Monday, February 28, 2011

Dear Food, I love you.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who's read my blog that I, in fact, love food.  I truly appreciate food.  I see it as an amazing gift.  I get excited about a perfectly ripe mango, giddy about grilled shrimp, think a beautifully prepared salad is a work of art.  I look forward to reading my new Cooking Light magazine every month or any of my dozens of cookbooks in hopes of finding a fascinating new recipe to try.  I plan on continuing to include recipes on my blog as I come across ones that I think are worthy of sharing.  I've also become obsessed with photographing my food.  My husband was curious as to why I was photographing our fruit bowl this evening.  Because the fruit is beautiful, of course!  And, it will certainly be delicious when I eat it.  I think photographing it just emphasizes it's potential for creating joy.

The four of us went to see Gnomeo & Juliet on Saturday.  We don't go to the movies very often, so it's a HUGE treat for the kids.  And, while they'd love to load up on greasy popcorn, astronomically priced candy, and buckets of HFC sweetened sodas while we're there, that is just not something my husband and I can abide by.  Instead, we pack our own movie snacks.  (Yeah, it's against the rules.  I do not care one little bit about this.)  Each kid still gets their own bag of candy (a random assortment of Valentine's leftovers this time) a bag of snack mix (pretzels and mini-marshmallows) and a SIGG bottle full of water.  I know, we're total buzz kills, but it would be nice if we could teach them that the MOVIE is the treat and does not have to be accompanied by a bunch of crappy food to be enjoyed.
There's the movie food!  I added an apple for me.  I think my husband thought this was over the top...

This was tonight's Baked Ziti. (Sorry about the big spoon in the shot.) I usually make it with italian turkey sausage, but left it meatless in honor of Michael's March Madness Vegetarian Challenge.  Not only was it still delicious, but it took less time to make (didn't have to brown the sausage) and it was cheaper--always a plus!

Have I posted pictures of salad before?  Yes.  Will I post pictures of salad again?  Yes.  There's almost nothing better than a good salad.  I like to make a really big one at the beginning of the week and then we can eat from it for a few days.

Why do I love packing my kids' lunches?  Well, for one, it keeps the older one from eating the cafeteria crap that the schools serve (don't get me started on this).  Two, those sandwich scraps can't just be thrown away--late night snack for momma!

And, after that random assortment of food photos, I will leave you with a totally embarrassing photo of myself.  Background: I work at my son's preschool two days a week, but he's able to stay for a two hour after-school program both of these days.  This provides me the perfect opportunity to hit the gym.  I am truly grateful for this beautiful piece of scheduling awesomeness.  In my attempt to make the most of this time at the gym and get in some longer runs on the treadmill, I've started to wear as much of my running clothes as possible to work.  I pretty much just have to change my pants and into my good running shoes when I get to the gym.  I'm sure this shaves off at least, like, 30 seconds.  Totally worth it.  Anyway, the first time I wore this kind of outfit to work, somebody noticed that I closely resembled a character on a show that is currently very popular.  Obviously, we don't have the same hair color (and mine is looking particularly lovely in this photo--it's sort of, um, growing out right now?)  And, I'm not wielding a bullhorn, but what do you think?!





Geez, add to that the 3 1/2 months pregnant look the stiff jacket zipper gives me (at least, that's what I'm blaming it on.).  And do you like the Coach Sue sneer I'm trying to pull off?  My husband thought I was a complete dork for doing this.  And, of course, I am.  But, hey, I got a good laugh out of it!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Morning Trip to the Zoo...um, Gym

Remember a while back when I wrote a post called 'The Collective'(Okay, so I had like three people reading my blog at that point, so a lot of you probably don't.)  Well, I basically gushed about how much I love arriving to a full parking lot at the gym (which I pretty much never do) because that just means I'm going to be lucky enough to be part of this huge group of sweaty people, all working their butts off at the same time!  WOOHOO!!! 

Yeah.  I take that back.

Clearly, I have been uber-spoiled in the gym department.  I guess I didn't realize how lucky I am to have the times that I go to the gym be the times when almost NO ONE else goes.  I will never take that for granted again.  This morning, at 10:15 at my gym, it was a sweaty, stinky, humid, crowded mess!  And, I was already in a hurry with less than an hour to be there.  Of course, all the treadmills were taken.  Poo.  I got onto an elliptical.  Within three minutes a treadmill opened up and I was able to hop on.  Yippee!  So, I was still able to get a 40 minute run in, during which I was able to pull out two more 8 minute miles and do a little bit of running at an incline (trying to make sure I do more of that).

While I wasn't crazy about the crowded gym this morning, I was happy to run into an old neighbor there.  She said she's been reading my blog which totally made my day!  It's so fun to hear that people actually enjoy something you create; something so much a part of you.  Thanks, Monica!!

As I drove home from the gym, grooving on my endorphins, I saw a guy running on the road wearing one of those flourescent green vests.  At first, I thought "that guy is totally crazy!"  We were not having the nicest weather here today--right around freezing with a cold mist all day long.  Yuck.  But, as I got closer to him (he was running toward me), I started thinking "heck yeah!  you go on with your bad self!"  By the time I was about to pass him, I was so impressed with his endeavor that I gave him a big ol' thumbs up.  I'm pretty sure he saw me, although he was pretty well bundled up with not much other than his eyes showing.  It struck me at that moment how much joy running has brought to my life. 

 The joy running has brought me:
  • Endorphins - Really, this cannot be overlooked.  It's just a physiological reality, and I'm thankful for it.
  • Improved body image - It's hard not to feel better about yourself when you feel fit and when you're given the chance to constantly challenge yourself.
  • Clarity of thought - Running does a great job of clearing the mind and centering your thoughts.
  • Greater sense of connection - I think running can be a wonderfully spiritual experience, giving you opportunities to reflect and give thanks.
  • Friendships!
What is it about running that brings you the most joy?

And, before I sign off, I wanted to give a big shout out to my Aunt Susan who ran a 5K today at the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa, Florida!  GOOD JOB BY YOU!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Shortest.Post.Ever.

