Chocolate Chip Cookie Granola

Chocolate Chip Cookie Granola Recipe

Chocolate Chip Cookie Granola Recipe (Gluten-Free!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 cups rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • 1 oz. dark chocolate, roughly chopped (Lindt 90%is my favorite)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 225 F.
  2. Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spritz with cooking spray, or a very thin layer of coconut oil (just to prevent sticking).
  3. Combine oats and brown sugar.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine melted coconut oil, honey, agave, and vanilla, then baking soda and salt.
  5. Pour oat mixture into wet mixture and toss until well coated. Then add walnuts.
  6. Spread evenly onto lined cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, removing from oven every 10 minutes to stir so it cooks evenly.
  7. When granola has mostly cooled, but is warm to the touch, sprinkle chocolate over the top. (It should melt just a little bit so it sticks to the granola.) Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to give chocolate a chance to cool and harden.

Path to the Podium – Nantucket Sprint and Olympic Triathlon 2015

This post is long overdue, but I had to make sure that I didn’t DREAM what I’m about to share… I won this weekend. I raced the Nantucket Sprint Triathlon on Saturday, July 18, and the Nantucket Olympic Triathlon on Sunday, July 19.

I came in second in my age group in the sprint triathlon, and 12th overall female. And then the next day, came in first in my age group in the olympic triathlon, and 6th overall female.

And trust me… it wasn’t an accident.

Last year I set a goal for myself – to win my age group in the Nantucket Sprint Triathlon. So I started training with that goal in mind, and pushed so hard that I injured myself and had to back off of training for a few key months. I couldn’t run, and biking was very limited.

There was a lot of crying on the couch in those few months, and a lot of stress. I went back to some old habits of obsessing about my weight and feeling guilty not exercising or eating certain foods. It was frustrating, but it didn’t stop me. I persisted until I figured out how to get back to training full force. So much physical therapy, bike fittings, massages, trying this and trying that, isolating workouts and other variables… Until I FINALLY could get back to running. Too bad it was two days before my first race…

But I still came in 6th in my age group. And I was thrilled. Pretty solid for not having run in three months. It reinvigorated me. It gave my new hope. “I can do this.”

So I signed up for another race, a month later. And this one was even harder. It was a longer swim, shorter bike, and the athletes were incredibly strong. This time I took 5th. So close… and Nantucket was a week away!

I was signed up for the sprint:

.4 mile swim
13 mile bike
3.4 mile run

Unlike last year, the jitters were gone. They were replaced with excitement and energy. I had believed for so long that I was going to win this race, that it seemed impossible not to.

And I went for it. Swim. Transition. Bike. Transition. Run. Finish line. Results board. Second in my division!! And 12th woman overall.

Second Place in 25-29 Division at Nantucket Sprint Triathlon 2015

I guzzled water, stood on the podium, GLEAMING, and was high for the rest of the day. SO HIGH that I thought about signing up for the next day’s race. The longer one… double the race I just did.

So I set my alarm clock for 4:45 am and woke up with my friends who were already planning to do the race. We rode our bikes to athlete checkin and I registered on the spot.

.9 mile swim
26 mile bike
6.8 mile run

As I slid on my wetsuit with plastic bags, there was one thought going through my head. “DON’T FINISH LAST.” And that pretty much stuck with me until I started passing some guys (That’s right… I swim #LikeAGirl) in the first swim wave. I knew I had three minutes on those guys, so maybe the DFL wasn’t an issue.

I stripped off my wetsuit with my friends cheering for me on the sideline, and when I reemerged from the transition area on my bike, they had found me and cheered me on again.

“Go pass some boys!!” one of them yelled, and I lit up and dug into the pedals. I started passing women, and then the men. Because, oh yeah, I ride a bike #LikeAGirl too.

Because of the way the course was set up – two loops of the bike and run – I could get a sense for who was in front of me. And I didn’t see too many women. So now all I could think about was, “I could actually win my age group.”

I powered through the bike, keeping the perfect amount of pain in my legs and moving the pedals at optimum cadence. I flew past some more men and into the transition area. One more leg. Only 6.8 miles on foot. I got this.

I felt every step of that run, grabbing a cup at each water station to take a sip while the water splashed all over my face, and then dousing myself with what was left. My friends and strangers continued to cheer me on and I found the strength to keep going. Then at about mile 5 I found myself on a stretch of road with no spectators and no athletes. The perfect place to stop. I had fun thinking about stopping. About walking for a minute and relieving the pain in my feet and the new chafing sensation in my shorts. But that’s all it was. Just a thought.

