5 Reasons Why Coffee is Key Before a Run

Multiple studies continue to prove the positive benefits of caffeine.

I used to be afraid of coffee.

I mean, not cowering-in-a-corner “afraid,” but worried about what the supposed stimulant would do to my body and how it would likely dehydrate me.

And then I read the science and realized that I bought all of the myths.

Now, my routine nearly always includes sipping half a cup of black coffee before heading to the gym or going out for a run…and it’s not because I’m sleepy.

Let’s take a look at the exercise meets caffeine studies.

It can boost your speed.

First, there was this one from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which points to a faster performance in cyclists who had coffee prior to a race.

It can boost your endurance.

Then, I came across this one, which points out the increased endurance athletes experience thanks to caffeine.

It can boost your burn.

And I found this one, which talks about caffeine boosting your metabolism.

It can boost your mood and reduce your calorie intake.

Next, and most recently, is this one from the Journal of Applied Physiology, which highlights how you feel doing your workout if you first fueled up with a cup o’ joe. An added benefit? Participants who had caffeine prior to their workout actually consumed FEWER calories at lunch!

It can boost your…

And, finally, on a somewhat anecdotal note, it seems to help *ahem* “get things moving.” No one wants to have to make a pit stop when they’re in the middle of a long run. Something about coffee just does the trick.

No more fear of coffee for me…Pass the light roast, please!

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Learning to Breathe

They say midlife crisis begins at a certain age. Kids have left the home. A job is lost.

Something triggers a psychological crisis of the soul that makes one say “I have to change.”

Well, I’m not in the middle of my life (I hope), but boy am I feeling the psychological pinch.

….

Back in college, I had a CD boombox perched on a kitten-covered trunk in the corner of my room. It was my very first CD player and it was given to me by my parents along with the ground-breaking album “Janet.” The fact that the CD player made it to college is somewhat a miracle as I played it to death. Nevertheless, the black box still picked up radio stations and spun my favorite CDs, bruised exterior and all.

I remember when I began investigating Christianity and my faith further as a freshman. I remember that moment that Jesus and this Christian walk became real to me…it wasn’t just the thing that kept me on the straight-and-narrow or helped me maintain good morals. No, this Jesus guy seriously saved me from living a really dark, meaningless life.

One day, before that life-changing revelation, I put on a CD featuring a band I’d listened to since junior high school, Switchfoot. My Christian friends Matt and Jon loved Switchfoot and I’d grown to really like them, too. One song in particular (called “Learning to Breathe” goes:

“I’m learning to breathe,

I’m learning to crawl,

I’m finding that you and you alone can break my fall,

I’m living again…awake and alive

I’m dying to breathe in these abundant skies…”

{Listen to the entire thing here.}

I don’t remember what my day was like that day, but I do remember that in that moment, my world seemed to dramatically shift into focus.

This is the beginning.

“Beginning” of what? I had thought I had already begun the adventure into adulthood.

I knew who I was.

I knew where I wanted to go.

I knew what I wanted out of life.

….Or so I thought.

…..

Life, as I’m beginning to understand it, isn’t just about small progressions. It’s not just about getting married, having kids, maintaining a job, saving for retirement and then skipping away tra-la-lee.

Nope.

It’s full of huge roadblocks and speed bumps and crazy yetis coming from out of nowhere to pounce on you and freak you the heck out.

These are the moments when you’re supposed to lay down your burdens. You’re supposed to surrender. You’re supposed to somehow find an inner peace and tarry on.

I’ve chosen to grip the wheel tighter and grit my teeth through it.

Oh, I trust that my car isn’t going to down…or, if it does, I have a pretty stellar roadside assistant. That isn’t the problem. The problem is, when push comes to shove and I’m in turmoil, I choose to look at the crappy road and all of the obstacles and focus on all of that instead.

And I forget to breathe.

And then I’m back to crawling.

It doesn’t matter if my circumstances are life or death; scary just to me or scary to everyone. The point is, I have a choice.

I’ve let go of so much and chosen to get stuck in my obstacles.

I’m done.

