Friday, April 29, 2016

Chicago Water Taxi Ride

One of my Chicago bucket list items was to cruise on the water taxi. For native Chicagoans, this is probably a yawn, but I'm a newbie and I want to do everything. Charlsy was still in town after we returned from our weekend in Kentucky for Thunder Over Louisville, so we decided to take a ride to Chinatown to kill some time.

To get to the water-taxi stop, go to the Wrigley building and walk down the stairs to the waterfront. We did not know this. We walked down the waterfront, which sometimes smells like a sewer and sometimes like a garden, until we realized we had gone too far. We turned around and saw a water taxi across the river. We were dying of thirst at this point, so we hurried over. Again, we didn't know where to go. We asked a random kiosk lady, who directed us around the Wrigley building. Luckily there's a Walgreens at the base of the Wrigley building where we bought Nice (or Noice, as we pronounced it) water bottles for 99 cents. My scalp was burning as we wandered around looking for the stop, which is down the stairs or elevator to the river. You can buy your water-taxi ticket onboard. We paid $8 for an all-day ticket, thinking we'd cruise to Chinatown and back, which would make the cost worth it.

Chicago River, Chicago water taxi, architecture

It was the most gorgeous Chicago spring day we've had. The temperature went into the 70s (and maybe 80s?) and could aptly be described by the "Miss Congeniality" quote that goes: "not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket." Actually nope, it was too hot for a jacket.

We were two of only three passengers onboard, and we sat in the front to check out the views. You can consider this a cheap version of the architecture tour with no narration. We soon discovered the boat was only going to the Ogilvie stop, across from the opera building. We learned this when we started to turn back and return to where we came. We asked the nearest crew member, who said the water taxi doesn't go to Chinatown on weekdays yet, but it will in the summer. Welp, I probably should have looked that up. I was still deliriously tired from our weekend in Louisville, during which I didn't slept well.

Despite our little setback, we had fun riding on the water on such a beautiful day. If you're in a need of a break while walking around the Loop this summer, take a little ride with the daily commuters on the water taxi. I'm sure they love tourists.

Have you taken the water taxi? Were you a commuter or a tourist?

Check out my Chicago spring/summer bucket list for more ideas for what to do in the city!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Louisville Road Trip: Thunder Over Louisville 2016

Last week's half-marathon training was off for good reason: I took a road trip down to Louisville, Kentucky, from Chicago with two of my favorite people, Charlsy and Graham. We packed so much into one weekend that it's difficult to put into words, so I created a video instead!

Highlights of the trip:

  • Hanging out with friends and family in Louisville.
  • RecBar, an arcade bar and restaurant in Louisville. We enjoyed a fun evening of playing games with friends Friday evening! 
  • Thunder Over Louisville. We spent Saturday at the daylong celebration. We watched the air show, ate everything in sight and were amazed at the incredible fireworks show. It's hands down the best fireworks display I've ever seen.
  • Slugger Museum. We took a tour of the factory where the famous bats are made. You take home a mini bat!
  • Lunch at Cunninghams Creekside restaurant. We sat on the patio to enjoy lunch before heading back to Chicago. Also, this place was super affordable.
Watch my video of our trip to Louisville, and please subscribe to my channel.

Have you been to the Thunder Over Louisville festival? Isn't it just the most amazing show you've ever seen?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mother's Day Gifts That Give Back

Besides making people happy, I aim to help other people when purchasing gifts. I love buying gifts from companies that give back to the community, so for Mother's Day -- as with most other occasions -- I am looking for just that. I found four lovely options to consider adding to your Mother's Day shopping list.

Lush Charity Pot lotion. According to Lush, with every purchase of Charity Pot, 100 percent of the price (minus the taxes) goes to small grassroots organizations in environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights. Your mom will have smooth skin while giving back. This can be part of a gift basket of pampering items.
Kate Spade On Purpose Black and White Polka-Dot Tote. This adorable tote is perfect for the fun-loving mom. It was handcrafted by the artisans of Masoro, 150 talented Rwandan women. Kate Spade has built a community center for the 20,000 community members and hopes to build a health center as well.
The Little Market Stone and Crystal Wrap Bracelet - Seashell.  This lovely bracelet is handmade by women in Thailand working with Marquet. The Little Market follows fair trade practices and aims to empower women artisans while improving the quality of life in the communities they live in.
TOMS Adeline Polarized Sunglasses. The moms in your life will get lots of use out of these this summer. Plus, Toms is known for providing help to communities in need.
What are your Mother's Day gift ideas? Whom are you shopping for? 