As I sit slouch here on the couch in a
thin crust
~induced stupor,
I am positively giddy
thinking about my treadmill run
tomorrow morning.
There is much inspiration
to be found
on the
running blogosphere
tonight!
(Plus, I had a beer, and I'm a total lightweight, so I might still be a little buzzed.)

A happy Friday night to all!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I think I'm blushing...


Me??  A Stylish Blogger??
I couldn't believe it when I saw my name as a highlighted link on The Studly Runner's blog the other night!  I've only been at this blog thing since January 26th so, I have to admit, I wasn't quite sure what to do when I saw that I'd been tagged.  And, honestly, I was so giddy just to see my name on her blog that I kinda didn't know what to do with myself.  (How dorky am I??)  It was sort of like that scene from 'A Christmas Story' when the dad finds out he's won a "major award", except this might be even cooler than a plastic leg lamp...

So, I did some research to figure out what the heck I should do.  I mean, I didn't want to screw it up or anything.  This is clearly a blogger's right of passage.  And, I've not received many "awards" in my life, so I'm milking this one for all it's worth...I'm basically famous now, right?

For those of you that don't already know, these are the rules (or, at least, the version of the rules I'm choosing to use):
1. Make this a post and link back to the person who gave the award to you (check)
2. Share 7 things about yourself (i'll get to that in a minute)
3. Award 5 great bloggers (i'm sure you're all just dying to be tagged/awarded by me)
4. Contact the bloggers and tell them they've won (got it.  will do.)

Okay, so I should probably also admit that I checked out a few other running bloggers Stylish Blogger Award posts, just to see what they were like.  I am not a person who loves to have "free reign".  While I'd really love to be more of a "free spirit", I just can't help loving parameters.  I like to have a framework to work within.  Wait, was that #1?  I guess I should just "shut up" and get to the list already (and stop putting things in "quotes").

1.  I ran my first uninterrupted mile when I was a sophomore in high school.  That was the longest 15 minutes of my life.  Seriously...I thought I was going to die.
2.  I was born and raised in Maryland, but now I live in Missouri, where my husband's from.  I really miss living near water and real trees.  The man-made lakes and "trees" around here just don't cut it.
3.  I was a vegetarian for a few years beginning my senior year of college.  That abruptly ended when I got pregnant with my daughter.  I think I literally snatched a Whopper from my husband's unsuspecting hands.
4.  I'm one of those freaks-of-nature that can get their whole fist in their mouth.  I guess you could say I've got a big mouth.
5.  I dispise talking on the phone.  It makes me uncomfortable that I can't read the other person's facial expressions and body language.  My dad feels the same way, so we usually talk on the phone about 4 times a year.  Thank goodness for email and Google chat!!
6.  I always chew gum when I run.  Extra peppermint, if you were wondering.
7.  I've given this list waaaaaaay too much thought, and I'm cutting myself off now!!!

Stylish bloggers I will be "awarding" next:
1. Kila @ Lil Surfer Girls (because she's a great friend with great ideas who's taking charge of her fitness)
2. Angie @ Kansas Runner (because she ran 20 freakin' miles on a treadmill last week, AND she only lives like 20 minutes away from me!)
3. Michael @ Slowly Tri-ing (because she has taken on the Tri--something you will never find me doing, and SHE only lives like 10 minutes away from me!)
4. Stephanie @ Thorns Have Roses (because you can tell she really pours a lot of herself into her posts and she's been so nice to kindly comment on so many of mine)
5. Tricia @ Endurance Isn't Only Physical (because her post on 'The Reset Theory' really inspired me--you'll see that I mention that again below)

It won't bother me if these stylish bloggers don't want to do the list themselves.  I just wanted to give them a shout out either way!
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I haven't posted any photos lately, but have been wanting to.  Last week, Tricia over at Endurance Isn't Only Physical wrote a post called The Reset Theory.  It really hit home with me and got me thinking about what I've been putting in my body lately.  I'm a pretty healthy eater, but like Tricia, I've let things start to slide a bit lately.  So, I've been trying to pay closer attention to my food...

WARNING: YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE SUBJECTED TO A FOOD PHOTO MONTAGE!

This was the beginning of my recent food downfall...my daughter won
 this dang jar of Hershey's Kisses & Hugs at her school Valentine's party. 
Yes, the jar used to be full.

So, after reading the post about 'The Reset Theory', I had this for breakfast. 
Oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts.  It was gooood.

Two of my other breakfast favorites: apple butter and fresh squeezed grapefruit and orange juice.

Okay, so I had some ice cream later that day.  At least I put strawberries on it!!

We can put away some serious salad in our house.

It was a very orange meal.  Mashed sweet potatoes and canteloupe.

My kids love pancakes for dinner.  We put any combination of chopped apples,
 sliced banana, chopped walnuts and chocolate chips in them.

There they are on the griddle.  No, the one with the chocolate chips is NOT mine! 
I had the banana nut pancake, thank you very much.

There's the flip side.

And, since today was cold and nasty (rainy, slushy, snowy) I decided to make some chicken stock.
I just thought it looked pretty in the pot.

Here's my recipe for Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes:

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt, plain yogurt, or sour cream)
2 tablespoons canola oil (or you can substitute apple sauce)
  • Combine the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl.
  • Combine the remaining ingredients (egg through oil) in a medium bowl.
  • Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir until just moistened.  Add additional milk if needed to thin batter (but batter should be pretty thick).
  • Pour 1/4 or 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake, depending on how big you want your pancakes.
Well, tomorrow may be a p90x day for me...just got the call that we will be having SNOW DAY #10 tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Treadmill, Forgiven.

Well, I decided to forgive The Treadmill for it's deceptive ways.  We made up today, and I even admitted to The Treadmill that I may have been partly to blame.  That wasn't so easy for me...just ask my husband.  After we made up, things went just swimmingly!  Today's treadmill run went like this:

50 minutes at 8:34** pace
5.8 miles

**with a 7 minute "break" at 8:45 pace between minutes 15-22 (I know, random.  I just needed it.)

I even stuck in a couple minutes at a 3% grade.  I know, a *whole* 2 minutes of running uphill.  I had to throw in at least some sort of grade change, after belly-aching about the "deception" of the treadmill.  But, I also wanted my main focus today to be my pace.  So, I guess you would call today's run a tempo run?  I'm still learning here, people...At about 35-40 minutes in, I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep it up for the whole 50 minutes.  But, right as I was about to cave in and slow down, a girl got on the treadmill two down from mine and started running at the same pace.  Well, I couldn't very well slow down then!!  So, unknown girl two treadmills down got me through it.  I like to think of people like this as a gift from the universe.  Thanks, universe!

