It’s kind of ironic that I’m a runner because I tend to get bored with the same kind of workout if I do it for weeks on end.

I guess I stick with running because, when you’re training for a race, you’re always striving for different distances. If the end goal changes, it’s a little easier to stay focused.

For other workout classes, though, I’ve never been able to do the same thing for more than a year. So I was pretty intrigued when Diana introduced me to Classtivity.

For $99, you get ten classes that you can redeem at basically every boutique gym in the city. (They’re also in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Seattle, and D.C.) You can “spend” all ten classes at the same gym, or try ten different ones. There’s a whole range of classes from yoga and pilates to boot camps and spin, so it’s impossible to get bored.

The cost breaks down to about $10 per class, which, in this city, is an amazing deal. (The average class you take would typically cost around $40-$50.)

A big part of training for the marathon is cross training my legs and strengthening my core and upper body, so clearly this kind of deal interested me.

And just so things don’t get monotonous around here, I thought it could be interested to share what I think of the new classes I’m taking. Maybe not. But maybe? I’ll rate the gyms and the classes? Eh?

Here we go!

Last night, I took a Core Fusion Barre Class at Exhale New York in Soho.

The Gym
Space: The gym was on the second floor of the building. The overall space wasn’t exceptionally large (the lobby was downright cramped as one class files out and the other files in), but the actual studio was fine. There are two dressing rooms with curtain doors and one bathroom. You keep your belongings in cubbies.
Cleanliness: Super clean. You spend a couple of minutes before class wiping down the barre, weights, mats, etc. They also have fancy soaps and stuff in the bathroom so you can wash your face, which I always appreciate.
Attitude: Excellent. Not a snob to be found. My teacher, Erin, was incredibly sweet and encouraging but still pushed you to push yourself.

The Workout
Difficulty (Out of 10, 1 being “could do it in my sleep” and 10 being “omg I can’t walk”): Easily a 9. This class. This class is so hard. I am not a weak person, and I never wimp out on finishing sets, and I had to wimp out so many times. Remember how sweet I was saying Erin was? Behind that pretty smile, there lies a drill sergeant. She told us mid-class that a professional dancer friend of hers once almost threw up in the middle of her class. So…don’t feel bad if it’s tough for you. (Each move can be modified, though, so don’t be too scared!)
Experience: This one was a great workout. Every part of my body felt strengthened, and you get that ballet/pilates feel of stretching all your muscles while they’re strengthened. Just go in expecting it will be hard, but totally worth it. (Plus, each of the workout “sets” only takes about three minutes, and then you stretch. It just feels like an eternity.) And I don’t know about you, but I always feel significantly fancier working out with a ballet barre. So there’s that.
Afterburn (how I felt the next day): As soon as I left the class, I already felt that muscle “buzzing” feeling that I get after a long run. My body is a little sore this morning, but not in a bad way. I’m glad the overall soreness isn’t too bad because I have to run ten miles in a few hours.

Final grade: A+! I’m definitely planning to do this one again.

Ok, so was that helpful? Have I convinced any of you to join me next time? I’m taking another new class tomorrow, so maybe that will be a post later this week.

Have a great weekend!

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about money.

Not to say I’m obsessed with it or the idea of always getting more. I guess it would be more accurate to say that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about budgeting.

It’s part of my list-making nature. I make lists of things I need to buy. I make lists of things I would like to buy. I calculate in my head where each percentage of my paycheck needs to go. (Rent, car payment, food, fitness, clothes, etc.)(And in that order.)

Like most women in their mid-to-late-20s, I’ve been trying to focus more on the quality of what I buy over the quantity.

In the old countrydays, I would schlep over to Forever 21 or H&M and load up on about six things for under $90 and consider myself a budgeting genius. (Spoiler alert: I was not.)

But after watching the clothes that I spent my hard-earned money (and it always worked out to be a fair amount of money no matter how low each individual price tag happened to be) fall apart or quickly go out of style within in a matter of months, I had to start checking myself.

Which isn’t to say I’m investing in Prada bags and Chanel blazers just yet. (Or ever.) But I am getting closer to really defining my “personal style,” or whatever so I stop making impulse buys and really consider how a piece will fit into my life before clicking “submit order.”

One step of this was deciding to only wear seven colors, which makes it a lot easier to turn down anything overly trendy. But a lot of it comes down to plain, old-fashioned will power.

Because I will always be able to find a new dress that I want. (Seriously. ALWAYS.) For that reason, I’m trying to remind myself when I see something I like that I have seen many things I like in the past. And I will see many things I like in the future. Things will never stop popping up.

To help quiet my overactive brain, though, I thought it might be helpful to make yet another list. This one a list of things I plan to buy in 2014. Wouldn’t it be kind of amazing if I could stick to it? At the very least, it ought to give me pause before any sudden PayPal purchases.

I’m not going to count restaurants, coffee, or drugstore runs in this list, or any of the aforementioned monthly bills. We’re just talking tangible positions I would ideally own for a while. Okay, really we’re talking about clothes and stuff for the apartment.

