Category Archives: Advice

A Letter to My Younger Self

To My Younger Me,

First off, let me reiterate how incredibly strong, intelligent, and capable you are because I know you have a tendency to doubt yourself. I know you hate change, but I want you to embrace each obstacle that life throws in your way. You can handle it, and you can handle it with grace.

Don’t sell yourself short, and hold tight to a sense of optimism about the world. Learn to forgive people for their shortcomings, and remember that you aren’t perfect either. Embrace your enemies and those who try to bring you down–love is a stronger weapon. Find beautiful qualities in everyone and everything that you come across because beauty is all around you.

Never stop learning. Open your mind to new ideas and hold tight to your passion for knowledge. Don’t half-ass school. You are smart and capable of achieving your goals, so set them higher than you think is possible. They are within your reach. Be patient with yourself. You will get where you want to go if you persevere.

Stop comparing yourself to other girls. You are beautiful, loving, and kind. Besides, confidence is the sexiest quality–so show it off. Stop dating guys because they play in a band or have spiky hair. If they can’t hold a job and don’t treat you with respect, they aren’t worth your time.

Surround yourself with people who love you for everything you are–the ones that take the good with the bad. Remember that your family will always be there, and make sure you return the favor. Show compassion to those who need it most.

Always follow your heart. You will be pulled in a million directions at once, but listen to your gut. Don’t be afraid to take risks or  rise to a challenge. These will build your character and self-esteem. You will be better, even if you fail. Don’t get discouraged.

Lastly, believe enough in yourself to go after what you want. No one will do it for you. If you want something bad enough, make it happen. There is always a way.

Your future you,
Me 

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Have any of you ever written one of these before? 

Getting Out of My Own Way

Source: Cathy on Pinterest

I have not always been a confident individual. For a long time, I wouldn’t even bother to set goals for myself. In my mind, I wasn’t an athlete, so I didn’t try out for a single high school sport. I didn’t consider myself capable of being a straight-A student, which allowed me to excuse the occasional bad grade. I knew I was a good person, and I never got into any trouble. I just had no desire to push myself outside of my comfort zone. When I looked in the mirror, I saw an average girl and I never once tried to prove myself wrong.

When it came to running, I utterly refused to believe I could last a single mile — let alone more than one! I saw runners as strong, powerful, and somehow above me. I looked up to them, and to me they were people who were able to push themselves to limits that I could only dream of. My freshman year of high school, I actually yelled at my gym teacher when he got frustrated that I was walking the last lap of the required mile run. I made some excuse about how I was hurt, but I’m sure he knew I was full of crap. I was a relatively quiet girl, and that was the only time I ever talked back to a teacher. But I had predetermined what I was capable of doing, and what I was not capable of doing. In my mind, there was no point in setting myself up for failure.

I don’t know what changed, exactly. Part of me seemed to get tired of watching everyone around me achieve greatness, while I stood on the sidelines. My husband, Nick, helped push me for the first time in my life. He saw potential in me that I wasn’t aware of. The first time we went running together, he took me on a mile jog. I felt like I was going to die by the end of it, but he didn’t let me quit. Instead, he had me sprinting the last stretch! At the time, I wanted to kick him in the shin — not literally of course! I was exhausted and angry that he didn’t let me rest. Looking back, I can now see that it was the best thing anyone has ever done for me. He didn’t let me give up, and I haven’t wanted to give up since.

It seems the biggest obstacles that we all have to overcome lie within ourselves. We have to stop letting our negative thoughts and self-image get in the way of what we want out of life. You have to believe in yourself enough to set goals for your life — even if they’re small ones, and find a way to make it happen. Don’t expect success to arrive overnight, or without any hard work. It might take a lot of your time, energy, and determination. You might feel like you want to quit. Don’t do it! Keep it moving, keep putting one foot in front of the other and push through the wall. Prove to yourself that you are capable of doing what you set your mind to, and it will propel you in whatever you choose to accomplish next.

