Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Sweats 35: Marathon Training Week 9

August 24–30
Yoga shots not from this week, but I was camera lazy and didn't want two Sundays in a row to be picture-less.
Top right: signs of fall not far away. <3
Monday: 4.15 mile run (9:42 pace)
It's still hot, and I'm still looking forward to fall. But the sun is setting earlier so the cool-down, minor as it may be (was still in the low 80s when I went out tonight) comes earlier. Glad to be back on my regular Monday running schedule, and this run felt juuuust fine.

Tuesday: studio yoga class (75 minutes)
So I arrived to learn that Donna had called in a sub for today and was, at first, kind of depressed. The teacher subbing had rubbed me the wrong way (figuratively, just to be perfectly clear) once before when he took our class, and I was biased against him. He ended up leading a challenging, inspiring, and really beautiful class. I love Donna and I love her class, but there is a really common theme every single time, and I was thirsting for variety more than I really knew. I'm so happy I became open and let my opinion of him be altered during our time together.

Wednesday: 7.01 mile run (9:57 pace) + deep hip yin yoga free flow (20 minutes)
I was sore after being challenged in really new ways in class last night, and my calves and left psoas (hip) were pretty achy—in that sweet, good way. But sore nonetheless. The weather was SO nice for August though, and I felt so strong and happy on this run, though my pace doesn't really reflect it. Heart so full. Worked in some good deep stretches before bed too. Overall a really great training day.

Thursday: deep hip yin yoga free flow (20 minutes)
It felt like today was the first day in 100 years that I came home from work and stayed there. I didn’t leave for a run, or class, or plans. I did work right up til about 11 p.m. though, but that’s besides the point. All I could manage was about 20 minutes of deep hip work, and I’ve been missing my morning yoga (been oversleeping all week, ack!). But bedtime yoga still ain’t half bad.

Friday: 4.06 mile run (9:31 pace)
Felt good! Felt fast (for lately)! Felt happy!

Saturday: full body yoga (20 minutes)
The plan had been to race through all the things I had to do today, but after the sitting in traffic down to my mom's, getting work done (or trying to) while there, sitting in traffic for the hour and a half back from my mom's, all on 5 hours of sleep and general feelings of bedraggled-ness brought on by a lack of ability to actually feel caught up on anything this week, I opted instead to listen to what my mind had been trying to tell me: slow the hell down and stay put for five minutes. This type of self care that I haven't seen much of lately was just more important than running today. I did get in some yoga flow which I also desperately needed, so it wasn't a wasted day.

Sunday: 5.63 mile run (10:13 pace) + full body flow/inversion practice (25 minutes)
I still maintain that cleaning my apartment—especially cleaning the bathroom—should count as some type of workout. I don't know how to count that though, so lets just skip to the quantifiable workouts. Which, heh.

 I really hate coming here and talking about whatever is the latest way in which I didn't do the best I could do, but that's what I'm doing again today. With lingering feelings of overwhelm from yesterday (just one evening of "resting" apparently isn't enough to regain balance—who knew?) I was out there running in 85-degree heat and 50-percent humidity after sunset and thinking, I don't want to be doing this now. My mind was completely elsewhere (it's a big week—please come back Tuesday to read more about why!), there were other things I wanted/needed to be doing, and running was not my priority. I was supposed to run a distance I have run many times, and I knew I could do it if I wanted to. So I quit. I'm not proud of it, but I also don't care—call it the end of August Angst, blame it on the Dog Days of Summer. It's just what it is.

On the brighter side of things, I had a nice full-body yoga flow and a good, long inversion practice. And that's all she wrote.

Weekly Totals
Running: 20.85
Yoga: 160 minutes

Marathon Training Week 9 Reflections:
Is it fall yet?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Recent Reads Vol. 3

A few months back I pledged 10 books for Kels' Bookish Side of Life Reading Challenge, and it's check-in day! Here's what I've read since we last linked:
The Blonder Side of Life

The One and Only by Emily Giffin
This was my first Emily Giffin read, though I have seen (and loved) the film adaptation of her Something Borrowed. I didn’t really know anything about her as an author before I read, but I realized after the fact that slightly-sordid romance was kind of her thing. Okay, this book… the Goodreads description didn’t really prepare me for it. There’s a romantic thread that I was not expecting, though it turned out to be the majority of the story. And it kind of squicked me out. 

Here’s a thing you should know: when it comes to love/romance/related activities, I am a very “live and let live” person. Whatever floats your boat. But I didn’t love this thread and I kept reading more out of morbid curiosity than whatever is supposed to make you keep reading a book like this. Aside from that, I thought it was weird how this book kept bringing up and then barely resolving plot points, and there were some places where delicate matters (i.e. death, mourning, and sexual assault) were touched on so haphazardly that I would have preferred she didn’t attempt it at all. Keep it light if you can’t do “heavy” well.

All that said? It wasn’t a bad read. I finished it, and I was interested throughout. It’s not a great work of literature, but if you need something for a flight or the beach, it’ll do.

Recommend? — If you don’t have anything better to read, sure. 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
I absolutely flew through this book. I’ve seen it recommended by bloggers a few times before, but I was just never sold by the Goodreads description or the reviews I’d read. I decided to go for it out of convenience and I really loved it. In a lot of ways it was completely not what I expected it to be. I was pleasantly surprised by the plot, writing, and storytelling throughout.

Recommend? — Hands down!

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
This was my second Jojo Moyes read (Me Before You the first) and I’m hesitant to be honest about how long it’s taken me to read. I like it, but for whatever reason it can’t keep me for more than a few pages at a time. It’s weird—I always look forward to getting time with it at the end of the day or on my lunch breaks, but I don’t have trouble putting it down. It’s weird. Anyway, it’s one of those books that’s just a good read. Do you know what I mean? It wasn’t amazing, it didn’t change my life, the story wasn’t ground-breaking, and the writing didn’t make me stop and take notes. It was just a book, and it was good and I’m glad I read it.

Recommend? — Yes!

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
I just started this but I’m tearing through pretty quickly. Before I started I wasn’t quite able to land on what this book was about (although that may be because I have this bad habit of not really reading Goodreads descriptions; I really just skim them and hope something sticks.). I’m still not totally sure, but it is listed as humor and so far I’m enjoying it, even if I don’t really have as good an idea as I would like about what the hell is going on.

