Monthly Archives: August 2011



I was browsing my Yelp reviews for my favorite workout, Dance Dance Party Party, when I read this review:

At 6:50 two overweight, older, tattooed ladies arrived and began to set up the studio and posted signs on the building telling people where to go.  I’ll be blunt.  I thought if these were the instructors this class was going to suck.  I wasn’t just coming to dance around.  I was coming for a workout.

Then, huge sigh of relief as the young, graceful instructor Catherine arrived.  I am a dancer but the free-form format felt awkward at first and I took awhile to warm up to it.  Some of my classmates were experienced dancers and others not so much, but everyone loved to dance.  I got over all the initial weirdness and really got into it after the first couple of songs.  Catherine played great music.  A mix of rock, pop and hip hop.  Really great remixes.  I enjoyed it and it was a great workout.  I will totally come again.

See, I was one of those “older, overweight, tattooed” girls helping to set up (and btw. I’m only 24). I have no affiliation with DDPP at all. I just occasionally get there early enough to score rock star parking, so I volunteer to help set up lights and speakers.  And if you are familiar with the DDPP set up, there are NO instructors. There’s just Den Mothers- lovely ladies who collect the money, clean up, and monitor the room for judgey-pants and talkers. They dont teach, lead, or even scream motivational mumbo-jumbo at you. That’s the best part of DDPP. It’s all you, and having these thoughts can ruin an experience.

While I’m glad that this girl was “relieved” when a smaller girl walked in and led the class, I cant help but feel like she missed the entire point. This review, while overall positive and earning a perfect star report, shows just what is wrong with some gym goers these days- judging the class by the classmates or instructor.

My first spin class was horrible. There were 6 people there, all who were beyond experienced. The instructor talked of bandit-ing the Chicago marathon while the other girls chatted like it was nothing to do hill sprints. I spun in a corner- residing myself that I would never be one of those girls and lamenting about how out of place I must look. I’m almost twice the size of the girl next to me and I’m falling behind…


I came back the next week. And the week after that. AND the week after that. Now, I’m a regular. Apparently, the instructor worries when I skip a session. A year later and I’m going faster and farther than most of the girls. Oh, and I can sit there and gracefully chat like it’s nothing. I still worry what I look like compared to the rest of the class when I’m in position 3 and my big ass is facing a window…

Certainly not like this.

I’ve also been on the other side of the spectrum. I’ve judged the instructor. My first yoga class 4 years ago was with a woman about 40 pounds heavier than what you imagine a yoga instructor to look like.

But DEAR GOD she worked my ungraceful body in to a firey sweat. And to be honest, I haven’t yet met a teacher as good as she was.

We spend so much body shaming others and judging abilities based on appearances that it can truly take away from our experience. It doesn’t matter if you are there to lose 10lbs, 100, or maintain… we are all there getting healthy. I find it admirable and inspirational to see a bigger person sweating up a storm on the treadmill or lifting weights- just as I find the skinny girl jogging past me as something to aspire and push to.

The same goes for the self negative thoughts. I often revert back to the “biggest girl in the room” mentality when joining new classes or lining up for a race. I dont know if that part of me will ever disappear as it’s always been there. I’ve learned to get past it only because I find it to be a hindrance when I’m trying to learn new things.

So, to the reviewer: Yes, I may not be at the perfect size, but I’ve come prepared to dance. I’m going to put a smile on my face, leggings on, and some whacked out tshirt. And while you are standing there judging the book by its cover, I’m going to be writing my own, more awesome page.

Jump. Jump. Jump around.


Chicago Bucket List


So. My last post was a bit sad. I keep thinking over how I really haven’t done much during my Summer. I can sum up the highlights pretty quickly:

  1. Went to soooo many Dance Dance Party Party sessions
  2. Celebrated my birthday on the roof with a kickass dinner and then went to Six Flags
  3. Watched panoramic fireworks from every angle of the city
  4. Ran a 5K with my niece cheering me on, a 10K in 90+ degree temps, and made it through my first Half Marathon
  5. Had a sleepover with the same niece where we I got burnt at the beach, had a lovely dinner date with the robot monkeys, walked in the Faces Fountain, and sang along to Beauty and the Beast in our private balcony seats.
  6. Two FIRE games with my favorite Ginger. During one of them, we had our own waitress to bring us our salted pretzels.
  7. Sang along with Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Flaming Lips, Decemberists, and Paul McCartney
  8. Applied for my Master’s degree

I might have missed something, but those were the key events. I really didn’t travel much or spend a ton of money on any one thing.