LET’S GO!

1. Bridesmaid dress for Becca’s wedding. I’m pretty sure I have it picked out, I just need to order. Should run me about $125.
2. Three dresses for Paris and the four (4) other weddings I have in 2014 besides Becca’s. I’m leaving this open to any three, though there are a few from ModCloth I have my eye on.
3. New coffee table. I reaaaaally want this one from West Elm, but I’m hoping to find something on Craigslist that is less exp-ah-nsive.
4. Vintage map for the living room. I want a giant one for the wall by the computer.
5. New curtains/curtain fabric for the bedroom.
6. Two to three new pillow cases for the living room throw pillows.
7. Four to five white matted picture frames from IKEA.
8. One to two new pairs of running shoes for when my new ones wear out.
9. More workout clothes, specifically two more tops and at least three new sports bras. (TMI?)
10. Poster for the bedroom. (I have a postcard I want to get blown up to poster size…still trying to work out the logistics of that if anyone has done this before.)
11. New indoor mat for the front door.
12. Shoe rack for Joey.
13. Two to five storage bins for the linen closet.

Ok, I think that’s it. Thirteen bullet points, about thirty items. I’m going to keep myself accountable by promising right now to tell you anything I buy outside of the list. (Hopefully it’s not anything too embarrassing…)

I feel good about this, though. Let the great spending project of 2014 begin.

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One of the funny things about blogging is that sometimes it helps you sort your own brain out. Like, sometimes, I’ll write a post, and then for the next couple of hours I’ll be like, “Huh…I didn’t even know that’s what I thought.”

Writing and words have always been so comforting to me. It’s why I’m a rambler. I love finding exactly the right words to define what’s bothering me or how I’m feeling.

I’ve also been running a lot lately, which just means plenty of time to think.

When I wrote yesterday’s post, it made me think more about the idea of bravery. One of my favorite definitions of bravery has always been that it is not the absence of fear, but rather feeling fear and persevering anyway.

I was so painfully shy as a kid, I always feel like I missed out on things. As a result, I’m always trying to be a bit braver. To stand up for myself, and especially for others, even when I’m afraid of getting shot down. Diving head first into scary things never fails to boost my self-confidence after the fact, so why wouldn’t I chase those opportunities?

I also started thinking about the other things I want to be. More patient. More considerate. More helpful. More perceptive. More loving. More understanding. More unflappable.

Joey once pointed out to me that one of the main reasons I get upset (when I get upset) is when things don’t happen the way I want them to. Since then, I’ve been making an effort to not let the little things get to me. To not be such a control freak. (I swear, I’m trying.)

So maybe that’s my real 2014 goal. If 2013 was the year of polishing up my life, 2014 is the year I become more difficult to phase. Tougher to trip up.

In a way, it’s really just deciding to be more in control of my life and my feelings, rather than letting outside influences affect me so strongly. It’s not totally out of line with my Happiness Project philosophy.

Do I think I’ll be able to switch off my Type A tendencies overnight? No. I don’t think I even want to. But I do want to be able to keep everything in its place.

Here’s to happier, breezier year.

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For the last few years, I’ve been saying that I would like to run a full marathon someday.

The funny thing is, I don’t think I have really believed I would do it. Especially after battling my first real running injury, I had kind of added running a marathon to the list of things it would be cool to have done but that I didn’t really expect to do. (You know, like swimming with sharks. Walking on the moon. Cutting my hair into a bob.)

In fact, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for the run I did if not for my ambitious friend who I had already discussed going to Paris and running a marathon with (separately). When I agreed to do it (at the same time), I did so despite the nagging voice in my brain whispering in a panicked voice that this was a bad idea.

Part of the problem was that the Philly Half wasn’t great for me. My training was tough, and I hadn’t run a 10+ miler that didn’t make me feel like death in over a year. I was really worried I had made a terrible (and expensive) mistake.

So when I set out to run twelve miles yesterday, it wasn’t without a healthy dose of trepidation.

New running shoes I'm really counting on to boost my confidence.

New running shoes I’m really counting on to boost my confidence.

I’m pleased to say, though, that the run went pretty great. I felt good at the end (though a little sore). My legs and hips felt a little tight, but I made it through without needing to stop at any point. That sounds like such a minor thing, but I can’t begin to tell you how much it put my mind at ease.

Because I can do this. It’s just going to be hard. But I’m a big believer in not running away from stuff just because it’s hard.

So now I can say, confidently, that I am running a full marathon. In April. In Paris. And this time, I really believe it.

If I could, I think I’d just hibernate this winter with a mug of hot chocolate and about a thousand books. (Seriously, it’s way too cold, as I’m sure your Facebook friends have readily informed you.)

But since that is apparently not a possibility (thanks, responsibilities)(and marathon training), I’ll have to settle for my usual subway reads.

