TFB Liebster Award Nominations

Yes, technically it’s still Tuesday – which means today should feature a Would Amanda Eat It? post.  But let’s be real:

My husband is leaving for Singapore on Monday and I won’t see him for two months, so we had a nice “cheat” meal of burgers and beer tonight.  I feel conflicted about giving health advice on a night when I’ve had such a superbly unhealthy indulgence, so I figured I’d go another direction with today’s post.

A lovely blogger and friend over at Eat Run Snooze Repeat nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is an award given to bloggers by bloggers to honor new(ish) contributors.  There are some rules:

1. Link the person who nominated you to your blog post. Thank them and let them know you answered their questions.

2. Answer the 7 questions given to you by the nominator.

3. Nominate 5-11 other bloggers, including at least one with less than 500 followers.

4. Create 7 questions for your nominees to answer.

5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

6. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”.

Now that we’ve got the rules down, I have to abide #4 and answer my 7 questions!

1. What is your best tip for getting motivated?  I grew up Catholic, so to be honest, the best way to get myself motivated is to think about the crushing guilt I feel when I don’t work out.  A guilty conscience is worth running away from (literally!).

2. What is the one thing you could not live without?  My phone.  Holy crap.

3. If you could live any place in the world, where would it be?  Um…SINGAPORE!  And aren’t I just the luckiest that I’m actually going there? 😉

4. How did you begin your fitness journey?  I began as a gymnast, got injured and tried diving, then got older and tried running.  I always have to be in motion!

5. What is your biggest dream?  I dream of having a family, a successful fitness publishing career, and the ability to travel multiple times per year.

6. What is your daily go-to outfit?  Fitness wear, guys – capris and a tank.  Hair in bun.

7. Do you have a secret (maybe embarrassing) passion? If so, what is it?!  Not embarrassing, but lots of people who don’t know me in person don’t know how much I love craft beer – it is truly a hobby, passion, and indulgence all packed into one for me!

Here are my questions for my nominees (and hey, readers – feel free to play along and answer in the comments!):

1.  What are you afraid of?

2.  Who was your childhood hero, and why?

3.  Where in the world would you like to visit next?

4.  What’s your drink of choice (alcohol or non)?

5.  If you were writing your memoirs, what would be the working title?

6.  Describe a day from your past you would go back and relive if you could.

7.  What do you think happens after we die?

And finally – my award nominees!  I am relatively new to this world so I am still developing my own feed, but I want to shout out some of the folks I read regularly:

The Keen Peach

Some Day Sunny

No Rules, Just Run

Tiffaspilla

Sundaylovexo

Ok folks, that’s it for now – go check out some of these amazing (growing!) blogs and leave your comments here, too. 🙂

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The Top Five Questions I’ve Received About Moving to Singapore

Blogiverse, listen up: my husband and I are moving to Singapore!

That’s right – after making it “Facebook official” earlier this week, I wanted to announce it also to my loyal WordPress, Bloglovin’, and other readers here on the TFB blog.  This is a huge life change for us – the second one this year, after getting married (!) – and we are over the moon excited about it.

That said, it’s an interesting thing when you start to tell people about a big life change.  When you tell people you got engaged, they want to see the ring.  When you tell people you got married, they say congrats and/or offer some sage piece of advice.  But when you tell people you’re moving to Asia, there are a whole host of odd/surprising reactions that I did not expect.

Like what, you might ask?  Herein lies the subject of this blog.

Where is Singapore, anyway?  Fair enough, fellow Westerners.  I can’t say that it was until a couple years into our relationship that Nick took out a map and actually pointed to Singapore so I could understand its position – and tiny size – among the other Southeast Asian countries.  That said, here’s a map to get us all up to speed:

Yes, it’s an island.  Yes, it’s tiny (276 square miles).  And yes, it’s far away (18.5 hours flight time from Los Angeles, making it one of the world’s longest flights).

Will you need to learn the language?  Luckily enough, folks, “the language” spoken in Singapore is English – they were a British colony until independence in 1965, so English is the predominant national and conversational language spoken in the country.  That said, because they are such a melting pot of cultures, Singapore DOES have four national languages – English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil – and often you will see all four on the same street sign (hint: Tamil is the one that looks like curlicues).

