Thursday, March 31, 2011

Should runners count calories?

I have talked on this blog from time to time about nutrition, health and weight. Nutrition is very important to me because I need to eat "right" in order to be a good/strong runner and also because I have a strong interest in nutrition. That is why, my interest was piqued when I came across this video/article on 

I actually agree a lot with the Matt Fitzgerald and appreciated it when he compared counting calories to a set of training wheels on a bike: It is helpful at the beginning of learning to eat healthy, but does need to be used strictly once you get the hang of it.

Which brings me to the next point I liked: counting calories does not need to be a 100% accurate. Personally, I am aware (caloric and feeling-wise) about how many calories I eat per day. I am not trying to lose any weight, but I am also not trying to gain any. So, for my body and activity level, I eat/ need about 2,000 calories per day.

In addition, I like and don't like the point he made that counting calories can help train people how to eat healthy. I think it is important for one's health to stay in a particaular caloric zone. However, something can be 100 calories (ahh 100 calorie snack bars) and not be great for you vs. a Larabar that is 200 calories and is really healthy for you. So, I guess what I am saying is not only should one be concerned with how many calories they eat per day, but also the quality of calories they are eating. 

Finally, I do think competitive runners should loosely count calories, especially ones training for a full marathon. Like I mentioned before, weight gain can be pretty significant during marathon training. And most report it is due to the fact that people think they can consume more than their body is burning. So, LOOSE calorie counting can be helpful (NOTE: one does need to consume more calories on days of long runs and should consult a professional for appropriate guidelines). 

Also, when you are training for a long distance run your body craves good, nutritious foods. So, by being aware of what you eat can force you to fuel your body with healthy foods. But as in any guidelines or plan there should always be room for "cheat" days/meals where you can indulge in your favorite foods!!!

Do you think it is helpful to count calories? Should runners count calories?

In other news, I ran 6 miles on the treadmill today (Boston has snow in the forecast) in 53 minutes. It was actually a great run from start to finish. I felt great the whole time and didn't get bored once! I was blasting my ipod and dancing/singing for all the gym to see. I must have had extra energy today....

I hope you are all having a GREAT week!!!! Almost the weekend.......

Monday, March 28, 2011

How do you pick races?

I am only signed up for one more race this spring: A Run to Remember. I have been contemplating a few others: Doyle's 5 mile, Providence 1/2, Lexington Lions 5 mile, Falmouth 7 mile road race, Providence Rock'n Roll 1/2 marathon, and the New York Marathon. do you choose?? I am having a hard time mostly because these races are EXPENSIVE!!! My budget is not that large and then to go spend $30-$160 on a race is tough. In addition, some of these races are not close and start EARLY, so I have to think about lodging too. My final problem is that I do not have a car (we are hoping to purchase one this summer), so I have to rely on my family for rides.

So with these do I choose? I really enjoy road races, but I can't do them all.

How do you choose road races? Any FUN races that I just have to do?

Speaking of racing, in preparation for my 1/2 marathon in May I decided to increase the amount of days I run from 3 to 4. My new plan is to do a light run on Mondays, 4-5 miles of speed/hills on Tuesdays, medium distance on Thursdays (5-7), and long on Saturdays. I will also continue with my cross training on the other two days (i.e., spinning, elliptical, stair climber).

So, today I did a light 3 miles on the treadmill (27 minutes), followed by a few chest, biceps and leg exercises. It was a great workout! I will see how my legs (and knees) do with this extra day of running. If I start to feel any pain I will drop back to the three days of week.

I came home to a delicious dinner of fresh butternut squash, pumpkin and caramelized onions raviolis with a little homemade red sauce on top. YUM!!!

And homemade salad with pepper goat cheese, crasins and cucumbers

And of course a little bread!

An AMAZING dinner!!! Have a great night!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Successful Long Run!

I had a 10 mile run planned for today, so in order ensure success I started off with some preparations. I ate an incredible dinner last night with friends:

Laura, Matt, Evan and I dined at Addis Red Sea, an Ethiopian restaurant in the South End. Evan and I dined here once before for his birthday about 2 years ago. And I think I took this same picture of Evan two years ago, haha....