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Half-Marathon Training, Week 9

I did things a little differently this week. I trained for four days and took three straight days off to go to Louisville for the Thunder over Louisville celebration. It was an amazing time with two of my favorite people. More on that later, but here's how Week 9 of half-marathon training went.

Monday: 1.44 miles at Orangetheory.

We ran .5 mile at a push pace (9:40 to 8:30 by the end of it), then did floor workouts: 20 bicycle crunches and 20 side crunches. We repeated but I only got to .3 mile before moving to the rower, where we did 800 meters. That was followed by goblet squats (with weights) and tricep extensions. We repeated with 300 meters each time and I did this three times total. We returned to the treadmill for another .5 mile at push pace, followed by mountain climbers (Reps: 16/20) and rollouts on the TRX strap (Reps: 16/20). Then I ran out of time so I went back to the treadmill for a 1-minute all-out run. I ended on the rower, where we did 800 meters again, followed by bicep curls to overhead press and 300-meter rows in between. I was sick of rowing.

Tuesday: 2.37 miles at Orangetheory, including a 45-second all-out at a 3 percent incline. Yikes. We did several all-out runs, but that was the most intense. We also did three 1-minute rows, one in each floor block.

Floor workout included:

  • Tricep extensions on TRX strap
  • Chest press on bench at an incline
  • Burpees with dumbbells
  • Pushups
  • Bicep curls on TRX strap
  • Static crunches with scissor legs
  • Plank to low rows with weights

Wednesday: 1.33 miles at Orangetheory. The running portion was a run/row, so the mileage wasn't as high as it usually is because we had to row in between push and all-out paces.

Floor workout included:

  • Speed skater lunges
  • Single-arm tricep kickbacks
  • Squats to overhead press
  • Chest press on the TRX strap
  • Single-leg V-ups
  • Plank to touch (A weight is in front of you and you touch it once with each arm, 20 reps)
  • Torso rotation with TRX strap
  • Power pullups with TRX strap

Thursday: 2 miles outdoors. I received an email at 4 a.m. that I received an entry into the Chicago Marathon! I'm excited and scared at the same time. My 2 miles were four half-mile repeats. My times were: 4:47, 4:25, 4:27 and 4:29. I felt great -- probably because I was on a high from getting into the Chicago Marathon!

Friday-Sunday: Rest days. I was supposed to do a 12-miler on Saturday but I'm pushing that back to Tuesday of Week 10. 

OTF Marathon: 12.66
Week's mileage: 7.14
Yoga minutes: 15


While this wasn't the best training week, there was much to celebrate: I got into the Chicago Marathon! I will officially start training in June, and I can't wait! I learned that it's important to take breaks for fun so that life doesn't revolve around one activity. On the days I do train I have been feeling motivated and kind of like a bad ass. It's so difficult to get into exercise but you reach a point when it becomes something you look forward to every day. I am excited to get to regular training, including a 12-miler, in Week 10. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram!

Previous recaps:

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Least Favorite Exercises
and Why I Do Them Anyway

I like the results I see from working out, but I don't necessarily enjoy every moment I'm doing it. Some days you just don't feel like going to the gym, running, practicing yoga, etc. But if you manage to pull yourself off the couch, you never regret it. 

This half-marathon training I'm currently doing is different from previous times in that I am incorporating strength training and group workouts for the first time. In the past, I trained for races simply by running and going to yoga. I'm not necessarily saying that was wrong or bad, but I just wasn't improving like I wanted. If you've ever experienced that, it may be time to seek professional assistance from trainers. And as much as you love your trainer(s), sometimes they make you do things you don't want to do. It's all in my best interest though, so I try not to be too mad when they suggest the following exercises/workouts:
  • Burpees. I just hate them. They hurt. They don't get easier for me. But I do them because they work my entire body, boost my endurance and get my heart rate up. I often go into the orange or red zone at Orangetheory when we do burpees.
  • Pushups. I've had a love-hate relationship with pushups my entire life. While I like what they do for my arms, they are difficult for me. I often have to go to my knees. Pushups get my heart racing and that I love. 
  • Grapevines. We do these at group half-marathon training and I have to really think about what I am doing. They exhaust me mentally and physically, but I know they are important to work the stabilizing muscles (especially in the hips) that are key in running. Don't know what a grapevine is? This video on SportPlan shows you exactly what it is.
  • Leap Frog Sprints. With five people, we start running. The last person sprints to front, then the next person goes, and so on. I was struggling through these at group half-marathon training, but I know they made me stronger and faster. A way to do this type of without other people is to follow these fartlek instructions on the Runner's World website.
  • Rowing. When I row at Orangetheory, it takes everything I have. My legs feel like pudding afterward and it kicks my butt! But I do them for the benefits: increased endurance, improved cardiovascular fitness and a total body workout.
Is there a move you dislike? Let me know in the comments!

