The Results of My 10-Day Yoga Challenge

Fitness, Healthy Living, New York City, Travel

The Results of My 10-Day Yoga Challenge

6 Comments 11 August 2016

Clearly, I overestimated my newly found mindfulness, because on Saturday morning, hours after finishing Day 5 of my 10-Day Yoga Challenge, I looked down at my feet and didn’t recognize the flip flops I was wearing. They did look very similar to the ones I wore to yoga earlier that morning, same color, same style, and they fit rather comfortably. But there was a little pizazz to the stitching that I didn’t remember noticing before. At first I thought, “Wow, look at me honing my focus to such little details. Yoga is really increasing my awareness.” But upon further investigation, I realized that in my post-class reverie, I had slipped on someone else’s shoes. I feel terrible for the person who walked home or hopefully just hobbled to their car barefooted, which they must have done, because when I went back to the closed studio, there were my flip flops waiting for me outside the door.

If you missed my last post, I’m attempting 10 consecutive day of yoga at Power Yoga Buffalo while away from New York for the summer. Why? You’ll have to read that post which covers Days 1-5.

The first 5 days felt eternal. I was constantly sore, every class seemed never-ending, and I couldn’t help but come out of poses early in order to prevent total muscle failure that would have resulted in me collapsing to the floor. After every class I felt relief that it was over and thought that maybe that would be my last class, but as the day went on I started looking forward to the next one.

Days 6-10 were definitely hard, but each day I felt victorious instead of relieved at the end of class. I didn’t just endure and let it happen. I actually did the practice. The soreness started to melt away, and I became less intimidated by certain poses. Sitting in chair pose no longer felt like torture. I started to flow through transitions, albeit while wobbling, from one pose to another instead of seeing each pose as a separate challenge.

On Day 6 I found my people. My people show up on Sunday mornings at 7:00 when the 20-somethings with the cute yoga butts are at home sleeping off their Saturday nights. But Sunday mornings my people show up. They’re the ones who snuck out of the house before the kids woke up. They’re the ones who are squeezing in 75 minutes for themselves before they haul everyone to church and then cook brunch for the family. They don’t have tatoos or the most stylish yoga gear. But these people work hard. On Day 6, we smoked it.

Day 7 needed to happen at the non-summery hour of 6am in order for me not to break my streak. I had a few things scheduled throughout the day, and believe me, if I could’ve chosen another time, I would have. But I’m actually glad I went that early. I liked these people, too. I am these people. They rolled out of bed, just like I did, but now they will head to work feeling like the hardest part of their day is over. That’s exactly how I felt when I taught 6am spin class. After conquering that mountain, I could do anything. Bring it, Day.

What are the chances I can find a 6am yoga class in New York?

Day 8. The reason I had to take the 6am class on Day 7 was that my sister-in-law invited me to a BodyPump class at her YMCA. I adore BodyPump almost as much as I adore my sister-in-law, so there was no way I was going to turn this offer down. I used to be a certified BodyPump instructor and loved teaching it in that terrified love sort of way, but I hadn’t taken a BodyPump class in about a year because it’s not easy to find in the City. If I had kept up with it even as a participant I would not be the weak-armed, 40-something woman that I am today.

BP_Gluten-Free_Cat

If you have a gym nearby that offers BodyPump. GO to it. You will find that strong self that you forgot was there.

I assumed I would feel the way I always feel when I lift weights for the first time after weeks/months of weightliftinglessness. Like Wile E. Coyote flattened at the bottom of a canyon by that huge boulder that inevitably caught up with him. But something incredible happened in that class on Day 8. Power yoga completely erased any potential soreness from Body Pump. I kept waiting for that delayed onset muscle soreness, which happens to my body like clockwork 36 hours after asking it to do something new. It never came.

PYB_Gluten-Free_Cat

On Day 9 I started to feel a little panicky. I only had two days left. And after that I’ll purchase another week, and then it will be over! I will be leaving Buffalo and this adorable little studio. I was already starting to miss it. Now that I know about this, how am I going to get on without it?

Day 10 was a powerful class. There wasn’t anything drastically different from what we normally do, but it was a powerful class because I felt powerful. There’s a lot of repetition in power yoga. The flow is repeated, poses are held multiple times, and it’s easy to get lost in the “one more time” mentality. In fact, on Day 9 the only way to keep my mind present was to count the vinyasas. We did 32.

My instructor uses a phrase that I’ve come to love. “You’ve never been in this warrior before…you’ve never been in this chair pose before….” Even though we’ve done it 10 times already today? Even though. This one is brand new. What does this do for me? It gets me out of my head, out of my preconceived notions about what I’ve done before and what I am capable of today. Yesterday’s successes and failures do not define me now. And this reminder pushes me to do my best. Be my best. Open myself up to new possibilities. This is something that I can take with me.

