February 28, 2011

T'ai Chi + Running = A more mindful me

A few weeks ago, I went out to Western MA for a Chi Running workshop that I signed up for after reading Chi Running by Danny and Katherine Dreyer.

So what is Chi and what the heck does it have to do with running?  

"Chi is life giving energy that unites body, mind and spirit"

Basically, Danny and his mentors realized that the principles of T'ai Chi are true universal laws and can be applied to anything including running. 

As I read the book, the first third actually had nothing to do with running form, but more about the principles of T'ai Chi; the Four Chi-Skills: 
  • Focusing your Mind
  • Body Sensing
  • Breathing
  • Relaxation
By taking these simple skills and really tune in...it becomes a very mindful and meditative practice. We use our minds and spirits to strengthen our core - physical, mental and spiritual core.  

Once we discussed the Chi-Skills, then towards the middle of the book, all the principles of T'ai Chi were applied in a practical sense to help us run without injury.  This is based on using our center, our core to propel us forward rather than our muscles.   Relaxing our muscles and using our ligaments and tendons to do the work and not our muscles. More like a controlled fall rather than a push off with the back leg and break with the front leg. It seems strange but once I realized that by using gravity rather than pushing with my back legs, then running is so much easier. Even uphill!  I fall uphill!  Really!  It is all about form.  And it starts with my mind.  

For a simplified explanation of the form side of Chi Running, check this out: 

Just before reading this book, I had been reading a lot of Thich Nhant Hahn and other Buddhist principles.  I couldn't *believe* how aligned these universal principles are.  After reading the book, I was psyched to go out an run and try out these new mad skills that I found.  I ditched the zune and tunes and started really listening to my body, mindful practice of running.  

But then life took over.  Self-doubt, time suckage, I just ran but wasn't sure if I was "doing it right" so I signed up for the workshop through www.healthylivingandlearning.com with Ryan Miller.

It was definitely worth it.  We did several exercises to show us how to use our core to run, how to focus on our midfoot strike and at the end of the workshop Ryan filmed us running and we were able to critique one another.  The one thing I wish I had done was filmed my self BEFORE the class so I could see the change.  What I can say is I have seen race photos of me with a definite heal strike, so it was nice to see this video with a more mid-foot strike and decent form.   I can also say, I am less injured than I was in November, ITB issues are pretty much gone and now I really listen and tune in to what is going on.  I have yet to run a long run with music ....Check that, the 1/2 marathon in the basement on the TM was with music.  I'm not THAT crazy yet!...Anyway, focusing has really helped me prevent issues and I really, really love running. 

I don't aways do this, but after taking the workshop, I sent them a little note.  They decided to publish it, but here it is:
I found Chi Running right at the perfect time in my life. I started running about a year ago, but quickly took each race and time as a goal rather than the journey. It was very much the way I was living my life. Reading the book and attending Ryan Miller's workshop was a turning point in my running, which aligned perfectly with the other transformations happening in my life at the same time.
My physical, spiritual, emotional and now running transformations all converged meeting at the same point. Living in the present moment, being mindful, and having a strong core - physically, emotionally & spiritually.
I like that I no longer compartmentalize my running to use as an escape, but to enhance my relationships, all my relationships in my life. ChiRunning alone did not do this, but ChiRunning and the universal laws that are present in ChiRunning can be applied everywhere.
Thank you Katherine, for your work, for Danny's work and for being open to this balance. It is funny because I think many runners find you (like me) with injuries looking for quick fixes. "Help me change my form." But leave with, "Wow, this is a paradigm shift." There's a click, like solving a rubics cube. It no longer becomes about running or form but about life. Truly profound, especially when we runners can become so narcissistic and self-absorbed. 
Thank you for reminding me that running, that life is a gift.
I highly recommend checking out the Chi Running Book and the Chi Running website.

Happy Running!

February 25, 2011

Friday's Drawers: POPCORN!

What a treat this week with real, not pre-packaged, powder coated microwave popcorn! 

And lil sweet peppers!
And oranges!
And more crazy looking rainbow carrots!

But still the highlight was the popcorn.  I asked the kids what they wanted for dinner.  Chicken and popcorn!

So, Izzy and I took the kernels off the cob. Our thumbs were a little sore doing it this way. So we balanced it over the bowl and popped them off into the little bowl.