The restaurant is VERY cozy and you dine at these little handmade tables:

There is also unique art work on the walls:

Evan and I split a bottle of VERY inexpensive Cabernet Savignon ($26)

It was good, not great. But AMAZING if you consider the price. (And actually almost rivaled the $65 bottle we got last week). For dinner we split a lamb dish

and a combo dish that included chicken wot and three veggie sides (lentils, peas, and collard greens).

All together now, served on their AMAZING bread (that I ate WAY to much of!!!)

Only the half closest to us was ours, the other half was Laura and Matt's. I really liked how communal this meal was and how you got to eat with your hands. Evan and I finished this meal in like 5 minutes flat. It was THAT good!! In addition to being incredible, this meal also provided the energy and nutrients that I needed to support me on my run today.

RUN to this restaurant (if you live around Boston!!!)

Keeping with the theme of fueling properly for my run, I ate a healthy and delicious breakfast. We used frozen bread that we purchased from When Pigs Fly bakery last summer. I think it was a fruit and nut bread. Anyways, it was still great!

French Toast with banana's and 1/2 of an orange on the side:

In addition to good food, good sleep is also important. I got 8.5 hours of sleep last night. Finally,  drinking LOTS of water is imperative for me to have a successful run (both before and during).

OK now on to the run.....

Distance: 10 miles
Duration: 1:25:30
Mile 1: 9:07
Mile 2: 8:28
Mile 3: 8:43
Mile 4: 8:53
Mile 5: 8:53
Mile 6: 7:50
Mile 7: 8:07
Mile 8: 8:21
Mile 9: 8:19
Mile 10: 8:40

I decided to switch things up today and run ALL over Boston. I ran from my house to the North End by way of Beacon Hill and the State House, by the water to the Seaport area, then through the Financial District (I kinda got lost here), back through Downtown Crossing to the Boston Common then to the South End and back. WOW, I really got a tour of Boston!! Even though I have lived in Boston for the past 7 years, I always love an opportunity to explore it!

I also was all over the place with my times. I am not sure if it had to do with the weather (it was freezing and windy!), or that at some points I was unsure of the area, or I just felt better at some points than at others. As much as you prepare for a successful run you never know what you are going to get.

Although it was cold and windy out, the sun was beautiful and it inspired MANY people to be out and about today. It was fun to "people watch" as I ran by them!

Just as important as it is to prepare well for a long run, it is just as important to properly recover after the run as well. I usually make sure to stretch outside and inside of my building. I also ice my knees for 10 minutes and then eat something and drink LOTS of water. I have not tried coconut water yet, but I hear it has positive affects especially after a strenuous workout.

What are your thoughts on coconut water? How do you ensure successful long runs? Any good runs this weekend?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Season are we in?

So, I am really, really getting tired of this weather. I mean really, I thought it was supposed to be spring......what is with all this SNOW?! It was 60 degrees last week!!!!

Is anyone else experiencing snow or bad weather? 

So this morning I went to the treadmill. I attempted a new workout, not sure if this was good because I kinda made it up as I went. But I sure was sweating!!

(all was done at .5 incline)
Distance: 4.0
Duration: 33:00
Warm up: .5 mile at 6.3 mph
Workout: 1.0 mile at 7.5mph
                .25 mile at 6.3
                .5 mile at 8.0
               .25 mile at 6.3
               .5 mile at  8.0
              .25 miles at 6.3
              .25 mile at 8.5
             .25 mile at 6.3
             .25 mile at 8.5
Cool down: .4 mile at 6.3mph

This workout was SO hard!! I don't know if it was the time of day (it is hard for me to run fast in the morning) or it was just tough. But boy was I sweating and huffing and puffing. Definitely try this workout and let me know if it was just me or if this workout was tough?

So, after such a tough workout a nutritious meal was in order:

Pilaf Quinoa (with roasted carrots, celery, green onions, garlic and red peppers)

Green Beans

Salmon with a honey, soy sauce, brown sugar glaze (plus a little EVOO and butter)

Wow this marinade was great and not to mention the salmon was yummy too!!
All together!

Off to eat some dark chocolate and enjoy a little TV.

Have a great night!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Two Amazing Runs!!

