Taking in a game of flag football on the National Mall

For a live photo assignment for my Digital Storytelling class, I took shots of a group of friends playing flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011. It was cold, but their enthusiasm and interest in my assignment made it fun!

Thanks guys!

A group plays flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011, with the Washington Monument as a back drop. From left to right in the foreground, Max Hankin (maroon and yellow hat), 27, Galen Brazely (red hooded sweatshirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., Meredith Davis (all black), 25, of Arlington, Va., Tulsi Condenzio (light blue T-shirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., Jason Kurtis (dark gray), 27, of Bethesda, Md., and a friend (red long sleeves and gray hat) wait for a play to start.

A group plays flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011, with the Washington Monument as a back drop. From left to right in the foreground, Max Hankin (maroon and yellow hat), 27, Galen Brazely (red hooded sweatshirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., Meredith Davis (all black), 25, of Arlington, Va., Tulsi Condenzio (light blue T-shirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., Jason Kurtis (dark gray), 27, of Bethesda, Md., and a friend (red long sleeves and gray hat) wait for a play to start.

Anna Fisher, 28, of Washington, D.C., enjoys a laugh during a game of flag football with friends on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

Anna Fisher, 28, of Washington, D.C., enjoys a laugh during a game of flag football with friends on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

Adam Soghiglan (beige hat with football), 25, of McLean, Va., slips by the opposing team while playing flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011. Gary Burke (white long sleeves), 28, of New Castle, England, Galen Brazely (red hooded sweatshirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., and Tulsi Condenzio (light blue T-shirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., try to take down Soghiglan before he reaches the end zone.

Adam Soghiglan (beige hat with football), 25, of McLean, Va., slips by the opposing team while playing flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011. Gary Burke (white long sleeves), 28, of New Castle, England, Galen Brazely (red hooded sweatshirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., and Tulsi Condenzio (light blue T-shirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., try to take down Soghiglan before he reaches the end zone.

Peter Kieldgaard, 26, of Washington, D.C., looks on as Jason Kurtis, 27, of Bethesda, Md., raises his arms in victory alongside teammate Anna Fisher, 28, of Washington, D.C., during a game of flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

Peter Kieldgaard, 26, of Washington, D.C., looks on as Jason Kurtis, 27, of Bethesda, Md., raises his arms in victory alongside teammate Anna Fisher, 28, of Washington, D.C., during a game of flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

Galen Brazely, 27, of Arlington, Va., recovers from an "accidental" tackle while playing a game of flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

Galen Brazely, 27, of Arlington, Va., recovers from an "accidental" tackle while playing a game of flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

Sarah Arruda (black hat), 23, of Boston, Mass., Meredith Davis (all black), 25, of Arlington, Va., and Anna Fisher (neon green hat), 28, of Washington, D.C., look back for the football while playing a game of flag football with friends on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011. Arruda, Davis and Fisher were three of five girls that played in the game.

Sarah Arruda (black hat), 23, of Boston, Mass., Meredith Davis (all black), 25, of Arlington, Va., and Anna Fisher (neon green hat), 28, of Washington, D.C., look back for the football while playing a game of flag football with friends on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011. Arruda, Davis and Fisher were three of five girls that played in the game.

Tulsi Condenzio, 27, of Arlington, Va., assesses his passing options with the Capitol building looming in the background while playing flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011. Teammates Adam Soghiglan (left in beige hat), 25, of McLean, Va., and Gary Burke (right in white long sleeves), 28, of New Castle, England, look for the throw.

Tulsi Condenzio, 27, of Arlington, Va., assesses his passing options with the Capitol building looming in the background while playing flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011. Teammates Adam Soghiglan (left in beige hat), 25, of McLean, Va., and Gary Burke (right in white long sleeves), 28, of New Castle, England, look for the throw.

