Friday, June 27, 2014

My Minimalist Experiment: Wrap-up

It's been a month since I met The Minimalists in person and decided to play the minimalist game, so let's cut to the chase here and see how I did.  Reading Everything That Remains and hearing the authors speak ignited a growing spark in me to consider all the 'stuff' that was currently taking up more than its fair share of space in my life.  In reality, I had been thinking about some of the principles of minimalism, without relating them to that movement, since my life changed last year.  For the past year and a half I have been living more simply due mainly to financial reasons.  I also feel that I've been living much more deliberately than I had been for many years, since I'm no longer spending 10+ hours a day doing work that completely conflicted with my own personal values.
If you'll recall, the game goes like this:  On Day 1 of the month, you toss/donate/recycle 1 item in your abode.  On Day 2, two things must go.  One Day 3, three things get tossed; and so on and so forth, until the last day of the month.  I was never any good at math so I'm not even going to attempt to add up how many items that equals (1+2+3+4+....29+30), but it's gotta be in the millions right?!  Or maybe hundreds, I don't know.  I was so excited for this little game that I told my mom about it and she decided to play along for a couple days!  Hahaha.  We even texted each other back and forth for a few days announcing what we were getting rid of that day.
On Day 1 I was raring to go.  I went overboard that day and got rid of a lot more than 1 item from my kitchen.  Day 2 came and I got rid of 2 pairs of old running shoes.  On Day 3 I cleared out 3 pairs of running shorts.  On Day 4 I decided to tackle some of the many errant cat toys strewn about my apartment (I mean I didn't want the cats to feel left out of this game!).  I can't remember what I got rid of on Day 5.  On Day 6 I got rid of 6 sweaters as I was packing away my winter clothes (yeah, super late I know).  Annnnnnnnnd, that's when I stopped keeping count.  It became increasingly difficult for me to carve out time at the end of each day to devote to purging.  I didn't stop all together, but I definitely stopped doing the exercise daily. 
One weekend I decided to tackle my closet, which I hadn't really cleaned out in probably 2 years.  I didn't even get through all of it, but I managed to fill 3 large bags with clothing that I donated to Goodwill, plus 3 more bags that I am going to consign (articles of clothing that still have tags on them and I've never worn?!).  All told, I would say I probably rid myself of a good 60-70 articles of clothing!  That sounds like a lot right?  But somehow my closet is still so FULL.  Behold:

Why does 1 little human have all this clothing?!  I have no clue.  When I had more disposable income I would shop out of boredom or for fun.  Such a waste of time and money I tell ya.  [I read somewhere that most people wear just 20% of their wardrobe 80% percent of the time, and that feels completely accurate to me.]
It was after this closet cleaning bonanza that I completely lost steam so I know I definitely did not get rid of hundreds of things as per the game. 
I'm glad this game kick started my apartment de-junking process because it's something I always want to do, but rarely get around to.  Eventually I am going to want to move (location still TBD) and when I do, I want to take as little with me as possible.  It's amazing the amount of stuff I've accumulated over the past 10 years and I am just 1 person!  And most of it is just that - stuff that is not particularly useful, nor beautiful.  Things that don't bring me joy, nor use on a daily basis. 
[I think it's important to note here that I realize how blessed and privileged I am to live in a country and be in a position where having too much is my biggest problem.  Let's be real, for most of the world's population, "minimalism" is simply a way of life forced upon them due to poverty, oppression, war, or worse.]
The end result of this experiment was positive, but it also made me see just how hard going completely minimalist would be.  I mean the parting with objects was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be, yet, it seems we are trapped in an endless cycle of accumulating more.  With the onslaught of advertising and media everywhere you look in modern day America, it becomes almost impossible to not feel like you 'need' the latest this or that that is being presented to you.  There is probably rarely a day that goes by that you don't purchase something.  Whether it's a coffee on the way to work, or some random crap from Target you pick up on the way home.  Every time you walk back in your door, you are probably bringing something into it that wasn't there before.  This is just how American culture is today, and unless you're isolated both physically and electronically I think it's really hard to escape those materialistic impulses. 
There's lots more work to be done on the home front here, but learning about the minimalist movement has been yet another insightful stop-over on this winding road trip that has become the vehicle to redefining how I want to live my life.
Speaking of going minimalist, I am headed out early tomorrow morning for a week of camping in the wilds of Missouri with my sister and her family.  So I won't have access to a computer and thus won't be blogging for a week.  I may update Instagram or Twitter occasionally, probably with endless pictures of my niece and nephew, but mostly I'll be enjoying a break from social media and instead soaking up all Mother Nature has to offer.  Catch you on the flipside :)
Here are a few other minimalist blogs I'm now following on BlogLovin' if you're interested:
How often do you clear clutter out of your living space?
Would you ever go entirely Minimalist?!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Baltimore Women's Classic Recap

