Tuesday, March 31, 2015

10 Fit Chick Habits

1) Never miss a Monday workout.
Simply put, this is a great way to start your week. You start right, you stay right. Get a good sweat sesh in every Monday - whether it's first thing in the morning, during your lunch hour, or in the evening. Find what works for you and make it happen. Skipping a workout is skipping an opportunity to improve yourself. How do you want to start your week??
2) Make working out a priority.
Treat your workouts as important dates with someone you respect. Would you schedule a conference call with your boss and then blow him/her off at the last minute? Doubtful. Would you promise to take your mom to dinner on her birthday and then minutes before, decide you just don't care enough to show up? I didn't think so. Why should your workouts be any different? You're making a commitment to yourself - to be healthier, to grow stronger, to feel sexier... and to look better naked! If those aren't reason enough to schedule your workouts and stick to them, take a long look in the mirror and figure out what is holding you back. Because there is nothing more important than training your mind and body to be better. Every. Single. Day.
3) But don't forget to take a rest day.
For those of us who have drank the kool-aid and love working out, this can be a tricky one. Resting our bodies and being cognizant to not over-train are vital in your health and fitness journey. The muscles we break down during each and every workout need to rest. They need to regenerate and have an opportunity to heal - otherwise you risk losing strength and endurance while also opening the door for possible injuries. So, while it's critical to schedule those workouts and make them a priority, don't neglect 1-2 rest days!
4) Get shut eye!
A good solid night's sleep can boost your mood, increase your memory, improve heart-health and more. An article in Health Magazine discusses the multitude of benefits - but the long story short is sleep works. So get those jammies on and hit the sheets.
5) Abide by the 80/20 rule.
Back in college, thanks to late night partying and even later night eating, I was always looking for the next diet fad to lose the freshman 15 that so rudely stuck around past graduation. I tried the South Beach Diet, Atkins, eliminating entire food groups, cutting myself off from all alcohol... you name it, I tried it. But the common denominator with all of the diets above, is that none were sustainable for long term use. It's been 10 years. and lots of research and trial and error for me to realize the only thing that works for me is everything in moderation. I aim to eat lots of protein, fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains 80 percent of the time. Admittedly, my weeknight dinners consist of baked chicken and roasted veggies (Sriracha, anyone?!) so I can enjoy my weekends. I don't go completely off the rails, but I think it's quite possibly sacrilegious to go out to a nice restaurant and NOT order a great glass of wine and molten chocolate cake. I approach each day with the 80/20 rule - eat clean 80 percent of the time, leaving 20 percent for fun and semi-healthy cheats (dark chocolate and red wine ARE heart-healthy, after all!)
6) Eat clean. You cannot out-train a bad diet. Let me say that again. You CANNOT out train a poor diet. Eat like crap and it'll make no difference how many hours you log in the gym. 'Nough said.
7) Look for reasons, not excuses.
If it were easy, everyone would be fit. Plain and simple. The part that's so gratifying for me is that it's NOT easy. I put in hard work to stay healthy and feel confident in my skin. Fitness is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. So figure out why you want it - summer beach trip? Fighting genetics? Upcoming wedding? Whatever the reason is, write it down. And on the days when you feel like quitting, when you feel like bailing on a workout or ordering a burger and fries, bust out the list of reasons and will yourself stronger. Stay the course. You can feel sore tomorrow or sorry tomorrow. The choice is yours.
8) Sundays are for planning.
Long gone are the days of Sunday Funday brunching with bottomless mimosas. Now my Sundays are for early morning workouts, grocery shopping and meal prepping. Similar to #1 above, you set yourself up for success when you plan. Ever hear the saying, "Fail to plan, plan to fail!" It's true! I stock up on fresh veggies (cut them up and put them in individual ziploc baggies for week day snacking), bake chicken breasts for quick dinners when you're tired from a long work day and exhausting work out, and pre-wash fresh fruit so you'll reach for the late-night apple instead of the ice cream.
9) Limit alcohol. 
Booze is empty calories, simply put. So if/when you're going to partake in a few libations, make smart choices. One glass of red wine is around 120 calories. A vodka tonic has approximately 100 calories. Margaritas can have up to 750 calories. Choose wisely - and a little trick I try and stick to is to alternate one drink with one glass of water. You'll win the award for most trips to the restroom, but chances are you won't wake up hating yourself in the morning!
10) Stay dedicated, focused and determined. 
No one gets fat in a day, and no one gets fit in a day. These things take time. Check in with yourself often, reminding yourself why you started this process. I recently took a CYC Fitness class and was reminded by my Cycologist (how genius is that?!) Jessica that "every day is a chance to start over" - how encouraging to think that as we wake every morning, we are full of limitless possibilities. And when you're in the gym this week, and heavy weights are staring back at you... pick them up. Weight lifting doesn't make women huge. Cupcakes do.

