Big news: Bob and I registered for our first ever marathon!  I'm totally freakin' nervous and am honestly waiting to see if I can make it through some of our upcoming long runs before I fully let myself believe I'm really gonna do this thing.

The race is on May 5, so we have a tight training window.  I would have preferred more time to train, but we really want to do this race, so we have about 11 weeks to prepare.

We did our first long run this past Sunday.  We scheduled ourselves to do 9 miles.  It was SUPER COLD out yesterday.  Like, insanely cold!!  It was about 17 degrees and windy.

This is me as we got ready to start the run.  I am wearing 2 pairs of tights, my shorts, 2 longs sleeve shirts, plus my parka, my gloves, and a ski mask.  And I still felt numb for most of the run.  

About half-way through my entire phone just cut off.  My Jillian Michael's podcast, my Nike+: gone.  I actually handled it so much better than I have when this has happened in the past.  In the past, it has pretty much ruined my run to lose my music.  I thought for sure I was going to be dying on this run, because it was so grueling, especially running uphill, into the wind.

BUT, that didn't happen.  I don't know if it was because I super motivated to have the run over and done with, but I actually sped up.  And I felt great!  Minus the mind-numbing cold, of course.  We ended up running 1 more mile than planned, so finished at 10 miles, and I actually felt as if I could run an additional 3 miles to make it an even half.

It was a very interesting experience, that run.  There were moments where I sort of hated life.  My nose was a faucet, it was brutally cold, and Bob was so happy, which made it kind of even harder.  Him with that big ole grin on his face!  At one point, I was pretty sure I never wanted to speak to him again or anyone else on the planet for that matter.

But there were these other moments when my legs were just moving in such a complete rhythm and I felt like I was charging through space, charging the atmosphere.  The fact that I felt like I could keep going at the end sort of made up for all of the times in the middle when I wanted to give up.  I'm really not sure how in the world I'll do 26.2, but I'm really interested in finding out.

Bob and I had a brief email exchange where I referenced the idea of him "building a base" in regards to him gaining some knowledge related to computer programming and subsequent coding, and it just sort of struck a chord with me, this idea of "building a base."

The thing is, I started to think about how the notion of building a base is something that can be applied to all areas of our lives.  

We think of it in terms of running in the way that we can build a base upon which to train and progress.  You log a certain number of miles and then from there you add to that, working up to achieve a certain goal.

Well isn't this something that we can do in so many areas of our lives?  We build a base of knowledge in terms of technical or professional skills, whether it's educational degrees or hands-on, lived experiences.  We hope to grow from there, to build on top of that in order to reach ever-evolving goals.

We also build a base in terms of our relationships, both within our own personal development and our interactions with others.  

I don't really know where I'm going with this.  It's just so interesting to me how so much about running translates into metaphors we can apply to our entire lives.

Yeah, just another reason why I love to run!


Super tasty!

Leftover chicken pad thai -- rice noodles, thinly sliced chicken, sliced carrots & peppers, yummy sauce, topped with fresh cilantro and scallions.  I inhaled this lunch!  Also grapes and chickpea chocolate chip cookies.

It's only Tuesday, but so far it has been a great week!  It actually starts with last week.  Last week: for some reason it felt incredibly long to me.  Perhaps it's because we spent the week prior at Disney World, so it was pretty hard to adjust to going back to work in cold, dismal Blacksburg.  We also seemed to experience all of the four seasons last week.  One day it was in the 60s, the next day it was icing and snowing.  One day it was a bright blue sky, the next it was dark all day.  Last week felt like a year.


I worked out all five work days last week, and that made me feel awesome!  It's true that I think I only did a 10-minute high intensity interval thingy on the treadmill on Friday (that's all I had time for), but it still felt great just to make it into the gym each day and stay on routine.

So far, I've made it into the gym both days this week too, and I've had awesome workouts.  I haven't really had time to do more than 30/45 minutes each day, but I've packed a lot into each session.