Some other things I took note of during my run today:
  1. My hips, knees, shins and feet were all feeling pretty achy for most of my run today.  I'm wondering if I've tried to move things up too quickly, or if I'm just getting old.  Maybe both. 
  2. For goodness sakes, I had my shoes tied too dang tight today!!  I don't know why I didn't stop and re-tie them at some point during my run.  I guess I was worried that if I stopped for too long, I might not be able to start again.  Maybe that's why it seemed like my feet were really slapping the treadmill today?  Seriously, it sounded like they were not a funtioning part of my body until about 4 miles in.
  3. I have GOT to get me some of that Body Glide that all these running bloggers keep talking about!!  OUCH.
  4. I was really happy with my heartrate today.  This hasn't been something I've closely observed in the past, and I don't have a heartrate monitor, but I noticed today that my heartrate isn't getting up as high as it used to during my runs.  I'm assuming (hoping) this means I'm getting more fit, cardiovascularly?
  5. Turning the fan toward me seemed like a good idea (I don't usually bother, but thought it might help me to stay cooler.), and it did feel good.  But, good grief, it gave me the worst dry mouth.  I'm not sure it was worth it.
Overall, today's run was a good one.  I'm hoping I feel up to another one tomorrow, since I'll have time to go to the gym again tomorrow afternoon.  I'm hoping for a 60 minute run.  Maybe I should do more hills tomorrow?

Before I sign off to go pack lunches, I wanted to revisit my last post about finding inspiration.  I asked "what inspires you?" and I was humbled to hear from my aunt that I (little ol' me) actually inspire her.  Wow.  She's been working on getting back into running and has been following my blog.  I hadn't even considered that I  might inspire someone.  I was so grateful to her for saying so.  I also received a comment from another blogger.  She said:

"I'm very new to the blog world - I'm only a week old I suppose :) I am amazed by some of the accomplishments of other people. A blog I randomly came across is what inspired my husband to start blogging and then me. I know most people may not care to read my random thoughts but you never know when someone might stumble across your blog and be inspired."

Thanks for your thoughts, Michael!  You should go check out her blog, Slowly Tri-ing.

Okay, off to make the lunches...

Finding Inspiration

Last night (and the night before that, since this is now my 3rd attempt) I started to write a blog post, and it just fell flat.  I would write something and then hit the backspace button, and then write something else and stare at it for a while, before I hit the backspace button again.  Finally, I just got tired and went to bed.  Sometimes it's hard to find inspiration.

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I should also mention that my "uptight-ness" applies to my writing, just like it does to everything else in my life.  (Don't I sound like more fun than a barrel of monkeys?  Bet you totally want to hang out with me!)  So, I can't seem to just let the words pour out onto the screen without re-analyzing every word, sentence, and paragraph.  Maybe I'll loosen up as time goes on (yeah, right) and be able to write a blog post without requiring so much mental stamina.
****************************************************************************

So, I was feeling uninspired in the writing department.  But, there are so many areas of life where we look for inspiration to give us that extra push, to help get us to that next level.  As the name of my blog would indicate, I'm always looking for inspiration in the areas of food, spirituality and running.

Oh, okay, so I don't need much inspiration in the food department.
I seem to be able to eat with gusto without anyone else's help.
Maybe I've reached nirvana in that area? 

Anyway, as I've been reading other people's blog posts over the last few days it seems I've been met with nothing but inspiration.  Seriously, it's amazing!  To read the things that other people do with their lives, the things they commit themselves to, the journeys they embark on, the obstacles they overcome--it's hard not to be inspired.  So, I thought I'd share with you what's inspired me today.  If you're also a blogger (of the running variety, specifically), you've probably read some or all of these same posts yourself.  If you're one of my wonderful friends or family members who keeps up with my blog just to see what's going on with us, you still might enjoy reading some of these.

  1. I'm new to reading all these running blogs, but Tall Mom on the Run is clearly a running blog staple.  I was particularly impressed, and inspired to read her most recent post about running 31 miles in two days!!  Check it out HERE.
  2. The Hungry Runner Girl also has a huge blog following, and for good reason.  She is incredibly dedicated to running, and has a really fun-to-read writing style.  I really loved reading her post, 'For the Love of Running', about getting back to the basics of running to re-discover your passion.  Check it out HERE.
  3. The Manly Runner (formerly known as BQ or Die) is an AWESOME blog!  First of all, he's hilarious.  Second of all, he was willing to commit himself to the BQ (Boston Qualify) quest, accomplish it, and then continue on to a new challenge--running a trail 50k (WHAT?!?!).  His blog post this weekend was so cool to read because he got to interview Tim Twietmeyer, a rediculously accomplished endurance runner.  No, I'd never heard of him before, but I loved reading about what he does.  It was really amazing.  Check it out HERE.
  4. The first post I read on The Running Artist just blew me away.  She took to the trails this weekend to attempt her longest training run yet.  26.5 miles!!  All by herself, for goodness sakes!!  Wow.  Just, wow.  Check it out HERE.
I could go on...and on.  But, I don't think I should allow my son to play Lego Star Wars for much longer.

I'm headed to the gym this afternoon for another date with the treadmill.  Rest assured, I'll be taking some inspiration with me!

What inspires you?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gratitude

I was thinking to myself today that I haven't used this blog to express gratitude enough.  I believe that gratitude, having a thankful heart, provides a direct path to happiness.  I also believe that it's one way to send back out to the universe the good you've received, thereby contributing to the general balance of things.  So, as I was running in the chilly rain today (which was actually quite heavenly, and what got me thinking about what I'm grateful for), I started making a mental list of things that I've been grateful for today.  Here it is:

1.  Apple Butter.  Yes, that's right, apple butter.  There's a specific kind that I used to be able to find at my grocery store that hadn't been there for a long time.  Last time I was at the store, I found it again.  This morning, I had some on buttered (okay, Smart Balanced) whole-wheat toast, and it was delicious.  My daughter has also decided that she loves it on waffles.

