Tri-ing…

Wow it’s been a while since I’ve written a post– sorry about that! I promise new workout music soon– I’ve found some good stuff lately! I am writing today becuase I have less than a month before my first sprint triathlon and I am freaking out a little bit. There are two things that are scaring me the most.

1. I’m not a very good swimmer. I can get from point A to B but I have yet to swim in open water (my fault and I’m trying to fix this soon but it’s not that easy to find good open water when you’re Manhattan-bound…at least open water that isn’t completely disgusting) and I need lessons to really get my freestyle form better. I’ve decided for this race my focus is just go get past the swim, which is short by normal standards (300 meters) but given that it’s in the ocean and I’m not the strongest swimmer, it is scaring me for sure.

2. Transitions. Not really sure what to expect here. When I ran my first road race it was small and not that well organized– but all I had to do was run from point A to point B (ok, run from point A to point B to point C sort of in circles…what a disaster of a race). But with the tri I have to finish the swim, put shoes on for the bike (my plan is to wear a single outfit throughout that’s designed for tris) bike, ditch the bike and run. All in a race atmosphere with others around me going fast and with hundreds of other bikes that look like mine… I’m going to do my best to stay calm and not get swept up in other people’s insanity, but I’m nervous about this too.

Hindsight is 20/20. I realize now I should have been taking swim lessons in the winter while I was training for the NYC half, so I would have a good base for this tri training, but at this point it is what it is, and I just want to say that I finished the race, even if my time is terrible. I’m also trying to keep on track with the official first month of marathon training for the NYC Marathon I’m running in November, but obviously I have had to alter that schedule a little bit too. It’s all a little overwhelming (ha, overwellming) but I just keep reminding myself that I can get through it, even if I end up finishing like a turtle in peanut butter. The reality is while I’ve been running a long time I’m not a fearless person, and the swimming and biking aspects do not come naturally to me and require more skill than I have at this point– with that said I’m attempting a sprint tri, not an Ironman, and I know my cardiovascular abilities can carry me through the relatively short race, assuming I don’t need to be rescued from the water or fall off my bike and break a bone or something :)

Sometimes I also have to remind myself of where I started a few years ago–when running more than a few miles seemed totally impossible and though I wasn’t content with the random cardio workouts I was doing, I didn’t know what else to do to motivate myself. Running has done a lot for my body and my spirit, and made me believe in my abilities and strengths. I still think finishing my first marathon was probably the proudest I have ever been of myself. Maybe I’ll be able to have that feeling about the tri someday too. But for now, baby steps. Let’s get past my first swim-bike-run race and go from there.

Thoughts on Finishing the NYC Half Marathon 3/16/14

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So this past Sunday I ran the NYC Half marathon– which was a race that had its ups and downs (literally and figuratively). It was 30 degrees at the start…much colder than I would like but at least it wasn’t snowing! The first 6 miles or so of the race are a loop of Central Park, including the “Great Hill” which is more much more annoying than great in my humble opinion.

Then you exit Central Park and head straight through Times Square– by far the COOLEST part of the race and I’m sure a big reason why the entry fee is a whopping $117 (yikes!) They shut down 7th Avenue from the park exit at 59th Street all the way to 42nd St., and there are tons of people lining the streets to cheer you on. Also, because I ran this race to raise money for the ALS Association, in memory of my Uncle Mark who died of ALS, and the ALS cheering section was at the Mile 7 marker in Times Square, I deliberately used that portion of the run to reflect on Mark and my family, which was a perfect motivator to get me through the final 6 miles of the race. The ending portion of the run down the West Side Highway was a little more boring–but flat and fast and old territory to me, as it’s my usual haunt for runs these days, and the fact that the race ended a block from my apartment was a nice bonus too!

Mere and I at the end of the NYC Half 3/16/14

Mere and I at the end of the NYC Half 3/16/14

Here is what I took away for this half-marathon, my first in quite a few months: 1) My knees are not what they used to be. They are getting creakier and the soreness from longer runs lingers much longer than before; 2) I was slightly undertrained for this race, since most of the training took place during the dead of winter and I decided to stick to the treadmill most days, and it showed, with a slower than normal finish time for me; and 3) even though I have run a marathon before, I am SCARED for the NYC Marathon in November. I know I can do it, because I’ve proven to myself already that I’m marathon-capable…but doubling what I did this past Sunday seems daunting. Guess that’s what the next 6 months are for!

Now I’ve given myself a few days to “rest” (still working out of course but not on a training plan/schedule) and decide what my next moves are. I’ve entered some shorter road races for the next couple of months and I’m still considering entering a Sprint Triathlon this summer, which also seems daunting, mostly because of the potential monetary investment and the fact I’m not really what one would call a “good swimmer” :) We’ll see how it goes!

My Six Current Obsessions

1. Sweaty Betty.
Completely obsessed with this U.K. export for three reasons. 1) they recently opened their first two U.S. shops, one in Connecticut and a flagship store in NYC’s Soho neighborhood, and 2) Lululemon has been sucking it up royally the last few years, and if I could put money down in Vegas that this company will fill the void left by Lulu’s see-through leggings, I would; and 3) they go beyond yoga and running, and carry triathalon suits and swimwear, ski clothing and dancewear. Bonus: You can return items bought online to the store!
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2. Viceroy.
I shouldn’t say this is so much a “current” obsession as an ongoing one. This DJ’s motto is “Summertime, All the Time” which is pretty great for me braving the New York City winter. I tried to go see him live last year, however, and since he was the headliner he wasn’t set to GO ON STAGE UNTIL 2:30 AM. No thanks, I’m too old for that– so I’ll stick to what he puts out digitally. Also, a lot of his original music and remixes are free for download on his website or over on soundcloud. Here’s one of my favorites:

3. The Loveumentary
This podcast/blog is great– basically it’s a guy who grew up in Mormon Utah who wanted to figure out what made “true love” work (and not work)– so he started a website and a kickstarter and now is breaking the internet with his interviews of successful couples of all walks of life, marriage counselors, authors and researchers. Super cool idea and really interesting (if not sometimes controversial) stuff.

