Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Reviews, Lately

Fun fact: I was such a bookworm as a child that I would bring books to sleepover parties with my friends and read with a flashlight in my sleeping bag after everyone else went to sleep. I literally did not go anywhere in life without a book (or 10). I tore through the entire Hardy Boys series in first grade because I thought Nancy Drew was too prissy. My teachers let me start Accelerated Reader at school a year early "for fun."

Of course now I don't have the time to read nearly as much as I did as a kid, but I've been trying to be better about reading during my commute, rather than people watching playing Words With Friends. I've been more active on Goodreads, and it's definitely inspiring me to read more when I see all the books my friends are reading. I had plenty of time to read on my Megabus ride to Cleveland and back a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd share what I've been reading! 

(I won't give any REAL spoilers, but light spoilers ahead. You've been warned).

First on my list was Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Like the rest of the world, I was utterly captivated by the evilness of Gone Girl, so I've been wanting to read some of Flynn's other books for awhile. Sharp Objects took me a little while to get into, but once I was hooked, I was hooked. Flynn's writing is so grotesquely descriptive, it's dark and unsettling in a way where you almost can't bear to read what's next, but you can't bear to leave the page unturned. The characters are so deeply disturbed, their relationships and motivations so twisted. As someone who is fascinated by psychology and psychological disorders (and because there was a similar episode of Law & Order SVU), I saw the ending coming, but that didn't make it any less troubling. This is a book that will leave you feeling uneasy, even after you're finished. 

Some girlfriends of mine are starting a book club, and February's book is The Girl on the Train. Unbeknownst to me when I started reading it, it's just as disturbing as Sharp Objects. The Girl on the Train follows the stories of multiple characters whose lives intersect in bizarre ways. The main character is an alcoholic named Rachel, who often gets drunk and tries to visit her ex-husband. On one such drunk visit, Rachel happens to get wrapped up in a real life disappearance of a stranger, and the stories unfold from there. All of the characters are utterly detestable for a variety of reasons, but there are times where you can't help but sympathize with them and root for them to overcome their own terrible decisions. There were times I really really wanted to punch Rachel, because despite her self-awareness, she continues to put herself in compromising positions. I didn't find the ending that satisfying, but that didn't take away from how darkly captivating the rest of the book was.

After reading these two back to back, I've been joking with friends that I need to read something light like the entire Babysitters Club series or else I risk spiraling into depression. Hah! Currently, I'm reading Brownie Points by Jennifer Coburn, so I'll let you know how it is once I've finished.

What are you reading? Any recommendations?

Would you like to read more book reviews like this? 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

So You're Starting at a New Gym

So it seems from my recent post about gym anxiety that so many other people suffer from gym anxiety too! Even though I knew that, it's still good reassurance that I'm not always walking into a class where everyone is confident and knows what the heck they're doing. So, while my last post was mostly about the mental side of things, this one is a little more pragmatic. So you've decided to shove fear aside and try out a new gym/workout class (I knew you had it in you!)... what now? 

Here's how to make yourself as comfortable as possible, while stepping out of your comfort zone and into a new gym:

Do your Research
Does the studio have showers or nah? Lockers or nah? Do you need tennis shoes or socks or is barefoot cool? Do you need to bring your own towel? A blowdrier? And what the heck should you wear? You can actually find the answer to most of these questions by looking at the studio/gym's website, scoping out their FB page or Instagram (to see pictures of people in the class), checking out Yelp reviews, or getting really old school and giving them a call. Once you've got the answers to these, there shouldn't be any surprises about the basics. 

Plan Ahead
The night before, I always map out how long it will take me to get to the gym on GoogleMaps. If it's 25 minutes, I plan to leave about 45 minutes before, so I can get there early and have a little cushion in case I get lost. If you're like me and your brain actually does not function in the mornings, you can set a little note on the alarm, so even your half asleep brain can see what time you have to leave. 

