Traveling Healthy

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Traveling is one of my favorite activities.  I love exploring new places or revisiting places I have loved in the past.  I love being surrounded by unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells.  I also love trying new food and taking a peek into the daily lives of other people experiencing a different culture, locale, environment than the one I currently inhabit.  However, there is a part of the healthy, fit-minded me that feels slightly uncomfortable with the thought of leaving my routine of knowing exactly what, how much, and when I am eating and when I will squeeze in my workout.  This feeling stems from the fact that I have spent so much time and energy focused on getting in to the best shape of my life and there is a small fear that all of that hard work could disappear over the course of my vacation.

First, I want to clarify that I believe we should let go of rigid thinking while traveling (and in life in general, but that’s another post! 🙂 ).  It’s ok to taste and try everything or have days of complete rest where you don’t leave your beach side hammock (the dream, right?).  It’s also ok to completely forget about your fitness goals while on vacation.  The definition of vacation is a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday, which definitely includes turning off that 5am alarm clock that wakes you for your daily workout.  Where vacation mode becomes a concern for me is when I return home.  If I have completely gone buck wild on a trip, I find it a little difficult to get my mind back in the game when I get home.  It’s so easy to continue vacation mode – eating out often, sleeping in instead of working out – if I haven’t kept my goals in mind while I was away.  Your health and fitness shouldn’t consume you or your ability to explore the world, but here are 5 simple tips to help you stay on track while you are away from home.

Tips for healthy traveling:

1. Pack food for the road

The transportation to your destination is one of the best ways to start a trip off right.  If you are on a road trip, pack as many healthy snacks and meals as possible.  Nuts, homemade granola bars or bites, and fruit (dried and fresh) make excellent munchies for the road.  You also have the option of packing salads or sandwiches for meals along the way.  This not only saves on calories, but you will save major cash if you aren’t eating fast food or snacking at gas stations.  I’d rather use that money for a couple of better dining experiences, admission to a national or state park, or some other adventure I come across 🙂

The same applies for flying, but you may be limited in baggage space.  Still, make some room for a few snacks for the flight.  The snacks available on planes are often full of sodium, artificial flavorings, and other nasty chemicals and they aren’t even filling.  You can also pack a whole meal if you want.  There aren’t security restrictions on the food you bring, it just cannot be over the limit for liquids (so no water, juice, etc).  Last week, I took a short flight to Santa Barbara and packed an apple with cashew butter and Shakeology.  To get through security, I put the Shakeology powder in a shaker cup and filled the cup with water once I got to the terminal.  Easy peasy!

Snacks and book - perfect carry on items.

Snacks and a book – perfect carry on items.

2.  Adapt your accommodations to your routine

Once you arrive at your destination, seek out ways to adapt your accommodations to your routine.  If you are staying in an Airbnb, hotel, hostel, or family home that has space in the fridge to store food, go grocery shopping for snacks and meal items.  This is also another money saver.  When Nick and I traveled to Japan in 2013, we moved around to many hostels and didn’t really have access to a kitchen most of the time.  However, on the nights that we did we purchased breakfast items and made food before heading out for the day.  You can also do this for lunch and pack a meal for when you are on the go.

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To get your sweat on, you can pack work out DVDs that don’t require equipment.  DVDs take up very little room in your bag and you can pop them in to your laptop or a nearby TV to get your workout in.  I love to pack PiYo on trips because it is low impact so I don’t have to worry about jumping on unfamiliar floors (oh hello, neighbors!) and it doesn’t require much space.  Last week, I did PiYo on my grandmother’s porch.  Running is also an exercise that doesn’t require much equipment aside from your clothing and you get the extra sight seeing in too!

3. Choose according to your goals at restaurants

Grabbed Backyard Bowls for lunch with my cousin last week!

Grabbed Backyard Bowls for lunch with my cousin last week!

When eating out, be conscious of what you are ordering.  Like I said before, you don’t have to continuously be thinking about how each meal will affect your muscle definition.  On the other hand, it is totally possible to eat healthy at restaurants.  It is up to you and your goals for your fitness/health and your vacation.