4. The NYC Half Marathon I’m running the NYC Half this Sunday in memory of my awesome Uncle Mark, who passed away of ALS. I’m a little nervous (my knee has been giving me trouble and I’m a bit undertrained for this race) but I’m excited to get another half marathon under my belt. If you have a couple of dollars to spare please donate to my fundraising page HERE!
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5. Cook’s Illustrated Cookbooks
In addition to Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I love the books America’s Test Kitchen puts out. My two current favorites are Perfect Vegetables and The Science of Good Cooking, which breaks down the scientific reasons behind why certain cooking techiques work, and how they can go wrong, along with recipes for each scientific cooking concept. Super nerdy and interesting; plus the recipes are great.
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6. My Garmin Forerunner 220
I have been putting off getting a GPS watch for a LONG LONG time (I’ve mostly relied on the Nike+ sensor and footpod, which is relatively accurate but really not all that great…) A while back I finally put my money where my running shoes are and got this Garmin watch (with a discount of course!)– and it’s really made my runs so much more fun and easy to dissect. I can look down whenever I want to see my pace, distance etc., or skip looking altogether and see where the road takes me (the watch vibrates every mile). I haven’t played with all the fun features yet (splits, laps etc.) but I want to soon…in the meantime it’ll be tracking my progress for the NYC Half this weekend!!
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Beat Motivation No. 10: The Happy Playlist

I have been in an exceptionally happy and grateful way lately, as I like to put it, it’s been “sunshine and puppies.” Maybe it’s that work has not been crushing me, or that I have a lot of awesome people surrounding me, or that I just am on a good run of serotonin, but life has been pretty good. When I’m in a crappy mood, happy/motivational/upbeat songs are a jump ball– sometimes I hate them because they’re happy and I’m not, other times they are just what I need to dig me out of my crappy mood. But when I’m happy-go-lucky, I could listen to Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” on repeat (‘Life of Brian’-so so funny). So in that spirit, here are some picks to put your workout in a good mood :)

1. American Authors- Best Day of My Life
I first heard this song when it was played a TON during the local 2013 NYC Marathon TV coverage…and now it seems to be everywhere else too. It is a little cheesy, but not too much that it won’t be on my 2014 marathon playlist…speaking of which, I’m planning to craft killer playlists for my upcoming long races, suggestions welcome!

2. Mary J. Blige- Just Fine
“No time for mopin’ around”– this song is the epitome of self-love and happiness… plus Ms. Mary rightly points out that “Got to keep it hot, keep it together, if I want to get better”

3. Katy Perry- Unconditionally (Dirty Pop Deconstruction Mix)
Almost every Katy Perry song is happy, some almost to the point of absurdity (no more ‘Teenage Dream’ please please) but this one (and this remix in particular) can get me through a bad sprint or a bad day.

4. Rihanna feat. Slash- Rockstar 101
Put yourself in Rihanna’s shoes for this one… “six-inch walker, big sh*t talker”

5. Kacey Musgraves- Follow Your Arrow
Kacey had a song called ‘Blowing Smoke‘ before this one came out that I liked but didn’t love…this one I LOVE. Although I loves me some country music, I often find myself hating the hetero-normative and often closed-minded country music scene. Kacey’s song is doing incredibly well on the country charts and is all about finding your own happiness, even if your arrow points to lighting up a joint or making out with someone of the same gender :)

6. Joe Esposito- You’re The Best
Maybe I should be ashamed that the theme song from the Karate Kid is on my playlist but I’m not…’cause I’m the best around, and Cobra Kai isn’t.

7. Demi Lovato & Taylor Swift- I Knew You Were Trouble vs. Heart Attack
Great mashup–Demi almost makes me not hate Taylor…almost.

8. Ellie Goulding- Goodness Gracious
Ellie’s new one is a little bit 80′s but really she doesn’t put out anything I dislike.

9. Beyonce- Get Me Bodied
This song almost makes me want to sign up for a Zumba class…and while that will never actually happen, it’s a pretty big feat that it’s so inspiring!

10. Ice Cube- It Was A Good Day
I know this is a throwback, and it’s a little on the slow jamz side of things, but it really does make you feel better about your day when you realize Ice Cube is happy just to not have been shot since he woke up. It’s the little things.

Let’s Have a Heart-to-Heart (Failure)

A little over a year ago, my father went into the hospital with congestive heart failure. He thankfully survived and is doing better, but I’d be lying to say he is the same as before. The medication he takes now makes him tire easily and generally he has just slowed down in a big way. I still have trouble looking at the mortality rates for heart failure patients without crying, but it suffices to say that the amount of patients who are still around five years after diagnosis is not terribly high. For the first time I have to think about my dad not being around for the big moments in my life; not at some point far off into the future but perhaps much sooner.

So why talk about this on a blog that is almost always happy and sunny and filled with race recaps and dubstep remixes? Probably because many months later, it still affects the way I look at my health, the way I eat, and the way I think about my future and mortality.

