Thursday, December 29, 2011

These Shoes Are Made For Walking

One of the things I love about living in Washington D.C. is that I can walk almost every where I need to go.

But all the walking around I do kind of limits my footwear options.

When I'm walking blocks and blocks to get places, I'd much rather be in comfortable shoes that don't destroy my feet, knees, hips, etc. Usually that means I'll be walking around in a pair of old running shoes.

Hardly the most stylish thing ever.

So when reps from Teva and Ahnu reached out to me and offered to send me some more stylish (but still comfortable) commuting shoes, I was happy to take them up on it.

I picked three different styles to try out that all served different purposes.

These hot pink shoes from Teva were my "fun shoes."

fun shoe

They were bright and bold and just a little bit out there. But man were they comfortable.

These black shoes from Ahnu were perfect for wearing during my regular work commute.

work shoe

They were less noticeable than my running shoes under my black work pants, and they let me carry my "office-appropriate" shoes in my purse until I got to work.

These grey shoes from Ahnu were my more practical "Sunday errand" shoes.

errand shoe

I wore them when I had to lug groceries home from the store or haul veggies home from the farmer's market. They were great for wearing out and about as I knocked errands off my list. I appreciated the extra support they had (at least compared to my beat up running shoes).

I was a big fan of all three pairs and was glad to have something other than running shoes to wear when running around town.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Biking the Capital Crescent Trail

Last Thursday before I came home for Christmas the weather was in the 60's in D.C. and I thought it was the perfect day to take my bike out for a second ride.

bike ride

I'm still really nervous riding my bike on the busy roads in D.C., but luckily the D.C.-area has several well-maintained trails perfect for biking and running.

On Thursday, I decided to explore the Capital Crescent Trail for the first time. This is a great trail that runs from Georgetown in D.C. all the way into Montgomery County, Maryland.

View of the Potomac from the trail

Seven miles of trail from Georgetown to Bethesda are nicely paved, while the rest of the trail is crushed stone.

start of trail

I took my bike to the paved part of the trail and set out on my ride.

I was a little shaky at first. There were a lot of people out running and biking, and I was worried I'd crash into someone.

But after I was going for a few minutes, I was getting a pretty good feel for shifting and braking.

I started feeling more and more comfortable picking up the pace a little bit.

In total, I did a 14 mile ride in just under an hour and ten minutes. According to Garmin, that works out to something close to a 12 mph pace.

I'm hoping we get some more mild days in D.C. this winter so I can take my bike out for some more rides. My bike confidence is definitely building with each ride.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Little Christmas Fun

With just a few days to go until Christmas, I thought it would be fun to play along with and take this holiday quiz that I've seen floating around the blogosphere. Fill free to steal it and play yourself! If you do share a link in the comments so I can go check out your answers!

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?

Hot chocolate for sure. Preferably with marshmallows or whipped cream.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

Santa allows wraps the presents.

presents

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?

We do colored lights on our tree but white lights outside. I'm a big fan out white lights outside.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

Nope.

5. When do you hang your decorations up?

Usually sometime over Thanksgiving weekend because that's when everyone is home. But this year I think my parents did most of the decorating after I was back in Maryland.

Terps ornament
Love my Terps ornament

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

My mom's candied sweet potatoes are definitely my new favorite. I used to absolutely hate them as a little kid, but now I can't get enough of them. At Thanksgiving, the leftovers didn't last nearly as long as I would have liked.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?

When we were little, my brother and I used to wake up at like 3 a.m. to sneak downstairs to see if the presents were there. Then we'd try to wake my parents up and insist we open them right away. Yea, Mom and Dad were never too thrilled about that. Now we can barely pry my brother out of bed at 11 a.m. to open presents.

8. What is on your Christmas Wish list?

Is it a "wish list" item if I already know I'm getting it? I picked out the Zensah compression sleeves that I've wanted for a while now.

9. Do you open a gifts on Christmas Eve?

No. How could we do that if Santa hasn't been to the house yet?

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

Sad fact, I don't have my own tree this year. But last year, I bought lots of little glass balls in maroon and gold. I thought it looked pretty.

Tree with bulbs

11. Snow? Love it or dread it?

It's fun for the first day, then it needs to go away immediately and stop messing up the traffic in D.C.

