Friday, July 29, 2011

Princess of Queens

Tomorrow I will be rising with before the sun to take two subway trains to...Queens! There I will be running the Queens Half-Marathon, a part of the New York Road Runners' Half Marathon Series. Fortunately {knock on wood} the heat wave seems to have more or less broken and we are back to normal summery temperatures. I am really banking on not passing out from heat stroke tomorrow! That is my goal.

In all seriousness, as I have mentioned, I do have a goal for tomorrow's race which is, as ever, to do better in this race than I did in the last. That may or may not happen, but I'm going to give it all I've got. Announcing this on the world wide web will hopefully motivate me during boring or tiring stretches of the race to dig it out and keep on truckin'.

I always run with music. Those of you who don't, I admire you, and also think you're slightly odd. I have had my iPod die on a run only to promptly turn around and go home. Running without music = eating a meal without peanut butter. Just does not happen in my life.

During a race, motivating jams are particularly crucial. During the Brooklyn Half Marathon, I found that my excellent playlist really pushed me through the last few miles and helped me maintain my pace. With that in mind, assembling a set of tunes sure to please was #1 on my to-do list this morning. Another requirement of my playlists is that they have a sufficiently descriptive name. Behold, "The Princess of Queens":

like country, much?
 Lucky you, you also get to catch a glimpse of some of my other stellar playlist titles: "Treadmills are Boring" (um, they are), "Hang Out With Your Twang Out" ( I or do I not like country??), and the list from the Brooklyn Half, aptly named...."Manhattan Takes Brooklyn."

Along with some wonderfully new country songs, if you'll look closely you'll see my favorite Hall & Oates guilty pleasure gem - hasn't gotten old yet.

Now, do yourselves a favor and add some of these masterpieces to your summer running playlists:

Brad Paisley (featuring Alabama!!!), Old Alabama
Jake Owen, Barefoot Blue Jean Night
Brad Paisley, This is Country Music
Zac Brown Band (featuring Jimmy Buffet!!!), Knee Deep
Brad Paisley, Be the Lake

And no your eyes do not deceive you...every other one of those songs is off of Brad Paisley's latest album, This Is Country Music. Huge fan.

Enjoy the jams and enjoy your weekend!!!

What are your favorite workout songs these days??

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sometimes a pairing is just not meant to be

Unfortunately, there are relationships that just cannot work out no matter how badly each person wants them to. Signs from the universe collide and repeatedly remind you: it is just not meant to be.


I am currently dealing with one of those relationships. Before you think I'm getting all serious and melo-dramatic, I should probably clarify that I am referring to my relationship with my yoga mat.{that's normal, right?}

Story goes like this: Girl meets yoga mat. Yoga mat is pink, so girl likes yoga mat. Yoga mat is cheap, so girl commits to yoga mat without much soul-searching or product comparison. Girl and yoga mat go home together and enjoy yoga podcasts, sweaty, post-run sweat sessions, and maybe one or two instances of abs exercises.

When girl moves to New York, yoga mat joins her - you could say things got more serious at this point. Shortly thereafter, however, girl starts a side relationship with her gym and starts using their yoga mats, discovering that...she likes them much more. While yoga mat excels in bright pink-ness, it falls short in categories of: traction, cushioning and not-getting-dirty-constantly.

Fast forward to this past week, when I (girl) began my free week at YogaWorks, which is a byo-mat establishment. Day two, I leave my yoga mat at the studio. Doh! Two days later, I return to retrieve it. I don't have time to attend a class and attend a J Crew instead. Our reunion was brief as I left yoga mat in the dressing room. Twenty minutes later, on my way to dinner with an old friend from high school, I shyly return to J Crew and once again am reunited with yoga mat.

I meet my friend at the midway point between our homes: Columbia University (yes, she lives very far away from me) and go out to dinner at a restaurant near the undergraduate campus. As I get on the subway at 9:30 pm at 110th street, it hits me - something is missing. Yes, that's right - Thai Market received a donation of one hot pink yoga mat last night.

I debate going back to the restaurant straight away, but I know I would have to reload my metro card and tack on another 15-20 minutes to an already long ride home. I debate going back to the restaurant in the coming days, but given my schedule and the restaurant's severe lack of proximity to my apartment, forego that possibility.

In all honesty, yoga mat and I just are not destined to be together. It will take time to get over this break-up, but I already feel stronger and more free acknowledging that it is time to move on.

Tomorrow, I will cough up the $2 to rent a yoga mat for class, and I will begin the search for a new mat that really serves all of my needs.

...any recommendations?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'll have an iced Hawaiian Tropic, SPF 8

So I already admitted to my deviant past with sunscreen usage. Yes, I used sunscreen with an SPF so low it might as well have been negative. Yes, I did put tanning oil on top of that in an effort to just really reverse any possible sun protection. So I am all too familiar with the delicious-smelling line of Hawaiian Tropics "sunscreens" and oils. Now that I have grown out of that stage, I still wonder why serious sunscreen can't smell so yummy? That coconut smell always signalled the start of summer and I can't tell you how many times I wanted to drink it straight out of the bottle.

Well, now I can have my sunscreen and eat it too. Sort of.

Yesterday, after a particularly stressful morning at work, I headed into the great outdoors for lunch (also, I forgot my pre-made lunch at home like a dang fool). Argo Tea recently opened a new location near my office and I felt I could find something crisp and refreshing in there. And that I did!

