Monday, February 18, 2019

Week in Workouts : It's Over

Preseason is officially over, and my next training cycle starts TODAY!! I had another solid week of workouts, trying out a few new things, and taking a bit of rest when I got hit with a mini cold in the middle of the week.  I'm feeling back to 100% and ready to get running!  Here's how my week went- 


Monday

Core Workout
I decided to start doing some home workouts during the week when I'm not going to a class or doing a run.  This workout was SO HARD and from the beginning my abs were on fire. 

2 mile walk
I took Selma for a walk around the park on a chilly, rainy day.  It wasn't ideal, but we had fun and it was still great to get fresh air!


Tuesday

4.1 miles
It was another cold and rainy day (one of those days where the temperature is right on the brink of turning the precipitation from rain to snow), so I wasn't really looking forward to the run.  I decided to just go out for an easy one or two miler, but of course once I was out there I ended up doing more.

Core Workout
After my run I did another core workout- this one was much easier but was tough with my sore muscles from Monday's workout!


Wednesday

Hot Yoga
I tried out a different yoga studio with my ClassPass- Stray Dog Yoga in Wexford.  The class was heated to 100 degrees and was vinyasa style, with lots of flows and balance moves.  I absolutely loved it, and the 75 minutes flew by!  My only complaint is that the studio was pretty small but absolutely packed, so I kept bumping into people or had to coordinate my moves with my neighbors. 


Thursday

Rest Day!
I was feeling a little stuffy on Wednesday, and woke up with a ton of congestion and couldn't stop sneezing and coughing :(  I also felt like I had 0 energy, so I ended up working from home, skipping my first watercolor painting class, and spending Valentines Day resting.


Friday

2 mile walk
I actually had a happy hour after work and stayed for a bit without drinking since I was still feeling a bit under the weather, but afterwards I met up with Dan and Selma for a walk in the woods.  It was just what I needed!


Saturday

5 miles
This run was just about getting it done.  I wasn't meeting up with friends since I had plans, so I just put on a good podcast and put in the miles.  Not the best, but I got it done!

Top Golf
For my sister's birthday, we ended up going to Top Golf for a few hours of golfing fun!  I've never gone to a driving range or done any kind of golfing besides putt-putt, so this was a completely new experience for me.  It was so much fun though, and actually kind of made random muscles that I apparently never use a little bit sore!  


Sunday

1 mile walk
This day was kind of a fail in terms of working out.  I was planning on running, but slept in since we stayed out late with friends the night before, then we had to run some errands, and by the time I was getting in the car to go, it started hailing like crazy!  So, I just took Selma for a quick walk.

Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred (Level 1)
I felt like doing a workout at home, so I pulled out some of my old DVDs.  Apparently I went through a Biggest Loser and Jillian Michaels phase, because I have a ton of her stuff!  I decided to do the 30 Day Shred, which is 3 rounds of- 3 minutes strength, 2 minutes cardio, 1 minute abs.  It was a fun workout that went by quickly!



What are you training for?
Have you ever played golf?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Day Trip to Nikko

The first day trip that we took in Japan was to a town north of Tokyo called Nikko.  I did some research about nearby cities, and was really interested in this one because of the natural beauty surrounding incredible UNESCO heritage sites.  There's even a saying in Japanese- "Never say 'kekkō' until you've seen Nikkō"—kekkō meaning beautiful, magnificent or "I am satisfied"-which just proves the beauty of Nikko.



Here's a look at my favorite things that I saw and ate during our day trip to Nikko!

Transportation

The trip from Tokyo to Nikko was pretty simple, and we were able to take all trains run by Japan Railways, which is covered under our JR Pass.  Here is the route that we took-

JR Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Utsunomiya Station (this is a bullet train, which means we got there very quickly! We got reserved seats, but there are also unreserved cars if you don't have a Rail Pass and want to save money).

Nikko Line from Utsunomiya Station to Nikko (very cute, old fashioned train, but doesn't run very often.  Make sure you check the time tables so you can plan out your time wisely).