12. Real tree or fake tree?

I've only ever had fake trees. Growing up, my Dad never wanted to risk tree fires with a real tree.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

I've had lots of great gifts over the years. When I was little I remember being so so excited about getting Mall Madness (you know that board game where you race through the mall to buy stuff). In more recent years, my Under Armour stuff and other general running gear has been some of my favorite.

14. What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you?

Going home and getting to see friends and family that I don't see very often otherwise.

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Like my uncle, my cousin and my mom

15. What is your favorite Holiday dessert?

My family doesn't have any sort of traditional holiday desserts, but my uncle makes a mean cheesecake.

16. What is your favorite tradition?

On Christmas Eve, we go to dinner at our family friend's house. There are four or five families that show up in the afternoon. We eat dinner, go to Christmas Eve Mass, and then go back for dessert. We've been doing it for years now and it's my favorite part of Christmas.

17. What tops your tree?

A star.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving?

I am obsessed with giving gifts. I love trying to pick out the perfect thing for someone and then I get really antsy waiting for them to open it. I love seeing their reaction.

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19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?

All I Want For Christmas Is You.

20. Candy canes, yuck or yum?

Yum (in moderation)

21. Favorite Christmas Movie?

Mickey Mouse's Christmas Carol followed closely by Love Actually.

22. What do you leave for Santa?

Milk, cookies and a carrot for Rudolph.

23. Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?

Wake up, open presents and then my dad makes us a big scrambled egg breakfast.

24. Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall?

Definitely online. I like to avoid the crowds when I can. Plus free two-day shipping with Amazon prime is pretty much the best thing ever.

25. Christmas letter or Christmas card?

I don't send my own, but my family sends cards.

And that's a wrap!

PB290091

From my family to yours, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Office Holiday Party

Last week, my office had its holiday potluck complete with gifts

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a well-stocked fridge

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a visit from Santa

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and a Wii bowling tournament where I took home the grand prize!

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After eating some seriously delicious food at the office and listening to Christmas music with my coworkers, I am officially ready to head home to PA for some family Christmas festivities. Tomorrow night can't come fast enough.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Running for My Granddaddy's Memory

Hey guys! Today I have an awesome guest post from Jackie about running a race with a charity organization. I've never actually run a race for charity, but I have tons of friends who have and I thought Jackie's story was touching and wanted to share!

Jackie Clark blogs for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance's blog. She also has a personal blog, Jackie's Arc, that shares health and fitness tips. Jackie has been participating in charity marathon running for the past 3 years. To stay in shape she runs 5-6 times a week either outside or at her local gym. Feel free to contact Jackie with any questions jclarkmca@gmail.com.

There are many things that I have done in my life for worthwhile reasons, but none more so then when I entered the 2009 5K Run For The Cure marathon for mesothelioma research. This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart because I lost my grandfather to this dreadful disease at a time when the mesothelioma survival rate wasn't high because of lack of knowledge. So for me running this race was about giving others the chance that I didn’t feel Granddaddy had.

The most important part of running the marathon, aside from raising funds, was to prepare myself both physically and emotionally. Of course raising funds were also important, which meant finding sponsors to contribute and support me in the marathon. Obviously I went to friends and family first, and luckily the business my grandfather worked for was eager to support and contribute as well. In fact, when my church members and my co-workers discovered that I was running this marathon for my grandfather’s memory to help raise money for research and such, the fundraising was no problem at all.

Now that I had the finances covered it was time to cover the physical part, so I began training. Of course I couldn’t just get out and start running, I had two months before I had to run the marathon, while that seems like a lot of time, its really not when you look at it in physical fitness terms, which meant it was time to get serious and get into good shape.

I started by walking twice a day for a week. I would walk in the morning before work and then in the evening afterwards. This helped stretch my legs and such out as well as helped me develop the muscles and strength in my legs.

After a week of the walking and increasing my speed it was time to start running. I began slowly and for a short distance, after a week I increased my distance until I worked my way up to the full distance.

Finally, the day of the marathon came and I was ready and eager to run.

Although it was hard to finish, I did, and I raised a good bit of money for mesothelioma research, which I donated in Granddaddy’s name, something I thought fitting since I felt his presence there.

