How To Start Running When You Hate Running

Back in 2015, my mom and Cody ran the Bix 7 in Davenport, IA. The Bix is a famous 7 mile race with thousands of participants. I did not think it was my thing at all, but once I saw what it was really like, I truly regretted not training for it. Although there are very serious competitors who participate, it is ultimately a race that is all about having fun. Dozens of bands perform alongside the course, and people who live nearby set up diversions to entertain the runners. When Cody told me what the course had been like, I was so jealous! I swore up and down that by the time the next Bix came around, I would be ready to run it. Unfortunately, I let life get in the way, and the 2016 Bix came and went. I knew that 2017 would be my last chance to accomplish my goal before we moved, so in February, I started training.

I used the Nike+ Run Club App for my training. I absolutely love this app. It has dozens of different plans to suit several different ability levels and goals (including distance and speed). At the end of each week, it adjusts the remainder of the training plan based on your performance that week. As far as running apps go, I think that this one is the most versatile. I also just find it enjoyable to use, which is always nice when you’re doing something that you don’t especially want to be doing.

At first, I could barely run a whole mile without stopping. I wish I could say that I diligently ran every mile that the app told me to, but to be perfectly honest, I sometimes went entire weeks without doing a single run. In fact, there was a three week period in May when Cody had to be away and I didn’t run at all. For me, the key to my success was less about my physical ability and more about my mental toughness. My body was capable of running those 7 miles, but my mind didn’t know that.

I found that the best way to keep my mind from getting the best of me was to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I ran. I am a person who gets bored pretty easily, so finding something that kept me entertained during long runs was integral to my training. If you struggle mentally with distance running, try to switch up what you’re doing. Get out on a trail, listen to something new, hop on a treadmill and watch television, anything that will keep your mind engaged will help you get over the mental slump.

In one month from now, you’ll be amazed at how far you have come.

How To start running (1)

 

 

 

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The Only Way To Lose Weight

Since February, I’ve lost over 40 pounds. I want to share the “secret” of weight loss, because once I discovered how to lose weight, I couldn’t believe how simple it really is! There are so many companies out there that take advantage of people who are trying to lose weight by making it seem like it’s only possible if you pay them hundreds of dollars. You can lose weight and keep it off without paying a single cent to any weight loss companies.

Step One: Calculate Your TDEE

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The only way to lose weight (I cannot emphasize this enough, this is the ONLY way that weight loss happens) is to consume fewer calories than you burn in a day. Everybody has a different TDEE (total daily energy expenditure—how many calories you burn per day), but a good way to estimate yours is to visit tdeecalculator.net and enter your stats. Put in your activity as “sedentary” (you’ll find out why later) and do not put in your body fat percentage unless you recently had a Bod Pod or DEXA scan done. My TDEE comes out to 2,042 calories per day.

Step Two: Calculate Your Calorie Budget

Now that you have your TDEE, it’s time to figure out how much weight you want to lose per week. One pound of fat is approximately 3,500 calories, so in order to lose one pound per week, you’ll need to shave off 500 calories from your TDEE every day. This means that I can eat 1,542 calories every day. A safe rate of loss is about 1% of your body weight per week, so if you are starting out at 250 pounds, you can safely lose about 2.5 pounds every week.

There are limits to how low you should go on a daily basis. Adult men are not recommended to dip below 1,500 calories per day, and adult women are not recommended to eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day. When you go below these numbers, it becomes very difficult to maintain proper nutrition. If you are very short, these numbers might not apply to you, but you absolutely need a doctor’s supervision if you are going to be eating less than the recommended minimums every day. The key here is sustainable weight loss. Losing too quickly is not healthy nor sustainable, and I guarantee that you will gain it all back.

Step Three: Incorporate Exercise

Exercise is for overall health, not weight loss. It is difficult to burn 500 calories, but it is easy to avoid eating those extra calories in the first place. It is also difficult to accurately estimate how many calories you burn in a workout. This is why it is good to estimate your TDEE using the “sedentary” option. If you absolutely hate exercising, you don’t have to worry about adding it into your day.

You can always choose to eat back a few of the calories that you burn during a workout, but many people recommend that you only eat back about half of them in order to avoid eating more than you burned on accident. For example, when I was training for the Bix 7, I would eat a 50 calorie cheese stick as a recovery snack after a 5 mile run.

Step Four: Start Tracking

I prefer to use the app LoseIt! to track my calorie intake, but many people enjoy using MyFitnessPal. Both apps are free to use, and both make it easy to track the amount of calories that you are eating in a day. In order to ensure accurate tracking, a food scale is imperative. The number one reason why people fail to lose weight when they are counting calories is because they are underestimating how much they are eating. Using a food scale helps ensure that you are eating proper portion sizes.