Recommend? — Let me get back to you on that. But as of now, yes, if it appeals to you whatsoever. 

*UPDATE. I don't know what's the matter with me, but I forgot to add one book in this post originally, so here's another I read this month.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
This is another one I absolutely flew through. I was a little hesitant when the not-quite-normal part of the storyline picked up, but it didn't bother me. And by the end I reached a place I don't normally reach in works of fiction: I didn't care if it made real-life sense, and just enjoyed it for what it was. I thought the protagonist was very well-rounded, real, and complex, and I genuinely liked her, despite obvious flaws. I was always anxious to get back to reading this one (for the whole two days it took me) and was all woe-is-me when it ended before I was ready to move on to new characters.

Recommend? – Undoubtedly!

And so with that, I’ve successfully completed the Bookish Side of Life Reading Challenge! I anticipated I’d make time to read 10 books from the start of summer through the end. Thank you to Kels for hosting and giving me a reason to tear through some reads this summer. Did you meet your goal?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bugs Will Bite Your Ears & Other Important Running Things

Happy Training for Tuesday! Thank you for allowing me the pass I really needed last month. I missed coming here and sharing some deep, meaningful, profound knowledge (in case your sarcasm detector is broken, let me help you: I'm being sarcastic, because all I talk about is nonsense and not profound in the slightest) with you wonderful readers and link-uppers. It was a weird transitional time, and I'm still in a transitional phase now (that's another post for another day), but I'm trying to get back on track.

Speaking of on track, I don't know if you know this, but I'm training for my first full marathon. I know, news to everyone, right? In that time I've learned some really valuable, important lessons I thought I should share with you all today. Because you know what they say: If you had to sign a confidentiality agreement before running a marathon, nobody would do it.*
*For the record, I don't agree with this and I think people who say it are needlessly snarking on runners for no good reason at all.

Welp, now that I've started us off on a sufficiently awkward note:
1. Friday night long runs make the most sense for me. The order of my runs is pretty arbitrary in comparison to what my spreadsheet says, but I've worked out a schedule mentally that seems to be working well around summer weather and all the events, trips, and other scheduled events I've had to work around. Friday night long runs feel really good, and the shuffling I've done to make those possible makes sense for my schedule.

With the exception of race days, I'm really not a morning run person—I'm not programmed to get up before the sun, just like I'm not programmed to fall asleep before 90% of the hemisphere is in REM. I know a lot of people are big fans of the early Saturday long run, but this order just works for me, at least for now.

2. Starting the week on a "speed workout" (i.e. me just trying to run kinda fast-ish for a short distance) is the way to start strong. Lately most days I've felt somewhat (or very) sluggish, which really is owed to the level of humidity, with a slight assist from stress and insomnia. If I can manage it, making myself uncomfortable on a Monday or whatever day my first short run of the week falls on is fun and definitely sets me up with a more positive attitude toward the week.

3. I love steep, short hills. I always thought I kinda liked them, but no. I love them. For a few reasons: (a) What goes up must come down, (b) It's a great glute and calf workout that I can always benefit from, (c) Nothing feels as good as the first ten feet of de-elevation after a steep climb, (d) The mental fist-pumping and chest-pounding that gets me up that hill is a serious celebration in the noggin.

4. Peanut butter before a run = death. I know, I never thought this would be the case. I run for peanut butter. I mean, sure, cardio health, to help me quit smoking, to feel the best I've ever felt in my body, yadda yadda yadda...all that stuff too. But it's mostly about the Skippy Extra Chunk. Except that apparently if I eat PB before I run, I'm guaranteed a right side stitch that just won't quit and a miserable time on the road.

5. GU is good. Huma is bad. GU was a hurdle for me at first, but I learned that it goes down a lot easier when I gulp it down with water before my mouth can even register that it's full of, literally, flavored goo. (Plus, it really does give me an energy boost that the fruit snacks I usually take on long runs just doesn't do.) Huma, on the other hand, is the exact same reason I cannot drink smoothies made from fruit with tiny seeds (like strawberries or raspberries): unwelcome texture in what should be a completely smooth experience. I tried a Huma gel on the run, had an awful flashback to being a kid and accidentally eating a yogurt with fruit lumps in it, and chucked it in the trash. Bye, Felicia.

6. I can break my own records any damn time I please. It doesn't have to be during a race. It doesn't have to be in the perfect weather. It doesn't have to be with other racers or a running buddy nearby giving me a motivation boost. I can break my distance PR on a regular old Friday night if that's what I want to do.

7. It's impossible to accurately determine what is a "hilly road" until you run it. I never thought much about it, but I just sort of took it for granted that Cape Cod—at least, the part of it my grandparents live in/my family vacations in—was flat. I'm here to tell you, friends, that no...no it's not. Not when you're running it, it's not.

8. Legs up the wall is the best way to end the day. Any day. Before a long run. After a short run. A day after a long run when you're still in recovery. Just throw 'em on up there.

9. The best time to go to the beach is the day after a long run. I've been so lucky twice this summer to ever-so-conveniently nurse post-run aches by swimming in wavy water, and I'm convinced that both times it meant quicker recovery. Not sure how I'll handle this in November....

10. On a muggy July evening, if I don't put bug spray on literally every single inch of exposed skin, I will come home from a run with as many bug bites as nature can manage. On the backs of my ears.
_____________________________________

alyssagoesbang
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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Sweats 34: Marathon Training Week 8

August 17–23

Monday: tight hip yoga (11 minutes)
This one just doesn't ever stop feeling amazing, and any time spent in hip openers after a long run is time well spent.

Tuesday: studio yoga class (75 minutes) + 3.33 mile run (10:20 pace)
Amazing class tonight, and I needed it desperately. It was a frustrating day—waiting on bated breath for some life-changing news, plus endless irritations, plus being surrounded by people who don't know how do to their jobs—and I was so antsy and crabby before I walked in there. I left it all on the mat tonight and felt free for the first time all day.

