Tuesday, June 25, 2013

STR: Day 16 (Running... with hills!)

Tuesdays are becoming my 6+ mile mornings, apparently. Last Tuesday I headed east, into town, running around the park. This morning, I headed west, out into the country, running to a friend's house and back, 6.62 miles, an extra .36 miles compared to last Tuesday. My pace was a little slower--8:42--but I managed the last half of the run faster than the first half, so that's something. My first mile was actually an 8:30 pace... so what happened?

In a word: geography. This run was basically the same as the one I ran last Thursday (Day 11), just with another country mile added to the out and back. That seemed like it would be easy enough, until actual geography intervened. You see, it turns out that the nice, [mostly] flat run that I did on Thursday turns into a bunch of hills a half mile after where I turned around. Hey runningmap.com, how about a heads up there? And who put these hills in Indiana, anyway? I'm pretty sure "Hoosier" translates to "one who doesn't do hills." The scenery was great though--woods and rolling pastures--even if I didn't particularly want to be running through it. No doubt the hills slowed me down though, in part because of the actual effort of going up hills, and in part because of the mental drain that comes with knowing you have to run hills. These weren't nearly as bad as what I encountered when I lived in western Pennsylvania, where I'd nicknamed one hill "soul crusher."

At the same time, it's amazing how my mood lightens as soon as I get to the middle of the intersection I was headed for and turn for home. My steps felt lighter, and although the hills may not have been any faster going in the other direction, the next mile after the hills definitely was. It took me just over 29 minutes to get to where I turned around, but my total time was 57:37. Isn't that fascinating, though? I mean, I've just run 3+ miles, so my legs aren't exactly fresh. And I've got another 3+ miles to go, so it's not even like the end is that close--at my pace we're talking 29 minutes of continued running. Yet as soon as I started heading for home I felt better, stronger, faster, like the whole thing was easier. It's all in the mind, all in the mind--so how do I make the whole dang run feel like that? Shouldn't that be possible?

"It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful. But it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." --Henry David Thoreau, author, philosopher, and--who knew?--running coach

Also, that is some serious running hair there. Or maybe he's tapering for a race and he'll shave the hairdo and beard right before the big one. Go Thoreau, go!

But I guess if affecting the quality of the day is "the highest of arts," we can't expect it to come easily. Another run, another chance to try, right?

Monday, June 24, 2013

STR: Days 13-15

In the last three days, my workouts have included another body weight workout, running with a jogging stroller, and sitting around reading and watching Game of Thrones. Can you guess which was my favorite day?

Day 13
As planned, Saturday was a big day of nothing. We sat around reading, we got caught up with the last four or five episodes of Game of Thrones. No strength training, no runs.

Day 14
No real plan for Sunday--it could have been another rest day and maybe it should have been another rest day, but I was feeling an itch to do something and my wife and 3-year-old both seemed like they'd be happier if our nigh-on-15-month-old was out of the house (or at least somewhere she couldn't knock down their block castles). So I decided to give the jogging stroller a try.

I didn't like it; I had a lousy run.

Now, maybe some of that is because I'm not used to it. Maybe some of that is because I'm no longer used to evening runs and have gotten to where I really prefer a run first thing in the morning. Maybe it's because--wheels or no wheels--I've got something like 30 pounds or more to move around besides the pounds that I carry around on a normal day. Whatever the reason, I was slow and I knew I was slow, because I felt all out of sorts.

This seems like a good time to talk about one aspect of the way I run: I focus a lot on stride rate, working to keep it above 90 steps per minute with each leg. This idea came from The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris, and it was a big help--everything feels easier when I get this right. How do I get this right? I could use the metronome app on my iPod, but that would get awfully boring awfully quickly, just listening to the tick-tick-tick mile after mile. So I went for a different type of crazy and went through more or less all of  my music library with the "tap" function of the metronome (you tap a beat, it tells you how fast it is) to figure out which songs in my library were at the right tempo to keep me going at 90+ steps per minute.

