Wednesday, April 16, 2014

i want to be fast!

i've been quiet about my new goals and training plan. not really sure why. i think i wanted to have an actual plan in place before i went blabbing around, talking about my new goals. during the glass slipper challenge in february, it felt very obvious to me what my next running adventure would focus on. 

want a hint? some of you oiselle fans might be able to guess my target race distance from this shirt:

for the rest of the year, i'll be focusing on speed. and my goal is to be fast in the 5k distance!

woop! woop! 5ks!

i got a taste of what it felt like to be fast last summer, when i pr'd and started to be really competitive in my age group. it was exhilarating, fabulous and gave me so much energy around running. 

so my goal is to be a fast 5k runner. and i mean, fast. i have been so inspired by oiselle runners, both elite and volee like me. and i feel like i only got a glimpse of what i could do with my performance last summer. why can't i be faster? whats stopping me from winning age groups and feeling elite?

nothing! so thats what i'm going to do.

my target race is the detroit women's 5k in september. this race also holds my half marathon pr, so wouldn't it be great to have a 5k pr on this course as well? i researched the race results from last year, and the woman who won the 5k finished in 22:48. my best 5k time is 23:54. i want to beat her time, and if we're being honest, what i really want to do is win the whole damn race.

i've never set a goal like that for myself (at least when it comes to running). i've never even thought of myself as a contender to win a race. but for some reason, i really want it. and even stranger, i really feel like i can do it. i can win this race. of course, you never know what athletes will show up on race day and what competition will look like, but i'm going into training with the mentality that i can win.

so what does training look like? 

phase one: from here until early summer, i'm in weight loss and high mileage mode. the goal is to get back down to my racing weight (which is based on my body composition from last summer) and to build a strong mileage base. 

phase two: starting in june, i will have a 5k time trial each month. i've selected smaller races that will allow me to run without (hopefully) too much dodging and weaving in between crowds.

phase three: starting in august, the speed work really sets in. august's time trial will give me a good gauge at where i'm at and will set the tone for the rest of training until the race at the end of september. 

i'm a wuss when it comes to speed work, so i know training is going to be tough. but i want this. i want to be fast and i want to win. i'm also just excited that i don't have to worry about long runs for awhile. its a bit of a relief, mentally and physically, to focus on a totally different distance that has a totally different training plan!

so there you have it, my running focus for the remainder of the year. if anyone has tips on surviving speed workouts, getting lean for racing weight or racing to medal, i'd love the advice!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

product review: green tea matcha powder

<start> disclaimer: i was provided with the product discussed in this post free of charge from kiss me organics. i was asked to review the product and provide a review on my blog and on all opinions, reviews and thoughts are 100% mine and honest based on my experiences with the product. <end> disclaimer

i don't often accept the offer to do product reviews from companies that reach out to me. i really only want to try and review products that i feel would be something i'd go out and purchase on my own to try. as i just read racing weight, which mentioned green tea as a supplement for endurance athletes, i was more than interested in trying out green tea matcha powder when given the opportunity. kiss me organics sent me a bag of their green tea matcha powder to try.

a little background: green tea matcha is basically finely ground or milled, high quality green tea. matcha powder mixes fully into a drink, rather than steeping tea in a bag. since you're actually ingesting the tea, instead of drinking tea water after tossing your tea bag, you're able to absorb more of the benefits of the tea leaf itself. 

proclaimed benefits of green tea matcha include:

  • more antioxidants than a cup of green tea (we're talking 137x more than brewed green tea, with the brand i tested)
  • weight loss (promotion of fat oxidation - also described in the racing weight book i mentioned, which is where my curiousity for green tea as a supplement started)
  • matcha contains more of an amino acid called l-theanine than brewed green tea. l-theanine is capable of inducing alpha wave activity in the brain and apparently alpha wave activity can help relieve stress, promote relaxation and lower blood pressure - the result is greater mental focus
  • matcha can provide an energy boost - while it contains caffeine, the l-theanine "counteracts" the jitteriness of caffeine (like you might get from coffee)

green tea matcha powder, fresh out of the bag

how did i use it?
i wanted to try the matcha powder out in the three ways suggested by kiss me organics: lattes, baking and smoothies. when i did research on green tea matcha powder online, these were also the most common recipes i found for suggested use. 

