How Bootcamp is Changing My Game

Since the reality finally hit me that I will be running 19.3 miles over 24 hours in less than 6 weeks (and 26.2 miles around the City of New York in less than 12 months!), I’ve decided to step up my fitness game, one month at a time.

This month, I joined Bulldog Strength and Conditioning for a month of bootcamp/ Crossfit-style classes, with the goal of upping my overall endurance and strength training game in the home stretch before my next half marathon and spring race season.

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My friend Kevin found this place about a month ago to get us ahead of the holiday weight gain by taking a drop-in class the Saturday after Thanksgiving with our friend Angela. I’ll admit: I was hesitant. I’ve done a few month-long boot camp style memberships at other gyms and while they were good workouts, I wasn’t a fan of their mentality and sometimes condescending attitudes. In some cases, the instructors cared more about socializing with the members than helping them get a good workout. Too often I’d see people sacrifice form for time and just flail around without the personal attention they should have been getting for $150+ a month – or worse, they’d get injured!

Having an injury-prone body to begin with, I like to focus on form and doing things the right way for the maximum benefit and to keep myself healthy. And it’s important to me that if I’m working with trainers, I make a personal connection with them about my fitness history and don’t feel too intimidated to ask them for help. So I went into this class with a grain of salt. But from the beginning, the owner Keith was super helpful – asking me about where we found him, what our goals were, what we were currently doing to stay active, etc. When I brought up running, he was psyched to hear about my plans for a half in January and asked me smart questions. Before we even started, I was impressed.

The class size was small; about 10 people, which was great – no crowding, plenty of time for personal interaction, and room to move. We kicked things off with a warm up that included 200M sprints, and Keith and his co-trainer were quick to point out that I should find this part easy, calling me out in front of the class – this was fun! After the warm up, they started cranking some old Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails music to get us into the groove, and we were off onto interval training, two workouts that we repeated two times each. The moves seemed simple at first, but after one minute on and only 15 seconds to move to the next workout, we were MOVING. My one friend had to tap out because it was so intense, and I don’t blame her – I had to pause a few times to keep my breakfast from coming up to make an appearance!

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After just over 40 minutes, we finished completely spent, sweaty and shaking, and I was hooked. I hadn’t pushed myself like that in months, and it felt great. I’ve been so scared of overdoing it and not being able to run that I’ve been shortchanging myself. No more.

On the spot I decided to commit to a month with Keith and his crew. But because he’s a smart businessman and a good trainer, he was open to discussion. He understood that I couldn’t commit to a full 5x/week schedule simply because the gym is 30+ minutes away and I need to spend more time running for now, and was able to work with me on a plan that fits my schedule and my budget.

Last night I took my first class of the month and I already can’t scratch my nose without that soreness in my arms and shoulders – and I screamed when a sneeze earlier this morning made my abs work unexpectedly. But I’m pumped to see where these workouts take me in my running. Tomorrow I’ve got 7 miles to run, and another class Sunday.

It’ll be a tough schedule to stick to this month to get all of my miles in AND reap the benefits of a month of bootcamp too, but I’m committed. If I’m going to do this 26.2 thing, I’ve got to do things I’ve never done before and work harder than I ever have in any training cycle – but I’m ready!

Taking Time to Be Grateful

After doing this blogging thing for a few years now, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me and how it’s changed my life. Which has caused me to get pretty introspective lately – in a good way.

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Back in 2003 I was miserable, but I hid it by being overly confident and brash. Think Samantha Jones from Sex & the City but without all the ridiculous sex stuff.

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but WITH the martini habit

I was in college, but instead of figuring out the balance of how to have a social life while excelling in school, I avoided going out almost entirely and threw myself into professional development instead.

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Taking extra classes, loading up on extra-curriculars, networking, building up my resume and getting an awesome internship with the NJ Devils. I took no prisoners and managed to do some amazing things. But my confidence was SO delicate.


At the end of every day, I was truly miserable. I would either hang out with my friends in their dorm rooms and watch TV and eat and drink to oblivion, or go back to my dorm room and do the same, but alone.

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, I knew something had to change. I HAD TO CHANGE. To beat the odds now stacked against me, I started to pay attention to what I ate at the dining hall. I watched an hour of Everybody Loves Raymond on the stationary bike in our dorm gym instead of on my bed. And wouldn’t you know it, I started to lose weight – and my confidence started to grow too.