The thing I'm most excited about?

I have a goal to do 1 chin up (unassisted).  Each time I'm at the gym, I go to the bar and try to do a chin up.  Usually I just sort of hang there and strain to pull myself up.  Well, today I managed to pull myself up just at tiny bit.  And that tiny little bit felt amazing!!

Also, I did 12 push-ups in a row!  This a pretty big accomplishment for me.  That was my first set.  The reps went down with each set, but each time I pushed myself to complete as many as I could before my arms felt like they were going to give out on me.

So I'm just feeling really good today.  The kids sort of stressed me out a little bit this morning, and mentally I wasn't in a super great place when I pulled into the gym, but once I got there and got into my zone, I worked some things out and am left feeling refreshed and recharged for the day.  Yay!

Here's my workout:

H-Squat Machine -- 50 lbs., 4 sets, 12 reps
Inverted rows -- body weight, 4 sets, started with 12 reps then did about 10, 8, and 6
Push-ups -- body weight, 4 sets, started with 12 reps then did about 9, 6, and 4
Prowler -- 180 lbs., 4 sets across the room and back
So now that this busiest of seasons is behind us, I am pausing to think about "New Year's Resolutions."  

Everybody is making resolutions right now, and it's something I enjoy doing as well.  A year to two ago, I started making resolutions that I knew I had a good chance of accomplishing: things like, try more new recipes, knit more, etc.  I think it's fun to pick things you enjoy, and then you do feel good about yourself when you do them, and you feel good from multiple perspectives.

I read a blog post recently about how making big resolutions about changing something you don't like about yourself or quitting something or giving up something or dieting or what have you -- a lot of these things set you up for failure, because (1) they are negative and (2) they are big changes that happen over a long period of time, and when people see them as just one "thing" they can accomplish, they get discouraged when that change doesn't happen right away.

I thought that was really insightful, and it made me thing about my own personal journey into fitness and health.

My journey started in January 2011, pretty much as a New Year Resolution, but the spark and the real change that took place was when Stephen was born and a mental switch was flipped.  That switch was simply believing in myself.  It seems like such a simple thing, but it is probably one of the hardest things that people struggle with.

I say this all the time, but it is just so true.  When Stephen was born, I believe that I was reborn.  I new confidence started growing in me that day in August, and by January it had learned how to walk and it was starting to contemplate running.  By January, I knew that I wanted to lose the baby weight from my *first* pregnancy.  I also was thinking about running the 3.2 for 32 Run in Remembrance.  It was at that point that I joined Sparkpeople.com and started hearing a lot about the Couch to 5K.  Right after that, a friend told me she was going to do the c25k.  I started doing it with her, and for the first time (ever!) I didn't hate running.

I think this new feeling towards running (I wouldn't go so far as to say that I *loved* it at that point), was due to the fact that the c25k is so gradual, and that relates back again to the fact that big changes actually have to take place gradually, over time.

And guess what!  I didn't lose any weight.  That's right.  I went for a really, really  long time without losing one damn pound.  Again, big changes = really gradual, over time.

The c25k is not a very rigorous cardio workout.  For the majority of the time, you're alternating walking and running, and really don't do more than 30 minutes, including a warm up and cool down.  And there were some days when I barely made it to the gym.  There were days when I would go (with my totally awesome running buddy, Steph!) and would only do 18 minutes.  Some days it might have even been as few as 10 minutes.  Barely enough to justify going to the gym, changing clothes, etc, right?

But all of that c25k training was SO IMPORTANT.  Because it gave me the confidence to know that I could run 3.1 miles without stopping.  It was gradual and took a long time, and I wasn't seeing a difference on the scale, but it gave me confidence and it established a routine.

While I didn't see any freaking change on the scale (which I will admit was frustrating), I could see that my muscles were changing.  I had new muscle definition in my legs, which was a huge motivator.  I also knew that I felt better when I was running.  It had a huge impact on my emotional and psychological well-being.

