Run the Vineyards 5 Miler

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This is the race that almost wasn’t for me. I signed up on a whim after seeing friends talking about it on Facebook and promptly forgot that I signed up for it.

And then remember.

And then forgot again.

And then got an email about the event and re-remembered.

To say I’ve been a little preoccupied would be an extreme understatement. We’re selling our home. We’re buying a new home. Our entire family was in the best wedding of 2016 (not biased, just saying). And oh yes, I was a chairperson of the Color-A-Thon fundraiser at my kiddo’s elementary school, which was held on Saturday.

Anyway, what was I saying?

Oh yes, Run the Vineyards 5 miler was one that sounded really great when I signed up for it but then with all that’s going on, I was second-guessing my decision.

But… packet pick-up was at my favorite local Running Co.the race was held practically in my backyard at Heritage Vineyard, and some of my favorite local friends were going to be there. Not to mention the best part, WINE AT THE END. Hello. All the second-guessing was for naught. I was in!

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Brandi and Kate LOVE this race and were the ones who suggested I check it out. Thanks girls!

When I heard that it was partially road but mostly trail running, I got a touch of the nerves. Beat the Blerch NJ showed me just how much of a trail runner I am NOT. I really didn’t want a repeat of that experience. Kate and Brandi both reassured me, multiple times, that it wasn’t going to be anything like that which helped calm me down.

The race had about 600 runners, which felt like the perfect amount. I strategically placed myself among what I hoped would be similarly paced folks and hoped for the best. My goal was to run the first mile and then fall into 1:1 intervals, 1 minute walk/1 minute run.

Thankfully, I actually got my corral placement right because within the first mile, there wasn’t much room to do a lot of bobbing and weaving. This area was all dirt/grass trails and the smell of farm animals wafted through the air.

Soon we turned onto paved roads, which lasted for 2-ish miles. I loved this portion of the race because it was right near the house that we are moving into in just a few short weeks!

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It’s really easy to forget just how beautiful New Jersey can be, but runs like this help you to remember.

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Soon after we saw the Heritage Vineyards sign, we took a turn off the road and actually through rows and rows of vineyards. There were volunteers placed along this portion of the route to make sure we didn’t take a wrong turn.

Tell me more about this wine you speak of.

Tell me more about this wine you speak of.

As a wine (drinking) expert, it was really neat to see all the different grapes and signs for each.

I ran without music, something I’ve been doing more of recently, and just took in the sights and sounds.

We weaved through more of the vineyard and by this time the field had spread out a bit so there was plenty of room to open up with running.

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And also take pictures without risking myself or others.

Did I mention the fact that I was feeling really good the entire course? Pushing on the run intervals, I was able to keep a pretty consistent pace. I had a goal of finishing in an hour, which would put me at a solid 12 minute mile. It’s not my best but it’s given the terrain, I figured it would be achievable.

I was warned about a hill near the end of the race. I don’t feel like you can get the full grasp of the angle from the picture, it was definitely a bit more intense than the other hills throughout the course.

I kept going with my 1:1 intervals and motored up the hill. Eh, it felt like I was motoring anyway.

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After this there was only about a half mile to go before the race was over and the majority of it was downhill, so I picked up the pace a bit more and crossed the finish line at an hour… and one minute. I missed my time goal by one measly minute. Figures!

Immediately after crossing the finish line, I ran into more friends; another perk of a local race. Friendly faces everywhere!

I got my finisher’s “medal”… a wine tumbler! Of course, I took advantage of my wine ticket.

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Jersey Blue

Busy Bee Brandi had to leave for another engagement but Kate and I planted ourselves on the ground and enjoyed our wine while catching up with one another. It was a Good Day For A Run, for sure, and I can’t wait for another.

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You can find me this Sunday running with 40,000 of my closest friends at Broad Street in Philly. What race do you have next? How’s training going? Have you ever chaired a fundraising event? 

Why I Hate “Cheat” Days

You know what phrase I actually hate? “Cheat Day.”

