Jackfruit: The Perfect Whole-Food Meat Substitute + a Recipe!

I want to start off by thanking you so much for your kind words of support on Friday’s post. Your reminders that I was working for a school system helped remind me that this was political and bureaucratic, not personal. They may have tried, but couldn’t take away the fact that I am a coach and will always be one.

Today I want to tell you about an all natural, whole-food meat substitute that has no fat, very few calories, and can be used to replace chicken or pork in a variety of recipes. It’s called jackfruit, and while I’m really not sure if it is considered a fruit or a vegetable, I do know that it is completely plant based, contains so gluten, soy, chemicals, preservatives, artificial colors, or sugars. That’s because it grows on trees!

Jackfruit

I’m linking up with Tina and Deborah for Meatless Monday! I’m also linking with Annmarie for her Meatless Monday party! Be sure to check out all of their yummy recipes! I have a few jackfruit recipes to share with you too.

I’ve written about the amazing jackfruit before, but in case you’re new, here’s the scoop on this amazing “vegetable meat.”

The jackfruit grows in tropical locales on tall, evergreen trees. Pricky and green in its unripened state, which is when it is perfect to use as a meat substitute (it is yellow and sweet when ripe). It is cultivated in India, Ceylon, southern China, Thailand, and other countries with hot, humid climates.

But, how does it taste? The unripened jackfruit has a taste and consistency similar to chicken when it is cooked. It can be shredded or cut into chunks, and can be slow cooked for extra flavor. Because of its cultivation in Asian countries, it is frequently used in curries.

The jackfruit is nutrient rich, especially in vitamins C and B complex. It has small amounts of vitamin A, plus potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron. It is also high in dietary fiber.

So you don’t have a jackfruit tree in your backyard? No worries. In this country, jackfruit is most frequently available in cans and is sold at Asian and Caribbean markets.  There are a few online sources, including Amazon.com (note: that’s an affiliate link, but it is much cheaper if you can find it in a local market. Like about $20 cheaper!) Make sure to look for green unripe (or young) jackfruit in brine or water.

In fact, the only nutritional downside to jackfruit is, that since it is so low in calories, it is also pretty low in protein. So to offset that deficit, be sure to prepare or serve your jackfruit with foods that are higher in protein. Beans work great, either to thicken a sauce or to serve as a side dish with many jackfruit recipes.

So, have I piqued your interest in jackfruit? Here is my favorite recipe (originally posted in September 2013), plus a few links to others.

Curried Jackfruit with Avocado - vegan and gluten free recipe

Curried Jackfruit with Avocado

Curried Jackfruit - vegan recipe

This curried jackfruit is served hot, over rice and avocado, but it would taste great chilled too.

curried jackfruit - vegan

Curried Jackfruit with Avocado. Vegan
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Curry
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 can jackfruit, green, in water or brine, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon asafetida (if you don't have this, don't worry. Add a teaspoon more curry powder)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon flour (for gluten free simply use a thickener of your choice)
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 ounces coconut milk (from a can)
  • 8 ounces vegetable broth
  • 1-2 avocados, scooped out with a spoon
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, use a fork to shred the jackfruit,
  2. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Cook the onions and garlic until soft (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the jackfruit and cook, stirring occasionally, until the jackfruit's moisture has evaporated. If necessary, use the fork to break up the jackruit a little more.
  4. Add the curry powder, asafetida, and salt and stir to combine.
  5. Sprinkle the flour over the jackfruit mixture, add the beans, and stir to combine.
  6. Slowly pour in the coconut milk, mixing it in as you go.
  7. Increase the heat and stir in the broth. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens. You can add more seasonings to taste if you'd like.
  8. Heat the avocado halves (30 seconds in the microwave or 5 minutes in a 350 oven).
  9. Serve on rice, spooning a scoop of the curried jackfruit on each avocado half (you can quarter the avocado for a lighter meal if you'd like).

curried jackfruit - veganI called that my favorite, but in fact, I love all of the dishes I’ve created with jackfruit. Here are a few more. Remember, they are all vegan and gluten free (except the tortilla on the burrito, easily fixable if you need or prefer gluten free).

Jackfruit “Tuna” Salad with Avocado and Quinoa

Jackfruit Tuna 4Jackfruit Chili

Jackfruit ChiliJackfruit Burritos

Jackfruit Burrito veganAvocado Stuffed with Jackfruit Salad

Jackfruit Salad - vegan recipeI hope you enjoy trying out this perfect meat substitute. If you’ve tried it before, I’d love to see links to your own recipes. I have two cans sitting in my cupboard right now!