I settled into Madison Square Park sunshine with my garden lentil salad and my newest addiction: Iced Coconut Chai Tea with Soy Milk. It was love at first slurp. My instant reaction was "Tastes like sunscreen!" and I meant that in the best way possible. It really tasted as good as those Hawaiian Tropic lotions (can't even bring myself to call them sunscreen) smell. I anticipate many more in my future...and what a bright future it will be.

barefoot sunshine coconut lunch

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Practicing yoga like a kid

Last night, following getting caught in the rain (a much needed break in NYC's loco heat wave), I headed on over to YogaWorks for free yoga, day two.

I awkwardly wrangled myself out of my Hunter boots and fleece (!!) amid a group of calm, cool and collected yogis, dropped my things off in the "women's retreat" and started towards Studio 1.

Taking a deep breath, I cautiously stepped my toes into the room as though I were dipping my toes into a lake, testing its temperature. Noting with surprise that the room was comfortably cool, I released my breath with relief and walked with confidence into the studio to establish my space. No hot yoga surprise tonight!

I took the YogaWorks Flow level 2/3 with the hilarious Denise, an older blonde decked out in bright pink who carried absolutely none of the hippie-dippie pretense many instructors seem to be saturated with. Whew! I have a hard time keeping a straight face when many instructors go into overly spiritual mumbo-jumbo, or encourage the class to join in group Sanskrit chants. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but, especially in regards to the group chanting - I have absolutely no idea what I'm saying. I like to entertain myself by imagining the possibilities of what the words mean and what I might be agreeing to. Signing up for a life-time membership at the gym? Pledging that mint chocolate chip is the best flavor of ice cream and I will forever forego all others? Sure!

The class was challenging, but again, the 90 minute format allowed for plenty of relaxation between difficult poses, during which Denise helped us relax further with the ultimate relief - laughter.

I have one brief bragging moment, which is also slightly embarrassing because I am about to brag about a total non-event: for the first time, I did a forearm headstand up against a wall! Yes, with my heels balancing against the wall. So really, I accomplished nothing on the physical level. However, performing this pose was still a huge moment for me as I leapt over a mental hurdle that had been blocking me for quite some time.

I always find head- and handstand poses in yoga utterly daunting as I don't believe I have the balance, coordination or upper body strength to pull them off. Taking a moment to really reflect on that, though, I remember bouncing into handstands as a child when I was even weaker and more uncoordinated than I am today. I've learned that the only thing preventing me from more difficult poses in yoga isn't my own physical limitations, but a lack of a childlike fearlessness. I can't remember when I lost that fearlessness - in physical activity and in my personal life - but by taking a baby step in my headstand practice yesterday, I also took a baby step in regaining it and I am so excited to push myself further and discover where it can take me - in yoga, in running, in my career, in my life. As Denise reminded us during triangle pose, anything we do with intention is "yoga".

YogaWorks win.

Oh, and then I left my yoga mat at the studio, only to realize that as I was getting ready for bed. So YogaWorks wins're welcome, YW.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hot yoga surprise

I feel like the title of this post might bring in an unintended audience from some etrange google searches, but nevertheless, I shall proceed.

Today I had the pleasure of embarking on day one of my free week at YogaWorks. At the recommendation of their Yoga Advisor (whom I have never met but sends the most enthusiastic emails - I already have a friend crush on her) I headed to an 11 am Power Yoga Level 2/3 class.

The first thing about the studio I noticed was that, like the Javamukti studio in Union Square, the ambiance of a strictly-yoga facility is so much more tranquil than a full-services gym, even the spa-like Equinox. YogaWorks win.

The second thing about the studio I noticed was that, unlike Equinox, the practice spaces themselves have not joined the air conditioning party.

Hence, this post's title.

Oh, you thought you were coming in for a power yoga class which would challenge your muscle strength and stamina? Oh, SURPRISE! It's also going to be 100 degrees.

The amount of sweat pouring out of my body within minutes of the class' start was totally beyond excessive. I could not wait for brief seconds to grab my towel and swiftly wipe away sweat from quite unexpected places  - my kneecaps, really?!? My beautiful fleur-de-lis necklace rather impolitely kept flicking sweat onto my face. The whole situation really began to stress me out.

Thankfully, we completed the flow series and moved onto to a series of hip openers. As Tamar, our instructor, noted, one added benefit of the heat was that our muscles were warmer and therefore we could open our tight hips further. Of course she said this as she was instructing us to put our feet fully behind our head but....point taken, Tamar. The heat was not all bad.

Elements of the class that I truly enjoyed:

1. Not being able to see a clock. In my classes at Equinox, although I enjoy them immensely, I am also acutely aware of the clock and how much time remains in my practice.

2. The hour and a half time period. I generally attend yoga classes in the mornings, which are only one hour. Having a full hour and a half allows us to....

3. Have a good, long shivasana. I have not a clue in this world how to spell that word. But what I do know is this: having two minutes of relaxation after a challenging yoga class is simply not sufficient for my body to fully reap the rewards of my practice. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to cut an hour-long class even shorter, so I understand the choice that is made by instructors there.

4. The aforementioned tranquility of the studio. Before entering the hall that lead to the locker rooms (named "retreats") and practice rooms, we were required to remove our shoes. In the waiting area stood a water cooler and selection of teas, as well as a small library of books and DVDs on yoga and pilates and a shop of yoga clothing. And it smelled nice. The towels, in particular. I got to know my towel very, very well, so you can really trust me on this one.

