Don’t even think about reminding me that I haven’t blogged in three weeks, I’m doing my best…except not really. I’ve been here and there and everywhere during this time, but I truly have no excuses for my absence.

My biggest adventure during this time was a trip to Colorado to reunite with my sister. It was an awesome trip, albeit one filled with sleepless nights and basically everyone catching a cold.

We spent time in Denver and in Vail, where we basically went from 70 degrees down to the low 30s! I’m still working on a recap post so stay tuned.

Other that this adventure, not much else has been going on in life. My friends and I went to Glazed Expressions recently, a BYOB painting studio, where we let loose our inner artist. I was pretty ambitious with my project, and it turned out shockingly well.

Here’s the before:

And here’s after it was glazed to perfection:

I know right?!? Even I’m surprised at how legit it looks. I totally want to return and do bowls painted as other fruits – oranges, lemons, etc. By the way this wasn’t my original idea…I have Pinterest to thank for the inspiration.

I also embraced my inner baker and whipped up a batch of these blueberry muffin vegan breakfast cookies, which were beyond delicious even though I replaced the dried blueberries with raisins.

I also had a craving for soft pretzels and ended up improvising using whole wheat pizza dough from Whole Foods. This dough is super rubbery and instantly shrinks, so my pretzels came out looking small and weird but tasted great regardless.

Now let’s talk running! I haven’t done any interval training since Valentine’s Day, and I finally dragged myself out to the lake. I was just not feeling it at all and ultimately ended up doing only 4 x 400m instead of the planned 6 x 400m. But I was incredibly pleased to discover that I ran these about 10 seconds faster than when I did them exactly one month ago! I love seeing progress, it’s so encouraging and it inspires me to keep pushing my limits (within reason of course).

4 x 400m Interval Workout (~3 min rest between each interval)
warmup: 0.25 miles in 2:05 min (8:12 min/mile)
interval 1: 1:34 min (6:12 min/mile)
interval 2: 1:32 min (6:06 min/mile)
interval 3: 1:38 min (6:22 min/mile)
interval 4: 1:34 min (6:12 min/mile)
cool-down: 0.25 miles in 2:20 min (9:04 min/mile)

I’ve also continued strength training, with a focus on squats + lunges + hip strength, and I’m almost certain this has contributed to my running gains. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen such rapid (and visible) muscle definition in my legs, and I fully attribute this to doing weighted squats and lunges multiple times a week. Here are some of my most recent runs outside (I run so much slower on a treadmill and don’t keep track of those):

2/16/2017 – 2 miles: 18:03 min @ 9:00 min/mile
2/20/2017 – 3 miles: 26:28 min @ 8:48 min/mile
2/27/2017 – 4 miles: 34:51 min @ 8:42 min/mile
3/4/2017 – 4 miles: 36:30 min @ 9:06 min/mile

These numbers may not seem like much to many people but I’m incredibly proud of myself! I’m thrilled to see that I didn’t lose too much fitness during the two months I took off after the NYC Marathon, and I cannot wait to start formally training in 1.5 weeks for my half marathon. My half marathon PR is over 3 years old, it’s time for a new one.

That’s all I have for today, happy Tuesday!

♥ Irina

*** I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist and am simply sharing my thoughts/experiences ***

Once upon a time, also known as the third week of January this year, I hit a minor breaking point. I was frustrated and angry with my body for a variety of reasons, and I simply felt that we were not on the same wavelength. The issue was apparent but the solution wasn’t. I would eat and wouldn’t feel satisfied, so I would continue to eat and eat and eat. I ate the same healthy & wholesome foods I always enjoyed, but my body was mysteriously unhappy.

