28 June 2013

inside my racing scrapbook

One of my favorite things to do after one of my races is put together my scrapbook page! It's my way of saving my bibs and pictures from each race and today I thought I'd give y'all a small peek inside.

I scrapbooked in high-school so it's something I've always enjoyed doing, I just haven't done it in years and appreciate having the opportunity to do it again about something I love. I keep a big craft bag full of my tools of the trade, like paper, stickers, scissors, etc.

Since I register for races pretty far in advance I also know what is coming up and will buy things before upcoming races. For instance, my next race is on the 4th of July and after that is the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon so of course I have to get themed stickers!

Yes. I am a nerd.

Obviously, then, it's safe to assume that if I have themed stickers I have themed pages. Like, the Cleveland Marathon 10K starts and ends at Cleveland Stadium so naturally I used the colors of the Browns.

Likewise, St. Malachi 5 Miler is always held around St. Patrick's Day.

Oh, and the cowboy boots? Those would be from the Rodeo Run.

Again. Yes. I am a nerd.

Every race gets its own page with the bib, pictures, and information like the name of the race, where it was held, the date, and my time. I know it might seem kind of silly to put so much effort into each race, but it still kind of astounds me that I've run so many and I have fun taking time to commemorate each one while also collecting and preserving all of my racing bibs!

Do you do anything special with your bibs after a race? Don't forget: No more Google Reader after this weekend (womp, womp). Here are some my suggestions for alternative ways to follow this blog!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

26 June 2013

one appliance to rule them all

Work has been kind of crazy as of late with me getting transferred to our other location and spending my week bouncing between the two facilities. This was very unexpected and the anxiety from everything is what led me to have a hard time over the past few months.

But now that I'm over there at the new location and settling in, things are getting back to normal and I feel like I've gotten some of the control back that I've been missing. Switching to Simply Filling has also proven to be one of the best food decisions I ever made (next to signing up for Weight Watchers) and even just two weeks in I can't see myself going back to strictly Points counting.

One unexpected bonus to the transfer was I got a raise! I decided to buy myself a Congrats on your bump in income gift and it was my mom who suggested the perfect present:

Isn't it the most beautiful thing you've ever seen in your entire life?! The color is Pistachio and I knew it would look simply divine next to my vintage cream and red canisters. For years I have wanted a KitchenAid Mixer but could never justify the cost until now. See, I love to bake. Love it. Only I don't do it very often because it's a bad idea for me to have homemade baked goods lying around my apartment. So I usually end up giving cookies away which means that on Monday my co-workers loved me because I made two batches over the weekend and brought both kinds in (one is a chocolate peanut butter cookie bar the other oatmeal with a maple glaze).

My apartment has been going through some big changes too in the form of new paint and carpet and I took it as an opportunity to rearrange and purge (this is a big deal because I'm such a pack rat). I ended up with a box full of books that I took to Half-Price Books and traded in for some cook(ie) books!

The oatmeal cookies were from the Martha Stewart book. I was flipping through the recipes and realized I had all of the ingredients so why not? One Girl Cookies also has some cake recipes that sound delish.

At our east location my time is split between two buildings and I spend time at both each day. It's about a quarter mile distance and I walk whenever possible, usually parking my car at the location where I will end my day. In one of the buildings I'm on the second floor and always opt for the stairs (and not just because the elevator is ridiculously slow). So even with all of this baking at least I'm getting som extra fitness in each day!

Are you a baker? Any favorite recipes? Also, I added this to Monday's post late but here is a video from Saturday's race. I'm interviewed around 2:12! 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

24 June 2013

recap: running with a mission 5K

Saturday morning I was up bright and early so I could get over to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for the Running With a Mission 5K. This race meant so much to me: When I ran it last year it was my very first race and I came in last place. I've come so far in the past year so this loser was so ready to tackle those hills again and see my progress in real numbers.

One of the best parts about the location for this race is that, hi, it's at the zoo. Which means you're running through all of the exhibits. So after the opening remarks we all lined up near Monkey Island for the start of the race.

Now. If you've never been to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo then you can't really appreciate how hilly it is. I know I keep repeating it, but seriously. You have to walk it to fully understand. I'm not talking like one big hill up and down. I'm talking rolling hills. Of various degrees and lengths. Hills that have to be run up and down twice to get the 3.1 miles. This course is a beast, people. No pun intended.

