Easy and Healthy American Chop Suey

First of all, can I give myself a small pat on the back for not having the same thing for breakfast every day? And I made overnight oats like I said I would in Wednesday’s post! I loosely followed this recipe for the overnight oats and it was quite yummy!

Overnight oats with nuts

I actually popped the oats mixture it in the microwave a little to warm it up (warm, not hot) since my office was chilly and something cold to eat wasn’t appealing. The texture was incredibly cream–very different from stove top or microwaved. Perhaps because of the almond milk (I usually use water)? My only complaint is that it didn’t keep me as full as I would have liked, despite adding the extra nuts on top. See–this is why I am hesitant to mix it up! But I will keep on with my pledge and want to try Gina’s breakfast cookie dough tomorrow!

Speaking of being cold, we had a serious cold snap a few days ago that left me craving some warm comfort food.

Wednesday temperature

This cold weather had me searching for clothes and blankets that had been put away at the beginning of May, then searching my mind for an idea for dinner. I remembered Tina’s post earlier this week about having American Chop Suey for dinner and I knew it would hit the spot perfectly!

The WHD version of this classic dish is a bit different from the one I grew up with. Growing up, it was just pasta, pasta sauce, and ground beef. WHH convinced me years ago that we should also throw in some pepper and onions as well as my favorite ingredient that makes it just a little bit better, Worcestershire sauce!  Here’s how you do it (full recipe at the end):

Start by getting some water boiling for your pasta. While that’s starting up,  cut up some peppers and onions and throw them in a pan with some oil to sauté (I’ve come to discover that I eat an awful lot of these as most of my recipes feature sautéed peppers and onions!).

Sauteed pepper and onion

While the peppers and onions are cooking, get another pan out and put a ground meat of your choice in it to cook (we used some ground bison).

Ground bison cooking

Cook the meat thoroughly and once the pasta, veggies, and meat are all cooked, combine them one pan with. Next, add pasta sauce to your desired sauciness and Worcestershire sauce to taste.  We end up using about 1/3 jar of pasta sauce and 1-2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.

American Chop Suey in pan

A little trick to keeping the suey warm while you’re mixing everything is to keep the stove top going on a low heat. That way, when you serve it, it’s piping hot (hence the steam in the picture below).

Gluten-free American Chop Suey

Whole Health Dork’s American Chop Suey

Ingredients:
1 pepper
1/2 onion
1 lb ground protein of choice
~ 1/3 C tomato sauce
1-2 tb Worcestershire sauce

Directions:
Boil water for pasta and cook per directions.

Chop and sauté the pepper and onion. Get your protein of choice cooking at the same time. Sauté the veggies until soft and mix with the protein when cooked. Add pasta and desired amount of tomato and Worcestershire sauces. Mix well and serve hot.

I hope you enjoy!

Questions: Is Mother Nature playing tricks on your part of the world? Have you tried any new recipes this week? Anything fun planned for the weekend?

Mixing It Up

Hi all! I know it’s been awhile (or, at least, a little longer than my usual), but last week I said that I’d probably move to two posts a week and that’s where it’s at. I was hoping to do more of a Tuesday/Friday schedule, but that didn’t work out this week. So I’m mixing it up and doing Wednesday/Friday.

I’m also mixing up a lot of other things in my life right now. Or at least it seems like a lot for me being the creature of habit that I am. When I find something that works for me I like to stick with it. That being said, it is good to get some variety in your life and everything in moderation is always what I’m preaching, so I best be practicing it, too!

On the food front, I’m mixing up my breakfasts again. I had been sticking to a yogurt parfait in the morning for nearly a year. Yes, a year. I’d sometimes mix it up on the weekends and have oatmeal or go out for breakfast, but I always missed my parfait. You’d think I would have gotten sick of them, but surprisingly not.

Pumpkin parfait container

Then, a couple of months ago or so, I changed it up and moved to smoothies for breakfast. Except, again, every.single.day. I finally decided this week that I’m having a combination of items for breakfast throughout the week (smoothie one day, yogurt another day) and I should branch out and try a chia pudding or overnight oats. I’ll let you know if (when!) I do how they come out.

