I Drank Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington’s Green Smoothies Every Day for a Month. Here’s What Happened.

A little more than a month ago, I was doing my morning scroll through my Instagram feed and stumbled on Reese Witherspoon’s IG Live video detailing how she makes herself a green smoothie every morning.

In her video, Reese explained that when she first met Kerry Washington, she remarked how clear her skin was and asked her for her secret. Kerry told her that she drinks this smoothie every day, and ever since then, Reese has done the same.

Because I was instantly convinced that this was the key to both of their beauty – that, or there is an oil painting of both of them in some dusty attic somewhere that is aging instead of them – and the fact that it seemed SUPER easy to make, I decided to give this a shot too.

The Method

If you’re interested in watching me perform this science experiment, you can watch the first attempt here. Long story short: I definitely didn’t blend it enough and omitted the almond butter. It also confirmed that I don’t enjoy coconut water in ANY capacity, so I switched to water or almond milk for subsequent batches. It also gave me the idea to add collagen powder because it was easier to add to this smoothie than to my coffee like I’d been doing for weeks.

Note: This recipe also makes roughly 60 ounces. I can’t fathom drinking 60 ounces of ANYTHING, so I took Reese’s advice and split it into two and saved the second half for the next day. This can give me middling results because fruit on day two is always a little weird. But re-blending it tends to revive it, and this is the method that I’ve stuck with.

The Results

I’ll be real: I started this because of Reese’s skin claims, but I really wasn’t expecting any eye-popping results in the skin department. Some people just have good genes. But to my surprise, something interesting happened.

About a year ago, a cancer scare convinced me to stop taking hormonal birth control after nearly 20 years, and my skin has been reacting badly ever since. It was like every zit I managed to avoid for 20 years on the pill came back for revenge, all over my chin and neck for 8 straight months, and nothing I did could stop it. Painful red welts every 3 weeks (timed with my cycle) made me super self-conscious. I wasted money on tons of topical treatments that never worked, and I was miserable for most of the last year (on top of being anxious and depressed because of the pandemic).

After less than a week of smoothies, the acne all but disappeared.

I thought I was just having a good skin week at first, and kept an eye on it. But one week went by, then another, and another, and no acne. Yes, I have one or two spots that manage to make their way to the surface, but it is NOTHING like it used to be, and I could cry from happiness.

I also thought this amount of fiber would have… shall we say… explosive results. I’m pleased to report that I have so far suffered NO ill effects. On the flip side, I will say that if I accidentally skip a day or two of the smoothie, I DO start to notice a NEGATIVE difference in my skin and in my stomach. TMI? Maybe. But we keep it real here.

Final Thoughts

Granted, the skin results that I’ve seen cannot be 100% proven by smoothie magic, but the way I see it, there’s no downside to eating all those fruits and veggies each day, right?

After a few tries, my final version of Reese & Kerry’s Smoothie is:

  • 2 heads of Romaine
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • 1 pear
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 6 – 8 ounces almond milk or water
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 4 scoops of Vital Proteins collagen powder

Yes, it’s kind of a pain to always make sure that we have all these fresh fruits and vegetables around. But after having such good results over the last month, I’m willing to keep this concoction in my daily routine as often as I can to keep the good vibes flowing!

What do you think: have you tried Reese’s smoothie? Do you have your own go-to fruit and veggie blend?

What I Eat in a Day – Part 2

I know it took me months, but after starting with what I eat for breakfast, lunch, and snack time, now I’m taking a look at what I eat for dinner and dessert – and sharing some of my favorite recipes, too.

Dinner

Though the pandemic literally set my mental health journey back about 2 years in the span of just a few months, it did force me to broaden my culinary horizons. Random food shortages thanks to people panic-emptying the grocery store shelves (and fear of even going to the grocery store at first) meant stretching the big shop from our normal one week to last two or even three weeks.

This meant trying recipes with a lot of frozen and canned vegetables and things I could find in bulk like frozen shrimp and quinoa, and I managed to create a handful of dishes that became staples even when things started to calm down. This garlic shrimp dish in particular is still one of my favorites, especially when I pair it with quinoa that I combined with canned roasted tomatoes, corn, canned beans and fresh cilantro. Now, of course, I omit the corn, but it’s still a tasty dish that makes tons of leftovers and can even be a lunch option too.

I also discovered homemade poke bowls, after one of my favorite Bake Off winners, Nadiya Hussain, was given a Netflix show last spring where she shared her favorite quick recipes for lunch and dinner. Sushi-grade tuna was hard to come by the first time we made ours, but I gave the salmon a quick sear in the frying pan and fell in love with this super-fresh, crisp bowl full of veggies and rice and protein. It’s a great option when we’ve got a bunch of stuff in the fridge that’s about to go bad – just whip up some protein and toss that delicious sriracha sauce on it and boom: everyone’s happy.