A few months ago, I attended a Junior League event where Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum (author of a book on women’s heart health and a leading cardiologist) said that one of her biggest wishes is that she could see every one of her cardiac patients–most of whom came to her post-heart attack or heart failure– two or three decades earlier, since the habits they had when they were in their 20s and 30s are what led them to high blood pressure, weak hearts, and facing uphill battles against their bodies years later. That observation has stuck with me. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that after my dad stopped playing high school and college football and traded recreational team sports as a post-college grad for the leisurely weekend golf game with his buddies and Jack & Cokes, his waistline got bigger and his habits started charting the course for his recent declining health.

I think it’s hard when you are young, strong and in decent shape–without really trying to be–to think about the fact that the extra cocktail (or cigarette, for some people), cupcake, generous sprinkling of salt or hours lounging on the couch are going to translate years later into not being able to keep up with your kids on vacation, having to swallow medication that leaves you groggy just to keep your blood pumping or a heart attack or stroke that takes you away from those you love. But the reality is that if my dad had consistently taken care of himself throughout my childhood (which I realize would have meant less time with me in favor of time at the gym or on the basketball court), he’d have a much better chance of living longer and, just an importantly, having a much higher quality of life today.

All of this isn’t meant to be preachy; I sometimes forget to treat my body like a temple and instead treat it like a toxic chemical plant (the toxic chemical of choice ususally being bourbon or frozen yogurt from 16 Handles). But I’m much more acutely aware that the choices I’m making now are going to stick with me long after the hangover or sugar coma is gone, and that I have to stay on top of my eating habits, weight and mental health if I want to be as healthy as I am in 2014 in 2044. What’s more, my Central Park runs and trips to the gym have taken on more meaning. Don’t get me wrong, fitting into my jeans and having more energy through the day are still big motivators for working out, but so is reducing my chance of a heart event when I’m older and increasing the chance I’ll still be able to run a 10K or a half marathon in my fifties. When I finish a run lately, instead of the message in my head saying “God, my pace is so slow” or “Thank goodness that’s over”– I find myself more an more thinking “Damn, I’m lucky to be able to take care of myself and thankful to have legs and a heart that carry me all these miles.”

Beat Motivation No. 9: The 2014 Resolution Playlist!

Am I the only one regretting my corporate career decision because I want to dye my hair blond and pink and green/blue like Ke$ha in the “Timber” video? Didn’t think so.
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Now that I’m back on track with my usual blogging antics, I couldn’t help but give some fresh beats to those of you who are making getting your sweat on part of your 2014 resolutions.

First up, some mashups. I like year-end mashups because 1) they are interesting; 2) they remind me of the good songs of 10 months ago I should put on replay; and 3) they are long enough and varied enough to distract me during a really crappy cardio sesh (the same reason I love the White Panda and GirlTalk tracks as a general rule). Here are three I thought deserved recognition, followed by 7 other tracks I’m liking right now:

1. Daniel Kim- Pop Danthology 2013- Mashup of 68 Songs
This guy is sort of the standard in year-end mashups; he’s been doing it and doing it and doing it well (haha shout out LL Cool J) for a while—my favorite part is that he tends to match up songs with similar concepts so if you just extracted the lyrics of the mashup it wouldn’t seem TOO schizophrenic.

2. Robin Skouteris- PopLove 2 (2013) 56 Song Mashup
I appreciate that Robin gives each track a little more time before moving on (granted that is what makes it a 10-minute mashup). Probably my favorite of the three, despite the fact that it’s a little Lady Gaga heavy for my tastes… she (he?) does include Naughty Boy’s “La La La” which I am crazy obsessed with for absolutely no reason, and strangely but happily, Cher’s “Woman’s World”

3. Victor Lin- Made in 2013
I picked this one because this is this dude’s second youtube video ever and he did a great job—and because he included some offbeat 2013 tracks like Sebastian Ingrosso’s “Reload”, J-Lo’s “Live it Up” and one of my favorite tracks of 2013 that did not get the attention it deserved, Jessie J’s “Wild” – it gets a little sloppy at points, but sometimes it is ON POINT seamless (see 2:30-2:54 Bruno Mars/Taylor Swift combo) Plus the video has song annotations built in which is pretty cool.

4. Iggy Azalea- Work (Jacob Plant Remix)
This chick’s real name is Amethyst Kelly, which sounds sort of like a made-up stripper name, but in reality she’s an Australian chick rapper who is often compared to Azealia Banks because both girls’ rap can be dirrrrty (212 anyone?) Listening to Iggy makes me want to take up sexy boxing.

5. Miley Cyrus- Wrecking Ball (Caked Up Remix)
I hate myself for it, but I freakin’ love everything this idiot has put out lately. Adore You (video def NSFW) is just fantastic mellow awesomeness. This remix of Wrecking Ball is pretty solid.

6. Viceroy feat. Ghost Beach- While We’re In Love (Oliver Nelson Remix)
I could probably listen to Viceroy every day of the week—he makes every day summer, it’s freakin’ incredible. This collaboration with Ghost Beach remix is no exception.

7. Collin McLoughlin- Background
I don’t usually pile on the dub/trap to my workout mixes, and honestly I don’t even remember where I picked this up, but I’m a fan, it gets me going.

8. The Other Tribe- Skirts (Original Mix)
Most of my time on soundcloud is spent trying to find disco-y dance tunes, since honestly those tend to be some of my favorites. This one was a happy stumble upon gem.

9. Duke Dumont feat. Jax Jones- I Got You
Takin’ it to the islands mon! (are you figuring out that I am doing everything possible to pretend it is not 10 degrees in NYC right now??)