Anna Fisher, 28, of Washington, D.C., looks apprehensive as an opponent approaches. Fisher and friends enjoyed a game of flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

Anna Fisher, 28, of Washington, D.C., looks apprehensive as an opponent approaches. Fisher and friends enjoyed a game of flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

Seth Rosen, 25, of Arlington, Va., looks to pass the ball during a game of flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011. Adam Soghiglan (left in beige hat), 25, of McLean, Va., runs right, while Jason Kurtis (middle in dark gray), 27, of Bethesda, Md., and Galen Brazely (middle behind Kurtis in red hooded sweatshirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., anticipate the play.

Seth Rosen, 25, of Arlington, Va., looks to pass the ball during a game of flag football on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011. Adam Soghiglan (left in beige hat), 25, of McLean, Va., runs right, while Jason Kurtis (middle in dark gray), 27, of Bethesda, Md., and Galen Brazely (middle behind Kurtis in red hooded sweatshirt), 27, of Arlington, Va., anticipate the play.

A group of flag football players chats before heading their separate ways after a game on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

A group of flag football players chats before heading their separate ways after a game on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2011.

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Get to know George Knowles

George Knowles on Jan. 22, 2011

George Knowles on Jan. 22, 2011

Listen to the two audio clips below to learn a little bit about my cohortmate (term I’ve created), George Knowles. The first audio clip is George answering the question, “If you could interview any living person, who would it be and why?” The second is a great story that George told me about an old Volvo he had while living in New Mexico. Enjoy!

Interview – George Knowles

George’s Volvo story

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These boots were made for walking…on snow

I’m going to venture a little off topic and talk about footwear today, and not the athletic kind. I’m in the market for a new pair of snow boots. Winter in D.C. pretty much necessitates a pair of sturdy, waterproof boots. Today is no exception. Not only is there four to five inches of snow on the ground, but a layer of slushy ice beneath that. Standing and moving water are just about everywhere, not to mention the giant slush puddles that form moats around street corners. After work last night, I walked to the Metro in the heaviest sleet I’ve ever encountered. It was pouring ice! My feet, in Steve Madden suede boots (they were the best option I had!), were soaked through at the toes in a matter of minutes.

8th and Pennsylvania SE at 9:00 p.m., Jan. 26 (Photo by Anna Miars)

8th and Pennsylvania SE at 9:00 p.m., Jan. 26 (Photo by Anna Miars)

I’ve been meaning to get a new pair of snow boots since my last pair bit the dust after Snowmaggeddon (lest we forget what it looked like, here are some great aerial photos) in February 2010. Of course, ordering a pair now will guarantee that D.C. won’t get any more significant snow fall this season, but at least I will be prepared in the future. Plus, there’s always next winter. If nothing else, my new boots will give my cold, wet toes some piece of mind. It’s amazing how many different pairs of shoes you need when you don’t own a car. I can just hear my Dad sigh. But really, there’s no escaping the weather when you have to walk everywhere!

Below is a sampling of the boots I’ve come across in my search. I haven’t purchased a pair yet, but I’m leaning toward the Sorel Tivoli. I’ll be sure to add a photo of the ones I choose!

Cute, but still practical
Sorel Tivoli

Sorel Joan of Arctic

Onitsuka Tiger by Asics Snow Eden

Performance
Columbia Bugaboot XTM

The North Face Snow Betty

Keen Hoodoo High boot

Fashionable
Michael Kors Vail boot

Aquatalia Artsy Over-the-knee Weatherproof suede boot

Technica Skandia Classic Boot

Which is your favorite?

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What’s your flavor, tell me what’s your flavor

From The Berry Mob blog

From The Berry Mob blog

Since I got a little heavy in my last post (body image, genetics, self-acceptance, etc.), I thought I’d keep it light today and talk about flavored water. If you drink as much H2O as I do you’re bound to grow tired of it from time to time. I probably drink between 15 and 20 12 oz., glasses of water per day if not more. I’m like a fish. If I’m not properly hydrated I get sleepy, cranky, hungry and a whole host of other nasty things. I also get headaches and I’m more prone to cramps. Glass after glass of cold, plain water can really get to me though. I don’t want to drink soda or iced tea or juice because I don’t want the extra calories or the sugar. Plus, the hydration that those beverage provide pale in comparison to water. If I’m not at least going to get the same benefits as water, why bother? So what to drink that is equally thirst quenching, but still healthy? Tea is one option, but really only good in the winter. It’s not easily portable or enjoyable after a workout either. My usual go-to option is unsweetened, flavored water when I want/need something different. I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners, so my flavored water must be free of sugar, real or engineered. Here are some of my favorites:

HINT Water – Available in a wide range of flavors from raspberry-lime to blackberry, HINT is refreshing without being overpowering. There’s just a hint (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) of flavor. The more exotic flavors like honeydew-hibiscus and tangerine-pomegranate lend a sense of decadence to the experience.

