Monthly Archives: May 2011

Stretching Before A Run

When I was growing up, I was always told to make sure I stretch before a workout. Whether I was jetting off to a soccer game, cheerleading practice or a softball tournament, my coaches always made me stretch beforehand. Some made me spend a lot of time stretching (at least 15 minutes) while others just wanted me to spend one or two minutes on it to loosen up my limbs.

Broomball game in soccer sweats.

These days I’m told not to stretch at all. Quite the 180, huh?  Studies now show that stretching beforehand can actually hinder your performance, and a warm-up is a better idea. So which is it?

Personally, it depends on what type of activity I’m doing. When it comes to sports, I almost never stretch before. If I have some spare time I’ll give a quick pull on my quads, but I’m more focused on a light warm-up. But when I go for a run, I always stretch. Only for a few minutes, but I give special attention to my quads, calves and hamstrings. I’ve tried running twice without any stretching and couldn’t get it out of my head that I would’ve done better if I had taken the time to stretch.

So is it all mental?

I think at least a portion of it is. Running is a mentally driven sport. Most of the time, if you can get past your mental barriers, you’ll move a lot farther and faster than you thought possible.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stretch at all though.

Basically, the debate is about whether you should stretch before and after your workout. Either way, you must stretch after if you want to prevent injury and reach your maximum performance level. Your muscles need it. Don’t believe me? Take a beginner yoga class and your body will worship you afterward. It happens to me every time.

So which works better for you? Do you stretch before or after your workouts? Have you tried not stretching before a run? How did it feel? I really want to know! 

In other news, my back is feeling better today. I laced up the sneaks and went for a three-mile run this morning. I took it easy, but my form was much better and my legs felt stronger. I came home a hot sweaty mess.

Gotta love shiny, sweaty skin.

In case you were wondering, my top is an Adidas sleeveless top with CLIMALITE technology. I don’t know the specific name, but if I figure it out I’ll be sure to update you! This top is another one of my faves because of its lightweight fabric and breathability. It doesn’t cling to my skin when I run, but it hugs all the right curves to give a flattering look.

After my run, I settled in for a big bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios with one percent low-fat milk and half of a banana. I ate the other half of the banana immediately.

Honey nut is better than regular.

Here’s a random tidbit about me: I can’t eat the ends of a banana, or any brown spots. I just can’t do it. I always tear off the very ends of a banana and toss ’em, and if there are any brown spots, I won’t eat that section. Am I the only one out there who does this?

It should also be noted that this is the first time in a really long time that I’ve eaten breakfast after a run. Post about that to come soon because I think this is something that is very individual and I would love to get your ideas on the subject!

Now I’m off to start reading Once A Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. I’m told this piece of fiction is basically worshipped among those in the running community, so I’m excited to dig in!

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Pain in the Back

It’s just like a pain in the butt, except it renders me helpless when a flare-up decides to occur. Which has been happening more frequently these days.

After I ran my half-marathon back in April, the right side of my lower back started giving me some trouble. Nothing major, but just a little more pain than I was used to. I told myself to toughen up and ignored it. No need to miss a workout when it doesn’t hurt that bad. Most of the time it would only bother me when I woke up in the morning or when I was relaxing to go to sleep, anyway.

Unfortunately, the pain has gotten worse. Last week I did a 30-minute treadmill interval program, then followed it up with Jillian Michaels’ “No More Trouble Zones” DVD.

Feel the burn.

Later that night, and for the next two days, my back hurt so bad that I couldn’t even bend over to flip my hair upside down and tie it in a ponytail. When I can’t bend so that my body is at a 90-degree angle, you know there’s a problem.

I finally started analyzing everything that I was doing and paid attention to when the flare-ups occurred. Then I called my older brother, Justin, who’s currently in medical school in Philadelphia. Although he obviously can’t diagnose me on the phone, he provided more insight than I had when I dialed his number.

He's so smart...

