Just 10 minutes/day of stretching.

Hi There,

So I like to make sure that the things that I am writing and preaching about in Meg in the Meantime are things that I am actually doing and putting into practice myself–this post is definitely such the case and something that I’ve struggled with over the years, but feel as though I have finally found the balance that I need to live well on the go in my busy life.

“What is it?” you may ask…well, if you’re a loyal reader then I’m sure you’re pretty familiar with my recent kick of incorporating active stretching into my run training routine (if not, then check out my old post “Stretch It Out“). Although active stretching only takes about 10-15 minutes before working out and has made me feel better and stronger during runs I know that there is more that I can do outside of my active training sessions; what I struggle with is finding the perfect, undisturbed time and the motivation within myself to make it a daily habit.

And so, on Monday night when I was doing one of my first official speed workouts with Becca for our B.A.A. 10k training regiment (more to come on that during my next Friday Feature post!), she was talking about how she wants/needs to start stretching more each day and how that would make her feel as she continues to add more running/biking/walking miles to her week. I mentioned a Men’s Health article that I had recently found on Twitter called “This Man Stretched 10 Minutes a Day For a Month This is What Happened,” which focuses on the notion of loose muscles being stronger muscles and highlights some solid deep stretches. Anyways, pretty soon Becca and I came up with our own recommendations for how we would incorporate at least 10 minutes a day of stretching into our daily days–and they range from the very obvious times to other, more creative opportunities, but both we hope give you (and us!) the ability to create a solid wellness habit from.

  • After you wake up. This is an easy and mindful way to start your day and slowly wake yourself up so that you are not stumbling to the shower or coffee pot! Simply begin by stretching your body out completely while in bed (hands over head, feet out straight or together with knees knocked outward for a deeper hip stretch) and then when you’re ready, roll out of bed and take it to the floor: perhaps do a few sun salutations to get your blood flowing or focus your stretching on a particular achy area that you’d like loosened up before you start your work day.
  • Before you go to bed. This is another easy and obvious time to stretch, but instead of doing stretches that will get your blood flowing, like sun salutations, perhaps try something more calm and controlled, like happy baby, rag doll, legs up the wall, body twist. You can always complete your before-bedtime routine by laying out for some quite meditation on an acupressure mat like the Spoonk. What’s a Spoonk? Read about it here in my old post “This Thing Called ‘Spoonking.’
  • Before/after dedicated workout time. I hope you’re doing this already, but if not make sure to get to your fitness class or the gym a little earlier than expected (or stay a few minutes later) and really dedicate some quality stretching time. If you’re running do some active stretching for 5-10 minutes beforehand (inch worms, downward dog, power walking, quick half pigeons, etc.) and leave time for a deeper, cool down stretch afterwards to target specific muscle groups–your body will thank you later!
  • During work. Most of us tend to sit all day at a desk and only get up to walk around for a coffee or bathroom break or to go another meeting where we will inevitably sit some more. So why not stretch while you’re sitting?! Open your hips with a figure four seated stretch, kick off your shoes and roll your feet with a tennis ball under the desk (as I highlighted in a previous post, “Wellness When You Can“), or check out any of these standing and sitting stretching suggestions, like shoulder/chest stretching, chair twists, and wrist stretching, as outlined by The Yoga Coach in the article “Yoga at Your Desk.”
  • Watching TV. This is your opportunity to get comfortable (or, uncomfortable) in some really deep poses, like half pigeon pose, wide-legged forward bend, runner’s lunge, or downward-facing dog. Think of the benefits of stretching and watching TV in this way: you can unwind from your day with something entertaining and engaging while also taking care of your health and wellness instead of just sitting there like a bum (I’m the queen of multitasking so this is one of my favorite times to stretch…I’m definitely known to break out my yoga mat and plop right down in the middle of the living room and stretch) and you’re able to time out your stretching session for a full episode if you’re really enjoying it or be cued to switch up which body parts you’re focusing on along with commercial breaks. Win, win!

These are just a handful of recommendations, but I’m curious to hear from you–what are some good times that you like to consistently stretch for 10-15 minutes? I would love to compile a larger list of suggestions to share with others. As always, feel free to comment below or send me a note on Twitter: @meggielukes, using #MegInTheMeantime to call it out to my attention.