Is Singapore the capital of Malaysia?  Again, because Singapore is so small and somewhat remote and often looked over on maps of the region, you may not realize that Singapore is its own country – and in fact, its own island – separate from Malaysia.  It was part of the Federation of Malaya (which did include Malaysia) for less than two years from 1963-1966, but that’s it.  Singapore is its own city-state – Singapore, SINGAPORE.

What’s the weather like over there?  I hear it’s bad.  Oh yes, my friends, you heard right – especially if you’re an Angeleno, where “bad weather” means “anything under 60 degrees” or “any degree of rain” or “a day without sunshine.”  The weather in Singapore is…tropical.  Wait, let’s build on that – equatorial rainforest tropical.  Which means the average daily temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit (although most days the temps hit 90 at least once), there are two monsoon seasons (December to March, where the rainfall is heavy and daily; and May to September, where morning rainstorms dominate and leave the rest of the day relatively dry), the humidity hangs around 80-90% each and every day, and the sun rises and sets at roughly the same time every day (7am, 7pm).  It will be an adjustment, but it could be worse…right?

SING-in’ in the rain…get it?

And finally – one of my faves – what will you DO over there?  Surprisingly enough, at least to a lot of people unfamiliar with the region, fitness is big business in Singapore.  Personal training, group exercise, and nutrition consulting all exist – and even thrive – and there is definitely a benefit to being a Caucasian, blonde, female Westerner in this field.  Although it will take me some time to really understand the industry and its differences from what I’m used to here in L.A., I plan to train, consult, and write – just as I do here – under the ThisFitBlonde name and brand – so worry not!  I’ll be the same ol’ TFB, just coming to you from halfway around the world.

Have you ever considered an overseas move – or lived abroad?  What questions did you feel like you were constantly answering about your choice?

TFB’s Ultimate LA Marathon Playlist

ultimateI am always nervous to put up a race-day playlist because to some extent, it is deeply personal.  The music that drives one person is complete rubbish to another; I know people that run to podcasts (!) whereas that would make me crumble and die of boredom.  I know others that never run to music and find listening to tunes while running abhorrent; still others that run to classical or wordless music or trance-like mixes that last 13 minutes.

I, on the other hand, need music that is inspirational (I actually listen to the lyrics), motivational (I actually move to the beats), site-appropriate (I will always try to sneak in songs that speak to the location, season, or other descriptor of the race), and familiar (I rarely go for brand-new, un-listened-to tunes unless they’re by a familiar artist).

But I respect whatever gets – and keeps – you running.

That said, in my last post about the LA Marathon, I mentioned a few of the songs that got me through the hard miles – so I wanted to post my (extensive) playlist from the race to give you an idea of what’s going through my earbuds when I tackle a long-distance run.

I have a superstition of sorts where I make my playlist and then commit to setting it on “shuffle” – meaning I don’t allow myself to get caught up in the specific order nor do I allow myself to skip any songs, so they all have to be winners (again, winners in my book – I know my eclectic taste is not for everyone).

So without further ado – my marathon playlist, in four parts with short commentary:

playlist1Highlights from this segment?  For sure “Work B*tch” by Britney Spears (possibly my most-used workout song if you consider both running and teaching group exercise), but “Far Alone” by G-Eazy always makes me feel like a pimp, and “Booty” by J-Lo & Iggy Azalea makes tackling hills feel like no big.

playlist2

My standouts here are the kickass “L.A. Woman” remix by The Doors & Paul Oakenfold, “Cinderella Man” by Eminem (works great during a tough, broken-down mile for pacing), and “Blessed” by Tom Hangs feat. Avicii – tell me you can’t stay positive with that gospel-inspired song caressing your eardrums.  Moving on:

playlist3Ah, another embarrassment of hip-hop and dance riches brings us to “You Be Killin ‘Em” by Xavier (brush your shoulders off and KICK IT to this one), “I Don’t Get Tired” by Kevin Gates (the name alone hearkens to its endurance-themed powers), and “Not Butter” by Dillion Francis, which is the only song to make me laugh out loud while actually running.  And for the finish line:

playlist4Don’t hate on “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder; that song is an oldie but goodie.  And “City of Dreams” by Dirty South & Alesso has come with me through three marathons; it always brings tears to my eyes when I’m running somewhere with which I feel a deep connection.  Finally, gotta hand it to “Turn Down for What” by Lil’ Jon for the ultimate mid-mile boost – I am almost positive I PR’d the mile that song accompanied.

