Thursday, April 24, 2014

Happy "Pay It Forward" Day!

It makes me happy to be reminded from time to time that chivalry isn’t dead and that unexpected acts of kindness – both large and small – are happening around the world. Earlier this week, I read a really moving article from The Washington Post about four strangers who carried a fellow runner across the finish line during Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon.  I got chills while reading their stories and seeing the photos!
 
 
 

In the spirit of today being National “Pay it Forward” Day, I thought it would be fitting to draw attention to the Instagram account, @PayFwd, which bottles this warm and fuzzy feeling up and sprinkles it on all its followers.  Recently co-created by a friend of mine, @PayFwd shares heartwarming stories, such as the one mentioned above, through photographs and quotes.  The creators were inspired by the following quote from Howard Zinn:

 
 
By posting photos of random acts of kindness to the PayFwd Instagram page, they aim to motivate others to perform their own acts of kindness in their daily lives.  Even if the post leads to something as small as a smile, which is contagious by the way, they feel they have succeeded with their mission.    
 
 
Though the creators behind PayFwd are spreading the love through their own kind acts (such as paying for people’s orders at Starbucks), they can’t do it alone!  PayFwd was created to be a community.  They need YOUR acts of kindness to influence others. How you can join the effort?

 
Follow on Instagram: @PayFwd
Tag on Instagram: @PayFwd, #PayFwd in your photos
Sign-up – www.payfwd.us 

 
So, pay an extra toll expense for the person behind you or write a kind note and leave it on a stranger’s car windshield.  The possibilities are endless!  Remember to share it with @PayFwd and your photo just might make it on the PayFwd page.
 
 
Do any acts of kindness stand out in your head that you’ve either witnessed or participated in?  Let me know in the comments below!
 
Ever wondered if you could help raise funds for charity simply by liking a photo on Instagram? PayFwd has – stay tuned to become part of a bigger movement…

 
Stay fit and fabulous,
 
A
 
Please follow me on Twitter and "like" my blog on Facebook if you enjoy what you read.  Thanks!
 
 
 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Movie Review: Divergent

Photo from here.
 
PopFitLife has been lacking in the "pop" (as in pop culture) part lately, but that's changing today because I have a new obsession!  If your life feels empty of popular young adult books turned box office hits now that the Twilight and Harry Potter series have ended, then Divergent is here to fill that void. 
 
Divergent is the first novel in a trilogy written by Veronica Roth.  It is set in a post-war world where, as far as we know, the only city left standing is a destroyed Chicago.  The survivors created a new way of life which divided people into five categories (called factions) based off of their greatest personality traits.  Abnegation are selfless.  They run the government and help the homeless (known as "factionless").  Candor are honest.  They oversee the judicial system.  Amity are peaceful.  They plant and gather the food.  Erudite are intelligent.  They seek knowledge and truth.  They are the scientists and doctors.  Lastly, Dauntless are brave.  They are the police and protectors of the city. 
 
Photo from here.
 
The books are written from the perspective of Beatrice, a 16-year old Abnegation girl.  It begins with Beatrice taking her aptitude test.  These tests tell people which faction is best for them, but ultimately, the choice is theirs.  Beatrice's test results are inconclusive because her mind works in multiple ways.  She is selfless, brave, kind, intelligent, and honest.  Therefore, she is Divergent.  Divergents are seen as a threat to the system because they cannot be easily controlled.  If she wants to survive, she must hide this fact and fit into a faction as best as she possibly can. 
 
On Choosing Day, Beatrice surprises everyone by leaving her family and friends to join the Dauntless faction (where she becomes known as Tris).  Dauntless' initiation process, based on combat and overcoming one's fears, threatens to expose Tris as a Divergent.  Throughout the process, she makes friends, enemies, and one super dreamy boyfriend, but is she willing to sacrifice it all and chance outing herself as a Divergent when she learns that her family and the rest of Abnegation are at risk of being attacked by another faction?
 
I'll never tell...
 
