I have lots of great food & fitness to share, so Iet me just jump right into it! First up, I ran Spartan Race Austin last Saturday and earned a spot on the Master’s Podium!
I made a zillion mistakes in the race, but hung in there despite wanting to fuss at myself, give up and bail! But, since at this more mature age, my strongest athletic asset has dwindled down to just good old-fashioned grit, I didn’t quit. Plus, I had the satisfaction of coming home and reminding a son (for the 1000th time) that “quitters never win, winners never quit.”
Keep reading on to get the remainder of the recap in a single series of emojis — yes EMOJIS. No need to take this too seriously. Also, I have some other great finds to tell you about. Continue reading →
This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links.
It was so fun to spend Saturday at my favorite 5k – the Fit Foodie Race Weekend. This amazing event is where food meets fitness meets reconnecting with old friends (and making new friends) interested in living a healthy lifestyle. I haven’t missed a single race day since this event debuted in Austin, Texas a few years back and this year’s John Hancock Hosts the Cooking Light & Health Fit Foodie Race Weekend was definitely the best yet – thank you John Hancock! Someday I hope to get to one of the other venues in Fairfax, San Diego and Tampa.
Of course the race was so much fun before, during and after the running. I was goofing off too much with Ryan Hall and Bill Rodgers (John Hancock elite athletes and marathon legends) at the start and didn’t hear the air horn blast! When I finally had my feet moving in the right direction,
I blazed (in my mind at least!) through the brutal humidity straight to the finish line – oh except that part where I ran off the well-marked course about 200 yards (seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this in races)! In the end, I found the finish line (it was obvious) and was able to defend my Master’s title for another year! Pretty sure I was running so fast to get to the food quicker, haha!
There were so many informative culinary demonstrations and delicious food and beverage samples in the John Hancock Vitality Village – the Strawberry Watermelon Punch was probably my favorite (it’s currently in the July 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine). That’s because (and y’all know it) I’m a huge watermelon fan and love to get on my soapbox (preferably in a handstand) about how watermelon is a great way to hydrate, fuel up with healthy carbs and possibly gain more endurance and recover more quickly thanks to specific nutrients (like l-citrulline).
I really appreciate how John Hancock Hosts the Cooking Light & Health Fit Foodie Race Weekend shows that healthy eating and staying active not only helps with maintaining steady progress toward a healthier lifestyle – but can also be fun, flavorful and a reason for celebration! My mom just walk-ran her first 5k and started making green protein smoothies for breakfast recently. I think she’s hooked on her new health and fitness journey and knows that small steps can turn into big changes! That’s worth celebrating!
Some people seem to focus on diet and forget about fitness or vice-versa. I’m more the “vice-versa” type and often have to remind myself that “You can’t out run a bad diet.”
Both daily activity combined with mindful, whole-food nutrition is the key to optimizing your health for life. That’s why John Hancock has introduced Vitality, a life insurance program that rewards people for the healthy choice they make – such as exercising, visiting the doctor and now even purchasing healthy foods at the grocery store! Participants in the HealthyFood program earn points that lead to significant savings on their life insurance premiums and can also be rewarded with up to $600 in real time discounts and/or cash back on nutritious food purchases. Visit JHRewardsLife.com for more information!
What small steps are you taking to improve your health? I’d love to chat, please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
I received compensation in exchange for writing this review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own
Most Unexpected Race Win: In October, I was the first OVERALL winner of the Hill Country Half Marathon in Marble Falls, Texas. Granted, the field wasn’t Rock ‘n Roll marathon kind of huge, but that being said, I beat all the women and the MEN with my scrawny legs — the hills were some of the worst I’ve ever seen (not kidding, one went upward for at least half a mile).
Craziest Conditions in a Race: The Spartan Beast Dallas was not what I was planning for, it was crazy! With a half marathon being in my wheelhouse, I expected to nail this race — but unforeseen Texas flooding delayed the start for hours and created a running situation in ankle deep mud the entire distance. I was sore the next day in some pretty weird places! Although hoping to do better, I managed to pull off a 2nd place podium finish in the Elite Master division (and it was only my 2nd Spartan, and first “beast”).
Most Unusual Prize Won in a 2015 Race: A $250 gift card for a tattoo! I am no saying if, when and where I used it!
Best Pre and Post Race Festivities at a Race: Hosted by Health and Cooking Light magazines, The Fit Foodie Run in Austin (but also in Fairfax, Chicago and San Diego) proves that a healthy lifestyle can mesh with culinary enthusiasm! The weekend is packed with celebrity chef tasting, food and fitness interactive demos, yoga sessions, and yoga boot camps – there is so much food! Plus, the goodies and samples you get to take home from the after run are some serious healthy nom-noms – bring a big bag!
