Is It a Training Update If I Don’t Have a Race Planned?

So I don’t have any big race coming up but I’ve still been working out pretty consistently and have been getting lots of questions on Instagram about what I’m doing so… is it a Training Update if I’m not actually “training” for something?

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I’m going to take the Regina George approach and say whatever. I’m calling it a Training Update and wishing I had cheese fries.

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I’ve been running lightly – not like on my tiptoes, but like, sparsely? Infrequently? You get the idea. The point is, the 6-week plan that I’m currently just about to wrap up Week 3 of is focused much more on strength and cross training, so I just don’t have the time to spend on running, writing, working, and running a house/marriage/social life at the same time. I would have thought the lack of mileage would turn me into a babbling lunatic, but on the contrary: the strength training has me feeling unstoppable.

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Also, this Laughlete shirt that I won from their Instagram contest is making every workout even more fun, so there’s that.

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But really, the daily, no-excuses, HIIT workouts of the Biggest Loser Last Chance Workout DVD kicked my ass at first, and are now helping me fit into clothes a little better and keeping me from getting winded when I take the stairs at the gym.

My logic behind this whole easy-on-the-running-but-heavy-on-everything-else plan was simple: lose weight, get stronger, get faster.

The expanded version of this thought process goes something like this: I have gained weight since 2018. It was a rough year both physically and mentally, and now that I’m 36, weight loss is harder to come by. But by making smarter decisions and really focusing on weight loss in the past month or so, I’m finally starting to see results, as I noticed yesterday when I got the dailies of my most recent on-camera work for my day job:

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Yay for weight loss AND a lighting upgrade, good lord.

So, with weight loss dialed in, next comes getting stronger. This is pure self preservation and wisdom imparted to me by my physical therapist who laughed at my pathetic attempts to engage my gluteus on day one of my therapy back in April.

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You see, since 2017, my #runallthemiles attitude landed me in physical therapy and/or the chiropractor’s office on 3 previous occasions with injuries to my piriformis, achilles and psoas, so perhaps it’s time I wise the f*ck up about my training. Meaning, stop JUST running and actually strengthen all the other muscles that running doesn’t use, especially if I’m not running AS much.

Combine that with the fact that there are only so many hours in the day, and a plan that involves 6 weeks comprised of 6 days of working out for 35-45 minutes per day MAX, and I was sold. “I can do anything for 6 weeks,” I told myself.

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Thanks, Kimmy.

And wouldn’t you know it, here I am halfway through Week 3, and I’m seeing it and feeling it. It’s extra motivating knowing that I’m only halfway through this and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. I also know from past experience that once I DO run consistently again, this weight loss and strength training/muscle building is all but guaranteed to have a positive impact on my running, so that’s even more exciting. I’m not planning on breaking a 7 minute mile or anything ridiculous, but I’m at least hoping things will feel a little easier with less weight on my joints and stronger leg and core muscles to support me while I run.

How is your training going? Are you training for nothing in particular? Have you ever done the Last Chance Workout or any other workout DVDs? Share in the comments!

Hitting the Reset Button

Running and I were not best friends there for nearly 2 years. We weren’t even like… friends you ask to pick you up from the airport or help you move a couch.

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But that’s because I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

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Is this wildly-popular-on-instagram sweatshirt one of those reasons? Maybe.

I was running because that was what I thought I should be doing, as a “runner”. And I’m not using quotes because I don’t consider myself a runner – I am. But that’s not all I am.

After the NYC Marathon, I took time off from running, lost my job, and then injured myself when I tried to get back into running just for the sake of running. I stopped paying attention to what I ate. I ran races I didn’t want to run, just because other people wanted me to. And by forcing myself to push through it and run all the miles for appearances’ sake, I neglected everything else and my body and mind paid the price. Instead of running to feel better, it made me feel worse.

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I ran from one Instagram-worthy photo to the next, while behind the scenes, my body and mind were being held together with duct tape and crossed fingers. And I can’t ignore the fact that I behaved the way I did in part because I felt the pressure of nearly 16,000 people on Instagram “watching” my feed. To ignore that would be irresponsible.

