Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oops, I Did It Again...

You know that saying that lightning doesn't strike twice?  Yeah, I'm calling shenanigans on that one.  Most people that know me have heard the comical story of my first 5k... I decided to pace myself with some random woman in front of me who low and behold, was out for a morning jog and not running the 5k.  I realized this about a mile off course when she ran up her driveway.  Funny story and I'm sure I'm not the only person in the history of the world that this has happened to.  The question is, how many people can say they've managed to do this twice?

This morning, our gym ran the Wolf Hollow 5k in Nashua, which was run congruently with a half marathon.  Guess who made a wrong turn and ended up on the half marathon course... yup, this girl.  I was running with Nike+ on my phone, thankfully, and when I hit mile 3.5, I figured something was a little off.  By the time I was able to get back to civilization (the course was a trail run, naturally), I managed to clock about five miles.  Normally a five mile run isn't that big of a deal if I go in mentally prepared for it, however the 20 degree weather wasn't really helping matters.

On a high note, according to Nike+, I PR-ed my 1k and 5k times in the process.  Woot.  (My enthusiasm is still being smothered but the fact that I am freezing).

I think I'm going to stick to races that are clearly defined or I'm going to get outfitted with a GPS tracking device and request a police escort next time around.  Maybe it's my subconscious telling me that road races really just aren't my thing?  It's not possible to run off course on a Tough Mudder, right?  Maybe I should just stick to lifting heavy things...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Belly up to the Barre!

This past Sunday, I attended my second Blog & Tweet NH event at Strength in Balance, New Hampshire's first barre fitness program.  As this was a completely new experience for me and honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect going in.  After doing a little research and learning that barre is a compilation on yoga, pilates and dance moves, I anticipated something flowing and moderately paced.  I was wrong.

The studio, located at 100 Factory Street, is an unassuming space in a converted mill building with high ceilings, 10 foot windows and original hard wood floors.  There's a certain charm to a space like this that I find incredibly captivating.  Coupled with the warm greeting I revived from instructor Becki Somers upon arrival, I was really excited to give this a try!

We were each given a designated space along the barre, a yoga mat, a small inflatable ball and a set of two pound weights.  By the end of the first segment, those two pound weights felt like they each weight about twenty.

I could definitely see the origins of the movements coming from yoga and ballet, but the pace of the class was far from relaxed.  The soundtrack for the class was also a lot more upbeat than I had anticipated, a combination of contemporary pop and hip hop music.  While not necessarily being what I had anticipated going in, I was pleasantly surprised with how much fun the class was.

Becki was one of the most upbeat, energetic fitness professional I've encountered and she really did a great job tailoring the class to meet the ability of her students while still offering a challenge.

Now, being a CrossFit athlete, I will openly admit I've scoffed at cardio-style worked outs thinking that in order to get a great burn, I needed a 150+ pound barbell lying across my back.  Please note this as my proclamation that I was wrong.  This class seriously kicked my booty!  I can certainly see the value of adding a program like this to my cross training to help improve balance and flexibility, coupled with CrossFit.

If you're interested in giving barre classes a try, the full schedule is available on their website.  The studio offers three variations on Barre including:
  • Booty Barre (a fast paced, calorie burring, cardio workout)
  • Barre Toning (a resistance training class) 
  • Ballerobica (a hybrid of the two using ballet training to lengthen muscles and help tone)
They offer a no-commitment, $12 per class option and your first class is free! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Morning Motivation

I have always been one of those people who likes to use Monday's as a reset button.  If I'm starting a new fitness program, eating plan or project, Monday's have always been a good jumping off point in my mind.  You get a new chance every week so if something doesn't go as planned, it's not like you're looking at something with the magnitude of a New Year's Resolution.

While I'm not kickstarting anything big this Monday, I did need a healthy dose of motivation to get my week off on the right foot.  Friday and Saturday were a bit rough, food-wise, and I'm taking today as an opportunity to put it behind me and get back on track.  Lunch packed, meal prep for the week done and no room for excuses.  Boom.

