You all know how passionate I am about endurance sports. Back in 2009, a friend of mine convinced me to sign up for a sprint distance triathlon with her. During training, she hurt herself and wasn’t able to continue. I decided to keep training on my own and tackle my very first endurance event. Up until this point, I’d never even run a 5K. Completing the sprint tri was one of the best moments of my life – I was so proud of myself and what I’d just accomplished. And from then on, I’ve been tackling endurance sport events every year, from marathons to cycling events to triathlons.
So I was super excited when Danskin approached me about getting the word out on their women’s only sprint triathlon series! Danskin strives to help women to get moving with a “women empowering other women” mentality. Never done a triathlon before? Don't worry, because their races are very first-timer friendly and you'll have tons of support and motivation along the way. Triathlon is definitely a sport with lots of encouragement, and there's no doubt you'll hear other women cheering you on during the course.
Their sprint distance triathlon races take place throughout the country. The sprint distance is comprised of a ½ mile swim, 12 mile bike, and a 3 mile run. And in addition to regular individual participants, there are relay options too – so if you never learned how to swim or hate cycling, grab a few friends and you can each take on your favorite part.
Plus, in the spirit of “paying it forward” the series supports the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Team Survivor nationally; as well as a local food bank and women’s shelter in each of their race cities.
I'd highly encourage you to checkout the Danskin Triathlon series
and their race schedule, and consider participating in a triathlon this year. If you're sitting there thinking "I could never do that" - then I especially would encourage you to challenge yourself this year. I know you can do it!
2012 Race Schedule:
May 13 – Clermont, FL (greater Orlando area)
June 3 – Austin, TX
July 22 – Webster, MA (greater Boston area)
August 5 – Howell, MI
August 19 – Seattle, WA
August 26 – Pleasant Prairie, WI
September 9 – Sandy Hook, NJ
October 7 – Palm Springs, CA
Now here's the really awesome part of this post - the Danskin Triathlon Series wants YOU to TRI something new. They are offering a complimentary entry to one winner of the Inspired Wellness Solutions giveaway! The Danskin Triathlon Series is a great first-timer friendly swim, bike, run event. Get your girl friends, sisters, daughters, and nieces involved by signing up to do this fabulous women’s fitness event together – and of course if you win, your entry will already be paid for!
Enter this giveaway using Rafflecopter below.
You can earn multiple entries by completing each task using Rafflecopter.
Terms and conditions: This giveaway is open to US residents only and you must be at least 18 years old to enter. Upon winning, we will contact you for your full name and specified race city. This information must be provided within 1 week of our email to you or we will choose another winner. Good luck!
*Disclosure: Danskin Triathlon has provided me with one triathlon entry to giveaway on our blog. I was not compensated for this post. As always, I only partner with organizations and products that I fully support and believe in!*
If you love exploring the outdoors, you’ll want to check out National Park Week. From 4/21-4/29, you can get entry into all 397 National Parks for free all week long! This will give you a chance to visit historical sites, be part of tours on different topics, or hike to a beautiful view.
My favorite National Park that I've visited to date is Haleakala National Park
in Maui. We drove close to the top, hiked down for a few miles and then back up and continued to the very top of the summit. Every time I look at these photos, I'm just amazed by the natural beauty of this place!
At the summit watching the sunset
Of course, I'm sure most people can't jet off to Hawaii this week (myself included, although I'd love to go back sometime!). But you can be sure to find some great national parks close to your own hometown. For those of you who are local, here are a few Massachusetts National Parks that may be of interest:
- Minute Man National Park, where you can visit historial sites like Concord and Lexington and bike or hike along the Battle Road Trail.
- Boston Harbor Islands, where you can take a ferry over to visit these natural treasures close to the city. And if you don't end up visiting this week, consider doing the June 2nd 5K on Spectacle Island - $35 includes the ferry ticket, 5K registration, t-shirt, and lunch!
- John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which is in both MA and RI, contains various opportunities for sightseeing, hiking, boating, bicycling, fishing and other activities
You can search the National Park website
to see events going on at each park this week, as well as search for parks near your location.
