Friday, February 5, 2021

Embracing Cold, Dark Runs

 It's winter. Cold, dark winter. Most of my running life has been spent in Las Vegas. Don't get me wrong, Vegas does get cold. It's just not New York cold. With over 2 feet of snow that dropped this past week, it seemed like the perfect time to update everyone on my quest to be less miserable in the cold weather!

I've been working my way through Run the Year 2021, which means some long runs outside. I just can't put down 8 miles on a treadmill, especially now that masks are required at the gym. I'm also working my way down the thermometer. I've currently survived the 20-degree temps. Not sure how much lower I'll actually go. Hopefully Spring comes early and I won't have to keep this up too much longer.

What have I learned? In short, winter running is not cute. Nothing matches, because it's all about function and layers. I've also learned that gear is important. Here's a few notes of what's working for me:

Clothes: I got a vest from Kohl's a while back (not even for running, but just because it was cute), and it's working perfectly! It's a loud yellow color and keeps my core totally cozy. I will occasionally pull up the hood when needed. Beyond that, I layer up a tank, long sleeve, and jacket for most runs. If it's a bit warmer (for cold weather), I ditch the long sleeve. I still need to master the pants, and just getting new, thick socks was enough for my feet for now. 

For my head, wearing an ear muff headband is working well. I have a few, and while the thicker one is clearly warmer, I found my cheep one from Amazon works best with my Aftershokz. My fleece buff also has come in handy. I have old gloves, but that's another upgrade I need to make soon.

Lighting: It's not only cold, it's also dark, so I got a headlamp from Home Depot on a black Friday sale. Works great so I can see where I'm going. For the cars to see me, Katie got me a Noxgear vest. That thing is amazing! So lightweight and bright. I'm much more comfortable running at odd hours now. I highly recommend it!

Shoes: Here is another upgrade, but I don't think I'll be taking the leap right now. Many runners will run in ice and snow, so that usually also means a different shoe to have better traction. I haven't gotten there yet; maybe next year!

Hydration: I have yet to bring hydration with me (I've only gone up to 8 miles), and this is another place where I can improve. Your body just doesn't give you the same signals when it's so cold. I hydrate before and after. This weekend, a 10-miler is on the plan, so hydration is a must. I plan to carry my regular belt, but will also be sure to regularly sip so nothing freezes. One tip I read (can't take credit) is take a sip every 5 minutes. That is enough to be sure ice crystals don't start to freeze in your water. 

What are you favorite cold weather running tips? I'm sure I can use more! Leggings? Gloves? I have a few more things I need to add to the arsenal! Stay warm out there :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

My Not-So-Dopey Challenge

Dopey 2014
When Dopey went down, I was crushed. I think every runner had "that race" that finally broke them in 2020. For me, it was the reality that the turn of a calendar year would not magically restore our lives back to normal. I had reworked my goals so many times already, but this one felt different.

I knew I wouldn't take the virtual option. I also knew my training would be halted. I just don't have any desire to do all those miles without the live race. I'm truly in awe of anyone who is!

I couldn't let this week go by, though, without doing something to pay homage to what should have been, so I've taken on the challenge of 4.86 miles per day to get me back into the consistent habit of running. As the days tick by, in some ways it's helping to ease the pain. I've gotten through the "I should be on a plane" day and heading into the "I should be at the expo" day today. 

As crazy as this all sounds, I can't help but notice my Run the Year tracker also yelling at me, because I'm already behind on the mileage! 2021 miles is a lot! What did I get myself into?

Are you headed down to the world to run some virtual miles? Doing something at home? Sitting and waiting until the next registration day? Tell me about it!

Friday, January 1, 2021

Making SMART Goals for the New Year

I wrote this for the gym's January newsletter (I do a small article each month as the Fitness Director). Since it's all about being SMART, I'm working smarter and sharing it here too! Go set some SMART goals!

I love the gym in the New Year. Really, really LOVE it! As someone who has worked in fitness for 20 years, this is the most exciting time for me. People are motivated. They are willing to try something new. They will make resolutions, promises and goals. Health and fitness are on everyone’s mind! 

