Quick Tip: Take Off Your Shoes

Hi all! I know it’s been a while, but I am still here and still dedicated to this blog. I’m just trying to figure out a schedule that will work around my life. I’m back in class (microbiology) and fall is a busy time of year, but I do miss interacting with all of you and sharing ideas on how to live a healthy life.

That being said, today’s tip is something I’ve adopted over the past few months. I told you how much I enjoyed the Not Just Paleo podcast with Dr. Ray McClanahan and how it really got me thinking about foot health and shoes. It influenced me to adopt more of a shoe-free lifestyle (when appropriate). We’ve always had a no shoe policy in our house to keep down on tracking in dirt, allergens, and any nasty chemicals. Our shoe collection by the door can attest to that:

Shoe tray

In the warmer months, we just take our shoes off and walk around the house barefoot. Yes, this flies in the face of advice I was given and have given for anyone with plantar fasciitis. In fact, I’m kind of convinced that my podiatrist’s advice to wear shoes in the house may have made it worse/prolonged it because I found that my ankle mobility decreased. Since kicking the shoes off and keeping up with my exercises, my ankle mobility has increased.

Bare feet on wood floor

Bare is best!

In the cooler months, we have our slippers waiting for us by the door. Our slippers are fit loosely, have minimal support, and wide toe boxes. We’ll be breaking those out soon given the recent decrease in temperatures we’ve had here in Massachusetts!

I even make a point to walk around our yard barefoot and do some sprints, or “strides” as runners call them, across the grass. I walk across dirt, stones, you name it. It’s healthy for our feet to have a variety of surfaces so we can develop muscles that have been weakened through our shoe choices and the fact that we do need to wear shoes in our modern day.

Running barefoot on grass

Source

Next, I’m going to experiment with more minimal/barefoot shoes. That will be a post all on its own once I have enough data for you. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

Questions: Do you make a point to go barefoot? Do you have a no shoe policy in your house? Do you run around outside without shoes? Is foot health important to you?

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: 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?

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?

 

What’s Working Lately

Happy Monday! This weekend flew by! The weather was pretty gross here in Massachusetts-back to the 40s, rainy, and just dreary. Though it made staying in and doing homework for most of it a bit easier, I suppose. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze in another run in between showers. It threatened the whole time, but I outran the storm clouds!

April showers

As I was running, and feeling so grateful that I had made it to stage 16 relatively uneventfully, I was thinking about what’s been working for me lately to get me to this point. Of course, then I started thinking about all the things in my life that are just kind of geling, which then lead me to think about some things that aren’t. So, in true type-A fashion, I started making some lists when I got home. 🙂

What’s Working 

  • My current workout routine: This consists of running 2-3x a week using the Return to Running program faithfully. I’ve also made sure to incorporate one yoga routine a week, one barre3 workout, and strengthening.
  • Injury prevention: As I’ve been amping up the running, I’m sure to massage and do an ice rub following each outing. In addition to icing on the day of the run, I’ve also been icing my foot nearly every single night when I get in bed to read for about 10-20 min. Foam rolling 1-2 times a week, especially along the IT band and into my glutes, has helped keep my glute injury at bay.

Ice massage for plantar fasciitis

  • Running on varied surfaces: My feet really love me when I run on grass, so I make a point to have a trail run or a run along an area with grass in one of my weekly runs. I can really feel the difference and I think this has helped to keep the plantar fasciitis at bay.
  • Chipping away at homework: For the first half of the semester, I did the bulk of my homework on the weekends. Of course, this left me trying to cram a lot of information into a short time and not getting much else done on the weekends. I’ve been trying to make a point of doing one hour of homework every night. Breaking big jobs into smaller tasks is a concept I need to work on. I let myself get overwhelmed with the big picture, decide to tackle it all at once, and stress myself out unnecessarily.

Proper dissection safety

 Dissection time!

  • Getting to bed earlier: My energy has been so much better lately thanks to making an effort to getting to bed about 15-20 minutes earlier. It makes the evening shorter, but it’s so worth it!