My run, though, was a different story. From 20 steps in, I had a stitch in my right side, my legs felt like lead, my chest felt tight, and somehow I was running head-on into the wind in both directions. Water didn't help, slowing down didn't help, breathing through it didn't help. I reverted back to my crabbiness and—ready?—almost cried because I was so angry at the wind. (And no, there are no hormonal imbalances involved. Just the downside of high sensitivity.)

Wednesday: hamstring yoga (13 minutes) + 4.1 mile run (10:28 pace)
The day after Donna and a day to feature running must start with some lower body work. I love this one. This run, I did not love. Again. I ran between thunderstorms—so, with humidity and wind. I wanted to run 7, but I decided to swap that to Sunday once I realized after less than a quarter mile that my chest still felt like the giant troll from Harry Potter was sitting on my chest.

Come onnnn, fall.

Thursday: balancing flow (15 minutes)
I slept through any chance of a morning practice (could not wind down last night to save my life) and then got some bad news in the afternoon. I carved out time for a quick evening practice and focused on two things I desperately need right now: balance and openness. Flowed through some lovely standing heart-opening postures (dancer/standing bow, chair) and tried to wring it all out onto my mat.

Friday: hip opener flow (13 minutes) + 15.02 mile run (10:34 pace)
Back on track. Started the day open and ready. Haven't followed this video in a long time so I'd forgotten all of it. It's a fun flow!

So here it was. My first distance PR since my first half marathon—last October! And the first of many over the next few weeks. It was challenging and I ended up sore and as I write this I'm a bit cross-eyed, but it was so worth it. It felt so good. I ran less than one minute slower than my worst half marathon time, which is a weird metric but one that makes sense for me so just go with it. I took three little .10-.15 mile walk breaks—you would too if you saw the hills in my town—and left the watch running during two water fountain refill stops. I hit a sweet runners high around mile 8, just after hitting the halfway point, and it really carried me through to mile 14. Then another runner who passed me and stayed on the course I was running all the way home carried me the rest of the way, unbeknownst to him of course. And now I have to stop writing this and get in the shower because my skin is sticky and gritty with sweat and road dust.

Saturday: active rest
After my long run, I jumped in the car and drove down to Delaware for a little beach weekend with some friends. I had no formal practice today but probably spent about 30 minutes in various stretches and postures, plus we went swimming for a bit and walked a decent amount.

Sunday: rest
I hate traffic. My three-hour drive home turned into an almost-five-hour drive, so my grand plans to finish out the weekend with my remaining 7 miles were dashed. This weekend was the first time in ages I ditched my planner and to do list, and I had a mountain of trivial but necessary tasks waiting for me when I got home. I really did want to squeeze it in but the structure of my week just didn't let me stick to the schedule. Here's to a fresh start tomorrow on a brand new (drop back, thankfully!) week.

Weekly Totals
Running: 22.45 miles
Yoga: 127 minutes

Don't forget, this Tuesday is the final Training for Tuesday of summer! Link up your stories of success, tales of woe, training plans, clean eating endeavors, and whatever else you're doing to get fit, stay fit, and/or reach your training and wellness goals. Tracy and I can't wait to see what you're training for!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Moving On

It's been just over a month since I left the job I'd been at for more than three years. As I write this, it's been just over two hours since I learned I wasn't selected for what I have come to refer over the last few weeks as my dream job. Luckily, it's been two weeks since I started on a freelance assignment where I'm earning enough to support myself during this interim.

For a long time, I'd been saying I wasn't sure what I really wanted to do. What my dream job was. And then I interviewed for a company I've been wanting to work for, a little wish I sort of kept in the back of my mind, for years. And I had another interview, and then another, and another. And then they told me I was in the top two. And I wanted it so, so, so badly. Everything about it. The office and location. The work and industry. The people. And I really, really thought I was going to get it. (I mean, on my last interview I was all but told it was mine. So.)

And now, I'm more disappointed than I have been in a really long time.

On the bright side, I'm not scared. I'm not desperate and I'm not panicked. I'm safe. But I am really disappointed.

I know this happens all the time. People get passed over for jobs and opportunities. I've been on job interviews that have resulted in absolutely nothing—not even the courtesy of a rejection notice (which should be illegal, in my opinion). People face unemployment for weeks, months, years with no safety net. No backup plan. I'm beyond fortunate that that doesn't describe me right now, and I know that.

But I'm still really disappointed. Because now, I don't really know what to do. Not in terms of paying my rent and bills, but in terms of what I'm after. See, the dream job wasn't my dream job because of the job description. It was the company. And no, there isn't another company like that one. This feels like a massive missed opportunity that I have no concept of how to recreate.

This isn't like a blown race where I can train again, train harder, train smarter, and go out and tackle the distance and do better next time. This isn't like a rejected manuscript where I can revise and resubmit or query to 10 new literary agents every day. This is, for this particular goal, the very end of the road.

The good news is that I'm really good at creating goals. Sometimes I'm even good at achieving them. 

So I'm going back to the drawing board. I'm keeping up with my passion projects. I'm doing good work where I'm working now, and I'm keeping my options open. I'm keeping my eyes open. 
Sorry to write such a bummer post on a Friday, but this is what's going on today. Well, there's a lot going on lately, but this is the big thing. Thanks for letting me talk about what my life looks like right now.

I can always count on you guys for some hope and happiness. Got a joke or funny story for me? Or an anecdote about a time where bad news turned out to be for the best? I'll take anything you got.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#NowPlaying

Mini life update: I'm freelancing on-site right now, in a very strange office environment where people who have to concentrate and write error-free copy sit in the same tiny space as people who need to be on the phone and holding meetings eight hours a day. It's...going well. I've been keeping my headphones in most of the time, with or without tunes on, because at least the headphones muffle the noise and discourage people from trying to chit chat about how hot it's been (ugh) while I'm trying to line edit.

(I'm not antisocial; I just care about the quality of my work, yanno?)

