What I’m Listening To: Podcasts du Jour

When recovering from foot surgery, the only exercise I was cleared for was working out on indoor cardio machines such as the elliptical and stationary bike (no treadmill allowed!). Cardio machines can really drive me nuts with boredom. I find when I listen to music I still look at the timer every 10 seconds to see if my scheduled torture time is over yet. So I started switching to podcasts. If I find a good podcast that holds my attention, the minutes on the cardio machine don’t seem quite as tortuous.

Here are the two podcasts that I’ve been obsessively listening to lately. I’m always looking for more suggestions though, so please leave me your favorites in the comments!

1. The Jillian Michaels Podcast
Let me start by saying that I do NOT agree with everything this woman says. She thinks all soy is evil, lifting weights a la CrossFit will make women ‘big,’ and that a 1200 calorie diet is great for weight loss for most women. That being said, there is still a lot of valuable information in her podcasts. She will feature guests such as endocrinologists and food science engingeers to come on the show and talk about different issues. She also features a lot of general motivational/life advice, it’s not just fitness. And what can I say, I find she has a super motivational way of speaking that gets me fired up. I suppose that makes sense she has built a very successful career out of motivating people. One con: there are a lot of plugs for her services on JillianMichaels.com and if she releases a new workout video or book, you can be sure that you will hear about it. Can’t really fault her for that though, I’d probably plug my products like that, too. The podcast is on itunes, website is here.

2. Mojo for Running
Someone at a forum turned me on to this podcast. It’s now defunct so there are no new episodes, but there are quite a few available for download. A lot of the information is geared toward newish runners (e.g., why you should have a long run each week, how to add in speedwork, etc.) but there is plenty for more veteran runners, too. Plus I just like the speaker…she comes across as very likeable and I enjoy listening to her. Podcast is on itunes, website is here.

I’m slowly running out of episodes though, and I’m looking for new podcasts to try out so please leave me some suggestions! They don’t necessarily have to be running/fitness related.


Easy Peasy Baked Tortilla Chips

Baked tortilla chips are hard to find in these parts. I can go to a fancy schmancy grocery store that shall remain nameless and find a few brands, but they are generally quite expensive. However, something Icanfind readily available and at a very reasonable price are corn tortillas. I’m lucky in that I live in an area that has a lot of markets that cater to the local Latin community. These markets make their own corn tortillas and you can buy a giant bag of 88 tortillas for as little as $2.50 when they are on sale. That’s $0.03 a tortilla!

As much as I love tortillas, I certainly can’t eat 88 of them before they start to go stale. Usually I will buy the big bag when it’s on sale and then freeze the tortillas. That way, whenever I have some sort of tortilla need, they are ready to go – just defrost for a bit and voila.

I use the tortillas for tacos, enchiladas, and of course, my very own baked torilla chips. These are super easy and low fat, and you can customize the seasonings to whatever suits your fancy. Lately I’ve been keeping it simple with some lime juice and sea salt.

Sure, you might not live in an area with $0.03 tortillas, but I’m willing to bet that they’re not that much more expensive, and they are probably a whole lot cheaper than the fancy schmancy grocery store baked tortilla chips.

Baked Corn Tortilla Chips

  • Corn tortillas (each tortilla is going to make 4 chips, so figure out how many chips you want to determine the number of tortillas)
  • Sea salt
  • Lime juice

1. Heat oven to 450F. Cut your tortillas into quaters (see picture above).

2. Arrange tortilla triangles in a single layer on a baking sheet. I don’t use oil with these and I have never had a problem with sticking.

3. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the triangles and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. If lime and salt aren’t your thing, use whatever seasonings you want.

4. Bake for 7 minutes or so. Edges should be starting to brown. They will firm up a bit once they are out of the oven, so keep that in mind. If they still need a few minutes, put them back in the oven. Whatever you do, keep a close eye on them. They go from undercooked to waaay overcooked very quickly!

