Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Iowa's Best Road Races

In a previous post I listed The Best Fun Runs In America.  I would love to run all of those races, but many of them take place hundreds of miles away from Iowa.  This motivated me to make up a new list of races that take place closer to home.  Hopefully someday soon I will be able to say I have run in each one of these races.

Dam to Dam
Iowa's Distance Classic.  This is probably Iowa's most popular race, so make sure to sign up early, as registration caps off at 8,000 and it tends to fill up quickly.  The Dam to Dam takes place in late-May/early-June.  This 20K run begins in the middle of Saylorville Dam and ends in downtown Des Moines.  The first half of the scenic route winds through the backroads of Iowa's countryside and the second half through the streets of downtown Des Moines.

I ran the Dam to Dam last year and it is my favorite race I've ever run.  The fun begins at packet pickup with lots of refreshments and entertainment.  Race day is filled with even more fun.  Every one is in great spirits and the course is filled with bright T-Shirts & signs with fun/clever sayings like "Where's the Dam finish line?"  Lot's of friends, family, and spectators come out to cheer the runners along the course.  But the real fun comes at the finish line with a big sense of accomplishment, refreshments, and a post-race party.

 Next year will mark the 35th annual Dam to Dam.  A 5K and youth run are also available.
Living History Farms Off Road Race
Taking place at the end of November, this is a great way to end the race season.  The course treks across farm land on Iowa's famous live history outdoor museum.  Runners face challenging obstacles such as creeks, farm animals, and gullies.  You can participate individually or with a team.  Many participants wear fun costumes.  I'm running my first LHF race in about 2 weeks and I can't wait!

This year will mark the 35th annual LHF Race.
IMT Des Moines Marathon/Half Marathon/5K
The largest and fastest marathon in Iowa, it takes place in mid-October.  The course winds through downtown Des Moines and includes a loop around Gray's Lake.  Runners of all abilities can participate by choosing between the marathon, half marathon, and 5K races.  At the finish line you will find a post-race party and lots of free food courtesy of the many sponsors.  I ran the half marathon this year and I had a blast.  This race is well run with a great sense of community.

Next year will mark the 13th annual Des Moines Marathon.
HyVee Triathlon
Taking place on Labor Day Weekend, this race combines swimming, biking, and running into one challenging competition.  The course winds through downtown Des Moines and the swimming portion takes place in Gray's Lake.  This event is open to all athletes both professional and amateur.  You can even sign up with a relay team and only compete in one leg of the course.  Use the Tri Match-up website to find other people looking to join a relay team. Next year I hope to join a relay team as the runner.

Next year will be the 8th annual HyVee Triathlon.  The triathlon demonstrates HyVee's dedication to promoting good health and nutrition.
HyVee Road Races at the Drake Relays
Half Marathon, 10K, or 5K race at the Drake Relays, known as one of the most important track and field meets in the world.  Taking place in late April, top athletes come from all around the world to participate on Drake University's blue track.  All road races begin on Drake's campus and are open to walkers & runners of all abilities.  As a Des Moines native, I attend the Drake Relays almost every year.  I love the sense of community and tradition that seems to grow stronger every year.

This year will mark the 105th Drake Relays.  This is another event that highlights HyVee's dedication to promoting good health and nutrition.
Midnight Madness
This race takes place on the streets of downtown Ames.  You have the option of running a 15K, 10K, or a 5K.  The race starts at 7:30 PM and ends with a post-race party.  Midnight Madness is part of the Iowa Games which take place each July.

What Fitness Classes and Programs Are Right For You?

In my previous post I discussed the benefits of attending a group workout class or program.  Whether you're looking for something to attend every day or a class to supplement your regular workout routine 2 or 3 times a week, group fitness can have a very positive impact.  The following are some of the most popular fitness programs & classes available all over the US.

This class utilizes a series of poses to improve flexibility, strength, power and balance.  It offers many health benefits and is quickly becoming one of the most popular workout regimens for celebrities, professional athletes, and fitness enthusiasts.  Many different styles of yoga are available worldwide, each offering it's own benefits.  Some of the most popular styles are anusara, ashtanga, bikram, hatha, hot yoga, iyengar, power yoga, restorative yoga, and vinyasa.
Benefits: stress management, relaxation, weight loss, flexibility, bone strength, balance, and fights heart disease/diabetes/depression/back pain.

