Sunday, April 28, 2013

Life Updates and Running Buddies

Update on my life: So I haven't posted at all this week; it's not that I haven't been doing anything worth writing about, but I simply just haven't had the time to write about it! Somehow the combination of work, running, random errands, preparing family meals, and social activities (okay, okay, and watching the Real Housewives of Miami Reunion Part 3) has just sucked every last second out of my days this past week. However, I promise I am still alive and cooking up new recipes and going on new running adventures which I will write about soon. I'm going to try to make a more concerted effort to write some truly useful posts this week. Things to look forward to:
- Chinese Broccoli-"Beef" Recipe
- Major Life Decision (aka a decision about my future)
- Chocolate Heath Bar Layer Cake Recipe
- Running posts
- Random......just lots of random

Just Keep Swimming Running....

Running Lately: So running lately has been good. It's just that I feel like I haven't been doing anything that exciting or pushing the pace that much. I've gotten lazy about speed specific workouts so instead of continuing to get faster I am just stuck at the same pace (8:30-ish). I also have been running the same loop by my house 2 out of the 3 days that I go on longer runs per week. HOWEVER, there are two pretty exciting things that have happened running-wise in the past couple of weeks:
1) My Dad and I have decided to do our Sunday long runs by the ocean in Santa Monica, which has been awesome. It's so nice to run a route rather than a loop, especially when it's for 14 miles or so.
2) During my run today, I met someone on my run (another runner) who runs slightly faster than me about halfway through my run. We started talking and ended up finishing my whole run together. Running with him and talking with him were both awesome, and running with him really made me push myself a little instead of taking it easy, and I ended up running 13.5 miles in 1hour 57 minutes. It wasn't super hard, but it wasn't easy either, and if hadn't been for such a great impromptu running partner it definitely wouldn't have happened. We had good conversation and a great workout; it was a great start to my day!

Running Buddies: My experience earlier this morning brings me to an important topic, that of running buddies. Some people only run if they are running with other people, and others absolutely hate running with others, and yet others fall somewhere in between. I myself am an in-betweener; I love myself a good running buddy, but at the same time, there are some days where I really need/want to go on a solo run. I used to be the type of person who refused to run with other people, but that was only because I had never tried it. Let me tell you what I like about running with people (occasionally):
- Pushing the Pace: It is likely that your running buddy isn't the exact same speed as you, and it is really awesome if you have a running buddy that is slightly faster than you so that it pushes you to keep up with them during a run.....hence making you faster.
- Two Activities at Once: I know this sounds silly, but a lot of people are so busy that they may have to choose between a meeting up with a friend for coffee or going on a run. However, if one of your friends happens to be a runner, then you two can run together and catch up on each others' thoughts on the latest episode of Real Housewives of Orange County....or you know, adult things.
- Safety: It is always safer to go on a run with a buddy than by yourself. This is especially true if you are running at night, early in the morning, on a secluded/low traffic route, or running through a questionable neighborhood. Be each others' body guards, it's awesome!
- Keeps you Accountable: Sometimes, I am so tired, both physically and mentally from the day, that it is tempting to skip a run. I know many people face this dilemma during the work week. However, if you have already made plans to run with a buddy, you are much less likely to skip your run than if you were going to run solo.
- Fun Runs: In somewhat the same vein as the previous point, running with a buddy is also just fun. I personally feel as though running with someone makes the run go by faster and easier, and it is also just fun to be social while out on a run.

And, that's all I have to say for today. Have a great Sunday!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Silence

Many things have caused my silence on the interwebs this week; from the tragic events in Boston, to receiving some major news and making some even more major life decisions, and getting to see one of my best friends who has been out of the country for at least 8 months, this week has been full of highs and lows.

