Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Today was an easy day of running, unlike many Tuesdays (Helloo, Speedwork Tuesdays), given that we had the race on Sunday. Although it was only a 5k, I subscribe to the belief that you must listen to your body regardless of the distance and that intuitive fitness keeps you active, healthy, and injury free (oh, in addition to strength training and foam rolling). 4 miles on the mill with another 10 minutes on some cardio equipment. Add in a few weights and I called it a day. Now that we got through that, let’s get to the original intent of this post.

In the month since I’ve watched Food, Inc., I’ve done a lot of research on the food industry and its disgusting practices that have a stronghold on America’s eating habits. Despite what you think, you do have a choice in the matter. In an effort to help support the farming community and to make small waves in changing food industry practices, I’ve officially convinced Chris, after lots of begging, to be a part of the Red Fire Farm CSA. Being a part of a CSA Farm Share (Community Supported Agriculture) means that Chris and I have bought a share of the Red Fire Farm in order to help sustain its business in return for a portion of its weekly haul of organic vegetables. Although there is the ability to buy into 24 weeks of veggies, we decided that we would first start with the 20 week Summer program. Families can also buy into a fruit share, egg share, and/or flower share, all for an additional charge. Red Fire Farms also allows CSA members to head to their farm located in Granby, MA to pick shares of excess crops, like beans and strawberries, for free!

Screen shot 2014-03-18 at 9.04.27 PM Screen shot 2014-03-18 at 9.04.43 PMThe amount you pay is based on a sliding scale and the honor system, as Red Fire Farms hopes that those who are financially more stable can contribute a little more, so that those who are not as financially sound can pay a little bit less. Although the total cost of the share feels daunting at first, when you break it down into a weekly budget, its most likely right around what you are already spending on veggies. This particular CSA also allows you to pay for your share in smaller increments. I also knows friends (who first shared this information with me) that split the cost of the share with another couple, making it that much more affordable! Furthermore, Red Fire Farms thankfully has pickup locations in two separate parts of Somerville (where we currently live), with one of those being less than 5 minutes from us. They also have pickup locations in Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Jamaica Plain, etc.!

Screen shot 2014-03-18 at 8.38.26 PM

Each Thursday for 20 weeks starting in June, I will be able to walk to our Somerville location, reusable bags in hand, and pick out as many veggies that are available to me that week…and yes, that is the danger of buying into a farm share. If you have a poor growing season, then your shares will obviously be smaller and you’ll have to supplement your supply by going to the grocery store. However, the same goes for when the season is flush; the more they grow, the more I can bring home!

Screen shot 2014-03-18 at 8.38.20 PM

Finally, Red Fire Farms states that:
Our goal with the CSA is to provide a good source of seasonal local produce for the community that is a good value for organic food, and raised sustainably for the environment and the farm crew. Staying with the local outdoor seasons of the produce makes the CSA a better value. While saying that, our farm is one of the leaders in season extension, and you will get crops earlier and later than at other places because of the extra work we put in in the fields!”

I look forward in taking part of this year’s share and am excited to take the time to create dishes made from locally sourced, organic, seasonal vegetables. Once the season arrives, I will certainly share my experience with you readers!

Has anyone else participated in a farm share or shop regularly from farm stands throughout the summer? Gripes or likes?


Coach Becca breaks up a carb party

Nutrition Nutrition Nutrition.  I love it, I need it.  I live it, it helps!  Here is Coach Becca’s thoughts on fueling, both as a human and as a marathoner.

If your workout is going to be longer than an hour (such as our Saturday runs) – that’s when you need to start adding calories. This can be in the form of sports drinks vs. water (which also have some electrolytes, though not enough to replace your electrolyte losses), sport beans, GU, power gel, power bars, etc. Or, the old fashioned way is to eat real things. You have to determine what works for you.. Others hate them and swear by GU and power gel. It is really individual. The only thing that is definitely true for everyone is whatever you choose should be easily digested and fairly simple. 

Now that we are consistently running more than an hour (especially on our Saturday runs) we need to start adding calories. This can be in the form of sports drinks vs. water (which also have some electrolytes, though not enough to replace your electrolyte losses), sport beans, GU, power gel, power bars, etc. Or, the old fashioned way is to eat real things. You have to determine what works for you, one year for me it was pop tarts, I was sick of everything else.  I don’t mind power bars and GU, but it’s is really individual. The only thing that is definitely true for everyone is whatever you choose should be easily digested and fairly simple.

