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Enter the Battleground: Tips for Prospective Participants of the Warrior Dash

13 Jun

 My friend Lindsey and I, post dash

You might be thinking: What in the world is the Warrior Dash? Well: It is a badass experience where you get to crawl through trenches, slide down hills and get absolutely covered in mud.  In the words of another friend: “…the most amazing event I’ve ever partaken in in my life.” (The person who said this is pretty amazing herself, so those are no small words.) Plus, you get a Viking hat! There are dashes nationwide and even around the world, so check the website to see if there’s one near you.

I had never done a dash (or anything like it, like the Spartan Sprint) before and I will admit, I was nervous as I paid my registration fees all the way until the race got underway. My mind filled with nagging self-doubts. Will it be too difficult? Will I embarrass myself? Will I be able to finish?

Keep in mind, I’m not exactly a runner. In fact, I don’t really enjoy running. I get winded and bored and I’d prefer pumping iron or punching bags if I’m going to exercise. However, I had a FANTASTIC time at the Warrior Dash and will definitely be doing it again. While I’m not the premier source for dash information, I have friends who are either signed up for an upcoming dash or are strongly considering it. So, for them (and for anyone else) here are some tips based on my experience! (For reference, my battleground was in Mechanicsville, MD.)

Don’t Sweat It:

I’m putting this first, because it is highly important: try not to be nervous! Easier said than done, I know. But this is an event that you can do at your own pace, so you only have to compete with yourself and not the people around you. I think the race is more fun to run with friends than alone (unless you’re running competitively), so cheer each other on and keep each other going.

Prepare if you Can:

If you’re in this primarily to get muddy and have fun, I wouldn’t say that you need a ton of physical training. The website, however, does suggest that if you want to prepare yourself, your best bet is to run a lot. As I was preparing, I modified this treadmill workout (I did intermediate intervals) and ran it every other day for a couple of weeks to get used to running for an extended period. (For me, 40 minutes is extended!)

There isn’t much of a way to prepare for the obstacles, but if you are decently fit, they should certainly be doable. According to the official website, “Finishing Warrior Dash is more about mental toughness than being in great shape.”

Pack essentials

Aside from the obvious (identification, change of clothes) here are things you should consider bringing with you:

  • Cash – My event only took cash and tickets, which required cash (This may vary depending on location). There was an outdoor ATM, but the line was terrible and I didn’t want to pay the fee. If you can, bring money for souvenirs and food.  (Being a Capricorn, of course I price-checked my items of choice ahead of time so I’d have enough money.)
  • Baby wipes – These were a gift from the gods when dealing with wretched port-a-potties. Trust me on this.
  • Mini first aid kit – Nothing fancy, just a small box you’d get at any pharmacy store with band-aids and sterile wipes.
  • A camera – Taking pictures during the event is probably impractical, but you’ll want photos of yourself post mudslide and the event photos are expensive. Best option: bring a friend with clean hands.
  • Extra plastic bags (think grocery bags) – Your clothes will be filthy afterwards. Enough said.
  • A friend – This race is more fun if you’re running with friends. Plus, there may be a parking fee, so carpooling is ideal.

Dress properly

Unless you plan to dash in costume (which is far more common than you may think), you want to dress for comfort and practicality. Based on my experience:

  • Clothes – I came to the dash in long-sleeves and yoga pants, but ended up running in a t-shirt and mesh basketball shorts. The shirt was fine, but by the end of the race the shorts nearly fell off my ass because the watery mud soaked them through. Dress with that in mind.
  • Shoes – Wear old ones. You can donate them post-race and besides, who wants to sink expensive new running shoes into thick mud?
  • Other – I scraped up my knees, so consider knee pads but as they absorb mud and get heavy, (as in my friend’s experience) a better option may be ace bandages.

And finally?

Have a good ass time. If you don’t mind getting filthy, you probably won’t regret it.

Any other questions? Has anyone ran in a dash (or something similar) and wants to add input? Feel free to share in the comment section.

xoxo, Tara

How to Start Your New Year’s Resolution – Even if You’re Late

10 Jan

Also known as, “The Procrastinator’s Guide to Kicking off their New Years Right”.

Okay, so maybe you weren’t on the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon. Maybe you were too busy, or perhaps the holiday season was so stimulating, you could hardly take the time to reflect on this past year and decide where you want to go in 2011. Or maybe you spent your time playing Okami on the PS2 and marathoning Misfits. (Or…maybe that’s just what I did. Oops!)

Either way, maybe making a resolution list and checking it twice wasn’t the highest thing on your priority list but you still want to make a change. Good news: it isn’t too late!