Best Running & Fitness Moments on Instagram: Of course, I blew up my @thefitfork profile with photos of my favorite yoga poses and running with friends!
Favorite Women-centric Race: I’ve been an ambassador for Zooma Race Series for 4 or 5 years now and have run that hilly Austin-area half marathon and said – “never again” at the finish line. But, after I catch my breath a few minutes later, I’m like “awesome, that was the best race ever despite the course challenges.” The Austin race is now defunct, but the other fabulous locations across the country beckon for a mini-vacation! Created and run by women, this race focuses on females supporting each other, no matter age, ability or life situation – and the weekends make great girlfriend getaways! My mom and I have made a tradition of it! Even though I’ve been in a role to mentor and support the runners, I can’t tell you how much more energy and inspiration I’ve received from them – always so happy to see those smiles and high-fives at the half-marathon turnaround.
Favorite Yoga Pose: Always the Crow or some variation! Hopefully this time next year, my hamstrings and back will be more bendy and stretchy so my Instagram profile can be more well-rounded!
Running / Workout Injuries: Thankfully, nothing serious this year – eg. no stitches, concussions or pulled rib muscles like last year! Only falling off a box doing the Murph CrossFit WOD and spraining ankle, numerous palm tears, one lost toenail . . . looking for some wood to knock on! Despite the healthy year for me, I did write a helpful post on 4 Ways Sports Injuries Build Better Athletes that will keep all of us focused on end goals.
Weirdest Workout Moment: It would have to be working out with watermelons for the second summer in a row on my #LivingOnTheWedge blog series! I CrossFitted with watermelon, ran with watermelon, and even worked out in the swimming pool with a watermelon! Oh, you don’t want to miss that watermelon pool workout video – please make sure you are wearing Depends. On behalf of the National Watermelon Promotion Board, I will be taking the show on the road at IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo in L.A. in July 2016.
Best Blooper(s): Oh, there are a lot of bloopers and outakes, my phone is filled with them! Practicing on the parallettes is cause for crashing on my face or rear, but still it’s fun. There are also some awkward moments coming out of a handstand in a walkover when my old back decides “no” midway through!
More Bloopers: Because research shows you live longer if you laugh.
Favorite Running and Workout Gear / Fuel:Vim & Vigr Compression Socks (super functional , fashionable and fun in a variety of stripes, polka dots and fun patterns), Altra Running Shoes (I love the super lightweight, zero-drop “The Ones” ) and Nuun for my hydration needs — I’m digging their fairly new product called PLUS for Nunn. Unlike regular Nuun that is virtually calorie free (there are a few, but under 10), PLUS provides a boost with fast absorbing performance carbohydrates that keep me hydrated and provide quickly sourced energy for demanding endurance events. Also, I still love my bottle of Core Power High Protein Shake in Chocolate Lite Flavor for 20g of quality protein to help my muscles recover right after a long run or intense workout.
I’m also really appreciating mobility gear from ACUMOBILITY – a great company that I connected with this year at The Running Event that not only makes rollers and other mobility products, but also assesses, corrects and unifies movement to reduce injuries and unlock improved performance. Stay tuned because I will be having an awesome giveaway at the beginning of January! And, for “on the go” rolling, I really love The Original Worm (based right here in Austin).
Most Used Mantra: When times get tough in a race, I break out the “If you can take it, you can make it”line from Unbroken. Or, when I try to get too controlling about stuff – “Where are you? Here. What time is it? Now. What are you? This moment.” – from Dan Millman’s book , “The Way of the Peaceable Warrior” Both books are so inspirational — read them!
Favorite Kettle Bell Workout:
My Best Way to Stay Motivated: When I start to feel burned out, I take an active fun day! And, always more crazy with my friend Valerie (by the way, she’s an internationally known running coach, not kidding — check her out at @runrx )
First, let’s fruit chat, because food always comes first — even before winning races! Anyway, it’s that time of year – pomegranates are on parade at the grocery store now through early winter! This big red fruit is a precious member of my produce bin, those little arils inside look like ruby-red jewels and razzle dazzle with sparkling flavor. In addition to big flavor, pomegranates are a superfood offering an abundant supply of antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C – and are also a good source of dietary fiber.
