Fitness: Overdoing It & Playing It Safe

Last week, my knee and body was feeling SO GOOD! Last week, I ran 2.6 miles on Sunday, 2 miles on Tuesday evening. Because I was feeling so great, I got up early on Thursday Morning in Kansas City to run 2 more miles.

Not the right choice.

My body was tired and I listened. I stopped the treadmill after 1 mile stretched out and got ready for the day. But my  left knee (surgery #2, December) was feeling really sore. Yikes! I pushed too hard, too soon.

Well, today is Wednesday and my knee is still sore – not like it was last Thursday but still sore! A clear sign I over-did it. Too much, too fast. Very stupid!

I know should have followed a plan (Couch to 5k) and graduated myself back into running. But until about a month ago, I didn’t feel safe running. Once I did run with no pain, it was just too tempting to see how far I could go – especially when I was feeling so great! I was completely bull-headed about it and just took off. My body isn’t ready, my left knee isn’t ready. This is something I need to EASE back into and build time and distance slowly. This was the wake-up call I needed to chill out on the running for now.

Unfortunately, way back while I was on crutches, I signed up for a race as motivation, a goal. I signed up for the 5 Mile Cherry Creek Sneak  run on Sunday. (This is why I was trying to run 2 miles for a 3rd time) This was a lofty and unrealistic goal from the beginning but I thought that I may have been able to do it. That with my new knees, I’d be invincible, right?! Wrong. it turns out I’m still human, even with bionic knees.

So in light of the new knee still feeling sore, I’m going to play it safe (and smart!) this weekend and drop from the 5 mile run to the 5k run. I will also certainly not be running the 5k – I will be walking 3.1 miles to my beer at the finish line.

However, I’m still on the fence about actually walking the 5k. On longer walks with the dog, my knee is feeling sore by the time we come home – and I’m not walking 3.1 miles with the dog. So I plan to reevaluate on Friday or Saturday about how my knee feels and if it’s a good idea for me to participate.

A 5k (or any race) isn’t worth risking the health of my knees and the new cartilage that’s trying to grow. If I forego the Cherry Creek Sneak race registration I paid, oh well. Better to have ‘lost’ those $30 than to go through another expensive ($$$) surgery and 6 more weeks of crutches.

Wedding Wednesday: Bridesmaids & Their Dresses

**Wedding Wednesday is a feature on my blog documenting our wedding planning process – thoughts, reflections, ideas, milestones. Follow along as we plan a wedding in our home city of Cincinnati while we live in Denver. 

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I know I haven’t discussed our wedding party or my bridesmaids yet on the blog. This is mostly because 1) there are a lot of them and 2) I don’t like to include people on the blog without asking first. I want to respect privacy that people may want. So since I haven’t asked if they’re okay being all of the internet, I won’t post photos or too many details but I’ll give a quick run down.

  • Sarah: Maid of honor – longest, oldest friend! We met way back in elementary school when I lived in Denver, kept in touch when I moved away from Colorado and picked up right where we left off when I moved back to Denver a few years ago.
  • Trisha, Lexi: Bridesmaids – my younger sisters. No brainer!
  • Molly Kathleen: Bridesmaid – Alex’s younger sister. Again, no brainer!
  • Kristen: Bridesmaid – we met in Cincinnati and when Kristen moved back home to Denver, she made it so much easier for me to get my butt out here after I graduated. We were roommates my first year in Denver.
  • Elizabeth: Bridesmaid – great friend from college who’s only become an even closer friend since graduation.
  • Molly: Bridesmaid – another friend from junior & high school/college; we’ve become so much closer since graduation. She’s also dating Alex’s brother!
  • Ashley: Bridesmaid – friend from high school and various volleyball teams throughout our teenage years.

If you were counting, that’s 8 bridesmaids. And Alex has 8 groomsmen. That’s a huuuuge wedding party.

