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If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought about the Tufts 10K for Women, I would have told you that it’s annoying that they close of Memorial Drive on Columbus Day and you can’t get around Boston where you want to.  But last year, as I started pushing myself to run more and I found new challenges to take on, I registered for the race.  (Well, I convinced my friend to register for the race, was too chicken to actually register myself, and then had to pay the late entry fee when I got there because I couldn’t let her do it alone when it was my idea in the first place.)

Today was my second time running this race and I have to say, it’s amazing and inspiring.  It is not only extremely well-organized and planned out, but it is just fun.  I love their slogan – Start strong; finish stronger.  I love the route from the Boston Common through Back Bay, down Memorial Drive, across the Longfellow Bridge and back down Mass. Ave.  But I also love being surrounded by 7000 other women doing the same thing that I’m doing.

I never really think about being surrounded by strong, healthy women and how much that pushes me to continue on my own fitness journey, but today I was struck by the camaraderie that comes with sharing goals and common celebration.  Around mile 5, when I hit a slump, a woman in a green tank top came up beside me and said, “Come on, you can do it.”  She was right; I could.  That was the little push I needed to get me past my (mostly mental) wall and to the finish line.

I certainly didn’t set any personal records today, but I did accomplish a goal and I reminded myself what I need to do to keep at it.  Here’s hoping that while I keep going in my weight-loss journey, I keep getting the little pushes that I need to remind me that I can do it.  Thanks to that girl in the green top, if you happen to see this – I’m going to keep you in mind next time I’m feeling too lazy to pack my gym bag, make a healthy dinner, or treat myself well.

I realize I’m not off to the best start with my blog posts, but I’ve been too cheap to pay for an internet cafe here in Prague.  I finally broke down and did it, so I wanted to send a quick dispatch.  I was a journalism major in college and dreamed of being an international correspondant, filing important stories from exotic locations.  I guess a quick blog post from Prague will have to do!  Anyway, Prague is even better than I thought it was going to be (you can’t say that very often!).  The only bad thing is that I had hurt my ankle before I left Boston and I’m still having some trouble with it – so getting in workouts and walking around all day have been a bit challenging.  I have a great little gym in the hotel and I really like it, but my ankle has been too sore to use it every day like I planned.   On the upside, I have walked an absolute ton.  And I never miss a chance to walk up hills or take the stairs, so I feel like I’m kind of sneaking in extra activity all over the place.  My food choices haven’t been 100% fantastic.  I’m keeping myself so pleasantly busy that I don’t snack – which is sometimes a huge problem for me on vacations.  And being in a country that has sane portion sizes is also very helpful.  I splurged and got ice cream today and didn’t even really feel guilty because it was such a delicate  (I’m trying desperately to avoid saying “small” because it was really just normal) serving.  But it was still awesome and satisfied my craving.  A good lesson to bring home with me (along with a whole bunch of dirty laundry…).  I’m off to Budapest tonight – hopefully I will get to check in again soon.

P.S.  The Boston Bruins are playing in Prague tomorrow, so I have seen a bunch of Bruin jerseys.  I think I might have also seen an actual Bruin (a player – not the bear-like creature).  I feel like I brought a small piece of Boston to Prague with me…

- Jen

Rain, rain, go away…I think I can safely say that the weather this week has been kind of a “downer” for everyone. A few nights ago, I decided to take a much-needed pampering break by booking a facial appointment at Healthworks Back Bay. I saw the wonderful Nina, who I’ve been to on several occasions. I love that she never pushes products on me, and that she offers really simple, sage skincare advice: “Do less.” Her own beautiful skin is proof that she knows what she’s talking about!

It seems that every time I come in there, I’ve managed to stray since my last visit, and wound up with a too-harsh skincare regimen. This time, she showed me in the mirror how the glycolic cream cleanser I’ve been using has been sloughing off too many skin cells, leaving my skin too thin, and exposing blood vessels to the surface. I’m increasingly paranoid about developing wrinkles as I get closer to my 30s, and as a result, I have been totally overdoing it.

Nina’s recommendation was to wash my T zone with a gentle, milky cleanser, using a cotton ball, and only using exfoliating maybe once a week. She offered to have me come back in a few weeks for a free 15 minute  skin consultation, to decide what to do from there (this is something that is available for free to all Healthworks members!)

            I love her refreshingly simplistic attitude, and it’s always a good reminder to me that sometimes pushing yourself harder – whether its by using a harsh skin product, working out extensively, or just overbooking your time – usually has the opposite effect from what you want. 

