Jess Finds Balance

My journey to finding a healthy balance with eating, exercise, and life in general

Right On Target October 18, 2010

Filed under: Exercise — jessfindsbalance @ 7:57 pm
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I am right on target for achieving my time goal for a sub-2 hour half marathon on Sunday, November 14. I had planned an 11 mile run on the course that I’ll be running on race day. I figured out last week that to finish in under 2 hours, I need to keep an average 9:10 minute/mile pace. I felt like it was a reach, but something I could achieve. Even still, my best time for a long (+8 mile) run had been 9:15 minutes/mile. Well, I blew that out of the water today with an 11.5 mile run averaging 8:59 minutes/mile! Wahoo!


I had planned to run 12 miles next week, but I’m just going to go for the entire 13 mile run and do it as many (3, I think) times before race day. I’m hoping that I can stick to the pace I set for myself, which felt like a challenge but still very comfortable. It’s amazing how logging the miles really does result in a faster pace.


It probably also helps that I’m fueling myself properly before runs and resting adequately for the couple days before. I feel like I’m really getting the hang of this!


I’m off to rest my tired legs and recuperate from a day of teaching. Hope your week is off to a good start ๐Ÿ™‚


Not to Worry, I’m Still Alive and Well October 12, 2010

Filed under: Exercise,Food — jessfindsbalance @ 9:20 pm
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Hi everyone. I’ve just been taking a break from the blogging. Last time I blogged, I was having a hard time getting back on track. While I don’t feel 100% back in the swing of things, I definitely feel confident that I am well on my way to getting back there. I’ve been doing a good job listening to my hunger and satiety signals and eating lots of yummy foods.

As an update for my half-marathon training (T-4 weeks and 5 days!), I finally broke double digits yesterday, running 10 miles in 1:33! That’s an average pace of about 9:20 minutes/mile, including walking breaks. I was hesitant to set a time goal for myself, but I’m starting to really belief that I can run a sub 2 hour half. It is a really tough course – I ran about 1/2 of it yesterday – with lots of hills in the middle. I think that from now on, I will do my long runs on the course so I can feel comfortable and get accustomed to the hills.

Tragedy did strike at 3.5 miles yesterday, though, when I tripped over a sprinkler camaflouged by the dust and rocks around it. I think that I might have strained/sprained something on the top of my foot, but running and walking don’t bother it. Only when I twist it in weird ways does it bother me. I did manage to continue the run without any pain, so I’m pretty optimistic that it won’t get in the way of my training!

I made an awesome Indian stirfry tonight. First, I wrapped a block of extra firm in lots and lots of paper towels, then put a plate (topped with four bowls) on top of it to squeeze all the water out. Then, I sauteed the tofu, cubed, in some hot sesame oil until it was browned on all sides.

Next, I added snow peas, chopped onion and sliced shitake mushrooms. Once that was soft, I added some chopped roasted kabocha squash (sliced and then roasted with olive oil and salt at 400 degrees for 20 minutes on each side – my fave!) until it was heated through. Then, I added lots of curry powder, ground ginger and some salt. I mixed well to coat the veggies in tofu in the spices and then added ~1/2 cup light coconut milk.


(Sorry for the poor picture quality. Dave put the camera somewhere and he isn’t home right now to tell me where it is!)

It tastes so delicious! I can’t wait to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚

I haven’t seen my kids since Friday, with Columbus Day yesterday and a professional development day today. I might even say that I miss my kiddos and am excited to see them tomorrow. Yay for three day weeks!


Stressed, Tired and Struggling October 2, 2010

Filed under: Exercise,Food — jessfindsbalance @ 1:48 pm
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Hi everyone! Sorry for no post yesterday. After Thursday night’s epic day (I left home at 6:30 AM and didn’t come back until 9:15) I was pretty beat last night and just needed to decompress. It was a very long week and I was tired! I never did recover from the poor night’s sleep I had on Tuesday, when I was sick in the middle of the night. Not to worry, though: I slept for 11 1/2 hours last night! I swear, I have reverted back to my adolescent years.

