Food for Back to School Mania – Part 1 – Breakfast of Champions!

Back to School Road Sign

For some of you less fortunate, you’ve already started the sprint called BACK TO SCHOOL! My family and I are facing this unavoidable chaotic time with white knuckles. We are putting on a brave face as we organize the school supplies that I purchased last month. I know. That’s ridiculously early, but I was shamed into doing it early by my hyper- organized friend and neighbor, Colleen. Fortunately for me, that’s all I got done early. Wouldn’t want to change my entire persona in one year. I’m trying to remain “real”… also I can’t possibly have more forethought than that. A little tip, buy the already sharpened pencils. It’s totally worth the extra money because you’ll just break your new pencil sharpener trying to sharpen the 52 pencils you’ll try to jam in the always too small pencil bag.

Clearly this post will not be about organizing your children for the back to school death march. This one will try to give you some guidance regarding feeding the above mentioned children during the school year. I will try to give you the strength to resist reaching into your wallet to hand over the $ for the kids to buy their lunch at school. This also includes dodging the temptation of putting money on their accounts for substandard “food” in the cafeteria. I’m going to empower you so that you can send your offspring out the door well fed so they don’t fall apart at school. We want them to learn enough so they are actually able to leave the house after college and don’t return to live in your basement. These are the thoughts that haunt/inspire me daily. Realize that these will just be ideas and guidelines. You can just put your dreams of a meal plan, grocery list and recipe box away with your dreams of being the next American Idol.

This post will be part 1 of a series. It just occurred to me that I never read a super long post. I know I’m not alone so for those equally attention challenged, I give you …

Part 1
Breakfast of Champions!

I see you. It’s early. No one has anything they need. All efforts to be prepared the night before have been thwarted. Everyone is moving like a sloth, not moving or spinning out of control like the Tasmanian Devil (PLEASE tell me you get that reference). No, I’m not peeping in your window. I’m living this life, just like you are and I know it’s maddening. The idea of feeding anything besides the dog sounds impossible in the middle of all of this! Fear not. We can do this!
1) Make ahead
2) Easy assemble
3) Eat whatcha got

1) Make ahead requires you to set some time aside to make a few dishes so you can just grab, heat and eat. Here are a few of my favorites.

Baked egg cups – Do yourself a favor and use cupcake liners unless you enjoy scrubbing your muffin tins for an eternity or believe, as my husband does, that magic fairies clean your tins while they soak for 3 days (they never show up). If you are making these ahead, you will want to cook them until the yolk sets and then wait for them to fully cool before chucking them into a re-sealable bag to stash in the fridge. Make them your own by using Canadian bacon or adding other favorite ingredients. If yolks freak your family out, whisk a mess of eggs and add your favorite other ingredients and pour them into the ham/bacon lined cupcake liner tins and bake until set. Here’s the link for the original recipe –

egg cups

Baked oatmeal – This is a family fav! Peanut Butter, Banana, honey baked oatmeal. This is so much deliciousness in one pan!

baked oatmeal

This recipe is my version that I have tweaked to bump up the nutritional value

*3 Cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
*1/2 cup brown sugar
*1 ½ cups milk (skim, almond, coconut almond, rice – whatever you prefer or have on hand)
*2 large, very ripe bananas – mashed up
*2 eggs or ½ cup of egg whites
*2 tsp of baking powder
*3/4 tsp of salt
*2 tsp of vanilla (just splash a bunch)
*1/2 cup of natural peanut butter or almond butter (again, just blob in a bunch)
* ½ cup of chia seeds (optional but a power house full of omega 3’s and fiber)
*big squeeze of honey ( I didn’t even try to measure this)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and dump into a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until the top is crunchy. Cool completely, cut into squares and refrigerate. Serve warm with cold milk and top with cold berries or grab out of the fridge and head to the bus stop.

Breakfast burritos – this is truly a “put whatever you want in the burrito” burrito – this is not a recipe. It’s a guideline, a map of sorts.

breakfast burrito

*Scramble a bunch of eggs, egg whites or a combination of both and add whatever your family prefers. We like diced, canned green chilies, spinach, chives or cilantro. Set them aside to cool.
*Cook thoroughly crumbled breakfast sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon or my family likes the Morningstar vegetarian breakfast sausage. Set that aside to cool.
*Shred or buy shredded cheese of your choice or use blobs of goat cheese or feta.
*To give the burrito a little more staying power, you can add prepared shredded hash browns to the assembly line.
*Find a wrap of your choosing. They vary in size and ingredients. We like the whole wheat, carb smart variety. Take into consideration the size of the appetite you are trying to feed. I will beg you to choose a whole wheat version. Warm it slightly so it will be more pliable.
*Now get assembling – Resist the urge to make a HUGE pile. The burrito/wrap will not close if you make it to huge. Simple concept. – First place the wrap on the plate, scoop some egg mixture onto it, next the meat, cheese, potato, a little more cheese and wrap it up. Double wrap them in plastic wrap tightly so they don’t dry out. Heat and eat in the morning. This is a hearty breakfast. You may have to experiment to figure out how big to make them. I will be making smaller ones so they heat up faster. My daughter will probably eat one and my boys might eat a few. God help me.

