16 AprUps and Downs of Healthy Living

As some of you may know, last year was a difficult one for me. I had many struggles with my health that made it difficult to train for my second half marathon. In the weeks leading up to the race, I got sick again. So, I didn’t get the training in that I’d hoped. I still felt like I would probably be able to finish, and felt I should at least try.

Race day came, and we’ll just say that parts of my body were already feeling iffy. I got going, and the farther I went, the more I hurt. There were definitely times when I didn’t think I could finish. The one thing that remained consistent was God. He never left me, and he always let me know He was there. Throughout the race, I saw people with shirts that said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13) This is a verse that has brought me strength and confidence throughout the past few years of struggle. No matter how much it hurt, I knew I could finish. I did, with a decent time, but it wasn’t pretty. In the following days, I got sick as well. So, this time, I came back sick and injured.

I won’t lie. The weeks that followed have been pretty difficult. I realize all of these are first world problems, and I don’t have an incurable disease. I know I came home to a roof over my head, food on the table, and a job. It has still been frustrating and painful. I haven’t been able to run more than a 5K distance, and cross training has been slow going as well. There were times when I wanted to quit. As recently as the last few days I have thought about it, if I’m being honest. Running is hard, and can be painful on a good day. Why do I even bother anymore? (I do get the irony that this post is going to follow the one called “Why Are You Running?” by the way…) In the last couple of weeks, I have tried to slowly get back on track. I won’t say that I am 100% confident right now, but I do know one thing. When I am running, I feel more like me than any other time. I am going to do everything I can to get back to the person I used to be.

I know that recently I have stepped away from this blog and social media. I could come up with all kinds of excuses…too tired, too busy, etc. etc. The truth is, I didn’t feel like I had anything worthwhile to contribute. I haven’t been on track with exercise, so I couldn’t give you any fitness tips. My attitude and focus have been up and down and all over the place, so I couldn’t inspire you or give you advice. What I have realized recently, is that this is precisely why I should be sharing. I am sure a lot of you have experienced struggles in the journey to healthy living. Maybe if I am honest about mine, someone will feel less alone. We’re all in this together! It is never going to be easy, but it helps when you feel like someone else understands.

PHM Medal 2015

Please feel free to contact me through Facebook, Twitter, email, or in the comments with any questions, or if you would just like to share.

22 DecWhy are you running?

On a run several weeks ago, I encountered a family pulling a little girl in a wagon. As I ran past, she said “Hi,” and I said “Hi,” back. Just as I got past her, she said, “Why are you running?” I was in the zone, and already gone by the time her words hit me. They stuck with me though. Why am I running? As I ran, I thought about this. My first thought was, “Because it’s fun.” This is true…sometimes. It can be fun, but any runner can tell you that it’s not fun 100% of the time. It can be hard, frustrating, painful, and downright maddening. All these things considered, it is also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

Anyone who knows about my background knows that I was never an athlete. Pushing my body to the limit, and accomplishing something on this level, gives me a joy that I never imagined. I am living a life I never thought possible, and it is thanks in large part to running. It sounds crazy, and sometimes I wonder why I do it. Then I remember the indescribable feeling I have when I accomplish something I never thought possible.

I used to see people running and think, “They are crazy! Why would you put your body through that?!” Now I know. I do it because is part of who I am. No matter how fast I go, no matter how far I go, I am a runner.

If you run, why do you do it? If not, insert any other physical activity you enjoy! Why do you do what you do?

20 OctOvercomer

For various health reasons (none of which turned out to be serious, all of which are on their way out), this has been a rough year. I started out running my first half marathon (and the 5K and the 10K…) at the runDisney Princess Half Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World. I was in the best shape I have ever been in, and it was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. After I came home, it seemed like one thing after another sidelined me. I tried to keep my fitness level up, but I would take two steps forward and one step back. As soon as I would start getting my running built back up, something else would happen to set me back. It has been pretty discouraging, to be honest. It has been far from the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through, but I definitely had some down times. There were moments when I wanted to just give up. What was the point of trying, if I was just going to have to start over again later?

Over the past several weeks, however, I have been getting stronger every day. Sure, I have had some setbacks, but I feel like I am on my way to a comeback. As He often does, God has been reaching me through music. Each time I run, I seem to hear the song I need at the moment I need it. This song is “Overcomer” by Mandisa. I’ve always related to it, due to the healthy living journey I have been on. Now, I hear it in a completely different way. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend you find the video on YouTube. I hope you are changed by it too.

