My Favorite Soups

December.  Winter seems to be in full swing, but in typical Oklahoma fashion, yesterday reached nearly 80 degrees F while today wind chills were below freezing and little snowflakes fluttered from the sky only to meet their demise on windshields.  That’s how winter rolls in Oklahoma!

But even though temperatures have been even more mild than usual, the first hint of cold weather has me craving soup.  I am a sucker for a bowl of hot, homemade soup.  You?  So I thought I’d share my favorite soups with you and my attempts to make them “clean”, using products without added sugars, that are organic and non-GMO, and use as little processed ingredients as possible.

Besides just tasting good and warming your insides on a cold day, making a pot of soup is all the meal prepping I need to do for a week.  I know.  Being single I don’t have to make as much food as a family would need for a week, but a pot of soup can make several meals.  That’s one thing I like about soup.  It’s also very forgiving to make, easy to reheat, easy to take to work, and generally tastes better after it sits for a day or so!  And if you avoid heavy creamed soups, a bowl of soup can be a fairly low calorie meal or snack.

These are some of my favorites I’ve been enjoying over the last few weeks.  And since I cook soups by taste, I don’t have specific measurements to follow.  Sorry!

  1.  Chili.  Who doesn’t love a bowl of chili, right?  And chili has the added bonus of being comfort food for me.  My mom would make a pot of chili on the first cold snap of the winter, so it’s one of the first things I think about when leaves start to fall, and temperatures take a nose dive.  One thing about chili–it’s the Fritos, cheese, and sour cream that make it not so good for you!

I start by browning lean ground turkey and minced onion in just a tad of olive oil if your turkey is very lean.  Add in one or two cans of organic red beans or kidney beans, depending on your preference.  Season the meat and beans with salt, chili powder, and ground cloves.  Add a can of organic tomato juice (I had V8 on hand this time, but I definitely prefer just plain tomato juice).  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the soup boils.  Simmer until the flavors blend (the longer the better!)  Season to taste with additional salt, chili powder and cloves.  I also add just a bit of coconut sugar to tame the acidity of the tomato juice.

Easy peasy and so yummy! 

2.  Chicken noodle soup.  Ahh, you can’t go wrong with chicken noodle soup, right?!  I always make sure I have baked or grilled chicken ready to use before I begin making this soup.

I start with pouring boxed or canned organic chicken stock into my pot and then, adding chicken broth to get the right amount of soup you want to make.  (I found that adding stock gives it more chicken flavor).  I read labels to make sure the broth I am using doesn’t have added sugar and lots of other ingredients I can’t pronounce.  Season the broth with basil, marjoram, salt and pepper to your taste.  Once the broth boils, add brown rice pasta (I like the spiral noodles).  When the pasta is nearly done, add the chicken, and frozen peas and carrots and continue cooking until the pasta and veggies are tender.

3.  Vegetable beef soup.  This takes me a bit longer to make because I start by roasting the cut of beef in the oven.  I like to add salt and pepper to the roast and toss in a bay leaf before I place it in the oven.

Once the roast is cooked, I cut up the amount of beef I need for the soup.  Brown it in a soup pot with just a bit of olive oil.  Add beef broth (again, I read labels to make sure I’m not adding a bunch of unnecessary ingredients), enough to make the amount of soup that you want.  Once the broth boils, add your vegetables.  I use whatever I have on hand.  Usually that’s a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (the kind with green beans, lima beans, peas, carrots, etc) and maybe a sweet potato.  Season with salt and pepper.  After the soup simmers for a while, I like to add in just a bit of tomato juice.  It seems to enhance the beef flavor.

4.  Butternut squash soup.  This is one of my all time favorites, but it does require a little more prep.  The extra prep time is so worth it, though!  Unlike the other soups that I tend to make most frequently, I do follow a recipe for this one.  Get the recipe here.

I don’t make the parmesan croutons to cut calories, but I don’t feel I’m missing anything.  This soup is delicious!

