10 things I’m learning about training for a half marathon!

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IMG_4500I haven’t posted in a long time, but that’s because I was busy with houseguests and interisland trips, but also because I was waiting to post about this new challenge I’ve taken on as a part of my road to recovery after my knee injury. I broke my kneecap almost two years ago and I’m still suffering from atrophy in my left leg and thereby an imbalance in my body. Yoga, of course, does wonders for my imbalances, but as for strengthening my leg muscles, not so much. And, of course, surfing is more of an arm thing than a leg thing–something like 99% of surfing is paddling, but it’s so worth it for that 5-10 second ride!

I used to run quite avidly in high school and university. I played a lot of sports as well, including volley ball, badminton, track and field, soccer, etc., I also used to take and teach dance classes. My legs or knees, for that matter, were never a concern, especially not the strength of them. I had strong legs and a strong butt. But, (no pun intended) after my knee injury, I lost all the butt and leg muscles I didn’t know I had until they were gone, and my legs were untrustworthily weak–there were times I didn’t think I could run away from something dangerous if I had to! Or even jog across the street if need be.

What’s worse, is I absolutely loath strengthening exercises, but I knew and know I have to do them. So I started doing lunges a few times a week–I suppose you could call them ‘leg days’–and started jogging again!

After a few months of simple jogging at a maximum of 2-3 miles, I started to get more and more confident and decided I would train for a half marathon (13.1 miles)! However, I think I became a bit too confident and went too fast too soon. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Don’t buy shoes online, even if they are discounted through your husband’s work. I got the nastiest blisters and they wreaked havoc on my GOOD knee! Try your shoes on in the store, and make sure you’re speaking to someone who knows what they are talking about. I ended up with Asics running shoes, and so far they are fantastic!IMG_4534

2. Don’t do too much too soon. Or, don’t run too fast too soon. I ran too fast and had the wrong running shoes and my Illotibial Band on my GOOD knee became inflamed. Because it wasn’t my weak knee that was the issue, I knew it was something I was doing wrong. So, I researched about cadence, running form and speed, then tried again after resting for a week, and bingo, I was up and running again. Also, I knew my imbalances likely added to my good knee being the issue, because it was compensating, so I make sure to do more lunges and hold longer warriors on my bad/left leg.

3. Get a device (like a Garmin watch with GPS tracking or if you want to take your smartphone with you download Strava) that monitors not only your distance but your pace (minutes per mile) and cadence. I have a Garmin smart watch and it has done wonders for me, because it allows me to keep track of pace so I don’t run too fast and inflame my IT band again! I’m already healthy, cardiovascular-ly speaking from surfing, but because my legs aren’t used to being worked, they can’t keep up with the rest of me, who wants to run hard and fast.

4. Do your research and get on a schedule (there are a plethora of schedules to follow when training for a half marathon, check them all out and decide what is right for you). I’m lucky because the race isn’t until November, so I’m on a 21 week schedule.

5. Don’t stress if you miss a day, do your run the next day or supplement with a bike ride or walk the distance. Sometimes if I feel good and it’s not a run day I’ll run anyway, in case I don’t feel well on the actual run day due to menstrual cramps or weather. That way it still gets done.

6.  Eat when you’re hungry and don’t be afraid to eat more! I don’t eat much as it is,  I eat when I’m hungry and I eat well. I have no idea how much I weigh and haven’t known for years now. All I know is I feel good, so why change things? I stay away from preservatives and prepare all my own healthy, gluten-free snacks. I’m also a pescetarian. Now that I’m several weeks into my training though, I’ve definitely upped my intake of fish! I’m always hungry and I burn through food quick. For extra protein I’m a fan of adding ground chia seed and/or flaxseed to my morning cereal and to everything I bake (cookies, banana bread, etc.). I also add coconut oil to my smoothies (which is: 2 bananas, organic peanut butter, organic honey, organic cocoa and organic almond milk)–chia or flax can be added to any smoothie too!

7. Drink lots of water–although I already do this, so this wasn’t a lesson. BUT, I did start adding a natural electrolyte mix on long run days, I like Skratch Labs. IMG_4521

8. Do a short race or two to get the feeling of a race. I ran in the Lanikai 8k (5 miles) this past weekend (July 19th) and crushed it! It was the day I was suppose to begin running 5 miles (the most I’ve run since I started the training) so it lined up perfectly with my training schedule. I read that you should run a short race at the pace you would run your long race (a half or full marathon) and that’s exactly what I did, and I didn’t stop for a break once and I actually outran my husband on the last mile!

