Saturday, May 18, 2013

@BetterJNel: Home Fitness Room for Under $200

Ozarks Woman's Frugal Home Fitness Room for Under $200  (Follow link to video)

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Home gyms don't have to be pricey. For one Ozarks woman, all it took was a little patience and some shopping around.

At work, Jennifer Nelson sits behind a desk, but when she's at home she doesn't like leaving her family to go to the fitness center or its monthly price tag.

"It really came down to the fact that I wanted the resources that I wanted, easily accessible and I didn't have the funds," says Jennifer.
So, Jennifer decided to bring the gym to her.

"This exercise ball was a discount. It was an open package return and they donated it to Goodwill," Jennifer explains. "If you go to Academy, it's going to run you like $15.00. I think this was like a quarter."

Instead of the big box stores, she took her quest for budget friendly-fitness equipment to Craigslist and garage sales.

"The best time is always the last part of every month, because everyone's moving. You know everybody is trying to get rid of those items."

It pays to come prepared. Jennifer scored an elliptical trainer for free.
"It was just you haul it, you take it and we were the first ones there with a truck."

This is the time of year when alot of people are spring cleaning. Jennifer recommends calling your local thrift store and letting them know if you're looking for something specific.

"We operate a wish list," says YOTO Inc. Executive Director Ken Childers.

Whether it's bargain bikes or affordable ab crunchers, Ken enjoys the adventure that comes with shopping on a thrift store budget. He operates the Youth of the Ozarks Thrift Store on N. Glenstone Ave. in Springfield.

"I came to work this morning and there was nothing out back. I come in from a lunch appointment and voila, I have a working treadmill."

Jennifer was able to build a quality home gym for less than $200, but even the best fitness rooms only go so far.

"You really can't ignore it when it's at your house, but at the same time you can find those good deals on Craigslist means that a lot of people don't utilize those resources," says Jennifer

Motivation hasn't been a problem for Jennifer. In a year and a half, she has said goodbye to 150 pounds.

"I just finished my first half marathon this weekend, those are things that having these resources to work at home 30 minutes a day got me to that finish line."

Having a gym at home has not only encouraged her to make keep up her new healthy lifestyle, but to spend more time with her family.

"I work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. most days and we come home and have dinner and it's off to the gym for her and that's an hour. That's all we had together. So by putting in a gym, you know I get her the rest of the evening," says boyfriend Josh Collwell.

Jennifer also says it's important to reward yourself. For instance, the money she would have been putting into a gym membership now goes toward buying healthy foods or new workout clothes

Monday, May 13, 2013

Running Groups Run This!

Signing up for my first half marathon was on a decision I made on a whim.  After finishing the Bass Ultramax sports sent out an email offer for a reduced rate on the Go Girl half marathon in May 2013.  Being that the event was seven months away, I figured I had plenty of time to figure out how to run/walk 13.1 miles.
My Ultramax Running Coach Kristin
Pro Outdoor Fitness Festival's 5K in 2012,

Three months after signing up and no strategy in place, I received another email from Ultramax Sports providing information on their upcoming half marathon training group.  This group would meet twice a week for group runs with also providing a training plan for the week as well.  Since I do not have a better plan in place, I decided that this group was the only way it was going to happen.

Signing up for a local training group was the best decision I made to get me to the finish line.  Every week we met, my coaches were there encouraging me and pushing me when I did not want to go the distance.  We faced struggles together included numerous Saturday snow days as well as balancing energy during those long runs.  They provided encouragement to me via email during the week to ensure I was keeping up with my running schedule.  Then on race day, my main coach Kristin met me to make sure I got across the finish line.  

Now, looking towards my next step, I have joined two new running groups.  Locally, I have joined the Cox Health Galloway running program which will met every Saturday for long runs.  This group provides a little more flexibility due to the ability to either work towards a full or a half marathon.  Since I am still undecided on my new step, I thought it would be great to access to both training programs.  In addition, it provides additional resources relating to the Galloway running method which my Ultramax program was based on.

Then, I have the honor of joining 15 ladies across the world via social networking on the "Fatty Must Run Marathon Challenge" hosted by a UK runner @FattyMustRun (hence the name on the challenge). While I would never imagine calling anyone fatty" due to the torments from my elementary school teasing, I embraced the foundation of the challenge....15 ladies working towards a healthy lifestyle to finish your first marathon in 12 months. While we are working on making the necessary changes, we are supporting each other from afar.  I am excited to see how the social network works with in our groups.

