I’m Running the 2022 NYC Marathon for Arts in the Armed Forces!

I’ve got some BIG race news: I’m running the 2022 NYC Marathon for Adam Driver’s nonprofit, Arts in the Armed Forces!

Theater has shown me that it’s possible to turn feelings into words, and to turn those words into a language that people from all different walks of life can share. AITAF‘s mission of helping members of the military community do the same is something I care deeply about.

As a longtime AITAF donor and runner, getting to run the NYC Marathon again – this time for AITAF – is a once in a lifetime opportunity to support a cause that means so much to me by doing what I love. I can’t wait to take on 26.2 with my teammates in November!

It is an honor and a privilege to run the 2022 NYC Marathon for AITAF, but now I need your help to reach my fundraising goal! Please consider giving to this incredible cause and supporting me on my journey. Even $5 can help bring free artistic experiences to military communities, encourages an exchange of ideas across ranks and between service members and artists, and fosters resiliency, boosts morale, and builds community.

I look forward to sharing my journey to 26.2 with you all here – and I’m also now searching for a running coach with a focus on strength training and beginner runners! 😉

Eyes on the Prize

If we’re being honest, we can all scroll back on this blog and on my Instagram page and see that after the 2017 NYC Marathon, things took a turn for me, and running took a backseat. Depression, being laid off, injury after injury – hell, I even tried telling myself that I don’t even like running anyway. But thanks to the pandemic (stay with me), I started working on my mental health and built a stable foundation that I now find myself ready to build upon even further…

… by setting a GOAL.

I’ve gotten back into running on and off over the last few years, but each time, that *something extra* was missing to keep me on track. I’d stick to a routine for a few weeks at a time; to look slightly better for an event, or to get my form back in order for a shorter race. But I never clicked back into the long-term “I am a runner”, feel-weird-if-I-don’t-workout mode that I lived through for basically all of 2009-2017.

Part of me thinks it’s because my goals weren’t big enough – I could brush off really getting into training for a 5K because those are still relatively easy for me, and I even bowed out of a half marathon at one point because I didn’t have the strength training base to build my mileage quick enough post-injury. But what it really comes down to is the fact that I didn’t set any goals because I was doing all of that work with a layer of anxiety on top of it all. Which is kind of miserable.

To be fair, I was miserable for a lot of other reasons, not the working out almost every day.

But recently, I jumped at the opportunity to do something I’ve been contemplating since 2018 or 2019, and I find myself in an interesting position of actually having that motivation to work towards a goal…

Every. Single. Day.

I can’t share what it is just yet – that’ll happen June 1st – but I promise that you won’t miss it because it’s all I’m going to be able to talk about for a good long time.

What I can say is that it has filled me with a motivation that I didn’t know I had. To never waste an opportunity to move my body. To make the healthy choice. To get it right. To be stronger every day, in every way. I haven’t felt a focus like this since I don’t know when. And I love it.

I’m so excited that I’m surprised you can’t hear me vibrating from here – but once you know why, I think you’ll be vibrating with me. So just hang in there, and tell me in the comments: have you ever had motivation smack you in the face like I have? How did you feel about it? Let me know!

My Favorite Amazon Running Gear

One of the great things about running is that it doesn’t take a lot of THINGS, right? You just usually need a good pair of sneakers and some comfy clothes and you’re set. But of course because we live in a capitalist society (/s) there is no end to the gEaR you can buy to make running easier and more fun.

In the last year I’ve tried to cut back on the amount of stuff that I own in general (thanks, Marie Kondo!), but I’ve discovered a few basic running must-haves that I’ve ordered (and reordered) from Amazon that I’d love to share with you guys in the hopes that you might find a new favorite or two of your own.

Note: As an Amazon Associate, I make a small commission for any purchases made via the links on this page. I only share these things because I use them and can personally vouch for them – but if you really like them and want to buy them too, I’d really appreciate it if you do so through these links and support what I do here in a teeny tiny way!

The number one item on this list has to be my emotional support water bottle.

It comes with me everywhere. I prefer Nalgene because they’re virtually indestructible, affordable, can hold a huge amount of water, and come in a crazy variety of colors. I also have a sticker obsession which these bottles show off nicely. The only downside to the wide mouth on this one is that during a run it can get a little messy, but they also come in a narrow mouth version too.

The next item on the list is an 8-pack of socks that has basically made me love running again.

