Thursday, December 29, 2016

My someone else's words...

The following article was written by Amy Desselle, a resident writer for our neighborhood magazine The Neighborhood.

When Kristen Lippencott first started distance running in 2010, she never planned on running a marathon. Her exact words were, “I mean, who wants to run for five hours?” Just a year after those fateful words were spoken, Kristen completed two half marathons and was hooked. By December of 2011, she found herself running and completing her first full marathon.

Kristen grew up athletic and fitness-minded. She credits this mentality primarily to her father who was actively engaged in sports during her childhood, participating in basketball and softball leagues. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Kristen liked the idea of running but hated running indoors, and the Pennsylvania winters typically put a damper on any outdoor runs she attempted. Regardless, Kristen’s passion for fitness followed her to college at the California University of Pennsylvania where she earned an undergraduate degree and later her masters in exercise science and health promotion.

Health, exercise, and wellness are key components of Kristen’s life and a passion of hers off-hours but also during the week. Kristen works as a Wellness Consultant and spends her days developing and implementing programs that center around importance of physical activity and exercise for employees at Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield. She strongly believes that you can never do too little when it comes to being active. Outside of the office, Kristen teaches fitness classes several nights a week, making sure that she mixes up her own workouts frequently to keep her body guessing.

Kristen took up running in earnest after moving to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2009. She ran sporadically prior to this move--the occasional charity 5k, a short jog to her local gym, an infrequent mile on the treadmill. She credits her eventual love of running to a group of five girls she met in Myrtle Beach. Without those girls, Kristen feels she would have never been motivated to start on this journey. When she needs an extra boost, she often thinks of them. They’ve spread out across the country now, but they remain her silent motivators. Just six years after the start of her running journey, she has completed six full marathons and five half marathons.

Driven by the sense of complete accomplishment and the thrill when she crosses a finish line, Kristen continues to train and to plan. She loves running because it is hers and hers alone. She sets the pace and the intention. She acts as her own competition. Five hours IS a long time, as she noted so early on in her running journey. But it's her choice as to how she fills those hours--music, podcasts (current favorites include This American Life and Freakonomics), mental rundowns of her upcoming events, or the just mundanities of life. In short, Kristen thinks about anything and everything she wants--except the physical act of running, that is. And while she values the solitary of aspects of running, the sport has also been a great bonding experience and an opportunity to meet new, like-minded people. She has met temporary friends that last a few miles and lifelong friends who are willing to meet at 5:00 a.m. just so no one is left in the dark to run alone.
When Kristen isn’t training for a race, she typically logs five to fifteen miles per week, preferring to cross train with spin classes, yoga, or a little off-trail mountain biking with her partner, Michael. Kristen and Michael moved to Little Rock five years ago for Michael’s work and were quickly won over by the natural beauty of the state. Not a runner himself, Michael often bikes alongside Kristen during her runs. Some of their favorite places to exercise are along the Arkansas River Trail, either back at Two Rivers Park or through the Rock Quarry and along the bluffs on the North Little Rock side of the river.

As the new year begins, Kristen’s training will be ramping up. In 2017, she is planning to run the Walt Disney World Marathon, the Little Rock Half Marathon, and the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. As she prepares, she will be running anywhere from fifteen to thirty-five miles per week, with her weekends reserved for longer runs and yoga sessions for rest and recovery. There’s no telling how many races are in Kristen’s future, but it certainly seems like she won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Homeward Bound!

As I type this I am sitting in the Phoenix Airport, headed home from 5 days in Sedona, AZ with Michael. It's our favorite destination for so many reasons. Crisp mornings that lead to enjoyable daytime temperatures, amazingly blue skies and the laid-back pace are just a few of them.

But it's also how we feel when we are here. Free from stress and unburdened by life.

I've been conducting mini-workshops at work on the power of meditation, breathing and yoga as a prescription for stress management. As we spent time walking the trails and riding around the area my mind kept coming back to these workshops and the reality of the mind-body connection.

