Today’s blog post is a bit different, because rather than talking about one topic in particular, I thought it’d be helpful to send out a few of my favorite resources related to common struggles. These are websites, books, or apps that can help keep you on track to make healthy choices – whether you’re trying to lose weight or you’re an athlete working to improve your nutrition plan. It any of the struggles below sound familiar, give the helpful resources a try and let me know what you think! Struggle:
“I’m so tired of grilled chicken and steamed broccoli.” Helpful Resources:
Check out my Pinterest board
, where (in addition to tons of craft and home organization projects – guilty pleasures) I have organized my recipes by category. This means when you visit my pinterest page, you’ll see boards like “Healthy Recipes – Chicken” or “Healthy Recipes – Breakfast.” If you struggle with ideas for meals that are both healthy and delicious, you’ll definitely want to check it out.
Other great resources for healthy recipes include these websites.
And these cookbooks...
- Vegetables Every Day: The Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Today's Produce With More Than 350 Recipes by Jack Bishop
- So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week by Ellie Krieger
- Comfort Food Fix: Feel-Good Favorites Made Healthy by Ellie Krieger
- The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook: A New, Healthier Way to Cook Everything from America's Most Trusted Test Kitchen
- The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook: Simple Solutions for Eating Well by John Phillip Carroll
- The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living by Mark Bittman
- American Dietetic Association Cooking Healthy Across America
“A few bites here, a few bites there…that’s not a big deal, right?” Helpful Resources:
Food logging can be a great tool for weight loss and athletic success, because it keeps you accountable to your goals and really helps you see that all those “bites” can add up. Below are some sites that are great for logging food intake. Keep in mind though that the calorie recommendations can sometimes be inaccurate on these sites. In this case, you may want to track your normal intake for a few days and then simply start reducing it by 300-500 calories/day while focusing on eating wholesome, natural foods. Struggle:
“I just need someone to give me a diet.” Helpful Resources:
If you’re looking for support, working one on one with a dietitian can be extremely helpful (whether it’s with me or someone else). I typically don’t develop traditional meal plans for my clients – in other words, I don’t write out every meal and portion they should eat for two weeks. This usually surprises people. The reason that I don’t do this is because I often feel that meal plans end up being another “diet” to follow – something temporary that leaves a person going “what now?” after it has finished. Instead, I work with my clients to focus on mindful eating, planning meals on their own with my help (i.e. we’ll sit down together and come up with healthy dinner ideas that fit their lifestyle), and working on other behavioral strategies.
All that being said, I realize that sometimes life gets crazy and having a very specific meal plan can occasionally be helpful. I really like the ones from Clean Eating Magazine
, which are both seasonal (so they highlight produce that’s fresh) and provide recipes and accompanying grocery lists. Struggle:
“Everything is going wrong – I just want a donut!”
Helpful Resources: Many of my clients struggle with stress management, which sometimes leads to emotional eating in an effort to relieve that stress. One suggestion that some clients – as well as myself – find helpful is practicing mediation for a few minutes when things get stressful or as part of an everyday routine. I love the “Get Some Head Space” website and app
for this. Give it a try – you get 10 free 10-minute meditation sessions. Other stress relief techniques you might try include yoga classes, deep breathing, a craft project, or working out. Struggle:
“I never have any motivation to work out.” Helpful Resources:
I have a lot of favorites for this one:
- Try the app “Gym Pact” where you bet money on the number of workouts you’ll complete each week. If you miss your goal, you’ll have to fork over the cash. Meet your goal, and you’ll earn money (coming from the pool of people who didn’t meet their goal).
- If you’re someone that loves helping others, try the Charity Miles app. For each mile that you walk/run/cycle, you’ll earn money that goes to a charity of your choice, selected from those that they partner with. See if you can set a goal for how much money you want to donate each week/month/year through your workouts.
- And the seemingly simple tips that often work wonders: lay your workout clothes out the night before, write your exercise session in your calendar just like it were an important meeting, and set up sessions with a friend so that you won’t want to bail.