Fast forward a few more years: I graduated, got a big girl job in the real world, and jumped into the dating scene. I reconnected with an old friend from my high school days and we started something serious – and I even convinced him to marry me! My friends started having babies and getting married. Throughout it all, I continued to lose weight and shape my new life along with my new body.

 

Fast forward even further, to when I discovered running. I ran my first race in 2010, started falling into a rhythm, and discovered the world of running bloggers. I would see them talk about all the progress they were making and all the opportunities they had and get all moon-eyed over just how awesome that would be, never expecting to do anything like that. But after realizing that in addition to these blogs there was a whole fitness and running community on places like Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, I decided to jump in too.

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My first race ever: a Pink Ribbon 5K with my papa and cancer-free mama ❤

Instagram was my first foray into the online fitness community. Then I started blogging, and soon Twitter and Facebook followed. When I started this ride I NEVER expected it to be as much of a blessing it has been, and that’s the truth. But I put myself out there in a few different – and scary – ways: offering to share my story, baring it all about my history with depression and anxiety, talking about the impact weight loss and running has had on my personal relationships, etc.

And then one day, those things I used to see the running bloggers talking about – they started happening to me.

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Shape Magazine interviewed me. I was asked to take over the Brooks Running IG feed. I was invited to run the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile. I’ve been selected as an Ambassador for the 2016 RWHalf and Festival next month. And as I get ready for what is shaping up to be an unbelievable few months, I have to take this moment to thank you all for coming along on this adventure with me.

I am TRULY grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that I’ve been given; I’m one of the luckiest people I know. But none of it would be possible without you reading, commenting, liking, following, and being with me on this ride. Whether I know you in real life or have only ever “met” you online – or even if you never say anything! – please know that I appreciate you taking time out of your day and reading and looking at the stuff I put out into the ether.

Thank you for being here – and I look forward to seeing where this road takes us in the future!

My New Celebrity Fitspiration

So, I’m a big Star Wars fan now. I’m guessing you knew that already though.

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While I love the whole fictional universe, I also dig the new stars in the franchise. They’re a talented, eclectic bunch of people with different personalities and styles, and I’m loving all of them. Especially Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey.

I liked her in the movie, but when I discovered her Instagram a few weeks after seeing the movie back in January, I was instantly hooked. She’s adorable,  you guys.

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Also, with posts like this, let’s face it: she’s kind of my spirit animal. 

In a sea of vapid, cookie cutter “celebrities”, her feed stands out. You can really get a sense of her voice and what she’s passionate about – she’s not afraid to speak up and be goofy – AND she loves posting videos of her insane Star Wars workouts. These aren’t little “yay for bicep curls!” videos though. This chick is putting in some serious WORK. So what did I do? Take notes on her workouts and adapted them for myself, of course!

What does the Daisy Workout consist of? Here’s a sampling from a few of her recent videos (note: technical terms are NOT my strong suit. I just call them as I see them):

  • Walking lunges with overhead weight
  • High Knee jumps
  • Pull ups with elevated legs
  • Kneeling bicep band pulldowns
  • Pilates 100’s
  • Jump Squats
  • Jump squats with overhead bar & press
  • Lateral Jumps
  • Lunges with band twist
  • Suspension cable pull ups
  • Kneeling jumps
  • Medicine ball tosses
  • Kettle bell squat lifts (5x arm)
  • One legged box jump
  • Squat jumps with bar
  • Straight overhead Leg lifts
  • Straight leg situps

Now, this is by no means meant to be an official workout, please don’t try all of these and sue for damages when you can’t lift your head off the pillow the next day. I am NOT a professional – I was just looking for a good strength training workout and these moves clearly helped our girl Daisy so why can’t I give them a shot?

Word of warning: after doing half of those exercises up there for a full 40 minutes Tuesday, I’m STILL sore 48 hours later. So please, workout at your own risk.

But while these moves are HARD and have me grunting and swearing and unable to get into my car without screaming the next day, I do know this: I feel pretty badass when I’m done!

How about you: Who’s your current celebrity fitspiration? Have any famous-people workouts to share? Gimme gimme!

 

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. 
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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.

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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!

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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??)
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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.

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So does Sammy “I’ll Allow This” Gamgee

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

Pins and Needles

Since I first started getting acupuncture done, a lot of folks have asked me for details. How does he know what do work on? [we talk about it at have a mini therapy session at the start of every treatment] What parts of your body do the needles go in? [depends on what he’s treating that day] Do they hurt? [nope!]

