Monday, August 29, 2016

Running for a Reason

$725 of $1,000 raised for the Steel City Greyhounds!

In May 2016 I Ran for a Reason for the very first time! I was nervous – I had committed to raising $350 for an organization that serves a city I no longer live in. I have minimal fundraising experience and am not always great at asking people for money.

But I did IT! I raised $700 - double my goal!

I took just over 26,000 steps that day, and it was worth every single one. Maybe it was because I was running for someone else this time. This race wasn’t about me – it was about the 90 mph couch potatoes (as they are often referred to) and the all-volunteer rescue that ensures they enjoy their retirement years!

Why did I choose the Steel City Greyhounds as my team? Here is the story I submitted to them, and I happily share it below.

When I was 21 my mom shared her plans to get my younger brother and sister a greyhound for Christmas. I thought she and my step-dad had temporarily lost their minds. They had a small house and already had 4 people and a cat taking up residence. Not to mention the fence that had to be built, the special food, the coats, the high-maintenance care....I thought they were crazy!

I met Rip on Christmas morning. He was fresh off the track and out of Santa's sleigh - and the sweetest animal I had ever seen. When I left to make the 8 hour drive home a couple days later I left a little piece of my heart with Rip. 

18 months later I found out about Greg - another retired racer in need of a good home. I called up my mom - lied and told her he had perfect teeth and was just a little skinny - and the next morning we were off. Greg and I on the open road. We made a few pit stops, had lunch and discussed some pretty serious matters in life over the 500 mile drive. He was a perfect gentleman and we formed a bond that lasted the next 8 years - even though I only saw him 1-2 times a year.

Even though it's been over 15 years since I met Rip, I've still haven't had my opportunity to adopt a greyhound. My parents have Mabel now, a sweet girl who never made it to the track. She was lucky enough to get adopted by my parents just short of her 1st birthday. Her spunky personality is different from any other greyhound I've met; but her sweet demeanor sure isn't.

2016 is the first year I contemplated running for a reason...and when I saw the "Steel City Greyhounds" the decision was made. This breed has brought so much happiness to our family, I was happy to give something back to their family of racers. Thanks for letting me be a part of the team!

I’ve decided to Run for a Reason once again on May 7th, 2017. My goal this year is $1,000 – and I think with your support I can do it! You can visit my fundraising page at:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Just Say No

It’s been a full month since I’ve posted about learning to say NO! So, how did August go?

I have to say I am pretty proud of myself. I’m starting to learn the value of down time. I can feel the stress dissipating, both physically and mentally. It’s absolutely freaking fantabulous! (There’s a word I haven’t used for a while)

Here are just a few action items I’ve put into place.

I look at my full calendar before committing. In the past, I’d just say “yes” if nothing was scheduled in the time frame requested or in the days leading up to a deadline.

I mustered up some courage. I finally told my group ex. coordinator that I could no longer do my Wednesday night class. It’s a 45 minute drive, one way. I've already replaced it with the same class, 15 minutes from home. I actually think telling the class will be harder.

Sometimes I say no, even if my schedule allows a YES. Because sometimes I need a day where I don’t have to be anywhere or work on anything for someone else.

I’ve taken my weekends back. My weekdays are 11 – 12 hours door to door. Saturday and Sunday are mine. Sure I’ll step in during a pinch – I’m still a team player after all.

I’ve evaluated the gratitude. Does this person have my back when I ask them for their time or expertise? Or is this a one-way give situation? I always want to be reliable, considerate and thankful for others. But I don’t want to be taken advantage of.

I’ve talked about what I want my legacy to be. I certainly don’t want it to be “Call Kristen, she always says yes.”

Happy Weekend!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Wardrobe Challenge: 10 pieces, 30 days

Wellness goes beyond exercise and nutrition. It even goes beyond behavior changes and mindfulness.

Part of being "well" is being stress free. And for me, being stress free takes more than deep breaths and learning how to handle situations. It's making the choices that should be easy just that - easy.

I often marvel at what accumulators we seem to have become as a society. Not that I have a point of reference, since I didn't live on my own much pre-2000s. When I shop, though, it just seems the possibilities are endless. Signs with every saying known to man, t-shirts, coffee mugs...what happened to the days when we have 2 or 3 coffee mugs and that was it? Or did I cherish that favorite coffee mug because I didn't have any money to spend on such things?.....

Any who, I digress.

One of my unnecessary stressors is standing in front of the closet each day trying to figure out what to wear. It's not just 'does it look ok?' or 'does it match?''s the choices. There are so many - enough that I can go weeks without doing laundry and not run out of clothes. I know this because I have done it.

I also need to work on defining my style...lately I have been buying buying buying, and I feel like I've been losing sight of what I feel most comfortable in. 