Almond Coconut Milk Smoothie

Also something I have nearly every single day? An apple with nut butter for my afternoon snack. Notice that I did say nut butter, which implies a little variety. It used to be peanut butter only, but I had branched out a while ago and have since been using sunflower and almond butter as well. Remember my stash that I keep at work (upside down, of course!)?

Peanut and sunflower butter upside down

I’ve recently started including pears (gasp!), watermelon (no!), and today, an orange (mon Dieu!)! I think I’ll have a handful of nuts with my orange, though. Doesn’t exactly go with peanut butter. Like, the one thing that doesn’t. Probably because nothing rhymes with orange. 😉

Orange with smiley face

I may have drawn on my orange…

That may not sounds like a lot, but for a type-A, sticks-to-a-plan person like me, this pushes me outside my comfort zone a bit. And is if that weren’t enough…

Ron Popeil but wait there's more

I’m also mixing up my workouts! With the week or so hiatus between classes, I made it to the gym a few times. I ran on the treadmill, did some Little-style walking hill intervals, and hit the heavier weights. I definitely missed the variety of the gym.

I’ll be back at home a lot now that I’m in the midst of a really busy 10 week class, so I wanted to be able to mix it up at home as well. I downloaded the Nike Training Club app after reading about it on Courtney’s blog. I did one of the 15 minute butt workouts, combined with the first five minutes of an abs/glute workout, and I’m still sore two days later! I love that you’re coached through each move and everything’s timed for you. The only thing I didn’t like was the inability to skip a certain move.

Nike Training Club app

I’ve also been expanding my yoga practice thanks to YouTube through my TV via our Wii. I’ll generally search for “yoga for runners” or “yoga for hips” and I’ll get some great results from that. I love the variety since my yoga library is limited both in terms of DVDs and what’s available on On Demand (we have the least expensive cable option) and I’m definitely not one to do my own yoga workout.

You know how else I’m mixing it up, but is actually not working in my favor? Being on my feet a lot more at work. With our medical record Go Live, I’ve been in the infusion room for the past week instead of my desk and I’m doing a lot of standing around. For some reason, standing, as opposed to walking, really bothers me and has made my PF flare up a bit. So I’m easing up on the running for right now so as not to aggravate it further. It wouldn’t be a problem except that it was like going from 0-60 MPH. I went from all sitting to all standing. This week’s been a better variety of sitting and standing, so thank goodness for that.

What prompted me being all kinds of wild and mixing it up? I’ve just felt a bit “off” lately. You know what I mean? My body’s been a bit fussy in terms of GI issues and generally feeling tight, so I’m trying to figure out what I can do to make it better. I’ve also recently discovered the idea that gluten may not be the only issue for me–that FODMAP foods may also be to blame, hence the slight dietary changes. I’m not going all in just yet because that would be a lot of food to change up at once. Plus, it’s ice cream season.

Double fisting ice cream

Questions: Do you tend to stick to certain habits? Do you need to make yourself change things up or do you look forward to it? Is there anything you’ve changed up recently?

Friday Favorite: Podcast Edition

Good morning and Happy Friday! It’s been a bit of a crazy week, both at work and home. A&P II started this week and is only a 10 week class (compared to the usual 16 weeks), so I’m thinking things are about to get a bit crazier. I’ve been contemplating the idea of moving to only two posts a week. While I’m sad to do this, I feel it’s what I need to do to maintain my classwork and my sanity. We’ll see how it works out in the coming weeks, but I hope you’ll still stop by!

Speaking of sanity, know what kept me sane during my crazy commute to Boston and now keeps me going during my runs? Podcasts! I’ve found that listening to podcasts, while entertaining and educational, also help me with pacing. When I listened to music during my runs, I would always match my pace to the beat of the song, which would inevitably mess me up. I know many people make playlists for running based on BPM, but I don’ t know that I have the creativity or music library for that.