10. Hayden James- Permission to Love (cool down)
Again, a little disco-y, but smooth and great for a post-run stretch.

Already wavering with your 2014 Resolution? The group motivation idea that could change your life.

The last few months for me became a default hiatus from blogging here for a number of reasons. I wanted to spend as much time as possible outdoors before the cold winter temperatures set in– and the art of outdoor wifi and blogging while jogging in the sunshine haven’t quite been perfected. I also got incredibly busy with work and my personal life– and both eventually knocked me off my fitness game somewhat (it’s hard to get up and get to the gym at 6AM when you didn’t go to bed until three hours earlier when you finally finished working and hard to turn down a relaxing date over a glass of wine for the treadmill when you finally escape from the office earlier than 10PM)

Now, after some really hard weeks of insanely long hours at work, some SSDD (same sh*t different day) letdowns happening in the personal relationships department and a much-needed time with family over Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays (with minimal hours working during that time…something I am definitely thankful for) I am ready to officially hit the reset button. And apparently the universe agrees with me, because the last few weeks of the year and the first few days of 2014 have been filled with those moments that make me incredibly happy to live in such an amazing city surrounded by some of the best friends and colleagues a girl could ask for.

I have some future post ideas in the works, as well as a hot new 2014 Beat Motivation playlist pending, but today’s post (and the reason for it!)is about a phenomenal idea from my good friend and super-inspiration Miho, as published last week on the Huffington Post.

Essentially, you use your friends (and friends of friends…otherwise known as strangers) to keep you accountable for 12 one-month goals that you set and report progress on to each other. Miho’s group uses a google doc and collective email list to track everyone’s goals and motivate each other. The article lays the concept out really well, and has already spawned a number of mini-groups I’ve heard of, but since I know Miho, she was kind enough to let me in on her already established (and exclusive, duh) pro group.

The January goals of the group are wide-reaching; some involving the mind (“Maintain positivity by journaling and repeating affirmation”) others the body (“No alcohol”; “One long run, two short runs a week to train for the LA marathon”) and soul (“Write an article on Positive Space”). But a common theme it seems to me is that these goals are all about self-improvement and self-reflection–and motivating each other! So, for me, who started this blog to give myself a release valve from my insane work life by focusing on my running, workouts, and mental and physical health, my January goal is to write at least 10 posts on the blog and at least three Beat Motivation playlists! Get excited– I am!

How is your New Year’s Resolution going? Do you think a group like this and smaller monthly goals would help you stay accountable? I think this idea is GENIUS… here’s to the 2014 Resolution Group and keeping myself accountable over the next 12 months!

Beat Motivation No. 8: Girls vs. Boys

Want new motivational music to power your late summer workouts? Let’s get to it! This go-round’s list features five of my current favorites from the ladies, and five from the gentleman (well, I’m not sure I’d call Chris Brown a gentleman…) Decide for yourself– do the Girls or the Boys reign as champions of the playlist????

(As always, all the music is collected over on the Music/Playlists page)

FIRST UP, THE GIRLS:

1. Foxes- Youth
Foxes is the artist featured on Zedd’s Clarity, this is one that builds.

2. Katy Perry-Roar
The eye-rolling realist in me sort of hates this quasi-empowering yet incredibly stupid lyrics (sample: “Now I’m floating like a butterfly, Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes, I went from zero, to my own hero”) but I would be lying if I didn’t say that with Katy Perry, I almost always start hating the song and end up with it on repeat on my ipod (I still think California Gurls is awful).

3. Haim- The Wire
I am OBSESSED with Haim, and I am starting a mission to get my parents hooked ASAP– this 70s groovy music is SO up their alley.

4. Lady Gaga- Applause
Oh, Gaga. I am not sure I love this song, but it is catchy enough to put into my playlist rotation for a while to see if it sticks. The video is trying way too hard in my opinion…

5. Rihanna feat. David Guetta- Right Now
Classic David Guetta, make a solid hit with a mega star.

NOW, IN THIS CORNER, THE BOYS:

6. Nine Inch Nails- Came Back Haunted
I still think Trent Reznor is hot, just like I did when NIN came out with “Closer”, which I think is one of the sexiest songs ever made. Ever.

7. Justin Timberlake- Take Back the Night
Very Michael Jackson of you, Mr. Timberlake.

8. Mika- Live Your Life
Mika always puts out fun, upbeat, catchy music that makes you feel like skipping through the streets (case in point, the song below AND “Big Girl (You are Beautiful)” with a fantastic video and theme reminiscent of Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls)

9. David Guetta feat. Ne-Yo, Akon- Work Hard
Akon has such a unique voice– I think this song has been out for a while but I’m still listening to it in heavy rotation on my ipod.

10. Afrojack feat. Chris Brown- As Your Friend
This is one of those songs I can ONLY listen to when I work out. The strange pulsing “Mario jumping on mushrooms” popping-beat in the background is really only tolerable when bouncing around myself.

Fitness Challenge Update and A Racing Decision

I told you guys a while back about my decision to join a speed and form running workshop which meets twice a week at either 6:30 AM or 7PM, and that I wanted to supplement the workouts with three other sweat sessions per week (in a typical week I fit in 4 sessions). So far, I’ve been doing great with the speed workshop as I have yet to miss a session, but just okay with the three supplemental workouts, making 5 times some weeks but only getting 4 sessions done on others. I haven’t figured out yet what the block is with that, except that I know I am still adjusting to the earlier wake-up time on the mornings when I have speed and form class. I’m definitely much better than I used to be about consistently working out each week, but I think there is still a way to go before I become a 6AM every day gym-goer (SO early).

