Friday, February 27, 2015

Fitness: How I'm Staying Motivated this Year

Usually by the end of February, if I made any New Year’s resolutions, I don’t even remember what they were at this point. Instead, it’s February 27th and I’m actually still on track with just about all of my resolutions. One of these resolutions is exercising at least 3 times a week and cutting back on carbs. I’m proud to say I’ve made it to the gym at least 3 times a week (sometimes more) every week since the first of the year. I’ve struggled over the past year or so with sticking to an exercise routine, so I’m really proud of this. I’m confident I will keep this up because after 2 months, it’s become part of my routine. Sure, there are days I have to push myself a little harder than others to get to the gym, but even those days, I get myself there and I’m glad I did.

I think we all have different ways of sticking to a fitness routine and staying motivated. What helps me get to the gym on a Saturday morning may not help you, but I still love hearing what works for others.

Here are a few things helping me stay motivated and excited about fitness:


I’ve used the Nike+ app to track my runs for a few years now and I’m still a big fan. I’m not a marathon runner and I don’t have plans to become one, but if you had told me in high school I would enjoy running for exercise, I would have laughed at you. I’ve never been much of an athlete and I have issues with my body becoming overheated easily. When I launched the Nike+ app to start tracking my run on Monday, my home screen showed that I’ve run a total of 406.7 miles since I started using Nike+. 406 miles run by a girl who said she’d never be a runner. I had to stop for a second and think about how cool that is. I’m telling you all of this because using the app helps me stay motivated and excited to beat my previous time/pace/distance. I can see that so far this month, I’ve run 21 miles, which just motivates me to get some really good workouts in these last few days of the month to beat that 21 miles.

A new gadget I’ve been using to help keep me motivated is one I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Polar FT4 watch. I’ve only been using this for about a month, but it’s really helped me workout effectively by monitoring my heart rate and letting me know when I’m not in my target zone. Being able to see my calories burned and minutes exercised helps me push myself a little further when I normally might have quit. I guess for me, being able to see my progress and workout history helps me a lot! It brings out a competitive side in me where I want to beat my previous distance, time, etc.


I believe Erin has hosted this a few times before, but I either didn’t get involved or didn’t stick with it. It’s simple: exercise for 30 minutes a day for 2 months and on top of getting in shape and helping others stay motivated, there’s also the possibility of winning a cash prize at the end. It’s pretty cool. When you sign up to participate, Erin sends you a spreadsheet so you can track your time. When I think about skipping a workout, my first thought is how I’m just going to have to make up the time on my next gym visit so I don’t fall behind on my minutes! For example, I skipped the gym Friday-Sunday of last week and regretted it immediately come Monday morning. Not wanting to fall even further behind, instead of my normal 45 minute to an hour workout on Monday, I pushed myself for a 2 hour workout so I could catch up. It was rough, but I felt really good afterward knowing I was still on track. Being accountable for tracking my minutes on a spreadsheet and wanting to be able to say I completed the challenge at the end of March has me helped me a lot!

No More Excuses

I'm pretty sure you can all relate to me here, but if I don't want to workout, I can and will find what I convince myself to be a valid reason why I absolutely cannot do it. I've told myself many things to avoid going to the gym. I used to convince myself I was too tired, too sick, too busy, just washed my hair (I know you girls can relate to this one) -- anything under the sun that made me feel a little better about skipping my workout. If I already had something planned for after work, I wouldn't even consider going to the gym after it. No way, no how.

Those days are over. Instead of coming up with some excuse as to why I can't exercise, I just do it. Half the battle is just getting myself to the gym and once I'm there, I'm all about getting a good workout in.

Scheduling Workouts

This is especially helpful for me when I have a lot of after-work events scheduled for the week. Like I said, these are times I normally would use the fact that I already have something to do after work as an excuse to skip the gym. I'm finding that early in the week, reviewing my schedule ahead of time and adding my workouts to my calendar no matter what else I have going on has really helped keep me accountable. Again, I guess it's a visual thing for me. If I have a networking event or volunteer event after work and it ends at 7 or 8, there's no reason why I can't get to the gym after that, especially if I plan for it. Adding my workouts to my calendar as appointments helps me plan ahead. This way, I don't get to Thursday and realized I've put off the gym every day so far.