Why?

Because “cheating” connotes bad behavior. Cheating says to me that you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing. Cheating implies that the food that you’re eating is bad and wrong and you should have to rationalize when you allow yourself to have it.

That’s messed up.

Or at least it is from a “I want to eat healthy and look fit but maintain a healthy relationship with food” perspective.

It’s a real struggle to meal plan every week, prep healthy lunches for work, count macros and ensure that my body is getting enough protein, fat and carbs to fuel my workouts (and my life). It’s also a struggle when I’ve eaten the same thing for lunch for three weeks and dinners have consisted of salads and chicken. Or salads and turkey burgers. Or X meat + Y vegetable… and all I’m looking for is a little pleasure in the food I’m eating.
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In order to make sure I don’t start hating food, or seeing it merely as a tool, I make room for those “bad” things. Like this weekend – my boyfriend has worked for nearly a month straight, we’ve had little time together in the evenings after the gym before we both collapse with exhaustion, and every weekend has been busy, between travel, work and other commitments. We both needed a break.

Rather, first we needed sleep. Then we needed a break.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

So, Saturday was an unplanned rest day. No alarms. Slept until 10:30. Woke up, got donuts, toodled around running some errands and doing a little shopping, picked up some used books, and then had an amazing date night on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria. And THEN we got ice cream.

Not once throughout the day did I think “oh man, I feel so gross.” Or “I should have worked out today” – because I know that 1. I work hard enough every other day that one (or two) days off in a row is necessary. 2. My body has been so tired for the past week that my workouts have been lackluster at best. I’d rather be rested and healthy in the gym than tired and dragging. 3. I really like donuts and ice cream and my boyfriend, and enjoying those things together just made my soul feel lighter.

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I love this guy. I love him even more than I love donuts and ice cream.

Basically, what I’m saying is that 80% of the time, my diet is very much dialed in to my fitness goals. But 20% of the time, my diet looks different, but still dialed in to those goals. Because ultimately, I know I can’t achieve the gainz or the pr’s I want if I’m not feeling my best and I’m not happy. Stress and fatigue are killers. And a disordered relationship with food only exacerbates those things.

So, yes. This weekend, we were off the meal plan wagon. But do I feel like I cheated? Not even a little bit. Taking care of your body also means taking care of your whole self – and my whole self feels a lot better after a weekend away from schedules and details and obligations and plans.

Spring Time is Trail Time!

This week, I needed an injection of motivation in my runs. I’m training for the Skirt Sports 13er in June, and I’m super excited for the race. Not so much the training. After talking to Mer about how I don’t take advantage of where I live nearly enough, I decided that it’s finally time to start trail running in earnest. I have every hope that will invigorate me to get in a training groove. I know a lot of you run trails. I see your gorgeous photos on Instagram and am so inspired by the gentle rolling hills and flat, heavily treed forests you run through. I wanted that to be me.

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NCAR TRAIL

I checked out this trail and put it on the to do list.

So I struck out this week. I chose a pretty famous trail in Boulder, the Chautauqua (pronounced sha-talk-wa) Flatirons Trail, for my first foray. That is when I realized I was sadly unprepared for what I was about to tackle. Here are my lessons learned.

The goal is the top of those pointy things.

The best part of my trail run (read hike) was that everyone was smiling and friendly and happy. In general, people are pretty friendly where I live. We smile at each other as we pass on the street. We hold doors open for one another. We say please and thank you to strangers. But the folks I saw on the trail that day weren’t just wearing polite smiles for the sake of being pleasant. No, no, they were positively radiating happiness. Their smiles said “it’s a gorgeous day and we’re alive and we’re free and LOOK AT WHERE WE LIVE. I love everyone I see!!!” It was marvelous! Nature heals everyone’s spirit. I’m not sure about you, but I can always use more of that kind of energy in my life.