On one particular morning after eating a delicious buckwheat waffle for breakfast, I couldn’t believe the sudden cravings that came over me less than two hours later. I was still stuffed to the brim from breakfast but my body demanded more food. This wasn’t anything new…I had been battling this sensation almost daily after breakfast (always a waffle or oatmeal).

buckwheat waffle

(buckwheat waffles – an old sweet favorite)

My mind shifted towards an interesting memory from one morning when my sister and I were having breakfast in my tiny Manhattan apartment. I opted for the usual – a buckwheat waffle – while my sister feasted on a steak ‘n’ eggs stir fry. And suddenly a serious life-changing thought came to my frustrated mind: what would happen if I actually ate something different for breakfast? And so the breakfast challenge was born, and continued for the entire month (week 2, week 3, week 4).

breakfast skillet

(the ultimate savory breakfast – sweet potatoes, avocado, eggs, onions, tomatoes, and cheese)

It may sound exaggerated but trust me completely when I say that this experiment was a game-changer. I had a slight suspicion that physical dissatisfaction was tied to my breakfast choices – buckwheat bakes, oatmeal, waffles, and basically overly sweet/carby meals (usually made with bananas). These were all very healthy, delicious choices but they made my body go haywire.

oatmeal

(oatmeal – my go-to breakfast for years before I ditched it completely)

So I went savory. And it worked. I’m not a dietician or nutritionist so I couldn’t exactly tell you how and why my body loved the change, but I suspect it had a lot to do with unstable blood-sugar levels and lack of protein. Do some research if you’re interested, and you will quickly learn of the possible negative impact that foods such as oats/grains and sweet fruits (i.e. bananas) have on our bodies if eaten first thing in the morning. It’s a bit tragic, I know, but worth giving some extra thought.

meat & eggs

(meat, bread, eggs, and avocado – incredibly filling and beyond delicious)

After doing some research, I came across one major reason to skip the carbs first thing in the morning:

* In the morning, insulin levels are high—eat a high-carb meal, and insulin rises even more, then nosedives quickly, leaving you ravenous by noon. (source)

Obviously this may not apply to many, but it hit the bullseye for me. My carb-filled early morning habit significantly impacted my food choices the rest of the day – I often felt a roller coaster of craving ups and downs.

Nowadays, my favorite breakfast is a simple piece of toast (I love Ezekiel sprouted grain bread) topped with fresh avocado slices and an egg. On hungrier mornings I add in some fish (smoked salmon is my fave) or meat (turkey breast, Prosciutto, chicken sausage). I’m not one to eliminate any food group and I’m clearly not anti-carbs or grains, but the key for me was to focus on maximizing protein and minimizing carbs/grains first thing in the morning.

eggs over toast

(my current #1 breakfast of choice: eggs over avocado toast)

The results were astounding. I stopped having sugary cravings throughout the day and was easily able to go 4+ hours without feeling hunger. This was a big deal considering I would feel hungry as early as 2 hours after eating a huge bowl of oatmeal or a massive buckwheat waffle.

What I always try to include in my daily breakfast (one from each category):
– protein: eggs, cheese, yogurt, meat, fish, beans
– fats: avocado, nut butter
– wholesome carbs: sprouted bread, pita pockets,

What I avoid:
– carb-heavy: waffles, oatmeal, buckwheat bakes, cereal, toast (when eaten alone without protein)
– sweet/sugary: jam, fruits

Don’t misunderstand though. I still occasionally eat these items for breakfast when the craving strikes (vegan plantain pancakes and french toast top the craving list these days), but I usually prefer to consume more carbs in the evening. It quite simply works best for my body. And if I’m really desiring something particular for breakfast then I always eat it, even if it’s oatmeal. Daily variety is also a major factor in “mental satisfaction” after a meal, but that’s a post for another day.

Please note that I do not track my calories or macros, nor do I adhere to any sort of diet. I didn’t cut carbs or grains out of my diet by any means (never, especially as a runner). This girl has no desire to go Paleo or gluten free! I essentially tested my body’s response to different foods which resulted in a shift of what I eat throughout the day, with the addition of more protein overall as well. So how am I doing with my new morning meals? Fantastic! I honestly never crave my old breakfast choices and don’t miss them at all in the mornings (dinner is another story)! And most importantly, I feel happier, energized, and balanced.

*** I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist and am simply sharing my thoughts/experiences. Please please please note that this is what worked for my body, and may not necessarily work for you…many of you thrive off your daily bowl of oats! ***

What is your current go-to breakfast? 