  • I’ve never taught this lesson before.
  • I’ve never run these 3 miles before.
  • I’ve never had this day ahead of me before.
  • I’ve never had this conversation before.
  • I’ve never had this opportunity to love this person before.
  • I’ve never experience this moment before.

If this had been the only thing I’d learned from this yoga challenge it would’ve been enough. But after 10 days of power yoga, here are my other takeaways:

  • Showing up is half the battle.
  • Breath is power.
  • I’m stronger than I think.
  • Being present on my mat spills over to being present in my life.
  • There is no such thing as a yoga body.
  • I need to make yoga a priority in NYC.

And in just 10 short days I’ve noticed these surprising little benefits too:

  • Defined arm and leg muscles
  • Tighter abdominals
  • Better posture
  • Deeper sleep
  • Improved flexibility
  • More positive attitude
  • Increased patience (confirmed by the Husband)
  • Disappearance of “age” aches and pains
  • Brighter complexion
  • A sense of gratefulness

Buffalo friends, give Power Yoga a try! I’ll join you there every time I’m in town!

Readers, dish!

  • NYC friends, do you have a studio to recommend?
  • In what area of your life can you remind yourself that you’ve never done this one before?
  • What positive effects do you experience from exercise?
Summer Goals and a 10-Day Yoga Challenge

Fitness, Healthy Living, New York City, Travel

Summer Goals and a 10-Day Yoga Challenge

7 Comments 06 August 2016

Summer flies when you’re a teacher  Most people think we have 3 months off, but we really only have two. I know. Cry me a river, right? But you really do want us to have two months away from your children. Those 2 months are why we can welcome your kids back to school in the fall with genuine excitement and pour every last ounce of energy and creativity that we rebuilt over the summer into teaching them for another 10 months. By June, we are exhausted and running on the fumes of a distant memory when we passionately decided to change the world one student at a time.

Summer is also time for taking care of things that we let slide during the school year. Things like healthy eating, visiting family, decluttering cupboards, reading books above a fifth grade reading level, lunching with friends, and annual mammograms.

Summer is a great time for setting personal goals. Teachers are required to set goals. We have professional goals that we discuss with our principals, class goals that set tone and expectations, learning goals for each unit, individual student goals that can be educational, behavioral, or social. We are so driven by goals that when I have a few weeks without a goal I feel a little rudderless. I’m really not sure if I could function for two entire months without a goal of some sort.

One of my summer goals is to get back to my yoga practice. I have never been a yogi. When I taught fitness classes, I made sure to attend a yoga class or whip out a Baron Baptiste Yoga in a Box once a week. With all of my spinning, running, BodyPump, and sculpting classes I needed yoga to keep any kind of flexibility. But when I moved to New York, yoga was the first things to drop off my fitness plate. Then lifting weights soon followed. Now I’m lucky if I run or spin 3-4 days each week.

Yoga back in the day

Yoga in my favorite place

So enter this character in the Summer of 2016. Not the character pictured above. Enter a weak-armed, 40-something woman with the memory of yoga being a nice challenge that was pretty great for you. I needed to find a yoga studio.

Each summer we spend about a month out of the city. It’s refreshing to temporarily re-enter suburban life and remind ourselves that there is normalcy in rest of the country. Driving to the grocery store instead of walking seems a luxury. Buying a full cart of groceries, not limiting my purchases to whatever will fit in my backpack and two grocery bags, one for each hand. Wheeling that cart to the car, or better yet, having a clerk wheel it out for me. Then driving the groceries to the house where I unload directly into the kitchen which is 10 steps from the front door. Suburban normalcy.

I expected to have to drive to a yoga studio in the burbs, but to my surprise, there is a Power Yoga Studio literally at the end of the street where we’re staying. So in quintessential NYC form, I strapped on my yoga bag and walked a block to this studio.

They have a new student special consisting of 10 consecutive days for $20. It doesn’t take a Common Core math teacher to figure out that this is an incredible deal. Obviously the deal is sweeter if I go all 10 days. Two dollars per class? You can’t find that in NYC.

Motivated by a good deal, my goal began to clarify. Could I go to power yoga for 10 days in a row? Power yoga translates to hard and fast, and I’m coming from a base of zero. And it’s a 75 minute class in a 90 degree studio. That doesn’t sound too terribly bad, especially when it’s about 95 degrees outside. That’s what I told myself anyway. But I sweat while sitting on my mat waiting for class to start.

Don’t forget that the character in this story is a weak-armed, 40-something woman with the memory of yoga being a nice challenge that was pretty great for you. 

Her memory…

Yoga_Beach_Gluten-FreeCat

Yoga with a beach view

Well, I started the deal and tentatively set my 10-day goal.

