Friday, June 28, 2013

Running and Pregnancy

Today's Workout:
8.5 mile run

Hello friends and TGIF! You may be wondering if I'm still running as vigorously as I used to. The answer is NO, but I AM still running. Let me give you a brief synopsis of my first conversation with the OB-GYN:

Me: Nice to meet you Dr.

Dr.: Nice to meet you Erika.

Me: Can I still run?

Dr.: Of course you can!

Me: THANK GOD! *sigh*

I must admit that I was frightened he might say no. Since I had zero plans on having a baby, I didn't know the exercising do's and don'ts for pregnant women. However, when I began my research, I was both shocked and thrilled. I thought I would have to kiss my Newton sneakers good-bye. Admittedly, I was bothered by the fact that I was thrown this curve ball (pregnancy) because I am the ultimate planner. Milo and I had future (way in the future) plans on having a baby, but I wanted to work on my running goals first. Selfish? Yes. Has pregnancy put a damper on my running career? Absolutely not!

When I first found out I was pregnant my thoughts were clouded by the shocking news. I thought that would be the end of my running days, but then I realized that pregnancy isn't a detrimental health condition. On the contrary, pregnancy has many positive effects on female athletes. I quickly began researching the topic of running while pregnant and I endlessly watched interviews of elite marathoner Kara Goucher. Goucher is a USA marathon Olympian and probably the most bad-a$$ runner in the world, so naturally I was curious to read her pregnancy story. Not only did she continue to train while she was pregnant, but she also continues to be one of the best female marathoners in the US after having a baby (Totally inspiring!).

So what has changed about my training? Pace and intensity. Naturally I am running slower because of my weight gain but also because of the weather conditions in Miami. Added weight has definitely slowed me down because there's more to carry and the nasty heat and humidity doesn't help either. As far as intensity, the doctor recommended to run at a conversational pace. The rule that a pregnant woman should not exceed a heart rate of 140bmp is totally a myth. You can't compare a sedentary woman's heart rate to a woman who's been an endurance athlete for a few years. Naturally, the athlete's heart is in better shape, so the rule to follow is perceived effort. I basically run at a comfortable pace. By no means is it fast, but it's not too slow either (it's at a moderate level). I have begun incorporating strides into my runs to add some speed work into my running sessions. Next up: track sessions with 200 meter sprints (perceived effort). So to sum it up, I run 6 days a week for a total of about 40-45 miles. I also do about 2-3 HIIT sessions a week. I'm feeling great and thankfully not sick =).

I am excited and somewhat relieved to be pregnant because I am taking this time to thoroughly enjoy my runs. Not that I didn't enjoy my hard runs before, but I am enjoying them differently these days. I'm taking pleasure of running on new routes and marveling at the scenery. My goal is to maintain my fitness until I give birth and of course, to keep my sanity. Running has calmed my nerves about the weight gain and it just makes me feel good. The book Running Through your Pregnancy has given me wonderful insight about running while pregnant. Stay tuned for the cool stuff that I have learned...

Did you run while you were pregnant? How did you feel?
I'm grateful to be experiencing the blessing
of pregnancy and running at the same time.
It's a humbling experience.
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Tipster: Running in the Dark

Today's Workout:
5.5 mile run

Hello friends! Have you ever run in the dark? If you have, have you ever tripped over a rock or a tree stump? Have you ever fallen inside of a pothole? Have you ever slipped on the white lines that are painted on the road? Have you ever bumped into another runner because you couldn’t see them? Has a car nearly hit you because they couldn’t see you? Well, it seems like all these things have happened to me in the past week because I wasn’t using precaution while running in the dark (4:30 am to be exact!).
Let me tell you, it’s pretty scary out there if you’re not cautious in the dark. After a few days of tripping, falling, slipping and bumping into people, I decided to do a little research on the matter. Here are some tips to consider when running in the dark:

1. Wear light in front and on the back of you. You could hold a flashlight (not practical), wear reflective gear or you could wear a headlamp. Make sure you’re able to light up the road with your lights.

2. Run facing the traffic. I know this sounds scary, but trust me, it’s the safest alternative especially in the dark. When you face traffic, you’re able to see oncoming traffic therefore you’re able to dodge any vehicles that may be driving funny.

3. Choose the best route. First, choose a route that’s traveled by cars. You don’t want to find yourself in a desolate road by yourself. Second, run that route during the day so that you can familiarize yourself with the surroundings. Look out for potholes, low tree limbs or debris on the road. And third, opt to run on the sidewalk if possible and try to avoid from running on shoulders.

