A kid’s point of view: 2 new cycling PRs!

PR number one...

PR number one…

By Colleen, age 12

I got an awesome cycling PR last night after softball practice! The fastest I ever rode before at the Y was a 6-minute mile. But last night I rode my first mile in 4:59 and then I got to the 2-mile  mark in 8:31. Which means I rode the second mile in 3:32! Can you believe that?

... and PR No. 2. I still can't believe it!

… and PR No. 2. I still can’t believe it!

You know how I did it? 8-ball pool. I was playing a multiplayer game with my friend Briley on the Ipad. Whenever it was Briley’s turn, I would absolutely pedal my hardest. Then when it was my turn, I’d ease up just a little bit.

This is a picture from cross country. I don't have a soccer picture yet.

I am determined to do everything I can to make my goal!

Mom and I are in the homestretch of the YMCA triathlon. We need to finish up on Sunday. I have 41 cycling miles to go and 1 swimming mile. Mom has 26 cycling miles to go and 1.25 swimming miles.

Here’s my plan: Tonight after Ben’s baseball game I will go to Grandma and Grandpa’s to ride their exercise bike. I plan to ride 6 miles at a time, then take a power nap. It might turn into an all-nighter, who knows?

Then on Saturday Mom and I plan on swimming  at the Y until we are done with that part, then grab some lunch at Subway and come back and do some cycling. Wish us luck!

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Protein-powder brownies


So yeah, not so photogenic, but tasty and full of protein.

We’ve been tinkering with these tasty bars over the last few weeks as spring sports season is gearing up. I tend to pack them as a pregame snack for Ben and Colleen. They also make a great pre-run snack, so long as I can hold myself to one — which isn’t always easy.

The original recipe, which came off a blog called runeatrepeat.com, called for 2 cups of sugar (or a Stevia replacement); we’ve cut that in half without any noticeable sacrifice in taste. We also subbed peanut butter for the almond butter and regular skim milk for the almond milk, just because that’s what we had on hand.

Using Muscle Milk chocolate-flavored protein powder, and cutting the batch into 12 bars, this works out to 162 calories and 6.5 grams of protein per brownie.

proteinbrowniesbigsidesOne issue we haven’t resolved and have just sort of accepted is that this batch is a bit too much for an 8-by-8 baking pan but not enough for a 9-by-13 pan. We go with the smaller pan, preferring thick brownies over thin ones, but the batter tends to creep up the sides. This makes them less photogenic, but it turns out that nibbling on those mountainous crust edges has become part of the fun, at least for our family.

The recipe

Cassie samples the protein brownies.

Cassie samples the protein brownies.

¾ cup protein powder

1 cup sugar

½ cup peanut butter

½ tsp each soda and salt

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup milk

Mix dry ingredients, then add peanut butter, egg vanilla and milk. Bake at 350 degrees for … oh, I don’t know, until they look done or a fork in the middle comes out clean. (I’m highly dubious of projected baking times because they seem to vary from oven to oven.)


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‘Maybe the next bite will be better’ syndrome

There’s a lot of things that irritate me about the book “Ten Habits of Naturally Slim People,” by Jill H. Podjasek. It’s too New Agey for my tastes  and makes it sound like all naturally thin people have these enlightened perspectives on eating.

tenhabitsofslimThat wasn’t my experience when I did a series of interviews with the naturally thin people in my life. I mean, sure, some of them had this seemingly ingrained mindful  perspective in terms of savoring good food, eating only when they’re hungry and so on. But what about Ian, who said he eats Pop Tarts for breakfast “mainly so I don’t have to think about it”? Or Nash, famous among his friends as the guy who never thinks about food, who told me he can’t stay away from an open bag of chips or pan of brownies and so therefore never brings those things into his house?

“Naturally thin” people are a pretty diverse group, it seems to me. The one thing they share is a disdain for being bogged down by too big a meal or excess weight, and so they were taught or have developed various mechanisms for keeping the extra pounds at bay – some of them more worthy of imitation than others.

Such quibbling aside, however, Podjasek’s book serves as a pretty good pep talk for mindful eating. Given my recent efforts to learn to “just put down that spoon” when something I’m eating doesn’t taste as good as I expected, I was especially drawn to her insights on what she terms “Maybe the next bite will be better” syndrome.

She writes that she first noticed it in her own behavior after ordering a special dessert – bread pudding with a caramel sauce – at one of her favorite restaurants.

Though the first bite was disappointing, not what she’d remembered and been looking forward to at all, she took another bite, then another, “somehow thinking if I kept eating it would eventually fulfill my expectations. There I was, 15 minutes and 400 calories later, still wanting a good dish of bread pudding.”

I know exactly what she means. I think it has something to do with an unwavering faith in the power of food to solve all problems, no matter what the source. On some level, it’s like I refuse to believe that food could ever let me down.

What Podjasek took away from her experience was that if she learned to value her first impressions and pay more attention to what she really wants, she could simply reject the subpar treat and hold out for something truly satisfying. In the process, she was less prone to binges and cravings because she gave herself permission to satisfy her desires and listen to her body, so it didn’t get all panicky around desserts.

