Last Week’s Workouts

Hi all! How many of you have today off? Not so for me, but WHH does. #jealous

I wanted to mix things up a bit and share my workouts from last week and the plan for this week. If you seem to like this format, perhaps it will become a weekly post. Here’s what last week looked like (compared to what was planned):

workout log

I was so happy I was able to get in a couple of walks during lunch last week. I’ve been trying to balance schoolwork during lunch with wanting to get in some movement. I’ve also been trying to balance fashion with function when it gets really cold. Just kidding. When it gets wicked cold I don’t care how ridiculous I look during my lunch walk.

winter layers

Under the coat: tights, pants, dress, cardigan, fleece

Given how warm yesterday was (forties!), I’m hoping that trend continues this week so I can get in a few more walks. Here’s the tentative plan for this week:

workout log

I had one of my best treadmill runs yesterday! I’ve had to move most of my runs indoors given the cold weather and icy roads. Within one run, my old glute issues started coming back. I knew Chi Running would have a good answer on how to adjust your form for treadmill running. Per their suggestion, I was sure to keep the incline at 1.5% or higher and keep my speed only a little above what I normally do outside.

I also used a metronome for the first half of the run and when I felt comfortable with my stride (and bored of hearing, “beep beep beep beep”), I moved over to a 180 BPM playlist on Spotify. And you know what? No pain! I was so happy that I didn’t have to give up on treadmill running completely this winter.

Questions: How were your workouts last week? Have any fun ones planned for this week? If you’re predominantly an outdoor runner, do you have a hard time transitioning to the treadmill?

New Year’s Goals Check-In: May

Holy smokes, it’s June! We’re nearly halfway through the year. How the heck did that happen?

You know what a new month means: a breakdown of my goals for the New Year. A lot of my answers to my goals are, “classwork is my focus right now” and I’m fine with hat, especially given that the A&P II I’m taking is only 10 weeks long, compared to the usual 16 weeks, so I’m cramming in a lot in a short time. I’m already feeling the pressure and am doing my best to balance life.

That being said, here’s how I did in May:

Personal Goals

  • Try a new trend/clothing item I wouldn’t normally: A

Even though I gained some items after going through a pile of too-big clothes I had put aside, I still have no casual/weekend clothes. I finally bit the bullet and signed up for Stitch Fix and hope that although they will have my style profile down, they push me outside my comfort zone a bit as well. I won’t receive the shipment until July and I can’t wait to share with you!

Stitch Fix Logo

  • Take more pictures: B

Picture taking has been mostly for blogging, but it’s becoming more and more of a habit, so I’m happy for that. Once my class is over, I want to go through our vacation pictures more thoroughly to organize and make notes on them as well as get them printed for a real photo album. And then there are our wedding pics…

  •  Make a new menu item weekly: B+

Another month without much meal planning, but we’re still eating plenty clean and healthy. WHH has been making up some of his own recipes, such as the sausage and pasta stir fry we had the other night that I was too hungry to take a second to take a picture of.

Something new that I did get a picture of was Brussels sprouts on the grill! I cooked them a bit in the oven first with some olive oil and garlic salt, and then onto some skewers and the barbie they went! We had to take off a few of the outer leaves on some of them, but they were delicious!

Grilled Brussesls sprouts

  • Travel: A

With our plane tickets to Colorado booked and filling in some details with my brother, we need to get a bit of a loose itinerary, and start to think about booking some places to stay when we’re not with my brother. This vacation is well-timed to be a couple of weeks after the end of my course. I will be wanting some R&R and to finally enjoy the summer!

  • Read more, especially instead of watching TV: A

I made a conscious effort at this one this past month. Instead of eating weekend meals in front of a screen (whether the TV, my phone, or my computer), I’ve made myself sit down and read a magazine or a book. I’ve enjoyed this immensely and found a lot of satisfaction in finally being able to read something other than my textbook or A Storm of Swords (as much as I enjoy the series, I’ve been reading it since late last fall).

Check out this interesting stat I came across in my Women’s Health Magazine.

Americans ate 118 fewer calories in 2010 vs 2005

This month has consisted of nothing but the necessary, so a no-go on the Pinterest board. I’m scaling it again because of classwork.

  • Simplify house further: B+

Another bag of items went off to be donated as well as another Thred Up bag in the mail! We’re getting there, little by little!

  • Meet with financial advisor: TBD

As I said last month, I’m scheduling this for the end of the summer when I will be done with classes for a few weeks and can properly concentrate. This time I just took it off so it doesn’t affect my GPA. 😉

  • Write reviews, such as for products and travel:C+

Have not done this, but scaled due to class. Will try to make a better effort this month and do it in small chunks instead of thinking of all of the different places I should review and get overwhelmed. As my co-worker says, you need to eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Elephants_at_Amboseli_national_park_against_Mount_Kilimanjaro

I feel as though I have a line of elephants to eat. Image c/o amoghavarsha.com

Professional:

  • Take co-requisite courses for nursing school: A+

I finished A&P I with a 95% average and am in the third week of A&P II. The weather was too lovely this weekend to be stuck in the basement, so I tucked myself into a little corner outside to do my endocrine system dissection. WHH admitted his sick curiosity had him peeking over at me while he was doing yard work. He gave some pretty priceless faces.