I’m not the girl who’s been planning my wedding since I was a little but I did always imagine just a few attendants – 4 or 5 at the most. However, when faced with the reality that Alex and I BOTH are one of five kids in our family and we both felt strongly that all of our brothers (5 brothers combined) and sisters (3 sisters combined) be included, the idea of a small wedding party quickly disappeared. So it’s a huge wedding party but I’m so happy that we’re able to include our siblings and so many of close friends in our wedding.

SO! With 8 bridesmaids in various parts of the country (Florida, Colorado, Ohio, Minnesota), I chose to use David’s Bridal for their dresses – each city has a DB where the girls can see and try on a dress before buying.

I also decided not to put them all in the same dress. I feel very strongly that each girl should look and feel her best – and that I’m not the best person to decide what will make them feel great! So I found 3 different dresses that were the same fabric and similar-ish feel and am letting them each decide which dress the like.

Strapless

Sleeves/Straps

One Sleeve/Strap

The dresses will all be in black – as much as I love a hot pink dress, our wedding isn’t the right place for that. Also, I don’t love hot pink dresses.

I tried all of the dresses on to get a feel for how they’d fit before I asked my favorite ladies to wear it. It also helped to show my girls what they look like on a real person. Each of them knows what I look like in real life so I hoped that by seeing the dress on me rather than the model on David’s Bridal’s website, they could get a better feel for the dresses.

Because I bought my dress at David’s Bridal, the nice ladies who helped me with bridesmaids dresses added each dress to my ‘account’ so when my bridesmaids go in to pick their dress, the store can pull the exact dress for them. (Maybe this is the case for brides who buy their dress elsewhere, too?)

I also wanted to be very conscious of price – weddings are an expensive affair to be a part of and with girls traveling (and even those not!), I did not want to burden them with an expensive dress that required a special color or specific type of shoe everyone would have to buy, etc, etc. Black dresses mean that everyone looks great and they can wear whatever black shoe they want – LGSMASH approved, of course. These dresses are all $139.00 or less, regular price.

I know one bridesmaid has already bought her dress – I can’t wait to see which dresses the rest of my girls pick out!

 

Food: The Cheesecake Post

Alex’s birthday was on Thursday and I’d wanted to make him a cheesecake earlier in the week for him to have ON his birthday – since I was in Kansas City. Well, that didn’t happen due to a disposal explosion.

Instead, I made cake on Saturday afternoon!

Alex’s friend (and best man!), Alex V., was in town for the weekend and when the boys went hiking, I stayed behind and did some damage in the kitchen. For  as long as we’ve been together, I’ve made Alex cheesecake for his birthday. This year, with the discovery of using Greek yogurt for cooking and baking, I wanted to use Chobani in this year’s cheesecake.

CHOCOLATE CHIP CHEESECAKE

(adapted from here)

Ingredients

  • 1 C graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp plus 1/2 C sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 8-ounce package Neufchatel cream cheese
  • 1 C (2 individual cups) Vanilla 0% Chobani Greek Yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 c chocolate chips + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325*
  • Mix graham crackers, 2 Tbsp sugar and melted butter. Smoosh into your cake pan (I used 9′ glass round); bake for 10 minutes until brown
  • While the crust is baking, combine Neufchatel, yogurt, eggs and flour in a large mixing bowl; mix with an electric mixer until blended
  • In separate bowl, add 1 Tbsp of flour to chocolate chips; mix until chocolate chips are coated in flour; add to mixing bowl with cake filling
  • Pour the mixture into the cake pan, bake for 30-35 minutes; should be cooked but slightly jiggly in center
  • Cool in fridge for at least 2 hours
  • Enjoy!

A little trick I’d learned in my earlier baking years is that if you coat chocolate chips in flour, they won’t sink to the bottom of cake/brownie batter. My cheesecake wasn’t deep enough that it really required the flour but I like to do it anyway.

The cheesecake is delicious! It’s gotten 2 thumbs up and many small pieces stolen from the fridge from both boys. It also may have been a small part of breakfast. (We really need to grocery shop.)

