Max is one week old

Ever since working with my first pregnant client,  I have observed how hard those first weeks postpartum can be for new mothers on a physical and emotional level. As such I had planned to not only document Max' growing up, but wanted to see how I felt week-to-week in those six weeks that are so crucial for healing but which are also without any support on the medical side and often any assistance on the logistical end if you live - like I do - in the US/ NYC without that proverbial village or your family close by. 

In comparison, women in Germany have access to a midwife that is assigned to them for six weeks to help them maneuver questions such as nursing, sleeping and self-care, whereas here, these services could probably be summed up in the work of postpartum doulas or babynurses who are difficult to afford especially as an entrepreneur that is taking a pay cut for the duration of their choosing, while recovering from childbirth. A friend in Germany who is in the same business as I am, was paid close to $2,000/ month for a full year of maternity leave. It makes me weep.

Anyway, I digress. We've made it to a week. Seven days ago, I was sitting in a hospital bed with an epidural in my back, had tracked some of my runners in the NYC Half Marathon and taken a nap. We even thought we'd watch a quick episode of "Call the midwife". But transition was fast approaching. I was on an IV of pitocin and they had broken my water... (*I can tell you my birth story in more frightening detail in person - I'll just focus on the positives here). Six hours later my doctor checked and it was time to push. 

I believe her exact words were: "I've only ever seen one woman push that child out in super fast pace of two contractions and she was an Olympic rower". Didn't she know who she was talking to? "Roma, this is not a competition..." Yeah, right. "I have to tell you that she tore BADLY!" Ok, maybe not two then. 

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Max came out 30 minutes later and he was perfect. Since then, he's taught me how to breastfeed him, we've passed the diaper test of soiling as many diapers per day as he is days old. He took a first sponge bath, gained an inch in length, met his pediatrician and managed to sleep through a friend's party as well as a few coffee outings. Some of my interactions with him feel incredibly intuitive, some others make me scratch my head. Like: how much can a little boy of 7.5 lbs possibly drink? 

As for my recovery, there are two things that hurt and are making moving around a little more difficult. One is the tearing that I couldn't avoid despite admitting defeat to the Olympic rower... The other is a self-inflicted (and self diagnosed) psoas strain, possibly from pushing. The latter occasionally robs me off breath and knocks the wind out of me. Both of them hurt laughing. Either will make it hard to resume running as a form of exercise in the foreseeable future. 

And you know what?

I.DON'T.CARE. I have just spent the most incredible week getting to know a person that we made. All we do at this point is dictated by his schedule and his needs. I have plans on the horizon and I have no doubts that I will get there. But how... that remains to be seen. 

One week in it is hard to believe that Chris and I were ever just the two of us. 

The Berlin Diaries: Week 5

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Fifth week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 22nd (W5/D1): New week and a double digit run as an easy run... Definitely takes some getting used to. But got it done! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 23rd (W4/D2): Easy 8 rounds out 52 miles in 6 days... not too shabby #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 24th (W4/D3): Rest Day :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 25th (W4/D4): Mile repeats at goal marathon pace of sub-3... didn't quite hit them as hoped but the effort was honest. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 26th (W4/D5): Easy recovery run with Zola but I have to say fitting in 8 miles before work is hard. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 27th (W4/D6): And another easy 8. Had someone told me a few months ago that I would be running 8 milers for my easy days I would have laughed... finished up with strides. Do your strides! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 28th (W4/D7): 12 mile long run with a fast 9th and 10th mile at 7:09 and 6:53. Whoop! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 3

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Third week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 8th (W3/D1): New week and a harder progression run awaits on Thursday. I still get nervous before harder workouts when I'm not sure that I will be able to hit the goal paces. Wish me luck! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 9th (W3/D2): Oof, I thought waiting until almost 6pm would give me cooler temperatures. But it was still 84 F and my stomach didn't cooperate. Shoutout to the nice ladies at Soulcycle Willliamsburg for letting me use their bathroom!! Nicest staff ever :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 10th (W3/D3): Rest Day :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 11th (W3/D4): First progression run of the segment. And it didn't go as planned whatsoever. First 3 miles of 6 I stayed close to the pace I was looking for and then sloooowly died... I was so disappointed but managed to shake it off after a few hours. It's all a progress. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 12th (W3/D5): Easy recovery run with Zola despite the bloody humidity. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 13th (W3/D6): Another six mile run with Zola. I've come to really enjoy our time early in the morning. She gets me excited with her happiness for running. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 14th (W3/D7): First 12 miler run of the segment, woohoo. Took some adjusting to the heat, still but had a few miles in the low 7 paces in there. Whoop, so good to run with a friend. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

Athletes Corner: Julia Webb (runner, mother, wife, coach)

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I am very pleased to present a second person in my series of inspiring women. Julia Webb wears many hats, she is an accomplished runner, mother to Joanie, wife to Alan Webb (American record holder in the mile), and running coach. I first saw her pictures with hilarious captions on there Instagram account (@runteamwebb) and then read her blog posts on her website which center on topics such as exercise, nutrition, pregnancy and much more. I love how sincere Julia describes the ups and downs of being an active mom, before, during and post pregnancy. In the interview below, you can read more in-depth what her thoughts are on making time for exercise, fueling during pregnancy, scheduling a busy day and keeping motivation high even on days that feel 'off'. After speaking to Jessica in the last interviews, Julia is another example of how amazingly women deal with the added responsibilities of motherhood and how the physical demands of pregnancy can sometimes make you a stronger athlete postpartum. Thank you, Julia! 

How did you become a runner and what is your favorite distance?

