Tag Archives: running

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?

May Day

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I’ve been feeling like a bit of a slacker for being so quiet on the blog this week. My office changed to our summer hours schedule this week, so I’m still adjusting to the earlier train schedule, which means I’m out cold before 9PM these days (though I usually am regardless of what time I wake up). The plus side is I’m done by 1PM on Fridays! So this afternoon we’ll be driving up to Rhode Island. On Sunday my mom, sister, Kevin’s mom, and I are going to a mother-daughter tea at Glen Manor (our wedding venue), but besides that we have no plans, and I’m looking forward to hitting up our favorite local coffee shops and sipping rose on my parents’ deck. I’m also pumped that it’s May – my second favorite month after October (yes I rank all 12 months). Here are a few things I’m looking forward to this merry May…

My birthday! I’m not big into celebrating my birthday, but Kevin always plans the most perfect day, so I’m excited to see what he has up his sleeve next weekend.

Rose all day. Don’t really need an explanation for this one, but I’m especially looking forward to imbibing outdoors in our new-ish Adirondack chairs that we’ve sat in twice so far.

Leon Bridges show in Philly. Kevin introduced me to Leon Bridges in an epic photo slideshow he made for Valentine’s Day this year (cue: sobbing). We love this one song of his so much so that we’ve already decided to make it our wedding song.

Running outside. This winter was absolutely brutal for running outdoors. So much snow, ice, and numbing temperatures – we really fell off the bandwagon. It’s always a challenge to get back into running outside coming from the treadmill, but I’m more than ready for it.

Cold brew coffee. I just had my first iced coffee from Starbucks this morning, but I’m hoping we can perfect our own cold brew at home.

5 Year Boston College Reunion. I think I’ve only been back to BC twice since graduation. I’m looking forward to catching up with my Boston-based pals who I haven’t seen in ages. The campus is also absolutely gorgeous this time of year.

What are you excited for this May? Have a great one!

Finding a Workout Groove

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Even though I write about running or working out on this blog, doesn’t mean that it comes easily to me. I know that I’ll almost always feel better after working out than if I don’t, but there are some days I just DON’T WANNAAAA (said in a whiny kid voice). Especially with nicer weather on its way, the only heavy lifting I want to do after work is emptying a bottle of rose.

For the past couple years, Kevin and I have really struggled to find a workout routine that we semi-enjoy, is affordable, and can stick to in the long run. I was totally spoiled when I first lived in NYC: a brand new Crunch gym was on my block, I was 3 avenues from the best running path in the city (the West Side Highway), and I didn’t have to be at work until 9:30-10AM, so I had ample time to workout and get ready without having to wake up at 5AM. I was also much less financially responsible than I am now and would indulge myself in a $35 SoulCycle class all too often.

Then we moved to Astoria. I had a different job where I had to be at work earlier and went from having a 10 minute commute to an hour and 10 minute commute. Not surprisingly, it became a lot harder to find the time and motivation to workout. I also missed the convenience of having a fancy gym and a beautiful running path at a stone’s throw. We went through a brief stint with Crossfit, which I really enjoyed, but we were getting up at 5AM in the dead of winter to make it work, and I just grew to resent that too (not to mention it was pretty darn expensive).

When we moved out of the city, I assumed and hoped that working out would magically be easier again. No longer working “New York hours” we’d have more time and we’d have the convenience of driving to a gym or running path. While that’s partly true, it still doesn’t make up the other half of the battle: being motivated enough to actually go. In an ideal world, I’d just pay for a personal trainer to tell me what to do every day. But since that’s not going to happen any time soon, I recently thought about what I have enjoyed in my exercise history (or as close to enjoyment as possible) and what I need to help me stick to it. Here’s what I came up with:

No frills. Besides the scented candles and meditative coaching at SoulCycle, I like my workouts to be simple and efficient. Take running or Crossfit, for example, it’s just you and the road or you and the barbell.

Convenient. As evident throughout this post, if it’s not easy to get to, I am not gonna go. I want to enjoy working out, but I want to enjoy life pre and post workout even more.

Affordable. Like I said, I would totally have a personal trainer if I could afford one, but for now, if it’s not something I can do on my own, I don’t want to have to pay extra for it. I do enjoy Crossfit, but most of those workouts I could do at home or on my own at a gym.

Accountability. Whether it’s training for a race or signing up for a class, I like having the structure of a schedule or even a no-show fee to hold me a accountable. This also takes the thinking out of it a little bit – as long as I can get myself to a spin class, I can leave it up to the instructor to make the workout happen.

