' Adventures with FitNyx: December 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review: Blogging

Whew!  What a whirlwind this year has been - four jobs, in four different areas; twenty races; two major licensing workshops; and TONS of cool events and classes!  And of course, in the middle of it all, this humble blog, which started in early August, thrived through September and October, then got caught up in the many life decisions and changes I had to make throughout the last couple months of the year.  I have promised myself I would make blogging a greater priority in 2015, and that is still the plan, but let's take a look at what I've accomplished in 2014 first!

Posts this year: 100!!

Race Recaps: 13

Event Recaps: 6

Product Reviews: 4

Giveaways: 5

Blog Affiliations: 5

Most-viewed post: MESTRENGTH Product Review and Giveaway

My favorite post: Magnificent Mile Half Marathon Race Recap

Hardest post to write: Pro Compression Product Review

What I'm most proud of on the blog: The fact that I stuck with it, even if there were rough patches or times I didn't write as often as I'd liked.  I've started blogs before but they never last more than a couple days; this one is four months and counting!  It runs parallel with my new-found love of racing: I'm learning how to make a commitment to something that really matters to me.

What I'd like to work on in the new year: Posting more regularly.  I've had a lot of excuses in 2014, and I know the start of 2015 will be a little rocky too (until we get the puppy better trained), and I want to start *making* the time to write, not just *finding* the time.  That's an important distinction to me, and as I start to prioritize this wonderful new "personal time" I finally have, blogging will be taking a huge leap forward in the list.

Thank you all for reading, for commenting, for pushing me, and for inspiring me!  It's been a fun ride so far, and I can't wait to keep moving forward with y'all in the new year!  Be safe tonight, see you next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year in Review: Cross Training

Signing up for WAY too many races was only the start of what rapidly grew into a fitness-focused lifestyle this year.  Mud run experiences early in the year opened my eyes to the need for full-body training, and as I got more invested in fitness, I started taking more opportunities to cross train.  Having the chance to try ClassPass opened a lot of doors, and I got to try things I never would have dreamed were even an option!

Favorite Group-Ex Class: Core Fusion Barre at Exhale Chicago.  I went back as often as I could while I still worked downtown!  It's the kind of class I have actually considered making the two hour round-trip every week just to experience the energy and enthusiasm of my favorite instructor John!  I've also purchased hand-held weights just so I can try to recreate the class on my own here at home.  It's always a difficult workout, but John always knew the right way to push me towards greater results!

Least Favorite Group-Ex Class: AIR Fitness.  OH man.  I felt awful after this class, and ended up never going back.  Maybe it was the ropes cutting into my legs, maybe it was the 24 hour nausea that followed, but something about AIR was just a total turn-off.  Sometimes I think maybe I should have gutted out a couple more sessions, but mostly I'm thankful I never went back!  At least I got a really cool photo though...

Most Life-Altering Group-Ex Class: Yoga Jams at gratitudeYOGA.  I'd had a couple experience with yoga prior to finding Lisa at gratitudeYOGA, but until my first Yoga Jam I never thought yoga would be "my thing."  But something clicked that morning, and I found some clarity and self-discovery that surprised me and truly touched me.  I went back every chance I got, and even found a way to bring some gratitude into my old office.  Lisa has changed my life in so many ways, and I can't wait to see her again - this is definitely a class I would make the long trip downtown to keep taking!

Favorite Moment as an Instructor: PlayStreets Zumba!  Of course, another aspect of my class experience this year has been teaching group ex classes as a Zumba instructor!  Though I only complete my licensing at the end of April, I've repeatedly managed to find opportunities to teach all over the city!  I started at the Y, found myself at a dance studio downtown for a while, and most recently picked up several classes right here in my own neighborhood - but the most fun I've had teaching this year was the charity class I did for PlayStreets this summer.  Not only does PlayStreets offer an amazing cause, but the children and parents who stopped in to dance with me were all a total blast!  I haven't seen so many smiles all in one place in....  well, maybe EVER!

What I'm most excited for in 2015: This is a toughy.  I'm torn between my new Z classes (I even get to finally lead a Zumba Step class!) and the opportunity to put together my OWN cross training program.  I won't likely have as many crazy class options, but I definitely will have the chance to get in touch with my trainings needs on a more personal level, and that is definitely exciting!

Primary goal for next year: Cross training is more than just workouts - it's nutrition as well.  Though 2014 found me much more conscious of what I put into my body, and saw me perfecting the art of the homemade smoothie, I have a LONG way to go before my nutritional efforts can properly complement my activity efforts.  I'd really like to pull this last piece of the puzzle into place over the next twelve months, even though I know it'll be incredibly difficult.

