Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 23: Best Meatless Monday Yet

Meatless Mondays have been something of a struggle over the last few weeks, but yesterday might have been my best one.

For lunch I made stuffed shells. Here's the basic recipe (apologies for vague measurements, I eyeballed it):

  • 12-16 large pasta shells, cooked to al dente and rinsed with cold water.
  • Half of a medium zucchini, diced.
  • Half of a red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Roughly 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • Roughly 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 tbsp Tuscan Sunset (Italian seasoning)
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
Saute the zucchini and bell pepper with salt and pepper in a little olive oil until tender, then set aside on a plate to cool for a moment. Combine the ricotta, half the mozzarella cheese and seasoning in a medium bowl.

To stuff the shells, put a large spoonful of the diced vegetables inside a shell. Then cover that with a spoonful of the cheese mixture and place stuffing-side up in a 9x9 baking dish. Spoon the pasta sauce over the shells, spread it out as evenly as you can, then cover that with the rest of the mozzarella. 

Either cover this with nonstick foil or foil you've sprayed with cooking spray, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. After that remove the foil and broil until the cheese has browned.

That was pretty good, but I'm even prouder of dinner: Nine vegetable crock pot tacos. The recipe is pretty simple:
  • 2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 uncooked ears of corn, with the kernels cut off the cob
  • Half of a red bell pepper, seeded and diced.
  • Half of a medium zucchini, shredded
  • One jar of your favorite salsa
  • One packet of taco seasoning
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • One red onion, diced
  • Roma tomatoes, diced
  • Radishes, sliced thinly
  • Lettuce, shredded
  • Avocado, sliced or diced
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded light Mexican cheese
  • Flour tortillas
Combine the beans, corn, pepper, zucchini, salsa, taco seasoning and cornstarch in a slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve on the tortillas with the remaining ingredients.

We liked this enough that we're eating leftovers of it again tonight, which is a Meatless Monday first.

Exercise log: DDR, although I lost track of my calorie count.

Another sign that my plan is working: Today I'm using the second hole on my belt. I haven't used that in years.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saturday, July 21: Push Through

I didn't sleep much at all Friday night. Something I ate during the day must have disagreed with me, as I had pretty significant stomach pain and couldn't really get comfortable.

I was tired and still in some pain yesterday morning, but I managed to find a way to work through it. We still went to the Farmers Market (picture later if I get around to it), and when we got home I recognized the best opportunity I was going to get all day for a run. It was about 10 am and starting to get warmer, but it was overcast and still somewhat cool (in the upper 70's).

All I really wanted to do was go back to bed, but my mother-in-law and I went out and got 3.58 miles in before the sun started to come out and the humidity became too much to bear. I probably wouldn't have gotten as far as I did on my own, so having someone with me to set a pace really helped out here.

I'll be honest: After this run I spent a big chunk of the afternoon in bed (watching cartoons instead of sleeping), got up to eat dinner and watch a Brewer game, took the dog for a short walk and then went back to bed early. But at least I still managed to get my run in.

Exercise log: Saturday - 3.58 mile run and a 0.9 mile dog walk (with a brief sprint in the middle when he got loose and took off after a skunk)

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20: Sneaking In Some Vegetables (And A Weigh In)

The Brewers are in Cincinnati and Philadelphia for the next six days, which creates some awkward schedule issues. They play at 6 pm tonight, tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday and at 11 am Sunday and Wednesday.

Brewer games that encroach on meal times make it a challenge to eat healthy: All of a sudden I'm losing an hour or two I could have spent making sure I'm eating better.

I didn't get a chance to make dinner until 5:30 tonight, so my time was somewhat limited. I gave in and tossed in a frozen pizza, but while I was waiting for the oven to preheat I shredded and sauteed a zucchini with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Tuscan Sunset. I spread that on top of the pizza before it went in the oven and instantly had an extra vegetable to go with what could have been a massive fail of a meal.

Exercise log: I've fallen behind writing here over the last few days, but I have gotten workouts in.

