Monday, February 29, 2016

Half-Marathon Training, Week 1



It's satisfying to finally get started on half-marathon training. I felt productive and energized. My plan for training is to participate in group training through Lifetime Fitness two days a week, yoga at least twice a week (once at home and once in the studio), Orangetheory twice a week and running on my own (or with my running group) once a week. Let's see how it goes!

Monday: 3.2 miles with my running group in Uptown Chicago. I picked up my group T-shirt and caught up with running friends. We don't really run for time -- it's kind of impossible given all the traffic lights we hit on our route. It was 30-something degrees, but it felt good to run. I love cool-weather runs!
Tuesday: Rest day.
Wednesday: Orangetheory. My all-out pace was 8.2 mph, which is about 7:24 per mile. While that is my fastest pace yet, I can't maintain it for long. I hope to improve my speed throughout half-marathon training.
Thursday: Rest day.
Friday: Basics yoga at studio. I like to take basics every once in a while to get reacquainted with the poses and the cues the teachers use.
Saturday: A short, windy group run. We did a 2-mile timed run and my time was 20:15. Not bad, but I'm hoping for lots of improvement. 
Sunday: Orangetheory session. It was a power and switch day, which meant we switched stations after every block. I was sore from training the previous day and probably should have taken a rest day. I ran 2.25 miles and my all-out pace was 7:00 minute/mile for 30 seconds or a minute. My base pace was much slower than usual because of my soreness. I tried out the C9 at Target Power Shape sports bra after receiving a coupon from Influenster and Target. I loved the look and feel of the bra, though I realized I need a bigger size when I put on my heart-rate monitor chest strap. It made the bra even tighter on me. I would size up for my next purchase.

Tips and reflections:

  • Making plans to run has worked so far to keep me on track. It feels awful to let people down by canceling; avoiding that feeling is a good incentive to sign up for group runs. 
  • I should have listened to my body. It clearly needed a break Sunday. Take your rest days!
  • New gear is a great motivator as well. The cute new C9 sports bra made me feel strong and fit, even though I have a long way to go. The fact that it was a tiny bit snug was inspiration to get in shape.
  • Switch up the routine. I like to do different workouts, which is why I love Orangetheory. Keep it interesting; keep it fun! If it's not fun, why do it?
  • Participate in the social media conversation. Use hashtags that connect you to people interested in working out or training for a goal. I have found so much encouragement and inspiration by connecting with runners and yogis online.

Tweet: Tip for fitness enthusiasts: Use hashtags that can connect you to people interested in working out or training for a goal. via @maretteflora Use hashtags that connect you to people interested in working out or training for a goal. 

How's your training going? How do you stay motivated?




Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pre-Half-Marathon Training, Part 2

"How you do one thing is how you do everything." One of my yoga teachers used to remind me of this when I was going through training. It's been repeating in my mind lately, and I know it's because I haven't been focusing on my health and fitness goals. Do I want to be someone who puts minimal effort into her training, or do I seriously want to commit to my goals? My mileage hasn't been what it used to be, especially compared with last January and February, when I was running 80 to 90 miles a month in preparation for the Kentucky Derby marathon. Because I don't need to start marathon training until May or so, I haven't felt the need to ramp up my mileage yet. However, I finally start half-marathon training this week, so it's time to focus. I want to PR in my next half.  I had to say it out loud to realize if that's what I really want, I need to train to the best of my ability. I feel like I've reached the point where I have done distances I never thought I'd reach, yet my time hasn't really improved. So what am I going to do about it? Make a plan! I signed up for group training for my half. I made it a goal to go to more studio yoga classes. I am committing to going to at least two Orangetheory classes per week. What are you doing to reach your goals?

Last week's recap (Feb. 15-21):

Monday: No workout other than walking around New Orleans.
Tuesday: Orangetheory in New Orleans-Mid City, where I held plank for 3 minutes! The class was packed with 35 students, the most I have ever seen at a session. I was sore for days from those pikes with my feet in the TRX strap handles. Ouch.
Wednesday: No workout, because it was my birthday!
Thursday: 60 squats, which I did between work tasks. 
Friday: No workout.
Saturday: 1-hour vinyasa class in the studio. Our instructor did a fun experiment with six blocks per student for tripod headstand. Our heads didn't need to hold any weight! Instead, our shoulders rested on the blocks, which were set up with three on each side of our heads and against the wall. We used our core to lift our legs and tried not to touch the wall on the way up. It was a fun and much-needed yoga class. It inspired me to want to teach again soon.
Sunday: I had signed for Orangetheory, but when I logged on to the local studio's website to check the time, I realized it doesn't have a 1:15 class. What studio had I signed up for? One in New Jersey! I had already missed all the local studio's classes for the day, so I ran one mile outside in the 37-degree weather. That's all I could muster. I added some core work afterward. 

