Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Favorites

Seriously, how is July over already? What happened to summer?! (Read more about my end-of-summer laments here!) Anyway, I thought I'd share some of the things I've been loving this month.

Food: salads
I've had more time to prepare my lunches this month, so I've made a lot of salads lately. My favorite salad has lettuce, tomato, corn, and avocado in it, plus a seasoning that ties it all together. I'm planning on doing a post about it some time in the near future, so look for that soon!

Fitness: running
Okay, this is slightly boring, but being able to run after a long break has been great. I really missed it...enough said! (Read more of my running sentiments here.)

Book: "VB6"
This past month I've been really interested in veganism and this book, by Mark Bittman was one of my favorite reads. He talks about the benefits of a vegan diet, and promotes an everyday diet of eating vegan until 6:00 (or dinner time). From dinner on, you can eat whatever you want. This approach is really interesting to me; it's easier and more moderate than going fully vegan. This book, and other books and documentaries I've read/seen lately, has motivated me to eat a more plant-based diet.

Random: Forever 21
I've gone through phases of loving Forever 21. There will be times when I can't find anything there that I like, and then I'll go through a phase where everything there is absolutely amazing. Right now I'm in one of the latter phases. Bags, and rings, and jeans, and T-shirts...suffice it to say that I'm obsessed with Forever 21 right now!

What have you been loving this month?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Random Tuesday: a sunflower forest, looking forward & back

I'm calling today's post a non-legit post, since this isn't necessarily about anything health- or fitness-related. It's just a good day! I mean, I have a sunflower forest in my back yard, come on! Sometimes you just feel like rambling a tad, ya know?

My Sunflower Forest... on earth is it July 30th already? Summer is more than half over! It will be sorely missed when fall rolls around. Swimming, boating, hiking, camping, morning runs, lots of daylight, not to mention all the in-season fruits and vegetables...yup, I'm going to miss it! At least fall is pretty great too. I'm looking forward to sweaters, and changing leaves, and more hot chocolate! 
That's about it for my quick ramble! Yes, fall will be good, but I'm going to make sure that summer gets soaked up as much as possible. 

Have a lovely day! 

What's your favorite thing about summer? About fall?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Motivation Monday: Healthy?

"Just because you're not sick, doesn't mean you're healthy." I picked up this phrase the other day, possibly from one of the vegan documentaries I've been watching lately. It pretty much sums up everything that I want to convey to people in my normal life that I see eating unhealthily. Not that I'm that annoying friend that nags everyone about what they're eating...or at least I hope I'm not! But it makes me cringe inside when I see people eat fast food for most meals, who are perfectly fine with it because it doesn't make them sick or gain weight or anything. Just because you're not overweight doesn't mean you're healthy! Your body is a machine and, like any machine, needs the proper fuel.Think about what you're putting into your body on a daily basis. Do those foods have the right nutrients to keep your body running well?

If you're that one friend, who is sometimes slightly appalled at the diet of those around you, and who is consciously trying to eat the right foods, keep it up! You're great for sticking it out! When everyone around you isn't living mindfully, be proud that you're choosing a better life for yourself. In the long run, you will be the one better off.

It's easy to get discouraged when you see people around you eating badly and not suffering any ill effects. Don't be! Think of the big picture. What really matters is that you're giving your body the fuel it needs. Take confidence in this knowledge and keep going!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Strawberry Protein Smoothie

I am a total fan of smoothies; I'm pretty sure I could eat one every day! I love experimenting with different ingredients and trying different combinations of fruits in my smoothies. Here's the general recipe for my favorite smoothie to make. It's creamy, delicious, and healthy at the same time! I don't usually measure when I make smoothies, so these amounts are close approximations. Also, I like my smoothies fairly thick, so you may want to put in more water or almond milk to thin it out. Feel free to add more or less of any other particular ingredient to your own taste!

5 oz. Greek yogurt (I used the peach flavor from Dannon)
1/2 frozen banana
3 frozen strawberries
2 ice cubes
2-3 strawberries (unfrozen)
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
approx. 1/4 C almond milk
approx. 1/8 C water

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high.

Enjoy the deliciousness of your smoothie!


Calories: 225/ Carbs: 29g/ Fat: 2g/ Protein: 25g/ Sodium: 120mg/ Sugar: 20g 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

30 Minute Circuit

Here's a circuit workout I came up with to go along with the rest of my workout this morning! For me, it wasn't the most difficult workout I've ever done, but it's a good moderate-to-low intensity circuit that targets all the major muscle groups. Without any breaks, this takes 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Motivation Monday: What Do You Love?

