Sick of Winter

I don’t know about you guys but this winter thing sucks.

I’m now on day 8 of not running due to a wracking cough that started last week, and I am literally pacing the floors like a border collie that needs to get outside. Add this miserable snow we’ve gotten into the mix, and I am squarely in the middle of the winter blues. So to fight the existential anger that hits when the snow piles up and the phlegm just keeps on coming, I’ve stuck with a plan.

From the beginning, I stuck as best I could to a healthy eating plan. That’s one of my biggest downfalls in the winter: falling into bad eating habits and pigging out on junk in the name of hibernating (or whatever). To keep that from happening, we stocked up on healthy essentials the day before the big storm hit last week and I batch cooked that Sunday. It made a huge difference to have super healthy meals at the ready, like home made chili, beef stew, and kale-and-berry packed green smoothies every morning.

I also had to get creative with my home workouts. Regular cardio sends me into coughing fits. It’s too snowy, icy and cold to run outside anyway. And putting me in a crowded gym sounding like I’ve got the consumption basically ensures that they’ll send in the CDC to escort me out.

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“Ma’am, step away from the leg press machine.”

So instead of starting a nationwide panic with my incessant coughing, I started off my zero mileage week with some yoga and focused on my core and handstands. I won’t lie – I’ve been discouraged by my lack of handstand progress. Even though I know it’ll take time, I’m an impatient girl. And while I’ve been working on my upper body strength on and off this training cycle, it was mostly the fear of falling out of the handstand and hurting my knees that’s kept me from just doing it. So I tried something a little less dangerous and attempted a headstand – and wouldn’t you know, I got it on the first try!!

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I was so thrilled – This was one of those things that I always told myself I couldn’t do, but I finally swallowed that fear and turned it into fuel to just DO it. Needless to say, now that I know I can, I’ve been going upside down basically every chance I get!

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Every day I try to move a little further away from the wall and work on my balance, and I’m loving it so far. So score one for just sucking it up and going for it!

Once the snow really started piling up, I was stuck inside with my Biggest Loser workout DVD’s. To keep it low impact, I stuck with the leg and arm portions of the Last Chance Workout a few times just to maintain and feel like I was doing something, and it worked pretty well.

After 4 days of being sick, I finally bit the bullet and went to the doctor – and it turns out whatever I had back in early January lingered around to give me a wicked sinus infection. The doc took one look at my throat and backed away with an “Eww..” – which was oddly very satisfying. It was nice to know I wasn’t just feeling sorry for myself!

She sent me home with some good meds and after a day or two of real solid rest, I finally started feeling better yesterday. So today I celebrated by picking up something I’ve been eyeing for a few weeks now:

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Yes. It’s a hula hoop.

Four years ago, to help me get in shape for my wedding, I borrowed a weighted hula hoop from a friend and literally hooped my waist down to the smallest its ever been. Just 15-20 minutes a day, over the course of one winter, and I saw a very noticeable difference. So when I spotted this bad boy in Kohl’s a few weeks ago, I knew I had to have it.

Let me just say: I’ve had it for like 5 hours, and already feel my abs screaming from the 10 minutes I’ve done so far today!

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I am the hooping queen!

Now that I’m finally feeling well enough to try the gym tomorrow, I’m going in with no expectations at all: treadmill walking and maybe some light jogging just to get my body back into the groove. Either way, I’m hoping to fall right back into half marathon training! I’ve missed one long run last week and this week’s 8-miler will most likely be a 5 miler later this week as I ease back into things, but I’m determined not to let this little speedbump turn into a roadblock.

How about you? How are you faring in this miserable winter? Or, if you’re one of the lucky people that don’t have to deal with this frozen ridiculousness, do you know how much I envy you? 🙂 Tell me how you’re getting through this winter!

