Don’t Fall for These Six Holiday Diet & Exercise Myths

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‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry!

But indulging with abandon has a way of backfiring around this time of year — especially when we’re full of reasons for  getting back on track tomorrow.

Only the problem is that ‘tomorrow’ is almost a month from now. 

So to help separate fact from fiction, Marsha Hudnall, president and co-owner of Green Mountain weight management program, shared with me her top five myths about diet and exercise around the holidays.

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Bottom line: It’s cool to partake in all of the festivities, just keep your wits about you!

Myth No. 1: Diet before and during the holiday season.

Reality: Learn to eat mindfully instead (i.e. listen to what your body is telling you and try to be aware of when you are full or satisfied). Make decisions that leave you feeling good about yourself and your choices, even if one of those choices is to have that delicious dessert. It’s not about ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’ foods. It’s about eating in a way that makes you feel satisfied — both while eating and afterwards.

Myth No. 2: Double up on your workout to shed those extra calories.

Reality: Regular physical activities that you enjoy are as beneficial for optimal health as they are for weight management. It’s less about burning calories and more about moving to feel good, which sets you up for making better choices. Exercise in excess is usually not healthy — and even worse, an injury could keep you from feeling less than merry this season.

Myth No. 3: Weigh yourself daily to help control your eating.

Reality: Lets face it — we all fluctuate on a daily basis when it comes to the numbers on the scale. Weighing yourself often only has a negative impact on self-esteem and decreases motivation for self-care. Focusing on how your state of mind and your energy levels helps you make smarter, more sustainable eating choices.

Myth No. 4: With a little planning, you can successfully navigate six holiday parties in one evening.

Reality: Over-committing can cause stress, which often leads to emotional overeating. Try committing to fewer parties and hosting simpler celebrations. Being more relaxed will help you actually enjoy the holidays, which also helps set you up for success in the New Year and beyond.

Myth No. 5: It’s okay to overindulge during holiday celebrations; you can “get back on track” tomorrow.

Reality: Eat what you want to avoid the feelings of deprivation that drive overeating, but try being more of a foodie during the holidays (and year-round!). By being particular about what you eat, you’ll choose only those items that truly delight your taste buds and leave you feeling like you indulged without going overboard.

Myth No. 6: When it comes to leftovers, it’s ‘the more, the merrier!’

Reality: If having extra food or leftovers lying around drives you to eat more than you need, considering donating it to local shelters or giving it away to family members, neighbors, etc. It’s a great way to share the love during the holiday season without packing on those unnecessary pounds.

How do you keep holiday weight gain at bay?

Tabata HIIT Holiday Workout

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, yes. But it’s also the time of year that can start to undo all the hard work you’ve put in over the past 11 months.

Think the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s aren’t taking a toll on your waistline? Despite media exaggerations, the average person only puts on a measly pound or two.

So what’s the problem? Well, it’s not so much the weight gain, but the fact that most people won’t ever lose that weight…so the scale slowly starts to creep up over the years.

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But the good news is that you can do something about it. A lot, actually.

Don’t wait until January 1st to commit to a healthy eating and regular exercise regimen. And being strapped for time over the next few months is no excuse, which is why I put together this quick Tabata High-Intensity-Interval-Training Holiday workout — not only can you do it anywhere, but it also doesn’t require any equipment.

In just 30 minutes, you can get your heart rate up, burn some calories and build muscle — all of which will help you hit those New Year’s goals early. Now that’s something you can toast to on December 31st!

What’s your game plan for avoiding unnecessary holiday weight gain?

Recipe: Full Belly’s Butternut Ragu Lasagna

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Combine fluctuating energy levels with the wintery mix of rain and darkness that’s descended upon the Pacific Northwest, and there’s only one option for dinner: comfort food.

And when it comes to this category, I’d argue that there’s not much that can compare to lasagna. It’s a one-dish meal that’s not only filling, but also extremely leftover-friendly.

