Two Favorite Ingredients Lately: Lentils & Sundried Tomatos

Two Favorite Ingredients Lately: Lentils & Sundried Tomatos

Hey Guys! I’ve been going through my pantry and taking some mental notes of recent ingredients I been into lately. Of course I have my staples I buy every week like yogurt, eggs, fresh veggies, meat, etc. but some of the meal prep I’ve been doing involved a couple new additions. For a while I wasn’t great about meal-prepping every week because I simply didn’t feel like it. Lately I was going through some blogs, namely The Blissful Balance, my girl Christina’s blog and Cooking Light for some inspiration for meal prep ideas, because we all need a little motivation to spark our interest right?! 😉

I’m a carnivore and really enjoy meat, but I wanted go on the lighter easier side and go meatless for a change. I also felt super lazy when it came to cooking meat and keeping an eye out as it cooks. Not feeling it. I saw how lentils are a meatless alternative and found a great one-pot dish for it. The dish lasted me the WHOLE DAMN week! All dinners Sunday  through Thursday and I didn’t get tired of it because it was THAT good! With wilted spinach and parmesean cheese (which can be opted out for dairy-free if vegan) on top, it was easy to reheat and enjoy (almost) every night of the week.

Aside from being an easy/convienent dish, lentils are great for you. They’re full of fiber, high in protein and iron, and have a meaty satisfying feeling to them. They’re also great with most things and can easily be used as a side among other ingredients. I can see how vegans and vegetarians really enjoy them. As delicious as they are too, they’re CHEAP! I mean really. Not a bad price for a 16 oz bag. I think $2-3. I don’t remember an exact number but I don’t recall cringing at the price. Filling up on a budget, that’s what I like to call it.

Another favorite has been sundried tomatos. They come jarred and if they’re an option, picking the ones in olive oil is your best bet. They’re full of flavor and go well in anything! I love them in salads or snacking on them among mozzarella cheese and crackers or bruschetta *drooling*. Going Italian and I’m not complaining, note: not one bit of me is Italian…lol! I was disappointed when I ran out when making my mini english muffin pizzas and realized I couldn’t use them. SO SAD. Thinking of having the tomatoes as a staple for last minute ideas since they have a decent shelf life as well. I love the flavor they have, that roasted and savory flavor! Packed with goodness, its an item that’s gotta be on your shelf. Aside from how great they are to have in your kitchen, tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants, are full of water keeping you satisfied, and is a fat free food, just to name a few!

If you’re thinking you wanna try these two ingredients, here is the lentil recipe I used from The Blissful Balance. Again, very filling and it went along way! I also included another recipe using lentils but in a greek style type salad that is ready to eat straight outta the fridge thanks to Cooking Light. Hope these two ingredients and recipes sparked your interest as they did mine. Enjoy!

 

My Journey to 26.2: My Training

My Journey to 26.2: My Training

I wrote about my race day experience last week, now I’m writing part two of my journey about my training. Aside from it being an overall positive and successful race, there was way more then just “running all the time” to get me to the finish. Any runner who has done any kind of race, knows its more then that. This training was unlike any kind of training I’ve ever done. Besides just running longer and farther, each run, workout, meal, rest day, etc impacted my training in some way. They said marathon training is a beast in itself, and it is completely true! Don’t be discouraged though, if you getting an itch to do it, that means one thing: SIGN UP! I’ll be honest though, it was a very grueling three months and am thankful I can relax for a little from the training. I would say if you are seriously considering signing up for one, take a couple factors into consideration:

  • Type of work schedule:
    • Early mornings or late nights
    • Full-time vs. part time
    • A new parent or stay at home mom
    • Student in school
    • Traveling
  • Time of year of the race and training (e.g. marathon during the fall months requires summer time training)
  • Finances/budget–because marathons ain’t cheap
  • Type of race you’re interested in running (big city, rural, themed, destination, cause)

 

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Found my name!