2) Easy assembled breakfast – keep some key ingredients on hand your family can throw a breakfast together in no time.
Yogurt parfait – vanilla or plain Greek yogurt, berries, granola of choice. Layer it all up in a bowl or cool glass and you are good to go.
Peanut butter, honey and banana toast/whole grain frozen waffles –top toast or waffles with natural peanut butter, sliced bananas and drizzle with raw honey.
Cream cheese roll up – whole grain tortilla, light cream cheese, no sugar added fruit preserves all rolled up.
Smoothies! – frozen banana, frozen berries, vanilla almond milk, handful of spinach if you can sneak it in (blend it in the liquid first so you don’t have chunks of spinach floating around), scoop of vanilla protein powder or vanilla Greek yogurt. Blend it all up and slurp it up using a fat straw. Don’t use a skinny one. It’s a tough way to start a day.

3) Eat whatcha got! – One of my favorite things to do is have the kids pull out leftovers from dinner. Make extra at dinner and the kids all fight over who gets to finish it in the morning! Who says you need to have “breakfast” food for breakfast. There are no rules. Lots of us have breakfast for dinner and we all know how popular that can be.

My parting thoughts – Think protein, good carbohydrates and good fats. You need to be sending your kids and yourselves out the door ready to attack the day. A breakfast loaded with simple sugars will have your family unfocused and drowsy by 2nd period or by the time you get off the train. Protein gives you the staying power and keeps your blood sugar from spiking. Good carbs from whole fruit, vegetables and whole grains last longer and are a powerhouse of nutrients. Good fats keep you satisfied, are good for your brains (we need brain food) and taste fantastic.
If you have any other ideas, be a share bear and leave it in the comments below. Be brave. Try something new. Think beyond Pop Tarts and a bowl of cereal. Some days that’s all your brain may be able to put together. That’s okay. Make it the exception and not the rule and your family will be just fine.
That’s it that’s all for part 1. Keep an eye out for Part 2- Lunchtime Lowdown!- coming soon.
Until next time…Live well!
Toni Kuhel


My mom’s story. My story. Your story.


Whenever I meet a new client, a new family or stand up to speak in front of a large group of people about health and wellness, I think of my mom.   I think of all the years she worked tirelessly to provide for our family.  I think of all the nights she came home from work as a pharmacist to work on her continuing education credits. I think of all the times she complained about how unfair things were at work or how terrible this person or that person treated her.  I remember her successfully putting down cigarettes once and for all after 10 long years of trying. I saw her constantly struggling to control her weight by trying everything under the sun. .. everything but eating right and exercising.  I think about how she developed high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and eventually suffered the mini strokes that started the house of cards falling.

My mother passed away on April 18, 2013. Her passing was full of drama and totally on her own terms, much like most of her life.  I will tell you all about that in a little bit.  I never told her, but she is the reason that I began to walk this walk. I never told her, but I bet she knows now.

Most of you don’t know that my mom was sick for a very long time.  She suffered a devastating stroke six years ago. It left her wheelchair bound, her entire left side unusable, completely dependent and a shell of her former self. The week before she died, she suffered the stroke that took the rest of what was left of what we would consider “her.” That’s the Cliff’s notes version of the life I wish could’ve been different.  I wish she didn’t suffer. I wish she didn’t miss all the great things she missed. I wish she had the chance to enjoy the retirement she earned. I wish that my kids, nieces and nephew could’ve had a memory of a healthy Lola. Lola is the Filipino word for grandmother.  Unfortunately, this is the memory I have of both of my Lolas as well.  Strokes run in my family.

On April 18th our school district closed due to flooding for the first time ever. The rain hampered all the plans that my family members had for work, visits elsewhere and of course school. I remember thinking that the rain during that 24 hour period felt epic. It was surreal. I was the only one at the hospital in the morning and my mom was hanging on.  It was clear she was waiting. Within 5 minutes of the last family member arriving, she took her last breath and was gone.  I remember having to walk to the nurses’ station to say, “My mom just passed away.” I said it like I was asking for another blanket. In truth, it felt like someone else was saying it. I heard myself and although I was praying for her suffering to end, it killed me to say it.  That’s the end of my mom’s story.