That really is all it takes to see amazing results. I’m happy to answer any questions; feel free to post as a comment here or on my Facebook page. If you would like to be part of an amazing weight loss community online, I can’t recommend r/loseit enough! R/loseit taught me everything that I know about weight loss; it is a supportive community full of brand new and veteran losers that will make you feel at home no matter where you are at with your weight loss journey.

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Fall Bucket List 2017

After starting my first full-time job in February, I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting my blog. In an effort to revive my writing space, I decided to kick off September with a Fall Bucket List.

1.) Do a horror tour of Iowa.

We have wanted to go visit the Villisca Axe Murder House for ages, and this October we are finally going to do it! We are planning to follow up the Villisca tour with a visit to a haunted theme park in Des Moines.

2.) Visit Wilson’s Orchard.

We’ve never been to Wilson’s Orchard, but I’ve heard so many good reviews that I want to make sure we get the chance to visit it before we move.

3.) Bake cinnamon rolls.

I’ve been avoiding baking my cinnamon rolls since I’ve been losing weight because they are too delicious to resist. Since I’ve been pretty successful (only about ten lbs away from my high school weight!) I think it’s time to taste those cinnamon rolls again.

4.) Set new fitness goals.

After running the Bix 7 in July, I’ve been at a stand still with my fitness. I want to keep up with my running, but I also want to pursue lifting more. I’ve been struggling to find a gym that fits my needs and is still affordable, but now is the time to get it all sorted out!

5.) Attempt NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Thousands of participants spend the entire month of November attempting to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. I have always wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo and I’m hoping that this will give me the motivation that I need to start writing more often again.

2017 Fall Bucket List

 

 

Finding Grace

I am a perfectionist. I always have been, and I probably always will be. I expect perfection from myself, and from those who surround me. The problem with having such high expectations is that it is impossible for anyone to ever meet them. And this is where anger comes in. Many people in my life don’t know this, but I have a horrible temper. I find myself wanting to shout at those dearest to me more often than I would like to admit.

I would love to try to justify my anger by claiming that it is righteous; that I only feel it when I witness a true injustice. But I would be lying. The majority of the time, I feel angry when people don’t do things the way that I would do them. The fact of the matter is, the majority of my anger is wrong.

My deepest desire is to love everyone unconditionally. And I mean everyone—from my own son to the person bagging my groceries. It’s easy to feel unconditional love for my family; there is nothing that my son or husband would do that would make me stop loving them, but to feel that toward strangers is more difficult, and probably impossible.

The only way for me to begin working toward loving unconditionally is for me to become a woman of grace. Every person I come across is a child of God. Who am I to think that I should ever have feelings of anger toward a person who my Creator put on this earth? Whether or not a person “deserves” my love is not up to me to decide. God didn’t create me so that I could wonder whether my fellow human beings are worthy of love.

So, this is my promise, to you guys and to myself, that I am going to be better. Instead of thinking of myself as a woman with an anger problem, I am going to remind myself that I am a woman of grace. I have been put on this earth to bring light to the lives of others, and I don’t want to let my Creator down.

 

Tragedy and Small Towns

A former classmate of mine passed away last night. The familiar feeling of a life taken too soon rests once more on the shoulders of my little hometown, and sometimes, the weight feels like it’s too much to bear.

As with every small town, everybody knows everybody in Hamilton, Illinois. They say that if you aren’t sure what you’re up to, your neighbor probably knows, and it’s true, gossip spreads quickly when it only has a couple miles to go before reaching the city limits. But what often goes unsaid about small towns is that there is a strong bond formed when you grow up together in a place so small it’s almost a secret.

Nobody but people from Hamilton knows how fun it was to play kickball on the City Park tennis courts when the weather started to get warm. Or how satisfying it was when your mom finally let you get a Little Hugs Fruit Barrel from Duck’s. We’re the only ones who know that our cemetery has the best walking paths in the whole town, and we’re sure to wave at every person that we walk past while there, because even if we can’t remember their name, we know they share in this little secret of a town right along with us.

And perhaps this is why tragedy hurts us so much. Because with every precious life lost, a sharer in the secret is lost with it. There are already so few people who know what we know that every single person lost feels like a critical blow to the continuation of the entire town. Because though the rest of the world keeps turning, little Hamilton will never be the same if it’s missing even just one citizen. That hole can never be filled by another.

But that hole can become another part of our secret. And thanks to the strength of the bonds between us, no member of our town will be forgotten. Nobody will have a memorial service that goes unattended, or a tombstone that isn’t cared for. No families will wonder if their son or daughter was ever loved by others. They will know by the casseroles and the flowers and the tears of those that bring them that this is a burden we’re going to bear together, and that is the true beauty of growing up in a small town.