Les Mills Body Pump
Strength training that tones your muscles without adding bulk.  This class targets one large muscle group at a time, with weight lifting to upbeat popular music.  The combination of slow reps and fast, single reps help to tone and create lean muscle.  Les Mills also offers the following classes: Body Attack, Body Balance, Body Combat, Body Jam, Body Step, Body Vive, RPM, Sh'bam, and Cxworx.
Benefits: weight loss, toning, bone health, strength, fat & calorie burning.

"Ditch the workout - Join the party!" A dance fitness class that creates a fun & effective environment.  Fast paced Latin-inspired dancing to upbeat, infectious, pop music.  The choreography isn't complex, which makes this class friendly to people of all abilities.
Benefits: calorie burn, toning, stress release, weight loss, balance, bone density, and lowers blood pressure.

Kick Boxing
A high intensity, full body workout that blends boxing and karate drills.  It is becoming increasingly popular and is offered in a variety of different styles and classes.
Benefits: balance, coordination, strength, cardio endurance, increase focus, learn some self defense, and weight loss.

Pedaling on a stationary bike to upbeat music.  Fast sprints & slow climbs.  Adjust resistance to stay on the rhythm.
Benefits: burn calories, build muscle, increase cardio endurance, low impact (little pressure on joints), and injury preventing.

Boot Camp
There are many varying styles, but generally it's a full body workout that incorporates cardio exercises, muscle conditioning, and other challenging drills.
Benefits: aerobic & muscle toning together, calorie burning, weight loss, boosts confidence, improves overall fitness.

Cross Fit
An increasingly popular strength and conditioning program.  Classes follow a workout of the day (WOD) and performance is often scored to encourage competition and track progress.  Each summer the Cross Fit Games take place to determine the "fittest on Earth".  This non-specialized class focuses on broad/general fitness. 
Benefits: strength, flexibility, cardio endurance, track progress, friendly competition, and confidence.

Farrell's eXtreme Bodyshaping
A mix of cardio exercises and strength training, supplemented with motivating instructors.  Martial arts training for regular people.  They also help you with a nutrition plan and add a little extra motivation with a cash prize competition.
Benefits: toning & strengthening, weight loss, improves fitness, and increases cardio endurance.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

10 Benefits of Group Fitness Classes

Group fitness classes have become increasingly popular in recent years.  From Zumba to Yoga to Cross Fit, there are many different types of classes that cater to all different interests and ability levels.  My personal favorite class is Les Mills Body Pump.  Each class has it's own specific benefits, but all group fitness classes have certain benefits that can supplement the training of even the fittest athletes.

1. Motivation
Having an instructor to push you and peers all working toward the same goal works wonders motivating people.  "Alone we're weak.  Together we're strong."

2. Specific time
Scheduling a set, specific time to work out makes people more likely to stick to their plan.  When class starts at a certain time you are less likely to keep putting it off, until eventually you just don't go.

3. Fun/Friends
Enroll in a class with a friend or go alone and make new friends!  Staying active is much more enjoyable in a fun & friendly environment.

4. One more set!
Working out alone, especially weight training, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to do one more set when you begin to fatigue.  When you have a choreographed routine and a motivating instructor, you are more likely to push yourself, which will consequently yield greater results.

5. Learn something new
Trained instructors have more than just motivation to offer.  They can offer many tips and tricks to creating a better and safer work out.  I'm always learning new things from my group fitness instructors.

6. Safety
Instructors are trained in the proper form to execute each move safely.  Classes also help ensure that you get a proper warm up and cool down.  Group fitness classes can help reduce injuries, especially in less experienced participants.

7. Accountability
Signing up for a group fitness class makes you more accountable to show up and stick with it, especially when you pay for it up front.  You are also more accountable to your peers and instructor to always give your best.

8. Good place to start
Group fitness classes are especially beneficial to beginners.  People new to working out may not know where to begin or how to execute specific moves safely.  This gives them the opportunity to follow a specific routine and learn to execute it safely.

