Never forget to stop and smell the roses.

Hello There!

Boston is absolutely stunning today-it finally feels like spring has sprung! The sky is blue, the sun is shining, there’s not a cloud in sight, and all around the flowers and trees are blooming. I am definitely not usually a supporter of spring weather (I prefer fall/winter), but today you can’t help but be in love a little bit.

On that note, I wanted to share my experience with a recent outdoor/indoor fitness event I participated in because it really made me stop, look around, and realize how lucky I am to use the city of Boston as my training grounds and I want you all to be able to experience something similar.

So on Wednesday night, I attended the Run + Yoga for Runners class at Janji and definitely enjoyed it! I met up at 6pm at the Janji pop up store on the corner of Newbury and Dartmouth Street with my running partner and sole mate (see what I did there?!), Becca, and we joined in for the 2.5 mile run, led by Jana Ross: Bananas for Balance blogger, marathoner, run coach, and Janji Corps ambassador. The loop took us across Back Bay onto the Esplanade, down to the iconic Hatch Shell, followed by a sharp turn back up the Esplanade to the Mass Ave Bridge, across the busy streets, down Beacon Street, and back over to the Janji store. During the run, I got to see the Charles River sparkle as the sun began to set, beautiful yellow flowers stand tall along the greenway, and–for the first time all day–I let the rest of the world and all of my responsibilities melt away as I just tuned in to the sunshine on my face and the fresh, crisp air I got to inhale. That absolutely made my day and solidified that I need to be outside way more to enjoy the world around me through running.

Then, back at the store, we were led through an amazing yoga for runners flow by Brittany Flaherty: yoga instructor and Janji Corps ambassador. The flow was chill, filled with laughter, and really hit some key, targeted areas (hello, groin!) that needed some extra love and attention post-run. It was interesting flowing through a yoga series in the middle of a very public glass storefront where passer-byers felt the need to stop, watch, and even take pictures, but I assume that’s the whole point in trying to raise awareness of the Janji story and mission. All in all: it was a great experience, led by a wonderful duo! I highly recommend being on the lookout for future Run +Yoga for Runners series by Jana and Brittany-you can rest assured I’ll always keep you in-the-know here!

This particular class is considered part of the overall MoveWith community (as is Cara Gilman’s RunYoga Spring/Summer Series), which is a digital platform that let’s you browse community-based fitness classes and experiences with some of the best and most inspiring teachers in the local scene. I encourage you all to browse the upcoming MoveWith classes in Boston and maybe even sign up to try something knew that you’ve always wanted to try. One of the best parts about MoveWith, besides their notion of #socialsweat, is the prices of their classes and experiences. Did you know that the average rate for a drop in fitness class in Boston hovers around $20-$25?? That’s outrageous! The prices I’ve been seeing on the MoveWith site have been more like $10-$15, which is definitely more fair-priced for the experience you’ll be getting. So if the idea of community doesn’t move you, then perhaps the better prices will!

In the meantime, I’m going to share with you something my mom always tells me to do because it is legitimate wise advice: make time this weekend to feel the sun shine on your face, breathe in the fresh air, and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses! Every now and then we all get weighed down by work responsibilities, social engagements, to-do lists, and a wide variety of other things that society tells us we should being doing…but that doesn’t mean we should neglect ourselves and our health and well-being. Really, it’s just that simple: a little awareness to the amazing world around you as it begins to bloom and take shape again can go along way when you’re feeling stuck or a little lost.

So, from my mom and me to you: don’t forget to stop and smell the roses! 🙂

Happy Friday,
-Meg

Stretch It Out.

Hello!

So last week I gave you a sneak preview into my active weekend of participating in FitBit Local’s kickoff event in the South End on Saturday morning and then a free run clinic on Sunday morning. Needless to say, between trying my very first high intensity bootcamp class and actively working on new strength training exercises, I was hobbling around my apartment with that good, sore feeling by Sunday evening.

You know that feeling I’m talking about, right? The one that makes you feel positive that you got a solid workout in and maybe even worked some new muscles because getting up from a seated position is a lot of work and trying to reach for something in a cabinet becomes a chore…sometimes even just laying there hurts! But, as sore as you are, you can’t help but smile knowing that you allowed your body to work hard and you pushed it to the limit for that day. Rest was much deserved!

In between the struggle of my sore moments and the excitement of telling my running friends about these two free fitness events, I realized that the perfect thing to share with you today would be active warm-up and recovery suggestions-something I learned in the run clinic and definitely utilized this weekend…it was my saving grace and can be yours, too as you think about incorporating wellness activities, like proper stretching, into your daily routine.

But first, let me quickly recap what these two events were like…

Fitbit Local’s free event was held in the SOWA Power Station, an architecturally-stunning building with high cathedral ceilings in the South End-and, over the course of two hours, featured a bodyweight bootcamp class led by a prominent Boston fitness instructor, Chad Flahive, followed by a yoga flow by Cara Gilman. I’ll be honest, I originally only wanted to attend this event for the sake of the yoga portion-not only was it a class taught by my absolute favorite yoga instructor, but it was also a free yoga class (whereas many single class offerings in Boston range from $15-$25 per class)…the added bonus was that I got to try out a bootcamp class, too which I have never done before.

That being said, I was very curious about what a bootcamp class would be like so I went in with an open mind. It is what it sounded like: “bootcamp:” a high intensity cardio class, that gets your heart rate up, something to make you sweat quickly and continuously, and something (or someone) to push you to keep moving. Over the course of the class, I did a mixture of twisting jumping jacks, regular squats, pulsing squats, jump squats (after typing out all of those squat, I can now understand the soreness in my glutes…), burpees, mountain climbers crunches, and so forth. The end result? I think I would try a bootcamp class again just to give it another fair shot, but it also solidified that, for me, a large class, with loud music meant to pump you up, and an instructor yelling (in an inspiring way!) things like, “Keep moving!” “Almost there!” “Last set!” “Okay, really–this is the last set!” “You got this–this really is the last one!” doesn’t really motivate me…it more so irritates me. But that’s just me. I can absolutely see why other people need or want a class like that to motivate them intensely for 30-45 minutes; it had me looking at my watch to see when this part would be over. Still, I can’t really complain at all since clearly it worked me out well and I was feeling all kinds of new sore throughout my body.

And, yoga with Cara was simply amazing (to be expected)-so not much to report on that end. I was so grateful to have that time to slowly cool down my body and flow through some poses and begin the active stretching process, while calming my forever-on-the-go-mind. It also reminded me of how much I miss yoga incorporated into my week at least once or twice (is such a powerful practice especially when paired with running) so I bit the bullet and signed up for Cara’s 10-week Run + Yoga summer series…although I have to miss the first two classes due to grad school and work travel, I am beyond stoked to have this series to look forward to each week as I train for the B.A.A. 10K.

And so, I woke up pretty sore on Sunday morning, kind of regretting this decision to do back-to-back new fitness events, but I was also too excited to attend this run clinic to let anything cloud my mind.  A friend, fellow November Project-er, and PT/DPT/Cert. DN/Running Specialist, Dani Adler, led her first clinic: Learn The 3 E’s To Run Training: Easy, Effective, and Efficient where we learned how to apply the 3 E’s to our active warm-ups and strength training routines. We topped off the clinic with a gorgeous 3 mile run along the Mystic River, right across the street from her office in Medford, MA.

Here is a picture of our awesome group-a mix of triathletes, ultra-marathoners, marathoners, and just regular runners, like myself-outside of the Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness office before our run (we were even lucky enough to have two members of Team Hoyt join us as they trained for the upcoming Providence Marathon). All in all, I was inspired to be surrounded by such amazing athletes and greatness and got pumped to keep my run pace with them-it felt good to challenge myself like that.

