Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How I Took a Vacation for Less Than $300!

Woo hoo!  Girls' weekend in New Orleans!  Sounds exciting, right?  Too bad we're all happily married moms who will probably be in bed by 9 PM every night.  Good thing we have no problems with day drinking.

Since this was a spur of the moment trip, I hadn't budgeted the plane ticket or the spending money I would need to finance this trip.  Rather than cancel it all together or worse, go into credit card debt for it, I had to get creative on how to raise the money.  And if you know me, you know I love saving and spending money!

Below is an outline of what I did.  In the end, I only needed to take the cost of my plane ticket, less than $300, out of our budget.  The best part was I had a fabulous time and didn't feel like I was depriving myself of any fun because I was on a budget!

Sell Your Stuff

One of my Craigslist Ads.

This one can be time consuming but honestly, it's how I made the most money quickly (about $70 in a week). The best part besides the money?  I freed up a lot of space in my basement by doing this. 

OK, so kind of a no-brainer, but what you do is go through all of your old stuff and put whatever you think is usable up on a yard sale site. There are so many more options out there now besides Craigslist. Check Facebook for local yard sale groups and look for an app called "Varagesale."  Be sure to learn and follow the rules of each site and play it safe when making transactions.  For instance, I always make sure my husband is going to be home when someone is checking out an item. 

Clear, attractive pictures will draw the most attention to your item. Unless it's a hot ticket item, fuzzy camera photos are quickly passed over. Pro-Tip:  Always ask for cash!

Use the Ibotta App to Buy Groceries

I'll be the first to admit that I've neglected this phone app recently because I'm a big fan of Aldi's which isn't part of it, but many grocery chains are. When I was preparing for this trip I jumped back into using this phone app so I could save money on items I was already purchasing. Did you know it offers rebates for beer and wine?  It does and since Aldi's sells neither of those items I'm forced to go somewhere else for them. Between my husband and I we were able to save $40 this way. That might not sound like a lot but that's a couple of drinks on Bourbon street, know what I mean? 

If you are interested in trying ibotta for instant rebates on your grocery purchases then click HERE.

Use EBATES to Get Cash Back for Online Purchases

Never heard of EBATES?  Well, it pays members cash back for online purchases and offers online coupons.  They've made it easier to use than ever by allowing you to download a tool for your internet browser that glows a different color in your navigation bar if a coupon is available for that site.  If you are searching an online retailer it will pop up a dialogue box if a cash back coupon is available.  It even works for Etsy!  This is a great way to save money if you love shopping online like I do.  You can get your cash back in the form of a check mailed to you, through PayPal or a gift card.  In the end I made $20.

If you are interested in earning money back for online purchases just click HERE. 

Use SwagBucks for Your Online Searches 

Swagbucks is owned by Yahoo!  Use it as your search engine to earn points (swagbucks) which you can redeem for gift cards. It does take quite a few swagbucks to earn one. For instance, a $5 Amazon Card is worth 500 swagbucks, but if you use it religiously it will ad up quick plus you can fill out surveys, shop, trade-in electronics, and perform online tasks to earn even more. 

If you are interested in signing up for SwagBucks so you too can earn free gift cards then click HERE.  

Overall,  I was able to save up to $200 worth of spending money for my trip by using these methods and a few others such as mail-in rebates.  I wasn't a slave to them either nor did it take me forever to earn it since I just started working on it the month before. I only had to pay for the price of my airline ticket, $275, which I easily took out of my monthly budget. 

What are your money saving tips for saving for a great vacation?

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Strength Training For Runners: Quick Core Workout

Full disclosure here:  I am completely muddling through my second half marathon training.  I don't feel nearly as committed as I did for the first one.  It doesn't help that I've been plagued by everything except the plague:  Poison Ivy, pink eye, bulging disc in my lower back, a never ending cramp in my left foot and endless stomach issues.  Just name it and I've got it these days.

I have managed to keep up with my strength training circuits though.  Yay for something going right!  The circuit I worked on this week from the Train Like a Mother Club was the Super Short Strength Circuit 3 which highlights a lot of quick ab work.  A strong core is essential for runners because strong abs increase the stability of your hips, pelvis, and even your knees during running. The result is less strain on your muscles and connective tissues and consequently less chance of injury. Also, by minimizing wasteful movement at the joints, strong abs make your stride more efficient, so you can run faster, longer.

So what are you waiting for?  Burn, baby, burn!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Finding the Time to Workout When Your a Mom

Almost immediately after I started posting about my success with running and losing the remaining baby weight, I was asked this question by multiple moms, "How do you find the time?"  The short answer is I made it a priority.

Family Support

Nothing says love more than standing in the cold holding a sign while your wife completes her first half marathon.