 
So I finished the novel in about .067 seconds and saw the movie as soon as I could.  As with all films based off of popular books, I went into the theater a little nervous.  Thankfully, the movie is just as amazing as the novel!  Below are the five things I enjoyed most about Divergent:
 
Like Book, Like Movie:  While the movie isn't exactly like the book (what movies are?!), it keeps all of the best parts.  For example, the book is packed with action scenes, so it's great to see them played out on screen.  One thing I wish the movie showed more of is the relationship between Tris and her rival, Peter.  The movie showed that he was a jerk, but it didn't let the audience get a good grasp on how evil he truly is.  Like the whole stabbing someone in the eye while they sleep peacefully thing...
 
Photo from here.
 
The Perfect Mix:  I'm a huge fan of young adult books/movies, but sometimes they lack key elements in my opinion.  I enjoy the love story of Twilight, but I think it's lacking in good action scenes.  In addition, the main female character, Bella, isn't involved in the fight scenes at all.  Actually, Edward and Jacob remove her from harms way all together by placing her on a mountain top so that she doesn't get hurt. #lame On the other hand, The Hunger Games has an amazingly strong lead female character, but the love story (or lack thereof...) is almost painful to read let alone watch on screen.  Thankfully, Divergent has the best of both worlds!  Not only does Tris kick butt (and do some other really awesome things such as zip line from the Willis Tower - formerly known as the Sears Tower - #NBD), but she also has a pretty adorable, lovey-dovey relationship with Four, her instructor for the Dauntless initiation process.  I guess some people really can have it all...
 
Killer Soundtrack:  Zedd.  Ellie Goulding.  M83.  Snow Patrol.  Pretty Lights.  Skrillex.  Banks.  Enough said!  I was living for the music while watching the movie.  Totally worth the $14.99 on iTunes!
 
Photo from here.
 
The Cast:  The cast is filled with great actors - Shailene Woodley, Ashley Judd, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Mekhi Phifer, and Kate Winslet.  Ashley Judd is the perfect actress to play Tris' mother because she is always so plain yet beautiful at the same time.  I just fell in love with Miles Teller after seeing That Awkward Moment, so it was weird seeing him play a bad guy in this film, but he did it well.  Shailene and Miles have great chemistry together even though they hate each other in this movie.  (It must stem from their work together in The Spectacular Now.)  Last but not least, Kate Winslet has a small role (I'm assuming we will see more of her character later in the trilogy) as the evil Erudite Jeanine.  I loved to hate her in this role.  Her way about her really reminded me of a blond, evil Rose DeWitt Bukater.  #titanicreference 
 
Theo James:  Theo gets his own mention, and you will understand why after watching this short clip:
 
 
As I sat in the theater, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Where has he been all my life?!"  He did a great job playing Four - a guy that is equal parts badass and romantic.  I hope we get to see a lot more of him in both the later films of the trilogy as well as in other movie rolls. #seriouseyecandy
 
I'm sure you all are on Fandango purchasing your Divergent movie tickets as you read this if you haven't seen it already.  It definitely has my gold star of approval, and I'd recommend it to everyone whether you've read the books or not.  But, go read the book first, people!
 
Stay fit and fabulous,
 
A
 
Please follow me on Twitter and "like" my blog on Facebook if you enjoy what you read.  Thanks!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

runDisney Inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge 2014 Recap


Every year I look forward to participating in the runDisney Princess Half Marathon with my friends and family.  We missed being "Perfect Princesses" (ladies who have participated in this race since it started in 2009) by one year, but that doesn't stop us from coming back to Walt Disney World every February to run! This year, runDisney decided to add on a little something extra during the Princess Half Marathon Weekend - the Enchanted 10K.  They also created the Glass Slipper Challenge for those who were brave enough to run both the 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday - complete with it's very own medal! Ohh! Ahh! Who doesn't love extra bling?!

 
 
To be honest, the Enchanted 10K is kind of a blur.  It must be those darn 3:30am alarms...