My style of consulting, training and educating is generally upbeat and comes with a “You can do it!” message.  What lies just below that is the “You HAVE to do it!” sense of urgency that I feel.  I have seen firsthand, up close and personal, for many years, what happens when you don’t do “it.” I don’t want to put my children or my husband through what my family and I had to witness and suffer with my mom. I don’t want my family to walk her walk either. I want something better for them. I want something better for everyone that comes to me and I want it for everyone hasn’t come to see me. I just want it for everyone. 

I learned a lot from my mom.  I learned what I wanted for my life and what I didn’t want.  A few of those lessons:   Attitude is everything. You have nothing if you don’t have your health. Take risks you believe are worth taking. Family first. Laugh long and hard. Always say “I love you.” Life is short.  

As you read my blog posts or KuhelGirl Fitness, Inc.  FB status updates, listen to me during our training sessions/consults/public speaking engagements, or hear a story told over the fence, I want you to know that all of it comes from a very positive place. It comes from me wanting you to take control of your story. I don’t know everything, but I will share everything I know. I’m always learning and looking for inspiration in an effort to teach and inspire.  Now you know why I’m so passionate about health and wellness. I don’t want anyone to have to wish for a different story.

Until next time…Live well! – Toni Kuhel





Fighting Change


Change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Change is exciting. Change is good. Change is necessary to grow. Change is scary. Change is…

However you choose to end that sentence will frame how well change goes for you. For everyone, change is one or all of these things. I envy those rare individuals that view change as nothing but an amazing opportunity. I fall squarely in the pool with those that think change can be all of the above mentioned things. Daily, I strive to be that person that embraces change with outstretched arms and wiggling fingers that beckon eagerly for bigger and better things. Unfortunately, self-doubt and hesitation sneak in and the fight is on! This isn’t true for all instances of change. Small things like a new haircut or exotic recipe; I can handle without much of a skirmish. Bigger things like career shakeup or sending the kids to sleep away camp for the first time set the stage for endless rounds in the ring with me, myself and I. It is true that neither of the last two examples are things to take lightly and that the first two examples are not earth shattering, but there is no doubt that there is room for getting more confident when considering change.

You are probably wondering why I feel the need to share this with anyone. It’s simple. As a personal trainer and a consultant for families who seek a healthier lifestyle, the “C” word is one that comes up and is met with any number of reactions. I see widening eyes, folded arms, eyes rolling way back, walls going up brick by brick and yet sometimes I see eagerness. I will address the eagerness in a minute, but the push back is what I want to hit first. The point is, change is hard for me too. You and I are in the same boat to some degree. Let’s move forward together.

I have clients that have ranged from the age of 10 to 82. Everyone comes to me from somewhere on the continuum of willingness to change. Anyone that comes to me on their own has made the conscious decision to change something. Anyone that comes “encouraged” by a loved one or as part of the family that has been signed up is usually less open to change initially. Regardless of which camp these clients originates from, changing behavior that has been a part of daily life is a hard pill to swallow.

It takes anywhere from one day to forever, to make a lasting change. Of course, my job would be much easier, streamlined and lucrative if I could get folks to make lasting changes for their health and wellness in one day. It doesn’t take forever, but it can feel like it if individuals pump the breaks on suggestions for reasons they can’t give me. One thing I always ask clients and frankly myself when I get resistance about a suggestion is, “Why not?” Some slick clients, not always children, say “Because.” After they are subjected to my lecture about needing to answer me in at least three words we usually get around to the real answers.” It’s hard. It’s different. I don’t’ want to”. Blah, blah, blah. I am not as insensitive as it may seem so hang on before you go log on and leave a scathing comment in the comment box. I am listening.

What I consistently hear entrenched in all the explanations of “why not” is simple. Everyone wants the results without the hard part. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, I would be out of a job and we could all go home happy, healthy and not at all put out for the experience. The risks that accompany the suggestions I make are all a matter of thinking…thinking that you, the client, can do it. That’s it. That’s all. Go ahead. Try and come up with a reason why you won’t make a change required to benefit your health and wellness ( of course this comes after getting clearance from your doctor to begin any exercise program or diet change – just to make that clear). I’m waiting.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Get out of your own way!” You are the only one standing in the way of what you really want. You want better health, faster race times, longer distances, toned arms, strong legs, a longer life, a better life??? Quit coming up with reasons that don’t hold water. Quit saying you can’t. Quit saying you don’t want to change. If you want something else for yourself, you want change. So, CHANGE already! Some days will be harder than others, but if you keep pushing yourself and asking yourself what you really want, the change will be easier.

