Categories
Training

Goals Just Want to Have Fun (Ouch. That hurt me, too.)

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty excellent at squeezing in five to six workouts a week when I have a real, tangible goal on the radar.

  • Training for a marathon? I’ll pop out of bed before the sun every workday for an easy three to thirteen miles.
  • Looking to lose a few pounds? I’ll recruit a friend and pulse away at Pop Physique, sore quads be damned.
  • Trying to tone my wedding arms? I’ll hit the gym for BodyPump twice a week for the better part of a year so that I can “shout” my way all the way to the dancefloor showing off more skin than I’d usually dare to bare.
shout2
“A little bit softer now” does NOT apply to these Michelle Obama arms. Boom.

If there’s a finish line on the horizon, my objective-oriented mind doesn’t have any problem putting in the work. Sure, I might prefer to sleep in or have an extra glass of wine the night before a scheduled workout, but I’m achievement-driven and can generally push any nay-saying to the back of my brain while I focus on my just-within-reach goal instead.

Once that goal’s over, though, all bets are off. In other words, without a goal on my radar, I get so lazy you wouldn’t believe it.

img_3706
“Fetch? No thanks.”

Seriously, folks. Even though November started strong — I raced a half marathon, I finished a 10 pack of Pop Physique classes, I took BodyPump at my mom’s sweet Maryland YMCA — in the weeks since the wedding, my discipline has fallen off more rapidly than Congress’ approval rating. I’ve signed up for and canceled more gym classes than I’d care to admit, hit snooze instead of logging my morning miles, and the only significant walking I’ve done is back and forth to the waffle station four times at our annual Mohonk Mountain House brunch.

Now I know from experience one way to get myself out of this lethargic rut is to simply pick a new goal — sign up for a new distance, perhaps, or find a triathlon to force me out of my comfort zone. But the truth is I SHOULDN’T need a goal like speed or weight loss to pressure me to workout. Exercise brings with it a vast number of other amazing benefits, and they should be reason enough to work up a sweat even when there’s nothing tangible on my horizon pulling to toward a finish line.

For example:

  • Sleep: Exercise improves quality of sleep and helps people feel less exhausted during daytime hours.
  • Digestion: Exercise keeps everything moving and helps reduce the cramping and bloating that our processed diet inevitably brings.
  • Disease: Exercise reduces the duration and severity of colds, and longer term has major impacts on things like dementia and heart disease.
  • Stress: Exercise keeps me from getting overwhelmed at yelling at my husband, even when he’s clearly yelling at me.
shout3
OK, fine, this is clearly also Shout.

I’m trying to remember that even when I’m not working toward a goal, exercise is a worthy endeavor, and keeping that in mind helped motivate me to pull myself out of a warm bed at 6 a.m. to run six foggy miles this morning. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up that motivation during the holiday season.

(And if that doesn’t work, knowing I’ll be in a bikini on an Australian beach in two weeks’ time ought to do it! Warning: said flight takes us via Hawaii, where there is a goldendoodle waiting to make up for a years’ worth of missing photo shoots. Prepare yourselves.)

How do you keep motivated when there isn’t an immediate goal on your horizon?

Categories
Races

Giving Thanks: A Full Fall

Happy Thanksgiving, you gorgeous land mermaids, you.

Who is this, you ask? I’m the runner who used to blog in this space but have accidentally been MIA for more than a month now. Surprise! I didn’t die! Even if Nov. 8 brought me precipitously close…

Why have I gone missing, only to resurface on the most delicious and decadent day of the year? Well, you could say I’ve been a little busy since early October.

I bought a house. 

I raced a half marathon. 

I sampled every wine on the north fork and lived to tell the tale.  

And I feel like there was something else competing for my time this month but I just can’t put my (bejeweled) finger on it…

From bridal showers and bachelorette parties to barre classes and Baltimore trips, this season (brought to you by the letter B) has been busy indeed.

I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, but the only way I survived was by finally admitting to myself I couldn’t, in fact, have it all. I could plan a great wedding, but I had to give up the DIY Pinterest fantasy. I could race a 1:51 half marathon my wedding week, but I had to let go of my PR dreams. I could get eight hours of sleep a night all autumn long, but I had to allow this blog to go eerily quiet for quite some time.

