Healthy, Good and Quick

Most of us live very busy lives.  The tradition of families sitting down together at a dinner table every night has become a sitcom fantasy.  The quick and easy / grab and go meals sometimes seem like the only way to go.  Unfortunately this leads to less than nutritious  lifestyle habits.

But what if you could pump out a healthy meal in 30 minutes which you could eat for days?  I strive very hard to come up with such meals for my very active on-the-go family.  Most of their favorites I came up with on the spur of the moment from whatever I could find in the house.  You would be surprised at what you can toss together and make culinary magic.

Below I thought I would share one of those favorites.  Takes less than 30 minutes and lasts ‘very well’ for days.  I’ll take it to lunch at work and/or makes a quick 2 minute meal after I get home from the gym or a run late nights after work.  None of those fancy special ingredients necessary.

I will list exactly how I fix it but you can substitute many different vegetables or sauces.  This is definitely a recipe you can play around with.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs 90/10 ground beef
  • 1 yellow squash chopped
  • 1 zucchini chopped
  • 1/2 large white onion chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber peeled and chopped
  • 1 large jar of medium chunky salsa

Steps

In large stew pot add ground beef on medium heat.  While beef begins to brown chop the rest of the ingredients.  Add to pot as chopped.  Cook until beef is done.  Drain the juices. Add ingredients back to same pot and stir in salsa.  Continue to cook on medium low until heated.  Store left-overs in fridge.  Enjoy.

The Seven Year Ditch

A story of week one post Yaz:

Disclaimer: Because I believe an actual account is important for anyone on Yaz, maybe thing of taking Yaz or coming off of Yaz it may be TMI but informational.  Also this is my experience and may not be the same for anyone else.

For more than seven years I have been prescribed Yaz.  Not for birth control but for PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) management.  We have all seen those commercials with warnings and death threats but even so I was told by a doctor I trusted that this was my best bet and since I was in good shape and never smoked I wouldn’t have anything to worry about.  So I started popping one every morning.

Roughly two years later I begged to be switched to a different pill.  I just couldn’t handle the odd side effects and wanted to see if a different one would be sufficient.  After six months I was begging him to put me back on the Yaz.  The hot flashes, cysts, cramps and more seriously the strong feeling to brake down walls with my fists for no apparent reason was too strong and I hated that feeling.  So he gladly put me back on it and all went back to my new normal.

Here it is another five plus years later; my trusted doctor retired and I switched to a new one whom I thought would be perfect for me; a woman, a runner and a PCOS sufferer.  Second year exam I mentioned stopping Yaz again now that I’m 40 to see if it would help with my newest symptoms; high blood pressure, rising blood sugars, excessive weight in the mid section no matter how well I eat or how many days/work outs I do per week.  The latter has been a struggle for which I still have yet to understand, but that is another story.

I got the excuse that I’m getting older and those things will happen.  I’m sorry, but I’m only 40 and I just did not except that reasoning.  But like a good little school girl I kept on taking it.  Well one week ago my prescription ran out.  My appointment is in two weeks and I tried to get it refilled for one more month to take me to that day.  The phone kept hanging up on me after the transfer.  I took this as a sign and stopped taking Yaz.  After this long but choppy introduction, here is how it went:

Day 1:  Very tired but nothing really felt different

Day 2: Woke up with enough energy at 5:00AM to run the earth.  Needless to say I got a lot done around the house this day.  Also had my first strong headache in quite some time.

Day 3: Exhausted even before waking. Never recovered.  Fell asleep even while walking through the grocery store, so missed a few of the isles we walked down…  seriously… sleep shopping is scary.

Day 4: Energy burst throughout the whole day similar to day 2.  A project on my to do list for two years – done! (re-staining deck)

Day 5: Day 3 all over again

Day 6: Pain, oh the pain!  Cramps kicked in like I have not had in seven years except for the few cysts episodes and I wanted to kick in those walls again.  Needless to say I gave the office a warning when I walked in that the devils nightmare has returned to posses me.

Day 7: Oh unwholly mother of all hot flashes!  Decided that my hibernating hormones for the last seven years are trying their best to get a jump start.