You already know my girl Jillian Michaels has one of my favorite podcasts to listen to. She makes me laugh, she’s informative, and has a very funny and thoughtful sidekick/producer named Janice Ungaro (who I quickly met at Jillian’s Maximize You Life Tour last year!).

Jillian Michaels Podcast

My new favorite podcast that makes me feel like I’m cheating on Jillian is Evan Brand’s Not Just Paleo. As the name of the podcast implies, he doesn’t preach about paleo, though it is something he’s passionate about. The thing I love about his podcast is he has a variety of knowledgeable guests that he has great questions for. Though I just started listening about a month ago and am not up to date on the most recent ones, my favorites so far have been podcast #71 with guest Dr. Ray McClanahan, a podiatrist who quickly made me re-think my approach to footwear and podcast # 72 with guest Dr. Tim Gerstmar, a naturopathic doctor.

Not Just Paleo podcast

Moving on to a more running-specific podcast is Kinetic Revolution’s Train Smarter. Though I’ve only listened to one podcast so far, I found it incredibly informative. Kinetic Revolution is a group of running coaches and physiotherapists that provide services for runners, triathletes, and endurance athletes. Needless to say, they know a lot about running. Plus, listening to British accents is always fun!

Kinetic Revolution Train Smarter Podcast

The last podcast is based on one of my favorite books, Freakonomics (I have not yet read SuperFreakonomics or their newest book that was just released this month, Think Like a Freak, but they’re on my list!). For anyone who hasn’t heard of Freakonomics, it’s a book by Steven Leavitt and Stephen Dubner that  exposes the hidden side of just about everything, from how real estate agents really make money, to why crime may have dropped suddenly in the 90s. They also have a movie (it’s available free on Amazon Prime Instant!), though it’s basically just illustrating the book, so if you don’t want to read the book, it’s a good CliffsNotes version.

Anyway, back to the podcast. They have a variety of topics that they break down for you with research, such as “How to Make People Quit Smoking,” “Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It?” and “Would a Big Bucket of Cash Really Change Your Life?” One of my absolute favorite episodes is The Economist’s Guide to Parenting. I won’t spoil it–you’ll just have to give it a listen! If you’re a research nerd like me, or just want to know the numbers behind the results, this is the podcast for you. Not to mention the Steven and Stephen are funny in a nerdy kind of way.

Freakonomics Radio Podcast

When I was commuting to Boston I used to listen to a lot of the different How Stuff Works podcasts. Stuff You Should Know with the hysterical Josh and Chuck was the main one I listened to, as well as Stuff Mom Never Told You and Stuff You Missed in History Class. I haven’t listened to them in a while since I already have a full library of podcasts, but will download a podcast here and there if there’s an episode I’m particularly interested in.

A lot of other bloggers I follow have written about their favorite podcasts. Funnily enough, Carrots ‘n’ Cake shared some of her favorite podcasts just earlier this week. I know a lot of people, WH bro included, who are fans of NPR’s This American Life, such as Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point. Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers is another NPR fan, liking Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.

Questions: Do you listen to podcasts? When you work out or when you commute? What are some of your favorite podcasts?

Don’t Put Anything Smaller Than Your Elbow in Your Ear

Have you heard of this saying before? It just cracks me up, but it really and truly is true. I used Q-tips for the majority of my life after every shower to clean out my ears even though I knew it was bad. I even knew of a family friend who slipped while using one and ended up puncturing her eardrum, but still I persisted using them. And knowing what WH Brother went through dealing with his eardrum puncturing (not from a Q-tip) and subsequent surgery, it’s not something you want to go through.

Basket of Q-tips

Oh, so innocent looking

It just felt so rewarding to take a quick swab after my shower and see that I had cleaned something so thoroughly. And it physically felt good, like an itch I had to scratch. However, about a year ago I started having minor earaches. I surmised that the years of my Q-tip cleaning habit may have something to do with it. So, I experimented and decided not to use them. It was a hard habit to break and I felt dirty at first for not doing it, but I managed to stop using these little devils.