9. Make time for naps everyday. I wake up at 4 a.m. (5 a.m. in the winter when the sun rises later) to surf dawn patrol and then run after work (3-4 times a week), and if I don’t get at least a 15-minute nap before I start work at 10 a.m. I can barely make it through the day to even think about going for a walk let alone a run. And with that said, get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Eat dinner early and go to bed early.

IMG_451010. Stretch and massage. The stretching wasn’t a lesson for me, but the massage was. Either pay for a massage or make your husband massage your back or legs or feet for at least 5 minutes everyday or every other day, haha. (Massages are pricy!!) It has really helped with my recovery after a lot of exercise.

Speaking of which: stay tuned for some yoga tips for runners!

Sweet Potato Soup

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This is a very simple, healthy and delicious recipe partnered with some rice, salad or quesadillas!

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Sweet Potato Soup

You’ll need: a blender or food processor and sauce pan/soup pot

1 medium to large steamed sweet potato (or baked, but I’ve only ever steamed it)

1 1/2 to 2 cups of vegetable broth (use water from steaming the potato!)

1/2 cup almond milk (or cow milk, your choice)

1 tsp cumin powder

dash of salt (Iodized is better) 

3-4 garlic cloves (chopped)

1 tbls of onion (chopped)

2-3 tbls of oil (olive oil makes it saltier, coconut oil sweeter)

Instructions

1. Steam the sweet potato until very soft. Set aside and let cool.

2. Sauté chopped onion and garlic in oil in sauce pan/pot (the same pot you’ll use for the soup later) until the garlic is brown, and onions are becoming translucent. Remove the garlic and onion from the oil with a spoon or fork, and place on a plate or bowl to cool.

3. Once cooled, peel off the skin of the potato, place the meat in blender, add milk and some of the vegetable broth or all (depending on the size of your blender or food processor, you may not have space for all the broth, but you can add it later in the pot).

4. Add the onion and garlic to the blender, then blend the potato, milk, broth and garlic and onions together until smooth and whipped.

5. Poor the mix into the pot with oil (same pot you sautéed the onion and garlic in), add the rest of the broth water then heat on medium. Stir in cumin and salt as it heats. Don’t over heat the soup as it will get thicker and thicker. Add more water or milk as needed. Taste test to your preference.

Enjoy!

Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookies

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These cookies are a major hit with friends and family. They are delicious and so easy! I make them with oat flour so they are gluten free, but if you don’t mind the gluten then whole wheat flour, of course, works well too.

Oat Flour Oatmeal Cookies!

In these cookies I added almonds! You can be so creative with oatmeal cookies.

In these cookies I added almonds! You can be so creative with oatmeal cookies.

1 cup oat flour

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1 stick of melted unsalted butter

3/4 cup of coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)

1 egg (or,as an egg alternative, 1 tbls ground flaxseed soaked in 3 tbls water for 5 mins)

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup chopped dates or raisins or almonds/walnuts (optional)

Instructions:

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Melt butter on low heat and let sit to cool while mixing together the dry ingredients (see next step).

3. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the oat flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and dates or raisins (optional), then set aside.

4. Prepare the wet ingredients: mix vanilla and egg (or soaked ground flaxseed, see ingredients) together in small bowl. Tip: A tablespoon of cream or non-dairy milk can be added if you think it might be too dry; this makes the cookies more moist. Then, add melted butter to eggs (or flaxseed) and vanilla (Tip: be careful, the hot butter could cook the eggs, let butter cool).

6. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix together, turning the dough over with flexible mixing spatula. The batter should be thick and sticky.

7. Spoon spoonfuls of dough onto a cooking pan (You don’t need to oil or butter the pan).

8. Bake for 7 minutes, then turn the pan around, and back for another 7 minutes. Bake for 14 minutes total, until the edges are slightly brown. Tip: it’s very easy to overcook these!!! Use a timer.

Yields a dozen medium-sized cookies.

The yoga ball and why it’s awesome!

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It’s been referred to as an exercise ball, aerobics ball, Swiss ball, etc., but it’s all the same thing. I call it a yoga ball because I actually practice some asanas on it for extra core-strengthening and to build my stabilizing muscles for surfing!

I’d always used a yoga ball as a part of my strengthening routine: sit ups, push ups, twists, etc. In fact, check this out! The plank to knee-crunch is great for surfers!

In addition to practicing basic exercises with my yoga ball, I also use my yoga ball as my office chair. There are pros and cons to using a yoga ball as your office chair, however; so, you be the judge.