Day 8: Here is the most unexpected post side effect day.  The others I knew would be coming.  Yaz shuts off your own hormone production and since I came off of it, I knew my body would eventually begin to make its own again and thus the ‘normal’ hormone-y symptoms would be exasperated 100 fold, but this?  I literally began to feel like I had been wearing a heavy blanket over me for seven years and now it was gone.  I have no other way to explain it.  I just felt really different beginning on day 8.

Day 9: So for the last seven years the sex drive was G-O-N-E.  I could have cared less.  Guess it is a good thing my husband loves “me”.  I always attributed it to my high stress job, was going to school, having three children with two going through teen years and one just born, yard work, house work, piling bills; you all know how this list continues…  I’m sure this still played a factor but on day 9 this also kicked back in but with pain.  I’m telling you my body had completely forgotten all about this part of life and when I say came back with pain I mean with pain.  Not a good thing.

This loss of the heavy blanket feeling has continued since day 8 and I am really loving this the most out of all of the so far experienced post side effects.  I just cannot explain adequately how much better I feel over all.  A feeling I have not felt in so many years that I believe my heart grew three sizes in the first week post Yaz.  Yes that was a Grinch reference and it really does sum me up.  Think on that…

My mid section has shrunk two inches and I have changed nothing about my routine.  Still eating well, still working out hard.  Who knows how much more I will continue to improve, change or morph into the person I used to be whom I had long forgotten existed.

Do I believe that this was the drug of choice for my condition?  I do…  It helped me get through a very rough diagnosis with symptoms that were horrible.  It did not stop them completely but made them manageable so they did not effect my daily life every day.  I think after so many years I just became dependent on it, especially after trying to switch off and having such a horrible experience.  Fear kept me a daily partaker more than anything.

Do I feel this is the right thing for me at this point in my life?  Most definitely.  Do I think it will be easy?  Heck no!  But I am more educated now than seven years ago about PCOS, what it is, what causes it and alternative ways to fight it.  As this is a condition and not a disease, it is a life long battle but one I feel much more prepared to fight.

Now my new doctor…, am I ready for that battle next week?  Probably not so much as I know it will end with a conflict of personal interest but I refuse to accept the reasoning that since I am in my 40’s that it does not matter how well I eat or my fitness level that the newest symptoms are only manageable by drugs.  Until I see this for myself I will fight it like…, uh this is a PG blog, Ares.

Spring Cleaning

Weeks upon weeks of horrible eating has added a winter layer to my spring wordrobe and an all over feeling of sludge to my daily routine.  It began with the Paris trip.  Breakfast and dinner was pre-selected for us and was loaded with breads, cheese and more breads accompanied by tons of carbs.  Being diagnosed with PCOS almost ten years ago my body tends to mock and tease the “carb click” so when they get a chance to take revenge, I pay heavily.

Then comes TechEd.  Granted there was a bowl of fruit at breakfast every morning which was very nice, but the rest was conference food.  Granted the last night the baked chicken was very tasty.  Then the snack bar…  M&Ms, salty goodness, pretzels… You get the idea.  And I NEVER drink soda but for some reason every year it never fails I end of grabbing Mountain Dew cans from the fridges between sessions.  I still have not figured that one out.  I will not drink another until next year.

So when I finally strolled onto the plane Friday morning with a swollen belly, headache and my internal organs auditioning for Carnegie Hall I knew I had to do something drastic to get back on track and just push the flush nozel.

Once I get picked up from the airport we head to the grocery store and fill up the cart on fruits and vegetables.  Not to cook or snack on but to juice.

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I did a three day detox approximately 1 1/2 years ago and it was one of the toughest things I had ever done, and I’ve given birth to two babies without pain meds.

But I emerged from that experience feeling great.  I was not in it for weight loss, I wanted to reboot my taste buds.  I’m a self-proclaimed chocoholic and spaghetti lover.  Neither of which are beneficial to a PCOS victim but even those with the best of will power call succumb to both of these.

Which leads me to this decision.  But this time around I want to go for five days.  I’ve heard you need to stick it out for longer than three days to get the full benefit so I thought I would try it out for myself.