When I chose this location as the spot for my first race last year I didn't take those hills into account. I just thought it would be fun to run through the zoo. This time I knew enough to go in with a plan: walk up hill, run down hill and level road. Simple and to the point and a plan that I stuck to.

I think because I know I can run 3.1 miles I should run the whole distance every time. But it's one thing to run any distance on flat road and then to try and run that on a super hilly route. Walking not only gave my legs a chance to rest for a bit which in turn helped with endurance, but I knew I could power walk faster uphill than I could trying to run. Plus I also knew I'd easily be able to make up the time when I ran downhill.

The animals weren't yet out that early in the morning, but we were able to run through the zoo's Dinosaur Exhibit. Naturally I pretended I was in Jurassic Park.

"Dinosaurs eat Man, Woman inherits the earth."

A few weeks ago, NPR was interviewing someone from the zoo about the display and the person mentioned people wanting refunds because the dinosaurs weren't real.

Oh, Cleveland. This is why I love you.

Last year I finished in 47:40 which is an average pace of 15:23. This year, when I hit that first mile marker in about 13:30 I knew I had this one. Beating last year's time was my only concern. Without the heat and hills I could have possibly pulled out a sub-40 but anytime that was less than last year's was fine with me.

So when I turned that final corner and saw the clock ahead and knew I was going to finish in about 43 minutes (still waiting for official chip time) I picked up my pace and put my heart into that final stretch. Didn't matter that I was exhausted or drenched in sweat from the sun beating down on me. I went in wanting to rock this race and rock it I did, beating my time from last year by nearly five whole minutes. And that's with walking about 1/3 of the race because of the hills.

That would be Slider, the mascot for the Cleveland Indians. Don't ask.

The proceeds from this race went to benefit Laura's Home, a crisis center for women and children run by The City Mission. I've actually been in contact these past few weeks with their social media manager after telling them my story about coming in last place last year and will soon be writing a blog post for them about my experience and journey! I will of course let y'all know when it goes live.

In the meantime, check out this video that The City Mission posted about the race. Around 2:12 you might see a certain red head make a cameo appearance.

Sherwin-Williams, the paint company, sponsored this race and are a perfect example of why our local Cleveland companies are the bestest: First, the awards were made from paintbrushes. Way cooler than a medal. But more than that, this year's race shirts are a really nice shade of grey (and super comfortable) and at the awards ceremony they announced a new color called Laura's Home Grey that they made based on the color of the shirt. They took the shirt to get the exact color matched and it sounds like it's available in stores. C'mon, how cool is that?

Oh, Cleveland. This is why I love you.

The volunteers were from the Sherwin-Williams Women's Club which apparently does a lot of philanthropy work and I live right near their corporate home and run past it often and am always jealous of the tennis courts and walking/running track around the compound. I mean, I like my job and all but I'm wondering if Sherwin-Williams has need for librarians. Like, y'know, I could catalog paint swatches. Or something.

My next race is the Bay Days 5 Miler on the Fourth of July and about a week or so later I start training for my October half-marathon! Great balls of fire I can't believe it's almost here!

Anyone else race over the weekend? How did it go?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

21 June 2013

certified loser

One year ago I was preparing for my first 5K. I was freaking out over training runs that were slower than I wanted and freaking out from sheer anxiety about the whole thing, too. But eventually race day rolled around and I laced up and headed to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and busted my ass getting up and down those 3.1 miles of hills and after 47 minutes and 40 seconds I crossed that finish line.

Then the official times were published.

Out of 362 runners, I came in dead last.

I could have seen it as a sign. I could have said, well, looks like running isn't for me. I could have felt bad, felt down, overanalyzed the race to see what I had done wrong.

I had come in last place. I had, for all intents and purposes, lost that race. I was a loser.

And you know what? I wore that label with pride.

Tattoo says "defy gravity" -- from the musical Wicked

In completing that race I had done the impossible. Or, at the very least, I had done what had seemed impossible only a few months before. Because I may have been the last person to cross that finish line but I had crossed that finish line.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I'm lacing up and heading back to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to once again participate in the Running With a Mission 5K. That's right, dear readers: this here runner is returning to the scene of the crime and I couldn't be more excited. Seriously, my body is practically buzzing just waiting to line up at the start. I'm going to take on those stupid stupid hills (seriously: who the hell designed the zoo's layout?!) and run my little heart out and once again cross that finish line with pride, regardless of where in the overall list I fall.