Chicago Marathon update!

I was accepted into the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon this year! I'll officially start training for that about four months out, but I wanted to share the news! I may have lost my mind, but I'm so excited to run 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring/Summer Chicago Bucket List

Last summer was my first in Chicago, and I quickly discovered how overwhelming it can be to decide what to do. The city comes alive in the spring and summer: After hibernating all winter, everyone ventures outdoors for countless festivals, events and things to do. It was not usual to have weekends booked up weeks in advance. This year I want to try to cover as much of this list as I can. What's on your summer checklist?

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What to Wear to a Chicago Cubs Game

Cute and casual is my go-to baseball game look. I tend to go for flats, sandals or espadrilles along with shorts and tanks or tees. I try to stay away from dresses because I feel out of place in such a casual environment. You don't necessarily have to wear logo apparel to sport your team colors; you can find options in your team colors at just about any retailer.

I'm really loving rompers as a summer baseball game option. They are comfortable and adorable. I bought this a multicolor romper from H&M recently, and I plan to wear it when it's warmer out along with aviators and sandals. For cooler nights at Wrigley Field, I like red pants, denim jacket, a white top and a team hat.  You can never go wrong with a team hoodie or jacket, either. The weather changes so quickly that it's a good idea to bring them anyway. It was not usual for it to start raining during games last summer, too. Bringing a rain poncho would also be smart when the forecast shows a chance of rain.

Of course, you'll need to transport your game-day essentials in a cute tote bag. I say go with a Cubs blue, like this one from Michael Kors. You can accessorize with Cubs jewelry and scarves as well.

What are your favorite game-day outfits? Which team do you support? Let me know in the comments!

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P.S. Linking up with Blush Blonde and Fairy Princess Diaries for Tutu Tuesdays!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Half-Marathon Training, Week 8

In my last training recap, I said I would do 10 miles for my long run this week after my long run was only 6 last week because of icy sidewalks and miserable weather. This week was a complete turnaround weatherwise. It was a much more pleasant experience to complete my long run.

Monday: 20 minutes of yoga at home.

Tuesday: 2.06 miles at Orangetheory. I realized it's going to be unlikely that I'll make it to 26.2 miles this month at OT unless I go every single day I'm not at group half-marathon training or in Louisville. That just doesn't seem realistic. It's all for charity though, so it's OK.

Floor workout was:

  •  Lunges into high knees with hands pulling on the TRX straps (Reps: 6/8/6/8 on each side)
  •  Burpees
  • Triple squats to triple pushups
  • Squat jacks
  • And other stuff I can't remember.

Wednesday: 2.5 miles at the April Adventure Run. I didn't win any prizes but I had a good time.

Thursday: 2.41 miles at Orangetheory. I quickly realized I should have taken a rest day, so my push paces and all-out paces weren't impressive to me. I ran about a 9:00 minute/mile all-out, which is slower than I usually go. We did four rows: 500 meters, 400 meters, 300 meters and one minute all-out row (300 meters).

Floor workout was:

  • Low rows with the TRX straps (12 reps, three sets)
  • Tricep pushups with hand release (12 reps, three sets)
  • Calf raises (24 reps, two sets)
  • Situps to stand on Bosu ball
  • Dumbbell chest press on the Bosu ball
  • Another exercise I don't know what to call. It was like doing a side angle pose with weights. (12 reps on each side, three sets)

Friday: Rest day. 

Saturday: 10 miles on a gorgeous day in Chicago.

Sunday: 30 minutes of yoga at home.

Week's mileage: 16.97
Yoga Minutes: 60
OTF Marathon: 7.52

half-marathon training, Chicago, fitness, workouts


This week was a little different in that I took three rest days (I consider yoga at home to be a rest day as well). I usually go to Orangetheory on Sundays, but I wanted to take a day off after running my 10-miler. I was reminded how important rest days are after going to a class on a day I should have had off. My muscles felt exhausted and I needed to listen to my body. Speaking of my body, this week I finally saw a difference in areas I've been hoping to improve. That was thanks to eating much less unprocessed and unhealthy foods (with the exception of two doughnuts and some chips). While I did give in to temptation a couple times, I mostly stuck to the healthier options in our kitchen. Thanks to my farm-box subscription I had sweet potatoes; veggies to mix with black beans and egg whites and top with salsa; and plenty of salads. I also made a zucchini, corn and pepper soup.

