On December 31, 2013, as I sat down to write a new list of goals I wanted to accomplish in 2014, panic overwhelmed me. 2014 would be the year I turned twenty-five. Twenty-five. A quarter of a century. Officially the mid-twenties. The last milestone before the big 3-0. A giant step closer to old.

Yes, the panic fell upon me in a suffocating rush. I jotted down some goals, but they didn't feel like enough. I was about to be twenty-five, for heaven's sake. Twenty-five! These goals had to be big. And I had to get moving, fast.

I can't really explain the shift that occurred in my brain. But you know, ten years ago, even five years ago, twenty-five felt so far away. As a teen, when I pictured my twenty-five-year-old self, I saw a beautiful, shapely woman with long, dark brown curls. She was married to an equally attractive, amazingly cool guy. They were the parents of an adorable kid (or at least pregnant with one). They lived in a lovely refurbished old house in the historic district outside some really awesome city, where they had great jobs they were good at and truly enjoyed doing.

At twenty-one, I still had this same vision. Then around twenty-three, I began to realize this scenario was very improbable. Most likely impossible. And toward the end of 2013, as this most recent eighteenth of January appeared in sight, I had what some call a quarter-life-crisis.

I am nowhere close to being the woman I was supposed to be at 25!
I've wasted these past few years doing nothing.
I don't know any more now than I knew when I was fifteen.
What the heck am I doing with my life???

In a way, this was helpful. A much-needed wake up call. A reminder that life is short, and I need to get my tail in gear to start doing things I want to do. That's what my blog is all about, isn't it? Life is for living? So I started looking into changing jobs, going back to school, moving to Birmingham. I logged back into eHarmony and revamped my profile. I started taking Biotin supplements to make my pixie grow out faster.

My birthday came and went. I officially am twenty-five now. And while the day itself was a happy one, and I was grateful to celebrate another year of life, I was saddened to realize that at twenty-five, I remain about as lost and confused as ever. I'm almost as clueless and directionless as I was ten years ago at fifteen. I am just very unhappy with who I am. 

Yeah, there's the unfinished bachelor's degree and the singleness and the mediocre job, but it goes deeper than that. See, that beautiful, long-haired wife and mom version of me from the vision? Her spirit is different, too. She is confident and poised. At peace. She smiles widely, laughs freely, and loves openly. She is radiant with joy.   

I am far from that person. I get on my own nerves. I continually find myself wallowing in self-pity. I am jealous of the progress of others. I have too much residual bitterness over things long gone.

In the afternoons, I come home from work so irritated and so angry at the stupid people I encounter, I want to scream, to punch something, to put on my pajamas and never go outside again. I don't have any real friends here because I am too weird and different from the typical deer huntin', camo-and-boot-wearin', tanning-bed-lovin', Bud-Light-drinkin', Duck Dynasty watchin' Alabamian. I am never free to be me around other people here. I go through my days being as polite and friendly as I can be without ever opening up enough to let them see the weirdo-vegetarian-hippie-anglophile I am inside. And if a glimpse of my real self accidentally does slip out, I immediately apologize to the unfortunate witness after I observe their confused, judgmental expression. 

Okay, I'm sure that all sounds very stupid and dramatic, but sadly, that's who I am right now. I'm not happy with it. I want to change. So after heavy introspection, I created this list of twenty-five resolutions for my future. These goals are not like my usual ones. They aren't the simple do-it-and-check-it-off type of thing. These are changes to make, attitudes to transform, habits to break. The kinds of resolutions that will take the next twenty-five years to master.

(If a lot of these sound a little angry, a little bitter, that's because they are. I'm frustrated by all of this. I'm tired of my negative attitude and self-loathing thoughts. I'm sick of burying who I am just to prevent conflict. I want to be a more confident, open person with a peaceful heart and a free mind.)  

