Tag Archives: healthy

My Three Keys to Sticking to a Workout Routine

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I’ve talked about my journey to becoming a “runner” on here before. I still feel undeserving of the title “runner” considering I could barely run a mile in high school, but after a full marathon, several half marathons, and a boat load of other races, I think it’s fair to say that I am a runner. But getting to that place was not and still is not easy.

For years I looked at exercise and running as a means to be thin. My day would be judged as a good or a bad day on whether or not I slogged away for 30 minutes on the treadmill. This mindset made me dread working out, but at the same time, I’d feel terribly guilty if I skipped it. So it was this vicious cycle of dread and guilt that wasn’t getting me any thinner and certainly not any happier.

I’m not sure when exactly my mindset started to shift, but I think it was around the time I started doing races with New York Road Runners. I loved the feeling of training towards a goal that wasn’t related to losing weight and the adrenaline of the race itself. Over time and many, many miles, running became more of a habit, just something I did every day (or every other day), and not something I had to do in order to feel good about myself or waste so much brain space on dread or guilt. And I think what happens when running or any type of exercise becomes a habit instead of a chore is that you do get addicted to the feeling of feeling good – not feeling good because you burned X calories, feeling good because your blood is pumping, your head is clearer, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in yourself. But how do you get to from that place of chore to an everyday habit? Well besides a healthy dose of time and perseverance, there are 3 other keys I’ve identified over the years that were crucial for me.

Know Yourself               

This one applies to any habit, not just working out. How can you really make a change without really knowing what and why you want to change first? What are your true motivations for wanting to exercise? Most people would say to lose weight, but push that even further. Why do you want to lose weight? Do you think you’ll be happier? It may sound a little much for something as straightforward as exercise, but I promise that really being honest with yourself about why you want to make this change will help those new habits stick.

The other part of Know Yourself is a little bit easier. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you need a teacher or class to hold you accountable, or can you work out on your own? Do you like to be inside or outside? Don’t set yourself up for failure by saying you’ll wake up to run every morning at 6am in the winter if you’re a night owl who hates the cold. If you really hate to run, then don’t do it! Find what is most enjoyable and what works best for you. Again, just be honest with yourself and don’t feel bad it.

Convenience

This one is huge for me. There’s nothing I hate more than wasting time just to go somewhere to workout. I think that’s why I enjoy running: you can do it anywhere and it doesn’t require much planning or equipment. Think about your schedule and your commute and pick the gym or the running route that’s on your way home. Keep a bag of gym clothes and sneakers in the car so you don’t have to stop back at home. Because let’s be honest, once you’re home you’re not going back out (at least I know I’m not).

Monitoring

Much like those charts your parents kept to track when you did your chores or ate your vegetables, getting that gold star or checking off that list is a satisfying feeling. When training for a half marathon, I like to write out exactly what we need to do each day on a calendar just so that I can visually see it and then see each day crossed off as I get closer and closer. It’s such a simple act, yet so powerful and motivating. Plus, how will you know how much progress you’ve made unless you keep track of it all?

I also highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before – it’s all about mastering habits and she provides 21 great strategies to do so.

What strategies do you follow to stick to your exercise habits? Or what would you like to start implementing today?

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Crispy Acorn Squash Dippers & Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

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The countdown to my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, has officially begun, which means the planning process is now in motion. Much like a vacation, I think I get more pleasure out of the planning and anticipation of the day than the feast itself (though that is a big part of it too). And the better planned your vacation, or Thanksgiving meal, the more smoothly and therefore enjoyable the day will be.

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My family is pretty traditional when it comes to the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, so I usually like to experiment with some of the sides and appetizers. These Crispy Acorn Squash Dippers with Chipotle Cranberry Sauce that I made on a recent Sunday afternoon while dozing through watching football would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving menu. They’re simple and can be made in advance (make the sauce a day ahead and just bake off the squash an hour before you’re ready to eat), so that’s one less thing to stress about when you’re juggling the turkey, potatoes, and pies. The tangy and spicy sauce perfectly complements the slightly sweet and nutty squash. Even better, they’re nice and light so you won’t feel weighed down before you even dig in to the big ol’ bird.

