Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Exercise is My Mood Enhancing Drug

The other week I just started crying in my cubicle for no apparent reason. I was so busy, focused on my work, then this one little thought crept in and I burst into tears. I dried my eyes and composed myself before anyone was the wiser, but I started to think, what the heck is wrong with me?

I've been feeling overwhelmed, stressed, tired, and generally down in the dumps. I am the first person to admit that I have nothing in life to complain about, but sometimes I do it anyway. People have real problems: personal problems, marriage struggles, financial worries, health issues. I have none of that, but for some reason, I was having terrible anxiety about dealing with just the regular everyday stuff. Yeah, work can be stressful, but it is just work, right? I still get to go home to my husband and our peaceful home every night at five. In the grand scheme of things, my life is pretty good.

So why was I suddenly a Debbie downer? It was so obvious! I haven't been running consistently. I'd get a run in on the weekend here and there, but generally wasn't making a consistent effort to get out there and it was starting to take it's toll, not only on my pant size, but on my emotional well-being.

Hubby said, "You have to get to the gym." He knows that when I work out I am happier, manage stress better, and generally have a more positive outlook on life. I just wasn't making time for it. I was making excuses instead. I'm too busy! It's too dark! It's too cold! I'm too tired! And because I was feeling like crap, I didn't feel like exercising.

I know better! I love to work out. I love to run. I'd just got caught in a rut.

Then one day last week as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I noticed that one of my very best friends (that I don't see nearly enough) checked-in at the LA Fitness near my home at 5:30am. I didn't even know she was a member there, or that she was hitting my gym at five o'clock in the morning. That was all that I needed. I immediately signed up for a membership online (to avoid those awful salesman) and decided to meet her there the very next day. We weren't even going to work out together, as we have different goals and workout plans, but just merely knowing that there was someone looking for me in the morning was enough to get me going again.

It has only been a week since I have been back on my 5am gym routine and I am amazed at the difference in my overall emotional well-being. My job is no less stressful than it was a week ago. Nothing has changed except for one hour long morning sweat sessions and suddenly things are looking up. I don't have that doom and gloom attitude that hovered over me a mere week ago. I feel happier.

I'm not talking about that "runner's high" that you feel after a great hard run, I get that too, but a general all around mood enhancement that stays with me all day. I know the physical benefits of regular exercise, but I think sometimes I forget about the psychological effects. I always knew exercise made me feel good when I do it, but I guess I forgot how bad I could feel when I don't.

It is amazing to me what a difference a little exercise can make in such a short period of time.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

TrailHeads Convertible Mittens Giveaway Winner Announced!

I hope that you all had the opportunity to enter my giveaway for the Trailheads convertible mittens. I am excited to announce the winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to Carrie! I'll send you an email with the details.

Do you like these Trailheads gloves? The Trailheads discount code is valid until the end of the day today if you want to buy them (or anything else site wide). Use discount code OLLIE020 for 20% off site wide from 2/17 - 2/24. Expires at the end of the day today! This is an affiliate link, which means I get a very small percentage if you decide to buy, which helps support this blog. The price you pay is the same whether you buy through my link or direct from their site.

In case you missed it, here are my five tips for running in the cold.

How many days until Spring? I'm ready.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Okey Dokey Artichokey: Spinach and Artichoke Chicken Recipe

Raise your hand if you love Spinach and Artichoke dip!

I am exited to share with you a recipe I found on Pinterest for Spinach & Artichoke Chicken, but this wasn't exactly in my blog plan.
Spinach and Artichoke Chicken
The truth is that I really didn't have a blog plan for this week. I thought I could tell you about how I finally started hitting the gym at 5am again, thanks to the help of an early morning fitness friend. No, not Ollie, they wouldn't give him a gym membership. Or how after my first day of legs I was rendered temporarily paralyzed, losing the ability to walk or even bring myself low enough to sit on the toilet without pain. But these are just the mundane details of my life, possibly appropriate for a Facebook status or an Instagram shot (not the toilet thing, you're welcome), hardly the material for a full blown blog post.

