Back From A Break

It’s been a few weeks since I posted. I’m really sorry about that. I hope you can forgive me. Life seems to have gotten in the way of not only blogging, but also running. First, work started getting busy and then we had a holiday, which kept me away from the glory that is the interwebs. But, we came home this weekend and it’s back to the usual. And most importantly back to running.

photo courtesy of pixabay
photo courtesy of pixabay

So, what have we been up to? Well, despite being busy we did our best to keep running the past 3 weeks. The first week we managed to run twice, and the last 2 weeks we ran only once. Not so great. My biggest concern was losing what we had worked so hard to achieve with running. But in the meantime, the weather, which has been my nemesis all Summer long, has finally taken a break from being a total pain and the days are actually beginning to feel enjoyable – to the point where a walk outside no longer ends with us looking like we took a shower in our clothes. In fact, we have had a few days of rain, which has been sorely needed around here. With the cooler weather we managed to run better even though it wasn’t often enough.

When last I left you guys we had achieved running one hour in 2, 30-minute intervals with a 3-minute walking break. We were debating how to get to one hour of full-on running. We had 2 choices: gradually add time to the first running interval or decrease the walking break. By the next run we still hadn’t decided which option we would take. I think we were both just playing it by ear and leaving it up to how we felt at the 30-minute mark.

When we did hit the 30-minute mark on the next run we just kept going, and going, and going and we ran 60 minutes without a break at all. It was AWESOME! We’ve been waiting all Summer to do this, but the heat and humidity had kept us from doing it. So, it was quite an achievement to finally do it. My hubby was more thrilled than me actually. I didn’t even take a few seconds to walk and grab some water. By the way, I’m going to have to learn the art of running and chugging water simultaneously. It was not graceful. I took a mouthful of water and could not swallow it. I think I’ll have to pause a second to drink water until I figure it out. Despite my water issue, it was a great run.

photo courtesy of pixabay
photo courtesy of pixabay

In the 3 weeks since that first run of 60 minutes, we have continued to run 60 minutes without breaks. We are running about 8.5 km in that amount of time, which is not so fast, but I feel like we can improve upon that with a little more time and more frequent running. Since we could only find time to run once a week for the last 2 weeks we could see our performance was suffering. But, I think if we can organize our work hours a little better we will be running farther in 60 minutes soon.

In other news, we’ve also decided to forego any races this fall. Summer temperatures really held us back from advancing in a decent timeframe. I mean, it was basically a battle all Summer to just run and survive it. And the sporadic running we managed in September didn’t help us improve much either. I don’t have the confidence to run a race for a couple of months at least. We still haven’t reached 10 km yet, which is the distance of the race we were going to enter. So, instead of putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves we decided to put races on the back burner for now. But, October is almost here and a new month helps me mentally wipe the slate clean and start fresh, not only with running, but losing weight as well.

photo courtesy of pixabay
photo courtesy of pixabay

Being busy with work and taking a holiday did not help either my hubby or I lose weight. The good news is that we managed to maintain our weight – I’m at 95 kg and he’s at 102 kg – despite the holiday indulgences of alcohol and fatty foods we thoroughly enjoyed. So, not only are we getting back on track with running, we are refocusing our weight loss efforts in terms of diet. No more alcohol for a while, no sodas, no fries (I’m so sad about the last one).

I have been lingering near 95 kg for what feels like an eternity. I’m really done seeing that number on the scale. I’ve made up my mind that by the end of the year I really, really want to weigh 90 kg. I think it’s something I can manage in 3 months. It’s just going to take some will-power on all fronts.

So, we’re back on track. I hope all of you have been continuing to run and I hope you have been getting closer to achieving your goals as well.

