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Six Week Half Marathon Training Plan

I have a confession: I failed miserably at working out in January. I tried — and liked — yoga, but didn’t take full advantage of my three-week pass. And, although running is the most effective and cheapest way to stay in shape, I haven’t been motivated to hit the lakefront trail in far too long. Since my only other free option is to run on a treadmill in what is basically a hotel workout room, it has been hard to get off the couch. Suddenly it’s February 2 and I need a better plan — and the motivation to actually follow it.

The best motivator to start running? Signing up for a race. Whether the event is six months or six weeks away, paying an entry fee is usually my first step toward getting in shape. The Get Lucky Chicago Half and 7k is March 14, so I’m planning to use it as a training race for the Nashville Country Music Half on April 25 (or something local around the same time). I often build races into my training plan for my “A” races because it gives me a true sense of how my training is going. And, since I try to keep in mind that the goal is just to complete a long run in a race setting, there is no (self-induced) pressure to have months of training culminate in a good time.

Since I’ve been struggling to get motivated, the training plan I wrote for the next six weeks was built around one goal: to run four times a week.  I purposely didn’t write out speed or hill workouts or include cross training days because I wanted to keep it simple and flexible. If I’m on a treadmill, I’ll make up a speed workout. (I need to do something to distract myself!) If I have time and feel like working out in addition to running, I’ll find a yoga or spin class. And if I feel like getting out of the city, I’ll head to Barrington for a long hill run. Basically, if I actually run four times a week, I’ll definitely be in better shape in six weeks than I am now and I will have set a strong base going into the spring and summer. This plan isn’t meant for beginners and it’s not intended to lead to a PR, but with a little discipline, it should help me cross the finish line. Six Weeks To A Spring HalfAnyone want to go for a run this week?

My Favorite Two-Ingredient Slow Cooker Recipes

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Image via Gimme Some Oven

When I cook — which is rare — I gravitate toward whatever takes the least prep time.  And, since pretty much any meat and sauce can be combined in a slow cooker and the meat will come out tender, flavorful and delicious, the five “recipes” below have become some of my favorites.  I make these at the beginning of the week and use them in (lettuce) tacos and salads all week long (and usually freeze some for later).

Here’s what I’ve been eating this winter:

1. Rick’s Beef Barbacoa

This is my go-to meal when I’m having friends over during the week because it gets rave reviews every time.  If I’m not trying to stick as strictly to paleo, this beef tastes GREAT with goat cheese.

  • 2-3 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1 package Frontera barbacoa sauce

Place beef in slow cooker and pour barbacoa sauce over them. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Beef should pull apart easily with a fork.

2. Beyond Beyond Easy Pulled Pork

I love this recipe, but I generally find that it’s easier to use a pre-made rub than to make one myself.  In this case, it turns seven ingredients into one.

  • 4-5 lbs pork butt roast (or shoulder)
  • A generous amount of this rub (available at Whole Foods and great on chicken and fish!)
  • Optional: yellow onion

Cover pork in rub and place in slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

3. Salsa Chicken

If the meat or frittata I’m making needs a little more flavor, I reach for whatever salsa happens to be in my refrigerator.  This takes that idea a bit further and creates delicious shredded chicken that’s great for tacos or over salad.

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa (of course, I like these)

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker and pour salsa over them.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

4. Turkey Chili

  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 jar chili starter (all three options are great!)

Put the ground turkey and chili starter in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

5. Mary Kate’s Barbecue Chicken Wings

  • Chicken wings or drumsticks
  • 1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce (or, for a more paleo option, make your own)

Place chicken wings into slow cooker and pour barbecue sauce over them.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

What’s your favorite two-ingredient meal? I’d love to add some new ones to the mix!

January Detox: Paleo Whole 30

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[Image via Kitchfix]

The first time I seriously committed to the paleo diet was in 2010. I had no idea what I was doing, but stuck to it pretty closely and ended up losing ten pounds the first two weeks. Since then, I’ve stuck to it off and on, but never quite as strictly. I’ve been feeling the need to detox the last few weeks, so I’m going to try to stick to paleo strictly through January 31 using the Whole 30 plan.

For those not familiar with paleo, here are the very basics:

  • Eat real food: lots of meat, vegetables and some fruit
  • Avoid: processed foods, sugar, grains, dairy and legumes
  • Whole 30 also requires you to cut out: caffeine and alcohol…the hardest part!

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[Image via Kitchfix]

Although I’m not an expert (and definitely not a chef), I have learned some tips along the way:

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

After seven years, I think it’s time to end my longest relationship to date: my gym membership. Even though we’ve had our ups and downs (2009: 200+ visits / 2014: 13 OHHHHMYGOD – that can’t be right!!*), it’s hard to rip off the band-aid.  I moved to Old Town to be closer to this gym.  It’s clean, it has great classes and it even has Kiehl’s in the locker room! (So how did I barely manage to go once a month all year?!)

Looking back, the writing has probably been on the wall for a few years that it’s time to let go. Running outside is obviously better — at least until the temperature dips below 20 — and I love spinning at Flywheel. Long story short, for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to get into the groove of going to the gym regularly for a while. I guess it’s finally time to shake things up.

The thought of not even having the option of going to the gym in January and February is REALLY scary, so I decided to fall back on what has always provided motivation in the past: training for a race.

Before I really start training in January, I’m hoping to get back on a running schedule over the next two weeks. Here’s what I’m *planning* to get in this week:

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