As I’ve moved forward in my journey towards wellness, I have become increasingly concerned with what I’m putting into my body. Sure, I’ve done the easy things – I’ve cut out fast food for the most part, stopped drinking soda pop, and found healthy substitutes for junk food.

dont drink soda

Don’t think you can give up soda? Neither did this former 4-can-per-day guzzler, but I did! You can too. In the future, I’ll share a few tips about how to wean yourself off soda. (Source)

As time has gone on, though, I’ve really gotten into the habit of reading lists of ingredients before I consume things. Unless I’m eating at a restaurant, I have made a habit out of not consuming anything unless I can get a general sense of what’s in it. (This has made for a few awkward moments at social gatherings when folks have handed me boxed food or beverages and I have instantly started scanning the ingredients right in front of them!) As a general rule, I tend to stay away from items that have ingredient lists whose lengths rival War and Peace or items that contain a tremendous amount of artificial sweeteners.

long ingredient list

Always a bad sign when it takes longer to read through the ingredient list than it does to eat! (Source)

 

Earlier in the year, I started taking a look at the type of hydration and fuel that I was using during my training. I figured that there was no point in spending several hours running and training each week in order to improve my health if I was going to consume a plethora of harmful substances in order to have the energy to do so.

When I scanned the ingredient list of the sports drinks that I had been consuming over the past few years, I was dismayed. In an effort to minimize my calorie intake, I had been consuming a great deal of zero-calorie sports drinks. After doing some reading, I learned that many of these beverages had sucralose, which is an artificial sweetener that can potentially affect the body’s insulin levels and that caused leukemia in mice in a scientific study. No thanks! When I took a look at the lists of traditional sports drinks, I noticed that the second ingredient on the list was often “Liquid Sugar” or “Sugar”. Unbelievable! If I’m going to limit consumption of my beloved Mike and Ikes to holidays, what’s the point of drinking sugar?

sugar in sport drink

Drinking these types of things after exercising is like robbing Peter to pay Paul health-wise! (Source)

I started to look around for a healthier option that would allow me to hydrate properly before and after workouts without compromising my health and long-term wellness in the process. When the folks over at Ignite Naturals reached out to me earlier in the year and asked if I wanted to try a sample, I thought that I may have found what I wanted. Their initial email to me clearly stated that their product consisted of 100% plant-based electrolytes, which was exactly what I had in mind!

Over the course of my training for the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon, I made a habit of consuming one packet of Ignite Naturals’ IN Refresh product in my pre-run water before every long run. I loved the great taste and variety of flavors, and I also felt that it did a great job of fully hydrating me for a long period of time as my runs grew longer and longer. Most importantly, though, I loved the fact that IN Refresh didn’t contain any chemicals or artificial sweeteners.

ignite naturals IN Refresh

The packets are great if you’re traveling, and the bulk powder is great for at-home use! (Source)

When Ignite Naturals approached me about joining Team Ignite in April, I was thrilled. The opportunity to come on board with a company who is focused on providing products that don’t contain any artificial sweeteners, fillers, GMOs, or processed sugars was too good to pass up!

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Since April, I’ve consumed IN Refresh before every long run or race, and I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the results. IN Refresh has helped carry me to several new PRs over the past few months, and I know that it’ll help me stay hydrated during the brutal summer months as I prepare to set a new marathon PR at the 2014 Towpath Marathon.

Best of all, I don’t have to worry about the long-term effects on my body when I consume IN Refresh. Their 100% plant-based products don’t contain anything that I’ll regret putting into my body! Check out how IN Refresh compares to some commonly used hydration products in the chart below, which comes to us courtesy of Ignite Naturals’ Indiegogo campaign (which I’ll talk about in the near future!):

electrolyte comparison chart

In addition to IN Refresh, Ignite Naturals also offers a variety of other products for your exercise and fitness needs. Check out their website to learn more about all of their product lines! I am looking forward to checking out some of their Reload Energy Gels as my marathon training long runs get longer.

Are you interested in trying out Ignite Naturals’ great products? If you are, please feel free to use my Team Ignite discount code – IN00330 – in order to save 10% off your order. I encourage you to check out their great line of products!

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If you have any questions about Ignite Naturals, please leave them in the comments or send me an email!

 

Last week, I shared a few tips about how to start off your morning on a healthy note. Let’s move onto the next part of the day – the afternoon!

1.) Eat Lunch

We’ll start with the basics. There’s no point in talking about how to eat healthy at lunch if you’re not eating lunch. Many folks don’t eat lunch for a variety of reasons. Some don’t think they have time during the day, while others think that eating less during the day will help them lose weight.  Others don’t eat lunch because they don’t take the time to pack it and don’t want to spend the money to buy it.