I’m Burning Bridges: They took a piece of my identity…

Warning: There may be some use of “language” that you may not associate with my writing. Sorry but I’m a little pissed off.

I really couldn’t decide on a title for this post, which is reflected I guess, in the weirdness of what I chose. Well, once you read on, you’ll understand why I’m burning bridges.

Just short of a year since I lost my job, I heard those words again. You’re fired. Well, he didn’t actually say that (because he doesn’t have the cajones to do that). No, it was much more cowardly than that.

First of all, don’t worry. I still have my personal training job (even though my clients have all left for the summer). No, I lost a job that paid a whole lot less, but was an important part of who I am.

On Monday I was at home, working on a blog post. When my phone rang I saw that it was the Athletic Director at the high school where I’ve coached cross country for the last 13 years. So, of course, I answered.

Burning Bridges: They took a piece of my identity

I thought he was going to ask for the schedule for our upcoming season, which I’d been working on pending the agreement of the boys’ coach. Within a couple sentences, it became clear that was not what this call was about.

He told me they’d (meaning the principal, who didn’t have the balls to call me himself, and instead made the mealy-mouthed AD take over the job) decided that they wanted to weed out “walk-on” coaches like me, and give the coaching jobs to full-time teaching staff.

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Which, I’ve decided, is a load of bullshit. Last year they “weeded out” Alan, brought in another coach for the boys, let her learn for a season what was going on, then fired me. I’m about 99% sure this was planned since last year.

For 13 years I’ve been coaching cross country. We’ve been to CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) semi-finals a half dozen times, including the last three years in a row.

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I have poured my heart and soul into cross country. It is a huge commitment: five days a week, from July through October. All my Saturdays in September and October have been spent on a school bus traveling to various invitationals in Southern California for the last 13 years. I have spent my own money to travel to some of the meets, given up vacations, my own running plans, and even skipped a lot of weekend getaways (that are such a relief during the desert summer). Speaking of summer, I have been at those practices at 5:30 every morning, been at the school to catch a bus as early as 4:00 am, traveled in those hot, uncomfortable buses from San Diego to Valencia. And I loved every minute of it.

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I’ve kept in touch with many of my former athletes. They tell me how important we (Alan and I) were to them. How the lessons they learned from cross country, and from their coaches, have helped them become successful adults.

I was a cross country coach. And that was really important to me. It was a part of my identity. Until a principal on a power trip and a wimpy athletic director took it all away. I was going to say they took a part of my soul, but that gives them too much importance. I won’t let those losers touch my soul.

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I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m pissed off, I’m aching for some kind of revenge. Actually, revenge is too strong a word. (Quick thesaurus check: I want (pick one) vengeance, payback, retribution, reprisal.) As the saying goes, don’t get mad, get even. I’m simply working on how to do it. Don’t worry, I’m not going to knock anybody off. I’m thinking more along the lines of a summer coaching camp for high school athletes who will not get proper coaching from the hired staff.

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That’s another thing. It’s not like they’re getting rid of me and putting in someone more qualified, or even somewhat qualified. They will hire a teacher, who probably runs, and therefore thinks they know how to coach. That works really well. Just ask the boys cross country team from last year. Or the entire track team from this year, where not a single athlete went on to post-season play. They would complain that their coaches didn’t have a plan, didn’t push them enough, didn’t really know what they were doing.

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I, on the other hand, am certified by USA Track & Field and the Road Runners Club of America as a running coach. I’m also a personal trainer with more than 15 years experience. Not one of their potential replacement coaches have that kind of background. I’m sure they’re good at what they teach. They don’t teach running. The proof is in the pudding.

image_1I’m a crazily optimistic glass half full type of person, so I prefer to look for the positives in situations like this. Actually, there are many. My time is my own. I’m free to travel without regard to the practice schedule. I don’t have to be up at an ungodly hour for practice (unless I choose to for my own run). Nor more dealing with weak school administrators. Or parents. Or other incompetent coaches.

In fact, the only real downside is the loss that that lovely stipend right before Christmas. And that piece of my identity.

I’m linking up with Amanda for Thinking Out Loud and Kathleen for the Blog Booster Party! Hop on over to their sites to read all the awesomeness!