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Jess Eats Happy: Crock Pot Turkey Chili Recipe

I’ve found that I get a lot of requests for recipes when I Instagram a picture of whatever I happen to be shoveling into my face at a frightening rate of speed (see also: eating). That prompted me to create a new “series”: Jess Eats Happy! (it’s a working title. bear with me.)

Every week or so, I’ll share a recipe that will be A) mostly healthy B) probably cheap to make and C) 100% delicious. Because that’s how we roll in the Jess Eats Happy kitchen.

Our inaugural recipe is one that blew up my IG feed a few days ago: Turkey Chili. It’s a super simple, protein and fiber-packed dish that is easy to personalize to suit your tastes and keeps you full for a while. Let’s take a look!

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Crock Pot Turkey Chili

Ingredients:

  • Chili
    • 1-2 lbs ground turkey (depending on how many you’re cooking for)
    • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
    • 1 small can tomato paste
    • 2 cans beans, rinsed (kidney, pinto, black – your choice!)
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 small green pepper, chopped
    • 1 small red pepper, chopped
    • 1 packet chili seasoning mix (i usually get the low-sodium version)
    • Optional: any other veggies you like: corn, kale, zucchini, chili peppers, etc. This is a perfect time to use whatever veggies you can find in the fridge/pantry and fit into the crock pot. Anything goes!
  • Toppings
    • avocado, sliced
    • plain greek yogurt (sub for sour cream, or go all out and use the sour cream if you’d like!)
    • shredded cheese
    • Optional: Baked tortilla chips for dipping

Directions:

Throw everything in the crock pot, wait, and eat.

LOL –  but seriously, it really is that easy! Throw the thawed meat, tomatoes, veggies, and beans all in the pot, cover with chili seasoning, mix it up just a bit to evenly distribute everything, and forget about it for a few hours: set the crock pot on High for 4 hours, Medium for 6, or Low for 8 (or 10 if your pot has that setting).

About halfway through cooking, I’ll stir once or twice just to admire the delicious yumminess that is simmering in my crock pot, and to entice my husband out from his man cave with calls of “Ooooh, it looks like chili!!”

Then once it’s ready, just scoop it out into bowls and top with whatever your little heart desires. Which, if you’re me, is ALL the avocado and greek yogurt in the house. I like to eat it like a dip with the tortilla chips too – it forces me eat a little slower and helps me realize when I’m actually full, as opposed to eating until I can’t move.

The nice thing about this stuff is that it freezes and reheats very well. Usually once we’re done with dinner, I’ll portion out the rest of the contents of the crock pot into individual containers so that we have easy grab-n-go meals for the rest of the week.

So there you have it! Give it a shot and let me know how you like it!

The Lazy Runner Girl’s Guide to Hair

For as long as I’ve had hair, I’ve struggled with what to do with it, because it’s always been greasy. I’d wash and “style” each morning, only to throw it up in a ponytail by the end of the day because it got too dirty and flat. I was SO envious of girls who claimed a simple spritz of dry shampoo and blast with the hairdryer gave them the perfect “second day hair”. Then I took up running and it all went downhill. After my morning wash and “style” and the evening’s run, I’d have to wash my hair again – ouch!

But we live in a world where we’re told to exercise daily but only wash our hair every other day. How does that make sense??

It all came to a head back in 2013, when my knee surgery meant that I couldn’t shower for 3-4 days after the procedure – no hair washing either. And I learned something amazing: my tresses were like some captive animal, rebelling against the angry onslaught of blow dryer and shampoo by overproducing oil and grease. Because when it was left alone for 72+ hours, my hair went from greasy, to super greasy, to “Hey, this isn’t so bad”! And when I finally showered on day 4 (PS: best. shower. EVER.), I let it do its thing again for another 2 days, and wouldn’t you know it, it was like my hair’s reset button had been hit. I could let my hair go for a day – or even 2! – before needing to start all over again. My hair had returned to its natural state!

