triathlon in Myles Standish State Forest in southern Massachusetts, a .5 mile swim, 16.1 mile bike and 3.1 mile run! I came in 4th in my age division, so I missed out on a prize by less than 3 minutes. I'll talk a little about the couple of weeks leading up to the race and then my race experience.

I was in an interesting situation the two weeks leading up to the race because my sublease in DC was up at the end of July but my internship went until August 5th. Basically that meant I was living out of my car, my office, my gym and wonderful friends who would house me - not ideal for training! Then the weekend before the race I went on a road trip to Asheville, NC with a friend and went to a vegetarian festival plus I got some hiking and biking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The way I sort of designed my training program, that week and weekend were supposed to be my most training intensive, followed by an easier taper week down to the race. Instead I was forced to work a little harder than I wanted to the week running up to the race, plus I was driving from DC up to Boston. I had an utterly amazing last week in DC that I wouldn't trade for anything, but it did kind of mess with training!

Details of the race:

I went out way too fast on the swim and had to slow way down before I could find my rhythm again. The pond was calm and warm (I didn't wear a wetsuit) but the sun was super bright right over the exit for the swim so it was difficult to spot where I was going looking straight into the sun. I may have wasted some energy and time not really going in a straight line but overall it was fine.

The bike was on rolling hills which made it both difficult and my kind of race because I happen to like hills and can generally blow past people on the climbs - I have more trouble holding my pace on the flats. It was 16.1 miles and I kept above 17 mph on average which is what I wanted to do.

The run was hard. I don't know if its because I haven't been sleeping that well but my legs didn't feel super rested to start the day and off the bike they were obviously extremely tired. And it was also rolling hills which is much more fun on a bike that on the run. I think I ended up negative splitting but not enough to make much of a time difference. 

Compared to the DC tri earlier this summer I was a few minutes slower; that course had a longer run and this one had a longer bike so they kind of even out, although I would say this was a tougher course.

I now have more crazy traveling ahead of me in my schedule, Dallas then Vail then back to Boston and I'm doing the Massachusetts Spartan Race (5k obstacle course) with some friends when I am back but I have a few days of rest and a birthday this coming week! So for now I will kick back, drink some of the craft beer I brought back from Asheville and eat what I want for a few days!

This summer has been amazing and I have had so many incredible experiences from my internship in DC to training and competing in triathlons and I can't wait for what this fall holds in store for me!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why healthy living is revolutionary

Recently, and I may have posted the link, I stumbled across a website with "100 Revolutionary Acts" towards better health. At first I thought that the website was awesome, a great idea and resource, but then I started thinking about it... why is being healthy a 'revolutionary' act?
(Revolutionary meaning characterized by a marked or sudden change or a break away from the status quo)

Some recent observations:

- I saw this sign in the DC Metro for 7-11 that pictures a Big Gulp full of a sugar filled drink, what looks like chicken or hot wings, and a brownie, with a tagline that says "budget your time, not your taste." Is that what many people think a normal meal or a late night snack should be? Is that kind of processed, sugary and fatty 'cheap' food really people's 'taste'? Is having a different taste 'revolutionary'?

- The line for the metro elevator is always full when the escalators are out... when escalators don't work they become stairs, is taking the stairs 'revolutionary'?  

- Colorado is the healthiest state when it comes to obesity, but it still has over 19% of its adults qualified as obese! (This does not include adults considered overweight.) Why is a state with slightly less than 1 in 5 obese adults the best obesity rate in the country?

- Working for a reknowned cancer organization I see the strong correlation between the spread of the 'western diet' (and with it obesity) and cancer (and othe non-communicable diseases like heart disease and diabetes) throughout the world! Why is a break away from the 'western diet' revolutionary?

When did healthy food and healthy living become a revolutionary concept?

Let me just throw this out there- The high carb, high protein 'western diet' has led to high obesity rates, high cancer rates, high diabetes rates, high heart disease rates, and the spread of this diet is increasing all of those rates worldwide! These rates are the reason that people who are disease free are considered 'revolutionary'! Yes, I just stated that people who are 'disease-free' could be considered healthy because that is what the norm has become. What healthy should mean is fit, energetic, and leading healthy lifestyles and therefore at a low risk for all of those diseases.

I very often get comments from people saying "You are soooo healthy!" or "I could never be vegetarian, I don't know how you do it!" Yes, training for triathlons is a little extreme and not something everyone does or can do because of the time commitment, their current fitness levels, not to mention they might just not want to, but when did my eating vegetables become a fascination for people? Eating vegetables should be normal, not something that sets me apart. Another question I get all of the time: "But where do you get your protein?"

We have been led to believe for a number of years that we need far more protein than we actually do, and this has been helped along by special low-carb diets like Atkins and Southbeach. The CDC recommends 46 grams of protein each day for women ages 19-17+ and 56 grams a day for men ages 19-70+; most cuts of beef provide 7 grams of protein per ounce, meaning that your favorite steak place's 8 ounce filet is as much or more protein than you need in an entire day! Add to that the chicken or turkey you had with your lunch, the cheese on that sandwich, the yogurt with breakfast, not to mention that whole grains and vegetables (if you are eating them of course) also have protein in them, and you get far more protein than you need for the day. You don't need high protein foods or dairy with every meal, for instance protein is used to repair muscle tissue so its best to have it after a workout, you don't need it to fuel before a workout. Too much protein can be converted to fat in your body the same way that excess carbs can be converted to fat in your body. Another misunderstanding we have is portion size - food labels and nutritional information that is given out in grams and ounces is useless if we don't know what a gram or ounce of that food actually looks like.

I am going to make this as simplified as I can- look at a plate. 1/2 should be non-starchy vegetables and some of it fruit, 1/4 should be dairy/lean protein, and 1/4 should be whole grains or startchier vegetables. If you can make your plate look like this every meal you will for sure be getting enough protein, healthy carbs, and most of the nutrients that your body needs - fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals.

Are you an endurance athlete? - make it more like 1/3 whole grains. Trying to add muscle? - make it more like 1/3 dairy/protein. Trying to lose weight? - make it a smaller plate. This basic model can be changed to fit your needs, the USDA just released a 'my plate' feature but it still categorizes corn and potatoes as vegetables and  dairy as a separate category. wrote a good piece on it that outlines a better way to look at the plate, more along the lines of how I picture it.

