Benefits of trail running

Lately, I have heard a great deal about the healing powers of nature. I have even heard stories of doctors prescribing nature walks for individuals suffering from depression. I am not a doctor, but can attest to how trail running helps me both mentally and physically.

1: Overall easier on the body. When I was in school, I ran track and as I got older, I often took to the roads. I always had issues with shin splints and felt like my body was taking a beating when I ran. It was not until my mid 30s when a friend asked me to go for a hike that I discovered trails. The impact of running on the trails is not as hard as hitting the pavement. Because trails are rocky and uneven, your body benefits from increased core strength, balance, and stronger ankles. You get a full body workout with the terrain changes and hills you are bound to come upon. I feel like the chances of injury are lower when trail running versus road running, but again, I am no doctor!

2: Sounds of nature. When I run the road, I always put on the headphones, cranked up the music, and hit the streets. Running the trails, I leave the music at home. Instead of hearing traffic, I enjoy hearing the sounds of nature. Sometimes that means I hear nothing. I soak up all the silence I can get. Have you ever stopped and realized how much noise goes on around you? All day long. Whether I am at work where the phones are ringing, people are asking questions, or in the car where my kids are talking; there is rarely a moment of silence. For me, the trails allow me the time to be quiet and really think.

3: Shift in focus. When road running, you must watch for cars, people, stop signs, etc. On the trails, your focus shifts to rocks and tree limbs. You can allow yourself to focus on the trail while falling deep into the trance of the woods. I can’t explain how this feels, you just know when you hit it. You’re in it. You are flying down the side of a mountain, watching about 15 feet ahead for any trail obstructions, breathing the fresh air in and out, and your body is full of energy. It’s a feeling I never experienced on the road due to being interrupted by the focus of trying to stay aware.

4: Less harassment. I am not sure how often men get harassed on runs, but I can say as women, it happens almost every time I head out on a road run, alone. It does not matter the time of day or the area I choose to run. I remember getting a quick run in over my lunch break, down town, along our riverbank. Two men chased me until I got off the dike, and ran up the main street back to my office. I just do not understand why people can’t leave other people alone. Sorry, that is a whole other topic for a separate post. My experience on the trails is different. I find most people are there for the same reasons and just want to run and be alone. I have not met too many people willing to follow someone to the top of a mountain just to harass them. This is not to say the trail is danger free; my personal experience has been less harassment on the trails, and for me that is a huge benefit! It makes for an overall better run.

5: Spiritual connection. I try to get my long runs in over the weekend. This often times means Sunday morning. For me, I am happy to spend my time connecting spiritually on the top of a mountain. I love getting to the top, looking out over the view, and giving thanks for the ability to do what I can and appreciate the body with which I have been blessed. I am not a top finisher in trail races, but I do not do it for that. I do it because it feels good to reconnect with nature and myself in those moments. To remember to take a minute and be grateful for the life I get to live. I do it because sometimes when I am in the midst of climbing that mountain, the struggle is comparable to situations I am struggling to work through in other areas of my life. Just getting to the top gives me the strength to continue pushing through in my daily life. It reminds me: I am worthy. I am strong. I am not alone.

Weekly Running Log – Feb.12

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Running totals: I missed my long run this weekend. Sometimes life happens and we move on…..

Weekly mileage: 15.7

Weekly elevation:  489ft

Year to date mileage: 100

Year to date elevation: 12,047 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 255 ft in elevation from setting the treadmill to incline. I use Strava to track my running; you can’t add elevation to treadmill runs. How is your training going?

Living Through Your Budget

Last week we reviewed 3 simple steps to create a budget. If you missed that post, you can read it here. Now that you have a budget, let’s talk about how to actually live with it.

