Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

I’m heading off on a long overdue family vacation this week. I haven’t been away with my parents in almost three years, and we’re all in desperate need of a break from reality. Between stress at work, seemingly never-ending health issues, and the grind of daily life, I’m not sure you could find three people more eager to get the heck out of dodge.

We’re heading to Las Vegas to spend five nights at Mandalay Bay. Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I do not expect to stick to my clean eating, healthy living habits in Vegas. I wouldn’t be able to truly relax if I were putting pressure on myself 24/7 to “be good” — but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to go totally crazy! There are ways to balance out a relaxing, indulgent vacation with a healthy mindset. Here are some of the things I’ll be doing to make sure that a week away from home doesn’t totally undo all of my hard work…

Find ways to stay active while on vacation. 

Just because I’m away from home doesn’t mean I can’t still be active. True, I won’t be able to take a Studio Poise class for a week, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do some core work on the floor of my hotel room! I’ll have my iPad with me so I can do some follow along videos every morning. I know I’ll feel better if I start my day by getting my body moving, and I’ll also feel less guilty when I indulge later in the day.

Mandalay Bay has a beautiful fitness center, but there’s a daily fee to use it. I’d rather save my dollars, so in addition to my hotel room fitness plans, I’m also bringing my sneakers and plan to get out for a run every day. There’s a half mile jogging path that runs around the outside of the hotel’s pool and beach area that I can take advantage of, or I can venture out and take in the sights along the strip while also logging some miles.

Indulge wisely.

Yes, I plan to have a drink while I’m lounging poolside, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be ordering up one of those ridiculously oversized souvenir glasses of frozen sugary alcoholic goodness. I may have one pina colada as a treat during the vacation, but primarily I’ll stick to vodka sodas. I find these more refreshing, they have significantly fewer calories, and they won’t leave me with a raging sugar-induced hangover the next day.

This was from my last trip to Vegas, in 2010. I'm sipping from a yard of margarita. I have no idea what a yard translates to in ounces, but I can tell you that it leads to one heck of a hangover.

This was from my last trip to Vegas, in 2010. I’m sipping from a yard of margarita. I have no idea what a yard translates to in ounces, but I can tell you that it leads to one heck of a hangover.

I also know that I’ll be having an amazing dinner every night, so I’ll pace myself throughout the day. I’ll scope out my options for healthy, lighter breakfast and lunch choices – places with great salads, fruit bowls, and low calorie offerings. I’ll make sure to steer clear of the poolside stands offering burgers and quick fried options! I’m also packing an assortment of healthy snacks – things like 100 calorie packs of almonds, Lara bars, and packets of Shakeology with my blender bottle – so that I’m equipped for success. This is especially smart for the days when I’ll be flying, as it can be challenging and expensive to find healthy options in airports!

Remember that this is a vacation, and it’s okay to enjoy yourself! 

At the end of the day, I love to eat, and I love trying new restaurants. When we booked the trip, I spent hours reading restaurant reviews before deciding on where we’d be eating each night. We aren’t the type of people who go to Vegas to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet, so I won’t be tempted by the never ending display of caloric options. Instead, we’ve got reservations at some great restaurants, including Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse, Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, and my personal favorite, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery.

The key, when dining out, is to know where you’ll get the most bang for your buck, calorically speaking. If I order an appetizer somewhere, I’ll pass on dessert. So, I do my homework. I read reviews, and I pay attention to whether certain restaurants have a really astounding pastry chef, or whether there are certain appetizers for which the location is famous for. I’ll try to order wisely based on this research.

However, at the end of the day, I also won’t beat myself up too much for enjoying an amazing meal. I don’t eat this way normally; I might go out for a really extravagant meal once every two or three months when I’m at home. I know that these restaurants are using quality ingredients and everything is being prepared by the best chefs, and I will concentrate on enjoying the experience and savoring every bite.

Come back from Vegas several million dollars richer.

Okay, maybe I’m practicing a little bit of The Secret here. If I put something out into the universe, it will come true, right? ….RIGHT?!

photo 3

Immediately after winning $600 on Sex and the City slot machines back in 2010… so really, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, you guys.

What are your strategies for staying active when on vacation?
Any favorite Vegas activities that I should check out while I’m there?

Advertisements

Thirsty Thursday: Soda Alternatives

Confession: I am a recovering Diet Coke addict.

