Simple Ways to Be More Sustainable

Like all of you, my life changed dramatically when COVID-19 hit. I was forced home, my job as a trainer at a fitness resort near Seattle in jeopardy, and all the triathlon races I was training for postponed indefinitely. It would have been easy to let the circumstances bring me down, but I wasn’t ready to give up hope on growth for 2020. I threw myself into revising our lifestyle to be eco-friendlier.

In years past, I had the “if it’s not happening to me, it doesn’t affect me, I don’t really care” mentality. I also used the excuse that I was so busy with work and training that I didn’t have time to deep dive my life and turn it all around. When I was forced to adapt my work life, a positive result was the opportunity to become more sustainable. I can’t wait to share how this has changed me as a person, and how you can implement small rituals to help save our Earth.

Commuting 60-80 miles a day in a Jeep certainly contributed to pollution. Now, I drive one time a week, 10 miles at most, sometimes less! While it’s not possible for everyone to work remote, there are other ways you can be more efficient AND save money as a result. Carpooling is one option or joining the #GoByBike movement started by one of our favorite cycling companies, Trek! Trek makes a cool E-Bike for commuting, as well as several bike options for people who want to be healthier and exercise their way to work or the store. Check it out here!

Perhaps the easiest way for you to have an immediate impact on both the environment and your budget is to do a quick peek around your kitchen and bathroom. Where do you consume a lot of plastic or waste? Is there a way for you to either make it yourself or purchase an eco-friendlier version? For example, I noticed the main source of waste was food packaging, plastic shampoo, soap, and conditioner bottles, air freshener or cleaning bottles, face scrubs/masks, detergents, and lotion bottles. I took a few weekends to try my hand making most of our bathroom and kitchen needs things myself. Yes, it took time. Yes, I messed up a few times. Yes, I kept going and now regularly make all of our bathroom needs from scratch. You may want to try it once for fun- perhaps it will stick like it did for me and perhaps it’s not for you! Below I’ve listed my homemade items I’ve found easy to make myself weekly or monthly,  along with eco-friendly links to products you may consider buying instead to help reduce your waste.

DIY Kitchen:  DIY Bathroom:  DIY Laundry Room/Other:  
Oat MilkBread Pickled seasonal bulk vegetables Mayonnaise Cleaning solutionAir freshenerSoap Shampoo barsConditionerFacial scrubsLotionDetergent Candles Décor  

Eco Friendly Resources:

**If all of this still seems like too much, start by simply using sponges instead of paper towels, reusable plastic bags instead of Ziplocs or single use baggies, reuse your coffee cups from coffee shops, bring refillable water bottles to use instead of buying single use plastic bottles, and avoid buying disposable cutlery, plates, and cups.

I’ve also enjoyed starting indoor and outdoor gardens! I grew up on a farm with a massive garden, and after spending a few years in the Arizona desert I realized how much joy thriving green plants bring me! I’ve started a container garden consisting of herbs, tomatoes, berries, and spinach partially from seed and partially from propagating plants from my existing outdoor garden. My hope is that I can use as much produce as possible from my own plants, so I don’t have to waste packaging material or even fuel to get to the store. I want to be the source as much as possible to save money and reduce my carbon footprint. I enjoy reusing milk containers and bottles to plant new life that will later provide for our meals. Whenever possible, I try to shop at our local farmers market, Carpinito Bros. They offer reduced priced bulk vegetables and fruits, which are great for canning, making sauces, pickles, and juices!

I urge you to locate a farmer’s market near you! Additionally, we use a weekly service that picks up compost (leftover food scraps and yard debris), garbage, and recycling. I wish all states and cities offered this! If you don’t have these resources, look online for a local recycling center to drop off plastics, cardboard, paper, and aluminum recyclables.  If you don’t have a compost option with garbage pick-up, great news: You can start composting TODAY! Start by dumping all food scraps and biodegradable waste into a lined container (I use a large upcycled plant container lined with a re-usable food bag. From there, you may choose to start a compost pile, dump into an area in your garden if you have one, or simply begin a large, open-style compost bin outdoors. Be careful of local animals, as composting is a bit like a buffet for them, and reference different ways to start composting here.

In short, I’ve become a more resilient, self-sufficient, confident individual by taking care of my environment, saving money, and becoming the source of my foods and hygiene products. I enjoy crafting in ways that have a positive impact on Earth, and feel accomplished every time I make bread, soap, jam or repurpose a plastic bottle. I hope you can find a few small ways to make a change, too! Please reach out if you would like to try some of these ideas but are a little intimidated or overwhelmed at how to go about it. I’ve tried all sorts of short cuts, and even some long cuts because I don’t have everything some recipes call for, so holler if I can help you get in touch with your hippie side!

Remember: There is no Planet B.

Cheers,

Becca K

                                 

                                                          


A Weekend of Firsts!

Champions train, endure pain, and never complain.

– Shalane Flanigan

This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of cheering on two family members, Emma Watanabe and Joy Kawaoka, my cousin and mother-in-law. Both women, on separate occasions, decided to run the races they signed up for a year ago: The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Marathon and the Maple Valley Half Ironman (a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run completed in one day). They planned and plotted how to train for the courses and execute the massive distances completely self-supported. They were successful.

My mother in law, Joy, has survived cancer twice. At 60 years-old, she’s battled broken bones, early onset osteoporosis, and the development of unique food allergies, all likely results of chemotherapy. Joy has been at almost every full Ironman and half Ironman for her son (my husband) and began training as a lifestyle change post-cancer. She never thought she would be able to do a distance like a half ironman without getting hurt, and certainly not within the 8-hour time cut off required by the race organization. I began coaching her almost a year ago to help her prepare for the grueling triathlon. As part of her training Elliot and I would join her for swims every Sunday evening, before having a family dinner, and on virtual bike workouts via Zwift. Incorporating family and socially distant outdoor workouts with her friends has helped her during quarantine, as she’s very high risk with her low immune system and age demographic. Every time I checked in on her regarding the training I gave her, she responded “I really like the training. It gives me energy, and helps me feel strong and accomplished every day.”

She feels the consistent, smart training got her to the finish line injury-free and well within sanctioned race time cut offs. In terms of a race plan, we focused on a good swim (where she is the strongest of the three), fueling on the bike with enough fluid and calories, and getting through the run. I’ve never seen her smile so bright! My father-in-law, Daryl, recorded much of the day as he offered words of motivation and encouragement, such as “You didn’t expect this to be easy, did you?” 🙂

Her results: 42 minute swim. 3hr32min bike. 2hr45min run.

Cumulative time: 6hrs59minutes. Mission accomplished! She reflected: “I’m glad I pushed to finish. I really thought about quitting….I thought of Elliot in a wheelchair at the [Ironman] finish line. Got me to the finish.”