Speaking of which, it seems like a good enough time to share a new installment of “What I’ve been reading.” You can read the first one here.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
What it’s about: The tragically beautiful story of a middle school girl coming of age when suddenly the planet inexplicably stops rotating. It’s a little disconcerting how realistic the response is to the phenomenon, and 10-year-old Julia’s hauntingly innocent descriptions of her world falling apart keep you wavering between hope and heartache until the last page.
What I thought: My brother recommended this to me after being less than impressed with “The 5th Wave.” That lapse in judgment aside, he’s usually pretty reliable for a good book recommendation, so I dove in. I can see why he likes this book better; it’s a bit deeper and not really YA despite being narrated by a preteen. Highly recommend to any former English majors out there.

11/22/63 by Stephen King
What it’s about: Essentially, narrator Jack Epping goes back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination. The problem is, “time is obstinate.” The more he tries to change, the more time fights back, ending in a violent stand-off and an unexpected ending.
What I thought: I’m pretty sure I was reading this book when I wrote my last round-up. Another recommendation from my brother (he sent me about eight books a few months ago, so he should really just start sponsoring this series), this was one of the more interesting stories about time travel I’ve read. And in true King style, it’s nearly impossible to put down once the action gets going.

Allegiant (Divergent Series) by Veronica Roth
What it’s about: Ughhh please don’t make me go over the plot again. YA dystopian lit, society has been split into factions, a teen girl has to save the world, blah blah blah.
What I thought: Those who know me will not be at all surprised that I read this series. (Dystopian YA lit? Sign me up.) But while I love the genre, I wasn’t that impressed with the series as a whole. Frankly, all three books were just kind of…forgettable. Waiting months between reading the second book and the release of “Allegiant” was hard mostly because, by the time the third book came out, I could barely remember what had happened in the second book. Don’t get me wrong, if you want a (somewhat shallow) escape and liked “The Hunger Games”, this is the right choice, just don’t expect to get too invested in the characters.

World War Z: And Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
What it’s about: It honestly doesn’t matter a stitch what you thought of the movie because there are maybe two similarities. Namely, there are zombies and the main character has roughly the same job as Brad Pitt. (Sort of.) The book is a collection of interviews of people who witnessed the Zombie War. All walks of life are represented, from marines to teens, and the character voices are riveting. Again, the realism might make you a little uncomfortable (and maybe prep a go-bag in your apartment). Fair warning.
What I thought: Yeesh, I really need to read something besides science fiction, amiright? This is what happens when you descend from a family of nerds. Regardless, I really liked this book. Oddly enough, I feel like it gave me a really interesting insight to how wars are waged and the philosophies around breaking down an enemy. Plus, some of the stories are so intense, you might miss you subway stop. (Hypothetically.)

Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline
What it’s about: The book opens in the year 2044, and the world is kind of awful. Most of society spends their time in OASIS, which started as the most advanced video game in history until it became an entire virtual world where people go to school, go to work, fall in love, etc. Everything changes when the game’s creator, James Halliday, initiates a 3-tier challenge in his will, the winner of which will inherit his virtually limitless fortune and gain control of the entire OASIS. Teenage narrator Wade Watts gains immediate fame when he becomes the first person in five years to find the first clue, and then it’s a race to the finish as he tries to find Halliday’s Egg before it falls into the wrong hands.
What I thought: Yes, I finished the book I was reading when I wrote my New Year Sum-Uppance. And, you guys. I like this book so much. If you like literally anything nerdy, you should grab a copy, because your personal passion is probably mentioned by name. (Nintendo? Dungeons & Dragons? The Breakfast Club? They’re all in there.) If you like action, riddles, nerdy ’80s nostalgia, and hey, even a little romance, read this book.

Marathon training has officially begun. As has my concern that I might be insane for thinking this time of year would be fine for marathon training.

On Saturday, Diana and I attempted our first long(ish) training run. It was supposed to be ten miles.

The temperature clocked in below ten degrees.

And thanks to a recent mini flurry, the ground was also covered in an inch or two of ice, snow, and slush in most places.

I know what you’re thinking: Justine, why didn’t you just run on a treadmill?

Don’t think I didn’t consider it. But my tolerance for that hamster wheel tops out at about five, maybe six miles. Ten would have been brutal.

So despite the cold, Di and I loaded up in fleecy layers, gritted our teeth, and braved the elements.

We ran around Central Park, five miles out. The plan was to run the full five back, but after about six miles of hopping, slipping, and tip-toeing around ice encrusted sidewalks, our whole bodies were exhausted. (Plus our pace was nothing to write home about.)

Since we’ve both dealt with injuries in the past, we decided to call it quits at eight and pick up the extra miles during our shorter runs this week.

And, you know, my face was so frozen by the end that I could barely speak.

I’m planning to do my weekday runs at the gym (hopefully streaming some Netflix to distract myself), but I still have a 12-miler next Saturday to prep for. Any cold-weather tips from my runner friends? Maybe a really great jacket you love? I’ll take anything.

Only 12 more weeks to go!