Archive | March, 2015

Hulu Is My Personal Trainer

31 Mar
My favorite show: cardio kickboxing.

My favorite show: cardio kickboxing. Courtesy of Hulu

My weight-loss journey has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned how to challenge myself to do new things. I’ve learned that raw kale tastes like the boulevard of broken dreams. And I’ve learned I’m an outdoor person.

I had never really seen myself that way. I have pretty tricky allergies that make it feel as though my throat is closing up on me. But since I began running, I’ve found out that I can barely tolerate the treadmill and would much rather be on the trail. Having the breeze in my face to cool me while I’m packing on the miles and watching the city go by is an ideal Saturday morning for me. It’s been almost three months since I was able to do that.

This has been the coldest winter ever, forget what Sister Souljah told ya. I haven’t experienced temps above 60 degrees since September. And I hate the cold. I’m miserable. Calgon needs to take me away to a beach with a mojito and a cabana boy to adjust my umbrella. I’m holding out hope for a little warmth soon, but really I’m just tired of being cold.

Me, three weeks ago

Me, three weeks ago

Still, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And this girl’s gotta stay on her grind. Sure, a workout will warm me up for the time being, but I’ve still got to go outside and deal with the elements.

Or do I?

I’ve made a new winter friend. His name is Hulu and I pay him $7.99 a month to help me with my workouts.

I’m ridiculously cheap. I really don’t like pulling out my check card for any reason. Every time it happens, I feel a little piece of me is being deducted from my account. I’m two steps away from being a cord cutter. Still, I’ve been able to find value in my new workout partner.

Hulu often touts its current programs like “Scandal” and “Gotham.” It’s great if you want to catch up on your shows from the past week or even look at some old stuff (hey, “Mary Tyler Moore Show”). But the hidden gem is the workout programs it has available. You can get an hour’s worth of cardio kickboxing, Pilates, zumba, yoga, etc., right in your living room.

To me, it’s better than buying a workout DVD because if you don’t like the Hulu video, you’re not stuck with it. You can try a different instructor or workout. The downside, however, is that the videos aren’t updated very often, so you can get in kind of a rut if you haven’t found an instructor you like.

There are lots of cheap options out there besides Hulu, like CosmoBody or DailyBurn. But I prefer Hulu because the workout programs are in addition to the other programs I watch. Plus, at just under $8 a month, it works within my especially thrifty budget.

Still, there are those pinching pennies much harder than I am. For you guys, YouTube is a great option. You have to do a bit more digging to find what you’re looking for, but the options are greater. If you find a YouTube channel that works for you, good for you. And let me know which ones you like, because I’m always on the lookout for a new workout.

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But Did you Die?

27 Mar

People are different. They respond differently to various forms of stimuli. What tickles one person could just annoy another. Some people love cilantro and others would rather eat a bar of soap that eat something that tastes like a bar of soap. Still there are those who need gentle words of encouragement while others need a good swift kick to the butt.

I’m the latter. I respond better to harsh truths than beating around the bush. Which is why a text from my friend a few weeks ago helped put things into perspective.

The Climb to the Top was not easy. I didn’t train for it (my fault), and I didn’t  research it (my fault again). I was dreading that day. But I’d signed up and paid my registration (plus plopped down quite a bit of cash for the donation requirement), so I had to do it. Once I got to the top and was able to breathe non-recirculated air, I started to feel more like myself. I posted finish photos to FB and the ‘gram and got quite a few likes (thanks peeps).

Later that day, I texted my friend who is a marathoner. She congratulated me, but I tried to shrug off the achievement with how bad I was feeling. This was her response.

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“But did you die?”

Well, no. I guess I didn’t. I was able to breathe properly again after the race was over. I was able to do more activities, like Cycle for Survival and a solidarity run for the NYC half. I’ve been working out consistently for the past few weeks as well as making my own meals.

So as hard as the task seemed at the time, and even afterward when I couldn’t believe that I’d climbed 66 flights of stairs, it was over. I lived another day to try something else new.

Fear is a constant on your weight-loss journey. You’ll second-guess yourself a lot, especially when trying something new. Going vegetarian for a while, hitting up the pool or even signing up for a race will all give you a bad case of the dreads.

“What was I thinking?”

“Will I be able to finish?”

“Am I strong enough to commit to this?”

Once the newness wears off and you get to the other side of it, it’s not uncommon to short-change your achievement. You can become complacent with what you’ve done. The shock has worn off. The worst part is over, but all you can do is focus on the worst part.

