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It’s Friday. My rest day. Rest days lately have felt like a treat. I used to feel like they were undeserved or unnecessary – but I’ve been enjoying them. Even better, my rest days now come with an assignment: to write myself a love note. (Spoiler: it’s really tough to write amazing things about yourself.) But since I love challenges and love, I’m all about this.

And tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! While I think it’s fantastic that we devote a holiday to showing love to our significant others, I think we, in general, show far too little love for ourselves. In honor of my rest day assignment and also Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to finish and publish a piece that has been sitting in my drafts for four months.

love you, too

For a really long time, I’d been uncomfortable with the way that I looked. It was never at the forefront of my mind, not something that consumed me or something that was important enough to talk about – but it was there. I enjoyed photography because it took the focus off of me, allowed me to see the beauty in other things and people, and kept me from being in front of the camera. Photoshoots with friends growing up always involved me putting on way too much makeup and editing down a set of 200+ photos to one or two that I was okay with – after it went through Photoshop.

That’s just how I felt about myself. I kind of thought that it was normal. People all around me complained about their bodies being “too fat,” “too thin”, “too tall”, “too short,” “too ugly,” “too hairy,” “too bald.” Everyone was too something. It was totally abnormal to be happy with yourself, or if you were, you hid it.

I’d go to the beach and only take my shirt and shorts off right before I’d get in the water. I’d sleep on my back at night in hopes that my stomach would shrink into itself. I once heard that a neighbor of ours would sleep with saran-wrap wrapped around her torso to suck things in – as everyone else spoke negatively, all I could think was that’s a good idea. I’d wash my hands in the public restroom but never dare to look up in the mirror – I didn’t want anyone else to think that I was admiring this body that was “not worth the admiration.”

Losing those 15 pounds has been a miracle for me. Sure, I lost some chub, but I don’t actually look all that different from my heavier self. The biggest change has happened in my head. Granted, I knew this change was coming about slowly, but it still comes as a shock when I realize how long it’s been since I felt uncomfortable in my body. Sure, I have bad days – days where I eat or drink too much and it reflects physically. Days where I break out and have to pull out the makeup. Days where I’m just in a bad mood!

But… I’m happy with myself. I realize, in retrospect, that losing the weight wasn’t really what I was after – though it was my goal at the time. I was never looking for a specific number on the scale. I was never hoping to fit into a certain clothing size. I was looking to be happy. I was looking to love myself. I was looking to prove that I could conquer something. Losing weight was a test.

Now, when I see a picture of me that I dislike, I don’t hate myself for it. I can accept that it’s just a horrible photo, not a reflection of who I am or what work I have left to do.

My legs that I always thought were so small and frail-looking: can carry me up 6,000-ft mountains and down the street 13.1 miles – and later this year, 26.2! I love my legs.

My stomach that rolls up when I sit: can endure (without complaint) feasts of popcorn and calisthenic ab torture.

My arms that were never worth phoning home about: can do pushup after pushup after pushup!

My wide, spherical face: can smile bigger than the best of them, has a dimple and looks like a Raymond face.

This is my body.

Do you ever play favorites when it comes to your workout clothing? I do, that’s for sure. The more I run, the more I realize that I favor a few pieces of clothing over the rest. (Confession: I probably haven’t even worn half of my activewear in over a year. Time to donate?)

I even have a pair of cold weather leggings that I fold more delicately than the rest. I love these leggings. They were my half marathon gift to myself. Today I want to talk a bit about the Mizuno Breath Thermo Layered Tight.

Spice & Dice - review: mizuno breath thermo layered tight
(Photo from Mizuno.)

Before I purchased these, I thought it was pretty normal for my running leggings to slowly ride down. No matter how tight or well they fit, if I wasn’t sweating, I’d have to yank the waistline back up every few minutes. I’d even wear my Flipbelt for no other reason than to keep my pants up!