Anyway, so when I do have the tunes on, here's what's been playing:

Hozier – Work Song
Citizen Cope & Carlos Santana – Sideways
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
Postmodern Jukebox & Haley Reinhart – Creep (Radiohead cover)
Ryn Weaver – OctaHate
The Sweet Remains – Dance With Me
The XX – Intro
Justin Nozuka – After Tonight
James Bay – When We Were On Fire
Mumford & Sons – Snake Eyes
John Mayer – XO (Beyonce cover)
Joni Mitchell – A Case of You

It's interesting to see how my playlist goes through cycles. At the beginning of the summer, it's all EDM, country rock, and pop music—it's windows down music and sunroof open music. It's heartbeat-raising music. It's ready to run wild music.

I know I'm not original or unique in this statement at all, and yet I know others will call it heresy: I'm ready for fall. I'm ready to take it down a notch. I'm ready to slow down.

What songs do you have on rotation lately? Are you still fist-pumping or are you ready for bonfire tunes like me?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Sweats 33: Marathon Training Week 7

August 10–16
Monday: bedtime yin yoga (20 minutes)
After two slightly intense weekend workouts and a busy last day of funemployment that was anything but relaxed, I shuffled the week's plan around from the start and kept it simple stupid. Some yin postures for about five minutes each in bed.

Tuesday: studio yoga class (75 minutes) + 4.08 mile run (9:58 pace)
I'm currently on freelance assignment so today was my first day back in an office in nearly a month. (Yikes.) I raced from work to Donna's class, which was another hot one but a sweet, delicious full-body flow, and then contemplated skipping my run. This body was tired, and it was humid as all get-out after storms all night and day.

But I toughed it out and even though my pace was slow—intentionally, so as not to burn out—I felt good and happy to be running. Good thing, because I have my biggest challenge yet waiting for me this weekend.

Wednesday: balance check yoga (11 minutes) + 7.05 mile run (10:09 pace)
This recent video from Erin at Bad Yogi is all about checking in on your balance—cold. It's crazy how less sturdy I am balancing on my left leg than I am my right!

I had a really slow start on the run (over 10 minutes and one walk break/pity party in mile 3—I just couldn't find it) and almost rationalized cutting it off at 5 miles. But I switched up my route and demanded more, ending up with negative splits and a rewarding run in the end.

Thursday: hip & hamstring yoga (13 minutes)
These stretches always feel so good, but especially the very next day after 70 minutes of running.

Friday: loosening yoga flow (10 minutes)
Chiropractor last night meant waking up feeling better than I have in weeks, reinforcing my decision to go back to every three weeks (rather than once a month) during marathon training. I went with that good feeling and flowed out with this video from Erin's second challenge.

Saturday: 4.14 mile run (10:25 pace) + post-run flow (10 minutes + 40 minutes)
This weekend and my long run got all out of whack. This Sunday is a really hard day for me, so I've made sure to make time for friends and comfort surrounding it. Doing so foiled my Friday night long run hopes as well as my Saturday ones. I set out today not sure if I'd do the 4- or 14-miler remaining on this week in my training plan, but giving myself permission to do whatever felt best. I made some not-so-smart choices yesterday that impacted my body, and I could have either suffered through a painful and emotionally draining 14 miles tonight, or given myself a break. I decided on the latter about 3 miles in, and I don't feel bad about it.

I came down with Erin's new yoga for runners video. (I think it's safe to say that I have a bit of room to speak on the subjects of running and yoga and the combination of the two as a lifestyle, and I give this video and the poses she recommends two thumbs up. To see other post-run stretches I like, peep this!) I wanted a little more, so I flowed out and did some inversion and arm balance practice afterward,

Sunday: 12.26 mile run (11:27 pace) + hip & hamstring free flow (10 minutes)
Today is the two-year anniversary of my grandmother's death, so I was up and out early for church—the first time I've been to church in a year; the second in two years. Anyway, I write that so my mindset and headspace on the day of my longest run ever can be apparent.

So, long run. Obviously, this wasn't 14 miles. A few things happened that led me to knock 1.75 miles off:
- I was physically unprepared. Meaning, I didn't sleep enough last night, I didn't stretch enough beforehand, and I indulged in a few glasses of wine last night—not my typical pre-long run/half marathon behavior. I paid for it all.
- It just never cooled off. I got in from this run around 9 p.m....
(Awesome battery life though after 2.5 hours of audiobook.)
- I recently caved in to energy gels, and picked up a few different types and flavors to test them out. I took the first about 50 minutes in (as recommended): A lemon/lime GU that went just fine (and gave me a great burst!). A bit later, I tried the Huma gel I'd brought, my first time trying it. It's made with chia...and it's grainy AF. You guys, I'm like a toddler when it comes to some foods. I can't swallow something with a gross texture, and this almost made me vom. (It's the same reason I can't drink smoothies with strawberries or raspberries—the seeds!) So I couldn't take the whole thing, and my stomach was GROWLING, I was so depleted and hungry. Last thing I wanted was to faint in the dark a mile and a half from home.
- I rerouted myself after mile 9 so I could get to a park bathroom and water fountain to refill about a mile sooner. To get back on track, I would have had to climb a really steep hill, and I just didn't have it in me to go further away from my house. I just couldn't make it make sense in light of the increasingly dark sky, my hunger pangs, and the fact that I was just completely emotionally drained.

So in all, it's a technical failure. And I'd be lying if I said I did my best—if I'd done my best, I would have finished the 14 miles. But I did what made sense for my body, so there's gotta be some points in the run somewhere for that.

Weekly Totals
Running: 27.53 miles
Yoga: 189 minutes

Marathon Training Week 7 Reflections:
Well, here we go. From now through November, I'll be setting distance PRs almost every week (exceptions being drop-back weeks). In conjunction, I'll go back to seeing my chiropractor more frequently (<3) and getting comfortable feeling uncomfortable. This was probably the hardest week weather-wise in a few weeks, but I've also noticed some leaves starting to tumble from their branches. Fall is coming.

Sunday Sweats is coming too! In just over a week, we'll be linking up for the last Sunday Sweats of the summer. Join Tracy and me for the training, goal-setting, life-bettering goodness. Get the scoop here and we can't wait to see you next Tuesday, August 25!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Real Women Have Bodies

This was another post that was terrifying to hit "publish" on. I truly hope from the bottom of my heart no one finds this post to be attacking or judgmental. It is meant with the utmost respect for women—all women.