1. Stop apologizing for being weird and different. Embrace it. Be confident in who you are. Other people don't apologize for being idiots. 
2. Stop apologizing for not eating meat. Or for saying no to cake and doughnuts and other fatty junk people offer you (and judge you when you turn it down). This is your life. This is your body, and you decide what goes into it. If other people want to eat poison and dead animals, let them. But you don't have to, and you should never apologize for making wise choices.
3. Stop apologizing for being fair-skinned! White people don't tell black people get their skin lightened, and they have no right to insist upon you altering your natural Scottish skin tone either. Own it, love it, don't change it, and don't take nonsense from anybody about it.
4. Stop saying 'yes' to things you don't want to do. 
5. Stop saying 'no' to things you secretly want to do but are too scared/embarrassed/  intimidated. 
6. Never, in attempt to make friends, pretend to care about the stupid things other people talk about all the time. If you feel differently, don't be rude or start an argument, but do not agree with them. No one hesitates to openly judge and/or attack your alternative tastes and opinions. 
7. Never lower your standards and settle for someone because you're tired of being alone, even if everyone encourages you to do so.  
8. Never stop setting goals for yourself and working hard to achieve them. 
9. Never be afraid to turn up the music in your car and sing along as loudly as you can. 
10. Never be cruel or cowardly. Never give up, never give in. 
11. Explore as many new places as possible. Remember there is so much more in this world than this tiny little speck of Alabama. Adventure is out there. Go find it. Just go. 
12. Spend more time with nature. Walk beneath the trees. Sit in the green. The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. 
13. Smile more. 
14. Laugh and be silly whenever possible. Don't worry about embarrassing yourself. Just have fun. 
15. Find three things to be thankful for each day. 
16. Get up early enough in the morning to do a few minutes of yoga, read the Bible, and pray before the day begins. 
17. Journal more. Don't keep your thoughts and feelings inside just because you have no one to tell them to. Constant repression will lead to disaster. Release it with a pen and paper. 
18. Read more books. If you really want to be a writer, reading is the best teacher. So study the craft. And remember, reading gives us a place to go when we have to stay where we are. 
19. Make time for tea. It really does have magical soothing powers.  
20. Wear what you like, what you feel comfortable in, what makes you feel like you. 
21. Make and create as much as you can. 
22. Don't let the muggles get you down. 
23. Always remember, cool isn't cool. 
24. Be love. If you need love, give yourself and be love. Breathe it out, create love. See how things can turn. 
25. Do what you love. Do what excites you. Do the things that make your eyes sparkle when you talk about them. Don't just talk about doing, think about doing, or dream about doing. Do.

Running 101: 5 Things To Make Running Tolerable

Running is one of the most effective forms of cardiovascular exercise for weight loss. However, when you’re first starting out, especially if you’re severely obese, running can be torturous and darn near impossible.

That’s the most common excuse I hear. I don’t run because running hurts. Why, yes, it does. If you’re overweight and/or out of shape, if your body isn’t used to it yet, then yes, it’s going to hurt. But not forever.

The first time I tried to jog, I weighed 239 pounds (I’m 5’6”, so that was dangerously obese for my height). I’ve lost over sixty pounds since then, and looking back now, I’m amazed I ever jogged again after that first try. For the first few months, I had horrible shin pain. But I wanted to be a runner, so I forced myself to do it every other day, and each time, I cried my way around the track and iced my legs as soon as I got home. 

And you know, it’s no surprise that it was such a struggle back then. Just think: it was like trying to run while carrying TWELVE 5 lb. sacks of potatoes!

But I never stopped. When the pain in my shins brought me to tears, I kept shuffling along. When I got a sharp side cramp, I took a quick stretching break, then went right back to moving. I’m not sure I would have been able to do this, though, if I hadn’t obtained the following things along my way. The five items listed below changed everything for me. Running went from pure agony to something bearable to, eventually, something enjoyable and even, dare I say it? Fun.

1. A Really Supportive High-Impact Sports Bra

Champion Sports Bra Double Dry High-Impact - 1602 (click for more)

If you’re a guy, you can just go ahead and skip to #2 (IDK, though, if you’re very obese and dealing with a man-boob issue. I’m not making fun; I’ve always been concerned about what you do in this situation.).