Cutting up a butternut squash is a bit difficult.  I have visions of cutting off a finger because the skin of the squash is not easy to cut through.  One thing I did this time to make things easier was to roast the squash in the peel before I cubed it.  It worked wonderfully, I didn’t lose a finger, and it tasted amazing!  You could also buy frozen, cubed butternut squash which would significantly cut down your prep time if you are in a time crunch.

So there’s my list of favorite soups.  As you can see, I tend to just use what I have on hand and mix broths, veggies, and spices to make it taste like I want it to.  That’s what I mean about soups being forgiving.  Just add a little of this or that until it tastes “right”!

Mmmm…now I’m thinking I should make a pot of soup for the rest of the week…

Talk to me:

Soup eater or not?

What’s your favorite soup recipe?




NEAT Ideas to Burn More Calories

If you’re like a lot of people, keeping up with fitness goals is hard this time of year.  With colder temperatures and wet stuff falling from the skies, being outside is not so much fun.  I have to admit, though, that some of my funnest and most invigorating runs have been in the snow!

And should we even mention all the holiday gatherings and parties?  It’s just a tough time of year to stay on track.

And then, tack on an injury that prevents your normal activities.  That’s me currently with this wonky hip flexor.  (More on that progress in another post.)

So with a few months of limited activity, I’ve really been focusing on non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) to burn as many calories as possible to help me stay in shape.

Okay, quick biology lesson before I loose you with some big ‘ol term like non-exercise activity thermogenesis.  There are basically 3 ways that our body burns calories:

  1.  Basal metabolic rate (BMR).  Metabolism is basically all the behind the scenes things that happen without us being aware to keep our bodies ticking– reactions that keep our hearts beating and cause respiration, for example.  This is actually our biggest source of calorie expenditure, and everyone’s BMR differs.  A rough estimate of my BMR is between 1200-1300 calories.  That means that I will expend 1200-1300 calories a day just to keep my body functioning.
  2. Thermic effect of food.  Our bodies burn calories through digesting the food we eat.  It’s a small source of calorie expenditure, but it is a way our body uses fuel.
  3. Exercise.  And the last way our body burns calories is through exercise–movement.  We all know that, right?  We think about exercise as that hour in the gym or 30 minutes on the treadmill or that Zumba class.  Whatever your thing is “exercise” tends to have this defined start and stop time of doing a specific activity with the focus of conditioning our bodies–which is important to overall health and fitness.

But another part of exercise is non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT.  Don’t be alarmed.  It’s just a long term that refers to the calories you burn by all the movement you do outside of your regularly scheduled exercise session that can add up to hundreds of extra calories burned a day.

Here are 10 NEAT ideas to keep you moving and burning calories:

  1.  Stand up every 30 minutes.  If you have a desk job, just stand up every 30 minutes.  Remember that any movement makes your body burn fuel, AKA calories.
  2. Park further from the store.  Do you ever get tired of driving around looking for a convenient parking space?  Why not just pick that spot in the back 40 where no one parks?  You’ll get in extra steps walking to and from the store, and you’ll have the added bonus of avoiding those awful door dings.
  3. Wash the dishes by hand.  Hey, it’s just an idea.  You’ll have those extra minutes of scrubbing and drying dishes to burn away extra calories.
  4. Fidget.  If you’re like me, you hear your mom scold you for fidgeting if you start to jiggle your leg or tap your fingers, but fidgeting can actually add to the number of calories you burn in a day.  Stuck in a meeting?  Jiggle your leg or tap your fingers. Stuck in a line at the grocery store?  Why not just shift your weight from one leg to the other?  It’s movement!
  5. Do glute extensions while you’re brushing  your teeth.  Seriously, I do this sometimes.  While I’m standing there brushing my choppers, I just extend one leg behind me and use the glute (butt) muscles to kick out my leg.
  6. Take the stairs.  So if  you work on the 99th floor, this may not be feasible, but I bet you could walk a few flights of stairs.  Avoiding elevators and climbing stairs is a great way to get in some extra movement during the day.
  7. March in place.  If you’re at home watching a movie or a TV program, commercial breaks are a great time to get up and move.  March in place if it’s a commercial you really want to see, or just take a quick walk up and down the hall.
  8. Rake the leaves.  I’ll admit, it’s a chore I don’t like, but yard work of any kind is great exercise! 
  9. Take the long way.  Just like parking further from the store entrance can increase your steps for the day, so can taking the long way.  Don’t just opt for the shortest path to the bathroom, coffee pot, or water fountain; make an excursion out of your break and add in a few more steps.
  10. Sit on a stability ball.  You’ll have to use more muscles to stabilize yourself on the ball and you’ll probably find yourself bouncing around on it and moving more than if you were sitting in a regular chair.  Plus, they’re just super fun!

