Thursday, May 31, 2012

On my nightstand, travel edition

Our big trip is finally here! We've been planning and thinking about it for so long, it almost doesn't seem real. I've collected a few books to help us prepare for our trip that include useful travel tips, interesting cultural tidbits on Spain, and of course, some really pretty pictures. As I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for good old-fashioned books and travel books are no exception. We won't take all of these with us, but a few will be perfect for the long flight.

1. Frommer's Spanish PhraseFinder & Dictionary. This pocket size phrase book is going with us. My high school and college Spanish is very rusty and my Italian will only get us so far. Our emergency back up is the Spanish translator app on our iphone.

2. Fodor's Barcelona's 25 Best. Since the bulk of our time will be spent in Barcelona, I have several books highlighting this amazing city. This one is compact and comes with fold out city and metro maps. We'll see how many of the 25 spots we hit!

3. The New Spaniards by John Hooper. A 2006 update to John Hooper's classic portrait of contemporary Spain. As the back cover states, "It is the essential guide to understanding twenty-first century Spain: a land of paradox, progress and social change." This one is for our long layover in Newark and the plane ride.

4. Lonely Planet Discover Spain. The classic, all encompassing country travel guide book. This book makes it very easy to design an itinerary for various lengths of stays and has great pictures and graphics. We used this book to come up with our very loose itinerary - Barcelona and Costa Brava in 10 days. We're staying here in Barcelona based on a recommendation from a friend. Ryan found this amazing spot in the Costa Brava region - I may not venture out from this cozy farmhouse after busy Barcelona.

5. StyleCity Barcelona. This is an excellent and unique travel guide on loan from a friend. It arranges the city into distinct areas and highlights off-beat and hip restaurants, shops, entertainment and hotels all within walkable distances. It has the most beautiful images of all the books and sometimes I just sit and look at the pictures, imagining us there.

6. Fodor's See it Barcelona. This is a guide book Ryan had from his first trip to Spain about 6 years ago (just after we had our first date, if he would have sent me a postcard from Spain we might have had our second date a lot sooner!). I always hang on to old travel guides, especially ones that are dog-eared and full of scribbles. Traveling with smart phones makes it all so much easier, but I will always love my travel books.

7. A Late Dinner by Paul Richardson. One of the best ways to really experience and understand a country is through food. Though I don't know much about Spanish cuisine, I like what I know. This book explains the traditions and cultures of regional Spanish food and why Spain is the rising star of European cuisine. I think I am as excited about the food we will eat as I am about the places we will see!

Note: This will be my first European trip since having kids and I am amazed at how different it makes me feel. I am so very, very excited (thrilled!) to go on our trip, but the thought of getting on an airplane that will take me an ocean away from my two little ones is hard to face. We've never left them for this long and we've never gone so far away. They will be lovingly cared for by two sets of grandparents, spoiled rotten and with every whim and wish granted. It's not them I'm worried about - it's me. The time will go incredibly fast and we'll be back before I know it. I already know the worst part will be the long flight back when I am so desperate to see their smiling faces and hold them close. God help anyone on our flight if we get delayed coming home.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Have running shoes, will travel

Exercise is Medicine month is coming to an end. This is the last official post in the series, but I'll be posting about exercise and health on Speed Bump in the future. It is a topic near and dear to my heart and always on my mind. I hope the series was helpful and informative. Thanks for reading!

Merrell's Dash Glove, my new sneaks.

I don't know that I've ever traveled without my running shoes. I certainly can't remember a time and place.

Running has taken me beyond the tourist stops and into residential neighborhoods in Paris, and through all the famous parks of London. I got frustratingly lost running through a city park in Munich at the age of 22 and have worked on improving my sense of direction ever since. I ran at midnight in Egypt to avoid the heat, and ran from wild boars in a forest in Vienna. Running in Istanbul meant darting in and out of busy streets and markets, often with local children cheering and running behind me. I once ran a trail to the top of Mount Sinai and through quiet streets on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Running to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence is my favorite way to take in a sunrise. I've run alongside ancient ruins in Athens and Buddhist temples in Tokyo. I ran in bright sunlight at 10 pm on the longest day of the year in Stockholm, and at sunset along the base of a volcano in Hawaii. I ran with my Dad on my wedding day and with my husband of three days in the hills of Tuscany. There's a lot more of the world I hope to see while laced into my running shoes.

As I'm packing for my next trip, my running shoes are the first thing to go in my suitcase. We're traveling to Spain - a place my running shoes have never tread. We want to travel light and only take a carry on suitcase and, as any runner knows, running shoes take up a lot of space. So in order to meet my packing goals and still have room for some shopping, I decided to get a new pair of minimalist running shoes, aka barefoot running shoes.