I kept running, and as I made the last big turn to face the finish line, a woman came up behind me and pulled a few steps ahead.

“Give these people a show! Sprint to the finish!” yelled the race director hanging by the turn. And I dug in. With no time to look back, one of my friends was waiting by the finish line and he yelled, “go as hard as you can! she’s right behind you!” and I gave it everything I had.

Nantucket Olympic Triathlon Finish 2015

I gave some sweaty high-fives, and walked to the results board trying to hide the excitement of what I already knew. First in my division :) And the kicker?? Sixth woman overall.

Nantucket Olympic Triathlon First Place 25-29 Division 2015

Oh, it was a good day.

Road to Recovery – How Training Through Injury Saved My Season (And Kept Me Sane)

It’s a triathlon season miracle! That is if by “miracle” I mean months of training through injury, and near perfect timing.

Background. Here’s the short story:

  • March: Pain started developing in my left knee from triathlon training workouts (appeared first when running) and it was diagnosed as overuse injury related to the IT band. I had to stop running :( and focus on strengthening my glutes and breaking up knotted and damaged muscle fibers along my IT band. I could still strength train, bike, and swim.
  • April: Training through injury continued, but still NO RUNNING. Bike, swim, and strength training were all fine. And I stuck with weekly dry needling therapy and PT.
  • May: It got WORSE. Now my knee hurt on the bike and during quad and hip dominant strength training. I was left with swimming. Ouch… so I picked up yoga to keep myself from going totally insane. PT and dry needling therapy continued. Third month without running…

Somewhere around mid-May the injury was worse than it had ever been, and I shared my frustration in a blog post. At that point, it felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel – like my knee would never get better.

I thought triathlon season was ruined. Races started in June, and it was the end of May and the pain still seemed to be getting worse. We had spent months trying to break up the damaged tissue we believed to be causing the pain, and I still wasn’t back to running. And I was barely able to bike.

Then, after more than three months of frustration and false hope, I felt good enough to run. And I went for it! I ran 1.7 pain-free miles. And I only stopped because I was afraid I would injure myself again. My first triathlon of the season was only FIVE DAYS away, and this painless run gave me one more spark of hope.

The next day I pinched myself to make sure it was real. And I didn’t wake up, so I did a brick workout. (If 10 miles on the bike followed by a 2-mile run didn’t wake me from my dream, then I would know for sure that it was real.) And I did it… PAIN-FREE!

So I decided to compete. And it was one of the best days of my life. After months of training through injury – limited biking and no running – I placed 6th in my age group. My swim was great (well.. pretty good), and my bike and run were just fine. I was especially pleased by my run pace after having to take three months off.

I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m getting there. The crazy part is, that just when I finally accepted that my race season plans might have to change, my situation improved and I learned that they didn’t have to. It’s rough being sidelined and stressed out, but don’t lose hope. 

Here’s some of what I learned about training through injury:

  1. Do what you can. My original training plans included swim, bike, run, and core (strength training) workouts. And once my injury struck, there was a lot I was forced to sit out, but it didn’t stop me from the rest of my training. I swam (with a pull buoy when I had to) and I even picked up yoga (something I was never really into before). This helped me from going completely crazy, and gave me an opportunity to grow in new areas while other activities were put on hold.
  2. Find a professional you trust. When I felt like I was getting worse, it would have been easy for me to give up on my PT. But I trusted her advice and professional opinion, so I stuck with it. If I hadn’t been so confident with her, then it would have been easy for me to call it quits when I grew frustrated with (what seemed like) lack of improvement. But I knew she was leading me down the right path. And because of the relationship we developed, I was able to voice my concerns and develop a deeper understanding of what might be going on.
  3. Be open to insight. Here’s an example to demonstrate what I mean: I was in yoga class – on my back, holding my left leg straight up into the air – when the instructor came up beside me and said “oh no, like this,” as he rotated my hip open ever so slightly. It sparked a recollection of a similar positioning I had on the bike – my knee turned in slightly and just a bit of discomfort – and it changed my perspective on the whole injury. It led to a conversation at PT and a cleat fit on my bike that helped support my recovery.
  4. Talk to people! Chances are you’re not the only triathlete you know, and certainly not the only person to be injured. Tell people what’s going on. Not only is it therapeutic to vent, but you’ll find that people offer valuable insight. Why is insight important? See tip #3 above :)
  5. Don’t go crazy… at least try not to. Stress is a killer – at least it was for me. The anxiety caused by having to go off plan was rough, and only made worse by the fact that I couldn’t just beat the stress by going out for a run… Training through injury is helpful in beating this stress. It helps you to not feel fat and lazy, and it puts you back in control. You might even fall in love with a new activity.

