Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Giant Leap for Mankind

The weekend has come and gone but what happened on Friday will go down as a momentous day in our nation's history and will be a day that lives on forever.

I drew that picture up there last Monday at work (hiiiiiiiiiii #nannylife) with no idea that come Friday my rainbow would have so much more meaning behind it.  Kind of a crazy coincidence don't you think?! Or was it???

After hearing the news that ALL couples will finally be able to legally marry in ALL 50 states on Friday, I felt so happy, warm, light, positive, and surrounded by incredible goodness.  It's hard to explain really.  It was like I could physically feel the love being passed around our nation like a giant 'wave' at a football stadium, if that makes any sense?! 

I felt like there was a shift forward, a 'giant leap for mankind' kind of shift, for humanity that day.  And I could actually feel it.  Could you? 

Yes, there are million terrible things that are still going on in the world, in our country and all around us, but we are making progress. Slowly, but its happening.  I feel like more and more people are coming to the realization that we are all one.  That equality means EVERYONE, not just those that you agree with.  That united we are much stronger than we are alone.  That having pride in where you were born and raised is fine, but we are all ONE country now.  (I'm looking at you, Confederate flag.) 

I'm sure you've read and seen many blog posts, articles, photos, videos etc of how our nation reacted to the news on Friday, so I don't think there's much more I can add other than to say this is a day our generation will remember forever. 

Also, this was my favorite viral photo from the weekend:

RIGHT?!?! Case closed.

I basically just wanted to memorialize this day on my blog so I'd be able to look back on it years from now.  So thanks for stopping by my online diary for the day!  Now get out there and keep trying to change the world all you fabulous souls!

Feel free to share your thoughts!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fitness Friday: Why I Work Out

I wasn't sure what to caption this post.  I think 'Why I Work Out' makes me sound like a huge meat head but it's the best I could come up with!
I think anyone who exercises has gone through phases where their reasons for doing so have changed.  If you work out, your motives may have included some or all of the following in the past:
  • To lose weight
  • To look good in a bikini/for a wedding/major life event
  • To make an ex jealous (Ha!)
  • To work off that ice cream/cupcake/[insert treat of choice here]
The problem with motives like these is that they come from a place of guilt or thinking there's something 'wrong' with ourselves.  Starting from a place of lack is usually not a recipe for success.  In order to succeed or stick with anything long term, you have to believe you are worthy in the first place.  This doesn't just apply to exercise but to anything in life.  If you go in thinking you're a failure, you just might prove yourself right.
I'm certainly not above this line of thinking.  Working out in high school and college was definitely motivated more by superficial reasons than reasons of health and well being.  But there's definitely a wisdom that comes with age. 
The reasons I work out now include:
  • For health
  • For longevity
  • For "me time"
  • To challenge myself
  • To maintain fitness
  • To relieve stress
  • Because it's FUN!
All of these reasons can be summed up in two words: Self care.  There comes a point in your life when you realize that no one is responsible for your health and happiness but you.  As someone who works as a caregiver for others and lives alone, this is even more important for me.  I spend 8-10 hours a day focusing solely on the needs of others.  When I finally get home, there's no one there to ask how my day was, or rub my feet, or just give me a hug.  I've gotten used to this, but it's also made me realize that alone or partnered, you are still the only one responsible for your care.  Sure, others can help and offer support (and it'd be nice to have someone like that around someday!), but you are the CEO of your own mind, body and spirit.
So when I lace up and head out for a run or go to the gym after work, I'm taking care of myself. Sure, some days that care may include plopping down in front of the TV and eating a sleeve of Thin Mints (vegan!), but I'm old enough to know that too much of that is actually more self-sabotage than self-care.  No one is going to tell me to brush my teeth, eat my vegetables, and get up off the couch.  If I want to be a healthy adult, that's all up to me.
As much as we humans have evolved, our minds and spirits still inhabit a physical body.  A body that requires movement and nourishment to be healthy.  We are still (some more than others!) animals.  We were born to move.  And if you've read the book, some also believe, Born to Run, but that's fodder for another post. 
Children LOVE to run and play.  It's innate and instinctual.  Have you ever watched a young child run?  Their entire face lights up and they smile the second their feet take flight.  It's actually amazing to watch.  At some point, we grow up and societal influences suppress these instincts. We're forced to sit in chairs under fluorescent lights for hours on end.  And we're conditioned to believe this is 'natural'.  Newsflash: It's not!  We need to tap back into the creatures we really are, who we knew we were as children, and get outside and MOVE! 
One of the many reasons I enjoy running as a form of exercise is because I love being outside.  Nature is restorative and is after all our 'natural' state!  For me, exercise is a way to not only take care of my body, but a way to restore my mind and soul and remind me of who I really am.
Why do you work out?