It’s time to breathe again.

breathe

10 Reasons Why Millennials are More Anxious & Lonely Than Their Parents Ever Were

Millennials are great at having friends. In fact, some of us have over 500 of ’em.

We’re so connected that we know what Steve had for breakfast; what Mary wore to New Year’s Eve; what Kim did at the gym.

We weren’t even in the same room! In fact, we haven’t seen Steve, Mary or Kim in ages.

We’re out to dinner with friends and family and, instead of interacting with them, we’re messaging a friend in another state or down the street.

We Millennials are growing up in an era where being connected virtually has never not existed.

What began as innocently connecting with strangers in chat rooms and gleefully hearing the phrase, “You’ve got mail!” has morphed into so much more.

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Are we better for it?

The latest statistics indicate that we definitely are not compared to previous generations.

So basically we’re more connected, more stimulated and more constantly stimulated than ever before.

Yikes!

While there’s no definitive study that proves why Millennials are more anxious and lonely than their parents, here are 10 reasons why I think we are:

1. We don’t “fast” from food or harmful substances like our parents did…we fast from Facebook.

facebook status

2. It’s just not possible to simply do ONE task at any given time. Millennials have to do at least five things at once.

juggling

3. Forget about exercising without electronics.

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4. …the Wii and housework count as exercise, right?

wii exercise

5. We can’t sit still without some kind of noise or stimulation…for any length of time. A trip to an “out-of-service” area could potentially set off a panic attack.

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6. We feel depressed if our Instagram failed to get “favorited” enough to turn into a digit.

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7. Rather than getting together with a friend for coffee to complain about our spouse, our job, an unfair situation or an injustice in this world, we just update our status. (Don’t do it!)

facebook status 2

8. Being “unfriended” feels more offensive than being dumped in high school.

gosling breakup

9. Magazines used to make us feel fat. Now using the wrong filter on your phone does…or getting tagged in a friend’s unflattering photo.

chris farley

10. An argument starts because of something your mom/best friend/sister/coworker/husband/girlfriend saw on your Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat account.

right

Let’s resolve to connect more genuinely with people in the new year and lay off the electronics a bit. Maybe then we Millennials will feel more connected, more fulfilled and less likely to quit Facebook.

Photo credits: Giphy.com, CDN.theatlantic.com

The Every-Kid-Gets-a-Trophy Mentality

There are a few things you probably wouldn’t want someone to call you behind your back.

I never thought “competitive” was one of them until I played in a scrimmage match of soccer tonight.

It was the last night of soccer practice and the coach thought it would be fun for the parents to play against the kids in a game of soccer. As usual, I was the only girl on the field…well, the only mom in this case.

lonely

I raced up and down the field, teased my son, and helped boys up when they took a tumble. And, I definitely did my best to score as many goals as possible.

The boys were speedy, tenacious and giggling the whole time. They loved playing against the parents and probably played the strongest I had ever seen them play.

I left the field all smiles and enjoyed froyo with my family before going home to settle in for the night.

After getting home and starting in our routine, my husband laughed and told me “you were awfully competitive with those boys out there tonight.”

I brushed him off and then he added “all the dads were laughing every time you would sprint down the field with the ball. We were going easy on them; they’re 5.”

I felt humiliated.

tangled

I mean, believe me, I was not bowling kids over or determined to win the game. I just thought we were playing a real game with the kids. Why wouldn’t we run as hard as we could after them? Why wouldn’t we carefully try to block the ball or even steal it from them? Are those not the skills they need to learn in soccer to be competitors in the game?

right

Honestly, the idea of being mocked for being “competitive” initially hurt, but then the words I tell my son before every game came to mind: give it your all today.

In a society where everyone gets a trophy (the boys all get theirs at their final game this Saturday), I wonder why were constantly trying to spare feelings and not push our kiddos. There’s always a balance and the important part is to always keep the game fun, but what happened to teaching them self-discipline? To work harder and focus more after they lose a game?

Maybe I’m “competitive,” but I know my son will always remember me as the only mom on the field who was running right next to him, challenging him and picking him up at the end of the scrimmage to celebrate when his team earned their victory.