I started running at a time when Stephen was experiencing horrible ear infections.  He was allergic to one of the antibiotics and the other ones were not very effective for him.  We went through about 3 month where he was waking multiple times a night, crying inconsolably.  It got so bad, the doctor injected him with antibiotics, a procedure that was pretty traumatic for me.  Needless to say, Bob and I were not getting a lot of sleep, and I was an emotional wreck.  Lack of sleep makes me a pretty angry person, and I wasn't in a very good place.

Something about the running, even as little as 10 minutes a day, helped me deal better with everything else that was going on.  It's hard to express how much it helped, but I can say that running was definitely better and cheaper than therapy for me.

So even though I wasn't seeing any difference on the scale, I kept running, because it facilitated for me, things that I quite possibly had never quite felt before: a strong sense of self-confidence and peace.  Certainly, I had not experienced these feelings in quite this way before.

It took over a year for me to lose 4 pounds.  I got back to my pre-Taylor weight in time for his 4th birthday.  I had to increase my running, and I had to change what I was eating.  It's just a fact of life: there really isn't enough cardio in the world if you are eating more calories than you're burning.  And I did not (and still don't) consider myself an unhealthy eater.  

I lost the four pounds with a lot of running and some fairly minor dietary tweaks.

Since Feb. 2012, I have lost more weight, but more importantly, I have shifted my focus and my energy into being a healthier person.  I'm not trying to diet.  

This past summer, I started strength training, and that has made a huge difference.  My body shape has really changed, I have more muscle definition than I've ever had in my life, and MOST importantly, I physically feel that best I have ever felt.  

I have tried to cut out a lot of processed foods from my diet, and I think it has had a major impact in every area of my life.  I think my moods are more stable, I have more energy, I tend to not get sick as often and when I do it's fairly short-lived, my digestive system is more stable.  It has just been such a positive change.

The strength training has also been a gradual process.  When I first started, I felt like a total weakling and like everyone in the room was watching me and thinking I was a fool.  But I just told myself, everyone has to start someplace.  Each person in here had to make a decision one day to walk into the gym and pick up a weight.  And then they made the decision to go back the next day.  And the next, and so on.  And each of these people has probably felt foolish on more than one occasion.  The only way for me to stop feeling like a weakling is to go back each day, and so that's what I do.  And I realize that this is a lifelong process.  There are still some days when I totally look the fool.  I mean, seriously, one time my awesome trainer had to come over and point out to me that I was trying to push the prowler backwards.  I couldn't get it to move, and I couldn't figure out why!  It's because it was backwards!  Luckily, I have a pretty good ability to laugh at myself.  You've got to be able to laugh at  yourself and say, yeah, sometimes I'm an idiot.  And I'm okay with that.  If you're now willing to make a fool out of yourself, you're going to miss out on a lot in life.

So anyway, this long and rambling post had a point, I think.

My journey started at about 10:45 p.m. on August 23, 2010, doing something I never thought I had the strength to do.  Sometimes, all you need is just to truly believe in yourself.  It's not something anybody else can do for you or give you.  You have to find it in yourself.

Sometimes, you can find or create that confidence just by following through on something every day, even if it's the bare minimum of what you can do.

Small changes, gradually, over time, can amount to big changes.  They did for me, and I am still setting new goals every day.

I remember seeing a quote that said that goals are things you may not be able to accomplish.  If accomplishing them was guaranteed, they wouldn't be goals, they would be tasks.  That really resonates with me, because I think it emphasizes that feeling of confidence one can get from achieving a goal.  Achieving a goal is not a guarantee, and it means you've had to work hard to reach it.