  • Wednesday - I had to wait until almost 11 pm to do it (morning work, afternoon Brewer game, night Timber Rattlers game which went to extra innings), but I ran 2.8 miles.
  • Thursday - In between my morning work and a 2 pm radio booking I hit the gym and swam for 35 minutes.
  • Friday - 350 calories worth of DDR this afternoon followed by a half hour dog walk.
Finally, Thursday's trip to the gym meant another opportunity to check my weight. I had last checked on July 6, when I weighed exactly 260 lbs. My plan must be working, because on Thursday after getting out of the pool I weighed exactly 255. That means I've lost roughly 12-14 lbs in the last month, which is both incredibly encouraging and probably not sustainable. Nonetheless, I'm feeling really good about my progress.

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 13-16: Recapping A Weekend Away And Falling Back Into The Fire

I'm several days behind here, so let's do the quick version"

Friday was a fail. I had to rush through my morning stuff to make it to Milwaukee in time for an afternoon meeting and a Brewer game, didn't find time for exercise and didn't really improve much in terms of food.

Saturday we went to the Wauwatosa Farmers Market (forgot to take a picture of our purchases, sorry), a sporting goods store, lunch, the beach, dinner and Bastille Days in Milwaukee. I didn't eat spectacularly well on this day, but I covered for it a little bit by passing up on several opportunities to drink and having nothing but water all day.

Sunday we went to another Brewer site's tailgate party and I made an interesting discovery: I brought two kinds of hard cider along: A Michelob Ultra Cider that was supposed to be a little lighter and a Magner's Pear cider that wasn't as light. It turns out the difference between the two is only five calories per bottle. So I might be drinking more pear cider going forward.

I also ran 3.48 miles when I got home Sunday night, which has to be the most I've ever run on the same day where I've attended a Brewer game.

Today has been a rough day. I was anticipating taking a break to exercise and maybe do something fun this afternoon, but immediately after I finished writing this morning I was presented with breaking (and then slow developing) news regarding Zack Greinke and as a result I've been at my desk all day. I managed to sneak in about 300 calories worth of DDR (with a long break in the middle to come check for news).

In more positive news, though, today's Meatless Monday is going as planned. I had roasted vegetable soup and a grilled cheese for lunch, and I'm having sun dried tomato and spinach pizza for dinner.

So, to sum up, here are my single things for the last four days:

Friday: FAIL
Saturday: Drink nothing but water
Sunday: Go a little lighter at the tailgate, sneak a run into a day where I normally wouldn't.
Monday: Meatless Monday

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12: Make Up For It

I'll start with an admission: Yesterday was something of a fail. Every year a few members of my family and I go on a day trip adventure to someplace we haven't been before. This year we went to Jefferson County, WI to visit three places:
  • An old archeological dig (perfectly healthy)
  • A local history museum (also healthy, even if it did feature a "dairy shrine")
  • ...and a county fair. 
As you might have guessed, the county fair wasn't my healthiest choice. I didn't go as crazy as I could have gone but still had a giant burrito, deep fried cheese curds and half a cream puff. We brought healthy snacks along for the car and I ate some of those too, but I didn't exercise.

Today I did the best thing I could do: Follow up my unhealthy day with a better one today. Here are my meals for today:

Breakfast: An "instant breakfast" shake.
Lunch: A cup of soup and two salads from a salad bar.
Dinner: Taco salad, chips and salsa.

I waited a while after dinner, then went for another long run. 5.58 miles tonight, the longest run of my life by almost a full mile (and the second longest came earlier this week). I'm not sure why running is getting so much easier, but it's almost surreal how much better I feel than I did a month ago.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10: Personal Bests

Before I start looking at today I'd like to tell the rest of yesterday's story, because I didn't get around to updating the post last night.

After dinner, frustrated with a less than stellar day, I decided to go out for a run. The timing wasn't perfect: I was still full and wasn't sure I'd be able to do all of the 1.6 mile route I'd planned out without stopping. I figured I'd give it a shot and if I had to I'd walk for a while.