I’m sure you’ve heard of SMART goals. This acronym has been around forever in hopes of helping people make solid goals that can be followed. I challenge you, whether you are new to the gym or have been coming for years, to make at least one SMART goal for your health and fitness this year. 

Follow these guidelines:

  1. S-Specific: Be clear about your goal. “Getting healthy” is a pretty broad goal; but saying you want to lose weight, exercise more, drink more water, or keep current on well visits with your doctor are all more specific tasks.

  2. M-Measurable: To add more clarity, make your specific goal measurable. What is “more”? How about adding a numeric value to know when you hit that goal. Lose 10 pounds. Exercise 5 days a week. Drink 50 ounces of water a day. 

  3. A-Attainable: Being realistic is key. Don’t set yourself up for failure or disappointment. Losing 30 pounds in January won’t happen (at least not in any sort of healthy way). 

  4. R-Relevant: A goal is only good if it’s important to you. This time of year, many people focus on improving their health, and if 2020 taught me anything, it’s that our health is really the most important thing.

  5. T-Time-Bound: Add that time stamp. Give yourself a deadline. Write it in your planner or put it on your digital calendar (I’m a paper planner girl; don’t try and change my mind!).

If your goal is BIG, like for the whole year big, make smaller benchmarks along the way. I’m always in this with you, so here’s my big goal for the year: I will run 2021 miles in 2021. It’s specific (just about running) and relevant (I love to run). It’s time bound (I have 365 days to do it) and measurable (I’m tracking miles on my watch). Attainable? Well, that’s still unknown, and to be more realistic, I’ve actually set 2 goals: 1021 miles & 2021, because I wanted an A-goal and a B-goal. 

Share with me! What’s your goal for 2021? Make it BIG! Make it a little scary. But most importantly, make it SMART!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

New Year, New Goals: Let's Do This 2021!

You can look on the bright side all you want, but I don't know of a single person who won't be happy to say, "Goodbye" to 2020! For us, job loss, event cancelations, and the struggle bus were real. Yes, we had some great moments, but this is not one of those posts. This is a "See you later, 2020!" as I push this year aside kind of post.

With that, this was a crappy year for running races. Everything I had scheduled was canceled. I had high hopes of running 40 races leading up to my 40th birthday. Then I changed course and said I'd do 40 races in 2021, the year I turn 40. Now, well, I have no idea when we'll be back to live races, and a year filled with local, socially distanced races doesn't seem like a great way to party. Enter my next goal: Run the Year!

I'm not a super fan of virtuals. I've done a total of TWO in my life, and zero during 2020 when virtuals were the thing to do. I got all of my refunds from runDisney races (even though I ran the distances), and I really had no intention to jump on the virtual train. Well, that is until now. I'm officially joining the crazy group of runners who "run the year" with the virtual race organization, Run the Edge. I've created a team (Disney Runs in the Family, of course!) and we are setting our own goals. Goal one for me is 1021 miles. My reach goal is the entire thing: 2021. I love to have multiple goals; I do it in races too, so why not do it for the virtual? 

Yes, I did the math, and no, I have no idea if I can even run that much with the rest of my fitness schedule. I'm going to kick off the year with a not-Dopey 10 day streak of 4.86 miles per day for 10 days (so poetic that it starts on New Years Day and ends on what should have been marathon day). Grab your calculator, because as fun as this sounds, it already puts me behind my goal for the year! 

If you aren't familar with Run the Edge or the Run the Year challenge, you can register here: Run the Year 2021 Our team isn't full yet, so we'd love to have you hop on and join us! Just search "Disney Runs in the Family" and add your goal. 

Talk to me! What are your goals? Do you make New Years Resolutions? How do you track them? Anyone else running the year? Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, November 20, 2020

A Review of WDW During a Pandemic

 We just returned from a week at the most Magical Place on Earth. This trip was planned for Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend, which was just another canceled race weekend. Even though the race went virtual, I opted to get the full refund but run the races on property anyway. How many times have I said, "I run for the bling." Apparently I'm a liar and truly just run because I love it.

