Friday, February 27, 2015

Fitness Friday: City Fit Girls Ambassador and StrideBox Review!

It's another Fitness Friday over here.  Yippee!!

First order of business this morning is to announce my new Ambassadorship with City Fit Girls

"City Fit Girls is a network of women who inspire, uplift, encourage and motivate others to live healthy lifestyles at home, school, workplace or social settings."  Yes, yes, yes.  All about that.  I'm excited to work with them and connect with others to spread the word that fitness is FUN!

Alright, also on the agenda today is a review of StrideBox!  I'm sure many of you have heard of StrideBox before, but for those who have not, it's a monthly subscription box targeted to runners. 

Another advantage of my sister currently being pregnant is that she is passing down her monthly StrideBoxes to me lately, which were a gift from her husband, so I should be thanking my brother-in-law here too.  So, not only do I get another nephew in a few months (!), but I've been getting all her great running stuff lately too!  Thanks Laura :)

So far, I've received 4 boxes from her and they are full of all kinds of goodies.  Each box comes with about 8 samples and/or full size products, plus coupons and a sheet that provides information on each product in the box.  About 2/3 of each box was filled with food products (most of which were full size!), but they've also contained other interesting little tidbits like lip balm, blinking shoe lights, a reflective arm band and iPhone compatible gloves.

What I love about these boxes is they allow you the opportunity to try out new products before committing to purchasing a whole box/case of something, and to discover new running accessories you may not otherwise be exposed to.  (I've been wanting to try Picky Bars forever and they were in one of the boxes - Score!)

These days there is pretty much a box out there for any interest (beauty, crafting, kids, pets, alien enthusiasts, j/k I have no idea about the last one) and most of them are usually pretty affordable. I checked out StrideBox's pricing and they charge $15 month/$0 shipping, which isn't bad.  Currently, I'm on a tight budget and don't have much in the way of disposable income so I probably wouldn't be able to purchase a subscription myself, but I think that price is probably affordable for many people. 

I've only ever subscribed to one monthly box service before and that was years ago.  I did Birchbox for awhile, which is a box of beauty samples.  It was only $10/month (this is how I justified it!) but I honestly rarely used any of the products!  I'm just not a beauty junkie, I rarely wear makeup, and I use very few products on a daily basis (think hair gel and Suave lotion).  Plus the samples in Birchbox were tiny.  Like I mentioned above, most of the products in StrideBox were full size bars/gels/food. 

Even more than purchasing these boxes for yourself, I really like the idea of doing what my brother-in-law did and GIFTING a subscription to someone! Who doesn't love receiving surprises in the mail, and this would be a gift that keeps on giving.  You can do as few or many months as you want and for people who wouldn't necessarily buy this for themselves (like me!), I think it would be a great little treat for the recipient to receive every month.  I'm always looking for new running nutrition and snack bars and loved having the opportunity to try to so many out here. 

I want to thank my sister again for sponsoring this post!

And with that, I'm off to see the wizard. 

Have a great weekend everyone :)

*This post was not sponsored in any way by StrideBox.

Do you subscribe to any monthly boxes?

Ever try StrideBox?

What's up for the weekend?!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lots of Little Things...

It's a brand new week and the last week of February!  Yippee!  This makes me happy, happy, happy.  March happens to be my BIRTHDAY MONTH and also the month that brings us Spring! 

We got a bunch of snow in PA (and Baltimore) this weekend.  Ain't nobody got time for Winter anymore.  Especially New England.  Man, do I feel bad for those people.  Also, I wish they would stop jumping out their windows into it. 

Now, lots of little things from the weekend...

  • My friend's baby shower, in which I apparently didn't snap any pics!  She is nearly 7 months pregnant with twins and looks phenomenal.  You would never guess she's got two babies in there.  Her shower was in downtown Bethlehem in one of the original historic Moravian buildings.  It was a really unique setting and I wish I had taken pics.  Sorry :(
  • My other friend's NEW BABY GIRL!  Oh my, it's hard to put into words how small, sweet, precious, perfect she is.  Maybe I just did.  But she's lovely.  All 5lbs 4oz of her!  And I love her name:  Elyse.  