This version also happens to be pretty pregnancy-friendly, as well. A solid square serves up an impressive amount of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and folate, all of which help with the growth and health of cells and tissues in the body (i.e. baby development!).

So whether you’re building a human this season or simply in search of a more nutrient-packed twist on the traditional family favorite, this recipe is well worth a try.

Butternut Ragu Lasagna

(recipe adapted from Full Belly: Good Eats for a Healthy Pregnancy)

Ingredients: 

For the Ragu:

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz ground turkey (I used 1 lb)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (I used garlic paste)
  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard, cut into 1/-2-in pieces (I used 1 bag cut kale)
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-in cubes (I used 2 lb squash already peeled and cut)
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped (from about 4 sprigs)
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper (about 20 grinds)

For the Lasagna:

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 16 oz ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used a Parmesan/Romano blend)
  • 1.5 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided (I used 2 cups)
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • 12 oz no-boil lasagna noodles (I used 8 oz; this may vary according to pan size)

Directions: 

  1. For the ragu, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepot over medium-high heat. Add turkey and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to break it up, until it’s no longer pink and just beginning to brown.
  2. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice. Drizzle 1/4 cup water into pan and scrape any brown bits from bottom. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  3. Add chard and squash, stirring to incorporate all of the ingredients. Cover pot partially and let cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring once, or until chard wilts to half of it’s original volume and squash starts to soften slightly.
  4. Add the sage, thyme, tomatoes, salt and pepper, stir well, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer ragu uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the ragu is done, you’re ready to work on the lasagna! Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine egg, ricotta, Parmesan, 1 cup of the mozzarella, sage, thyme and black pepper in a large mixing bowl.
  6. Put one heaping scoop of ragu at the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish. Set a single layer of noodles in the saucy bottom the pan. Drop several dollops of the ricotta mixture over the noodles (don’t worry about spreading; it’ll melt). Pour a heaping scoop of ragu over this layer and use back of ladle to spread it around.
  7. Repeat the layers — noodles, ricotta, ragu — until you reach nearly the top of the dish, ending with noodles. Top the last layer of noodles with the remaining ragu (no ricotta mixture) and the remaining mozzarella cheese.
  8. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 40-50 minutes or until noodles are tender. If you’d like the top layer of cheese to be a bit browned, remove the foil during the last 10 minutes of baking.
  9. Let the lasagna sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into pieces and serving.
What’s your favorite cold-weather comfort food?

November Goal Check-In

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It’s hard to believe that just a little over a month from now we’ll be talking 2016. But for the time being, I’m focused on closing out the current year on a high note with respect to the goals I’ve been tracking the past 11 months.

Of course, things have been evolving with Baby H on board, but I wanted to use this post to check back in on my original plans for 2015. It’s never too late to shift course — even with 30 days left in this final push — and there’s no time like the present to figure out how to make the most of the upcoming month.

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

My original goal here was “quality over quantity” for the year, and I put it into practice this month while doing another round of travel. Long flights, time zone changes and family obligations meant that “training” had to be modified, which I used to view as a setback but now see as an opportunity to rest, recover and challenge by body in new ways (like keeping up with my toddler nephew in the snow!).

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Literally speaking, however, the “balance” theme has also been evolving to include learning how to use my new, ever-changing body. From knocking things off store shelves thanks to new dimensions to resorting to trial and error when it comes to which workouts work, it’s continuing to be a learning experience.

2. Training Smarter

My hope here was to experiment with my training repertoire to build on last season’s lessons rather than run myself into the ground doing things the same old way. I’ve been keeping up my functional fitness and cross training, but oddly enough it took getting pregnant to get me to finally slow my roll when it comes to doing one of my favorite activities: running.

All the massages, foam rolling, stretching, eating healthy and whatever other add-ons I’ve tried in the past weren’t helping to rid me of some lingering issues — namely plantar fasciitis and SI joint pain. So I’m trying to view these next few months of forced rest as something that will help me come back stronger next season.