So what do I do when I don't have anything (exciting) to write about? I eat! I started browsing my 'Feed Me Healthy' Pinterest board for a recipe that I could make and share with you! This isn't a food blog and I am not a cook. I am actually the least qualified person I know to create a recipe from scratch. My husband is the cook (calls himself chef-boy-Russ-G) and makes 90% of our family dinners. But over the years I have figured out how to prepare some healthy meals and I am always looking for something new and fresh. We have a tendency to get stuck in a food rut, eating the same things week after week. I am so guilty of pinning tons of healthy recipes and never making any of them!

When I find something easy, delicious, and (mostly) healthy, I am excited to share it with you!

Okey Dokey Artichokey.


I love spinach and artichoke dip. Love love love. So, when I saw this recipe on Pinterest by Robyn Stone at Add a Pinch for a slightly healthier Spinach and Artichoke chicken, I was inspired to try something new. I loved that the recipe uses Greek yogurt and I even considered (for about two seconds) leaving out the mayo for the healthiest version possible, but nah, life is too short, a little mayo hasn't killed me yet. You can get the printable recipe over on Add a Pinch, but here is my version. The only thing I did differently is that I added red pepper and cayenne pepper to the artichoke mix, and topped it off with Sriracha. It turned out really delicious!
Mixed up the artichoke and shallots in the chopper.
Mixed all the rest of the ingredients together in the bowl. 
Topped the chicken with the spinach and artichoke mix. Ready to go in the oven!

Spinach and Artichoke Chicken
Go visit Robyn Stone at Add a Pinch for the full recipe for Spinach and Artichoke chicken.

Speaking of Pinterest, in case you missed it on the Running with Ollie Facebook page (or Facebook decided not to show it to you - aurgh) I want you to know that I created a group board called Fitness Inspiration from Friends where I am inviting my fitness-minded readers and friends to share their favorite health and fitness related pins. It can be from your own blog or just fitness pins that you like. Let's motivate each other! I've pinned this recipe there. You have to request to join, so just email me at runningwithollie(at)gmail(dot)com or leave your Pinterest name in the comments if you want me to add you as a pinner to this board!

Let me know if you decide to try this recipe! I'd love to hear how it works out for you.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Five - Five Motivating Fitness Quotes

Happy Friday! Welcome to Friday Five! Let's all let out a giant sigh of relief that we made it through another week. I am excited for the weekend and the chance to unwind and relax. It has been one of those weeks, you know?

I am joining in on the Friday Five fun this week, a weekly blog link-up hosted by fellow Pittsburgh born gal, Mar on the Run. I asked her on Twitter if there was a theme this week.

Darn it. That means I have to come up with hard part, the idea. So after about 24 hours of over thinking it, I came up with my five favorite motivating fitness quotes.

Five Motivating Fitness Quotes

These are some of my favorite motivating fitness quotes that also apply to most other aspects of life.

1. Don't give up what you want most for what you want right now.

2. Don't compare someone's highlight reel to your behind the scenes.

 3. "Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."

 4. "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great."

5. Consistency is the key to success.

TGIF, friends! Have a great weekend. 

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Misleading Food Marketing Labels

The hardest part of living a healthy lifestyle is wading through all the information (and misinformation) out there. It seems so easy, eat healthful foods and exercise. It's the magic formula for successful weight loss, right? But what sounds easy isn't always simple. What exactly does "eat healthful foods" mean? It can be so confusing with all the mixed messages and misleading food marketing labels. The thing that is most important to understand is that food marketing labels can be deceiving. Foods are being marketed as healthful choices, when in reality they are quite the opposite. This isn't intended to be a post about what you should or should not eat (as each person needs to make those choices for themselves under the direction of their doctor or nutritionist, and should not rely on blogs for that kind of advice). This is a post about being aware of what you are eating, so that you can make the best decisions for yourself, your health, and your family, based on reality, and not on misleading food packaging marketing.