The bottom line… plans change. You can pout about it, or play the game with the new rules. And you can certainly do both. Either way, if you get stuck then just remember why you started. That should help get you moving again.

-Michelle

Sidelined and Stressed Out

So… I’m sidelined. The jury is still out on exactly what’s going on, but I don’t think there’s any question to the fact that I overdid it with training.

One day, after a few months of triathlon training – swim/bike/run/core workouts – I started getting some knee pain while running. Initially it was a dull pain along the outside of my left knee, and after having to cut a handful of runs short, I somehow convinced myself that “maybe I just need to run through it.” So I pushed through a 5-mile run at sub-8-minute miles, and as I winced to a stop about a half mile from home, I began to fill with regret.

The consensus among trainers and fellow athletes seemed to be IT band issues, and the doctor and PT concurred. So we worked on strengthening my glutes and breaking up some of the knotted muscle fibers that were thought to be a source of the pain. Stretching, foam rolling, PVC pipe rolling, getting in there with a lacrosse ball… and even dry needling.

It wasn’t getting worse, but it wasn’t getting better. I could still swim, strength train and ride my bike, so after initial withdrawals from running I found some peace.

I kept up with swimming and biking, and spent my evenings crawling around the living room doing PT exercises and watching “The Wire” on Netflix. I figured by season three I’d be all fixed up.

Cut to season three…

The knee pain crept up about 20 miles into a weekend bike ride. Knee pain on the bike? This was new. I pushed it for another 10 miles or so, until I was finally able to quite the voice that was saying “maybe you just need to ride through it.” And then I remembered how well that worked out for me last time.

I rolled into a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, where I avoided conversations with strangers and choked back tears behind my scratched Oakleys, and waited for my Knight in a shining white Jetta to arrive.

So here I am. Sidelined. And I have to say it doesn’t feel good.

There’s not happy ending to share quite yet, but I’m 100% positive that there will be. Patience is all.

The moral is: We expect a lot of our bodies, at least I do, and 99% of the time they rise to the occasion. So we ask for more and more until one day it just spins around and says “F*@! YOU,” And for some reason we are surprised.

Don’t be surprised. Do the right things and listen carefully to what your body is telling you, even if it is barely a whisper.

So you think you’re ready to do your first triathlon?

Well then I’d say you are too. It’s just something you know.

The first time I expressed interest (about 2 years ago), it was a false start. I talked about it a little bit – even found one I wanted to do – and did a few “brick workouts” just to prove to myself that I was capable. But then I never registered.

Then in January 2014, the interest resurfaced. And this time I signed up.

I spent the next few months logging slow splits in my Nikes and chasing some fast friends around on bikes. I never so much as dipped a toe in a pool, and my only time spent in the ocean was to recover from sunbathing.

Don’t get me wrong… I was fit… But training wasn’t very specific to triathlon. I was still mostly focused on abs.

Race day came along, and I was pretty much freaking out. I babbled about how nervous I was until I couldn’t even listen to myself talk anymore. And anyone who knows me understands that I have a terribly high threshold for hearing my own voice.

Waiting at the edge of the water, I said to myself, “I’m so nervous,” probably another two or ten times. And finally it was my turn to dive in. So I ran in as deep as I could, then just started swimming. Next thing I knew, I was toweling off my sandy feet and clipping into my pedals.

Somewhere along the sandy bike loop I felt a smile creep over my face, and as I mashed my pedals to the next transition, it didn’t uncurl for a second. I jumped off the bike, switched shoes, and just started running.

And in 1:26:06.7 I went from “I’m so nervous!” to “wow that was awesome.”

Now I’m in love… or maybe addicted… and looking forward to a full season of sprint triathlon. My goal this year? To win.

From “I just want to lose a few pounds” to “I am a triathlete”

I’m sorry I ditched you for a bit, but I had to. I was getting off topic.

The whole point of this blog was to use my own fitness journey to help other people find their fittest selves. But my journey has dramatically evolved, and my blog wasn’t keeping up. It became a challenge to write from the experiences that defined my journey more than a year ago.