With such great weather these past few days, I have been able to enjoy two great runs! The first run was on Thursday and the weather was in the 60s!!!! I ran around the Charles River and it was just wonderful. Why does nice weather always put you in a good mood?? It put me in such a good mood that Evan and I ditched dinner plans and went out for drinks and dinner. Oops! Anyways back to the run....

Distance: 6.04
Duration: 52:01
Mile 1: 9:16
Mile 2: 8:20
Mile 3: 8:21
Mile 4: 8:15
Mile 5: 8:21
Mile 6: 8:38

Overall this was a good run. It did take me a little while to get into it and I had too many clothes on. However, once I wrapped my jacket around my waist and I was a mile in to the run time just flew by. It was nice to run around the Charles without the snow. I forgot how much I like to run in this area, even at rush hour with more lights and cars, but you can still get in some good people watching. This run put me in a great mood!

Saturday I did a long run around the "Fens" to Brookline and back by way of the Charles, then a quick loop around the South End. It was a lot colder (about 45), but I actually felt stronger than on Thursday. Here are the stats:

Distance: 9.00
Duration: 1:16:30
Mile 1: 8:53
Mile 2: 8:10
Mile 3: 8:36
Mile 4: 8:34
Mile 5: 8:15
Mile 6: 8:30
Mile 7: 8:35
Mile 8: 8:20
Mile 9: 8:36

I was happy that I was pretty consistent throughout all my miles, with an average mile at 8:30. Like I said before, I felt VERY good during the run and did not feel any pain. However, I got a massive blister on my right heel that kinda bothered me towards the end of the run. Also, I got a little chill towards the end as well. Overall, it was great to be doing more miles and I have 10 on the agenda for next week!

Did you get in any great runs this weekend?

Even though it was St. Patty's day weekend, I had a pretty low key weekend. I had a long week at work, so I needed a little R & R.

How was your weekend? Did you engage in any St. Patty's day festivities? 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How has reading blogs changed you?

Three years ago I didn't even know what a blog was. It wasn't until I caught Laura checking out her sister's blog (Katheats) before class that I realized how addicting blogs can be (and informative). After finding Kath's blog I quickly started reading 10 + other healthy living blogs. And then this summer I tried to create a niche for myself in the community with my own blog.

After three year of reading blogs I have noticed how being part of the blog community has changed my life. I have always tried to be healthy and eat in a balanced way and work out. But now my eating habits have gone from "diet" foods or low fat foods to really wholesome foods. I remember eating a 100 calorie snack in the afternoon and wondering why I was still starving. And eating a lunch that I thought was balanced, but being hungry three seconds later. Not to say that I am not starving after I eat now, but it has gotten a LOT better. 

In addition, over these last three years I have realized how good food can be. I have learned some amazing recipes and dining out spots. I am not sure if this a good thing, but my budget for food has increased greatly and going to a so-so sports pub for regular bar food does not have the same appeal it once did. I am not saying I would never go to a sports pub, but I have definitely started thinking twice about it. I also tell myself that if I just save the money I would have spent at the bar and make a good dinner (thank you blogs) at home instead, then I can could go out for an amazing meal the next weekend.

I have also been introduced to foods I would not otherwise try and now have become a staple in my house (kale, vegetarian-focused meals, and goat cheese - just to name a few). 

Also, I don't feel the guilt I once did over food, and more importantly I have learned balance. I learned that it isOK to put cheese on your salad and use olive oil and butter in your food. It is ok to eat amazing desserts a few times a week. It's ok to enjoy food without the guilt as long as it is done in a balanced way. 

As far as my fitness goes, the blog community has pushed me to run further and faster. It is inspiring to read some stories of others who have run marathons and other long distance races. It has made me really want to run and complete a marathon. Because, hey, if they can do why can't I? 

Finally, it is so nice to see such a helpful and supportive community. Reading blogs has definitely changed my life for the better.

How has reading blogs affected your life?

Speaking of food, I went to another Restaurant Week restaurant last night: Sorellina.

Evan and I walked a quick 5 minutes to Sorellina where we met up with some friends. The four of us were instantly impressed with the white decor in the restaurant and how modern the theme was. Our reservation was not until 9:30, but when we arrived at 8:30 they said they could seat us earlier. Everyone at Sorellina was VERY nice and helpful.