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Or, if you want some extra inspiration in finding the perfect recipe or planning your Thanksgiving meal, you can contact me – I’d love to make your day even more delicious!

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Crispy Acorn Squash Dippers & Chipotle Cranberry Sauce

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

2 acorn squash, cut into 1/2″ thick rounds

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup panko

8 sage leaves, chopped

3 egg whites, beaten

2/3 cup fat-free greek yogurt

2 tbsp half-and-half

1/3 cup cranberry sauce

10-20 dashes chipotle hot sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Peel the skin off the squash if desired.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the spices, flour, cornmeal, panko, and sage. Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Dredge the squash rounds in the egg and then coat in the panko mixture.
  5. Place on the baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Flip and bake 20 minutes more until golden and crispy.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the greek yogurt, half-and-half, cranberry sauce, and hot sauce until smooth.
  7. Serve the dippers hot or at room temperature with the sauce.

Our Whole30 Experience

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A few times on this blog I’ve mentioned my attempts at a detox or cleanse. Usually I ended up feeling worse or just abandoning ship after a few hours. But I’m a glutton for punishment (i.e. my love of crossfit and marathons), so I’ve always been interested in trying a strict cleanse just to see if I could do it. I read many positive things about the Whole30 (like here and here) and I liked that you still eat real food, not just juices, so this one in particular piqued my interest.

I’d talked to Kevin for probably over year about wanting to do the Whole30, but never followed through because it just wasn’t the right time. There was always someone’s birthday, holiday, or weekend away that I didn’t want to miss out on. But finally, this past July we committed to doing it (even though I knew I had Allie‘s bachelorette party during the last weekend of the 30 days). And here’s how it went…

I’ll start with the hardest. Surprisingly the hardest part, was not the feeling of missing out or feeling deprived. Thankfully with the Whole 30, there’s no calorie-counting or measuring your proteins on a scale; just eat what you need to feel full that follows the guidelines (no dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, alcohol, anything processed for 30 days. See here for more details on the program). But what was most challenging, was the extensive planning that goes into it. You can’t leave the house on an empty stomach and easily expect to find something on the go that’s Whole30 compliant. Even seemingly simple roasted almonds at Wawa have hidden added sugar in them. Whenever we’d go to the beach, I’d have to get up early to cook lunch for us to bring since the chances of finding something we could eat at the beach shack were zero. Even for someone who loves meal planning and grocery shopping, there were some days I just didn’t want to have to think about what we’d make for dinner before 6AM.

Even though the Whole30 rules out all of my favorite foods – cheese, bread, chocolate – those weren’t the things I missed most. What I did miss was relaxing with a glass of wine on a Friday night. One of the goals with the Whole is to banish your “Sugar Dragon” and break the habits of the nightly sweets or glass of wine because you think you have to have it. We loaded up on coconut La Croix and dabbled with some Kombucha, but it still wasn’t the same as a glass of rose on a hot summer night. Sorry, Whole30.

But despite the planning, grocery shopping, and wine FOMO, it was 100% worth it and I would 100% do it again (and plan to). The sense of accomplishment and self-command is enough reason for me to start another Whole30 tomorrow. I felt confident, both mentally and physically, which is not easy for me to come by. I physically felt lighter and less bloated. Running, even in the summer heat, didn’t feel as hard. And it definitely felt good to not have to hide a food baby in a bikini on the beach. Probably the best benefit was that all of my digestive issues that I’ve dealt with for years – gas, bloating, serious cramps – completely disappeared throughout the entirety of the program. BIG win!

It was hard and exhausting and annoying most some days, but it was the best I’ve felt in so many ways in a long time. We did spend a lot more money on groceries, though we saved on eating out and alcohol, and I do think it would be a challenge to follow as a vegetarian, but I would absolutely recommend the Whole30 to anyone who’s even remotely thinking about it. There is never going to be the perfect time to start the Whole30 (or any new routine or project), so you might as well start now. And if you start and decide it’s not for you, no one is saying you can’t abandon ship, but I have a feeling you’ll get addicted to feeling the best you ever have. I know I did.