 So many people have asked, "How was it?" that I figured the best way to get all the nitty, gritty details out was to pop up a blog post. In short, it was great, we felt safe, and I'd definitely recommend it if you are a WDW fan. (But let's be real, you came here for the long version, so here we go!)

We flew American Airlines with one connection each way. AA has not reduced their capacity as some other airlines have, and our flights were surprisingly full. We take up a whole row, so for our immediate surroundings it didn't make much difference. They were very strict with the mask mandate and did not do drink/snack service (though you could ask for some if you wanted it). We found the plane and airports to be very clean and well stocked with soap and sanitizer. "Wash your hands." and "Here's some hand sanitizer." was definitely a theme of our trip! The kids did great and we had little complications on the way there (home was rough, as we missed our connection due to a delayed first leg). 

We rented a car for the trip. With two little ones, free parking with our annual passes, and reading about so many long lines for transportation, this was a great solution! I loved driving to the parks everyday, leaving our stroller in the car, and mask-free transportation time. The only downside was having to lug our carseats along for the trip, but once we were there, all was good. We booked using and got a great deal (this was actually our only real expense of the trip--we kept it very cheap).

We stayed at Hilton Lake Buena Vista Palace. There were small differences, like sealed rooms and remotes after cleaning, to show that they have taken some increased precautions when cleaning (definitely not a bad thing). They also did not have their breakfast buffet open, which meant we had a daily $30 credit for grab and go breakfast. It worked great for the whole trip, and that money pretty much fed all 4 of us each day. 

Onto Disney World! If you aren't aware, they have temporarily suspended park-hopping. Instead, you can visit one park per day and you must reserve the park in advance. We had our first 3 days reserved (that's the limit when you don't stay on property, but have annual passes). We were able to add each additional day after park closing of the day we used. The only time we had a small hiccup was trying to change an Epcot day to a Magic Kingdom day. It eventually worked, but we had to wait for others to change their plans since MK was full. 

Dining has also changed, and personally, I think it's for the better. You can reserve table service dining 60 days in advance (down from 120), and mobile ordering is highly encouraged for all quick service locations. We did mobile ordering every time and it was the BEST! I was able to use gift cards and rewards dollars to pay for every meal, we ordered what we wanted, waited a very short time, and there was always a place to sit after we picked up our meal (since they were controlling who could come in and sit--no saving seats and people bringing their own food taking tables). I found it very easy to navigate on MDE. For table service, you also were able to check in on MDE, which limited any crowding at the front of restaurants. All in all, the dining changes were awesome and only impacted us positively!

Of course, most of you go to Disney to ride the rides, right? Overall, the wait times were longer than expected, but not terrible. They felt much shorter due to all the spacing/distancing. This meant we never really stopped moving, except when the ride closed for routine cleaning. With no Fast Pass service, we actually didn't waste time zipping around from end to end of the park. The longest we waited was 70 minutes for Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway (and spoiler alert: it was worth it!). There were a few rides that were walk-on, especially early in the day, but overall we did everything we wanted, repeating our favorites often.

The masks. Everyone wants to know about the masks. Yes, you have to wear them. No, you can't get around it. Seriously. If you're going, just be aware that unless you're sitting and eating, masks stay on. There are "relaxation zones" that are designated places to take them off, as well. This also means all of your pictures will be masked. Walking around outside will be masked. If this gives you pause, I highly suggest you wait until these mandates are changed. Also, just an FYI, Orange County, FL has a mask mandate for the whole county. Nothing changed off-property; masks everywhere.

Disney has done a great job of cleaning and providing lots of opportunities for guests to do the same. There is hand sanitizer everywhere! I actually hope they keep this! We got ourselves into the habit of using it before and after every ride. We washed our hands often, but especially before eating. Cast members cleaned tables after each party, spraying and leaving the disinfectant on for a minute, then coming back to wipe it down. They wiped down chairs, poles, handrails, EVERYTHING on a regular basis. Disney, which was already clean, was even cleaner! 

