DIY: Healthy Blue Cheese Dressing

Good Morning!

So before you start your (hopefully relaxing, but probably more realistically errands-filled) Sunday I thought I’d catch you to share the latest on my Sunday Snacks series…you know, in case you needed to run out to the store to pick up a few inspired items for your healthy meal prep for the week or one special Sunday evening dinner.

To be honest, many of the snacks/meals/smoothies that are featured on Meg in the Meantime are found on Pinterest and/or are brought up in conversations with my friends, family, and/or boyfriend. Today’s feature came about after Ryan, my boyfriend, and I were trying to decide what to make for dinner one night this week. Bless him, he always plays along with my food experiments for this blog and so I took to my usual Pinterest search and stumbled upon Marie’s version of Healthy Blue Cheese Dressing,* courtesy of her blog: Not Enough Cinnamon.
*For the sake of today’s feature you can ignore the part about the chopped brussels sprout salad, unless of course you’d like to incorporate that into your meal as a refreshing appetizer or starter to share.

BlueCheeseDressing

What I appreciate most about Marie’s blog is that, while she is clearly passionate about cooking and baking-and therefore probably capable of some really intimidating and impressive impressive nutritious cooking feats-she makes sure to keep her recipes on Not Enough Cinnamon fairly simple and easy for us likeminded folk who don’t have much time (and perhaps the same skill level!) in our daily lives to dedicate to cooking, but who still desire to lead a mindfully healthy lifestyle.

By now you must be thinking: “She was trying to figure out healthy dinner plans with her boyfriend and she only decided to make her own blue cheese dressing?!” Well, no…I actually decided to test out the blue cheese dressing with another one of Marie’s recipes: Skinny Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, but for the sake of this blog I’ll just feature the dressing and show you how I used it on the stuffed sweet potatoes and let you get creative with what else you dip in/dress with the healthy dressing. Here are some of my thoughts: vegetables, salad, crackers, chicken (think: chicken wings), sandwiches and burgers (beef, turkey, veggie, etc.)–the possibilities are endless!

And so, with just seven simple ingredients and no more than five minutes you have created a delicious, low calorie alternative dressing that yields just under two cups in total. Here are the details to get you going:

Healthy Blue Cheese Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup blue cheese (use 3/4 cup if you want a stronger flavor/chunkier consistency)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or, use honey blended if you want some extra sweetness)
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp. honey (I ended up using more like 1 tbsp)
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • salt to taste

BlueCheeseIngredients

Other Items Needed:

  • mixing bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • whisk

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients into mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk together until fully blended. Whisk harder and pound a bit if you want a creamier dressing-otherwise enjoy its naturally chunky texture!

I honestly was not sure how the healthy blue cheese dressing would come out, but lucky for me I had blue cheese’s biggest critic, Ryan, by my side to test it out (never met anyone who despises Kraft’s blue cheese more than he does). Good news for this recipe, though-he liked it! I actually felt like screaming “He likes it!” a la the 1978 Life Cereal commercial featured “Mikey.”

Anyways, like I mentioned earlier…Ryan and I decided to use our healthy blue cheese dressing on another one of Marie’s recipes: Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and it was fantastic! I won’t go into the details of that recipe (you can find that information linked above), but I will share some meal prep and finished product snapshots with you to hopefully inspire a future meal of yours!

BuffChixStuffedSweetPotato

What are some things that you would use this healthy blue cheese dressing on? I listed a few obvious suggestions above, but am always interested to hear what you all think! Comment below or share your ideas with me on Twitter: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, I’m off to race the B.A.A. 10k (in some unfortunately really hot weather)–wish me luck and send me good vibes. Will report back with results later!

Stay cool out there,
-Meg

Fartin’ Around with Fartlek

Happy Friday, Everyone!

As I mentioned in my last post, “Just 10 Minutes/Day of Stretching,” I always try to write about things that are conducive and true to my every day, hectic lifestyle; mainly, that means I’m sharing time-efficient and scalable, yet challenging workouts and ways to incorporate more balance and wellness in hope that it benefits you and your lifestyle needs, as well.

That being said, I realize that sometimes we just don’t have much time (or energy) to fit in a long, much-needed workout or to catch a fitness class that sounds exciting and so when I stumbled upon this article from Fitness Magazine called “The Most Effective Workouts if You Only Have 10, 20, 30, or 40 Minutes,” I knew that I had to investigate further and write about it for my Feature Friday series!

This past Monday, my usual RunYoga series class with Cara Gilman was canceled so Becca and I decided to stick with our consistent running routine and do our own workout instead. Inspired (and intimidated) by the Fitness Magazine article and what many of our fellow running friends do, we decided to challenge ourselves with our very first Fartlek workout (which on the article is highlighted as what to do if you have 20 minutes for a workout) and so we decided to take our evening training session to the outdoor track at Harvard University.

So, what the heck is a Fartlek? Well, it’s not exactly what it sounds like, but it could make you just as smelly from all of the sweat you’ll release! Fartlek is Swedish for “speedy play” and is a fairly unstructured workout where you warm up and then play with running at a faster pace (think: race pace) for a shorter period of time, followed by an easier effort pace to recover. Then you repeat for however long you wish to continue the workout. Fartlek workouts can be something done on your own, with a partner, or even in a larger group in which someone is the leader and can set the pace for the faster-effort levels.

The Fitness Magazine article that I linked to above gives a nice description of what a 20-ish minute Fartlek workout, so-as novices to this whole speed play thing-we decided to follow that for our first attempt. What was tricky for us was deciphering what our “level 8” pace was like versus our “level 7” and “level 9.” We decided that this was pretty subjective (we obviously have to run off of what we feel that pace should be) and is something that will obviously change and grow over time as we get faster and smarter.