My cousin, Emma, is part of an active family. Her father Derek, a competitive cyclist, inspired my husband to get into running and triathlon racing. He ran the marathon that brought us together in 2017, Phoenix Marathon, and has been an integral part of our relationship. Emma and her sister, Clare, have cheered Elliot and me on to many finish lines, yelling splits and positions to us while sharing root beer floats afterwards. We were beyond excited to thank Emma in a small way by joining her for her first marathon attempt.  She consistently trained through the pandemic and a crazy work schedule (she’s an accountant for Costco), putting in big miles, often with a face covering, wherever her work required her to be. Inspirational.

Derek offered to ride his mountain bike to carry the water bottles, cell phones, throw-away clothing, gels, and bars that were required for the three of us (Elliot, Emma, and myself) to successfully finish the distance. It was one heavy bike! Our Auntie Anne dropped the four of us off at the start line, snapped a photo, and wished us good luck before heading to the finish line, 26.2 miles away.

The route is incredible. We started early, so the first several miles were in crisp, foggy mountain air. The famous railway tunnel, 2 miles long, felt like running through a scene from Lord of the Rings. A small dot of light and Derek’s bike light guided us through the dark, wet tunnel before opening up to breathtaking mountains covered in evergreens. We continued on the trail, a gentle -1%  gradient, running under a canopy of trees, over fascinating bridges, and past abandoned railway buildings. Mountain streams trickled by, a constant soothing sound echoed by the constant shuffling of feet. We slowly shed layers and handed them off to Derek, who was careful to keep us hydrated and fueled. The temperature rose from mid 50’s to low 80’s by the end.

Emma never wavered. She started cautious, building her effort throughout the run. By the final miles, she was hard to keep up with! Determined to make the experience race-like, she didn’t stop at any point in the run. She did, however, smile and make excellent conversation while soaking in the views. There were no time goals in place, but she managed to crush Elliot’s first marathon time by almost 20 minutes and negative split the distance (meaning she ended faster than she started, which most first-time marathoners struggle to do!) As promised, Anne was there at the finish with cowbells, old medals to place around our necks, signs, and shouts of joy to bring Emma home!

Emma reflected: “I definitely feel accomplished! It would have been fun to beat random strangers (in an actual race setting) but I think I also proved that I could motivate and push myself even without competition.” She was also happy she didn’t have to deal with long lines to the bathroom before the start!

Hats off to these ladies, who proved that with the right mindset, consistent training, and a little determination, anything is possible. It seems both Emma and Joy surprised themselves, finishing faster than they imagined they would have in an actual race. I was humbled to be a small part of the day, running next to Emma for 4 hours before heading over to Mama’s house to cheer her on to finish her grueling 7 hour triathlon. Well – deserved burgers, fries, shakes and beers were had by all, but even more importantly we banded together as a family to conquer mentally and physically challenging distances. Thankful, humbled, happy, and sore, we haven’t stopped messaging each other since we stopped moving. Love you guys!

 I encourage you to find a community, whether its fellow family members or like-minded friends, to join you in a challenge. It doesn’t have to be a half ironman or marathon, perhaps a 5K, group bike ride or open water swim is more appropriate. Don’t wait around for “real races.” Make a plan, find someone who will join you in training and execution, and just DO IT. If not now, when?  I promise you won’t regret it!

         


Finding Joy

By Rebecca Kawaoka and Hannah Levy

In late March, when America was struck hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the pleasure of virtually meeting a bright, ambitious doctoral student in clinical psychology, Ms. Hannah Levy. A young talent with a few triathlons under her belt, Hannah approached me about coaching her to gain a competitive edge in her swim-bike-run. A Stanford alum with four years of successful collegiate rowing, she is no stranger to the challenges in competitive sport. In the past six months she has built a strong, smart base despite an uncertain racing future, and with each passing week I realize how talented, hard-working, and self-aware this young woman is. I am excited, to say the least, to have the privilege of working with such a gifted yet grounded competitor. 

Recently, I reached out to Hannah for her expertise: athletes and mental health (specifically student athletes). After a candid conversation, I felt enlightened, renewed, and ready to dig deeper into my own mental health journey. Even more so, I felt the responsibility to share our discussion with you in hopes that you may enrich your movement experience. This applies to all types of fitness enthusiast – whether you’re a mall walker, home exerciser, recreational jogger, collegiate rower, powerlifter, competitive cyclist, or aspiring triathlete! 

Our primary objective is to find what brings an individual joy. Hannah specifically encourages her clients to engage in a practice I found particularly insightful. If you were to strip away all evidence of exercise would the activity still bring you joy?  As in, no data logs from a watch or timing device, no coach watching practice, no trainer during a workout, refraining from posting via online platforms like Strava, Facebook, or Instagram. If you were to take all the proof of something away, would you still feel happy and accomplished? If you responded yes, good on you for being in a self-aware and confident space. If you responded “Well…. maybe but probably not.” or simply “I don’t know” we invite you to reflect further on this thought. So, how do we emotionally evaluate our responses?

Hannah went on to explain that the idea “if no one sees this or notices, it won’t matter” is what may contribute to athletes feeling jaded after workouts and competitions. I was immediately reminded of my first-year racing triathlons. I was very consumed with what my husband thought of all my workouts and race results. My purpose was very tied into his reactions, which was not healthy or sustainable. It took a month of self-reflection, grumpy workouts, and some personal, emotional breakthroughs for me to realize my purpose in training and racing was far deeper than impressing my husband. My purpose is to challenge myself so I can constantly grow into a better version of myself. This means failing just as much as I succeed, so to lean on someone’s responses to my workouts and races is not a fair representation of my purpose, nor does it bring me long term, sustainable, daily joy. I am passionate about sharing this journey so others may experience the happiness I have found in changing my lifestyle and discovering new things about myself. This is why I write blogs, in fact it’s why I started a YouTube channel, coaching endurance athletes, and personal training in the first place!

Hannah affirmed that this experience is common for athletes. There seems to be an addiction to sacrificing things we want to do “because we have to train.” She explained there’s an unhealthy idea many of us have that if we can just suffer through this practice, workout or session, we will be happy later – after we win nationals, after we make the time cut, or qualify for the championship race. Unfortunately, as her studies confirm and as most of us can agree from personal experience, these experiences often leave us desiring another national title, another more aggressive time cut, or another qualification- leaving many individuals feeling empty and unfulfilled. 

While it’s not wrong to desire or train towards these things, our mindset has to shift from the very beginning. The mindset of success being tied to an outcome seems to be associated with a cycle of training towards said outcome, competing followed feelings of loss or depression once the outcome is reached or not reached, and searching for another outcome. Instead, what if we shifted our mindset to process-based goals and emotions? For example, one might start a training block by stripping away all data and feedback and identifying how a particular movement or sport brings them joy. From there, one can progress to more objective goals with a proper emotionally healthy and balanced mind. How might this shift in mindset help prevent the hopeless “now what?” feeling at the end of a big competition, weight in, or even a key session?