My goals for the week... focus as much as I can on work, as my industry looses some momentum going into the holiday season and I need some good momentum going in, get my butt back on the primal bandwagon and find a balance that lets me keep momentum in my workouts while still recovering.  Back to that stupid rest thing... I really need to work on that.

What's motivating you this week?  Try to kick it off with some positive goals to help avoid that classic case of "The Mondays."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ahi Tuna Poke Salad

After a long weekend filled with social gatherings, catching up with old friends and the beginnings of holiday shopping, I wanted an easy dinner option last night.  Despite my love of cooking, I do have days where the idea of turning on the stove is just off putting.  Also, taking climate into account, with the onset of winter in New England, my window for chilled dinner options is a mere crack from closing until spring.  I figured I'd make the most of it while I could.

On Sunday, I had picked up a block of Saku tuna while shopping at H Mart.  (Sidebar, if you have an H Mart near you and haven't gone, you should correct that immediately.  They're the largest Asian market company in the US and their meat, fish and produce departments are phenomenal.)  If you've ever had seared tuna that came in a perfect rectangle while dining out, that's Saku.  It's a great product  and incredibly versatile when eaten fresh.  The standard, go-to preparation in our house is to crust it in black pepper and toasted sesame seeds and just lightly sear each side, but I wanted to do something a little different.  Instead, I opted for a Hawaiian-inspired poke which was full of flavor and had fantastic texture.  It gave us a light, protein-filled dinner option that was ready in about 15 minutes - no stove required.  The other bonus is, poke is a dish you can totally "dress up" if you're having company.  Serve it in a martini glass with a few strips of nori on top and you're sure to impress.

Saku Block Tuna Poke

1 lb block of fresh Saku tuna
3 tablespoons coconut aminos (if you're not eating paleo, you can substitute soy sauce or tamari)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon pineapple juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon mirin or rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of black sesame seeds
3 teaspoons chopped green onion

- Cube tuna with a sharp knife into 1 cm blocks
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together all liquid ingredients, salt and pepper
- Add cubed tuna and gently stir in sesame seeds and green onion
- Allow to marinate for 10-15 minutes or until tuna begins to darken in color from the marinade
- Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for a maximum of 2 days

Friday, November 8, 2013

To Lizzy...

For the past three years, it's hard to think about you without thinking about much I miss you.  This year, I want to try an approach things a little differently.  Not having you here sucks and there's nothing that's ever going to change that; you were, are and always will be one of the most important people in my life and to have you taken from us hurts like nothing else I've ever felt.

What I want to focus on however, is how thankful I am.  I'm thankful for the seven years you were a part of my life and the impact you made on me that will never fade.  I'm thankful that I got to meet the little sister I never had growing up.  With that, I'm thankful for all of the challenges we lived through in our friendship because I think that was part of why I think of you as a sister.  Our relationship wasn't perfect but I loved you unconditionally and would have done anything for you.  I'm thankful for each and every memory I have of you and how precious those are to me. 

I remember meeting you and having this instant connection, almost like we were supposed to be friends.  I remember the summer we lived together and all of our nights at Evelyn's and the Cowesett Inn.  I remember coming home to visit when I lived in North Carolina and you being a huge part of what convinced me to move back to Boston.  I remember the Thanksgiving dinner party you threw four years ago and the overwhelming feeling of joy I felt that day.  I remember going out on Saint Patrick's Day and both of us realizing that we were so much older than we thought.  I remember the last time I spoke to you, and despite how sick you were, I could tell how good you were doing.  You had just moved into your new apartment and I was so happy for you.  I can wish a thousand times over that I had tried harder to convince you to come out that night, despite illness, so that I could have seen you one more time but wishing won't change that.  Instead, I'm going to choose be grateful that I got to talk to you that night and in our last conversation, I knew how well you were doing and that you were happy.  

While I still miss you more than anything, I'm choosing to focus on the seven years we had together, instead of three since you've been gone.  I know you're here with me all the time and thinking of you is such a huge inspiration whenever I'm facing a challenge.  For that, I want to thank you.  Without even knowing it, you've pushed me to achieve things I never thought I could.  I love you so much and you hold a place in my heart forever.  XoXo

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My First Rx Benchmark and The Superhero Unleashed Challenge

Today was a pretty exciting day for me.  This morning, I completed my first Rx or "prescribed" benchmark workout.  For all of my non-CrossFit readers, a benchmark is one of 21 workouts, named after women used to assess your level of fitness.  Some are exclusively body weight movements (pull-ups, push-ups, squats and the like) while others include kettle and barbells that come along with a "prescribed" weight for men and for women.  This weight can of course be scaled back to match your ability, which is what I've always done... until today.