Arrive Early
Seriously. Get there early. If you are the most perpetually late person in the universe (which is rude, justsayin'), get there early. You want to be there in case the teacher asks about newbies, and can give you a quick demo or rundown of the class. And, so they can show you equipment, if you'll be using any. Also, you can ask any questions you might have, and so you can let the instructor know about injuries, so he/she can provide modifications that will help you. Do not show up 5 minutes before. Show up 15 minutes before. It is soooo much better to be early then to be late and flustered already as you walk in.

Follow the Leader
If all else fails, monkey see, monkey do. Are people taking off their boots as soon as they enter the gym? You should probably do that too. Did everyone grab a towel? You might want one then. And feel free to ask someone around you if you don't know what you're doing! They were a new kid once too. I ask questions a lot, and no ones ever growled at me...yet. 

How do you prep for a new gym/studio experience? Leave your tips!

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Few of my Favorite Things: January Edition

Soooo, this post is about a week overdue. But I had some awesome finds in January that I wanted to share because they've been helping keep me both active and sane through a brutally cold and snowy winter here in Chicago. Without further ado, my January favorites:

1) Tea

So I've officially converted my office snack drawer into a tea drawer.
I cannot. get. enough. tea. Specifically I'm loving DavidsTea's "Forever Nuts" and "Snickerdoodle" (I may or may not have bought them out of "Snickerdoodle") and Teavana's White Chocolate Peppermint. Both of these are helping me kick my nighttime sweet cravings, and for that I'm forever thankful.

2) Reese's Spreads

Influenster, in their infinite wisdom, decided I was influential in the areas of chocolate and peanut butter, so I was gifted a jar of Reese's Spread. I mean, it's basically pureed reeses and it's every bit as amazing as you would imagine. Because it has less protein than most peanut butters it's also fewer WW points than peanut butter (this speed is only 5PP per 2TBS, whereas most peanut butters are 7PP). Also, it's amazing on everything but I highly recommend bananas, apples, and straight from the spoon (not that I did that) (okay I did that).

3) My $18 Target Tennis Shoes

While doing laundry one night, I challenged myself with a Target shoe mission during the 28 minute wash cycle, and I was victorious. I haven't bought non-running tennis shoes in, oh, years, so I honestly had no idea what to look for. Naturally, I based my mission on color selection and comfort, and these bad boys fit the bill on both accounts. Even better, they were on super sale, plus an additional 20% off with a coupon on the Cartwheel app!

4) My Fitbit (Currently still MIA)

Alright, this is a bit of a stretch because I haven't had a functional Fitbit in a month(!!!). Long story short, my original Fitbit bit the dust in early January. The kind Fitbit people sent me a replacement, but it never turned on. The kind people sat Fitbit sent me ANOTHER replacement that wasn't properly syncing with my phone and didn't hold a charge either. So, I'm hoping the Fitbit fairy godmothers can get their act together and that the third time will be a charm. It's been hard to motivate myself to walk as much without those handy lights telling me how good (or bad) of a job I've been doing. If there's any upside to getting two replacement devices, though, it's that I had enough extra bands to test out some craftiness. Check out that custom (nail polish) paint job I pulled off!

5) REI Balance Bag

This bad boy is the greatest! I got the REI Balance Bag from my parents for Christmas, because I was in desperate need of a replacement to my old gym bag, which wasn't even a gym bag, it was a LL Bean canvas tote from college. So, why do I love this bag? First, because it's in my all-time favorite color of everything aka turquoise. Secondly, it holds so much stuff! There are two separate compartments on the inside where I keep my shower stuff and hair products, and then one zipper compartment on the other side of the bag where I keep jewelry. It also has a handy area on the outside where I can tuck my yoga mat, which is suddenly really important now that I've been going to the occasional yoga class. 10/10 LOVE this bag.

Also, so we're clear, no one pays me to blog about the things I love. I only talk about 'em cuz I love 'em and I wouldn't steer you wrong. 

What are you loving this month? Tell me!

Anyone else as obsessed with DavidsTea as I am? What flavor should I buy next?