Hannah proceeded to touch on another striking point. Many athletes use verbiage like “I can’t, I have training.” This builds a negative mindset, sending a message that we are choosing a sport at the expense of activities that bring us joy. She suggests that we should avoid the mindset of limiting joy for “joy” or the glamour of giving up social/personal experiences for sport. I can’t tell you how powerful this was for me. After admitting my own experiences using phrases like this, namely when I was a college student playing soccer, Hannah comforted me by suggesting the use of private responses like “and yes/no” over “but yes/no.” She explained when offered the chance to do an activity outside of sport to listen to my inner voice responding. For example: Do you want to go to brunch and find a way to get your training/workout in, or do you want to go to brunch, but you have to train? Intrinsically, if I feel the urge to forego a training session for something, I enjoy I should identify that and make a decision based on what will bring me long term joy, which will likely bring my athletics long term success.

 This doesn’t mean I’m clear to skip every swim practice for drinks with my husband. This means I should identify what I enjoy doing outside of sport, like baking, crafts, and playing games with my spouse, and limit the instances where I sacrifice doing them for my sport. There are obviously varying degrees of appropriateness based on the degree of competition for sport, but I truly believe with proper time management, even the most competitive athletes (and/or busy parents looking to stay in shape) should be able to make time for hobbies, social interaction AND their sport. Yes, there will be times calling for sacrifice of time, comfort, and finances. Saying no to one activity is a silent yes to something else, and vice versa. The most powerful tool during these times is self-awareness and knowledge that these sacrifices will bring an outcome-based goal to fruition with the awareness we need to take care of our emotional wants and needs in return. This is especially powerful now, during a global crisis that leaves us emotionally strained and drained. Check in on yourself regularly by communicating with loved ones, coaches, and friends about how you feel. 

This led us to our final key point. We discussed the trendy obsession of pushing through emotional and/or physical pain. Often times, Hannah noted, athletes are glamorized for pushing through injuries. She has found athletes fear being perceived as weak, as sports are often associated with tones of masculinity and power. This leads to failure to communicate about nagging injuries and, in some cases, emotional disparity. It is critical to a both an athlete’s success and longevity in sport to effectively communicate about your physical and emotional status. Refrain from praising teammates or colleagues for pushing through pain or niggles. Acknowledge when you feel beat up or worn down. Openly share an accurate depiction of your training journey with people instead of a glamorized Instagram version of what you think people want to see. Tuning into your body on deeper levels while building the self-confidence to share honestly with the people you care about should help enrich your experience rather than burden you. 

PSA: Sport and fitness should never be about how many people follow or like you online, as those people will not be the ones to rush to your side when you retire and find a life outside your sport, or when the outcome doesn’t go the way you wanted it to. There is wisdom in guarding your heart by building a trusted circle to share your most intimate experiences with

I found it humorously fitting when Shania Twains “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here” came on the radio immediately following my discussion with Hannah. The lyrics are quite applicable, despite being written for romance: 

“Let me make it clear
To you my dear

If you’re not
In it for love
If you’re not
Willin’ to give it all you got
If you’re not in it for life
If you’re not in it for love
Let me make it clear
To you my dear
If you’re not in it for love
I’m outta here!”

All jokes aside, I’ll leave you with this final thought: if you had one day left to live, what would you spend it doing? I hope your response leads to you find gratitude every time you get the opportunity to do the things you list. Try to strip away the data, limit the pressure to sacrifice things you love doing, minimize the noise of social media and cheap verbiage, engage in valuable conversation about emotional and physical health, and improve your knowledge of yourself. I could summarize it by stealing some of Shania’s lyrics and say: do what you love, with all ya got, or get outta there!

Cheers, 

Becca Kawaoka

*A special thanks to Hannah Levy for her insight and time. I cherish our common goal of improving fellow athlete’s quality of life, and feel empowered when we unite to reach that goal. You bring me joy – an invaluable gift! If you are a Washington resident and would like to work with Hannah via Telehealth (video therapy), please contact the WSU Psychology Clinic (509)335-3587. Please note this is a training clinic for graduate students in clinical psychology and all of the clinicians work under the supervision of licensed psychologists. 


Do Hard Things

Shut up legs!

Jens Voigt, a professional cyclist, once famously exclaimed.

I think we can all relate. Whether you’re doing a wall sit for the first time, picking up running, doing your first squat post-partum, or gunning for something like an hour record, your legs are bound to start talking to you…and chances are they’re not saying nice things! That’s what makes sticking to an exercise regimen so challenging. Exercise is hard. Workouts almost always have a painful moment, indicating failure due to fatigue is near. Then there’s the haunting knowledge that there will always be a something harder left to try, and someone stronger, faster, leaner. Why would we expose ourselves to that? Isn’t settling for the way we are easier, more comfortable?

You’re absolutely correct. Life would be easier without competitions, goals, and structure to worry about. No comparisons, no falling short, no failure. How great would that be…or would it? Call me old school, but I firmly believe the best way to grow is to experience the pain produced from doing hard things. Said pain can be emotional or physical, but it’s often both. Let me explain in two brief stories, both of which happened in the same weekend.

Like many (if not all) of you, I’ve had my share of conflicts with my parents. We don’t always see eye to eye, but nothing soothes the heart like a call home to Mama. Just 48 hours before I was set to lace up for one of the most physically painful events, my mom and I had a difficult conversation. Something inside me said, “Time’s up. Be honest and forthright without burning bridges.” I swallowed the lump in my throat and confronted my mother about the pains of the past. I noted how I’ve matured enough to finely match the right words to the feelings I had without lashing out. It was emotional, for both of us. She was able to apologize for the past, and I was able to effectively communicate about why I had shut her and my father out for the several years following his affair. It was painful to discuss, but not more painful than carrying it with me. It took courage, honesty, and thoughtful words on both my part and my mother’s. We listened to each other, which made it an effective conversation. While we acknowledged we have different world views, we were able to share emotional pains we’ve suffered, which honestly unites all of us. Hard things aren’t always physical.

Fast forward 48 hours. I nervously gulped an orange, caffeinated gel and tightened my cycling cleats for the 5th time. It was time. Time to take on the most painful, lonely event that exists: The Hour. The Hour is 60 minutes on a sloped track, on a fixed gear track bike, with no metrics, fuel, or hydration. Once the gun goes off, you are alone until you quit or reach 60 minutes. The pain is immediate. Fixed gear bikes are unique in that there is no rest within the pedal stroke, no ability to change gears, coast, or rest even for a fraction of a second. You are restricted to one position (referred to as aero or time trial position) hunched over your machine, praying for the end to come as soon as you start. An ominous black line guides you around the curved velodrome until your vision becomes blurry from a sustained maximal effort. I’ve done it once before, exactly one year ago when I set the elite women’s record at my local velodrome, and with Covid-19 decimating all other race venues this was the only opportunity to compete in 2020. I wasn’t prepared in the slightest. I had barely ridden my fixed gear bike and knew my muscles were going to ache sooner. I had forgotten all I’d learned in the previous year about gearing and cadence required to be successful on the track. So why did I agree to try and break my own record when it had every chance of standing another year?

