Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, New Run!

Just got back from the first run of 2010: 15* F, sunny, blue skies and snowy surroundings in Chicago. What a great way to start the decade!

But I'm not following a new year's resolution. In fact, as a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I'm happy to be several years into my change of lifestyle and health so that the following comment describes where I'm at. As was posted on the WW website,

"I think the best resolution, in terms of weight loss, would be to take control of eating and self-destructive behaviors, eat healthy, exercise and generally take care of ourselves to the point where we don't have any New Years' resolutions to make."

Exactly. No resolution. Just keep on running.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

This is a great breakfast, post-workout meal or treat in the cool autumnal weather.

1 cup organic oatmeal
(appx. 1/2 cup dry)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 T. dried cranberries
1/2 T. organic flax seed
Cinnamon & Nutmeg to taste

Prepare the oatmeal in water as directed. When cooked, add the pumpkin until heated through. Then add flax seed, spices and cranberries.

Enjoy the vitamins, fiber and fall flavor! Add pecans or walnuts to give even more health benefits.

Only 4.5 WW Points (TM).

Graphics by Ann Hetzel Gunkel / Digital Supplies by Scrap Girls

Monday, August 18, 2008

Eating to Run: Chlodnik (Polish Cold Beet Soup)

This recipe is posted on my local & organic food blog, which may be of interest to those of you pursuing health & fitness. Our locavore food blog is Our Year of Eating Locally. Enjoy!

Chlodnik (hwod-neek) is the ultimate Polish summer soup. It is beautiful, healthful and splendid. David demonstrated this recipe several years back in his appearance on WTTW-TV's Your Chicago Kitchen. It is a cold soup that tastes MUCH better if left in the fridge overnight for the flavors to meld and intensify. It is incredibly simply to make and the only heat needed in the kitchen is baking the beets.

4 cups buttermilk
1 medium cucumber, quartered and diced
1 bunch radishes, sliced
4 - 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
3 -4 red beets, roasted, peeled & diced
salt for roasting beets
sour cream or plain yogurt for garnish

Roast beets in foil (Wrap each individually drizzled with olive oil and salt) at 450 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool, peel and dice beets. Mix all ingredients in a crock or large bowl. Refrigerate over night. As a meal, its great with a side of boiled, dilled potatoes and an added hard-boiled egg for protein. For serving, add a last-minute dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Graphics Notes:
Photo & Design (c) 2008 Ann Hetzel Gunkel.
Digital Supplies by Thao Cosgrove courtesy of Scrap Girls.

Local food Notes:
BEETS from Genesis Growers, St. Anne, Illinois
CUCUMBER from Angelic Organics Farm, Caledonia, Illinois
Local RADISHES from Happy Foods
DILL from the Gunkel garden, Chicago

Eating to Run: Tropical Chicken Sandwich

Lots of folks I meet ask for recipes and tips to my WW success. Since I continue to maintain my goal weight a year and a half later, mixing it up with healthy new recipes helps a lot. My newest super healthy, go-to sandwich was adapted from a recipe in Prevention magazine. It has all the good stuff: whole grain, fruit, veggies, protein and MUFAs (Monounsaturated Fats AKA ""good fats.")

Ann's Tropical Chicken Sandwich

1 lg slice of whole grain bread, cut in half (or whole grain roll)
2 oz. chicken white meat (leftovers from the grill, canned in water or lunch meat)
1 small-medium, ripe avocado, mashed
1/2 lime (for juice)
1 mango, sliced
Tabasco sauce

Mash the avocado, fresh lime juice and Tabasco into a mixture. Spread about 1/3 a cup of the mixture on both slices of the sandwich. Add chicken on one side. Add about 1/2 cup mango slices on the other. Stack up for a filling, delicious, healthy sandwich!

Note: Using 1 slice of whole grain bread, 2 oz of chicken, 1/3 cup avocado mixture and 1/2 cup mango, this sandwich clocks in at 6.5 WW points (TM). For me, that's a tad high, but it is extremely nutritious and very filling.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Old But Gets Good Mileage

The challenge I gave myself was to run 1000 miles from my 44th birthday to my 45th. Well, 45 is now here and the results are in. Did I meet my goal? Not quite. But in retrospect, I'm glad to have set a goal even if it slipped away. It was a tough year, with the worst winter in 20 years (I do run outside in Chicago, after all) and numerous family deaths & illnesses, but I persisted.

With my 875 miles in the past year, I've exceeded anything I ever thought possible. And now that I'm solidly middle-aged? Well...the attempt for 1000 miles begins again today (with my brand new birthday present Garmin 405 GPS running watch.)