Identify Habits Worth Changing – So maybe you weren’t able to brainstorm things you wanted to do, and the generic ideas (“eat better”, “go to the gym”) aren’t good enough. If that’s your problem, try to be mindful of your day-to-day activity and recognize behaviors you’d like to alter. The best part is that you don’t have to spend much special time doodling an impressive list – you’re just going about your day!

Maybe your cluttered desk is a source of irritation, or you realize that you’re spending entirely too much money on take-out and Starbucks. Take note.

Keep in mind, some of the things worth changing may not just be your habits – take a hard look at your living conditions or even the people you choose to surround yourself with.

Determine Your Next Action – The reason vague resolutions (see above) tend to fizzle out are because they’re so general, you don’t know what to do or even when to start. Eat better? What does “better” mean? More local? Less processed? More vegetarian? And how much “better” is enough? Make steps that have clear actions attached to them, and if possible, quantify your goals. (e.g. – read two books a month)

Do it – now! – Okay, so the whole deal with procrastination is the fact that you put this off until the last minute. But the surest way to get started is to get started as quickly as possible. The good part about waiting past New Years to form a list of resolutions is the fact that you don’t get to lose steam as you wait for January 1st to approach. Start tomorrow! Or even right now!

What’s your New Year’s Resolution, and how do you plan on keeping it?

How to Get Some Sleep – Even With Finals (or Other Stress)

29 Nov

Diana Ross and the Supremes Sleeping

For all those college students out there, chances are, finals are just around the corner. These are the precious last weeks you can spend studying for the exam that can decide your fate in a particular class. You’ve got a lot on your mind and tons of stress – even if finals aren’t on your plate (lucky you!). This can mean two things for your sleep pattern: either you find it more difficult to sleep or you can’t seem to find the time! And trust me, I understand. I’ve been known to haunt the library at an indecent hour, cramming for a test, double espresso coffee in hand.But keep in mind that robbing your body of sleep is detrimental to your success, even if you do manage to cover that last bio-chem chapter.

For all you finals week insomniacs, hitting the books without a wink of shut-eye, this is for you.

Use Your Time Wisely!

  • Plan for assignments and exams AHEAD of time – If you’ve been steadily reviewing for the past few weeks, the urge to spend the night cramming will be less intense.You can even do a broad sweep over your notes – highlight the key points for each section and explain them to yourself. It’s a simple way to know what you do and do not understand, which will help you waste less time.
  • Include sleep in your schedule – Create a stopping point for yourself, even if it’s 3:00 in the morning. And stick with it. You may be less likely to mess around if you know you have a time limit. Also, if you’re feeling exhausted, get some rest! Your mind is far less productive when tired and you’re more likely to synthesize and absorb information with adequate sleep.
  • Keep a routine – You’re less likely to throw your body out of whack if you keep up a consistent sleeping schedule, even if it is a “finals” sleeping schedule. Allowing yourself to pull all-nighters may cause your body to attempt to catch up on sleep at a highly inopportune time.

Clear Your Mind

  • Maintain a sleeping environment in your room – try to study at a place other than your bed, so your mind associates it with rest. Yes, this may mean cleaning off your desk. I understand your pain.
  • Try to keep clutter at a minimum – I know when I’m stressed, it’s reflected in the state of my bedroom. If clutter is unavoidable, try to concentrate your mess in a location that’s out-of-the-way, or clean up at the end of the day or week. It can make a great study break too, if you need to get up and stretch your muscles!
  • Focus on rest – It’s difficult to sleep when your mind is thinking over physics equations or trying to keep track of a lengthy to-do list. My suggestion? Keep a notebook by your bed to keep track of errant thoughts, including what you need to get accomplished the next day. When you know you won’t forget things (or at the very least are able to remind yourself), you can rest easier.

Substance Use

  • Or lack thereof – Don’t drink caffeine four hours before you plan to sleep – there’s no point in sitting in bed if you’re still hopped up. Also, try to eat ahead of time – I know that if I’m hungry, I can’t get to sleep.
  • Try Melatonin – Melatonin is a naturally occurring compound that regulates your sleep cycle. You can also buy it in most pharmacies. While it is non habit-forming, it can really knock you out. I don’t suggest taking it (and half a pill at that!) unless you intend to get a night’s sleep.

Hopefully this helps! Do you have any finals week (or other crunch time) sleep tactics? Share them in the comments!

xoxo,

Tara

I’ll Do it Later…: Tips to Vanquish Procrastination

15 Nov

Are you making like my cat when you should be working?