In addition to the cheesecake I wanted to make out of Lynne and Alex tradition, he also requested a cake from his childhood – boxed yellow cake with chocolate icing in 2-9 inch rounds, stacked.

Boom.

We have yet to break into this cake yet. And I realize now why people have cake stands with lids! The icing has dried a bit but I hope the cake is still moist. We’ll find out tonight!

So much cake, so little time.  

 

Travel + Fun: Kansas City (& Ninja) BBQ

It’s the last day of the conference and I’m ready to head home to Denver!

This conference has been interesting for me – usually, I travel to conferences for my company to be an exhibitor. Yes, we have a little table, table cloth, banners, brochures, the whole nine yards. This time, though, I was able to attend as a regular attendee. The conference is called Transforming Local Government and is geared toward helping municipalities across America information share and be more innovative in their operations.

One thing that I’ve noticed this year in the conference I’ve been to and will be going to is that the big ones are designing native apps for attendees to download. This is a way cool innovation, especially for the industry that my company plays in (insurance + government: not the most progressive industries!). Unfortunately, I have yet to attend a conference that offers free wi-fi or has decent cell phone service in conference halls so it renders the app mostly useless. But it’s a step in the right technological direction.

I digress.

So it’s my last day in Kansas City, last day at the conference. And true to Kansas City form, I ate KCBBQ twice yesterday. No photos but it was delicious. I had enough BBQ for the rest of the year, at least. Well, maybe a month.

Instead of photos of KCBBQ, I leave you with this BBQ gem.

Just a little NINJAQ for your Friday.

Fitness: Stay Fit Kit at Hilton Garden Inn

When I got in to Kansas City later Tuesday evening, the only thing on my mind was dinner. I’m staying at a Hilton Garden Inn for the first time in a very long time. The hotel isn’t nearby any restaurants so my only option was delivery. Good for me – pizza was on my mind!

While I waited my pizza to arrive, I hit up the hotel fitness center.

Pretty standard – 2 treadmills, 1 bike, 1 elliptical. Not standard? Free weights!

I ran 2 miles on the treadmill – no knee pain! – and on my way out of the fitness center, a little sign above the towels caught my eye.

Hilton Garden Inn’s Stay Fit Kit! I remember hearing about these when Hilton first introduced them but this is my first time at a Hilton that carries them. (Maybe they’re only at HGI brand?) I walked over to the front desk to ask for one to use during my stay.

The Stay Fit Kit comes in an easy-to-carry mesh bag and is stuff with fitness goodies.

And not just ANY fitness equipment, Gaiam fitness equipment!

I took advantage of the Stay Fit Kit on Wednesday morning and did some abs and arms before a long day of conference sessions. Two items I’d love to add to the Stay Fit Kit is a yoga mat and sanitation wipes. I like the weighted ball but it’s a bit grimy on the handles. And I really don’t like the idea of laying on a hotel floor to do situps or plank so I used a bath towel.

I’m about 2 feet longer than a bath towel. A yoga mat would have been ideal!

This morning, I got up early and hit the treadmill again. I’ve been feeling really comfortable running 2-2.5 miles so today, I wanted to push myself to 3 miles. But, my knees and body weren’t ready. Running 2+ miles Sunday and Tuesday proved to be too much too soon. I quit at 1.5 miles this morning.

Knowing about these Stay Fit Kit definitely puts the Hilton Garden Inn hotels high up on my prefered hotels from now on. I like to keep active when I travel for business – usually days are long and full of big dinners – and a quick workout keeps me feeling alert.

Wedding Wednesday: Engagement Photos

As of today, Alex and I have been engaged for 9.5 months but only just last week did we finally take engagement photos.

When we were first engaged, Alex was still living in Florida. Then, the week after he moved to Denver, I had knee surgery #1. Then knee surgery #2. So it’s taken us a while to get photos done and that’s okay!

