Monthly Archives: February 2014

I’m A Freezing Cold Speed Demon

The roads were 90% clear tonight, and there was hardly any wind, so I got to run outside! It was a balmy two degrees. 🙂 I dressed in cuddle dud tights & long-sleeve shirt, running pants, race t-shirt, and a columbia fleece. Winter headband to keep my ears warm. Thin gloves for the fingers….and I was off!

I set out at a comfortable pace, and was pleasantly surprised when the little voice in my ear told me I ran the first mile in 13:34! I decided to see if I could maintain the pace for the entire run. At 1.5 I was close, a 13:40 pace. There was ice on my eyebrows, and my eyelashes were freezing together…and then my phone turned off. NO!!!!!!!!!

I was determined to keep going, so I motored on in silence and decided to run the route as an out and back, which would be just under three miles. I ran all the way up the driveway and to the porch, flung the door open, and yelled “Quick—what time is it?!?!” It was 8:39. I had started my run at 8:00. I mapped the run online and it was 2.8 miles. So, my pace was definitely under 14:00. Maybe around 13:50 or 13:55? Since technology failed me, I have no record of it…just 1.8 miles at a 13:42 pace when the phone died. No matter what, I killed last week’s 3-mile pace of 14:35. My Nike+ challenge was to beat my average of 45:37. I CRUSHED IT.

This was the hardest I’ve ever run. The last half mile or so, my lungs were burning, but I knew I could keep going. I wanted to walk quite a few times, but I never stopped my running stride. I do remember thinking, “In 3 months I’m going to do this plus 10 miles…” but I need to remember that I’ll be a slightly different person—both mentally and physically— at that point.

February 11 RunCheck out my nice new running socks! After my run, I drank some water and ate a Lara Bar. I’m really trying to get in the groove of refueling after running…it’s tough for me to do since I end up running so late.

In other news, I had my Weight Watchers weigh in today. I’m down another 1.8 pounds! My current eating plan is “eat as much as possible while still losing weight, focusing on healthy foods most of the time but making room for ice cream.”

Tools for Weight Loss Success: Weekly Meal Planning

I’m going to start a new semi-regular feature on the blog: Tools for Weight Loss Success. I don’t anticipate that any of them will be earth shattering, but if they will help one person “put it all together,” they will be worth it. I’m going to kick off the series by writing about meal planning.

Why I Plan My Meals

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll notice that I often post my meal plan at the beginning of the week. Creating this plan is something I’ve been doing for months…probably close to a year. I make a weekly meal plan for quite a few reasons:

  • I love to cook, but don’t get home until 5:30 each night. Planning my meals for the week allows me to do necessary prep on the weekend so we still get a home-cooked meal each week.
  • I like to cook with seasonal ingredients. In the summer and fall, I often go to the farmer’s market and buy what looks best, then come home and plan my meals around it.
  • I hate going to the grocery store for one thing. Planning my meals allows me to make just one trip to the store per week.
  • I prefer to take my lunch to work. When I know what we’re having for dinner each night, I know if there will be enough leftovers for both of us to take lunch, or if I need to plan a separate dish for my lunches.
  • I follow Weight Watchers, so I like to know that I’ll be on track with my points for the week, yet leave a little room for splurges.
  • I avoid wasting food because I plan for leftovers.

How I Plan My Meals

On Saturday or Sunday I sit down with my breakfast and pull up my Weight Watchers meal planner. I take mental (sometimes physical) inventory of what I already have on hand that can be used, paying special attention to what must be used before it spoils. If I have a lot of ingredients that have to be used, I search for recipes that use those specific ingredients. Some of my favorite sources are Skinny Taste, Skinny Kitchen, Weight Watchers recipes, and some of my printed cookbooks. I find five recipes that look good, and slot them in Sunday – Thursday.

Then, I add my breakfast for each day. I thrive on routine, so it’s usually the same breakfast for the entire week.