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Just because I’m a native doesn’t mean I’m a natural. I forgot what “trail” can mean here in Colorado. What some folks might call a trail, others would call a hiking path. Emphasis on hiking. I was out of breath less than a quarter mile into the trail. I’d looked at the trail on a map before heading out, but I didn’t pay too much attention to the elevation change. My bad, lungs.

Oh hai, rocks.

Oh hai, rocks.

Looking at my FitBit later, it said I’d climbed 48 flights, and I didn’t even make it close to the top of the mountain. I realized I’m not at the fitness level I thought I was. It was hard.

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That’s when I wondered if I should stick to flat trails on the plains, at least until I get stronger. My rugged pioneer blood deceived me into thinking the hike was no big deal and I could handle it because I’m from this place. My blood lied.  Also, I needed water, which I didn’t bring. That brings me to …

Always wear your CamelPak. Everyone on the trail, errr, hiking path, had a backpack of some sort. Not far in I was wishing I had brought mine, too. Once I was surrounded by trees, the wind died off and I was hot. Having water and a place to store my pullover would have been awesome. In this area, seeing a black bear or a mountain lion is not uncommon. So in the future, maybe some bear spray or a change of underwear in my pack might be helpful. Just saying.  And don’t forget the sunscreen!

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Dress Appropriately. Duh. The day I went it was in the mid 60’s and overcast. The mild wind held a crisp bite to it, though, which is typical this time of year at our elevation. I was wearing capris, a tank, a long sleeve tech shirt, and a fleece pullover. Rule numero uno about living in Colorado, dress in layers. The chilly wind was giving me ear aches and I really needed a beanie. I went back to the car for a hoodie I could cover my ears with and then I was sweltering. There was no winning with the gear I had. It was cold in the open spaces and hot in the forest, so layers are uber important.

Brrrrrrrrr!

Brrrrrrrrr!

Be a Good Steward of the Trail I saw lots of baggies of dog poo lying next to the trail. This is great in that people are cleaning up after their dogs, but hopefully they remember to pick their baggie up on the way back down the mountain and toss it in the trash. I read another trail runner say she always tries to pick up at least one piece of litter while on her run. I love this idea. I will be packing a grocery sack in my CamelPack for this purpose in the future!

 

Looking back over Boulder

Looking back over Boulder

There is Nothing more Calming to the Soul than Nature’s White Noise It is essential that when you’re out there, pounding your feet on the soft dirt, that you to actually stop and take a moment to be present. There is an indescribable sound you only hear in the forest of the Rockies. It’s the sound of the wind whispering through the tops of the ponderosa pines, the hum of a hummingbird as it speeds by, the sound of aspen leaves quaking, combined with the rushing swoosh of a distant creek or river. There is the calm stillness in the forest. A place where technology and obligation are far removed from the fallen tree you find yourself sitting on.  Don’t forget to sit. Take big deep breaths. Look around. Be grateful for this time to connect with our environment. You will leave with a more grateful heart and calm center.

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Do you run trails? Where? Which are your favorites? What do you like about trail running that you don’t get out of road running? Tell me all about it in the comments!

 

Race Recap: Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run

Last Sunday, while Mer was being blown all around the Atlantic City Boardwalk, I was being similarly assaulted by the breeze down in DC. The Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, the annual spring time 10 miler in the DC area, the other bookend to the Fall’s Army 10-miler, and the kickoff to what many consider training season for summer and fall races, was a bit of a blustery affair.

Having looked at the forecast the week of the run, I knew going in that it was likely to be a bit chilly. Temps were predicted to be in the low 40s and the weatherpeople kept mentioning that mayyyybe there’d be snow. Or sleet. Definitely cold. I was (mostly) mentally prepared.

Saturday evening, before the race, participants received an email notifying us that due to the weather conditions we would be facing:

  • Elimination of all race signage and overhead structures at the start and finish lines
  • Elimination of all on-course signage including split time clocks
  • Elimination of all tents on the Washington Monument Grounds except for the bag check tent and the main medical tent
  • Elimination of pre-race warm-ups and post-races awards ceremony

Having been feeling mostly “meh, it’ll be cold, but it won’t be too bad” about the race, I was rudely awakened by these changes. I checked the weather again and to my horror surprise, I saw that in addition to a new predicted temperature of 37 degrees, there would be wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour.