A couple days ago I heard a new phrase that I'd never heard before, but liked at once: You sacrifice for what you love. This brought to mind all the things in my life that I love and I thought about how I sacrifice for each of them. Family, friends, church, and my health were some of the prominent ones.

If you love yourself, you'll sacrifice for yourself. For me, it's easier to sacrifice for friends, family, and church than it is to sacrifice for my health. It's a lot easier to think up excuses for why I should skip my morning workout or why I should eat a quick frozen hot pocket for lunch instead of cutting up veggies for a salad.

Take a few minutes to think about what you love. Hopefully, loving yourself should be right up there near the top of your list. This week, try bring that to mind whenever you're in the middle of a lazy moment and you don't want to spend extra time preparing food or going for a run. You sacrifice for what you love! If loving yourself isn't near the top of that list, I promise that consciously trying to be healthy and treat yourself right for even a week will help bring it up there. I dare you to try it!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Notebook and a Pen

Along the lines of consciously choosing to live healthily, here's one thing that really works for me: I take the time each night to plan out the next day's events and food and such. I have a simple, spiral-bound notebook that I write everything down in. Well, not every single little detail...that's a little excessive. Just a general outline. Mixed in with normal things like waking up, working out, and teaching piano, I write in the things I'm going to eat for snacks, breakfast, lunch, etc. This helps me follow through on my workouts, since having them written down somehow makes me feel more accountable. It also helps when I have those lame moments when it's lunchtime and I'm standing in front of the open fridge or pantry, trying to decide what to eat. When I'm hungry, I'm much more likely to impulsively eat lots of chips or crackers that aren't super healthy if I haven't planned better ideas out before.

Along with meals and snacks, I jot down a general to-do list on my notebook page, and maybe a motivational tidbit or two. I like just using a blank notebook page because I like being able to make my page a little more personal.

If you're not the best at keeping your day structured and productive (like me!), I definitely recommend planning your day out the night before. You can use a fancy planner, or a notebook, or your phone, or whatever! Just write it down!

Question of the day: What do you use to stay organized and on-track?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Live Actively!

Last night I was in another inspirational/motivational mood so I jotted down some thoughts that I'm now compiling and adding to for this post!

We all have choices that we can make in our lives. True, many things are out of our control, but usually our time management and actions are things that we have a say in. So why not choose to be healthy? Choose to make your physical and emotional well-being a priority in your life. There is a great amount of strength and confidence that comes from choosing to be in charge of yourself. When you live a healthy lifestyle, life opens up for you. This may be shown in actual opportunities to interact with those around you in different ways, or it may just be that your view of the world around you shifts for the better. Either way, your life will change for the better. You will feel more confident and happier and more in control of your life.

It's not easy to be healthy and fit. No one that really knows what they're talking about, or who has a good understanding of the basic principles that go into being healthy and fit ever said it was. You have to be willing to work for it, to sacrifice for it. It's hard, but trust me, you will feel so much better really living and making conscious, healthy choices than you will letting life just happen while you passively continue choosing the same things you always have. Just do it! Choose to live actively! I say live actively partly in the context of physical exercise, which is definitely essential. More than exercising, however, I consider living actively to mean really engaging yourself in your life, making yourself and your well-being a priority, and making conscious choices in favor of your health. I tell my piano students to "practice actively," really putting their mind into their playing, rather than mindlessly plunking out notes. This applies to normal life, too. One conscious choice to improve an aspect of your life will lead to another, and another, and the effects will snowball. Once you feel the satisfaction of one benefit, you'll want more.

If you're reading this and have already made the choice to be healthier and have acted on it, that is wonderful! Do not give up! Ever! I don't mean that you shouldn't ever eat junk food, or skip a workout in favor of sleeping in. It's healthy for you to relax and let loose once in a while. Use moderation in all things, and you're good to go. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter so much if you're at the top or the bottom of the staircase; what really matters is what direction you're facing.

If you only take one thing away from this post, remember to choose to live actively and mindfully and engage yourself in your life. Choose to live up to your full potential and make your health a priority.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Motivation Monday!

Happy Monday everyone!

