Thursday, June 28, 2012

my love affair with spinning

In 2008, I was living in the DC area, struggling to stay motivated to work out on my own.  I didn't belong to a gym, and between injuries and the weather, running wasn't working for me.  So, when a Fitness First opened within walking distance of my house, I signed up.  I spent the first month or so experimenting - going in the morning vs. evening, taking all sorts of group fitness classes, and taking advantage of the chance to have a free session with a personal training.  It was at that gym that I first tried spinning, and it did not take long for me to become totally hooked!

Over the next year, I went to spinning about twice a week - sometimes three, four, or even five times!  I was totally addicted.  I found all of my favorite teachers at that gym.  There was one who was really into speed work and taught me how to sprint like a champion.  Another loved to make us turn the resistance up until we could barely move, and then force us to conquer or monstrous hills.  I was sweating more than I had ever sweat before, and I was in heaven!

For those of you who have never been to a spin class, I totally recommend trying it.  It is intense (and some people tell me they are afraid of going for that reason), but if you enjoy a good cardio workout, you will probably like it.  (Although your butt will be sore after your first class - no worries - your body adjusts and that will go away once you are going more consistently!)  Most spin classes are either 45 or 60 minutes, and you can burn anywhere from 400 to 1000 calories per class (supposedly - on average I think I burn between 400 and 600; there are a lot of different factors to consider).  A good instructor will have a mix of different types of workouts sprinkled throughout the session... hill climbs (turning up the resistance on your fly wheel so it feels like you are climbing a hill, either seated or standing), sprints, tempo rides (holding a steady pace that is right outside your comfort zone), and jumps (where you move smoothly from in the saddle to a standing position and back).  I think one of the reasons I like spin is because you do so many different things, you never get bored!  If you are hating the hill you are on, don't worry - it probably will only last through one or two songs, and then you can get on a flat road and pedal fast!  Another great thing about spinning is that no one knows how high you have your resistance, so you are free to take it easy or push yourself extra hard depending on your mood!  You are in charge of your speed and resistance level, which means you can get as much (or as little) out of it as you want.  I definitely have days where sprinting is "kind of speeding up maybe", and other days where I'm craving a super heavy hill and crank up my resistance higher than I probably "need" to!

When you apply for PhD programs and go on interviews, normal people ask questions like "do you like living in this city/town?" or "what is it like working in this lab?"  I asked lots of those types of questions, but at every single school, I also asked about access to the university gym and whether or not they had spin classes.  I had a lot of graduate students look at me like I had three heads, but it was important to me!  Luckily, I ended up at a school where my funding package includes free access to the university gym, which offers spin classes.

During my first semester of graduate school, I was fairly consistent in going to spin class.  I found a friend or two who also enjoyed spinning and we figured out which instructors had the best music and were most motivating, and made spin class a weekly date!  Somewhere between my second semester and second year, my schedule got too crazy and spinning stopped being a priority.  Part of this was being busy, and part of it was that I was running regularly in the mornings, so spinning didn't fit in as easily.

I find a lot of cardio machines boring, and I'm terrible at swimming, so the logical choice was to go back to spin class!  In the fall, my friends and I found a new instructor that we absolutely loved.  She has awesome play lists and her classes are really challenging.  Ever since my first class with her in the fall, I've basically been structuring my workout schedule around her teaching schedule!  (Yep, she's that good.)  I also have several friends that come to the class now, so it's always fun to see them each week!

It's crazy to think that I've now been spinning (somewhat off-and-on) for four years!  I often wonder what it would be like to get certified to be a spin instructor.  I thinking making playlists and workouts could be really fun - but it could also be time consuming and hard to make good classes!  I'm not sure I have time to be an instructor during graduate school, but it would be a great way to make sure I never skipped my weekly class.  It looks like the most common way to do it is through, but it looks like other websites/organizations offer certifications... is anyone out there certified / currently teaching spinning classes? How did you get certified, and do you like teaching?  Is being a spin instructor exactly what Max Greenfield makes it look like in this hilarious video?