Any health and fitness habits you want to share??


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

5 Things to Stop Worrying About.

Photo from healthyplace.com

In life, there is always an abundance of things we cannot control. Yet for reasons I cannot determine, we spend an exurbanite amount of time worrying about them. The thing is, it all begins and ends in our minds. Whatever we give power to, has power over us. Only if we allow it.

Below are a few areas I’ve identified through my own life experiences that simply do not warrant worrying over:

1. What other people think about you. You could be the juiciest peach in the world, and there will always be someone who doesn’t like peaches. Each person you encounter will have different values, different standards of what they deem acceptable and appropriate. That’s what makes the world go round. Relinquish worrying about what others think of your choices, your lifestyle, and what stimulates your heart and mind. Live a life you’re proud of – be good, do good, and make no excuses.

2. The number of candles on your birthday cake. In a time when everyone is buying the latest wrinkle-reducing cream, rushing out for more botox, and jumping on the latest juice fast trend, it’s important we strike a balance between taking pride in our appearance and embracing the aging process. After all, getting older is better than the alternative! As a woman who is a month away from turning 31, I can’t get on Huffington Post or some beauty and lifestyle blog without reading articles about women having damn near panic attacks about turning 30. It doesn’t have to be that way! Eat clean, work out often, and take care of yourself. It IS possible to age gracefully. Rather than obsess over the number, re-shift your focus to all of the invaluable wisdom only the blessing of time can provide.

3. What other folks are doing. True friends are happy when their friends happy. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or find yourself sitting on the sidelines of your own life just to be a spectator in others. Social media can be fun, but don’t spend so much of your time trolling LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest that your own life passes you by. Our time here is short and precious, so maximize it rather than wasting it away.

4. If things aren’t going “according to plan.” As a Type-A, goal-oriented individual, this is a challenging one for me. Setting goals and accomplishing them is such a gratifying feeling – I love figuring out what I want out of life and going for it. Yet, sometimes I need to acknowledge that things are simply out of my control. I find it so frustrating to want something so badly but feel incapable of accomplishing it. But I’ve realized that while it’s fantastic to have goals that navigate us through life, it’s counterproductive to cling so tightly to them that we completely miss the here and now. Keep writing those goals down, just be sure to adjust accordingly. Because one of the only constants in life is change. And chances are, what lies ahead of us is even sweeter, even more gratifying, than what we ever imagined for ourselves.

5. Your relationship status. Aye yay yay. Relationship woes! This one is a doozy. Will they call? Are they interested? Do I miss them when they’re not around? Where is this going? Are we exclusive? Is it too soon to ask? I could keep that list going, but for the sake of time I’ll spare you. Here’s the deal. They’ll call if they want to call. They’ll see you if they want to see you. If they’re into you, you’ll know it. And vice versa! Good things take time, and evolve in a natural way. Great things happen unexpectedly. I love the quote by Gloria Steinem that says “Far too many people are looking for the right person, instead of trying to be the right person.” AMEN! Admittedly the first year after my divorce I found myself completely panicked – completely terrified of being single again. Shit, the last time I was single we didn’t have texting, let alone sexting. Social media was far less prevalent and the notion of instant gratification didn’t exist like it does today. But over the past few years, as I’ve really spent time figuring out the woman I am and the life I want, I’ve realized I’m not scared anymore. Unless it’s mad, passionate, extraordinary love, it’s a waste of time. There are far too many mediocre things in life, and love sure as shit shouldn’t be one of them. So quit worrying about your relationship status once and for all. If it’s true that like attracts like, concentrate on being the person you’d want to fall in love with. Embody the traits you admire – for me, its being honest, loyal, loving, affectionate, genuine, kind, and respectful. I work on myself every.single.day. And I, with my whole heart, believe this will make me the best version of myself for the person who deserves it the most.

What about you? What do you worry about?


Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Time I Tried... Orangetheory

As a self-confessed sufferer of workout ADD, I'm always down to try a new workout. One of my best friends also happens to be a workout junkie (like attracts like!) and when Melissa suggested I meet her to check out Orangetheory, I was down!

I was greeted by someone at the front desk and handed a heart rate monitor that I was told to strap around my chest, under my bra line and towards my left side (closer to the heart!). Our trainer walked me through the area, showing me the treadmills, rowers and weight room. She explained the overall idea behind the hour long workout and pointed out the monitors hanging above - which displayed the name of each participant along with our heart rate and total calories burned. What I love most about working out with Melissa is how much we push each other. Seeing our names emblazoned above got me excited and ensured I'd push myself the entire time.

It forced me to do cardio. Despite being an avid runner, I really don't like cardio. I find it to be so boring - running the treadmill, climbing the stairs that lead nowhere... just seems like I could be doing so much more with my time. HOWEVER, at Orangetheory, the lights are dim, the tunes are pumping and you're watching your heart rate and total calorie burn rise. It just happened to be a bonus that I got to do it alongside my BFF!