After all, my only real competition is myself.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

19 June 2013

shit's about to get real, yo

This, ladies and gents, is what losing 135 pounds does to your arms. It ain't pretty and when I talk about having bat wings, this is what I'm referring to.

That pocket of flesh just kind of hanging there underneath? That would be loose skin. Awfully schexy, isn't it? Unfortunately, it just kind of comes with the territory. I spent the entire duration of my twenties in the obese category and, honestly, it probably really started when I was about 16. My skin stretched to the point of no return and there's no way that's just snapping back into place. As such, I'm carring a couple pounds of what looks like a fucking pelican beak under each arm.

At this point I'm fairly used to it, despite it's annoyance. Unlike the excess skin on, say, my stomach, I can't exactly smooth out my arms with shapewear so I think I'm just more aware of it than the other pockets of loose skin around my body (abs, stomach, inner thighs are the worst culprits). Would I love to get rid of it? Abso-fucking-lutely. Unfortunately, this level of plastic surgery is considered cosmetic aka unnecessary aka expensive as hell.

Anyway, the other night I was in bed in a sleeveless shirt and happened to glance over and something looked sor of, I don't know, different about the loose skin. And that's when I noticed something odd.

Guess all those hours hating Jillian Michaels are paying off after all.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

17 June 2013

healthy living lessons from fleetwood mac

Papa G. and I celebrated Father's Day a little early. Saturday we went to Bac, one of my favorite restaurants in Cleveland (bonus: since Bac started offering brown rice, my two favorite meals there are both almost entirely Simply Filling!) followed by heading to The Q to see Fleetwood Mac in concert!

Playing with hats at 15 months. This has always been my favorite pic of me  & Papa G.

Sissy and I grew up listening to bands from the 1970s thanks to our dad and it is still my favorite genre of music. I don't listen to a lot of contemporary radio and I'm very unfamiliar with all current pop songs. But give me a classic rock station and I'm set for hours. (I'm also pretty sure my dad had to buy a new copy of their Greatest Hits album after I stole borrowed and "forgot" to return his original copy).

Despite the fact that I've been listening to this music, these songs, for about two decades, listening to them performed live gave me a new appreciation and understanding. I also realized how many of the lyrics could be taken as pretty sound advice. So, in honor of Father's Day I offer you some healthy living lessons from one of my dad's favorite bands.

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow, it'll soon be here. ["Don't Stop"]
We all have bad days. We all make bad decisions: eat things we know we shouldn't or slack off on our exercise. Anyone who says they are on point one hundred percent of the time is either lying or in complete denial.

The key, though, is to not let those bad days, those bad decisions, undo all of your hard work. Moreover, your past doesn't have to dictate your future. Why not think about the times to come and not about the things that you've done. If your life was bad to you, just think what tomorrow will do. No matter where you are right now at this very moment reading this post, always remember that every day is another opportunity to get it right. This means that you are never more than a day away from a fresh start.

You can go your own way. ["Go Your Own Way"] 
There's no right or wrong way to weight loss. I use Weight Watchers for food and run and do yoga for exercise. But that's just me and that's what works for me. That combination might not work for you and that's perfectly okay. Trust me, if there was some magic program out there that helped every single person lose weight the exact same way, there would be no need for an entire weight loss industry.

Maybe you follow a low carb plan or are a member of a meal delivery service. Perhaps you bike or swim. Whatever method you choose, make sure it's one that fits your lifestyle and is one you can sustain. For instance, I could never do anything super restrictive or one that limits, say, carbs. It's just not for me but I know other people out there thrive on that kind of diet. There is no right way or wrong way there is only the way that works for you.

Thunder only happens when it's raining. ["Dreams"] 
A little over two years ago I used to weigh 311 pounds. That sort of weight doesn't happen overnight nor does it happen accidentally. Likewise my own personal experience with overeating was a symptom, not a cause.

I can't speak for everyone on this issue, but from my anecdotal perspective, problems with weight that are so severe they put you in the obese category usually stem from something deeper. That is, the physical issues are only a tangible manifestation of inner mental issues. Every season of The Biggest Loser, Bob and Jillian have that heart-to-heart with the contestants to figure out why they have gotten themselves into their current state because it never stems from food alone. The food itself is another symptom of something else.

