GIVEAWAY! Gaiam Everything Fits Bag, Round 2

Time for another giveaway, friends! A second Gaiam Everything Fits gym bag (retail value $60) is up for grabs, thanks to the wonderful Gaiam team. Check out my review for this product here, then enter away!

Photo from Gaiam.com


To enter:
Comment on this post with the bag color you would like to win (teal, violet, or black).

For Additional Entries (Optional, but hey, up your chances!): Head over to Instagram, follow @gaiam and @alwaysrunninglatte, and tag 2 friends you think may enjoy ARL in the giveaway post (1 additional entry). Subscribe for Always Running Latte email notifications (1 additional entry). Share the love!

Sweepstakes opens on Wednesday, 7/22 and ends at midnight on Wednesday, 7/29. A winner will be randomly selected on 7/30 and notified via email to obtain mailing address for prize shipment! Product paid for and shipped by Gaiam, Inc. (833 W South Boulder Rd. PO Box 3095, Boulder, CO 80307-3095). For additional sweepstakes fine print business, click here!  🙂
Good luck, lovelies!

The Big Deal With Mala Beads

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class or casually perused (read: stalked the heck out of) the hashtag #yogaeverydamnday on Instagram (no? just me?), you’ve probably noticed that almost every yogi has a colorful stack of various beaded bracelets on his or her wrist. Sure, they’re cute and fashionable, but what’s the real significance behind these Mala beads?

Fun fact: Some yoga teachers wear Malas during class simply because they jingle and jangle. This serves as an audible warning signal for students, so you can hear your teacher coming before he or she assists you in a pose. No one likes being crept up on in the middle of compromising poses such as deaf man’s pose. No one. How functional!

“I Am Loved” and “I Am Calm” Malas from my Etsy Shop

While this is a great, simple, modern use for Mala beads, their history and spiritual significance is much deeper. After plenty of research (muchas gracias to the sites listed below), I give you, ladies and gentlemen, a crash course in Mala beads for dummies.

  • Malas were originally used in Buddhist and Hindu tradition for meditation and prayer. This dates back hundreds, or possibly thousands of years. Dates are inconsistent.
  • Traditional Mala necklaces have 108 beads, which are individually touched and counted while meditating or repeating a prayer or mantra. The number 108 is believed to ensure that the yogi repeats the mantra at least 100 times, assuming that about 8 will be missed during the series.
  • Malas can be made of fewer than 108 beads and used multiple times in meditation to equal 108. A bracelet of 27 beads, for example, can be cycled through 4 times for a total of 108 repetitions.
  • Mala beads can be made of wood, bone, or gemstone. Stones are believed to hold a specific spiritual and/or physical healing element and impact the lives of those who wear them. Turquoise, for example, is said to rid the body of toxins and increase circulation. It is also believed to rid the soul of hatred and bring love.

To read more about the history and importance of Mala beads, hop on over these lovely, oh-so-informative sites: Mala Collective, Share Yoga,  Buddhist Mala. If your heart is telling you Yes! I need some!, and you like pretty, handmade things and love supporting yours truly, head over to my Etsy shop! 🙂  Namaste.

The Perks of Running Without Music

When most people learn that I do most of my running without music, their response is something to the effect of WHAT?! But…WHY?? 

Well, here’s why…in a nice, bulleted list format, of course.

-Heightened attention to your body’s needs. Music is a great distraction, yes, but being distracted while running isn’t necessarily the safest route. It’s important to tune in to your body as you run and notice those little nuances- Is your stride getting funky? Your ankle bothering you? An old injury creeping up? Pay attention to your footfalls and let your body move with its natural rhythm, not the ever-changing rhythm of your fave Pandora station.