So, in chicken scratch terms, this is what our workout was:

Watch-Workout-Track

In clearer terms it says: 6 minutes at level 4, 1 minute at level 8, 30 seconds at level 9, 30 seconds at level 5, 2 minutes at level 7, 2 minutes at level 5 and then repeat (minus the 6 minute warm-up). A workout like this will also teach you that having some kind of watch to monitor your time and pace is very helpful. Pictured here is my Garmin Forerunner 220, which I purchased for my last half marathon and personally love!

So, in the end, we definitely sweat a lot (after all, our motto is: #SweatLikeAPigToLookLikeAFox), pushed our limits, tired our legs out, but really enjoyed experimenting with a new kind of running culture. I mean, c’mon…these aren’t the faces of two humans who just hated their workout, right?!?

Becca-Meg-track

Afterwards, Becca and I agreed that, although it was hard, it was good to do and that we will try to incorporate it into our future training series more–we’re curious how it will help our race times and overall enjoyment of running (“It will be great!” Becca said, per usual). After all, if it doesn’t challenge you then it doesn’t change you…right?! t would also highly recommend trying a Fartlek workout to anyone who is curious about speed work, in a run training program/series, or who gets bored easily with just long and short runs; but again, I am a complete novice to this so I hope to share more insights and knowledge about my speed workouts more in the future.

In the meantime, tell me about your experiences with speed play! Did you love it/hate it/are too intimated to try it? If you have done it, what are some of your favorite, short and effective kinds to do? I would love your guidance and recommendations when doing it more consistently in the future so please comment below or write to me on Twitter: @meggielukes, with the hashtag #MegInTheMeantime.

Other than that, I’m two days out from the B.A.A. 10k–I can’t believe it!! Tonight, I’ll go for my last short run after work before I rest and stretch out my body and fuel up for Sunday. Wish me luck!!

Enjoy your weekend and don’t forget to check in on Sunday for my next Sunday Snacks series–I promise it’ll be another delicious one!

Love,
Meg

Just 10 minutes/day of stretching.

Hi There,

So I like to make sure that the things that I am writing and preaching about in Meg in the Meantime are things that I am actually doing and putting into practice myself–this post is definitely such the case and something that I’ve struggled with over the years, but feel as though I have finally found the balance that I need to live well on the go in my busy life.

“What is it?” you may ask…well, if you’re a loyal reader then I’m sure you’re pretty familiar with my recent kick of incorporating active stretching into my run training routine (if not, then check out my old post “Stretch It Out“). Although active stretching only takes about 10-15 minutes before working out and has made me feel better and stronger during runs I know that there is more that I can do outside of my active training sessions; what I struggle with is finding the perfect, undisturbed time and the motivation within myself to make it a daily habit.

And so, on Monday night when I was doing one of my first official speed workouts with Becca for our B.A.A. 10k training regiment (more to come on that during my next Friday Feature post!), she was talking about how she wants/needs to start stretching more each day and how that would make her feel as she continues to add more running/biking/walking miles to her week. I mentioned a Men’s Health article that I had recently found on Twitter called “This Man Stretched 10 Minutes a Day For a Month This is What Happened,” which focuses on the notion of loose muscles being stronger muscles and highlights some solid deep stretches. Anyways, pretty soon Becca and I came up with our own recommendations for how we would incorporate at least 10 minutes a day of stretching into our daily days–and they range from the very obvious times to other, more creative opportunities, but both we hope give you (and us!) the ability to create a solid wellness habit from.

  • After you wake up. This is an easy and mindful way to start your day and slowly wake yourself up so that you are not stumbling to the shower or coffee pot! Simply begin by stretching your body out completely while in bed (hands over head, feet out straight or together with knees knocked outward for a deeper hip stretch) and then when you’re ready, roll out of bed and take it to the floor: perhaps do a few sun salutations to get your blood flowing or focus your stretching on a particular achy area that you’d like loosened up before you start your work day.
  • Before you go to bed. This is another easy and obvious time to stretch, but instead of doing stretches that will get your blood flowing, like sun salutations, perhaps try something more calm and controlled, like happy baby, rag doll, legs up the wall, body twist. You can always complete your before-bedtime routine by laying out for some quite meditation on an acupressure mat like the Spoonk. What’s a Spoonk? Read about it here in my old post “This Thing Called ‘Spoonking.’
  • Before/after dedicated workout time. I hope you’re doing this already, but if not make sure to get to your fitness class or the gym a little earlier than expected (or stay a few minutes later) and really dedicate some quality stretching time. If you’re running do some active stretching for 5-10 minutes beforehand (inch worms, downward dog, power walking, quick half pigeons, etc.) and leave time for a deeper, cool down stretch afterwards to target specific muscle groups–your body will thank you later!
  • During work. Most of us tend to sit all day at a desk and only get up to walk around for a coffee or bathroom break or to go another meeting where we will inevitably sit some more. So why not stretch while you’re sitting?! Open your hips with a figure four seated stretch, kick off your shoes and roll your feet with a tennis ball under the desk (as I highlighted in a previous post, “Wellness When You Can“), or check out any of these standing and sitting stretching suggestions, like shoulder/chest stretching, chair twists, and wrist stretching, as outlined by The Yoga Coach in the article “Yoga at Your Desk.”
  • Watching TV. This is your opportunity to get comfortable (or, uncomfortable) in some really deep poses, like half pigeon pose, wide-legged forward bend, runner’s lunge, or downward-facing dog. Think of the benefits of stretching and watching TV in this way: you can unwind from your day with something entertaining and engaging while also taking care of your health and wellness instead of just sitting there like a bum (I’m the queen of multitasking so this is one of my favorite times to stretch…I’m definitely known to break out my yoga mat and plop right down in the middle of the living room and stretch) and you’re able to time out your stretching session for a full episode if you’re really enjoying it or be cued to switch up which body parts you’re focusing on along with commercial breaks. Win, win!