The newletter this week came with a "Perfect Popcorn" recipe so that is what we did....


3 Tbsp canola, peanut or grapeseed oil (we used canola)
1/3 cup of high quality popcorn kernels
1 3-quart covered saucepan
2 Tbsp or more (to taste) of butter
Salt to taste


Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium high heat. Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover
the pan. When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover,
remove from heat and count 30 seconds. (And yup we counted out loud with the kids.) This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping
temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time. Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper). Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl. With this technique, nearly all of the kernels pop and nothing burns.

Here is the full share this week.
  • Broccoli, Bryson Farms, Florida
  • Rainbow Carrots, Atlas Farm, South Deerfield
  • Pineapple Orange, Eagles’ Next Grove, Florida
  • Green Beans, Pero Farm. Florida
  • Romaine Lettuce, Lady Moon, Florida
  • Mustard Greens, Lady Moon, Florida
  • Mini Sweet Peppers, Pero Farms, Florida
  • Popcorn (transitional), Enterprise Farm
  • Covington Sweet Potatoes, ECO, N. Carolina
  • Plum Tomatoes, Lady Moon, Florida
Here was the other recipe that I think we'll try this week and see how it is....that is if we don't eat up the broccoli before I get to it!

Broccoli Sweet Potato Soup
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed 
2 medium onions, chopped
6-8 cloves of garlic 
1 tablespoon oil
1 bunch broccoli , split in florets 
1 cup milk
Water ( just enough to cover veggies) 
1 vegetable boullion cube (optional)
salt & black pepper 
1 tsp powdered sage
1 tbsp thyme 
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried rosemary 
4 tbsp fresh parsley or cilantro (optional)
can be served with croutons and cheese (optional)

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until
translucent. Add sweet potatoes and herbs. Add enough liquid to cover and boullion and bring to
a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes or until sweet potato is cooked. Use some liquid from the
soup to boil broccoli in the separate pot. Puree sweet potatoes soup in blender. Stir in soy milk and
broccoli. If the soup is too thin, discard the liquid you used to boil broccoli, otherwise add it back to
the soup. Bring to boil and simmer for several minutes.

February 15, 2011

Friday's Drawers - Forget Me Not Fruit

You know how when you start to get out of the habit of something, it takes all your energy to get back on track?  Yeah, that is where I am.  I get into this crazy perfectionist mode, like I need to have something really important to say or take a picture of before I actually post.

And who is this for again?

So I took pictures with our new camera Friday, and I even got some reviews from our lovely taste testers, Simon and Isabella, but I never posted.


Enough excuses. Check out these wares from our Farm Share.

I think I left drool on my monitor.

Strawberry Review - Wish Farm
Simon: They were good!
Izzy: Delicious!

These were good.  Of course my favorite is the double butt strawberries.  I am huge fan of fruits and veggies that look natural. The "odd" shapes give food character rather than the pristine, stepford-fruit you usually find in the grocery store.

I need to take a picture of the two legged carrots we get sometimes too.  Those make me smile every time.

My fingers are still sticky from just having one.....
and what reminded me I still had an unposted blog post.

Florida Sunburst - Uncle Matt's Organics

Izzy (3yo): I like it.  And I don't like it sometimes. And I like it.  Is there more?
Simon (6yo): Tastes like juice! Good!

The Produce Geek describes sunburst Tangerines as:
Brilliant orange skin like a new construction cone, juicy-sweet tangerine taste like a, well… a burst of Florida Sunshine! Sunburst Tangerines are tangerines, NOT Clementines. Don’t get fooled at the store, Florida Sunburst Tangerines are sold loose, in 3lb bags and in 5lb Gift Boxes. People buy a gift box thinking they’re getting Florida-grown Clementines, but they are Tangerines – with seeds. Seeds? Yea, I said seeds – lots of them. If you are in the Anti-seeds Camp stick with Clementines and Satsuma Mandarins. If you like the juicy-sweet taste of Tangerines, buy them now, enjoy and repeat.
Oddly, they seem to be a November/December fruit, but we got them in February.  Regardless, bring 'em on. Because, dang, these are good!  Yes, Simon, they do taste like juice!