Going Solar: Answers to Your Questions

What are your options when it comes to going solar? What does it cost for solar power? How much can you save with solar panels?

Well, it’s finally hit. Summertime in the desert hit us full force this weekend. Fortunately, I was in Ventura for the weekend, but we’re home now and the weather is sizzling. The forecast for today is a high of 107, climbing up to 115 by Thursday(!). As I write this, just before 1:00, it’s already 99 outside.

Sunrun

What most people who live in normal, non-desert areas don’t realize, is that the temperature will continue to climb through the day, hitting its peak at about 6:00 pm. It most areas of the world, it then starts to cool down through the evening. Well, it will cool down here, too, all the way to about 100 at bedtime, toward a low of 79 in the small hours of the morning.

I’ve lived in the California desert for a long time and I love it, even the summertime. We are surrounded by air conditioning, from our home, to our cars, to work, to everyone we do business with. I know that if I want to run or do anything active outdoors I need to get up (really) early to get it done. The same goes for yard work, and even running errands, as getting in and out of a boiling hot car is one of the worst things about hot weather. In return for surviving about four months of hot weather, I have the best weather in the world for the rest of the year. Sounds like a fair trade to me!

Honestly though, there is one thing that I really don’t like about the desert summer. With those high temperatures and very little cooling off in the evening, it means that I never turn off my air conditioner. That’s right, my A/C pretty much runs 24 hours a day from June through September. I don’t like breathing canned air constantly, but what I really don’t like are my power bills, which will come close to tripling over the next few months.

I have been very interested in learning more about solar power. It is the future of energy after all, particularly in sunny climates like Southern California. I have had several clients who purchased it, and my son had solar panels installed when he had his new house built. Everyone has raved about their savings.

The downside? Well, the out of pocket expense for one thing. Even with incentives, and the potential future savings on your power bills, purchasing solar is very expensive. Until now, that is, where there is a cost saving solution that will save you money on your electric bills while eliminating the upfront cost of installing the solar panels. Going solar with Sunrun will save you money on your electricity bill immediately.  Sunrun customers save an average of 20% on their electric bills*

I had a lot of questions about solar power, and I’m sure you do too, so I wanted to share some of the answers with you, so that you can know your options.

What are your options when it comes to going solar? What does it cost for solar power? How much can you save with solar panels?

Going Solar: Answers to Your Questions

1. What are my options for going solar? Right now, there are two options. Purchase the solar panels, where you will be responsible for not only the upfront costs, including installation, but also any repair or service, insurance, parts, etc. The second option is leasing a system with a solar service provider.

2. What is a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA)? With leased solar, also called a PPA, the homeowner is able to have solar installed with little or no upfront cost. The solar lease provider installs, maintains, and monitors the system through the lifetime of the agreement. (Leased solar is not available in every state due to a variety of factors. Visit Sunrun.com to see if Sunrun service is available near you.)

3. How much does leased solar cost? Leased solar can be installed at little or no upfront cost to the consumer, who will then pay a reduced rate for their electricity. The monthly rate will vary based on tiered electric costs in your area, the size of the home, the size of the panels needed, etc.

4. How much will I save? The amount you will save will be specific to each customer. It will depend on your usage, your rate, and the rate charged by your local utility.

5. Do I get tax credits and rebates? There are both state and federal incentives that a homeowner can receive if they purchase solar panels. As the owner of the panels, the leased solar provider takes advantage of these incentives in order to lower the price you pay for your solar electricity.

6. What are tiered electricity rates? Tiered electricity rates are part of the reason electricity has become so expensive. With tiered rates, the more power you use the more your electricity costs per kilowatt hour. They are not as regulated, which means the power company has the ability to raise these rates without your consent. One of the nice things about going solar is that you can predict your electric rates for decades to come.

7. Where do the panels go on my house? Typically solar panels are installed on the southernmost portion of your house to better collect as much sun exposure and production as possible. The size and number of panels are designed specifically for your home and energy consumption.

I hope that answered some of your questions. If you have more, check out Sunrun.com. Sunrun invented solar service, a way to get solar energy on your roof without the high upfront cost and the hassle of ownership. When you sign a power purchase agreement with Sunrun, they will install, monitor, maintain, and repair your solar panels for the life of your agreement. You just pay a low, locked-in rate for the electricity that the panels produce. Sunrun solar is a win-win: Good for your wallet and good for the planet through reduced energy consumption.

Sunroom is hosting a Sweepstakes on Facebook! You can win a Nest Learning Thermostat. Enter here!