I am going to try to attend as many classes as possible over the next week. I can already see from looking at the calendar of classes that they do not cater to the pre-work crew so I'm going to have to arrange class attendance around my apres-work schedule.

What I really want to take from this experience is whether or not I should downgrade from a full-services gym membership to a yoga/pilates only gym membership because let's be serious group exercise and spinning classes mean nothing to me.

Has anyone made this change? Or gone in the opposite direction? Thoughts comments questions?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Productivity city, and more of me than you wanted

This weekend is off to an amazing start as I have time to tackle my to-do list, and I am diving in head first!

I actually intentionally took a bit of a break this weekend to squeeze in a few one-on-one friend dates, have some time to dedicate to reading (!),  and get. my. life. together.

As I'm sure everyone is aware, it is crazy hot, like, everywhere. Here too. I feel ya.

I was able to get out for a {cautious} 6-mile run on Saturday morning in Riverside park, enjoying a bit of a Hudson River breeze. On the way there, I picked up a tip for any gentlemen looking for ladies. Please don't try to pick people up when they're going running in a heat wave at 9 am, or, for that matter, in any climate at any time.

really? now, really?
But if you happen to see a girl lugging large boxes from her apartment to the (seems nearby until you're actually transporting all of your sweaters there) UPS store, that would be a good time to step in. I was hot. And tired.

I was also offered an exclusive free week at YogaWorks! I managed to get on the list by visiting their website and printing out the "free week" coupon. It's really a very selective process, you probably won't be able to make the cut.

I love self-portraits.
I am going to try their Level 2/3 class and will give a full report. I am still obsessed with Equinox, have no fear this tiger has not totally changed her stripes, however I really enjoyed the opportunity to sample different studios as they all have such different styles and atmospheres. Thus far I have taken classes at Equinox, free classes at my college gym, free podcasts (highly recommend, the instructor reminds me of Steve Carrell, what's not to love?), Equinox, a class fundraising for Japan relief efforts at Jivamukti, of course Equinox, a few free outdoor classes in Hudson Park and Bryant Park, and Sports Club LA during a week trial I had there when I first moved to the city. Oh and also Equinox. And tomorrow, Yoga Works!

my teeth are huge so sometimes I hide them.
So I found this function on my computer "photo booth," hence the four pictures I took in as many minutes that I am now forcing upon your eyeballs. It's a self-timed photo, on your computer! You don't even have to have friends, and you can still have pictures of yourself. Amazing.

Lastly, kindly read this high-larious interpretation of LFO's song "Summer Girls." Who doesn't love that song? Lots of people, but that's besides the point.

Off to do some work and {possibly, depends} take another box over to the UPS store, then off to a pinkberry date! Incidentally, they also have a muy exclusivo coupon for a 2-for-1 special - can't afford not to!

see you soon, friend.
Hope you're all coping with the heat, drinking lots of agua and takin' it easy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Everybody's sweatin for the weekend

It's summertime, when we should all be sunkissed with beachy waves in our hair.

Why, then, am I so sweaty and ugly all the time? Darn you, New York City weather!

In an effort to cope with some of the issues that plague what should be our most beautiful 3 months, allow me to share some tricks I employ to keep hideousness at bay:

1. Sunscreen, obviously. Love it, live for it.

2. Mattefying creme! I use Dermalogica clearing mattefier (additionally they have a whole page of "summer favorites" worth checking out!). It's wonderful with your regular moisturizer to keep sweat, grease and rampant acne at bay, help your make-up look fresh rather than slimy, and keep your make-up in place all day long. Which brings me to my next point....

3. Don't wear a lot of make-up. Just don't do it. It's hopeless, it will melt off, you will look worse, it is inevitable. Apply a few dots o' concealer where necessary, some bronzer, a touch of eyeliner if things are getting really fancy, and step away from the products.

no make-up, no tan, no problem.
4. Same goes for hair. Don't try to fight it - braid it, bun it, let it dry au naturale - whatever works for your hair length and texture, just don't load it up with products in an effort to fight heat+humidity. Your efforts will undoubtedly backfire and you will be left with all sorts of ragamuffin photos on facebook. Don't nobody want that.

it's hot outside, don't brush your hair.
5. Keep moisturizing! Even if you feel all, um, moist {hate that word} already, don't stop! It will help heal any sunburn you might have, keep your skin touchably smooth {totally took that from an unknown ad campaign} and protect your skin from the shock of constantly moving between the hot hot hot outdoors and the cold dry blast from your office's A/C. One surprise area of your body that needs extra moisture? Your feet!

6. Drink obscene amounts of water. Just absolutely ridiculous amounts. A guy friend I've run with for the American Cancer Society once so eloquently stated, "if you're not drinking enough water that your pee is clear, you're insane." INSANE! Take that.

For more fun beauty tips, take 'em from Katie - she actually looks like a model so I would trust her advice.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The new cheez-it

Okay so maybe I'm stretching things a bit with the title of this post. I got carried away, my apologies.

What happened was this:

Raw, dehydrated kale chips covered in nutritional yeast from one of my favorite go-to lunch spots, Terri NYC. I had been reading about how scrumptious these are for months so I figured that I was due.

Conclusion: nom.

They're like the delicious dust at the bottom of the cheez-it bag - hence, the inspiration for my title today.

Lucky for me, dehydrators are practically free and perfectly sized for my closet-like New York kitchen. PSYCH! More likely I will spend an even greater percentage of my paycheck at Terri than I already do. (Right now I'm putting it at 30% Terri, 66% my rent and 4% Starbucks).