Although many theories have come and gone, the basics have remained the same:

1. Eat a variety of whole, unprocessed foods
2. Control your weight
3. Eat a diet relatively high in fiber
4. Eat a diet relatively low in high-cholesterol foods and fat
5. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
6. Eat regular meals
7. Eat fewer simple sugars (candy, table sugar, sweets, etc)
8. Avoid junk
9. Avoid salty foods
10. Drink little alcohol
11. Make dietary changes gradually
12.Learn about your body, and whether high blood pressure, diabetes, blood cholesterol or other factors should influence your diet.
13.Rely on food, not pills for your nutrients, though consider a multivitamin supplement
Set yourself up for feeling great and and feeling energized!  Remember our bodies are like cars and gas. Our cars can’t run without gas and our bodies cant run without fuel so just pay attention to what you are and are not consuming.. 

The best current thinking is not new.. Rely on a variety of whole, unprocessed foods, Have food items in balance and in moderation. No one food supplies all of the many vitamins and minerals that we need. And there are probably still nutrients yet to be discovered. Too much  or too little of many foods is detrimental. It’s like tire pressure. Too little air and you have too much rolling resistance. Too much and too little and you risk flat tires!!! There are no truly good or bad foods. Its all a question of moderation. The USDA nutrition pyramid (which I will bring one for everyone) is an excellent guideline. Make carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, rice, breads, and cereals) the center of your meal. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Add relatively small quantities  of protein and fat for their nutritional balance, taste and variety. That’s it, simple!

The recommended “healthful diet” for the general population is very close to the same diet as endurance athletes: high in carbo There are a few variations I will discuss below. Although marathoners may require more nutrients than the general population, the increased calories they consume usually compensate for their increased requirements.
Marathoners Nutrition:
Carbohydrates- Fuel for endurance athletes
Aerobic athletic performance demands glycogen, a storage form of carbohydrate. Your body makes glycogen from the carbs you ingest, not from fat or protein. The body can store about 2,000 calories in glycogen. For those who exercise for more than an hour per day, there’s a good chance that a diet high in carbs and low in fat will help your body make glycogen and continue to perform at a high level.
Carbo Loading and Reloading
Carbohydrate loading in a technique you’ve probably heard about- increasing intake of complex carbohydrates for a few days before a long run/race should boost performance. It’s helpful so scoop up the pasta, potatoes and breads before your event (or long run).
Carbo reloading- promptly replacing carbohydrates after activity is very important to help recover.
Extra Sodium
Marathon training, day after day especially in the heat will deplete our body’s sodium. Sweat contains about one gram of sodium per quart. On hot days when working hard, many of us will sweat more than that. The average runner ingests two-four grams of sodium per day. Since most of us exercise a few hours at a time, sodium is usually not a problem. Adding salt to our diet before, during and after exercise will help maintain exercise intensity, assist in hydration and re-hydration and prevent hypoontremia (sodium depletion in the blood) which is a lethal consequence of exercise. Sodium-rich foods and salting foods are suggested under these circumstances.
Is it was that you need when exercising. Drink before you are thirsty. Clear urine is an indication of appropriate re-hydration. Dark urine can we a warning that you are dehydrated  and need to drink more. Drink one quart (32 ounces/one nalgene bottle) or fluids per hour when exercising hard or in hot weather. It’s possible to lose several quarts of sweat per hour, its hard for the stomach to absorb more than 32 ounce per hour.
Trying out new foods
Now is the time! Experiment away before, during and after your training run for the big day!
Pre-training Nutrition
A good breakfast is key to a good start on the day.  If your running an all out fast short race a big breakfast isn’t a good idea. If you are going for a long run, fuel your body. A half-hour before training, you’ll want to top-off your energy supplies and make sure you are well hydrated. Again, a  high-carb, low-fat diet works best. You will be able to run farther and faster if you do.
Gatorade/ Sports drinks
Gatorade helps you hydrate and get some calories and its easy on the stomach. If its too sweet, dilute it to one half strength. When it’s hot (and I keep mentioning this as we approach hot weather) you are working hard and it’s hard to get down solid food. Even sugar solutions with a 6 percent concentration is difficult to digest. The solution to getting calories while exercising is maltodextrins (carbs that keep the concentration down, but add calories by increasing particle size) So…look at nutrition facts labels, then look for TOTAL CARB, then look at Sugars. The difference is usually the carb calories from maltodextrins.
Energy Bars/ GU
They are convenient sources of calories while running and they fit in your fuel belt or pocket. GU makes some flavors with extra caffeine. GU’s are not a solid; not a drink. You suck gel into your mouth and then chase with 6 ounces of water. Get used to these, you will be happy you did.
Post-Training Nutrition
Even if you’ve had a good breakfast, even if you have fueled while running, long runs still leave you calorically depleted. Replenish your body’s carbs with a few hundred calories within the first half hour after a training run, and then again within the next two hours. This will help you recover, replace your glycogen and be ready for your next run.
(Below is an actual picture of my bran flakes cereal with bananas, cranberries, and no sugar added vanilla almond milk from….TRADER JOE’S!) Carb party!

