Sleep Challenge Check-In, Lacing Up My Running Sneaks, and a Post-Run Smoothie

running sneaksSo much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.

Sorry, I’m having a Willie Wonka moment. You could say I’ve been feeling a bit wonky lately, but good wonky, if that’s even a thing. This past week I’ve had so many ideas popping up in my head, I could barely write them down fast enough. It’s like feast or famine lately in the creativity department, and after my frustrating brain fog and idea dry spell a couple weeks ago, I fully welcome this rapidly moving current of activity. Also, my motivation to get back to running has returned full force. It helps that we’ve had a bright and sunny streak of days around these parts, and it actually warmed up into the high 20s! Hoooo…. it’s like a saw-na in here. The sun seems different, it feels brighter, closer… and warmer. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but spring seems within our reach, friends! I say this in spite of a seemingly permanent shin-deep blanket of white on the ground and endless piles of dirty snow as far as the eye can see. The time change this weekend and the subsequent lighter evenings will only serve to fuel my spring fever! All of this extra energy and ideas means you might be seeing me a whole lot more in the coming weeks, which I hope is a good thing! It also means that today’s post will be a potpourri of sorts, as I get a few things squared away. First item to tick off the list: sleep.

My Sleep Challenge Update

When I published my Sleeping Beauty post a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling disorganized, low on energy, and I was struggling to type more than two sentences.  I also had a serious case of the winter blahs.  After reporting on all of the beauty and health benefits of nabbing more shut-eye (including more energy, creativity, and cognitive functioning), as well as making myself accountable by announcing my intentions to go to bed earlier, I thought it would be easy peasy to stick with my plan. Well, it was much more difficult to change my current pattern than I thought it would be. Despite my failure to stick with my bed-time goals 100% of the time, I’m definitely making some progress!  I have to say, I’m feeling much more peppy, clear-headed, and as I mentioned above, the ideas be flowin’!  Looking over my sleep journal, my average bed-time was 11:00 p.m., with a couple of 11:30s, a midnight-er, and a few 10:30s.  My goal is still to be tucked into bed and ready for slumber by 10:30, so the challenge continues.  I’ve identified some obstacles on this winding path to sleep bliss, as well as possible solutions.

1. Get that baby to bed!  I realized right away that part of the difficulty in going to sleep earlier lies in the fact that night time is my time, it’s when I can write, read, and think.  It’s when my husband and I can catch some quality TV time, when I feel inspired, and usually when I try to work on this blog. When my daughter would have a fussy night, waking up every half hour after being put in bed, it would usually mean that I would stay up that much later after getting her (finally) settled so I could get some things done (or just sit and stare). It makes bumping up my daughter’s night-time routine that much more important.

2. Step Away from the Chocolate (after 9 p.m.) I know full well that chocolate has caffeine. And I boldly stated NO CAFFEINE after 2:00 p.m. in my list of better sleep tips. Did this matter to me at 9:30 after struggling for almost two hours to get aforementioned night owl toddler to bed? Not one bit. Once she was finally snoozing away peacefully it was next stop chocolate-town! Well, I regretted those late night cocoa rendezvous when I was lying in bed, after 11 and physically tired, yet mind racing and completely wide awake.  So, as much as chocolaty treats and quiet “me-time” go hand in hand, I need to at least cut myself off after 9:00 p.m.

3. Consistent Wake Times – Rolling out of bed at the same time every day is just as important as going to bed at the same time, when trying to adjust your internal sleep clock. While I’m usually out of bed by around 7:15, there are days when my daughter decides to go back to sleep for an extra 30-45 minutes, and I happily follow suit. Well, in order go to sleep earlier, I’m going to need to get up earlier on a consistent basis, no matter how delicious my pillow and blanket look.