It is a problem because there are people who make buying decisions based on the deceptive food marketing tactics, who truly believe they are making the best healthful choice for themselves and their family.

As a matter of fact, some of the so-called heathful call outs that you see on labels may just be the red flags you need to look for to alert you to possible processed foods disguised as health food. Packaging with claims of sugar-free, fat-free, low-fat, gluten free, all-natural, multi-grain, whole-grain, low-carb, low calorie, baked, and (especially) diet are likely to be the worst offenders. The claims themselves are probably true, but just because a package makes these claims does not mean it is a healthful food choice.

The good news is that there is an easy way to decipher if the food label is telling a misleading story, you simply can read the ingredients printed on the package. You should be able to pronounce and recognize every ingredient listed on the label. When trying to make a healthier choice, you should avoid foods with hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and anything you can't pronounce or recognize as a real food. 

I usually read the ingredients list first, and if it passes the ingredients test (ingredients you can recognize and pronounce) then, and only then, do I start to read the nutrition label to see if the calories, fats, sodium, and sugars meet my nutritional needs. If you only read the nutrition label (and not the ingredients) you can be fooled into thinking something is healthy based on a low calorie or a low fat label. The ingredient list is the key to determining a truly healthful food.

Marshmallows as a health food? Naturally Fat Free and Gluten-Free

10 Misleading Food Marketing Labels


10. Less Fat

Does anyone really believe a big block of processed cheese is a healthful food choice? They try to tell you it is by the claims of "2% milk" and "60% less fat than cheddar cheese."The ingredient list reveals the truth. The fact that is not refrigerated should be a major red flag.

9. Whole Grains, Excellent Source of Fiber

Whole grain taco shells seem like they would be a better choice than regular taco shells, but a a quick look at the ingredient list show hydrogenated oils. Just because something claims to have whole grains does not mean it is a healthful choice.

8. Wheat with Whole Grains, Canadian Bacon, and Egg Whites

All sounds good for you, right? The ingredient list shows a long list of processed ingredients. They hope to fool you with a few healthy sounding buzz words and a low calorie claim on the box. A better choice would be to build your own breakfast sandwich using 100% whole wheat English muffins and eggs you cook yourself. My blog friend Crystal at Simply Playful Fare wrote a blog post about how to make your own healthy frozen breakfast sandwiches.

7. Sugar Free

Pudding and Jello are both marketed as sugar free and only 60 calories, they sound like healthful snack choices, but a closer look at the ingredient list shows hydrogenated oils and other processed ingredients.

6. 100% Natural

Something from a company called Nature Valley with claims of 100% natural oats is healthful, right? It is a granola bar, after all. The word granola implies healthy in itself! A long list of processed ingredients tells another story. Love granola bars? How about trying these homemade oatmeal bars from the blog, The More I Run. Make your own bars from real ingredients.

Maybe it does have the 100% natural flavors claimed on the front of the label, but a closer examination of the ingredient list and you will find it also has high fructose corn syrup.

5. Baked

This cracker is called Baked Naturals and claims "always baked with no preservatives." It may seem like the healthiest option in the cracker isle, but the truth is crackers just aren't a health food, no matter what the marketing says.

4. Slim Fast and Skinny Cow (Brand Names)

Brand name diet foods are some of the worst offenders. Brands that are marketed as weight loss products usually have the most inferior ingredients. I've found the products with diet brand names, like Adkins, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, and Healthy Choice are sometimes the most unfavorable choices. But don't take my word for it, you can verify for yourself by reading the ingredients list.