- Jean

With the first very cool morning of autumn, came the reminder and inspiration to slather my body, including my flip-flop wearing feet, in the richness of Nivea. My skin soaked in the luxury and has been thanking me since. Today was day 3 of the post-shower ritual and already I feel different. My routines are far from routine, and yet this simple and quick practice makes such a difference. I wouldn’t dream of or be able to skip this step on my face, and yet I neglect the rest of my skin on a regular basis. An eye doctor recently told me that I had the kind of complexion that loves and responds well to exfoliation. In his view, I would look so much more attractive if I remembered that small truth. After many laughs about this salient advice, not from my dermatologist but from an eye surgeon whom I hadn’t before met, I pulled my exfoliant from the linen closet and have been using it since. He was right, my skin does indeed look healthier and more vibrant after a season in the sun. And so, as I considered myself from the neck down, I pulled the almost-new pump bottle of lotion from the archives of the very same linen closet.
Like my shower curtains and linens, I like to change my bathrobes and lotions with the seasons. I reach for the lightness of a citrus scented, silky lotion and a cool cotton short robe for the post-day-at-the-beach shower. In the fall and winter months, I veer more towards the thick and healing formulae of the Nivea and Keri labels, donning the more fleecy, full length robe. By springtime, I dapple with the comfort of a spa style waffle and sesame oil, the nutty base sensual in an Asian cuisine kind of way.

As I slipped into the coziness of my bathrobe this morning, I enjoyed the scented hint left from the balm of yesterday’s Nivea treat. That simple smell urged me on and I felt compelled to hit the pump again today. Years ago during an Auyervedic cleanse, I learned that the skin, a partner of the lungs, is one of our largest and most important organs for detox and health. At that time, I regularly used a body brush on my dry skin before stepping into tepid water and bathing with a wonderfully light lavender castile soap. All of that dusty knowledge is now reemerging into my days. It all started with a squirt of lotion. Perhaps it’s time to buy myself a fresh new brush. I’ll surely remember to direct the long arm of the scrubber towards my heart so that as I slough the dead skin, the energy and lymph systems will be manipulated and massaged by the strong bristles of the head, offering an extra bonus.

Each time I bathe my boys and dress their delicious little selves into pjs, I savor the smells of the lotions and oils that seal in their innocence, purity and loveliness. Memories of our lives together float by as I steal a whiff of the familiar. The marriage between nose and scent is powerful and even, at times, transcendent. One afternoon years ago, I crossed paths with an older woman in an elevator. I was immediately transported back to my grandmother’s side and home, even though she had died when I was but a rising seven year old. When I thanked the stranger for the sensory gift, she smiled and in her Irish brogue told me that she had been using Ponds and Jergens since she was a young girl. And so a bridge to my grandmother was built in a single, unexpected moment.

This October, and ideally beyond, I will allow myself the luxury of rejuvenating my skin. I once heard that it takes a mere few days to solidify a habit. In that case, may this renewed discipline be unforgettable by month’s end. May I enjoy those extra few moments in my bathrobe as my body drinks in the added moisture. The forced pause that insinuates no force. Interesting, isn’t it? That body lotion could actually be linked to the speed at which we travel through our days?
Whatever the mood, the skin type or the age, let a lotion of choice offer some youth, some relaxation and, ultimately, some comfort as you acknowledge yet another call to action from your body.

-Carol

There is an old Weight Watchers adage that when you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.  I haven’t been to WW in quite some time, but I do think that this is really good advice.  I’ve been trying to incorporate clean eating into my life and sometimes, when you are running around and just really, really hungry, it’s hard to stick to your nutritional standards and not just grab whatever high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated whatever comes your way.  So I try to remember to plan things out and think ahead to keep myself from getting caught in a pinch.

On Sunday I made a batch of baked oatmeal from Tosca Reno’s The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook.  I can just put it in the microwave in the morning and I’m good to go.  I make coffee and lunches at home for the same reason, so that I can control what goes into them, and pack up everything the night before so that I have no excuses in the morning.

But even with all of my best intentions, I still walked out of the house without my carefully packed gym bag yesterday, and I didn’t have a plan B.  I had planned to go to Body Pump after I got out of school, but I figured that patent leather wedge shoes might not be the best idea for squats and lunges, so I wound up staying at school longer than I intended to and then just running home to change and take the dog out before going to book club.  I felt like I had failed a little bit.