“I don’t like the gym, but I’m not sure how to do strength training on my own at home.” Helpful Resources:
Try this workout finder tool on Shape Magazine’s website
. You can click on different parts of the body to learn about exercises that are easy to do in your own home. You can also consider hiring an in-home personal trainer to show you how to do a full body strength training routine at home. Do you have any favorite resources for wellness? Share below!
If you’ve ever used money as an excuse not to exercise, I’m here to bust you out of that mentality. There are plenty of ways to exercise that are free or inexpensive. And, even if you enjoy pricier fitness activities, there are lots of ways to score them for a better deal! Here are my favorite tips for you:
1) The road (or trail, or lake...) is free.
Toss on a pair of sneakers and head outside. I’m a huge proponent of walking and running for fitness. It can be done throughout the entire year (as long as you dress properly), you can make it has easy or difficult a workout as you wish, and it will cost you absolutely nothing! Try other outdoor activities too, like swimming at the local lake or beach, or hiking some trails. 2) Evaluate your gym membership
If you are looking for a gym membership or have a current gym membership, evaluate the following:
- Are you happy with the facility (staff, cleanliness, etc)?
- Does it offer all the equipment you need?
- Is it crowded during the hours you’d normally be there? Are there waits for the machines you like?
- If you enjoy fitness classes, does your gym offer the types you’d like to take?
- If you like working with a personal trainer, are the rates for those services reasonable?
Consider all these factors and weigh them against cost. Then check out all the other facilities in the area – you may find one that’s cheaper and actually offers you a better balance of everything you’d need. Or, if you are always working out outdoors or at home, maybe you don’t even need this membership! 3) Negotiate deals
Many gyms will offer specials periodically throughout the year – January is big for New Year’s Resolutions; late spring is common for getting in shape for bathing suit season; summer is big for college student specials. If your gym is offering a great deal for new members, see if they’ll change your membership rate to match the special. Some gyms will also match specials for other local gyms if you bring it up. And even if there’s nothing advertised, don’t be afraid to ask for a negotiated rate – the worst they can say is no. I had a gym around here that I was looking at on behalf of a client. There was typically an $80 joiners fee in addition to the monthly dues, but just by asking them to waive it, they did! 4) Scan social media
Be sure to follow your favorite gyms, fitness studios, class locations, fitness instructors, race management companies, etc on social media. There are often specials on these sites that may not be advertised elsewhere. For example, there is a deal today (good through Saturday) on the Splash of Color 5K facebook page
for 50% off their upcoming race in Devens, MA on August 4th.
Companies strive to engage their fan followings on these sites through giveaways as well. It never hurts to enter! Just a few weeks ago, I scored a free zumba class at Fierce Love Fitness
for myself and a friend through a facebook giveaway. Last year, my husband won an intensive triathlon swim clinic. Keep your eyes peeled!5) Check out daily deal sites
Almost every day, I’m seeing promotions on sites like Groupon
, Living Social
, Gilt City
, or Zozi
for deals on fitness related activities or gear. One of the great things about this is you can find new, unique activities to test out without making a long term commitment. You might try zumba, piloxing, cross fit – there are tons of opportunities out there. I just got a great deal on a new yoga studio, Universal Power Yoga
, in Norwood on Groupon (and I've been loving the classes there!). There’s also frequently race entries on these sites too – I’ve seen plenty of obstacle course races and other fun runs recently. 6) Tackle workouts at home
Think you can’t workout at home? Think again! Jumping jacks, lunges, squats, lifting weights (use household items, like jugs of laundry detergent), dancing to music, push-ups, crunches, and more can all be done without stepping foot out the door. And all for free! Check your television programming or the internet too – some channels and websites offer free exercise videos that you can follow along. The library often offers tons of workout DVDs that you can check out for free, or you can also always invest in a single workout DVD or set of DVDs to use at home.7) Look locally
Look into your local community for free fitness offerings. Many running stores offer free group running clubs, and stores like Lululemon and Athleta often have free yoga classes and running groups as well.
Community organizations may host free group fitness activities, especially during the summer. For example, if you’re local, the city of Boston has tons of great opportunities including:
8) Love racing? Consider an Active Advantage membership.
