Monday, December 30

January Whole30: Grocery & Meal Lists

It's on this post that we will regularly update our grocery & meal lists throughout the January Whole30. We hope you find this useful, whether it's to help you better prepare, or to give you ideas on recipes and different foods/items.

Preparation is key

Many of our Featured Whole30'ers have pointed out the importance of preparation in a successful Whole30. Some people learn the hard way by scrambling last-minute to remain compliant, while others are diligent planners by nature. Jessie and I have been eating Paleo/Primal since October 2012, and yet we still have to be deliberate in preparation. It's this intentional planning -- even outside of a Whole30 -- that can make life much easier and, by extension, make you much healthier.

Our Ritual

Every weekend (either Saturday or Sunday depending on the weekends' events) we sit down to look at our upcoming weeks and plan our meals accordingly. We scale complexity around busyness, saving the easier meals for busier days. If we know we're eating out, we try and influence the location that better serves Paleo. If the location has been pre-decided, we take a look at the menu ahead of time. We keep compliant 'emergency' snacks on hand at all times in case we get in a bind (see "Traveling on a Whole30" on the Whole30 tab). After the meals have been decided we look to see what foods/ingredients we need to pick up. We make our list, and off we go.

Grocery & Meal Lists

List #2: (Meals for 1/5 - 1/11)
Another interesting list in that Jessie is traveling for work, and Brian has dinner plans again. This week we'll look to cook up some delicious recipes, but still rely on some easier cooking methods for efficiency. Saturday will be our shopping day, and we'll also begin preparing meals on Sunday for the remainder of the week.

Sunday, 1/5

List #1: (Meals for 1/2 - 1/4)
This list will be unique in that we're intentionally simplifying all of our meals. Given the fact that this Whole30 will start mid-week the day after New Year's makes it a little more difficult to carve out adequate time to shop and prepare. This week: simpler = better!

Thursday, 1/2
  • Breakfast: bacon/eggs/avocado, blackberries
  • Lunch: salad w/ grilled chicken (or canned tuna), olives, cherry tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, radish, artichoke hearts -- dressing: apple cider vinegar, olive oil
  • Dinner*: H&G Supply Co: a Paleo-friendly restaurant you should definitely check out!(an easy alternative would be steak, sweet potato, green beans)
  • Snacks**: almond/cashew butter & apples, lara bars, carrot sticks and guacamole
*It is not optimal to eat out, (especially on Day 1!) but we planned this dinner with friends a while ago, and you can't be anti-social just because you're eating clean!
**While snacking isn't ideal on Whole30, it's completely OK. Starving isn't acceptable, and during the first week we like to be prepared. The idea is that your body will begin to metabolize fat for fuel, enabling you to go longer without getting hungry. But, this can take some time, so be patient, and snack if/when you truly need to.

Friday, 1/3
  • Breakfastbacon/eggs/avocado, blackberries
  • Lunch: steak salad -- lettuce, tomatoes, 
  • Dinner: Mexican bowl -- grass-fed ground beef, lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, pico de gallo
  • Snack: Hard boiled egg, olives, sliced deli meat

Saturday, 1/4

Saturday, December 28

Houston Marathon: Week 11

Week 11 Primary Focus:         Build
Longest Run To-Date:             12mi

This was a tough week as I continued to build. I knocked out another set of Yasso's as well. I'm feeling stronger and stronger. Last week I mentioned I'm now in the Build phase of Houston Marathon training. As I continue to ramp up the intensity and volume, it is critical I stay healthy. The strength I've developed throughout the past 70+ days will certainly help protect against injury, but there are other components I need to stay on top of as well...

Better Food of the Week: Spaghetti Squash

Better Food of the Week: Kombucha

In recent years, Kombucha has increased in popularity, but it is actually . Becoming even more trendy as celebrities are caught drinking it and more and more stores begin to carry it. But, unlike other trendy drinks like Coke Zero, Vitamin Water or Izze Sparkling Juice  – Kombucha has relatively minimal sugar (although watch out for some sweetened Kombucha flavors), and tremendous health benefits through it’s fermentation and cultivation process. Fementation is actually it’s own movement that’s happening right now. For centuries, our ancestors have fermented foods – and you likely eat fermented foods weekly: pepperonis, yogurt, sour kraut, etc. Kombucha is fermented tea to be exact, which means it can introduce beneficial bacteria into your body. It promotes gut health through  … Ultimately, it help boost your immune system through beneficial gut bacteria.
As we’re drinking Kombucha more regularly - Kombucha is an acidic-acid ferment. 