But, I am not going to plan to fail again.  This is the kind of thing that I have taken as an excuse in the past, and I have thought, “Well, I already screwed up the week, so I might as well not worry about it until next week.”  That is so not happening any more.  So tonight I packed my bag, reserved a ticket online for tomorrow’s Body Pump, and brought the bag down to my car.  Now I’m planning to succeed.

-Johanna

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I usually try to use Sunday afternoons as a time to cook and get ready for the next busy week ahead. I always feel much better about the start of the week when I know that I have a fridge full of prepared healthy foods…Since I shifted my work hours a half-hour earlier to accommodate my nighttime schedule of graduate classes, I’ve had very little time to sit down and eat breakfast in the morning. So this Sunday routine has started to include baking a stockpile of healthy muffins for the week.

This past weekend, I discovered a new exciting ingredient from the geniuses over at Trader Joes – peanut flour. I incorporated this high protein (16 grams of protein per ¼ cup), gluten-free flour into a batch of banana-peanut-chocolate chip whole wheat muffins. It was actually less peanut-y tasting than I had expected once the batter was baked, so I think the next time I make these I will swap more of the peanut flour in place of whole wheat. Regardless, the results were delicious. I included some frozen, overripe bananas that I had stored in the freezer about a month ago. I highly recommend saving bananas this way. They are great for blending into smoothies or defrosting for use in recipes like this one. Peel them first and freeze in a plastic container, though — I’ve stuck them in the freezer whole before, and had a hard time removing the peel when I wanted to use them later.

High-Protein Banana Chocolate Chip muffins

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ cups peanut flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

2 cups applesauce

4 egg whites

3-4 very ripe bananas

1 cups chocolate chips (I like the mini ones if you can find them)

Preheat the over to 375 degrees. Combine flours and baking soda and powder in a large bowl. Mix applesauce, egg whites, and mashed bananas in a smaller bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, then mix in chocolate chips. Bake in a coated, non-stick muffin pan for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

This made about 15 muffins, which I’ll be eating this week for quick breakfasts and snacks. I also did a quick online search for more recipes with Trader Joe’s peanut flour and found all sorts of recommendations – apparently you can even add water to the flour and create your own low-fat peanut butter. Sounds like it would be great in smoothies, too. I will definitely be experimenting more with this new ingredient! Let me know if you have any ideas…

-Jean

A dear family friend has just died of ALS.

He was a middle-aged, easy-going, quiet man whose body froze according to the definition and progression of Lou Gehrig’s disease.   I try to imagine inhabiting a body that will not cooperate or respond to my pleas for action and movement.  It feels like the deepest cut of betrayal as the body simply refuses to do as the sufferer asks.   The entrapment was gradual and crept up on our friend, slowly erasing his capacities.  It lurked, it tiptoed around the edges of his life, and finally broke into a full sprint, overtaking every system.  He had been the local painter, hired, respected and loved by many in our small town.  But he had to give up the ladders, the overhead reaches, the colors of the spectrum, the social connection offered to an introverted man.   In the end, he had no visible movement and yet his brain was humming along his usual interested and interesting pathways.  His final experiences were full of consciousness with no glimmer of independent motion.  Ironically, our dear friend, Will, couldn’t will his body to correspond to his commands or wishes.  As his speech faded away, he courageously, clearly and gracefully seemed to have known that the time had come to surrender.  And so, with the gift of presence and dignity, he did.

Yesterday morning, I stood in line at Home Depot waiting for my paint to be mixed. He popped into my head in a flash and I can’t help but notice the irony.   I didn’t know at that moment that he had died within the hour.  I seemed to be in the perfect place as he swooped in joy and freedom to express his goodbyes.  Recently, I found a well-used step ladder of his under my mother’s porch.  He had left it behind years ago when he worked alongside my sister, an intimate and dear friend, as they refreshed our family home.  I was given the thumbs up to take it home and have since enjoyed it, washing windows and continuing my own painting projects.  His old, forgotten, color splattered ladder provides the extra small step needed as I work and hope to enliven my own space.  I have often wondered, as I learn to be my own handy-man, if I would make him proud.  I will certainly now think of him and smile as the final coat of the vibrant Raspberry Blush is smoothed on my bathroom walls, bringing life and light to an ex-dingy, drab and dirty room.