 

I don’t like to think too much about how many cans I’ve gone through in my lifetime. College, in particular, was a dark point in my history with soda – I could go through two cases of Diet Coke in a week, or three or more cases during reading week or tech week for a show. Diet Coke was there for me through late nights of paper editing, through early morning lighting rehearsals in the black box, and to keep me functioning during work study shifts on little to no sleep.

Transitioning into the working world, I tried to kick the habit, only to replace it with that temptress, Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee. My large iced coconut coffee was my daily companion, getting me through my mornings and powering me to lunch. Still, though, I would find myself called to the office vending machine, and on particularly desperate days I could be found scrounging in my desk drawers for the 85 cents necessary to buy a cold, refreshing can of my old standby, Diet Coke.

Hey, it’s not that bad, I told myself. I’m choosing diet soda. It’s calorie free! And when I drink coffee, I get skim milk and Sweet & Low! These choices are totally fine and definitely not ruining my diet.

Oh, boy, I could not have been more wrong.

As it turns out, diet soda has a whole host of negative side effects. A study out of the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio found that study participants who drank diet soda were more likely to gain weight than to lose it. The study found that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda caused the metabolic signals in the body to malfunction, and put users at a higher risk for obesity. A 2013 study out of Purdue University, published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism [author manuscript full text available here, through PubMed Central], provides an overview of research that demonstrates a link between the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.

This is just a small sampling of the information that’s out there about the dangers of diet soda. Don’t believe me? Here, let me google that for you. I’ll wait while you peruse the search results….

All set? Believe me now?

So, after realizing that my diet coke addiction wasn’t doing me any favors, I made a commitment to cut soda out of my diet. I also stopped adding artificial sweeteners to my coffee (not a huge challenge, as I’ve already cut my coffee intake back significantly). I committed, instead, to drinking more water.

Here’s the thing, though… water can get boring. Fast. I realize as a fitness blogger I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to brag about drinking a hundred ounces of water a day, and tell you how refreshing I find it, and swear that I don’t even miss soda, while beams of sunlight create a halo around me, showing off my clear skin from all that great water I’m drinking.

Whoops. Bad blogger.

So, what do I drink instead of diet soda to add some variety to my day?

Unsweetened, flavored soda water

Soda water is my jam. Polar Beverages is a local Massachusetts company that makes the most amazing flavors of unsweetened soda water. I admit that I stockpile their limited edition summer flavors to last me long after they’re gone from shelves; I’m going to be devastated when my hoard of 2014’s blueberry lemonade flavor runs out later this fall.

The waters are great to drink all on their own… but they’re also my secret social survival tool. Look, I’m in my late 20s. I have a social life, and that social life includes alcohol. #Sorrynotsorry. These flavored soda waters, when mixed with vodka and a squirt of lemon or lime juice, or an addition of fresh mint leaves, makes a reduced-guilt cocktail that doesn’t trash my diet.

When buying flavored soda waters, always check the label to make sure that the brand doesn’t have any added sweeteners! Familiarize yourself with the various brand names and chemical names so that you can recognize them on labels and avoid any nasty surprises. Once you’ve become a fan of the unsweetened variety of soda water, it becomes a very unpleasant surprise to accidentally drink an artificially sweetened variety – trust me, I learned that the hard way.

Iced green or black tea

As I’ve mentioned before, I stopped buying a daily iced coffee when I started drinking Shakeology. Mostly, it was an effort to save money – I rationalized that the $15-20 a week saved on coffee would offset the expense of the shakes, and it’s worked out. I view coffee as a nice treat these days, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have caffeine cravings! I’ve just started drinking tea instead. I love unsweetened iced tea, and I prefer to brew it myself so I know that there aren’t any unnecessary additives — it’s also cheaper. Black and green tea have about a third of the caffeine content of a typical cup of coffee (check out this handy comparison chart for more info!) so I’ve found that drinking them has prevented any of the unfortunate side effects that quitting coffee cold turkey might have otherwise had.

I like to keep a few heat-proof glasses handy at work; these glasses from Crate and Barrel are my standby choice, but a mason jar would also work here. Before I leave at night, I brew up some tea and leave it in the fridge for the next day. I’m not picky here; I go with whatever green tea bags are handy in the office kitchen, and I find that I actually prefer good old Lipton black tea for my iced tea than any fancier variety. I also like to keep a bottle of lemon juice handy. Whole Foods has an inexpensive organic lemon juice as part of their 365 Everyday Value brand, and I find that one bottle lasts me about a month. The next morning, I pour my tea over ice, add a splash of lemon juice, and I’m ready to tackle the day.

