Back-to-School Healthy Habits

Whether you have kids getting ready to begin another school year or not, September is a reminder that those dog days of summer are almost over. And while summer for most of us is a time of being active and outdoors, it can also be filled with many temptations—hot dogs at the ballpark, ice cream at the beach, cotton candy at the amusement park.  So if you “cheated” a bit on your diet and workouts this summer, think of September as your re-set button.  It’s a great time to take stock of where you are on your personal health and wellness journey.

If you are like most humans, you may need a little help jump starting those “back-to-school” healthy habits before your busy schedule puts them on the back-burner. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Set a goal for yourself

You may have had the best of intentions back in May, but, ahem, that big goal you were planning to tackle this summer somehow got lost in the shuffle. Don’t beat yourself up, but this time let’s keep it front and center.  First, write down your goal on a piece of paper.  Then rip it up!  Yes, you heard me.  imageI want you to rip it up.  Now rewrite the goal this time cutting it in half. For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds in the next two months, I want you to drop it to 5. Want to run a 10K?  Start with a 5K.  Take your new goal and tape it to your bathroom mirror so that every time you brush your teeth you are reminded of its importance.

  • Conduct a pantry purge

If you are looking to eat healthy getting rid of the temptations is a necessary step and it starts with cleaning out the kitchen. Pull out the trashcan and pick up every item one-by-one that is in your pantry and refrigerator.  imageToss out the foods that have expired as well as those that don’t seem to ever go bad!  imageIf there seems to be no shelf life, chances are that product is loaded with a ton of preservatives and unrecognizable ingredients (that are undoubtedly going to keep you from accomplishing your new goal). You’ll be amazed at what’s lurking inside your kitchen.

  • Make a grocery list and plan ahead

The trick here is to keep this simple. It’s time to get down to the basics.  You’ll want to have on this list all the opposites of what you just purged in step 2. Think fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. A list that I love that is good for runners and non-runners alike is called the Runner’s Ultimate Grocery ListimageFind a couple of simple go-to healthy recipes (e.g.: grilled chicken atop a spinach salad chock full of colorful vegetables) and shop for those items that will be your meals for the week.

  • Find an accountability partner

Lastly, you may have all the best intentions to stick with your new action plan but let’s be honest, it’s much easier to give ourselves an out when no one else is watching. A few busy days, late nights and over scheduling can quickly lead us down the path of no return. So find a trusted friend who will encourage you and push you a little outside your comfort zone when you feel you are slipping.  Set a challenge together with built-in daily or weekly check-ins to keep one another accountable. When you reach your goal it will be so more fun to celebrate your accomplishments with someone else!

And just remember you’re in the driver’s seat of your new year. There is no time like the present to set some healthy habits in motion and get moving today!

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Are you looking for help on your goal setting, pantry purge, grocery list development, and accountability? I’m happy to help get you started and if you are serious about taking your health to the next level, IDLife–the incredible health and wellness movement that I’m a part of–has three day-by-day 28-Day Challenges (weight loss, fit, and performance) that can jump-start those back-to-school habits now. Fill out the form below to schedule your FREE consultation.

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Like Running On A Cloud

Today I bought my first pair of trail running shoes–On Swiss performance running shoes–at Potomac River Running store. It was the only pair of trail runners they had in stock in my size but I was sold. It certainly helped that the guy selling them was wearing a pair and absolutely raving about them.

I’m so pumped to try my Cloudventure pair of shoes. Developed in Switzerland with the Swiss Alps as fertile ground for these product developers, I have no doubt they must be good.

And I also see that the company is doing an East coast tour right now so I have a feeling we will be seeing more of these shoes in the near future! I’ll report back on how they work out for me.

Time to fly!!

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Happy Running Trails

The time has come for a brand new adventure—one of which I am wholly unprepared, but maybe I’ll just surprise myself! Recently I signed up for my first ultra-marathon—that’s right, you heard it here. I expected more people to tell me I’ve gone insane, but surprisingly not too many have…hmmm does that mean that I already am? Guilty as charged…

Over the last few months I’ve been yearning for a new challenge. Should I sign up for that Olympic distance triathlon (which I still have yet to do), tackle another marathon, stick to the half distance? Right now, the idea of training for a swim-bike-run just felt too daunting of a task to work into my schedule, as the last few months have been incredibly busy with a large work deliverable. And I am committed now to focusing more on growing my IDLife business. But over the last few months I have felt my fitness levels improve immensely.  I feel stronger than I’ve ever been and my competitive spirit has desired to see how much improvement I have made since my last marathon (5 years ago this November). I’ve always been intrigued by the ultra-marathon, especially those that are through peaceful wooded trails.  So when my friend, who has blogged on my site about  ultras she has completed, told me about this race, I checked out the website and said, “ok, I’m in!”