In the beginning, I would use the treadmill down in our basement while our daughter was sleeping. I work out of the home so I dislike spending any more time away from her than I already do.  When my training got more demanding and I needed to put in more miles and start incorporating strength training, then my husband had to step in more to take care of our daughter.  End of story.  Unless, I actually got up with my first alarm to get in an early morning run, then I had all evening to spend time with them both.  I really could not have completed most of my training without his support. OK, I really couldn't have completed any of my training without his support.  

Easy Dinners

As for dinners, I honestly relied on our crock pot heavily.  There was at least one month during the winter that every meal was made in it.  Doing this freed up a lot of my time in the evenings.  That being said, menu planning is also a beautiful thing and a lifesaver.  I've posted a lot of my crock pot meals HERE.  

Make Exercise a Family Event 

Occasionally, I took my 3 year old out with me in the jogging stroller when I just needed to get my run done and my husband wasn't able to watch her.  This can be challenging for many reasons including whining, dropping items, complaining about the heat/cold and then wanting to get out and run herself.  In my opinion, this is a great way to get some cross-training in as well since pushing 60 pounds worth of stroller and a kid is no easy feat.  Oh and for the record, since I am so frugally inclined, I purchased my jogging stroller second hand.  This is a great idea since if you or your child don't really like you didn't break the bank purchasing it and can probably unload it quickly too.  

Have a Plan

I'm pretty type A about how I function.  I like to plan for things and I like for things to go according to plan.  When I trained for my first half marathon I followed the plan from Another Mother Runner and it really helped me stay on track.  I modified it when I had to because let's face it, we all still have lives to live.  

Baby Steps

Start small!  A lot of people hear how many miles I run for a long run and think that is what they have to do to start running.  Please do NOT go out there never having run a mile and hope to complete 10!  You'll just end up discouraged not to mention injured.  When I first started I jogged for a mile at a 15 minute mile pace non-stop.  That was enough of a workout for me.  It might sound like nothing but I worked up a healthy sweat, felt frickin' awesome and actually wanted to do it again.  Never before had I run a mile without stopping.  I couldn't believe.  Turns out all of these years I had always gone out too fast and quickly became discouraged.  Running is something you actually need to train for!

If you are wanting to get started on taking better care of yourself, I hope that these tips resonate with you and provide you with some encouragement and guidance to get started.  You don't have to run either.  There are so many things you can do and it can become a family activity or a personal passion.  Running has done so many wonderful things for me, but it really isn't for everyone.  Find what works with you and stick with it.  Most of all, make yourself a priority.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

8 Miles of Redemption or Week 3 of Half Marathon Training

Confession time:  Over the past 2 months I haven't run much.

I know, I know, you are shocked.  After my first half marathon in May, I just really needed some time to heal my body and to get back to where I enjoyed running again.  I ran 2 races and just tried to enjoy myself.  Well, during the RibFest 5 Miler I just tried to not die from the combination of the heat, humidity and the steroids I started for the nasty case of poison ivy I contracted.

Then I ran the Finish at the 50 10K at Gillete Stadium on July 3.  I was looking forward to hitting the turf at the New England Patriots home stadium for quite some time.  Too bad, it was 82 degrees at the start at 7PM.  That was just the beginning because it wasn't too long before all of the ice cream cones I licked and all of the beers I'd sipped during the 2 weeks or so prior caught up to me.  Let's just say I was lucky to finish it.  It was not my best time and I almost lost hope entirely during mile 5.  When I checked my Garmin afterwards it recorded my best pace as around a 7 minute mile when I averaged an 11 minute mile pace.  When I checked to see when in the hell I hit that fast of a pace I found it was when I crossed the finish line.  I was THAT ready to be done that I sprinted to the finish.  

Once the holiday weekend was over I decided it was time I got back into the swing of things.  I made a conscious effort to stick to fasting for 16 hours a day, worked hard to avoid all 15 of my food sensitivities and really stuck to my training plan, including getting all of my strength training in.  

The true test would come when I had to complete my 8 mile long run on Sunday.  My longest run in 2 months.  

This past Sunday, I laced up my sneakers, turned on my music and headed out the door.  I was really looking forward to some alone time and some time to clear my mind.  I was a little nervous about such a long run since its been awhile plus the rain didn't help, but I knew I had to get it done.

And get it done I did.  

This run was different than the other long runs I did back when I trained for my first half in the winter/spring.  My legs felt stronger.  I never felt like they were going to give out.  My hips didn't scream in pain that they wanted to give up.

Mentally, I just had to push through and I'd be fine.  I did have to stop and walk a few times to get my breathing under control and then I was ready to keep pushing.  I'm happy with my time and pace.  I'm starting to feel like me again!