So, in September I am challenging myself to take it back to basics. 10 pieces for 30 days. How many outfits will I come up with?  I've started my list, but there are a few things you should know...

a. I am keeping my scarves in play. My 10 "pieces" will be tops and bottoms only. No shoes or accessories are being cut in this round.
b. I am debating keeping my blazers in play too - all of them. Not just one. 
c. My goal is to be able to get a 30 piece capsule wardrobe per 3 month season.

Here is my preliminary list, but I'll keep posting to let you know how it's going. I'll be doing more on Instagram, so if you don't already, be sure to follow me there!

I am including:

3 basic tops
2 pants
2 skirts
1 dress
1 interest piece this is definitely my Beyond Tee from CAbi's Fall 2016 Collection
1 ?? (this will be a blazer if I decide not to include all of them)

Oh, and I've added a bonus item, so it's really 11 pieces for 30 days. Michael's class reunion is in September, so I'll need one nicer dress for that.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Great Cardio Debate: Interval v. Steady State

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) was listed #3 on ACSM's 2016 Fitness Trends, down from the #1 spot it held the prior 2 years.

So even though it's popularity is fading, it's not going very far. It's still one of the most used and most asked about modes of exercise in today's era of fitness. In fact, an hour and a half was devoted to just this topic at a recent health & fitness conference I attended. The session was so packed with personal trainers we have to move rooms to accommodate.

If you aren't already familiar with HIIT, it alternates periods of higher intensity with periods of low intensity or recovery.

For example: if you are already walking for 20 minutes a day, you might start incorporating short bursts of jogging or faster walking into your routine. A good place to start is adding 1 minute of jogging for every 2 minutes of walking.

Adding HIIT workouts to your general exercise program offers many benefits.

Studies on the effectiveness of interval training started in the mid-90s and have proven time and time again to be an effective tool for fat loss. HIIT also helps improve aerobic capacity, keeps you engaged in exercise (i.e. not bored) and allows you to burn more calories in a shorter period of time. When compared to steady state cardio, these workouts have also been show to increase metabolism for a longer period of time after the workout ends. In every day terms: you keep burning calories!

On the reverse side, HIIT workouts also increase damage to muscle tissue and require longer periods of rest and recovery. An increase in intensity, even in short bursts, can lead to overuse and overtraining, resulting in injury or burnout. In some cases, building aerobic capacity means working at level that is uncomfortable or painful for some people.

Steady State Cardio or Steady State Training (SST) is just that. A steady, continuous effort. It's not the most popular form of exercise but it's important for a number of health reasons, including improving resting heart rate, reducing stress and increasing the capacity of your heart to pump blood.

Regardless of your feelings about SST or your goals, each fitness routine should have an element of SST. It is an established and proven method for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and enhancing aerobic capacity, it increases cardio efficiency with less muscular and cellular damage than HIIT and it enhances the body's ability to use fat as an efficient fuel source.

Like HIIT, SST also has some drawbacks. If your goal is weight loss, SST may extend the time frame in which the your desired weight can be achieved. It also will extend the exercise sessions themselves, which can be tough on an already busy lifestyle.

Participating in the same kind of SST (i.e. always running) can lead to stress injuries.

So, which is best?

Fitness is very specific and should help you meet your goals. If you have signed up for a 5K or are planning a trip to Disney , your focus should be on steady state cardio. This will help you prepare for the upcoming event and mimic the behavior you are trying to accomplish.

If your goal is to improve in a certain sport (basketball, soccer, tennis) the incorporating interval training 1-2 times a week might be better, due to the focus on aerobic power and short burst of energy.

If you are interested in general or health-related fitness do what you enjoy the most! Hint: it should still include at least one session of SST per week.

With all modes of exercise, duration is based on how intensely you train. At an intensity of 85% a person may get a sufficient workout in 20-30 minutes. At 50-60% intensity, the person should train for about an hour.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I Get It!

Every morning I hit the alarm and my feet hit the floor, ready for a new day. I can say with no doubt that I look forward to each day at work.  I LOVE my job. I just started my 3rd year of consulting and it's been a fantastic run!

So what is it that I love so much?

I help people understand how important physical activity is to their health and I motivate them to make it a priority.  By creating and facilitating classroom-based programs, I'm not spending my days working out - I'm spending them behind a desk, sitting in a chair.

Why am I sharing this with you? Why should you care? It's because I get the struggle, I understand that it can be difficult to drag yourself to the gym...but due to the nature of my job I also understand why activity needs to be a priority more now that it ever has been.

Not because we are getting lazier, but as Bob Dylan sings, "Times, They are a Changin'" In the past 20 years:

  • We've become more dependent on cars and public transportation,
  • the internet has become a center for information AND shopping,
  • there has been a significant change in workplace dynamics - moving employment to more sedentary jobs and less industry and farming-related jobs.

My goal at work and through this blog is to help give you tips to help you change behavior and create opportunities to make healthier choices. It all adds up over time.

Here are a few things I thought might help.