4. Exercise to Sleep Better – Lastly, I discovered that when I exercised, I slept much better, and felt better all around. My skin was positively aglow from all of that heart pumping, blood circulation, and a good healthy sweat followed by a rejuvenating slumber. The days following some exercise and good sleep were definitely my best days in terms of mood as well.  I felt less stressed, calmer, and more productive.  All the more reason to keep tying up those running shoes and hit the pavement.

running gear

Getting Back in my Brooks

I haven’t talked about it much on the blog, but running is one of my favorite ways stay in shape, combat stress, improve my mood, and challenge myself. Although running isn’t my focus on the blog, finding balance in all areas of life is part of my inner and outer beauty philosophy, and exercise is a huge part of that.  I’ve been slacking on my physical fitness this winter, and I’m fairly certain that my crummy mood and brain fog are due in part to my lack of exercise. The never-ending snow storms, impassable sidewalks, and extremely cold temps have made this a tricky winter for running. I know… excuses, excuses!

Last May, my love of running was reignited when my sister invited me to join her in a 5k road race. I had forgotten how much I loved that inner, mental challenge of running. After that, I was hooked. Four days a week I strapped my little one into her jog stroller, and away we went! I finally dropped the last of the baby weight I had been holding onto, but even better was how great I felt!  I signed up for a few more races throughout the year, and the last one I ran was a small race with the Grand Rapids Running Club just a couple weeks before Christmas. I ran my best time, like, ever. Even faster than what I ran in high school. Then 2015 came roaring in with a winter vengeance, and my hot pink sneaks came to a screeching halt. Fast forward two months and here we are a week into March, and I’ve finally been able to talk myself into getting out for a couple of runs.

Now that it’s staying light out past 5:00 p.m., I’m able to go running once my husband gets home in the evening. As long as I’m not working, I can head out on the weekends for a morning run, which is when I really prefer to exercise. I’m on my feet all day and rushing around so much at work, that once I get home, I really don’t feel like going out for a jog.  Maybe this will change as the weather gets warmer. Weather is such a powerful motivator! If you’re struggling to get active right now, trust me, I feel your pain. I encourage you to just go for it though!  It feels so good. Your skin will look rosy and fresh, and you’ll have an extra pep in your step for the next 24 hours. Even if it’s only 18 degrees outside, just do it.  It’s so worth it to push past that negative self talk and mountain of excuses!

protein chai smoothie protein chai up close protein chai smoothie 4

Sweet Cinnamon Apple Chai Protein Smoothie 

Also a powerful motivator to exercise: a yummy post-work-out smoothie. Not all food rewards are a bad thing, in my opinion.  Especially if it’s a plant-based, healthy shake with hints of apple and chai spices. I threw this together one day, and it has become my favorite smoothie, after a run or anytime!  I don’t always have protein powder on hand, but recently my mom bought a large container of vegan vanilla protein powder called Vegan Smart by Naturade, and she gave me half (My mom and I do a lot of food trades and swaps, in case you hadn’t noticed! It’s awesome to share health food favorites and deals with my mom). So this smoothie is a result of experimenting with ways to use the protein powder. We aren’t 100% sold on the taste, but I do like that it features a pea, chia, hemp, and chorella protein blend, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and vitamins.  I must say the powder tastes pretty good in this shake, but feel free to use your favorite vanilla protein powder. I don’t have a ton of experience with protein powders, (other than my favorite pure hemp protein powder) but some good ones I’ve tried are Vega and Garden of Life Raw Protein brands. This recipe makes 1 large or 2 small servings.  One recipe has almost 20 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, 34% DV of iron, and is a good source of healthy fats. Oh, and it tastes like a dreamy dessert. Go ahead and celebrate that work-out!

Sweet Cinnamon Apple Chai Protein Smoothie

1 cup of water

1 scoop of vanilla protein powder

1/4 cup of raw almonds, preferably soaked, or 2 tablespoons of almond butter

1 small apple, chopped (I used organic gala)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

dash of ground cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger

1 small frozen banana

handful of ice

Blend water, protein powder, almonds (or almond butter), apple, and spices until completely smooth. Add in the frozen banana and ice and blend again.  Dee-licious!

Have a happy and healthy Saturday, all!  See you soon!

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