After much patience from the waitress and many suggestions and tastes, Evan and I decided on this Zinfandel from California (couldn't pass up a Sonoma wine!).

The wine bottles (and glasses) were VERY expensive here, hence why we took so long to choose. I thought it was a negative point to the restaurant because the majority of their wines were between $70 and $100. The wine was very good, but I do not feel it was entirely worth $65.

For my first course I had the Insalata with mixed artisan greens, dried cherry vinaigrette and shaved goat cheese. It was a VERY nice size for an appetizer

The greens were good and some were different tastes than I am use to; the cherries added a nice sweet component and there was a good amount of goat cheese on this salad. However, I liked my salad at Pigalle better.

For my main course I ended up going with the salmon so I could get a good idea of this restaurant and compare it to Pigalle. The salmon had a honey glaze over it; peas and oyster mushroom velutatta accompanied it.

It was good, but not great. The taste of last week's salmon was much better. The salmon was cooked well and the flavors were a nice accompaniment, but I liked the earthiness of last week's salmon better. However, Evan got the Pappardelle with lamb shoulder ragu and we both agreed it was overall the best meal of the two dining experiences. It was just AMAZING!!!!!!

For dessert, Evan and I split the cheesecake and panna cotta

Both were small, but good. MUCH better than the desserts at Pigalle. I had never tried Panna Cotta before, so I was a little surprised at how gelatin-like it was. I am not sure if I loved it or not, but it was defiinitely interesting. It was one of those things that once I got over the initial shook of it looking like a horse's foot I enjoyed it.

Anyways, overall I am not sure which restaurant I liked better. I do know that Sorellina is VERY expensive if not Restaurant Week, and I do not feel that the meals were worth that price.

Hope you are having a good weekend!

Any good (or bad) restaurant experiences this week?

Be back with a running recap soon, I had two GREAT runs this week!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring is on the way...

Today was a beautiful day in the city and I definitely can tell spring is on the way. Oh and I am loving the time change! To get out of the gym and it still be light out is amazing!!

Do you like spring ahead or fall back time change again?

Besides the change this week has been CRAZY at work, so I am really looking forward to spring and especially April vacation! I felt great on Monday after the race and had no soreness!! I took yesterday off from running and climbed some stairs and elipticalled instead and I did a few chess and bicep exercises as well.

However, today I was excited to run again. I think the sunny weather put me in a good mood. But (don't yell at me) I ran on the treadmill instead of outside. I had a speed workout planned and I usually prefer to do those on a treadmill. I am hoping to run outside on Thursday, I hear it is going to be 60!!!

So, on the treadmill I did not have a specific plan, just run fast! Here's what I did at a .5 incline:

Minutes     Speed
0-2             6.3
2-4             6.5
4-6             6.8
6-8             7.0
8-10           6.3
10-12         7.5
12-13         6.3
13-15         7.5
15-16         6.3
16-18         7.5
18-19         6.3
19-20         6.5
20-22         8.0
22-23         6.3
23-25         8.0
25-26         6.3
26-28         8.0
28-29         6.3
29-30         6.5
30-32         8.5
32-33         6.3
33-34         9.0
34-35         6.3
35-36         6.5
36-37         6.8
37-38         6.5
38-40         3.5

I completed 4.5 miles after 38 and then cooled down and walked for the remaining 2 minutes. A goal of mine during the run was to have less recovery time than on previous Tuesday workouts, so as you can see I recovered for only a minute versus 2 in the past. I definitely felt this change because I was huffing and puffing a bit more than usually. I also was getting tired towards the end of the workout. But all and all it was a good speedy workout!

I came home and refueled with one of my favorite meals: Chicken, ziti, broccoli, mushrooms and pesto! YUM!

Have a great night!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Restaurants, Races and Running Recap!

Good afternoon (I mean evening) according to this day light savings thing. I have much to tell you all. First off, I had a lovely evening last night at Pigalle in the theater district if Boston. I set out in my new outfit:

to meet Laura and Matt for drinks. I started with a Petite Syrah, which actually got better as it sat.