REAL TALK: I mention these factors because training for a marathon is commitment. You don’t wanna run a race with high expectations then realize you picked a bad time to train based on whether you’re in school or have a crazy work schedule. This was a big factor in my training because I had the availability to train for one. I was not in school during my training which my a BIG difference in my commitment and availability to focus on my training and in some aspects, performance. Not to say if you are in school or have a busy/crazy schedule you can’t do one, just know it may take more advanced planning and/or a stronger level of commitment compared to someone who is more flexible. I purposely planned to do one once I graduated. I felt ready to make a commitment and knew my schedule allowed for it. To be honest, I would hesitate doing another once I start graduate school because of the need to focus on studying instead of the commitment to train. *this idea is subject to change* 😉

Back to the training! As mentioned in the race day post, I ran about four times a week. I combined running with twice a week strength training days, typically a push/pull day or an leg day and upper body day. Each strength day would take me about an hour and a half to complete since I like to take my time. On days that I was pressed for time, I did HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts and targeted total body in about thirty minutes with minimal rest. During the middle of my training, as a way to double up, I would run in the morning and do a strength day in the afternoon. Working on tired legs post run was tough but a good challenge since it mirrored what my legs could typically feel during the race. I did about three to four targeted exercises based on what I was doing that day plus two exercises for my core. I would finish with cross training on the bike or if I didn’t run the morning before, I would do a high intensity speed session of thirty minutes on the ‘mill before stretching and cooling down.

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Where accountability and motivation starts for the week ahead!

Aside from strength training days, I incorporated Peerfit for my cross training or anytime I wanted to change up my routine. Peerfit is a company creating a versatile, multi-location subscription used at various boutique fitness studios around Tampa Bay, Orlando, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Sarasota, and Jacksonville. See my post on working with Peerfit and experiences I had with them here. I was able to cross train using them at a variety of places through Bella Prana Yoga & Meditation, Soho Cycling Studio, and Mantra Tampa. The days of cross training helped keep my cardio fitness up and strengthing weaker muscles while giving my body a break from the running. I really enjoyed cycling, especially since I don’t consider myself a “cycler”–in fact, I wasn’t into it because I thought it was boring. Soho Cycling changed the game on that one! Mantra Tampa is a pure strength training workout using a Megaformer.  It was all about the burn, helping me focus on the slow part of the movements–so killer and unlike any soreness I’ve had in awhile lol! It worked my entire core and targeted my whole body in fifty minutes. Yoga helped with stretching out any tight muscles and helping me feel relaxed. I’m not so much into the sweaty, hot yoga classes but the stress relief and flow classes did wonders for keeping me flexible and balanced.

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I rested about one-two times per week. If I felt I needed another day, I took it. If marathon training taught me one thing about myself, is that I am incredibly stubborn and wanting to keep pushing for more. Pushing for more isn’t a bad thing, but on some occasions I forced myself to relax and if feeling the urge to still do something, I picked a yoga class. Resting is SO important during this kind of training. It really is a big part of the process in that it allows you to let your body heal and mind refresh. Check out my post on the benefits of rest here.

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Running down Bayshore Blvd

Meal prep wasn’t bad because I already love being in the kitchen. I tried to minimize on how much I went out, about once or twice a week at the most. I cooked and prepared ahead of time occasionally, but most nights I get home late, so I incorporated my assembly only meals for dinner–aka SALADS! Yes, they were filling and full of only the good stuff. Each one had a bed of greens, various veggies, a lean protein, nuts/seeds, cheese, dried fruit, and simple easy dressing. If anyone doubts this amazing meal, all I’ll say is see for yourself because this is heaven. The best part is that it didn’t leave me filling full and gross before bed!

