For 30 days, my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles were flooded with endless food porn pictures. Well, a higher amount than normal. It was all part of a paleo challenge I did with Crossfit Naptown (CFNT). I didn’t know what to expect going into it since I’m a super picky eater and I don’t cook. The challenge is over now and I can honestly say the diet completely changed my lifestyle and the results were insane.
CFNT challenged us to be as strict as possible during the 30 days. This meant no sugar, dairy, legumes, grains, potatoes (except sweet potato) or alcohol. So what does that leave? A lot of meat, veggies, eggs, bacon, bacon and even more bacon. Some people call it the caveman diet because you eat things that are fresh and were readily available to our ancestors. We were weighed, had our hips and waist measured and did two benchmark workouts at the beginning of the challenge. That was all repeated at the end to track our progress.
As with most things in my life, I decided if I was going to do this, I was going to dive in and push myself out of my comfort zone. Prior to this challenge, I didn’t eat veggies and I never cooked (ever). Of course my other motivation was trying to push through these last few pounds I’m hoping to shed.
I had to end the challenge two days early because I was flying out for a work trip. I ended up losing 8 pounds, 2.5” in my waist and 2” in my hips. I also bought size 10 pants at the end of the challenge. For perspective, when I started my weight loss journey in January 2011, I was a size 24.
What I learned
- Someone asked if cooking was a requirement of the challenge. It’s not but it’s somewhat necessary based on what you are limited to. The stuff that’s easy to grab on the go typically isn’t the healthiest. I planned every single meal and snack and packed my lunch to make sure I had paleo-friendly foods with me throughout the day. It took work but every time I’ve had success losing weight, it’s come down to planning and preparation.
- Cooking is much less intimidating now. I feel relatively confident looking at the spices/meats I have available and assembling something edible. I am by no means a master chef though. There were some highlights: pineapple-stuffed chorizo burgers topped with avocado, paleo Reese’s cups, cauliflower rice and my first-ever attempt at chili. And there were low-lights: paleo mayo (my attempt was so gross), sausage/egg/sweet potato cups (didn’t cook long enough) and meatloaf (caused a minor meltdown).
- While I still can’t get into certain foods (carrots – gross!), I have come to like some things I never thought I would: almond butter, coconut oil, oranges, dried cranberries, spaghetti squash and more. It sounds cheesy but I’ve opened up a whole new world of flavors by forcing myself to try new things.
- I thought I would crave more foods than I actually did. I fully expected to miss Diet Coke, chips, cheese and breaded chicken. But after you go so many days without those things, your body naturally stops craving them. Except booze. My first post-paleo beer was delicious and much needed.
A lot of people have asked if I will continue on the paleo diet. I don’t know if I could do it 100 percent of the time just because there is so much cooking/planning required. But I hope to maintain the diet as much as possible. A lot of people eat paleo but add back in just dairy or just alcohol. It’s all about finding a balance that works for you.
More importantly, though, is maintaining the lifestyle. When I used to grocery shop, I would buy processed foods with 25 ingredients, bags of chips, cookies and anything else unhealthy you could think of. It’s amazing that I ever lost 80 pounds… Now I spend most of my time in the fresh produce section. I don’t think twice about throwing some spices on a chicken breast and pairing it with a salad and olive oil dressing. These are the types of behaviors that will help me stay on track long term.
What you’re really here for…
Here’s a glimpse at my cooking adventures during the challenge. A majority of the recipes came from www.paleomg.com.
This weekend was another running first for me. However, unlike last weekend’s relay race, it didn’t actually involve any running. It did involve a lot of cheerleading and a ridiculous amount of high quality H2O.
On Saturday, I volunteered with Back on My Feet at the Carmel Marathon water station on Hawthorne Drive. My only real experience with water stations before this was during the Monumental half when I clumsily made my way through each stop hoping at least a few drops would land in my mouth and not all over my face and shirt.
My experience was great and I met some awesome people. As the (un)official captain of our water station, I can proudly declare ours the best of the entire race. Everyone came ready to work and have fun, and we even had an official water station hashtag: #highqualityH2O. I learned a lot that I will take with me to my next race, whether it’s as a volunteer or a runner.
