Make the time to do the things you love.

So I’m just going to jump right in tonight…

I once read something so straightforward and simple that it couldn’t help but stick inside my head: “You were not born to just pay bills and die. You are here to live your life joyfully and to love fully.”

I have always been the kind of person who needs to feel passionate about the things I do in all aspects of my life–it motivates me, it fulfills me, it genuinely makes me happy (and who doesn’t like to feel happy?!). I’m not sure that I would be able to wake up and repeat the actions of my week or dedicate the amount of soul, time, and energy  into things that I do, if I wasn’t passionate about them.

That being said, there are-of course-things we have to do in life, just because. Sometimes we just have to find a certain kind of work to make a living and survive through a rough patch in our life or pay down some debt (does any one else feel me on these never ending student loans?!). Sometimes we have to sacrifice our free time for the greater good or just put in our time for something bigger to open up later down the line. And when our 9-5 doesn’t align with our passions then we especially need to make some time in our day to do the things we love–to live joyfully and to love fully.

On that note, I recognized a big trend lately in some of my favorite local bloggers-they are writing about things they are loving lately, things that they are looking forward to. I love this idea; I am so inspired by it because I think it not only supports the notion of making time each day to do some thing (even just one thing) we love, but it also raises awareness of the simple things in life that can give us great joy and happiness-such a positive list to create. And so, before I share my own short list, I want to share their posts with you first and pay some respect and love to these two bloggers who inspired me to make my own: Jana’s post “Looking Forward & Loving” and Michelle’s post “Things I am Loving Lately Pt. 5.

Weren’t those both great and unique?! Well, without further ado here’s mine!

Things I’m Loving Lately:

Consistent running and yoga via Cara Gilman’s RunYoga Series. I thank my lucky stars every Monday (well, every Monday of this 10-week series) that I get to start my week off running a consistent 3-4 miles around this gorgeous city and push myself to focus on better breath control and form during my 10k training, as well as to have an hour of restorative yoga to follow that teaches me more about my body and how to incorporate better stretching habits into my daily life. The added benefit? Thanks to Cara being such a beacon of light and positivity, and for MoveWith for supporting this series with their concept of #SocialSweat, I have also been introduced to a wonderful new community of runners and yogis who I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
*If you haven’t checked out any of MoveWith’s classes in Boston yet, I highly recommend it. They have a wide variety of class offerings…really something for everyone from barre to running to bootcamp, cycling, and so on! 

Different running routes and what they offer me. As I was running along the Charles River during Monday evening’s RunYoga class, I could not help but keep saying “Wow, what a view!” If I wasn’t already losing my breath from trying to pick up my pace, I’d give all of the credit to Boston for taking my breath away with its beauty. I mean, really…how fortunate am I to live in this gorgeous city and have the ability to explore it through my runs. Some of my favorite runs have been along the Charles with views of the city skyline that reflect in the shimmering river alongside it, and sailboats that effortlessly weave across the choppy waves that makes it feel like they’re racing you, and bridges every so often allowing us to weave ourselves and cross from side to side, magically allowing us to be right in the middle of it all for a few moments in time.

Alternatively, I have also been running in a more suburban environment 1-2x/week, depending on the week. My boyfriend, Ryan, just recently moved to Danvers in the North Shore so I have taken to adding some weekly runs in around his new neighborhood, even joining a local running community and racing on Wednesday nights courtesy of the Danvers 5K during my training period. I never really ran much in the suburbs growing up (at that point in my life I would’ve only been running short distances on some kind of track or on an indoor court-never on the streets throughout the neighborhood for pleasure), but I have to admit there’s a certain charm and peacefulness to it–something I can definitely get used to! My routes weave me through residential, tree-lined streets with rolling hills, friendly strangers cheering you on/offering a word or two of encouragement, kind people in cars actually stopping to let you cross the street and not mess up your stride, and beautiful, quintessential New England scenes like old cemeteries and various historic sites…I am never plugged in and instead choose to soak in the sights and sounds around me. If you claim to be only a city-runner, like I used to be, just try it once…you might surprise yourself with what you can fall in love with and open yourself up to.

Rolling my feet out with a tennis ball. As my training has kicked into full gear for the B.A.A. 10K, I find that I am-rightfully so-always moving and therefore always on my feet. And so I have found myself forming a close relationship with my tennis ball-I bring it with me to work almost every day to give myself a mini foot massage mid-day. All I do really is stand up and roll the the tennis ball under the length of my foot from heal to toe for a few minutes. Sometimes I even just keep it stable under the arch of my foot for a few minutes of pointed pressure. Really, it’s that simple but makes a world of difference! I won’t go into great detail about this wellness tip because you can find everything you need here in an old post of mine: “Wellness, when you can.

The resurgence of November Project in my life (aka surrounding myself with the kindest of human beings). Now that I am back from my international work travels, grad school is done, and I am on the mend from this horrible sickness that has worn me down, I can finally wake up and make it out to NP again! This not only means more consistency in my training (running stadiums and hills), but also just a more elevated level of training…when you surround yourself by the best, you push yourself to be better. Plus, all of the hugs and happiness. I’ve never been a morning person, yet these amazing humans make me smile (read: beam, ear-to-ear) as soon as I show up and get greeted by genuine hugs, love, and encouragement; they also make me glad to wake up at 6am to workout and sweat like a pig for an hour–and that results in a release in endorphins, which triggers happiness. It’s science, people. Again, I won’t preach too much about NP and instead just link to an old post of mine that I highlighted its amazingness and general information, in case you missed it the first time: “Reason #1,000,001 to just show up.

The warmer weather (and what that means for active living). Today was the first day it hit 80 degrees in Boston since last September…what?!!! That was such a big deal. This makes me so excited for things to come: summer racing, outdoor yoga, kayaking (and hopefully paddle boarding for the first time!), hiking, evening city and neighborhood strolls, etc. This also means that I am looking forward to trying out new products to fuel myself. So far on my list of new things to try, as recommended by local, Fitfluential people: Nuun (waiting on my order to arrive!!), Spindrift Seltzers (need to hit up Trader Joes to pick some up), and Nutty Life Milk (waiting until I can finally go to SOWA).

What about you? Tell me some of the things that you’re loving lately. Is there something that I should add to my list of active things to do now that the weather has changed for the warmer?!  I’m always down for suggestions and recommendations on new things to do, see, and try so feel free to comment below or write to me on Twitter: @meggielukes. Can’t wait to hear from you! 🙂

In the meantime, I’m off the grid for the next two days to New Hampshire to stay in a tiny house via Getaway–looking to restore some balance into my life by living the simple life and spending some quality time in the great outdoors with Ryan. More to come on that experience on Friday…can’t wait to share!

Love,
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

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