Basically, he thinks that my pelvis is overcompensating for my left knee, which is the knee that had a torn ACL and meniscus back in 2009. The reasons for his diagnosis (from what I understand):

  1. The right side of my lower back hurts, less than a finger-length away from my spine.
  2. The pain is centralized and always in one location, rather than spread throughout my whole back or radiating up and down my spine.
  3. It hurts the most after strength-training, especially when squatting.

I’m sure there are other reasons that I simply don’t understand, but those seem to be the big three. Everything he said to me makes sense, so I’m going to listen to his advice until he gets home on Sunday (yay!) and can actually take a look at me. I must say, it definitely is nice to have a doctor in the family. Beats paying a chiropractor to tell me the same thing!

So for now, I have to take it easy on the strength training. No more squats or lunges (I love squats!) and all upper body work needs to be done while I’m sitting in order to stabilize my back.

He didn’t take running away from me though, so today I headed out for a three-mile hill workout. Whenever I’m running back home, I don’t intend for it to be a hill workout, but it always ends up that way because they are everywhere. Sometimes I wish I was in Florida where it’s always flat. The only thing that gets me through is constantly telling myself I’ll be grateful for it later.

Keep rollin' on.

I finished the run a little slower than I would’ve liked, but I think it’s because I was paying close attention to my form. Admittedly, my posture sucked. I could feel my shoulders slumping and my chest leaning forward too far. I tried to push back my shoulders, but whenever I did I felt like I was exerting ten times more energy and quickly released it. Needless to say, it was not my best run.

My back doesn’t usually hurt after a run, so I avoided anything else for the day. Instead, I decided to soak up some vitamin D while breezing through Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks on my Kindle.

Kindle it up.

The book was pretty good! The ending was cheesy, but you kind of have to expect that when you pick up a Nicholas Sparks novel. However, his writing was much different this time because he went into an in-depth viewpoint — one of the main characters was physically abused by her husband, who was a Boston police officer. Sparks delved into the husband’s point of view and really brought out the constantly changing mindset that these people go through (I’m assuming Sparks did his research). It was an intriguing read and the reason I finished the book in less than 24 hours.

Then I settled down for a nice summer meal with my family.

This meal screams "Memorial Day Weekend!" to me.

Not much beats grilled chicken, pasta and potato salads. Yum!

Have you ever trained through an injury? How did you get past it? And how did you spend your  holiday weekend? 

Bridal Shower Success

Today was an amazing day!

Cake with some bling.

Cake with some bling.

After a lot of preparation, Liz’s bridal shower finally came to fruition this morning! The whole thing went off without a hitch and I think everyone was pleased. Liz kept gushing her thanks and a lot of the guests told me what a great shower it was, so I’m going to take that to mean it was a success 🙂

I planned the shower at the V.F.W. in Yorkville, about a ten minute drive from Liz’s house. I actually stayed with Liz the entire week — I don’t have a car and she needed help packing up her apartment because she’s moving to Oklahoma three days after the wedding — so it was easy for me to pop over there at 9:30 this morning to set up for an 11 o’clock start time.

Flutes for Mimosas.

It lasted until 1:30 p.m. and everything ran together seamlessly. Nobody was left awkwardly sitting around wondering, “uhh, what’s next?” We played a few games, ate yummy food and opened tons of presents!

Liz opening presents, me taking notes.

Now that it’s over, I’ve realized there are a few key things that I really wish I had known when I began planning the bridal shower. So for all of you maid of honor’s out there, this one’s for you!

1. Do a lot of research. 

By that, I mean read a lot of blogs. There are a ton of women out there who include the details of their wedding and you can draw a lot of inspiration from them. I borrowed ideas from a lot of different parties and it helped make Liz’s unique.

Fun napkins.

2. Spend your money wisely. 

If you’re not careful, your money is going to disappear really quickly. Every time I stepped into a store, I immediately went to the wedding section and wanted to buy a billion things for the shower because everything was so cute. Luckily, my wallet screamed loud enough for me to listen and I didn’t blow all of my savings.