The crock pot isn’t just for winter cooking in this house, either. I regularly break it out for things like chicken tacos (combine a pack of chicken breasts and a jar of salsa and ta-da) or my favorite ground turkey chili. Other staples include:

  • chicken marsala with brown rice and roasted Brussels sprouts
  • butter chicken with jasmine rice and broccoli
  • Beyond Burgers on gluten free buns
  • tilapia Thai green curry with white rice and veggies
  • Gluten free frozen pizzas (from everywhere, we’ve tried a lot of them and have found plenty we enjoy)

Desserts

Now that we’ve committed to that gluten free life, I’ve become a big fan of baking more at home. But an interesting side effect of that is that I also don’t feel the urge to plow through 5 cookies in one sitting when I’ve baked them myself. Maybe it’s because they take longer to make, butthe flavor is just that much more intense and they’re so much more satisfying one at a time.

Like these snickerdoodles, which I baked for everyone at Christmas, complete with red and gold sprinkles

Some of my favorite recipes – which I simply substitute Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour in – include:

I also can’t quit my favorite Reese’s mini cups, and always have a stash of them on hand at all times. Thanks to my new medication, I’m finding it much easier to avoid eating the entire bag in one sitting and often forget they’re even in the house for a few days at a time now. It’s nice to know they’re there if I need them, though.

Bonus: Beverage Time!

In addition to watching my gluten and corn intake, I’ve also focused on how much alcohol I drink, too. At the start of the pandemic, I fell into the trap of opening a bottle of wine every few days and “treating myself” to a glass or two (or three) after work almost every day, because it was what everyone else seemed to be doing on social media and what else were we doing?

After months of that, I realized I was unhappy – and likely packing on the pounds with each bottle, given that I also wasn’t exercising as much as I used to. So in September I put myself in wine time out and ended up not having a drop until Thanksgiving. And while it was delicious when I finally had some again, I realized that I didn’t need it as much as I used to. I slept better without drinking so much, and my skin and head were more clear without it. So I now have a glass or two maybe every month, with the occasional splurge on a Zoom date with friends.

I also discovered the joy that is Aviation gin, and my eyes have been opened:

Yes, it’s Ryan Reynolds’ gin, and yes, I’m not ashamed to admit that I love it. I’ve tried other alcohols with varying degrees of success but none have checked all the boxes like gin does for me. It takes less gin for me to get a similar buzz to wine, so it’s lower in calories than my usual 2-glasses-of-wine evening, and it doesn’t give me headaches. It’s also given me the opportunity to try other mixers, like flavored sugar-free seltzers and fresh fruit.

Keep in mind, with my new medication, I’m not drinking almost at all – it’s not a bright idea to mix a depressant like alcohol with an anti-depressant, after all – but red wine and gin in moderation are what I go for when I do.

And that about does it! How about you – what go-to’s are on your daily menu? Share your favorites and hook me up with some new things to try!

What I Eat In a Day – Part 1

Now that I’ve gone about 95% gluten- and corn-free, some folks have asked about what I eat in any given day, so here’s a little rundown of my go-to’s! Note: I’m not sponsored by any of these products, nor am I a nutritionist. I’m just trying to eat in a semi-healthy way while still enjoying food, and wanted to share the love in case you’re looking for some breakfast, lunch and snack ideas to switch up your routine.

I’ll go into more detail about dinner and desserts in a Part 2 post later this week.

Breakfast: My go-to is a slice of Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread, with some Smuckers Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter and half cup of blueberries. If I’m not too hungry I’ll omit the peanut butter.

On the weekend, I experiment with gluten free baked goods (in October and November, we were partial to Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes and Pumpkin Butter but they’re seasonal and I don’t condone spending $18 on off-market pumpkin butter), or will make some scrambled egg whites and turkey bacon.

My favorite part of breakfast, though, is coffee. Hot or cold, I take it black with the tiniest pinch of Stevia (1/8th of a teaspoon maybe? does that make me pretentious??). Not too long ago, I discovered Trader Joe’s Instant Cold Brew. After a brief period where I saw the future because I made it too strong, I figured out the right balance of coffee to water and really enjoy it. If I need to warm up, I’ll have medium roast hot coffee, but will treat myself by adding some Nut Pods, and whip it up with a travel milk frother to turn boring coffee into an at-home latte. Seriously, that frother has changed my life in the most delightful way, get one immediately. And while I’m on Nut Pods, if you’re looking for a dairy-free, gluten free, unsweetened coffee creamer, they have incredible flavors at like 10 calories per tbs. My current favorite is the Peppermint Mocha.

Bonus: Bach’s Rescue Pastilles for natural stress relief. Placebo? Maybe. Tasty? Definitely.