For the girls who aren't naturally or effortlessly thin,
(Also known as the majority of women past the onset of puberty)

Maybe society and pop culture weren't the loudest ones saying it, but trust us: We naturally thin girls have always had someone criticizing, critiquing, and commenting on our bodies too.

Our aunts and grandparents and neighbors told us—no, dismissed us—to "go eat a sandwich" more times than we can count, always with a rather sharp tilt to their voices that we didn't realize was resentment until we got older.

We had classmates and peers shout "anorexic" at us and shame us for small-portioned lunches that were, really, all we needed to eat to feel full.

We were called "bony" or "skin and bones," and trust us, it was never meant as a compliment—and we never heard it as such. We were called "too skinny," our bodies were "boyish," and you wouldn't believe how many times we were led to believe our lack of a certain shape kept us from being "real women."

And yes, boys said "ew" when they saw us in our bathing suits too.

Maybe there were no songs about us embracing our size, but there were plenty about the perks of loving a girl with a butt—but ours were too bony to comfortably sit on laps or shake like mama gave us a damn thing.

Maybe you think we looked at Victoria's Secret models and saw body types like our own, but we just saw perfect breasts and golden tans and flawless angles that we didn't have either.

Just because we weren't called "fat" doesn't mean we weren't called names. We've been called "skinny bitch" more times than we can count, and just because those two girls decided to claim it for their book title doesn't mean the rest of us think being called "bitch" is a compliment.

"Do you ever eat?" "Go have a cheeseburger!" "You're too skinny." Maybe they don't sound like painful slights to you, but we heard them multiple times a day, every day. It was never said with a friendly tone, but always an accusatory one. Because our dietary preferences and enthusiasm for activity or even a metabolism we couldn't control were apparently personal attacks on women who didn't have our body types. And we must have an eating disorder or a massive self-esteem issue to maintain this size.

Just because you didn't see it doesn't mean that every middle-aged woman or bigger-than-size-two girl didn't look at us like we were doing something wrong when they caught a glimpse of our small waists or thigh gaps—which occurred naturally due to the shape of our pelvic bones. For every comment you heard about your weight, we heard one too.

And a lot of the time, we heard the comments about our weight and size from girls like you, who were tired of people making comments about their weight and size.

I'm not saying our struggles were or are the same, and I'm not saying girls or women of size don't have something to be angry about when it comes to pop cultures' messages about body image. They do.

But I am saying that it's not thin girls' fault when society treats you badly, and it doesn't give anyone an excuse to treat thin girls badly to "even the score."

Anorexia nervosa is the third most common chronic illness in adolescents, and kills 12 times more women ages 15-24 than any other cause of death.

Skinny girls aren't "lucky." And yes, we can understand what it's like to struggle with our weight. To feel gross in anything we put on. To stand in front of the mirror and hate what we see. To hear comment after comment about what we're eating and how we look. To want to just lose a few more pounds—in just a few more pounds, life will be perfect.

Body confidence and the monsters that destroy it are not inclusive or exclusive to any shape, size, or weight.

All women—and men—of all sizes, shapes, and weights are deserving of respect and privacy regarding their figures and should be free from commentary. "You're so skinny" is not a compliment, nor a welcome assessment.

Girls who aren't naturally thin, I'm sorry if you've been made to feel badly about the way you look. Truly, I am. Because I know how it feels, at least in part, and it's unacceptable that people found it appropriate to make you feel that way.

But the existence of naturally thin girls is not to blame. And if a thin girl made you feel bad, that's because she's rude. Not because she's thin.

Girls who aren't "all about that bass" are deserving of mamas' and boys' respect too, but why do we care if boys like our bodies when we talk about our self-esteem? And why do only the ones with curves get to be "real women"?

Real women have bodies. Big, small, short, tall, fat, thin, apple-shaped, pear-shaped, hourglass-shaped, rectangle-shaped, pinecone-shaped. Human-shaped.

It's admirable to be above body-shaming and embrace your size as a girl in size 6 jeans, size 10 jeans, or size 24 jeans. But the girls in size 0 jeans are just as womanly as any other woman, and insults about their bodies hurt them just as much as they hurt anyone else.

Because we're all women. We're all humans. And we're all deserving of respect and self-confidence, no matter what size jeans we wear.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Podcasts: A Love Story

A long, long time ago, a friend of mine who wouldn't mind me referring to him as a hipster encouraged me to give a listen to a little podcast called This American Life. if my memory serves me correctly it was roughly 2008, and I had never listened to a podcast before. I sort of remember loving Ira Glass's voice and something about a story about something weird happening in the night.

And that was the first time I ever listened to a podcast. About three episodes later in the space of no more than a few weeks, I would go on to entirely forget about podcasts for about seven years.

Back in the fall of 2014, pretty much the entire nation became gripped by new podcast Serial, an offshoot of This American Life, both by parent media group NPR. In typical Alyssa fashion, I waited until pretty much everyone was done paying attention to Serial and gave it a listen myself this past January, after the season had wrapped. And a love was reborn.

Since Serial pulled me back and fully into the world of podcasts, they've become a huge part of my daily life. I listen to them while getting ready for work, while puttering around my apartment, while driving, while running. I love discovering new ones and I know some of you do too. Since I'm often asked about my favorite shows, I figured it was time:
1. Serial & Undisclosed
The first season of Serial tells the story of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore teenager who was found strangled to death in the winter of 1999. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was charged with her murder and has been serving out a life sentence for more than 15 years now. And then there's a guy named Jay and a girl named Jenn and a couple of cops and lawyers who all make you want to go "What the hell happened here?" when you hear their stories. Serial looks at this case and ensuing trial(s) from a journalist's point of view—and will return this fall with a new season about a new case.

Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed picks up where Serial season one left off and examines the case, the evidence, the trial, and the major players from a legal standpoint. Hosted by three attorneys—one being Rabia Chaudry, the person who brought the case to Serial host Sarah Koenig's attention in the first place—this podcast is the perfect follow-up for anyone who became hooked on the story of the life and death of Hae Min Lee.