Okay, I will now step off my soapbox. 

Anyone ever have a similar experience?
What walls have you had to push through?
What are some goals you hope to accomplish?

 

Realistic Running: Being Mindful of Where You Are

As a woman relatively new to running, I often find myself comparing my progress to others. I see other people flying down the road with ease, and the voice in my head tells me I should be able to run faster, go longer, and tackle serious mileage each week. When my legs get tired or I’m out of breath, I get frustrated because I expect my body to be able to do exactly what I want it to do. The problem is, I think my body is smarter than I am. When I increase my mileage too quickly, and my legs are aching and flimsy, my body is telling me to slow it down (and/or do more strength training). I need to be able to recognize the difference between when I need to push through, and when I seriously need to pull back.

This is especially true for my half-marathon training plan. I ended up changing to a new one because the original one increased my mileage too quickly. While it would have been perfect for me this past summer when I was running 6 miles at a clip, I had to admit to myself that I was biting off too much at once. After taking a couple months off this fall, I needed a plan to go off of that eased back into the heavier mileage totals. This is one that I switched to:

My New Half-Marathon Training Program

This is actually a training plan a friend recommended I look into, and I feel it is a better fit for me. Unlike my previous program, the Prevea schedule is a little longer and more gradual in terms of mileage increases. I believe it was actually developed for people planning to race in the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon this May. They have other schedules to refer to if you’re interested, and can be found on the race’s website.

What I’ve found since starting to train for the half-marathon is that many of these training programs claim to be designed for “beginners,” but then have you running a 5 mile day the first week. I believe the term “beginner” is completely relative. You might be a beginner in terms of never having raced before, but still able to run an 8-minute mile without breaking a sweat. Or you may be a beginner who has never broken into a jog a day in your life. Either way, you need to find a program that fits your fitness level. In my case, I wasn’t new to running, but I hadn’t ran more than 3 miles consistently in the last 3-4 months.

If you’re starting a program, don’t just pick a program and go with it. Take into serious consideration your goals, and be realistic. Also, be willing to stray from the program or modify it to fit your needs. There might be a day when running 10 miles just isn’t going to happen. Maybe your body needs to rest. Maybe you’re just not into it that day. If you can’t make the full 10, split up your run by doing 5 in the morning and 5 later in the day. Just give it your best, but remember that your best will change from day to day.

Be mindful of where you are in your training, listen to your body, and make adjustments accordingly. Know when to push yourself harder, and when to ease up. Find a balance.

Have you used a training schedule to prepare for a race or goal? Did you have to make adjustments to your training? I’d love to hear from you!

Double Chocolate Brownie Batter Pancakes

Move over Wheaties.  There’s a new breakfast of champions in town, and it doesn’t taste like bran.  Nope, I’m talking about waking up to melt-in-your-mouth chocolate first thing in the morning.  I was lucky enough to stumble upon this recipe from Chocolate-Covered Katie for Double Chocolate Brownie Batter Pancakes.  Not only do these take minutes to throw together, you get to douse them in chocolate syrup.  I’m asking you, does it get any better?  Yes, it does.

Chocoholics of the world get their fix of deliciousness, plus the ENTIRE recipe is a mere 130 calories.  I made these for New Year’s Day breakfast, and they are as good as they look.  My husband can be quite picky at times, and his short stack was devoured in the time it took me to go into the kitchen and get a glass of milk.

Here’s what you’ll need to satisfy your deepest chocolate cravings first thing in the morning:

  • 1/4 cup spelt flour (or all-purpose or Bob’s gluten-free)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 T Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa or dutch cocoa (You can sub regular cocoa, as well.)
  • 1 and 1/2 packets nunaturals stevia or 1 T plus 1 tsp sugar (you can use less if you’re planning to top with syrup and don’t want the actual pancakes to taste sweet.)
  • 1/16 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 T applesauce (or oil, if you don’t like fat-free pancakes)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 5 and 1/2 T nondairy milk

1) First thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cocoa, stevia and salt. I just used regular all-purpose flour because that’s what I had on hand.  I also used regular cocoa powder, instead of the dark.

Mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cocoa, stevia and salt.

2) Add all the wet ingredients and mix well: applesauce, vanilla and milk.  I used fat-free skim milk.

Mix in applesauce, vanilla and milk.

3) Make pancakes!  You should get 6-8 silver dollar size cakes out of a single batch.  I chose to double the recipe because I wanted to make bigger pancakes.

I made these slightly bigger than silver dollars.

Now I read that both maple syrup and chocolate syrup tastes amazing on these little beauties.  I chose to use chocolate syrup because I wanted to really make these decadent.  Plus they’re already lo-cal, so you might as well!  I haven’t tried it yet, but I imagine adding sliced bananas or strawberries would taste yummy, too.

Need I say more?

I found the nutritional breakdown on Katie’s blog using whole-grain spelt flour, Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa, and Almond Breeze almond milk.  If you use different ingredients, this info would vary but probably not a whole lot.

For the entire recipe:

Calories: 130 Fiber: 5.5 g Added Sugar: 0 g Protein: 5 g Fat: 1 g

Let me know what you think of these!  

Resolving to Save the World: and other impossible endeavors

Just like millions of other people, New Years means I choose to make a major change in my life — and then don’t.  I’ve tried the “I will get a 4.0 GPA this semester” resolution, the “I will run a marathon” resolution, and the ever popular “I will I will lose 10 pounds by summer” resolution.  All of these I did strive toward for a couple months, and some were more successful than others.  My GPA isn’t a 4.0, but it’s pretty dang close.  I haven’t ran a marathon yet, but heck at least I run more than I used to!  And I lost 5 pounds, not 10.  So my New Year’s promises weren’t epic failures.  Still, I think I’ve been going about them all wrong.

I’m not going to resolve to not make a resolution because I do think it’s important to give yourself a goal and have something to strive toward.  I feel the problem with New Years is that people are completely unrealistic. Planning on going to the gym every single day is not practical.  If you have a family or any other obligation in your life, something will inevitably come up that keeps you from getting there one day.  Then you’ll feel like a failure and give up completely.  I’ve been there, done that.

This year, I’m taking my dear, sweet time developing my resolutions, but here are a few that I’m thinking about:

1) Do something to show my husband I love and appreciate him more often.

2) Continue to work toward running goals, and run first race this year.

3) Do something to give back to the world in some way – volunteer, donate, etc.

I feel like these goals are general enough that I cannot fail, but will still make me a better person in one way or another.  I didn’t make the same promises that I’ve made in the past because I don’t want my past failure to impact my new goals.

My advice for developing your own resolutions?

Make smaller goals. Success is relative — you don’t need a large goal to work towards.  Maybe you’ll even accomplish them early in the year and be more motivated to continue on!  So this time instead of telling yourself that you’ll lose 100 pounds by next year, don’t give yourself a set number.  Just resolve to see the number on the scale go down.  That way, your goal is reasonable and attainable.

Make more than one.  Heck make 4 or 5 resolutions!  Okay, at that point you might lose track of them.  But if you make multiple promises to yourself, you’re bound to keep at least one.  On the other hand, make sure if you’re doing more than one that you don’t spread yourself too thin.  Keep them small and simple.

Don’t resolve to do anything you failed to do in the past.  This doesn’t mean last years resolution to get in shape doesn’t matter any more.  Being healthy is one of those goals that never goes away.  I just feel your chance of fulfilling a New Years promise increases if it isn’t the exact same one you didn’t do last New Years.  If you resolved to “start eating healthy” before, and it didn’t pan out, make a fresh, new goal this year.  Instead of trying to do major calorie cuts in your diet, resolve to swap one junk food item for a more nutritious option.  If you eat out almost every day, resolve to make one meal a week at home.  These will still get you on a healthier path without the sense of imminent failure.

