Superfood Spotlight: KALE

We’ve all been hearing about how kale is so good for you and necessary in your diet and theres a good reason for this! Kale truly is the “queen of the greens” for many reasons.

For me the best part of kale is the wide variety of vitamins that I find are deficient in my diet. It is extremely high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium. However, the biggest one is iron. As someone with severely low iron who doesn’t love beef, kale is a saviour.

Not only is it rich with vitamins, but kale holds fibre and powerful cancer protecting antioxidants. This makes it the perfect detox food to clean your body of toxins!

Since simply eating raw kale on it’s own probably isn’t your cup of tea, here’s two recipes I use to get all of these wonderful nutrients:

Kale Chips:
Ingredients:

-1 bunch kale
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the kale leaves from the stem with scissors and tear the leaves into chip size pieces. Wash the kale and dry in a salad spinner. Place kale on a cookie sheet. Drizzle the kale with olive oil and sea salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lighty brown and crispy. Enjoy!

Superfood Smoothie:
Ingredients:

-1 cup coconut water
– 1 banana
– 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
-1/2 cup kale
-1 tsp chia seeds
-1 tsp spirulina
-1 tsp fish oil
-1 tsp all natural peanut or almond butter
Directions:
Add all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add water if needed. Enjoy!

What’s your favourite way to eat kale? 

 

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Injury Prevention and Recovery: IT Band Syndrome

As a result of just moving into a new place and having to wait a week and a half for wi-fi (first world problems i know), I’m finally back to blogging!

We’ve all been there- you’re training hard and expecting a big PR in your next race when excruciating pain suddenly plagues you mid-run. Luckily these injuries can usually be prevented or you can make a quick recovery!

If you are a runner and have yet to experience IT band syndrome, you likely will. Whether it is simply some tightness in the band itself or a throbbing knee, taking care of your IT band is important!

Thanks to Google, I can tell you that the Iliotibial Band is a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin. When ITBS occurs, the IT band becomes tight and inflamed from overuse. The biggest symptom is pain on the outside of the knee.

Luckily numerous visits to the physiotherapist and many hours of research have made me a self-proclaimed IT band prevention and treatment expert!

If you’re having severe pain on the outside of your knee that is keeping you from running, go to your physiotherapist. But, if you’ve never had IT band problems or have in the past, it’s time to start some stretching and strengthening to make sure it never keeps you from training! Here’s what to do:

1. Stretch. Stretching out your glutes will be your saviour. Do this stretch everyday for 1 minute (or more!) on each side.
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2. Foam Roll. If you think foam rolling is evil now, wait until you foam roll your IT band! It’s beyond painful, but so worth it! Try to roll each side for a minute everyday.

3. Strengthen your booty. Surprisingly, this is the most important. While there are many glute exercises that will benefit IT band syndrome, the classic “clam shells” work magically! Start with 30 on each side everyday and increase to 40 after a week or two.

How do you stretch and strengthen your IT band?

De-Stress

My second year of University is coming with many more challenges than first year, as I’ll now be balancing classes, homework, working part-time, and working-out. On top of that I won’t have the luxury of my parents cooking and cleaning for me and will have to fit time in for that as well!

We all live these hectic lives and can all agree that it gets pretty stressful. As someone whose body and mind react very poorly to stress, I know how important it is to take control of that. Health is the number one priority in your life and you are always in control!

Here’s some simple ways to de-stress and relax:

1. Meditation and Yoga: Both will calm and slow your body and mind down. Turn off your appliances and breathe!

2. Take a Walk: For me, walks always ease my mind and make me feel rejuvenated. Rather than riding my bike or taking the bus to and from class or the library, I walk! It may take an extra 5-10 minutes out of my day, but it’s so worth it for my health.

3. Be Mindful: There is no point in worrying and getting stressed out about things that you cannot control. Look at the situation in the perspective of what you can do about it and make decisions that work for you.

4. Drink tea: Whether it’s alone or with friends, the act of sipping a delicious (and healthy!) tea slows the body down and brings you to that moment and that moment only!

5. Get Sleep: This one is tough for students, but will make your life so much easier. 8 hours a night, no excuses.

6. Eat well: Polishing off an entire bag of chips while studying is an extremely easy task, but won’t benefit you at all. Take that extra time to make yourself something healthy and you’ll have the fuel to work hard and finish your homework in half the time.

7. Laugh and Love: It sounds super cheesey, but it’s so important! When I feel a mini-mental breakdown coming on, I immediately text or call my parents. It helps that my mom’s a life coach and can talk me through my stressful situation, but we all have close friends and family that bring us back to feeling the happiness we all deserve.

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What’s your favourite way to de-stress?