So overall so far, halfway through the ten weeks of the speed and form class and my fitness challenge, I’m giving myself a B-. Not awful, but room to improve over the next 5 weeks! I’m actually especially motivated by the fact that I am still paying a gym membership even though I am outside a lot now because the weather is so good, so I want an excuse to get back into Equinox and get my money’s worth!

To help push me along, I was also considering signing up for a few more races. My law firm’s “Endurance Club” reimburses you for race entry fees up to a certain amount if you actually finish the event, so it’s a nice perk to be able to participate for free! Tonight I am running a 5K and I’m excited to see if my mile pace has improved at all with the workshop (I think that it has from what I can tell on my other runs) I was debating registering for another half marathon, but the one I was contemplating is just 8 weeks away and since I promised myself I’d focus on speed rather than distance for a while, that’s what I’m going ot do. So I signed up for four 4 and 5 mile races in September, October and November along with a 1 mile race to really put my speedwork to the test!

Beat Motivation No. 7

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new workout playlist– work has been kicking my butt the last few weeks, though I have managed to get to the gym and my speed and form running workshops and even make a trip this past weekend to Atlantic City with the girls that was insanely fun. Still, it’s no good to let the workout playlist go stale, so here goes:

(As always, all the music is collected over on the Music/Playlists page)

1. Kortnee Simmons feat. Blake Akana Chung
I’m not a huge fan of this guy’s earwear choices, but that’s his prerogative. I do have a soft spot for the throwback volume up top haircut, reminds me of my 3rd grade boyfriend…

2. Duke Dumont feat A*M*E*- Need U (100%)
This song makes me want to host a day drinking party on the roofdeck of my apartment building. Chill and energetic at the same time. Maybe I’ll get on that… fall is right around the corner!

3. Sebastian Ingrosso, Tommy Trash, John Martin – Reload
Sebastian Ingrosso tends to make music that makes me feel like I’m listening to the soundtrack of my life, if my life was like that of Neo from the Matrix.

4. Ellie Goulding- Burn
I listen to a fair amount of Ellie Goulding’s stuff, and there is very little I don’t like– this tune doesn’t even need a remix to pick it up and make it worthy of the workout mix– perfectly motivational as is.

5. Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith- La La La
This is my new obsession– try to have this one NOT stuck in your head after a couple of listens. Apparently the concept for the video is based on a Bolivian legend called El Tio, about a boy who could fight against evil by screaming, but the characters remind me of the Wizard of Oz.

6. Tythe- Summerbelly
This is more of a cooldown/easy run tune, but I saw it randomly on youtube as a suggested link and was happily surprised to stumble upon it.

7. White Panda- Diamond Thrones
This one is courtesy of BeFit over at Rate Your Burn, who always turns out great mixes. I mean, Rihanna’s Diamonds and the theme song from Game of Thrones together?? Geeky Genius.

8. Chvrches- Gun
I know I posted Chvrches song in the last playlist, and I’ve even heard “The Mother We Share” on the radio, so I’m hopeful they will totally catch fire in the mainstream, and I couldn’t resist adding them again this go round. Until they totally blow up, I’ll hope they come to play an NYC club or two soon so I can be entertained by their 80s inspired popfest.

9. John Newman- Love Me Again
This song has been out for a little while, but I have started to hear it more and more lately, and this guy’s voice is pretty solid.

10. Lorde- Tennis Court
Royals is already a huge hit, and it’s really awesome, I agree, but I also really like this one. This chick is sexy, which is pretty inappropriate of me to say since she’s sixteen. Yeah, sixteen. But fact is fact. Hopefully she doesn’t go the way of Britney and go from sexy teen to white trash train wreck…

*BONUS* 11. Eve feat. Miss Kitty- Eve
My fave Jason Tran over at Revolve played this during a Sunday spin class a few weeks ago, and I immediately downloaded it. H-O-T.

My new fitness challenge! Wanna join me?

This has been a busy last couple of weeks. My dad flew up to Delaware and I took the train down with Bailey to meet up at my aunt’s house for the 4th of July holiday weekend. It was awesome to spend time with family and get away, and to let Bailey hang out with his doggie cousins Lily and Buddy (my aunt’s maltipoos)

Aside from the weekend, though, I’ve been SLAMMED at work, and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to get any better anytime soon. I mean, this is Saturday night and blogging is my break from my work… so yeah. I’ve been trying to do some social things this weekend but work keeps calling my name…

The other thing that is taking my time is that I got a new iPad! My mom got one too so she’s having fun playing with it and learning how to FaceTime. I’m not someone who is an early adopter so this is my first iPad even though they were released (according to Wikipedia) over 3 years ago, so I’m pretty excited and way behind everyone else!

In addition to my work busyness, a few weeks ago I signed up for a 10-week speed and form running workshop run by Urban Athletics. When I started running, I was incredibly embarassed because I was so slow. Part of the reason I didn’t want to run with anyone else was because I didn’t want to get frustrated by how much of an underperformer I was (I still am pretty picky about my running partners). Some people are naturally athletic, I am not one of those people– I have learned about myself that I have the mind of an athlete but not the natural skill or ability of one. Which is okay, it’s part of what drives me to be better. Over time I have gotten more efficient as a runner simply because I have become more of a regular runner, and without doing any speedwork, I cut over 15 minutes off my half marathon time from my first half to my latest several weeks ago.