In the meantime, I’m counting down the days (THREE!!) until the B.A.A. 10k–that is my next big race on the agenda and something that Becca and I have been training hard for for the last eight weeks: building up our strength and endurance again after a brief running hiatus and really stepping outside of our comfort zones and trying new things (RunYoga Series with Cara Gilman and occasional speed work on the track to challenge ourselves). In preparation for setting a PR goal time, I decided to look up my last 10k, which was the Lone Gull 10K that I ran last September in Gloucester, MA with a finishing time of 1:01:23–not so great, but more importantly I know I can do better and so I’m shooting for under 1 hour this go around. I’m hoping that all of this hard work and consistent training pays off and that I will blow this sub 1-hour 10k out the water, but more importantly, I’m curious to see if my new and happier outlook on running will have an effect on my race time, as well. We’ll see–I can’t wait to report back about it next week!

Be well and talk with you soon,
-Meg

Wellness Tip: Unplug and Reset

Happy Wednesday, Friends!

As some of you may already know, my boyfriend and I recently got away from the city and booked a tiny house getaway experience in the Lake Sunapee-region of New Hampshire via the Harvard start-up Getaway. Whether you read the brief overview of our experience through one of my older blog posts “Get Movin’!” or if you saw us featured on the CBS This Morning piece “Startup ‘Getaway’ encourages short vacations in tiny houses” (hold on…can we stop to acknowledge that Ryan and I basically became national celebrities for 4 minutes last week?!), I hope you are able to grasp how necessary unplugging is/can be.

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Getaway supports and focuses in on everything I should be doing more of: recharging and reconnecting and living simply. There’s honestly not much we need to be happy. For me on that getaway, all I needed was Ryan, a space to wander around and explore, a roaring campfire, a deck of cards, a hearty meal complete with s’mores, and a place to rest my tired head at night. And, while the main purpose of our trip was not to necessarily partake in the social experiment of unplugging and rather to experience living life in a tiny house (a lifestyle that Ryan is quite obsessed with), I quickly fell in love with the concept of just leaving my phone be and doing whatever we pleased, whenever we pleased without any concept or care for time or other responsibilities. That way of life is not sustainable, nor realistic for me (this was a mini vacation, after all), but it was an extremely refreshing reset to my usual every day of being overly-connected to anything and everything at the tip of my fingers…and that really resonated with me.

And so, on this edition of Wednesday Wellness, I want to encourage you all to find a way to unplug, if even just for a designated hour each day (sleeping hours don’t count)! You don’t have to run away from your city life, throw away your computer, lock up your phone, or anything dramatic, but rather just set aside some time to mindfully step away from the screens in your life.

If you’re struggling to think of how to execute this unplugging hour, here’s what’s been working for me: running. Running with a phone is an inconvenience for me-I don’t like running with armbands, I don’t have a waistband that’s large enough to carry my iPhone 6S, and, frankly, I’d rather start or end my work day with some quiet reflection time or quality catch up time with someone that I care about. As a result, running has become something that I specifically look forward to because I know that it is my do-not-disturb time; my solo time; my catch up time; my time to quiet and calm all of the hundreds of thoughts and ideas that are constantly running around inside my head; my time to give gratitude and thanks for the amazing life I live in this wonderful city…and that is priceless and so necessary to do more of.

If you’re in need of some other ideas to kickstart your unplugging hour:

  • Pick up a good book and learn something new
  • Write a letter to someone that you love and let them know that you are thinking of them (it really is a lost art!)
  • Ask a friend over and have a face-to-face conversation…catch up on the important areas of your life
  • Go for a walk around the neighborhood or explore somewhere new
  • Stretch and/or meditate
  • Take on a new fitness challenge: abs, push-ups, strength training, cross training, etc.
  • Cook a healthy meal (check out my Sunday Snacks section for some inspiration!)

Honestly, I could go on and on with suggestions, but I’d rather hear some new great ideas from you! How do you love to spend your unplugging hours? What has worked (or not worked!) for you? As always, please comment below or share your thoughts with me on Twitter: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, live well, love well, be well-I look forward to chatting more on Friday,
-Meg

Mind Games

Wow, what another gorgeous, sunny, and blue sky day we had here in Boston!

Now, perfect days like these-of course-don’t come without some stormy weather first and last night’s summer thunder and lightning storm sure was something else! I don’t know about you, but I made sure to soak it all in (without actually getting soaked…I did enough of that during my 3 miler on Sunday afternoon). Last night I sat out in my enclosed porch, lit some candles, and just listened to the world around me and the thoughts running around in my head; it was a great time for some reflective thinking/meditation.

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This special time out on the porch meant a lot to me, especially after such a draining few days at work and a few other personal situations that are currently brewing into (what could become) a perfect storm of stress. However, I had a major takeaway during this week’s RunYoga series with the ever-amazing Cara Gilman and it’s been the one positive thing that I’ve chosen to focus on instead of every (stressful) thing that possibly could be.

