Help me pick my next running shoe!

Hi everyone!  My training and miles are starting to pick up, and I’m a fan of having shoes on rotation to keep my joints guessing, and to allow my shoes time to decompress so that they will last longer.  I thought I would extend the invite to you bloggers:  What shoes should I get?

I would love your input, so comment below and if you can, tell me what makes it your favorite!  And don’t pick based on color 🙂

Here are my 4 options:

1) Asics Cumulus

cumulus

2) Brooks Ghost

ghost

3) New Balance 890 v4

newbalance

4) Saucony Mirage 4

mirage

If you have any other suggestions for well cushioned neutral shoes, please share!

happy shopping!

-jules

Race Report: Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon

It was a whirlwind 2 days in Knoxville this weekend!  My running buddy and I treated this race like a normal long run, except with medals at the end (if only I got a medal for every long run!)  So we finished easy with a time of 1:49.  Here are my thoughts on the race:

Expo:

  • A little hard to find, but once we did we weren’t disappointed!
  • Extremely organized.  We had some inside help, and our bags and numbers had already been picked up.  But it seemed pretty stress-free.
  • T-shirts were bright blue, short sleeve, really soft tech material.  I’ll definitely wear it.  Bags were your standard drawstring bags.
  • Lots of deals!  I snagged a pair of my boyfriend’s running shoes for only $60 (they usually run about $115).
  • Lots of free stuff.  Which, come on, thats half of the fun of the expo.  I got sunglasses from Dick’s and an infuser water bottle from Publix.  And samples on samples.

Race Day:

Image 1

  • We got to sleep in for this one, with a relatively late start of 7:30 AM.
  • Parking was pretty easy.  There were two lots they had circled on a map for us that were very close to both the start and finish.  A little bit of a line and wait to get into the parking deck, but there was plenty of room.
  • Lines for bathrooms were pretty long, but hey, thats normal.
  • This particular morning was cold!  I’m so glad I took my own tip and brought options, or else I would have been totally unprepared for the change in weather.  I wore my sugoi winter tights, and a mizuno breath-thermo half zip that warms up after a few minutes of running.
  • This race had a wave start, so the hand cyclists went first, and then corrals, with both the marathoners and half marathoners.  It wasn’t crowded at all, I felt like I had plenty of space.
  • My friend had a hard time finding her pacer in the start.  I think they may have only had full marathon pacers, which, what gives?  Halfers love pacers too!

The Course:

Image 2

  • I was so grateful for my training in the mountains, because this race was hilly!
  • For the first 3-4 miles we went up a little bit, and then ran along the river.  This section was pretty flat and fast.
  • For the middle miles, we dipped into the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood, which  is beautiful. My run buddy and I entertained ourself at first by picking out our dream house.  We didn’t have to entertain ourselves for long though because this neighborhoods sign game was on point.  So much crowd support!
  • This section was rolling, but with a net downhill, so it was easy breezy until you got to the end of the section, where the mac daddy hill awaited you.  2 miles of net downhill all compounded into about a quarter mile uphill.  Luckily, a DJ was pumping music to get us all up it.
  • Miles 7-11 were on the greenway, which was nice, but a little quiet.  The hills weren’t nearly as bad, but at this point all that downhill you ran in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood had caught up to us, so even the little downhill kickers were hurting.  I could see this section being really nice had it been warmer, since the whole thing is shaded.
  • The last couple miles are around the downtown area, and this section is pretty hilly too.  The only thing that kept us going at this point was the fact that we were so close.
  • The finish was awesome.  You have one last tiny uphill, and then you do an easy cruise downhill into the University of Tennessee football stadium!  Truly epic.

Post Race:

Image 3

  • We got some sweet medals, space blankets, and bottled waters right after we finished.
  • I was disappointed that there wasn’t food immediately available, and that poweraid (the sponsored sport drink) wasn’t immediate either, only water.
  • You had to pretty much walk around the whole stadium, and go upstairs to find food.
  • The only warm spot on this cold day was the med tent.  I have pretty significant Reynauds and wandered in trying to find some hand warmers, and they let me sit and warm up.  Ifyou have Reynauds syndrome, you know how bad it hurts, so I was kinda cranky that it even happened (“if there was, you know, someplace WARM my fingers wouldn’t be FREEZING OFF!”)

Image 4Overall, I really liked this course, especially the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood.  So many funny signs (“Naked Cheerleaders, half a mile” with bras and panties in the trees, and then “Naked Cheerleaders on Break!  Be back soon!”), and an entire Star Wars themed aid station complete with theme song.

