Friday, June 28, 2013

Fitness Friday: Shaking Things Up!

Greetings from Memphis!

I promise I'm here, but my pictures haven't turned out so great so far.

It just so happened that B has a conference here for work, and I decided to tag along and keep him company. Even though I've lived in Tennessee for 15 years now, I've never ventured to the other end of our state. While we're here, we look forward to seeing Beale Street and other sights. While he's "conferring", I'm checking out local coffee shops, shopping, and of course, RUNNING! In fact, we even have a guided running tour scheduled tomorrow to see the sights while running! More on that later...

As for this week, it has been a short, but busy! With a race and social outing over the weekend, a particularly intense running practice Tuesday, and a busy work week to prepare for being out of town, we haven't stopped!

This week, we also enjoyed some new and renewed experiences to keep fitness exciting. We helped reintroduce my father-in-law to running, played badminton for the first time in years, and tried a completely new running style (for me) - sprinting! Here's how it all went down...

Saturday Part 1: Another 5K + Helping Reintroduce Someone to Running

Since RunKNOX wasn't meeting this week, we had the opportunity to run a 5K  outside of Knoxville, not too far from our hometown. 

As a very special treat, we were excited that B's dad was able to join us! Side note - his Dad was assistant principal when we were in high school. Unlike the stereotype about principals, he's well respected and well liked among students and community alike. 

As an avid lover of sports, veteran, and educator (who has been involved in athletic programs for years), he's no stranger to performing athletically. He's just getting back into running in his retirement, and we were excited he decided to kick off his first race with us!

The race was around a lake and through a wooded area, which provided a lot of shade. It was only about 70 degrees that morning, which felt fabulous!

My race started off promising, as my first two miles were about 10 minutes each. However, the last mile was in the sunniest, hilliest part of the course. I unfortunately lost energy (despite my magic jellybeans) and slowed down to finish at 32:58, only 10 seconds faster than my last race. After training for four weeks, I was expecting more improvement. Just means I have more work to do.

Brandon achieved another 24ish minute 5k, nothing new for him. His Dad did great! He ran/walked the race and finished in about 36 minutes! Even more importantly, he loved the experience and wants to keep going!

Saturday Part 2: My Bad-Minton Skills

badminton birdy by chipmk, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  chipmk 

After lunch and some down time, we went out that night to a cookout hosted by friends. There was a variety of yard games for our enjoyment - bean bag toss (I have a hard time using the word "corn****" outside of friends and family, even though that's what it's called), horseshoes, and badminton. I'm terrible at the first two, but badminton was right up my alley!

You don't know this, but I used to have big time volleyball skills in junior high. Actually that's not true, I was terrible. Nonetheless it was fun and I learned a lot. So much so, that volleyball memories came back as I was playing badminton. I remembered the pressure I used to feel to NEVER take my eyes off the object coming over the net, identify and communicate if I can get to it, and rush as fast as I possibly can to get to it.

I may have gotten a little too intense for the yard game crowd. It got real.

Everyone else was goofing off having fun, and I was yelling "Mine!", running all over the grass in my bare feet (after realizing my flip-flops were a safety hazard), and jumping or diving if necessary to get to the silly shuttlecock. Sadly, I still wasn't very good, but I felt like I was doing my best and having a lot of fun!

I highly recommend utilizing summer by doing fun, active things outside!

Sunday - Downtime

After all of the excitement Saturday, I needed some rest, and my house needed some work. So, I went out get a mani/pedi, ran some errands, purchased groceries, and beautified my home a little.

Monday - The Usual

Elliptical + Body Pump class at the gym. The class incorporates all different exercises for a full body workout. Each individual component uses a different weight amount (which we choose based on our fitness level). I hadn't changed the amount of weight I use in a few months, but decided to up my bicep curl weight from 5 lbs. on each arm to 8 lbs. on each arm. It felt easy before, but now it's definitely NOT easy! Hopefully I'll get used to it and look better sleeveless!

Tuesday - Sprinting? What?

Track by Nils Geylen, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License
  by  Nils Geylen 

At RunKNOX, we tried something new. Sprinting. Honestly, it's a little out of my comfort zone. Why? Because while I've ran close to the fastest of my ability, I don't know that I've ever ran to my limit. That's just scary.

Not to mention, I learned there's more to sprinting than just running fast. We were taught to run with our knees higher and stride longer. And yes, run fast.

For an uncoordinated klutz like me, this was quite a bit of multitasking.

Perhaps I should juggle chickens or something while I'm at it? 

I tried to focus on everything at once while running in 100m intervals. This is only 1/16 of a mile, but feels surprisingly long when sprinting. 

The problem was it felt all wrong. I didn't feel like my knees were high enough, or I was very fast. The more I focused, the more out of whack I felt.

I attempted to ask my coaches, while sprinting, if I was doing it right. The unfortunate side effect was that as I asked, I could barely breathe from running and my question came out sounding like I was having a panic attack (which I wasn't).