After our speed workout (my first time!) on a local track in The Fens, we got back to our base and slowed things down with some targeted, deep stretches to complement the speed workout and then Cara led us through a yoga nidra practice-one of the deepest forms of meditation. I’ve never done yoga nidra before, but after learning more about it and its benefits it wasn’t too hard to fall in love with both the idea and practice of it (I’ll make sure to give you a link to a great guided yoga nidra practice so you can try it yourself, too!).

Anyways, as always, Cara asked us to set an intention and then followed up with an inspirational message: The words we think becomes the world we see. That message really stuck with me; it’s all that I could think about during my yoga practice that night and I’ve carried it with me every day since: it’s my self check-in when I wake up in the morning and it’s my closing thought to reflect on the day (and the things that I can control and the things that I cannot) before bed and make my peace.

And so, last night on my porch, with the sky pouring buckets, I started to think those words in a more targeted area of my life: running. For me, running is a time to clear my mind, to reflect on my current state, to work through all the good and not-so-good moments of my week, and to wrestle with what my next steps should be moving forward.

I have been running unplugged from any kind of music playing device and have been using that extra concentration to zone in on my inner thoughts instead of zoning out to hardcore rap (and sometimes the random popular flavor of the week) like I used to. Instead, I’ve been listening to the world move around me and have been focusing on how grateful I am for each and every breath and step I take-it’s both a humbling and motivational experience.

But has every thought that has popped in my head been positive? Probably not. Have I cursed under my breath a few times. Most likely, yeah. How have I been speaking to myself? Have I been kind enough to myself and all that I put myself through-mentally and physically-during these intimate moments that I consider my sanctuary of the day?! And how will those kind and positive thoughts translate from my running moments into the other areas of my life?

This is why Cara’s message stuck with me-it’s giving me the opportunity to learn more about myself and helping me, in a small yet meaningful way, become a better, more thoughtful person each day. The words we think becomes the world we see. Really stop and think about that. What are the words and thoughts that sneak into your mind  throughout your day…when everything is going well, when nothing is really happening, and then when you feel completely down and out and all alone? How can you become more mindful of the powerful affect that you can have on your life (and others) through your thoughts and perceptions-turned reality?! It’s such a mental game and so important to get ahead of it before it can become destructive.

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I shared some examples of what goes through my my mind when I’m running, so what about you? Or maybe for you it’s during another activity or something that you can’t seem to shake while walking into work or before bed…either way I’d love to hear from you and know what’s been working for you! What techniques or strong mental forces do you practice to keep the demons at bay? If you’re still struggling and are in need of some inspiration, shoot me a message…maybe we can talk it out together! Hearing from you always means so much to me so please feel free to leave a comment below, e-mail me at melucas7@gmail.com, or leave me a message on Twitter: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, let’s end this on a positive note: two things that I’m currently loving.

  • Two-a-days: I have been trying to switch up and amp up my training schedule this time around and have been testing out two-a-day workouts once a week, mainly on Wednesdays. In the mornings I’ll rise and shine with the sun and meet Becca at Harvard Stadium to run stairs with the rest of the November Project crew and in the evenings I’ll head up to the North Shore to spend some time with Ryan and run some evening miles (usually around 3 miles). I realized this morning that, probably the reason why I like this two-a-day concept so much is because I get to spend some quality time with two people who are special to me without compromising on my health and wellness.
  • Training: I have been absolutely loving consistent running, stretch, and strength training exercises throughout my weeks. I had a great early morning 5 miler around Boston with Becca last Friday and am looking forward to another long run this Friday morning, as well. This time we’ll take to the B.A.A. 10k route to get a better feel for the course before our race in two weeks. I also have a fantastic 5k race this Sunday, June 12th in Beverly, MA with Ryan called “Run for the Beach 5k,” in which proceeds benefit local beaches and marine life. The North Shore, and all of its rocky, coastal views, stole my heart a few years ago so I’m super excited to participate in this race…it’s just extra special that it will be my first official road race with Ryan! 🙂

That’s all for now-check back in on Friday for some more health and wellness inspiration.

Be well and stay positive,
-Meg

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

Time, is on my side.

Hi there!

First of all, I’d like to thank you all for bearing with me as I continue to recover and adjust back to every day life from my recent business trip to China–that 12-hour time difference is really messing with my system more than I expected it to. I came back to the US late last week, celebrated my second master’s graduation (M.Ed.’14 and M.S. in advertising ’16) over the weekend with loved ones over the weekend by way of commencement ceremonies, delicious steak-filled meals, and lots of corny college catalog photos like this one:

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And suddenly after all of the excitement and celebrations passed and life began to slow down, my body slowed down, as well and began to crash: I would put myself to bed at a normal hour, but just lay awake until the sun came out and soon thereafter I developed piercing headaches in the center of my forehead and the top of my head, complemented with a nasty, phlegmy cough that came forth out of left field. Not sure what’s going on with my body at this moment (will bring myself to the doctor for a check-in soon), but I just wanted to explain briefly and let you know that I appreciate your patience with my posts as my blog fell to the wayside for the last week or so.

