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One of my favorite things about summer in Boston is the farmers markets all around the city. I’m a big supporter of eating locally produced foods – shopping at farmers markets is a great way to support our environment, our American farmers, and our health. I’m fortunate enough to work near the Government Center market, and I love walking over there on my lunch break and meandering around the farmers’ tables, checking out their latest harvests. Last week, on a whim, I bought zucchini, summer squash, an heirloom squash, a big bunch of bright green swiss chard, and some garlic scapes, which I’d never cooked with before. I also bought a dozen fresh farm eggs from Silverbrook Farms. These eggs are amazing – definitely pricier than a cheap dozen from the grocery store, but the taste and texture is so superior that I find myself savoring them in a way that I never do with “regular” eggs. Some research studies have suggested that the nutrition content of free range grass-fed eggs is also better than their factory-farmed counterparts – providing more healthy fats, less saturated fat and cholesterol, and higher amounts of vitamins.

When I got home, I threw together all of my farmers market bounty into a frittata, which came out great. Below is the recipe I conjured up. The beauty of the frittata is that you can put in whatever you want, though, so it’s a perfect base to experiment with as the seasons and available produce changes.

Farmers Market Fritatta

6 eggs (preferably farm fresh!)

1 cup skim milk

Dash of salt and pepper

Sliced zucchini and summer squash, one of each

1 bunch of chard, de-stemmed and torn into small pieces

1 tablespoon chopped basil

3 chopped garlic scapes

2 sliced shallots

¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper, and basil. In a cast iron skillet, or a large saucepan, sauté shallots in some olive oil until browned, then add garlic scapes and sauté about a minute longer. Add zucchini and squash and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add swiss chard and sauté about a minute. Preheat over to 400 degrees. Pour egg mixture into the skillet, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until it has mostly set. Sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs, and place in oven for about 10 minutes, or until the top has browned.

What are your favorite finds at  farmers markets?

My mom recently began working with a personal trainer.  I found this puzzling because my mom has always worked out on her own in our living room or at the gym, and she taught group fitness classes for many years.  When I asked her why she thought she needed a personal trainer, she said, “Because sometimes I just don’t wanna do it anymore.”

Uh oh.  My mother, the aerobics queen, doesn’t want to exercise?

Okay, there are a couple of reasons for her sudden gym stubbornness. First, some of her old gymnastics injuries have come back to haunt her, which means that a lot of body parts hurt when she moves them.  Second, she no longer has to live in full-steam-ahead mode, so I think checking 50 things off the to-do list every day, including the exercise check box, just isn’t necessary.  She’s obviously grateful that her life is calmer, that all of her children are grown up and self-sufficient (we hope!) and that she has a comfortable home to relax in at the end of each day.  But suddenly working out just isn’t as urgent.

So I give her credit for going to the wellness coach and finding herself a personal trainer.  She knows how important it is that she stay in shape and continue to live a healthy life.  Even if she doesn’t have the same motivation to do the workout on her own, she is going to find a way to get it done.  If that means someone else telling her what to do, then that’s the way it has to be.

I can tell you one thing though — my mom loves Body Jam.   That’s one workout you’d never have to force her into.   Every time my trip to the Midwest is approaching, Mom calls to make sure I bring home my Body Jam music so she can have a private class.  We dance until we can’t dance anymore!  Then we go home and put our feet up.  And, because she’s my mom, she makes us each a salad to sit and eat together.

Recently one of my Back Bay Healthworks class participants came up after class to thank me for that morning’s workout.  I’m proud to report that this isn’t uncommon.  People often give me a “thank you” shout out on their way out the door, and it’s a fabulous farewell until we meet to workout together again.

But this thank you was different.  This wonderful woman, who always comes into the studio with a smile on her face, stopped for a minute after class to tell me how much she appreciates  that I squeeze a tough workout into a 30-minute class and that I change things up all the time.  It meant so much to me that she took the time to let me know.  And it means the world to me to know that those 30 minutes make a difference.

Ultimately, I appreciate that she comes to class–that she finds time in her busy schedule to make it to the gym.  I am happy to see everyone who comes to class and exercises. Thank goodness for all of the people doing something good for themselves by moving their bodies!   One of my coworkers came to Body Pump for the first time not long ago, and she complained of sore muscles for three days afterward.  Unpleasant?  Sure.  But my hope is that she will quickly start to see the very pleasant benefits of her hard work and will get hooked on the exercise.  She took a chance on coming to my class, and I know it wasn’t a small deal, but I suspect she may even have had some fun!

So, you can bet I’ll be bugging my coworker to come back for Body Pump-round 2, and I can promise everyone in my morning classes that I’ll be working on new moves to challenge them in that quick half hour we have before the rest of the day takes over.

Too much of anything is never a good thing.

Even with exercise.

I love to work out. I love to push myself and sweat and work my muscles and my spirit. I love to run and crank up the elliptical to the highest level and throw kettlebells and squat till the cows come home.

About a month or so ago, I decided I was going to throw all of my (non-work related) energy  into working out a lot. Like twice a day. A few days, more. I needed something on which to focus my (still somewhat sad) heart and mind.