Boston: First and foremost, as someone who has family and friends in Boston as well as a runner who knows people that ran the Boston Marathon this year, the events in Boston have been at the forefront of my thoughts. It really breaks my heart more than words can describe to see such innocent, good, and unsuspecting people being so horribly impacted by the cruel and irrational actions of two deranged people. I hope that we all remember the names of those who were lost in Boston, and remember how blessed we are to be alive with our loved ones every day. I do have to say that I wish the media would stop showing the pictures of the two brothers responsible for the horrible events in Boston. Although this may not be their intention, they just end up giving these horrible criminals a weird sort of celebrity status rather than focusing on the beautiful people who were lost in these tragic events. If these events have reminded me of anything, it is the importance of treasuring every moment in life, and every second you have with your loved ones. If you are in any position to help out the victims of the events in Boston, the Huffington Post has posted this page of helpful links to ways to help the victims and survivors of the events in Boston.

In other (much less important) news: In addition to the events in Boston, I have also received some big news and been making some big decisions this week about my future. I am not going to lie, this week has been full of all sorts of emotions (both good and not so good) and lots of struggles (mainly due to my indecisiveness and fear of failure), and I may share what's going on soon. However, right now, there are some very personal decisions being made, and I feel more comfortable keeping things to myself and the people closest to me until things are finalized and I am more sure about how I feel about my decisions.

Friends are the best: Especially when you are reunited with them after months of zero communication;  one of my best friends has been in LA, and I got to see her and talk to her after what feels like an eternity (in reality it was more like 8 months) of no communication. This may sound silly, but her visit couldn't have come at a better time; I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have such great people in my life.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring has Sprung: Corn & Asparagus Risotto

Blossoms at the Huntington Gardens
Springtime.....That's right ya'll, it may still be snowing in other parts of the northern hemisphere, and it seems as though it's perpetually snowing north of the wall (GOT nerd alert), there is no cold weather to be heard of down here in sunny Los Angeles. This is slightly ironic because the day I decide to write this post just happens to be the coolest and cloudiest day of the week, but we've still got a high of 75 forecasted for today so not to worry. Spring brings so many wonderful things, but aside from the lovely flowers, perfect running weather, inappropriately short shorts, and swim suit sections in department stores, another fantastic thing that pops up is spring produce.....yay for spring produce! I know you're as excited as I am, I know it.
Recipe Inspiration: I was probably a little more excited than I should have been when I found organic asparagus and organic corn at Trader Joe's, but regardless of my yelp of joy and the scared old lady next to me who definitely thinks I have a damaged frontal lobe, the challenge that I faced was daunting. How to use this fresh spring produce in a new recipe that my father and brother would enjoy? Risotto immediately came to mind, as did the lemons hanging on our lemon tree, and the fact that I want a pair of diamond earrings. But only the first two items are relevant at the moment;  risotto it was, and it would definitely be made brighter and fresher through the addition of some lemon juice. Gotta love it.
Nutrition Note: This Recipe is actually very well rounded as far as protein goes. The protein from the corn, rice, asparagus, and beans all provide a complete and abundant protein. In addition there is plenty of fiber thanks to the beans, asparagus, and corn. Lastly there are no added fats and sugars, so it is really a healthy and delicious meal.

Corn & Asparagus Risotto
Ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup water plus extra for adding to the onions as needed
- 1/3 cup non-dairy milk (I prefer plain, unsweetened soymilk)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/3 cups corn, removed from the cob (this is about 3 ears of corn)
- 2 cups chopped asparagus, chopped in 1/2-3/4 inch long sections
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 2 cups (a little over 2 cans) of navy beans, white beans, or cannelini beans
Directions:
The Finished Product
1. In a medium pot, mix together all of the vegetable broth, water, and soymilk and brink to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low just to maintain the heat without evaporating off liquid.
2. In a large, heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven (this is ideal if you have one) saute the onion on medium-low heat until it is translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Add water as needed to prevent from sticking.
3. Add the garlic and stir it around with the onions for a minute on medium heat.
4. Add in the risotto and the white wine and stir in with the onions. Allow the wine to cook off, and the risotto to toast until you notice a faint, nutty smell or they start to turn gold around the edges.
5. Add about a cup of the heated liquid mixture to the risotto and stir in over medium-low heat. Stir the risotto regularly until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding the heated liquid in this manner (a cup at a time) until all of the liquid has been absorbed; after the fourth cup (with one cup of liquid remaining) add in the corn.
6. Upon addition of the final cup, stir in the asparagus, beans, salt, and lemon juice.
7. Once the liquid is absorbed, but the risotto is still relatively fluid (a good risotto should spread out if poured onto a plate, not old it's shape) then turn off the heat and serve immediately.