Of course, this list leads me to consider the opposite topic…

What’s Not Working

  • My diet: I seem to be hovering a pound or two higher than my usual range the past few weeks. This wouldn’t bother me except that I feel uncomfortable and have a heaviness in my midsection. Is it true weight gain? Is it because of the time of the month? Is it irregularity? Is it the prednisone? Whatever it is, something needs to change. I’m definitely not my usual self. So I’ve decided to try to cut down my dairy intake a bit. I love my morning yogurt parfaits, but I shouldn’t have them every.single.day. I’m also going to refocus on my fruit and vegetable intake, decrease my sugar, increase my fiber, and double-check my calories as all this running has made me a bit rungry. I also ordered the RawJuvenate’s 2 Week Detox Kit through a Groupon (it includes that supergreens mix I loved from my Greatist box!). I’ll be having this for breakfast every day and am hoping it will help “reset” my system. My goal isn’t to lose weight, but be back to feeling myself.

Pumpkin, kale, and almond butter smoothie

This morning’s pumpkin, kale, & almond butter protein smoothie

  • My tennis elbow: The prednisone worked great for the first few days. I felt like a new woman! But then, even though I was still on it (two more days to go), I started feeling the tightness more and more. I’m not back to where I started, but it’s not near the result I was hoping for based on how I felt the first few days. I’m going to try some ART therapy tomorrow to see if I can loosen up the muscles before it comes back with a vengeance. If that doesn’t work, I’m going for a second opinion. I saw what life could be without the constant pain and tightness and I want that back!

On the Edge of Not Working

  • My current life pace: I feel like I’m right on the edge of being overwhelmed. I’ve been able to work everything in so far with taking class and having it fit into my life (that is, still being able to work out regularly, prepare fresh, healthy meals, keep up with the house, blog, and have a social life). But there are times when I feel like the balance could almost tip. In that case, I will need to assess what can go and what can stay because this path I’m on is important to me. Whatever is in the way of that will have to go, whether it’s changing up blogging to only twice a week, or giving up TV altogether.

That’s that for now. A bit of a mind dump, but I wanted to share what’s working for me in case there’s something there that could help you. I think it’s good to assess our day-to-day life to make sure we’re living a happy, healthy life. We only have this day, this moment, and we need to make the most of it.

Aim High graphic

Questions: What about you? What’s working for you lately? What’s not working?

 

Quick Tip: Run on the Grass

Where did the weekend go? Did yours go by as quickly as mine? My dreaded weekend task wasn’t as bad as I led myself to believe. Tedious, a bit smelly (like paint fumes), and frustrating at times, but overall not too bad. I found the connective tissue encasing each muscle and muscle group to be fascinating. It was like a thick cobweb or thin batting like you’d use for a quilt.

However, when I came across what I believe was the IT band, it was much different. It has a silvery appearance to it, and almost had an iridescence.  The fibers were thick and hard to pull apart from the muscle compared to the other connective tissue. When they did come apart, the fibers had distinct vertical threads that looked like fiberglass when I held it up to the light. It seemed more plastic than (previously) living tissue. I thought anyone out there who deals with IT band issues might find that interesting.

iliotibial band

Speaking of injury, I have been flying through my Return to Running stages lately! I’m now at stage 13! I’ve gone up a stage or two a week for the past month and couldn’t be happier. The big trick with keeping my plantar fasciitis at bay, besides keeping up with my strengthening and stretching routine, has been consistent icing. I do an ice massage the day I run, after rolling my arch on my Foot Rubz and lacrosse ball, then make sure to slap an ice pack on it every single night while I’m reading in bed. That’s all! I forgot to do it after my Friday run and guess what? Discomfort the past two day.

My only problem now is building my cardio and leg endurance back up! I stayed in shape cardio and muscle-wise during my injury, but there’s nothing like running to make you feel out of shape!