These are just a handful of recommendations, but I’m curious to hear from you–what are some good times that you like to consistently stretch for 10-15 minutes? I would love to compile a larger list of suggestions to share with others. As always, feel free to comment below or send me a note on Twitter: @meggielukes, using #MegInTheMeantime to call it out to my attention.

In the meantime, I’m counting down the days (THREE!!) until the B.A.A. 10k–that is my next big race on the agenda and something that Becca and I have been training hard for for the last eight weeks: building up our strength and endurance again after a brief running hiatus and really stepping outside of our comfort zones and trying new things (RunYoga Series with Cara Gilman and occasional speed work on the track to challenge ourselves). In preparation for setting a PR goal time, I decided to look up my last 10k, which was the Lone Gull 10K that I ran last September in Gloucester, MA with a finishing time of 1:01:23–not so great, but more importantly I know I can do better and so I’m shooting for under 1 hour this go around. I’m hoping that all of this hard work and consistent training pays off and that I will blow this sub 1-hour 10k out the water, but more importantly, I’m curious to see if my new and happier outlook on running will have an effect on my race time, as well. We’ll see–I can’t wait to report back about it next week!

Be well and talk with you soon,
-Meg

Chocolate-Drizzled Peanut Butter Cookies

Hi Everyone!

First of all, I’d like to wish a very Happy Father’s Day to all of the great dads out there…but especially to mine, who-in my humble opinion-is the world’s greatest. I’m not sure if he knows this, but I feel extremely fortunate that I can say that my dad has had a major influence in my love of living a healthy, active lifestyle.

From the moment I could walk, I was running and signed up for sports. I, along with all of my siblings, grew up playing year-round sports and always being pushed to be the best we could be from our dad, who was a naturally strong and great athlete himself. And I don’t mean he pushed us from afar, like hearing about our games over dinner because he wasn’t there…I mean in the moment and in all of the moments leading up to the games my dad was (and still is) always there. He would spend his days off taking us to sports academies and camps, traveling leagues, and practicing drills with us in the backyard or at a nearby field. He would make sure to be at every single game of ours, even if it meant coming straight from work and showing up in his uniform. My dad was always there in my peripherals: when I was up at bat, on the field, or on the court-to shake his head slightly frustrated if he knew we could do better/weren’t trying our best, to give some constructive advice after a tough moment, to give a roar/hoot/holler from the stands that exuded pure pride and love, and sometimes even to drag us to the hospital for x-rays or MRI’s, when we inevitably injured ourselves…and then to console our defeated, tearful selves afterwards when we realized our season was over and we needed surgery. No matter what the situation, my dad was always there to hug us afterwards, look us in the eye, and tell us that he loved us…every single time.

And even though I don’t live in New Jersey with my parents anymore and my current active lifestyle is a very different kind from what it once was (now mainly running and yoga), I know my dad is still just as proud and tries to stay as involved in and as up to date in my healthy, active lifestyle as possible. Although I selfishly wish that I could see him in my peripherals during every road race I run, I know he’s thinking of me during the race and makes sure to check in with encouraging texts and phone calls. He might not even fully understand the whole blogging/social media concept, but he’s one of my most loyal and supportive Meg in the Meantime followers, too! How lucky am I to have him?! So thanks, Dad for caring enough to always be there.

And so, here’s to you dad: the greatest man I know and a fellow peanut butter lover. I want to dedicate today’s Sunday Snacks edition to something that he would enjoy eating–lucky for me, I am home in New Jersey this weekend with my family and so my dad can actually test them out, instead of just commenting about how good my healthy snacks look. Per usual, I trolled Pinterest for some healthy peanut butter desserts and came across a peanut butter cookie recipe from Myra of The Happy Healthy Freak. With a healthy dark chocolate, coconut oil drizzle on top, I knew right away that these small, sweet, and healthy treats would be the way to go for Father’s Day.

PeanutButterCookie-baked1

These cookies are made from only five ingredients, are low in sugar, low in carbs, and takes less than a half hour to make (about 10-15 minutes of prep time and about 15 minutes of baking time). This particular recipe will yield 20-24 cookies, depending on how large you want to them, but I believe the whole purpose to to keep them on the smaller, bite-size end.

According to my dad, they’re a little too delicious to be healthy. He said (and I quote): “Are you sure these are healthy?? They seem too good to be healthy…” Haha! So since these cookies are impressively “Dad-tested, Dad-approved” (trust me, he’s not easily impressed) let’s get straight to how to make them so you and your loved ones can enjoy, as well!

Chocolate-Drizzled Peanut Butter Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (I used the kind with honey in mine for extra sweetness)
  • 1/2 cup organic sweetener (I used Stevia, but there are many different kinds)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tbsp. virgin coconut oil

PeanutButterCookie-ingredients

Other Items Needed:

  • mixing bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • whisk or electric beater
  • baking sheet
  • fork

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine peanut butter, sweetener, and egg in a bowl-mix together well.
  3. Roll the mixture together into 1 inch balls (or a little smaller)-place on baking sheet.
  4. Press down on rolled balls with a fork.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes (but check at 12-13 minutes, if you rolled smaller balls).
  6. While cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil together in the microwave.
  7. Once cookies are cooled, drizzle the chocolate mix on top.
  8. Let the chocolate drizzle harden* and enjoy!

*You can place the cookies in the refrigerator to serve chilled and really harden up the chocolate, or keep the cookies softer, warmer, and gooier and keep out in room temperature.

PeanutButterCookie-ballsPeanutButterCookie-forked

PeanutButterCookie-baked

PeanutButterCookie-baked2

Besides inspiring my love of peanut butter, my dad inspires me to forever strive for greatness; to respect and appreciate the pride that comes after a long, hard days work; to always keep challenging myself and to never stop until my “good” is better than my “best” in all aspects of my life…and I’m so grateful to have that kind of mindset in my adult life. What about you? Think about what your dad (or some kind of father-figure) has inspired you to do/become today. Was your dad your number one fan growing up? What special traditions did you have together growing up-something that maybe is meant for just you and him? What’s some of your favorite memories? Make sure to give him a call and tell him or, if you’re lucky enough to live nearby, go visit and tell him in-person.