2. The joy my daughter is getting out of her acting classes.  She loves going to them every Saturday morning and comes home excited about what they've done each time.  Her instructors are great and seem to genuinely enjoy the kids they teach.

3. Adult conversation.  There is something freshly wonderful about adult conversation when you've stayed at home with your kids for the past 7 1/2 years.  You come to appreciate it in a whole new way.  I was lucky enough to get to have some today.

4. A husband who recognizes and appreciates my hard mommy work and who says he owes me "lots of time to go to the gym" when things settle down at his work.  Mostly, I'm just grateful that he understands what makes me happy and is willing to support me in doing those things.

5. A neighbor and friend who calls me to go on runs.  It sure is nice to get those phone calls and to go on those runs.

6. Getting to run in the rain today.  Most of the time, if I looked out the window and saw that it was raining, I would just bag the run.  Luckily (thanks to my neighbor) I didn't do that today.  I forgot how great it was to run in the rain.  And, as I was enjoying my rain run, I started thinking "why don't I take my kids out to play in the rain??"  Why don't I just put their raincoats and rain boots on them and head outside to have fun?  I'll try to remember this the next time it rains.

7. I felt great on today's run.  My legs felt strong and my body felt happy to be out there.

8. Getting to see my kids wearing plastic grocery bags like wrestling singlets so they could slide faster down a pile of couch cushions.  Need I say more here?

9. A dinner of spaghetti with butter*, parmesan and fresh ground pepper and artichoke hearts sauteed in butter* and garlic.  My daughter would've eaten herself sick on the artichoke hearts if I'd let her.  They were really good.  *Smart Balance (it just sounds so much better to say butter)


What are you grateful for?

Do you like running in the rain?

Friday, February 18, 2011

That Treadmill is a Temptress...

I was dealt a large dose of running reality this morning.  My husband provided me with the generous opportunity of a morning run before he had to head off to work.  I took it without hesitation and laced up my shoes, still basking in the glow of my last run...on the treadmill. 
The Treadmill. 
 I have, apparently, become quite comfortable with The Treadmill...that naughty temptress.  I have been lulled into believing that running on The Treadmill is like running on the road.  Not so.  I have gotten used to a flat, uniform, homogenized run.  And, this is where I have to admit that while I do employ variations in speed in my treadmill runs, I do not often vary the grade (and by "not often", I mean pretty much never).  So, while I am still proud of the 8 minute miles, this morning's run--outside, on a real road, with real hills, real wind, real potholes, real mud puddles--taught me a lesson:
Running on The Treadmill
IS NOT
the same as running outside, on the road. 
 And, that I'd definitely benefit from adding some more variety/difficulty to my treadmill runs.

Not only have I gotten overly accustomed to the feel of a treadmill run, but I've also grown very dependent upon the treadmill screen and all it's bewitching numbers.  Since I am probably the last runner on earth who does NOT own a Garmin, when I head out the door for a run I do so not knowing how fast I'm going or how far I've gone.  I'll admit, there's something beautiful about that, but once you get used to knowing those things while you're running, it's hard to go without.

So, without my steady treadmill overlooking the placid pool in the bubble of my gym, and without my informative treadmill screen, I ran around our neighborhood for a quick 30 minutes.  My legs felt a bit like lead, my feet like blocks of cement, my lungs and throat like they were slightly on fire, and my fingers stung a bit from the early morning chill.  And, for goodness sakes, my nose ran like crazy (at least something was!).  But, I was out there moving, the sun on my face.  And, I had 5 new songs to listen to on my ipod.  This was the first one...


It was a good start to my day, and a good reminder not to get too dependent on that temptress, The Treadmill.  The joy of running, for me, has always had so much to do with being out there in, and connecting with, creation.  You definitely don't get that on a treadmill...

Do you enjoy running on a treadmill?  Do you prefer it to running outside?
There are definitely things that I like about running on a treadmill.  But, I'm a control-freak, so that's no surprise...I do prefer running outside, as long as the run provides some visual interest.  I particularly love running outside early in the morning.

What do you think are the benefits, if any, of running on a treadmill vs. running outside?
For me, since I don't own a Garmin, running on a treadmill is the only way I can monitor my speed and distance.  Unless I go run with my neighbor, who has a Garmin!

What's your favorite song to run to?
Well, that Kings of Leon song I posted above is pretty awesome right now.  But, I also love anything by Phoenix, The Kooks...I'm really into "All These Things That I Have Done" by The Killers.  Generally speaking, I LOVE music and find it to be one of the great joys of the running experience.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Casual Runner vs. Serious Runner

I've been pondering this question lately:

What's the difference between a "casual" (or, maybe some would say "recreational") runner and a "serious" runner? 

It's no mystery as to why I've had this on my mind recently.  Since diving into this world of blogs (mostly running ones), I've had the chance to read a lot about people's different experiences with running and to do a good amount of reflection on what running means to me in my own life.  (Not to get all "mystical" on you or anything...)

So, I'm wondering, what exactly is it that moves you from the "casual" realm into the "serious" realm? 

First of all, is it a sliding scale? 

Do you have to compete, or can you just run for your own pleasure? 

 Do you have to keep getting faster and pushing yourself farther?
 
Do you have to employ the latest running technologies and gadgets?
 
Do you have to subscribe to Runner's World? (I'm kind of joking here.)

Let me make clear that I have no intention of judging anyone based on the above questions, or otherwise.  I guess I just feel like I've sort of come to a proverbial fork in the road with my own running, and I'm wondering which path to choose.  Stay more "casual" or move towards more "serious"?  (I guess that shows you where I stand on the "sliding scale" question.  Oh, I'm so transparent!)