This might cross the TMI-line, but when I first started running, I wore a size 42 DDD. I didn’t know anything about sports bras back then, what high-impact or low-impact meant. Besides that, my chest was so large, it was hard to find a store that sold sports bras that big (I guess they think if you’re that huge, you don’t work out, so you obviously don’t need a sports bra). I ended up buying the cheapest, biggest one I could find. And it was a sad, flimsy thing more suited to yoga. Or sleeping. NOT running.

Words cannot express how difficult running was because of the extra-large bosom. Let’s just say all the “movement” was distracting, irritating, embarrassing, and so very painful.

My friend recommended Moving Comfort, one of the highest rated bra sellers online. But their bras were like $54.00 a piece, and though my friend said it was worth the money, I didn’t have that much money to spend. Instead, I found this AMAZING high-impact (high-impact is the key!) Champion bra at a nearby Leggs/Hanes outlet store. The picture up there is a link to Kohl's website, where they have it for $46.00. But if you can find one of those outlet stores, you can get it for close to half that price.

And let me tell you. This bra was LIFE-CHANGING. Seriously. If you’re a big-chested girl and you don’t have one, you need one. Right now.

2. Decent Running Shoes

Nike Dual Fusion Lite High-Performance Running Shoes (click picture for more)

Again, when I started running, in addition to being severely obese, I was also quite broke (jobless, actually). I had one pair of tennis shoes, a $20 pair of imitation Skechers Shape-Ups that I’d had for two years. Let’s discuss the problems here: 1) They were designed for walking, 2) They were old and worn out, 3) Not that there’s anything wrong with a good deal, but they were cheap, questionable knock-offs to start with.

When I decided I really wanted to get better at running, I sucked it up, saved my dollars, and bought a pair of $65 Adidas running shoes. OMG. The relief on the pavement was immediate and incredible. The shin pain disappeared. And I felt so much steadier (probably because I’d been wearing mini rocking chairs before).

I have since purchased a pair of Nike Dual Fusions, and they far surpass the Adidas. They’re so light and comfortable. I highly recommend them! Yes, they are expensive. But if you're going to be running a lot, you need them to prevent injury. Paying for good shoes is, in the long run, cheaper than doctor's appointments, x-rays, MRIs, and pain medicine. If you can't afford them now, start saving.

3. Compression Pants

Women's Active by Old Navy Compression Pants (click for more)

I gotta say, this one took some major convincing for me. Squeezing my dimply bottom half into a pair of skin-tight pants that aren’t too far from leggings sounded like a very bad idea. Plus, they looked like they would be constricting, like they might cut off circulation. And they definitely looked like they would ride up into places they should not be.

But I was in for a pleasant surprise. They are tight, but it’s just like the sports bra. You get so much extra support. These pants hold all the flab in place while you move, allowing you to move better. And the black ones are surprisingly becoming. If you get the right size, they can actually make you look smaller.

The most comfortable, best-fitting ones I have came from Old Navy. I put the long pants up there because it's cold outside at the moment, but my absolute favorites are the capris:

Women's Active by Old Navy Side-Print Compression Capris (click for more)
Check Old Navy often, because they put them on sale pretty frequently (they're on sale right now, actually).

4. Thick Socks

Saucony Women's Ultra Cushioned Running Socks (click for more)

Two words: Toe Blisters. I’ve struggled with toe blisters and calluses since day one. This is a common complaint, especially if you run often. The pros say that great runners have some nasty-lookin’ feet. And let me tell you, I had a callus on my left big toe that was so hideous, I was embarrassed to take my socks off at yoga class. But there is hope! I’ve found that if I wear extra-thick socks or double up on my usual socks, I won’t get blisters or calluses!

As weird as it sounds, I’ll usually wear two pairs for longer runs. But most of the time, I wear these great thick-yet-breathable Saucony socks. They're a bit pricey online, but I found a pack of 6 for $5 at Ross Dress for Less. There are probably some much better options out there, but these work wonders for cheap ol’ me.