5. Dip in salsa and enjoy! You can also use these to make nachos, or any other tortilla chip scenario.

Weekly Wrap-up

I was a bit short on mileage this week (I had planned 36 miles, but only ran 31.5), and I didn’t get in as many strength training sessions as I would have liked. But I did my first ever ‘real’ trail run, with an elevation gain of over 1200 feet!

Four mile hill workout (39:07) on the treadmill, followed by strength training.

Cross-training: 60 min. on elliptical followed by ZWOW #5.

5K with husband, than ran by myself until I hit 5 miles (48:01).

Long run – 14 miles (2:16:02).

Cross-training: 60 minutes elliptical.

Trail run! In total we ran 8.5 miles, with an elevation gain of 1,258 feet. Pretty sure this is the most fun I have ever had on a run.

I had planned to run 4.5 miles, but my legs were telling me I needed a REST. It was a pretty intense week for me cardio-wise, and my body just wanted to chill out and recover.

Total Miles: 31.5

How did your week go??

St. Joseph’s Hill: Lessons from my first trail run

I’ll preface this post by saying I’m sorry I ever complained about not having enough hills to train on for the San Francisco Marathon.

I went on my first “real” trail run today – the husband and I checked out St. Joseph’s Hill Open Space Preserve south of Los Gatos. For anyone local, it’s really easy to get there without a car, which is the primary reason we chose to go there. Both the #48 and #49 bus will drop you off really close to the Los Gatos Creek Trail  entrance on Main St. Just follow the trail for a couple of miles and boom, you’re at the hill. Easy peasy. Word of caution: fill up your water bottles at the fountain in Los Gatos – there is NO water at St. Joseph’s.

After following Los Gatos Creek Trail for 2 miles, you will hit Lexington Resevoir. There’s a parking lot with a few port-a-potties…these are the only bathrooms at St. Joseph’s so plan accordingly. From the parking lot you will see Jones Trail…with a very, very steep grade to welcome you to the Open Space Preserve.

“Let’s do this!”

What followed was probably the most enjoyable run I have ever had. The Open Space Preserve has about 4 miles of trails that go up and down all over St. Joseph’s Hill. There is a 1,285 foot elevation gain on the way to the summit. Some of the trails are quite wide and well maintained, others are little goat trails with rocks and sticks poking out all over the place, but that’s the fun of trail running!

Sure it doesn’t look steep here, but the picture is deceiving!

Here are some take-away lessons I learned during my first trail run yesterday:

1. Stop and appreciate the scenery.

I’m pretty Garmin-obsessed. At first I was constantly looking at my GPS, monitoring my pace, time, etc. But pretty early on I started looking around and noticed beautiful scenes like the one below. All concerns about maintaining a steady pace fell by the wayside. Sure, when running on a boring paved street it makes sense to be looking at all of my Garmin data. But up here on a gorgeous hill? You better believe I’m going to stop and enjoy the sights.

Great view of Silicon Valley

We even took a little ‘lunch’ break at top for refueling and to appreciate the view:

2. Bring more water/liquid than you think you will need.

Just to reiterate, there is NO water at the Open Space Preserve. On a hot sunny day like yesterday, you will absolutely go through a ton of water running up and down the trails. My husband has a spiffy new CamelBak but I just had my FuelBelt. I have the four-bottle FuelBelt which means I only had 32 oz of water with me. Not enough. On long runs in the city I just plan my route around a water fountain so I can refill. Not so easy on the trails. I think it might be time to start looking for CamelBak sales. Added bonus of the CamelBak: pouches and pockets to put snacks and things in! My little FuelBelt pouch was packed to the brim and all  had was a ClifBar and my tiny little camera.

FuelBelt was NOT enough liquid when there are no water fountains to be found

3. Bring a map!

The Open Space Preserve isn’t that big, but there are a lot of loopy trails and the signage isn’tthatgreat. We weren’t sure if we would get cell reception out there, so we took a screen capture of the trails from Google Maps and put it right on a phone so we could look at it even if we didn’t have reception. Of course, this also means that you should be able to read a map. More than once we had an “oops” moment where we got turned around and couldn’t find where we were on the map.

4. Chipotle is an awesome way to re-fuel.

I don’t think this needs further explanation.