I didn't have time to think. The class moves so fast, that you're never in one place long enough to get bored. I really don't enjoy rowing (thank you CrossFit!) but the time on the rower moved so fast, it was over before I realized it. 

It combines weights and cardio. I loved sprinting it out on the treadmill and then running over to do shoulder presses and other weight-related movements. It combined the calorie burning effects of cardio plus the fun and longer burn of weight lifting. Yay!

You get a progress report after class. I thought this was SO neat. Orangetheory emails you a copy of your report immediately following class. Mine is below - 624 calories in less than an hour - not too shabby!!

All in all, I really enjoyed my experience at Orangetheory. If you're looking for a great way to get in a good burn and fun workout, go check them out. The franchise is ever-expanding and if you live near any metro area, you should easily find one!!

What about you? Ever try the growing franchise? What was your experience?


Friday, March 20, 2015

Lessons I’ve Learned from My Mother

I was lucky enough to be able to ring in my mom’s birthday with her and our family this week… and in honor of her, I thought it appropriate to share a few life lessons she has imparted on me over my lifetime.

·      Express Gratitude.  All the thank you notes. The thank you phone calls. I always dreaded my birthday and the holidays, because while all my friends were off enjoying their new shiny toys, I was stuck inside writing thank you notes on my "Thank You from Jennifer" stationary. What I couldn't grasp then, is that grace and gratitude are rare qualities. Qualities that must be taught. Values that must be instilled. And as a result, I have never received a gift without sending a thank you note or calling to express my gratitude. The funny thing is, as I’ve grown older and started gifting to my friends and family, I always remember the individuals who say thank you. Those who make me feel that my gift/gesture is genuinely appreciated. And it makes giving that much sweeter. So the lesson here? Splurge on some custom stationary. And next time Aunt Betty sends you a $25 check for your birthday, go ahead and send her a beautifully hand written note telling her how much you appreciate her. You’ll see how good it feels.

·      You Can Never Be Overeducated. I was the first out of my immediate family to graduate college. My parents were blown away that when senior year of high school rolled around, I not only chose my major, but knew exactly which school was known for it. I wanted to be a Journalist, I said triumphantly. And the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State was one of the top schools. In order to get in, I’d need a math SAT tutor (I’m lucky to get 2 + 2 right most of the time) in order to get a high enough grade, and he’ll be coming to the house every Tuesday for the next six months. My mom looked dumbfounded.

“You mean you’ve already hired a tutor? I didn’t even know the SATs were coming. When are they? Do you need me to sign something? Do you need my credit card?”

Till this day my Mom still loves to laugh about what a mission I was on. I hired my SAT tutor, wouldn’t settle on my first score and took the test again, blowing my first score out of the water. I applied for the one and only college I wanted to go attend, got accepted and the rest was history. From as young as I could remember, my mom has stressed the importance of earning a great education and building a successful career. Not so that I could meet the right person, but so I could BE the right person. For that lesson, I’ll be eternally grateful.

·      Know Your Worth. As young girls, we get caught up in drama. Am I skinny enough? Am I pretty enough? Are my clothes nice enough? While my mom always taught me to take pride in my appearance (she may have started me on facials and skin care regimes at age 10), she instilled the lesson in me that "whether you can or can’t, you’re right." She drove home the realization that there may always be someone smarter, someone prettier, and someone with more (and someone with less!) – what really mattered is what I thought about myself. Do I feel confident? Do I know what I bring to the table? Do I know my worth? When the answer was no, she stood by my side – and made me take a long, hard look in the mirror. Never afraid to call me out on my insecurities, my mom has always made me face things head on – and understand that if I didn't love something about myself, I could change. I could grow and become the girl/teenager/woman I wanted to be. Life is a journey and nothing happens overnight. Go slow, stay the course, and always strive to be the best version of yourself.

·      Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight.  I’ve failed so many times. College Algebra (I told you I was terrible at math!). Obscene speeding tickets (who buys a 17 year old girl a Mustang Cobra?!). Shoplifting a headband at age 14 and ending up in jail (slightly excessive punishment, however the cop did let me ride up front after I asked him nicely). An eating disorder that could have killed me. Hospitalized for a concussion that occurred after a few too many sake bombs (Arizona State knew how to party). Point is – I’ve failed. I’ve fallen down (quite literally) plenty of times. I am here today, blessed enough to say that my mother has ALWAYS been by my side. Sure, she’s been disappointed. She’s screamed, cursed and punished me. Yet each and every time, she was there by my side. And what I’ve learned from her unconditional love is that we will stumble. We will fall. But that’s not what counts. We are not measured by how many times we fall, but how many times we get up. And I've learned that resiliency and steadfast dedication to rising above, despite being knocked down, are all that matter.