 It is shown that KT can efficiently act in health prophylaxis and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, antioxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of depressed immunity. The recent experimental studies on the consumption of KT suggest that it is suitable for prevention against broad-spectrum metabolic and infective disorders. This makes KT attractive as a fermented functional beverage for health prophylaxis.

During this season of flu and cold germs, Brian and I like to add a Kombucha drink or two to our weekly eating plan. It’s not scientifically proven to prevent infection, but we believe!

Better Food: Tessemae's

Thursday, December 26

Calling all January Whole30'ers!

Eating clean, detoxing with whole foods, reclaiming energy and just flat-out feeling better. What not a better way to start the New Year? On January 2nd Jessie and I will be starting another Whole30. Whether you've done one before or not, we truly hope you'll consider joining us. Here's to a Happy & Healthy 2014!

If you're in, let us know in the comments section below!

Tuesday, December 24

Merry Christmas!

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." - Romans 15:13

We hope your Christmas is filled with joy, love, faith, family and friends. As always, stay happy and healthy, friends! 

Monday, December 23

Houston Marathon: Week 10

Week 10 Primary Focus:         Build
Longest Run To-Date:             12mi

Back in Week 1 I touched on the "Base" phase of marathon training and what it entails. As a reminder, the base period leading up to a race is more focused on strength and endurance. It typically comprises of lower intensity-type workouts: lower heart rate zone runs, weight training, hills, etc. Now that I've had a solid amount of base training, it's time to move on to what we'll refer to as "Build."

The Build phase, as its name implies, starts to ramp up the intensity as each workout builds on the previous. In other words, the intensity (and to some degree the volume) will gradually increase toward race day. And of course, recovery will be incorporated because without it, you never actually get stronger and reap the benefits of the added workload. This is all a part of the broader 'periodization' plan: increase the workload over time, back off and recover so you can come back stronger, repeat.

Dallas Half Marathon

This week was interesting in that it felt like race week. Probably because it was. It was this week that I had planned to run the Dallas Half Marathon on Sunday, December 8th. The plan was to run it fast, and on tired legs. But my training race got cancelled as the Dallas Marathon officials decided the Friday before that it wasn't going to be safe for runners due to weather. Dallas, along with most of the country, got hit hard with winter weather. Freezing rain and temperatures in the 20s provided for slick roads. I expressed my complaints about the race cancellation (primarily aimed at the haste of the decision) but ultimately agree it was the right one.

I had prepared all week for that race. I was being very methodical about all aspects of life: hydration, sleep, stretching, etc. I was hyper-focused as I knew it was going to be a tough run. It's a bummer to have something cancelled like that; it was the first time anything like that had happened to me. But luckily, it was only a training race. So you roll with the punches, adapt, and push forward.

Collapsed tree from the freezing rain

Back to the Houston Marathon home page.

Thursday, December 12

Chocolate Snowballs

'Tis the season for indulging. But, here's a sweet treat without the guilt. Brian and I love these as a healthier dessert option. The recipe is easy to make and only makes 4 balls, so it'll satisfy that sweet tooth without 'snowballing' into more of an extravagant treat than you were looking for. Enjoy this occasional dessert after dinner, during or after a workout or with a friend, and avoid the negative consequences of sugary processed sweets and workout gels. 

Prep Time: 15 min.
Makes: 4 balls

1/4 c of cocoa powder 
1 tbs coconut oil
1 tbd cashew butter
1 tbs almod butter
1/2 to 1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 to 2 tbs shredded coconut flakes

What chocolate mixture looks like.
1. Place coco powder in a small glass mixing bowl (doesn’t have to be glass, but I think it works best). 
2. Carefully add the coconut oil, cashew butter, almond butter, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. (If you plop the ingredients in without care the cocoa powder will puff up).
3. Slowly mix ingredients together with sturdy spoon. Mash ingredients against the side of the bowl to mix. You’ll need to do this for five min or so to get all the cocoa powder mixed in. The coconut oil will be the hardest to mix in (especially if you're making this in the winter), but be sure to keep working it in until it's all mixed. 
4. Once the ingredients are well mixed, the cocoa powder will be nice and dark, but not too sticky. If it's sticky, try adding a little coconut flower or something like that. 
5. Place coconut flakes on a plate.  Begin scooping a heap of the coco mixture with a tablespoon and roll into a ball. 
6. Roll the chocolate ball in the shredded coconut flakes. (You could also shred almonds, walnuts or pecans and roll the balls in that to mix it up).
7. Repeat 3 more times.
8. Place the chocolate snowballs in the fridge for 15-20 min., or in the freezer for 5-10 min. Store in the fridge for balls that go uneaten (like that'll happen ;-) ) 
7. Merry Christmas! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10

Healthy Restaurants on the Rise

Last week Jessie and I came across an article touting some of the healthier restaurants in Dallas.