*Actual savings will vary. See here for details.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Mary’s Secret Garden Review plus an Instagram Weekend

Alan and I were in Ventura over the weekend. We got home kind of late on Sunday and I was in no mood to open up my computer. So I apologize that I don’t have a new recipe for Meatless Monday today. However, I’m still linking up with Tina and Deborah today because we visited one of the most popular vegan restaurants in Southern California on Saturday, so I’m sharing pictures and my review.

Mary’s Secret Garden

Marys Secret Garden Review. One of the most popular vegan restaurants in So. Cal, this little gem is tucked away in Ventura, a few blocks from Main St.

Mary’s Secret Garden is a tiny, funky little restaurant tucked away on Fir Street, a few blocks from downtown Ventura. With a beaded entry to the kitchen, messages printed on the ceiling, and a casual atmosphere, it almost feels like stepping back in time. The music, selections from the 60s, helped cement that impression.

Marys Secret Garden 6

Marys Secret Garden 3

We had called ahead to make a reservation, but it really wasn’t necessary. There were many open tables, though most of them filled up as the evening went on. Our server was quick and friendly, and introduced the specials briefly before she went to fill our drink orders. I had a glass of chardonnay, Alan tried the homemade ginger ale. I had to give it a taste, and I’ll say that it was different than any other ginger ale I’ve ever tasted. It actually tasted of ginger, something you rarely get notice in the canned version.

Alan and I decided to share an appetizer and an entree. Because of our almost four hour drive, lunch had been a little late, so we weren’t super hungry. For the appetizer we chose the Cheeze Trio ($15). It is served with three raw vegan nut cheeses: Macadamia Chive, Chipotle Cashew cheeze, and Curried Almond cheeze, along with cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and raw gluten free crackers.

Marys Secret Garden 2All three were excellent. The curried cashew cheeze was deliciously flavorful, with a bite of curry, smoothed out with other seasonings. The chipotle also had a little spicy bite, and the macadamia chive (my favorite) was creamy and was probably the one that tasted the most like real cheese. The crackers were good too, and they went quickly. Our order for a second serving of the raw crackers was $4.

For our entry we chose to share the Cilantro Chycken Sandwich ($14). It came with grilled veggie chycken, chipotle cashew cheeze, cilantro pistachio pesto, avocado, red onion, grilled jalapeno peppers, and tomatoes on a whole grain bun. We chose to add the Fakin Bakin ($2). It was served with a choice of soup or salad. I selected the Coconut Broccoli Lemongrass, which was the soup of the day.

Marys Secret Garden 4First, the soup. I love lemongrass soup, and this was no exception. It was very flavorful, with just the right amount of lemongrass. Alan, who does not care for broccoli, enjoyed the soup too, even though there were a few pieces of the vegetable in our bowl.

The sandwich was very good. The chycken had a good flavor and texture, and it was made even tastier with the chipotle cashew cheeze and pesto. It was served cut in half, so it was easy to share. It was quite large, so a half was just perfect for the two of us.

Of course, we had saved room for dessert (a bonus for sharing our entree). Mary’s has a Jumbo Cupcake du Jour ($8), and the offering that day was Chocolate Peanut Mousse. Our server suggested we try the vanilla coconut milk ice cream. I’m not sure of the price as an add on, but a serving of the ice cream alone is $8.

Marys Secret Garden 5I loved the presentation. And both the cupcake and ice cream lived up to it. The cupcake was moist and chocolatey, and the peanut mousse was delicious and oh, so rich. The coconut milk ice cream was light and creamy, and a great complement for the cupcake.

Mary’s, as always, came through with a great, healthy meal. Yes, it is a little pricy, but all of the food is natural, organic, much of it raw and gluten free, and made on the premises. The service was friendly and the atmosphere is comfortable. Whether or not you are a vegan, Mary’s Secret Garden is a great option in Ventura.

Mary’s Secret Garden Organic Vegan Bistro
100 S. Fir St.
Ventura, CA 93001
(805) 641-3663
Reservations not required but suggested

Meatless Monday

My Marvelous Weekend (the Instagram version)

Other than that, Alan and I had a marvelous weekend in Ventura. While the desert sizzled at around 107 on Sunday, we were a little chilly in the overcast, cloudy weather on the coast. Still, it was good to get home and see the pups. I’m even glad it’s Monday, which is why I’m linking up with Katie for MIMM!

