Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Walk for Hunger: Because it’s not over yet April 9, 2015

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 7:42 pm
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CIMG0259 In less than a month, I’ll be joining thousands of others in walking 20 miles throughout Boston and neighboring cities for Walk For Hunger.  The Walk for Hunger is an annual fundraising event run by Project Bread to raise money and awareness to combat hunger.

This will be my 4th year participating in the Walk For Hunger. I’m happy to say that for the past 3 years, I’ve raised more and more money each year. I passed $1k my first year, $2k my second year, and raised over $3k my third year. I’d LOVE if we could raise over $4k this year, but we’re still a ways away.  I believe in this cause, and I love that this program allows me to help people gain access to healthy, nutritious food.

So, again this year, I’m asking for your donations.  Any amount you contribute can help!

As in years past, my blogging friend Joe Taxpayer has put forth challenge funds. This year his challenge is the same as last year: When we raise $1k, he’ll contribute $500, and when we reach $2k, he’ll contribute another $500. It’s a great added incentive to get everyone to donate!

How can your contribution help?  Below are just a few examples:

$25 Provides a nourishing hot meal for 15 people at a community supper program
$50  Helps a low-income family purchase $100 worth of fresh produce at a farmers’ market through double value coupons
$100  Provides grocery gift cards to low-income seniors.

The good news is, any donation, big or small, helps get healthy, nutritious food to those in need!  Even $5 or $10 makes an impact!

And if you donate, you can see if your employer will match your contribution.

Also, if you’re local, you can also help out by volunteering, either before, during, or after the Walk!

Or join me in walking!  You don’t have to walk all 20 miles if that’s too intense for you!  You can sign up as an individual walker or join a team (look to see if your company has a team!)

If you have any questions about how you can help, let me know!

Thanks for all your support!

[Edit:  For those of you wondering, we didn’t hit $4k this year, but we did raise $3016!  Thanks for all your support!]

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Walk for Hunger: Nutrition is Important April 27, 2014

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 5:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

The opposite of hungry isn't full, it's healthy

This is my third year doing the Walk for Hunger.  The first year, I raised over $1000.  The next year, I raised over $2000.  This year?  I’d love to hit $3000.

I know it’s an ambitious goal.  But I figure, as long as I keep getting donations (both small and large) I can hit this goal!

As of this posting, I have raised $2721.87.  With special thanks to everyone who donated, especially JoeTaxpayer for his Feed The People matching challenge: $500 when I raised $1000:  complete!  And another $500 when I hit $2000!  Also completed!

Wait.  If you’re new to the blog, you might be asking “What is the Walk for Hunger?”  GREAT QUESTION!

The Walk for Hunger is an annual fundraising event from Project Bread.  It’s a 20-mile walk beginning and ending in the Boston Common, weaving through Boston, Brookline, Newton, Watertown, and Cambridge before heading across the Harvard Bridge back to Boston.  The money raised from the Walk for Hunger goes on to fund many initiatives that feed the hungry with healthy and nutritious food!

This is a really important topic to me.  Besides personal finance, some other topics I care a lot about are STEM Education and Fitness.  When it comes to education, good nutrition is incredibly important.  Without enough good food, children’s brain development is hindered, they can’t concentrate on their schoolwork, and they are set up for all sorts of future problems.

And an important part of being physically fit is having the right nutrition!  You can’t stay in shape, maintain your muscle mass, or really be healthy if you don’t have the proper fuel!

So, how can you help?

There are lots of options!

*You can donate on my fundraising page (click the Donate To Stephanie link on that page) Thanks in advance for your support!

(you can also search for other people to donate to, or donate to the walk in general)

*You can sign up to walk!  It’s not too late!

*You can sign up to volunteer!  They need lots of people to help out along the 20-mile walk route!

*You can help spread the word about the Walk for Hunger!  Facebook, twitter, in-person!  This is an important issue we should be talking about!

If you have any questions about the Walk for Hunger, or want to share any fundraising ideas or your own insights on food insecurity and feeding our hungry neighbors, please leave a comment!

THANK YOU!

[Edit:  THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!  This year, I raised $3,318.87!  AMAZING!]

Every $ Every Mile Makes a Difference

 

What I’m giving up for Lent: Making Excuses March 7, 2014

Filed under: Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 10:22 pm
Tags: , , ,

That’s right.  I’m going to try my hardest to not make any more excuses when it comes to working out.  In fact, making excuses will be one of the things I’m giving up for Lent.