Long Run Recap

My low mileage last week seemed to have worked wonders on my tired legs. Today’s 14 miler felt great!

First up, I started the morning with a bowl of oatmeal with flax seeds and coffee. I hung out for an hour or so checking email and reading blogs, then it was time to gather up my stuff and hit the trail.

Lately I’ve been digging the Los Gatos Creek Trail for my long runs. Even though you are still in the middle of a heavily populated area, parts of the trail make you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.

Now that my long runs are getting longer, I’m playing around with what works for fueling and what doesn’t. Today I had a gel (ClifShot) at 50:00 and then another one at 1:40:00 and just drank water. Seemed to work alright. I’m lucky in that my stomach isn’t very sensitive and isn’t picky (so far) about gels vs. solid food vs. liquid.

My total time for the 14 miles was 2:16:20. I was expecting closer to 2:20:00 so that was a pleasant surprise.

I averaged a 9:45/mile pace and I’m pretty pleased with my splits:

How I found the energy for those last two miles I’m not sure…an 8:48/mile pace for mile 14?? Didn’t see that one coming!

As soon as I walked into my apartment the first thing I did was make a recovery smoothie. These days I’ve been saving leftover coffee in jars in the fridge to make a cold coffee + chocolate protein  + banana smoothie – delicious!

I’ve been trying to get up and move every 60 minutes or so to keep soreness at bay. I’m curious – what are your tricks for managing stiffness/soreness the day of a long run?

No Weigh In April: Wrap Up

As mentioned previously, one of my goals for April was to participate in Angie Gooding’s No Weigh In April Challenge.

My obsession with the scale fluctuates. For weeks I’ll obsessively weigh several times a day, and then I’ll go months without giving it a second thought.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative thing to weigh yourself frequently. What is negative is when you equate that number with your self-worth. When I’m in full-blown weight obsessed mode, I feel good about myself if I see a low number on the scale. If it’s a higher number (which could be for any number of reasons) I tend to feel upset and beat myself up about it. Logically I know that the scale isn’t telling me how good of a person I am. I know that daily fluctuations are normal.

When Angie posted this challenge it couldn’t have come at a better time. I recognized that my weight tracking was taking a destructive path and I thought that this challenge would help.

And so I put the scale away and didn’t touch it all month. I was tempted one or two times, but generally I didn’t think twice about it. You know what happened to my weight in April? It stayed the same. Yep. I didn’t gain, nor did I lose. I was expecting this from the way my clothes fit, but it was nice to get a confirmation.

I think most importantly is that this challenge helped reset my thinking. Scale weight is merely a number. It’s data. The scale can’t tell me if I’m a good or bad person and daily fluctuations are normal. So yes, I will continue to weigh myself (I’m a data geek and I like to track everything I can in Excel spreadsheets), but the obsessive thoughts are gone.

What is your relationship like with the scale? Do you weigh yourself regularly?


The Move More in May Challenge

Janetha over at Meals and Moves always comes up with the best challenges!

I am a super sedentary person. Sure, I work out 6 days a week, but if I’m not working out I’m typically sitting on my butt. Right now I am freelancing from home. Here is my typical routine: sleep (laying), get up, make coffee, have coffee and read email (sitting), workout, come back home, work (sitting), make lunch, go back to work (sitting), make dinner, watch tv with husband (sitting) or read (sitting), go to bed (laying). That’s a LOT of sitting in one day.

I always knew I should move more, but I really started to get concerned when a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that sitting more than six hours a day raises your risk of death, regardless of physical activity level.

Enter Janetha’s May challenge:

move more in may
For the month of May, Janetha is challenging readers to make time to move more throughout the day, outside of their actual workouts. Each day you can log your activity, and of course there will be drawings for awesome prizes.
Some ideas I’ve been tossing around for moving more throughout my day:
  • Go for a short walk (30 min. at lunch)
  • Stand up and stretch every 60 min. (I think I’ll set an alarm to go off on my computer as a reminder)
  • Do activity (e.g., jumping jacks, planks, push ups, air squats) while dinner is cooking

That’s all I have so far but I’m sure I’ll come up with more!