Infused water

I know, I know… I began this list by acknowledging that water can be dull, but hear me out. Pretty much the only time I drink regular old H2O these days is when I’m working out – the day that Studio Poise got a cold water bubbler pretty much remains the highlight of the past year, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Nothing tastes better than crisp, cold water at the end of an intense yoga session. The rest of the time, though, you won’t find me far from my infuser bottle.

Infuser pitchers are great, and I have this model at home, but I find that I actually prefer the convenience of a portable infuser water bottle. This tumbler style was a great find, as I prefer to drink from a straw, especially at work — and yes, that is because I have accidentally dumped water all over myself when drinking from a wide mouth Nalgene, thank you for asking.

I like adding frozen berries to the infuser – they add flavor and they help to keep my water cold. I have also found that cutting up one lemon or lime at the beginning of the day and continually refilling the glass will keep my water flavored through a long work day. This is also a great way to use up the leaves from my mint plant, which seems to keep thriving despite my best efforts to kill it (seriously, I am a bad gardener, the people at Lowe’s should stop selling me plants every summer). Basically, throw whatever you like in the infuser, as long as it’s a whole food, and you’ll have something that tastes good without any of the chemicals or additives that you’d find in a flavored water on the grocery store shelf.

Iced Fruit Teas

Green and black tea are delicious, but when I want a treat, I’ll brew up some fruit tea for a nice change of pace. Whereas I’m fine with any old brand for my usual iced teas, I find that when it comes to fruit tea, you really do get what you pay for. Last week, I picked up this Celestial Seasonings fruit tea sampler because it was on sale for less than $4 at my local Hannaford’s, but I should have saved those dollars. The tea just isn’t that good, sadly. The fruit flavors aren’t prominent enough for my taste.

The Republic of Tea is my favorite brand for fruit teas. Their varieties average about $10 for a tin at Whole Foods, but that usually contains anywhere from 30 to 50 tea bags, depending on the blend. Right now, I’m alternating between Hibiscus Key Lime and Blueberry Green Tea for my flavored iced teas, but after perusing the website while writing this post, I have a long laundry list of flavors that I want to try in the near future. Not great news for my weekly grocery budget, but definitely a party for my taste buds!

What are your favorite drinks to sip on throughout the day?
Do you still drink diet soda or other artificially sweetened beverages?
If not, how did you kick the habit?

Note: Polar Beverages, the Republic of Tea, and the other brands mentioned here don’t know I exist. Much as I would love free stuff (no, seriously, Republic of Tea – you can send me free tea anytime you want, really, it’s no trouble at all), I was not paid for this post. All opinions are unsolicited and 100% honest. 

What’s on your bucket list?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my fitness bucket list. When I first started on my journey toward improved physical fitness and overall wellness, I had a long list of things that I never thought I’d be able to do. I had let my history of injuries and my lack of fitness dominate my mind, and I believed the voice inside my head that whispered, “You can’t do that. There’s no way. Don’t even think about trying that.”

I felt that way about a lot of things. I’d watch the Zumba classes at Studio Poise and think, “Well, that looks like fun, but I could never make it through an hour class… I’d be winded after two songs.” I would listen to my cousin talk about her running group and would long to join her for a race, but a history of knee problems kept me from lacing up my sneakers and giving it a shot.

My favorite example, though, is overcoming my fear of the ski slopes. After college, my group of friends would get together once a year for a ski trip. The first time, they congregated at Lake Placid for a long weekend. I had never skied in my life, and I still remembered the words of my orthopedic surgeon following my knee reconstruction, five years earlier: “You’ll eventually be able to resume most activities, but you should probably avoid things like skiing.” My friends managed to convince me to make the journey out to their cabin, and while I loved reuniting with them and had a great time laughing over beers every night, I hated every second of sitting around during the day while they hit the slopes. There are only so many ways to entertain yourself in a ski lodge, and trust me, it gets old fast. When we decided on Denver for the following year’s trip, I vowed that I would learn to ski before the trip, and I never turned back.