Next week will be a test because I will be in Louisville for the weekend with a friend. I am going to try to fit a 6-miler in at some point Friday-Sunday and I plan to workout Monday-Thursday. Wish me luck!

I'm planning to do a yoga video soon. If you'd like to receive it in your inbox, subscribe to my newsletter!

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring/Summer Running Playlist

Spring is upon us, though you wouldn't know it if you're in Chicago. Snow in April? Why?! Luckily it's warmed up since then and this weekend might actually be nice! Anyway, a new season brings a new running playlist! I like to regularly change my running playlist to avoid getting bored and give me renewed motivation. I get excited about the opportunity to listen to my favorite music without being interrupted. I'm actually getting a little nervous about my upcoming half-marathon, so this playlist will hopefully relieve some of that tension.

Here's what I'll be listening to:

  • Chance the Rapper
  • Zara Larsson
  • Sia
  • Repeats from Kendrick Lamar, K'naan and Outkast
  • Remixed songs from Mariah Carey and Katy Perry
  • Daya
  • Lots more!

I'll be adding and subtracting from the playlist as the season goes on. Have any suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April Adventure Run Chicago

The Adventure Run reminds me of when I first moved to Chicago last year. I didn't know anyone but I told myself I had to put myself out there. I signed up for my first Adventure Run last April without having anyone to go with, and I ended up making some friends. Of course, they didn't immediately become friends, but the seeds were planted.

This year, I ended up doing the April Adventure Run alone again. My friend texted me that she was held up at work and wasn't going to make it, and I didn't see any other group run members there. But within a few minutes, after making my way around the six vendor tables, I smiled at a woman standing next to me, and she introduced herself. She ended up becoming my unofficial running partner; she'd come alone as well. It was nice to have someone to run and chat with, and she stayed in the back of the pack with me. (I tend to be in the back of group runs because I am not the world's fastest runner.)

What is the Adventure Run?

The Adventure Run is a fun run during which you check in at various retailers around the neighborhood to get raffle tickets. You have an hour to go to as many of the locations as possible. A map is revealed at 6:30 p.m. exactly and everyone makes a mad dash to all the stops. Some vendors ask you to do burpees or pushups or some other task for extra tickets. You must be back at Road Runner Sports by 7:30, when the raffle begins.

Instead of following the map, I ran with a volunteer. It's much easier, but she's a quick runner. We made it to all checkpoints: My Fit Foods, Massage Envy, Sully's, IO Chicago, Vitamin Shoppe, and a couple of restaurants. The area is starting to become more familiar to me now, which is a relief, though I still don't know the street names. If you're new to Chicago, the Adventure Run is a great way to learn about local businesses.

The vendors included Spartan Race, Ragnar Relay, Honey Stinger and Adidas.

I didn't have as many tickets after this run, likely because I didn't buy the Adventure Run T-Shirt, which gets you extra tickets at each stop. Thus, I didn't win, but I still had a good time and got a 2.5-mile run in while doing it. 

Want to run an Adventure Run and win prizes? They are held in these cities:

Arizona: Scottsdale and Tempe
California: Berkeley, Campbell, Carlsbad, Concord, Costa Mesa, Laguna Hills, San Carlos, San Diego, Thousand Oaks, Torrance
Colorado: South Denver and Westminster
Georgia: Alpharetta, Atlanta and Marietta
Illinois: Chicago and Naperville
Maryland: Rockville
New Jersey: Cherry Hill
Oregon: Tualatin
Virginia: Falls Church
Washington: Kent and Seattle

Also, If you go in April or October, you need a headlamp for safety reasons.

Have fun! Have you been to an Adventure Run?

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cubs Opening Night 2016

wrigley field, home opener, Cubs

Last year, I sat at Opening Night alone, shivering and a little terrified. We had just moved to Chicago a couple of weeks before then, and I didn't know anyone to go to the game with. How things have changed! I have come to love Chicago over the past year, though I am completely over the cold right now. This year, I sat at Opening Night at Wrigley Field with a friend, still shivering but no longer afraid.

The energy was insane, as can be expected. I tried to get to game as early as possible, because I like to see everything that goes on before the game, plus I had heard about the new security screenings (metal detectors). I also love the people-watching. 

