My Life is Full

I read an anecdote somewhere, ages ago, about someone who ran into an acquaintance at the gym. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, the person started talking about how busy they were and all the things they had to do that day and how crazy it all was.

The acquaintance smiled and said, “it sounds like your life is really full right now – that’s wonderful”. Or some such thing.

Lately, my life has been full, too.

If this story makes you want to indulge in a primal scream, maybe your life is too full and something needs to go. How can you take it a bit easier? What can you drop from your schedule or to-do list? How can you prepare for the weeks ahead so the “full” days feel full and not overwhelming?

I don’t have answers, but I like the idea of chasing the emotional state where a busy day can feel full and not busy.

(Or… maybe half full? I could be a cup half-full person 😉

5 miles with a heart rate monitor

Just ran my longest run in over a year! 5.2 miles.

Not nearly as quickly as I could have once, but it felt wonderful to slow down and run at a more maintainable pace so that I didn’t feel like cutting the run short a few miles in. I’ve done several 2 mile runs recently, in part because I was pairing them with another activity like yoga or strength training, and the way I felt towards the end of the two miles had me a little worried about ramping up my mileage for the Maine Coast Half Marathon in May.

So… I went for a run on a day when I didn’t do any serious training or yoga, and I slowed WAY down.

The way I got myself to slow down was by using a heart rate monitor and forcing myself to pause or reduce my pace when my heart rate got outside my target zone.

You can see that my heartrate was in the 160s just running 12 minute miles… a clear metric that I’m not in fantastic running shape. (No surprise there.)

What I love about using the heart rate monitor is that I’ll be able to track my improvement based on heart rate. Right now, staying in the high 150s to low 160s produces about a 12 minute mile. In a month, I’m sure that number will change. I look forward to it!

What I don’t love about using the heart rate monitor is that there’s no real consensus on what my target heart rate should be. calculates it as 102-158 based on my age.

A Runner’s World article suggested that one updated formula would put my target heart rate around 162-169 for tempo workouts and 120-129 for recovery runs. (Looks like my recovery runs would have to be recovery walks if I’m hitting tempo heart rate at 12 minutes per mile. (Remember when I ran that half marathon at 10:01 pace? 13.1 whole miles? I like reminding myself of that when I feel insecure about my running.)

The most accurate way to get your target heart rate is to go to a lab and hook yourself up to an oxygen machine and go all-out on a treadmill with increasing pace and incline.


Until then, I have a rough idea of where my heart rate should be, and targeting around 160 helped me run a full 5.2 miles instead of these 2 and 3 mile runs that were making me nervous about half marathon training.

Now I know to really slow down for my longer runs, and to keep going to Precision Running or doing my .25 mile intervals at a faster speed to help me drop these times down. This is better than my strategy of making every run .25 miles at a challenging pace and trying to get all the way up to 4 miles but quitting around 2 or 3 because it was simply too fast to run extended mileage.

It all goes back to the basics; include a tempo run, an interval run, and a longer run in your week if you’re training for something. I was doing every run like it was an interval workout because I thought I could run my tempo run at the same pace I used to when I was in half marathon shape… and I didn’t mentally connect that my tempo pace was now my interval pace, so my long run pace was now 12 minute miles.

Thanks to a session with the heart rate monitor, I’ve got that sorted out… which means I can get back to running.

Looking forward to reporting back in a month or so and seeing what 162 beats per minute gets me then!

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Make Time To Exercise

Yesterday I presented a workshop at the Wellesley Wellness Retreat featuring my free workbook, Form a Fitness Game Plan. You can download the whole workbook here – and it’s been updated since originally posted on January 3rd to include some bonus content!

Below are some of the time management tips from the workbook. If you have strategies that work for you, please share in comments below!

Time is often the biggest challenge when it comes to making fitness a part of our lives. How you make time will be as personal as your goal itself, but here are some strategies that have helped me and others in the past.

Do a Time Audit: How do you spend your time now? For one week, write a brief summary at the end of each day of how you spent your time. Look for inefficiencies or things that can go.

Shift Your Bedtime: Go to bed earlier and get up earlier to exercise. Keep your waking time consistent and use the extra hour on non-workout days to complete other early morning tasks like getting a head start on your e-mails, reading a book, or meal planning. We often are less productive an hour before bed, so this swap can gain us productive time. (And maybe you can watch your favorite evening t.v. show on the treadmill instead!)

Eat Leftovers: Cook once, eat twice. When you’re making soup or lasagna set aside a portion prior to serving to go straight into the freezer. Designate a night of the week to be leftover night so you actually use the extra meals you freeze.

Partner Up: If you’re a parent, find a friend who will reciprocate playdates or school drop-offs to give you both extra time.

Reclaim Your Lunch Break: If you can work out on your lunch break and then eat at your desk, that’ll add a lot of potential workout time to your week. No shower? Maybe you can go for a walk and consider it active recovery, or use your lunch break to do a task you might save for after work or the weekend.

Know How You Procrastinate: How much time do you spend surfing the web or checking social media? See if you can create more time in your schedule just by focusing on the task at hand, whether you’re at work or folding laundry.

Use Your Commute: I used to run next to the kids while they biked to school, or push them to preschool in the jogging stroller. Some people bike to work. It may not be possible, but it’s wonderfully efficient if it is.

Do Two Things at Once: Get a headset so you can make phone calls while you de-clutter or fold laundry. Go to yoga class with your best friend instead of meeting for coffee and talk on the way there.