recent workouts:
Thurs. 6/21: played two kickball games + core work
Fri. 6/22: rest day
Sat. 6/23: 2 mile run + arms/legs
Sun. 6/24: core work
Mon. 6/25: 2 mile run IN NEW SHOES + arms/legs
Tues. 6/26: spinning (whoops, didn't do core work)
Wed. 6/27: speed work + arms (my legs were sore enough from the speedwork!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

enchilada casserole recipe

I've been on a Mexican food kick lately.  In the past month, I've made enchiladas twice, and at least 4 different types of quesadillas.  So I figured this week's food post should share my latest obsession!
Almost two years ago, I made bean enchiladas with pinto beans and ricotta, which was delicious, but I decided to try a twist - Black Bean, Spinach, and Corn Enchiladas.  I'm still tweaking this recipe, but wanted to share it anyway!

Black Bean, Spinach, and Corn Enchilada
Recipe yields ~8 enchiladas

-1 can enchilada sauce
-2 cans black beans
-1 can cream of cheddar soup
-1 package frozen chopped spinach
-1 cup frozen yellow corn kernels
-8 taco sized tortillas
-1/4th cup shredded cheese
Optional ingredients (all to taste):
-Hot sauce

Nutritional information (for one enchilada): 333 calories, 7 g fat, 860 mg sodium, 55 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 15 g protein.

1.  Preheat oven to 350
2.  Defrost spinach and corn and cook together until warm.  If you have salsa or hot sauce laying around, feel free to throw a little bit in there.

3.  Drain and rinse black beans and use a fork or meat mallet to smush them (I prefer smashed up beans, but if you don't, you can just drain and rinse them and leave them as is)

4.  Mix black beans, cream of cheddar soup, spinach, corn, and 1/3 cup of enchilada sauce.  If desired, add hot sauce, cilantro, and salt to taste.  I personally like a LOT of hot sauce, about 1 tsp. of cilantro, and a dash of salt.
5.  Coat the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish with a small amount of enchilada sauce.

6.  Spoon 1/8th of the black bean mixture onto each tortilla.

7.  Wrap each tortilla and place seam side down into the glass baking dish.

8.  Once all of the tortillas are in the pan, top with remaining enchilada sauce and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

9.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

-There is just barely enough enchilada sauce for this recipe to work - you might want to get two cans or mix enchilada sauce with some salsa if you like lots of sauce.
-There is enough mixture to make 8 tortillas, but I generally can only fit 6 in the 9 by 13 pan.  You can solve this problem in multiple ways:  
(1) Make 6 very full tortillas, and bake them all together.  
(2) Make 8 tortillas, but use multiple pans to bake them.  
(3) Make 6 tortillas in a pan to bake, and then use the leftovers to make tacos/burritos/enchiladas in the microwave (which is what I usually do).

Finished product... yum:

Do you have a favorite Mexican food recipe?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

favorite workout jams

Do you listen to music while you work out?  Why or why not?  For me, it depends on what I'm doing.  If I'm on the treadmill, I prefer to have some music blasting to pass the time.  Outside, I could take it or leave it.  With any non-running exercise, I definitely like to have music blaring - it keeps me pumped!
As I've mentioned before, I have the best spin instructor ever.  Although there are many reasons I love her, one of the top reasons is probably her music.  She always picks the best jams to get us going, and she also makes sure her spin routine lines up well with the songs she is playing.  She also LOVES Gaga so we usually have at least one Gaga song in there.  Other current favorites: Wild One by Flo Rida, Starships by Nicki Minaj, Titanium by David Guetta, Katy Perry, and many other top 40 hits.

A few weeks ago, the speakers blew out and we had to listen to music very quietly on someone's iHome speakers.  It was TERRIBLE... I was totally wishing I could pull out my iPod, but (a) that would have rude, (b) I didn't have it, and (c) my iPod is SERIOUSLY out of date, which got me thinking that I need to update it.  Right now, my current iPod playlist has a lot of Ke$ha, The Dudes, Death Cab for a Cutie (great for hills), and Girl Talk... all good, but I'm getting kind of bored!  So, for those of you do listen to music while you work out, what is on your playlist?  What songs should I be adding to mine?