If you have questions about the Whole30 or need help with meal planning, please reach out! Here are some of the resources I went to over and over again throughout the 30 days: The Whole30Well FedLexi’s Clean Kitchen.

This post is not sponsored or affiliated with the Whole30, I just love it that much!

Barley with Brussels Sprouts & Edamame

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After a weekend of indulgences, I could feel my body craving some real, whole foods. The cookbook Clean Slate from the editors of Martha Stewart Living has become our clean eating go-to when we feel like we need to hit the reset button in the kitchen. All of the recipes we’ve tried have been delicious, easy to execute, and because it’s clean eating, the number of ingredients is always minimal. I even enjoyed the recipes we made during our cleanse earlier this year, I just got sick of eating carrot & dill soup 3 days in a row. We made this Barley with Brussels Sprouts & Edamame  for dinner last night and I’ll be eating it for lunch today. It’s light but still filling, which is perfect for today’s 90-degree temps. It’s also easy enough that I was able make the entire dish while chatting on the phone with a friend! Now that’s a double whammy.

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Barley with Brussels Sprouts & Edamame adapted from Clean Slate

Serves 4

Ingredients:

16 oz quick-cooking barley (I used this one from Trader Joe’s)

12 oz frozen shelled edamame

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled & minced

1 lb Brussels sprouts, stems removed and roughly chopped

12 oz baby spinach

crushed red pepper flakes

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the barley and cook about 15 minutes until tender. Add the edamame to the pot in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until just fragrant, about a minute. Add the Brussels sprouts and saute until just caramelized and tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the remaining tbsp oil to the pan and add in the spinach. Toss until wilted. Add in the barley and stir until combined. Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

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15 Minute Flatbreads

DSC_0565 We had such an amazing time at Keven and Theresa’s wedding this weekend! The weather was perfect, the venue was beautiful, the bride and groom looked stunning, and we did. not. stop. dancing. I was definitely feeling it on Sunday, but it was totally worth it. After a weekend of boozing, irregular meals, and snacking while traveling, I was ready to get back into a more balanced eating routine this week. DSC_0566 It’s been a little while since I shared a recipe here on the blog, mainly because we’ve been away the past couple weekends, so I haven’t been able to build up a back-log of nice pictures. But I actually made these flatbreads for dinner last night, and thanks to the fact that it’s still light out at 7PM and that they only took 15 minutes (really!) to make, I had more than enough time to whip these up and snap some nice pictures for your viewing pleasure. The great thing about these flatbreads is that you can really top them with whatever you want and make extras to heat up for lunch the next day.  So until the next weekend of boozing and dancing, let’s eat!DSC_056915 Minute Flatbreads

makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

6 whole wheat flatbreads

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

12 slices prosciutto

4 roma tomatoes, sliced

12 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced

1 bunch basil leaves, julienned

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Add balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then simmer until it reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, toast the flatbreads over the gas burner until just charred around the edges. If you don’t have a gas stove, put them on the baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes.

4. Top each flatbread with prosciutto, tomato, and mozzarella. Drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

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Finding a Workout Groove

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Even though I write about running or working out on this blog, doesn’t mean that it comes easily to me. I know that I’ll almost always feel better after working out than if I don’t, but there are some days I just DON’T WANNAAAA (said in a whiny kid voice). Especially with nicer weather on its way, the only heavy lifting I want to do after work is emptying a bottle of rose.

For the past couple years, Kevin and I have really struggled to find a workout routine that we semi-enjoy, is affordable, and can stick to in the long run. I was totally spoiled when I first lived in NYC: a brand new Crunch gym was on my block, I was 3 avenues from the best running path in the city (the West Side Highway), and I didn’t have to be at work until 9:30-10AM, so I had ample time to workout and get ready without having to wake up at 5AM. I was also much less financially responsible than I am now and would indulge myself in a $35 SoulCycle class all too often.