4. Skip the rental car and get active

Skip the rental car and walk as much as possible.  I love walking and taking public transportation everywhere when traveling because it is an awesome way to take in the sights and live like a local.  The added bonus is the extra exercise you get!  You can end up walking several miles each day while taking in the sights of your destination.  You can also seek out adventurous ways to explore the area: If you are somewhere tropical rent a kayak or stand up paddle board.  If you are near mountains go hiking or rent snow sport gear.  You get the idea – just get out there and be active and you won’t need to worry one bit about your missed work outs!

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5. Relax and enjoy yourself!

This is the most important step.  You spend the majority of your time on the grind: working out, eating clean, working and paying bills, taking care of family, maintaining your home….the list goes on and on.  You are now on vacation!  I think the mental health benefits of taking time to actually relax outweigh the benefits of you continuing an intense exercise regimen.  Unless you are in the middle of training for a race, you should be able to skip a day or two…or seven…and it won’t be the end of the world.  Stick to your goals the best you can and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to hop back on that horse when you get home.  🙂

Happy travels!

Scotti Leona

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About Me 2.0 – or – Why am I still blogging?

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When I started this blog, I was a full time graduate student and was working full time while trying to find balance.  I found that focusing on my fitness and health was the best way to take care of myself during stressful times.  It caused me to create set aside time for self care, whether that was an hour workout or hiking on my (very limited) days off.  I also began learning a ton about nutrition and eating well, which was partly inspired by the heath conscious, farm-to-table values of the city I had just moved to.  Taking the time to focus on my physical health had an incredible effect on my mental health.  When I moved to Portland, I was overweight, anxious and depressed – and I was furthering my education in a field that could perpetuate those problems if I wasn’t consciously looking for ways to combat them.  By the time I finished graduate school in February 2014, I was no longer experiencing depression or anxiety, I was 35 pounds lighter, and I was training for my first marathon!

As I began to change my habits, people started noticing and asked what I was doing.  I started sharing my meals on Instagram and Facebook and told people about new ingredients I was trying.  I would post about when I would squeeze in a workout during an extremely long day.  With the desire to talk more about what I was learning and cooking, I started this blog.  I wanted to show that even though I was swamped with school work and trying to make ends meet financially, I was still able to change my eating and focus on my physical health.  I also wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle as a way to improve mental health.

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So, now I am done with school.  I work that regular 9-5 and don’t have tons of school work to do when I get home each day.  I have thought about whether the original intent of this blog is still relevant with my new way of life and whether I am still a busy girl getting fit.  After some thought, I have ultimately decided that yes, it is still relevant.  My work is stressful, my days still feel hectic and are often longer than 8 hours.  I am still really busy outside of work too, maintaining my relationship with my partner, family and friends, and finding time to take care of myself.  I am still striving to improve my health and become to best version of me in all areas.  I am still not rolling in the dough so I need health and wellness to fit within a budget.  I am nowhere near perfect.  I eat cupcakes when they are delivered to my work.  I drink lots of wine when hanging out with my girlfriends and some Fridays, Nick and I are just too exhausted to do anything for dinner except order a pizza.  I want fitness, health and wellness to fit into a realistic, “everyday person’s” lifestyle.  And I want to talk about how that can be possible.

In 2015, I am re-committing to this blog and I hope to learn as much as I can about the art of blogging to bring you better posts about recipes and wellness tips.  To start off, I am completing the Blogging 101 training hosted by WordPress (I am already behind on assignments – typical for my learning style!  I’ll always be a procrastinator!).  This year, you will find more posts with:

  • Recipes
  • Tips and tricks on preparing healthy meals for yourself and your family
  • Ways to fit fitness into your everyday life
  • Suggestions on how to create overall balance in your life so you always feel fulfilled
  • Plus some recaps of our adventures in the Pacific Northwest and beyond 🙂

Perfectly imperfect.scottileona.com

I look forward to meeting more people who are interested in similar topics, so please reach out!  My email is scottileona@gmail.com 🙂

Resolutions | 2015

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So here we are!  2014 is rapidly coming to an end and we are facing the excitement of a new year.  I really like New Years.  I like the surge people feel to let go of the past and place hope in the future.  There are few times throughout the year where it is so common for people to evaluate what they want in their life and actually make a list of changes they want to make.