Lunch: Here’s where I say that I batch cook on the weekend for lunches throughout the week. BUT I am human, and lazy, and don’t do that as often as I’d like to. When I DO batch cook, one of my favorite recipes is black bean soup: three cans of black beans (two blended and one whole) mixed with salsa, canned tomatoes and onions, chiles, salt, pepper and lime juice to taste.

I also enjoy the good old Millennial Classic: avocado toast! My cheat version consists of toasted GF white bread topped with Shop Rite deli department guacamole or Wholly Guacamole and a fried egg (or scrambled egg whites) and TJ’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning.

When I don’t cook, I am a fan of our local Shop Rite’s chicken salad with cranberries and slivered almonds, or will go for roasted or smoked sliced chicken from the deli counter either on a bed of baby spinach or toasted Canyon Bakehouse or Schar Gluten Free White Bread. When it comes to GF bread, those are the two brands we’ve enjoyed the most. Lastly, if I’m pressed for time or we’re out of fresh ingredients, I rely on frozen meals that have a good amount of protein and aren’t TOO heavy on sodium, like Amy’s 3 Cheese and Kale Bake and Healthy Choice Power Bowls.

Snacktime: In 2020 I set out to avoid mindless snacking and have broadly succeeded, focusing instead on snacks that are high in protein and not as many empty calories. I used to be big on snack time, but as I’ve gotten used to working from home throughout the pandemic, I don’t snack as much, but generally always have some cheese, 100-calorie fruit cups in juice, teriyaki turkey jerky, and Trader Joe’s Everything But the Gluten Crackers on hand depending on if I’m feeling sweet or savory.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll go into more detail about dinner and desserts, and include some of my favorite recipes!

Gluten Be Gone

If the pandemic has given me anything (aside from crippling anxiety), it’s more time to focus on my own health. On the mental side of things, I’ve started seeing a therapist again (5 stars, 10/10, highly recommend), and on the physical side, I noticed that I was feeling sluggish and bloated after certain meals, but not always. My skin was also reacting poorly to *something*, and having experience with cystic acne in the early 2000’s that turned out to be an allergy to egg whites (go figure, which has also since gotten better), I thought maybe I would try a little unscientific investigation of my own.

science

I started tracking what I was eating on a daily basis, and discovered that (shocker) I was eating a lot of gluten, a fair amount of added sugars, and a TON of corn or corn-based products. Like, SO much corn. Also a lot of wine on the weekends. What can I say, a kiddie pool and a bottle of cab became my go-to Saturday activity from June through mid-September. It was safer than the beach, amirite?

200w

So I did what any rational human being would do, and I nearly entirely eliminated all of those things from my diet in one fell swoop. Corn, gluten, wine, and added sugar: 96-99% gone. 

eek

Yes, I know cold turkey is not necessarily the best way to do these things, and by eliminating them ALL at once, there’s no real way to determine which of them was really giving me issues. BUT…

Screen Shot 2020-10-15 at 4.57.20 PM

In the 8 or so weeks since I started, I’ve lost 10 lbs without doing anything different exercise-wise, my skin is slowly clearing, and the bloat is all but gone. My knees don’t hurt all the time. People are commenting that I look thinner, especially in my face, and I can definitely see it there. I’m also pleased that I no longer have the belly bloat I had gotten used to and chalked up to the quarantine-15 or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

IMG_0234

Now, I’m only still doing this because it’s actually pretty easy for me. I wasn’t eating bread on the reg, and the corn products were mostly snacks and stuff that I could easily replace – like swapping my daily lunch corn tortilla wraps for a slice of gluten free bread for open-faced sandwich action, or cutting my evening snacks of chips and salsa entirely. Added sugar was tough at first, but once I got over that initial “sugar withdrawal” mild headache for a day or so, I no longer crave sugar like I used to. 

The one thing I find most shocking of all is that I’m eating less but feeling more full. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the stuff that I eliminated being empty calories or what, but I’ll take it. I mean, eating less is bound to help you lose weight, that’s just simple science, but usually eating less = being hungry all the time (at least in my experience), and I’m not feeling that this time around. 

200

This is all to say that I found something that worked for me. Take that with a grain of salt though: I am by no means a healthcare professional, and I do have plans to see an actual doctor to confirm that these sensitivities I’ve “discovered” so unscientifically are indeed real.

But, for what it’s worth, regardless of the results of those tests, I can see myself sticking with this lifestyle for the foreseeable future. 

How about you: do you have any food allergies or sensitivities? How did you discover them? Share your experience in the comments and let’s bond over some imaginary almond milk lattes and gluten free muffins. 

Running Like a Well-Oiled Machine

Forgive the pun-ny title, but I just couldn’t bring myself to come up with anything more creative to give you an update on how things have been going this past month.

IMG_4774.JPG

With the Dark Side Challenge about a month away, I’ve been keeping up with my training relatively well – only got sidelined with minor life-related issues twice so far, which isn’t too bad considering I never really stopped training after the Rebel Challenge in January. My weekly runs are hovering around the 11:00/mile pace and under, and even my long runs are strongly around 11:30ish.

