23 April 2012

Tips for Starting Your Own Vegetable Garden.

One obvious benefit of growing your own food is the cost savings.  A single plant will cost the same as a single, store-bought bunch.  But your plant will continue to “produce”, will always offer fresh, convenient ingredients, is organically-grown and is of itself an unprocessed, whole food!

Our family started a garden last summer.  We don’t have acres with a lot of space to plant, nor do we have ideal soil for growing, so we built raisedbeds for an easy way to begin our garden in a neat, compact way.   Note: choose a south-facing site with maximum sun exposure. 

Learn from our mistakes and respect the space you have, don’t over plant.  We went off a design provided by our local greenhouse, but still ended up with carrots too tight to grow, zucchini leaves overshadowing the lettuce, and overlapping tomato plants that resulted in hard-to-reach, rotten fruit.  

Having learned from last year’s experience, here’s what I recommend: 
-  Only plant the foods you regularly eat, otherwise you end up tossing or giving it away.  
 - Separate your herbs from your vegetables.  (Herbs are only cut as needed or trimmed when flowering, and tend to get dwarfed and forgotten next to the larger vegetable plants.) 
- Check your garden every day to catch the fruit at peak ripenessand avoid spoilage or overgrown vegetables, which are tougher and duller to eat.

Not sure where to start?  Here’s a list of herbs and vegetables we use often in Italian, Mexican and American dishes:

Basil (not as weather-resilient as other herbs), rosemary (survives snow), chives (invasive and needs to be contained), oregano, parsley and cilantro.
Tomatoes (need to be staked or caged), carrots, sugar snap peas (some varieties climb), lettuce, green beans, zucchini (large leaves) and red pepper.

This year, I found a few garden designs that I liked at Gardener’sSupply Company, complete with planting guidelines and tips for growing.   Early May is a good time in the NorthEast, after the threat of frost, to start your garden (seeds should be started indoors 6 weeks prior).

Go green and grow your own garden!  You're not only eating healthy, but also saving the environment from the price of packing and transportation.

18 April 2012

The Yoga BOSU Ball.

It looks so innocent.  After all, it’s just a big, squishy, blue (half) ball.  How intimidating is that?  It’s almost comical!  The times my yoga instructor has incorporated the BOSU ball into our workout, I felt like a bobbing fool.  Amused at how much harder it is to find balance in Chair-pose on a bubble, I've actually broken into embarrassed giggles when my arms flail to regain my balance.

In addition to being used in yoga for low planks, lunges, crunches and bicycle, entire work-outs have been created using the BOth Sides Up (BOSU) ball for rehab patients and athletes alike.  Designed as a more stable version of the big blue exercise ball, it is used to:
  • ·         improve balance,
  • ·         develop core strength
  • ·         improve functional training and muscular efficiency  

Unlike fixed training equipment, the BOSU ball, free weights and other weight-bearing equipment develop muscular balance and joint stability because the body is controlling the movement of weight on all six degrees of freedom.  By conditioning core muscles and the nervous system, you are better able to maintain form and economize your movements, and in turn improve endurance and explosive power.

If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a go!  A great tool to challenge your workout and mix in some fun, but it does take practice.

11 April 2012

Speedwork Running

This year, instead of just pounding it out on race day I’m taking my race performance more seriously.  Maybe it’s because I’m older.  I could say wiser, but really I’m just trying to counter the effects of age.  Maybe it’s knowing I’ll have to write about it, and I feel pressure to perform.  Whatever the motivation, I’ve set a goal finish time and started officially training, incorporating long runs and speedwork.

Why speedwork?  Done after a 1-2 mile warm up run, it helps condition your body to run harder for longer, improving your overall race time.  It builds strength and endurance.  It trains your body how to burst speed at the end of a race, or when you want to break away from another runner.    

What is speedwork?  Essentially it's running shorter distances at a faster speed.  It can be negative-split intervals where you run a set distance 4x, faster each time with a brief recovery in between.  It can be hill work with a recovery jog back down.  Or simply the Fartlek method of playing with surges of speed.  

Speedwork, for mid-distance races, is good to start four to eight weeks before race day.  Distance and speed depend upon the length of your race.  In general, the shorter your interval the faster you should run it.  For example, run 200 meters 12-15% faster than your race pace (mile intervals run 3-5% faster than race pace, and adjust for distances in-between.)   I should note that speedwork isn't running full out, but faster at a controlled speed (no point hurting yourself.)

Stay tuned ... Run.4.Fun in 23 days!
Goal: 5k - sub 25:00 (5/4/12), F 40-44

04 April 2012

No Excuses

I’m training for a 5k in early May, and know I need to add a few 3 and 4-mile runs into my program if I want to reach my goal of breaking 25 minutes.  Ugh!  I have a mental block about running further than 2 miles.  I don’t know why that extra mile seems like such a drain on my time and energy, but it does.

My husband/coach just shakes his head.  I know, it’s all in my head.  He advises me, “Just slow down.  Don’t go out at your tempo pace.  Go for a nice jog and enjoy the sunshine.”  

I had a few more excuses to avoid that 4 mile run, like my schedule is too tight this week.  It's too cold.  I have exercise-induced asthma, a condition that appeared after I had mono as a teenager, which makes running in cold air a labored and deliberate task.

Finally, yesterday I put on layers, found a mellow playlist and just jogged … for four miles.  It’s hard to stay disciplined and motivated day in and day out, so I found this motivational video to remind me.  Stop making excuses.