1: Track your spending. The best way to see if your budget is accurate is by tracking your spending for the first month. You can do this several ways. Choose a way that is easy for you and does not create a lot of work for yourself. Remember, SIMPLE is the name of the game. If it feels like added work, you are more likely to give up. Also keep in mind, it has been said it takes 21 days of doing something before it becomes a habit. Keep at it for at least 3 weeks. To track your spending you can use your online banking system, or a notebook and a pen. Again, whatever works best for your household. Be sure to write down every expense. If you are using your online banking system, make note if you take out cash, where did the cash go? During this first month, it is all about tracking, not about changing behavior.   You have to first understand where your money is going before you make any changes.

2: Compare to your budget. Once you have a full month of spending tracked, you want to compare it to your initial budget. Break out the detail by each line item you assigned a budget to and name that column “Actual Expenses”. This way you can review each line item and see where your money is actually going. This step is shocking to most people. They don’t realize they are spending more on entertainment or allowances than they think. For most, it is the small expenses that add up at the end of the month. For the items on your budget that you don’t pay monthly, i.e. doctor visits, you should have zero spending for the month, but should also have that cash in the bank. For most, it is not in the bank because it disappeared at the local coffee shop or that night out with friends.  In the example below, you can see the amount spent in the month was $4,905 out of the monthly budget of $5,500. There should be $595 in the bank to make up the difference, but when you start to look at each line item, you notice the household is over spent for the month. There are items they did not pay that month. If every line item was due in that month, they would be in the red by $265.

Expenses Monthly Amount Actual Expenses Difference
Mortgage 1 1,400.00 1,400.00
Student Loan 1 150.00 150.00
Student Loan 2 50.00 50.00
Car Payment 1 300.00 300.00
Car Payment 2 350.00 350.00
Credit Card 1 50.00 50.00
Credit Card 2 50.00 50.00
Bank Loan 1 25.00  25.00
Bank Loan 2 75.00  75.00
Life Insurance – 1 30.00 30.00
Life Insurance – 2 45.00 45.00
Heat/Gas 280.00 280.00
Vacation 200.00 200.00
Christmas 150.00 150.00
Savings 100.00 100.00
Car/Insurance/Reg. 50.00 50.00
Emergency Savings 50.00 50.00
Allowance 80.00 120.00 (40.00)
Groceries 700.00 500.00 200.00
Garbage 30.00 30.00
Cable 200.00 200.00
Cell Phone 200.00 200.00
Electric 125.00 110.00 15.00
Vehicle Gas 200.00 250.00 (50.00)
Dry Cleaning 75.00 50.00 25.00
Hair / Clothing 75.00 100.00 (25.00)
Entertainment 200.00 350.00 (150.00)
Water / Sewer 80.00 80.00
Doctor 100.00 100.00
Pets 50.00 50.00
Recycling 30.00  30.00
Total 5,500.00 4,905.00 595.00


3: Make some decisions. When analyzing your budget to actual expenses, now is the time you have to decide what you want your money to go toward. Do you have a goal of getting out of debt? Do you want to have cash available when you need heating oil or when your annual car insurance is due? What are your goals? If you don’t have a plan for your money, your money will disappear. It is ok to have long term goals, but when you are starting out, it’s best to start with something small that you can accomplish in a short period of time. Usually people aim to reach a goal within the first year. This allows you to see progress and stay motivated. Maybe your goal is to have $1,000 in an emergency savings account. You already decided to budget $50 a month toward that goal. It will take 20 months to reach $1,000. If you want to reach that goal in 10 months, you need to decide where you can cut spending by $50 a month and direct $100 a month to the emergency savings account. Remember to be honest with yourself and make decisions you feel you can live with. This is not supposed to be painful or feel like you are punishing yourself. Start small and keep it SIMPLE.

4: Tweak the budget, again. Remember, a budget is a living document. It is supposed to change and represent your life. It is ok to change your mind and tweak budget line items. Emergencies may happen before you have the $1,000 saved and you may be forced to tweak line items. Don’t get discouraged. Make the adjustments and start over. That’s the glory of budgeting, you can always start over. You will change your budget every time you pay off debt or acquire new debt. (I am not a fan of debt and prefer to pay off versus get more, but sometimes life happens and it is out of your control.)