Houston Marathon: Week 9

Week 9 Primary Focus:           Recovery
Longest Run To-Date:             12mi

This week's primary focus was on recovery as I was on vacation with Jessie's family in Costa Rica. This was by design, as the previous week had taken a toll on my legs. What not a better way to recover than on a beach in paradise? Although the intensity and volume drastically dropped off, I didn't sit around doing nothing. I kept the legs fresh with three separate runs, a half hour of weights and some fun cross-training: golf, tennis, hiking and swimming. I believe I yielded tremendous gains from a week of lighter activity. And on top of the physical component of recovery, the mental break made me feel rejuvenated.

Jessie and her Dad, Dr. C, enjoying the Costa Rican view
Climate can make or break you

The three runs I did in Costa Rica were beautiful. Mountainous backdrop with an oceanic view. The climate and terrain, however, made the runs difficult. Much harder than the cooler temperature and flat roads I was used to in Dallas. Back in August of 2010 I wrote a blog post on the impact climate has on performance. It was a very high-level observation I'd like to share here.

Notice anything interesting when comparing these two runs?

Thursday, August 19, 2010
Running distance: 4.0 Miles
Total time: 31:58
Mile 1: 7:21
Mile 2: 7:24
Mile 3: 8:01
Mile 4: 8:39
Average pace: 7:56
Average heart rate: 173bpm
Time of run: 4:48p
Temperature of run: 100+

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Running distance: 4.0 Miles
Total time: 31:20
Mile 1: 8:04
Mile 2: 7:53
Mile 3: 7:57
Mile 4: 7:24
Average pace: 7:50
Average heart rate: 154bpm
Time of run: 7:42a
Temperature of run: 74

Pretty obvious, I know. But I find it fascinating to actually see this written out: The weather can make such a dramatic difference in performance. Here I am, running identical distances, on the same streets, in almost the same time and pace, yet the run in the 100+ degree heat requires my heart to work 13% harder. That’s 20 beats per minute (bpm) more. And that is a significant difference you can feel. It’s the difference between being able to chat while running, and barely being able to suck enough oxygen down in order to sustain your pace. It’s the difference between finishing feeling miserable and fatigued, and feeling energized and ready to go.

Back to the Houston Marathon home page.

Sunday, December 8

Brian's Post-Workout Smoothie

A theme I adamantly try to incorporate into my training is to fuel with real food. This includes pre, during and post-workout. Athletes have hundreds of processed food products to choose from. Depending on the circumstance, these products may be the athlete's best choice. But for the majority of the time it's my opinion that we should be utilizing the benefits of real, whole foods to fuel our workouts and races.

Lately, I've been making a smoothie after some hard workouts. It's easy to make, provides the macronutrient (carbs, protein, fat) ratio I need, and most importantly it's made with nutrient-dense whole foods.

I use kale as it is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Regardless of how you calculate nutrient density, kale is typically near or at the top of the list. It provides all of your recommended daily amounts of Vitamins A and K as well as a plethora of other vitamins/antioxidants and minerals. I use strawberries and blueberries because they are fruits that are higher in vitamins/antioxidants but don't contain as much sugar as other fruits like bananas and mangoes. They're also delicious.

Lastly, I include raw pastured eggs to provide protein and fat. Protein is important to help re-build muscle, while fat helps your body absorb the [fat-soluble] vitamins found in the kale. Without the fat, it's hard to absorb the vitamins. And don't worry, you can't taste the egg, trust me!

Prep Time: 5min
Cook time: 2min
Tools: Blender

1.5 cups cold water
1 cup raw dino kale
1 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)*
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)*
1 tsp raw ginger root
2 pastured raw eggs

*Note: I use frozen wild blueberries and fresh strawberries. If none of your fruit is frozen you'll need to add ice. I use this combination of fruit because it's what I typically have in the fridge. Fresh strawberries that I use with other dishes, and a big bag of frozen wild blueberries I typically only use for smoothies, like this one.

1. Add the ingredients in this order: water, kale, fresh fruit, frozen fruit.
2. Blend until desired consistency is reached.
3. Stop the blending and then add the two raw eggs.
4. Blend for an additional 5-10 seconds.
5. Enjoy!

Macronutrient Breakdown:
39g carbohydrate
17g protein
8g fat

Friday, December 6

Marathon Haters & My Extended Family

"My haters are my motivators."
- Ellen DeGeneres

Back in November I came across three similar articles within the span of a week. Each had a different angle, but they all shared a common denominator: bashing marathons. The purpose of this post is not to refute their claims, but to provide my own perspective on why folks run marathons. But first, allow me to provide a very brief summary with some commentary on each aforementioned article...