It’s a weird experience – and one that I detailed in depth in my first post about it last month – but I’m happy to chat about it as much as possible, if only to spread the word that this stuff is pretty magical. I know some folks might be skeptical about it, and that’s fine. Hell, I was skeptical too, before I tried it. But I started noticing a positive difference immediately after my first session and it’s only gotten better with more treatments.

Last night I had my third session, where we worked a little more on my anxiety and depression points (wrists), appetite control (ears), and continued treatment on my knees for pain management and increased energy overall. In my second session 2 weeks ago he introduced the concept of focusing on drawing in the energy while I sit with the pins in my body – “Think of the pins as little antennas, drawing in the energy” – and while I kind of made this face at first…

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… I decided to go with it and found that it kind of worked. When I went on my last long-ish run this past weekend, I started to feel the usual twingey feeling in my left knee at around mile 3. So I stopped to walk, stretched a bit, and focused on the spots those needles sat in during my last treatment, along with some breathing exercises that the doctor taught me. While it didn’t erase the pain (I mean, nothing will), the pain didn’t last as long and didn’t return when I stopped for the day. I had a few little pinches and pops here and there but nothing lingered. I’ll take it!

And I know I’m a broken record about it, but I can’t overstate it: the appetite suppression points he worked in my ears are unbelievably effective. I haven’t binged in almost a month and have lost between 8-10 lbs depending on the day. The urge to turn to food when I’m stressed, bored, or upset is simply no longer there. Sure, I get the usual pangs if I’m truly hungry (4 hours after a smoothie and an hour past my usual lunch time when I’m stuck in a webinar). And when I finally get the chance to eat, I also don’t find myself so ravenous that I reach for the first bad choice. Smarter choices are easier to make.

I’m super excited to see what this means for my half marathon training. Even though I only just started, the added energy, weight loss, and anxiety relief is sure to help across the board. I’ll be sure to post more about it as I continue both my treatments and my training, but in the meantime consider this a resounding endorsement for pins and needles!

What do you think – do you do acupuncture? Or do you rely on any other alternative treatments like it? Share in the comments!

 

NYC Marathon Lottery & Acupuncture #2

This isn’t my usual kind of post, but because I’m so excited about my day, I had to share!

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Woo-hoo #1: At noon, I entered the NYC Marathon Lottery for the first time ever.

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You heard me: I threw my hat into the ring for a chance to run 26.2 miles around my favorite city in the world in about 10 months. Having never run more than 13.2 (ish) miles in my life, this is the most terrifying, exciting risk I’ve taken in a long time. I mean, my odds of actually getting in are astronomically low, but what the hell? Gotta be in it to win it.

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Me, when I find out they let me in.

Woo-hoo #2: I’ve got my second acupuncture appointment tonight!

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Having this to look forward to makes me so indescribably happy, I can’t even put it into words. I had an awesome experience my first time around, and 2 weeks later I’m still feeling the positive effects: hello, weight loss, decreased appetite, and finally feeling balance in my life once again!

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In addition to continuing to work on my existing issues that we started treating in session 1, we’re also going to be working on my knees today so I’m excited to see how that works out.

So that’s my Thursday in a nutshell! How about you? Are you entering the NYC Lotto? Have you tried acupuncture? Did you know it was possible to use nothing but Kristen Wiig GIF’s in one post?

My First Acupuncture Session

After reaching out for help when I was having a tough time last month, I found a lifeline in a completely unexpected place: acupuncture. I’d never considered it for things like depression or anxiety, but this guy came so highly recommended by both my mom and dad that I figured why not??

I treated my appointment like I was taking my car in for an oil change: while you’ve got the hood open, you may as well take a look at EVERYTHING that’s wrong, right? So I went in with a list of issues to treat: anxiety and depression, a lack of motivation and energy, and food cravings & weight gain. Who knew if he’d be able to treat it all, I thought, but it was worth mentioning everything while I was there.

Once I got in and filled out the paperwork, we settled in and he asked me one simple question: What’s bothering you?

Would you believe I started crying immediately? It was pure relief: here was a skilled professional – with a background in psychology, no less! – asking me to spill the beans so that he could make it all better. Relief doesn’t even begin to explain it.

So he worked through my issues by asking smart questions that, in some cases, really made me think. He didn’t just ask “What makes you happy?”, but “Why does that make you happy?” It was truly fascinating stuff that challenged my thinking and forced me to open up in ways I didn’t expect to so soon after meeting this guy!