There are buses available from Nikko Station around town, but the walk is really lovely!  It's all uphill to get to the shrine areas, but the view of the mountains is absolutely breathtaking, and there are lots of shops and restaurants to stop in to break up the walk.


Shinkyo Bridge


This bright vermilion bridge, which in English means Sacred Bridge, signifies the entrance to the shrines of Nikko and is one of the first World Heritage Sites you'll see in town.  This iteration was built in 1636, and is considered one of the three finest bridges (and the oldest) in Japan.  You're able to cross for 500 yen, but you can also view it crossing over the rapids below for free!


Kanmangafuchi Abyss


If you continue along the water, you are able to take a terrific stroll past Kanman Park, a Buddhist temple, and a row of 70 stone statues.  The statues represent Jizo, a Bodhisattva who cares for the deceased and sick children, which is why he's commonly covered in children's clothing and surrounded by toys.


The main attraction on the walk is the abyss, which was formed by an eruption of a nearby volcano.  I can only imagine how beautiful the area must be in the fall, but even in winter it was terrific!


Toshogu Shrine


The main attraction in Nikko is the incredible Toshogu Shrine, which is supposed to be one of the most elaborate and grand shrines in the world.  It definitely lived up to the hype!  


The shrine is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who founded the Tokugawa Sogunate that ruled Japan for 250 years.  While the shrine started as a simple mausoleum, it was updated and enlarged into the current complex in the 1600s by Ieyasu's grandson.


There are so many small, incredible details all over the sprawling structures.  One of my favorites is right when you enter, where you can see the Three Wise Monkeys and an illustration of "see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil".


Just look at that incredible detail!  This is how the entire complex looked and we could have spent hours just studying one building.  Well worth the 1300 yen entry fee!


Yuba-maki Zen


One of my favorite things about Japan and traveling to different cities is that most places have a regional specialty that they are known for.  In Nikko, this was yuba, which is basically the skin formed when making tofu, and can be prepared fresh, dried, or half dried.  We picked a place that specialized in different preparations, and got the set meal to try them all out!  Everything was so delicious, and I especially liked the miso soup, which had a more robust and intense flavor than what I'm used to.


Murmur Biiru Stand


We stumbled upon this little brewery and stopped in to try all the different flavors.  The owner was a really sweet guy who brews the beer in the back room of the shop, and also sells some beer that his friend in Utsunomiya makes!  While the beer wasn't incredible, it was a nice stop to make, and he was playing Napoleon Dynamite dubbed in Japanese, which made the experience even better.


Have you ever visited an UNESCO World Heritage Site?
What kind of cities do you like to visit?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Week in Workouts : Polar Vortex

We can just call this a cut-back week for running, because I definitely lowered my mileage!  We were hit with the Polar Vortex in Pittsburgh, which gave us temperatures below zero and no desire to leave the house.  I switched things up a bit this week though, including trying out a new outdoor workout.  Here's how the week went-

Monday

Total Body Conditioning
This is one of my favorite classes that I've tried with ClassPass, and today's definitely didn't disappoint!  The hour of class seemed to fly by, and by the end I was super sweaty and sore.  Loved it!


Tuesday

4 miles / 9:45 pace
I did an easy course around my house after work.  It started to snow pretty hard while I was out (hopefully you can tell in my shaky pic above!), but I powered through and ended up having a great run!


Wednesday

Rest Day!
Stayed home from work, didn't leave the house.  Brr!


Thursday

Rest Day!
It was actually even colder than Wednesday, so I stayed home again.  Got a bit of cabin fever!


Friday

Cycle Bar
It warmed up quite a bit (wind chill got above 0), but all of the roads around me were really icy and not treated, so I decided to switch things up and go to a spinning class.  It was a while since my last one, but I missed it.  This class was a lot of fun and the playlist was on point!


Saturday

5 mile run / 9:22 pace
I was actually planning on doing a longer run, but I did one lap around North Park and my entire body felt frozen (in addition to my eyelashes literally freezing my eyes shut a few times), so I cut my losses and called it a day.