What do you listen to when you’re workout out?  What are your must-have tunes for long races?

Would Amanda Eat It?

I was three people back in the Starbucks line, and oddly enough, every single one of the three people in front of me ordered the same thing:

“A skinny vanilla latte, please.”

It made me think – here were three very different people (a middle-aged man, a young college-age woman, and a middle-aged woman), all determined to order the same drink – so what’s the appeal?

The official Starbucks website says, “If you’re thinking about cutting back on fat, you needn’t feel like you’re making a compromise.”  The difference between the “skinny” versions of the Starbucks latte and the regular versions are that these have no whipped cream, are made with non-fat milk, and use sugar-free flavored syrups.

Sounds decent, right?  But would Amanda eat it?

The good:

  • compared to the regular version of the vanilla latte, the “skinny” saves you 130 calories, 6g fat, and 35 whopping grams of sugar (!)
  • you’ll also decrease the butterfat-related cholesterol (only 5mg versus 25mg in the original)
  • hey, it tastes pretty darn good

The bad:

  • unlike the regular syrups, the “sugar-free” syrups actually contain gluten
  • skim milk is still cow’s milk, which I recommend most people eliminate from their diet for many reasons
  • the sugar-free syrups contain more than just gluten – they contain maltodextrin (the aforementioned gluten) and sucralose (Splenda, which has its own host of issues)

The verdict:

  • I had a skinny cinnamon dolce latte once, and while it tasted great, it left me with a weird sticky-sick feeling that I couldn’t kick all day – so no, Amanda would not eat it.  Long ago I made the switch to Americanos (espresso with hot water) with a splash of coconut milk and cinnamon and never looked back.

The alternative:

What’s your morning beverage of choice?  What do you order at Starbucks or similar?

Marathon Recap: ThisFitBlonde Runs LA

Hey, did I tell you guys I was running the LA Marathon?  Probably not, since I actually did it on a whim (read: with NO training, not even a long run of anything more than 12 miles) after getting a bib from a friend who was too injured to run – but I did!  And it was absolutely fantastic.

Some background: LA was my fifth marathon, and the 30th running of the marathon overall, so an anniversary of sorts for both me and the city.  I’ve run Surf City (Huntington Beach), the NIKE Women’s (San Francisco), Rock N Roll Las Vegas (at night), Boston (in 2013, so ’nuff said about that unique experience) and now Los Angeles.

I always vowed not to run LA because it was “too familiar”these are the streets I train on day in and day out; the streets I live on; the streets I commute and curse upon.

How could running a marathon in L.A. feel like anything but drudgery?

But friends, I was so wrong.  If you are a 16-year Angeleno (and fierce defender of the city’s greatness) like me, you need to run this race.  You will see LA in a whole new light – not only the promising and hopeful light of dawn but also the striking and illuminating “light” of a city untouched, somehow cleaner and prettier and less crowded than it’s ever been.  I loved every step.

That said, no marathon is without its downfalls – and this race still had some, despite my best efforts to stay calm and focused.  Here’s a quick play-by-play of what was going on in my head, mile-by-mile:

MILE 1“it’s just another perfect day…I loooove L.A….” Randy Newman’s voice booms loud at the starting gun – and we’re off.  I’m feeling good.  It’s sorta crowded but no one’s elbowing me yet.  I keep reminding myself to keep the pace steady and slow.

MILE 2 – where was the mile 1 sign?  Didn’t they say they’d have a sign for each mile?  Oh well, whatevs.  This muscular dude is running a nice pace.  I’ll follow him awkwardly closely until he runs away.