skiing collage

It hasn’t always been a smooth ride. It took me three seasons before I really felt like I had control when I was on the slopes. It was only last year that I was able to ski from the very top of the mountain to the bottom, and even then I stuck to mostly green trails, with only a few blues thrown in when absolutely necessary. I still have moments of panic on trickier sections of the mountain, and without fail, I feel like I might throw up my first time on a chair lift every season. Despite all that, I’ve found a sport that I absolutely adore. I love the feeling of whooshing down a mountain. There’s nothing better than ditching work for a day in the middle of the week and catching a quiet day, so you can find yourself alone on the trails and enjoy the peace and the solitude. Skiing – that sport that so terrified me, that I was convinced would never be an activity I could pursue – has become a highlight of every winter for me, and I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that annoying little voice in my head telling me not to try.

Skiing became the gateway drug to my fitness bucket list. It was the Goliath to my David, and I conquered it – and so why shouldn’t I try any of the other things that once seemed like they would never be possible for unfit, clumsy me? As I progressed in my fitness journey, I became increasingly confident in my body’s ability to handle the challenges I threw at it.

Here’s what my fitness bucket list currently looks like, though it’s constantly evolving:

Run a 10K in 2014. I ran my first 5K in 2013, and I’ve participated in four additional 5K races since then. I want to push myself further, which is why I signed up for the Firefighters’ Memorial 10K on October 19, 2014. I’m also a sucker for a good charity and couldn’t say no to this fundraising opportunity.

Run a half marathon in 2015. This goal feels a little bit insane right now, but if I put it in writing, I’ll have to hold myself accountable. I really want to be able to say I finished a half marathon, and I turn 30 in 2015 – it feels like the right time. I am definitely planning on the RunDisney Wine & Dine half marathon in November of 2015, accompanied by my favorite “What in the hell were we thinking?!” sidekick, Miss Dheerja. However, I recently discovered that the Providence Marathon is the day after my 30th birthday, and it offers a half marathon course as well. What better way to kick off my 30s than by accomplishing something that once seemed impossible? I’m waiting until after the October 10K to register, because if the 10K is an unmitigated disaster I should probably work on more training before trying a half, but this feels like a good fit for me.

Run the Boston Marathon in 2017 as a charity runner. I’m a Boston native. Patriots Day, Marathon Monday, is my favorite day of the year – there’s an atmosphere in my city that is truly special and unique. I started seriously thinking about running the marathon this past spring, while tracking some friends on the app. Watching them progress and celebrating with them at the finish made me realize that I wanted to run this marathon at some point in my life. I don’t see myself ever qualifying – understatement of the year – but I would love to run for charity. I plan to raise money for the Cotting School, and I’m aiming for 2017 as I plan to run in memory of the 15th anniversary of my brother’s death. This gives me plenty of time to train, and also to come up with a fundraising plan to tackle the hefty commitment that Boston entails!

Participate in a triathlon. I certainly don’t plan to go out and run an ironman anytime soon, but I would love to complete a triathlon. I’ve always been a strong swimmer, and cycling has long been a favorite way to stay fit. As I build more confidence in my running abilities and feel more secure in my all-around fitness, I’d love to find a triathlon that appeals to me and train for it. I might start as part of a relay team to get a feel for the whole tri experience, but I really want to achieve this in the next decade.

Get certified to teach a fitness class. This one is still a ways off, I suspect, but I’d love to eventually be able to teach a fitness class. I have always loved teaching, and I so value the relationships I have with the instructors who have made a difference in my wellness journey. I would love to be able to inspire others in the same way. I’m not yet at a point in my journey where I would feel comfortable in front of a class, but this is something I’m always thinking about for some point in the future.

What’s on your personal bucket list?
How do you stay accountable and continue progressing toward your goals?

 

Monday Motivation – Get It Done!

I have to say, I am loving New England weather this week. I woke up to chilly fall temps this morning, and I am so excited to get home tonight and go for a run in my new sneakers. I love running in the fall – it’s such a nice relief after the sweltering heat of the summer, and it doesn’t have the punishing wind aspect of winter running. I’m super grateful that the temps are hitting my sweet spot just as I’m ramping up my 10K training. Five weeks to go!

It’s nice to start off Monday feeling good about the week – but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t benefit from a little #MondayMotivation to keep my spirits high! Sharing a few quotes/images that jumped out at me over the past week.

