How to Start RunningHello again!  You know how it goes – comprehensive exams, senior thesis, jobs and life get in the way, and all of a sudden a month has gone by in the blink of an eye. However, after an unofficial 1-month (and much-needed!) break, we’re back and ready to hit the ground running (pun intended). It’s been a nice, cleansing rest, but now we’re poised to get back on the attack. Today, E is giving the lowdown on how to start running and how you can follow in her footsteps (again with the puns??). -A


Let’s talk about running.

Most people feel pretty strongly about running. If you absolutely hate running, or if you feel that you can’t run due to pain, I have a sneaking suspicion you might be doing it wrong. …

But E, you might be asking, how is there a wrong way to run? Humans begin to run as soon as they feel comfortable walking as toddlers. Let me tell you… running is more work than you think! 

I’ve been running in the early mornings and on weekends to train for my half-marathon at the end of March. Usually, it’s ok… but many mornings, I just want to hit the snooze button and enjoy another 90 minutes of slumber. I can tell you after a few years of this, I still don’t love it. I love the way I feel after, and, occasionally, I love the way I feel while running. I still hate putting on my shoes to go out, and I still hate feeling my body start to stress until I can find a good pace. However, I keep going. The benefits of running are overwhelmingly positive compared to the mild discomfort I feel.

I firmly believe that anyone can enjoy running. If you hate running, or are considering starting up a routine, here are some my tips for helping the process and learning how to start running:


  1. Check your shoes. When was the last time you changed your running shoes? If the answer is +400 miles or more than 18 months, it is time to switch out those shoes! Did you by them because the were on sale? Also, probably an indicator that they may not be right for your feet. My number one suggestion for people who want to start running is to go to a specialty running store. The people who work at a quality store know how to deal with runners and non-runners alike. You can bring them your top complaints, and they will find you the right shoe. Look for a store that has a treadmill, or that offers to fit you for a shoe based on your stride. The specialists will observe your stride and help you find a shoe that will make your run feel 1,000 times better. Also, your gym shoes are not always multi-purpose. Your running shoes are to help you RUN, not to get you to the gym and back, and certainly not to increase your street style. Find the shoe that works best for your needs, not the ones that are the prettiest or the cheapest option. I run in the Nike Fly Freeknit, and love them!
  2. Check your form. Be aware of where your feet land. When you run, you should strike with the MID section of your foot… not your heel, and not your toes. Are you leaning outward or curving inward? There are shoes for that. Do your feet ache or is there pain in your heel? Again, there are shoes for that. When you’re running,  you should keep yourself upright and tight through your core. DON’T let your arms swing side to side… that’s wasted energy and it throws off your form. Keep your hands moving directly forward. Pick up your thighs and pull from your calves… keeping your feet light and your ankles relaxed.  Combined, you should be leaned slightly forward, not straight up-and-down. I know this all sounds confusing , but here’s a great video that will help show what I’m talking about. Seriously… good form changes everything!
  3. Check your surroundings. Are you gearing up for a nice, short jog on a treadmill? If you have the time and don’t risk freezing/getting drenched/overheating , get yourself outside! Fresh air and the freedom to go wherever your feet take you… that’s why people get hooked on running. One of the biggest mistakes when running is relying solely on a treadmill for your runs. Treadmills are soft and cushy, and they allow you to set a pace manually. While this can be great for some training, it can really screw you up. The repetition of foot-on-pavement allows your muscles and bones to adjust to the stress of a hard surface. Without this adjustment, you risk getting injured. Also, running outside allows you to set your own pace. You can slow when needed and speed up if you’re feeling good… without relying on a tread to carry you.
  4. Check your breathing. Are you breathing? Of course you are. But are you listening to your breath? If you’re huffing and puffing and can’t catch your breath, SLOW DOWN. Start slow with your runs, then pick up the pace when you feel more comfortable. Have a side cramp? Stop and stretch, and be sure you’re eating your bananas (for potassium!) Try to focus on keeping your breath comfortable, pulling through your nose and out your mouth. If this feels too labored, try taking deeper breaths and slow your pace.
  5. Grab a friend. If it weren’t for my two running buddies (including the boyfriend for my upcoming 1/2… it’s his first!) I NEVER would have gotten this far. Having a friend to text you at 5:20 asking if you’re awake and ready to go is way better than an alarm clock. Part of having a good running pace is keeping yourself consistent. Running with a friend helps pace tremendously! Talking  keeps me at a comfortable pace, and having someone next to me keeps me from speeding up/slowing down without noticing. My buddies and I also sign up for races together, which helps me stay in shape year-round. Running by myself means that skipping a morning or two during the week doesn’t matter. Running with a friend means that if I want to bail, I either need to deal with the guilt of abandoning my friend in the early morning, or getting my butt out of bed!
  6. Sign up for a race 5K? 10K? 13.1? Races, for me, are just for fun. People get super competitive about races, but I believe that they should just be for YOU. I tend to compete with my previous race times, pushing myself to get better and better. Races are a great idea because they keep you accountable… and they give you a reason to keep pushing. Races benchmark your progress and give you bragging rights amongst other fitness-y people. Races force you to commit and train! It feels terrible to pay $200 for a race that you didn’t do.  On the flip side, few things are better than finishing a race… you can eat/drink/do whatever you want! You ran a race!
  7. Don’t expect it to be super easy. Seriously. Running is hard work! You’re asking your body to move, quickly, for an extended period of time. It can feel tedious, achy, and overall sucky for the first bit. It will feel that way pretty much forever. If you can make yourself go a little further, push a little harder, slowly that feeling will get shorter and shorter. Take walk breaks, slow down, but for goodness stakes, don’t give up! Commit to two weeks, and see how much better you feel after pushing yourself. My hurdle tends to be at 3 miles. Before 3 miles, everything sucks. It’s hard, I’m tired, and I want to turn around and crawl back into bed. Once I hit 3 miles, I start to relax. My muscle find a rhythm, and my breath becomes lighter.  The process gets easier, but I always have a hurdle I need to pass before I start enjoying the run.