I spent a LOT of money on socks in my running heyday. So much money, in fact, that I used those socks for FAR longer than I probably should have. I wanted to get that cost per wear down, but ended up wearing them into flat scratchy pancakes that weren’t so much socks as they were… steel wool. I didn’t want to spend that kind of money again, but also didn’t want blisters on my heels anymore, so I caved and bought these incredibly high-rated Saucony socks (seriously, 76,000+ ratings??) and let me just say: I should have bought them YEARS ago. If your sock drawer is in need of an overhaul, don’t waste money on crazy expensive name brands that are like $15 per pair. Just bookmark this listing and thank me later.

When it comes to running clothes, I haven’t bought much new gear in a while; most of my stuff has held up pretty well since I’ve taken such a long hiatus. But running indoors on the treadmill, I want to air out my legs, but CANNOT run in regular shorts. I have thicker thighs that rub together like many other humans’ do, and I thought the raw, red chafing that happens after even a quarter mile was unavoidable – until I discovered these super-soft bike shorts with an 8″ inseam.

To be honest, I originally got them for lounging around and working from home, but they turned out to be amazing for running too, and so now I have a few pairs and practically live in them.

And race in them too.

Next, I started using Run Gum pretty much when it came out in like 2011 or 2012, and while I haven’t used it as regularly as I used to, it is great to have on hand as a kickstart to a run. The caffeine boost is just enough to get my engine going, and it doesn’t give me the jitters or make me have to use the bathroom like a cup of coffee definitely would.

Another must-have is something I wouldn’t have expected. The park that my husband and I love to run is a nice 4-mile loop with no stops. In the spring and fall, I was OK, but in the summer I learned that I have to run with some kind of hydration. But holding a water bottle and phone and also my key and possibly some pepper spray (because hi, 2022) gets obnoxious. This handheld water bottle and zipper pack turned out to be a godsend. It holds my keys and any other extras, along with my hydration AND my phone, all with a clear face that I can still access my phone controls through. Brilliant.

Now if it could just cool down the rest of my body while running in 90% humidity and 90 degrees…

Post-run, I rely on a few key players. Number one: this heating pad. Yes, I know it’s not technically a running tool, but approaching 40 and moving regularly means I need a bit more downtime between hard efforts, and this heating pad is SO good at easing those tight muscles. I don’t think I have to say anymore about that…

Lastly – and this isn’t a post-run tool as much as it is a self care tool – I love this electric foot file. I used to have one of those PedEgg graters that you rub back and forth over your heels and other rough spots, but after years of use, that thing got pretty dull. I had my a-ha moment during a home pedicure when I was using so much effort to grind away on my hideously scruffy heels that my Apple Watch thought I was exercising and counted the 15 minutes as “Strength Training”. Thanks, Steve Jobs.

Just in time for sandal season!

This electric file is practically magic because it buffs the rough spots away in just a few seconds, and I don’t even have to break a sweat when I use it. Win-win!

That’s it for my favorite running gear on Amazon, but is there anything that I missed? Something you’d like to see on a future list? Let me know in the comments!

Change What You Can, Manage What You Can’t

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you most likely know that I am a big proponent of mental health awareness. Having struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life, I’ve tried a lot of different treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Thankfully, despite a few wobbles of ~6 months here and there, my mental health has remained relatively stable since the early 2000’s when my anxiety manifested as severe OCD that left me holed up in my college dorm room for days at a time, bleeding from hands that I washed close to 100 times a day. Back then, Zoloft paired with a good therapist helped get me back on track, and I remained relatively stable until… a few months into 2020.

I don’t need to go into detail about that dumpster fire here; I have already recapped my struggle during the early stages of the pandemic and had nothing but good things to say about Effexor when I finally started it in April of 2021. And now that almost a year has passed, life on medication has just continues to get better, even if I don’t post about it here on the blog or on social media often.

The combination of Effexor and therapy finally allowed me the mental space to begin the monumental amount of work it would take to become the best version of myself.

In short, I was able to organize my thoughts in a clear and concise way that made me a better wife, friend, daughter, coworker, and advocate for myself. Our marriage improved. We celebrated 10 years married in August 2021!