- Free pilates, bootcamp, and yoga at Norman B. Leventhal Park, Monday-Friday, morning/evening classes
- Free yoga at the Frog Pond on Tuesday evenings
- Free fitness activities, including walking clubs and zumba, on the Esplanade Monday-Friday
This requires some funds up front ($64.95 per year), but if you are smart about it and you race a lot, it will most likely save you money over the long run. Your membership includes access to free race giveaways, discounts on races and registration fees, entries into monthly raffle drawings, special discounts for online shopping partners like Sports Authority, and free online training plans for tons of different race types and distances. You also receive an additional 15% discount off any Active GearUp deal, and up to $30 in rebates on money you spend on race photos.
In the past year, I’ve scored 6 free race entries, won a Road ID and a Restaurant.com gift certificate, and utilized their free half marathon training plans – definitely worth the $60 I spent on it!
Plus, you can check out Active Advantage to see if you like it for 30 days for just $1.99.
Share with us: Which budget-friendly fitness tip will you use?
Technology has a dual role in healthcare. On the one side, it can be detrimental – the constant connection can contribute to stress, and excessive television and computer screen time contributes to overweight and obesity. On the other hand, though, technology enables us to more actively take control of our health through the information available on the web and the various applications that are now on the market. Take a look at a few of these nutrition, fitness, and health apps which can empower you to make good choices!
Fooducate – This is a free app available for iPhone and Android that allows you to scan food product bar codes and see a nutrition score. The scores are based on an A to D scale, and come from a scientific algorithm that takes into account nutrients, ingredients, product category, processing and fortification. If you’re confused about food claims on a product and wondering whether it’s healthy or not, fooducate is great because you can scan the barcode at the store. It’s instant feedback before you make the purchase. That being said, no scientific algorithm is perfect so the “score” may not accurately reflect the nutritional value of all foods – but from my personal experience, it does a pretty decent job. Strava
– Track your fitness activities with this app available for iPhone and Android. Strava is able to track your running and cycling activities – just turn on the app before you go out for your run or ride, and it’ll record your progress. You’ll see your distance and pace, which then can be uploaded to Strava’s website where you can store all your acitivites. Strava’s website is a type of social networking platform for fitness, so you can create groups, follow your friends, and compete in “segments” against others. Segments are marked distances on certain roads that are uploaded into Strava by users. Whenever you complete a segment (whether you know you did or not), you’ll see your results compared to others who have done that segment. I-Triage
– This app is also available for both iPhone and Android, and gives you the ability to check any health symptoms on the go. Taking a lunchtime walk and you start to experience knee pain? Click on the prompts in I-triage to learn the most common causes. You can also find doctors closest to your current location or any location you choose. GymPact
– If you need more motivation to workout, consider using GymPact. You make a pact to work out so many days per week, and identify how much money you’re willing to lose if you don’t keep your pact. If you don’t workout, you lose the dough. But if you meet your goal, you’ll make money – funded by those people who didn’t keep their pact! GymPact uses GPS to verify your time in the gym. Since last year, they’ve also added integration with RunKeeper for outdoor runs and an accelerometer feature so that you can use it with at-home workouts. Unfortunately, the GPS signals and RunKeeper integration aren’t always seamless, leading to workouts that potentially don’t get counted (meaning you risk losing money). Definitely worth a try though! Available for iPhone and Android. The Carrot
– This app for iPhone or website based program allows you to track multiple health goals all in one place. Maybe you’re working on quitting smoking, exercising more, and eating more veggies – you can track all these goals in one place and see your progress on the Carrot. My Fitness Pal
– This online food database goes mobile with apps for iPhone and Android. People who have successfully lost weight and keep it off report that food logging was a primary strategy used. The app isn’t perfect – some food entries are user generated and may not have the correct nutritional data, and the app tends to give you too low of a calorie estimate. However, it is great for accountability and an estimate of your daily intake. My advice? Ignore the calorie recommendations on the app, and instead use it for a few days to track your baseline intake. Once you have an idea of about how many calories you normally eat, you can stick with that number to maintain your weight or reduce by about 500 calories per day to lose 1 pound per week. You can also use the log to easily see areas where you may be struggling – perhaps you notice you need more veggies each day, or you need to switch from refined grains to whole grains – and then you can work to improve on these!Share with us - What's your favorite health app?