“Mostly, I needed to realize that I enjoy good bread pudding and don’t need to wait until once every six months to get some,” she wrote. “Maybe then the disappointment over a single dessert would not have been so monumental that I felt driven to finish it with little satisfaction.”

There’s plenty of material worth reading in the book, and you can find it on Amazon these days for just a couple of bucks. Just skip over the “Psych-K” or “whole brain posture” mumbo-jumbo if it doesn’t work for you.

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In search of thread-in-the-tapestry runs

Friday’s run was both frustrating and exhilarating.

The weather was gorgeous – sunny and upper 70s – but I wasn’t used to this kind of summer heat and I wound up wilting under the sun. It was weirdly disorienting to struggle toward the end of a mere 4-miler.

On the other hand, the fact this run solved a scheduling problem instead of creating one was highly satisfying.

I wrapped up a substitute teaching job midday and was eager to lace up my running shoes, but we’d had some vehicle trouble that morning which meant I’d need to swing by the high school by 2:30. I’d already abandoned plans for a longer run and was trying to figure out what I could cram in instead when I realized that everything would be much simpler if I just left my car at the school for Ben and then ran home. (Taking the long way, of course.)

So even though the run itself wasn’t one of my better efforts, it was still highly satisfying because it helped us out of a jam.

There’s drama in every run, a storyline in there somewhere. But lately I’ve been craving that satisfaction that comes with a run that serves a larger purpose than just “me” time or calorie burning.

Which is an overly dramatic way of saying that with 10 weeks to go until my first goal race of the year, I’m looking forward to shifting into training-plan mode – so that instead of constantly wondering if  I’m doing enough to get ready, I know that any given run is designed to serve a specific purpose — in conjunction with other runs during the week – to help me get better.

It was a real eye opener to look at Hal Higdon’s advanced 5K training plan, which I’m going to tweak a bit over the next couple of weeks before putting it into action at the 8-week mark. I’ve only used a training plan on longer distances, so the mileage on this plan looks ridiculously simple. It’s the speed work that will be tough, but I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to see how much time I can peel off a 5K that I actually train for instead of just trying to run as hard as I can, knowing it’s a shorter distance.

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A kid’s point of view: A funny way to get happy

By Colleen, age 12

Did you know that mimicking a smile can actually make you happier? According to Psychology Today, the logic is that when you use the muscles you use when you’re happy your brain thinks you are actually happy.

smileyfaceThe same thing goes for your posture, breathing and just your body overall. If you slump over and frown, chances are you will get pretty grumpy.

I have always used the ” positive attitude ” mantra, but I never knew it actually is a thing! I really need to start employing this strategy during class lectures!

Soccer this week was fun though our game ended in a tie. And softball has been fun too. Our coach has been hitting us tennis balls because they’re harder to catch than softballs.

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Y-tri update

This YMCA triathlon project has me a bit frustrated lately. On the one hand, it’s scattered my focus so that I’m not concentrating as fully on a running plan as I’d like to be. On the other hand, swimming and cycling are great cross-training tools – especially if I hope to do a triathlon at some point this year.

Part of me can’t wait for this project to be over (in less than two weeks, on April 26). But part of me is concerned that without a built-in incentive, I’ll stop cycling and swimming and just run again.

runlessWhat I need to do, I guess, is get a hold of that Run Less, Run Faster book and review those training plans that I found so inspiring a year or two ago when I checked it out of the library.  (As I recall, this book calls for three quality runs a week with structured cross-training. Training plans, for everything from 5Ks to marathons, are designed to enhance speed and not merely get you to the finish line.) Then maybe I’d have a plan for the week instead of thinking each day, “Now what kind of a workout should I be doing?”

Here are my current mileage totals since Feb. 22, followed by the number of miles still needed to complete the project:

Running: 102 (none)

Cycling: 154 (70)

Swimming: 3.25 miles (1.5)

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Warning: Not all salsa con queso is a calorie bargain


One of these jars contains twice as much fat and calories as the  other. Can you guess which one?

One of these jars contains twice as much fat and calories as the other. Can you guess which one?

So I’m needing to peel off a few pounds for about the gazillionth time since my 2010 weight loss, and when I need to be strict I usually pick up a jar of salsa conqueso because it packs so much flavor into 45 calories and barely any fat per serving. (I dunk broccoli or celery in it instead of chips.)

Trouble is, I thought it was easy enough to distinguish between “cheese dip” and “salsa con queso” (a salsa blend that’s much lighter on the cheese) on the store shelves, but no: Turns out the Taco Bell version I brought home the other day is much fattier – with twice as many calories – as my usual brand.

It’s not too surprising when you look at the ingredients list: The first three ingredients in the Taco Bell version are whey, canola oil and cheddar cheese, which explains the 90 calories and 7 grams of fat per 2 T. serving. In my mind, that makes it more of a “cheese dip.”

The first three ingredients in the Chi-Chi’s brand, on the other hand, are water, nonfat milk and Monterrey Jack cheese.  It’s plenty tasty, but a lot less dangerous.

So now I know: Just because something is called “salsa con queso” doesn’t mean it’s fair game. Always check the label.


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