You'll notice that I do not display on my blog a list of any of my previous races, upcoming races, PR's or anything of that sort.  That's because I DON'T HAVE ANY!!  Oh, okay, I once did this 5k in 1997 and I think I finished in, like, 35 minutes or something.  And, I've mentioned that I did a half in 2000 with my husband and totally sucked because we did not train properly.  But, other than those two things, I GOT NOTHIN'!  So, I'm starting to wonder where my running is going if my running isn't growing?  (I didn't really mean to make a rhyme there.  Catchy though, right?)  But, just how "serious" am I willing to get?  I know this is obviously a personal decision, but I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on the "casual vs. serious" question.

 And--to completely change the subject--we had some killer Thai food tonight.  I pretty much always get giddy about a good meal, and this place is always a good meal.  Lulu's Thai Noodles is our new favorite place to eat, which is cool because it's right by my husband's work.  Even our kids love it--they've really taken to the steamed pork dumplings.  Tonight we tried tempura vegetables and they were quite a hit.  (See?  All you have to do is deep-fry the vegetables to get the kiddies to eat them!)  We also tried the fried banana ice cream for dessert. Yum.  Here's some pictures of the evening...

Well hello, Lulu's!

Tempura vegetables...

Thai Garlic Noodles.  Nope, you might not want to talk to me for a while...

Steamed Pork Dumplings.  Had to order a third plate of them for the kids tonight.  Those kids are getting expensive to take out!

Night-night, Lulu's...

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I also wanted to mention a great blog that my friend, Kila, writes.  If you read my first post on this blog, you will have already read about Kila.  She was the friend I talked about running Sunset Cliffs (in Ocean Beach, San Diego) with, and she writes a beautiful, creative, inspiring blog called Lil Surfer Girls.  Kila competed in her first triathalon last year and was inspired to do more!  Her goal this year is to compete in two more tri's and a half-marathon.  Woohoo!  So check her out and share in her journey!
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

8 MINUTE MILE!!

Sometimes you have a goal in mind for a long time.  And then, sometimes, you just up and decide to do something right then and there.  When I got on the treadmill today, I didn't have trying to run an 8 minute mile in mind.  I knew I wanted to run for an hour and that I wanted to try to run as much of it as possible at an 8:34 pace (this is new for me, and faster than my usual 8:57 base pace).   To warm up, I ran the first 5 minutes at my usual 8:57 pace.  Then, for some reason, I thought "I should see if I can run an 8 minute mile."

***Well, now wait a minute, I didn't exactly just come up with this idea out of nowhere.  As I was reading blogs last week, I saw that Stephanie over at Thorns Have Roses put up a post about running her first 7:40 mile, and she was so excited!  And, I was pretty excited for her!  Since reading that, I've been wondering to myself just how fast I might be able to run a mile as well.  So, thanks Stephanie, for planting that little seed in my brain!***

At five minutes into my run, I decided to just go for it.  And...I actually DID IT!  Honestly, it didn't feel as hard as I thought it would.  I was pretty pumped. 

After that, I dropped down to the 8:34 pace for 9 minutes, and then thought...

"wonder if I could do it again?" 

So...I DID!  Not just one, but TWO 8 minute miles in the same run!!  But, let me say, the second one did NOT feel as easy as the first.  By the end of it, I was feeling pretty wiped out.  And, at that point, I still had 30 minutes left in my run.  Uh oh.  I started to wonder if I might have just made a mistake.  I definitely wanted to finish out my 60 minutes, and I really didn't want to take my pace any slower than the 8:34 I was originally planning on.  I kept thinking...

Dig deep, you've got this.

(I have to thank Amanda at Runninghood for this.  She talked recently about mantras and how they can get you through the tough stuff.  Thanks, Amanda!)

At about 45 minutes into my run, things were getting a little sketchy.  I was tired.  My legs were hurting.  I could tell my form was getting sloppy.  Did I mention I was tired? 

So, at this point, I said to my body

"Body?!"
(because I wanted to make sure it was listening and listening good)

"You WILL obey me!"

To which my body replied,

"Wanna bet?!"

I'm not exactly sure what happened for the next 5-10 minutes.  You know when a run starts to get really hard and you start thinking of all the things you can tell yourself/visualize to get you through it?  Well, when it gets to this point for me, my brain just starts to throw any piece of random crap it can think of at me.  Nothing necessarily motivational or inspirational, just random crap.  I think it starts to realized that the body is winning, freaks out and goes into some sort of strange overdrive.  Again, nothing helpful.  Just random crap.  Almost like a "my life flashing before my eyes" kind of thing.  Memories of going down the slide in preschool. (Huh?)  Thoughts of a certain favorite parking spot at Walmart.  (What??)  An odd replay of an Air Supply song.  (I don't even like Air Supply!!)

Eventually, I got it together and managed to push through the last 20 minutes at my 8:34 pace.  Phew!  That was dicey for a little while there...I ended up going 6.99 miles.  I even sped up the last 30 seconds when I saw that I might make 7 miles, but it just wasn't meant to be.  But, I ended up feeling really happy with what I accomplished today.  I haven't run a 7-miler since before Thanksgiving, and I definitely didn't do it in an hour.  And, I ran my first (and second!) 8 minute mile.  Pretty good day on the running front.

Here's a great song and one I listened to during my run today:


P.S.  They took the '30 minute limit' stickers off of two of the treadmills at the gym, so I won't have to feel *guilty* about my longer-than-30-minute runs now.  Yippee!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When all else fails...EAT!

Alright, I guess the title of this post isn't a very good example of balanced behavior.  (And, I was even just reading about balance on my friend Amanda's blog, Runninghood.)  But, sometimes, the comfort of food is just too much to resist.  Again, this is one of the major reasons I continue to run and stay as active as possible.  I shudder to think of what would happen if I stopped... 

Scary.

This past week and a half has felt like so much chaos to me.  My husband has been working day and night on a deadline for work, which has left me with more than I'm used to at home.  (I know there's plenty of momma's out there who have husbands who travel for work on a regular basis, so my little pity party seems kind of ridiculous.  I don't know how people do this all the time!!)  And, starting this blog has, unfortunately given me just one more thing to think about.  Don't get me wrong--I love writing this blog and hearing that others are actually enjoying it (so cool).  But, it's become another part of the unending dialogue in my head of "things I need to do".  I'm constantly thinking of my life in "blog-worthy" terms now, like...