So keep this in mind: when you start off on this journey, your main focus is going to probably be losing the weight. The physical part. But it's probably a safe bet to assume that there are also mental and emotional parts hiding underneath all of that weight. Some of them you may already be working on. Some you may not discover until you've been at this for awhile. But they are there and dealing with them is potentially going to require more work and dedication than losing weight.

I've been afraid of changing 'cause I built my life around you. ["Landslide"]
Change can be scary. Changing your entire life is even scarier. We sometimes fall into habitual patterns and a comfort zone where we know what to expect from ourselves and from other people. Me, I built my entire sense of self around being the fat girl and it effected everything: not only where I shopped but how I approached the very act of going to the mall. Not only how I dated but how I related and engaged with men.  And don't even get me started on my relationship with food or fitness.

While I'm no longer that fat girl, a part of her still remains and, I think, always will but I can no longer make decisions based on my previous experiences. Old assumptions and attitudes have no place in my life and relationships and that's a bit scary because I can't look to the past to know how to go respond to new situations. I spent decades happily hiding away in my comfort zone watching life zip past and I was perfectly content with that. Now, though, I'm forced out into the big wide world and have to make things up as I go along and respond in the moment and it's not easy for me to do that.

But as scary as it is to leave the old me behind, the alternative of staying hidden away in my little cocoon is so much worse.

Follow those who pale in your shadow ["Gold Dust Woman"]
Just as I know there are people who get inspiration from my journey, there are other bloggers that leave me completely in awe of their story (and one of these days I'll get around to putting together a post about them, I promise).

The thing is, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by their progress. In the beginning you look at their Before and After pictures and realize that this is a real person who did what seems impossible and if they can do it, so can you. But eventually you realize how  much work it takes and they are so far ahead of you and how will you ever manage to catch up?

It's not a competition, though. That seems like pretty basic logic but it's easy to forget. We all have our own stories to tell, in our own time. Yes, it's impressive when the people you admire do things you aren't able to yet, like run marathons or lose 100 pounds. And it's okay to look up to them, to want to follow in their footsteps. But just remember that you have your own path to blaze. Your story is just as impressive, your choices just as awe-inspiring.

So rock on, ancient queen and never compare your first song with someone else's complete album.

Any other Fleetwood Mac fans out there? 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

14 June 2013

how to survive a wedding

Where did the time go? I swear it feels like yesterday that Sissy called to tell me she was engaged and now her wedding is only two weeks away

No. Seriously. Where did the time go?

Obviously weddings can be somewhat stressful for those of us trying to actively maintain a healthy lifestyle, what with all of that food and cake. Lots of cake. And candy, in Sissy's case, as she's having a candy buffet. Oh yes. Cake and candy. 

Gird your garters, ladies and gents, 'cause it's time for another Survival Guide.

Start The Day Off Right

Y'all know I'm a huge supporter of breakfast and eat it every single day. Breakfast gives you energy to get through the day and with the right food choices it will also help keep you full through lunch (so you aren't raiding the vending machine at work or your hotel for a less-than-stellar snack). 

While your instinct might lead you to want to skip breakfast and/or lunch so you have plenty of "room" for the dinner at the reception, skipping meals can actually backfire as when you do get a chance to eat you might go completely overboard from sheer hunger. Also, I don't know about you but I am definitely someone who can fall into that hangry (angry + hungry) state of mind without food and that's just not a fun wedding guest (or, well, in my case this time around maid of honor). 

Dance The Night Away 

The beauty of weddings is that -- if you are lucky -- you can both start and end your day with exercise. Being a bit of an early riser I fully hope to get a run in before the wedding preparations begin. If you are attending an out of town wedding, check to see if the hotel you are staying at offers a fitness facility or just run around outside in the neighborhood (keeping in mind my outdoor running safety tips!) If you're one of the bridesmaids, consider helping the bride release some pre-wedding jitters with a morning yoga class.

If exercising before the wedding isn't feasible then be sure to take advantage of that dance floor at the reception! Dancing is a great way to burn calories and have fun with family and friends.

Appraise The Appetizers 

It's common to have snacks available to guests before dinner, often giving the bridal party a chance for pictures before joining everyone at the reception. Scope out the fruits and veggies and go easy on the cheese and crackers.

That being said, weddings can and usually are all day events and several hours could go by between meals or an opportunity for food, even with appetizers available. So consider packing your own emergency stash of food if you need something to nosh on before the big meal. Fruit and string cheese, maybe peanut butter sandwich or even just a couple of hard-boiled eggs. Whatever you pick, make sure protein is represented as that's what will keep you full. 