If you don’t think that you have time to eat lunch, I encourage you to reconsider that view. Studies have shown that well-fed employees are more productive employees. If you really want to do the best possible job for your employer, make sure to eat!

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Eat these foods to perform better at work! (Source)

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Eating these common lunch foods can help make you more productive! (Source)

As I mentioned last week, skipping a meal with the goal of accelerating weight loss is a bad idea. If you skip lunch, you’ll find yourself feeling ravenous around 3PM. It’s a lot harder to walk past that vending machine unscathed when you’re starving! When you get home, your appetite will be out of control and you’ll be more likely to overeat, make an unplanned detour at a fast food restaurant, or eat frozen foods that are packed with calories, preservatives, and sodium.

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Skipping meals is a great way to ensure that you gain weight, not lose weight! (Source)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Pack Your Lunch

If you want to stay healthy during the day, packing your lunch is the way to go.

The biggest reason why you should pack your lunch is because it allows YOU to have control over what goes into your food. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose definition of “just a little sour cream” differs from that of the Chipotle employee making one’s burrito!

Packing your lunch also increases the likelihood that you will eat your lunch. If you take the time to pack, you’ll want to eat the fruits of your labors.

One way to ensure that you pack your lunch is to put your leftovers from dinner into a microwave-safe container and to take it for lunch the next day. If you pack your lunch, you’ll be less likely to hit up unhealthy options such as fast food restaurants at lunchtime.

For folks who either just can’t bring themselves to pack a lunch or who are culinary challenged, Amy’s Kitchen’s frozen burritos are a decent option. I’ve tried a variety of their burritos and have enjoyed them all. Alternatively, you can make a pit stop at a healthy grocery store like Earth Fare and prepare a salad for the next day.

amy's burrito

I love healthy Mexican food! (Source)

 

3.) Drink Water Throughout The Work Day

Drinking water has many benefits, some of which were covered last week. I’ve found that drinking water throughout the day helps curb my appetite and prevents me from engaging in stress eating. During the work day, I know that many times I find myself wanting to eat even though I’m not hungry. Drinking water helps alleviate those cravings.

As I mentioned last week, True Lemon packets provide a great shot of healthy flavor for your water. Dropping a few pieces of cucumber and\or mint into your water bottle at the start of the day is another option for flavor. We recently bought a mint plant for our kitchen and I have really enjoyed having fresh mint at arm’s reach!

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Great on a hot day! (Source)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you exercise after work like I do, taking in enough water throughout the work day will also ensure that you are hydrated when it’s time to run. Nothing’s worse than heading into a workout feeling dehydrated.

Frequent trips to the faucet or water cooler will also give you a great excuse to get up and stretch your legs throughout the work day. If you’re wondering why you’re starting slow with some of your workouts after work, take a bit of time to reflect upon how active you were during the day. Our bodies just aren’t made to be sedentary for several hours at a time and then transition immediately into intense exercise!

 

4.) Keep a Storehouse of Healthy Snacks at Arm’s Reach

Appetite can be a funny thing. There have been days when my appetite has raged out of control all day long following a rest day, and there have been days after a long run when I haven’t been in the mood to eat much of anything. (Being rungry is the worst!)

This one’s easy for the stay-at-home parents who are reading this, because you can hit up your fridge to refuel if you’re home during the day or put something healthy and delicious in a sandwich bag if you’re heading out to run errands. For others, though, this takes some advance planning, especially if you don’t work near a grocery store.

Regardless of your situation, keeping an arsenal of healthy snacks around at all times will ensure that you move through the day on a healthy note. I keep a bag of baby carrots in my fridge at work at all times. If my lunch for the day proves to be insufficient or I wind up working later than expected, grabbing some baby carrots allows me to satisfy my hunger without jeopardizing my health.

We also really enjoy Snapea Crisps; they’re lightly salted green pea crisps that are healthy, filling, and delicious.

sneapea crisps

Much better than potato chips! (Source)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.) Change Things Up – Make Healthy Eating Interesting!

The commonly held idea of lunch in the minds of many Americans consists of lunch meat and cheese between two slices of white bread. Not too appetizing on a regular basis, eh? I think the reason why many people either eat out at lunch or don’t eat lunch at all is because coming up with different types of delicious lunches on a regular basis is difficult.