So instead of ignoring it – or imploding like I’ve seen others do – I quietly worked on myself. Behind the scenes, in fits and starts, for nearly a year now. I stopped taking photos and posting about every workout on social media. I ran. I didn’t run. I tried yoga. I gave up yoga. I turned off all social media notifications on my phone. I connected with therapists and people who could help me get stronger physically and mentally.

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With the false sense of wisdom that only time can provide, I’m comfortable saying the Fifth Avenue Mile was a turning point for me. It was the first time in a long time that I felt confident and ready, in mind and body, to race. My unexpectedly stellar performance is the proof I needed to know that my work is paying off.

Don’t get me wrong: the work to get back to 100% is ongoing, and always will be. I know that now. But this is the first time since the 2017 NYC Marathon that I’m enjoying the work. And while I don’t have any race plans on the horizon, I’ve got other plans.

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I’m currently 2 weeks into a 6-week program that is already paying dividends in terms of how I feel. I’m less bloated and have more energy. The goal is to get back down to my pre-marathon weight and strengthen my body top to bottom so that when I do race, I’ll be as strong as I can be in that moment. At age 36, that’s not an easy task, and 6 weeks is just the beginning. But it’s refreshing to think that you can always hit the Reset Button.

My First Aerial Yoga Class

Alternative title: how I learned to quit worrying and let go.

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My friends Kevin and Jessica had taken aerial yoga before, and after hearing about their experiences, we planned a date at the Om Factory in the Fashion District of Manhattan:

We entered the class to find a room full of slings hanging from the ceiling and a few females who introduced themselves as sisters and co-instructors, Grace and Laura. They – along with basically ALL of the other students – are younger than me and my friends by… let’s say a lot… and could fit right into an episode of Girls without even trying.  This is not meant to be disparaging in any way. It’s just that their mannerisms and speech patterns and personalities were very millennial. And their class playlist consisted of Robyn, Temper Trap, and M83, which I really dug and am pretty sure I’ve actually heard in an episode of Girls.

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After Laura adjusted my sling to my height, we discussed how our party of one Kevin and two Jess’s would require the instructors to create nicknames for us to tell us apart (I proudly accepted Grace’s choice of “Jess Leia” after seeing my Star Wars race shirt on the way in), and we got started by sitting on our mats while Grace… led storytime? I don’t know how else to describe it.

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And again, this is in NO way meant to demean or insult, it’s just a fact that we sat there on our mats for 5-7 minutes while Grace told us about how she had just returned from Mardis Gras where her friend got so caught up in getting ALL THE BEADS that they didn’t have fun. She then talked about how her mother called in a panic after hearing about an accident at Mardis Gras that happened a mile or so from them, and that was a bummer. This was a fun story about Mardis Gras but also a… metaphor for yoga and life? Don’t get so caught up in getting all the beads and just enjoy the process? OK. I can do the deep breathing and stay centered, but I also paid 25 American dollars for a 60 minute class and feel like we kind of wasted 10 of them on storytime.

However, that is the ONLY negative thing I to say. Once we got to the yoga part of yoga class, these ladies were phenomenal. Encouraging, strong, incredibly funny and welcoming, Grace instructed verbally while Laura took a sling at the front of the class and demonstrated. Their sisterly dynamic added to it, also.

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We started off doing basic yoga poses to warm  up, using the fabric to do pull ups and squats and lunges, which I felt immediately. Having the fabric there to help me open up my hips and stretch the rest of my body felt incredible. Then we did downward dog while folded over the fabric, and floated by tucking our knees up and turning into eggs, engaging our cores to stay stable. My first time off the ground in yoga and I loved it!