Look for anything that can serve multiple purposes. For example, I bought heart-shaped tealight candle holders, filled them with a tealight and set them all over the tables. Not only did they fit the theme, but they served as center pieces and I let every guest take one home as a party favor. I saved money because I didn’t have to buy separate gifts for each guest and they added a small touch of cuteness to every table.

Centerpieces = party favors.

3. Recruit help.

Don’t try to do this all by yourself. The bridesmaids know that it’s their responsibility to help with the shower and bachelorette party, so don’t think you’re alone! Plus, it’s always better to have more than one mind churning ideas — you’re more likely to come up with something great together!

Talk to all of the bridesmaids who live in the area before you book anything, too. You never know who they know. One of Liz’s bridesmaids, Kelly, works at the V.F.W. and was able to get us the pavilion for free. Talk about a huge money saver! Don’t be afraid to talk to the parents of the bride and groom either. It’s likely that they’re eager to help out in any way they can; they’re probably just waiting to be asked. Liz’s mom, Ginny, and Joey’s mom, Freida, were both phenomenal and helped with food and other here-and-there things. I definitely couldn’t have pulled off this shower if I didn’t have their help.

Some of the food.

More food.

Suuuuuuubs!

4. Make it personal. 

The bride will appreciate it and the guests will feel included. I set up a “Word of Advice” area for Liz. As the guests came in, they filled out an index card with any advice or well wishes they had for the happy bride-to-be. Everyone was smiling and chatting about what they wrote, nodding and agreeing with each different card that was voiced.

Before shot.

Any time you can add a small personal touch to the shower, do it. For one of the games, the guests filled out a “Liz Quiz,” which was “How Well Do You Know the Bride?” Everyone got a good laugh out of the guesses and the answers, and the one with the most correct got a little prize. I also put the “Word of Advice” station next to a jar that I filled with swedish fish, Liz’s favorite candy. The guests had to guess how many were in the jar and the woman with the closest guess won the whole jar!

Swim, fishies, swim.

There were 760 fish in there! Liz’s aunt Patti guessed 776, so she won! She was super kind and gave the jar to Liz, making her a very happy girl.

She was smiling all day long.

5. Have fun! 

Yes, you’ll be constantly moving around to make sure everyone has what they need and all is running smoothly. When your bride-to-be is opening presents, you’ll sit dutifully by her taking notes to make sure she gets every single thank you card correct.

Handy-dandy notebook.

But don’t forget to sit back and enjoy the whole thing! After all, you put it all together, so remember to enjoy it. A lot of the guests didn’t know me very well and I could hear them all chuckling when they saw my sense of humor come out with some of Liz’s gifts.

I like the mini whisk.

Letting loose creates opportunities for a lot of fun pictures too. One of the bridesmaids, Tess, and I were cutting the cake toward the end of the shower. I was licking some frosting that had fallen off (figures) when an idea struck me. I told Freida to grab a camera and follow me around sneakily. Can you guess what happened next?

Cake in the face!

Unfortunately for me, Liz has fast reflexes. After I got her, she managed to swipe the leftover frosting right from my fingertips. I ended up like this…

It exfoliates, right?

Everyone got a good laugh out of it and they all said they had never seen that happen at a bridal shower before. Hey, I said I wanted to make things unique!

And there you have it, my friends. Other than that, just make sure you sit down and really think about all of the little details involved with a shower. I forgot a knife to cut the cake! Little things like that pop up, so you just want to make sure your bases are covered. But like I said, remember to have fun! In the end, the bride is going to be extremely grateful you put the effort in and won’t notice if little mishaps occur.

Have you ever put on a bridal shower before? Or been to one? What was your favorite part? 

Bridal Party Bliss

Back in March, I was happily working away at Relay for Life when I got an amazing call from my best friend, Liz.