We’ve all been there. Deadlines. Many times it’s a homework assignment due in a matter of days, perhaps it’s a project or exam that will come up weeks down the line. Sometimes, you have no real timetable for completion, making it even worse! If you’re currently enrolled in some sort of school (High School, University, etc) or are in a profession where deadlines are common, you’ll understand what I mean.

I know – often I procrastinate like it’s my job. Over the years I have gotten better (I was absolutely horrible in my grade school years before college) but I understand the feeling. As defined by Stay Focused, the application I use to help curb my procrastination habits:

The procrastinator is often remarkably optimistic about his ability to complete a task on a tight deadline; this is usually accompanied by expressions of reassurance that everything is under control. (Therefore, there is no need to start.) Lulled by a false sense of security, time passes. At some point, he crosses over an imaginary starting time and suddenly realizes, “Oh no! I am not in control! There isn’t enough time!”

Is that you? It’s certainly been me. There’s no definite way to end procrastination – different things work well for different people. Plus, if it’s a really ingrained habit, breaking it is difficult, even if you complete a task before the last-minute. But even so, certain things have helped me, so here are my tips to kick procrastination’s ass!

Write down the task and due date – where you’ll see it!

The “where you’ll see it” is probably the most important part. How many of us have dutifully gotten a desk calendar or day planner and written an assignment down a week ahead of time, only to remember right before it’s due? If you can’t see when things are coming around the bend, make sure you remind yourself in a way that you’ll remember.

Tips:

  • Get a monthly desk calendar – that way you can see your projects that month at a glance, not just what you have due that day or that week.
  • Write up post-its and place them in highly visible places – if you see “schedule an eye appointment” on your bathroom mirror, it’s hard to forget!

Plan Ahead

Some things are relatively simple – sending a quick email, for instance. Other things need a greater amount of time – planning an event or studying for an exam come to mind. It’s best to get these big deal items out-of-the-way quickly to see the best results – so plan accordingly. If you think you need a week to do something, make sure you give yourself that time!
Tips:
  • Schedule your tasks not just by the day you need to finish them, but also by when you need to start working on them. For an exam, just don’t note the day and time it’s happening, pick an appropriate starting point so you aren’t scrambling to a professor’s office hours the day of the test because of a last-minute question.

Break down big tasks into small steps

When you have a big, abstract task to get done, for instance “Write Sociology Paper”, or “Study for Chemistry Exam”, it can seem daunting. For many people, if they don’t know where to start, they’ll hardly start at all, so it will sit on the top of their to-do list, sadly going undone until it is almost too late. Don’t let this be you! Take the time to consider what doing these tasks entail, exactly. Do you need to print out review notes? Re-read a selected set of chapters? Go over in-class quizzes? Write those down instead. That way, when you head to the library (or wherever), you’ll know ahead of time what you intend to carry out and how.
Tips:
  • Breaking these tasks down sequentially may help. When planning programs for my residents, I might spend one day making flyers, the next printing them and posting them, and the day after that, reminding them to come out via e-mail. If I know what order I need to work in, I don’t have to stare at my to-do list wondering which to start on first.
  • For an added dose of productivity, arrange your to-do list not by task, but by “place”. For instance, if you have various things to get done at a computer lab (print lecture notes, send e-mails, scan pictures, etc), group them together so you can get them done at the same time.

Crack the whip – on yourself

I know, I know – some of these sound great. And many times, you may try them and realize how gratifying it is to finish something ahead of time, allowing you to sleep the night before without worry…but old habits die hard. Good intentions are often not enough and you’ll find yourself stalking random high school acquaintances on Facebook and reading semi-interesting articles on Wikipedia and not doing any sort of work. You may know in the back of your mind that a single sheet of paperwork will take you fifteen minutes to complete, at max – but you just need to finish this tenth game of Solitaire! Sometimes you need to give yourself some tough love. This requires some self-control because it’s hilariously easy to cheat sometimes, but sometimes a gentle shove in the right direction is all you need.
Tips:
  • Move out of your room – Sometimes eliminating the home environment can make you easily more productive. Even though I have the same amount of distractions at my disposal, I’m much less likely to mess around on Livejournal in the campus computer lab than in my room.
  • Eliminate distractions manually – this is where things like Stay Focused come in. Sometimes you have to give yourself the extra reduced incentive to mess around, unfortunately. If you’re writing a paper, shut down your internet browser, turn off the television and set your phone to silent.
  • Delay gratification – This one works for me, sometimes. Maybe I have a craving for something from the vending machine, or I want to watch the latest episode of Modern Family on Hulu. Perhaps I want to hit the town with my friends. I’ll refuse to indulge my desires until my task gets completed, so I’m forced to get it done if I want the reward.
  • Set an ahead-of-schedule deadline – When I write papers, I usually try to finish them a day ahead of time so they someone can critique them at my campus’ Writing Center. While it is great to have another set of eyes read my work, it’s also a great way to make sure I finish my papers before the night before or day of.
These are some tips that have served me well in the past – but I’d love to hear more suggestions! If you have more ideas, or just suffer from procrastination yourself, drop me a line in the comments!
xoxo, Tara