February mileage so far: 17.68.

Yoga minutes this week: 65.



What are you training for? What motivates you? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo



I set intention to read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo and the universe delivered. Actually my brother- and sister-in-law did, buying the book for my birthday along with its companion, "Spark Joy." I was elated! I finished the book in two days and promptly started choosing what I wanted to keep, not discard. I liked the way she approaches the process of decision-making. It's a positive, not a  negative.

Other thoughts I found interesting and powerful:

  • Tidy by category and not space. This makes sense given that similar items are not always stored in one place, and you will lose momentum if you don't tidy in one swoop.
  • You don't follow arbitrary rules like, "Throw something away if you haven't used it in one year."
  • I learned a lesson when she reminds readers to confront their own stuff. I had been trying to persuade my husband to get rid of his DVDs, but I realized I can't force anyone to get rid of their things. I did, however, list a bunch of mine (pre-marriage) for sale on eBay and donate others that I just didn't like. If he insists on keeping DVDs I don't like, he won't be keeping them in my office, where they had been. Only things that make me happy will be stored in my office.
  • You don't need to feel guilty about not keeping a gift you've been holding on to, because the gift was the act of receiving it and feeling the joy and love the person wanted you to feel. If something no longer suits you and makes you happy, there's no reason to keep it.
  • Stop giving things away to younger siblings unless they really want it. Passing things off only burdens them with the guilt of feeling like they have to keep it or having things they didn't choose for themselves. Kondo makes good points about this that I had never considered.
  • I also realized that I have wanted to declutter since yoga-teacher training because I have wanted to process and let go of my past. Moving to Chicago and now tidying have been my ways to do that.
As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the book. I didn't necessarily agree with every point or suggestion about tidying, however. For instance, there's no way I will remove shower products and store them elsewhere after every use. I see her reasoning but it just won't work for me. There are other minor suggestions that I am not sure I will do, but overall I found her method to be effective and straightforward. Can tidying change your life? I can definitely see how. By tidying your home, you tidy your mind, and that can lead to big changes. 

Want to read the book? Use my affiliate link to buy it for yourself! Then pass it along to someone who wants to read it.




*I did not receive compensation for this post; I genuinely loved the book. I do receive compensation for any purchases through the link, however.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana



As a history lover, I wanted to learn more about New Orleans' past. I could not ignore that plantations were a part of that tale. I chose Destrehan Plantation for a tour because it is only a 30-minute drive from New Orleans. I wasn't sure what to expect, but part of me wondered if the history of the plantation would be sugar-coated. Our tour guide did indeed point out "success stories," but those were so few. According to our tour guide, who was dressed in period clothing, the plantation was the sight of the trials for slaves believed to be involved in the 1811 Slave Revolt, and 45 people were sentenced to death or, according to nola.com, were sent on for further trials. The look of the plantation has changed throughout its history, but you still get a sense for what life was probably like. The mule barn on the property was used in the filming of the movie "12 Years a Slave," from which scenes frequently popped into my head during the tour. The plantation has other interesting features, such as an authentic document signed by Thomas Jefferson. The plantation tour ($18 a person) is worth a visit if you're interested in the history of the area.

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans

Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana, New Orleans
The mule barn might be recognized from the movie "12 Years a Slave."



More about my trip to New Orleans:

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Louisiana Swamp Tour




When I visit a new place, I think, "I have to do as much as I can. Who knows when I'll be back?" After all, tomorrow isn't promised. That's why I fit in as much as I could on my short trip to New Orleans. I booked a swamp tour ($29 a person without transportation; $59 with pickup) at Honey Island Swamp, about 45 minutes outside New Orleans, through Cajun Encounters. I pictured an airboat speeding through the swamp, but that's actually a different tour. We rode on a larger boat that fits about 20 people. While it wasn't an airboat, it does get pretty breezy --  and chilly.