Here is a sample of the lyrics:

“You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds you
That you’re an overcomer
You’re an overcomer”

“The same Man, the Great I Am
The One who overcame death
He’s living inside of you
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the One who holds your life
There’s nothing He can’t do
He’s telling you”

Deep down, I have always believed these words. I know “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” (Phil. 4:13). However, I am still human. Doubt creeps in. I begin to think that I can’t do it anymore. I can’t go on. Little by little, I am reminded that God has made me strong. I am capable of so much more than I thought. I am an Overcomer…and you can be too.

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21 JulTHE Best Earbuds! Yurbuds!

Hello everyone! I have noticed some common questions in running groups regarding gear, fueling, etc. and I thought it might help to address some of them here! One question is “What kind of earbuds can I use that will stay in my ears?” I had the same question a year or so ago. Earbuds, earplugs, anything that is supposed to go in my ears will stay there for about 10 seconds and then fall right out.

I always thought I could not use any kind of earbuds, because none existed to fit my weirdly shaped ear canal. I always used the over-the-ear kind, but those were too big and cumbersome and took up too much room in my bag or around my neck. I was looking for a new pair of those and found Yurbuds. The box said they were designed for women and guaranteed not to fall out. “We’ll see about that!” I said, and decided to give them a try. Guess what? THEY DIDN’T FALL OUT. Now, this may not seem like a life-changing event to you, but it was to me! I can run, I can jump, I can do anything, and these things don’t budge! They kept their promise, and they are the only earbuds I use for running, at the gym, for travel, or just to throw in my bag for every day. The key is what they call a “Twistlock.” You can see a video on their website showing how that works.

My first pair of Yurbuds came from Target, but I have since seen them in running and sporting goods stores as well. The plain and simple version (which is what I have) is called “Inspire for Women.” These are just the regular model, with no bells and whistles. They are generally around $30, but I have found some on clearance at Target and even at stores like Ross or TJ Maxx for $14.99! Needless to say, I always grab every pair I can find when I get a deal like that. They come with two sizes of covers for you to try, so you can find which size will fit best. If neither of those work, the Yurbuds website states that you can contact them via telephone or email for fit advice. There are six sizes to choose from. On their website, you will also find the wide variety of earbuds they carry, with all kinds of features. The only drawback I see is that the covers sometimes fall off and get lost. You can order replacements for $10 on their website. It looks like right now they only have sizes 4 and 5 for the model I have. I have also seen a booth at a race expo where you could buy replacements. I may do this some day, but for now I have so many extra pair that I have gotten on sale, it is not necessary. I also bought a behind-the-ear pair from Marshall’s recently, but I have not tried those yet.

yurbuds

(Also pictured above is my nifty earbud case from iFrogz. I don’t see it any more on their website, but I hope they still exist. They are awesome for keeping your cords neat and tidy!)

So there you have it…the best earbuds EVER, at least in my current opinion. What earbuds do you use? Do you ever have trouble getting them to stay in like I do? Do you have any other running/fitness gear-related questions I can try and answer for you? Can I possibly think of any more questions to ask you? You can contact me in the comments or on all of the various forms of social media seen on your right. Until next time, y’all!

Check out the Yurbuds website at: http://www.yurbuds.com

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored or requested by Yurbuds. I am just a huge fan and wanted to share with everyone! All products discussed in this post were purchased by me and all opinions are my own.

25 JunI run AND I walk – The Jeff Galloway Method

shoes & tiara

Many of you may be familiar with run/walk intervals as a form of training/racing. For example, you run for 1 minute, then walk for 1 minute. What some may not know is that this is not always a method for beginners or the injured. Many people (including myself) use this for life. In February, I completed the Glass Slipper Challenge (10K + Half Marathon at Walt Disney World) with run/walk intervals. Jeff Galloway, a former Olympian and the creator of the Jeff Galloway Method, recently qualified and completed the Boston Marathon this way.