A&P II dissection kit

  • Start nursing school: TBD

Still on the wait-list for Fall 2014. Focusing on getting through A&P II, and then I’ll go from there.

  • Get better at WordPress and blogging in general: B

The blog has unfortunately fallen by the wayside a bit thanks to classwork. I’m okay with it for now since that is where my focus needs to be, hence why I’m not being harsher with my grading.

  • As time allows, get personal training and/or nutritionist certification: TBD

Constantly thinking about this even though I just need to concentrate on one thing at a time. It’s always in the back of my mind, though.

Health and Wellness:

  • Try a new physical endeavor as my body continues to heal from all of the injuries last year: B+

I finished the Return to Running program in May after six months of making my way back to running! I haven’t pushed my body much since that time as my plantar fasciitis has been rearing its ugly head a bit. It’s partially my fault–I haven’t been as religious with icing and massaging–and partially being on my feet for two weeks at work. Now that I’m back at my desk, it’s getting a little better. I’ve been varying my routes and surfaces a lot, so that has been fun.

New England white church

I love the quintessential New England sights during my runs.

Something that’s not so fun is my nagging tennis elbow. When I went back to the orthopedist earlier in May, he told me to take the next four weeks and stretch–that’s it. Well, I  have, and guess what? No difference. I haven’t stayed off of it completely because I don’t want the tendon to get tight from no use, but I don’t do anything that hurts it.

I go back to him on Monday and I’m kind of dreading it. I know he’ll offer me another cortisone injection and will make a convincing argument, but I don’t want it. PRP or prolotherapy are the last options before surgery, which I also definitely don’t want. While it’s holding me back from doing a lot of workout moves that I want, I am just going with the flow more than I used to.

  • Work on reducing exposure to pesticides, hormones, chemicals, and other toxins: B+

We’re still conscious of the types of meats, dairy, and other food we buy. I’ve been going to Whole Foods more regularly to buy their organic almond milk, which is surprisingly less expensive than our usual grocery store. I go through a decent amount of it every week between smoothies and my new obsession, overnight oats.

Gluten free overnight oats

That brings us to the end. A recap my monthly grades for the year:
January: C
February: B-
March: B+
April: B+
May…B+! Still holding steady and I will take it!

For the past two months I’ve talked about how I want to work on slowing down. It hasn’t happened to the degree I would like, but both myself and WHH are conscious of taking small steps to make it happen. June isn’t quite as jam-packed for us as May was, but it is slowly filling up. It’s often WHH’s busiest month at work as the school year comes to a close and everyone’s rushing to get everything done.

Though he is technically off for two months, he will be keeping himself busy with some classes and curriculum planning because he finally got his dream job last month: a full-time high school art teacher. So proud of this guy.

Two thumbs up

Out celebrating last month

All in all, June is still looking busy, but we have time planned to kick back and relax, if only for short bursts of time. I know we’ll make every effort to enjoy those moments, no matter how brief, so that it recharges us to go on to the next thing.

Questions: How are you doing with any goals you set for the year? Do you have time planned in the next month to relax a bit? Any accomplishments that you want to brag about?

Friday Favorite: Podcast Edition

Good morning and Happy Friday! It’s been a bit of a crazy week, both at work and home. A&P II started this week and is only a 10 week class (compared to the usual 16 weeks), so I’m thinking things are about to get a bit crazier. I’ve been contemplating the idea of moving to only two posts a week. While I’m sad to do this, I feel it’s what I need to do to maintain my classwork and my sanity. We’ll see how it works out in the coming weeks, but I hope you’ll still stop by!

Speaking of sanity, know what kept me sane during my crazy commute to Boston and now keeps me going during my runs? Podcasts! I’ve found that listening to podcasts, while entertaining and educational, also help me with pacing. When I listened to music during my runs, I would always match my pace to the beat of the song, which would inevitably mess me up. I know many people make playlists for running based on BPM, but I don’ t know that I have the creativity or music library for that.

You already know my girl Jillian Michaels has one of my favorite podcasts to listen to. She makes me laugh, she’s informative, and has a very funny and thoughtful sidekick/producer named Janice Ungaro (who I quickly met at Jillian’s Maximize You Life Tour last year!).

Jillian Michaels Podcast

My new favorite podcast that makes me feel like I’m cheating on Jillian is Evan Brand’s Not Just Paleo. As the name of the podcast implies, he doesn’t preach about paleo, though it is something he’s passionate about. The thing I love about his podcast is he has a variety of knowledgeable guests that he has great questions for. Though I just started listening about a month ago and am not up to date on the most recent ones, my favorites so far have been podcast #71 with guest Dr. Ray McClanahan, a podiatrist who quickly made me re-think my approach to footwear and podcast # 72 with guest Dr. Tim Gerstmar, a naturopathic doctor.

Not Just Paleo podcast

Moving on to a more running-specific podcast is Kinetic Revolution’s Train Smarter. Though I’ve only listened to one podcast so far, I found it incredibly informative. Kinetic Revolution is a group of running coaches and physiotherapists that provide services for runners, triathletes, and endurance athletes. Needless to say, they know a lot about running. Plus, listening to British accents is always fun!

