Graduated Learning: Life after College

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

10 months later November 30, 2016

Filed under: baby,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 9:42 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It’s been 10 months since I gave birth to our daughter (I actually started writing this post at 9 months, to be all cute with the 9-months in, 9-months out thing…but then got too busy to finish!).  A lot has gone on since then.  As I mentioned the last time I posted (months ago) I went back after my 12-week maternity leave.  I was lucky enough to have a boss that is giving me a flexible work schedule which comes in handy when the baby doesn’t want to cooperate in the morning, or when my husband goes on a business trip and I have to cover drop off and pickup at daycare, and also to allow for my pumping sessions at work.  Hopefully once I stop breastfeeding (or at least stop pumping at work), I’ll have a little bit more time.  But again, SO grateful for my flexible schedule.  I know that not everyone has this sort of set up.

The baby, in a word, is AWESOME.  She’s babbling a lot, waving bye-bye to anyone and anything (which seems cruel when saying bye bye to her food right before she eats it).  She’s even been doing some walking!  I’m impressed with her developmental progress.  She’s still not huge (she was born pretty small) but I’m already sentimental for her tinier days!  She’s wearing mostly 6 and 9 month clothes, and can still fit into a few 3-month onesies if she needs to.  But she’s growing, and she’s STRONG!

Other updates for our life:  We bought a house!  You’ll recall, I finally got serious about buying a house at the beginning of last year.  We met our realtor in August 2015. I just checked the date, and we actually closed on our new house exactly one year later, in August 2016.  I should probably post more on our homebuying experience in a separate post, but it was quite the adventure.  Getting outbid on a lot of houses, going to countless open houses, and really trying to figure out what we wanted and needed in a house.  We’re happy with what we finally bought!

I’ve been pretty much NOT exercising since I stopped early on in the pregnancy.  Going back to work meant I wasn’t going on a lot of daytime walks anymore, and I haven’t done much running.  But I have gone on a few jogs with my husband in our new neighborhood, and I actually ran (or okay, jogged) a Turkey Trot/5k last week (the huge Feaster Five).  I didn’t even walk any of it (unless you count the almost-walk I did going up a hill).  I hope to get back into running again, but will really need to find ways to carve out that time.  How do you find the time for exercise?  The lucky(?) thing is that I haven’t “needed” the exercise to lose my pregnancy weight.  It turns out breastfeeding can be an excellent calorie burner.  I’m actually below my pre-pregnancy weight, and have been trying to figure out healthy ways to maintain a healthy weight (perhaps a bit more exercise and a lot more healthy food)?

Well, this is enough of an update for the time being.  Baby’s great, we bought a house and moved, and I’m trying to get back to running.  How have you all been?

 

 

 

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?

 

Getting the Pure Barre experience March 10, 2013

Filed under: Boston,Fitness — Stephanie @ 10:46 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Disclaimer:  I was invited to this class for free through Blog and Tweet Boston, a group that organizes events for local Bostonian bloggers/tweeters.  The expectation was that after we all met up for this class, we would write about our experience.  So, this is what I’m doing…right now!  All the opinions are my own.

Last Saturday (a little over a week ago) I met up with a bunch of Boston-area fitness bloggers at Pure Barre Boston.  It’s on Newbury Street right near Mass Ave.  Pretty close to where the J.P. Licks used to be.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I assumed everyone would be a pro at this sort of thing, since they’re all legit fitness bloggers.  You know, compared to me, the personal finance blogger who also blogs about fitness, Boston, and STEM.  But I still was excited to try it out!

A fun part of the meetup was putting faces to twitter handles.  Maureen and I discovered we were already following each other online!  And there were quite a few other great people there that I already followed (on twitter).

For the class, they had an instructor, Fiona, plus a few other experienced individuals  (including the owner) around as extra models to follow (and to guide us if we’re not doing the workouts quite right).