OWATER – More heavily flavored, but still light and fresh. It’s electrolyte enhanced, perfect after a long workout. The flavors are more basic, peach, lemon-lime, mandarin orange, but they taste so good you’ll wonder how they do it.

Metromint – Minty fresh, water doesn’t get more cool than this. Chocolatemint to cherrymint, each flavor is both invigorating and calming. Delicious anytime, anywhere!

Another option is to make your own flavored water. You’ll not only save money, but do the planet a big favor by reducing plastic waste (even though I’m sure you recycle!). Check out these websites for step-by-step instructions:

www.fitsugar.com/Make-Your-Own-Flavored-Water-6390395

http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=363742

www.wisebread.com/eight-natural-ways-to-make-water-more-flavorful

What are your favorite water alternatives?

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When your genes don’t fit

Oh heredity, how you frustrate me so.

Getty Images

Getty Images

We acquire or become predisposed to a wide range characteristics from our biological parents. Our parents are predisposed to certain characteristics from their parents and back and back. You can’t fight your genes. They been in the works as long as humans have existed. Whether we see ourselves in our parents or not, we share many of the same physical and behavioral traits as well as predispositions to medical conditions. Despite any feelings I may have about my genetics, I’m stuck with the hand I was dealt (as we all are). Genes hold the information to build and maintain our cells. My height, body shape, predisposition to weight gain, musculature, etc. are all part of my genetic makeup. Even though you may not love everything about your body, it’s possible to make the most of the traits you have and improve on those that you’re less than happy with. While you can’t actually change the way you were made (unless you go under the knife), it is possible to eat, exercise and take care of yourself in ways that mitigate the things you don’t like and emphasize the things you do.

Often you are your own worst enemy. It always feels like your flaws are glaring and hopelessly obvious to every other person on the planet. This isn’t true; you notice way more about yourself than others. Again, you are the keeper of your own self-confidence. If you take the time to do the things that make your body and mind excel, you can become the very best version of yourself. Remember, that it all starts with the commitment you make to yourself. You can shape yourself into the person you want to be, within reason of course. You’ll never be taller, have bigger boobs or change the shape of your nose. That being said, and it’s important to understand that you can only transform your body within certain limits, a happier, healthier you is within reach.

Exercise. We all have certain parts of our bodies that we want to slim down or tone up. Spend some time looking into individual exercises as well as routines that will help you achieve the specific goals you have in mind. Figure out what workouts and strength moves will give you the results you want and get started! Be patient and work hard, but don’t forget to be realistic. Check out these exercises to discover your fittest self yet:

Three Proven Thigh Slimmers
Toned Arms
Firm Butt
Sexy Abs

Clothes. Think about what looks best on your body. Super tight or baggy/frumpy rarely look good on anyone. Learn how to dress your body to not only feel confident, but show off your best assets. Check out these tips from style experts:

How to Dress Your Body
Fashion Tips for the Hard to Fit
Styling for Your Body Type

Diet, Sleep, Hydration. It’s important to eat well, get enough sleep and stay hydrated. Bloat, dull skin, chapped lips, puffy eyes, etc., can result from not getting the right nutrition, lack of sleep and too little water. Too much caffeine and/or alcohol can also contribute to looking and feeling less than your best. Invest in taking the time to give yourself the TLC you need to look and feel your very best:

Seven Food to Keep You Young
Food for Healthy Skin
25 Ridiculously Healthy Foods
Hydration and Health
Information on Getting Healthy Sleep

Certain things are set, but many are not. Never discount the change you are capable of!

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Ouch, my aching knees!