4. Carry a cell phone. In the event that you get injured or lost, a cell phone could save your life. You can call the police or a family member if you’re injured or you could use GPS if you’re lost.

5. Carry an ID. No one wants to get in an accident, but if it happens, an ID could be a very useful tool. You could carry your driver’s license or you could wear an ID tag by Road ID.

6. Wear a hat. Wearing a hat at night has a few benefits. It can shield the light from oncoming traffic; it can avoid debris and rain from falling in your eyes.

7. Don’t listen to music. Music can be a distraction which may make you less aware of your surroundings.

Be safe while you run!!

What safety precautions do you use when running?
I'm grateful to be spending the
day with my brother-in-law Alex. It's
his birthday today!


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wellness Wednesday: The Perils of Inflammatory Eating

Today's Workout:
5.5 mile run

Hello everyone and Happy Hump Day! I was perusing through RunToTheFinish's blog and Amanda's post for the day caught my attention. She wrote about anti-inflammatory eating, so I decided to write about the dangers of eating foods that cause inflammation in your body.

You're probably wondering what I mean by inflammation, after all, the inflammation we are familiar with is the one that is caused when you cut your finger and it turns red and swollen. Yes, that is inflammation, but there's also chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation affects your organs and internal structures. Basically, the production of immune cells (these are your "fighter" cells) never "shuts off," which may cause cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer's, dementia, chronic pain in your body, etc.

So what causes chronic inflammation?
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Pollution
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • DIET**

Foods that cause inflammation:
  • Sugar and refined starch (Refined carbs, sucrose, lactose, white bread,...)
  • Vegetable oil (Corn, soybean, safflower,...)
  • Dairy products (The body doesn't process high levels of protein)
  • Red meat (Red meat produces Neu5gc which inflames the body)
  • Wheat, rye and barley (These products contain gluten which also inflames the body)
  • Processed corn  (Avoid high-fructose corn, corn starch and corn oil. These foods are highly toxic!)
  • Peanuts (They have a ton of allergens which your body recognizes as a foreign invader thus inflaming your body)
  • Artificial chemicals (Additives, preservatives, food coloring,...)

So what are the guidelines to follow?
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid saturated and trans fats.
  • Eat omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Avoid refined carbs such as, white bread, pasta and white rice.
  • Eat whole grains such as, brown rice and bulgar wheat.
  • Eat lean protein such as, chicken. Limit red meat and full-fat dairy products.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Consume spices that have an anti-inflammatory effect such as, turmeric, ginger, garlic, parsley, cinnamon, cayenne,...
Click here for a larger view 
If you look at the food pyramid you'll see that it emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, fish, whole soy foods, and tells you how much of these foods to eat daily or weekly. You could even eat chocolate (make sure it's at least 70% cocoa) and drink red wine!
Do you eat an anti-inflammatory diet?
I'm grateful for Vaseline. It really
helped avoid chafing while I ran this morning.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Grilled Catfish with Olive Tomato Relish

Today's Workout:
5.5 mile run (w/ strides at the top and bottom of every mile)

Hello friends and Happy National Catfish Day!
Did you know that June 25th is National Catfish Day? I know what you're thinking: that ugly fish?!
Ok ok, it may not be the cutest fish because of those creepy looking whiskers hanging off its mouth, but guess what, catfish are actually beneficial for your health.
Health Benefits:
  • Catfish is low in calories. Three ounces of catfish is about 120 calories and 6.1 grams of fat (Hello weight loss!).
  • One serving of catfish provides 220 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 875 mg of omega-6. These healthy fatty acids are essential in your diet because they provide healthy brain function.
  • One serving of catfish has about 15 grams of protein. This helps you build lean muscle mass and it helps improve your immune system (Good bye fat and good bye colds!).
  • Catfish contains high levels of vitamin B-12, which aids in digestion and provides you with energy.
  • This fresh-water fish is low in mercury, a contaminant that may impact your nervous system (and may affect pregnant women- Gulp!).
Your next thought might be that farm raised fish are loaded with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and hormones, but guess what, there are organic farm-raised catfish producers, such as North Carolina's "Carolina Classics Catfish." Just be aware of the labels and make sure they say "GMO and hormone free" catfish.
So here's the delicious catfish recipe:
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Two 6-ounce catfish fillets
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta (Optional) **I personally don't eat cheese.

    1. Heat a grill to medium-high and spray with cooking spray. (If you don't have a grill, you can use the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes).

    2. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper.