A quick word to those eager beavers that are all about making every change, all at once…I love it! It is not totally unheard of to be completely inspired to jump in with both feet and want to drag everyone in the pool with you. Think of how you feel on January 1st. Now think about how you feel on February 28th. Inspiration is a wonderful thing and I work very hard to provide inspiration. I also know we are starting a clock on how long said inspiration can last. Anyone can do anything for a short amount of time. The true success story is someone that can make a change that lasts. You significantly increase your chances of making a lasting change by easing into it. More is not always better. More is sometimes just more. So, taking baby steps and changing your lifestyle one change at a time is what I always recommend. Be inspired. Get motivated. This is a journey, not a race. To steal from Nike – “There is no finish line.”

I hope you can see yourself somewhere in this blog post. We are all a work in progress. Whatever the change you seek and however you feel about it, know that you are not alone. My wish is for all of you to realize that you deserve a life of health and that you have it within you to make those uncomfortable changes. If you need a little push or support, I’m here for you too. Email me at , check out my website at or find me on FB on my KuhelGirl Fitness, Inc. page.
Until next time…live well! -Toni Kuhel

Teaching versus Learning

Being a parent is serious stuff. I take this responsibility on with a smile some days and with white knuckles on others.  When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to be the adult that could call all the shots. Now I realize that calling all the shots is exhausting and not at all the power trip that I was envisioning.  Part of being a parent, besides drinking out of the coffee mug that says “World’s best boss!” is teaching life lessons to our offspring.  My poor children have to withstand my attempts at taking advantage of every teachable moment that reveals itself throughout the day. This exhausts me so I can only imagine how tired the kids are of listening to me. My hand will be the first to shoot up in a room if asked, “Who here has tried and failed in a teachable moment?”  I have been guilty of taking the easy way out on occasion.  Some days I just don’t have it in me to explain to my daughter that life is not always fair or equal. Some days I just say “No, because I said so.”  I am thankful that sometimes I get that feather in my cap when a teacher or another parent reports that my child has behaved in spectacular fashion when in their presence. After a quick look over my shoulder to be sure that I am the intended recipient of the message, I break my imaginary arm patting myself on the back for a job well done raising our kiddos.  I also wonder to myself when I will get the chance to witness such behavior within the confines of Casa del Kuhel.

As my kids are growing up, I find that they are actually the ones who are teaching me. DO NOT – I repeat- DO NOT TELL MY KIDS THAT I ADMIT TO THIS!!!!  My 12 year old daughter is a budding model, fashion guru, social media aficionado and a new cross country runner.  My 15 year old twin boys are cross country runners, wrestlers and up and coming experts in the areas of all things involving airsoft guns, birds of prey and video games.  This eclectic group of souls has taught me so much over the years about navigating through life’s tough spots.  They have shown grace in times of social difficulty, perseverance in the face of self-doubt, compassion when seeing others in need, humility in times of victory and sportsmanship when handed defeat.    I write this blog post not to brag, but to remind myself that while there are teachable moments everywhere, some of them are for me to learn from and not to hand out.

The point- what is the point of this post and what the heck does it have to do with health and wellness?  There are times to teach and times to learn.  If we are lucky and smart, we recognize take every opportunity to learn. We recognize that although we might know a lot, we have much more to learn. Opening your eyes, ears and mind to new ideas and examples of how to improve ourselves is a vital key to moving forward.  So while it is true that I am a parent and a personal trainer whose job it is to teach, I am forever a student. I know enough to know that I don’t know enough.

I urge you to recognize this in yourself as well. Take in new information. Analyze it. Apply it to your life if it is a good fit. Something I find I have to say to my clients and my kids, “Get out of your own way!” I am in no way equating my clients to my kids.  The only correlation is that I’m trying to make is that I’m often teaching both groups something. Quit trying to tell yourself why suggestions can’t/won’t work.  Be open and you will be surprised at what can happen. The little things you learn and adopt will all add up to big lessons and big changes.  Watch and see what you teach others when you live your life as an example.  You won’t have to tell anyone anything.  Everyone is watching. They will see you changing your habits, your life and your body.  Who knew you could say so much without uttering a word?

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many excellent teachers in the form of my kids, friends, family and clients.  Who are your teachers and are you open to learning from them?

Until next time… Live Well!

Toni Kuhel


Don’t eat that!!!!

