Destination Unmarked

All through the month of June, we have been running FOOT or family and friends on trail, runs. It has been great to have our spouses, our friends and new faces show up and join in the challenging fun of miles and miles of jungle trail. Along with this, we have run the same trail, Spider plus Blurry Vision plus to the Reservoir and back. This has been partially selfish as I train for the Mt. Fuji half-marathon and need to run hilly, tough trail and what better way, then to invite all my favorite women and favorite fellas to join me.

Additionally, we are all getting to know the trail pretty well. This is selfish too, and the more WOOT’rs who know the trails, the better, as we all run different paces and distances and hopefully no one ever gets left behind.

So why not mark the trails? We have before, with a washable paint. After a few rains, it was all gone and we were okay with that. Part of why I love trails, is because it is still wild, and isn’t marked. Monday through Friday, I drive to work, taking the 58, stopping at red lights, going when they turn to green, and start my work day. On Saturday, I wake up early and drink a cuppa Joe. Then I go out and run to the trails. Destination is known but unmarked. Which way to turn, which way to go? It is not set in stone, it’s up to you to chose which way to go. Turn back and go home? Take a left and see what is down that path? Climb the hill and see what is on the horizon?

Trail includes adventure

Trail includes adventure

The plus side of getting lost is you get more miles and are out longer. At any point, you can turn around and go back home. This means you will also need to pay a little attention to where you are. As long as you stay on trail, you won’t be lost too long anyway. For those challenged with directions, it is very good to have a cell phone. The downside is you may not be prepared to be out that long, or you may have to be somewhere off trail soon. Getting lost can be a little scary, but the scary things in life also make it exciting, don’t they? (Foreshadow that after June, the trail is going to change.)

Hope you all enjoyed June, month of Family and Friends on Okinawa Trails. Comment if you want more FOOT runs, or less in our future runs.

WOOT comes together, thank you!

WOOT comes together, thank you!

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Every week, we get together to run. After four and a half years, this still amazes me and I am thankful. Last week, as we all stood around talking about our lives, our families, what we had done that week, and what we were about to conquer, I found myself asking what is it that brings us together, every week, Saturday early morning, after Saturday early morning to hit the dirt and have fun?

For me, I love seeing a group of women run together: the camaraderie, the friendships developing both new and old, the encouragement. That is what has pulled me to set that Saturday alarm before the sun arises, when it feels like the rest of humanity is sleeping in, enjoying a warm snuggle-filled bed.

How about you? What brings you out to join us?

I did a little reading on group running, trying to find out why we do this. On the Boston marathon site, I struck upon a possible answer: Running with a group is one of the most effective things an athlete can do to help his or her training (baa.org).

That is it! Not only do we enjoy running together, it makes us better runners. Thinking more on this, I see how we encourage each other, and being females, we prop each other up, instead of talking smack. I’ve yet to see another woman do that, ever, in fact. No judgment, no gossip, just feet on trail and lots of oxygen.

Ever have one of those days, or weeks when you don’t care about running, or feel too overwhelmed to get out, or just feel sluggish? We all do. But the beauty of our group of trail-loving women is that we are here, ready to run, every week. Our running paces are different, goals of the run varied and we come from every facet of life. And we still cheer each other on!!

So to be a better runner, find a group (ours is a really, really, REALLY good one, btw!), go out and run with the group and encourage your team mates. Pay it forward every week with us.

Stairway to Heaven

Every Thursday, WOOT meets to run the stairs that climb up and up, seemingly all the way to Heaven, otherwise known as The Stairway to Heaven. Why run stairs?

Oooooh, makes me wonder…

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Stair running introduces a whole new level of fitness. The steepness of the climb up pushes your heart rate through the roof quickly, which pushes you to breathe harder. Your body responds and begins to change to allow for greater V02 max, which roughly equates to your cardiovascular strength. The higher the number, the better in shape you are.

A greater VO2 max means you can run harder and for longer durations. A study in theBritish Journal of Sports Medicine found that short bouts of stair-climbing five days a week for eight weeks improved VO2 max by 17 percent among young women.


Also, the motion of pushing up and off the stairs, uses muscles that we don’t use enough in regular paved running. It’s plyometrics at its best, and your butt, quads and calves will thank you for it later (by complaining about being sore for a few days).