Say what?

Dude. That’s miserable. And cold. And it’s April why is winter back?! I texted my boyfriend and suggested that he would want to dress warm in the morning. Being from Florida, this kid has no winter running anything… so I dug out an extra pair of running/ski pants for him to wear and he found a sweatshirt that was running friendly.

The next morning dawned bright and clear… and effing cold. I had on more layers than I ever run in (I get hot really fast and hatehatehate that feeling, so I usually minimize as much as possible). We planned to arrive at the start with just enough time to drop our bag and get in a corral in order to minimize the amount of time spent standing around. Our metro ride into the city was filled with dread and the ardent desire to turn around and crawl back in a warm bed.

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Clay’s face pretty much says it all…

Fortunately, our planning worked well and when we got off the metro at the National Mall, we were able to jet over to the starting area, drop off our stuff and shiver our way into our corral. We only waited about three minutes before our wave started and then we were off. I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to run that early in the morning ever – moving helped us warm up pretty quickly.

The first couple of miles were tough, as I was fighting cold muscles and a cold body in general, but our intervals (run a mile, walk a minute) worked well for our pacing and before long we fell into a comfortable stride. The wind was a nuisance a lot of the time, though, threatening to blow off our hats or working against us as we ran up the Potomac near the Kennedy Center.

As we came back around to the Tidal Basin, we crossed the halfway point and were feeling pretty good. Some brave souls came out to cheer and were pretty loud at this area as it’s also where runners return to finish. It was great to have the crowd support and to people watch as we went by.

Hitting mile 6, my knee began to twinge a bit – I’ve been dealing with some Runner’s Knee for the past month or so, which has made training somewhat tricky. Running intervals for this race was really key for me to be able to run strong, as just when my knee would feel really tight, it would be time to walk a bit.

The second half of the race takes runners around Haines Point, which is really pretty, but very windy. Part of it had the wind at our backs, though, and that was just the extra umph we needed to push for the finish line.

As we came back to the Washington Monument, the sprint to the finish was real. I was ready to be done, go home, take a hot shower and brunch hard. We crossed the finish line together and immediately put that plan in to motion.

Victorious. And cold.

Victorious. And cold.

All in all, despite the chill and the wind, it was a beautiful day to run in DC. And I had the best running partner. For not feeling very trained, this race was comfortably paced and a good shakeout for summer marathon training. I’ll be playing with my race strategies this summer, so playing with intervals and speed work will be on the schedule. I’m looking forward to what this race season brings!

A Few Lessons (Finally) Learned

Guest post from my girl Ang, who is a total rockstar, a working mama of two adorable kiddos, and one of the people who constantly inspires me.

I’m writing this on the corner seat of my couch, with a little guy stretched out next to me as his big sister (age 7) reads a book at the dining room table.

This little guy? He’s 2.5 months old.

Everyone’s fitness journey is different and I have had a hell of a time not being my own worst critic since he was born. It feels like I have a million miles to go to get where I want to be, but through that, there have been a few lessons regarding fitness (and hell, probably life in general) I’ve (finally) taken to heart, and I thought I’d share them here.

1. A 32 minute workout can take an hour and three minutes (Yes, this actually happened. I can show you on my Fitbit if you want to see.).

Babies get whiny. Kids get hungry. Phones ring. The world is rife with frustrations and distractions and messes and all manner of Other Things that need to be done.

And the thing is? That’s ok. What matters is being dedicated to yourself enough to finish that workout, that you finish, that you throw yourself into it.  Take life as it comes.

2. That chocolate in the pantry over there (Dove, of course) is absolutely delicious, but you’re going to be hungry in approximately 3.2 minutes if that’s what you choose to eat. Don’t do it.

