12 Monthly Challenges For a Happy and Healthy 2017

Winter running exercise. Runner jogging in snow. Young woman fit

2017 is going to be your best year yet. I just know it.

I know I said that about 2016, and even 2015, and 2014, 2013, and … well, you know. It was true then, and it’s true now. Every year, we get better. We learn from our mistakes and build from our successes, and we emerge stronger for it. This is true for life as it is in running — the more we push ourselves, the more we grow.

In 2016, hundreds of you pushed yourself with our year of running challenges: 12 months, 12 challenges, and 12 ways to grow. You became stronger runners, but you also became stronger people: by completing January’s run streak, you flexed your resilience muscles; in July, you went out of your comfort zone by getting muddy on the trails. You emerged from these 12 challenges happier and healthier.

This year, we’re bringing a whole new set of monthly challenges, designed to help you grow as a runner and as a person. You’ll establish habits that will make you faster runners, yes, but you’ll also face fears and find joy.

Here’s how it works:

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17 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes to Get You Through the Holidays

holiday-recipes

In my opinion, the holidays are all about two things:

Spending quality time with family and friends, and indulging on good food and drink.

A few weeks ago I shared tips on how to stay happy and healthy this holiday season, so this week I thought I’d shift gears and focus on the good stuff — the indulging. More specifically, the best plant-based holiday meal, drink, and treat recipes to get you — and your non-vegan family and friends — through the holidays.

To do so, I reached out to the full No Meat Athlete team, including Matt and Erin, Esther, Susan, and Stepfanie, and together we’ve compiled a list of our favorite recipes to indulge in throughout the holidays.

Let’s start with my favorite meal:

Brunch

For my family, Christmas day revolves around a giant brunch. Aside from stockings, we even hold off on opening gifts until brunch is served and savored, making it one of the meals I look forward to most all year.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

1. Tofu Quiche — Nothing says brunch like a delicious, savory quiche, and this simple plant-based version gets even the non-vegans in my family excited.

2. Pumpkin Apple Muffins — Every good brunch needs something sweet. Muffins are easy to make, fun, and so very comforting. Tired of pumpkin? Try these vegan blueberry muffins instead.

3. Coffee Cake — Long after brunch is over you’ll want to keep munching on this coffee cake treat.

4. Ginger Mimosas — I’m not afraid to admit I love a good brunch mimosa. Give the traditional recipe a twist by adding ginger, and swap out the champagne with sparkling water for an alcohol free version.

Doug’s Ginger Mimosa Recipe

— 2oz Orange juice

— 4oz Brut champagne

— Splash of bitters

— 2 thin slices of ginger

Add bitters, ginger, and orange juice to the glass, top off with champagne.

Appetizers

The holidays typically come with their fill of down time — either between activities, or while you’re waiting for the big meal to finish cooking. I’ll fill the quiet with a good book, holiday movie, or board game (Settlers anyone?).

But no matter what I’m doing, down time always means breaking out snacks and apps.

5. Stuffed Mushrooms — With the never-on-time holiday dinner in mind, it’s important to have a few hearty appetizers on hand, like these stuffed mushroom caps.

6. White Bean Spread with Pomegranate and Mint on Crostini — Simple and delicious. Put this white bean spread on your crostini and garnish with pomegranate seeds and chopped mint.

Sardinian White Bean Spread Recipe

— 1 medium clove of garlic

— ½ teaspoon salt

— 2 cans (or 3 cups cooked) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (almost any bean will work, so feel free to try others)

— Juice of one medium lemon

— 1-2 teaspoons dried herbs (any you like — usually an Italian blend plus fennel seeds)

— 2 tablespoons olive oil (If you don’t mind oil, you can use use up to a quarter-cup for a richer spread. If you want to it to be totally oil-free, substitute liquid from the beans or water.)

Use a food processor or blender to first mince the garlic, then add all remaining ingredients except for oil (or your substitute liquid) and pulse to form a very rough paste. Then, with the motor running, stream in the oil or other liquid with the motor running. Do it quickly so that the spread retains a bit of texture.

Serve with veggies or pita wedges, or spread on pizza crust, bagels, or just about anything else where you want to add some heft and nutrition.

7. Mushroom Crostini — For something a little heavier, this recipe uses rosemary lemon cashew cream as the spread, and a nice serving of mushrooms on top.

Sides and Entrees

Holiday feasts can be tricky when your family isn’t also vegan, so I make sure that whatever I cook is approachable and exciting to everyone around the table.

Here are a few of the team’s favorite vegan sides and entrees for the holidays:

8. Cauliflower Steaks — Stepfanie suggests adding thyme and rosemary to the herb blend for the cauliflower, and to serve it up with her Dijon Butternut Squash Sauce.

9. Butternut Squash Risotto with Cheesy Sprinkle — Matt’s go-to holiday entree is risotto, and a creamy butternut squash adds fantastic flavor.

10. Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf, Revisited — Each year Katie and I cook two lentil loaves — one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas — since they make for the perfect meat substitution on a holiday plate (Esther thinks so too, since we both suggested this one!).

11. This Ain’t Grandma’s Sweet Potato Casserole — Everyone loves a good comfort food side, and this suggestion from Esther should do the trick.

12. Holiday Soup for the Soul — My family keeps a big pot of soup ready at all times, for whenever someone gets hungry. Thanks to Esther, we have a new recipe to try this year.

13. Bourbon Maple Apple Cider — The cocktail your holiday has been missing. Trust me. (Here’s a non-alcoholic version.)

Bonus: Don’t forget the sauces!

Desserts

Let’s be honest, everyone’s favorite holiday food indulgent is dessert. Yeah, these should do it:

14. Vegan Gingerbread Stout Cookies — Susan admits that she usually eats the whole batch before Santa arrives, so she’ll make a second batch. Or sometimes a third. No judgement here … it’s Christmas!

15. Sinless Sticky Toffee Pecan Pudding — A dessert you don’t have to feel (as) guilty devouring.

16. Saltine Butter Toffee — Erin’s favorite holiday gifts are edible ones, and the vegan treats from Joni Marie Newman’s Vegan Food Gifts never disappoint (trust me, I always love receiving a tin of treats from her around the holidays). This toffee is one of the best.

17. Mulled Wine — I first learned how to make mulled wine during a cold winter (in July) studying abroad in Chile, and if you drink alcohol, it’s the perfect sipping drink to warm the body and soul.

Doug’s Mulled Wine Recipe

— 1 bottle of red wine (nothing fancy, I usually grab a $10 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or Carmenere)

— 1 whole cinnamon stick

— 8-10 cloves

— 2 cups of apple cider

— 1 cup Port or Brandy

— 1 orange, zested and juiced (save peel for garnish)

— 1 apple, sliced

Combine in a large sauce pan and simmer before reducing heat for at least 15 minutes before serving. Alternatively, combine in a slow-cooker and leave on low throughout the evening.

This Christmas, Bring on the Food and Drink

Because what’s a holiday without a delicious treat?

From everyone on the No Meat Athlete team, we wish you have a happy, healthy, and delicious holiday.

About the Author: Doug is an ultrarunner, coach, and the co-host of NMA Radio. Pick up his free eBook, Why Every Runner Should Be a Trail Runner (And How to Become One).

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8 Running Workouts to Build Strength and Endurance

Pronto a correre

Note from Matt: It’s officially the holiday season, our Christmas tree is up, and today I’m pleased as punch to publish this expanded, updated version of one of our most popular posts ever … which has nothing whatsoever to do with the holidays. (But for some some holiday hijinks that have nothing whatsoever to do with actionable fitness advice, check out our most recent podcast episode.) 

In this updated post, author Doug Hay has added an eighth running workout to the original seven, expanded on many of the sample workouts and added several more, and included a “Putting It All Together” section — to help you not just read and nod along, but actually put this stuff into action and build a training plan around it.

With that, here’s Doug!

When did running get so complicated?

I ask myself that all the time, usually when frustrated by a tough workout on my training plan or a confusing training concept.

Running is such a simple act — exactly what drew me to it in the first place — until you complicate it with drills, exercises, and complex workouts.

Of course, it probably comes as no surprise that the workouts on your training plan aren’t there just to piss you off. They’re included to help you run stronger, faster, and for longer distances.

Unfortunately that doesn’t make it any less complicated, so today I’m going to break down eight common running workouts, and share examples of how the work, and show you how to structure a well rounded week of training.

The Importance of Variety

Before we start wading through the details, let’s first talk about variety. More specifically, why variety in your training is so important.

There’s a little running phenomenon I like to call “Single Speed Running,” where a runner logs nearly all of his or her miles at the exact same effort. Day after day. That speed is usually around 75 percent of max effort — not fast enough to really make your body work hard and adapt, but too fast to build much endurance or count as a “recovery” run.

Sound familiar?

Chances are it does, since that’s exactly what most runners do.

Not only does Single Speed Running keep you from getting stronger; it also significantly increases the risk of injury: our bodies need variety.

We need uber slow runs just as much as we need Lightning Bolt style sprints. The variety works the cardiovascular system and muscles in different ways, and makes room for both strength-building and recovery.

By understanding the importance of each workout, you’re more likely to begin incorporating a variety into your training, and in return, reaping the benefits.

But first, those workouts need to become less daunting and confusing … the goal of this post.

8 Common Running Workouts, Explained (With Examples)

Below you’ll find a description of eight common running workouts for endurance runners. With each explanation, I’ve also included examples of how to put the workout to use.

Let’s start with the easiest:

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The Big Holiday Episode of 2016

Christmas festive homemade decorated sweets

Thanksgiving is now behind us, which can only mean one thing …

Time for another holiday extravaganza! Last year we shared our favorite recipes, gift ideas, and more.