Speaking of, I'm enjoying a Starbucks iced right now (actually, that sort of goes without saying. always assume that if it's a weekday morning, that is what I am doing.) and they're giving out coupons with your receipts to get any grande iced coffee for $2 after 2 pm! I remember this promotion from last summer and I'm thrilled that it's back. Anything to justify the amount I'll spend on a single coffee, and anything for a mocha coconut soy frap!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gone Bananas!

I had planned a treadmill speed workout yesterday, but by the time 5 o'clock rolled around found myself stahhhhving.

Enter these:

Yes, that is an individually sliced banana frozen and covered in chocolate, dipped in peanut butter. I did not create these, you can find them at your local Trader Joe's. I discovered them while waiting in the check out line behind a chic older woman who had only a 6 pack of beer and 7 (count 'em) packages of Gone Bananas! in her basket. I know, she is an inspiration to us all.

The peanut butter addition is all me, though. I ate the entire box. 5 servings my Aunt Sally!

What I learned about Gone Bananas! besides the fact that they exist and are the most delicious thing I've ever eaten, is that they are also great running fuel.

Impromptu 8 mile run in the muggy heat? Crushed. Powered by the gooey goodness of Gone Bananas! I can do anything.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is obesity threatening national security?

Recently, I learned an astounding statistic: 27% of young adults in America are unable to enlist in the army because they are too overweight. When I read this, I actually had to read it again to be sure my eyes hadn't deceived me.

Whether or not we should be at war, whether or not we have a real need for more soldiers, the mere fact that the obesity epidemic (and it clearly is an epidemic) has reached such proportions that over 1 in 4 young adults between 17 and 24 are deemed not 'fat,' or 'unattractive,' but 'unable to serve' should be truly unsettling.

The non-profit organization Mission : Readiness recently released a report titled "Too Fat to Fight" revealing this information and hypothesizing how the issue may be addressed. Mission : Readiness, an organization comprised of retired senior military leaders, seeks to ensure "continued American security and prosperity into the 21st century by calling for smart investments in the upcoming generation of American children" (source).

In addition to examining issues of weight, the organization has also investigated other factors contributing to young Americans' ability to serve, primarily education, and has released several state-by-state reports revealing how ill prepared young adults - my generation - are to serve our country.

Americans have been considered an international military power for almost a century, and now, despite advancements in technology, intelligence, and strategy, we find ourselves in a country where 75% of our young adults are unable to serve for a variety of reasons, and over 25% of these because they are too heavy.

Who does that leave? 25% of the population, who may or may not be interested in enlisting. Who will that leave 10 years from now, as childhood obesity rates continue to climb?

Mission: Readiness focuses on our schools as a starting point on the path to health, proposing the elimination of junk food and sugary drinks from schools, an increase of funding for school lunch programs to encourage healthier options for students of all socio-economic backgrounds, and developing public-health interventions to educate and support children in making healthier choices.

It's difficult to say what, exactly, will truly enact change in our country's youth, schools, and families. At the end of the day, with children as with adults, becoming healthier is a large-scale lifestyle change and one that really must be self-motivated in order to take hold.

Several organizations exist that are currently seeking to address our obesity epidemic: Obesity in America, Down to Earth, and The Obesity Society, to name a few. All of the organizations are admirable in their commitment to researching causes of obesity and advocating for weight loss in individuals, but what are they doing to ensure that Americans develop a sense of obligation to themselves to take responsibility for their health choices? The question I am left with is, is there anything an organization or third party can do to motivate Americans? Clearly whatever practices are currently in place, while well-intentioned, are not effective enough.

My totally amateur belief is that in order to encourage change in our youth, we need to consider what really motivates them. Education, regulations, recommendations - these have not and likely will not inspire change from within. I am not certain what really can have the power to do so, but I do know it is a question I will continue to ponder and for which I will hopefully develop a hypothesis.

I hesitated to even publish this post without a definite conclusion, but thought that by starting the topic I could then continue to return to it and grow in my perspective and in my theories. So consider this installment #1 in a series on how to tackle America's obesity epidemic. This is a great land, that I dearly love, and I am determined to play a role treating this health crisis by putting my skills to use: research, analysis, and plotting.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Another weekend winner

I spent the vast majority of this past weekend lazing in the sun and scaring fellow loungers with my ghostly pallor.

On Saturday, I enjoyed a fast run on Long Beach's boardwalk, during which an older runner stopped me to ask if I would be running a race occuring in Long Beach the next weekend. I have no idea why someone would stop a stranger who is running past them and blaring music into their eardrums to ask such a question, but I took it to mean that I run so fast this man thinks I should race in all races, professionally, and win.

After a few hours slathered in SPF 70 with helioplex and fully educating myself on all of the latest celebrity gossip, it was high time for one of these:

strawberry daiquiri + pina colada = tru pink luv

Hello, I earned it.

I had to hightail it back to the city, so I hopped onto my tandem bike, sponsored by the fine brewmakers at Natural Light.
Totally kidding, my bike was actually sponsored by Bud Heavy.

I then had to sprint onto the train just as it was about to pull out for New York to celebrate my dear friend & celebrated opera artiste's 25th birthday.

One of these became necessary:

really just tastes like poison.
After a wonderful birthday celebration with my girl, I was ready to rocket launch myself into bed in time for a 6:30 am wake up call. Yes, on a Sunday. Following a slow and easy run and church, I hopped into my friend Sarah's Zipcar and headed up to Sleepy Hollow Country Club to lay by the pool, learn even more about celebrity gossip (and you didn't even think that was possible!) grab some club food and watch the U.S. Women's Team almost win the World Cup, and just generally suffer through my difficult, laborious existence.