Don’t eat that!!! Cut back on this! Limit that! No. No. No. No. No.  UGH! I’m sure you are sick of hearing all the things you should avoid, limit, cut out, forget and just plain not eat.  I have that list for you too, but that’s not the list I have for you today. Today is all about what to add. This isn’t a long list. It’s just a few of my favorite things to add to my rotation of healthy food choices. I find that if I add good things to my daily intake, there’s less room and desire for those things that scream my name from the back of the cabinet.   So here’s my short list for the day. I will give you a few reasons why you get more bang for your nutritional buck with these items and a source for more indepth info. Once you know what and why, I will give you a few of my favorite ways to get these gems into your diet easily.  Remember it’s not all or nothing. Even if you add just one of these things, it is a step forward on your journey towards health and wellness.


Chia seeds – Do not go to your Walgreens and purchase a Chia Pet. Although these are the same seeds, grocery stores sell these as food now. Actually it is an ancient food that has experienced a resurgence as a super food. It is loaded with Omega 3 oils and fiber.  You don’t have to grind them like flax seeds and they are slightly nutty in taste so they are easy to add to recipes without changing the flavor much. If you need more convincing to add them, check out this article.  I like adding a few tablespoons to baked goods like banana bread, baked oatmeal, and muffins. Sprinkling them on my morning cereal or yogurt with fruit is also an easy add. Sneaking them into smoothies is a way to boost nutrition pretty painlessly.





Kale – This leafy green is great for all the reasons other greens are good for you. It is loaded with antioxidants that may protect you from a whole host of diseases including cancer, heart disease and dementia. At only 18 calories a ½ cup serving, it’s a calorie bargain.   For more specifics regarding the benefits of this awesome green, read this article . I love making kale chips. It’s an awesome alternative to potato chips. It’s salty, crunchy and totally guilt free. My kids eat ‘em up! Here’s a link to an easy recipe .   Stir chopped up kale, with the tough center ribs removed, into soups and stews. My very favorite kale salad recipe is a knock off of the Whole Foods kale salad. I measure nothing. I SWEAR my family loves this salad and gobbles it up. We rarely have leftovers.

Lots of kale, tough ribs removed and finely chopped

Just a small handful of dried cranberries finely chopped

A small handful of nuts (whatever you have) finely chopped

Tomatoes – you guessed it – finely chopped

Lemon olive oil or equal parts lemon juice and olive oil mixed

Salt and pepper

Toss and let sit in the fridge for a while to let the flavors come together.

 Eggs – These little gems have been given a bad reputation in the past. People have been avoiding them and removing the yolks believing that they were unhealthy.  Eggs are not bad for you, in fact they are great for you. They may reduce your risk of cancer, repairs muscles after workouts, can help you feel fuller longer resulting in weight loss, and they are delicious. Need more detail to convince you, read this article .  One easy way to get some eggs in your belly during the week are to boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week. Peel them all and store them by putting two of them in a ziplock bag with a little salt and pepper. You’ll be able to grab a bag from the refrigerator easily for a quick breakfast or snack. Of course you should add a fruit or vegetable to round out a meal.  My family has a new favorite recipe and it is easy peasy to make ahead or to feed a crowd. Breakfast sandwiches made in muffin tins can be found at this link .




These were just a few of my favorite healthy add ins.  If you try to think about adding in healthy options rather than thinking about all the things you have to or should give up, you may just find that you can do this!  It makes sense to eat the “healthy” food first. This leaves less room for the things that dance around in your head when you are starving.  Chia seeds, kale and eggs are not hard to squeeze into your menus.  You may even find that they become family favorites. Chia seeds are something I put in meals and no one notices.  Kale salad and eggs are things my family craves. Just try a few add ins and see what happens.

Until next time…live well! -Toni Kuhel



Do you measure up? Who cares?


It used to happen back in the day. Picture lining up in the neighborhood as team captains choose up teams for kickball, Red Rover, dodge ball, baseball, capture the flag or (insert your favorite team game here). If you are too young and haven’t had this experience, let me tell you, it was nerve-wracking. I was always the shortest and slightest person lining up. I can tell you I was never chosen first, and lots of times I was chosen last.


Standing there amongst my neighbors and friends, I couldn’t help but compare myself. Who wouldn’t?  I mean, we were all standing in a loose knot, waiting for Bobby and Sally to choose the most promising athletes first. It was only obvious to everyone there that they were sizing all of us up. Who is the fastest? Who is the strongest? Who knows the game the best? OOOOOOOMG!!! It was enough to make you forget that you were supposed to be having fun.

