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.


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.


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?

Tech support

With so many options on the market, how do you know what products are right for you?

With so many options on the market, how do you know what products are right for you?   [Bottom right image reused from Flickr user laughingboyottawa under the terms of the Creative Commons license. The image has been cropped for the purposes of this post.]

I get asked all the time about the tools and technologies that I rely on to help me track my progress and evaluate my performance during my workouts. There are so many products out there, and a bevy of internet reviews to accompany them. I’d like to share the apps, trackers, and websites that I rely on regularly to keep myself accountable. I wouldn’t be where I am in my journey without these tools!

Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor [Amazon, $60]

In my opinion, if you purchase only one tech accessory to help you achieve your fitness goals, a heart rate monitor should be the top priority. This is a low-frills product; you can spend a lot more on a fancier model, but I find that the FT4 does the job for me. You wear a chest strap and a watch when working out; the chest strap monitors your heart rate and communicates data to the watch. This is a significantly more accurate way to gauge your calorie burn when working out, because it actually assesses your exertion and calculates the effort you’re putting into your workout. Compare the output to online calorie calculators or to the calories burned output on cardio equipment at the gym, and you might be surprised at the dramatic differences in data! If you have been tracking calories using an online tool like My Fitness Pal but aren’t seeing results, chances are you think you’re burning more calories than you actually are. Since I started using my heart rate monitor and tracking the data myself, I’ve been better able to adjust my diet and have seen improved results.

FitBit Flex [FitBit Online Store, $100]

The Flex is actually my second FitBit. I first purchased the FitBit One, but I didn’t stick with it. I would forget to transfer the pedometer from my office clothes to my workout pants, or leave it on my workout pants after changing and forget to retrieve it before work the next day. I upgraded to the Flex in fall of 2013 and haven’t looked back. It’s water resistant so while I have to remove it before swimming, I can leave it on when I shower — so I basically leave it on 24/7, except for when it needs to charge. The battery life is fantastic, and I usually only need to charge it once a week, overnight. I find that wearing the tracker on my wrist helps me to be mindful of my activity. I work at a sedentary desk job during the day, and glancing down at my wrist reminds me to regularly stand up and move around my office. I aim for 10,000 steps or ~5 miles daily, and I’ve found that my activity has increased since I bought the tracker. It’s also a great conversation starter! So many other people use similar wristband trackers and it’s a great way to break the ice when you meet new people.

Map My Run [Website | Apple App | Android App]

Map My Run syncs up with Facebook, so you can easily find friends and share your accomplishments. This is great for motivation! The interface not only uses GPS to track your route, it also provides your pace and splits in real time. The app voiceover will play over your music during the run at each mile to let you know how you’re doing – which is great encouragement and helps to self-adjust without needing to pause and look at a screen. I’ve had a seamless experience using this app alongside either my iTunes music catalog or Spotify playlists, whereas other training apps seemed to have problems playing nice with other apps on my phone. There is a paid “MVP” option, but I stick with the free features. If and when I begin training for a more serious rate, I might consider upgrading, but as a casual runner, the free app works just fine for my needs.

Map Pedometer [Website]

While Map My Run is great for areas where you are already familiar with the terrain, sometimes it’s helpful to have a route in mind before you head out. If you’re training for a marathon and need to hit a certain distance, sketching out a route in advance is key. That’s where Map Pedometer comes in. It uses Google Maps and has a very user-friendly, bare bones interface. You can key in your starting location and use the map to plan out your route, and you can save routes for future reference. I love using this website when I’m traveling and want to have an idea of where I’m going before I leave my hotel, but I also use it close to home to plan for distance runs.