Return to Running program

The other thing I think that has helped me brings me to today’s tip: running on the grass. Whenever I’m running around my neighborhood, I try to run on the grass whenever I get a chance. It’s usually the grass between the sidewalk and the street, but sometimes it’s the edge of someone’s lawn if there is no sidewalk. If the edge of the lawn is really nice, I won’t, but if it’s yucky crabgrass like in front of our house, I’ll run on the very edge of it. Use your best judgement–you don’t want your neighbors getting mad at you!

Running on grass

If the snow weren’t there, I’d be running along the fence

It even becomes a bit of a game for me, dodging the trees that interrupt my path, then jumping back on the grass. Makes the run a bit more interesting.

Why do I do it? The softer terrain is better on your feet and joints. Pavement and sidewalks are notoriously hard on your feet, the effects of which travel all the way up the body.

I can feel the difference right away. Friday’s run along the river near my work was heavenly because I was able to stay on a large piece of grass the entire time. My foot didn’t bother me in the least, not even during my warm-up!

Running path along the river

Of course, I had to be careful to dodge the roots of the trees and dog poo. No need to twist my ankle or ruin my shoes. Running on an uneven/grass/trail surface makes it a bit more challenging to look ahead  instead of down the entire time, which is generally better form for running, but all in all, it feels so much better.

Questions: How was your weekend? Do anything unusual? How’s your running or workout routine going? Do you run or walk on the grass to save your feet and body?

New Year’s Goals Check-In: March

Personal Goals

  • Try a new trend/clothing item I wouldn’t normally: N/A

I don’t need any clothes right now. We’ll see what happens as I put away our winter clothes and take out the spring/summer clothes and take an inventory. I am tempted to try Stitch Fix, though…

  • Take more pictures: B+

I’m still taking a decent amount of pictures and–even better–keeping them organized moving forward. We just made our free Shutterfly book. I’m not crazy about the quality of the book or the options, but hey, it was (mostly) free (had to pay S&H and for a few extra pages). Looking over our pictures to choose for the book made me want to go back through them more thoroughly to organize/make notes on them.

Europe vacation Shutterfly book

 

The plan this month is to frame a wedding picture and get albums for our proofs.

  •  Make a new menu item weekly: A-

We have been making at least one new recipe each week and I’m happy to report that they’re mostly “real” recipes, with some made-up ones thrown in there. I’m joining in on Carrots ‘n’ Cake’s April Cookbook Challenge  to break into more of that giant Bittman book. She also did a great series on shopping at WF/Trader Joe’s on a budget, which has inspired me to be better about meal planning and perhaps be able to shop at WF more!

Coconut curry peanut butter stir fry

  • Travel:A-

Excited to have more definite plans! We’re making definite plans to go to Colorado to visit my brother when he moves there this summer. We’re hoping to spend 5-7 days in the Boulder/Denver area and would love any suggestions if you’ve been there before!

A trip to the Netherlands to visit friends is looking less and less like a possibility this year. The flights are just too darn expensive for us. We will see how things look in the fall, but I wouldn’t go without WHH and he can’t take time away from school.

  • Read more, especially instead of watching TV: B+

I finally finished A Clash of Kings and am now on to A Storm of Swords (which is even longer!)! Still lots of reading for class. Moved the Blog, Inc. book to the coffee table in the living room to encourage me to read that instead of watching TV, which has been much more minimal this month.

A Sword of Storms

As you saw earlier in the month, we finished the inexpensive industrial-inspired shelves for the kitchen. We haven’t gotten to much else, but as I’ve said before, school is the priority. School, healthy eating, working out, everyday life (I include that in everyday life).

  • Simplify house further: C+

Not quite as good as last month, but we’re slowly getting there. Another bag of items off to be donated and a bunch of (empty) boxes cleared out of the basement. That dreaded closet, though…

  • Meet with financial advisor: C+

Even though we haven’t done this yet, we have a plan. Taxes were done last month, so we have more information to go on.

  • Write reviews, such as for products and travel:C+

Though I still need to go back and do reviews from our travel last summer, I’ve been really good moving forward with items I buy and things we do. So, I’ve upped my score this month.