RunClinic.jpg

Okay, and now the moment I’ve been so excited to share with you since I was hobbling around my apartment, wonderfully sore from all of these free fitness events: active warm-up and stretching. During the run clinic, Dani led us through a series of warm-up routines that were easy to follow, proved to be effective during our 3 mile run after as we all felt properly warmed up, and were super efficient: the whole routine took no more than 9-10 minutes, yet covered a broad spectrum of body parts and muscles that are integral to running. She explained the difference between active warm-ups (what I will share with you below) and static stretching (something like bending over and touching your toes or pulling one leg behind you to stretch out your hamstrings before a run)-she immediately turned me into a believer and made me never want to statically stretch before a workout ever again-that should be saved for post-run stretching. Why do I say this? Read below and find out.

How to Apply the 3 E’s to Your Warm-Up:

  1. Inch worms: 5 sets 
    The inch worm is a great way to actively stretch out your hamstrings and calves and fire up your core before a run. To follow me along, I’ve included a snapshot for you to see-the sequence goes: Top Left, Top Right, Bottom Left, Bottom Right, and repeat.
    – Start out with your feet close together and stretch down to to the floor in front of you (top left image).
    – Begin to walk your hands forward, alternating left and right, bending only at the hips and keeping your legs straight until you reach a push up position (top right image).
    – Now keep your hands in place and slowly take short steps forward with your feet, not bending your knees-this is where you will start to feel the amazing stretch in your hamstrings and calves (bottom left image).
    – Continue walking until your feet have reached your hands-or have come as far as your legs allow without bending your knees. You will notice you are back in the starting position-repeat 5 times for an active warm-up (bottom right image).
    InchWorm
  2. Downward Dog into “Walking the Dog:” 5-10 on each side.
    Downward Dog is an energizing yoga pose meant to stretch the shoulders (mine always crack), hamstrings, calves, feet, and hands, while strengthening your arms and legs.
    – To get into the Downward Dog position, you place yourself in an inverted “V” pose, with your palms and feet rooted in the ground below you and your sits bones (think: butt area), lifted up to the sky. Your body weight is evenly distributed,  your shoulders are squared to the ground, your neck is relaxed and your gaze is down/towards your feet.
    – To follow me along, I’ve included a snapshot for you below. Top Left and Top Right are the same pose (Downward Dog), just shown from a front view and side view.
    – Bottom Left and Bottom Right just show the “Walking the Dog” sequence, from the side view. From your Downward Dog position, alternatively lift and lower your lower your heels, still keeping your body weight evenly distributed-don’t let your body fall side to side as you pedal out your feet. Repeat for 5-10 times on each side.
    DownwardDog
  3. Downward Dog into Pigeon Pose: 30 seconds, each side.
    Pigeon pose is my absolute favorite stretch. This pose stretches out your thighs, groin areas, abs, chest, and shoulders and is one of the deepest stretches you can find yourself in, but boy does it feel great if you can bear it!
    – From the Downward Dog position, keep your hips squared towards the ground and bring one leg forward towards your arms to a 90 degree angle (or as close as you can get). That foot, which should stay flexed for a better stretch, will come to rest towards your groin area as your back leg is extended out with the knee and leg squared towards the floor and pressed down.
    – You can either keep your upper body upright, with the ribcage lift and hands perched by your front foot, or slowly lower yourself down over your front knee and walk and stretch your arms out forward as well for a deeper stretch-in this case you can keep your gaze down.
    – I’ve included another snapshot for you to follow me along Top and Bottom images are the same pose, just shown from a front and side view. *Note: I am only showing one side in these images, but this pose calls for both left and right sides to be stretched. After about 30 seconds on one side, shake out your leg and repeat the pose on the opposite side. 
    PigeonPose
  4. Adductor Rock: 15-20 on each side.
    This stretch I was pretty new to, but am so glad I tried it! The adductor rock really stretches out the groin area, while also loosening up any tightness in your inner thigh area (note: one side may feel more tight than the other).
    – Start on all fours and extend one leg to the side.
    – Gently rock back on your bent knee, keeping your back flat, and progressively rock back further and further each time, opening up the groin area.
    – I included a snapshot for you to follow along. The Top Left and Top Right images are what the sequence looks like from a front view, and Bottom Left and Bottom Right images is the same thing, but from a side view. *Note: I am only showing one side in these images, but this pose calls for both left and right sides to be stretched. After about 15-20 rocks on one side, shake out your legs and repeat the stretch on the opposite side. 
    AdductorRock
  5. 5 Minutes of “Fitness Walking” – I don’t have an image for this one, and I know it kind of sounds funny to do before a run (especially when most of us barely have time to fit in a run as it is), but getting your body ready for the motion of running by walking at 3.5 mph or less can really relieve the shock of your body going from 0 – (enter your mph here) in just seconds. Walking before allows your heart rate to pick up and for your breathing to quicken and get fired up for your set pace.

After the warm-up we got into applying the 3 E’s to strength training. If you’re interested in seeing some specific strength training videos that you can incorporate into your own routine, I recommend checking out Dani’s RunFitDoc YouTube channel –it’s a great resource to get yourself started and you can rest assured that the information is coming to you from a true professional! All of these routines are easy to follow, reasonable to scale, and really complement your training runs well. The most important thing to me, as someone who is typically stretched thin with many responsibilities, is efficiency: if you give me something that will be effective for my training and compact enough that I can easily fit in to a 10 minute segment every day (or every other day) then that is what I know will work and what I can reasonably stick with.  Personally, I look forward to doing these routines at least 2 times per week, to begin with, during my upcoming 10K training and reporting back on the positive impact.

Lastly, if you missed her run clinic last weekend and are now kicking yourself for it-fear not! You still have one more upcoming opportunity to learn about The 3 E’s To Run Training: Easy, Effective, and Efficient as a part of the first ever BPTW Strength Symposium on Saturday, May 21 at 10am in Medford, MA (I attached the Eventbrite info for your convenience). This event, as opposed to the run clinic I attended, covers a depth and breadth of topics, such as running, nutrition, core strength, injury/pain presentation, etc., but gives you access to a whole line up of health, wellness, and fitness experts and professionals, like Dani…what an opportunity! This is one local event for all you triathletes, marathoners, and fitness enthusiasts to not miss!

As for me, tonight I am off to the Run + Yoga for Runners event held at the Janji pop-up store on Newbury Street in Boston tonight! This event is run by two fellow November Project-ers: Brittany Flaherty and Jana Ross and coordinated by the MoveWith company. I’m so excited to work out in a new location (can’t believe I still haven’t been to the Janji store yet!) after I run through the streets of my favorite area in Boston: Back Bay! More to come on this experience when I write again on Friday.

In the meantime, and in the spirit of today’s post, I want to encourage you all to to incorporate some form of stretching into your daily routine: this could be 5-10 minutes of active stretching in the morning to wake you up or some form of static stretching to flow through and relieve stress before bed…it could even be your midday break from work after lunch! The benefits of stretching (reduced muscle tension, increased range of the joints, increased blood flow, and higher energy levels, just to name a few…) are too go pass up! Or, if you think I missed out on a different form of active stretching, then please comment below and share one of your favorite stretches–I always love to hear from you!

Wishing you wellness today and always,
-Meg

The new chip on the block.

Good Morning!

This weekend, I wanted to break away from my usual breakfast-themed snacks, like muffins and smoothies, and give you a recipe that can be used more as a pre-dinner appetizer with your family or a snack to share amongst friends in a social setting. What is this snack?  Zucchini chips, your new healthy alternative to greasy fried potato chips!