Interestingly, there are some themes among the New Years Resolutions that thousands of people make every year.  Some of the most common resolutions are:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Save money and get out of debt
  4. Learn a new language or skill
  5. Be more environmentally friendly
  6. Volunteer more or give to a charity
  7. Travel
  8. Be less stressed

Sound familiar?  I know I have set some of those same goals before.  Wanna know why they are so popular?  Because they are great goals!  They are all about focusing on yourself, improving your health, expanding your mind, getting your finances under control and giving to others.  This list shows me that most people want to be an overall better person each year and that is really inspiring.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that only 8% of people accomplish their New Years resolutions over the next year and only 46% of resolutions make it past June.  I was told by a coworker today that they do not set New Years resolutions because they don’t stick to them and it just makes them feel bad.  Why are New Years resolutions different from the goals you may set in say, April?  Or August?

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There is so much pressure associated with New Years resolutions.  It must be the hugeness (that’s a word right?) of the entire year ahead.  Maybe we feel like, because we have 12 months to accomplish these goals, there is no excuse not to achieve them.  And given the amount of time ahead, we set HUGE goals – losing weight and managing your finances are no small tasks.  We become so overwhelmed with excitement for the possibilities that we create overwhelming expectations for ourselves.

Setting huge, overwhelming, scary goals is so good for the soul.  I think we need to set goals for ourselves that stretch our imagination for our lives, for who we can be.  The New Year presents this amazing opportunity to really become a new person.  This is who you were in 2014, and the New Year just screams this is who you can be.  What we have to remember, however, are the many small steps that are required to achieve huge goals.  And we need to appreciate every step of progress we make toward those goals, no matter how small.

So if you want to lose 15 pounds in 2015, remember you have to lose 1 pound first.  Celebrate when you clean out your cabinets and fridge and replace junk food with fresh produce.  Heck, celebrate the ONE day you swap those chips for an apple.  Those are all steps toward a healthier you and need to be honored.  And on December 31, 2015, if you haven’t lost 15 pounds, but did lose 7 – C E L E B R A T E.  You made some changes and started down a path that you wanted to go down.

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New Years does not need to be your only opportunity to set huge goals.  You have 364 other amazing days to evaluate your life and reflect on what you want.  Take time throughout the year to look back at your New Years resolutions and decide if those are still goals you want to accomplish.  How do they fit into your life 4 months later?  If they still capture what you want to achieve, take a look at how far you have come.  If you haven’t even started those small steps necessary to begin a resolution, take a hard look at what’s stopping you.  Remember why you set that goal in the first place.  And most importantly, be kind to yourself.  Be gentle when life throws you curve balls and you have to let go of some things in order to cope with more pressing matters.

You’ve set huge resolutions for yourself because you deserve to achieve AMAZING things this year.  I wish you the very best tonight, tomorrow, and always and I can’t wait to hear about what you have planned for 2015 ❤

scottileona@gmail.com

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My Journey to Healthy and Happy, Part 1

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As I sit in my apartment in Portland, roasting Kabocha squash and cooking quinoa, watching silly TV, and thinking about the details of the marathon I am running in 2 days, I can’t help but reflect on how much my life has changed in the last 4 years.

I had started my career in social work by working and volunteering throughout college and felt I was so lucky to have found a field of work I was passionate about.  What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the emotional and physical toll I was putting on myself by simply doing too much for others.  I poured myself into my work and left little space for me.  On top of that, I was living in an expensive city and had to work two jobs after college to cover rent.  This left me a depressed, confused, and anxious young lady, not to mention the extra weight I had gained.  When Nick and I moved to Portland, we knew things had to be different in order for both of us to sustain our health and well-being while I attended graduate school for social work and public health.