    3. In a medium bowl, combine the olives, tomatoes, olive oil, parsley and lemon zest.

    4. Grill the fish until it flakes easily when tested with a fork (about 4 minutes per side).

    5. Divide the fish between the plates, top with the olive relish and sprinkle with the feta.

    *You can have a side salad with the catfish.

    Have you ever eaten catfish? Do you like it?
    I'm grateful for the news talk radio
    shows I hear on my morning drives
    to work. Since I can't watch TV at work,
    they provide all the important news of the day.

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    Monday, June 24, 2013

    My Fabulous Weekend

    Hello Friends and Happy Monday!
    I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. As for me, my weekend started on Thursday when the Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs at the American Airlines Arena in Game 7 (95-88). After the team won on Thursday night, Miami's fans could be heard from miles away! We were really proud of them.

    I woke up bright and early on Friday morning and went for an 8 mile run. I ran at a nice and easy pace and I took my usual route around Key Biscayne. The morning was spectacularly bright, but pretty warm and muggy. I wasn't surprised by the weather especially because it was the first day of summer. Ugh! After my run, I performed a quick HIIT workout that consisted of:

    5 sets of:
    20 plié squats
    20 sit-ups

    Later in the afternoon, my girlfriends and I decided to have dinner together at Cafe Avanti.

    It was nice to see them after a long work week. I was craving some salmon so I ordered grilled salmon and sautéed vegetables. It was delish!
    We hung out for a few hours and chit-chatted about the usual stuff ;).

    I took a pic of myself in the bathroom. I just love the back of my dress =)
    I was super pumped up on Saturday morning so I decided to go for another "long" run. The day was absolutely gorgeous, but warm and humid again. Hot and humid is pretty status quo in Miami during this time. Come to think of it, it actually gets warmer in July and August. GULP!
    I put on my compression socks to avoid swelling in my ankles. This preggo runner's feet get swollen on "long" runs =/
    9  mile run
    Post 9 mile run
    After my run, I performed a quick HIIT workout that consisted of:
    4 sets of:
    20 air squats
    30 sec planks
    Later in the afternoon my friends and I decided to hang out at a local lounge/restaurant in Mary Brickell Village called Balans. We ate lunch and lounged around for a few hours while I sipped on water soaked in fruits.
    Oh so refreshing! =)~
    I decided to do a short 3 miler on Sunday morning. I was a little tired from the weekend so I kept it short and sweet. After my run, I performed a Full Body 10 Circuit that Julie from A Better Life with Burgers posted on her blog site. This is what it entailed:
    I did 10 reps for 2 rounds
    Shortly afterwards, I put on my bikini and headed to my friend's pool for some fun in the sun. There was no special occasion, but at least 25 friends came by for some fun. It was a blast!
    Getting sun on the belly
    After the party I went home and did the usual: Sunday Night Food Prep.
    Food for the work week
    Snacks: Hummus with carrots, Golden Delicious apples with almond butter, Greek yogurt, grapes and strawberries and hard-boiled eggs.
    Lunch: Brown rice, mixed veggies and grilled chicken.
    I finally went to bed and watched Silver Linings with Bradley Cooper. I absolutely loved it! I was impressed by Bradley's acting skills plus, he's so adorable =).
    What did you do this weekend?
    I'm grateful for spending such
    a great weekend with my friends.
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    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    Hammerheads Meeting Re-cap

    Today's Workout:
    6 mile run

    Hello friends! Today's run was quite the adventure. I woke up at 4:30 am and I was out the door by 4:40 am. I had heard thunder throughout the night, but I thought I was merely dreaming of furniture being moved around. Needless to say, when I stepped outside my house the sky was dark and gloomy with an occasional shower of lightening. The morning was quiet and humid as usual. Then things got a little chilly...

    I was about a quarter mile into my run when all of a sudden a burst of showers fell upon me. The rain came down at the speed of light which caused my white visor to fall upon my eyes. The ferocious wind made me sway from side to side, but I was determined to keep on running. I prayed to God that a tree branch or a coconut wouldn't fall on my head. Perhaps I should be following my own advice on running in the rain,  I thought. As I kept running my Newton sneakers got soaked and dirty from the muddy waters. I stopped fretting over the rain and enjoyed the water falling on my body--it was refreshing. About half-way through the run the rain ceased from falling. It's fun to run in the rain every now and then. It's a good reminder that we shouldn't take life so seriously.

    On to a different topic...

    Last night I was invited by Mike Estevez from Pinecrest Fitness to be a guest speaker at the monthly South Florida Triathletes Team Hammerheads meeting. The meeting took place at Mack Cycle in Miami.