I could write for days and I still wouldn't cover all the lessons I've learned from the woman I am blessed enough to call my mom, and I look forward to the wisdom she'll impart on me in the years to come. What I do hope is on this day (and the other 364) she realizes not just how much I love her, but how damn grateful I am for her unyielding support and love. Without the lessons she has taught me, I’d be a hell of a lot less stylish, certainly less driven, and quite possibly lost in this crazy world.

Thank you, Mama. Happiest of Birthdays to You.


Friday, March 13, 2015

6 Things You Should Know About Yourself

The Sex and the City quote may be cliche, but it's true. I can't stress enough how freeing it is to know yourself. I mean really know yourself. Know what makes you tick, what brings a smile to your face and contentment to your heart. It's not easy - and it's certainty not an overnight job. But boy is it gratifying. 

A few places to start:

1. Know your worth
Figure out what makes you special and irreplaceable. Don’t compare yourself to others – that is the biggest thief of joy. Learn what it is – about your personality, your heart, your soul – that makes you someone people want to be around. Truly take the time to understand the parts of your soul that are unmatched in others. What makes you someone people want to love? And most importantly of all, what makes you someone YOU love?

2. Know what you love
Traveling, the people in your life, your career... Determine what is that you love, and make it a fundamental part of your life. Life is so fleeting – don’t spend time doing things that don’t bring you joy. Don’t feel guilty for saying “no” so you can say “yes” to something that brings you happiness. Make the time for creating memories that will bring you happiness and love into your life.

3. Know how to be accountable
I’ve addressed this in a previous post and it is so critical. Hold yourself accountable – for each aspect of your life. Having a “woe is me” attitude is so toxic – as is blaming others for what transpires in your life. Don’t focus so much on what happens to you, but how you react to it. How people treat you is THEIR karma. How you react is yours.

4. Know what fuels you
Passion is a critical component to living a full life. Take the time to invest in yourself and determine what makes you get out of bed every morning. Each day is the opportunity for a fresh start. Be sure and seize it – if you don’t like where you are, move. You’re not a tree.

5. Know the company you keep
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Concentrate on spending time with those who motivate you, inspire you and lift you up. The people who have your back 100% - when it’s not convenient, when you’re being a nuisance, when your heart is broken… those that love you for you, always will. THOSE are the people to surround yourself with. Cut the cord on toxic or co-dependent friendships/relationships. Our time on earth is precious – share it with those who are deserving.

6. Know how to be positive
Manifest the life you want! I’m serious. Write it down. Emrace a positive mindset and embark on each day with a positive attitude - see how life changing it is! Go one full week only allowing yourself positive thoughts. Each time a negative thought pops into your mind, smack it down. Don’t leave room in your head or heart for anything that doesn’t lift you up. Direct all of your thoughts towards the life you want – and you’ll be amazed at what happens.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Time I Tried... Meditating

It’s no secret that meditation is supposed to work wonders on your mind and body, and now  research shows it can even help you at work. In a recent study published in Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, nurses who implemented a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (a mix of mindfulness meditation, yoga, stretching, and group discussions) felt a significant decrease in employee stress and burnout. 
Well it’s all fun and games until you actually try and meditate. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve sat myself in a quiet room, crossed my legs, and attempted to clear my mind… I’d be writing this post in a new pair of Louboutins.
Fact of the matter is, meditating is hard!!! In a world where we’re always running, always over stimulated with thoughts and plans and work… it’s surprisingly difficult to be still with your own thoughts.
Just the other day, I attempted to take just ten minutes – TEN minutes – to myself. And here’s what happened:
My 10 Stages of Meditation
Stage 1: 
Everyone has told me the multitude of benefits of meditation. Clearly this is something I should do to declutter my mind. I’m going to seize the moment, take all my thoughts, and sit with them. Okay, now I need to find a place to sit.
Stage 2:
I sit on the floor in my bedroom. Lucy climbs in my lap. Need to find quieter place.
Stage 3:
I’m now sitting Indian-style in my closet. I’m feeling tired. And a little annoyed that my mind isn’t getting quiet. Doesn't my brain know it’s meditation time?!
Stage 4:
I take a few deep breaths. Breathing. I can do this.
Stage 5:
I picture myself sitting in a yoga pavilion in Bali. My body starts to relax. Crap, now I want to go back to Bali.
Stage 6:
Now I’m running the numbers in my head on how much my trip to Bali cost and how long it would take me to save up enough to go back.
Stage 7:
…OK, back to breathing. 
Stage 8:
Ah, I feel my diaphragm rising with each breath… I think I’m on to something.
Stage 9:
I’m suddenly hyper aware of my breath, and am beginning to enjoy a few moments of true mindfulness. I see my thoughts float by, and my breathing gets deeper as I sink into the ground. Am I meditating? I think I am!
Stage 10:
I guess I didn’t close the door hard enough. Lucy shimmied her way into the closet and is now sitting on my lap, licking my face.
I guess I’ll try again tomorrow.  