I ended up missing posting about a healthy snack on Sunday, so I’ll just save that exciting post for this upcoming weekend and instead share with you my B.A.A. 10k training updates because exercising has been one of the few things that has made my body feel better this week.

On Monday, I finally was able to attend my first session of Cara Gilman’s RunYoga Series, courtesy of MoveWith; I unfortunately had to miss the first two sessions due to grad school and the business trip to China, so I was stoked to finally be able to go, despite not feeling so well. The way the workout goes: each session, a scalable running workout (hill repeats, speed workouts, group runs, etc.) is paired with a targeted, strength-based yoga sequence to challenge the individual members of this inspiring community over the course of the 10-week program. Each workout takes place on Monday evenings from 6-8pm in the wonderful Brookline/Boston neighborhood, rain or shine.

This week, we started our run from the Ruggles Baptist Church in the Audubon Circle neighborhood of Brookline and ran to Summit Ave, where we took on hill repeats on the one of the steepest hills in the Boston-area (the gradient incline goes from 7-17% fairly quickly). From there, it was up to us if we wanted to just do one full hill loop and head back to our starting point in Audubon Circle, or add some repeats before turning back. I turned to my usual training buddy/running solemate, Becca Smith, and we decided on adding an extra repeat of the smaller side of the hill, ultimately ending our run with a solid 4.20 miles completed. Afterwards, back in the church, we settled in for our yoga sequence, which would target the outer hips (hello, IT band!), calves and quads. Before we began though, Cara told us to focus in on one word, a mantra, that would guide us through our practice not only that night, but also throughout the week–something we are grateful for and something that would keep us present.

What would be my word?! That one was easy: “time.” Lately, I am so grateful for time-so much so that I find myself replaying The Rolling Stones’ song, “Time Is On My Side” in my head most days! After four years straight of working full-time and going to graduate school part-time (for two different master’s programs back-t0-back) and revolving my life and its priorities around the schedule that these two pieces set for me, I feel so unbelievably free and open to new opportunities and possibilities. And so, more than anything, I was grateful for those two hours on Monday night to reflect on the last four years, refresh my body, and reset my mind to start the first week of the rest of my life with balance and positivity. Despite my headache pounding into all sides of my head at that point, those two hours of active movement not only served as a training run and strength and conditioning session for my upcoming B.A.A. race at the end of June, but it also served me in a metaphorical sense: taking to life one step at a time-one foot in front of the other-possibly facing some obstacles (hills) in the way, and heading straight towards the next great thing, more in balance.

Speaking of things I am grateful for… I am BEYOND grateful for what my friend, fellow November Project-er, and PT/DPT/Cert. DN/Running Specialist, Dani Adler (aka RunFitDoc), taught me about active stretching during her run clinic. If you missed my post from last month, Stretch It Out, which broke down in easy-to-follow steps her suggested guidance of applying the 3 E’s: Easy, Effective, and Efficient to your run training warm-up, then I highly suggest giving it a read through before you continue with your run training! I have noticed a major difference in the way I feel (read: much stronger, more open, more loose, more warmed) before, during, and after all of my training runs and wish the same for all of you!

For example, tonight I practiced my active stretching routine and it put me in the right place, mentally and physically. I attended fun/casual 5k race that occurs every Wednesday night at 7pm outside Osborn Tavern (49 Maple Street) in Danvers, MA called Danvers 5K. My boyfriend recently moved to Danvers so I wanted to start doing something active in the area to get to know the surrounding neighborhood better and I couldn’t have fell more in love with this open running community the second I showed up. First of all, as their website states: this reoccurring weekly race is open to absolutely anyone: great for hardcore runners and those who are just starting out and looking for a solid weekly run/reason to run. Second of all, the course was absolutely beautiful and very enjoyable to run. I honestly don’t know much about the Danvers area yet, but there were some small, rolling hills, lots of cemeteries that were passed along the way–I kept myself unplugged and just soaked up the quintessential New England/North Shore scenery. It felt so nice to change up my usual route and run around a town for once-there’s definitely a charm to it, something I could easily get used to. Third of all, everyone was so friendly…especially to us newbies! I had such a nice and enjoyable time meeting everyone and even found myself trying to keep pace with two older guys during the entire race. To the main in the orange shirt, thanks for letting me tail you during the entire 3.1 miles–you rock!