Today is Your Day! Goal Setting and Planning

Today I 
By Julie Hebert

Today I have decided,
That it's time to take control. 
There won't be anymore sitting,
And waiting, this is my goal.

Today I see it so clearly,
I am all that I have.
If I want to get something done,
It's up to me to pave my own path.

Today I will set my goal,
And work to see it through.
I'm tired of being afraid,
It's time for my dreams to come true.

Today I am quite happy,
And confidence has made its way too.
I as a person have grown,
From now on, to me I'll stay true.

As women, we often set ourselves aside to ensure everyone else’s needs are met. When I saw this poem, it reminded me to take time for myself first. To make sure I am setting my own goals, working on my own journey, and acting on my own passions. Goal setting is often treated the same as setting a budget. We just don’t do it. We think we know where we want to go and we think we are working toward that goal every day, but when you take the time to evaluate your goals versus your actions, sometimes they are not on the same path. The one theme in everything I do is to keep it SIMPLE. Life is difficult enough. To be successful in reaching our own goals, the plan must be simple and not take a great deal of time to set up, check up, and tweak. Below are some quick steps to get you started:

1: You should set three layers of goals: short-term (within 12 months), long-term (5 years), and daily. When thinking about each type of goal, I like to refer to Stephen Covey’s theory of “Begin with the end in mind.” You must first know where you’re going to understand how to get there.

2: Make a list for each type of goal. What types of things do you want to do each day? One of my daily goals is 5 minutes of quiet meditation. This does not seem like much, but that 5 minutes can save my day and my sanity! A short-term goal is to turn this blog into a financial stream, regardless of how minimal that stream may be, I want to figure out how to grow and be successful in this arena. Last, one of my long-term goals is to have one of my student loans paid off. (They have been haunting me for years and I want to get serious about getting rid of them!)

3: Give each goal a category. Different categories could be: financial, personal achievements, family, career, etc. I try to set multiple goals in each category but be careful not to overload yourself. This is not a setup to fail; this is a setup to achieve! If you are questioning whether you have the time to invest to reach a goal in 12 months, you may want to move it to the long-term goal column. Be kind to yourself. The goals should keep you motivated, not discouraged.

4: Take the time to review. Did you hit all your goals you set for today? Are you headed in the direction to cross off those annual goals? What changes do you need to make to get back on track? Are your goals still in line with where you want to end up?

Weekly Running Log – Feb. 5th

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Running totals: Goal this week was recovery!

Weekly mileage: 5.3

Weekly elevation: 496 ft

Year to date mileage: 84

Year to date elevation: 11,558 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? Do you compare where you are today to where you were a year ago?

Tips for Trail Running in Freezing Temps

I don’t know about you, but I love being able to throw on shorts and a t-shirt and run out the door for nice long sunny run. BUT, living in central Pennsylvania that is not an option all year round. We are blessed with living through all four seasons and must adjust our attire for each season. Saturday temps were in the 20s but with the extremely cold winds, it felt like 10 degrees. Heading to the mountains in 10 degrees with cold winds is not always something that makes me jump for joy. Lucky for me the sun was shining and that is rare these days, so I had to go get myself some vitamin D. Below are some tips I use when running in freezing temperatures.

1: Cover your noggin. It is important to make sure you have a hat that covers your ears in extreme cold. Some people go so far as to wear a baklava, but for me, I found it gets wet from my breathing and bothers me more than wearing a nice wool hat that covers my ears and forehead. You will lose heat from your head and find it difficult to stay warm if you don’t have some type of hat.

2: Layer your tops. I always start with an under layer made of a wicking material. I then wear a long sleeve, half zip shirt and in extreme cold, I add a windproof / waterproof jacket. For longer runs, I follow the 20 degree warmer rule where you dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer than the actual temp. Long runs would be defined as anything longer than an hour. Your body warms up quick, and you don’t want to be over dressed or too wet from sweat if the temps are below 20 degrees.