  • I got some Valentine's from my Dad while I was home!  Gummies of every shape and size.  That's some good running fuel right there:
  • My parents also surprised me with some Girl Scout Cookies.  GSC season is different in PA than in MD.  I'm pretty sure they come in the Fall in MD.  Both of the cookies below are DAIRY FREE, just FYI for others in the same boat as me, and those new cranberry ones were really good. It's a citrus/lemon wafer cookie, with dried cranberries and made with whole grain. 
  • My sister is currently pregnant and not running so she sent me home with an ENTIRE shoebox filled with all kinds of running fuel!  I am going to be eating good for weeks with all these treats from my family.

  • Anddddd, my Dad bought me a new heavy duty hand cream to try.  I don't know what I did to deserve all these gifts this weekend.  This hand cream is apparently made for man hands, lumberjacks, mechanics... and me?!  Hahaha.  Let's hope it works!
  • Last Tuesday, PBS aired the first two episodes of their documentary "The Italian Americans", and will be airing the third and fourth episodes tomorrow evening.  The first two were great and I thought I'd throw it out there in case anyone is interested in watching tomorrow.  One of my favorite Italian-American authors, Adriana Trigiani, is featured in the show, as well as her hometown, the infamous Roseto, PA.  Roseto is a little town close to where I grew up and has been the focus of several sociological and scientific studies due to the fact that the Italian inhabitants had some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the entire country [see 'The Roseto Effect'].

That's it!  I hope everyone had a great weekend, despite the snow.  Spring is coming, Spring is coming.  Let's just keep repeating that to ourselves :)

What were you up to this weekend?

Try out any of the Pinterest workouts over the weekend?!

Has Girl Scout Cookie season come to your area?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Fitness Friday: Favorite Pinterest Workouts

Hello and Happy Friday!  I am taking a trip back home this weekend to celebrate a few very special people.  My best friend just gave birth to a baby girl on Wednesday and I can't wait to meet her!  And, another friend of mine is currently pregnant with twins and I'll be attending her baby shower!  Babies, babies everywhere.

Now onto some business...

I wanted to thank everyone who provided feedback on my Fitness post last Friday. There were a lot of good ideas and concerns in there and I'm going to do my best to address them.  In an attempt to give myself some consistency and structure, I'm going to try to devote Fridays to Fitness posts.  This may be every Friday, or every other Friday, and I plan on addressing everything from stretching to workout recaps to beginning a running program.  Please feel free to contact me via comments or email ( with any topics you'd like me to cover on Fridays, and I will respond!

My main point of that post was that I believe we need to start shifting the mindset in America that thinks fitness is a completely separate entity from good health and health care.  As we saw, by the very definition of the word, fitness is an indicator of good health, and I don't believe you can be truly healthy if you do not have a baseline level of fitness.  As far as 'baseline level', I'm still not sure how to quantify that, but I'm going to do some research and see if I can come up with something amalgamated from a variety of professional resources. 

I think the hardest part for everyone is getting started, followed by sticking with it (when they don't see immediate results).  I think many people feel that perhaps they are just not inherently athletic and so fitness is just something they'll never be 'good' at.  But I don't think 'fitness' and 'athleticism' are interchangeable terms.  You don't have to excel at sports or be born with natural gifts to be able to go for a walk or do simple exercises in the comfort of your own home.  I don't think I'm particularly athletically gifted but I just love moving, playing, and trying new things.  [This is probably the reason I love hanging out with kids so much; we are kindred spirits.]  I like to run, but I am not particularly fast.  I am a solid middle-of-the-pack runner and will never win any big races, but that doesn't stop me!  I also mentioned that I played a lot of sports growing up and that's true, but what I didn't tell you is that I completely STUNK at a lot of them!  Perhaps one day I'll do a post on a list of the sports I've tried over the years and the ones I've completely failed at! Haha Maybe that will give you some courage to get out there and Just Do It :)

Also, as I previously mentioned, you do not need a gym membership or fancy equipment to work out.  Case in point: Calisthenics.  Calisthenics are great for improving endurance and strength, and if you perform them in High Intensity Intervals, great for burning fat.  They are also great cross-training/strength-training exercises for runners.  I get a lot of my at-home workouts from Pinterest, and I'm going to share some of my favorites with you today (these were created by other Pinners, not me). 