For me, sore knees are a fact of life. My left leg is shorter than my right by about a third of an inch and unfortunately my knees end up paying the price. My right knee overcompensates while my left knee often feels overextended attempting to keep up with its slightly longer companion. Despite this biological defect, I love to run, hike, snowboard, and generally participate in high-impact, high-intensity activities. I’m not a yoga/Pilates or stay indoors kind of girl. While I refuse to be sidelined by my short leg, I have to be more careful and allow my body longer recovery periods between activities that wreak havoc on my lower body. For example, I can’t run everyday or even a three days in a row. My knees just can’t take it. When I played soccer in high school I could go for about three weeks before needing to take a week off. A full day of snowboarding is almost impossible. While it’s less than desirable to deal with physical impediments, it’s something most of us will encounter as some point in our lives. I don’t mean for this to be come off as a complaint. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You have to acknowledge and accept what you can’t do and find ways to overcome your limitations. Fighting a losing battle only results in frustration and disappointment. It can be quite empowering to discover ways to make your body work for you that you never thought possible. Even though I’ll never run a marathon, I can complete a 5K or 10K with the right training. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Learn how to minimize harm to parts of your body that are prone to  as well as when you’ve hit your limit. This will allow to move forward without injury. Achy knees, twisted ankles, a pulled hamstring, etc., are bound to happen when you’re active, but you can take preventative measures to minimize how often and to what extreme. for those of you with knee problems, below are some tips from Harvard Medical School’s HEALTHbeat to help ease knee pain.

  1. Stay active. The knee was made to bear weight, but wasn’t designed to go it alone. Strong, flexible leg muscles take a great deal of pressure off this joint. That means exercise is key to healthy knees.
  2. Easy does it. Take it slowly when starting an exercise program. Too many people try to reform overnight, only to injure themselves or get discouraged when the exercise seems too difficult. They stop and are right back where they started — sitting around getting creaky.
  3. Simple is the solution. You don’t need to buy expensive treadmills or contraptions. To get started, all you need is a good pair of walking shoes, a level surface (the mall, a high school track, a well-maintained sidewalk), and, the hardest part of all, some willpower.
  4. Price is right. The traditional recipe for treating a knee that swells up and gets sore is RICE: rest, ice, compression (wrapping it in an elastic bandage, but not too tightly), and elevation (which drains away fluid and blood). Physical therapists have added protection as a first step, so RICE becomes PRICE.
From http://216.74.18.90/image/122/totalknee/knee-anatomy.htm

From http://216.74.18.90/image/122/totalknee/knee-anatomy.htm

For me, stretching is a major component of preventing injury, especially to my knees. Take the time to stretch properly and thoroughly. Also, be sure to warm up and cool down. This gives your body a chance to acclimate to increased or decreased activity. Strength training to reduce knee pain is also incredibly important. Strong muscles around the knee decrease stress on the joint, preventing future injury. Try these exercises for bad knees. A few of my favorites include:

Step ups. Using an aerobic step bench or a staircase, step up onto the step with your right foot. Tap your left foot on the top of the step, and then lower. As you step up, your knee should be directly over your ankle. Repeat with your left foot.

and

Partial Squats Stand about 12 inches away from the front of a chair with your feet about hip width apart and your toes forward. Bending at the hips, slowly lower yourself halfway down to the chair. Keep your abs tight, and check that your knees stay behind your toes.

Whatever your trouble spot(s) may be, don’t let it stop you from being active or accomplishing your fitness goals. View it as an opportunity to push yourself beyond what you’re used to and reach your goals even if it is more challenging to do so.

What pain do you face when it comes to exercise and how do you overcome it? Share your stories in the comments section!

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The ABCs of Zzzz’s

Sleep is so very important to leading a happy, healthy life. The day always seems longer and basic tasks seem harder when you don’t get enough sleep. For me, my productivity drops to pretty much zero. Even if I know have things I want to do and feel compelled to accomplish them despite being tired, I usually can’t make myself do much of anything. My good intentions are there, but not the will to follow through. Today was one of those days where I could barely keep my eyes open let alone get anything done. I get so frustrated because I know I will pay for my unproductive day over the course of the week. What’s done is done and all I can do at this point is do my best to get a good night’s sleep tonight and try to recoup by losses tomorrow. But, how do I go about that exactly?