This morning, our workout of the day was Grace - 30 clean and jerks with a prescribed weight of 95 lbs (women).  The first time I completed Grace, I scaled it to 65 lbs and completed it in around 4 1/2 minutes, a pretty respectable time.  This was a few months after I had started CrossFit and I was quite satisfied with the result.  Today, I approached the workout from a completely different angle.  I didn't give a damn how long it took me to complete it, I am capable of cleaning and jerking 95 lbs and I was going to completed it at the prescribed weight.  Well, it took me over ten minutes, but I did it.

The level of satisfaction I got today, despite the fact that I added six minutes to my time, far surpassed how I felt when I first completed it.  Up until today, my personal record for a clean and jerk was 95 lbs.  As in, that was my one rep maximum and I just did 30 of them.  I'm starting to learn that the biggest limit I'm facing is my own mind.  I'm not saying I can go twirl a barbell like a baton if I put my mind to it, but I am saying I can probably lift heavier weight than I have been.  Challenge... accepted!

Today was also the second day of the 21-Day Superhero Unleashed Challenge and I must say, compared to the Whole 30, this is a piece of cake.  Each day, you have the opportunity to earn up to six points.  Points are awarded for (1) no sugar, (2) no refined carbs, (3) no alcohol, (4) taking a fish oil supplement, (5) movement and mobility training and (6) executing a daily tip that's emailed to you.  This tip can range from a workout to writing out a list of things that stress you out.  Points are recorded daily with a posted leader board.  James has agreed to try this challenge with me as well and being that he's allowed his daily latte, as long as it's unsweetened, I have a good amount of faith he'll be able to stick with it.  

The think I really like is that it's based on positive reinforcement as opposed to hard and fast rules.  For example, Saturday, we have plans to meet up with friends to celebrate a birthday and knowing that I can have a cocktail or a glass of wine without feeling like I'm "cheating" is a bit step.  I can decide to sacrifice a point for that day and my program is still on track.  

I'm really excited to see how this challenge pans out over the next three weeks.  I'm trying to keep the mentality set up by my Whole 30, in a more "real world" structure and I think this is a great step in the right direction.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

So I've Decided I Like This Challenge Thing...

I like structure.  Even if my structure is self-imposed, it helps me function.  For context, anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm a little bit OCD when it comes to organization.  I was the kid who alphabetized her CD's within separate categories and would twitch a little bit when one was out of place.  In many ways, that's bled into my adult life and made me someone who operates better with some level of guidelines.

The Whole 30 worked for me because it laid out a finite set of rules to follow; the downside being that I don't want to beat myself up for the rest of my life for wanting a piece of cheese.  I could easily turn a Whole 30 into a Whole 365 but when rules are laid out for me, I tend to approach them in an all or nothing mentality.  Eventually, that's going to crash and burn on me.  I've decided that I want to find a happy medium where I can live by these principals that I've adapted into my life over the past month, but find a way to give myself leeway to indulge without feeling like I've derailed myself.

Enter, Emily Schromm's 21-Day Superhero Unleashed Challenge.  It's a paleo/CrossFit challenge based around positive reinforcement for good choices, rather than rigid rules.  You make a good choice, you get a point.  I like points, no matter how arbitrary they may be; that might be the competitive nature in me coming out.  Either way, it seems like it could be a good stepping stone to keep me on track after my Whole 30, while giving a little wiggle room if I decide to have a glass of wine one night after work.  I think it could be a win/win.  I've also gotten James to commit to this as well - we'll see how that goes.

While I'm not planning a full 21-day blog diary, I will keep you updated as to how the challenge is going.  If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, it starts on Wednesday, November 6th and runs until the day before Thanksgiving.  Along with the challenge, you get daily videos from Emily, who is kind of a CrossFit badass.