This will be my virtual account of the steps, feelings, and final outcome of this nickel length journey.

Good or bad I’ve made my decision and I’m sticking to it.

Pausing the Stubborn

For quite a while now we have seen the ads, heard the speeches and probably like most still ignored them all.  The Go Red for Women campaign.  There is a reason this exists.  Women are a stubborn gender.

We endure many things as silently as possible.  After all, we are the caregivers, the providers and the rock of many family units.  We do not like to show weakness, and this includes pain or giving into illness.  That big ‘Ignore’ button is always flashing and ready to be pushed at a moments notice.  And let’s face it, we push it often.  Too often.

I was a lucky one but like many before me I pushed that button so many times two nights ago it almost short circuited.  In foresight, it was a dumb thing to do and I’m glad I eventually made the right decision.  But if this story had been different, it may had been one time too many.

Sunday morning, first longish run after a half marathon, group of ladies hit the trail like we do every Sunday at first light.  It was a chilly 48* which is perfect for running.  Unfortunately my ankle was just not going to allow me to run so I speedily walked until everyone had completed their intended distances.  We hopped in the car to head to our breakfast hangout and as I was turning back to speak to the ladies after yet another forceful sneezing frenzy a very sharp pain shot right through the left side of my chest and down my left arm.  I had never experienced such a pain.  I knew for certain it was not muscle strain or the like.  It was just ‘different’.  I stopped mid word and could not even breathe.  I played it off like a champ and all of about 30 seconds later it eased off and I finished that word and continued through my day.

At 1:00AM that morning I woke suddenly with severe upper stomach pain and nausea.  First I thought perhaps it was something I ate and just laid there for about 30 more minutes trying to breath my way through it.  Then came the slight dizziness.  I chalked it up to being tired.  Then the chest pain hit furiously.  Just on the left side.  It began to radiate through my back and to the center of my chest.

I would get up and walk around to see if I could make it ease off to go back to sleep.  I even had a slight thought of heart attack and started up my Surface to do some research.  There was no throbbing, no dull ache, no pain like explained on the many webs sites for heart attack, not exactly as written anyway…

I went back to bed again and then my left arm went numb.  That funny feeling that you get if you sit on it for a while and the blood comes rushing back.  Almost painful.  The nausea got worse and I got scared.  I really had the feeling if I closed my eyes and went to sleep I would not wake.

All the moving around woke my husband and I actually still tried to talk him out of going to the emergency room as it was 2:30AM.  Our daughter was asleep and I did not want her to miss any school as she is having her nine weeks tests this week.  I didn’t want to wake the in laws at this hour especially since this could still have been something else.  I just did not want to burden anyone.  That is why I did not intentionally wake him.

But finally I gave into the fear and we went.  As I mentioned, I was lucky.  They repeated told me I did the right thing and diagnosed me with Costochondritis.  They mentioned it feels just like a heart attack.  If this had actually been my heart waiting all day to mention it ( well I guess I really did not mention it until almost 16 hours after that first pain shot through my chest) could have left my children motherless because I did not want to inconvenience anyone.

As a gender, we women are stubborn and not always as smart as we would like everyone to believe.  This could have turned out much differently and unfortunately for many has and probably will.  Moral of this story?  You never know.  Just go if only to ease your mind.  Think of the inconvenience of not being there you would cause your family instead of the few hours it takes to see a doctor.

Shamrock Half Marathon 2014 RR

This is my second favorite yearly race which I did for the first time in 2010.  The Wicked is my favorite.  The Shamrock after party is always awesome.  The volunteers for all of the J&A races are just so happy to be there and make you smile at times when you may be feeling exhausted and ready to quit.  It really makes a big difference to every runner that passes by them.  I will always muster up a smile and a thank you to each and every one of them.

This year was no different.  I had been looking forward to the bands, drinks and friends all running and gabbing together during the party.  Unfortunately my fate was sealed the day prior and I was not changing fate’s mind.

This is the first year that hubby has run a Shamrock and he decided to do the 8k.  So we get up around 4:30 AM and head out the door an hour later.  Luckily Saturday was very nice.  Cool enough during the race then warmed up for the after party.  It was very nice and odd for me to be a spectator.  But I enjoyed cheering everyone on from beginning to end instead of just after I cross the line.

