Posts Tagged With: health

Weekly Workouts: 4/7-4/14

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend! The enormity of what I’ve gotten myself into — registering for the Dopey Challenge as my FIRST marathon — is really starting to sink in now, and I found myself at Barnes & Noble yesterday scouring the running books for titles like “Marathon Running for Dummies.”

dopeydiamondsI know I’m in WAY over my head here, but I have to say that I am really excited about the journey. I know I really should have had at least one marathon under my belt before attempting to train for the Dopey Challenge. I know that I am probably a fool for taking this on. I know that training to run so many races in one weekend, including a FULL MARATHON, is going to be ridiculously hard and painful and downright terrifying at times.

But you know what? I am taking this challenge very seriously, and think I’m motivated and disciplined and and determined and just plain crazy enough to make this happen.

On that note, I thought I’d join every other running blogger and become a bit more consistent when it comes to posting weekly workouts. A large part of training for any race is consistency…and what better way to stay accountable that to share what I’m doing right here? So here’s what last week’s workouts looked like.

Sunday (4/7): Thai Kickboxing class, 10-mile bike ride. It was the PERFECT day for a bike ride, I couldn’t resist!

Monday: 8 miles, slow. And I do mean VERY slow…we had some unseasonably high temperatures here in New Jersey last week, and my body was SO not ready to run in 80-degree weather!

Tuesday: 5 miles

Wednesday: 3 miles

Thursday: Rest

Friday: A gross, rainy day, so I hit the gym I just joined that opened up around the corner from my apartment (Crunch Fitness). I ran there and back, and did a little speedwork on the dreadmill for a total of 4 miles, then did some strength training. I was reminded of just how much I hate running on the dreadmill…it really is pure torture!

Saturday: Thai Kickboxing class
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Sunday: Thai Kickboxing class and 10-mile run. It was my first long run in my new Sweat Pink laces, the weather was perfect, and other than a nagging pain in my foot in the last few miles (details below) and some serious soreness in my legs from doing a zillion squats and lunges in my kickboxing classes, overall I felt great!

Thoughts for this week:

I think I overdid it a little bit. I’ve been training for the Asbury Park Runapalooza on April 20, and I’ve noticed I tend to panic in the final week or two before a bigger race and try to do everything I can to make sure I’m “prepared.” I’m still new to all of this and never know if I’m running enough, or too much, or too fast, or too slow.

I was planning to run a few half marathons this spring, and have sort of been playing it by ear since the Princess Half Marathon in terms of keeping my weekly base up and getting in my long runs, but without the step-by-step training plan I used for my first half — since I really was starting from square zero! — I’m still not quite sure EXACTLY what I should be doing in between races if they’re, say, three or four weeks apart.

While my foot was starting to feel better in the last week or so, I think the combination of the kickboxing (you know, slamming your feet against a giant, hard punching bag) and the long run in the same day — which I NEVER do, by the way! — caused me to injure it again, because now it’s sore in a different part on the top of my foot. Meanwhile, pretty much every muscle in my body aches from all of the kickboxing (my instructor decided it was muscle conditioning weekend, and I had my ass handed to me!) combined with running.

Needless to say, I am NOT a happy camper right now. I’m going to officially call this week “taper time,” spend plenty of time resting my stupid foot and possibly take my bike out for a spin…and cross my fingers and toes that I’m feeling better by the race this weekend. There’s also a local 5K I already signed up for the day after the half (I figured it wasn’t too early to start getting used to back-to-back races!), so if I have to back out of that, I will. If things aren’t getting better, I will stop self-diagnosing myself and see a doctor…promise.

How do you train in the last week or two before a big race?

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My Incredibly DOPEY Decision

So yesterday I did something crazy. Like, real crazy. WAY crazier than my decision to register for the Dumbo Double Dare, which I thought was just pure MADNESS at the time (and now just doesn’t seem so scary after all).

disneyprincesshalfmarathon1Yesterday, I got completely swept up in the excitement of Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend. If you follow runDisney fanatics on Twitter or Facebook — especially as many as I do — you just can’t help it. I had been casually entertaining the idea of attempting a full marathon ever since I crossed the finish line of the Princess Half in February and proved to myself that I could make it through 13.1 miles without dropping dead.

Running a marathon, a FULL marathon, has always been one of those pie-in-the-sky, maybe someday, “you never know” type dreams for me. Let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, I’m still a running newbie, and I figured that someday, SOMEDAY, I’d probably go ahead attempt a full marathon.

But there was one thing I did know for sure. I knew that if I WAS going to take on 26.2 miles, it was going to be at Walt Disney World. It just had to be. So I figured maybe I’d consider registering for the 2015 marathon…or 2016. Or, hell, 2017 — what was the rush?

Truth be told, when I read accounts of runners training for their first marathons on their blogs, I’d physically cringe. 20 mile training runs? Who has the time? Or the energy?

When I read countless recaps of this year’s “Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge” — running the half marathon followed by the full marathon in the same weekend — I shook my head. What the hell were these people thinking? Were they TRYING to get themselves injured? Or killed?