If you plan on running this race, the number one tip I can give you is to get on some hills.  I definitely had a much more pleasant experience compared to most of the runners around me.  The downhills are what get you, that eccentric loading really kills your legs.

If you’re interested in running this race next year, and have any unanswered questions, feel free to comment below!

Happy racing!

-jules

What is a VO2 Max and Why You Should Know It!

So this week for my biomechanical assessment class I got to do a VO2 max test.  That means I ran really hard on a treadmill until I couldn’t run any more, while the air I breathed out was measured for oxygen and carbon dioxide.  Heres the What’s, and Why’s and what to expect if you were to go in for an exercise test.

What is VO2 Max?

  • VO2 max stands for volume of oxygen maximally consumed.  You are always breathing, which means you are always using oxygen.  Now, if you were to measure the oxygen you’ve used just sitting there per minute (which can be done!) it would be about 3.5 ml per kg of body weight per minute of you sitting there.  Now when you get moving, you use more oxygen, so that number goes up.  It can go up to 10 times your resting number when you’re exercising, and even higher for athletes.

How do you measure your VO2 Max?

  • There are several ways VO2 max can be measured.  You can estimate your VO2 max one way using equations, by running either a mile and a half or two miles on a track as fast as you can, and plugging your values into a formula.  This website is a handy tool if you want to try: http://www.exrx.net/Calculators/OneAndHalf.html
  • You can go to a lab and have yours tested.  If your local university has a physiology program, they probably have the equipment to do it, and most will be happy to test a volunteer for research purposes.  In addition, sometimes your doctor may call for a max test to rule out cardiac or pulmonary diseases.  Either way, going to lab usually entails riding a bike or walking and then running on a treadmill while you wear a mask or mouthpiece to catch the air you breathe.

Why would you want to know your VO2 Max?

  • VO2 max is closely correlated with health and all cause mortality.  Basically, the higher your VO2 max, the less likely you are do die from anything.  There are a ton of resources, but here is a quick chart so you can see how you compare if you do know your VO2 max:
    • vo2max
  • People will lower VO2 maxes are also more likely to develop heart disease.
  • You can improve your VO2 max by pushing yourself on the cardio.  In a training study, people improved their VO2 max by doing card 4-5 times a week for 3 months.

What to expect during a VO2 max test:

  • There will be a lot of people.  A max test takes at least three people to run: 1 person taking blood pressure and heart rate measurements, 1 person recording values, and 1 person monitoring the cart.
  • You will drool.  And its okay, everyone will be used to it.  The mouthpiece used to catch the air isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world.
  • It will be short.  VO2 max tests should only take between 8-12 minutes.  They want you to go long enough to get warmed up and all your muscles to be working, but not fatigued.
  • It will be hard.  The purpose of the test is to see how much oxygen you can maximally use, which means you have to work your muscles to the max.  The test is going to be hard, and its going to push you for longer than you would probably push yourself.  They are watching the numbers on the monitor, so they will know when you’ve hit your max before you do.

Hope this post peaks your interest in getting VO2 max tested!  PS: mine was 54 ml/kg/min!

happy maxing!

-jules

The Do’s and Don’ts guide to your first Marathon/Half

I am one week away from my first half marathon of the year!  While I am using this race as a tuner for my marathon this spring (and thus am not expecting a PR time), I thought I would still offer some Do’s and Don’ts from a seasoned endurance runner for some of you first time marathoners and halfers!