Our WOOT run on Thursdays includes a warm up hill run of about 1 mile. Then we each take on the stairs at our own pace and ability that day.

A few different workouts to try:

  • Go up as many as you can, as fast as you can. Repeat.
  • Climb the grassy hill next to the stairs, run down as fast as you can (talk about adrenaline rush and quad crusher!).
  • Tabata: 10 seconds climb as hard as you can with 15 seconds easy or rest X 8 or to the top.
  • Run to each landing, do 10 pushups, burpees, squats, lunges, crunches, jumping jacks, anything!

When you get to the top, enjoy the view as you start back down. If you haven’t tried this run yet, I hope you will say yes! and come out for a real treat.

References:

http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/why-stair-climbing-is-good-for-runners

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plyometrics

Not-So-Guilty Brownie Recipes

Several weeks ago at one of our post-run get-togethers, a few of us were fortunate enough to sample some tofu brownies made by WOOT member Takako Sakugawa. Since some of you requested the recipe (which Takako posted on our WOOT page), I thought I would also add it to our blog so that it’s always available.

In addition to Takako’s tofu brownies, I’m also including a black bean avocado brownie recipe. Before you screw your nose up at it, give it a try – especially if you like the taste of dark chocolate. It’s a very moist brownie with a subtle but not overbearing sweet taste (and if processed well I promise you it will not taste like beans or avocado).

Tofu Brownies

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Ingredients

200g tofu (silky soft kind – “kinukoshi”), drained

1 egg

70 to 100g sugar

70g chocolate

1 tbsp milk

30g flour

10g cornstarch

10g cocoa powder

dash salt

few drops of vanilla extract

handful each of chocolate chips and walnuts

 

Directions

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking pan with baking paper.

2. Put the tofu into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the egg and sugar.

3. Break the chocolate bar into small pieces, mix with the milk in a microwave-safe bowl, and melt gradually in the microwave – about 40 to 50 seconds.

4. Combine the tofu mixture with the melted chocolate, and add the vanilla, salt, flour, and cornstarch, and cocoa. Mix well.

5. Sift the mixture through a strainer to make it even smoother and pour into the prepared baking pan (up to you if you wish to add the chocolate chips and walnuts before spreading the mixture into the pan).

6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool and refrigerate overnight – this makes the brownie moist and easier to cut the next day – and it tastes better!

 

Black Bean and Avocado Brownies

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Ingredients

1 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsps milk (any kind)

1 15oz. can reduced sodium black beans, washed and drained

1/2 avocado

1 tbsp vanilla

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces (80% to 85% dark, if possible)

1/2 tsp coconut oil

[Notice that these brownies are flourless!]

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.

2. In a food processor puree the chia seeds, milk, beans, avocado, vanilla and brown sugar. Mix really well until the mixture is very smooth. Add cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder and mix again, very well.

3. Add batter into the pan and spread evenly.

4. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate and coconut oil. Do it in 20 to 30 second bursts, until the chocolate is nice and runny. Pour over the batter and spread evenly over the top with a spatula.

5. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

 

 

 

Try Black Rice For Added Fiber And Antioxidant Benefits

Here in Japan rice is a staple food source, with white rice and brown rice (genmai) being the favored choices in most homes. In many restaurants however you can find black rice (kokumai). Black rice has been around for centuries, but it has only recently started gaining popularity in the West.

For added fiber and higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals (specifically niacin, thiamin, and magnesium), choose black rice over brown and white. Black rice also contains anthocyanin, a flavanoid antioxidant that has potential anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits.

You can eat black rice on it’s own, or you can use it to create some flavorful meals such as the following black rice salad (I used whatever vegetables I had on hand and you can too; this recipe is very versatile).

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Ingredients

2 or 3 cups of cooked black rice

1 can reduced-sodium black beans

1 can corn kernels

1/4 cup chopped parsley

handful of cherry tomatoes

1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 large carrot, sliced

1 avocado, chopped

 

Dressing:

2 tbsps olive oil

Juice of 2 limes

1 tbsp hot sauce (any kind)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tbsp honey

Dash of sea salt

 

Directions: 

Stir together all of the salad ingredients. Combine and whisk together all of the dressing ingredients then pour over the salad and mix well.