But yet I couldn’t help but admit to myself that I was so incredibly, amazingly in awe of these runners. I wanted to do it, too. I wanted to be a marathoner.

I knew there would be one minor road block standing in my way. I was absolutely, unequivocally terrified of the idea of running 26.2 miles. Who did I think I was even CONSIDERING the idea? A year ago I was struggling to finish 5ks, and I really only have a handful of distance races (10 miles+) under my belt…and now I’m sitting here fantasizing about running a marathon?

When I was in Disney World in February for the Princess Half Marathon, cast members were constantly asking me if they’d “see me next January” for the marathon. I would then proceed to laugh hysterically. “I’m not quite there yet,” I told them. In fact, I believe one of my first tweets upon hearing the news of the Dopey Challenge was something along the lines of, “good luck to everyone doing the Dopey Challenge, it ain’t gonna be me!”

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it. Even just a little bit.

Yesterday, my mindset shifted. Big time. I wrestled with a giant knot in my stomach all morning, watching the clock for the 12pm registration time for the Walt Disney World Marathon. Should I register for 2014? Is it too soon for me? Will I be able to do it? Am I ready? Will I EVER be ready?

The answer? Who knows. Is there EVER a good time to train for a marathon? Will I EVER be “ready?”

There will always be work and family and responsibilities, and I couldn’t help but think that if I WAS going to do this, now is probably as good a time as any. I have a fairly steady client base of both editors and piano students, so while I will never get rich doing what I do, I manage to live quite frugally (I still drive the beat-up old car I bought in college; it has 170,000 miles on it for crying out loud) and also have some money saved up from spending the majority of my 20’s working and living at home with my parents. I don’t have children or pets or a mortgage, and I make my own work hours.

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: www.talkdisney.com

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: http://www.talkdisney.com

Most importantly? I’m 27 years old, and in the best shape of my life…no physical ailments or health issues of any kind (knock on wood), other than the occasional minor running-related injury, of course.

So yesterday I had to ask myself the question: Why not ME? Why not NOW?

I’m sure you can probably guess what comes next.

I whipped out my Disney Visa (my poor, sad, TIRED Disney Visa), and registered for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon.

But, wait, there’s MORE.

In this moment of insanity, I couldn’t help but be seduced by the Dopey Challenge. In its inaugural year, it’s a challenge to run not only the marathon, but also the weekend’s 5K, brand-new 10K, AND half marathon.

That’s a total of 48.6 miles. In 4 days. The thought still sends chills down my spine. And not the good kind!

Was it it a good idea for my health? My sanity? Maybe, maybe not. But…runners who complete all four races receive not only a medal for each race, but also the coveted Goofy Challenge medal AND the brand spankin’ new Dopey Challenge medal. SIX MEDALS. Can we say BLING?!

So I thought for a moment. If I was going to put my body through months and months of marathon training…why not go ahead and celebrate my hard work with the ULTIMATE weekend of running?

Why not aim high? Why not take this chance? Why not believe in myself for once?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am nothing if not ambitious (and, also, just a little bit off my rocker). So…

DOPEY CHALLENGE HERE I COME!

I think what really sealed the decision for me is that I have truly gone through my whole life putting things off and doubting my ability to do what I wanted. “Someday” I’d “try” to be a freelance writer. “Someday” I’d “try” to lose weight. Of course, there was even a time when I told myself that “someday” I’d “try” to run a 5K…how long ago that seems!

I am TIRED of doubting myself. I am TIRED of putting things off. I want to be the kind of person who has the confidence and the courage to set a goal and then make it happen. I don’t want to “try”…I just want to DO. And I’d say this is a step in the right direction!

Okay, so who else is doing “Dopey?” Is it anyone else’s first marathon?

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Exciting Blog News: Sweat Pink and Versatile Blogger Award

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend! I sure did, because two pretty awesome blog-type things happened:

SPambassador4

1.) I was accepted as a Sweat Pink ambassador! It’s “where tough and girly come together at last” — so proud to be part of such an incredible movement.

2.) A fellow blogger nominated me for The Versatile Blogger award! Thanks so much, Andrea!

As part of the award, I was asked to share 7 facts about myself. So, here it goes!

1.) I am obsessed with all things Disney. And have been since…well, forever.

2.) I have two businesses: I’m a freelance writer, but I also moonlight as a private piano teacher, which pretty much means I work all day long…but I love what I do, so it never feels like it! Plus, one of the best bonuses of being my own boss means I can lace up my sneakers and go for a run whenever I want…I got 8 miles in this afternoon!

3.) I LOVE to read…especially true crime. Ann Rule is my favorite. I do like fiction, too, and when I find an author I love, I have to read every. single. one. of their books, and have effectively done so with authors like Kristin Hannah, Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin

4.) When I’m not rversatileblogger111unning, I’m taking martial arts classes…I study both Muay Thai kickboxing and Taekwondo. So…don’t mess with me. (Kidding!)

5.) There is little that excites me more than scoring a good deal, whether it’s when I’m buying groceries or adding new tanks or capris to my endless workout wardrobe. I always know what’s on sale and where, and am never without a stack of coupons (or, of course, phone apps like Retail Me Not).