Bottom line, NEAT is all about moving as much as you can throughout your day.  Sit as little as possible; move as much as you can.  One big source of NEAT for me recently has been washing kitchen and bathroom cabinets.  Sunny checked things out to make sure I hadn’t missed a spot.  How would I survive without him? 🙂Promise yourself today to increase your NEAT.  You can do it!

Talk to me:

How do you keep yourself moving throughout the day?

What’s your biggest challenge to fitness during winter?

Route 66 from the Sidelines

Yesterday was a bittersweet kind of day.  It was the Route 66 half/full marathon day, the race I had been training for before Mr. Hip Flexor cried “ouch” and made me stop training.

I woke up in a total funk, to be perfectly honest.  I can’t even tell you how disappointed I was at not being able to participate in the race.  And it looked to be perfect running weather, not cold and blustery like the day before.  So I laid in bed, debating whether to even go to the race or not.  Finally, I kicked myself in the butt and got going.  Really?  I was going to lay in bed and mope because I can’t run instead of cheering on my friends?  What kind of friend, and runner, am I?

And I’m so glad I got myself out the door.  It was a gorgeous fall day!  Bright blue skies, just that right temperature, very little wind.  Just being outside lifted my spirits.

I decided to take advantage of the fact that I would be watching the race to see parts of a race that I don’t get to experience when I’m running the race…like the start.  Sure, I can hear the gun and feel the surge of the crowd as we near and cross the start line, but I’ve never seen what that start looks like.  Wow!  So fun!

The race started with the national anthem.Then the wheelchair racers started.  Can I just say that wheelchair racers are a-mazing!  Running a marathon with the use of big leg muscles is hard enough; I can’t imagine doing it without the use of those muscles.  Then, it’s time for the open race.  The drum beats out a rhythm that gets your heart pounding.  The announcer counts down the seconds:  10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1!  The gun sounds; confetti fills the air and the racers are underway!  Just standing there taking it all in, I could feel my heart beat with anticipation, as if I was in my corral waiting for my turn to run through the confetti and cross the start line.  So fun!

Once the race was underway, I stationed myself at the 3.5 mile mark. 

The runners were still running fairly tightly, and I because I was hoping to be able to see some of my friends, I cheered on the masses for a bit and then scoped out another spot around the 7 mile mark.I have to say, driving around town during a huge race gave me an understanding of the frustration I hear from non-runners trying to get where they need to go.  This is a common site during a race.  Intersections blocked with police standing watch make it hard to maneuver the city, but as a runner, I am most grateful for the many, many police who stand for hours to protect the runners.

Another thing I’m so grateful for as a runner is this:Yes, a porta potty is a beautiful site when you’re on a long run and you’ve gotta go!

I saw a few friends, but I decided to move on to another location.  I found a spot at around mile 20 on the marathon route.  I got there ahead of the runners, and so I saw another first.  Here comes the first place marathon runner!  How exciting!I hung out on the corner for a long time.  By now the crowd had thinned out and the racers were coming by one at a time and then later 3 or 4 in a group.  It was so fun to be able to encourage them individually as they came down the hill and turned the curve to face this:Let me tell you.  If may not look like a big hill, but after 20-21 miles, even a molehill feels huge!

And standing on that corner, I encountered a blind runner.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A man with no sight was running the marathon, and he was ahead of the 4:30 pacer.  Translation:  this guy was moving!  Application:  I have no excuse to not try.