I am sedentary for the majority of my day. I struggle to get steps in, I get caught in projects that sometimes keep me in my chair, hunched over for hours at a time. To counteract that I walk to lunch when I can, I stretch the moment I realize my shoulders are hunched and I keep my waste basket on the other side of my office. These are just a few things I do to create opportunities for movement through the day.

I am addicted to baked goods. So I keep them out of the house. If I get a hankering for brownies I make a batch and then take them to work the next morning to share with my co-workers. When I go to a breakfast meeting that has donuts or scones I eat half and then throw the other half in my almost empty coffee cup so it doesn't sit on a plate, successfully tempting me to eat it.

I am a morning person,  which ironically makes it hard for me to workout in the morning. But working out in the afternoon is even worse. I wish I could give you some insight here, but I just suck it up. It's hard to get there, but once I do I never regret it. And I know how important it is for now and for the long run.

My schedule is maxed out. I don't have kids. I don't know what that is like, but I do know that meetings, events, committees and a part-time job fill my off hours. So I adjust. I'm flexible with my workouts and move them to a different day when needed.  If friends ask me to meet them for dinner I request a 7:00 meeting so I can squeeze a run or a bike ride in. No one has ever told me no.

I travel a lot. I take a cab to the hotel so I have to walk to the conference/dinner/shopping, etc. I find the best restaurant in town, have a fantastic meal that is a local cuisine and spend the rest of the time having snacks and meals that align with my healthier diet (fruits & veggies, unprocessed foods) and when I can I buy groceries and piece together my own meals - with mini-fridges in most hotels these days, eating breakfast & lunch this way is really pretty easy. I do some squats and push ups each morning and maybe a little yoga, but I no longer pack a bunch of workout gear; I won't use it and then it just makes me feel bad. (PS: I packed running clothes this weekend and did not use them - point demonstrated yet again)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Who Inspires You?

This has been a crazy week; lots of emotions intersecting with a lot of travel and a little bit of drama among friends.

The same thought has been coming back to me over and over as I deal with it all: when people think of me, what do they say?

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I enjoying helping others - through my work day-to-day, by volunteering, lending a hand to a neighbor. But am I reliable? Am I someone you trust to do the right thing? Do I stick to my beliefs or do I waiver in uncomfortable situations?

A big part of being seen as the person I'd like to be is stepping away from the drama (and not feeding the monster as a friend so wisely put it this week), being generous with my love and acceptance and stingy with my judgements and dislikes and following through on promises - even if it means putting myself out there in ways that make me uncomfortable.

We celebrated a wonderful woman this week and her family and community honored her memory by sharing so many stories of her past. When she moved to her community in 1955 there had never been a musical. She was interested in the arts and was tasked with finding a director for Alexandria's first musical. She failed at this task.

But instead of giving up or tabling the project she stepped up and said "I'll direct." Despite having never taken a theatre or music class in her life, the production was a success and she directed a dozen more. She became such a success in large part because she failed at a task but was determined to still deliver the goods.

That's just a snippet of what she did for her community & her family, but it really stood out to me. And yet I wasn't surprised at all - because it's something she did over and over through her life. 

She was the blend of businesswoman-philanthropist-inspirationalist that I strive to be everyday.

Every story shared this week highlighted all these qualities. I hope that's what my legacy will be someday.

I don't know that there is anything to be learned from this post - I don't know that there is any actionable step or great advice outside of "don't be afraid to take chances". We hear this over and over in life, but are we really doing it in a way that builds character? I sure hope to.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday, again?

My weekend was filled with travel and some fierce napping on Sunday. Does 4 hours still qualify as a nap?  Yes, that's correct. Two (2!) 4-hour naps on Sunday. And still asleep by 9:30 last night.

I am almost certain this had to do with (successfully) keeping up with a 19-year-old all summer and teaching 5 (FIVE!) classes in less than 48 hours last week. It also could have had to do with the 3:00/4:30/3:30 wake up calls on Friday/Saturday/Sunday, respectively.

It was the was the 4th time since June 1 I've done that. No more. I've made a pact with myself. No more Ms. Yes-Woman.

And I am one of the Ultimate "yes" women out there. I can't say no. Not because I don't want to let the other person down, but because I crave being busy. I hate sitting still. There are worse things I could be addicted to.

But what is this addiction costing me? I'm starting to feel run down. I spend at least one weekend day "catching up" on sleep. My to-do list is never empty. I am rarely ever home, and when I am cleaning or doing chores. Sometimes I'll catch an hour of TV before hitting the sack at 8:30. It's a vicious cycle and I am ready to get out of it.

Step 1: Admitting you have a problem.

I'll let you know what other steps I am taking as I progress.

In the meantime, I did spot this awesome photo on Instagram earlier today, and it captured my Monday perfectly and wanted to share.

If you aren't following Megan Hess on Instagram, you might want to be. She does some amazing artwork, and it usually inspires a smile and has a lasting impression. Just do a quick Pinterest search to check her coffee drawings out.

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