I’ve learned that I’m not the best sleeper. I don’t fall asleep quickly and I can’t go to bed too early or too late. My particular circadian rhythms don’t allow for much flexibility. I got to bed around 11:00 p.m. and wake up around 7:00 p.m. most days. Slight variations aren’t a problem, but if I push the whole schedule back like last night, in bed at 3:00 a.m. and up at 11:00 a.m., nothing seems to happen like it should. Even when I’m completely exhausted, my body seems to fight sleep. I take forever to fall asleep, I toss and turn, I wake up every couple of hours, I can’t stay asleep in the morning. My circadian alerting system is all thrown off. Clearly, my body has a natural cycle, one that doesn’t take kindly to deviation. Even on the best night, sleep doesn’t always come easily. Stress, alcohol, caffeine, jet lag, too much physical activity, etc., can all contribute to your body’s inability to shut down and repair itself.

During sleep, we pass through five distinct stages. Each stage serves a different purpose and builds upon the previous stage. Below is a detailed description of what happens as part of each of the five sleep stages: (information taken from a National Sleep Foundation article, “What Happens When You Sleep?“):

NREM (75 percent of night): As we begin to fall asleep, we enter NREM sleep, which is composed of stages 1-4

Stage 1

* Between being awake and falling asleep
* Light sleep

Stage 2

* Onset of sleep
* Becoming disengaged from surroundings
* Breathing and heart rate are regular
* Body temperature drops (so sleeping in a cool room is helpful)

Stages 3 and 4

* Deepest and most restorative sleep
* Blood pressure drops
* Breathing becomes slower
* Muscles are relaxed
* Blood supply to muscles increases
* Tissue growth and repair occurs
* Energy is restored
* Hormones are released

REM (25 percent of night): First occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and recurs about every 90 minutes, getting longer later in the night

* Provides energy to brain and body
* Supports daytime performance
* Brain is active and dreams occur
* Eyes dart back and forth
* Body becomes immobile and relaxed, as muscles are turned off

From http://www.ibspro.net/

http://www.ibspro.net/

When we don’t get enough sleep or don’t sleep well, our bodies aren’t able to reboot. Sleep is essential for normal, day-to-day functioning. Muscle repair, memory consolidation, hormone regulation, healing, etc., all take place while we slumber. In order to wake up feeling refreshed physically and mentally, both quantity and quality of sleep are important. Here are some tips from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for getting a good night’s sleep:

Set a schedule:

Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. “Sleeping in” on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycle for a later awakening.

Exercise:

Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Daily exercise often helps you sleep, although a workout just before bedtime may keep you up. For maximum benefit, try to exercise at least five to six hours before going to bed.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol:

Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and keeps you awake. Coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers contain caffeine. Don’t drink alcohol close to bedtime as it robs you of deep sleep and REM sleep, and keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep.

Relax before bed:

A warm bath, reading, or another relaxing activity can make it easier to fall sleep. You can train yourself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.

Sleep until sunlight:

If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day.

Don’t lie in bed awake:

If you can’t get to sleep, don’t just lie in bed. Do something else, like read, watch TV or listen to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to keeping you awake.

Control your room temperature:

Maintain a comfortable temperature in your bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep.

It’s not always possible to follow the tips above, but we should all strive to get restful sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle. Here’s to a good night’s sleep!

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Single Photos – Thursday, January 20, 2010

Leanne, 56, who lives at N Street and 22nd Street NW, feeds a growing group of birds in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. She was blissfully unaware of the cars, buses and people slowly making their way around the roundabout on a Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Leanne, 56, who lives at N Street and 22nd Street NW, feeds a growing group of birds in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. She was blissfully unaware of the cars, buses and people slowly making their way around the roundabout on a Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Environmental Portrait. This photo shows the busy, fast-moving world beyond Leanne and the birds. It conveys a sense of time and place.