I'm not quite sure what my goals are for 2013.  Here's what I'm thinking:
  • Accomplish 1 unassisted chin up (then do more!!)
  • Run a marathon (this is definitely one that is not a guarantee)
  • Run in a race with my brother (that would be fun!)
  • Scrapbook more
  • Make more progress in eating less processed (especially in terms of learning how to prepare and get my kids to eat less processed)
  • Actually, I really want to learn more about healthy nutrition for kids and really get my boys on the path to good healthy eating
The other evening I made cheeseburger zucchini boats for dinner (inspired by a pic I saw on Pinterest), and boy were they delicious!!  Seriously good!  I actually fed the boys deconstructed cheeseburger zucchini boats (along with a quarter of a whole grain English muffin and strawberry applesauce), and they both had clean plate club!  They had to eat their meat and zucchini before they could have seconds of the English muffin and applesauce, and they had no problem eating everything.
Bob was actually out for the evening, so I went ahead and made two whole zucchinis, which meant that I had enough for a nice leftover lunch the next day.  I added some reheated steamed veggies to my lunch and it was super filling!  This meal was definitely a winner, and I will be making it again.  I think Bob will like it, too!

This was another one of those meals that illustrates to me how easy "clean" eating is.  This all came together so quickly for me and used a small number of fairly inexpensive ingredients.
Ingredients (I didn't really measure anything, just threw it all together!)
  • 1 lb. pckg ground beef (I used 85% lean and drained off the grease)
  • Sprinkle of Mrs. Dash
  • Sprinkle of garlic powder
  • Sprinkle of McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Shredded cheese (I used reduced-fat cheddar)
  • 2 zucchinis

  • First thing to do is preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Cut your zucchinis in half length-wise.  Then take a paring knife and cut out a wedge of the center of each half (basically, make your "boat")
  • Put your zucchinis on a baking sheet that is lined with aluminum foil (for easy clean-up) and pop them in the oven to cook while you're doing your meat
  • Brown your meat in a skillet over medium-ish heat
  • Sprinkle in all of your seasonings.  I say, you can't have too much flavor, so be generous with your sprinkling.  Add whatever seasonings you prefer!
  • Once your meat is cooked through, pull your zucchinis out of the oven and put your skillet on a hot pan holder next to your baking sheet.
  • At this point, I pulled meat out for the boys' plates, topped the meat with the shredded cheddar, and cut off some zucchini and added it to their plates.
  • Fill your zucchinis with your cooked meat and then top with as much shredded cheese as you please
  • Pop it all back in the oven to bake just until the cheese is melted and starting to bubble

This worked for me!  The zucchini cooked enough to not be raw but still had a nice density and bite to it.  It complemented the cheesy ground beef perfectly!

You can eat this as your entire meal, or you can serve it with a side of steamed veggies.  It also paired very nicely with my leftover steamed broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower.  The ground beef and cauliflower was especially good together!

Ugh!  I had a couple paragraphs of very deep thoughts, and I just accidentally deleted them!

The gist of it was that I was having some very deep thinking regarding the joy I feel right now for life in general and how, for me, it is very connected to health and fitness.  I feel amazing, and I also have this strong desire to share this feeling with others.  I don't want to change careers at all; I just wish that everyone could feel this amazing feeling that I feel.

I've become increasingly interested in health and fitness, diet and exercise, and right now I feel the best that I ever have in my life (this was written better the first time!).  Most days, I feel like I have boundless energy.  My spirits are usually very positive, my digestive system seems to be in a really good place, and in general I just feel, physically and emotionally, the best I have felt in a long time.
And then I started thinking about what this transformation started occurring for me; it's so connected with the birth of my second son.  The birth of Stephen truly brought about a rebirth for me.  I am a different person now.  What an amazing gift that was bestowed upon me!

And it hit me: this is why I've never stopped thinking about the possibility of having another child one day.  It's not that this has never occurred to me before -- I remember having a conversation along these lines with Bob when Stephen was about 6 months old.  But, I think I had sort of forgotten that this was such a powerfully motivating feeling for me.
That event was earth-shattering, life-changing for me.

