Friday, June 12, 2015

Must-read books

I made Pat start reading a book I love love love.

(Ok, so I can't actually make Pat do anything. But I did set it on the table in front of him and say "I think you should read this next" and when he finished his book he started reading it next because I told him to.)

And now I have the same kind of nervousness I did when he asked to watch my favorite movie, You've Got Mail, and I had to sit there and watch it with him and sneak glances and gauge his reaction to all my favorite scenes, lines, facial expressions.

(I do have favorite facial expressions in that movie, thank you very much.)

But today, I was thinking about how you can't really predict what someone will think of a book.

I made the mistake of reading the Goodreads reviews for a book I finished recently. I was hooked on it, gave it four stars, couldn't put it down. And it had about a bajillion negative reviews. Some were on point, just things that hadn't really detracted from my enjoyment -- like, yes, it's a flaw in the book, but I still enjoyed it a lot. And it made me question whether my four stars were overkill and was it really a good book and good lord people have told me they read books just because I've reviewed them and then what if they hate them and what will they think of me??

One more anecdote -- another book I love love love is The Book Thief. Love it. In my second year in grad school, someone made a second attempt at starting a book club. (The first attempt had failed the year before after discussing exactly one book.)

The first book the New Book Club picked was The Book Thief and I was stoked. I reread it in preparation. I went to the discussion meeting, which took place in a bar because duh, and discovered everyone had hated it. Most people didn't even finish reading it.

In my head today, before I started thinking all of this, I was making a list of books I think all people should read, or at least start to read and they can put it down if they want. The book I've asked Pat to read, The Scorpio Races, would be on my list. So would the Harry Potter series, though I know plenty of people who don't really like HP.

What would be on your list? Have you known people who read your faves and hated them? I'm curious!

(Pat has not yet finished the book -- he's studying for the CPA tests and doesn't have much time for reading these days, but he'll likely pick it back up after his tests are done.)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Back to Couch to 5k

Hi friends!

Over two years ago, I posted my eternally most popular post ever: the Couch to 5k plan I used when I very first started running.

That post is clearly the most viewed post I have -- although the competition isn't super fierce. I'm not really a very pinnable blogger. But that post -- or at least the image from it -- has been pinned over 5000 times.

So. I thought I'd quickly revisit it because: Guess what? I've been using that plan again.

I kind of wanted to put it out there that I have completed a marathon and am now being challenged by Couch to 5k and that's ok.

After my marathon, I pretty much stopped running. I ran one 5k about two weeks later. I did a fitness class for a couple months, but just could not bring myself to run.

Then I moved to Colorado. I spent a lot of time eating my emotions and making friends on Netflix. Which, you know, not the best coping mechanisms, but they got me through the winter, which was pretty tough. I was leaving when it was dark in the morning and getting home when it was dark at night. I had little motivation to work out, so I didn't.

A few months ago (I think?), I decided to get back at it. I fiddled around on the stationary bike, elliptical and treadmill at my apartment gym with no real goal in mind. I got my endurance back to where I could complete 30 minutes of exercise.

And then I started Couch to 5k again.

After all that time not running, I have totally no shame in scaling back my running and having to get back into shape. It was basically nine months-ish (10?) of not running and barely working out. OF COURSE I have to start back at the beginning. I would destroy my body trying to jump in at any level other than the beginning.

I think people who work out and especially runners are embarrassed to take a step back. As if because I ran one marathon I will eternally be able to run marathons. Um. No. That was hard as hell.

And right now, Running a 5k distance is enough to make me feel accomplished for the day. Because I've worked to get my fitness back. I have woken up for more 5:30 am workouts than I wanted to. I've done burpees and froggers and planks. I've put in the miles, again.

So if you see me bragging about hitting milestones again when I hit them for the first time years ago. Well. I'm probably going to be just as proud this time through as I was that time.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book review: I Was Here

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

First things first: this book deals with suicide. So, if that's something you shouldn't be reading, don't read this book. And maybe also check this out, if you need to.

And also maybe be careful who you recommend this too. (lookin at you Kate) (not because you wouldn't be careful, just a heads up)

Moving on: I Was Here is the story of Cody, who was left behind and shocked when her best friend committed suicide. She didn't see it coming, even a little bit, and begins to question everything about her friendship with Meg, her life, herself.

Parts of this book are really intense. Cody is so shocked that she takes a lot of steps to understand Meg's mindframe -- to try to find the why of Meg's suicide, and it takes her to really dark places. I related to Cody's questioning of how she could not have known this about her friend, questioning how well she actually knew her friend.

Some parts of the book, though, I felt were too light. The relationships that form in the wake of Meg's suicide felt shallow to me -- I wanted more from their development, wanted to see more how that was happening. I think death can bring people together in weird ways, but I Was Here seemed to make people close really quickly in the way that can happen after a death without acknowledging that it's kind of weird and quick and different from normal. So while a lot of the emotions were really intense for me, I didn't always buy the relationships.

I'm trying not to say too much so I don't give anything away. I liked the book, but I think it could have been better.

Have any of you read I Was Here? What did you think?