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We took the opportunity of a new city and the unknown world we were entering to make some big life changes.  After a stressful couple of years, we took a step back and realized we had neglected ourselves, which greatly impacted our health and our relationship.  We had each put on at least 35 pounds and were no longer comfortable in our own skin.  We didn’t know that much about nutrition, but Nick had the Beachbody programs p90x and Insanity.  He did p90x for a while, got into the habit of exercising regularly and started to see some results.  He then started Insanity and I will never forget the day he told me I should start with p90x because he thought Insanity was too intense for me!  I’m the type of person who takes the doubts of others as motivation, so I immediately processed his advice as a challenge.

I started doing p90x work outs and slowly learning about purchasing whole foods and preparing food at home as much as possible.  At first the progress and my focus was slow.  By the summer of 2011, Nick and I were getting the hang of Portland life and I decided to go all in with my health and fitness.  I started Insanity and tried Shakeology for the first time.  I quickly realized how amazing I felt when I spent an hour a day doing something that was only for me.  Not only was I feeling stronger and so accomplished after each work out, but all those extra pounds I had acquired were coming off.  I replaced one meal a day with Shakeology and continued to learn about nutrition and clean eating.  I also started connecting with people who were also doing Beachbody programs and found myself as part of a community FULL of positive people who have the same passion for healthy and learning how to live their best life possible.

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As I continued through graduate school, I continued to incorporate exercise and healthy eating in my everyday life.  I’m not going to lie, it was tough.  I was working on two Master’s degrees, completing internships for school, AND working full time.  To fit this all in, I had work, school, or internships every day of the week.  There was a time when I would take a vacation day from work so I would get ONE day off in a month.  During my third and final year of grad school, I was working nights on top of completing school.  It was an absurd and unsustainable schedule, but I had to make it work.  In order to keep myself sane and healthy, I kept working out and learning about healthy eating and included those two things in my schedule just like I would a class or work.  I would find those couple of hours that were free each day to squeeze in a work out, cook, and pack meals to bring to work and school.  I kept at it because I could see and feel what exercise and healthy eating was doing not only for my body, but for my mind too!

Since the start of my journey to health and happiness, I have lost 35 pounds.  I have learned SO much about food and nutrition and I am no longer intimidated by farmer’s markets or the unfamiliar foods I may get in my CSA box.  I also don’t feel lost around a yoga mat, a set of dumbbells, or a stability ball.  I have run 8 half marathons and am a few days from completing my first full marathon.  I have been able to tackle longer and longer distances in my running because of the confidence that I have gained by completing work out programs like p90x and Insanity.  I have gained confidence in my body’s ability to endure and take great comfort in the community I have surrounded myself with that supports me wholeheartedly in reaching these goals.  I have literally watched muscles appear on my body.  This confidence transfers into other areas of my life as well, allowing me to feel more comfortable taking risks and making tough decisions at work.  Most importantly, I have learned how to balance my extremely hectic work life with time for myself.  I spend an hour every morning focusing on both my physical and mental strength and when I eat well, I know I am appreciating myself and my body.

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And I have done all of this from the comfort of my own home.  Nick and I now have an arsenal of work out programs and have been steadily building our home gym equipment, despite the tiny size of our apartment!  During the times when we were flat broke and could never have afforded gym memberships, having the option to purchase a complete work out program that we could use over and over again was amazing.  I still love working out at home.  My morning commute from bed to “the gym” is about 15 seconds, leaving zero room for excuses when I’m not feeling up for it.

What started as a challenge to complete that intense program from the infomercials has led to a whole new lifestyle for my partner and me.  We focus on our health, focus on time together and on creating balance between work and our other interests.  I am in a much better state of mind and can recognize when I need to take a break from the city or work life and get to the mountains.  It’s been a difficult, eye-opening, and rewarding journey that I still only see in the beginning stages.  I continue to strive to learn more, love more, and push myself farther.  Thank you to all of you who support me and join me in my journey to happy and healthy ❤

Running in Santa Barbara and the Vernonia Half Marathon!