Day 1 was a wake up call. I know that for some reason, whenever I get back into yoga after a period of yogalessness, I have to be careful how much time I spend upside down. A simple downward-facing dog will cause my head to pound so hard that blood vessels burst in my face. I learned this the hard way, by pushing through the discomfort. Pushing through and not listening to your body is very non-yogalike. So I warned the instructor that I’d need to come out of most inversions early. I flowed. I bent. I twisted. I held. I tried not to think about the 20-somethings with cute little butts who made it look so easy. I flowed some more. I wobbled. I warriored. I warriored so many times I wondered if she forgot the rest of the sequence. My face felt like it was going to explode each time I went down, I took breaks, and I made it through. I was so glad that I thought to bring my yoga towel left over from that Groupon package that one month I tried Bikrim. Beads of sweat dotted every inch of my flesh from the start. I left drenched but with my complexion in tact, and I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to move the next morning.

Day 2 hurt to get out of bed, as expected. But I went. And it was so hard! I had no idea one’s arms could shake like that.

Yoga Text

Barely.

And this text pretty much sums up my intention not to continue with my goal.

Yoga Text 2

Specifically the “Bahahahahaha!”

But I went back on Day 3 for Power Yoga Hour. This meant that the class was literally an hour, a 60 minute class instead of the 75 that I had been doing. Choosing this class was the only way I could convince myself that I might be able to make it through the third day in a row. It would be shorter.

There are no clocks in a yoga studio. Why aren’t there clocks in a yoga studio??? For teachers whose days are run by the clock with every minute accounted for, time is a huge part of the day. We are constantly looking and checking the clock. Are we on schedule, behind schedule, miraculously ahead of schedule? Do I need to modify the lesson to get to Gym on time? Are they glazing over because they’ve been in their seats too long? How long have Suzie and Sally been in the bathroom? Even outside of school I’m addicted to the clock. I just need to know what time it is. I do have an uncanny ability to guess within minutes the time at any given moment. But then again it could just be that I checked 5 minutes ago.

There are no clocks in this yoga studio, but because of my ability to feel the minutes tick by I knew that this class was soon coming to an end. It just had to be almost over. I was drenched. I was spent. But it kept going. And I kept going. I reached the point where I wondered if the next chaturanga dandasana would be interrupted by a face plant on my mat, because I had no strength left to prevent it. Each vinyasa became a prayer, please don’t let me hit my face, please don’t let me hit my face. The first thing I did after class ended, after I dragged my limp body out of the studio to gather my belongings, was to check the clock. 75 minutes! That hour was not an hour at all! I felt tricked.

Something started to happen the afternoon of Day 3. I had an itch on my upper arm and felt something. Not a bug or a loose hair. It was a bump, the beginning of a muscle where my atrophied tricep used to be. I could actually feel my tricep again! Now mind you it was sore to the touch, but it was there! And walking up stairs I had this feeling like a cute yoga butt was in the making.

Day 4. I dreaded this class more than Day 2 and 3 put together, because I felt soreness with every step as I walked to class. Climbing the stairs I felt fatigued and out of breath. But I was also excited. I was getting stronger, and those extra suggestions like “and now you can try firefly” or “pop up into a headstand” or “flip your dog” didn’t cause my eyes to roll. They just hung in the air as a maybe. Not today, but maybe at some point.

Yoga is supposed to quiet the mind. But I find that my mind is still as active as ever. Here are a few things that were on my mind on Day 4:

(In plank) I can watch sweat drip off my forehead and onto my mat directly in line with my hands. I wonder if that means my alignment is on. Or off.

It must really hurt to get a foot tatoo.

There’s an ant crawling on that girl’s mat! (Girl effortlessly jumps from rag doll back to plank.) No! Little ant!! Did she smush him? Oh, there he is under the edge of her mat. Close one, buddy.

“Leg parallel to the floor.” I must be close. (I check myself.) Nope, nowhere near.

Please don’t let me hit my face.

Breathe.

How many of these are we going to do?

Please don’t let me hit my face.

No way! I did it!! (Wobble. Fall.)

How can my heart be pounding like this when I’m just standing still?

Do I feel so good after class because I spend an hour sweating out toxins or because this torture is finally over?

Leaving it on the mat

Interestingly, I haven’t once thought about what I needed to do that day, school, or things I should be doing but have been putting off. So at least my thoughts were truly in the moment even if I hadn’t reached that quiet space yet.

Then today, Day 5, happened. I had to get up summer early to fit in a class before Saturday’s activities. I woke up without feeling debilitatingly sore. I walked the quiet streets of the suburbs, recognizing that my city neighborhood would already be buzzing with dogs on leashes heading to the park, bead-headed dads stumbling into bodegas for coffee, and women in spandex heading to various fitness studios. Here, I was the only person on the street passed by an occasional car.