Q-tip in the hand

And guess what? They feel so much better now! It seems that my ears even produce less wax as a result. Before, when I was always removing it (something your body makes because it needs it!), my body was probably producing more than usual to make up for the amount I was removing, thus removing it was only making it worse. Now, my ears are quite clean on their own. My body knows how to handle itself and I should trust it more.

Of course, I do sometimes have what feels like a little extra or some that is about to fall out and I help it on its way out a little. I wrap my finger in a tissue and gently swap the outside of my ear. Outside is key–I was going way too far in before.

Removing ear wax safely

If you don’t believe me about the dangers of using those cute little daggers in your ears, check out this article in which Dr. Jennifer Smullen from the Massachusetts Ear and Eye Infirmary confirms what we already know: we should step away from the Q-tips.

So why do I still have a Nantucket basket full of Q-tips? For the rare occasion that I use eye make-up and per usual make a mess of it. Eye safety and Q-tips is a post for another day, though…

Questions: Do you use Q-tips in your ears? Have you ever tried to quit the habit? Do you feel dirty if you don’t clean your ears? Any ear horror stories?

Adventures in Weight Changes Revisited

Hi all! Happy Monday. I’m back to class this week. Having a week off in between was heavenly. It allowed me more time on the weekend so I could go to the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline with WHH and my parents as part of WHH’s birthday gift. How amazing is this view of Boston from the top of the hill by the museum?

View from Larz Anderson Parl

WH Mom accidentally photobombing

I actually found the small bike collection to be more fascinating than the cars since a lot of the interesting parts of the cars were the mechanics that you couldn’t see. Can you imagine riding these bikes?

Antique bikes Larz Anderson

We went to Matt Murphy’s for drinks and appetizers after. They have a great selection of both and the cheese platter was delicious! Included were pickled onions, an Irish cheddar, walnuts, fried goat cheese, whole grain mustard, pistachio-thyme honey, blue cheese, pears, and pickles.

Cheese plate appetizer Matt Murphy's

Next up we walked a mere two restaurants down to Orinoco, one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area. They serve Venezuelan food and it is delicious! My favorite part, naturally, is being able to have their arepas (sandwiches) because the arepa is made of corn meal, so it’s naturally gluten-free. No pictures of my own to share, but here’s an example of some areaps from their FB page.

Orinoco arepas

Another thing I was able to do this weekend because I wasn’t in class? Organize the crazy amount of clothes I have that no longer fit me due to my slow and steady weight loss over the past two years. How much money’s worth of clothes do you think is here? Now you know why I’ve had to resort to mom pants in the past–I had no clothes that fit!

Pile of clothes too small

I counted about 22 tops, 18 bottoms, 5 dresses, 3 pieces of activewear, 1 bathing suit, 1 bra, and 1 coat. I tried on everything to see if it fit after I purposely gained a bit of weight following losing too much last summer. I was able to add a few tops and a pair of jeans to my current wardrobe, which I was thrilled about. The rest was divided into items to donate, items for ThredUp, and items to be kept for when/if I’m pregnant in the future. I”m glad to know that I’ll have a nice wardrobe I don’t have to pay for should that time come (no, Mom, I’m not subtly hinting that I’m pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant…don’t worry, you’ll be one of the first to know when it’s time).

As I was trying on my clothes, I thought it might be good to do a check-in from my last post since the other one was over two months ago. At that time I had gained ten pounds since the summer,  five of them since starting the blog in November. So, how has my weight fared since then? Let’s check it out (vertical lines are increments of 5 pounds).

Weight changes past 6 months

I’m still up at about the same weight as March. You can see how steady it’s been since February (within a 2-3 pound range, which is a normal variation for most people).

Weight change 3 months

My BMI is still in the middle of the normal range, which is a great place to be! I have no idea what my body fat percentage is, but I’ll probably be checking in with a personal trainer I worked with back in September and see if she can measure that. I would like to know as I was feeling like I had a little too much jiggle on my abdomen (visceral fat is no good and the place I unfortunately tend to store it first), but it seems that since swapping my morning yogurt parfait for a smoothie, as well as increased the intensity on some of my workouts, it’s melted away a bit.