Fireworks and a flyover added to the celebration. This team has everyone excited about the possibilities and you can feel it when you're at Wrigley Field.

I thought about the promise of the season, not just for the team but for my husband and me. I thought about our goals and hopes and dreams. The start of a new season or adventure is full of optimism. I reminded myself of one thing: It's about the journey, not the destination. Try to live in every moment, even the uncomfortable ones. Cheers to you, Chicago!


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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Yoga & Mimosas at the John Hancock Center, Chicago

About two and a half months ago, I heard about Yoga Six's event at the John Hancock Center in Chicago. I wanted to sign up for the March event, but it was sold out before I got the chance. (Womp, womp.) I signed up for the April event instead, before I knew I'd be doing group training for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon. So on Saturday, when I was supposed to be running 10 miles, I went to the John Hancock Observatory for yoga. To be honest, this sounded a million times better than 10 miles on icy sidewalks and trails. I opted to move my run to the next day.

I wanted to get there at 7:30, but I didn't count on having to scrape ice off the car after it snowed the night before. Again. By the time I got there, most of the space was lined with yoga mats. I squeezed in the back, where I still had a good view on the north side on the observatory. I've also been to the Sears Tower, and while that view is from higher up, 360 Chicago has awesome views of the lake and Lakeshore Drive.

The class was what I have come to expect from public yoga events. While the instructor didn't suggest any "advanced" poses, students took their own opportunities to do them when it made sense. A DJ played my favorite '90s hits (remixed) from Mariah Carey, Brandy and more. I loved the soundtrack. After 50 minutes of yoga, we were offered small mimosas in the bar next door, as well as Kind bars and Skinny Pop popcorn.

Watch my video on the Yoga and Mimosas event at the John Hancock Center! If you like it, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.

The next Yoga & Mimosas event will be May 14. It's already sold out, but you can join the waitlist on Yoga Six's website.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Half-Marathon Training, Week 7

The plan was to finish 10 miles on my long run this week, but Chicago weather foiled my plans again. I learned flexibility is key in training and I was able to rearrange my running schedule. I still felt like I had a solid week of challenging workouts, and I'm proud of that. 

Monday: Rest day.

Tuesday: 2.62 miles at Orangetheory. I also somehow burned 731 calories; in comparison, I usually burn between 500-625. It makes sense given that I was fuming from our apartment situation at the moment. We live in a building that was foreclosed on and now the bank and proposed owner want us to move out. The stress has been getting to me for months, and it's reaching a boiling point. I just want this situation to be over with. Anyway, back to the workout: The floor workout included squats to high pulls with 15-pound weight, during which the instructor said I have perfect form. That was definitely an ego boost. My fastest all-out pace was 7:34, so that was a win as well. We also did 3 minutes of all-out rowing that had me out of breath. It was an excellent workout day. Thanks, stress! 

Wednesday: 3.65 miles at group half-marathon training. We ran 1.09 to the beach, did 1.3 miles of drills, then ran all the way back to our cars. The drills on the beach were intense:

  • Sprints back and forth.
  • High knee jumps back and forth.
  • Side shuffles.
  • Grapevines.
  • More sprints.
  • Butt kicks.
  • More sprints.
Thursday: Rest day. Yoga at home.

Friday: Orangetheory on my lunch break. I ran 2.49 miles, including NINE all-outs. My all-out paces were 8:34 mile/mile for the first eight and 7:20 for the last all-out. Floor workout included squats to presses, bicep curls, 180-degree squat jumps, squat to jump lunges, ab roll-outs with the dolly, double crunches and pushup jacks. We also did three 150-meter rows at about 35-37 seconds each.

Saturday: 50 minutes of yoga at the John Hancock Center observatory. I awoke at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday, which should be illegal, but the view was worth it! I will write more about this event, which is hosted by Yoga Six, this week.

Sunday: 6 miles. It was supposed to be 10 miles, but I was nervous about ice. By then it had mostly melted, but there had been freezing rain the night before and more rain on the way. The wind was pretty strong in some spots as well, and it was only 30-something degrees with a "real feel" in the 20s. I was not feeling it this day. I did what I could and pushed my 10-miler to next week.

OTF Charity Marathon mileage so far: 5.11.
Week's mileage: 13.76.
Yoga minutes: 60.