And April 28th is Junior Ranger Day
, so if you have a youngster that you want to take to the park, consider visiting that day. Children can earn their own “Junior Ranger Badge.”
Check out the video below for more details, and I hope you get a chance to enjoy this opportunity this week!
Earth Day is coming up tomorrow - Sunday, April 22nd. What are you doing this Earth Day to try to make your life more eco-friendly and sustainable? Consider these 6 strategies that will help our planet in addition to improving your health!
Local food is a wonderful way to show your commitment to Earth Day. Buying local produce supports your community economy, reduces the amount of fuel used for transport, reduces car emissions since the food travels less, and you get fresh ingredients that were just picked and taste better! Check out your local farmers markets for a variety of local products. Or look into a CSA (community supported agriculture). In these programs, you agree to pay a certain amount for weekly boxes of produce. You typically don’t get a choice the items each week, but are guaranteed a variety of items. Some people like CSAs because they receive ingredients they don’t frequently use, so it gives them a challenge to find a new way to cook it. And buy fresh.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store for most of your fresh foods – which also coincidentally tend to have less packaging. Consider buying larger boxes or bags of your staple items like whole wheat pasta or brown rice, since the larger box/bag will typically use fewer materials to make the packaging than several smaller ones. Grab reusable grocery bags.
Those plastic grocery bags are often thrown away, contributing to waste. They’re one of the most highly littered items across the country, and they can take centuries to decompose. Switch to reusable bags instead. Not only are they better for the environment, but they’re easier to carry and pack your groceries in. And some stores will even give you a 5 or 10 cent credit for each bag used – which can add up for a big shopping trip. If you’re prone to forgetting the reusable bags, put the reusable bags back in your car after you unpack the groceries. This way, they are already in the car and ready for your next shopping trip. Don’t have any reusable bags? You’re in luck! This year on Earth Day, the Disney Store will give you a free reusable bag
if you trade in 5 plastic bags. Target will also give you a free reusable bag
on Earth Day – just ask at guest services. Grow your own food.
This Earth Day, try your hand at growing your own food. You don’t need a green thumb or a huge garden to grow some simple items. For example, you can easily grow some herbs in a pot near a windowsill. Just remember to water it! If you have space outside, you can experiment with different vegetables or fruits (berries are usually a good fruit to start with). If you want something to help you start, consider grabbing The Everything Grow Your Own Vegetables Book on Amazon.com. Right now you can get this e-book for free to read on your Kindle, or you can download the Kindle app on your phone to read for free!
Bike or walk for close errands. Many trips we make are only a few miles from home. This is a distance that can easily be covered walking (for shorter distances) or biking (for longer ones). By using these methods, you reduce the pollution from your car and save money on gas – not to mention increase your weekly physical activity! Of course, if you’re making a large grocery shopping trip this isn’t feasible. But if you’re running to grab money from the ATM or to pick up the paper, walk or bike.
Choose tap over bottled. Staying hydrated is very important for your health. But bottled water is expensive and requires a lot of materials and transport. 2.7 million tons of plastic are used each year for these bottled waters. Tap water is cheap, readily available, and costs almost nothing. Tap water is monitored for safety – and many studies show it actually has fewer contaminants than bottled water! But if you want additional comfort, invest in a filter for your tap water. Grab a reusable water bottle and you’re all set!
As the weather gets warmer, I look forward to whipping up smoothies. I love them as a part of my breakfast, or as a post-workout snack (especially after coming back from a long run outside when it’s hot outside!).
And I always prefer to make my own smoothies. It’s easier to control the ingredients and nutrition info. Some of the smoothies at fast food establishments contain lots of added ingredients besides fruit, dairy, and/or juice. For example, if you look at the ingredient lists
for the McDonald’s smoothies, their strawberry banana smoothie contains:
“Strawberry banana fruit blend [puree, banana puree, water, sugar, concentrated apple juice, contains less than 1% of the following: cellulose powder, natural (botanical source) and artificial flavors, xanthan gum, citric acid, colored with fruit and vegetable juice, pectin, ascorbic acid (preservative)], Low fat yogurt [Cultured Grade A reduced fat milk, sugar, whey protein concentrate, fructose, corn starch, gelatin.], and ice.”
