30 Day Fitness Challenge

Every January, I challenge myself with some sort of healthy living goal.  I know, I know.  I am SUCH a cliche.  But you know what?  I’m really ok with that.  I honestly enjoy starting my year on a high, healthy note, and setting challenging, OBTAINABLE healthy living goals not only makes me feel better physically, but also does wonders for my mental health.  From the deepest part of my heart, I believe that exercise is nature’s best anti-depressant.  And in January, when we’re surrounded by coldness and darkness, I think each of us could use a little assistance in the positive mental attitude department.

Last January, in addition to Vegetarian Whole30, I did a 30-days-of-exercise challenge.  And I felt AWESOME.  So this year, I’m sharing my super sophisticated exercise tracker in hopes of inspiring more people to get off their keesters this January.  There are no rules on what constitutes exercise here–you pick the exercise.  Whether it’s a long walk, yoga in your living room, or a class at the gym — as long as it gets your heart rate up and your body moving, it counts.

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I did a 3-day cleanse and lived.

I’m one hour into my 3-day cleanse. I say to myself, “I think it’s working?” I do that little dance where you turn to the side and see if your belly has magically inverted. “I mean my jeans are definitely not cutting off my circulation today.”

Fast forward a couple of hours to my first FIBER SWEEP drink.  It’s somehow slimy and gritty all at once.  I make the mistake of drinking this concoction slowly, which allows time for the fiber to coagulate right there at my desk.  The last quarter literally requires chewing.


Later, I drink my first vanilla fresh shake, a beverage that I am required to drink with both lunch and dinner.  Despite the “DELICIOUS” claims printed on the flyer, this shake is barely swallowable. I quickly learn that chugging is the only option.  Fortunately, a sprinkle of cinnamon helps ease my gag reflex.  Unfortunately, the cinnamon does not alleviate the gas.  Vanilla “fresh” … the irony.

Before I fall asleep that first night, I declare to the world (via a solitary text to my boyfriend) that I am quitting the cleanse.  Though quitting is not in my nature, I am certain this cleanse is worthy of a quit.  I am done.


Seven hours later, I awake with renewed gumption.  I tell myself I’ll do it for science.  FOR SCIENCE, I say.

Going into this cleanse, I was mostly worried about going hungry for three solid days.  Interestingly, this was not the case. Though I ate about 1,200 calories per day each of the three days (the bulk of which came from shakes), my stomach felt unnaturally full.  I did not feel COMPLETELY REFRESHED as the box implied I would.  Honestly, I felt angry (or was it just hangry?).  As sad as this is to mention out loud, I felt like my days had lost their color.  In my world, an injection of interesting food is akin to bumping up the contrast on a picture being edited for Instagram.  Everything looks so much brighter, so much fuller that way.

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Thanks to goodnessknows for sponsoring this post and encouraging me to refocus on healthy living goals!

I remember once proclaiming that I’d rather date a vegetarian than someone who was gluten-free.  I said “vegetarian” like it was something utterly disdainful, the penultimate compatibility failure.  Fast forward a few years, and I’m the (most-of-the-time) vegetarian touting a gluten-free fellow.  Oh, how the tables turn!  Starting this blog 6.5 years ago was sort of like my healthy living “puberty” — back then, I was dipping my toe in the internet’s complex, often conflicting, never-ending pool of health-focused information.  I was intrigued, excited, and totally misguided.  But, just as our bodies physically mature over our lifetimes, our tastes, preferences, and views shift and expand, strengthen and sag too.  And thank god for that.  Otherwise I’d still be eating fat-free dairy for snacks and microwaved broccoli for breakfast every day. goodnessknows

Near the time I started blogging, I learned about the gluten-free diet from my friend Tracy, who, after an onslaught of tummy troubles, found that dairy-free, gluten-free foods made her feel “normal” again.  At the time, “gluten” was a word few people knew or cared much about, and this whole gluten-free diet thing sounded MISERABLE to me.  So, I made it my mission to find Tracy a decent gluten-free, dairy-free pizza so that her new GF life wouldn’t be completely devoid of joy.
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Good to Freaking Great {some thoughts on healthy living}

A big thanks to goodnessknows for sponsoring this post (and contributing to this grad student’s emergency vacation fund!).  

The well-documented link between mental stability and physical activity is one I won’t drudge on about here.  In short, mental health and physical health are intertwined just like the pastel colors in those rainbow bagels I see all over the internet these days.  Basically, bagels are my therapy.  I MEAN EXERCISE.  Yes, exercise.  And by therapy, I simply mean that I am happiest and most emotionally stable when I get some form of exercise each day.  I joke that like a dog, I need walked twice a day.   Even small amounts of exercise (like walking) boost my energy and mood.

Goodness Knows #tryalittlegoodness

Of course this all sounds wonderful, but the truth is that when life gets crazy, exercise is the first thing to disappear from my routine (followed closely behind by healthy eating), and in those high-stress chunks of days, I feel my happiness dissipate — not to depression, but to numbness.  I become numb to the world as I focus with champion-like intention on the task at hand.  You see, I’m what my dad calls a “go-getter” always seeking out some thing, some goal, and hunkering down till I obtain it.  A goal-getter, really.  I know this about myself, and actually, I like this quality.  But, each time, after the smokey stress cloud clears, I look back on the weeks or months that have lapsed and am often disappointed that I let so much life pass me by; that my mission for mindfulness was yet again neglected; that I sacrificed those things that help me be my best me.