All of this got me thinking. Without the ability of traveling, I need to make a Chicago Bucket List- a list of things I’ve always wanted to do in this city but haven’t had a chance.

1. Hot Dougs- It’s true- I’ve never been there before. But oh have I lusted after this place and their tricked out hot dogs. Seriously, they have a rattlesnake hot dog on the menu this week!

2. Bulls and Blackhawks game- My professional sport teams have included the Cubs, Sox, Bears and the Fire. And while I’ve seen the Wolves play, I have never seen the Blackhawks. And I’d really like to break out those 1996 Bull horn hats we got as kids. Maybe I still have my Jordan jersey?

3. Take banjo lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music- I learned guitar from 3 sessions, now I want to take it to the next logical step in the hippy progression and take some banjo classes. This is a serious goal. It will happen.

4. Find the Mac and Cheese food truck… or any food truck for that matter- I hear it’s amazing. So why can I never find it!

5. Watch and then participate in the Chicago Marathon- Have I not talked about this enough?

6. Ice skate at Millennium Park- First step: Learn how to ice skate.

7. Bike the Drive down Lake Shore Drive- Or, just get a bike.

8. Full Moon Fire Dance- This apparently happens right outside our apartment. But it’s where a ton of fire dancers go on full moons to do some pyro dances and drum circle it up. There’s one on the 12th, so I might just have to go…

9. See an opera at the Lyric Opera- As someone with a degree in music, the fact that I haven’t gone to see an opera here is alarming. Very, very alarming.

10. Kayak on the lake and river- This is supposed to be an AWESOME tour of the city, and the rates are pretty reasonable. But the stench of the river might be a bit too much for me to handle.

I could add more… a lot more. But now I’m interested. What would you add to my Chicago bucket list?

Dream Land


It’s Friday. (thank goodness) And I’m out of here an hour early.

To be honest, I’ve got nothing planned for the next two days. Fitness wise, I cant go to my regular spin class because of some Summer Fest and I’ve only got a short, 10K run on Sunday scheduled. My loving boyfriend will be out as well.

So, cue the music, I’ll be….


Meh, it’s alright. I-will-survive. I’m downloading a new book to read. (BTW, this book was a fantastic, cheap read. Well worth the $1 to download.) And I’ll make some super awesome chicken and shrimp tacos for dinner. I’ll put on some horrible bad, scripted reality show and call it an evening.

Truth be told- I’ve been in dream land this entire week. I’ve finally come down from post race high and have gotten back in to my normal fitness. After conquering my dream race, everything is just as it was. And I’m left to again dream of new clothes, vacations, household items, etc…. things I currently cannot afford.

I mean, you really cant blame me of dreaming about vacations. I haven’t been out of the midwest in YEARS. I was hoping that this or next year would be the time when I FINALLY get on a plane and go. I had the Disney Princess Half Marathon circled in my calendar since last October. And I studiously planned a full scale Scottish adventure with my sister for this Spring.

Knew it!


I had even hoped that maybe, just maybe, we could get away this Labor Day weekend, even if for just 3 days. You could probably already guess that my dreams were smashed by overcrowded and overpriced destinations.


There are currently more pressing needs right now. Like shoes and pants. Both which are getting worn down and showing major holes. My shoes are getting so bad that I had to superglue the heel and the shoe together. At work. For real.

I thought that the duct tape would have clashed with my outfit.


Oh, and I really want one of these:

Dogs with hyperopia need love too!


Oh! And my thighs would thank me if I finally put down some cash for one of these:

But there are bills to be paid, rent to be divided up, and groceries to be eaten (or destroyed in a poor attempt to make country fried steak). So, for right now, I’m just going to dream. The weekends are always the best time to reflect on just how 20-something-poor you really are…



I am not a patient person. Ask, well, pretty much anyone. I cannot wait for anyone or anything without a bit of frustration. This applies to me too:

  • You’re not running fast enough. You should be faster by now.
  • Why dont you have the money to do this. You’re 24 with a full time job. You shouldn’t struggle to give yourself a vacation.
  • You’re not loosing enough weight. You’ve been at this for almost a year now.
  • Math? You shouldn’t need to review basic algebra terms.
  • It doesn’t take that long to make a decision about your clothes.

It goes on.

And on.

And on.