MiMMWe were in Ventura because Alan was announcing the Father’s Day 5k and 10k. At the last minute I decided to run the 10k. I have not really been training, just running, so I had no expectations. I though it would be a good tempo run, plus, the weather you know, how could I not enjoy that?

Here are some Instagram photos from the weekend (do you follow me?), that pretty much tell all about our Marvelous weekend.

VenturaSome would call it gloomy and cold. We called it wonderfully cool and a great change from the desert.

WineWe stopped and bought a few things for the morning before the race, plus I bought a bottle of wine. It wasn’t until we got back to the hotel room (or rather motel..Motel 6 that is. Ah, the glamorous life of a race announcer!), that I realize that I forgot to bring a wine opener. I have a lot of these. I seem to buy them every time we travel, then forget to bring it along the next.

RaceWe got to the race venue early. Before the race director actually. Alan likes to be prompt. That meant I had a few hours to wait around until the race actually started. There was a nap involved.

Race 2The race was fun. I had no real goals, but as I got going I decided I’d like to finish under an hour. It had been about 13 years since I’d run a 10k. In the last one I ran 44:04, was first woman and fourth person overall. I also won my 40-44 division (oh, and I was 44). I think four was my lucky number that year.

Race 4This year I accomplished my goal of coming in under an hour by about 45 seconds, 59:14. I was also second in my age group (the first woman in my age group was second woman overall!), and eight woman overall. Yes, it was a small race. It was also flat and cool, basically out and back on the bike path. Very well organized. Oh, and they had a great announcer too.

Race 3As part of the Father’s Day theme, there were team divisions: Father/Son, Father/Daughter, Grandfather/Grandson, and Grandfather/Granddaughter. The winners of each team division took home a cruiser bike! I passed this little cutie above on the way back. She did the whole 5k with her dad! When I passed her I gave her a thumbs up and said something like “great job!” She smiled and said “thank you very much!” Adorable.

They also gave out four cruiser bikes to random bib numbers. Sadly, I did not win.

NatashaThis is Natasha, not from over the weekend but earlier last week. For those of you who have asked: She’s doing just fine. She is 17 years old (so is her “brother,” Boris). She’s in great health, but lately she has been losing a lot of weight. We found out that she is hyperthyroid, a common condition in older cats. She also has a little UT infection. She is on medication for both and is doing much better. She should start to gain some of that weight back now, though she will be on the thyroid medication for the rest of her life. Happy ending!

Whew! Got a little wordy on this one didn’t I? Well, for those of you who stuck with me I hope that you had a marvelous weekend as well. Any events, delicious food, or other fun stuff? Do please share!

10 Ways to Cause a Running Injury

Most running injuries don’t just happen. Yes, runners will occasional get an acute injury like a pulled muscle or torn ligament, but as a general rule, most running injuries are chronic, achieved, if you’d like to call it that, by doing certain avoidable things. And since most of us would rather not have a running injury, the following are examples of things you probably don’t want to do.

If you want to stay healthy as a runner, here are 10 things NOT to do. Injury prevention tips that will keep you running.

Don’t Take Time to Rest and Recover

Face it. We are not machines. Our bodies need to have appropriate rest in order to accomplish everything that we have planned for them. Remember, that it is not your actual training bouts in which you become stronger. It is during your period of rest and recovery that the small muscle tears you cause through your hard training repair themselves and adapt to a higher load. That is why more isn’t always better.

Solution: Avoid doing two hard workouts in a row. Give yourself an easier day in between. After a race, let your body recover before training hard again. Depending on the race distance, this can be from several days to several weeks.

Run in the wrong (or too old) shoe

We are all biomechanically different. What works for one runner may not work for the next. If you’re wearing a shoe that doesn’t feel good or leaves you with aches and pains, chances are it’s not the right one for you.

Solution: Get an assessment from a running shoe professional. They should take a look at your old shoes, ask you questions about your running, and give you a chance to run a little in a few shoes. Remember, though, they are not foolproof. It may take a little experimenting, but finding a shoe that fits right and feels comfortable can help reduce your chance of injury. And remember, shoes don’t last forever. After about 300-500 miles, or if you start to feel a little achy in the knees or feet, it’s time to replace them. Another good shoe idea is to have at least two pairs and alternate, using different shoes for different types of runs. A sturdier, cushioned shoe for longer runs, a lighter shoe for speedwork or racing, are examples of what to think about when purchasing new shoes.