In September I will be running the 12-Hour Adventure Trail Run at Prince William Forest Park.  I have hiked there once and it’s a beautiful part of our National State Park system here in Virginia.  How fitting that this is the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service! With a field capped at 100 runners and a race that only pits you against the clock, I was more eager to hit “Register” since I can run (or walk or crawl) as much or as little as I want.  The only requirement is to complete at least one of the 6.5 mile figure 8 loops.

This may be the craziest fitness adventure yet! Now to buy some trail running shoes (any suggestions?) and figure out my hydration and food plan for the big day!

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Blue Skies Are On The Way

The true meaning of snow birding really hit home for me last week during a trip to Tucson, Arizona. While temperatures were snowy and cold back home with most of the East coast experiencing temperatures in the teens or below freezing, I was basking in the 80 degree record-high days. That extra dose of Vitamin D and seeing a blue sky each day did me a lot of good!

There’s not much one can complain about when you are getting great quality family time in a beautiful setting with perfect weather! As my readers can tell from reading my blog, staying active is an important part of my life and trips like these make me question (at times) why I would choose to live anywhere that gets winter. Don’t get me wrong I love to do outdoor winter activities like skiing and ice skating but after a while putting on all those layers just gets really old! And it’s not like Washington, DC experiences extremely bitter temperatures. But getting away (especially in the dead of winter) makes me more appreciative when I visit beautiful places and go on new adventures.

Durng this trip I experienced some great hiking–one half day at Catalina State Park Canyon (about a 10 mile hike to the Romero Pools with my brother and sister-in-law) and a shorter late afternoon stroll through Coronado National Forest National Park’s Sabino Canyon (about a 3 mile hike with my aunt and uncle). Along with my dad we also did a two-hour horseback ride through the desert one morning

Here are some highlights:

Saturday hike at Catalina State Park
Before we began our hike we checked out an Arizona wildlife display that was set up by park volunteers. There were animal hides you could touch–from rabbits and javelinas to deer, mountain lions, bears and coyotes–and individual cages of live animals and reptiles that one may come across in the state–everything from mice and rats to the lethal rattlesnake and Gila monster (he was kind of cute though).

Now that we knew what to look out for on the trail it was time to begin our trek! We would hike part of the Romero Canyon Trail to the Romero Falls, about five miles each direction. We were prepared with a backpack full of water, snacks, sandwiches for lunch, as well as hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. It was hot and the further along we got the more layers came off.

Arizona hiking is so much different than hiking through an East coast trail. For one there is little shade because trees back home are replaced by cactus here. It’s a unique kind of beauty to see as you gaze at the mountain side speckled with cacti instead of pine trees. And it’s very rocky and dusty–it is the desert after all.

The trail meandered slowly along the mountain. We scrambled around rocks and said hello to folks as they passed us coming down. The higher we hiked the more peaceful it became. There were a few moments of “are we there yet?” but most of the climb we just enjoyed unending beauty before us. After a while we found a shaded spot for noshing on our sandwiches and to take a little breather. Then we continued just a little further scaling down some large boulders until we made it to the pools which looked like heavenly bliss with real gold specks sparkling within the water. We questioned for a moment whether we should go in the water and oh yes you bet that we jumped in! My brother and I went in first and on the count of three under we went. My sister-in-law was next and to her pleasure I’m sure I filmed a cheesy video as if she were training for the 2016 Olympic Games polar bear plunge event. That water was so icy cold so lying on the warm rocks after was amazing. We hung out there for about an hour. Taking in God’s glory at this little slice of heaven is one that I won’t ever forget.

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Walking back down was much faster with the highlight being the late afternoon views and some folks passing us on the trail telling us they saw a Mojave rattler–one of those deadly reptiles we learned about earlier. Yikes!! Luckily we didn’t spot him.

imageOverall this hike gets 5 stars in my book and I’d recommend anyone to try it who has an adventurous spirit. It’s not an easy hike, but one that most semi-active people could handle. There are also shorter (and longer) hikes available in the park.

