Breakfast bowl

This morning I went to an early morning hot yoga class with Liz at New York Yoga. It’s our last week to use our unlimited monthly passes that we bought through Living Social, a Groupon-like deal. It was 70 degrees and especially humid (especially for late October), so the class was extra challenging.

No lies, the instructor even said, “You guys all look like you’ve jumped into a swimming pool and we’re only 10 minutes in.” Needless to say, it is a great feeling to start your day off feeling cleansed, refreshed and energized after an hour of  vinyasa.

While the twists, hip-openers and shoulder stands were much needed, the best part of the experience was after. And no, I’m not talking about savasana. After the sweat session, I had enough time to go to Liz’s apartment, shower and indulge in a delicious and hearty breakfast.

Allow me to introduce you to THE Breakfast Bowl (copyright Liz)

The breakfast bowl in all its smooth and crunchy glory!

It may look like just another heaping bowl of Kashi and chocolate Cheerios, but look a little closer kids. It’s actually a thicky, creamy smoothie filled to the brim and topped with added crunch. Though I did not witness the actual blending, Liz’s ingredients included frozen berries, banana, greek yogurt, peanut butter, spinach (yes, spinach) maca powder and chocolate wheatgrass.

In the past, I’ve given Liz a hard time about her “kitchen sink” smoothies, but this was good. I mean really good. And filled me up in a good way, too. I won’t get into the boring nutritional aspects right now, but it goes without saying that this was a bowlful of balance! If only I had the time and luxury to indulge like this every morning. I have a feeling my oatmeal is going to pale in comparison tomorrow morning. May have to man up and make some steel cut oats!

Music makes the people run faster

Ever since joining the cross country team in college, I have distanced myself (no pun intended) from running with my iPod–except when I’m on the treadmill. Let’s be honest here, how can one possibly survive on that monotonous conveyor belt without some pump-up tunes?

I prefer to reserve the 45+ minutes a day I spend pounding the pavement to clear my head and just, well, run. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to have company and can get lost in a conversation. Other times the Central Park people watching provides more than enough entertainment. And then there’s those days when I just want to clear my head and think about nothing. Oh, and my iPod broke approximately two years ago and bringing along my clunky iPhone means staying connected with the outside world (even though I know I could put it in airplane mode). Not an option.

That being said, I always do appreciate a good running playlist. Whether it’s playing on my laptop while I lace up my Mizunos or on the subway while I think about how running home would be a lot more pleasant and productive than riding the train, it’s always a good go-to when you need a little pick-me-up. Today I came across a 10K running playlist compiled by lululemon that I thought I’d share.

Unfortunately, it’s just a list and doesn’t include a $25 gift card on iTunes, but I’ll leave that up to you. And for those of you who have yet to experience Willow Smith’s (daughter of the Fresh Prince himself) “Whip My Hair,” you’re missing out.

Also I have to add that my latest inspirational tune of choice is India Arie’s “A Beautiful Day.” Total feel-good song without being too cheesy. Happy listening!

If the shoe fits, run in it!

My friend and former HCXC running mate sent me this interesting article from the Times about running shoes–what to get and how much money to spend.  As it turns out, you really don’t need the shock absorbing, metallic laces for an extra $50 (though a light-up feature a-la my second grade LA Lights kicks would be pretty cool for early morning runs). Sometimes, the simpler the better. In fact (and my plantar-fasciitis-plagued dad can attest to this), the more expensive the shoe, the more likely the pair is to cause you pain.

According to this article, if you’ve got “normal” feet, with an average arch and perfect pronation, don’t let fancy-schmany footwear give you a run for your money. I must admit, that I am an Asics-Mizuno-Nike wearer, but that is what I’ve found myself most comfortable in. The Times (and me, too) suggests that new runners get fitted for their shoes to ensure the best fit. JackRabbit Sports in NYC is a great place for this, because they videotape you running on a treadmill and fit you accordingly.

There’s always the barefoot running trend and five fingers shoe for those who want to forgo their sneaks all together. That’s not for me though. The chances of stepping in dog poop (or human, for that matter) in Central Park are just way too high for my liking. The shin splints and shards of glass would probably hurt, too.

Some like it HOT

For those of you who live in metropolitan areas, you may have heard (or signed up for) Groupon, a group discount coupon for everything from the city’s hottest restaurants to laser hair removal, emailed daily. It is a pretty good deal, once a certain amount of people buy the coupon, it’s on. The wisdom of the crowd at its best.