It also helped to have some pretty awesome tunes blasting to keep me moving.  

I'm burnin' through the sky yeah

Two hundred degrees

That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm trav'ling at the speed of light.
-Queen "Can't Stop Me Now"

Thursday, July 7, 2016

How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis

If you have a stabbing pain on the bottom of your foot especially near the heel, you might just have Plantar Fasciitis.  For me, it is at its worst in the morning when I first wake up and take a step but it can also happen after standing for too long.  For more information on what is commonly referred to as "Runner's Heel," you can read an article from the Mayo Clinic HERE.

So you've read the description and you think you have it.  What next?  How do you get relief?  I suffer from heel pain on my left heel and I credit it to ill fitting shoes.  Remind me again to never change brands or styles when I find one that works.

My suggestion to you is to try the moves in this video by the Train Like a Mother Club from Another Mother Runner.  

The moves have given me some relief.  Now, I haven't had a chance to do the moves with a partner yet, but I have promised my husband that he will get to torture me with my foam roller soon.  I think he's looking forward to it.

So what are you waiting for?  If you have heel pain, please try these moves!  If you still can't get relief than get help in the form of a physical therapist.  Plantar Fascitiitis is something that can sideline your training for months if not years.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Happy 1 Year Run-iversary to Me!

Looking back it is hard to believe that I have been running for one year as of today.

One year ago, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I had lost 53 out of the 80 pounds that I had gained during my pregnancy with my daughter but I still felt like crap.  I had mystery stomach pains, I suffered from an average of 2 migraines a month and the arthritis in my neck was constantly inflamed. I was suffering.

To make matters worse, my doctor administrated a C-Reactive Protein Test to check for levels of inflammation in my blood.  It came back positive,  My body was stressed and we needed to find out why.  After running a battery of tests including checking me from Celiac, Rheumatoid Arthritis and ulcers he finally referred me to a Doctor of Functional Medicine who later diagnosed me with Leaky Gut.

I was scared.

I've suffered from severe stomach pains since my early 20's and possibly even earlier.  I saw two gastroenterologists who diagnosed me with IBS, but not what was causing it.  I was relieved to finally get some medical care that might give me answers, but I wasn't sure I was ready to hear them.

My huge list of food sensitivities. 
Leaky Gut, if left untreated, can open you up to a whole host of diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  That was a road I didn't want to go down.  It was a awhile before I met with a nutritionist who tested me for food sensitivities, turns out I have a lot.  Who is allergic to broccoli?  This girl is!  Myy PCP finally did some standard allergy tests.  Hey, who knew I was allergic to nuts?  Glad to find this out at 38 years of age!

In the meantime, it was time to do something.  I had worked out at least 5 times a week for about 12 years before having my daughter.  I loved the elliptical and even threw in some weights when I was feeling it.  I was missing getting my heart rate up and just moving.  I had to do something, I told myself.

I turned to running.

I hated running.  Did I mention that?

I have a lifelong professed hatred of running.  Everybody knew I didn't run.  I joked that the zombies would just eat me.

But my neighbor had a rickety old treadmill that she said I could use so I found myself the cheapest sports bra, but on my old pre-baby gym clothes and got on the damn thing.

I set the pace at about a 15 minute mile and told myself to just run for 10 minutes.  Once I hit that goal and I was feeling pretty good, I figured what the hell and told myself I could stop at one mile.

I completely shocked myself when I had done it!  Never before had I run a mile without stopping.  I didn't care that I was slower than molasses.  I felt great, I was sweaty and it was glorious!

The best part?  I got back on that damn treadmill the next day and ran continuously for 25 minutes.  And the next day I woke up EARLY to put 10 minutes in on it.

I stunned myself by how good I felt and that if I ran at my own pace I could in fact do it.

It wasn't long before Sunday became my long run day.  Ah, the good ol' days when my long runs were just 3.1 miles (5K).  It took me 45 minutes and it was the hardest thing I had ever physically done but I kept plugging away at it.
About a 45 pound difference. 

After about 2 months, I ran my first 5K and stunned myself again by finishing and never walking.  I also took about 12 minutes off my finish time from what I had been doing at home.
Here I am a year later training for my second half marathon.  In just one year I have lost 20 pounds, cut my inflammation down to almost nothing and I've run in 12 races including my half marathon and a 10 miler.  My 5K PR is now a 27:36 down from 33:29 during that first race I ever ran.  That's a 6 minute difference after 9 months of training.  Not too shabby for this almost 40 year old!

My best piece of advice for new runners is to go at your own pace.  I used to think the only way to run was to go full throttle, but I'd just be burnt out a quarter mile in and give up.  Start slow and work your way up.

Who knows?  You just might like it.