26:55. That’s huuuuuge!

Hi There!

At the very end of my last post on Sunday, Healthy Enough for Breakfast, Sweet Enough for Dessert, I mentioned that I had some exciting training news that I wanted to share with you, so here it is:

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Did you see that time? 26:55. Do you know what that is?! In case you dont know, I’ll let Jimmy Fallon (a la Donald Trump) tell you:

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So here are the details: on Sunday, June 12th I raced in a local 5K, Run for the Beach 5K in Beverly, MA–it was a gorgeous road race with stunning coastal views; it also benefited a local nonprofit environmental organization called Salem Sound Coastwatch (always support local!). As many of you know, I am now towards the tail-end of my 10K training for the upcoming B.A.A. 10K and have been consistently running and strength-training over the last month or so. I knew that I wanted to incorporate some kind of race into my training schedule to get back in the mindset of racing and to give myself a bit of a challenge so this 5K seemed perfect.

I went into the race with the mindset of running somewhere in the 28-minute range. The last few Danvers 5K runs I’ve done I’ve hit times in the low-mid 29 minute marks, so I was just looking for a small and reasonable improvement. The course was a pretty simple out and back loop, starting off with a hill so as soon as the gun went off I started my watch and didn’t look at it again until I was on the last part of my straight away. I decided to run completely off how I felt: how I felt being back in a competitive, racing environment, how I felt running a smaller, less crowded race (around 200 participants), how I felt running around a gorgeous small city that I love. I chose to not look at my watch as I ran to get a sense of where I was at.

And how did I feel? I felt hot and uncomfortable: it was already mid-70’s by the 10am start time. I felt pretty tired, but just assumed it was from another long week of training and working that left me a bit physically and emotionally-drained. But, I also felt strong; my legs were carrying me at a steady pace, I didn’t feel too winded, and I figured I would definitely hit my 28-minute range.

What I did’t realize, until I actually did look at my watch during the last straight away, was that I was completely on pace to blowing my 28-minute range out of the water. At that point, I was already full-steam ahead to the finish line anyways, but I couldn’t help but feel a huge smile sweep across my face during those last few seconds thinking of what I was able to accomplish in such a short period of time.  As my watch shows, I crossed the finish line at 26:55. What I didn’t realize until later when the official results came out was that I also placed 5th out of 37 total other women in my division…that’s not bad at all and something I have never done before. So while 26:55 is great, it’s also not an official PR for me in my adult running life, yet I’m still going consider it a PR to what I have been running over the last two years (I’ll explain more about this below).

In fact, I’m not going to lie-that race put me on cloud 9! I ran the 5K with Ryan and he and I both beat our projected times by well over a minute. We were so pumped that we went ahead and set our next 5K goals in order to keep chipping away at our times; we even signed up for a local 4-miler in early July to keep pushing ourselves a bit more.

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Now, let me explain why 26:55 is such a big deal:
(Instead of simply including another Donald Trump .gif…)

On May 7, 2014 I attended my first November Project (NP) workout. Before that I had raced a few local 5K’s in my adult life (Night Shift Brewery 5K, Cambridge 5K Freedom Run, etc.) and had decent times of 27-28 minutes. But, after training consistently 3x/week with NP I got way quicker, way faster than I had ever imagined.

On July 17, 2014 I ran my fastest adult 5K race at a time of 26:05 during the Boston 5K Summer Series which benefits the RACE Cancer Foundation, a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that strives to fight cancer through action and prevention via kick-ass events.

On August 14, 2014, I ran my second-fastest adult 5K race at a time of 26:21, also during the Boston 5K Summer Series.

After that…I’m honestly sure what happened. In December, 2014 I dropped to a 5K time of 27:14 at another local race called Yulefest, which is part of the awesome, local Cambridge 5K Series. Then, over the course of the next two years, that number has steadily plummeted (apologies for using a dramatic word like “plummeted,” but it’s honestly how I feel about it) to 5K race times that fell within the 28-29+ minute marks.

In the summer of 2014, racing was a completely new environment and culture for me and it was exciting! For the first time since high school I was back in a competitive environment with a crowd of spectators and-more importantly-I was challenging myself on a daily basis to be better, faster, stronger…and I was having fun doing it!