This past weekend at Fresh Summit (Produce Marketing Association) I got to see all the pomegranates in every imaginable way – from whole fruit and pre-packaged arils for convenience to a variety of juices and sweet snacks. The pomegranates I see in my market are about the size of a softball, but some of the beauties being shown off at this produce convention were almost the size of bowling balls.
Pomegranates are picked and delivered ripe, so pomegranates can be purchased and enjoyed right away. A tip to take home the best in the bushel is to look for a pomegranate that feels heavier than it looks – a good indicator that the inside is loaded with juicy flesh. You can keep whole pomegranates on the counter for a week or so and in the product bin of your fridge for up to three months! However, once the arils are removed, it’s best to enjoy them within three days. In addition to the smoothie recipe I’m sharing below, pomegranate arils are also excellent sprinkled on salads, yogurt and mixed into sauces.
Pomegranates are juicy good news for everyone, and maybe even more so for individuals with an active lifestyle. Some research suggests the polyphenols in the juice of pomegranates can help offset delayed-onset muscle fatigue in trained athletes. Beets (also in the featured smoothie recipe) are high in nitrates which can help reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and enhance efficiency. This is why I’ve always loved a beet juice smoothie — check out my Sweet Beet Smoothie. Plus, with the quality protein found whatever protein powder you use (or the Core Power I like), perfect for pre-workout fueling and post-exercise recovery, this Pomegranate, Blueberry, Beet Protein Smoothie is a winner in every way!
Edit: I recently came across Beet Juice Powder — I love it! It’s more economical than buying pre-made juice and waaaaaaay less messing than juice beets at home.
Pomegranate, Blueberry, Beet Protein Smoothie: In a blender, add 12 ounces vanilla almond milk, one scoop protein powder (or sub one bottle of Core Power Vanilla for milk and protein powder), ½ cup pomegranate juice, ¼ cup pomegranate arils, ½ frozen blueberries, and ½ cup shredded fresh beet. Blend until smooth, adding ice as needed to achieve desired consistency.
I also want to give you the quick recap on the Hill Country Triviumon October 18, 2015 – there was a 10k, a half marathon and full marathon. I ran the half marathon and the recap — It. Was. Hilly. I am no stranger to hills, we have plenty in my neighborhood and I’ve been an ambassador for the hilly Zooma Women’s Race Series in the Texas “Hill Country.” This race I would say was comparable in hills to Zooma, but with an extra bad boy that started at mile 4 and pretty much lasted through mile 5 – or so it seems. It was rough, it was tough, but I got up – I wish I would have looked back over my shoulder to see the challenge of the climb (which reduced me to walking more than once). I used the mantra from the Unbroken story more than once — “If you can take it, you can make it”!
So, I endured the hills and the suffering and the story ended well – I WON the half marathon as the first female finisher and also the FIRST finisher male or female. Yup, I chicked the guys – knowing I was probably going to pull it off was all that kept my lactic-acid, jello’d out legs going in the final two miles — that and my awesome The Ones from Altra Running (light for speed yet just enough cushion in the roomy toe box to keep feet happy coming down the steep hills). Also a fun touch at the race – everyone got a slice of pie at the finish!
I have been in a running rut for about a year and a half. With more than 25 years of running behind me, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt stale and unmotivated about running – but it’s definitely the longest lull in my love for the sport. I’ve implemented many of the rut-busting running tips that experts recommend – heck, I pretty much am an expert, for what it’s worth. I’ve reduced my mileage and taken rest and recovery seriously, varied my race distances and cut back on racing, adjusted my goals and added variety to my routine with other fitness activities like CrossFit and yoga. But, nope, still not having that warm fuzzy about running –especially racing.
Pre-Spartan Selfie — Feeling Positive!
I decided to enter the Spartan race when it rolled into Austin a couple weekends ago to “try something new.” I really had no expectations. Primarily, because I had never done an obstacle race before and didn’t know what to expect. And, also because I knew there would be no benchmark for comparison that my overly self-competitive mind could obsess over. I couldn’t “lose,” be let down or feel like a failure, because this race (I convinced myself) was just a fleeting novelty that I wasn’t really that invested in.
Oooh, comparison is the thief of joy, there is so much truth to that statement and I have robbed myself of many positive race experiences because I have tried to measure up with many things – my past abilities, other’s talents, and such.
So, I just went out to Spartan and soaked up the big AROO at the start. Took off and just did my thing. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed the challenge and burn of the course and that feeling that I might not live to see the finish line but down deep know I will. I took the challenges one by one and made it – I didn’t stop to think how well someone else may or may not being doing it compared to how I was performing. I just tore through the course like I was on a fast and fun mission.