Most of them are short (15-30 mins) and can be easily modified to suit your needs.  Just decrease the number of reps suggested or do modified moves (ie. pushups on your knees instead of standard pushups).  For beginners who are unsure what some of the moves may be, I wish I could post photos of myself modeling them, but alas, I have no one to take pictures of me!  There are mirrors at my gym, so maybe one day I'll just go in and selfie a bunch of moves so I have personal stock photos for you?!  In the meantime, you'll have to Google/Youtube them, or just ask me. 

Without further ado, here are a few of my favorite go-to workouts (all of these can be found on my Pinterest "I Work Out" board):

*Be careful - This one is more advanced*
If you're snowed in this weekend, or staying indoors because of the insane polar vortex, why not pick one of these and give it a try!
Also, I'd recommend you check out the FREE 7 Minute Workout app that I blogged about last year.  A couple of years ago, the American College of Sports Medicine came out with a study stating the benefits of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and published the specific 12 moves in this program to be a scientifically excellent workout. 
It is a Tabata style workout, in that you are performing moves at a high intensity for 30 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest (true Tabata is 20 secs on/10 secs off), and it is pretty intense and comprehensive.  I usually run through the circuit 3 times for a total of 21 mins of work and that's plenty, but you can start out just doing it once and it will be worth your time!  [There are a few of them in the App Store, but this is the one I use by Bytesize]

Well, that should be enough to keep you busy for the weekend!  I hope you all have a great one!

*Disclaimer:  I am not a personal trainer or medical professional; these are simply exercises I enjoy and recommend.  If you have medical or health concerns, please consult a professional before beginning any exercise program.*
Do you work out at home?

Ever done the 7 minute workout?

What are your weekend plans?!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fastnacht Day, Kombucha soda, and SNL40

Happy Fat Tuesday!  Or as we say in PA, Happy Fastnacht Day!  (Fastnachts are Pennsylvania Dutch doughnuts made with potato dough and traditionally fried in LARD! Yum!  I never had one.)  But, I do need to try to procure myself a doughnut at some point today for good luck. 

For those that celebrate Lent, today is last day to stuff our faces before 40 days of fasting!  I participate in some Lenten practices like Ash Wednesday and avoiding meat on Fridays, but it's been many years since I 'gave up' something for Lent.  Many years ago I gave up soda and what do you know, after that period I didn't really crave it anymore!  Now, it's a fairly rare occurrence to see me sipping on a soda.  Anyone giving up anything this time around?

So what else has been happening around these parts besides Mardi Gras partying? 

Let's see.  My Valentine's Day was pretty low key.  I made some crafts with my 14 month-old charge at work on Friday:

And then I worked until midnight!

So Saturday I slept in until 10am, and then later went out for a 5 mile run.  I went out in the evening just as it was getting dark, and it was snowing lightly.  It was wonderfully peaceful and perfect. 

I also got a few Valentine's:

I am not sure what to do with that big box of chocolates, since I can't eat them?!  Anyone want to come take it off my hands?

Sunday it was beyond cold with negative wind chills here, so of course that ended up being the day I had a million errands to run.  I am so over winter.
First, I spent some time in the Barnes and Noble children's section.  Nanny heaven:
Then, I went to Target for a couple necessities and multiple non-necessities.  I saw a Cartwheel deal for this Kombucha soda so decided give it a try:

I've never tried any Kombucha drinks before so I really didn't know what to expect.  To tell you the truth, the amount of 'stuff' floating in them always scared me off!  This didn't taste like real cola but it was pretty good, with a bit of a strange aftertaste.  I think I would get it again, and maybe I'm brave enough to try real Kombucha now?!  I sipped on this while watching SNL40 Sunday night.  My favorite parts of the show were the flashbacks to the old episodes over the years, and I laughed pretty hard at the new Jeopardy sketch.  I could have totally done without some of the musical appearances, especially Kanye and Miley's cover of Paul Simon. 

While watching said TV extravaganza, I baked these muffins:

I made these from a mix (non-dairy one!), but I added in my own fresh blueberries to make them taste a little more homemade.  Not bad, Bean.  Not bad at all.