Unleashed Fitness
Unleash Your Inner Superhero!

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

As part of our weekly meal prep, I wanted to do something using some of the 10 pounds of freshly ground sausage we have in our freezer right now.  Now when I say freshly ground, it's about as fresh as you can get - the pig was raised behind our gym over the past eight months.

Among the countless things I love about our CrossFit gym, it's a community of people who promote the idea of eating locally sourced, high quality food.  Through our gym, we've bought half a pig (yielding around a hundred and sixty pounds of pork), a share of a cow (around 35 pounds of beef) and participated in a CSA vegetable share, saving me lots of farmer's market trips.  Needless to say, our freezer is jam packed (and we haven't even picked up the cow yet) and we don't have to buy much in the way of meat this winter.  I've also been pretty good about freezing the excess of our veggies so we're fully stocked up on fresh kale, swiss chard and zucchini as well.  Yay for feeling prepared!

Back to the sausage.  It's amazingly delicious.  We've been sautéing it up with eggs for breakfast most mornings but I wanted to give it a little more panache.  We had gotten an acorn squash the previous week from our CSA, so low and behold, my Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash was conceived.

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 medium sized acorn squash, sliced lengthwise and seeded
1/2 lb loose sausage
1 cup swiss chard leaves, finely chopped
1/3 white onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 small gala or fuji apple, peeled and chopped
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup almond flour
3 sage leaves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon sea salt, divided
6-7 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a baking dish, lay acorn squash, cut side up, brush with coconut oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg
- Bake for 45 minutes
- Saute your sausage until thoroughly cooked
- Add diced onion, celery, apple, garlic, swiss chard and sage, cooking until onions are translucent
- In a mixing bowl, add almond flour to the beaten egg and whisk until combined
- Add the cooked sausage mixture to the egg and mix until well incorporated
- Stuff sausage mixture in to the squash, cover with tin foil and return to the oven for 20 minutes

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Life Post Whole 30 & Paleo Breakfast Bread

So I know there's a lot of debate around "paleo" baked goods.  I kind of agree with the mentality that if you're not going to eat the real thing, stop half-assing it, however this past week being off the Whole 30 has been even more eye opening than the actual 30 day program.

Reintroducing sugars, gluten and dairy to my diet has been a lot more uncomfortable than I thought, with gluten being my biggest issue.  Now I'm not saying that I have celiac or that I'm gluten intolerant, but there's definitely an issue with the way my body processes it.  It's actually making me wonder why I was ever okay with feeling this way before.  The sugar reintroduction has been mild - mostly honey or stevia in small amounts.  I honestly haven't felt the impulse to make things incredibly sweet.  Dairy has also been limited.  I'm still drinking my coffee black without issue, but I've added plain greek yogurt and cheese back in and haven't noticed much change.  I'm trying to keep my intake limited to once per day at most and haven't noticed much change in the way I feel.

This brings me to today's brunch - fresh farmer's market eggs, ground sausage from "our pig" and paleo breakfast bread.  I wanted something baked to enjoy with my brunch but honestly had no desire to feel like I was being gutted.  I've tried making paleo breakfast breads in the past and there's been a little bit of trial and error to get to my final recipe, but I'm really happy with the outcome.  If you're looking for a sweeter bread, you can double the honey and stevia amounts without altering the texture.

Paleo Breakfast Bread

1/2 cup almond butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon stevia
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons almond flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1 tablespoon flax meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Nonstick coconut oil spray

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- In a mixing bowl, combine almond butter, eggs, honey, stevia and vanilla and whip util fluffy using a hand mixer
- Add in dry ingredient and mix on low speed until smooth and well incorporated
- Spray a mini loaf pan* with coconut oil spray and spoon batter into the pan
- Bake for 18-22 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and remove it cleanly
- Remove bread from the pan immediately and allow 5-10 minutes to cool
- Serve warm with honey butter or fruit preserves

*You can double the recipe for a full size loaf pan

Friday, November 1, 2013

Roasted Asparagus & Avocado Soup

So this past week, I made my first batch of bone broth.  If you read anything about paleo nutrition, bone broth is one of their staples - an inexpensive, nutrient dense protein source with tons of applications.  I figured it was time to jump on the broth bandwagon and make a batch of my own.