BMI chart

I also showed you this picture last time:

Before and after weight gain

I just happened to take an updated picture last week, which was perfect timing (yes, I’m wearing the same top as in the March picture).

May body changes

I also found a picture of me from vacation that I’ve been hesitant to show, mostly because I’m in a bathing suit. But I think it perfectly illustrates how messed up my body was that the picture of in a tank and shorts can’t. Thankfully the bikini is hiding some of my ribs you could see at the time, but you can see how much I lack in the chest area as well as the sharp angles I’m rocking on my shoulders. Here I am, in all my skinny-fat glory:

Skinny fat

Yikes. Glad I’m not there any more. Well, not there there. That picture was taken in Switzerland. I’d give anything to go back there. Here’s what my view was while I was sitting there:

Lake Thun, Interlaken-Unterseen

Lake Thun, Switzerland

I noted back in March that it would be interesting to see what happened once I was able to run more and the weather got warmer. I do feel that my appetite is back to normal now that it’s warmer. My appetite was crazy over the winter. It was so hard for me to figure out if I really needed to eat or if my body was just tricking me into it since it was extra cold this winter.

The increased running actually hasn’t changed my appetite much. If anything, it seems to have dulled it slightly. I’m not reaching for a second helping at dinner as much and I’m not getting the hungry horrors about an hour after dinner.

It seems I’ve stayed on an even keel since the late winter and I’m so grateful to be here. But it’s not about the weight at the end of the day. It’s about being able to do what I want with my body and feeling good about myself. Sure, I still have fat days just like anyone else, and want to remain at a healthy weight while looking as good as I can, but mostly I want to feel confident, strong, and as though I can tackle anything. That’s what’s important to me. The numbers on the scale can go up and down (within reason), but as long as I feel good about myself and feel I am healthy, that’s all that matters.

Questions: How are you doing now that the weather has changed? Do you find your appetite dulled a bit, whether due to the weather or exercise intensity? Do you change up how you eat according to the seasons? Have you found a weight where you and your body are happiest?

Friday Favorite: Return to Running

Can you believe we’re halfway through May? Where the heck did the past two weeks go?

May 16 2014

Maybe it was the craziness of the last two weeks of my class that made it go by so quickly (which I got an A in, by the way–good to know I’ve still got it!).

Final grade

 You know I’m rounding that up to 95%, right? 

So, I’m sure you probably saw today’s favorite coming from a mile away (or 3,446 miles for Karen). I’ve talked about my experience with the Return to Running program many times over the past six months.

Cool down walk

WHH creeping on me during a stage about midway through the plan.

For those of you who haven’t been following the whole time, it’s a program developed by PhysioAdvisor.com to help those of us who have sustained lengthened injuries to slowly and safely make our way back to running.

PhysioAdvisor.com logo

After I was discharged from physical therapy last November I had no idea how to start on my path back to running. When I had last tried getting back to running last August after recovering from my other injury, I developed the plantar fasciitis that landed me back in physical therapy through November. Needless to say I was a bit apprehensive on how to move forward. I needed a systematic approach, but what? That was when I stumbled upon this great program after spending a lot of frustrating time searching online for a solid plan.

Return to running plan

I followed it to a T. I had a few setbacks, figured out what the problems were, and then moved forward. I’m amazed I didn’t have more setbacks given my year of injuries in 2013. In fact, the last few stages flew  by with very few needing repeats. Though it took me six months, I finally made it to stage 19 on Wednesday!

Return to running all stages

It was really rewarding to see this on my RunKeeper when I finished:

RunKeeper fastest run

I may have been a bit too enthusiastic, though, because my knees became quite sore about halfway through. I think the problem was going a bit too fast for my first full run back:

RunKeeper splits

Unintentional negative splits! 

Thankfully, they didn’t hurt once I was done and they still haven’t hurt more than usual. Going to need to keep up foam rolling the ITBs and running on the grass.