Don't worry, she told me before Facebook.

She’s getting married to Joey, a boy that we grew up with. No, they haven’t been together since we were eight, but once the engagement was announced everyone said “it’s about time.” They just always had that type of relationship.

Immediately after she told me about the engagement, she asked me to be her maid of honor (MOH). I said yes without any hesitation! Ever since then we’ve been slaving away to iron out every little detail together.

You can't beat this duo.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the wedding is July 2? Talk about putting wedding planning into overdrive — four months to get everything together is the equivalent of the big day being tomorrow in wedding world! Through Liz, I’ve learned that I will be engaged for at least one year before tying the knot. There’s so much to do!

I’ve been reading a lot of wedding blogs and I noticed that there aren’t that many posts concerning the MOH. I think this is mostly because the brides are the ones to think about posting everything, but I decided it’s time for us girls in the bridal party to get some help! Being the MOH is a lot of hard work, so I’ve decided I’m going to let you in on any little secrets I pick up on along the way.

One of the biggest things I’ve helped Liz do (that isn’t directly related to the little details of the wedding) is stay on top of her fitness and nutrition. Budgets are tight, so I took the liberty of finding some workouts we can do without the gym and healthy snacks that won’t break the bank. It’s an easy thing for me to do and it takes one thing off of her to-do list. That’s a win-win if you ask me!

One of our favorite snacks? Celery and peanut butter.

Peanut butterrrr.

Or basically anything with peanut butter. She’s as addicted to the good stuff as I am and we have really similar tastes, so incorporating this goodie into our meals has been a cinch.

Liz’s family is Russian Orthodox, so the actual wedding ceremony has a lot of traditional values incorporated into it. The ceremony is going to take about an hour and a half, and I learned that for about 15 minutes I have to hold a heavy crown over Liz’s head. Needless to say, I’ve been blasting my arms to make sure my muscles are prepped for the big day. It might not sound like a long time, but holding something heavy over your head for 15 minutes is a lot of work! The best man has to do the same thing, so obviously I have to prove that I’m stronger than him 🙂

But even if I didn’t have to hold a huge crown up, I’d still want to blast my arms. After all, it’s wedding season now, which is the equivalent of tank tops and strapless dresses. Tricep dips have quickly become my best friend. They’re easy and can be done basically everywhere, plus I always feel the burn.

Burn, baby, burn.

Cardio was always my friend, but I’ve been making sure to spice up the type of cardio I do to keep different muscles working. The other day I enjoyed some ultimate frisbee and I plan on incorporating more tennis, bicycling and yoga into my routine. Today was the first day in over a week that it didn’t rain, so I went simple and headed out for a nice run. It was about 75 degrees out, so I got my first taste of summer running since Key West — it felt so good to run in just a tank top again!

Speaking of tank tops, since my dear friend Bethany loved my last top so much, I thought I’d share today’s workout gear. This is my favorite tank top to work out in and if you ask me, it’s just plain cute.

Awkward smile.

It’s the Women’s Adidas Sport Barricade Top with CLIMACOOL ventilation. Mine’s in white and navy, but I think I’m going to buy another one now that they’re available in black and green.

Now I’m off to fit in more cardio with a pickup game of soccer!

Love.

Have you ever been MOH before? Are you going to be one soon? What things would you like to see here about wedding planning?

Bob Harper’s Inside Out Method: “Bob’s Workout”

Earlier this week, I let Bob Harper kick my booty into high-gear with his intense fitness DVD from the Inside Out Method series. I did the 30-minute “Bob’s Workout” routine on Wednesday, was ridiculously sore on Thursday, and popped the DVD in once more this afternoon.

I can already tell I’m going to be sore again tomorrow.

Yum, yum, yum.

Despite being distracted by his ridiculously good looks, I was able to focus on the workout for the entire 30 minutes. The DVD is split up into two workouts, so you can choose to do one of his two workouts, both lasting 30 minutes, or combine them for an insane 60-minute workout. If you’re not at an advanced fitness level, I don’t recommend jumping to the  60-minute workout right away. Ease into it slowly so that you’re comfortable with the progress your body makes.