And that’s how it should be.

bambi

That Moment You Feel Too Needed

One-Word-NeedI’ve had one of those days. One of those days where, quite frankly, I feel completely spent with nothing left to give when the clock strikes bedtime.

There was just so much need.

My daughter needed me to take her potty when she woke up this morning.

I needed to take a shower.

My son needed me to help him gather his things for school.

I needed to gather my thoughts, my coffee and my purse.

My daughter needed to get to her grandma’s house.

I needed to get to work.

My team member needed me to look over some numbers.

I needed to prepare for a meeting.

My boss needed me to take notes and come up with solutions.

I needed to complete the usual tasks of the week.

My daughter needed to be picked up.

My daughter needed dinner; she needed a bath.

The dog needed to be fed.

The dishes needed to be done.

My son needed to be picked up.

The dog needed to be let out.

The living room needed to be picked up.

The laundry needed to be folded and put away.

The Pampered Chef party needed to be closed.

My kids needed water, and teeth brushed, and tucking into bed.

The dog needed to be let out (again).

My days are so full of needs that sometimes (well, maybe most of the time) my “needs” are overshadowed, engulfed by the sea of others’ “needs.”

I bet you can relate to this.

It’s in this moment, on the brink of tears; of feeling overwhelmed and just needing a moment for my introverted-self to scrape together a moment of peace, that I find it. A moment to just “be” instead of answering a “need.”

So, tonight, while so many of those “needs” continue to clamor for my attention, I’m instead choosing a different direction. One I haven’t chosen in quite a while.

The dishes will need to wait.

The living room will need to wait.

The lunches will need to wait.

The dog will need to wait.

The email will need to wait.

The extra projects will need to wait.

Doing anything else besides spending a moment with my thoughts and with my God will need to wait.

Some “needs” will just need to wait.

I need me.

Leaving Room For

Have you ever been in a Starbucks and overheard a person’s coffee order? Between the temperature (130 degrees, please!), “skinny,” “grande,” “extra” this, or “less” of that, you’ve probably made half of the day’s quota for decision making just in your 10 minute coffee stop.

The other day I overheard a person in front of me ask for a normal cup of coffee (how boring could you be?) with “some room.”

So, I presume Mr. Boring Coffee was going to liven it up with some cream and/or sugar, but his comment got me thinking.

“There’s room for…” what?

In my life, is there room? For events? For emergencies and illness and the unexpected. For moments when God wants to teach me things or connect with others?

Is there room for anything else?

Earlier this year, I would have told you “no.”

Starting a new job, training for the Boston Marathon, raising $12,000 for charity with my sister, keeping up with active kids, spending time with my husband, running a Pampered Chef business on the side and doing normal chores literally left me running on fumes at the end of the day.

The kids were in bed; I was on the computer.

The family was going to a birthday party or another event on Saturday; I was teaching people how to cook a fabulous meal in a special pot in their microwave in just 15 minutes. (Really.)

Sure, everything I had committed to was “good,” hardly anyone would disagree with that. What I was missing was room, however.

Leaving room for…

In March, just a month before the Boston Marathon, a month before my new company’s huge annual event and a month before we needed to hit our goal of $12,000 raised for charity, I was done. And I knew God was telling me to close a few chapters.

The 80’s song “Burning Down the House” echoed through my head. I just knew I needed room.

I quickly shuttered my Pampered Chef business with little explanation to anyone. I stepped back from volunteering as much at church. I scrutinized my schedule, and reconsidered who and what I needed to spend my time on.

At the end of the day, I hadn’t been leaving room for. I was filling space and time, doing good things and not necessarily asking God if I should do them. I mean, they were all good, so I should just do it, right?

He definitely had some advice for me.

Many opportunities will come our way and unfortunately, if we’re not careful, they’ll crowd out the extra space we have in our lives for restoration or for being available to others and, ultimately, to God.

It took me not leaving room for almost anything but my crazy schedule to realize it.

Now, I’m grateful to be a recovering Schedule Addict and while my tendency is still to fill up my plate, the freedom I’m experiencing on the weekends to invite others into our home or grab dinner during the week is making an immense impact on my life…and on others too, I think.

We all have just 24 hours in a day and we choose how to use it…are our choices in line with our treasures? What’s truly important to us?

