Plica Syndrome – Taking the Road to Running Recovery

10 Jul

It’s official – I have plica syndrome. So much for NOT getting injured while running.

No, it’s not a self diagnosis but the actual diagnosis from my knee specialist. In fact, here’s a great synopsis (from Washington Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine) on what plica syndrome is.

The plica is a fold of joint lining (synovial tissue) that is a remnant of tissue from embryologic development. During embryologic development, bands of tissue divide the limbs into joints. These bands may persist into adulthood in up to 60% of people, although it infrequently causes symptoms. Several different band types may exist. These bands may become thickened and inflamed, causing varying symptoms.

How’d I get it?

Trauma to the knee, either direct, or with repetitive knee bending and straightening activity, causes thickening of the plica, and it loses its elasticity (becomes less stretchy). As a result, the plica pinches on the inner knee joint (medial femoral condyle) and inner patella. The pain is felt to be due to pinching or pulling of the plica band, which has many nerve endings.

The likely cause for my case is trying to rack up more mileage than my body could handle too quickly. The goal was the Disney Princess Half Marathon, which was lots of fun, but unfortunately, at the expense of my dear left knee. The doc also mentioned that I probably had weak hip muscles (which I disregarded at first). And it probably didn’t help that I also jumped back into kickboxing after a one month break of sickness instead of letting my body ease into it.

All that said, now I’m on the road to recovery so I can get active along with everyone else this Summer.

Chilling at PT

The prescription was something I never expected – physical therapy. I watched my younger brother’s physical therapy a few times when I had visited over the holidays, but being the patient is very different. And as I’ve began my physical therapy sessions, there are a few “habits” and ways of thinking I had to change.

  1. Completing the task/exercise faster is not always better – While I may be able to swim faster when in a time crunch or modify my run to exercise more than just my legs, trying to complete the exercise at PT is not always better. In fact, doing the exercise slower really helped me focus more on what muscles were being stretched and exercised and I was better able to be in better tune with my body. Which also showed me just how weak I was in my hip and core despite my perception of how fit I thought I was.
  2. It’s the little things – Some of the exercises I was assigned to practice at home seemed like stretches and “baby exercises” I would not normally even consider as part of a routine workout. But when done correctly with small details like point the toes forward or flex and hold, I could feel and see my muscles really working. Also practicing some of the exercises even while sitting or standing at my desk was a great reminder of my road to recovery.
  3. Make it routine – Whenever Summer hits, I find myself staying out later and traveling more which also usually means not sticking to a rigid schedule and horrible sleep patterns. But even while we were at Virginia Beach for Memorial Day Weekend, it really helped to practice my exercises while waiting at the hotel or in the morning before heading to the beach. Ideally, I should be incorporating my exercises into my morning routine, but I admittedly have not been as great at doing this yet.
  4. Be humble – I found myself somewhat envious when I’d see the Atlanta runners or long to go for a bike ride whenever I’d see kids speeding by, but I had to remind myself that to get better faster, I had better take it slow. It also didn’t help that my office had a pedometer challenge while I had to limit how much walking I could do.  I’ll admit, I did try to run a few times at the park while getting my pedometer steps in, but the stabbing pain in my knee screamed at me to take it easy. So accept your body’s condition and instead of trying to fight it, help it with the right exercises it needs.

Not sure if it’s the 20’s to 30’s thing to do these days, but it seems like everyone and their siblings are training for half marathons, marathons and triathlons. My only word of caution is to listen to your body and train properly! While I trust your body is strong (as I assumed mine was), your “high school” accomplishments and records you may have set cannot beat  the hours in training you put in with your current condition.

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Roasted Tomato Basil and Fresh Mozzarella Soup

10 Apr

After what has felt like a slow-starting and everlasting winter, it’s now Spring. But with that said, I really developed a new found love for soup. Specifically, tomato soups! And I mean all variations from tomato basil, tomato basil artichoke, tomato basil mozzarella and more.