In the meantime, if your dad is a peanut butter fan like mine is, bake these cookies for him and enjoy a special conversation over a healthy snack together. And don’t forget-look him in the eye and tell him you love him, too!

Happy Sunday,
-Meg

Wellness Tip: Unplug and Reset

Happy Wednesday, Friends!

As some of you may already know, my boyfriend and I recently got away from the city and booked a tiny house getaway experience in the Lake Sunapee-region of New Hampshire via the Harvard start-up Getaway. Whether you read the brief overview of our experience through one of my older blog posts “Get Movin’!” or if you saw us featured on the CBS This Morning piece “Startup ‘Getaway’ encourages short vacations in tiny houses” (hold on…can we stop to acknowledge that Ryan and I basically became national celebrities for 4 minutes last week?!), I hope you are able to grasp how necessary unplugging is/can be.

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Getaway supports and focuses in on everything I should be doing more of: recharging and reconnecting and living simply. There’s honestly not much we need to be happy. For me on that getaway, all I needed was Ryan, a space to wander around and explore, a roaring campfire, a deck of cards, a hearty meal complete with s’mores, and a place to rest my tired head at night. And, while the main purpose of our trip was not to necessarily partake in the social experiment of unplugging and rather to experience living life in a tiny house (a lifestyle that Ryan is quite obsessed with), I quickly fell in love with the concept of just leaving my phone be and doing whatever we pleased, whenever we pleased without any concept or care for time or other responsibilities. That way of life is not sustainable, nor realistic for me (this was a mini vacation, after all), but it was an extremely refreshing reset to my usual every day of being overly-connected to anything and everything at the tip of my fingers…and that really resonated with me.

And so, on this edition of Wednesday Wellness, I want to encourage you all to find a way to unplug, if even just for a designated hour each day (sleeping hours don’t count)! You don’t have to run away from your city life, throw away your computer, lock up your phone, or anything dramatic, but rather just set aside some time to mindfully step away from the screens in your life.

If you’re struggling to think of how to execute this unplugging hour, here’s what’s been working for me: running. Running with a phone is an inconvenience for me-I don’t like running with armbands, I don’t have a waistband that’s large enough to carry my iPhone 6S, and, frankly, I’d rather start or end my work day with some quiet reflection time or quality catch up time with someone that I care about. As a result, running has become something that I specifically look forward to because I know that it is my do-not-disturb time; my solo time; my catch up time; my time to quiet and calm all of the hundreds of thoughts and ideas that are constantly running around inside my head; my time to give gratitude and thanks for the amazing life I live in this wonderful city…and that is priceless and so necessary to do more of.

If you’re in need of some other ideas to kickstart your unplugging hour:

  • Pick up a good book and learn something new
  • Write a letter to someone that you love and let them know that you are thinking of them (it really is a lost art!)
  • Ask a friend over and have a face-to-face conversation…catch up on the important areas of your life
  • Go for a walk around the neighborhood or explore somewhere new
  • Stretch and/or meditate
  • Take on a new fitness challenge: abs, push-ups, strength training, cross training, etc.
  • Cook a healthy meal (check out my Sunday Snacks section for some inspiration!)

Honestly, I could go on and on with suggestions, but I’d rather hear some new great ideas from you! How do you love to spend your unplugging hours? What has worked (or not worked!) for you? As always, please comment below or share your thoughts with me on Twitter: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, live well, love well, be well-I look forward to chatting more on Friday,
-Meg

26:55. That’s huuuuuge!

Hi There!

At the very end of my last post on Sunday, Healthy Enough for Breakfast, Sweet Enough for Dessert, I mentioned that I had some exciting training news that I wanted to share with you, so here it is:

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Did you see that time? 26:55. Do you know what that is?! In case you dont know, I’ll let Jimmy Fallon (a la Donald Trump) tell you:

jimmy fallon

So here are the details: on Sunday, June 12th I raced in a local 5K, Run for the Beach 5K in Beverly, MA–it was a gorgeous road race with stunning coastal views; it also benefited a local nonprofit environmental organization called Salem Sound Coastwatch (always support local!). As many of you know, I am now towards the tail-end of my 10K training for the upcoming B.A.A. 10K and have been consistently running and strength-training over the last month or so. I knew that I wanted to incorporate some kind of race into my training schedule to get back in the mindset of racing and to give myself a bit of a challenge so this 5K seemed perfect.

I went into the race with the mindset of running somewhere in the 28-minute range. The last few Danvers 5K runs I’ve done I’ve hit times in the low-mid 29 minute marks, so I was just looking for a small and reasonable improvement. The course was a pretty simple out and back loop, starting off with a hill so as soon as the gun went off I started my watch and didn’t look at it again until I was on the last part of my straight away. I decided to run completely off how I felt: how I felt being back in a competitive, racing environment, how I felt running a smaller, less crowded race (around 200 participants), how I felt running around a gorgeous small city that I love. I chose to not look at my watch as I ran to get a sense of where I was at.

And how did I feel? I felt hot and uncomfortable: it was already mid-70’s by the 10am start time. I felt pretty tired, but just assumed it was from another long week of training and working that left me a bit physically and emotionally-drained. But, I also felt strong; my legs were carrying me at a steady pace, I didn’t feel too winded, and I figured I would definitely hit my 28-minute range.

What I did’t realize, until I actually did look at my watch during the last straight away, was that I was completely on pace to blowing my 28-minute range out of the water. At that point, I was already full-steam ahead to the finish line anyways, but I couldn’t help but feel a huge smile sweep across my face during those last few seconds thinking of what I was able to accomplish in such a short period of time.  As my watch shows, I crossed the finish line at 26:55. What I didn’t realize until later when the official results came out was that I also placed 5th out of 37 total other women in my division…that’s not bad at all and something I have never done before. So while 26:55 is great, it’s also not an official PR for me in my adult running life, yet I’m still going consider it a PR to what I have been running over the last two years (I’ll explain more about this below).