2. We Have Concerns
If you ever see me running through town, beaming ear-to-ear or even actually laughing out loud completely by myself, I'm probably listening to this podcast. Episodes come out three times a week—score—and they're 20-minute chunks of funny, improv, and smarts. Anthony and Jeff are hilarious and work so well together, but their chemistry is for more than just laughs. They're both very intelligent and well-read and offer really interesting ideas and thoughts on hot topics in the science and tech and world and Internet news. I'm not even doing it justice though. Check them out and bring your sense of Internet humor with you. (Redditors, you'll like this one.) Also: Team Dad Jokes.

3. Snap Judgement
This podcast follows a similar format to This American Life, but for me it ranks just a bit higher. Connected by some common theme are a handful of stories, told by Glynn Washington or the star of the story him/herself. They're interesting, the themes are relevant, and it always helps to have a beat.

4. Dear Hank & John
If you watch(ed) Vlog Brothers, you'll dig this podcast. And if you didn't try it anyway. Hank and John Green are YouTube stars and the latter is the noted YA author of The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, and others, and they're also awesome humans. This podcast features the dynamic duo answering submitted questions and providing dubious advice on everything from fitting in with a new crowd to recovering from a trauma to assessing eating lunch items in outer space. And then providing you with the latest news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon. Yeah, you read that right.

5. Mystery Show
Finally returned from a too-long hiatus, this podcast is a new and instant favorite for me. Starlee Kine investigates some of life's greatest mysteries and finds answers to age-old questions like, "What did that really freaky license plate mean?" and "How did Britney Spears end up with that book by an author that nobody reads?" and "Who does this cowboy chef belt buckle belong to?" I'm telling you, you will never be more gripped by the stories and questions of strangers as Starlee solves mystery after mystery.

6. Savage Lovecast
I became a big fan of Dan Savage's after I stumbled on his dinner table debate with Brian Brown of NOM, moderated by one of my favorite people ever, Mark Oppenheimer. (Before you Google Dan, let me give you warning: You might turn up a NSFW result.) He's behind the It Gets Better Project, is the author of multiple books about coming out and parenting (and doing both), and is a long-time sex advice columnist with The Stranger and on his advice podcast Savage Lovecast. He's a sex- and kink-positive gay activist whose unabashed use of the seven words you can't say on TV would make your grandmother blush, but he's intelligent and he tells it like it is. Before taking calls from advice-seekers on their love, relationship, and sex quandaries, he starts off each show with some commentary on the latest relevant happening. There's more to learn from this sex advice columnist than you'd probably think.

7. This American Life
This is the one that started it all, for me and for many others. And in a way, for the medium itself. This American Life is a decades-old hour-long show hosted by Ira Glass with help from other notables at NPR that features stories about...this American life. All connected by a common theme and offering a look into lives you'd never otherwise know about, this podcast is a real no-holds-barred examination of the human condition. And Ira Glass's voice could sing me to sleep like a lullaby.

8. Jenna & Julien Podcast
Jenna Marbles is one of my favorite things that ever happened on the Internet. I got away from regularly watching YouTube over the last few years, but I'll always love her videos and return for them. She's a real standout for me, and she always makes me laugh. On this podcast, joined by her boyfriend Julien (and sometimes their three dogs, and sometimes another guest), she has a knack for making me think or go "hmmm" too. If you're a fan of her videos, you have to give this weekly podcast a try.

_______________________________

So there are my top 8. Do you listen to any of these? If you have any other favorite podcasts, please share! I'm always looking for new ones to add to the queue.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday Sweats 32: Marathon Training Week 6

August 3–9

Monday: restorative yoga (15 minutes)
Legs up the wall is the name of my day-after-hard-run game. Add in a little gentle hip work and I have the perfect day of active rest—in between errands and so. much. writing.

Tuesday: bedtime relaxation flow (10 minutes)
Today was an exercise in going with the flow, which I need to practice more than I care to admit. I planned to take Donna's class and then run 3 miles, but I did neither. I woke up to a text from my soon-to-be cousin-in-law, who works as a grip/lighting designer/electrician and was shooting a few episodes of The Kitchen less than a mile from my apartment, inviting me down to sit in the audience for the taping. Fun times! While I was there, I got a text from my brother that an old family friend (we've known them literally as long as baby bro has been alive, 22 years) had invited us over for dinner. How could I not go? I thought maybe I'd get the miles in after dinner, but we ended up chatting for hours and it was just too late to get ready for a run when I got home—I'd have been wired all night.

So I settled for a few minutes of bedtime yoga, and made a plan for the rest of the week.

Wednesday: studio yoga class (75 minutes) + 3.01 mile run (9:22 pace)
Today was my marvelous return, after two weeks away, to class with Donna. I definitely missed the class and was so, so happy to be back. I've been working on backbends a lot lately and got Donna's stamp of approval in some new-to-me postures, and the energy in the room was beautiful. Successful class by every measure.

I ran about 30 minutes after class—the closest I'll get to a brick workout in a looong time, I think. Nothing notable about the run really. Not great, but not bad either, so nothing to write home (or here) about either way.

Thursday: restorative yoga flow (20 minutes) + 6.01 mile run (10:55 pace)
I've been fighting what I hope is just a summer cold all week and was SUPER congested today. The breath just wasn't there, so I walk/ran. Because why wouldn't I get sick during marathon training? I was sore after my return to class last night (and all the deep backbending I've been doing, you know, for fun...) which didn't help my pace, I'm guessing. Not mad about it though; can't help being congested. Flowed out the kinks afterward with this gentle practice.

Friday: rest
The only marathon-related work that got done today was a marathon of the Harry Potter movies. I'm still full of snot (sorry) and aches so I just let myself be kind of sick today.

Saturday: warm up flow (20 minutes) + 10.01 mile run (10:25 pace)
Free-flowed some sun salutations and seated stretches and heart openers before embarking on another stuffy-nosed run. I had to let myself walk/run after 2.5 mile in, until about mile 5-6. Then I took a GU gel—first time while running, I was nervous!—and wow, did I feel so much better. It was stilly hilly, my legs were still a bit achy, and my nose was still stuffy, but I managed a negative second half and got my last two miles back sub-10 (other sub-10 miles were 1, 2, and 4).