Do you ever rationalize decisions that you’re making even when you know it’s the wrong decision? I’m guilty of this sometimes. The last instance was when I was trying to stick to a strict budget, and came across a pair of shoes on clearance that I wanted. My rationalization? “I know I said I wouldn’t buy any more shoes, but I don’t have a flat in the color gold so I’m just going to buy this pair so I have more options at home.”
Now, even though they were on clearance for $5.24, I certainly didn’t “need” them – but I convinced myself I did.
This issue is not limited to me and my shoe-purchasing behaviors. Among many people trying to change their health behaviors but not succeeding, I often see a big stumbling block: they often make rationalizations or excuses for behaviors that are moving them away from their goal! They cheat themselves when it comes to their nutrition or fitness choices.
Do you ever cheat yourself? You might decide to make a not-so-healthy choice rather than what you know deep down will help you achieve your goals – and then try to justify it to yourself! Or you convince yourself that some form of immediate gratification is better than the long-term success of reaching your wellness goal.
Here are some common examples and some solutions that you can put into place! Behavior:
Grabbing fast food for dinner rather than making a homemade meal Rationalization/Excuse:
“It takes too much time to cook a healthy meal, and I don’t get fast food that often anyway…” Solution: Don't cheat yourself and your body. There are plenty of healthy meals that you can put together in under 15-30 minutes at home. Here are a few ideas:
- Stir fry – Cook chicken, lean beef, or tofu in a skillet or wok with a small amount of olive oil. Remove from pan and add lots of vegetables (mushrooms, snap peas, asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini/summer squash, onion, broccoli, eggplant…). When vegetables are tender, add protein (chicken/beef/tofu) back in. Add some low sodium soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. You can serve as-is or over instant brown rice.
- Eat breakfast for dinner! – Try scrambled eggs in a whole wheat wrap topped with some salsa.
- Rice & beans – Cook instant brown rice. While rice is cooking, combine a can of black beans and a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. Add cooked brown rice and mix together. Portion into bowls and topped with some sliced avocado. Start to finish time? 15 minutes.
- Salad – If you keep fresh salad greens in the fridge, you’ll always have a base for a meal. Combine the greens with other veggies of your choice. Add a source of protein – you could grill a chicken breast if you have the time (or pre-cook some on the weekends), or top with some canned beans, tuna, or frozen cooked shrimp that you’ve defrosted in running cool water. You can also add fresh or dried fruit and/or a healthy fat (like nuts or chia seeds) and you’ve got your dinner!
Coasting through your cardio session. Rationalization/Excuse:
“I can’t push myself harder than this…I won’t be able to do it…” Solution:
This is an especially big struggle for new exercises, but can often affect regular gym-goers as well. Don’t let your mind tell you that your body can’t do something (unless of course you have an injury or true physical limitation that affects your body’s abilities). Your body is actually pretty incredible. Do you ever notice how most people can push themselves harder when working one-on-one with a personal trainer? It’s because we know what your body is capable of, even when you don’t.
This is a big hurdle to get over, but start by challenging yourself to some intervals or a faster speed in your next session. Do you always walk on the treadmill at 3.3 mph, every other day? In your next session, try to keep a 3.5 mph pace. Do you try jogging but give up after a minute? Challenge yourself to 1 minute jogging, 4 minutes walking – and see if you can maintain those intervals for your session.
You need to challenge your body in order for it to adapt and get better. Give it a try! Behavior:
Reaching in the candy jar, going to get a “treat”, or ordering that dessert (even when you’re already full)… Rationalization/Excuse:
“It’s only a few extra bites – and I deserve it!” Solution:
A few extra bites add up quickly over the course of a day, week, month...etc. Just 100 extra calories a day (about 2 regular oreos or a few bites of pizza) translates to over 10 pounds of weight gain in a year!
