Category Archives: Personal Growth

My Three Keys to Sticking to a Workout Routine

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I’ve talked about my journey to becoming a “runner” on here before. I still feel undeserving of the title “runner” considering I could barely run a mile in high school, but after a full marathon, several half marathons, and a boat load of other races, I think it’s fair to say that I am a runner. But getting to that place was not and still is not easy.

For years I looked at exercise and running as a means to be thin. My day would be judged as a good or a bad day on whether or not I slogged away for 30 minutes on the treadmill. This mindset made me dread working out, but at the same time, I’d feel terribly guilty if I skipped it. So it was this vicious cycle of dread and guilt that wasn’t getting me any thinner and certainly not any happier.

I’m not sure when exactly my mindset started to shift, but I think it was around the time I started doing races with New York Road Runners. I loved the feeling of training towards a goal that wasn’t related to losing weight and the adrenaline of the race itself. Over time and many, many miles, running became more of a habit, just something I did every day (or every other day), and not something I had to do in order to feel good about myself or waste so much brain space on dread or guilt. And I think what happens when running or any type of exercise becomes a habit instead of a chore is that you do get addicted to the feeling of feeling good – not feeling good because you burned X calories, feeling good because your blood is pumping, your head is clearer, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in yourself. But how do you get to from that place of chore to an everyday habit? Well besides a healthy dose of time and perseverance, there are 3 other keys I’ve identified over the years that were crucial for me.

Know Yourself               

This one applies to any habit, not just working out. How can you really make a change without really knowing what and why you want to change first? What are your true motivations for wanting to exercise? Most people would say to lose weight, but push that even further. Why do you want to lose weight? Do you think you’ll be happier? It may sound a little much for something as straightforward as exercise, but I promise that really being honest with yourself about why you want to make this change will help those new habits stick.

The other part of Know Yourself is a little bit easier. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you need a teacher or class to hold you accountable, or can you work out on your own? Do you like to be inside or outside? Don’t set yourself up for failure by saying you’ll wake up to run every morning at 6am in the winter if you’re a night owl who hates the cold. If you really hate to run, then don’t do it! Find what is most enjoyable and what works best for you. Again, just be honest with yourself and don’t feel bad it.

Convenience

This one is huge for me. There’s nothing I hate more than wasting time just to go somewhere to workout. I think that’s why I enjoy running: you can do it anywhere and it doesn’t require much planning or equipment. Think about your schedule and your commute and pick the gym or the running route that’s on your way home. Keep a bag of gym clothes and sneakers in the car so you don’t have to stop back at home. Because let’s be honest, once you’re home you’re not going back out (at least I know I’m not).

Monitoring

Much like those charts your parents kept to track when you did your chores or ate your vegetables, getting that gold star or checking off that list is a satisfying feeling. When training for a half marathon, I like to write out exactly what we need to do each day on a calendar just so that I can visually see it and then see each day crossed off as I get closer and closer. It’s such a simple act, yet so powerful and motivating. Plus, how will you know how much progress you’ve made unless you keep track of it all?

I also highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before – it’s all about mastering habits and she provides 21 great strategies to do so.

What strategies do you follow to stick to your exercise habits? Or what would you like to start implementing today?

Exploring Minimalism

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During my little blogging hiatus over the summer, I got really into the idea of minimalism. I was riding the train home from work, scrolling through my Instagram feed, when I saw someone posted about a “capsule wardrobe” inspired by the blog Unfancy. Something about this struck a chord, so I went over to Unfancy and then down a rabbit hole of all things minimalist.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve been a pretty materialistic person my whole life. I blame my early obsession with Mary-Kate & Ashley and my efforts to emulate their pre-teen style via the Limited Too. Fast forward a decade, and this desire to look good, dress well, live well only heightened in New York City. Most days I loved walking around the city, being inspired by style, design, and beautiful things (i.e. the beautiful people at SoulCycle). But some days I would just feel depressed that I couldn’t afford those beautiful things and everything that I did have wasn’t good enough.

So when I started to read into minimalism, I really liked the idea of de-cluttering my life of the things that didn’t bring me joy and savoring the things that do. I was getting tired of feeling depressed about all the things I didn’t have. And this idea doesn’t just apply to stuff, it relates to relationships, careers, commitments: simplify/minimize/say no to the things that don’t make you happy, and say yes to the things that do. Sounds so simple, but for a life-long people-pleaser, can’t-say-no-er, want-to-impress-everyone, this is a challenge.

One thing that has helped me de-clutter those thoughts has been immersing myself in blogs, books, podcasts, and social media by other people who follow a minimalist lifestyle. Here are a few of my favorites that I recommend if you’re interested in this whole minimalism thing, or just looking for some new perspective on all things fashion, health, and business.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The principles he discusses in this book can relate to anything from exercise and the way you eat to starting a new business.

Unfancy. Blogger Caroline creates a capsule wardrobe of 37 pieces in four 3-month increments throughout the year. Her style is on point and very inspiring to see!

Well-Aware Podcast. Host Lindsey interviews leaders in the wellness space with a focus on health, sustainability, and kindness.