Working for Healthworks, I have lots of exercise options at my fingertips.

It was good — at first. My running pace started to slide back into the 8’s, something that has not happened since last year. I pounded the hills of the Boston Common and started to get a nice tan in the process. I felt strong in kettlebells and even stronger in Gravity class. I took to the elliptical like it was my job. And the arc trainer, too.

Meanwhile, my attempts at losing the weight I gained since starting my job in Back Bay (Hello, after work drinks! Greetings, pizza for lunch! Hola, burritos!) were failing. I was working out a lot yet eating a lot and sleeping not a lot. My muscles were tired. My workouts were becoming high quantity and low quality.

Eventually –as you may have guessed — my little plan fell apart.

After some time thinking and some self-talking and a few good nights of sleep, I came up with a new plan. A refocused plan. It calls for a really different approach. Now, I am putting myself to bed EARLY. I am exercising way LESS (like once a day, just a few days a week). I am eating LESS food, with MORE fruit and vegetables. I am drinking MORE water. I have cut OUT alcohol (for the time being).

And you know what? It’s working.

The weight is starting to slide off. I am not hitting snooze on my alarm for two hours. My muscles are not sore all the time. I am less tired, have more energy and am on the path to feeling better about myself.

Yep, there are a lot of blog posts about how great Body Pump is and how marathoning can change your life (even one by me!) and how yoga is the best thing ever. I don’t disagree. This post is just to remind you that moderation is the key to it all.

Balance: In concept, simple. In life, hardly simple.

Two Sundays ago I ran 13.1 miles.

A year and a half ago, I was doubled over in pain just by walking.  A year ago, I had been rejected by eight graduate school programs.  Nine months ago, I was dealing with my second (though less severe) stress fracture in under a year.  And then my cat died (no joke…).  Mix in some other personal troubles and the universe was serving me painful punch lines, with the things most intrinsic to me (including running) undermined, and I felt continuously vulnerable.  Eight months ago, I felt beaten down, emotionally and physically.  Eight months ago, I needed to change my life.

I began to tackle my life list of goals in signing up for Boston’s Run to Remember and proceeded to start my half marathon training conservatively and smartly.  Since my stress fractures, I’ve stuck to no more than 4 days of running per week with low-impact cross-training (cycling/elliptical) mixed in on my off-running days.  If I decided to increase the mileage, I have been using the 10% rule prescribed by my orthopedist and physical therapist.  As in, do not increase mileage more than 10% in one week.  That said, I knew I would have to start doing longer runs on the weekends to build up to 13 miles because as of 5 weeks before the race my longest runs were around the 7 mile mark.  I won’t lie; I was almost constantly terrified of getting hurt again during this endeavor. My primary goals in this race were to (1) Finish, and (2) Have Fun.  My secondary goal was to (3) Not Walk.  My secret goal was to (4) Finish under 2 hours.

The basics of my training: Run Monday, Weds, Thursday with longer runs on the weekend.

Saturday #1: 7 mile run

Saturday #2: 9 mile run

Saturday #3: 12 mile run

Saturday #4 (week before the race): 10 mile run

During the week before the race, I was also super conscious of eating balanced, eating lots of carbs and protein, and hydrating.

And then came race day.

I am lucky enough to have wonderful friends who indulged my overly anxious self, and hosted me the night before the race so that I could avoid dealing with public transportation at 6 am on a Sunday.  My friend Corey (a recent Boston marathoner himself!) ran the race, and his lovely fiancée was our pre-race cook, chauffeur, and designated cheerer/photographer.

Ruminations during the race…

Miles 1-3: These miles were fairly easy.  I established my pace, and luckily, the huge crowd sort of prevented me from starting out too fast.  I realized I was running around an 8:30 min/mile, but it felt natural and I never pushed myself too hard.

Miles 4-8: The race route ran down Memorial Drive, and then looped back again.  The day was HOT, and I took my time at the aid stations, stopping for water each time.  I realized I was having FUN!  That smile in my action photo is genuine.  The energy of the crowd was awesome, the spectators were motivating, and the lovely lovely Julia had graciously set herself up on Memorial Drive for encouragement and photo ops.  Nothing made me happier than to see her smiling face twice during the race.

[pic 1]

Miles 9-10: This is where things started getting rough.  My muscles were getting tighter and the “hills” (i.e. bridges) seemed larger on the way back into Boston than they had before.  I stopped to stretch out once to alleviate the cramping leg muscles.

Mile 11-12: “Did they forget the 11 mile marker?”  Oh.  Right.

Mile 12: I realized I had a sub 2 hour half marathon in me.

Miles 12-13.1: “Ok, I’m ready for this race to end.” And then I finished.  And then I cried.

It was an emotional and symbolic event for me.  If somebody had told me last winter that this year I would be accepted to several very selective grad school programs, that I was strong enough to run 13.1 miles after a debilitating pubic bone stress factor, I’m not sure I could have visualized it.
Final Time: 1:54:29.  And yes, I wore that finsher’s medal all day.