And so my Route 66 marathon ended, not with a medal and a PR as I’d hoped, but with an appreciation again of the beauty of the body in motion, deep respect for the runners who put so much time and effort into running this race, and sincere gratitude for eyes to see the race, a voice with which to cheer, and legs that may not be able to run a marathon at the moment but do work and will, in time, run again.

Congratulations to all the Route 66 finishers!  You guys are awesome!




Another Home Workout

So recovery continues as I wait for my body to heal.  It’s a slow, rather torturous process, this business of just waiting.  And it’s getting even harder as I feel better.  I feel like I could run and do the things I love to do, but feeling better doesn’t necessarily mean healing is complete.  So…I wait.  Next week is my follow-up appointment.  Fingers crossed, I’ll get to add in at least some activity!

Today I thought I’d take you through another workout I did at home.  I did a circuit of 4 different exercises, 2 chest exercises and 2 back exercises, going through the circuit 3 times, and finishing with some calf raises.

I started with 15 push-ups.  Believe me, I was doing 2-3 push-ups at a time towards the end of my second set of 15 and into the third set!With no rest, I flipped onto my back and did 20 dumbbell hex presses.  This picture is not a good angle, but I’m pressing 2 dumbbells together over my chest and then pushing them up so that my arms are fully extended.Then I went into 20 rows with a resistance band.As you can see, working out at home sometimes requires a bit of creativity!  I used the couch leg to anchor my bands and 2 bands to add more resistance.  I’m learning to love resistance bands.  There’s so much you can do with them.  Plus, they give a great workout!The last back exercise was back extension.  I anchor my feet against a wall, and I like to hold a weight to make the exercise just a bit harder.At the completion of the circuit, I rested for about a minute before starting the next round.

When I completed the circuit 3 times, I did 3-way calf raises, 25 reps each way.  I started with my toes pointed forward.On the next set of 25 reps, my toes were pointed out.For the last 25 reps, my toes were pointed toward the middle.  Whoa!  Changing the position of your toes takes the burn all the way up to the booty!

So another short and simple workout but it got me sweating!

Talk to me:

What’s your workout for today?

What’s your favorite workout gadget or piece of equipment?

On Not Running the Tulsa Run

Today was the Tulsa Run, but not just the Tulsa Run.  It was the 40th Tulsa Run.  It’s a big race, hosting both a 5K and a 15K.  I think I heard something like 2,400 people participated in the run.  I like running the 15K.  It’s a beautiful course, well supported, and challenging but not impossible.  And 15K is a perfect distance.  For me, at the end of a 10K (6.2 miles) I’m just settling in and getting ready to run, so a 15K (9.3 miles) is a great distance for me.

I was really looking forward to running it again this year, but an inflamed hip flexor nipped that in the bud.  Not being able to run, especially having to sit out the Tulsa Run, has really put me in a funk.  But I tried to tell myself I’m going to attend anyway and cheer on my friends.  After all, I know what a difference spectator support can make.

So I woke up this morning feeling a bit apathetic anyway about attending a race I wasn’t going to be able to run, but I thought about all my friends and hundreds of other runners who would be running, maybe some of them setting out for a distance PR, a 15K PR, coming back from injury, or maybe, like me, just now finding a hidden runner within themselves.  Running is about a shared experience, so I got myself up and out the door…

Into the first freezing temps of the year!  This was me at the Tulsa Run last year:This was me at the Tulsa Run this year.  You can’t tell, but I have running tights on under my pants, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt under my fleece jacket, and 2 pairs of gloves on!  Oklahoma weather is so unpredictable this time of year.The first part of the run goes by a park, so I planted myself there, just past the 3 mile marker and had a great view of the runners.  It was actually kind of fun to see the super fast leaders of the race, and then look down the road and see the major pack of runners coming.I saw quite a few of my friends pass; then, because I was about to freeze, I decided to hop in my car, warm up for a bit, and camp out at the finish line to cheer my friends across.