House Finches, Carpodacus mexicanus, perch on a bench closely watching passersby in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Miars)

House Finches, Carpodacus mexicanus, perch on a bench closely watching passersby in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Timing. The birds were constantly moving. I was able to catch them all sitting still for a few seconds. This photo reminds me of a group of old men sitting, watching the world go by.

A House Finch waits for a morsel of bread to come its way. A diet Coke can was stuck among the bushes the birds call home in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Miars)

A House Finch waits for a morsel of bread to come its way. A diet Coke can was stuck among the bushes the birds call home in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Color. This photo captures the colors of a winter day: grays and browns. The bushes add the only vibrant color in the scene, plus the glint of metal from the soda can.

Leanne, 56, feeds bread from her fingertips to adventurous birds in Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. Despite the cold, Leanne never put on her fur coat. She mentioned that she thought it might have kept the birds away at first. "It looks like a big animal to them," she said. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Leanne, 56, feeds bread from her fingertips to adventurous birds in Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. Despite the cold, Leanne never put on her fur coat. She mentioned that she thought it might have kept the birds away at first. "It looks like a big animal to them," she said. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Composition. This photo shows Leanne in her element. The newspaper she sits on, her fur coat and cart, the loaf of bread and her interaction with the birds. It also captures the way she sat, hunched over, the entire time I was there.

A young House Finch hides among the bushes behind a bench in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Shy, but curious, many of the House Finches were bolder than they first appeared. (Photo by Anna Miars)

A young House Finch hides among the bushes behind a bench in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Shy, but curious, many of the House Finches were bolder than they first appeared. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Subject-to-camera distance. I got close slowly and stayed still for a time until the bird became more comfortable and stopped flitting around. The birds seemed to feel safe in the bushes.

Leanne, 56, tosses small bits of bread from the second full loaf she brought with her to Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Sometimes she goes back to the nearby Safeway to get more bread. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Leanne, 56, tosses small bits of bread from the second full loaf she brought with her to Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Sometimes she goes back to the nearby Safeway to get more bread. (Photo by Anna Miars)

Lighting. The sun helped to bring depth to this photo. It was warming both literally and figuratively. The light also complemented Leanne’s skin and hair color.

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Motivation, it comes in all shapes and sizes

motivation!

motivation!

Motive is defined by Merriam-Webster as “something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.” Most of us struggle not only to find, but hold on to motivation (a motivating force, stimulus or influence). In takes a lot of effort to eat well and exercise on a regular basis. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always the easiest path to follow. Already, the gym seems a little less crowded than it was just after New Year’s. I think maintaining any lifestyle that necessitates going against the grain a bit can be difficult. Opportunities to abandon your resolve are everywhere (cookies your coworker brought in, a last-minute invitation to happy hour, a long day). But so are opportunities to stick with and feel good about your healthy choices.

Let me start by saying that I’m no saint. People always seem surprised that I too sometimes struggle with going to the gym or resisting overindulgence. It’s very hard! And, now and again my discipline falters and skip a workout or eat too much . You don’t have to have an iron will to live a healthy lifestyle. You just need to know when it’s OK to let yourself off the hook and when to push past temptation. For me, I know how much better I will feel if I squeeze in even a quick workout (I sleep better and I’m less stressed) or pass on dessert (I don’t feel bloated and overly stuffed). Experiencing positive results does help to keep you on track. The key is to know your weaknesses and find ways to overcome them. Below are some tricks that I use to cajole myself into doing what I know I should.

To get myself to the gym, I try to draw on the good feelings I had after my last workout. Anything from a sense of accomplishment and pride to just plain satisfaction that despite my busy life, I made time for me! Sometimes I tell myself you need a good stretch or to work through the day’s anxiety and/or stress. If I’m tired, I remind myself that I will sleep even better tonight if I use up some physical energy. If I’ve been especially diligent, I might reward myself afterward with a small treat, like a mini brownie from Pret A Manger or an extra glass of wine when I get home. A pedicure is a nice gift to yourself as well. A little pricey, but a great food alternative. Your feet, which play a key role in pretty much any kind of exercise, will thank you! Lastly, sometimes I just have to be tough with myself. You planned to exercise, you should exercise, you’ll regret not exercising, etc., so just do it, no excuses!