I don't think S & I would like to review this one.....But I bet I know who would!  We'll get to it....
And here is the remainder of the wares:

We had the red & green pepper last night raw with some hummus.  Yum! 
Tomatillo Hot Sauce: Real Pickles, Greenfield, MA
Covington Sweet Potatoes: ECO, N.Carolina
Green & Red Pepper: Bryson Farm, Labelle, Florida
Collard Greens: Bryson Farm, Labelle, Florida (huh. I thought that was kale too???)
Red Kale: Lady Moon, Punta Gorda, Florida
Green Leaf Lettuce: Lady Moon, Punta Gorda, FL
Sunburst Tangerines: Uncle Matt’s, Clermont, FL
Strawberries: Wish Farm, Plant City, Florida
Carrots: Winter Moon Farm, Hadley, MA

February 11, 2011

Hair I am baby....or not

I have a complete love/hate relationship with my hair.

Ok, more like, I have a complete love/hate relationship with going to the hairdresser.

 I don't know why it is, but I never want to fork over $$$$ on getting my hair done.  I never got the whole "because I am worth it" commercials.  Those seem so....arrogant.  A waste of money.  I'd much rather spend my money on something else than on my hair.

Or maybe "because I am worth it" is confidence that I misconstrued as arrogance. When I look back at all the different hairstyles I had over the many many years:  long, bob, pixie cut, buzz cut with bangs, buzz cuts with no bangs, betty page-do, just unkempt, long, do locks of love and go short again, long again, locks of love, short again, repeat.....Was I being lazy, cheap or just trying to figure out my place in this hairy world?

I don't know about you, but when I'd go to hair dresser (when I didn't do it myself) I'd have a picture in hand  (and once even brought a video tape recording to my hairdressers house of a chic I liked on MacGyver! Ha!) and then I'd sit down and say I want a cut that makes me look ______ (insert whatever I was feeling I needed to be at the time.)

This time sitting in the salon chair, I recognized two things.

Thing 1.

The last time I got my hair done, I wasn't a runner.  (Dead giveaway on how long it has been since I've taken care of my hair!)

I debated and debated, do I go with long layers so I can still do a pony, or do I go with what I actually like, a layered bob like do, and find ways to deal?  From everything I've read regarding hair and running, it's either, go long or really short. Well, phooey. Contrary to popular belief, my life do not revolve around running. 

Which brings me to....

Thing 2. 
I just want to be me. So this time I did bring pictures, but one of the pictures was a picture of me. I want to look like me. 

Finally, (why has it taken 35 years??!!!) I have come to realize that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about how I should wear my hair but me.  Short hair not only looks better on me, in my "I'm worth it opinion" but I love the time I get back in the morning because frankly, my kids are worth it too and they deserve to have as much extra mom time as well.  Sold.

So, yup. I went short. Again.  And feeling grateful to even have hair to do a do-debate.

David didn't give the kids a heads up so here was the welcome once I got all my winter gear off....

Izzy: What happened to your hair?

Simon: You look beautiful!  (His jaw actually dropped.  Man, I love my boy!)

Isabella warmed up to me and decided she liked it.  Whew.  Maybe it will help her when it is time to trim her locks!  

As for running, we'll see.  I actually debated skipping the run tonight so I could get one more day of all the flat ironing and product my new awesome hairdresser gave me, but nah...That would be just crazy. :)  

I didn't say running wasn't a BIG part of my life, just that my life doesn't revolve around it! 

Anyway, we'll have to wait to see how the hair holds up on a different run since donning the reflective winter cap was was a must!

And while I may be a mom, a wife, a runner....one thing I am not....I am not my hair.  

February 08, 2011

Another half post. Half way there. Just about.

You people are awesome! We are just about half-way to our goal of raising $10k to end cancer! 

And....it is quite timely because Boston Training is also just about 1/2 way done! WOOT! 

 What a journey so far! My friends, family and even perfect strangers (not really strange, strangers) have been so unbelievable generous.  I am grateful and humbled that you have given so much to get us just about 1/2 way to our $10K goal for raising money for Dana-Farber and the Claudia Adams Barr Program for Innovative Cancer Research.  Thank you!

But to *really* get us half way there.  We need to raise $315 more.

And good news!  There is still time to get half-way there! 

(Till Sunday anyway.)

Can you help me finish my 9th week of my 18 week training plan by pushing the DFMC to $5k mark?  Come on people!  We can do it!  