The Terrifying Hell A Marathon Inflicts On The Human Body

I'm pretty sure the title of this one says it all. The author, who ran the 2005 Boston Marathon unofficially (he wasn't registered, nor -- I assume -- did he qualify), describes the negative physical effects that take place after running a marathon. Furthermore, he outlines bodily changes that occur from the impact of running 26.2 miles. He notes, however, that "for the overwhelming majority of runners... these changes are transient and full recovery occurs within days, without any apparent long-term adverse consequences." While reading this article it became clear that this guy, who slammed an entire key lime pie and bag of Doritos post-marathon, wasn't the smartest runner on the planet. To be fair, he was very honest with his portrayal of some data, citing a study of 215,413 runners, four of which had sudden cardiac death (0.002%) while running.

OK, You're a Runner. Get over It

I'm pretty sure the title of this one says it all as well. (Amazing how plainspoken an author can be before you even read the first sentence, isn't it?) This author proposes the question: "What's with this infatuation with running and the near-mandatory ritual of preening about it?" He references runners' that have "13.1" or "26.2" stickers on their cars as among those "preening." He suggests that some runners run so that they have something to boast about.

26 Reasons Not To Run A Marathon

The opening sums it up well: "It's certainly an admirable feat to run 26.2 miles, but it's not for everyone. And since we're in the thick of prime marathon season -- is anyone else's Facebook feed full of finisher's medals and PR times and charity donation pleas?! -- we thought we might throw a bone the way of the non-marathoners. Hey, it's okay if you don't want to run a marathon. In fact, science may even be on your side." The author goes on to list a reason for each mile of a marathon for why you shouldn't run one.

Most of the opinions in these posts seem to be misguided at best. A few, though, I really agree with. And it is at this point that I will run the risk of offending some of my extended family in the endurance sports realm...

I will concede that the actual event of running 26.2 miles is not optimal for health. <Gasp!> I repeat: running a marathon is not the healthiest thing one can do. But isn't this sort of obvious? The Paleo/Primal side of me has to impart some common sense wisdom here, in that there are certainly other ways to stay healthy that don't involve running that far. I mean let's be honest with ourselves. And that means you, too, Ironman triathletes. Swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 and then running a marathon isn't much healthier. Those events take an enormous toll that don't optimize for health.

Having said that, there are undoubtedly some physical benefits that make us healthier as a result from training, staying active and being fit. But it all comes back to how we do it. Luckily, the old dogma of the day is starting to fade. People are achieving performance without sacrificing their health. By implementing a "less is more" strategy with an emphasis on recovery and nutrition, healthy living doesn't have to interfere with achieving athletic performance (and vice versa). I'm trying to demonstrate that now on my path to Houston. Fortunately for me, I'm coached by someone who gets it, and am a part of a Club that gets it.

So, where does that leave us? Why run a marathon?

I can't possibly address all reasons here, as there are countless combinations based on an individual's context and circumstance. Some do it as a bucket-list achievement while others need an ambitious goal to drive them out of the couch potato life style.

One of the main reasons, at least for me, is apparent in something I alluded to earlier: my extended family. You see, the people I've met, fund-raised with, raced against or worked out alongside are far more than a community, they're a family. Endurance sports like marathons have brought us and kept us together. Because of marathons, I've become closer to my uncle than I would have ever imagined. Because of triathlons, I've got a new group of friends, many of whom will be at my wedding!

Coincidentally the week after I had read three different 'marathon hater' articles I saw another post come through via Twitter that carried a much different tone: Jim's Last Group Run. It brought a tear to my eye the author described his dear friend, Jim, a man who died while doing what he loved: running. The relationships and community he built through running are evident in the picture below, where his friends and family followed Jim's hearse to his funeral for one last "group run."

This weekend (weather permitting!) I'll be running with thousands of my extended family in the Dallas Marathon & Half Marathon. Many will run for various different reasons. For some, this will be their one and only bucket list achievement, others will be aiming for a personal best. Regardless of the reason, we'll all be united by a common bond, a bond that unless you've ever done one, you'll never quite understand. A bond that drives us to post silly Facebook posts, wear finishers shirts and represent "26.2" stickers. 

Oh, and to all haters: you're damn right we'll be proud of it!

Wednesday, December 4

Featured Whole30'er: Samantha T.

Why did you decide to do a Whole30?

