Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Six Reasons Athletes Should Drink Chocolate Milk

When I was a kid, the thing I looked forward to most at lunch was a carton of chocolate milk. It was the perfect treat to enjoy after a morning of classes. And I liked the idea that drinking milk was helping me grow stronger. Since I was one of the shortest kids in my class for years, I figured I needed all the help I could get!

Even now as an adult, I enjoy drinking chocolate milk. It's just the thing to satisfy my massive sweet tooth and best of all, I never have to feel guilty about indulging since it's rich with nutrients and made with wholesome ingredients.  

With all that being said, I'm thrilled to announce my participation in the Win With Chocolate Milk program as a Chocolate Milk Blog Ambassador!

You all know me as a runner, and since taking up the sport, drinking chocolate milk has filled an important training need. It's one of the very best recovery foods around - a perfect mix of carbs and protein. And believe me, when you run a hard track workout in the evening and have more miles on the schedule the following morning, a fast recovery is supremely important!

Here are some things you need to know about this amazing beverage:
  • Has the "right mix" of carbs and protein to refuel (about a 3:1 ratio)
  • Provides 9 essential nutrients athletes need
  • Naturally has high-quality protein and key electrolytes like calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium
  • Made with real milk
  • Costs less than 50 cents per glass
  • Simple ingredients, not designed in a lab  

And, it almost goes without saying that it's the perfect reward for a great workout or race - particularly when combined with a chocolate chip or sugar cookie ;) Definitely something to look forward to during the final mile of a workout or race. 

 Mom and I both enjoyed drinking chocolate milk after The Big Chill 5k

For more information about the benefits of chocolate milk, visit the Win With Chocolate Milk website or the Wisconsin Dairy Facebook Page.

My questions for you:
  • Do you drink milk after workouts or races? If so, how do you think it helps with recovery?
  • If not milk, what do you drink/eat for a recovery snack/meal?

- ST

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tweaks and Small Adjustments

The key to successful training? Being flexible and adjusting when necessary. 

Lately, my training has been going according to plan. I've had to make minor adjustments here and there to fit running into my schedule, but nothing major. 

Until last week. Due to weather and evening plans, I rearranged my run schedule to include double run days on Tuesday and Wednesday, track work on Thursday, easy running on Friday and a long run on Saturday. The two double days were great and my legs felt surprisingly good. I was looking forward to my track workout, when I walked out of my apartment on Thursday morning . . . and slipped on a patch of ice. I ended up twisting my knee. Fortunately, it was a minor injury with minimal swelling but enough to make running out of the question for the next two days. 

Things were still a bit rocky during my long run on Saturday morning, but I was determined to get through the miles. As long as I stuck with a sloooowww pace, my knee seemed to be fine. I tried picking it up a bit about halfway through but my knee would have none of it. Even though it seemed like the miles took forever, I was glad to be able to run.

 Whatever it takes, because I love running!

Today, my knee is feeling recovered so I'm planning a full week of training with a minor tweak - I'm only doing one speed session instead of two to account for the knee issue. Here's the plan:

Monday: 6 miles @easy pace w/strides + 30 min Y Kettle Bell Class + 30 min strength training
Tuesday: 6  miles @easy pace + 60 min strength training
Wednesday: Y-Fuse (Lunch); 8 miles inc. 12x400m @6:4x pace
Thursday: 4 miles @easy pace (Lunch)
Friday: 4 miles @easy pace
Saturday: 12 miles @easy pace
Sunday: Rest Day

Total: 40 miles

It's hard to believe spring goal races are just around the corner! The time to work hard is now :)

My questions for you:
  • What training/workouts do you have planned for this week?
  • Have you ever suffered a freak injury, i.e. slipping outside?
  • Do you ever train with Kettle Bells?

I've used Kettle Bells before but this will be my first class using the equipment!

- ST

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Big Chill 5k Race Recap

Despite being in the middle of February, The Big Chill 5k has always been good to me. In fact, in both my first and second year running the race, it lead to a new 5k PR!

Although there was no PR this year, it was still a solid race.