What foods tend to keep you satisfied & full for longest?

♥ Irina

When I first started the Breakfast Challenge, I had absolutely no intention of keeping it up for an entire month. The positive results quickly encouraged me to push out the challenge’s end date week after week. And here I am now, four weeks later and I finally feel content with this stopping point.

Check out the first three weeks here:
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3

7 Day Bfast Challenge R4

Now that I have four weeks of deliciously unique breakfasts under my belt, I’m excited to have the option of repeating some of the fabulous meals I created. But let’s take a look at the final week of the Breakfast Challenge…it was a good one!

DAY 1 – quinoa & carrot salmon cakes

quinoa salmon cakes

DAY 2 – buckwheat blueberry-beet mug muffin topped with peanut butter and jam

mug muffin

DAY 3 – classic turkey/egg/avocado breakfast panini

breakfast panini

DAY 4 – egg baked into an avocado half with a side of whole wheat Ezekiel toast

baked egg avocado

DAY 5 – oatmeal beet breakfast cookies

oatmeal beet breakfast cookies

DAY 6 – baked whole wheat zucchini cakes with yogurt and cinnamon apples

zucchini cakes

DAY 7 – curried sweet potato skillet with avocado and a runny egg

skillet

Recap: this challenge truly turned out to be eye-opening. By alternating my daily breakfasts, I became much more in-tune with my body’s negative and positive reactions to a variety of different macrobiotic combinations. While many people may not have any issues eating the same breakfast daily (I used to be one of them), my body eventually rebelled against it. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but I could sense something was off internally. I quickly learned just how much better I felt throughout the day when I started my mornings with more protein and fats (eggs and avocado specifically). Of course, I still ate the occasional carby pancakes/bakes/waffles when the craving struck, but I attempted to get creative with the recipes to offer my stomach a culinary surprise.

My main takeaway from this past month is this: variety really is the spice of life! My plan going forward is simple – I’m going to continue eating a variety of meals every morning and make an effort to avoid food ruts. Life is more fun that way! Please please please remember that we’re all different and our nutritional needs are unique. Get creative, experiment with meals, and listen to your body…it knows what it wants better than you think.

♥ Irina

Privet and happy mid-December everyone! I know, I can’t believe it either. The year is officially coming to a close and I feel like I still have so much to accomplish before the curtain closes on 2013! Anyone else in the same situation?

FFTW

(Link up to ‘Frames From The Weekend’! Read the official “rules” here.)

This past weekend was a good combo of relaxation and socializing. I went to yoga on Friday evening and opted to stay in afterwards. A friend and I met up the following night and went to Angel’s Share, a speakeasy in the East Village, where we sipped on some of the tastiest drinks I’ve ever tried. Unfortunately I didn’t take photos because I didn’t want to creep anyone out, so I’ll bombard you with random photos I took over the course of the weekend instead.

Christmas tree

{I finally semi-decorated my Christmas tree! It still looks pretty bare and boring but it’s a work in progress. My new favorite nightly activity is to sit on the couch under a blanket with a steamy cup of tea and enjoy the glowing light from the tree. So relaxing!}

snow

{It finally snowed here on Saturday and I couldn’t be happier! I don’t even know who I am anymore. Other weekend randoms include: * a single-serving microwave cookie (!!!) * all things mint * my current lunch obsession (sandwich featuring either fish or turkey breast, cheese, avocado, greens, and cucumber) * snowmen spotted during my 6-miler on Sunday in Central Park * }

foods

{Sunday food prep: * the return of Happy Trails Adventure cookies * pomegranates! * roasted garlic and beets * }

I suspect this week will be a quiet one for the most part. Many people are officially in holiday mode regardless of whether or not they celebrate Christmas. With the visits of my parents and my bestie all in these next two weeks, I can’t think of a better way to wave goodbye to a very special year.

How are you spending the rest of 2013?

What are your New Year’s Eve plans?

Have you ever tried elephant garlic?

♥ Irina