I started running as a last resort to participating in a sport as a senior in high school. I never thought i’d ever become a “runner” as I saw it as boring, unathletic and something my mom likes to do. (she was never competitive, but always jogging throughout my childhood- my dad the stud basketball player and good at any sport he tried was my role model). My first “race” my mom successfully convinced me to run in was a local 5K the weekend before school started in fall 2000. Wearing a baggy sweatshirt, basketball shoes and no warm up, I got 2nd (21:15) to a coach who asked who I ran for. I explained this might have been my first 3 miles ever run in a row. My previous training was all geared toward basketball - lots of time on the court, regular time in the weight room and the occasional mile on the treadmill or around the school block to warm up for my lift. I had a miserable experience my sophomore and junior years playing basketball -despite my love for the sport and strong dedication, I had some major clashing with the coaches and lacked the power to be on our starting line up. We were a powerhouse but I didn’t have what it took, along with my lack of confidence, spiralling me into depression. I decided to quit before senior year but was desperately seeking a new athletic opportunity.

After the race, I decided to show up for cross country practice. My first day I was amazed at how fun and easy the 5 mile run went by. A few weeks later at my first race, I put all my frustration from my basketball days into that competition, proving that I was good at something and gutted out a 7th place finish at a big invite. In complete agony, dying the final straight when everyone was kicking it in.. I ran a 15:40 4K time, beating my teammates by over 2 minutes. I found my sport. Something I was good at. I had never experienced anything to that degree, the nerves, pushing through the pain, being in complete control of my result. All I had to do was run hard and get from start to finish and the post-race high made it all worth the mid-race struggle. Not only the races, but the miles our team put into practice was the highlight of my day. From there I went on to run in college and have never lost my passion for the sport 15 years later. My favorite distance remains the 3000m steeplechase on the track. I love that its not as brutally long as a 5K on the track, but just 10 minutes of grinding and pain. The barriers add another challenge that favour my long legs and remind me of cross country, my second favourite event. I was fortunate to run it my freshman year (at UW-La Crosse)and with some great guidance in early steeple drill training, I was able to place 3rd at the national meet with a PR of 10:50. I finished 1st and 3rd, three more times at NCAAs and ended my college career with a 10:22 PR. Post collegiately I’ve run at three USATF Outdoor Championships (including a top 10 finish), a PR of 9:55 set when my daughter was 10 months old. I can’t wait to race it again, with my goal being- get on the 2016 Olympic Trials starting line with a 9 month old (currently pregnant).

Julia Alan Webb
Julia Alan Webb

You race quite a bit and not even a pregnancy (or two) can stop you? What is special about racing vs “just running to stay fit"?

I am addicted to racing! Some people like to go out with friends, others go out and dance... I get my high from racing! You can’t duplicate the energy and adrenaline the race environment provides. No matter what stage of fitness I am in (or condition - as in being pregnant), I don’t shy away from opportunities. I love testing to see where I’m at, using a competitive setting to push me to get the best out of myself. If I just ran to stay fit, I would definitely get bored fast. I need to mix up my training every 2-3 days with some form of speedwork. If I’m not sore a couple times a week, I better have a good reason! While I’m at it, why not reap the rewards of your fitness by doing a race.

You are also a mother, wife and coach. Could you walk us through a day in the life?

There are two versions of what’s normal in my current life - when my husband Alan is traveling and when he is home. It can be as much as 50/50 being a single mom (although, we try to travel some too when convenient). Currently I’m in the middle of a 6 week stretch when Alan is overseas training and competing in triathlon. Here’s a normal week day - 6:00 wake up , light breakfast, check emails, etc 6:45 2.5 year old Joanie yells “I up! I up! I up!” - the only baby phrase she has not dropped out of habit from when she first learned to talk 7:30 drop off Joanie at her “school” - 3 days a week has part time care 7:45 - Run / follow up w/ core/strength 2-3x a week. Once during weekday do quality workout. 9:00-12:15 - follow up emails, coaching, etc… and eat :) 12:30 - pick up Joanie 1:00-3:00 naps for Joanie, I usually crash for an hour (only have been since pregnancy started, since 2nd trimester just began, feeling less the need for the nap!). Clean house, chores, more time on computer 3:30 snacks w/ Joanie and play or grocery shop- lately been swimming in our pool every afternoon, core/yoga session w/ Joanie if i skipped in AM. 5:30 cook dinner, eat 7:30 start bedtime routine for Joanie (bath, stories, jump around and sing) 8:30 - bed time for Joanie 8:45 - catch ⅙ of a movie I’ve started on netflix, call Alan 9:30 - bedtime

On days she is at home, I will either run with Joanie in the stroller, head to the gym for the treadmill/bike/pool (and utilize their childcare) or occasionally get up before dawn while its cool to run 1000m loops around our gated apartment complex with her monitor audible outside our apartment. If she wakes up mid-run, will let her watch a show in her crib while i finish up or drag the stroller out.

Julia Webb planking
Julia Webb planking

You choose to keep a running and fitness regimen that puts many of us to shame. How do you (re)fuel and do you use nutritional supplements?

I definitely take advantage of eating lots of calories! Especially during pregnancy, I feel like I can burn through anything, but have to be careful not to have a massive meal at once or I get severe indigestion. So my go-to strategy has been to have something light before an early morning run (lately just started trying the product UCAN - a form of carbs/energy that should sustain me through a run - but typically I am starving 20 minutes in if that’s all I used, so have been adding a half energy bar = favorite is regular old Powerbar vanilla/chocolate or a GU as well). I always have a little coffee pre-run (no more than a shot worth of espresso now that I’m pregnant). Since its so warm here in Arizona, I have been running w a water bottle/sometimes with NUUN added, carry it a mile into the run, drop it in the bushes to access at some point. I can’t stand having a water belt. I stash candy or GU in my shorts for any carb needing emergencies :)

Post run hydration is key with an immediate source of carbs/light protein. (apple and rest of my energy bar for example) to tie me over while I make breakfast.