Goodness Knows #tryalittlegoodness

I’ve got my sights set on this balanced rainbow bagel of life as I head into what will surely be the most stressful couple of months this gal has tackled yet.  As the great Mr. Tolle, my 10th grade biology teacher, proclaimed: “organization is key.”  And thus, I’ve organized some thoughts on my health goals for the fall.

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Bike to work: challenge accepted. {fitness}

When my friends from goodnessknows asked me to team up with them on a bike-to-work post, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.  I mean, bike rides + delicious snacks?  How could I decline?  Truth be told, I had an ulterior motive — I recently moved to Columbus, Ohio to pursue my PhD in Accounting, and one of the biggest perks of the city is the awesome trail system.  Though, I have several years of walking to work under my belt (max distance of 1.6 sweaty miles each way), biking to work is a new challenge.  Currently, I live about 6 miles from work, and my daily commute takes an average of 20 minutes (including the walk from the parking lot to the building)–a distance that seemed a little TOO FAR to bike.


But, how could I type up a bunch of words on why biking to work is a great idea (healthy for you, healthy for the environment, etc.), if I didn’t actually give it a shot?  Exactly.  I needed some street cred.  I had to actually give this bike to work idea a go to see how a bike commute stacks up against my normal car commute.  Since I don’t have a means to gauge the environmental impact, I focused on calories burned (the primary health factor) and total time (my most valuable resource) spent.  For this not-so-scientific study, I tracked calories burned using a heart rate monitor and commute duration (time and mileage) using MapMyRide.

bike commute vs car commute

The results:  the bike commute took about 13 minutes longer, but resulted in an additional 200 calories burned. 

Honestly, these results are pretty surprising.  I expected the bike commute to take closer to 45 minutes!  13 additional minutes of my time to burn 200 extra calories, seems like a wise spend.  Factor in the return trip home, and that’s 400 calories for 26 incremental minutes of personal time.   Seeing the stats stacked up, it’s hard to find a reason NOT to bike to work . . . except maybe the sweat factor.  Perhaps this could be remedied with a quick bathroom baby wipe wipe-down.

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Whole30 – Notes from the Other Side

In my whole 30 years, I’ve never gone on a diet.  Actually, come to think of it, there was that one time, back in college, when I challenged myself to eat nothing but raw fruits and vegetables for three whole days.  SO.MANY.GRAPES.  I also had a brief stint as an uncompromising calorie counter, and while that helped me limit the amount of food I consumed, it was more about calorie give-and-take, like having a sensible lunch so I could calorically finagle a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dessert.

Diet is a dirty word.  It makes me think of limitations, restrictions, sacrifices and, ultimately, unhappiness.  And thus, I’ve avoided all of them.  Because food is my THING.  My everything, really.  Without it, I don’t know who I am.  And I mean that literally, in the least dramatic way.  Without food, I don’t know how I’d spend my time or my thoughts.  I’d feel empty, physically and mentally.

Over the Christmas holiday, my mom asked my thoughts on the Whole30.  I’d never heard of it, but a little bit of research told me it was basically an extreme 30-day version of the Pal1969415_10102575857932084_8226543047997873534_neo diet meant to help participants nutritionally reset–to find the mix of food and nutrients that made their bodies feel and operate optimally.  This “nutritional reset” idea resonated with me because I’ve been on downward spiral since my big 30th birthday in July.  Lots of travel, lots of fun, and lots of eating with reckless abandon have accumulated in a 7-pound gain I’m not planning to keep.

And so this self-declared carbohydrate connoisseur said yes to the Whole30, and gave up grains, sugar, beans, soy, dairy, and booze for thirty whole darn days.  I was scared at first, mostly because it had taken me a lot of time and effort to find a mix of foods that kept my low-blood sugar in line throughout the day, and I was hesitant to mess with that “magic” formula.  But I went forth and swapped my normal egg and Ezekiel toast for a veggie frittata and roasted sweet potatoes.  Oatmeal got the axe in favor of coconut milk chia seed pudding.  My lunches weren’t all that different–a salad with protein, just no cheese or quinoa as I’d normally use.  Buh bye mid-afternoon protein bar, H-E-L-L-O roasted broccoli and cauliflower rice (OBSESSED).  Dinners weren’t much different either.   Meatballs and marinara over zucchini noodles, mixed greens topped with carnitas or baracoa plus guacamole, stir-fry with ALL THE VEGGIES, burger-salad-what-have-yous.

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My Top 5 tools for Healthy Living

Oh, January.  I love the start of a new year.  It reminds me of the whoosh of relief you get after a huge exam mixed with the excited butterflies of a new relationship.  Once we cross over that line in the sand, we are all bubbling over with hopes and goals and visions of doing things differently in the new year.  It’s no wonder healthy eating and exercising are such popular topics this time of year.