How did you cross train in 2014?  Did you have an experience that really made an impact on your training or even on your life?  What's in store for your 2015??

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Year in Review: Racing

My first year of endurance racing has been crazy and amazing!  I've learned so much about myself and pushed well past what I previously thought were my limits, and I've racked up some numbers I never thought I'd see in my life!

Total mileage (since starting the hobby in April): 134.5 miles

Month with the most mileage: August (51.87 miles)

Month with the least mileage: July (4.17)

Longest run: 13.1 miles

Total number of races completed: 20

Number of 5k races completed: 15

5k PR time: 29:08 (A Race for Maggie's Place)

Number of 10k races completed: 2

10k PR time: 1:02:19 (#Run10Feed10)

Number of 15k races completed: 1

15k PR time: 1:52:32 (Hot Chocolate 15k)

Number of half marathons completed: 1

Half PR time: 2:44:40 (Chicago Women's Half)

Oddball distance races completed: 1 (Fort2Base 10NM)

Favorite race this year: Honestly, a tough pick.  Probably a three-way tie...

Least favorite race this year: Muddy Monk Thriller 5k

Accomplishment of which I am most proud:  Besides actually starting the fitness hobby in the first place, it's easily running my first half marathon with my dad.  I didn't meet my goal time, but I finished the race (and so did he) despite soaring temperatures, minimal training, and a lack of properly-fitted shoes!  I proved to myself that I can complete 13.1 miles, and now I'm itching to do it again!

Primary goal for next year: To be more consistent.  To actually *train* instead of just running when I feel like it.

Speaking of training, tomorrow I'll be posting a look back at my experience with cross-training this past year, including fitness classes and nutrition, before wrapping up my Year in Review with a look at my blog's performance in its first year!  See you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Or whatever your holiday is - I hope it's going (or went, or will go) fantastically!!!

We had a modest Christmas here, since the big "present" was the puppy last week...  But I still got a stocking full of healthy treats and a fancy new heart monitor from my dad!  This monitor will be fantastic for helping me better gauge the intervals in my Zumba class playlists, to help maximize the effect of interval training.

Some new adventures and some old favorites!

Thank you to my parents, my husband, my brother and his fiancee, my new friends at work, and everyone else who has helped to make my December the highlight of an already wonderful year!

Stay tuned next week for my Year In Review posts, looking back at some of the highlights of the past twelve months and reflecting on the many ways I have grown!

How did you make your Christmas special?  Any particularly exciting gifts or events?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Quick Update

Hi friends!

Once again I have failed to gain the consistency I had wanted in my blogging - though as usual I am convinced I have a "good excuse.". This time it is my adorable puppy keeping me from my keyboard, and quite literally!  Since we can't pull up the carpet in the basement, we aren't taking Kaalia down there until she's more reliably trained, so I spend most of my time upstairs supervising her.  Thankfully she is learning quickly, and I anticipate having a little more freedom soon!

In the meanwhile, despite giving up running/gym time to take care of Kaalia, I've still found some Zumba opportunities and am working on some new routines to premier in the new year!  I'm also testing some products which I will review in the coming weeks.  Work is becoming a reliable routine and I'm finding a nice groove.  Once the puppy training wraps up, I think I will FINALLY be ready to make my fitness lifestyle a real priority.

Ideas or suggestions for what you'd like to see in the new year???

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I apologize for missing the post I had planned for Sunday - something wonderfully unexpected happened.


Finally!  It's been about a year since our old dog, which my husband had owned for 18 years, passed away of a sudden stroke.  There have been many reasons to postpone finding a new pet, but now there are no more excuses: I live close enough to home to come let her out until she's housebroken, we don't have any vacations or travel planned, and the house is (sort of) in well enough order that we don't have to work too hard to puppy-proof.

So without further ado...  Meet Kaalia, the latest addition to our family!

She loooooooooves smooches!

A border collie and German shepherd mix, she's beautiful and intelligent.  We've had her for about 48 hours and she has already learned (and responds to consistently): sit, come, down, bring it (a variation on fetch), and her name!  We are SO proud of her progress so far!  I can't wait for warmer weather, I'm going to have a blast training her to do agility tricks...  PLUS, she'll be big enough that she can run with me sometimes!