The good news is that I no longer have to line up in front of Bobby and Sally. The bad news is that I sometimes pose as my own Bobby and Sally. Before you get the straight jacket, you should read a little more. I will work myself into a tizzy measuring myself up against others. I have all the same questions. It’s just a different era. When I start worrying about how much faster, stronger, smarter, thinner, wealthier, or luckier someone else might be than me, it is total disaster. Let’s face it. Someone is going to be ——-er than you…all the time.

I’m in total favor of healthy competition. It can be what pushes us to be more than what we thought we could be. Beware of that little monster that creeps into your brain that says you don’t measure up.  I battle this monster all the time and some days I win and some days I don’t.  The best way for me to avoid this battle all together is to be the very best that I can be. Competing against myself is the only race that should concern me.  I might be slower runner than lots of people I know, but I strive to better my performance every time I train. I race myself. This is truly comparing apples to apples.

I encourage to you to give 100% effort in everything you do. Be confident in who you are, your abilities, your gifts, and your strengths. You are no longer waiting to be chosen for a team. Unhappiness stems from comparison, so leave that mess behind. This isn’t just relative to fitness. You know this applies to life.

Until next time…live well! – Toni Kuhel

I “ran” a race!

As the registration for the Chicago Marathon 2012 opened this week, it reminded me of the first time I looked at that registration page.  I wonder how many of you are nervously looking at that page or one for a different race.

If you care to look back in my blog you’ll find several posts that cover races of varying distances. When I thought about standing at the starting line for my first 5K, I was nervous. Ironically, this was going to be my first race in preparation for my ultimate goal of my first marathon to take place in Chicago on 10-10-10.   I trained and successfully completed the Turkey Trot by running the entire distance.  BTW, any race with the word “trot” or “turkey” for that matter should not freak anyone out. These are friendly races and a great way for newbies to catch the racing bug.

As I got further along in my marathon training, it became obvious to my almost 40 year old- new to running- post childbearing (twins and one more) body that this was going to be a challenge like no other. I was wondering out loud to a neighbor about this crazy thing I was attempting. She introduced me to a concept by Jeff Galloway. He promotes a walk/run method to training and racing. Check out his website .  Training and racing injury free was my ultimate goal and was I ever excited to know that someone had developed a program for it.

I know there are purists out there that think it doesn’t “really” count unless you run the whole distance, whatever that may be. To those people I say, “Run your race!”   To other people who are on the fence, let me tell you this. I have never participated in a race where a race official  has yanked a racer off the course when they started to walk the course. There are time limits and pace requirements, but all of them allow for the average person to walk parts, if not all, of the race. BELIEVE ME, I walked lots and lots of parts of lots and lots of longer distances. I had the same medal placed around my neck as the very first person who crossed the finish line. marathon medal matches the Kenyans' medals too.

I am in awe of those of you who can run long distances without a walking break. I have a few clients that school me constantly with their blistering paces and long runs.  I wish I could be a runner that makes it look like it’s no big deal to knock out a long series of 8 minute miles. Full disclosure…I ran one 8 minute mile and it almost killed me (not really, but it was UGLY).  If it is your goal to be one of these runners, you should definitely go for it.  I’m a big believer in setting and making progress towards your goals.

If you are looking to give yourself a little motivation toward getting more activity into your life, maybe a local 5K is in your future. If you have already completed a 5K and are looking for a bigger challenge, dare to dream of completing an 8K, 10K, half marathon or full marathon. Don’t let someone else (unless it’s your doctor) tell you that you can’t do such a thing. You should get clearance from your physician before beginning any exercise/training plan. You know I had to throw that in, and you know you really should do that.

Some training plans that might suit your training style

Redefine “runner” and you may find you are one after all.

Until next time…Live well! – Toni Kuhel

What the heck am I going to feed this family???

For absolutely no good reason, I found myself running around like my hair was on fire. This afternoon/evening just seemed to get away from me. Between picking up my daughter from the library, rushing to pick up the boys from practice and thinking about getting back out after dinner to see a client, I began pounding my head on the steering wheel.  WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO FEED THIS FAMILY???  I had exactly 30 minutes availabe to make something out of thin air. I am not organized enough to have anything defrosted sooooo WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO FEED THIS FAMILY???

Thank goodness for Costco. As I was driving home and “listening” to the bickering happening amongst my spawn in the van, I mentally took a look into my freezer.