Do you have a sedentary job? Do you make an effort to get up and move around? What sort of activity do you incorporate into your day, other than working out?

April Totals

Wow, where did April go??

April was a pretty good month running-wise. I continued to increase my mileage as I head toward the San Francisco Marathon in July.

My total mileage in April was 126, a 13% increase from March. If you look at my weekly mileage, you can see that I tend to dial it back every second week and that I’m increasing things slooooowly. 

In total, I went for 20 runs this month.

As you can tell by the charts above, I’m a fan of playing around with my running data in Excel. I also use RunningAhead.com, but I like to play with data a lot so I export it to Excel. How do you keep track of your running data?

May Goals

1.Run the Capitola Half Marathon (my first race since 2010!)
I was lucky enough to win an entry into the Capitola Half Marathon from Elise at PhD Strides! I don’t have a concrete goal for this race…my intention is to use it as a gauge for pacing for the San Francisco Marathon in July. My old half marathon time from 2010 is 2:12…I’m not going to lie, I’d definitely like to do better. But I’m not going to get too upset if it doesn’t happen.

2. Stretch EVERY DAY
As I’ve mentioned before, I have really, really tight hamstrings. Throughout April, I really made a conscious effort to try and stretch them out every day. Some days I would only stretch for 30 seconds or so, other days it was 10 to 15 minutes. I missed a few days here and there, but overall I was pretty consistent. Progress has been slow, but I definitely notice a difference. My goal is to be able to do a full forward bend by the end of 2012.

3. Bump up foam rolling frequency to at least 5x/week
My goal for April was to roll a minimum for 3x/week. I’d like to bump this up to 5. When I go too long without rolling my IT band I start to feel a bit tender in my left knee. Foam rolling is something I tell myself I never have time to do…but in actuality it takes five to ten minutes. I waste WAY more time than that on the interwebz each day. Time to step up my foam rolling game.

4. Run a 40 mile week
According to my marathon training schedule, I should hit a 40 mile week toward the end of the month. This is a big mental milestone for me as it will be my highest mileage week ever! Hopefully I don’t look as tired as Homer does.

5. Work my way up to 5 push-ups
Yes, I suck at push-ups. If I can get up to five push-ups in May, I’ll start the 100 push-up program in June.

6. Bump up strength training to 5x/week
While marathon training, my strength routine is mainly consisting of Zuzana’s (former Bodyrock host) ZWOW workouts, as well as her older Bodyrock workouts (this site has a great directory).

What about you, what are your goals for May?

Weekly Wrap-Up

This week went pretty well! It was a lower mileage week to give my legs a chance to recover…they were starting to feel pretty slow and sluggish.

3.4 mile hill workout on the treadmill (35:00), followed by strength training.

Cross-training day: 40 minutes on the elliptical followed by ZWOW #14 (yikes that one is tough!). I messed up my timer and I don’t have a score/time for the ZWOW, boo.

Ran 5K with the husband (30:16) and then ran by myself until I hit 5 miles (48:44). Husband was bummed he didn’t hit below 30 minutes for his 5K…silly guy, the last time he ran 5K (one week prior) it was 33:XX, so he shaved off more than 3 minutes in one week. I told him that’s really something to be proud of.

This week is a lower mileage recovery week for me so my long run was ‘only’ 10 miles. My Garmin was back to its old tricks and I didn’t even bother to take it with me. I knew roughly where my turnaround point was and just ran without a time. The obsessive Type A side of me was starting to freak out about the lack of precision, but I told myself to just go with it.

Took a rest day. I kind of wish I had gotten some light cardio in. I think from now on I’m not going to take complete rest days unless I really need them. I always feel much better if I get an easy workout in.

Slow 9 miles with the husband (1:51:06). I’m taking advantage of these slow runs to really concentrate on my form. I’m definitely seeing some improvements.

A quick 2 miles on the treadmill (17:21) followed by ZWOW #15.

Total Miles: 29.46

How was your week?