One day back in November, a Mizuno representative visited my local running store and talked a bit about the new Wave Rider 18s and also discussed the thermo technology apparent in some of their cold weather running tops and the tights. I was intrigued to say the least.

Spice & Dice - review: mizuno breath thermo layered tight

These babies aren’t cheap: they’ll run you $70. I felt nauseous dishing out that kind of money on a single pair of bottoms. Until that moment, all of my running apparel and shoes had come from discount clothing shops like TJ Maxx. Spending over $15 for a pair of bottoms was unheard of.

Spice & Dice - review: mizuno breath thermo layered tightBut now I am in love with these tights.

They are so far above and beyond any other running bottoms that I own. They are worth every penny. I do my laundry specifically so that I can wear these again.

They do run a bit small – I had to go up a size, but the fit is immaculate and they are so comfortable. There is a drawstring in the front of the waistband that you can pull to tighten. I find that, even without tying it, it doesn’t really loosen – as long as I pull it taut enough.

They don’t cut into your waist. The waistband is nice and thick and it’s seamless in that area, so when you take the tights off, there aren’t any elastic lines on your skin. I always look to that as a sign that they fit well!

They don’t fall down. Not even a little bit. Once they’re on, they’re on.

They’re warm. This is a big one. They are made out of a fiber that generates heat when it comes in contact with moisture – such as sweat. This is perfect for cold weather running – it’s awful when your swear freezes or stays close to your body and chills you for your whole run. The fiber in these pants heats up that moisture!

They have ankle zippers. These have saved me a few times. I showed up to a group run wearing wool socks under the tights because I had forgotten proper running socks. Luckily, at the last minute, I was able to get a replacement pair of socks. Instead of having to remove my tights, I just unzipped the ankles, removed the tall wool socks, and put my new socks on! No dressing room required.

The length fits me perfectly – but I wouldn’t recommend for anyone who needs a “tall” size normally. They cut off around my ankles. I can imagine that anyone with longer legs would run into a bare ankle problem.

There is a pocket in the waistband. It fits a key (or two) perfectly. Gravity and the fit of the band around your waist keeps anything from falling out. I wouldn’t put anything too heavy in there – it may affect the fit. But the pocket it perfect for small things like keys, workout notes or some cash!

They’ve made it through the washer and dryer 4-5 times now and have no signs of wear and tear. They didn’t shrink in the dryer either!

I’m so excited about these – I had to share my thoughts with everyone. If you’re looking for some warm running tights for your winter running (it looks like more snow is on the way here in the northeast!) that fit and are comfortable: go get you some!

This post is not sponsored. I was not paid to write this review, nor was I provided with the product free of charge. All thoughts are my own.

Spice & Dice - marathon monday: snow snow snow

It’s now week 5 of marathon training! (Although I would almost argue that it’s week 2 – since I started with my coach at the beginning of February.)

How is everyone dealing with the snow currently being dumped on the Northeast once again? Snowfall has been on my mind a lot, especially now that a lot of my runs have pace and/or speed work involved. It’s been a stressful few weeks! Shovel. Work. Shovel. Work. Repeat.

Let’s recap some highlights of the week, shall we?

First off, recovery. After the Mid Winter Classic, my primary job was to recover. To allow my body to ease back into a normal training schedule. I’m don’t normally get sore after races or long runs. I’m not sure why that is. I even have a history of being very bad at stretching/rolling/taking care of myself after a big mileage day.

However I raced this event. I was a little bit sore in certain places. I felt it mostly when I sat down, actually. I gave it a day or two and it went away completely. Thank you body. Thank you.

Next I want to address a topic that has been on my mind lately. A few months ago (maybe almost a year ago?) K1 wrote this awesome blog post about being all in. I remember sitting in my car before work and reading through the email that contained that post. It really spoke to me. It still speaks to me. A huge part about training has been about the dedication to myself and the sport and being, at all times, All-freakin’-In. That’s a great feeling! Between the Santa Hustle Half and the Mid Winter Classic, winter running had been a series of waiting and playing it safe.