Does every single one of my plates look like this? No. Do most of them? Yes. Especially when looking at the entirety of my meals over the day. I prefer whole grain heavy in the mornings - oatmeal or cereal with fruit and supplements like maca, raw cacao and hemp; green leafy vegetable at lunch like a salad; one snack of raw almonds, a different snack of fruit with yogurt; and some combination of vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu, quinoa, etc. cooked for dinner. All of that pretty much evens out to the distributions of my ideal plate.

Is my plate revolutionary? I think many people believe that is what a plate should typically look like, but its not what most people's plates actually look like.

I'm not trying to buck the status quo, I am trying to reestablish it. Healthy living should be the norm, not revolutionary!

Who is with me? Who wants to establish vegetables as a normal part of their diet? Who wants to walk up and down the escalators turned into stairs? Who has a taste different than big gulps and 7 eleven chicken wings? Who thinks obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease should not be increasing around the world? If you are with me then I guess you are a revolutionary too!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

four hour body

I know it has been a while since I posted, I've been a little busy with making the most of being in DC, my internship, and training for the August 13th triathlon! This is a little different that my usual posts - it is a book review of sorts or rather an analysis and synthesis of certain methods to making changes in your body and I am only looking at a small part of the book.

I recently purchased Tim Ferriss's Four Hour Body mainly because I have heard so many controversial things about him and the book and I had a Border's gift card to spend. He used himself as a guinea pig, tracking workouts and nutrition for decades and has identified the smallest changes that he could do to make serious increases in weight loss, muscle gain, strength gain, etc. and also has some evidence on how it worked for other people as well. It's a pretty big volume and covers a lot of different subjects all having to do with the body in some way and making gains with the smallest effort needed. While I don't always agree with that principle in itself - if you want to make a change you should probably put in the 100% effort to make that change happen, not just try to find the easiest way - he does has some really interesting strategies for making new routines stick.

Have a set goal. Mine are the two triathlons this summer, but if you want to lose weight or gain muscle set a weight or body fat percentage goal, or put a number on how much weight you want to lift or how far and fast you can run. The goal though has to be realistic within a certain time frame.

One major strategy for doing this is keeping track of the data and changes without using calories or a scale as measurements. Calories don't help you separate the kinds of foods that will help you lose weight or add muscle, they are just a unit of energy. Calories can be an easy way to track the amount of food you consume, but they shouldn't be relied on as a good indicator of the health of the foods you consume. And a scale only measures weight - not muscle mass. I am five foot four inches and weigh over 130lbs which is at the top of my BMI range - but I am probably around 15% body fat and that muscle is never taken into account on a scale. Circumference of your waist, arms, hips and legs, or a fat caliper are much better measurements to take while tracking changes in your body than your weight alone.

Another strategy is one shared by the Nerd Fitness community and that is to somehow stay accountable for your set goal. Have a support group, make a bet with friends (where you lose money if you don't fulfill it which gives you more incentive than if you were only to gain money you didn't already have once you completed your goal,) take an unflattering before picture and post it somewhere you see it everyday. Even during the process you can take a picture of everything before you eat and post that online - you won't want to post a picture of terrible for you food or a giant bag of candy. Have others involved in the whole process and you will want to prove it to them and they will hold you accountable whether they are encouraging or discouraging you along the way (ignore the discouraging friends or use them as fuel to work harder.)

I can also be a resource - shoot me an email and I can give you just some plain old encouragement, I can plan workouts or a meal program for you, hell if you know me I can work out and/or cook with you! If you tell me what your goal is, I will do my best to help you reach it. Even if your goal is just to add more vegetables to your diet - I can help you out!

In regards to the book, its fun to scan through but I wouldn't go out and buy it right away (borrow my copy first!) I'm obviously a fitness nerd, so I like when he gets into the little experiments and the more scientific jargon and shows exactly what the human body can be pushed to do - but other people may not. I wouldn't use him as a guide to changing your lifestyle, but instead as a reference or resource. Even Ferriss admits that you have to find the formula for change that works for you, and especially the motivation to make the change, his method worked for a number of people but those individuals were all committed to his specific methods.

I think the main point to takeaway is that you have to find your motivation, set your goal and find a way to make yourself accountable to that goal - that is the key to making changes towards a healthier lifestyle!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Officially a triathlete!

I finished the .8k swim, 20k bike and 7.5k run in 1 hour 44 minutes and 10 seconds, good enough for 14th in the 18-24 year old women's age division and in the top 19% of all women competing in the sprint distance. Those results are better than I expected and I am more than pleased with my time!

Let me go into details on the race: The DC Triathlon had over 3200 registered racers for the sprint or international/olympic distances. That is a pretty big race logistically and I have to give a lot of thanks to the race organizers because it was very well run! Saturday I went to pick up my race packet at the expo at the Washington Convention Center and we took our bikes from there over to the transition area for racking via a police escorted bike ride through DC, meaning that we got to run a bunch of red lights and piss off the tourists and motorists! Sunday morning I woke up at 3:45am (when some of my housemates were getting home) and drove to the parking lot at the expo center to take the athlete's shuttle over to the transition area. Even leaving that early I didn't get to the transition area till 5 or a little after 5am.

I set up a transition station right next to my bike where I put down a plastic bag (because the ground was damp since it was drizzling out), a quick dry towel to stand on when I changed out of my wetsuit, my bike shoes with socks ready to go in them, behind that I put my running shoes with my race belt with bib race number attached and a hat in case I wanted it for the run. On my bike I put my two full water bottles in the cages, taped a larabar onto the top tube so I could grab it while on the bike, used the velcro on my bike gloves to attach them to the handlebars, and placed my helmet on my aero-bars with my sunglasses inside it. This set up worked really well for me because the less you have to worry about during the actual transition, the better. Having a bunch of stuff attached to my bike got me out of the transition area much quicker.

I got my chip timer and attached it to my ankle, and made sure that my body markings (when they write your race number on your legs and arms) was still clearly visible. I used bodyglide (an anti-chafing deoderant-like stick) on my ankles and places the wetsuit would rub so that I could make sure to get it off easily and it wouldn't chafe my neck, arms or legs too much. I then saw a woman who had a message written in pen on her leg - I mean I didn't lean over and read the message, I just saw that it was written there - so I took out my sharpie and wrote a mantra inside my swim cap. It was something that I knew was there but didn't need everyone else to see and because I wrote it down I remembered it and repeated it to myself on the course. By the time I had done all of this it was time for the 6am international distance to begin and we all had to be out of the transition area. I put on my wetsuit, stowed away my gear bag, and chatted a little with some fellow triathletes.