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I recognize that my heart is just isn’t in it and so going to the gym would be a lost cause. Focus and some level of investment is necessary for me. When this happens, I make a deal with myself. I won’t workout today, but tomorrow I’m going to hit it hard again. Don’t let this become a pattern. Once you start letting yourself out of things, it will become increasingly harder to stay the course.

When it comes to food, I use many of the same methods, but as deterrents. I tell myself why I shouldn’t eat everything on my plate, get the venti instead of a tall, or order dessert when I’m already full. I think of the times I’ve done those things and wished I hadn’t. Ultimately, it comes down to loving yourself more than loving food. Never deprive yourself, there are too many amazing things out there to not indulge moderately, but know when enough is enough. Sweets should be a special treat, so reach for them only when you know that you’ll really savor them. Don’t keep anything sweet at home that way you’ll never have the opportunity to sabotage yourself. Always try to think about whether or not you really want something, whether it’s really worth the guilt you might feel and then act accordingly.

In the end, all I can say is that only you have the power to make the decisions that are right for you. I do believe that we all could make more time to give ourselves the TLC we deserve. When you do trip up, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes and tomorrow is always a new day. Keep at it and know that as long as you are making mostly good choices the rest really doesn’t matter!

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Let it snow, so I can run in it!

I had considered going to for a run before work this morning, but when I woke up to find a thin layer of ice on pretty much every surface I decided against it. Ice is a no go (in pretty much all situations except maybe ice skating), snow on the other hand adds a nice level of difficulty to a run.

Running in the snow from http://myfirst5k.wordpress.com

Running in the snow from http://myfirst5k.wordpress.com

Preparation and gear are important though, so be sure to plan ahead. I’ve read on many other blogs that you should run on more heavily traveled sidewalks or paths as packed snow is easier to run on. This may be true, but I enjoy the challenge of blazing my own trail through the snow unless it’s just too deep (more than 6 to 8 inches for me). Plus, the fluffy white stuff is less slippery, offering better traction than the packed down white stuff. Either way you’ll need to be extra cautious and pay close attention to your foot falls regardless. To make the most of a snowy day run, check out the tips below:

1.) Step gingerly. Shorten your stride and don’t push-off with as much force. Running in snow is a lot like running in sand. You’re forced to take short powerful, controlled steps which in the end result in a great lower body workout.

2.) Avoid icy patches. Any areas that aren’t covered with snow may very well be icy. If you see a sheen on the road, sidewalk, etc., don’t step on it if you can. Alter your course. If there isn’t a way to go around, slow down and take a very short step. If you do start to skid your other foot will be right there to help you stabilize. When in doubt, walk through an icy stretch.

3.) Dress appropriately. You’re out to enjoy the peace and serenity of a snowy day. Don’t let the cold ruin it for you! Wear a light, base layer (another good option) that will keep you dry. On top of that add something that will keep out the wind and seal in warmth. Remember that the extra body heat you create while running will make it feel 20 to 30 degrees warmer, so don’t over overdress. You’ll be miserable if you’re too hot.

4.) Don’t forget about your toes and fingers! Wear heavier socks (I like SmartWool) that will keep your feet not only warm, but dry too. Thin athletic socks, the kind you wear to the gym or for a run in warm weather just won’t cut it. Your fingers need to be kept warm and dry as well. Be sure to try on a pair of gloves before purchasing them as construction, thickness and level of stretch can effect comfort and ultimately performance.

5.) Prevent heat loss. It’s true that you lose a good deal of heat through your head. Capitalize on that heat source by retaining it. Wear a hat! There are a wide variety of hats designed specifically for winter running that are both effective and stylish. A scarf can help keep your neck and chin warm as well as keep the wind from chapping your lips. I’ve never run with a scarf, but I think it sounds like a good idea on an extra cold day.

6.) Lastly, be sure to run when it’s light (at least light enough to spot icy patches!), wear reflective gear and watch for cars and bikers. You want people to see you just in case you don’t see them first. Be cautious and enjoy the winter running season!

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