Breakfast - my favorite meal of the day - usually a massive bowl of oatmeal made with milk, with berries, bananas and nut butter added as a dipping sauce. Lunch - varies (and have food on my mind w/ different cravings all the time being pregnant) - fruit, either sandwich, salad, chips ; or pasta/salad or burrito ... Snack - fruit, dark chocolate, nuts or small bar Dinner - varies - tons of veggies, more fruit, rice/pasta/potato base and meat - (beef, chicken, fish, pork…) - typically take my prenatal or Proferrin iron supplement. Favorite cusine - thai food!!! Snack - cereal w/ milk

Julia Webb Nike Track
Julia Webb Nike Track

If you don’t mind me asking, how much weight did you gain in your first pregnancy and what was it like during and then getting back in shape?

Initially in my pregnancy I gained a good 8 lbs my first trimester and up to a total of 25 lbs by the end of my second (started at same weight I was before second pregnancy). However, due to severe indigestion and extreme discomfort when I ate to any level of fullness, I gained 0 lbs during my 3rd trimester. Obviously the baby continued to grow, but I must have lost some body fat. She weighed 7 lbs, 15 oz, completely healthy, although my midwife had me checked a few times because I was “measuring small”. Getting back in shape postpartum was not much of an issue. When Joanie was one month old I was back to looking “normal” for me. I held onto 10 pounds for at least 2.5 months, but then I went through a very stressfu l cross country moving experience, and baby Joanie picked up some severe collic which made my life very difficult w/ lack of sleep and digestion issues-- from month 3-6 I dropped an additional 18 lbs (was at lightest post high school weight ever- while continuing to breast feed) - all due to stress. I was also very frustrated with a debilitating hip injury I sustained during the beginning of my 2nd trimester, still not healed and it had been going on for over 9 months, where I was unable to run without pain. I realized how unhealthy my weight was after friends began to comment, and got myself back into eating more and thankfully got some support in helping Joanie out. I got back to my former go-to race weight of 125lbs. By 6 months, with some physical therapy I was able to run painfree and got back into fitness very fast with the help of my coach. Only 3 months in of regular run training and intense workouts, I was back to PR shape, only to eventually be even better - with a  more relaxed race day attitude, an even greater level of toughness my natural childbird experience taught me, elevated blood levels from the pregnancy. So, during my 8th season competiting at in the steeplechase, I dropped 20 seconds off my PR and also a good 10 seconds with only one attempt at the 1500m.

Julia Webb pregnant
Julia Webb pregnant

Do you work out with a team or coach? If not how do you stay motivated day in and day out?

Currently I am living in Arizona due to my husband’s triathlon training group, so at the moment I have been doing 90% of my runs/workouts solo. I don’t mind that I have complete control of what I’m doing now that I’m pregnant - so I can really read my body and not be tempted to go too hard to keep up with someone. In Beaverton, Oregon (our home), I typically meet up with teammates/friends at least 3-4 times a week, typically at Nike headquarters right by my house. Two of those sessions include hard workouts. I run for Bowerman Track Club and work part time as a run coach at Nike campus Sports Center when I’m back in Oregon. If it wasn’t for my teammates (Kristen Rohde, Karlee Coffee, Anna Connor) and my coach Jon Marcus - I would NEVER be able to reach my potential and push myself to the degree that I do during these sessions. I have been trying to really grasp the concept of recovery and backing off big time on my easy days. If I’m not fully rested going into harder sessions, I will be dropped in an instant. My motivation rarely ever wanes, I love being an athlete and constantly testing my limits, with my only desire to reach a higher level so I can justify living my life the way I do :) My husband is the true professional athlete in the family, so I always ensure that my needs are second to support him first. Until I have the opportunity to make any money in the sport, I will continue to see it as a hobby.

What physical activities do you do on *gasp* rest days?

Typically reserve the rest days for spending energy in the sun or playing with Joanie. I definitely try to move around on those days so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The worst thing to do is sit inside all day if you’re “resting”. I try to pretend I’m a normal mom who doesn’t like working out. I try to remember to save the energy for the next day. Typically I take a full day off every 2-3 weeks. Getting a massage is also a great way to splurge on a day off.

What is your favourite indulgence (food or other things)?

Running :) obviously.. but outside of that, I LOVE coffee. Thankfully with pregnancy and living in a hot dry climate, my cravings have dramatically dropped, but still look forward to a daily cup of pour-over or coffee shop Americano. With pregnancy I’ll make a full strength cup but rarely drink more than 6 oz of it.

Have you had to overcome (running related) injuries? How did you do it?

Yes. Aside from a month long hip injury I sustained during over-stretching in a yoga pose during track season in college, I have had one serious injury to date and it was during my last pregnancy. It was probably one of the toughest things mentally I’ve had to deal with. I was running some pretty quick workouts feeling very strong and getting respectable race times in my first trimester of pregnancy #1 until I started noticing my right hip started aching right when my belly first started growing. I ignored it, thinking “I get aches and pains all the time, but this couldn’t be anything serious”. Ignoring it and running through it proved to be a terrible decision. Despite stopping all run activity, the pain worsened as the pregnancy went on. It took 6 full months postpartum to be pain free. I got all kinds of wrong answers during pregnancy, with doctors suspecting a stress fracture, etc.. I only realized post pregnancy it had to be a ligament or possibly a labral tear in my hip. Back in Portland after 3 months of no successful healing, I got exercises from my coach and saw a local physical therapy place for rehab and eventually it cleared up as I resumed training.