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's not me, it's you: Retail sizes and shopping

I've already posted about my wedding dress shopping experience, but there's another bit I wanted to mention.

In the runner-up dress -- the dress I aaaaaaaaallllmost bought, the second favorite dress, I was measured at THREE DIFFERENT SIZES.

If I remember correctly, my natural waist was a size 8, my boobs were a size 10 and my hips were a size 14? That might not be right. I don't remember anymore. But the point is that at three different spots on my body, I was measured at three different sizes that actually spanned four sizes because I skipped right over one size -- my hips got big game.

If I had gone with that dress, I would have had to buy it at the largest size and had everything else altered down. (this led to the panic spiral about buying a dress in a different state that needed serious alterations that ended up sending me to David's Bridal, where I bought my dress)

I definitely laughed it off -- the dress sizes were crazy all together. One dress style, a 6 would fit and another dress I was squeezing into a 10 so it was hard to take it seriously.

But it was a GREAT reminder that all clothes -- the super formal and the everyday wear -- are made with arbitrary "average" measurements.

When you can't find clothes in the store, the problem isn't your body -- the problem is the clothes. You are not wrong. Your body is not wrong. Those clothes are just wrong for you.

I started thinking this way after reading this post from thewannabeathlete.

It's not me, jeans that fit my waist but no where else -- it's you. It's not me, wedding dress that has three different sizes appropriate for my one body. It's you.

For sure it's you.

But maybe there is a body out there for you somewhere.

For another look at this, check out these buzzfeed stories! (I absolutely adore Kristin and her facial expressions.)

BTW, the picture has nothing to do with anything. It's just peaceful and pretty.

Hope you're all having a happy Monday!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

App review: Nike Training Club

Hi friends!

A million years ago, Julie from PBFingers posted about the Nike Training Club app, and I immediately downloaded it. Ok, so a million years is an exaggeration, but it is not an exaggeration to say that it took me at least six months before I ever actually did a workout from the app.

Now, though, I've been using it for over a month. Not super consistently -- I've done about 7 workouts on the app -- but enough to know that I should have started using it forever ago. So I wanted to share it with you all in case you're looking for something to up your workout game.

Before I started using the app, I had been out of shape for all of those six months, but I was starting to get base level fitness back on the elliptical and bicycles in my apartment complex's little gym.

(RIP gym. Just found out they're closing it for the next month. So sad.)

I wasn't challenging myself in any way -- I was just putting the time in, but no effort -- and realized pretty quickly it wasn't doing much for me.

So, I tried the Nike Training Club app.

Nike Training Club has several workout categories. When you choose a category, it then asks you to indicate your fitness level. I chose beginner.

After that, you can scroll through workouts. The titles don't really tell you a whole lot, but they do show how long the workout is.

Once you choose a workout, it takes you to this screen that shows the time and any equipment you need. You can also click that center icon and see a list of all the exercises. I've found that the equipment list isn't always totally accurate. One of the workouts I've been doing requires a step for tricep dips, and I don't have a step.

When you're looking at the list of exercises, you can edit some of them, not all. So in the picture below, I can choose between burpees and froggers (both are awful) but there's not an alternate for the alternating side lunges.

Each individual exercise has both photos with instructions and a video you can watch to make sure you're doing the exercise right. You can look at all of them ahead of time (I recommend it!) but if you're in the middle of the workout and you forget what the move is, you can watch the video again.

Each individual exercise has a timeframe. There is audio to prompt you from one move to the next. The audio also gives you reminders and hints on how to complete the exercise -- like to keep your weight in your heels on lunges.

It sprinkles in 30-second recovery periods and sometimes gives you 10 seconds in between to get to the next position -- so to go from squats, where you're standing, to pushups, where you need to be on the ground.

I really enjoy using this app (using the word "enjoy" loosely). Yes, I could do all of these exercises without the app, but the app challenges me to do ones I wouldn't choose myself, it times me, and it makes me do more than I would naturally do in 30 minutes without direction. And it definitely got me to stop just putting in the time and start challenging myself again.

The one complaint I have is the lack of modifications. When I've taken fitness classes, often they'll says something like "If your legs are feeling really tight, bend at the knee a bit more" or "if your lower back is lifting off the ground, stabilize your back with your hands" or anything like that. And, as I said, there are a few where I (surprise!) didn't have the equipment. For most, I can modify on my own -- I've been working out long enough to know a few modifications, and I will sub in weights for a medicine ball, do the exercise without equipment, or sub in a different activity that works the same muscle group. So my experience with this type of workout does help.

There are a couple yoga workouts on here, but you have to have a pretty good grasp of yoga positions to do them, because if you need to watch the video while you're doing the workout, it pauses the workout -- so you can't follow along like you would with a DVD. There's also a 15-minute stretching routine I have yet to try, but might need eventually.

Finally, the biggest endoresement I can give is that these workouts make me sore every day. I think as I'm getting better, I'm able to push myself harder, so that means even though I've been using it a while, it'll keep challenging me -- do more push ups this time. Move from modified push ups to real push ups, etc.

Have any of you used this app or others to expand your workouts? I'd love more recommendations!


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