Before I knew it, it was time to get with our age groups and line up to jump into the water in groups of 8 (it wasn't a mass start but instead a time-trial start meaning our chip started to time us as soon as we jumped off the dock.) I don't think I was prepared enough for the jump into the Potomac River because I kind of had this moment when I was a few strokes out into the water from where I jumped were I was like "holy shit, I'm swimming in the Potomac!" I didn't think about the grossness of the water and instead just started a rhythm and tried to avoid and swim around people. I've never really timed myself on an 800 meter swim in the pool nor in open water so I don't know how far I am off of my normal swim times, but I swam this in 14:30 - which I think is pretty good for a newbie, plus I really just started swimming in late April. I'm proud of it whether it's better than average or not!

My wetsuit came off easily in transition, I was soaking wet but somehow got my feet dry enough to slide on my socks and velcro my bike shoes on and run with my bike out of transition. Once I mounted my bike, I flew. Biking is my strongest leg of the triathlon but if I had been able to bike the course before hand I could have shaved off a few minutes by knowing when the uphill and downhill sections were and where their weren't turns and I could have pushed harder on the straightaways. That is the problem with having a bike route in a city that is normally so crowded with cars that you can't recreate the route on your own. It was a very technical course with a lot of turns and u-turns that tested my bike handling skills. I kept an 18-20 mph pace most of the time - unless I let an unexpected uphill section spoil my cadence. I ate a larabar on the bike, but I think I ate it too quickly because I could feel it in my stomach once I started running. What I know for next time is to probably eat half of it within the first three miles of the bike and then the other half towards the end. I made sure to drink almost an entire bottle of water over the 20k course though which was good since sometimes on a ride I forget to drink until I'm already thirsty. I got back to transition and realized I was 2 events down and had only the run to go.

I undid my bike shoes dismounted from the bike and ran it into transition, slipped on my colorful Asics Noosa Tri shoes and pulled the toggle on the no-tie laces. Clipped on my bib and was on my way out. This course was originally going to have a 5k run, or so I believed. Then during my open water race clinic I learned that it had been extended to a 7.5k which I had not been training for. I was overtraining for a 5k but it still had a kind of mental influence on knowing that the run was just a little over a mile longer than I was planning for. So I came up with a different way to approach it. I decided that I would take the first 2.5k to just get my legs back from the bike - then I could just run a 5k once my legs were back. That really helped me mentally to break it down like that. The run was still pretty hard, with some uphill portions, a lot of turns on roads that seemed self defeating, and I was experiencing a little bit of stomach cramping from eating the larabar on the bike. I got water at every aid station but I never stopped or walked, I kept going. It helped that all around me were majestic monuments or DC buildings and there was a light drizzle all morning that actually kind of kept me cooled down. I got to the last section and I still had enough in my legs to sprint to the finish, I smiled and raised my arms up into a strong woman pose! I was now officially a triathlete.

I was handed my finishers medal, a water bottle, powerade and a wet towel. Then I went over to the place where the racing receipts from the chip timers were printed. That was where I saw I had placed 14th in the women's 18-24 year old division and that I had an official time under 1:45:00. I was appropriated exhilarated, exhausted and a little dazed.

I got some food, qdoba naked burritos, ate and found my friends. They got some pictures of me and we stocked up on free Pom juice and sat around and talked for a while and figured out a way for them to get my car from the expo center and meet me to pick me up with my bike and stuff from transition. They're awesome so we got everything handled and with everything picked up we headed to my house where I had beer, wine, chips, salsa and guacamole waiting for us, but not before a pit stop at Shake Shack where they bought me a chocolate milkshake - which was what I had earlier decided I wanted as a reward for this triathlon since I haven't had one in probably more than two years. It tasted well-deserved!

Showering was wonderful, sleep was even better, and now I have a week of training off before I gear back up for the Amica 19.7 Sprint Triathlon in Boston in August!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Only a few more days of being a tri-newbie!

Less than five days till my triathlon and I am just slightly freaking out. 

The swim is less of a mental hurdle for me now that I participated in a practice open water swim in the Chesapeake Bay last weekend and felt comfortable in water with a much stronger current than the Potomac will have (although the Potomac will be grosser) and I greatly enjoyed trying out my wetsuit - its amazing how much more buoyant it makes you! The bike is a pretty technical turning course but I trust my bike handling skills and there will be some amazing views of the DC monuments over the course. The run has been extended from a 5k to a 7.5k, which is fine if I was just running that, but after the swim and bike that extra 2.5k might be a mental struggle far more than a physical struggle but some of my friends who are in DC are planning to come out early on a Sunday morning to cheer me on!
This week is my taper week, and my taper is probably a little different than others because I still needed to get in one more long distance swim workout because I was behind schedule on the swim, so yesterday I went a little more all out that I was supposed to, racking up more than a mile of swimming in my main set between my warm up and cool down. Sunday was my last long bike ride, Monday was a medium tempo run - so a 5k at race speed. Today, Wednesday is a rest day, tomorrow Thursday will be a brick workout of short run, short bike, short run, Friday 50 yard sprint swims and a core workout, then Saturday a very light jog - just till I break a sweat 10 to 15 minutes. Then Sunday is the triathlon where I'll do some dynamic warming up while I'm waiting for my swim wave to start at 7am. The hardest part of training this week is resisting the desire to over train!
Nutrition is another aspect I am planning for this whole week- I'm not introducing any new foods, I am staying totally vegan and cooking all my meals, so no eating out at all, (I plan on my version of pigging out on Sunday after the race!) and no alcohol for the two weeks leading up to the race, (I have a bottle of Malbec to be opened Sunday evening.) Basically I am eating the same few meals over and over again, which people think would be boring but if you think about it most people do that anyway - especially with breakfast. My staple foods are whole grains or psuedograins like buckwheat, quinoa, faro/barley, cracked wheat (in a tabouli salad) and sprouted grain bread; spinach and kale both raw and cooked; sweet potatoes; raw nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds; my superfoods maca, raw cacao and chia; and berries. I will keep eating raw foods until Saturday afternoon when I'll need to take in less fiber prior to the morning race. Tomorrow and Friday I am adding some extra carbs. Every day this week I have had a big kale and/or spinach salad with a garbanzo bean, tomato, cracked wheat/buckwheat tabouli for lunch with some raw almonds or an apple as a snack. Breakfast is my weird version of cereal- puffed rice, puffed kamut or millet, maca, hemp seeds, chia seeds, raw cacao, agave, raw pumpkins seeds, walnuts, rice milk and berries. Dinner is a grain combo of quinoa and faro, with sauteed kale, or a different roasted green vegetable and baked sweet potato. If I am hungry before a workout I have a few dates and almonds or half of a Larabar. Oh yeah, and I have been and will continue drinking water like crazy. I don't know if Sunday will be nice like it has been for the past few days, or like DC usually is during the summer - hot and humid.  
Again, for this triathlon my goal is only to finish it and enjoy the spectacle, August is when I'll race for time. If you are around the Washington DC area and want to come out and support me early on a Sunday morning, feel free to do so! I will appreciate it tons!


