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lambstuffedpeppersTime for an easy gourmet meal that is quick to prep and clean-up, but packs some great flavors and nutrition.  Enjoy this dish for lunch or dinner as it’s sure to impress your family or guests.  We take African spices of cumin and cinnamon and pair with some tasty ground lamb or buffalo, adding in short grain brown rice for a balanced and satisfying meal.

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

-        1 ¾ cups cooked short grain brown rice

-        4 medium to large bell peppers

-        1 pound ground lamb or buffalo

-        4 cloves minced garlic

-        ½ cup currants (look near raisins)

-        2 teaspoons ground cumin

-        1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-        2 ½ cups vegetable juice (eg V8)

-        ¼ cup chopped mint

-        Zest of an orange

-        ¾ teaspoon salt

-        ½ teaspoon pepper

Cooking

-        Preheat oven to 350 degrees

-        Wash and cook brown rice as desired (boiling on stove top or in rice cooker)

-        Cut tops off peppers and de-seed.  Put peppers into over on cookie sheet or other casserole dish for 15-20 minutes

-        Cook beef in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up beef until no longer pink, 4-6 minutes

-        Stir in currants, cumin and cinnamon, cooking for 1 minute

-        Stir in rice and cook for 30 seconds more

-        Remove from heat and stir in ½ cup vegetable juice, mint, orange zest, salt and pepper

-        Spoon beef mixture into peppers, pour remaining vegetable juice into the pepper and serving dish and microwave for 1 minute.

Nutrition

-        Calories: 451

-        Carbs: 48g

-        Protein: 36g

-        Fat: 12g



brown_riceWe began with a great breakfast to jump start your day, then a tasty chickpea and egg dish for lunch or dinner. Now we have a flavorful vegetarian dish, perfect for lunch or quick dinner when you are on the go.  This is another crock-pot meal, so you can just throw everything in and have it ready when you get home in the afternoon.  It stores well in the fridge or freezer, making for a healthy, sustaining meal that is packed full of great flavors.

Brown Rice Quinoa Fennel Risotto

This dish, prepared with brown rice and pecorino, creates a gluten and cow dairy free recipe, while vegetarian, packs a lasting satisfaction with the addition of quinoa along with fiber.  Just 30 minutes to prep, then slow cook for 4-6 hours.

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cored and finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds
  • 1 cup short-grain brown rice
  • ½ cup Quinoa
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 oz. sliced crimini mushrooms - $1.69
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, or “no-chicken” broth
  • 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • cups frozen French-cut green beans
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/3 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

Coat a 4-quart crock-pot with cooking spray.  Crush fennel seeds and combine with diced fennel, brown rice, carrot, shallot, garlic, green beans, olives, lemon zest and mushrooms in the pot.  Add broth, 1 cut water, wine, and stir to combine.  Cover and cook until rice is chewy and risotto is thick and creamy.  On high heat 2 ½ hours, or low heat 4 hours.

Before serving or storing, stir in pecorino.  If it too dry, add water to loosen.

Servings: 6

Nutrition: Calories 353; Fat 8g, Carbs 56g, protein 14g



chickpea hashLast week we helped you make your own mixed fruit steel cut oatmeal, now we want to fuel your lunch or dinner!

Our next meal to help fuel your life, and make eating well easy for you.  This recipe takes a just a short amount of prep work, and cooks in one non-stick skillet.  Quick to cook and quick to clean up!

Bringing together some great tastes with vegetables, shredded potatoes, curry and ginger.  Topped with an egg completes the meal with a healthy dose of protein.  Easy to prepare and inexpensive on the wallet too.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups frozen shredded potatoes - $1.69
  • 2 cups chopped baby spinach - $1.99
  • ½ cup chopped onion - $0.99
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger - $1.50
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder - $1.99
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil - $5.99
  • 1 15 OZ can chickpeas, rinsed - $1.50
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini - $2.99
  • 4 large eggs - $3.00

Total cost: $21.64

Servings 4, Calories 382

What you’ll need: cutting board, 10 inch non-stick skillet with lid, cutting knife, can opener, measuring cup, measuring spoons, vegetable peeler, spatula/turner