The facility definitely had a zen feel to it,  with sparse color and lots of windows to let in natural light.  It was very crisp and clean.  The studio itself had two walls of floor-to-ceiling mirrors and one wall with windows.  There was a ballet barre on every wall.  There was a cool chandelier and maybe some skylights if I recall correctly.  The floor was carpeted for a cushioned workout.  Like I said, very zen.  I think I could live there 😛

Okay, now for the workout itself.  There was fast-paced music with a good beat throughout the entire class that we were to keep in time with.  The style of the barre method was to focus on specific body parts, doing exercises to strengthen certain muscles one at a time.  Pretty much every exercise involved multiple repetitions of very small changes, moving the body or appendage just an inch or so in and out of position.  Or as it’s described on the Pure Barre website, “small, isometric movements”.  Which sounds way better than what I said.

As they mention on that Technique page as well, there are multiple components to the class:  Warmup (which was mostly arm work), Thigh Work (I felt like my legs were burning up during this part), Seat work (tone that butt!), and Abs Work.  And of course some stretching after each component.  The Thigh and Seat exercises were the most intense; they were fast paced and really forced me to keep using muscles that I wanted to stop using.  The nice part of the Abs exercises is that they easily transition into a cooldown of sorts, lying on the ground and then doing some final stretches.

For the entire class, there is a focus on posture and proper form, and also “tucking” your hips in.  Which to me felt kind of like I was doing hip thrusts.  The goal is to roll your hips forward and up.  We did a lot of repetitive tucking during the class.

There were a few aspects of yoga (with certain stretches and positions), but not as much ballet as I had expected.   I think we stood at 1st, 4th, or 5th position for some of the exercises, and we stood at a barre for some of them, and we had to keep good posture.  But no leaping or dancing really.  Don’t worry, then, if you don’t know ballet (or yoga, or any other activities, for that matter).  It’s a little confusing for beginners, but easy to pick up what’s going on.  Especially when the instructor helps you.   It was a tough class.  But it was really neat to try out and I definitely got a workout.  Plus it was super cool to meet fellow Boston bloggers and try something new.

Would I recommend it?  Would I go again?

Well, you know me.  I’m always concerned about money.  So, pricing:  A single class at the Boston location is $23.  Or you can buy multiple classes up front at a discount (you know, like any bulk purchase), which brings the cost down by a few dollars per class.  They also offer monthly memberships for unlimited classes (though you need to sign up for each class individually, and I don’t know how fast the classes fill up).  The most appealing (to me) of course is their New Client Special, which is $100 for unlimited classes for one month.  Though, knowing me, I’d try to go as often as possible to get my money’s worth!  Which could be a little crazy.

The other issue (for me at least) would be on how to get there.  It’s steps away from the Hynes Convention Center T stop, which is super convenient for Boston commuters.  But not so convenient for me living way out in Medford.  So getting there, either by taking a long walk/bus/T ride would not be ideal.  Or trying to find (and pay for) parking in Boston.  Still, if you can get there easily, it would work.  There are other locations outside of Boston, but I don’t know if that would be any easier.

As for the program itself, I have a feeling I would probably see really good results if I started going on a regular basis.  It was hard work while I was there, but I was surprised not to be aching from it at all the next day.  Does that mean I was doing something wrong, or something right?

If I found an easier way to get to the class, I’d probably buy the $100 intro package.  And then take a bunch of classes.  Like a crazy person.

Have any of you tried out Pure Barre?  Or any other barre-related classes?  Do you like the technique?  Do you have any more questions for me about my experience?

(Oh, as a note, you can check out some other people’s reviews.  They all had cameras/smart phones, so they took pictures, if you’re hoping to get a better idea of the place.  Style Method (her last picture has me with my back to the camera in my blue shirt), Fabulous Life of a Natural Disaster, Boston Rookie (I’m in a few of her pictures, too :P, and you can see that chandelier I mentioned), A Girl’s Gotta Balance, Healthy Chicks, Kissing Frogs, Urban Guide to Life.  Did I miss any?)