I jumped through the fire obstacle and into the pond and was grinning ear-to-ear about the experience. I knew I was near the front of my heat, but didn’t know or care what my finish time was – it wouldn’t have meant anything compared to my PRs in the marathon or a 5k. I couldn’t compare! I took my finishers medal (the one’s I usually scoff at a marathon) and slung on the bling everyone gets with pride. Actually, in this pic I have it off because I had just entered a post-race pull-up contest and didn’t want to be weighed down – lol!
That’s right, I kicked these challenges right in the butt and busted out of my running rut in the process. Of course, I’m dying to run another obstacle race ASAP – but also feel like I have a renewed mood to race on the road again and have my eye of the tiger back. Whahoo!
Oooh, geeze — now you know how old I am!
The next day when I checked the results, it did knock my socks off a little that I was 2nd Overall in the women – I totally didn’t see that coming. In some ways I wish I didn’t even know that. I’ll take it gladly, but it didn’t make me any happier or more joyful about finishing the race. And maybe that’s the biggest lesson learned coming out of this rut – just enjoy each experience for what it is and not worry so much about the past or future. Aroo!
So, have you ever run a Spartan race? From now until May 27, 2015, they are having a special promotion where you can save up to $40 dollars on a race. That’s a nice chunk of change to save – I’m going to spend my savings on arm sleeves to keep the elbow scrapes away and extra Q-tips for cleaning out my ears – lol!
I received compensation and product from Mizuno as part of this campaign through Fitfluential.com. However, all opinions and editorial comments are completely my own.What better way to kick up your training and tackle a hard race than in a new pair of running shoes?! You really must treat your feet right and running in old, beat down and battered shoes is just asking for an injury. Even if your kicks still look out-of-the-box new on the uppers, shoes you’ve been running in for a while begin to lose their shock absorption, cushioning and stability features. You could keep running in worn out shoes to save a buck, but eventually you’ll pay the price with an injury caused by too much stress on your bones and joints.
Whether you run 5ks, ultramarathons or just recreationally jog the block, experts say that you should replace your running shoes every 300 – 400 miles. When you flip your running shoes over, it is obvious when the tread starts to wear out – usually you can see another color of tread that has worn through on one side or the other. But, often shoes wear out in the midsole (where all the support and cushion lies) long before this — so don’t judge wear and tear by the tread alone. If you are experiencing leg fatigue and joint soreness and nothing else has changed in your training schedule, your running shoes may be the culprit.
The 300 – 400 mile replacement schedule is only a rough guide. If you are a heavier runner, you may need to replace shoes more often that a lighter runner. Your biomechanics and running form can play a role in how often you need to change the proverbial tires – for example, are you a heel striker or do you land mid foot? The surfaces you run on also come into play (e.g.: trail versus treadmill) as does the actual construction of the shoe – I once had a very, very light pair of shoes that were literally falling apart after 70 miles. That was a bummer. I was recently sent a new pair of Mizuno WaveRider 18 running shoes as part of a campaign for Fitfluential.com. I was able to try them out for a few weeks before a 10 mile race and wear them to a popular 10 mile race (Run for the Water) in Austin. A neutral shoe marketed as a “lightweight trainer” (7.8 ounces), the Wave Rider 18s helped keep my feet happy and ready to haul buns from start to finish of a very hilly run. In all honesty, these shoes felt a little “more” than the ultra lightweight shoes I typically race in – I was worried I would feel clunky, but in reality my “ride” experience was quite the opposite. Just the little bit of extra cushioning prevented my feet from feeling beat up on the downhill with no discernable difference in responsiveness and foot-to-ground feedback. And, okay, I’m a girl – so I care about how my shoes look. The Wave Rider 18 is very stylish and I loved the black and silver (with flash of “Florida Keys” turquoise) color scheme – it also comes in white and fuchsia purple or blue and silver. I may need to pick up a pair of each to round out my wardrobe.
So, how did the race go – well, I’ve participated in Run for the Water all 8 years that it’s been around and I’ve done better and I’ve done worse. In the end, I hung on to win my age group and place 3rd in the Master’s division – this is a pretty competitive race and I walked away with a little bit of prize money and a new Solaris GPS watch! Whoot! The best thing about this race though is it supports the Gazelle Foundation which helps to bring clean drinking water to Burundi. Have you ever worn Mizuno shoes and, if so, which ones? Did you run a race too this weekend? Tell me about it!