When we are here I am at peace in my thoughts and my body feels its best. No inflammation, no travel belly, minimal aches and pains.

I ponder this state of being. I'm not exercising the way I do at home (though we normally do over 10 miles of hiking in 3 days) and am sleeping in a hotel bed and eating at odd hours and at times not the healthiest. But I feel my absolute best. What gives?

Can it be as simple as this? Does being in your physical happy place elicit the same happy response from your brain that yoga and meditation do? Is travel a form of meditation all its own?

I think it really is that simple.

This post was written on 12/12/2016. A snafu led to it being published 12/29/2016.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Have a Healthy Holiday Season!

December– I could hardly believe it when I looked at the calendar yesterday. What?!? Where did 2016 go?

If you are like me,  it’s your favorite time of year. I thrive off of the energy of the season and find calmness in the calamity of it all.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays, the lights, the traditions and the celebrations with family members, friends and co-workers ~ a magical time of year some describe it.

But it’s also a stressful time of year (read here for some tips to deal) and a time when people feel like they get off track with their eating and fitness habits. For those who are in their first year of change, this is a particularly hard time.

As a fitness professional and wellness consultant I field a lot of questions this time of year about my habits and how I stay on track during the holidays.

“It’s always something this time of year.” I’ve heard more than one person say. Potlucks, happy hours, parents who just don’t understand (apparently Will Smith really did know what he was talking about).

There are a lot of tips out there on how to stay on track and how to stay healthy. Use a smaller plate, don’t go back for 2nds, don’t socialize by the food, bring a healthy option to the office potluck. Some I use, some I don’t.  Here’s my advice for the last 2 months of the year. Hope they help!

1. Eat dessert. A sliver of apple pie, just the inside of the pumpkin pie (that’s the best part anyways!), peach cobbler. But choose one per pot luck or dinner and skip dessert entirely if out to eat. It’s never as good as homemade anyways.

2. Plan around celebrations. Celebrations can certainly derail you – if you allow them to! Instead choose a salad at a restaurant or fill your plate with veggies or a fruit salad first (someone always brings one, you know it!) and take you plate far away from the buffet table. Also, always having a drink to sip on (whether water or wine) keeps one hand busy at all times and makes it super hard to balance a plate and eat! A balanced but light breakfast (2 poached eggs with a piece of whole grain toast and fruit) will give you the nourishment you need and keep you from overeating later.

3. Say “yes” to you.  When things get hectic the first thing we tend to give up is our time. I am still working on this but it’s something I recently came to recognize. Instead of our lunchtime workout we run errands, instead of our usual Thursday evening sweat session we go shopping. Let’s stop giving up our “me” time and starting finding other times to shop…see next suggestion.

4. Go shopping instead of out to dinner. Do you and your best friend have plans to get together and catch up over lunch on Saturday? How about meeting up to do your holiday shopping instead? Or meeting for coffee or tea? It’s easier on the wallet and on your health!

5. Try to do something active every day. This doesn’t mean going to the gym or doing planned exercise. This is moving your garbage can across the office so you have to get up to use it, really using that “park farther away” suggestion people always throw out or putting up your own holiday decorations this year instead of hiring someone to. Moving just has to stay at the top of your mind – however moving works for you.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Still a work in progress......

On August 1st I made a deal with myself to slow it slow it way down.

I took stock of my progress on August 26th (the day after my birthday) and thought I was doing pretty well.

Then I fell. Fast and hard. Right back into my previous ways.

It started in late September. In a 15-day window I taught 11 classes, attended 2 charity events, went away for a one 3-day weekend, did an overnight at one of our state parks and wrote 2 articles for our neighborhood magazine. Somewhere in there I am sure I also did some laundry, some yoga and some serious napping. And everyone knows these were all in addition to a 40+ hour work week, right?

I took a deep breath, recognized what happened and actually said NO a few times. That lasted about 2 weeks.