 

Cross Training for Dummies: A review of “UFX Ripped” March 3, 2013

Filed under: Fitness — Stephanie @ 9:32 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m a sucker for free stuff.  So when my gym was raffling off some training classes toward the end of December, I put my name in the mix.

Naturally, I forgot about this raffle.  So when January rolled around, and I got a call from the gym, I wasn’t sure what was going on.  They called everyone who entered the raffle to say that they would have a free trial class for everyone interested in winning.  We were invited to take the class, then at the end, they’d draw a name from the hat.  You had to be present to win.

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect.  I wasn’t even sure what I had entered to win.  But I went to the class to see what it was all about.

OHMYGOODNESS it was intense.  We did a high-intensity warm up to get our heart rates going.  Then we had a circuit of activities including multiple weight lifting motions, push ups, jumping, etc.  Everyone was supposed to count how many reps they could do in the time limit.  And then we did the circuit AGAIN to see if we could do even more reps the second time around.  By the end of the class, I was mildly worried that my heart would give out.  Yikes!

Then they went around asking everyone to say one word describing how they felt.  My word?  “Shaky”.  Then when they pulled names out of the hat, the first name was for someone who wasn’t there.  But then the next name?  Mine.  WHAT.

I had just won a month of the UFX Ripped class for free.  The usual cost for the month-long class is $200.  The class included 8 sessions of small-group high-intensity cross training led by a personal trainer. (Some consider these classes the sports club’s version of CrossFit). Also included in the class was access to an online “Nutrition Coach” (website with customized meal plans and other food guidance based on your body type, fitness goals, etc.).

So, I took the class.  Why not?  I wanted to expand my workouts beyond runs on the treadmill and yoga classes.

Guys, these classes were tough.  They had high intensity workouts that made me sometimes want to give up.  But the trainer pushed us (us= me and just one other person!) and we made it through!

There were four weeks total.  There were themes for each week, but I don’t remember what it was for all of them.

I wrote up what I did at each class on my training log at DailyMile.  I didn’t always recall exactly what we did (or what they were called) but you can get an idea of each class.  Check them out in the links that follow:

Week 1:  Day 1  Day 2
Week 2:  “Maximum Effort” Day 1  Day 2
Week 3:  Nothing for me.  I skipped both classes that week because of my never-ending cold (my decision to take things easy reported in a blog post)
Week 4:  “Teamwork”  Day 1 (Second class was cancelled because the trainer was really sick.  Did I give her my horrible cold?  Let’s assume no.)

Had I actually paid for the class, I probably would have tried to go to the Week 3 sessions.  Which would probably have been a horrible idea for everyone involved.  I probably would have also wanted a makeup session for the second day of week 2.

Review:

This was a really good experience.  It was difficult, but I felt like I was getting a full body workout compared to what I usually do.  I worked harder than I would have had I been on my own.  It was really good to have a trainer there to guide me and help me learn new exercises and make sure I was doing everything right.  And she was there to push me when I wanted to give up.

I didn’t really use their “nutrition coach” because I’ve already sort of figured out what to eat over the past year (more fruits and veggies, lean protein, lots of water, etc.) with the help of LoseIt and lots of trial and error.

Because I’m not keen on spending more money than I have to, I probably wouldn’t have signed up if I hadn’t gotten the classes for free.  Especially since the gym offers a similar class free for members called UFX Burn, which is like Ripped but there’s more people in the class (less special attention) and you don’t get the nutrition coach.  I haven’t gone to any of those yet, but I think I’ll try to fit them into my schedule, since I did like this program.

Now that I’m done with it, I find myself incorporating some of the activities I learned in the class into my own workouts (especially certain weights/kettle bell exercises and lunges).  I do think the program got me on a good path, and helped me realize what sorts of activities I’m good at and what I need to improve on.

Have you ever signed up for a small group class?  Did you find the benefits outweighed the cost?  Or do you find your training inspiration from other sources (larger classes, online sources, friends).  What sort of classes or training have you tried?