At the Tulsa Run, runners have to run uphill to reach the finish line.  This photo doesn’t really do the hill justice, but trust me.  It’s a tough finish!So began my experience of being a spectator at a big race.  And I think the experience only deepened my love of running and heightened my desire to get back to it.

I saw runners in shorts and tank tops, while I’m bundled up on the sidelines, and I remembered how quickly I could forget the cold on a run.

I saw runners in costume, running side by side, and I remembered how running is sometimes all about sharing something I love with others instead of competition.

I saw runners coming up the hill to the finish line, sweat lined faces pinched in concentration, and I remembered that burn in my legs and how the sound of the finish line pulled me forward, and so I cheered for my friends and random runners.

I saw runners who were stooped and grey, tall and slender, black and white.  I saw wheelchair athletes and athletes running 5 minute miles.  I saw people panting as they ran, others slowing to a walk.  I saw the hard work of running 9.3 miles, and in all its diversity, it was a beautiful thing.  And whether a participant walked, ran, or a little of both, finished in under 1 hour or finished in 3 hours, a gigantic medal awaited them at the finish line because they were a 15K finisher.

And Batman and Flash were there to document their accomplishment!Well done, athletes!  Well done!

Talk to me:

What are your weekend plans?

Have you ever watched, or participated, in a running race?


The Search for Healthy Pumpkin Bread

With the first hints of fall, my taste buds start to crave pumpkin bread.

And it’s that time of year.  In typical Oklahoma fashion, day time temperatures are still reaching 80 degrees but mornings have a bit of a bite and the wreath by my front door reminds me during the warm afternoons that it’s fall.  Perfect running weather–but I’m trying not to think about that since running is a banned activity for me at the moment.

But it’s also perfect for visiting pumpkin patches!  I got to visit a local pumpkin patch with my sister-in-law, my niece and her Happy Hands class.  This picture of Candice cracks me up!  She didn’t want to pet the goats because she found them just a tad too pungent!But I digress.  Pumpkin bread…and is it possible to make it healthy?

With my foray into clean eating, I didn’t want to make my usual pumpkin bread, which, by the way, is delicious but filled with things I don’t want to put into my body.  But thanks to Google and food bloggers, I’ve discovered there are tons of clean eating recipes out there, even for some of my favorite foods, like pumpkin bread.

I decided to try this recipe for Healthy Flourless Pumpkin Bread from the Bakermama.

The ingredient list was simple.  I had everything on hand.  Not pictured is baking soda. (Please note that I am not endorsing any particular brand.  This was just what I had on hand.)Mixing it up was as easy as placing everything in the blender and hitting start.  I did have to keep scraping the sides of the blender container because my blender is a bit of a weenie and unmixed batter kept clinging to the sides.The baked loaf looked pretty much like a typical loaf of pumpkin bread.Sliced, it held its shape well.So, you ask, how was it?

What I liked about this recipe:

  1.  It has a simple, healthy ingredient list.  It used common things that most people have on hand.  And while I can’t say that maple syrup is “healthy”, after all sugar is sugar, it is way less processed that white or brown sugar and the entire loaf only has 1/2 cup of syrup.
  2. It wasn’t too sweet.  As I’ve slowly tried to wean sugar out of my diet, I find that I have less and less tolerance for sweetness.  This bread was just right in the sweetness department.
  3. It’s moist.  I don’t like dry “fruit” breads, like banana or pumpkin bread.  I liked that this recipe made a wonderfully moist loaf of bread.
  4. It’s easy to make.  It’s a short ingredient list, uses only a blender for mixing, and bakes in about 30 minutes.  Easy peasy.
  5. I can eat a slice and know that I’m not sabotaging my commitment to clean eating.  I love having my cake, or in this case, pumpkin bread, and eating it too!  This recipe does that for me.

The only downside to this recipe, for me, was that the bread was heavy.  If you’ve ever had baked oatmeal, you’ll know what I mean.  I kind of felt like I was eating baked oatmeal.  And while I love baked oatmeal, I was hoping for something a bit lighter in a pumpkin bread.  The taste was absolutely yummy, but the denseness was a bit disappointing.