Kinetic Revolution Train Smarter Podcast

The last podcast is based on one of my favorite books, Freakonomics (I have not yet read SuperFreakonomics or their newest book that was just released this month, Think Like a Freak, but they’re on my list!). For anyone who hasn’t heard of Freakonomics, it’s a book by Steven Leavitt and Stephen Dubner that  exposes the hidden side of just about everything, from how real estate agents really make money, to why crime may have dropped suddenly in the 90s. They also have a movie (it’s available free on Amazon Prime Instant!), though it’s basically just illustrating the book, so if you don’t want to read the book, it’s a good CliffsNotes version.

Anyway, back to the podcast. They have a variety of topics that they break down for you with research, such as “How to Make People Quit Smoking,” “Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It?” and “Would a Big Bucket of Cash Really Change Your Life?” One of my absolute favorite episodes is The Economist’s Guide to Parenting. I won’t spoil it–you’ll just have to give it a listen! If you’re a research nerd like me, or just want to know the numbers behind the results, this is the podcast for you. Not to mention the Steven and Stephen are funny in a nerdy kind of way.

Freakonomics Radio Podcast

When I was commuting to Boston I used to listen to a lot of the different How Stuff Works podcasts. Stuff You Should Know with the hysterical Josh and Chuck was the main one I listened to, as well as Stuff Mom Never Told You and Stuff You Missed in History Class. I haven’t listened to them in a while since I already have a full library of podcasts, but will download a podcast here and there if there’s an episode I’m particularly interested in.

A lot of other bloggers I follow have written about their favorite podcasts. Funnily enough, Carrots ‘n’ Cake shared some of her favorite podcasts just earlier this week. I know a lot of people, WH bro included, who are fans of NPR’s This American Life, such as Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point. Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers is another NPR fan, liking Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.

Questions: Do you listen to podcasts? When you work out or when you commute? What are some of your favorite podcasts?

Friday Favorite: Return to Running

Can you believe we’re halfway through May? Where the heck did the past two weeks go?

May 16 2014

Maybe it was the craziness of the last two weeks of my class that made it go by so quickly (which I got an A in, by the way–good to know I’ve still got it!).

Final grade

 You know I’m rounding that up to 95%, right? 

So, I’m sure you probably saw today’s favorite coming from a mile away (or 3,446 miles for Karen). I’ve talked about my experience with the Return to Running program many times over the past six months.

Cool down walk

WHH creeping on me during a stage about midway through the plan.

For those of you who haven’t been following the whole time, it’s a program developed by PhysioAdvisor.com to help those of us who have sustained lengthened injuries to slowly and safely make our way back to running.

PhysioAdvisor.com logo

After I was discharged from physical therapy last November I had no idea how to start on my path back to running. When I had last tried getting back to running last August after recovering from my other injury, I developed the plantar fasciitis that landed me back in physical therapy through November. Needless to say I was a bit apprehensive on how to move forward. I needed a systematic approach, but what? That was when I stumbled upon this great program after spending a lot of frustrating time searching online for a solid plan.

Return to running plan

I followed it to a T. I had a few setbacks, figured out what the problems were, and then moved forward. I’m amazed I didn’t have more setbacks given my year of injuries in 2013. In fact, the last few stages flew  by with very few needing repeats. Though it took me six months, I finally made it to stage 19 on Wednesday!

Return to running all stages

It was really rewarding to see this on my RunKeeper when I finished:

RunKeeper fastest run

I may have been a bit too enthusiastic, though, because my knees became quite sore about halfway through. I think the problem was going a bit too fast for my first full run back:

RunKeeper splits

Unintentional negative splits! 

Thankfully, they didn’t hurt once I was done and they still haven’t hurt more than usual. Going to need to keep up foam rolling the ITBs and running on the grass.

Running on grass path

I would highly recommend this program to anyone trying to negotiate their way back to running following an injury. I couldn’t be happier with the results and am excited to move on to a more interesting training schedule (Tempo runs! HIIT! Hills!) and start racing again! I don’t plan on increasing my mileage by more than 10% a week, nor increasing the speed or intensity too quickly. It’s been helpful to reach out to Nora, who beat me to finishing the program, to see how she’s progressed in her runs.

For those who are coming back from an injury, but want to come back to a sport, PhysioAdvisor also has a plan for that as well. Additionally, they have tons of other resources for dealing with injury, from stretches for your particular injury, to taping technique. Some of the content is locked for members only, but for a nominal fee you can gain a lot of additional helpful information. I haven’t bought a membership yet, but I may to see if there is some extra helpful information for my elbow.

Well, in the words of my Welsh co-worker, there you have it and there you are. Hope you have a great weekend!

Questions: Have you had to come back from injury after an extended period of time? Are there any programs out there that you love, whether it’s a marathon training plan or a HIIT workout? Any fun weekend plans?

Quick Tip: DIY Coffee Scrub

I love a life hack that allows me to save money, reuse something, and reduce my exposure to chemicals. What amazing thing could have all of these benefits? A coffee scrub!

French press coffee

My two loves: French press coffee and Game of Thrones

Whenever I shave my legs (and this time of year that’s way too often for my sensitive skin), I need to exfoliate so I don’t get ingrown hairs. Even if you don’t get ingrown hairs, it’s a good way to get rid of the top layer of dead skin to give you a closer shave.