I beat last year’s record by just over 1.6 km’s

The same reason I called my mother to confront her about the past: we cannot grow without experiencing hardships. Without pain, we cannot change. You may disagree upon first reading that, but spend some time reminiscing. Did you grow from the walk you took across the stage at your graduation, smiling while being celebrated? No. You grew while sacrificing time and sleep to study for challenging exams. I bet you learned from tearful and hurtful break up you went through, or perhaps you grew during the unexpected loss of your family member. Maybe you made the team but felt the stab of failure when you didn’t get put in, or added time to your event. Perhaps you are the great Jan Frodeno, the reigning Ironman Hawaii World Champion, who earned his ticket back to the great race only to walk the marathon in defeat. We don’t learn and grow from the happy moments. We learn and grow from the hard ones.

The takeaway: Expose yourself to hard things if you want to grow.

Enter the race. Call the relative or estranged friend. Start the workout. Sacrifice a few precious weekend hours to volunteer. Try the new recipe. Attempt the challenging hike. Pick up the weights. Set verbal boundaries with people that steal your energy. Take a new yoga class.

Even if you “fail”… you’ve won. You’ve grown.

Becca Kawaoka

It’s not possible to compare the hour with a time trial on the road…Here it’s not possible to ease up, to change gears or the rhythm. The hour record demands a total effort, permanent and intense, one that’s not possible to compare to any other. I will never try it again. (and he never did!)

– Eddy Merckx, the most decorated professional cyclist in history.

Consistency is King

Success isn’t always about ‘Greatness’, it’s about consistencyConsistent, hard work gains success. Greatness will come.

– Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, this is my primary talking point as a coach. My objective when designing training programs for individuals and team sports centers always begins with the question: How can he/she/they stick with this consistently? The sports science stuff and progressive overload yada yada yada is the fun part. The trick lies in finding the right type of training style and method to keep an individual motivated. Motivation = consistency.

Let’s identify some ways you can be more consistent with your health, fitness, and hobbies. Review, ponder, and respond to the following questions:

  1. What are you good at?

Example: I’m really good at drawing, baking, and back in the day I was great at basketball!

2. What do you enjoy doing?

Example: I look forward to hiking, traveling, and cooking. I wish I could do it more often!

3. What is something you yearn to be better at?

Example: I really wish I could swim better. I’m afraid of drowning, which has kept me from trying it. I think I could be good if I knew how.

4. Who is your role model? Do they do the same thing(s) you mentioned previously?

Example: The Rock. He’s successful, athletic, and funny! He’s really into strength training, which I also enjoy.

5. How can you find ways to do things your good at and enjoy doing EVERY DAY?

Example: I could spend 30 minutes drawing or cooking instead of scrolling through social media. OR I could do yoga instead of watching a show.

6. Does your family, significant other, or roommate participate in the same thing(s) you mentioned previously? Do they have similar role models, goals, and passions?

Example: My parents aren’t active, but my siblings enjoy outdoor recreational activity. People I’ve dated in the past haven’t been as enthusiastic about exercise as me, which has caused me to fall off the wagon.

Take some time to write out your responses. There is no right or wrong response. These questions should help you understand your environment and passions. By exploring these responses, you may become more consistent! Let’s break it down.

Questions 1 & 2:

Why is it important to do things we are good at AND enjoy doing? I thought I was supposed to do things I don’t like to improve on my weaknesses. While there is truth to correcting things like imbalances and muscular weaknesses, it’s important to do it in ways we enjoy and gain confidence through. Life is simply too short to force yourself to do something you don’t like or really suck at. If you don’t enjoy running, don’t do it. If you do enjoy playing basketball, get a hoop, ball, and a family member to get some fun cardio in! It’s a simple shift in mentality that is so crucial. Instead of “having to go for a walk or run” you “get to play ball.” Simply put, if you enjoy the activity, you’re more likely to do it 5-7xs/week rather than once or twice before eventually quitting. I want you to think about things you can show off a bit in, that you smile while doing, and can engage with those you love through said activity.

Question 3

What is something you yearn to be better at? I believe humans are naturally competitive. Even if you don’t consider yourself competitive deep down if there is something, you’d like to be better at, chances are you’re willing to spend a little time sorting it out. Most of us have something we’ve always wanted to try but don’t make the time for (quilting, cooking, gardening, hiking, swimming, cycling, fishing, shooting a bow and arrow, etc.) There is no better time than now. Quarantine has left most of us with more time to try the things we’ve been putting off. While a few of things may not be accessible due to restrictions, perhaps you can try to adapt at home. If that’s not an option, perhaps this helps open your eyes to the opportunities you took for granted pre-Covid19. An old dog can learn new tricks, and I hope you get to try your hand at something you’ve always desired to be better at! The desire to improve is a powerful motivator. Bonus if what you enjoy doing/are good at is something you also desire to be better at! Win-win-win!

Question 4

Who is your role model? Typically, we idolize people we want to be like, whether it’s because they are attractive in ways, we wish we were, good at things we want to be good at, or passionate about similar things. If you have someone to look up to within your hobby, activity, sport, etc. it can be empowering to do the same things as them! I encourage you to write a letter to your role model on how and why they inspire you. If you don’t have a role model, look around for those who have been successful doing things you like or want to improve on. You certainly don’t have to BE them but having someone’s footsteps to follow in can sure be helpful on harder days. If you have a role model but they don’t do your sport or hobby, that’s ok. You’re more than welcome to have more than one role model. 🙂

Question 5

How can you find ways to do things you’re good at and enjoy doing EVERY DAY? This is important! Often times I hear the phrase “I just didn’t have time today.” The response should be “I just didn’t make time today.” If you check social media, watched a show, sat around and texted a friend, or played video games then you simply didn’t make your passion, hobby, sport, or craft a priority. While all the things I mentioned previously are fine things to do, they are some of the most common time-suckers. If you really want to be consistent about doing things you enjoy and make you happy, especially if you desire to improve at it, then you need to CONSISTENTLY make it a priority. No ifs, ands, or buts. Ponder ways to open up 10-30 minutes each day to pursue the items previously mentioned. Your kids, significant other, friends and/or family will benefit from you improving your physical and mental health during this time.