Thursday, April 11, 2013

Running Recovery: Coming Back from Injury

What do I mean by injury? There are lots of types of injuries, but in this case I mean athletic injuries that often result from overruse, poor form, or pushing to hard during a workout. Things such as IT band syndrome, tendonitis, pulled muscles, strained tendons, runner's knee, and many more. They're all different, and they all suck.
Why talk about it? Well other than the fact that I love to talk about myself and my experiences because I'm so awesome; most regular runners deal with injury at some point or another. I remember reading somewhere that 80% of runners have dealt with multiple injuries due to running; not to be a negative nancy, but those other 20% are probably due for some runner's knee or tendonitis soon. Running, although a great activity, is also pretty hard on the body, and without proper rest, cross-training, stretching, etc, injuries can happen. I think it's important to talk about potential injuries, their causes, their treatments, and preventative measures that can be taken. The hardest part of dealing with injury is different depending on the person, for me it's mostly mental. I just love running so much more than any other activity or exercise, and I crave it when I haven't done it in awhile. I could go to 5 spin classes back to back and still be debbie downer because I can't run. But more on my personal experience with injury later.
What are the most common running injuries? This is by no means a comprehensive list of the injuries that runners can sustain, but these are the most common running injuries to my knowledge:
That's an older picture of me heel-striking
at the end of a race; I got injured more frequently
back then......I don't heel strike anymore :)
- IT Band syndrome: This is when your IT Band which is a thin band of fascia (a type of tissue) that runs all the way from the top outside of the hip to the lower outside of the knee, becomes inflamed and irritated. This usually results in deep pain in the outer knee that is present even when not running. It is often caused by weak hip flexors, poor running form, overuse  weak core muscles, or some combination of these factors.
- Achilles Tendonitis: This is when the achilles tendon, which is the thin tendon that connects your heel to your calf muscle, becomes inflamed and possibly torn. The type of pain is similar to that of a pulled, sore, or tight muscle, but more intense. This can result from overuse  poor running form, weak calf muscles, or some combination of the these factors.
- Runner's Knee (Also known as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome): This is the most common cause of knee pain in runners, and it is caused by a "mistracking" kneecap, which means your kneecap is out of alignment and is scraping your femur. This is often an achey type of pain that occurs towards the bottom of the center of the knee, and may increase when squatting, waling up or down stairs, or remaining in a sitting position for a long time. It can be caused by poor running biomechanics, weak quads, weak hip flexors, overuse, or some combination of these factors.
- Shin Splints: This is pain that runs along the front or outside of the lower leg (tibia) and is often described as sharp or stabbing pain. This pain is a result of overuse stress of the muscles that line the front of the leg, often resulting in slight weakening of the fibers that connect that muscle to the bone beneath. Causes of Shin Splints are running a lot after an extended period of not running, running or high intensity exercise on hard surfaces, tight calf muscles, poor running biomechanics, overruse, or some combination of these factors.
- Plantar Fasciitis: This is pain in the bottom of the foot and the heal that occurs as a result of the inflammation of the thick band of tissue (planta fascia) that runs from the heel to the toes. This injury can be caused be overuse, high arches, tight calf muscles, or it may actually occur without any discernable cause at all.
- Muscle Pull/Strain: This is one of the more common atheletic injuries across many sports. This is a small tear that occurs as a result of over exerting a particular muscle or stretching a muscle too hard. You may feel a popping or pulling sensation all of a sudden when the muscle tears, and it may feel very tight and sore for a few days.