That’s an awful lot of ingredients for a smoothie, not to mention the added sugar in both the yogurt and the fruit blend, plus artificial flavors. So I go the homemade route.
When I make my own, I typically use a mixed berry blend, like strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, along with yogurt or milk. But looking around the kitchen today, I decided I wanted to experiment with some other ingredients. I threw together the recipe below and was so pleased by the results – it was absolutely delicious, and very quick and easy to make!
It packs in tons of Vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber. It does contain a bit of sugar (38 grams), but almost all of it comes naturally from the fruits. I did use vanilla almond milk here, so there’s about 5 extra grams of sugar since that is sweetened. You can easily use unsweetened almond milk to cut that out. This amount of sugar is much less than most commercial smoothies – that 16 ounce strawberry banana one from McDonald’s has 54 grams of sugar, while a small orange coolata smoothie from Dunkin Donuts contains 51 grams of sugar (a medium packs in 77 grams). Essentially, you’re saving yourself several spoonfuls of sugar by making this at home on your own!
There’s an ingredient in there that you might never expect to find in a smoothie – beets! The last time I was at the store, I saw some and thought, “I never eat beets, I need to buy these and find something to do with them.” I never would normally think to add cooked beets to a drink, but I wanted to play around with something new. The beets blend well into the smoothie and add some extra phytonutrients! Mango, banana, and beet smoothie Ingredients:
½ of a chopped mango
½ of a chopped banana
¼ cup of diced cooked beets
½ cup of vanilla almond milk (or whatever type of milk you enjoy!)
¼ cup 100% apple juice
Small handful of ice cubes Directions:
Blend everything together and enjoy! Fills a tall 16 ounce glass. Nutrition info
– 210 calories, 2 grams of fat, 50 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fiber, 38 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 22% DV for Vitamin A, 99% DV for Vitamin C, 25% DV for Calcium, 565 mg (16% DV) of potassium
Banana, beets, and mango all ready to blend.
Add the fruit, almond milk, and apple juice to a blender. I have an immersion blender so I just throw everything in here and use that.
Add ice cubes, blend, and this is what you'll get! A delicious smoothie that has tons of nutrients.
Duathlons are a great race to tackle if you’ve wanted to try a triathlon, but can’t swim, or if you just want to change up your typical road race schedule a bit! A duathlon is comprised of a run, bike, run format. Yesterday, I was able to cheer on my fiancé as he did his first big race of the season – the Wrentham Duathlon: a 3 mile run, 11 mile bike, and 2 mile run.
It was a comfortable, sunny day out – a really nice day for me as a spectator to hang out outside and cheer on the athletes. Although I must say, I always feel odd sitting on the sidelines because I feel like I should be out there racing too!
I thought Firm did a nice job putting on the race, with the exception of a few little issues. They’re the race management company holding the Half Ironman we are training for this summer, so it was good to see how they set-up and whatnot. And they had some pretty awesome music going at the start/finish.
Getting ready before the start in the transition area.
Terry did great, finishing in 1:24! Terry just started doing road cycling regularly this year, though he mountain biked a lot in the past. He’s a much stronger cyclist than I am.
Coming towards the end of the 1st run portion
Cycling like a champ!
About to finish!
I ran into Patricia Lambert at this race too, an attendee from my nutrition workshop at Multisport Expo. Patricia participated in the relay option of the race. Relays are fun, because you can choose the part of the race you’re best at or that you like the most, and only do that portion. Plus you get to pull in a friend or two and enjoy racing as a team. Patricia and her friend came in first in the all female relay portion!
I was also excited to run into Barry Phelps, a great triathlete who I’ve known for a few years through Triumph Triathlon
(a free triathlon group in Boston – I highly recommend checking it out). Congrats to Barry, as he finished 4th overall and took 1st in his age group!
Nice job to all the athletes who competed this race!