Classic weird Amy. So embarrassing.

Fortunately, they walked me through correct form and then it started coming more naturally. 

Funny thing - once I started doing it right, it was really taxing physically! My heart was flying away! It took me awhile to catch it. I never knew such a short distance could feel so long! And just to top it off, we ran up and down every single staircase in the stadium around the track. 

Just to keep it interesting! 

I'm curious to see how this affects my running soon. :)

If you're interested in trying sprinting or varying up your running, I recommend finding a coach or trainer to help you if you've never tried it. It's not easy! However, it definitely breaks up the monotony of steady runs and will hopefully lead to faster results. I'll let you know!

Can't Walk Wednesday!

Holy moly. I woke up on Wednesday and my entire legs were sore. I didn't think a short workout could do that. I was wrong.

It hurt to walk.

It hurt even more to walk upstairs.

It hurt the most to walk downstairs.

So yeah, didn't work out on Wednesday. I did try to do a few stretches, though.

And we're out!

After a 6 hour drive yesterday, I'm ready to get out, run, and have fun! I hope to scope out a great place to run today, and can't wait for our running tour tomorrow. Check back next week for a special travel edition of Fitness Friday where I'll share how I'm staying active while in my trip!

I hope you're off to a fun and active summer! Have you tried anything new in your running, like sprinting or faster intervals to shake it up?


See what others around the web are doing with two great Fitness Friday communities:

I was not compensated by RunKNOX or the Knoxville Track Club for this post, nor is either organization affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences as I began running through the program. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my Terms and Conditions page.

Want more? Follow the CSRS Blog on FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, or CoffeeScarvesandRunningShoes on Instragram for the latest updates, articles, and more!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Keeping Tomato Plants Healthy - 4 Week Update

So, a few weeks ago, I shared that I was trying a third time to start a tomato garden. This was, of course, after two failed attempts. Due to poor soil in my yard, I tried a raised bed with organic soil. You can read about that here.

Because my tomato plants either died or didn't produce much fruit in the past, I reached out to friends who garden and homestead for tips to keep them healthy and productive.

If I can't make it happen, I'll borrow someone else's technique. A little unoriginal, I realize. But at least I'm paying it forward by sharing with you! That counts for something, right?

First off, I have a confession. One of my original plants died the first week. B said it was a bad plant and we shouldn't buy it, but I didn't hear him and loaded it in the cart.

And he got the opportunity to say "I told you so". Awesome.

I replaced the dead plant with a Roma tomato plant to add variety, and moved on.

Based on the advice I received, I tried a couple of new techniques this year:

  • Mulch with grass - This one was easy and free! To hold moisture in, I gathered up some grass clippings after B mowed the yard (a handy one, that one), and scattered them over the organic soil (leaving a 2" radius around each plant to give it some space).
  • Watering Technique - I can't take all of the credit this year. Mother Nature has given us a rainy spring. Bad for weekend plans, good for tomatoes. Besides the weather, I tried something new - watering spikes. They stake in the ground, hold a water bottle, and slowly distribute water into the soil. I ordered a package of 6 of these online. Here's how I set them up:
    • Buy 6 plastic bottles of water (I had 16 oz bottles on hand, liter bottles work, too).
    • Cut the bottoms off of the water bottles and remove the cap and ring.
    • Fill watering spike with sand to slow down the water flow, otherwise the water will flow out immediately. I didn't need a giant bag, so I found a small bag in the vase filler section of Michael's.

    • Place mouth of water bottle in the spike as tight as it will go.
    • Place spike into ground as close to plant as possible.

    • Use a watering can to pour water into the bottles every day it doesn't rain (ideally morning or night when it's not too hot to evaporate).

  • Structure - Okay, yes, I did this in prior years, too. It's still important! Since tomatoes are a vine, they need to be attached to a structure, otherwise they will fall and touch the ground - no good. I used a cage, but stakes are fine too. 

The result? The plants are strong and healthy! Each plant has a few blooms, which means tomatoes are on the way. Even more important, salsa is on the way!

I can't even believe I'm responsible for this!

If you've had rough luck with tomatoes in the past, I recommend trying a raised bed and these techniques. I'll provide another update soon!

What strategies have been effective for you in keeping tomato plants healthy and productive?


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Friday, June 21, 2013

Fitness Friday: Staying Positive and Encouraging Each Other

Yay for Friday!

I was fortunate to start this week of my 5K speed training on a high note. Last week started rough as I struggled with the heat while running and almost quit a couple of runs. I persevered and my hard work paid off with a faster run than usual.

Sometimes nice guys/girls don't finish last. Well, I'm still usually last, but the gap is narrowing.

Starting off with positive energy made a huge difference for me this week. I'm starting to feel momentum, which I haven't felt in awhile. I believe that once you make one positive step, it makes it easier to make the next positive step, and so on.