6.) I have a younger sister, and we used to hate each other…but now we’re BFFs. We are the absolute epitome of that thing moms always say to their kids when they’re fighting…you know, “someday you’ll appreciate each other.”

7.) I have had the same two favorite bands since I was 12 years old: Hanson and Third Eye Blind. I pretty much stalk them both whenever they’re in the tri-state area, so I’ve seem them in concert about a zillion times…in fact, I just scored tickets to Hanson‘s two-night event at Irving Plaza in NYC this summer! EXCITEMENT!

I also get to pass the award along to 15 of my favorite bloggers — fun! Here are just a few of the awesome bloggers I follow…it was SO hard to narrow it down!

1.) Running & Singing in the Park

2.) Running Coastie to Coastie

3.) Sneakers and Fingerpaints

4.) Keep Running/Keep Writing

5.) The Beginners Runner

6.) We Run Disney

7.) Back at Square Zero

8.) Hello Fitness…We Meet Again…

9.) Road Runner Girl

10.) Barking Mad About Running

11.) Run and Write

12.) Run Eat Repeat

13.) 2 Princesses on the Run

14.) Live, Run, Grow

15.) It’s a Marathon AND a Sprint

Here’s how it works:

1. Add The Versatile Blogger award photo on a blog post

2. Thank the person who presented you with the award and link back to him or her in your post

3. Share seven things about yourself

4. Pass the award along to 15 favorite bloggers. Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

 

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out these other bloggers…especially Andrea’s blog, I Run for Donuts!

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Bulu Box Review and Promo Code — Get Yours FREE!

If you took a look through my kitchen and bathroom cabinets, you would find tons of not-so-well organized health and fitness products, from snacks to supplements. I’m one to try pretty much anything, and in my quest to be as healthy as I possibly can be, that means I end up with a whole lot of products that I ultimately decide aren’t for me…and, unfortunately, that means my money pretty much goes to waste.

buluboxSo when I was contacted to be a Bulu Box ambassador, I was psyched! This is a company designed to help people like me identify the products that work best for them without shelling out tons of our hard-earned cash in the process. It’s touted as the first vitamin, supplement, and general health subscription sample box designed to help you feel your best, and because I’m now one of their brand ambassadors, I have a special promo code that will allow my readers to get their own Bulu Box for FREE!

But first, here’s how Bulu Box works: for just $10 a month, you get a box stuffed with 4 or 5 samples from top brands. As any health seeker knows, there’s TONS out there in the way of health products and supplements, and I can easily drop $10 on just ONE product — and if I decide it’s not for me, then I’m out the money. This way, your $10 covers a few different products, and chances are you’ll end up with at least one sample of a new product that you know for sure that you love before investing in the full-size version.

I received my first box over the weekend — love the motivational quotes on the packaging! — and here are a few of the products I received, just to give you an idea. Two of the products are all-natural sleep aids, and I almost wondered if somehow the Bulu Box folks knew that I’ve been having some issues sleeping lately! The box also comes with a booklet that helps explain exactly what each product is, how to use it, and how it can help you lead a healthier, more active lifestyle.buluboxproducts

The boxes will always contain a new mix of products for both women and men, from vitamins and herbs to energy products and sports nutrition supplements, and the samples are large enough for you to give it a try and decide whether or not the product is right for you.

The good news doesn’t stop there…shipping is completely FREE, and there are no shady contracts — if you ultimately decide you’re not into it, you can cancel your subscription any time. There are also a few different options to choose from: you can opt for a month-to-month, 3, 6, or 12-month subscription.

If you end up really digging one of the products you sampled in your Bulu Box, you can, of course, hit your nearest Whole Foods or vitamin/supplement store to buy the full-size variety…or, you can earn Rewards Points to cash in for your favorite products simply by visiting the Bulu Box website and sharing your thoughts on the products you receive. You earn Rewards Points (50 points per month equals $5) just for sharing your personal reviews and completing short surveys, and you can then trade those points in to purchase the full-sized versions of your favorite products via the Bulu Box website.

All sound good? I thought so, too! So why not give it a try? As a reader of The Final Forty, Bulu Box wants to invite you to get your hands on your first box completely free!

So go ahead and visit Bulu Box, enter your shipping information for the monthly subscription, and use coupon code BULUGAN004 for your free box!

Any other Bulu Box fans out there?

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Racing for a Cure: PurpleStride New Jersey 2012

I’m not one who usually solicits donations for anything, but I did want to share the details of a particularly special upcoming 5K race here in the hopes that someone might find it in their heart to donate just a few dollars to a very worthy cause.

On November 4, I will once again be running in the annual PurpleStride New Jersey event in Parsippany. The timed race and awareness walk benefits the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a nationwide team of incredibly devoted people who are doing everything in their power to find a cure and create awareness for this horrible disease.

In 2004, my life was forever changed by pancreatic cancer when my beloved grandfather, Charles Gleason, succumbed to the disease. He was diagnosed in January after complaints of abdominal discomfort and loss of appetite — and by July, he was gone. Like most cases of pancreatic cancer, by the time he experienced any symptoms, it was too late.