This is all to say that, when it comes to hair issues, I’ve been around the block. Once I really got back into running after my surgery, I had to learn how to treat my hair kindly both before, during, and after a run so that it stayed happy enough to go without washing every 24 hours. I had to experiment with different headbands, clips, and styles to tame my mane on the road, and tried about a dozen dry shampoos before finally finding a brand that works for me. So now I’m here to share all of those little tips and tricks that allow me to say that I am officially a recovered hair-washing addict – because I know I can’t be alone here!

1. Products

This has become my absolute go-to. I use it every other day (and then some), and have probably used 4 cans in the past year.

P0252_packshotSeriously, if they stop making this, I’m just going to shave my head and wear a wig.

It instantly dries up any grease and lifts my hair up just a tiny bit, and it’s impossible to use too much of it. The number one selling point for me though, is that it doesn’t make it stiff or gritty like some other dry shampoos I’ve tried. Plus it smells delicious and it’s only like $4 a can at Target. I buy two every time I see them!

If I’m feeling especially lazy – or my hair has been a little overworked – I skip the drying process, throw a tiny bit of this goop in my hair (skipping the roots), chuck it all in a braid and call it a day. Let it air-dry, finger-brush and floof as desired, and voila: deliberately messy hair don’t care.

How about you: are there any products you can’t live without? Share!

2. Styles

  • Daily/Non-Running Styling

My hair hasn’t ever had a style. If I were to hop on the therapist’s couch, I’d have to say it stems from my very first hair fail at the age of 7, when my mom decided to give in to her crazy daughter and get her a PERM. At age SEVEN.

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My heart hurts just looking at it.

The perm finally grew out when I got to middle school (praise Jesus), where I continued to make even more questionable – but less permanent – choices like Manic Panic, Kool-Aid hair dye, and the like. Cut to my high school and college years, where I basically went for a longer version of The Rachel, in either a pony or down, depending on my mood.

A few years ago I learned how to “curl” my hair with a flat iron (which also taught me that, in moderation, hair spray is my friend), and wouldn’t you know it, I had a new “going out” hair style!

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And then along came this magical hair tutorial:

No-heat styling? What is this madness? I suddenly don’t even need to blow dry the ever-loving hell out of my hair! I’m hooked, and have worn my hair like this at least once a week since I discovered this video. I’m also going majorly crazy over all the other easy-to-follow tutorials they’ve got there.

Do you have any go-to styles that you want to share?

  • Running Styling

Similar to my every day hair, my running styles are basically non-existent. I stick with a headband and pony and it seems to work.

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But sometimes, I like to get a little creative – especially on race day. That’s when the braids come out:

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I’ll admit: my race-day hair style is dependent more on the cute factor than any weather forecast or logistical need. For example: the hat/braid combo you see up there is because I ran my last race in a pair of cheap ray-ban knock offs and looked like a fool in all my race photos. So since I hadn’t found the right running sunnies by race day, I opted for a hat. Not my best sartorial choice, but whatevs.

But aside from the pony and the braids, I’m hopelessly out of ideas. Due to an abundance of layers and lack of practice on any siblings for the first 15+ years of my life, I cannot french braid my hair to save my life so that’s out. And I am SO envious of girls who have those fantastically swishy ponytails that trail forever and never get tangled. You are all witches, and I wish I were you.

How do you wear your hair for a run vs. race-day?

3. Tips and Tricks

  • My number one tip to save post-workout hair from needing a shower is this: as soon as you’re done working out, get ye to the nearest hair dryer, STAT! Take out your hair tie/ponytail/headband/clips, and blast your hair with cool air to dry all the sweat from your scalp. Then once it’s dry, do the dry shampoo thing.
  • Try to stay away from heat styling as much as possible. I know it’s pretty unavoidable, especially in the winter months when going out with a wet head of hair is an old wives’ worst nightmare/recipe for your death by cold, but all that extreme heat can’t be good for your locks day in and day out.
  • If you’re desperately greasy like I was (and you’ve got a full 2-3 days to swing it), try doing the hair reset thing like I did! Just take a page from our Frozen gal-pals and Let it Go. You may be surprised what your hair will do when you leave it the hell alone for a while!