Sunday: 5.25 mile hike
I had 3 miles on my plan for today, but given the fact that all my runs this week have been walk/run and I'm still not feeling 100%, I subbed in a hike with a friend for the run. Felt good to be under the tree cover hiking alongside a babbling river. Climbed some pretty solid hills too, so this was a solid workout for sure.
Weekly Totals
Running: 19.03 miles (+ 5.25 mile hike)
Yoga: 140 minutes

Marathon Training Week 6 Reflections:
Summer training is a humbling experience. I really need to stop measuring my success in these training runs—longer and more intense weeks than I've ever experienced before—in comparison to any other training program I've run. The weather is different, I'm running longer, and it's entirely new territory for me from here on out mentally and physically. It can't matter to me what I was able to do in March, because marathon training in August is nothing like half marathon training/racing in March.

Also, This drop-back week couldn't have come at a better time, as it coincided with my being sick for the first time in a long while. I'm glad I bit the bullet and started fueling properly because it definitely made a difference on Saturday, and I'm very sure GU will help my long runs from here on out too.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday: The Funemployment Edition

Today is three weeks since my last day of work. To say I've been enjoying myself would be an understatement. I haven't had free time like this in yeaaaars. So naturally I've been filling it with pet projects and freelance work, because I don't know how to relax.

But in between and around all that, here are some favorite things I've been heart-eye emoji-ing over the few days...

The Martian trailer
At the insistence of pretty much the entire blogosphere, I read The Martian last month and loved it much more than I thought I would. Here's the thing: I am not into outer space stuff. It actually scares the hell out of me. It's a weird manifestation of agoraphobia that, combined with my lifelong and pretty damn severe claustrophobia, makes me a real joy. I honestly can't talk or be around conversations about space, zero gravity, the movie Gravity...yeah, it's a problem. But The Martian wasn't about space; it was about human nature and instincts and relationships and that's why I liked it so much. The trailer for the film (featuring some of my absolute favorites, including Matt Damon, Kate Mara, and Kristin Wiig) definitely seems to take dramatic liberties with the story, but I'm still eager to see it.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
I'm a fan of Trevor Noah and I think he'll do a good job on The Daily Show after Jon Stewart's incredible 16-year run. But John Oliver is still going to be my preferred reviewer of current events. He just nails it, every single time. 

Rompers
It's honestly just the perfect article of clothing. I want to wear them all the time. I'm kind of currently torn because I want to go out and buy ALL THE ROMPERS but I know my clothing budget should really be spent on office-appropriate clothing, since I have basically none.

Tig
Stand-up comedians rock my heart and soul. I could listen to comedy albums all day long and I love watching the good ones take stage. Tig Notaro, genius comedian and cancer survivor, has gotten a bit of a popularity boost lately because of the eponymous Netflix documentary that was just released. It chronicles her experience with losing her mother, cancer, trying to become a mother, and dominating the stand-up stage and I just thought it was so well done. She's hilarious and inspiring and really strikes me as the kind of person it would be awesome to get a beer with. The doc is definitely worth the 90 minutes if you're interested.

Smartfood Movie Theater Butter Popcorn
That red bag, I just can't help myself. I'm not a sweet-tooth; I'm a salt-tooth and this stuff is dangerous.

Ask Me Another
I'm a big fan of podcasts as well, as I've mentioned here a few times. I'm also a big fan of trivia and given the chance will always show up to pub trivia and take it way too seriously. This podcast is fun and slightly brain-bending, which makes it perfect for taking my mind off the ache in my legs or chest or hips or brain while running.

So that's going to wrap up my cliched blogger post of the week. Hope you guys have some fun and exiting (or quiet and relaxing; whatever revs your engine) plans to get you through the weekend! 

Oh and hey, if you wouldn't mind sending some good vibes my way Monday afternoon, I'd be the most grateful. Thanks friends!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

True Things

Consider this my confession, for a) I haven't confessed on a Wednesday in longer than I can remember, and b) I have an update about something I told you all a few weeks ago.
(And even though I know it will hurt literally no one if the truth isn't revealed, I like to think we here around blogland like to be in the know about each other's lives—hence why we read lifestyle/personal blogs to begin with.)
(Also, it's long, so buckle up. Or skip it, I won't hold it against you.)

About a month ago, something finally happened that I'd been waiting for for too long: I received a job offer that could signal my departure from the publishing company I'd worked at for the last three years. I will be more honest now than I was able to be then: The last year at my job had been absolute, utter hell. My bosses treated me terribly if they deigned to acknowledge my existence at all; I was spoken down to if ever spoken to; I was demeaned and degraded on a daily basis; I had my ideas and the very nature of my profession, skills, and passion reduced to absolutely nothing. I couldn't stay a minute longer. I accepted the job offer—managing editor and part-time reporter at a local newspaper—simply because it was an excuse and opportunity to leave the publishing company, one I had been begging the universe for since I started (intermittently) applying for new jobs in April 2014.

I gave my two weeks notice and felt a weight vanish from my shoulders. Soon, I would not have to walk into this office to be disrespected daily. Soon, I would be free from my obligation to make a rich man richer while remaining highly underpaid (and underinsured) myself. Soon, I would be able to stop entertaining the horrendously inappropriate and morally bankrupt ideas of a company owner I could no longer feel good about myself for bolstering in the industry.

And somewhere in the back of my mind, overshadowed by the excitement I felt about finally being free from the worst workplace I've ever been a part of, was this thought pattern: A 40% pay cut is downright insulting for my professional level—I'm not an intern, I'm not entry level. I'm talented and have experience. That salary is literally just barely above the poverty line. On that salary I will not be able to support myself. I will have to work the equivalent of two full-time jobs to make ends meet if I take that salary. How can they expect to obtain quality candidates at that salary? This is just ridiculous.

I'm not entirely proud of thinking all that, but it's the truth. Because a 40% pay cut is not the difference between ordering top shelf and well vodka. It's not even the difference between a Mercedes Benz and a Toyota. It is, completely honestly, the difference between being able to finance my basic, reasonable, modest lifestyle and burying myself in debt.