MILE 3 – hey look, a 5K!  Isn’t that sweet?  Muscular dude has been upgraded to official Pace Buddy, despite that we haven’t yet exchanged verbal words.  It’s just a runner “thing,” you know?

MILE 4 – downtown looks nice, at least this part.  Pace Buddy (now known as PB) smiled at me and handed me a water from the aid station; still no words but officially my PB.  Resisting urge to look at the clock as I keep telling myself, slow and steady.

MILE 5 – so THIS is what Echo Park is!  Wow!  There’s a lake here and things.  Supes nice.  Feelin’ gangsta as “Not Butter” comes on my running mix and I audibly laugh.  PB probably thinks I’m insane but is too committed to our pacing to run away.

MILE 6 – PB speaks!  He pulls out one earbud and tells me he’s going to grab water at the next aid station and hit a gel.  Scintillating.  I agree with him and play “gel roulette” with what’s in my pack; end up with a vanilla bean w/caffeine.  Hyped up on that and Beyonce.

MILE 7 – Blisters are starting to form, and this early it’s annoying – but I don’t have time to care.  Gotta stay on the 9-minute flat with PB, and gotta pretend like this isn’t the most boring scenery of the entire course (sorry to those who live here, but it sucks).

MILE 8 – Deep into Hollywood now and prepping to see my friend Melinda at mile 9.  I tell PB, “I have friends at mile 9!”  He throws me an exhausted-looking thumbs up.  I feel like a douche.

MILE 9 – DAMMIT.  DAMN.  IT.  Where is my friend?  I know she’s here!  She made me a sign!  I know she did!  “Maybe she didn’t wake up,” says PB, and I want to punch him for a second.  I KNOW SHE IS UP.  Are we running too fast?

MILE 10 – DOUBLE DIGITS!  I throw up a “deuces” to PB and he laughs.  We are running too fast for him; I can tell he’s struggling, but I refuse to slow down when I feel this good – plus we’re in Hollywood reppin’ the Pantages, Grauman’s Chinese, and all the “cool” things about this part of town – without the annoying tourists up in our grills.

MILE 11 – PB tells me he’s going to drop off at the next mile to meet his wife and son and change shoes; secretly I am a little relieved because I want to maintain.  “0 to 100” comes on the mix and I know I’ve made the right choice because I go 0 to 100 real quick; real f*cking quick.

MILE 12 – As promised, PB peels off with the fam and we exchange a heartfelt (if momentary) goodbye.  For a second I am sad.  Then I realize he is a total stranger and I go on running.

MILE 13 – Did I make it halfway already?  Are those drag queens dressed as high school cheerleaders?  Do I have time to stop and poop?  The answer to all of these is, of course, yes.

MILE 14 – OHMYGAH the greatest downhill of the course is about to hit and I didn’t even see it coming.  I wave my arms like a stupid lunatic and almost take somebody’s eye out (sorry bro).  My baller “LA Woman” remix comes on and I realize that this is the city I was born to run.  Tears well up in my eyes.  Sentimental Manda = getting tired….

MILE 15 – But not too tired!  The promise of seeing my family in a few miles perks me up again and I power through WeHo and Beverly Hills like it’s no big (and hey, this is getting close to my neighborhood – it is no big; I run these streets all the time!).

MILE 16 – 10 MILES TO GO!  In some races that has felt like an eternity, but here it feels doable.  I realize I am on pace for a sub-four marathon after screaming at a volunteer, “WHAT TIME IS IT!??!”  Someone shoves an ice cold coconut water into my and I am almost brought to tears again with how happy I am to drink that delicious beverage.

MILE 17 – OMG, family is so close!  How’s my hair look?  Oh wait, it looks like the rest of me – a soggy, sad sack after being sprayed down with hoses, pouring water on my head and back, nearly losing my stretched-elastic shorts (note to self: toss these shorts when you get home), and squinting out one eye after one is rendered useless due to sunscreen drip.  I’m a hot mess.

MILE 18 – There’s my house.  WHERE MY BED IS.  And I’ve been up since 4:45.  Would anyone notice if I just diverted off course for a moment?  Sigh.  Another mile, another orange slice.