I've also been trying some new bars lately.  I take at least one bar a day to work so I'm always looking for new options.  They are sometimes hard to come by since I require non-dairy/vegan bars.

This peanut butter chocolate chip Larabar is one of my new faves.  It's not overly sweet and is just really yummy:

I picked up the new chocolate cupcake Luna Bar at Target.  This one is good but pretty darn sweet so I don't think I could eat it every day (which is surprising since it doesn't have an especially high sugar count).  The flavor is pretty close to a cupcake!

Anddddd, that's about it.  I had to work yesterday.  I can't remember the last time I had off for President's Day.  It was probably back in college!  Does anyone other than schools or the government actually have this day off?!  If you did, then lucky lucky you my friend.

Now go party it up Fastnacht style!

Do you celebrate Lent?

Did you watch SNL40?

Do you drink Kombucha?

Tell me about some new food finds!

Friday, February 13, 2015

What is "Fitness"?

What exactly is "fitness"? 

Well, I took that very question to Merriam-Webster for an answer.  According to the dictionary, fitness is:
"the quality or state of being fit"

(Um, isn't the first rule of defining a word to not use that word in the definition?!)

Needing further clarification, I headed back to Merriam-Webster for more info.  'Fit' is then defined as:
"physically healthy and strong"; "sound physically and mentally"; "healthy"

Fitness, then, is a key component and indicator of good health, and not a separate entity.

I think there are a few different aspects that make up complete personal fitness including mental and emotional health, but today I want to focus on physical fitness.
Do you remember taking the President's physical fitness assessments in school back in the day?!  I actually used to look forward to taking the tests in gym class every year!  I wasn't sure if kids still did these in school so I Googled and it's still a thing.  According to the website, the PYFP (Presidential Youth Fitness Program) fitness standards encompass 4 main areas:  Aerobic Fitness; Muscular Strength and Endurance; Flexibility and Body Composition.  Personally, I remember getting assessed in these areas in both the beginning and end of the school year by doing the following activities:
Endurance - Running a mile (timed)
Strength - How many pull-ups on the bar you could perform; How many sit-ups you could do in a minute
Flexibility - The sitting stretch-and-reach with the ruler!
[*Body Composition - Caliper measurement - I only remember having this done one year]
I think those 4 areas give a pretty well-rounded definition of fitness, and I wonder why we only administer fitness assessments on children?  Ultimately, I think physical fitness is a huge part of being healthy and it would make sense to carry fitness assessments into adulthood.  I think it would be ideal to incorporate something like this at yearly medical check-ups to give adults some kind of benchmark or guidance.  Not to get too political here, but I think Western medicine generally deals with health as a 'put out the fire' type deal, treating patients when they are ill, and rarely focuses on preventing and maintaining health throughout one's life. 
Children are by nature very active and fit creatures.  They have boundless energy and their little bodies crave movement and play.  It's often societal influences that end up hindering or stifling a children's desire to move as they age (ie. video games/electronics, too much sitting in school, not enough play time).  This downhill creep in fitness levels only continues as we age.  For many adults, the average day includes anywhere from 8-12 hours of sitting (or more)!  Not only is this unnatural (the human body was designed to move!) but it's also detrimental to our health.  Cue the new sound bite, 'Sitting is the new smoking'. 
I've always loved to move and have been active consistently since I was a child.  I never stopped enjoying exercising my body or seeing what it could do.  I guess I never viewed exercise as a chore.  My mom, dad and grandparents all go to the gym on a regular basis, and they are in their 50s, 60s and 90s (!) so I guess it runs in the family! 