Professional:

  • Take co-requisite courses for nursing school: A+

Still on A&P I right now and signed up for A&P II for the summer. Plus, my average is now up to 95%!

Skeleton model for Anatomy and Physiology I

  • Start nursing school: ?

As I told you last month, I’m on the wait-list for Fall 2014. I’ve decided to just focus on the next few months for right now: get through A&P I&II, and start thinking about my plan for the fall in mid-summer. I still need to take microbiology (fun!), so that’s a possibility for the fall.

  • Get better at WordPress and blogging in general: B

I’m continuing to learn new things every day and further develop my voice and focus. I would like to get better at preparing my posts even more ahead of time and posting at set times on the days I post. WHH is working on the logo and new banner. I have a few exciting things going on this month: a new product review and my first guest blogger! Stay tuned…

  • As time allows, get personal training and/or nutritionist certification: N/A

Again, not a focus right now, though it is on my mind constantly. We’ll see what the fall brings. I’d love some feedback from anyone out there who is certified in either field. I’m definitely interested in doing both, especially since I strongly feel they go together.

Health and Wellness:

  • Try new physical endeavor as my body continues to heal from all of the injuries last year: A-

I’m happy that I’m still headed in the right direction, slowly but surely. I’ve told myself I wouldn’t worry about how long it would take to come back and I’m following through on that promise to myself. Workouts have been mostly at home due to budgeting time for class, so no swimming or spin classes yet, but I’ve still been able to mix it up. I recently tried one of the Ballet Beautiful DVDs I’ve heard so much about. It seemed to be a more traditional ballet-type class. I personally didn’t love it and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I was looking for more instruction on form? I think I just prefer the more yoga/pilates-influenced barre workouts.

Ballet Beautiful Body Blast DVD

I have my first race on Sunday as the running club representative from my work, though I will be walk/running it. I had a bit of a set-back with my plantar fasciitis last month, but I think it had to do more with breaking in my orthotics. I’m finally at stage 9 (yesterday’s run!) of the Return to Running program. Who knows, maybe that marathon talk wasn’t so crazy?

Outside run

In terms of my tennis elbow, occupational therapy has been going well. I’m happy to report that I’ve seen some slow improvements. I’ve been mostly staying off of my elbow (no upper body workouts or yoga poses), but I tested it out a bit last week with the ballet workout. It didn’t hurt while I was doing it, so I went ahead. It was probably a bit too much, too quickly, which resulted in it being painful for a few days, but then luckily died back down. A good sign, says the OT.

  • Work on reducing exposure to pesticides, hormones, chemicals, and other toxins: B+

We’ve been really good at making an effort to buy more natural meats, whether they’re vegetarian-fed (the cheapest of the natural meats), grass-fed, and/or organic. Whenever I see some of the meat is on sale (usually because it’s about to expire), I stock up! It’s great having it at our disposal in the freezer and I love knowing we’re reducing our exposure to all kinds of weird hormones and chemicals.

Grass fed beef on sale frozen

To recap my monthly grades so far:

January: C

February: B-

This month’s overall GPA is…  B+. Not bad, not bad at all. Going in the right direction. I’ll take it.

One thing I do want to focus on more this month as we have so much going on is making sure to take the time to slow down. Life is going by so fast and I want to just press the pause button! WHH and I had a little celebration for our 13 year anniversary (being together) and it was such a nice treat on a random weeknight: dinner out after we both worked out (and showered), followed by dessert at one of those fro-yo sundae bars I’ve never been to, then curling up on the couch to watch the phenomenal Walking Dead finale. We are usually go-go-go on weekdays (work, workout, dinner prep and eat, showers, studying, prep for next day, sleep), so it was so nice to truly enjoy the night and not feel like we had to do anything.

Whisky sour

WHH’s been on a whisky kick lately thanks to a friend from KY introducing him to the good stuff.

Questions: How are you doing with any goals you set for the year? Do you feel like life is going by too fast sometimes? What do you do to try to slow it down?

