Hi, friends! I’ve let blogging slip to the bottom of my to-do list in this busy holiday season but did want to pop in and wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season. No matter what or how you celebrate, I hope the season brings you time to relax and have fun with family and friends. And for my fellow runners, I hope you get some fun runs in!
I have a year-in-review post almost done that I’ll be posting next week. Until then, I wanted to share some updates.
From feels-like-4-degrees last week to a balmy 51 degrees this week, the weather has been all over the place. Now that I’m not training, my running is completely dependent on the weather. If it’s really cold–which, for me now, is in the teens or single digits–or there’s a lot of snow and ice on the ground (we got our first snow last week), I don’t run. Can I tell you what an epiphany this is for me?
I don’t have access to a treadmill, which is fine because a treadmill defeats the whole purpose of running for me (to get outside and enjoy nature). I think in six years of running I ran on a treadmill maybe once or twice. I hated every minute of it. But the last few winters, I had so much angst about how I’d get speedwork in when there was ice on the ground or how I’d get long runs in when I start to freeze in single-digit temps if I’m out for longer than an hour, no matter how bundled up I am.
This year the angst is gone. If it’s cold or icy, I do strength training or an indoor cardio routine I can do in my home gym. Because I want to do more strength anyway, it’s a win-win. I’m not sure why I never thought of this sooner. I guess I’ve always been in a Come hell or high water or ice or minus-zero wind chills I’m following my training plan mindset the past few winters. The current angst-free, warm, comfortable version of me can only chuckle about what now seems a silly mindset. My goodness, how I’ve changed.
The good thing about brutal conditions is that it makes conditions I previously thought unbearable feel heavenly. Now it feels like summer if it’s above freezing. And when it’s above freezing, I’m as excited and thrilled to run as a kid on Christmas morning.
Ever since I quit marathon training, I’ve been loosely following 80/20 running, where the majority of my runs are at a very easy pace. You might remember that I tried this type of training in the spring and loved it. I’m happy to be back at it. I haven’t been calculating my easy/hard running ratios, but I’ve mostly been running easy with a few intervals, fast miles, and moderate-paced runs with friends mixed in.
When you start 80/20 running, you have to define your heart rate zones, which are all based on your lactate threshold heart rate–the barrier between low intensity and high intensity. You’re supposed to recalculate your lactate threshold regularly as your fitness improves or regresses.
I did lactate threshold tests at the beginning and end of my spring 5K training but haven’t since then. So this past weekend I decided to do it again. Given that I’m not training, I expected to see some regression. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I’ve improved a bit! My lactate threshold heart rate at the beginning of 80/20 training in the spring was 155. At the end of training it was 160. It’s now 163.
This means that I’m running faster in my easy/moderate paces before I reach the high-intensity range. Hooray! I’d read that it may take a while before you get faster while still being at a low intensity. I’m thrilled that even without dedicated and consistent 80/20 training, I’ve seen improvement.
I’ve been following WW for a few weeks. While I’ve lost 3.2 pounds, which doesn’t seem like a lot, I can already tell a difference in how my clothes are fitting. All my pants that were too tight now fit! I think that all my strength training must be contributing and making me leaner. I also just feel really good. I’m super motivated to keep on working to lose the weight I gained while marathon training, though I’ll be switching to maintenance these next few weeks. My goal will simply be to not gain through the holidays. I plan on indulging in my holiday favorites but WW will help me not go overboard. Then I’ll pick back up trying to lose after the holidays.
I do think the new Freestyle plan makes losing easier. By making low-calorie, high-protein foods zero points, WW encourages you to eat more of these foods, which fill me up and just don’t leave a lot of extra room for piling in unhealthy food. Of course, I’m still eating pretzel bagels with vegan cream cheese (my favorite!) and small amounts of goodies regularly. I love that I can eat what I want on WW and still lose weight.
Cooking & Eating Out
A few weekends ago, I spent an entire Sunday cooking. I made soups, slow-cooker meals, roasted veggies, and meals for the week. I haven’t spent a full day in the kitchen in years. It was awesome! I wanted to try more recipes and do more cooking this winter, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
Cooking more meals from scratch definitely helps me with following Weight Watchers too. I’ve been trying a lot of low-points recipes and really enjoying eating different things. I get in a rut of eating the same thing day after day, so it’s been fun to try different things. Here’s one super-easy, delicious, zero-points recipes from Happy Herbivore that’s become one of my favorites.
Black Bean & Salsa Soup
- 1 15-oz can black beans
- 1 cup salsa
- 1.5 cups vegetable broth
- .5 teaspoon cumin
- 1 cup frozen corn
Blend 1 cup black beans, salsa, veg broth, and cumin in a food processor. Transfer to a pot, add the rest of the beans and the corn, and heat through. Add things if you want (cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, avocado, etc.)
The restaurant scene in Pittsburgh has exploded in the last few years. There are so many good options for vegan and vegetarian food now. I try to eat at home most of the time, but about once a week we go out to dinner. One of my favorite new restaurants is Federal Galley, which opened a few weeks ago close to me in the North Side. It’s owned by the same group that has a restaurant in the Strip District (Smallman Galley) and is an incubator space for new chefs to try out their menus before opening their own restaurants. It’s been described as a hipster food court. 🙂
We’ve been there two weeks in a row, and last week I had the second best meal of my life at Supper. The Cumin-Scented Squash Soup (with cilantro oil!) was simply the best soup I’ve ever had in my life. I also loved the Pan Seared Tofu, which features house-made tofu, barbecued carrots, and a roasted cauliflower mash. Simply divine. If you’re in Pittsburgh, you have to go to Federal Galley!
I’ll be back next week with some lessons I learned from running this year. Until then, enjoy the holiday!