If you're struggling to get started or you've fallen off track of something you're trying to accomplish, try to take one positive step towards your goal. Just one. It could mean drinking a smoothie for breakfast, or getting out and exercising for the first time in awhile for example. Whatever it is for you, it might make all of the difference and help you take more steps. It certainly can't hurt. :)

With that said, this week's theme is staying positive. One key that I especially found powerful to help me stay positive throughout the week was encouragement from others.

Here's how the week played out:

Saturday - 5 Miles with RunKNOX

I was a little nervous, as I haven't run 5 miles since my half marathon in April. This wasn't any ordinary run, either! It started out with a mile warm up, 3 miles of progressively getting faster each mile, and a cool down mile.

It's getting real.

My watch was lonely and ready to go for a run (it hadn't been charged during my last runs and I'd used an app on my phone instead).

So needy. Now I know how it feels for B to be married to me.

Despite the challenging run ahead of me, I felt good about it. It was a cooler, beautiful morning. I met up with the other girls close to my pace and we ran the first warm-up mile together (about 12 min/mi pace). Then we lost each other as we set out running our own individual paces.

Mile 1- 11:30. Pushing it a little, but not too bad...

Mile 2 - 11:00. Okay, now I'm starting to feel it. Need some major beat-driven mindless high energy music to keep me going! Running is the only place Ke$ha has in my life. Keep pushing forward. Keep looking at watch because my pace is slipping. Starting to dread the next mile...

Mile 3 - 10:30. Okay, I can do this for my first mile, but this is tough after already running 2 mi + warm-up mile! Gasping for air. Legs feeling tired. Energy fading. Focusing the best I can on my music (and skipping lame music like One Direction). Counting to 10. Counting to 10 again. You'd think this would be easy after the half, but running faster is completely different!

Finally, the tough mile was done, and I could enjoy my cool down run. I noticed how beautiful the sun looked through the trees along Knoxville's Third Creek Greenway. I felt good about what I was doing.

Sunday - Day off (and Father's Day)

Rest day. Family time.

Monday - Gym

30 minutes elliptical + Body Pump class. As it has been easier lately, I moved up to slightly heavier weights for some of the exercises. For example, I went from 5 lbs. on each arm to 8 lbs. on each arm during the tricep segment. I felt accomplished. :)

Tuesday - Feeling Over-Ambitious

Every few weeks, we have a lighter "Down Week" during RunKNOX to recover. This was the anticipated week. We only had to run 3 miles at an easy pace. As we set out, I realized I was catching up to a faster group of runners in our program, including my husband (red flag as I know how fast he is).

Oh hey guys! How's it going? Just running fast like it ain't no thing! You know how we roll.

I was so excited I caught up with them that I tried to keep this up the whole time. I think there's an effect from being around faster runners that makes you think you can run fast, too.

Only problem - a down week run for them (10:30-11 minute mile) is a fast run for me.

About a mile and a half in, I was feeling low on energy and struggling to breathe. I fell behind the group and struggled just to finish. I even had to walk a little. It totally counteracted the first half of the run, resulting in an average 12 min/mi - my usual pace.

Oh well. It's good to have ambition.

Wednesday - Who Says Running Can't Be Fun?

This week, Brandon and I had the opportunity to do something fun. The Knoxville Track Club was sponsoring a social run downtown with a twist. We split into random teams, and were given a mission. We had a 3 mile run in which we had to take and submit pictures at various stops. We had a sheet of clues and riddles in which we had to figure out each stop.

A photo scavenger hunt while running!

B and I were on separate teams. I was on a team with about 6 other people. They were fun and we had a great time taking pictures at various points in downtown Knoxville - at the river, at Market Square, various sculptures, etc, and needless to say we got creative in our photos (wish I could share but they are KTC's)!

The only downside - I was by far the slowest of the group. Like Tuesday,  I found myself struggling to keep up with faster runners. However, I got to carry the clue sheet and read to the group, so I felt like I could contribute.

The other team members encouraged me and made me feel included. They even voted me MVP and I won a KTC shirt!

B's team was especially creative in their pictures - climbing sculptures, planking, going inside local restaurants, and general joking around. They won a grand prize for taking the most creative pictures, and B was chosen out of the team to win a Lululemon prize pack of running shorts and socks!

He was so excited! Being a quieter, laid-back guy, it was great to see him having fun and joking around with the group.

While I can't speak for every running community, I hope this encourages you to seek out running friends and social events if you're a new runner. I've found everyone here to be welcoming and accepting of me as a new runner. Experiences like this make running so much more fun!

Thursday - Day Off

An evening to work on the blog, put away laundry, and cook a nice dinner for B and me.

Friday - Yoga

Because I'm running a 5K tomorrow near my home town, I'm taking it easy today with early morning yoga. I haven't been in a few weeks, and I've missed it.

Overall, it has been a good week for me, and hopefully for you, too! Keeping a happy attitude and drawing from the encouragement of others made running more enjoyable this week.