While 6.2 miles is one of my favorite distances, I've only run a 10K once before during the Runner's World Half Marathon Weekend in Bethlehem, PA.  Because of this, I was hoping for a PR.  Along the way, I enjoyed running through the different countries and seeing some new characters throughout the course.  My second favorite part of the race was running in my Woody costume - I found the dress for less than $20 on HotTopic.com (oddly enough) thanks to the Princess Half Marathon Facebook group!  But, my favorite part of this race was finishing in 53:14 - over 5 minutes better than my previous 10K PR! 


The following morning, I pulled on my tutu, straightened my tiara, and made my way to the Start line of my 5th Princess Half Marathon.  Since I had not trained due to the fact that I'm a baby and hate this crazy winter weather, I wasn't expecting to PR, but I was still aiming for my goal of a sub-2:00 half marathon (13 minutes faster than my last PR during the  2012 Runner's World Half Marathon).  I can't participate in a race without having some sort of goal in mind...even if it's an insane one!

 
I caught up with the 2:00 pacers fairly early on and decided to pass them because I knew I wanted to stop for photos in Magic Kingdom.  As I was waiting in line for a photo with Princess Minnie and Prince Mickey (Was anyone else thrown off by their new location?  Logistically, I kinda dug it!), I saw the pacers run by me.  I wasn't sure if I'd ever catch up with them again...

 
After leaving Magic Kingdom around Mile 7, I gave up on my goal of a sub-2:00 half marathon because I couldn't see the pacers' balloons anywhere!  I tried to look on the bright side through - I would still beat my PR of 2:13 with the current pace I was going.  While it wasn't my original goal, it was still something to be proud of especially with my lack of training this year.

 
At the Mile 10 marker, I looked at my watch and saw that I had 30 minutes to go until I hit the 2:00 half marathon time and only 3.1 miles left.  Something clicked.  30 minutes?! I can run a 5K in that time!  (Obviously, I just can't run and do math at the same time...)  I dug deep and pushed - not an easy task for the final miles of the Princess Half Marathon course as they are the hilliest!

 
At Mile 11, I finally spotted the 2:00 pacers!  I couldn't believe that this was actually happening!  As I crossed the Finish at 1:58, I've never been so close to crying while completing a race or accomplishing a goal.  It's weird because I didn't put in hours of training to make this such a sweet success, but I really had to push myself mentally which meant just as much to me.  Even with a full marathon under my belt, I've never had a race that was this mentally challenging, but I've also never had a race that was this fulfilling either.  I left Florida very proud of myself.  I truly believe you can do anything you put your mind to!

 
What is your favorite distance to run and why?  Let me know in the comments below!
 
Stay fit and fabulous,
 
A
 
Please follow me on Twitter and "like" my blog on Facebook if you enjoy what you read.  Thanks!
 
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

runDisney Royal Family 5K 2014 Recap

 
While I've done numerous runDisney races since 2010, I've surprisingly never participated in any of the family 5K races before.  In my opinion, their normal start time of way-to-early o'clock on Friday mornings is inconvenient for those of us who have to take off work to travel from out-of-town.  Having said that, since I had already signed up for the Glass Slipper Challenge (the inaugural Enchanted 10K on Saturday followed by the 6th annual Princess Half Marathon on Sunday), I figured I might as well register for the Royal Family 5K too, right?!  #hattrick #gobigorgohome
 
 
Other than "running around the world" at Epcot in 2012 during the runDisney Social Media Meet-Up, I've never participated in a race that runs through the countries before since the half marathon courses don't loop around that way oddly enough.  I was really looking forward to this aspect of the race and to seeing what new characters this particular course had in store for me.
 
 
That 3:30am alarm came nice and early as usual.  (I think this is the only thing about the runDisney races that I absolutely dread!)  I rocked my Cinderella costume from last year's Princess Half Marathon and my new Reebok ZQuick sneakers for this race.  Thankfully the weather was warm, so it made for perfect running attire!
 