3. Natural Flavors, Gluten Free

Everyone is jumping on the Gluten free bandwagon, including food manufacturers. You see, things like processed fruit roll ups (or marshmallows, or sugar) never had Gluten in the first place, so calling out Gluten free on the package is just misleading. Gluten free does not necessarily equal healthy. I could see how a well-meaning mom might read this package and think she was making a healthy choice for her child. With marketing claims like natural flavors, made with real fruit, Gluten free, and excellent source of vitamin C, it sounds like a healthful snack choice, but in reality, corn syrup and sugar are the first two ingredients, which indicates that this is not a healthful choice at all. How about some whole strawberries from the produce department?

2. Fat Free or 99% Fat Free

In my opinion, yogurt is one of the worst offenders of misleading marketing. High sugar yogurts, often laced with high fructose corn syrup, are heavily marketed as health and weight loss foods. The fruit on the bottom yogurts are sometimes the worst! A healthier alternative is plain Greek yogurt with your own added fruit (that you purchased from the produce department).

1. Wheat Bread

This is one of my personal pet peeves. I enjoy 100% whole wheat bread as part of a balanced healthy diet, but I have a problem with white bread that is colored brown and called wheat. If it is truly wheat bread then the first ingredient of the label will be 100% whole wheat. If it says anything else, it is not really whole wheat bread.
The purpose of this post is not to demonize foods, but to educate. If you want to eat a cookie, then eat the dang cookie. Enjoy the treats in moderation. Just be aware of what you are consuming so that you can make the most educated choices about what you put in your body. I don't always eat junk food, but when I do, I know it.

I dont always eat junk food...

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Monday, February 17, 2014

5 Tips for Running in the Cold + Trailheads Convertible Mittens Giveaway

 Disclosure: I was provided a pair of Trailheads Convertible Mittens free of charge for the purpose of a product review and giveaway. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own, and I am not obligated to give them a positive review. If I hated them, I'd tell you.

If you are a runner this time of year you basically have two choices if you want to keep training: Suck it up and make peace with the treadmill or suck it up and run outdoors in the cold.

If it is icy, really snowy, or extremely windy and below freezing, I'll run indoors or take the day off. If it is cold but dry, I'll at least attempt the outdoor run. Here are my five tips for running in the cold based on my own experiences.

1. Find a partner. 
Everything is a little more tolerable when you have someone with you to share in the pain fun. Sometimes a running mate can help motivate you to get out the door in the first place, then you can high five each other about how hard-core you both are when you get home.

2. Dress warm, but in layers. 
The rule of thumb is that you should dress as if it is 15-20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature, because after you start running your body temperature will rise. I generally wear running tights, a fitted long sleeve base layer, a light technical jacket, then something over that when it is really cold so that I can strip my layers off as I warm up. Running in loops around my neighborhood makes it convenient to drop layers on my front porch as I pass the house.

3. Warm up.
Warm up inside first to get your blood flowing before you head out into the cold. Jumping jacks, butt kicks, high knees, or jogging in place will do the trick.

4. Avoid Cotton.
Wear clothing that wicks moisture away from the body. Avoid cotton running gear (in any weather). The last thing you want is to get sweaty and have your wet clothes sticking to you in freezing temperatures. Remember that cotton absorbs moisture, polyester wicks moisture away. Just say no to cotton. Friends don't let running friends wear cotton. This is your brain on cotton (OK, that one doesn't work).
Friends don't let running friends wear cotton

5. Cover your ears, head, fingers and toes. 
Wear a hat or a headband to keep your ears and head warm. Wear socks that aren't made of cotton for warm dry toes, and wear gloves. Remember what I said about layers? You can layer your gloves too! I love these gloves that Trailheads sent me for a product review. They are technical running gloves that convert from a warm mitten to fingerless gloves by just tucking the mitten part into a pocket on the back of the glove. Even the thumb tips come off and have magnets to keep them down so they don't flop around during your run. When your body temperature rises and you start to get warm, instead of  taking your gloves off, you can remove "a layer" by just taking off the mittens to reveal the fingerless gloves. It is an easy way to cool off a little without risking losing your gloves by removing them completely (which has happened to me more times than I care to count). Ever come home with just one glove in your pocket? Annoying! These are also great when you need to use your phone, because you can quickly remove the mitten to use your touch screen.
The bottom line in cold weather running is to listen to your body and don't suffer needlessly. If it is really miserable, just head home and warm up. Always think of your safety first. The treadmill will be there for you when you need it most. You can check out my post on how to make your treadmill runs not suck (I know, seems impossible). Also always carry your phone with you when running in less than desirable conditions so that you can call for help if you need it.