On Sunday I ran my 3rd Baltimore Women's Classic 5K.  I find myself looking forward to this race every year.  It's an all-female race, and proceeds from the entry fees benefit women's cancer initiatives.  The atmosphere is fun and friendly and filled with camaraderie.  Women of all ages participate and there are many mother-daughter teams that run together.  There are also really nice perks like a finisher's medal, long stemmed rose, and cold towel at the end; things you usually only get at the half-marathon level.  There are many women for which this is their first race ever, and the BWC aims to celebrate the accomplishments of them, and all runners who complete the course.  And although I didn't coach this year, I still saw a few familiar faces throughout the course, including one of my favorite fellow coaches from last summer.

Going into this race, I knew I had PR'ed here last year, so of course I would have loved to better my time this go-round, but truth be told, I've done ZERO speed work at all this year (my one and only attempt at speed work occurred last Thursday when I decided to just go out and run a really fast 5K.  I logged my fastest mile ever at a 7:15 split and I nearly peed my pants when the Map My Run computer lady shouted that out!), plus I've only been running a couple times a week lately.  With boot camp taking up a large portion of my workout schedule, plus the shoe drama I've been going through for weeks, my runs lately had been fewer and shorter. 

If you recall, I tried out a new cushioned shoe (Brooks Glycerin) and some Newtons (read about my experiences here).  Well, I finally settled back on my tried and true Vomeros, but this time with Spenco Total Support insoles.  (The purpose of them is to bridge the space in my super-high arches in hopes that will alleviate the strain on shins.)  After trying 2 pairs of shoes, I really didn't want the running store to have to continue to send back shoes on my behalf!  Honestly, if I could get a job testing running shoes somewhere I would be in heaven and perhaps after trying out hundreds of shoes, I'd be able to find the perfect fit, but right now I'm hoping the new Vomero + insole combo works some magic!

So far, I've run in them 5-6 times and [KNOCK ON WOOD, times a million] I haven't had any shin issues.  *Keeping fingers crossed*
So other than not be prepared to run this race fast, how else did I feel about it?  Well, I worked Saturday night until 11:15pm, which ended up giving me about 5 hours of sleep so it was a no go on the 'well rested' part of the preparation as well!  And lastly, I forgot to buy bagels which is what I always eat before races so I had to improvise.  Lo and behold, a Kaiser roll with jelly.  Pre-race fuel of champions?!  I mean who wouldn't want a toasted hamburger bun for breakfast.  I know what YOU all are having tomorrow morning.  You can thank me later for that "recipe" ;)
I don't run 5K's very often so I always forget that you're supposed to warm up beforehand.  In longer distance races, the first mile or two serves as the warm up, but when the race is only 3 miles long, you need to be running like a bat out of hell from the get go!  So, once again, didn't warm up and for some reason I got a cramp after mile 1?!! Ahhhhhhhhhh, that rarely happens to me.  I'm pretty sure I was under-hydrated and just really sleepy from working so much Fri and Sat night.  And not warmed up for the pace at which I was running.  Ahh well.  So, I ran the remaining 2 miles with a cramp and feeling like I was running REALLY slowly.  I only heard them yell out my first mile split which was around 8:05 and didn't glance at my Garmin the rest of the race.  So I felt like I was going to come in at like 26 or 27 mins. 
Well imagine my surprise when I crossed the finish line in 25 something.  Whaaaat?!  I finished in 25:37 which was only 20 seconds slower than last year's 25:17.  Not too shabby for being pretty unprepared.  I know lots of you out there are probably waaaaaaay faster than me (uh, Lauren from Breathe Deeply and Smile finished a full FOUR minutes faster than me in 21:36!!! Incredible!) but 8:15 min/miles are fast for me!  Now if I can just find a nice flat 5K course somewhere, perhaps I'll break 25 mins one day!!  Oh and for reference the first place finisher came in at 18:03?! Is that even human?! 
Hope you all had a great first weekend of summer!  The Summer Solstice makes me infinitely happy :)