Running for Beer

Make a plan and watch God laugh… That’s what they say, right? We had to take care of some errands yesterday afternoon that took us quite far from our house. By the time we finished it was rush-hour and we were clear across town. Instead of fighting traffic we just hung out and met friends.

photo courtesy of pixabay
photo courtesy of pixabay

Compounded by the fact that we had been on our feet all afternoon, we were physically exhausted. At dinner we both popped pain-killers. Something we really never do. Taking to the pavement in Summer temperatures really took it out of us. It was truly an equivalent to running.

On top of ditching the run we met our friends and each had a beer. Tsk, tsk, tsk…. I know, we shouldn’t have. We don’t even drink often. But, somehow watching what we eat and trying to exercise regularly makes me want to drink.

photo courtesy of pixabay
photo courtesy of pixabay

The good news. We ate smart and just splurged on a little frozen yogurt to cool down from the heat. But, no running yesterday.

What do you splurge on when you’re trying to lose weight?

Jelly Belly

Let’s talk jelly bellies. Sometimes I think this blog should be called “Jelly Belly Running” instead of “Skinny Running.” Maybe “Jelly Belly Trying to Run” is even better. It would definitely more accurately reflect the reality of what I am and doing. That goes for my hubby, as well. But, it kind of cuts me off short. Hopefully, fingers crossed, these jelly bellies of ours will make their presence less obvious after some hard work.

we definitely had buddha belly's before we started running; photo courtesy of pixabay
we definitely had buddha bellies before we started running; photo courtesy of pixabay

Being skinny is a goal, but I don’t want to confuse that with any desire to be sickly thin, where everyone is trying to feed me, because I look like I’m starving myself. The blog isn’t called Iwannabestickfigurethinrunning.com after all.

photo courtesy of pixabay
photo courtesy of pixabay

For me skinny is just looking and feeling lighter than when we started this running journey. We want to be healthy at the end, but that also means a farewell to the jelly bellies.

I started off weighing 113 kg. Probably more since we didn’t have a scale until fairly recently. Every Monday my husband and I weigh ourselves. We’ve seen a steady decrease in the numbers and it has been very, very satisfying. Getting below 100 kg was the first goal I wanted to achieve. I knew this would be difficult considering I’m also building muscle with the running, but I’m patient when I want something.

We’ve been eating super healthy. Very limited eating out, which we used to do 4 – 5 times a week at least, because of work schedules. When we do eat out we choose the healthiest options possible. We’re also eating less. This happened I think as a result of the Summer temperatures and starting running. I can’t eat as much as I used to, even if I wanted to. Running has really suppressed my appetite. Combined with 4 days of running every week, losing weight has not been problematic. Luckily.

Today, I cheated a bit and jumped on the scale. My jeans are getting so loose and it’s noticeable. And, if you are a reader of this blog from the beginning you know my issues with jeans (you can read what happened here). I was curious if the scale would reflect what I felt. So, I was really pleased when it read 98.6 kg or 217 lbs.

It’s really an accomplishment for me. I know the number on the scale isn’t the most important thing, but seriously I have too much extra weight that must get lost.

We have pretty much kept the fact that we are running and trying to lose weight to ourselves. So it was amusing today when we went to Starbucks and the barista that we always talk to there suddenly asked my husband, “How’s running going?” We definitely didn’t tell him that we were running. How did he know? It turns out he lives near us and has seen us chugging along, red and sweaty in the park in the evenings. He saw us there Wednesday night when I had my running fail.

I suppose our little secret is not so secret. I don’t really register people’s faces when we run. I’m too busy trying not to die from the humidity or completely engrossed in willing my legs to keep moving. My hubby on the other hand tends to wax philosophical when he runs and gives me the conclusions of his thoughts afterwards. I can’t think that deep as I try not to collapse in a pathetic pile. So, I don’t notice people, because I’m just trying to survive and he doesn’t notice people because he’s so caught up in his deep, theoretical thoughts. It got me thinking, if we are so busy in our heads and we didn’t recognize our barista at the park, maybe there are others out there. Friends or even neighbors that we are huffing and puffing passed without realizing it.