Question 6

Does your family, significant other, or roommate participate in the same thing(s) you mentioned previously? Do they have similar role models, goals, and passions? It’s ok if you responded no. Opposites attract after all! Your environment is essential to your success. If your coworkers are overweight and inactive, you may be tempted to eat fast food instead of packing a lunch and exercising on your lunch break, for example. On the flip side, if your coworkers encourage you to eat well and you can exchange recipes, you’re much more likely to eat well and look forward to that experience. Environment is essential. If you live alone and don’t have a strong community, look for one. Running, cycling, hiking, open water swim groups, kitting clubs, cooking clubs, book clubs, etc. offer great group chats, Zoom calls and forums for you to actively engage at a distance. If your spouse and/or kids are not into the same things you are, you need a community that understands the obstacles you face. If you are in a healthy environment with like-minded people, I applaud you and challenge you to bring more people into that environment. Sharing your success, failures, etc. builds character while helping others that may be going through something similar. I’ll say it one more time: Environment is essential.

I hope these 6 questions helped turn the focus inward to identify things you want to make time for, get better at, and enjoy with others. I hope your confidence grows by doing things you excel at, while growing through challenging activities you desire to improve at. Lastly, I hope you find role models to inspire you while building a healthy, growth-minded environment so you find consistency, balance, and happiness.

Be well.


Emotional, Mental and Physical Balance

This write up will come as no surprise to many of you. In fact, I’m sure you’ve told yourself and others close to you that you need to work on balance. How do you incorporate balance training into EACH day, and why? How do you train to be mentally, physically, and emotionally balanced? Read on.

            It would be hypocritical for anyone to claim to be a master of balance, so let me start off by transparently admitting this article is as much for me as it is for you. My primary goal in writing and publishing this is to tangibly simplify balance so that we may find it each day. I’ll start with my thoughts, tips, tricks, and personal goals regarding internal balance and end with the same point regarding physical balance.

Emotional & Mental Balance 

            Do you consider yourself functioning at a satisfactory mental and behavioral level?

If you answered YES, skip this section and jump to physical balance. Namaste to you, my friend. If you answered NO, then carefully review the following three questions and responses! 

            How do I improve my emotional/spiritual/mental balance?

  1. Talk to someone. Communicating about your feelings is essential, especially if you feel isolated during these trying times. Deep conversations will not only bring value to your relationships, but also provide stimulating brain activity. According to a fascinating article in Psychology Today, communication impacts hormone release! If you are living in state of stress, with chronic high levels of cortisol, it’s a natural response to shut down. Opening up, sharing, listening, and engaging are effective ways to combat chronic stress. (Nicklas Balboa, Richard D. Glaser, Ph.D.)

Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/conversational-intelligence/201905/the-neuroscience-conversations

  • Eat and hydrate well; exercise (more details in physical section)
  • Journal, Mediate, and/or Pray. Self-reflection may be intimidating, and that’s ok. You don’t have to do it each day, perhaps make it a habit on Fridays (more on that, too). Yoga is an excellent form of both physical and emotional balance training. If you are religious, spending time reading the history of your religion, following key leaders within your religion, and prayer are all things you may try to find both inner peace and balance.
  • Take a break to do something you are good at. Whether its doodling on a piece of paper for 5 minutes or spending a weekend day immersing yourself in an old hobby you stopped making time for, it’s important to build our self-confidence with things we love and are successful at!
  • Complete an act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be a grand act, or a massive, time-consuming ordeal. For example, I challenged myself to encourage someone new each day for a month by texting, calling, emailing, or writing a letter to someone I haven’t spoken to in a while. It took all of 3 minutes to complete each day, and hopefully started a chain reaction of positivity.

            What realistic, daily practices can I put into place?

You may be rearing back internally with the ever-common excuse “Well all that sounds great, but I just don’t have the time!” You do. Simply put. If you don’t have the time now, it’s because you’re not making the time. Here are simple ways to put the previous segment into action:

  1. Swap out your social media scrolling for 5 minutes of journaling, or an act of kindness.
  2. Wake up 3 minutes earlier to do a simple yoga flow before heading to work so you feel centered, awake, and BALANCED.
  3. Drink at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day, and eat fresh, colorful meals. For more tips on this, visit my Meal Prep 101 blog, a streamlined guide to quick meal prepping for beginners.
  4. When looking at your day, insert moments for you to pray or meditate or stretch.
  5.  On your lunch break, do something you’re good at! Choose one day a week, or a month, to journal.
  6. Commit to calling a friend or relative once a week to emotionally connect and decompress.

            Why should I sacrifice time and energy on improving internal balance?

If you answered “No” to my opening question (Do you consider yourself functioning at a satisfactory mental and behavioral level) then its apparent something is missing in your life. I’m guessing you’re “doing ok, but not great” or “really struggling, but afraid to admit it / show weakness.” You’re not alone. Take the steps listed in the previous segment. Do not settle for anything less than real happiness. It may not be easy to pursue internal, personal growth, but the alternative is staying stuck.

Physical Balance

            How do I improve my physical balance?

As a movement specialist for over a decade, this is my favorite question to answer! The answer is to start at the bottom (your feet and ankles) and from the inside (deep core stability). From there, we work up and out. This means we train each joint, starting at the toes and ankles up to the knees and hips, spine and shoulders, to be stable. This will allow the joints to move more effectively.

            What realistic, daily practices can I put into place?

Balance training is rewarding. If you spend just 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times a week focused on it, you will improve. Plus, the exercises aren’t strenuous. I challenge you to stand on one leg while brushing your teeth each day. Too easy? Try 10 single leg balance reaches on each leg, 10 single leg calf raises each day for a week, and 10 kneeling or full plank shoulder taps.(hold a plank, and touch the opposite shoulder with one hand before switching) That’s 3 exercises, 10 reps of each, every day for a week. It should take less than 5 minutes! If you would like more help with balance sequences, check out my YouTube page. I have several beginner sessions you can try! 

            Why should I sacrifice time and energy into improving external/physical balance?

Why, I’m so glad you asked! If you don’t’ take time to build your core and joint stability, your body adapts in a negative way. Movement will be limited, as your brain subconsciously knows a joint isn’t stable enough to allow a full range of motion. Eventually, these adapted and limited movements lead to an injury, typically one that seems like a silly, everyday type of movement. In order to move at your best, and feel your best, spending 5 minutes a few times a week to build your stability from the bottom to the top, and the inside out, will reap lasting physical benefits, both in injury prevention and athletic performance.

I hope this article inspires you to move with intention, reflect, communicate, and treat your body with kindness. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and balanced. ❤


Eating Out At Home – Creating Your Favorite Restaurant Eats Without Going Out!

We eat out for convenience, the experience, and to eat great tasting food. With COVID-19 rearing its ugly head, it may be awhile before we get our traditional restaurant experience. That shouldn’t stop you from being creative in the kitchen! I’ve recreated some classic favorites for you to make at home, along with tips and tricks to create a positive dining experience. Eating out at home is cheaper, healthier, and often times more memorable!

Each themed night will require a few special ingredients, so be sure to check the special grocery list I’ve included when doing your weekly shopping.