Aside from running all the miles, I’ve also branched out this training cycle, and have tried things I never did before. Namely, taking a Barre class.

I’d heard of Barre before, and know that lots of celebrities swear by it – it was the kind of thing I read about and go “Hmm. That’s nice,” and move on. But when a friend suggested we try out a class at a shop not too far from where we both work, we went for it. And let me tell you – I now know why all those celebrities are in such good shape. Holy hell.

For those of you who haven’t tried this specific form of torture, it goes like this: you enter a small room lined with mirrors and a ballet barre with about 20 other women. A small, energetic woman then comes in, blasts music and starts barking orders that all the other women seem to already know, and you struggle – for the next 50 minutes – to keep up with these teeny tiny movements they’re doing with a tiny medicine ball, resistance bands, and a red yoga mat. You stand, you sit, you hover, you balance, you squat, you lunge, but here’s the kicker: all of these movements are done in TINY, TEENY INCREMENTS. At one point the instructor told us to “trace the outline of a quarter with your toes”.

giphy.gif

It doesn’t sound difficult, but I – and my fluttering, screaming thighs – assure you that it is extremely difficult. I specifically remember glancing over at my friend in the mirror at around the 15 minute mark, and we both looked like this guy at each other:

barre.gif

It was intense.

BUT – having said that – we WILL be doing this again. It was an insanely good workout, and we both felt it help open up our hips and strengthen parts of our legs we never knew existed before. I’m all for trying new things, and this was no different!

Speaking of trying new things, I recently picked up a bunch of ice cream and snacks courtesy of the folks at Eat Enlightened – have you ever tried this stuff??

Their shtick is ice cream that’s low in sugar and higher in protein – think Halo Top – but it’s SO creamy and unbelievably delicious. I’ve already devoured the Peanut Butter Cup pint and gotten halfway through the Red Velvet, no shame in that game. They also sent me some of their Bean Crisps, which are a real game changer. I struggle with savory cravings and hate that my only options are chips or other semi-junk-y food that only take care of my taste buds but not my actual hunger. The crisps have 7g of protein per 100 calorie pack (!) and the flavors are awesome. In addition to the sea salt pack I already put away last night, they have sweet and savory flavors like wasabi, sweet cinnamon, sriracha, garlic & onion, and cocoa-dusted. Full disclosure, they sent me this stuff for free to review, but I’m not making it up when I say:  So much yum. 

How about you: How was your February? Have you tried Barre? Or Eat Enlightened snacks? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Friday Favorites: Fueling Edition

It’s been a while since I did a Friday Favorites, and while browsing through some of the recent pics in my phone, I noticed a trend: I take a lot of FOOD pictures. So for this edition of Friday Favorites I’m going to share my favorite (if not the most well-advised) running fuel!

Enduro Packs

Capture.JPG

Now that the weather is creeping above 50 degrees, I sweat a LOT more. Like as soon as I start running I’m covered in a sheen. I never used to be a salty sweater, but in the past 2 years I’ve noticed a change in my body chemistry and find myself covered in dried salt even after shorter runs in warmer temps. Thankfully, EnduroPacks is there to help me replenish that salt and stay balanced. With no sugar or anything artificial, I spray this stuff right into my water when I’m done running and feel like a new person.

Pizza

IMG_5986

I never said I was perfect, OK? But hear me out: after a long run, I crave weird things depending on what my body is missing. And lately, those cravings all tend to focus on huge slices of veggie pizza loaded with every vegetable you can think of. Namely the veggie pizza from our local pizza joint, pictured above (along with a white broccoli slice, because I’m only human). I’m not saying that this is OK to eat every day, but sometimes you have to listen to your body and go for the stinkin pizza.

Avocados

IMG_5666

I. Love. Avocados. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here, but when I tell you that I could eat them at every meal, believe that. I’ve got an especially tasty recipe that involves fresh boiled shrimp, pico de gallo, avocado and chopped cilantro that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. My hubby and I have even considered moving to a warmer climate just so we could plant an avocado tree in our backyard and have them whenever we want. #obsessed.

How about you guys – do you have any favorite fuel? Share what you’ve been craving lately in the comments!

Springtime Update!

Oye. I can’t apologize enough for the break in blogging I’ve taken recently – I have good reason though! Work has been gearing up in anticipation of a big product launch and a lot of events that I’m managing, and I also came down with a nasty stomach bug that knocked me out for pretty much the last 4 days. BUT – I have been running, and happy, and all the things that you keep coming here to read about, so let’s recap the past two weeks with a LOT of pictures!