Although I was thrilled to even finish the race I was a little disappointed that I came in 27th place out of 57 runners (It was my first marathon experience, lets keep that in mind!) However, the fact that we raised approximately $23,257 dollars for mesothelioma research on April 18, 2009 in Mobile, AL, more then made up for that small disappointment.

Have any of you ever run a race for charity? How did you go about fundraiser? And did you train with a team to help you build endurance?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just Like Riding a Bike

You know that phrase, "It's just like riding a bike" that's supposed to describe how easy it is to remember how to bike ride (or really do any activity) even if you haven't done it in years and years?


Wellll I'm pretty sure that phrase doesn't apply to me.

The last time I rode a bike was probably more than 10 years ago.

And we'll just say when I took my new bike for my first outdoor ride this weekend, it didn't all come back to me.

I am terrified every time I get on the bike. I'm scared of going too fast and losing control. I'm scared I'll get hit by a car. I'm scared I'll pitch over the front of the handle bars and break something.

It kind of reminds me of when I started to learn to drive. I was definitely that girl who was afraid to go faster than five miles per hour.

Turns out the same thing is true on the bike.

At one point, I was riding down a hill at a blistering 6 mph.

But I could climb the hill at closer to 10 mph because I felt more in control and much comfortable going marginally faster.

(You know something's not quite right when you go faster up the hills than down the hills!)

I'm sure it will just be a matter of time before I gain some confidence on the bike, but right now I'm seriously wondering if this whole triathlon thing was the best idea ever.

Swimming and running aren't going to be an issue, but this whole bike thing. I just don't know.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Out Of Shape

Remember two weeks ago when I could run 9.3 miles without a problem?

It is absolutely amazing how fast running fitness disappears.

That was my last race of the season and I promised myself some time away from running to focus on other things and to give myself a mental break.

In less than two weeks, my running fitness has evaporated.

I went out for a run last night and I was sucking wind after 3 miles. I felt like I was pushing so hard, but every time I looked at my Garmin I'd see I was running approximately a 10:30 pace.

I felt so out of shape and like a major slacker.

Then I remembered it's the off-season, time off is good, and it's really nothing to be upset about. Sure fitness levels disappear fast, but they can come back just as easily with a little bit of work.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trying to Find Balance

Finding balance is never easy especially when we're constantly told we can have it all and do everything, you know, that whole superwoman complex. But trying to have it all and do everything is a one-way road to burnout town.

Trust me, I know.

I've been experiencing that a lot the last several months, between major work projects, the end of half marathon training and a jam packed social calendar.

I blog a lot about trying to find balance between work, fitness and my social life, but it's something I constantly struggle with.

When I'm training for a race, I tend to go overboard and sacrifice just about everything else at the expense of my training. I skip happy hours or nights out to make sure I have enough sleep to get in my long runs.

Philly half

When I'm not training, I make up for all the skipped social events by jamming my calendar so full I can barely function.

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Tailgates are my favorite social event!

Here's a glimpse of what a typical weekend looks like for me during the off-season:

Friday evening - Happy hour with friends
Friday night - Movie with friends
Saturday morning - Run
Saturday afternoon - Bike shopping (or other errands)
Saturday night - Out with friends
Sunday morning - Church, grocery shopping, other errands
Sunday afternoon - Lunch with friends
Sunday evening - Sunday Night Football or collapsing on the couch exhausted

Lately I've been trying to avoid the extremes and find a more happy balance.

Here's what I've been trying:

1. Setting a goal to get in three workouts each week. Rather than having to do certain workouts on certain days like when I'm training, I'm shooting to just get up and move a couple of times each week. This lets me be flexible enough to fit in workouts and social events.

2. Learning to say no. I love having a full calendar and spending time with friends and family, but there are only so many hours in a day and unless I learn how to clone myself, I can't be everywhere at once. I really struggle with turning down invites, but I'm trying to make more me time in my calendar so I'm not burnt out all the time.

3. Adding in variety. I don't think I've run once since the Hot Chocolate 15K, but I have done lots of pool workouts, which I'm really enjoying. I find that mixing up my workouts in the off-season helps prevent mental burnout and gives my running muscles some much needed rest. Plus swimming works my arms, so it's nice to have that bit of balance in my workouts.