Friday, June 10, 2011

greetings from DC and the dreaded swim

Now that I am settled into one place (and found housing about four days before moving here) its time for an update. On my week and a half road trip from Dallas to Boston to DC with my mom we stayed in a different city every night, (except for the stopover in Boston where I was at my place) and drove most of the days, but I still worked hard to maintain my triathlon training. I took advantage of hotels with pools, I used running as a way to explore the different cities/places we were staying, met a man in the tiny hampton inn suites who does triathlons and had a nice chat with him while getting in some core strength, tried to bike when possible, and tried out Matt Kamb's hotel room workout. I usually got all of this in before my mother even woke up and it helped when I spent the rest of the day sitting in a car either behind the wheel or in the passenger seat. If this was a travel blog I would talk a little bit more about every place I went but for now I'll just say that Asheville, NC and the Blue Ridge/Smokey mountains are gorgeous and I will be going back there! But since this is about leading an active lifestyle I'll stick with the working out parts of my trip- basically it's possible to travel and still train effectively as long as you make the time and take advantage of the resources around you.

My number one tip: when you get to a new city, walk or run around it for a while - you never know what you may discover, who you'll meet, or what experience you'll have but, you'll probably discover a new store, restaurant, or gorgeous views, meet someone truly interesting, and have a great overall experience!

I have already noted many times that the swim will be the most difficult part of training for these triathlons because it is something I haven't trained for before. Calling it the 'dreaded swim' might be an exaggeration, but I am the most apprehensive about it. But, something clicked in the pool a couple of days ago. I had been doing mainly sets of 200 meters because I have been swimming in 25 meter pools and anything more than that I would just get sick of the repetition or feel like I'd been swimming for way longer than just the few minutes I'd actually been swimming. But the other day I read an article on about the habits of the most effective swimmers. One of them was counting strokes. This was such a simple idea and I don't know if I'd read about it and ignored it before for being too simple, but this habit was highly effective for me as soon as I got back in the pool. It gave me a steady rhythm, kept me paced each lap, set a steady bilateral breathing pattern, and before I knew it I'd swam a 400, easy. It was paced, not quite to race speed but not slow either, and I probably should have pushed myself to do more than that in that set but I had many more sets to go. My goal is to be able to do this ladder workout once a week 1x800, 2x400, 4x200 and 8x100, which is almost 2 miles! That's seems crazy for me to even think about, me, someone who really just started swimming for distance in April/May, but now 2 miles seems achievable, a new goal.

Because of all the interruptions and moving around I've done the past month between Boston, Dallas and DC, I will just be ready for my triathlon next weekend and finishing it without injuring myself is my goal. Then I can ramp up again for the August triathlon where I will set a time that I want to finish in, right in time for my 22nd birthday!

Friday, May 20, 2011


I guess summertime isn't that exciting for people who are going straight into jobs, but my internship doesn't start until June 1st so I am going to get a couple of weeks of vacation/relaxing time - vacation and relaxing time does not mean that I won't be working out or eating well, it just means I have a free schedule and my brain gets an academic rest!

I'm in miserably humid Dallas, TX right now which is making working out outside that much harder, but I have my bike now and it feels great to be back on it riding around White Rock Lake!

This week home has been a lot of preparation for the rest of my summer, doctors appointments, visiting family, gathering up stuff I'll need for the summer like a new bike rack for taking my bike across the country (I had a lot of fun hanging out at REI with my sister looking at all the different bike racks!) I also have time to go to yoga, run, bike, swim and do some strength training. The rest of my downtime I've been trying to be productive and kept the TV off (except to watch basketball games, GO MAVS!) I bought a bunch of books from half price books and I've been trying to be productive while online as well.

In addition to following and trying out Steve's body weight workouts on his website and following where he is in the world, keeping up with what Matt on nomeatathlete has to say, and learning a lot about whole food nutrition from Brendan at Thrivein30, I have also found a new person to follow - Chris Guillebeau, writer for a blog called the Art of Non-conformity: Unconventional strategies to life, work and travel.

Chris is the ultimate travel hacker and a guy who wants to see artists and entrepreneurs succeed in their unconventional business goals, he generally wants to help people become healthier, happier, more fulfilled and more generous. If you want to learn the travel hacking ways then click the icon I have pasted in below - full disclosure: if you sign up for the $1 trial of Travel Hacking Cartel then I get some miles, but if you do the same then you are going to get miles as well :)

Basically I am trying to filter through all of the crap that does exist out there on the internet and really follow people who believe in the same things that I do
- be active, eat better, be happier, travel, share what you learn and give back to people.

My summertime homework assignment for you is to try and do all of that list, or as much as you can, and find people with the same values as yourself whether its a family member, friend, or a blogger like I have found. This is my last school sanctioned summer break, I'm going to use it wisely!

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

a confession to make...

I seem to be full of confessions lately since I have already confessed to being a nerd, but I have another confession to make -

       I want to be a badass.

Seriously, I've been super fortunate to do some amazing things in my life and I could not be more thankful, but I want more! I always want to do more, to set new goals, to challenge myself. Once I do these sprint triathlons I plan to do an Olympic distance one, and then within the next year or so, barring any injuries, I hope to do a half-ironman. And on the non-fitness side I've read a lot of books but I want to read all of modern library's list of 100 best books. And this isn't because I want to show anyone up, or flaunt what I've done, its because I want to be the best that I can be. I want to be fit, I want to be well read, I want to be well-traveled, I want to do awesome things like 100 consecutive pushups or go sky-diving because I am a healthy 21 year old who has the drive and ability to do those things.