After my hooky day in the city, I had a pretty OK long run that weekend. It was definitely not the great 10 miler I had the week before, but I know exactly why that was the case: I had no water. 
IMG_4664.JPG

The time on the watch up there is a lie, because I stopped the watch each time I took a break to heave for breath and work the paste out of my mouth, which was about 4 times after mile 5, when I ran out of agua and the temps soared past 65.

IMG_4976.JPG

But, the weather was nice and I was able to finally wear my new Skirt Sports Happy Girl skirt in Psyched – a print that while sufficiently loud for my tastes, matches nearly everything I own!

IMG_4969.JPG

Want some Skirt gear of your own? Use code JRH20 at the new SkirtSports.com and get 20% off your order!

After that learning experience, I took on the next week of training with a little less intensity than I wanted. My first run of the week was banging, thanks to Mr. Kenny Loggins here (any Archer fans out there get why I was so stoked when this was the first song of my run??)
IMG_4988.PNG

But after that I did some biking on Wednesday to cross train, and Thursday was lost due to it being St. Patrick’s Day. I DO celebrate other high holy days aside from Christmas, you know.

IMG_5057

So does Sammy “I’ll Allow This” Gamgee

I also was super stoked to get my shipment from Swanson Health Products:

IMG_4389

Full disclosure – these folks reached out to offer me a gift card to order whatever I wanted in exchange for a shout out here, but after one order I can honestly say they’re freakin’ awesome!

IMG_5181

This chocolate bar I ordered from them: EVEN MORE awesome.

I’d never heard of them before, but once I took a look at their website I was sold. They’ve got everything you could possibly want: vitamins, snacks, cooking stuff, juices, you name it they’ve got it. And the prices are really more affordable than I expected too. I’m a big fan of the brown rice pasta pictured up there, and of course that amazing chocolate bar (the wrapper of which I had to fish out of the garbage for a picture because I ate it so fast). The Tart Cherry vitamins were also a great find – I’ve been meaning to try them out and thanks to their deal of the day I was able to get two bottles for the price of one! Give them a visit and let them know I sent you 😉

That weekend – yes, after skipping my second run of the week, bad runner – I took on 9 miles. And it was not very good.

IMG_5121

This is another case where the numbers lie – I carried a bottle of water with me and managed to get my hydration situation under control, but the last 4 miles were allll aboard the struggle bus thanks to skipping my second run. I just felt out of shape. You know what I mean. I managed to push through a much slower second half than first half while having flashbacks of horrible race experiences where I burned out too early and vowed to take on the next week with renewed intensity – but not after a pretty awesome weekend filled with hockey, BB-8, and Starbucks (Cherry Blossom Frappuccino, I love you)!

My first run that week was better – my usual 4 miles at a bit slower than I wanted, but still solid pacing. I swam on Wednesday for the first time in a while and remembered just how awesome swimming really is (thanks for coming with me, Kevin!), and then took on another 3 miles on Friday to break in my new Brooks Transcend 3’s.

IMG_5364

Saturday night I went out to a bachelorette party at Pinot’s Palette, where you can bring wine and snacks and paint a masterpiece – which was a stinkin blast!

IMG_5413

I did take it easy on the wine and snacks though, because I had a long run early the next morning before Easter festivities:

IMG_5447

And while the pacing on this looks slower compared to other long runs, I’m actually extremely proud of myself: the first 5 miles were excruciatingly slow thanks to a 2 am bedtime, and yes, SOME wine, at a total of 1:02. I told myself those whole 5 miles as I saw my pace hover around 12:15 that this run was about endurance, not pace. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. But after my gel at mile 5.5? I ran those last 5 miles in 56 minutes, baby! My final mile was even in the 10’s, I almost screamed. It was TOUGH, and took a lot of focus especially in that final mile or two when I just wanted to walk, but I did it and proved to myself that I could come back from a sucky start.

I vowed to look at training not as *just* training but as a way to build my confidence in long distances, and with each long run this cycle I’m learning something new and loving it. Nevermind the fact that I woke up late Sunday/early Monday with the stomach flu to end all stomach flu’s. Seriously, I was curled up on the bathroom floor at one point, crying and begging Jesus to take my pain away. He must have been super surprised to hear from me then, of all times.

BUT the plus side – if there is one – is the 4 days I had to take off to recover gave me time to heal from blisters, calf pain, and general soreness. I’m ready to rock a few miles tonight as a shakeout before Saturday’s 11K down in Atlantic City for the April Fool’s Race Series for sure! This race is about fun – coming off a bad illness like this I know I lost a lot of strength (I broke a sweat taking the stairs at work today), so I’m not going to push myself. It’s not worth it with my goal race coming up in May.

So that about does it for me, kids! How’s your training going? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Avoiding Confrontation, Sweating thru Christmas, and more…

First off: Happy Holidays everyone! With the yuletide madness, things have been quiet here on the blog but crazy in real life. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you all got to spend some time with people who make you happy, because isn’t that what it’s all about after all?