Post-race with Mom wearing matching Oiselle sweatshirts ;)

The race started decently. I lined up a tad late, but still started in a good position. Not too close to the front, but not too far back. The road was covered in packed snow for a good quarter of a mile near the start but since my legs were fresh at that point, it didn't seem too bad. Slowed me down a bit but nothing I was too concerned about. 

I kept my focus on running steady and using runners in front of me to help pull me along. My focus was temporarily snapped when the runner in front of me slipped at the turnaround point and took a nasty fall. Somehow he popped right back up and kept on running, but it looked like a super painful spill. It was a reminder to me to be careful on the snowy bits!

The last mile was a true struggle. I was working so hard and the packed snow portion from the beginning of the race made it super tough. It felt like I was running through quick sand! I wanted to run faster - mainly because I wanted it to be over - but couldn't. All I could think about was collapsing in a snow pile after crossing the finish line. 

The snow really zapped my energy and I didn't get to kick it in as much as I normally do. However, any race when I feel like I left everything I had on the course is a good race in my mind!

After walking around a bit after finishing, I ran back on the course to find mom and run her in to the finish line. She did great on the snow packed portion of the road!

And so race #5 in the Great Lakes Running Series is done! Just one race is left in the series, Luck of the Irish, and I'm feeling pretty good about where I'm at in the standings. Hopefully luck stays on my side :)

My questions for you:
  • Did you log any miles over the weekend? The weather was actually pretty decent for a race or training run!
  • Completely random: What's the best thing you ate in the past week? 
  • When do you think winter will finally end??

My fingers are crossed for an early spring!

- ST

Friday, February 14, 2014

I Heart GX

When I first started going to a gym, one of the things that kept me engaged and excited to go were the group exercise classes. Although I knew no one and the classes were really tough, I still loved the group energy and learning new exercises I could incorporate into my own workouts. After awhile, I started getting to know the instructors and people in the classes - in fact, I met one of my very best friends, Julie, through classes at the gym!

Sadly those classes ended once I stopped going to Bally's, and even though Gold's offers group exercise, none of the offerings really appealed to me. So when I joined the YMCA, I was super excited to learn about all of the classes that are offered. 

Obviously, it's possible to do strength work, plyo and drills on your own, but there's just something about a group class that pushes you to do more. That's what I love about my favorite classes, Y-Blitz and Y-Fuse.

For those of you not familiar with these classes, here are the descriptions for each, taken from the YMCA website:

Y-Blitz: An all-out sports style cross training class. This is your crossfit solution to keep your body guessing every single class. Uses everything including weights, cardio, tires, barbells, medicine balls and more. 

Y-Fuse: Exciting, innovative cardio class that uses sports-inspired drills to get the heart rate pumping. Fast paced, effective workout in a short time block. 

Video from the Downtown YMCA Group Exercise Fitnatics Facebook Page  

My thoughts on the classes:
  • Y-Blitz is more difficult than Y-Fuse, but both classes are challenging in their own way. Y-Blitz includes more strength training and pushup variations galore! Y-Fuse is more cardio based with plyo type exercises, such as jump lunges. 
  • In both classes, I love the sprint laps around the track in between exercise sets!
  • I love the fast pace of these workouts. You work up a good sweat in just a short amount of time. Perfect for a power lunch! 
  • What you get out of these classes is directly proportionate to what you put in. If you slack off during sets and laps, then it will be an easier workout. But if you push hard throughout, you will be drenched in sweat by the end. 
  • The instructors are great - high-energy, super motivating and always happy to provide a modification to make an exercise easier or harder. This makes the classes manageable for all fitness levels.

So what are you waiting for? Come join me for a class at the YMCA stat! But be prepared to fall fast - it might just be love at first burpee ;) 

Tell me: What's the best group exercise class you've ever done? 