Monday, June 22, 2015

I Have a New Nephew!!!

Before I get into a weekend recap, first things first.  I HAVE A NEW NEPHEW!!!

I had mentioned in my last post that my sister was overdue, and I was hoping she would go into labor while I was home this weekend.  And she did!  My nephew must have sensed from the womb that his favorite aunt was in town!  The 'little' guy was born on Saturday, all 9lbs 14 oz of him!  (<----yes really!)  I can't wait to spend more time with him this summer.  I am now Aunt to FIVE nieces and nephews.  I hope my sisters never stop reproducing. 

It's hard to top a new addition to the family, but the rest of my weekend was not too shabby either.

I made it back to PA Friday evening just in time to head to a birthday party for a dear old friend:

We clearly love each other
Many moons ago, before I moved to Baltimore, I used to work with this crazy ginger!  She is one of the funniest, wildest, spunkiest, and also loveliest people I know. She was probably one of my favorite people ever to work with.  Every day at the office was a party with her.  She is the kind of person who makes friends everywhere she goes and I feel like she missed her calling as a comedic actress.  I hadn't seen her in probably 10 years?!?!  And we picked right back up where we left off!  I'm so glad I made it to this. 
I woke up the next morning to cooler temps and wanted to take advantage of the great running weather.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel after that night of debauchery, but I actually felt GREAT!  Fueling up with cocktails will be on my next training plan.  I got 6 miles in around my parents neighborhood, which is the longest I've run in weeks, since I've been focusing on more strength and cross training lately.

One thing that's always a certainty when I go home, is that there will be 10x more food there than at my place.  My dad's garden was in full bloom so I'm pretty sure I ate several pounds of these over the weekend:

My sugar snap pea picking strategy goes like this:  Pick one, eat one, pick one, eat one.  Like a 5 year old.

The reason for my trip (other than subconsciously willing my nephew to make his appearance) was to spend Father's Day with my daddio.  I spent some time in my parents' basement over the weekend going through old photos which was really a good time.  There is nothing better than reliving moments like this:

The 80's were a great decade.  Everything was bigger back then.  The cars, the hair, the glasses.  It's pretty clear to see where I got my striking good looks and sense of style.  My Keds and crop top are on point there.

I biked 13 miles Sunday morning and then we had dinner at my parents' house with my grandparents and Aunt before I headed back to Baltimore.  You think I'm kidding when I talk about the quantity of food my parents prepare, but I do no such thing. The list of items consumed include: salad, grilled veggie kabobs, asparagus, sweet potatoes, garlic bread, shrimp cocktail, bacon wrapped filets, and angel food berry shortcakes.  HELLOOOOOO.  Do any other families still do Sunday dinner?

I hope you all had great weekends celebrating your Dads and the longest day of the year yesterday.  YAY for Summer officially being here!

What were you up to this weekend?

Did you enjoy the 80's as much as I did?!

What's your favorite summer produce?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Bucket List

"I proclaim this: The Summer of George!"  (<------ via my spirit animal, George Costanza)

Even though summer doesn't officially start until Sunday, it already feels like it's in full swing.  And oddly, every day that goes by makes me a bit sad - I can feel my favorite time of year slipping through my fingers.  It's funny how when we are in the midst of the things we love (spouse, children, pets, vacations, etc) our minds drift to the future thinking just how sad we'll be when they're gone.  Why do we do this?  Or is this only me?

Thoughts of summer are sometimes the only way I can get through winter.  Summer for me means living in color.  As opposed to winter, which often feels like a million different shades of gray.

Soooooooo, to make sure I make the most of this short, beautiful, wonderful season that is now upon us, I wanted to make a bucket list of sorts.  These are my summer 2015 dreams:

  • Sand and saltwater.  I want to make it to the beach, any beach this summer.  We don't have any family vacations planned this year, and I don't get any paid time off, which makes taking vacations difficult.  But I NEED to be by the sea at least once during the summer.  It's essential.  Even if it's just a day trip.