Prep

  1. Start by cutting the spinach, onion, ginger, and mix with the potatoes, curry powder and salt in a large bowl.  Now chop the zucchini and open and rinse the chickpeas.
  2. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet on medium high and pour potato mixture in, pressing into the bottom.  Cook for 5 minutes, do not stir.  You want a crispy layer on the bottom.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low.  Fold the chickpeas and zucchini into the skillet, breaking up the crispy potato.  Press into a layer in the skillet and carve out 4 holes in the potato.  Crack eggs one at a time into the holes gently.  Cover and cook until desired egg type.  Soft yolk approx. 5 minutes, longer for fully cooked.

This is a great meal to satisfy your needs for a busy day.  Easy to make and clean up, so no excuses for ordering takeout.  You can even have extra for lunch on the go the next day.  Reheats in 2 minutes.



We're 2 months into the New Year.  Seems like a good time to revisit the goals we set on 1/1/15.  Here's a look back at a great article by Dena Evans from 2010.

Goals seem like a good idea at the time.  They motivate us to start, they provide good fodder for conversation, they keep us organized.   However, if they are truly going to be accomplishments we look back on with pride, these goals must also include the risk that we might not pass the test.



trainingEvery runner or walker has a slightly different style.  Each of us move a bit differently, but if you are looking for a few quick and subtle tips to start with as you begin to train for a goal race, or are an experienced athlete looking for reminders, here are a few key concepts to keep in mind when trying to move efficiently.

 

Relax and drop your shoulders

Hunched up shoulders are tense shoulders.  Tense shoulders take energy away from where you need it and result in a fatigued feeling well before you have earned it.  Try to keep your shoulders low enough that if your arms hang at about 90 degrees, your hands will brush your pockets (or where your pockets would be) when you swing your arms.

 

Keep your head neutral

As you run, ideally your body should stack up in a column leaning barely forward. If your head is tilted forward looking at the ground or your chin is up due to fatigue, it disrupts the efficiency of this line and quickens the onset of that achy, tired feeling many athletes get in their upper back toward the end of longer efforts.  Keep your eyes on a spot around 15 yards ahead so your head sits in line with the rest of your spine, and avoid the distraction of an achy upper body for a few more precious miles.

 

Concentrate on a crisp stride cadence

Many athletes grow up assuming that longer strides will help an athlete cover more ground, faster.  While it is true that while sprinting, you might cover more ground per stride, your stride rate is pretty quick.  Concentrate on the rate aspect of the equation, rather than the distance.  When you take long, bound-y strides, all that time in the air just results in a greater decrease in speed by the time the next foot hits the ground.  Concentration on keeping a crisp stride rhythm can provide a welcome distraction when tired, and also helps keep your body in line.

 

Engage your core

The less your midsection vacillates or rotates per stride, the more efficiently your body can move forward.  Drawing your navel to your spine (figuratively) and using that tightened core to help your posture can make it easier for your legs to cycle under you efficiently, your arms to swing front and back, instead of side to side, and for your body to get to the finish line with less strain and hopefully less time.

 

There are innumerable exercises to help athletes improve their efficiency while striding (try these suggestions from a previous blog post). Sometimes these can be intimidating to recreational athletes, but these small tweaks can make a difference without feeling the need to completely overhaul your form. Experiment and see if the suggestions above can make a difference.

 

 



Marathon-0013Over the course of a 13 or 26-mile effort, music can be a welcome distraction.  And after a few of these, bands or music along the course become a part of the day worth looking forward to.  Occasionally, there are some renegade bands or neighborhoods that will greet the athletes streaming by with some unexpected tunes, but more likely than not, there are some tested and true tropes that will appear like the daily mail.  See if this rings true for your next goal race or brings back fond memories of your last.