Assume that small injuries will just get better

This may be the number one cause of an injury that will force you to stop running altogether for a while. Don’t ignore small pains, especially in your hips, back, or knees. If you choose to run through that little twinge, you may just develop a full-blown chronic injury that will takes weeks if not months from which to recover.

Solution: Take an extra day or two off if you are feeling pain or even discomfort when you run. If a week goes by and you don’t see improvement, it may be time to see a sports medicine doctor.

Don’t strength train

Strength training corrects the muscle imbalances caused by running and strengthens your core to improve your posture. Think of it as pre-hab.

Solution: At least twice a week complete a strength training program that will work the muscles in your entire body. You can use weights, do yoga, Pilates, or some other type of program, but it should strengthen all your major muscle groups and include core and flexibility training.

Don’t get enough sleep

It cannot be emphasized enough how important getting enough sleep is. Sleep is when our muscles regenerate and repair all the damage that is done, coming back stronger than before. Not to mention the other benefits of sleep, including curbing inflammation, keeping your brain clear and creative, sharpening your attention and memory, lowering stress, and improving mood. And yes, naps count as sleep, though most of us need 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep to allow us to get into our phases of deep and REM sleep that are so important.

Solution: It’s easy to say just go to bed earlier, but that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Start the relaxation process earlier in the evening, eat early enough to digest most your food before bedtime, and head to bed ready to sleep.

Skip the stretching

Running tightens up your muscles and joints, particularly through your hips, hamstrings, and calves. Not addressing these issues can potentially lead to injury.

Solution: Static stretching is best done after your workout. Focus on your hips, hamstrings, calves, and back. Stretching should never hurt. Investigate other solutions that can increase mobility, including massage, foam rolling, and fascial stretch therapy.

Run with bad form

While correcting running form can be a controversial subject, there are certain things that most experts agree will help streamline your run and put less stress on your back, knees, and hips. If you hunch up or lean forward while your run, scuff your feet, or overstride, you may be more likely to suffer a running injury.

Solution:  While too complex to go into properly in this space, there are a few things that can help your running form. Run with good posture, with no arch in your back and your head directly over your shoulders. Use your arms efficiently. They should swing forward and back and preferably not cross in front. This causes rotation in the shoulders and torso and can compromise core stability. Consciously try to land more lightly, with your feet parallel, and push off from the balls of your feet. Avoid overstriding. There are drills that can help you accomplish these things. Check with a running coach for other ways to improve your form.

Do too much too soon

New runners frequently get injured because they start running too many miles too quickly. It’s natural to want quick results, so if a little is good, more must be better, right?

Solution:  Build mileage slowly. If you’re just starting to run, begin with a run/walk program, and gradually increase the run portion.

Don’t eat properly

Food is fuel. If you’re not getting enough, or if you are fueling your body with junk, you will not be able to perform at your optimal level.

Solution: Eat a well balanced diet with plenty of fresh, whole food, including healthy fats, lean protein, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Stay away from fast and processed food as much as possible.

Ignore your body’s signals

Your body will tell you if it needs extra rest. You just need to pay attention.  If you find that you are consistently tired, have come to a plateau in your training, or exhibit other signs of overtraining, you may need to take a little extra rest time.

Solution: An extra day off here or there is not going to hurt your training. In fact, it just may bring it to the next level.

What do you do (or avoid doing) to stay injury free?

I’m linking up with Jill for Fitness Friday!

FitnessFridayRev3

I’m also joining the Blog Booster Party!!!

Friday Blog Booster Party

10 Blogkeeping Tasks that Anyone Can Do

I’ve been blogging since 2009! In that more than six year span I have gone from Blogger to WordPress.com to self hosted WordPress.org. I’ve done my own design, changed my theme a couple times, created my own logo. And I did it all by myself.

Now I’m no technical wizard. In fact, if you asked me how I did it I couldn’t actually tell you. And I know that everything is not as perfect as it might be if I’d hired a professional. I’m just good at reading and following instructions. And I do ask for help when something really scares me, such as when I rebranded my blog last February (thanks Rita).

One thing that I try to do regularly is blogkeeping. Once a month or so I do a little housekeeping on my blog to keep it clean, fast, and easy to read. It is very simple, does not take any technical skill, and will improve the look and speed of your blog.

Here are 10 blogkeeping tasks that anyone can do. Plus I’ve added a few suggestions that will help your readers enjoy and share your content.