MILE 19 – FAMILY!!!  HI MOM & DAD!  HI BROTHER!!!  My “official” first spectators since I missed my mile 9 support and dropped my PB.  I feel like a massive baller, despite the fact that I just grabbed a handful of Vaseline off a posterboard carried by a complete stranger (hey, I refuse to suffer armpit chaffing if I don’t have to).

MILE 20 – There is something amazing about mile 20 – it’s where you truly start to believe the finish line is attainable.  It’s more amazing when “Move B*tch” by Ludacris comes on your playlist and you start dominating some b*tches (and by “dominating” I mean “hobbling past someone that stopped to walk at a water stop, then getting caught by them 200 yards later”).

MILE 21 – I see two runners help a handcycle athlete get up a steep hill, and my eyes are again filled with tears.  I let one spill.  I AM NOT MADE OF STONE DAMMIT.

MILE 22 – Four miles left?  Steady downhill grade?  Let’s do this.  “Turn Down for What” guides me through a “high five station” where I literally slap about 24 hands in a row.  Ow.  And now I’m sticky.  Ew.

MILE 23 – It’s just a 5K now – and yet the blisters on my feet are beginning to revolt against the 90-degree weather – and did I mention I’m also COMPLETELY blind in one eye from sunscreen damage?  Note to self: sun protection is one thing, but temporary blindness is quite another.  Remember to pack the powder protection next time.

MILE 24 – OMG, two miles left.  I scream out for the time again and when the volunteer tells me 10:33, I realize I am fully going to break 4 hours on thiz beetch.  I prepare to rip my bib (because I told the friend whose bib I was running on that I would, so she wouldn’t get some rando time) and accidentally rip the bib.  Now I’m carrying a bib.  STUPID.

MILE 25 – Finally, the spectators who have been screaming “you’re almost there!” since mile 2 are vindicated: we are, in fact, almost there.  They say the last mile is the longest.  Whoever “they” are, they’re right.  I can see the ocean; shouldn’t the finish line BE HERE ALREADY?!?!?  WHY AM I STILL RUNNING?!?

MILE 26.2 – Crossing the finish, I suddenly feel at peace, like the scenes in movies where all the sounds fade away and you are moving through silence, colors intensified, time almost simultaneously fast and slow.  I feel completely inside my own head yet utterly connected to everyone around me.  It is a glorious sense of achievement and relief, compounded with an intense bowel cramp and crazy craving for cold pizza.

My finish time was 3:57 (net 9:02/mile pace), including poop break – making this my slowest marathon ever.  That said, it was one of my favorites ever – the one where I got to relive all the memories I’ve made over the past 16  years in this amazing city.  I am honored to have given some intense love to the city that has watched me grow up and made me who I am today.

Have you ever run a marathon?  What goes through your head when you run?

Weekly Roundup

Ah, internet, I feel so safe and cozy when I’m basking in your loving glow.  Sick as it sounds, there is something comforting about being able to just sit at home with my browser open, lazy on my couch and surfing my fave blogs from the week gone by.

That said, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the Roundup so there’s a lot to check out!

These crazy makeup hacks are almost as nuts as the blue/gold dress debacle.  Red lipstick as CONCEALER?!

A client recently insisted that I have thick hair, which almost made me cry with pride as I’ve always considered myself a thin-hair girl.  These tricks must be working!

BYE FELICIA.  Wait, that’s not right.  BYE GISELE.

Obviously my Palm Springs wedding was my favorite ever.  But this is a close second.

I don’t care if they’re “cool” or whatever, I just adore printed shorts of all kinds.

Just seeing these numbers makes my bank account shudder – my grad tuitions didn’t even touch these amounts, and I’m still feeling the burn.

I just discovered the lululemon expert blog, and now I’m addicted.  As if I needed that.

OMG I feel more stylish just because I know about this app – it turns your snaps into fashion sketches.  How cool is that?

Allow me one more wedding-related link – these amazing photo envelope liners are literal game-changers when it comes to personalized invites.  Love ’em!

What are you guys looking into this week?  Share with me your favorite links!