 

Fanfare

Goal races like marathons or half marathons are often signposts indicating the culmination of weeks and months, maybe years of hard work.  Race organizers know this, and rarely miss a chance to set the tone with music usually associated with the grandest stages and ultimate opportunities.  “Olympic Fanfare and Themecan set the mood, or in the case of the New York Marathon, a ritual playing of “New York, New York after the starting cannon sounds.  These songs mean to celebrate your achievement, and with a wink, remind you how awesome it is that you get to do such an amazing race as the one you are doing right now!

Movie Tunes

Without a scientific study it is hard to know for sure, but no experienced marathoner would be surprised if the Rocky theme was awarded the most played song award.  Those familiar notes are there to remind you that you are in a fight! You can win! All that training is going to pay off! “Rocky along with the song from the opening credits of Chariots of Fire, and “Eye of the Tiger” are not there for subtle encouragement and secondary meanings.   Those songs are played and received as direct reminders of your purpose and your ability.  Listen and heed - the finish line is coming!  While the Chariots of Fire tune is a good song for the first few miles when the runners and walkers are thick across the road and optimism is high, playing “Rocky” or “Eye of the Tiger” too early implies that you should be tired and need encouragement.  Those are best deployed for the second half of the race.


Cover Band Music With an Inspirational Sweet Spot

Any band signing up to play along a half or full marathon must consider what overtly or even vaguely inspirational songs are in their wheelhouse.   Failing that, they must consider if they can play any songs that have lyrics related to running or even just the word “running” anywhere in the song. For many cover bands, this list includes “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty,  “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, and  “Where the Streets Have no Name” by U2. For the guitar alone this last one works wonders on the tired spirit, but when you belt out “I wanna RUN” for that first line, you know you are legitimately helping people!  Urban selections might include “Runnin’” by the Pharcyde or “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae.  With a barely more subtle subtext than the overt anthems, these songs help to remind you (in case you forgot) that you should be running, moving, walking, progressing.  Just in case you did indeed forget.  Failing that, many of them have a good beat, which works just as well.

 

Highly inappropriate or sad songs

Sometimes, the best-laid plans go awry, and the playlist wasn’t quite as thoughtfully considered as it might have been.  For example, “Tears of a Clown” is probably not a winner (true story – it has been played), and other sad songs might greet a walker or runner who has the misfortune of passing a band who is now playing on vapors, exhausting the last drops of their repertoire.   Sometimes, a cheer station or a neighborhood lets loose with a song that nobody remembered had a line or two of completely inappropriate language or verbal imagery.  Better bet is to play the same solid songs three times each rather than a ballad, a sad song, or an explicit tune played over the loudspeaker to the entire neighborhood.  It might be boring to the band, but the runners and walkers only get the one moment.   A few depressing thoughts as well as a smile due to the randomness of the choice can occur as a result of these.  Even concurrently.  Additional note:  “We are the Champions” or “Celebration” by Kool ‘n’ the Gang should never be played unless the finish line is in sight.  That’s teasing!


High School Bands and Various Cultural Music Sources 

Sometimes school bands volunteer to support the local athletes in the big race or a band with a specific cultural musical specialty signs up to help.  What they may lack in anything resembling tunes that relate to running, they often contribute doubly in energy and spirit.  Sometimes it is their tunes and even the actual incongruence of the music with the situation that end up resonating as a fond memory in the days and weeks after the race.

 

Hype man

One of the many great informal traditions of a large running and walking event is the occasional neighborhood individual equipped with a microphone, a speaker, potentially some background music, and a great deal of energy.  Kudos to these folks, willing to just call out bib numbers, shirt colors, Sharpied names, and other filler for hours.  Never underestimate the power of having your name called over a loudspeaker, and never underestimate the ability of a well-timed musical distraction to make the finish line seem just a bit closer.



385The recently held Berlin Marathon lived up to its potential for fast times and then some, with Dennis Kimetto shattering the existing world marathon record by 26 seconds and becoming the first human being under 2 hours and 3 minutes.   If you are keeping score, that is an average pace of 4:41 per mile, or essentially the equivalent of running 105 laps around a track and hitting 70 seconds on each one.