The only way to cap off such a day was to spend one last evening with Julia before she heads back to her house upstate and help her finish off the tub of salted caramel Pinkberry she bought last week. That's an acceptable dinner, right?

Something about summer weekends makes me feel like a kid again! Hope yours was just as playful.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Running for a reason

In a recent post, Sarah Kay Hoffman shared a few insights on exercise motivators, many of which I related to strongly: creating a great playlist (new music is SUCH a motivator - I can't wait to go for a run when I know I have a new sweet jam to rock out to!), finding a workout time to stick to (promising myself I'll work out "later" results in puttering around my apartment until I'm out of time), and putting out workout clothes the night prior (streamlining my morning routine and knowing that I've already put some effort into my workout plans leaves me without excuses to get up & go).

The motivator I related to the most, however, was this: run for a reason. I can't even say how much running with the American Cancer Society's DetermiNation program has enhanced my time in New York and transformed my view on running. It used to be a chore, I used to fear competitive races, now I love them. Cancer was something that had personally broken my heart, now I am making a difference in fighting this terrible disease. I've made friends, learned more about running tricks and tools and gotten in better shape.

While I have a clear bias towards DetermiNation, there are an almost overwhelming number of worthy causes out there that sponsor bib numbers in popular, sold-out races. If you are interested in running the ING New York Marathon and didn't get a lottery number (I mean, who did? I don't think I've ever met someone who actually got in through the lottery!), please check out these charities, which currently have spots available!

Streetwise Partners - an NY-based organization that "provides an effective, free job training program for highly motivated people who face multiple barriers to employment (source)."

Girls on the Run - an organization that is particularly dear to my heart as they encourage girls to gain confidence and live healthfully through running! Running for this charity is an awesome opportunity for grown-up girls to lead by healthy example.

Team Fox - Michael J. Fox's foundation for Parkinson's Research has an amazing running team, and let's be honest, how cool is Michael J. Fox?


Team in Training - the purple team. For those who are runners, this team likely needs no introduction. It is a huge team of charity runners running for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

And of course....DetermiNation!

I have had friends participate in the running programs for all charities listed and all had wonderful experiences - I wouldn't lead you astray!

Now that you can't use, "I didn't get into the lottery" as an excuse...what are you waiting for??

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Giving myself a pat on the back

Last week, I mentioned that I often set out with an ambitious running schedule that I blatantly make no real attempt to follow through on.

Since declaring, however, that I was not going to make excuses for myself, I have actually completed all of the runs that I set out to do - Go team productive D!

Now that I have completed these runs, allow me to show you what a typical week of running looks like for me:

One speed workout, such as the one below, completed on the treadmill so that I can indulge my OCD side and precisely monitor my speed and distance.

Yes, this makes me sweat a lot, and yes, it also likely prevents me from being asked out at the gym.

One short, fast run, usually between 4 - 6 miles at a pace of around 7:00 - 7:30 minutes/mile (I occasionally do this on the treadmill, also, just to be sure I'm hitting my desired speed, although I despise doing steady-pace runs on treadmills. Stab me in the eyeball.)

One medium length run, untimed, usually between 6 - 8 miles. I would estimate that my pace here is around 8:00 - 8:30 minutes/mile and I always strive to throw in some hill sprints, although that's difficult to do in the rather flat NYC. One of my girlfriends from the city clued me into a short, steep hill on 91st Street between 2nd and 3rd so I usually try to hit that up.

One long, double digit mile run. I would estimate my pace on that to be about 8:30, but I don't allow myself to be concerned with time and just aim for getting in the distance and enjoying myself.

I adapted this training plan around what I have the time and resources to do. As I mentioned....I hadn't been very diligent about following it. However, I'm getting better all the time!

So, now you know! I used the beginner version of this plan when I was training for my very first long race, the 2010 Brooklyn Half Marathon and found it to be effective both in preparing me physically and putting me at ease mentally. Since then, I haven't trained for a single one of the Half mar's I've run, so I'm hoping that in actually training for Queens, I will see a difference in my finishing time - wish me luck!

peace out, I'm going to go run.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I left the island!

I had the treat of venturing out of Manhattan not once, but twice, this past weekend. Although the first trip was still in New York City, technically speaking, I think we can all agree that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG as it is referred to in all of their informational signage and will be hereby referred to in this here blog) remains a worthy respite from a hot, city summer day.

sunny friends on a sunny day!

I was in complete awe of the stunning floral show on display at the BBG - the roses, the lilies, the exotic greenhouse plants.

not found on 58th street

I didn't spy any peonies (my favorite flower) so in its place my favorite flower of the day was absolutely the sacred lotus blossoms growing from floating lilypads in the Japanese garden.

A perfect combination of weird and beautiful, just my taste!

don't those buds look like shower heads?


this greenhouse flower reminded me of a textile!
mellow yellow
Such a reminder that God's creation is approximately infinitely more beautiful than anything we try to pull together.

My second venture off the island took me much further away to the beautiful Rhinebeck, NY for a surprise birthday party my sweet friend Chloe's delightful parents threw for her big 25th. It was such a wonderful evening of friendship and joy - I always look forward to meeting my friends' families and Chloe's is truly incredible. The thought and time they put into organizing a special event for her was heartwarming and I was so glad to be a part of it!