Running on grass path

I would highly recommend this program to anyone trying to negotiate their way back to running following an injury. I couldn’t be happier with the results and am excited to move on to a more interesting training schedule (Tempo runs! HIIT! Hills!) and start racing again! I don’t plan on increasing my mileage by more than 10% a week, nor increasing the speed or intensity too quickly. It’s been helpful to reach out to Nora, who beat me to finishing the program, to see how she’s progressed in her runs.

For those who are coming back from an injury, but want to come back to a sport, PhysioAdvisor also has a plan for that as well. Additionally, they have tons of other resources for dealing with injury, from stretches for your particular injury, to taping technique. Some of the content is locked for members only, but for a nominal fee you can gain a lot of additional helpful information. I haven’t bought a membership yet, but I may to see if there is some extra helpful information for my elbow.

Well, in the words of my Welsh co-worker, there you have it and there you are. Hope you have a great weekend!

Questions: Have you had to come back from injury after an extended period of time? Are there any programs out there that you love, whether it’s a marathon training plan or a HIIT workout? Any fun weekend plans?

Quick Tip: DIY Coffee Scrub

I love a life hack that allows me to save money, reuse something, and reduce my exposure to chemicals. What amazing thing could have all of these benefits? A coffee scrub!

French press coffee

My two loves: French press coffee and Game of Thrones

Whenever I shave my legs (and this time of year that’s way too often for my sensitive skin), I need to exfoliate so I don’t get ingrown hairs. Even if you don’t get ingrown hairs, it’s a good way to get rid of the top layer of dead skin to give you a closer shave.

So how do you make it? It’s super simple. First, get yourself some coffee grounds, used or unused. I use the ones that we brewed that morning and make sure to grab them before they end up in our compost pail.

Drip coffee maker coffee grounds

I’ll throw these in a bowl, or if it’s the weekend and we’ve made French press, I’ll grab the entire carafe.

French press coffee grounds

Note that depending on the type of coffee, the grounds may be finer or more coarse. Grounds for drip coffee are generally more fine, compared to the course grounds you need for French press. I haven’t found much of a difference, but the finer ones may go down your drain more easily.

Next, grab your choice of oil. I usually take olive oil or coconut oil as I already use these on my skin for a variety of reasons (more on that in future post). I find it easiest to put about 1/4 c into a plastic container so, 1. I’m not getting the container wet in the shower and, 2. they won’t break if I drop them (bare feet and broken glass is not a good combo).

Olive oil and coconut oil for skin care

Then, head into the bathroom. If you’re taking a bath or shower already, I suggest waiting to exfoliate until you’re done with everything else. The exposure warm water over a few minutes helps the skin and hair soften and will make it easier to shave (if you choose to do so at this time).

Once you’re ready to exfoliate, take a small handful of grounds and combine with as much oil as you like, then smooth over your entire leg. Yes, it will make a bit of a mess, but it cleans up easily. Just be careful not to use too much oil or the bottom of your shower will get dangerously slippery.

Have you ever noticed that caffeine is often an ingredient in cellulite creams and scrubs? This is because it tightens the skin, temporarily improving the appearance of cellulite. Bonus points for the added benefit! Another bonus is that since you made this yourself with only two ingredients and you didn’t buy a scrub, you’re saving some money and reducing you exposure to weird chemicals that may be lurking in conventional scrubs.

In running news, I’m hoping to head out this afternoon to do the final stage in my Return to Running plan this afternoon! I can’t believe I finally made it! Six months of being patient with my body has certainly paid off! I know I shouldn’t put the cart before the horse, but I’m already contemplating signing up for a race, doing tempo runs, etc. Finally some variety!

Return to running stage 18

Questions: Do you make your own scrubs at home? What are some of your favorite combinations?

How Long Should You Hold a Stretch?

Happy Monday and Happy (belated) Mother’s Day to all of the fabulous moms out there. I don’t know how you ladies do it! I hope you all had a wonderful day. The weather was heavenly in Massachusetts, and as I predicted, it seemed we went right from winter to summer. It was in the 80s!