9. Save Money
Group fitness classes are generally much cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.

10. Fresh
If you get bored of always doing the same work out (ex. running, lifting, etc.), then classes are a great way to get out of your regular routine.  Most classes change up their routine periodically, so joining a class won't mean that you are stuck doing the exact same work out each time.

Check back tomorrow for my follow-up blog post outlining some of the most popular group fitness classes available.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

Football season is in full swing, and that means tailgate season is too.  This can mean lots of unhealthy foods, dips, and treats.  So I thought I would share my favorite healthy tailgate recipe!  This is my mom's amazing buffalo chicken dip with my healthy spin on it.  Even my brother (who doesn't generally like my healthy cooking) loves this recipe.  He can't even tell the difference between my healthy version and the original!

Healthy Buff Chick Dip

2 C. Cooked chicken breasts - shredded
8 oz. Plain greek yogurt
6 oz. (3/4 C.) Frank's Red Hot sauce
1/2 C. Fat-Free Ranch
1/2 C. 2% Reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

Combine greek yogurt, Red Hot, and ranch in a saucepan and bring to a slight boil.  Take off heat and add the shredded chicken. Put into an 8x8 baking dish.  Top with cheese and cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for 30 min.


  • I usually just add the cheese with the chicken and eat it right away without baking
  • To make it healthier: make without the cheese (I think it tastes just as good!)
  • Instead of using Fat-Free Ranch you can make your own ranch substitute by mixing plain greek yogurt with a ranch packet (I don't use the whole packet)

Eat with baked or multigrain chips to make it extra healthy!  I prefer the HyVee Multi Grain chips.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Healthiest Fall Foods

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."  Apples are a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, potassium, & antioxidants.  A large apple contains 30% of the suggested daily fiber intake.  Apples help reduce your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and Type II Diabetes.  They are especially great food to aid with weight loss.
From: The Top 30 Superfoods

Healthy Apple Crisp Recipe
Brussels Sprouts
  •  One of the healthiest foods in the world!
  • 1 cooked cup: 56 calories and 81% daily value of Vitamin C
  • High in Vitamin A, Calcium, and Iron.
  • Great food for weight loss
  • Good source of antioxidants
  • Good amounts of Vitamins C, K and B6, potassium, fiber, and protein
  • Help prevent Alzheimer's, certain cancers, and inflammation
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Fights constipation
  • Supports immune function

  • Antioxidants that help detox body
  • 1 cup: 25 calories and 77% daily value of Vitamin C
  • Contains iron and calcium
  • Very good source of fiber, Vitamins C, K and B6, and potassium 
  • Improves heart health
  • Reduces the risk of cancer
All hail kale! Low calorie, high fiber, no fat! It is high in iron, nutrients, vitamins, folate, magnesium, Vitamin K, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, & sulfur. It is known to aid in digestion, cell growth, liver function, cancer prevention, bone health, blood clot prevention, & lower cholesterol. It can also help fight asthma, arthritis, & autoimmune disorders. Kale helps the immune system, increases metabolism, hydrates, and detoxifies the body.
From: The Top 30 Superfoods

  • 1 cup: 100 calories, 38% daily value of Vitamin C, and 26% of dietary fiber
  • Great source of fiber, & Vitamins C and K
  • Good source of potassium, calcium and iron
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Cancer preventing
  • 1 medium sized: 103 calories, 22% daily value of dietary fiber, and 12% of Vitamin C
  • Antioxidants
  • Good source of many vitamins and minerals
  • Aid in weight loss
  • Protect against some cancers
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Boosts the immune system
  • 1 pomegranate: 234 calories, 45% daily value of dietary fiber, and 48% Vitamin C
  • Good source of fiber, folate, & Vitamins C and K
  • Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Helps prevent some cancers
  • Promote bone health
  • Alzheimer's prevention
  • Boosts immune system

  • 1 cup (cooked & mashed): 49 calories and 245% daily value of Vitamin A
  • Good source of Vitamins E and B6, folate, and iron
  • Great source of fiber, Vitamins A and C, potassium, copper, and manganese
  • Contains many antioxidants
  • Aids in weight reduction
  • Help prevent certain cancers
  • Maintain skin and eye health


  • 1 cup (cooked): 66 calories and 53% daily value of Vitamin C
  • Low in sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Good source of fiber, Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus
  • Great source of Vitamin C and Potassium
  • Good weight loss food: aids in digestion and boosts metabolism
  • Prevents certain types of cancer
  • High in antioxidants