Monday morning horseback ride

Monday was reserved for horseback riding. Our group took a meandering ride through the Catalina desert. My horse was a Buckskin named Haus and the oldest horse in the group, about 18 years of age if I recall.

After they saddled us off we went one by one staying in line in the order they put us. Along the way in the distance was an old ranch with a church on the property. And then just beauty all around. A few spots we climbed a bit and at times the horses got distracted and wanted to stop to chew on grass. Of course anytime mine did that, the horses that my dad and uncle were riding also decided to stop. The guide (aka “trail boss” as we called him) must have been getting annoyed with me for slowing down the ride and swung his horse from the front of the line over to me to give me a quick lesson on the reins to keep my horse from being tempted. I had to chuckle a bit because the others were doing the same thing. But he must have thought I was the most inexperienced of the group (which I may have been when it comes to horse riding). I really wanted to go a little faster so for a brief few seconds I got my horse trotting. My uncle said he was purposefully letting his horse eat to allow himself to hang back from the group and go faster from time to time. My aunt was in her element as she grew up riding a horse named Susie. Dad and Joe fit the part of Cowboys with their hats. Flowers were in bloom and it felt like spring had truly arrived.

Monday afternoon hike at Coronado National Forest, Sabino Canyon After some lunch and relaxing at the pool I joined my aunt and uncle for a shorter hike at Sabino Canyon. This trail was a bit more tame and flat. In fact there were a lot of runners so if I lived in Tucson this would be a place you’d find me after work. We hiked to a waterfall that was very pretty. Wildlife spotting–a tiny lizard (no Gila monster) and a roadrunner. The mountains were beautiful this time of day and I really just wanted to take it all in forever. Next time I’m back I will spend some more time exploring this park as well as many others.

All in all Arizona has a lot to offer this time of year. If you can time it right and get great weather you are in for a treat. In addition to hiking you can’t beat the Mexican cuisine and you’ll do yourself good by visiting little towns like Tubac where we attended an arts street festival. A lot of talent in the region–be it art or jewelry making. And the Tucson gem and mineral show too is a neat thing to check out as well. I’m going to make February snow birding a tradition now. I’m ready to take on these last few weeks of winter but spring time can’t get here soon enough! Happy trails!!

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Stretch Out and Spin Yourself Fit

Mixing up your workouts is always a good thing. Our muscles, unlike our brains, work better when they are confused and Del Ray (a cute neighborhood in Alexandria, VA) has two great options that local Northern Virginians should check out. Owned by the same folks but set in two different buildings near each other are a spin studio and barre studio. A friend and I used coupon codes to try a few classes to see if we like the instructors, the classes, times offered and the physical space. Thumbs up to all of the above in my book.

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The spin studio–Swēt Ride–is a great little cycling studio. I attended three classes and was pumped that the classes provided clip shoes. I was very excited given that it was my first time using clips. Yep, haven’t quite graduated yet.  It did take me some time to get one to clip in and one of the assistants had to help me, but the next few times were easy (and what a difference it made with the biking). imageAt your first session you get fitted for your seat and handlebars and the studio sends you a postcard with the information written down (not sure why they don’t just give it to you on the spot, but mail can be special so there may be some marketing rationale to that practice). imagePost-workout you get an ice-cold towel infused with peppermint oil–it’s amazing! For the barre class it also doubles as an antibacterial so you can use the opposite side to wipe down your mat. And the last cool feature about this place is that you get your ride stats emailed to you post-workout (I posted one below). I was getting competitive with myself in just the three classes I attended trying to outdo the session before. Genius idea!

imageimage imageThe barre studio–Barre Tech–I really loved. I had only taken one barre class prior at another studio but felt that it was too easy. My sister-in-law raves about the one she attends in Los Angeles, so I knew I had to give it another shot. Well, I was impressed. As a runner I often overlook smaller muscle groups and these classes find ways to work those little muscles we forget exist. It also focuses on stretching and balance.  My core feels stronger after taking these classes and I’ve found that incorporating routines from both the mat and the barre provide greater variety to keep me engaged throughout the workout. I also love the incorporation of ballet moves–even though I’ve never been a dancer–as it makes me feel beautiful and strong all at once.

So all in all, success with these two gems and I will be returning to them both.

