Monday, July 30, 2012

Active Recovery (I'm trying to be good!)

Free image by David Castillo Dominici via www.freedigitalphotos.netI know I'm tired when I don't want to go running. 

My legs are tired. My arms are tired. My eyes are tired. I'm just plum worn out. 

I stayed up until past midnight watching the Olympic opening ceremony, then the baby has been teething so we're getting no sleep, then I woke up Saturday and ran ten miles, plus I worked two hours organizing a storage unit, and then stayed up late  Saturday night watching the Olympics again. All of that after a week of amping up my strength workouts and fatiguing my body means I am just really, really tired.

It happens. But I still want to keep training because I'll get mean and cranky if I don't! BUT, if I keep this up I'm going to get injured and not be able to train at all. So, I am trying to be good and listen to my body and get some rest. When I got up this morning to workout, and the whole time my run was just looming in front of me like a big boulder that I had to climb over, I listened to that little voice in my head telling me it's okay to not be a machine every day. 

I hate that voice.

But it was right. I finished my strength workout and put my running stuff away. I got on the elliptical and did intervals, which was also good cardio and a nice break. Maybe I'll run tomorrow. 

I'm really bad about overtraining. I just go go go and never give myself a break, and then I get so tired that I can't function at all, which pretty much cancels out all of the great training I did. So, these tips from Women's Health were a perfect reminder for me today that active recovery can be a great way to give your body the rest it needs without feeling like you're slacking off from your workout. It's great for people like me, who like to feel like we're giving it our all every day, even on days when we shouldn't.

Get out there and get healthy today, even if it means doing nothing!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic-effort habits for a mere mortal like me.

Free image courtesy of
Nothing gives me chills quite like the Olympics. This morning, telling my first-grader that he could stay up late to watch the opening ceremonies, I honestly got goose bumps as I told him how each country would bear their national flag, wear traditional costumes and clothing (except the Americans, who will dress like 1980's cruise directors), and parade in for what is, in my eyes, one of the last real salutes to sportsmanship and the rewards of good old-fashioned hard work.

I know its idealistic to frame the Olympics, which is not immune to scandal or drama, as an entirely wholesome event free from flaws. But in our over-hyped sports world of smoke and mirrors, where headlines revolve more around paycheck disputes than love of the game, the Olympics brings me back to the basics of fitness. As a kid, Olympic athletes were the top of the top for me. I mean, OMG. That was just the epitome of success. Watching the 1984 Summer Games as a klutzy 8-year-old book worm catapulted my seemingly unreachable daydreams of athletic prowess feel a little closer, like if I could just capture a little crumb of what they did every day, I too could transform from mere mortal to machine. I was completely, utterly captivated.

I've spent a lot of my life emulating Olympians. So, imagine my glee when I read this article sharing the nutrition and motivational tips of some of this year's athletes!  They're strikingly...normal. LOL Okay, normal for me, a masochist of discipline and a bit (ahem) of a martyr. Here are the highlights: success secrets from the Olympic training ground:

1. Sleep. I struggle with this one, but elite athletes consider sleep and rest to be on par with their sweat and grime workouts. I've experienced the injury, poor health, and (duh) fatigue that comes from not getting enough rest, so this advice really strikes home for me.

2. Eat Clean. Television ads for sports bars, drinks, gels, and powders try to convince us that athletic ability is just a pill away, but in reality many Olympic athletes rely on vegetables and clean eating for their super-human strength. Other tips: prep meals in advance, travel with your own clean-eating snacks, and eat as close to nature as you can. Hmmm....wonder where we've heard that before?

3. Quit the excuses and dig deep. Olympic athletes may seem like super heroes, but they are actually mortals who suffer from lack of motivation just like you and me. I love reading how they have to sometimes talk themselves into a workout, get themselves through those first few steps, and most importantly, suck it up and do it anyway because that's what it takes to be the best.

4. But allow yourself to be human once in a while. Everyone needs a break now and then, and Olympic athletes know when its time to press pause (see tip number 1!). But often, their "break" comes in the form of cross training rather than slacking off. Doing a different sport, enjoying a lighthearted exercise class, or taking a day off from the grind of over-achievement can be as important as giving it your all in a regular training session.