Both of these groups will get me to my next goal.  There is a lot ahead for me so keep in touch this week for 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why I Run..(Because I Can)
During my weight loss journey, there have been many things in which I have discovered I was unable to do due to my size.  Carrying an extra 200+ pounds on your frame can limit your ability to live life.  It is not until the weight is gone until you realize how difficult it is to do simple things.  It is because of this I have taken this second chance to do things in which I was never able to do...this includes running/walking.

In middle school, I dreaded the mile test.  If you grew up with the Presidential Physical Fitness test, you know that every year, you had to prove your fitness ability by running a mile.  For a fat girl, the mile was more to prove the ability to embarrass yourself in front of the popular kids who finished 15 minutes prior to you.  Those four laps around the track were the most humbling moments especially when you could not keep up with the other fat kids.

It continued into my adulthood when I signed up for my first 5K for the MS Walk.  I thought I would be able to accomplish the 3.1 miles with everyone else.  I finished it about 35 minutes after everyone else.  My body felt like it aged 20 years with those 3.1 miles.  I knew that I had to change.

There were some significant wake up calls to get me to the point in which I am now.  The ability of not being able to walk up the stairs without being winded was one of them.  Feeling winded walking around the block with my dogs was another.  If I am not able to get myself to point A to point B, then what quality of life is it?

So I started to make changes...I started to add another block to another...I started to allow my dogs to get me out of bed for morning walks...a mile became much easier.  

Last year, I did my first 5K in St. Louis during the St Patrick's Day run.  While the race is 5 miles, I figured out on the course to make it 3.1 miles.  I finished with a time of 73 minutes.  I worked on improving that time as I increased my walking speed and started interval running over the next eight 5k's I did during the year.  My final finish time was at 54 minutes.  I was able to reduce my time by 19 minutes.  

So this year, as I work towards my 2013 fitness goals, I decided to go all out and sign up for my first half marathon.  I signed up because...I can!  I would have never imagined being able to do this two years ago, but I know that I will be able to finish this 13.1 miles.  It is a perfect goal to push myself on my journey.  

So this Saturday, I will FINISH my first half marathon.  I really do not care on how long it takes me or if I am the last one, I will finish.  After this weekend, I can call myself a runner.  I might even join a high school PE class to show the younger me on how far I have come.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Why Finishing Last Was My Best Race

I have finished in two races last.  Dead last.  As in there was no one else behind me.  

The first time was a 5k, and it was my own doing.  The race actually started on time, and I was not.  Of course, with this race, the post ceremony activities were being held in another location two blocks away.  When I crossed the line, there were two volunteers and the timing company.  After crying to my mother, I moved on and remembered the common saying "You lapped everyone on the couch."

While my lateness was to blame for the 5k, the second last place finish was because I did not take the simple route.  A little history..I love St Pat's Day so almost any race that celebrates it, I am there.  My runniversity is actually the STL St Pat's Race.  So for that month, I planned three St Pat's themed weekends which increased in distances: 5k, 8k, and then a 10k.  I never finished a 10k race before, but with my half marathon training, I knew I could do it.

This race had three options: 10k, 5k, and the 1 Mile Fun Run.  Could I have taken the simple route of a 5K?  Absolutely!  But what sense of accomplishment do I have?  I know I am not going to the be the fastest runner out there, but I am going to beat myself and continue to know I can accomplish the impossible.  The race started out with the 10K getting a 10 minute start so the 5k group passed me after the first mile.  When I got to the spilt in the route for the two different groups, I knew at that moment I was going to be last.  3.5 miles left to go, and I knew I was going to finish last in all three races.

I reflect back on that moment and have to wonder "what made me continue?"  I do not know one person who says "I strive to be last" or "I hope to lose".  You could say it was because I paid the entry fee, but I think it was the fact I wanted to prove myself that I could do it.  There are moments in everyone's journey of change in which we can retreat back to the comfort level (the 5K), but your victory will not be as great.  

As I ran/walk the route, I ran into one of the remaining cheer groups who did not leave the course.  A group of junior high 4H girls who were wearing pink and had a significant amount of streamers.  For each runner, they would cheering them on running beside them.  Seeing what they were doing, I made sure to have a "dance break" with them to celebrate me hitting the 4 mile.  According to them, I was the only runner who stopped to have fun.  The route was structured that I passed them one more time in which at that point, 4 of the girls met me and ran 0.25 miles with me.  During that portion, they asked me about the half marathon training  for in which I mentioned in our first interaction.  I wanted to run the rest of the race with them.  