Run any races this weekend?
Do you enjoy the 3 miles of pain known at the 5K?!?!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Boot Camp, Part Deux

I realized I haven't done a workout post in ages so I thought I'd update you all as to what I've been doing for exercise lately, other than chasing babies around all day.  As you may recall, at the end of last year, I joined a boot camp style workout studio for a month on a Groupon, and not only did I not die, but I loved it!  (Check out this post, and this one.)  The only problem was the monthly membership fee was not sustainable for me - same thing goes for CrossFit.  So I recently bought another Groupon for a month of boot camp at a different studio in the city, and have been attending Believer's Fitness Boot Camp in Mt Washington for the past month.  No surprise here, but I am of course LOVING it.  Here are my thoughts on the past month.

STUDIO:  The space is bigger than the last place I went but set up very similarly.  It's a big open warehouse type building.  The floor is artificial turf, and all the equipment we may need is lined up around the exterior so there is plenty of wide open space for all the running drills we do.

WORKOUTS:  Are 1 hour sessions and are different every single day - love this!  Much like my last boot camp experience, you never know what you're walking into on any given day and that excites me to no end! Hahaha, I can't wait to get to class to see what kind of torture we're in for :) 

There is a basic formula though.  Each class starts with a warm up that lasts about 10 mins.  I wish I would have taken a picture of the warm up board one day but they go something like this:

Run 2x (length of studio) at 25%
Skip 1x
Heel walk up/Toe walk back
Cradle walk 1x

Run 2x at 50%
Mountain climbers 25x
Arm circles 10x each arm
Jump squats 25x

Run 2x at 50%
Grapevine 1x
Side shuffle 1x
Lunge forward up/backward down

Run 4x at 75%

Then, we get into the meat of the night's workout.  All workouts are based around High Intensity Interval Training.  We would usually do 45 seconds work/15 seconds rest.  Sometimes the ratio would be 1 min work/15 sec rest.  Most of the time, the coach would set up stations around the gym with different exercises we would be doing, but sometimes we would just run back and forth across the room, stopping at either end to do the exercises.  The interval sessions usually lasted 25-30 mins and were intense! 

Exercises for each station included things like:  Plank variations; Squats, lunges and leg work with weighted medicine balls; High knees ladder running; Jumping over obstacles; Suspension cable leg and arm work; Free weight arm/leg work; Ab work on the ball; and much more.  This past Monday we spent the entire night sprinting and lunging back and forth across the room, stopping for a minute on each end to do either core work at one end, or arm and leg work with the weighted medicine ball at the other.

The night usually ended with some core work, followed by some stretching.