My excuses the past month or so were mostly that I was working longer hours at work, and since I usually hit the gym after work, there wasn’t much time to get to the gym before it closed.  Also, I’ve been sick a lot, which is something I’ve dealt with before as a barrier to working out.  My third excuse this past month has been that it’s CRAZY COLD out and there had been lots of snow on the sidewalks, so I’m not super keen on running outside.

But like I said…NO MORE EXCUSES!

This week was actually a pretty good workout week (3 times at the gym!), even though it’s been awhile since I’ve done much running.  I have been skiing a few weekends this year, which is a really good workout, but I’ve barely been running.  I came across this post recently from Shut up and Run about how quickly runners can lose their fitness, and it made my poor performance at December’s Winter Classic 5k (after not really working out much leading up to it) and my measly mileage during this week’s workouts make a lot more sense.  I didn’t have much stamina to keep up a run for a full 5k any of the times I ran this week.  Which is sad for me, since I worked so hard to get to that point.

So, now I’m back.  I know I’ve had this problem in the past.  And then I say, THIS IS IT, I PROMISE I’M BACK.  And then I disappear again (from the gym and from blogging).  Let’s see if I can keep with it.

One thing that helped me keep on top of fitness things was joining in challenges.  There were some a long time ago at work, and then some a little more recently through Lose It, and then the most recent challenge I joined in on was the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge back in 2012.  So, it’s been awhile, and I have plenty of reasons to join in a challenge once again:

  • It gives me an added incentive to working out.  If I can earn points and maybe even prizes, then why not work out and eat right?
  • There’s a community aspect in challenges, where you can support and encourage (and compete against) others!  Share ideas, advice, and encouragement!
  • I want to ramp up my training so that I can PR in my upcoming 5k, and plan ahead to longer races.
  • I want to be in tip-top shape for this year’s Walk for Hunger (my third time!)
  • I’m getting married soon, and even though I’m not in the Bridezilla “must lose 30 pounds and tone every muscle” zone, I’d like to have decent looking arms in my sleeveless dress

These all sound like good reasons to me.  So, since I found the Holiday challenge to be very motivating, I’m joining in again for Run To The Finish‘s Spring Bootie Buster Challenge.  It’s similar to the challenge I joined in 2012, and includes lots of things that should help me get back on track and off the couch.  Emails with suggested workouts, motivation, and food ideas.  Some friendly competition.  Goals for exercising, eating fruits and veggies, and drinking plenty of water.  A good facebook/twitter community to join with others.

Spring Bootie Buster Challenge 2014

Spring Bootie Buster Challenge 2014

I also like that there are different competition levels, so you can join as a relative newbie to working out, or be one of those super extreme workout fanatics.  You’ll be put into different groups, so that you wont feel overwhelmed by the marathon runners if you’re more into yoga and a quick jog.  Fun fact, last time I was in this challenge, Amanda (the woman running the challenge) emailed me to see if I’d be interested in dropping down into a lower intensity group.  Which I could have taken as an insult, but chose to take it as an honest view of my capabilities.  So I gladly took her offer to drop me down into the less intense group.  It was a smart choice, and I was then competing against people in my actual fitness level peer group.

I actually signed up for this right away, since I was on the email list from the last time I did one of these challenges.  So I managed to sign up for only $10.  It seemed like a no-brainer to pay $10 for some motivation to get myself off the couch (and have a little skin in the game).  The price has since gone up to $17, which is not too much money.  I keep convincing myself it’s money well spent if it gets me doing some healthy things!

Disclosure that is not really a disclosure:  I’ve complained in the past with friends about when people post something on their blog or twitter and don’t disclose that they’re a) getting paid b) getting free stuff or c) otherwise somehow getting something out of it.  So here’s my story:  apparently if people sign up for the challenge and mention that I referred them, I get the chance to win a few prizes.  Which is nice, but I’m not hanging my hopes and dreams on winning referral prizes.  Just wanted to leave that all in the open for you.  I mostly wanted to share this challenge because it seems like a good idea and came about at the perfect time for me.

Will I win any prizes?  I don’t know.  Will I start doing better things for my body?  I think so.  The three goals (exercise, fruits/veggies, water) are all things I very much want to keep up with.  So hopefully this gets me going back in the right direction.  No more excuses!

What about you?  Have you figured out what keeps you motivated to work out and eat healthy?  Do you need the extra motivation that a challenge provides, or have you been able to keep going on sheer willpower and awesomeness?  Do you have a workout schedule all set up, or do you just wing it?

 

2013 Fitness Wrap Up January 18, 2014

Filed under: Fitness — Stephanie @ 3:23 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I already wrote a review of how things went for me moneywise in 2013.  So, just like last year, I’m going to review my year in fitness.  And think about what 2014 will bring in fitness.