 

Learning to take things easy January 24, 2013

Filed under: Fitness — Stephanie @ 11:36 pm
Tags: , ,

I had big plans to take 2013 by storm.  I was going to ramp up my training.  I was all signed up for a cross-training class at my gym, and was ready to get back into my Couch to 5k training.  The first week or so I was on the treadmill and in the class as much as possible.  But then I started coming down with a cold.  I’d had a bit of a cold at the end of the last year, but it went away…for the most part.

But apparently when you work out like crazy and push your body to the limit multiple times a week, you don’t really recover very well.  And you end up getting the worst cold you can remember.  Go figure.

So this week I haven’t worked out at all.  I skipped my training class both times this week, and didn’t go to the gym.  I even stayed home from work on Tuesday.  All week I’ve been drinking tea and juice, and dosing myself with plenty of cold medicine and trying to rest as much as possible.

I know it should have been obvious that I shouldn’t work out.  Apparently there’s a “neck up” rule, where if you’re only sick in your nose/throat, you’re okay to work out.  I think I only just had a really stuffed/runny nose, but some time this week it turned into a severe cough and the worst congestion ever.

Maybe I could have done a few workouts.  But I’ve decided to take this complete knock out as a sign that I need to take things slower.  And listen to my body.  I shouldn’t overdo it.  Plus I shouldn’t go to a gym and spread all my germs to everyone there!

So, once I recover, I hope to finish going to my training classes (only a few more left this month) and get back on the treadmill.  But only after I’m fully well.  And then I’m going to take things easy.  And slowly build back up to a doable training schedule.

So, have any of you ever had this problem?  Completely overdoing things?  Or ignoring the signs your body sends you?  How do you get back into the swing of things after getting knocked down?

 

Joining the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge! November 15, 2012

There’s something about entering a challenge that really gets me going.  I told you about the Hometown Wellness Showdown last month.  I found it really helpful having an incentive to tracking my healthy activities.  We earned points for everything, and every week there was a drawing for prizes.  There was also a good support system, and people shared their experiences.  While I didn’t win any prizes, I did work out a lot more, ate more fruits and veggies, and, because I was tracking what I ate, maintained awareness of what I ate and didn’t go overboard (most of the time!).  I began to gain some discipline, and I even got compliments on my improved figure!  There were over 2000 participants, and the top points earner got 888 points.  I was in 57th (or 74th, depending on what list you look at) place, with 640 points!

So, as usual, I’ve started slacking off on using LoseIt to track what I eat now that I’m not involved in any of their challenges.  But I’m still maintaining awareness of what I’m eating, and trying to get to the gym or incorporate workouts into my day as much as possible.  And I’ve kept track of my workouts on DailyMile.

So, with my love of challenges and being kept accountable, and tracking my fitness activities, I’m really excited about the new challenge I just signed up for.  It’s the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge!

Join the Holiday Challenge!

I first learned about this run from Elizabeth’s post on her blog, On Tap For Today.  She’s been an inspiration when it comes to getting in shape.  And she’s a fellow Bostonian!  I decided I’d sign up.

Details:

Cost:  $25.  Knowing I’ve got some skin in the game will be an added incentive for me.  It covers the management of the challenge, a donation to the Salvation Army, and mailing of prizes.

Prizes?!?!  YES!  There are mini-giveaways throughout the challenge, and bigger prizes awarded to top point earners.

Other good stuff:  Q&A’s with experts, and a community with a bunch of other fellow runners.

You can register here, and find out more at the main site (especially here and here)

It’s open to anyone!  And the challenge is separated by “shoe type”, i.e. what kind of shoe you use more often for the activities you’re involved in:

  • Low Profile: 5K, 10K, cardio class master (includes CrossFit)
  • Cushioned: Half marathon/marathon/distance biking
  • Stability: Half Ironman or more
  • Minimalist: Yoga/Weight lifting

I’ve signed up for the “Low Profile” group, since I’ve only ever done 5ks, and usually do less than that on a daily basis.  I suppose I could have joined the Minimalist group, since I occasionally do yoga and weight lifting, but we’ll see how I do.