The last two days have not been exemplary ones for me. I had a good day of eats on Thursday (the day of open house at school) until I got home, when I ate a whole bunch for no reason. Well, I guess there was a reason, since every action we take seeks to benefit us in some way. The same thing happened yesterday, during which I was doing great until I came home after the gym and ate way too much again. I have started to notice a trend that the week before Auntie Flow arrives, I am more prone to stress and therefore more prone to overeating. I will definitely be vigilant for the next few days and next month at the same time, reminding myself that when I want to binge, it’s an attempt to escape whatever feelings are overwhelming to me and that there are better ways for me to deal with it.

In an attempt to get back on track, I decided to go for a long run this morning. The weather is absolutely beautiful today: a high of 63 and not a cloud in the sky. I also realized that only 6 weeks + 1 day stand between me and my half-marathon on Sunday, November 14 and it has been about 2 1/2 weeks since I did a long run. I figured out that if I want to run 13 miles before the race, with a taper week beforehand, I have to run 9 miles this week, 10 miles next week, etc. so that I get to 13 miles with no more than 1 1/2 weeks before the race.

After waking up at 9:45 this morning, I ate my typical pre-run breakfast of two pieces of toast, nut butter, sliced banana and cinnamon. I also took a couple excedrine (it has caffeine in it) to get rid of my sleepy-head headache and for a little bit of a boost.

My legs felt great for the first 6 miles or so of my run and I was doing great for time. I’ve decided that I am going to let the timer run during my walking breaks so that I have a realistic idea of how long it will really take me to finish the race. Here are my splits (including walking breaks):

  • 1st mile: 9:29 minute/mile
  • 2nd mile: 9:21 minute/mile
  • 3rd mile: 10:20 minute/mile
  • 4th mile: 9:57 minute/mile
  • 5th mile: 9:30 minute/mile (a few really big hills)
  • 6th mile: 9:50 minute/mile
  • 7th mile: 10:24 minute/mile (starting to feel really tired here)
  • 8th mile: 9:57 minute/mile (I found a second wind!)
  • 9th mile: 9:55 minute/mile

Total: 9.05 miles ย 1:29:17

So I think that my goal for the race is to keep at or below a 10:00 minute/mile pace and finish in less than 2 hours and 15 minutes.

With a long run behind me for today, I’m confident that today is going to be the first of several back on track. I have been doing a pretty good job with intuitive eating, although the last few days have definitely been anomalies. I’m committed to getting back on the wagon, though!

My plans for the rest of the day include grocery shopping and then going out to dinner with Dave and lots of his friends at a Chinese restaurant. Hopefully I have an appetite again by then! Hope you’re enjoying this beautiful Saturday ๐Ÿ™‚


Southerner for the Day September 29, 2010

Filed under: Exercise,Food — jessfindsbalance @ 9:05 pm
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Hi everyone! I’m relaxing with Dave on the couch, in preparation for hell day tomorrow: open house. What it means is that I will be at school for over 12 hours. I will be taking a break from school and heading to the gym for a bit after school. I tried staying at school until open house at 6:30 my first year, and it was possibly the worst day of my life. I am kind of looking forward to having some extra time at school so that I can get lots of grading done!

Some good news is that I’m 99% better! Aside from some iffiness from my stomach this morning, I’ve been totally fine. I’m hoping that tomorrow I can have my morning coffee. I missed it today! I ran with the cross country team this afternoon while they did interval training, and I managed to run my .25 mile sprints at a 7:15 minute/mile pace! When I got to the gym a little later, I did a couple more intervals and felt great. I think my legs are finally loose. It only took a week and a half…After my speedwork, I did body pump and as always, felt like a total rockstar. I’m even contemplating getting certified to teach body pump! Maybe in the winter or fall. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on getting through the cross country season with my students and my half marathon on November 14.

For dinner tonight, we channeled our inner southernness. We made a favorite recipe from Cooking Light for shrimp and grits. I didn’t get home until 7:00, so Dave was in charge of dinner. Here’s the finished product, fresh out of the oven:

My serving, in a small bowl.


I’m realizing more and more that I really don’t need that much food to feel satisfied. I normally would serve myself probably 50% more, but this was just perfect!