I promise to get some more posts up in the next few days (teaser: I ran a race dressed like a reindeer/elf!), but today I’ll sum up the highlights of the past few weeks:

1. I took a boot camp class and almost karate chopped a lady in the throat on purpose.

Allow me to explain. The boot camp was GREAT, but there was this one lady in the class who insisted on doing everything *better*. I’m sure you know the type: the one who’s done the class before and does all the moves before the instructor starts, exaggerates each motion, does jumping jacks and runs up and down the length of the room while the rest of the class takes a water break… WELL. In the beginning of the class, the instructor asked if anyone was new to class, so my workout buddy and I raised our hands. He welcomed us and told us to take some water or a breather when we needed it. Awesome. Class starts. It’s great! Sweat is pouring, the moves are challenging, but not so hard that I had to huff or puff or stop to catch my breath. 50 minutes later class is over, and as we’re packing the weights away, Miss Congeniality comes over to me and makes a big show of patting my shoulder and saying, “You survived your first boot camp! YAY!”

IMG_0273.GIF

“I run thirteen miles FOR FUN lady, so I suggest you take that patronizing hand OFF my shoulder before I bite it off and spit it out.” WAS WHAT I WANTED TO SAY. But didn’t. Instead I just smiled and nodded and added 15 minutes of angry abs to the end of my workout just to show her I can survive more than a 50 minute low-impact boot camp.

I know I may have been a little sensitive (Thanksgiving weight gain is a very real thing and bouncing around a room lined with mirrors isn’t the best self-esteem booster), but come on.

2. It’s been RIDICULOUSLY warm here in NJ. Like, 68-70 degrees some days, which means I get to run in shorts and tank tops past inflatable Santas on people’s lawns. It’s kinda weird.

3. I went swimming again! For the first time since my disastrous OWS during the One More Tri in September!

IMG_1458.JPG

The credit for this one goes to Workout Buddy Kevin (TM) once again – I was content to hang out and prepare for Christmas by eating cookies hand over fist, but Kevin, the voice of fitness-minded reason suggested we go for a swim at the gym. 300 meters later, I was back in love with swimming (in a pool, at least) and looking forward to adding it back into the workout rotation!

4. Christmas was a blast! In addition to fun stuff like a record player (so I can finally listen to my old record collection), Santa brought me a bunch of running swag that I’ve already started breaking in.

IMG_1547.JPG

How about you? Have your days been merry and bright lately? Dish in the comments!

Keep it Sassy, Keep it Classy, Keep it Real

When I started this blog, Imma be honest: I had NO idea what I was doing. All I wanted was to stop annoying the majority of my online friends who didn’t care about my running and fitness escapades, and a place to keep track of my training, vent my frustrations, and share more than just a few sentences in an Instagram photo caption.

annoyed.gif

My friends’ faces after my 274th post about nailing a training run.

So I created the blog and created new Facebook and Twitter accounts to link to it, easy peasy. Seems like a win-win! But as time went on, I found that creating quality content for all these channels was hard, yo. By the time I get done with 9+ hours of writing and editing at my 9-5, the last thing I want to do is more writing. I’m tired. Hell, the last time I wasn’t tired was when Bush was in office. The FIRST Bush.

SNL_1168_06_Dad_and_Son_EST.png

Long story short, quality content is hard to create.

Fast forward to a month ago, when I attended a Content Marketing Class. In addition to some helpful tricks for my 9-5 gig (who paid to send me there!), I also picked up a few tips on shaping my social media strategy. If you’re blogging or tweeting or whatever solely for your own enjoyment, then by all means keep doing you. But if you’re interested in growing your own blog and social followings, these tips really struck me and I wanted to share them with you!

The first one? Keep it real. The most successful marketers (or bloggers, Instagrammers, etc) are genuine. They’ve found a unique way to tell their stories, whether it’s through humor or by being super smart or whatever. Think about it this way: when you’re looking for blogs to read (or people to follow on IG, Twitter, etc), what kind of stuff resonates with you most and makes you click the subscribe button? A quick re-telling of the same “Winter Running Motivation” article from Women’s Running Magazine that you’ve seen four other bloggers re-tell? Or an expletive-laced story about the time a runner got heckled by a passing motorist?

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with either of those posts – hell, I wrote both of them. I’ve learned it’s OK to publish content that will attract eyeballs simply because it’s a hot topic and people are searching for it. That’s organic traffic, and it’s a good thing. But to gain traction and connect with people, the key is to tell each story in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd.

Stand out duck.jpg

Go ahead, write one more blog post about the things that go through your head during a long run. But instead of using the same old “This is great/Is it over yet?” platitudes that the 12,539 articles about this topic use already, how about telling your story with GIFs?

angry

People will want to keep reading just to see how this GIF fits into a post about running 12 miles. I promise.