I hope you consider doing this challenge!  I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, and it will keep us in shape through the holidays, and we might even win some prizes.

Let me know if you sign up!  Also, if/when you sign up, I’d love it if you mentioned that you found it through my blog.  Apparently if 5 of you sign up, I get a prize!

Have you ever joined a weight loss/fitness/healthy eating challenge?  Have you made your own personal challenge?  What are your plans for getting or staying fit through the rest of the year?

 

Buying new running shoes: My experience at Marathon Sports April 29, 2012

Filed under: Boston,Fitness,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 4:01 pm
Tags: ,

Many of you know I’ve been getting more interested in running.  And going to the gym.  And just plain getting in shape.  I’ve still got a long way to go!

I came to the realization that I needed new running shoes after a few things happened.  I looked at the soles of my sneakers and saw that they were pretty worn away.  Then I read a few articles that said that even if you don’t run much, you should replace your shoes every 6-12 months.  And seeing as I bought the last pair in 2009, I was WAY overdue for new sneakers!

I checked with friends, including my resident Fitness+Boston expert Elizabeth, on where to go to get a proper fit.  Everyone said to go to Marathon Sports.  So, I finally did.

The employees were really knowledgeable about what kind of shoe I’d need.  I’m not a superstar runner.  I want to be able to walk and run in comfort.  So they helped me out.

When I went there, a woman named Suzanne helped me out.  She watched me walk without shoes on, and determined that I have a neutral gait (rather than having over- or under-pronation).  She found a few pairs that would work for my feet and my fitness plan (i.e. lots of walking and running).  She watched me as I ran in the first pair I tried on, to confirm I was in fact in the right kind of shoe.  I tried them all on, and she let me run down the street and back to try out each pair.  I had trouble deciding, which is a common problem for me.  So, even though she said “pick the shoes that feel the least like anything”, I did the opposite, and picked the ones that I actually could “feel” the most.  I figured I’m paying good money, I might as well have shoes that were “doing” something.

Happy with my purchase, I wore my new shoes around the house to test them out.  It was at that point that I realized that I should have listened to Suzanne.  The new shoes were squeezing my feet!  I wasn’t sure if that’s “normal” for a new pair of sneakers, so I tweeted @marathon_sports with questions.  They said I should come back in and try a few other pairs…squeezing isn’t normal!

So, I took their advice and came back in.   Showed the pair I had bought to one of the employees there.  Nick, I think.  He saw just how tight those shoes would be.  Whoops!  So he brought out a few pairs he knew would fit better (probably some of the same ones I tried on before) and I took a quick run in all of them.  Settled on the Saucony Progrid Ride 4.

Say hello to my new shoes!

Source: saucony.com via Stephanie on Pinterest

So far I’ve worn them for a few trips to the gym. And they’re working great!

I’m glad I went to Marathon Sports. They’re really good about wanting to find you the shoe with the right fit. So even though I made the mistake of going with the wrong shoe the first time, they made sure I got the best shoe for my feet and running style. Their return policy is geared towards people like me who need to try out their shoes to make sure they’re the right pair!

Since this is a personal finance blog, let’s talk numbers. Total cost of my new shoes? Just shy of $100. That’s not cheap (in my book). And I did find out later that they’re going for $70 on Amazon. Then again, I wouldn’t be able to try on shoes or get expert analysis and advice from Amazon, and they’d probably be less lenient on returns (if I’ve tried them for a few days). And I’m guessing if I want these shoes again, next time I can buy them online.

And I guess I bought them just in time (i.e. a few weeks ago) to break them in.  With the Walk For Hunger next week, and the Tory Row 5k a month after that, I’m very happy I’ve got the right shoes for my feet!

Where do you shop for your running gear?  Have you tried Marathon Sports (my fellow Bostonians)?  Are you running in shoes that are WAY TOO OLD like I was?  Do you think I paid too much for a pair of shoes?  Do you spend a lot on athletic gear?