VERDICT:  Boot camp is my jam, for real.  Its basically the part I loved most from CrossFit and utilizes many of the same elements of CrossFit, except for the heavy lifting (which was my least fave part anyway!).  I love super high intensity workouts and I love that every day is different.  I literally feel like a kid walking into a candy store every night! 
I'm not sure if I would financially be able to swing a membership here either, plus my Nanny Family is moving next month, so the studio location will be much further out of the way, however, I'd like to see if there is some way I can continue boot camp sessions at some point on the regular. 
I've talked about the benefits of HIIT on here before and really do believe they enhance your performance - in terms of speed, strength and endurance - more effectively than doing solid state cardio or lifting.  I suppose I'm just going to have to continue buying up every Groupon in sight for every studio in the city of Baltimore!
As far as running, I've only been doing it 1-2 times a week in between these sessions (low mileage/3-5miles) and just realized last week I have a race on Sunday!  Eeeeeek....cue panic.  I'm running the Baltimore Women's Classic 5K this weekend which is always a good time (It's one of the largest female-only 5ks in the nation).  This is the race for which I coached a training group last summer.  I was going to coach again this year but just didn't have as much free time in the evenings.
I PR'ed my 5K time at last year's race, however I was doing speed work all summer with the training group at the track, and that obviously isn't the case this year!  So as far as time goes, I'm going to run until I feel like I'm about to die...and then just keep going until I see the finish line.  Isn't that what the 5K distance is all about?!  I'll let you know how it works out :)
I'm highly considering a pair for the race...
That's all I got for now.  Happy Thursday to you all!

Have you ever done boot camp style workouts?

Do you incorporate HIIT into your training?

Is your 5K racing strategy similar to mine, ie. RUN TIL YOU DIE?!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

10 Reasons Why My Dad ROCKS!

It's Father's Day here in the US today, so I'm dedicating this post to my Pops.  I feel like for most of the year, Dads definitely do not get as much play as Moms.  I don't know why that is, but I know I wouldn't be who I am today without that guy in my life.  So without further ado, here is a little listy list of just a few of the ways my Dad displays his awesomeness.

1.  The man possessed the only XY chromosome in a house filled with estrogen, including my two sisters, my mother and our female toy poodle.  I don't know how he did it.  He deserves a medal just for that.
2.  The man wears cutoff jorts and knee high tube socks to cut grass, and rocks it.  Probably one of the few men alive who can pull off that look.  Or at least he thinks so ;)  [JK Dad, I love your grass cutting outfit]
3.  He fostered a love of sports and being active in us from a very young age.  There was no sitting around for us kids - he encouraged us to get out, move and play.  We were also attending PSU football games since before we could walk.
4.  He is one of the hardest workers I know.  I credit him for teaching me the value of hard work, no matter the endeavor, doing your best, and not leaving things unfinished. 
5.  He is one of my biggest supporters.  My dad worked full time, but still made it to every one of our Little League games, band concerts, track meets and anything else we were involved in, to cheer us on, win or lose.  Even now, he still comes to every race of mine he can.  Heck, he met me at 3 different points of the Runner's World Half last fall just to see me pass by for a split second!
6.  He shows he cares by doing, and goes out of his way to do so.  He still sends all of us kids Valentines!  He changes the oil in my car, or fills the tank when I'm home for a visit.  He cooks my favorite foods when I'm home, and sends me emails every now and then just to say Hi.
7.  He may or may not have single-handedly made my Styrofoam airplane for middle school science class, which subsequently won the distance flight test.  I plead the fifth.
8.  When I was homesick in college, he drove an hour and a half each way every weekend to come pick me up and take me home. 
9.  He loves being a Grandpop.  I hope one day I can add to his growing brood.
10.  For some reason, he loves me unconditionally.  Still can't wrap my head around that one :)
Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there!

What makes your Dad awesome?!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

10 Essential Life Lessons

The past few days have brought a whirlwind of bizarre, trying and puzzling situations into my life.  I'm blaming it on the current Mercury retrograde, but I'm thinking there were also some lessons I just needed to re-learn at this time.  If find yourself in the same waters anytime soon (I hope not), perhaps some of these will speak to you too.

1.  You can't control everything.  Or anything sometimes, for that matter!  Best to learn this one early.
2.  Don't take everything personally.  People say things when they're stressed or angry that they really don't mean.  We all do.  It has nothing to do with you.
3.  The sooner you let go of things that aren't meant for you, the better.  Let it Gooooooooooooooooooo, Let it Gooooooooooooooo.  Don't hang on to things that are no longer serving you out of comfort or fear.  (Sometimes much easier said than done.)
4.  Not everyone is going to like you.  And vice versa.  Shocking I know, but true.
5.  You can never really know what another person is thinking.  So don't even try. 
6.  Your worth is not determined by others' opinions of you.  When it comes to your self worth, yours is the only opinion that matters. 
7.  Do unto others.  Treat others as you would like to be treated - With a little R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
8.  Car repairs always end up costing more than you think they will.  It helps to get a second opinion.  #TimeToTradeInForABike
9.  Life will surprise you, every single day.  The only constant is change, right?
10.  Vegan Treats make everything better.  FACT.
Vegan ice cream, not dog feces, I promise :)

Have you learned any lessons recently, either willingly or unwillingly?!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Super Simple Summer Salads

Say that 5 times fast...