One of the best parts of this DVD is the fact that you don’t stop moving. Bob constantly has you pushing for a full 30 minutes, working through a variety of total body exercises that keep your heart rate up to burn a maximum amount of calories. He had me doing things like:

  • Burpees

Hurt so good.

  • T-Stand Push-ups

Fun.

  • Alternating Lunge Jumps

Feel the burn.

And more. The exercises alternated from lower to upper body, and during each move he reminded me to keep a tight core to really get those abs burning. By the time I was halfway done, I was dripping with sweat. When the full 30 minutes were over, I felt like I was going to drop to the floor. That’s exactly the kind of workout I crave 🙂

For the first workout, Bob also made sure that each exercise could be done with light weights or no weights at all. I currently don’t have a pair of dumbbells at my house and when I first popped in the disc I was nervous that I wouldn’t get an adequate workout. I was wrong. Each move can be done without a weight, but then just add in the dumbbell for some extra oomph. Believe me, you’ll still get a workout without the weights as long as you practice good form and don’t let yourself be lazy.

As for the second workout, I wouldn’t recommend doing it unless you have weights. There are a lot of strength training moves that require the use of a dumbbell. Because I don’t have any, I’m sticking to the first workout for now. Once I get a pair I’ll throw myself through that workout and be sure to report back to y’all!

Work it.

The only other thing I’ll say about this DVD is how real it is. Bob made a very wise decision when creating this DVD (or whoever made the decision) because he didn’t have the fitness model be all cute, smiley and full of makeup. This girl went through the brutal workout, was dripping in sweat and grunting the entire time. You saw her struggle, falter in some of her movements and breathe nice and heavy. I think that’s a fantastic quality to incorporate into a workout DVD because it’s real! No girl goes through a workout, especially one like this, and smiles silently the whole way through as if she’s experiencing no pain. So I give major kudos to Bob and his DVD-making team on this one.

Have you tried this DVD, or any from the Inside Out Method series? What did you think? What are some of your favorite at-home discs?

Overnight Oats

Continuing with the breakfast trend of yesterday’s post, I thought I’d share another delicious treat I like to enjoy in the morning, especially because it also incorporates peanut butter! This breakfast was perfect for me while I was prepping for graduation because I was also trying to get rid of all of my food! Anyone who moves from place to place knows that the last few weeks are crazy when it comes to food — you’re going out to eat with friends that you won’t see for a while, yet you’re trying to get rid of all of the random food items in your fridge, freezer and pantry. The solution?

Overnight oats, my friends.

It’s really simple to make, but you have to do the prep work the night before. Well, you could do it the same day, but you have to wait for 30 minutes to actually eat it, so it’s better if you do it the night before. It becomes a quick grab-and-go breakfast too, making it even more glorious!

Tasty.

I know it doesn’t look like much, but I assure you, it’s delicious. I got the idea a few months back while reading Meghann’s blog at Meals and Miles, and now I have it every time I get to the end of a peanut butter jar. Which, I admit, happens more often than it probably should. Oops.

To make this yummy breakfast, grab a nearly-empty jar of peanut butter (or any nut butter) and pour in the following:

  1. 1/2 cup raw rolled oats
  2. 1/2 cup greek yogurt (I use Chobani’s vanilla. You could use regular yogurt, too.)
  3. 1/4 cup milk (I use Silk Pure Almond)
  4. Sprinkle of Cinnamon
  5. Raisins
  6. Any other mix-in you want, like berries or nuts.

Mix it all together, then toss it in the fridge for the night. Once you’re ready for your meal, just grab, give it a little stir and mow down! If you want a little more oomph to your meal, and you have the ingredients on hand, you can add granola or any type of fruit to the top of your oats mixture in the morning.