How do you keep your momentum and stay positive? Do you find encouragement from others to be helpful?


See what others around the web are doing with two great Fitness Friday communities:

I was not compensated by RunKNOX or the Knoxville Track Club for this post, nor is either organization affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences as I began running through the program. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my Terms and Conditions page.

Want more? Follow the CSRS Blog on FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, or CoffeeScarvesandRunningShoes on Instragram for the latest updates, articles, and more!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Favorite Things for Summer

I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in the Southeast, it's hot! We're seeing high temperatures in the 80-90 degree range daily. Hot weather always presents a challenge to look our best - hair frizzy from humidity, makeup melting off, etc. Lovely.

I decided to share some of my favorite items that are trying to keep me together (a tall order) in the summer. At some point, I'd also like to share products that help me in my running life, but for now, here are some products I love day-to-day this time of year.

Boscia BB Cream

So what is all of this hype about BB creams? At first, I thought it was just a passing fad (and it may be), and didn't bother to pay attention to it. Then, I learned about what they are. A BB cream is like a "one-stop-shop" in the morning - a moisturizer, sunscreen, pore refiner, primer, and a light tint. I've always wondered why such a product didn't exist before to make our lives easier.

Because they want us to buy multiple products. C'mon, Amy, you're a marketer.

However, it appears that Asian beauty companies finally started making such a product, and American companies are catching on.

I was running out of a foundation I didn't particularly love when I found out about BB creams. Intrigued, I headed into Sephora to check them out. There is now a huge selection of BB creams on the market among both department and drugstore brands. It was overwhelming. A sales consultant in the store walked me through their selection and recommended Boscia for my skin, which tends to be on the oily side. I loved it! I prefer light coverage in a foundation, so it was all I needed. It moisturized, mattified, and evened out my skin tone. It has replaced my foundation, sunscreen, and moisturizer, so I only need to wear my BB cream and eye cream before applying eye makeup and blush. Optionally, you could set it with a powder. I also wear it when running for the SPF benefit.

Crossbody Bag

I think summer is all about going lighter! When sightseeing on vacation, shopping, going to concerts or music festivals, or simply perusing around town, who wants to carry a heavy bag! While I love a good statement tote or satchel for fall and winter, I like to lighten up in the summer. Crossbody bags are in and vary from super casual to dressy. My casual choice is currently one of two Vera Bradley crossbody bags, which are bright, summery and happy. These styles are retired, but you can find similar choices here.

Sanuk Flip-flops

Last July, I was headed on a vacation to Savannah, GA with my husband. We knew that we would spend a lot of time exploring the historic district downtown and we'd be doing a lot of walking. I wanted to wear sandals, but was concerned about comfort. A friend recommended I try Sanuk flip-flops with a yoga mat sole. Yoga mats? In flip-flops?

Skeptical, I found them at my local Dillard's, and they felt amazing! They really are squishy like a yoga mat. I thought the Yoga Spree style in brown and white was a light, classic look that would match a lot of things. I wore them to my more casual outings in Savannah and was amazed! I couldn't believe I had worn flip-flops while walking all day and felt great at the end of the day! Since then, that pair has become my go-to flip-flops for casual day-to-day wear. I prefer dressy sandals or wedges to nicer events. This year, they are still in great shape and I wear them often.

Note - these should only be worn in casual situations. I'm not judging, but please don't wear flip-flops to work, a nice social gathering, etc. Dressy sandals, heels, or wedges are a MUCH better option. Also, I'm a strong believer in only wearing open toed shoes when feet and toes are well groomed. Eesh!

Crabtree & Evelyn 60 Second Fix for Hands

With the gardening projects I take on during the summer, my hands take a beating! Because I do a lot of hobbies with my hands and polish doesn't stick well to my nails (even gel polish!), I usually don't keep polish on my hands. Instead, I keep my nails trimmed, buffed, and clean. I also like to keep my hands and cuticles moisturized.

To accomplish all of the above, I follow a morning (and nightly if I remember!) routine of cleaning and filing my nails (if necessary). Then I follow up with a hand scrub, hand cream, and cuticle cream.

I'll admit that most of Crabtree & Evelyn's scents are a little strong for my preferences, but I love the Citron scent! It's so fresh and smells like spring. The 60 Second Fix (hand scrub and cream combo) is perfect for my routine!

Extra - I also love to use Burt's Bees lemon cuticle cream. Unlike cuticle oils, it's not greasy and it stays on my hands. I also love the lemon scent! I also do this routine after gardening or other projects.

A Summer Scarf

Yes, you CAN wear a scarf during summer! You just need a scarf made of a light material and bright summer colors. If you're going to be spending the majority of the day outside it might be overkill. However, if you spend part of the day inside or are out during a cooler summer night, a light scarf is a great accessory. It can make a sundress, tank top, or tee more interesting by adding color and pattern.