I hope these help! Have a safe and Happy New Year everyone!

This just made me giggle...

Have you made any resolutions this year?  What are some things you hope to accomplish in 2012?

I Run Because…

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Last weekend was my mom’s 50th birthday party, which I got to help plan. We kept it super casual and laid back. My mom has multiple sclerosis and isn’t able to do a whole lot anymore. The disease has progressed quite a bit over the last three or four years. Being home reminded me of a main reason why I initially started running.

My mom was diagnosed right after she got married, at the age of 23. Growing up, I would have never known she was sick because this woman was always doing something. Every morning she would run a mile or so and then do an hour of a Denise Austin workout video. I remember being a little girl waiting till she finished so I could watch cartoons! I had my priorities!

For the last few years, her legs haven’t been able to work. She can no longer walk and I know it kills her to not be active anymore. My mom always talks about how much she wishes she could run and she has refused to give up on that dream.

I remember thinking to myself (back when running still seemed like torture to me) that I wanted to run because I still could. I wanted to run because I knew my mom would love to have that ability again and if she couldn’t do it anymore, then maybe I could do it for her. I guess a part of me feels like if I stopped running, I would be wasting a gift that people like my mom would never take forgranted.

I think a part of staying motivated to lace up the tennies and hit the pavement (or the treadmill) is keeping mental notes of all the reasons why you’re doing it. There doesn’t have to be one singular reason. I have a bunch!

1. I enjoy food, a lot!
2. It’s a mental and physical challenge
3. I set a goal and I am determined to reach it
4. I relieve a whole ton of stress (especially now, during finals…yuck!)
5. I enjoy it

But my mom is always going to be the motivation that pushes me farther and gets me out the door. I hope one day they’ll find a cure for this disease and her and I can run together!

What are your reasons for running?

What I LOVE Right Now.

Minutes ago, I was attempting to bake a chicken breast in the oven for lunch.  Being the lazy dishwasher that I am, I thought I would cheat by lining my baking pan with wax paper – it says right on the box that it should work for “easy” clean up! Well…no.  Seconds after I popped my healthy lunch into the oven, my smoke alarm starts obnoxiously sounding throughout the kitchen.  Oops.  Maybe I need to re-read what the heck wax paper is supposed to be used for because clearly it can’t sustain itself in the oven.  The smell of nasty chemical compositions aerated through the house.  I needed help.  Which brings me to the first item I am in love with at the present moment!

Lemon Verbena Soy Candles

Lemon Verbena Soy Candles

1. On a recent Target escapade, a good friend raved about these candles.  They burn clean and the scent in incredible.  I can’t tell you how fast my kitchen stopped smelling like burnt nastiness and started smelling clean, fresh and invigorating!  The best part is they don’t cost an arm and a leg – I believe I got away with this one for around $10.

Kindle + Third Book of the Hunger Games Series = Epic

2. Now, I realize I am late in the game here.  I’ve been hearing about the Hunger Games for a while, but I couldn’t get myself to read it.  I guess I had expected something along the lines of Twilight, which I couldn’t get into.  Plus the whole premise of the book was not anything I ever would have thought to pick up in the past. BUT! I couldn’t have been more wrong! I savored the first book.  The characters are so well developed, the plot moves along fast and is well thought out, the action is exciting and leaves you on the edge of your comfiest chair.  I’m currently midway through the third book, Mockingjay, and it hasn’t disappointed so far.  Even better? I get to read it on my Kindle.  I can’t tell you how much I love toting that to the gym.  I can’t read and run at the same time, but when I ride the bike or the elliptical I can get my fill of reading.  Plus you don’t have to fumble trying to turn the page while in motion, something I always had trouble with.