In fact, I’m not going to lie-that race put me on cloud 9! I ran the 5K with Ryan and he and I both beat our projected times by well over a minute. We were so pumped that we went ahead and set our next 5K goals in order to keep chipping away at our times; we even signed up for a local 4-miler in early July to keep pushing ourselves a bit more.

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Now, let me explain why 26:55 is such a big deal:
(Instead of simply including another Donald Trump .gif…)

On May 7, 2014 I attended my first November Project (NP) workout. Before that I had raced a few local 5K’s in my adult life (Night Shift Brewery 5K, Cambridge 5K Freedom Run, etc.) and had decent times of 27-28 minutes. But, after training consistently 3x/week with NP I got way quicker, way faster than I had ever imagined.

On July 17, 2014 I ran my fastest adult 5K race at a time of 26:05 during the Boston 5K Summer Series which benefits the RACE Cancer Foundation, a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that strives to fight cancer through action and prevention via kick-ass events.

On August 14, 2014, I ran my second-fastest adult 5K race at a time of 26:21, also during the Boston 5K Summer Series.

After that…I’m honestly sure what happened. In December, 2014 I dropped to a 5K time of 27:14 at another local race called Yulefest, which is part of the awesome, local Cambridge 5K Series. Then, over the course of the next two years, that number has steadily plummeted (apologies for using a dramatic word like “plummeted,” but it’s honestly how I feel about it) to 5K race times that fell within the 28-29+ minute marks.

In the summer of 2014, racing was a completely new environment and culture for me and it was exciting! For the first time since high school I was back in a competitive environment with a crowd of spectators and-more importantly-I was challenging myself on a daily basis to be better, faster, stronger…and I was having fun doing it!

Maybe I stopped training as hard? Maybe I stopped training as consistently as I once did? Maybe I became comfortable? Maybe I mentally just started to check out as I saw my times decline and decline? I’ve tried to wrap my head around it a few times and never really found an answer, but what I am thinking is that I slowly started to fall out of love with running and racing.

And that’s why one of my top Current Goals (as outlined on the Meg in the Meantime homepage) is to “fall back in love with running.” I am yearning for that pure joy to fill my body, mind, and soul again and throughout this 10K training period (and especially after this last 5K race) I think I’m finally getting closer to that feeling again!

And so I think it’s only appropriate (and completely necessary) to give a shout out and big thanks to a few key people who have helped me along the road to get me back to 26:55 range and who make me love the feel of racing/training again:

  • Becca: For waking up at un-godly hours to run around Boston with me and get our miles in during the week before work, for checking in to ensure that I stay true and accountable for runs/workouts/stretches that I promise to do, for always sharing accomplishments, encouraging me to try hard/do my best, for daring to try new workout regiments with me (“Let’s go Fartlek-ing on Wednesday!”), and for always telling me that it’s going to be great….THANK YOU!
  • Cara & the RunYoga crew: This RunYoga Series has been-hands down-my favorite workout that I’ve ever done. I am so grateful for the consistent weekly runs and the deep, thoughtful, and targeted stretching and meditating that comes afterwards, but even more so for the light, encouragement, laughter, and positivity that this crew surrounds with me during those two hours every Monday evening…THANK YOU (for making Mondays something to actually look forward to)!
  • November Project: Although I don’t show up as religiously as I used to two years ago, being around your energy and love whenever I do (mainly Wednesdays nowadays) always makes me feel like a better, stronger, kinder human being and that is something that I carry with me on race days. I never fear any hill I face during my races thanks to Summit Ave. and I always try to approach each new experience with a positive attitude and tons of energy…THANK YOU!
  • Ryan: For understanding that when I’m in training that I’m going to have to go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, sometimes be a little hangrier, and that I will always be a bit sweatier than normal; for always being there at my bigger races for support-even if it just seems like an hour or two of you standing around and killing time until I cross the finish line, it means the world to me to see your face in the crowd; and finally, for starting to run with me-these last few weeks of running around the North Shore with you in extreme rain and extreme heat has become such a new and enjoyable “us” thing to add to our memories…THANK YOU!

Well, that’s all from me for now. I’ll write more to you about training updates on Wednesday, but in the meantime start thinking about your huuuuuuuuge goals and the people who help you along the way…send a message to them to let them know you’re thinking of them and are grateful!

Until then,
-Meg

Healthy Enough for Breakfast, Sweet Enough for Dessert!

Hello There!

I don’t know about you, but I can almost never turn down dessert…especially if it’s ice cream, or some kind of frozen treat. So now that we’re moving into the hot summer months, I want to share with you a cool, healthy snack alternative that complements most sweet tooth desires: Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Yogurt Pops. Yes-almost all of the ingredients are listed right there in its title and yes-they are as perfectly balanced and delicious as they sound.

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I originally found the Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Yogurt Pops recipe from Danae on her healthy recipe blog, Recipe Runnerafter trolling Pinterest for healthy summer snacks. Right away the title caught my eye (all of my favorite things in one popsicle?!) and knew that it would be perfect for this week’s Sunday Snacks edition-it’s quick and easy to make, healthy and wholesome, and something cool and refreshing for any “Sunday Funday” you might have this summer!

Prep time for this recipe is only 10 minutes so you can make them (without stress) when you get home from work and-in three easy steps-this sweet and delicious treat will be ready for you before bed or after your morning miles as something to cool yourself off with (in lieu of a smoothie)! This particular recipe yields 8 popsicles, so feel free to double your ingredients if you are making them for a larger gathering or summer party.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Yogurt Pop Ingredients:

  • 1 & 1/2 – 2 large bananas
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

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Other Items Needed:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Popsicle molds (the ones I used are from Bed, Bath. & Beyond, but you can use any mold with wooden popsicle sticks, too)
  • Blender (or some other variation: Ninja, NutriBullet, etc.)