It's like I've been on the most amazing drug ever since Stephen was born.

Who wouldn't want to go through that experience again?  Who wouldn't want another "hit," so to speak?

I guess the question boils down to, is it enough for me?  Do I need to go through that experience again to continue feeling the effects of this amazing drug that has never worn off?

I'm not sure that I do.  I tend to think that I can channel that energy into being the best possible mother to those two boys.

It's important to remember that there have been, and continue to be, a lot of ups and downs with this whole thing, too.  Motherhood hasn't always been rainbows and endless cups of fro yo.

But I've fallen in love with Taylor, and it was love at first sight with Stephen.  I cannot deny that there is still love in my heart to give.  Now it is just a matter of understanding and figuring out what to do with that love.

Quick update: I have not succeeded in doing the house cleaning 15 minutes a day thing.  Not succeeded in the least!  I never even started!  Oh well.  I suppose there's always next week, although, who am I kidding -- it's not going to happen :)

In other news, though, eating well and as healthy as possible has been going along swimmingly.

The majority of my lunches have been packed from home and the dinners have primarily been very healthy.  The image to the left is some of the best hits: lunch that was leftover chicken kabobs (with pineapple, green pepper, and cherry tomatoes); southwest ground chicken stuffed red peppers, healthy chicken nuggets (with zucchini tots), and chicken parm meatloaf muffins (that was ah-maz-ing!!).  These dinners have been so good, and the kids have been eating them up!

Last week, I made the Philly Stuffed Peppers, and Taylor actually asked for more green peppers!  Who are you, and what have you done with my four year old?!  It would be safe to assume we'll be eating a lot more green peppers at our house.  

And he ate two (two!) of the chicken parm meatloaf muffins.  In fact, we didn't have any leftovers of the meatloaf muffins; they were that good.  The plus side of the meatloaf muffins is that they cook up fast (in 20 minutes), which is much better than waiting around for an entire loaf to bake.  We served them with raw carrots, since Taylor loves raw carrots, so there was very little clean-up.

It really has occurred to me that (mostly) clean eating can be so much faster, easier, and (sometimes) cheaper than I ever thought it could be.  I think part of it is that you kind of have to commit to figuring out an easy way to make these healthy meals.  There's "easy," and then there's EASY.  And you've got to figure out what "easy" means to you.

For me, I am lucky in that I am just experimenting with different foods and I don't have a vital need to follow any kind of strict diet or restrict too much of anything.  I don't really know what "clean" eating is.  I just know that right now I am trying my best to eat less processed foods, which necessarily puts me in the way of eating more veggies and fruits.  I'm trying to choose lean meats and also looks for more natural and/or low-fat, low-sugar type options.

And I'm doing all of this with a very specific priority of not buying a bunch of expensive, gourmet ingredients or supplements or anything crazy.  Plus, I need to have meals that can get on the table between the time we get home and 6:15, which doesn't always leave very much time.  So raw carrots?  Hell yeah!  They are easy, healthy, and don't really dirty any dishes (unless you serve them in a bowl, which is still super easy to clean).  Bag of microwave broccoli?  Hell yeah!  Cook it a little under, so it's still a little crunchy and can add it to any dish or reheat for leftovers all week.  Shredding the zucchini for the zucchini tots?  I'll use a food processor next time.  But still, the family loved those things!  Taylor ate more than one, and IT HAD ZUCCHINI IN IT!  I am a happy mom and will give myself carpel tunnel shredding veggies if it means my kid will eat zucchini or beg me to make sweet potato fritters.  Hell to the yeah.  Philly stuffed peppers?  Meat, cheese, onions, mushrooms, and green peppers, and the kids ate everything on their plates (I left out the onions and 'shrooms for the little guys, but they got applesauce).  Me = one happy mom.  And those things cook up in no time.