Similarly, this second tip is one that won’t fly with everyone, but I’ve found success on Instagram with it and think it’s worth mentioning: don’t be afraid to open up and switch things around a bit!  If you’re interested in growing a following, think about it in terms of making friends in real life: no one likes to hang out with the guy that ONLY talks about Star Trek 24/7 (no offense to you Trekkies, I’m part Trekkie myself). While people are coming to your blog or IG profile because you’re all about fitness or biking or running, it’s OK to open up a little and incorporate some other parts of your life into your content too. After all, it’s your feed.

74351-whatever-I-do-what-I-want-KfEc.png

You DO have other things you enjoy besides lifting heavy things and putting them back down, yes? Well so do your readers! Show them you’re more than a one-trick pony. Post a pic of your dog. Blog about your latest vacation. Open up about those insecurities you have about your training. People appreciate that you have a life (just like them!) filled with kids and arguments and cupcakes and all that other stuff that can’t be measured with a scale or tracked with a Garmin.

I’m not saying turn your feed into the Dave-the-Doberman Show (no offense to Dave, he’s really a cute dog) – think 80% “brand” related content (running if you’re a runner, for example), and 20% cat pictures/artsy shots of your wine at happy hour/whatever else floats your boat. When you share more than your mile splits and WOD’s, I bet you’ll connect with more people than you think.

So how about it? Have you found any other tips that you’d like to share? Share in the comments!

Not Your Average Vacation

If you follow me on IG or Twitter or Facebook,  you probably noticed last week that my photos all had a distinctly “not-NJ-in-December” feel to them. That’s because we went on vacation – to Florida!

IMG_0873

I wanted to do something BIG to celebrate hubby’s landmark 40th birthday this past Tuesday, but he’s a more reserved kinda guy. So instead of planning a big party he’d muddle through while silently wishing for it to be over, I did some research and discovered a rocket launch happening in Florida around the same time as his birthday. So after some secret airfare stalking and finding an unbelievable deal, I presented the idea to him (instead of surprising him). Thankfully, he was super stoked! So we were off to Titusville, Florida to visit Kennedy Space Center and watch as Orbital ATK launched an Atlas V rocket loaded with supplies up to the International Space Station!

DCIM104GOPROGOPR6203.

This is going to be a picture-filled post, so if you get bored by sunshine & giant rockets, I apologize in advance.

This was Mike’s first airplane ride, but I was so proud of how he handled it.

IMG_0254

It was a little nerve-wracking being 30,000 feet in the air, but it was an smooth flight with virtually no turbulence and we landed a few hours later in Orlando happy, hungry, and tired.

IMG_0817

It was my first time renting a car so I felt super important (it’s the little things, guys), and we had a great time checking out the area around the hotel. As it turns out, the whole area is ALL ABOUT THE LAUNCH. Like, that’s all you see on every sign everywhere. Even the bars are space themed. Seriously, one was named Launch. I kid you not.

We checked in and met the folks that owned the hotel (SUPER sweet people who offered us restaurant tips and coupons for the best seafood ever, more on that later), and they invited us back to the lobby that night for cocoa and cookies and to meet Dr. Ken Kremer, who was in town to cover the launch. Cookies, cocoa, and a fellow science nerd to talk shop with? Sweet!

After settling in, we headed out for dinner at Dixie Crossroads, where I quickly learned that any aspirations of healthy eating I had before this moment were merely fantasies. Because, well, fried dough covered in powdered sugar, you guys.

IMG_0282

Seriously, this was the meal our first night, and every night was this big. I didn’t beat myself up though: while it looks decadent, I kept the fried things to a minimum, stuck with mostly broiled seafood for dinner and salads for lunch, maintained a pretty good 70/30 balance (except for the giant gluten free brownie I had on the last day, #sorrynotsorry), and my iPhone’s health tracker clocked us at about 5 walking miles each day, so I think it all evened out!

After dinner we returned to the hotel and met Dr. Kremer where he was discussing the rocket launch and showing off some of his amazing photography in the lobby. As it turns out, he’s a speaker, freelance science journalist, scientist and photographer based out of – get this – Princeton, NJ! We traveled more than a thousand miles and still run into Jersey folks, go figure. He’s a mega-smart guy whose articles and space exploration photography has shown up in NASA, National Geographic, NBC News, CBS, and more, and he was in town to cover the launch. We chatted about the various photos he had on display, got really into some space stuff, and called it a night.

Day 1 was the day of the launch, so we went to Kennedy Space Center to explore for the day, then boarded a bus out to the Banana Creek Viewing Area in the afternoon but (spoiler alert) it was scrubbed due to rain. No matter though – it was rescheduled for the next day and we still had an amazing time! Here’s Day 1 in photos:

IMG_0399

Rocket Selfie time

IMG_0415

There really is a person in there, I promise.