Now that I’m back from my injury workout vacay, I’m working on this one step at a time. This morning’s run was gorgeous. The sunrise was right in my face, the people smiled as they passed, and I felt great. That is, until I didn’t. A dull pain I normally push off became a sharp pain. And there was my impatient self again, “You rested a week. That should have been long enough.”

Ok. Breathe. Push it out of your mind. Some things you cannot control, and oddly enough, a lot of that is your body.

For some, weight loss comes quickly. It did in my first 5 months. And then, nothing. I was running more and fueling it better, but the body is finicky. It wants to take off weight on its own time, not what you think you should be doing.

Same with learning a skill. Any teacher can tell you that not every student will pick up on a concept or a skill at the drop of a hat. It takes a ton of practice and patience. For me, I’m relearning math concepts for my GRE by doing daily quantitative practice exams first thing in the morning. On my Droid, I’ve downloaded vocab flashcards and have been playing for a good two weeks. Am I getting better? I think so. My practice exams have improved over the last two weeks. But nothing drastic.

I still have to remind myself that whether it be fitness, math, or challenging vocab words, none of this comes easy to the majority of the population. People get older, their minds forget. And when we need to recall something we have learned or reset our body back to square one, we have to be patient with the process and with ourselves.

When I find myself dwelling on it too long, I make charts. I have one for weight loss and measurements, one for my savings account, and another new one for my practice test exam results. Seeing progress over time motivates me and reassures me about pitfalls I may encounter.

But, then there is the issue of being patient with others. How does one deal with other people when their patience is running thin?

Relationships, all types, depend on a certain level of trust. I either trust you or I dont. There’s really no in between for me. If I trust that you are going to call me back, then you better get to your phone within a reasonable amount of time. And if I trust that you will come around to your senses, dont expect me to try to knock it in to you after the fact. I swear that I will be there with a big “I told you so, dumb ass.”

I told you that you shouldn't have gotten such a stupid tattoo. I TOLD YOU SO!

I understand that this isn’t the most patient way of thinking about it- that people make mistakes and slip up. Our generation seems to be extremely flaky, especially in the way of making and keeping promises.

Like I said, I’m working on it. I’m trying to give people the chance to prove me wrong and build back some leeway with me so I’m not impatiently waiting on their replies to emails or notes of forgiveness for past transgressions. Will this help me with my inability to wait on things/people without getting in a tizz? I doubt it. But it will it ease me of some of the crushing stress I put on myself. God, I hope so.

DIY: Monogram Piggy Banks


I’m taking a break from my normal posting topics to share an awesome gift I made for a friend’s bridal shower.

This lovely (and lucky) lady mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago that she really loved pigs AND that she wanted to buy a piggy bank. I also know, through the countless of emails we send to each other daily, that saving money is important to her and her future hubby.

So, I set out to find a piggy bank and personalize it for the bride and groom. This gift cost me about $12 in total, and could be done cheaper if you already have the materials… which were:

– A printed monogram, letters, stencils, etc.
– Scissors (the smaller, the better)
– Small pieces of tape
– Pencil, preferably a darker tone. I used a darker drawing pencil
– Acrylic paint and a very thin brush (I used a size OO)
– Patience… lots of it.

First, purchase a ceramic piggy bank. I got mine at Target.  Wanting as much of a blank canvas as possible, I picked out a piggy bank that had a blank white side and then on the other, a cute little chalkboard. On the chalkboard, I wrote out: “Katie ❤ Larry” and then their wedding date. For the side you plan to do customization, clean and dry the surface with cool water to remove any dirt or manufacturing imperfection.

Now, as we all know, I am HORRIBLE at photoshop. These lack of skills apply to word art creation as well, so I cut this part short and used her AWESOME wedding invitation monograms for my stencil. That being said, if you are going to make your monogram to trace or stencil, I suggest picking something that is thick in lettering and is not interconnected. You can see that mine was pretty thin and connected by the & symbol and the lettering styles. I eventually cut the “&” in half and taped it back together when I was finished.

Place your cut out monogram or stencils on the pg and tape it down. From there, start tracing. Once I finished tracing, I colored the outside as thick as possible to make the lettering fatter and bigger.

My friend’s wedding is in an eggplant color, so I mixed my acrylic paint in a burnt red and bright blue till I got a dark purple hue. Looking back, I wish I had tested the paint on the bottom of the pig in one or two layers. Do not be afraid to do this as the paint can easily be removed with water and a bit of scrubbing.