I think the keys to staying cool in a summer scarf are picking the right material, and draping it the right way. Obviously, the lighterweight fabric, the better. My favorite ways to wear a scarf in the summer are either loosely draped around my neck (not tight and close to my neck), or as a vest.

A vest? What? Yes, I learned that trick this year. It's SO easy - requires no sewing or pinning and takes 5 minutes. You can learn how to do this here.

I'm not a fashionista, but here are my two favorite summer scarf looks:

See? It really does look like a vest! Shirt - Gap (last fall), Shorts - Old Navy, Scarf - Old Navy
I love pairing a 3/4 sleeve top with shorts for cooler summer nights!  This is the top I wore my About Me pic. I LOVE it, as it adds texture to any outfit. I can't find it online, but a short sleeve version is here.
Scarf - Charming Charlie's. Cami - Target (love!). Shorts - Old Navy
Before I recruited B to help me take pics (what a good sport!), I tried being like the cool fashionista bloggers who take selfies with their phones. I'm not sure if I'm cool enough to pull it off. It was hard to get the angle right and make sure I was looking in the right place! I felt like a 16 year old on SnapChat (which I don't know how to use). I got one good pic out of it!

Maybelline Color Whisper Lipstick

Lipstick is tough for me. On one hand, I have very fair skin, so dark lipsticks don't work. On the other hand, my lips are a natural rose color, so really light lipsticks don't look great on me either. My usual solution is a rose colored lipstick a shade slightly darker than my natural lip color. During the fall and winter, I like to wear Buxom Big and Healthy lipstick in Bombay. However, I wanted to brighten and lighten up in the summer.

I'd read a lot of great things about the new Maybelline Color Whisper line. I'm not afraid to explore both department and drugstore brands, and usually wear a mix of both. I love it! It's the perfect hybrid between a lipstick and a gloss. It's shiny but not sticky like a gloss. It's not quite as pigmented as your typical heavier lipstick, so it's great for summer. It still has a good amount of pigment (more than lip gloss - my usual concern with them) so the color definitely stands out. It goes on very smooth and lips stay moisturized. The "Rose of Attraction" shade is a lighter, brighter rose color than I wear in the winter, so it has become my go-to summer lipstick.

Updo for Hair

On days when I know I'll be running in the evening (and even days I don't), I want a hairstyle that is off my face and shoulders. I especially want a style that's a little more elaborate than a simple ponytail. That way it's dressy enough for work, and it's ready to go when I run in the evening. My favorite beauty blog is The Small Things Blog. The blogger, Kate, has an amazing way of breaking down elaborate hairstyles into easy to follow video tutorials. My hairstyle in my blog head shot just happens to be from the texture tutorial!

My favorite updos are the Messy Bun and the Side French Braid Bun. They get messier from running, but then that just makes it even cooler in a "messy on purpose" way.

My attempt at the messy bun. FYI -  I changed and took these pics after running. I still like it. It's never going to look the same as the tutorial.

Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh

I'm a little new to venture into fragrance. Over the years, I've tried different fragrances, but I'm sensitive to strong floral or musky fragrances. They often give me a headache. To keep it light, I've mostly stayed in the realm of body sprays from Bath and Body Works or Victoria's Secret. Since I'm almost 30, however, I decided it's time to find a grown-up signature fragrance for myself. After much sampling, my favorite is Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh. It's light, clean, fruity, with a hint of floral. I like it better than it's original cousin, Marc Jacobs Daisy, which is a little too floral for me. It's more grown-up, but not overpowering. I carry a rollerball with me when I'm on the go. Worth a try if you want a lighter fragrance for summer!

Some other items I'm hunting for summer - a good sunscreen, a powder to set my BB cream, and hairspray that stands up to humidity. I'll let you know if I find them!

What are your favorite beauty and style products for summer?


*I don't know anyone from these companies. These were all products I purchased for myself, and I wasn't compensated in any way for this post.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Fitness Friday - Not Quitting!

Last week, I completed my first running series, Running Newbie to Half Marathon in One Year. In writing it, I relived all of the emotions and ups and downs of my first year of running. Whether I was training for my first 5K, a faster 5K, or my first half marathon, each stage of my first year of running came with it's own unique set of challenges. In the end, however, rewarding feelings came as I reached each goal.

After my half marathon in April, I wasn't sure where to go next. I felt burned out from running long distances, and needed to switch gears yet again. I found out that RunKNOX was going to offer a new speed-based program that would focus on a faster 5K time, as well as incorporate more circuit workouts to increase our fitness.

My husband, Brandon, was all in from the time we found out about this program. He and I have different outlooks and preferences when it comes to running. He (being the much faster of the two of us) enjoys running short distances (i.e. 5Ks, 10Ks) and focusing on running fast. He'd like to just go as hard as he can for 3 miles and be done.