The Dash Glove by Merrell is very light (11.6 oz for the pair) and much smaller in overall size than my current shoes, as you can see...

I've been slow to try the barefoot running trend for a couple of reasons. For one, I've been running for decades and never had any foot problems. I figure if it's not broken, don't fix it. And two, I'm not convinced that barefoot running is the more natural way to run in our modern day world with hard surfaces and paved trails at every turn. Sure, it was the natural way to run hundreds of years ago before paved roads and big cities were built. Some new research suggests that running efficiency is not improved by barefoot running. There could be a happy medium between barefoot running and the heaviest running shoes out there as other research suggests wearing heavy running shoes results in more injury. So maybe the lighter, minimalist running shoes are the answer. For the sake of traveling light, I'm going to give them a try.

Have you ever tried barefoot running? The best advice if you want to try it, whether barefoot or in minimalist shoes, is to start slow and pay attention to your form. Try going only a mile or two at first and build gradually. I've spent a couple weeks going 2-3 miles at a time in my new Merrell's. My calves were killing me after the first few runs but that has decreased with each run. I'm definitely not used to them yet and after running for so long with a heel-strike shoe, I'm not sure I will ever be crazy about them. But I'm keeping an open mind.

They are extremely comfortable for walking around in and wearing every day. My plan is to ditch the flip flops and make these my default shoes for summer. I will have no excuse for not being active!

**Take home message from Exercise is Medicine month: Know your numbers! 150, 10,000, and zero. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week, take 10,000 steps a day (invest in a pedometer!), and work to cut the amount of time spent sitting every day to almost nothing.**

Find previous Exercise is Medicine posts here.

P.S. Look for a new series this summer on eating healthy with kids. We've joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this summer and I'm bound and determined to make it a learning experience and food triumph with the little ones!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Celebration at the Station 4

We had a very busy Memorial Day weekend. The weather was hot and sunny, letting us know that summer has arrived! Between house showings, family BBQs and baseball games, a race, and an engagement party, we managed to fit in our annual trip to the Celebration at the Station. It has become one of our favorite traditions to share with family and friends. With the KC Symphony performing patriotic tunes in front of beautiful Union Station, and an amazing fireworks dispay against the backdrop of the Liberty Memorial, this has to be one of KC's finest events.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Want to dramatically improve your health? Stop sitting.

Tired of hearing the bad news about skyrocketing diabetes and obesity rates reported almost daily? Well, you can do something about it - quickly and in a big way.

If I had to pick one message from the Exercise is Medicine meeting last week to pass on, it would be the need to decrease inactivity. Did you catch that? DECREASE INACTIVITY. Not INCREASE ACTIVITY - that is a message we hear all the time -  and one I absolutely want to continue to stress. By no means are we getting around the need to exercise to improve overall health.

But, there is a growing body of evidence that inactivity - essentially sitting all day - is a major risk factor for chronic disease. Surprisingly, the biggest offenders of this inactive lifestyle can be regular exercisers. Do you know anyone that goes to the gym for 30 minutes and then sits for the remaining 15 1/2 hours of time spent awake each day? This describes today's active couch potato, someone getting regular exercise in an otherwise very sedentary lifestyle. Research has established a direct association between amount of sedentary time and metabolic risk, and this effect exists regardless of the amount of vigorous physical activity an individual engages in. While the jury is still out, decreasing inactivity may be just as important to our health as getting our daily exercise. Put another way, 10 hours of inactivity is as harmful to our health as 30 minutes of exercise is protective!

The good news is the problem of too much sitting is an easy one to fix, even for the exercise averse: simply stand up and walk! In a recent study from Australia, one group of overweight individuals was asked to sit uninterrupted for 5 hours, while another group was asked to sit for 5 hours but with 2 minute breaks of light walking every 20 minutes. A third group sat for 5 hours but with 2 minute breaks of moderate intensity walking every 20 minutes. The individuals that interrupted the sitting with walking breaks had reduced glucose and insulin responses after a meal, or reductions in strong indicators for cardiovascular disease. The observed metabolic improvements occurred whether the individuals did light or moderate intensity walking.

Take home message: get your 30 minutes of exercise (aim for 150 minutes every week) and reduce inactivity by standing, walking, and simply moving more throughout the day. Two minutes is all it takes. Someday maybe we will all use these. In the mean time, here are some ideas for decreasing inactivity at work.

