How and Why Running Hills Makes Us Better Runners

Run, hill training, training, exercise, trail
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This weekend, not unlike any other, was full of climbing hills. The next race I am preparing for is a 25K with over 4,000 feet of elevation. Hills are something I need to get better at, but it doesn’t seem possible when I am mid climb gasping for my breath. If you are anything like me, you know you need to start running those hills to get faster, but as soon as you see that incline coming, you automatically slow down into your power hike pace. After struggling up the side of a mountain on Sunday, I decided that once and for all, I need to figure out some training plans for getting better at adding hill work to my weekly mileage. Continue reading “How and Why Running Hills Makes Us Better Runners”

Weekly Running Log – Feb. 26

running, exercise, trails, ultra

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Running log totals: No treadmill runs this week! The weather was beautiful and I was blessed to get outside (even if it got dark on me) for every run!

Weekly mileage: 34.6

Weekly elevation:  2,910ft

Year to date mileage: 166

Year to date elevation: 17,707 ft

My favorite products for trail running are the Nathan VaporAiress Race Vest, Cockatoo found HERE, and my all time go to trail shoe Salomon Speedcross 3 found HERE. How is your training going?

52 Week Money Challenge in a Month

Money Challenge

It’s a rainy Saturday morning, and as I sit and have my coffee searching the internet, I am seeing all kinds of 52 week money challenge posts with all kinds of levels of savings. I decided instead of focusing on the entire 52 weeks, I want to take a look at the next 4 weeks and see what I can save by the end of March. Back in 2013 we completed a 21 day financial fast. I am going to use this outline for the month of March and see how much we can save. Below are the rules of a 21-day financial fast as noted by Michelle Singletary, author of the book The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom.

Guidelines:
  1. You can spend money only on NEEDS not wants.
  2. You must use CASH to buy things. You cannot pull out your credit card or debit card for any purchase.
  3. No dining out or purchasing coffee from restaurants or cafes during the 31-days.
  4. Tithing and giving to charitable organizations is permitted during your financial fast.
  5. Journal and record every penny you spend during your 31-days.

First, we have to define NEEDS. Some people have asked me if they buy chips and dip at the grocery, is it considered a need because they purchased it as part of their weekly grocery list? I believe each person must define a need for their family. I can tell you that growing up in a poor household, chips were not on the grocery list! The original money challenge says essentials only.

My rules for needs will be:
  1. Gas purchases
  2. Food purchases for breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snack items per day. (This may include ice cream)
  3. Household products (Toothpaste, toilet paper, soap, etc.) Not items for home décor (sheets, lamps, rugs, etc.)
  4. Medicine
  5. Items not included in the challenge are fixed expenses (daycare, mortgage, etc)

Next, for this money challenge, we will not be taking our usual weekly allowance because we won’t be purchasing any wants. Instead we will have a total budget of $930 or $30.00 per day. We have a family of four, and I am interested to see if we have any money left over at the end of this challenge. I believe the challenge will be our food bill. I buy organic, fresh produce as the majority of our grocery items; it will be tight for sure.

Lastly, an important step to the money challenge is writing down every penny we spend. I wrote about tracking your spending in a post Living Through Your Budget. This will let us know if we are on track and if we slip up at all. (This may very well happen!) I am using my Spending Tracking Log to assist us in keeping track of where our cash goes.

Have you ever done a money challenge? How did it go and what were your struggles? Who wants to join us? Please post in the comments below.

5 Guilt-Free Ways to Manage Stress

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Our overall well-being is dependent on our ability to manage stress. As women, we often juggle many things at once and the stress can have ill effects on our health. It is important to remember that we cannot do any good for anyone if we are not taking care of ourselves first. It is easy to forget; we always run out of time; there is always something else more pressing to handle; we feel guilty for thinking of ourselves…STOP. Below are 5 guilt-free ways to help manage stress.

Exercise

This area is so broad; it can be anything from a marathon run to a walk down the hall to the bathroom. Seriously, if it is a walk to the bathroom, take a minute, stop what you’re doing and while you walk, actually pay attention to the walk. Don’t rush down the hall, do your business, and rush right back into the next thing on your to do list. Preferably, you will have more time in your day than a walk to the bathroom. If so, try to find something you will enjoy. Something that makes you want to keep doing it. Yoga,  swim, hike, bike, walk, run, ski, volleyball, anything as long as you find joy and it makes you smile. Be sure to pay attention while you’re in the moment and don’t get lost in the “what do I have to do as soon as this is over” thoughts. Using exercise to manage stress is about reducing your level of stress, not adding to it with another thing to do. Don’t get worked up about the activity, and do not feel guilty for spending time doing something that makes you feel good!