Once we get home, I have dinner cooked by 5:00PM and am in bed by 7:00PM.  I have my alarm set for 3:00AM on Sunday to give myself an hour and a half to move around, eat a decent breakfast of toast with Nutella and a banana and drink some water.

We arrive and park and begin the walk to 42nd street.  My feet and both knees start to ache already.  This is a first.  Not quite sure why but I mentally chopped it up to mind tricks.  We hop in the corral and are off.

Before I even hit mile marker 1 my “first layer” of pants begin to fall to my hips.  WTHeck?  So I am running struggling not to look ridiculous trying to pull them up.  Then not 10 seconds after I get that straight my nano starts to fall off it’s clip and I am yet again struggling to keep that fastened.  All of this within the first mile.  And it does not stop here mind you.

I decide to take a quick walk break after mile 5 because my training the last couple of months has suffered due to all of the snow and ice and my new goal was to just finish the race upright.  After walking for 1 minute I slowly take back off only to find that I have trouble getting back in my groove.

Then my gut decides to put its two cents into the basket and around mile 7 inside of the base I stop at the porta potty.  Up to this point I was in the group with the 2:15 pacer.  I was doing an easy pace and not pushing at all, even with all that had happened up to this point.  This was a long set back.  15 minutes it took to stand in line and get back out there. As soon as I step out, here comes the 2:30 pacer.  I silently cursed and took off behind her.

Now after that long of a “cool down” I had to start all over with getting my breath under control and form back.  Now for those who ran this race note I said I stopped at the potty  line on the base.  This was at the entrance.  The next two miles the wind just kicked my butt.  This must have lead to me running oddly because my left knee started to join the destructive party.

So between the gut and my knee it continued throughout the remaining miles.  I had to take several walk breaks because the pain was just so intense.  I tried to pay close attention to my form and just when I thought it must really be sucking I was tapped on the shoulder.  I removed my ear plug so that I could hear the lady who had come up beside me.  She stated “you have the best running form I have ever seen.  I just wanted to tell you that”.  Running angel?  I can only imagine the look on my face as I gave her my thank you.

Not too long after we approached the clock around mile 11.50 and I noticed I could still hit a 2:30 if I just kept going like I was going, snail pace but forward.  But that was the positive push I desperately needed to put me back in the race mentally.

About .75 miles from the finish I had to walk again.  Blasted knee!  So I walked for a minute then approached that last water stop and just kept going through it.  Then I began to run again to finish out the boardwalk.

2:30:47

…even with all the trouble I had and the very very long pit stop.  It could have totally been worse so I will accept that time with only a little grudge.

The most unfortunate part of this whole day?  The after party with our group which I had been so looking forward to for months, I had to skip out on.  Once I crossed that line the stomach decided it was not done with me and we left immediately.  I slept the rest of the day through the night.  I also did not get any picture for this race.  My scrapbook page will be faceless (as well as this post).

Today I am giving all my attention to my long lost buddy, my foam roller.  I find walking to be way too painful.  Dern knee!  After almost a year and half of no IT Band issues it decided to hit me all at once during this race.  I guess it just did not like all the concrete and the sloped roads.  I usually do all of my long runs on crush and run and never have an issue.

Now I will just look forward to next year and concentrate on getting this knee better before the Flying Pirate Challenge coming up in May.

My First Yoga Challenge

I went into the doyouyoga.com 30 Day Challenge with Erin Motz with one thought; that it would help me improve my running by increasing my flexibility, ability to relax and reduce my stress level.  However, I found much more than expected.

Most of the routines included the downward facing dog position. I found this to become easier and easier to hold after a few weeks of the challenge.  In week three I decided to begin expanding my cross training to include weights again and hit the pull-up bar.  What I found instead of starting from scratch yet again I could actually do 6 with limited assistance.  Usually every time I start over I’m double footing it on a chair and doing more leg work than back and shoulders.