Another thought pattern was emerging: I never wanted to work at a newspaper. I like writing features, but I never wanted to be a reporter. Didn't I decide way back after that first news reporting class in college that I seriously detested the idea of working as a reporter? Yes. The answer is yes, I did. I have never, ever wanted to work for a newspaper—until it felt like my only option for escape.

So I did something a lot of people probably consider a little bit crazy—especially considering that I am 100% financially independent and wholly plan on remaining that way as long as I live.

I took a leap of faith. I quit my job and declined the newspaper job offer.

I took a calculated risk after I was contacted for a couple of interviews for jobs in fields (namely, special topic publishing) I actually am a) well-suited to work in, and b) want to work in. (Also after doing a lot of math and financial planning.) Because here are some true things:
For most people in America, the need to work is a real thing in order to sustain a happy, healthy life.
Working for the majority of adulthood is the norm in America.
Given that, having a job does NOT have to equal being miserable, being treated unfairly, or being disrespected.
I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of life is, but I do know for sure that it is not to work myself ragged and miserable for morally reprehensible people.
My life is meant to belong to me, not to my employer(s).
Life's too short to not take risks every once in a while.

And here are some other true things I've learned over the last few weeks: Vacations and time off are good and essential for the soul. The pursuit of passion is a basic human necessity. Time and room to breathe are crucial for creating decent, happy people.

So here's what I've been doing over the last few weeks since I left my job on July 17:

Going on job interviews and working with recruiters. I'm determined that the next position I take will be one that's good for my career, good for my health, and good for my sanity. I don't want to jinx anything, so that's all I'm going to say on this front. In the words of Michael Scott, I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.

Working. I've been doing some freelance writing work. I've been working on the last round of edits for a manuscript set to be digitally published next month. (!!!) Feather Magazine is better than ever; we're working on September stories right now. And the literary magazine I'm collaborating on creating is coming soon to a device near you. (You still have time to contribute a piece of writing or art! Let me know if you want the deets.)

Writing. My novel is still in progress. I took about a week off, but am forging through the second half this week.

Going to the beach. Michael perfectly recapped our Blogger Beach Day. The day after that I headed to Cape Cod to spend a few days with my grandparents, and my mom and stepdad who were also visiting them at the same time. It's different air up there, I swear. So good.

Celebrating my cousin's engagement. Visiting her fiance at work for a TV show taping, which happens to be less than a mile away from my apartment, and also happens to be the set of the Food Network show The Kitchen. Running and working out. Trying to catch up on my reading. Watching a lot of The Office. Having dinner with old family friends who I haven't seen in years. Window shopping for a real wardrobe to be worn in an actual professional office. You know, the usual.

So there it is. There's the reason I haven't posted yet about my new job—it doesn't exist. There's the reason I took an impromptu trip to Cape Cod last week. There's the reason I'm funemployed and on no semblance of a schedule right now. There's the reason I finally feel like I can breathe M-F 9-5. There's the reason I now something bigger, better, and right for me is coming down the pike.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday Sweats 31: Marathon Training Week 5

July 27–August 2

Monday: 3.02 mile run (8:59 pace)
I'm on an impromptu mini-vaca, but I got these miles in after dinner on Cape Cod. I've been coming here literally my entire life, at least once a year since I was in utero, but I've never looked at the roads through a runner's lens before. I actually thought of these roads as "nice and flat" before I realized that, no, they're actually pretty rolling. Was nice to run without all the humidity, though the bay breeze did add a different challenge.
Tuesday: meh
I was still soaking up my time away from home and managed to squeeze in some maintenance stretching, but no formal flow to speak of. Vacation Alyssa DGAF.

Wednesday: not much
I drove five hours and change today, home from my impromptu mini-vaca. I intended to take Donna's class and then run six miles when I got home, but you know what they say about the best laid plans. Spoiler alert: I napped on the couch when I got home.

Thursday: flexibility free flow (30 minutes) + 3.1 mile run (9:43 pace)
I got back on the horse today and freeflowed to undo a few days worth of not much but sitting. It was nice and disgusting by the time I went out for my run (80ยบ, 84% humidity) so I took it slow but felt good.

Friday: mellow flow (25 minutes) + 6.71 mile run (10:54 pace)
This run sucked so hard. It was supposed to be 12—I like my long runs on Friday nights—but I treated my body like a dumpster instead of like I was about to run almost a half marathon distance all week long, and it sucked. I need to treat these long runs from here till the marathon like what they are: serious distances that deserve respect. (I.e. don't eat Chipotle and a pound of guacamole and then expect to feel good running for 2+ hours.) I abandoned this walk/run and chalked it up to lesson learned, and hopefully will be able to get it together for a Sunday morning long. Fingers crossed.
At least I was able to steal a beautiful view. Not visible thanks to iPhone camera's limitations: NYC skyline under the blue moon.
Saturday: hip and IT band yoga (14 minutes)
Today was non-stop between birthday brunch for my friend and my cousin's engagement party in the afternoon, but I managed a few minutes of a restorative stretchy flow that I desperately needed. Felt good.

Sunday: 6.05 mile run (10:02 pace) + free flow warmup + backbend yoga (40 min)
Things about this run:
a) Also not 12 miles, obviously.
b) Intended for 5 a.m. (so not my thing, but I was going to give it a shot) but when I woke up and felt the humidity in the mid-90%s, I noped right out. Between that, the rising sun, and my foolishly too-late night (celebrating my cousin's engagement), I would have been setting myself up for utter failure if I'd gone out.
c) I may have finished the 12 if I could have gotten out before 8 (we had a Feather Mag conference call at 7) but by the time I hit the second loop starting spot—a block up from my apartment—it was pitch black, and I just didn't feel comfortable. I was wearing reflective gear, but I couldn't see anything and I wasn't feeling good enough to risk it.
d) I'm disappointed I blew this week's training plan, but I at least talked myself out the door today, which very nearly didn't happen at all.


Weekly Totals
Running: 18.86 miles
Yoga: 79 minutes

Marathon Training Week 5 Reflections
All said and done, this week was not great. I survived it, but barely. I'd love to say it's just the impromptu trip that threw me off but even when I got back, I was eating like crap and being pretty lazy. It just wasn't a good week of training. That's why there's always next week, right? ...