I'll be watching the games this summer with a heavy helping of idealistic nostalgia and patriotism, letting myself get all swept up in the pageantry and hype. I hope that you will, too. Let the Olympic Games light a spark in you, and fuel a childlike ambition towards a healthier life and body. 

Get out there and get healthy today!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Almost Too Pretty to Eat: Bento Boxes for Kids

Did your school lunch look like this? No?
In a few weeks, parents across the country will be make one of those nostalgia-inducing purchases that never fails to prompt stories that turn into a walk down pop culture memory lane. That's right: the school lunchbox.

My lunchbox was the cafeteria tray. I had to eat school lunch. It was gross. For some reason, we always had taco salad with a cinnamon roll on Wednesdays. Who serves cinnamon rolls with taco salad? Who serves taco salad with an ice cream scoop? And can we really call it "salad" when the only recognizable vegetable is corn? But I digress.

Nowadays I make a lunch for my kid to take to school. Since I have one of those kids who eats like three things, it's a pretty uninspired combination of food: a sandwich containing a healthy fat and some protein, some fruit, and some low fat cheese.  But remember this post featuring the awesome lunch my friend makes for her son? It's just one example of how the sack lunch has evolved, thanks partly to Pinterest making all of our lives cuter and partly to ancient Japanese culture for making the rest of us look lazy. The Bento Box is raising the bar for kids' lunches and mommy guilt everywhere.

The word, "bento" actually refers to convenience, but I think that must be for the person toting the meal around and eating it, not the person who prepares it. If you've peered inside some of the examples for bento box lunches, you can confirm that making one is in no way convenient. But they are fun and provide a great opportunity to trick I mean encourage your children to eat healthy food by making it look funny and cute. 

Traditional bento boxes date back to the 1100s and were simply portable meals prepared from home, I guess to prevent the 12th century rat-racer from grabbing a burger at lunch. Now, bento boxes are often arranged in the Kyaraben style, which means they are made to look like characters from anime, comic books, or video games. Another popular bento style is "oekakiben" or "picture bento", which is decorated to look like people, animals, buildings and monuments, or items such as flowers and plants. Yeah, my PB&J looks totally lazy now.

Here are some ways to add some bento inspiration to your kid's lunchbox and hopefully encourage them to try some new (healthy) food! If you give it a try, let me know how it goes!

1. Include a lot of color. Part of the allure of the bento is the elaborate display of the food, and color adds lots of visual interest. It just so happens that fruits and vegetables are loaded with color! Wow, now that's convenient! 

2. Consider your child's interests. If your daughter is all about pink, quartered strawberries make perfect flower petals! If your son is into Star Wars or army men, try your hand at a Darth Vader sandwich or pretzel tank. Hey, I'd even make a hand grenade out of a kiwi if it meant he would try a bite. Check out these pictures on for some inspiration!

3. Keep it healthy. There are loads of really cute and fun things to make out of food, but just because it is packed in an eco-friendly stainless steel container does not mean it is healthy. Skip the cookies and stick with focusing on having a balance of whole grains, protein, healthy fat, and colorful produce. Check these tips for packing a healthy lunch.

Okay reality check: will I be doing this once school starts? I am going to give it a shot! I usually avoid making food cute because it removes the focus from functional fuel for our bodies and more towards eating as recreation. But if it helps my kid eat more vegetables, I can look the other way and get over it. :) 

At least until I get so busy that I wonder what made me think I had time in my day to craft daily elaborate art installations from food and just toss an apple and sandwich in a paper bag and call it a day.

Get out there and get healthy today, whether your lunch is bento or just pb&j!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Breakfast at Healthy Heather's: Egg Scramble Recipe

I love breakfast. I mean, I looooove breakfast. I would eat breakfast for every meal if I could, and I make breakfast for dinner every Sunday night. And, my usual morning breakfast is one of my favorite meals. It's very simple, but a perfect way to start the day.