For those of us whose bodies still move as we wish, we must say thank you.  Each time we reach for a refreshingly, soothing drink, we must say thank you.  Each time we are able to bathe and dress ourselves in any way we would like, we must say thank you.  Each time we express our love for another with a strong hug and tender kiss, we must say thank you.  Each time we eat a satisfying meal, enjoying the varied textures and flavors in our mouths, we must say thank you.  For those of us who can still get outdoors or to a health club to enjoy deep breathing and movement, we must say thank you.

I say THANK YOU for the thank you, my friend.

-Carol

1.  I am so, so lucky to live here and be able to run by the beach whenever I want.  Hands down, the best thing about living on the North Shore is the proximity to the ocean.  It’s so calming and pretty to watch the waves in the morning and see the sunset at night.  I am sure the sunrise is also nice, I just don’t get out of bed that early on the weekends.

2.  Running six miles when you’ve fallen out of a routine is a heck of a lot harder than running six miles when you’re dedicated to a training schedule.  It is also quite difficult when you’ve been enjoying your summer vacation and little too much and then making excuses about how hard it is to get back into a routine now that the school year has started.  (Possibly the fact that I’ve been in school for 6 weeks already means that I have been milking the start of the school year excuse for a little too long.)  There is a lesson in this somewhere.

3.  Thank God that I have a running buddy.  If it weren’t for my friend Tara, I would never have signed up for, let alone followed through with, the 5-mile race, 10k and half marathon I ran last year.  Having somebody to meet at a certain time on a certain day, somebody to chitchat with and whine about husbands with, and somebody to push myself to keep up with makes everything better and somehow possible.

4.  Iced coffee, iced coffee, iced coffee.  Perhaps not coincidentally, our route has us ending up at the Dunkin Donuts in Nahant after every long(ish) run that we do.  I would be lying if I did not tell you that all I can think about for the last half mile is a medium iced French Vanilla.  America might run on Dunkin; we run TO Dunkin.  Hey, whatever works!

-Johanna

I am a woman redefining my life, redesigning my family, reevaluating my health and reawakening my spirit.

Finally.  Yet again.

While the excitement bubbles under the surface of that single line, the very sentiment also seems a bit daunting.  It insinuates all of the power that awaits expression with the underbelly of potential disappointment if nothing indeed changes.  Oh well.  I’ll let both be true, but choose to focus my attentions on the joyful anticipation of renewed energy.  I really can’t wait to get back to a routine of working out, moving and being alone.  Just me, my body and my intentions.   And my music – loud and rhythmic, without lyrics geared towards the 1-5 year old crowd.

As my separation extends towards the one year mark, the list of not so healthy changes has been screaming at me.  What was at first marked by freedom and relief, has become blurred and buried under the veil of exhaustion.  Adrenaline and cortisol have taken the place of endorphins and serotonin, junk food and caffeine have replaced fruit, veggies and water, sleeplessness has replaced the happy exhaustion that follows a day well lived and a work-out deeply enjoyed, weight gain has replaced the effortless weight loss that comes with a passionate relationship to my club membership.  My to-do list hasn’t included “rest, self-care, eating well, writing, exercise and alone time” in quite some time.  But that’s all about to change. Hip hip hooray.

Now is the time to remember what my body, my core and my heart really want.  It’s time to remember what’s possible as I return to center, my children in tow.

-Carol

I am in search of new motivation.  Three years ago, I lost about 40 pounds.  This was a great accomplishment, and I have managed to keep it off since then, but I have been stuck on a plateau for a long time.  I’ve been taking two steps forward, two steps back over and over again and I need to break out of my old, tired habits and do something good for myself.

I turned 29 in July and I have just started to realize that this means that I will someday soon be turning 30.  I am setting a goal for myself to lose 30 pounds by the time I turn 30.  Hopefully I can get out of my own way enough to do this.  I have the skills and the knowledge, and now I need the motivation to get going and to keep myself going – not to get bored after a month and lose sight of my purpose.

I am no stranger to working out and working hard.  I take Spinning classes and I love Body Pump; I trained for and ran my first half marathon in June.  I also enjoy a lot of healthy foods and have incorporated clean eating into my life.  But, I have trouble getting both my workouts and my good eating habits to happen at the same time.  And if I have learned anything about losing weight and feeling good, it’s that these things need to coincide.

I hope that you enjoy reading my blog posts as I try to kick my own butt back into action and become the balanced, energized, happy 30 year old I know I can be.

-Johanna

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