So how do you make it? It’s super simple. First, get yourself some coffee grounds, used or unused. I use the ones that we brewed that morning and make sure to grab them before they end up in our compost pail.

Drip coffee maker coffee grounds

I’ll throw these in a bowl, or if it’s the weekend and we’ve made French press, I’ll grab the entire carafe.

French press coffee grounds

Note that depending on the type of coffee, the grounds may be finer or more coarse. Grounds for drip coffee are generally more fine, compared to the course grounds you need for French press. I haven’t found much of a difference, but the finer ones may go down your drain more easily.

Next, grab your choice of oil. I usually take olive oil or coconut oil as I already use these on my skin for a variety of reasons (more on that in future post). I find it easiest to put about 1/4 c into a plastic container so, 1. I’m not getting the container wet in the shower and, 2. they won’t break if I drop them (bare feet and broken glass is not a good combo).

Olive oil and coconut oil for skin care

Then, head into the bathroom. If you’re taking a bath or shower already, I suggest waiting to exfoliate until you’re done with everything else. The exposure warm water over a few minutes helps the skin and hair soften and will make it easier to shave (if you choose to do so at this time).

Once you’re ready to exfoliate, take a small handful of grounds and combine with as much oil as you like, then smooth over your entire leg. Yes, it will make a bit of a mess, but it cleans up easily. Just be careful not to use too much oil or the bottom of your shower will get dangerously slippery.

Have you ever noticed that caffeine is often an ingredient in cellulite creams and scrubs? This is because it tightens the skin, temporarily improving the appearance of cellulite. Bonus points for the added benefit! Another bonus is that since you made this yourself with only two ingredients and you didn’t buy a scrub, you’re saving some money and reducing you exposure to weird chemicals that may be lurking in conventional scrubs.

In running news, I’m hoping to head out this afternoon to do the final stage in my Return to Running plan this afternoon! I can’t believe I finally made it! Six months of being patient with my body has certainly paid off! I know I shouldn’t put the cart before the horse, but I’m already contemplating signing up for a race, doing tempo runs, etc. Finally some variety!

Return to running stage 18

Questions: Do you make your own scrubs at home? What are some of your favorite combinations?

Friday Favorite: Yogi Tea

Happy Friday! This week flew by surprisingly fast. Although I should probably wait on that sentiment given that I’m training people on parts of our new electronic medical record all day today.

I’ll keep it short and sweet today given I had a really long April recap earlier this week. Today’s favorite is something I’ve been using for the past few years: Yogi Tea! One of my favorite flavors that I have been unable to find duplicated in any other tea is their Egyptian Licorice.

Egyptian Licorice Yogi Tea

I’m actually not a huge tea drinker (I love my bold, black coffee!), but I  have found myself drinking it more and more, especially in the colder months. I tend toward herbal teas as opposed to caffeinated/decaf teas. The Egyptian licorice flavor is silky smooth on the throat and nice and warming. I often find myself having it on afternoons at work to warm me up.

One of my other go-to’s is the Yogi ginger tea.

Ginger Yogi Tea

As you can see on the front, ginger aids digestion. Ginger is also a great anti-inflammatory. I find myself reaching for it when I’m feeling especially sore from a workout or if something’s not sitting well in my stomach. It’s spicy-sweet and definitely wakes me up a bit thanks to the spice. I’m not one for spice (thanks to my 1/4 Irish genes?), but the spice of ginger is different. It’s warming, but doesn’t linger in your mouth the way that chili-type spice does.

I love that Yogi Tea explains the benefits of their ingredients on the box.

Ginger Yogi Tea ingredients

They also include a yoga pose and the best way to brew the tea.

Yogi Tea yoga pose

And one of my favorite parts? The lovely sayings on the tea tags. I couldn’t find a picture of my own, but you can go to their website and get a piece of wisdom any time you want!

One of my other favorites is the Yogi Bedtime tea.

Yogi Bedtime Tea

Like the Egyptian licorice flavor, this has a nice, mellow, smooth and soothing flavor. It definitely helps me unwind at the end of the day and get my mind and body ready for sleep.

Of course, one of the best parts I haven’t yet mentioned is that most of their teas are organic. No need to worry about nasty chemicals on the herbs you’re drinking! They also go on sale frequently at my local grocery store and at Whole Foods. I always snag a couple of boxes when they can be had for less money!

In terms of a running update, I did stage 17 yesterday. I hadn’t run since last Friday because my funky knee felt a little wonky. I was out of work early because of the long day today. I had eaten lunch at 11:30 and grabbed a date with some peanut butter on my way out for my run around 2:30. I don’t know if it was the lack of food or the fact that my run started off with some pretty steep hills, but my legs felt like cement blocks despite a rest day the day before. I guess I now know that I definitely need something in me about an hour or so before a run.

My plantar fasciitis foot was feeling a bit tight last night, but I made sure to do my regular ice massage as well as slapping an ice pack on my foot while reading in bed. Still a bit tight today, but no pain. I need to get back to more regular use of the Foot Rubz and tennis ball to loosen up that fascia.