Egg scramble, oatmeal with raisins, and coffee. Perfect!

But what I love the most about my breakfast is how easy it is to make every day. That's because I make it in advance and stash it in the fridge. Preparing meals ahead of time is one proven way to succeed in weight loss and management. Not only are you organized and, well, prepared, you're much less likely to detour off your path when your healthy food is sitting right there staring at you.

So here's my uber-simple Egg Scramble recipe. It's evolved over time and become even more simple as I have become even more busy. Translation: it's not gourmet. It's food.


  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 egg
  • splash of milk
  • 10 grams feta cheese
  • some chopped onion
  • some chopped tomato
  • a handful of spinach 
  • salt and pepper

Here's what I do:
They're all cooked up
 and ready for morning!
1. Gather five (or seven, I just happen to only have five) little casserole dishes. I got mine as a wedding gift 15 years ago and would kiss the person who bought them for me if I remembered who it was.

2. Spray a little olive oil in the bottom to keep them from sticking.

3. Place each dish on your digital scale and put in 10 grams of feta cheese. Add your splash of milk.

4. Add the eggs, onion, and tomato. 

5. Add your salt and pepper to taste.

6. Mix it all up.

7. Put in the spinach, mix it up a little more.

8. Pop 'em in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Take 'em out and once cool, put the lids on and stick them in the fridge.

9. Bonus: get a bowl and put in 10 grams of raisins, 40 grams of plain old-fashioned oatmeal, and a dash of cinnamon. Viola. Now your oatmeal is ready too. Just add 3/4 cup of water in the morning and microwave for deliciousness.

I have this every single day for breakfast. I mean every day. It is that good. And, I eat like a robot most of the time because it's easier and I'm too busy to come up with fancier stuff to eat.

Get out there and get healthy advance. :)


Friday, July 20, 2012

Worried About the Weekend? Relax! Tips for Weekend Eating

It's the weekend! For a lot of us, that means all of our hard work is about to go down the drain. I hate to be so negative, but be honest. Am I wrong? I hear it all the time: 

"During the week, I'm fine. Then the weekend hits and before I know it I'm eating crap and promising to do better tomorrow!" 
The Very Hungry Caterpillar ate waaaaay too much on Saturday
and had to eat leaves on Sunday to make up for it.
Come on now. Don't be like that.

This plagued me for years, and I was eternally frustrated about it, not to mention ticked off that I managed to cancel out my workouts and healthy eating in just two days. But over time, I created some strategies to get over the weekend hurdle and come out the other end feeling much, much better.  Here's how:

1. Create structure. What makes the weekend different then the regular week? Lack of structure. During the week, pretty much every day is the same. We go to work, eat our meals, go to bed (hopefully) early, and don't socialize too much. At least that's me. You might have a more exciting social life than I do!  But on the weekend it's all up in the air. We go out, we party, and most dangerous of all, we "reward" ourselves for being so "good" during the week. By creating some structure around the weekend, we can trick our brains into forgetting that we aren't on a regular old Wednesday. This takes time and discipline, but it does happen!

Tips for creating structure:

  • Keep as many meals the same as during the week as possible, and log them in advance. If you log into your food journal and enter in what you plan to eat (which should be pretty much what you eat during the week), you will be more organized and have something to reference when you get distracted.
  • If you're going out, check out the restaurant menu online and decide what to order before you arrive. Then, once you are there, order first before you lose your resolve and get sucked in by other people's plans.
  • Workout. Starting the day with exercise helps reduce your appetite for splurges and revs up your metabolism!
2. Prep your healthy meals. You know I am all about the advance prep. When I finish my salad at lunch on Friday, I immediately make Saturday's and stick it in the fridge. I am much less likely to eat something unhealthy on Saturday or snack on chips or crackers or something when my healthy meals and snacks are there. Make it easy to be healthy. 