Friday Favorite: Greatist Parcel Favorites

Happy Friday! I’m a little under the weather here, but I really can’t complain since I managed to evade any sickness for the entire fall and winter using this approach. I’m not willing to say, “I’m sick” just yet–I still think I can beat this thing before it gets the best of me.

Emergen-C, echinacea tea, licorice tea, coffee

I usually have my coffee black, but need milk when I feel sick!

For today’s favorite, I wanted to revisit some of the items I received in my Parcel Greatist box (full Parcel Greatist box review post here). I’m personally always curious about how much people actually like the items they received from a subscription box and if they’d make a point to go out and buy them, so I’d thought I’d do a run-down of the items that really stood out and that I plan to buy.

Greatist Parcel Box

December’s Box:

Salamandra Naturals Lavender Soap: This soap was seriously great! All natural and exfoliating but also hydrating. Sign me up! Bonus: if you follow Salamandra Soaps on Twitter, you get a discount! Just use discount code twitter.

Salamandra Lavender Oats Soap back

January’s box (yes, that’s all for December’s box, but this box was much better!):

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts Raw Shelled Hemp Seeds: I enjoyed these so much that I promptly went out and bought more once I was all out. I love that they add more protein, fiber, and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) to my weekend smoothies.

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts

Raw Green Organics Super Greens: These are another item that I have thoroughly enjoyed adding to my smoothies! It is a healthy, antioxidant-rich organic vegetable blend packed with EFAs, amino acids, phytonutrients and fiber. It’s definitely on the expensive side, but my small packet lasted me well over a month of having two smoothies a week, so a little bit goes a long way.

RawJuvenate Organic Super Greens

Look at how green it makes my smoothie!

Smoothie using RawJuvenate Organic Super Greens

Amala Hydrating Cream Cleanser, Yogurt Mask, and Face Cream: Another expensive item, I know, but I can’t begin to tell you how well this moisturized my skin compared to my regular moisturizer! My usual cream quickly sinks into my skin, hydrating it, but leaving the surface a bit dry. This cream was not only absorbed, but left a barrier on the top of my skin, making it feel smooth and nourished. Add to that the fact that my skin didn’t freak out, and that they use organic plants and custom distill them, and this is definitely a quality product. I will be adding this to my Christmas wish list!

Amala hydrate collection

After having sore heels last weekend, I think I’m back on the upswing. I was able to go out yesterday and felt pretty good. I changed things up and instead of using KT tape and my old orthotics, used only my new orthotics. Both of my heels hurt for the first five minutes of walking, but since they both hurt I decided it was because I was still breaking in my orthotics.

Langer custom orthotic

New orthotic on right, old orthotic on left

Once I started my run/walk intervals (stage 7), they felt much better. The Achilles of my PF foot felt a bit tight, but no pain. The only real problem was my feet felt clunky, almost as though I had cinderblocks in my shoes, to the point that I felt my form was off. It was probably a combination of the fact that I was coming down with something (my legs felt fatigued) and adjusting to the weight/stability of the orthotics themselves. But I just had to get out and enjoy the first day of spring!

Questions: Do you have a subscription box? If so, which one(s) and what are some of your favorite products that you’ve received? Did you do anything to celebrate the first day of spring?

Bone Health, Vitamin D, and Running Woes

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Anyone else celebrating today? I’m one-quarter Irish, which I blame for my inabilty to handle spicy foods and ridiculously pale skin, but also thank for my ability to hold my alcohol well and smize with ease (Tyra Banks reference). I can slightly stereotype since I am the type, right?

Green water fills allthe fountains in Savannah, GA for St. Patrick’s Day 2005

This post is a bit of a brain dump, but I hope you find it interesting and/or helpful in some way.

Lots of studying/homework and housework at house WHD this past weekend. This week in A&P I we’re learning about bone tissue and I found information on fractures and bone density very interesting and relative to my life. Granted, we all have bones so all of the information should have been relative, but you know what I mean…

In terms of fractures, I found it helpful to see a visual of how a fracture heals. I showed the illustration below from my textbook to WHH, who is on the mend from a stress fracture. Did you know that the process below takes 8-12 weeks? So just imagine that if you kept working out with a stress fracture or didn’t allow the proper time for it to heal how much longer it would take! WHH can feel some bumpy areas on his shin, which we’re betting are the result of the bone remodeling in step 4.