I have previously discussed the fact that I never thought I wanted to be a runner. Long story short… during my weight loss, I decided I would give running a fair shot (mainly because I was too stubborn to say it was something I COULDN’T do). I downloaded a Couch to 5K app, planning to train all the way through to a 5K before I decided if I would quit. This program does use the run/walk intervals, but only until you work up to running the entire distance. After about a month of training, I was running 5 minutes, walking 1 minute. I did it. I was proud that I did it. Did I enjoy it? Not really. I didn’t hate it enough to quit, but I also was not sure if I wanted to run beyond the planned 5K. I certainly did not think I wanted to run a half marathon.

Being the Disney nerd that I am, I was very interested in runDisney. This is the Disney-sponsored racing series, in which runners can race through the Disney parks. They have a very informative website (), on which one can find tips from a nutritionist (Tara Gidus) and training plans from a training consultant (Jeff Galloway). As I learned more and more from the official site, message boards, and blogs (I told you I was a Disney nerd), I discovered the Galloway Method. I was pleased to see that this was a running technique in which walk breaks are integrated, but it is much more flexible than a Couch to 5K program. Runners can choose their own intervals and pace. It is not a means to an end, but a technique that can be employed for a lifetime of running. I downloaded the Galloway Easy 5K app and got to work. At first I tried 4min/1min intervals. This was fine, but the more I studied the method, I learned that many people use shorter intervals. I started playing with the times and discovered that the shorter my intervals were, it gave me either the same pace or faster. I experimented until I arrived at the 30sec/30sec intervals I still use today.

Some may think that those who run/walk are not runners. I say that if you run, you’re a runner; no matter how fast, or how far. We are getting out there, putting one foot in front of the other, and crossing the finish line, just like those who do not use intervals. If you’re a beginner, afraid to start running, think you hate running, or just want to try something new, I highly suggest this method. You may find that you will not only finish a race still upright, still smiling, but you will finish ahead of some people using different techniques. The beauty of running is that everyone runs their own race their own way. Find what works for you and enjoy the journey.

The 2014 runDisney Princess Half Marathon - Part 2 of the Glass Slipper Challenge!

The 2014 runDisney Princess Half Marathon – Part 2 of the Glass Slipper Challenge!

For more information on Jeff Galloway, check out http://www.jeffgalloway.com/. You can also visit the official runDisney website at www.rundisney.com for information about future races and to download specific training programs.

NOTE: Though it might seem like it, I have no affiliation with Jeff Galloway or runDisney, nor was this post sponsored by anyone. All reviews and suggestions are my own. I am just a huge fan and excited to share with all of you!

15 JunFinding my way back to running…

A few weeks ago, I started running regularly again. I started out with about 15-20 minutes, because I didn’t want to overdo it and get injured. It was hard…really hard. I got very discouraged, because I thought “If I can’t run for 15 minutes without wanting to quit, how will I ever run a half marathon again?” I kept pushing forward, gradually increasing the time, but it wasn’t really getting any easier. I really thought about giving up. I told myself that maybe that amazing race weekend was a once in a lifetime experience. It was just a moment in time I would have to remember fondly, but never experience again. I tried to tell myself that would be okay, but the truth was that it broke my heart.

I kept pushing through, refusing to accept that my first half marathon would be my last. A little over a week ago, something happened. I finished a training run and while it was still difficult, it felt good. Really good. It felt like I was on my way back. For the first time in months, I actually felt like I can do this. I can find my way back!

I decided at the last minute to register for a 5K that I had been considering running for several months. This was the same race I ran last year, after completing a month-long road trip during which I ran twice. Results were not good. If I recall, it took me nearly an hour to finish. My mom was there again this year as official cheerleader/photographer/stuff holder. I told her not to start worrying about me until after the one hour mark. Since I was even more out of practice than I had been last year, I did not have high hopes. It was a pretty hot day, and I expected that to make things more difficult as well. I crossed the starting line, and made my way through some narrow spots. Soon, I found my rhythm. It was hot and it wasn’t pretty, but it was amazing. I felt like me again. Surprisingly, I finished in 40 minutes! This is only about 5 minutes slower than my PR!

I met Deena Kastor (Olympic medalist in the women's marathon) after the race!

I met Deena Kastor (Olympic medalist in the women’s marathon) after the race!

I don’t expect this to be an easy road, by any means. I do expect that I will get there. I will get back to the girl who finished that half marathon a few months ago. Who knows? Maybe I will even pass her.