Can you have deep thoughts when you run? Or are you just trying to make it through?

Food as a Substitute for Running

It’s no surprise that I couldn’t run yesterday evening as a result of back pain, so I decided to shift my nervous, frustrated-filled energy towards food. Food: makes me feel better one bite at a time.

But, before you get concerned that I might gain back the 13 kg I’ve already lost since March or binge eat my way to ginormous, I have to say we are still eating pretty healthy. In fact, any time my Hubs and I have food that is deep-fried, sugary, or covered in chocolate icing with sprinkles it just doesn’t taste good and we feel yucky and remorseful afterwards. But, this is happening much less often (the eating unhealthy, not the remorse).

Since the park where we run is just a 10-minute walk from our house we decided to picnic the crap out of the evening as consolation for not being able to run. I also kind of like mentally supporting or coaching the other runners we see. In my head I’m saying things like “tuck your elbows in” or “way to go.”

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I’ve gotten a little bored of our typical evening fare so I made something a little different last night; roasted vegetable sandwiches and corn and tomato salad. The time I would have spent running, I spent getting my Martha Stewart on. Both dishes were delicious. I only wish I’d thought of taking a photo before we left the house. By the time we got to the park it was past sunset so the glow of the artificial lights doesn’t do the food justice. And, we have enough food for either lunches tomorrow or a repeat dinner.

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Both recipes are quite easy and can be made ahead of time. They are perfect for Summer and vegetarian.

Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches (yields 4 large sandwiches)

1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch circles

1 medium-sized zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch circles

2 sweet red peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. pesto (store-bought or homemade)

1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

bread, enough for 4 large or 6 small sandwiches

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread 1 Tbsp. of olive oil onto the parchment paper.

Salt the eggplant slices and let them sit on paper towels for 10 minutes to get rid of any bitterness before cooking. Then, place the eggplant and zucchini slices along with the red pepper on the lined and oiled baking sheet in a single layer. Dribble the remaining olive oil over the slices and put them in the oven. After 10 minutes, flip the vegetables. Start checking the vegetables after 5 minutes. Usually the eggplant finishes in 5 minutes, and the zucchini and red pepper are done about 10 minutes after flipping.

Once fork tender, remove the vegetables from the oven and allow them to cool. Assemble the sandwiches by spreading some pesto on one slice of bread and layering the vegetables on top. Finish it off with a slice or two, depending on the type of bread you chose, of fresh mozzarella.

Corn and Tomato Salad

4 ears of corn

10-15 cherry tomatoes

1/4 c. feta cheese, crumbled or cubed

a handful of parsley

a handful of basil

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the corn. Cook for 5 minutes and remove from the water. Allow them to drain and cool.

Quarter the tomatoes, and chop the herbs while the corn cools. When the corn can be easily handled, stand it upright in a bowl and, with a large knife, slice off the corn kernels.

Mix the corn with the tomatoes and herbs, and add the olive oil. Then, add the feta cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.

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Recipe: Tabbouleh

As I am learning, losing weight is half exercise and half diet. We learned pretty fast that one without the other won’t really give results. As we have focused more on what we eat, finding delicious, healthy meals can sometimes be challenging. This is particularly true in Summer when I, personally, don’t want to cook in a hot kitchen. Especially after running in the evenings all I want is a light, refreshing dinner. As I have written about before, running is killing my appetite. In Summer we always have eaten more salads. One of my favorite salads that serves as a light meal on its own is tabbouleh.

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This recipe is a little different than tabbouleh recipes you will typically find because it uses tomato paste. My hubby and I both find this dish refreshing on hot, humid days.