Being ok with not having it all is the antithesis of my entire existence, but it was also a useful reminder about what’s important in life: slowing down, choosing battles, prioritizing friends and family, and always saying yes to champagne.

In fact, I even got to put that newly minted lesson to good use at this morning’s local turkey trot. The old “gotta have it all” Anne would have gone out sprinting in an effort to score a new PR, but the new me knew I couldn’t vie for a medal AND spend some quality time on Thanksgiving morning with my mother and brother. So even though I started off strong at a 7:45 pace, when I came upon my friends handing out turkey-day mimosas at mile 2, I did the once unthinkable: I stopped, I hugged everyone, and I waited for my family to round the corner so we could finish the race together.

I expect once my life settles down, I’ll resume blogging with some frequency, but if I don’t, know it’s because I’m off prioritizing other things for the time being, and that’s ok, too. We can’t always have it all — except when we’re talking about Thanksgiving Day pie — in which case, I demand you have it all, or at least a sliver of every option.

See you all when we’re seven pounds heavier. xo

Categories
Uncategorized

Wedding Planning’s the New Marathon

Whenever I catch up with friends and family this year, I’m asked one of the following questions:

  • How is wedding planning going?
  • Are you and Ben liking the new Queens apartment?
  • Why did your dog move to Hawaii without you?
IMG_2846.JPG
The Big Reveal: She’s not my dog.

And then there’s the follow-up question everyone who reads this blog inevitably asks next: Will you be running a marathon this year?

My standard response, while a bit canned, has gone a little something like this: “I’m planning a wedding this fall. THAT’s my marathon this year!”

I started saying it as a joke, but the closer I get to the big day, the clearer it becomes that this response is dripping with truth.

In fact, wedding planning and marathon training have an awful lot in common, from the frustrations and pitfalls to the anticipation and excitement. So without further ado, here’s my list of how planning to run 26.2 miles is a heck of a lot like planning to marry your better half.

Planning ahead is key. Show up at the starting line without having trained and you’ll have a miserable eight-hour slog ahead of you. Show up at your wedding day unprepared and you may be toasting with Starbucks lattes instead of the champagne you forgot to order. Both marathon training and wedding planning go much smoother when you’re organized and ready. For both events, put the big date on your calendar and work backwards to set achievable milestones (like racing a half or booking a DJ).

Oh, the gear you’ll buy. I didn’t think I would buy into the consumerism portion of wedding planning… and then I saw a “shed for the wed” workout shirt and I caved. And — I’m ashamed to admit — it’s not even the only bride-inspired piece of clothing I own. Likewise, just try to walk through a marathon expo without purchasing some new gear you don’t need. That’s why I’m going to someday name my autobiography “Too Many Tank-Tops: The RiledUpRunner Story.”

You may want to tweak your diet. Runners need to up their carbs substantially in the weeks leading up to the big day. Brides and grooms may find themselves doing the opposite. While some versions of wedding weight-loss are unhealthy and dangerous, wanting to clean up your diet in the months before your wedding can have a great impact on your complexion, your sleep and your mood. I’m even considering a return to Whole30 for the final weeks, since it left me with so much energy… though only if I can make an exception for non-paleo bachelorette-party wine. #nonnegotiable

You’ll find yourself talking about it all the time. You’ve heard Ben’s joke before: “How do you know someone is running a marathon? They tell you!” Even if you try to talk about other things, a runner’s upcoming race always seems to sneak back into the conversation. Same thing with wedding planning. I don’t TRY to talk about it all the time, but since it’s consuming so much of my time, it can’t help but find its way back to the forefront. After November, I’ll know about current events again, I swear.

IMG_2840.JPG
Right now, I know mostly about bridal showers.

But while marathon training and wedding planning have a lot in common, they’re different in one key way. They say for marathoning, the 16-weeks of training is the real achievement and the race itself is just the victory lap. But while a race ends the second you cross that finish line, the wedding isn’t a conclusion: it’s a beginning. Instead of putting your feet up and retiring your shoes for the winter like you do after a race, a wedding means the beginning of a marriage, and that’s where I’m told the real work/fun begins.