I was initially leery to do the Whole30 challenge because several of my friends struggled with eating disorders during college, and I did not want to let myself become obsessed with food or get wrapped up in a fad weight loss-focused diet. However, after seeing several trusted friends take on the challenge and reading more about the program itself, I realized that the Whole30 challenge really isn't about dieting as much as it is about allowing yourself to feel the true benefits of being good to your body. I am also really into yoga and was sick of unnecessarily powering through Saturday morning yoga classes with a hangover courtesy of the prior evening’s festivities. I am now on day 24 and haven't stepped on a scale at all during this challenge and have no idea how many inches I have lost, if any, but am experiencing so many more fulfilling benefits from changing my habits around the foods and beverages I consume.
What's been the hardest part?

The hardest part initially for me was revamping my pantry and making sure I always prepared for meals ahead of time, but with a Whole Foods right across from my office, I had it pretty made. I love my new weekend routine of hitting up the farmers' market on Saturdays and prepping meals for the week on Sundays. I've joined a produce co-op with my roommate and have discovered new delicious foods. I have also been able to more heavily incorporate cooking into my daily routine, which I love.
What's been the best part?

Hands down giving up alcohol and artificial sweetener. Although these were two things I originally hesitated to give up, their absence has been the most eye opening and rewarding. 
Alcohol: I would not describe myself as a party animal by any stretch of the imagination, but I am pretty social and go out most weekend nights, have brunch on weekend mornings and occasionally meet friends for happy hour during the week. These are things I look forward to, and maintaining relationships through these activities is important to me. I was terrified that committing to no alcohol for 30 days would instantly make me lame or that I would realize my confidence in social situations was actually liquid courage. This challenge made me realize the opposite. As obvious as it may seem, it was refreshing to feel in control during late nights out and empowering to know that I don't need alcohol to fuel my having fun in social settings. Giving up alcohol hasn't at all negatively impacted my social calendar, and the icing on the cake: I still feel great when I wake up the next morning.
Artificial sweetener: I definitely had a diet coke problem, and was a sucker for zero or low calorie options packed with artificial sweetener. Prior to the Whole30 challenge, I would "treat" myself to a diet coke every afternoon around 3pm from the free soda machine at my office to give myself a boost for the last stretch of the work day. Instead of feeling energized, I typically felt worse and would often combat a late afternoon headache either from not enough or too much caffeine. Eliminating this unsuccessful caffeine balancing act has been a game changer to my productivity level at work. It's also much easier to get more water in throughout the day when I am not focused on fitting in my soda fix. Because my energy is more sustained throughout the day as a result of the foods I am eating, I haven't even felt the need for that afternoon boost. In addition, getting rid of artificial sweetener has made me crave other sweets a lot less.

Advice for anyone doing one in the future?

Commit to doing it 100%. About six months ago, I "committed" to doing my own rendition of the Whole30 challenge with the addition of black beans, oats, goat cheese and alcohol on occasion... so basically not doing the challenge at all. That totally misses the point, and I lasted approximately two days. Anyone can try something out for 30 days, and habits that I thought I couldn't live without seem much less appealing now. I thought I would be counting down the days until I could have a margarita, but now don't really have the desire to return to any old habits on day 31.

Tuesday, December 3

Paleo Pasta Primavera with Ground Turkey

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 50 min
Tools: Heavy sauce pan with lid

1 spaghetti squash
2 tbs coconut oil 
2 smalls heads of broccoli, or 3 cups of broccoli florets 
8 oz artichoke hearts in olive oil
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil
1/4 cup chicken or beef stock (without additives for Whole30'ers)
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary 
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
2. Slice spaghetti squash in half with a sharp knife (be careful!). Scoop out the seeds.  Place the two halves face down in a shallow baking dish with a 1/4 inch of water in the bottom. Cook for approximately 45 min., until the back of the squash is just slightly tender when poked with a fork. 
3. While the squash is cooking, heat 2 tbs coconut oil over medium heat in a heavy sauce pan. Add the ground turkey and sauté until almost fully cooked. 
4. Add the broccoli, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, stock, oregano, thyme, rosemary and red pepper to the pan and mix evenly. 
5. Cover the dish for 5-10 min to help steam the broccoli. Once the broccoli softens, turn the heat down to low. Cover and let sit until the squash is finished. 
6. Remove the spaghetti squash, turn face side up and let cool for 5-10 min. Once cooled enough to handle, take a fork and scrape along the squash so it pulls up like “spaghetti strings.” 
7. Add the squash to the turkey dish and mix well. 
8. Top with parmesan and serve warm. 
9. Enjoy!  