Maybe I stopped training as hard? Maybe I stopped training as consistently as I once did? Maybe I became comfortable? Maybe I mentally just started to check out as I saw my times decline and decline? I’ve tried to wrap my head around it a few times and never really found an answer, but what I am thinking is that I slowly started to fall out of love with running and racing.

And that’s why one of my top Current Goals (as outlined on the Meg in the Meantime homepage) is to “fall back in love with running.” I am yearning for that pure joy to fill my body, mind, and soul again and throughout this 10K training period (and especially after this last 5K race) I think I’m finally getting closer to that feeling again!

And so I think it’s only appropriate (and completely necessary) to give a shout out and big thanks to a few key people who have helped me along the road to get me back to 26:55 range and who make me love the feel of racing/training again:

  • Becca: For waking up at un-godly hours to run around Boston with me and get our miles in during the week before work, for checking in to ensure that I stay true and accountable for runs/workouts/stretches that I promise to do, for always sharing accomplishments, encouraging me to try hard/do my best, for daring to try new workout regiments with me (“Let’s go Fartlek-ing on Wednesday!”), and for always telling me that it’s going to be great….THANK YOU!
  • Cara & the RunYoga crew: This RunYoga Series has been-hands down-my favorite workout that I’ve ever done. I am so grateful for the consistent weekly runs and the deep, thoughtful, and targeted stretching and meditating that comes afterwards, but even more so for the light, encouragement, laughter, and positivity that this crew surrounds with me during those two hours every Monday evening…THANK YOU (for making Mondays something to actually look forward to)!
  • November Project: Although I don’t show up as religiously as I used to two years ago, being around your energy and love whenever I do (mainly Wednesdays nowadays) always makes me feel like a better, stronger, kinder human being and that is something that I carry with me on race days. I never fear any hill I face during my races thanks to Summit Ave. and I always try to approach each new experience with a positive attitude and tons of energy…THANK YOU!
  • Ryan: For understanding that when I’m in training that I’m going to have to go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, sometimes be a little hangrier, and that I will always be a bit sweatier than normal; for always being there at my bigger races for support-even if it just seems like an hour or two of you standing around and killing time until I cross the finish line, it means the world to me to see your face in the crowd; and finally, for starting to run with me-these last few weeks of running around the North Shore with you in extreme rain and extreme heat has become such a new and enjoyable “us” thing to add to our memories…THANK YOU!

Well, that’s all from me for now. I’ll write more to you about training updates on Wednesday, but in the meantime start thinking about your huuuuuuuuge goals and the people who help you along the way…send a message to them to let them know you’re thinking of them and are grateful!

Until then,
-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.

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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

The ability of your abdominals.

Happy Monday, Everyone!

So yesterday I left you with something to contemplate: what could you (or should you) do with 20 minutes of your day, each day? Well, in case you didn’t think of anything yet I wanted to take some time today to share with you an efficient and extremely effective ab workout that will get you in the habit of working towards better time management skills, as well as short-term goal setting. My favorite part about this workout is that, not only will it set your abs ablaze, but it will also be very scalable/easy to break down into smaller steps once the number of repetitions may get daunting…and that’s important to keep in mind because I think that’s where most of us fall off the workout goal bandwagon: when things like numbers and times become daunting. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there before.

Okay, so what exactly is this ab workout that I’m talking up? It’s the 30 Day Abs Challenge, which is part of the larger 30 Day Fitness Challenges program. To give you a brief overview of the program, I’ve inserted a short challenge description from their website: “The 30 day abs challenge has 4 different exercises which you have to do each day, and the time spent doing the exercise slowly increase day by day to help you build your core body muscle strength gradually, ensuring you are able to complete the final day  of the challenge easily.”

This ab challenge, to me, less about toning up and getting beach body ready for the summer months (if it ever comes…it was snowing in Boston again today!!) and more about time management and prioritizing positive health and wellness habits into my daily life.

Anyways, check out the image below to get a better sense of the acceleration of the core workout that you’ll have the ability to complete after just 30 days…amazing, right?! That’s why I decided to call this post “The ability of your abdominals” because you will be so shocked at what your abs can do in just a quick 30 days.