What injuries have I suffered from? I have had IT Band problems with both of my knees and achilles tendonitis in my right ankle, all resulting from running. I have also had shin splints and muscle pulls in high school when I played soccer.

Procompression socks.
How to treat running injuries: Although there may be a few treatments that are specific to a particular injury, I have found that there are treatments that are very effective that work for all of my injuries and are often recommended for all injuries. And when all else fails, you can just drink the pain away........NOT.
- Rest: This is super important. Your injury will only get worse, not better, if you refuse to adequately rest it......trust me, I've learned the hard way. Rest does not necessarily mean no exercise, you can still exercise, just in a way that does not strain your injury or cause any pain. For example, when I had IT Band syndrome, I could still swim and cycle without any pain, so I did those to stay in shape.
- Compression: Weather you have compression gear, or you just wrap the injured area very tightly with bandages, compression is very important as it encourages blood circulation while preventing swelling. I especially love compression socks, they help prevent calf muscle soreness, and definitely have speeded the healing process for my achilles tendonitis. Procompression makes the best compression socks I've tried, so go on and get yourself a pair if you don't have one already.
- Alternate Ice & heat: I found that alternating 15 minutes of heat with 15 minutes of ice, for at least an hour, twice a day, on the injured area drastically increased the healing time of all of my injuries.
- Athletic Massage or Foam Rolling: I have never received an athletic massage, but I have been told that it basically achieves the same thing as foam rolling. I have foam rolled my IT Bands, any sore muscles, and my calf/achilles tendon, and it always seems to aid recovery and reduce pain.

How to prevent future injuries:
- Strengthen Core and supporting muscles: Many running injuries can be attributed at least in part to a weak core or weak hip flexors. I have made it a point to do exercises that strengthen my hip flexors and core in order to prevent future injuries. I don't want to say that it's working because I don't want to jinx myself.........but it's working.
- Do not increase the distance you are running by more than 10% per week: This is basically a way to prevent any potential overuse injuries.
Foam rollin like a boss.
- Foam Roll and Stretch post-run: Foam rolling and stretching after a run are just as important as post-run nutrition, if not more important. Hold stretches for at least 30 seconds to make sure that they are effective, and only a stretch AFTER the run, not before. Foam rolling is also important because it works certain important tissues in a way that stretching cannot; it's like a hybrid of stretching and athletic massage, and it keeps your fascia (a particular type of connective tissue) from tightening up.
- Take rest days: This is a MUST for running, and it was something I did not adhere to for a long time. No matter how much you can run, your body still needs rest days in order to fully recover from previous runs and prevent overuse injuries.
- Have your GAIT analyzed: Most running stores have a treadmill with a camera that films your legs, and are able to do a free GAIT analysis. This is really useful when deciding what type of running shoe to buy and how to potentially correct any major problems in your running form.
- Get all yo nutrients: This may seem silly, but not getting enough calcium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, or protein in your diet can all be factors that predispose you to injury. It is also key to take in a mixture of protein & carbohydrates within the first hour after exercise for the best results from your workout. There is no excuse to not be meeting these requirements, and it should be especially easy if you are eating a healthy, well-rounded diet built on whole, plant-based foods ;)

A little tip on the mental aspect of injury: Although technically speaking, injuries are purely physical, the hardest part of the recovery for many runners is mental. It is so hard to not be able to run, and it can leave you feeling frustrated, depressed, angry, or just sad. The most important thing to remember is that no matter how much you want to run YOU CAN NOT DO IT! I made the brilliant mistake of running to soon after an injury (read: running while I still had pain) and only ended up making my injuries worse. Try to get by, by doing other forms of exercise that you haven't done in awhile, or have never tried before, as long as they don't aggravate your injury. I know it can be tough, and at times it may seem like you will never run again (well at least that's how I felt, maybe I was just a tad bit of a drama queen about it), but I promise you will! Tons of runners have been injured before you and have come back to running better than ever, and so will you!

