Conquered my run

This past Saturday, I ran my first race in two years. The last time I competed in any sort of race, it was the LA Marathon and that was to prove to myself that I could run 26.2 miles.

This weekend was all about setting the bar to compete against myself. I wanted to see how fast I could run a 5k so that I can start training to beat that time. As most of you know, I recently got back from two months of traveling in Europe (and if you don’t remember, refer to my most recent post here). I haven’t been this out of shape since before I started working out 7 years ago.

The last month and a half has been a lot of sweating and pouting over the fact that I’m not physically at where I used to be. However, regardless of how painful it was, I laced up my workout shoes 6 days a week and went for as long of a run as I could and as difficult of a weight training session as I could handle. I felt like I was in slow motion. Nothing seemed to be getting better. My strength wasn’t improving. My lungs weren’t burning any less.

Then one day, I didn’t notice the fact that my legs no longer felt like lead or that sweat wasn’t pouring down my face. Slowly but surely, I was getting back into the shape that I was before.

That’s what inspired me to run this weekends race. I wanted to set the bar for myself to have something to push for. It wasn’t about winning the race, but seeing where I was at so that I could work to beat myself.

But then I did win the race. And it felt pretty good.

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*Notice me yawning? It was 6:45 am. Give me a break.

To be fair, there were only 60-ish people running this race but still! I started off the run thinking “dear god, why did I stop drinking coffee right before this. I could really use the caffeine. It’s 6:45am on a Saturday. This is un-godly.” My legs felt heavy and under-used. To top it off, it’s been unseasonably hot in LA. Even at 7:00 am when the race started, it was 77 degrees with a hot breeze rolling through. People passed me and that was okay. I wasn’t in it to win it. I was in it to finish it.

My steady pace eventually brought me to the halfway point and my legs suddenly felt light and my energy high! I made the turn and I pushed myself to pass the 8-10 people in front of me. Eventually, I wiggled myself to the first place position. As I neared the finish line, I kept looking behind me, expecting someone to get a second wind and pull me out of the first position slot. But that didn’t happen. And I crossed that chalk finish line in first!

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I was greeted at the end by a small medal and an envelope for an hour long massage. Whaaaaat!

And I will need that massage. I walked home after the race and slept for an hour while the sun blazed to 95 degrees.

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And so did Trevor 🙂

So, I finished with a fairly decent time of 24:10 and room to improve!

Look forward to some posts on how to improve your own 5k PR as I work toward beating my own!

And remember, no matter what state of shape you are in now or how hard you have fallen off of the wagon… you can always get back to where you once were. Not a single person has ever said it will be easy (and if they did they’re liars) but don’t let the challenge hold you back from getting to where you want to be.

Now lets go PR!!

Conquer this.

It’s been a while.

I made my way through 14 countries and over 30 cities in Europe for two months over the summer. It was a crazy ride and something I’ve always wanted to do.

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Have you ever completed something that you’ve always wanted to do or see or experience? Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have it be everything you’ve imagined. This trip was that for me.

The one downside to having the life experience you’ve always wanted… What do you do after it’s over?

I went through a weird stage for a couple of weeks where I didn’t feel part of the picture back home. I was there, but I was just going through the motions. It was as if I wasn’t fully committed to anything I did because I knew I would wake up and be back on a rock in Loch Ness or free diving for sea urchins in Cinque Terre.

But this reality of being back home IS really life. One day, in a haze of under-appreciation of my current situation, I snapped out of it. I needed to get my life, my REAL life, back together.

I didn’t have much of an opportunity to workout while I was in Europe and eating healthy was a constant struggle (except that the app Happy Cow definitely saved me a few times) so I was out of shape. This probably contributed to my ghostly presence back home. I forgot about my passion for everything health, fitness and competition.

I slipped on my running shoes that had mostly only been recently used for traversing foreign streets and headed down to the strand for my first run.

It.

Was.

Miserable.

I haven’t been this out of shape since I started seriously working out 7 years ago. My chest was on fire and my muscles ached. I stopped after only a mile and nearly fainted on the ground.

Plenty of people have similar experiences like mine where you lose your way and try and find it back again. Whether it be having kids, a family loss, a big move, divorce or a new job…The initial struggle is discouraging and makes you wonder how you ever got past this in the first place. The important thing to remember is that you got past this before, you can do it again.