 
I ran at a relaxed pace and stopped to take photos with characters that I rarely see during the Princess Half Marathon.  I finished with a time of 28:50 - it wasn't a PR but I'm still proud of it.  Unfortunately, the crazy winter the Northeast is having really took a toll on my training plans this year.  I ran twice in 2014 before race weekend - once with Reebok's 5K Run Club and again on a treadmill at Ripped.  It wasn't the ideal situation going into a weekend of 22.4 miles, but the great thing about runDisney races is that they are what you make of them.  With this particular race, I just wanted to have fun while visiting some famous faces in my early morning trip around the world.
 
 
 What are your thoughts on 5K races?  Do you see them as "fun runs" or do you enjoy running them for time?  Let me know in the comments below!
 
Stay fit and fabulous,
 
A
 
Please follow me on Twitter and "like" my blog on Facebook if you enjoy what you read. Thanks!
 
 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Top 10 Tips for Running a runDisney Race

You've trained as hard as possible (or not...).  You're in the home stretch now!  I don't know about you, but my Princess Half Marathon Weekend vacation has officially started!  This Hat Trick will be my sixth, seventh, and eighth runDisney races, so I decided to put together my Top 10 tips for those getting to experience this magical weekend for the first time.
 
Princess Half Marathon 2010
10.  Manage your time.  A 16-minute mile pace seems reasonable until you factor in crowds, lines, and photo opportunities.  Be sure to manage your time wisely.  While running the inaugural Tinkerbell Half Marathon, my friends and I almost got swept because we spent a ton of time taking photos with the characters during the first 5K.  We then had to book it for miles just to make up time!  Don't let this happen to you.  If you are worried, know which characters you really want to stop for.  In addition, you will see the first few characters (usually pirates and princes) on the highway twice.  If the line is long on the way into Magic Kingdom then catch them on the way out.
 
9.  Plan for the worst but hope for the best.  I always think the worst is going to happen, so I attempt to plan ahead.  While the medical tents are full of BodyGlide and pain medicine, I've been known to pack toilet paper, safety pins, and Band-Aids in my belongings before.  Thankfully, I've never had any issues though.

Princess Half Marathon 2011
 8.  Take pictures.  I've seen more characters during this race than I've seen in a whole weekend at the Disney parks.  It really is the perfect opportunity for photos.  Lines might seem long, but the Disney cast memebers move them along quickly. 
 
7.  Wear a costume.  Everyone dresses up, so you might as well join in on the fun.  If you aren't a costume person than at least rock a tiara.  You won't regret it!

Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2012
 6.  Pee at your own risk.  I suggest peeing before the race and not during  it if possible.  But, if you absolutely must go then I recommend holding it until you get into the parks.  During our first Princess Half Marathon, my mom and I stopped to use the porta-potties around Mile 5 not knowing we could've used the park's restrooms about two miles later.  Disney porta-potties aren't cleaner than regular ones, let me tell ya!  The park restrooms are lovely and have running water.  Enough said. 
 
5.  Dress like it's 20 degrees hotter, but bring a sweater.  Since your body heats up while you run, they suggest that runners dress as though it is 20 degrees hotter than it is outside.  I couldn't agree more, but definitely bring some sort of warmer "throw away" clothes and accessories.  During my first runDisney race, I wasn't prepared for how cold it was going to be while waiting around.  It was probably 40* out and I was standing in a tank top and running skirt for at least an hour.  Since then, I've rocked bathrobes, fleece throws, and even the blankets from Delta flights.  (In case you were wondering, Disney donates it all to charity.)

Princess Half Marathon 2012
 4.  Walk it out.  I never understand why people are afraid to walk during races.  Even if it's just walking through the water stations (I can't drink and run...), I don't think I've ever completed a race without walking even for a second.  There is no shame in walking, people.  Do what you gotta do!
 
3.  The early bird gets the worm.  There is actually no benefit to getting to the Start early, but there are many negatives to leaving your bed late.  First, the line at hotels for buses can be very long.  I didn't know if we were going to make the race during our first year because we left late at 4am.  Second, traffic before dawn on race morning is horrendous.  Lastly, the Start line is still a long walk from the parking lot.  Leave with enough time to walk to your corral. 