Between October 15th – November 2nd I taught 10 classes ran a 5K, attended 1 event, and coordinated a blood drive, a block party and a trail day. I also wrote 4 articles and ramped up my marathon training (I do have one coming up in January you know!)

Oh, and did I mention I joined a tennis league in early September??

WTF? I ask you. Or maybe you ask me????

All of it, every single bit of it, is my fault.

Obviously it wasn’t enough to just inherently switch to a no mentality. I needed to find my reason – and I finally did.

I had a heartfelt conversation with a friend, another yes-woman.   Our conversation went a different way than any other conversation I’ve ever had on the topic.

It’s not just about me anymore.

It’s the bigger picture. It’s not just about how tired I am or how much I sacrifice or how I need a night to relax and do nothing. A couple of things happen when we over commit.  We aren’t there for our family.

Yes, we might be there in person…sitting on the couch, watching TV. But are we there? Do we know what is going on with them? Are we paying attention or are we trying not to nod off because we are so exhausted? Are we skipping bike rides or hikes or other opportunities for adventure because we have chores that need done or things that couldn’t be done during the week because we were too busy being there for someone else?

And sometimes it’s ok if it’s just about me. Saying yes every single time I have an opening leaves less opportunity for spontaneity and saying yes to the things I really WANT to do as opposed to the things I feel OBLIGATED to do. Spontaneous happy hours after work, impromptu day hikes, turning up the radio and cooking dinner with  Michael. All my favorite things were taking a back seat.

I’m not saying that “no” is always the right answer. But there has to be a balance, right? Where I can feel fulfilled but not feel stretched? Where I can build good relationships with friends and family too, not just my co-workers.

So, I go on. Trying to say no every time I can.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Interesting stories

It's been awhile since I've been active on the blog. October has been a light month here; but not overall.
We launched a new 2 month contest at work. It's a trail contest, encouraging people to use the parks and outdoor trails of Arkansas to stay active. They can log any paved or natural trail activity (biking, hiking, running) and win prizes! They are also submitting pictures and I love seeing all the amazing new places we haven't been yet. I have a list started for us.
But with a new contest comes content to keep people engaged. 9 newsletters to be exact on various topics, from hiker safety to how the Natural State got it's nickname.
My favorite is the story of The Old Man of the Lake, which I am sharing below.
Approximately 7,700 years ago there was a cataclysmic eruption in southern Oregon at Mount Mazama. According to Native American legend an epic war spurred the eruption when Llao, the spirt of the mountain, came to up from his home to stand on the mountain and was spurned by an Indian Chief’s daughter. Angry when she refused to return to his home below the mountain, Llao rebelled by standing atop the mountain and hurling fire down among her people.

Skell, the god of the sky, came to the defense of the people and began pitching fireballs towards Llao, shattering the massive summit of Mount Mazama. When the smoke cleared Llao has been driven back underground, the mountain collapsed on top of him. In celebration of victory over Llao, Skell filled the caldron left behind with water. This caldron is what we now know as Crater Lake.

There are many ghost stories and eerie encounters reported by the Crater Lake Rangers and visitors alike - phantom campers, lake creatures, snow white deer with pink eyes and campfires blazing on uninhabited Wizard Mountain. The most infamous tale, though, is about The Old Man.

The Old Man of Crater Lake isn’t an old Indian Chief as you might think. He is a mysterious, 30 foot log that has been bobbing upright for more than 120 years. First discovered by geologist Joseph Diller in 1896, the Old Man floats around the lake as he wishes, often going against the wind. He’s been observed travelling as many as 60 miles over a 3 month period.

Carbon dating sets his estimated age at 450 years, but no one knows exactly how long he has been bobbing through the water. Rangers credit the cold, clean water and the high density of the submerged portion for its ability to keep its balance.

Staying afloat isn’t the Old Man’s only power. Some say he also controls the weather at Crater Lake.