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the whole general subject of healthiness. I read something in either a blog or a book the other day that I've heard before, but not in a while. I was glad to be reminded of it again. What I read was that it's important to remember that healthiness is a journey, not a destination. I love that; it's so true! It's really easy to get caught up in striving to reach certain health or fitness goals that we forget to enjoy the process. Back when I wasn't able to run, I was often frustrated because I felt like I wasn't progressing. I was working toward running a half marathon, and it killed me when my training had to come to a halt. Looking back now, I realize that I have learned a lot from the two and a half months or so without consistently running. I learned lessons that I wouldn't have had the chance to learn if my training had continued normally. Every journey has its ups and downs and stagnant moments. The same goes for trying to be healthy and fit. It's important that we find the happiness and the learning opportunities in the mistakes and the triumphs and the times of little change. Healthiness is a lifestyle; a day-to-day routine. So take pride in the fact that you love yourself enough that you're trying to live in the best way possible for you. It's okay that you're not perfect! Just enjoy the journey!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Snacking Saturday

Today my whole normal eating schedule was thrown a little off when my morning run got postponed by an unexpected flat tire. By the time my run actually happened, it was somewhat close to lunch, but not close enough to eat a full meal, so I just ate a little something. The rest of today has ended up being a snacky day too. In the spirit of a day of random snacking, I thought I'd share a snack I discovered a earlier this week. Dried pineapple! It's delicious! Dried fruit is decent, but not always my favorite. I like dried apricots, and sometimes dried apples. I hate it when the fruit has a really chewy, soft texture...chips are much more up my alley. With this pineapple, however, it's not weirdly chewy; you're able to bite off distinct sections. I purchased these dried pineapples in the bulk section at our local grocery store, so they're not hard to find. I highly recommend this as a healthy, yummy snack! 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Table Rock Thursday!

Wednesday night I was feeling the itch for a change in my normal workout routine, so I decided to venture over to Table Rock the next morning! Table Rock is a plateau that rises above Boise and is easily accessible from downtown. It's a popular hike for those of us that live in the area since it's so close. The trail to the top is only about 1.5 miles, but the elevation gain is about 1000 feet. To make the hike more difficult, I decided to run it. I started off doing intervals of running for two minutes and normal hiking for two minutes. This was partly due to the steep incline (umm, yeah, I would've died trying to run it the whole way!) and also due to the recommendation from my physical therapist to do run/walk intervals for now. I'm in the process of healing my right knee, which decided to randomly freak out on me a few months ago (I'll talk about this in a future post). I've just barely gotten back into running in the past couple weeks and I'm supposed to ease back into it so I don't re-damage my knee. This feels super lame when I'm just running on the flat ground through my neighborhood, and I don't really feel like I'm getting a decent calorie burn from it, but doing intervals up a mountain is a whole different story and a lot more appealing to me.


Most of the Table Rock trail climbs at a decent, manageable grade that was difficult, but mostly okay to run. The last section of the trail is much steeper and I ended up changing up my intervals so I was normal hiking for more time than I was running. Since I've just barely been able to get back into running, I wasn't super bothered by that. My goal right now is to eventually be able to keep up the two minutes off and on all the way up to the top (or really, one minute off and on, or better, would be great!).

When you get to the top of Table Rock, there's a gorgeous view of the valley. Since I was by myself and there weren't many people up there, I was able to appreciate the view a little better. I wish it hadn't been so overcast, since the morning sun would've been gorgeous to see, but at least the cloud cover made my run more comfortable. There's also a huge cross at the top that lights up at night and has become somewhat of an icon for the Boise area. Table Rock, in general, is a classic Boise location. There are always lots of people hiking it, and I think concerts are held at the top sometimes (there's a road along the back side of the mountain for people to drive up).

From the top of Table Rock, you can hike down a bit to some little caves inside the plateau. Unfortunately, this whole area has been plastered with graffiti. While I'm definitely not advocating graffiti, yesterday morning I realized that there is a bit of beauty to it, in the sense that it's some people's form of expression. The bright colors are eye-catching and the words and symbols have a slight feeling of mystery to them. Is that weird, finding a little bit of appreciation for graffiti?

Oh hey, just a tree growing out of the rock!

Wildflowers at the top

...and another tree growing out of the rock!

After snapping some photos, I headed back down the mountain at a brisk run. I stopped once to take this photo of a lonely sunflower, and another time since my knees were being slightly bothersome (but in more of an "ouch, this downhill running is slightly jarring" and not a "your knee is freaking out again" way...if that makes sense).