Well, since I'm an exercise physiologist and sports medicine doctor I am pretty qualified to discuss all of these running injuries and give tons of advice that you should follow above all other advice........NOT! As always, see an physical therapist and/or a sports medicine doctor if you injury does not start to improve within a week or two of rest and recovery; take care of your body, you only get one!

Also check back tomorrow for a recipe for corn & asparagus risotto or po'boy sandwiches (I haven't decided which recipe to post yet)!
 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jalapeño Business: Jalapeño Polenta Squares, Corn-BlackBean Salad, Plantain Chips

I've got a running post in the works, but today felt like a recipe post day.....probably because I have a recipe I'm dying to share with you all!

Inspiration: We had guacamole leftover from a party, and I also had corn on the cob that I needed to cook soon. It's been hot lately, so I thought of doing a corn & black bean salad over jalapeno polenta squares. The only ingredients I needed to buy were the jalapeños & cilantro; while I was in the store I saw a plantain that was too ripe to pass up, so that got thrown in the mix. As luck would have it, I got home to discover that the guacamole that had inspired my dinner plans was residing in my brother's stomach. 
Nutrition Note: This meal is pretty well-rounded, especially when it comes to the protein. The black beans from the salad and the corn (both fresh and in the polenta) make a complete protein. In addition,  this classic pairing of whole corn, whole grain polenta, and beans provides a great amount of fiber. The meal has less greens than I would like in a dinner, so I served it with a side of steamed kale (not pictured). Surprise, surprise, my Dad and brother ingnored the kale and dominated the plantain chips.....looks like I got the short end of the chip. (ha..haha, get it? because I got less chips? I know, I'm a comedic genius)

Recipe:  Jalapeño Polenta Squares, Corn-Black Bean Salad, and Plantain Chips

Jalapeño Polenta Squares
Ingredients:
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup whole grain polenta/cornmeal
- 1/2 cup thinly diced, seeded jalapeño
- 2 tsp minced garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Directions:
1. In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, bring water to a boil and add polenta and salt. Reduce to low heat and stir every minute or so for 10 mintes.
2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and continue to cook on low heat for 20 more minutes. Make sure to stir well at least once every couple of minutes. 
Just finished cutting the chilled Polenta
3. Line a small rectangular casserole dish or baking sheet with tin foil and pour the polenta into it. Spread it out so that it is the same thickness (height) throughout, it should be about 1/2-3/4 of an inch tall.
4. Place in Refrigerator to set for at least 30 minutes and pre-heat oven to 450 degrees for the oven-baked (oil-free method). Or if you prefer you can pan fry them with a little oil on medium heat, for 4 minutes on each side. I've tried it both ways and I prefer the oven-baked as does my Dad, but my brother prefers the pan fried.
5. After the polenta has set, remove from the refrigerator and cut the polenta into 2 inch squares. 
6. Place the squares on a foil lined baking sheet and bake in the oven on the top rack for 10 minutes (you can brush with olive oil if you like). Or if you are pan frying them, this is when you would fry them in the pan.
7. Change the oven setting to broil and watch the polenta until the tops turn golden brown (about 2-3 minutes). 
8. Remove and let cool.

Corn & Black Bean Salad:
Ingredients:
- 2 cups cooked black beans
- 2 cups cooked corn kernels (I simply steamed the corn cobs for 13 minutes and then removed the kernels post-steaming)
- 1/3 cup chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- a little under 1/2 tsp salt
Directions:
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a serving bowl.
2. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.


Plantain Chips:
I already posted the recipe for these in a previous entry, here is the link to the recipe. They take about 10-15 minutes total, so just keep that in mind when planning dinner time :)


Plating/Serving: As far as plating goes, you can pretty much have it any way you like. I enjoyed having the salad on top of the polenta squares, as well as being able to scoop some salad up with my chips. My brother prefers having everything separately, and my dad.......well he just prefers food.
How I roll 
How my brother rolls

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools!!