  • 1 cup (cooked): 82 calories, 457% daily value of Vitamin A, and 52% Vitamin C
  • Good source of Vitamins E and B6, folate, calcium, and magnesium
  • Great source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, and manganese
  • Heart friendly and cancer fighting
  • Great weight loss food
  • High in antioxidants
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Helps eyesight

Sweet potatoes
They are a good source of Vitamins B6, C, & D, beta carotene, fiber, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Sweet potatoes help prevent heart attacks, boost the immune system, aid digestion, boost energy levels and mood, & relieve stress.  They also increase the health of our bones, teeth, blood, arteries, and skin. Sweet potatoes are especially good when baked and topped with cinnamon!
From: The Top 30 Superfoods

  • 1 medium turnip: 34 calories and 43% daily value of Vitamin C
  • Good source of Vitamin B6, calcium, folate, and potassium
  • Great source of fiber, Vitamin C, and manganese
  • Helps prevent cancer
  • Improve heart health
  • High in antioxidants
  • Aid digestion and weight loss
  • Promotes good bone health

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

National Oatmeal Day

Happy National Oatmeal Day!

Oatmeal is not only one of my favorite foods; it's also a superfood!  It has many health benefits that I outlined in a previous post "The Top 30 Superfoods"

A great source of soluble fiber which makes you feel fuller longer, aids in digestion, and promotes weight loss. They contain high values of antioxidants. Oats help control blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and promote a healthy heart. They reduce the risk of cancer and diabetes. Add some cinnamon and berries to your oatmeal for a delicious and nutritious breakfast!

With all these health benefits, people should try to incorporate oats into their everyday diet.  To help I have compiled a list of my favorite oatmeal recipes.

1. My Favorite Oatmeal

1/2 C. Quick oats
1 C. Skim milk
1-2 Egg whites
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
Small handful of sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. Sugar-free maple syrup
1/4 C. Frozen blueberries

Heat oats, milk, and egg whites in saucepan over medium heat just until it is slightly boiling (make sure the egg whites are cooked).  Then take it off heat and add cinnamon, almonds, syrup, and blueberries.  Sometimes I add a little bit of peanut butter for some extra protein.

2. My Healthy Cookie Recipe

This recipe can be found at:

3. Overnight Oatmeal

1 container of yogurt (I prefer Yoplait Greek 100) - any flavor you choose
+ 1/4 cup quick/rolled oats
+ 1 tsp. chia seeds
+ any mix-ins of your choice (berries, nuts, bananas, etc.)

Combine & refrigerate overnight.
In the morning you will have a ready to eat, nutritious, oat-tasitic breakfast!

4. Oatmeal Pancake

1/4 C. Quick oats
2 egg whites
1/2 mashed banana (ripe)
Mix-ins of your choice (berries, raisins, nuts, etc.)

Fry like a pancake. Top with honey or sugar-free maple syrup if you want.

5. Skinny Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

Via:  Sally's Baking Addiction

6. Healthy Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches

Via: Diets in Review

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Best Fun Runs in America

Fun runs: the best excuse to get active! Marathons aren't for you?  Fun runs are focused on having a good time rather than times, splits and PRs.  Signing up can be a great motivation to get moving and crossing the finnish line comes with a great sense of accomplishment.  Plus, most races allow you to sign up with a team... so grab some friends and get going!  They can even be fun for marathoners and serious runners just looking for a break with a more relaxed run.  With thousands of varieties including everything from muddy obstacles to crazy costumes, how do you know where to begin?  This is a list of the most unique and exciting runs in America!  A few are destination races, but most are available in cities all over the country.

Run Disney
"Every mile is magic when you runDisney!" Disney offers a variety of runs that differ in length and theme.  From a Diaper Dash to a 48.6 mile run, there is something for everyone.  Race weekends include many fun events, like Pasta in the Park, kids races, health expos, Happily Ever After Parties, and many more.  The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is the signature race weekend.  Another fun option is the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon.  But, at the top of my bucket list is the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  Making dreams come true, one mile at a time!