That was my mantra during my sad little one mile runs for the first few weeks. And then one day I pushed myself to two miles. It was hard, but I made it. And then a week went by, and I added in an extra half mile. My legs were screaming, but I pushed through it. My mom told me that while she was getting into running shape, she used me as her inspiration(click here for the full story). She said that if I could run 26.2 miles with no food, no sleep but a whole lot of will and determination, she could finish her extra 6 blocks of running.

My mom’s a smart lady. What’s that quote? Something about half the battle is with your own mind? I’m probably getting it terribly wrong, but you get the idea. My mom reminded me in that moment, yes, the pain is real and yes, it is going to be hard… but you can do it.

I’m not back into the shape I was before I left, but I decided to challenge myself and start training for speed, not distance. I signed up for my first 5k in a very long time to set the time bar and start my competition with myself again.

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I’m competing in this weekends “Conquer Our Run” 5k in Manhattan Beach. For any of you locals, come run with me or cheer me on as I attempt to get my groove back! And for any of you who have lost your health and fitness way, come join me! The first step is the hardest but making any move (whether it be graceful or not!) is better than no move at all.

See you at the start line 🙂

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad. PS, I leave for Europe in 9 days

In 9 days, I’ll be boarding a plane that will initially drop me off in Stockholm. From there I’ll go to 14 more countries/23 more cities in two months (!!!!!!!!). Trying to contain my excitement. This has been in the making since my trip to Europe last summer.

When I was there last summer, I studied abroad in Italy, learned how to make authentic Italian dishes from a little Italian lady and did some minor weekend traveling.

Last years trip to the Grana Padano Cheese factory, one of my cooking classes with my Italian instructor and the Olive Oil factory:

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That was enough to get me saving and planning for this trip I’m about to embark on. I won’t be doing as much cooking as I did my previous time (only a few simple dishes cooked in hostels), but I’ll be going to a ton more countries. My goal for this trip is to not only see new things, places and people, but also to taste new cuisines to inspire a few new dishes to add to my upcoming cookbook!

Once I get back, official recipe testing and cook book creating will be on the way! Lots of work to be done, so before the madness and as a graduation gift to myself… Europe it is.

Here’s probably the last recipe I’ll be posting in a while. But don’t worry! This isn’t the last for two months. I’ll be posting about my experience abroad, the food I eat and the workouts/hikes/classes I do.

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad

serves 2

Ingredients

1 pre-cooked chicken breast, torn into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup dry israeli cous cous

1/2 cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 green bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup thinly chopped red onion

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles

1 handful italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

7 large basil leaves, thinly sliced (julienned)

2 small garlic cloves, sliced

1 small chunk of either grana padano or parmigiano reggiano cheese (you’ll need a micro grater to grate this)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

salt

1. Make the Israeli cous cous. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium heat. Add the Israeli Cous Cous and stir around, toasting the cous cous for about five minutes. Add 2/3 cup water, raise to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5-6 minutes and then drain excess liquid. Put this to the side to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Make the pesto. You can either use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. I think the pesto tastes 1000000x better when made with a mortar and pestle, but it’s up to you. Combine the pine nuts and garlic in the mortar. Crush until the ingredients almost form a paste. Add the olive oil and basil and crush/grind. This process takes a few minutes. Lastly, stir in about 2 tablespoons of micro grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano cheese and a pinch of salt.

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3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, tomatoes and onions. Pour the pesto on top and toss to combine. Separate the mixture into two bowls or plates and top with the israeli cous cous and goat cheese crumbles.

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My bitches (dogs..and cats) make me happy

People who own animals (particularly dogs) tend to be happier and healthier people. Because of the necessity of walking dogs, they make the owners more active and spend more time outside (which in turn gives you more vitamin D, which studies have found decreases risk of depression). They also make people happy simply by having the company of unconditional love that animals provide.

Fun fact: when a dog sees their owner, their brain releases the same hormones that are involved in our brains when we are in love. You are your dogs life. They love you. What else could anyone ask for?

I’ve had pets my entire life. We call our house “the Bates Zoo” because we’ve literally housed it all: 2 turtles, 2 doves, 5 dogs, countless finches, 3 fish and at least 10 cats. Right now we only have two dogs and two cats (which is a considerably smaller number considering our past amount of animals).

I can’t imagine living a life without animals. Actually I can. When I was in college, the majority of the time I didn’t have any pets. For a year and a half I had my cat, Sherlock, living with me but other than that, only humans inhabiting my apartments.

It wasn’t that it was awful not having animals, but it was lonely. I would wake up without a kitty sleeping next to my face and come home without dogs barking and jumping on top of me.