I found and started a better job (all remote, better pay, and SUCH a better culture). I spent 3 months on paperwork and phone calls to roll over all 5 of my various retirement funds into one account. I started using a budgeting app to get our finances in order and paid off 90% of our credit card debt by September. And finally, most importantly, in October we were able to make an offer on our very own house – which we closed on December 1!

But while I was busy doing all this WORK, running and working out fell off my plate. I know that some people run or workout through their challenges, but I’m not them. After working 8-9 hours a day, I needed all of the energy I could spare to work on myself. And I never realized how many of my own needs I’d ignored until I finally had the mental space to explore them. I’d lived with anxiety and depression for so long that I didn’t realize what healthy felt like until I got there. I explicitly remember asking my doctor, “THIS is what you all feel like ALL THE TIME? Why did no one TELL me??”

There’s no end to the work I’m doing on my inner self, but as I find more of a balance, I’ve started working out and running again. The runs are short, the workouts hurt, but they’re happening and consistency is the name of the game now. I’m trying to move once a day in some way, even if that’s a 15 minute walk on the treadmill.

I signed up for a few races in the spring – and I even threw my name into the NYC Marathon Lottery! I find out if I get in on March 30th, and I still don’t know if I want to see that charge on my bank account or if I’ll be relieved when I don’t see it.

All that’s to say – tentatively – that I’m back! I’m ready to share myself with you all again, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride as I see where it takes me. Either way, thank you for sticking around this long (can you believe I’ve been running this blog for EIGHT YEARS?) and cheers to many more happy miles!

Goal Setting

Real talk: I’ve only run a handful of races since the NYC Marathon in 2017.

Yes, I know running races isn’t the only thing that makes one a runner, but when I had previously been running at least 2 half marathons a year, along with countless 5K’s and 10K’s sprinkled throughout the year, every year since like 2012, that’s a big drop.

This was due to a number of factors: I lost my job a few months after the marathon and fell into a depression. A new job a few months after that left little mental time for training, but I still did a few shorter distance races here and there. Then I was sidelined by an injury and nerve issues in 2019 that lasted for nearly the whole year. And then we all know what 2020 brought.

2021 brought a lot of changes. I went unofficially gluten- and corn-free. I started limiting my alcohol intake. I went on a new anti-anxiety medication. I dropped about 15 lbs. I started seeing a few new doctors and had bloodwork done, which helped me uncover a few things that needed to change – and gave me some possible insight into some of those nerve issues I’d had previously.

Back in 2019, my mileage dropped and my running decreased because my legs used to twitch and even give out on me while running anything over 3-4 miles. It felt like little electrical shocks shooting through my calves and my feet, and sometimes even in my hands and arms. I had every test imaginable done: MRI’s, EKG’s, and even an EMG nerve test where they stuck a needle in my leg and moved it around to find and test different nerves. Basically the only test that I DIDN’T have done was bloodwork.

Fast-forward to now, when I started seeing these new doctors. After hearing about my history, one recommended I start taking a B12 supplement, and lo and behold: B12 deficiency can cause exactly the types of nerve issues I was having back in 2019. Obviously, I can’t go back in time and get bloodwork done to see if the two things were connected, and I haven’t run more than 4 miles or so anytime recently to see if the twitching will return, but I’m taking my daily vitamin and feeling cautiously hopeful about running longer distances very soon.

All that cautious optimism has me thinking about the future – which also involves looking back at my past. When I was running a half marathon every spring and every fall, I was almost always training for some race or another. It was a lot of work, but I had found a good balance between running and life, and felt stronger and more confident in general when I was running regularly.

also: I miss those thighs

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe I’m blinded by the Effexor. Maybe I’ll try running and fail at mile 5 again.

But maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll get to mile 6, and then mile 7, and mile 8. And before I know it, I’ll be at mile 13. And maybe I’ll get that confidence back.

Either way, I’m finally excited for whatever happens.

How the Peloton App Changed My Life

I know, I know, it sounds dramatic. But after using it for nearly six months, I don’t think I can overstate just how much the Peloton app has improved my physical and mental game.

It all started when I was struggling to stay active during the pandemic. My motivation to push myself had all but disappeared, and we cancelled our gym membership as the hope of being safe in a gym faded more with each week the pandemic went on. I wanted to work out consistently, but I needed help. I’d heard about the Peloton app from friends that had the Bike and Tread, but… I was skeptical.