Turn stress into your motivation. Use that rage for a productive workout. When you don't feel like working out, do it anyway. I was so stressed out and exhausted from running around all day Wednesday, but I'm glad I still went to training. Only 12 of us showed up to run in the rain. Why do we run in the rain? Because it can rain on race day!

I'm also proud I finished 6 miles on Sunday despite a crazy-weather weekend. I learned sometimes you have to be flexible in your training. Luckily I still have time to get both 10- and 12-milers in before the half-marathon. Next week I have 6 miles scheduled on Saturday, so I'll do 10 since I did my 6 this week. That will be followed by 12 miles and then 8 miles.

How was your week? Are you following a fitness plan? Let me know in the comments, and please subscribe to my newsletter!

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Running Essentials

In theory, all you really need for running is a pair of running shoes and workout attire. But over the years I've found myself needing a lot more. The list has grown to more than 10 items, depending on the day. Getting ready for runs can be process. It starts with waking up early enough, making sure I eat something well in advance, and hydrating. If I'm on top of things that day, I make sure I have everything I need ready to go in a pile. Most days, though, I'm frantically running about the house getting what I need. Check out my list of running essentials and let me know what you would absolutely need for runs, and what you would add or subtract.

These are just some of my running essentials.

Hair ties: This is absolutely a necessity. The days when I forget to bring a hair tie to the yoga or Orangetheory studio are the worst. You can sometimes get lucky and find a rubberband at the front desk, but who wants to do that? I somehow broke or wore down all my hair ties recently, so I replaced them with plastic ones from Scunci. I actually didn't realize they were plastic-type material when I bought them online, and I was skeptical when I received them. But I find them to be durable and they came in various fun colors. (My previous set were plain black standard hair ties.)

Headphones: I know runners who don't need music, and I'm in awe of them. I need the music to pump me up and distract me. I recently broke the headphones I've had for a couple of years, so I replaced them with Sony headphones that come with a microphone for when Graham calls me midrun to check on me. The ear pieces are a bit smaller and I'm still getting used to them, but I like that they came in pink/purple. I would invest in a fancy pair of earbuds but I'm afraid I'd break them or lose them.

Armband: I carry my phone with me for three reasons: Safety, photos and music. Thus, most days I need an armband. If I run in a jacket I can put my phone in a pocket, but in the summer I rely on my armband to carry my phone and sometimes my debit card, just in case.

Energy gels: As I started to run longer distances, I needed to figure out how to nourish myself. That's when I began trying energy gels and packets. On longer distances, I try different types of energy gels to see which work best for me and which taste better. Lately I've tried Honey Stinger, Gu and Clif Shots. 

Water bottle: This isn't always necessary, and in fact I hate carrying water. I have tried running belts in the past, but I found them to be too bouncy and annoying. I don't really want to run with my Camelbak either, because I don't think I need that much water. I instead hydrate before and after on runs of an hour or less. If it's more than an hour I might bring a water bottle during the winter/spring. During the summer, I can drink from the fountains along the Chicago Lakefront path. 

Garmin wristband: I wear this every day, all day to track my steps. The Garmin vivosmart also syncs to my phone and can play my music and change the songs while I'm running. It also reads your text messages, which is helpful so that I can ignore any that don't require an urgent response while I'm running. 

Heart-rate monitor: I only really wear it while training at Orangetheory. I used to use the Garmin one that came with my wristband but now I exclusively use the one I got at Orangetheory.

Burt's Bees chapstick or Vaseline Lip Therapy (Rosy Lips): Especially during the winter and spring, I need my lips to be hydrated during the run. Chicago is windy (surprise!) and it dries out my lips when I run. I either apply this before the run or carry some with me. 

Doc Spartan Combat Ready ointment: I only recently started using this after I received it in my Stride Box. You can use it on skin that requires healing.

Hat and/or sunglasses: If it's raining, I wear a hat to keep the water out of my eyes. This happens too often in Chicago. In Phoenix, I would sometimes wear a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes if not wearing sunglasses.

Headlamp or flashing taillight or flashing slapband: I use a headlamp if I'm running in the dark. (Some races even require them if you're running at dusk.) I recently got a flashing slapband in my Stride Box that I've used twice as well. Even better: Wearing a reflective vest. I don't often do this, but I have one from running Ragnar four times. In Phoenix I would often run at night, and I would use both a headlamp and a taillight so I could be as visible as possible to drivers.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Races That Will Challenge You

Runners looking for their next challenge have myriad options. Races are no longer limited to running on a road or trail, nor are they limited to a single day. Trying out a new and different race can add variety to your race calendar and test yourself in new ways. These can include obstacle, relay or mud races.