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This may sound strange, but my animals have provided me of so much through out the years. Coda (the dog I’m snuggling with above) is my dog that I’ve had since I was 9 years old. She’s my protector. We got her from a kill shelter when she was 8 months old. She had previously been abused and was a little skittish around people and other animals. After a while, she grew to love me and my family and become protective of us. Whenever I’m with Coda, I honestly feel safe.

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CODA THE ENFORCER!!! Kind of kidding. But I actually do feel safe when I’m home alone at night and she’s standing guard by my side.

And then there’s Rusty Roo.

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Rusty’s my love bug. She is the definition of pure and innocent happiness. As soon as I see Rusty’s little face stretched with a human like smile and her enormous booty partaking in a full body wiggle of happiness, any day is made 100000 times better. Everyone loves Rusty.

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She’s also a little sausage and about 15 pounds overweight, but that just means that there’s more of her to love.

Rusty is a semi-feral pup. Well, her mom was. My uncle found her mom on the 4th of July hiding in a dumpster. He took her in and realized a few weeks later (as she was giving birth to 10 puppies) that she was pregnant. 14 year old Autumn successfully convinced her mom to take one of the 8 week old pups in and no one has ever regretted that decision.

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Rusty Roo the Love Bug Guru.

Sherlie (Sherlock) was a feral kitten that I adopted from the pound when I was in school in Tucson.

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He was covered in fleas, ringworm and mites when I first got him. He had a rough little childhood going through multiple therapies to rid him of all his disease. Then when he was a year old he had a bad case of kidney stones and we thought he wasn’t going to survive. But we did everything we could to remedy him of the stones and now he’s disease free! He’s a feisty little snuggle puss full of personality. He’s lovey at night and in the morning when he sleeps right next to (and often on top of) my head. And during the day he chases the unrequited love of our other cat, Callie.

Sherlock made coming home after school to an often times empty apartment a lot more enjoyable.

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He’s also extremely photogenic and kind of a ham.

My animals make me happy. They give me a purpose on days when I have nothing else to do and provide me of ample love and laughter when I need it most.

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They need me. I need them.

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And even though my mom doesn’t like to admit it, she needs them too.

My animals make me happy which ultimately makes me healthier.

A win, win if you ask me.

The simple act of being kind

I feel extraordinarily at peace with where I am in life right now. I have an incredible family, I live in a beautiful city, I’m able to pursue my passion for nutrition and fitness while living rent free with my parents and I have great friends who can make me laugh and remind me once again how lucky I am. My life is full of ups and downs, as most people’s are. There’s no such thing as someone having a problem-free existence. The happy moments wouldn’t be so happy if it weren’t for the unfortunate moments as well. And that’s the thing I think most people forget: everyone has problems. Our own problems always seem exponentially larger than anyone elses because they are our own problems. So we lash out, we blame, we convince ourselves that the person who was rude to us has no right to be so mean.

Trust me, I’ve worked in the service industry since I was 13 so I know how awful people can get. Never worked as a waitress before? Well, you can really tell what a person is like by the way they treat people who “serve” them. So I came across my fair share of jerks and a**h****.

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This is me at my first real job. I was a waitress for 2.5 years at a local breakfast spot in my hometown. My friend (on the right) and I used to watch a lot of “SpongeBob Squarepants” on rainy days when it was slow…

But letting those people who are having a bad day ruin your day as well will do nothing but continue the vicious cycle of people being dicks to each other. From my years of experience of working with and around jerks, I’ve learned that the only way to deal with these people while still coming out as a positive and happy person, is to spread some random acts of kindness to others.

Think of a time when someone was rude to you and you lashed out back at them. Did you feel better? Did the “lashing out” cause you to be happy? Did it solve any problems? Most likely, the answer is no. It can be hard to be kind to those who are so mean to you, but ultimately, you will be happier and in a better place because of it.

If being kind to jerks is too difficult, try first being kind to those you don’t know.

When I was in school, I was living off of a very tight food budget. There was one particularly stressful day where I was freaking out about my future because graduation was approaching, I was scared to leave my friends and I felt lost in a sea of confusion and anxiety. I took a break from studying and walked to the store to buy some lunch. Outside of the store, there was this homeless lady who drew pictures to sell for food. She was probably in her late 60’s. She never begged or asked for money. She just went along drawing pictures in exchange for food to keep her alive.

Seeing her made me forget my problems and think about her. I felt the need to bring some positivity to her life in any little way that I could. Instead of spending my money on lunch for myself, I bought a sandwich and a hard boiled egg with a water bottle to bring out to her.