McGraw-Hill fracture healing

© McGraw-Hill

In terms of bone density, the book stressed the importance of continually placing stress on the bones in order for them to maintain their strength. While I knew this all along, I think that reading it in a scientific book, versus say a health magazine, makes it more valid in my mind. I know that sounds silly, but I think of my book as not having any fluff in it, so if the author is making a point about something, it’s quite relative and important to our physiology.

So how does stress impact bone strength? When you stress the bones through exercise and other weight-bearing activities, such as strength training, it stimulates bone cells to reinforce your bones, making them stronger and more dense. This is especially important as we get older because we reach our peak bone mass (maximum bone size) between the ages of 25 and 30. Reason #242 (of an infinite amount) to exercise today!

Speaking of bone health, check out how much my vitamin D level finally changed in the past 6 weeks!

Vitamin D Changes June 2013-March 2014

I’ve had chronically low vitamin D, to the point of being deficient back in June. Despite taking 1,000 IU every day since June, my level barely moved June and January. Then, at the advice of the chiropractor I was seeing for tennis elbow treatment, I started taking 10,000 IU every day. He suggested I take it for six weeks, then have my blood re-tested. If it had at that point risen, I was then to reduce the amount back to 5,000 IU.

I’m so happy with the results. I’m back down to about 4,000 IU/day (I only have 2,000 IU and 1,000 IU pills and 5 pills/day seemed a bit excessive). Vitamin D is important for a variety of reasons, bone health being only the tip of the iceberg. And the fact that we use it as a treatment for metastatic colon cancer only drives home the importance of it for me.

Running-wise, it was a bit of a frustrating weekend with my plantar fasciitis after such a good week last week! Maybe I pushed it too much with the amount of running and then adding in the real shoes?

I headed out Saturday intent on moving to stage 8 of Return to Running, but things were not good from the start. As soon as I walked outside my heel was bothering me (out of the blue—felt fine all day prior!). I decided to tough it out a bit to see if I was just sore. I did my 5 minute warm-up walk, then tried to start a slow jog. That lasted all of 10 seconds, and I walked home, for a total of 7 minutes. I was sore from doing Julie’s lower body workout on Friday, so I chalked it up to that.

Walking 3-15-14

The same thing happened when I headed out on Sunday. As soon as I got out the door, my heel hurt. So frustrating! I did tough it out, though, because I noticed my other heel was bothering me as well (when it never really has), so I figured I was maybe just still sore. Once I had been out for about 10 minutes I felt pretty good. Still, don’t want to be doing more harm than good.

Return to Running 3-16-14

I’m still using my old orthotics in my shoes, while breaking in my new orthotics walking around the house, so I wonder if my feet are getting confused between the two and I’m making things worse by switching. I used KT tape both times and I that think for the first time, it made things worse, so the KT tape is staying off for now. I’m hoping to get in another session mid-week using my new orthotics and without any KT tape.

3-16-14 running splits

Not bad pacing for walking more than running.

Questions: Have you had to heal from a stress fracture? Are you worried about your bone health or Vitamin D? What do you do to try to keep your bones healthy? Have you had an injury that just kept lingering and you didn’t know what to do to move on?

Friday Favorite + Crazy Running Update

Today’s Friday Favorite was a gift from my parents when they used the Christmas gift we gave them. Huh? Well, our Christmas gift to my parents was a chocolate tour in Boston’s South End.  They had a blast and picked up some goodies along the way! My favorite item they picked up for us is Not Your Sugar Mama’s Be Cozy. That probably doesn’t mean much to you, so let’s look at what it is:

Not You Sugar Mama's Be Cozy front

It’s a Superfood Chocolate Mix! It contains raw cacao, coconut palm sugar, lucuma, cinnamon, mesquite, Himalayan sea salt, and vanilla. It’s absolutely delicious and good for you! I usually add about a teaspoon into my weekend smoothies.