From left to right: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack.
 All ready for me tomorrow!
Easy ways to plan meals in advance:
  • Chop fruits and veggies all at once and pack them in little containers or baggies. It's easier to grab them out of the fridge than take out a piece of fruit, knife, and cutting board.
  • Put a white board on your fridge and write out your menu for the weekend. Seeing it in black and white will not only keep you organized, but serve as some extra accountability when you try to open that door and grab something to snack on.
  • Don't buy junk. If it's not there, you won't eat it. And don't say you're buying it for the kids or your husband or wife or whatever. They don't need it either.
3. Be loud and proud! Sharing your intention to be healthy over the weekend to a buddy, family member, random people at the coffee place, gives you extra accountability and makes you feel more in-charge of your weekend! Plus, you may inspire a friend to follow with you, and then you can keep each other honest.

Some great ways to voice this goal:
  • Keep it positive. Focus on what you're doing for yourself (having a healthy weekend), not what you're missing (I'm skipping dessert). 
  • Keep it present-tense. Talking about being healthy in the future is great, but the difference between, "I'm having a healthy weekend," and, "I'm going to have a healthy weekend," can be huge. The second one could have the word, "tomorrow," added way too easily!
And finally, remember: a cheat day only cheats you. You deserve better! You work hard all week to establish healthy behaviors and fuel your body, so don't wreck it all in the name of moderation. Moderation is over-rated. Success is way better.

You can have a healthy weekend, and you will. Or rather, you are. :)

Get out there and get healthy, even on the weekend!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Kids Tri and We All Win!

Body marked and
ready to "race"!
Yesterday my six year old son did his third triathlon. I've done one triathlon, and it was over two years ago. Yeah, I'm feeling a little pressure to get back in the saddle and do something with myself! I'll get to that later. For now, I am reveling in his unique racing style.

"Racing," is a bit strong for his approach to triathlons. Leisurely might be a better description. While the other kids plunged into the pool and swam their hearts out, he kicked himself down the lane taking in the crowd and enjoying the summer sun on his back. In his transition area, he stopped for some water before sitting down to put on his shoes and socks, and then casually walked his bike to the start of the next leg. While cycling, he chats with the race volunteers and then ambles through the quarter-mile running portion. At the finish line, he accepts his medal, plays some bean-bag toss games to collect his free water bottle, plays in the bouncy house, and then goes home to play Minecraft. 

He comes in dead last. All of his friends have been at the finish line for at least 20 minutes drinking orange juice. But he doesn't seem to care or even notice. Last year when I asked what his favorite part of the triathlon was, he said, "winning." Then he went back to his Legos.

So I figured he just wasn't that into it. That's cool, I thought. My kid doesn't need to be a triathlete. Of course, that wasn't true. I was heartbroken that he didn't seem to share my love for sweat in my eyes and burning muscles from lactic acid buildup, for the heaving and OMG I DON'T KNOW IF I CAN DO IT and near-collapse at the finish line that is so rewarding in a sick kind of way. It's a lot to ask of a first-grader, I know. I consoled myself with a reminder that he did claim to enjoy running. It helped.

Then this summer he casually mentioned that at his next triathlon, he wasn't going to use a kick board. Of course, that wasn't true either. But I indulged him this fantasy as I tried to mask my glee as I probed for more information: "Do you want to do another triathlon? Because there is one in a month and I happen to have the registration form right here and can sign you up now ooops look at that I already did it! Let's go train!"

But on race day, I was confused. He had claimed to want to do a triathlon, but he was moving as slow as a turtle. It was hard to see the other kids zipping by while mine was so slow, but as he rolled past me on his bike and called out, "hi mom," I realized he was just enjoying the race. He was happy at his own pace, and that's really what its all about anyway.

As he finished his leisurely paces through the swim, bike, and run, pride overwhelmed me to the point where on the way home he politely asked me to stop congratulating him. But I couldn't help it! Completing a triathlon is an accomplishment at any age and any distance, and I am in awe of the kids who get out there and try it! 

My kid might not be fast, but he still has his game face on. Yesterday he reminded me that fitness events are more about enjoying the process than trying to prove anything. Once I realized that, I felt like we all won. Cue the after-school special music!

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you come in dead last!