5. A Portable Music Device with Headphones (And Some Awesome Music)

Some people prefer running in the quiet while outdoors, just being alone with the sounds of nature. I like to do this, too. For about three minutes. Then I start thinking about my tired calf muscles. My breathing. How long have I been going? Has it been a mile yet?

I need my music. It’s a great distraction from any pain or shortness of breath or sheer boredom that might occur. And whether it’s classic rock or electric pop, there are some songs that just make you want to move. Running becomes fun when the cadence of your feet hitting the ground matches the beat of the music.

My phone has a built-in MP3 player, and I’ve created several different playlists for different running experiences. I have a rock playlist, an oldies playlist, an epic soundtrack one. It really helps to mix it up.

As far as the other typical ailments go, just hang in there. Force yourself to take long, deep breaths while you’re moving to ease the gasping for breath. Stop and stretch out the right-side pain. Ice those shins. Take walking breaks when you need to, but always come back. Never quit. Never give up. Yes, it hurts, but it won’t hurt forever.

Do any of you experienced runners out there have any suggestions? What helped you when you were getting started? What are some things you can’t run without? 

25th Birthday Shenanigans

Be warned: tons of pics ahead.

On Friday afternoon (Birthday Eve), I came home from work to find a wonderful made-from-scratch Tardis cake that my mom and my sister made. 

Before sunrise the next morning (the 18th, my birthday), I left for Nashville, Tennessee, along with my sister Jessica and our friend Sarah. The three of us set off on this mini road trip looking a tad sleepy-eyed, but we were excited to explore a new city and ready to cross a few things off the ol' Bucket List.

Our first stop in Nashville was a destination that has been on my Bucket List since I studied Greek art and architecture in college. That would be the Parthenon at Centennial Park, a full-size replica of the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

Inside this replica is the intimidatingly ginormous Athena Parthenos, gilded and colorfully painted just as the original would have been back around 447 BC before all the looting and destruction occurred. As an art history nerd, this was all majorly exciting for me.

In keeping with the theme of the morning, we had lunch at a popular local joint I'd seen featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives- the Athens Family Restaurant. I got the Vegetarian Mousaka, which is a warm, gooey casserole made with eggplant, zucchini, carrots, and broccoli, all topped with this mysterious creamy layer of heavenly delight. It was sooo delicious! It came with a fresh, crispy side salad and the best Caesar dressing I've ever tasted. Definitely glad we stopped there.

Afterward, we sneaked into the Gaylord Opryland Resort and wandered around through the endless indoor gardens, stopping only to take pictures by gazebos and waterfalls or to eat freshly made gelato (Bucket List #2!).

We headed across the road to the Opry Mills Mall and spent over an hour at the biggest Forever 21 I've ever seen. Found some good deals, browsed around a bit more, then it was time for dinner. We found a place called The Aquarium, and the tagline caught us: an underwater dining experience. Uh, let me say it. The. Coolest. Restaurant. Ever.

The interior walls and ceiling were enormous aquariums filled with countless species of fish. Nemos and Doris zipped over our heads. Huge sting rays glided by as we dined only feet away.

And I tried creme brulee for the first time (Bucket List #3)! ((Yeah, my Bucket List is mostly food.))

It was time to check into the hotel after that. We were so tired from getting up early, driving all morning, and exploring all day, we had to get some rest. But alas, Matt Smith was waiting for me on my bed.

(Sorry, inappropriate. Couldn't help it.) Sarah surprised me with a very nice book that I can't wait to read along with a wonderful Matt Smith bookmark and a mini sparkly Tardis sticker. (Maybe my Doctor Who obsession is getting out of hand?)

Sunday morning, we got up earlyish and headed downtown to Music Row, where we parked the car and roamed the streets on foot for a couple of hours.

We really enjoyed that pedestrian bridge. There were some incredible views of the river and downtown Nashville from there, and it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. Buuut it wasn't long until it was time to eat again. We stopped by the Hard Rock Cafe, where I got some the best darn veggie burger I've ever eaten. Seriously, Burger King could take a few notes from those guys. That crispy onion ring on top made it.