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Peloton as a concept has been mocked endlessly. Who can forget the cheesy Peloton commercial that launched a thousand couch critics , or the exhausting “hot takes” from purist influencers mocking people for spending thousands of dollars on workout equipment when they can just run outside or get a cheap bike and hit the road. To those haters, I say: get a life. If you feel the need to berate or otherwise shame someone for buying a treadmill or a bike with a logo on it? Put the phone down, take a deep breath, and go eat an apple or something. And on the flip side, if you own Peloton equipment, good for you! I don’t give a f*ck how you spend your money, least of all on workout equipment. If buying a branded bike or treadmill helps you get and stay active? GO FOR IT.

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…aaaanywaaaayyy! Popular opinion aside, the bigger concern I had was the cost. At $13/month, the app would be a new commitment. BUT, I reasoned, with the gym out of the equation, we were saving $40/month in membership fees. So I started the free one-month trial of the app and told myself to give it at least that long.

But after the first day, I was hooked.

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Strength Training

The app interface is super easy to use, with an intuitive filtering function that allows you to sort and select classes by type, body area you want to focus on, length, difficulty, music type, and even by instructor. I started small with On-Demand strength training and HIIT classes, 10 minutes at a pop, before work and in between meetings: arms, back, legs, glutes, full-body… you name it, I did it. I learned the lingo, met all the various instructors, and left it all on the mat. Soon, I was stacking 3-4 mini workouts of 10-15 minutes on top of each other in one day.

My motivation came back in spades. I loved seeing badges add up in my profile, and the app’s integration with my Apple Watch encouraged me to get up and get going. There are challenges you can join within the app, and even training programs too.

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Also, even though the On Demand classes are recorded, you can still see a count of how many other people are taking the class at the same time as you. In the middle of quarantine, there was something comforting to log on at a random time and find 7 other people in a class with me.

Walking & Running

In addition to the cross-training strength classes, I also took a few outdoor running classes with some success. It was easier to find the motivation to keep going farther than I’d normally go by simply selecting a 30- or 45-minute run and hitting the road. But everything changed when we lucked out and bought a second-hand treadmill.

Every morning, I rolled out of bed and onto the treadmill for short On Demand walking and running classes. 1-2-3 miles at a time, it added up. If I felt good – and most days, I did – I added another workout onto my schedule and kept going. Instructor Rebecca Kennedy quickly became my Peloton sensei (seriously, I’m convinced we were separated at birth because we have eerily similar upbringings and families).

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I learned how to “high five” other participants, and squealed with joy when they returned the favor. Sharing workouts to social brought me tons of new encouragement from other Peloton fans, and I found my groove again. Soon, I was logging more miles, more often, and I was officially Pro-Peloton (App).

Meditation

Just when I thought I couldn’t love the app anymore, I discovered yet another benefit when my therapist suggested I try daily meditation – and wouldn’t you know it, Peloton has that too!

And just like the more active classes, you can sort the meditation sessions by time, by intention, and more. And again, the participant list was reassuring, with an average of 10-20 people taking “Sleep” and “Rest Day” evening meditation classes “with” me most nights.

Funny story: I logged into an On-Demand “Acceptance” class just after midnight on election night and found 95 other people in the virtual room with me. I haven’t stopped laughing about that since.

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LOTS of people apparently looking for tools to help them gain acceptance on election night, right along with me. 

I could go on, but I don’t think I have to; it’s safe to say I love this app and it’s only helping me more the more I use it. Next to the treadmill, paying the monthly app fee is the best investment I’ve made in my health in recent years. While I’ve already gotten so much use out of it for the past 6 months, I can easily see myself using it for the foreseeable future. And the best part is, there is really no risk of “running out” of workouts, either – there are HUNDREDS of classes On Demand, in every possible combination, with more being added every day. Yay for options!

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Also: I’m not being paid by Peloton to talk up their app (god, I wish) – I just have gotten a lot of comments on Instagram about how I’m liking the app and figured I’d share my full thoughts here. With that said, now I want to hear from you: have you tried the Peloton app, or any of their equipment? How do you like it? 

A Very Special Bonus Episode of “Running and…”

After a great chat about running and physical therapy with Tiffanie (@Star_wars_runnah), our conversation soon turned to our number one shared interest beyond running: Star Wars.

This is a little bonus video of what happens when you put two Star Wars fans together after nearly 8 months of quarantine with no one to show off their toys and talk Star Wars with.