3 Simple Steps to Being a More Awesome You

8 Nov

I must preface this article by saying: You are magnificent, stupendous and just plain fabulous, just you case you haven’t heard that today. But maybe you aspire to give yourself a personal tune-up, which is quite reasonable, considering that nobody on this Earth is perfect!

But how do you go about doing that – you certainly can’t go from a shrinking Violet to astonishing Amaryllis overnight. But you can start taking steps to get there, and here is my simple three-step program for you to read at your greatest convenience.

But as an aside, make sure the reason you want to do this is for yourself. If you’re doing this for someone else, not only will you be unfulfilled, you’ll have to struggle trying to act like a person that you aren’t. For your peace of mind, please pump the brakes and put the car in park before that goes any further. Trading who you are for someone else’s approval is never worth it, even if it seems that way at first.

Step 1: Evaluate

How are you going to move forward if you have no idea where you’re trying to go? Who is your ideal you? Then, think deeply about what you want from yourself. One of the most effective ways for me is to identify somebody that I really admire and consider what makes them so awesome to me.

Do you admire RuPaul for his charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent – and those entrances he makes that bring down the house?

Maybe you admire Eleanor Roosevelt, for her diplomacy, wisdom and tireless work for equality and all around awesomeness?

Perhaps you fancy yourself somewhere in the middle or somewhere completely different. Who knows, it’s up to you! Make a list of some traits you’d like to incorporate into your day-to-day life, and you can make them as reasonable or outrageous as you’d like. Do you want to be more intergalactic? Go for it.

Step 2: Make a list.

What does a _________ person do, anyway? Even if you have no idea, throw whatever you’re thinking of on a piece of paper.

If you’re aspiring to be more outgoing and social, maybe upping your cocktail party game would be on the list.  Brave? Maybe you’d tackle something scary like skydiving. If you’re seeking to be more open-minded, perhaps you would list things that you’ve never tried before, like scuba diving or bhangra dancing. (If you’ve already tried these things, you’re ahead of me!)

Brainstorm that bad boy. Think big or small to give you ideas, and…

Step 3: Do ‘em.

Sounds pretty obvious, right? As simple as this sounds, this step is easily the most difficult. But if you’re trying to be a more spontaneous person, but jumping up on a stage for some impromptu karaoke gives you the heebie-jeebies, maybe you have some work to do. (Or it’s not your thing, which is no big deal.) But the fact is, if you want a major change in your life, going about the same routine isn’t the way to do it.

Step out there, be that person! At first it might seem pretty awkward – after all, the point of many of those things being on your list is that they’re outside of your comfort zone. And scary, too – but that’s alright. But as you keep on entering marathons, taking merengue lessons and practicing French, you may find that it’s becoming closer and closer to second nature. Often times these things aren’t as scary as you think – and you may regret the things that you didn’t do more than what you actually did.

xoxo, Tara

How to Have – or even make – a Fantastic Halloween Costume! (For cheap!)

5 Oct

Now, I’m going to be real here: I was never a huge Halloween fan. Sure, I did my fair share of dressing up in my formative years, but as I got older, I was just as content to sit on the couch with my parents and pass out candy while I watched the Halloween special of my favorite sitcom. Family Matters, if you were wondering. And while that clip looks corny, it gave me SERIOUS nightmares as a child, every year! But anyway, I was never too excited about the dressing up thing: I always put that off until the last-minute and it forced me to deal with the slim pickings left in the party store. Last year, I made my costume (last-minute, of course…) and I went as…wait for it…Disco Fever Minnie Mouse. This year, I’m going a bit more simple, and I’m dressing up as my favorite non-fictional animal, a peacock.

While your preferences may not be as..out there as mine (I love Donna Summer, so sue me), it really isn’t too hard to whip up your own costume from things you can get from your own closet or at a discount store. And I have absolutely no sewing experience, so don’t worry about it – there will be no crafting here (Sorry!).

Plus, if all else fails, you can go out and buy your own costume. See? No risk!

How do I start? I have no ideas!

Well, I’m here to help!