I'm nearly 2 months into this and while I know I still have a ways to go before I'm where I want to be, I'm know I'm making progress. Hitting the 3 mile mark on my last run this week, feeling like my clothes are fitting more comfortably, seeing the number on the scale go down -- these are all things that are helping me keep it up.

I know we're only 2 months into the year, but I'm celebrating the fact that I haven't fallen back into my old habits.

These are just a few stays I'm finding help me stay motivated. I'd love to hear what works for you!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekend Snapshots

Hello friends. Happy Monday.

I'm a little under the weather today so I'm home and looking at the bright side, it's nice to have the down time on a Monday to put together an actual weekend recap. Also, thanks to the glorious weather we have going on here in Orlando, I've got the screen door open and I'm soaking up the sounds of this day -- birds chirping, the trees moving with the breeze and the sound of our wind chime ringing away. I may not be feeling well, but this sure is good for my soul.

I'm reflecting on the last few days and I'm feeling so grateful because this Valentine's Day brought us just what we needed: time. A weekend without places to be, without work to be done, without people to see. The last few months have been a good kind of busy -- the kind where you feel productive and happy and purposeful. We've both thrown ourselves into all kinds of good things to fill up our free time - volunteering, bible study, working out, working more, networking. It's been great but it's had us craving some quality time just the two of us. 

We kicked off our day on Saturday with brunch at home. We slept late, made breakfast together and chatted over mimosas while we planned our day together. When breakfast was over, we climbed back in bed for more mimosas (duh) and a movie. 

We never really talk about exchanging gifts for Valentine's Day. We usually decide how we want to spend our day or night and that's the end of it. One year, I made Jonathan a gift basket with all his favorite snacks and some homemade goodies. The next year, I didn't plan anything for him and he surprised me with some new earrings (which he hid in our spice cabinet) as many of my earrings had been stolen out of my suitcase on our honeymoon. We don't ever really expect something from each other and I love that. It takes the pressure off and the stress of it all. We genuinely look forward to how we decided to spend the day, not what we'll be getting or not getting. 

With that being said, as we were sipping champagne enjoying our movie, the doorbell rang. I assumed it was one of our neighbors or something and Jonathan ran to get the door. I stayed in bed and when Jonathan came back, he excitedly told me I got a delivery and handed me a package. This little sneak had ordered me the new Kindle Fire. I don't think I'd even mentioned wanting a new Kindle even though mine was pretty outdated and didn't always work properly. I was totally surprised and overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness. 

I had a haircut scheduled for noon, so we headed out for my appointment and ran some errands together. Later that afternoon, we went on a bike ride to Publix so we could pick up what we needed to cook dinner that night. Like I said, the weather has been gorgeous here lately -- it would've been wrong if we didn't get out and enjoy it. Ah, the photos below make my heart so happy. Also, I colored my hair this week and this is the darkest I have ever been in my whole 28 years. I'm getting used to it but woah. 

We had to stop for a bit to say hello to our neighbors -- they were just asking for us to stop and visit! 

We got home from our bike ride and I got right to work prepping our dessert - chocolate covered strawberries and we relaxed for a bit before starting dinner. On the menu: steak, scallops, asparagus and sweet potatoes. I wanted us to make something a little out of our comfort zone and scallops were one dish I'd never dream of attempting to make at home. I feel like they are too easy to under/over cook. We found some tips on Pinterest and tackled it together -- they came out great!

I loved our dinner at home. I had a romantic dinner with my husband while wearing yoga pants and how adorable is he with his hair and flannel deer pajama pants (not pictured)? 

After dinner we snuggled up for a movie, more champagne and dessert. It was the best day. The best!

Sunday was all about bible study homework, church and running errands. We're looking to get hardwood floors and stopped at a few places for pricing and samples. 

I think we settled on the floors we want and I think we're ready to make the move! We're pretty excited and so is Taylor -- can't you tell?

How did you spend your Valentine's Day? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

13 Different Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day - you either love it or hate it. Sure, it's a "Hallmark holiday" and sure, you should make an effort to show love throughout the whole year, not just one day. This is all true, but there's no need to completely disregard it! Valentine's Day doesn't have to be about chocolates and roses and creepily large teddy bears. There's plenty you can do to celebrate that doesn't include over-the-top romance.