Then we moved to Astoria. I had a different job where I had to be at work earlier and went from having a 10 minute commute to an hour and 10 minute commute. Not surprisingly, it became a lot harder to find the time and motivation to workout. I also missed the convenience of having a fancy gym and a beautiful running path at a stone’s throw. We went through a brief stint with Crossfit, which I really enjoyed, but we were getting up at 5AM in the dead of winter to make it work, and I just grew to resent that too (not to mention it was pretty darn expensive).

When we moved out of the city, I assumed and hoped that working out would magically be easier again. No longer working “New York hours” we’d have more time and we’d have the convenience of driving to a gym or running path. While that’s partly true, it still doesn’t make up the other half of the battle: being motivated enough to actually go. In an ideal world, I’d just pay for a personal trainer to tell me what to do every day. But since that’s not going to happen any time soon, I recently thought about what I have enjoyed in my exercise history (or as close to enjoyment as possible) and what I need to help me stick to it. Here’s what I came up with:

No frills. Besides the scented candles and meditative coaching at SoulCycle, I like my workouts to be simple and efficient. Take running or Crossfit, for example, it’s just you and the road or you and the barbell.

Convenient. As evident throughout this post, if it’s not easy to get to, I am not gonna go. I want to enjoy working out, but I want to enjoy life pre and post workout even more.

Affordable. Like I said, I would totally have a personal trainer if I could afford one, but for now, if it’s not something I can do on my own, I don’t want to have to pay extra for it. I do enjoy Crossfit, but most of those workouts I could do at home or on my own at a gym.

Accountability. Whether it’s training for a race or signing up for a class, I like having the structure of a schedule or even a no-show fee to hold me a accountable. This also takes the thinking out of it a little bit – as long as I can get myself to a spin class, I can leave it up to the instructor to make the workout happen.

Being honest with myself in what I do and more importantly don’t like about working out has helped us get into more of a workout groove lately. Depending on what your goals are, I always think it’s best to do what works for you and what you like, otherwise you’ll never get into that groove and stick to it. And if some days rose wins out over that run, that’s okay too 😉

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Spicy Beef Stir Fry with Coconut Rice

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Before starting my new job, I had two days off. Two glorious, blissful days. Even though I didn’t do too much – mainly errands and binge watching Kimmy Schmidt – I loved being out and about when everyone else was at work. I joked to Kevin that my true calling is being a housewife, but I was only half kidding. While I was savoring domestic bliss, I also had time to cook a lot. This recipe being one of them. I actually made this for Kevin’s birthday. He requested beef stir fry, so when I found this recipe that was both spicy and coconut-y (two of Kevin’s faves) I had to give it a try. The birthday boy was not disappointed, and it was easy enough that we’ll definitely be adding this into our weekly dinner rotation even though my brief trial as a housewife is over.

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Spicy Beef Stir Fry with Coconut Rice adapted from How Sweet It Is

Serves 4

Ingredients:

chili garlic beef
1 lbs thinly sliced beef (Trader Joe’s sells Shaved Steak, which is what I used)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced
2 tsp adobo sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet onion, sliced

coconut jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups light canned coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut water
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

1. At least 2 hours before cooking or the night before, season the beef with salt and pepper. Whisk together the oil, sugar, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and garlic cloves in a bowl. Add the beef to a baking dish or ziplock bag and pour the marinade ingredients overtop. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. When you’re ready to cook the beef, heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the coconut oil and once melted, add the beef in 2 or 3 batches (without the excess marinade). Sear the beef for 1 to 2 minutes, then flip and sear the other side. Remove the beef and place in a bowl – and repeat with remaining beef.

3. Once all of the beef is cooked, reduce the heat to medium-high. Add in the peppers and onions and stir well to coat, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook until the vegetables just start to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the beef back to the skillet and toss. Cover and let sit over warm heat for 5 to 10 minutes so the flavors come together. Serve immediately with the coconut jasmine rice.

4. For the rice, heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and add rice, coconut milk, coconut water and salt. Stir, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let cook for about 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork, then stir in coconut oil. Stir in the shredded coconut and serve.