Saucony Kinvara 2

3. One thing I can’t get over is how much I adore these shoes.  I was in dire need of a new pair to run in and I’m not a big fan of too much cushion.  I wanted something lightweight and supportive, but I had no idea what I was looking for.  Before I just ran in my old, old tennies (yucky and smelly), so this was to be my first real pair of running shoes.  After visiting our local shoe store, my eyes immediately sought out this fiesty model on display.  I oogled and awed for about 10 minues, going to look at other shoes and finding my way back to these show stoppers.  After trying them on and giving them a brief test drive around the store, I was convinced (perhaps too easily, but my heart knew what it wanted).  I have never once regretted that decision!  These shoes are perfect. Everything I was looking for and more.  When I was running 6 miles over the summer, my feet never hurt or had blisters.  My high arches never ached.  Wonderful.

If you want more professional reviews for this shoe – click here.

Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's

4. Tis’ the season for all sorts of yumminess…egg nog, hot cocoa, homemade pies and all those sorts of things.  Obviously my waistline doesn’t appreciate these in the same way I do, but I am not one to cut myself off from having a little something sweet every now and then.  At my recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I was intrigued by the idea of candy cane oreo-like cookies.  The whole concept sounded pretty amazing.  What closed the deal was a man who ran up and grabbed three boxes right in front of me, while going on and on about how he can’t get enough of them during the holidays.  Good enough for me! I bought two boxes.  Lo and behold – they’re fantastic.  Creamy peppermint filling with bits of candy cane sprinkled in for good measure and then pressed between two chocolatey wafers. The result is perfection, especially with a cup of hot cocoa.

A Man and His Dog

5. Finally, I had to squeeze in my husband and our dog.  They’ve been cracking me up lately.  I catch them snuggling on the couch all too often.  This picture says a thousand words.  Apparently I have competition! <3

What are some things you love right now?

Winter Blues? Wacked Hormones?

Those who reside in the arctic tundra of Wisconsin tend to pride themselves on their ability to gracefully survive the bone chilling cold and excessively long winters. Some people claim they love that wet cold that freezes over their face and pride themselves on their ability to drive through a couple feet of snow.

I am not this Wisconsinite. I hate winter. Ok, the first month of snow is pretty and I appreciate the winter activities like snowboarding. Other than that, not so much. Last winter, we had snow into early May and by that time I had a serious case of winter blues. So these last couple weeks, when I noticed my mood changing significantly, I assumed it was just those same blues settling in early.

But this was so extreme! I would cry at nothing and go from happy to sad in seconds. Anyone who knows me, knows this is completely out of character. I’m a genuinely happy person! This was not from simply the weather changing.

I decided it could be stress. I’m taking 17 credits this semester and things are coming to a head with finals looming on the horizon. I tried taking naps and exercising more to relieve that built up tension. Nope! Still felt awful! For whatever reason I couldn’t shake the constant feeling of sadness or heaviness inside.

After a brief search online for any ideas as to what this could be, I found my answer. The only prescription I am on is for birth control, which I had been on for almost a year. Turns out I’m one of MANY who are on the pill and suffering from “depression” like symptoms similar to what I had been feeling. Even though I’ve been taking the same one for a while, it seems these symptoms can show themselves at various times.

I imagine this is different depending on your body and how it reacts to various hormones. Mine apparently doesn’t function well under this one! I stopped taking it and made an appointment with my doctor to talk about alternatives. I can already tell I’m much less anxious and on edge.

I just thought this was something I should share because someone out there may have had similar issues.
Obviously talk to a doctor because I am not one! But I was so relieved to find an answer to my problem that I couldn’t help but tell someone else!

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Revisiting Square One

My body has gone on strike. It’s amazing how I spent all summer building up mileage only to lose a good chunk of my progress in a month! I guess I’ve learned from my run today that this is not a sport that you can take a break from and expect to be just as good. My run today was a slow 2 miles, but just 1.3 miles into it my legs felt heavy and almost stiff in a way. I tried to pick up the pace at the end and oddly that seemed to help. I’m wondering if my slower pace was actually making the run more difficult because of the shorter stride? Who knows!