Cocktail Hour

Wine at the reception, champagne for the toast, beers at the local bar once the evening is over...weddings can be quite an alcohol laden event, so be sure not to drink your calories away (plus, just as no one likes a drunk bride, no one likes a drunk wedding guest either). I'm not saying you have to completely avoid alcohol all together, just set yourself a guideline. Maybe allow yourself 1-2 glasses of wine and then once you have those, that's it.

Let Them Eat Cake

Like drinking at a wedding reception, I'm not saying you have to completely avoid the wedding cake (unless you want to, of course!), just be smart. Plan for a piece of cake when you are making other food choices or use some of you Activity Points or calories earned through exercise. Even better, split a piece of cake with a family or friend sitting at your table.

If nothing else, always remember that weddings are fun and joyous events and that should be celebrated! So maybe that means letting yourself off the hook for the night and plan to get back on track the next day.

What are some of your healthy wedding reception tips?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

12 June 2013

google reader alternatives

As many of you probably already know, good ol' Google Reader is being phased out at the end of the month. As one of the more well known ways to follow favorite blogs, this makes things tricky for both blog readers and writers. Luckily there are plenty of other methods for following my blog or finding out when a new post gets published.


Follow on Bloglovin

I finally jumped on the Bloglovin' bandwagon a few weeks ago and so far really like it. It was easy to transfer all of my subscriptions from Google Reader over and the iPhone app means I can read blogs on the go!


Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Maybe an RSS reader like Bloglovin' isn't your thing. Maybe you prefer to get your blogs in your email. If that's the case, then FeedBlitz is for you. All you have to do is put your email address in the box above to subscribe and whenever I have a new post it will be delivered straight to your inbox. Pretty snazzy, right?

(Plus, y'know, it's a sneaky way to get around employers who perhaps might frown on you reading blogs at work. Just sayin')


If you have another RSS feed service you enjoy using, here is the URL for my blog's feed.

Facebook & Twitter

Obviously these aren't the traditional route to following a blog, but I do post new posts on both services. It's also a good way to interact with me outside of just reading the blog, so be sure to Like the Facebook page or Follow Me On Twitter for updates!

What are some of the ways you follow your favorite blogs? Also, congrats to Diana for winning the GI Jayne kickboxing DVD! Hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

10 June 2013

and now for something completely different: weight watchers simply filling plan

Bit of blog keeping: Tomorrow is the last day to enter the giveaway to win a copy of GI Jayne's Kickboxing DVD. If you haven't entered yet, do so soon!

I've been counting Points for so long -- 2 1/2 years this time around, but essentially on and off for over 10 years -- that I honestly forgot that Weight Watchers offers an alternative to counting: the Simply Filling technique (or Core on the old plan).

But to understand the big difference in Simply Filling and why I'm opting to try it out for a few weeks, I first need to give y'all a Weight Watchers crash course.

PointsPlus works like this: based on a variety of factors like gender, height, and, of course, weight, you are given a set number of Daily Points. When I started back at 311 pounds it was somewhere in the mid-high 40s. As you lose weight, your daily points decrease with the lowest points possible being 26. Foods then are assigned points values using a formula that looks at the nutritional value, specifically carbs, fat, fiber, and protein. If you want to eat something you have to figure out the food points and see if it fits into your daily points. If you go over your daily points or have a special occasion or just want to splurge, you are given 49 Weekly Points to use or not use as you see fit. Everyone gets 49 Weeklies regardless of weight. You  can also earn additional points through exercise (called Activity Points). Fruit is 0 points as are most veggies (starchy items like corn and taters have points). There are also the Good Health Guidelines or recommend servings for certain types of groups like dairy, fruits and veggies, and oil. Some of these things -- like the dairy and oil -- have Points, so when planning a day you have to take those into account.

With PointsPlus, every food you eat gets tracked. Even the BLTs (Bite, Lick, or Taste). And, let me tell ya, it can get exhausting. Especially after this long. I think one of the reasons I've been struggling the past few months is because I'm tired. Tired of thinking about everything I eat. Tired of tracking. Tired of not just reading but studying nutritional labels. Just plain ol' freaking exhausted from the whole thing.

Which is where Simply Filling comes in.

