Graduated Learning: Life after College

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

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?

 

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?

 

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?

 

Benefits Open Enrollment: The Decision Looms November 9, 2012

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 8:36 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Every year I know I have to do this.  And every year I just pick something last minute and hope it works out.

Like many companies, my employer offers a bunch of different benefits.  I know I’m lucky in some respects, because not all companies provide as many benefits or coverage.  Every year, we get a packet with information, along with links to a few sites that help you compare options.  This year, we have the choice between a Point of Service (POS) plan, an Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) plan, and two different High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) that include a Health Savings Account (HSA).  Yeah, it’s basically an Alphabet Soup of Health Plans.

Every year, I think I pick the same plan (or the closest available option).  I’m not sure it’s actually the best plan for me.  There’s a questionnaire on my company’s benefits page that you can fill out and it tells you what plan is the best for my needs/wants.  According to the questionnaire  I should go for the slightly pricier HSA plan, where I pay a bit more for the plan, and the company puts $500 into my HSA (versus $750 into an HSA for the cheaper plan), where I pay a smaller percent of every medical expense than the cheaper HSA.  Confused?  Yeah.

My other options (the EPO and the POS) both have set copays rather than the coinsurance percentage that you have to pay for each service for the HSA plans.  And that’s part of the reason I’m shying away from the HSA-based plans.  I have no idea what anything costs.  I understand that HSA plans are great because they enable a patient to take control of their expenses and are especially good for people who don’t have a lot of medical expenses or problems (the young and healthy).  But with the current health care market, I have no idea how to shop around for medical services.  I have no idea how much a specialist at one practice charges versus another, or how much tests costs.  Granted, for most things, there’s probably a phone number I could call, and maybe I could track down a price.  But to be honest, I don’t want to deal with that.

Things to consider:

Premium costs:  This is the amount I’ll be paying for my insurance plan for the year.  For me, the range is $930/year for the “cheapest” and $1660/year for the most expensive.  Interesting to note, with the cheapest plan, my company will contribute $750 to my HSA, which does make that plan look a lot more appealing.  Other interesting note about premiums:  in my company (and many others) you can pay for the premium with pre-tax dollars.  Which does take a little bit of the sting out of the price.

Deductible:  This is the amount I pay on medical expenses out of pocket before my plan will pay for benefits.  Before you reach the deductible, you pay 100% of your medical costs.  Beyond that, the insurance either covers most or all of the costs, but you usually have to pay a set dollar amount or a percentage of the cost.  That cheapest HSA plan I mentioned comes with a $2000 annual deductible, which means if I need any medical services (beyond a few expenses that are covered 100% before deductible, like preventative care and some maintenance drugs listed on the Treasury Guidance list / Preventative Therapy Drug List [pdf]) I’ll have to pay for all of it either out of pocket or with the money in my HSA.

Maximum Out-of-Pocket:  This is the maximum amount of money I’ll have to spend in a year on medical expenses.  This is where it really acts as an “insurance”.  Heaven forbid something bad happens to you.  Disease, accidents, other scary things like that.  Well, the Maximum Out-of-Pocket amount means a $40k hospital bill will only cost you up to your maximum (for my plan options the maximum is anywhere from $1500 to $4000).  This is the kind of thing where you would be glad to have your HSAs, FSAs, and of course, your emergency funds.

In Network vs. Out-of-network requirements:  For the EPO plan, I’m only covered if I go to a doctor that’s “in network”, which means there’s a list of approved doctors/facilities that I can go to.  I haven’t had a problem with this in the past, except when it turned out only some of the members of the medical practice were in my network, so I had to go to a different doctor within a practice.  For the POS plan, it’s similar to the EPO plan, in that you have copays for each visit.  But you have the option of going to out-of-network doctors.  However, it is more expensive to go out-of-network than it is to stay in-network (i.e. the insurance covers a smaller percentage or requires a higher copay for the out-of-network services).

The other considerations I needed to make was my expected medical expenses (checkups (though some of those are already covered at 100% regardless of plan I choose) specialist appointments, prescriptions, etc.).  And I need to consider what is covered for anything unexpected (small things like sprained ankles or strep throat, or big bad diseases or accidents).  What will I have to pay for those?

So, what did I pick?  I went with the EPO plan.  That’s the one with the highest premium, but I know there are certain healthcare expenses I’ll be incurring and the way the plans are set up, this looks to be my best option.  Plus, this plan has the lowest Maximum out of pocket (and max + premium ends up being the lowest out of all 4 options).  Also, with the high-deductible plans, I feel like there’s a bit of a disincentive to visiting the doctor.  And since I’m already pretty bad at going to the doctor when I should be going, I don’t want the money issue to make things worse.

Have you had to sort through all these confusing different medical plans?  Or are you given one option?  Do you have an employer-based plan, or are you shopping on the open market?  What impacted your health insurance decisions?

 

Getting Back On Track September 19, 2012

Sometimes I find myself falling off the wagon.  And I have a lot of wagons to fall off of.  Exercise, eating right, blogging, and personal finance, to name a few.

While I exercised like crazy on my little vacation to Maine over Labor Day weekend (lots of biking and hiking) I also ate quite  a bit.  You know, vacation, where you can eat like crazy.  And then followed that with a business trip where I ate way too much and didn’t go to the hotel gym even once!

And, I haven’t blogged in, well, way too long.  Haven’t posted in over a month!.  Sorry about that!

And personal finance-wise, I feel like I’ve been spending a bit willy nilly.  Including last month when I bought a new TV.  It was technically a birthday present for my boyfriend, but of course, it kind of was also for me.  I researched our options, and found a pretty good deal.  And we’ve been thinking about getting  a new TV for over a year.  So, I don’t regret it!  You know I love buying gifts for others.  But still.  You know.  Spendy spendy.

The good news is, even when you fall of the wagon, you can get right back on!

Specifically, I’m glad to be getting back on the exercise and smart eating wagon.  I’ve been inspired by both a fitness competition at work (tracking exercise, steps, and weight) as well as the Hometown Wellness Showdown from  LoseIt.com and Boston.com (and the local YMCAs).  I started using Lose It awhile back and made some good progress on weight loss and getting in shape.  I became more mindful of what I ate and started working out a lot.  But like I said, I sort of fell off the wagon.  But these challenges are helping me get going.

So, I’m back!  Back on the healthy living wagon, and back to watching what I spend, and hopefully back to blogging.

Have you fallen off any wagons recently?  Or gotten back on track?  What keeps you focused?  Any ideas for blog posts so that I can keep on the blogging wagon?  What do you want to hear from me?