Anyone have fun weekend plans?  Last weekend we went to a wedding, so this weekend we are hopefully going to spend some time getting our house in order/etc., since the next several weekends are going to be really busy [I'll try to keep y'all updated on those busy/fun plans].

beautiful venue right on the water in Maryland!  congrats to the newlyweds :-)

In other news, my husband took my watch to get the battery replaced last week, and while he was at work it fell out of his pocket and got run over by a forklift.  He's going to replace it for my birthday, but I can't decide if I want another Timex Ironman that just does intervals/laps, if I want to upgrade to one with a heart monitor, or if I want us to spend the money and get me a watch with GPS (possibly one of these).  I really liked my Timex and had no problems with it, but obviously having the distance feature would be nice.  Any thoughts/suggestions?  What do you use to time/map your runs?  I know Garmins are the most popular brand - anyone out there using another brand?  Or, if you have a Garmin, what model?

recent workouts:
Thurs. 6/14: 2 mile run + kickball game
Fri./Sat./Sun.: rest days / I out of town and never fit a work out, oops!
Mon. 6/18: weights [arms/legs] + spin class
Tues. 6/19: easy run + Pilates/ab work at home
Wed. 6/20: speed work: 30 min. tempo run with 1.5 miles @ 9:20 on the TM [because i overslept, ugh] + weights [arms/legs]

it's totally normal to run past a dinosaur, right?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

easy meals i'm digging right now

Since I have been in a cooking funk for a while, I have developed some easy go-to meals - some that are quite healthy, some that are more like "not terrible for you."  Current favorites include:
  • sweet potato + spinach + black beans + salsa + sometimes cheese and/or sour cream/greek yogurt
  • baked potato + broccoli + greek yogurt + cheese + sometimes turkey bacon
  • black bean burger patty + rice + veggies, usually with garlic and/or white wine vinegar and/or dijon mustard
  • frozen pizza (not so healthy, i love having a pizza stone!)
  • mac & cheese( from the box) with kielbasa (don't judge my unhealthy eating habits; it makes a GREAT dinner after spin class, since Scott knows how to cook it and I'm always starving when I get home at 7pm sweaty and exhausted)
Last week I was craving sweet potatoes, so I decided to have the sweet potato, spinach, black bean combo for lunch.  This recipe was inspired by a link I found on Pintrest.  Since I often only loosely follow recipes, what I do is slightly different.  Anyway, here's a mini how-to for you guys.  First, I microwave a sweet potato for ten minutes.  I poke holes in it with a fork and then wrap it in a paper towel to cook.
Obviously you can bake the sweet potato too, just depends on what you find easiest.  While it's cooking, I add chopped spinach and black beans to a pan.  I usually spray the pain with cooking spray or put on a small dollop of extra virgin olive oil.
Depending on my mood, sometimes I add salsa, cilantro, and hot sauce... sometimes I add garlic, Ranch dressing, and Pamesean cheese to make a creamier mix.... basically, whatever flavors you think sound good, go ahead and put in there.
After the potato is done, I cut it up into bite sized chunks, although you could just cut it length-wise if you wanted.  Sometimes I also put shredded cheese on the potato right after it's done cooking - the cheese melts right on.  Yum!
Last step - top the potato with the spinach/black bean mix.  I'm sure you could do this with any vegetable you wanted, and for that matter a different type of bean/protein... really, the possibilities are endless.
Not the most attractive food, but delicious I promise!  This is usually filling enough for me to eat as a meal (depending on what exactly goes into it, it is anywhere from 300-450 calories), but sometimes if I'm not totally full I'll have some fruit or something small along with it.  Topping with plain Greek yogurt is definitely a great way to add even more protein and make this a heartier meal.

Who else has a delicious sweet potato recipe they like?  What are you favorite quick/easy meals lately?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

summer training schedule

So, when I last posted about running, I told you I was certifiably insane and that I was going to shave 5 minutes off my 5k time this summer... yikes!  It's definitely not going to be easy, but I think I have a pretty good plan of attack, so I figured I would share my plan for weekly workouts.  (Maybe making it public will keep me accountable)?