The characters popped up throughout the park and interacted with guests from afar. We got a few quick picutres, but our favorite memory was Joy playing imaginary "catch" with Ryan. He was mesmerized, and knew exactly how to throw it back. It was in that moment where everything felt so normal. The pop-up calvalcades were great! We saw princesses, the fab 5, Christmas characters, and even Santa. With no nighttime shows, we just scooted out of the parks a little early and got ready for our next day. Yes, we missed some of our favorite shows, but there was a lot to do without them.

Overall it was a great experience. I definitely felt safer at WDW than when going to my grocery store. They did it right, and I have confidence that they will stay open as we continue to battle this pandemic. With all the changes, this may not be the best time to visit for a first visit, but if you frequent Disney Parks, I think you'll enjoy some of the little extras and coming home to the magic!

What questions do you have? Did I leave anything out? I'd be happy to answer them!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Dopey Training: Month 2 Review

 As I write this, we are 19 weeks from the start of the Dopey Challenge. It's nearing the end of August and quaratine fatigue is still running strong, no pun intended. August started out pretty weak for me, honestly. With this being the first month of reduced unemployment, we have had even more stress as Bill still hasn't found full time work. I've been working nights and early mornings, making short bursts of 3-4 hours of sleep followed by a small nap a regular occurance. No, none of these things are directly related to running, but it all contributes to high stress and my overall health being out of whack.

August wasn't all a wash, though. We got our family registered for Star Wars (thanks to the refund of the Wine and Dine races). Robby will be running his first 5k, and he's so excited. We actually have to stop talking about it, because for a 4 year old, the concept of time and patience is a little troublesome! I had some good quality speedwork this month and some cooler temps have made for some better runs. Maybe most exciting is the opening of the gym on August 27th! Even though we are keeping classes outside for a while and have to wear masks when inside, this is at least some progress. My gym family is truly like family and I love sharing my passion for fitness at Sportsplex. Seriously, if you're ever in NY, stop by! It's a great place to workout!

August was also the start of the Strong Nation Challenge. If you've been following any of my social media, you know I've been posting themes, workouts, and the guide to this contest. Honestly, it's all about connecting people and getting them moving, more than any challenge or prize. The prize is commiting to all parts of your health for 6 weeks. Week one was strength, which is the easy part for me. Now it's onto thinging like Yoga, mindfulness, stretching. All things I need to be better at!

Let's get to some running numbers. Runners are inherntly data geeks, and I've had a lot of fun tracking my progress during this training cycle. 

Total miles in August: 85.2

Average pace: 11:25 minutes/mile

Missed workouts: 1 (only counting running for this one, I missed a lot of cross training)

Sunday, August 23, 2020

How We Saved Thousands on Our Disney Trip (seriously)

If you're a regular follower, you know we love to go to Disney, and we go A LOT! Definitely more than the average person. We are not millionaires (far from it); we have a mortgage, a car payment, and all those other pesky bills, just like everyone else. We think, though, that we also do a pretty good job of keeping our travel expenses down, which affords us the opportunity to see the world (in this case, the Disney World). We try to take advantage of every deal possible, and we're always looking for more ways to save. 

I finally sat down and started to look at how we are saving money on our upcoming November trip. I hope this gives you some ideas to spark your own savings and make your family's Disney dreams come true!

We are flying from our small, local airport to Orlando. This definitely is a huge benefit for convenience, since we can have family easily drop us off, saving on parking. The flights cost us $41.60 for taxes that cannot be waived. We paid the rest with airline points. We also upgraded our seats to the extra leg room seats for free. Now that we are flying with 4 paid seats (Ryan is 2), we opted for coach, but we do get to fly first class often for free, as well. We saved over a thousand dollars on our flights.

How to save: Bill is an Executive Platinum level frequent flyer with American Airlines. We also have the AA credit card. We use this card strategically, since it actually has the least "value" when it comes to points, but we work with what gives the most points. American Airlines also recently partnered with Jet Blue, so we are looking forward to more affordable flight options, should we need to pay for some with points and some with cash. This is definitely one place that knowing your brands and being brand loyal pays off. 

