What Running Does for Me

Our lives have been crazy busy lately. Whose hasn’t, am I right? Over the last couple months we have had school events, PTA meetings, church retreats, dance class, homework, illness, housework, and the list goes on and on and on. All leading to a general lack of time or motivation to keep up with exercise. On my drive home from work yesterday I realized how gorgeous the last evening of summer was. All I wanted was to get outside, take a break from EVERYTHING and enjoy it!

So I did. I got home. I asked hubby if he was cool with eating dinner a little bit later, which, of course, he was (that awesome man of mine). I changed out of my work clothes and into my running shorts. Side note…my dog totally knows when we are going for a run. She starts going nuts the minute I put on my work-out clothes. It’s pretty hilarious. Anyway, I grabbed my water bottle and then the dog and I headed out the door. Nothing fancy. Not enough time to drive out to a trail. It was a simple road run, but it was EXACTLY what I needed.

My runs are where I find clarity. There are days when I don’t mind the road runs because they are obviously less technical than a trail run. I don’t have to concentrate so much on where my feet are going or worry about stabbing my eye with a tree branch. It’s kind of nice because my brain can go wherever it wants to go. I can think without interruptions about whatever pops in my head. I can be angry without having to rationalize. I can feel without guilt. I can have thoughts without having to talk about them. I can have conversations with myself and work through my own mental struggles or emotional hurdles.

Those hurdles seem to show up all over the place. It’s exhausting.  Am I a good mom? Am I a loving wife? Am I a considerate daughter? Am I valued? Do I respect others? Am I teaching my children virtue? Am I helpful? Am I patient? Am I enough? I have so many questions and so many concerns reeling in my head all the time. I feel like it’s because there is so much pressure to be perfect at everything. And from who? Other moms, coworkers, church acquaintances…all people who haven’t really taken the time to get to know me. When I’m running I can let it all go. It’s just me and the dog. I don’t have to impress anyone. I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations but my own. I don’t worry about other people’s opinions of me or thoughts of who they think I am. I can just be.

Aside from the mental release, there’s something so exhilarating about running. Yes, it is hard. Yes, sometimes I can’t breathe and I need to walk for a bit so I can catch my breath. Yes, my muscles burn. Yes, I get all sweaty and stinky. Yes, it is worth it! I can’t tell you how giddy I get when I notice my own improvement. It is thrilling when I can go a longer distance or knock a few seconds off my time. It makes me want to do more. It boosts my confidence and makes me feel strong. I get to push myself and I get to see and feel real results. It’s awesome!

My runs are my time to better myself. The 30 – 40 minutes of self-indulgence is not selfishness. It’s taking care of myself. When I run I’m taking care of my body. I’m taking care of my spirit. I’m taking care of my mind. I’m allowing myself to be my own person. When I take the time to do that, it allows me to be better at all of the other things I worry I’m not good enough at.

Like I said, last night’s run was exactly what I needed. I needed to take time to reflect on everything going on right now. I needed to relieve some of the stress that has been creeping into our lives more and more. I needed to think about the grief I usually feel this time of year. I needed to be ok doing something alone since we’ve had less and less time with friends lately. I needed to remind myself how strong I am. I needed to reassure myself that I am doing ok.

Meatless Isn’t Just for Monday Anymore

At the beginning of summer I think I was actually drooling in anticipation of grilled steaks, chicken breast, pork chops and kabobs. When the weather got warmer I eagerly asked my hubby to pick up a new tank of propane. For the first few weeks of grilling season we gorged ourselves on fajitas, rib-eyes, and speared sausages with summer squash. It didn’t last long. Soon after grilling season began, it started raining everyday right around the time I was needing to cook dinner. Thus, my grill may as well have been gone. Le sigh.

One of the first nights that we got rained out, I made a vegetable stir-fry for dinner. It was fantastic! unnamedRed cabbage, bok choy, carrots, tofu, and soba noodles all tossed together in a teriyaki sauce. Not only did it taste great, but my husband and I both noticed how much more satisfied we felt after eating that type of meal. I also noticed how much my digestive system appreciated it.

Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t like we were only eating a slab of meat each night. I am very determined to make sure every meal is well balanced with vegetables, grains, and protein. It’s not like this was the first vegetarian meal I had ever made either. Previously, I would typically plan at least 1-2 meatless meals per week. I think what made the stir-fry stand out was that we had been overdoing it with the meat, and my body responded with relief when I finally fed it a bowl full of plant-based bliss.

It was enough to get me thinking. When I also considered how much the price of meat had gone up just over the last year it sparked a conversation. Hubby and I talked about it and we decided that neither of us would be opposed to trying out a mostly vegetarian diet for a while. We agreed that seafood was still ok. So I guess that’s technically “Pescetarian,” but we also agreed that we wouldn’t refuse meat if it was served at a gathering, or if meat was the only available option while eating out. That’s why I say “mostly” vegetarian.

It’s been about 2 months now since we’ve made this change. I have to say that I do not miss the meat at all! We have had the occasional pepperoni on a pizza here and there, but our weeknight dinners and homemade lunches have all been meatless. The kids are enjoying it too! They have been cleaning their plates and asking for more. Perhaps a little TMI for you, but we’ve all been less gassy. I’ve even been able to lose at least 3 pounds in that short amount of time just from eliminating meat. It’s definitely been a positive change for our family.