Now I know you may be thinking: “But Meg, they make baked potato chips now with far less fat…” to which I would respond: “But these include a delicious vegetable with a plethora of health benefits, including the ability to lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.” For more on the surprisingly awesome health benefits of zucchinis, definitely take a couple of minutes to browse through this article from Veg Kitchen; the benefits are endless and so powerful for your overall health, especially for your beautiful hearts. Then, when you decide to bake these chips and share with your friends you can super cool and in-the-know when your health facts when you reference this article (plus your family and friends will appreciate that you’re looking out for their health).

This is also the first of my Sunday Snacks series that, surprisingly, does not involve Greek yogurt and is not something that I found on Pinterest while looking for half marathon training meals to fuel my workouts–this snack will be a little heartier, but has simple ingredients and is very easy to make in a reasonable timeframe. The original recipe that I found was through the Real Simple website (which I highly recommend to browse through for a wide variety of healthy meals). I’ll include the original recipe that I found here because it includes a video that’s easy to follow in case you get nervous baking new things and want to feel like someone is in the kitchen with you. 🙂

Prep time for these zucchini chips is just around 15 minutes and total bake time is around 2o minutes–so we’re looking at 35-40 minute time slot set aside to complete this recipe. I chopped up a fairly large zucchini, so my recipe yielded 30 chips, which is a perfect size to serve as an appetizer before dinner or snack on with friends while watching a show or a game on TV. Without further ado, let’s get to the ingredients you’ll need to gather and the baking instructions.

Zucchini Chips Ingredients:

  • Zucchini (sliced)
  • Skim milk
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

Other Items Needed:

  • Baking sheet/pan
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowls

Chip_Ingredients

Baking Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Wash zucchini and slice into even pieces (not too thin).
  3. Mix together breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in one bowl.
  4. Pour about 2 cups of skim milk into a separate bowl.
  5. Dip zucchini slices in the milk, then dredge into the mix of breading ingredients and place evenly on pan.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or till crispy on the outside.

Chip_Prep.jpg

Chip_PreBake

I chose to eat my zucchini chips as a pre-dinner appetizer and dip them in a refreshing cucumber dressing, but these chips would also be lovely with a hummus, a chipotle aioli, or even just on its own with a mixture of other vegetables like carrots and such.

Chip_FinalProduct

I’m off to Dani Adler’s run clinic now (Learn the 3 E’s To Run Training: Easy, Efficient, Effective)- can’t wait to share what I learned from her with you later this week, as well as recap my experience at the Fitbit Local bootcamp and yoga event yesterday. I’m already feeling pretty sore from the Fitbit Local event, so I’m looking forward to sharing some kind of deep stretching tips with you on Wednesday–tune back in for all that goodness.

In the meantime, I hope this snack inspires some healthier alternative snacking options throughout your week. Potato chips are easy to pick up in the store and go to town on until you hit the bottom of the bag before you know it; however, these chips give you the opportunity to feel less guilty, while also getting your daily vegetable in. I challenge you all to think of one of your favorite go-to snacks and think of how you might be able to create a healthy alternative option. If you have something you’d like to share, I love trying out new recipes so please feel free to e-mail me at melucas7@gmail.com or comment below to share with everyone-I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

Enjoy your Sunday,
-Meg

Something for runners and non-runners alike.

Hey Everyone!

Can you believe it? Another week has come and gone! I wanted to follow up on Wednesday’s post, featuring my Top 10 Wellness Tips, with something that might be enjoyable to do, while practicing wellness: reading a book. Now before you get ready to click out of this post and say “Nope, I’m not into books” or “I don’t have time to read at this time,” just hear me out; I promise you’ll be so glad that you picked up this book in the end.

So the first tip I shared was “less screen time.” This tip was inspired by an article I read by Fast Company called “What Happened When I Stopped Using Screens After 11p.m.” One of the many benefits that came from this wellness experiment was more reading time. Personally, while I’m sad to be finishing up my second master’s degree at Boston University (BU)  in a couple of weeks (really, I’m going to miss being in a classroom), I realize that this extra non-school time can be filled with more time reading for pleasure again. That being said, I figured it was only fitting to share a book recommendation for my Feature Friday post.

The book I encourage you to all pick up is Running Ransom Road: Confronting the Past, One Marathon at a Time by Caleb Daniloff. Again, before you trail off because you think this is your typical inspirational running book, don’t go anywhere. Now while I do think this book should be in the hands of every runner, whether you’ve run no more than one mile, a race of any length, or even if you are a marathoner for the umpteenth-time, I also wholeheartedly believe this book is a must-read for the non-runners alike. We all have a past–and moments, actions, and decisions within it–that we are none too proud of and Daniloff’s book is an absolutely raw and brutally honest narrative about his journey as a mean, hopeless drunk through the difficult trials of sobriety and into a spiritual redemption of marathon running that will go straight from the ink on the pages and into your soul, if you let it.

RunningRansomRoad

Throughout his book, Daniloff poetically describes the rhythm and cadences of running, the swift movement of his arms as they chop through the weather elements and the way his feet pound the pavement below him–he brings you along on his runs and opens his mind and soul to you so that you may experience his thoughts and feelings along the way, for better or worse. As the pages turn (and trust me, I underlined and dog-eared most of them), Daniloff proves that he is not only an accomplished runner and amazing storyteller, but most importantly, he’s an inspiration to anyone smart enough to pick up his book.

To me, he personally opened up a new way of thinking about running; a new way to experience it: to not run from the things that haunt you, but instead to run through your life’s haunts and take ownership back. I, too, now draw lessons from the road no matter what distance I am running that day and could not be more grateful to Daniloff for baring his soul so that I may open up mine a little more.

Within the pages of the book, he provides the reader with the gift of his life story, and some of the harsh lessons ensued from it–it’s the kind of gift that you will want to continue to pass along to the important people in your life..the runners and non-runners alike and that’s why I felt the need to share it with you today.

Full disclosure: I actually know Caleb through working at BU and running with November Project, but I wouldn’t recommend a book to you unless I really, truly loved it and felt like it would benefit your life in an instrumental way. I got it as a Christmas present from one of my sisters (thanks, Kathleen!) and finished it within 2 days because I could not put it down. If you do decide to pick it up, shoot me a message and let me know your thoughts!

Now, let’s see–what else is going on? This weekend will actually be quite an active one for me, starting bright and early tomorrow morning for the Fitbit Local Boston kickoff at 8:30am in the South End. During the 2.5 hour event, I’ll get to experience my first bootcamp class (more on that experience afterwards) and top it off with a yoga flow with my favorite local instructor, Cara Gilman. One of the best parts about this event? It’s FREE (#freefitness)! Definitely be on the lookout for upcoming events by Fitbit Local–this is only the beginning of their new monthly free fitness series in Boston and beyond.

Then on Sunday morning, I’m stoked (and so proud!) to attend my friend and fellow-November Project-er’s free run clinic in Medford, MA at 9am: “Learn the 3 E’s To Run Training: Easy, Efficient, Effective.” Dani Adler, aka RunFitDoc, is a DPT at Boston Physical Therapy & Wellness and is also a 3x marathoner (including two Boston Marathons). She is someone who I trust completely when it comes to running advice and injury prevention, so I’m looking forward to walking away with some helpful tips as I begin to gear up into training for the B.A.A. 10K. This free clinic will start with some information about proper warm ups and information how to incorporate strength training into your workout regimes and will end with a 3 or 5 mile run along the scenic Mystic River. I’ve never run in that area before so I’m excited try to something new, while enjoying the beautiful spring weather.

In the meantime, I’ve told you my active plans for the weekend-what are yours? I feel so grateful to live in a city where free fitness is a growing phenomenon to create access and opportunities for everyone to live a healthier lifestyle, but I realize free fitness does not always have to be something as formally organized as Fitbit Local, a run clinic, or November Project. I’d love to hear from you about some of your favorite healthy and free activities: hiking, evening strolls around the neighborhood, walking a local track to catch up with friends, biking into work, etc. Leave a comment below, e-mail me at melucas7@gmail.com, or give me a shout out on Twitter @meggielukes (don’t forget to include #MegInTheMeantime, for good measure!).