**How long do you sit uninterrupted every day? It is probably more than you think.**

Improve your health by thinking like a toddler. They never stop moving.
Note: if anyone is interested in the research I've referenced here, please let me know. I will try to add in the links but having trouble with them at the moment.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Weeknight family dinner at Chez Maniger - we did it!

Hooray for us! We did it. We finally had a weeknight family dinner with the four of us. I've written in the past about how we struggle to eat with the kids during the week. Our normal routine is they eat at 6pm and Ryan and I eat dinner at 9pm after the kids are in bed. I cook for Charlie and Izzy, Ryan cooks for me. Two different meals, every night. It sounds crazy just writing that down. It isn't something we established intentionally, it just evolved over time and with the second child, etc. But we're making a conscious effort to make one meal for everyone and eat together. I know it won't be a quick change so I'm aiming low - a couple nights a week would be great. A few things that made our weeknight family dinner work:

1) I planned and shopped for our dinner over the weekend so everything was on hand and ready to go for the weeknight meal.

2) I prepped for dinner by chopping, measuring and organizing ahead of time. I did this in the morning just before I left for work, after the kids went out the door with Ryan.

3) Ryan gave the kids a bath while I cooked and put dinner on the table (thanks for that suggestion Susan M). I needed only 20 minutes to get everything done with the prep work already out of the way.

4) I made sure the recipe was kid-Charlie-friendly. The Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowls called for a little cayenne pepper which I left out. Charlie won't touch anything that has even a spot of black pepper in it. Cayenne? Forget about it. With onions and garlic and fresh herbs, the recipe still had plenty of flavor. Plus, adding some pico de gallo with a bit of a kick (for the adults) more than made up for the missing cayenne.

Adult and kid-sized Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowls.

Charlie enjoyed serving himself and making his own burrito bowl. He has learned to serve himself at school and he really liked showing us how he could do this on his own. He added the toppings he liked, skipped those he was unsure of. Having a choice was key! He told me several times how much he liked the dinner I made. He can be a very sweet kid, no doubt.

Izzy had two helpings - she likes just about everything.

The kids got to bed a little later than usual, closer to 8:15, and they basically ate and then went to bed. It's not ideal, but I honestly don't know any other way. With dinner finished and the kitchen clean by the time the kids went to bed, Ryan and I had more time to relax in the evening than we knew what to do with. I'm calling our first weeknight family dinner at the Maniger household a big success!

If you are interested in the burrito bowl recipe, you can find it here. I got great advice from several Speed  Bump readers to help improve our weeknight dinner routine - thanks so much!

P.S. The leftovers from this recipe wrapped in a tortilla made great burritos for lunch the next day. Win, win!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Exercise is Medicine mashup - interval training, weight loss and getting paid to eat junk

Last week I co-hosted an Exercise is Medicine conference at my institution. 160 like-minded exercise enthusasists and researchers in one room left me feeling energized and reinvigorated about my own fitness goals, as well as my research interests in exercise and disease.

Given the new numbers published today that 1 in 4 American teenagers may be diabetic or prediabetic (23%, up dramatically from 9% in 2000) some good news is definitely in order. I'll post the big take home messages from the exercise conference later this week. But first, I wanted to share my favorite abbreviated workout and some thoughts on obesity and weight loss.

Interval training - easier than you think. Have you ever tried interval training? It is a great way to enhance your every day exercise routine whether you walk, run, bike or row. Interval training allows you to work at a level of intensity you couldn't sustain for a longer period of time. These short bursts of high intensity exercise can result in big fitness gains if done regularly and are a staple for elite athletes for this reason. More recently, interval training has been shown to have significant improvements on overall health. All the same benefits with a lot less time? I'm in.

For a start, try 1 minute intervals. Run hard for 1 minute, run easy for 1 minute - repeat 9 times for a great 20 minute workout. On days when I have another 10 minutes, I bookend this with a 5 minute warm up and cool down at a comfortable pace. I try to do this once a week for a quick but high impact workout. If you want to know more, this short video provides a good introduction to interval training.

The math of obesity. I read this NY Times article the other day on a mathematician studying obesity and I've been giving it a lot of thought. In discussing what contributes to the obesity epidemic today, he points out that the availability of cheap food in considerable excess is a huge problem - I couldn't agree more. Although he discounts a decrease in physical activity over the last 30 years as a contributing factor in the obesity epidemic, and I have to disagree - the article makes some very good points about what is now known about weight loss and weight maintenace. We now know that 100 calories is processed very differently in someone of a healthy weight versus someone that is overweight or has recently lost weight. It takes three years for a new eating pattern or weight loss to be fully established! More and more, we have to think about healthy lifestyle changes and get away from the idea of the short-term diet fix. Interesting food for thought!