And I can’t wait to find that out for myself. Seventy days!

But who’s counting?

IMG_2010.JPG

 

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Clickbait: My Former Boyfriend

There’s an old adage made popular by both Woody Allen and my father that if you want to make God laugh, you tell him your plans.

I’m a strong believer that the big guy is also a fan of low-grade puns – “How does Moses make his coffee? Hebrews it.” – but I digress.

It’s true though: You can plan, prime and plot all you want, but when it comes time to put said preparations into practice (Editor’s Note: This sentence brought to you by the letter P), the outcome is often out of our hands. A few examples:

  • You plan to run a sub-4:00 marathon, but race day leaves you winded and you end up crossing the finish line at 4:15 instead.
  • You plan to order the fall beet salad, but when everyone around you orders the burger, you cave – and add bacon to boot.
  • You plan to spend the afternoon of your 30th birthday relaxing at home writing a blog post about how transformative your 20s were, but it turns out your boyfriend* had his own plans to get down on one knee in the Garden Court at the Frick, ask you to marry him, and spend the next two hours driving around town in a limousine drinking champagne and calling your friends and family to tell them the big news.

*fiancé

IMG_0223.JPG
We forgot to take any photos inside the limo except this close-up of our hands, our bubbly and my lap. Just call me Annie Leibovitz.

I’m usually the kind of person who lives and breathes by my google calendar, and a disruption of my well-planned out day was once enough to throw me into a tizzy. But if Wednesday taught me anything, it’s that stepping out of preparation mode and letting someone else do the planning is not only freeing – it can be downright magical.

Of course, while I wasn’t involved in the planning of Wednesday’s surprise engagement, that doesn’t mean I’m off off the hook when it comes to the next stage of planning, i.e. the wedding. We have an awful lot to figure out — venue, date, whether gathering all 25 of my first cousins in one room will make it explode with Irishness — but we’re not worried about it all yet. We’ve decided to enjoy the holiday season and not begin wedding planning in earnest until the New Year. With so many other things on the calendar in the weeks ahead — a celebration of my grandfather’s very long life, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years — waiting until January to think about colors and flowers is a plan I can get behind.

IMG_0231
Celebrating our engagement at Monkey Bar. It’s going to take me a few days to remember the ring is supposed to be in the photo, too.
Categories
Running Training

The Big Day

This past weekend marked a significant milestone that’s been enthusiastically circled on my calendar for months.

No, I’m not talking about watching my little brother marry the woman he loves.

 (though, yes, that was awesome.)
(Though, yes, that was awesome.)

And no, I’m not talking about getting the angels back together.

(Though, yes, my mom, sister and I totally won the photo booth contest.)
(Though, yes, my mom, sister and I totally won the photo booth contest.)

And no, I’m not talking about spending 48 hours with the cutest ring bearer around.

(Though, yes, I secretly spent most of the wedding weekend devising ways to keep her from moving to Hawaii next year. I mean, what?)
(Though, yes, I secretly spent most of the wedding weekend devising ways to keep her from moving to Hawaii next year. I mean, what?)

I’m talking about the other, non-wedding related milestone that transpired during the first full week of October. Something not just near and dear to my family’s heart, but a date that’s been looming on the calendar for some 50,000 people worldwide for months and months and months.

That’s right, folks: Tapering for the NYC Marathon has begun.

Tapering, or the three weeks of gradually reduced mileage in the weeks leading up to a big race, is a crucial part of any training plan. But with my marathon training starting way back in springtime, I started to think it would never arrive.

Fortunately, it did, and not a second too soon. After months of structured workouts, I was nearly at that point that I never wanted to see a pair of running shoes again. Add to that the fact that my final 20-miler on Thursday left me nursing a swollen ankle that I [over-dramatically] self-diagnosed as a possible stress fracture, and I entered the wedding weekend not wanting to run again for a very long time.

Thank you Amtrak stranger, or maybe Ben, for letting me elevate on you en route to the wedding.