 

I think part of the reason I’m starting my week on such a positive note has to be the effort I put into preparing for the week over the past two days. I spent a good chunk of my weekend on food prep, so I have a tasty, healthy lunch to look forward to today, and I also listened to my body and made time for workouts on both Saturday and Sunday. I usually take Sunday as a rest day, but I signed up for Stretch & Tone yesterday morning because my body was crying out for some quality time on the mat. Starting the day off with that class set the tone for success, and I actually ended up going for a three mile run as well, and felt great the entire time!

I also tried a recipe for protein pancakes over the weekend, courtesy of Katrina and Gabrielle. They’ve been singing the praises of this recipe for some time now, and I finally got around to buying the ingredients. Not only is this recipe super easy to make, it’s also a blank slate that can be jazzed up however you desire. I’m posting the basic recipe below, and will share successful variations as I try them out!

Basic Protein Pancakes 
Makes three pancakes, approximately 330 calories total

1/2 cup oats (either old fashioned or quick cooking – whatever you have on hand)
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup egg whites

Using your blender, combine the ingredients on high speed until it reaches a smooth, batter-like consistency. I use my Vitamix for about 15 seconds on a low speed to start the process of breaking down the oats, then increase to high speed for another 30-45 seconds total.

Heat up a pan or griddle – I’m lucky enough to have access to a well seasoned cast iron griddle that churns out perfect pancakes every time, but use whatever works for you! Spray with nonstick cooking spray and cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, flip, and cook for another 1-1.5 minutes.

Variations:

Blueberry: Add frozen blueberries to the batter after pouring onto the griddle. Serve with sugar free syrup.

Chocolate Peanut Butter: Add 1 tbsp PB2 to the blender when making the batter. After pouring the batter onto the griddle, add a sprinkling of chocolate chips to the pancake.

Friday Roundup

T-G-I-mother-effing-F, guys. It has been a week. But Friday is finally here, and that means the weekend, and that means…

For the record, my 29-year-old self considers the following to be a successful, kick-ass weekend: getting off the wait list for Sunday morning piloxing, fitting in time for a pedicure, spending time on food prep for the coming week, and making it to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning before everything is already picked over. I know, I know. Try to contain your excitement, my life is beyond thrilling.

It’s been a completely insane week, so I was a little nervous that this roundup might be on the sparse side, but luckily my ADD internet habits paid off despite wall-to-wall meetings and personal commitments. What can I say? I’m a giver.

Book rec: Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You

Betsy Myers spoke at my office about a month ago, and I finally got around to purchasing her book this week. She served as the chief operations officer for Obama’s 2008 campaign, worked in the Clinton administration, spent several years at the Kennedy School, and currently serves as the founding director of Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business. Much of her insight rings true to me as a female in a management role, but it also resonates with my personal interest and investment in leadership and helping others to find their inner leaders. She organizes her book around seven basic tenets: authenticity, connection, respect, clarity, collaboration, learning, and courage. I highly recommend checking out this book – I’m loving it and it’s definitely helping me to improve my business skills.

Sunday Funday – The Quest for Healthier Football Snacks

Fall is here, and that means the triumphant return of Sunday Funday. I live for fantasy football, red zone, and spending my Sundays on the couch or at a bar watching the Patriots. Let’s be real for a minute here – it’s really freaking difficult to feel like I’m indulging in a relaxing Sunday Funday without totally undoing my healthy living efforts for the previous week. That means just saying no to the nachos and pitchers of beer, but I have been spending more time combing Pinterest for healthy twists on some of my favorite football snacks. I created a Sunday Funday Pinterest board to help keep track of my finds, and I’m very excited to try this Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Dip this weekend. I’ll be subbing low fat cream cheese and reduced fat shredded cheese, and may also incorporate some shredded chicken for a protein boost.  (Yes, I know that gif has absolutely nothing to do with healthy football snacks, but I will never ever ever skip the opportunity to share the #buttfumble. Sorry, not sorry.)

New Fitness DVDs to Try! The Firm Zip Trainer Medicine Ball Kit

I was at book club last night and mentioned offhand that I wanted to try a bosu ball style workout as one of my next adventures. One thing led to another, and I ended up leaving book club outfitted with this DVD set! Our super generous book club host (who happens to be my former AP English teacher and a kickass educational blogger – check out her stuff at Scholastic, the Center for Teaching Quality, and HuffPost.) offered up this set; she had tried it and it didn’t really click with her preferred workout style, so she passed it along to me to try out. I can’t wait to tackle this over the weekend and will definitely report back on my experiences!