So, with that, I hope you get out there and give running a try. It’s free, and  you can do it almost anywhere. I promise, once you get past your hurdles, you’ll definitely enjoy it :) Runners out there - how did you learn how to run?



Adventures in India - Jaipur3

Apologies for the long hiatus between India posts – it has taken us literally a month to sift through and edit all of our photos. Now that everything is sorted, however, I’m pleased to bring you installment #4 of our grand india adventure: Jaipur!

I have to say that even though we spent only a day in Jaipur, it was one of my favorite cities. Jaipur is known as the pink city because of the pink sandstone that’s endemic to the region. Jaipur is the capital and largest city of Rajasthan, which is an extremely popular tourist destination because of the beauty of the landscape paired with the saturated colors of the native dress. We started our day in Jaipur with a visit to Hawa Mahal, or the palace of the winds (above). The windows you see facing the street are a façade – they were built this way  to allow the breeze to pass through and cool the women sitting behind the screens (hence the name!). It’s a very striking landmark, but fairly superficial, as there isn’t really anything to see behind the façade.

4 5 6 Adventures in India - Jaipur

However, the most exciting part of the day was definitely  the elephant ride that we took up the mountain to the fort! As you can see, the elephants are painted with vibrant colors (mainly for the tourists’ benefit) and are driven by very adept elephant masters. Interestingly enough, all the elephants are female – the males proved too aggressive for this kind of long-term proximity. This was the first time anyone in Team Dillon had ridden an elephant, and it was a lot of fun :) . Our elephant’s name was Lakshmi, and our driver informed us that she was a fan of bananas.

8 9The Jaipur fort is another gorgeous testament to the longevity of Hindu architecture. Situated atop a small mountain, this stronghold held the Maharaja and provided natural protection against any enemies. The fort itself was sumptuously outfitted with different palaces for each season. One of the palaces (the summer palace) was my particular favorite: the entire building was covered in mirrors. It was quite a sight. Added bonus: there were monkeys on almost every wall of the fort! Our guide informed us that the black-faced monkeys (like the one above) are friendly, while the red-faced monkeys are mischievous and pretty evil. The ones we ran into in Jaipur were pretty harmless (and extremely adorable).