Three weeks ago, taking off a long weekend from training would have meant a huge step backwards in terms of my fitness, but now that tapering is in full gear, I gave myself permission to take it easy all weekend long, only making it to my feet for important events like walking down the aisle and dancing to Footloose. Ok, and Taylor Swift. Ok, and Shout. (Jeez, Tom, I’d be way more well rested if your wedding band had stunk.)

Sure, the first week of tapering isn’t supposed to be so dramatic — you’re supposed to reduce mileage by 20 percent, not 100 percent — but a wedding-inspired reprieve was just the break I needed to get my ankle and head back in the game. Kick-starting my taper with so much rest allowed me to return to running this week with a new bounce in my step, and good thing, too: I’ve got just two and a half weeks to go!

How is your tapering going? If you’re fueling it with champagne and wedding cake, probably a lot like mine.

Categories
Training

Strength in Numbers

Tomorrow I’m going to arrive for my second monthly biometric weigh-in, and the results are not going to be pretty.

I realize that statement opens the door to all kinds of follow-up questions. What’s a biometric weigh-in? It’s a chance for me to stand on a body-fat scale and learn if I’ve built any muscle over the past four weeks. Why do it? Because after reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book Racing Weight, I realized I wasn’t going to get any faster until I upped my muscle content. Who performs it? The free nutrition coach at my office, which, let’s be honest, is a cool perk. Who’s my favorite ninja turtle? I’m embarrassed you had to ask.

For years, I didn’t give a darn about fancy things like BMI and muscle mass and Donatello, assuming that because I ran upwards of 40 miles a week in training for an annual marathon that I surely boasted a healthy body composition. But after I read Racing Weight, I decided to make sure. I made an appointment with my local nutritionist, stood on her shiny scale, and learned the disheartening truth: I have the muscle composition of a 47 year old woman.

Also, the celebrity crushes of a 47 year old woman. Thank you, Joe Biden.

I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t bulky muscle weigh a runner down? It could if you look like the former California Governor, but for most runners, a little lean muscle goes a long way toward injury prevention and higher metabolism and proper alignment and street cred with a West Side Story snap gang.

With that knowledge, I approached the circuit of strength exercises my nutritionist gave me with the ultimate vigor. I did squats. I did lunges. I did alternating superman, or as I preferred to call it, the Christopher Reeve/Dean Cain. And I felt sore and tired and awesome, and vowed to keep it up three days a week between now and the marathon.

I then I went on vacation. And oh man, when I go on vacation, I do it right.

I went to North Carolina and drank all the wine on the Eastern Seaboard.
wine

And chased it with seafood doused in butter by the pound.
shrimp

Then I went to a wedding where the main course was pig.
meat

And there ate several slices of a real, authentic “cheese cake.” They were just blocks of cheese in a pile. I fell in love.
cheese

With that kind of month in my recent history, I can’t imagine there’s anyway I could step on that scale leaner and stronger tomorrow than I was a month ago. There’s no way around it: the numbers are not going to be pretty.

Fortunately, my last four weeks were pretty pretty themselves.

food

Do you work strength training into your running routine? How about cheese cakes?

Categories
Food Weight Loss

Guest Post: RiledUpRunner + InspiredByMollie = Skinny Success

Note from the real RiledUpRunner:

Below is a guest post from my college friend, Tara, whose simultaneous appreciation for delicious food and healthy ingredients makes for some awesome recipes that are impossible to pass up. Tara is just two months away from her big wedding date (what up, Mike? Let’s meet someday, fo’ real.) and three-and-a-half months out from our five-year college reunion. Start gathering your favorite 80s gear now! (More for the latter event, but you never know…) Enjoy her post, and check out her blog for more recipes. 

———-

There are so many diet gimmicks out there – pills, shakes, drinks, juices, superstitions, tricks – and the list goes on. However, losing weight isn’t magic (unless you use Photoshop) – it’s a science, or a simple mathematical equation: calories in < calories out = weight loss.  For those of you who hate math, let me rephrase: eat less than you burn and you will lose weight.