-Preserve music as a motivation strategy in desperate times. Because I generally don’t run with music, having a backup playlist on hand can serve as a great motivator during particularly long (read: 26.2 mile) runs or on those days when the last thing you want is to be left alone with your own thoughts. During my marathon last fall, I ran music-less until mile 17, at which point I switched on my badass “Awesome Jackie’s Marathon!” Spotify playlist (curated specifically for me by my college besties- I have the best best friends 🙂 ). This was the perfect energy boost to get me pumped up for the final 9 miles, when my internal drive just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

-Erase a context for timing. If you’re really looking to relax on your run and avoid counting miles/feet/inches as they crawl by, music may be keeping you from doing just that. You may be subconsciously (or consciously) counting songs and using them to calculate minutes run and minutes remaining. Stop! Enjoy the scenery! Which brings me to… Continue reading

Kick Off Your Training Season Right

It’s here, it’s here! The time we’ve been waiting for for months! No, I don’t mean Christmas or summertime or even daylight savings. I mean the challenging, exhilarating, sometimes anxiety-provoking days of race training.

If you’ve got a race or two (or five- cough cough race addiction) lined up for the fall, it’s about that time to buckle down and get your ish in gear. Here are a few tips to kick off your training months with the energy and drive you’ll need to succeed.

  1. Choose your plan (read about the best ones here) & have all pace deets lined up from the get-go. Jot down your different pace goals for each type of run (easy runs vs. long runs vs. race pace runs) so you can quickly glance each time you head out the door- it’s easy to get these numbers and times all jumbled up in your head. Keep these pace goals flexible, however; you’ll likely need to adjust later on.
  2. If possible, start your training plan a few weeks early. I’m just about to start an 18-week plan for a marathon that’s 21 weeks away, leaving me a nice 3 -week buffer. This comes in handy when you A) feel less-than-satisfied with how a week of training went and want a second go at it,  B) need a week of R&R to avoid turning a minor injury into a major injury, C) have a summer vacay and really, really feel that training will cramp your beaching & brunching style, or D) all of the above. No shame. I choose D. Every time.
  3. Find a way to stay motivated- any system that works for you. I like to print my training plan in a one-page table and highlight each day that I complete. The girly girl in me loves seeing all of the boxes turn hot pink, and the OCD in me hates seeing that one lonely, white box that marks a missed run. So simple, yet so motivating.  Or consider setting up a reward system, treating yourself to a massage, new running gear, or those cute new Ray-Bans you’ve been eyeing after every X successful training weeks. Just be careful not to let your prizes keep you from taking a break when your body’s about to crumble.
  4. Modify your training on a weekly basis. If you try to figure it out on the go, you’re more likely to miss some crucial runs and end up overwhelmed and frustrated. Instead, sit down every Sunday and think about the week ahead. Swap days around, if necessary, taking into account your work schedule and other commitments that may make training on some days harder than others. Be realistic; you probably won’t feel up to that mid-week 8-miler on the same day that you have back-to-back-to-back meetings and a hair appointment. Don’t set yourself up for failure!
  5. Book some run-dates. Get the scoop on which of your runner friends are training for races too, and compare training plans. Set up dates to run together whenever you can- the more regular, the better! Have friends training for a longer or shorter distance than you? Work your schedule so you can run your easy runs on the day of their long runs, or vice versa. I run twice a week with two different friends, and this is by far the most fool-proof way to stay motivated and entertained ’til the end.

Most importantly, listen to your body and enjoy the ride! Celebrate every success, no matter how small, and take the time to truly appreciate the good you are doing for your body and mind. Happy training! See you at the start. 🙂

Banana Chocolate Walnut Baked Oatmeal

When it comes to entertaining guests for the weekend, feeding my coworkers during a Friday staff meeting, or preparing a yummy breakfast for a lazy Sunday morning at home, this baked oatmeal recipe is my new go-to.

It is easy as can be, requires ingredients that I almost always have on hand, and can be made ahead and just popped in the oven in the morning. Plus, with some simple modifications, it’s pretty darn healthy (minus the chocolate chips, but those are healthy for the soul 🙂 ). Does it get much better than that?