Better Than Before (book) and Happier (podcast) by Gretchen Rubin. I was already a fan of The Happiness Project, but I enjoyed Better Than Before even more. Not necessarily about minimalism, but her strategies for habits success are all about knowing thyself better.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Again, not directly related to minimalism and I’m not a fan of the religious references, but his principles related to money are simple, back to basics, and have definitely helped me & Kevin as we’ve combined finances.

Our Whole30 Experience

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A few times on this blog I’ve mentioned my attempts at a detox or cleanse. Usually I ended up feeling worse or just abandoning ship after a few hours. But I’m a glutton for punishment (i.e. my love of crossfit and marathons), so I’ve always been interested in trying a strict cleanse just to see if I could do it. I read many positive things about the Whole30 (like here and here) and I liked that you still eat real food, not just juices, so this one in particular piqued my interest.

I’d talked to Kevin for probably over year about wanting to do the Whole30, but never followed through because it just wasn’t the right time. There was always someone’s birthday, holiday, or weekend away that I didn’t want to miss out on. But finally, this past July we committed to doing it (even though I knew I had Allie‘s bachelorette party during the last weekend of the 30 days). And here’s how it went…

I’ll start with the hardest. Surprisingly the hardest part, was not the feeling of missing out or feeling deprived. Thankfully with the Whole 30, there’s no calorie-counting or measuring your proteins on a scale; just eat what you need to feel full that follows the guidelines (no dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, alcohol, anything processed for 30 days. See here for more details on the program). But what was most challenging, was the extensive planning that goes into it. You can’t leave the house on an empty stomach and easily expect to find something on the go that’s Whole30 compliant. Even seemingly simple roasted almonds at Wawa have hidden added sugar in them. Whenever we’d go to the beach, I’d have to get up early to cook lunch for us to bring since the chances of finding something we could eat at the beach shack were zero. Even for someone who loves meal planning and grocery shopping, there were some days I just didn’t want to have to think about what we’d make for dinner before 6AM.

Even though the Whole30 rules out all of my favorite foods – cheese, bread, chocolate – those weren’t the things I missed most. What I did miss was relaxing with a glass of wine on a Friday night. One of the goals with the Whole is to banish your “Sugar Dragon” and break the habits of the nightly sweets or glass of wine because you think you have to have it. We loaded up on coconut La Croix and dabbled with some Kombucha, but it still wasn’t the same as a glass of rose on a hot summer night. Sorry, Whole30.

But despite the planning, grocery shopping, and wine FOMO, it was 100% worth it and I would 100% do it again (and plan to). The sense of accomplishment and self-command is enough reason for me to start another Whole30 tomorrow. I felt confident, both mentally and physically, which is not easy for me to come by. I physically felt lighter and less bloated. Running, even in the summer heat, didn’t feel as hard. And it definitely felt good to not have to hide a food baby in a bikini on the beach. Probably the best benefit was that all of my digestive issues that I’ve dealt with for years – gas, bloating, serious cramps – completely disappeared throughout the entirety of the program. BIG win!

It was hard and exhausting and annoying most some days, but it was the best I’ve felt in so many ways in a long time. We did spend a lot more money on groceries, though we saved on eating out and alcohol, and I do think it would be a challenge to follow as a vegetarian, but I would absolutely recommend the Whole30 to anyone who’s even remotely thinking about it. There is never going to be the perfect time to start the Whole30 (or any new routine or project), so you might as well start now. And if you start and decide it’s not for you, no one is saying you can’t abandon ship, but I have a feeling you’ll get addicted to feeling the best you ever have. I know I did.

If you have questions about the Whole30 or need help with meal planning, please reach out! Here are some of the resources I went to over and over again throughout the 30 days: The Whole30Well FedLexi’s Clean Kitchen.

This post is not sponsored or affiliated with the Whole30, I just love it that much!

Find Your Soul

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As a former Sociology major and someone who tends to over-analyze things, I’ve always been interested in trends, social expectations, and why people do the things they do. Living in New York City you see some pretty weird things that are subject to question (i.e. public defecation or waiting in line at Shake Shack for 2 hours). One such “New York” thing is SoulCycle (though it’s not just in NYC anymore). Why is SoulCycle so popular? Why are people willing to pay so much for it? Why did it take off exponentially? So I took to Facebook to enlist people to answer a brief survey in search of these answers.

What I found is probably not surprising on the surface. The number 1 reason people said they go to SoulCycle is that it’s a good workout (I can attest to that) and the number 1 reason people said they don’t go to SoulCycle is that it’s too expensive (I can definitely attest to that). What was interesting though were the contradictions in people’s depictions of the brand. Many people said they love SoulCycle because of the feeling of community, yet they also described it as elitist. Lots of people said it’s trendy, but then said it’s #basic – wouldn’t that make it not trendy anymore? Others called it spiritual or “zen”, but then called out the loud music and sweaty room – not your typical idea of zen. And finally, many people associated SoulCycle with celebs or rich New Yorkers, but yet (to my knowledge) none of the survey takers were celebrities or of Gossip Girl wealth and they still pay the hefty fee for the class. I did have a fair share of celeb sightings back in the day, but on the outside, most people were seemingly normal like me, barely making enough money to pay for a 250-square foot studio let alone fund their daily SoulCycle habit.