Foot Rubz ball

For this weekend, I’m looking forward to our annual Mother’s Day brunch that WHH and I host for our moms and grandmothers. I’m not sure of the menu this year, but I often make maple glazed bacon, baked French toast, veggie frittata, a large fruit salad, and mimosas. Mmmm…

Martha Stewart Maple Glazed Bacon

Questions: Do you drink tea? Caffeinated, decaf, and/or herbal? What are some of your favorite blends? Any weekend plans?

 

New Year’s Goals Check-In: April

Happy May! How did the month of April look for you? Anything you’re looking forward to in the next month? Here’s a breakdown of my goals for the New Year and how I did in April:

Personal Goals

  • Try a new trend/clothing item I wouldn’t normally: N/A

After putting away the winter clothes and taking out the spring/summer clothes, I’m good for now, though I will probably need some summer clothes since I was running low last year. I also remembered a bag of clothes I had put aside from the tailor when I lost too much weight. I tried the clothes on and three of the five items now fit well enough that I don’t need them taken in. Still tempted to try Stitch Fix.

  • Take more pictures: B

I’m still taking a lot of pictures and keeping them organized moving forward. We received our Shutterfly book and it’s such a nice little memento to look through. I still want to go back through our vacation pictures more thoroughly to organize/make notes on them and get more printed for an old-fashioned photo album. And wedding pics? Yeah…

Shutterfly vacation book

A funny series of picture from the top of the incredibly sunny Jungfraujoch.

  •  Make a new menu item weekly: A-

This past month we’ve been flying by the seat of our pants a bit. It’s been crazy with work, studying, working out, and family/friends, so we’ve been less creative than usual and definitely have not done much meal planning. I’m going to curve this grade a bit, though, because class comes first and we’re still eating plenty clean and healthy.

One new recipe I did make? Deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie from Cook Smarts. Yummy, yum, yum!

Deconstructed shepherd's pie

One thing I have been really good at: “use it up” recipes. That is, using up all of the leftovers in my fridge for a random meal. Last night I had some eggplant, pepper, shallot, Brussels sprouts leaves, stewed tomatoes,and tempeh that needed to be used. Et voila, a take on ratatouille:

Left over meal

  • Travel: A

Tickets to Colorado are booked! Now we need fill in the blanks of where to stay (hopefully with my brother in the Boulder area for a few days) and what to do (hiking, horseback riding, etc.). I would love any suggestions if you’ve been there before!

A trip to the Netherlands to visit friends is still possible later this year, though not probable.

  • Read more, especially instead of watching TV: B+

When aren’t I reading?! I feel like all I do is read! This month’s school assignments have included incredibly long chapters, as well as double chapters this past week. I’m a regular book’s worth (~300 pages) through A Storm of Swords (which is even longer!)!

TV has been average, with some of our favorite shows all back on at the same time (A Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Vikings, and Call the Midwife). We try to portion it out so we watch on weekends nights only. Do you watch any of these shows? We only know two other people who watch Vikings and can’t believe it’s not more popular given how popular GOT is. Lagertha is one of my favorite characters because she is so bad a$$. I could go on and on about how good this show is (not as good as GOT, though), but since this is my reading instead of watching TV goal, I’ll save myself the shame.

History Channel Vikings

Speaking of shame…I have a “french fry” (no good for me, but tastes so good!) show: Total Divas. I am absolutely fascinated by this world of tough, athletic women that throw themselves around. I may even follow the Bella Twins on Instagram and Twitter. I try to watch only when I’m foam rolling or icing, because I really don’t have time for this.

Total Divas

This month has consisted of nothing but the necessary, so a no-go on the Pinterest board. I’m scaling it because classwork is to blame (so she says after talking about TV shows!) and I’m not going to give myself a hard time for not getting to it when that’s what I’m spending most of my time on.

  • Simplify house further: B+

Yet another bag of items off to be donated as well as a Thred Up bag to be sent! Still no-go on the dreaded closet, but see legitimate excuse above.

Thred Up logo

  • Meet with financial advisor: C+

Still haven’t done this. I’m thinking I may move it to the end of the summer when I will be done with classes for a few weeks and can properly concentrate. Scaled accordingly.

  • Write reviews, such as for products and travel:C+

Ugh. I am seriously tanking this month. April obviously kicked my butt. Will re-assess the TV situation for sure.

Professional:

  • Take co-requisite courses for nursing school: A+

It’s my last week of A&P I (still holding a 95% average!) and A&P II starts in three weeks, so I get one week off in between.

Dissection for Anatomy & Physiology I

  • Start nursing school: TBD

Still on the wait-list for Fall 2014. My focus is on finishing A&P I, getting through A&P II, and then I’ll go from there.

  • Get better at WordPress and blogging in general: B+

I had my first guest post this month and was definitely better with posting at more consistent times and prepping more posts ahead of time, so I feel really good about that given how busy the month was.

  • As time allows, get personal training and/or nutritionist certification: TBD

Still not a focus right now, though it is on my mind a lot . A possibility for the fall…

Health and Wellness:

  • Try a new physical endeavor as my body continues to heal from all of the injuries last year: B+

No quite as good as last month. My focus has been mainly on trying to maintain a routine during some busy weeks, and to keep moving forward in my Return to Running program. I have ventured out on some trails, though, and have made a big effort to find new routes at every chance.