I, on the other hand, find the pressure and intensity of running faster at shorter distances to be overwhelming. While more physically taxing, I liked training for the half marathon when I could just get into a comfortable rhythm and run longer. Because I remembered the anxiety I'd felt last fall when I was training for a faster 5K, I was a little apprehensive to do the speed-based program. However, other option of running 5+ miles in the summer heat didn't sound appealing at all. Our coach, Darren, recommended that I do the speed based program and transition back into half marathon training later this year, so I went with it.

Over the last few weeks, I've been writing about this current journey in my Fitness Friday posts. This new stage didn't start as smoothly as I'd hoped (it never does, right?). First, I dealt with a lot of heel pain. Luckily that was a quick fix with new shoes. Since then, my latest struggle has been dealing with the heat. It's getting hot here in Tennessee! While I prefer warm weather in my normal life, I'm struggling with it while running. I've been very careful to hydrate (including electrolytes) before, during, and after workouts. I've also been very careful to watch for early symptoms of overheating.

It's very frustrating to come to a workout with an objective (i.e. work on a certain pace, etc), but not be able to work to your fullest potential due to these issues. However, I've put safety first and do the best I can. Nonetheless, I'm still working towards my 30 minute 5K by 30 years old goal (#30by30), and believe that I'll reach my goal.

Now that my running series is over, I plan to go a little deeper into my Fitness Friday posts. It doesn't matter how long I've been running, there is always something new to learn! Sometimes, it's something simple like the importance of good shoes, and sometimes it's something a little more deep. I plan to share what I'm learning each week as I continue through my running journey.

This week, I learned the power of not quitting.

Saturday - A rough start

As I mentioned in last Friday's post, I spent last Friday in an all-day outdoor low ropes course as a professional development exercise. It was a lot of fun! I'd actually participated in a similar course by the same company, Mountain Challenge, when I was in grad school. This time, I participated in all kinds of team-building exercises, such as working with a group to keep a tennis ball balanced in the center of long strings that we as team members circled around and held, or deciding how to best fit all team members through a spider web of ropes. It reminded us how important it is to plan and communicate together as a team, instead of only focusing on our own individual tasks.

While we only did the low ropes component of the course on Friday and it wasn't extremely physically taxing, being active in the heat all day left me feeling a little drained. I was drinking lots of water, but still felt a little dehydrated and tired when I woke up Saturday to head to RunKNOX. For a few seconds, I considered skipping. You know I wouldn't do that!

Luckily, it was a little rainy (and therefore cooler) that morning. I ran 4 mi with a couple of girls near my pace. Once we got into the run and started chatting, I felt much better and made it through the run. We then did a circuit workout including all kinds of squats, planks, push-ups, lunges, you name it. Done!

Sunday - Rest

Enough said.

Monday - Back to the gym

I kept my usual routine of heading to the gym after work. I did the elliptical for 30 minutes, then headed into a Body Pump class (a 1 hr circuit routine using various weights). I happened to notice that most of the exercises have gotten easier. Perhaps it's time to use heavier weights on some of them? I'll think about that.

Tuesday - A rough running practice

So, as you know, last week, we ran repeats of 800m (1/2 a mile). Not only do I think that is a difficult exercise in general, but I started noticing early symptoms of overheating (i.e. dizziness, feeling very tired, and even feeling cold in the heat), and had to stop running to stay safe (our program enforces safety). This week, I was initially excited because our workout was broken into even smaller chunks, 200m (an 1/8 mi), with breaks in between. This will be so much easier!

Yep, I may have underestimated that workout.

While breaking the workout into smaller pieces did make it more manageable, I didn't think it was at all easy. I should have known better. It took me a little over a minute to run each 200m piece at my goal 5K pace (more aggressive than my usual running), but we did it so many times I thought it was never going to end! Not to mention, it was even hotter that day.

Here's the deal: physically, yes, it was a difficult workout. However, the real challenge that day was all mental. After struggling so much last week, I was a little scared going into this week's workout. Even today, I struggle with a lot of fear when running. If you feel this, too, please know you're not alone.

What if I got dizzy again? What if I passed out? Or died? Or even worse (my biggest fear ever), what if I threw up in practice?

I've never taken a psychology class, but I think there is a certain "healthy" level of fear that reminds us to be cautious and safe. Then there's the irrational fear where we imagine unlikely worst case scenarios.

Tuesday, I managed my "healthy" fear (the first kind) by making sure I was taking the proper precautions against the heat (i.e. hydrating, taking electrolytes, monitoring symptoms, etc). The second, "irrational," fear had to be managed. The biggest thing that helped me were my running friends. We encouraged each other and chatted, which kept my focus off the fear. Thanks guys! :)

Afterwards, I felt so exhausted and drained, I collapsed on the couch with Coco.

Wednesday - Too Legit to Quit!

The following morning I got out to run 3 miles on my own. It was still pretty warm, even at 6 AM. I felt like I was made of lead. I felt SO exhausted after just one mile and thought I must be running faster than usual.