 

Performances like this can seem so many light years away that the average athlete may feel that they can barely relate.  Yes, Kimetto covered 26.2 miles in an amazingly fast time, but looking beneath the surface, races like his can yield connections that can encourage us all, even if we are in the middle or the back of the pack.

 

  1. 1. It took the encouragement of a mentor for Kimetto to give running a serious try. Kimetto runs with many-time marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai in Kenya.  As detailed in the Chicago Tribune, Kimetto was a subsistence farmer who Mutai invited to train after basically seeing him lope through the streets with a good looking stride.  Many of us didn’t come out of the womb destined for marathoning.  A key health issue or charity push, the desire to accompany a friend or relative, or a life transition may have caused us to finally shift into action.   If you are new to the sport or don’t have a lot of athletic experience, console yourself that before 2008, neither did the world record holder, and he still believed in himself enough to aspire to big goals.

 

  1. 2. Sometimes big goals come as the result of a steady progression. Dennis Kimetto has run several marathons before, and has had a lot of success, but he certainly didn’t break the world record on his first try.  He ran 2:04 in 2012, 2:03 in 2013, and has now run 2:02 in 2014.  While obviously this is WAY easier said than done, his accomplishment is the result of steady improvement.  Sometimes we can benefit from setting a target fairly far away on the horizon, and committing to small or medium length intermediate goals along the way, even if the journey is several years in the making.  The sense of accomplishment then comes from achieving the goals and for having the courage to be patient and persistence on the road there.

 

  1. 3. A Personal Best is Personal – no one sets your goals except you. Dennis Kimetto could be forgiven for thinking he hard run the fastest he ever might – after all, he just ran the fastest time in all of history. However, in a feature article from the IAAF, he is quoted as saying “Actually, I think I could still be a very good runner 10 years from now, at 40.”  No one has the right to set boundaries on your belief.  When training, it is important to know your capabilities so you can make smart choices, but you have the right to make a goal for yourself, completely independent of arbitrary standards such as Boston, your personal best, etc.  What is important now is that you uphold and aspire to the standards and capability that you believe you have – not what society or the media might label as outside of the norm.

  1. 4. Keep it simple in the race

The Berlin marathon benefitted from the mano a mano duel Kimetto  staged with his mentor Geoffrey Mutai.  Although we aren’t yet  looking for Must See TV or world fame with our distance exploits, having a complicated race plan can sometimes add more stress than it is worth.   Some top quality races have huge fields of aspiring world class athletes, but the race may become strategic as a result.  If a fantastic time is the goal, nothing beats an old fashioned foot race with one or two people.  The mind can’t drift and so stays alert, and the athlete is able to race at the optimum pace indicated by training.  Toward the end you can race for the finish, but until then remind yourself of your confidence, tell the truth about your training log, and wait patiently for your turn.

 



top_of_hill_croppedMany of our runcoach trainees are in the middle of heavy training for their fall goal races.  As some of the most challenging weeks of the year, this period can often seem like one step after another beyond the comfort zone.  Experienced runners will recognize this as a normal part of the training cycle, but if experience is not yet on your side, here are a few tips for making it through the heavy load to the restful period of the taper.

 

Your full body of training is preparing you – not just the long runs

It is easy to get very caught up with your weekend long efforts, and if one goes poorly or has to be skipped due to an unforeseen circumstance, it can be scary to be even a bit off track.  Don’t forget that the efforts you make throughout the week – harder ones as well as the key recovery days, are building a tapestry that provides your safety net.  One snag doesn’t mean disaster, and staying confident despite a setback can be good practice in case your race plan doesn’t go absolutely smoothly on the day either.

 

It’s ok to “look down”

Heights can be scary, unless you are standing on a firm foundation.  Your many weeks of work have stacked up, and now you are attempting very challenging tasks.  The good news is, you are prepared!  Don’t be afraid to look back at your training log to see where you’ve come from when you started.  Be encouraged that if you have been able to ascend so far and are doing ok, you will be ok to keep it up just a few more weeks.

 

Plan for dessert

If your challenge is staying motivated as the training has become more difficult, consider planning something fun to look forward to at the end of your goal race.  The planning and anticipation can be a bit of a healthy distraction to keep your mind off the hard parts to come and to keep the goal race day and its aftermath as a red letter day to look forward to rather than be fearful of.