I can continue on about all of the negative of finishing last: got lost on the route, two police cars following me to ensure my safety, and then the finish line already being torn down when I crossed. But if I focused on the negative, I will forget about those girls.  They did not forget about me as they found me afterwards to talk to me, take pictures, and celebrate my accomplishment while the elite runners where getting their awards.  

To those girls, I won the race and was their champion!

I am glad I finished last.  I am glad I did not take the easy route.  If I focused on my personal record or perfect pace, I may have missed out on the impact those girls had on me one morning in March.  We must never forget as athletes on our journey, our power to inspire is not to be taken likely.  Personal records only matter to us; not to those who would have never dreamed of doing what we are doing. 

Don't take the simple route.  Inspire.  Finish Last.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

This is Me...Now

That was me then/This is me now
Looking back on my first 32 years, I realized at this moment, I am living the best part of my life.  There is nothing at this moment in which I am not blessed with.  Of course, there are always areas for improvements...but I am so amazed on where I am at.

I am in better health then what I was when I was thirteen.  
Most people strive to get to their weight in high school.  Being an overweight child/teenager/adult, I have never knew anything expect obese.  While I am unsure where I am at compared to the numbers, I can tell by the clothes.  All of my formal dresses from high school hang on me.  So I am thinking I am the size of the former 7th grade version of me.  But that is not all....

I eat a better balance diet in which I NEVER did before.  
There was not a two day span in which I would be able to recall in which I did not have some type of fast food item as the former self.  There was never any cooking at home and most of my food consist of sugar/carb/sugar/fried/sugar!  Fruits and veggies are now a main staple in my life.  I love to make different versions of a protein shake.  And while I am still not the cook, I found someone who will cook for me!

I am in better shape then I have ever been...EVER. 
I would try to find any reason to get out of gym class in middle school even when we were bowling.  Of course, the horrible thoughts of the Presidential Fitness test made me get the "stomach flu".  Walking more then three blocks to the bus caused me to get winded.  As my mom even commented on it the other day when I mentioned my half marathon goal as the fact in which I would never get off the couch when I was younger.   Now, I am lifting weights, doing yoga, walking, interval running...I get excited when I get to work out in my full stocked home gym.  Where is that Presidential Fitness test now?

I am in the best relationship of my life...with myself.  
Even before all the physical changes, I came to terms of who I am and what my reality is.  I stopped trying to overachieve to make people like me.  I stopped making excuses on why the world is against me.  I stopped doing counteractive things in which caused me frustrations.  I started to love myself.  Even at 400 pounds, I loved who I was.  Embracing myself caused me to want to improve myself.  I love myself that I want to be around me as long as possible. 

I am in love with the best support person for me.  
Okay, yes..I was one of those girls who said "If only I was skinny, a guy would love me."  If only this or if only that.  Again, when I started to love myself, someone else noticed that.  I love having Josh on my support team.  He never saw my size.  (It is true..I showed him the comparison picture in which he said he has always seen me like I am today). He has done everything in which he needed to for me to accomplish everything above.

So as my journey continuous, I hope you follow me as I continue on working on me.  Thanks for all of the support to get me where I am at now.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

May Playlist: 13 Songs for 13.1 Miles

Photo from
When I first started running, I made the error of selecting songs in which are great for dancing.  I was 
quick to find out that a song that makes you want to get out on the dance floor may not necessary push you during running intervals.  After a couple of weeks of exploring, I found the best running songs for me had numerous bridges to a fast pace chorus.  With those bridges, it allows me a "cheerleader" moment to push myself to run during the whole chorus.

In honor of my first half marathon in May, I am highlight 13 songs which will push me to get to the finish line.  

1) "Crazy In Love" - Beyonce: During our STL St Pat's 8K, Josh took my Nano to run with and rated this song as the 'best running song'.  The song bridges to two different 30 second chorus.  In case you want to stop, I always think of Beyonce amazing dancing in the video to push me a couple of extra steps.

2) "We Run This" - Missy Elliott: Beyond the title, the background drumming and cheerleader-like background voices motivate me to "Run This".  Just try not to stop to do a few moves during the bridge.  (If you do, no one will mind!)

3) "Milkshake" - Kelis: What other motivating statement do you need beyond "My milkshake brings the boys to the yard, tt's better then yours" do you need?  While it is a slower beat, it has perfect 30 second intervals between the chorus, bridge, and verses.  Perfect for in the middle of your run.  