Dress warm but wear finger-less gloves. It’s spring but you wouldn’t know it based on the four layers of clothes I had on. I wore gloves but they got wet pretty early based on how I was holding the cups. I took them off and my fingers felt numb most of the day but it was better than soggy, cold gloves.
It’s all in the technique. Some runners blasted through the station. Some slowed to a jog. Others completely stopped. We had slow periods with one or two runners at a time and crazy rushes, especially when the pacers came through. I found a technique that made the hand-offs pretty smooth in any scenario. In my right hand, I gripped one cup on the top with a finger on the inside and my thumb on the outside. In my left hand, I had two cups gripped in a similar style ready to quickly move to my right hand as needed.
During the smoothest hand-offs, runners would say if they wanted water or PowerAde as they were approaching the station, we told them water was first then PowerAde, and they would point at and make eye contact with the person they were grabbing from. This worked pretty well and I only had one or two botches for the day.
You can’t go wrong with goodies for the group. We arrived at 6:15 a.m. and were expected to be done around 11:15 a.m., an early start and long day with no breaks. I made blueberry muffins and Josh brought Starbucks, which I think everyone appreciated and it established team camaraderie right away. Even better, the people who live across the street brought us a fresh coffee pot and mugs and helped pass out cups for awhile!
The human spirit is an incredible thing. We cheered for every single person who came through, including the last two who walked in front of the bus that picks you up if you fall behind the closing time of the course. And I was inspired by every single person. Some of them were flying by, including my friend Jesse Davis who got water from me and went on to win the race for the second year in a row. Some were struggling, including a guy with my favorite t-shirt of the day: “Looks like walking, feels like sprinting.” I can relate, man!
But what’s so impressive about each participant is the fact that they signed up, showed up and kept putting one foot in front of the other. That’s more than most people did that morning. And in light of the tragic events at the Boston Marathon last week, it’s proof that if runners know anything, it’s how to endure and keep moving forward.
Have a good tip for water station techniques, either as a runner or volunteer? Any water station mishaps you learned from and laughed about later? Comment with your thoughts!
Yesterday was the inaugural Rock the Relay race in Indianapolis. A portion of the race registration went to Back on My Feet Indianapolis (BOMF), a nonprofit group that empowers homeless individuals and builds their confidence through running. I have seen firsthand how running has changed my life and I love what BOMF is doing for that community.
I haven’t done a race since the Monumental half marathon so it felt good to run with purpose again. This was my first time running a relay and it was definitely a different experience than doing the half. The biggest difference is that I didn’t train at all, compared to the half when I was incredibly diligent with my three month plan. Admittedly, I’ve been slacking on running since then but going to Crossfit Naptown has helped keep my endurance strong on the runs I have done.
I think part of the reason I wasn’t worried about training was the distance. The course was a 2.2 mile loop in White River State Park. My team, Living and Loathing in Indianapolis, had four people – Gretchen, Yana, Nicole and myself – so we each ran the loop three times. The total mileage for the day, 6.6 each, was more than I have run recently but two miles at a time didn’t seem bad. I did have some pace goals in mind but I went into the race really relaxed knowing my team wasn’t concerned about our overall time. We just wanted to have fun and log some miles for the day.
The weather this month has been all over the place and the morning of the race was freezing and windy. It was tough to figure out what to wear since you had to plan for the run but also for the hour or so downtime between legs. I powered through the cold but could have dressed a little warmer. When it was my time to run again, my body had completely cooled down and my legs were tight. It took a few minutes on each leg before I felt loose and settled in to the run.
Our official finish time was 4:27:36, though you could knock a minute or two off of that to account for time spent exchanging the timing chip between each leg. Again, we didn’t really care about our total time. We had a lot of fun and felt great knowing we rocked out! I was especially excited for Nicole who was racing for the first time ever. I love that she jumped right in and tackled each leg like a boss.
I can definitely see myself doing a relay again. The atmosphere was great at the start/finish line where all the teams were camped out. Each leg isn’t a crazy long distance but you still get in a solid number of miles for the day. And it’s a great bonding experience with your team. In fact, I’ve already got my eye on the BOMF 42k Relay in September!
Have you run a relay before? How did it compare to your solo races? Share your experience!