When the goal of “fitness” started for me, it was about diet and exercise, abs and thighs, and fitting into my skinny jeans. I stuck with it, and that dream can come true. But I could never have predicted what would happen next.

I became an athlete. And I never even saw it coming.

Two years ago I was struggling to run a 10-minute mile, and one year ago I was running a 5k time that I could be proud of. Seven months ago I participated in my first sprint triathlon, and this year my season is packed and I’m training to win my age group.

It might be easy (in hindsight) to pick out a few training benchmarks, my journey from “I just want to lose a few pounds” to “I am a triathlete” is still a bit of a mystery to me.

The point is… well there are two. The first is that if I want to continue to inspire people with my own experience, I have to share the challenges and successes that I am closest t0 – the ones I am living right now. And while they aren’t about finding motivation to go to the gym or to sticking to a low-calorie meal plan, they are still about breaking out of my comfort zone to reach new goals and set new limits.

The second is that I couldn’t have predicted my path, and neither should you. So think about what you want to achieve in the near future, create a plan, and get it. Let fantasy inspire you only if it doesn’t limit you. Embrace learning and discomfort, and don’t fear setbacks. Be honest with yourself and what you want. Don’t do it for anyone else, and don’t not do it because of anyone else.

 

Resolution #FitPlace – A Little Boost of Inspiration for Training

Finding inspiration to get fit is different for everyone. And for each of us, we’ll find that it needs to evolve along with our physical fitness and the psychological changes that come with it.

I look back at some of the things that used to provide me with inspiration to get fit and reach my goals, and can see how much I have changed. In most cases, the images and words that I used to fuel my motivation are anything but irrelevant. They have just become so much a part of me and my thought process, that I’ve been able to adapt new mantras to help me work toward my new goals.

Right now, it’s no longer about inspiration to get fit for me, but inspiration to get better and train harder. I’ve been training with some events in mind, and have recently outlined my goals for the triathlon season. Currently my trainers and I are working on a plan, but having competed before there are a few things I know I’ll need to be successful. So a few pieces of inspiration have recently hit home for me.

One thing I know is that I’ll need to be able to push it when I feel like I’ve got nothing left:

“The most critical decision is made when you feel like giving up.”
Recently, I’ve been practicing for these moments as part of my training. When I get to the toughest part of the workout – the last set, or the last mile – I get hyper-focused, and push it. I find all of the energy I can, and instead of simply avoiding the feeling to give up, I practice making a decision to go harder.

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And another thing I know is that I need to believe in myself. 

“You have to believe in yourself when noone else does. That makes you a winner right there.”
 – Venus Williams
I love this quote, and it’s not because I lack support, but because believing you can do something is really the secret to achievement. Of course, you have to be willing to put in the work, but without the belief, you’ve got nothing. I’m grateful for all of the support I have, and for all of the people who believe in me. But if I let that belief make me, then it can break me too. I need to believe in myself.

Take Action: Think about what you’ve chosen as inspiration to get fit. Is it still relevant? Has it worked up until this point to keep you moving when you felt like quitting?

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Resolution #FitPlace – Living a Healthy Lifestyle: Breaking it Down to Build it up

I think part of the challenge to finding our paths to “Living a Healthy Lifestyle” is that the phrase has lost its essence in our consciousness.

Phrases get so heavily stuffed into our vernacular that we grow numb to them, or lose an understanding of their true meaning.

Quick – what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about living a healthy lifestyle?

If you imagine yourself bangin’ out bicycle crunches in front of your TV while the sun streams in on your smiling face and suddenly spacious living room… well, that’s not your healthy lifestyle. That’s an infomercial.

If you imagine yourself slipping into a red dress, turning to the mirror, and sliding your hands down your waist and hips with a smile… think again. That’s not you either. That’s a cereal commercial.

If you picture yourself in cargo shorts, hiking boots and a sleek ponytail, sitting on a rock to overlook the valley and crunch on a granola bar… well, you get the picture.

So let’s think about it again. What does living a healthy lifestyle mean to you?

This is important, because the ability to visualize yourself having reached your goals will help you attain them. It all goes back to the question – how will you get there if you don’t know where you’re going?

To help get the juices flowing, let’s think about what the term actually means.

Living
You are here – now – and time doesn’t stop for you to reach your goals. And whether or not you are fit and healthy, the responsibilities and the logistics of your life still exist. The whole point is to improve your life, not pause it.