Laying on my mat before class, already feeling the sweat beads forming, there was no indication that this class would be any different than the 4 previous days. I scoped out a few people with watches and wondered if I’d be able to sneak peeks to gauge the progress of the class.

And then it started. I moved, I embraced the struggle of holding poses, I flipped my freakin’ dog! I noticed things about my movements that weren’t clear before. My balance was more steady. I realized that if I engaged my legs during chaturanga there was no fear of a face plant. Don’t hear me say that it was easy. It was easy like running 10 miles is easy when you’re training for a marathon. But it no longer felt like running 10 miles when I hadn’t run in a year. And at one point I realized that I wasn’t thinking about anything. I even tried to think of something that might distract me, and I couldn’t. Nothing else really mattered in that moment but the practice. Could yoga be the answer to taming the rat on the exercise wheel in my head?

We shall see!

Readers, dish!

  • Do you practice yoga?
  • What kind of yoga do you like?
  • How do you bring your mind back to your practice?
  • What are your summer goals?

PYB

Fitness in New York City

Fitness, Healthy Living, New York City

Fitness in New York City

4 Comments 11 May 2016

Staying fit in New York is both ridiculously easy and ridiculously hard. It’s easy because there’s a gym on your way to just about everywhere, racks of CitiBikes line the streets at convenient intersections, a serious bike path parallels the Hudson River on the west side, and there’s this really huge park (you may have heard of it) called Central Park a block and a half from my apartment. Easy fitness, right?

Frisbee in the Park

Frisbee in the Park

Yoga in the Park

Yoga in the Park

But some days the City is your workout. First of all, New Yorkers walk everywhere, and with that comes challenges. Slogging through buckets of slush at intersections that rise unsuspectingly to your knee caps. Carrying grocery bags for blocks on every arm crevice from your elbows and wrists to pinky fingers. Sprinting for the subway station, because the app says your train is arriving in 60 seconds. Walking endless flights of stairs to get, well, almost anywhere, because Manhattan can only expand up or down. All of this exercise is just part of life. And there are days and weeks when just the simple act of living wipes you out, and an extra spin class or treadmill run just isn’t going to happen.

This morning, exercising was easy. Ok, a 6:00 am run before school isn’t ever really easy, but when you have this view the entire time you’re running, the pain is a little more palatable.

Reservoir_Gluten-FreeCat

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park is gorgeous any time of year, but Spring is definitely a favorite.

The Reservoir in September

The Reservoir in September

The reservoir while stretching

The Reservoir early this morning

Okay, you can do this.

Psyching myself up

And we're off

And we’re off

Reservoir5_Gluten-FreeCat

Finally in the groove

Reservoir 6_Gluten-FreeCat

1.66 miles of this…as many times around as you can handle

Reservoir5_Gluten-FreeCat

Rounding the bend

Done!

Done!

Shadow Selfie

Shadow selfie feeling accomplished

What’s the biggest obstacle to exercising that you face?

Almost Speechless (NYC Marathon 2013)

Fitness, New York City

Almost Speechless (NYC Marathon 2013)

6 Comments 04 November 2013

An inspiring event ran through our “back yard” yesterday, and I thought I’d share a glimpse of it with you. The immensity of the event and the dedication of all who were involved renders me almost speechless. The athletes who trained and competed, the police officers who shut down busy city streets, the crowds bringing encouragement… It left me with few words.

Endurance_Gluten-Free_CatEndurance

Motivation_Gluten-Free_CatMotivation

Determination_Gluten-Free_CatDetermination

Strength_Gluten-Free_CatStrength

Committment_Gluten-Free_CatCommitment

Priscah_Jeptoo_Gluten-Free_CatPriscah Jeptoo – Women’s Marathon Winner

Geoffrey_Mutai_Gluten-Free_Cat

Geoffrey Mutai – Men’s Marathon Winner

Possibilities_Gluten-Free_CatPossibilities

Hope_Gluten-Free_CatHope

Readers, dish!

What brought you encouragement or inspiration this weekend?

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fitness, GF Recipes, Healthy Living

Stuffed Acorn Squash

21 Comments 24 September 2012

I have this strange habit.  I sign up for a challenge, accomplish it, and then stop. Cold turkey.

On Memorial Day weekend, I ran a marathon.  A FULL marathon.  My FIRST marathon.  That was FOUR months ago.  I haven’t run outside since crossing that finish line…well, except to see who just fell off the monkey bars at recess.  Three years ago, I finished an Olympic length triathlon.  I swam, I biked, I ran.  But after finishing that event, the bike sat in the garage, and I don’t think I’ve entered a lap pool since.  While I haven’t miss the pool, I felt badly for my poor bike.

