Thursday, March 22, 2012

First Outdoor Run of 2012

Yep, you heard me!  Last night I finally had my first outdoor run of 2012 and it felt great!

I hate treadmills so when I go to the gym I usually do the elliptical.  It's ok, but I'd much rather do a Muscle Max or Spin class-- the problem is that after work, I usually get to the gym about 10 mins after a class started and have no desire to wait around for 50 mins for the next class to start.  And there are SOOOO many people at the gym between 5:30 and 8:30 during the winter that it's practically impossible to get enough space to do weights.  May need to find a new gym by next fall...

I digress.  As always.

Back to running!  Aside from a little jogging one cardio-filled evening, I haven't actually gone running since probably September or October- yikes! My body doesn't like to run but my mind does, so there's a constant battle going on when I hit the pavement.  Being knock-kneed, I'm super self-conscious about how I look when I run, and I have a tendency to unintentionally scrape my ankles with the opposite shoe. Plus I get fierce chafing because it's physically impossible for my thighs not to rub.  Ugh!  On the other hand, I love trekking through the neighborhoods and feeling that sense of kinship with everyone else out running in the Chicago air.  Like I said, my body hates it and my brain loves it.

You can read more at my old blog, Jul's Fitness Journey

Lately I've been doing a lot of walking.  Last week I walked to the Loop from DK (my office) and then home to Wrigleyville from the Loop, for a total of about 7 miles!  Then my sinuses kicked in, as always, and I had to work from home cuz I was sick =(  But once I felt better I did another hour of walking.  Monday I skipped my workout to watch the Pretty Little Liars season finale (because they finally revealed who A is!!! Or at least one of the A team....) and then on Tuesday night I walked the 4.5-5 miles home from DK.

So after having seen the bazillion (yes, that many!) people out running as I was walking home the past few trips, I decided it was time to join them.  I put on my sweet new gear from Old Navy (who knew?), laced up my old New Balance shoes, started Run Keeper, downloaded Pandora (I told you, I haven't run in a while!!) and hit the streets.  Here's my run summary from Run Keeper:

So proud of myself!

For anyone who doesn't know, Run Keeper is sort of like a free version of the Nike+ app.  You can either have it track you via GPS as you run, or enter your route & details before/after your workout.  It even tells you your progress along the way: "Time: 10 minutes. Distance: 0.94 miles. Average pace: 10 minutes 26 seconds per mile." If you don't have the Nike+ system, I highly recommend downloading Run Keeper!

I had a great day yesterday!  Even though I ate 28 WW points plus (my allowance is 26 points) I got in a solid 30 minutes of running at a < 11 min/mile pace and another 30 minutes of brisk walking.  Plus I got to enjoy the warm spring night!

Hope you've gotten outside for the nice weather!

Have a great Thursday =)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Does red meat = Death? (I hope not!)

We all know research, no matter how reputable the source, will always be countered by the opposing side.  Eventually.  This article I found interesting though, like everything, you should take the information with a grain of salt.

An LA Times article yesterday (which I found through a FitFluential tweet) sums up a Harvard study, also published yesterday, which analyzed the diet and health patterns of over 110,000 adults over a 20+ year period.  The results?
Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death... Even worse, adding an extra daily serving of processed red meat, such as a hot dog or two slices of bacon, was linked to a 20% higher risk of death during the study.
We all know red meat isn't the best choice, especially of the pre-packaged, processed variety.  Not surprisingly, the article also mentions eating it in moderation.  Duh.

However the article also implied that even in moderation, people should stick to non-red meat.
...[Harvard postdoctoral fellow] Pan said the bottom line was that there was no amount of red meat that's good for you.
What I don't understand is that, if this is the case, why have humans been eating cows and pigs for hundreds of thousands of years?  If these animals were created for consumption, and we're learning they're not good for consumption, what are their purpose on the planet?

We know it's not milk-- humans are the only species that continues to drink milk after nursing, and the only species that consumes the milk of another species.  Kinda weird, if you think about it.

At the end of the article was a blurb about an editorial published with the study that mentions the economical and environmental benefits to a plant-based diet.  This is absolutely true.  I did a bunch of research when I became a vegetarian and learned that the amount of grain and water given to livestock could really solve some global human deficits, which is why it makes me so happy to hear about people participating in Meatless Monday and taking efforts to waste less water.  I came across this infographic from PETA which explains it succinctly.  And no, I'm not advocating anyone become a vegan or join PETA or anything, but they're knowledgeable and tend to make sense (at least to me).