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Not sure what some of these terms (sit ups, crunches, leg raises, planks) are? Or, want to make sure that you are doing each exercise properly? No worries! The 30 Day Abs Challenge website includes great resources, including 30-second video tutorials on “How to do a sit up/crunch/plank/leg raise properly.”

So, back to the challenge: the first day seems like a piece of cake, right? For most of us it might be, but still, it’s a challenge just to set aside the time and set the intention to do so. That’s a real thing. That being said, I’d like to backtrack for a second and tell you that I’ve attempted this challenge once before, last fall. I saw one of my friends post about it on Facebook and thought, “Oh that would be a nice addition to my half marathon training!” So I attempted the challenge, got about halfway through, got sick, then got busy at work and fell behind. All excuses, but it happens. This time I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again; this is one challenge that I am ready to tackle and see all the way through.

To ensure that the completion of the 30 Day Abs Challenge happens I’ve decided to use the power of accountability to hold me to my word. Not only do I have all of my readers who are expecting me to to finish (and hopefully cheering me on!), but I also called upon fellow Jersey girl and a dear friend of mine from college,  Kristi, to take on the challenge with me.

Accountability is a powerful tool, especially when your lifestyle keeps you constantly on the go. Take my current situation into consideration: I am in Atlanta for a work conference (and, in general, travel pretty frequently for work), I have grad class twice a week at night, we both work 9-5, Monday-Friday, and have other obligations and responsibilities along the way. Normally, Kristi and I already live about four hours away from each other anyways so we would have to make this whole accountability thing work via text, FaceTime, Skype, etc., but the extra travel and odd scheduling makes connecting with other people more difficult. Yet still, we’re making it work.

Kristi and I decided to start our 30 Day Abs Challenge today, April 4th. To make it possible, we decided to FaceTime with each other and do the workout together. You’re always faster, stronger, better with friends…and this ab challenge is no exception to that rule.

I’ve included a snapshot of each of us doing one exercise, just for fun. I like to call the one of the left “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up!” (Sunset Boulevard, anyone?)

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Again, some of the numbers that you see on the 30 Days Abs Challenge above can seem extremely daunting. But know that you can always break the workout up throughout the day to make it scalable to your level. Of course, if you can power through and do all 70 sit ups, 95 crunches, 42 leg raises, and a 60 second plank all in one shot, then all the power to you!  But for most of us who can’t, try breaking down each in repetitions of 12 or so and rotating through the circuit until you’ve completed the designated workout for the day. Or, technically you have all day to complete the workout so you can do some in the morning, some after work, and the rest before bed…so long as you promise to not let any excuses get in the way of you finishing the workout. Maybe you, too will enlist one of your friends or family members to join you in this challenge! Kristi got her roommate and entire family to join her apparently! Who else is in?

I’ll post more on daunting fitness challenges and the power and importance of accountability on Friday, but I’m curious what works for you to keep moving through hard workouts: a solid playlist, a good TV show in the background, your favorite podcast (I’m always looking for recommendations!), a conversation with a friend? Let me know, I’d love to know what inspires you to keep moving.

Let’s see…what else is coming up this week? I guess the other big thing on my radar this week is that registration for the B.A.A. 10k opens up on Wednesday, April 6th at 10am. As you can see on the Meg in the Meantime homepage, one of my current goals is to sign up and race in the B.A.A. 10k. I’ll actually be flying back to Boston from my work conference during that exact registration time so luckily my wonderful boyfriend, Ryan, has offered his assistance in signing up for me so I don’t miss out. All B.A.A. races (5k, 10k, 13.1, distance medley, and marathon) usually sell out very quickly so cross your fingers that I get in!

In the meantime, I want to leave you with an excerpt from Tracksmith‘s “Please Keep On Moving” campaign, which they released as part of their women’s apparel launch. Even though the piece itself focuses on running, the overall message is very relatable to other aspects in our lives, both personally and professionally. Please take a minute to read through it and consider what could you do–what do you have the ability to do–if you commit to it?

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I hope you take in consideration joining me in the 30 Day Abs Challenge–I’ll be sure to share my updates (the good, bad, and ugly) along the way; however, if some other kind of challenge else compels you more, I hope you go fully towards that…and keep me posted on it, of course!

More to come later this week,
-Meg