My meditation mission is not over! A good girlfriend recently signed up for the 21-Day Meditation Experience hosted through Deepak Chopra (the King of mindfulness!) and Oprah. It’s free, and you according to the website, is an experience that will help you manifest true success. An excerpt from the Chopra Center Meditation:

True success is a joyful creative process that you can access and build upon each day to bring more brilliance, abundance, and innate prosperity into every aspect of your life. In this illuminating three-week journey, we will be your guides, every day, as you travel a path from limiting beliefs to discovering within yourself that your successes can be infinite. Your transformation begins on Monday, March 16th in our all-new 21-Day Meditation Experience, Manifesting True Success. It’s free and fulfilling. Embark on your life-changing journey! Register now!
I signed up – clearly I need all the tips and tricks I can to help get myself centered and keep my mind quiet. If you’ve ever been interested in meditating and/or manifesting a life you want, sign up!! It’s free – what do you have to lose?

And what about you out there? Anyone try meditating? If so, with all the options to choose from, what works for you?


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

5 Go-To Supplements for a Sound Nutritional Program!

For anyone who loves to train hard, it’s understood that a solid training regimen and clean diet are the best ways to achieve a strong, lean body. However, a typically overlooked area is a sound nutritional program! After doing years of research, I have found an arsenal of key supplements I take to help improve lean muscle gains, speed up fat loss and give me energy to power through intense workouts. Here are my 5 must-haves for supplemental nutrition:

WHAT IT DOES: Whey is known to be the most digestible protein available. It breaks down quickly, dispersing amino acids to your muscle tissue. The benefit of taking in whey protein is that our bodies NEED fast digesting protein at key times throughout the day (i.e.: upon waking and before/after a workout, mainly). The typical protein-laden food we eat (think - fish, steak eggs, etc.) won't digest quick enough to be effective. An additional benefit is that whey is believed to help increase blood flow to muscles, which is especially beneficial before workouts, so our muscles can receive more oxygen, nutrients and hormones right when they need them.
HOW TO TAKE IT: Upon waking, within 30 minutes prior to/after a workout, and/or as a snack between meals. Aim for 1g per body weight. 
WHAT I TAKE: I love the Cor-Performance Whey line by Cellucor. I mix it with water as a quick snack between meals, with an egg and banana for my go-to protein pancake breakfast… I even bake with it! Favorite flavors include: Red Velvet, Cor-fetti, and Peanut Butter Marshmallow.

WHAT IT DOES: Help support overall health – and recently stimulate fat burning.
HOW TO TAKE IT: Take 2g of fish oil three times daily, with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
WHAT I TAKE: Solgar Wild Alaskan Full Spectrum Omega Supplement – I love how this supplement makes my hair and nails grow strong and quickly. And no fish burps J

WHAT IT DOES: Increase the length of your workouts, protect lean muscle tissue and prevent exercise-induced muscle fatigue. BCAAs may also help boost growth-hormone levels, reduce cortisol and increase levels of insulin, the hormone that helps replenish muscle tissue with nutrients after workouts.
HOW TO TAKE IT: Take 5-10 g of BCAAs with preworkout and postworkout shakes.
WHAT I TAKE: SciVation Xtend – I love this stuff. I use it as an intra-workout to help with endurance and muscle recovery. Comes in a ton of flavors and touts being the best-selling BCAA on Bodybuilding.com AND offers 7g per serving.

WHAT IT DOES: Increased muscle strength, improved immune system and fat loss support are the main benefits to taking a Vitamin D supplement (above and beyond whatever is included in your multi). Studies are also still being conducted to determine how beneficial this supplement is in strengthening breast, colon and pancreas health.
HOW TO TAKE IT: Take about 2,000 international units of vitamin D twice per day at the same time you take calcium.

WHAT IT DOES: Put simply, a multivitamin helps to fill the nutritional gaps in your diet. Being deficient in certain micronutrients can lead to decreased energy levels, prevent muscle growth/strength gains/fat loss.
HOW TO TAKE IT: You’ll want to find a multi that boasts 100% of the daily value of C, D, E and most of the B-complex vitamins and at least 100% of zinc. Follow directions on the label (some should be taken on an empty stomach, some with food).
WHAT I TAKE: Gaspari Anavite – Finally! A multi-vitamin in non-horse pill form! Long gone are the days of me choking down gigantic vitamins, gagging and watching my life flash before my eyes as they get stuck in my throat (okay, slightly dramatic – but moreso how it went). This vitamin is designed with athletes in mind and claims to: assist in post-exercise muscle recovery, support healthy & strong bones, maximize performance, and support cardiovascular system health.  

What about you? Which are your favorite supplements?