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Another thing I incorporated was protein shakes. I made them veggie-based (usually with spinach or kale), added fruit (fresh and frozen–either pineapple or mango), almond milk, and protein powder. Simple. They were great because I took them on the go, knew what was in it, snuck in a serving (or two) of vegetables, and it held me over. Best part was that I couldn’t taste the veggies! As always, I drank a lot of water. I didn’t ditch coffee, in fact I needed that even more since I was getting so tired! I drank minimally. I didn’t miss drinking and wanted to only fuel myself with quality ingredients. Even post training, I’m not drinking and want to continue to keep it to a minimum. I felt my best and want to keep it that way! Aside from eating healthy, I definitely had my share of carbs, but nothing crazy. Still kept it to a serving. I really like quinoa and brown rice the best. Seeds of Change Brown Rice & Quinoa –the best of both worlds, was a great thing to have on hand since all you needed was to mic it! Super easy and healthy. I didn’t deprive myself and let the eating take over my life. If I was hungry, I ate. If I was full, I stopped. I had sweets when I wanted. I ate chipotle, which came in handy for those carbs post run or before a tough workout–LiveSweatSleep gets me 😉 No deprivation allowed! Marathon training isn’t the time to lose weight. You need your body to be fueled to the very best in order to perform.

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If you haven’t noticed a pattern, I’m really into bowls…especially from Chipotle

This is my training in a nutshell. Three months of planning each week of workouts in my log, seven to eight consistent hours each night of sleep, positive vibes and thoughts, and supportive family and friends. I’m hoping to include these components of training for future races while learning more about myself. In the meantime, you’ll still find me on the run but not going quite as far LOL and getting ready to gear up for my next race–the Gasparilla Half Marathon!!!

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Miami Marathon finisher medal #MiamiFamous
Why I Love Being a Personal Trainer

Why I Love Being a Personal Trainer

I celebrated my three year anniversary of becoming a certified Personal Trainer just last month! I can definitely say I’ve met some pretty amazing people, attended various conferences and workshops, and helped make a difference in people’s lives by helping them reach their fitness goals. This is just the beginning as to why I love my job!

I majored in Exercise Science from the University of Tampa this past May and I decided to become a personal trainer my sophomore year of college. With my love of running, getting fit, and my newly declared major, I figured it was a good idea. It would also give me the opportunity to work at school in our gym as a way to get experience and make some extra money. I talked to a few people about different certifications and ways to go about it, and I finally took the plunge and bought a package full study materials from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). I studied throughout the fall among my college classes (nuts I know) each week devoting Fridays, a day I had no class, as the day I would study for personal training. I would get up early and it would literally take most of my Friday to read the chapter, do the workbook pages for it, create/look over flashcards, watch the videos online, AND take the d@mn quiz. That was one lesson. Each week without fail, I got through the materials in about three months. I studied throughout Christmas break and on our family ski trip. I planned to take the exam at home before heading back for the spring semester…specifically on January 18th! After about four hours, I PASSED! I was so happy! The past three months of studying was worth it.

The past three years of training have been so rewarding, I’m so happy I decided to become a trainer. The studying and the test itself was tough, but besides that, it has taught me how to deal with people (both good and bad), stand up for myself, and challenge myself in the fitness world. Personal training is great because its a pretty flexible job and you are constantly on the go. Helping people get fit is fun, allows for creativity when creating workouts and plans, and is a hands-on application of knowledge. Working with a variety of people of different abilities and goals makes each client a new and exciting challenge. After college, I specifically chose to focus on in-home training, running based/interested, weight-loss, women, overall achieving a healthy lifestyle-type based clients. I also expanded my services to FaceTime. It wasn’t overnight, but the clients that were interested in my services also helped make my marketing. I gathered similar interests and goals from them as well as added my focuses, experience, and personality while creating my own niche. Everything is what YOU want, you are your own boss, another favorite part of my job. Becoming the trainer you want to become is all up to you!

Although I love what I do, it has its drawbacks like any other job. I can say first-hand that it is not always financially stable. Clients come and go as they want, availability changes, life happens, and sometimes that means a loss of a client of change of plans entirely. With  that comes less money or drop in compensation altogether. You work for your client and their needs, goals, availability, etc. (within reason) which in some cases means early mornings or late nights. Marketing takes time. Clients do not just come knocking on your door. YOU have to get them to knock. This is why I loved working at school as a trainer because people already knew me as, Ali: the sorority sister, friend, classmate, etc. and now personal trainer. Post college was tough. As a way to boost my business, I created this blog/website, my like page on Facebook: Ali Swank- Public Figure, and became an ambassador for a few fitness based companies such as Fit2Run-International Plaza, Momentum Jewelry, and Fitfluential. I established myself as blogger through Tampa Bay Bloggers, with my blog focusing particularly in running, but with an overall focus on living a healthy active lifestyle.