The breakfast satisfies me for a few hours, but I recommend having a healthy snack to munch on between breakfast and lunch. Whenever I have overnight oats, I usually find myself grabbing a few handfuls from this goodie bowl.

Mix 'em up.

I love trail mix and this little puppy always hits the spot! There’s a mixture of raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots and dates in there.

Have you ever had overnight oats before? What do you like to mix in? If not, what are some of your favorite grab-and-go breakfast ideas?

Peanut Butter French Toast

We all know how important breakfast is because well, we’ve had it beaten into our heads ever since we were little. But does that mean we all actually take the time to eat breakfast? Nope. I used to be one of those women who didn’t eat in the morning because I wasn’t hungry or because I thought it would help me lose weight. Little did I know that I was actually canceling out weight loss efforts that I made later in the day. I didn’t truly understand why until my mom, who’s a registered nurse, explained it this way:

When you wake up in the morning, your body has already gone six to eight hours without sleeping. It should be getting some type of fuel every three to four hours at least, so you’re potentially doubling the amount of time your body goes without food when you sleep. If you wait until afternoon to eat, your body essentially shifts into starvation mode because you’re denying it the fuel it needs to make it through the day. When your body kicks into starvation mode, it feeds on muscle instead of fat, which is exactly the opposite of what you want.

A light dawned on me when she told me all of this! She had been pushing me for years to eat breakfast, and I would try every once in awhile but then fall back on the “I’m too busy” excuse.  Finally, I kicked my bad habit and now I can’t live without breakfast! Not to mention breakfast food is usually the most fun to make and I can eat it any time of the day. Eggs and toast for dinner? Yes, please!

As an avid peanut butter lover, I knew I had to incorporate more of the good stuff into my morning meals. I’ve had a lot of peanut butter and banana smoothies and my friend Nina introduced my happy stomach to peanut butter pancakes at Sanford’s Restaurant in Queens earlier this year, but I wanted something more. What’s a marvelous breakfast recipe that’s easy to whip up?

French toast!

Yum.

I mean, who doesn’t love french toast? (Except for my gluten-free friends, sorry!)

I whipped up this yummy (and extremely filling) meal the other day for Dustin and I. It only takes about 10 minutes to create and you can mix and match ingredients to make exactly what you want. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter French Toast 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup skim or almond milk (I used skim because it’s what was in the fridge)
  • 4-8 slices whole wheat bread
  • Peanut butter (I used Jif’s Natural)
  • Cooking spray
  • Syrup, fruit, yogurt or any type of topping you want

Directions:

  • Break eggs into a wide bowl; beat lightly with a fork. Stir in cinnamon and milk.

Mixture.

  • Over medium-low heat, warm skillet or griddle coated with a thin layer of cooking spray.
  •  Spread peanut butter on one slice of wheat bread, then cover with another slice (you can coat this slice with pb too, if you want). Continue until you’ve made as many sandwiches as you would like.
  • Place the sandwiches, one at a time, into the egg mixture until both sides are coated. Transfer sandwiches to skillet, cooking until bottom is golden brown. Flip and brown the other side.
  • Serve with whatever topping you’d like. I used maple syrup this time, but think it would also go great with a medley of fruit toppings or greek yogurt.

Mmmm.

Dig in!

What french toast creations have you made? What are some of your favorite breakfast foods?

Dealing with Exercise Guilt

After taking about a week off from a tough workout, I have to admit I’m struggling mentally to get back into my normal routine.

Usually, I run at least three miles and if my schedule allows, I’ll throw in some strength training. Once I started training for my half-marathon, I scheduled running into my life for six days a week. After my race, I reduced the mileage, but made sure I was still running the same number of days per week.

Then the graduation celebrations began.

Sluuuuurp.

As I said before, I took about a week off from working out. I did some running here and there, but I didn’t throw my full effort into the workouts. Now I’m back home and trying to get back into my fitness routine, but have realized I’m struggling a bit.