Sunday

Cross Country Skiing
A few weeks ago, I signed up for a class through Venture Outdoors for beginning cross country ski, and it ended up being the most perfect day to go!  We had a warm 40/50 degree day, but there was a ton of snow at Kooser State Park.  I've gone downhill skiing once, so I was really coming in as a beginner, but the class was so much fun and I caught on after about 30 minutes.  I definitely got a full body workout and also had a blast!


What's your favorite cold weather activity?
How was the weather in your area this week?

Friday, February 1, 2019

January in Review

If January is any indication for how 2019 will be, I'm in for a wild ride this year!  I started out the month by going to the emergency room (everything is fine- I thought my appendix was bursting and it turns out there was some kind of GI issue going around Pittsburgh).  Then, we had a girl I met during our trip to Hawaii and who is from Paris stay with us for a week which was a ton of fun. To end the month we a bang, we decided to trade in our used Subaru for a new one!

Let's hope that February is full of just as much fun, but hopefully not as much money spent or time in the hospital ;)  Here's a look at how my goals went-

Write on the blog more

Done and crushed this one!  I wrote quite a few posts which you can check out here-

It's been really great getting back to writing again, and I'm looking forward to continuing this in February!  I have more Japan posts to share, I'll continue doing my weekly workout recaps, and also want to do another Frugal February challenge (more on that below!)


Start training for the Capital City Half Marathon

If you read my weekly workout posts above you'll see that this one is also underway!  My official training hasn't started yet, but I'm well on my way.  My plan starts in mid-February, so I'll be sharing more this month.


30 Days of Yoga Challenge

I did pretty well with this.  I didn't do every day, but I'll keep going until I finish all of the videos from the challenge.  It was really fun and definitely different than past years'.  It seemed like the videos were a lot shorter and there was more sitting around in the postures at the beginning and end which I wasn't a huge fan of, but I still enjoyed it.


Read Two Books

I finished my two books, and even managed to hit my goal of one regular book, and one off of the Times Best Novels list!  My fun read was A Simple Favor, which had a really great plot and format, but seemed to drag on for a while.  I watched the movie as well which was really different from the book but also good!  From the Times list I finished Lord of the Flies, which was a very difficult book for me to read, but I got through it!  Right now, I'm reading The Perfect Nanny, which is extremely dark and twisted but engrossing at the same time.


Work on Japan Scrapbook

I made great progress on my scrapbook!  I organized my layout, and also got all of my pictures printed out from my trip.  So far I finished my pages for Tokyo and Kyoto, so I should have everything completed by the end of February.




Now let's move on to some of my goals for February!  I'm sticking to some more fun goals, since it's a short month and might be hard with the weather and training starting.


Try New Things

I want this year to be full of new adventures and stepping outside of my comfort zone, so I'm going to dive right into that in February by taking a class at a community college and joining an outdoors club.  Can't wait to share how they go!


Watch all the Oscar Best Picture Nominations

I'm not a huge movie person, but I always thought it would be fun to watch all of the Oscar nominees.  Most years have movies that I'm not super interested in, but this year has a few that I've been wanting to see and a few others that I haven't even heard of but sound interesting.  So, February will be about staying warm and watching more movies!


Frugal February

This was a challenge that I did last year, and it was a great way to kick off the year in a positive way.  Plus, this is the shortest month of the year so I can definitely go 28 days without spending money on frivolous things!  I will follow the same rules as last year, which includes:

NO buying breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, or snacks out.
NO online shopping.
NO Target!!
NO Netflix and Hulu. (I actually got rid of Hulu completely after this challenge, so now I'll just pause my Netflix for the month)
NO Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.


What are your goals for February?
How was your January?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Week in Workouts : Brrrr

Another week of training is in the books!  I'm inching closer and closer to half marathon training starting, and I feel like I'm in a good place right now.  I haven't incorporated any kind of speed in yet, but I'm getting back in the flow of running consistently.  I'm even (dare I say) getting excited to put in the hard work!