Throughout all the good and not-so-good experiences as a trainer, I can say I LOVE my job and am excited to continue this career throughout my life. I would say it definitely aligns with my vision of staying healthy, helping others get fit, and learning exercise isn’t boring, all while creating a positive experience. Side perks include working your own schedule…aka #girlboss, wearing workout clothes as part of everyday work…yes, I mean wearing yoga pants and nikes is perfectly okay ;), and helping others get fit and have fun! In a nutshell, this is my job…CHEERS to a new year of clients and experiences as working in one of the coolest industries–health and fitness!

Monday Motivation: Tired of Starting Over?

Monday Motivation: Tired of Starting Over?

Hellooooo!! Monday Motivation time. Been trying to get more ideas for topics, and this one came to mind! How many times does it seem like you’ve yo-yoed back and forth with a fitness routine or healthy habits? This time of year is notorious for that. Instead of setting the scale back ten pounds, use this time to figure out why you keep restarting. Below are some factors that may help you figure out why!

  • Not sure what you like/don’t like when it comes to exercise
    • Possible ideas: group fitness cardio/strength training classes, working out alone vs. a group/dependable workout buddy, mind-body workouts (yoga, barre, pilates), recreation (biking, running, swimming), social ties (running/biking club),  willing to invest in a  personal trainer? (see personal training tab for more info ;)), etc.
    • Take into your account your personality, interests, schedule etc.
    • Its okay to NOT like something!
    • Make a note of what you like and don’t like…e.g. like spin, but not a fan of the class time or instructor? try another!
  • Location
    • Possible ideas: outside at a local park, big box gym vs. private boutique style gym, female based gym (curves), travel time (close vs. further away), corporate fitness gym. Deciding on location can be a make-it or break-it factor since it is a reflection of how often you will go. 
  • Emotions (this may take more thought)
    • Possible ideas: underlying cause to feeling a certain way towards exercise, nervous, intimidated, open to new things, enthusiastic to making a change etc. If you struggle with investing in a gym because you feel intimidated/excited for change, ask yourself WHY do you feel intimidated/excited for change.
  • Costs/budget
    • Possible ideas: Exercise doesn’t have to be costly!! Gaining happiness and starting a healthy lifestyle doesn’t require hefty price tag, however it may mean a small investment to jump start your routine. Buying workout clothes from Target is more affordable then Nike, running/walking in your neighborhood doesn’t require a gym membership, and healthy recipes can be found on the internet (particularly on pinterest!).
  • FOOD!
    • Sometimes a big culprit is not exercise but food. Yo-yoing because you feel confused over calories, what a fat or carb is, what is good for building muscle, etc. is something that is immensely helpful in achieving our goals. Checking out resourceful sites such as acefitness.org on nutrition basics can make a difference. If its a combination, looking into Weight Watchers or Beachbody can help with both exercise and nutrition! If you are serious about investing your time in to eating well, utilizing a nutritionist or RD is the ultimate way to go!
  • Lifestyle Choices
    • Being on the go, eating out a lot, food choices (e.g alcohol consumption, minimal fruits/veggies), vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, allergies, picky vs. non-picky eater etc. The little things you might not think of play a role too!

Even if you don’t make the effort now to do this, setting yourself up for success in the new year will still help you in figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to jot down thoughts in a notebook, bounce ideas of others, do some research on a topic, heck! try on different styles of workout clothes to see what stuff/brands you like and don’t like! What works for you may not work for someone else, so there is NO RUSH! Exercising and healthy living isn’t going anywhere so focus on you and do it right. Don’t be afraid to DIG DEEP and be HONEST with yourself! You know you the best! 😉