But after about 10 minutes of discussion, he got to work with his hands. I laid down on the table under heat lamps (mmm) and he did something called “palpating”. While it felt like he was massaging the tense spots in my back or on my ankles, he was locating the points that needed needles. This was where his skill was immediately apparent: he’d touch one spot and say, “No, right?” and I’d feel nothing. Then he’d move his fingers a millimeter to the right, send a shooting pain through my back, and go, “A-ha! There it is.” Whaaa??

It was like he didn’t even have to try! With a few simple touches he knew just where I was holding onto my tension and where the needles would be most effective. I was blown away. He focused on those 3 issues in 4 different spots: the anxiety and depression on two separate points of each wrist and in my back; the lack of energy in my calves and ankles; and the food cravings in my ears! Eek, right? The outsides of my ears, but still!

He did all of the stuff in my back and legs first, and all I had to do was take my shirt off, lay face down on the table, and he got to work. Before he’d place each needle he’d say where he was going and what each needle would do, and I honestly felt NOTHING: 8 in my back and 5 in each leg. But once he got to my wrists, things got interesting. “Here you’ll probably feel something, just warning you,” he said. I steeled myself and told him to go ahead, and while it wasn’t pain, it certainly was… something. Warmth, pressure, slight stinging. And while he put two needles on either side of each wrist, I felt it more in my left wrist.

Once he was done he told me to relax for 10 minutes and let the needles do their thing – “Even fall asleep if you can! It helps if you can relax as much as possible.” As relaxed as you can while laying topless and facedown in a stranger’s home office covered in 20 needles, I thought with a laugh to myself as he walked out of the room and let me be.

I tried to let my mind wander, and while I didn’t fall asleep, I definitely relaxed and focused on the sensation in my wrist, breathing deeply. After what felt like a very quick 10 minutes, he came back in and gently told me he’d start removing the needles. He painlessly plucked each one out, then started a semi-painful massage to release all the energy that the needles had drawn out. I say painful because he DUG very deep – it took my breath away! I told him at one point that it hurt, and he apologized and used a big vibrating pad instead for a few moments, saying that it wouldn’t be AS effective. I didn’t want that – I wanted the full effect! So I sucked it up and told him to keep using his hands, and he did with a laugh and some encouraging words. Score one for putting on my big girl pants and dealing with it! After a few more minutes of massage, he had me put my shirt back on and laid me down on my back to do my ears.

I’ll be honest: the needles here didn’t hurt a bit, but these were the most painful for him to discover. He used a dull cotton swab to find the points in my ears (because his fingers were too big!), and the painful spots he found were SO MUCH MORE ACUTE! If you’ve ever gotten a pimple in your ear, you know the shooting pain I’m talking about. But he was “pleased” to find that each ear only needed 4 needles – most people need many more, he said!

So he popped those 4 needles in each ear and left me once again to relax. This time I really did almost doze off; thanks, heat lamps! When he came in 10 minutes later I needed a moment to come to. He took those needles out and placed cotton balls in my ears (I later discovered he did that because there was a tiny bit of blood, which is normal), and sat me up slowly, talking me through the physical things that I might feel as a result of this session: small bruises, tenderness, maybe even some warmth, especially in my wrists because those are the major points that everyone experiences something with. That would be the leftover energy, he said, and it was normal. I thanked him profusely, made my next appointment (for this Thursday!), and left.

And this is where it gets weird: as soon as I walked out of his office, it’s like a switch was flipped in me, and the fog had lifted. The whole drive home, I smiled to myself and soaked everything around me in with a peacefulness that I can’t really describe. The strangest part, though, was the sensation in my right wrist and arm. When I moved my wrist in one way (trying to grab my purse, for example), a warmth throbbed through my muscles all the way to my elbow. It wasn’t bad at all – it was just.. interesting! I can’t describe it.

I got home and had a great night; ate a very light dinner, got my outfit ready for the Joe Kleinerman 10K the next day, and didn’t have any of the usual cravings I get before bed to stuff everything in the snack cabinet into my face. I didn’t experience the usual pre-race jitters, and when I laid down for bed I felt myself tear up a little at how utterly calm I felt. It was like I finally realized that everything was going to be OK, after being so anxious for so long. And while I haven’t written my race recap yet, spoiler alert: it was my best race yet. I didn’t PR but I smiled and breezed through every step, no usual race-day tension or doubts or emotional roller coaster.