Monday, December 2

Houston Marathon: Week 8

Week 8 Primary Focus:           Speed, Strength
Longest Run To-Date:             12mi

Last week (Week 7) I had logged the most amount of run mileage since the start of my training. This week I already surpassed it with less runs, they were just much longer. My first run was a speed workout that I did at a nearby track. The second workout was a 90min tempo run where I had to sustain a 6:55/mi pace. And the third was a 2hr endurance run where I kept my heart rate in Zone 2; it was also my longest run to-date at 12mi. As you can tell, this was another big week. The intention was to get some serious work in so that I could recover while on vacation the week of Thanksgiving.

Mental Bank

Two of the three runs this week I've already filed away in what I call my 'mental bank.' They are special runs that I'll specifically remember and tap into during the Houston Marathon, especially when times get tough near the end. I've found it to be very helpful to use a mental bank to help push me through the pain and motivate me to the finish line. The two runs I'll undoubtedly refer to are my 90min tempo run, and my 2hr endurance run from this week of training.

The 90min tempo run was done outside, in the rain, in the dark, while it was 36 degrees. It was also a Friday night; not exactly your typical start to the weekend for a 26-year-old. The climate was the epitome of miserable. Although, it's a possibility that I experience this same climate on race day, so it was a great experience in that regard.

The 2hr endurance run was almost the complete opposite, as it was done inside, on a treadmill. This was arguably just as miserable as the run the night prior in the rain. Two hours on a hamster wheel will make most go insane, but the fact that the only thing on TV in front of me at the gym was women's WWE wrestling made it even worse.

Looking back on those runs (believe it or not) makes me smile. They were win's in a sense that they were solid training runs that I can deposit into my mental bank for future withdrawal. Remembering how hard you worked throughout training can provide an amazing confidence boost, and an even better physical boost during the race.

Me, freezing my butt off before the tempo run

Back to the Houston Marathon home page.

Wednesday, November 27

Happy Thanksgiving!

We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Feeling incredibly blessed. We hope you have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 25

Calories In, Calories Out

Last week I gave a speech at LUV Toastmasters, a public speaking organization at Southwest Airlines. The topic was on calories and the concept of "energy balance": calories in, calories out. I stay pretty high-level, but hopefully get the point across that the calorie equation doesn't do much for us in terms of explaining weight-gain (or loss).

Mark Sisson does a fantastic job of debunking myths about this faulty equation. Read his post here.

Thursday, November 21

Houston Marathon: Week 7

Week 7 Primary Focus:           Speed, Strength, Checkpoint
Longest Run To-Date:             10mi

This was a tough week. As you can see, I ran five different times for a grand total of just over 23mi -- the most mileage I've put in since starting the training seven weeks ago. The individual runs weren't long (longest run was just over 7mi), but the sum total over the seven days added up. The intensity of the workouts also increased as my focus shifted to more speed.

You've heard me mention both 'volume' and 'intensity' throughout this series, so I wanted to take some time to briefly cover each topic and the difference between the two.

Volume & Intensity

Volume is the quantity of mileage or the duration of time. When people talk about volume they're sometimes referring to longer endurance runs; but most the time people speak about volume in terms of a sum total of mileage over a given period of time. As an example, a 'high-volume' week would typically include longer runs that add up to a good amount of mileage.

Intensity refers more to the level of effort put forth during individual workouts. Yasso 800s, hill repeats and other interval/speed workouts are prime examples of high-intensity. Most of them all end up being shorter runs (3.5-4mi) but at a very fast pace or hard effort where the heart rate is elevated.

Volume and intensity are both two different levers we can pull to achieve a certain workload. It's the aggregate of that workload (with incorporated recovery & nutrition) during a training program that makes the athlete stronger and faster.

Volume x Intensity = Workload

Many traditional marathon training programs rely too heavily on the volume lever, encouraging runners to put in ridiculous amounts of mileage which beats up the body and increases the odds of injury. This mentality of "more is better" is becoming a philosophy of the past as more and more research indicates less volume and higher intensity is a safer and more effective way to train.

I want to expand on this concept of workload just a little further. My Coach and I use an online software program called Training Peaks to communicate back and forth regarding my training. He submits my schedule for the week and I'm able to view it in a calendar format. I then upload my workout files (gathered by my Garmin sports watch) so that he's able to analyze and determine my progress. Training Peaks has a measurement that they call a "Training Stress Score." Essentially, it's a number that takes into account both volume and intensity to approximate "the overall training load and physiological stress created."

Just so you can get a gauge on the different scores, consider the following workouts and their respective TSS:

45min Zone 2 Run: 26.7
This week's Yasso 800: 54.4
Newport Marathon: 347.8

November 17, 2013: Yasso 800s (#3)

Yasso 800 #3 was a bit of a mess. My legs were not fresh as this was at the end of a tough week. Furthermore, it was 82 degrees outside! Not sure why I was surprised by this, as it's a pretty common thing for November in Dallas. Regardless, for the past several weeks the hottest it had been was in the upper-60s, so this increase in temperature threw me off a bit as my body wasn't used to it. Having said all of this, my willpower muscle kicked in and I was able to match Yasso 800 #2 back in Week 5 by completing 5 sets. I suppose you can call this 'progress' all things considered.