I really could go on and on, but instead I’ll just encourage anyone who lives in the greater Boston and North Shore area to just show up and check it out yourself. Once you race, you have a bib number for life and are always welcomed back-how nice is that?! I ended my 5k with a time of 29:07, which is far from the lower end of the 25 minute 5k time I used to regularly race a couple of years ago, but instead of being disappointed in myself and wondering where I went wrong, I actually just really look forward to chipping away at that number bit by bit as I continue to focus in with more intensity and intention on my run training.

In the meantime, I’d like for you to read my favorite Boston running, health, and wellness blogger, Jana Ross’ post on “Why I Run Marathons.” People often ask why I run or why I choose to make the time to fit in training runs or workout series to my usual busy schedule and-to be honest-it’s a pretty hard question to answer; however, in a short and eloquent post Jana captures it all. I sure as heck am far from being as accomplished as she is as a runner and am nowhere close to running marathons (she just completed marathon #8!), but I definitely connect with what she expresses and think it’s overall just such a well-written piece. For example, two lines that, in particular, stuck out to me: “I love a challenge, I love the community, and I love the simplicity of placing one foot in front of the next.” and “It’s where I push myself most, discover how I handle adversity, and pick myself back up when I hit what feels like rock bottom.” Preach, Jana!!

Anyways, for one reason or another these lines stuck out to me and made me reflect on the reasons of why any of us do the things that we love, even when they sometimes tear us apart or take all that we have to give at the moment. As we continue to live our lives and push forward each day, tacking new obstacles and challenges with our dreams and goals in sight, I think it’s something pretty important to meditate on, if you haven’t ever…just a suggestion, of course! 🙂

Sending love and wellness to you all of you until the next time!
-Meg

Don’t call it comeback…

Hi Everyone!

Thanks so much for bearing with me during the last week and staying patient until this comeback post. If you were not following my last few posts, here’s a quick catch up: I went to Shanghai, China for work for one week, which was just barely enough time to adjust to the 12-hour time difference before jet setting right back here to Boston. Here’s some photographic proof that I (a) did indeed go to Shanghai and (b) that I do own non-athletic/athleisure clothing. 🙂

megbund

I really did have an amazing time in China–it was so different from anywhere else I’d ever been before, but I was able to do some really neat things: I explored the famous West Lake region in Hangzhou, hung out in some ancient Buddhist temples, went to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center (8th tallest building in the world), and ate some DELICIOUS and funky local delicacies (if I could spell any of them, I would list each and every one…I promise!).

Almost everyone’s first reaction or question to my trip to China was “…but really, how difficult was it to get around when everyone speaks Chinese?!” or “…but aren’t there people, like, everywhere in China? How annoying was it to deal with all of the crowds everywhere you turn?!” and, lastly: “…I heard the bathrooms are disgusting–did you have to squat and go in one of those holes in the grounds??”

My mindset going into my trip focused on none of those things, though; instead, I was focused on how to see and do as much as possible to understand the culture and daily customs in such a short period of time. I was also pretty excited about unplugging from my usual, hyper-connected lifestyle.

You see…to me, traveling-even something as quick as a day trip-teaches you a lot, if you open yourself up to it. China taught me many things (yes, including how to gracefully squat in less-than-ideal conditions to go to the bathroom), but my biggest take away was patience. In a country with over 1.25 billion people, more specifically the city with over 14 million people, let’s just say there’s not much personal space, time to figure something out when you don’t speak the native language, or time to every really just be alone.

There were times, mainly in the airports of course, that I wished I could pause, drop all of my heavy baggage, stretch out on my yoga mat, clear my headspace, and then move along. I even longed for my Spoonk a few nights after being away from my own bed, and having hard time adjusting to the drastic time difference. There were other times that I wished that I could just lace up my sneakers and explore Shanghai while training for my upcoming race-severely poor air quality did not allow for me to do that one, though. And, as much as I enjoyed devouring all of the new foods, there were some mornings that I longed to make a protein smoothie to fuel me throughout the day. But those things are luxuries in my every day life that I couldn’t take with me on this trip–and that is more than okay.