Could it have worked that fast? Was it all in my head? I honestly don’t know one way or the other. All I know is that it’s been a little more than a week and while I’ve had minor moments that caused me the usual tension (work, life, etc), that overall peaceful feeling always comes back. I’m more motivated to do even little things like clean the fridge or cook dinner. And the most obvious sign? My appetite isn’t as ravenous as I used to feel, I haven’t had one sugar craving, I’ve avoided every temptation without a hint of stress, and I haven’t binged once (where I’d usually binge 4-5 times in one week). I feel less bloated and have more energy, even with a sinus infection this past week.

So that’s my (so far) positive experience with acupuncture! I’m looking forward to this week’s session – he’ll focus on my knees in addition to everything else. So here’s to keeping the good vibes flowing, whether they’re all in my head or not!

Have you ever had acupuncture before? How did you like it? Tell me in the comments!

Climbing Out of a Black Hole

I try to keep things 100% real here, but it’s hard when things get tough. I mean, the title of my blog has “happy” in it. If I’m not happy, what am I? But this is my blog after all, so here goes:

When I started this fitness journey back in 2004, I was more than 100 lbs heavier & suffered from crippling anxiety, OCD, and depression. My hands would crack and bleed from over-washing and some days I couldn’t even leave my dorm. With 5 years of exercise, therapy, medication, and a healthier diet, I managed to find my way out of that hole. And even though I managed to wean off the OCD medicine (and haven’t had an episode in years), I will occasionally fall back into that hole.

Which is where I’m at right now.

For the past three weeks or so, I’ve been in an emotionally bad place. The best way I can describe it is like I’ve been watching a movie of my life. Some days it takes a huge effort just to get out of bed. A few days, I slept 18+ hours and have had no motivation to do anything. One day my husband had to physically pull me out of the car to take a walk at the park, and all I wanted to do was cry the whole two miles. At holiday gatherings I found myself fighting back tears while watching everyone else laugh. I’d put on a happy face to go for a run or to a movie, and then fall right back into staring at the TV or a blank wall, trying not to cry.

Some more well-adjusted folks might read that and think “What a head case!” Hell, I even think that sometimes – I’ve had a perfectly happy holiday season, I have family and friends that love me, a great job, a roof over my head… what the hell could I possibly be so depressed about? And when I think that, I get even more upset, and it spirals from there. Those of you who’ve experienced depression or anxiety know what I’m talking about, and it sucks.

What brought it on? Is it just the Holiday Blues? The lack of structure being off from work for so long? The unhealthy food and abundance of wine? All three? Who knows. And it’s hard to even put into words exactly what goes through my head when I’m in the middle of it. But I’m lucky: my friends and family have all been nothing but supportive. And to be honest, today is one of my first good days. Coming back to work, monitoring my diet, and forcing myself to be physically active are all helping, but it takes time. I’m pretty sure I’m bouncing back slowly, but there’s always a fear that it’ll creep back up and paralyze me again.

I don’t have a specific purpose for writing this post, to be honest. Part of me needed to write it to clear my head, but it’s also for anyone who has gone through – or is going through – something similar. If you’re in the middle of it, know you’re not alone, no matter how lonely you might feel. The sun will come out. It always does. And don’t be ashamed to talk about it or seek help. Negative thoughts spread like wildfire and sometimes all you need to do to break the cycle is talk to someone else, even if it hurts.

I also hope that anyone lucky enough to have never experienced depression or anxiety realizes it’s not trivial. With physical illness, you experience symptoms that others can see; runny nose, broken bones. But with mental illness, the symptoms are hidden. So be kind to others. Even if they’re smiling and seem happy on the outside, you never know what kind of battle they’re fighting on the inside.

Ode to the Fitness Buddy

I don’t know about you, but with no major races on the horizon until at least March, I’m feeling kind of lost when it comes to my running. Without a big goal race to aim for or a plan to follow, I kind of turn into a sassy cranky pants just looking for some kind of structure to my life that’ll help me avoid gaining weight through the holidays and keep me sane when the Christmas madness takes hold.

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Exhibit A: my life.

Luckily, I’ve managed to set a pattern of sorts now thanks to my fitness friend, Kevin. Kevin has been my friend and frequent running buddy for a while now, but recently he’s joined my gym and kicked me into gear in a big way without even realizing it.

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Hooray for structure!