I have so much life ahead of me and I know that, but if I don't have short term and long term goals then I don't feel like I have much direction in my life.

There was a long period of time at the beginning of this semester where I didn't set goals to accomplish and didn't have a good sense of what direction I was headed but then I set goals: sign up for a triathlon, get an internship in DC, figure out what my senior thesis will be. And guess what? I got an internship in DC, I am training for two triathlons I've signed up for and I have a narrowed down topic for my senior thesis! Badass right?

I want all of my friends and families and even strangers to be the best person that they can be, and to always strive to live better, and I want everyone to feel like they're a badass! My challenge to my blog readers is this: make a badass bucket list of things that you can achieve, and if you do achieve them you will feel like a total badass. Other people don't have to think you're a badass, YOU have to think you're a badass. Steve Kamb has his Epic Quest of Awesome on but I like to feel like a badass, so I am gonna go with Badass Bucket List.

Here are a few of mine, I have 25 so far but I'll keep some of them to myself:
 - visit at least 6 of the 7 continents by the time I'm 30 (four down, two to go!)
 - climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
 - do 100 consecutive pushups
 - run the 8 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning
 - go heli-skiing
 - bike ride across a country (Thailand or Vietnam)

etc. etc. All of these goals are doable with a plan, none are totally beyond my reach, and yet all of them, once completed, will make me feel like a total badass.

On totally random other topics:
The. Socks. Are. Awesome.
Check out this movie trailer (courtesy of about failures of the western diet:
And since someone told me they did some reading about the Paleo diet after my last post, here are a couple of links to good sources about the diet, courtesy of and

Monday, May 9, 2011

my nerdiness, exams and .... socks

My friends and family know that I am a nerd. This blog showcases that I am a pretty big nutrition and working out nerd since I spend so much time researching and trying out different workouts and foods and even socks (which I'll get to later,) but that isn't the full extent of my nerdiness. I seem pretty normal and like a typical smart college student, but if you quiz me on my knowledge of Harry Potter or ask me when the last time I watched one of the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies, what books I've read recently not having anything to do with school work, or start asking me to talk about religion (my major) you will find that- I have reread all of the Harry Potter books more times than I can count, I watch Lord of the Rings movies with absurd regularity, I read over 30 books in 7 months of last year which weren't related to school work, and I could pull a passage from the Bible or the Qur'an because I have copies of both at home and at school sitting on my shelf. 

Now that I have established my nerd status I would like to introduce my soul-mate-blog Steve Kamb, who started this website, is a self-identified nerd on an "Epic Quest of Awesome"fulfilling a bucket-list of tasks around the world, fitness and life related which he checks off in order to 'level up.' It's a total workout nerd/nerd paradise. Steve isn't a vegetarian or vegan, he lives by the Paleo diet (which has a lot of similar philosophies about whole natural foods but also advocates eating meat and avoids cultivated grains, if you want to know more about it look it up, its some interesting stuff and a diet many athletes adhere to now,) but his life philosophy is all about making your life better by just getting up and doing stuff, having fun and turning your life around. And he makes references to Lord of the Rings, the Matrix, Superman, and even the Shawshank Redemption! I loved this post because it all comes down to finding inspiration to make your life better through things that you already love, like the words of JRR Tolkien. 

I also mentioned exams in my post title- its exam time on campus again and I still have two religion papers to do this week (I am actually sort of enjoying writing them... again nerd,) plus I have to do my triathlon training. During exams I actually find it fairly easy to fit in working out because there aren't classes to work around so I actually build my daily schedule, planning when I'll eat at home, if I need to pack a lunch or dinner for the library, when I can get to the pool or gym, or when I can put aside some time to hit the road/trails for a run. I already wrote a post last year about studying and making sure to take breaks, get some exercise and especially eat brain-power food during exam time so I'll reiterate a few things. 

Drink water!

Nuts - walnuts and almonds especially are great brain foods with the good type of fat that the synapses in your brain need to work well and are an easy on the go snack. A small bag of almonds is a fantastic library snack. And a great lunch is an old fashioned pb&j with peanut or almond butter, your choice of jam/jelly, on a good whole grain or sprouted grain bread.

Green vegetables - I attempt to have a green vegetable with every dinner and dark leafy greens have so many benefits to your immune system (who wants to be sick during exams) your iron and calcium levels and even helps your eyesight, important especially if you stare at your computer all day trying to type up a paper. This green can be incorporated as easily as a spinach salad for lunch or raw broccoli with some hummus as a snack, or you can saute some spinach, kale, or mustard greens as a side dish with dinner.

Berries - blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc. good healthy natural sugar carbohydrates to power your brain while you study, plus they are full of anti-oxidants and are super easy to incorporate into your diet. I use frozen berries in smoothies everyday but you can also throw them on cereal, in oatmeal, or in yoghurt for an easy breakfast or snack.

Whole grains full of fiber- these are good carbohydrates that won't make you 'crash' when you are studying or taking a test, and will fill you up longer than any type of simple sugar or refined flour. Oats, in oatmeal or granola, barley/farro with dinner, whole grain bread or english muffins for sandwiches and quinoa or buckwheat. 

And lastly your brain needs protein - whether this comes from lean meats like chicken, fish, eggs or from vegetarian/vegan sources like nuts, legumes, or seeds is up to your own diet, but your brain needs those amino acids because it is another tissue in your body that needs restoration and growth. A good vegan protein source are split peas which I made into split pea soup using this recipe but fresh caught salmon is a great brain food since it has good fat in it as well and you can get it pretty easily canned and use it to make a salmon salad sandwich the same way you would make a tuna salad sandwich. 

I hope these food tips help you studying ability! My other advice is don't stay cooped up too long, move around, get some fresh air, and schedule a workout into your schedule, even if its only 30 minutes, its good to take your mind off of work and just let your muscle memory take over.

Okay and now for socks! I went on a 7 plus mile run today and ever since I have been wearing my new Zoot compression socks for recovery. I won't know exactly how well they work until I get up tomorrow, but right now my calves and shins would normally be starting to feel sore already and they feel fine! I ran on some trails but I can feel the extra support around my ankles in these socks so maybe my ankles will be fine tomorrow (although I also could be getting used to running on the Mystic Lakes trails!) So far though wearing tall recovery socks with shorts while cooking dinner for my friends is just another nerdy thing that I do!