Right before I travel, I like to re-read one of my favorite travel quotes by Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Trust me when I tell you that I could go on and on with inspirational travel quotes, but I know what you’re thinking…this is not a travel blog, where’s the usual health and wellness stuff? Don’t worry, I’m getting to it…

I believe that when you travel, you learn a lot about yourself…some would even say: “If you travel far enough, you meet yourself.” We should all take these opportunities in our lives to draw the lessons from the road. I took any and every moment I had, when I was finally alone each night, to form some kind of connection between the patience I was practicing throughout the day with others and myself and my overall health and fitness goals (currently: training for the B.A.A. 10k and aiming for a PR)–here are my top three takeaways that I wanted to share with you:

  1. Be patient with yourself. Way easier said than done, but great things do not happen overnight. You need to not only be in the right mindset to put forth the dedication and effort necessary to achieve your goals, but you also have to give yourself time to adjust and space to fail and grow. Whenever I’m feeling frustrated with myself-in any situation-I like to think of something my favorite yoga instructor always said during our practice: “Close your eyes-do not look around the room to others and where they are in their practice or how far along they are in their pose. It does not matter. Focus on you, in this moment, and how you feel. Now can you stay here, present, in this pose for another 10 seconds? If you can do that, what else can you do in life-outside of yoga-for 10 more seconds? How does that make you feel?” Hearing her tell us this always grounded me, brought clarity and perspective to my life, and gave me the drive to have patience with myself for just a little longer. I hope this helps you a bit, too!
  2. Be patient with your training/practice. It’s so easy to feel down and out or unhappy with your current state or progress, but if you stay positive and patience then I guarantee you’ll soon see the fruits of your labor and will be grateful for the times you had to struggle. And if you ever feel stuck, think of this: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” -Henry Ford. Soon you’ll be flying, too! 🙂
  3. Be bold with your goals, but patient with the time it takes to chip away at them. Be proud of the little victories you’ve achieved along the way: hitting your walking 3x/week goal for a month straight, running a mile or two without stopping, finally feeling strong in a new yoga pose, holding a plank for longer than you ever did before, running .25 miles further than you ever thought your body could, hitting a 20-second race day PR, etc. It’s great to stay focused on the big end goal, but do not push aside everything you’ve done in the meantime to continue moving forward-those have been your stepping stones to success. Stop every once in a while and show gratitude towards your body and yourself for everything you’ve done.

That’s all I got for now. Tune back in on Sunday morning for the latest Sunday Snacks edition. Last time I shared with you a quinoa dessert-style snack, so what could it be this time?! I’ll give you a hint: I’m back to sharing another quick and super easy-to-prepare Greek Yogurt snack, and this one has endless combinations and possibilities so it’s also a great and fun (read: delicious) experiment. So why do I keep sharing recipes that incorporate Greek Yogurt? Because Greek Yogurt is an easy and healthy swap for baking, cooking, and non-cooking alike…and because a simple, healthier substation can make all the difference in your life! If you’d like more proof, I highly recommend checking out FitFluential’s Guide for Cooking with Greek Yogurt.

In the meantime, I’m off to graduate with my master’s degree in advertising today–I already woke up at 7am from all of the excitement!! All of the time, energy, and hard work that I poured into this part of my life for the last four years (four years in total because I actually completed two master degree programs back-to-back) is coming to an end. It’s pretty bittersweet as I am closing the book on this thing that was a HUGE part of my every day life for so long-something that I was so passionate about and that, I felt, really defined me. I do feel lucky though, because to share with me in this special day are some special people: my mom and dad. They drove all the way up from New Jersey to sit through this third Boston University graduation of mine…bless them, their amazing parental love and support, and their patience to sit through all of these ceremonies! But anyways, more to come on life post-grad (I already read 3.25 books!) and my training schedule…for now, it’s time to celebrate!

Before I head off though, I’m curious; what about you–is there a big shift going on in an area of your life right now? How are you dealing with it and what health and wellness practices are you utilizing to work through it? Comment below or tweet at me: @meggielukes-don’t forget to use the hashtag #MegInTheMeantime for good measure!

Talk soon!
-Meg

This thing called “Spoonking”

ni men hao! you duán shijiān méi liánxìle.
(roughly translated to: Hello, Everyone! It’s been a while.)

Greetings from rainy and humid, Hángzhōu, China, where the current time is approximately 5:50am and here I am…awake! My biological clock is definitely still thrown off, having just arrived in China approximately 14 hours ago after a 16 hour flight and knowing that I’m 12 hours ahead of where I usually am back home in Boston. Despite the fatigue and my body’s confusion to the local time, I am most excited to be here in China for a week and to explore as many cultural aspects as I can. As you can already see, I’m doing my best to pick up the language to get by. 🙂

I’m going to keep this post fairly short since the internet is pretty touch and go here, but I did want to follow up on something that I mentioned during my last post on Wednesday: “Do Your Om Thing!” So when I was describing that my best friend, Anya, had just come out of a 40-minute meditation and was lying on an acupressure mat, I knew at that very moment that I wanted to talk about that mat on this week’s Feature Friday post.