Things I look to include in a meal at the Kuhel house

-low fat, good quality, tasty protein

-good quality, whole grain, tasty carbohydrate

-good quality, tasty vegetable

and this is what I found…

Costco saves the day

All packages have short lists of ingredients and were a totally tasty!!!  All minimally processed and I plunked it down on the table in no time.  I find that if I shop with these principles in mind, I can pull off a meal with little to no planning, even if I had to bang my head on the steering wheel for awhile.

TA DAH!!!! Couscous and quinoa, curried chicken meatballs and organic green beans.

There is good quality conveniece food out there. Just read labels, look for short ingredient lists, make sure it’s tasty! Good luck making it through your crazy days ahead.  I would love to hear what great ideas you guys have to get good food on your tables in a flash. I could always use another amazing idea so bring it on!!

Until next time…Live well!  – Toni Kuhel

Stepping Out!

Stepping out of your comfort zone can sometimes feel like jumping off a ledge.  Isn’t this why it’s called ” a leap of faith?” The idea can take your breath away, get your heart racing, and make your palms sweat.   What is all this drama all about? It’s the kind of reaction that keeps us from taking risks. It can keep us from being everything that we could be.

Change is good. Isn’t that what old people told us when were kids?  This was supposed to comfort us whenever something changed that was totally out of our control.  As grown ups, it is something we have to tell ourselves  to make it through  those uncomforable shoves out of our comfort zone.

The idea of voluntarily pushing past our boundaries is a kind of self torture. Why the heck does anyone want to venture past their known, cozy life. Why be uncomfortable? Why take the risk? What will happen if I do XYZ? Stepping out doesn’t have to be some huge undertaking. It can be deciding to go to a party where you don’t know so many people. You could try a DIY project that you previously would hire someone else to tackle. Would you dare forego a favorite dish at a restaurant to try a dish the waiter suggests?  The possibility that your life could be just that little bit better..well, that  makes the risk worth taking.

Now what would you risk to make your life a whole lot better???  I know this is a healthy living blog so I’ll have to say that increasing your level of activity and making better food choices is pushing past many people’s comfort zone. I think the risks to your health are far greater if you don’t choose to get out of that cocoon of comfort.

This is what I risk every single time I lace up my running shoes- it's totally worth it!

I’m in the midst of taking a large leap of faith.  I’m willing to risk all those visceral reactions and “oh well” moments for the possibility of doing more, being more, making as much positive change as I can.  It’s all very cryptic, but the details are not the point. This post is all about taking a risk to be a better you.  Are you so comfortable that there isn’t one thing you could better by risking being uncomfortable? Maybe there is something.


Until next time…Live well!

Toni Kuhel

Marathon Weekend

I had a weekend that I will never forget.  It was defined by tears of joy, pride and relief.  Saturday morning was the race that was over 1 year in the making.  My friend/client Jessica had to stop training last year for a half marathon due to medical issues having only completed a long distance of 5 miles.  She was devastated but put on a brave face and dialed her training back and completed a handful of shorter distance races.  We worked hard all year focusing on walking faster with a little bit of jogging and lots of strength training.  The half marathon that was impossible a year ago was a reality for her this Saturday.  I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany Jessica for the last 3 miles of her journey.  Like all first-time long distance finishers, she was battling emotions, pain and fatigue. She never gave up.  She kept putting one foot in front of another.  I left her a quarter mile away from the finish so I could watch her run across the finish line with victory arms raised high.

Tears were flowing from Jessica, her parents, her grandmother and me.  Her eyes are now focused on the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February.  We will be looking to increase her pace and grab yet another medal for her.

Sunday was Marathon Day for my former client Becky and me.  This would be Becky’s first and my second.  I didn’t get to see Becky, but  we communicated via text and Facebook. Becky became a Half Marathoner last year and after she finished working with me, she went on to finish a few more half marathons.  After watching the Chicago Marathon last year, Becky set her sights on participating this year.  She trained long and hard and definitely smart.  The reason I didn’t see Becky on race day is because she started farther up in the corrals with all the fast people because she belonged there.  I belonged in back with the sweepers and that is just fine with me.  She finished with a time of 5:10 on a day that was hot in a field that was crowded. An amazing feat for a first time Marathoner! Welcome to the club Becky!!!

This year the Chicago Marathon had a different feel for me.  My little brother, Rich was going torun his first marathon.

He is a strong, fast runner and I was anxious to see him succeed.  I met him early for breakfast and we walked together to the corrals.  I hugged him and left him with the speedy runners and looked to take my place much further back.  Last year I had Team 40/10 (Julie and
Colleen) to freak out with while standing in the corral.  Not the case on Sunday.