Overall, there is only a six percent survival rate for pancreatic cancer over a five-year period, and it’s the fourth leading cause of cancer death. Though anyone who sees a pink ribbon immediately thinks about breast cancer, unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is a disease that nobody seems to talk about…it remains the most under-funded and least-studied of all major cancer killers. In fact, pancreatic cancer research earns only two percent of the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget.

And that is why those of us who were touched by this disease have to continue the fight. During my first PurpleStride race last year, I had been listening to a special playlist of Johnny Cash hits — he was Pop’s absolute favorite, and it was a rare occasion to enter his home without the sounds of “Ring of Fire” or “Folsom Prison Blues” playing in the background. Just as I crossed the finish line, I yanked out my iPod earbuds and realized that music had just started playing over the loud speaker…and it was “I Walk the Line.”

It was the first time since his death that I knew without a doubt that he was with me…and that I had made him proud. He was always concerned about my weight struggles and endless bouts of yo-yo dieting, so it’s especially meaningful to me that I can honor his memory through my newfound love of running and 90-pound weight loss.

This year, my sister Christine and I will be participating in the PurpleStride New Jersey event together as team “Charlie’s Angels.” I’ve been training for a new sub-28 minute 5K PR, and it will be her very first race!

Losing Pop remains the most devastating experience of my life. He was more than just a grandfather to me. Our relationship was truly special. When I was young and my mom had to return to work, he was the one who took care of me. As we grew up, he took my sister and I everywhere, from amusement parks to the race track, and there was nothing that he wouldn’t do for either of us. He was there to cheer us on through every dance recital, every softball game, every graduation.

Like most grandparents, he spoiled us rotten with gifts and treats, but it was more than that — Pop wasn’t one to be overly affectionate, but yet he always somehow made sure we knew we were loved.

To this day, my family commonly remarks that I am just like him. There is nobody who understood me the way he did. I credit Pop with my strength and my tenacity. He always encouraged me to do whatever made me happy. While everyone else was questioning my decision to pursue writing as a career, he remained my biggest fan and supporter.

Pop taught me that I should never be afraid to fight for what I believed in. When I was being bullied mercilessly throughout elementary and middle school, he was the one who stepped in to try to pick up the pieces of my shattered self-esteem. He is the one who taught me not to let anyone take advantage of me, or to allow anyone to put me down or make me feel unworthy. He taught me how to stand up for myself.

Because of him, no matter what I start — whether it’s my fledgling running career or my own writing business — I never, ever give up. I often catch myself wondering what he would think about a decision I’ve made, or if I’ve made him proud. He is always with me.

And that’s why no matter how many years pass, I will continue to fight pancreatic cancer in his honor, even if all I can do is donate money to research or participate in awareness events.

There are no words to describe what it was like to watch Pop suffer from pancreatic cancer. When I was 18, I was the one put in charge of driving him to his chemotherapy treatments several times a week; my grandmother was an amputee and could no longer drive, my parents worked full-time, and my sister was too young to have a driver’s license.

We didn’t talk much during those hospital visits, but I am so grateful for those few extra hours that we spent together. It was heartbreaking to watch a man who had always been so strong in my eyes growing weaker and weaker, but he remained courageous until the very end.

I remember during one of his final treatments, a nurse was asking him how he was doing, and he responded, “I will fight this until it’s over.” And that’s exactly what I intend to do.

If you might want to make even just a small donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in support of our team and in honor of Charles “Pop” Gleason, please visit our team page, “Charlie’s Angels,” here. We appreciate every dollar!

Thank you so much!

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Persistence Pays Off

If I had a nickel for every time I quit something…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be writing this blog post from my tiny apartment, surrounded by furniture purchased from the likes of Walmart and Big Lots.

My weight has fluctuated up and down (and up and down again) since I was in elementary school. I’d start a weight loss program (read: starve myself), lose 10 pounds, then quit. I’d start a new diet a year later, drop a dress size, and quit. After ballooning to 220 pounds in middle school, I managed to lose 60 pounds in time for my my senior prom…but then, that’s right, I quit again, and returned to Weight Watchers (my weight loss program of choice) for the final time as a 267-pound 22-year-old.

When I first started running — strictly as a way to torch as many calories in as little amount of time, mind you — there were weeks when I was committed and consistent, squeezing in at least 3-4 runs each week and basking in my ability to run longer and harder without having to take as many walk breaks.

I didn’t start registering for races until a year ago, and suddenly, my finish time in local 5Ks started affecting my attitude about running in the same way the scale had always managed to sabotage my diet plan of the month.

If I had a bad week on Weight Watchers and, heaven forbid, gained a pound or two, I’d get discouraged and start letting my efforts slide. I’d go into hiding for several weeks, vowing to return to my meeting only when I was satisfied that the scale would not show a gain again. I probably don’t need to tell you how many times I simply never returned.