Enjoy your weekend-it’s much deserved!
-Meg

The Top 10 Wellness Tips You Never Knew You Needed.

Hi Everyone!

It’s been a while…I’ve missed you! A little housekeeping update for you: I’ve decided to move my usual Monday posts to Wednesdays in order to spread the love out more evenly throughout the week. That being said, I also wanted to focus a little bit more on giving wellness advice and better habit forming practices as we continue to motivate each other and work towards finding a more balanced way to incorporate a healthy lifestyle and targeted fitness goals into our daily lives–so that’s what a typical Wednesday post will be about!

In case you feel like you missed anything on Monday, you can check out my “Weekly Wisdom” section in the bottom right corner of the Meg in the Meantime homepage–I’ll be posting a new inspirational quote each week. This week I wanted the quote to really strike a nice balance for my overall blogging goals so I decided to go with: “Health is a state of body. Wellness is a state of being. Enjoy the journey as you strive for both.”

Now, moving on: I really enjoyed sharing my little wellness hack of rolling your feet with a tennis ball while at work, or at the end of the day (really whenever you can) and ended up having a bunch of people ask me for some more tips; therefore, I figured the best thing to do was make a blog post out of it!

And so, without further ado, may I present to you my best wellness tips for training. Note: this can be training for a race, training your body and mind for better daily health and wellness habits, or just training for whatever life throws your way…because that’s a real thing, too!

Meg’s Top 10 Wellness Tips When Training (for races and life):
I decided to do a countdown style because it seemed more fun that way.

10. Less screen time. I read a wonderful article this morning from Fast Company called “What Happened When I Stopped Using Screens After 11p.m.” I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, and think you should read it, but I’m pretty sure you can figure out the scientific result and grandiose benefits: less screen time = more sleep, more reading time, more quality time with the special people in your life. I really like this concept and the thought of a consistent peaceful and unplugged before bed habit sounds like something we all could use. Once grad school is over for me in two weeks, I won’t be walking in the door at 9:30pm at night anymore and will definitely focus some attention on my before bed habits and turning off all screens (TV, laptop, and phone) around me. Stay tuned on that one!

9. Accountability. I’ve written before about the power of accountability and the benefits that come from using it as a tool while tackling new (and daunting) health and fitness challenges, such as the 30 Days Abs Challenge that I am currently working through with my friend, Kristi, who lives back home in New Jersey. But, from a wellness perspective, I just can’t write enough about how nice and encouraging it is to have someone with you on the journey. When things start to fall apart physically and/or mentally, or you feel too tired to wake up and workout, accountability really makes the difference: someone is there  for you, waiting for you, understands you, and is ready to encourage you to keep moving. Please, try this with something important that you want to accomplish–I promise it will be worth it.

8.  Write it down. I’ve always been a big writer, so this one comes naturally to me, but I realize this isn’t the case for most people. Sometimes accountability can come in a different form: a written document to serve as a reminder. A reminder can serve multiple functions: on one extreme the written document can be a reminder of where you were a few months ago in training because you’ve written down your progress along the way or, on the opposite side the spectrum, a written document can be a reminder to make sure to complete your mini daily fitness goals. Whatever it is for you, just write it down: journal every night or at least once a week, post your accomplishments and progress on social media, put a white board next to the door in your apartment or house, scribble your daily goals on a post-it note and slowly cross each one off (because that is SO satisfying!), or set an alarm on your phone or laptop calendar to complete your task.

7. Unplug. We are way too connected at all times…doesn’t a break sound refreshing? Once you are working out (hopefully more so outside now that the weather is turning into a proper spring!), take off your headphones and just listen to the sounds around you and take in the sights. I used to never be able to run without heavy rap music blasting in my eardrums (I was probably avoiding the terrible cadence of my poor breathing habits), but over time I gained an amazing running mate, Becca, and learned that conversations carried our runs way better than any Biggie song ever could…plus, talking while running is a great pacing tool. Even if you are just taking a quick walk around the neighborhood in the morning before work or at night after dinner, don’t plug in to anything, but the world around you. It’s easier to pull off during races when the crowds cheering you on are electric and fire you up to keep going, but during long training runs, gym workouts, or evening strolls, I encourage you to try it: leave the headphones at home and invite a friend instead, or just get inside your own head and have some quality reflection time.

6. Find a balance (and possibly seek help doing so). Whether you’re new to working out and looking for a proper training schedule to accomplish a running goal, like finishing a half marathon, or you’re a veteran runner looking to BQ, or qualify for the Boston Marathon, or hit some PR’s, making a plan to balance different kinds of workouts and knowing how far to push your limits can be overwhelming, to say the least. So where do you start? Read up on what you can, talk to others who have tackled your goal before and seek some formal advice from a running coach–it might be the exact invest you need for hitting your goals and striking a balancing act in life. For more detailed information regarding the benefits of running coaches, I highly recommend reading Boston blogger,  Jana Ross’ post “5 Reasons Why You Need a Running Coach” –not only is Jana’s blog, Bananas for Balanceone of my favorites, but she is also now a running coach herself so she’s got all of the street cred necessary to lead you to the best decision for your current needs.

5. Be kind to your mind (aka learn something). On the note of taking advice from experts, you should consider the same options for your food, the thing that fuels you in your every day endeavors. Now, while I sure do hope you’ve been following my Sunday Snacks series on this blog, I am by no means a certified nutritionist or doctor and therefore I also recommend that you get to know the facts about the foods you are putting in your bodies. To help you along with that, there is a plethora of articles you can find on the internet, or you can pick up an old fashioned book and learn from two amazing nutrition experts, Tara Mardigan and Kate Weiler, in their book “Real Fit Kitchen: Fuel Your Body, Improve Your Energy, and Increase Strength with Every Meal.” Trust me, these recipes are made for active, healthy people like us, who are trying to live a balanced life…plus, the food is delicious and learning new things is fun!

4. Be kind to your body (aka treat yo’self). After a few rounds of being constantly disappointed in expensive massages once or twice a year, I realized that it wasn’t the service that necessarily disappointed me, but rather my high expectations that the massages to be more clinical to fix my aching body after a long period of hardcore training and general work and school stress built up. After a while I realized that I should probably find a cheaper solution, where I can get relief more often so that I am not expecting spas to move mountains (more like the mountains of knots that I carry on my shoulders and traps). While I do not make a lot of money by any means, I figured a practical, cost-effective monthly massage was an investment in my health and wellness that should not be passed up. I finally found a place to call my massage home: The Elements Massage Wellness Program. Benefits include: a month-to-month membership with a discounted rate for a monthly 1-hour massage, the ability to cancel easily with a 30-day notice, the massages carry-over to the next month (in case life gets busy and you can’t go), you get two upgrade certificates to switch out your normal 60 minute massage to 90 minutes, and you can share your wellness program benefits with a friend, in case you feel like treating someone else that month.

Just think of all of the stress relief and much deserved relaxation you could benefit from at a discounted rate. But seriously, I’ve been a part of their Wellness Program since January, 2016 and it’s been the greatest gift I’ve given myself this year–I wish I had done it sooner because I can absolutely see a difference in my every day comfort level and demeanor due to this form of self-wellness. Side note: if you live in Boston and would like to try out the Elements Massage location on Commonwealth Avenue, I highly recommend Joseph as a masseuse; he is a miracle worker on deep-rooted knots…trust me because I had about a million of them before meeting him. 🙂

3. Know when to rest. There’s a major difference between being lazy or putting something off and actually needing a day or two of rest. Nowadays our lives can drive us in so many directions on any given day and really stretch us thin. I regularly feel burnt out from work, grad school, social responsibilities, and training and, overtime, have even found myself becoming physically sick at times trying to balance it all. Most of the time, I honestly just needed a little rest: perhaps some extra sleep, or to not run that morning, or to just take a step back, put down my work, take some deep breaths, and walk away to call up my mom or dad to check in and feel some love. Listen to your body and trust yourself–sometimes you just need a short break in order to come back refreshed and ready to rock!

