Friday Roundup: 10/24

I have to say, these Friday Roundups might just be my favorite part of the week! All week long I mentally save things to put in this post. This has been a trying week (more family health drama!) but looking forward to writing this post has helped me to keep a positive mindset.

I’m going to be traveling through Wednesday of next week for work, so posts will be sparse for a few days. I will try to sneak something in while I’m gone, but I make no promises! Apologies in advance – I promise to be a better blogger in November. Now, on to the good stuff!

Kitchen Excitement: New Lasagna Pan & Cookbook

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I have to say, surprise presents are definitely the best presents. A box showed up on my door yesterday containing this gorgeous All Clad lasagna pan and Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian CookingConfession time: I adore Italian food. It’s my favorite food to eat, yes, but it’s also my favorite cuisine to cook as well! Americanized Italian food (think chicken parmesan, with fried chicken cutlets drenched in melted cheese) is definitely not even remotely healthy, but true Italian food can actually fit really neatly into a clean eating meal plan, as long as you seek out high quality ingredients and are careful to keep your macros balanced. Marcella Hazan is credited with introducing classic Italian methods and cuisine to America, and I’m really excited to dive into this cookbook. Nerd confession time: my favorite cookbooks aren’t filled with glossy photos perfected by food stylists. They’re books like this one, light on imagery but heavy on history. This cookbook is filled with explanations of where recipes originated and detailed information on various ingredients – it aims to teach so much more than just the recipes. I’m also pretty giddy about this pan. It’s branded as a lasagna pan, but it’s a perfect size for roasting vegetables and smaller cuts of meat – I’m thrilled to not have to break out my gigantic turkey roaster whenever I want to roast something. So thank you, Uncle Richard – one of my most loyal blog followers from day one – for this wonderful, thoughtful gift. I promise that a proper written thank you note is on its way, but I also just had to share my excitement here on the blog, and I can’t wait to share some recipes!

Fitness Steal: Les Mills Pump On Sale!

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Before I joined Studio Poise, I had a membership with Boston Sports Club. I wasn’t the best at sticking to a workout schedule, but the one class I attended regularly was Les Mills’ Body Pump. I absolutely loved the workout, and I have to say that while I love everything about my SP classes, I do miss Body Pump. So I was totally pumped (I couldn’t help it…) to see that the at-home DVD and barbell set was on sale for 40% off, and contemplated the set for all of 30 seconds before placing an order. The photo above shows everything that came in the basic set – the DVDs, a nutrition guide and a program guide, plus the barbell and weights (two 10 lb plates and two 5 lb plates; I also added two 2.5 lb plates to my order). I’m psyched to add this into my ever-changing rotation of at home routines!

New Music: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

1-2-3 honesty, I’ve typed and deleted and retyped a paragraph about this album more times than I can count. I’ve been a fan of Andrew McMahon’s music for a long, long time – from his first band, Something Corporate, through his time headlining Jack’s Mannequin, and now am so excited to see his work as a solo artist. I could gush on and on about his music and completely embarrass myself, but instead I’ll just say this: trust me when I say that you need to give this album a listen. If you want to download the MP3s, you can order the album through Amazon, but it’s also available to stream through Spotify. 

Holiday Fun: Halloween Adventures

I’ll be honest, Halloween has never been my favorite holiday, but I can’t help but get excited when I see how seriously some of my friends take the holiday. (Don’t believe me? Check out Sandpaper & Glue – I would never show up to her Halloween party without a costume!) I hemmed and hawed over what to dress up as this year, because I refuse to buy a costume. For one thing, store bought costumes tend to be insanely expensive for a flimsy bit of cheap polyester; but more importantly, they all seem to be made for women who are significantly smaller than I am. No thank you! I did, however, find a costume online that inspired me, and I decided to dress up as a minion. I already own a denim dress that is reminiscent of the minions’ overalls, and I’ll wear it over a yellow long-sleeved shirt and yellow tights. Add in some craft store projects for the accessories and I’m pretty psyched about my homemade costume! I will share pictures after my Halloween parties over the next week or so, but if you follow me on Instagram you might get a sneak peek. And yes, I absolutely will be wandering around those parties speaking only in Minion-ese.

What’s your favorite cuisine to prepare – any healthy twists on favorite classics?
What are you dressing up as for Halloween?
Let me know in the comments!

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?

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!

STATurday: T25 Alpha Week 1

WHEW. I did it, y’all! I survived Week 1 of Focus T25 Alpha. As you may remember, two big components of any SMART goal are that they are measurable and time-defined. One reason I chose this particular fitness program was because it built these factors right into the workout calendar. Every Saturday, instead of popping a DVD into the machine, I pick up my trusty measuring tape and pull together the data. STATurday – the day I (hopefully) get to see my progress reflected in the numbers!