I even loaned it out to a few people for a few races. It’s a great bike, and it seemed such a shame to have it sit collecting cobwebs. But me? I was content to teach spin classes. Inside.

I have no idea why a finish line holds such a sense of finality for me.  Not just for the day. Not just for the season. But for quite a long time. I tell myself that it’s because I pour myself into my training. By the time the event arrives, I’m ready to be done, and I’m ready for something else. During the last few weeks of training, I dream of yoga or lying on a beach somewhere. Maybe I just don’t have the drive of a true athlete.

But I’m happy to say that I’m finally back to riding my bike.  And I owe it all to my friend, Julie. Julie is an inspiration to me. She is currently training for her second century ride. (Yes, that’s 100 miles. My butt bones can’t even imagine 100 miles in a saddle.) And she has sweetly put on the brakes to allow me to keep up with her for portions of her training rides. I am LOVING it!  Despite the soreness, I love riding in the cool of the early morning, knocking off 30-40 miles before church on a Sunday. It has become the highlight of my week.

What does this have to do with acorn squash?

Nothing really, but as Julie and I ride the rolling hills of the Nachez Trace, I find that our conversation always seems to come back to food.  Recently, Julie asked me if I liked acorn squash. My mind instantly went back to the squash memories of my childhood.  The kind that involved the phrase “you will not leave the table until…” But while grocery shopping later that afternoon, the pile of acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash just looked so fresh and inviting. The gourds smiled at me and said, “This is Fall.  Enjoy me.” Okay, maybe I needed a little sugar after that long ride.

But I loved the acorn squash. And I think you will too. Stuffed with a sweet apple and spinach filling, this squash dish ushered in the season of Fall.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

by Heather

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squashes
  • 1 green apple
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 c. spinach
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 T. grade B maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375.

2.  Cut 2 acorn squashes in half, remove the seeds, and place the squash face down on a jelly roll pan covered with foil.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Then turn them over and cook for another 30 minutes.

3.  Core and chop apples and toss the apple pieces in lemon juice to keep them from browning.

4.  Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium heat.  Add minced garlic and stir for 2 minutes.

5.  Add onions and apples and sprinkle with nutmeg.  Cook for 5 minutes.

6.  Add spinach, and cook until the spinach wilts.

7.  Season with sea salt, add maple syrup, and remove from heat.

8.  Toast pinenuts in a toaster oven, or wait until the squash is cooked and toast them in the oven.

9.  Remove squash after it’s cooked, stuff each half with apple spinach mixture, and sprinkle with pinenuts.

Serves 4

Thanks, Julie, for your inspiration!  Both physically and in the kitchen!

Readers, dish!

  • Do you like acorn squash?
  • How do you deal with physical challenges?
  • Do you enjoy running or biking?
  • What’s your favorite finish line memory?
This recipe was shared with:
Raw Energy Gel (and my first marathon)

Fitness, GF Recipes, Raw Foods

Raw Energy Gel (and my first marathon)

21 Comments 02 June 2012

You can do anything you put your mind to.  It sounds a little cliche, but there’s a lot of truth to it, especially when running a marathon.

For the past 5 months I’ve been training for a marathon.  My first marathon.  Right now I’m thinking that it will be my only marathon.  I haven’t been too vocal about it, because I wasn’t sure that I’d be successful.  I’ve run many half marathons, but 26.2 miles is a heck of a lot longer than 13.1.  Okay, mathematically I know it’s exactly twice as long, but a full marathon (or “the full” as people from a running town like Nashville call it) might have well been 4 times longer.  It just seemed unattainable.

But last weekend, the Husband and I finished the Buffalo Marathon!  And oh did it feel fantastic!  (Well, after the days of hobbling and icing.)  I now have so much respect for those who run marathons to improve their time and for those who run marathon after marathon because they love it.  I have no idea how they do it.  But I’m thrilled that we were able to finish “the full” in under 5 hours.

Even if it’s just this once.

But this is a food blog.  What does running a marathon have to do with food?

Everything.

Fitness is all about food.  Without food there is no fitness.  Fitness starts with choosing the right food to fuel the work that you ask your body to do.

When I started training, I was eating a high raw diet.  While the mileage was low, I had enough energy to teach kindergarten, lead 4-5 fitness classes, and run three times each week. But when the mileage reached double digits I needed more fuel.  Carbohydrate fuel.  So I started adding brown rice, beans, quinoa, and quinoa pasta (my favorite pre-long run meal), and suddenly those long runs felt better.