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But just because regular runs are now off the table doesn’t mean that I can’t keep moving. On the contrary, I’ve been just as active as ever, delving into more baby-body-friendly classes, such as my MYMA Mama prenatal movement class, as well as the Mod-Mama class at Mod Physique, to help build those “mommy muscles” in anticipation of what’s to come this March.

3. Facing Fears

I declared 2014 as the year of #bikelove, but I wasn’t going to go so far as to use that same strong language for 2015 when it came to swimming. However, I’m happy to report that pregnancy has also been helping me out here; after months of talking about it, I’ve put my money where my mouth is and have been consistent with weekly swim workouts since week 20 of pregnancy!

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Of course, the purchase of a brand spankin’ new Coeur swimsuit to cover my growing curves helped. As did reading about all the benefits of swimming while pregnant.

Something that temporarily relieves me of the extra weight I’m carrying and can help keep side effects such as swelling and excess weight gain at bay? Sign me up.

4. Pushing Myself

Since I wasn’t in peak training mode going in, I knew that this pregnancy wouldn’t be a time to pursue that duathlon, next ultramarathon or century ride that I’d hoped this year would bring. But it hasn’t completely kept me from being competitive — even if my race-day game plans have gone from “Can I get a new personal record?” to “Can I run the whole way without walking?”

Case in point: Last weeks’ Corvallis Turkey Trot in which I opted to drop down to a 5k from my original 10k. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but I’m happy to report that I was able to jog the whole 3.1 miles, despite having to pull over several times to adjust that darn pregnancy support belt!

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And, yes, although I said I was done with races for the year…I am still toying with the idea of a holiday 5k. Just for fun, of course, and schedule permitting! But we shall see where December takes us; right now, I’m approaching things one day at a time.

5. Giving Back

Technically, this goal was met and exceeded for the year back in October — BOOM! — but since there was a lot of interest, we’ve been holding biweekly LUNA off-season workouts. The lovely Vanessa has graciously offered to lead them in my absence, but I hope to get out there soon to join the ladies and head up a hiking group while they hit the trails for a run.

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We’re also taking applications for next season’s team leaders (just a few spots remain!), so email me at tlcportlandrun (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested. All levels are welcome (walkers, runners), and if you want to see what we’re all about you can check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Race Report: Corvallis Turkey Trot

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Although my pregnant running days are quickly waning thanks to a cranky ligament on my left side, I can never seem to resist a good pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. So by the time our holiday plans were solidified this year, I was online searching for a local event for Ben and I to do before the traditional festivities (family, food and football watching) commenced.

Enter the Corvallis Turkey Trot, a family-friendly event in Ben’s hometown. A short race-morning commute, plentiful parking and a flat and fast course through surrounding neighborhoods made this one a no-brainer.

As race day drew nearer, however, my gut told me that my original pick of the 10k over the 5k was a bit overly ambitious considering my current condition. It’s never fun going into a race worrying about whether or not complete the distance, so at packet pickup I opted to drop down to the 5k distance instead.

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Ben stuck with the 10k group, which started at 8:05 am, so I stood on the sidelines to cheer them on as they took off. Then it was back to the car (ample race-day parking FTW!) for 10 minutes to stay warm until the 5k’ers took off.

The temperature was a “balmy” 27 degrees, so I spent my final moments trying to figure out what to wear because I still hadn’t decided whether I’d be jogging or walking the 3.1 miles. In the end, I figured I’d at least give jogging a shot, so I ditched my coat and gloves before I locked up and headed over to the start line.