She does still have a lot of work to do with housebreaking, though.  We've had numerous accidents, which is of course to be expected with a three month old puppy, but I feel confident that in a few weeks she'll be much more reliable.  In the meantime, we've pulled up the carpet in the living room (it was never tacked down, so that wasn't too tough) so as to prevent any staining.  Unfortunately we can't do the same in the basement, which is our usual chill space, but hopefully by the time she learns how to navigate stairs, it won't be such a problem.

Her favorite chair and blanket.  Cozy!

We feel like we won the pet adoption lottery, especially after a very positive vet experience today.  She's fit as a fiddle, sharp as a tack, and pretty as a princess!  You'll be seeing a lot more of my favorite gal in the coming weeks as she grows and develops as part of the family!

What's your favorite thing to do with your pet?  Does he/she run with you?  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Five Things Friday: Reasons I LOVE My New Job!!!

I can't stop raving about how great this new job has been for my life.  So I'm gonna throw out the top five things I love about it, and call it a day, so I can go back to focusing on all the crazy new fitness opportunities that are cropping up these days!

#5: No more commuting!

I loved my old office for many reasons, but I hated it too - mostly because it usually took me an hour and a half, via public transit, to get there, and another hour and a half (if I left at a good time) to get back home.  On delay days, it could take up to three hours in either direction.  The worst part was, that commuting time isn't really "usable time" like people who don't commute often think.  Being crammed into a corner on an over-filled train car is NOT conducive to reading, crafting, or working most days.  Now, though, I'm a mere five minutes from home, ten minutes if I get stuck at every light.  And I get to drive myself, so there's no freezing cold train platforms or obnoxious other passengers, just me and my music and my free will to do what I want!

Blissfully not a part of my life anymore!

#4: Fun tasks and interesting projects - with actual structure!

Being an office manager (my previous jobs) was never the same day to day, there was always some new issue or problem to address, and by "some" I truthfully mean HUNDREDS.  There were days when I did everything from ordering to hiring to IT support to janitorial work to property management.  And everything in between, and usually it was putting out fires.  Not so much anymore: my new job as an account coordinator affords me a very well-defined and structured role, with a workday that is not only manageable, but predictable.  I know what types of tasks I will encounter, and what types of requests will never fall on my plate; yet within my designated role, there is still tons of variety!  I now work with promotional products, and it's surprisingly fascinating.  I kind of love sorting through thousands of products to find something that's juuuuust right for a particular customer's needs and audience!  And bonus: I've picked up some mad Photoshop skillz.

Need something for YOUR brand?  Just ask, I can hook you up!

#3: Time for my husband and my hobbies!

With all the time commuting (see #5) and the crazy packed work days (see #4) of previous jobs, I struggled to find time for my family and my personal pursuits.  Sure, I still raced or took fitness classes when I could, but I did far less than I'd intended, and barely even had time to write short posts for this blog.  I certainly wasn't even close to having time for my crafting.  The majority of my scant free time went to my husband, and even that wasn't much.  "Work-life balance" was totally non-existent.  These days, though, I'm actually getting bored with all my new-found free time!  Hubbsy might even be getting sick of me already!  But I'm finally able to pursue my crafting (so far I'm about 80 squares into a blanket), find some consistent Zumba classes (adding at least two starting in January), get some work done around the house (like organizing my craft studio UGH), and start using my gym membership (treadmills over freezing any day)!  It's so nice to have a life again...

Sooooooo many squares...

#2: Amazing teammates!

Okay this isn't different from previous jobs, per se, but it's always a perk to love the people and the environment around which you spend eight hours a day!  This office enjoys a loose dress code, a great sense of humor, a true feeling of teamwork and support, and some of the friendliest, silliest people I've ever met!  Plus, I'm pretty sure I'm getting an awesome new BFF out of the deal...

Yes, it truly is.  Thanks everypony!

#1: I get to leave work AT WORK!

Being on-call 24/7 is just about the worst thing ever.  Having to "stay as long as it takes no matter what" is terrible.  Being able to leave at 5 and not have to stay alert for emails or other requests all night?  BLISS.  True bliss.  My phone almost never rings anymore - and I LIKE IT.  I'm not constantly worried something is going to break in the middle of the night and I'm going to have to fix it.  I'm not worried that my work day will carry on so late that I won't even be able to get home in a safe and reasonable manner.  No one is pressuring me to give up meaningful commitments, or come in when I'm horribly sick, just to fix some random problem that probably could have waited a day or two anyway.  Work stays where it belongs: at my desk at the office.  My stress level hasn't been so low in... years, probably.  Maybe not since pre-high school.  I feel like a different person.  I sincerely hope this feeling lasts for a long, long time...