how did i feel?
its hard to determine the long term effects of using a product like this, as it would require more than a few months of use and a baseline to compare to. but i've been using the product for about two weeks in a variety of ways and i can say there have been easy to identify instances where i've felt that my mental acuity and focus has been sharper and i felt like i had more energy going into my workout and during. i think the easiest way for me to recognize this is when i've tried the powder in a smoothie or latte. more details below.

did it work?

smoothies: there are a ton of recipes for smoothies that include green tea matcha. i created my own that was a heavier protein based smoothie. i added about two tablespoons of matcha powder to my smoothie batch and created about 8 smoothies to use throughout the week. i couldn't taste the green tea because i used way too many other ingredients that overshadowed the tea flavor. but that was fine by me. i thought the flavors blended nicely and i felt good knowing that my smoothie was giving more than just a daily shot of protein, but also a shot of antioxidants. i think it was harder to tell if the smoothie helped boost my energy or focus, because it had a lot of other ingredients in it, but i wouldn't be shy to try another smoothie recipe that was more focused on the green tea matcha as the main ingredient.

smoothie was an ugly color because
of the protein powder i used. still tasted good!

lattes: making a green tea matcha latte was way harder than i thought it would be. the matcha powder itself tastes like very concentrated green tea. if you want to know what that tastes like, lick a green tea bag and you'll have an idea. its not sweet and has a bitter flavor to it. i can't do bitter with my lattes and my coffee is always sweetened, so the biggest challenge with the green tea latte was making it sweet without adding too much sugar. my first test run went terrible. the second try got better; i did milk, green tea matcha, cinnamon and honey. i mixed the milk, cinnamon and honey first, warming it up, and then mixed in the matcha last. the trick is to really mix the matcha well, or it could settle to the bottom.

i replaced my normal afternoon coffee with a green tea latte and did find that my energy level felt elevated as did my ability to focus. i didn't feel jittery and i also think i felt more focused and energized for my after work workouts as well, which is a huge bonus. i usually have my afternoon pick me up around 2:30pm or 3:00 - so for the energy benefits to last past 5:00 pm was really surprising, but in a good way!

my best green tea matcha latte,
with a little cinnamon on top!

baking: i decided to try baking the matcha powder into a fool proof recipe; something that came from a box. i used my favorite gluten free spice cake box mix and added chunky applesauce (in replace of the oil), eggs, water and two heaping tablespoons of the green tea matcha. the batter instantly had a green hue to it, but when i did a test batter lick, all i could taste was the spice cake and i was happy with that.

after the cupcakes baked, they tasted just like spice cake as well - no overwhelming tea taste. the funny part was that since i added the green tea matcha, in my mind i thought that made the cupcakes healthier. which in a way, yes they were, because they had more antioxidants in them. BUT it was still a cupcake made with cake batter - so still a treat and not a healthy muffin like my brain wanted to them to be. i started popping a bunch of the little ones into my mouth because they were tasty, but i constantly had to remind myself to hold back because they were still a sweet!

healthy muffin - i mean, cupcake!

overall, i liked using the green tea matcha in all of these use cases. i think its easiest for me to use them in lattes and smoothies, as i make those most often, but i wouldn't hesitate to add matcha powder to my next zucchini bread batch or something similar.

i do think i felt a heightened sense of focus and energy after drinking a smoothie or latte with the green tea matcha in it. whether or not it increased my metabolism or helped me burn additional fat is hard to say after using the product for only two weeks. this would be something i'd like to track over time and i'll be especially curious to see how my weight does change now that i'm focused on getting back down to my racing weight.