Next we made the first really frightening move: standing ON the fabric. I was terrified, but had no time to panic: before my brain knew what was happening, everyone around me hoisted themselves up so I did too, and suddenly I was standing in the fabric, three feet above the ground, my head in the ceiling! It took lots of core and arm strength to stay balanced, but I focused and nailed it. I guess Grace’s story about just living in the moment really did have some value 😉

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The final part of our class was spent going upside down and sideways in a variety of ways. This was my favorite part, especially because, as Grace and Laura said, “We face the wall on these poses so we can be vain and see ourselves in the mirror when we go upside down.” They just get me, these girls.

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This was another case where I was scared at first, but after just letting go (in the metaphysical sense, of course, because physically holding the fabric was the only thing keeping me from cracking my skull open), I was upside down and able to fold and bend into some incredible positions I never thought possible. The only negative to all this: my over enthusiastic posing had me swaying more than my inner ear would have liked, and my motion sickness acted up pretty much instantly. I can’t win.

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After spending the last 15 minutes of class working on these poses, we then unfurled the fabric of our slings to create delicious cocoons where we lay in savasana and floated for a good few minutes. I would go back to class just to do this for an hour.

Finally when class was over properly, we were allowed 10 minutes of “play” time to practice whatever poses we wanted, take pictures, and clean up our spaces. We had fun taking pictures together and laughing about the poses I didn’t attempt because my body was so shredded (I’m looking at you, aerial split). This was also fun to see other people in the class totally whip out these incredible routines – I’m guessing they were all circus performers or ballerinas or both, because they were so talented that I found myself just watching a few times.

All in all it was an incredible experience; I enjoyed it a LOT more than I expected, and I can’t wait to go back. It was a super intense workout, too – 3 days later my abs and upper body are still sore, and I can see this being a great complement to my running and a way to cut loose and have fun while getting a workout in.

Have you ever tried aerial yoga? Is it something you’d like to try? Let’s hear it in the comments!

 

Product Review & Giveaway: The Stinger

Back in January, I started seeing ads for this thing called The Stinger on Facebook, and it intrigued me: it’s a ball that you freeze and massage yourself with to alleviate post-run soreness, plantar fasciitis pain, shin splints and other issues. Fast forward to a few weeks later when the folks at Recoup Fitness reached out to me to see if I wanted to try this toy out – having experienced like 3 of those 4 things, I was down.

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A few days later, my Stinger arrived Saturday morning just as I was about to head out for a long-ish trail run, so I was stoked to give this thing a shot after a true test. Here in NJ that weekend we were experiencing a weird heatwave, breaking nearly 70 degrees on both Saturday and Sunday, so I was ready to get out there and run A LOT.

After lacing up and hitting the newly thawed trails for over an hour and 6+ miles on Saturday in new kicks, I was sore. My feet especially were angry with me at all of the twisting and balancing I had to do to keep from slipping out on muddy trails. I even discovered a few aches and pains I’d never felt before, and worried I’d need to take it easy the next day. So I broke out my Stinger and rolled for a half hour or so while we watched a movie later that night.

Fun Fact: Cats love the Stinger. Or at least my cat does. 

I’ll admit I didn’t think it was doing much at the time – sure, it felt fantastic, but it wasn’t much different from my frozen water bottle, was it? Either way, I rocked and rolled and even used it on my sore quads too, digging into the tightness I’d developed taking on new terrain that morning, and went to bed.

The next morning, I was shocked to find that my feet did not hurt at all. Those aches and pains that worried me yesterday were completely gone. Perhaps the Stinger actually did more than I thought! Because I was feeling so good, I decided to hit the trails again, this time with my husband, and in a more technical trail.

And once again, I rolled with the Stinger that night, this time all over my legs and feet which were now shot from 2 solid days of activity. Again, I woke up Monday morning feeling NOT like I’d just put 10+ miles of trails on my legs in two days.

As it turns out, the Stinger really does do what it says it’s going to – and not just for running, either! Last week I went down to Atlantic City with an old friend for a straight-up girls’ night of dancing and debauchery (in high heels) and I made sure to pop my Stinger in the hotel fridge.

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After 5 hours of dancing in high heeled booties, I was so relieved to wake up the next day and use the Stinger on pretty much every part of me. Even the new knots in my back I’d developed in the hotel bed enjoyed the ice cold massage.