I was on the home stretch of the run and still feeling really good, so I turned off the route and tacked on another half mile. Then I turned the other way, crossed the main road and kept going. And detoured through another neighborhood. And around a pond. And through another subdivision. And back across the south half of our subdivision.

I actually didn't decide to come home until I was worried people would be starting to worry about me - I had left for a 1.6 mile run and been gone over an hour. I remapped the route when I got home and found I'd gone 4.65 miles, the longest run of my life. It's the furthest I've run in 2012 by a mile and a half.

I figured I'd be sore this morning, but I still felt surprisingly strong. So I set another personal best with a 520 calorie DDR session before lunch.

I'm not sure where this sudden burst of energy and stamina came from, although having lost a few pounds is probably helping. I'm just hoping it lasts for a while, because these last couple of workouts have actually been fun.

Monday, July 09, 2012

July 9: A Meatless Setback

I had a challenging day today. It was Meatless Monday, as it's been for three weeks now. I worked pretty hard to make it work despite a challenging schedule, but the meals I made were somewhat underwhelming and were not well received.

Not everything goes like you think it should. I guess. I'm going to go for a run now.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

July 8: Make It A Little Healthier

Mac and cheese is one of my biggest weaknesses. I run a site full of recipes for it. I buy boxes of it from Amazon by the case. If I could just give up mac and cheese it'd probably knock pounds off my waistline and add years to my life. But that would be a drastic change and, as we've discussed before, I'm not convinced of my ability to maintain drastic change over the long haul.

What I can do, however, is make it a little healthier.

Everyone once in a while Laura gets a phone call as she's getting ready for work to let her know she can come in late if she wants. That happened today, meaning she was unexpectedly home for lunch. I dug into the pantry and pulled out a box of the mac and cheese above. I supplemented it, though, with all of the following:

  • 1/4 cup milk, 2 tbsp butter, a handful of shredded cheese and black and red pepper (as usual)
  • A leftover venison hamburger, crumbled.
  • One zucchini, sliced, basted with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper, grilled and chopped
  • A good-sized fistful of snow pea pods, steamed and cut into bite-sized pieces.
I served this with half a peach so the meal was a serving of fruit, a serving or two of vegetables and a serving of lean meat in addition to the usual carbs and dairy. It wasn't my most visually appealing meal ever, but I thought it tasted pretty good. And adding everything above stretched the meal into two large servings, an added bonus.

Did I exercise today? Yes, I ran 1.4 miles. First run outside in over a week.

July 7: Behave Yourself

After five straight days of temperatures in the mid 90's or above, yesterday was beautiful. Temperatures dropped back into the mid 70's in the morning with a nice breeze and finally, I could go outside again.

As usual I spent yesterday morning at the farmers market, then came home and tried to take the dog for a long walk. Gorman, however, wanted none of it. After about half a mile he laid down in the grass and wouldn't go any further. He's never done that to me before, but later inspection showed he's got some sore spots on the bottoms of his little feet. I think he might have burned them on the pavement in the heat this week.

At any rate, after my abbreviated walk (I managed to get G to come home slowly) I took a shower, did some reading outside, watched the first inning of the Brewer game, went grocery shopping, made dinner, went to a Timber Rattlers game and stopped by a neighbor's campfire. Unfortunately, I didn't find time for any more exercise.

At the game I saw someone carrying a bowl of ice cream and it looked incredible. I mentioned it to the friend who came to the game with me (who's also trying to do a little better) and she noticed it, but followed it by saying "I'm trying to behave."

That was all the reminder I needed that I'm supposed to be behaving too. I passed on the ice cream (and later s'mores) until a day where I'd done more to balance it out.

Did I exercise today? Not really, see above.

Finally, for those of you who care, here's a picture of yesterday's farmers market haul:

From (roughly) left to right that's red potatoes, blueberries, granola, snow peas, zucchini, cheese (a 2 yr cheddar), turnips, nine grain sourdough bread, beets and carrots.