I set out some fitness goals for last year.  Let’s see how I did:

Goal 1:  Keep working toward running an entire 5k.  And once I hit that goal, it will help me reach my stretch goal of coming in at the top half of finishers.

Achievement:  Of the five 5ks I entered this year, I fully ran 4 of them!  The only one that I walked part of was the Tory Row 5k, which was on a VERY hot day, and my body just couldn’t handle the weather.  I’m still a far cry from the top half of finishers, but I’ve managed to attain a few new Personal Records (as noted in my Steph on Fitness page)

Follow-on goal for 2014:  Keep improving my speed/stamina for my 5ks.  More personal records!  Keep training!  Get a sub-30-minute race time for a 5k (was so very close at the Turkey Trot, with a time of 30:02!)

Goal 2:  Enter some more 5ks.

Achievement:  As mentioned above, I ran in 5 5ks last year.

Follow-on goal for 2014:  Sign up for more 5ks!  And sign up for a 10k!  I’ve heard really good things about the Tufts Health Plan 10k for Women, though I’d have to take the day off to do it (Columbus Day, not a holiday at my job).  Anyone have some favorite 5ks or 10ks in the Boston area?

Goal 3:  Keep going to the gym, including surviving this month’s UXF Ripped program that I won through a raffle at the gym.

Achievement:  I survived most of the UXF class (reviewed here) and also tried out Barre exercises.

Follow-on goal for 2014:  Keep going to the gym (duh).  Add more outdoor runs and longer runs to my training.  And maybe track down a training plan that I will actually stick to.

Goal 4:  Lose a few more pounds of fat/gain a few more pounds of muscle (basically, keep training!)

Achievement (and also the 2014 follow-on):  I was pretty close to my goal weight, and, when I’m really trying (i.e. practicing mindful eating, exercising regularly, tracking everything on LoseIt) I can get down to my goal weight.  But at my last physical, my doctor told me that she’s very happy with the weight I’m currently at, so I’m just going to maintain healthy habits and just try to sustain this weight

Goal 5:  Sign up for the Walk for Hunger again this year, and raise even more money!  And complete the entire walk even faster than last year!

Achieved:  Completed the Walk For Hunger in just over 5 hours.  Not that much faster than in 2012.  But I raised over $2000!

Follow-on goal for 2014:  Sign up for the Walk for Hunger yet again this year (can’t wait until February to sign up!).   Thinking that, since I raised over $1000 my first year, and over $2000 my second year, can I raise over $3000 this year?

Other than working on all these goals, I’ve been getting more involved in the health and fitness community on twitter.  I usually participate in tweetchats hosted by HealthYourWay (follow @HealthyWayMag and #HealthyWayMag) and Runchat (follow @TheRunChat and  #Runchat), where I meet new people interested in health and fitness, and learn and share ideas about warmups, workouts, and food (and other helpful hints!).  It’s become a pretty great community!  I also like checking in with my fellow personal finance bloggers with the hashtag #pfworkout.  And trying to keep up with #plankaday (information on that here)

A related goal to this twitter fitness stuff is finally meeting up with some of the local tweeters I’ve met online.  Let’s hang out, maybe we can go for a run together!

What have been your 2013 health and fitness achievements?  What do you have planned for 2014?

 

End of September, time to recap September 28, 2013

I promise I’m still here.  I’ve got a few updates.

Fitness:

Last Sunday was the Tavern to Tavern 5k.  I ran it last year, but it was a different route this year.  I wasn’t sure I was ready, because I’d been traveling, then sick, so I wasn’t fully in tip-top training.

Major upside of this race:  I have a new personal record for my 5k time!  I’ve got a pace just over 10-minute miles.  Next goal, get the pace under 10-minute miles!

Downside of the race:  I’ve become a bit of a road race connoisseur (read: snob).  I was disappointed they didn’t have a water stop (I found out afterward that the person in charge of the water stop got stuck in traffic).  Also, there were no signs saying how far we were (1 mile, 2 mile, etc.)  Luckily, I did have a general idea of where I was based on the voice-over on my iPod (it has Nike+ and reports approximately how far I’ve gone).  Another weird thing, they had blocked out an area across the street from the Tavern for the race, but then didn’t use it for the post-run party, and instead had a crowded, long line leading into the Tavern.  It seemed like a waste of blocked off space!  Lastly, and most importantly, there wasn’t quite enough police coverage.  I understand that local residents HATE when road races get in the way of Sunday morning traffic.  But there were plenty of intersections along the route where cars were just going right ahead and nearly running over runners.  SCARY!