In August of 1980 a submarine exploration of Crater Lake resulted in his being tied to shore. Soon after the ropes were knotted a storm blew in that made the water too rough to navigate. Once snow began to fall (in August!) the old man was released. The weather began to clear almost immediately.
More Fun Facts about Crater Lake
  • If you stacked the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, and the Washington Monument beneath the Old Man you would still not reach the lake’s deepest point of 1,943 feet.
  • Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. and the 9th deepest in the world. The world’s deepest lake is Lake Baikal in Russia, an estimated 5,387 feet deep.
  • Average temperatures at Crater Lake never reach 70° F and the average annual snow fall is 43 feet.
  • William Gladstone Steel is considered “the Father of Crater Lake" for pushing Congress to designate it as a park. Steel also named Wizard Island, a uninhabited cinder cone in the middle of the lake. He first read about the area in 1870, in a newspaper page his mom used to wrap his sandwich that day. It would be 15 more years before he had a chance to visit the area.
  • Steel may be consider its father, but credit for the name Crater Lake goes to Jim Sutton, a newspaper editor who wrote about the area in a July 1869 newspaper.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Final Follow Up: Wardrobe Challenge

If you haven’t been following along or didn’t see my posts in September about the wardrobe challenge, you might want to catch up here.

In a nutshell: I chose 10 pieces and wore those only through the month of September. My original plan was to supplement with the alarming number of scarves and blazers that I own. Mother nature had other plans, so things got boring and quickly. But it was totally worth it.

Letting Go

I really had TIME (30 days!) to consider my choices and build my wardrobe with pieces that I felt good in, that fit right and, most importantly, worked with one another.

I emptied my closet completely and put everything in our spare room.

Then everything came off the hanger, sorted by item (top/bottom, etc.) then season (summer/fall), then type (casual/dress, etc.). I tried everything on and then it either stayed put or moved to a donate or sell pile.

I revisited the piles after a few days, made any necessary changes and then moved onto the next group. In the top picture below the items on the bottom were for current capsule, across the top is summer. I stored summer away for now. The bottom picture is the donate/sell pile.

This made a huge difference for me. I could do 20 minutes at a time or 2 hours at a time. I had 30 days, after all, so it was truly at my leisure. No stress! I just shut the door and walked away when I got overwhelmed.
Pants (top)
Dresses/Skirts (bottom left)
Tops (bottom right)

To donate (left)
To sell (right)
The most important part of this process was allowing myself to let go of cute things - worn or unworn - and things I was holding onto out of obligation or guilt from paying too much.

What I’ve learned

I will never be the girl who gets dolled up to go to the grocery store. All those years of “What Not to Wear” down the drain. Stacy and Clinton would be so disappointed. So for that I have designed a 15 piece weekend capsule.

STUFF gives me anxiety. And yet, for some reason, I still buy clothes I think are cute or that I think I should wear and then bring it home, hang it in the closet and get overwhelmed when too much accumulates and I can’t wear it all.

Sure, with 10 items to choose from things got repetitive and I got a little bored. I was also able to mindlessly thrown an outfit together in just a few minutes and I felt confident every single time

This was the game changer I was hoping for.

Did I hit my goals and what is my plan moving forward.

I did this for 2 main reasons: to get back to my true style and to eliminate the stress of daily dressing. 

I accomplished both goals - sorta!
A true capsule wardrobe is in a 3 month/4 season rotation. I bit off a bigger chunk of time and went for 6 month/2 season rotation - Fall/Winter (October - March) and Spring/Summer (April - September).

During my purge, I realized there are some things I have duplicates of, but I also wear those items a lot (basic tees, leggings). I kept one item of each in rotation and left the others in storage so that I can shop my own closet when those get worn out. 

I was hoping to get down to 40 items for my work/date night/girls night out wardrobe. I’m actually at 72 (YIKES)!! I am confident my closet will continue to shrink, not grow. I've also done the backwards hang to see what I do or don't wear over the next 6 months. I'll also get a truer sense of what needs replacing and what does not.