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Here’s how the next half hour or so played out in my head after the gun went off:

  • Mile .1: Wheee! I’m running again! 
  • Mile .2: This feels AWESOME. Why did I ever stop running?! I should go FASTER! 
  • Mile .3: Hm, I think I might have to pee. 
  • Mile .4: Why am I so out of breath?
  • Mile .5: I definitely have to pee.
  • Mile .6: Pregnancy support belt has migrated from below belly to above waist and is now crushing my bladder. Pull over to re-adjust.
  • Mile .9: Strava crashes, my music dies, and now I can’t take any mid-race pictures. Bummer. 
  • Mile 1.1: Pull over to adjust pregnancy support belt for second time.
  • Mile 1.3: Why are my shins tight? Oh, that’s right; I haven’t been running in a few weeks, and now I’m trying to “race.”
  • Mile 1.4: I’ve really gotta pee.
  • Mile 1.5: Pull over to adjust pregnancy support belt for third time.
  • Mile 1.7: Yep, still have to pee.
  • Mile 1.9: Screw the support belt. Note to self: Never again wearing it over slippery spandex tights. Resort to tugging it down while running.
  • Mile 2: Only one more mile to go! 
  • Mile 2.2: Curse support belt while tugging it down. Again. Debate letting it just ride up and letting the belly fly for the rest of the race.
  • Mile 2.3: Seriously, is this baby using my bladder as a trampoline?
  • Mile 2.5: Slightly loosen support belt while shimmying it down around my hips. Stay put! Only a half mile more to go. 
  • Mile 2.7: Support belt, you are now the BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. Tug, shimmy, grimace. Repeat every 100 meters.
  • Mile 3: This feels AWESOME. What have I been complaining about?! I LOVE running! 
  • Mile 3.1: Where’s the bathroom? And the food?

Final time: 30:38 at a 9:51 pace, which was good enough for 12th in my age group.

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And that, my friends, is why I think this may officially be my last race — not only of 2015, but also this pregnancy. Of course “famous last words,” and I’ll never say never (especially when those holiday events come calling…), but as you can see it’s starting to be more trouble than it’s worth.

Luckily, though, I was done in time to get some water, grab Ben’s phone from the car and watch him cross the finish. His final time was 57:19 at a 9:13 pace, which placed him 10th in his age group (not bad, considering he had a porta-potty pullover that cost him a few minutes).

Racing and running aside, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year. I hope you and yours had a happy, healthy holiday, as well!

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Did you trot or not this year? Either way, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Be a Better Shredder: 3 Exercises for Snowboarders

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Forget all the fancy gear; do you really have what it takes to stay on your feet and avoid injury while hitting the slopes this season?

Mimic instability and build endurance by adding a few new moves to your existing workout routine, and it just might mean the difference between a great day of runs and having to call it quits early.

Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of DIAKADI (San Francisco’s largest personal training gym) recommends the following three exercises to condition, strengthen and help prevent injury prior to making your way to the mountain.

The best part? All you need is a BOSU ball, a balance board (or short plank of wood) and two weights.

1. Lean with it, rock with it

Place the balance board on top of the BOSU ball (flat side down) and hop up on it, spacing your weight evenly between both feet. Bend your knees and rock side to side, shifting your weight slowly, holding your core tight to maintain balance. Do this for 60 seconds.

2. Take it up a notch

Grab your two heavy weights, and step back up onto the board, finding your balance and holding in a squat position. Holding your arms at your sides, start lifting weights slowly up to shoulder height, then back down, while maintaining and proper form. Perform 2 sets of 15.

3. Practice your moves

After your last rep, drop the weights, go into a deeper squat, and hold. Practice shifting weight onto your toes, just like you are taking a turn on the mountain. Add some toe turns, move your weight into your heels, then back to your toes. Shift from side to side, practicing your turns and conditioning your legs for long runs. Do this for another 60 seconds.

Here’s a video of Billy demonstrating some of the moves. Happy shredding!

Have you hit the slopes yet this season? 

Recipe: Easy Weeknight Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

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You know what pre-dated Pinterest fails? Recipe fails.

I’ve had my fair share of ’em, which is why I’m excited to share this practically-foolproof winter meal with roasted root vegetables.