Next, I take a look at the portion sizes of the recipes I’ve chosen for dinner. I allocate some of the leftovers to my husband’s lunches, and if there are any left over I slot them into some of my lunch menus. If there are still holes in the menu, I plan on making some soup, chili, or a rice bowl. I add these to my meal planner.

At this point, I look at the nutritional profile of my menu. I try to follow the Weight Watchers Good Health Guidelines, so I’ll make sure to have two full servings of dairy, at least five fruits/vegetables, 2 teaspoons of healthy oil, whole grains and lean proteins. These could be added as part of a meal or a snack.

If I’m not yet at my daily point minimum, I’ll add in some snacks. If I’m already at or over my point minimum, I’m done. (Because I’m following Weight Watchers, I can add fruits/veggies as snacks when I get hungry because they aren’t allocated Points Plus Values).

Now I know what we’re eating every day, it’s time to make a shopping list. By following this method, I usually have a pretty short list. Every week I end up buying yogurt, milk, and some fruits and vegetables. Some weeks, that’s really all I need.

After I go shopping, I determine if anything can/should be made ahead. For example, if I’ve chosen a noodle casserole dish for Monday’s dinner, I’ll probably make it on Sunday afternoon/evening and put it in the fridge so I just need to heat it in the oven when I get home from work. While I’m making the casserole, I might have a cut of meat cooking in the crockpot so it can be shredded and stored in the fridge. If I need rice for the week, I’ll make that on Sunday night and portion it out as I need it from the fridge. If I need to take meat out of the freezer, I do that on Sunday so it’s sure to be thawed when I need it.

How Much Time It Takes To Plan

I probably spend 20-30 minutes planning my menu and one hour grocery shopping. My prep time varies based on what I’ve chosen for the menu. Some weeks I only spend 30 minutes prepping things on Sunday. Other weeks I find myself in the kitchen for 4-6 hours cooking soups, stews, prepping produce, and baking breakfast options for the freezer. These weeks are far from the norm, and can totally be avoided by choosing easier-to-prepare dinners.

In the long run, meal planning saves me time. Most nights, dinner is on the table 30-45 minutes after I get home, and it’s cooked from scratch.

I Love Meal Planning

I probably love meal planning so much because I love food, and I love to cook. It has a lot of benefits even if you’re not trying to lose weight. However, if weight loss is one of your goals, it’s a very valuable tool. Making all your decisions for the week at once makes it less likely that you’ll get off track and just order pizza because you don’t know what to make for dinner.

Do you meal plan? Do you have any tips & tricks to share?


My First Group Run

I stepped outside of my comfort zone today and signed up for my first group run. It was organized by We Run This, a local women’s running community. I used to work with the founder many years ago, so it made it a little less scary to run with a group of strangers.

We met at a local running store at 8:30 a.m. to hear from a sports medicine professional and talk about injury treatment/prevention. Then it was time to head out. There were only four of us, so we split into pairs. I was paired up with Kim, who was kind enough to run at whatever pace I was able to manage. Kim’s normal easy run pace is 11:00 – 12:00, while mine is 14:00 – 15:00. If you take a look at the pace chart and splits, we started closer to her pace and then settled into my pace. I felt great, so perhaps there is hope that my speed will also improve as I increase my mileage!

February 8 pace chart

February 8 splits

This was the first time I’ve run with someone else, so now I finally know what a “conversational pace” is. I think it’s actually a little faster than what I’ve been running, so maybe I’ll try to push it a bit on my easy runs next week. I had fun chatting with Kim. She worked up to running a marathon over three years, and has run two and is training for her third. It was inspiring to hear her story, and to pick her brain about training and nutrition and gear.

We managed to finish right behind the faster pair (of course, they did a longer distance). We had to take my first post run photo that has a running buddy in it!