Although there may be many variations of an acupressure mat, the one that I know Anya was lying on (because she gave me the same one for Christmas last year) is called a Spoonkand it looks like this:

spoonk2

According to their website, Spoonk is “based on the principles of acupressure and Japanese Shiatsu massage. The mat stimulates specific reflex points throughout the body, releases blocked energy, eases tense muscles, and creates deep mental and physical relaxation. Benefits include increased level of energy, reduced inflammation and pain, improved and deeper sleep.”

That all sounds well and good and very commercial, but what is it really like? Well, even though it may look to some like a torture device (see the picture below), I have honestly found it to be quite relaxing and a great way to practice bringing awareness to specific parts of your mind, while easing your mind. While I never thought to use it during my stretching time, I have tried it recently on my sore calves and tired feet and it also can definitely relieve tension and pain in certain trigger areas…I mean, check out those spikes!

spoonk1

I personally have used the Spoonk mat most to calm my body down after a long day or to mindfully try to go to sleep without the aid of Netflix or my phone. I’ll usually break it out before bed, and position my back (from the neck/shoulders area) all the way down to my lower back to be positioned on it. From there, I will usually lay down in my savasana pose with my legs completely sprawled out straight or a  variation of vrksasana, or tree pose, where I switch each leg off in being in a figure four pose while still lying down. From there, usually it takes me about 20 minutes to completely fall into a deep, relaxation state and many time I find myself sleeping for about 2-3 hours on it before I wake up in the middle of the night, grateful for the peace that it has given me, and push it aside for the rest of the night to give my back some release from the spikes.

You might want to use the Spoonk differently, though.

  • You can roll the mat a little bit to elevate your neck, like a pillow, and massage out that high-stress area.
  • You can sit down on a chair or the edge of your bed, and walk out your feet to hit pressure points that way.
  • You can use it in a more active sense and either massage your hands or feet with it during a yoga pose like, downward-facing dog.

The best part about the Spoonk is that it’s light and easy bring with you on-the-go and store anywhere. The mat easily rolls up, very much like a yoga mat, and can be stored in a handy over-the-shoulder/across-the-shoulder, light weight protective bag that it comes with–this means that you can Spoonk at home, at work, on vacation, at your friend’s place, etc. The possibilities are endless!

spoonk3Well, I’m off to eat breakfast and start my day as you wind down yours across the world. Today we are exploring Hángzhōu through a private boat ride on the famous West Lake, Lingyin Temple-one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, and the Southern Song Imperial Street, which is filled with genuine antique shops and teahouses.

In the meantime, I encourage you all to find a way to meditate today. Personally, I know that I will definitely take some time to quiet my mind as I enter the temple today to think of my current state of being and my levels of happiness, as I continue on my quest for balance. You are winding down your day–what will you focus on?  If you don’t know where to start, first read over my last post to get a better sense of what kind or style of meditation might be best for you. As always, if you have any suggestions on techniques that work best for you, I’d love to hear them and share them with everyone: leave a comment below, email me melucas7@gmail.com, or Tweet at me @meggielukes and include #MegInTheMeantime.

And make sure to tune back in on Sunday (pending internet connections) for my next edition of Sunday Snacks!

baozhòng! (Take care!)
-Meg

Do Your Om thing!

Hi Everyone!

So I was originally going to write to you today about my training schedule and plan for the upcoming B.A.A. 10k on June 26th; however, I ended up having a much needed life conversation with my best friend from home, Anya, last night and I feel like some of those points are probably more relevant and important to share with you at this time…

First of all, I have to express that I hope that everyone has an Anya in their life–not a literal person named Anya, but someone just like her. Anya is one of those people who is so kind, wise, and non-judgmental; she automatically calms your life down with the sound of her voice; and, most impressively, she and I have always had such a rare connection in completely understanding each other.  Even though she and I are arguably very different people and even if our lives aren’t synced up or at the same place in our respective trajectories, there is some kind of unspoken balance and understanding within us, so much so, that we’ve always considered ourselves to be “twin souls,” lucky enough to find each other so early in our lives! Anya has been my best friend since first grade, so that means we’re going on 22 years of friendship-the past 10 of which have been spent a majority apart from each other due to college and post-college life (I, up in Massachusetts and she, down in New Jersey)…so that, in itself, is amazing. Somewhere in that brief rambling of an overview, I hope you can gain a little insight to the type of person that Anya is and why I would hope everyone is just as lucky to have someone similar of significance in their life. Anyways, I digress…

I will not go into the great details of what Anya and I spoke about on the phone for countless hours last night, but I will share an inspirational concept that was sparked from our conversation with you in hopes that we can both incorporate something new into our lives to better balance ourselves and practice wellness.