  • Make s'mores.  (Minus the chocolate obv.)  We did this last year when we were camping and I had forgotten how good real s'mores made over a campfire taste!  Since I don't have any camping trips planned this year, I'm going to have to get creative to make this one happen.
Camping with my niece last year!
  • Even out my TAN!  T-shirt/shorts/flip flop tan is in full effect.  That needs to be remedied. 
  • Ready more library books!  Books, Books, Books, Books.  Oh wait, that's Shots, nvm.  There are so many books on my reading list, and so little time.  But summer is the perfect time for getting lost in a book.  It's like a free vacation.
  • Hiking.  As much as possible.  I'm hoping to visit some new state parks and sites I have not been to this year.  How can you resist this:

  • Visit Luray Caverns in Virginia.  This has been on my to-do list for a few years.  It looks positively magical.  Hoping to plan a weekend trip to VA this summer to explore.
  • Planning my trip to CALIFORNIA in September!  I can't believe this is happening.  I've been waiting my whole life to visit CA and it's becoming a reality in just 3 months.  One of my best friends from high school is getting married in NorCal and I've decided to make a bucket list trip out of it.  For many reasons, I can only get a week off of work but I'm determined to see at least 2 major cities out there (currently thinking San Diego and San Fran).  I'm hoping to stay in hostels/with friends to save money, and to cap off the week, I'll be meeting up with my sister and another friend from back home and staying in a cabin in The Sea Ranch for the wedding.  I CAN'T WAIT!!  I've been waiting 36 years for this!

  • SUP!  I've been wanting to try stand-up paddle boarding for at least a year or two.  There are now a couple locations offering SUP near Baltimore and I want to go! 

  • Meet my new nephew before the summer's over.  My sister's due date has come and gone and still no baby.  Here's hoping he arrives before summer ends. (<----TOTALLY KIDDING LAURA!)  In reality, I hope he arrives while I'm home this weekend for Father's Day.  I know my sister's ready!
  • Ride a roller coaster.  I haven't been to an amusement park in ages.  I'm hoping to get a day off in July to go with my sisters/nieces/nephews!

  • Spend as much time outside as possible.  (<---- A million times this) 

Who needs a boyfriend when you have a love affair with Summer every year?! 

What's on your summer bucket list?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Natural Therapy: Patapsco Valley State Park

I've been craving time in nature lately.  And more than that, I've been feeling like I want to disconnect a bit from everything.  Maybe it's because it's summer and the weather is singing to me like a sea siren, beckoning me to shirk all responsibility and GO OUTSIDE.  And maybe I just need a little break from the constant influx of media and noise.  I'm not going to go all Into the Wild (yet), but a day spent in the woods was just what I needed this weekend.

If you're feeling a bit overstimulated or just have a case of the Mondays, perhaps the photos from my hike at Patapsco Valley State Park (located in Ellicott City, MD) yesterday can bring a little zen to your morning.  Go ahead.  Zone out for a minute.  Heed the call of the wild.  No one's watching :)  Ommm.....







Oh Hiiiiiii!  Carry on.



Love, eternal



I made a friend!



Toes, water, Heaven

What were you up to this weekend?

Do you crave more nature/outdoor time in the summer?

Been hiking lately?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tried It Tuesday: Tiux Compression Socks

Disclosure: I was sent a pair of Tiux compression socks for this review, however all opinions are my own.
Helloooooo!  I'm coming at you today with a review of compression socks from a new start-up  called Tiux.  As a regular user of compression socks, I was eager to see how the Tiux product performed in comparison to others I've worn.  Compression socks have a variety of uses for runners and other athletes; I use them mainly for shin splint recovery and prevention.  So, when Steven from Tiux reached out to me, I jumped at the chance to take these out for some test runs.