Healthy living has been a priority for me for the past few years, in fact, it’s one of the reasons I started this ole blog (check out my take on healthy living here).  My life struggle is balancing my love (obsession?) of food with my desire to maintain physical health.  It sounds like an oxymoron, but I truly believe it’s obtainable.

As a creature of habit, there are a few tools I use religiously, day in and day out, to help me in my quest for health.

CaptureIf you’ve ever tried to lose a few lbs, you know the first step is getting a handle on the amount of calories you consume each day.  Plus, I’m a numbers girl, so I need to see the numerical nutritional breakout of my meals to understand if what I’m eating is really as healthy as it looks.  I’ve been using MyFitnessPal since 2010.  It’s an awesome tool for tracking calories consumed and burned, plus it has a huge nutritional information database.  I also love that you can input and save recipes to the site (p.s., this is how I compute the nutritional stats for the recipes posted on the blog).  The site also has a weight tracker, goal setting features, and smartphone aps.  It’s COMPLETELY free.  LOVE IT.



CaptureAt least a couple times a week, I’ll catch someone staring at my hip before they point and blurt “what is that thing?!”  I love my fitbit, and I’ve worn it daily for over a year now.  In a nutshell, the fitbit is a pedometer that tracks your steps, distance, stairs climbed, calories burned, and even how well you sleep at night.  AGAIN with the numbers.  I know.  The newest fitbit model synchs your activity data wirelessly, which I am oober jealous of.  Once the data synchs, you can log onto the fibit site and see how your activity measures up to your goals plus you can challenge your friends.  My personal fitbit goal is to log 35 miles per week and a minimum of 10,000 steps a day.  If I see I haven’t reached my daily goal when I get home from work, I find an excuse to get moving.  I take out the trash, I vacuum, I’ll go to the mall and do a few laps (yes, really).  Whatever it takes to get to my goal.  It all adds up.  Another feature I love:  the fitbit displays random words of motivation.  Things like “WALK ME” or “I LIKE YOU” or “MISS YOU” when you haven’t been moving enough lately.

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9 things I learned while training for a half marathon

When I first started having knee problems about two years ago, I went to see an orthopedic doctor.  After a lengthy round of Q&A and a few X-rays, the doctor simply concluded that “some knees just aren’t made for running.”  Really, doctor?  Apparently the x-rays didn’t show the stubbornness that fills my bones like a tough impervious marrow.  From that day forward, I’ve wanted nothing more than to run farther, longer, and faster than I had the day before.  I love running, and I wanted, no, I NEEDED to prove that doctor wrong.

In December, I signed up for the Charlotte Racefest (my first ever half marathon), but after four long months of training ending with yet ANOTHER knee injury, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run it.  This time around, I hurt my knee doing lunges in a bootcamp class at the Y.  When will I learn?  I took it easy the entire month before the big race, but when race day arrived I still wasn’t confident I’d be able to run 13.1 miles.  At that point, I only had two 10-mile runs under my belt.

Since I’d already forked out the cash for the half marathon, I decided to at least attempt to run it.  During the race, I tried not to think too much about my knees, but as the miles ticked by I couldn’t help but feel dumbfounded that I was still running.  Most of the race was shrouded in a euphoric haze, but as I neared the finish line I started to feel nauseus.  My pace slowed, and I began to feel dizzy.  With every step, the looming finish line appeared to be one step further away.  At that moment, the BF jumped out from the sidelines smiling and hooting and clapping his hands like a crazy man.  I was so close.  I put my head down, dug my heels in, and pumped my arms.  Seconds later I crossed the finish line clocking in at 1:56:58–literally seconds below my original 9-minute mile goal!

As I hobbled to the sideline, I could do nothing but let out an exasperated “BOO YA.”  Some knees just aren’t made for running, my ass.

Here are the top 9 things I learned while training for my first half marathon:

#1  101110-165-013Buy good shoes.  This one is #1 for a reason, and I can’t stress it enough.  The first time I hurt my knee, it was completely and solely due to the fact that I was wearing a cheap pair of old cross trainers.  I urge you to go to a real running store and hop on the treadmill.  Have the sales associate watch your running patterns and check to see if you under or over pronate your ankles.  Is your stride too long?  Are you heel striking?  (I was!)  Don’t buy shoes based solely on the sweet color or the cool gel thingy in the heel.  It’s hard, I know.  I LOVE my Asics Gel Nimbus 13’s, and plan to get a new pair this month!

#2  Create a plan (brownie points if you use Excel).  When you’re training for a long distance race, especially if it’s your first one, you can’t just approach it all willy nilly.  Are you serious about completing the race?  Yes?  Well then sit your butt down, do some research, and create your plan of attack.  Make sure to factor in short runs, long runs, and those extremely important recovery days.  Check out my half marathon training plan here.

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My Half Marathon Training Plan

Whelp, it’s official.

Once an Excel spreadsheet enters the picture, there’s just no turning back.  In my world, transforming an idea, plan, or goal to a glorious (preferably multi-tabbed) spreadsheet is like signing my name in wet cement.  It took a lot of thought and research, googling and binging, reading and pondering, but I finally got my half marathon training plan together!

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