In general, I've found that--at least where I am in my running right now--a higher stride rate doesn't necessarily translate into a faster run. Because I can't find an hour or so of music that's all right at 90 beats per minute (or the subdivision of that, 180), my mix goes from 90 up to around 102, and everything in between. On a treadmill, I've run at a constant pace with my running mix on, and I find I'm keeping the same pace regardless. The same, I think, can easily be true out in the real world, because in order to keep up with the faster pace, it's probably natural to shorten my stride, so that even though my steps are faster, I'm taking more steps per mile, so it all comes out the same (except that I'm working harder at a faster stride rate).

I mention all this, because it relates to why the run felt wrong with the jogging stroller. Except for the songs that were right at 90 beats per minute, I couldn't get my legs to keep up. Just couldn't do it. Normally 90 is easy and 102 is a nice challenge, and most everything in between feels good too. Not last night! Everything felt like a struggle. I wasn't planning on a long run anyway--which was fortunate, since I don't think I had a long run in me. It ended up being 2.58 miles in just under 25 minutes, which put me at a 9:37 pace. I was afraid it was going to be slower than 10:00, so I guess there's that.

I really do have to look at it as a whole different beast from a regular run. Even though, compared to a regular stroller, the jogging stroller moves pretty easily, it's not like it can somehow overcome the laws of physics and have no effect on my run. There's a 22-23# child in it, plus whatever its effective weight is, and the energy to move that has to come from somewhere. I suppose if I could get myself to do this kind of run more often, it would probably be good for me--certainly, it was good for mommy, sissy, and maybe even the little nugget herself, though it was hard to tell if she enjoyed it or not (no squeals of delight, but she wasn't crying or fussing, either--at least, not that I could hear over my headphones...).

Day 15
Start of a new week, back to the body weight workout (except for the kettlebell I brought into the workout). And it goes like this:

5 sets of 5 reps of one-legged squats: I'm still building up to doing real one-legged squats, with a tiny little chair behind me. I'm basically doing negatives here, but once I get down to that point, I don't have the oomph to get back up. To be clear, I "should" be going this low (basically parallel) or lower, but I'm not there yet. Again, I added 10 regular, unloaded squats after each set, then took 2 minutes of rest.
5 sets of 5 reps of handstand push-ups: still the ultimate shoulder exercise, still couldn't actually get 5 sets of 5 reps--once again, I did what I could and then did five with my feet up on a chair.
1 set kettlebell swings: I have a love/hate relationship with kettlebell swings. I feel like I'm not quite getting the form, because I feel something uncomfortable in my knees. And once upon a time, I threw out my back, and I know that wasn't how these things were supposed to go. I did one set of 75 reps with a 60# kettlebell, but I'm thinking next time this workout comes around, I may drop down to the 35-pounder and really focus on form.
3 sets of pull-ups to failure: Always fun. Note to self: switch grip to chin-up next time this workout comes around, just for the sake of variety.
3 sets, alternating between 60 seconds of plank and 60 seconds of bridge: Last time, I did 30 seconds each. Is anyone surprised that it was harder this way? I mean that in a good way.

Friday, June 21, 2013

STR: Days 10-12

Day 10 (otherwise known as Wednesday)

We're back to another body weight workout, with a similarity to Monday's workout. But before I got to that, I took our 3-year-old to her tennis lesson and spent 30-40 minutes hitting serves. Which must have been some kind of workout, for reasons I'll mention later. But first, the workout I did after we got back from tennis:

5 sets of 5 reps of one-legged squats: taking a cue from a YouTube video that I'm too lazy to locate that suggested sitting back onto stairs to build up to a full one-legged squat, I used one of my daughters' mini-chairs (they're wood chairs that survived decades in a church nursery, so I trust them to handle me) and sat back onto it, so I got a good negative getting down to it, as long as I didn't just plop down. I couldn't just use one leg to get back up from there, but I tried to keep as much weight on that leg as possible.
5 sets of 5 reps of handstand push-ups: the ultimate shoulder exercise--I couldn't actually get 5 sets of 5 reps, but for each of the sets I started off with full on handstand push-ups, went to failure, and then used a chair to take some of the weight off and do 5 reps that way.
3 sets of yoga wheels: it's hard to mimic the dead lift with a body weight exercise, and doing wheels like this seemed like it worked my shoulders more than my posterior chain, but I did 3 sets of them.
3 sets of pull-ups to failure: I sure am glad that our back yard came with clothes line poles.