April train run

Friday’s run was stage 16! My right knee felt a little funny during part of the run, so I’ve been icing and taking it easy the past few days. It’s my weird knee that acts up from time to time. I think I overdid it during one of Jillian’s workouts that had a lot of plyo training. I just need to not do that anymore. My knees never like me after I do. Trying not to think too much about it.

Hill running

Lots of hills on Friday’s run. Kept saying to myself, “You can do this!”  instead of “When will this hill end?!”

I’m done with the 12 days of prednisone for my tennis elbow and while it felt fabulous the first few days, pain and stiffness shortly returned. After being in training all week last week and not doing much computer mousing, it definitely felt looser and I was able to do some wall and knee push-ups for the first time since December. I think that may be the key: keeping it loose long enough so I can strengthen it. I asked for another ergonomic evaluation at work, hoping that might help the situation. I go back to my orthopedist tomorrow and will probably refuse the second cortisone injection I’m sure they’re going to offer me. Second opinion is next.

  • Work on reducing exposure to pesticides, hormones, chemicals, and other toxins: B+

We’ve continued to make an effort to buy more natural meats, whether they’re vegetarian-fed (the cheapest of the natural meats), grass-fed, and/or organic. I’ve also been checking out the 365 Everyday Value brand at Whole Foods a lot more and the prices are not only reasonable, they’re often less than Market Basket’s equivalent. Love it!

365 Everday Value logo

To recap my monthly grades so far:

January: C
February: B-
March: B+
And April…B+! Whew…I seriously thought it was going to go down. I’ll take a steady B+ for now given how crazy this month was.

Last month I mentioned that I wanted to focus on more on slowing down. That didn’t exactly happen and as this new month started I was thinking how every day was going by so quickly and I felt like I was doing what I could to just get through it, making sure to eat healthy, work out, get my school work done, and maybe have time to read for pleasure and/or watch TV, let alone get to house stuff.

We did have some fun, having friends over one weekend night, attending some family events, and then celebrating my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday in style at Nebo in Boston (delicious food, great service, and gluten-free menu!). But it’s still a lot. WHH has a lot going on, too, but I’m hoping as his school year comes to a close in the next two months and the lazy days of summer are upon us, we’ll find time to stop and smell the roses. For now, I’ll have to just enjoy the little moments, such as this beautiful scene I caught on my way to work this morning.

May sunrise

Questions: How are you doing with any goals you set for the year? Did April go by as quickly and crazily for you or were you able to stop and enjoy it?

Friday Favorite: Light Alarm Clocks

Happy Friday! We made it! Boy, what a week! In honor of that, I’m going to keep it short and sweet today.

I was lying in bed wondering what wonderful item I could tell you about today. I happened to glance over at my nightstand and the proverbial lightbulb went off in my head when I saw one of my favorite purchases from over three years ago: our light alarm clock.

Bookshelf

Ours is the Philips Hf3470 Wake-up Light, but there are a bunch of models out there for you to choose from. I originally saw the concept in a Gaiam catalog years ago and knew when I saw it that I’d want one. (As a side note: Am I the only one who wants one of everything on their website? I think  I need to work for them!) They tend to be a bit on the pricey side for an alarm clock, but to me they’re worth every penny. I ended up using Christmas money to buy it so I didn’t feel quite so guilty.

I bought it because I couldn’t stand waking up to the radio or alarm every day. I would wake up with a jolt as soon as it went off. My heart would race and I would instantly feel stress hormones coursing through my body. Not a great way to start the day. This is so much nicer, gentler, and more natural.

How exactly does it work? It wakes you up by gradually increasing the light over a certain interval of time (I believe it’s about 20-30 minutes). The idea is that it’s closer to the way sunlight would wake you up if you didn’t have to get up in the dark like we do. In case the light doesn’t wake you up, there’s a back-up alarm. You can choose from the radio, a beeping, or, my preference, chirping birds. The sound increases gradually at the time you set for the alarm to go off and gets louder over 30 seconds or so.

I actually have my light set at level 1 (the lowest) and that easily wakes me up in a dark bedroom. On the weekends, I’ll put it up to about 3 as our bedroom tends to be a little lighter thanks to being able to wake up later. For picture purposes, though, here’s what the range might look like. From this:

Philips Hf3470 Wake-up Light, low

Over the course of 10-15 minutes, it might become this:

Philips Hf3470 Wake-up Light, high

Most of the time I wake up before the alarm goes off. And even when the birds start to chirp, it’s a pleasant sound. It’s so realistic that now when I happen to hear birds outside chirping, I go to check that my alarm isn’t going off. 😉

I can’t recommend this enough. As I said, we’ve had it over three years and I’m so happy with it. Plus, it doubles as a bedside light and a radio (which I always forget it has). After daily use, we haven’t even had to replace the light bulb yet.

I’m off to re-do stage 16 this afternoon. My foot’s been bothering me a little bit and my calf has been tight. I think it’s because I’ve been sitting a bit more during the day this week thanks to training. It won’t be an easy run on account of glute and hamstring soreness from Wednesday’s workout (I ended up doing Jillian Michael’s No More Trouble Zones chest/abs/glutes/biceps/core/lower body sets instead of Killer Abs as I had tentatively planned). Running with sore glutes and hammies always makes you appreciate how those muscles come into play when you run.