I don’t really like the gym. I much prefer being outside for my workouts – but sometimes snow brings the Possible Amount of Misery (PAM) experienced outside above the Definite Amount of Misery (DAM) experienced at the gym. Joking aside, a fell into a sort of lull for those few months. Running wasn’t bringing me the same sparkle it once had – and I’m sure the treadmill and snowmassacre had a great deal to do with it. Almost immediately after the Mid Winter Classic, that love of running that I had been missing – it was suddenly there. And really alive!

That love reminded me about being All In; what it means and what it requires. I feel like you can be All In in spirit but also in the moment. You can mentally commit yourself to something – to promise to give 100%, but it’s nearly impossible to give 100% – 100% of the time. There’s just not that much to give. So there’s a disconnect between what you want to do and what you actually do. I find that with running, you have to learn when to be All In physically and when you need to be All In mentally. Either way – I love the discussion the blog post created in my head.

I’m learning that running at a slower pace doesn’t mean that I’m not working hard or trying. Running at a slower pace isn’t going to make me slower or ruin my speed conditioning. That walking every now and then isn’t a crime! (I always used to think that there was so much shame in walking in the middle of a run, even for a few moments.) Not every training run is a race.

And that’s okay – because I can still be All In while walking or doing an easy run or a recovery run. I’m not any less committed to my goals if I’m not constantly banging out PRs.

Spice & Dice - marathon monday: snow snow snow

In other news. I ran my first long run since the Mid Winter Classic yesterday! I got really lucky because we were supposed to get nonstop snow from Saturday night until Tuesday morning. Luckily, it had only snowed ~1 inch Saturday night and held off for most of Sunday morning. I was able to get out there and fit my run in before the conditions got worse!

It wasn’t the greatest of runs – it had its lows (strong opposing winds, freezing face mask, deep snow in areas) but it also had its highs. There was a duathlon going on around Back Cove that looked like fun. I seemed to arrive there as the event was winding down because those who I passed were walking their bikes, joking around with each other. They didn’t seem to care too much about the competitive aspect of the race – and instead were there to have fun. A few of them high-fived me – that really brightened up the run and kept me motivated. To pay it forward, I gave some encouraging words to the remaining athletes that I passed. There was an awesome father-son team dressed in costume! The father was Link and I’m not entirely sure who his kid was dressed as, but they were creative costumes!

Alright – that’s probably enough rambling for a Monday. (Although I’m of the opinion that Mondays are the second-best day of the week – behind Thursdays.)

At the risk of sounding like a Buzzfeed article, I’ve decided to pay homage to some of my favorite (and revolutionary) kitchen gadgets. I spend a lot of time cooking and/or baking. It’s a favorite pastime for me – I find it both relaxing and invigorating. Cooking is the perfect creative outlet for me. Over the past few years, I’ve tested and acquired a lot of fun and useful items for the kitchen. These are the best of the best.

Before I begin, I want to mention that I am not being sponsored in any way by any of these companies. These are items that I’ve purchased using my own money and continue to use and love because they rock!

Let’s continue, shall we?

Spice & Dice - kitchen items that have changed my life

The Spiralizer. You know those gadgets that you just had to have? The ones that you conveniently walked by every time you went into the store; that you added and removed and then added to your Amazon cart 15+ times? And when you finally bought it you never used it? Yeah well this isn’t one of those items. Since I got this beautiful piece of machinery back in December, I’ve used it at least twice a week. I love the spiralizer. It basically does anything that my mandoline does not. Do you have kids who just don’t eat enough vegetables? Spiralized veggies are cool. Any kid who brings spiralized carrots and sweet potatoes to school is setting a new trend. Plus, now with awesome blogs like Inspiralized, you now have hundreds of awesome spiralizer-inspired recipes.