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I love you, HHS Class of 2013.

A Letter to my Son on His 2nd Birthday

My son turned two a few days ago, and I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about the world that he’s growing up in and the type of man I hope he becomes. Tonight I thought I’d sit and write down my thoughts, and I figured you all might enjoy reading them.

My dear sweet Cale,

2017 is the year that your dad and I looked forward to from the time we graduated high school in 2013. It’s a year of such excitement for our little family. But 2017 has brought with it a lot of fear. I’m so sad to say that our country is more divided now than I can ever remember it being, and I worry that the man who will be our president in just a few short days is only going to increase that feeling of division. I worry that as you grow, you will see great injustices being done in the name of greatness. I worry that your dad will be put in danger by the dangerous politics of our leaders. But most of all I worry that the climate you grow up in will not lead you to see the importance of kindness above all.

I know that your dad and I are going to try our absolute best to help you grow into a compassionate man. We want you to see the beauty in the world, and we want you to know that you can be a part of that beauty. We never want you to lose hope. I’m afraid that the loss of hope is what has lead our great country to the place that it now finds itself. You need to understand that even though you might not always feel in control of your life, you do always have control over your actions. You always have the ability to be brave, to be kind, and to be the best person that you can be.

You will always be capable of loving others. Even when it’s hard, and even when they don’t deserve it. We have been put on this earth to spread unconditional love, and I desperately hope that you will never forget that. I fail at loving others unconditionally more often than I’d like to admit, but I never stop trying, and I hope you won’t either. I hope that the love you feel from your dad and myself and all of our family members will be a constant reminder of your purpose.

I could not be more proud to call myself your mother. Happy birthday, my little love.

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Photo taken by Canyon McCarty

New Year, New You, New Budget

Budgeting sounds horrible; you have to sit down with your bank account and your bills and take a serious look at both of them. I get it, there is nothing fun about numbers, especially when those numbers have to do with how much money you have and what you’re allowed to spend it on. But budgeting isn’t about limitation—it’s about freedom. When you budget, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you can afford something, because you’ll already know.

If you’ve never tried to budget before, this is the perfect time to start. You’ll need to know just three things: your monthly take-home pay, your monthly bills, and your monthly expenses. If you don’t know any of these three numbers, you should find out as quickly as possible! Being ignorant of your money is the quickest way to lose it.

Now that you have the information you need, sit down at your kitchen table with a notebook and pen. If you have a spouse or partner, they should be included in the budgeting process as well. The only way to keep a household running smoothly is for everyone in the house to understand the money situation. Now that you’re all set, follow these simple steps:

  1. At the top of your piece of paper, write your monthly take-home pay.
  2. Next, write your monthly bills and subtract that number from your take-home pay.
  3. Follow that with your monthly expenses. Groceries and gas are two important items to take note of here.
  4. Once you have your bills and expenses out of the way, you have more options with what to do with the rest of your income. Set aside savings, money for eating out, “fun money” or whatever you like. I would recommend saving before anything else, but this step is ultimately up to you.
  5. Continue subtracting from your top number until you reach zero. Every single dollar should be accounted for, even down to vending machine money. This is the most crucial aspect of budgeting because this is what will keep you from wasting money on frivolous expenses.

Budgeting takes time, but it is time well spent. Knowing where every dollar goes will take away the anxiety of making sure that your money will make it to the end of the month, and you might even find that you have more money than you realize. If you’re interested in learning more about budgeting and personal finance, check out the book Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. You have the power to take control of your finances, and adding budgeting to your monthly routine is the perfect first step.

Thanksgiving Dessert Recipe Round-up

It’s been a tough week, guys. Let’s console ourselves with dessert. Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I’ve compiled my most favorite dessert recipes.

1.) Salted Caramel Cheesecake

I made this cheesecake for Cody’s birthday, and it turned out great. Cody insists that it’s the best thing I’ve ever made, but he’s a cheesecake fanatic. I thought it was pretty delicious, but the crust did get a tad too dry. Although this doesn’t require a lot of skill to pull off, it does take time.

  • Flavor Rating: 4 out of 5
  • Difficulty Rating: 3 out of 5 (with 5 being most difficult)

2.) Gloria’s Perfect Cinnamon Rolls

These cinnamon rolls have definitely received the most glowing reviews of anything I’ve baked, and I agree, they are delicious. They take a very long time to make and require the use of a stand mixer, but they are definitely worth it. My favorite part about them is that you can freeze them individually in little baggies and then pop them in the microwave for a “just came out of the oven” flavor.