Have you ever had an urge or feeling you couldn’t ignore? I lived in the same apartment for four years but in the last few months I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to move. I saw a vision for my life that wasn’t possible living in the burbs (well, Pike Township). I wanted to be able to walk out my door and just go. Run, bike, walk to anywhere and everywhere. Two weeks ago that vision was realized when I moved downtown and I’ve loved every moment since.
From my new apartment, I can walk and bike to work, my crossfit gym, the grocery store and essentially all of downtown. I’ve ran twice since I’ve been here and it was awesome to be able to just take off, versus having to drive somewhere to run in my old place. The Cultural Trail is right outside my apartment and makes for an easy, safe route. It connects to the Monon in one direction, the Canal in another and goes all over downtown. And the views from the trail reinforce just how much I love this city.
This weekend I rode my new bike for the first time. It was a Christmas gift from my parents but has been sitting in suburban jail (aka my mom’s garage) until I moved. My first ride was up the Monon to Freewheelin Bikes to buy re-purposed kitty litter buckets that I can use to store stuff while I ride and to get a rear rack installed. I also tried out biking to work which took all of five minutes. My goal is to be car free as much as possible!
After only two weeks, my new place already feels like home. And at some point Indiana will finally decide to warm up so I can take full advantage of being a short walk/bike ride away from so many fun things to do. As the song goes: things will be great when you’re downtown!
Hi, my name is Melanie and I have an obsessive personality.
This is not a shock to those of you who know me well. Last fall my obsession was training for my first half marathon. I wanted to shake up my workout routine after finishing the race. As our Corporate Challenge team captain, I represented Baldwin & Lyons at the awards reception where I won a free one-month membership to Crossfit Naptown (CFNT) in a drawing. I finally had a chance to use it and I can safely say that after one month I am obsessed.
Crossfit is a combination of cardio, endurance and strength training. Classes at CFNT typically start with a warm up, followed by a skill set where you learn and practice a specific movement then the workout of the day (WOD). Based on my experience so far, here are a few things you should know if you’re considering crossfit:
It’s intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. I was nervous and had no clue what to expect going into my first session. Fortunately, CFNT has a free intro class every Thursday at 6 p.m. that’s open to the public. They explain what crossfit is and how the classes work, demonstrate a few basic movements and run you through a benchmark workout. There’s no obligation to come back or sign up on the spot.
It’s expensive, but worth it. Staying fit often requires a financial sacrifice and, as with many things, you get what you pay for. Sure, gyms like LA Fitness are cheap. But when I walk in there, I put on my headphones and go. I’m on my own. When I walk into CFNT, co-owners Jared and Peter are there coaching me through each movement and have the training and certifications to do so. Even better, they remember everyone’s name and fitness level. I’m always impressed when they know exactly what weight is going to push me but not kill me.
It’s cult-like, but that’s part of the draw. People jokingly call it “cultfit” and while that’s not entirely inaccurate, it’s definitely a good thing. There’s a sense of community at CFNT that you just can’t have somewhere like LA Fitness. At the start of each class, everyone introduces themselves. During workouts, people are constantly cheering each other on. And the encouragement continues after hours on the blog and Facebook page. Every person I’ve met has been so nice and welcoming to the point where I feel like part of the CFNT family even after just a few weeks.
It’s going to push you, but at your own pace. Crossfit emphasizes technique so the coaches would rather you use a lower weight and do it right than push yourself too hard and get hurt or not be able to finish a workout. There are prescribed weights, reps and movements but there’s always a way to scale the workout to your fitness level. For example, I can’t do pull ups, even with the resistance bands that help. Instead, I do ring rows at a deep angle. I’ve seen progress in some areas though, even after just a few weeks. And I get a huge rush every time I finish a workout knowing I am pushing myself in ways I never have before.
My free month is up this week so it’s time to pay up or get out. While I don’t think that crossfit is necessarily for everyone, I’ve loved it and will definitely keep going. Every day is something different and I’m already seeing changes in my body and how toned I am. And Jared and Peter have done a great job creating an environment that you can’t help but feed off of when you’re in the box (aka gym).
So here’s to kicking off 2013 with a new obsession and a renewed commitment to staying fit!