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Instructions:

  1. Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until mixture is smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into the popsicle mold and place the sticks/holder in place. If you are using traditional wooden popsicle sticks, freeze the pops for about 30 minutes before placing the stick in so it stands up straight).
  3. Freeze the popsicles for about 4 hours, or until frozen. Enjoy!!

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Now all you have to do is get out there, grab a friend or two, move with intention and get your sweat on, and come home to this refreshingly, cool treat to snack on…you more than earned it!

On a separate note, have you ever read through my “Current Goals” section?  If not, please check it out and make sure to tune back in tomorrow for a special post-I want to share some exciting news with you about my training! In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you-what are some of YOUR current health, wellness, and fitness goals? As I continue to  accomplish more and add new challenges to my list, I’m curious about what you all are striving for. If you are willing, share some of your big and bold or small and hard goals below in the comment section to inspire me and others or tweet at me: @meggielukes (with the hashtag #MegInTheMeantime for good measure). Can’t wait to hear from you!

Happy Sunday to you all,
-Meg

Mind Games

Wow, what another gorgeous, sunny, and blue sky day we had here in Boston!

Now, perfect days like these-of course-don’t come without some stormy weather first and last night’s summer thunder and lightning storm sure was something else! I don’t know about you, but I made sure to soak it all in (without actually getting soaked…I did enough of that during my 3 miler on Sunday afternoon). Last night I sat out in my enclosed porch, lit some candles, and just listened to the world around me and the thoughts running around in my head; it was a great time for some reflective thinking/meditation.

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This special time out on the porch meant a lot to me, especially after such a draining few days at work and a few other personal situations that are currently brewing into (what could become) a perfect storm of stress. However, I had a major takeaway during this week’s RunYoga series with the ever-amazing Cara Gilman and it’s been the one positive thing that I’ve chosen to focus on instead of every (stressful) thing that possibly could be.

After our speed workout (my first time!) on a local track in The Fens, we got back to our base and slowed things down with some targeted, deep stretches to complement the speed workout and then Cara led us through a yoga nidra practice-one of the deepest forms of meditation. I’ve never done yoga nidra before, but after learning more about it and its benefits it wasn’t too hard to fall in love with both the idea and practice of it (I’ll make sure to give you a link to a great guided yoga nidra practice so you can try it yourself, too!).

Anyways, as always, Cara asked us to set an intention and then followed up with an inspirational message: The words we think becomes the world we see. That message really stuck with me; it’s all that I could think about during my yoga practice that night and I’ve carried it with me every day since: it’s my self check-in when I wake up in the morning and it’s my closing thought to reflect on the day (and the things that I can control and the things that I cannot) before bed and make my peace.

And so, last night on my porch, with the sky pouring buckets, I started to think those words in a more targeted area of my life: running. For me, running is a time to clear my mind, to reflect on my current state, to work through all the good and not-so-good moments of my week, and to wrestle with what my next steps should be moving forward.

I have been running unplugged from any kind of music playing device and have been using that extra concentration to zone in on my inner thoughts instead of zoning out to hardcore rap (and sometimes the random popular flavor of the week) like I used to. Instead, I’ve been listening to the world move around me and have been focusing on how grateful I am for each and every breath and step I take-it’s both a humbling and motivational experience.

But has every thought that has popped in my head been positive? Probably not. Have I cursed under my breath a few times. Most likely, yeah. How have I been speaking to myself? Have I been kind enough to myself and all that I put myself through-mentally and physically-during these intimate moments that I consider my sanctuary of the day?! And how will those kind and positive thoughts translate from my running moments into the other areas of my life?

This is why Cara’s message stuck with me-it’s giving me the opportunity to learn more about myself and helping me, in a small yet meaningful way, become a better, more thoughtful person each day. The words we think becomes the world we see. Really stop and think about that. What are the words and thoughts that sneak into your mind  throughout your day…when everything is going well, when nothing is really happening, and then when you feel completely down and out and all alone? How can you become more mindful of the powerful affect that you can have on your life (and others) through your thoughts and perceptions-turned reality?! It’s such a mental game and so important to get ahead of it before it can become destructive.

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I shared some examples of what goes through my my mind when I’m running, so what about you? Or maybe for you it’s during another activity or something that you can’t seem to shake while walking into work or before bed…either way I’d love to hear from you and know what’s been working for you! What techniques or strong mental forces do you practice to keep the demons at bay? If you’re still struggling and are in need of some inspiration, shoot me a message…maybe we can talk it out together! Hearing from you always means so much to me so please feel free to leave a comment below, e-mail me at melucas7@gmail.com, or leave me a message on Twitter: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, let’s end this on a positive note: two things that I’m currently loving.

  • Two-a-days: I have been trying to switch up and amp up my training schedule this time around and have been testing out two-a-day workouts once a week, mainly on Wednesdays. In the mornings I’ll rise and shine with the sun and meet Becca at Harvard Stadium to run stairs with the rest of the November Project crew and in the evenings I’ll head up to the North Shore to spend some time with Ryan and run some evening miles (usually around 3 miles). I realized this morning that, probably the reason why I like this two-a-day concept so much is because I get to spend some quality time with two people who are special to me without compromising on my health and wellness.
  • Training: I have been absolutely loving consistent running, stretch, and strength training exercises throughout my weeks. I had a great early morning 5 miler around Boston with Becca last Friday and am looking forward to another long run this Friday morning, as well. This time we’ll take to the B.A.A. 10k route to get a better feel for the course before our race in two weeks. I also have a fantastic 5k race this Sunday, June 12th in Beverly, MA with Ryan called “Run for the Beach 5k,” in which proceeds benefit local beaches and marine life. The North Shore, and all of its rocky, coastal views, stole my heart a few years ago so I’m super excited to participate in this race…it’s just extra special that it will be my first official road race with Ryan! 🙂

That’s all for now-check back in on Friday for some more health and wellness inspiration.