Adho Mukha Svanasana

I kid you not, though, my core muscles have never been more toned and strong since I began using my yoga ball as part of my home office. (Check this out to learn about getting the right ball for you.)

Just by sitting on the ball and moving around to keep your balance works your muscles. You can also set a flat square cushion on the ball for even more comfort. Again, check out the pros and cons  to see if this is right for you. If you suffer from lower back pain already, using it as an office chair may not be the best option, but using it to work out likely will be!

I tend to sit for long periods of time teaching online phone and video classes to ESL (English as a Second Language, also known as English as a Learned Language) students in Korea. I have the luxury of working from home, so I can get up during classes and stretch for a minute, so I’m not sitting the whole time. Whether it be a yoga ball or a chair, sitting for long periods will trap energy in parts of your body, so get up and move around.

As I’m sitting, I also habitually lift my feet and simply balance there as I’m teaching (speaking, typing, etc.). I can even sit balanced in Sukhasana now.

Shalambasana

Here’s Shalambasana, Locust Pose. Try balancing on your tummy first then work your way up.

For fun, I started trying some asanas (yoga poses) on the ball (not as I’m teaching). Turns out, some are possible–as long as you’re careful, full Navasana (boat pose) left a substantial bruise on my bum.

What I’m trying to say is, working your core isn’t as hard as we’re made to think. Simply balancing on a yoga ball, on your bum, with your feet off the floor an inch or so, with your spine elongated, and chest lifted, is a fantastic little core workout.

Ustrasana

Here’s Ustrasana, Camel Pose, with one arm. Try balancing on your knees in Virasna, Hero Pose, then work your way to lifting your bum up off your heels.

You should be able to find a yoga ball at your local outlet (Winner’s if your live in Canada; Ross if you live in America) for a decent price.

Ayurveda for Women by Dr. Robert E. Svoboda

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Ayurveda for Women by Dr. Robert E. Svoboda

Ayurveda for Women by Dr. Robert E. Svoboda

 

During my Level 1 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training I was introduced, with some depth, to Ayurveda. Of course, there will always be more to learn about India’s traditional system of health and healing, but where was I to begin? As a woman, who has menstrual cycles and therefore a unique vulnerability to the elements of the world, I saw Dr. Svoboda’s book ‘Ayurveda for Women’ as a welcoming–and perhaps a necessary–companion to my knowledge and awareness of Ayurveda, and thereby to my health and wellbeing.

This book is concise, honest (even funny at times) and very relatable for today’s Western woman. Dr. Svoboda is the first Westerner to ever graduate from a college of Ayurveda and be licensed to practice in India and is the leading advocate of Ayurveda in the USA.

The book is written in three parts (aside from the introduction), childhood, womanhood and the wise woman–that is, birth, life and death. It provides a series of questions to help you decipher your dosha*–or doshas, if you have more than one, like me. (*The word dosha means ‘fault,’ ‘mistake,’ ‘imperfection.’ There are three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha.)

Here are a few things I learned valuable from this book:

– Always sit down when you eat. Make time to eat consciously. Try not to talk too much while eating. Don’t watch tv/a movie/etc. while eating. Enjoy every bite. Chew slowwwly. (I’m the slowest eater you’ll meet, but these are always a very good reminder! And now I don’t have to feel so bad when I’m still eating 30 minutes after everyone else has finished.)

– Don’t just taste the food, feel it, smell, see it, and even hear it! When you cook your own food, you are engaging all of your senses. Feel the food before you put it in the pot, pan, dish, etc. Better yet, eat with your hands as much as possible (Indians eat with their hands because feeling your food is also part of the digestive process). Listen to it sizzle. Appreciate the colours (the more the colours the better! Indian food is rich in colours). By engaging all your senses you are adding to and aiding in the digestive process.

– Add turmeric to more dishes/recipes.

– Take note of the side effects of what you eat and don’t eat that again (this I’ve always done, but I’m hyper aware of it now). Side effects such as bloating, acne, headaches, etc. are some to consider.

– Eat when you are hungry (This I’ve always done, but am happy to know I’m not doing it wrong!)

– Be careful with what you eat and physically do before and during menstruation. Don’t physically exert yourself before or during; get lots of sleep before and during; and, eat light meals and less coffee/caffeine a few days before and during. Your menstrual cycle–the regularity or irregularity of it, the premenstrual symptoms, and the length of it–is a huge indicator of your physical health and the toxins stored up in your body. A short menstrual cycle is the key. (Since reading this book, and therefore since being more conscious of my menstrual cycle, my menstruation period has decreased from 5 days to 3 days!)