This year, I continued the tradition of visiting my brother Greg in Asheville for Thanksgiving. During my visit last year, I came to appreciate Asheville for the truly eclectic city it is. After another great trip, I’m even more convinced this is truly a destination with something for everyone.
What to eat
I’m a second generation, born and raised chocoholic so naturally I’m going to love a place called the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Tucked away on a side street downtown, this local favorite serves up a variety of truffles, pastries, brownies, cookies and more. The space can get crowded so grab something to go and walk a few blocks over to Pritchard Park to enjoy your treats.
For the ultimate local food experience, Tod’s Tasties, in Historic Montford, is a must. I know, it sounds like a strip club. I had my doubts when my brother suggested it but the food was, well, tasty! Add a side of tots to whatever you order; the seasoning was crazy good.
Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria brings together two of my great loves in one awesome setting. We hung out on the second level – a bar with pool tables, darts and 19 taps of local and regional craft beers. Great food. Great beer. What more could you ask for?
We also indulged in one of Asheville’s finer dining options, Fig Bistro. Our main courses, hanger steak and farfalle bolognese, were excellent, but we could have stopped after our appetizer, pommes frites made with truffle oil, and been completely satisfied. We’ve had our fair share of pommes frites but I honestly don’t think any have compared to Fig’s. Normally I would ask for aioli sauce but these fries were amazing on their own.
What to do
You’ve probably figured out by now that I love craft beer. I imagine the gates of heaven look something like the entrance to Bruisin’ Ales, who coined the phrase “beerlanthropy,” the concern for the welfare and advancement of beer. They stock more than 1,000 brews from around the world. Block out some time to take in the entire selection before making your purchase.
One of the things we didn’t get around to last year was visiting Grove Park Inn. Its spa, golf course, restaurants and spectacular view of the city make it one of the premiere choices for out-of-towners. We didn’t factor in the holiday crowd as we made our way to the lounge for a drink. Our experience was fine but I’d love to go back when it’s less hectic.
And of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Asheville without some quality time in the mountains. This year we hiked in DuPont State Forest, where they filmed Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans. This is a great spot to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak (there is no park admission fee). The trails are moderate and you can see three waterfalls within a three to four mile stretch.
View a slideshow of pictures from DuPont State Forest here.
Where to stay
Imagine sitting in a rocker on the porch of a cabin overlooking the mountains. The sun is shining, you’ve got a cold, local beer in hand and it’s just you and your family on 40 acres of land.
This was my reality on the actual day of Thanksgiving. My brother’s friend invited us to join his family and spend the night in their spare cabin in the mountains. Through their business, Meanwhile Back in Saluda, his family rents out the cabin and teaches a variety of classes to guests and people in the community. It’s the perfect place to escape without being too far away from Asheville proper. I loved our time in Saluda and I’m thankful Casey and his family let us join them for the holiday.
View a slideshow of pictures from Meanwhile Back in Saluda here.
Still not convinced Asheville should be your next vacation destination? Read up on my recommendations from last Thanksgiving.
13.1 miles in 2:26:19.
This weekend I ran 13.1 miles. Three months of training for the Indy Monumental half marathon paid off in an amazing, unforgettable experience.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: for me, running is about 90 percent mental. If I’m not in a good mental place, it affects my run. The last two weeks were tough for a variety of reasons, including sporadic shooting pain that popped up in my upper left thigh/hip and some unexpected travel that left me sick and exhausted. I had some serious doubts heading into race week.
I spent most of last week resting and using a combination of ice and heat to nurse the muscle pain. Based on recommendations, I bought some KT Tape, which you may have seen Olympic athletes wear this summer, and tried it out on a quick two-miler on Wednesday. Something clicked on that run and I felt awesome after. My mindset completely changed and I woke up Friday feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve, ready to race!
Race day morning was cold! I was anxious but mainly excited that the big day was finally here. Three months came down to this. One chance to rock out or fall short.
I met my dad before the race, got in one last bathroom trip and hugged him before looking for the corral with my anticipated pace. Outside of the last two miles, this was the hardest part of the race for me. It was cold, I was trying to stay loose and I just wanted to be on the course already. The gun went off and it took several minutes before I actually crossed the start line and took off.