The Reeses Spread was courtesy of Influenster but opinions are my own!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Weighin' In

Last Week's Weight: 175
Current Weight: 171.8
Change: -3.2
Total Loss: -56.2

So this is obviously my first posted weigh-in of the new year. In February. And trust me, it was no accident. 

Here's what I've learned in 2.5 years of this weight loss game. I'm either really on, or really not on. There is no in between. There is no "I haven't been tracking that much, but I'm maintaining." If I'm not tracking, I'm gaining. If I'm not working at it every damn day, I'm gaining. It's all or nothing. And for the last month or so, it was nothing. 

I have a slow metabolism, which isn't any excuse, it's just a fact that I have to deal with. And, in the past, the only way I've been able to counteract that is with running. So, now that I haven't been running for over 6 months, it's been really tough to find other ways to get the same level of exertion. Before I joined ClassPass I was in a huge workout rut. I was getting sick of my same old same old at the gym, and I had gotten to the point where I was just going through the motions, but wasn't pushing myself nearly as much as I could have. 

In the last 3 weeks since joining ClassPass, I have to admit, I am in a much better place, workout-wise. I've been working out 5-6 (!!!) times a week, and pushing myself much harder. I've tried barre, kickboxing, POUND, yoga, circuit training, and more! And because almost every class is new to me, it feels fun and fresh. Fun! Working out can be fun! Except spinning. Sorry spinning, but I don't think we were meant to be.

Anyway, all of this to say that I'm tired of being on the nothing end of the all or nothing spectrum, but today's weigh-in was a huge (HUGE) step in the right direction. I know I can do better than I had been doing, so now I need to prove that.

(And also I have to wear a swimsuit on the beach in 51 days but who's counting).

How do you get out of a workout rut?

Monday, February 2, 2015

I Wish I Had Time to Work Out

I was walking to yoga class over the weekend, and I passed a guy protesting one of the Chicago mayoral candidates on the street. The guy sees my yoga mat and says, "I wish I had time to work out!"

While I didn't say this to the kind sir on the street (who, let's be honest, could clearly free up some time with a little less picketing amiright?), what I wanted to say was: me too! I wish I had 10 extra hours of free time a day so I could spend 5 of them watching Law & Order SVU, 4 of them getting extra sleep, and one of them working out. But we all have just 24 hours in a day. 


Who has time to work out?! Not many people. Now brace yourself for the tough love portion of today's blog post.

But if you really want it, you'll make time to work out. 

NOPE. Whatever excuse you have in your head. Stop. Rethink it. Truth bomb: If you really want to do it, you'll make time for it. If not, you'll find an excuse.

"But Carolyn, I work so early in the morning!" 

So pack your bag and go to the gym immediately after work. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not even think about going home and turning on the TV first. Because then you and I both know you won't work out. (Trust me. Tried it about a million times. All unsuccessful). 

"But I work so late at night! I'm so tired at the end of the day!" 

Me too, sister. So early morning workouts are my jam. I pack my bag every single night before bed, so all I have to do in the morning is drag my half-asleep carcass to the gym. Does it suck that I can't stay up late watching Chopped re-runs every night? Yep. But it sucks less than skipping my workouts for a reason that's preventable.

"But I'm too tired to work out in the morning." 

ME TOO SISTER. If you think I wake up like a perky daisy in the mornings, you are sadly mistaken. I am a zombie, but I am a zombie with a purpose. Getting out of bed is the hardest part. Strip off the blanket, put your feet on the floor, and get up. You can do it. Promise. Need extra motivation? How about no Starbucks before work unless you go to the gym first? Or how about you have to hit 10 morning workouts in order to earn a manicure? Bet you could make yourself do morning workouts then! Boom, bribery. Because it works.

Here's the truth: you don't have time. No one does. You have to MAKE time. Working out is an important appointment with yourself. One you can't miss. One you can't cancel because you are a workout boss. And bosses don't cancel important appointments. So go out there and get s*^% done. 

Too much tough love on a Monday morning? Blame the picketing man for inspiring this post.

How do you keep yourself motivated to workout?