Crabapple blossoms

Crabapple tree finally blossoming about 2 weeks later than usual

We had a lovely brunch yesterday with my parents, grandmother, parents-in-law, brothers-in-law, and my husband’s Grammie. It was such a whirlwind that I didn’t snap any pictures, despite making a point to take out our camera. The only thing I captured was cooking the veggies for the frittata the night before:

Veggie frittata filling

Everything cooked right in the cast iron. I love one-pot/pan cooking!

Today I wanted to talk about stretching because I have found it to be so beneficial for recovering from my injuries as well as staying injury-free. Since I’ve already shared my favorite stretches for the lower body, I wanted to specifically talk about how long to hold stretches* for because I’ve found people tend to rush through them. So,

How long to hold a stretch

My answer? At least twenty seconds. How did I arrive at this number? That’s how long my physical therapist told me I was to hold my prescribed stretches and I’ve been doing it ever since. When I first started doing this, 20 seconds seemed like forever. Now I’ll often hold a stretch for longer to allow myself to go deeper into the stretch. And, not only do I hold them for 20 seconds, but I often do two sets!

Quad stretch

To make the most of holding a stretch this long, use your breath to help ease you deeper into the stretch. Those that do yoga will know what I’m talking about, but for those who haven’t done it, use your inhale to relax your muscles while you’re in the stretch, and use your exhale to go deeper. Don’t force anything, because that can do more harm than good. Push it to where you feel it, but it shouldn’t be painful. I find it amazing how much deeper I can go as I relax the surrounding muscles and then use the exhale to stretch further.

Don’t forget to keep the rest of your muscles loose when you’re stretching as well. I sometimes find myself tensing up other areas of my body as I try to get a deeper stretch and have to constantly remind myself to keep it loose. As my girl Jillian likes to say when stretching the hammies,

Jillian Michaels streching quote

That being said, for anyone who does her DVDs, I would caution that she does not hold stretches long enough. Much of the time she seems to hold them for less than 10 seconds each. I have found this to be more of a problem in her quick workout DVDs such as 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30, probably to add to the speed of the workout. I always stop the DVD during the cool down and do my stretches. Don’t forget that you need to listen to your body and I’m guessing you’ll hear it asking for you to hold that stretch longer!

*Please note that I’m referring to static stretching. Static stretches are isolated stretches that you hold for a length of time and should be done at the end of a workout as opposed to dynamic stretching, or stretching that utilizes movement through the stretch and is done as part of a warm-up. A static stretch for shoulders, for example, would be when you pull the arm across the body to the opposite side, whereas a dynamic stretch for the shoulders would be arm circles.

Questions: How was your Mother’s Day? How’s the weather been lately where you are? Do you have a stretching routine? How long do you hold stretches for?

Friday Favorite: Yogi Tea

Happy Friday! This week flew by surprisingly fast. Although I should probably wait on that sentiment given that I’m training people on parts of our new electronic medical record all day today.

I’ll keep it short and sweet today given I had a really long April recap earlier this week. Today’s favorite is something I’ve been using for the past few years: Yogi Tea! One of my favorite flavors that I have been unable to find duplicated in any other tea is their Egyptian Licorice.

Egyptian Licorice Yogi Tea

I’m actually not a huge tea drinker (I love my bold, black coffee!), but I  have found myself drinking it more and more, especially in the colder months. I tend toward herbal teas as opposed to caffeinated/decaf teas. The Egyptian licorice flavor is silky smooth on the throat and nice and warming. I often find myself having it on afternoons at work to warm me up.

One of my other go-to’s is the Yogi ginger tea.

Ginger Yogi Tea

As you can see on the front, ginger aids digestion. Ginger is also a great anti-inflammatory. I find myself reaching for it when I’m feeling especially sore from a workout or if something’s not sitting well in my stomach. It’s spicy-sweet and definitely wakes me up a bit thanks to the spice. I’m not one for spice (thanks to my 1/4 Irish genes?), but the spice of ginger is different. It’s warming, but doesn’t linger in your mouth the way that chili-type spice does.