So where did I develop such a longing for tomato basil soups? Aside from the instagram photos, it’s because of  Souper Jenny located on East Andrews. The menu changes daily, but the soups and salads are amazing. Now that the weather is warmer, they also have cold salads on the menu. But make sure you bring your checkbook/cash as they do not accept credit cards and expect a long line anytime after 11:30 a.m. So if you’re looking for a quick in-and-out lunch spot, this may not be your best option, but boy is the food delicious!

In my quest to learn how to cook with basil and finding I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with, I looked up several tomato basil soups until I found the following recipe by Ina Garten of the Food Network. Check out the full recipe  below.

I’ll admit, it probably took me two hours total to make the recipe and I didn’t follow it exactly, but it was worth every drop. For example, I tossed the soup into the Vitamix for a smoother texture and I added fresh mozzarella chunks just because I love it and had some available from my caprese salad ingredients. I also added extra chili flakes. (Shhh) As with any soup, serve it with some warm bread or toast (Hawaiian bread in my case) and you’ll be set!

Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a picture of the roasted tomatoes, so visualize that as the first image in my brief series.

Slow roasted for 40 minutes.

Slow roasted for 40 minutes.

Into the vitamix for a grainy texture

Into the vitamix for a grainy texture

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Get in my belly you roasted tomato basil and mozzarella soup!

RECIPE

Total Time:
1 hr 50 min

Prep:15 min
Cook:1 hr 35 min

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

2. In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

Do you have a favorite tomato soup recipe? While I’m clearly biased, I’d love to see your favorites!

Running America’s Sweetest Race

22 Jan

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This past week, myself and a few other friends ran the 5K Hot Chocolate Run. I should’ve ran the 15K, but haven’t been properly training for it, so I chose the next best thing to ensure I hot my chocolate fix. After the race, we received the finisher’s mug with a cup of hot chocolate, a banana, rice krispy treat, pretzels and a marshmallow to dip in the chocolate fondue. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

Check out our treats!

Check out our treats!

Let’s back up to Saturday, aka race number pick-up day. The real reason I signed up for this race to begin with was not the hot chocolate, but the goodie bag which is a technical hooded sweatshirt. The best goodie bag ever! And to top things off, they even came in a cute colored drawstring bags plus they gave away free hot chocolate, chocolate squares and biscoff spread.

Square chocolate

Square chocolate

More hot chocolate (and calories)

More hot chocolate (and calories)

Although parking at the Georgia World Congress Center was no walk in the park, they were friendly volunteers in bright orange shirts to guide the way along with local and national running vendors from the Big Peach Running Company to Jeff Galloway and 110%. After looking though the sale bins of brooks running shorts, Thorlo Experia running socks (buy 3, get 1 free), 110% overdrive compression + ice kits (which my boyfriend really wanted to buy), we walked away with waffle energy snacks, energy blocks and a water resistant iFitness Ultimate II Neoprene running pouch.

After a Saturday evening practice run with my boyfriend, he broke out from a food allergy and we ended our night early. 😦 Early birds that we are, we got to the Turner Field orange lot just before 6 a.m. and we (by “we” I mean my bf) took a quick nap then headed to the blue lot for the fitness/zumba warm-up. Although there was a gear-check available, passed on this leaving valuables in the car and using our newly purchased running pouch to avoid the long lines.

Quick nap before the race

Quick nap before the race

Based on your seed time, all runners were placed in a coral. We were in coral D, but finished the race with lots of coral B and C and runners, so we took this as a sign that we’ll need to run in a higher coral next year. *wink The course was fairly easy with a big downward hill near the finish line that is very encouraging. It was definitely worth the run. I had such a great time, I might have to try the 15K next year!

Sporting the male & female tech hoodies and Hot Choco Run hats!

Sporting the male & female tech hoodies and Hot Choco Run hats!

In case you’re wondering about our “cool” running hats, I actually found a code when registering that got us the neat hats. So as a friendly tip, it’s worth searching for codes and discounts when registering for ANY race. Happy (cold weather) running!