- ST

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cauliflower Tots

Confession: I love tater tots so much that I once participated in a tater tot eating contest.  Definitely not my proudest - or healthiest - moment. But let's be honest - tater tots are worth a calorie splurge now and then :)

But for times when you're feeling a bit more virtuous, there's a way to enjoy the tastiness of tots without all the calories and fat. My friend Sue posted a recipe for cauliflower tots about a week ago and I knew I had to try it stat. The tots looked so good, and I couldn't wait to see if the cauliflower version would taste as good as traditional tots. 

I'm happy to report the tots were delicious! While they don't taste the same as tater tots, they are a tasty treat in their own right. I highly recommend making these for dinner tonight!

Serve with Curry Ketchup!

Cauliflower Tots
*Recipe from Skinny Taste

2 cups cooked cauliflower florets, finely chopped
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 cup onion, minced
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1/2 cup Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (I used panko)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. 

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, take 1 Tbsp of the mixture and form into a small oval. Repeat, repeat, repeat! Bake 16-18 minutes, flipping halfway through, cooking until golden. 

Tell me: What's your favorite way to use cauliflower? 

- ST

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Expo Run 5k Recap

The night before the Expo Run 5k, I was feeling pretty excited about the upcoming race. After a few good weeks of training and last weekend's successful Indoor Marathon Relay Race, I felt capable of a faster time. Call me crazy, but I was really looking forward to the burn of the miles to come.

I dressed for success and wore all Oiselle: Lesley Tights, Distance Shorts, Flyte Long Sleeve, Lux Side Zip Top (pictured below) and Feather Trials Hoodie. Heck, I even wore a pair of Randies for good luck. It sounds like a lot of layers but seeing as how it was a balmy 9 degrees at the start, this combo was actually quite perfect.

This top will make your winter runs 110 percent more enjoyable!

The only thing that was not my cup of tea were my clunky Brooks Cascadia Trail Shoes. Don't get me wrong - I love these shoes for winter running because they are warmer than other pairs of shoes that I own and provide better traction. But they are supremely heavy compared with the Saucony Type A Flats that I prefer for shorter distance races. However, a snowy course meant wearing heavier shoes was a must.

Trail shoes are great for training. Not so great for 5k racing.

Even though my feet felt like I had two bricks attached, I felt good standing at the start line waiting for the horn to sound. I decided to start a bit closer to the front than I normally do to try and avoid getting caught behind crowds of runners. I knew the course might be slick in spots so the less running around people, the better. However, I did have to pause for a moment when I realized I was standing next to Ruth Lunz - last weekend's Indoor Marathon Gold Medal Challenge Winner. She is super speedy - even after running both the marathon and half marathon races last weekend. But, I was already lined up so too late!

It took all of about two minutes to realize the race was not going to be a fast one for me. While it's true I've been running more miles lately and doing my share of workouts, I've been doing all of those miles at the Pettit Indoor Track, YMCA Indoor Track and Gold's treadmill. I was definitely not prepared for grinding through winter running conditions. Although the race did a good job of clearing the course as best as possible and making sure there were not icy patches, there was still plenty of snow and slush to run through. After falling and whacking my head on pavement my first year of running, I'm super cautious when running on any potentially slippery surfaces so even though I was doing my best to race, I know I was holding back a bit. Fortune favors the bold and at the race I was not as bold as I should have been.

My biggest race success: Making it through without falling! I underestimated the effort it would take to run in the snow and the time it might cost but it is what it is. Winter running is not my forte but I got in a great workout and I enjoy any opportunity I get to race. Running is a gift and not one I will ever take for granted.

The newest medal in my collection!

Mom also did this one and, as always after finishing my race, I ran back on the course for my cooldown to find her and run her in to the finish. Once again, Mom did great!

All smiles after the race!

So another race in the books. And because I am a glutton for punishment, the next one is in just two weeks. Until we chat again, I'll be knocking out quarters to prep for The Big Chill 5k ;) 

My questions for you:

  • Do you race during the winter months? Also, what do you like/dislike about winter running?
  • Do you have a go-to clothing item or outfit for races that makes you feel speedy?
  • If not running or racing, what made this weekend enjoyable?

In addition to racing, I also tested a bunch of recipes so new food posts to come in the upcoming weeks!

- ST