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?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Japan Recap : Tokyo Basics

Hi everyone!  I have a couple of really exciting posts to share- recapping my recent trip to Japan!  I was lucky enough to be able to go for about two and a half weeks in December, and it was the trip of a lifetime.  This has been the longest trip I've ever taken since I started working, and it was amazing to feel like I was really immersing myself in another culture!


I have so much to share about my trip, so I'm going to be breaking it down into a bunch of different posts.  First up, I'll be talking about our first stop of the trip- Tokyo.  This was a HUGE city and we spent four days there, so first I'm going to talk about some basics and give a couple of tips and general observations.  Next I'll talk about what we actually did and ate in Tokyo, then move on to the rest of the cities we visited (eight others!).  I hope that this is useful for anyone who is planning a trip to Japan, and if you have any questions please feel free to email me or leave me a message on Instagram.  Let's go!

Stay

Hyatt Regency Tokyo
I want to start out by saying that we stayed at some AMAZING places during our trip to Japan.  These were all probably the nicest hotels that I've ever stayed at (and I will talk about each one individually).  However- we were lucky enough to be able to use credit card points and cash in Hilton points as well.  Even though these places were nice, they were definitely on the expensive side, and if we were paying everything out of pocket, we would have been staying in either Airbnb's, added some capsule hotels, or less expensive hotels.  Not sponsored- but if you're looking to start earning points for travel, we've really liked the Chase cards which have a high trade in value for Hyatt hotels.


Moving on to the actual hotel- I loved everything about this place!  The location was right in Shinjuku, across the street from the Metropolitan Government Office, and within walking distance of Shinjuku station.  The hotel offered a free shuttle service to the station, but we were able to find an underground tunnel within steps of the entrance, so we always walked and could get ANYWHERE in the city (and country) from this gigantic station!


The rooms in the hotel were really nice and spacious, and had a "wet room" of a combined shower and tub (which we had in every hotel, must be a Japanese thing!).  We also had an upgrade to get breakfast every morning, as well as complimentary happy hour at night.  Both were great, and helped us to save a little big of money on food and drinks.


Transportation

One of the main things that I heard before this trip was how difficult public transportation was to understand.  My experience couldn't have been further from that though- I found it extremely easy to get around!  I do have a few pieces of advice that helped us a lot-

- Download the Hyperdia app.  With this, you can enter in your starting station and ending station (make sure you know the exact name, you can't search for locations), and the app will tell you exactly which line to take, which platform in the station, and the cost.

- Remember which line / letter you're taking.  It may seem confusing at first, but there are a few different companies that have subways and trains in Tokyo.  On a plus side, each company has their own logo, and area of the station.  When we were looking for our platform, we first looked for signs that directed us to the company, then looked for the letter and color of our specific line.  It was pretty simple once we did this a few times- we mostly used JR lines since we purchased the JR Pass, and could easily find our platform once we were through the turnstiles!



- Pick up an IC Card!  This definitely makes travel easy- all transportation takes IC cards (either Pasmo or Suica), and all you do is touch the card to the turnstile when entering and exit the station.  I've heard that there are no differences between the cards, and they can also be used in most vending machines and convenience stores.  One note though...


- Japan is very much a cash society.  We only used our credit card (maybe) three times in the 18 days we were there.  You need cash to buy IC cards, buy food, etc.

- JR Passes make travel so easy!  If you're planning on visiting multiple cities in Japan, I would recommend ordering a JR Pass.  This lets you travel on any JR line in the entire country for free, including most bullet trains!  We were even able to reserve seats on bullet trains.  There are a lot of calculators out there to figure out if the pass is worth it, but I found it useful just for the convenience of not paying for individual tickets or constantly checking the balance on our Suica.


Food

I would say that one area that I was really surprised about Japan was the food.  I expected everything to be really expensive, and to eat a lot of sushi.  While this may be true for some people, I found the food to be really reasonable, and only ate sushi twice on our entire trip!  We mostly ate from street vendors, got quick meals to go from 7-Eleven, or put together picnics from department stores.  Here are a few other tips:

Practice using chopsticks.  We were never given forks or knives outside of our hotel, so make sure you know how to use chopsticks before going.  Also, most chopsticks were found in little boxes on your table.

- Convenience stores and department stores are the BEST.  You might have been surprised to read that I did most of my food shopping there, but the experience is completely different from in the United States.  The main convenience stores- 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson- offer amazing food for really cheap prices.  I liked picking up onigiri (rice balls with different fillings), sandwiches, bento boxes, pastries, and hot drinks.


They also have hot food sections, where you can get fresh yakitori  (skewered meat).  Department stores all have food floors (as well as a restaurant floor), where you can get groceries, food presents, fresh bread, and sushi to go.  It was just an experience to walk around the floors, even if you don't buy anything!  One of my favorite ones was Tokyu Food Show in the Shibuya station!



At restaurants, you're usually given a wet towel.  No matter where we went, from fancy sit-down places to convenience stores, we were always given some kind of towel.  This is to wipe off your hands (not your entire face/body!), and then you neatly fold the towel and place it back on the dish.  It might seem obvious, but we were a little confused when we went to our first restaurant!