Friday, July 06, 2012

July 6: Doubling Up

After a few days of relatively light exercise, today I carved some time out of my schedule to make sure I made up for it a bit. So, once my morning work was wrapped up I headed to the gym (it's still too hot to run outside) for a 1.4 mile run followed by half an hour of swimming.

The pool, unfortunately, brought an unwelcome surprise. I had thought my sore knee was feeling better, but apparently kicking with my left leg is still pretty painful. As such, even my usual slow laps (mostly with a kickboard) were much slower than usual and I was only able to complete a couple of laps without any flotation help. When I was done I rewarded myself with a trip down the slide.

There is good news, though: I stepped on the scale before getting dressed and weighed in at exactly 260 lbs (I tried to nudge the scale down into the 250s but it would have none of it.). I'm not sure how far down I am since I didn't weigh in when I started this project, but I'm confident it was closer to 270. So I'm pretty happy with my progress.

Did I exercise today? Yes, 1.4 miles of running and half an hour of steady swimming.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

July 5: Battling Through Soreness

I've been complaining about being sore from this week's raspberry picking for a few days now, and today is no exception. I'm still not able to bend either leg without pain, and I must look ridiculous when I try to walk right now.

With that said, I wasn't going to skip out on exercise two days in a row. So today I busted the DDR back out and decided to see what I could do.

I was actually surprised to discover that, after a few minutes to warm up, I was able to go pretty close to full speed. I burned around 390 calories in 45 minutes this morning and only stopped because I needed to take Gorman to a vet appointment. Once I cooled off my legs tightened up again, but it's good to know that exercise seems to make them feel better.

So, all told, I'm glad I pushed myself.

Did I exercise today? Yes, see above.

July 4: Staying Hydrated

As I've mentioned a couple of other times, it's really hot in Wisconsin this week. I just burned my feet walking out to get the mail. So I've been maximizing my time inside.

With that said, I couldn't stay inside all week. Yesterday we had tickets to the Brewer game and stayed through ten innings and 3:33 (plus time walking in and out and some time inside before the game) despite the fact that it was over 100 degrees at game time.

Our seats were in the shade, thankfully, but it was still hot and the only breeze was coming from people around us fanning themselves with anything that wasn't nailed down. It would've been an easy day to allow the heat to become an issue and get dehydrated. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, it would've been easy  to drink lots of unhealthy things in the interest of staying hydrated.

Fortunately Miller Park allows fans to carry in liquids in factory-sealed containers, so we were able to bring in a small cooler and drink lots of water during the game. Thinking back, I'm pretty sure I went through 72 ounces of water, a 12 ounce diet soda, a 32 ounce Powerade Zero and eight ounces of chocolate milk over the course of the day.

Because I made sure to stay ahead of dehydration yesterday I woke up this morning feeling better than I expected. So that's something, I guess.

Did I exercise today? No, between spending four hours in the sun, not getting home until after 9 (and still needing dinner at that point) and my soreness from raspberry picking on Tuesday, I skipped a day yesterday. I'm not proud of that, but I can live with the decision.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

July 3: Not All Exercise Is Fruitless

The title of this post is a terrible play on words, and for that I refuse to apologize.

Last week I mentioned that Laura and I tried unsuccessfully to go raspberry picking. Today, however, a rainy morning and 90+ degree temps during the day meant the farm didn't get picked out so early and I was able to go by myself.

I headed out around 11 this morning thinking I'd pick for an hour or so. 2 1/2 hours later I was loading my car after picking ~8 pounds of berries in the hot sun. It's not my typical exercise, but multiple hours stooping over to pick berries was easily the most grueling workout I've had in several weeks. I'm going to be ridiculously sore tomorrow.

With that said, I have five cookie sheets worth of berries in the freezer and I got my workout for today. It's a good day.

Monday, July 02, 2012

July 2: A Little Moderation

Exercise is going to be a little bit difficult this week. My knee is feeling better but as of 4 pm today we're under a heat advisory that literally extends through five days. So daylight hour running is more or less out, and last week I learned that late-night running makes a mess of my sleep cycle. I'm probably going to have to get to the gym this week and run inside, as much as I dislike doing that.