Part of me, however, wants really badly to go from the 75th percentile of runners to just the 50th percent. My dream is to just to keep up with the middle of the pack. I know from my diligent reading of Runner’s World that the only way to become a faster runner is to run faster! So twice a week for the next 10 weeks, I’ll be hauling my butt out of bed to go to a 6:30 AM speed class on Mondays and Wednesdays. There is also a 7PM session, which I might be able to go to sometimes, but because of my job I know that the 6:30 AM session is the only one I can be sure to make on a regular basis. The coach customizes the workouts to target your own ability, and a friend of mine has already done it so it comes recommended, which is always a plus!

So my new fitness challenge is, for the next 10 weeks, to attend my speed classes and get faster twice a week, do other cardio and lift weights at least twice a week, and hopefully do other cardio or functional exercise (cycling class, walking around the city or trying something new like Aqua cycling) at least once a week. My usual exercise routine is four times a week, so five will be a challenge, in addition to the fact that I have to do speedwork which I am anticipating not loving too much… but I’m banking that it will teach me how to set myself up to be a better runner :)

I’ll keep you guys posted on how it goes, and will soon have a new set of tunes for you as well, I promise! Do you have a fitness challenge you want to take on for the rest of the summer? Make a committment to start next week with me!

Running my “virgin” race for the 2nd time!

I run quite a lot of New York Road Runner (NYRR) Races here in the Big Apple, for two main reasons. First, they are REALLY REALLY well organized races. If you have ever run in a sh*ttily organized race, where there are people running on top of each other or no water left at the Mile 7 water station, you know how crucial good race organization is. Second and more importantly, the NYRR races are the only way you can get guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon without doing charity fundraising (not that I’m anti-charity fundraising, but it’s a LOT of work and a LOT of money to raise). They have a program called 9+1 where if you run nine qualifying races with NYRR in a calendar year and volunteer at one race or event, you get automatic entry to the next year’s NYC Marathon.

Two weekends ago I ran NYRR’s Portugal Day- a 5 mile run through Central Park that started at 8AM which I showed up for in the corral at 7:58AM. Needless to say, I did not PR with preparation like that. This Sunday, I’ll take part in the NYRR Achilles hope & Possibility 5 mile run, which will be my 9th NYRR race this year and seal up my 9+1 — meaning I’ll be officially entered for next year’s NYC marathon! I’m pumped.

Last weekend, however, I took a break from the running cult that is NYRR to run a 10K on Governor’s Island (the GOGI) with my friend Meredith who happens to be training for this year’s NYC marathon. If you aren’t a New Yorker or don’t know what Governor’s Island is, it’s a very cool and very strange small island just a hop-skip-and-a-jump (or a 3 minute ferry) from the bottom of Manhattan–it used to be a military base and now the city and state are converting it into a giant park, but nobody lives there permanently anymore so it’s like a quaint ghost town that feels nothing like the rest of New York City. Here’s the view from the island on the ferry back to Manhattan:

GOGI_10k_2013_view

The cool thing about running this race for me is that in 2011 I took part in the 2nd annual GOGI 10K, and it was my first race ever. Back then, I remember feeling incredibly nervous, wondering if I’d even be able to finish, and like a lone foreigner in a sea of experienced people who were fast and really enjoyed runnining for the sake of running. I wasn’t even smiling when I started–and when I finished I was so proud of myself I almost cried. The race was (and still is) small– 828 runners this year compared to the 5,000 or so that run in a typical NYRR race in Central Park–which makes it a much more intimate experience (hard to find on an island of millions of people).

This year running the GOGI, I felt so much better about my running ability, my endurance and my speed, and I actually had FUN running the race! Interestingly, I talked Meredith into running the GOGI with me, not knowing it would be HER first ever race on the road to train for her first marathon! I’m not sure if she felt as nervous as I did a couple years ago, but I tried to reassure her that it only goes uphill from here and that it takes a lot of time to get from a few miles on the treadmill to many miles outside in the baking sun– but if my slow-poke butt can do it, she can too. :)

All smiles after the 2013 Get Out On Governor's Island (GOGI) 10K 6/23/13

All smiles after the 2013 Get Out On Governor’s Island (GOGI) 10K 6/23/13

Beat Motivation No. 6: THE Songs of the Summer, According to Me (The Good, the Decent, and the Unlistenable)

Vacation is a blessing and a curse. I love that I get a break from work, but it makes going back to work seem about at enjoyable as getting a root canal. I went to a friend’s wedding in Boston (it’s that season!) and made it out to L.A. to see friends, eat great food, do some hiking and spot B-and-C-list celebrities because I watch way too much TV (this guy from House/Chicago Fire, the lead girl on Grey’s Anatomy, and this chick who is super obscure–she’s an on-again-off-again soap opera ‘star’…) It was a fun game and an even more fun vacation, but now it’s back to the grind. Funnily enough, I am most excited to get back on my normal schedule of sleeping and working out (what is WRONG with me these days!). In fact, I helped kick my own butt into gear again using some of the tactics posted in my last blog entry, in case you are in need of some motivation too.