Be well and stay positive,
-Meg

(W)awfully Delicious!

Hey There–it’s been a while!

How are you on this rainy, cozy, and cool Sunday?? To me, New England today felt more like an early fall day than late spring/bordering summer one and so I wanted to give you the gift of a healthy alternative to a classic brunch dish with a hint of fall comfort: Healthy Sweet Potato Waffles.

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I found the recipe for this amazing Sunday brunch treat while trolling Pinterest for healthy snack ideas (one of my favorite parts of blogging!). I came across Whitney’s recipe for sweet potato waffles* on her blog To Live & Diet in L.A. and knew that it would be the perfect addition to my Sunday Snacks series. Whitney makes a note that waffles are a great source of fuel to keep your body in motion during a typical energy-packed day…I’m no nutritionist, but I’d have to agree; there’s no better way to start your day than to fill you up with nutrients and vitamins through some kind of sweet potato dish.
*These sweet potato waffles are also gluten-free.

Another reason why I appreciate this recipe is that even though breakfast and brunch preparations can seem more like a chore at times (depending how many people you are cooking for or how much time you have in the morning), these waffles only take a about 20 minutes to make (well…contingent upon how you decide to prepare your sweet potatoes, of course…that’s explained below and is a personal preference). This recipe in particular will yield two large waffles or four small waffles and is extremely easy to create. So, without further ado…let’s get to it!

Healthy Sweet Potato Waffle Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato (depending on the size of the sweet potatoes you can change this ingredient to be 1 & 1/2 or 2 full ones)
  • 1 cup old fashion rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Other Items Needed:

  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Blender (or some other variation: Ninja, NutriBullet, etc.)
  • Waffle maker
  • Cooking spray

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Instructions:

  1. Cook the sweet potatoes: either 30-45 minutes at 425 degrees in the oven or by piercing the potato with a fork/knife and microwaving for 6-8 minutes.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (oats, baking powder, cinnamon) in the blender, then transfer into the mixing bowl.
  3. Combine the wet ingredients (sweet potato, egg, coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla extract) in the blender, then transfer into the mixing bowl.
  4. Mix together the dry and wet ingredients with a whisk until fully blended.
  5. Heat up the waffle maker, lightly coat with cooking spray, and pour the sweet potato batter in. Cook waffles until crisp on the outside (I noticed that even after the waffle maker light indicated that the sweet potato waffle was finished, that it still needed an extra few minutes to cook all the way through-so make sure to monitor closely.)
  6. Top the sweet potato waffle with an an optional peanut butter and honey topping, in lieu of maple syrup: combine 2 tbsp. of peanut or almond butter with 1 & 1/2 tsp. of honey and heat up in the microwave. Drizzle on the waffle and top with fruit (cut up banana, apple, pear, peach, blueberry, strawberry, etc.). Enjoy!

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Another great thing about these sweet potato waffles-they can be as healthy or as playful and dessert-like as you want them to be, depending on your mood! Feel free to follow the directions above religiously or add some sweetness to them, in moderation: a tsp. or tbsp. of maple syrup to the drizzle topping for an added layer of sweetness…or go full-out Thanksgiving and top your waffles with some marshmallows and perhaps even a little chocolate drizzle mixed in with the peanut butter. Whatever you want, you earned it…so follow your heart and make sure to enjoy every last bite of these delicious, healthy waffles.

On a personal note, I unfortunately missed a couple of my usual posts this week so I’ll summarize some highlights from my week quickly for you, in the meantime:

  • I’ve been loving consistently running throughout the week as I come towards the end of my training for the upcoming B.A.A. 10k on Sunday, June 26th-from long 5 milers through downtown Boston and along the Charles River with Becca early in the morning to shorter 3 milers in the pouring rain with Ryan in the North Shore in the afternoons. One of my current goals, outlined on the Meg in the Meantime homepageis to hit a 10k PR. I’m just a few weeks away from race day, but I think I’m right on track to accomplishing that goal…and that’s a great feeling!
  • With all of the running also comes lots of active stretching pre-runs and longer, deeper stretches and strength training exercises post-runs a la Dani Adler’s easy, effective, and efficient run training plan. To learn more about these stretching habits, check out an older post of mine: “Stretch It Out.
  • Even though I mentioned it earlier in this post, I am really loving all of the food exploration and experimentation that has come from blogging. Spending my day researching creative and healthy alternative snacks, meals, and smoothies and connecting with amazing companies and brands (both large and well-known, like Nuun, and local, start-ups, like nutty life) has been such an added pleasure to my new blogging lifestyle!
  • As always, I’m looking forward to my RunYoga series tomorrow, led by Cara Gilman–word on the street is that tomorrow we’ll be doing some speed work on a local track and then slowly down our yoga practice with a deeper meditation style…all of this sounds very different from what I’m used to and, therefore, AWESOME! I can’t wait to tell you more about it later this week.

Well, that’s all from me for now. Enjoy what’s left of your Sunday and make sure to share this sweet potato recipe with someone you love…it is Sunday after all, a traditional American family get together kinda day! I sure do miss my family since they’re all back home in New Jersey and so these are the kinds of things that I share with them to close the gap between us and let them know I’m thinking of them and they’re health and well-being and sending them love by way of healthy alternative recipes. 🙂

Sending you happy and healthy vibes to start your week,
-Meg

Mixing up those greens.

Let’s start your week off right with some creative alternatives for your healthy meals!