Now don't you worry, this is not turning into a recipe blog.  Let's be real, I have 0 recipes in my possession, and calling me a novice in the kitchen is being overly kind.  However, it's summer and around this time of year I start really craving fresh produce and cold foods.  So I made a couple fresh salads this week and thought I'd share them with you.  They're so easy a Jill can do it, which means YOU can definitely do it.

Salad #1
First up is this lovely, festive black bean and corn salad:

The credit for this one goes to my much more domestic sister.  She brought this salad to our family BBQ a couple weeks ago for Memorial Day.  I loved it so much and asked her if she thought this was something someone of my 'ability' could prepare.  She assured me I could, so I decided to give it a whirl.  This salad is SO good; it is definitely going to be a summer staple for me.  You can eat it alone, or as a side, or mix another protein in there for a complete meal.  I actually mixed ground turkey in this salad a few nights and it was delicious!  It tasted like a homemade Chipotle burrito bowl just without the rice.  [*Yes, I'm eating meat again, this is a subject for another post entirely.  I feel much stronger eating it, but also a lot like a murderer :( ]

There's no measuring and no cooking and I promise it tastes really, REALLY good!  It also makes a lot so you can eat it all week.

1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 fresh bell pepper, any color (I used orange)
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Olive oil, salt & pepper to taste

1 can chopped green chiles - (I had NO idea what these were, so I had to text my sis to send me a pic of what the can looked like, haha. I dumped them in and thought their consistency looked 'weird' so I immediately scooped most of them back out again!)
1 pint of grape tomatoes (I left these out)

Salad #2
I wanted to make another bean-based salad for protein, and this time I wanted to use chickpeas.  I love them on salads and as hummus and was looking for another way to eat them.  I clicked around on Pinterest for awhile until I came across a recipe that looked simple and fresh - and settled on this one. (Original source here.)

I changed the recipe a little bit to suit my own tastes and I definitely did not measure anything out.  Who spends time doing that?!  My mom is Italian and has never measured an ingredient in her life.  It works and I'm sticking to it.

Check out this beauty:

This one has a completely different taste than salad #1.  You could eat this stand-alone or as a side, but I don't know that mixing meat in with this one would fare as well.  The flavor from the raw garlic and fresh basil is also pretty strong, so it's definitely not for mild taste buds.  I love garlic in all things Italian, but I don't think I've ever eaten it raw.  It doesn't have the sweet flavor it has when cooked so just be aware of that.  But overall it's unique and I liked it.

1 can garbanzo beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or whole
1/2 large English cucumber (*I added this, not in original Pinterest recipe)
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil, red wine vinegar & salt to taste

So there's my first non-cooking cooking post.  Never thought that would happen.

If you decide to try either of these, let me know how you like them!

What have you been eating lately?

Do you find you crave different foods when summer weather is here?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Minimalists - Living More, With Less

This past Wednesday evening I took the opportunity to attend a book signing at The Ivy Bookshop here in Baltimore with these guys - Minimalists and authors, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.  Meeting someone who you know only by the words they've written is always so awe-inspiring to me, and they did not disappoint.

Truth be told, I had just recently been introduced to these two, and I can't even remember how I stumbled upon them and their second joint book, Everything That Remains, but the Minimalist lifestyle has intrigued me for some time.  After having read this book, I am eager to read more first-hand experiences of other minimalists who the authors name as influencers in their journey. 


This book is a 'memoir' of sorts and documents Joshua's journey to becoming minimalist and why and how he felt the need to embrace this new lifestyle.  After noticing a visible transformation in his friend, Ryan became interested in Josh's lifestyle change and also decided to become minimalist. 