If you’re feeling timid about working with a whole chicken, just ask the butcher to butterfly it for you at the store. Believe me, there’s nothing quite like these veggies, which soak up all the yummy juices from the skin and flavor from the bones!

Easy Weeknight Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lb. chicken, butterflied open
  • 5-6 small potatoes
  • 3-4 small beets
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp thyme
  • 1 Tbsp sage
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Wash and/or peel and roughly chop potatoes, beets, carrots, celery, onion and garlic.
  3. Spread veggies out on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and half of the seasonings.
  4. Lay chicken on top of veggies, drizzling with more olive oil, and sprinkling on the other half of the seasonings. Slice lemon and place a few slices on top.
  5. Bake in oven for 50-60 minutes or until juices run clear and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165 degrees F.
  6. Transfer chicken to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes, and return the veggies to the oven to crisp up for 5-10 more minutes.
  7. Plate on a platter with veggies on the bottom, chicken on top, and garnish with a squeeze of roasted lemon.

Try not to overcrowd the vegetables in the pan; the more room you leave between them, the more they’ll cook evenly through.

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If you want an even juicier bird, rub it with the seasonings and an extra tablespoon of salt the night before, allowing it to soak everything up overnight in the refrigerator.

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You’ll know the veggies are done when they’ve got a nice caramelized glaze on them and you can pierce them easily with a fork.

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Even after the chicken skin browns up, you’ll want to check the underside to make sure it’s done; the first time I made this recipe, some of the thicker parts needed more time to cook through.

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Special occasion? Serve with a nice light red or creamy white wine, and enjoy!

Recipe: Banana Carrot Muffins

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I don’t know about you, but rainy weather and cold temperatures always put me in the mood for baking. That can get out of hand pretty quickly in a wet climate like Portland, though, so I’m making an effort to incorporate more nutrients into my sweet treats this season.

Case in point: I adapted the following recipe from Wassner Twins’ delicious Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, making some substitutions based on ingredients we happened to have on hand. The result is a perfect little pick-me-up for enjoying with your morning coffee — and it won’t leave you feeling sluggish for hours after.

Banana Carrot Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3 bananas
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 medium carrots, grated with a box grater (about 1 cup)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mash bananas with cinnamon.
  3. Add Agave, oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer on medium (or rigorously by hand) until combined.
  4. Stir in carrots until they’re evenly dispersed throughout the batter.
  5. Add flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing by hand until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Divide mixture into lined muffin pans, filling each one about three-quarters to full (batter won’t rise much).
  7. Bake 20-30 minutes or until edges are golden and a tooth pick inserted into the middle of each muffin comes out clean.

The Wassners recommend using bananas that aren’t over-ripe so the recipe doesn’t get too sweet, but you may want to adjust accordingly if you find that this recipe isn’t sweet enough to your taste.

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You can also play around with the amount of Agave to get the batter to your desired level of sweetness.

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And who would have thought to add carrot into banana bread?

But it’s a great way to get some good vitamin A, as well as a host of other powerful health benefits, including beautiful skin, cancer prevention and anti-aging properties.

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Another area in which you can experiment is the flours: If you’re gluten-free, feel free to swap out the all-purpose flour for your favorite alternative.

But I like to retain some of the white stuff to keep the muffins from getting too dense.

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One word of warning: The batter will be dry and thick, but don’t worry! Simply scoop it into your muffin cups instead of pouring it in.

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Because it is so thick, you’ll also want to smush it down in the cups to make sure they’re filled evenly.

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As you can see, they won’t rise much — if at all — so the best way to tell whether or not they’re done is to make sure to do the toothpick test.

Not only do oven temperatures vary, but these tend to take a bit longer to cook than traditional muffins, so don’t be surprised if their cooking time is on the higher end.

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I promise, though, they’re worth the wait. Your house will smell lovely, and you can eat as many as you’d like, guilt-free…well, within reason.