Mentally, I’m a bit of a basket case because I just graduated and I’m transitioning into a new phase of my life. I’m not upset that I’m done with school (I honestly need a break), but I’m upset about not seeing all of my friends from college anymore. I can’t call them and meet up later that day, or stop by their house on the way home. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me because hey, it’s only summer vacation! but that’s no longer the case. It’s time to be an adult and well, that’s a little scary. Any recent graduate who tells you otherwise is lying. We’re all a little scared, no matter how secure our future is.

I bring that up because I think it has a direct connection to my workouts. My mind is constantly all over the place, so I’m not able to focus on my workout. When I’m upset, I don’t run well and that’s proven true the last two days. Yesterday, I left my house intending to run four miles. I only ran two because I simply couldn’t get into it. My body was struggling and I felt defeated.

My defeated face. Emily's loveable face.

I shook it off and did 10 minutes of strength training, then hoped for the best the next day. Today, I hit the pavement once more and completed 2.5 miles. Again, I struggled. Things were a little better, but not great.

Now to the point of this post: The whole time I was running, I felt guilty for doing so poorly. I kept willing my legs to run faster and feel stronger, but the more I moved, the heavier they felt. Which made me feel more upset. When I pushed harder, I became angry because it felt like my body was barely moving.

Now, I’m a healthy person and I thrive on working out because it makes me feel good. I don’t force myself into a workout, so this feeling of guilt being associated with exercise is new to me and unsettling. The more I thought about it, the more I realized two things:

  1. Guilt gets you nowhere. Did it push me to run faster? No. Did it make me want to exercise more? No. So what’s the point? I should have felt proud right away that I went out and ran, no matter how well I did.
  2. Positive reinforcement is more useful. Like I said, I workout because it makes me feel good, not because I’m being forced into it. Exercise is fun; it is not a form of punishment. Talking positively would have made my run so much more effective — it’s even been proven that positivity makes it less likely for you to repeat self-destructive behavior.

Pandora must have been connected to my subconscious too because right when I really needed it, Bruno Mars switched on and reminded me to feel good about myself.

Thanks, Bruno.

Right after Bruno finished serenading me, Lady Gaga came on with “Born this Way.” Talk about two perfect songs to boost my mood. I really listened to the lyrics of each song and let go of the guilt that was coursing through me. By the end of the second number, I felt pumped again and my body was craving a good workout.

Bob Harper was more than willing to kick my booty.

Bob, I love you.

If you haven’t tried any of Bob Harper’s DVDs with the Inside Out Method, do it! I’ll put up a full review of three of them soon. This DVD is split into two workouts, so you can do either a 30- or 60-minute workout. I opted for the 30 and by the end my muscles were bowing down to Bob’s awesomeness.

My mood took a complete 180 within one workout simply because I changed my mentality. By the end, I was even happy enough to take a picture of myself so you could see my cute top.

Simple and cute.

My sports bra matches, so you can’t really see the adorable v-cut neckline. The top is from Reebok, it’s comfy and it doesn’t ride up at all when running, so I recommend it. Oh, and excuse the blurriness of the cell phone photo, but I deal with what I have.

Overall, I’m proud of myself for realizing what was holding me back from really progressing in my workouts. Has this ever happened to you before? Have you ever experienced exercise guilt? If so, how did you deal with it?

I Graduated College!

I know that it’s been forever since I’ve blogged and when I have blogged, it’s been quite a sporadic experience. Please let me apologize! For all of the readers that I haven’t lost, thank you for sticking by me and having faith that I will return. You were right, I am back!

So what was I doing this whole time?

Graduating!

I did it!

And everything else that accompanies graduation, including finishing projects and attending banquets…

Senior lunch and champagne toast.

Journalism banquet with my sports boys.

Honoring the Oswego State celebration of Bridge Street Run…

Signing of the white T-shirt.

Clearly, it's not an actual race.