What really resonated with me about their story was that both men previously worked in corporate America and it was their disillusionment and feelings that that world no longer aligned with their personal values that led them to minimalism.  That couldn't be closer to my truth at this point in my life.  Everything that Joshua talks about in the book, the thoughts that living the 'American Dream' wasn't his dream after all could have come directly from my own mind over the past several years.  Both worked their way up through the ranks of their company, and with every promotion and new raise, felt 'happiness' was closer and closer at hand.  Except that it never came.  The more they earned, the more they spent, in pursuit of fulfillment, acceptance and success.  They were climbing a ladder with no end in sight, as so many Americans do.  They became slaves to consumerism and mindless spending and were literally working their lives away. 

When Joshua's mother died and his marriage ended in the same month, he decided his life needed to change and stumbled upon this movement called Minimalism through a random Twitter message and something about it just clicked. 

In person the guys were really personable and relatable.  Ryan started by telling a little about his story and then Josh took over doing some reading from the book.  Then they segued into a Q&A session, alternating fielding questions from the audience.  At the end we had the chance to get to speak with them one on one and get our books signed.  Although I kind of stumbled over my words, I briefly told them how I've been on a similar journey since leaving corporate America and found both of them really inspiring.  Then they both hugged me (*Side note - they both really love hugging!) and we took this pic.  Truth: The world needs more people willing to hug perfect strangers. 

I think one of the most important takeaways I got from the book and hearing the guys talk is that Minimalism isn't just about decluttering or living with less stuff.  Initially, yes, that is the start and basis of the movement.  But minimalism is also really a catalyst to a new way of living.  The point of removing all your 'stuff' is to see 'everything that remains'.  What remains will help you discover who you really are, what you really believe and value, and what you want out of life.  Ultimately, the things you value will no longer be 'things'.  For Joshua and Ryan, their lives now revolve around 5 meaningful pillars: Their Health, Relationships, Passions, Growth and Contribution.  They are able to cultivate each of these more deeply because they've removed all the superfluous, meaningless things from their lives.  They are now living more deliberately. 
(*I invite you to check out their blog for more info on their take on the lifestyle, a tour through a minimalist apartment, and a lot of meaningful essays on the subject.)
Since shedding my old identity a year ago, I've been reevaluating my life and finding out what's most important to me.  Although I'm no minimalist, I've definitely had to get by on much less than I've ever been used to.  It's been hard at times, but I know I never want to be held prisoner in a cubicle again just to support a non-meaningful consumerist lifestyle.  It really is true that you begin to see what you truly value when you remove certain things from your life. 
To that end, I am going to participate in a little game for the month of June drawn up by the Minimalists.  Each day I am going to rid myself of material possessions and see where I end up at the end of the month (physically, emotionally and mentally).  For directions, check out their blog post here.  Basically, you start by donating, selling, recycling or trashing 1 item on the first day of the month, 2 items on the second day of the month, 3 on the third, and so on and so forth, and try to see how far into the month you can make it!  I'm guessing by day 15 or 20 this is going to be incredibly hard!  I'm going to keep a running tab of my efforts and perhaps share them periodically on here or Instagram.  Anyone else up for the challenge?! 
There's so much about the Minimalist movement that speaks to me, even if I'm not sure I would ever/could ever see myself becoming that extreme.  I've shared fantasies on here of 'getting away from it all' for awhile, and recently really been feeling the urge to disconnect from social media and all the influences that come from it.  I think it'd be much easier to be minimalist in a remote location like the PCT, or the Great Sky Country of Montana (where the authors live), than in a big city, but devotees of minimalism live everywhere, in cities across America.  If anything, my exploration into this world has just reinforced what I've been trying to do this past year, in stripping down my old pacifiers to determine what I really want out of life and seeing that I definitely can make do with less.
"Love people and use things, because the opposite never works." ~ Joshua Fields Millburn
Have you ever heard of Minimalism?

What's your take?
Are you as star struck meeting authors in real life as I am?