Green smoothie with Not Your Sugar Mama's Be Cozy

I’ve also had it straight up as hot chocolate, adding a 50/50 mix of skim milk and almond milk.

Hot chocolate with Not Your Sugar Mama's Be Cozy

I love that it’s not overly sweet, but oh so chocolate-y.

I also love that it’s from a local company. NYSM was founded on the lovely Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard (yes, of Kennedy/Clinton/Obama/James Taylor/Jaws fame). If you’ve never had a chance to go, it is a wonderful place! I had never been until I started dating my husband 13 years ago as his family usually goes once a year and they were sweet enough to always ask me along. It’s a bit pricey and very crowded in the summer, but if you go with people who know the island and the quieter side of it, it’s heavenly.

Oak Bluffs ferry August 2012

Oak Bluffs, MV

I digress. This continuous winter weather has me dreaming of the warmer months to come.

Weather lately March 14, 2014

Anyway, back to the product! As you can see from the label, there are a lot of benefits to the ingredients they chose.

Not Your Sugar Mama's Be Cozy ingredients

You can currently only buy it through their online store or at one of the stores listed on their website. I’m hoping it comes to the Whole Foods near me soon so I can try all of their other delicious products! Oh, and be sure to check out their recipe page since smoothies and hot chocolate are just the tip of the iceberg!

Not Your Sugar Mama's Be Cozy inside

So sad to be nearing the bottom 😦

In running news, I’m happy to actually have some news for you! It’s kind of crazy news and may not even end up being news and wasn’t even news I was sure I wanted to share (yes, I was trying to see how much I could cram the word news into two sentences, just for fun—was that obnoxious?). It all started when Lora  shared a post  about Runner’s World giving away a vacation to Iceland. Having had a stopover there this past summer, I’m definitely intrigued to go back! As I read more of her post and checked out the entry website, I realized it also included two entries into the Reykjavík Marathon.

Now, I have never had the urge to run a marathon and figured I probably never would just because of the physical and mental toll, and especially because of my injuries this past year. But as I looked at it the entry more, I thought, “Why the heck not?” Now, don’t get me wrong—I realize my chance of winning this is about 1 in a million.

But I thought to myself, what if I did win? Could I even do it? Let’s see…the race is August 23. That’s about 23 weeks from now. Heck…I actually could! So, yeah, I’ve decided I’m going to start training with the mindset that I will run a marathon in August.

I realize this thinking is completely backwards. I’ve never done a half marathon, not even a 10k (I was training for one when I was injured last January)! Add on the fact that I’m coming back from an injury, and it sounds really, really stupid. This is not how I would normally think.

As cheesy as it sounds, this quote popped up in my head as I was contemplating all of this (whose author is either Les Brown or Norman Vincent Peale, depending on who you ask).

Shoot for the stars quote

The plan is to train for a marathon for the end of the summer/beginning of the fall. If my body isn’t taking it, I’ll scale it back to a half marathon. If my body still isn’t there, I’ll scale back to a 10k. And if I’m not even at that point, I’ll aim for a 5k. Again, backwards way of thinking because it seems like I’m setting myself up for disappointment, but I’m hopeful.

I’m especially hopeful because after my plantar fasciitis had been flaring up in the past few weeks, it’s finally started to feel better because I’ve done something I haven’t been doing: I’m pushing the issue. I bought ones of these based on advice from Emily, have been making sure to ice every day, and even ran two days in a row, going up a level the second day! Plus, I’ve started wearing regular shoes for half the day (I throw on my Cole Haans with my new orthotics, seen below in the middle, or sneakers, back on for the other half of the day).

Shoes shoes shoes

As you can see from above, I’m still rocking the KT tape, but I’m getting there! Finally! And I’m testing it out again tomorrow!

So that’s the big (though not definite) news for now. What about you? Anything crazy and new you’re doing? Anything you’re loving lately?