Sadly, after lunch, it was time to head back down South. However, when we learned there was a McKay store in Nashville, we had to make a "quick" stop. And by "quick" I mean about three hours. (Sarah discovered McKay in Chattanooga; OMG. Used books, CDs, movies GALORE at ridiculously cheap prices. It's Heaven on Earth.) And oopsIbrokemyNewYear'sGoalofnotbuyinganymorebooks. I actually racked up a total of $30. Yeah. Oops.

On the way out, we had to check out this adorable tiny coffee/tea truck called The Trailer Perk. I got a latte and sampled some very tasty scones. I just love these kind of places.

Then it was back to Alabama. *deflated sigh* We spent nearly the entire ride home discussing our next excursion. Where to now?

Anyway, I had a great 25th birthday. All the adventuring (and er, eating) helped me not think about the fact that I am getting old.

Pinterest DIY Experiment: Sharpie Coffee Mugs

If you are an addicted Pinterester like me, you have undoubtedly seen all the pins of cheapo white coffee mugs with super cute handmade designs done in Sharpie. Custom mugs like these cost like $25+ on Etsy, but with the home-oven baking method, you can make your own quite cheaply. 

I've been wanting to try this for a while, so I finally did my research and got to it. I checked other people's blogs and read about their experiences. It seems the best method doesn't use a regular old Sharpie, but a special oil-based paint pen like this:

These, sadly, are a bit expensive. But I didn't want my designs to wash away (which is apparently what happens with a regular Sharpie), so I sucked it up and bought several colors of them at Hobby Lobby. Then I headed to the Dollar Tree to get some plain white mugs.

I brought them home, washed them, dried them, and sat down to make a set of customized Doctor Who mugs for my family as a Christmas gift (yes, the obsession has now affected the entire family, lol). 

A few helpful things I learned quickly that I wish one of those bloggers would have shared:

  • The tips of the paint pens are white and empty at first, and you have to shake them for FOREVER to bring them paint down into them.
  • After all that, you have to press the tips down very firmly against the ceramic to get the darn things to write. (Though once you get used to it, it's not bad.)
  • You can use 100% pure acetone nail polish remover to erase screw-ups. (Just be sure to wash the cup thoroughly after doing so because the toxins in the acetone might kill you. lolz. And don't forget to dry them really well again before picking up the pens again.) ((Really, though, only do this to the OUTSIDE of the mug. You shouldn't even be drawing on the inside of the mug where your beverages will be because of the Sharpie paint.))
  • THE BAKING PROCESS CHANGES THE COLORS OF THE PAINT. I didn't take before pictures, but my Tardis was actually true Tardis blue when I started. After baking, it faded into a more greenish blue. The bright reds turned more maroon. They don't look bad or anything, I just wasn't prepared for it. (btw, the black did not change at all, which was a nice surprise.)

I had several fun ideas for Whovian designs that I wanted to do. I drew them all freehand, using photos of 3-D glasses, the Tardis, a Dalek, etc. from Google search as a guide. I guess you could use stencils or something, but I'm a control freak, and besides, ain't nobody got time for dat. 

Once I was finished drawing, I let them dry for 24 hours. The next day, I put them on a baking sheet and placed them in the cold oven. I turned the oven on to 425 degrees, where they heated up with the oven for 45 minutes. When the timer went off, I turned off the oven, but I kept the door closed and the mugs inside for two hours.

After that, once they were cool, they were ready for use. I've been using them for a month now and they've held up fine so far. I don't have a dishwasher, so that judgment is based on hand washing only. Not sure how they'd do in a dishwasher. Here's some close ups of my favorite designs:

I think the Dalek one is my favorite. I giggled to myself just about the entire time I was making it. I had so much fun making these, I had to stop myself from making more. I have lots more ideas for other designs, but alas, one's cabinets can only hold so many mugs. :(

Running 101: Running Techniques for TRUE Beginners

I always had a secret dream of being a runner.