Sunday:  cross training + core work
Monday: weight lifting + spin class
Tuesday: speed work + pilates class or core work
Wednesday: easy 2-3 mile run or cross training + weight lifting or body tone class
Thursday: easy 2-3 mile run + core work
Friday: weight lifting
Saturday: long(ish) run (4-8 miles)

Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" never gets old.  (source)

For cross training on Sundays (and maybe Wednesdays) I am going to try swimming, elliptical, or walking.  I want to try to go to the pool every Sunday, but I'm terrible at swimming so I'm not totally confident I can stick with it.  Wednesdays I decided to say run or cross train because I'm not sure three days in a row of running is feasible (last week by Thursday my legs felt like jello, and this week on Wednesday I was worn out/somewhat sore from interval training).

For core work, I'm trying to do various Pilates exercises.  I was planning to go to an actual Pilates class every Tuesday at the gym and then do similar exercises at home on the others days.  Unfortunately, I don't love the class/teacher as much as I loved my Pilates class from back when I lived in DC, so I might look for some good Pilates DVDs.  I like Pilates because I think it helps me strengthen my back and hips (well, and core overall), which are important for running/injury prevention, but I still need to find the right routine.

For weight lifting, I am trying to hit all the major muscle groups, with an emphasis on upper body strength.  Translation: I want sexy Michelle Obama arms!  I'd also like to try to go to Body Tone on Wednesdays (it's an hour long class of weight lifting), but last week my biceps were so sore I couldn't straighten my arms for 3 days... so it might be too intense for me!

For my speed work, I'm going to do a mix of interval training and tempo runs.  The past two weeks I've been doing intervals on the treadmill (slow jog/fast run for 1min/1min, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4 3/3, 2/2, 1/1), trying to work my way up to being able to run the fast intervals at my goal race pace.

So there you have it!  Any tips or suggestions (especially for Pilates DVDs, but really for anything)?  I'm hoping I can stick to this for most of the summer, except when I'm away and can't make it to a class/the gym/the pool.
recent workouts:
Thurs. 6/7: 2 mile run, easy pace (~11:00) & stretching
Fri. 6/8: rest day (I was still too sore from Body Tone to do any strength training!)
Sat. 6/9: 4 mile run with Kimmy (11:30 pace overall - we took it easy!)
Sun. 6/10: just stretching (oops - skipped cross training!)
Mon. 6/11: strength & spin class
Tues. 6/12: speed work (intervals: slow @ 10:43, fast @ 8:50) & Pilates exercises at home
Wed: 6/13: 4ish mile walk with Sarah + A (A slept the whole time again!) & weight lifting

at the entrance to one of my favorite running trails!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

weekend fun & restaurant review: rue cler brunch

Over the weekend, the crafty and awesome blogger Miss Knits came to visit me!  Miss Knits (aka Kimmy) was in our wedding in March, and you can read about the awesome desserts she made for the reception in her blog here.

Kimmy & I at the wedding

Kimmy got here pretty late on Friday night, so I stayed at the office and did work until she got there (yep, I'm really cool), and then we just hung out before getting some sleep.  Kimmy is also a runner (we ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler together the past 2 years), so naturally we went for a run Saturday morning.

After the run, we decided to refuel with some yummy brunch!  Durham has SO many great brunch spots, so it's always hard for me to choose where to go.  After lots of debate, we decided on Rue Cler.  We started with a half-dozen order of fresh beignets, which were INCREDIBLE.  They came out perfectly warm and fresh, and I was in total heaven.

For entrees, I ordered the Duck Confit Crepe, which has sauteed spinach, deep fried potatoes, and a really tasty veal jus.  I absolutely loved the flavors!  Kimmy ordered the Gravlax Crepe, which had sauteed peppers, nicoise olives, gravlax, boursin cheese and tomatoes.  She let me have a bite and the mix of gravlax and boursin cheese was soo yummy!  I definitely recommend Rue Cler for brunch, and if you go you absolutely must get beignets.  The coffee is also really tasty, for any coffee drinkers out there :-)

After an awesome day of sunshine, soccer watching, and game playing (we love board games!), in the evening we went bar hopping in Durham and met up with some friends.  Overall, a GREAT weekend with one of my most fun friends!  Thanks for visiting, Kimmy!

Kimmy & I out on the town

Scott was there too!