Spice & Dice - kitchen items that have changed my life

One of Those Fancy Can Openers That Opens It From The Side. You know what I’m talking about. Those smooth-edge can openers. Not only do they reduce the potential harm to the operator – they actually work. I open countless cans of black beans, pumpkin and coconut milk per week and I can’t stress how amazing it is to have a can opener that works every time without slipping up. I feel like I can truly appreciate the power of the smooth-edge can opener, having graduated recently from a $.99 can opener that would carve 75% (at most!) of the can. I have resorted to dangerous knife-wielding measures to finish what the darn can-shredding contraption started. Seriously – just treat yourself to a good ‘un.

Spice & Dice - kitchen items that have changed my life

The Rice Cooker. I pretty much fought, kicking and screaming, to not have one of these. I had been offered various models for free from family friends, but politely declined. Why would I want something like a rice cooker taking up room on my counter when cooking rice is already so easy? When I received one from my parents as a Christmas gift, I had to reel it in. Alright. It was time to figure out what the fuss was all about. While this, admittedly, hasn’t quite changed my life, it’s changed my cooking routine quite a bit. I no longer have to watch the rice pot to see if it’s boiling because I’ve got this nifty little gadget that cooks the rice for me – and somehow so quickly, evenly, and without burning the bottom. I’ve used it a few times since receiving it, and funny enough, the first two times I used it weren’t even to cook rice. I’ve made quinoa in it and steamed broccoli. This little rice cooker is so handy and just so cute. I can’t not love it.

The Garlic Press. So it’s been three days since you made that scrumptious garlicky dish. You’re typing away at work, putting your makeup on, hanging out in downward dog – or whatever you may be doing on a lovely Wednesday morning such as this. And then you smell it: that familiar garlicky scent. Where did that come from? The answer: it’s under your fingernails – and it’ll be there for at least three more days. We all know the half life of the ever-present garlic scent is a fortnight. Now picture this: the same routine but without the garlic scent. That’s because you used the garlic press! You may be sacrificing protection from certain undead individuals for a socially acceptable smell – but its benefits outweigh the risks. Beyond preventing the under-the-fingernail garlic stench, the garlic press has halved the time I spend peel-to-chop-to-dice-to-mincing the darn cloves. Worth it.

Spice & Dice - kitchen items that have changed my life

The Cookbook Stand. Not quite your average “kitchen gadget” – the cookbook stand has been a dream come true for a cookbook collector such as myself. While this doubles quite nicely as a laptop lap desk, this stud really comes alive in the kitchen. Actually, it mostly just sits there – and doesn’t actually move at all. But it does protect my cookbooks from food splatters and stains – because I do make quite a mess in the kitchen.

Spice & Dice - kitchen items that have changed my life

The KitchenAid Stand Mixer. You called it. I couldn’t possibly leave this one off the list. The KitchenAid mixer isn’t exactly in everyone’s budget. It’s a beast of a thing with a monstrous price tag. But it’s transformed my baking. For each of my friends’ birthdays, I bake a cake or dessert of their choice. Along with that comes the freshly made whipped cream. So now I can set the KitchenAid up to whip the heavy cream into shape and leave the room – rather than attempt to have a mature, adult conversation while standing over the bowl holding a hand beater and getting showered in cream. Everybody wins! I actually think the thing I love the most about the KitchenAid is that it’s harder to over-mix with it than it is with a beater. There’s no slow function on a hand beater: it’s either off or it’s throwing my batter around the room. The stand mixer, the beater’s sophisticated older cousin, is capable of peacefully stirring my ingredients because my baking actually matters. Thank you stand mixer.

What’s on your list of life-changing kitchen items?

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I had been anticipating this race for months. Like a few other races around here, registration is extremely limited – to 1,000. It always amazes me how many people are ready to jump in line to run 10 miles in the cold. Then I remember that I’m one of those people. I’m one of the 1,000 runners who set their alarms for 5:45 on November 24 and anxiously stared at their computers screens, waiting for the 6:00 sign-up.

And I’m so glad that I did.

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