The best part is, it’s always ready to roll: I just keep the ball in the freezer at all times and pop it into its handle whenever I need a quick roll out. It travels well (it’s very small) and gets the job done pretty much instantly. In short, if you’re looking for an easy, portable way to relieve your aches and pains – running-related or not! – the Stinger is a great option.

Want to try it out for yourself? I’m giving one away! Enter here and spread the word – contest runs now through Friday, when I’ll announce the winner at noon EST. Giveaway is open to US residents only, sorry!

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But if you HAVE to have one right now, the folks at Recoup are giving you 10% off AND free shipping when you order your own Stinger – just use code jessrunshappy!

Good luck!

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!

Peek a Boo!

Hey, strangers! I bet you thought I disappeared, didn’t you? Well, I’m still here, just a little busy, you know how life goes.

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Here’s a picture of a scenic lake to denote the ambiguity of life. Or because I thought it was pretty.

How have you been? The summer has been moving along quite quickly over here, with lots of exciting updates and races and training to talk about – so let’s jump right in, list style!

I’ve (re)started using My Fitness Pal

About a month ago, I had a wake-up call when I saw a photo someone had snapped of me after a BBQ. I could say it was a bad angle and I had just eaten my weight in delicious goodies (and had a few bloat-inducing beers), but it was proof of  what I’d been denying for weeks: I’d been slowly gaining the weight I lost at the beginning of the year. Even though I was working out like crazy and getting faster with each run, but my tighter clothes and the scale clearly indicated that something needed to change.

About 4 years ago I used My Fitness Pal to keep track of my food and exercise and found some success with it. But after 6 months I convinced myself that I didn’t need it any longer. “I’m a smart person, I know how many calories are in everything, no app needed!” Well that lasted for a while, but clearly things change (and so did I)!  At the suggestion of a friend, I fired up the app once more, started logging my food and exercise… and I was shocked at how grossly inaccurate I was at counting calories all this time!

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But I was grateful for the wake up call and kept at it, logging my meals, snacks, and workouts every day for about a month now, losing just about 5 lbs as of last week. I’m feeling stronger, things are fitting more easily, I’m not as bloated, and in general I’m glad to be back in the My Fitness Pal swing of things. Have you ever used it? What are your thoughts?

I booked my final NYRR 9+1 race!

That’s right, the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon is in my sights, and I’m not letting up.

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I’m volunteering at a long run next month, registered for their weekday evening Fun Run, and decided to have the Marathon Kickoff 5 Miler be my final NYRR race of the year to earn my 9+1 for entry into the 2017 marathon!

Speaking of NYRR…

… I ran two Road Runner races in the last three weeks! I’ll have more pics and full recaps soon, but I finished both the FRNY Pride Run and the Run to Breathe, remembering halfway through each race why running in the middle of summer is a friggin nightmare.

We tried our hands (arms?) at kayaking – and survived!

My brother and sister-in-law like to go kayaking and because it’s something to do outside that looked like a pretty good workout, I wanted to get a piece of that action. So they took  us to one of their favorite spots and wouldn’t you know, we freakin loved it!

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It was a REAL workout – and not just for the upper body, either! I was shocked to find different parts of my body aching even 48 hours after – like my butt and hamstrings, from holding myself upright in the kayak! I never would have thought it could be so total body, but it was, and I loved it. Thanks for introducing us to a new adventure, Mere!

I completed ONE of my outfits for the Star Wars Rebel Challenge!

This one I’m really excited about, you guys. ICYMI, I got into the Rebel Challenge in Disneyland next January, which means I’m running a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday, and both races are STAR WARS THEMED! I don’t think I have to elaborate on why this is pretty much the 2nd or 3rd coolest adventure I’ve ever embarked upon, next to marriage and maybe interning for the NJ Devils back in college.