 

“I can’t” is almost always just down the block from “I will”

Oftentimes the hardest part of a training cycle or race is closer to the end than the beginning.  You are a bit tired and have been stretched, maybe mentally and physically.  You might be wondering if you have what it takes to go all the way.  These thoughts are completely common, but experienced racers know that often the time between these thoughts and the time when the finish line feels absolutely within reach are almost always pretty close together.  If you have been training for 12 weeks and you only have four to go, consider that 2-3 of those weeks will have a decreased demand as you taper and doing the math, you only have about one week of tough stuff to endure.  If you have made it through 12 weeks, the fact is that you can definitely make it through one more.   Take one day at a time and look forward to the moment when you can sniff the finish and you can rejoice in getting through the forest of heavy training.  You’ll deserve some congratulations not only for the training itself, but staying calm and confident despite the occasional storm.  Savor the feeling!

 

 



Sports_BottleMost of us are well acquainted with the need to hydrate during long workouts.  If you need a refresher, check out what we’ve written before on some basic rules for hydrating effectively.  Once you are committed to the plan of periodic hydration during your workouts, you will need a strategy for how to transport that fluid along the way. There are many different ways of doing this, one for every personality and preference.  Check out a few great options, and find out which one will work best so that fluid planning is less a chore, and more a pre-requisite for heading out on the door.

 

Old School Bottle

There are some folks for whom this article is hardly necessary.  Grabbing a water bottle tchotchke from your last corporate retreat, the one the kids won’t need for soccer until the afternoon, or a fresh bottle of your favorite sports drink from the corner store, you can set off on an 18 mile jaunt with a basic water bottle in your hand and hardly notice it is there.  Benefits: If you bought fluid from the 7-11, you can just toss the bottle when you are done at the nearest trash can.  If you brought a bottle from home, this is probably the cheapest option out there.  Drawback: If you like your hands free, this route is not for you.

 

Hand strapped bottle

If you are unafraid to have weight at the end of your arm, but don’t want to think about gripping the bottle, this option might just be for you.  Often, these curve to mold your hand, and allow your mind to wander without worrying about dropping the goods.  Benefits: Reusable bottle is an environmentally sound choice, feels a bit more comfortable than a basic bottle.  Drawback:  These types of bottles are not typically very large.  You might need a couple or won’t have enough for an extra long route.

 

Backpack with straw

Popular with ultrarunners and those who like their hands free, this is a solution that allows a runner or walker to have a ready source of fluids while not needing to grip the goods with a hand or feel the weight around the waist.  Benefits: Hands Free, keeps weight of fluid distributed evenly across the back.  Drawbacks: Not everyone likes drinking out of a straw, and these systems are not nearly as cheap as a basic water bottle.

 

Fluid belt

This is a very popular option, but some athletes find the extra weight around the waist is a distraction if time is the primary objective.  Small bottles are secured at places around a belt, worn throughout the workout. Benefits: Hands free, can add more bottles for some models and increase the amount of fluids you have on hand.  Drawbacks: If you are sensitive to extra weight around the middle or a bit of bouncing, this isn’t for you.  Also, the individual bottles can be fairly small, requiring multiple for extra long efforts.

 

Water fountain

Although ideally, your long efforts will include some calorie replacement as well as water consumption, an option always remains to plan your route where you know you can enjoy regular interactions with water fountains.  Benefits: Hand free, no weight, water is often cold.  Drawbacks: Risky as you never know if maintenance/ construction, or other unforeseen issues might scotch your plans, requires some additional source of calories – bar, gel, etc.  Also this method requires you to stop moving for at least a few seconds.

 

As fluid replacement is such a crucial aspect of your longer training, it is well worthwhile experimenting with a solution you will stick with as your training will greatly benefit with a solid plan in place.  Whether one of the solutions above fits the bill or another one is more your style, it is worth the effort to become consistent in this practice and reap the fitness benefits.

 

 



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