4. Getting enough sleep. A jammed social calendar sometimes really cuts into my sleep and I end up burning the candles at both ends a bit too much. I'm pretty sure that's why I got sick last week. So I'm trying to be more diligent about getting my eight hours of shut eye. Even if that means going to bed early like a granny some nights of the week.

5. Not stressing about missed workout. Yes, I have a goal to move more in the winter, but if it doesn't happen it doesn't happen. I was sick last week and worked out once. I've only worked out once so far this week because I'm still tired and run down. It's not the end of the world. I obviously just need to be getting more sleep and and get better at saying no. But in the meantime, not stresses really helps.

I'm far from having this balance thing down to a science, but I think I'm getting a little bit better. At the very least, I'm embracing the off-season and enjoying my time off from serious training. So if nothing else, I'm good at finding balance there.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Last-Minute Gift Ideas For Fitness Fanatics

Normally I'm really on top of all my Christmas shopping and have everything done way ahead of time. Last year I had all my Christmas presents taken care of before Thanksgiving (New record!). This year, not so much.

As I've been trolling the Interwebz trying to find gifts for friends and family, I've also stumbled upon a lot of awesome fitness finds that I think would make awesome gifts.

Bonus: You can get most of these things online which saves you from battling holiday crowds at the mall! Just make sure you pick that rush delivery option if you're really under the gun.

Awesome Stocking Stuffers:

ID Bracelets:

There are lots of different options for carrying ID while running, but a new one I've recently tried is the FinishSafe tag. After you create a free profile online with your emergency contact information, FinishSafe will send you tags in a variety of sizes that you can use on your luggage, your keychain or your shoe. For an extra $7 you can order the FinishSafe sprint bracelet in a variety of colors to wear the tag on your wrist or ankle while running. If something happens to you, medical personal just enter the PIN number from the tags and can pull up all your information. Since your information lives in an online database you can update it easily whenever you want. Cost: Tags: free. Sprint band: $7.

Gym Bag Essentials:

I used to think gifts of shower gel, lotion, etc were all really lame, cop out gifts, but I've come to appreciate them more and more as I spend more time at the pool. It's just easier to keep a second set in my gym bag so I don't have to keep re-packing them. I'm a big fan of Bodycology lotion in Island Coconut because it smells like the beach.

Sessions with a Coach:

Whether it's a running coach, biking coach or swimming coach, a few sessions with an instructor can help improve technique, form and overall efficiency. I would love to have one or two sessions with a swim coach to help me with some of my stroke technique. I'd also love to have a running coach design me a customized training plan. Cost: Depends on the person and the service.

Under-the-Tree Presents:

Medal Holders:

These are fun and easy gifts to give to people who race a lot and have tons of medals just laying around. Medal holders give racers a nice way to display all the medals they've earned for their hard work. I got this one from Meli at Running on the Wall. I really like the design and the colors, plus she does personalization if you want your name on your holder. Since the brackets aren't super wide, I had to really squish some of my wider medal ribbons to make them fit. Cost: $16 - $50.

Compression Sleeves:

I've been asking Santa for compression sleeves the last couple of years and I think this is the year I'm finally going to get a pair. Compression sleeves help speed recovery after runs and most runners love anything that will help them get through some post-race soreness. Cost: $20 and up on Amazon.

Arm Warmers:

Perfect for when it's chilly at the race start, but not cold enough to warrant long sleeves. You can wear arms warmers for as long as you need to warm up and then push them down and run in your tank top or regular shirt without having to worry about taking off a jacket or pulling off long sleeves mid-race. Cost: $6 to $40+ on Amazon.

BodyMedia FIT Armbands:

It's no secret I am obsessed with numbers when it comes to fitness. I love measuring weight, speed, number of laps in the pool, really anything that I can possibly count in order to gain some sort of insight into my fitness. So it's no surprise I am a big fan of the BodyMedia FIT armbands. These little armbands that you wear throughout the day track calories burned, the peaks and valleys in your sleep cycle and a whole bunch of other fun data. Then you can upload it all to your computer to play around with it. The newest armband in the line, the Core, is smaller and sleeker than previous models. The company sent me a band to test and I promise a full review later, but I really love it so far. Cost: $180 to $260.