Recipe: Tabbouleh

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups fine bulgur

3 heaping Tbsp tomato paste

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 lemons, juiced

4 stalks green onions, chopped

a handful of parsley, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tsp red pepper flakes

salt to taste

Begin by boiling a kettle of water. Measure the bulgur and put it in a large mixing bowl. When the water boils pour enough water over the bulgur so that it is completely covered with about a centimeter of water covering the top. Cover the bowl, I usually use a big cutting board. Let it sit about 10 minutes. Check to see that the water has been completely absorbed. It should be a little spongy. If the water has been completely absorbed, but it tastes underdone just add a little more boiling water and cover it again and wait 5 more minutes.

When the bulgur is ready and still slightly warm add the tomato paste. Use the back of a wooden spoon to thoroughly mix it in. When all the bulgur has taken on a slightly red hue, add the olive oil and lemon juice, and mix.

Then, mix in the red pepper and salt. Add the onions and parsley and mix well. Cover it and put it in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving. This is the kind of dish that gets better with time and is best served chilled. I like to eat it with a little feta cheese sprinkled on top. You can also add a little pomegranate sour if you like.

Running: Appetite Killer

I used to eat a lot before we started running. It wasn’t that long ago that both my hubby and I could pack it in like it was our last meal on death row. We were eating far too much. Huge portions were the answer to everything. “Why eat one burger when we could each have two?” For some reason eating reasonable amounts of food was impossible.

photo courtesy of pixabay
Open buffet…. My former best friend. Photo courtesy of pixabay

Last night we had a night off from running, but we went to the park anyway for an impromptu picnic since the weather had cooled off a bit, offering us a temporary reprieve from the Summer heat and humidity.

We sat down and prepared the food, napkins, forks, etc. While it was a lovely evening with a cool breeze and the sound of families nearby also partaking in the glorious weather, I was rather surprised when we didn’t eat but half the food we had brought. I had packed what I thought was just enough for both of us. Instead, the remaining half will be dinner tonight.

When I was doing research about running, around the time we first hit the pavement in running shoes, many websites and so-called “experts” warned against running as a method to lose weight. Many claimed that the high-intensity of running would actually entice us to eat more, thereby making running a bad choice if we wanted to lose weight.

I weighed this carefully in my mind. What didn’t make sense to me was that all exercise makes you expend more energy, so why single out running as a sport that will make you want to eat even more than the rest? Wouldn’t all exercise do that?

Despite what people say about running and its effectiveness for losing weight, we are sticking with it and the scale seems to contradict what the “experts” say.

What is surprising me on a daily basis is how little we eat. We aren’t trying to starve ourselves. Sure, we watch our caloric intake, but we are not intentionally skimping on meals. We are eating less because we physically don’t want it, and in some cases can’t eat more. It’s a weird scenario for 2 former chubbies who used to eat, until very recently, way too much at most meals.

I don’t know why running has suppressed our appetites, I just wish it would suppress cravings for pizza and chocolate, too. We may eat less, but I still sometimes just want to eat the things we aren’t supposed to eat.

How does running affect your appetite? Do you eat more or less?

A Break From Coffee

All day yesterday I felt like my body was in recovery from the run the night before. I sat at the computer yesterday morning and misspelled simple, everyday words until late in the afternoon. Thinking was not coming easily. Being tired from running was one part of the problem and I think it was also a symptom of serious coffee withdrawal. I drink coffee every day, but I don’t usually drink it in the mornings, and usually just one.

photo courtesy of pixabay
photo courtesy of pixabay

I used to have a serious coffee addiction that started with 2 cups of coffee in the morning and just went on throughout the day and evening. I was in my 20s though and it was manageable. I went off coffee for a while as part of my temporary “I’m vegan” episode and then, after getting married we started drinking coffee in the mornings, every morning. As life got busier and we both had long commutes, making coffee just became impractical. We switched, unfortunately, to diet cola. I wish we hadn’t because it became a many-years-long habit. And, in the meantime, we still drank coffee at cafes and restaurants and at work.

The build-up to getting healthy and losing weight started way before we actually tried to lose weight or be healthy. I guess it takes a while to get motivated. It started a year or so ago when we quit drinking soda, cola – I guess anything ending in an “a.” Honestly, it hurt at the beginning, but we got used to it.