I took zero pictures - woops! - but trust me that the party was elegant, festive, fun, and left me with a terrible headache Sunday.

I capped off my weekend with a dinner of copious amounts of guacamole (too much is never enough), Trader Joe's indian dishes and Pinkberry with two of my best friends from high school. Being able to share time with these two unbelievable, hilarious, inspiring, encouraging ladies in New York was such a treat and left me with a very happy heart.

This past weekend was so overabundantly joyful that you better believe I was left with a July 5th feeling yesterday. I cured this with the classic documentary musical "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," shown for free as part of the HBO Film Festival series in Bryant Park!

Diamonds are a girl's best friend
The only slightly unpleasant aspect of that show was the hooligan sitting next to us, sporting a mullet and chain smoking. First of all, that's illegal in New York parks. Second of all, ew.

Hope your weekend was just as lovely and your week is going swimmingly!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's Sunday. Are you hungover?

If so, I personally can think about having a glass of wine and experience a hangover the next day, so I can certainly sympathize.

And despite your inclination to crawl into bed, close the blinds and pray for death, exercise can actually do a tremendous amount of good in bringing your poor, abused body back to life.

In the final weeks of my senior year of college, I made a rule for myself: if I was too hungover from the night before to run a three mile loop off-campus, then I was too hungover to go out again that night. And since, of course, I wanted to squeeze every drop out of my last weeks of college (because apparently, you can never see your friends or drink adult beverages after you graduate), I always dragged myself through those three miles.

oh, hello college.

Without fail, after a good sweat and a good shower, I felt human enough to put some clothes on and drink more lukewarm beer. Hooray!

Fact: I will always run for beer.

I also enjoyed a Sunday evening yoga class offered at my college gym. Held at 6 pm, I had been able to rest enough that a trip to the gym did not feel too intimidating and the Level 1 vinyasa (I think?) class was relaxing enough that even a tired body could handle it.

As I've grown in my yoga practice and come to understand more of the restorative properties the practice provides, I've learned that it was more than just leaving my dorm room and getting some moderate exercise that would bring me out of my Sunday-funk.

Many poses, particularly twisting poses, serve to "wring out" your organs, releasing toxins and refreshing your body from the inside, out.

So today, try a twisted pose rather than a greasy omelette as your mode of recovery. So, so many parts of your body will thank you. Some ideas:

Twisted seated pose - so easy! - just sit down, cross your right leg over your bent left leg, and twist the upper half of your body all the way to the right, looking behind you. Repeat on the other side.

Twisted chair pose - not quite as easy! but you can do it - from a standing position, slowly bend your legs and lower yourself as if you're sitting in a chair. Bring your hands into a prayer position before your heart, and keeping this arm position, twist to the right with your left elbow outside of your right knee. Return to center, and repeat on the other side.

Happy bending!

Any other sneaky hangover cure tactics out there? I need them.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Coffee: some is good, more is better.

Despite all of the rumors you've heard, New York City is actually not a relaxing place to live. Work atmospheres tend to be competitive and stressful, social schedules tend to be packed to the brim, and if you don't have 14 side hobbies, what are you even doing here?

It is both a blessing and a curse to be constantly busy. I am sort of a contradiction of a person in that while I am very outgoing, social and *ahem* bubbly...I am actually secretly a homebody. Nothing I love more than curling up with tea and a good book, having a friend over for a homemade dinner and conversation, taking a long walk, or watching an old re-run of Murder, She Wrote...I mean, what?!? Who said that!?

Welp, this weekend will not be one of those relaxing weekends.

Literally, every second is accounted for with parties (one of which is upstate!), a dinner, a trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (my inaugural visit! so excited - and, for all you New Yorkers, admission to the garden is free before noon on Saturdays!), studying, running...whew!

I'm very excited, particularly as I will be seeing a few friends I don't get to see often, but also looking forward to a time in my life in which I can take a breather, take a walk, take the time to have a good phone date, do my laundry......

And on that note, it's time to visit my favorite baristas and get my 54 cent Starbucks refill. Yes, I know the exact cost, with tax.

couldn't do it without you.

Anyone else feel like they're always crazy their "free" time?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

PSA: It's cool to look like Casper

While I refer to my porcelain-like complexion as "alabaster," I realize that in reality, I'm actually just freakishly pale. I tried to fight this reality for many, many years to absolutely no avail. I will say that I am fortunate in that while I don't tan, I also don't fact seem to repel the sun.

I have many painful memories of going in for my annual check-up in high school and having my doctor comment that I "clearly didn't spend too much time in the sun." Yea...except for the hours I spent on my blazin' hot black roof wearing SPF 8 + tanning oil (seriously), timing my "tanning" of each side with a kitchen timer (seriously)...

I've thankfully given up that habit as it is:

a. terrible for me
b. completely unproductive anyway.

Now I've replaced a desire for the bronzed goddess look with a desire to look young forever and never have melanoma, but mostly look young forever (kidding! maybe.). I wouldn't dare venture into the sun without my SPF 70+ Neutrogena spray sunscreen and I regularly harrass my non-Casper-esque friends about their delinquent sunscreen use.

not everyone in this picture applies sunscreen evenly
But even I, it seems, have a lesson to learn in sunscreen application this summer.