But first, I’m going to shoot straight with you: I have always been an admitted salad hater. I grew up hearing people around me order salads at restaurants as a “healthy substitute” for a big meal, like dinner…something to just help them to lose weight, a la dressing on the side. Now these were just your basic, bare-boned salads with a hint of protein: lettuce, grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, shaved carrots, and a light vinaigrette (kept on the side to portion your calories properly, of course). Because I was surrounded by these kinds of salad-eaters, something within me ignited a deep hatred for the salad; so much so that nothing infuriated me more than hearing someone order a salad and I began to mock the salad eaters, vowing to never become one of them.

Now bear with me…I’m a little older and more mature and open-minded in my views now. I understand the reasons why I disdained the substitute-a-meal-with-a-salad eaters and have decided to approach it with the mindset of: “Hey-whatever floats your boat, but it’s just personally not my cup of tea.” It still didn’t make me enjoy eating salads or feel like they could fill me up and fuel my active lifestyle and felt like they should be left to the rabbits to munch on. That was, until I discovered what kind of salad could work for me and my needs.

Those who know me well would tell you that I can take anything from a refrigerator-even things that usually don’t mix well together-and throw it together to create some kind of a hodgepodge of a meal and be thrilled with it; they would also say that I can throw anything together over two handfuls of lettuce and call it a salad. I like to think that I’m just creative and easy-going in that regard. I’ve learned to find what I need from food (protein, veggies, fresh fruits, vitamins, a crunch, etc.) and experiment with hearty meals and snacks to complement my diet for the day and always keep me feeling strong and moving.

And so, for today’s Sunday Snacks edition I’d like to do something different: instead of giving you a new recipe to try out, I’d like to share with you some of my all-time favorite salad toppers, broken down into categories to get your own creative juices flowing. Maybe you are a basic salad hater like me or maybe you’re just looking for something new and different to spice up those boring greens…either way I hope this short list adds color and creativity to your meal prep life!

Please note that I am not writing this post with the knowledge and authority of a nutritionist. I am simply sharing my personal opinions and experiences with playful salad toppers that keep me fueled and happy. For a full disclosure statement regarding what Meg in the Meantime’s purpose is and my personal qualifications, please check out my About Me section or, just consider the image below. 🙂

Koalafications

Meg’s favorite salad toppers to mix up those plain greens:

  1. Meats/Fish: I love meat so almost every salad I made will incorporate a major portion of protein like steak tips, tuna, salmon, etc. Obviously chicken falls into this category, as well but I try to avoid going the basic route of grilled chicken when you can be so much more creative with your pairings when you use something like a steak or tuna. Steaks are great and juicy and, when combined with the right kind of cheese sprinkled on top, will make you forget you even have greens underneath! Tuna is a great, creamy salad topper and-when mixed with a lite Mayo or Greek yogurt-does not really call for a salad dressing to go with it.
  2. Fruits: Both fresh and dried fruits can add a sweetness to your salad that can combat the blandness of your basic greens, as well as add a nice, succulent crunch to each bite. Think: apples, pears, grapes, dried cranberries (Craisins) pomegranate seeds, avocado (I just learned that it’s considered a fruit, at its core), etc. You can dice some of these fruits up into little cubes or shave them off into long, thin slices–both will give a nice color and texture to your salad!
  3. Veggies: When building your salads, vegetables can give you the most bang for your buck in terms of flavor, fiber, vitamins, and crunch. Besides the obviously carrot topping, versatile veggies like corn, sugar snap peas, and beets are some of my favorites to throw onto a salad and usually pair nicely with most cheeses and meats. Diced beets have become a newfound favorite of mine last year when I searching for something to serve as a good anti-inflammator, but you can read more about the amazing health benefits of beets here.
  4. Cheeses: Of course cheese are not the most healthy addition to salads, but when used proportionately it can add great flavor and serve as a rich source of necessary calcium to your meal. Some of my favorite non-traditional cheeses to put on salads are goat cheese, brie, and feta-depending on what your main protein pairing is. As you can tell, I prefer less crumbly cheese and more creamy/spreadable cheese because it helps fight the urge to drown my greens in a creamy, fatty salad dressing.
  5. Nuts: There’s no better way to incorporate protein-while doubling your crunch factor-than by adding nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios, to your salad. While rich in healthy fats, nuts are meant to be more of a light salad topper-whether crushed up and sprinkled, shaved down for an added textural element, or broken up to really add a crunch-so make sure to use sparingly and beware of those drenched in salts, sugars, and glazes.
  6. Alternative dressings:  Let’s face it-a dressing can either make or break your salad, but it’s usually the thing we pile on the most when trying to drown out those greens, like lettuce and kale. Some healthier alternatives from store-bought salad dressings are Greek Yogurt (yes, me again promoting Greek Yogurt) or a DIY light vinaigrette. My personal favorite DIY salad dressing recipes come from Michelle via her blog, Sunshine & Superfoodsdefinitely check it out if you’re interested in saving some money and making your own creative dressings. You can also always play it simple and add strong flavor (with minimal calories) to your salad by using the juice from a lemon or lime.

While salads are still a symbol of a healthy meal, I’ve come to realize that you have to bring your own personality to the table to really make salad eating more of a willing habit than a dreadful, desperate attempt at cutting calories…keeping in mind the moderation of toppings to still consume a health-conscious meal. But that’s just my opinion–what’s yours? Again, I’m no nutritionist or salad-expert, just a former hater who’s opening up her heart and stomach to the idea of incorporating more salads in her life so I would love to hear your thoughts on my funky salad topping choices, as well as some of your own! Comment below or Tweet at me: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, today is Memorial Day-how are you spending it? I like to consider national holidays, such as this one, a day to not only reflect and be grateful for those who served our country and fought for our freedoms and rights, but also a time to spend in solitude being grateful for the freedom that our bodies entitle us to: to move about, run around, and explore. Today, I’ll be going for a quick 3 miler to stay on track with my 10k training and to relish in all things that running has given to me that I am forever grateful for.

Until Wednesday, wishing you wellness!
-Meg