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What’s your go-to activity when the weather is crummy?

Race Report: LifeTime Fitness 2015 Indoor Triathlon

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Although I said I’d hold off on registering for another triathlon until I work on my swim, I couldn’t help myself when I found out that the Indoor Triathlon Hour powered by Life Time Tri and IRONMAN would be happening while I was in Michigan.

In an effort to inspire the community to consider and commit to racing triathlon in 2015, LifeTime Fitness created the event as a way to offer an inspirationally-charged, safe and indoor environment for athletes of all fitness levels to experience the nation’s fastest growing sport of triathlon.

I did a similar event last year at a different location, and while my distances were slightly shorter this time for the same time-frames (damn!) — 10-minute swim/30-minute bike/20-minute run — I can’t complain too much because my training has been consistent but not particularly focused lately.

My wave — the first of the day — started promptly at 8 a.m., so I arrived about 20 minutes early to check in, get my cap and number and get organized in the locker room transition area. And then it was go time!

Swim: 10 minutes = 17 lengths

Clean, clear water and only two people to a lane? Now, that’s how I start to get my swim mojo back.

And apparently my lane buddy, Eric, had the same idea. He’d done outdoor triathlons before but had a bad swim experience recently, as well, so both of us joked about just wanting to just get through that part of every race.

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Since the lap pool there has five lanes, they limited each heat to 10 people. By the time I had arrived, people were already starting to warm up, so I hopped in and swam one length to try to get the pre-race jitters out.

This is about when I also noticed that my wave-mates were a pretty athletic looking bunch. I was one of three ladies, and I could tell quickly that this wasn’t a group who was trying triathlon for the first time; these people were here to kick off their seasons, so I figured I’d just try to keep up.

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My adrenaline didn’t work in my favor because I went out way too quickly. And the combination of being against the wall (aka swallowing back-splash) and getting bumped a few times took me right back to my Olympic triathlon back in April, and I could feel myself start to panic.

This is where the giant countdown clock came in handy, though, because I’d raise my head at the end of the lane and think, You can do anything for five more minutes. Gradually, I got my rhythm back and, thankfully, the whistle blew for us to stop after I’d gotten 17 lengths under my belt.

Bike: 30 minutes = 7.7 miles

Although they gave us a generous 10 minutes to transition from the swim to the bike, the time flew by. I tugged off my suit in the locker room, threw on my Coeur kit and headed upstairs to the bike area that they had sectioned off by the cardio equipment.

For some added motivation, we could watch Ironman videos on the projection screen, so I snagged a front-row seat for the action. I didn’t have my bike shoes to be able to clip in, so I secured my running shoes in the pedals and prepped my nutrition: a bottle of water and a trusty Chocolate Peppermint Stick LUNA bar.

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And we were off again! The music pumping nice and loud, so I tried to ride to the beat and turned down my resistance as much as possible to gain some of the ground I lost in the pool.

I got the feeling that a few of my heat-mates train together because they rode in a group and were encouraging each other throughout the ride, which was inspiring to hear. We pedaled furiously as a small crowd gathered to watch us push onward, still dripping a bit from the pool, but smiling from ear to ear.

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I think the bikes may have been calibrated differently from last year’s race because my just-under-eight-miles seemed like a conservative estimate for how strongly I felt like I was riding (especially after getting a comment form one of my heat-mates to the same effect). But, regardless, I stayed pretty steady throughout, ate and drank consistently, and was proud of my overall effort.

The second wave came up to join us with about 10 minutes to spare in our ride, so we pedaled as a large group for the final portion. Their energy was a breath of fresh air after hammering away on the stationary bike, and just a few minutes after they got settled the whistle blew for our final transition.

Run: 20 minutes = 2.69 miles

We had five minutes to get from the bikes to the treadmills, but they were just a few yards away, so I grabbed a towel and got situated quickly because I already had my Hoka Conquests on.