  • What do I wear?
    • DO check the weather, and bring options!  I had a nightmare race a year ago when the weather turned and all I had brought was a tank and shorts.  I got a lovely visit to the med tent for hypothermia.
    • DO prep the night before.  Go ahead an pin your number on, put your chip on your shoe if you have to, get your fuel belt ready to go if you’re using one. That way you won’t forget anything that morning with all your race day excitement.
    • DON’T try anything new.  Race day is not the day to break in new shoes, try new socks, or wear your cute new race day outfit.  Make sure you have at least one practice run in your new race duds so you know nothing will chafe you the wrong way.
    • DO pack a garbage bag.  Most races start early in the morning when its a little cooler, leaving you standing there in the cold in your race gear sometimes as long as an hour before you get to start running.  Bring a garbage bag, punch some arm and head holes, and you have yourself a makeshift space blanket to keep the heat in before the gun goes off, so you don’t waste too much energy shivering, then you can ditch it once you warm up.
    • DON’T wear your race shirt.  You gotta earn it!  You’ll stand out as a race-newbie, plus wouldn’t you rather wear it all day long after your race so that everyone who sees you knows what you accomplished?
  • What and When do I eat?
    • DO eat breakfast.
      •  If you normally run in the mornings, eat what you normally eat before your long runs, and give yourself at least an hour to digest.
      • If you normally run in the afternoons, you’re used to having some food in your belly before running.  Eat a light, carb-dense breakfast with a banana.  My go-to is half a bagel, with a thin spread of nutella with a banana.  Again, give yourself at least an hour to digest.
      • If you’re a regular coffee drinker, go ahead and have a cup as soon as you wake up.  If you don’t you’ll have a hard time warming up because your heart rate won’t have that caffeine jolt to give it a boost.  If you’re not a coffee drinker, today is not the day to become one.
    • DON’T try anything new.  Again, you don’t want to venture in unknown territory, especially with your stomach and bowels jostling around.  Only take gels at the aid stations if you’re used to taking them, or else the carbs can cause an upset stomach on the course.
    • DO find out what they’re serving on the course.  If you plan on using gels or taking an energy drink cup instead of water, find out what they are serving on the course.  There are different brands of each, so you can give your stomach some practice digesting while running, and you won’t be surprised by flavors and textures.
  • During the Race
    • DO utilize the pace team.  Whether you’re trying to get a PR or just finish the race, running with a pacer ensures you aren’t running alone.  Most races have people whose job is to keep a set pace so that you don’t have to.  Usually they are wearing bright colors and holding a sign on race day, and they’ll keep you chatting the whole race and keep your mind off running.  Try to find the pace team table at the expo and you can know who to look for on race morning.
    • DON’T get too excited.  Theres a lot of people around you and a lot of energy, so you’re going to want to jet off at top speed.  Try to keep a pace you can sustain, remember its a long race.
    • DO challenge yourself.  While you don’t want to overdo it, you do want to utilize all that energy around you to exceed your expectations.  Don’t be afraid to go for it!
    • DON’T forget to smile for pictures!  Theres going to be a lot of photographers on the course, and while you may not look stunning (who does look stunning while running?!), smiling will exponentially increase your aesthetic.
    • DO thank all the volunteers!  They’re up and out just as early as you are, just to make sure you can safely cross major roads, stay hydrated, and keep an upbeat attitude.   They’re there for YOU!
  • Post-Race
    • DO sprint to the finish.  You’ll be amazed at the burst of energy you’ll get when you see that finish line.
    • DON’T skip the snacks.  You’ll be shuttled through a line of water, energy drinks, and snacks.  You may or may not be hungry, but definitely take some water and an energy drink, and some cookies or pretzels or whatever you think you can stomach.  Getting some nutrition in you immediately after will help you feel less exhausted later in the day.
    • DO grab a space blanket.  You may not be cold right when you finish, but once your body temperature drops, and the sweat lingers, you can get pretty chilly.  If they are offering space blankets, go ahead and grab one, even if you don’t think you’ll need it.  My mother likes to take an extra and save it for the next race, to wear in the start line instead of a garbage bag.
    • DO take advantage of the expo.  Does a free post race massage sound awesome to you?  Let me tell you, it is.
    • DO plan a place to meet.  If you are running with friends, its best to have a plan in case you get separated during the race.  A lot of races have “meet up” stations labeled A-Z for names.  Pick a meet up station, or find out where the race ends and plan on meeting by a nearby landmark.
    • DO wear your medal all day long.  All week long.  Show it off, you earned it!

If you have any unanswered questions, please comment below!

Happy racing everyone!


-jules

7 Bikini Tops You Can Do Stuff In!

I love the new trend of different styled bikini tops, not only because they’re cute and offer more variety, but also some of them eliminate the concern of straps or keeping those pesky triangles in place.  While I do have my share of bikinis that are made purely for laying out/looking cute in, its also nice to have options to go waterskiing, wave riding, paddle boarding, water parking, or beach volley balling in without constantly worrying about your girls coming out to play.  So I’ve polled my friends, and here are some of the best and cutest bikini tops that’ll keep everything where its supposed to be:

1) Athleta Mahina Mesh Bikini Top $49 : The high neck is super stylish, the mesh keeps it sexy, and the girls stay in place.