so, what does it cost?
kiss me organics sells their green tea matcha powder on amazon for $25 a bag. the bag was much smaller than i thought it would be, based on the picture on amazon, but i didn't realize how compressed the powder actually is. so while the bag is small, it has a lot of matcha in it.

i don't have a great gauge on how cost effective $25 is. if i had used the bag solely for baking and large smoothie batches, i could see the bag being used up pretty quickly. but, a recommended serving size is only a teaspoon, and if i did one teaspoon a day in a latte, the bag would last me quite awhile. i think the value here just depends on use case. i know a few local tea stores sell green tea matcha, but i haven't done any price comparison. 

bottom line - would i use it again?
yes, i would use green tea matcha again, and i would purchase this particular product with my own hard earned cash. i'd like to see how i feel after using it for more than two weeks, but i can easily see it being my afternoon coffee replacement or being a supplement used often in smoothies. 

(out of 5 dumbbells possible)

overall value: 4.62/5 dumbbells 
taste: 5/5 dumbbells (tastes just the way concentrated tea should and it blends in well with other recipes where you can mask the taste
effectiveness: 4/5 dumbbells (while it did help me feel more energized and focused, i can't speak yet to long term benefits like weight loss) 
side effects: 5/5 dumbbells (no weird side effects)
cost: 4.5/5 (again, this is totally based on use case. for what i've used it for thus far, i'd say its pretty cost effective)

have you tried green tea matcha powder? i'd love to hear how it works for you and how you use it!

Monday, April 7, 2014

book review: racing weight: how to get lean for peak performance

i JUST got around to reading the first version of the racing weight book (it was published in 2009, for reference). there is a new version out that has six steps (published 2013), instead of the five in the first version (do we really want more steps??). for most people then, this review is old news. for me, however, this book has been on my shelf for years and i finally got around to reading it.

i was particularly interested in getting into this book again because i'm about to embark on my 2014 running goals/training. i'm meeting with my trainer this week to come up with a plan, and i'm 99.9% sure part of that will involve slimming down a bit from the winter/off-training weight i've put on. i thought reading this book would give me a mental heads up on what to think about and how to prepare.

i'll break the book down by what i liked and what i didn't like, because i feel like thats how i've structured it in my mind.

what i liked:

  • the chapter on supplements. i am a supplement junkie and it was great to read about a couple i was already curious about and some that i hadn't considered. i felt the author was real about which to try and which to pass on, too. no sales pressure here!
  • examples of athlete's food logs. it was really neat to see sample food logs from some of the world's best athletes. it didn't make me feel any better about how my food logs compare, but i think it provided great perspective on the type of natural and performance driving fuel elite athletes use. wouldn't you know, we eat a lot of the same things! (:
  • sample recipes. i thought the recipes provided were simple enough that a normal person could actually make them at home. did they all sound delicious? no. but could they be made in a normal kitchen? yes. good enough.

what i didn't like: 

  • it felt super science-y. the book read like there was a research study cited every other paragraph. if you like that kind of stuff, it might not bother you. but for me, it was a snore and made the chapters hard to read through. i would prefer if the book cited a study and just laid out the findings and how it applies to my goals, versus a long elaborate paragraph about the study design, science of it, outcome, etc
  • no recap at the end. the five steps were outlined in five separate chapters, but there was no recap at the end that combined all of those steps into one page with a summary for each endurance athlete profile. my best advice is to take notes while reading this book, because if you're like me, you'll forget stuff and not want to skim back through each of the chapters to find the important parts. without the summary, i finished this book feeling like i had forgotten the five steps already and how to apply them to my training. not a good feeling!

my overall thought is that there's practical information in this book if you're willing and able to sort through all the other words to find it. i'm not sure how the style and structure compares to the newer version thats out, but if its at all the same, i won't be reading it any time soon.

has anyone else read racing weight, either the first or newer version? what were your thoughts?