Buy Them!

Do you like these Trailheads gloves? Trailheads generously offered up a pair of the Women's Power Stretch Convertible Mittens for a giveaway! They are also offering a discount code just for Running with Ollie readers if you want to buy them (or anything else site wide). Use discount code OLLIE020 for 20% off site wide from 2/17 - 2/24This is an affiliate link, which means I get a very small percentage if you decide to buy, which helps support this blog. The price you pay is the same whether you buy through my link or direct from their site.

Enter to Win Them!

The most exciting thing is that you can enter to win them! All that you have to do is leave a blog comment and fill out the Rafflecopter form, plus there are plenty of ways to earn extra entries.
TrailHeads Convertible Mittens review and giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway   
Ollie approved...or he doesn't really care!

What do you think of these Trailheads convertible mittens? Pretty cool, right?
Tell me why you want to win them!
Do you have any tips for cold weather running?
Do you run outdoors when it is snowing?
Tell me how much you love to hate the treadmill.

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No purchase necessary.
Contest runs from 2/17/2014-2/24/2014.
No purchase necessary.
1 winner will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter.
Open to US residents 18 years of age or older.
Must have a shipping address in the US. 
Winner will notified via email (if available) and blog post, and will have 48 business hours to claim prize.
If original winner does not claim prize within 48 business hours an alternate winner will be selected.
Contestants must enter on the Rafflecopter form in order to win.
Prize will be shipped directly from Trailheads.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Feature: A Running Girl & Her Dog - Meet Lindsey & Burton

Welcome to the second edition of Friday Feature, a monthly post where I share with you a runner and their favorite four legged running partner!! Since today is Valentine's day, I couldn't think of a better way to spread the love than to introduce you to Lindsey from Run Like a Girl and her adorable running partner Burton. Lindsey sent me three pictures to choose from for the post, but honestly Lindsey and her dog are both so stinkin' cute, I couldn't decide on just one, so here are all three. :)

Tell us a little bit about your favorite running partner (name, breed, age, etc.)

Burton is the best running buddy I've ever had. He's a 2 1/2 year old Bug (half Boston Terrier, half Pug). When I got him, I had no intention of him being a running dog - 19 pounds, stocky, little - you can imagine! But right before his 1st birthday, I took him for a short 2-miler and he loved it. Now when I layer up and lace on my running shoes, he goes nuts - loves to run as much as his mama. He's fast (pushes me to those 7-minute miles when I otherwise might not push myself) and he has no problem logging some decent miles for his size (the furthest I've taken him is 8 miles and he was a champ!).

Where is your favorite place to run with your pooch?

There are some great bike paths in my neighborhood; we have a few we typically stick to because it keeps us away from traffic (even with a leash, you just never know).

Have you ever raced with your dog?
No - but I think we should, we'd do well!

Tell us about a running moment that made you proud!
My proudest running moment was finishing my first full marathon nearly six years ago - I've run one every year since.

What important running (or life) lesson can we learn from our dogs?

Burton helps remind me that running is fun and good for us, mentally and physically. Burton's happiest moments are when he's running, either with me, at the dog park or outside playing. His enthusiasm for it reminds me how much I love it - some days, I need that reminder!

Thanks so much to Lindsey and Burton for sharing their story! You can follow Lindsey on her blog at Run Like a Girl or on social media by following her on her Facebook page or on Twitter.

Share the love on Valentine's Day by telling Lindsey how cute Burton is by leaving a comment on this post or on Twitter! 