Flex Friday Workout: Luck O’ The Irish

Ok, I get that “lucky sevens” and “Irish luck” refer to two very distinct and separate forms of luck.  But just throw me a bone here; I’m trying to do a cute little workout thing, okay?

Small sets can be beneficial tools for building fitness using heavier weights.  For example, if you are plateauing by lifting 10-pound dumbbells 10 times, this workout would suggest you lift 12 or 15-pound dumbbells 7 times to try and “max out” your lift.

As always, progress only at the level you are comfortable with – and always make sure your form is mechanically correct (or ask a trainer to help!).  Do the best you can to make it through the workout staying strong, active, and motivated to finish.

shamrocks

Here’s the basic deal – you choose seven exercises (I chose these exercises based on efficiency – you work the upper and lower body as well as the core and cardio, using weights and body weight alternately), complete seven reps of each, and complete the whole set seven times – a total of 49 reps per exercise.  The exercises I chose are:

SQUAT-PRESS / BURPEE / LUNGE-CURL / V-UP / SUMO SQUAT-RAISE / SIDE LUNGE / PUSHUP

Don’t forget to warm up with 5-10 minutes of low-intensity cardio and finish with 5-10 minutes of targeted stretching and/or foam rolling.

Do you have a circuit or interval workout planned for next week?  Tell me about your burn!

BMI vs. Body Fat Percentage: A Primer

[First of all, I heard the word “primer” on the radio today and the host pronounced it like “PRIMM-er” rather than “PRIME-r,” which is how I’d always imagined it was said.  Does anyone have the authoritative last word on this?]

Anyhoo, I had a client head over to my #AskAmanda page on Facebook today (every Wednesday, BTW) and ask me a great – and often confusing – question:

How is muscle tone accounted for in BMI readings?

BMI, for those of you who haven’t caught on to this medical buzzword, stands for Body Mass Index.  This measure is easily calculated using a formula with two variables – your height and weight.

BMI is useful in medical settings because it helps establish a range – an estimate, if you will – of categories that help medical professionals zero in on potential risk factors.  For example, a BMI of over 40 (this would look like a woman who is 5’2″ but weighs 220 pounds) means you are categorized as morbidly obese, which is correlated with several health problems including ventilatory disorders, circulatory congestion, and unexplained sudden death (!).

Here’s the problem with BMI, though – let’s say you’re a bodybuilder.  You are 5’7″ tall and weigh 200 pounds (completely possible on a frame with a lot of muscle!) – this puts your BMI at 31.3, which reads as “obese.”  That said, you may have so little body fat that you are not remotely at risk for excess-fat-related health problems, such as heart disease or diabetes – but on paper, you fall into that same unhealthy category due to your BMI.

This is why I am always harping on clients to get their body fat measured.

Body fat percentages are exactly what they sound like – a ratio of the fat you carry on your body relative to the lean mass (muscle, bone, and fluid).  They can be measured using hydrostatic weighing (the best choice – if you’re ballin’ and have access to a water displacement tank), calipers (available at most gyms, and very reliable), bioelectrical impedance (the quickest, easiest method), and even good old-fashioned measuring tape.

As you can imagine, two people can have the same BMI but vastly different body fat percentages and overall appearances – the pictures below make it clear that the number on the scale (and thus, the number in your BMI calculation) doesn’t matter at all if your body fat is in a healthy range – and for most people, they’d prefer a higher number if it means more lean mass.

The reason I get on such a soapbox about this is because clients come to me with either one or two numbers on their mind – their body weight, almost always, and their BMI, if they’ve been told it’s “high” or “obese” or “at risk” – and they lose focus on the actual changes that need to take place in their bodies for better health.

Long story short, whether you are someone worrying about your weight on the scale, or someone who has always had a “healthy” weight but lacks lean muscle (the “skinny fat” issue, which I’ve written a whole post about in the past), it’s time to put BMI behind you and get a solid measure of your body fat percentage (below is an example of a body fat chart so you can evaluate your progress) for a true, meaningful read of your physical fitness.

What’s your opinion on BMI*?  Is it useful at all or do you rely more on BF%?