Let's not get ahead of myself.

So I looked at the Nike app on my phone, and realized I was running slower than my usual pace (almost 13 min/mi*). I stopped and thought, why am I even doing this? It doesn't even feel like I'm making progress.

I probably would have quit and headed home at that moment, but I had set my running goal on the app to 3 miles and didn't want to let it down.

I'm not just a people pleaser. I'm also a phone pleaser.

So I dragged myself through the rest of the run. It was slow. It didn't feel fun. However, Tim Tebow congratulated me through the app when I finished (no opinion on him since I don't follow professional football, but that was a nice gesture).

I was glad I'd at least finished the run if nothing else. This was confirmed later that morning on the way to work, when I heard "Too Legit to Quit" by MC Hammer on the way to work. So fitting!

Thursday - Core

As per our usual schedule, I went to a core circuit class offered by RunKNOX. It's amazing how I can do planks now (although they still aren't easy), when a year ago I could barely do them for 15 seconds.

Friday - What????

After Tuesday's and Wednesday's runs, I had zero expectation for my performance when I headed out this morning for a 2 mile run. I decided that to stress myself out less, I wouldn't look at my app during the run. I wouldn't run super fast; I would push myself just enough to not drag along. It was a much cooler morning than before, and it was the best I'd felt running in awhile. Imagine my shock when I looked at my app after a mile and saw I had run the first mile in 10:30! I kept the momentum going during the second mile and finished both miles in 20:53! I felt closer than ever to my #30by30 goal!

I share all of that to give you hope. Sometimes you may have periods where it's really tough and you feel you aren't making progress. It's tempting to quit. Stay with it! Results may not happen right away, but I do believe that hard work pays off over time.

Have you ever experienced a time when you wanted to quit (running or any endeavor), but were glad you didn't?


See what others around the web are doing with two great Fitness Friday communities:

*I am in no way saying that a 13 minute mile is a "bad time" for myself or anyone. I believe that paces are all individual, and it's all relative to where you are right now. This was simply slower than where I've been lately.

I was not compensated by RunKNOX for this post, nor is RunKNOX affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences as I began running through the program. The views expressed in this article are solely my own. Also, I'm not a health or fitness professional of any kind. See my Terms and Conditions page.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer Pizza on the Grill


I know, it's not technically summer, but for all practical purposes, it is here in Tennessee. The temperatures are in the 80s or higher, and everyone is spending more and more time outside. It's no exception for B and me. Our latest ritual a few nights a week has been unwinding with dinner on the patio. We (usually I), grill something yummy - chicken, burgers, salmon, shrimp, steaks, veggies, you name it - for dinner, we turn Pandora on my phone, and we relax outside for awhile with dinner, cold drinks, and music.

Oh the wild and crazy lifestyle of a late 20s/early 30s couple. 

What can I say? We're people who enjoy simple pleasures. It's even more fun when we have friends over to join us.

Given our summer evening ritual, I was excited when on my recent TJ Maxx/Homegoods treasure hunt (always a good time), I found a ton of grilling tools in the clearance area. Jackpot! Among other things, one tool that especially intrigued me was a grilling pizza pan. Hmm...

While not exactly the same thing, grilled pizza makes me think of the restaurants that offer brick oven or wood fired pizza. B and I love that kind of crispy, fresh pizza, so the idea of recreating something similar at home sounded interesting.

Now, this isn't the first time I've tried making pizza at home. When I was young, I lived in a fairly remote small town. We didn't have restaurants nearby (over 45 minutes away!), so we didn't eat out much. When I was in grade school, my Mom made her own pizza dough, my sister and I (and perhaps friends staying over) would help top it, and we'd enjoy it with a movie. I'm tellin ya, homemade pizza + the Lion King was a good night back in those days. Exciting times.

After I got married, I tried recreating homemade pizza with little success. It wouldn't get crispy, it would stick to the pan, or be too doughy. I'd given up a couple of years ago, but maybe this grilled concept would work.

I bought the pan and told B about it. I was surprised that he was pretty excited about it since my last pizza attempts hadn't gone so well. In fact, he was so excited that when we were at Kroger together (usually he views grocery shopping as pleasurable as a root canal), he started talking about the toppings he wanted on it. He disappeared for a few minutes, came back with half a pound of prosciutto from the deli (a little more than necessary), and was happily nibbling on a sample they had given him. 

Oh Beebs. It doesn't take much to make him happy.

In addition to the prosciutto, I stocked up on flour, yeast, fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, and veggies for the pizza.

Warning: This isn't a weeknight dinner

Now that we were all stocked up on ingredients, we were excited to try this new creation. One Wednesday night, when we didn't have running practice or other plans, B suggested I try making the pizza. I Googled grilled pizza recipes. I followed the ingredients for the pizza dough recipe from this article (although I didn't follow the grilling instructions or toppings from that article). 