What's in my closet: 30 tops, 14 pants, 6 skirts, 11 dresses, 11 blazers

My advice

Go for it. I had a lot of naysayers telling me I was crazy. Shut them down and prove them wrong. you can do it! your research 1st. This would have changed some of my approach early on.  The French wardrobe and the 333 Method are good places to start. If you have time, a Pinterest account and a desire to simplify, you should also research these before starting.

Finally, download the Stylebook app and am slowly adding items from my wardrobe into the database. This should help me when I am in a style rut. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Be A Microadventurer!

I discovered the term microadventure only recently, when I stumbled across the hiking website Trail to Peak.

By definition, microadventures are just that – tiny, exciting and unusual experiences. The most important aspect of the microadventure is that it is (generally) cheap, (usually) local, and new-to-you.

A microadventure is more than just any new experience, though. It’s an experience that affects your outlook and that feels almost like a mini-vacation. It’s not reading a new book (unless you’re at the top of a mountain) or shopping at a new store. This is an experience that changes your life for the better.
Quoted from Trail to Peak:Alistair Humphreys is an adventurer, blogger, author and motivational speaker, and is the person many credit for coining and popularizing the Microadventure… My favorite description is from Outside Online where they describe a microadventure as “quick outings that offer something different, something exciting—but cheap, simple, short, and on your doorstep. Spontaneous weeknight campouts with friends. Running your ten-mile commute instead of getting in the car. A full-moon hike on your favorite trail”….
I like to think I was a micro-adventurer before micro-adventuring was actually a defined thing. As kids, most of us probably were.

When I was in elementary school we’d ride bikes and scooters all around our little town to kill time - visiting the hidden pond, climbing the slate dumps and searching for blue glass bottles for my grandmother.

As I got older and moved around a bit I’d spend weekends finding new places to explore or new festivals to attend.

When we moved to Arkansas in 2012 the microadventuring days of my youth returned! That first year we visited a new part of the state almost every weekend. After 5 years we’re still out and about as much as we can be. Just last weekend a good friend said to me: I’ve lived here my entire life and yet I learn about all the cool places from you!”

It’s easy to fall into that trap, though – I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania yet never toured some of the most well-known sites and monuments. It’s easy to say “Oh, I can go anytime!”

And you can, until you can’t.

Microadventures are right outside your door. It’s doesn’t matter what you do or where you go.

But just in case you need them, here are a few ideas:

1. Go stargazing in the country. Find an area with low or no up lighting (like street lights, store signage or talk buildings), pack a blanket and enjoy the beauty of the sky. You can also buy star-charts, which are seasonal guides that will help you identify the constellations.

2. Go geocaching. This can be a family -friendly way to explore a new park or area and find buried treasure while you are at it. Find geocache locations in your area by visiting

3. Take the opposite direction. The next time you go out to hit the trails, change your starting location or head the opposite direction from the trailhead. Last weekend we hiked our favorite trail at Mt. Nebo – but in reverse direction. It was a completely new and different experience!

4. Watch the sunset in silence. Whether you find a local park or just sit on your own back porch, it can be very peaceful to view the full sunset without distraction.

5. Go on a digital scavenger hunt. Think of 5 fun, unique things in your community and split your friends or family up into teams and see who can come back with the most creative pictures. See this website for some good scavenger hunt ideas. All items should be found and pictured while the car is parked and not while driving.

6. Take your bike to a neighboring town and go for a ride. You can familiarize yourself with a new town and create your own bike tour.

7. Hike, bike or drive to the highest point in your state. The views are amazing and many states have a log at the point for you to sign in. The Highpointers Club is an organization devoted to education and promotion hiking to the highest point in each of the 50 states.

8. Find a historic state park or museum and go for a visit. These are easy to find and are often free or offered at a nominal price. A couple weeks ago we participated in a 1844 Trial by Jury Reenactment at Historic Washington State Park – I got picked to be a juror!

9. Take a free yoga class. Many studios offer a “first class free” to new members.

If you still aren’t sold on microadventures, head over to Trail to Peak where they discusses “5 Ways Microadventures Will Change Your Life”

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What I am looking forward to most this fall.....