Today was the Vernonia Half Marathon, the race I have been training for over the last 10 weeks!  After such a magnificent run last weekend in Santa Barbara, CA, I was skeptical about experiencing an equally beautiful course this weekend, but Vernonia, OR did not disappoint.

My training for this run was better than my previous runs.  I was consistent, mixed in a lot of cross training with p90x and Insanity, and didn’t let school, work, or the rain become an excuse to slack off.  I also learned to recognize progress and not allow my perfectionism to get in the way of appreciating my hard working body.

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101N, driving to my grandparents’ house

Breakfast at Grandma and Papa's

Breakfast at Grandma and Papa’s

As mentioned above, I got the opportunity to sneak in a training run in Santa Barbara while visiting my family there, and it really made me fall in love with running all over again.  After 9 weeks of running about 4 times/week, it was starting to feel like a bit of a chore and some days, I wasn’t running simply because I wanted to.  Do you ever feel like being tied to a schedule makes activities just a part of your ever-growing to-do list?  That is what happened during training this time around.  The run in Santa Barbara, however, gave me sweeping views of the ocean and mountains, a calm quiet atmosphere with the soothing sound of the ocean, and an adventure through the town where I met the love of my life.  Nick and I met while attending college at UCSB and revisiting it with him is always filled with nostalgia.  After the run, we did some push ups on the grass and got smoothies at a local favorite, Blenders in the Grass.  The rest of the day was spent with my grandparents, mom and cousin.  It was a centering and rejuvenating weekend, for sure.

A laid back run with lots of time to take pictures

A laid back run with lots of time to take pictures

Always being silly.

Always being silly.

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The Vernonia Half Marathon did not have incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, but it provided a beautiful run along a paved path surrounded by green mossy trees and a lake.  Unfortunately, I did not get many pictures of the course because I was concentrated on knocking out my best time for 13.1 miles!

On the bus from the parking area to the starting line.  When was the last time you were on a school bus?!?

On the bus from the parking area to the starting line. When was the last time you were on a school bus?!?

I had set out to complete this half marathon in 2 hours or less and after the first 9 miles, Nick and I were definitely on track to do just that.  However, a short time after passing mile marker

Walking to the starting line.

Walking to the starting line.

9, I was painfully reminded that I had obtained some pretty gnarly blisters last weekend while running in Santa Barbara and I had forgotten to put mole skin on those spots for this run.  For some reason, I got blisters on the insole of each foot last weekend and, because they had healed quickly last week, I completely forgot about them!  Although I had forgotten, my feet definitely did not and at the crucial part in the race, my insoles were on fire and each step was becoming increasingly painful.  As usual for me, when one thing goes wrong I immediately start thinking the entire project is ruined and my mind went into self-doubting, quitter mode.  The last 4 miles were a brutal combination of growing blisters and Debbie Downer thoughts, until Nick patiently walked with me, listened to my frustrations, and said, “This is just for fun and you are doing amazing.”  He also reminded me not to push so hard that I can’t do another run and I started to feel better although I could feel the minutes ticking closer and closer to that 2 hour mark I had set for myself.

Super gross foot picture!  It hurts a heck of a lot worse than it looks.

Super gross foot picture! It hurts a heck of a lot worse than it looks.

We ended up finishing in 2 hours and 11 minutes, which is by far the fastest I have run 13.1 miles.  I completed the Columbia River Gorge Half Marathon in October 2012 in 2 hours and 24 minutes, and although this course was a lot less hilly, I am still so proud of those 13 minutes I shaved off my time!  Looking at my splits, I am also stoked about how the race started out and am ok with the abrupt slow-down at the end given the pain I was in.  This was “just for fun” and I continue to learn things about long distance running to apply next time!

After the race, we met up with some friends who just completed a two day bicycling excursion for some beers (none for me, I had work this afternoon/evening!) and ridiculously huge burritos!  I am now hobbling around work with bandaged blisters and a tight IT band, but am feeling accomplished and looking forward to my next fitness adventure: p90x 2!  …and maybe another race 🙂

Refueling to the extreme.

Refueling to the extreme.