The workout that I was basing this body weight workout off of called for "prone bridges," which everyone I know calls "planks." Since someone calls them prone bridges, however, that gave me an idea:
3 sets, alternating between 30 seconds of plank and 30 seconds of bridge (another yoga pose, which hits the posterior chain at least as well as wheel pose.

Then, because even all this wasn't enough workout for me, in the evening I biked the three miles each way to my tennis league and played a doubles match there. Where I pretty much stunk it up, starting with the serve that I'd practiced twice now this week. Which points to a couple things: 1) serves take more work than 1 hour in 1 week to really groove and 2) that was enough time to make my elbow and (to a lesser extent) my shoulder sore. No excuses, though: we should have won our match. Grrrrr.

Day 11
Up early in the morning and out for a run. Usually (as much as "usually" applies to something you've done 3 times before) I run east, into town, and run around town. Except for the first, mile and a half of each run that way, there are sidewalks, which are nice enough. We're on the edge of town, though, so heading west took me out into the country. Since I grew up firmly planted in the cornfields of northern Ohio, "the country" feels like a very comfortable place to be--and to run. In fact, when I was at my most avid, I was running in a landscape that looked very much like what I tackled Thursday morning, surrounded by fields, woods, and the occasional house, encountering the occasional car speeding by at 55 (or way s'more than 55) on what's basically a narrow 2-lane road. I ended up running 4.6 miles (for a weekly total of nearly 11 miles for the week) in just over 40 minutes, which made an 8:47 pace: I knew it was slower than Tuesday's run, even though it was a shorter run. So it goes.

Day 12
Today brought me back to a workout that was so much like Monday's workout that it was identical, barring a few tweaks:
5 sets of 5 reps of one-legged squats: 2 minutes between sets, but in that 2 minutes, I also did 10 deep squats.
5 sets of 5 reps of something-like-one-armed-push-ups (The other arm just supported from my fingertips): the first couple sets had 2 minutes between them, the last three I cut it down to 1 minute)
3 sets of Australian pull-ups to failure: 2 minutes break in between
3 sets of push-ups to failure: 2 min break
3 sets, alternating between reverse crunches and back raises: no rest between sets

There were so many ways I didn't want to do this workout. I just wasn't feeling it, probably in some measure because I spent 2 and a half hours push-mowing a lawn yesterday and then we had friends over for dinner, which was exhausting on top of exhaustion, and wonderful, and a great excuse to have a few beers and eat a lot of delicious (but not necessarily healthy) food: pasta with a lemon cream sauce, salad, a rice dish, s'mores... and probably not enough water. Lauren went to bed with a headache and nausea, while I just woke up feeling crappy. It didn't help that this morning was a warm, muggy morning.

So it wasn't the best workout I've ever had, but I pushed through and did all the sets and reps that I'd planned to do. Some days, that has to be enough, I guess.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

STR: Day 9

I've decided to start abbreviating "Summer Training Regimen," in part because it's long to write out every time, in part because I'm afraid I'll accidentally type "Regiment" one of these times, and in part because the acronym "STR" looks like an abbreviation for "strength." Neat how that worked out, eh?

This morning, I was up bright and early for a run--protein shake in my belly, Vibrams on my feet, headphones in my ears, and tunes pounding down through my legs. It was 6:48 at Mile 0. My run took me from an industrial park to an actual park. At one point, I politely greeted a pair of runners heading the other way, then as I looped around, we "ran into" each other again. We flashed smiles all around, as strangers became familiar faces.

My big loop through the town ended up totaling 6.26 miles and eating up 53:45 of my day, which meant a pace of 8:35 per mile. It wasn't as fast as I would have liked, nor as slow as I feared I was going, especially when the going got tough in the last mile. Seriously: who put that hill in the last mile back to my house? I don't like running up it at the start of my run and I sure as heck don't like running up it at the end of my run, even if it does make the final bit mostly downhill.