We typically keep Valentine's Day pretty simple and I like it that way. There's no pressure or stress, we just decide how we want to spend the day together and try to be intentional about doing little things to show our love.

(one) Use it as an excuse to bake (and indulge) in one of your favorite treats. When I was single, I used to make Red Velvet Cupcakes every year just because. It was the one time a year I would make these so it was something I looked forward to! Plus, it was really fun to give them out to friends/family/coworkers. 

(two) Do something together that you usually can't fit into your schedule. For us, it's going on a long bike ride. We love taking a bike ride on a Saturday afternoon and maybe definitely stopping for drinks along the way, but we usually aren't able to squeeze it in. I'm so looking forward to this tomorrow!

(three) Make brunch together at home and enjoy while watching your favorite show on Netflix. Any other Saturday, you might feel guilty staying in bed all morning drinking champagne but it's Valentine's Day so cheers to mimosas and knocking out a whole season of Friends on Netflix!

(four) Spend the day volunteering together. You'll enjoy the quality time and feel good about making a difference in your community.

(five) Avoid the crowds and cook dinner together at home. Valentine's Day is a good excuse to switch it up and try a new, fancy and/or more challenging recipe to cook as a team. 

(six) Show kindness to strangers. Pay for the car behind you at the drive-thru, leave a $10 gift card to Target in a random cart, make an effort to compliment people you encounter throughout the day. 

(seven) Love yourself. Use this day as a chance to do something for yourself - massage, pedicure, reading on the porch - whatever you've been wanting to do for yourself but haven't, do it today!

(eight) Send flowers to a female friend or family member

(nine) Learn how to make your favorite cocktail. Find a cocktail you've been wanting to make at home (for me this would be a Moscow Mule). Go out together to pick up the ingredients and spend the night at home drinking and chatting - no TV or electronics - just quality time together.

(ten) Game night with a group of friends or with your significant other. I love a good game night!

(eleven) Get active. Go on a hike together, play kickball with your friends, attend a group fitness class with a friend or your significant other, try a new workout. Whether you're alone or with someone, you'll be glad you did something good for your body (and soul)!

(twelve) Skip the roses. If you want to buy flowers for your significant other, why go with red roses when you could give them something more personal like their favorite flower or even a bouquet of the same flowers used in your wedding?

(thirteen) Have a dance party. There really is never a bad time to have a dance party. 

How are you spending your Valentine's Day? What other ideas would you add to my list?

Linking up with Sarah and Helene today!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What Comes Next? Finding Strength in Sadness

It's been quiet around here since I shared the story of our miscarriage with you all last week. I haven't known quite what else to say about it to be honest. I want to share what the last few months of healing have been like for us, but these emotions are so unique and I've had a hard time putting it all into words. I guess one thing you all you should know is that we are doing well. We really are.

In the weeks following our sad news, I certainly wouldn't have said we were doing well with as much conviction. I attempted to go into work the following Monday because I didn't really know what to do with myself. I cried the whole way there and sat in my desk chair crying for half an hour when I arrived, only to go right back home. I had been holding up okay over the weekend, but something about being back to a normal routine didn't feel right. I fell apart.

I spent the next several days hiding out at home. I kept myself busy decorating our home for Christmas and getting things done around the house. Being at home was comforting to me. The only person I saw was Jonathan and he knew what I was feeling, what I needed. Home was a safe haven away from having to put on a brave face for the outside world. All that being said, I think I dealt with all of this fairly well.

One thing you need to know is that in the midst of our sorrow and disappointment, we have such faith in God that we knew everything was truly going to be okay. We may not understand God's plan at times, but that isn't our job. Our job is to trust in Him no matter the circumstances. Were we devastated? Yes. Did we feel like the wind had been completely taken out of our sails? Absolutely. Did we have moments of overwhelming sadness? Of course. But in all of this, we found strength in Him and had complete faith that we were going to be okay.

I eventually found the courage to return to work and it was certainly an adjustment. Responding to comments and support I received from co-workers/friends/relatives, all with good intentions was a unique challenge in the first few weeks. It's not that these gestures are not appreciated, it's just that you don't really know how to respond without falling apart. It requires understanding and grace, that's all I can say about it.