What advice would you give someone who is a running novice or looking to get fit later in life and particularly if they are mothers with a set of responsibilities, tight schedules etc.?

Create a time to workout in your calendar. No excuses as if you have to attend, block out the hour each day! My saving grace has been joining a gym with a childcare option. I have up to 2 hours to workout/shower for a very reasonable rate. Get support from your spouse, and if they are gone, find other moms who could possibly swap care to workout. Get a jogging stroller! Also another savior and offering me complete freedom to workout when I am without my husband. Starting as early as 3 weeks you can run with your baby (forward facing attachment) and weather conditions don’t apply (I’ve ran in torrential downpours - with Joanie nice and cozy under the rain cover, to negative temperatures (bundled up nice and cozy again!) . There are no excuses. If you work full time, run during your lunch hour or get up an hour earlier to fit it in first thing in morning (with coffee ready to be made, clothes laid out). Find a local running group that meets regularly to find same-level training partners and new workout friends. Sign up for a race to keep you motivated in training!

Julia Webb Alexi Pappas
Julia Webb Alexi Pappas

How would you describe the emotional benefits of running, given that it is a sport that comes with a lot of highs and lows over time…

Aside from my year long injury, I have experienced much more of the upside on emotional benefits! Yes there are days which turn into complete disappointments, you just feel plain terrible, or go through a funk where you don’t want to get out there or complete the workout. But I always try to push through those bad times, knowing they will all be worth it. In my first trimester just recently, I felt absolutely terrible on most “easy runs”, especially if I didn’t get out when it was under 70 degrees in the desert sun . I would frequently look at the side of the trail and think, "wow that looks like a great place to lay down" and just have runs when I couldn’t wait to finish. But each of those runs, when I did finish, I would be so thankful I got it done, because my trusty runners high would set in, and make me feel I could take on anything the rest of the day (with a nap of course!). I am so thankful for this sport, but try to keep my perspective that it is a gift and can easily be taken away. I try not to get carried away in making it my all, and see my faith in God, family and overall health as #1.

Quick questions:

Athlete crush? Alan Webb - up and coming triathlete… American record holder in the mile ;)

Trail or Road? Trail! Have never done an official trail race, on my to-do list

Long runs or Speed Work? A combo of both - get the best of both worlds - I rarely do straight up long runs. Often my weekend long run is part of a grinding interval session!

Garmin or carefree? I have only run with a Garmin once during Hood to Coast and got made fun of by my old school coach. I prefer coaching athletes with a Garmin though, so i have a better sense of measure.

Solo or with company? With company!! I really miss my Oregon training partners !!

Arugula Couscous Salad

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Another easy, breezy, beautiful recipe :) Arugula Couscous Salad with parmesan and a lemon dressing.

All you need is a cup of pre-cooked and chilled couscous. Then take 4 cups (a big bowl of it anyway) washed arugula. Grate a half cup of parmesan and mix it with the salad and coucous.

For the dressing simply mix 1/4 cup of EVOO, juice of one lemon and add salt and pepper.

Voila! #vegetarian #notvegan #notpaleo #delish

 

 

Mango Lassi Ice Cream

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When life hands you mangos, you have got to make mango lassi ice cream. Also because peeling mango and making it look presentable is tedious. It's easier to put it straight in the nutribullet and then try to (gracefully) eat the rest of flesh off the pit, while nobody is watching. The combination of yoghurt, chia seeds, mango and mint makes this recipe very fresh and healthy.

For 4 pop molds, add 1.5 cups of yoghurt to a blender. The amounts I used work well for the nutribullet but if you have a bigger blender, you could double or triple the amounts. Add 3 tbs of chia seeds and let the mixture sit for about 15-20 minutes until the seeds take on a gelatinous texture. Add the flesh of one mango and a handful of mint leaves (approximately 10). Blend the mixture with 4 ice cubes and fill it into the pop molds. Let them freeze over night.

Done. Ice cream for breakfast!

ENJOY!

The Watermelon Feta Salad you always wanted to make and never dared to try...

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You know how restaurants feature fancy watermelon salads with mint and feta. They are a fresh summer side dish, delicious and quick. You love all the ingredients, but somehow you never see yourself making it at home... So a few weeks ago, we started gardening on our little deck. One of the key ingredients I wanted were a few herb plants. I'm not great at landscaping and I've already forgotten which flowers go by which name. Ahem...

BUT: I got mint. And it is alive and kicking. So yesterday I made watermelon feta salad with mint. And it turned out delicious.

You need: 1/4 watermelon, cut into bite size pieces, 2oz feta cheese (or more if you like), black pepper, 3-4 tbs EVOO, 2 limes and 1/4 medium onion chopped very fine, one handful of mint chopped.

Toss the watermelon with the mint, juice of 2 limes and onion and let it sit. Add the EVOO, feta, pepper. Take a photo for Instagram and voila!

ENJOY!

I baked bread! So you can, too (gluten free option)

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I am notorious for baking bread rolls with a beautiful yeast base and ruining them EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. The result of my attempts to make brioche, challah or bread can be used to smash in windows and even Zola won't eat them. So when I heard about this bread that would only take about 15 minutes active time, I was skeptical to say the least.

But I did it and it worked out beautifully.

You will need:

2 cups of (gluten-free) rolled oats

2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour (Bob's Red Mill makes a gf version that you could use)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1.5 cups buttermilk

1 egg

Pulse the oats in a food processor until fine. Then combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the egg plus buttermilk in a different bowl.