1. Bar Food

  • Jalapeno poppers
  • Wings
  • Baked Nachos

2. Wine Night

  • Cheese Board
  • Easy apps to pair with wine

3. Italian

  • Pasta Carbonara
  • Simple Salad w/ homemade vinaigrette

4. Surf N Turf

  • Steak & Shrimp
  • Grilled Corn

1. Bar Food

Grilling the wings instead of deep frying saves a ton of calories and mess! While the nachos and poppers may still pack some delicious calories in, using the best quality ingredients and portion control is your advantage for cooking at home! Use the best quality ingredients you feel comfortable buying at the store (quality cheese vs. pasteurized American or nacho cheese sauce for example).

Ingredients needed:

For the poppers:

  • 8-10 large jalapenos
  • 1 brick Cream cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten with 1 T. water
  • 1 ½ cups Dried Bread crumbs, OR 1 cup flour seasoned with salt/pepper for dredging
  • ½ cup olive or vegetable oil
  • For the wings:
  • Party wings (flats and drumsticks, skin on)
  • Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T. – ¼ cup butter
  • 1 large bottle of Franks Hot sauce

For the nachos:

  • 1 bag of Tortilla chips
  • 2 cups Shredded cheese
  • ½ Onion, diced 
  • 1 cup Salsa

Optional additional toppings: olives, sour cream, avocado, black beans, sliced jalapeno

Serving suggestions: Ranch, carrot and celery slices, additional salsa and/or hot sauce.

The first step in getting this meal to the table quickly and efficiently is to prepare the wings. Preheat your oven to 375, or smoker/grill if you have one (preferred method) Arrange you wings on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a sauce pan or large microwavable bowl. Combine with 1-2 cups Franks Hot Sauce. Tip: If you like your wings spicy, use less butter and more hot sauce. If you prefer mild, use more butter and less hot sauce. Regardless of your ratios, I promise you can’t mess them up! Brush the seasoned wings with the sauce. Whatever you have leftover can be used to baste the wings at the 10 minute mark. If grilling or smoking, baste when you turn them once, about 10-15 minutes in. Baste once more once finished grilling or baking. Can serve with additional Franks sauce (do not use the sauce you basted the wings in, its likely touched raw chicken!)

While the wings are grilling, prepare the nachos. Layer a sheet of tortilla chips on a baking sheet. Top with cheese and onions. If you’re serving a bigger group, add another layer of chips and cheese. Bake at 375* until cheese is melted. Top with salsa, and any additional toppings. Serve with more salsa if desired. Once you throw the nachos into the oven, check the wings!

While nachos are baking, and wings are grilling, fry up the poppers! Heat a deep frying pan filled with olive or vegetable oil. There should be no “dry” spots, so be liberal with the oil! Set the heat to medium high. Cut each pepper in half. Remove seeds. Use a knife to fill each half with a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese. Dip into egg/water mixture and roll in bread crumbs or seasoned flour. Place in oil. Fry until golden brown, turning once. I use tongs to careful turn the poppers so the filling stays in! When cooked, transfer to a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Serve nachos on baking sheet you cooked them on OR transfer to a fun platter, drizzled with your choice of yummy  toppings. Serve poppers on a plate with ranch to dip in if desired. Arrange wings on a platter with bonus sauce, sliced carrot and/or celery sticks, and ranch, if desired! Serve outdoors on the patio with appetizer plates or enjoy as a buffet while enjoy a sports game, re run, or movie!

2. Wine Night

A romantic meal on the patio is minutes away! . Get creative! Try different cheeses, wines, crackers, meats, and fruits each time you make this! Enjoy your favorite wine house playlist to complete the ambiance

Cheese Board:

  • 1 lb brick white cheese (I prefer Gouda or Havarti)
  • 1lb  brick yellow cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar)
  • 1 large cluster of grapes (you won’t need an entire pound)
  • 2 red apples (I like jazz, pink lady, Honeycrisp, and/or fuji)
  • 1 lb assorted antipasto (salami, prosciutto, etc.)
  • 1 jar olives (can be stuffed, as fancy /non fancy as you prefer)
  • 1 package crackers (can be gluten free if desired, just be sure to choose something sturdy!)

Serves: 2-3

To prepare: Slice cheeses into several small slices. Rinse grapes. Core and slice apples thinly. Drain olives. Arrange cheese, fruit, olives, and antipasto meat on a large wooden cutting board. Place crackers in a decorative dish next to board. Serve with your favorite red or white wine and small appetizer plates. For a decorative touch, you may consider leaving part of the brick of cheese unsliced and placing on board with a cheese knife.

Other wine-friendly appetizers:

Stuffed Dates:

Slice 20 Medjool dates in half, removing pit. Fill with room temperature goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash of paprika. Drizzle with honey.

Easy Skillet Quesadilla:

Heat a skillet on medium heat. Place one large flour tortilla (burrito sized) directly into pan. Sprinkle ½ cup shredded cheese on half of the tortilla. Add chopped cooked chicken, salsa, chopped peppers/onions if desired, or just keep cheese only! Fold the unfilled half of tortilla over filling and gently turn, cooking another minute or two. Both sides should be golden brown.

Serve with salsa.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries:

Melt a 4 oz bar of Bakers Semi Sweet or Dark Chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring every 30-60 seconds until smooth. Rinse strawberries and pat dry, leaving stems on. Dip the small end in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper. Chill for at 10-20 minutes before plating on a decorative dish and serving with your favorite red wine!

3. Gourmet Italian

Delicious, decadent, and simple!

Simple Salad:

  • 2 cups spinach, stems removed
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar,  or balsamic vinegar reduction (my preference)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Place spinach and arugula in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, balsamic, olive oil and salt and pepper together (start with 1 tsp of each if you’re unsure.) Taste after whisking and add more salt, pepper, vinegar or oil depending on your preference. Drizzle slowly over greens (you may have leftover dressing). Toss to coat, serve with pasta.

Pasta Carbonara:

  • 1 lb package pasta
  • 8 slices bacon, cut in half
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (+ ¼ for topping, if desired)
  • 3 eggs+1 egg yolk , whisked lightly

Serves: 2-4

Directions: Start by cooking bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Place on paper towels to drain. Cook garlic on medium heat in bacon fat until fragrant and light brown. Remove from heat and pour garlic and pan drippings into a medium sized bowl.

Next, cook pasta (ideally thin spaghetti, but I’ve used all types of noodles) in a large pot of water. Add a dash of salt. Shoot for al dente texture. Reserve 1  cup of the water when draining pasta.  Place pasta in a large bowl.

Add cheese and whisked eggs to garlic. Temper the mixture with ½ cup of pasta water. Add to cooked pasta and toss to coat. Crumble bacon and add to mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Add more of the reserved pasta water if needed to thin the mixture. Top with additional shredded parmesan cheese if desired. Serve immediately with Simple Salad and wine!