Overall, the view was great and it started off my day on an awesome foot, but the best part was that I was able to run it without my knee freaking out! Whoop whoop! It pretty much made my life! I was scared that the downhill was going to irritate it, since a few weeks ago I went hiking and the downhill did just that, but it was perfectly fine yesterday. That means this chica is back into running business! I've missed it a lot. My fingers are crossed that this will last! Stay tuned for more running stories!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Scrambled Egg Lunch

This was originally supposed to be my breakfast, but waking up a little late left me with less time to work out and eat breakfast this morning before teaching a piano lesson. Breakfast today was some instant oatmeal, a couple handfuls of Honey Nut Chex, and a homemade granola not too fancy. Lunch was a bit more put together, but was still super easy to make.

Vegetable Scrambled Eggs

-about 1/2 C coarsely chopped spinach leaves
-1 roma tomato, chopped
-about 1/4 green onion
-2 egg whites
-1-2 T. water
-salsa and/or hot sauce
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Spray small skillet with non-stick cooking spray
2. Combine egg whites with water and stir together
3. Cook egg whites in skillet on medium heat, stirring frequently (just scramble your eggs)
4. When eggs are almost done, add spinach and green onions and stir around for a minute or so
5. Turn off burner and mix in tomato (just so it's heated up with the rest of the dish)
6. Salt and pepper to taste
7. Top with salsa and/or hot sauce. I put the hot sauce on top, with salsa on the side. For some odd reason, I prefer some bites with salsa and some bites without.

Here's the finished product!

To go with the eggs, I re-heated some steamed broccoli that we had leftover from dinner last night. It kind of looks like a Christmas dish, with the red plate, tomatoes, salsa, and hot sauce, and the green broccoli, spinach, and onions! The picture doesn't quite do the eggs justice, but they were quite delicious! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

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On-The-Go Snacks

Usually my typical weekend consists of at least one evening out with friends in which we tend to meander around town looking for random adventures. My friends love the delicacies of fast food (curly fries, soda, chocolate turnovers, etc.), so we usually end up stopping at at least one fast food place during the night. I try to opt out of buying anything on these fast-food runs, since I hate the gross and bloated feeling I get after eating fast food. My friends' snacking mood usually rubs off on me, though, so I always throw a healthier option in my bag before heading out. Here are a few of my favorite on-the-go snacks!

Apples are small, portable, and satisfying. The naturally-occurring sugar in them satisfies any possible sugar cravings.

One of my favorite snacks are peanuts, which are easy to toss in a zip-lock bag and bring with me. Be aware that peanuts are quite calorie-dense, so don't go overboard. A small handful or two is more than enough to fend off the snacking bug anyway.

Luna bars
I love these! At around 200 calories each, they're a great on-the-go option. My favorites are Peanut Butter Cookie (shown above), Nutz Over Chocolate, and Caramel Nut Brownie. The Luna protein bars are good as well.

Gluten free, dairy free, and vegan, with a small list of ingredients, Larabars are a fantastic healthy choice. For some reason, I'm just now getting into these, but they're already on my list of go-to snacks. The other day I tried the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip flavor and loved it!

Going out with friends doesn't have to mean giving up on trying to eat healthy for the night. Once you start snacking on something healthier, that brownie cheesecake milkshake or large order of salty fries probably won't look nearly as tempting. Also, always make sure to bring a water bottle with you, in case you're not near a convenient source of water. It's easy to mistake thirst as hunger, so sipping on water often takes away that supposed hungry feeling.

Greek Yogurt Creamsicles

Today I tried making something new: a Greek yogurt popsicle! I've seen recipes like this all over the internet, so I thought I'd try it out. It's super-simple, takes about 5 minutes to put together, and tastes great.

1 container Greek yogurt (I used Dannon Light & Fit in the peach flavor)
3-4 strawberries
1 packet Stevia sweetener 
1 paper cup (except for glass, any kind of cup would be fine)
1 popsicle stick (I actually used a plastic Ikea knife since we happened to be out of popsicle sticks)

1. Chop up the strawberries into small pieces. The tinier you can chop them, the better, since they'll be easier to mash up.
2. In a small bowl, combine strawberries and Stevia packet. Use a fork to mash the two together into a jam-like consistency. 
3. Spoon about half of the Greek yogurt into the paper cup. Add about half of the strawberry mixture to the top of the yogurt. Add the rest of the yogurt over the strawberries and top it off with the remaining strawberry mixture.
4. Insert the popsicle stick in the middle of the popsicle and freeze.
5. When you are ready to eat the popsicle, remove it from the freezer and hold the cup under running hot water for a minute or two until the popsicle slides out easily.