Healthy Grain-Free Pancakes

Finding the perfect healthy pancake recipe has been a long-time struggle, especially since I’ve cut back on eating grains and dairy. So, over the past week I’ve been experimenting with different recipes and ingredients and have finally made the perfect pancake, YAY!
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I have been using both almond flour and coconut flour in my recipes, and have found that the batter was always extremely watery and the pancakes were thin and hard to flip, no matter how much extra flour I added. I figured it was just because of the almond and coconut flour, until i made these ones. These one’s are very simple to make and turned out fluffy and delicious.

Healthy Grain-Free Pancakes:
Ingredients:
-4 eggs
-1 cup milk: I used organic cows milk because that’s all I had but I assume almond or coconut milk will also work
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1/2 cup coconut flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-pinch sea salt
Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. When the coconut flour is put in, it may be chunky, so just continue stirring until smooth. Pre-heat to medium heat and grease pan with coconut oil. Cook until lightly brown and top with your favourite fruit or some melted dark chocolate! Enjoy!
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Yoga Challenge

With the blog name “run towards zen”, you’d expect me to be a super calm and zen-like person. But, I’m still working on that, starting with yoga. I love yoga and know it is so important for my health and for my running. But, after I finish my run or bike, strength training and work a full day at Starbucks, it’s hard to find the motivation to hit the mat.
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That means it’s time for a 21-day yoga challenge! They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Not sure if that’s completely accurate, but regardless I’m just going to go with it. I’m hoping posting it for the world to see will keep be accountable and motivated, so some words of encouragement are welcomed!!

This does not mean I’ll be doing hour-long sessions of intense power yoga every day. Some days may just have to end up being 10 minutes of some easy poses and a good meditation.

How yoga benefits running:

Running is an extremely repetitive form of exercise, and therefore creates tightness in your muscles making you susceptible to injuries. To avoid injury, it is important for runner’s to be flexible and strong! As we know, yoga poses aid our flexibility and are a form of stretching. It will loosen and lengthen your muscles to make us not only flexible but also stable!

When I first started practicing yoga, I honestly expected it to be pretty easy. I was wrong. It is not just sitting on a mat stretching. Yoga is a full body workout and works muscles you probably won’t know existed until you attempt to hoist your body of the ground using only your arms.

Lastly, the best part of yoga (in the opinion) is its ability to restore and calm your body and mind. It is definitely the best way to relax after hard workouts.

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Do you struggle to motivate yourself to get on the mat? Join my yoga challenge! As my favourite yogi/instagrammer Rachel Brathen says #yogaeverydamnday!

Become a Runner

I always laugh when non-runners think I’m so crazy for “just an easy 8k today”, because to them that is crazy! For me, that would be a 40-minute run and in our world, that’s an easy run day. Since I’ve been running non-stop since my first cross-country meet in grade 3, I struggle to wrap my head around seeing people in the gym dying after 20 minutes jogging on the treadmill. I realize running isn’t easy and you can’t just go out for the “easy 8k” on your first day on the roads, so this post is dedicated to beginner’s who want to call themselves “runners”!

The biggest mistake with beginners is that they expect to be able to run for an extended period of time on the first day. This will not happen. While it seems tedious and boring, you’re going to have to start out with a run-walk. This simply means running for a period of time, then walking for a period of time and repeating this.

While I’m not a coach or expert, there are many “couch-to-5k” plans that follow this advice. Here’s one that I thought seemed great:
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Don’t try to go too fast or burn yourself out, take it easy and enjoy the experience! Soon you’ll be out there with the elites! If you’re already a runner, send this post along to a non-runner friend and spread the running joy. 🙂

Superfood Spotlight: Coconut Oil

Who doesn’t love coconut? I certainly do and was pretty freakin’ excited to find out how healthy it is! While there are many ways to reap the amazing benefits of the coconut, (shredded, coconut water etc.) coconut oil is one of the best.

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It is extracted from the meat of matured coconuts and is one of the healthiest oils out there. With societies crazy “no-fat” craze, coconut oil received a bad rap for being high in saturated fat, when in reality these all natural fatty acids are extremely beneficial to our bodies. They increase circulation and our metabolic rate, which gives us more energy and brain function, decrease the risk of heart disease, and heal viruses.

The healing properties of coconut oil go on and on from cancer prevention to simply helping an earache, but I was most excited to discover they benefit digestion. I suffer from stomach problems and have many friends who also struggle with this, so having a natural method of relief is so great!

If you aren’t familiar with coconut oil, here’s how you can start using it:
-Cook with it! Replace your olive oil or butter in cooking with coconut oil.
-Use it as a sweetener in your coffee or tea. Ditch the processed sugar!
-Use coconut oil instead of butter on bread or anything else!
-Put it in your smoothie.

Not only is it healthy, but it hydrates the hair and is amazing for your skin. I get horrible eczema on my arms and hate using creams that are full of chemicals, so tried coconut oil and have had better results than any cream.

Finally, if possible buy organic and fair-trade! It’s better for your health and for the farmers who work so hard for you to enjoy their wonderful product!

What’s your favourite use for coconut oil?