Another issue I had to face was nutrition during those long runs.  In the past, I’ve used Hammer Nutrition Gels, GU Energy Gels, and Jelly Belly Sport Beans, all gluten-free products, to give me a boost when training longer than an hour.  But since eating a clean, mostly raw, vegan diet, I had a hard time with the idea of sucking down a package that contained processed ingredients.

So I made my own Raw Energy Gel, and over 5 months of training, I tweaked it until I found the perfect recipe.

This Raw Energy Gel not only took me through the training months, but more importantly, it fueled me through 26.2 miles on race day.

These are the power ingredients.

For many of my runs, a tablespoon of chia seeds was all I needed, but when the mileage increased, the sugar in agave nectar, honey, and dates did the trick.  (Read this post for more information on the power of chia seeds.)

Carob powder makes this gel taste like a Rolo.  Do you remember those?  Gooey caramel encased in chocolate.  ***Note, Chatfield’s Carob does not claim to be gluten-free.  See comments below.

Just toss the ingredients into a mini-food processor and let them sit for an hour to allow the dates to soften and the chia seeds to gel.

Then puree until it’s smooth.

I found that 1 1/2 tablespoons of gel was the perfect amount for every 5 miles.  Any more and I was too full to run.  Any less and I bonked.  Hard.  Play with the serving size to see what works for your body.

I scooped 1 1/2 tablespoons into a Ziploc Snack Bag and stored them in the fridge.

While running, I squeeze the gel into the corner of the baggie, bit off the baggie tip, and squeezed the gel right into my mouth.  Instant energy.

This recipe makes 5-6 bags of Raw Energy Gel.  Store them in the fridge, but take them out a few minutes before shoving them in your running shorts. Brrrrrr!

Raw Energy Gel

by Heather

Ingredients:

  • 6 raw dates
  • 1/2 c. raw agave nectar/honey combination (I use 50/50, but play with the ratio to find your ideal combination.)
  • 1 T. chia seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 T. carob powder

Directions:

1.  Place all ingredients in a mini-food processor, and let them sit for 1 hour.

2.  Process until the mixture is almost smooth. (Leaving the dates a little chunky gives you something to chew while running…a nice distraction from the running.)

3.  Scoop 1 1/2 tablespoon of gel into each snack-sized baggie.

4.  Press the air out of each baggie, zip them up, and store the baggies in the fridge.

Makes five 1 ½ T. servings

Run well, run fueled, and run raw!

Readers, dish!

  • Do you have a dream goal that seems unattainable?
  • Endurance athletes, what do you eat during training?
  • What physical accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • What could you do if you put your mind to it?
This recipe was shared with:

 

Guest Post! The Gift of a Lunchbox

Fitness, GF Recipes, GF Resources

Guest Post! The Gift of a Lunchbox

15 Comments 05 April 2011

Today, I am opening a special gift that I’d like to share with you.  It’s the gift of a lunchbox from Valerie, a new friend from City|Life|Eats.  I hope her guest post inspires you as much as it inspires me!

Hello Gluten-Free Cat readers! Heather guest-blogged a wonderful lunchbox completely suited to my various food intolerances and restrictions last week on my blog, so I am thrilled to be making her a lunchbox today. There is one catch, in that we do not live in the same city, so sadly I cannot actually give Heather this lunchbox to take with her to work, but I hope it still provides inspiration for her and all of you.

Switching to a gluten-free diet, whether because of a Celiac diagnosis or non-Celiac gluten intolerance, entails so many changes –  scrutinizing labels, reinventing old favorites, reorganizing kitchens and pantries –  but I think for many of us, one of the biggest changes is eating out, especially when on-the-go, whether on your lunch break or out on the weekends.  I know before switching to a gluten-free diet, I brought my lunch to work almost every day, but I also knew I could rely on local lunch places if need be.  This is no longer the case since discovering I am intolerant to gluten, dairy and chicken eggs and also choosing to avoid refined sugars and a few other foods that do not agree with me. Yes, I can and do eat out, but it requires time, forethought and asking questions, and is not usually compatible with a short lunch break.

So now I pack my lunch and snacks without fail. Last September, I started writing a series on my blog called Today’s Lunchbox, thinking my lunchboxes might interest some of my readers.  I vastly underestimated the interest people have in this series.  What was initially a week-long project became month-long, and has now passed its six-month mark.  I mainly write about lunchboxes I bring to work (which generally include a lunch and a couple of snacks) but also weekend lunchboxes and travel lunchboxes.