4) "3" - Britney Spears: The verses are a quicker pace then most and the song is pretty much spilt between 30 minute intervals.  The final chorus section is a perfect time to push yourself, and she is is even counting "1, 2, 3" for you.

5) "Let It Rock" - Kevin Rudolf & Lil Wayne: This song makes me want to start clapping the second I hear it.  It had a great background beat for you to hit the ground with.  I always try to make sure I am switching my feet with each beat.  The chorus is quick with a slight bridge.  Motivating Line: "When I arrive, I bring the fire!"  

6)  "Sexy and I Know It" - LMFAO:  Of course you need to run to a song in which specifically tells you what you are doing "I Workout!"  Fast pace with great intervals.  Bonus points if you "wiggle, wiggle, wiggle" while running!

7) "Thrift Shop" - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: At first, I would not thought this was a good running song.  During my first 10K, this song came on when I knew I was going to finish in last place, and I loved running to it.  The background trumpet creates a smoother running pace and the sections are perfect for run/walk intervals.  Just don't want to be tempted to stop at a Goodwill to "pop some tags" during the race!

8) "LaLa" - Ashlee Simpson: Pace of the song is consist with a slight pause right before the chorus so it is the perfect interval pushing moment.  You might even what to "LaLa" on the course.  :)

9) "Maneater" - Nelly Furtado: This song makes me want to do some old school 80"s fitness workout (think Saved By The Bell episode where the girls make their fitness video).  The background beat makes you step often in this song and causes a quicker then normal pace.  Break out your headband!

10) "What Doesn't Kill You?" - Kelly Clarkson: Beyond the line ("what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", the chorus is longer then average so it is a great time to change up your intervals.  Feel free to sing it on the course...your fellow runners will appreciate the motivation!

11) "When I Grow Up" - Pussycat Dolls: We have all tried to be a pussycat doll!  (Even my trainer with the Pussycat workout video).   While you are not running with a boa, the two-part chorus is perfect to push yourself.  I have started running believing it was going to be a quick chorus, but found myself going longer then my normal interval time. 

12) "Blow" - Ke$ha: If I could figure out to get a $ in my name, I would do it.  Until then, this song is a great interval chorus song because just like the above Pussycat Doll song, it is a longer two-part chorus.  Push yourself to get thru the whole chorus and put a symbol on your race bid (Better$JNel)

13) "Booylicious" - Destiny's Child: It was hard to pick one from the group, but the Stevie Nicks sample guitar is difficult to ignore.  Act like the street is your runway and work it out!

13.1) "Stronger" - Britney Spears: This is my power song.  This will be playing for me during my final 0.1 miles.  I have crossed numerous finish lines with this song in my ears!  "I am stronger then yesterday!"

What songs motivate you when running?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Goals: Miles, Meals & Me

The last couple of months have been a challenge for me, but I have had to remind myself that this is a journey to a better, healthier me.  With all of these challenges, I remembered why I started and what I wanted to get out of this experience.  While things got crazy, I have still been working towards my goals in which one significant one is going to be accomplished this month.  Getting refocused, here are my May Goals!

1) Finish my first Half Marathon:  I say 'finish' because my goal is to cross the finish line (prior to closing the finish!)  I know with my training, I will be able to finish.  Being that my first half marathon is on May 11, I still have the rest of the month to look at.  I want to continue on with my training.   Including my half marathon, I am striving to get 40 miles logged for May.  To challenge myself, I am going to be walking my local American Heart Association Walking Paths.  My local chapter designed 30 paths here in my town, and I can not wait to review them.  (Find a AHA walking path in your area here:

2) Preschedule my lunches & snacks during the work week: Since I eat the same breakfast every morning, the next step is to continue the clean eating and balanced meals during my work day with lunch and snacks.  I have had some issues with energy and food so eating balanced meals has become critical on my journey.  While everyone always says to plan meals ahead, it is advice in which I have found it difficult to embrace.  I believe that was because I tried to do the whole week and every meal therefore I setting myself up for success by giving myself lunch and snacks.  Then next month, we are going to plan the whole day!  

3) Schedule week for exercise, work, and social media to provide success with balance: They say if you are focused on one goal, you forget about the others.  This month, I am going to work towards my schedule to provide the necessary balance to be successful in all areas.  When you put it down on paper and schedule the time, you are more likely to make it happen.

Seems like a pretty simple month, but there are 31 days to make these things happen.  In addition, it is National Bike Month so I will be getting some miles on both of my bikes.  Until next time, I am busy working on a Better JNel