As much as I would love to be moving to the land of mangoes, sunshine, rain forests, and other tropical things, a move to Hawaii is definitely not in my immediate future. However, I received such wonderful supportive words from so many people on facebook, and I just want to thank everyone for their heartfelt words.......I also hope you don't hate me for having the emotional capacity of a five year old when thinking out (more like NOT thinking) the implications of such a joke.  It's funny because I started out thinking this was the MOST ridiculous April fools joke ever, but after writing my post I realized how much I straight up would love to live on Maui. Guess the April Fools joke is on me.

I hope you all enjoyed this fabulous holiday and got someone good (or got tricked yourself, either way)! I've always liked pulling pranks on people and seeing just how far I can take a trick before getting caught, so don't expect me to grow out of this holiday anytime soon.......I'm already thinking of some awesome tricks for next year! Have a good rest of your day......and don't be a fool ;)

Big News: I'm moving to Hawaii!

I know this may come as a surprise, but it's actually something that's been in the works for awhile now! Let me explain......
Fresh Coconut on the Road to Hana
Why Hawaii: The obvious appeals of Hawaii, such as the great weather, amazing beaches, and beautiful surroundings are all part of why I love Hawaii but there is something more there: Mangoes......its the mangoes. Mangoes are the real reason I'm moving to Maui. I kid, but seriously I have talked to many people who live in Hawaii, and in many ways, although they are burdened with some of the same things that everyone is (taxes, water & electric bills, traffic during rush hour) there lives also are more carefree and in tune with the earth than many people on the mainland. Everyone I know seems to appreciate the time they are given in each day more than their mainland counterparts; they don't seem to stress as much about life, and they have a great attitude towards the obstacles life presents. There is also much more of a close-knit community feel to the part of Hawaii (Maui) that I am planning on moving to. Lastly, the people live in a very earth-friendly way; their homes are smaller, they their cars (if they even have them) far less and their bikes far more, and everyone I spoke to composts. Furthermore, many people are actively involved in keeping businesses local and small, and alson in taking part in community service efforts to maintain the pristine and unadulterated natural beauty of the islands. Oh I almost forgot, I'm not supposed to say this since it's a secret of the locals, but if you live in Maui, you magically get a six pack of abbs and a flawless tan upon arrival, I already have all of these since I never work out my core and bathe in SPF 100 but for other normal folk, it's definitely a perk.

A waterfall on the road to Hana
The Job: Clearly I wouldn't move to Hawaii if I didn't have a job lined up........or would I? Don't worry, I have been in constant contact with a market/cafe that I went to the last time I was in Hawaii that has been looking for a vegan chef with experience making raw foods. After many skype sessions and extensive emailing, I have been hired as their new Vegan & Raw Chef, and will also be helping increase the social media presence of the market. I will do a post on the actual market itself, with more information as soon as we've got all the details of my contract figured out, but trust me, it's an awesome business to be a part of!

The Details: I'm sure there are many questions that come to mind with such a big move, but I have really thought of everything. I am still waiting to hear back form Grad schools, so I will have my Dad contact me when the admissions decisions arrive.
Taking a stroll with my bro along the beach...
I have already spoken to my future employer about the possibility that I may have to leave in August for graduate school and they are totally fine it. We have a family friend that has a beautiful little vacation home in Maui, and they have been kind enough to let me stay there for the next 6 or so months until I know more about what my future holds. I don't really know anyone who lives in Maui, but I'm not too worried about this, I'm hoping to meet a lot of people at work, at bars, and through activities that I participate in. If this doesn't work out, I've heard that the local parrots make lovely friends. I also think that my brother may come live with me over the summer; I haven't really spoken to him about this yet, but I think he'd be down since he loves Maui (especially the great surfing) and it would be an awesome way for him to spend his last summer before college!

I am so excited for this new adventure, and I will post more info on it as soon as I've got all the details really hammered down. Aloha!