08 MayDoing Nothing, but Staying Strong

As you may have noticed, I have been absent from this blog and from most social media. In February, I completed the Glass Slipper Challenge (10K plus a half marathon…also the 5K for kicks) at Walt Disney World. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more accomplished. I will write a full post on this (with pictures!) at a later date. I returned from that trip, and almost immediately got the flu. I have been feeling pretty crummy ever since. I went to the doctor and he assures me it is not serious and it will go away. I just have to wait it out.

Waiting…it is something I have never been good at. Yet somehow, it is something God continually wants me to do. Doing nothing can be so much more difficult than doing something. Just when it seemed like I figured out what made me the happiest, that part of my life was taken away. It may only be temporary, but it has still been difficult. My biggest stress relief has been taken from me during a time when I very badly need stress relief.

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10) God uses all sorts of circumstances, large and small, to refine us. We learn something in each trial, and become stronger in the process. What I am learning is that this situation is no different than half marathon training. It took strength, endurance, focus, and determination to prepare for that race. When things got difficult, I kept my eyes on the end goal. Now, I must do the same. No matter how frustrating this might be, I have to stay focused. If this means I have to rest when I want to run, so be it. If it means I have to start over completely as a new runner, so be it. It may look like doing nothing, but is it really?

26 JanSpaghetti Squash = Awesome!

Hello everyone! I hope you enjoyed your holidays! If you REALLY enjoyed your holidays, a new year is a great time for a fresh start!

Let’s start off this year with a new recipe! My new go-to food is spaghetti squash. For those of you who have never had it, spaghetti squash is magical! All you have to do is cut it in half lengthwise, rub a little bit of olive oil on it, turn it face down on a cookie sheet, and put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Something miraculous happens in that oven. When it comes out, use a fork to pull it apart, and it mimics the texture of pasta! Amazing! A zero point food that is delicious and can become anything you want it to be. You can put your favorite marinara sauce on it (1-2 points, depending on the sauce and whether you add cheese), or you can add a little butter and Parmesan cheese (5 points). Today, I decided to try something new, and being the healthy food nerd I am, the results were really exciting! Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you…MEXICAN SPAGHETTI SQUASH!

Mexican spaghetti squash

Approximately 1 cup cooked spaghetti squash (You really don’t have to measure it if you are on Weight Watchers. Most veggies are zero points.)
1 oz shredded cheese
1/4 cup black beans
Salsa to taste (Another magical zero point food, unless there is something creamy, cheesy, or starchy in it.)
A couple of dollops of fat free Greek yogurt (For Fage brand yogurt, which is the kind I use, anything under 1/4 cup is ZERO points!)
1 tbsp. Bolthouse Farms Salsa Ranch Dressing

Put the cheese, black beans, and salsa on the spaghetti squash and microwave it for about 1 minute. Add the yogurt and dressing. That’s it! Yummy deliciousness will follow! You’re welcome.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know if you experiment and try your own combinations! The possibilities are endless!

NOTE (2-17-14): I have recently discovered that the size of the spaghetti squash you are cooking affects the necessary cooking time. You may need to leave it in the oven anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size. If you take it out, and it is not tender yet, just flip it over and put it back in!

05 DecHealthy Holiday Survival Guide!

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It is Christmastime, the busiest time of the year! As you have probably noticed, I have been crazy busy the last few months, and have unfortunately neglected this blog more than I’d like. I am hoping that over the next several weeks, and into the new year, I will be able to focus more on writing new tips, tricks, recipes, reviews, and motivation for everyone to enjoy!

With everything we try to accomplish in the fall/winter months, sometimes we can sometimes neglect ourselves. We try to eat on the go, not always making the best choices. We tell ourselves we don’t have time for exercise, because there is just too much to do! We think, “Oh…it’s the holidays. I will just enjoy it and not worry about what I eat! I’ll start in January.” Lots and lots of excuses… Here is the way I see it. Yes, we are busy. Yes we want to enjoy our holidays. I think there is a way to find a middle ground. Here are a few suggestions for surviving the holidays, while still taking care of your health.

– Find ways to fit movement in when you can. If you have 5 minutes, do some squats or lunges. Later, if you have 5 more minutes, do more! Before you know it, you will have done 100 squats in a day. You can also take a quick walk around your neighborhood and look at Christmas lights, or spend some time playing outside (or inside if you have a Wii, for example) with the kids in your life. The key is to do what you can, when you can. Make YOU a priority.