I can’t get over how much I love this M&Ms commercial from the Superbowl. Not because I want to promote eating M&Ms (though if you do, stick to the dark chocolate ones and practice portion control!). But because I just love the confidence of the Red M&M! He walks in and is thinking - Oh, I showed up to a nude party? No worries – let me bust out the dancing!
Of course, this is a pretty unrealistic situation for those of us who don’t walk around with candy coated shells. And no, I’m not asking you to whip off your clothes the next time you’re at a party – if I walked into a party and everyone was nude, I’d be slowly creeping towards the exit hoping I don't bump into someone sweaty.
But let’s take a clue from Red and be proud of our bodies. Definitely fuel your body well with lots of fruits and veggies and exercise to take care of yourself and stay healthy. But don’t place your self-worth on your body size. Celebrate your body for all it does, and don’t be afraid to have fun in the moment without worrying about how you look - whether it’s running a road race, trying rock climbing, or taking that dance class.
Case in point: I’m never going to be a size 2 – but I do work hard to maintain my current size by training for lots of races and planning healthy meals. Why? I want to have children at some point, I want to keep running and be one of those 90 year old road racers, and I want to live a long, joyous life free from chronic diseases like diabetes. I’m less concerned about my outer appearance and more concerned with making sure my insides are being treated well. And I sure as heck like to have enough energy to bust out some pretty awesome dance moves that would give Red a run for his money.
What do you want to try this week that you feel your body image issues have held you back from? Share with us! You can do it – you’re sexy and I know it!
Yesterday, I did my first half marathon of the season – the Great Bay Half Marathon in Newmarket, New Hampshire. I was lucky enough to score a deal on Active Schwaggle, so I ended up only paying half price for this half! By the way, if you love road racing and don’t check Schwaggle – do it! It’s like a Groupon, but for athletic products and races. I’ve gotten several great deals on here for races.
Anyway – I was really excited to try this race as the website boasts the “roller coaster like hills.” I knew it’d be a challenging course, but that’s part of the fun! I convinced my friend Katie to sign up with me – it was her first half marathon, so kudos to her on tackling this challenge!
Katie and me before the race!
I was happy the race start time was later at 11AM, since this gave us time to make the 2 hour drive up to New Hampshire without having to wake up super early. We got up there around 10:15, and I was happy that Terry (my fiancé) was with me so he could drop me off to get my race number and then take care of figuring out the parking.
The weather at the start time was great. It was around 50 degrees and sunny. The clouds took over midway through the race, so it got a little chilly but still comfortable.
The course was really cool – from miles 4 to 5.5ish, we ran along a dirt road through the woods which was very scenic. Later in the course, we ran around the coastline with more pretty views. There were some local people along the course playing music, and at the loop around mile 11 there were bellydancers! The race finished in downtown Newmarket, with lots of spectators at the finish line.
Around mile 9!
I finished the race in 2:42 – one of my slower half marathon times, and nowhere near my PR, but I was pretty happy with it considering the crazy hills! Plus, I felt really great throughout the race. Just enjoyed the scenery and ran comfortably. And Katie finished in 2:15 – a great time for her first race!
After the race, Terry and I went across the street for the free post-race Smuttynose beers! I enjoyed my drink and we hung out for a while before heading home.
An awesome day and race – makes me look forward to all the other races we have this season!
Post race beer!
I've gotten this question a few times in the past couple weeks, so I thought I'd do a quick blog post about it.
Cooking sprays are typically an olive oil or other vegetable oil in a pressurized can, sometimes thinned with water, and are a great kitchen staple. Because you can coat the pan with a quick spray, you are able to dramatically cut down in fat and calories while ensuring your food doesn’t get stuck in the pan during cooking.
But does a spray really contain zero calories? Nope. A label for cooking spray usually refers to a 1/3 of a second spritz. Remember, a label can legally list 0 grams of fat or zero calories if one serving contains less than a full gram of fat or less than 5 calories. In reality, that 1/3 of a second spritz probably has about 1/4 gram of fat, or 2 or 3 calories. Not to mention - that 1/3 second spritz is pretty short, and I doubt most of us have reflexes that are even that quick! A typical spray to coat a pan probably falls somewhere between 2 and 4 seconds, leaving you with somewhere between 15 and 30 calories. Still a great calorie bargain!