"Hmmm.  How could I turn this trip to the grocery store into a good post about the meaning of life?" 

or

"Oh!  I've got to take a picture of this bowl of cereal for my blog!"

Good grief.

My kids have even started saying things like, "Mom! Take a picture of me for your blog!" and "Mom! Are you going to write about this on your blog?"  Most of the time I answer "Okay!" and "Yes, I am!"

So, I set out to make this blog about food, spirituality and running.  On the running front, I don't have much to report since I haven't gotten to run since Friday (argh!).  I will be having a date with the treadmill tomorrow afternoon though...In the meantime, I did revisit P90X yesterday.  (I've determined that I don't think I could do a good Dreya Roll to save my life.)  I'm hoping for a full hour of running tomorrow (30 minute time limit on the treadmill be damned!) and would like to try to keep my pace at around 8:34.  Wish me luck...

With all of this not running I've been doing the last four days, I figured I'd better fuel up for all the calories I'm not burning.  So, here's your food report:

Dear Bread and Chocolate,

 I love you.

Yours Truly,
Lisa

On the bright side, I should be well carb-loaded for tomorrow's date with the treadmill.

Here's how our Valentine's Day looked...

These are the little sandwiches I put in Grace's lunch for Valentine's Day.  Just some cream cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.







Here's Grace with the heart garland card I made (with my eyes barely open) the night before.






There's my little man, Weston, showing me his bag full of Valentine's.  He could NOT wait for Valentine's Day and his party at preschool.  Which, by the way, did not disappoint.  They got to make their own heart-shaped pizzas.  He was pretty impressed.


This is the "hot chocolate bar" at Grace's school Valentine's party.  Holy Sugar!!
Grace and one of her
"Valentine's".  Such sweet friends!















And, in the name of healthier eating (for myself, that is) I'll leave you with a recipe for homemade Greek Dressing.

Greek Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil (I use Extra Light)
1 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2/3 cup red wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients, except vinegar, in a salad dressing shaker.  Add vinegar and shake well.  Enjoy over a salad of romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and crumbled feta.

Here's to more leafy greens!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Simplicity = Happiness

Okay, so I started writing this post yesterday, but my head has been such a rediculous jumble this weekend that I just couldn't bang it out.  Ironically, it's about simplicity and the happiness it can bring to your life.  HA!  The apparent lack of simplicity in my life right now is probably the reason I couldn't get my head wrapped around the concept enough to finish writing about it.  I am in serious need of some more simplicity in my life right now...

****************************************************************************

I actually just stopped in the middle of vacuuming my house to write this post.  (Clearly, it was very important.)  As I was vacuuming, I was fuming with frustration over feeling like keeping our house clean is just this horrible, endless battle.  Keeping a four bedroom/three bathroom house clean with two kids, a husband and a dog can sometimes feel like a full-time job.  And, I don't mean to say that I'm the only one who does anything around here.  It just NEVER. ENDS.  I should also mention that my standards of a neat house are relatively high.  I don't like clutter, and I don't like things out of place.  (Yeah, I know...uptight much?  But, that's just who I am.)  While I was wallowing in my self-pity of feeling unable to keep up, a few things occurred to me:
  1. The more things we have in our lives, it seems, the less happy we become.  Simplicity really does equal happiness.  At least, I believe this to be true.
  2. Having more things obscures the truly important stuff in life.  The good stuff, the real stuff, tends to get lost in the shuffle of all those other things.
Living in this American society, and especially in American "Suburbia", it's so easy to get caught up in "needing" (aka wanting) all of these things.  And, if you don't have them, or at least want to have them, you're sort of...left on the "outside".

If simplicity really does equal happiness, why don't we do more to simplify our lives?

Maybe this is why I love running.  Running, when you get down to it, is pretty simple.  It's just you.  Other than a good  pair of shoes, there's no special gear required (although, I know there's a lot of cool running gear out there), and you can pretty much pick up and do it anywhere. 

I love...

the simplicity of my feet hitting the ground;
right, left, right, left.

 the simplicity of my breath;
in, out, in, out.

****************************************************************************
And, that was as far as I got.  Seems as if I was positively longing  for a run, doesn't it?  So, it's Sunday night, and maybe it's because I didn't get out for a run this weekend (and the weather was AWESOME)  that I still feel like a jumbled mess.  I realize that running is becoming more and more a part of who I am, and that when I can't/don't do it, I feel like less of myself.  I'm hoping this week brings plenty of running, and more simplicity...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Preschool P.E., Journeys, and Pizza

My boss asked me if I would come in to take over teaching P.E. at our preschool today. 
YIKES.

1. I don't normally work on Friday's
2. I definitely don't normally teach P.E.

In fact, working as a Teacher's Assistant two days a week at my son's preschool this year is the first time I've worked since my daughter was born, seven and a half years ago.  I do love working there.  The pay isn't fabulous (or even good, really, if we're being honest), but my co-workers are fun to be around and the kids bring a certain energy that I don't think you can really get anywhere else.  The hours also still allow me to do all the stay-at-home mom things I want to be able to do.  Anyway, teaching P.E. is not on my normal list of responsibilities.  So, after I agreed to do it, I started Googling furiously for ideas of what to do for the whopping 15 minutes I'd be seeing each of the six classes for.  Seriously...I was stressin'.  I won't bore you with the details of my "lesson plans", but, I will tell you that one of the most popular things I did with the kids was something I took straight from the P90x DVD!  HA!! These kids loved doing the Superman/Banana.  It was pretty hilarious.  If you've never done any P90x and don't know what the Superman/Banana is...well, have a look-see.


Now, just imagine a group of 12 four-year-olds doing that...

I usually get in a run at the gym on Friday mornings, and while doing six preschool P.E. classes does work up an honest sweat, I was still able to get over to the gym (thanks to my mom watching the little man) for a run this afternoon.

5 min. 8:57 pace
35 min. 8:34 pace
5 min. 8:57 pace

5.21 miles

So, I guess I should really be making 8:34 my new base pace?  It felt good today.  It was a push to keep it up for the 35 minutes, but definitely doable.  It's cool to be getting faster.