My Fitness Pal [Website]

This is my go-to for meal tracking and for recording my workouts. I prefer to use the website version; I have the app on my phone for entering meals on the go, but the app doesn’t include the community forum features of the main site. My Fitness Pal can sync up with your Facebook account to find friends, and I’ve also found a fantastic support network of people I’ve met on the forums. It’s easy to find community members also trying the same at home DVD program as you, for instance, and these people are such a great source of motivation and support. I’ve found the food tracking to be pretty accurate, and I love the updated recipe entry feature, which allows you to input recipes from links online and lets the site do the ingredient matching from its extensive database. I would caution against relying on the calorie counts programmed into the site, though. I track my workouts but manually enter my calorie burn as reported by my trusty FT4. As a sample, MFP says I should burn 655 calories in an hour Zumba class; my actual burn ranges from 375-500 depending on how hard I work on any given day (and depending on how evil the instructor is feeling at the beginning of class…) I’m always looking for new friends on the site – feel free to add me as a friend!

So, there you have it – these are the tools and resources that I absolutely couldn’t live without.

What technology helps you to track your workouts and monitor your fitness progress? Disagree with anything I wrote here? Did I leave out your favorite tool? Let me know in the comments!

Blogland Tour

Last week, my friend Stephanie over at Sandpaper & Glue tagged me in a “get to know you” Blogland Tour.

Sandpaper & Glue

Sandpaper & Glue

Stephanie and I have been friends since high school – we bonded over an unhealthy love of gel pens and a mutual fondness for the varsity hockey players in freshman year history class, and stayed close through our shared theater kid and awkward emo music years. Stephanie blogs about her experiences DIY-ing on a budget; she and her amazing husband Matt are in their first home and learning as they go. She features a “House & Project Tour” that’s a great place to start to get to know her – it gives an overview of everything she’s tackled, and features some stunning before and afters. I remember the pictures she shared with friends when she first put an offer in on this house, and trust me, it’s crazy to see how far she’s come on a tight budget with minimal outside help!

Thanks for tagging me, Steph – and now let’s get down to it!

What are you working on right now? 

I’m still very new to this whole process. Right now, I’m two weeks into my Focus T25 Alpha challenge – you can read about it here! I am also going to be running a Facebook Challenge group for anyone who wants to tackle T25, so if you’re interested leave a comment or send me an email, and click below if you’re interested in picking up the DVDs for yourself.


Behind the scenes, I’m working on some plans for where I hope to take this blog over the next 3-6 months. I am always working to educate myself about health and wellness, by following other bloggers, listening to podcasts, reading scientific research and generally being aware of current news and trends. I’m also always looking for new workouts to try and review for the site – leave a comment if you have a recommendation for something you’d like me to review! 

How does your work differ from others?

I decided to start blogging for two reasons. First, I didn’t see a lot of fitness bloggers out there who I could identify with. I try not to dwell on appearances, but I just didn’t see anyone who looked like me. In so many cases, the other bloggers out there are already at their “after” picture – and oftentimes, their “before” was a picture that I’d be proud to call my “after”! I wanted to start a blog for other women like me — women who are on a long process of changing their entire life, women who are very much still at the “during” stage of their journey and may be there for some time to come.

Second, I started hearing from many other women at the studio where I work out that they were inspired by me. One woman told me that she joined the studio after seeing my Before & During shots from August of 2013. She felt that I was a realistic portrayal of striving for a healthier lifestyle and gave her the confidence to believe that she could also make the change in her own life. I realized that I wasn’t the only woman who was desperate to see other women like myself out there making positive changes in their lives! The encouragement from the women around me helped to nudge me to start this blog, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

socrates change quote

Why do you write about what you do?

I had been working on improving my health and fitness for eighteen months before I started blogging. I’ve always been a very verbally driven person; I kept a journal throughout high school and college, and I realized that I was missing a written document of this process. I felt that I needed to add something to my existing routine, and blogging seemed like a great way to stimulate my creative desires while also holding myself accountable. I also wanted to be able to share my experiences with friends and family, and as this blog grows I hope to reach a broader audience of normal women looking for the inspiration to make a positive change in their lives.

little women quote

How does your writing/creative process work? 

I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to organizing my work. I use several apps that help to keep me on track. I use Pocket to save articles that I stumble across and want to read, or to flag interesting research that could inspire a future blog post. I rely on Pinterest to help me organize all of the amazing (and free!) online workouts that are available, and I’m slowly curating my pins to build up my Web Workouts page, which is still very much under construction. I use Evernote and Todoist to keep track of new ideas as they come to me, and to plan and schedule upcoming posts.