This is the hardest part, right? Learning that you can’t outrun bad nutrition. This was my primary mistake when I started working out a few years ago. I ate whatever I wanted, so long as there were sufficient calories left to cover it. No bueno. It took me a while to learn that a treat was a treat for a reason. However….

3. You really, really have to treat yo’self.

Life is too darn short to not have the chocolate sometimes… Just not all the time, dig? Especially when your infant son has been crying for no apparent reason on and off all day and all Mama needs is a glass of wine to tone her neuroticism down.

3b. Life (and fitness) is all about balance, and the scale is an evil wench that likes to skew data mercilessly.

So if it’s been a rough week and you still managed to kill it, nutrition-wise?

Sure thing, lady. Have that margarita and a handful of chips with salsa.  Enjoy that ice cream cone.  Take the rest day. Love yourself enough to acknowledge what you need, when you need it. And remember: any and everything can impact the scale. Don’t obsess. Do you feel happy and healthy? Well, ok then.

Because at the end of the day, you have to take care of you. This is a mantra I have force-fed all of the women in my life: If you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you expect to be a great woman, mother, wife, sister, friend? If your basic needs are not being met – whatever they are – you are lacking and you cannot be your best self.

And all those people – especially your kids – deserve you at your best, whatever that looks like.

In a matter of impeccable timing, my Little Man has just started crying, so I better wrap this up, so I’ll say this:

Love yourself. Take care of yourself. And keep your chin up.

You’ve got this.

See? I’m inspired already!! Thanks, Ang!

When the Weather Doesn’t Cooperate: 2016 Atlantic City April Fools Half

There’s a new hashtag circulating for Atlantic City: #thisisAC

After this weekend’s race I would like to add an asterisk that reads #thisisAC *but please don’t base your opinion on the weather this weekend.

This weekend marked my 5th April Fools Half Marathon. Forget about 13, apparently 5 is the unlucky number when it comes to the Atlantic City Race Series.

The normal pleasant conditions that I associate with this race were MIA. With steady rain for the 7k/11k and the gale-like winds for the half marathon on Sunday, racers were not dealing with what we would call “ideal weather”.

And to think when we got our hats, we were worried that we might be too hot in them. Not so much.

And to think when we got our hats, we were worried that we might be too hot in them. Not so much.

Chrissy and I had our normal text conversations going the whole week prior, discussing weather, outfits, changes to outfits because of the weather, plans on what to do if one of us blew away, etc. We had a couple of windy training runs in Atlantic City but nothing that quite prepared us for Sunday’s half.

What did help us prepare for the half was doing those weekly training runs in AC. Honestly, I’m so very glad that we were able to do that because it did help us know our way around the casinos, boardwalk, and gave us an overall idea of what to expect.

However… we were not planning on the heavy winds and really, there’s no way TO plan for something like that.

So you can do one of two things:

1. bail
2. run, smile, and keep a positive attitude (as you’re getting sand in your mouth and pushed all over the course like a rag doll)

We went with option number 2, of course.

#finsup

#finsup

It was a little disorganized prior to the start. I’ve grown accustomed to this; the host hotel has changed more than once over the years and packet pickup is always at a different location from year to year. However, it’s still challenging to figure out exactly where to go. Runners rely on runners and we were all following each other around the Resorts Casino, looking for packet pickup.

Close to 8am, we made our way outside to get ourselves acclimated to the colder air. While heading out I overheard a coordinator saying that they were pushing back the start time 10 minutes.

The blow up start line was not out, due to the high winds. The race director also cautioned us to watch for blown over cones on the course.

The blow up start line was not out, due to the high winds. The race director also cautioned us to watch for blown over cones on the course.

I’m not exactly sure why that happened but the extra minutes went by fast. There was a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem and then we were off!

I don’t have many pictures from the course because it was pure survival mode out there. Plus, I was afraid my phone might blow away. But a big highlight was seeing Hollie (FueledbyLOLZ) being escorted with a cyclist as first female. What does it even feel like to run that fast? I’ll never know.

I was on the lookout for music on the course so I could break out a little dance solo, as Jenn has done previously. Click the picture to see her little jig.