Make a well in the center of the flour mix and add the buttermilk gently folding it in. The dough will be very sticky but resist the urge to over mix it.

Place the dough on a floured surface and gently kneed it - if too sticky add a little flour. Then score the center in a cross shape (it is almost Easter after all!).

Grease an oven-proof cast iron skillet and place the dough in the center. Bake at 450 F for 15 minutes and then reducing the heat to 400 for another 25 minutes.

At this point you should see a beautiful cross shape on top of your bread and when you knock on the bottom it should sound hollow.

Here! You're done!

This bread, warm with butter is literally heaven. At least my idea of heaven. I'm German, after all.

ENJOY! xx

On Procrastinating

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Procrastinating... we all do it in one way or another. Sometimes more consciously and sometimes more unconscious. It can be a matter of a day within which we don't manage to finish all our tasks, or pushing aside a different task over the span of days/ weeks/ months. Usually it's about something uncomfortable. But whenever we wake up from procrastinating we feel worse for it... Everyone does it and mind you I initially started writing this post 4 weeks ago :)

So here are some facts on what procrastination is psychologically (and what it is not). And further down I will share some ways I have learned to break through it or methods that are generally recommended. And then you can decide whether you want to call yourself a chronic procrastinator - like 20% of the US population - or maybe you're just a person who is looking for the right moment and inspiration!

  1. Procrastinating is something you learned at home. So if it's something you picked up, you can drop it again. Yes, really!
  2. Procrastinating is actually bad for your health. Being immobile, which is usually the way of dealing with things, weakens your immune system and can cause gastrointestinal problems and even insomnia.
  3. It is not poor time management or planning. You are simple a little bit more "optimistic" with your time.
  4. Are you trying to piss someone off? Because they may take it that way...

Now here's what to do:

  1. Find someone to jump-start you. It takes extra effort to come back to discipline, so find someone who will nag you repeatedly. When it's done, take them out for brunch. This year...
  2. Make a list and then do the hard stuff first. No task is so hard you can't find a way to motivate yourself. Be nice to yourself.
  3. Focus on one thing at a time and turn off distractions. Instant gratification of counting your Instagram or Facebook likes is awesome. But imagine how much greater it will be when you check back later and suddenly the number of likes is double digits instead of individual.
  4. Schedule breaks and how long they should last (!). Then if it's a longer project schedule the end time and reward yourself. Now go check your likes and have some ice cream.

Oh and while you're on Facebook and Instagram, come over to my pages and say hello, too! But only AFTER you're done.

xxR

Healthy Breakfast and Snack Ideas (with Strawberries!)

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If you are pressed for time (like I am today!!), I say, go break out the blender for these healthy breakfast and snack ideas. I am obsessed with strawberries! I can eat them fresh, frozen, on cakes, pureed, as ice cream, yoghurt and even on toast (remember?).

So what better way to start my busy morning today than with a smoothie! I have recently acquired a Nutribullet and oh boy has it changed my life. It's quick and easy to clean and store which is vital in a NYC apartment.

This morning we had a beautiful smoothie that really packed a punch with the following ingredients (and nutrients):

SPINACH: vitamins K and A, folic acid, dietary fiber and protein! BANANA: potassium, tryptophan, serotonin and norepinephrine! DATES: iron, calcium, vitamin A and ß-carotene! STRAWBERRIES: vitamin C, fiber, manganese and folate!

So with one delicious cup of smoothie (even though the colour doesn't give it away) we took care of our heart, bones, memory, muscles, immune system and mental health as well as female health.

For a late morning snack I prepared some Chia Seed Pudding with Strawberries. Chia Seeds are the flaxseed of the millennial generation ;) They reduce food cravings, help you stay hydrated, lower blood pressure and are rich in Omega-3. Add 2 tbs of seeds to 1 cup of almond milk or coconut milk, add the fruit of your choice (2/3-1 cup), buy a cool looking mason jar to store in, and refrigerate for 5 hrs or overnight.

ENJOY!

xxR

Healing and a New Moon

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2014 is charging ahead. It is supposed to be ripe with opportunity and to favour the quick thinkers and decision makers. It is also full of new moons already! In less than three days, we will have a new moon again, the third one this year. This new moon will be in Pisces. I won't attempt to give you an astrological or mystical breakdown of what awaits, but I have come to appreciate new moons as mini new beginnings so I will do the same with this one. Also, the topic of healing came up (my husband compared me to Chiron... I'll write a separate post on that, ha!). As you may know, I suffered from sciatica for three years. It was excruciatingly painful and had absolutely no physical source (at least initially). I talked to a few new mothers this week and some of them told me about their experiences with lower back issues and also sciatica. Sciatica just like many other ailments and pains, usually stems from imbalance, emotional or physical. We can treat the symptoms but until we attack the root cause, the problem will keep returning. It took me another 2 years to get to the root and work on eliminating it and therefore reducing the pain and it took some pretty big changes in attitude and behavioural patterns. I was able to heal with a lot of support from others but mainly because I sought and went after more balance in my life.

Now this new moon on March 1st is in Pisces and asking for a closer look at some of our patterns, it is supposed to set a tone for pause and reflection while we consider where our energy has become totally out of balance.