I finished off my dinner with some light ice cream, a few bites of my baked autumn fruit and a couple chocolate-covered cocoa nibs. Good night!


The Power of the Positive September 21, 2010

Filed under: Exercise,Food,Opinion — jessfindsbalance @ 8:54 pm
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As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had a hard time adjusting to teaching 8th grade this year and miss my 6th grade buddies terribly. There are a lot of things I’m struggling with, especially since I was just so happy with my job for the last two years. Instead of dwelling on all the things that aren’t going well, though, I’ve been focusing on the things that are going well: I have a great team of kids that I work with every day and there are some really nice teachers in the 8th grade.

Being an optimistic and upbeat person hasn’t always come so naturally to me. Until the end of high school, I was a complainer and always dwelled on what wasn’t going well for me. What brought about the change? Losing weight (the first time) and finding self-confidence. I learned to like myself for who I was, which made me happier overall.ย Going to college was also really good for me, since I was just in a better place socially, emotionally and intellectually. So it is important to make sure that you’re in tune with your wants and needs and take the steps you need to get where you want to be.

This shift in my outlook didn’t happen overnight, though. Whenever I notice that I’m spending more time thinking about the annoying/frustrating/sad things, I try to guide my thoughts to something that’s good about it. Case in point: my current assignment in school. I also try to spend more time with people that lift me up. One last thing I do is to take time to do the things that make me feel good about myself, like playing piano, exercising, and spending time with friends.ย What are things you do to help stay positive?

Along those lines, I had to harness my positivity during my run today. It was such a struggle for the first four miles, but I stuck it out, despite the recurring thought to turn around and go home, and finished 6 miles in just over 54 minutes. I kept telling myself that I could make it through, and instead of aiming for “perfection” (i.e. a quick pace and few walking breaks), I decided to slow my pace a bit and walk as often as I needed to until my legs loosened up. I also tried to look around and notice just how nice out it was: about 65 degrees with a light breeze and sunshine! In the end, I finished at a really quick pace: 9:15 minute/mile and ran my last mile at a 8:30 minute/mile pace!

On my way home from school, I knew that I needed some caffeine to help me get into the running mindset. I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and bought a small iced 1/2 decaf 1/2 regular coffee with caramel flavoring and skim milk. Ahh…So refreshing!

Dinner tonight was an absolute favorite recipe of mine: Hearty Vegetarian Meatless Chili. I’ve found the recipe on Google Books here. I find a lot of Weight Watchers recipes to be flavorless and not filling enough, but this one is definitely an exception. Whenever I cook this for people, they always rave about how yummy it is!

To make it, you first saute several crushed cloves of garlic, one chopped onion, one chopped green bell pepper, and a minced jalapeno (use more seeds for a spicier dish, fewer for a milder taste) in some olive oil for about 8 minutes, until soft. Next, add 1 chopped eggplant, a bag of soy crumbles, one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, oregano, 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 30-40 minutes. Add a can of drained and rinsed red kidney beans and let simmer for another 20 minutes, or until eggplant is soft.

The finished product:

I served it over brown rice and topped it with reduced fat cheddar cheese and plain greek yogurt.

I decided today that I want to get into Glee.


I sang a cappella in college and know that the show will be fun and bring me back to my good old days of singing. I watched a couple episodes at the gym one day, and had a hard time not dancing and singing along while on the elliptical. Who else is watching tonight? Do I need to watch the other seasons to know what’s happening?


Back in the Game! September 19, 2010

Filed under: Exercise,Food — jessfindsbalance @ 8:07 pm
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Good evening! I’m glad to be back home and back to blogging. The last few days haven’t been my best, with the stress of packing for the weekend and then the Jewish holiday. I was eager to get back on the wagon today and started my day with a breakfast of a sliver of raisin challah, some egg beaters with chopped tomato, and lots of fruit.

When I got home from Providence, I planned to go for an 8 mile run.Before hitting the road, I ate a piece of whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread with a smearing of almond butter.