After a few days of sipping straight broth, I decided it was time to find a new application.  Not to dis broth, but well, it was time to make things a bit more interesting.  This past week, we got some fantastic late season asparagus and I wanted to work that in to some interesting new recipes as well.  Still trying to keep within the Whole 30 guidelines, I didn't want to use dairy if I didn't need to and thought avocado would add a nice textural element.  The result?  A creamy, rich bisque-like soup that's satisfying and nutrient dense.

Bone Broth

3-4 lbs of bones (beef marrow bones and chicken feet are the most highly recommended in my reading)
1/2 white onion
3 ribs of celery
2 medium sized carrots
1 sprig of rosemary
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/8 cup of kosher salt
Any leftover vegetable scraps you may have from cooking
Enough water to fill your crockpot

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Roast bones on a rimmed baking sheet for 35-40 minutes
- Roughly chop vegetables
- Place bone in a large crockpot and add vegetables, herbs, salt and water
- Turn on low and simmer for 3 days (yes, 3 days)
- Strain the broth to remove all solids
- Using a gravy separator, skim off any fat that rises up to the top layer
- Store in glass containers in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks

Roasted Asparagus & Avocado Soup

12-15 spears of fresh asparagus
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups bone broth
1 avocado
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoons sea salt
5-6 grinds of freshly cracked pepper

- Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- Toss asparagus spears, garlic and olive oil together and roast for 10-12 minutes
- Heat bone broth in a small sauce pan until warm (not boiling)
- In a high powered blender, combine all ingredients and mix on high speed until a creamy constancy is achieved

Pumpkin Kisses

Last night, we celebrated Halloween with the wonderful people of [OCN] CrossFit in a grueling, yet incredibly fun team workout fully decked out in costume.  Although the workout was followed by a borage of snacks and beverages, it was definitely a different way to celebrate the holiday from past years.  Two years ago, if you would have told me I'd be more excited about deadlifts, handstand pushups and burpees than keg stands and flip cup, I'd probably have laughed pretty hard.

When trying to figure out what to contribute to the post workout buffet, I wanted to keep with the Halloween theme and coming off of my Whole 30, I wanted to try and keep it as close to paleo as possible.  I opted for my snack staple of sliced apples with pumpkin almond butter, pumpkin Whole 30 granola and a new creation - pumpkin kisses.  Fluffy, crisp little puffs with a subtle sweetness and a distinct pumpkin pie flavor.

With regard to coming off the Whole 30, I didn't pay enough attention to the reintroduction instructions and caused myself a good deal of unnecessary pain.  The slice of pizza and beer and a half I ate last night after the workout ripped my stomach apart in ways I'm not going to describe in an effort to prevent over sharing.  We'll just leave it as, it was unpleasant.  Very unpleasant.  Today, I'm going through our pantry and refrigerator and fully purging anything that isn't going to make us feel good.  What's the point of eating something that causes me to curl into the fetal position, wrenching in pain?  Is the few moments of gratification from eating worth the aftereffects?  For me, I don't think so.  When we started the Whole 30, we tossed a good deal of junk and stored what we were ready to part with in a box downstairs.  Well, I'm ready to part with it.

Pumpkin Kisses

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon of creme of tartar or arrowroot starch
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar

- Preheat oven to 200 degrees
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- In a stand mixer, beat egg whites and creme of tartar/arrowroot starch on high until stiff peaks form
- Add in pie spice, cardamon and vanilla and whip for an additional 30 seconds
- Slowly add in coconut sugar and turn down your mixer to low speed
- Turn off the mixer and gently fold in the pumpkin
- Transfer your egg white mixture to a piping bag with a large fluted tip
- Pipe your "kisses" across the parchment paper, leaving about 1/4 inch between each one to account for spreading
- Bake for one hour
- Turn off your oven and crack the door, leaving the kisses in the oven to cool completely
- Carefully lift kisses off the parchment paper using an offset metal spatula
- Store in an airtight container, free of all moisture, for up to a week