There it is again: balance. The word pops up a lot. We talk about work-life balance, mind-body balance, balancing acts, balanced meals, the balance of power, standing balances and being well-balanced mentally.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

Balance is such an integrative part of our vocabulary but still, we rarely achieve it in our life. This upcoming new moon wants to remind us how to do it. It asks us to tune inward and listen. To pay attention to our dreams. To flow and be connected. To merge and take a break from mundane activities. My interpretation and what I'm intending to do (especially since it's coming on the weekend) is the following:

  • Seeing people that I don't often see and miss (!). I started today with a lovely lunch and it made me happy.
  • Engaging in activities that I love and that allow me to reflect. I will probably go for a run.
  • Taking some me time.
  • Trying to refrain from being impatient for x amount of hours per day. With others AND myself.
  • Preparing and savouring nourishing food. And ideally sharing it in lovely company.
  • Resting and taking a moment in the morning to reflect on my dreams.
  • Beginning or ending the day reminding myself of what I'm grateful for (and writing it down).
  • Writing down my dreams for the future as a way of manifesting them / announcing them to the Universe.

I can't believe we are almost in March. Three weeks and change until Spring. Could it be true?

Let me know what you will be doing for the new moon or what you have done to heal after a difficult emotional or physical setback.

I would love to hear from you!

xxR

Zucchini Onion Quiche

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This zucchini onion quiche is a nice vegetarian dinner for two. Not sure if it's technically a quiche or a pie but it tasted great. You will need: 3 eggs, 1 cup of grated parmesan, 1 medium onion chopped, 1 clove garlic,  salt and pepper to taste, 2 medium zucchini sliced, 1/2 cup EVOO, 1 cup of all purpose flour, 2 tbs baking powder, 1/2 cup of ghee or butter or another vegetable oil (whatever you do, do NOT use coconut oil. Trust me I tried...).

Mix the whisked eggs, parmesan, salt and pepper, zucchini, minced garlic, and EVOO. Then add the onion and the mixture of flour, baking powder and ghee (mix those three ingredients separately until smooth). The result will be a very unattractive weird "dough" that you can now refine with spices you like. I added some paprika and some everything spice. You could also add something like cayenne or maybe crushed red pepper flakes for some extra oomph.

Transfer to a pie dish or rectangular baking tray and bake for 40 minutes at 350 F.

Enjoy! And let me know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook. If you liked it, please share with your friends, too!

xxR

Do what you love

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In his commencement address to the students of Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs said "You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. [...] And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. When I quit my office job and started my career in wellness, a lot of people thought I was crazy. I had been in said job for several years, it provided a very healthy paycheck that included all benefits that one could imagine (and then some) . Still I was lacking passion for what I was doing...

And on top of it, the job had made me sick. For half of the time, that I spent there, I suffered from sciatica, a condition which once diagnosed,turned out not to be rooted in a physical fall or injury. It was a consequence of the fact that my current situation had made me incredibly anxious and unhappy.

It took guts and a lot of self examination to come to the decision to leave a safe job and start anew but here are five things, I learned in the process leading up to and following through on this (so far) best decision of my life:

  1. When you do what you love, it doesn't feel like work: nobody said you won't have to work anymore, but being passionate about what you do, is fulfilling and ultimately makes you provide a better service to the people you work with and for.
  2. The money will come: Changing careers is never easy. Whether it is in the same industry or doing something completely new. One good think you can do is have savings before changing careers. But then dive into the new direction and trust that you are doing the right thing. And your income will come to reflect that.
  3. Being passionate = being healthy: none of us can escape the occasional sniffles but overall, doing things and loving them will eliminate stress and anxiety from your life which pose an enormous threat to our system and mental and physical well-being.
  4. Being passionate attracts support: believe it or not, the more your body language screams "passion" and "satisfaction" the more people will gravitate towards you. It will shine through what you write and say and these new people in your life will want to help your cause and see it grow.
  5. Being passionate, will be a powerful teacher: just because you are suddenly doing what you love doesn't mean it will always be easy. There will be setbacks and you will need to deal with them. When you are passionate about something, giving up is not an option. This new situation will teach you to look at yourself closely, examine where you are stuck and force you to move through it.

Ever since I started working in wellness, I have seen all the points above come true. My old job felt like an obligation at times, a chore and necessary part of my life. The daily grind became my reality and I accepted it as how work should be.

Being passionate about what I do has helped me navigate all the things that we are confronted with in our work lives and made them a lot easier. It has taught me confidence and to trust that I am doing the right thing, or forced me to re-examine, adjust, adapt and find new ways of dealing with situations where things didn't work out.

Personally, I think there is no better way to grow in my life than to do what you love and ultimately that for me is the purest form of self-love.

Kale Avocado Salad

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Kale Avocado Salad is a beautiful winter dish. They are a great combination... Add challah croutons and it's downright heavenly! This salad tastes simultaneously fresh and filling (with the option of farro) and is ready in 5 minutes.

Cut the avocado into cubes and add to a bowl. Roast 2 cups of challah cubes after tossing them in olive oil and thyme - until lightly browned (.

While the croutons are baking, slice 1 large garlic bulb thinly, add 3 tablespoons of buttermilk, 1 tbs of whole grain mustard, salt and pepper as well as one egg yolk and 1/3-1/2 of olive oil. Whip the dressing until nicely combined.

Add the croutons to the avocado and add about ten stalks of kale or 3-4 cups. Toss with the dressing.

If you want some more bite to it, you can add precooked farro.

ENJOY!

Core Workout Video

Use this core workout video to exercise your obliques and abs. Place a block between your thighs, lift your legs up straight or bend knees if necessary. With both hands interlaced behind your head, lift right elbow towards your left knee, then switch. 10 repetitions on each side. Three sets.