Before we get to the numbers, I wanted to share a quick recap of how yesterday went.

You guys. I can’t accurately convey my reaction when I checked the workout calendar for Friday’s routine…

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Luckily, selfies exist and I had the foresight to grab my camera and document the experience:

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The program is called Focus T25, Shaun T! It’s not Focus T50! YOU LIED TO ME, SHAUN T. I FEEL BETRAYED. Just when I was starting to like you, you go and spring this on me.

… It’s possible that I sometimes tend to be a little bit dramatic. Anyway. Moving right along.

Once I got past the initial shock and betrayal, I realized that this made sense. Upping the ante on Friday’s workout would give me the extra little oomph I needed to head into the weekend on the right foot. So, I laced up my sneakers, I pressed play, and I threw everything I had into those 50 minutes. I actually felt pretty good throughout the first round, Lower Focus. It was my first time trying this workout, and it is a killer. Lots of squats and lunges – but definitely within what my body is capable of doing. Tacking Cardio 1.0 on after that was brutal, though. I found myself following Tania, the modifier, for most of the workout, because my legs were totally burned out after the first round. Despite how wiped out I felt by the end of it, though, I survived. And when all was said and done, I felt pretty great about my burn for the day!

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(And then I went and took a Piloxing class at Studio Poise, because I’m a masochist. Obviously.)

Annnnnd… drumroll please… now on to the exciting part – STATURDAY!

Focus T25 Alpha Week 1 Results


So, a quick disclaimer — I took my measurements on 7/12 as part of a Facebook challenge group I’m participating in, and I didn’t re-measure last week prior to starting Focus T25, so these measurements are a combination of this week’s efforts with Shaun T added to three weeks of Shakeology. Please ALSO bear in mind that I am very much still in the midst of my journey toward fitness and I have a lot of toning and trimming left to do. Every individual is on his or her own journey toward wellness and no two sets of stats will look the same. Tracking these numbers is as much for my own reference as it is to inspire others who are thinking about setting off on their own path to a healthier lifestyle.


What’s this all about?

So, you’ve somehow stumbled across this blog. Thanks! I have no idea how you got here, as I’m just starting out and things like “SEO” mean nothing to me, but I’m glad to have you.

Now… why should you stick around? I really hope that you will navigate over to the right-hand menu and decide to follow this here blog, but I also get that I haven’t done much just yet to convince you that this blog can hold your interest for the long run. What’s the point of this blog? Why should you care?

The title of this blog, “Being Your Change,” says a lot about what I hope to accomplish here. One of my favorite quotes comes from Mahatma Gandhi:

Change has to start with you. You need to be your own change. If you want to live a healthier lifestyle, feel stronger, and improve yourself, you have to start by making the decision to pursue positive changes. My goal with this blog is to document my own process of deciding to “be the change,” and to help others to find the right changes to make for their own healthier lifestyles.

So, what will that actually entail?

  • Workout reviews and recommendations. I love trying new things and plan to review them here. I’m based in the Boston area so many studio reviews will be from this area, but I do travel a lot, so I’ll try to feature fitness classes from other locations as well. I’ll also feature DVDs and YouTube series that are accessible anywhere, anytime!
  • Healthy meal ideas and recipes. I love to cook! I’m a big fan of clean eating and try to avoid processed foods whenever possible. When I find a recipe that works for me, I will share it here.
  • Fitness news and controversies. There’s a lot of information out there. I don’t pretend to be an expert – I don’t have a degree in medicine, nor do I have any certifications in nutrition. However, I do consider myself someone who likes to stay abreast of news stories. When I read an article that interests me, I’ll share it here with commentary.
  • Balancing a busy life with a healthy life. It’s really easy to make excuses. I work a full time job and also volunteer 20 hours a week with a local non profit. For years, I used those commitments to justify skipping workouts or grabbing takeout instead of cooking a healthy meal. I still struggle with balance, especially figuring out how to have a full social life in my late 20s without feeling like I’m making sacrifices.
  • Successes and failures. When things work out, they should be shared and celebrated – and when they’re a disaster, well, there’s something to learn from there, as well. I will put it all out there, my highs and my lows, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Writing has always been a part of my life – from the locked pink diary when I was 8, to the emo kid livejournal in high school (admit it, you had one too!), and now this is just another iteration. I felt I needed to write about my journey in order for it to feel complete. I invite you to join me on this path and I look forward to learning and exploring with you!

What changes do you want to see in your own life? How could I help you to realize this goals? Leave a comment below!