If the person you're shopping for has everything you can think of, you can never go wrong with a gift card to a running store or sporting goods store. I've picked up a lot of my favorite Under Armour gear that way!

If price weren't an issue, what would your ideal fitness gift be?

Per the FTC guidelines, some of these items were sent to me to test and review. I decided to include them here because I thought they'd make good gift ideas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Bike Shopping is Like Wedding Dress Shopping

Disclaimer: I've never actually been wedding dress shopping, but I watch a lot of Say Yes to the Dress.

I have spent the last two weekends in and out of just about every bike shop in the Maryland, D.C., Virginia area. I have tried a ton of different bikes, I've researched countless others online and I have compared prices, styles and a million other factors.

And the more time I spent in bike stores, the more I realized that shopping for a bike is just like shopping for a wedding dress.

Sarah and Brennan's Weddingroad bikes; Central Park
(Source, Source)

First you set your budget. Whether it's high or low, your budget determines just how fancy you can get and what things you'll have to sacrifice in terms of fit, style, etc.

You spend countless hours trying different brands and designers to see which fits best. You go from store to store talking to sales people, explaining what you're looking for and they pull out options they think would work best.

You try them all. Some you can tell right away absolutely won't work, but others you keep in the running as strong possibilities.

tri fail
This one was an epic fail. I actually fell off while test riding it.

With each new one you try, you're hoping you'll find "the one."

You target certain stores because you know they carry a style you've seen online and you're crushed to find out they don't actually have what you're looking for in stock.

ventura

Looked everywhere for this bike. Never got to try it.

Eventually you find "the one". It fits best, looks the nicest, and is in general the most awesome. If money weren't an issue, you'd buy it immediately.

trek
The one

But then reality smacks you in the face when you realize it's easily $300-$500 over budget.

A small part of you dies inside as you put "the one" back on the rack and reconsider all the more budget-friendly options you've tried.

You pick one that could work. It has a good fit and you feel comfortable with it.

It's not "the one", but it will get the job done on the big day.

That's how I ended up with my new bike: the Fugi Newest 3.0.

fugi

It wasn't the Trek I really loved (and still think about), but I felt comfortable on the Fugi and most importantly, it didn't break the bank.

Just like some brides have to walk away from the dress because they can't justify spending whatever amount on something they'll only wear once, I had to walk away from that Trek.

If I fall in love with triathlons or biking in general, I will have no problem shelling out the money for a higher-end bike. But for this little triathlon trial run, I couldn't justify spending nearly $1,000 on a bike that I may only use a few times.

At the end of the day, I'm happy with my new bike and I'm anxious to get some riding time in so I start to feel more comfortable in the saddle.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Why I Blog

Being sick is no fun. Especially when you're not really, really, sick, but you're just sick enough to be unable to function like a normal person and about the only thing you can do is sit in bed and watch TV, while repeatedly blowing your nose and sucking on cough drops.

That's been the story of my life the last several days and it's perfectly miserable. I'm starting to go a little stir crazy.

On account of this crappy sickness, I don't really have any fun workouts to share with you, so I thought I would shift gears a little bit today and tell you the story of why I started blogging.

I'm taking part in the Bliss Connect #6WeeksofBliss challenge so over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing several fun stories like this.

Why I Started Blogging:

It's been nearly six years since I was sitting in my sophomore year dorm room at the University of Maryland starring at the confirmation letter on my computer screen.

"Congratulations Jessica. You are registered for the 2006 Baltimore Marathon."

Emily, my roommate at the time (and still best friend to this day) was sitting at her desk practically giddy with excitement, singing a little song about how I was going to run my first marathon.

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Emily's on the right. She and my other friends made some awesome signs

I, however, was sitting at my own desk feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

I didn't know the first thing about running or training for races, but I sure as heck knew I needed something to keep me accountable in my training.

I Googled "blogs", Blogger.com came up as the first search result, and I typed in some ridiculousness and pushed publish, and this little blog was born.

The first post I ever wrote was such a rambling mess, I sometimes cringe looking back on it. My first several months of blogging, I talked about nothing but my marathon training: how my runs went, what the weather was like, just how slow I went (12 minute miles, if you're curious).

My blog existed to help me keep track of my training.