I’ve really stayed away from buying pre-made meat substitutes. Instead I’ve opted for various types of beans, lentils, eggs, cheese, and tofu. Go easy on the tofu though…too much soy can mess with your hormones. I’ll direct you here so I don’t go off topic. I’ve also been surprised to learn how much protein is already in a lot of the grains and veggies we love. They key is planning. It has helped tremendously to keep me on track and to make sure our family is getting the right nutrition. When I sit down and make a menu plan I can see each ingredient that will go into a particular meal which allows me to determine if I need to supplement it with anything.

Our bellies and our bank account have been much happier with the switch. So far we have saved about $100 on our monthly grocery bill! I’m sure as the weather starts to get colder we’ll be craving comfort foods like chicken ‘n dumplings and beef stew. I’ll probably work those family favorites into our menu in moderation, but I know I will continue to plan meatless meals for most dinners going forward.

3 Easy Ways to Get Fit For Next to Nothing

First of all, when I talk about getting fit my focus is not merely losing weight. That’s not to say that losing weight is a bad goal. In fact, the things I do to stay fit have helped me to do just that, but to me, being fit is so much more. When I think of being fit, I don’t only imagine my body pre-the fun house mirror image that having two kids has turned it into. In my opinion, to be fit is to be strong, to have endurance and to build mental fortitude. It is to boost energy levels, mood, and metabolism. Being fit encompasses my entire well-being. So with that, please know this post is not going to tell you how to drop 5 pounds with a snap of your fingers.

I wanted to write about what I do to stay fit because I made excuses for years before I finally took action and started being productive in this area of my life. I mean, I blamed the kids, my work schedule, our lack of money, my lack of energy, my own insecurities. It’s hard to push yourself past all of that and decide to make a change for the better. Below  is a list of what I (a full-time working wife and mom on a budget) have been able to keep up with despite all of life’s obstacles. So here goes…

1. Go for a run.

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Gasp! What? Why would I say such a hurtful thing? But seriously, running has transformed my body. Plus it is free! You do not need a fancy gym membership. You can brave the elements and run outside! When you dare to run in different types of weather, running becomes a mental challenge as well as a physical feat. Getting home after a run in the snow makes you feel like you just conquered the world! Extra bonus…you get a dose of vitamin D and fresh air. Gotta love that!

Additionally, running does not require the latest threads from Athleta or any expensive equipment. You don’t need fancy workout clothes to run. T-shirts and sweatpants will do the trick. We all probably already own a pair of sneakers to start out in. If you can afford it, it really is worth investing in a good pair of running shoes. I will say, that if you do pop for new shoes, make a special trip to a running store and have an associate help you pick the best shoes for you specifically. Your hips and knees will thank you and you’ll be supporting a local business.

Back to the point. What I love about running is that you can see and feel improvement in a very short amount of time. Listen to your body, but be willing to push yourself. A great way to start is to try the walk/run method. I highly recommend starting out this way so you don’t injure yourself. You will find that you can increase your running endurance and give yourself time to correct your form and breathing when you take turns walking and running. Contrary to popular belief, running is not about how fast you are. If you are running as a way to take healthy steps in your life, your time should not matter one bit. What matters is that you get out there and experience personal improvement. I am slow, slow, slow, but over time I have been able to walk less, run more, run longer and run farther. I’ve lost a few pounds and gained some muscle. It’s easy to stay motivated because I can feel the change.

2. Practice Yoga.

yoga-1146277_640I got really lucky and found a Groupon for a local yoga studio. I was able to purchase a punch card good for 20 classes for only $38.00! So maybe that was a once-in-a-lifetime steal, but I do know that other yoga studios frequently have drastically discounted options available through Groupon. Also, there is another local studio that offers classes on a donation basis. They have a suggested donation of $10 per class, but no one will bat an eye if you can’t give the full suggestion. In the warmer weather months there are also classes that are offered outside at local parks.

If you’re not quite comfortable with the idea of practicing yoga in the same room as other people, or if you can’t afford studio classes, you’re in luck. You can borrow yoga DVDs from your library or even watch videos on the internet. There are so many free resources online that can explain everything you need to know to expand your personal practice at home.

I really enjoy yoga. I find it calming and relaxing, yet still challenging. I love the idea of using my own body’s weight and resistance to build strength. You will find that you can improve your coordination, circulation, and flexibility with regular practice. Yoga is low-impact so you can work and stretch your muscles without intense pain after your workout. Just drink lots of water! I really like how in tune I feel with my body after a good yoga session . It makes me feel centered and usually leaves me eager to practice again.

3. Dance.IMG_3340

I love dancing. Until recently, I did this completely for free too. There’s nothing quite like turning on your favorite tunes and just shakin’ it. You’ll burn calories, boost endorphins, and have fun! It’s really a blast when you get your kids or husband into it too so you can’t use them an an excuse not to do it. If you’re looking for something more structured but still free, there are dozens of YouTube channels ready to teach you any kind of dance you can imagine. You can learn proper technique or new choreography, whatever suits you!

I know that some dance studios offer promotions through Groupon as well. If it’s in your budget, this is a great way to try out a class at a studio to see if it’s a good fit. Often times studios can give discounts on tuition if you decide to continue classes once the promotion ends. You can also ask if your studio gives discounted or free classes if you have multiple family members enrolled. Our studio is amazing and will allow a third family member to dance for free after you pay tuition for the first two. This was how I was recently able to finally take a dance class myself. It was already it in the budget for my son and daughter to take classes and now I get to take one too. Mom win!

So there you have it! Those are the three things I have been able to do to stay fit that don’t break the bank. I hope I’ve inspired some of you to try something outside your comfort zone. Really though, choose something you enjoy so you’ll stay motivated. Getting fit and staying fit is all about finding what works for you.