I wasn't quite myself, but I was trying and as I healed, I started feeling like myself again slowly but surely. I started socializing more and getting out and about. I found so much comfort in my husband and we would talk and talk until we both felt any weight we'd be feeling had been lifted. We faced this together and  we supported each other. We started laughing real, honest, full laughs and remembered that a good laugh can make you feel better in an instant. We helped each other and are still helping each other move forward.

There were times during the following weeks that I felt like I was watching myself from a distance. I couldn't believe my own strength. You honestly could never predict how you would react to this experience and to witness myself healing and dealing with this tragedy with the slightest bit of grace and peace was truly remarkable to me. I spoke to and thanked God more times than you could possibly imagine.

It's truly amazing to me the peace I was and still am able to find in this situation. It's been months since that devastating day and while I still feel sadness and have moments where I just have to cry it out, I am still at peace. I am still strong. I still know we are getting through this and we can't even begin to imagine the joy that is yet to come in our lives.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Rain on our Parade

I have been working on this post for weeks. I sit down and write a few pieces of this story and I need to put it away for a while until I feel brave again. I am torn between having so much to say and nothing to say at all. I've been praying to find the words. I've been praying for courage and strength. I've been praying for grace.

Guys, I love sharing our joy through writing and blogging, but I don’t want to avoid sharing the not-so-great stuff. I want to share the struggles because they are part of our story.

Recently, I've shared all the joy and celebrating we’ve had over the last few months and there is no doubt that life has been so good to us. What I haven't shared is that in November, it rained on our parade a bit.

We knew early on that we didn't want to wait long before starting a family together after we got married. I want to say it was March or April when we really started trying to get pregnant and on October 21 at about 3:00 in the morning, we were wide awake celebrating the positive pregnancy test we’d been praying for. We were fairly certain we were pregnant and ously couldn’t sleep so I got up at 3 a.m. to take another test. There was no doubt about it – we were officially pregnant and couldn’t have been more thrilled! So thrilled, that I never went back to sleep that night – I was just too over-the-moon excited. I was only 4 weeks along at that point - it was early.

We all know the facts. We know how likely a miscarriage is in the first 12 weeks. But knowing the facts doesn’t make it any easier to cope when it becomes your reality.

Sadly, the day before Thanksgiving at our 8 week appointment, we learned we had lost the baby. We looked at the screen to find the same image we’d seen at our ultrasound 2 weeks earlier - a speck. No heartbeat. Nothing. I knew it as soon as I looked up and I'm certain Jonathan did as well. I laid back listening to him try to make conversation with the ultrasound tech and her staying completely silent until finally saying it out loud to us. I couldn’t even look at Jonathan. I was so heartbroken for him – for us.

I can't compare what I felt at that moment to anything I've ever felt before. Devastation? I don't know. Even devastation doesn't cover it. When you find out your pregnant, it's a time full of such genuine hope and joy. We basked in that joy and hope and in an instant, it was ripped away.

The next day was Thanksgiving, my favorite day of the year. We were supposed to be staying in town and spending the day with Jonathan's grandparents and parents, but I just couldn't bring myself to do anything. I honestly just wanted to hide from the world. My heart was so heavy. I was crushed. I told Jonathan to go ahead without me. I love all of our family, I just didn't have it in me to celebrate.

When Jonathan told me no, that instead he was taking me to my parents' house almost 2 hours away, I was reminded once again of the strong and selfless man I married. The hugs we received from my mom, dad, sisters and brother when we walked in the door did wonders for our broken hearts. Playing board games and laughing with my siblings provided us a much needed distraction from our sadness and when we sat down on my parents' couch after dinner, I looked up at Jonathan with the saddest tears in my eyes and was still able to tell him we have so much to be thankful for. In the midst of my sorrow, I was/am still incredibly aware of the blessings in our life.

In the days and weeks following our sad news, I'm pretty sure I experienced every emotion possible - grief, sadness, peace, frustration, hope, impatience, sometimes all of these in the span of a few hours. I was and still am trying to grieve and heal my heart and that can mean something different for everyone.

I'll be back to share what this journey has been like for us but I think I may have shared enough for today. My heart hurts a bit but writing these words is part of the process for me and it feels good to share our story, even when it isn't all sunshine.