Through a bit of trial and error, I’ve made some healthy ingredient swaps to the original recipe from Inspired Taste and found something that works quite well. Of course, feel free to switch up the fruits, nuts, and other add-ins! Here’s my favorite version of this recipe to date:

What You’ll Need

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled & sliced
  • 2 cups 100% whole grain oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (divided)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips (divided)
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp Smart Balance or other butter substitute, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Step by Step

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 7 x 11 baking dish with cooking spray. Layer banana slices on the bottom of prepared baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, orange zest, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, 1/4 cup walnuts, and 1/4 cup chocolate chips.

Pour oat mixture over top of banana slices, distributing evenly throughout the dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top of the oat mixture.

In a medium bowl, combine almond milk, egg, melted Smart Balance, and vanilla extract. Whisk until well blended.

Pour liquid mixture over the oats, trying to distribute as evenly as possible. Give the baking dish a little shake from side to side to help the liquid mixture soak through the oats and settle evenly.

Refrigerate overnight & bake in the morning, or pop it in the oven now! Bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes. For a little extra sweetness, sprinkle some brown sugar on top during the last few minutes of baking. Serve right out of the oven!

IMG_5537.JPG

Win a Gaiam Everything Fits Gym Bag!

As you, my lovely readers, already know, I am mildly obsessed with my Gaiam Everything Fits gym bag. If you aren’t already dying to get your hands on one, read all about its versatility and sheer amazingness (it’s a word) here.

Lucky for you, the fabulous people over at Gaiam have agreed to sponsor a sweepstakes to get you an Everything Fits bag (retail value of $60) of your very own!

Photo from gaiam.com

Intrigued? Just follow these super-easy steps: 

To enter: Simply answer the following question in the comments below.
What inspires you to keep up with your fitness regimen? Whether it be a mantra or quote, a special person in your life, a desired end result, or anything else under the sun, what keeps you running/spinning/dancing/lifting/yoga-ing? 

Optional: Head over to Instagram, follow @gaiam and @alwaysrunninglatte, and tag 3 friends you think may enjoy ARL in the giveaway post. Share the love!

Sweepstakes opens on Sunday, 4/19 and ends at midnight on Sunday, 4/26. A winner will be randomly selected on 4/27 and notified via email to determine bag color preference (violet, teal, or black) and obtain mailing address for prize shipment! Product paid for and shipped by Gaiam, Inc. (833 W South Boulder Rd. PO Box 3095, Boulder, CO 80307-3095). For additional sweepstakes fine print business, click here! 🙂

Good luck, and happy inspiring!

Training Epiphany: Making a Mental Shift

In all the training programs I’ve ever researched, they say that your long runs should be done at an easy pace. You’re building up distance, so what’s important is that you cover the mileage, not that you do so in a certain amount of time.

Of course this makes sense for your first race of any distance, and that’s exactly what I did when I trained for my first half and my first marathon. Long runs took as long as they needed to take, with walk and water breaks whenever my heart (or feet) desired.

Epiphany: training programs should note in the fine print that long runs are to be done at your easy pace when you’re training for a new, longer distance for the first time.

Having read this advice time and time again, for my first through fifth half marathons, I had this mental block that always told me I was allowed to go as slowly as I wanted during my long runs. Who doesn’t love that? A nice, leisurely 10 miles instead of the huffing-and-puffing kind. And there I was, wondering why in the world my finish times were only getting better by small increments. DUH. 

Just realizing that so many months of “newbie” training had my brain stuck on long runs = slow was enough to kick my training into high gear. I had to retrain my brain to see that long runs, now that I know my body can go the distance, shouldn’t be relaxing and comfortable and “get there when you can.” I should be breathing heavily and getting tired and pushing myself to the end. That’s how I’ll get better. Faster. Stronger (at least according to Daft Punk). And hopefully you will too. 🙂

Charlottesville Half Marathon: A Must-Run

Let me keep this simple. If you haven’t yet run the Charlottesville Half Marathon or Marathon, add it to your bucket list. ASAP.