My heat-mate next to me had a treadmill malfunction at the very last second, so he scooted over to another machine just as they started a countdown to the third and final portion of the event.

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Because I’ve been managing what I’ve self-diagnosed as some SI joint pain (note to self: must continue to work on my lack of ankle mobility, which is likely the culprit!) since my marathon, my plan was to run a conservative first 10 minutes and then gradually increase my speed over the next 10 minutes to warm up properly.

I started off at 6.8 mph and increased to around 7.5 when one of the volunteers came by, daring me, “I think can go faster than that.” Yep, she was right; I wasn’t really out of breath, so I pumped it up a few tenths of a mile every minute or two until I was up to 8.5 mph 15 minutes in.

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I was hoping to inch up the speed to 9.0 mph like last year, but I started feeling a little lightheaded with three minutes to go, so I gritted my teeth and ran on. Maybe increasing the speed wasn’t an option, but I sure as hell wasn’t backing down at that point!

When the final whistle blew, I ended at 2.69 miles. Not PR territory, but a solid performance with an average pace of 7:26/mile, so I’ll take it…especially considering I’ve eaten my weight in Christmas cookies over the past few weeks.

It was also a wake-up call: Fitness-wise, I’m close to what I was last March, so I’m happy to have been able to maintain. Training-wise, however, I’ve got to dial things in better if I want to progress. And, nutritionally, I think I did ok, but probably could have used some extra oomph for the run in the form of Osmo or Tailwind in addition to the LUNA bar.

All in all, it was an event I’d highly recommend, especially if you’re looking to kick off your training with a low-pressure race and get a baseline in place.

Congrats to everyone who participated, and cheers to a successful 2015 racing season!

6 Simple Tricks for Squeezing in Holiday Workouts

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Have you fallen prey to the “Grinch Who Stole Fitness” this season? Well, the good news is that there’s still time to turn things around before 2015.

If your goal is to celebrate without completely abandoning your regimen, I’ve got six simple strategies for staying on track so you won’t have to dig yourself out of a hole come January 1st:

1. Get the worm. 

Figuratively, that is. Being at the mercy of friends’ and family’s schedules isn’t always conducive to regular workouts, so force yourself to develop a healthy morning routine. Prioritize exercise, and not only will you be more likely to get it done, but you’ll also reap the benefits of extra energy throughout the day.

2. “Run” your errands.

Or walk them. Or park farther away. Or take the stairs. Or lap the mall. However you do it, the idea is the same: Incorporate some additional activity into your to-do list to kill two birds with one stone.

3. Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude. 

I used to think I needed an entire hour in order for a workout to count, but that led to too many skipped sessions during the holiday time crunch. So now I take a different approach: Commit to just 10 minutes of cardio or one mile on the treadmill, and then reassess. If you’re still not feeling it, then stop, but there’s a good chance you’ll keep going once you get some momentum.

4. Make it a family affair. 

There’s no need to sequester yourself in order to break a sweat; instead, make a new tradition of embracing the great outdoors together. Whether it’s ice skating, snow shoveling, sledding or a snowball fight, the whole family can get in on the action. And give each other the gift of a healthy habit in the process.

5. Embrace bribery. 

Sometimes I’ll end my long run at the coffee shop or inspire myself to hit the gym by testing a new piece of gear. The trick is to find out what motivates you, and use that in your favor. Numbers-driven? Try hitting a daily pedometer goal. Competitive? Challenge a friend to a 30-day fitness routine. Bored? Commit to trying something new each day between now and the New Year.

6. Book a race. 

If you’re a regular reader here, this last one shouldn’t come as a surprise to you…because it’s my solution to almost everything. Not only can a holiday-themed race help keep you on your toes, cardio-wise, this time of year, but there’s also no better way to kick off the New Year than with a January race.

And when all else fails, there’s always another of my favorite holiday workouts…

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Happy, healthy holidays!