With SF, you center your meals around the Power Foods list (in the online trackers these foods are indicated with a green arrow). If an item is on the Power Foods list you can eat as much as you would like until you feel satisfied without having to track it. The key here is satisfied: don't eat so much that you are stuffed but don't eat so little that you are still hungry. Essentially it's about letting your body's hunger level guide your food choices versus how many points you still have left for the day. You still get 49 Weekly Points and can continue to earn Activity Points so if you do want something not on the list ('cause, c'mon, no way I can give up peanut butter) you can use your WPs or APs for it and just track it like you normally would.

I honestly didn't know much about SF. I don't go to WW meetings so I don't have a leader to mention it every once in awhile and the website is very PointsPlus focused (which admittedly makes sense. Their entire brand is built around counting points). I do know there are bloggers who use SF -- Brooke was the first one who came to mind -- and Melissa also gave me a link where she talked about her experience doing SF.

When I first looked at the Power Foods list -- with some additional foods, like available condiments listed here -- I was a bit skeptical. The list just didn't really seem that long. But then I started flipping through some of my favorite cookbooks and realized how many of my favorite meals -- including at restaurants -- are either already SF friendly or would only require dipping into a couple of my WPs per serving.

I admit I've gotten kind of lazy as of late in the kitchen. I just haven't been cooking as much and either using frozen dinners or just throwing a sandwich and chips together for a quick lunch. Sure, it gets the job done but obviously eating more whole foods would be better. Plus I miss cooking, but it adds another level of exhaustion onto Weight Watchers because you have to figure out the points for serving sizes using their Recipe Builder. Being able to dive back into my cookbook collection and working with familiar foods in a new way that won't always require the recipe builder excites me. Like over the weekend I found a recipe in a cookbook that was just whole wheat rotini, corn, black beans, and salsa pretty much thrown together. Super filling, super easy, and all foods off the Power List. So filling that I didn't even need to eat the entire serving I gave myself which is the entire point here. If I was still counting, it would probably have been a recipe I passed over because I knew all of those foods -- no matter how healthy and nutritious they may be -- would add up to a high point dish.

With SF you are making yourself listen to your hunger cues. If you are hungry, eat something and stop when you feel satisfied. My hunger cues and I have been out of whack since I was about fifteen so this will be a challenge but a necessary one. I also have been wanting to eat cleaner but had no idea where to start and the Power Foods List is an excellent place to start. Plus, hello, I can eat potatoes again. Starchy veggies and carbs are given Points on Points Plus and have to be counted so I don't even them that often so being able to make breakfast potatoes over the weekend with a side toasted light bread made this breakfast lover more happy than she can even say.

I've only been at this for a few days so I'm still learning as I go but so far I'm liking this alternative Weight Watchers plan. I also am, admittedly, giving myself extra work by continuing to count points in a notebook but it's mostly just for comparison purposes. That being said, even just a few days in there are a few things I'm not liking about the way WW actually handles SF (mostly having to do with food in the online tracker), but that's for another post. After I've been on SF for a little while longer I'll come back with a follow-up!

Have you ever tried Simply Filling before? Any advice or favorite recipes for me?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

07 June 2013

Review & Giveaway: GI Jayne Fitness Kickboxing DVD

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Chris Harris, a Cleveland-based musician who has recently produced a kickboxing DVD with local fitness instructor Jayne Engeman and Chris wanted to know if I would be interested in reviewing it on my blog. Given that I've always had an interest in kickboxing and am trying to build up a home workout video collection I, of course, said yes and was provided with a free copy of GI Jayne Fitness Kickboxing DVD to try out and another to giveaway to one of you fabulous readers.

Bonus: the fact that Chris and I both live in the same city means they arrived the next day.

Double Bonus: Looking at his social media profiles, Mr. Harris is quite cute but, shhhh, don't tell him I said that.

Right. Sooooo.

Back when I was still living at home and had a membership to the local gym at Stars Hollow, I sometimes took a combo step/kickboxing class. Loved the kickboxing part, hated the step so I was super pumped to get an opportunity to try this DVD out and have a full chance at kickboxing. (Of course, I quickly learned I'm fairly uncoordinated, at least in the beginning while still learning the moves on the DVD. But I at least I gave myself enough space in my living room so I didn't risk kicking the TV in so, y'know, it's the little things.)

Including warm up and cool down, GI Jayne's workout is about 25-30 minutes which is perfect for me because it means I can get a good workout in before work without having to wake up ridiculously early. I may be a morning exerciser but I still like my sleep, yo.