3: Winter running tights / layer legs too. I have a pair of warm winter running pants that are made of fleece on the inside. It has to be COLD outside for me to get these babies out because they are WARM and feel bulky. Saturday I was going out for a quick 5 miles, and given the low temp, I opted to wear them. On Sunday the weather shifted to almost 30 degrees with snow showers, but heavy winds remained. In that case, I wore my under layer made of wicking material and a thin pair of windproof running pants on top.

4: Take care of your feet. I have favorite running socks and trail shoes. Be sure your shoes are made for the terrain you are planning to run. Trails are often snow and/or ice covered this time of year. I always wear micro-spikes over my trail shoes for added grip and safety. For me, it is normal to find stream crossings flooded too; wet feet in freezing temps happen often. For shorter runs (under an hour) it’s not as much of a problem as longer runs. When planning to be out longer than an hour, it is smart to carry a pair of dry socks in your pack just in case you need to switch them out.

5: Don’t forget the gloves. Again, another important area to keep covered in freezing temps is your hands. It makes a huge difference in how you feel when you are wear gloves versus not. You can always take them off if you need; better safe than sorry.

6: Hydrate and fuel. What you need to carry with you depends on how long you plan to be out. Saturday, I headed out for a quick 5 miles. I chose not to carry water or gels. BUT, I know the trails well and I went out and back 2.5 miles. I did not venture too far from the car nor did I get off the main trail. You should always carry food and water on any trail run when you are not familiar with the trails or are venturing off main trails where you could find yourself alone or lost. (This is more for safety than need in this case.) If I don’t carry water with me, I always make sure to have a full bottle in the car. For a run longer than an hour, I carry a pack with water, gels, granola bars, and ginger chews.

7: Take a friend. We always have more fun when we share a trail run with someone. I am blessed that my handsome husband also enjoys trail running, so we make a date of it. I have a sister who loves to take advantage of trail therapy. When they can’t join me, I am lucky enough to have two dogs (one pup in training) and they absolutely love the trails. This tip is more for motivation than it is for weather.

I hope this list helps you get up and get on those trails regardless of the temps. Please share any of your tips below in the comments.

3 Simple Steps to Creating a Budget

The word budget to most people is considered a swear word meaning cut back, deprive yourself of fun, and live a restrictive lifestyle. It does not have to be bad or painful if you keep things simple. When creating a budget there all kinds of different methods, theories, and ideas. My number one piece of advice is: Keep it simple. If you get too crazy and try to change too much at once, you will fail; that’s not what anyone wants. If you are familiar with Microsoft Excel, you can use the computer to assist, but a piece of paper, pencil, and calculator work fine too. Whatever floats your boat. Remember, SIMPLE. Don’t stress yourself out over creating a budget or sticking to every penny. Budgets are fluid documents. They are meant to change and adjust as life happens. It’s nice to look at an annual budget but manage it on a monthly basis. We use balanced based budgeting. Meaning, we assign our revenue to expenses every month and adjust as needed to “breakeven” at the end of the year.

We are already a month into 2017. Usually in January, I sit the handsome husband down to review the prior year expenditures and re-set our upcoming year budget. I will walk you through our process and how to set up your own.