With the wind, it made things difficult for musicians to be out there. So I was very excited when, at mile 6 or so, I heard the sweet wail of the bagpipes played by Piper Rick. Chrissy grabbed my phone and I geared up to do my very best bagpiping dance moves. Click the pic to see!

Sadly, you will never get to see my bagpiping dance moves. I’m truly sorry for that.

The winds were not hitting us directly from the front, or pushing us along from the back, but rather coming sideways. Which meant that we were getting literally swept off our feet both out and back along the course.

It was… not fun. There was never a point in the race that I thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad.” It was mostly just gritting our teeth (and the sand in our teeth).

I kept thinking it might get better. Alas, it did not get better. The only better was when we were finally done and we were able to not be in the wind anymore.

But through it all, Chrissy and I stuck together and looked out for each other. The conditions were miserable; we were not happy. But we did it and I’m so glad that we did it together. Once I got home I was ready bed I was looking on Facebook and found that I had shared this image a year ago, to the day.

Thanks Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Via Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

We adjusted our sails yesterday. And while admittedly, it was not perfect, we did it anyway.

Plus, we got some pretty awesome bling.

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It spins!

And also awesome drinks.

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So while yes, #thisisAC, I hope first timers to the race don’t get scared away by the ridiculousness that Mother Nature threw at us this weekend.

Because this is also AC!

Running by the ocean. So perfect. #atlanticcity #doac #livelifemakewaves #sweatpink #fitblog #cityfitgirls

A video posted by scootadoot (@scootadoot) on

This was my first race of 2016 and my thought is when you start with the toughest conditions, it can only get better. Right? Right! A few days later, my body is still hurting although slowly but surely, I’m feeling back to the status quo.

Did you #doAC this weekend? Run another race? I heard Syracuse was brutal (Bonnie had frost on her brows!), and the Philly Hot Chocolate 15k ran out of medals. What races do you have coming up? Next up for me is the Vineyard 5 miler and Broad Street 10 miler!

Balance, Act 2

A while back, a few of us chicks talked about something that our collective lives were lacking, and how we’d like to try do better achieve something that so many people struggle to find.

Balance.

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A month has passed. How’s it going? We’ll let you know where we’re at. And then, our awesome and super helpful Chick Jenn will share some tips!

Bec

So, going into the month, the goal was less crazy. But, since the universe is kind of a jerk sometimes, and likes to mess with me, life got more crazy. We had our shower, the only one in this 100 year old house, replaced. What was supposed to take less than a week wound up taking 17 days.

4 people. 17 days. 0 working showers. You do the math.

Luckily, we have a membership at the YMCA, which has plenty of showers. So every night, we would all pack up and go over to the Y. And a funny thing happened. Since we were all there anyway, everyone worked out. Weird, huh? And what’s even weirder… they liked it!

Since everyone was there working out with me, I didn’t feel like I was cutting out family time to get a workout in, which was awesome! Was it chaotic to get 4 people packed up, to the gym, worked out, showered and home for dinner? You bet your sweet bippy it was! But, by incorporating family time and exercise, both things were achieved with minimal suffering (although you’d never know the suffering was minimal listening to me whine about my stupid shower remodel).

All of this swell family gym time meant I was moving and grooving right along on my half marathon training plan. The one I painstakingly detailed out for the span of nine months, down to the day. The one I swore I would not change.

Until I had to change it.

I’ll explain more about why I had to make changes, and what they were, in a later post, but let’s just say I was less than pleased. I was SO committed to my plan! It was a very gradual, balanced plan! So when it hit me that changes were needed, there was a part of me that really, really wanted to scrap the whole thing. Including the half marathon. (There’s that black and white thinking we all love so much!)

So I got real with myself. Refusing to let go of something that wasn’t working, or throwing my hands up in the air and saying ‘to hell with it’ just because it wasn’t working the way I planned wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Instead, I did some research, talked to my involuntary running coach (Mer) and reworked the plan. And I accepted that I can only plan so much, so this plan might need adjusting, too. And that’s okay.