Mahina Mesh Bikini - Black

2) Patagonia Kupala Bikini top $55 – This suit gives you the look of a triangle, but the criss-cross straps in the back keep it feeling secure, and you also don’t get that pain behind your neck from a tightly tied strap.

bikini2

3) Nike Swim Adjustable Sport Top $55 for top & bottom on swim outlet – I feel like only competitive swimmers know about Nike swimwear.  In addition to lap suits, they make cute, sporty two pieces like this one.

bikini3

4) Victoria’s Secret Fringe Halter on sale for $22 – So “Victoria’s Secret” and “fringe” probably don’t come to mind when you first think of sensible and secure bikini tops, but this bralette style gives you a little push up, but also some security.  I have the plain bralette style, but unfortunately it appears that style has been discontinued.  This fringe version is even cuter though while offering the same fit.

bikini4

5) Roxy Hearts of Palm Crop Top $48 – Leave it to a surf company to know how to make a good bikini top (one of their tops is literally called, the athletic top).  But this one is so pretty it could double as resort wear!  If you like this style, Roxy has several in different colors and patterns.

bikini5

6) Aerie Scoop Bikini Top $35 – This scoop style is flattering and this particular top has cross straps in the back to make it super adjustable.  

bikini6

7) ModCloth Set the Serene Swimsuit Top $53 – This top stays true to ModCloth’s vintage feel while still offering a secure and flattering fit.  The matching high waist bottoms are adorbz.  Also lets take a minute to praise Aerie and ModCloth for not photoshopping their models!

bikini7

I focused entirely on bikini tops, so I apologize if you’re more of a one piece girl!

happy swimming/surfing/waterskiing/paddle boarding/doing things!

-jules

jules v. Pinterest: Indian Spinach & Garbanzo Curry Pot Pie Cupcakes in Homemade Herbed Tart Crust

Happy Pi Day guys! March 14? 3-14? 3.14?  Thats right.  So naturally I had to celebrate this momentous day with some pie.  But I couldn’t just make any old pie.  So today I took to Pinterest, and found this:

Indian Spinach & Garbanzo Curry Pot Pie Cupcakes in Homemade Herbed Tart Crust courtesy of blog Delightful-Delicious-Delovely

pie
Click image for direct link to Delightful-Delicious-Delovely’s recipe!

So, here is the original recipe (its long but worth it!):

Indian Spinach & Garbanzo Curry Pot Pie Cupcakes in Homemade Herbed Tart Crust

  • Homemade Herbed Tart Crust Pastry
  • enough for 12 cupcakes AND extra to top a full-sized pot pie

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups flour
  • 12 TBS butter (salted, if possible) – CHILLED and cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1+ TBS fresh thyme (or diced fresh sage or fresh parsley or fresh oregano) OPTIONAL
  • water
  • 1/4 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix the salt & flour together in your food processor (or in a bowl – as this dough could be made by hand – just not by me).
  • Pulse in the butter until it is incorporated into the dough.  Pulse in the fresh herbs.  Pulse in the two eggs.  Add water 1 TBS at a time until small lumps of dough form.
  • Roll the dough out on a floured surface.  I used a small bowl to cut out 24 circular disks.  I made them all the larger size required to line the bottoms of my cupcake pan.
  • Spray your cupcake tin with cooking spray and line each cup with pastry.
  • Refrigerate your pastry-lined tart pan for at least 30 minutes.

Indian Spinach & Garbanzo Curry Pot Pie Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 13.4 oz Garbanzo Beans
  • 4 packed cups (or more) chopped fresh spinach
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 medium onion – pureed in a food processor (or chopped VERY fine)
  • 2 inch cube fresh ginger – pureed in a food processor (or chopped VERY fine)
  • 3 cloves garlic – pureed in a food processor (or chopped VERY fine)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 TBS curry powder
  • 1 TBS tomato paste or puree
  • 1/2 cup of half & half (or whipping cream)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • S&P to taste

DIRECTIONS

  • PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 DEGREES.
  • Puree the onions, garlic & ginger in a food processor or chop them VERY fine.
  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan & heat the cumin & curry powder.  Add the onion-garlic-ginger & fry.
  • Add spinach, garbanzo beans, tomato sauce/paste, coriander and S&P.  Mix well.  Add the half & half (or whipping cream).  Stir & heat over medium heat for about ten minutes until the spinach is very wilted.  You shouldn’t need it – but add a small quantity of water if it gets too dry.  Remove from heat.
  • Take your chilled cupcake tin lined with the chilled tart dough out of the fridge.  Fill each tin with the curried spinach mix being sure to spoon extra curry sauce gravy into each cupcake.  Top with the remaining tart dough disks & pinch to seal the edges.  Pierce with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until pastry is a lovely golden brown.  These should life out of the pan very easily & can be served immediately.  They reheat at the same temperature in about 5-10 minutes.