– Take snacks with you! Always have a little something with you, in your car or your bag. That way, if you are out Christmas shopping or running errands, you won’t need to go through the drive thru. Measure out some almonds or air popped popcorn into plastic bags. Carry protein bars (make sure they are low in calories and sugar). Find healthy, pre-portioned snacks. Carry a banana or an apple with you. There are a lot of options, and it is better to be overprepared than underprepared!

– If you do get caught somewhere without snacks and need to eat something quickly, it is okay to grab fast food once in a while. Just make the right choices. Get a chicken breast sandwich (no mayo), and remove part (or all) of the bread. Get a salad, but be careful of high fat toppings and dressings. Skip the fries! I know. I love fries. They are my weakness. This is why I do not order them! That is a slippery slope right there! There are so many calories, fat grams, and general unhealthiness in those types of foods. If you do a little research and study the menu, you can find better choices in a pinch.

– When you are attending a holiday event, don’t stress out about what you are eating! You can enjoy yourself, just proceed with caution. Some suggest that you eat beforehand. That is a great suggestion if you really don’t want to eat at a holiday party. Personally, I like to enjoy the things my family cooks that I can only get once a year. I just do it in moderation. If you are attending a potluck, bring salad, or another healthy dish. That way you know there will be at least one healthy item at the meal, and you will know exactly what is in it. Fill half of your plate with vegetables. Then look at all of the food, and decided what you REALLY want. Get a couple of bites of each of those things, so that you are still enjoying the meal, but not going overboard. I feel so much better and have so much more energy when I don’t overindulge. I am able to enjoy events so much more when I eat this way, and I don’t feel deprived.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful! If you’re anything like me, you will find that the holidays are so much more enjoyable when you make good choices. You can have fun with family and friends, enjoy holiday meals, and still have energy left at the end of the day. You can go into the new year feeling great about yourself, instead of being full of regret. Who knows? You may even lose a couple of pounds! It may sound crazy, but it is absolutely possible. Don’t wait for January 1 to become a healthier you. Start now!

13 OctThe Roller Coaster We Call Maintenance

This spring, I reached my goal weight. I was thrilled, relieved, and terrified. Thrilled, because I had worked so long and hard, and had finally achieved my goal. Relieved, because I once thought it wasn’t possible. Terrified, because I had absolutely no clue how to maintain. Losing weight? I had become pretty confident in my ability to do that (finally), after I lost over 100 pounds. Gaining weight? I think we all know I was confident I could do that as well. Maintenance? I had no clue how to do that. I’d never been at goal weight, so I certainly had never maintained.

I embarked on this new journey with a little bit of trepidation, but I was eager to get started. Everyone has different opinions about how maintenance should be done with Weight Watchers. Some eat every point coming to them in weight loss, and they continue this in maintenance. Some eat only their dailies (which increase by 6 in maintenance mode), and others are somewhere in between. I used only my dailies most of the time. Once I entered maintenance mode, I wasn’t sure what I should do. First, I tried sticking to my dailies. I lost two pounds. I knew I needed to adjust my points, or I would continue losing. I tried eating more. I gained…then I gained some more. I went up 5 pounds in total, and showed no signs of stopping. I went back into weight loss mode, readjusted my goal weight, and began losing again. Once again, I reached goal, went back to maintenance, and began gaining weight. I am still tweaking my methods and figuring things out, and I seem to be getting on the right track.

I am still not sure what maintenance will look like for me, but I know I will figure it out. I know that this is where I am meant to be. I won’t give up, no matter how difficult things may get. The journey to healthy living, weight loss, and maintenance is never finished. It takes adjustment to figure out what works for you. Never give in. Never stop believing in yourself.

This is a post I have been holding onto for a long time. I felt like I was holding myself back a little in sharing with everyone, because I am still figuring this out. However, I have realized that by sharing struggles, we can all learn from each other and we can feel a little less alone. Please let me know if you have questions, need support, or if you have suggestions for future posts. You can send me a message on Facebook, Twitter, or email me at the address on the right of the page! (I’m sorry I had to remove the contact form, but I was getting a ton o’ spam!)