When I struggled through a 5K — even if it was because I hadn’t been training properly, or the weather was humid, or I wasn’t eating right  — I’d take what I believed was a less-than-satisfactory finish time and use it as an excuse to quit running for a month or two…because, after all, one bad race surely meant I was just too fat to run. Why bother?

I guess with age comes wisdom (or something like that), because the secret of what it takes to lose weight, or to become a better runner, finally clicked: persistence.

When I began my most recent weight loss journey in November 2007, I made a promise to myself that no matter what, I was not going to give up. Nearly five years later, I’m still not at “goal,” and I’ve certainly had my share of not-so-successful weeks (and months), but I never once allowed myself to completely throw in the towel and return to my old ways. I’ve lost 90 pounds, and am maintaining my weight loss for the first time in my life…and all because I just keep going.

After my unsatisfying performance in this July’s Firecracker 4-miler, I realized that I had a decision to make. Was I going to continue running recreationally as a cardio workout, or was I going to take the sport seriously and commit myself to trying to improve? I realized that my 2-3 mile walk/runs every few days were probably not doing anything for me (duh), and that if I was going to keep dropping 20 or 30 bucks on races every couple of months, I should probably give a real training plan a shot.

You know…actually try to succeed at something before convincing myself that I’m going to fail.

And that’s the real reason why I signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon…I needed to plop down a few thousand dollars (yes, that’s right…I just booked a six-night getaway at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter for $1,500, on top of race fees, airfare, park tickets, etc.) to force myself to choose a running-related goal — complete a half marathon without being hauled away in a body bag — and then actually stick to it.

And the crazy just keeps on coming. I’ve already signed up for my first 10K this fall, Brian’s Run in Wayne, NJ — the day before I leave for a 9-day vacation to Disney World in September. I have my sights set on a few other 10Ks in October and November.

But it’s working.

The Cranford Jaycees’ Firecracker 4-Miler and the Central Jersey Road Runner Club’s Not Quite Fall Classic 4-Miler, which I just ran this past weekend, both follow the exact same course.

On July 4, I came in at 40:37, for an average pace of 10:09. I constantly kept having to stop to “tie my shoes” just to catch my breath, and the 4 miles felt more like 14 miles.

After a month and a half of following my own unique blend of a 10K and half marathon training plan that I found on Cool Running, I ran that same course on August 26 in the Not Quite Fall Classic 4-Miler in 35:46, for an average pace of 8:56.

Not only have I been training consistently, but I went into the race with a very specific plan: I wanted to finish the first mile at an 8:30 pace, the second at 9, the third at 9:30, and the last mile at 10. Much to my utter and complete shock, I finished the first mile in 8:30 and then maintained a steady pace hovering right around 9 minutes for the duration of the race. Best of all, I legitimately took 3rd place for my age group (but was awarded the 2nd place medal because there are no double awards).

People have asked me how I stay “motivated” to lose weight, or continually put my body through the rigors of running. I can promise you this: whether you’re trying to shed a few pounds, or you’re a fledgling runner training for a race (or both, like me), “motivation” often has very little to do with it.

You don’t necessarily have to be motivated to achieve a goal — but you do have to be persistent.

I’m rarely “motivated” to choose a veggie burger and side salad over a juicy cheeseburger and fries, or to log a 5-mile run when my legs are sore or I’m tired from working all day or I just plain don’t feel like it. To me, it’s kind of like asking someone how they stay “motivated” to brush their teeth every morning. It’s just something you do.

I can definitely feel motivated by the way my jeans fit or setting a new PR, but on those days when I lose a battle with a bag of kettle corn or struggle through a slow 2-mile run, it’s persistence alone that keeps me moving forward.

How has persistence helped you achieve your goals?

 

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Stop Making Excuses…and Cheating Yourself Out of Success

If you want to ensure that you never reach your goals, do exactly what I’ve been doing: let your life be taken over by excuses.

On July 4, I ran the local Firecracker 4-Miler race in my hometown for the second year. Despite the fact that last year’s event was my very first race ever, and that it was the exact same course and we were experiencing very similar weather (hot and humid!), I showed absolutely no improvement from last year. In fact, I came in at almost exactly the same time, to the second. I struggled from start to finish, and couldn’t keep myself from stopping to catch my breath or surreptitiously take a break to “tie my sneakers” during the race.

As I was beating myself up afterwards, and trying to come up with excuses for not achieving what I thought would be an easy goal for me — beating last year’s time — I couldn’t help the niggling feeling that I was simply trying to not take responsibility for not working hard enough. All this time, I’ve been going out on 2 or 3 mile runs here and there. I wasn’t being consistent — sometimes weeks would pass without running at all — and I wasn’t exactly adhering to any of the advice I was skimming in my monthly issue of Runner’s World or any of my countless running-related Google searches about how to improve my speed or perform better on race day.

In short, I started to think about how I’ve been making excuses and only doing things “halfway” for quite some time…and how running is only one example.