She thanked me and I talked to her for a little about her drawings. She mostly drew pictures of the people that walked past. She told me she liked to draw people and imagine what their lives were like.

After I left to return to my studying, my anxiety was gone and I felt happy. Reaching out to someone else and displaying a little act of a humanity reminded me that happiness is all that matters in life. Instead of lash out from my anxiety and fear at the first person I could, I did the exact opposite. It made me feel happy. It spread happiness to another human being. My negative emotions were replaced with positive ones.

You don’t have to be charitable in order to be kind. Just remember that none of us on this planet want to be sad or lonely. We all want to belong. We all want to be happy. Just the simple act of being kind is enough to spread happiness to all of those around you.

Laugh when you feel sad.

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Smile when you’ve been wronged.

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Hug those that have forgotten how to be happy.

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Spend time with family.

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Make time for friends.

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Do what you love.

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Simply be kind. And you will be happier for it.

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Matcha… Yuck-a

Today’s my day off from work. Most of my friends have real jobs so they can’t hang out with me when I have free time… So I do a lot of activities by myself. I try out new coffee shops, I go for runs, I spend all day cooking/writing and occasionally binge watching shows like An Idiot Abroad, Game of Thrones or Friends. 

I was that kind of paralyzing bored today where you feel like absolutely nothing can entertain you and you end up just sitting on the couch all day moaning about how bored you are. It’s a vicious cycle. I know it’s a viscous cycle. So on my third episode of The Ricky Gervais show, I forced myself off of the couch and made my way down to a coffee shop the next town over that I’ve never tried. The only cure for boredom is to do something you’ve never done before. Trying a matcha latte would be my thing to do today. 

  

Perfect!! It looks so pretty and it’s so healthy that it MUST taste good too, right?!

Wrong.

I was really excited when I grabbed my pretty little cup of green from the barista. I sat down, took my picture and then sipped away. I was greeted with a chalky texture and earthy flavor. The flavor I actually didn’t mind so much, the texture is what bummed me out.

  

I knew that matcha was green tea powder but I just didn’t expect it to taste like powder. It left a green mustache on my upper lip that I wasn’t aware of for a solid five minutes.

  

Notice my little green ‘stache? My mom did. She thought it was funny to keep me in the dark for a bit while I chatted away, looking like I made out with the hulk. 

After I got past the initial powdery shock, it actually tasted kind of good. Like milky green tea. I still probably wouldn’t order it again, despite being high in antioxidants, trace minerals and certain vitamins. 

But I gave it a go. That’s all I can ask of myself as well as of anyone else. 

  

It really does make for a pretty picture though, doesn’t it? 

All the unnecessary thoughts floating in my mind while meditating on the beach

Today, I tried to meditate on the beach. I occasionally get bad day to day anxiety and my dad has been insisting that meditation would help with it so I thought I would give it a go. I’ve tried meditation before and I generally enjoy it when I’m able to remove thoughts from my mind, but getting to that point is really hard! Especially when your mind goes a million miles per second like mine does. With practice, I’m sure it will get a lot easier, but today was about 3% solid meditation and 97% random thoughts. IMG_5577 Case in point: While writing the above paragraph, I found it absolutely necessary to pause and take this picture of the beach with the little bird in profile. Jesus. I laid out my towel on the beach, sat with my legs crossed while facing the ocean, closed my eyes and attempted to simply focus on the air entering and leaving my body. The assortment of thoughts that entered my brain were similar to those of a dream. Just random. Jurassic Park entere my mind. Where would I hide from a t rex that was also inaccessible to a velociraptor. WHERE WOULD I HIDE??? While trying to push that thought out, I began to think of backpacks and how much weight I could hold. I mean, my books in college were pretty heavy. My computer weights about five pounds also… At some point my brain was talking in a british accent. I don’t know, maybe it just wanted to test it out? It was all very weird. But during that 3% of successful silence (finally), I felt physically quiet and at peace. There were no problems. There was no past and no future. No dinosaurs to hide from. No backpacks to carry. Just that moment. IMG_5581 My post meditation glow 🙂 I’m going to keep trying to meditate. Hopefully every day. Maybe I’ll get to the point where focusing on my breath and nothing else isn’t so hard. I don’t want to feel panicked or scared anymore for virtually no reason. That alone is enough to make me return to the beach and try to push away images of problems and random thoughts. To me, it’s worth the daily attempt.