Layout & Design (c) 2008 Ann Hetzel Gunkel. Digital supplies at Scrap Girls.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Sprint Triathalon

I didn't know there was a name for it at first. But my competitive persona wanted some form of challenge beyond the daily run, something like a"mini-triathalon" until I discovered the official nomenclature of "sprint triathalon." On vacation at our in-laws' place in Wisconsin, we decided it was time to mix it up and push beyond the usual. Thus, the UNO (Up North Olympics) were born. The rules were simple: a run, a bike route on the country roads and then some sort of water travel via swim or self-propelled craft on the lake.

David took the challenge first with a 7 mile run, a 24 mile bike route and sailboarding the Lake's diameter and back. My triathalon day was a bit more conservative (I guess I was a tad concerned I didn't have it in me) consisting of an 8 mile run, followed by a 12 mile bike ride and concluding with a 2 mile kayak round the perimeter of Lake Irogami. It wasn't terribly difficult but was tremendously satisfying.

Why take a perfectly good vacation and create such a task? Well for one, the need to at least make a showing is pretty strong when the patriarch of the family, Dziadzia, can do all this and much more on any given day. Secondly, there is something inherently energizing about a challenge. The buried machismo surfaces and one's killer competitive instinct emerges. Against whom was I competing? The toughest opponent of all: myself! And there's the payoff. I also get to be the victor. And plan for the next battle (as my inner Klingon rejoices.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"Now bid me run..."

"Now bid me run,
And I will strive with things impossible,
Yea, get the better of them."

- William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

The past six months have been a train wreck for our family (note the lack of posts to this blog, for example.) But through it all, I've kept running, and therefore I'm running right on out of the mess. As a runner, I've kept on keeping on, tried my best to strive with things impossible and now, I hope, have got the better of them. I share this with the blogosphere not to circulate misery but as a case study in the power of running.

Here's the soap-opera style back story. In the past six months (warning: just reading this list is exhausting):

My father died; we buried his ashes the day before Thanksgiving; three weeks later, my aunt died; four weeks later another aunt died; my mother became ill with what was feared to be cancer--insurance refused to pay for the necessary tests (BTW, she's fine, thank goodness); I developed severe GI problems, undergoing abdominal CT scans (I'm fine, thank goodness); my childhood best friend & best man at our wedding was diagnosed with cancer and began a very difficult treatment regimen; the campus where my husband in a Professor (NIU) experienced a massacre; yet another aunt became seriously ill; I underwent biopsy surgery after an abnormal mammogram (it was benign, thank goodness).

All this unfolded while I managed to maintain a full-time job, several part-time volunteer positions, full-time parenting, home and family. And I'll add (somewhat crankily) that during it all, my friends and associates were all so consumed with their own considerable responsibilities that I received not so much as a phone call asking me out for a cup of coffee in that six months time. (In all fairness to them, when you appear to be superwoman, folks start believing that you are invincible.)

Not surprisingly, I started to have some GI problems and feel kinda depressed. It became harder and harder to keep up my running mileage (add to this the worst Chicago winter in twenty years). I got a tad careless with watching my diet. (Go the midst of all this, coffee and cake started to sound pretty good.) I've discovered that I can look at this past winter of discontent (sorry, different Shakespeare play!) in two ways.

--The "bad side" of the equation (for which I've heartily and thoroughly berated myself):

* My mileage dropped from 5 miles a day/6 days a week to something like 3 miles a day/4 days
a week.
* My weight went from fighting weight (my personal preferred and top performance size) back up to my goal weight (about a 9-10 # gain).

--The "good side" of the equation (In which, in all honesty, I take little satisfaction, being a
perfectionist in all things):

* In the midst of (severe) Chicago winter and all this family chaos, I still ran 3 miles a day (outdoors) 4 or 5 days a week.
* I've maintained my Weight Watchers goal weight for a year, even through all this family turmoil (no mean feat).

In other words, after six months of pretty tough times, its time to give myself a break. Its time to cut my Type A persona some slack and decide that the past six months are a victory rather than a failure. Statistically, I know that--unlike me--most (U.S.) folks don't exercise at all, hit the drive-thru daily, imbibe copious amounts of corn syrup & alcohol, and mainline processed junk food.

Through a really demanding professional and personal life and many family crises, my health and fitness habits were strong enough that I maintained regular exercise, continued eating a healthy diet (if a bit higher in calories than I'd like), ate tons of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and never did anything as idiotic as the drive-thru window. Oh, and I maintained my goal weight through it all.

And now, at long last, summer is upon us in Chicago. And while I'm not in what I consider to be "top fighting form," I'm still standing. With the return of summer in the city, I've kicked it back into gear. My running mileage is climbing once again....and hopefully, those last few pounds between goal weight and personal best are on the chopping block.

And that's the beauty of the running life.
You keep on keeping on.
Its what you do.
And sooner or later, you "get the better" of things impossible.