It’s been a valuable lesson I wouldn’t trade for all the Grande Extra Hot Skinny Mochas in the world.

Let’s Keep It Real

mirror

There I was, standing at the mirror applying my makeup in the gym locker room when the pair walked in.

You know the type.

One had chiseled abs and a completely lean body that carried nothing but confidence. (Oh, and did I mention that teeny gym towel was wrapped completely effortlessly around her flawless waist? I mean, there were INCHES left over, people!)

Her friend, a beautiful blonde with curves in all the right places, stood next to her at a mirror behind me wearing a fancy (and flattering) bra with an equally small towel around her waist.

As my mascara wand moved the black inky stuff onto my lashes, I began innocently eavesdropping in on their conversation (What? There’s really nothing else to listen to in a gym locker room anyway!).

Chiseled Chick: I finally have my Botox appointment this afternoon.

(Me inside: GASP! People really DO that!)

Blonde Bombshell: Oh, you ought to get your spray tan going at the same time.

Chiseled Chick: Ya, (laugh) it’s one more thing that’s ‘fake’ about me. Fake hair color, fake tan…

Blonde Bombshell: Well, at least it makes us feel good about ourselves, right?

Chiseled Chick: (Audible snicker) Uh ya, sure.

The two proceeded to trade stories about their recent, “wild weekend” at a local night club, a place that didn’t have “fake girls with their butts hanging out of their shorts.”

Blonde Bombshell: The women that go there are more real…like us.

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Look, I don’t care if you get your boobs done. I don’t even care if you decide to tattoo a picture of Justin Timberlake on your freakin’ forehead (I’d actually probably look at your face more than my phone if you did quite honestly), but if you’re going to make choices, don’t put other women down for theirs.

It’s like that super popular Megan Trainor song “All About That Bass.” At first, I was like “cool, they’re embracing a ‘real woman’s’ physique,” but then I also realized the lyrics put down women who were thin (“no treble”). Even Trainor recognizes the song is perceived as controversial, admitting she knew she’d receive flak on it for a long time.

That’s a problem.

In fact, I’m pretty sure we just ruined that whole “empowerment” point, ladies.

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How can we believe that we are ever improving stigmas, the perceptions of women, or impacting how women are treated if we put each other down? (Throw the flag on the field; I realize I’ve edged into the cliché end zone here, but stay with me.)

There are some good things going on in cyberspace on this topic, however.

I loved reading an article a few months back by Celebrity TV Transformation Specialist Heidi Powell who let the curtain fall away when she revealed her insecurities, imperfections and even her (ahem) enhancements in a post entitled “I am perfect.” And, apparently, her words struck a chord with a whole lot of women across the country, drawing hundreds of thousands of hits on her website and getting picked up by the Huffington Post.

So why is it so surprising when we hear another woman honestly share the extremes she goes to in order to achieve “perfection?”

I don’t have all the answers, but I know based on my own life experiences that the following are true:

1. We are trying to find acceptance when it begins and ends only with ourselves. It’s like running out of your house thinking you’ll find the keys to your house outside somewhere. It’s your house. You live there. Your habits are throughout that house. Why are you relying on your environment outside of your home to try to find keys that are likely hanging out inside?

2. We believe in “IF” more than ourselves. We believe that IF we hit that certain size, that number on the scale, buy that car, that outfit or that whatever, we’ll “arrive.” There will always be dissatisfaction and “not enough” as long as we rely on superficial circumstances and objects for our contentment. That’s just not where ultimate contentment comes from.

3. We’re desperately focusing our attention on something that seems easier to control than our lives. Look, life happens. Stupid, unpredictable, hard stuff happens. It’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s down right defeating much of the time. And, yes, just in the same way we can decide to destroy our health by indulging in foods that make us “feel good,” we can do the same by whittling ourselves down to that up-on-a-pedestal size. But what’s left at the end of the day? Our problems. They don’t go away.