How about you? Do you have any tricks of the trade that you swear by? Fun race-day styles? Headbands that you adore? Let’s spread the hair love!

The State of the Union

I don’t know about you folks, but the holiday season of 2014 – 2015 has been pretty great to me so far!

First, Christmas came to town, and we had a blast. I mean, my mama-in-law got me a tiara. Like, a legit crown.

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“Put it on me, put it on me, put it on me, put it on me!”

Santa Claus was also really good to me this year, with an awesome new Under Armour hoodie in my favorite Kelly Green, a gorgeous little 13.1 silver necklace, and a brand spankin new Garmin!

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I’ll be the first to admit: I love my old Garmin 305. That thing has been steadfastly there for me on every run for more than 4 years now, and I’d venture a guess to say that it probably runs better than I do (imitate rimshot here). But the thing is like running with the Startship Enterprise Command Module on your wrist. It doesn’t feel like it, but it looks ridiculous, and makes easily glancing at my stats near impossible if I’m wearing sleeves – nevermind the fact that sleeves won’t even fit over the thing. This new 610 was a welcome addition to the family, and I broke it in with a nice run Christmas morning and haven’t looked back since!

Unfortunately hubby caught a nasty cold that day, so instead of the usual post-Christmas shopping bonanza, we spent the next 3-4 days laying low.

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I did make a friend on one of my runs though! He followed me for a whole block and I had to walk him back to his house.

After one day of work last week, I was laid up with the same funky sickness from the 30th-the 2nd, and while it SUCKED, I’m pleased to say that I slept for about 18 hours of every day to recover, and I loved it. After the first few days, the week was still a huge success! We rang in the new year with loved ones..

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…I found cool new workout tops on sale at Kohls for $5 each…

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… we had a perfectly quiet, talking about life, caffeine-filled, hot cocoa and people-watching night at Starbucks…

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he’s all mine 🙂

…we took my Dad into Red Bank for a day of Surf Taco, hobby shop wandering, and comic books…

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Catholicism WOW!

…and even though I had to skip 4 days due to illness, I managed to get right back on track for week 2 of my training plan with an Insanity workout (OUCH) and a totally-out-of-my-comfort-zone trail run with my friend Kevin yesterday!

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The smiles before the hills.

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Finally some action shots in nature!

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Overcast and 60 degrees – perfect running weather! 

I had a real blast on those trails. A year ago I’d be petrified to run on uneven terrain like that: the instability in my knee, the weakness in my quads, my lack of confidence in my running… let’s just say I would have passed on this invite. But as I finished my morning coffee and looked out at the misty weather, prepping for 4 miles on the treadmill to satisfy my training schedule requirements for the day, Kevin texted me with an invitation to go out and explore. And explore we did! For 4 whole miles and change, we ran through the hills and woods of Holmdel Park discussing life, love, and the need for two laundry baskets in a relationship. In a word, this run was perfection!

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And that brings us to today! I’m sore beyond words and exhausted – just like pretty much everyone else out there today who went back to work after however long they had off for the holidays – but I’m happy. At first I was super upset that I had gotten sick: there’s nothing worse than feeling like caca and having to stay home when you’ve got time off from work and want to be out celebrating and doing all the things.

But the cold or flu or whatever it was actually gave me just what I needed: down time. It forced me to relax and nap and recharge my battery, and I was able to recover with enough time to get some fun stuff done too. Instead of going at full tilt the entire 2 weeks, I was able to rest for most of it and as a result, I’m feeling relaxed, recharged, and ready to take on whatever’s coming my way in 2015!

How about you? I hope your new year is treating you well so far! Tell me all about it in the comments…