An excited and accomplished girl (excuse the messy hair- Just took off the hat)

An excited and accomplished girl (excuse the messy hair- Just took off the hat)

Not your standard Chinese food

3 Jan

Chef Liu is definitely one of the rare gems found in the crowded and diverse neighborhood of Buford Highway. Yes. Another Chinese restaurant but one to add to your list of places to visit. You may feel a bit crowded with the lunch crowd, families with young children and constant movement, but waiting for a table is worth it.

Far from a P.F. Chang’s, Chef Liu has a great deal more authentic choices to offer. The people flocked in for a casual dining experience and great Chinese food. I thought this place was going to be just like any other Chinese restaurant but, found myself pleasantly surprised to be surrounded with a mix of diners from different backgrounds and that usually a good sign that the food is top notch.
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As soon as we sat down to check out the menu, we were given a fresh pot of green tea. We ordered a bamboo shoot and chicken soup, but what really kicked off the dining experience was the Leek Pie. Never had I tasted such a wonderful mix a chopped leeks, green onions, rice noodles, and bits of pork inside a lightly browned pastry. The taste was clean and had a hint of salt and oil. Eating it was like chewing warm vegetable confetti that really spurred my appetite.
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Next was something new to me: Shanghai Juicy Steam Pork Buns. Never make the mistake of trying to bite one of these in half. You will end up wearing it. Think about a pillowy, tiny balloon loaded with bold soup flavor. The bun itself is thin and chewy but disappears as the burst of soup fills your mouth. The minced pork was soft and a added a mild meatiness to not overpower the comepleteness of the bun.
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Another common favorite was the Pork Pan Fried Dumplings. These dumplings are by far the best fried dumplings I’ve ever had. Completely handmade and totally different from what you would see at a Chinese buffet or other upscale restaurant—the dough is a bit thicker than most and lightly browned on the bottom. I hate flimsy, easily broken dumplings, but the dough vaguely reminded me a delicious pastry. The pork inside was rolled and mixed with green onion and was velvety filling the complete inside of the dumpling. Ten aren’t enough. How could I have missed this for so long?
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For me, the highlight of the experience of Chef Liu was the Chicken Fried Rice. I know what you’re thinking. How could this be? It’s just rice. This fried rice was regular Chinese fried rice flavored with more than the “normal” amount of soy sauce, slices of soft white chicken meat, scrambled egg, and green onions. I’m so used to the regular fried rice we have (in Columbus, GA) being light soy sauced tossed nonchalantly with frozen carrots and peas along with bits of chicken and too much egg. This was seriously just a delightful interplay of flavors done entirely well. The focus was the rice and accompanied by the other ingredients. Not just another order of fried rice quickly to be served to the consumer.

My experience overall was great. I like being around food places that are cheap, loaded with people, and food for all. Not forgetting to mention simple. Simple is always key. And Chef Liu has done that. Simple dishes done the right way. However, Chef Liu has done more than that. This place has brought me back to a time where gathering with my once together family huddled in a small, humble, unfranchized Chinese restaurant to get more than our fill of delicious yet simple food at extremely affordable prices.

This post is brought to you by a dear friend of mine who goes by the name “Cookies.” During Cookies’ most recent visit, we checked out Chef Liu on Buford Highway followed by dessert at Sweet Hut.

Chef Liu
5283 Buford Highway Northeast
Doraville, GA 30340

Feeling Stood Up…Like the NYC Marathoners

5 Nov

Ok, so maybe I haven’t been training for the NYC marathon and I didn’t invest finances and travel costs just to find out that the world renown race would be cancelled the Friday before the race. BUT, I did wake up at 5 :15 a.m. to get to the 6 a.m. boot camp just to find one other person waiting…and it wasn’t the instructor. 😦 In search of inspiration, I checked out the NY Times article titled, “NYC Marathon Runners Find Their Own Way to Run — and Give Back.”

Instead of the 26.2-mile run, these “runners” delivered donated supplies from blankets and Home Depot gift cards to the destroyed homes of Staten Island residents in a 15-mile route. Instead of the physical and mental obstacles the runners had been training for, many of the international and domestic runners spent the day helping residents in the destroyed area.