I knew people would shoot out past me but I kept telling myself “just run your own race.” I quickly settled into a comfortable pace and was right on track with where I wanted to be at the first mile marker. I ended up maintaining that pace for pretty much the entire race. I felt pretty good until I got to Meridian Street for the final 2.5 miles. I ended up walking for about a couple minutes in mile 11 and 12. I guess I can be proud that I didn’t walk until then but realizing how close I was to running the whole thing, I wish I hadn’t walked at all.
Crossing the finish line was unreal. My mom and dad were there cheering me on and I totally did the cheesy move with both hands in the air like a champ. I finished in 2:26:19 which was a little slower than I hoped for but my overall goal was to beat 2:30 so I can be happy about that. All things considered, I don’t think I could have asked for a better first time experience!
I am giving myself this week off, mainly to let my thigh/hip heal, but I want to keep a running base through the winter so I’m not starting from scratch in the spring. I’ve already got thoughts on how I can improve my training and pace for the next one, including a better emphasis on strength training and shedding these last 10 pounds I can’t seem to get through. I won a one-month membership at CrossFit Naptown so that should help. I’d also love to do a Tough Mudder style race where you get down and dirty doing obstacles while running.
Bottom line: I used to straight up hate running but now I feel like it’s part of who I am. I am by no means a super legit runner but I love pushing myself and reaching new goals. Hopefully there will be more races to come!
Some fun facts from my three months of training:
- Including the race itself, I ran 192.6 miles.
- I ran in four cities: Indianapolis, Sedona, Asheville and Kansas City.
- I didn’t lose any weight but I dropped a pants size.
I am a very self-driven person but I could not have done this without the support of my amazing friends and family. There are way too many people to thank to fit in this blog post but please believe you were all with me when I crossed the finish line. I do have to call out my dad though. He has run one marathon and countless halves, river to river relays and more and I know one of my ulterior motives with all this was to make him proud. I’m not sure what it was like for him as a spectator but I was so excited when I passed him on the circle and when he was there again at the finish line with my mom.
One of the coolest aspects of my training has been becoming emerged in the running community. It’s the strangers on the Monon who smile and give high fives and the groups who pass out water on a crazy hot day. It’s the staff at the Athletic Annex who helped me find a great pair of shoes and answered all the random questions I could think to ask. It’s the people on Twitter who I have never met in person but encouraged me, inspired me and gave me tips. It’s one of my company’s customers, in his 60s and still running marathons, who sent me emails that said “just run.” Every single person I’ve met or tweeted has been supportive and encouraging. I’ll never forget that and I hope to do the same for anyone who is reading this and considering running.
Last week, I attended the ExactTarget Connections conference here in Indianapolis. One of the keynote speakers was Michael J. Fox, who was hilarious and moving. He told several stories about his career and his battle with Parkinson’s, all of which he tied into bigger picture life lessons. One of my biggest takeaways was this: Don’t play to the results.
As a self-defined “incurable optimist,” Fox talked about how we often let the anticipated or expected outcome prevent us from going after a goal. We play to the results and stop ourselves from succeeding before we even get a chance to try. This concept really resonated with me, particularly given my self-transformation since January 2011.
No one expects you to lose 80 pounds in a year and a half. No one expects you to keep the weight off. No one expects you to sign up for a half marathon when the farthest you ran at that point was three miles, and even that was a struggle. If I had played to the results, my ass would still be on the couch, overweight and unhappy. My life has completely changed because I broke the status quo and made my own expectations.
Since my last training update, I’ve ran 10 miles twice (once in beautiful Sedona overlooking the red rocks!). I also had a long run in the hills of Asheville this past weekend that was probably my hardest to date – those hills were no joke! Hitting double digits was kind of surreal. And knowing I’m so close to the race distance is even more surreal. The extra miles may seem like a lot, but when you’ve already gone this far, what’s a few more to get you to 13.1? (That last sentence is proof I’ve turned into a full on crazy runner lady.)
I’m heading into my taper so my distances will decrease in this last week. As I count down to November 3, I’m staying positive and focused. I know I’ve got this and I refuse to play to the results.