I dissolved a packet of yeast into the warm water, measured out my salt and flour (I actually used King Arthur whole wheat white flour to make it a whole wheat pizza), and mixed them together. This dough was a little tough. I don't make bread much, but I kneaded the dough to the best of my ability. It took awhile - over 7 minutes of kneading for it to look even remotely soft and smooth. 

I realized this recipe wasn't going to be feasible that night when I realized it had to rise for over 2 hours. It was already almost 7 PM when I started, so this wasn't going to work. I decided to abort mission and do something else for dinner. I still allowed the dough to rise that evening. To provide a warm environment for it to rise, I turned the oven to 300 degrees, and set the bowl of dough on top of the stove. As the recipe recommended, I brushed the dough with olive oil and covered it with plastic wrap (warning - any part of the dough not covered will get crusty - not in a good way). Once it was done rising, I placed it in the fridge to save for the weekend.

Note - that recipe actually makes enough dough for 3-4 pizzas, depending on the thickness you prefer. Once the dough has risen, you can actually freeze what you don't need using these instructions. That's what I did. With dough already prepared, this could theoretically be a quicker dinner.

Ready to Grill

Finally, this Saturday was a perfect opportunity to try this new creation. It was one of those perfect lazy Saturdays. We ran in the morning, followed by breakfast and a nap. I was so lazy, that when I washed my hair that day, I didn't even dry it. I let it air dry and put it up in a messy bun. Perfect conditions for a relaxing patio evening!

It was time to pull out all of my ingredients. To make this recipe healthier and tastier, I used as many whole, fresh ingredients as possible. I should also warn you I went a little toppings-overboard. You can use whatever toppings you desire.

B is a carnivore who has to have meat on pizza. While not the healthiest thing in the world, at least B picked out a natural variety of prosciutto by Boar's Head, which states on their website that salt is the only added ingredient.

I can do meat, but I love veggies on pizza. Solution: I did both. I would have loved to add olives (my all-time favorite food) if I'd had them on hand. Next time. This could easily be a vegetarian dish by simply omitting the prosciutto.

I used:
  • 1/4-1/3 of this pizza dough recipe, using whole wheat white flour, already risen
  • 6 oz tomato or pizza sauce (I used canned sauce from Trader Joe's - sorry authentic Italian chefs! At least TJ's is a little more natural)
  • 1 3/4 oz. fresh mozzarella, packed in water (you could use shredded, but I thought fresh was delicious)
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • A sprinkle of a garlic herb blend
  • 1/8-1/4 lb prosciutto (I used a little less than half of what B bought at the store), torn into small pieces
    1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • Olive oil to drizzle
I pulled the dough out of the fridge and warmed it the same way I let it rise - on top of the oven.  I drizzled the tomatoes with olive oil and roasted in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, and set the dough on top of the oven.

While warming, I got the rest of my ingredients ready. I pulled the basil from my herb garden and chopped it up. I sliced the mozzarella and blotted it dry with paper towels. I tore the prosciutto into pieces. Finally, I pulled the rest of the ingredients together

Once the dough was warm, I drizzled olive oil on the pizza pan, pressed the dough to spread it out over the pan, and brushed the top of the crust with olive oil.

Then I headed outside to the grill to get it ready. While I followed the ingredients of the dough recipe, I went rogue on my grilling technique. After reading several articles on grilled pizza, I decided to preheat the (gas) grill to about 500 degrees.

Once it was ready, I placed the pan on the grill, closed the grill, and left it in there for about 3-4 minutes. 

At that point, the crust started puffing up and the bottom was a little brown.

I flipped the crust over, and grilled for another 3 minutes. 

Now, I pulled the crust out of the grill and onto a trivet on the patio table. I then topped with ingredients


Cheese and herbs (on a side note, I have never understood why people would ask for no cheese on pizza, or pick it off. Not judging, just trying to understand. Why oh why?)



And finally, veggies - roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach

Now it was back on the grill for another 4-5 minutes (I was shooting for 4 but got distracted. Typical me. It may have been 4.5).

I placed it back on the table, let it rest for a few minutes, and it was ready to slice and enjoy. I served with red pepper and Parmesan.

The result? I was pleasantly surprised! It was crispy on the outside, and dense and chewy (but not tough) on the inside. My only area of improvement will be to better dry the mozzarella. Even with the blotting, it was a little watery after cooking. Only mildly so, however.

The only unhappy campers were Coco and Cali, who wanted to join us outside. They are indoor kitties, and since we don't have a fence, we can only give them occasional supervised visits.

B and I settled in with our music, pizza, and drinks and had a great evening! We even stayed out later in the evening playing a rowdy game of Uno. It got a little out of control.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our summer pizza party and look forward to trying again, perhaps next time with friends! If you're looking for something different and fun to do on the grill, I recommend trying it!

Have you grilled pizza before? What recipe or technique worked best for you?


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