Here is how my snowy and cold week of workouts (and daily yoga) went:

Monday

This was one of my favorite videos in this 30 day set.  There was a lot more movement which felt great, and the time seemed to fly by.

3 miles / 9:23 pace
I had the day off work, so I knew I wanted to get a run in.  It was only 7 degrees when I went, but there was zero wind and it was sunny, so it didn't actually feel that cold!  The roads were all clear, so I ended up having a very pleasant run.


Tuesday

Lots of deep stretches in this one.  Had to modify a few of the low squats because my knees felt a touch sensitive.


Wednesday

There were lots of side planks in this one, starting with modifications and ending with the full deal.  Nice workout!

4.5 miles / 9:34 pace
Random heat wave (up to the 40s) so I decided to squeeze in a run after work.  It was drizzling a bit but I didn't mind at all! Only downfall was the road was super wet from all the melted snow, so my feet were drenched and cold the entire time.  I really need to invest in a pair of shoes that are waterproof...


Thursday

I actually did this right after I came home from Beat (see below), so it felt so good to stretch out.

Beat Fitness
If last week was my least favorite class at Beat, this would have to be my favorite.  We had four stations with two exercises each, which we did five sets of 1:30 at each with a 3:00 "burnout" at the end of class.  Each station was really fun- True Form treadmill run, banded side step, Bosu Ball squats, club swings, Arnold press, figure 8 kettlebell squats, weighted back squat, and plate clean press.  It was challenging, but went by so quickly and really pushed me.


Friday

Rest Day
Took the day off of workouts to hang out with friends after work!


Saturday

Balance is one of my favorite aspects of yoga, so this was a perfect practice for me.


Sunday

Alive
There were so many great hip openers and other stretches- just what I needed!

8 miles / 10:30 pace
This run was actually supposed to happen on Saturday with Pro Bike and Run, but the roads were icy and none of my friends wanted to make it out.  Instead we met up on Sunday to run at North Park, and ran through even worse snow!  It was horrible weather, but we had so much fun together and I never would have completed the run alone.  Plus, we got brunch after, so it was all worth it!

Friday, January 25, 2019

3 Days in Tokyo

Hi everyone- TGIF!  I have a huge post to share today- all of my favorite things that I did during my three days in Tokyo, which is the first city I visited in Japan.  It was so hard to choose just a few places to share, but I hope that this will help show the incredible activities that Tokyo has to offer.

I'll be sharing my six favorite activities / areas, as well as four places we ate.  Unfortunately, I'm not much of a foodie when I travel, and my main goal is to explore as much as possible and save on food.  I still hope my list is helpful for some random options to try, but to be honest- most of the time we just grabbed a quick bite at 7-Eleven or from the numerous street vendors around the city.  It seems like you can't go wrong with food as I loved everything I tried!

Here are my favorite things I saw / did / ate in Tokyo!

Mori Digital Art Museum

I visited this museum on my first full day in Tokyo, along with Dan and two of his coworkers, and we all agreed that it was one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had.  The entire museum is full of lights and projectors that transport you to different worlds- from an underwater oasis filled with brightly colored whales and frogs, to a field full of flowers that changed shape and color as you walked past. 
There were so many rooms to explore- my favorite was a mirrored room with thousands of lily pads that displayed shimmering lights one minute and tiny birds the next- as well as interactive exhibits that forced you to climb poles or go down slides.  It's definitely a place that you have to experience for yourself!

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

I knew that I wanted to get a good view of Tokyo (I love going to observation towers or decks when visiting new cities), and luckily our hotel was right across the street from one that just happened to be free!  We went during the day as well as at night, and it's incredible to see just how vast the city of Tokyo is.  All around us the town seemed to go on and on! 
I also enjoyed seeing all of the marketing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics around the building, which makes me want to go back next year to watch the Games.