We began our phone call talking about what we were just doing: I had just walked into my apartment after running around Boston, crossing off my to-do list of last minute errands before my business trip to China, feeling completely exhausted from earlier in the day because of a 4am wake up to travel down to NYC to pick up my visa and passport from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York only to travel back up to Boston to attend a work reception in the afternoon. Anya, on the other hand, had just stepped out of a 40-minute meditation state in her apartment, where she was lying down on an acupressure mat, with a warmed up, spa-like mask to cover her eyes, and soft music and sounds playing in the background that she downloaded off a yoga YouTube channel. I told you we were very different!

Right away I thought to myself: Damn, I wish I could be more like her! Only to quickly correct myself and say: I am inspired by Anya and will put in the effort and time to practice similar wellness habits. There is no reason why I can’t be more like her in that way, I just have to choose to make time for myself and my wellness throughout the day.

I don’t know about you, but I am notorious for always keeping myself busy, for better or for worse: I always stay late at work and take work home with me (the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up is my e-mail so I know what I am getting myself into for the day); for the last four years straight (including summers) I have been in grad school part-time for two different master’s degrees; and I am always taking on some new challenge, like a half marathon or 30-days of yoga, etc. I choose and love these additions in my life, but I also never choose to take a break or check-in to make sure I’m not going to burn myself out. This is where something like meditation can come into handy!

I just completed my very last grad class on Monday night and, while I’m so sad that I will not be in a physical classroom learning anymore (at least for now!), I am energized at the thought of a formal break to take some time for myself; to be able to come home after work and do what I please: read a book for pleasure, take a walk, go to more yoga classes, meet up with friends, or even meditate! Anya is just as busy and stressed as I am in her life, but she does a way better job of making time to practice wellness and set aside time to check-in, reconnect, and refresh. I think just mentally knowing that my schedule will clear up a bit will do a lot for me in terms of fitting in time for meditation, self-reflection, and care.

Now I know some of you may scoff at the idea of meditation, yoga, or the concept of “finding yourself,” or “doing something that’s good for your soul.” Some of you may even feel like the donut depicted below in this sketch:

meditation

You don’t have to attend a yoga class to meditate. I personally think the best part of meditation is the fact that there are a million different ways, spaces, and times to do it–it’s very adaptable to any schedule! If you have no idea where to start, start with concentrated, deep breathing-you’ll be surprised at how much taking sloooooow, deep breaths will relax you and clear your mind. If you master that and want to move on, consider setting an intention or a mantra for the day and honing in on how you might achieve that.

If you do feel the need to have some form of private, guided meditation there are plenty of free ones to stream on YouTube, but you can also buy some really wonderful apps that come fully loaded with meditation essentials (some cost money, others are free). One company that I feel does the meditation things really well is Meditation OasisI personally have downloaded their “Relax & Rest,” “Simply Being,” “iSleep Easy,” and “Breathe” apps to practice mindfulness throughout the day, but you can also purchase their Meditation Oasis bundle (which includes 8 targeted apps) or listen to their podcast that is highlighted on the website I’ve linked above. Again, while there are many this is the one that I have been most happy with because I like the way they blend voice commands and soothing background music and because there is a wide variety of different timed meditations to choose from: as short as 2-3 minutes if you’re trying to squeeze in a quick break and all the way up to 30-45 minutes.

Here are some ideas to kickstart your meditation practice:

  • You can lay in bed for a few extra minutes when you wake up and set your intention for the day.
  • If you walk to work or commute by bus or train you can plug in to a guided meditation flow, close your eyes and follow a meditation sequence (make sure to not miss your stop!).
  • You can close the door to your office and take some time mid-day to refresh.
  • You can wait until you come home from work to disconnect with everything that happened throughout the day.
  • And, my personal favorite, take some time to wind down before bed to reflect on your day, let go of anything that doesn’t serve you, and prepare for the next!

Okay, well I’m off to China in the early morning for a week-long work trip. As I mentioned, I hope to still be able to blog regularly on my usual schedule (Sunday, Wednesday, Friday), but please bear with me, the jet lag, and the 12-hour time difference in the meantime. You can trust that I will definitely be utilizing these meditation tools throughout my trip-especially during the 16 hour flight-and will share with you one of my favorite meditation accessories on Friday.

Until then, be well and send me some positive and energizing vibes during your meditation experiment! 🙂

Love,
Meg

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

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