Really good brain food: This is a typical breakfast for me - steel cut oats, farro/barley and buckwheat hot cereal with raw cacao, walnuts and strawberries (and other superfood add-ins like maca, hemp, chia seeds, etc, if I have them)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

great weather for the great outdoors

If you live in the Boston area then I hope you have taken advantage of the fact that there has finally been multiple days in a row of fantastic weather! Even all of my fellow college students studying for exams should take an hour out of studying to get some vitamin D and exercise or just walk around in the sunshine! I wanted to make this post about triathlon training updates, so here it goes!

As I had predicted my swimming will need the most work! Its not the most natural of the sports to me since I don't have a strong background int it, so even when I get in the pool it takes me a few minutes to warm up and get my breath control correct. I was never on a swim team and doing swimming drills self-motivated is also a bit of a challenge - I may get a coach or mentor of some kind just for the swim, probably one who has done triathlons before since the open water swim will be much different than the nice and warm indoor pool.

As for the bike, my spin classes have made my legs really strong on the bike! In my strength training I am making sure to incorporate a lot of core work so my balance can be really strong too. I haven't had my bike in Boston so I only rode it when I was home a couple of weekends ago but I felt good on it and I think the spin classes have done a great job and that my core and balance work will compensate for the differences between a spin bike and my road bike.

For the first time since I got shin splints over a year ago I ran more than five miles yesterday! I made it really fun by running on some trails (which additionally strengthens ankles) and picked a scenic route. I have really focused on stretching and foam rolling after my runs whether long runs or shorter interval or hill runs so that I can prevent injuries. I am also making sure not to overtrain and did a short swim and short bike today and avoided running so that I could better recover. Most of my runs have been between 3-5 miles since the first triathlon only has a 5k run, but longer runs will make sure that I have the endurance to run the 5k after swimming half a mile and biking 16! Another thing I have ordered and will post about I'm sure after I try them out are "recovery socks" just so I can make sure I don't get anymore shin splints!

Speaking of recovery, my recovery nutrition maybe starting to piss off my housemates with the blender running so early in the morning, but I feel a difference in how much energy I can have for the rest of the day! I am pretty much vegan during the week unless I eat out for dinner (which is usually reserved for weekends anyway) and I feel great! I made a variation of these superfood vegan lemon bars for a quick breakfast/snack with great success (they kind of taste like Heart Thrives vegan energy bars if anyone has ever had those.)
I also got some wonderfully fresh corn yesterday and made a kind of salsa medley with boiled sweet corn, avocado, roasted jalepeños, lemon juice, chopped fresh mint and tomatoes. The pictures are below 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Baking experiments!

So I like to experiment when I cook, which is typically why I like cooking better than baking because baking sometimes actually requires precise measurements, and where is the fun in that! When I bake instead of following recipes I tend to go off-script and improvise, make additions, changes or substitutions of healthier ingredients. I tried this a couple of times in the past two days and as experiments go, I had one failure and one great success! And the failure was not exactly a major fail, it just didn't turn out as I knew it should, but I tried and learned!

The failure first: black bean brownies. Well a bunch of recipes kept cropping up on my radar (and my facebook wall) and so I kind of combined a few different recipes. had a recipe that I thought had far too much sugar, a different website substituted bananas for sugar but I don't eat bananas right now because of bad memories that the taste draws up (that's all you need to know if you don't know the full reason.) I decided I could maybe substitute the same amount of bananas with apple sauce and baked sweet potatoes - because they add natural sweetness and a similar amount of wet ingredients. It didn't work as well as I'd hoped, the applesauce taste came through in the results and I think there was too much wet ingredient versus the dry ingredients - but I will experiment again and make it work because vegan black bean brownies I've heard can be excellent and I would love to turn my experiment into excellence!

And now for the success: Coconut oil almond poundcake! Basically a twist on olive oil pound cake this is a recipe I modified from the New York Times when they did an article debunking the myth about coconut oil. Coconut oil got a bad rap because it was partially hydrogenated to make that evil fat called trans fat! But virgin coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, is a great way to avoid using butter or other animal fat and is actually a kind of fat that is good for you! (well it still shouldn't be eaten by the spoonful or anything) It is made up of lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid chain that is claimed (but not proven) to have a lot of health benefits like anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. And it works really well in this recipe! This recipe is dairy free but not vegan because it does use eggs!

1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup almond milk (if unsweetened almond milk use 1 cup sugar, if regular use 3/4 cup sugar)
1/4 cup water
3 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon lime juice or the zest of one lime
1 cup unbleached or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan.
Melt the coconut oil in a small pan, once melted whisk in a bowl with sugar, almond milk, water, eggs and lime juice/zest. Fold in the dry ingredients- flours, baking powder, salt and nutmeg - until combined. Pour into the loaf pan and level it out.
In a small bowl mix the agave nectar with a little water (1-2 teaspoons) and the sliced almonds. Then sprinkle almonds over the top of the loaf.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until a knife comes out of the center clean and it is golden brown on top. Let it cool completely before serving!
Toast a slice of it and spread some almond butter on top and it is wonderful! It's seriously really good!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ten minutes a day to a healthier life, seriously. And cookies :)

Brendan Brazier has written books about how diet and performance are interrelated, but luckily you don't have to go out and buy his book in order to hear what he has to say about performance and nutrition. He has provided a free 30 day set of lessons sent via email with text and video that you can find here: It will take you all of ten minutes every few days to learn about what nutrients your body truly needs and how to use food to combat stress and weight-gain, the benefits of superfoods, alkalines versus acids, physical activity and so much more. Seriously check him out, he's got some amazing stuff and you don't have to be vegan/vegetarian to learn from him.

In other news... cookies! We had a bake sale on 4/20 to feed some hungry stoned kids on campus and simultaneously raise money for charity - win-win - and so I did lots of baking! With lots of helpers who came over I made normal meringue coconut macaroons and matzoh caramel chocolate crunch for all my kosher for Passover friends, then I made these amazing Gluten free vegan carrot coconut macaroons found on my favorite blog - photo below:

And I also made my "Healthier" Oatmeal cookies - one batch with dried cranberries and walnuts and one with semi-sweet chocolate chips. I say "healthier" because they still have some butter in them and brown and white sugar, but I have cut half of the butter and replaced it with applesauce and I use whole wheat flour along with the oats.