My favorite memories of grilled cheese came from visiting my Grandma Liz. She was actually my great grandma, and was in her mid-90s when I was a kid. We’d go visit her, and this woman would still make us food every time we’d head over there (and she’d give us an envelope with a few dollars too, which always made the trip extra exciting!). It was the same meal every time we were there, but I loved it – grilled cheese, a side of mandarin oranges, and if we were lucky – some homemade Hungarian cookies (the most delicious cookies that I know to exist).
Growing up, we’d always eat a standard grilled cheese – a slice of American cheese on white bread, cooked in a pan with some butter to get those nice crispy sides. It sure tastes delicious - but this processed packaged cheese combined with the fiber-less white bread doesn’t conjure up thoughts of health. Today, though, I’ve experimented with lots of grilled cheese sandwiches and come up with some of my favorite choices that have got an extra nutritional boost and still boast great taste. Grilled cheddar and apple on whole wheat bread
This option is great, because it includes a serving of fruit and uses nutrient dense whole wheat bread. Plus, I love extra sharp cheddar because it packs so much flavor! Here’s a tip: use grated or shredded cheddar, because you’ll most likely end up using less than when you cut it into slices for the sandwich.
Directions: Cut an apple into thin slices. Place in a small skillet over medium heat (depending on your pan, you may want to add a small amount of cooking spray so they don’t stick). Add a teaspoon of brown sugar and allow to melt over apples. Remove hot apples from pan and half the slices on the bread, add extra sharp cheddar to the middle, top with remaining apple slices and the other piece of whole wheat bread. Place the sandwich in the skillet and let the cheese melt. Spinach, peppers & onions grilled cheese on multigrain bread
Use a thicker multigrain bread with this option, but double check the label to be sure it’s made of a whole grain (you’ll see this in the ingredient list). These breads are typically hearty and have a lot of flavor.
Directions: Layer spinach on a piece of the multigrain bread. Grill some peppers and onions (or sauté them in a small amount of olive or canola oil); add on top of the spinach. Add a slice of provolone cheese and the top layer of bread. Heat in a skillet coated in a small amount of cooking spray; cook sandwich until cheese is melted. It’s like a mix between a philly cheese steak and a sausage and peppers, without the meat! Mushroom and caramelized onion grilled cheese
Mushrooms have such a wild earthy flavor that I find them to be a great addition to so many foods.
Directions: Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a pan and sauté sliced baby portabella mushrooms and onions (I like to make a bunch at once, so I have these to use for more sandwiches or other meals later). Cook until onions have started to caramelize. Add to whole wheat bread with a little fontina and parmesan cheese. Return to the same skillet (there should be enough oil residue from the vegetables to prevent sticking) and heat until the cheese has melted. Toasted bread with cheese, tomatoes, and avocado
As an alternative to “grilled” cheese, I’ll make a toasted cheese sandwich. I’ll use a piece of French bread or another crusty loaf, and top it with some minced garlic, chopped tomatoes, chopped avocado, and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Pop it in the regular oven or toaster oven at 350 for a few minutes until the cheese melts. The avocado is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and tomatoes and garlic provide lots of phytonutrients.
Don't those sound delicious? A few closing tips:
- Want to cut back on the calories a bit more? Consider a reduced fat cheese, like Cabot 50% Cheddar. I will fully advocate against fat free cheese – who wants that rubbery stuff that isn’t even reminiscent of the real thing? I typically prefer using smaller amounts of full fat cheese for the best flavor, but the Cabot reduced fat cheeses are pretty darn good. (Disclosure – no affiliation/sponsorship, I just like the product).
- Want to add some more protein to any of these sandwiches? Consider a little lean turkey or ham.
- Pair these sandwiches with a delicious side salad, like mixed greens with pecans and mandarin oranges, and there’s an easy, scrumptious, and filling meal!