But anyway, I did it, my calves are leading the rest of my leg muscles in a "we did it!" chorus, and I'm showered, dressed, and ready to face the day.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Training Regimen: Days 6-8

Day 6--otherwise known as Saturday--was intended as a rest day, but I almost ruined that plan by going for a run. Don't worry folks: I managed to stop myself!

Day 7, I almost did it again, but instead I picked up two of these babies that we bought from friends who are moving to NYC:

Moving these suckers was just a bit of a workout, which I compensated for with some German Gatorade--if you're not familiar with this magical exercise-enhancing elixir, it's a combination of water, hops, and some grain or another that uses a natural fermentation process to make it more delicious and nutritious. It's basically the beverage equivalent of yogurt or sauerkraut in terms of healthfulness, I'm pretty sure. Speaking of yogurt, we had some of that too--frozen, with workout-enhancing, rapidly-digesting carbohydrates, as well as peanut butter, cake batter, cookie dough, and marshmallow.

Okay, so I took advantage of Father's Day for all it was worth as an excuse to eat bread and cheese and ice cream and beer.

Today, Day 8, got me back on track (I say that as if I hadn't planned for my weekend to be basically what it was!) with a body-weight workout: today, I simplified it a bit but added sets, so it looked like this:

5 sets of 5 reps of one-legged squats
5 sets of 5 reps of something-like-one-armed-push-ups (I did use the other arm to provide stability and take a little of the weight off)
3 sets of Australian pull-ups to failure
3 sets of push-ups to failure
3 sets of reverse crunches (holy cow! it's an ab exercise sighting!)

Although it might be a stretch to count it as a workout, I did also get in some time on the tennis court this morning while our 3-year-old was at her tennis "lesson" (I've said it before and I'll say it again: any lessons at this age--tennis, ballet, pole dancing--are basically about developing physical coordination and the ability to listen to directions and focus a little bit, with a little bit of excitement also generated for the nominal activity). I got in a half hour to forty minutes of much-needed work on my serve. I've always said that the only excuse for a bad serve in tennis or poor free-throw shooting in basketball is lack of practice. And right now, I'm pretty lousy at both.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer Training Regimen: Days 4 & 5

Yesterday morning, I decided to take another run, but since 1) my calves were still a bit stiff from Tuesday's run and 2) I was looking at a league tennis match later that day plus 3) I needed to take our 3-yr-old to a tennis lesson, which meant that I couldn't go out too long if I wanted to work out in the morning (and I do, because I'm not a big fan of running under a heavy sun). I wasn't really sure how far it was to run down to one of our corners, but I thought it might be a mile. It wasn't--more like .81. So I ran there and back a bit faster than what I did on my longer run on Tuesday.

It was something like an 8-minute mile, but I can't say for sure because the stopwatch app on my iPod did something very weird: it didn't start right away. I started it (I thought) as I took off down the road. When my second song came on, I realized that I was on the wrong playlist (yes, it makes a difference), so I went to change it, and the stopwatch was only at :36, even though I was sure I must have been running longer than that. When I got back to our house, the stopwatch app said 10:30-something, even though I left at 6:48 and got back at 7:01. I started walking at that point, but then decided to take an easy jog down to the other corner from our house, which turned out to be about a quarter mile each way. So ended up doing 2.1 miles.

Day 5
I was back to a strength-training day, but I wanted to mix it up, so I decided to give a different Bodybuilding.com bodyweight workout a shot.  It mixed in some different exercises and a different approach: a circuit workout instead of doing sets of the same exercise before moving on to the next exercise. The cycle went from Handstand push-ups to One-armed push-ups to pull-ups to one-legged squats to knee jumps to headstand leg raises and finishing with Mahler Body Blasters, which are either named after the guy who put together this workout (Mike Mahler) or else requires you to whistle, hum, or sing (depending on your fitness level) the tune to your favorite movement from a Mahler symphony. The idea was 5-10 of each of these, except the last, which was a lot more than that. And doing 5 circuits. So how did that go?

Handstand push-ups: I've been doing these previously with my feet on a high stool because I couldn't do them straight up. I figured I'd try to actually do them, and I actually got 5 of them the first time through. I only ended up doing 3 circuits, and I got 3 each of those next two times through. I was pleasantly surprised.