So will I make it again?  I’ll definitely keep this recipe bookmarked.  I usually try a new recipe a few times before I decide not to use it anymore.  I may have made a mistake in putting it together that caused it to feel heavy.  Maybe I didn’t blend it long enough?  I loved the flavor and the healthfulness of it, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind so I’ll also keep trying other recipes.

And thanks to all the clean eating food bloggers who take the time to create yummy recipes that use wholesome ingredients I’ve got tons of recipes to choose from!

Talk to me:

What’s your favorite fall food?

What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe?





Workout of the Day

So, as you know, I’ve been restricted to only the stationary bike and seated upper body exercises to allow this angry hip flexor to heal.

But after a couple of sessions on the stationary bike, I’ve banned myself from that activity as well.  After 10-15 minutes on the bike, my hip flexor was protesting, so obviously even that is not something I should be doing at the moment.  Great.

After a couple of days of just lying on the couch, trying to decide how best to keep myself in shape for the next few weeks, I landed on a plan.  The upper body still has a lot of muscles.  I’d just work a different part of the upper body each day.

I decided to start with arms today and did a workout at home using the dumbbells I have.  It was a short workout, but here’s what I did:

Every minute on the minute (EMOM) 10 bicep curls followed immediately by 10 tricep overhead extensions

3 sets of 20 reps of lateral raises and front raises

Bicep curls:  Keep your shoulders down and back, bellybutton pulled in for a nice tight core.  No swinging the weight!  Start with your arms fully extended by your side. Bend your elbows to bring the weights up.  Finish by completely extending your arms.


Triceps extension:  Start with your arms directly overhead, elbows stay tight by your ears.  Bend your elbows so the weights extend toward your back.  Finish by straightening your arms.  These are a bit tricky, but the only part of your body that should be moving is your elbow bending and straightening.  You should feel the tension in the tricep, the back of the arm.

Lateral raise:  Start with your arms by your side, shoulders down and back, bellybutton pulled in for a nice tight core.  Raise the weights to shoulder height.  Control the descent back down to your side.  Don’t just let the weights drop!  You should feel the outside part of your shoulder working.

Front raise:  Start with the weights resting on your thighs.  Keep your shoulders down and back, bellybutton pulled in for a nice tight core.  Raise your arms in front of you to shoulder height.  Control the descent instead of just letting the weights fall.  You should feel the front part of your shoulder working.

I made this workout harder for me by increasing the volume (more reps) with a lighter weight and taking very short rest periods between sets.

Check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.  Consider working with a personal trainer if you are new to weights to make sure your form and technique are correct to prevent injury.

Talk to me:

What is your workout for the day?

Recovery…I Hope

So if you’ve been around for any length of time, you know I’ve been dealing with a nagging, recurring pain in my right hip flexor.  It really flared up when I began training for my first marathon last year, but about 2 months ago, things got worse.  The pain became constant, and even sitting and walking were uncomfortable.  Yep, I haven’t run in 2 months.  It’s been a long 2 months.

This last week I finally bit the bullet and went to see an orthopedist.  You can see how excited I was to be at the doctor’s office.  He looked at my MRI and x-rays, moved my hip in all different directions, pushed on me here and there, and finally concluded that it is most likely NOT a labral tear (whew!) and most likely just an inflamed hip flexor.

Then the doctor did something really painful.  He banned me from all exercise except the stationary bike and seated upper body exercises.  I remember when I started the clean eating challenge,  I looked at the list of food restrictions and wondered what in the world I was going to eat.  I’m looking at these activity restrictions with that same wonder.  How am I ever going to keep in shape with such limited activity?

And this is race season.  In 2 weeks, the 40th Tulsa Run will take place.  It’s a huge race, a 15K, and I love running it.  I was really, really hoping to run it this year, but no.  Not gonna happen.  And the half marathon I’d been training for, Route 66 in November, is not gonna happen either.  I am so disappointed.