When I neared goal weight, I got a lot of compliments and pats on the back for what I’d done. But it seemed off to me because I wasn’t doing this for anyone’s approval but my own. I’d stress over and over how hard it was, how there were so many times I wanted to give up and with a pack of donuts and a glass of wine.

That’s all true, but I didn’t die. I did your best, came out the other side having accomplished your goals, and now it’s on to the next challenge. The same goes for you, too.

Don’t let the agony of the activity cloud the joy you should feel for finishing it. You did it. And you didn’t die.

Serena Williams Is ‘Working It’ in Vogue

25 Mar

serenaI remember one Saturday morning in high school, I turned on my television to see a black girl with braids playing tennis. I’d heard of Althea Gibson, but her heyday was way before my arrival on earth. This was a girl who looked about my age volleying a tennis ball back and forth on a court with a white girl—and the black girl was winning! I was stunned because the little I knew about tennis was that it was a sport for the wealthy. In my mind, back then, I couldn’t fathom how wealthy a black person could be in order to afford the sport of tennis.

Then the commentators began talking about the girl, who’s name on the scoreboard was “V. Williams.” The spoke about how she was new to professional tennis. How she plays differently than anything they’d seen before. And how she was coached by her father on the cracked tennis courts near their home in Compton. Compton! What the hell? This was another ghetto girl like myself who was doing the damn thing in her field. She was unstoppable.

Until little sis began to dominate.

“V. Williams” is the older sister to S. Williams, or just plain Serena. Though plain would be a misnomer now because that other little ghetto girl is now on the cover of Vogue magazine for its shape issue. And Serena is killing another game: the fashion game.

I’ve admired the Williams sisters for years, but I’ve had a special affinity for Serena. Like the super athlete, I am a dark-complexioned girl with large breasts and a large butt. My thighs are thick. My calves are shapely. And I have to make the best of what I’ve got.

I know I’m know Serena. She is in amazing physical shape. But she overcame serious blood clot to return to peak form and completely dominate her field. That’s why I took away a few pieces of advice from her cover profile in Vogue.

On the off season. Like all of us, Serena puts on winter weight. It’s cold, Winter Boo has you hemmed up with snuggles and peanut butter, and the snow won’t let you be great. “I should have gone on a diet weeks ago,” she moans. Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Serena is in training for the upcoming Grand Slam tournaments, which will require peak physical ability to withstand the endless matches and rigorous schedule. If you’re like me and not participating in a Grand Slam match, look at this time of year as spring cleaning. After the coldest winter ever*, bring some heat back into your life with a few resp at the gym. Put down the endless bowls of chili and try a salad or three. It’s too late to regret how this winter ruined your routine. Just get back to doing what you feel is right, and you’ll be fine.

Be the change you want to see. Before the Williams sisters took over the professional women’s tennis courts, the game had the same pallette. Lots of women in similar skirts and tops, similar haircuts, and similar intensity on the court. No one had heard grunts like those of the Williams sisters before. Those grunts came from using so much strength and power to defeat an opponent. “When I started out, it was about being consistent and steady,” said Mary Joe Fernandez, captain of the American Fed Cup team. “When they started hitting with so much power, everybody had to change their game too.” You can be a game changer, too. You can decide that maybe running or swimming isn’t doing enough for you. Maybe you want to try Caipoeira or kickboxing. Do it! There’s nothing stopping you from change but you.

Know that there’s always something better. “I feel like I have a desire to be better than ever,” Serena says. “I am never, ever, satisfied. I always want to do more, be more, reach a new level. Not just in tennis but in everything I do.” When I began my weight-loss journey from 200 pounds, I thought the most I’d lose is 20 pounds. And those 20 were great. They got me into my first bathing suit in years. They allowed me to buy shorts that didn’t cut off my circulation. They let my jaw be visible again. But soon I realized I wanted more. How far could this weight-loss journey take me, I thought. So I kept trying, running more, spinning more, cooking my own meals more. It’s all about deciding how much you want for yourself.

What did you think of Serena’s cover? Did you take away any words of wisdom from the article?

Getting the Extra Push

23 Mar
Courtesy of Greg Fisher

Courtesy of Mayor Greg Fischer

Last week, I told you about my BFF who completed the United NYC Half Marathon. Appreciative of the love, she returned it kind with a message on Facebook.

I should have posted that while Cicely calls me her hero, there have been plenty of moments in my running life where I’ve wanted to give it up. But, I knew she’d kill me and/or would never let me live it down. So, if it weren’t for her, my butt wouldn’t have made it to the start line Sunday (literally and figuratively). So thanks, Boo!