Not to mention, we often rationalize unhealthy choices by coming up with some way that we deserve it. Now, occasionally perhaps this is truly applicable – maybe you just ran a half marathon or it’s your birthday, and you want to have a piece of cake to celebrate. By all means, dig in and enjoy one slice.
But most of the time, this rationalization comes from other areas of our life.
- “I studied hard, so I deserve it.”
- “I’m dealing with a lot…I deserve a treat for myself.”
- “I had a stressful day, so I deserve it.”
Food is fuel for our bodies – and while unhealthy treats are certainly fun to eat and taste delicious, they don’t fuel our bodies and maintain our health in the best way. We shouldn’t associate hard work, stress, sadness or other emotions with deserving some type of food.
If you find yourself rationalizing these extra bites, take a step back. Ask yourself if you’re truly hungry and if this is a healthy choice to fuel your body. If it is, then go ahead and eat. If it’s not a good choice but you are hungry, perhaps you need to be sure that you have healthy snack options on hand at all times to avoid the temptations of other treats.
And if you’re not hungry, ask yourself why you’re getting ready to eat something. If there’s some type of emotional connection there and you’re using the “I deserve it” rationalization, try to figure out other non-food ways that you can use for this purpose. Ladies, maybe you want a mani/pedi once a month. Guys, maybe you want to enjoy a Sunday playing golf or football with friends. Or it could be something as simple as an hour to relax with a book or a magazine! Think about strategies that would work for you, and use them.Share with us: Do you struggle with any of these common rationalizations?
Aren’t the Olympics such an exciting time? The greatest athletes from all over the world come together attempting to perform their best and represent their country – there is something both exciting and humbling about it. What are your favorite events to watch?
I love the track and field events and the weightlifting events. As someone who will probably never place first in a race or lift some crazy amount of weight in a clean and jerk, I’m amazed at the feats these athletes accomplish. All their hard work, practice and determination come to light in this major event. And it’s really exciting that this year, one of my husband’s friends from college, Ruben Sanca, is in the Olympics for the 5000 meter (5K) race!
Ruben previously went to the University of Massachusetts Lowell and was on the track team with my husband. Ruben immigrated from Cape Verde to the US when he was 12, and has dual citizenship in both countries. He is representing Cape Verde at the games as one of the country’s only 3 athletes in attendance.
Here's Ruben! A friend snapped this from the television during the opening ceremonies parade of nations.
Ruben is crazy fast. He and I both competed in the same half marathon once – the 2011 New Bedford Half Marathon (nice course if any of you ever decide to do that race). Ruben came in 1st place with a time of 1:05:25 – that’s a 5 minute mile pace for 13.1 miles. I came in 2,203rd place with a time of 2:25:36 – a solid 11:15 minute pace, which is actually pretty fantastic for me – but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be making the Olympics anytime soon. To give you an idea, his pace would be like my all out sprint that I could hold for maybe a minute. And he does it for an hour. I’m amazed by him and all the other athletes out there that can push their bodies to this level.
With that, we at Inspired Wellness Solutions wish Ruben as well as all the other athletes that have worked so hard to be at the Olympics the best of luck as they compete!
Happy National Running Day! Today, the world celebrates the love of this amazing form of aerobic exercise. If you currently don’t have a steady exercise routine, running is a great way to start being more active. It can be done anywhere and at any time of the day, and only requires a good pair of sneakers!
Wondering why is running so great for you? Consider the following…
- It’s a cardiovascular champion! Running will have your heart beating fast in no time. It strengthens the heart and increases the capacity of blood circulation.
- You’ll burn some serious calories. Minute for minute, running is one of the best calorie burners out there. A 160 pound person will burn about 600 calories running for an hour at 5mph. This isn’t a super speedy sprint – 5mph equates to 12 minute miles, a pretty comfortable pace that beginners can aspire to reach.
- It helps your bones and muscles. Weight bearing exercises like running help put resistance on our bones, and can thus maintain their strength of your bones. Running also increases the strength of the muscles in your legs, hips, and core.