Wedding:

In case you missed my last post, I’m engaged!  I’m trying to not let the whole planning process stress me out.  The good news is I have some stuff nailed down.  I’ve got the date blocked off, the ceremony and reception locations reserved, the wedding dress (I still need to get it altered), I’ve asked my bridesmaids to be my bridesmaids (and they’ve picked out dresses), and I have a vague guest list made.  The next steps near term are to make a few phone calls with some local photographers, and actually get serious about our guest list.  And then we can meet with the manager of the reception location to nail down our food and drink options.  Yes, this wedding seems to actually be taking shape.  Still in the works long-term will include finding a florist (or identify alternative options for getting flowers), and calling hotels to get them to put aside a block of rooms.  But I’m not worrying about these just yet.  Anything else I should think about? (Besides our registry and our honeymoon, both of which I’m not even close to planning out yet)

Careers:

My sorority (yes, I was in a sorority) at MIT hosted a “career night” where local alums were invited to come chat with current students about resumes, interviews, job fairs, etc.  They had a panel where alums could give more advice.  I was proud to be able to share the gospel of personal finance to the ladies there:  Save your money.  Take advantage of the 401(k) plans and matches at your new jobs.  Spend less than you earn.  You know, the usual.  But it got me thinking, I’d love it if my sorority hosted another event focused solely on personal finance.  I think I’ll ping the alumni relations chair and suggest it.

Random blogger meetup:

Leslie is in town for the Massachusetts Indie Comics Expo.  And Deena already lives in Boston.  So it’s a perfect chance for the 3 of us to meet up!  My expectations for tonight is that I will find out that Leslie’s last name is Freslie.  Stay tuned.

Well, that’s the latest from me.  Up ahead will be Birthday Fondue (just like last year, and the 4 years before that) and I’ll try to get back on the blogging train with more posts for the Graduates Guide to Being a Grownup series.

So, what have you been up to?  Have you become a road race snob like me?  Have any new running or fitness accomplishments to share?  Any advice for my wedding planning (what am I not thinking of that I should be)?  Had any opportunities to spread the word on personal finance to unsuspecting friends?

 

How I hit my latest 5k personal record April 30, 2013

Filed under: Fitness — Stephanie @ 10:13 pm
Tags: , , ,

Guys, I’m pretty excited about this.  At the 5k this weekend, I squeaked in under the 32-minute mark (31:59, thank you very much), with a pace of 10:17 minutes/mile.  Which is a Personal Record for me.  And I couldn’t be happier, especially after seeing how much I’ve improved over the years.

My first 5k in June 2010 was not fast.  I clocked in at 42:12, which is equivalent to 13:35 minutes/mile.  I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I wanted to be cool like all my friends who were running races.  So this 5k was a combination of me jogging and walking.

I kept entering 5k (my boyfriend and I would sign up for them together, and often along with our “runner” friends).  I looked to one of my friends in the Somerville Road Runners for guidance on which 5ks to sign up for.

I showed a little bit of improvement during 2011.  The two races I entered, a 4.2 miler (insane) in September and a 5k in December, had me speeding up a tiny bit, to 12:50 minute/mile and 12:30 minute/mile, respectively.  I think I had started going to the gym a bit more.

I entered 4 races in 2012.  My pace was getting faster with more trips to the gym.  For races in March and June, I went 11:36 minutes/mile, August and December I had 11:10.  I started doing Couch to 5k in earnest in mid-November.

Leading up this past weekend, I found a lot of ways to improve.  I needed to get my body into better shape, especially since I found myself throwing up at the end of the races.  I was pushing my body too hard, and not really doing things right.

What did I do?

  • I kept going to the gym, but I tried new workouts.  I took a cross training class and tried to incorporate what I learned there into my own workouts.  I needed to build stamina and muscle strength, not just running skills.
  • I heeded the advice of a friend.  She told me to try not to stop early by slowing to a walk.  I needed to continue to jog, even if it’s a really slow jog.
  • More friends also told me to run farther than my goal distance.  If I get good at going these farther distances, I’ll be faster when it’s time for my goal distance.
  • I sought out a training schedule meant for a 5k.  There are many resources out there, but I think I heard about the Nike Running Race Coach [edit: I just tried that link recently and couldn’t find the coach, but you can find it with this link instead] during a #runchat on twitter.  It was very helpful having instructions for my workouts (or rest days) each day.  I didn’t follow the training schedule exactly, but I ran more and incorporated more cross training into my routine.
  • I trained outside.  Running on a treadmill vs. running on the sidewalks is VERY different.  While it’s easier to keep a consistent pace on the treadmill, it’s also easier to let the treadmill do some of the work for you.  Plus, I needed to get more experience dealing with actual inclines of hills in the road versus the programmed incline of a treadmill.
  • I ran with a friend.  Running with my boyfriend was difficult.  He’s faster than me.  He has longer legs.  He’s a dreamboat.  Part of me wanted to keep up with his pace.  This was not actually feasible. Instead, he slowed his pace.  But, the good part of running with him (or any other friend) is that there’s extra motivation.  I wanted to slow down or quit at times, but he encouraged me to keep going.  Plus running with someone is more fun!
  • I learned what MY pace was.  While it was easy on treadmills to know what speed I was going, I was very bad at gauging what speed I should be going at when running outside.  The pair of outdoor runs I did with my boyfriend one weekend really helped me to get a better sense of what speed my body could handle.