For this trip, we are staying at the Hilton in Disney Springs. It is right across the street from the Marketplace, and has a fairly nice pool, free transportation to Disney parks, restaurants on site, and even a character breakfast option on Sundays. (Note, as of now, character breakfast is suspended, as are all character meetups due to Covid-19) For this trip, we are paying $0 for the hotel, which saved us over a thousand dollars! 

How to save: We are Hilton Honors rewards memebers and have a Hilton American Express credit card. We are fortunate that Bill travels a lot for work, so he amasses a large number of points for being brand loyal when traveling. For example, he gets 8x points on any Hilton stay. He is also a Diamond member, which further benefits us with free breakfast daily, bottled water, and free upgrades when they are available. We always book the cheapest room, but almost always get some sort of upgrade when we check in. 

Getting a deal on Disney tickets is tricky, but this year we opted to get annual passes. We have 7 trips planned, so this was definitely the way to go. We have had passes in the past, and usually opt to take a few years off in between. We stack as many trips as possible into the pass year to get our Disney fix, then take a little time away from the parks. The whole year would have been before Ryan turned 3, thus giving us his trips for free, but thanks to Covid, we will have to get him a ticket for our last 2 trips.

How to save: Being part of Disney groups on social media saved us big on this one! The day Disney increased their annual pass prices last year, Sam's Club had a limited amount of passes at the old price. We saved $808.38 on the 3 passes. As an added bonus, I also got our Sam's Club membership for free by redeeming an offer for free food coupons and a gift card after joining. Always search for coupon codes! Don't forget that having a pass also gives us Memory Maker for free. That's another $169 saved on this trip (and each trip we go on this year). 


I will definitely update this part when our trip is over, but our plan is simple: use our Disney Chase Visa and Annual Pass discounts as much as possible and pay using Disney Gift Cards and Chase Rewards. The discount is generally 10% at any eatery that offers a discount (and I always ask). We are heading down with over $1300 in gift cards and points. Most of that amount is "free money" for us, but we do occassionally purchase discounted gift cards when the deal is good to save a little more.

How to save: Let's start simple--the Disney Chase Visa is a great card if you are a Disney lover and use it right! Like I said above, I take the time to read the fine print and find a balance of getting the most rewards from each card. I always check for offers on the Visa, for example this month and next, we are getting 5% back on gas and groceries. That's way more than any other card, so Disney it is! There are also a few extra perks, like special photo opportunities, discounts, and exclusive events. I always check right before our trip and note what special things we can do. 

Disney gift cards can be a little trickier. First and foremost, we always ask family for gift cards for gifts. It makes it easy on them, and they know we love it! I also use a free survey/ad app called Dabbl. When you earn points, you can redeem them for Disney gift cards (they have other brands as well, but I always get Disney). I've earned over $50 through Dabbl-ing when I'm waiting around, in the car (as a passenger), or just scrolling on my phone. You can download the app HERE, and we both get extra points! This isn't life changing money, but I figure it's one more meal that's covered.

Most people know the Sam's Club/Costco/Target hack of buying gift cards at a discount. You can save 3-5% everyday. I actually have never done that, because it just didn't seem worth it. Instead, I wait until Christmas shopping season. Target always has one weekend where gift cards are 10% off with your red card, including Disney. I scoop those up! Our local grocery store (ShopRite if you're in the NY/NJ area) also does great gift card deals around the holidays. I can usually get a couple hundred in gift cards at 20% off. Stack on some credit card rewards and you really save a good amount!

As I post this, we still need to decide on transportation. We are leaning towards renting a car for the trip. Of course, we will save as much as possible, but we are budgeting a few hundred for that purpose. With Covid concerns and convenience, renting a car feels the most comfortable at the moment (and bonus, we have free parking with our annual passes). I will also be sure to track our spending during the trip to get a final number.

At this point, we have saved OVER $4,500 on this trip! The nerd in me really wants to figure out the exact number, so stay tuned for part 2 coming in November. 

I'd love to hear how you save on Disney! What hacks do you use?