It sometimes takes months for me to send out a fresh batch of article pitches to my dream magazines. I’m constantly telling myself I’ll e-mail that editor “tomorrow,” or finish that story query “after I do more research.” But then I end up convincing myself that it’s a stupid idea, or the editor is “just going to ignore me, anyway,” so it never actually gets done. Meanwhile, I always make promises to myself about blogging more often, since it’s something I love to do…but take one look at my past posting history and you’ll see that I can’t seem to manage more than one post a month.

When it comes to Weight Watchers, my attempts to reach my goal of 100 pounds lost are quite laughable. I’m only casually counting POINTS, and I’m doing way more guesstimating than ever. I still measure out everyday staples like 3/4 cup of cereal, but then when it comes time to enjoy some frozen yogurt after dinner, I somehow seem to forget where the measuring cups are located, because “I worked out today, so I deserve a treat.” I’ve also been allowing myself a few-too-many binges on weekends, from extra glasses of wine to munching handfuls of Angie’s Kettle Corn on the beach. That excuse is an easy one: “It’s the weekend!”

For months, I have been putting in shorter and shorter workouts (when I’m not in kickboxing class, that is), justifying their brevity with classic excuses like “I don’t have time.”

But then I wonder why I’m never landing those writing assignments, why the scale won’t budge, and why my fitness level (or ability to run a 4-miler without wanting to die!) has completely plateaued.

So, I decided to do something to take down the Excuses Monster once and for all. I decided to start by choosing one goal — in this case, being a better runner — and not allowing any more excuses.

I’m proud to report that I have chosen quite a lofty goal, and for the past three weeks, have been diligently working towards making it a reality. With no excuses!

It started with stumbling upon some race recaps on running blogs about the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Feb. 2013, and knowing that it was something I absolutely, positively had to do. I have harbored a deep-seated Disney obsession since I was in diapers, and running through the Magic Kingdom would be a dream come true. I just have to do it.

That’s right. I am going to run a half marathon.

Before I convinced myself that “I’m not good enough, fast enough, experienced enough, etc. to run a half marathon,” I set out in search of a training plan and for the past three weeks have been running 5 times a week, with mileage ranging from 2 miles to 6 miles. I invested in a Dry-Erase board to chart my monthly training runs, and I became a member of the Daily Mile to track my progress on-line. I created a little inspiration corner in my office with photos, brochures of races I want to run, medals, and even a painting my sister made of me crossing the finish line, and I use them as a daily reminder of how much I want to reach this goal.

And it’s already paying off. I competed once again in the Downtown Westfield 5k and Pizza Extravaganza, and the race that took me 33:03 last year only took 29:15. It wasn’t easy, and the course was incredibly hilly, but I didn’t once feel the need to stop. I felt comfortable and confident, because I knew, deep down, that I had put in the work…and wasn’t letting anything stand in my way.

There are no end to the excuses I could make to talk myself out of training for a 13 mile run — especially when the longest race I’ve ever participated in was a measly three miles. Aside from the physical agony and very real possibility of me not making it to the finish line, it’s out of state and extremely expensive…and basically another excuse for me to take a vacation.

But if I’m ever going to move forward, whether it’s in my writing career, weight loss, or fledgling attempts at running, I have got to stop talking myself out of everything…and cheating myself out of my own happiness.

Have you ever made up excuses or talked yourself out of doing something you really wanted to do?

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Oh, Gym, How I Loathe Thee. Let Me Count the Ways.

Recently in my journey to optimal health and fitness, I have discovered a shocking new development.

I absolutely, positively hate the gym.

When I first began losing weight, if I wasn’t at home or at work, I was on the elliptical at my local YMCA. As a result of juggling two jobs, my only available workout time was 5:30am — and that’s precisely when I would arrive at the gym, every single weekday morning.

While at first I was intimidated and insecure about how I, a 265-pound young woman, would look to others as I sweated and grunted my way through 30 minutes on the cross trainer, it wasn’t long before the gym became my second home.

If I missed a day, everyone wanted to know where I had been. As the pounds began melting off my body, I became the subject of admiration. People wanted to know how I was losing the weight, and — believe it or not — some women even began asking me for diet and exercise advice.

The gym had become a place that I associated with success, so it was no wonder that I did everything in my power to squeeze in a workout at least five times a week — at one point, I even belonged to two gyms at once!

Suddenly, my identity had transformed from an obese, lonely couch potato to a fit, healthy gym rat — and I was loving every second of it.

I really can’t pinpoint when my hot-and-heavy love affair with the gym began to fizzle out. Maybe it was after I signed up for my first 5K, and found running outdoors far better preparation for tackling a 3.1 mile road race than pounding a treadmill. Possibly it was after I began plunking down a significant portion of my monthly income to join a local karate studio and participate in Muay Thai-style kickboxing classes three times a week. Or perhaps it was when I received a truckload of fitness accoutrement, from kettle bells to a BOSU ball, for my birthday and Christmas and assembled my own makeshift workout studio in the basement.

Whatever the reason, in recent months I’ve been finding myself dreading my sessions with the treadmill. For weeks I’ve been falling victim to the evil Excuses Monster whenever it comes time to hop in my car and hit the gym.

I just don’t want to go, and I’ll do anything I can to substitute 40 minutes of pedaling my way through a ho-hum elliptical workout with another form of physical activity for the day — yes, even housecleaning!