One-armed push-ups: So, clapping push-ups are easy enough that I'm getting more than 15 on my first set and quite a few on subsequent sets, so one-armed push-ups seemed like a good step up. Except that I can't really do them. I eeked out 3 each circuit, but only by using the other arm to offer a bit of support (but not too much--I mean, there's a reason I only got three on each side!).

Pull-ups: Okay, I can rock these: 10 or more each time.

One-legged squats: I'm right where I have been all week: I'm doing 5 each time, but I don't have the full range of motion--you're supposed to get all the way down, with your butt barely off the ground. Cripes. I can't do that with both legs. I'm getting down about as far as I usually get with back squats (the one with a bar on, you know, your back), which is to say not far enough. If I'm ever able to actually do one-legged squats the way God meant them to be done, I will feel like the biggest badass in the history of badassery. And you will all know about it, either because you'll see me strutting around like God's gift to one-legged squats, or because you'll read about it here and/or on Facebook, 'cause you know I'll be bragging if I get there.

Knee jumps: I wasn't familiar with these, and the description on the workout didn't quite do it for me (thank you to Youtube for clearing matters up, even if the video didn't deliver on the promised "tips"). Basically, you start out in a kneeling position, resting on your knees and the tops of your feet, butt down on your heels. You use your arms a bit for momentum with a backward and forward swing, and spring up into the bottom of a squat. It sounds harder than it is. I went ahead and stood up from there, which made it marginally more difficult, but even so, I didn't find it that hard. I was managing 20 of these in the third set, which my math skills tell me is more than the requested 5-10. Does that make up for my poor performance on Handstand and One-armed Pushups?

Headstand Leg Raises: In the first round, my basic conclusion was "What the frak are these?" I couldn't figure out any way to make my body do what it was indicated that I was supposed to be doing. So during the 3 minutes I took between cycles, I looked it up--thanks once again to Youtube, though the first video I looked at was not very helpful--yeah, thanks for showing me you can do them, now how about some advice since I can't? Getting my back up against a wall helped, but I still found these to be crazy hard. With the wall, I did 3 each time, but they were quite possibly the crappiest headstand leg raises in the history of headstand leg raises. I had to use momentum to get them going, I bent my legs, struck deals with the devil mid-rep, just to get up there. It was not pretty. Oddly enough, I won't feel nearly as hardcore mastering these as I will if I ever get the one-legged squat.

Mahler Body Blaster: this is like a 1st cousin once removed to the classic burpee that everyone knows and loves and/or hates. Start out in a full squat, rock back on your back all the way so that your feet touch the ground behind your head, then roll forward so you get back into a squat. Hands down, kick back into the top of a push up, do the obligatory push up, bring those legs back, and stand up. Which, I now see, is not quite how this guy interprets it. He doesn't roll back as far and doesn't stand up, but he's more explosive in the way he gets to the push-up position. And, looking around, I see that Mike Mahler describes it differently elsewhere, in way that's exactly what the guy in the video was doing. Nowhere did I hear a symphony theme, though.

All in all, I'm a little bit ambivalent about today's workout. I cut it down to 3 circuits because I was short on time and short on energy too. I felt like the workout was hitting my quads pretty good, but most other things weren't getting as much--no doubt that's in large part because I couldn't actually do the requested 5 reps of several of the other exercises, so even though I was getting to the point of muscle failure, I wasn't really getting quite that feeling of muscular exhaustion that I might have expected. I don't think I'll do this same workout next week, but maybe I'll come back to it later in the summer with hopes of being able to complete it more fully (I was stoked about getting 5 real handstand push-ups the first round)--I may also incorporate a few aspects of it into what I'm doing.

Oh, and when I do get around to this workout again, someone remind me to throw Symphony of a Thousand in my playlist.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Building the Dream by Alternate Means

Lauren and I went through the process of designing a dream house once, back when we thought we might actually be able to afford to build a dream house. It was nothing too fancy, nothing too ostentatious (the castle-like towers and the cupola reading nook all got nixed by Lauren before we even talked to the architect), but it was what we wanted in a house if we were building from scratch. Its essential features were: a super energy-efficient straw bale design, with an amazing kitchen, an open floor plan that ran said kitchen into the dining area into the living area in a seamless whole, one full wall of bookcases in that living room, and a basement (after all, our address is "Tornado Alley"). Also, it had a neat arrangement that gave our daughters connected but separate bedrooms, had office space for us, and lots and lots of windows.