And then one day, someone left a comment -- a really nice, positive and encouraging comment.

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First comment

And when I posted questions I had about running or training, people started answering. It was like I suddenly had a life-line to a small group of people who had done this marathon training thing before and wanted to help me.

My little community of readers encouraged me when I had bad runs, offered support when I questioned whether I could actually run a marathon and virtually cheered me on when I crossed the finish line in Baltimore.

I say it time and time again, but I have learned so much from the collective wisdom of the running and blogging communities. That's what keeps me coming back to blogging. Sure, I like a place to ramble about my workouts to keep me accountable, but more importantly, I love this community so much.

I love the advice and the support, and I love reading your blogs to learn more and be challenged to try new things (like my upcoming tri, that was totally peer pressure from you guys!) And I have loved the opportunity to meet many of you in person and I hope to meet many more of you in the future!

And on the note that I'm starting to get a smidge sappy and sentimental, so I'm going to wrap this post up.

But tell me, why do you blog? Or why do you read blogs? How did you get started and what keeps bringing you back?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Getting Started With Fitness

You know how every year a ton of people make New Year's Resolutions to get in shape, lose weight, etc. etc. And those resolutions last approximately 2.5 seconds before people get distracted with their real lives?

One of the big efforts the FitFluential team is working on is to encourage fitness newbies to get started now. There's no reason to wait until the New Year when you can start making healthier choices today.

In light of that, I thought I'd take a quick minute to share how I got started with fitness and a few tips I learned along the way.

1. Take advantage of the equipment or tools available to you. College was the first time I wasn't actively playing a sport or part of a dance team and as I spent more time hanging out with friends and eating bad dining hall food, and less time being active, the pounds crept on. But a little before Thanksgiving break, I discovered the gym and started running for 30 minutes each day after class. It wasn't anything crazy, but it got me moving, and since the gym was free to students, it wasn't like I was breaking the bank to make fitness happen. So be on the lookout for fitness freebies. You never know what you'll find.

2. Read about fitness. When I was home from college I would read all of my mom's copies of Runner's World, Shape, Self, Fitness and whatever other fitness magazines she had laying around the house. They all gave me good ideas for workouts to try so I wouldn't get bored doing the same thing over and over. Reading all those Runner's World magazines is what convinced me I should train for my first marathon. So find magazines or blogs you love and use them as inspiration.

3. Find something you love. When I was in college, I fell in love with group fitness classes. I was that girl in the front row of kickboxing and strength training who never missed a class. I loved taking the classes so much that I got certified to teach them. When you find an activity you truly enjoy doing it makes it so much easier to show up. I loved the energy in group fitness classes and would recommend them to anyone looking to get started.

UMD fitness instructors
Throwback to my fitness instructor days

4. Challenge yourself. When I signed up for my first marathon, the only previous race I had done was a 5K with my mom, and we walked it. But I knew I wanted to push myself and challenge myself. So I got online and plunked down the entry fee for the Baltimore Marathon. After I paid the money, I knew I was committed to training and completing the race. Don't be afraid to commit to something big just because you've never done it before. Push your boundaries and you may surprise yourself.

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After finishing the Baltimore Marathon

5. But be safe! There's nothing wrong with shooting for the moon in your fitness goals, as long as you're safe about it. If you're training for a longer distance, make sure you follow a training plan that's suited to your level of activity. Make sure you have the proper gear (whether that be properly fitting running shoes or a bike that's sized to your body.) And rest when you need it to avoid injury.

6. Be realistic with your schedule. When I started working out, my classes and my social life were my first and second priorities. Fitness came in third. But it was important enough that I would try to make it work in my schedule. I'd try to schedule my classes so I had free time for the gym while my friends were still in their own classes or I'd wake up early to get in a work out. The most important thing that helped fitness stick was that I wasn't having to miss out on my life in order to get to the gym. If you can find that balance, you will be much more likely to stick to your goals.

7. Don't feel bad if you're not perfect. It's OK to skip your workouts every once in a while if you're too busy, too tired or just plain old want a day off. Don't beat yourself up because you "fell off the wagon." No one is perfect and we all have lives outside of working out. It's OK to nourish those other parts of your life too. Sometimes happy hour with friends will make you feel better mentally than any workout could.