Ingredients: (makes 18-24 cookies depending on size)
1 1/2 cup oats
four ounces butter at room temperature (1/2 of a stick)
1/8 to 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 egg or 2 egg whites
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
optional: 1/4- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
or 1/4 cup walnuts and dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the sugars and butter together until creamy, then add the applesauce, egg(s) and vanilla until all is well incorporated. Then add the dry ingredients (cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and flour.) Fold in the oats and either walnuts and cranberries or chocolate chips. Spoon tablespoon sized rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, if they are really round, wet your fingertips and flatten out the tops a little bit to make a flatter cookie. Bake for 18-22 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Let them cool a little then enjoy!!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A little Saturday Tex-Mex: Black bean sweet potato enchiladas

Yes, those are two of my favorite nutrient dense foods encased in delicious salsa and tortillas that remind me of my Texas roots!

It has super nutrient rich sweet potatoes (which everyone knows I love from my previous blog entry all about sweet potatoes) and protein rich black beans and lots more veggies- tomatoes, onions, jalapeño, garlic and cilantro and whole wheat or corn tortillas (I would probably have used corn but the store I went to was out so I grabbed the whole wheat ones.) I also made a fresh picante salsa to use on the side to have a cold contrast to the warm enchiladas. Unless you want to add some cheese on top this recipe is vegan!

I found this recipe thanks to who linked me to the recipe, which I of course changed a little from the original recipe here My sous-chef in this endeavor today was my sorority little sister Charlotte! We had as much fun cooking it as eating it, (although eating it took considerably less time than the cooking,) but we did not enjoy the 5-6 minutes it took us to open the jar of whole foods salsa that I used!

Enchilada Ingredients: (probably makes around 6-8 enchiladas depending on whether they are smaller corn or larger whole wheat tortillas, but I made three and saved the rest of the cooked ingredients for later)
- one can of black beans rinsed
- two medium sweet potatoes diced
- 2 tbs olive oil, salt and pepper as needed
- 1/4 cup white or yellow onion
- one garlic clove minced
- 1/2 jalapeño minced
- 1/2 - 1 cup non chunky salsa 
- 1 tsp chili powder (spiciness can be adjusted by leaving this or the jalapeño out or adding more)
- fresh cilantro for garnish

In a 400 degree F oven roast the diced sweet potato tossed with 1 tbs olive oil, salt and pepper for 15 to 20 minutes, shake the pan once while cooking so it gets evenly cooked.

In large saute pan or sauce pan heat olive oil then add onions, cooking till they are translucent (not brown), add garlic, rinsed and drained black beans, jalapeño pepper, and chili powder. Heat the beans through then keep at low heat till potatoes are done. When potatoes are done, turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.

Warm tortillas so they are more pliable for 10 seconds in the microwave or I just used them as a lid over the sauce pan and let the steam warm them. In a baking dish put a little bit of salsa on the bottom (like one tbs.) Fill tortillas with some bean mixture and some sweet potato then roll them up and put the seam side down on the bottom of the baking dish, repeat with the desired amount of tortillas. Then pour some of the remaining black beans and sweet potatoes over the top with the salsa, make sure all of the tortilla gets some of the salsa on it so the edges don't burn in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. 
Remove from the oven and sprinkle fresh cilantro over the top, side it with some fresh picante sauce and enjoy!

Picante ingredients:
- three medium sized or two large tomatoes diced, seeds removed
- juice from 1/2 a lime
- two garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 jalapeño minced
- 1/4 cup white or yellow onion diced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste

Super easy to make: Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for a few hours before using, gets better the longer you let all the flavors meld together!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pre-workout superfood smoothie!

I hope everyone enjoyed the great outdoors in Boston yesterday as it was a gorgeous day! I got a great run outside then indoor strength training to help build up the endurance of my legs! One of the steps in my triathlon training is block training so my muscles get used to having to work at various activities for two hours straight. Well here is the recipe for an awesome for you smoothie and if you don't have all the ingredients you don't have to go out and buy them but its full of great antioxidants and vitamins and minerals that will aid you in your workout or just give you a lift to the start of your day.

Pre-workout berry chocolate smoothie!

one cup fresh or frozen berries (I use frozen strawberries and raspberries and sometimes add blackberries or cherries)
a handful of walnuts
two tablespoons of raw cacao
one tablespoon of goji berries
one tablespoon raw maca powder
one large kale leaf without the hard stem
one cup Rice or almond milk
raw agave nectar to taste like one tablespoon
water as needed for consistency

Put all the ingredients in a blender, make sure the kale gets pushed toward the bottom so it gets shredded. Then blend until the kale becomes little green flecks and the walnuts and goji berries are ground up. And there you have a fantastic for you and delicious pre-workout superfood smoothie. I'm off to spin class!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To drink or not to drink...

College students nowadays are given workshops or have to do online programs like mystudentbody and can name off facts of why binge drinking is bad for you, but knowing those facts hasn't stopped it from happening. It has been a part of the college culture since before John Belushi drained a bottle of Jack Daniels in Animal House. I used to drink a fair amount, especially for big events on campus like our big outdoor music event and big parties. Even for smaller parties on the weekends I would get drunk, sometimes to the point of not remembering clearly the events of the night, or making some rather unfortunate choices that luckily didn't have any lasting effects.

For the past seven years I have been vegetarian/pescatarian and always worked out or played sports and had generally really healthy habits, but drinking was my major unhealthy habit. I'm not talking about alcohol being full of sugar and empty calories or beer bellies, I am talking about an all-around unhealthy habit. Drinking like that didn't make sense with the kind of life I wanted to live. I want to live a long time with wonderful memories that I can actually remember and reflect on, I don't want all of my stories of college to start with "this one time I was so trashed that..." I used to laugh at a bumper sticker with the graphic of a row of shots that said "enjoy it now because after college this is called alcoholism," but now I have encountered people in college who I would probably consider alcoholics. You can't escape addiction just because you live on a college campus. 