IMG_0465

Atlantis Robot Arm attack!

DCIM104GOPROG2066083.

IMG_0818

IMG_0382

IMG_0848

They snapped this before putting us on the bus – too bad it didn’t happen IRL!

IMG_0428

Astronaut Brian Duffy – amazingly intelligent, easy going, and witty too!

IMG_0849

With the actual Atlantis shuttle

IMG_0506

Excitedly waiting in the drizzle for a rocket launch!

IMG_0517

But sadly being soaked by the downpour after the launch was scrubbed.

To drown our sorrows, we went to the Cracker Barrel (our first experience!) across the parking lot from our hotel and feasted. There are no pictures from that because our hands were covered in butter. But we did fall in love with the peg game and now can’t stop playing it!

Day 2 was clearer, but the WIND was very strong. Word from NASA was a 40% chance of the launch happening that night, but we were optimistic (and let’s be honest, we had nothing else to do) so we boarded the bus, took a little tour, and tooled around the Saturn V building then headed to the viewing area once more. Here’s Day 2 in pictures!

IMG_0731

Mike with an Apollo capsule.

DCIM104GOPROGOPR6139.

The view from under the fuel tank at the Atlantis building.

DCIM104GOPROGOPR6188.

Part of a beautiful tribute to the lives lost in the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. Truly moving.

DCIM104GOPROGOPR6243.

The Saturn V rocket on display.

IMG_0701

Hubby really got into the action 🙂

IMG_0721

The Vehicle Assembly Building

IMG_0860

Space Salad! No seriously, they grow some of the greens they use in the cafe’s salads hydroponically, just like they’re trying to do in space. SPACE SALAD!

IMG_0749

Panoramic shot of the Banana Creek Viewing Area before it got crowded.

DCIM104GOPROG2096272.

Our marriage summed up in one GoPro shot.

Spoiler alert #2: the rocket launch was scrubbed again, this time due to wind! It was still immensely cool to be at the viewing area again, this time with a smaller crowd, and to hear the live audio feed from NASA broadcasting on the PA system outside. I still get goosebumps when I watch the little video I took of the pre-flight systems check (and the cheer that erupted in the crowd when we got to hear those magic words: “You have permission to launch.”

I dare you not to cheer when you hear it 😉

After the second failed attempt, I won’t lie: I was bummed. That was our last shot at seeing it in person, and that made me sad. Mike was still super happy though, and that’s what matters. OK, he did, at one point, say through gritted teeth while we held our breath waiting for the launch, “Just press the button, send it up! A $100 million dollar rocket can’t handle a little wind??”, but that was it.

To turn the negative of missing the launch into a positive, I decided to take him out for an early birthday dinner at the restaurant our hotel manager recommended: Shiloh’s Steakhouse.

IMG_0774

Not pictured: his twin lobster tails and my gigantic sea scallops. Again, butter-covered hands.

It was so nice to hang out in the warm(er) weather with the river right there, eating seafood and laughing about wanting to waste the millions of dollars and take the chance by sending the rocket up even if it wasn’t ready. When we got back to the hotel we decided to bring our peg game (yes, we bought our own for $4) to the open air lobby for some play time, but stopped into the main lobby to see if Dr. Kremer was there – and lo and behold there he was, with his friend Klaus!

IMG_0779

We hung out in the lobby with Klaus and Dr. Kremer for another hour or so, drinking cocoa and eating cookies and talking about everything from rockets to Instagram to traveling. We even caught Ken on TV when the local news station did a bit about the scrubbed launch – they interviewed him about his thoughts and we were there to see the magic firsthand. It was pretty fun, to say the least 🙂

After saying our goodbyes, we hung out in the open air lobby and played our games for a bit, then Klaus stopped by again and we chatted for a bit, then we finally hit the hay.

Day 3 was a blur – we went back to the Space Center for a few hours, walked around and generally took our time looking at all of the things we breezed by earlier to get to other attractions. It was so nice, just strolling through the Rocket Garden in 75+ degrees and sun… even though we were headed for the airport at 5pm!

IMG_0843

I took a “run” on a space treadmill!

IMG_0852

Soaking up some last minute sun before our trip back to NJ

Finally we headed back to the airport to drop off our car, check in, and wing our way back to chilly NJ! It was a whirlwind 4 days that we’re still smiling about, even a week later.

If you’re looking for something fun to do that’s not the usual “sit on a beach and drink all day” vacation, I’d definitely recommend the Kennedy Space Center. It’s totally NOT just for kids – and even as a person who was previously only semi-interested in space stuff, I was riveted by some of the things I learned! No lie, I found myself going “Wow,” on multiple occasions, and learned so much about the space program in general and where it’s headed. It’s really fascinating stuff!

And if you go, definitely check out Dixie Crossroads restaurant. Just wear stretch pants.