 10K Training Update

As you may recall from last week’s Friday roundup, I signed up for my first 10K! I’ll be running the Firefighters’ Memorial 10K on October 19, 2014. I’m fundraising for College Bound Middle School in Dorchester, MA – click here to donate! – and have just about 5 weeks to get myself into decent enough running shape that I won’t be totally mortified by my time. On a friend’s recommendation, I decided to check out Jeff Galloway’s training program. Naturally his 10K training is set up for 13 weeks… so I’m a little behind the curve… but I’m willing to try anything! I tried Couch to 5K when I ran my first race last December and the program really didn’t work for me – I just wasn’t a fan. I’m excited to try Galloway’s system of alternating run/walk intervals to help improve my time and build up my endurance. Galloway is also the go-to training system for the RunDisney events, and as I’m hoping for my first half marathon to be the 2015 Wine and Dine half with Dheerja, I figured now is as good a time as any to try out the system. Updates to follow!

What were your highlights for the past week? Any tips for me as I approach my first 10K?

Mudderella Boston Recap

On Saturday, I participated in the Mudderella Boston obstacle run with a team of women that I met through Studio Poise. Confession: I entered into the day feeling less excited and more panicked/nauseous. I signed up after a few too many glasses of wine one night, because these are pretty fantastic ladies who can talk me into most activities…but the thought of running five miles and tackling those muddy obstacles was definitely giving me anxiety attacks.

Every good training plan should always include craft nights. And merlot. Lots and lots of merlot.

Every good training plan should always include craft nights. And merlot. Lots and lots of merlot.

We decided to whole-heartedly ignore the training tips on the Mudderella official website, and instead prepped for the event our own way… with wine and crafting. Race day, we were surprised by how many people commented on our blinged out team tanks. A female-centric race screams glitter and gemstones to me, but we didn’t see any other teams rocking the bling. Still a little baffled by that one!

My nerves weren’t helped at all by the ability to see the race map ahead of time. Somehow, knowing what obstacles were coming just made me even more convinced that this was going to be a disaster. I had very little confidence in my abilities. In my head, I think I still expected the old Colleen to show up at the race Saturday morning. It was almost as if everything I’ve accomplished the past 18 months flew out the window.

This did not reassure me in any way that I would be able to tackle the race.

This did not reassure me in any way that I would be able to tackle the race.

Luckily, I had some amazing teammates to help me overcome this completely irrational panic. I definitely would not have been able to finish this race without these women by my side. I could continue to gush about them for paragraphs, but I’ll keep it short and simple. I’m grateful every day for the decision to give Studio Poise a try – the community of women I’ve met there have become some of my biggest supporters and I’m lucky to call them my friends.

Don't we look like we're ready to crush it?

Don’t we look like we’re ready to crush it?

As it turns out, the race itself wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected it to be. First off, I can’t imagine trying to run the whole course. Props to the women who attempted it; we stuck to a brisk walk and finished the course in two hours. I honestly think it would have been more dangerous to try to run the trails in between the obstacles – the terrain was very uneven, slippery at points, and filled with ditches and potholes. I was perfectly content to walk it and avoid a broken ankle, thankyouverymuch.

The obstacles themselves weren’t nearly as bad as I had made them out to be. Don’t get me wrong – they definitely challenged me. I felt pushed out of my comfort zone and was surprised time and again when I successfully completed one of the obstacles. I only skipped one obstacle – the “New Heights” challenge, which required scaling a wall and descending the other side. I didn’t feel like I could get a good grip on the top of the wall and didn’t feel safe trying to swing myself over, so instead I became the team’s designated spotter when descending the other side. I don’t regret skipping it – I didn’t personally feel safe and I valued my ability to finish the race more than risking a broken bone.

Other than that, I felt like I was well prepared for all of the challenges. The mud delivered as promised. We managed to avoid getting too aggressively mud-covered for the first half of the race. More power to you, crazy people jumping and splashing in mud puddles from the get-go, but I am going to avoid mud in my ears until absolutely necessary.

about to hit the mud

Uh, you want me to do what now? How on earth am I going to do this without submerging my face in that mud pit….