I spent my childhood playing outdoors and participated in sports throughout school.  In college, I worked out in the campus gym or went running.  After college, I didn't have a gym membership for a few years, so I ran, biked, swam, and used my dad's weights in our basement!  When I moved out on my own, I joined a gym and continued running, as well as participated in club sports. Sure I take days off here and there, sometimes even a week or two from 'formal' exercise, but that doesn't mean I'm sitting at home on the couch motionless.  Even if I'm on vacation, I'll make time for family walks, swimming, a run here and there.  My body does not feel well if it's been inactive too long.  I want to be fit because I want to be healthy for a long, long time.  I want to be running around with my kids and grand kids. I want to be able to lift heavy things, spend hours walking around new cities, and swim in the ocean til the day I die! 
I think where many adults go wrong when it comes to fitness is they have this 'all or nothing' mentality.  Thus, the influx of 'resolutioners' at the gym every January.  They go balls to the wall for a month or two, working out every day, restricting their diets like crazy, and then crash and burn. The thing most people don't realize is that you don't need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get and maintain fitness.  Your body has everything built right in, and there are unlimited resources available online these days. Fitness should be a lifelong process and goal.  In this culture of immediate gratification, people are looking for instant results, but it doesn't work that way.  You certainly didn't get out of shape by sitting on the couch for a day, or eating 1 doughnut did you?!
I think of fitness the way I think about maintaining a car.  It requires year round upkeep to continue running at its best.  Regular oil changes, car washes, changing the wiper blades and headlights are all small little steps that keep your car in tip top shape.  If you move your body at least a little each day, you will become fit and maintain your fitness for life.  The key for most Americans I believe, is seeing fitness as an essential element to their health and incorporating it into their daily lives.  I don't believe that the majority of adults in America believe this or make fitness a priority.

Sure some days may get away from you, but if you are exercising on a consistent basis you will never have to 'catch up'.  You won't go through cycles of being out of shape, then in shape.  Your weight won't cycle up and down, up and down.  Diabetes, heart disease and a host of other illnesses will decrease in this country as well!  I also think fitness begets healthier eating.  You really can't eat greasy processed crap and be able to walk or run a few miles.  There are more and more cities and pockets in America that are becoming health and fitness focused, and hopefully their reach continues to spread throughout the country.  Fitness for life people!
You really can't argue with that
This is a fitness blog, and I realized recently that I haven't talked fitness in awhile.  I guess because I'm not training for a race right now (that's about to change!), I haven't felt the need to track my workouts or training progress.  But fitness is extremely important to me and a cause that's near and dear to my heart.  Please let me know if there's any fitness related content you'd like to see from me, or if you'd like me to share my workouts with you.  I'm working on ideas for how to incorporate more fitness posts into the rotation, instead of just using this space constantly as a (public) diary for my random thoughts about life (although that will certainly continue!).  I am not a certified personal trainer but I love fitness and have been active my whole life, and love helping and inspiring others to get to the same place!  And, maybe one day I will stop saying I'll pursue my CPT and actually get it :)
What is your definition of fitness?

Do you think a national adult fitness assessment would be helpful?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Self Care is not Selfish