10 11We ended our day with a visit to a carpet factory where the same family has turned out carpets for centuries. Jaipur is famous for its rugs, and learning how the rugs are made was a pretty rare treat. And, just for fun, we also visited a very famous Jaipur site – The Gem Palace. Run by a very eccentric Indian man and his Italian wife (and sons!), the gem palace is a destination for anyone who’s anyone visiting India: Jackie Kennedy, Oprah, Gwyneth Paltrow, The Clintons, the list goes on. The owner was hilarious, and he let us try on some of his prized works. Below, check out my parents in two pieces commissioned by the king of Oman (each costing 1.5 MILLION DOLLARS EACH). Those are real diamonds, mind you. Too much fun, indeed.

Check back next week for our last installment of our India adventure!!

Adventures in India - Jaipur

Quinoa Breakfast Bake - Ex VitaeGuys, Valentine’s Day is the best. You get cards, you think about the loves of your life (whoever or whatever they may be) and you eat lots of sweets. ALL THE SWEETS. Until it’s February 19th and you realize your blood sugar hasn’t been stable in almost a week. Like mom always said, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I am often guilty of allowing breakfast to become “pre-dessert ” with something delicious, like a doughnut or a scone. Normally, a little bit of sugar in the morning is the best thing ever… but not when you’re on a post-valentines-day sugar roller coaster. Thus, I give you: The Quinoa Bake. 

The love of my life (The Boyfriend) and I discussed this magical grain this weekend. We’re nerdy like that. Somewhere between the magical mountains of Big Bear, our House of Cards marathon, and our awesome 7 mile run (what?!) we actually talked about quinoa.  Once my blood sugar stabilizes, I’ll dive into the fantastical-ness that was his surprise weekend getaway in a post for you all… spoiler: it was awesome and we might go again this summer.

Apparently, quinoa is the grain-darling amongst health nuts. It is low in sugar, high in protein, and decently low calorie. It’s magical… and surprisingly delicious. When added to a meal as essential as breakfast, Quinoa saves the day. I like this particular recipe because it still tastes sweet, but the sugar comes from fruit and dairy (or almond milk, if you prefer.) This breakfast is ridiculously easy. I make it early Monday morning and eat it all week.

I adapted this Quinoa Breakfast Bake recipe from Katie at the Kitchen Door  a week ago and have already made this bake twice. Don’t love berries? Add apples! Forgot to get eggs? Throw in some greek yogurt! It’s so easy, and so, so good for you. Did I mention that it’s Amanda-Friendly?



Makes 5-6 breakfast servings


1 cup uncooked quinoa (I like the Trader Joe’s White Quinoa)
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of mixed pie spice (apple, pumpkin… take your pick)
2 eggs
2 cups skim milk or Almond milk ( I like Calafia Farms Vanilla Almond Milk)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups frozen berries (Mixed, or add your favorites)
1 banana, sliced

1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts and 1 generous tsp of vanilla extract , coconut oil for greasing

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 9X11 baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together uncooked quinoa and cinnamon spice mix to coat quinoa with spices. Pour quinoa over bottom of prepared pan.
  3. In the same bowl used for the quinoa, beat the eggs until fully mixed. Whisk in the milk and maple syrup and optional vanilla, and beat to combine.
  4. Scatter the berries, banana, and optional nuts evenly on top of the quinoa.
  5. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the top of the fruit and quinoa. Lightly stir to partially submerge the fruit.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, or until casserole is mostly set with only a small amount of liquid left. Serve warm with a splash of milk or almond milk. Refrigerate leftovers and enjoy all week!

See? So Easy! Bake it all together and get a delicious, low sugar breakfast for the whole week. Quinoa makes a great, protein-rich substitute for oatmeal. Adding fruit and egg gives the grain staying power to keep you full until lunch. Mix it up, throw in your favorite ingredients, and ENJOY!