Bookcases, a fireplace, and a huge wall of windows.

In the end, buying a house turned out to be the way to go, and though it would be easy to lament the lost time (and money) that went into designing our dream house, we're too happy with where we ended up to waste much energy on it. Let's see how we did:

Energy-efficient straw bale design: um, no. Not even close. But there's a certain efficiency in not building a whole new house, right?
Amazing kitchen: "amazing" would be an overstatement, but the kitchen was definitely a selling point of this house: check
Open floor plan: Not really, though it's true that I'm currently sitting in the living room and I can look through the dining room and see into the kitchen (or, anyway, 2 square feet of the kitchen)
One wall full of bookcases: no, but there was one free bookcase left with the house
Office space: yes, though it's basically a poorly insulated enclosed porch
Lots of windows: check
Separate-but-connected bedroom arrangement for the girls: does making them share a room count?
Basement: absolutely. In fact, here's us cowering in the basement during the tornado warning last night:
If we're trapped down here, we can live on maple syrup; also, the rubble will make finding the Easter eggs more fun.
It may look dungeonesque, and it may not be water-tight, but the metal post gives a remarkable sense of security in a tornado.

Now, even if the house didn't come ready-made with all the features we dream of, it's not as though we couldn't find ways to bring it closer to our ideal. For instance, Ikea was just the ticket to give us more or less the living room wall of our dreams:

Yes, it did need to be a bigger photo: it's the wall of our dreams.

 Hardwood floors and a wall of hardbacks (and quality paperbacks... and mass market paperbacks): throw in a couple comfy chairs for reading and another wall of bay windows and you've got everything we need. 

But while we're on handy storage arrangements, Lauren went one step forward in the happy display of my obsessions when she suggested repurposing two towering cabinets that originally went with the entertainment center we bought from some friends before they moved to Pakistan. They didn't fit in our living room and, anyway, there was nothing TV-related that we needed them for, so they went in a nook between our dining room and our office space. Originally, we had craft supplies for the girls in them, but Lauren suggested that I could put our board game collection inside. So, behind its doors, we have this:
It could still use some organization. And more games.

It's right off the dining room, around whose table we would likely be playing these games, assuming we ever get around to playing board games while our kids are 1 and 3 (which is to say, prone to anti-board-gaming behavior).

And these are some of the things we love in and about our home.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Training Regimen: Days 1-3

Monday, I started my summer workouts after a week off. I took a week off because 1) the school's gym is closed and 2) I was feeling too busy to work out. Now, with the true advent of summer, I've got a couple other problems: 1) the gym is still closed for another week or so and 2) the gym is 15 minutes away, which is kind of inconvenient now that I'm not going to work.

So: what to do? One option would be to get a membership at Lifeplex, which is within sight of our house... but it's not exactly a great value. And I have a hard time paying for a gym membership when I have free access to a pretty decent gym (even if it's 15 minutes away). So I'm thinking along different lines: for the next two months, I'm planning to forgo the gym entirely. Which is tough, because I love lifting weights. Seriously: love it.

But I'm also usually up for something new. I drew some inspiration from this article on Bodybuilding.com suggesting bodyweight alternatives to weightlifting standards. So I put together the exercises into a workout. Normally I would do a workout that combines a couple muscle groups and hits them hard, in different ways. Like, say, 3 different chest exercises, then three more tricep exercises, plus some ab work; and then on another day, I'd do a bunch of back exercises and then a bunch of bicep exercises. Etc. But while I do think that these bodyweight exercises can be good substitutes, I don't get the sense that I can get that kind of variety. So what I'm thinking is doing a full-body workout three days a week, with something else in between. So far, with a sample size of one, that's been running.