But on the other hand, I’ve been dealing with this issue for a long time.  For about 2 years now, I’ve limped along seeing a chiropractor every couple of months to deal with the pain.  If another month of very limited activity, and a round of steroids and anti-inflammatories get me back on my feet pain-free, I guess I can stand missing a few races.  And I’m hoping, like with the clean eating challenge, I’ll find a whole new way of exercising and keeping in shape with limited lower body involvement.

But to be honest, the thing that’s really hard for me about not being able to exercise at my normal capacity is the fear of gaining weight.  I am petrified of that happening.  I have this vision of myself ballooning, and I nearly panic.  I do NOT want to ever be overweight again.

I think back to the first time this hip flexor issue put me on the side lines for a few weeks during marathon training.  I used the opportunity to focus on other aspects of training.  I’m trying really hard to keep that perspective again, focusing especially on nutrition this time around.  With my activity being limited, nutrition will be key for me in maintaining my weight, especially looking at carbohydrate intake.  I’ll need fewer carbs since I’m exercising less, but unfortunately, I love carbs.  (Yes, I’m pouting.)

So I’ll behave, take my medicine and follow the doctor’s orders.  Hopefully, when I go back to the doctor in 4 weeks, I’ll be good as new.  Stay tuned for updates on recovery, my workouts, and what I’m eating.

Talk to me:

What fall plans do you have coming up?




Ten years ago this week I began one of the biggest adventures of my life.  I became a home owner, as a single girl.

I don’t mind telling you that buying a house was a scary process.  Or maybe it was deciding to buy a house that was the scary part.  I was just as single then as I am now, and doubts of my ability to take care of a house bombarded me.  Would I be able to afford the mortgage?  And the utility bills?  I wasn’t even sure how much heating and cooling a house would cost.  What if something broke?  Like something really big.  But then, who am I kidding?  I’m not at all handy so even a seemingly minor issue seems big to me.  And then it’s not just the house; there’s the yard that has to be maintained.

So in my usual decision-making process I researched the heck out of buying a house.  I learned about the house buying process, about narrowing down where I wanted to live and what I was looking for in a house.  I got pre-approval from a lender to know how much house I could afford–according to the bank.  Then, it was deciding how much of my savings I wanted to invest towards a house and how much of my income I was willing to put towards a mortgage.  Lots of money stuff to think about.

But in the back of my mind, the fact of my singleness kept raising little doubts.  If I couldn’t pay the mortgage and upkeep for a house, I’d be out on my ear.  This was a HUGE purchase, and I was going into it…alone.  Scary!

But 10 years later, I’m so glad I made the leap.  I’ve been thinking back over the last decade and of all the things that have happened in this house, or because I own a house.  Things like:

Holiday and other family gatherings…Bible study groups and forging friendships…

Taking care of Mom…

Bringing Sunny home as a kitten…Learning how to use a lawnmower

Being broken into–through the kitchen ceiling…Placing foundation piers…

Always having a project to work on (I won’t tell you how long these crack repair patches have been there)…

Learning how to do some highly technical things like replacing a shower head…

Good memories.  And it’s funny.  Even when something really big happened–like when walls started separating and I learned I would need foundation piers to fix the problem–I survived.  Somehow it wasn’t the catastrophe that I imagined.

So I don’t really have a purpose in writing this post today other than to remember those that have no home and to be thankful for the abundant blessings I’ve been given.  My house still has old formica counter tops in the kitchen, windows with weather stripping flapping in the breeze, and carpet with a few spots here and there, but my house is home.

And lawnmowers and overgrown bushes aside, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be than right where I am. 






Talk to me:

Where do you live?

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My Secret to Fitness After Forty

I remember when my mom turned 40.  I was embarrassed to tell anyone how old she was because in my 9 or 10-year-old mind 40 was next to ancient.  And then came that year a few years ago when I had to list my own age as…40.  Good golly, Miss Molly.  I was old!

Forty may be the new 20 nowadays, but somehow, it still felt like the gateway to old to me.  I felt like I really was over the hill and on the downward slide, with my obese and aching body.  I thought about all the things I’d hoped to accomplish by 40, like losing weight, but here I was fatter than I’d ever been in my life.  I honestly felt like I had reached the end of the line and was destined to live the rest of my life overweight.