I hadn’t exercised for the last two days and thought that having fresh legs would be good for a run. Oh was I wrong! My legs felt super stiff and my breathing wasn’t great. After 2.25 miles I decided to call it quits and drove over to the gym where I thought I’d have better luck doing some speedwork on the treadmill. I managed to do 1.5 miles, with two .5 mile fartleks at an 8:20 mile pace (7.3 mph). My legs were still feeling tight, so I gave up on running for today and did 45 minutes on the elliptical instead. I don’t get upset when plans for runs don’t get well. I see it as feedback and try to learn from the experience. I think that today’s run didn’t go well for these reasons:

  1. 2 days off from the gym and too much sleep made my body cranky.
  2. Eating too much in the last couple days did not provide the proper fuel for a run.

I’m hoping that tomorrow my legs will be looser and ready for some much-needed speedwork!

I had a whole bunch of errands to run after the gym, so I snacked on a small handful of almonds and a prune.

After doing my produce shopping at Russo’s, I also ate my first Macoun apple of the season. Dave absolutely loves these and he’s turned me into a fan, too! They have a nice tart but sweet taste and are really crisp.

Once I got home at 4:00, I was definitely hungry, but considering that I was planning on eating dinner in a few hours, I didn’t want to eat too much. First, I had some leftover roasted kabocha squash with white bean and basil hummus.

And then a raspberry Chobani yogurt with Fiber 1 and Barbara’s Original Puffins cereal for crunch.

Dinner was Emily’s Indian Lentils with Spinach and Eggplant, served over bulgur. It was so yummy! I followed the recipe to a “t” and I wouldn’t change anything about it.

I also have four containers of leftovers! Whee!
Dessert was a handful of crisp green grapes.

I’m off to finish grading quizzes and relax with Dave before hitting the hay. Good night!


Moo September 15, 2010

Filed under: Exercise,Food — jessfindsbalance @ 9:31 pm
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My eating for the day can easily be compared to that of a cow because I’ve been grazing all day! I was absolutely ravenous, like I predicted, and finished all my snacks, save the Mexican stirfry leftovers before lunch. Not only did I eat my back-up Larabar, but I also ate my small container of almonds and three prunes that I had in my emergency food stash, which I carry with me at all times.

And I purchased a snack at Healthworks when I got there around 4 because I was starving again! I got an apple flavored Heart Thrive, which are basically like dense mini-muffins. These have good nutritionals and are very filling without being too heavy. I ate one and saved the other for another time.

(Just a note: that says 1.3 grams of fat, not 13!)

I had an awesome workout at the gym, doing a 5.75 mile tempo run:

  • .5 mile warm-up at 5.5 mph (11:00 mile)
  • 1 mile at 6.6 mph (9:00 mile)
  • .25 mile recovery at 5.5 mph (11:00 mile)
  • 1 mile at 6.6 mph (9:00 mile)

In total, I did 5 quick miles, and I ran the last one at 7 mph (8:30 mile) pace! It felt good to flush out my legs after yesterday’s epic run. Tempo runs are good for building up your endurance and building up your speed for long runs.

Afterwards, I headed to body pump and had a great class. I went back to 43 lbs. for the squat track, since I’ve done a lot of running in the last couple days.

I came home around 7, starving again. Luckily, Dave had made dinner, a favorite recipe of ours: Chicken, Red Beans and Brown Rice. It’s from an awesome low fat cookbook that I have, but since I’m absolutely exhausted, the recipe will have to wait for the next time we make it. Sorry, guys!

My serving:

I was still hungry after eating this, so I ate another spoonful.

Dessert was a vitamuffin with banana soft-serve, flavored with unsweetened cocoa powder. A small spoonful of peanut butter for extra healthy fat and flavor.

I also snacked on a couple pieces of kabocha squash,

pineapple, cereal and chocolate chips.

I’m currently hanging out in front of the TV while my pumpkin cake is baking in the oven! This is one of my all-time favorite recipes that my mom made all the time while I was growing up. I doctored it up a bit to make it healthier.


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix everything and pour into a well-oiled bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 75 minutes.

This smells so good! I wish I could transmit the smell of pumpkin cake across the internet…

I’m bringing it to the pre-Yom Kippur dinner at my aunt’s house on Friday night. It’ll be hard not to eat it before then! Good night ๐Ÿ™‚