Welcome Fall!

I have to admit that the end of summer and the coming of the Fall season makes me feel a little melancholy, since living here in the Seattle area means that the rainy, cloudy season will soon be upon us. No more days at the beach with the kids, no more need for sunscreen when I run, and pretty soon we’ll have to turn on the heat. I’ll even have to keep my jacket on when I run.

But there are some bright spots – one is the tastes of Fall. When it comes to autumn flavors, the ones I like best come in the form of pumpkin and spice. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies and muffins – anything but that nasty Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. Seriously, that stuff is gross.

So to welcome Fall and keep looking on the bright side, I made pumpkin muffins today.

image

My recipe is a slightly healthier variation on the recipe from the Libby’s website. You could healthy it up even more by substituting some applesauce for the oil but I never like how things turn out when you do that. So mine is a full fat, full sugar, slightly more fiber version.

Welcome Fall Pumpkin Muffins

Dry Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Wet Ingredients
4 eggs
15 oz. can pumpkin purée (NOT pie filling)
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup apple juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease or paper line two large baking tins (24 medium muffins). In a large bowl (I use a stand mixer), blend together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until light yellow, then mix in the rest of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix with a hand or stand mixer on low until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Scoop about 1/3 cup of muffin batter into each muffin tin, about 2/3 or 3/4 full. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from the tins to a wire rack to cool.

Serve with coffee or Market Spice Tea, and think happy autumnal thoughts. Be sure to allow someone you love to lick the beater.

image

My Foam Rolling Injury

Seriously – who injures themselves with a foam roller?

Apparently, I do. So as a public service I thought I’d give my two cents on the latest cure-all panacea to hit the fitness world – the foam roller.

I had heard great things about how it can help relieve sore muscles and loosen tight IT bands. Many people seemed to love it, so as a birthday present I gave one to my husband. I figured he could use it after his sometime runs, to loosen up his chronically tight hamstrings.

Of course, after he opened it and before he ever used it, I thought I should give it a “roll,” so as to be able to give advice. Seemed pretty straightforward and I’d seen them used plenty of times at the gym. What could go wrong?

So I rolled away. Up and down and back and forth across my calves and hamstrings and IT band and everywhere that was stiff and tight. Then I rolled it over my lower back.

Apparently, you should use the foam roller only on soft tissue. You should avoid bony protuberances, such as the sacrum and tailbone area. I discovered this for myself when I felt a sudden pain rolling over that area. Not sure what went wrong exactly but I can tell you that it immediately began to feel bad, and over the course of the next few days, went from bad to worse.

I asked around and the only thing I could figure out as to what happened was that maybe I had a bulging disk that I inadvertently rolled over and aggravated it. It’s odd, because I don’t typically get a lot of lower back pain but this was pretty doggone uncomfortable – every morning for about 2 weeks I woke up bent over and it would take 15 minutes and an ibuprofen for the discomfort to die down enough to go about my business. It hurt bad enough I had to back off running just as I was starting to get back to it after hurting my hip. But then it resolved and I was back to normal (whatever that is when you’re 40-some years old).

So that is my experience with the foam roller. I still use it occasionally but I’m definitely more careful with it now and would recommend doing what I didn’t do – read the instructions or have someone knowledgeable show you the best way to use it.

Stupid Runner Tricks

When I started back to running last spring I didn’t want to admit to myself how out of shape I really was, and made the mistake many first time or returning runners make of piling on too many miles too soon. The way it seems to work is that you get away with this for a while, but somewhere along the line it catches up with you.

I got away with it long enough to run in the St. Patricks Day Dash, the Capitol City 10k in Sacramento, and a local 10k in my hometown called the Inspiring Hope in May.

It caught up with me two days after Inspiring Hope on a 4 mile trail run.  At the time I was trying to incorporate running on different types of terrain to prepare for the Beach to Chowder 10k run on the Long Beach Peninsula, which is run mostly on sand. That part sounds like I was trying to be smart but the fact that I’d not done a trail run in over 20 years and decided to kick it off with 4 miles of muddy trail was perhaps not so bright.