Regardless, I’m taking this a day at a time. This week I’m not running everyday simply to let my body ease back into the swing of things. I rented a couple of yoga tapes from my library to incorporate into this whole shebang. I’ve been doing about a half hour a few mornings a week to help with my total lack of flexibility…plus it’s a peaceful and energizing start to the day!

I refuse to be discouraged about my temporary regression. When the going gets tough, I have a tendency to throw in the towel – especially when it comes to sports. I’m in no way a natural born athlete, but I’ve decided I don’t care! Running is not something I do for anyone else. I just want to prove to myself that, in the words of Winnie the Pooh (cause you’re never too old!), I am braver than I believe, stronger than I seem and smarter than I think.

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Remember to Wag Your Tail: Finding Inspiration from (wo)Man’s Best Friend

There’s nothing better than coming home after another trying day of life itself, only to be greeted by a wagging tail and sloppy kisses the minute you cross over the threshold.  When the rest of the world seems out of place and cruel, it’s nice to know you can come home to an animal that passes no judgement and doesn’t care if your hair looks awful, your clothes don’t fit or you’re just having a total bitchy day.  While any other human in the world might think you’re a hot mess, dogs will forever think you’re the most wonderful person on the face of the planet.

My Running Buddy, Dixie

My dog, Dixie, is no different.  Although there are times when she chews my socks or the corners of our throw pillows, ultimately she never fails at turning my frown upside down.  For a long time, I couldn’t get over her energy.  Being an English Pointer, she’s born to hunt and run for miles and miles on end.  Tiring her out is nearly impossible.  Don’t get me wrong, she can be a bigger couch potato than my husband and I put together, but when she has pent up energy…look out!

Since I’ve taken up running, I wanted to find a way to include her.  In the past, I had tried holding the leash, but running isn’t enjoyable when you’re arm is being tugged out of it’s socket because you’re dog wants to go faster and you are in no where near as good of shape as your pet (sad to admit it).  I would get so frustrated trying to keep her from dragging me down the street.  I tried harnesses, I tried gentle leaders, I tried it all.  Finally, I got frustrated and called it a day and went for my runs solo.

Then I found this lovely device called a hands-free leash.  Basically, it’s a belt that goes around your waist and allows the dog’s leash to attach to it.  This allows you to pump your arms or change the song on your ipod without having to putz around with a leash in your hand.  Also, you have more leverage if your dog does decide to yank you down the street. There are many types online and range from $20-30 dollars on average.  Some have bungee cord-like attachments to further prevent pulling.  Mine hooks up to my retractable leash and I use a no-pull harness which seems to be a perfect combination, along with the belt.

My Hands-Free Leash

This makes running with my dog a breeze and I’m now enjoying her company and learning from her in ways I could never have imagined.  Watching her prance down the sidewalk and stopping only momentarily to look at the occasional squirrel or goose in the parks; I see her in her element and I remember all of the reasons I began to run.

Of course, I want to be in shape, but there’s a freeing quality about hitting the pavement.  There’s a connection being built between myself, the dog and the world around me.  I’m not thinking about what I need to do tomorrow or the next day.  I’m not concerned with homework or housework, bills or paychecks.  My mind is dedicated to the moment itself.

When I come home and I am not in the mood for a run, I see my dog laying on the couch looking at me with eyes that are begging to go sniff some random patch of grass and stretch her long, gangily legs.  Suddenly, I’m motivated to lace up my shoes.  These are usually the days when I forgive myself if I’m not reaching any kind of PR or going quite as hard as I planned.  I remember to relax and in the end I find another reason to run…because I love it as much as my dog does.

To find out if you’re dog is a natural born runner or which dogs make the best companions for your running lifestyle, check out the article on Runner’s World.  According to this, my dog is capable of runs over 10 miles which isn’t surprising for anyone who has seen this dog run free.

Top Running Dogs according to Runner’s World

Other Reasons to Make Your Dog Your Running Partner