Back to the Houston Marathon home page.

Southern Shrimp and Cauliflower Grits

Prep Time: 1-4 hour (for marinating)
Cook Time: 40 min
Serves: 2-3
Tools: Food processor or immersion blender


Shrimp Marinade:
·         Zest from 1 lemon
·         2 cloves garlic, minced
·         3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
·         1 tsp dried oregano
·         1 lbs raw shrimp, shelled and de-veined

Cauliflower Mash:
·         1 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
·         6 cloves garlic, peeled
·         extra-virgin olive oil
·         Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
·         2 tbs Kerry Gold butter (grass-fed) (or, Ghee for Whole30'ers)
·         ¼ cup of coconut milk

Lemon Garlic Shrimp:
·         Marinated shrimp (from above)
·         4 cloves garlic, minced
·         3 slices bacon
·         1 tbs Kerry Gold butter (grass-fed) (or, Ghee for Whole30'ers)
·         3 tbs of white wine vinegar
·         ½ sweet onion, diced
·         ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
·         1 tsp of dried oregano
·         juice of one lemon
·         Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
·         Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (optional)


  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a seal-able bag: lemon zest, 2 garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano. Add shrimp and mix well. Let it marinade in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F.  Place the cauliflower and 6 garlic cloves in a shallow roasting pan.  Toss with enough olive oil to coat the pan and the vegetables.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover the cauliflower and garlic loosely with foil, and roast for 15 minutes.
  4. While the cauliflower is roasting for these first 15 min, prepare the onion and garlic for cooking the shrimp. Dice the onion and mince the 4 garlic cloves.
  5. After 15 min, remove the foil on the cauliflower, and shake to mix up the vegetables for more even browning.  Roast uncovered for 15 more minutes or until cauliflower and garlic is soft and lightly browned.  Remove from oven.
  6. While the cauliflower is roasting for another 15 min, cook the bacon strips in a heavy sauté pan until crispy. When done, save the bacon drippings for cooking the lemon garlic shrimp, and set aside the bacon pieces on paper towels. Chop the bacon pieces into small piece when cool, and save to sprinkle on top of your finished dish.
  7. When the cauliflower is done, add 2 tbs of butter and ¼ cup of coconut milk to a food processor or immersion blender. Then add the cauliflower and garlic. Puree until smooth or desired texture is reached. Ideally, you want the cauliflower to have the consistency of grits. Add more coconut milk if the cauliflower is too dense. Add salt and pepper to taste and place in a heat-proof bowl to keep warm.
  8. Add 1 tbs of butter to the bacon drippings in the pan, and heat until melted over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened.  Add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano, and sauté for about a minute, stirring frequently.  Stir in white wine vinegar and cook until liquid is reduced by half (will only take a few minutes).
  9. Add the shrimp, stirring frequently and turning the shrimp until it’s pink and opaque on both sides.  This should only take 3 or 4 minutes; do not overcook the shrimp or they will be rubbery!
  10. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from heat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve the shrimp and sauce over the mashed cauliflower.  Garnish with chopped bacon and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  12. Enjoy!

Monday, November 18

Houston Marathon: Week 6

Week 6 Primary Focus:           Strength & Endurance, Speed
Longest Run To-Date:             10mi

This week's focus was slightly different in that we're beginning to incorporate speed on a regular basis. The beginning of the week started off with two off-days back-to-back. One was planned, and the other was an adjustment.


I've mentioned this in previous posts (herehere), but I'm a firm believer in having a coach if you can afford one. A customized training plan can add a ton of benefit to achieving your goals, regardless of how aggressive or modest they may be. One of the reasons coaches are so important is because they tailor your training program in real-time. As an example, if you complete a workout and the coach noticed certain aspects of that workout (pace, heart rate, other feedback) that would indicate fatigue, he or she may be likely to scale back your workload for the coming days to allow for proper recovery.

Another reason for adjustments include injury-related incidents. A coach will not continue to prescribe runs if the athlete's foot is messed up. Instead, the coach may try to incorporate low-impact aerobic exercise like cycling and swimming, supplemented with some specific weight training.