Sheila hit a lunch rut a few months ago, and she began trying out new types of lunches in an effort to make lunch more enjoyable. Over the past few weeks, she’s made avocado and hummus sandwiches, hummus and veggie sandwiches, and nut butter and jelly sandwiches.

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A delicious avocado and hummus sandwich! (Source)

 

PB&J isn’t just for kids anymore! (I have actually eaten more PB&Js in my 30s than I did in my grade school and high school years.) Make sure that your peanut butter doesn’t contain hydrogenated oils, that sugar is not the first ingredient in your jelly, and that you’re serving it up on whole grain bread. If you do all of the above, you’ll have a delicious and healthy sandwich!

For those of you who like homemade chicken salad, swapping Greek yogurt for mayonnaise allows you to create a much healthier salad. Your taste buds won’t taste the difference, but your arteries will notice the difference (and thank you for it too!)

 

I hope that some of you find these tips helpful! The stressors of the workplace can often lead the best-intentioned folks to compromise their healthy eating habits, but that doesn’t have to be the case. A bit of advance planning can go a long way in helping ensure that you leave the work day feeling good about the choices you’ve made and looking forward to a great evening with family or friends!

Do you have any tips not listed here that help you have a healthy afternoon? Please share them in the comments!

This morning, I weighed in and the scale read 190.0!

Because I rarely do anything in a conventional fashion, I neglected to do an initial “weigh in” on January 1, 2012 when I began my weight loss journey. I’m guessing that I was in the vicinity of 225-220 pounds because that is the weight at which I had been for quite awhile, but I don’t know for sure. Unfortunately, this means I don’t have an exact count on the amount of weight that I’ve lost. At the very least, I’ve lost 30 pounds over the past two and a half years. Praise God!

BeforeAfter

One of the biggest things that helped me lose weight was making several small substitutions in my diet and small changes in my eating habits. Over time, the effects of these changes added up to have a very positive impact on my health. In my opinion, none of these changes are exceptionally expensive or hard to make.

Over the next three weeks, I’ll be sharing a series of three posts with a few small, yet powerful, changes that folks can make in their own diets on the journey to health and wellness. This week’s post will be about small changes that folks can make at breakfast. Next week’s post will be about lunch, and I’ll end the series with a post about dinnertime! (I prefer to call it suppertime, but most people don’t like to call it that. Why is that?)

1) Eat Breakfast

You can’t make changes in what you eat for breakfast until you start eating breakfast. Some well-intentioned folks who are trying to lose weight don’t eat breakfast because they don’t want to consume calories, while others succumb to a busy morning schedule and run out of time to make breakfast in the morning.

Eating breakfast is crucial if you want to lose weight! I know that it may seem counter-intuitive to say that eating food is essential to losing weight, but it is. Read the rest of this entry

The winner of the Running for Hope 5K Race Entry Giveaway is Brian Michal, my fellow 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Official Blogger!

If you’re still interested in running, it’s not too late! Online registration for the Running for Hope 5K ends on Thursday, June 26. Race day registration begins at 6:45A.M. on Saturday, June 28.

Congratulations to Brian, and I hope that all who participate have a fun, fast race!

Are you looking to start off next Saturday (June 28) with a great 5K to support an excellent cause?

If so, be sure to enter my Running For Hope 5K race entry giveaway!

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This race is raising support for the Love Without Boundaries Foundation. According to the race website, the vision of the Love Without Boundaries is “to provide the most loving and compassionate help possible to impoverished children in China, and to show the world that every children, regardless of his or her needs, deserves to experience love and be treated with dignity and care.”

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This organization provides a wide variety of wonderful services to orphans in China, including education, foster care, healing homes, medical care, nutrition, and orphanage assistance. More information about Love Without Boundaries can be found here and here. Read the rest of this entry

2014 Towpath Ten-Ten Race Recap

The Towpath Ten-Ten is the second race in the Towpath Trilogy, which are a series of races that are designed to raise money Canalway Partners, the organization that promotes and develop the trails along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath. (The first race was the Towpath Half Marathon and 5 Miler in April.)

Last year, I had some great training runs leading up to last year’s Ten-Ten. Although I came out too fast, I had a great race. As the year went on, though, I realized that I may have come back too quickly after the 2013 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon and the Ten-Ten because I came down with a variety of injuries that sidelined me for much of late June, July, and early August. This year, I decided to take it a bit easier after the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon and the 2014 St. Joseph Academy Earn Your Spots 5K and focus more on cross-training.

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Core work in June leads to great marathons in October! Loved helping Sheila learn how to use the bench press machine too.

As I planned out my running schedule for the last two weeks before the Towpath Ten-Ten, I decided to do four runs: one 3 miler, one 6 miler, one 9 miler, and one 3 miler.