When painting the monogram in, I started by tracing the outside with the thinnest brush edges and then worked my way from the inside. I did about 4 layers of paint till I was satisfied with the thickness and coloring.

If you make a mistake or colored outside your lines, all you have to do is wet the back end of your brush and gently scrape off the paint. I used this method to detail the monogram.

Here’s the finished project next to the invitation with the monogram I used :

Just for fun, I added three hearts- two at the top and one at the bottom. I attempted to add the wedding date in the paint, but it looked odd. I like the simplicity of the monogram on the white of the pig. I felt that adding too much embellishment or trying to match the stylized script would be silly to attempt.

Anyways, the monogram, with all the cutting of the invitation, took me about 3 hours to do. I’m super proud of the results and would love to do more of these in the future for other friends/family members.



Remember how I wrote that my post-race injury report only included two blisters and some underarm chafing?

Yeah. Forget that.

A day after the race, I started to notice that my left shin was super sore. As in, my ankle to my knee felt both stiff and warm at the same time. The same hip is also acting up.

I have been getting shin splints intermittently throughout my training. Most people do. Rookies get it from wearing non-fitted shoes (get yo ass to a specialty running store and have them watch your gait). Intermediate runners like myself get it from running too hard or too long on hard, cement based surfaces.

Eventually, all that wear and tear results in painful… um… tears in the front part of your shins. Here’s a helpful medical drawing:


The only way to cure it? Well, dont do anything on it until it stops hurting. Really, there is no way to make this better. No stretches you can do that will make the soreness go away, and frankly, even icing it just dulls it for awhile. It needs to be coddled like a baby.

And then you can run again…

Which means, that I am out of commission this week. It’s lucky because this weekend’s planned 8 miler would have been hell with Air and Water Show traffic along my path. I prefer my runs to be quiet reflections, not adventures in tourism.

And because I’m taking a week off running, I’m taking off a week of exercise- which sounds horrible. (and it is)

To be quite honest, I ran that race with just about everything in me. The little fibers of my body need to rest and recover right along the duly injured shins. I’ve been dealing with lower back pain for about a month now. Thinking that I would be able to afford myself a nice, professional massage after this race, I ignored it and kept pushing it. Now, well, even sitting is making me cringe.

On a side note, if you could spare about 80 bucks for me to go see a professional, I’d be so ever grateful. I’m taking donations.

So, that’s what is happening this week (aka… nothing).

But, in other news, I finished applying for my Master’s program yesterday. So exciting and scary. I really, really wish I would have focused more in my undergrad on my non-music electives. Some of those classes really hurt my overall gpa. Oh, and that Jazz Tech class, which I stupidly took my freshman year before I understood jazz chords. Frack.

The man, the myth, the lengend... Doug Beach. Yet, even he couldn't teach me how to snap my fingers.

Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon RECAP


So many of you are asking for it, so here it is… my race recap! It’s going to be long and I may or may not ramble. I’m an emotional recapper.

Let’s start on Saturday. SOB and I headed down to McCormick Place for the Health and Fitness Expo. I have mixed feelings about these things. For the most part, I love getting free things (the Qdoba nachos and cheese were divine), but I am usually overloaded with coupons and race pamphlets that get thrown out anyways. So not green. 

But, I did walk away with lots of larabar samples, a Star Trek messenger bag (which went to SOB for putting up with the expo), an awesome Sweaty Band (more on that later), and a 13.1 car magnet. I also bravely changed my estimated end time from a very slow pace to a less, but still horribly slow pace so that I could move up in starting corals. And, I got an XS tshirt. Yes, an XS.

After a pretty sleepless night, my alarm rang at 4am and I hopped in the shower, got in my running gear (Target top, Brooks running shorts, Mizunno Wave 6 shoes, and my sweaty band). After many check and re-checks of my gear, I was out the door at 5am:

A vision of blue...

Clouds were starting to become more and more ominous as we walked from the L stop to the starting line. Weathermen predicted sun, but the weather was more of dark blue, scary shit. It all died down after my porta-potty-pit-stop and some stretching.

Getting nervousssss.

The corals started going just around 6:30 and my coral, #27, moved slowly to the start. My hand started shaking as they called each coral number, and I inched closer to the line. When #26 went, a race organizer started yelling for everyone to go, so I said screw it and began to run.