Bran Alert! Bran Alert!

You all know how much I love bran, right?  Well I just need to give a quick shout out to Trader Joe’s and their Cranberry Bran muffins.  At only 80 calories, I’ve found them a wonderful alternative to my english muffin/crumpet party in the morning.  You have to really love bran to love these mini muffins, but they are a wonderful source of multigrain carbohydrates to add to any meal.

I also had the pleasure of eating bran flakes for dinner, because by the time I got back from my run, it was 7:30 and I was cooked, rather than my dinner (har har).  Oops, ahaha, I love bran parties!

On a date with Jack and Jeremiah Johnson

What a whirlwind weekend!  After a wonderful Team in Training run with my South Boston running team on Saturday, I drove home to celebrate my sister’s 19th birthday! (Here is a picture of her to the right, photographed with the leather purse I got her in Sorrento, Italia!)

Let’s first talk about my running for the week, shall we?  I haven’t been following the training program as of yet, because I have been running since the summer and have my basic skill set and mileage down.  So this week, I ran 5.5 miles on Tuesday, 5 miles on Wednesday, 3 miles on Thursday with 10 minutes of crosstraining as well as weights, a 6 mile easy run with my team on Saturday, and 3.5 mile speedwork run by myself after I returned back to the city on Sunday.  I also did a nice training run with my mom on Saturday, which lasted about 2 miles because she’s signing up for her first race and 5k for May 8th! GO mom go!

Now, let’s talk about celebrations and food!  On saturday, I arrived home to be greeted by my sister, dad, mom, and Ghita doggie.  After I watched Court tear into her presents, and completed my training run with my mom, the family headed to Albany to meet my brother, Michael aka Jeremiah Johnson, his girlfriend Victoria, and my grandparents for dinner at Lombardo’s!  After having dined in Italy, you become very aware of how Italian fare is completely 100% different from Italian American fare.   Regardless, my family enjoyed bread, calamari, salad, and our own individual meals, which none of us even ate half of.  I wound up ordering the Rigatoni al Forno; rigatoni pasta with diced eggplant and mozzarella cheese, tossed and baked in a marinara sauce.  I usually don’t get straight up pasta, but saturday I was feeling a little…crazy.  I also enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir; a lauren and michael richmond favorite.  Below, is my brother, his girlfriend, and myself at dinner.  Michael, for some reason has grown a full on beard, for absolutely no other reason than for the sheer delight of stroking it and driving my parents crazy.  He kind of looks like Robert Redford as Jeremiah Johnson; a mountain man who wishes to live the life of a hermit.  Except a dirty Jeremiah Johnson. Sigh.  

After a delightful time with my family, I headed back to the city today, and stopped by Trader Joe’s (obviously) on my way home.  I picked up a few essentials, including spinach, broccoli, bananas, cranberries, and dressing.  I also bought multigrain baking and pancake mix after coming up with a stellar idea to make Banana Pancakes!  YUMMYYY.  I guess if I can’t have Jack Johnson make me pancakes, I’ll just make them for myself.  Jessica still supervised the kitchen, as it was my first time making pancakes as an adult (we make pancakes for the kids I work with when camping at Adventure Camp, yet somehow I’m never allowed to cook the food).   Can I just tell you, they were awesome!  I made four pancakes that were pretty thick, but gave my extra one to Jessica.  
Here’s the recipe! Yields 4-5 pancakes.
Mix: 1 cup of pancake batter
1/4 cup of egg beater or egg substitute (1 egg)
1/4 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or regular milk)
Less than 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil (I was out of canola)
a sprinkling of cranberries
1 whole banana

Add a tiny splash of sugar free syrup and enjoy!