As you know from reading Heather’s blog, she has a pretty packed schedule between teaching elementary school all day and leading intense exercise classes (see, the Accumulator) so her main requirements for a lunchbox are that it be gluten-free  and high enough in protein to sustain her energy.   My job is much more sedentary but I think we can all relate to wanting a nutrient-dense and energy-packed lunchbox.  This is the lunchbox I came up with for Heather and one I enjoyed thoroughly last week:

  • Veggie-full Breakfast Hash from Ricki Heller’s new book Good Morning! Breakfasts without Sugar, Gluten, Eggs or Dairy. This e-book came out yesterday, but I actually was a recipe tester, so have been making this hash for a couple of months now.  It is technically a breakfast recipe, but I love it as a lunchbox staple.  While the recipe calls for tempeh or black beans, I use both to up the protein, and because I love the combination of textures of the tempeh, beans, sweet potatoes and vegetables.
  • Sides of roasted carrots and steamed kale.  I like how well steamed kale holds up in a lunchbox and it is a vegetable with a comparatively high amino acid profile, so I make sure to include it often in my lunchboxes.
  • A Pumpkin Cranberry Muffin from Carol Kicinski’s upcoming book Simply… Gluten-Free Desserts (reviewed here).  This muffin is made with almond flour and eggs (I substitute duck eggs for the chicken eggs) so packs quite a protein punch. I love this as a late-morning snack.
  • Pumpkin Chia Pudding – I am a huge fan of this recipe by Gena from Choosing Raw.  It has protein, healthy fats and some fiber, not to mention all the goodness from pumpkin and cinnamon.  I like chia puddings generally because they are easy to digest, have protein and are nutrient dense.  I often include a chia pudding in my lunchboxes and have made numerous variations, whether from other bloggers or variations of my own.

Packing a lunchbox requires forethought and time, but it is worth it to me.  I generally rely on leftovers and recipes such as the hash and the chia pudding that generate multiple servings.  I also like to rely on staples that are similar but not identical (like hummus, bean dips, or nut-based dips) which are easy in that the food processor does most of the work, and can be used to supplement a lunchbox (as a snack with veggies and/or crackers), or be the central component of a lunchbox (in wraps).

Valerie blogs at  City|Life|Eats about food, life, work, and living with food allergies and a modified diet. Her lunchboxes and recipes are gluten-free,  dairy-free  and often, but not exclusively, vegan.  You can subscribe to City|Life|Eats via RSS or email or connect with Valerie via Twitter or Facebook.

 

Pomegranate Chia Fresca: Run Like the Tarahumara!

Fitness, GF Recipes

Pomegranate Chia Fresca: Run Like the Tarahumara!

14 Comments 24 January 2011

Aside from the whole chia pet thing, I learned about the power of the chia seed while reading Born to Run, a book that tells the story of the Tarahumara Indians, long-distance runners in Mexico’s Copper Canyons.  These incredible athletes are able to run for days fueled on pinole and chia seeds while wearing the equivalent of tire treads strapped to the soles of their feet.

I certainly was not Born to Run, and I will never run an ultra marathon, but every book you read changes you some how.  Born to Run is no exception:

1.  I switched from my over-supportive running shoes to Nike Frees.  My feet are stronger, and I no longer make that emergency trip to Fleet Feet with an over-training injury the week before running in an event.

2.  My running style has changed from a heel strike to a midfoot strike resulting in a lighter gait and faster run times.

3.  I’m more in tune with my body as I run, and I can relax and enjoy the experience instead of longing for the end of the run.

4.  And I’ve learned the power of the chia seed.

Chia seeds are an ancient superfood that can add incredible nutritional benefits to your gluten-free diet. When added to water, chia seeds absorb the water and form a gel.  They can actually absorb 12 times their weight in water!  Drinking soaked chia seeds before a run or toting a baggie of dry seeds with you to munch on along the way can prolong hydration and help you retain electrolytes while exercising.  (If you try the dry seed method, just don’t smile at other runners passing by!)  This water absorption reaction also occurs in your stomach, slowing down the process by which digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates and convert them into sugar.  And because of their expansive nature, they’re known as a dieter’s dream as they help you feel satisfied.

Chia seeds are also:

  • High in Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Complete with all essential amino acids
  • Known as a complete protein
  • And provide phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc

They also have:

  • 2 times more potassium than bananas
  • 3 times more antioxidants than blueberries
  • More calcium than milk
  • And 5 grams of fiber in each 15 gram serving

So I took the benefits of this superfood,

and the nutrients of this simple, yet intriguing fruit,

and put them together into this one amazing drink.

You may have first seen my Pomegranate Chia Fresca featured in last week’s Friday’s Find when I praised the simple, naturally gluten-free pomegranate.  Whether you’re a runner, a gym rat, a yogi, or you just want an afternoon pick-me-up that’s packed with nutritional benefits, give this refreshing drink a try.