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An Unstoppable Southern Half Marathon

It’s been three days since Sunday’s Quintiles Bull City Race Fest half marathon in Durham, NC and what a great day it was. For me, just being down South for the weekend made me really happy. I have three homes–where I live now (northern Virginia), where I grew up (south Jersey), and where I went to college and spent my first two adult working years (Durham, North Carolina). NC is one of my happy places and getting away from the hustle and bustle of DC does the soul good. People are friendlier and more laid back, traffic is less, and honestly the food there is better too!

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So last year I was down for Duke’s homecoming and while having brunch with my mom at Foster’s Market we saw all these people with race medals. I told myself then and there that I would do that race the following year! And race weekend was finally here.image

The day before the race,  my friends and I went to the race expo, lunch and the NC state fair. I was pretty good and did not partake in much of the fried plethora of offerings, but was on my feet for awhile. Fortunately that did not hold me back from completing an excellent race. imageimageimage

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The next morning was cold (37 degrees…brrrr!) and none of us were quite ready for that cold burst of winter-like weather. With that said, I made my way to the start line ready to take on the race.  The race began near the Durham Bulls stadium by all the new restaurants. Durham has really gone through a revitalization over the last few years and I was excited to see things taking off.

imageWe looped our way through the downtown area and past the old Durham Bulls ballpark (where I attended  many a beer fest), through lots of neighborhoods, down to 9th Street (yay Elmo’s Diner), around the perimeter of Duke’s East campus and then into the campus where we ran straight down the quad and past Baldwin  imageAuditorium. image

I thought that was the coolest thing ever–a race that took me right through my beautiful college campus. We took a right to head under the famous painted bridge and down most of Campus Drive.

Then it was back up through some other neighborhoods on the edge of campus.  Lots of hills–nothing super steep but the minute we made it down one hill, it was time to crest back up another. People had written inspiring messages on the hilly streets and that helped keep up my motivation. Around mile 6 or so I passed the 8:30/mile pace group so I knew I was at least ahead of them, but the 8:00 pace group was nowhere to be found. By mile 11 I was pretty much done but knew I was keeping a good pace.  The fans intermingled throughout the course were great! One girl especially was so into her cheering (I must have seen her in five different spots and kept wondering if she was a triplet).

Finally I knew the finish was in sight–we were heading back downtown and the hills had subsided! It was a straight shot to victory and I gave it all I had (only three minutes shy of a personal best).  My friends were at the finish line cheering me on which was so nice–two ran the 5-mile race and one braved the cold weather to support us. image imageAfter a post post-race stretch and massage it was off to brunch, a nap and some R&R. While I’m still a little sore, one thing is certain– I can’t wait to do it again next year!imageimageimage

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I Am Spartan!

What do thousands of people who wake up on a Saturday morning to run through the woods, crawl through mud under barbed wire and jump over burning logs have in common? They all have a little crazy inside of them. Clearly I am one of those people!  Yes, some people’s worst nightmare is our idea of a good time!

On August 1, five of my friends (including one who was 7-months pregnant) from boot camp and I took part in the Spartan Sprint DC race. These obstacle-course races have become a pretty big thing over the last few years and I was excited to try this one in particular.  I signed up for it back in December and now it was here! image image imageimage image image

image   image image Luckily our group was in the early wave of athletes when the temperatures were a bit more bearable. We trudged through the woods for a bit before nearing the first set of walls to climb over which to my relief weren’t too bad! But things would get harder (and muddier) as we got further along.

The 24 obstacles ranged from walls to climb over, mud pits to slide into, and quick sand-like trails to traverse. The toughest? It varied by person and working together as a team you quickly learned each person’s strengths and weaknesses. For me I found that even though I completed it, carrying a bucket of rocks around a trail was one of the toughest. The rope climb in the muddy water was all but impossible, despite the fact that I have climbed one before but doing so from waist deep water with wet shoes and clothes adds a whole other challenge. Another tough one–rings that you had to get across monkey-bar style. My arms were so shot by that point that I just gave up and opted for burpees. And that’s another thing, whenever you couldn’t complete an obstacle you had to knock out 30 burpees.  We did many of them as a team counting out loud when we reached 10 as we do in our morning workouts. By the end if we never had to do a burpee again I think we’d be content!!

image image image image image image image image image image image image image imageFavorite obstacles–muddy hills that we climbed up and slid into muddy water, and the last one of mud crawls under barbed wire. Hmm, wonder what that says about me?

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Overall, it was a fun race that taught us all about teamwork, humility and strength. Who’s ready to join me for the next one?

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