We met with J-K Photography on Saturday morning at a local park Alex and I love, Washington Park, for our session. J-K Photography is a team of wonderful ladies, Jeanette and Kathi, who I know J-K Photography from the AFSP Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk. They volunteer to shoot photos during the walk and create a very touching slide show each year.

We lucked out with blue skies and minimal wind until after we finished. It was so much fun to play around and pose for the camera – Jeanette and Kathi came armed with some great props (a chalkboard!) and great photo ideas.

We don’t have all of our photos yet but I thought I’d share the sneak peek we got yesterday.

I can’t wait to see the rest! I have some fun ideas for what we’ll do with a few of the photos.

I’m really happy that we decided to do engagement photos – and do them in Denver. We’re getting married in Cincinnati and will have beautiful photos taken then but I felt it was really important to capture the Lynne and Alex in Denver, too. It’s been such a fun 9 months being engaged and finally living in the same city and I think our photos will reflect that.

 

Travel: Travel Season, Kansas City

It’s that time again - travel season! I travel to quite a few conferences for my job and spring/summer/early fall are when most conferences in my industry are held. So while accounting ‘busy season’ is just concluding, my busy season is just ramping up!

This week brings me to Kansas City! It was a beautifully mild evening last night when I landed.

Wanna know what make traveling excellent for me? These things:

Frontier Airlines & Benny the Grizzly Bear

Ben & Jerry’s Scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Mental Floss Magazine

Magazines are a must have on airplanes for me – I brought 5 with me this trip. I have yet to stay awake for an entire flight, no matter how short (today’s was just over an hour?), so I’ve found that books are not the right choice for me.

Mental Floss was a gift subscription from my dad and is one of my top favorite magazines now. It features interesting topics, has short sections and is written in a very smart and funny voice. One of the features this month is all about bears! So much I never knew or had ever considered about those animals!

What makes travel more exciting for you?

 

Not Fun & Not Food: This Post Should Be About Cheesecake

I should be blogging about the delicious chocolate chip cheesecake (with Chobani!) I planned to make last night.

You see, Alex’s birthday is Thursday and I’m headed to Kansas City tonight until Friday for work. So I wanted to make the cheesecake before I left so he could enjoy a ymmy piece on Thursday.

But instead, the kitchen disposal exploded last night. And the kitchen was flooding. And the dishwasher was leaking.

So this was how we spent our night. Instead of making cheesecake.

I think we might have learned our lesson about putting too much stuff (and too many hard things!) down the disposal. Maybe.

 

Fun: Beer Brewin', Phase 1

Something I’m not sure the blogworld knows about me yet is that Alex and I brew our own beer! Everyone in Denver homebrews it seems. Soon after Alex moved here, he bought the equipment and we’ve been brewing ever since.

We’ve brewed 5 different batches so far – a porter, a pale ale, a stout and a pale ale with orange & pomelo juice. Yum! It’s a lengthy process – usually 4+ weeks from start to drinkable finish – but the tasty beer at the end is worth it. And it’s especially cool to drink beer that WE made!

So far, Alex has been the master brewer and I’ve been the faithful assistant. This time, I wanted to be master brewer. So last week, we went to the beer store, The Brew Hut, to pick up supplies for the recipe I picked out. I decided to brew a Nut Brown Ale.

With Alex’s help, I picked out and measure the right amount of grains that the Nut Brown Ale called for – Toasted Barley, Chocolate Malt and Roast Barley.

I filled a brown paper bag with all 3 grains and then took it to the grinder.

Next, I picked up the malt extract, hops and yeast.

We are also out of sanitizing solution (very important for brewing!) and corn sugar (adds carbonation in phase 2 of brewing).

Last night was my brewing night! Brewing is done in two phases – creating the basis for the beer, then after 2 weeks of fermenting, the second phase is bottling and more fermenting. Each batch makes about 5 gallons of beer – usually 40+ bottles.

It typically takes about 4 hours for the first phase of brewing – to boil the grains and create the wort.

We have a giant stock pot, 5 gallons, that we use to brew. The thermos next to it is a full-sized thermos.