  • Flavor Rating: 5 out of 5
  • Difficulty Rating: 4 out of 5

3.) Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cupcakes

Cinnamon Toast Crunch cupcakes are my go-to dessert. They are definitely a crowd-pleaser! My most favorite part about them is that the base is a French vanilla cake mix, so they aren’t too difficult to create, but they have the look and flavor of gourmet cupcakes. My only warning is to be careful when mixing the icing. It’s very thick and I’ve broken two electric mixers while making this recipe.

  • Flavor Rating: 5 out of 5
  • Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 5

4.) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

Holy cow. These cupcakes are almost too much. They’re made with a thick peanut butter icing that is so good you could eat it plain. If you love chocolate and peanut butter together, you will absolutely love these cupcakes. To make it even easier on yourself, you can skip the cupcake part and just turn these into regular brownies.

  • Flavor Rating: 5 out of 5
  • Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 5

5.) No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie

I’m including this link but I’m not exactly recommending this specific recipe. My version of this recipe is very similar, but I think it turns out better. I don’t add milk or whipped cream to it. Instead, I just mix together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, and peanut butter and put it all in the crust (and I make sure to taste it and add more peanut butter or powdered sugar as needed). I also recommend simmering a cup of heavy whipping cream, then pouring that over a cup of chocolate chips to create a chocolate topping. Cover the entire pie in the chocolate and you end up with chocolate peanut butter heaven.

  • Flavor Rating: 4 out of 5
  • Difficulty Rating: 1 out of 5

 

What are your most favorite desserts? Link some recipes in the comments!

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

As many people know, the nerd world lost its collective mind when it was announced that there would be an eighth installment of the Harry Potter series. I, too, was overjoyed at the thought that I would get to revisit the world of Harry Potter. Unfortunately, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was not a return to the sparkling world of witchcraft and wizardry. Instead, it was more like going to your high school reunion only to discover that your old crush had peaked about halfway through sophomore year.

I’ll admit, I read Cursed Child in one day; it wasn’t that I found the story boring or bad. In fact, it has a great premise: Harry Potter’s second son goes off to Hogwarts and is sorted into Slytherin. To top it off, he becomes best friends with Draco Malfoy’s son. It’s a great idea, as it offers a complete perspective shift of Hogwarts. Sadly, the story-line is primarily driven along by the poor relationship between Harry and his son, which is a story that has been told many times over. The joy that readers felt when reading the initial seven books was primarily related to the sense of wonderment surrounding the wizarding world. I remember being nine years old and feeling completely enveloped by the magic of it all; Harry’s early adventures were deeply entertaining. Sadly, Cursed Child does nothing to recapture that wonderment and joy.

Ultimately, the problem with Cursed Child is that it reads like fan fiction. J.K. Rowling did a wonderful job of world-building in the first seven books. The plot grew in ways that felt preordained and never contrived. This was not so with Cursed Child. It was clear that this was a story that was created much later than the original story, and there was nothing in the original seven books that pointed toward the happenings of Cursed Child. As someone who has loved the world of Harry Potter for over half my life, I was sorely disappointed by everything that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lacked. It could have been much, much better.

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October in Review

This month has gone by so quickly! It seems that every month that passes goes by faster than the last. Of course, the best part of October is Halloween, and we had a great time trying to figure out what we would be this year. Last year Cale was a spider, Cody his web, and I was a witch. (Sorry in advance for the grainy quality of these pictures, I need to start taking pictures of our costumes BEFORE it gets dark!)

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This year at the last minute we decided to be a lion and tiger and bear (oh my!) and I’m so glad that’s what we went with! Walmart had this crazy adorable lion costume in Cale’s size, and I could not stop laughing at how cute he looked. He wasn’t a fan of the mane at first, but once he realized that it was making everyone laugh he decided that he liked it.

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We got to wear our costumes to Mt. Pleasant’s Ghost Train. The weather was shockingly nice and Cale had a great time strolling around and looking at everyone. We were a bit worried that the Ghost Train might freak him out, but to everyone’s amusement he ended up waving at the people in costume as we passed them. The only thing he wasn’t a fan of were the other children’s screams.

Aside from Halloween activities, I’ve been busy with the English Society. Our number one goal this year is growth, and we have had several events that have been really successful. It’s so exciting to be involved with a group of people who are passionate about similar things. Our latest event was one where we were able to speak to a professor about his career, and it was truly inspiring. He had some amazing insights on what it is to be a teacher; after speaking to him, my desire to teach definitely grew.

It’s been a great month, and I’m excited to see what the remainder of the semester has to bring!

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Goals for November:

1) Write every day.

2) Blog once a week.

3) Take Cale to the park a few more times before it gets too cold.

4) Apply to three jobs.

5) Read ahead for at least one class.