- There’s quick adaptations (at the beginning, at least!). You will be amazed at how quickly your body can adapt to running when you get started. No doubt it will be tough at first – you might feel your lungs burning a little bit, your muscles might ache, or you might find you have a little back ache from getting used to the posture for running. But your body will quickly experience what’s called ‘neuromuscular adaptations’ that help you become more adept at finding a good rhythm for you. Soon things you once deemed “impossible” will be in the “possible” realm.
- Runner’s high! There’s truth to this common phrase. Exercise releases endorphins and can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Plus, tackling running goals that you set for yourself can give you a sense of pride and accomplishment.
So today, I challenge you to get out there and run! It might be for a half mile or it might be for 5 miles – just get out there and do what you can. If you’ve never run before, start by alternating small segments of running with longer segments of walking. As you continue to exercise regularly in the future, you can drop the amount of time walking and increase the amount of time running.
That’s right, it’s my 27th birthday today and in celebration, I wanted to share with you 27 simple tips for overall wellness. Some of these are tips coming from the RD/personal trainer side of me, while others are just items I’ve come to learn along the way. Enjoy these feasible changes that anyone can incorporate into their life – and I hope you’ll choose to do so!
1) Carry a water bottle. It makes it easier to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, and it’s cheaper and better for the environment than buying bottled water.
2) Visit local farmer’s markets. They’ll have fresh produce at great prices that hasn’t traveled thousands of miles to get to you.
3) Look at the glass half full. Optimism isn’t a false sense of reality; it’s choosing to make your reality a happier place.
4) Model healthy habits for your children, both for nutrition and fitness. They do look up to you as a role model, even though they might not always show it. The photo below is a good friend of mine and his daughter stretching together!
5) Keep your brain in tip-top shape by reading often.
6) Skip fad diets. If you see products that promise you’ll lose “x pounds in y days”, cure your chronic diseases, or eliminate hunger – they’re lying.
7) Move your body! Avoid sitting too much - get up during the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, to move around. Schedule regular exercise into your days.
8) Choose a new fruit or vegetable each week to try. You’ll have fun looking at ways to prepare something and might discover a new favorite.
9) Get regular check-ups and have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. These issues, when caught early, can often be addressed with simple lifestyle changes.
10) Cut down on sugar sweetened beverages. Most don’t provide any good nutrition for our bodies, and can easily be replaced with water.
11) Find a stress management technique that works for you. Try boxing, running, meditation, journaling, knitting, getting a massage, or any other activity that might help you calm down.
12) Choose natural whole foods over processed foods.
13) Travel often. Whether it’s day trips to new places around your home state or flying across the world, traveling opens your eyes to new things and makes you feel more fulfilled. That's Iceland, Maui, and Prague in the photos below.
14) Stop the negative self talk. Love your body and appreciate everything it does for you, regardless of your weight.
15) Wash your hands often.
16) Create a reasonable budget for yourself or your household. Incorporate a mix of saving and spending. Being able to save up for something and pay for it upfront makes it that much sweeter knowing there’s no debt to come home to.
17) Brown bag your lunches. It’ll allow you to create healthier meals and will save you a lot of money compared to eating out everyday.
18) Bike or walk to errands in a reasonable distance from your house. It saves money, reduces your carbon footprint, and increases your weekly physical activity.
19) Don’t worry needlessly about minor mistakes and other people’s opinons. In Bernard Baruch’s words, “those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter.”
20) Smile and laugh. A lot. As you can see below, I tend to have no trouble with this ;)
21) Get outside a lot. Fresh air and sunshine can always improve a bad day. Be sure to wear sunscreen.
22) Teach your kids about where food comes from. When I ask a child where we get milk, I love when they can answer “a cow” instead of “the store.” Visit a farm and let them see the animals or pick some produce (strawberry season is right upon us)!
23) Focus on experiences with your loved ones rather than materialistic pursuits. You’ll come away with many more memories and much less useless crap.
24) Make the switch from refined grains, like white bread and white rice, to whole grains like wheat bread and brown rice.
25) Make family fitness fun. Go on outdoor hikes, family bike rides, jump on a trampoline, or compete in a “Just Dance” competition on Wii.