To start, I filled the pot with 3 gallons of water, brought it to 150* and then it’s grain time.

The grains steep for about 30 minutes before I removed the pot from the heat and removed the grain sock from the water. While removed from heat, it’s time to add the malt extract!

The liquid is now called WORT. As Alex says, the liquid has the potential to be beer but isn’t yet.

After adding the malt extract, it’s time to bring this wort to a boil and add the bittering hops. For my recipe, all 3 packets of hops were for bittering.

We use hops pellets but some brewers prefer the fresh hops, like you see in beer commercials. The Brew Hut sells both versions of hops. Whichever hops are used, they must be kept refrigerated so they don’t spoil!

Once the hops are added, the liquid boils for another 60 minutes and immediately after those 60 minutes, it’s a mad rush to bring the temperature of the liquid down from boiling to less than 70*. We have a very cool chiller that helps us do that – but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite fit on our faucet so it’s a bit of a challenge.

One of us holds the hose to the faucet (it should just screw on to connect but we have a janky faucet) and the other swirls the copper tubing around to cool the wort as quickly as possible.

Whew! We’re almost done!

Once the beer has been cooled, it’s very important from this point on that EVERYTHING touching the beer is sanitized. One little germ or Philly hair could contaminate the batch and render it undrinkable.

Sanitizing is simple – water + sanitizing solution! Then just add any equipment into the solution and presto! Sanitized.

Back to the beer – After the liquid is cooled, I racked the beer into the sanitized fermentation chamber. (This is Alex racking because he wouldn’t take a photo for me).

Once in the primary fermentation chamber, it’s time to pitch the yeast and wait till it hydrates and drops.

The yeast will get heavy and drop to the bottom. Then the lid goes on, I sanitized my thumb to cover the hole on top of the lid and shake the 5 gallon bucket for four LONG minutes. It’s an arm workout! (Making beer counts, right Nike?)

To ensure no air or contaminants get into the beer mixture, I put in the nifty little air lock. it lets the air created by the yeast out but doesn’t let anything in.

And now, we wait!

The beer will sit in this fermentation chamber for 2 weeks at 65* (ideally). Since we live in an apartment with central air, on the top floor, we don’t have too much control over the room temperature but we try to keep it as cool as we can. Someday, we’ll do this in a basement.

Taking charge of this batch of beer was an interesting change of roles – usually, I’m much more passive in the process, just helping when needed but I really enjoyed finding my own recipe, following the directions and putting my sweat and tears into this one. Though, not literally. #contamination

We’ll see if I still feel that way in 4 weeks after our first tastes of the Nut Brown Ale…

Fun + Fitness: Colorado Center for Health & Wellness Tour

Have you heard of the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference? It’s a conference for Fitness and Health Bloggers (clearly!) and will be held in Denver, Colorado this year. As a local Denver blogger, I was invited to attend a special sneak peek of the very new Colorado Center for Health & Wellness. The Colorado Health & Wellness Center will host the conference this year. 

I mention sneak peek because the Center actually opens tomorrow!

The Colorado Center is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus and is the leading research facility for obesity and wellness.

The group of about 20 bloggers ranged from personal trainers to registered dietitians to green living bloggers to foodie bloggers to runner bloggers. It was really cool to meet bloggers in different spaces than my own!

The group met after work on a Friday – we enjoyed meeting each other and tasting some delicious snacks before the tour started.

First – Chicken Skewers with Cilantro Lime drizzle; next – Pita Bread with Black Bean Hummus and Goat Cheese; Last – Roast Beef  and Sauteed Onions on Bruschetta Bread.

The food was created and made by the Center’s onsite restaurant, Bistro Elaia. The concept of this restaurant is to provide fast, healthy, delicious food and to show people that healthy food can taste GREAT!

Bistro Elaia uses its own homegrown herbs, too.

After we all had a chance to try the food, it was time to get started!