4. Surf N Turf with Corn on the Barbie

Who says you can’t have a beach style theme on your back patio? This simple meal comes together quickly, and will be FAR cheaper at home than if you were to order out! Just be sure to get the corn, steak and shrimp when you hit the grocery store, as those are less frequently bought items. Enjoy out on the patio with a beer, glass of wine, or summer cocktail (find cocktail ideas on my website in Becca’s Kitchen tab)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, pasta, or rice (you can use leftovers or start by preparing as your first step)
  • 2 steaks
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • McCormick’s Steak seasoning
  • 1 lb frozen shrimp, thawed
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. garlic salt
  • 2-4 tsp. pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Serves: 2

Directions: Preheat grill or smoker to 400.*Place steaks on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and season both sides of steak with McCormick’s as heavily or lightly as desired. Place on grill, along with corn, in husk. Flip steaks and corn after 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté shrimp in a large pan with oil on medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently to cook evenly. Once shrimp is no longer pink, remove from heat and pour the lemon juice over shrimp. Steak and corn should just be getting done!

Check steak with a sharp knife to check done-ness. Remove corn from husks.

If using leftover rice, quinoa, or pasta, place 1 cup on a plate and reheat, or if prepared first it should be cool. Place 1 cup on each plate. Soften butter in an appropriate microwave safe serving container and heat for :15-:20 seconds. Plate steak, shrimp and corn over rice. Serve with softened butter, salt and pepper.

I hope these options will help enhance your dining-at-home experience! Cheers!


Meal Prep 101: Keeping it SIMPLE

The trick in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is consistency. The first step is outlined in my last blog, Go-To Grocery List, which includes a checklist shopping guide to use when heading out for your weekly grocery trip. The second step is using those foods to make delicious, healthy meals! I’m going to keep it simple and provide you with a meal prep guide that will save you time and effort during busy weekdays. Even if you’re working from home, prepping foods will help eliminate the “grazing and gaining” trend!

            After you’ve successfully braved the masses at your local Costco or grocery store, follow the steps listed. I usually encourage my athletes and clients to do this on separate days to avoid feeling overwhelmed, but the choice is yours! I usually allow 60-90 minutes for grocery shopping and 60-90 minutes for meal prepping.

*If you have small children, add 1-2 hours on to that guesstimate 😉 

1.      Make your carbs ahead of time (30-60 minutes)

  • This is the best one because it’s EASY! Throw 2-3 cups of rice/quinoa into a rice cooker with the prescribed water amount and have it ready to pull out for a quick side dish. You can also boil a large pot of pasta instead for the same purpose. Tip: stir in a drizzle of olive oil and mix before storing.
  • If you’re on a sweet potato kick, now is the time to can slice the potatoes thinly and bake for an hour @ 375. Drizzle with oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder or taco seasoning. Start here as this step takes the longest.

2.      Slice and dice veggies. (10-15 minutes)

  • Dice/ Chop onions, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, etc. for MAIN DISHES
    • Slice carrots and peppers for healthy SNACKS
    • Place diced/chopped veggies in a large container to streamline dinner prep
    • Place sliced carrots and peppers in individual serving containers or snack bags for grab n go convenience.
    • I like to knock this out right after starting the carbohydrates; it’s the most tedious.

3.      Prepare your proteins (20-25 minutes)

  • Marinate your chicken, fish, pork, beef, etc. If you’re grilling or baking your meat, that’s as far as you need to go. When it’s time for dinner, all you have to do is pull the marinated meat out of the freezer.
  • I usually prepare 1-2 lbs. of turkey taco meat as a staple fridge item. You may prefer to do tuna or chicken salad, or beef tacos, or prepare a large container of tofu. Whatever your preference, I strongly recommend a mainstay item that you can build a meal around. Turkey taco meat can make a healthy salad, wrap, or rice bowl into a meal in 5-10 minutes. I prepare and store in a Ziploc container every week. Just throw ground turkey in a pan with taco seasonings and some water.
  • Rinse, slice/chop if needed, label and freeze any protein you won’t cook in the next 3-5 days. This eliminates waste, and the pressure associated with “needing to cook something before it goes bad.” Plus, it’s easy to grab a bag of sliced frozen chicken out of the freezer, thaw, and throw it into a pan to begin cooking.
  • Hard boiled eggs are a lifesaver for those who don’t get enough protein! Place a dozen eggs in a large pot of water, bring to a boil, boil 5-8 minutes, then turn off. Leave the eggs till they cool, then rinse with cold water. Shell, and place into containers or baggies for a high protein snack, or breakfast! I usually do this as my taco meat is cooking.

4.      Smoothies & Shakes (10-15 minutes)

  • Throw some smoothies in the fridge for an easy, healthy post workout snack or breakfast to go! Follow my Easy Recovery Smoothie recipe, or just throw fruit, almond milk, and protein powder into the blender and puree. Store in fridge or freezer.
    • If you’re a protein and milk/water only type, place scoop protein powder in shaker cups or baggies. Now, all you have to do is add liquid and shake. Brainless!

In a perfect world, your carbohydrates are done cooking as your proteins are finishing up so you can place everything in containers and store. I finish it all up with the smoothies or shakes before wiping down the kitchen. It may take a bit of fine-tuning your first try, so don’t hesitate to take notes on what you liked and what you want to different the following week to save time. It has to work for YOU. If you find a rhythm that works, you’ll be more motivated to stick with it each week. There’s room for variety, so have some fun being creative week to week. If you come up with any fun ideas or hacks, please share!


Go-To Grocery List For Consistent, Foolproof Meal Prepping

I’m going to cut right to the chase: in order to be successful with your weight and athletic performance, your diet needs to be sustainable, consistent, and balanced. You can’t expect to hop on a bandwagon plan for a month and then jump off when it gets hard. So, the first step in a healthy lifestyle should be committing to consistency for days, weeks, and months moving forward weekly grocery list is a manageable place to start. Print this off and bring it with you on every shopping trip. Sure, you can add to it or leave an item off if it’s out of stock, but the idea is a consistent base of ingredients that you can easily meal prep and cook from though out the week. The hardest part about cooking new, healthy meals is usually a lack of on-hand ingredients, which is the easiest out for take-out and unhealthy options that happen to be in the pantry. Let’s get shopping!

Pro Tip: Before heading out, use a pencil and check off anything you already have in-stock for the week, so you don’t over-buy.