Each of these runs was very, very difficult. I’m attributing most of the difficulty to the hotter temperatures that have descended upon Greater Cleveland in recent weeks. My 9 miler on Tuesday evening was my worst training run of the year and one of my top 5 worst training runs of all time. Read the rest of this entry

The weather in Greater Cleveland (and elsewhere) is heating up! A few weeks ago, Sheila mentioned that the weather went from being 50 degrees to being 80 degrees in the span of a few weeks. Generally, temperatures in June tend to hang around in the 70s, but evidently Mother Nature had different plans for 2014.

Many of us are starting up fall marathon training plans. Barring injury or another government shutdown, I’ll be running the 2014 Towpath Marathon, and I know many others have started training for Chicago, Akron, Marine Corps Marathon (which will hopefully be my 2015 marathon) and many more.

For those of us who are running the Towpath Ten-Ten this Sunday, we could easily be facing 80 degree temperatures at the start.

What’s a runner to do in the heat? Here are five very, very basic tips for successful running during the dog days of summer:

summertime butters

Somebody’s ready for summer!

 

Read the rest of this entry

After the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon ended, I was hungry for another race. A great week of active recovery filled with yoga, a 5 mile dog walk, and elliptical workouts helped my legs bounce back relatively quickly.

cross training elliptical active recovery workouts

While I was The Hooley in Kamm’s Corners, I stopped by St. Joseph Academy’s booth and saw that they were hosting the Earn Your Spots 5K on Memorial Day morning. My mom is a proud alumna of St. Joseph Academy, and I also thought that I should take advantage of the fact that this race was within walking distance of my house. I told myself that I’d wait and see how my legs felt before I signed up for it. Last year, I came back too quickly after some races and I wound up hurting myself, which consequently put me a bit behind the proverbial eight ball with marathon training. I didn’t want to make the same mistake again this year. When Thursday night rolled around, my legs were feeling great, and I went ahead and registered.

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I thought this was a cool title for a race! (Source)

 

Heading into the race, I had hopes of setting a new 5K PR, but I told myself that I wasn’t going to injure myself in the process. I set a new 5K PR with a time of 24:12 at the 2014 Bay Village Snoball 5K, and I thought I had a relatively good chance of setting a new PR. Unfortunately, I started to feel slightly sick over the weekend, and when Sunday night rolled around, I wasn’t feeling the typical prerace excitement that I usually feel when I head to bed. Read the rest of this entry

When I ended Part 1, I had just concluded the first mile of the race and I was incredibly confused about my time.

The first major incline across the Hope Memorial\Lorain-Carnegie Bridge went well. My family said they would be at the end of the bridge, but I didn’t see them there. I didn’t want them to think that they came out for nothing and didn’t see me! As it turned out, they just went straight to St. Ignatius instead.

Running through my old stomping grounds of Tremont was a lot of fun, and hearing the praise music from the Spanish Assembly of God Church helped lift my spirits for a bit.

Shortly thereafter, I passed through the Mile 4 water stop and saw Sheila and many friends from church. Seeing them was a gigantic pick-me-up and I headed towards Ohio City feeling a bit better about everything. I told myself that life would go on even if I didn’t PR and that completing a half marathon at any speed is a big accomplishment and that the best thing to do was to run as hard as I could and let the timing chips and God take care of the rest.

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My friends and church family who staffed the Scranton Road Ministries C.D.C. Water Stop at Mile 4!

Read the rest of this entry

After a great last training run on Thursday, I was pumped for race weekend!

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I ran the newly added Edgewater section last Thursday – love ending a training cycle on the shores of Lake Erie!

 

Sheila and I began the weekend by attending the VIP Reception at the Hyatt Regency in the Cleveland Arcade on Friday night. Going to the Arcade always brings back great memories of days when my mom and I would go to downtown Cleveland to check out computer games from the Cleveland Public Library and eat lunch in the Arcade afterwards! A small (but mighty) contingent of Official Bloggers attended, and it was great to catch up with Brian, Renessa, and Stephanie. (For those of you who would like to check out all of the other great 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Official Bloggers, check them out here)

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From left: Renessa, Joan, Jen, Stephanie, Brian, and yours truly. Joan and Jen work for the Cleveland Marathon and took great care of all of us Official Bloggers!

 

As usual, the food was amazing. I think that I ate at least four plates of food. If any of my friends who are planning to get engaged and married in the near future are looking for a great venue for your reception, you won’t go wrong with the Arcade! Read the rest of this entry