The entrance to the Center is beautiful! Depending on what angle this glass is viewed and how the light hits it, the colors change.

Our tour started with an overview of Bistro Elaia and the capabilities of the kitchens. The Center is first and foremost, a research facility so while the public can come in and enjoy Bistro Elaia food, sometimes seating may be closed off because the center is conducting a research study that day.

The Center has 2 kitchens – a demonstration kitchen and a metabolic. The demonstration kitchen is for cooking classes (recorded and placed on the Center’s website, broadcast throughout the Center on their TV station) and to show how easy healthy cooking can be. The metabolic kitchen is to teach, hands-on, study participants how to cook their food. If a person participates in a weight loss program, they may need help learning exactly how to measure their foods and cook it – that’s what the metabolic kitchen is for. It’s also for RDs and scientists to develop menus and new food for special diets (GF, lactose intolerant, etc) or to study how athletes eat and process food.

Next to the kitchens, there’s a test grocery lab – this wasn’t completely finished when we toured but it will be a smaller grocery store set up. It’s intended to teach study participants about how to grocery shop (where to shop in the store, what to look for on food labels, etc) but will also be used to study how people shop.

(NOTE: visitors to the Center are only studied if they sign up for a study – there isn’t 24/7 video monitoring to observe and uses your behaviors without your consent.)

We then moved onto my favorite part of the center – the Fitness Center!

This gym is state of the art to the MAX. Not only is all of the equipment new, it’s all TechnoGym brand. Each piece of equipment has a system  enabled to record your workouts… on a USB/flashdrive.

If someone is participating in a weight loss or athlete program, they can be set up with a flash drive with a prescribed exercise routine loaded on. When the participant gets to a machine, they pop in the flash drive and they’re told how many reps they’re supposed to do.

The flash drive is tricky too because it also records progress – how many reps actually done (vs. prescribed), how fast they were completed.

All data can then be uploaded to a user profile so the participant can access the information and their progress anywhere in the center, at home, on their phone. Pretty neat!

The fitness center also has rooms for (and a schedule of) group fitness classes. The fitness center is open to any of the general public – students and staff at the medical campus are allowed a discounted rate and non-student/staff users are offered a reasonably monthly rate.

We then moved into the clinical part of the center. This clinic has it all – private rooms for screening, shared common area for doctors and clinicians to collaborate and share their studies, phlebotomy lab and athlete/body analysis labs.

I was most interested in the Human Performance Lab. Any athlete – from Olympic to regular ol’ runners like me – have the option of utilizing this service (for a fee, of course).

The staff can analyze the efficiency of your body while exercising, what’s going on internally by taking blood while you’re exercising, resting heart rate, when your body starts producing lactic acid and beyond! Staff can then help you train for next race better and more efficiently or can give you tips to improve your overall health and athleticism.

The Center also has the ability to accurately test and record your body composition.

Finally, after the clinic, we made our way upstairs to the beautiful meeting space that the Center offers. It was past sunset when we got up there but the outdoor rooftop space looks incredible – the doors to the outside open completely, rendering the meeting space far more open and airy than any meeting space I’ve seen. This meeting space is open to the public – and completely free! – so anyone can stop in and hang out to read, work, whatever!

Also on the rooftop is a green roof – the Center has planted grass and plants on the roof for a very unique and picturesque place to relax or meet.

As I mentioned, the Colorado Center for Health and Wellness opens tomorrow. It’s the first facility of it’s kind and is changing how scientists observe and research health and wellness. I was so honored to be included in this initial walk-through – our blogger group was only the second group to tour, the first being national news media! – and I’m proud to know that this facility exists right in my backyard. Having a center like this will help increase wellness and health awareness within our community, then our city, then our state, then our country.

If you’re in Denver, I absolutely encourage you to stop in and check this place out – it will blow your mind! And if you’re coming to the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference, you’re in for a real treat! Not only is the Center hosting but participants will have full access to the fitness center during the conference.

Will you be attending the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference? I’ll see you there!