*a quick note – I actually wrote my Master’s thesis using BMI as a central variable because it is useful in policy recommendation due to estimating power.  That said, for individual case-by-case clients, I broadly favor BF% for the reasons I outlined above.

Would Amanda Eat It?

With the LA Marathon coming up this Sunday (!), I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to fuel for the race.  Granted, I’ve run four marathons before (Surf City, NIKE Women’s SF, Rock N’ Roll Las Vegas, and Boston, for those who care to know), but I’ve run all of those – meaning, trained, practiced, and spent the entirety of the marathon in a full-on run.

This time around, I’m not trained, I haven’t practiced, and I don’t plan to run the full 26.2 miles without stopping.  I tried a 3/1 (run/walk) interval on Sunday for a quick 12 miles and it worked wonderfully – I was able to complete the distance in less than 10-minute miles but without soreness or fatigue, and felt like I could definitely keep going if I had to.

All of this aside, the main point of this post is fuel – what would Amanda eat on the race course?  In the past I’ve stuck to water and GU, but what’s really in that GU stuff?

They come in all flavors, but my personal favorite (and the one I rely on) is Peanut Butter.  The nutrition facts are simple – 100 calories, no fat, 50mg sodium, 5g sugar.  The ingredients, however, are not so much…which brings me to my (brief) assessment:

The good:

  • a straight shot of glucose and fructose means you are getting instant, easily-processed energy that goes straight to the bloodstream
  • fat-free
  • relatively low sodium compared to other “sports nutrition” products

The bad:

  • guys, it’s sugar syrup in a packet.
  • more than that, it’s processed sugar syrup, which means loads of preservatives and “blends” (fancy names for more chemicals that purport other health benefits)
  • 25g carbs including all that straight sugar

The verdict:

  • would I eat it?  Yes, and I have – in every single marathon I’ve ever done.  But is it the best form of race day nutrition?  Well…

The alternative:

  • Because GU is just convenient, portable, shelf-stable sugar, it’s popular.  But eating straight candy is almost the same thing, if you don’t mind chewing – and low-fiber, high-glucose snacks like, say, a Pop Tart (yes, I’ve actually used these as fuel during long bike rides) are sometimes more appetizing than a packet of gel
  • If you’re going clean(ish), sweet potatoes, yogurt-covered almonds, or raisins can give you the same boost of carbohydrate power without the laundry list of chemicals that even the “cleanest” processed product is destined to have

What do you use to fuel long runs?  Are you a GU fan – or do you eschew the GU?

Lessons Learned in Transit

My dear readers!  As I noted in my last entry, I have not forsaken you – I’ve just been traveling, recovering, and reestablishing my routine post-travel – which has taken about a full week to process.

That said, the travel in question was both far-flung and exotic – IMO, the best kind of travel.  My husband and I honeymooned in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and the United Arab Emirates (Dubai/Abu Dhabi).

Hey look! It’s the Maldives! Everyone always asks me where they are.

The first question I got when I told people this travel plan was where the hell are the Maldives?, followed by why the hell are you going to Sri Lanka?  Both are legitimate questions, I guess, but I think that any good trip has a good mix of leisure (i.e. the white sand beaches and water villas of the Maldives) and adventure (i.e. a leopard safari in Sri Lanka).  Too much of either is a recipe for either boredom or exhaustion…

…which brings me to today’s blog topic – lessons I learned while planning and executing a major trip like this.  There’s a lot we did right, but as with anything, a lot we could’ve done better.  I want to share my best advice with you guys so you can make your next trip stress-free and smooth sailing.

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Seaplane tickets – booked by the resort, ready upon arrival, and handed to us over a nice cool drink in the airport lounge. VIP!

Use a travel agent.  I know what you’re thinking – this isn’t 1998, and we have the internets now.  But when planning something complicated like a multiple-stop, multiple-destination flight itinerary, seaplanes, safari resorts, and a whole host of other variables, you want someone else doing the gruntwork.  Sure, you might pay a bit more, but premium service (like personalized pickup at the airport, “VIP” transit perks like expedited customs and private vehicles, and even a free honeymoon dinner at our resort) can be the difference between feeling relaxed and at ease versus confused and rushed.