Now, before you get a mental picture of me spending my afternoons lounging on the couch in my sweats, let me assure you that I am continuing to exercise just as often — and just as intensely — as ever. I still work out 5-6 days per week, and typically for at least 45 minutes. Sometimes I’m taking my kickboxing class, and sometimes I’m eking out lunges or experimenting with new kettle bell routines from my favorite fitness magazines in the basement.

(And yes, I do, of course, still have a gym membership.)

The only difference is that I’m now harboring a new love interest: the Great Outdoors. Even in the midst of frigid New Jersey winter temperatures, my second home has become the local park and biking trails.

I absolutely love lacing up my sneakers and giving myself an opportunity to enjoy some fresh air as I head out for a run around the neighborhood, or a bike ride to the park with the help of my favorite 2011 Christmas present: a Trek 7.3 hybrid.

Exercising outdoors has a way of making me feel energetic and invigorated in a way that watching the clock as I jog mindlessly on a treadmill never has. Better yet, I know for a fact that I get a more vigorous full-body workout from running or biking outdoors than one on a treadmill or stationary bike — I can tell you that it’s a heck of a lot harder pushing myself through a four-mile run on the sidewalk than on a treadmill that does a lot of the work for me!

The best part of all is knowing that I have lots of options for getting in my workout, even if the desire to pump iron in a stuffy gym packed with New Year’s Resolutioners just isn’t striking.

I know many people take cover and hibernate their way through these bitterly cold winter months, but for anyone who feels that they have to solely get their sweat on at the gym until April, I can assure you that all you need is the right attitude — okay, and the appropriate winter workout wear — to experience some of the best outdoor workouts of 2012 right now!

What are some of the ways you exercise outdoors — even in the winter?

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The Right to Bare Arms (and Stomach, and Thighs…)

As the summer months officially come to an end, I decided it was finally time to step back on the scale.

And, unsurprisingly, I was greeted by an additional five pounds.

It’s what I was expecting, given my week-long jaunts in Vegas, Atlantic City, and Orlando, the endless string of barbecues and late-night fro-yo runs, my less-than-rigid workout routine. Now that I’m back into the swing of things — my long-awaited return to Weight Watchers, first and foremost — I’m fully confident that I’ll ditch those extra pounds (and then some) in no time.

That’s what still continues to amaze me. For the first time in my life, if I see the number on the scale nudge up a bit, I don’t panic. I don’t say “the hell with it” and start eating everything in sight, as I’ve done so many times in the past. I simply chalk it up to a few (okay, maybe more than a few) poor eating choices and lackluster workouts, and I pledge to get back on track ASAP.

I can finally acknowledge that I’m strong enough to lose (and re-lose) weight. I believe in myself. Who knew?

The truth is, this summer marked a whole new leg of my weight loss journey…even if I didn’t actually lose any weight. Whether the scale is moving or not, it seems nearly every day I’m slapped with a new realization about my body and just how much has changed.

Yesterday, for example, on a somewhat chilly afternoon that didn’t exactly warrant capri pants, I was amazed to pick up a pair of jeans from last year and easily slip them on. No lying on the bathroom floor trying fruitlessly to yank the zipper up, no jamming my rolls of flesh into the too-tight waistband, or rubbing raw indentations in my stomach after I removed them. I stepped right in, zipped them up, and was on my way.

And all this after so many years of having to buy a larger size for school every September, or sheepishly “losing” last season’s jeans, or — I’m ashamed to admit — destroying more pairs of pants than I can count when my denial about needing a larger size led to popped buttons or seams that blew open.

For the third September in a row, I’ve been able to re-wear clothes from the previous year, and that, to me, is an ultimate victory.

But this summer, perhaps my greatest achievement is that — for the first time in my 26 years of existence — I was confident enough to sport a bikini top at the beach.

Now, before you get too excited, let me preface this by stating that I had to search far and wide for a top with the extra coverage I still craved (athletic-style suits did the trick!), and I still felt the need to camouflage my generous thighs and loose, stretch-marked paunch with a high-rise skirted bottom. But who cares? I’ve worked hard for the body I have at this very moment — even if it isn’t “perfect” — and I don’t care who sees it.

Then there’s the fact that it’s almost surreal to me to do a load of laundry and fold my size small — SIZE SMALL! — tank tops from Old Navy. My summer uniform once consisted of baggy t-shirts or short-sleeved polos hidden beneath cardigan sweaters, for fear that anyone should catch so much as a glimpse of one of my behemoth, saggy arms. I sometimes can’t believe that I’ll slip into a strapless dress or racerback running tank and walk out the door without a second thought. My Muy Thai uniform is sleeveless, and where I would once be mortified to be waving my bare arms around for all the world to see, now I can look in the mirror — even at my loose tricep skin — and accept the way my arms look. Sometimes, at just the right angle, I think they even look pretty strong and muscular.