Harajuku

When planning out our plan at the beginning of each day, Dan and I pretty much just decided on an area to explore, got off the subway or train at that stop, and followed whatever caught our attention.  I knew that I wanted to visit Harajuku after hearing so much about it (mostly through Gwen Stefani's Japanese phase in the early 2000s- I even bought all of the perfumes and CD's), and it was incredible!  There is a main pedestrian street at the entrance of Harajuku station called Takeshita, which is just crammed full of shops and food stands. 
An important concept across Japan, but was especially prevalent in Harajuku, is "kawaii", which roughly translates to "cute, adorable, and lovable".  There were lots of stuffed animals, cute t-shirts, Disney stores, and colorful foods.  We made a stop at an ice cream shop that makes animal themed cones, which is a perfect representation of the Harajuku spirit that we saw.

Meiji Jingu

There were so many things I loved about this shrine, including the fact that it was in the center of a huge, beautiful park located minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Harajuku and offered a welcome relief from the crowds.  On the way to the shrine, you pass by a huge display of sake barrels- which are there as an offering of the enshrined deities of Meiji Shrine.  The sake is donated from local brewers and used at ceremonies and festivals!  Besides the stunning buildings in the shrine complex (which are all free to visit), there is also a garden which you can explore for a few hundred yen.

Roppongi Hills

Since we were in Japan during Christmas season, I knew we had to visit some of the light displays.  Even though Christmas is not a recognized holiday like it is in the United States and other countries, I still saw lots of people dressed up as Santa, displays in windows, and decorations all over the place.  I was shocked to also hear Christmas music everywhere!  One of the most famous illuminations in Tokyo is located at Roppongi Hills, which is a really neat shopping, business, and residential area.  There was a Christmas village (modeled after German markets), an entire block filled with sparkling blue lights, and a little park with decorations as well.

Ikebukuro

This was another area that we decided to get off at the station and just explore!  Besides Akihabara (which is a very similar area located close to Tokyo Station), this is the other famous otaku district in Tokyo- an area dedicated to people with specific interests in manga and anime.  There were so many comic book stores, video game cafes, maid cafes, and more!  We actually played some games in one of the video game places, which had six floors, each dedicated to different types of games.  Everyone in there was INSANELY good- it was entertaining just watching them play Dance Dance Revolution or Pachinko (which is a game I never heard of before, but we saw hundreds of stores all over the country just to play Pachinko).  We played a much easier game that was probably meant for children but we had a blast!

Pokemon Cafe

This was actually the very first thing that I did in Tokyo after landing.  Dan met me at the airport (he was in town a few days before me after working in Guam, so I flew alone), and we had to run through the airport to activate my Rail Pass, get seats on the Narita Express to get into Tokyo, and make it to the train in time for our reservation since my plane landed 2 1/2 hours late.  It was really exciting- Dan kept yelling back at me "LET'S DO THIS AMAZING RACE STYLE" and we jumped into the train just as it was about to pull out.  The cafe is near Tokyo Station, so I left my luggage in a locker at the train station and made our way to the building. 
There was a large store with all kinds of Pokemon gear and toys, which we explored until our time slot started.  Once inside, we were seated in a themed section (we got Snorlax) and ordered food on an iPad.  I wasn't particularly hungry, so I just got a donut and latte, while Dan got a Jigglypuff Cheesecake and float.  The food wasn't particularly good and was one of our more expensive meals, but the entire experience was cute and the place was adorable- my first experience with kawaii!  We apparently missed out on the characters coming out, but I was just ready to head to bed by the time we finished eating.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Just a note- there are two parts of the fish market in Tokyo, the inner and outer market.  The inner market was recently moved, and this is where the daily fish auctions take place (you might have heard about a recent $3 million tuna that was sold a few weeks ago).  The outer market is what I visited, which is full of tons of street vendors and restaurants selling super fresh fish and sushi.  We came after most of the shops had closed, but I heard it's a great experience to come early for breakfast!

Okonomiyaki Monjayaki

In Japan, one of my favorite foods was Okonomiyaki, which is basically a savory pancake with all kinds of delicious fillings.  At this place, we got all of our ingredients in a bowl, and read instructions on cooking our own meal on a hot plate in the center of our table.  Not only was the food delicious, but it was also a really fun experience!