On Thursday, Billboard relaunched it’s “Songs of the Summer” (SOTS) chart signaling that the all-important quest to find THE song that defines the best season of the year is truly upon us. In my opinion, however, some of the stuff on that list is CRAP. (To relive SOTS of the past, Yahoo has a great list) I present to you MY SOTS contenders for 2013, along with some honorable mentions and the few songs I really pray don’t dominate the airwaves the next couple of months…

(As always, all the music is collected over on the Music/Playlists page)

1. Blurred Lines- Robin Thicke feat. TI and Pharrell
This is an OBVIOUS choice. Pharrell has the golden touch lately it seems, and I’m glad Robin Thicke is climbing the charts since Justin Timberlake totally ripped him off in the style of his latest reincarnation and album. This song is sexy, fun, groovy and makes me want to DISCO. Come to think of it, the domination of 70s style on this list and in pop/R&B/rock generally lately is making me one very happy flower child.

2. Recover- Chvrches
If the world is lucky, this song from the Scottish group Chvrches (not a typo) will blow the f*ck up like it deserves to. If not, at least YOU know about this song! It feels to me like a tune that would be in a montage sequence of a good John Hughes 80′s teen movie, no?

3. The Other Side- Jason Derulo
J-Rulo (is that what they call him?) is not one who usually grabs my attention, but this one has a clubby underbeat that makes it less R&B and more dancey…which works for me!

4. Lose Yourself to Dance- Daft Punk feat. Pharrell
While the Daft Punk/Pharrell collabo “Get Lucky” is being played every five minutes on the radio and will certainly contend for Billboard SOTS, this one gets me ready to play with my pet rock while rollerskating in bellbottoms.

5. Safe & Sound- Capital Cities
Part of me doesn’t want to like this song, but I can’t help it. The upbeat harmonies, the trumpet, I’m sucked in. I want a good remix, however, so if you find one, leave it in the comments below!!

6. You’re in Love- Betty Who
I am LOVING the reemergence of the ladies on the pop/rock scene lately. This chick reminds me a little bit of Katy Perry, but with a darker twist. I imagine flying down the highway listening to this (imagine is right, since while I have a license in NYC, I don’t have a car!)

7. Treasure- Bruno Mars
Again, the 70s are back and they are glorious. Sing it Bruno (but don’t rip your tight pants).

8. Imagine It Was Us- Jessie Ware
This British chick has some strong underground buzz going for her, and she’s pretty talented too it seems.

9. Cruise- Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly
Nelly’s a big fan of the country-rap collaboration, which doesn’t always work for him (remember the disaster that was “Over and Over”?) He must have recovered from that painful time in his past, because he and his bandaid are back to remix this ultimate driving through the mud song.

10. Let Her Go- Passenger
Here’s my choice for slow jam/cool down tune of the summer. I bet this band would be SICK live, at a small outdoor concert with a Corona light in hand.

Honorable Mentions:
The following songs I didn’t post here because I liked them enough to post them already in another Beat Motivation playlist or they are just too overplayed. But I still think they are up for SOTS this year:
Can’t Hold Us- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Closer- Tegan and Sara
Get Lucky- Daft Punk Feat. Pharrell
I Love It- Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX
Come & Get It- Selena Gomez
A Little Party Never Killed Nobody- Fergie Feat. Goonrock & Q-Tip

I will be VERY sad if these songs become the SOTS
The Way- Ariana Grande feat. Mac Miller (It’s not 1995 and you are NOT Mariah Carey)
We Can’t Stop- Miley Cyrus (No really, please do just STOP. We get it. You do Molly and wait in lines “to do lines.” Bleh.)
Tapout- Rich Gang (On the upside, this video is giving Paris Hilton something to do. But the autotune and bad rapping voices and gratuitous use of the words “million dollar pussy” are too much. I’ll pass.)

Getting Back on the Workout Wagon

A great majority of us, myself included, have an addiction to 21st century first-world laziness. There have been many times when I’ve gone on vacation/had a birthday/gotten sick/been slammed at work and used it as an excuse to laze out and indulge in the finer things in life, like sleeping in and eating pork belly. My recent vacation brought on a laziness relapse, and I found that a part of me wanted to work out because I felt like I’d eaten my way five pounds heavier (I actually didn’t apparently, maybe due to using tactic number 5 below)…but another, much more alluring part of me wanted to hit the snooze button seventeen times and never put on a sports bra again.

For me, getting back to my regular workout and healthy eating routine after a hiatus for whatever reason requires a little bit of planning and a lot of willpower. How to get the latter is a more meta topic than a single post can handle I think, but for the former, the following tactics have seemed to work for me and may work for you too:

1. Go to a class (preferably a paid one). Working out with a group can help ease the transition back to working out, especially if you pay for the class in a lose-it-or-lose-it situation rather than just say you’ll join for the regular cardio-boxing at your usual gym. This got me back in the swing of things this week. I returned from vacation on Monday evening, and promptly signed up to take a Tuesday evening cycling class at my fave studio, Revolve, with my fave instructor, Kira Stokes.

2. Make a date. Another strategy I’ve used in the past is to make a date with a friend to run or workout together. Same concept as the class, but with you and your friend holding each other accountable and FREE! This is a good tactic for me when it’s not a specific event that has led me astray but something like an illness, since I can schedule the workout date when I start to feel better.

3. Mealplan/Cleanse. Usually vacations/holidays for me mean eating things I don’t normally eat (mmm, desserts) and sometimes mean I am lazing about, shopping, and/or tossing back a few drinks. Because of this, I end up feeling like my gut got hit by the proverbial bus. Setting out a clear healthy meal plan for the first week you are back from vacation or otherwise getting back on track can be super helpful. In this situation I would use a meal tracker like My Fitness Pal, but instead of TRACKING as I go along during the day I would plan out ahead of time what I am going to eat for the week, shop accordingly, and stick to it. The other lazy-girl’s way I’ve done it is to kickstart my routine back with a two-day juice cleanse (lots of people in NYC like Blueprint but my favorite is The Squeeze).