I’m not going to blame TV or models or marketing or anything else out there. Agree or disagree with me on this point, but do we not have control over what we allow to cross our path and influence us? You can turn the channel. You can stop reading the fashion magazines. You can boycott stores. Sure, it’s more passive and perhaps if you really feel passionately about the subject, you’ll go after Victoria’s Secret when they post a huge centerfold on the pillar of your neighborhood outdoor mall.

But the point is, wherever you land on this subject, it all comes back to this:

Let’s be real, ladies.

Let’s be honest with each other. Tell a friend when you’re struggling with your job, your relationship or your health. Talk to a trusted counselor when you feel like your sanity is hanging by a thread.

At the end of the day, you can choose to make your body as “fake” as you want, but do it for YOU and not to mask your feelings or achieve an end goal that really isn’t going to result in true, lasting satisfaction.

Just keep it real.

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Help Me Support Our Wounded Warriors

wounded warrior project logoIt’s been exactly four months since I completed my second Boston Marathon, and while I’m not ready to run another full marathon just yet, I am ready to do the “run for a good cause” opportunity again…just not maybe the hefty $6,000 like Boston (read this post for details on my charity fundraising for Boston).

The main cause I’ve fundraised for has been for children. There’s almost nothing closer to my heart than raising funds for kids; they’re our future and deserve the utmost love and protection. They’re an important investment and I’m proud to have helped fund a 1-800 line for Childhelp to protect abused and neglected children across the U.S. I’m proud that my fundraising helped a group of socioeconomically challenged high school students in Boston go on a trip of a lifetime to serve a village in Malawi, Africa.

This is life-changing stuff.

Next on my list are our veterans. I’m probably like many people out there. My grandfathers are veterans. My parents are veterans. This service is one of the most self-sacrificial acts I believe one can do as an American and I’m so very grateful for what each of them and so many do every day to protect our freedom and work to spread the same equities and freedoms throughout our world.

One of the biggest sacrifices they often make, however, are themselves. Be it emotionally or physically, our veterans return with wounds that we can see and, sometimes, can’t see. The fear that grips them as they drive under bridges while cruising on freeways. The concern for crowded situations and unknown packages by the side of roads. The memories of what they’ve seen and what they’ve experienced. The limbs, sight and other physical abilities they left behind in war and special operations.

It’s the reason I was pretty quick to volunteer when my friend Nicole, who is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, put the call out for friends to run and raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Created after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Wounded Warrior Project’s mission is to:

  • To raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members.
  • To help injured service members aid and assist each other.
  • To provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.

I will be running an 8K in November to support this organization and have committed to raising at least $100 for this worthwhile cause. Feel free to join an event in your part of the country or run with us in Phoenix!

Here’s my Fundraising Website if you agree with me that this is a worthy cause and would like to donate.

I know there are a lot of incredible causes out there and I strive to support as many requests from others as possible. In fact, I’ll be doing the #IceBucketChallenge later today. Look for a special twist, however. 🙂

Thanks for your support and stay tuned for more!

Cute Video of My Daughter and Her Siberian Husky Singing

Watch my daughter and her Siberian Husky sing (so cute!)

Okay, so some of you probably already saw this, but I just had to share the cute video of my daughter and her Siberian Husky singing together.

I was minding my own business, just changing the bed sheets before we were going to leave for church when my daughter started “wooing” for our husky, Tala. Tala used to howl when the kids were babies and would cry. Sometimes she’ll “woo” if we prompt her, but I’d never seen my daughter get her going. So funny!

Feel free to share—this has brightened my day and made so many people laugh.

Happy Monday!

Fresh New Look for MarathonForGood.com

new1When Jen gets a break, MarathonForGood.com gets a pretty little makeover.

What do you think?

After more than three years of the same theme, I decided to finally stop being lazy and pay a little more attention to the look and feel of my website, MarathonForGood.com.

(And yes, I mean WEBSITE, not “blog” because I’ve officially finally put my shiny domain use to*good* use (pun intended) so I am officially now MarathonForGood.com).

Only took three years.

I’m not a designer and I know MarathonForGood.com has quite a journey ahead of itself, but at least I’ve put one foot in front of the other today by linking my site and now freshening it.

Next up: New pages and a re-envisioning of content.

‘Cuz, you know, I don’t have enough going on in my life already. 😉