I also discovered that I did not have to begin push-ups on my knees.  I guess all of the sun salutations with a chaturanga actually built muscle.  I honestly did not expect this.  I guess in hindsight it should not have been a surprise.  You just generally do not think ‘muscle’ and ‘yoga’ together.  Man was I pleasantly proven wrong.

I believe a lot of people think taking a yoga class to be a waste of a good hour that they could otherwise be hitting cardio but let me be (probably not the ..) first one to tell you, I sweat buckets.  Even during the shorter 30 minutes sessions I squeeze in before work.

My advice for all the disbelievers?  Take a challenge like this one.  It was only 10-15 minutes per day and shows you in shorter spurts that yoga is the real deal and makes an excellent complementary activity regardless of your end goal.

VIFL 14K RR

First year of participating in the Virginia is for Lovers 14K.  It was really nice to race on a different course.  I have now run and can say that I love all of the J&A Racing sponsored races, and stepping away from the boardwalk was a nice change.

Here is our 14k group just before heading out to the corrals

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We did not plan the wardrobe match I swear, but we looked like a team smiling and ready to go.

It was really nice that we were able to wait inside the convention center with our families in the warmth prior to our race start.  My 10 year old was especially grateful.

Yes it was quite a chilly start but it warmed up quickly and the sun was shinning brightly.  We still had a few icy spots which looked like affected the 5k’ers harder than us.  I’m sure quite a few of them switch sport for a few seconds sans skates.  One area while entering the Amphitheater about took me out for which a loud “whoa” escaped.  But with as much grace as I could munster I righted myself avoiding contact with the ground and proceeded to the “hill”.

The path to the Amphitheater was very muddy but the softer terrain during a race was an unexpected delight.   Also not having to navigate my way through “group walls” was very nice as this was a smaller race.  I could just enjoy my run for which I did not push and kept it steady.  Whatever time I finished in would be a PR for a 14K so I had no virtual little shady guy to race against.  The only mantra I had to repeat, especially toward the end, was ‘just keep moving’.

I crossed the line basically by myself and smiled hard as I heard my name called.  It is always a great feeling and you know for a fact you’ve made it once the announcer very cheerfully proclaims your finish.  I give that guy credit.  He does that for hours and I have never heard him sound bored.  That just proves those J&A folks love what they do and it shows.

So after crossing the line our 5K group runner had a beer on hand and ready for me.  That was a nice change.  I am usually the first of our group to cross and would have the beer in hand to pass to my sister after she crossed that line.

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It was a great race and a fun day for us all.  I cannot wait to do it again next year.  Oh and this is race #1 on my way to a cooler.  After running J&A races for five years, this will be my first attempt to tackle them all in a single calendar year.  Gives me something to look forward to.  It’s a small thing but to a runner it means a lot.

Just Can’t ‘head’Stand It

Headstand day; #21 of the yoga challenge.  *sigh*

My shoulders and core are weak.  I’m a runner so all I want to do is run.  That’s my thang.   I neglect all of those other muscles that seem to want to participate in my daily movements.  They take me away from my run.  Not acceptable.

Oh that leads me to my second thang, injury.  I’m an injury prone runner.  You would have never guessed huh?  So when today’s challenge came up I gave it my all.  I’m sure a hidden video would have gone viral.  But what ev’s.  I have tackled each days challenge like a toddler trying to walk for the first time; with zeal, skepticism, but determination.

So I cannot do a headstand…..yet.  Will I let it stop me?  No.  There was a time when I could not do pigeon.  I learned that pose two years ago just for an IT Band stretch.  Now I’m a pigeon posing fool.

We shall see how long it takes this injury prone, inflexible, weak from the hips up runner to conquer the mysterious yogic headstand.

Letting the Yoga In

I have off and on throughout the years tried my hand at yoga.  In my early 20s I even used to meditate with a tape from Dr. Andrew Weil nightly to help mediate my stress levels.  Yes at 20 something you can be stressed.  I was married, young child, working 2 to 3 jobs at any one time, bills, yada yada yada.  You get the picture.

Just prior to Thanksgiving last year I guess everything I either did not realize was seriously getting to me or I unconsciously denied finally decided to show its face.  My eye started twitching non stop, every day without fail and my jaw locked up on me.  This continued honestly until about four weeks ago when I decided to go full force into my yoga practice and really get serious about it.