    The Hammerheads were a great bunch. They were very welcoming and I felt at home as I spoke about how I became a runner. I was very humbled when asked to speak about my running successes.


    I'm very thankful for the invitation that was extended by the team. They even made me an Honorary Member of the Hammerheads.
    I'm grateful for all the wonderful
    people I met at the meeting. 

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    Wednesday, June 19, 2013

    Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Eating Ideas

    Today's Workout:
    5.5 mile run

    Hello friends! Today I wanted to share some ideas on eating healthy and creating good nutritional habits. Summer season is rolling around, so I'm sure some of you might be trying to lose weight or are tightening up your physique.

    Eating healthy doesn't mean you're dieting (I HATE THAT WORD). Eating healthy means just that: eating nutritional food that adds value to your health. Eating healthy doesn't mean you should starve or deprive yourself of food. When you choose healthier foods you will feel more energized, you will sleep better at night and your svelte body will thank you.

    Here are some healthy eating ideas:
    1. Eat enough calories during the day. When you deprive your body of a certain amount of calories, it goes into starvation mode, which usually leads to bingeing. Figure out what your calorie needs are and eat healthy meals and snacks.
    2. Don't splurge too often. It's okay to eat the not-so-healthy stuff every once in a while, but do so moderately. Don't deprive yourself of the things you really like such as cookies, ice cream, etc.
    My splurge food
    3. Eat breakfast. Eating in the morning is important because it will avoid over-eating later during the day. Besides, missing breakfast can lead to low blood sugar and moodiness.
    My favorite breakfast food
    4. Avoid processed foods. Try to limit foods that come in a can, box or in a bag. These foods are typically high in sodium, sugar and artificial ingredients. When feasible, prepare your meals from scratch versus buying them already made.
    Processed foods include canned soups, chili in a box, pasta in a bag, canned tuna, etc
    5. Eat more veggies and fruits. Vegetables and fruits are highly nutritious foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals. They also contain fiber, which make you feel fuller longer.
    Taste the rainbow =)
    6. Prepare your meals at home. Cooking at home is a very healthy option because you control the ingredients in the food. Plus, you can make extra food and save the leftovers for lunch and/or dinner.
    7. Buy organic (if possible). Certain foods like vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy typically have added hormones and pesticides. Besides being toxic, they actually promote weight-gain because of the hormones. When it's possible, shop at your local farmer's market and buy fresh produce and dairy products.
    8. Be Active. Physical activity promotes weight loss and it helps control your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. You can walk, jog, run, bike, swim, etc. The options are endless.
    9. Drink H2O. Water is extremely essential in one's diet. It aids in digestion and keeps you hydrated. If you don't like plain water, add fruits, mint or lemon. And remember, sometimes when you think you're hungry you just may be thirsty.
    10. Sleep. Try to sleep as least 8 hours a night. Lack of sleep causes cortisol levels to rise, which can cause cravings, thyroid and metabolic dysfunction, depression, irritability, etc.
    Sleep like a baby
    What kind of healthy living ideas do you follow?
    I'm grateful to be a guest speaker today
    at the Hammerheads meeting in Miami. 
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    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Guess Who's Pregnant?

    Ok, ok, this is old news...
    Again? YES, Jessica Simpson is pregnant again!
    Fergie's got a "lovely lady bump."
    KK is so last season, but hey she's definitely out there!

    4 months and counting...

    How it happened...

    I wanted so badly to tell you guys about my pregnancy, but this has been much of a surprise to Milo and I as it has been for you. So you see, this is how it happened.... No, not how I got pregnant, but how I found out.

    As you all might know, while I was running at the Boston Marathon this year, I sustained an injury at mile 23. As I was running downhill I tripped over a railroad track and I punctured my knee with some kind of sharp object. Needless to say, I ended up going to the ER the following day because the wound was swollen and infected. While the doctor was checking out my knee he told me he would need to do an x-ray just to make sure that nothing was broken. To my surprise, the doctor comes back and tells me, "Well, we're going to put a protective layer on your stomach for the x-ray." WHAT? WHY? I was totally confused. Then he tells me, "Because you're pregnant!" WHAT? HOW? I was in shock. I couldn't believe that I was two months pregnant during the Boston Marathon! I thought that was kind of cool =).

    This wasn't a planned pregnancy by any means. As a matter of fact, my doctor told me that it would be difficult for me to conceive because the functions of my body had been altered due to the intensity of my running (think missed period for 4 years). Anywho, Milo and I are thrilled to be pregnant and we feel blessed for this gift.

    What now?