26) Eat fish. It’s got lots of omega-3 fatty acids for heart and brain health.
27) Sign up for a race. It might be a 5K, marathon, triathlon, cycling event, swimming race – anything. You’ll be amazed at the sense of pride you feel when you complete it!
Cheers to happy, healthy living!
On Sunday, Terry and I participated in the North Shore Tour de Cure
. This event is put on by the American Diabetes Association and helps raise funds to support diabetes education and research. We were especially excited to participate in this event since my 7 year old cousin, Ben, has Type 1 diabetes. He’s got such a great spirit about it, so we thought it would be awesome to raise money that will go towards hopefully someday finding a cure for diabetes.
We decided to participate in the “Gran Fondo” – a 100 mile century bike ride course. Now, I suppose when I decided to tackle my first bike ride longer than 20 miles, I probably should’ve a) chosen a shorter distance, or b) chosen a flat course. Of course, that’s not necessarily my style – I love a challenge. Though I got a little nervous when I read the course description as follows:
“Some said the 2011 route wasn’t tough enough. Some said it wasn’t epic enough. Some said we didn’t climb enough. That has all changed for 2012. The 100 mile Gran Fondo is unique to the North Shore Tour de Cure and this year we will up the ante as the Gran Fondo heads north to the big hills of Southern New Hampshire for a truly epic event. Bring your teammates and the climbing gears!”
And then got even more nervous when I saw this course route…
Tried to put nerves aside but was definitely feeling anxious the day before! The night before the event, Terry and I decided to get a hotel closer to the start so we wouldn’t have to get up at 4AM to make the drive to the north shore. We ate a nice pasta dinner at the restaurant and then hung out watching TV while I got our snacks all ready for the next day. We knew we’d need some good sources of quick digesting carbs during the ride, so we packed up things like dried cranberries, gummy lifesavers, fig newtons, and pretzels. Plus we threw in some slim jims for a little sodium boost (these are my favorite for a quick salty snack on a really long ride).
Alarm went off at 5:30 and we were up, dressed, and ready to go in 15 minutes. Grabbed some bagels on our way to the start, checked in, did some last minute bike checks, and before we knew it, the time came to start. The ride started at 7AM – the pics below are from just a few minutes before the start; we're ready to ride. And yes, I got made fun of throughout the ride for my long socks (which you can't see) and that gray sweatshirt, but it was a tad chilly when we started and I like to be warm! I did toss the sweatshirt around mile 16 when it warmed up though.
Here’s my quick recap of the miles:
- Mile 0.3: Already way outpaced by everyone else, haha! I knew I’d be slow, but thought there might be some other people who were going slow too.
- Mile 16: First rest stop. Felt great and kept a much quicker pace the first 16 miles than I thought I would.
- Miles 24-37: Or as I call them, HELL. As you can see from the course route I posted earlier, these were some insane hills. I am awful at climbing hills. This led to me going all of 3.8 miles per hour up some of them and hoping I wouldn’t start rolling backwards.
- Mile 50: Almost started to cry. Saw another hill after I thought we were all done.
- Miles 65-75: Back and shoulders started to get sore, but the terrain leveled out and the riding felt much easier on my legs.
- Mile 78: At the rest stop before the “bail out” option where you could ride down a side street and cut your route to 79 miles. We were going slow, and I knew we wouldn’t make the cut off time, but the SAG wagon guys told us that we were keeping good pace and we should keep going. So we decided to keep on the 100 mile route!
- Mile 83: Hurt my knee. Don’t know if I did something specifically at that point or if it just caught up to me from all the earlier climbing, but at this point every downward stroke on the bike just created shooting pain to my knee. The next few miles were very slow because of this.
- Mile 90: Last rest stop. Support vehicles were being cut off, so we were given the option of continuing on unsupported or take the ride back. Because of my knee, Terry urged me to take the ride. While I normally would’ve pushed through a little pain, this was bad enough that I decided I should take the ride because I didn’t want to end up getting stranded miles from the finish! Terry went on to finish unsupported (which as it turns out, after we made this decision, the guy from the other SAG wagon decided he wanted Terry to have support and feel comfortable the whole way so he volunteered more of his time that day to follow him into the finish – what an awesome guy!).