Speaking of excess food, if you sign up to be a subject in this research study at Washington University in St.Louis, they will pay you $3500 to consume all the fast food you can eat for three months! The sad truth is, they will probably have no shortage of volunteers for this study.


It's already late May, more than half-way through this month devoted to exercise and all things healthy. Are you hitting your exercise goals this month? I exercised in the morning three times last week and picked the kids up from school in the jogging stroller one afternoon. And I've been very active cleaning the house for showings and walking behind Charlie as he learns to ride his new strider bike. I hit the minimum recommended 150 minutes of exercise this past week, but I'd like to do even better than that. I started my Monday morning with a short run, so I'm hoping I'll suprass 150 minutes this week.

Find more exercise posts here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

To the bike trail

Charlie has been into bikes lately - riding on the back of Dad's bike and cruising on his orange strider bike. We bought the strider last summer but he didn't have the coordination for it then. He does now.

She just wants to do everything he does.

We bike and run on the Trolley Trail with the kids all the time. Lately Charlie has been asking to ride his orange bike on the trail. I was skeptical because I didn't think he could get all the way there on the bike (a few blocks from our house) and then still have the energy to ride. What was I thinking? Of course he could, and did.

We stopped at the park on the way back home to enjoy the beautiful weather a little longer.

She is a little dressed up for the park, I know. But if she doesn't wear the cute dresses in her closet, they will all be too small very soon. We're going fashion forward anywhere and everywhere these days.

I will definitely miss the proximity of the trail and our favorite parks when we move. Love, love our neighborhood.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day racing report

My cheering section for the Mother's Day 5K
We had a busy and fun weekend of racing in the Maniger household. The weather was beautiful both Saturday and Sunday, even a little cool at times which was perfect for running. With early mornings both Saturday and Sunday and two showings on the house to prep for, we felt pretty exhuasted by Sunday evening.

Race note: I finished 3rd in my age group out of 378 runners -  and I paid for it all day Sunday. I need to put in more miles if I am going to run that hard. I know better, but I hadn't raced in a long time and my enthusiasm got the better of me. Gram finished 9th in her age group - despite almost missing the start. Way to go Mom!

Mother's Day 5K Race Team 2012

We cheered on Kara in her big race Saturday and it was so much fun. I was surprised at how many people 'ran with the cows' in this race, which is only in its second year. I heard about 2500 turned out to run on Saturday. As with any big race when I am standing on the side watching, I was wishing I was out there.

We went to mile 10 and waited for Kara. There was a good crowd at this spot, with music to keep us entertained and to dance along with. They handed out animal hats for the kids.

Charlie the Tiger and Dad waiting to cheer on Aunt Kara

We finally spotted her!
Charlie ran up and down this country road so much while we were waiting for Kara, I'm pretty sure he ran a couple of miles himself.

We'd never been this far south before - turns out there are tigers in the fields...

Way to go Aunt Kara! We are so proud of you. Let us know when the next race is, we'll be there to cheer!

I should get in two races in May to celebrate Exercise is Medicine month. There is another race coming up on Memorial Day. It isn't an unreasonable goal to do a race once a month and that would keep me motivated to run. If you like to run, how often do you race and what is your favorite distance?

Mother's Day picnic and baseball game

We had a picnic after the 5K run on Sunday morning to avoid the crowds doing brunch for Mother's Day. It was the perfect fit for all the kids and the weather could not have been more perfect. I had fun playing with my new camera and took way too many pictures.

Dad was telling her not to put rocks in her mouth. How do they learn these looks so early??

Izzy interrupted the game of catch.
I don't think they minded.

The ladies chatting about Julie's wedding plans.

After breakfast, the baseball game began in ernest. It wouldn't be a Geiger family game without someone getting mad or hurt and this day was no exception. Relatively speaking, it was only a minor upset and everyone had fun playing ball.

Charlie learned a lot by watching his older cousins play ball.
He looks so much like Todd in this picture.

This is not your ordinary baseball tee - made from a coffee can, a steel pipe, some concrete and a little plastic tubing - this is a homemade treasure. My brother, sister and I all learned to hit using this tee. It has seen a little duct tape and a new blue foam pad added to it over the years, but it still gets the job done.

Charlie gettings some hitting instruction from Grandaddy.

The misfit outfielders - nothing gets by them.
More instruction....

 All that hitting instruction from Grandaddy and Uncle Todd paid off!

And he's safe!

Happy Mother's Day to me!