I thought I was too old to find fitness.

This week I’ve scanned different internet articles and opinions on fitness after 40.  Some people say there’s a secret to exercising after 40.  Others say “Hogwash” to that belief.  I only know that these are a few things I’ve found to be true for me about finding fitness after 40:

  1.  Redefine what being fit meant.  I had this idea that fit meant wearing a size 2 and having a perfectly round, perky rear view.  Whatever.  Genetics endowed me with –let’s just say it–wide hips, and no amount of exercise is going to change my bone structure.  While I can tone the muscle and tighten the booty, I’ll never have that perfect hiney.  But if I think about being fit in terms of not how I look but what I can do, fitness lies within my grasp.  At 45, I’m running, jumping rope, and lifting weights at levels that were beyond me at 30.  So what if those saddlebags refuse to leave?  I’d rather be able to run a marathon than fit into skinny jeans.
  2. Stop playing the comparison game.  I had to realize I’m 40.  I can’t compete with those 20-something year olds.  They haven’t reached their peak of muscle development yet.  So just forget about what other people are doing and focus on what you can do.  And then do it!  And keep doing it, pushing  yourself just a bit more each time–like this amazing man who took up running at 95!
  3. Accept that you’re 40.  I had to accept that I was 40, not dead.  What I mean is that I had to understand and accept that there are biological changes that happen in our body as we age.  Estrogen and testosterone begin to decrease.  Metabolism slows.  We begin to lose bone and muscle mass.  Does that mean I shouldn’t exercise or lift weights?  First, see #2.  Second, absolutely not!  The amount of weight we can lift may decrease or our mile time may increase as we age, but exercise and weight lifting are a deterrent to age related health issues, such as osteoporosis.  Weight bearing exercises like walking, running, and lifting weights cause our bones to absorb more calcium.  More calcium in your bones = stronger bones.
  4. Work within your limits.  If you’re like me and put off getting fit until you’re 40, you’ve had a lifetime of developing bad habits that may be affecting your posture, flexibility and mobility.  And things like arthritis or other health conditions can rear their ugly heads even in our not so old bodies.  So do what you can within your limitations.  This is one reason I really like working with a personal trainer.  I have someone there who can point out movement deficiencies that I can’t see in myself and help me correct my technique or suggest exercises that can help improve flexibility.
  5. Don’t let someone tell you you’re too old.  The biggest thing I’ve had to learn about finding fitness after 40 is to tune out those naysayers who want to tell me I’m too old.  I’ve had people tell me how dangerous lifting weights and running are, especially at my age.  Okay, maybe.  But any exercise at any age can be dangerous if you do it incorrectly and if you do too much too quickly.  Progressive overload is the key.  Find your starting point and gradually increase from there.  I went from running 1 minute to running 30 minutes over the course of 8 weeks–at the age of 41.  And over the course of 2 years, I went from deadlifting 80 pounds to deadlifting 210 pounds–at the age of 45.  You are NEVER too old to improve your fitness level!   Still skeptical?  Check out this 104 year old Pearl Harbor survivor!
  6. Weight loss is possible after 40!  I should know.  I lost 63 pounds after turning 40.  Changing my diet was key, but then, at any age, diet is the key to weight loss.  And maybe my metabolism had slowed.  But exercise, especially weight training, building muscle, is one of the best ways to speed up that metabolism–at any age.

So my secret to fitness after forty is…that there is no secret!  (Sorry if I misled you!)  But I don’t think fitness after 40 has to be some mysterious, dangerous process.  The same principles that work to lose weight and get fit for the under 40 crowd seem to be serving me well now that I’m well into my 40’s.  Listen to your body.  Use common sense.  But move!  I dare you to join me in this adventure of finding life and health at the not so old age of 40–and beyond!

Remember to always check with your physician before beginning an exercise program.

Talk to me:

What arguments have you heard about losing weight or getting fit after 40?

What does being fit mean you would/could do?

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