Mirror selfies.  So attractive.  If only I could teach the cats to take photos.
A little bit about the company:  Tiux is a new start-up in the compression sock business.  They do things a little differently to keep costs down, namely selling their product completely online and eliminating marketers and sponsorships so that you are paying for the product only.  In addition, they donate 1% of their profits to a humanitarian non-profit organization called MAG.
So, I like their business model, but how did I like their product?  Well, I've taken them out on several runs so far, and their performance has really impressed me.  They are a very high quality product, and their performance is on par with other brands I've tried.  For comparison, the other brands I regularly wear are CEP and ProCompression.  In terms of how the Tiux feel on, they are comfortably tight, and the compression feels as 'tight' as my other socks from other brands.  
Like other brands I've tried, Tiux also feature graduated compression, meaning the socks are tighter at the ankle and get slightly less tight as you travel up to the knee.  Per the Tiux site, their socks have a compression rating of 25mmHg at the ankle and 20mmHg at the knee.  [For reference: Per CEP's site, their compression is 20-25mmHg at the ankle/18mmHg at knee.  I couldn't locate stats on ProCompression's site, but they 'feel' like they have a similar rating.] 
What I especially liked on the Tiux sock was that it features a cushioned footbed.  A big reason I usually prefer compression sleeves over socks is because I prefer to wear my own running socks.  I like a thicker/more cushioned sock than is usually attached to the compression variety.  I was pleasantly surprised to find Tiux has a cushioned sole, which is not standard for other compression socks I've worn.  The material of the socks also has a nice feel, and is a bit softer than some of my others.
When it comes to compression socks (or most things in general), I'm not really a brand loyalist.  I wear what works and what I like!
I'm glad I could help spread the word about Tiux.  I like the idea of supporting a small company and I think they have a great product.  If I'm going to wear socks over sleeves, then I'd choose these because of their cushioned sole, lower price and equally solid compression/performance in comparison to others on the market.  
If you're interested in finding out more, check out their website at http://tiux.co.  Their socks are currently $35 and are shipped free!
Do you wear compression socks or sleeves?

What brands do you prefer?
What do you use them for?  Injury prevention?  Recovery?  Faster running?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Fitness Friday: Let's Talk About Half-Marathon Weight Gain

Type "marathon weight gain" into Google and you will be rewarded with a plethora of hits and personal stories.  Gaining weight while training for a long distance race is such a common phenomenon that there are probably many of you out there who can relate with stories of your own.  Many other bloggers have written about this anomaly as well (ie. Susie and Erica).  And, although I've never trained for a full marathon, I have experienced weight gain while training for some of my halves. 

I know generally around what my weight is, but it's not something I focus on or use as a yardstick to measure my level of health, fitness or self image.  I don't own a scale so don't weigh myself regularly.  Every once in awhile I'll step on the scale at the gym, or I'll get weighed if I go to the doctor, which is never!  I think obsession with the scale does more harm than good, and the accuracy and implication of the number you see can be very skewed.  As women especially, our weight fluctuates due to so many factors: hormones/time of the month, hydration level, time of year, sleep, work schedules, food, vacations, etc.  I honestly don't see how it's possible to be the EXACT same weight every day unless you are a robot and your eating/drinking/activity level/sleep are exactly the same every single day! 

So, with all of that being said, how do I know that I've gained weight during half-marathon training cycles and how do I feel about it?  I can tell because I honestly feel a bit heavier and notice my pants are just a little snugger in the BOOTY area!  That is where I tend to put on weight.  Why I didn't inherit the gene that directs weight gain to my BOOBS like most of the women in my family, I will never know.  I also did weigh myself at the gym after my half marathon at the end of April, and the number was a few pounds more than what I think of as my 'usual'. 

So why does this happen?  Well for me, it's definitely a case of overeating.  I hate to use this term, but "runger" is a real thing.  A couple hours after I complete a long run, and even the day following said long run, I feel like I am STARVING!  This feeling tends to continue throughout the training cycle.  But, I definitely overcompensate and eat far more than my body actually needs.  I think a lot of long distance runners get into the mindset of "I'm running x___miles so I can eat anything I want!", myself included.  But there's absolute truth behind the advice that you can't outrun a bad diet.

I also think many people in general overestimate the calories burned during physical activity.  The very general rule of thumb is that running burns roughly 100 calories per mile, but this number varies WIDELY according to your weight, fitness level, body composition, speed, running conditions, terrain, etc.  Since I'm a small, fit runner, I know I burn less (closer to 80 calories/mile). [Try a running calorie calculator to get a more accurate number based on your weight/height/speed.]  Also, something to keep in mind is that as you continue to run, and become more fit, your body becomes more efficient and uses less calories than it did initially to do the same activities.  (Thus the need to consistently challenge yourself and switch up your workouts to avoid plateaus.)

When I'm training for a race, I tend to crave/overeat carbs, and not always the healthy kind!  Suddenly, I want all the bagels, cookies, candy, vegan treats I can get my hands on, and I feast with wild abandon.  However, on a more regular basis, and especially after a goal race is complete, my hunger naturally decreases and I crave more green foods, fruits, and cleaner options.  Honestly, I actually look forward to being less hungry!  When I decrease my mileage, I definitely tend to eat more 'normally', or what is normal for me. 