The Best South African Buttermilk Rusks

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When Chris and I went to South Africa two years ago (and got engaged ♥ ) one of the things I learned that the Van der Walt women need to know is how to make (the best South African buttermilk) rusks. What are rusks? In the US we would probably call them dehydrated cereal bars. In Europe something like pressed Muesli bars. This following recipe makes for a big amount of these delicious and oh so rewarding and nutritional rusks AND they are gluten free. You can eat them when on Safari, being charged by an elephant bull, crossing an Australian desert, as dessert, as breakfast or with tea. And they are great for pre- and post workout fuel! You can dunk them in tea or coffee and the crunch from all the good seeds, will always have you coming back for more. Luckily you will have enough for weeks...

Thank you for the recipe, Gaynor!

  • 1 1/4 cups butter
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar. I use 1 cup dark soft brown sugar and 1 cup usual brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 7 cups of self raising flour, I use gluten free more friendly on the stomach
  • 4 cups of oat bran
  • 1 cup bread flour, such as King Arthur
  • 1tbs baking powder
  • 2.5 cups of buttermilk
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup of sesame seeds
  • ½ cup of linseeds

 

 

best south african buttermilk rusks

1. Melt butter, oil and sugar on low heat. Stir well and remove from heat as soon as melted. The sugar does not melt completely and remains quite thick but the grains melt. 2. Beat eggs in buttermilk and stir into above. 3. Mix all dry ingredients together and make a deep well. 4. Slowly pour in wet ingredients and mix well with a short handled wooden spoon is best. 5. With hands pull off pieces of dough mix, the size of mandarins. I don’t work the dough in my hands as this makes them heavier but the choice is yours if you want them lighter. A real child-play treat as the dough sticks like crazy but you’ll find a way to get it off your hands and onto the baking tray. 6. Place on 2 baking trays an inch apart. While cooking they will touch which is fine! 7. Cook 180 °C/ 350 F ‘till golden, about 30/45 mins. 8. Remove and allow to cool so you’re able to break them without burning your fingers! 9. Break up into whatever size you fancy while still warm. They break easily on cracks formed while baking. Leave them in a jumble on their baking trays close together as the drying out process is at least 8 hours when you go to bed. I arrange them upside down to allow more airflow while drying. 10. Before going to bed set oven at 100 °C/ 200 F and leave overnight.

ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!

How to resist temptation

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Has the weather in the Northeast worn you down yet? The US and Canada started 2014 off with freezing temperatures and polar vortexes that kept us in their grip for a solid 3 weeks. Now that we learned how to bundle up for all occasions, we get more snow and more to come. We have had colder weather than the arctic, big snow falls, sleet, freezing rain and then some. Usually our response to this weather is to turn to comfort. More precisely comfort food.

For some it is the hot chocolate, for others, savoury dishes that seem too heavy in the summer but now hold a certain allure. We drink more and vegetables take a lot more preparation to make them hot and comforting, so they can land on the back burner.

I'm no stranger to the effect that gravy, creamy dishes and sauces, roasts, pies and other sweets hold in the winter. Exercising in the cold weather is harder too, so is motivating ourselves to even consider it when there are only limited hours of daylight.

BUT: here is how to resist temptation with a few shifts in your mindset.

  1. KISS: keep it simple, skinny! I talk about routine a lot and it is true. The more your mind and body know what is coming (or not) the more reliably they will keep you on track. For example, if you eat a wholesome healthy warm dish of oatmeal in the morning on six days out of seven, then you will be less tempted to grab a quick muffin, egg sandwich or croissant on your way to work. The same goes for exercise. If you plan certain classes ahead and pack your bag, you're sort of forced to go.
  2. KO the sugar! I'm not saying you have to quit sugar all together. Although, it is certainly healthier. But if you start paying attention to white sugar in foods that is hidden, that is half the battle won. The simple carbohydrates don't do much more for your body than providing it with quick energy. We all have enough stored in our bodies to provide the body with that. The other problem is that while your body is busy digesting the carbs, other components of your food, proteins and fat, are being stored. Try and find alternatives, like honey or grab a piece of fruit before eating the chocolate bar.
  3. REM: Rest.Eat.Me(ditate)-Time! Not in that order but you get what I mean. Sleep is important in combating temptation and resisting it. I'm a compulsive snacker especially under stress. And I don't usually reach for an apple. When you get enough sleep and eat your last meal long enough before going to bed and then supplement that with 15 minutes of quality time for reflecting, the chances are that you will be less frazzled and make healthier choices.
  4. DIY: do it yourself i.e. cook! We all lead VERY stressful, busy lives but especially in the winter, our choices for takeout can be dumb. When we prepare our own food, we know exactly what goes in it. It's a beautiful thing to cook, to savour the aroma of dishes, to share it with partners and friends and it prolonges the process of enjoying it, too. If you live alone, cook and then freeze things or have regular potluck lunches with colleagues so you can sample some of their food.
  5. Check your MO: as in moderation, as in fallback plan! We can't always resist temptation but we can limit the amount of indulgences that we give in to. The easiest is to not keep too many unhealthy food options around the house. Or have them in individual packs. When the urge is big, make it a ritual that you enjoy. Reward yourself, have a great experience and then move on with your day and week. For example, have one row of a chocolate bar, have a few spoons of ice-cream, eat a slice of pizza and please spare yourself the guilt afterwards. This may just be my humble opinion, but I'm pretty sure guilt will make you fat ;)

Now, all these tricks are for when you are at home. But we are no hermits. Whenever you are out in public and temptation arises, remind yourself of the awesome things that you have in store for yourself at home. When you go to a party, try and keep normal meal portions in mind, then increase them by a little because it's a special occasion but keep paying attention if you start to feel sluggish, heavy, bloated or tippsy. Chances are that is just the prelude of how much worse you'll feel the next morning...