The Well+Good NYC bloggers put together a list of sunscreen tips, many of which took me by surprise. I always apply thick and often, everyday, before heading out into the rays (and so should you!!) but what I did not know was that you should apply sunscreen directly to your face (rather than bottle-to-hand-to-face), that you should put on sunscreen before putting on moisturizer, and (and this is embarrassing) that sunscreen expires? I can say with 100% confidence that in a pinch I have used last season's sunscreen, blissfully unaware of its ineffectiveness. Woops.

ahhh, the bliss of the ignorant

Find the full write-up of tips here and don't forget to apply, apply, apply! And wear bronzer.

Also, for the full, government-sanctioned, updated list of sunscreen rules, check out the FDA's official site for sun protection news and information.

Pure, raw lady-date

For my birthday this year, I was the very fortunate recipient of a gift card to New York's own temple of healthy eating: Pure Food and Wine, the raw, vegan culinary enterprise from the beautiful (shocker) Sarma MeIngailis.

A testament to how busy I've been is that my birthday was in May and I was finally able to enjoy my meal at Pure, with, of course, my dear friend who gave me the gift, last night.

Thankfully, it was well worth the wait. I had been dreaming of raw mushroom ravioli and decadent raw desserts for so long that the lines had begun to blur between what I had actually eaten and what I had just seen photos of online and drooled over. The trick I employed to distinguish between the two was to remind myself that I actually hadn't eating anything from the restaurant. Ohhhh, right.

Well I can't say that anymore, can I get a woo-hoo for that?

What distinguishes Pure from other healthy or even vegan restaurants is, yes, that the food served is entirely 'raw': not heated over 118 degrees, but more than that, that it is truly a gourmet dining experience. Sarma does not sacrifice one ounce of elegance or comfort both in the preparation of foods and in the ambiance of the restaurant itself.

This visit was a true indulgence.

We split a maki appetizer to start, which was made of: avocado, delicious, and deliciousness.

Moving right along to our entrees, Ellen enjoyed her favorite, the corn tamales, which succeeded in tasting, dare I say...meaty? I opted for the squash blossoms with cashew nut cheese and green beans which were mysteriously crunchy as though they had been...cooked?

romantic lighting does not lend itself to the best iPhone photography

For dessert we each ordered ice cream treats, perfectly complimenting the warm summer evening. Again, although they were vegan and not really frozen, they were completely, cream-y.

to the amusement of absolutely no one, I felt the need to instagram my dessert

How do they do it? Ellen had had the good fortune of enjoying a sampling of the menu with the restaurateur herself and explained how the process of dehydrating and soaking many of the elements of each dish begins a week prior to serving, and how the chefs aim to create combinations that compliment each other in such a way that they trick the mind into assuming it is enjoying a cooked dish. The level of science, attention to detail, and culinary expertise necessary to create each dish is simply mind boggling and left me in awe.

And full and happy.

We also spotted Sarma, hard at work on her laptop in the corner, looking stunning per the usual. I totally gawked. I was definitely the coolest customer Pure has ever had, and they are welcome for my patronage.

The one potential detrimental side effect of this overwhelmingly wonderful dining experience is that I fear I will hate every meal I have until my [inevitable] return. Oh well, sacrifices must be made.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Making excuses

So I have a somewhat legitimate topic to discuss, but in order to discuss said topic, I have an embarrassing confession to make. I love magazine quizzes. And I'm not even 13! I love them. I love buying trashy mags when I'm travelling and I read every. single. page. although I am well aware of the fact that my brain cells are likely declaring a mutiny and I am well aware of the fact that the June 2011 issue is exactly the same as the October 2007 issue is exactly the same as the March 2002 issue...whatever. At least I'm reading, right?

So last time I was flying, I took a very scientific quiz to on why I procrastinate. My results determined that I procrastinate because I strive for perfection, and I fear that if something is not perfect, than it is not even worth doing at all.

So the truly embarrassing part of this whole situation: Glamour/Elle/whichever magazine was absolutely correct. Really. Saw right through me like a pane o' glass.

I cannot even tell you how many cover letters I've drafted and never sent in because I felt that they weren't "just right," how many projects I've started and abandoned because I didn't think I could execute them in the absolute best manner possible, how many important conversations I've neglected to have because I couldn't find the most succinct, articulate, and sensitive words to convey my feelings.

I've also found this same procrastination tactic emerge in my running habits.

As I reviewed the training runs I wanted to complete this week and tried to plan out when exactly I could complete them, a little voice in my head kept repeating, "yea, but you're probably not going to do them all anyway." I'm so used to hearing this voice in my head that I normally let it float on by, but this time, I stopped myself and said [this is all in my head, I wasn't actually having a conversation with myself...] "well, why not?"

Why not, indeed???

I love running, so why is it so difficult for me to complete a training plan? Why do I consistently plan to go on targeted runs, hillwork, or speedwork and then convince myself I can just go run five or six miles at a steady pace, or, lately, black out and somehow find myself on the elliptical, more or less phoning my cardio in?

My attitude is that if I don't feel as though I'm going to do a training run perfectly, or if I don't feel I am going to hit my race out of the park, to mix my sports metaphors, than it is not worthwhile to even try.

If I admit that I truly care about something and am really striving to succeed in a particular arena, and I do not do so perfectly, then in my mind, I am a failure. Worse than that, actually - a failure before my friends, family and peers.

Well that is ludacris.

In all honesty, I would like to be faster. I do care about my times. I would like to put in hard work and see concrete results. Although I would be reticent to admit it if you asked me to my face, I do have a particular time in mind that I would like to finish the Queens half marathon in, and it's not going to be easy. It's entirely possible that I will fail. And I'm certainly not doing myself any favors by not taking training seriously.