Healthy
Healthy isn’t just about what is physically healthy, but what is emotionally healthy. You have to treat your body and mind well. One can’t be fit without the other.

Lifestyle
Remember to think about this as part of the goal. We aren’t racing toward a finish line. We are developing the habit of making choices, and they need to be as enjoyable and sustainable as possible until they become part of ourselves.

Living a Healthy Lifestyle. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act but a habit. Finding Your Fit Place.

Take Action: Visualize yourself living a healthy lifestyle, and do it today.

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Resolution #FitPlace – Prepare Healthy Meals for the Week

Sunday gives us a great opportunity to get ready for Monday, and one of the things we can do is prepare healthy meals for the week.

This sounds easy enough, right? But I’ve been doing this for years, and I’ve wasted way too much food to know that being able to prepare healthy meals for the week is anything but easy.

How do you know what you want to eat on Thursday? …it’s like 5 days away…. And how do you know that what you want to eat on Thursday is going to keep until Thursday?

Well.. you don’t. And even as you practice and learn, it’s still a challenge. So I’ve got a few recommendations.

Some Guidelines: How to Prepare Healthy Meals for the Week

1. Make sure they lend themselves to variety. For example, I just made a big pot of lentils. I can heat them with more broth to make lentil soup, or make some quinoa and eat them with a nice big scoop on top. I also have a great recipe for lentil burgers.

2. Think about what will keep well. Some foods don’t do well as leftovers, and basically we are making a week’s worth of leftovers.

3. Cook what you can, prepare everything else. For example, reheated turkey burgers aren’t really the best, but if I mix the meat with the seasoning, make the patties, freeze them, and pull them out as I need them, then I am a few steps ahead of the game. And I won’t be eating dry turkey burgers.

4. Be economical. A little brown rice in the trash on Friday isn’t going to break the bank, but if you are buying organic fruits and vegetables, lean cuts of meats and expensive grains, then you probably don’t want that stuff to end up getting wasted.

5. Don’t get too ambitious with your portions. Sure, you might only want to eat 1/2 a sweet potato with your grilled chicken, but trust me – that is much easier to do on paper. If that’s your plan, then fine, but make sure you are prepared so you don’t end up eating 1/2 a box of Lucky Charms because meal plan was too stingy. A couple extra sweet potatoes won’t kill you. (Don’t overcommit, remember?)

6. Pick foods you like. Remember to balance satiety and the ability to control portions with overall “healthiness” of the meal. If plain grilled chicken is a chore for you to eat, then think about what you can prepare that you will enjoy. A few extra calories with the healthy meal is much better than all of the extra calories you will consume if you are left dissatisfied and hungry after the meal.

Try referencing my post about selecting your nutrition for a little more info about how to select foods and create a meal plan that works for you.

Take Action: This about your preparedness to eat healthy in the upcoming week.

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Asian Salad with Thai Peanut Butter Dressing. Finding Your Fit Place.

Asian Salad with Thai Peanut Butter Dressing

This Asian salad recipe with homemade thai peanut butter dressing is easy to make, and the ingredients are easy to find.

It was inspired by a few recipes I found, including this Chinese Chicken Salad with Red Chile Peanut Dressing from Bobbly Flay on The Food Network, and this Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing from Once Upon a Chef, but my version is gluten-free, vegan, and has no added sugar. I also mixed in a few more fruits/vegetables to add some sweetness and flavor in a healthier way.

Asian Salad with Thai Peanut Butter Dressing

Thai Peanut Dressing Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce (make sure it is gluten-free if you want the recipe to be gluten-free!)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • handful of fresh cilantro
  • dried chili flakes to taste
  • salt to taste
  • garlic powder to taste

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 cups butter lettuce, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 asian pear, chopped
  • 2 oz. (2 servings) rice noodles, prepared

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients for dressing in a blender, blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Toss lettuce, cabbage and carrots with half of the dressing and place in a large bowl.
  3. Pour noodles, bell pepper and Asian pear on top of lettuce mixture, and pour remaining dressing over the top. Garnish with a little more cilantro, lime wedges and some sugar snap peas.
  4. Enjoy!

For those of you following Resolution #FitPlace, I thought this would be a nice break from the motivational coaching! Don’t forget about the importance of loving your food. Good nutrition can be as interesting as you make it. Get creative!