2. Have a mantra. This might sound silly to you, or even something yoga-centric, but using a word (or a phrase) with meaning during your training, a workout, a run, or even just something to kickstart your day can really be powerful. Repeating the mantra to yourself, when something goes wrong, when something gets hard, when you feel like giving up, or when you’re just in need of some self-love or support can really serve as a great connection to your goal. A mantra can be something very simple like “relax,” or “don’t give up,” or something more broad and deep like “love yourself” or “trust” and so forth. Your mantra can change–depending on the day, your workout, your mood, your goal, etc.

1. Give presence. This is my number one tip because simply put: being present is the greatest gift you can give someone…and yourself. It’s also, unfortunately, a lost art nowadays. Look up from your screens and at the life around you; look into the eyes of people you are with and who love you. If even just for one hour a day, give presence in your life (inspired by lululemon’s #givepresence campaign from 2014).

In the meantime, I encourage you to pick one of the wellness tips above and put it into practice for the next week. Over the next few days really stop to reflect on how it makes you feel. What are some things you are starting to notice that are different and/or better in your life? I’d love to hear from you so don’t forget to comment below and share your reflections!

Happy Hump Day! Remember…that means you’re halfway there!
-Meg

When in doubt, blend it out!

Good Morning!

As the weather turns towards our proper spring expectations (it’s going to be sunny and over 60 degrees tomorrow for the Boston Marathon!!) I figured it was time to have one of the “Sunday Snacks” reflect the warmer weather…this means it’s smoothie time!

Smoothies are such an easy way to nourish and replenish your body with essential nutrients, while also encouraging some experimental food fun! What’s great about smoothie making is the flexibility and creativity that it allows–you can take a basic smoothie recipe and tweak it to fit your body’s needs that day (or any dietary preference you may have); plus, it’s a great way to prevent fruit or veggies from going to waste!

Again, while trolling through Pinterest for half marathon training meals, I came across a smoothie recipe by Serena from Domesticate Me that ended up being as delicious as it sounded: a PB&J Smoothie. Yeah, you heard me right…it’s peanut butter jelly time!

I don’t know about you, but two things came to mind when I was reading through this recipe for the first time. (1) I am so proud of the way my taste buds have changed, grown, and become more refined over time. When I was a little kid all I would’ve never even eaten a PB&J sandwich (I didn’t like jelly), let alone try something like a “smoothie.” Instead I would have opted for plain peanut butter (not even the cool crunchy kind) on white bread and that was it. All I wanted back then was peas, carrots, hot dogs, bologna sandwiches, and milk…not all together, of course! And while I still love all of those things (anyone who knows me immediately understands my affinity for hot dogs, both plain and fully loaded with an assortment of interesting toppings), I am so proud of myself for being more open to new experiences and healthy food options. But, I digress…

(2) I saw the phrase “1 tbsp. chia seeds” and had a moment of panic. I honestly have never tried this “super food” before and, while I have read multiple articles citing the plethora of health benefits that they provide you with, they still remained on a list of  intimidating healthy foods to one day try and incorporate into my diet…mainly because I had no idea what to do with them. Luckily, this recipe just calls for you to just throw it in a blender, so I felt better about that. Well, I’m here to tell you that, if you’ve never tried chia seeds before then HAVE NO FEAR–I found them to be quite delicious and am looking forward to testing them out in other recipes now, too!

So, without further ado, let’s get to the main event: a throwback and homage to your basic childhood lunchtime snack. The following recipe will yield 1 large and hearty smoothie, guaranteed to fill you up and fuel you throughout your day. Let’s face it: mornings are not all sunshine and roses, as this Real Morning Report, courtesy of Organic Valley, hilariously depicts (but seriously, watch it…it’s great…and so true). Therefore, I wanted to make sure to provide you with a smoothie recipe that is not only healthy and energizing, but also will be realistic and doable for you. And so, in less than 10 minutes (from ingredient gathering/preparation to smoothie making) you have a delicious and nutritious snack that’s great for a commute into work, a midday work break, or a post-workout.

PB&J Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 1 banana, sliced or whole
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter (I used crunchy peanut butter with honey for extra flavor, but almond butter works, too!)
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, honey blended (the original recipe didn’t call for this, but I wanted to add it for a thicker smoothie)
  • A handful of ice cubes

Other Items Needed:

  • Blender (or some other variation, such as the Ninja, NutriBullet, etc.)
  • Measuring cups

smoothie-prep

Instructions:

  • Add all of the ingredients into a blender (or NutriBullet, in my case) until fully blended/smooth, or at the consistency that you prefer.

PBJ-smoothie

If you haven’t gotten into a smoothie kick yet, I highly recommend testing out a few recipes to figure out what kind of smoothies you prefer before completely writing them off. First consider: water-based, milk-based, yogurt-based? Do you prefer thicker smoothies to pretend you’re drinking a milkshake? Do you use smoothies to get your daily greens in? Do you use smoothies to replace a meal like breakfast or lunch or to avoid midday munching? Or, maybe you just enjoy the simplicity of throwing a bunch of things into a blender and letting it do the work for you? Personally, I’m a big fan of the last one since I’m no Chef Boyardee (speaking of throwbacks…).  Either way, whatever your reasoning for smoothie making, don’t be afraid to go off the strict recipe outlines and have some fun with it!

Make sure to check back later this week for another dose of wellness! In the meantime, make yourself a smoothie and share your favorite recipe with me: leave a comment below, e-mail me: melucas7@gmail.com, or tag me on Twitter: @meggielukes and include #MegInTheMeantime, for good measure! And, if you haven’t done so already read my last post “Wellness, while you can” and really take some time to reflect on what little steps you can take in order to take better care of yourself and check-in with your physical and mental wellness levels more often.

Until then…from Boston with love,
-Meg

Wellness, when you can.

It’s Friday–we made it through the week!

I’m sorry this post is coming to you a bit later than originally planned. One of my favorite Boston bloggers, Jana Ross of Bananas for Balance, once told me that you should never feel pressured to put out a post, but rather to write when you’re ready, when you feel like it. Well, this morning I was not feeling it and was not ready to put out a message to you all. Let me explain…

This morning, I was planning on running hills with November Project at 6:30am–I was so excited to be surrounded by some of the greatest people I know on such a significant day: One Boston Day, a day of remembrance for those killed, wounded, and the families/friends affected by the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 and a day of celebration for the resiliency, courage, and strength that the community demonstrated. Although I wish city officials would promote making a difference every day, just as I wish the members of the community would volunteer and go out of their way to perform acts of kindness every day, I still very much appreciate the notion of communities coming together and finding common ground through difficult times.

Anyways, I set my alarm and woke up at 5:50am and rolled over knowing that I had ten more peaceful minutes of rest in my cozy bed before my next alarm would go off at 6am and then I would up and getting dressed in my neon best to run miles and miles of hills to reflect on the day. Instead, I woke up at 7:05am and immediately mumbled an explicit word, knowing that I had slept through my alarm and missed a perfectly planned out opportunity. I laid there for a bit thinking about my next move: I could get up and go for a solo run–it would be just as reflective as my original running plan OR I could just stay in bed and accept defeat. At that point, I honestly wasn’t feeling it so I rolled back over and opted for more sleep.