While the daily deals are usually very worthwhile, I usually resist signing on to dine at a fancy-schmancy restaurant in my desperate attempt to save money in a city that seems to have unlimited access to my bank account. However, I think twice when the deal is fitness-related (seeing as I don’t have a gym membership, but get by on a decent pair of running sneakers, hand weights, and Jillian Michaels DVDs).

Recently, Living Social (a knockoff Groupon site) offered one month of unlimited yoga at New York Yoga on the Upper East Side for only $45!! For the month of October, that works out to be about $1.50 a class. Normally one month at this hip club would run me $150, hence the reason why I’ve never joined.

Needless to say, both my sister, Liz and I have enjoyed taking advantage of this zen experience. I’ve been going to hot vinyasa yoga about three times a week and I feel great, sweat-drenched yoga gear and all. It’s been a while since I’ve consistently gone to classes and now that I’m getting back into it, my body craves sun salutations, warriors, and back bends. The free 20-minute podcasts I download from iTunes don’t always cut it, as convenient as they may be.

After an hour and a half of intermediate yoga in a 100 degree room with 50% humidity, I leave feeling completely exhausted, but in a good way. I feel cleansed. I feel level-headed. I feel strong. When you get stuck in a routine–especially in the city that never sleeps–it’s really easy to get swept up in it all. Constantly working, rushing, rushing to work, etc. will eventually wear you down.

While I appreciate running for all of its physical and mental benefits, yoga, more than anything else, is what brings me back to life and reminds me that sometimes all you need to do is breathe.

Wake me up before you run-run

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you wake up early. Granted, I inevitably hit a wall at about 3pm and feel as though I have to physically hold my eyes open to avoid a straight up face-plant into my keyboard, but nothing a glass of water and snack can’t cure!

This morning I was particularly proud of myself. After wimping out of my first group run in Central Park last week due to torrential downpour, I was determined to make it this week, even if it meant putting my alarm clock far enough away that I couldn’t press snooze. What can I say, I’m no champ at waking up in the morning. My mom literally used to have to play some ridiculous big band song on our out-of-tune piano when I was in grade school just to get me out bed. But hey, nobody’s perfect. And I’m still here–and awake. (Maybe it was the delicious batch of quinoa lasagna I made last night?)

Needless to say, I woke up this morning at 5:30 ready to run. Even though the group doesn’t meet until 6:20, I have to run a little less than 3 miles to get to the spot. I ran a full lap with the group, with two hill sprints and a cross-town sprint across 72nd included. By the time I finished with the group and ran back to my apartment, I logged approximately 10 miles (I really need a Garmin watch), and was still done by 7:30 am.

Not only do I continue to be amazed by the speed and mileage I can log when I’ve got running buddies as encouragement, but also by my ability to fit in a substantial workout on a weekday morning (when I wake up with my alarm). I really had that runner’s high today after an awesome workout, beautiful fall weather, and the fact that tomorrow is Friday.

A great gallop

Last week, I decided to sign up for a half marathon–Grete’s Great Gallop–on a whim. So, on a crisp Saturday morning I made my way to Central Park for 2+ laps of fall running and fast times. Despite my 3 day notice and lack of intense “training” for the race, I did better than expected. I was in no way treating this as a race, but rather another opportunity to enjoy running in a crowd and getting cheered on (who doesn’t love encouragement from the sidelines?).

I ended up surprising myself, and clocking in a personal record for a half marathon, this being my third. I finished with a time of 1 hour, 37 minutes and 57 seconds (which is less than a minute away from marathon qualifying time for next year!!), with an average pace of 7:28. I came in 645th place overall, 104th woman and 11th in my age group.

Here’s a recap of previous times:

  • In January 2010, I finished my first half in 1 hour, 41 minutes and 53 seconds.
  • In March 2010, I finished my second half in 1 hour, 45 minutes and 36 seconds. (Disclaimer: It was hot and a lot more crowded race)

This is encouraging for two reasons:

1. I won’t be running a marathon so I feel accomplished for achieving a pretty significant personal record

2. I feel that if I mentally/physically prepare for another half I can qualify for the marathon in no time (or in a little over an hour and a half time)

Hooray for personal bests and boosts of confidence!