I’ll leave you with perhaps one of my favorite things I’ve seen this week: green grass on our lawn!

Green grass

Questions: What do you use to wake up every day? Do you have a favorite item you’d like to share? Anything fun planned for the weekend?

 

 

What’s Working Lately

Happy Monday! This weekend flew by! The weather was pretty gross here in Massachusetts-back to the 40s, rainy, and just dreary. Though it made staying in and doing homework for most of it a bit easier, I suppose. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze in another run in between showers. It threatened the whole time, but I outran the storm clouds!

April showers

As I was running, and feeling so grateful that I had made it to stage 16 relatively uneventfully, I was thinking about what’s been working for me lately to get me to this point. Of course, then I started thinking about all the things in my life that are just kind of geling, which then lead me to think about some things that aren’t. So, in true type-A fashion, I started making some lists when I got home. 🙂

What’s Working 

  • My current workout routine: This consists of running 2-3x a week using the Return to Running program faithfully. I’ve also made sure to incorporate one yoga routine a week, one barre3 workout, and strengthening.
  • Injury prevention: As I’ve been amping up the running, I’m sure to massage and do an ice rub following each outing. In addition to icing on the day of the run, I’ve also been icing my foot nearly every single night when I get in bed to read for about 10-20 min. Foam rolling 1-2 times a week, especially along the IT band and into my glutes, has helped keep my glute injury at bay.

Ice massage for plantar fasciitis

  • Running on varied surfaces: My feet really love me when I run on grass, so I make a point to have a trail run or a run along an area with grass in one of my weekly runs. I can really feel the difference and I think this has helped to keep the plantar fasciitis at bay.
  • Chipping away at homework: For the first half of the semester, I did the bulk of my homework on the weekends. Of course, this left me trying to cram a lot of information into a short time and not getting much else done on the weekends. I’ve been trying to make a point of doing one hour of homework every night. Breaking big jobs into smaller tasks is a concept I need to work on. I let myself get overwhelmed with the big picture, decide to tackle it all at once, and stress myself out unnecessarily.

Proper dissection safety

 Dissection time!

  • Getting to bed earlier: My energy has been so much better lately thanks to making an effort to getting to bed about 15-20 minutes earlier. It makes the evening shorter, but it’s so worth it!

Of course, this list leads me to consider the opposite topic…

What’s Not Working

  • My diet: I seem to be hovering a pound or two higher than my usual range the past few weeks. This wouldn’t bother me except that I feel uncomfortable and have a heaviness in my midsection. Is it true weight gain? Is it because of the time of the month? Is it irregularity? Is it the prednisone? Whatever it is, something needs to change. I’m definitely not my usual self. So I’ve decided to try to cut down my dairy intake a bit. I love my morning yogurt parfaits, but I shouldn’t have them every.single.day. I’m also going to refocus on my fruit and vegetable intake, decrease my sugar, increase my fiber, and double-check my calories as all this running has made me a bit rungry. I also ordered the RawJuvenate’s 2 Week Detox Kit through a Groupon (it includes that supergreens mix I loved from my Greatist box!). I’ll be having this for breakfast every day and am hoping it will help “reset” my system. My goal isn’t to lose weight, but be back to feeling myself.

Pumpkin, kale, and almond butter smoothie

This morning’s pumpkin, kale, & almond butter protein smoothie

  • My tennis elbow: The prednisone worked great for the first few days. I felt like a new woman! But then, even though I was still on it (two more days to go), I started feeling the tightness more and more. I’m not back to where I started, but it’s not near the result I was hoping for based on how I felt the first few days. I’m going to try some ART therapy tomorrow to see if I can loosen up the muscles before it comes back with a vengeance. If that doesn’t work, I’m going for a second opinion. I saw what life could be without the constant pain and tightness and I want that back!

On the Edge of Not Working

  • My current life pace: I feel like I’m right on the edge of being overwhelmed. I’ve been able to work everything in so far with taking class and having it fit into my life (that is, still being able to work out regularly, prepare fresh, healthy meals, keep up with the house, blog, and have a social life). But there are times when I feel like the balance could almost tip. In that case, I will need to assess what can go and what can stay because this path I’m on is important to me. Whatever is in the way of that will have to go, whether it’s changing up blogging to only twice a week, or giving up TV altogether.

That’s that for now. A bit of a mind dump, but I wanted to share what’s working for me in case there’s something there that could help you. I think it’s good to assess our day-to-day life to make sure we’re living a happy, healthy life. We only have this day, this moment, and we need to make the most of it.

Aim High graphic

Questions: What about you? What’s working for you lately? What’s not working?

 

Friday Favorite: Composting

I cannot believe it’s already the last Friday of the month! Where did this month go?! Did the month go by quickly for you as well?

April 2014 calendar free printable

The good thing? As the month goes on, we’re seeing more and more signs of life here in Massachusetts. The forsythias are finally blooming (always one of the first signs of spring here in New England)!

