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?




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?


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?


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.


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: 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?


My newest obsession: Getting in shape January 22, 2012

Filed under: Fitness — Stephanie @ 9:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A lot of people made new years resolutions.  Many centered around getting healthier.  And I’ve decided that I’m going to jump on the bandwagon.

I guess the other big resolution a lot of people focus on is getting a handle of their finances, paying off debt, etc.  I’d like to think I have the money thing under control.

So, getting fit.  Getting in shape.  Losing weight.  Eliminating muffintops.  Whatever you want to call it.  I’d like to think I’m ready to tackle this.

I’ve set some goals.  There’s a weight goal.  I’d like to be closer to 125lbs.  I also want to go to the gym at least twice a week (to start).  I want to be stronger.  I want to be able to jog/run a 5k and finish in the top half of the results (the times I’ve done 5ks have been jog/walks where my time is on one of the last pages).  I want to eliminate the chubbiness around my middle.

Okay, I have a lot of goals.  Maybe too many all at once.  I’ve gotten all excited about getting into shape before, only to burn out and end up wasting having a gym membership (a scandal for the personal finance world and the fitness world alike!  Luckily I don’t have a horribly high membership fee…but still!)

But as you know, there’s one thing I love when it comes to personal finance:  tracking websites.  And the same holds true for my new fitness goals.  Yes, tracking has failed before, but I think I’m gaining motivation and momentum by having accounts at so many places 🙂

I joined after a few people told me how much it was helping them lose weight and control what they eat.  They also have apps for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch as well as Android (and apparently on other gadgets like the Nook and through the Amazon App Store), if that’s more your thing.  I don’t have a smartphone, so I’ve stuck with the website.  What I like about this site is that it gives you a calorie budget, and you can track your food and exercise, and it has a pretty comprehensive database of calorie content (for food) and calories burned (for exercise).  It even has Wii Fit exercises!  You can add friends on the site and for mutual support.  And you know how much I like sites where you can earn badges (like, and this site awards you badges for accomplishments, like sticking with the site for even a few days  (little stuff to keep you motivated), to losing 10lbs, to working out multiple times a week.

What else am I using?  Well, work is again sponsoring a website that encourages you to get in shape.  I’ve formed a team with my coworkers, and we’re going to be competing in the weight loss, exercise, and pedometer steps categories.  We’ll be tracking our progress in those categories.  I like having a team with my coworkers, since we’ll be supporting (and nagging) each other to eat healthier and get some extra exercise.

The rest of my websites are connected to my iPod Nano.  One of the cool features of the latest generation Nano is that it has a Nike+ sensor/pedometer built in (no shoe widget required).  So I’ve been able to track my runs and steps (recorded as Nike Fuel) through their online sites.

I’ve used MapMyRun on and off for a few years.  So one thing I’m excited about getting back to using it is that it will sync with my Nike+ runs and record them automatically.  So that makes things easy 🙂

And lastly, I joined Earndit, a site that syncs with many of the tracking services (like Nike+, Fitbit, and others) and allows you to earn points, which you can spend on rewards.  I like earning points and rewards!  They also have challenges sponsored by fitness-related companies from time to time with prizes available to the best scorers.  And even if you don’t have any of the supported devices, if you have a smart phone, you can earn points by checking in on Foursquare when you go to the gym!

So, yes.  I’m using a lot of different websites.  That’s how I roll.  But other than using a million websites (and posting inspirational images/informative posts on Pinterest), I am committing myself to the habits that will get me towards my goals.  Watching what I eat, replacing unhealthy food with healthy food, going to the gym for cardio, weights, or yoga a few times a week.  Walking to nearby places instead of driving.  The little things that can get me to where I want to be.

I’ve also made goals to reward myself for good behavior.  Like buying myself a FitBit Ultra after my Nike+ running log says I’ve gone 50 miles this year.  I’m not there yet, but I’ve heard really good things about the FitBit from others (like Elizabeth and Kristen), and it also works with the websites I mentioned above.  Basically I like data.  So the more data, the better.

So, what do you use for motivation or tracking your weight loss/exercise/fitness?  Are you members on any of the sites I mentioned (want to be friends with me on there)?  Do you think I can actually get in shape this time?  Or am I starting out too intense and will just end up lying on the couch eating ice cream?  The past few weeks have gone relatively well.  Only time will tell.  I’d love to hear about your fitness techniques!  Please share your advice!

(FYI, I’m linking to all these sites merely as recommendations.  I am not being compensated in any way for mentioning them.  Though if they’d like to give me some free stuff, I’ll take it 😛  and then of course I’d update this disclaimer)


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