Pomegranate Chia Fresca
(adapted from No Meat Athlete since I don’t have access to any ancient Aztec or Mayan cookbooks – original recipe here)

Ingredients:

  • 1 T. dry chia seeds
  • 10 oz. water
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4-1/2 c. fresh pomegranate juice (yield from ½-1 c. pomegranate seeds or use POM Juice)
  • 2 drops of liquid stevia

Directions:

1.  Combine 1 T. of dry chia seeds with 10 ounces of water in a small glass or bowl.

2.  Stir the mixture gently with a spoon to keep the seeds from clumping together.

3.  Allow the mixture to stand for about 10 minutes until they form a gel.

4.  Add 2 tsp. of fresh lemon juice, ¼ c. of fresh pomegranate juice, and 2 drops stevia, and swirl until combined.

5.  Down the hatch and out the door!

 

Other ways to use chia seeds:

  • Sprinkle them on a salad
  • Stir them into yogurt
  • Add a teaspoon to gluten-free oatmeal or hot cereal
  • Add them to the batter of baked goods
  • Soak the seeds in water and add them to you favorite smoothie
  • Carry them in a baggie and crunch away while you run!

Have you tried chia seeds?  How do you like to use them?

Pumping Through Pumpkin Month

Fitness

Pumping Through Pumpkin Month

5 Comments 21 October 2010

I’ve been missing from the gluten-free blogging scene, and I don’t like it one bit, especially in October.  I used to mourn when I couldn’t find the time to write twice a week.  Then I got used to it, but I’d cringe when a whole week had passed and I hadn’t had a chance to blog.  Now I’m lucky if I get a moment to glance at Google Reader to scan the hundreds of post titles that my fellow food bloggers have cranked out since the last time I checked. My reader is choc full of posts about pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pancakes, and I’m incredibly jealous.  Have I run out of things to say?  Funny thought.  Have I gone back to my glutenous ways?  I’d never do that.  So what is up with the Gluten-Free Cat?  Where has she been?

She’s been pumping through pumpkin month, Les Mills style.

BodyPump has been around for almost 20 years now, strengthening bodies all over the world with intense cardio and strength training workouts.  I had an opportunity to be trained to be an instructor in August and passed my assessments with this amazing trainer.

Think Jillian Michaels pushing you for three 9-hour days in a row.  What a RUSH, what an experience, what PAIN, what a feeling of accomplishment.

Since then, Fall semester started, and the Husband had to say goodbye to Summer Heather.  Starting the school year is always intense.  But this year brought new challenges with a grade level change.

I completed my first triathlon.

I ran Nashville’s first Women’s Half Marathon.

And I’ve been preparing for my BodyPump final video assessment.  CONSTANTLY.  What does preparation include?  Here are 10 examples to give you a little taste of my world:

1.  Listen to the same 10 songs over and over and over again until you know every word, beat, verse, chorus, bridge, and nuance.

2.  Practice choreography in the living room with pretend weights.

3.  Teach practice sessions to willing friends.

4.  Play the same 10 songs while driving but watching choreography in your head.  Assume that other drivers think you are talking angrily on a hands-free phone when you’re really barking coaching cues to the windshield.

5.  Meet with other instructors to practice teaching tracks to each other.

6.  Study compulsory cues, memorize phrases, and hope you’ll remember to say them all when the tape is rolling.

7.  Practice the proper form of EVERY exercise imaginable.  Including pushups.  (Tricep pushups too.)

8.  Lay in bed wondering if the second set of lunges starts 3/1 or 2/2.

9.  Get up and rifle through BodyPump notes to find the answer so you can finally fall asleep.

10.  Find a way to videotape a complete class with real participants, without any errors, before the class is even offered at your gym.

It’s been a long month, I’m exhausted, now I’m sick in bed, which is why I even have a moment to post this entry, and I just hope I’m well enough to lift a weight for Saturday’s taping.

So, the recipes will have to wait.  I hate that we are heading into the end of October and I haven’t even attempted to bake something pumpkiny.  I’m dying to share my gluten-free experiences of the past month.  I even have a box of new products sitting on my kitchen counter sent to me from a vendor.  I can’t wait to review them.  But I’ll have to be patient, because October is pumping month.  Maybe November can be my pumpkin month.

I’ve missed you all.  Let’s hope this assessment goes well so that I can start pumping out more than just weighted plates.  Until then, see you at the gym!

A Curious Girl in the Gluten-Free World

I'm a curious girl, wife, teacher, fitness fanatic, gluten-free foodie, high-raw vegan, and Mama Cat living in NYC. I've made the transition from baking and cooking gluten-free to creating raw vegan recipes that are naturally gluten free. My gluten intolerance opened up my diet to a whole new world of nutritious plant-based foods. While I'm not 100% vegan, it's my favorite way to eat, and making and sharing raw foods makes me giddy. Living in the City has its joys and challenges, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

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