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

To be honest, I had low expectations about the tour given that I had just been on the most amazing wildlife tours in Costa Rica.  I doubted I would see many animals. I was just there to see new scenery and enjoy the ride. I would take what I could get, I told the captain. Some people said they'd like to see crocodiles or alligators, but he quickly corrected their mistaken notion that crocodiles live in the area. Only alligators live in the swamp. The hour and a half tour starts on the river and then goes into the swamp. The captains bring with them a bag of marshmallows and some dog food to feed any animals they see. I wondered the ethics of that, but what do I know? The tour was in a protected area. We spotted an otter swimming in the water before we came across a raccoon standing in the water. He seemed to know the captain and showed off his cuteness to earn himself some treats. I nervously squirmed in my seat as the raccoon came within two feet of the boat. "Please don't jump on," I thought. We continued on our ride and soon saw another raccoon that also wanted marshmallows. In the trees we spotted several woodpeckers, and white snow egrets also roamed the swamp. Minutes later, we came across 15-20 wild pigs. They barreled through the water toward the boat. The captain called them his wife and kids, because he's fed them for years. We watched the spectacle for a while before it was time to head back. The captain told stories of pigs being devoured by alligators during tours, including one with a bunch of terrified third-graders. I couldn't imagine the carnage. 


Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana, egret

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana



Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Once we exited the swamp we went down the river again to see camps on stilts. The captain told us that during Katrina the water rose up to 25 feet above the level it's at now. I imagined how frightening and dangerous that must have been. After a 15 or so minute ride we arrived in an area about 2 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, where he said a couple of alligators were known to hang out. We spotted those two small gators, stopped for photos and then headed back. While we didn't see that many alligators -- it was just the start of the season -- the tour was worth the cost to see the landscape and views.

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cajun Encounters, Honey Island Swamp, New Orleans, Louisiana

Have you been on a Louisiana swamp tour? What did you think?

More about New Orleans:


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Addiction

I try to be a positive person, and my online accounts reflect that. We all have struggles we don't share freely. One of those stresses for me is the addiction a family member is dealing with. 

No, that's not correct. 

Typing the words "dealing with" isn't accurate. The person walked away from help this week. From the best opportunity. I would be lying if I used the words dealing with.

The distrust. The disappointment. The stress. The hurt. The frustration. If you know anyone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you have experienced all of these, probably simultaneously. And I know more than one person struggling with addiction. Many of us do. Every single person in the addict's life ends up picking up the slack and cleaning up the mess.

Sometimes there are bright moments, like when the person promises to get help and do what he or she needs to do. You get your hopes up. You talk about how things will finally change. But then you experience a huge letdown.

The biggest challenge when this problem started was figuring out what to do about it. I first took the approach of distancing myself from the person. I would never reach out and the stress of dealing with the chaos that the addiction created fell upon other family members. I could see the toll it was taking on them. It reached the point where loved ones' health was suffering because of it, and I'm not talking about the addict. Then I took a more hands-on approach. I offered rides to court appointments, doctor's visits, bought meals and helped in other ways. Neither method works. I coped by using lessons I learned from yoga, namely: The situation is out of my control. Only the addict is responsible for his or her actions. 

I learned a lot from my experience with a relative who is addicted to drugs. The most important: Don't blame yourself. Only the addict can take responsibility for what he or she does. Don't be manipulated into feeling guilty, and don't make excuses for them. Take care of yourself. (I do that via yoga and focusing on my health.) Don't believe what they say; actions mean more than words. Speak your truth. Be honest about how the addiction is affecting you and don't bottle up your emotions. This last lesson I finally learned in the last couple of weeks, when I burst into tears. It was as if a dam had exploded, letting years of frustration, sadness, guilt and anger come rushing out.

I have to let this go somehow. I have tried to help and I can only hope this person will try to change. As someone reminded me recently, "you reap what you sow." All I can focus on is what I can control, which is really just my breath and my attitude. 
Have you been in this situation? How did you cope? 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans
Strange as it may sound, I was most excited about visiting a New Orleans cemetery on my recent trip. It was the first thing we did, in fact. It was a cool, sporadically rainy day, the perfect weather for a haunting cemetery walk. I marveled at the beauty, size and age of the graves. I wondered about the people inside them. I have never seen anything like it. 
See for yourself:



Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans
Add caption


Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans


The materials used were an indicator of the person's wealth. Some were made of brick, while others were marble. Some stood firm and tall; others were leaning over. Some were being restores and others looked like they hadn't been touched in decades. If these tombs could talk, I wondered about the tales they would tell. Entire family rest together in elaborate tombs. But to be honest, I found the crumbling brick graves to be most beautiful.
Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans


Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans


Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans
Have you been to a New Orleans cemetery? Did you love it as much as I did?