    Nothing has drastically changed since I found out about my pregnancy. My running mileage has decreased, but not substantially. My knee is still healing from the injury, so that has held me back from running the mileage that I would like to be running. I feel good and energized. The best part is that my doctor said I could keep running as much as I wanted.

    I've been reading Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James M. Clapp III and it's been very informative (more on this to come). I plan to run until the very last month if my body permits. I'm still eating healthy and clean and without comprising my health.

    My journey to the Olympics has taken a different route but that doesn't mean that it's been scratched off from my list of goals. I'm still planning on running competitively after giving birth in December. I'm currently working on a game plan for next year's marathon season, so stay tuned! Life has a funny way of unfolding you just have to keep up with it.
    Yours Truly,
    Erika <3
    I'm grateful to be pregnant. I'm embracing
    life more than ever!
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    Monday, June 17, 2013

    Weekend Re-cap

    Hello amigos and Happy Monday!
    So here's my weekend re-cap...
    I woke up relatively early on Saturday morning and decided to go for an easy run. My ultra-marathoner friend Michelle, gave me a cool headband called Chica Bands, so I put it on to see just how good they are.
    My friend Michelle with a Chica Band
    The Chica Band

    Me with the Chica Band
    I was very impressed with the Chica Band because it actually stayed on! I happen to think that I have an egg-shaped head, so headbands usually fall off my head. Well, not the Chica Band! She stayed on the whole time. The band actually fit snugly on my head and it wasn't too tight. It also kept my hair off of my face. I hate feeling hair on my face or neck while I run.
    Here's the cool thing about Chica Bands:
    1. It's a non-slip, non-binding head band.
    2. It's affordable, functional and fashionable.
    3. There's a ton of cool designs.
    If these headbands don't fall off on the fastest runners, they will surely not fall off on us! =)
    Somehow, I managed to drag Milo (hubby) out of bed so he could run with me. Milo isn't much of a runner, but he obliged to my request. I promised him we would run at an easy and conversational pace. I took him through Coconut Grove and then we stopped here for a brief moment to see the beautiful sunrise.
    After our run, we ate a hearty breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal and coffee. We ran a few errands and did some last minute Father's Day shopping. I don't recommend that to anyone. The mall was so crowded it took us about 20 minutes to park. UGH!
    On Sunday morning we woke up and quickly got ready to go out for a boat ride in Key Biscayne. Milo's brother coordinated the outing and it was absolutely spectacular. The weather was warm, bright and just perfect. We docked the boat in a sandbar and we stayed there for a few hours. I was happy because I worked on my tan =).
    After the boat ride, Milo and I went to my parent's house for dinner. We helped my dad cook on the barbecue and we played Dominoes with my mom. My family ate flank steak, rice, beans and yucca, but I opted for salmon, asparagus and eggplant. It was a nice family gathering.
    My sister, Dad and me.
    What did you do this weekend?
    I'm grateful that I spent Father's
    Day with my dad =).
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    Friday, June 14, 2013

    Fitness Fridays are a HIIT 2

    Hello friends and TGIF!!
    I got up this morning and felt pretty amazing so, I decided to do a 7.5 mile run to Key Biscayne. When I returned home, I set up an exercise station that included a mat, dumbbells and a medicine ball. My HIIT (high intensity interval training) session consisted of:
    4 sets of:
    20 lunges w/ a bicep curl
    20 sit-ups
    20 wall ball shots
    This is how you do each workout:
    Lunge w/ bicep curl: Targets biceps, glutes, quads, and hamstrings
    1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, dumbbells next to thighs with palms facing forward.
    2. Lunge forward with right foot, bending knees 90 degrees; keep right knee aligned over ankle.
    3. Push through right heel to stand up; as you come up, curl weights toward shoulders.
    4. Do all given reps on right leg; switch sides and repeat.

    Sit-ups: Targets abdominals

    1. Have your knees bent and the balls of your feet and heels placed flat on the ground.
    2. Place your hands on opposing shoulders, so that your arms are crossed over your chest, or behind your head. This allows you a central rising point.
    3. Keeping your heels on the ground and your toes flat to the ground, slowly and gently lift your head first, followed by your shoulder blades.

    4. Hold the position for a second.
    Wall Ball Shots: Targets quads and hamstrings
    1. Front squat with a medicine ball.
    2. Followed by a quick and powerful extension of the legs and hips.
    3. Then followed through with a launch of the medicine ball overhead and up to a target on the wall. 
    What did you do today for fitness?
    I am grateful for seeing the sun rise today
    when I was out for a run. 
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