What did you do this weekend?  Anything fun?  If you live in the Durham area, what is your favorite brunch place and why?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

running goals

So, what running escapades have you missed out on by me not blogging for months?  Well, in early April I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in DC.  M and I trained for this somewhat - but definitely not to the extent that we could have.  I still felt pretty good about my chances are PRing, since last year my average pace was right around 12:00 min/mile.  For the majority of the race, I tried to just have fun and enjoy the company of the friends I was running with.  I ended up finishing in about 1:41:47, a 20 minute PR and about an 10:11 pace.  Pretty good considering we hadn't trained super hard.

After the 10 miler, somehow, the months of April and May just escaped me.  I meant to run, but the app I use on facebook to track my runs tells me that I only ran about 4 times in those two months.  Eeek!  I'm going to pretend that's not accurate and that I forgot to log some runs.  That might be true... but I still definitely ran less than 10 times in those two months.

Anyway, about two weeks ago I got excited about finding a fall half marathon to run.  If you recall, my previous half marathon time was 2:13:14.  We trained really well for that race, but we didn't do any speedwork at all.  So, I know I'm totally capable of running a half much faster than that.  If I do a 12 week training program for the half, that won't start until mid August, so I figured I should make some good running/fitness goals for the summer.

Living in the south in the summer can be brutal for running.  Although we (fingers crossed) are having a mild summer so far, I'm not sure it will last... so I didn't want to plan to be logging super long runs.  This led me to decide that improving my 5k time would be a great summer goal.  But what was a good 5k goal?  I figured there are two ways to approach this:

(1) Time my current 5k, and then set a goal based on how much I think I can improve in the summer
(2) Figure out how fast I need to run a 5k in order to have the half marathon PR that I desire.

Now, I have a pretty lofty goal in mind for PRing in a half.  There is a very good chance that I'm being unrealistic about being able to reach this goal for a November half.  But... the only way to know is to try, right?  So I used the McMillian website to figure out what my "equivalent pace" for a 5k would be if I were able to run the half as quickly as I'd like.  My (possibly backwards) logic concluded that if I can run a 5k at that equivalent pace by late August, I should be able to train my way into the PR I have my eyes on.  Makes sense, right?

So, on Saturday M and I ran a 5k to the best of our ability.  Remember I had not run more than 2 miles in about 6 weeks... so, this wasn't pretty.  We managed to finish in 31:19.  Not terrible, but definitely not fast.  As in, if I want to achieve goal #2, I have to shave more than 5 minutes off my 5k time.

I'm not at all convinced that this is feasible, but M and I improved SO MUCH when we did speedwork after the half in preparation for the 15k, and it totally paid off.  So I figure, it's at least worth a try.  Thus, my summer running goal is to get as close to a 26:00 minute 5k as possible.  How do I plan to do this?  Stay tuned for a post next week about my weekly workout schedule :-)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

making a comeback

It's now been over four months since I last blogged!  I went for a walk to day with Sarah and met her gorgeous little girl Annabel.  I had been pondering whether or not I wanted to blog again - I feel like it was a way to hold me accountable to running and cooking, and I miss that.  Initially, it fell off partly from being busy doing school work and partly because I was injured... plus my cooking was on the decline, so I didn't have much to say!  I'm happy to report that I'm finally getting back on track with running... so perhaps I can start blogging about that again soon!
I also haven't cooked anything that qualifies as "new" in quite a while... for two reasons.  One, Scott is a plain Jane meat and potatoes guy, so experimenting in the kitchen and also feeding him is tricky!  Two, our apartment (and kitchen) is quite cramped right now, and so I haven't had the space or energy to really work on creating new meals.  However, two things recently happened: (1) we finally managed to clear off our kitchen table after about 5 months of not seeing it, and (2) we found a bigger place to move into, so I'll have bigger kitchen and perhaps the motivation to cook will return!
So, this is just a post basically to say that now that I am trying to run again, and that I might start cooking (and/or baking) fun things again soon, maybe I can get this blog back on track!  In other news, I got married three months ago.  And since no good blog post is complete without some photos, here you go:

PS: Who is still reading this?  Leave me a comment and let me know... and feel free to include any suggestions about posts I should do :)