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Balance. Or the beginnings of it, anyway. Apparently, I don’t have to do it all at once. (Who knew?)

Kyle

Balance. Where you at?

Well, after a month, it feels like I’ve gotten a lot of things under control. And then there have been a few things that have stayed out of whack.

For the most part, though, it’s been a good start.

1. Meal planning has been ON POINT. Every Sunday, the fridge is full of Tupperware evenly portioned chicken or steak and broccoli. Lunches for the workweek have never been easier, or healthier. Dinners have been planned and if not prepped the night before, at least organized, which makes busy evenings after work and the gym a lot simpler. Meal planning like this has also helped the financial situation, ensuring that our spending is for necessities, instead of last-minute junk because of ill-preparedness.

2. Gym time: awesome. The boy and I started a new training cycle and adjusted our program and while each day is harder than ever before, progress is easy to see. Being able to make strides in the gym is a great release for me after a day at the office. This is one area of my balancing act that I feel really good about.

3. Money, honey. Well. This one is going. Constantly a work in progress, but always seeming to feel like I take one step forward and two steps back. There’s always something that needs fixing or immediate care and that always gives me a hard reality check. But, but making positive changes in other areas of my life, this area becomes more focused and gradually easier to manage. Adulting is hard, but not impossible, and I just have to remember that. Every time I pay bills. Ha.

Reminding myself of the progress I’m making helps me stay positive and find more peace in where I’m at and what I’m doing. Creating a little balance one step at a time.

Cam
Last summer, I had my birth chart read by an astrologer. Yes, I know it’s a psuedo-science, but it’s fun dammit. Within seconds, she was lecturing me about overfilling my plate. Not my dinner plate, although that has been an issue as of late. But my life plate. She said I take on too much and it’s taking a toll on my health. Well, I didn’t really need a psychic to tell me this. Anyone who has ever seen my Google calendar knows I have a tendency to schedule every free moment of my life. I’ve made it my mission this month to say no. That’s it. It seems really easy, right? WRONG. It’s so hard for me. I hate disappointing people. For example, this weekend my family had plans for the zoo on Saturday and the beach on Sunday. I had a cake to make on Friday and homework due today. And still, for some reason, when I was approached to do another cake for Saturday, I contemplated taking on the job.

NO! I had to yell at myself.

That was a few weeks ago. I’ve turned down a couple other activities that I’m really disappointed to miss, and when I see my everyone on Facebook enjoying these activities, I’m going to regret it. However, I have to strive for that balance of work, play, and REST. I’ve never been very good at that last part. On average, I sleep maybe 4-6 hours a night. I fill every moment and I still don’t have time to do all the things I want to do.

This week is my Spring Break from work. I have five days off work and I intend to rest. I intend to say no. And do all the laundry I’ve been putting off.

Mer
Last week I posted about my family’s quest for a new house and my quest for achieving zen-like thinking in regards to do this. What’s been helping me with that?

gratefulheart
My focus has been on beginning each day with gratitude and reminding myself that all things will work out with this. I know that moving ranks highly among the most stressful situations and I can say with much certainty that after we do this, I hope we are in our new house for a very long time because while this is exciting the pendulum has also swung toward the chaotic side.

However, we are very lucky. We are in a good position and we are moving on up! I’m not exactly sure where we are moving on up to, just yet, but we’ll figure it out.

I’m tapping into love every morning; whether it be making coffee for my husband as he runs out the door on his way to work, a kiss from my kiddos, a snuggle with my dog on the couch, or a text from a friend reminding me that I’m as valuable to them as they are to me.

Keeping my routine as similar as it can be with the additional things thrown in is what has been keeping me sane. I’m also not volunteering for every single thing that comes my way (trust me, that’s a challenge) because I can’t add little things into my life right now with a big thing going on. That’s not to say that I’m not overextending myself because I am… but I’m very conscious of what I’m taking on and also what I’m unable to tackle.