Unfortunately, no matter how many math or science courses we took at college, they did not teach us this equation. What they did teach, however, was how amazingly delicious calorie-packed food can be. Anne and my small liberal arts college was ranked No. 1 nationally for food, and with an all-you-can-eat dining hall, we indulged – a lot. Between the delicious meals, intense studying and a lack of physical activity save for dance parties, we were eating more than we were burning for four whole years, which meant we quickly packed on the freshman 15 (or in my case, 50).

Before shot.
Before shot.

So when graduation came and we entered the real world where sweatsuits were no longer acceptable everyday attire, it was time to drop the freshman 15 (or 50). And instead of giving in to gimmicks, Anne and I each separately decided to do it the good old fashioned way (and the only way proven to work): we resorted to healthy eating and exercise, or calories in < calories out. While running became a passion for Anne, my passion became cooking and eating healthy food.

After shot! Woo!
After shot! Woo!

Two years (and negative 50 pounds) after making the switch to healthy food, I decided to start sharing my recipes with the world, and my blog InspiredbyMollie.com was born.

The philosophies I follow in my blog – and life – are as follows:

Use healthy ingredients. This means incorporating ingredients that are packed with nutrition so the calories that are consumed are beneficial to your body, including vegetables, protein, fruit, whole grains and healthy fats.  At the same time, it’s important to avoid empty calories, or foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition (e.g. processed white bread). Also, you can typically find low-calorie nutritious substitutes for high calorie favorites (e.g. spaghetti squash for traditional spaghetti or fat free Greek yogurt for sour cream).  Here are a couple of my recipes that are packed with healthy ingredients and incorporate such substitutions:

Mediterranean Chicken Meatballs

Greek Yogurt and Chive Mashed Potatoes

Light and Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Make this. And send it to Anne for taste-testing, please.
Make this. And send it to Anne for taste-testing, please.

Exercise portion control. This is especially important when eating rich foods or treats. It’s simple: if something is higher in calories, eat less of it. And if you are anything like me, and you don’t have self-control, use portion-sized bowls and plates to help you. Also, if you just need a “big” meal, increase the volume of your meal by adding a bed of lettuce or a ton of low calorie vegetables.  Here are some of my portion-controlled favorites:

Mini – Crust less Mediterranean Quiches

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Mac, Cheese and Veggie Cupcakes

Yum.
Yum.

Indulge! Sometimes. Just because you are watching what you eat does not mean you have to deprive yourself of flavor or fun.  Use low-calorie flavors like spices and herbs to enhance the flavors of your healthy food without destroying their nutritional value.  Just beware of salt, as it causes water retention and thus apparent weight gain. And if you’re a sweets person, don’t skip dessert!  It’s OK to eat a small treat once a day. Just remember – portion control is key. Here are some great portion-controlled desserts that won’t break the bank:

Mini Blueberry Cobblers

Mini Crust-Less Pumpkin Pies

Mini Pink Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes

Yes, please.
Yes, please.

Plan and prepare. Plan ahead and prepare your own food. This allows you to make good decisions, rather than impulsive hungry decisions AND it also allows you to control what you are putting in your mouth.  I try to avoid eating out more than once or twice a week and when I do eat out, I look at the online menu ahead of time and make my selection when I am not hungry. I know this could be considered a bit OCD, but if it allows me to order the beet salad (which I love) instead of the mile-high nachos, it is worth it. Also, if you are really busy and thinking to yourself you don’t have time to make your own food, think again. Make healthy food in bulk on a day when you have time and freeze individual portions for a healthy meal when you are pressed for time.  Here are some freezer friendly recipes:

Veggie Lovers Vegetarian Chili

Chicken Soup

Slow Cooked Bolognese

Heat up before eating, idiots.
Heat up before eating, idiots. ❤

Drink water. Lots and lots of water. This is very important when you are running and working out and also when trying to lose weight. It helps flush your body and also helps fill your stomach – and it’s calorie free!  Sick of water? Add some sliced fresh fruit to a pitcher of ice water for flavor. Lemon, limes, strawberries, watermelon and cucumber are all delicious options!