So that's my story and my advice on how to get started with fitness today. Seriously, you don't have to wait until the New Year. Go for a walk today or pick an apple over a cookie. It's really the small changes that will add up over time.

What advice do you have for fitness newbies? How did you get started with fitness?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Ch-ch-changes

If you're not in Google Reader, you might have noticed a few changes to the blog today.

BlogHer
The first, and probably biggest, change you'll notice is that there is a now an ad in the sidebar. After attending the BlogHer conference for the past two years, loving every minute of it and learning a ton, I decided to join their network.

As a member of their network, I had option to put an ad on my site. I debated for a long time whether or not to do it.

I mean I've been blogging for more than five and a half years and I've never had advertising. But I liked the control BlogHer gives bloggers about what kind of ads they want to run on their sites. So I decided to give it a try. (Plus it will be nice to make a little bit of money for the time I spend on my blog, maybe I'll be over to cover a few race entry fees here and there.)

If it ends up being an epic failure, I'll re-evaluate.

I wanted to make it really clear that just because I now have an ad on my site, doesn't mean my overall content will change. You can still expect to hear about my training, my workouts, and random fun things happening in my life.

If you have questions or concerns about the ads, shoot me an email or let me know in the comments.

FitFluential
I also recently became part of the FitFluential Ambassador team.

If you haven't heard about FitFluential, it's a company started by the wonderful Kelly Olexa to connect health and fitness enthusiasts with brands that support living a healthy life. The idea is that by bringing together people who are passionate about health and fitness, we can create and spread lots of fitness motivation and influence (hence the name FitFluential).

If you write a blog, vlog, or just love fitness and you're interested in joining the FitFluential team, you can learn more about us and apply!

Social Media
As for the other changes, I freshened up my social media icons and grouped email in with them. If you're looking to sign up to get email updates, just hit the little envelope icon under "Stay in Touch." You can still find links to the RSS feed, and my Facebook and Twitter pages in the same place as before.

Whooo sorry for the long post. I know that was a lot of changes, but I just wanted to share them all with you. And seriously, if you have questions about anything (ads, FitFluential, my decision to join either team), I'm happy to answer!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Hot Chocolate 15K Review

Remember on Friday when I said I was worried about the race logistics for a 20,000 person race at such a small venue?

too many people
Hordes of people at the start

Well, everything that could have gone wrong logistically did.

1. The race premiums were sized really wrong. I got a small (my normal size) and ended up having to go up two sizes to a large to get the jacket to fit in the shoulders.

2. Traffic getting to the expo was a nightmare, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the traffic on race morning. My friends and I left really early and got to the site two hours before the race was supposed to start and still sat in traffic for a solid 30 minutes get to the parking lot.

3. The start of the 15K was delayed an hour because of the traffic issues. Not OK, when the directors told us to line up in the corrals and left us waiting there forever, shivering and getting cold and tight.

4. The course was definitely too narrow for all those people.

5. The course was short by at least .15 miles. Not only did Garmin tell me this, but the 5K and the 15K finished at the same point, yet you passed the 9 mile marker very close to the same time as the 3 mile marker. So it was definitely only .1 to the finish after you hit the markers instead of .3.

Despite all the mess with the logistics, I really enjoyed running this race. I have never run a 15K before, so I knew it was going to be an automatic PR. I went into the race with a super laid back attitude and no pressure on myself to run a certain pace.

Hot Chocolate 15K

My friends Meredith and Hannah picked me up bright and early in hopes of avoiding most of the traffic. We got the race site with plenty of time to kill and spent it hanging out in the car and using the porta-potties and finding water.

Hannah, Meredith, Jess

water
Meredith finding some water

Porta-potties were one thing the race did right. There were tons of them. The three times we used them, we didn't have to wait in lines once.

POrta-potties

Once the race eventually started, the beginning of the course was crowded, but not too bad.

beginning of the race

Things started to get a little dicey when I hit the first out and back turn around just past mile 2. We were running on a really busy road/highway that had two lanes blocked off for runners but cars still driving in the far lane. Heading back, both of the runners' lanes were crowded and it made it very tough to find open room to run.

I've done plenty of races where roads haven't been totally closed, so the cars didn't bother me that much, I just wish there had been fewer people so it had been easier to get around.