Meditation and Breathing

When it comes to using meditation to manage stress, I feel like people imagine this padded room, you sit in lotus position, quite, and eyes closed, and wait for a bell to ring to let you know you are done. It can be that….or you can simply sit at your work desk for 5 minutes and close your eyes and focus on your breathing (in…out…in…out…). Again, this is not an all or nothing activity. You don’t need special pillows, timers, music, and guides; you simply need to be still for a period of time and focus on your breathing. Another form of meditation is mindful meditation. You can do this while you’re doing the dishes, eating dinner, or taking a shower. Whatever your activity, focus on that activity. Be present and aware of your actions, motions, and breathing during the activity. Pay attention to your body relaxing during this activity.

Sleep

Oh man, I am bad at this one. Every single day I swear I will get more sleep. As soon as I lay down, my brain turns on and everything starts to flow! I find myself checking the clock and getting more and more frustrated the later it gets and finally around midnight, I get to sleep. I know how important it is to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, not only to manage stress, but also to allow your body to repair itself from the day; however, I struggle with getting 8 hours. Trust me when I tell you that sleep deprivation and stress are NOT a good combination. Some ideas to help fall asleep are: limit caffeine after noon, don’t nap in the afternoon (or if you do, not longer than 20 minutes), keep your bedroom temperature cool (60-67 degrees F), turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime, and by all means, have sex! Sex actually reduces stress and increases oxytocin and dopamine which will make you feel sleepy. (Just don’t disrupt the sleep of your special someone, unless they don’t mind.) 🙂

Read

Whether it is fact or fiction, pick a genre you enjoy and lose yourself in a good book. Similar to television, books allow us to escape and forget reality for a time period, hence helping to manage stress. You can join a book club for some group fun or simply read alone at home in a favorite comfy spot. You can get books for free at your local library, so this doesn’t even have to cost you any money. If you prefer to purchase your books, I suggest checking out Amazon! Check out one of the running books I’ve read here, or one of the first novels I ever read by Wally Lamb here. The novel “She’s Come Undone” taught me how disappearing in a good book can be one the best feelings EVER!

Soak in a Hot Bath with Epsom Salt

ALL TIME FAVORITE!!! Epsom salt is one of my best friends! My absolute favorite kind is Dr. Teal’s with essential oils already added. Check them out here. Not only will it help relax you, the Epsom salt is good for recovering after exercise. This one idea is a definite winner to help manage stress. I actually use it after # 1, I incorporate #2 and #4, and I get nice and sleepy to help with #3. YEAH! See why it’s my favorite? 🙂 I make sure everyone else is tucked away nice and sound in their beds before I decide to soak.  I try to plan it when I know I will have at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted me time. Awe….feel it now.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these? Are there other ideas you practice? Please post your ideas in the comments below.

How to Transition From Road to Trail Running

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Running is running, right? Well, yeah, kind of…Most of us started out either road or track running, so the transition to trail running can be intimidating for some people. Below are four tips when transitioning to trail running.

1: Get the right gear. It’s important to make sure you have the right shoes and a hydration pack when trail running. The shoes made for trail running have more of a grip to help with the terrain. You won’t find any water fountains or hydration stops on top of the mountain; be prepared with enough hydration and fuel to get you through the run and back to the car. You can find a list of my favorite trail running goodies HERE.

2: Forget your road pace. Trail running takes more energy than road running, so your pace will be slower. When starting out, it’s best to pay attention to total running time. You will most likely have to climb more hills than your normal road run. Although this is great exercise, it often kills your pace in the beginning. Be kind to yourself and just ignore it until you get comfortable out there.

3: Be safe. There are less people on the trails, but more wild life. Just yesterday my dog got into a fight with a racoon. (No one was injured, thankfully!) But you have to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios. I always carry my cell phone and share my location using a free app called, Glympse. It allows you to share your exact location for up to 4 hours, and later you can add time if needed. I share mine with a family member and let them know what time I plan to be done. This way, if they notice I’m not moving (injured) or if I get lost, they can get help. You need to have any emergency medical aid you may need in your pack. My sister is allergic to bee stings, so we make sure she has what she needs in case she ever got stung. Help could be hours away. Plan accordingly. It’s always better to be prepared and not need it than not be prepared and need something.

4: Soak up the scenery. This is one of the main reasons I love trail running. I can’t explain the views you will see from all levels of the trail. The mountaintops come with a sense of accomplishment and looking out over a vast area never gets old. When standing at a stream bed, it is amazing to see how regardless of the season, the water finds a way to still flow through the creek beds. Something as simple as a fallen tree covered in snow can be absolutely beautiful when the sun rays shine down upon it. I always have my camera ready. I love looking back at the pictures (which never seem as beautiful as the real thing) and remembering the run from that moment. It’s what keeps me coming back for more!

