Lean In While Eating Healthy, Too

Coming home to a quiet apartment after a full day of work, the last thing I want to do is tap into my culinary creativity, search online and spend an hour over a hot stove. Too much mental and physical energy.

 

What is a busy, career-oriented woman to do in order to live a life where she thrive in her career while also being able to cook healthy, balanced meals without relying on mixes, commercial frozen food or takeout?

 

cooked-catcus-and-veggies-for-lunch

While experimenting with new veggies, I bought cactus to cook. The meal: cooked cactus & veggies plus a salad. Quick and easy!

Some ideas:

 

* Crockpot cooking: find a recipe online, dice up some veggies, and perhaps a few slices of bacon, give it 8 hours and you’ve cooked yourself a great stew. Crockpots are amazing, and you can make so much more than stews. Check out some of these recipes for BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, cheese fondue, amazing apple butter

 

* Freezing food: when you do have time on a weekend, take a few hours to cook food in batches… and then freeze it. Things that I typically freeze: soups, quiches and root vegetables we aren’t able to eat in time.

 

* Planning & shopping the weekend prior: planning your meals for the week on a Saturday morning, then shopping on Saturday afternoon or Sunday, is one of the great ways to increase the chance you’ll cook complete meals, remember everything you need for these meals at the grocery store and avoid coming upon Monday night with no real ingredients or real idea of what you want to make.

 

* Find a partner who will cook for/with you: although some guys are hesitant in the kitchen, my boyfriend is a scientist at heart: he loves to experiment and so he’s a good cook. If your guy isn’t as enthusiastic, encourage him to cook anything he might know (steak? chicken? rockin’ green smoothies?) and have that be part of your next meal.

 

Though I still have those weeknights where it just is easier to call for a pizza, I remind myself that making an effort to eat home cooked meals most of the time means I have a pretty good track record. It’s important not to be too hard on yourself when first getting to the swing of meal planning and cooking.

 

What tricks do you use to save time and create healthy meals when juggling a busy schedule?

Tips & Tools for Half Marathon Training

Before February 2012, I had never run a half marathon – or even more than 6 miles, for that matter. I remember the first time that I ran more than 6 miles; the excitement I felt, in knowing that I was training to run 7.1 miles more. Breaking the 10 mile mark was one of the best milestones I’ve had so far. The achievement oriented side of my personality gleefully celebrated the fact that I could even brag to someone that I had run 10 miles in one day.

 

Running didn’t come completely naturally, but a few factors helped me complete my first half marathon and finish in a decent time:

half-marathon-jen-after-the-race-2012

Exhausted but smiling after my second half marathon in Napa Valley, CA. It was a hot day and I managed to mess up my knee about half way through – though still finished in around 2 hours 25 minutes.

 

* A Hal Higdon training plan [yes – for those people who were like me and didn’t have a clue about how training works, getting into shape means planning to run. If you’re like most people who might not be able to instinctively feel how long you should run each time you go out and want to reach a certain mileage goal, a training plan is essential.]

 

* Journaling my training plan [adding on to simply having a training plan, the next step is keeping track of what you’re doing. By creating a simple Google spreadsheet, you can create a calendar and for each week, separate rows for “Planned Exercise”, “Actual” and “Notes” so you start to track and reflect what is contributing to successes or failures.]

 

* A running buddy [for me, half the battle is getting up on a weekend morning, getting in gear and starting. Having someone else strongly encourage you definitely increases the success that you’ll actually get out there.]

 

* Diet changes [though not necessary, I challenged myself to go 2 months without ingesting caffeine, refined sugar and alcohol. Though it was rough, and I didn’t have 100% success, this temporary challenge helped to guide me to better food choices. Plus, never having the excuse for hangovers means it is a lot harder to miss weekend runs!]

 

Of course, apps are great for tracking distance and pace; RunKeeper is one of my favorites, though I generally like to leave my phone at home at this point in my running career.

 

My Fitbit One keeps me company and is great to be able to see actual distance.

 

To plan runs:

 

* Use Google Maps or USATF.com (USA Track and Field). The USATF website as of now is a bit easier to use; you can type in your zip code and draw out a route of where you want to run to figure out distance and elevation changes.

 

Feel free to comment below if you have any half marathon training tips. I’m contemplating a marathon in my future, but for now, the half marathon is a great challenge to get in shape and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Running Break

I was tired.

 

After going 5 days without a work out, eating only toast and a small yogurt within the course of a day, even small problems were bringing me near the brink of desperation. It took some outside perspective to bring my focus back in place, and I started to reflect: why am I feeling this way?

 

Nike women's marathon map

Map of the Nike Women’s Marathon, held in San Francisco, October 2012.

It’s funny that for someone who might seem to be in touch with her body – I’ve worked with a personal trainer, run a few half marathons, and have maintained a mostly healthy diet (although a ravenous sweet tooth sometimes gets the best of me). Yet, I still forget how much food can affect my mood.

 

I had gotten upset over a small work hurdle. I was planning a major client event, and we were having trouble finding a place where we could park the food truck. How could we make this work? My mood turned dark and I got into that (not-so-helpful) place where I wanted to complain forever.

“How about you take a break from this situation?” my boyfriend suggested.

Taking a minute to drink some water, and reflect: what is wrong with this situation?

  • I haven’t worked out in 5 days
  • I hadn’t eaten a real lunch
  • I was dehydrated

 

I took a small break, closed my Outlook inbox, and started to do some of the more relaxed web surfing. In my mind, I knew I had to make this commitment to myself: go to the gym.

 

Half of an hour later, I was at the gym, running on the treadmill, and I could feel my mood lifting. It was as if all I needed was a burst of endorphins and a break from staring at the softly glowing monitor. I felt that I could glide and my mind starting to wander, while a smile crept over my face as I heard the loud squeaks of my tennis shoes on the machine’s tread.

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