 Day 1
 So what am I doing? Monday, it was Handstand Push-ups (modified), Clapping Push-ups, Diamond Push-ups, 1-legged Pistol Squats, Wheels, Pull-ups, and Australian Pull-ups. Three sets of each, and between each set I did a minute of cardio, per Jim Stoppani's Shortcut to Shred on Bodybuilding.com. Cause, you know, who needs actual rest between sets? One problem: while I have a pull-up bar, and pull-ups are great, our beautiful old farm house has no doorways that will accommodate a pull-up bar, even if I did want to ruin the gorgeous moldings on our door frames. But hey, we've got a rusty old clothesline post in the back yard, so that's good. I'm pretty sure my tetanus shots are up to date.

Day 2
Up bright and early, but our oldest daughter was up right after me. Crap. She'll freak out if I leave to go for a run. Fortunately, a little chocolate milk and Dora put her right back to sleep. That's my favorite part, Dora. That.

I pulled up my running mix on my iPod and set off down our street, which resembles nothing so much as an industrial wasteland. But hey, it's home, and the shoulders are nice and broad. My plan was to run 40 minutes and see where that got me--or, more precisely, to run 20 minutes and then see if I could get back home in another 20. The good: I did, in fact, get back in 20 minutes, so my pace didn't slow in the second half. The less-good: I was really hoping when I mapped out my run that I would have gone 5 miles or more, since that would have translated into 8-minute miles; instead, it was just 4.66, which put my miles just slower than 8:30. Still, for the first day out running, I was happy enough just to be there.

Day 3
Got out of bed and could hardly walk down the hall. I guess I forgot to mention in Day 2 that I did  the run in my Vibrams. I ran a 5k less than a month ago, but that was in tennis shoes. It's been months since I pulled on these babies:
These shoes, by the way, are very good at encouraging you to strike the ground with the balls of your feet rather than your heels. Which is to say, a run with these is a great way to shred your calves, as every step I took this morning reminded me.

But I took our oldest to peewee tennis and spent 20 minutes serving, then came home and pushed through my workout: chin-ups, close-grip overhand pull-ups, Australian pull-ups, pistol squats, clapping push-ups, inclined push-ups, and--what the hell--diamond push-ups. So it was a back and chest day, with nods to biceps and triceps, and legs thrown in for good measure. And I did the whole "cardio acceleration" thing between sets.

And I almost died.

I thought, at the end, that I should really be doing some ab work. But no. I was out of gas. And given how I woke up, just psyched that I still managed a great workout.

Day 4
Day 4 is still an open book. I was leaning toward another run, because there's a part of me that wants to make running a bigger part of my training. But given the severe thunderstorms we're having tonight, I don't know what to expect. There's another weather to consider: whether or not I'll be able to walk in the morning. So... maybe yoga. Because that will be easy when I can barely walk.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Recipe: Paleo Avocado Tomato "Pasta" Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

I love me some of that traditional salad of corn, black beans, tomato, avocado, and all, but on a Paleo diet, two of the main ingredients are out. What to do? Modify the heck out of it, obviously! The solution I hit on was to use spaghetti squash, which if you think about it has kind of the rich flavor of corn without, you know, being corn--or otherwise forbidden on a Paleo diet (not that we've been exactly strict about the Paleo thing lately). I thought this turned out really well, and I would definitely make it again--it has a great coolness to pair with basically any meat (for instance, something off the grill). We had steaks tonight.

1 small to medium spaghetti squash
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
2 medium avocados
1/2 med. red onion

1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. packed fresh cilantro
2 T. lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Cook your spaghetti squash. My preferred method: bake whole at 400F for 45-50 minutes. You can do it faster if you slice it open, which might be a good idea here in the summer. When done, slice in half and scoop out the seeds. Scoop out the "noodles." Allow to cool before adding to the remaining ingredients (I let it cool before scooping out).

Grape tomatoes are small enough that you might forgo slicing them in half, but I would halve cherry tomatoes for sure. Dice the avocados into small (1/2" or so) cubes. Cut the red onion into small pieces. Because of the sharp flavor, I like to soak my onion in water for a while to mellow the flavor a bit. I also went ahead and added it to the food processor when I finished making my dressing, to chop the onions more finely.

Speaking of the dressing, in a small food processor, combine the oil, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Mix everything together and give it some time for the flavors to mix. Enjoy!