I had been going to what I call the Thursday mega class weekly which is 40 minutes of spin followed by 20 minutes of weights/core work followed by an hour of yoga.  I was mainly doing this to hopefully improve my flexibility which is severely lacking to aid in my running.  Every year I suffer an injury by December on the left side.  Either my IT Band or ankle.  I’ve come to believe it is a tight hip on that side.  So getting into yoga started out as a means to an end.  But it has become something more.

I started looking up classes on youtube and found a few to do at night to help me sleep as that was also suffering by this time.  It seemed to help immediately.  So I began to incorporate a short 10 minute ‘yoga for runners’ routine to my mornings.  I was hooked.

I then found the doyouyoga.com 30 day challenge with Erin Motz.  I love it.  On day 18.  I do it every morning before work.  They are each only 10-15 minutes so instead of sitting on my butt watching TV I whip out the mat.  I really like the way she teaches which may be one of the reasons I have decided to go a little further in my practice.  If she had stunk I might still be an on again off again wannabe.

I admittedly bought the book ‘Yoga for Dummies’ for background and lifestyle information.  I’m sorry, but those are some really good books.  I have them themed from yoga to goldfish to programming.  I am not ashamed to admit it.  A good book is a good book.

What really struck me however was two weeks ago my youngest daughter had two friends stay over and they started talking about yoga for kids.  I had been trying to get her into that for a couple weeks.  Well earlier that day they hunted one out and did it.  Then decided to do an hour video before bedtime with me.  They actually asked to do it.  I was so impressed as they did so well.  Much better than I expected for such a calm routine which lasted 60 minutes.  To 9 year olds that is usually a lifetime.

So here I sit today after doing an hour of morning yoga fully relaxed and ready to tackle the day.  I now know when the day gets tough and people get under my skin to just stop, take a few deep breaths and it seems to help me push through with a smile instead of cursing under my breath and straining my eyes from all the rolling.

I have let the Yoga in with a welcoming embrace.

Training the Revolving Door

Training for a race can be daunting.  Especially those with any distance to them.   You come up with a race day plan, draw up a calendar with training distances, speeds, hills, etc.  Then out of the blue without any warning, BAM!  You have to change your plan.

This may be due to injury, work, anything that interferes with the ability to mark through that days square.  Maybe a few weeks later the interference goes away and again you pick back up the first calendar.

This door can swing either direction and many times around.  There is never any certainty that you will keep to the same training schedule.  This revolving door has become my life with distance races.

I am currently training for the Shamrock half marathon followed six weeks later by the Flying Pirate Challenge.  My plan was to run my first half without including any walking at all.  I’ve trained for a marathon so I know I can run that distance plus a few more miles tacked on without stopping but for some reason I have yet to participate in a race and get it done.

There is always some reason, all of them so far injury based.  I guess this may be why I am not so upset that yet again I have run into a hill I cannot sprint up.

My first and only marathon to date was in January 2012, the Disney Marathon.  The day before getting on the plane I discovered after rushed bone scans and MRIs that I had stress fractures in both knees.  Very disappointing.

Now two years later after an icy 11 miler this past Sunday it seems it has reared it’s ugly head again.  There is no ache, it is full blown all out pain in the knee bones on the left side.  It is always the left side.

So while I was walking the last two miles in pain I decided to just do a run/walk in March.  No biggie I guess as actually my half PR came in 2012 still healing from the stress fractures doing a run/walk without any time goal.  I also walked every water station and took my time.  So I figure I can do the same thing but not lallygag around the water stations.  My goal was to hit a 2:15.  This may still be possible as I did a 2:30 without trying.

Hopefully by taking this door I will live to do the same six weeks later during the Pirate Challenge then try to figure out why it reoccurred in time to train for the full in November.  In the meantime I already know my left hip is very tight and inflexible which may have a little to do with why I keep hurting my left knee whether stress fracture or IT Band Syndrome.  So I have begun to incorporate daily yoga into my training.  And not really to my training, just my daily routine.