Sometimes, we all need someone to give us the extra push when we feel like giving up. Sometimes its a text to Beth, a quick word from my workout nanny or even a reminder from my dad that even though my weight-loss journey is traveled alone, I can’t just give up anytime I like.

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Courtesy of Mayor Greg Fischer

That’s why I almost teared up at the story of Asia Ford, who ran the Rodes City Run 10k in Louisville, Ky., over the weekend. Asia made the mistake that runners have been making since…forever. She forgot to eat before the start and nearly conked out at mile 4. With the pace car behind her, she struggled to keep going until her son and a police officer took her by the hands and helped her on her way. Asia finished the race in two hours seven minutes.

Running is nothing if not a community. If you’re looking, you don’t have to search hard to find a running group. The organization Black Girls Run has memberships across the country. Just in New York, there are groups by neighborhoods.

Beyond that, there’s a sense of belonging even when out by yourself. When I dropped Beth off at the race last week, I ran home in solidarity. It was a little after 7 a.m. and the sun hadn’t quite risen yet. But I knew there would be a troupe of runners along the path with me. You tend to see the same faces on your morning run. You’ll notice the same physical strains you had when observing a newbie. You’ll try to keep pace with that one guy who always passes you by.

Asia posted to Facebook several “before” photos of her and friends excited to hit the trail. But it’s the photo of her finishing with her son and the police officer by her side that show what this community is made of. We are a group of competitive people who are ready to cheer on another runner because we know how hard it is to keep going.

So, cheers to you Asia Ford for keeping it moving even when you thought you couldn’t. And double cheers to your son and new friend Lt. Aubrey Gregory for not letting her give up on her goal of finishing.

This 6.2 miles meant more to me than any race ever so my message today is, You don’t have to be 1st, AS LONG AS U DON’T GIVE UP AND U FINISH…YOU ARE A WINNER~Asia Ford

Girl Scout Cookie Monster

20 Mar
This is just four of the 1,000 boxes of cookies one girl sold this year. These aren't mine.

This is just four of the 1,000 boxes of cookies one girl sold this year. These aren’t mine.

A couple of months ago, you probably saw it. Someone in your office sent out a group-wide memo that their little angel has cookies to sell. But this isn’t just any bake sale. This is the sale to end all sales. Ladies and gents, it’s cookie time.

Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

When I was a kid, I was a Girl Scout. For much longer than most people, I donned stiff polyester uniforms and sashes. I went camping, learned the Girl Scout Promise and paid my dues (literally—we had to drop a few dimes in the bucket at every meeting).

At the beginning of every year, every girl got a sell sheet with a list of your favorites (Trefoils, Tagalongs, Thin Mints) and a few controversial confections (I love Samoas). Once upon a time, girls would stroll door to door to make a sale. I wasn’t one of those girls. My parents pawned my wares at work. At the end of the sale period, I…um, my parents always sold at least 300 boxes.

It never fails that someone’s eyes will be exponentially larger than their stomach. They’ll order like 12 boxes and plan on spreading them out through the year. The cookies do freeze well. But Girl Scout cookies are like Pringles: once its open, the contents are gone within the hour. Now you’re craving more.

Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

If you’re the person who was tempted by site of the familiar goodness, here are few tips to avoid becoming the cookie monster.

Give them away as gifts. Let’s be real: no one needs to eat a dozen boxes of cookies. And since they’re an annual treat, why not gift them to someone who forgot to sign up? You’ll make a new friend and spread the calories around. It’s a win-win.

Make them community property. If you bought yours from a co-worker, chances are said co-worker will deliver them at your job. If your job is anything like mine, bags of chips, cookies and candy are free game if left on a community space. Make your cookie drop off the new watercooler. Discuss the finale of “Empire” (#TeamCookie) over a bite of Thin Mints. Just be sure to grab your cup of coffee to cut back on the sweetness.

Taste tests. If you’re the person who likes to order the new cookie just to be different, start a taste test with co-workers or friends. We occasionally do this at my job where someone will buy a new flavored treat and leave a sheet of paper next to it where people can approve or disapprove. Now you’ve gotten rid of a box of cookies you probably didn’t like and you’ve had some fun. Nailed it!

Fill up the freezer. If there are still a few morsels that you want to keep for yourself, the back of your freezer is your pal. Put them behind that giant back of frozen chicken breasts you’ll never cook. Stick them under the frozen Brussels sprouts that have been crowding your space forever. Out of sight, out of mind. And when you get a craving and start ravaging your cabinets and refrigerator, you’ll be in for a welcome surprise. Score!

What do you do with the abundance of cookies surrounding you this time of year? Which one is your favorite?