I don't want this post to sound preachy, I won't go into facts and figures, this is about my personal decision to cut back on the amount of alcohol I consume and the types of alcohol I consume. I no longer drink often. If I do drink, I choose micro-crafted beer, a nice glass of wine, or if it is a truly special occasion a cocktail made with high quality liquor and other high quality ingredients. Micro-brewed beer is usually better tasting, made with quality ingredients, and benefits the actual creator. Red wine is rich in anti-oxidants and some believe a glass a day can be beneficial, and some cocktail creations are crafted like an art form to be appreciated but not overindulged. Shots of smirnoff vodka or mixed with cranberry cocktail juice doesn't taste good and isn't good for me, so I just won't put it in my body. This is my body and if I take such good care of what I put in it food-wise then I am going to take good care of what I put in it in drink form as well.

The tagline of my blog also addresses a healthy mind, and a clear mind is a healthier mind. Drinking is often to cover up depression or can lead to depression. It can lead to stupid mistakes (as anyone who has gotten drunk before can attest to) and clouded judgement can have unforeseen consequences. I want a clear mind so I can go forth and reach my goals. I can have fun without alcohol or with only one or two drinks, I'm not trying to "have a stick up my ass" as my brother would probably say. Not drinking or drinking less means I can get home responsibly if I am driving and I can get my friends home safely. It means I sleep better. It means that when I get into the last weeks of triathlon training I won't have extra toxins to flush out. It means my body feels clean and my mind feels clear and healthy.

My point is really this: drinking is a personal decision (unless you endanger yourself or people around you) and not drinking is a personal decision. Why do you drink? Is it because you enjoy the taste? Or is it because you feel you need to drink to be accepted in your fraternity, sorority, sports team, club/group on campus, by friends? Or you don't feel comfortable being yourself sans-alcohol around people? Ask yourself why you partake in this college experience, and if you think your answer is valid and has some kind of meaning to you then more power to you. But if you ask yourself this and you don't really know the answer or your answer doesn't seem legitimate, then maybe its time to take a step back and ponder "to drink or not to drink..."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Swimming and biking and running oh my!

As many of my friends know, I have signed up for my first triathlon for this summer... and my second, in June and August. I want to keep track of my progress on this blog so when I hit significant milestones I will write about them. For this training I will need a lot of self discipline, I will need to be feeding myself the right kinds of nutrients, training the right way in the swim, bike and run, and will need support from friends and family. I am registered for two sprint triathlons each with around a .8 K open water swim, 20K bike and 6.7K run. That will require a lot of endurance training that I haven't done in a long time.

My actual training schedule is about 9 weeks long but for the next few weeks I need to prep myself, making sure I have all the right gear for training, the nutritional supplements to support the rigors of training, and regularized workout habits to get me through it. Hydration, endurance fuel, and smart injury free training will be key. I came across a great link the other day for a website for vegetarian endurance athletes called and am finding it a great resource especially when looking at the best foods for pre and post workouts and the benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet in endurance training.

I will have to balance training with my end of the year exams and research papers for school, and then my summer internship, requiring tons of self-discipline and regulated training. I am really excited about this endeavor and to have these goals set up to try to achieve!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Homemade energy bars!

I started making my own granola/energy bars this semester and I am still perfecting my favorite one, but you'll never believe how easy it actually is to make them. You need a few basic ingredients consisting of some kind of grain like oats, nuts and or seeds, almond/peanut butter, agave nectar or honey, dried fruit, a baking pan lined with wax/parchment paper (I use a bread pan for these recipes which turn out about 6 bars,) and a freezer (these are raw bars, not baked.) I have some other supplementary add-ins that I already own, although I pretty much owned all of these ingredients already :) 

My first batch were almond apricot oat bars (This makes about 6 bars in a bread pan)
One cup of rolled oats
2 tablespoons peanut/almond butter
1/2 to 1 tablespoon agave/honey
1/4 cup roughly chopped almonds
1/4 cup roughly chopped dried apricots

Just combine together in a bowl with a spoon or hands if you don't mind getting a little sticky (add more almond/peanut butter if it doesn't stick together that well.) When all the wet and dry ingredients are combined, press into the shallow dish lined with parchment paper and make sure its packed pretty tightly, then put it into the freezer for a couple of hours. Then pull out the parchment paper and using a fairly sharp knife, cut out bars and wrap them individually in cellophane. Then refrigerate until you are ready to eat one, then grab and go!

Next batch were crunchy Buckwheat oat bars
1/4 cup Toasted buckwheat (also called kasha which gives this bar its crunch)
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons peanut/almond butter
1/2 to 1 tablespoon agave/honey
1/4 cup roughly chopped almonds
1/2 tablespoon maca powder if you have it
1/4 cup hemp protein powder if you have it

The same process as above except these fall apart a little more easily so after I cut them I am keeping them in the freezer until I need them! Buckwheat is super super filling so these bars can be cut a little bit smaller! 

Seriously, once you have all the ingredients you can experiment, add more ingredients like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, raisins and dates, other whole grains, etc. You'll save money not buying them at a store and you'll get to customize it to your taste!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back in the U.S. and back in shape!

Yesterday I registered for my first triathlon for this summer! I am super psyched about the race itself and the training that goes into it!

I spent my fall semester at the University of Ghana and came back from Ghana for winter break completely out of shape! While in Ghana I had gotten really sick and never fully let my body recover, so I lost a lot of stamina and muscle mass and since my diet had changed to mainly rice, I had gained a few pounds as well. Other than spending my winter break getting over my post-abroad depression, I spent it trying to gain back my running form, spent time at the gym, and getting in all the nutrients I missed on a West African diet (which was carb and fruit heavy, with few vegetables.)

I had been taking a multivitamin while abroad once a day, to make sure that I got most of the vitamins and minerals I needed, so when I got back I decided to continue taking them and look for the best multivitamin for women out there. Nature's Way Alive! Women's Energy was the best one I found. Its filled with vitamins and minerals through natural fruits and vegetables like kale, spinach, beet, garlic, pomegranate, acai, blueberry, etc. It definitely has my vote for the most nutrient dense multivitamin you can get in one pill.

Another thing for me since I've been back in sprouted grain bread: ezekiel brand is my favorite and I usually keep a loaf of more normal bread in my freezer and the cinnamon raisin english muffins which are perfect with some agave and almond/peanut butter! I have also been trying to keep with buying local produce by going to smaller market places like Dave's Fresh Pasta in Davis Square ( Or picking from the local foods at Whole Foods. Also, now that I have a full kitchen at school in my apartment, I can experiment and cook a lot! Last night I made quinoa risotto with shallots, shitake mushrooms and kale, and a roasted beet salad on arugula with vermont goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. It was an experiment that turned out to be wonderful!