This got me thinking, what’s my purpose for running and training? Is it just for myself or are there people and causes bigger than myself that I could and should be running/training for? My first reaction is that I should only run races that have some charitable cause behind it and not just the races with really neat giveaway items (such as the Hot Chocolate Run’s tech hoodie) or the races that make me look like a super fun person on Facebook (such as the Zombie Run or Disney Princess Half Marathon).

But on second thought, why would I run a race that I do not have motivation for? There’s nothing wrong with running these courses that challenge me or wanting a really sweet goody bag at the end of the race, but I still want to find something bigger than myself because I know that I run for fitness and overall well-being while others run for their lives, their job or their country. (Yes, I am still on a bit of the Olympics high, but I hold Olympicans and Paraolympians in very high regard.) I haven’t found the answer in the past hour since I read the article, but hope you let this ruminate throughout of your next run or workout.

And with that, I raise my grande Starbucks creme brulee half empty holiday cup to the NYC marathon runners who ran an impromptu relief run.

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Super veggie: Kale

19 Sep

Why is everyone raving about kale?

My first thought is, “Meh, it’s just a vegetable.” But according to this WebMD article, kale is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet! While I know several people who are or have done “the Maker’s Diet” or the “paleo diet,” I’m not quite ready for that type of food commitment and must ask, why diet when I can just eat super veggies like this? My point exactly.

So, what makes kale (also known as borecole) such a superstar?

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Just looking at the luscious colors (either green or red) and hearty texture (that’s apparently great for stir fry), it’s easy enough to guess that kale belongs to the same family as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts in the Brassica family. On the nutrient side, kale is known for being an excellent source of antioxidants including vitamins A, C, and K. It has carotenoids and flavonoids that are specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits and is filled with the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds: lutein and zeaxanthin .

According to WebMD, one cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

After hearing several friends rave about it’s nutritious content and flavor, I decided to pick some up at my local international market. I tore off a small piece from one of the leaves, but didn’t find myself madly in love. I figured eating fresh kale the way I typically eat spinach in my salad was not going to work. While I’m not a big fan of veggies, I do love chips. So with a little help from my handy dandy conventional oven, I decided to make kale chips!

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To hydrate, preheat the oven at 300 degrees. After rinsing and drying the kale, cut into edible pieces keeping in mind that pieces will shrink. Place the kale on a baking shert or foil and sprinkle with a little pepper and Parmesan cheese or other seasoning (such as chili flakes, lemon pepper) to taste. Bake the kale between 12-18 minutes or until the kale darkens. Tell me how yours turns out and enjoy!

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Half Marathon Training – Putting the Cart Before the Horse

24 Aug

I’d like to think of myself as a pretty motivated person, but a little extra nudge never hurt anybody. So, I signed up for my first half marathon – the Disney Princess Half Marathon which will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

Have I started training? No, I really don’t count doing 1.5 miles randomly twice a week as actual training. But I did download the Jeff Galloway Training Program and have scanned through it. Even better, Jeff Galloway actually has a training class in Atlanta that one of my friends had signed up for last year.

In addition to my random runs, I also have a kickboxing membership to Bangkok Boxing in Midtown that I try to attend twice a week. It’s a great cardio workout that also works out my arms (so I can pump harder) and tones my core (for strong abs and back to maintain a proper running posture). While I’m no beast at it, it’s definitely a lot of fun and I never regret making it to a class.

Do I have any support? Yes, I signed up with my beautiful sisters who live in the sunny west coast of California. We each have our own reasons, but a half marathon was one of the top items on my list of “30 things to do before I turn 30.” While there are several other items on that “30 before 30” list that I’ll share later, this will hopefully be the stepping stone to perhaps someday running a full marathon or Iron Man. Who knows. 🙂

If you need inspiration, check out “Unthinkable” by Scott Rigsby to learn about his amazing journey as the first double amputee to finish an Iron Man. And he’s just as interesting if not more in person!

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So, will you join me? If not for the race, at least for the training and ‘get fit’ mindset!

My official training will start either mid September (after Labor Day of course) or October, so stay tuned to check out my progress. And I’m always open to any advice you veteran runners have when it comes to training, diet and tips!