Oh, and then there’s the small detail that I ran not one, but two races this summer. And I already have a few other 5Ks lined up for the fall. At my very first race, a four-miler on the Fourth of July, I met my goal of jogging the entire course. Granted, I wasn’t the fastest runner, but it didn’t matter — I gathered up my courage and was able to squash my self-doubt long enough to cross that finish line, and I’ll be damned if I let 10-minute miles spoil that.

Did I mention that I even had the audacity to wear shorts to that race? Me, good old “Thunder Thighs,” wearing shorts. In public! Oh, the humanity.

Bikinis, shorts, tank tops — and, certainly, running races — were things I never thought possible. I was, after all, a 22-year-old shopping in the Women’s Plus section for swimsuits, and constantly pretending I was cold to justify wearing long sleeves or ankle-length capris in August. There was a time not too long ago that I couldn’t run a single mile without gasping for air, and now I’m breezing through 5Ks as if it’s completely normal for me to be running alongside other athletes.

Believe it or not, I am slowly but surely beginning to accept my body. I know I’m by no means thin, and I never will be. Maybe I have no business baring so much of my body at the beach or flapping my batwings in kickboxing classes, but for the first time in my life, I’m not constantly obsessing over how every little inch of my body looks at every moment of the day.

My tummy flap and jiggly thighs are clearly here to stay, and I’m finally making peace with the fact that I will never have the “perfect” body, no matter how much more weight I lose.

But guess what? I think I might just be perfectly fine with that.

The important thing is that my weight is no longer holding me back from anything I want to do or achieve in my life, and I’m excited to see just what else I can accomplish on my journey.

With or without the cooperation of a scale.

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I am Runner, Hear Me Roar.

When it comes to our diets, there are a few hard and fast rules that will help just about everyone drop a dress size. You know, like eat more celery and less Cheetos.

But when it comes to the day-to-day decision to break a sweat — because, let’s face it, there is no lasting weight loss without physical activity — I believe that every person is a little different.

For example, I have trouble mustering the energy to exercise in the evenings, while others wouldn’t dream of rolling out of bed at 5:30am to hit the gym. Some people like to tone up with yoga or Pilates, while I prefer to pant through a run or a grueling kickboxing session. While some can push through several hours of strength training at the gym (insane Biggest Loser contenders, I’m looking at you), it may not work for all of us. I’m lucky to be able to carve out 45 minutes for a sweat session 5-6 times a week, and some people get away with far less. And that’s perfectly fine.

That being said, I think there is one workout rule that applies to every single person looking to lose the weight and keep it off. And that is this: you must make fitness a part of your identity. If you want to truly commit to a regular exercise routine, I don’t think you can just pencil in a 30-minute walk four times a week. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great start — but I think it takes more than a calendar appointment to make exercise a part of your life.

I strongly believe you need to find something that you love to do. It has to be something you can latch onto strongly enough that you won’t let bad weather or family responsibilities or work schedules or anything else stand in your way. I’ve been known to run in the rain, and have attempted to maneuver my car though six inches of snow to make my Muy Thai kickboxing class.

I recently returned from a vacation (Disney World!) where I gave myself permission to eat anything I wanted — ice cream, cookies, cheeseburgers, you name it. While traipsing through theme parks for six days is physically demanding, it was still nothing like my usual running/spinning/kickboxing regimen. So, big surprise here: I returned home to pants that suddenly fit a little more snugly. I was hungry all the time, and feeling way too lethargic to hit the track.

Because of my lack of exercise and unhealthy eating all week, I didn’t feel motivated or energetic…but most surprisingly, I didn’t feel like me.

That’s when I realized how much working out has become part of my identity. It has consumed my life in so many ways that without a daily bout of exercise — even if I miss less than a week — I suddenly start feeling like a completely different person. It’s truly humbling to realize that, before my weight loss, I used to feel this way all the time.

If I were to draft a list of all the qualities that make up who I am, “physically active” would be  right at the top. My being can no longer be summed up by my gender or what I do for a living. I’m also a runner and a purple belt.

I think my overzealousness at the gym in my earliest weeks of weight loss paid off in more ways than a scale could ever show. I quickly became a fixture on that elliptical machine, and it wasn’t long before people started calling me by name…and asking about me when I didn’t show up. That’s when I realized that others saw me as something of a gym rat, and that fueled me with the motivation to get stronger and tougher and fitter. I wanted to live up to that new perception of who I was.

When I started running, at first I considered it nothing more than a fast way to torch as many calories as possible in a short period of time. But it wasn’t long before I got bored with the monotony of pounding a treadmill. When I started looking at running as more than a weight loss technique, that’s when the habit really started to stick. I subscribed to Runner’s World.  I strapped on a Garmin sports watch.  I signed up for 5K races.  Suddenly, I was a “runner.” And now I can’t wait to lace up my Nikes.

I’m often asked to divulge the number of times I work out each week. But an active lifestyle is so much more than the hours you spend on a treadmill. It’s just way too easy to lose interest in working out and return right back to your favorite position on the couch. I should know…I work at a gym.

I tend to shy away from making all-knowing proclamations on this blog, but I truly believe that the only way to make fitness a lasting part of your life is to make it part of who you are.

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