Awww, yissssssss!

And there you have it!  Now that I've adequately gushed about my shiny new job, it's back to working out and making stuff!  What's your favorite part of your job?  How do you find the work-life balance?

Monday, December 8, 2014

A recipe! And it's maybe a little healthy!

I loooooooove chocolate brownies.  Love 'em.  I'll eat a whole pan in a sitting.  If I even let them bake - I'm pretty addicted to brownie batter, too.  Back in college, my friend Natalie and I would mix up brownie batter and eat it while we marathoned Dr Who.  We would have baked it, but the dorm with an oven was a whole 50 steps away, so we took the lazy route.

We didn't want to walk away from this - can you blame us?

Recently, the brownie craving has been rearing its ugly head.  But once again, laziness got the better of me, and I decided running out to the store for brownie mix was too much effort.  I didn't really have the right ingredients (including chocolate) for homemade brownies, but I did have some interesting substitutes lying around - so I decided to get a little crafty in the kitchen.

A few weeks ago I won a Puritan's Pride giveaway prize pack from fellow blogger Ironwoman Strong.  Included in my winnings was a pouch of Carob Powder, of which I hadn't heard previously.  After doing a little research, I learned that carob powder makes a good substitute for chocolate because it's lower in fat, naturally sweet (so you can cut down on sugar in your recipes), high in fiber, and doesn't have an caffeine.  Since I'm pretty sensitive to caffeine, this carob stuff sounded like a good solution, but I questioned how similar the taste would be to real chocolate.

I pulled a few other ingredients together but realized I also was missing sugar!  Instead, I found a bag of Truvia from a previous baking experiment and decided to go substitution crazy.  Previously I've written some of my own recipes, working around favorites I borrowed from my mom, so I tackled the brownie challenge with gusto and came up with the following:

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Truvia
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup carob powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

With the oven preheating to 350 degrees, I mixed the oil, truvia, extract, and eggs in one bowl while I combined the rest of the ingredients in another.  I slowly added the dry mix to the egg mix until it was all well combined.  My brownies baked in a greased 13" x 9" pan for about 26 minutes.  Next time, I'll probably put them in for less time, as my research hadn't told me that the carob powder can burn pretty easily and my brownies came out a little overdone.  BUT - they tasted like chocolate brownies!  And that was the goal, so I consider this a whopping success!

I'm not 100% sure these are healthier than the alternative, but the experiment helped me see that substitutions don't ruin flavors.  That's one of the major reasons I've been hesitant to try any of the hundreds of "healthy recipes" that claim to mimic the junk I've always loved: I was worried the healthy substitutes would be lacking in flavor.  Maybe I can start trying more substitutions to see if I can finally get over my biggest roadblock in my fitness journey...  Really, it's about time I started eating a little better...

So who's got a healthy substitute recipe for me to try?!  I'm open to any dessert-y suggestions to start, and then I'll move on to real meals!  Have you ever tried carob powder in a recipe?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December Life Realignment

Life has been crazy this year.  Everything has turned upside-down and inside-out more than once, and although for the most part the changes have led me in a positive direction, it's all left me pretty dazed.

This month, though, the changes have led to a situation that should finally allow me to settle a bit.  In fact, I may finally be able to establish one of those fancy "work-life balances" about which I've heard tell!  I started a new job on Monday - one that's barely five minutes from home, and won't require more than a typical 40 hour work week.  With this work schedule, I'll have so much more free time to work on my personal life.

Ain't it the truth?

I'm going to start small, to set the foundation before building up to bigger dreams.  First, I'm going to focus on my training in the new job.  It's a bit different from my past work experience, but so far I'm learning quickly and enjoying the tasks.  Once I'm in to my groove there, my fitness lifestyle will get a chance - I'll be able to start using my gym membership to establish better fitness habits, and I'll have more time (and less travel) to start teaching Zumba Fitness classes again!  I'll also be able to craft a little more, and I've got some great ideas that I just can't wait to make happen!

And of course, through all of this, my husband and I will have so much more time to connect.  My old commute could take hours each day, and on top of long hours on the job, we rarely had time or energy to do more than watch a movie together or maybe play a quick game.  Now, we can actually schedule date nights and have more fun together.  I've had a tight, stressful schedule for the vast majority of our marriage; it'll be wonderful to finally have a chance to connect again.

All in all, it should be a revitalizing, encouraging month.  I'm taking Michael Jackson's advice and making the change - which started with the job change.  It'll be fun to see where this takes me!