Forsythia bloom

The crab apple in our backyard is starting to bud. This tree was one of the most wonderful surprises when we bought our house. When we moved in, it had just started flowering and though it only lasts about a week, it is quite a sight to see. It should bloom in about a week or so (always around WHH’s birthday) and I’ll be sure to share pictures.

Crab apple budding

While we’re on the subject of the great outdoors, and since it’s Earth Month, I have to tell you about one of the most-used items in our household: our simplehuman Compost Pail that we received for Christmas nearly four years ago. This thing has gotten daily use since that time and it still looks (nearly) brand new (the hack job the previous owners did on the backsplash is a whole ‘nother story…):

SimpleHuman compost pail

In keeping with a whole health mentality, it was important to us to start composting once we bought our house. Aside from the personal reasons (enriching our own soil), composting can have a larger part in helping to decrease the amount of methane generated via landfills and therefore cut down on climate warming gases. Climate change can have huge effects on our health, from air quality to allergens to a host of animal-, food-, and water-borne diseases. This issue is not going away unless we make conscious efforts to change our ways. And given that the severity of this past winter is probably linked to climate change, I’ll do whatever I can to make it better!

Felt pads on bottom of compost pail

We added felt pads to the bottom of our pail

Shall we take a peak inside? I promise you, it’s not scary. In fact, this picture is a good example of what not to do: don’t forget to take the tags off of your fruit! Those were a couple of apples that had gone bad (for once we had too many!) and we roughly chopped them up before tossing them in. The food will break down more easily if you chop it into smaller pieces instead of keeping it whole or in large pieces, such as a watermelon rind.

SimpleHuman compost pail open

As you can see, the cap has lip in it in which you can put charcoal filters to help with any aromas that might escape. We’ve never bought any replacements, however, and have never had a problem with smell. We end up emptying it about once a week and I can’t tell you how much it has reduced our weekly garbage!

So where does it go when we empty it? To our makeshift compost bin:

Trash barrel compost bin

We had an extra bucket and decided to use it for this purpose. We poked holes in the top to allow for some slight respiration, if you will.

Trash barrel compost bin cover with holes

Shall we take a peak inside this one? It’s a bit scarier, but believe it or not, does not smell at all. I take that back–it does smell, but not like you think it would. It smells earthy. Like really damp dirt.

Trash barrel compost bin inside food

And here it is once WHH turned it and added some yard waste to it to mix it a bit better:

Trash barrel compost bin top off yard waste

We try to mix it up with a good old-fashioned pitch fork and then layer in some yard waste every month or so, just to keep an even balance of nitrogen and carbon (more on that later). We can go months without emptying it. When the sun hits the barrel, even in the winter, it gets quite warm inside, and ends up “cooking” the mixture down.

So what happens when it does get full? It goes off to our larger compost pile beside our vegetable garden, where it joins more of our grass clippings, some leaves, various other yard waste, and Wilbur’s used hay.

Compost pile outside

WHH will turn the larger pile and then bury the newer mixture near the bottom of the pile to keep it all “cooking” evenly. That’s really all there is to it. We do it the cheap and easy way, but you can get fancier and have a tumbler compost bin or cage in your compost pile.

So what do you do with all of this black gold? If you don’t have time for or interest in gardening, you can use it as fill around your yard or topsoil around your trees and plants. If you are more of the gardener type, you can use it as a near-organic source of nutrients for the soil. We try to keep it as natural as possible and don’t use any fertilizer, but we do buy manure to add a little somethin’ somethin’ for our veggie garden. I love being able to go outside and pick what I want for dinner!

Garden foods

We were still picking from our garden into late fall last year.

Peppers eggplant tomato from garden

Plus, you never know, you might get a rogue acorn squash that decided to grow out of your compost pile, which we were pleasantly surprised with last year:

Acorn squash from compost pile

That giant acorn squash plant on the right outside of the garden grew from our compost pile!

Here’s a quick list of what we do put in our compost bin and pile:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Leaves, grass, and hay
  • Charcoal from the fireplace (once it’s been out for a few weeks)
  • Occasionally, rabbit manure
  • Newspaper

And here’s what we do not put in:

  • Anything animal-derived (no bones, flesh, dairy, etc.)
  • Anything cooked (unless it was fruit or veggie cooked without any added oils)
  • Anything containing oil
  • Typical carbohydrates (breads, pasta, etc.)

You want to have about a 3:1 mix of “browns” (carbon-rich materials such as wood chips, straw, branches, and leaves) to “greens” (nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps). We honestly don’t pay attention to this much and ours comes out okay. I’m sure if we made more of an effort it would be even better. So you’ll get out of it what you put in, but even minimal effort is worth it!

That’s just the quick and dirty way, but if you’re interested in learning more, here are a couple of useful links to help get your started:

EarthEasy Compost Guide

EPA’s Composting at Home

In running news, I’m heading out to do stage 15 this afternoon along the river. I can’t believe I’ve finally gotten this far! It’s been such a long time coming. I still don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but for the first time in over a year I’m seriously thinking about training for races. Sure, there’s still that crazy marathon idea I have in the back of my mind, but I need to start with a 5k or two and then a 10k!

Return to running stage 15

Questions: Do you have a garden? Do you compost? If you compost, do you have any secret tips? If you don’t compost, would you think about trying it? Any races you’re eyeing lately?

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