We chatted for about an hour and then headed over to Pigalle for our 9pm reservations.

The restaurant was super, super cute and small. It had a very romantic feel and it was kinda hidden, so it felt (in Laura's words) like a hidden jewel. The menu was traditional French fare and included all the favorites like Beef Bourguignon. The table started with a bottle of wine:

I actually liked this better than my first glass and wondered if the atmosphere or the storage had to do with the better taste?

First course was a field green salad with grapefruit and goat cheese. It was very, very good and the grapefruit added a hint of sourness that was a nice change of pace from my normal salad.

My entree was a tough decision, but I ended up going with the Salmon with beets, green beans, and lentils with a port reduction sauce. I am SO glad I did!!!

WOW, it was SO good. I am not a huge fan of beets, but boy was it a nice complement to the other flavors going on in the meal. The salmon was cooked medium and it tasted fresh and not fishy at all. SO, so, so good. I really loved it!

However, I would have to say that Evan's meal was the star of the evening.

This was a Cassoulet of Confit Duck Leg, Braised Lamb Shank and House-made Pork sausage. There were also a hefty amount of white beans on the bottom. I don't care so much for all the different meats, but the flavor and sauce was out of this world!

Unfortunately we were let down with the ending of meal, when Evan and I split: 

Coffee Neapolitan

Apple pop over

Sorry the pictures came out blurry, I am not really sure what happened with my camera. Anyways, like I was saying, both Evan and I said how disappointed we were with this dessert, especially after such an amazing first two courses. We felt that they went to the super market, went to the frozen section and bought these desserts to heat up. They just weren't great, but that didn't stop us for eating them.

Minus the dessert we all had a great evening and give Pigalle an 8 overall. I would highly suggest dining at Pigalle, but maybe skip the dessert.


I woke up this morning feeling energized for the race ahead. Evan and I arrived in Davis Square at 10:30  just as lots of green fitted outfits were also arriving.

There were some pretty crazy outfits. As Evan, our friend Matt and I lined up at the starting line I could feel the pre-race jitters starting. However, they were quickly pushed away as I had to push and fight my way to even start the race (there were 6,000 runners). It was kinda an unorganized race and it was difficult to run for the first 1/2 mile, but I still felt I worked hard and had a good race. Here are my stats according to the Garmin:

Distance: 3.13
Duration: 22:24
Mile 1.02: 7:21
Mile .98: 7:03
Mile 3: 7:04
Mile .13: :56

The good news is that I got faster with each mile, which usually doesn't happen for me. My splits, usually, get slower as I get tired, but today I had lots of energy and felt like I could even go faster. It also helped that the crowd thinned out as the race progressed which made it easier to navigate the road. The bad news is I wish I could have gone faster; this is a little slower than my last 5K, but I guess every race is unique. 

Congratulations on Evan's first 5K finishing in about 28 minutes! He did a great job!

After the race the four of us (Laura joined us) attempted to find a bar to celebrate the race and watch March Madness. However, every bar had a line that looked like this:

We finally got into the Foundry 

And enjoyed a few beers and lunch. Fun day and a great way to celebrate Saint Patty's day!!

On our way home we were all feeling kinda tired, but not as tired as this lovely couple.

I guess they had a tough race! Anyways hope you all had a good weekend and if you ran a St. Patty's day race hope you had a great race!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Night before...

I am kicking off my racing season tomorrow with the Ras na hEireann 5K in Davis Square. I am not taking this race too seriously, since it is a fun drinking race and Evan is running with me. I think I am going to treat this as more of a "workout" than a race and just have fun! There is also a huge party afterwards at local bars for the runners. I am getting excited! Plus it is also fun to run with friends and fiances!!!