There's a lot I like about this DVD but the first is that I really appreciate that Jayne does the entire workout with her students from start to finish. Use enough of these and you'll find videos where the instructor will start each move and only do it for a couple of reps before going on to comment on the other people doing the video to provide modifications or information or whatever. That's perfectly fine and reasonable, as the information given during moves can be helpful and modifications sometimes necessary.


What I don't like is when an instructor does that -- only works out for maybe 1/3 of the total video while their assistants do the entire thing -- and then by the end the instructor is all "Oh, I'm soooooo worn out from this workout!"

No you aren't. You barely did anything and haven't broken a sweat.

I love you, Jillian Michaels, but you are guilty of this. Just sayin'.

GI Jayne, however, worked out with her assistants (I'm assuming it's some of her regular class members) from start to finish. The woman is drenched with sweat by the end of the video and I love it. She's also still able to give modifications for certain moves while working out: toe taps instead of full on Jumping Jacks or how if you can't do the jump kick near the end it's perfectly fine to stay with the normal kick.

(Which is good. 'Cause, again, kinda uncoordinated here. Just the thought of even attempting the jump kick makes me almost fall over.)

Another thing I like about the DVD is the way the program is structured. Jayne starts with some basic moves and builds up from there. The first time I worked out it was a bit touch and go for me because I wasn't used to the moves and was trying to keep up (and she keeps you moving the whole time), but with each successive workout I felt a little more comfortable with the routine and know it will definitely be in my regular workout video rotation.

Jayne herself is personable, motivating, and encouraging on the video and makes sure you the viewer know it's totally okay if you have to do some of the modifications. Plus, y'know, Cleveland instructor, Cleveland produced. What's not to love about that? After working out to this DVD I'm now thinking I may have to figure out a way to attend one of her actual classes.

Now it's your turn to win your own copy of this sweet DVD! There are several ways for you to enter and the contest is open until Tuesday night. Winner will be announced in Wednesday's post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fine Print: Open to US Residents (only because it's a US-based DVD and won't play in international players). Giveaway ends Tuesday June 11, 2013 at 11:59 PM EST. At the completion of the giveaway winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize. In exchange for my review I was provided with one copy of GI Jayne Fitness Kickboxing DVD to giveaway and one to keep for myself. As always, views are 100% my own.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

05 June 2013

why i run: celebrating national running day

I know I've said it before, but never in a million, billion, googolplex years would I have ever imagined I would one day be a runner. But here I am, with eight races behind me, two more scheduled this summer and a half-marathon this fall (I start training in about a month, which both excites and freaks me the fuck out.) I willingly spend money on sports bras and running shoes. I wake up early to get in a few miles before work and on my days off. When I haven't gone on a run in awhile, I start to get that itch.

Believe me, somewhere out there my twentysomething self is giving my thirtysomething self a blank Who the Fuck Have You Become? stare.

She would then follow that up with a roll of her eyes as today is National Running Day and of course I'm celebrating! (Already got in 2.2 miles this morning!)

That's obviously a rather cheeky answer because as much as I would like The Doctor to show up in his TARDIS to whisk me away, I also know that it's probably never ever going to happen. But a fangirl can always dream, right?

Truthfully, I run for so many reasons it was impossible for me to list them all in one single graphic. Besides, I love taking advantage of PicMonkey's multiple font options whenever I can, so, with that, allons-y!

I run in snow. I run in heat. I run inside. I run outside. I wake up ridiculously early to compete in races. And let me tell ya, all that running makes you a fucking bad ass. But part of being a successful runner is doing more than just, well, running. Cross-training is an important part of the sport as exercising different muscles and parts of your body can enhance your running while also giving your legs a bit of rest. I do yoga and strength-training (thanks to Jillian Michaels) and all of that work put together makes my body a force to be reckoned with.

Unless you once weighed in the morbidly obese category and spent most of your day sitting on your ass, you can't probably appreciate what it's like to get winded walking up a flight of stairs. Or just walking across a parking lot. When I first started running a year and a half ago, I couldn't even run a full mile without stopping. Hell, I couldn't even run a quarter of a mile without stopping. I had to work up to it (using the Couch-to-5K app). Likewise, when I signed up for my first 10K, the farthest distance I had ever run was four miles. Again, I had to train and work up to those 6.2 miles, just as I'm going to have to train and work up to the half. But just the idea that in less than two years I can go from not running at all to being able to run 13.1 miles is breathtaking (in a good way, not the I'm so out of shape I can't breathe kind of way).