But there are also times when inspiration strikes and I just have to go with it. I try to be organized, but I would never want my creativity to be stifled by imposing unnecessary order on myself. If an idea hits me, I’ll go with it – no need to hold it up in draft form or let it languish on a To Do list. Other posts can always wait! I find that this is a balance that works for me.

I begin with the words. As I said before, I am very much a verbally driven individual. Once I have a solid draft, I’ll start looking at ways to incorporate images into my posts. I’m not a great photographer and don’t have a fantastic camera just yet, so I source photos from the web, relying on Creative Commons licenses (big credit to my real world publishing gig for helping me to understand the crazy complicated world of copyright law and attributions!) I love PicMonkey for photo editing and for adding embellishments both to my own photos and to those used under a CC-BY license.

Here’s the part where I’m supposed to tag other bloggers. Well… confession time… I am still working on building my blogging circle! I have lots of blogs that I follow and admire, but not too many that I know well enough to tag. That said, check out these folks, who I think are pretty fantastic.

Melissa Being Martha

Melissa was the instructress for my first ever class at Studio Poise, way back in late February, 2013. I was completely terrified when I walked into that studio, but she was warm and welcoming, and she made sure to help me with modifications when some moves were beyond me. Her support and cheerful demeanor helped to give me the courage to keep going back to class and to push myself further instead of giving up. Her blog captures her spirit and her creativity, as she documents her adventures in bringing Pinterest to life! She’s a new mom so she has to balance posting to her blog with her work life and her life with her (totally adorable) son, so be patient with her; I promise she’s worth it!

A Mighty Fine Life 

This is a personal blog written by one of my dearest friends, Brian. Brian grew up down the street from me so we’ve known each other since we were wee little things, and we reconnected as gigantic theater nerds and emo kids in high school. I haven’t carried many of my high school friends with me into adult life, but Brian’s one of the good ones. He doesn’t post often, but when he does, his voice is so unique and his stories so rich that they are well worth the wait. (He also has an Animorphs reread blog which is a nostalgic hoot, if that’s your kind of thing.).


What are some of your favorite blogs? I love getting recommendations for new people to follow – leave a comment if there’s someone you think I need to check out!

What drives you?

Life wouldn’t be life without a few stumbles along the way, am I right?

It’s week 2 of my Focus T25 challenge, and I’ve encountered my first roadblock. I was away over the weekend for a boating trip with some great friends, and I arrived home a lot more run down than I anticipated. The combination of sun, swimming, and socializing (specifically the sangria, in the interest of total honesty!) knocked me out flat, and I didn’t get in my Monday T25 workout.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t give up. I just decided that this week would begin on Tuesday, and I’d get my double session in on Saturday instead of Friday. A huge part of the reason I went with T25 for this first challenge was the ease of working it into my schedule, and this week, that means I just choose a different day to start the calendar.

When you stumble, it’s important to get back up and keep moving forward. Don’t let missteps derail your progress. To that end, it’s a good idea to always have in mind what it is that’s driving you forward.

eliot motivation quote

Original photo credited to Flickr user pfly – edited under terms of Creative Commons license

What’s my motivation? The biggest one is striving for overall wellness. I began my journey toward a healthier lifestyle following a cancer diagnosis. It was a real wake up call for me – there are so many things I can’t control, but my lifestyle is well within my ability to reshape and improve. Through eating clean and making exercise a regular part of my daily routine, I’ve found a healthier version of myself. I love feeling stronger. I have more energy and I feel like my life is fuller now. I’m not afraid to try new things and I trust my body to get me through whatever challenges I face.

That’s what got me out of bed this morning and in front of the TV with Shaun T — the drive to continue to be better. I don’t ever want to be back to where I was when I began this journey. I want to keep moving forward to a brighter, fuller life.

What motivates you? What keeps you moving toward your ultimate goals? Have you experienced setbacks that you had to overcome? Tell me about them in the comments!