Since, I am treating tomorrow as more of a fun run, I decided to get a few miles in today. It was a beautiful 50 degrees and sunny in Boston, so I took advantage of the nice weather and ran outside. I planned on running between 5 and 6 miles, but as soon as I went out I had horrific cramps in my stomach. I don't know if it was the beer and chili I ate last night or what. But it was not a pretty run. I pushed myself (since it was so nice out) to go at least 5 miles. I did run them at a good speed and my cramps eventually went away, but it was not my best (feeling ways) run. Here are the stats:

Distance: 5.12
Duration: 42:42
Mile 1: 8:19
Mile 2: 8:09
Mile 3: 8:18
Mile 4: 8:25
Mile 5: 8:15

I did a loop up Beacon street, to Beacon Hill, around the Common and back through the South End. It was nice and I am glad most of my splits were consistent and the weather was unbelievable. I just hope that tomorrow's run is better and most importantly that I feel better with NO cramps!!!

How do you get rid of cramps during a run?

At least I will be well fueled for tomorrow's run. I am headed out to meet some friends for some fine French cuisine to celebrate Boston's restaurant week. Oh, and I have a new dress to dine in. I can't wait! Hopefully (unless I have too much fun at the after party tomorrow), I will be back to recap tonight's dinner (and outfit) and the race tomorrow!

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Week of Home Cooked Meals

After a week of indulgent meals (in San Francisco) and with restaurant week(s) coming up in Boston, Evan and I tried to eat healthy home cooked meals this week.

Starting off with Monday: Naan Caprese pizza:

Complete with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil. It was delicious!!! And I had lots of good leftovers for the week.

For our next meal we made grass-fed burgers with Gouda goat cheese, Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes!

YUM!!!! Great burger! It was funny because I (without realizing it) had 3 days of no meat. On Tuesday I started feeling kinda weird (almost like I had no energy) and I wondered why. As soon as I ate the meat, I felt a hundred times better. I wonder if I had a protein deficiency? Or iron deficiency? I know you can get good protein from other sources (cheese, eggs, nuts), but I think I just didn't realize I wasn't eating meat, so I kinda forgot to get it in in other places.

How do you get protein into your diet? How much protein do you eat a day?

And for my final homemade meal of the week so far (and the best in my option) was this recipe from Cooking Light.

Chicken Piccata with orzo and sauted kale. This recipe was so easy and inexpensive. I just LOVED it! As I was making it, the sauce appeared to not be enough, but the chicken and rice really absorbed the flavor well. I highly recommend this recipe!!!

As for running, I ran 6 miles on the treadmill today in 52 minutes and 30 seconds. I felt strong and fast. I think I will be ready to kick off my racing season this Sunday!!  Stay tuned for Saturday's post as I prepare for my race on Sunday. Hope you had a great week!!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good shoes that lead to good runs!

Hello! I hoped you liked my San Francisco recap. But all good things must come to an end, SO back to reality...

On Saturday, I purchased (finally) a new pair of sneakers. Again, I went to Marathon Sports. After trying a few pairs and actually running in three, I decided to stick with the Brooks endurance (an updated  version of the brand I already have).

So far so good. I have gone on two runs with them and both runs felt amazing. I can really tell I needed new shoes once I put on the new guys. I try to change my shoes every 4-6 months depending on how much I run. I had my old shoes for 5 months, but I also ran a 1/2 marathon in them. So, I was definitely in need of new shoes! I will let you know how they hold up when I get a few more runs in.

As for those runs.....

Saturday I did my first long run in a while and it felt great (but hard)! The weather was great and the shoes felt good and I went fast! Here are my splits:

Distance: 8 miles
Duration: 1:07:22
Mile 1: 9:15
Mile 2: 8:35
Mile 3: 8:33
Mile 4: 7:58
Mile 5: 8:14
Mile 6: 8:12
Mile 7: 8:43
Mile 8: 8:27

I completed the run around the Charles River, so it was relatively flat. Like I said before I have not run 8 miles in a while, so this run was pretty tough and I was out of breath when I arrived home. However, all day I was glowing and my legs felt great because of my new shoes (think!).

Today, I took my run inside (Boston's weather turned cold again). I did a speed workout on the treadmill: .5 mile warm up, 6 x 400s (with 400 rest in between), .5 mile cool down. I completed the whole run in 35 minutes and covered 4 miles. I did my first 400s at a 8mph, second two at 8.5mph and last two at 9.0mph. It was really, really tough! I was, again, huffing and puffing, but my legs felt great! Thank you new shoes!!

What brand of running shoes do you like? How often do you change your sneakers?