4. Set a positive deadline. It used to be when I got off track from my healthly lifestyle I would set what I call negatively framed deadlines for myself. I would think, ok, I need to lose a certain amount of pounds by X date to get back on track or I need to fit into this tight dress by X date. Now, in all situtaions including when I come back from a holiday or otherwise have a string of days when I go off the rails, I try to set positive deadlines. By this I mean, I sign up for a race to put on my calendar or a date to take a flying trapeze class, so I stay motivated by a positive physical activity rather than a weight/vanity related deadline that will end up ‘punishing’ me and my self esteem if I fail to make it.

5. “Workout” DURING your vacation. I know this is not always desirable or possible, but doing something physical (taking a day hike during your Costa Rica beach trip or riding a bike through a park) can get you moving even though you aren’t lifting weights or running for time. Obviously if being sick is what threw you off track in the first place, this tactic might not work (although you might be able to switch to lower impact activities like yoga while you’re recovering to keep you mentally in the game). On my trip out west last week, I went on two hill hikes with friends I was visiting, which gave me great views of the beauty of California and made my quads and hamstrings do their thing for a little while too!

6. Don’t beat yourself up. Vacations, holidays, birthdays, illness and the like all get us out of our normal routine for a reason, because they are causes to relax, celebrate, or rest and recover. If you need to take a couple extra days before getting back on the wagon, that’s OK. While pushing yourself too much too soon might burn you out, giving yourself that extra time might be just what you need to refresh yourself enough to be able to get back to your normal routine.

Are there things you do to get back on the workout/health wagon?

Dear Naturally Skinny Chick:

If you live in a mid-range priced high-rise in New York City, you may suffer the same punishment I do. The curse of the models. There are apartments full of young 20-somethings (or younger) who are six feet tall and weigh approximately nothing who pass me in my hallways every day. There have always been insanely skinny people around me. My dad is a pretty big guy, but my mother is petite and has never weighed more than 105 pounds (I got more of his genes than his in that department, for sure). There have been many times in my life when I have been the chubbiest chick at the pool party, and pool parties I’ve purposely skipped because I had no desire to be half naked in front of anyone (including myself).

Now, I’m few pounds over the weight I’d like to be, but I eat clean and work out and I have the cardiovascular endurance to sustain me through half marathons and bootcamp workouts, so I don’t feel too bad about it at this point. Still, I am not THAT excited about bikini season (I spent almost three hours swimsuit shopping last week, it was HELL), and I don’t think there will ever be a time in my life when my inner fat kid completely disappears. I have never and will never be able to eat pizza and brownies and potato chips endlessly while lounging on the beach being carefree and waif-y.

Maybe one of the models in my building has advice for us curvy people on how to be naturally thin like them and understand their plights better, but I can only speak from where I’m at. So my inner fat kid has a few tips for you perpetually outer skinny kids on how to be a little more sensitive to those of us who weren’t blessed with your genes:

  • If someone close to you is trying to get in shape/lose weight/work out more, consider how you can support them and consider what you might be doing that could pull them off track. It’s easy to see someone who has lost 10-50-100 pounds and is at their goal weight and say, “wow, you look great, good job!” It’s a lot harder to be around someone at the beginning or middle of their health journey and be a helpful part of their support system. If your best friend/family member is making an honest effort to better themselves, consider ways you can be supportive. If you are already someone who works out regularly, offer to make a regular workout date with that person. If you go are making dinner party plans, consider choosing a place that will easily let them order something tasty and healthy, so they don’t have to feel awkward while everyone around them chomps down on deep-fried chicken or deep-dish pizza. And keep in mind that it can be just as detrimental to say “why are you getting that, when THIS seems healthier” (if you don’t know what that person’s dieting plan is) as it is to say “oh, come on, just split the potato skins and chicken wings with me, it’s not THAT many calories.”
  • Think before you speak. Along those same lines, when you say things like “I’m so fat” or “This dress makes me look like a whale”– take a look around at who’s listening. It sucks to be the heaviest girl in your group of friends, but even worse when your skinny friends talk badly about their own weight, making you feel even worse in that moment. If it’s something you shouldn’t be saying in front of a young girl because it might ruin her burgeoning self-esteem, you probably shouldn’t be saying it in front of full-grown women either (or to yourself, in all honesty).
  • Don’t judge an overweight person by the number on the scale or the department store section they shop in. It sucks when someone acts shocked that an overweight person can run far, run fast, complete a road race or dominate a triathlon. There are lots of underweight and overweight people who are completely out of shape, as well as lots who can perform at peak levels. The human body is capable of incredible feats, and that includes human bodies with a little extra cushioning.
  • Be sensitive to the fact that for many people who are above their healthiest weight, they have a LOT of things to go up against to get where they would like to be. At times, I’ve known people who’ve expressed a miscomprehension as to why overweight people exist. They don’t understand why people can’t just work out, stop eating junk, and lose the weight. While it is technically true that eating more calories than you burn will lead to weight gain, it is not always that simple in practice. There are lots of other factors that make, or keep, someone overweight. Metabolism and age are two. There can also be a host of mental, emotional, and practical issues at play, from childhood trauma to personal economic struggles. While I’m a huge believer in people taking personal responsibility for their health and not one who embraces excuses, I also try to keep in mind that achieveing a healthy weight and being physically fit are a much more difficult struggles for some than for others.

  • Whether you’re naturally skinny or have an inner (and/or outer) fat kid, are there other things you think would help people understand your situation better?