– Consider getting monthly oil massages by a professional to help detox your body and relieve tension and stress pent up in the muscles.

– Take Triphala regularly (and continue to take probiotic capsules!).

– Lastly, refer back to the book regularly when in question about something, anything regarding food and your menstrual cycle.

~ Namaste ~

 

Vegetarian, Gluten-free Gravy!

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How, on earth? Vegetarian and gluten-free gravy? You heard me correctly. I’ve been using this recipe for the past few years and it has been a fan favorite. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

3 tbs of butter (you could use your choice of oil for a vegan recipe!)

2 tbs of finely chopped onions

2 minced garlic cloves

3-4 tbs of oat flour (if you don’t care about the gluten, whole wheat flour will do!)

1 tbs of soy sauce

1 1/4 cup of vegetable broth

1 pinch of salt (optional)

Instructions

Saute the onions and garlic until golden in a saucepan (or pot will work too) with butter (or oil). Once golden, add vegetable water and soy sauce, stir, then directly stir in the flour bit by bit with a whisk to avoid clumping. If you like your gravy thin then put less oat flour, if you like it thick then the full measurement will do. You may need to add more water, soy sauce, etc. until you get the consistency and taste that you prefer. Some black pepper added to it is delicious, too! Enjoy.

Why I’m Currently Obsessed with Coconut Oil!

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In a recent post I discussed the benefits of oil pulling with coconut oil. Here I will discuss the benefits I’ve experienced from pulling and the benefits from adding coconut oil to my diet.

So, I wake up in the morning, swish my mouth quickly with water then begin pulling about one tablespoon of coconut oil (I really like Nutiva coconut oil) as I dry bush. It hasn’t noticeably whitened my teeth–but I believe that is because I like my morning Early Grey and a post-surf coffee everyday. However, it has shown some significant positive effects in other ways.

Benefits I’ve Experienced from Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil:

1. It has completely diminished all my tooth pain. I had some exposed nerves from receding gums, which bothered me from time to time, but that has completely gone away. I also had some undetermined pain in one of my molars, which I thought perhaps was a previously-filled cavity that had lost a piece of filling, but since pulling it hasn’t bothered me since. (Note: when I say bothered, I mean I couldn’t chew on that side of my mouth and was extremely sensitive to temperature).

2. My teeth are silky smooth. I don’t have any plaque build up–which is great when I’m too lazy for a thorough brushing.

3. My lips never need moisturizing as the oil does it for me!

4. My skin is better. When I first started pulling, I had a few breakouts then they all just went away. Now I only have the very occasional menstrual breakout–if even. The pulling brought out all the bad stuff and got rid of it.

5. All mouth sores, such as canker sores or bit lips, heal very quickly with pulling and offer relief from the pain until healed. As the pulling did with my skin, at first I had three breakouts of canker sores in my mouth for about three days, then they went away and I haven’t had any since–again the pulling brought out the bad stuff and killed it.

Benefits I’ve Experienced from Adding Coconut Oil to my Daily Diet!

Photo from Paleoista.com

Photo from Paleoista.com

Coconut oil has been coined a superfood for a plethora of reasons. I stumbled upon this article: “Coconut Oil Coffee, Blended not stirred…the secret!” Now, I bet you’re thinking, “Ew, oil in my coffee?” My husband still turns his nose up when he sees me add it to my coffee. In fact, people have been putting natural butter in their coffee as well–the Wellness Mama adds both!

Before I begin: I don’t have this everyday, just from time to time when I need an extra something. Also, I don’t blend mine as I’m afraid of putting hot beverages in my blender, so I put mine in a tumbler then shake it fairly well, making it equally nice and frothy. Or, you can poor from one cup to another cup, back and forth repeatedly 4-5 times. 

1. After a cup of coconut oil coffee, I definitely notice an increase in energy and a significant improvement in my mood! This is very important for me, because as an English as a Second Language phone tutor who teaches back-to-back classes for five to six hours, with approximately 15-20 students/classes as my full-time job with often no breaks for a snack or lunch, I need something to keep me upbeat and cheerful on the phone with my students.

2. As for the no break for a snack or lunch bit, another positive effect is that it suppresses appetite.

3. It tastes yummy! But if you’re not a fan of flavoured coffee, it may take some getting used to!

For more/different ways to add coconut oil to your diet check out these tips from the Wellness Mama!

For a list of the why coconut oil is being coined a superfood check out these links:

The Wellness Mama

Organic Facts

Authority Nutrition

For a list of other uses of coconut oil:

The Wellness Mama

Mercola Health Website