Keep in mind also that I went from running zero miles a week in February to running about 20 miles a week by May, without doing much strength work or stretching. I did spin class and then started running on the treadmill at the beginning of February. that was pretty much all I did, and I thought I was doing great because the distance didn’t bother me.  And I was getting faster each week, which made me feel like I must be pretty awesome.

So when I confidently went to hop over a mud puddle sideways I didn’t realize my hips didn’t yet have the strength to stabilize me, and something snapped. Suddenly it felt very painful to lift my leg, and I had to walk home. By the following morning, even walking was painful.

I had been looking forward to the race all season and didn’t want to give up without a fight, so I kept trying to exercise, but the hip only grew more painful.

Desperate for some reason to do this ridiculous race, I searched the Internet for information on hip injuries. From the sound of my symptoms I determined that I either had tendinitis, a strained iliopsoas muscle, or possibly a stress fracture. The only answer for either was rest of either 6 or 12 weeks. Even with the best case scenario, I knew I would miss the race.

Given that I’d miss the race anyway, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying out some self massage techniques I found on the Internet.  Turns out all I had to lose was the ability to walk.  Did you know that if you don’t know what you are doing, you can hurt yourself by digging your hand around in your body?

Yeah, turns out you can. Lesson learned.

So finally, having completely immobilized myself, I was forced to actually rest. And I did, until the week after Beach to Chowder. Miraculously at the 6 week mark my hip felt completely back to normal, so I gingerly started to run again, slowly and carefully.  And this time I decided to incorporate strength work and stretching so that hopefully I can remain injury free.

So far, so good. I’m still slower than I was before the injury, and running less mileage than I was before I hurt myself. But hopefully my stupid runner tricks have finally taught me to take it slow and listen to my body.

Let the Eating and Running Commence

First blog posts are awkward, even when it’s not your first blog. But here goes.

Two years ago, my husband and I were knee deep in finalizing our adoption from Russia. It was a grueling, extremely stressful process that took nearly three years. I wrote about it over on my other blog Beyond the Sea. By the time we brought our two sons home at ages 3 and nearly-5, I was sick, tired, stressed out and as a first time mom, in over my head with two extremely mobile (some might even say rambunctious), opinionated little people.

I was eating too much, not sleeping well, and not getting enough exercise (following kids around on the playground doesn’t really count). My body was nearly always suffering some sort of ache or pain, I was having extreme anxiety reactions (shaking hands, pounding heart) to conflict within the household, and to top it off I was dealing with endometrial hyperplasia, a precancerous condition for which the recommended medications cause weight gain.

To say I felt like crap would be an understatement. Topping it off was the fact that the scale had entered the “no fly zone” – I was officially overweight. It was at this point I realized two things:

1) I was going to have to take drastic action if I did not want to be feeling this way for the rest of my life.
2) The rest of my life might not be as long as I’d like if things kept on how they were.

So I decided to start exercising again. I’ve always kind of enjoyed exercise, the sweating and the good feeling of tiredness that comes after. The only problem was inertia and general laziness that was keeping me out of the gym. Once you’re stuck in a rut, sometimes it can seem easier to remain in that rut. But with two kids and a husband that need me to be at my best, staying stuck and unhealthy wasn’t really an option anymore.

So, in January 2013 I did something I almost never do, and made a new years resolution to start making exercise and taking care of myself a higher priority. My gym has free child care and I soon figured out that I could kill 2 birds with one stone – I could get fit and I could also get the alone time that I needed to maintain my sanity. I started feeling better and happier than I had in a long time.

Best of all, I rediscovered running. It had been years since I ran seriously, but this year I got back to it and have even entered in a few 5k and 10k races. It has been great feeling my body getting healthier and stronger. I’ve lost weight, my clothes look better and best of all, my mental state is a lot healthier than it was a year ago.

I am now at the point of wanting to take my running to the next level and try to complete a marathon in Fall of 2014. This blog will be where I record my training efforts, good days and bad days on the run (we all have them), and also will focus on other aspects of trying to get healthier – like what I am putting into my body.

So basically, this blog is where I will share my adventures in eating, running and being a mom (priorities not in that order), thus the name. I hope you enjoy reading!