In fact, we didn’t replace it with anything except water. Suddenly we were drinking water constantly. The first thing I do, to this day, after waking up is drink a half liter of water (thanks to those huge ikea glasses they sell in boxes of 6). With dinner, water. At work, water.

But last week we stayed at our friends’ place and when we’re there we always drink coffee. Even though they weren’t there during our stay, the habit of drinking coffee lingered in their absence and we had coffee as soon as we woke up and throughout the day. 10 days of this already formed a habit. We’ve only been back at our own house for a few days and I guess I’m like an addict having the shakes and need a fix. We don’t even have coffee at our house.

So, I guess the next few days (and I hope that’s all it will take) will be all about breaking my newly acquired addiction. But, I have learned an invaluable lesson: the combination of post-running fatigue and coffee withdrawal is best to be avoided.

We’re running tonight and I’m going to try to be mindful about drinking more water today in hopes that it will help with the post-run “I-feel-like-I-was-hit-by-a-truck” feeling.

What bad habits did you quit to get healthy?

Running: A Solution to Male Pregnancy Syndrome

There’s nothing like the feeling of putting on your jeans and noticing that they are getting bigger, or rather noticing that you’re getting smaller. I’m wearing a size down in jeans from where I started, and now it’s my husband’s turn. He’s lost 8 kg, but it looks like so much more – maybe the scale is only reading 8 kg less because he’s gained some (or a lot of) muscle.

Prior to us starting running in March he had symptoms of male pregnancy syndrome. By the size of his jelly belly I was sure that we were expecting twins, but things changed quickly once we started running and watching our diet, and now I think I saw the beginnings of what looked like an abdominal muscle.

A couple weeks ago, as my husband was getting reading to go out, it became very obvious that his jelly belly had shrunk. He was wearing a 4XL shirt (4XL in Europe is like 3XL in the US) that suddenly looked like a tent. And his jeans had so much room in them.

This shirt used to be tight a couple months ago, and those jeans are about to fall off.
This shirt used to be tight a couple months ago, and those jeans didn’t have any extra room.

What seems like ages ago (4 years to be exact) I bought a pair of jeans for my husband when I happened upon a sale. He wasn’t around to try them on, but I guessed they would be fine. And for $11 for fancy-brand jeans I was willing to risk it. When he got around to putting them on for the first time 6 months later (typical), they were already too tight for him to wear.

jeans
From a 42-inch waist to a 38-inch waist.

Fast forward to this week, when the jeans he has been wearing were literally falling off his body and he rummaged in the closet and found the jeans from 4 years ago and a shirt that he couldn’t fit into for years, because it was too small at 2XL.

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From 4XL to 2XL

It’s like traveling back in time seeing him fit in these clothes. I’m really proud of him. He has worked really hard and even though he’s not always crazy about going for a run, he has been really supportive.

Look how these smaller clothes fit. This would have been impossible just a little while ago.
Look how these smaller clothes fit. This would have been impossible just a little while ago.

Although, I have a new nemesis… A few, actually. I think the waitstaff at the cafe where my husband can be found most days enjoying his daily cup of coffee is out to sabotage his very obvious weight loss. They started bringing him little cookies and chocolates to go with his latte unsolicited. At first it was just one waitress, but then it spread to the male waiters. I think they’re trying to fatten him up again, like a Christmas turkey, or maybe they think I’m starving him. Whenever I go with him they don’t give him any free offerings. Highly suspect… They must think I’m a terrible wife.

Recipe: Baked Falafel Salad

Despite my husband’s demands for endless amounts of protein, we’ve been eating a lot of salads. This started when we got serious about the diet part of losing weight. It took us about a month into running to realize what we ate was as equally as important as running.