Personally, I don't worry about the few pounds I gain for half marathons because I know it always levels off naturally when I'm no longer training.  Since I don't have any goal races planned for the summer (waaaaaaaaay too hot for that!), I'm looking forward to not have to constantly think about fueling, running on a schedule, etc.  I'm looking forward to focusing more on strength training, HIIT, biking, hiking and other types of workouts that I don't have time for when there's a goal race ahead of me.  I also tend to naturally eat lighter, more fresh foods in the summer because they're plentiful and in season and it's too hot to eat giant bowls of pasta! 

So, I know what I need to do to stave off the 'inevitable' half-marathon weight gain, but I will I do it next time.  Ehhhhhhhhhh, probably not!  I'm not that worried about it.  But I think it's important to keep in mind that running doesn't automatically lead to weight loss or come with a free "All You Can Eat" pass!  I still think it's one of the best ways to maintain fitness and even after 20 or so years of running, it still makes me happy, so that's why I keep at it.  Why do you?

Have you experience weight gain while training for a long distance race?

What do you think led to it?

Have you altered any of your behaviors to prevent it? 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Baltimore Vegan Drinks at Jukai Juice

Last Thursday evening, I had the opportunity to dine at a vegan restaurant and juice bar north of Baltimore called Jukai Juice.  The event was organized by a Facebook meet-up group called 'Baltimore Vegan Drinks', which I had joined over a year ago (?), but had never participated in - until now!  I'm so glad I made it to Jukai because it was a wonderful shop and I had a great experience.

After work on Thursday, I headed to the gym for a quick workout, showered, and then started the drive north to Glen Arm, where Jukai Juice just opened their newest storefront.  The drive was scenic, and surrounded by farm land.  The location actually reminded me of some familiar places back home in PA, and it was nice to be out in 'the country' and away from the city on a hot summer evening!

The shop itself was beautiful, rustic, clean and fresh inside.  It was also super cute. 

I assumed the main focus of their business was their fresh pressed juices, but they also have a fair amount of food offerings, as well as freshly made smoothies and acai bowls.  Everything they serve is vegan, meaning no animal ingredients or byproducts.

Everything on the menu looked enticing, and I had a really hard time deciding what to order.  I ultimately settled on the Raw Walnut Tacos and a fresh juice.  The 'meat' in the tacos was actually pureed walnuts mixed with seasonings and spices.  This was wrapped in large romaine leaves, and then topped with pico de gallo and fresh avocado.  They also offered a cilantro lime dressing, which I declined (I'm just not a dressing person, but I'm sure it was lovely!).

The juice I chose was called the Hulk and included kale, pineapple, green apple, lemon and ginger.  It was refreshing, sweet and I want some more!

In addition to Jukai's food and juice offerings, there were also vegan baked goods for sale, provided by Sweet Dukes Vegan Bakery.  I couldn't resist sampling some of those as well.

They had no set prices for the treats they brought for the event, but were simply asking for donations for the Human League of Maryland.  I liked that.  I liked that a lot.  I was too full to eat dessert right after dinner, but I brought a few things home:

Vegan strawberry shortcake made with coconut whipped cream and mini double chocolate cupcakes!
Although I'm not a vegan, I sympathize with their cause and mission.  I've tried going vegan twice and failed, but continue to seek out ways of eating that are kinder to the planet and all living things who inhabit it.  In any case, I enjoy eating clean, healthy food and Jukai Juice offers exactly that. 
The owner of Jukai Juice started her business after going on a detox of her own and discovering clean food was really the key to optimal health.  She changed her entire way of eating, and now strives to do the same for her children and the local community.  She is committed to using produce from local farmers and wants to incite happiness in all who consume her juices :)  What a rad lady!
It was nice meeting some new people that evening, including several runners!  They told me about another group called the No Meat Athlete that I may check out.  There were also several kids in attendance who were eating vegan food and drinking fresh smoothies. 
The organizers of the event also gave away some door prizes and look what I walked away with:

Did you know these were vegan?! Well, now you do.  The next time you find yourself eating an entire box of these things in one sitting, just think, no animals were used or harmed in the process of making these little crack nuggets. 

Jukai Juice has storefronts in Hampden and Glen Arm.  They also offer their juices at various farmer's markets in the area, including the Fells Point Farmer's Market on Saturdays.  You can also place orders for juices and cleanses (variety of juices for a number of days) online and pick up in one of the stores. 

I hope I can find someone who wants to drive out and enjoy a vegan lunch and some smoothies with me sometime, but if not, I plan on making a trip back there myself! 

Do you have a great vegetarian/vegan restaurant or juice bar in your neighborhood?

Do you like fresh/raw juices?  Ever do a cleanse?

Did you know Thin Mints were vegan?!!