*Note: This post was not sponsored and all thoughts/reviews are my own. Additionally, I am NOT a licensed professional - please check with your physician before beginning any new nutritional program.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Run, Darling. Run.

Source: Instagram user rlvnt__

As a teenager, I used to think I didn't have strong enough legs for running. All my friends joined the track team in high school, and I opted for diving and field hockey. Let's keep it real - diving was fun and field hockey had the cutest uniforms. 

In college, I used to think I didn't have a strong enough mind for running. My sorority sisters would get out there in the 90+ degree Arizona sun and run. Run away their hangovers, run to get in better shape. I tried a few times, but it hurt!! My legs ached, I became short of breath... and I just figured I wasn't born a runner.

And now I've realized - no one is born a runner. It's not about strong legs or a strong mind. All you need to be a runner is strong ass heart.

This past Saturday I headed up to Waleska, Georgia with two girlfriends to run 9.6 miles around (and up!) Garland Mountain. The trail was incredible - portions were an old logging road that was conducive for picking up my pace and really pushing it. The 1100' elevation gain over the nearly 10 miles did NOT make PR'ing (PR - Personal Record!) a viable opportunity, but I quickly realized a few miles in that I was out there for fun, and not every race needs to be "won."

Post-run smiles! Fourth place in my age group felt great!
I'll be honest. At one point - as I stared up at the steep incline that laid in front of me - I thought "OMG. Is it over yet?!" Only to realize I'd barely made it .5 miles in. Truth be told, running isn't easy. No matter the distance, no matter the surface, I always (at some point) feel tightness in the chest, feel aching in my knees, feel like I can't take another step.

And then it happens. That "runners high" - usually 4 miles in. My legs feel lighter, my mind clears, and the endorphins hit.  This past Saturday happened to be my father's birthday - and as the miles rolled underneath my feet, thoughts of my dad were on my mind. 

When I was 16, my Dad had a heart attack, followed by quadruple bypass surgery to repair the damage to his heart. I couldn't imagine my life without him, and thanks to the graces of the good man above, I didn't have to. That whole ordeal really changed my outlook on what it truly means to be healthy. I joined a gym. I changed my eating habits. I made a conscious effort to keep my heart healthy for as long as possible (some heart disease is hereditary!).

I would have never considered myself a runner, but now I get so excited to lace up my shoes and head out for a run. It's an hour or two of uninterrupted time with yourself. You get your mind to shut up and your heart to speak up. You PUSH yourself with every step. Foot in front of foot, it's YOU vs YOU the entire way. 

Nowadays when I run, I actually feel SAD as I approach my last few miles. When that finish line appears in my line of sight, I always take a deep breath - and remind myself of one thing: this isn't getting easier, you're getting stronger. 


Friday, March 6, 2015

Falling in Love, Falling in Passion, and Knowing the Difference.

Love is compromise. Love is gentle understanding. Love is lots of 7s, 8s and 9s.

Passion is hot and steamy. Passion is impromptu trips around the world. Passion is 10s and 1s.

Love is patience and kindness. Love is comfortable silence.

Passion is mind blowing sex. Passion is fancy dinners at the hottest restaurants, followed by drunken arguments at the wee hours of the morning.

I recently read an article that discussed Jennifer Lopez’s new book True Love, and her many high-profile relationships. She expanded upon how she mistook passion for love in the most simplistic, yet real way:

“But passion is a pendulum that swings both ways. As beautiful as it can be it can also get very intense. Yet, through thick and thin, I chose to stay in those relationships. Because how can you turn your back on a love so big, so amazing, so real? The problem is, it wasn't real love; it was passion. I just didn't know the difference yet.”

In recent years, I have most certainly found myself in relationships where I’ve confused passion for love. It has taken a certain level of maturity and self-discovery for me to realize what actually matters to me. Are the grand gestures, fancy vacations and presents wonderful? Sure, they bring a sense of instant gratification. “Wow! Look how much he loves me! Look what he bought me. Look where he’s taking me.” Yet those very types of relationships also left me feeling, at times, “I can’t believe he called me those names. I can’t believe he lost his temper like that. Did he really mean what he said during that fight?”

It’s only now that I’m able to see things from a clear perspective. And you know what? I’ll take the respect. I’ll take the kindness, the compassion and gentleness. Give me your loyalty. Give me your most genuine and vulnerable heart. You can keep the rest.   