[pic 2]

I had a new experience last Friday night.  My friend Carolyn had organized a small group for drinks and snacks—a fun weekend gathering.  When I met up with everyone, I found Carolyn’s friends and colleagues as charming and interesting as usual, and we all quickly started chatting.  As can happen when a table full of medical professionals, gym instructors and fitness-conscious individuals come together, the conversation turned to recent news of obesity epidemics and health concerns.  There was much discussion over the high percentage of Americans who are obese, about the enormous portions served in American restaurants, and about the lack of pedestrian-friendly cities in the U.S.

It was at this point in the conversation that I realized I was one of only two Americans at the table, and I had the unique opportunity to hear the observations of my acquaintances from Singapore, Greece, and Morocco.  One of the women noted how accustomed she has become to her large coffee with cream and Splenda each morning.  Now, when she visits her home country, she is surprised by the tiny coffee cups and notices the normal servings of everything from coffee to dinner entrees in Morocco seem small compared to the average in the U.S.  I really could not refute any of the negative commentary about Americans’ eating habits, because the observations were scarily true about the enormous frozen coffee drinks packed with sugar, the gigantic platters of nachos and fried finger food for appetizers, and desserts large enough to satisfy the entire group seated around our table.  Of course the problem is, because we are so used to the more-is-better portions, we are often not satisfied with less, or smaller, or what is actually appropriate.  None of this is news, but it struck me anew when told from a different perspective.

I began feeling a little depressed, honestly.  I felt proud knowing that the two American representatives in this wonderful mix of nationalities were both healthy, fit examples of people who enjoy life in moderation.  But I suddenly felt weighed down by the huge task in front of us as a nation of food-lovers.  I realized again the long road ahead of many people who join the gym after years of over-indulging.  It’s a lot of work to get back in shape, and it’s even harder work to shed pounds and change long-standing habits.  But we need to do it.  It’s important and, though it can definitely be made more fun with fabulous music and a motivated group of fellow exercisers in the studio, we do all need to get to work!

On this day I am grateful to my mother who always served colorful meals with lots of fruits and veggies (on small dinner plates), who locked us out of the house and told us to run around in the yard as children, and who recently put herself through rigorous fitness testing so she can improve her health.  I have learned from the best!

I work best under pressure. It seems like unless there’s some kind of goal, I kind of just take it easy – that’s why I always feel so motivated when I’m training for a race. There’s a real deadline at stake: if you don’t train to go the distance by race date, well, you might not finish. And that really gets me going! Lately, I haven’t had a goal, and I’ve been kind of lax in my workouts. I’ll think, “well, just relax tonight, you can go tomorrow.” That’s such a pitfall.So, I needed to set myself at competition against myself. I really needed some reason to push and go hard.

I have decided to take the leap (literally, perhaps) into Healthworks’ Bootcamp Challenge. For those of you who don’t know what that means, Healthworks is offering a challenge. You pay $100 and can go to as many bootcamp sessions as you want between June 7 and July 4, and the person who looses the largest percentage of body fat wins some awesome prizes. I’ll admit, the prizes look awesome, but I am just excited for an opportunity to jump start my workouts and get off this plateau.

I went to my first ever bootcamp today, and Sunny pretty much kicked me in the butt. I workout regularly (I mean, sure, lately I’ve been lax, like I said – but I still go 4 times a week or so), but this was unlike any workout I’ve had in recent memory. I worked so hard that sweat was dripping off my nose, arms, and even knees. Class was an hour long and involved a lot of exercises that I have never attempted, or even seen before. It was awesome! I really can’t do pushups, and I’ve set an additional personal goal for myself, that by the end of this month of intensive training I’ll be able to do full out pushups. I’m also psyched to practice my side planks.

I’ve got a bit of a cold, and at one point I felt kind of dizzy and had to back off and drink some water. Today was just the first day, though, and gave me a great feel for what this is going to be like. Wish me luck!

I love Clueless. I’m pretty sure that I could quote the entire movie from beginning to end – it comes up all the time. For instance, do you remember this line?

Cher: I have an idea! Lets. Do. A Makeover!
Tai: Oh … no.
Dionne: Oh, come on–let us! Cher’s main thrill in life is a makeover, okay? It gives her a sense of control in world full of chaos.

I’ve worked really hard to give myself a kind of life makeover. I’ve made exercise a part of my life, lost a lot of weight, and changed my attitude and self-confidence about a lot of things. Sometimes, though, it just feels really good when you can get the inside to match the outside – you know, when you look as fantastic as you feel. This is why I like shopping – it feels pretty amazing to see how my body can look so different. There are a lot of things that go into matching inside and outside: makeup, nails, hair…

Yesterday, I got a fabulous haircut from a salon on Newbury Street. It’s called Rock Paper Scissors – it is cute and all the staff are friendly and really helpful. While my haircut was comp’d (thank you Healthworks Blogger Bash!) I was surprised at how reasonable their rates are. My hairdresser took a lot of time to find out exactly what I wanted, and then was really thorough and great.

I love my haircut. It’s a little lighter and shorter – basically, it’s perfect for the summer heat! It’s not too short to pull back, and it looks cute if I wear it curly or straight. Basically, it rocks. I love that feeling when you know you look cute, and all the hard work is paying off. Basically, I feel like “a total betty.”