Growing up, my family took trips to the beach almost every summer. I remember lying in the sand on my towel, self-conscious of my chunkiness and my too-pale skin, watching with admiration as the toned men and women jogged along the shoreline. They looked so fit, so strong, so free. I wanted to do what they were doing. But I was too weak. Running made my legs hurt, and it always got my breathing out of whack.

Fast forward a few years later. I’m twenty-three, working in a busy doctor’s office, and I'm morbidly obese. I’ve given up on a lot of things in my life, especially that old secret dream of being a runner. Then I observe two of my co-workers. Every evening, when it’s time to go home, they slip into the bathroom to swap their scrubs for tech tees and compression pants. They come out looking like different people. They’re excited. They’re ready for something awesome. I hear them chatting about their upcoming races. They’ve done 10Ks, 15Ks, half-marathons, triathlons. I don’t even know what half of those are, but it all sounds so exciting.

I feel that old feeling again. I want to do that.

I decide to do a "3K." I do some research and learn I’m confused; it’s called a 5K- five kilometers, three (+0.1) miles. Guess that’s where I got the 3 from. I stumble upon the Couch to 5K program online and resolve to give it a try. My sister, who is willing to do it with me, accompanies me to the park. We walk briskly for five minutes. No biggie. Then it’s time to jog, to alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.

Confident and excited, I take off jogging. But I don’t make it to 60 seconds. Somewhere around 45 seconds, I stop. My chest is tight and heavy. I am gasping for breath, sucking in air so desperately it hurts, wheezing so loudly it's echoing off the payment. I’m completely humiliated, but I can’t control it. It won’t stop. My sister looks horrified. Her eyes dart around to see who all is watching as she tries to help, but there’s nothing she can do. When I finally recover, we walk. No more attempts at jogging that day. I leave deflated. I was supposed to do 60 seconds of that every 90 seconds for 20 whole minutes? And on day one?

What do you do when the Couch to 5K program is too advanced for you? Even though I had no disabilities but obesity, I felt like I needed a Bed and Oxygen Tank to 5K program. Maybe I could handle that one.

Well, it took over a year, but I went from that to running an entire 5K. The C25K promises it will get you there in two months. I surely didn’t do that, but I got the same end result. I just went at my own pace and set my own goals along the way. That’s what you have to do.

I feel a bit pretentious and what-not calling it a “plan”, so I’m just gonna list the methods I used to slowly get me from where I used to be to running a full 3.1 miles without stopping.

1.  Running Spurts - The Light Post Method

Running spurts. It sounds like a funny name for a medical condition you wouldn’t want to have, but it’s just interval jogging, like the Couch to 5K program calls for. The difference is that instead of measuring time, I measured distance. 

For example, my friend and I started running at an outdoor walking track. 42 wooden light posts encircled this round track (yes, we counted). Several yards separated each light post from the next one. So, we started jogging from one light post to the next, then walking for the next three light posts, then jogging again to the next post.

You see? Running in short spurts.

As we progressed, we ran the distance of three light posts and walked for one. Later, we ran for five and walked for one. And so on, until eventually, we could measure our distance in laps around the track instead. But we were so out of shape when we first started, counting laps was too unrealistic. So we counted light posts.

You could run from tree to tree. Or road signs around your neighborhood. If you’re on a treadmill, you can run a tenth of a mile, then walk three-tenths.

Call it interval training, call it fartlek, call it whatever fancy name you want. But we liked The Running Spurts because it made us giggle.

2. The Power Mile

Once we worked up to running a mile nonstop (this took my rotund self six months), we started doing something to increase our distance and endurance.

Once a week, we did running spurts until we had completed 3.1 miles.

Two days a week, we ran one mile as fast as we could, then walked for another two miles or so, doing running spurts as we felt like it. We could sort of half-butt it after that first big mile, but only if the power mile was killer.

This helped us prepare for an actual 5K. It got used to running a full mile, and it put us in the habit of not stopping altogether after finishing a complete mile, which we would need when we progressed to two and three miles of running without walking breaks.