- Ramen/udon vending machine restaurants are amazing!  Not only are they cheap, but it was much easier to order for us, and was a unique experience.  All you have to do is put your money in the machine, make your food selections, and hand the ticket that spits out to the chef.  Once your food is done, it's handed to you and that's it!  Most of these shops were tiny with only a few seats, so usually you have to eat quickly to get the next person in line your seat.


- Tipping is not a thing in Japan.  I've heard that servers will chase you down if you leave money!  I also found that most places don't even give you a receipt- if you ask for the bill, they will bring over a calculator with what you owe, and you usually have to pay with cash.


Language

Before we went to Japan, we learned a few (emphasis on FEW) phrases.  Even though we weren't able to hold a conversation, we found that being able to greet people and say thank you was really helpful, and everyone was EXTREMELY nice to us.  I usually use the app Duolingo to help me learn the language- makes learning easy and fun!

When looking at restaurants, we looked for places that offered English menus, or used vending machine places to make it easier.  I've heard that some places will even turn you away if you aren't Japanese, but we never faced this.

In Tokyo, there were a lot of signs in both Japanese and English (especially in train stations).  There weren't a ton of street signs, and those that I found were always in Japanese, so I just relied on Google Maps to help me navigate.


Random

- Get a pocket wifi.  I have never done this in any other foreign country, but I would say it is a necessity (or at least makes travel a lot easier).  We were always able to get transportation directions, use our translator app, and look for places to go!

- Tokyo is VERY crowded.  We were there in December, which is supposed to be the low tourist season, and it was still packed everywhere.  Get used to battling through people constantly and being on crowded subways.  On a plus side, everyone kind of keeps to their side (typically on the left) and moves quickly.

- Japan is VERY clean!!  I seriously did not see any litter or even a random piece of trash during our stay.  Even weirder is the fact that you don't find public trash cans anywhere!  Instead, people will carry their trash home with them.  I usually saw trash cans at convenience stores and vending machines (which are seriously everywhere), so if I wanted a quick snack or drink, I would buy it and immediate eat/drink it so I could toss it right away.

- Bowing is a big thing.  We saw it everywhere, and started to do it as well.  I found it to be equivalent to a wave or a handshake.  You also bow when visiting shrines (you can read about the "proper" way to visit shrines and temples here).


I'll be back to share more specifics about what we did and what we ate, but I hope this was a helpful guide to some things that I noticed in Tokyo.  It was a city that I fell in love with quickly, and I can't wait to visit again.


Have you ever been to Asia?
What has been the biggest culture shock in your travels?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy New Year!

Can anyone believe that it's the year 2019?  I was going through some old pictures this week, and came across one from my freshman year of college when I went to the Rose Bowl in California.  After doing some math, I realized that was ten years ago.  How is that even possible!?

Every year, I like to make resolutions.  I started this blog as a way to track goals and keep myself accountable, so it's no surprise that the biggest goal-setting time of the year is one of my favorite times to set new challenges for myself!  This year is no different, but instead of making huge year-spanning goals, I'm just going to focus on January.  Without further ado or intro (since I'm a bit rusty and haven't been writing much lately), here is what I hope to achieve this month!


Write on the blog more

Can already tick this one off!  I miss blogging and writing, and feeling like I'm creating something (as insignificant as it may be).  I have so much to share, from my highlights of 2018, to my trips to Toronto, Golden Isles in Georgia, Chicago, and Japan!  I am also going to be training for another half marathon, so I want to document my training again and make sure I stay on track!  Which leads me to my second goal..


Start training for the Capital City Half Marathon

My big goal of last year was to complete a triathlon (which I did- you can find the recap here!), and after that I kind of took a break from training and running in general.  I somehow managed to run two official half marathons later in the year, but didn't have any goals or followed a plan at all.  I'm excited to start training hard again, and maybe even set a goal to PR!  More to come on that!


30 Days of Yoga Challenge

This is something that I do every year- complete Yoga with Adriene's 30 Day Challenge.  Every year has a new focus and theme, and this year is Dedicate.  These videos focus not only on making your body (specifically core) stronger, but also strengthen your mind.  It's always my favorite way of starting off the year and I can't wait to get started.


Read Two Books

I was not very good about reading in 2018, but I finished the year strong by reading two books in December (An American Marriage and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo).  I'm planning on doing one book for fun (whatever comes available first in my Overdrive wait list), and another off of the Time's Best Novels list to work on my 30x30 goal of reading 25 off of that list.


Work on Japan Scrapbook

I used to be really good about finishing scrapbooks for every trip that I went on, but have been slacking lately!  It all started when I made a scrapbook for each year of college, and it's something I've always enjoyed doing.  I already organized the ticket stubs, train tickets, and other small paper souvenirs that I acquired on my trip, so next I just have to print out papers and get to cutting and gluing!  I'm not going to make a promise to finish it in January, but I at least want to make progress so that this one gets completed before I forget all the details of my trip.


There you have it!  I think this is a completely do-able list, but will definitely get my year off to a good start.  Here's to a happy and healthy 2019!



Do you make resolutions?
What are your goals for January / 2019?