What about you out there? Have you ever found yourself in a relationship full of passion and lacking in love? Perhaps the opposite? Let me hear from you!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

5 Things I've Learned from Past Relationships

  1. Communication is the cornerstone to a successful relationship. This may sound glaringly obvious, but surprisingly, it's harder for some of us than others. I've realized I can be quite an emotional person, and when the possibility of getting hurt/letting myself be vulnerable/being rejected exists, I clam up. I'm talking about the ridiculous "I'm fine" and "Nothing is wrong" crap that some of us pull. Not only is it a sign of immaturity, but it sets relationships up for failure. True love conquers all (yes, I'm THAT much of a romantic - I really believe it!!) and if someone loves you, let yourself feel safe enough to open up. Show your fears, show your scars. When someone loves you enough, they'll listen to what you have to say - without judgement, without running for the exits. They'll love you FOR those things, not despite them.
  2. Give all you have, without thinking of receiving. One of my favorite quotes comes from the 14th century poet Hafiz: "Even after all this time, the sun never says to the Earth, "You owe me." Look what happens with a love life that, it lights the whole sky." I love this quote for so many reasons. I love how beautiful the thought is that when we give with all we have - expecting nothing in return, amazing things can happen. Love with your whole heart. The right person should bring that out in you. When you're in love, don't half ass it. Use your whole ass!
  3. Hold yourself accountable. I'm not perfect. I can be a pain in the ass. I can give the person I love the silent treatment when I'm upset or hurt. It has taken me nearly 30 years to not simply realize I'm not perfect, but to actually hold myself accountable. Giving your partner the silent treatment/saying "I'm fine" when I'm really not is not ok. It's not acceptable to act out of character simply out of fear of rejection or fear of conflict. In reflecting on the demise of some special relationships, and the role I played (takes two to tango, people!), I've realized I must hold myself accountable. How can we possibly expect our partners to be exceptional communicators and treat us with nothing but love and respect if we don't hold ourselves to the same standards? Well that's simply not acceptable for me any longer. I am now accountable for every action, every word.
  4. Listen to your gut. We know. It's as simple as that. Your voice is there for a reason. Always listen to it.
  5. Never leave words left unsaid. One of the hardest things I've ever done was let myself become completely vulnerable after a significant breakup. I called my ex - after a few too many sleepless nights - and did something I've never done before. The old me would have let pride and fear get in the way, but something that morning told me to listen to my heart. I let myself be vulnerable. It nearly felt as though my heart would explode if I didn't say what I needed to. I emptied my heart, expressing every emotion and feeling, without worrying about how it would be received or what his reaction would be. Sure, I was vulnerable. Sure, it hurt beyond words when he said that he loved me, but the timing wasn't right. But you know what? I regret not a single word. I stayed true to me - and was my most authentic and genuine self. Since then I've seen the quote "Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost." I am so grateful I followed my heart and was honest with my feelings. I told the person I loved just what they meant to me. And that is quite simply a feeling of contentment I've never experienced before. 

What about you? What lessons have you learned from past relationships?


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Time I Tried… Spin

I’ve never been into Spin. Just not my thing. After furiously riding a stationary bike for an hour, I’d dismount my bike – crotch numb and knees weak. I’d rather be running or lifting weights, personally. So when the offer came to try a complimentary class for fitness trainers in Atlanta, I kept an open mind and tried a class at Cyc – a national chain new to Buckhead. Long story short, I think I’m a converted fan.

According to their website, what makes Cyc different is: “Cyc offers an exhilarating, beat-based, 45 minute ride that activates the whole body, the whole time. Weights are incorporated into sectors inspired by more than 20 different sport movements such as boxing, volleyball and swimming.”

What struck me about my class?
1)      My instructor… err, I mean Cycologist. See what they did there? How clever! Caroline was amazing. Quasi boot camp-esque, quasi drill sergeant but 100% awesome. She kept my energy level and motivation high for the entire duration of the class. She sprinkled in a few motivational sayings which gave me an extra push – “Think about how many people wish they could do what you’re doing. Whether they can’t afford it or aren’t healthy enough to do this. Push it for them.” Call me a sucker, but that struck a chord. Definitely made me push harder and finish strong.
2)      The playlist. AWESOME jams for the entire class kept me pedaling my little heart out. I even found myself dancing on my bike at a few points. Then I accidentally dropped my towel and one of my hand weights on the floor. Lesson learned. I did too much.
3)      The incorporation of upper body. My arms were on FIYA after the weights portion of the class. We each were given two hand weights and used them for exercises simulating basketball and volleyball. Lots of isometric holds and I was feeling the burn. Made me feel better than if we just worked lower body for 45 minutes.
4)      The staff. Everyone is so friendly!! You’re welcomed in, given a pair of shoes and shown where the lockers are. The energy is so high, and everyone seems so genuinely excited for you to have a great workout! They come around, offering assistance to help set your bike before class and cheer you on throughout.

All in all, I loved Cyc enough to sign up for a package. They currently don’t offer an unlimited option, but I purchased a bulk package that should carry me through for a month or so before I reevaluate (it is expensive! If you’re in the Atlanta area and looking to check out a spin studio that’ll keep your heart rate and energy up, definitely check Cyc out. And if you do, please let me know what you think!

What about you? Do you spin? If so, which studio is your go-to? Why?