3. The Don’t-Think-About-It-Just-Run Technique

When my best friend and workout buddy moved away, I had to do something to keep myself going. It was really different and sad running alone, but also kind of freeing at the same time. I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone else. It was just me out there. I was concerned with beating my previous time and going farther than I had ever gone.

The first time I ran two miles straight, I went to a park by myself, put in my headphones, and started running. I didn’t set a goal for myself. By that time, I had established a one-mile minimum for each running day, but this time, when that first mile was over, I didn’t stop to walk, I didn’t consider running spurts, and I didn’t think about how long I would keep running. I just kept going. I counted the laps, but I didn’t think about the mileage. I ran until I was too exhausted to do anything but stroll, and when I stopped to calculate it, I realized I had gone 2.25 miles nonstop.

Setting goals might not always be what you need every time. Maybe you’re over thinking it. There’s something very liberating about running without a time or distance in mind. Who knows how far you could go if you stopped focusing on your past times and your time goals for the future? Just run.

4. That Said, Set Overall Goals

I still feel that goals are critical for success. When I first decided to try running, when I gave the Couch to 5K a go, I knew I would be signing up for the Woodstock 5K even if I had to walk the entire thing. That goal of a 5K looming ahead kept me moving. It forced me to go outside and walk, even if I was still too fat to run. 

After Woodstock, when I caught Race Fever and signed up for my second 5K, I spent the next two months leading up to it running in spurts regularly. And guess what? I shaved off seven minutes of my time. That goal caused me to progress and get stronger.

Then I set a goal to do a 10K. And I did two of them. Plus four more 5Ks. Now I have a goal to run a 5K in thirty minutes. My PR is 33:00. Can I get to 30:00 in 2014? I’m certainly going to try.

Goals keep you striving toward something. They give you something to focus on, something to attempt, and something to accomplish. It is such an amazing feeling when you’re finally able to check something off and set a new goal.

Up next in Running 101: 5 Things To Make Running Tolerable

It's 2014!

Back in January 2012, when I decided to get serious about losing weight, I took my first series of full-body pictures in a tank top and shorts. I did the same shoot last year to see my progress, and I did it again today. I think I'll make it a yearly tradition, because it shows me how I'm changing more clearly than a reflection in a mirror or a number on a scale.

Sooo, unsurprisingly, it's time for a side-by-side comparisons! You know how I love them.

I'm so excited! The differences are obvious, and that's so motivating. Now I'm ready to work on toning up and getting truly fit. Yes, I still have pounds to lose, but I'm not going to make that my main priority this time. I think shifting my focus will help me to live a healthy, active life.

I have a new list of goals on my 2014 Goals tab at the top of the site. But you know, "a goal without a plan is just a dream." I need to develop some action plans to carry these out.

One thing I'm going to be working on is posting on here more often. This month, I'm planning to do a series on running for true beginners. This former couch potato has learned a lot over the past couple of years, and I want to share those things in case it could be helpful to someone else. So if you've set a goal to start running or to get in shape this year, check back soon!

I don't know what else I might write about (aside from my random updates about the goings-on in my life), but I really want to put more effort into my writing this year. As you know from my shameless bragging, I won NaNoWriMo in November. That experience showed me how much I could get done if I actually just forced myself to sit down and do it.

Another thing I want to address on here is one of my reading goals. Okay, I have to admit it. I am a book hoarder. I'm so very bad about buying books and not reading them. I just collect them. I look at them. Run my fingers across their rough, papery edges. Inhale that delightful book smell. It's gonna be a toughie, but I cannot buy any more books until I finish this unread stack I amassed the latter part of 2013:

I spend a lot of money on books, so hopefully that will help me with some of my finance goals as well.

Like I said, I've gotta get busy making some action plans for my goals.I don't have to go back to work until Monday, so I have a few days to get stuff done. Are any of you working on putting your goals into action yet? I went on a thirty-minute run this morning, so I feel I got off to a good start. If I'm gonna do a 5K in 30 minutes (one of this year's goals), I need to get used to a comfortable thirty-minute run.

Happy 2014! Let's make this an amazing year!