I hope these tips help you find your way to the trail. Feel free to add a few of your own in the comments below!

Weekly Running Log – Feb. 19

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Running log totals: I hit all my runs this week. Not on the scheduled day, but I still got them all in!

Weekly mileage: 31.4

Weekly elevation:  2,743ft

Year to date mileage: 131

Year to date elevation: 14,790 ft

My favorite products for trail running are the Nathan VaporAiress Race Vest, Cockatoo found HERE, and my all time go to trail shoe Salomon Speedcross 3 found HERE. Additional 125 ft in elevation from setting the treadmill to incline. I use Strava to track my running log; you can’t add elevation to treadmill runs. How is your training going?

5 Easy Ideas to Reduce Spending

Anyone that knows me has heard me say time and time again, “It is not what you earn that matters, it’s what you spend that makes the difference.” I believe too many people focus on making more money; instead they should reduce spending to expand the money they already earn. Last week we reviewed how to tweak and make a budget that fits your lifestyle. If you missed that post, you can read it HERE. Today, I want to focus on the expenditures. I want you to take a moment and really look at how much money you are spending in each category. Does this spending represent the lifestyle you wish to live? Most individuals have some type of financial goal. Whether it be to stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, or just get to a place where they have an emergency savings so they are not worried about the “what if” that could happen.

Financial freedom, to me, means being able to sleep well at night, knowing you have a plan for your money, and understanding where your money is going. Increasing your income is always one way to help your overall budget, but some individuals are already working two or three jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. They do not physically have the time or energy to add another job to their day. This post is to try and help those of you in that situation. I remember a time when I would eat dinner only three nights a week because I had to choose between gas money to get to work or groceries. Below are some tips I used to cut expenses and reduce spending.

1-Get away from the large rent or mortgage payment. There are several ways to handle this. If you have an apartment with an extra bedroom, check into getting a roommate to share the monthly rental fee. If you have a large house, you can either downsize, or again, think about renting out a room to cut costs.

2-Cut all unnecessary monthly bills. I canceled the TV cable and home phone. I did not have gym memberships or anything like that to cut, but if you do, nature provides an amazing gym for FREE! I read books for free from the local library instead of watching TV, and chalked it up to another time I was able to reduce spending.

3-Reduce utilities.
a. Heat / Air: It is nice when the heat is set at 70 degrees, but I promise, you won’t notice if you set it at 65 and throw on a sweater and socks. If you are lucky enough to have central air conditioning, you can set it at 75 and still won’t be uncomfortable. All while saving money!

b. Electricity: Be sure to turn off the lights for as long as possible and always when you are not in a room. Do you have any natural light that you can use instead of turning on the house lights? Are you unplugging things when they are not being used? Even if they are off, they are using electricity if still plugged in.

c. Water: This may not be popular, but try to shower every other day instead of every day. Of course, if you have body odor issues, adjust as necessary, but if possible, try it and see if it works. When you are in the shower, time yourself to 4 minutes. Focus on getting in, getting clean, and getting out, and cut down how long you are in the shower. Same with brushing your teeth (do not skip a day!) but you can turn the water off while you are brushing and only turn it on while rinsing. Are you making sure the washer is full when you run a load of clothes? If you have a dishwasher, are you making sure it is full before running a cycle? Is there a way to capture rain water to use for watering plants?

4-Car pull or walk / ride a bike when you can. Do you have two vehicles? If so, do you need two vehicles or is it more convenient? Are you making payments on both vehicles? Is your vehicle more than your needs? Just like your home, downsize if your car is more than your actual need. You don’t have to have a vehicle that seats 7 if there are 4 in your family. Gas for your vehicle is an expense most people chalk up to being necessary. You can ask around at work to see if there is someone willing to pick you up and drop you off, or if you are within 10 miles, you can ride a bike for free. Remember, anytime you don’t drive the car is another time you can reduce spending!

5-Use coupons and grocery bonus cards. I never really got the hang of coupons until my 30s when I had to feed a family of 4. It was different when I was alone and could skip meals. The first real success story was at a local CVS store. They have deals each week and offer bucks back on certain items. I would pair those deals with the weekly coupons and get almost all our hygiene items for free. Talk about a great way to reduce spending! I treated it like a game, and I loved the feeling of walking out with free stuff. One trick I learned – you don’t have to wait until your next trip to use your bucks back. I would checkout all the items that get bucks first, then have a second order and use the bucks to pay for that order. For me, it was easier because I wasn’t losing the bucks or forgetting to use them the next week.

These are just some ideas to think about if you need to reduce spending. Feel free to share what has worked for you in the comments below.