Throughout my work day, the choice I made to stay in bed and get some extra sleep stuck with me. Why did I chose that? Did I need the extra sleep? Was I just mad or cranky about something? Was I disappointed in myself? The questions continued to stream in my head and it bugged me all day. The answer came to me finally by the end of day: wellness. This morning, my body was telling me something–you work yourself too hard, you need some sleep. This morning, I needed a little time for me. And, without fully realizing it, I took the proper steps towards wellness.

I don’t know about you all, but I personally like to keep busy. I work full time, I’ve been in grad school (two different programs) for the last four years spending twice a week until late at night in classes, I enjoy working out, I love keeping up with my family and friends’ lives all around the world, and am always striving for new goals…doing whatever I can to try to better myself and the world around me, in any way. But, the older I get, the more I realize that my body and mind are not invincible and that burnouts are real. Very rarely do I just stop and ask my body what it needs…instead I just do.

And that’s when I felt like I was finally ready to write to you: to encourage you to support your wellness, where you can, when you can. Here’s what I decided to do: slip off my flats during work, break out a tennis ball, and roll my feet under the desk…it’s like a mini massage for a fraction of the cost!  You can stand and roll the ball the length of your foot, from heal to toe for a few minutes or keep it stable under your arch for some pointed pressured or, if you’re trying to be a bit more incognito at work, you can do so while sitting in your chair.

tennis-ball

The tennis ball technique is so simple, it’s cost effective (you can get a pack of 3 tennis balls for under $3), it’s easy to pack and bring along with you wherever you go (keep it in the car, throw it in your bag, leave it in your desk drawer, etc.), yet the results are amazing: you’ll get to work the deepest muscles and tissues and allow your feet to properly stretch and recover. We’re on our feet so much throughout the day so why not show them that you’re grateful for them carrying you around all day and bringing you amazing places by kneading out their aches and pains with this little wellness hack?!

The best part? You don’t just have to stop with your feet, the tennis ball technique can be used to fight aches and pains in other parts of your body, too as outlined in this Prevention article by a well-known yoga instructor.

This is just one example of something you can do to promote more wellness in your every day life and give some much deserved love and attention to an important part of your body that gives you so much each day. By all means, if there is a different technique that works for you then go for it–this was just something that worked well for me. I’m sure that if you stop to clear your mind and listen to your body every now and then, you’ll find something is calling for your attention.

That being said…in the meantime, take my advice: make some time this weekend for some quite reflection–it could be as you climb into bed and wind down at the end of the night, it could be as you stir and wake in the morning before you even look at your phone (and all of your messages and e-mails), or even as you escape life’s responsibilities for a 10-15 minutes to take a quick stroll around the neighborhood. During this time think about what you could to take better care of yourself–it doesn’t have to be a major life change, just something that you can mindfully do one day at a time. After no time at all you’ll see these little changes will soon turn into healthy habits and your life will be better off because of it.

Here are some ideas to ruminate on in case you’re having trouble starting your reflection: drink more water, stretch when you first wake up, practice deep breathing and meditation before bed, indulge in less screen time (no phone/computer/TV/etc.) before bed or when you wake up, set some time aside each night to cook a healthy meal with family and friends instead of eating out…the list can go on! I’m excited to hear what you’re planning on doing that’s just for you and your wellness; please feel free to comment below and share your reflections.

Looking forward to chatting more on Sunday about another healthy snack!
-Meg

Reason #1,000,001 to just show up.

Hi There!

I must start this post off with a confession. I was planning on leveraging the poor New England weather to spin this Motivational Monday post for the better; however, it seems to me the Boston weather has changed drastically since I checked last night from pouring rain all week straight to pure sunshine (with occasional clouds) through the weekend. Oh well, spring has sprung in Boston and you truly never know what you’re going to get!

I think, regardless of the weather forecast for the week, you’ll still find this post helpful if you’re looking for the motivation to try something new/switch up your fitness routine or, if you’re simply in need of something to fill your life with pure joy and love again. The only catch? You have to just show up…despite the early morning roll call (6:30am) and despite the weather conditions that day. (See…that’s where my inspirational weatherproof message was supposed to go. Now you’re just lucky and get to show up when it’s sunny out.)

If you haven’t guessed what I’m talking about by that description alone, then I’m not quite sure where you’ve been for the last five years! I’m talking about November Project–the free fitness movement that started in Boston in 2011 and now has grown to 30 cities around the world. Isn’t that wild? What began as a challenge between two former Northeastern crew mates to stay in shape during the cold, New England months and workout, outside, for free, for one month straight (the month of November, hence the name) has exploded into a world-wide movement.

November-Project-group

The best part about NP? The people. NP is comprised of everyone under the sun–you never know who you’ll be working out with: Olympic medalists, professional athletes, marathoners, triathletes, current and former college athletes, fitness rookies, couch potatoes, and everyone in between (even dogs! Dogs just show up!!) who are looking to kickstart a healthier lifestyle. Don’t let any of that scare you though; together we all rise and shine to work out and encourage each other, using the city as our playground.

If the amazing people doesn’t sell you on fitness movement, how about the glorious sunrises you’ll experience? Think of all of the Instagram photos!  Or what about all of the money you’ll save on gym and studio class fees?! I’m personally putting mine towards college loans. And did you see the part above that I mentioned dogs…puppies even?! Who doesn’t love the sight of friendly puppies casually workout next to you…

Alright, back to the important stuff because I can go on and on about the benefits of NP and all of the amazing experience you’ll have working out. For the sake of this post, I will only be focusing on the Boston tribe (known as The Mothership, to some), but if you’re reading along from somewhere else in the world, check out the NP Locations page to see where the closest city with NP is to you and find a way to get there…quick!

In Boston, NP operates on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule:

  • On Monday’s, you run to a specific destination (which changes every week) for a workout. This is more of a wildcard kind of workout-it could be anything from circuit training, core/calisthenics work, to seven-minutes of straight burpees. Each Monday location is a different spot around the city–a parking lot, a field, a dock, or even a little patch of grass in between a highway–and is meant to get you to explore the city in a new light.
  • On Wednesday’s, we wear pink. Just kidding-wanted to see if you were still paying attention! Wednesday is a stadium workout at Harvard University’s football stadium, where we run the 37 sections of the horseshoe building and crush 1,147 large, concrete block steps in one workout…sometimes even more, depending on what the exciting workout is that morning.
  • On Friday’s, we run hills on Summit Avenue in Brookline, MA where the incline varies from 7% to 17%. And, sometimes, we increase intensity by adding a stair workout, wall jumps, and sprints to the usual hill repeats.

Even if you just start off coming to NP once a week, I guarantee you’ll love the energy and people and soon find yourself soon coming two-three times per week, so long as your schedule allows. If I may, might I recommend starting on a Wednesday? The reason I suggest this is because on Wednesday, you’re allowed to be singled out a “newbie,” get a brief introduction by one of the three co-leaders, and start together as a newbie group–it’s easier to meet people that way and to not feel alone or overwhelmed during your first NP workout. I did it and I highly recommend!

I decided to include a little background story for you, in case you’re wondering about how I found myself part of this amazing tribe of humans and if it might be the right place for you. Well, first of all: theres no need to think about that second part-I can assure you that it’s definitely is the right place for you and for everyone you know. How do I know this? Trust me…you’ll see why.

Okay, so back to my story. Before I was brave enough to “just show up” to November Project (NP) on Wednesday May 7, 2014, I remember hearing about it from some friends, being curious and pouring over the NP website, especially reading all of the Boston blog entries. To the best of my ability, I did my “research” on what this free fitness workout group was all about–I wanted to be as prepared as possible before taking part in anything new or showing up and feeling completely overwhelmed by the workout (a very Meg-like thing to do). I remember finding one blog entry, in particular, that made me stop in my tracks: “You Will Find Someone Your Speed” by Elin Flashman.