First Group RunAfter the run, I chatted with the other two runners, had some coffee and a granola bar (thanks, Rachel!), and stocked up on running socks at Andare, the store that hosted us.

I really enjoyed this run, and hope to try to make it out to more. I was a little intimidated about being a slowpoke, but it worked out well (thanks to Kim!). This ends a good week of running. I didn’t blog about it, but I did speed work (2 miles total) on Wednesday, and a 3-mile run and 30 minutes of strength on Thursday. All that’s left on the training schedule for this week is cross training tomorrow.

First Half Marathon Training Run

I ran today, just like I have every Tuesday so far this year. Today’s run was different, though, because it was the first run on my half marathon training schedule! I was determined to run outside so I wouldn’t have to stop during my run. Lucky for me, the weather was pretty cooperative. When I stepped outside to run at 8:00 tonight, it was 17 degrees and the roads were only partially snow covered. In most places, there were tire tracks or clear paths for me to run in. In February in Wisconsin, those are excellent conditions.

I actually started my run by talking to a new neighbor I hadn’t met before. He was walking his dog by our house just as we were leaving. Apparently, the dog wouldn’t run with him—but when I started running, the dog wanted to chase me. So, I ran around the block to his house so the dog could go home. 🙂

The run felt great. The temperature was perfect (even though my eyelashes were freezing a little), I only saw a handful of cars the entire time, and my legs felt pretty good. After the first mile, I felt like I was going a little faster than usual, but surprisingly didn’t feel fatigued. When I plugged my planned 3-mile run into Nike+, it challenged me to beat my average time, which was 48:XX. I finished in 43:45! This run definitely counts as a success in my book.

February 4 pace chartYou can see I started out pretty fast. I blame that on the neighbor and his dog. Then I was pretty steady for about a mile and a half, and I somehow managed to steadily increase my pace for the last mile. I’ve never done that!

February 4 splitsI originally was excited that all my miles were under 15 for the first time…then I realized the second mile was 15:01. So close!!

February 4 Run PhotoOverall, I think this was a great way to kick of half marathon training! Tomorrow is 2 miles, which I’ll probably do as speed work…after my dentist appointment.



Snack Attack – Time To Kick The Sugar Habit

So far, I’ve used this blog mainly to share all the good things I’ve been doing as I progress on my journey to a fitter Liz. That’s not what’s happening today.

I’m not sure what happened today, but in addition to my planned, healthy, filling meals, I ate 16 points worth of junk. From the vending machine. THIS IS WHY I’M NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE CASH AT WORK. I snagged a tiny KitKat from the receptionist’s desk (which I didn’t even count). Then I wanted more chocolate, so I bought a Twix bar. This is such a common occurrence that it’s saved as a favorite in my food tracker. Then I was still feeling snacky, so I walked back to the vending machine and bought a bag of Chex Mix. I can’t remember the last time I ate Chex Mix, but I used to be basically addicted to it.

Normally, this wouldn’t be that big of a big deal, but I’ve already eaten all of my weekly and activity points this week (I decided that a pint of ice cream would be an excellent idea this weekend). I was actually proud of myself, because after eating all my points I was still down .7 pounds from last week when I stepped on the scale this morning. This weekend, I made a conscious decision to eat the ice cream and knew I had the points for it. Today, I let myself to go the vending machine not once, but TWICE, and I knew it would put me in the red. I’m not running tonight, so I will not be crawling out of it. The worst part? I wasn’t even hungry. I was just craving something sweet.

Now, I know this is not the end of the world. I have a healthy dinner planned for tonight, and the rest of my meals this week. I just don’t know why I’ve been reaching for so much refined sugar lately. I think I may need to kick it cold turkey for a while until I get past the point of wanting it every single day at 2:00 p.m. Although, I sweeten my yogurt with homemade jam, and I don’t want to give that up. Mainly, I want to avoid candy and baked goods (I already avoid sweetened drinks).