In my recent exploration of other runner's blogs, I came across 50 After 40.   And--this is such a crazy coincidence--I discovered that not only do we live in the same town, but we go to the same gym!  Small world.  Although, the chances of our paths ever actually crossing at the gym are slim to none, since Jim runs at the crack of dawn!  Either way, his blog is great and I've enjoyed reading about his quest to run a marathon in all 50 states, after the age of 40.  Even one marathon still sounds crazy to me...He wrote today about enjoying the journey of running and preparing for races, and that if you don't enjoy the journey, regardless of the outcome, you're missing the point (at least this was my interpretation of what he was saying).  I think that wisdom can be applied to all aspects of life, not just running.  And, as I'm typing this, my husband is watching a documentary film called 180 Degrees South (it's awesome, if you ever get a chance to watch it).  I heard this quote on the film and thought it was a great explanation of what you can gain from really committing yourself to a journey.

"The best journeys answer questions that, in the beginning, you didn't even think to ask."  Unknown

Our family decided to journey on over to our favorite pizza place tonight--Next Door Pizza.  This place is SO. GOOD.  And, the owner is a high school friend of Jeremy's, so it makes it that much easier to want to patronize it.  Plus, on Friday nights they have specials on Boulevard (a local Kansas City brewery) Unfiltered Wheat beer.  YUM.  So, of course, I took a picture of our food.


What you're looking at here is some of the best thin-crust pizza around (with my son chowing down in the background).  We never get tired of this pizza.  I kind of want one of the cold leftover pieces from the fridge right now.  Hmmmm.

I may get another trip to the gym in tomorrow morning when I take my daughter to her acting class.  (Oh boy, is acting class perfect for her!!)  And, I know I'm eating some more of that pizza for lunch tomorrow.  The weather is supposed to turn very spring-ish here for the next week or so.  Woohoo!!  I can see some outdoor runs in my future....

Anybody have any fun plans for the weekend?

Favorite pizza: thin-crust or thick-crust?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Food, Glorious Food and P90x

I was way too tired to post anything last night, which is funny, because I didn't work yesterday or do any sort of run or workout.  I did, however, have to go outside in the FRIGID weather more than once.  That could have very well taken it out of me....seriously, it was painful cold yesterday.  Come on spring!!  I'm ready for some outdoor time...and so are my poor kids!

I did have a brief, joyful "warmer weather moment" yesterday when I discovered, at Costco, that the blackberries, blueberries and rasberries were all ripe and delicious!!  Yes, this is the kind of thing that really excites me.  So much so that I took pictures.  Behold...The Berries....


My little man and I scarfed down a pretty large amount of these upon our return from Costco.  He loves them with just a sprinkle of sugar.  I like them over vanilla yogurt.


It was, honestly, one of the highlights of my day.

Another food highlight yesterday was the cornbread we had for dinner.  I have been known to eat mass quantities of cornbread!  I love it.  I've found a brand of cornbread mix at Costco (do you see a theme developing here?) that is so delicious and doesn't have any crappy ingredients in it (ie. hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup).  It's made by Penguin Natural Foods, if you're curious.  So, here's the cornbread (this is really just for me, so I can stare at the picture and drool).  And, yes, I know how rediculously large the picture of the cornbread is, and that it doesn't even fit into the margins of the post.  I don't care.  That's how much I love it.


There is no cornbread left today...I had the last of it for breakfast...with more berries and yogurt!!  The Breakfast of Champions!

And, I finally got the opportunity to try the P90x cardio DVD today, because we had...

...you guessed it...
ANOTHER SNOW DAY!! 
(That's #9, if you're still counting!) 

So, today would have been a gym day for me, and I thought I might still be able to make it work out (no pun intended).  But, no such luck.  It was the perfect opportunity for me to try this thing for real.  So, here's my review (as if I'm the first person to review P90x, right?...it's only been around for, like, ever...but, here's my assessment of it anyway) :

1. The guy (I can't remember his name...Tony?) who teaches it is pretty cheesy.  I kinda wished he would stop talking a few times.

2. I love that they use an Ashtanga yoga sun salutation sequence for the warm-up.  A loooong time (probably 10 years) ago I went to an Ashtanga yoga class on Saturday mornings that I really loved.  I've always wished I could find another one like it.  I thought I'd include a video of the sun salutation sequence, if you've never done it before and are interested in seeing how to do it.  Warning: If you decide to watch this video you should know that this dude is wacky flexible.  It might creep you out.  And, if you do watch it, make sure you watch to the end so you can see him virtually defy gravity as he jumps his feet back up to his hands after downward dog.  It is crazy.  I actually had to replay it just to see if my eyes were playing tricks on me.  No.  They were not.

3.  I enjoyed the intensity of the plyo and kickboxing portions.  It did get my heart rate up and get me sweating.

4.  I realized that my lower body is pretty strong (duh, from running), but my upper body could definitely use some more attention.  Again, I really like the yoga for this.  I love the movement of going from plank, to yoga push-up, to upward dog, to downward dog.  Great for arms.

5.  At the end, I felt like I got a pretty good workout.  Especially considering it was an at-home DVD workout.  But, it still didn't feel like the constant push of a run.  Maybe that's a good thing?

And, here's some photos of my cutie-patootie kids from the last few days...

This is Grace with her 100th Day of School sunglasses on.  That girl is always creating something!!

Here's the two of them watching a video together on the Lego website.  They didn't know I was taking their picture--didn't even budge after the flash went off!  They are great friends (most of the time).

And, here I am.  HA HA!  Weston has been really interested in taking pictures with our camera lately, so he took this picture of me before I did the P90x DVD.  I look ready to kick some butt, right?

I have a few more recipes that I want to share soon, including Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes (tonight's dinner!), Greek Dressing, New York-Style Pizza Sauce, and Three-Grain Breakfast Cereal with Walnuts and Dried Fruit.  So, stay tuned for those.

I'd love to know any of your favorite recipes or foods!

A note about the blog: As I get further into this blogging thing, I realize I'm using this blog for a few different purposes.  I'm trying to use it to keep friends and family up-to-date with what's going on with us, but I'm also trying to create a blog that perfect strangers want to check out too.  It seems a sort of strange balance.  I know I could do two separate blogs, but I don't think I have that kind of energy right now.  So, for now, I'll just hope it can serve both purposes and that people enjoy it the way it is.  Either way, I'm having fun...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fartlek Monday? Questions...