Elin is someone who I mentioned in last Friday’s blog post, when I wrote about the power of accountability and its influence on my life. What I did not mention in that post, is that even before I met Elin, he impacted my life profusely with his blog post. I wasn’t worried so much about keeping up with other people during the workouts and I wasn’t feeling shy about meeting new people (in fact, I was really looking forward to that part!), but it was just something he wrote towards the end of his entry that really stood out to me….so much so that I read it over and over again. He wrote: “I promise you that if you give it a chance it will change your life for the better and in ways that you may not expect.” Call me gullible because, I have no idea why I trusted the words of someone who I had never met before (just as I have no idea why I trusted someone who I barely knew telling me that I could definitely run a half marathon in a few months because I worked out at NP), but that sentence was just so genuine and inspiring that I had to take a chance! Plus, the little teaser of “…and in ways that you may not expect.” I mean, c’mon; who isn’t looking for a wonderful, unexpected opportunity in their life?!  I sure was.

At that point in my life (spring 2014), I was in dire need of something that would light me up inside again. As much as I had wonderful and exciting things in my life at the time: starting my second master’s degree at Boston University and traveling to Italy and Spain for two weeks for work, I was honestly still hurting from the recent and final break of your typical an on-again, off-again relationship and wasn’t quite back to 100% the forever happy and smiling Meg that most people know. So after reading that post I figured, “What the heck–it couldn’t hurt! Nothing else seems to be working.”

Still, at that point, I probably had a million excuses lined up ready to go. Are you starting to build up your own list of reasons to not try? Do any of these sound relatable?

If you asked me then the type of morning person I was, I’d say: “The kind that you don’t talk to before 10am without a large coffee in hand!” Now, I can wake up before the sun rises, eat stairs, hills, and burps for breakfast. And I love it!

If you asked me then what my favorite running style was, I’d say: “A quick, solo run after work to blow off steam, complemented by loud rap blasting in my headphones.” Now, I long for double-digit mile runs with a friend so that we can talk about the highs and lows of training and life…and training for life. And, I can wake up extra early do this before work.

If you asked me then if I would consider running a half marathon, I would’ve laughed and replied: “I don’t do distance. I’m not built to be a runner; I have bad knees.” Now, I can say that I’ve completed three half marathons and am looking forward to growing that list.

Why am I bragging about this?  Because I fell in love. I fell in love with the community that NP created and I fell back in love with fitness and my personal health and wellness. I did just show up on May 7,2014 and NP rocked my world in a way that I never expected it to. I’ve never regretted the early morning wake up, I’ve never regretted the soreness I feel the next day, I’ve never been so inspired by genuine, good-hearted, badass people. I’ve just never looked back. Over the last two years, NP has given me a lot and that’s something that I keep me with in every (long distance) run, every (Harvard Stadium) step, every (Summit) hill I face.

And, just in case you have any other doubts about just showing up, you can reference this other classic, old school blog post by a fellow NP-er, Deniz Karakoyunlu: “The 4 Myths of November Project.”

So…you can be like me and sit back for a few months to research and read all about the scientific benefits of stair climbing or why you need to incorporate hills into your running routine or you can take this as a lesson and just do it.

I cannot thank November Project enough for all it’s given to me along the way: the sweaty hugs, high-fives, the push to keep going when my body told me it needed a one minute rest. Most of all, NP instilled in me the belief that running is more than sprints and internal competition; running is, in fact, a gift and it never takes more than it gives back.

And so, I want to give back to the community who has given so much to me by growing the tribe and gifting them with your presence! To echo Elin: “I promise you that if you give it a chance it will change your life for the better and in ways that you may not expect.” Just show up. Soon you’ll have a story to tell, too.

In the meantime, practice setting your alarm for an earlier wake up tomorrow in preparation for NP on Wednesday. If you need that sense of accountability to make sure you get up and show up, then just know that I (along with hundreds of others) will be waiting for and are excited to meet you and tell you that we’re glad that you’re there. Then get ready for a kickass workout!

Hope to see you on Wednesday at 6:30am,
-Meg

It’s crunch time!

Rise and shine, friends!

It’s time for another edition of “Sunday Snacks.” I really look forward to writing this post, in particular, each week because it means that I get to do some experimenting with food and really let my creativity flow. I also enjoy this series because it connects me with my friends. I often will consult with a friend or two about my healthy, on the go snack ideas to see what other improvisations they can think of that I can share with you all; we all have such different tastes and interests so picking the brain of those who are very different from us is usually very eye opening when playing–I mean–experimenting with food recipes.

As I mentioned last week in my post about Banana Oat Greek Yogurt Muffins, I have been trying to incorporate more Greek yogurt into my diet. This week’s healthy snack also includes Greek yogurt and is something that I found again while surfing through Pinterest for meals that would help fuel my half marathon training: Cucumber-Feta Bites.

Cucumbers are so versatile and aren’t meant to just be a garnish in a salad. Think of a cucumber as an alternative to a cracker during snack time or even a bread alternative to your lunchtime sandwiches! Not sure what I mean? Keep reading below and you’ll see a cucumber evolve into wonderful and crunchy key part of your future healthy snacking habits!

The specific recipe I found came from MyRecipes, although I’m sure there are many alternatives and different versions out there. What I really appreciate about MyRecipes, and the reason I want to promote their interpretation of this snack, is because they are partners with the Let’s Move! initiative and are attempting to educate the public about creative, healthier alternative recipe options–all good stuff! Here’s a little snap shot of the finished product to get you excited before I share the rest of the simple steps to get you healthy snacking on the go!

After1

Depending on how you cut the cucumber, this recipe will yield 6 slices per cucumber-just the right amount to snack on throughout the day or share as an appetizer with friends/family before a meal. This is also a pretty quick snack to make and requires no baking or cooking, so prep time is just under 10 minutes, which means there’s no excuse why you can’t prep this snack very quickly before you head out the door in the morning.

Cucumber-Feta Bites Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. non-fat Greek Yogurt (you can even try Greek Yogurt with honey for extra flavor!)
  • 2 tsp. of less/low-fat cream cheese (I used chive and onion cream cheese, but flavoring is your choice, depending on other toppings)
  • 1 tbsp. feta
  • 1 cucumber (cut and seeded)
  • 2 tsp. of walnuts (or your choice of alternative toppings)

Before

Preparation Directions:

  • Wash and peel the cucumber.
  • Cut cucumber in half the long way, and then in thirds.
  • Scoop out the seeds of the cucumber with a spoon.
  • In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, cream cheese, and feta. Add in salt and pepper (or other spices), if desired.
  • Spread the mix on each cucumber evenly.
  • Add your topping of choice (in this case, walnuts and Craisins) and enjoy!

CucumberSliced

After2

One of my favorite things about this recipe is how easily you switch up the ingredients to keep it interesting or to appeal to a friend of yours with different tastebuds. You can get creative with your Greek yogurt flavoring (plain, vanilla, honey blended) and/or your cream cheese selection (plain, chive and onion, vegetable). Other ways that you can make this snack recipe your own: mixed nut alternative (almonds, cashews, etc.), any diced vegetable of your choice (think: carrots, tomatoes, etc.), an optional honey drizzle on top, as well as a variety of other spices such as garlic. What about you-any other toppings or improvisations to add? Please feel free to share your comments below–I’d love to hear your additions to this simple snack.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope your brain is running a mile/minute with creative ideas for your cucumber bites and that you’re literally running out to the grocery store to grab some ingredients to prepare your healthy snack for the week!

In the meantime, make a point to share this quick and simple healthy snack with someone that you love. Many people consider Sunday a day to get together with family to spend quality time catching up and sharing special moments over a big, hearty meal. Unfortunately not all of us (myself included) live close enough to our families to do this as often as we’d like to. For those of us who can’t be with our families, or loved ones, today I urge you to pick up the phone and give them a call–tell them you’re thinking of them and wanted to share something that’s not only good for them, but also tastes good, too!