Are you ready for your next challenge?

Some of the toughest races I've heard about:

  • Ragnar Relay. I've done Ragnar four times; I've finished the Ragnar Del Sol three times and McDowell Mountain Ragnar Trail once. What is Ragnar? It's a relay race of 12 runners in which you run about 200 miles. It starts on a Friday and takes until Saturday to finish. Some people get crazy with teams of six ultrarunners. My total mileage each time has ranged from 15 to 17.5 miles. It's the most intense race I've participated in because you get no sleep and you run three times over 24 hours. In theory running three times sounds OK, but when you're sore and stuffed into a van with five other sweaty runners for a night, things get a little tricky. It's also a ton of fun, and you really bond with your teammates in a short time. Ragnars have popped up around the country, including a new one in Hawaii!
  • Spartan Race. I haven't tried this obstacle race yet, but it intrigues me. Spartan Races, which have varying distances, even scare me a little, but I think one would be a fun challenge. Races range from Sprint for beginners to Beast, which is the most difficult of the three types. They are held around the country.
  • Tough Mudder. The 5-12 mile races incorporate mud into the fray. There's also a 24-hour challenge that I can imagine is quite the battle! This race is also held around the U.S. I often see people with Tough Mudder shirts on the Lakefront Trail in Chicago.
  • Your first half or full marathon (or for beginners, any race really). The first half or full marathon is the toughest because you don't know what to expect. Training consumes your life for months and then anything can happen on race day. But you can't beat the feeling of crossing that finish line to meet a goal you've set for yourself. My first marathon was the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in Louisville.
  • Goofy Challenge and the Dopey Challenge. One of my good friends completed this challenge over the past few years and I was seriously impressed. What is it? You run a half-marathon one day and a full marathon the next day. Disney races are popular, so you want to sign up as early as possible. Want to test yourself even more? You can do the Dopey Challenge, in which you run a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon over the course of four days. These races are also a fun way to turn your race into a vacation, because you can also explore Disney World. How fun is that?

Have you run any of these intense races? How did it go?

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Recent Beauty Empties and Reviews

I'm a minimalist when it comes to beauty products and makeup. While I'm in awe of people who have drawers of eyeshadows, contouring palettes and primers, I can fit my makeup in one bag. A big collection sounds amazing, but it would give me anxiety about not using each product enough. I'm weird, I know. I like to use products entirely before replacing them. Here are my recent empties and what I thought about each, including whether I will repurchase.

Alba Botanica Fast Fix for Puffy Eyes: I haven't felt the need to use something on my puffy eyes until recently. It's one of the many joys of getting older. I picked this up at Target recently on one of those mornings when my eyes weren't looking their best. I didn't feel like this really did anything for me. It was affordable, so if you believe more expensive products work better this may be one of those occasions. The package says you can put it in the freezer or fridge for a few minutes to cool it off, but I never thought to do that. Thus, this isn't the right product for me.

Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser Primer: I have heard so many bloggers rave about this, and while I did see my pores blurred, this left my skin feeling oily. I'll probably try another primer next time.

Suave Professionals Almond and Shea Butter Moisture Mask: I received this from Influenster as part of the Cheers Vox Box, and I love it. I have already ordered it again. It left my hair feeling smoother, shining brighter and just generally looking healthier. I also enjoyed the scent, and I liked the packaging. Bonus: It's affordable.

Lush Mask of Magnaminty: I love this mask. It has a refreshing feeling and has contributed to my skin looking much better the past few months. I love that it's made with natural products. One minor downside is that it's green so when I wash it off I have to clean my sink thoroughly because I tend to get it everywhere. I will definitely be buying this again.

Clinique Chubby Stick Shadow Tint for Eyes: I received this free sample when I repurchased my Clinique Stay Matte powder recently. I have appreciated the convenience of shadow in stick form. I love using this when I'm in a hurry; it glides on nicely. One minor downside is that I lost the plastic cover and it started to dry out. Be sure to replace the cover properly to avoid this. I don't need more shadow at the moment but I would buy again when I start running low.

Shop some of the products:

What are your recent favorites? I love beauty recommendations, especially for my eyebrows at the moment. What are you using? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

P.S. Sign up for the Floradise newsletter to get yoga sequences, fitness tips and reflections and more! Also I'm linking up with the Blush Blonde and the Fairy Princess Diaries for Tutu Tuesdays!