10 Blogkeeping Tasks that anyone can do. Keep your blog clean, quick, and easy to read and share.

Blogkeeping Tasks

1. Check your sidebar and other areas that you place all your pretty widgets. If you’re like me, those widgets seem to add up, especially on the sidebar. From ambassadorships, to affiliations, plugins that show your tweets, pins, categories, and other fun things, it doesn’t take long before your blog looks cluttered and messy.  Take a look at your sidebar and remove anything that is outdated. I’ve seen blogs advertising events that happened last year. Decide what you really need. Frankly, readers don’t spend very much time checking your sidebar, so a lot of it can go. I try to keep the widgets that are important to me, a few ads, and an event announcement if there is something I want to share.

2. Speaking of ads, I understand that it is nice to make a little money, but do you want to do it at the expense of losing readers? Some blogs have so many ads that pop up, flash, and populate the content section, that I just want to give up on them. Take a look at your own blog as if you were a stranger (or a beloved reader). If something bothers you? You know it’s annoying your readers.

3. While you’re checking your front page, take note of how quickly the page loads. It better be fast or your reader may move on to the next blog. This can be a serious problem for blogs that use a lot of large pictures. Make sure to reduce their size before uploading them to your site. I use PicMonkey, but any graphics program can work. You can still have large, beautiful pictures, but they won’t be as slow to load (and won’t take up as much space on your server). Also see #6 below for how plugins can slow down your site.

4. Check the links on your sidebar, including your sharing links. Strange things happen over time, so a quick click will let you know your links are leading the right way.

5. Take a look at your pages. How long has it been since you’ve updated them? Your About Me page definitely needs to be current (especially if you’d had any major life changes since the last time you updated it). Check the other pages too. Are they still serving a purpose? Do they need to be updated? Do you want to add a new page? Check the links on each page to make sure they work. And check the old comments, if you allow them on your pages. Just the other day I found a spammy comment that had slipped by.

6. Go through your plugins. Much like the sidebar, plugins tend to add up and they can really slow down your site. Check each one to see if you still need it. If not, get rid of it, or at least deactivate it. The following month, if you’ve noticed no difference since the deactivation, delete it. I have a plugin called P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) that shows me exactly how many resources each plugin uses. Users tend to expect a page to load in about 2 seconds. Longer than that and they may move on.

P3 profile

Obviously this will be a top project for my next blogkeeping session!

7. Check your spam folder. Try to keep it cleaned up so that it is relatively easy to take a look to see if a comment that was not spam was falsely reported. I actually use two spam plugins, Akismet and AntiSpam (yes, I know, more plugins), and the combination has been outstanding. I rarely get spam allowed through, most of it is automatically deleted so that I never even see it, and on the rare occasion I see that I have a comment in my spam folder it is usually a good one that was mis-reported.

8. Check your sharing tools. If your twitter share app does not include your handle, stop reading right now and go fix it. Go ahead, I’ll wait. This is so important, yet I find that so many bloggers have not done this simple thing. Simply go to the settings of whichever plugin you use, and fill in the space where it says “Twitter User Name.” So simple I’ll bet you’re wondering why you didn’t do this before.

Twitter Share

While you’re at it, check the plugin you use for Pinterest shares. Most can be set so that the description of the pin will reflect either the title of the post or the Alt text of the image. This gives you an opportunity to create a great description for your pinnable images. If you choose the Alt text option, make sure that you update the Alt text!

9. Update your networks. While not directly related to blogkeeping, if you are monitizing your blog, now is a good time to make sure that your social media and other related numbers are up to date with any brands or marketing organizations that you use. Any type of growth gives you better opportunities, so keep those number updated.

10. Take one last look. After you’ve done your blogkeeping, sit back and take one last look at your blog. It should look clean, load quickly, and be easily navigable. Then you’re done for the month!

Taking the time to do a little blogkeeping once a month will ensure that your blog is a welcoming place that your readers enjoy stopping by, and will encourage them to stick around a while and share your content.

What did I miss? Do you have any tasks that you do regularly to keep your blog running smoothly?

I’m linking up with Debbie in Shape for Tip Tuesday and Debbie, Jen and Sue for Wednesday Wisdom.

And I’m also joining the Blog Booster Party!

Friday Blog Booster Party

 

While these housekeeping suggestions and solutions are targeted at all blogs, some of the instructions are for self hosted WordPress sites only. You might have to do a little research if your are using Blogger or WordPress.com.