Of course, I do not always stick to these rules perfectly, but I do my best to make one good decision at a time. Like training for a race, you can get derailed and face challenges or temptation.  But overall, if you stick with the training and healthy eating, you will find success, just like Anne and I did.

For more information on my recipes and cooking, please follow my blog (www.inspiredbymollie.com) and like me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/InspiredByMollie). 

Categories
Travel

India Bound

I’m not going to lie: most of what I know about India to-date I learned from Mindy Kaling, Baloo the bear and that delicious stretch of Lexington Avenue between 25th and 28th Streets. But all that’s about to change. Tonight, I’m hopping a plane to, well, Germany, where I’ll be hopping a second plane to India, where I’ll be spending 10 glorious days celebrating my homeboy Sean’s impending nuptials, avoiding ice like the plague and devising ways to fit a baby Indian elephant into my carry-on suitcase.

I’m super prepared: I got my typhoid and tetanus boosters, alerted all my credit card companies and even dug out my most conservative attire from the depths of my closet. My mom’s concerned that India may not be the safest of destinations for a young woman, but don’t worry: I’ve got two bodyguards, and one of them’s a pirate.

They'd take a bullet - or a plank-walk - for me.
They’d take a bullet – or a plank-walk – for me.

We’ll also be spending all our time (save for his wedding night, I hope) with this bad boy, and something tells me no one wants to mess with this groom to be.

sean yell
Congratulations, Sean, you lovable monster, you.

I’ve signed on a couple of friends to write guest blog posts in my absence, so stay tuned in the coming days for updates on running, fitness and a little token Anne-worship from some new voices. Don’t worry: there will still be dog photos. Lots of dog photos. And if I play my cards right in India, perhaps some baby elephant photos upon my return.

Also, happy Valentine’s Day to all you lovers out there! Does everyone else hate the word lovers as much as I do? Yes? OK. Good. 

Categories
Food Running Weight Loss

Back on Track

Sometimes the temperature grazes 80° for the first time this calendar year and your mom offers to buy you an ice-cream cone. Sometimes you go to a gorgeous Southern wedding and you can’t pass up the mounds of barbeque beef brisket vying for space on your plate. Sometimes your little (grown-up) brother doesn’t want to share his box of Cheez-Its, which – in proper sibling fashion – only makes you want them more.

Sometimes all these things happen the same weekend. Or perhaps I should rephrase: Sometimes you return home to New York from an excursion to Maryland to find you’ve gained three pounds in as many days.

In years past, whenever I’d go on a “healthy eating spree,” one weekend of caloric debauchery was enough to see me throw in the towel and revert back to my earlier ways. I’ve already ruined my diet – I’d say – so I might as well test that all 6 burger options at Shake Shack have the same meat-to-bun ratio. You know, for science.

That kind of thinking didn’t get me anywhere (or more accurately, it got me here) because it was fatalistic, short-sighted and – pardon my French – le dumb.

But now that I’ve finally given up on short-term fixes in favor of what I hope will be a lifetime of nutrition and fitness, a weekend off the wagon no longer carries the same weight. I ate both the chocolate and the vanilla wedding cake on Saturday night – I said to my slightly hung-over self the following morning – so I’ll just stick to oatmeal and coffee at the hotel breakfast buffet, even though they have all the free sausage a carnivore could hope for. When you’re thinking long-term, it’s easier to bounce back from a few days of bad habits, Episcopal guilt and all.

That said, I’m still using this weekend’s free-for-all as an opportunity to revisit my goals and recommit to some of the healthy practices that helped me drop 30+ pounds by this time last year. For example, I’m taking a page from my girl Tara’s book and trying to pack my own lunch four out of five days this week. I’m also recording everything I eat over the next few days in a drive for mindfulness. And I’m not sneaking any more rest days than Coach Hal allows as I enter Week 8 before my most important race of the season.  I even upped my Monday 3-miler to a 6-miler just for good form. Who knows? If I sneak in one extra, unscheduled mile by Sunday, this may even be my first ever 30+ mile week.

And that kind of accomplish warrants an ice-cream cone.

How do you get back on track nutritiously/fitnessly/navigationally after straying?