Color Run
"The Happiest 5K on the Planet" This un-timed race is 100% focused on having fun! Participants begin the race wearing all white and get drenched in color along the course. The after-race party/DJ offer even more color and fun.  Color Runs take place in cities all over the country.

Komen Race for the Cure
What could be more fun than running to support a cause? There are more than 140 different races across the country.  People of all fitness levels participate to raise awareness, honor those who have lost their battle, and celebrate those who have survived breast cancer.  Get decked out in pink and sign up for a race in a city near you!

Spartan Race - Tough Mudder - Warrior Dash
Two of the most popular obstacle trail races.  Run with a team, get muddy, work hard, challenge yourself, and HAVE FUN! Afterward celebrate at post-race parties with beer, music, and more.  Available in cities all over the country, so look for one near you.  The Spartan Race offers 4 different levels ranging from a 3 mile course to a 26 mile course.  The Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile course.  The Warrior Dash is a 3-4 mile course.  One thing's for sure, you will feel a great sense of accomplishment crossing these finish lines. - -

Hot Chocolate 15K/5K
"America's Sweetest Race" The race is fun, but the real excitement comes at the finnish line with a goodie bag, Post Race Party, music, and lots of CHOCOLATE!  They are available in many big cities across the country.  This one really appeals to the chocoholic in me, I think I'll try to run the one in Minneapolis, in April.

Krispy Kreme Challenge
"2400 calories, 12 donuts, 5 miles, 1 hour."  Not the healthiest race around, but definitely appealing to the pastry loving runners.  Participants begin on the NC State campus, run 2.5 miles to Krispy Kreme, eat a dozen donuts, then attempt to run back.  Proceeds are donated to the North Carolina Children's Hospital.

Run For Your Lives
"The original zombie infested 5K obstacle course race." Runners navigate the course, overcoming obstacles, and dodging zombies.  The course is roughly 5K, but varies depending on the routes you chose.  Participants wear flags and if they make it to the finish line with at least one remaining flag then they have survived! Races are available all over the country.  Celebrate at the finish line with an apocalypse festival full of food, music, beer, and of course, ZOMBIES!

Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis
"Nation's Largest Holiday 5K" Available in cities all over the country.  Make a team, raise money for arthritis research, and get in the holiday spirit with Christmas costumes and jingle bells.  Get up and moving to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year!

Twinkie Run
This 5K is always run on April 1st in Ann Arbor, Michigan to support the battle against ALS.  Eat a Twinkie at the start line, at mile 1.5, and more goodies at the finnish line.  You can even participate in the homemade Twinkie contest! Yum!

New Year Midnight Run New York
Ring in the new year with this fun run through Central Park.  4 miles full of music, entertainment, and fun.  Complete with a costume contest and midnight fireworks!  A fun, healthy alternative to spending NYE in Times Square.
Bay to Breakers
The oldest annual footrace in the world.  A 12K race through the scenic city of San Francisco.  This race is famous for its crazy costumes, nudity, and scenic route.

Dirty Girl
Girl Power! Very similar to the Tough Mudder, this 5K is for women only.  People of all abilities are encouraged to sign up and experience the camaraderie and fun! It's available all over the US.  "You won't be able to wash off your sense of accomplishment."

5K Foam Fest
Rub-a-dub-dub.  If you think all the mud runs sound fun, check this out! All the mud and obstacles of a typical mud run, but with one significant addition... FOAM!  After getting down and dirty, follow it up by getting sudsy and clean.  Available in many locations across the country.
Electric Run
A 5K that keeps you running, walking, and dancing with various music and lights, essentially an "electric wonderland."  Participants dress up in crazy costumes, including anything that blinks, glows, lights up, etc.  And you can't forget about the electric, dance party, finnish celebration.  Available in cities across the country.  Grab your glow sticks & get moving!
Boston Urban Iditarod
Create a team, pick a theme and costumes, and participate in this urban shopping cart race.  It is also a costume party, bar crawl, talent contest, food drive, and a party!  Each team creates their own route (a little over 5K) that must hit each of the check-point bars.  At each check point grab a beer and complete a challenge.
NYC Pizza Run
Bon Appetite!  2.25 mile run.  Participants stop at 3 checkpoints along the way to chow down on a piece of pizza.  Pizza & running... What more could you need?