Walt Disney Marathon 2013
2.  Wear your medal(s) to the park.  You earned it!  runDisney medals are fairly heavy, but it's totally worth it.
 
1.  Have fun!  You aren't trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon during this race, so have a little fun with it!  You are at the happiest place on Earth - take photos, be silly, laugh with friends, skip in your tutu and tiara, etc. 
 
Princess Half Marathon 2013
 Did I miss any great tips?  Leave your advice for newbies in the comments below!
 
Stay fit and fabulous,
 
A
 
Please follow me on Twitter and "like" my blog on Facebook if you enjoy what you read.  Thanks!
 
 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Introducing the Reebok ZQUICK!

Disclaimer: The following post is sponsored by FitFluential, LLC on behalf of Reebok.  As usual, all opinions are my own.

 
A few weeks ago I was chosen by FitFluential and Reebok to attend Reebok's launch event for their new ZQuick footwear.  These new sneakers are designed after Z-Rated high performance tires for traction and speed while running and/or training.  Not only did the launch event include fun obstacle courses and juices, but there were also guest appearances by actress Jamie Chung, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, and UFC fighter Johny Hendricks.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to bad weather.  (Jocelyn, Julie, and Tina did some posts recapping their experience at the ZQuick launch event.  Check them out!)


Though this crazy snow kept me from the event, I wasn't going to let it keep me from trying out these new shoes!  It was love at first try-on with my purple and grey running ZQuicks.  My friend even made fun of me because when I first slid them on my feet I actually let out an "Ohhhh!"  These sneakers feel so light and comfortable.  I laced both of them up and did a quick jog around the store.  They have great cushioning - almost to a point where I feel a little more pep in my step.


For those of you who don't like to wear socks, the ZQuicks have a built in bootie.  Personally, I always wear socks, but I enjoy the bootie because the shoe's tongue is connected which prevents the tongue from sliding around or down into the shoe.  Am I the only one who hates when that happens?!

 
The cute NANOWEB actually has a purpose - it adds some support to the shoe at the mid-point of the foot and at the heel.  But, it also just looks really neat too, right? ;o)
 
 
Unfortunately with the snow, I haven't been able to hit the streets for a nice run with my new ZQuicks yet.  I have been wearing them to work everyday though.  They have already become my #1 go-to sneakers.  In addition, I did a CrossFit WOD in them last Saturday.  It probably wasn't the best idea ever (especially since my CrossFit Nano Speeds were sitting in my car,) but the ZQuicks survived! 

post-WOD
This upcoming weekend they will be put to the test again by accompanying me to Walt Disney World for the Princess Half Marathon Weekend.  I plan to run my 5K, 10K, and half marathon (22.4 miles total) in them.  I purchased a pair for my mom too, so I'll let you know what she thinks post-crazy race weekend! 
 
I'd love to hear your opinion on what makes a great sneaker.  Let me know in the comments below!
 
Stay fit and fabulous,
 
A
 
Please follow me on Twitter and "like" my blog on Facebook if you enjoy what you read.  Thanks!
 
 

Friday, February 14, 2014

27 Things to Do Before 28

 
Take a Bikram Yoga class.
Host a dinner party.
Travel somewhere new.
Volunteer.
Go to a concert.
Go camping.
Take French lessons.
Visit the Hamptons.
Back up my computer and phone.
Get a library card.
Find the perfect apartment.
Save goal amount of money.
Read a new book series.
Watch a complete series of a new show.
Finish the unfinished.
Find the best bagel in New York City.
Fall in love.
Publish one of my creative writing pieces on my blog.
Take care of my body.
Stay up-to-date on current affairs.
Successfully complete a 30-day challenge.
Take a road trip.
Run a new race.
Send personalized Christmas cards. 
Step outside my comfort zone.
Watch the AFI's Top 100 Movies list.
Visit home.
 
Happy Birthentine's Day to me & happy Valentine's Day to you!
 
Stay fit and fabulous,
 
A
 
Please follow me on Twitter and "like" my blog on Facebook if you enjoy what you read.  Thanks!