My belly is jolly.

I don’t know if any of you remember that the title of my post is from a random episode of Mad About You.  Yea, Mad About You, like anyone watches that anymore, or has any idea what I’m talking about.  I don’t know why that line has stuck with me, but I thought it was a good segue into my next post, which is about marathon training and your digestive track.  Because, let’s face it, they don’t seem to be friends.  I certainly am aware of the effects first hand, after completing my half marathon.  My stomach was not in a good place….and then I went to town on some Mac and Cheese at a pre-Thanksgiving party.  BAD IDEA.

I had such a terrible upset stomach, that its prompted me to rethink my fueling habits during this training season.  Problem is, I seem to be faced with the same difficulties.  This week, was a very stressful week at work…again (bad year in schools with all of the financial cuts).  Somehow, I needed to remind myself that I had to push through to keep up with my training schedule.  Because Monday was a fail (I was still jetlagged), I made up for it the rest of the week.  Tuesday I ran five and a half miles, Wednesday I ran five miles, and Thursday I ran three miles, with ten minutes of crosstraining, while also incorporating some free and guided weights.  However, by Thursday (I ran a fast pace on the treadmill at the gym because it was freeezinggg in Boston) my stomach was churning during my three mile run.  I know I pushed myself to run it quickly (Mile 1-8:00, Mile 2-7:56, Mile 3- 7:44), but I could also tell my stomach was going to fall out on the treadmill.  Yep, try to imagine what that feels like and its not good. I’m also icing my left knee but that’s a whole other story, including better stretching, getting back into yoga, and strength training my quads.

But what should I find?! Runners World to the rescue!  Although I’ve noticed that a lot of the magazine kind of reports the same information, its a great resource for a beginning to intermediate runner.  It also helps to keep you informed of the newest research in racing and running.  Anyway.  So Runners World emails me this article about Prerace nutrition tips that I should most likely follow throughout my marathon training.

The first mistake?  Its eating TOO many carbs.  Hmm, ok.  Prior to my running days, I tried to stay away from carbs.  It made for a miserable life.  Introduce running, and introduce some really awesome Trader Joe’s ravioli and tortellini.  Regardless, we can’t take it too far as runners.  Although you require carbs to replenish your glycogen levels, the most important source of energy in training, FLOODING your system with too many carbs makes for a digestive nightmare.  Try to be reasonable with your consumption levels and remember that carbs shouldn’t come in the form of cookies to get your energy.  Insulin levels skyrocket because simple carbs break down quickly into sugar.  However, when you pair your complex carbs with proteins, you slow down the speed of absorption…making you feel fuller longer (aka, the quicker you break it down, the quicker it digests, the quicker you head to the bathroom).  Complex carbs are simply anything not white and refined.  Multi-grains and sweet potatoes are a great way to add carbs into your diet.  Basically, don’t overload with quickly absorbing carbs.  Slow and steady wins the race.  At least in your blood sugar levels and your digestive tract.

The second mistake a runner can make is drinking too much water.  OK. You definitely need water.  I’ve actually started to eliminate my crystal light and diet soda consumption (crystal light is a drug for me) and have stapled my metal earth friendly water bottle to my hip.  It hurts to sleep on, but its the best thing for my body.  I also only get one coffee a week, instead of one coffee a day (saving me about $32 a month)!  Yet as your training runs get longer (anything longer than 10 miles)…remember that some of your fluids should come with electrolytes.  Let’s break it down to basics.  You drink a lot of water, like so much you pee every half hour.  Awesome, but you also pee away a lot of sodium.  Runners need salt!  Well, I don’t mean to lick salt sticks are drown yourself in canned soup, but you definitely need to keep up those sodium levels in order to let your energy shoot around your body (its all magic and science).  So I think I need to start adding some low cal Gatorade to my training days that include shorter runs.  Then I should introduce some full calorie Gatorade or G2 on longer run days.  Done.