*While my first class was complimentary, the above review is all my own opinion and not sponsored. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Five Health & Fitness Items I’m Loving Lately

1) Quest Nutrition Protein Bars - You're welcome. No seriously. These are hands down my most favorite little wrapped up bars of crack... err, I mean protein. Similar to my love for Cellucor Whey (#4 on this list), these bars are beyond delicious and nutritious (hey, I'm a poet and didn't know it! And a total cheese ball, apparently). They boast 21g of protein and 180 calories per bar (varies based on flavor) and are perfect to keep in your gym bag, purse, pocket, shoe... whatever. I don't judge. I think we all suffer from EHOTR - Extreme Hunger On The Road - from time to time. You're in the car, stuck in traffic, and having a damn near panic attack frantically searching through your center console/glove compartment looking for the bag of crackers you stowed away from your road trip last year. You'd eat just about anything because you're starving and didn't bring a snack with you. We've all been there. These bars are the perfect solution. Just be careful and practice moderation. I've now begun hiding them from myself because they're so darn delicious. 

2) Shock Absorber Women’s Run Sports Bra - I found this bra on Amazon as I was hunting for a sports bra that can hold my girls in place during long runs, short sprints, and HIIT sessions in the gym. I've tried just about every bra designed for well endowed women, and I can't seem to find any that do what they promise. This bra claims to be designed specifically for runners and reduces bounce by up to 78% (according to a study done by University of Portsmouth in the UK). As I mentioned, I ordered it via Amazon and must admit, it really holds me in! The entire back opens up (although thanks to living alone, I need to fasten most of the straps and ithen shimmy myself in - the first time I tried fastening all the snaps once it was on, I nearly dislocated my shoulder (I wish I was kidding). The fabric does a nice job wicking away all the swear I produce on runs (sexxxxy, I know!) and never digs in, pinches, etc. Great thing is it comes it all sorts of sizes - finding a 32DDD sports bra that doesn't give you uni-boob has proven to be difficult! All in all, I'm a big fan of this bra and have added it to my arsenal of fitness related products I can't live without. 

3) Bombas Socks - I love when you find a product that does what it promises to do, and supports a good cause to boot. With this chilly/gloomy winter weather here in Atlanta, I've had to take my 4-5 day a week running regime inside. A huge running pet peeve I've dealt with for years is finding the perfect pair of athletic socks (#firstworldproblems, I get it). They're either too tight, roll down, pinch my toes, rub against my shoes, you see where I'm going with this. Through some online research, I discovered Bombas, a company that claims to have engineered "mind-blowingly comfortable socks" AND donates a pair to homeless shelters for every pair sold. My favorite feature of these socks are their blister tabs - a little ankle cushion that sits where your shoe meets your ankle, preventing any rubbing/blistering. Genius! They come in cute colors for men, women and kids, two lengths (ankle and calf) and they've donated nearly 300,000 socks to homeless shelters to date! If you're looking for some solid athletic socks that are comfortable/functional AND support a good cause, give 'em a try.

Protein is a crucial component to: 
  • Keeping you full
  • Burning calories
  • Maintaining lean muscle mass
While eating nearly a gram of protein for every pound you weigh sounds easy, it's actually quite difficult! Not only does that mean eating often, but figuring out how to eat LEAN protein low in fat (otherwise we'd all be belly up to a bar chowing down on 48 oz Porterhouse steaks for lunch). Cellucor, in my opinion, happens to make the best tasting, easiest to blend protein on the market. They continue to surprise with their innovative flavors (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Marshmallow, and more!). Each scoop is jam packed with 25 grams of protein and helps me get closer to that 110g of protein per day goal without ingesting tons of calories or fat in the process. 

5) MyFitnessPal - Summer bodies are built in winter, am I right?! After following all my favorite fitness inspirations via Instragram, I decided to calculate my macros - aka the grams of protein, carbs and fats I need to consume on a daily basis in order to either lose weight, maintain lean muscle mass, etc. Once I calculated my particular macros (based on such factors as fitness goals, current body weight, activity level, etc.) at IIFYM, I set up my account with MyFitnessPal and became instantly hooked! Not only do I use the website when I'm working on my computer, but I downloaded the app and use it throughout the day. Initially I thought logging every single morsel of food I put in my mouth would be time-consuming and rather annoying, it actually surprised me how easy it is!! MyFitnessPal has over 4 million foods AND a neat little bar code scanner so you can scan the label of anything you're about to eat to track the nutritional content (although packaged foods SHOULD be avoided at all costs - eat REAL foods!while I'm not sure how long I'll be patient enough to track every single calorie, carb, gram of fat and protein, the app/site makes it as easy as possible - and has given me a heightened awareness to the quality of the food I'm putting in my body!

What about you? What are some of your health and fitness must-haves?? Please leave your comments below!