A lot of thought went into this costume, too: because it’s a themed Disney race, I knew I HAD to go in costume. It’s all a part of the fun! But because this is my first challenge-style race with back to back mileage, I didn’t want to get too crazy with stuff I normally wouldn’t run in, especially for the half marathon. Which made it pretty easy to decide on who I’m going to run those 13.1 miles as:

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BB-8!

Because he’s fast and sarcastic and round (kind of like me), BB-8 was a natural choice.

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As for the 10K the day before, well – I’ve got some ideas for that costume, but I need to find AND test some gear out to see how feasible it would be to run in. I’m about 90% sold, because it’s a shorter distance and I can do anything for 6+ miles, especially since I plan on taking it easy and stopping for lots of pics during this race (so I won’t need to stop as much during the half). Stay tuned!

That about does it for me – I’ve got some other posts and recaps coming up this week too, but in the meantime, how’s it going by you? What have you been up to during these dog days of summer? Tell me!

What’s Up?

I don’t know about you, but lately the weeks are just flying by here! I feel like once we hit May, every weekend has been filled with traveling, working out like crazy, weddings, parties, BBQs, and general craziness with no clear end in sight. Last weekend we had legitimately nothing on the calendar and freaked out: I swore I had to be forgetting something! But it was nice to relax for about 2.4 hours before swinging right back into things.

Let’s take a look at some highlights from the past month or two and get caught up, shall we?

We have a winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered last week’s Mermaid Club Giveaway – I love being able to give you guys cool stuff 🙂 And now, drumroll please…. our winner is Michelle B!

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Check your email, girl, I’ve sent you the deets on how to get your goods 🙂

I’m Tri-ing (Again)

After two polar opposite experiences at the Jersey Girl and One More Tri sprint triathlons last year, I wasn’t itching to burst back onto the triathlon scene anytime soon. But I’m highly suggestible, and when my coworker said she wanted to do her first sprint tri and I mentioned the Jersey Girl as the best one for beginners, before I knew what was happening I was registered for it again.

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I don’t know how it happened, I swear!

I’m honestly really excited – all the tri training I did last summer had a HUGE impact on my endurance and speed as a runner once I got back into a single sport come the fall, so I’m pretty stoked to have all that cross training to look forward to.

I unofficially started training a few weeks ago by incorporating biking and swimming into my weekly workouts, and as of next week I’ll start doing brick workouts to get back into the swing of biking then running. I also continue to bump up my strength training to get stronger overall, which I hope will pay off in the long run.

My friend got married (and we had a vacation too)!

On June 10th, my friend (and sometimes running/racing buddy) Tina married her sweetheart Justin in LBI and we had the honor of celebrating with them and a bunch of our wild and crazy friends!

This crew is the best – they’re the most loyal, drama-free people I know, and they REALLY know how to party, so it’s always a good time. And to keep the good times rolling after the wedding, we stuck around in LBI for the weekend and fully embraced the island life. We go down there every year and have adopted it as our second home, so it’s always a nice relaxing getaway.

I won a Kylo Ren doll at a carnival stand on the first spin (!!) and Mike got to test out his Captain chops, then the morning we left we headed over to Barnegat to climb the lighthouse like we do every year – my knees were aching after but it was worth it!

I’m still running happy

While I haven’t been the best at keeping you all up to date on my running adventures here, if you’ve been following along with me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, you can attest to the fact that I’m still running, and almost all of those miles are indeed happy!

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I even discovered a new trail – right in my hometown! It’s not so much of a trail as it as a nature preserve, and I was the only runner on it the day I went (aside from a family of fishermen and women on the opposite side of the lake), but it was so cool. I spent an afternoon on my own, exploring the ins and outs of this new area, snapping pics as I went.

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I even got to nail my first solo jumping picture!

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In addition to solo exploration, I connected with Mere again for some bright, beautiful miles down at the canal near my office too!

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Running happy together 🙂

There’s been a few other exciting events – namely, an awesome 5K I helped my company take part in, which I’ll recap later this week – but other than that it’s quiet and I like it that way!

How about you: now that summer is here, how’s your training going? Do anything good the past few months? Share!

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!