This year, we’re doing something a little different. The episode is a little less structured, but just as much fun.

In this week’s episode Matt and I talk holidays, babies, wine, and what we’d do during the holidays if stranded on a desert island. (Also listen out for a few big announcements in today’s episode.)

Happy holidays!

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The third NMA Black Friday Bundle
  • Do you really like Doug’s Did You Knows?
  • What we’re asking for this Christmas
  • How having a baby will change your life
  • Board games and made for TV Christmas movies

Click the button below to listen now:

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Skip the Gravy: Simple Oil-Free Sauces for a Delicious Plant-Based Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-sauce

According to my husband, Sam, no meal is complete without a sauce. And from what I’ve gotten to know about Matt, Doug, and the rest of the NMA team over the past few years, they’re into sauces too.

So when Matt and I started planning the new No Meat Athlete Cookbook, for which I wrote many of the recipes, we made a point to include several sauce recipes.

A good sauce can turn an ordinary dish into something extraordinary. It can elevate each bite into a flavor-packed delight.

And on Thanksgiving, that’s especially true. Most of the dishes on our extended family’s dinner table are easily modified to be plant-based, but without the gravy, the meal can seem incomplete, and even a little dry.

I usually whip up a standard vegan gravy, but this year I’ve decided to lighten things up a bit and created two new plant-based sauces for our big feast.

They’re both oil-free, nut-free and gluten-free, and they’re less salty than vegan gravy. And don’t tell your kids, but as a bonus I even decided to sneak in a serving of vegetables for flavor and added nutrition.

These two sauces are super simple to make (and are both reheatable), so even if you’re planning a long ride or run before Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll love this quick addition to the meal.

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The Vegan Athlete’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays (And Still Having Fun)

Christmas lights on dark background close upAh, holiday season.

A time for family, friends, and cornucopias. Big meals, red wine, and Home Alone on repeat. Presents, football, and … you get the picture.

The holiday season is a joyful time for most people, but for the plant-based athlete, it can also be full of temptations and anxiety. The healthy eating and fitness habits we work so hard to maintain throughout the year suddenly go down for a long winter’s nap.

Not to mention the stress of having to explain to Uncle Bill where you get your protein. Sheesh Uncle Bill, how many times do I have to tell you? From plants!

Not to worry, No Meat Athlete is here with a complete guide to not only surviving the holiday season, but keeping your healthy habits intact and having fun in the process.

Why Most People Fail During the Holidays

There’s no law of holidays that says we need to overeat, skip runs, or stop being vegan, so why are holidays such a struggle?

Here’s my theory: We give up.

We either (1) feel like we deserve a break or treat and don’t even try, or (2) lose faith in ourselves and fall victim to temptation and peer pressure.

We think it’s all or nothing, and because the holidays are a time when we depart from our typical routines, we give up on ourselves and the work we’ve done throughout the year.

That sounds a little defeatist, I know, so let’s move on to the good news …

There’s a middle ground. A way to keep your habits in tact and still have a good time, and it all comes back to what I like to call, “The Four Fs of Surviving the Holidays.”

No, not that kind of Fs.

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Examine.com’s Kamal Patel on Which Supplements Vegan Athletes Should Consider

ep167

When it comes to nutritional advice and information, there’s a lot of noise on the internet. Read one thing and you may find yourself nodding along, only to be equally convinced when reading a counter argument.

So how do you sort through all that noise?

For starters, you have to get rid of the biases — your bias, the bias of the site, and the bias of the research.

While Examine.com can’t get rid of your own bias, it strives to eliminate the other two, making it one of Matt’s favorite resources for objective information on supplementation and nutrition.

In today’s episode, we chat with Kamal Patel, an editor at Examine.com and nutrition researcher with an MPH and MBA from Johns Hopkins University. He shares his research on which (if any) supplements vegan athletes need, and breaks down many of the most talked about vitamins and minerals.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • How to be unbiased on the internet
  • Do vegans need supplements? Don’t assume anything
  • Looking at minerals, not vitamins
  • Protein supplements and plant-based athletes
  • Creatine and your brain
  • How to sort through the noise of nutritional research

Click the button below to listen now:

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The Real Reasons You Gain Weight While Training for a Marathon (And What You Can Do About It)

blurry picture of runners in a marathon

Most of us equate exercise with some weight loss. Increase the amount of exercise (by committing to something crazy like training for a marathon), and you’re bound to lose weight. Right?

Not necessarily. Even for plant-based athletes.

And maybe more surprisingly, marathon training is probably not the best time to set weight loss goals.

As a dietitian who frequently works with runners, I’ve seen many clients — especially women — put on a few pounds throughout training, and I’ve dealt with signs of it myself while training for anything from a half marathon to ultramarathon.

But why does it happen — and more importantly, what can you do about it?

Well, that depends on your goals …

Important: Now Might Not be the Time to Set Weight Loss Goals

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