As I fly over Sedona, the red rocks catch my eye. It’s as if they were kissed by the rising sun and remnants of her ruby lipstick remain forever stained.
I scribbled those lines three years ago as I was flying from Phoenix to Flagstaff en route to the Grand Canyon. Sedona was breathtaking from the air but this weekend I got to experience it up close and personal. One of my best friends got married there and it was an amazing weekend filled with love, laughter and lots of partying.
The red rocks are never far from sight in Sedona. In sticking with my half marathon training schedule, I ran 10 miles one morning. The views were unreal and certainly helped distract me from the distance – my first time running double digits!
If you really want to take in the views though, you have to do a Pink Jeep Tour. We went on the Broken Arrow Tour, which I believe is the original and most popular one. The jeep takes you to parts of the red rocks inaccessible to the general public. I tried to capture the fun in these videos:
For those who want to get some good pictures but not necessarily hike, the Midgley Bridge is a good pull off point. You can also access the Wilson Canyon Trail there, which splits into several trail heads. We walked about a mile and a half on the trail before turning around because the sun was getting low.
After hitting the trails, you’ll definitely work up an appetite. Luckily Sedona has a variety of good dining options. The rehearsal dinner was at Olde Sedona Bar & Grill. The food is great and they have an awesome patio that overlooks the red rocks. After the rehearsal dinner, we headed over to the Full Moon Saloon. They had karaoke, which the bride loves, and our group rocked out on the mic for a few hours. It was a fun, laid back spot with friendly locals willing to share the stage.
Other crowd favorites were Javelina Catina and Oak Creek Brewery. Javelina is known for its fajitas, which most of the group ordered. I had a chimichanga which was straight up the best I’ve ever had. The food at Oak Creek Brewery was good but as a craft beer lover, I was more interested in the brew. Their Doc’s Pale Ale was a little too hoppy for me but the Forty-Niner Golden Lager was excellent.
Of course the best part of the trip was celebrating the happy couple. The ceremony and reception were in the Tlaquepaque village, in Patio de las Campanas and Calle Independencia, respectively. It was absolutely gorgeous, fitting of the love Matt and Katie have for each other. I was honored to be part of the festivities and left Sedona with new friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
Check out photos from the trip! Note: press play then click the button in the bottom right corner to make it larger.
Some random thoughts as I end week six (of 12) training for the Indy Monumental half marathon:
- In the last six weeks, I’ve ran 96 miles total. INSANE.
- Running requires an investment. Good shoes and quality gear are expensive but it truly makes a difference. When you run four days a week, you need socks that help your feet breath, tech shirts that help you stay dry and sports bras that keep your girls in check. If you need gear or have questions about running in general, I highly recommend the Athletic Annex. The staff is very knowledgeable, friendly and encouraging!
- Your investment isn’t just money, it’s also time. I’ve had to skip out on some stuff or have extra long days in order to get my runs in. But I’m seeing results and I know I’ll be ready to go on race day because of my training plan.
- I’ve been doing most of my long runs on the Monon. I thought it would be repetitive and boring but there’s a sense of comfort and familiarity with the trail. The more times I run there, the less I think about exactly where I’m at and just settle in to my run.
- I’m up to 8 miles now, which took me 1:23:12 today. Race day will be more than two hours of running. That’s a long time to stay entertained. Music helps and the Monon provides some decent people watching but I find myself thinking about really random things. Curious what other runners do to pass the time.
- Even though I run alone, there is a sense of community out on the Monon. There are groups passing out water, strangers exchanging high fives and runners/walkers/cyclists of all shapes, sizes and ages. I love it!
- I have a tendency to get really excited about everything I do – because if you’re not excited about what you’re doing, why are you doing it? Just ask my friends who created a drinking game for every time I talked about volunteering for the Super Bowl (drink). I’ve become full on obsessed with running. I can’t stop talking about it, reading about it, blogging about it. Annoying? Maybe. But I hope my friends understand that talking about it keeps me accountable.
- With two 8-mile runs on the books, suddenly double digits don’t seem so impossible. Once you’ve done eight, 10 isn’t that far off. And 13 isn’t that far off from 10…so maybe this whole half marathon thing is really going to happen.