Have you kicked the sugar habit? How did it go? Any advice for me? Resources I should check out?

Weekly Workout & Meal Plan

I’m feeling good about our meal plan for this week. Everything is pretty easy to put together, makes for good leftovers for lunches, and is planned around the fuel I’ll need for my runs.


Morning glory muffin (subbed out half the flour for whole wheat), light string cheese, mandarin orange


Spinach & chickpea stew (leftover from Sunday’s dinner), 1/2 cup quinoa, carrots, black bean hummus. Will sub out for lentil stew later in the week.


Monday: Cheesy baked pumpkin pasta, salad with garlic olive oil, milk
Tuesday: Mushroom ravioli (from the farmers market) with olive oil, peas & parmesan cheese, broccoli, milk
Wednesday: Chipotle salmon burgers with sriracha mayo on a light english muffin, roasted potatoes, corn
Thursday: Lentil stew, white rice, milk
Friday: Smoked salmon spaghetti with chili & lemon, broccoli, milk


Monday: “Stretch & Strengthen” – I think I’m going to find some type of flexibility-promoting yoga video online and do a Runners World strength workout video I saw advertised in the new issue
Tuesday: Run 3 miles
Wednesday: 2 mile speed workout (4x400s)
Thursday: Run 3 miles; strength (will probably do a core workout & a circuit of a few weight machines at the gym)
Friday: Rest day
Saturday: Run 4 miles (I’d really like to do this outside, but it looks like roads will still be snow-covered)
Sunday: 30 minute cross train (I’ll probably go do the bike or elliptical at the gym)

Do you have your week all planned out? What are you eating/doing?

I Won A 5K & Skipped A Run

Well, I can scratch winning a 5K off my list. Thanks to Katie’s method of choosing three winners for the Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K by random drawing, I won! It may be the only race I ever win 🙂

I totally screwed up my running schedule this week. I did Tuesday’s 3-mile run as scheduled. Once again, I was on the treadmill, so I ran 10 minutes and walked 2 minutes until I was done.

January 28 RunWednesday, I wanted to hang out with my husband and I didn’t really feel like running. I was supposed to do 2 miles. Thursday, I wasn’t feeling it either and I started doing our taxes and got distracted. I was supposed to do 3 miles.

I made up Thursday’s run on Friday right after work. I brought my workout clothes with me in the morning, and went straight to the gym when carpool dropped me off. Another 3 miles on the treadmill, again with the 10-2 intervals.

January 31 runA friend on Facebook pointed out that because I pushed my runs back, I missed hitting my first 50-mile month. By a whopping .4 miles. Oh well, I’ll hit it in February.

On Saturday I made up Wednesday’s run. I didn’t make it to the gym until about 7:30 p.m. I figured I’d be the only one there, but there were three middle age couples that seemed to be using it for social hour. It was hot in there! Intervals done, no problem. I should probably start trying to go a little faster on these (currently running 400m at 5.0 mph and recovering for 400m at 3.0 mph)

Feb 1 RunToday should have been my 4 mile long run. It didn’t happen…and I don’t feel bad about it. This morning Aaron and I went to Water House Bistro for brunch. It’s about 30 minutes from our house, and we recently saw them featured on Wisconsin Foodie. They bake with locally grown and milled flour and feature as many ingredients from local farmers as possible. We regularly buy their cookies at the farmers market, but didn’t realize they were so close. We enjoyed an excellent brunch, and then bought a bunch of goodies (bread, cookies, garlic olive oil, oatmeal). After a quick stop at the grocery store, we came home and both promptly fell asleep. Aaron took a normal nap, and I of course slept for three hours. When I woke up, I decided to focus on getting our food ready for dinner and the rest of the week rather than go on a run.

I also feel like I need to get this skip out of my system because…I officially start half marathon training tomorrow! I’ve planned our meals so I have good fuel for the runs and don’t end up trying to do speed work after a steak dinner (which I’ve done before).