Are you a runner who would like to be featured with your running dog? Just fill out this form to be considered for a future feature. (p.s. you don't have to be a girl, we can do a manly feature too!)

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Breakfast Blueberry Almond Quinoa from Simply Playful Fare

Hi, Friends! I am excited to introduce you to you my blogging friend Crystal. She has this great food blog called Simply Playful Fare where she shares some of the most awesome (healthy) recipes. I thought you might like to meet her, so today she is going to guest post on my blog.

You see, I am traveling (again) and blogging gets a little hectic when I am on the road. I like to keep up regular posts, so Crystal is saving the day by writing this post for me today. But first, a short story.

I don't love work travel. I don't love being away from my husband. He tells me that Ollie walks around the house looking for me in every room the entire time I am gone.

You may know that the Walking Dead mid-season premier aired this Sunday. We don't have cable at home, so if there is one small benefit to work travel, it is hotel cable. A quick scan of the TV station list and AMC is listed. WOOOHOOOOO!!!

It's 8:30 on Sunday night and Gilligan's Island is on the station that is labeled as AMC. Seems weird, right? Not exactly the build up to the zombie apocalypse that I would expect, but I held on to hope. You know what came on at 9? The Golden Girls. Kind of the Walking Dead, but not exactly the one I was expecting. (Yes, I think I am hilarious.) Hopes and dreams crushed. No one tell me what happens. Faces get eaten? People die? Zombies get stabbed? Darryl's still cute? I don't want to know. I'll catch up once I get home.

In the meantime, Crystal has a great recipe that she wants to share with you! (Worst segue into a new topic ever? Yeah, probably.)

Crystal wrote a post about Blueberry Almond Quinoa. In case you were wondering how to pronounce quinoa? KEEN-Wah. You're welcome! This recipe looks so easy, even I could do it!

Meet Crystal...

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why is it sometimes the most neglected meal? If you’re like me, mornings are the toughest time of my day. I’m not a morning person because I don’t wake up well. So it’s important, if not imperative, for me to be prepared. The easiest way for me to be prepared is to make a big batch of breakfast, whatever I feel like eating for the week, and store it in the fridge at work. This week, the big batch is quinoa.

As my husband said, quinoa is the new oatmeal, and with good reason. It’s gluten free, has a ton of protein, and can be flavored just about any way you want. This recipe calls for almond milk, blueberries, and almonds, but you can substitute regular milk, soy, any kind of berry, and any kind of nut that you like.

Breakfast Blueberry Almond Quinoa

1 ¼ cup quinoa
2 ½ cups Vanilla Almond Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)
½ cup slivered almonds for topping

1. Add the quinoa and almond milk to a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook the quinoa for about 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the grains are translucent. The quinoa boiled over on me twice during cooking. To avoid this fate yourself, make sure to watch the quinoa and stir pretty vigilantly.

2. Add the vanilla extract to the cook quinoa, stir and let cool.

3. If you are using frozen blueberries, rinse in a colander to thaw before eating.

4. Add the quinoa to a large Tupperware or container. Add the blueberries and the almonds. Serve alone or with a splash of Almond Milk. This recipe is designed to be taken with you to work. If you are organized enough to have breakfast at home, just keep the quinoa in the fridge and assemble a single serving when you’re ready to eat.

522 calories, 36g fat, 45g carbohydrates, 11g protein, 21mg sodium, gluten free

What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa?

Crystal is a native Montanan who loves to create. She has always been passionate about cooking, baking, and eating, and food has been a huge part of her family. She learned how to cook from her Grandmother (who learned to cook from her French Grandmother) and her Mother. Writing is her other passion, after her husband of course. She has a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She writes at: and you can find her on facebook at:

You should follow Crystal over at Simply Playful Fare and pin a bunch of her recipes. You won't regret it!

Thanks Crystal for the recipe and the guest post.

Do you love quinoa? the Walking Dead? Are you following Crystal now? Tell me about it in the comments.

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