And the "whaddup" face comes out.

Bonding with my gym ladies…

We can rough you up.

But we have a lot of love to give too.

Sometimes we try to act normal.

And my gym guys…

Gotta love Tony.

Plus getting to know some new-ish friends (Newish? I’ve known them awhile, but didn’t really know them. You get it, right?)

Rachel and Christine.

Eli and Sam. Same name as me, I know!

Cody.

Basically, I’ve been busy soaking it all in and creating memories that I won’t ever forget. The last four years have flown by so fast and well, I don’t know when I’ll see these people again, so I devoted every waking moment to them the last week or so. Yes, blogging fell by the wayside and exercise even took a backseat. Do I regret it? Not one bit.

Don’t think I completely fell off the wagon though. I knew that when I graduated I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the amazing scenery in Oswego, so I made sure to hit the pavement by the lake.

Sunset runs are the best. I trekked down to the lake after to get this shot.

I'm going to miss this view.

Peek-a-boo.

It all came to a close on Saturday when I walked the stage to celebrate receiving two bachelor’s degrees — one in journalism and one in creative writing.

I'm a big girl now.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. The last few weeks have been unbelievable, so it’ll be a challenge transitioning into a new life chapter.  But what about you? What have you been up to? What was it like when you graduated from college?

For your entertainment purposes, here’s a video that should be about love, but somehow it turned into a rockin’ graduation song for many of my friends and I throughout the week. Apparently we don’t go for Vitamin C or other artists who’ve put out traditional graduation songs. Throw it back and enjoy!

Sneaking Veggies Into Your Diet

There are a lot of people out there who just plain don’t like veggies. Luckily, I’m not one of them, which I think is mostly because my mom started feeding me the healthy stuff when I was really young. But that doesn’t mean I like every type of vegetable. It was a long time before I was able to eat tomatoes without gagging and I still have difficulty with zucchini.

But I know there are some people out there who simply do not like vegetables at all. Take Amanda Nettboy, for example, who I wrote about in the May Issue of FITNESS (go pick it up now!). She absolutely hates vegetables. After working with experts, she’s learned to incorporate some of the good stuff into her diet, though.

If Amanda can do it, so can you! There are plenty of ways to sneak vegetables into your diet, one of which I did this morning.

Smoothie time.

Introducing the smoothie with spinach. A lot of healthy living bloggers do this already, but today was the first time I tested the waters myself. The idea of putting spinach in my favorite breakfast drink didn’t sound too appetizing, so I put less than a handful in. Here’s what I mixed together:

  • 1 cup frozen berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries)
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • Slightly less than a handful of spinach leaves

It was delicious! I made sure it would have a chocolate taste just in case I wasn’t a fan of the spinach (can’t waste food), but I loved this smoothie! You couldn’t taste the spinach at all and I got a serving of veggies already to jump-start my day. Not to mention a serving of fruit, too.

Yum.

As you can see, it gives you a decent-sized breakfast as well. I like a filling breakfast though, so I’ll probably add more fruits and veggies to the mix next time.

Other sneaky ways to fit veggies into your food:

  • Mix it in with a pasta-based dinner, like goulash. I don’t like the strong taste of peppers alone, so Dustin always mixes peppers in dinners that have a lot of competing flavors. I can barely taste the peppers this way!
  • Stir into sauces — spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, whatever! Pour ’em in with the sauce and you’ll barely notice them.
  • Make an omelet. Tuck some spinach, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, or any other type of veggie into the folded-over egg. If you want more food to hide the flavor, make the omelet smaller and then sandwich it between a whole-wheat English muffin.

Remember, you always want to try to get veggies into your daily diet. They’re high in fiber, low in calories and are a nutrient powerhouse. If you can, make it simple by turning veggies into your snack. I love munching on carrots with a little bit of ranch dressing, or celery with peanut butter.

How do you sneak veggies into your diet? Have you always been a vegetable lover/hater?