Kevin is usually the one to text me at 9PM on a Friday with “Are you running tomorrow?” What he doesn’t realize is that I’m usually eyeballs-deep in a glass of red wine and when I see his texts I usually say, out loud, to no one, “Well, I wasn’t planning on running in 12 hours but I guess I am now.” And then I finish the glass and put the cake down because no one wants to see me sweating red velvet and Robert Mondavi.

Now that he’s also a member of the same gym, he’s taken to texting me with random thoughts such as “Just throwing it out there. In addition to running. I want to work on abs, arms, and legs. Abs every day.”

And just like that, I’ve got a strength training schedule in my life!

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Exhibit B: this past Saturday’s workout

When I’m in the throes of training, I sometimes lose sight of how fun it is to workout with someone else, so I’m grateful for his reminders. And he’s not the only one!

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My sister in law (who ran the Turkey Trot with me last week!) has been excellent at suggesting we do fun runs and races lately, which I totally need in my life if I don’t want to end up waking up surrounded by empty Godiva chocolate boxes wondering what happened to the past 48 hours.

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And my cousin Heather who ran the Trenton 10K with me is another motivator: she’s got races lined up for pretty much every weekend now through the end of 2017, and I only wish I had her dedication!

How about you: do you have a fitness pal to keep you motivated? How has sweating with someone else helped you on your journey?

My New Favorite Go-To Snacks

As if you couldn’t tell by my Instagram pics, Tweets, and the variety of posts I’ve written on the subject: I freakin’ love food.

But now that the weather is getting warmer and I’m forced to shed my winter running layers to exercise outdoors comfortably, those extra few pounds wobbling around my middle have got to go. To get rid of them though, I’ve got to fight my number one problem: night-time snacking.

spI swear there’s like a magnet in my body that draws me into the kitchen every night. And no matter how healthfully I’ve eaten all day, I sabotage myself by binging on whatever junk food we have lying around the house. My mind tricks me into thinking I’m hungry, but I don’t crave things that would actually satisfy that hunger like a banana or roasted chickpeas. No, I’d rather go for the Pirate Booty or the Chewy Chips Ahoy.

Frankly, it’s a problem I’ve battled on and off for years, and I’m slowly getting better. But while I don’t always win the battle, I’ve learned a few things about my body that I’ve turned into ammunition against the nighttime snack attack:

1. Eating sugar makes me crave more sugar. Other people may be different but this is 100% the case for me. As soon as I finish a Hershey’s Kiss, I want another one. And another and another until I wake up from a chocolate-induced coma, covered in little foil wrappers with a sugar crash headache. Not pretty. To fight the sugar-begets-sugar Monster, I rely on some not-so-sugary treats that feel like real indulgences. Lately, this means stocking up on my newest favorite Chobani Flip flavor: Chocolate Haze Craze.

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The Greek yogurt has extra protein to fill me up, and the chocolate chips/hazelnuts that you stir into it tastes seriously so much like Nutella you may find yourself licking the container (not like that’s ever happened to me…) It’s the perfect “dinner is over, this is my dessert” signal to my brain, and not SO sweet that I find myself craving more chocolate after I’m done.

2. I need to snack a little more throughout the day to stay satisfied. This means bringing more healthy choices in to the office with me, which means I need to do some prep work ahead of time. To make it easier on myself, I’ve been digging Wasa crisps – delicious, crunchy little flatbreads – with some good old Laughing Cow cheese.

cheeseBesides the yummy crispy/creamy combo, I think the fact that I’m adding stuff together to make a snack kind of tricks my stomach into thinking it’s getting a meal, which helps!

3. My tastesbuds equate super-flavor = super-satisfying, so I’ve branched out and experimented with flavors that I’m not really used to. For years I’ve shunned spicy things because I felt like it dulled my tastebuds and burned too much, but my Naturebox delivery this month included a bag of Jalapeno Cashews that I chomped RIGHT through in a week or two. Who knew?! I also love me some Blue Diamond Salt & Vinegar Almonds.

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I make it a point to always have a jar of these bad boys around: in the office, at home, hell, even in the car! See that little “Intense Taste!” sign on the package? It’s not kidding! After savoring a small handful one at a time, my mouth is coated in that familiar boardwalk-fries flavor and the craving to eat all the things has subsided thanks to the extra protein in the almonds. That’s a win-win to me!

So now that I’ve shared my favorite snacks, it’s time to share yours! Tell me: what are you snacking on? How do you fight the hungry monster?