It might not feel like it in most parts of the country, but today is the first day of fall. It’s time for football, soup, leather jackets and lazy Sunday mornings.

To me, fall signals a time for change & I long for it every year. It’s pretty much engrained in us when we reach school age: fall is when we got a new wardrobe, new teacher, new supplies, new things to learn and usually a few new friends!

Here are 10 things I am looking forward to this fall:

1. The changing leaves. One of the benefits of moving to Arkansas is the return of seasons. Central Arkansas is just on the cusp of the Ouachita Mountains, which means we have hills and rivers and trees that turn the most amazing shade of blaze orange.

2. Breakfast on the back deck. This is something we can’t enjoy in the humid summers in the south. The fall is a great opportunity to take advantage of the privacy our back deck offers and the green space that backs up to our property.

3. Game-Day Chili. Fall means football, and one of our favorite Sunday traditions is making a pot of hearty soup or our favorite chili.

4. Slippers. I love comfortable, loafer-style, fuzzy-lined slippers. Once the evening temperatures dip below 50 they come out of the closet and stay out as long as possible.

5. Boots, jeans and leather jackets. In my world, nothing is more versatile and classic than an outfit that encompasses these three things.

6. Quality reading time. I read year round, a lot. But there is just something about snuggling under a blanket and a good book that satisfies my need for comfort and feeds my imagination.

7. Decorating. October 1 might just be my favorite day of the year. It’s the day I clean out all my summer flowers, head to the nursery and get my fall blooms. I also swap out the mat on the front porch, pull out the pumpkins and light the apple pie scented candles.

8. Exercising outside. We don’t go out much in the summer months, but in the fall we hit the trails hard. I also have a marathon coming up in January so temperatures in the mornings should be perfect for training.

9. Organizing my fall wardrobe. I have spent September on a quest to find simplicity in my wardrobe and build a capsule from what I already have. I am finishing this task during the last 8 days of the month and can’t wait to wear my “new” wardrobe!

10. A new television season. I love the season and series premieres that come around this time of year. It’s like catching up with old friends or making new ones!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Training Season Begins - 2017 here I come

In 2015 I decided I was done running marathons. “A half is enough.” I said. A 7-10 mile training run is so much easier to squeeze in on a weekend morning than a 14-20 mile run.

Never say never, right?

I went home to Pittsburgh to run the half in May 2016 and realized a half just isn’t enough. It’s plenty for many, it’s too much for some. Every single person who finishes 13.1 miles deserves the medal, the free beer, the hugs and the celebration.

To me, not running at all was easier than running 13 miles. Maybe it’s because in May I clocked my worst time ever. Maybe it’s because I hate the half course in Pittsburgh, or because I felt like I let myself down. I am not sure of the reasons, but I am sure that in May 2017 I am all in for Pittsburgh.

Before Pittsburgh, though, I have to conquer the Walt Disney World Full Marathon on January 8.

A couple of weeks ago I realized I hadn’t run since May. I hit the treadmill to see what kind of shape I was in. 2 miles in I was done. The next day I was sore from hips to toes.

“How am I going to do this?”

This thought has been top of mind for the past 10 days. I needed a plan. It’s hard to achieve a goal without one.

I am not in running shape, but I am in shape. I exercise regularly at a vigorous intensity. I build exercise programs for people who are looking to do just what I am – run a distance race as a beginner.

It’s high time to put that skill to use for myself. This morning, I did just that.

My official training plan starts on Monday, October 17th - a little less than a month from today. Between now and then the plan is to run 2-3 days a week to get my body warmed back up to the idea of hitting the pavement.

From October 17th – January 8th it’s 12-weeks of nose to the grindstone training, 6 days a week, 1 workout each day. I can do this and do it well.

Will I get a PR? Probably not. But that’s ok, because I’ll get the finisher medal…and a weekend with an old friend.

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