And, even if cucumbers, Greek yogurt, feta cheese, and so on isn’t really their cup of tea, I’m sure at the very least they’ll appreciate the phone call and the quality time they got to spend talking with you…if that’s not a great way to head into the week and restore balance to the important things in your life, then I don’t know what is!

Have a great day,
-Meg

I strive with a little help from my friends.

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Accountability was a huge theme in my last blog post on Monday–I probably used the word “accountability” a hand full of times throughout the post. I did that because I really wanted to hammer in the importance, benefit, and power of accountability when tackling new (and possibly daunting!) fitness goals and challenges.

The reason why I believe in accountability so much is because anything I’ve accomplished, health, wellness, and fitness-wise, in the last two years is because of the accountability tactic. Accountability is something I learned the second I just showed up to my very first November Project (NP) workout on Wednesday May 7, 2014 at the notorious Harvard Stadium and it’s stuck with me ever since.

The NP movement uses “a simple sense of accountability (verbal) to motivate and encourage people of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels to get out of their beds and get moving.” It’s simple, yet SO powerful. When you say something out loud–it becomes real. When you say you’re going to show up at 6:30am to workout, you better be there. At NP, no matter how large the group grows, someone will notice when you’re not there…and they’ll miss you. When you say that you’re going to set the bar high for your next fitness goal–whatever it may be–someone will believe in you and even join you in making strides towards that goal.

I, and any fitness goal I have accomplished, am a product of accountability.

  • I once told CC Yudin (pictured below) that I would finally show to NP, after many months of just considering it IF she would start doing some yoga classes–I remember this conversation vividly. On May 7, 2014 I finally showed up and never looked back. I am so grateful for that conversation and for the friendship with CC that has blossomed from it.

CC

  • Once I showed up, I met some of the most inspiring and kind people you could ever imagine. A couple months into showing up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I started to get better, faster, stronger…I grew more confident in my fitness capabilities. I also felt inspired by everyone around me sharing their big fitness goals: ultra marathons, marathons, half marathons, 10k’s, 5k’s, PRs, etc. That July, I remember chatting with Daniel Rothenberg (pictured below) about his experiences training for marathons. I remember asking him, “I know anything is technically possible, BUT if I’ve never ran more than 5-ish miles…do you think I’d be able to do a half marathon by early November?” To which he replied, “Oh yeah for sure. Very easily, especially if you’re doing NP.” I don’t know why I felt so comfortable in asking this question to someone who I really didn’t know well at the moment, but NP will do that to you.

daniel-rothenberg

  • Following that conversation, I can remember being a little nervous about that bold, aspirational question I just asked. I’m pretty sure I told Daniel to not tell anyone (just in case I chickened out)…and then I’m pretty sure he turned right around and mentioned it in passing to Christine Power (pictured second-from-left below) who, in-turn, let me know that a bunch of NP people were planning on running the United Healthcare Newport, RI full and half marathon on October 12, 2014 and that I should join…that it would be great. And so I did, without much hesitation.

newport-half

  • But before that picture above was taken, it was August 2014 and I still hadn’t even run a full 10k (6.2 miles) yet. I felt like I would follow along with the Hal Higdon Half Marathon-Novice 1 Training Program and see if I could stay on track with training to finally fully commit to this big goal of a half marathon. Luckily with the help of an every-other-Sunday run group, called the Boston Brunch Runners (BBR), I randomly decided to turn my usual 3 mile loop into the full 6.2 miles that day. I might have died a little along the way (the heat was something else that morning!), but afterwards I ran into my friends’ arms, told them what I just had accomplished, and felt like nothing in the world could stop me. I will never forget this day or the people who helped me along the way to running my first unofficial 10k.

brunchrunners

  • That same day at BBR, I met Becca Smith, who ended up becoming my sole mate running partner for life. Becca and I have trained for all of our major races together and you’ll often find us working out at NP together. She and I even ran our last half marathon together, side-by-side for the entire 13.1 miles, in November 2015 in Portsmouth, NH. She’s the one person who I roll out of bed for at ungodly hours of the morning when it’s cold, or hot, or rainy, or snowy, or even when I just don’t feel like it because I know she’s waiting on the corner for me to start a run and a great, long conversation. Or, as she likes to say:

becca-and-meg

  • And finally, on Sunday October 12, 2014 I completed my first half marathon with a time of 2:10. I felt strong during my finish and was even energized beyond belief because Elin Flashman (pictured below), who was one of the first people I sought out at NP, promised that he would be there to see my run my first half marathon after I told him about my big goal…that he wouldn’t miss it for the world. Elin has been a constant motivator and positive light in my life since the day I met him. That morning, he drove down to Newport, RI and cheered me on during the final home stretch. Who else, in the entire world, would do something like that for you–just show up to cheer you on??

elin-half-marathon

Since October 2014 I have completed 3 half marathons and numerous other road races at varying degrees. More importantly, I have continued to just show up and to be held accountable for my words, actions, and goals and that has made all of the difference.

I promise to pay full homage to November Project and how, through the amazing community I connected with two years ago, my life changed so much for the better. But, that’s a bigger story for next week– it’s one that deserves its own blog post, but I wanted to at least start you off with a little introduction as to why this accountability thing is such a big deal. For those five NP-ers that I mentioned above: CC, Daniel, Christine, Becca, and Elin, thank you. You may have had no idea how much you influenced my life in the summer and fall of 2014, but I definitely would not be where I am today without you.

Two things I wanted to share with you quickly before we head into the weekend…

First of all, what are you doing tomorrow, Saturday, April 9th from 1-4pm? If you’re in Boston-or even nearby-then I highly recommend you stop into The Lansdowne Pub near Fenway and join together with some of the best members of the Boston running community to support Dani Adler aka “RunFitDoc,” fellow November Project-er and DPT, in her fundraising goals as she gears up to run her second Boston Marathon on behalf of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. For more event details (including raffle and silent auction items), check out her Pre-Marathon Fundraising Party Facebook event.

Now, I’m sure many of you know someone (or at the very least knows someone who knows someone) who is running the storied Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18th this year, but I think it’s important, amidst the excitement of Marathon Monday traditions and the racing community from all over the world coming together to celebrate the day, to stop and reflect on why anyone runs marathons, let alone the Boston Marathon. For all of you who run (or knows someone who does), please never lose site of the instrumental people and loving reasons behind these bold and motivational running goals–everyone has a unique story that’s worth hearing. If you have a few minutes, read Dani’s story on why she runs and, if you are able, please consider donating. It is the hope of Dani, and many others, that running the Boston Marathon and raising money to contribute towards innovative cancer research means that, one day, cancer won’t be the reason that far too many loved ones are gone too soon.

On a more personal note, I wanted to follow up on something I briefly mentioned in my Monday post: my entry was confirmed for the 2016 B.A.A. 10k race! This means that on Sunday, June 26th I will be racing my way through some of my favorites streets in Boston with 10,000 other participants; however, it also means that I am well on my way towards tackling some of the goals I have outlined on the Meg in the Meantime homepage…and that just feels damn good!

In the meantime, tell me about you. Have you started making strides towards any of your health and wellness goals? Even just making the time, at some point this weekend, to sit down and write a few out is a great start! After that, I challenge you to share at least one or two of those goals–perhaps the one(s) that scare you most?–with a friend; let them hold you accountable and be there as a support system along the way. From someone who is taking on the 30 Day Abs Challenge with a friend by my side…trust me; when you’re well on your way to accomplishing something you thought you never could or would, you’ll be so glad you did.

Looking forward to chatting more on Sunday,
-Meg