We try to eat salad with protein, which includes tuna, turkey, salmon, chicken, etc. Before we started caring about our diet and just jammed food into our mouths mindlessly, I used to love making falafel and homemade pita bread. Sadly, the pita bread had to go with the diet, but as a consolation I started making salad with falafel on top. There are 3 aspects to the dish: the falafel, the salad, and the dressing. Everything is homemade and remains one of my favorites, even after several years of making and happily eating it.

Baked Falafel Salad (adapted from Chowvegan)

Falafel:

1 can (15 ounces) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 finely chopped small onion

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

a small handful of parsley, finely chopped

a small handful of cilantro, finely chopped

the juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Salad:

a head of your favorite lettuce, washed and leaves broken into small pieces

a small bunch of rocket, washed and torn into small pieces

20 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced

Dressing:

1.5 cups plain yogurt

a handful of dill, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the falafel pre-heat the oven to 190 celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Then, mash the chickpeas in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Use your hands to mix the ingredients and form 1.5 inch patties about half an inch thick. You should make about 10 – 12.  Place them an inch a part on a cooking tray lined with parchment paper. Put them in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip them and cook them for another 5 – 7 minutes. They should brown a little.

While the falafel are cooking, prepare the salad. Place the lettuce, rocket, tomatoes, and cucumber in a bowl. For those of you who like the strong taste of red onion you can put it in your salad bowl as is. If you’re like my husband, who doesn’t like the strong taste of red onion, you can salt the sliced red onion in a separate bowl for 15 minutes, and then rinse them and add them to the salad.

To make the dressing, just combine the yogurt, dill, garlic, and salt and pepper.

When the falafel are done baking, place them on top of the salad and add the salad dressing.

Falafel Salad
I like to divide the salad into two so we can put our faces into it and shamelessly eat. 

I love this salad, and it’s a nice vegetarian option.

A House Divided

I’m so happy to be able to say that last night we went for a run and not only was the humidity at a lower level than it’s been for a couple weeks, but there was a steady breeze that made our run feel more like resistance training. It was so nice to be able to run without feeling like I was going to suffocate from the thick, muggy air. Last night we ran farther than any other day and we have finally surpassed 5 km. It was still a hard run and it was still quite hot, but it felt good.

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photo courtesy of pixabay

As we walked home we started discussing what to eat for dinner the rest of this week, and we couldn’t agree. There’s been a “long-standing” argument of sorts (does 2 months count as long?) brewing in our house since we started watching our diet. My hubby and I disagree on the right way to approach food. He thinks that building muscle is more important than losing weight in the short term, because we will be able to burn more calories in the long-term. Therefore, he thinks eating a diet higher in protein and not limiting carbs is the way to go. Essentially, he says if it’s protein there should be no limit.

I, on the other hand, can’t agree. I think that we should follow a low-calorie diet and not eliminate carbs, but limit them. Our goal should be losing weight, because it will make running and exercise in general a lot easier, and I’m not convinced that we are going to build that much more muscle by eating more protein. So he advocates eating spaghetti and meatballs while I think salad with some grilled chicken would be more appropriate.

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photo courtesy of pixabay; this is my husband’s fantasy

We also disagree a bit on how to approach running. He thinks we should run longer, which is part of the reason we’ve changed our goal from running 5 km to 10 km. I think that it is better to run more frequently rather than longer. Under my husband’s approach, we could only ever run 3 or 4 times a week at most since I’m betting we’ll need a rest day between long runs, but I think it would be better to run less time, but more often.

It’s hard to know what to do. This week on our way to the park we walked past the cafe we used to sit at for hours on end, and we ran into our regular waiter. We haven’t been there in months having made the conscious decision to cut out unnecessary sugar and calories. The waiter was awe-struck when he saw us. “Your faces changed, your stomach shrank, what did you do?” he said. It was really funny, and obviously we’re doing something right. We eat breakfast and dinner together, but for lunch we are apart. He eats protein-heavy and I eat calorie-reduced. We’re still both losing weight.

What’s your approach to food and running when you want to lose weight?