Chicago Marathon 2011 – Sunday, October 9, 2011

I will say that standing in the sea of thousands of fellow runners was surreal.  It wasn’t as hot as last year, but I found myself sweating from nervousness.  I was waiting in a crush of people but yet I was alone. I really missed Team 40/10.  I took the waiting time to go over my race plan and talk myself down from freaking out.  I made the mistake of trying to run the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon continuously and paid dearly for it as I didn’t have the gas to finish strong. Knowing it was going to be hot, I realized I had to utilize a 3:00 run/1:00 walk strategy that I had been using for my long and hot training runs.  I planned to run the first 2 miles straight to get out of the initial log jam and then turn on my pacer to remind me when to walk and run.

After the national anthem and the announcement that the wheelchair racers and elite runners were off, we all inched forward toward the starting line.  It felt like a 2 mile shuffle.  It hit me suddenly that I had to go to the bathroom despite having gone twice in the last hour.  Oh well. I had to suck it up for the meantime. We passed piles and piles of discarded clothing and water bottles.  My feet stuck to the pavement as partially emptied GU packets oozed after being thrown to the ground by runners fueling up just before takeoff.  3…2…1 – Go! And I was off.

I started my Garmin which would keep my time. My corral didn’t start running until about 20 minutes after the gun went off and I didn’t feel like doing the math every time I passed a clock.  I was lucky enough to receive a text from Alex to look for him and the kids on a bridge just before mile 1.  I saw them and they saw me. We blew kisses and waved. They yelled and rang their cowbells and shook their precious sign. 

After mile 2 I turned on my pacer and waited for the first beep that would signal my first walking interval.  Beep! And so it went for miles and miles and miles.

Having done this race last year, I knew I could look forward to almost 2 million spectators with signs, noise makers and encouraging shouts.  I took mental pictures all along the way.  Somewhere between miles 5 and 6 it became crucial that I stop for a potty break.  Apparently this was the case for all the runners in line in front of me too. UGH! I stopped my Garmin as I left the course and started it again as I reentered the course. It seemed like an eternity and I panicked as I saw the flood of runners going by while I stood and waited.  I knew this would eat into my chance of bettering my official time from last year, but I was still hopeful.

It took a lot of restraint to listen to my pacer and take the walk intervals.  The miles ticked by one by one. I found a group that was using a similar strategy and I became preoccupied with passing them and being passed by them.  That was the case for a few miles until I lost track of them at particularly crowded water stop.  I stepped in 3 potholes on the course. Each time I thanked God that I was quick enough to pull up and not land fully on a turned ankle.  Any one of those potholes could have taken me out of the race. Along the way I tried to remember when to
look for my friends and family. I was lucky enough to spot everyone I knew except for one that was at mile 22.  I blame a fried brain and tired body for that. I felt like I was passing all those runners that went out too fast. I was sure I made the right decision to run/walk.

This is not what we need at our house. Hiding these NOW!

One of many cooling water stops that saved me on the course.

Although I felt so much better this year, mile 23 still felt  like mile 100.  The heat was not as bad as last year, but I am admittedly a terrible warm weather racer. It became obvious that I wasn’t going to have the PR I wanted, but I wanted a little one at the very least.  I looked at my Garmin and I knew if I didn’t pick it up for the last mile I wouldn’t meet my goal.  So I dug deep, choked back tears as I approached the finish line.  I threw my hands up as I do at the finish of every race.  I looked at my watch and saw 5:58.  Last year I saw 6:01. I got myself an unofficial PR. My official finish time was 10 minutes slower than last year. Such is life.

After the race I heard from my brother that his goal of 4:30 escaped him. He ran the first ½ on pace and suffered terrible leg cramps for the entire last half of the race. He would run 100 yards and stop and stretch and that was how it went for 13 miles. He told me that he was hoping I would catch up and so we could finish together.  He had a huge lead and still finished well ahead of me.  Congrats to Rich for finishing under the toughest of circumstances. I don’t know that I could have done that for all that time.

Although my race was not what I expected or hoped for, the other people in my life experiencing their first half and full marathons made up for it.  After a full night of dreaming about running and hearing the beeps of my pacer, I’m icing my legs and writing this post.  I’m thankful for an injury free race. I’m praying for the racers that were not so fortunate, especially the 35 year old veteran marathoner and fire fighter that collapsed 500 yards from the finish and later died.  It makes me realize that although I am slow, I’m thankful that I can do this crazy thing at all.

My favorite sign of the day…”There will be a day that you can no longer run. Today is not that day.” To all the volunteers and spectators I say THANK YOU!  I’m convinced that no other city could make 26.2 miles of torture such an amazing experience.

Until next time…Live Well!

Toni Kuhel