Tokyu Food Show

I mentioned in my last post how much I loved the food floors at department stars, and Tokyu Food Show in the Shibuya station was my favorite.  There were so many different types of foods from sushi to fresh bread to macarons!  It's a really fun experience just to walk around before (or after) you grab a train.


What do you prioritize- food or experiences- on trips?
Favorite foreign food?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Training Starts Now!

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr Day to everyone!  I'm lucky enough to have the day off (which has been awesome- been doing a lot of house cleaning and decluttering all weekend).  While the temperature has definitely been dropping in the past few days, my training is starting to heat up. 

My officially training plan for my next half marathon starts in just a few weeks, so I'm working on building up a solid base!  Besides some cross training and running, I also am doing the Yoga with Adriene 30 Days of Yoga (as I mentioned in my monthly goals), as well as 15 squats, 10 pushups, and 15 situps each morning.  This is a little challenge my friends and I started, and I think it's a great way to start the day!

Here's how my week of workouts went:

Monday

Lots of twists in this one, which is one of my favorite moves in yoga!  Really nice and relaxing.

2.25 miles / 9:21 pace
Christmas Tree Grave Yard
I wasn't really in the mood to run, but when I got home from work I just changed into running clothes and got out before I could think about it too much.  I did an easy run around my block and was happy that I made it out!


Tuesday

This was a tough one! Adriene seems to either have relaxing, meditative style classes or intense, "let's get strong" videos, and this was definitely the latter.

Beat Fitness
Even though I love this class (which I go to with my Class Pass membership) and I always get in a great workout, this was honestly not my favorite.  There were three stations with three moves each, and we were at each station for five sets of 2:30, and I just couldn't get into it for some reason.  It seemed like each round dragged on, and five sets seemed like infinity.  I pushed through it with help from Alexa being there, as well as the trainer Brian.


Wednesday

A few moves that targeted the abs in this one, which were basically on fire after Beat! (one of the stations was all abs, so they were toast).

The Barre Code
Somehow Alexa convinced me to go to back-to-back classes, but luckily I felt pretty good, and the workout was focused on legs and arms instead of my (dead) abs!  This was a HIIT (high intensity interval training) class, which had sections of cardio broken into high intensity/short intervals, interspersed with AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)-style strength segments.  While I loved the strength, the cardio kept using the same movements for each section.  Time went by really quickly and I got a great workout, but I was craving new moves by the third round!


Thursday

Not a ton of movement, and it was all floor stretches.  Felt really great though.

4.5 miles / 9:43 pace
Frozen / Blurry Lake
I got home from work a bit early, so I made it to the park for an easy run.  The normal route is 5 miles, but I took a little short cut to take off a half mile.  Still working on building up mileage, so I was just happy to finish this without walking!


Friday

So many great stretches in this one!  Definitely needed, because my legs were screaming at me from all of the squats in Wednesday's class followed by a run!


Saturday

I did this after my long run, so I had to modify some of the poses, and added in a few more stretches.

8 miles / 9:50 pace
Pro Bike and Run just opened a new store in North Park, so I was excited to join the group for my long run.  It was amazing, because so many of my friends were there and the miles just flew by.  I was actually planning on only doing five miles, but ended up getting convinced by Jessie and Jess to do another three.  We picked up the pace a bit for the final mile and a half, and it felt great to be out there!
I also have to share this awesome group picture with some of my faster friends:
One of the benefits of group runs- awesome (free) pictures!  Us slower gals just decided to hop into all the faster group shots, but we ran with the 10:00 / "perfect 10" group.

Sunday

Relaxing practice, not a ton of movement but great stretches in lizard pose (one of my favorites). 

2 mile walk
We got a ton of snow, so Selma and I went on a walk before the snow plow came or anyone drove on the roads.  It was amazing, and we followed it up with a little run around in the snow!  Just look at this happy girl!


Do you like running in the cold?
Favorite kind of cross training?