Race day, my three goals were:  get a new PR, never drop down to a walk, and don’t throw up!  I’m pretty sure finding my ideal pace was key in me achieving all three of these goals.  Going at a consistent pace that my body could handle meant I wasn’t overworking myself to the point of nausea.  It also meant I wouldn’t tire myself out into wanting to walk.  And keeping my pace up (above a walk) meant I could finish the 5k faster than ever.

I’m not a personal trainer, or any sort of running expert.  I’m just sharing what I’ve learned.

I acknowledge that my 5k time is not the best.  But it’s MY best!  Yes, one of my friends who ran the same race finished 12 whole minutes before I did.  She came in second place!  I’m super impressed!  But I look at this as inspiration for future races!

Up ahead, I’ve got the Walk for Hunger (20-mile walk) and the Tory Row 5k.  So I’m going to get moving!  I intend to keep training using what I’ve learned.  I’m heading back to the Nike Running Race Coach, but I’m planning on using the “Set a New PR” goal instead of the “Finish a Race” goal I used last time.

How do you train for races?  What have you done to improve your runs?  What advice have you heeded or ignored?  What’s your latest fitness accomplishment?

 

Walk for Hunger: 20 miles of Boston April 28, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 11:04 pm
Tags: ,

Let me start out by saying, I wasn’t quite sure how to write a new blog post.  Do I ignore the terrible events that happened in Boston?  Or go into a long post about it?  The whole Boston Marathon tragedy is nothing to ignore.  It is sad, upsetting, and confusing.  And the plant explosion in Texas was also terrible.  I realized the best way to process these sad events is to acknowledge them, remind you that there are plenty of ways to help, through donations: (The One Fund Boston, Officer 179 fund, and others for Boston, and Various West, Texas charities), and continue with blogging.

And so, I embrace the mantra, Boston Strong.  Because I will be walking with thousands of others in Boston for a great cause.

As Ellen Parker (Project Bread’s executive director) said in a special letter sent out a few days ago, “This year, Project Bread faces a unique and unprecedented challenge. On Sunday, May 5, 2013, The Walk for Hunger will be the first large outdoor public gathering in the city since the tragic events at the Boston Marathon.”

So we will all be careful, and watching, but we will not allow the tragedy to stop us from participating in this event .  We will not be terrorized.

Sign:  The Walk for Hunger is the oldest continual pledge walk in the country
A week from today, I will be joining thousands of others in a 20-mile walk starting and ending in Boston, winding around many of the nearby towns.  Last year was my first year doing The Walk, and I found it to be a rewarding and inspiring experience.  I walked all 20 miles, and raised $1,215.50!  Super excited that this year, I’ve already raised (at last count) $1,526!  And I still have a week left!  Very grateful to all my supporters so far, especially Joe Taxpayer for his generous $250 match!  My newest fundraising goal is now set at $1800.

Sign:  MA has one of the greatest income gaps in the nation

I’ll admit, I’m posting this blog post in part to ask for donations.  Any amount helps, even $5 or $10, but Project Bread sent out some facts about how donations can help:

$25 provides a hot meal for 40 individuals at a supper program.
$50 helps a family on SNAP purchase twice that amount in fresh produce at a farmers’ market.
$75 subsidizes CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares for one week for ten families.
$100 provides food vouchers to five senior households.
$500 helps support a healthy summer food program for low-income children.
$1,000 helps create innovative farm-to-table programs that give low-income families a hand up and that also strengthen the community.

Sign:  Hunger is a SOLVABLE problem

It’s not too late to help!  You can still sign up to walk or volunteer.  You can donate to me or anyone else.  You can find out if your donation will be matched by your employer.

Thank you again to everyone who has donated so far!  And thank you in advance to anyone who joins in to walk, volunteer, or donate!  Are you participating?