Let's face it, we all want to look good naked, right? Running is an excellent way to burn calories and give yourself a pair of foxy legs. Pretty sure one of the reasons why I love wearing dresses now is because I got me some fierce and fabulous gams to show off. (Although I have huge calves now, although I'm not sure how much of that can be attributed to running. Regardless, calf high boots are not in my future but I'm kind of okay with that.)

This is one of my favorite parts of being a runner. We are a strange breed, runners. People don't always understand why we do what we do. Why we're willing to bundle up and dodge snow piles or wake up to get in a few miles before work when we could be sleeping. Lining up at the start of a race, it doesn't matter that you are surrounded by strangers because you're all in this together. The way everyone came together after Boston is proof of that and I feel confident in saying if that had happened at the Cleveland Marathon the response would have been exactly the same.

There is also, of course, the running blogging community! There are so many out there, but some of my personal favorites include Weight Off My Shoulders, No Meat Athlete, Pavement Runner, and Meals and Miles.

I may have sent in an audition video. True story.

The whole saying about running being cheaper than therapy? It's not bullshit. Some people have a running partner while I'm more of a solo runner and this is the main reason why. Running is my time to work out the kinks in my brain. An opportunity to sort through issues and relieve stress. I've gone on runs that left me crying at the end because of what I was experiencing dealing with certain things in my head.

Be honest, this is one of your favorite parts about participating in races, too.

Ah, yes, the famous runner's high. What people sometimes fail to mention is it doesn't happen every time you lace up and head out. Any runner will tell you that some runs are fucking amazing and some are fucking awful. The kind you have to just keep pushing through and constantly coach yourself to finish. But that high, when it comes, is so worth putting up with the less-than-stellar runs. It leaves you feeling confident and accomplished, like you could take on the fucking world.

My favorite part of my body? My legs (and not just 'cause they look hot, as mentioned above). They used to carry around 311 pounds, now they carry me across finish lines. A year and a half ago, running was the furthest thing from my mind. Being a runner seemed impossible. Not just impossible, but not even something I wanted to be possible. I hated running as a kid and teenager and never really understood the point. But now, of course, I am a runner. So I run because I am able to. I run to show others that anything is possible. I run to show myself that I can do anything I want if I'm willing to put in the work and dedication.

But more than that, I know that running -- like all sports -- can have a shelf life. Over the weekend I was talking with a friend who used to run but is unable to anymore because of injuries. Nobody is immune to that, so I run because I know that one day I may no longer be able to. I run for those who no longer can.

Why do you run? Have any favorite running blogs to recommend?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

03 June 2013

zippity zoo dah

Friday morning I woke up to a gorgeous summer day. It seemed wrong to waste such beautiful sunshine by spending it inside, so I decided to head over to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. About six months ago I won some free passes on Twitter and they expire in August so I figure I might as well put one of them of them to use finally!

Cats are so predictable 

Of course, it wasn't until I got there and saw all the school buses that I realized it was field trip day. It was also apparently Senior Citizen Day. The zoo was PACKED. It was also pretty hot and humid out, so the animals were sleeping the day away or hiding in the shade. 

Well, almost all of the animals.


One of my favorite things about the Cleveland Metropark Zoo is that they allow you to bring food and beverages in. Obviously they have restaurants and food stands inside (including Ben & Jerry's and they offer sorbet and frozen yogurt along with the ice cream), but you're perfectly welcome to bring whatever you want in and there are plenty of picnic benches and tables in the zoo. So, of course I always take full advantage by packing myself a little picnic and taking it along! Plus my trusty water bottle came along, too. Hot day meant lots of sweat and it was important to stay hydrated.

Of course, knowing I was going to be doing a lot of walking I strapped on my Polar HRM before setting out. Don't ever discount walking as a bad ass form of exercising. Sure, it might not be as glamorous as running but take those hills one step at a time and you can get a serious workout in. (I usually walk the hills at the zoo anyway, but the tram lines were ridiculously long. There was no way I had the patience to wait.)

Remember my first 5K a year ago? The one that was actually at the zoo? Well, I signed up for the same race again! Last time I came in last place and I'm ready to see how far I've come in the past year.

How was your weekend?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus
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