Side note: I'm no longer a vegetarian (I wasn't healthy about it) but I still don't eat that much meat, and I'm not a big fan of processed meats.  Just about my only exception is ballpark hot dogs... I can't resist them at Cubs games, but thankfully they just switched vendors, so I'm looking forward to some Vienna Beef all season =)  I'm also not a vegan, nor do I buy vegan products, but I do have some serious internal struggle because of it-- I love Coach bags and Ugg boots, but I wish they were faux... And I'd love to give up meat & dairy altogether but the vegan alternatives are just so expensive and without them I'm personally unable to have a healthy vegan diet. Like I said, internal struggle. UGH!!

I'm pretty sure most of us already eat small to moderate amounts of red meat.  Chinese Beef with Green Beans once a month is usually the only red meat I consume, though with Cubs season and grilling season coming up, that may increase a little bit.  But frankly, I just think chicken is way easier to cook!

What are your thoughts on red meat?  Do you eat it or avoid it?

Have a great Tuesday =)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brunch Review: Toast

So I wrote this post a couple weeks ago but for whatever reason never got around to publishing it...

Yesterday morning my grandparents came in from the suburbs to see where I live and hang out for a bit.  They got in around noon and came straight to my apartment, where I gave them a quick tour (we were hungry after all).  Now, I've been hearing about this little place called Toast from my friends-- because in Chicago, brunch is everyone's favorite weekend hobby-- but it's not in Lakeview so I hadn't been yet.

I decided we would take advantage of the fact that Grammy & Pa drove in, and I could finally try Toast.

Sadly I didn't take any photos, but this is from

Oh. Emm. Gee.  It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.

We went to the original location in Lincoln Park, at Webster & Halsted.  Parking wasn't too bad, but in the city you absolutely need to know how to parallel park (and sadly, a lot of people don't seem to have this skill down).  When we got there we were told it would be 45-60 mins, which definitely isn't the worst wait I've seen for brunch, so we walked down the street to Starbucks.  After a leisurely 40 mins at Starby's we went back to check on the wait at Toast.  Thankfully the wait wasn't as long as the hostess had originally quoted, and we were seated immediately.

The four-top booth against the window is where we sat (from

The place is tiny, probably only seating about 22 at the tables and another 5-6 at the counter, so you're seated about a foot away from the table next to you.  I like restaurants like that, they're more cozy =)

The interior of Toast - note the Art Deco feel (from

I ordered the Pesto Scramble, Grammy ordered the Eggs Benedict special, and Pa ordered the Omelette Lorraine.  Oh, and Grammy and I also split a Nutella crepe (because we needed a break from our savory entrees. And who in their right mind can resist Nutella crepes?)

I'm obsessed with the Pesto Scramble.  It was scrambled eggs with tomato, prosciutto, gruyere cheese, and fresh house pesto.  I can't even describe how delicious it was.  I think angels were singing and dancing on my taste buds.  A lot of places that serve pesto scrambled eggs or pest omelets tend to not use enough salt or don't season it further, and this was not the case.  It was salty, but not too salty, the cheese was melty without being frustratingly stringy, and the prosciutto was a perfect addition.  I absolutely loved it.  And the breakfast potatoes served with it were cooked exactly as I like them, which I have found is apparently difficult for most restaurants.  I usually try a bite or two of the potatoes and then ignore them, but I ate everything-- literally, everything-- on my plate.

Grammy was thrilled with her Eggs Benedict special, which had bacon and asparagus.  A friend had told me Toast has the best Hollandaise sauce she's ever had, and Grammy was just as enthusiastic.  She said Hollandaise can sometimes be too heavy and overwhelm the dish, or be too light and barely add flavor, but she said her Eggs Benedict was one of the best she's ever had (and she eats E.B. a lot.  Like at least once a week, a lot).  Pa said his Omelette Lorraine was fantastic, but he's a man of few words so I don't know much more beyond that.  He practically licked his plate clean though, so I know the combination of applewood bacon, gruyere cheese, onion, and chives must've been good.  The Nutella crepe was good, but we made the mistake of waiting until after everything else to enjoy it, so it wasn't warm anymore.  Should've ordered it when we were close to finishing our main dishes.

Overall, we all gave Toast a five out of five review.  We loved everything we ordered, and Grammy & Pa were pleasantly surprised to discover Julius Meinl coffee.

I'm on a quest to go to as many brunch places as possible, but I'll for sure be going back to Toast in the near future!

What's your favorite brunch spot or your go-to entree?

Have a great Monday =)