So I've been hearing/reading a lot about doing Fartleks as part of a training schedule.  And, while I'm not currently training for anything in particular, I've been wanting to try to do some to see how they felt.  I'm still easing myself into this "serious" running business...Well, today's run was awesome!!  After last Thursday's run feeling kind of 'blah' and generally crappy to get through, I was really happy with the way I felt today and with what I was able to accomplish.  Today's (treadmill) run looked like this:

15 min. at 9:13 pace
3 x 2 min. fartleks at 8:30 pace with 2 min. between each at 9:13 pace
(at this point, I realized I could definitely step it up a bit...hadn't been sure since I was planning on a longer than normal 60 min. run, but I could tell I had more to give)
5 min. at 9:00 pace
3 x 1 min. fartleks at 8:00 pace with 1 min. between each at 9:00 pace
15 min. at 9:00 pace
3 x 1 min. fartleks at 8:00 pace with 1 min. between each at 9:00 pace
5 min. at 9:13 pace

6.74 miles
60 minutes

As I was doing this run, I was thinking "I wonder if I'm doing this right??"  While I was very happy with my distance, my endurance, being able to step up my speed, and feeling really good through all of it, I can't help but wonder if what I did was actually a fartlek workout or just some interval training?  So, for all of you other runners out there who are reading this...

Should a fartlek workout be a certain distance or time?

Should the fartleks be 1 minute long? 2 minutes? more?

Should the speed of your fartleks push you to your limit or just be quicker than your base pace?  How hard should they be?

I'd love to hear any feedback on these questions!

Like I said, I'm not currently training for anything right now, but I've decided that I want to do a half this year.  (Woohoo!)  Jeremy and I did the Va. Beach Rock-n-Roll Half in 2000, before kids and before I had really committed myself to running.  We did some training, but not nearly enough.  I don't think I'd run any more than 7 consecutive miles before race day.  Oooh...it was ugly.  I did a lot of walking, and somehow made it through the day without puking (probably because I did the walking).  At the time, I considered it an accomplishment just to have crossed the finish line.  And, in a way, it was.  But, I shudder to think of doing another half that way.  Completely unprepared.  I didn't think of training as a real part of the process back then.  I can see now that the training is the real work, and the race is the prize at the end of all that hard work.  I'm looking forward to doing it differently this time.  And, there's nowhere to go but up from my first performance, people!  Nowhere but UP!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sickies and Recipes to Make You Well

As far as germs go, we've done pretty well around our house this winter.  We were all healthy from the start of the school year through Thanksgiving.  December was a little rough for the two kiddos, but everyone was feeling good for Christmas.  January was stellar.  But, February has arrived, and my son and I both have a head cold.  And, since I started writing this post, you can add my daughter to the list of sickies in our house.  Blah.  It's nothing horrible, but enough to be disruptive and annoying.

So, on Friday I got to thinking about foods that help your immune system stay strong.  We actually think about this a lot in our house.  My husband has gotten into the habit of making a smoothie for the kids every morning.  And, I mean, EVERY morning...without fail.  We're big believers in the power of yogurt and what it can do to keep the digestive system healthy (read: we don't want no stinkin' stomach flu!!).  So, at breakfast time, Jeremy makes them a very simple smoothie of orange juice and vanilla yogurt (dreamsicle!).  Lately, he's bumped it up a bit with some frozen strawberries and, every once in a while, some pineapple juice.  The most recent winning recipe, as determined by the kids, goes like this:

Jeremy's Kiddie Smoothie

2 oz. Bolthouse Farms Berry Boost (we love this brand of juices)
6 oz. orange juice
6-8 tablespoons vanilla lowfat yogurt
3-4 frozen strawberries

Blend well.  Makes two kid-sized smoothies.

My pick for immune-boosting foods is garlic, garlic, and MORE GARLIC!  For years now, I've been making a salad that we call "Caesar Salad".  But, it's not really Caesar Salad....

Caesar Salad "a la Lisa"

1 large head of romaine lettuce, or 2-3 hearts of romaine, rinsed, dried and torn or cut into bite-sized pieces

1/4 cup olive oil (I use extra light vs. extra virgin, because I don't like the stronger flavor of the extra virgin, but that's up to your own taste)

2-3 cloves of garlic

juice of half a lemon

fresh ground sea salt (or Kosher salt) and fresh ground pepper, to taste

1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or more, to taste)

To make the salad:
  1. Pour the olive oil into a small bowl.  Using a garlic press, press the garlic cloves into the olive oil.  Allow garlic to "steep" in the olive oil for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Put the lettuce into a salad bowl and pour the olive oil and garlic mixture over the lettuce.  Toss to coat evenly. 
  3.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the salad, one at a time, tossing to coat evenly after each addition.
This salad is great alone with some crusty bread, or topped with grilled chicken or shrimp.

Jeremy and I can pretty much polish off a whole salad by ourselves (have I also mentioned it's amazing cleansing properties?!), but the kids actually love it as well.  We usually have it at least once a week.  Just don't plan on talking to anyone else who hasn't also had the salad for about 24 hours after eating it...

When I started feeling like I was coming down with this cold, I wanted to pump up the vitamin C right away.  It was like a reflex!  I had some grapefruit and an orange in the fridge, so I pulled them out to use with my juice press.  My OrangeX citrus juicer is one of the greatest gifts I've ever received!  I love this thing.  My dad and step-mom gave it to me for my birthday, probably ten years ago now.  There is almost nothing better than freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice (or a mix of the two).  Here's a shot of the beautiful fruit before juicing...


And, from that fruit, I got this delicious juice...


We actually discovered that the grapefruit juice also makes a great smoothie base.  So, hopefully with all these immune-boosting foods, we'll all kick this cold pretty quickly.  Because, I'm hoping for a week where there are no snow days, everyone feels well enough to go to school, and I make it to the gym for all of my regular workouts.  That would be awesome...

How do you stay well during the winter months?