Yes, I will finish the race if I don't train. Yes, I will probably finish within a decent time frame.

But I know that I can do better, and knowing that, I should do better.

So my goal for this month is to stop making excuses for myself, once and for all. If I want something, and I know what to do to attain it, the only thing standing in my way like a pack of tourists in Central Park, is me! In order to get out of my own way, I need to get over my fears of trying, of caring, and falling short of perfection and openly admitting defeat.

I'm not exactly sure who I'm trying to convince that I'm "Rico Suave," and since it's clearly not working anyway, I think it is time to give it up.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

December 26th

The first day back to work after an exciting weekend always feels like December 26th to me. This feeling is even more significant today, because as we all know, I think of the 4th of July like my own special, warm-weather Christmas.

So maybe I should start referring to that feeling as a "July 5th" feeling instead...

Anyway, back to the daily grind it is, whether I like it or not.

My mission this week is to successfully see a project I've been overseeing through (we've hit some hiccups, which is extremely frustrating for me, particularly as, no matter what I tell myself, I tend to take work-related issues personally), actually complete a variety of training runs this week: speed work, medium runs and a long run this weekend, keep up with my #fitabs commitment, and get ready for yet another exciting weekend - I have a few prezzies to pick up so I'm looking forward to a couple of fun after-work errands this week. Productivity is the name of the game for this girl, and I have several to-do lists in place: in my Outlook calendar, my Google calendar, and hand-written (so I can color code/decorate it, obviously) to keep me mindful of my goals and plans.

I have some other exciting plans this week, including a few special lady-dates, which I am greatly looking forward to.

And just like December 26th  July 5th feeling has melted away!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

who doesn't love a land that celebrates its flag with a fruity cake?
I've said it once, I've said it (literally) a million times: I. LOVE. AMERICA. I love it more than coffee, more than running, more than my bed, more than most of my friends...sorry, friends.

I am so thrilled that it is once again our nation's day of birth (I'm also a huge proponent of birthdays, so today packs a double-whammy for me) and we can celebrate the fact that we live in what is truly the home of the free and the land of the brave.

I know it's not a perfect land, but comparing America to the rest of the world, and to how governments have historically been run...well, we are extremely fortunate and have really a tremendous amount of freedom.

Today we are free to...

- write pointless blogs (case in point: what I am doing right now)
- wear whatever revealing double-denim ensemble we may choose
- run 26.2 miles - for fun.
- do something of merit, I guess.

Freedom is something not to be taken for granted, how are you using yours today?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It's the freakin' weekend!

The title of this post was inspired by R. Kelly's inspired tune, "Ignition" one of my favorite cheesy party songs from high school, which always reminds me of driving with my girlfriends in my friend Chelsea's Mustang to a spring break kick-off party sophomore year.


While high school may be over, I am delighted that one of my closest friends from my schoolgirl days will be in NYC for a few weeks before embarking on a world tour performing opera, because she is casually the most talented person I have ever met.

It is such a joy to have her here. I love, love, love my friends in New York, but there is just something about spending time with someone who has known you for over a decade, through fun times and hard times, through changing and staying the same.

In addition to a weekend-long lady date, I am maximizing the cooler temperatures to get in some runs in preparation for my next race: the Queens half-marathon on July 30. I have been predictably delinquent in my training and was somewhat shocked that I actually completed the 11 mile run I had planned for yesterday. Listening to my new favorite throwback tune once or twice fourteen times consecutively certainly helped the time go by and I felt ahhhmazing the whole time, hooray!

THROWBACK! you're welcome.

Staying true to my #fitabs challenge, I also tossed in a few ab exercises. And by a few, I of course mean 100 because that is how many I am supposed to do daily. Luckily, 100 ab exercises is actually less intimidating than it sounds so it was no problemo!


Friday, July 1, 2011

AB Challenge, you say?

As I mentioned previously, reading about fitness makes me feel fit, even if I am sitting on my tukus (yiddish word I learned recently from my cubicle neighbor who mutters "oy gevalt" every half hour or so) and will be for the next 8 hours. Similarly, reading about nutrition facts makes me feel like I'm on an a diet. Mind over matter, people.

So if I have some downtime at work, am on my lunch break, or am enjoying coffee before hitting up the gym for an early morning sweat session, you better believe that I am surfing the world wide web for ways to learn about fitness, super foods, healthy living tips, and becoming a healthier person by osmosis (that works, right?).

Through creeping around various fitness-oriented websites, I found the wonderful Katy Widrick, who is not only a dedicated triathlete but also a legitimate social media maven. Seriously, she may or may not have invented the internet. Obviously, this is someone to follow on twitter (after first following peanut butter...) and if one does so, one will find all sorts of great fitness and social media advice, and become a fit little guru merely by sitting at their computer, doing absolutely nothing! Amazing!

Yesterday Ms. Widrick tweeted about a 30-day ab challenge. In addition to all of the life-long health benefits exercise can afford you, you can also look good in a bikini, which certainly wouldn't ruin my life. So I thought to myself, well why not, Diana? Let's see what this is all about!

Basically, by informally signing onto this challenge, you get advice and encouragement to do approximately 100 ab exercises daily for 25 out of 30 days. That's like, a lot of ab work, but as I said, looking good in a bikini won't make me want to jump off a ledge. So starting today, I hereby declare that I will be partaking in this challenge, with the hope that I will have the sort of abs that give me the confidence to do this:

Or maybe not, on second thought.

Join me, yes or yes?