- Mile 100: Terry finishes!
All in all, it was a very challenging and tough day for me but very rewarding! Of course, I was upset that I didn’t make it all the way to 100 miles, but I figured 90 miles is still pretty darn amazing and kept my knee from getting hurt further. I’m happy I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone for this event, and it made it more worthwhile being for such a great cause.
Post race smiles in the car getting ready to drive home!
I’d like to think I’m becoming a slightly better cyclist this year.
I’ve never been a great cyclist – it’s probably my worst of the three triathlon disciplines. I’m a relatively good swimmer, and a slow but steady runner – but I’ve traditionally been very shaky and nervous on the bike.
Several years ago, I took it upon myself to train for my first triathlon. It was the women’s only sprint distance Title 9 triathlon. I didn’t have a road bike, but rather a heavy mountain bike I borrowed from a friend, complete with a warped back tire that hit the brake pad every time it rotated around. As I trained for this first triathlon, I was terrified of riding the bike on the street. What about potholes? Rocks and gravel? CARS?!?!
This led to me deciding the best place to train was a Walmart parking lot.
You heard me right. Next to my old apartment complex was a Walmart, and in the mornings before they opened their huge parking lot would be basically empty. So I’d ride my bike over there at 6 or 7am and just ride around in circles for an hour. Needless to say, when I got to the Title 9 sprint I didn’t handle hills that well! But I managed to get through the bike portion (on roads!) and was proud of myself.
After that triathlon, I finally ventured out on the roads much more as I trained for later events. This year, I live in a new suburb with a new road bike, and roads that are a bit more conducive to riding. I’ve really enjoyed getting out on the road and exploring my new neighborhood. I have a great time riding with my fiancé, who definitely pushes me to ride faster and stronger since he’s so much quicker than me! Today we rode 14 miles outside after work, enjoying the unseasonably warm day we had here in Massachusetts.
And, we got trainers! One of my family’s Christmas gifts to me was some money to help purchase a bike trainer, something they knew both of us definitely wanted. These have been great, since they let us ride when the weather isn’t conducive. Using it has increased my comfort on the bike, and makes riding outside feel so much easier! On the trainer, you can never coast because you just stop. It’s a great workout, and makes me appreciate riding outside so much more.
Anyway, the point of all this rambling – if you’re nervous about doing something new or you realize you have limitations in a certain activity, don’t let it stop you from getting out there and doing it! Maybe you’re afraid to sign up for a road race because you’ve never felt like a “runner.” Or maybe you’re intimidated to try that new exercise class because everyone else looks like they’ve been taking it for years. Take first steps to increase your comfort with trying these activities. Maybe start by going out for a short run in your neighborhood and see how it feels, or look for a local race that caters to newbies. You can ask that fitness instructor if there’s a time the class is offered when there are fewer people and you can get more individualized instruction.
Even if you have to ride around Walmart for months and months until you’re comfortable tackling the streets, you’ll get to a point where you gain self-confidence and decide to venture out to the roads. And I can’t wait to hear about it!
Have you heard about Triumph Triathlon
? It's a Boston-based triathlon group that I participate in. It's really a fantastic group - free to join, free group training sessions, and free meetings about topics of interest (in the past, we've had sessions about massage, injuries, nutrition, etc). You'll also meet a ton of people who are really knowledgeable about triathlon (think Ironmen/Ironwomen, national qualifiers, and seasoned pros). We're actually having a yearly kick-off meeting
on Monday, 2/6/12 at 7PM - if you are local and interested in triathlon, I'd encourage you to come. And you'll even get to hear me speak a bit! :)
Back in August 2010, I was interviewed by Ruben, the founder of Triumph. This was only about a year into my journey with endurance sports, so it's fun to see where I was and how far I've come. I am excited to be training for my first half Ironman this year, which will be a huge undertaking!
Take a look at the interview below to get to know a little more about me and my journey. Excuse my spastic head movements throughout the interview - I couldn't figure out whether I should be facing Ruben or the camera!