Although I consider myself to be a fairly healthy individual, there is something I routinely fall short on:  self-care and listening to my body.  We could look to that time I went to work with the flu, and that time I threw my back out and continued to shovel snow as just a few examples.  The fact is, eating right and working out are only two of the ingredients that make for a healthy life.  Emotional well-being also plays a huge part.  And also, sleep (something I routinely skimp on). 
I've had a lot going on the past few weeks and refusing to give up control, I continued to try to squeeze in all of my usual activities.  Between working long hours, fitting in gym time, blogging, and starting new jobs, I was averaging 5 hours of sleep a night!  For weeks.  I guess I knew my body would eventually revolt but I kept pushing the envelope.  Two weeks ago I came down with a cold from one of my kids and that should have been my first warning sign.  But did I listen?  Nope.  Typical.  Well, this weekend I was hit with a stomach bug from one of my kids!  Ughhhhhhh, I don't think I've ever even had a stomach bug as an adult.  I'm pretty sure I would remember if I had.  Totally blows.  Don't catch one.  But once again the Universe speaks.  Take care of yourself Bean or I'm gonna take care of you!  BAM!  Sucker punch to the stomach, literally.
I've always been an empathetic person, but since I began working in childcare full time, this quality has become even more pronounced.  I spend 8-10 hours of every day focusing all of my attention and care on another human.  Sometimes, I don't even have time to eat, drink or use the bathroom!  It sounds ridiculous to type that out, and I'm pretty sure it is.  Even moms make time to do those things!  The thing is, I think when you work in social services/healthcare/etc, it becomes even MORE important to care for yourself.  All day long, you are draining yourself to fill the vessels of others, but just like that quote up there says " cannot serve from an empty vessel".  If you drain yourself dry, there's nothing left for you at the end of the day, and no way to replenish yourself to get back out there tomorrow. 
I routinely push through pain and wear myself thin thinking I can handle it, or these times will make me stronger.  I mean, I am a distance runner after all!  But just like in running, pushing too hard and not making time for rest (and stretching/conditioning/etc) WILL lead to injury.  I know I've got to become better at listening to my body, and taking care of it better.  This starts with making sure I'm at least tending to my biological needs throughout the work day!  It also means when things get crazy, that I concede control and let my body do the directing.  If that means skipping the gym, or unplugging from social media for the night, so be it.  Sleep is important and healing, and all the healthy food and working out in the world won't help if you are sleep deprived. 
Self care is about self respect and it's not selfish.  If you don't respect yourself enough to take care of you, why should anyone else?  I remember something my grandfather used to tell us all the time -"Always look out for #1".  And he meant to always look out for ourselves.  Back then, I used to think that mantra was kind of selfish, but now I realize how wise he was.  You MUST take care of yourself first before you can take care of anyone else.  No one else but you is looking out for your best interests.  He was a great man in many ways, and so smart the way he went about his life.  Listen to your elders kids, and most of all, listen to yourself!
Takeaway:  If you are feeling stressed/tired/overwhelmed, DON'T ignore or try to push through those feelings.  Feel them, listen to your body and take the actions necessary to get yourself back to a healthy place. (Speaking to myself here too!)
Do you practice good self care?
How do you make time to take care of yourself when life gets crazy?



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cats Who Watch TV, Udder Cream and Baby Bums

Hellooooo February. Sorry for being MIA all week.  I have a lot going on on the work front right now and it's currently consuming the majority of my time and energy!  No complaints, but time is just running away from me.  Somehow it's been six weeks since Christmas which feels like an eternity at this point.  Other than work, here's what I've been up to lately:

  • Garlic update!  So, remember how I tried curing my Christmas flu with garlic and it didn't work?  Well, last week I felt myself coming down with yet another cold from one of my kids (side note: when you work in someone's home, wipe their nose all day and get coughed on repeatedly, no matter how many times you wash your hands and use sanitizer, you're pretty much guaranteed to catch their germs!) I hit up the garlic hard core.  I started eating raw garlic like I was planning for a vampire apocalypse.  And once again, it didn't work :(  So, I don't know if I'm just not catching these buggers early enough but garlic is 0 for 2 now.  Anyone else ever had success fighting a cold with garlic? 
  • In an attempt to feel better from said cold, I left the grocery store last Friday with the cleanest cart full of food you ever did see.  Green smoothies for days.

  • Last week the cats (and I) watched "Voices From Auschwitz" on CNN.  It was a special commemorating the 70th anniversary of the death camp's liberation.  Harrowing.  One day, I'd like to see it in person.  Many of the survivors toured the site as part of the anniversary observance, but I can't imagine wanting to go back there ever again if I had lived through it.  Also check out our TV.  We like to keep things as low-tech as possible over here:
  • New books!  One for work, but the others are simply for the sweet sweet pleasure of consuming words:

  • I wash my hands so much at work, that they are becoming painfully dry and cracking (and yet, I somehow still contract viruses?!).  I just got this cream because it was cheap and had good reviews online but its not impressing me or improving my skin that much.  Also it contains parabens which I'd rather steer clear of.  Anyone in healthcare/teaching/etc have the same issue and can recommend a reallllllllllly good hand cream?  Regular lotions are just not cutting it!
  • Gift for one of my new families.  I love the design trend of putting animal faces on the rumps of infant clothing.  If only it were acceptable for me to wear pants like this (I would):
  • In addition to all this randomness, I've made it my job the past 2 weeks to try out every non-dairy popcorn currently on the market!  Tough job stuffing my face with bags and bags of salty snacks but I am hoping to have a post up soon with the fruits of my labor.  So fear not, my fellow compadres in search of dairy-free snacking goodness, help is on the way!

Has garlic ever cured any of your ills?! 

Have any magic cream that will save my hands?!