Gun time 2:08:47; Chip time 2:07:55. A second-best, I’ll take it!

I ran this year’s Charlottesville Half Marathon on Saturday, my second time doing this race. Although it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of the bigger races do, this course will forever be one of my top-ranked. Here’s why. Continue reading

Gaiam Everything Fits Gym Bag Review

This Christmas, I set out to purchase a new gym bag as a gift to myself in exchange for resolving to go to yoga at least once per week (so far so good!). I had quite a hefty checklist in hunting down the perfect brand and style for my needs, and my research eventually led me to Gaiam’s Everything Fits bag. Let me tell you, it goes down as one of my favorite purchases in yogi history!

The Gaiam Everything Fits gym bag is worth every penny. It’s more affordable than a lot of other brands’ bags (i.e. Lululemon, Athleta, Nike, etc.), and it has all the features I was looking for, plus some. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Yoga mat straps on the bottom. This was my #1 must-have in the search for the perfect bag. I need a bag that can carry my mat, not just gym clothes, and fit my dual yogi/runner lifestyle. The elastic straps are adjustable to fit any size yoga mat, and you can just tuck them up on non-yoga days (unless you’re not OCD like me & the dangling straps don’t bother you 🙂 ).
  • Ventilated zipper compartment for smelly things. My #2 must-have. Running shoes, sweat-drenched towels and clothes after a hot yoga class- these things belong in here, separated from the main compartment where your not-so-smelly things go. Especially if you go straight from work to working out or vice versa, you need that dressy work outfit to be isolated from your sweaty sports bra. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! And for my fellow big-footed friends (we just have so much more to root down through in our tree poses- aren’t we lucky?), don’t fret: the ventilated compartment is spacious enough for my size 10 Asics.
  • Interior pockets for organizing. I like organizing, remember (see #1)? A teeny zippered pocket to stash bobby pins & hair ties so you’re never stuck using rubber bands or twist ties (which don’t work, btw). Stretchy side pockets for small shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles if you’re a commuter type like me. A big, stretchy pocket for your wallet, keys, iPhone, and other goodies. Done, done, and done.
  • Light as a feather! I’ve almost bought several different gym bags in store, only to realize that if they weigh that much with nothing but paper in them, then they’ll be WAY too heavy once I load them up with my Big Foot sneaks, filled water bottle, the works. Gaiam’s bag? Not the case! Super light and manageable.
  • Doesn’t look too gym bag-y. Since I often run and/or yoga before or after work, errands, or meeting up with friends, I didn’t want my gym bag to look too gym bag-y. This bag is perfectly subtle and classy looking, so I don’t look too ridiculous layering my Everything Fits with my Longchamp.
  • Perfect Size. Enter Goldilocks. I’ve had bags that are way too small to fit running shoes (unless that’s the only thing you plan on packing), and bags that are so huge they wouldn’t even be allowed as a carry-on. This bag is PERFECT for me. I can comfortably fit a water bottle, running shoes, an entire workout outfit, brush & toiletries for afterwards, my favorite yoga towel, plus my wallet/keys/phone and Kindle for pre-yoga down time. What more could a girl need? 

Sold? You can buy the Everything Fits on Gaiam’s website, here!  

How to Choose Your Perfect Race

As someone who’s currently tossing and turning, deliberating over fall marathon choices because I want to run them all, (Marine Corps Marathon or Niagara Falls International- EEK!), I thought I’d share my steps in choosing the perfect race. Whether it be your first or your hundredth, from 5K to ultramarathon, the following steps and resources can really help to break it down & make the choice a bit more clear-cut. Now if only I could take my own advice… 🙂

How to Choose Your Pefect Race