* This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Half-Marathon Training, Week 6

Week 6 of half-marathon training was a recovery week after increasing my mileage last week. I am happy with how I did despite the weather changing my plans over the weekend. 

Here's how Week 6 went:

Monday: Rest day. 30 minutes of yoga at home.

Tuesday: 2.54 miles at Orangetheory. I warmed up for .43 mile, then I ran a mile in 10:14, including two full minutes of walking. I really pushed myself. When I was running I was at 8:34 minute/mile pace. Then I ran a mile nonstop at about a 9 minute/mile pace. Floor workout included single-leg squat jumps, bicep curls and burpees. This workout was intense, and I was really into it.

Wednesday: 2.83 miles at group half-marathon training -- in the rain! The wind was intense, too. We started by running .33 mile, then doing three sets of walking lunges. Then we ran up six flights of stairs twice. Then we did leap frogs in groups of five, running .5 mile each time. (The last person sprints to front, repeating.) I was dying. I am dead. 

Thursday: Rest day.

Friday: 2.04-mile run around my neighborhood to test out my new headphones. It was chilly but sunny. Chicago is so beautiful; I stopped to take photos often.

Saturday: Shoveling wood chips and pushing wheelbarrows at the Cesar Chavez Day of Service at Peterson Garden's Global Garden in the SNOW. It was April 2. Whyyyy? I enjoyed the event, but it left me sore. My trapezoids and triceps were barking the rest of the night. I pushed my 5-miler to Sunday instead. I will consider this strength training.

Sunday: 5 slow miles. I meant to do this on Saturday and then go to Orangetheory on Sunday, but Chicago decided to snow/sleet on and off all day and I was exhausted after volunteering. My back and arms were still sore during this run, and Chicago had strong wind that nearly made me trip at one point. I took it slow and easy, even walking for a few minutes here and there. 

Mileage: 12.41.
Yoga minutes: 30.


I neglected yoga this week, and I know I could have benefited from it. This happens every so often, and once I get back into it I find some stress relief. I am signed up for a yoga event next weekend that I've been excited about for months. I also need to get started on my Orangetheory marathon in the month of April! As you can see my fitness to-do list is long, but I'm happy about that.

Previous recaps

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Friday, April 1, 2016

April Goals

A new month brings an opportunity to check in on my goals and set new short-term intentions. These monthly goal posts are just steps to achieve larger goals I've set to align with my 2016 word of growth. But first, let's see how I did with my March goals!

March goal check-in:

  • Practice single-tasking. I was better about this, though it will always be challenging with work. I find that setting aside time specifically for one task helps. 
  • Continuing training for my half-marathon and enter the lottery for the Chicago Marathon. I entered the lottery and kept training. I had one bad week but many great ones, too. 
  • Find more freelance writing and editing opportunities and work on my own book. I wrote 4,000 more words in my book. This may not sound like many but it's more than all of last year.
  • Find a yoga teaching job or enroll in work-study at my local studio. I decided I would be taking on too much by enrolling in work-study, but I'll continue to look for one class to teach.
  • Limit dining out to once a week (or less frequently than that). Done. We only went out to eat twice and I paid to dine out twice while traveling. I was lucky enough to have loving family members who made sure I had delicious food without having to pay for it. (Thank you so much!)
  • Continue saving and paying down debt. I am so close to paying off a student loan and a credit card. It will be a huge weight lifted when we pay off the debt.

Photo by Angela Parra

April goals:

  • Continue looking for freelance writing and editing work. I'm excited to have one post published this month on a major blog, and I'm turning in another on Monday. I'd like to have more work in the pipeline in addition to working to grow my own blog and newsletter. (Please sign up here!)
  • Film one video for YouTube.
  • Stay on track with half-marathon training. I also find out if I got into the Chicago Marathon later this month. Wish me luck, please! As part of my training this month, I'm participating in a charity marathon at Orangetheory Fitness. During the month I will track my mileage, and if I make it to 26.2, I help my team win. The winning team will have an extra $262 donated to the charity of their choice, in addition to the $15 each one of us paid to participate. I'll be running for Care for Real, a food pantry in Edgewater that provides food, clothing and referrals to people in need.
  • Adjust my diet to cut out more junk. I know it's not realistic for me to stop eating Doritos completely. I love them. But I can try to eat healthier foods and not use exercise as an excuse to eat anything and everything.
  • Continue saving and paying down debt. 


Do you enjoy reading goals posts? I love them and they inspire my own goals. But do they come off as braggy? Are they helpful? Please let me know in the comments. More importantly, tell me what your goals are!