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Coffee break on safari with our non-safari attire

Read your itinerary.  Carefully.  Both Nick and I overlooked the fact that we were going on an actual wildlife safari – when we skimmed the itinerary, we more or less looked at the cities we were visiting and the hotel names and that was it.  We didn’t realize we were going for a full-on, tents-and-Jeeps safari experience until, well, we were in it – without proper clothing, shoes, hats, or cameras.  I ended up wearing my workout clothes (which got basically destroyed) and borrowing Nick’s shirt; he was in warmup pants and a baseball hat.  It was definitely not ideal safari attire, but we hadn’t realized the ins and outs of the (vast and long) itinerary (which listed the day as a “visit to a park”) until it was too late.  Case in point: read every single detail, ask your travel agent if you have questions, and make sure you’re ready for anything.  Speaking of which…

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NOT a tropical paradise, but it WAS my view for 31 hours.

Be ready for anything.  Yep, even on your honeymoon, things can go awry – I was definitely not ready to walk off the side stairs of a plane into three feet of snow and sit around the Istanbul airport for 31 hours.  Nope – I was dressed to waltz off a plane into the balmy tropical Maldives weather – but we got stuck along the way, and all I had to soothe myself was a (dying) Kindle and some contact solution.  I never thought we could get stuck for that long and didn’t bring closed-toe shoes, a change of underpants, or chargers for my electronics.  It was a tough test of our mettle and a frustrating loss of money (since weather-related delays mean no refunds), but having clean, warm clothes would have made a world of difference.

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Our stomachs were fully “healed” by the time we had to eat this magnificent Lebanese feast

Approach every experience with gratitude.  Besides the aforementioned delay, we also got a (brief) stomach bug that resulted in a day of puking and a couple days of “limited” eating and cold sweats – but we didn’t let it get us down.  We were so grateful to be where we were (Asia), doing what we love (traveling) that we just laughed through it – and when we look back at pictures of our amazing honeymoon, the bad stuff just disappears.  When you think about the privilege of travel – seeing new things, meeting new people, tasting new food, experiencing new cultures – all the annoying stuff just pales in comparison to the opportunities that travel affords.  It is truly the thing that makes me feel most alive.

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One of the three fish I caught!

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Modesty, thy name is abaya

Try new things.  Related to the above, we did a lot of stuff we’d never tried before – night fishing in the Indian Ocean (loved it!), Ayurvedic massage (never again), glamping (absolutely life changing), and stand-up paddleboarding (ok, we’d done that before, but never in the wide open ocean).  Whenever our tour guide or travel agent suggested something we were unsure of, we quickly answered “yes!” rather than “well, we don’t know…” to make sure we had the fullest, richest travel experience possible – and we had an even more amazing trip because of it.  Dance with the local Maldivian band, put on your abaya and check out the local place of worship, eat the cheeks off the just-caught barracuda – just say YES!  Most of the time you won’t regret it, and if you do, it’s not likely that you’ll be forced to do/try it again, so just go with it.

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My amazing scarf atop the Dambulla rock temple, Sri Lanka

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Gazing out into the ocean blue, Maldives

Finally, let your budget fly (relatively) free.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not rich, I’ve never been rich, and I don’t foresee being rich in the near future.  I also try not to be spendthrift.  But that being said, I am definitely one who will save up – and spend money on – experiences.  I balked at the idea of spending $34 on a hand-spun Sri Lankan silk scarf, but then I realized that I may never be back to this region of the country, $34 wasn’t going to break me, it would help the women who actually made the scarf, and it was damn beautiful.  So I bought it.  We didn’t want to get a (wildly overpriced) massage in the Maldives, but once we settled into the heated, plush massage beds overlooking the ocean with the sound of gently lapping waves lulling us into a sense of utter freedom and relaxation, well, the “sting” of the cost suddenly melted away.  If you spend your entire trip worrying about money, you’re never really vacationing – you’re just stressing about your everyday life in a place that looks different.  Save up, spend the money that it takes to experience life in new ways, and know that you can always tighten up the budget when you get back home – and back to reality.

What are your favorite travel tips, readers?  Where’s your next vacation destination?