Weekly Grocery List

  1. Protein Items
    • Tofu (expiration dates are usually 2-4 weeks, so it’s a nice thing to have on hand)
    • Chicken (breast, thighs, rotisserie, or canned- change it up each week!)
    • Pork tenderloin or thin cut pork chops (fine to alternate chicken/pork weekly)
    • Ground Turkey
    • Salmon or tilapia (fresh or frozen)
    • Bacon (I always have some in the freezer or fridge)
    • Canned black beans
  2. Dairy Items
    • Almond milk or lactose free milk
    • Greek yogurt (plain, nonfat. You can always add sweeteners or fat into a recipe later)
    • Eggs
    • Cheese- any kind! (shredded is nice to have on-hand as that saves a step, but block cheese is fine to pick up for variety)
    • Butter (I always keep a stock in the freezer for baking and cooking)
  3. Staple Items
    • Peanut or Almond butter
    • Olive oil
    • Almond flour
    • Oatmeal
    • Pasta (rice/gluten free noodles or regular noodles)
    • Brown Rice
    • Quinoa
    • Coffee
    • Whole grain bread or gluten-free bread
    • Honey
    • Soy Sauce or liquid aminos  
    • Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
    • Garlic Powder (unless you prefer fresh)
    • Cinnamon
    • Taco Seasoning (unless you have Chili Powder on hand)
  4. Canned Goods
    • Corn
    • Chicken or Vegetable Stock
    • Tomatoes (diced)
    • Pasta or Tomato Sauce
    • Salsa
  5. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
    • Citrus fruit (lime, lemon, or oranges for adding acid to meals and cocktails)
    • Bell Peppers
    • Onions
    • Leafy greens (spinach, romaine, Swiss chard, red leaf, and/or butter)
    • An Orange Item: butternut squash, spaghetti squash, oranges, or sweet potatoes
    • Apples
    • Bananas
    • Avocados
    • Asparagus and/or Brussel sprouts (I prepare them similarly and prefer to alternate every week)
  6. Snack Foods
    • Fig Bars (gluten free if needed)
    • Pretzels (for long training rides. Can omit if not an endurance athlete)
    • Unsalted nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios)
    • Cheese Sticks
  7. Freezer Items
    • Yasso Greek yogurt bars
    • Veggie Burger Patties (for a quick meal that’s not horrendous for you)
    • Frozen fruit (any type)
    • Edamame (for a quick snack or side dish)
    • Frozen, Riced Cauliflower
  8. Beverages
    • Sparkling Water
    • Vodka or Wine (if you’re a cocktail person, or like cooking with wine)

Again, you don’t need every item every week, but you should have a good variety of items stocked in your pantry, fridge, and freezer to make meal prepping and weekly meals a breeze. Stay tuned for next week’s blog (Time-Efficient Meal Prepping) using the items listed!


The Value and Disillusionment of Age Group Rankings

I am new to this sport, with just over 3 years of experience under my belt. Soccer and weight lifting were my outlet for a decade before I got into the endurance world. I grew up on a farm, which provided me with a strong work ethic and introduced the idea early in my life that women can step up and work just as hard as men. Bailing hay with my daddy, gutting a fish with my uncle, and lifting with the high school football team taught me a unique sense of character that’s still hard to put into words. I hope this snapshot sets the background for the upcoming content in this article.

            Of my 10 + years as a fitness professional, I’ve had the pleasure of training a variety of people: old and young; secure and insecure; divorced, single, and married; skinny and overweight, weak and strong, dedicated and somewhat lazy. It’s no surprise that as I’ve focused my personal goals on endurance training and racing that my clientele has shifted towards that demographic, too.

            At first, I was thrilled! An opportunity to use my passion in this new endeavor to help a new demographic of people, what could be better? Unfortunately, the world is not always sunshine and rainbows, and quickly a sense of defeat replaced my enthusiasm. The root cause of my frustrations? The rampant obsession with age group placements.

            Age group placing has value, without a doubt, in running, cycling, swimming, and multisport competition. It brings a sense of competition to the field, and can provide an extra push in workouts. In what other sport can a 25-year- old place 3rd in her field, while her father at 63 can also place 3rd in his field?! It’s an awesome way stay positive and competitive throughout the training and racing years. It levels the playing field between the youth and senior. For that, I am thankful!

            However, I have seen people completely demoralized when their dreams of placing in an event, or qualifying for something with an age group win, are dashed in one race. What kind of absolute rubbish is that? Sports are a LIFESTYLE, a celebration of hard work and dedication that most of us thrive on. Athletes that throw in the towel after a race that didn’t go the way they wanted it to remind me of pouting children that need an attitude check. Clearly, the intentions of training and racing are not to be a better person with an active lifestyle. Rather, it seems these people are “age group champions, or not athletes at all.” This all or nothing mentality is exhausting to witness, so I cannot imagine how exhausting it would be to live under such pressures.

            Athletes, I strongly encourage you to think about your training and racing intentions. Each session should have a focus, mentally and physically. Each race should have process (emotion-based) and outcome (results-based) goals. Why do you want to get faster? How do you feel when you train hard? What emotions are you seeking from completing a race or a workout? What makes you feel better about yourself? (fueling well, being organized with family/work/ training, hitting numbers you never thought you could, etc)

Age group placements and rankings are an awesome thing to check after a race to see if executing a plan aligned with beating people that happen to share the same birth year as you. How silly to allow self-worth to be determined by a sport, let alone a birthday. Don’t let that uncontrollable factor dictate how you feel about yourself. You can’t control who comes to a race, just like you can’t control weather and mechanical issues.

For me, training and racing next to men reminds me a bit of childhood activities, like learning to hunt with my cousins. I smile as I share a course that’s open to males and females alike. I know I’d make my high school boys proud as I pound the run hard and chick the field. Sure, it helps to be a strong, youthful athlete, but the sense of joy I feel by training and competing at my best is essential to my lifestyle. I respect my body, so I train it in a way that brings the best out of each muscle. I bond with my husband by sharing miles with him, and the emotional ups and downs training brings. Am I happier when I place highly at a race? Yes and no. I have finished quite well in my age group in some races, but been completely disappointed with my execution. I knew I could have done better. Placement is bonus, a detail that matters very little. My process goals, which consist of taking risks at certain points in a race or pushing through certain adversities, dictate how I feel about a performance 100x’s more.

How about we try to take some pressure of that pressure off? Try to think about your intentions: If an age group placing is important to you- awesome! I hope you can use that to develop yourself in a deeper way. If qualifying for an event is a MUST, list some reasons why training, racing, qualifying, and racing that event will make you a better person. What opportunities will you have, what risks will you need to take that will lead to you being a better you? Talk to some people who share your goals, and have successfully achieved them. This may help keep you, your ego, and your timeline in check.

Life is much too short to spend it comparing splits to people in a 5-year age category. Yes, a world championship event, or Boston, would be cool to compete in. I won’t deny that (though it’s not personally appealing to me, I acknowledge it is an awesome motivator) Sports are so much more meaningful than the sole “tunnel vision” drive of AG placing or qualifications. The process driving you to each workout or finish line should be so apparent. I hope that the character you develop, the audience you attract, the teams you build, the lives you change (including your own) drives you more than a medal that you share with thousands. Define what lifestyle means to you, and how sports fit into it. Figure out what drives YOU to push the pedals, lace up the shoes, zip up the wetsuit.