My garmin (a gps based watch that tells you your time/pace/distance/and more) started fuzzing out as soon as we started the downtown and through the first of many overpasses. Throughout the race, my distance would be about .2 miles ahead of the race markers*. My watch read a pretty fast time for me, so I just thought it was off. I felt that I was going slow and conservative, which was good for maintaining.

*Edit/Addition: There’s been a ton of twitter buzz on this issue with GPS watches saying the course was about .5 miles longer than 13.1. I sincerely felt like the 1 mile marker was off because of the underpass, but I trusted that it was just my GPS. Now, after plugging the map course in on some map applications, I’m still getting 13.4 miles… which would be awesome considering my PRs.*

The race itself was pretty entertaining. Not a ton of chatter between runners, but so many people out and watching. One of my favorites was a random guy (alone) at mile 3 and 4 dressed up like Will Ferrell and banging on a cowbell. The poor guy didn’t even have rhythm… he was just out there banging on a cowbell… in costume.

Of course, this got everyone screaming "More Cowbell"

At every 2 miles, there was a local cover band playing Nirvana, Styx, and Journey.  There were also cheerleaders dressed as KISS members… many who ended up looking like ICP members.

The aid/water/refueling stations were every one and a half miles, which felt pretty good. Even though there wasn’t much cytomax (a gatoraid like drink that is pretty necessary after running over an hour), I felt fueled up and less dehydrated than usual. The wet sponges near the end were also a nice touch, but became a hazard when you were at the back of the path and had to run on piles of them.

The race itself went very quickly. As I said, I felt very conservative until I passed the 5K mark. It was a personal record by about 30 seconds. The hills and bridges helped slow me down near the middle, but when I hit the 10K mark and saw my time, I was floored. It beat my old record by 3 minutes! I started to panic that I was going way too fast and that I would fizzle out. But, doing a body check, everything felt wonderful.

At mile 7, I spotted B in the crowds. I cant describe to you how I felt when I saw him wave at me. Because it was during a walk interval, I stopped, hugged him, and talked about the race for a couple seconds. Spotting him and getting some time to go re-focus certainly helped me pull through the next half.

Miles 8 and 9 flew by. I cant even tell you where we ran. Oh wait, yes I can… here’s a map. All I remember was that the blueberry gu they were passing out tasted pretty darn good (added to my shopping list). The rest of the time, I was in da. zone. My intervals were slamming. My legs felt wonderful. And my heart rate was in the cardio, but not near death, zone. It felt perfect.

Mile 10 was in the dark. Like, literally. Running through McCormick Place’s underpass tunnel was pretty scary. I couldn’t see a thing and I kept imagining tunnel rats or that subway scene from Cloverfield.

... And then she gets eaten or bit or something terrible

At mile 11, it began to rain. There I was, with less than 2 miles left of my first half marathon and it was f-ing raining. I finally removed my sunglasses and picked it up a bit. At one point, while suffering in the rain, I knew that I could walk the last two miles and still finish in the time I wanted, but that wasn’t me. I had the last two miles. I had trained in the rain, and a little drizzle and wind was certainly not going to stop me.

…And that’s when the reality of it all hit me. One year ago, my only form of exercise was occasionally taking the stairs. In October, 2010, I started running again. And now, 10 months later, I was RUNNING A HALF MARATHON AND FEELING DAMN GOOD. This wasn’t my goal race, the Disney Princess Half was, but I settled on it. I built it up in my head. And now, with two miles left to go, I was going to finish it. The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming.

A man holding a very large “You Got This”sign brought me to tears as the 12 mile marker passed. 12.5 miles was the furthest I had run up until that point and I was about to go even further. I took my last cup of water and made it to the finish line- all while Mika’s “We are Golden” played on my headphones.

I crossed the line, hands raised in victory, and gladly picked up my medal, a water, a popsicle, a bottle of cytomax, and a waiting SOB. We celebrated with brunch at Tweet, a short nap, and some popcorn.

As for injuries- I felt great after the race. Really, felt wonderful. All I can report are 2 blisters (where I usually get them) and some chaffed arms. This morning, I woke up feeling very stiff and achy. My original plan was to buy myself a professional massage, but I cant afford it right now.

Here are my official results, btw: And yes, I’m slow. Please be nice.

Pace 5 Km 10 Km 10 Mile ChipTime ClockTime
13:04 38:56 1:18:54 2:09:15 02:51:18 03:08:26
OvrPl SexPl DivPl Bib First Name Last Name City State Chip Time
13312 7952 1273 28*** Michelle Ar***** Chicago IL 02:51:18