I hope you find these tips helpful. Let me know in the comments how you resist temptation. Pass on this article if you liked it and come on over to Facebook and like my page.

Have a wonderful rest of your week!

xxR

Baked Rolled Oats - Pecans & Blueberry

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Just tell me in the comments if you are already over my rolled oats recipes? But these are baked rolled oats! As you may have gathered by now, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, closely followed by lunch/ brunch. I'm not that crazy about dinner, because big meals usually make me very sleepy. I'm known for falling asleep on my friends' couches after dinner parties. Not my proudest moments. But also occupational hazard, I may add.

This dish will be done in 45 minutes and you can eat it for the next few days.

You will need 2 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of almond milk, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of melted butter or ghee, 1-2 cups of pecans chopped and 1-2 cups of frozen blueberries and 2 bananas. Maple syrup is optional.

Butter a medium sized baking dish and line the bottom of it with bananas. In one bowl mix the oats, half of the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add the almond milk, maple syrup and the butter.

Sprinkle 2/3 of the blueberries over the bananas, then evenly coat with the oat mixture. Pour the liquid ingredients on top and give it a little shake to make sure the milk runs in between the oats. Sprinkle the remaining pecans and the blueberries on top.

Bake the dish at 375 F for approximately 40 minutes, enjoy the beautiful smell and then devour!

Let me know if you like it!

xxR

PS: The beautiful serving spoon was a gift from my in-laws. I love the South African designer Carrol Boyes.

 

 

***Recipe adapted from http://www.lottieanddoof.com/2011/04/baked-oatmeal/

Tasty Tuesdays: Sweet Potato Frittata

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For Tasty Tuesdays this week, I present to you what has got to be the easiest recipe ever. And it's delicious sweet potato, too. I have adapted this recipe from this original one, here. You will need 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly, one bunch of spring onions (chop the white and light green parts only), 2 Tbs butter or ghee, grated Gruyère cheese, 6 eggs, 2 Tbs milk.

Melt 1 Tbs of butter or ghee in a big oven proof pan or dish. Add the sweet potato in several layers. Sautée them and gradually add the spring onion. Cook both until just soft, season generously with salt and pepper, and remove from the pan. Whisk the eggs with the milk.

Melt the 2nd Tbs of butter or ghee in the pan, making sure that you coat the sides, too. Add the potato/ spring onion mixture back to the pan, then immediately add the egg. Move the pan left to right to ensure that the egg mixture runs into the areas between the potato slices. Let it cook until the egg is just set, then transfer under the broiler.

Cook the frittata under the broiler until the egg is set, then sprinkle (as much) cheese (as you like) on top and let it brown. Voilà!

I personally thought the frittata made for a light vegetarian dinner that didn't need anything to go with it. But you could always serve it as a side dish or bring it to a party or brunch and make your friends very happy!

I hope you like it.

xxR

 

How to overcome Fear

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Fear... we all have it. Some of us are more inclined to discuss fear (publicly) than others but we all want to know how to overcome it. When I say fear, I include phobias and anxiety, that dreaded feeling that makes us lose control and stops us from thinking clearly. I recently saw the photos in this article mentioned by and featuring Kathryn Budig (renowned yoga teacher) that shows people with writings on them that describe their fears and insecurities. Steve Rosenfield’s “What I Be Project” depicts his friends and famous people in a very vulnerable way and there is a beauty to it.

We live in a society where being strong dominates, so does being fast and successful, beautiful and confident. But the real strength, in my opinion, lies in showing people our vulnerabilities and owning them. In most cases, talking about them already relieves a burden and most people will probably offer a helping hand to help us overcome our fear.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to be more confident in front of a lens. Photo or video, particularly when I'm not moving but telling a story. And I do hope to share videos with you on topics around exercise, food, mood, motivation and body image. So look out for them.

In order to get there, I believe 5 things will help me:

  1. Just doing it: it's like that old band aid as a child. The quicker you pull it off the easier and less painful it is. Just doing it means trying it and not judging yourself. There really is nothing bad that will happen.
  2. Support from friends and family: as I mentioned above, talking about fear and anxiety is a first step to releasing some of the tension. Most people probably relate and will be more willing to come forward with theirs. Then, when the situation arises, make sure you have one of them by your side to squeeze your hand and tell you you're doing great!
  3. Practicing: make it a regular thing. When I started teaching classes, my heart was thumping and I was sure everyone could hear my voice trembling. With several classes a week, I am still a bit nervous at the start especially when new people are there but I can focus on other things more now. I talk to people, listen to their stories, laugh with them, because it's a routine now, the anxiety has made space for nicer things to focus on!
  4. Breathing: in most yoga classes you start with deep breathing. I start my class with the same. Breathing and releasing the tension in your abdomen from holding it in is super important. The deep inhales lift your chest up and make you feel powerful, the long exhales release anxiety and help you drop the shoulders which are probably up by your ears. Inhale tranquility - exhale anxiety.
  5. Being kind to myself: I am my biggest critic and I'll second-guess even if friends tell me it was good. So in this New Year's resolution, I also need to stop that. Being kind to ourselves means being accepting. Something we gladly extend to good friends. Being accepting of our own imperfections and the fact that everything is a process, is a major step to being more relaxed about our fears.

There... if I can do it, you can do it! Whether you get nervous about public speaking, fear flying, get anxious in new situations, I hope those five steps help you.

Let me know in the comments if you use some of these techniques and in general how YOU overcome fear! The sky's the limit - I dare you to embrace it!

xxR

PS: I'm afraid of heights, too. Hence the photo!