Alright, heres what I did different:

  1. I made regular sized pot pies instead of cupcake sized pot pies (the recipe made just enough to fill 3!)
  2. I cheated on the crust: I used Pillsbury Gluten Free pie pastry dough.  Until I find an idiot proof gluten fee pie dough recipe thats what I’m sticking with.
  3. Here is my final product!

pie2\

So my crust folding skills are no match to Christine’s, but I have to hand it to her, this recipe was awesome!

My scores:

Level of Difficulty: 3/5.  Its really just a matter of sautéing things together.  And I am blessed to own a Ninja chopper.  And pie folding, thats hard.

Taste: 5/5.  The fresh ginger in the recipe really nails it for me.  So good.

Would I make again?  Absolutely!  I may just make the filling and put it over basmati rice next time, because even though I love a good pie, that crust just gets me every time!

Overall, I’m gonna say I nailed it!

In addition to this pie, I made a DELICIOUS banana cream pie straight out of the Thug Kitchen Cook Book.  Seriously, if you haven’t gotten this cook book, you need to!

Happy Pi Day!

-jules

Know Your Risk Status

So I’ve been kind of MIA lately because I’m studying for my grad program’s comprehensive exam.  A little stressful but that means I’m THAT much closer to graduation!  While studying clinical exercise prescription, I realized that everyone should really know their risk status for cardiovascular disease.

heart2

In case you didn’t know, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US.  Heart disease is also the leading preventable cause of death, according to the CDC.  So if you haven’t already been hospitalized for a cardiac related incident, how do you know your risk status for developing cardiovascular disease?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the following conditions increase your risk for developing heart disease.  Note that some are modifiable, and some aren’t.  Give yourself 1 point for each one that applies to you:

  1. Age: Men 45 and older, and Women 55 and older.
  2. Family History: Occurrence of heart attack, heart surgery, or cardiac related death in a first degree relative (your mom, dad or sibling) at 55 or younger for males, and 65 and younger for females.
  3. Cigarette Smoking: Current smoker or having quit smoking within the last 6 months.  Also exposure to environmental smoke.
  4. Sedentary Lifestyle: If you do not exercise for at least 30 minutes 3 days a week for 3 consecutive months, according to ACSM.
  5. Obesity:  Having a BMI greater or equal to 30.  Here is a calculator if you don’t know your BMI.  NOTE BMI isn’t the most accurate measure of body fat, BUT high BMI is very well correlated to incidence of CVD.
  6. Hypertension: Having a systolic (thats the top number) pressure 140 or greater, OR having a diastolic (bottom number) 90 or greater, OR if you are already on anti hypertension medications.  If you don’t know your pressure, usually CVS will have the machines to check yours.
  7. High Cholesterol: You’ll have to get this checked by your doctor with a blood draw.  If you’re in college, you can get your blood lipids checked for 20 bucks or less usually at your university health center (thats what I did!). Having an LDL-C of 130 or greater, OR an HDL-C 40 or less, OR a total cholesterol of 200 or greater are all risk factors, as well as if you’re already on a lipid lowering medication.  Subtract 1 point from your score though if you have an HDL-C of 60 or higher!
  8. Prediabetes:  You’ll have to get your fasting glucose numbers or do a glucose intolerance test, which will usually be ordered by a doctor for a specific reason.  If your fasting glucose was 100 or greater, or if your impaired glucose tolerance test was between 140 and 200, give yourself a point.  If you don’t know, but do have a BMI of 30 or greater, ACSM assumes pre diabetes, so as a health and fitness professional I would have to give you a point as well.

Now add up your points:

  • If you have less than two points, you are at Low Risk.  Great job! Keep up your healthy habits, and make whatever necessary changes.  If you only had one point, but that point was something like smoking, try to aim for zero modifiable  risk factors.
  • If you have two or more points, you are at Moderate Risk.  Try to make whatever lifestyle changes you find necessary to reduce your risk.  You can stop smoking, consult a nutritionist on lowering sodium and lipids in your diet to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, or lose some weight.  You can’t change your age or family history, but there are plenty of other areas in which your health is in your hands.
  • If you are already diagnosed with a metabolic cardiac, or pulmonary disease, you are High Risk.  Again, you can’t change what you’ve been dealt, some people are genetically predisposed to these diseases.  But you can reclaim control over your life and health.  Aim to be the healthiest version of you!

For more information on heart disease, and what you can do to lower your risk, visit the American Heart Association website.  If you’re trying to quit smoking, find a place to start at SmokeFree.gov.

happy Wednesday!

-jules