And in full disclosure, 100% of the funds go directly to fighting cancer.  There are many, many projects that are funded through the Claudia Adams Barr Program. Here is one that is close to many of us and so important to the health and wellness of this and future generations: Studying the linkages between cancer and obesity.  

"Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, is one of the world leaders in understanding the molecular basis for obesity. His research is explaining why obesity is such a major risk factor for human cancers. Determining the link between obesity and these cancers could be important to inhibiting cancer development in both obese and non-obese people."

This is one of many important studies going on at Dana-Farber.  Please ask me about others.

And just because....another half post. Half way there. Almost.

February 07, 2011

Half post

I have quite a few half posts in me. Farmshare photos taken, but not posted, food cooked, but not blogged about, runs ran, but not reflected on, life happening, but lived rather than written down. All these thoughts on a specific topic that I want to jot down, but just don't seem to have the time to finish. Or rather, I don't seem to be prioritizing to finish.  There have been a lot more priorities of late. And, really, who is this blog for right?  But now I have a second, so I am going to attempt a half post.  

Really. A half post. 

Saturday I did my long run, (and first run of the week....ugh...all you people training & running during all this snow, I applaud you).  Per my handy-dandy marathon training schedule, I had a planned 13 miles on tap. But who does just 13, really?  Just add a .1 to make it a half marathon.  So I did.  Believe me, I am very happy with myself that I ran that far, because it is far.  But really, what made this one all the more triumphant was.....

....it was on a treadmill.


.....started after 9:00pm.

Unfortunately, it had to be on the treadmill because team training was canceled due to the impending storm that never came until 9 at night. (I watched the lighting from the basement window and was *really* glad I listened to my inner wisdom - ok, David -  and didn't run outside.) All day, poor David wasn't feeling well at all, so I wasn't going to leave him for 2+ hours when he really needed rest. I can't say that he got much rest hearing the three of us playing & goofing around.Within the 30 seconds to run down to find more fisher-price little people, both kids were in the bedroom to show Daddy the exciting new discovery of that minute. With that kind of eagerness to show Daddy every lost toy now found when he just needs to get over this cold, clearly, it didn't make sense to hole myself in the basement for 2+ hours during the waking hours even if the kids did have stuff to play with. SO....if I was going to get in a run this week, it had to be on the 'mill after bed time. 

Accepting the TM run, post bed time, missing movie night and finally the "How much is this going to affect our electricity bill?" feelings, I headed down and hopped on.  

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you make the choice to run your long run on the treadmill, here is what worked for me: 
  • Divide the run up into chunks.  I did 4 sets of 3s with planned "breaks" bathroom & water breaks in between.
  • Take breaks, but get back on. I had two bathroom breaks....and one's own bathroom is WAY better than a race-route porta-john!  Of course, race venues aren't showing Jess Franco flicks during breaks either. Seeing what was on screen, I was shocked to get myself back down to the basement rather than hang out with David. Dang Lena!
  • Have water, and snacks near by.  Mine were in a container on the water heater. I drank when thirsty, but snacks I reserved for the 3 mile breaks. My treats.
  • Make the snacks tasty.  On a TM run, forget the gu.  Get something you really want to snack on.  Space isn't an issue and this isn't really a practice for the race, so make the snack enjoyable enough so that they are a treat for your breaks.  I really wanted some of those tasty homemade cookies from our last DFMC training, run, but I settled for a clif Z bar and M&Ms...yes, we are still working on the Halloween stash!
  • Remember why you are running. I kept thinking about the 2 people I learned about this week that were diagnosed with bladder cancer and breast cancer.  My ego did get in the way a few times, I admit....How cool would it be to say I ran a half mary in my basement?! But shaking that off, this run, was part of the journey to Boston.  
  • The journey is the goal.  So worth repeating. For me, for sure.
  • The journey is the goal.  And again. 
  • The journey is the goal.  
In all honesty, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Some days 2 miles on the TM feel worse. Hopefully having this in my back pocket will make running a 3 or 5 or even 8 on the TM so much easier knowing that I can run a half. And hey, it is done and I got one run in this week. Yay! And even a blog post out of it.

That said.....please, please, please, let this SNOW melt SOON!  Especially before my 15miler in 2 weeks. Please. 

Other half posts still percolating ....Chi Running! Rainbow carrots! Fundraising updates! Hair!  (See the !!!, I am psyching myself up here.)

Till then, be well people.