The most common reason my workout schedule is adjusted is because sometimes life gets in the way. We all live busy lives and as critical as it is to have a plan, sometimes those plans get interrupted by unforeseen events. To be able to shoot my coach a text or e-mail saying "Hey Mike, I'm not able to get my run in this evening as I'm working late" is a luxury I'm more than willing to pay for. Without hesitation, he rearranges some workouts in my schedule and tweaks a few things about some workouts. The training program is designed with intent. Just because you miss one run doesn't mean you should just double-up the following day.

More on why coaches are a good idea in a later post.

Onward and upward!

Picture provided by @HoustonMarathon

Back to the Houston Marathon home page.

Thursday, November 14

Coconutty Pancakes

Prep Time: 15 min.
Cook Time: 15-20 min.
Serves: 4-6
Tools: Food processor

3 eggs
3 tbs melted Kerry Gold butter or coconut oil
1/4 c plus 2 tbs coconut milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp honey (optional)
1/2 c coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 c chopped coconut flakes
1/4 c chopped almonds
1/2 c of water (approximately)
Optional toppings: berries, syrup, butter, cashew butter

1. Whisk together eggs, butter, coconut milk, honey, almond extract and vanilla extract.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg, and then add the wet ingredients, stirring until smooth.
3. Place the coconut flakes and almonds in a food processor to make sure they're chopped up well. Gently stir in the chopped coconut flakes and almonds into the batter.
4. As the water to thin the batter until it reaches your desired consistency. In a well-buttered pan or griddle, cook the pancakes until browned on both sides (about 3 min a side).
5. Smaller pancakes are easier to flip than larger ones as the pancakes will fall apart if they are too big.
6. Enjoy with syrup, butter, berries or cashew butter!

Wednesday, November 13

A Prayer for Comfort

Below is a prayer Jessie and I have shared with scores of people over the years. Often times we look at it when we're feeling down. Regardless of your religious beliefs, we hope these words speak to you.

We love your kingdom, O God, with its promise of justice, its feeling of compassion, its dimensions of joy and hope, its sense of eternity. In our times of darkest despair, it encourages us. In our moments of deepest exhaustion with life it bids us stand and go forward. Therefore we pray for those this morning who have come here tired and discouraged for any reason, that they may remember that your kingdom is both now and forever, and that the seeds of belief and trust may be reawakened in their lives, to bring them once more to a harvest of love and excitement in living. Help us to voice to you our most intimate thoughts, and, having done so, to find healing and support for our entire existence. Amen.

Tuesday, November 12

The Importance of Breakfast

Houston Marathon: Week 5

Week 5 Primary Focus:           Strength & Endurance, Checkpoint
Longest Run To-Date:             9.3mi

The primary focus remained the same this week as I continued to do workouts that are making me stronger, as well as increasing my endurance. As a reminder, it's this phase of training that's providing me the foundation to run 26.2mi. Think about it this way: theoretically, once this 'stage' of training is complete, and assuming I'm recovered and rested, I'd be able to go out and run a marathon. Notice, however, that I didn't specify how fast. It's later in the training that the primary focus will shift from strength/endurance to more speed and pacing.

A run is a run is a run

When I first started taking endurance sports seriously I had a habit of getting way too pumped up about successful workouts. Conversely, I'd get way too down on myself when my workout wasn't to up to par. I can vividly remember finishing some runs throughout my training for the 2011 Chicago Marathon and thinking: "I'm ready! I'm going to rock this!" And on the flip side I can remember almost panicking after finishing a training run because of how poorly it went. In other words, my high's were too high and my low's were too low. 

Those dramatic swings in emotions from workout to workout can take a mental toll and expedite burnout. It creates unnecessary anxiety throughout training which is nothing more than an energy drain. I remember a few years ago I did a training run that was awful. I felt lethargic, my legs were heavy, my pace was slow and it was overall just a bad run. Afterwards, I analyzed the heck out of it and felt extremely depressed about my progress (or lack thereof). I sent a long write-up to my coach at the time who simply responded with: "Sometimes, Brian, a run is a run is a run. We got the completion. Let's move on."

It's taken me a while to to truly 'get it', but now that I do, it's helped the mental aspect of my training, and by extension the physical aspect has also yielded benefits. In training, a lot of times you have to realize that a run is a run. Don't get too elated after a good workout, because a bad one is likely to follow. And don't get too put out by a crummy workout, because you'll nail one around the corner. I'm not saying don't celebrate the wins throughout your training, but what I am saying is that keeping an even keel is critical.

November 3, 2013: Yasso 800s (#2)

Back in Part II: Baseline, I described Yasso 800s as a training mechanism and a way to measure progress. As a reminder, the goal is to complete 10 sets (or 800s). Back at the end of September I completed three. On November 3rd of this week I completed five. Nothing to jump for joy about, nor to get worried about. It's progress, but I've still got work to do. After all, a run is a run is a run.

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