Thus far I’ve only had one emotional breakdown and my mom in law was the lucky recipient of that fun little time. While I wailed to her on the phone, she listened and offered up different solutions that only made me feel slightly better. Then she asked if I would like her to pray over me and the situation. That helped tremendously and brought me back to the calmness that I’ve been trying hard to maintain throughout this process. And for that? I’m grateful.

Jenn

Like everyone else on the planet, I suffer from lack of balance in my life. My balance deficit doesn’t arise from commitments of kids and having a family, rather, I suffer from interest overload. Between working, wife-ing, doggy mom-ing, schooling, running, volunteering, yoga, writing, sewing, teaching myself to play the guitar, and learning French via Duolingo, I don’t have much time for balance.

This was a problem. I could tell because my forehead broke out in tiny little stress pimples from feeling constantly overwhelmed. Something had to change. I knew what my problem was, I just didn’t have the tools to see the forest through all my trees. I needed to learn how to thin my forest.

Through my employer, I enrolled in two classes: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity. Here are a few takeaways that have really helped me find more balance.

Accept That Some Things Will Not Get Done. It was so liberating to hear the trainer say that. To hear someone acknowledge that in this era of technology and over commitment, it’s just not possible to get everything done, AND THAT’S OKAY. Some things in life are truly important and focusing on them is what really matters. When you’re eighty and looking back over your life, you won’t be reminiscing about how beautifully you scrubbed your floors (says the girl who spent five years working in a nursing home). Gain some perspective about what really matters to you in the grand scheme of your life.

Create a Personal Mission Statement. Develop a mission statement that speaks to your highest purpose and biggest goals. Your statement is not set in stone it should grow and change with you and your goals. Then, use your mission statement to make time management choices. When faced with a decision about taking on a new obligation, task, or interest, ask yourself if it will serve your mission statement. This is a great tool for learning to say “no” to things. Franklin Covey has an online tool to help you build your Mission Statement.

My Mission Statement

Jenn's Mission Statement

Jenn’s Mission Statement

Roles and Goals. This is a hallmark of the 7 Habits program. It helps you identify what the major roles are in your life and develop goals to be the best you can be in each role. Roles can be things like mother, husband, sister, friend, runner, volunteer, President of the official runDisney fan club, etc. Your roles should serve your mission statement, too. If they don’t, consider cutting them from your life. Then, create some goals to be better in your roles. You might say, “I’m going to be a better runner and shave 7 minutes off my time by adding additional tempo runs in my training plan.” The next challenge is to make time for that extra run in your week, or in other words, making time to execute on your goals. I use a planner to schedule specific blocks of time to execute those goal tasks; what 7 Habits calls “the big rocks”. After the class, I purchased the 5 Choices Planner, and I seriously LOVE IT. I assigned a color to each of my roles, so when I’m planning my week, I can easily tell if I’m giving some attention to each role.

I love this planner because it has worksheets to help develop roles and goals as well as master tasks.

I love this planner because it has worksheets to help develop roles and goals as well as master tasks.

4 Types of Work: Extraordinary, Urgent, Required, Waste.  This technique is from the 5 Choices class. Imagine your time is divided into 4 quadrants as illustrated by the graphic below. The graphic is geared toward work life, but you get the idea. The goal is to live in Q2, extraordinary work, as much as possible. Extraordinary work is things that support your mission statement and roles and goals. Things like training runs and workouts are extraordinary work. Things like household chores are Q3, distraction. Your child getting the flu is Q1. Binge watching Game of Thrones all weekend? Definitely Q4. You want your quadrants to be much more green than gray. If this were a pie chart, you’d want decrease the size of the urgent, required, and waste slices so you can spend most of your time on extraordinary work.

Photo Credit; Franklin Covey

Photo Credit; Franklin Covey

I hope this helps you form a plan to be the best, least-stressed version of you that you can be! Make time to feed your soul and nourish the things and people who are most important to you. Don’t forget to keep perspective on what really matters!