Tip number three requires cutting down your fiber intake.  You may find this hard to believe, but I LOVE fiber.  I love broccoli and bran.  Its a sick cross I must bear.  However, too much fiber means for lots of digestion, and lots of…well…what comes after digestion.  You don’t need to cut down on fruits and veggies as much through the season, but if you are highly susceptible to the effects of fiber, then maybe you want to cut down on your fiber bran parties.  You know those parties, where everyone brings bran muffins and dresses up in bran costumes, and we drink bran juice…wait…maybe I shouldn’t have admitted the details of my ultimate dream scenario out loud.

Tip number four is to not skip breakfast.  Race day or not.  Just don’t do it.

The final suggestion recommends playing around with different types of foods and seeing the effect they can have on your body.  Like, maybe you just tried a new chocolate Gu and it made for a nice chocolate p…. YEP get rid of it.  Instead go for the Gu gummy bites if they keep your stomach jolly.  Susceptible to cheese?  YEP, time to cut back.  You’ll be better off in the long run.

To sum it all up, you’ll do everything you can throughout training and race day, but it might require calling for backup…such as NoEXPLODE or Immodium.  And I’m sorry, if you have some time goals but are no where near racing for top dog status, just for god sake give yourself a break and chill in the porta-pottys for a bit.  Your fans and fellow runners will thank you.

(Actual fortune cookie fortune I received.)

Rihanna featuring Nicki Minaj…Raining Men

I just wanted to share this song, as it is my new favorite favorite song of the moment. Thank you to Olivia for burning me the Rihanna c.d. “Loud”, because it has been playing in my car nonstop. I can only imagine that this song will help boost my energy during my runs. Now, I just have to figure out a downloading program other than Limewire so I can have updated music. I’m so behind the timessss ahhh. Anyway ladies, love this song. Because it really is raining men.

Speaking of Rihanna. Let’s discuss bodies, shall we?

After my fourth email from Runners World in about 6 hours, it came up with something interesting to share….specifically, how to lose weight without sacrificing performance or being perpetually hungry. Let’s start with some numbers:

1) You need to know how many calories your body needs at rest. The Harris Benedict Equation allows you to get an estimate of your resting calorie needs or basal metabolic rate:

Women: 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years) = BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) …. (I figured mine out to be 1385)

666 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years) = BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)

Then, add in your activity factor:
BMR x 1.55 if you exercise 3-5 days a week.
BMR x 1.75 if you exercise 6-7 days a week.
Now you know how many calories you need to maintain your weight.

(Again, even though I’ve been exercising 6 times a week, I’m going to err on the side of caution and discovered that I should be eating about 2146 calories a day to maintain my weight).

2) Keep a food record. It is really important to write down when you eat and drink, what you eat and drink, and how much you eat and drink. And if you really want to be accurate, use an online program like the one here to calculate how many calories you consume.

Now you know both how much you need to eat to keep your weight steady and how many calories you are currently eating. If you cut calories by 250 to 300 per day you will likely see a weight loss of about half a pound per week (500 a day if you want to lose a lb. a week. But remember, factor in your calories burned…but don’t trust the machines!). While that’s a small amount, you won’t be as hungry and will be less likely to abandon the plan. (I should be eating around 1600-1800 calories a day to lose weight while exercising. I must be overeating like woah.)

Here is how to organize your plate if you are trying to decrease body fat:

A little more than two-thirds of the plate should be lean protein (poultry, fish, veggie burgers, soy, low-fat dairy, or eggs) and fruits and vegetables and less than one-third of the plate should be grains or higher-carb vegetables, like pasta, rice, bread, cereal, potatoes or corn. Don’t omit fat, just use a little to enhance flavor. Olive oil, nuts, or a thin spread of nut butter are all good choices. You can also cut calories by avoiding sugary drinks and snacks, and minimize portion size by using small bowls, plates, and glasses.

Sounds easy…lets see if it works! I started the day with my omelet combo job and my tea, but then came to work and had a chocolate. Fail! But only if I don’t get my butt in gear later. If I do, I have a little more wiggle room. Ain’t that a monkey’s uncle!

This evening’s plan includes a 4-5 mile run around Southie, and then hitting up South Boston Yoga with Megan. I want to check out the scene there because even though Golds offers Yoga, South Boston Yoga offers a…Yoga for Runners class on Sundays! Although I’m not a big fan of yoga, I think the once a week stretchfest might do me some good. Boxing shall continue before then, but I might go to a class on Sunday, or tomorrow. Everyday is an adventure.