So what’s up with all the contradictions? My guess is that SoulCycle is at this tension point where it’s no longer for the elite or just a trend, it’s part of today’s zeitgeist. It’s helped to form this new “health as wealth” culture. As much as SoulCyle seems like it’s for the rich and famous, more and more “regular” people are buying into it – despite the steep price – along with other boutique cycling chains or Barry’s Bootcamp and crossfit. Now, saying you do crossfit or carrying a SoulCycle bag is as much of a statement as carrying a Birkin Bag. These fitness crazes have become more than a trend, they are brands; they are a symbol of status. By carrying that SoulCycle bag you’re making a statement to the world that says, “I workout. I take care of myself. I’m healthy.”

But what does “healthy” even mean anymore. Pretty much every workout, recipe, beauty product has been tied to the word “healthy” or promises to make us “healthier” that the word is rendered meaningless. What we’re really talking about when we say we want to be healthy is that we’re aspiring to be better than we are now. To be thinner, faster, cleaner, more environmentally conscious. Not that those are bad things, but healthy is no longer just about a good BMI or cholesterol, it’s about an entire aspirational lifestyle. And that’s why we’re shelling out $35 a class for SoulCycle even though we can’t afford it or think it’s for the elite: because we too want to be better, thinner, faster, cleaner.

Social media – Pinterest and Instagram in particular – are also part of this “health as wealth” culture. How many pictures of green juices and avocado toast do you see in your feed every day? But how many people actually post a picture of the bag of Doritos or Coke they ate later because let’s be honest, no one gets full from a green juice. These channels are all about sharing your best moments, creating an aspirational brand of yourself on your best days, not your worst, or even mediocre moments.

I think us Milliennials are especially susceptible to this aspirational culture. We were raised being told you can be anything you want to be, you can be the best at anything if you just try hard enough. We’ve also grown up with social media and constantly hear about the seemingly overnight success stories of start-ups and bloggers. Millennials are constantly seeking this better, more successful life/career/clothes/body/etc., but if we’re constantly striving and seeking, how do we know when we’re there?

This aspirational culture that the whole boutique health and fitness movement is part of definitely has its benefits. By constantly pushing ourselves to better ourselves, we in turn better the world and people around us. More and more great ideas and businesses are starting up everywhere. And I don’t think there’s a negative side to people exercising more, regardless if they paid $35 for it or not.

But I think what we need to be aware of – or at least I do – is are we running ourselves into the ground trying to be perfect and be the best at everything? We think being fit and having the perfectly decorated living room will make us happy, but in an aspirational culture like ours, once you have those things, there will always be something new to want. In a generation and culture that’s so ingrained in social media and success, we need to learn to take a step back, live in the moment, cut out the noise, do what works for YOU, be honest with yourself. After all, isn’t that what SoulCycle so famously preaches? Find Your Soul.

image via healthybex.com

Here we go again…

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Are you noticing a pattern here? I’ll get really into the blog for a while and then go radio silent for months. Well, I’m not making any promises, but I’m hoping this time it will stick. You see, I’ve been doing some soul-searching over the past few months…

I started a new job back in April, which has been a great change for me. I’m a creature of habit and routines, so the structure and steady paycheck of a corporate job is definitely what I needed. As with any big change, it takes some time to get into a groove and that’s where the blog fell to the wayside. But because I can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes, the itch to get back into a creative outlet has been nagging at me for a few months now.

I debated for a while whether or not to start the blog again. I didn’t want to start it up for a month only for it to fizzle out again. But over the summer, I discovered some really great books and podcasts (and several glasses of wine shared with Kevin) that led me to do some needed self-reflection. I realized that in the past, I looked at my blog as a way to get out of an unhappy situation (usually a job) that I was in. I would put so much pressure on myself to make the blog successful and get new business, thinking that would make me happier. But by trying to be like these uber-successful celeb status bloggers, I was just feeling worse about myself. Nothing I had was ever good enough, and even when I reached a certain level or acquired whatever item I was lusting over, there was always something else to be had. And so I just got burnt out. Keeping up with Joneses is a tiring game.

This isn’t to say I’ve completely figured out life and don’t care about what people think of me anymore – my vulnerability to the comparison game always has and probably always will be one of my greatest flaws – but I have started to develop an awareness of when that icky Jones-y feeling kicks in, and it’s usually after reading those perfect fashion blogs or Instagram and feeling like I just have to have those Valentino shoes.

So I decided if I was going to start blogging again, I would want it to be a place that would still inspire people, but not in a way that would make people feel bad about themselves. I hope that my recipes, workouts, and entertaining tips will inspire you in a way that is attainable, not aspirational. I want to share content and ideas that will help elevate the everyday with what’s already in your home, so that you can savor and enjoy what you already have.

This has always been a personal struggle for me – accepting myself, savoring and enjoying what I already have – so we’ll see how this goes. Won’t you come along for the ride?