 

Okay. This isn't as bad as I expected. Just don't breathe through your nose and you'll avoid the smell... and try not to think about the mud that's embedding itself under your nails right now...

Okay. This isn’t as bad as I expected. Just don’t breathe through your nose and you’ll avoid the smell… and try not to think about the mud that’s embedding itself under your nails right now…

File this under "things I never in a million years thought I would be able to do."

File this under “things I never in a million years thought I would be able to do.”

My personal favorite challenge was the “Hat Trick” obstacle. This involved scaling a cargo net wall to the top of a slide, then plunging down into a pool of water. It was a huge adrenaline rush and I am really proud of our team for completing it together – I love this series of photos! My only regret is that this wasn’t the last event of the day, as we were sort of almost clean at this point… and then had to dive back into mud for the last mile before crossing the finish line.

slide trio pics

The very last obstacle was one that I had worried about quite a bit prior to the race – a tire obstacle course. Balance is not my strong suit, folks. I was super nervous about getting through this event, but by the time we got there, I was so ready to crush it and get across that finish line. I took my time, figured out a strategy, and was so proud of myself when I made it through without losing my balance.

Slow and steady... balance, balance... you're only a few feet away from that beer...

Slow and steady… balance, balance… you’re only a few feet away from that beer…

We finished strong as a team. I’m so proud of us for helping each other through the race course! If you had told me, two years ago, that I would sign up for a mud run and successfully complete it, I would have told you that you were crazy.

Team BAM!

Team BAM!

So, after all of that, would I do it again? The answer is a resounding YES… But…

I don’t think I would participate in another Tough Mudder event. The 2014 Boston Mudderella had to be relocated several times, and the ultimate location was two hours from Boston, up in Maine. This wasn’t a huge problem for our team – we had a generous volunteer to drive us to and from the race, so none of us had to face the drive on top of the physical exertion – but other teams weren’t so lucky, or were coming from even farther away. The Tough Mudder organization didn’t do a great job of handling the venue change, and didn’t offer refunds for teams who could no longer participate.

I also felt that Mudderella and the Tough Mudder organization misrepresented the charity aspect of the run. They advertise a charitable partnership with Futures Without Violence, but none of the race registration fee actually goes to charity. Futures Without Violence received funds only if teams did additional fundraising, which is something that wasn’t clear to me at the outset.

I would definitely do another mud run in the future, though – I had a great time and really loved that it pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I feel better equipped to tackle a more challenging run in the future now that I know what to expect and I know what I’m capable of. I definitely advocate having a team of people who you trust to support you and cheer you on, as my teammates really made the race day experience memorable and positive for me, from start to finish. However, I’ll do more research next time before picking a race, to make sure I choose an event run by an organization that I am more comfortable supporting.

Have you ever participated in a mud run or obstacle race?
What parts did you most enjoy?

It’s not about the starting line.

I’ve been on a bit of a self-improvement kick lately. Physical wellness is only one aspect of overall health, so I’m trying to be more conscious of the mind/body/spirit connection. My professional life, in particular, is the area of my life that I feel needs the most work – it’s been a very rocky year in my division and I’m mindful that I should be continuing to learn and develop my professional skills in order to remain competitive in a challenging environment.

I stocked up on some personal development books to help reframe how I think about my career and my professional progress. Right now, I’m about a third of the way through John C. Maxwell’s Sometimes You Win–Sometimes You Learn: Life’s Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses. I highly recommend it to anyone who is going through a period of change and disruption in their professional lives, but that’s not my primary aim in mentioning it here. I’m finding the text is also very relevant on my weight loss journey. Maxwell’s insights on learning from failures are proving to be incredibly helpful in demonstrating how to put a positive spin on moments of weakness or stumbles along the path toward wellness.

In particular, I wanted to share the below quote.

Background image reused from Flickr user LindsayEnsing under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Background image reused from Flickr user LindsayEnsing under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Each of us started somewhere. If you haven’t yet begun your journey toward wellness, ask yourself – what’s holding me back? Today, right now, right where you are, can be your starting point. Keep your eye on where you want to be and always continue working toward the goal. The finish line may feel like it’s miles away, but every good choice you make brings you closer to your goal.

What goals are you currently working toward? How do you keep yourself motivated to continue working toward your personal finish line?