So, I think it really comes down to finding what works for YOU.  For me, that means really going back to the "roots" of some ways to prepare healthy meals.  Sticking with food that's in as "natural" a state as possible usually ends up in less prep and less clean up for me.  So I shall continue to explore these options for healthy eating.  I have to say, Pinterest has really helped me in this area.  All of the above meals were Pinterest finds.

Hey look at me!  I'm back, and I'm writing.  Well, I'm taking pictures of my lunch, anyway.  So, I miss writing, I really do.  I've been craving it, actually.

At the same time, I am making some super yummy lunches.  A lot of them include leftovers from some super yummy dinners.  Pretty much all of them are involving lots of whole foods, which is really representative of the way I've been eating lately.

I've found myself being so excited about what I'm eating for lunch, that I want to take a picture of it.  This, I think, is too much oversharing for Facebook, so I've decided to try to post my daily lunches here.  Especially if they are lunches worth sharing ;)

Today's lunch is shredded turkey (leftover from last night's ahmazing dinner), quinoa, and some cut up red and green peppers.  After I heated it all up, I added some Sriracha sauce.  Delish!
A couple interesting things happened on my run this morning.

First, while I was running uphill, I was passes by a (very fit) mom running with a double-running stroller, which had two kids in it (larger than my own children).  I was kind of upset to get passed by someone pushing a stroller up a hill.  She really smoked me, too.  I went through a series of thoughts/emotions:
  1. tried to catch up
  2. hated myself
  3. hated her
  4. thought, not only am I a bad runner, but I'm also a bad mother since I'm not running with my children
  5. reminded myself not to compare myself to others but to focus only on myself
  6. felt pride over my own accomplishments
  7. finally, felt pride for this woman, for being able to have kids and still be able to kick some serious ass running up a hill.  Good for her!

So that was my own little emotional battle whilst running.

And then, as I'm nearing the end of my run and really just chugging along trying to get it over with...

I swallowed a bug!  

Yes, I swallowed a freaking bug.  But it didn't happen quite that quickly, no.  It was a bit of a spectacle.  First, I'm running along, minding my own.  Then, a bug flies straight in to the back of my throat.  I stop and start to try to hack it out.  This then gags me, and I start to wretch, like I'm going to throw up.  This then makes me feel like I'm going to pee my pants.  I end up crouched on the ground, trying desperately not to pee myself, hacking, and swearing.  I finally realize the only thing for me to do is to swallow that damn bug.  So I did.  Not without shouting out a few more obscenities.

So that was how my day started.

The good news: I got in an awesome run.  About 5.5 miles in about 50 or 55 minutes.

Later today I'm going to take the boys to Krogers so that Taylor can look for a "squishy killer whale thing" that he "hid" somewhere in Kroger the last time we were there (which was at least two weeks ago).  This should be an interesting experience.

This is my life.  Kroger squishy whale scavenger hunt.  I really hope we find it; otherwise, this little boy is going to be very disappointed.  Oh well.
Taylor posing with a time capsule, downtown.
Monday's Session (June 18)
  • Bear Squat machine (cool name, huh?!).  (45 lbs. on each side) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • stiff legged deadlifts (50 lbs.) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • chest presses (12.5) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • dead rows (30 lbs?) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • lat pull downs (50? 60? lbs.) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • The Prowler (45 lbs. on each side) (3 sets)
  • push out ab thing (30 lbs?) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • arm raises (5 lbs) (12 reps, 4 sets)
Here's what I did today:
  • 35 lbs. (each side) of H Squats (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • stiff legged dead lifts (50 lbs. for first set, 50 lbs. for remaining 3 sets)
  • chest presses (12.5 lbs.) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • seated rows (60 lbs.)
  • step-ups (20 lbs. for first set, 15 lbs. for remaining 3 sets)
  • arm raises
  • push-ups (learned how to do it properly)
  • jack-knives
  • stairs