1: Start with your Total Annual Revenue. To get to your total annual revenue, you want to look at net income. This is not the amount you make per hour/year. This is the amount deposited into your bank account on payday, after all the taxes, health care, and retirement deductions come out. This is the amount you actually get to live off of until the next payday. If you have a job that you get a salary amount, this step should be straight forward. Use your bi-weekly amount and multiply it by two (most months have 2 pay days) for the monthly revenue, and multiply the bi-weekly amount by the number of pay periods in the year for the annual amount (most often 26). If you have an hourly job and the number of hours is not  consistent, try to take an average of the last three months to figure out the monthly revenue, and multiply the quarterly amount by four to get an average income for the year. If you are self employed and income is sporadic, look back at last year, think about whether or not the year had major exceptions, and make adjustments as you deem appropriate. Example: If you are a contractor and you made $125,000 last year but you know you had a special job that paid $50,000 and it’s unlikely you will get another job like that, use $75,000 for your annual revenue and divide by 12 to get a monthly revenue. It is always easier to adjust a budget if you bring in more income than projected. If you share a household with another individual who has an income, add a line for their net income. Add the two together to get the Total Annual Revenue. This number is important, but not as important as you would think. There is a common misconception that in order to be wealthy, one must have a great deal of revenue. That is not necessarily the case, but is probably a good topic for other post entirely (maybe next week). Below is an example of a revenue template in Microsoft Excel:

Revenue Bi-Weekly Amount Annual Amount
Name 1 2,000.00                    26,000.00
Name 2 3,500.00                     45,500.00
Total Revenue 5,500.00                      71,500.00

2: Make a list of Expenses. Start with the largest payments per month and multiply the monthly amount by 12 months to get the annual amount. When you finish the monthly expenses, think about items that happen once a year like holiday’s and birthday parties. Take the annual amount you normally spend and divide that by 12 to get a monthly budget amount. Don’t forget to include seasonal expenses and items such as allowances. If you are like us, you will have additional heating bills at least 5 months out of the year. Take the amount you paid last year and adjust for exceptions. Example, last year we had an exceptionally warm winter and did not spend as much as we normally would on heating oil. We had to look back a year to a normal winter and see what we spent in order to budget for the upcoming year. Below is an example I created; you may need to add / delete items for your household:

Expenses Monthly Amount Annual Amount
Mortgage 1 1,400.00                  16,800.00
Student Loan 1 150.00                     1,800.00
Student Loan 2 50.00                       600.00
Car Payment 1 300.00                    3,600.00
Car Payment 2 350.00                    4,200.00
Credit Card 1 50.00                       600.00
Credit Card 2 50.00                       600.00
Bank Loan 1 25.00                        300.00
Bank Loan 2 75.00                       900.00
Life Insurance – 1 30.00                        360.00
Life Insurance – 2 45.00                        540.00
Heat/Gas 280.00                     3,360.00
Vacation 200.00                    2,400.00
Christmas 150.00                     1,800.00
Savings 100.00                     1,200.00
Car/Insurance/Reg. 50.00                       600.00
Emergency Savings 50.00                       600.00
Allowance 80.00                       960.00
Groceries 700.00                    8,400.00
Garbage 30.00                        360.00
Cable 200.00                    2,400.00
Cell Phone 200.00                    2,400.00
Electric 125.00                     1,500.00
Vehicle Gas 200.00                    2,400.00
Dry Cleaning 75.00                       900.00
Hair / Clothing 75.00                       900.00
Entertainment 200.00                    2,400.00
Water / Sewer 80.00                       960.00
Doctor 100.00                     1,200.00
Pets 50.00                       600.00
Recycling 30.00                        360.00
Total 5,500.00                  66,000.00

3: Tweak the expense items. When you finish the first draft, take a look at the bottom line. Make sure you assign each dollar to an expense category. You want monthly revenue minus monthly expenses to be zero, but the annual revenue minus annual expenses should be equal to one month of revenue. This is because two months a year have 3 pay periods. Those extra pays should be able to go directly into your savings or to pay off debt because you have all other expenses covered in your budget. Be sure to be honest with yourself when entering figures. If you know you like to go out for dinner and a movie, don’t set a budget amount for Entertainment that restricts you from doing so. Be realistic. You won’t be successful just because you put a number on a paper. It has to be truthful and represent you: your lifestyle, your goals, your desires, your happiness. (And your mate’s if there are two of you.)

Remaining                     –                        5,500.00

Whew!  Congratulations, you have yourself a budget. That was the hardest part to budgeting, I promise! Please tell me what you think or ask questions in the comment section.