I love that Yogi Tea explains the benefits of their ingredients on the box.

Ginger Yogi Tea ingredients

They also include a yoga pose and the best way to brew the tea.

Yogi Tea yoga pose

And one of my favorite parts? The lovely sayings on the tea tags. I couldn’t find a picture of my own, but you can go to their website and get a piece of wisdom any time you want!

One of my other favorites is the Yogi Bedtime tea.

Yogi Bedtime Tea

Like the Egyptian licorice flavor, this has a nice, mellow, smooth and soothing flavor. It definitely helps me unwind at the end of the day and get my mind and body ready for sleep.

Of course, one of the best parts I haven’t yet mentioned is that most of their teas are organic. No need to worry about nasty chemicals on the herbs you’re drinking! They also go on sale frequently at my local grocery store and at Whole Foods. I always snag a couple of boxes when they can be had for less money!

In terms of a running update, I did stage 17 yesterday. I hadn’t run since last Friday because my funky knee felt a little wonky. I was out of work early because of the long day today. I had eaten lunch at 11:30 and grabbed a date with some peanut butter on my way out for my run around 2:30. I don’t know if it was the lack of food or the fact that my run started off with some pretty steep hills, but my legs felt like cement blocks despite a rest day the day before. I guess I now know that I definitely need something in me about an hour or so before a run.

My plantar fasciitis foot was feeling a bit tight last night, but I made sure to do my regular ice massage as well as slapping an ice pack on my foot while reading in bed. Still a bit tight today, but no pain. I need to get back to more regular use of the Foot Rubz and tennis ball to loosen up that fascia.

Foot Rubz ball

For this weekend, I’m looking forward to our annual Mother’s Day brunch that WHH and I host for our moms and grandmothers. I’m not sure of the menu this year, but I often make maple glazed bacon, baked French toast, veggie frittata, a large fruit salad, and mimosas. Mmmm…

Martha Stewart Maple Glazed Bacon

Questions: Do you drink tea? Caffeinated, decaf, and/or herbal? What are some of your favorite blends? Any weekend plans?

 

Quick Tip: Let It Breathe

Okay, so this tip is mostly for the ladies, but it could apply to you gents as well. We’re about to get a little personal, but I hope you’ll stick with me because I love this tip, courtesy of a friend of mine. She told me about this about three years ago and I haven’t turned back since.

What’s one of the best things about getting into your PJs at night, ladies? Taking off our bras, right? I know not everyone does this (I’m looking at you, Carrie Bradshaw!), but I believe most women do.

Carrie Bradshaw wearing bra to bed

So then I ask you, why not your underwear as well?

Hear me out: many of us sit all day, have our legs crossed, wear underwear with synthetic fabric (great when working out, not so great after), have on tight pants (hello skinny jeans!) or tights. Think about the lack of air circulation. That’s prime breeding ground for all kinds of yucky issues we don’t want going on down there.

Woman sitting with legs crossed

Source

Forgoing underwear may pose an issue if you sleep in only a top. Or perhaps it’s no issue at all and you don’t have a problem flying free. I personally like to have something covering my lower half. It it’s hot and I’m only wearing a tank to bed, I will put on loose cotton underwear. In the winter or months I’m not sweating like a pig, I’m usually in pants or shorts, so no problemo letting it breathe.

Bedhead eiffel tower henley pajamas

My fave new PJ set courtesy of my mom.

Of course, you may ask about what to do during “that time of the month.” Sure, I definitely wear underwear on most nights as a necessity. But as soon as I don’t need to, they come right back off.

Thankfully, I’ve never been one to have issues down there, but I do feel this has made the whole area “healthier,” if you will. If you tend to have some issues, I believe this may really help. I dare you to try it. It’s as liberating as taking off that bra at the end of the night. 🙂

Questions: I won’t get too personal and ask if you currently do this (though feel free to share if you’re comfortable),  so let me ask if you would consider doing this. Do you love getting into your PJs at the end of the day as much as I do (or is that just a dumb question, because why wouldn’t everyone)? Any health tips you’d like to share for “down there”?