Being honest with myself in what I do and more importantly don’t like about working out has helped us get into more of a workout groove lately. Depending on what your goals are, I always think it’s best to do what works for you and what you like, otherwise you’ll never get into that groove and stick to it. And if some days rose wins out over that run, that’s okay too 😉

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Running in Winter

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Kevin Cooks is taking a break this week as Kevin is sick with the flu and can’t eat much, let alone cook. ‘Tis the season for the flu and it’s also the season for abandoning your workout New Year’s Resolutions because it’s just SO. DAMN. COLD. OUT. So today I’m going to share a few things that help me stick out a regular workout routine even when it’s 12 degrees outside and all I want to do is bathe in a bowl of mac & cheese.

Layer up. If you don’t like running inside on a treadmill – like me – the best way to brace the cold is to add on layers as much as possible. Even if you look ridiculous, you can always take off a layer if you get too hot along the way, but there’s nothing worse than running for 30 minutes and feeling just as cold at the end as you did when you started.

Shine on. I feel a bit hypocritical with this one, because I don’t actually own any reflective gear yet, but it is DARK out there at 6AM or even 5PM. I get annoyed when I’m driving and just barely see a runner with no reflectors on, and then I realize, I am that annoying runner. So splurge with me and get one of these.

Switch it up. For when the roads are too icy to run or if you just can’t bear the cold, take it to the “dreadmill” as my mom calls it. But rather than slogging along at the same pace for 30 minutes, switch it up with speed intervals or hills. An easy one we like to do is this: 5 minutes walking at 4.0 mph, 4 minutes at 6.0, 3 minutes at 6.5, 2 minutes at 7.0, 1 minute at 8.0, repeat again for a 30 minute workout.

DIAH. No, this is not an abbreviation for those kinda runs. Do It At Home. If running outside or trekking to the gym in the snow just isn’t going to happen, you can always do something at home. Whether it’s a workout DVD (I like this circuit-based Jillian Michaels DVD and just tried Ballet Beautiful for the first time and enjoyed it!) or doing some jumping jacks and sit-ups while you watch TV. Here’s a quickie that doesn’t require much space: 15 push-ups, 15 burpees, 15 jump squats, 15 jumping lunges, 15 tricep dips (on a chair or bench), 60 seconds plank hold, repeat 3 times.

Image via Pinterest

My Journey to the Finish Line(s)

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Today I write with tired eyes and sore legs. My sister Emma, Kevin, and I ran the Newport Half Marathon yesterday! It was my fourth half marathon and Emma’s first (go Emma!), and it was the most beautiful race I’ve done to date. We will definitely be back next year!

If you had told my high school self that I would someday run 4 half marathons and the NYC marathon I probably would have laughed or ran away in fear. I HAAATED running. I hated most physical activity that wasn’t dancing to Britney Spears in my bedroom, making bizarre music videos with my friends, or heating up corndogs in the microwave after school. I’m not a natural runner or athlete, and I would dread the day we had to run “the mile” in gym class like the plague. When I went to college, I started going to the gym with my friend Hayley more as a social thing at first, but eventually it turned into more of an obsession. I went through a bit of an identity crisis in college, trying to find my place within the vast and structure-less NYU (and NYC), and this anxiety manifested itself through my exercise and eating habits. These were things I could control; how I fit in to the millions of people in NYC as an 18-year-old was not (at least that’s how it felt at the time). So even though I was working out and watching my diet constantly, I still HAAATED working out. It was something I had to do. Calories in, calories out. There’s nothing enjoyable about that.

It wasn’t until I started doing road races through New York Road Runners after college that my mentality with running and working out started to change. With races, I felt like I was running towards a goal, not just running to burn calories. Also, the time I would spend alone, pounding the pavement, started to act as therapy for me. Running became a release. For 30 minutes or an hour (or 3+ when training for the marathon!), I could think about all the crazy things that go through my head, uninterrupted, and not be judged. Not to mention how great it feels when you finish a run. Endorphins are a real thing!

Now several years and miles later, I can’t imagine my life without running. Sure there are days when I don’t want to do it, or days when I don’t do it and then usually feel worse that I didn’t just go out, but I think that’s just part of the love-hate relationship everyone has with running. It is not an easy or fun thing to do. It takes discipline and hard work, but if you stick to do it, I promise you will feel the rewards (both mentally and physically). I know that’s a lot easier said than done, so I’ll also be sharing some of my running tips, favorite gear, and experiences on this blog. I mean, we’ve got to do something to offset the Salted Caramel Cookie Bars and Spicy Cocktail Meatballs  we’re making over here, right?!

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