Graduated Learning: Life after College

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

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?

 

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?

 

2012 Year in Review: Health and Fitness January 12, 2013

Filed under: Fitness,Food — Stephanie @ 2:16 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve been saying for a few years now that I’m going to get in shape.  And I’ve had occasional posts claiming that “THIS IS IT”, that I’ve finally found something that will work for me.  And then all that excitement and hope is replaced by laziness and lumpiness.  This health and fitness thing is still a work in progress, but the good news is, there has been progress!

I started off the beginning of this year knowing I needed to do something about my health.  I’d managed to get pretty lumpy around the tummy, and knew that wasn’t good.  I talked to my doctor for my annual checkup and asked her for advice.  Any diets I should follow?  Her advice was just to eat more fruits and vegetables, eat smaller portions, and get some exercise.  Not really the most mind-blowing advice, but good solid advice.

So I started doing that.  And as you know, I love trying new websites.  I started out trying a lot of different fitness tracking sites.  I tracked my weight, food, and exercise on LoseIt.  It really helped to see just how much food I was eating, and how many calories snacks, larger portions, and second helpings were adding to my daily intake.  And I became more mindful of what I was eating, and tried to replace unhealthy choices with healthier ones, like fruits and veggies instead of chips and cookies.  I guess I was building an eating lifestyle like my friend Sara (well, especially points 1. Veggies, 2. Fruit, 7. Hydration, and 9. Exercise).

I started writing a lot more about health and fitness activities.  I had to buy new shoes for all the walking and running I was doing!  I joined in a few challenges (Hometown Wellness Showdown and Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge).  And I got all thoughtful about comparing personal finance and health goals.

The results/achievements in 2012:

  • I hit my goal weight, which meant I lost around 9% of my body weight over the year.
  • I go to the gym/work out multiple times a week (and make sure to track it all on DailyMile)
  • I’ve gotten compliments from family/friends on my thinned down body.
  • I’ve increased my 5k time by 4 minutes 15 seconds.
  • I walked the entire 20-mile route of Walk for Hunger, raising over $1k to feed hungry Massachusetts families.

Goals/Plans for the following year:

  • Keep working toward running an entire 5k (I’m currently stuck at Week 5 Day 2 of the Couch to 5k training program).  And once I hit that goal, it will help me reach my stretch goal of coming in at the top half of finishers.
  • Enter some more 5ks.  For runners out there, do you sign up for the same races year after year?  Or try new runs each year?  (Will add the races I sign up for to my Steph on Fitness page)
  • Keep going to the gym, including surviving this month’s UXF Ripped program that I won through a raffle at the gym.
  • Lose a few more pounds of fat/gain a few more pounds of muscle (basically, keep training!)
  • 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!

How did you do this past year?  Did you achieve your health and fitness goals?  And what are your goals for 2013?  Please share your experience/advice/ideas in the comments!  Hearing your goals and accomplishments is so inspiring and motivational!

 

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?