At any rate, with exercise opportunities limited today I tried to practice a little self-restraint regarding food. One of our local meat markets makes a great take-and-bake lasagna, and it's a major point of weakness for me. It's sized to be a two-serving meal, but it's delicious and easy to turn into one enormous serving. Add on some garlic bread and it's a meal that could have been featured on the old Thisiswhyyourefat.com site.

So I still made the lasagna tonight even though I was by myself, but I managed to hold myself to half of it. And instead of pairing it with garlic bread or another carb, I filled up on a grilled zucchini.

Did I exercise today? 350 calories worth of DDR. With as hot as it's been outside, DDR has been a fantastic cardio option.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

July 1: Do What You Can

I woke up this morning to an unpleasant but not unexpected discovery: The knee I twisted yesterday felt even worse after stiffening up overnight. I was able to walk on it without too much difficulty, but really struggled to go up and down stairs or do any other bending. I'd like this knee to get better, so I decided not to pound on it by running.

Knowing that my workout level would be down a bit today, I tried to knock down the unhealthiness of my food a little bit. I had a salad for lunch and made a trifle for dessert tonight with leftover angel food cake, sugar-free pudding and fresh fruit. I probably negated all of these gains by having french fries with dinner, but every little step taken is better than no step at all.

For exercise today, I tried to limit the impact on my sore knee by going swimming. The combination of the crowds, the areas open for swimming and my personal fear of deep water meant I didn't do much swimming, though. I did a lot more standing around in water. That was fun and refreshing, but didn't really count as a workout.

Fortunately, by 10 tonight my knee was starting to loosen up a bit and I was able to play some DDR. 306 calories tonight, and I didn't really start to get sore until near the end. I'll call that progress.

I'm also heading into my week on a better rest level because I've slept in each of the last two mornings. I slept 9 1/2 hours last night, which has to be the most I've logged at once in months or years.

Did I exercise today? Covered above.

June 30: Facing A Fear

I'm 29 years old and a terrible swimmer. I might as well start with that. For a variety of reasons I never really learned how as a kid. The concept of being underwater is about as scary to me as anything I can imagine. I've gotten better at swimming over the last few years but I still do everything I can to keep my head above water.

I'm also not great with heights. It's not nearly as bad as my fear of being underwater, but it's notable. I'm clumsy and I don't like being near/on things that may fall or cause me to fall. If you saw how clumsy I am day-to-day, you might think this fear is completely rational.

At any rate, Saturday gave me an opportunity to cram both of those fears into one package. While on a day trip to visit our friend Andrea, we visited a "jumping rock" on Chute Pond near Mountain.

The rock itself is probably scarier to me than it is to most people. It's only roughly 8 feet high, so it's not like you're jumping off a cliff, and the water underneath is probably between 8-10 feet deep. But that combination of facts meant I'd be underwater, which I hate, and would have to find my way back to the surface and work my way back to dry land.

I had convinced myself I was going to do this, even though the concept of doing so was already freaking me out on Friday. And it took several false starts and a lot of convincing from my wife, Andrea and miscellaneous strangers but I did it.

Most of my false starts involved taking a few running steps towards the edge of the rock and then pulling up at the last second. My actual success wasn't much different. I actually thought I was going to stop at the last second but for whatever reason I took that extra step. I remember nothing of the fall, but I do recall hitting the bottom and frantically finding the surface for that first breath of air.

I thought that once I'd done this once it'd be no big deal and I'd want to do it again. That was not the case. I hung out on the rock for a few minutes before deciding I'd had enough and moving on to our next stop.

Did I exercise today? Yes, but I didn't run. I did the little bit of swimming I mentioned below (and I could still feel the adrenaline rush from it six hours later), walked about two miles and climbed a fire tower.

During the aforementioned walk, I slipped on a wet rock and twisted my knee a little. I don't think it's serious but it's pretty sore today and is probably going to make exercise an interesting challenge for a couple of days.