Schedule Your Workouts: Sit down in front of your calendar on Sunday and schedule your workouts for the week. Add them to the calendar.

Outsource Something: Childcare, grocery delivery services, laundry, lawn-care, housecleaning, errands… you name it, people have outsourced it. Bonus if you can outsource it to a coworker or to someone in your household for free. (Sorry kids.)

Be Efficient: Make lists and meal plan so you can grocery shop less frequently. Run your errands all together to reduce travel time.

What if it were tomorrow?

Here’s one way I troubleshoot my ideas for making time to exercise: I ask “What if it were tomorrow?”

It’s easy to decide that you’ll get up at 5 a.m. to run in the future, but what if it were tomorrow? Would you really get up? When would you have to go to bed tonight?

Are your challenges for doing it tomorrow the exception or the rule? If most days look like tomorrow, figuring out what you’d need to do to schedule this workout tomorrow will help you make a successful long-term plan.

What if you HAD to?

What if you HAD to get this workout in tomorrow? Imagine that it’s non-negotiable, at the level of a mandated court appearance. What would you do to get it done?

I’m not suggesting you initiate emergency procedures, but picturing it as a non-negotiable and then problem solving may lead you to some extra solutions. Maybe you don’t have to attend that meeting or be the one who walks your kids to school every day.

How do you make time?

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Running Update – Base Building

I’m getting back into running!

It’s not easy.

Running has a tough entry curve. It takes a while to go from not running regularly to being able to run 3 miles without stopping, and the process of working up to that isn’t incredibly pleasant. I think that’s one reason so many non-runners have trouble understanding why people love running. When you first start, there’s not much to love about it. Legs burning, lungs feeling like they’re on fire, and that’s after only a couple minutes if you weren’t in good aerobic shape to start.

So here I am, with a memory of being able to run 13.1 miles at 10-minute pace, struggling to run half a mile at that speed without stopping.

Luckily for me, I have the memory of building up my running, too. I know that with patience and repeated efforts it’ll get easier and easier to breathe and I’ll run further and further comfortably.

I’m tackling the ascent with a run/rest strategy. I’ve been using the treadmill since, well, it’s January in New England. (Props to all of you out on the road.)

It helps me to decide going into the run what my rest intervals will be, to keep me from hitting “pause” too frequently and getting frustrated when the run takes forever. I’ve done .25 mile intervals with 45 seconds of rest, and .5 mile intervals with 60 seconds of rest, and then given myself speed as the variable I can change if needed (but keeping it until 11-minute pace).

Controlling too many variables in this early running stage could lead to failure, and once you’ve failed early in a workout, you’re stuck figuring out a new plan. By giving myself at least one variable that will be flexible, I can modify rather than fail if needed.

There are three variables I choose from going into a run. 

  1. Speed
  2. Distance
  3. Interval length

Sometimes my goal will be 1 and 2, so I’ll go in and do 3 miles at 10-minute pace with as many and as frequent breaks as I need.

Or I’ll pair 2 and 3 and say I’m going to do 3 miles of .5 mile increments and the speed is adjustable.

1 and 3 don’t really go together because then the variable would be the duration of the workout which conflicts with my goal to up my overall mileage and endurance.

At some point in my running I’ll get to the point where I can accurately pinpoint a reasonable goal that involves all three variables; for example I’ll know I should be able to run 3 miles at x pace without stopping and that’ll be my tempo run goal. But as I’m getting back in and building a base, it helps to give myself a built-in option for making the run easier. Giving myself one option means denying myself the other… so by saying I can rest whenever I want, I’m really saying “I’m going to put in 3 total miles at this speed, and that’s not negotiable”.

I do really well when I find my goals challenging but doable.

If you look at my screenshot of my goal progress from Garmin connect, you’ll see that I’m behind on my goal for the year, but I expected that as I work up to running 10 miles a week and then keep adding on for the half marathon training in May.

Hope your winter running is going well, and that you have a strategy you love for building your base back up after a break!


Does your health insurance offer a fitness reimbursement?

Last night I filled out the form for our fitness reimbursement from our insurance company. We can get up to $150 back per family per calendar year. That’s not insubstantial!

It’s worth seeing if your health insurance or employer offers a similar reimbursement; many do as a commitment to preventative health care. Exercise decreases our risk of costing them money, so incentivizing it may benefit them in the long run.

Not a member of a club? Maybe knowing you can get reimbursed will help you add a membership to your budget. As much as I love exercising outdoors, being in New England makes it hard (and potentially slippery and unsafe) this time of year.

January can be a great time to join because many clubs offer New Year’s incentives like $0 initiations and bargain monthly agreements. Just be careful to read the fine print; you’ll want to know if you’re making a monthly or annual commitment, how much notice you need to cancel your membership, whether you can freeze it for travel or medical reasons (and how much notice and documentation you’ll need), and what’s included. Is childcare extra? Do you need to pay an additional access fee for that outdoor pool in the summer?

Speaking of membership fees, another way to add to your health budget is to audit your other monthly subscriptions. No longer watching House of Cards? Maybe it’s time to cancel Netflix. Are you still paying access fees for Sittercity even though you connected with a babysitter months ago? What about that quarterly magazine that still shows up because of auto-renew but never gets read?

Auto-renewing subscriptions are insidious and they add up. An audit of my own subscriptions revealed a few services that I didn’t even remember I had.

Whether it’s picmonkey,, or three digital news outlets when you only read one, combing through your credit card statements to find services you no longer find valuable could yield some extra cash to put into savings or invest in your health.