Once we got to mile five, I knew we were heading into National Harbor, part of the course I was very familiar with since I've run several races there before. I knew where to expect hills and I knew when that crappy gravel path was going to happen. Because of that, I wasn't as caught off guard as other runners heading through these areas.

running

Things got tight again on the gravel path near the water. The path wasn't very wide and with all the people, I thought someone might take an accidental swim. But I still really loved that part of the course because I love running by water. So I tried to stay to away from the edge and enjoy the views as best as I could while watching my footing at the same time.

finishing

I finished with a time of 1:22:46, which works out to slightly more than 9 minute miles (if you assume the course was 9.15 instead of 9.3).

After finishing, I reunited with my friends and we all chowed down on some chocolate.

with our chocolate
Me, Hannah and Meredith

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Me and Stacey

I have to say the chocolate fondue was delicious.

DSC_0105

I just wish we'd been given more apple slices to dip in it.

I highly doubt this race will come back to DC next year. After all the complaints from the runners (check out the comments on the official Facebook page, and once they shut that down, the unofficial group), I can't imagine RAM Racing will bring this back. But if they do, I hope they hold it at a Metro-accessible location, which would definitely alleviate the bulk of their traffic problems.

The race organizers have issued an official apology for the massive fail in race logistics, but it didn't say much, and they didn't do much to fix the situation for the dozens of runners who never even made it to the race because they were stuck in traffic for hours.

I enjoyed the actual running part of this race and of course, the eating chocolate part. But I was so annoyed at the horrible organization and logistics. This wasn't a cheap race to run and I definitely feel like for the money we paid, we all deserved a better experience.

A big thanks to my friend Zach for coming with me, Hannah and Meredith to the race to hold all our stuff and take all the awesome pictures I used in this post!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Hot Chocolate 15K

Tomorrow morning I'm running the Hot Chocolate 15K!

hotchoc15K

It's my last race of 2011 and I'm hoping to end the race season on a high note.

I have no intention of running this race for time mainly because there are 20,000 people running it and the course is really narrow at parts. That means there's going to be a lot of bobbing and weaving to get around people.

The course also covers that gravely, narrow trail that I despised in my 5K last year, which makes me a little nervous with lots of people.

I hope the organizers are on top of their game because with that many people, parking, the race itself and the finish line areas all have the potential to turn into giant clusters.

If there's massive backup in the finisher's chute that delays me from getting my chocolate, I will be one sad girl.

hotchoc

The chocolate at the finish line was seriously reason #2 I signed up for this race.

hotchoc2

Reason #1 was the sweet jacket you get.

hotchoc3
I love race swag!

Other than being mildly concerned with the logistics with that many people, I think this race is going to be a great time. I have tons and tons of friends who are running it, and many more who are coming out to spectate.

I'm looking forward to going out, having a great, fun run and eating lots of chocolate with all my friends.

I really can't think of a better way to wrap up race season than with some yummy chocolate at the finish line!

All pictures are screen grabs from the Hot Chocolate 15K site.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Walk With My Dad

In continuing with the "not in the mood to run" phase of my off-season, I spent my last day in Allentown going on a nice long walk with my Dad.

I'm not a big walker, because I always feel like if I'm going to be outside in running shoes, I should be running, but last Sunday, a walk seemed like the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Apparently, not all that long ago, the township where my parents live cleaned up and repaved an old rail trail to turn it into a path for runners, walkers and bikers.

rail trail

I had never been out on the path before, but it was a beautiful day for a walk and a fun way to spend some time with my Dad.

our shadows
Our shadows

The path was really nice and it was packed with other people enjoying the last warm day before winter sets in.

IMG_0117

Lots of kids on bikes and families out for post-Thanksgiving strolls. We even bumped into my friend's mom who was out walking their dog.

The path started in a park and wove past lots of big houses and the golf course at the country club.

big houses
Pretty houses

golf course
Part of the gofl course

The path runs about 8 miles into neighboring towns, and my Dad and I did a nice four mile loop at a pretty blistering walking pace.

My Dad's been walking for years now and man does he go fast. My legs were getting tired trying to keep up.

The walk was a really nice way to wrap up my 10-day mini-vacation in PA.