Here are some places to start:

Halloween Stores – Okay, so this runs against what I said before, but bear with me: Halloween stores are a great place for inspiration. I decided on my peacock costume when I stumbled upon this on Spirit Halloween. While it’s a great idea, it’s short, tight, requires tons of boobage – and for $60.00, how many times am I seriously going to wear this thing? Cost per wear, I always say. But if you don’t have a single idea, try there!

Pop Culture – While a Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj costume may be too elaborate for your taste, there are plenty of pop culture figures just ripe for the picking. While a Taylor Swift/Kanye West couples costume may not be the most topical (seriously guys…it’s really old.), you can always turn to programs like The Soup or Best Week Ever. Plus, plenty of television and movie characters dress in average clothing but are still highly recognizable. Get creative!

Nostalgia – And who says your pop culture reference has to be recent? Mine your childhood for ideas. As a child of the 90’s, my second idea – after the peacock, of course – was to be a contestant on Legends of the Hidden Temple. And no, I’m not kidding. Watch for it next year. That, or Lana Kane from Archer.

Your Closet – Last year, when I wore the aforementioned Minnie Mouse costume, the inspiration had struck from a sole item in my closet: a pair of silver sequined mouse ears. Do you have a pair of novelty cat-eye glasses that look distinctly Hon-like (or am I being too regional…hmm?) If your mother holds onto her old clothes like mine does, you could create an amazing retro look. If not, try a thrift store! (more on that below)

Where do I get my things?

So you have an idea: that’s great! Well, now get cracking! If you have some of the supplies necessary for your outfit in your own closet, you’re already part-way there!

If not, you can always start at…

The Thrift Store – Probably the best place to go. Many thrift stores anticipate a Halloween rush and stock accordingly. Don’t miss out – you can get some real gems for cheap!

Discount Retailers (HM, F21) – I’m going to be honest, this is where the bulk of my costume comes from. Fast fashion is flashy, cheap – and can often serve your purposes. Last year, I wore a silver tutu from H&M. While H&M doesn’t have online shopping (at least stateside!) so you’re limited to what’s in-store, there is a TON of clothing on Forever21.com. Plus, you might be able to wear it again depending on how you like it.

Goodwill – Similar to the thrift store. If you’re looking for an “authentic” look, this is where to start.

Yeah…I still got nothin’.

No ideas? Well, here are some quick costumes that shouldn’t take too much of your time and resources:

Legends of the Hidden Temple Contestant – Snag a T-Shirt from this or another retailer, grab a pair of khaki shorts and get yourself a skating helmet. Done! That site also sells Global GUTS shirts if that’s more your style.

Mummy – Two words: Ace bandages. It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s classic.

Grecian Woman: Speaking of simple, easy and classic – just refashion one of your bedsheets. Don’t have laurel? Make your own!

Athlete: Do you have an old athletic uniform? Or at least, one that you can borrow? Then you’re set. Bonus if you have pads.

Should-be Sleeping Child: Find your favorite pair of kiddie pajamas, a teddy bear and fuzzy slippers. Security blanket is optional.

Nerd: High waisted shorts, button-up, bow-tie and suspenders. Tape duct tape around the bridge of your glasses (or a fake pair). Get your Urkel game on lock.

Beauty Queen: Ever wondered how you could re-use that high school prom dress? Problem solved.

What are you going to be for Halloween?

xoxo, Tara

Dream a little Dream…

12 Jul

source

I firmly believe that dreams have a tendency to tell you things about yourself – it may be your mind’s way of processing things you weren’t consciously thinking about, or even a way of sending you a message you had never considered. I’ve come to many a personal epiphany based on particularly striking dreams. Then again, there are always those dreams that are just plain strange and those are pretty fun too. Those are the kinds I get the most often, and I really look forward to them. Or maybe, perhaps, my mind is trying to tell me something when I dream of being best friends with Spencer Pratt, who has suddenly become a glamorous drag queen who suspiciously resembles Tatianna from RuPaul’s Drag Race. (I think it’s that I read Oh No They Didn’t! too much, but I’m not positive.)

While I probably don’t remember most of my dreams, I’ve gotten a bit better at keeping them in my head. If you’ve never given it an attempt, it’s certainly worth a try. All you need is a notebook and a pencil!

Next time you go to sleep, have your notebook and your pencil in an easily accessible place, like on your nightstand next to your bed. If you wake up with the memories of a dream, quickly grab that notebook and start writing down as many details as possible, even if they’re in muddled order or can’t quite make sense. (I’ve come to realize that dream logic often doesn’t mesh well with real life logic.) Read them over later and see if you can make heads or tails of them. (That’s always fun.) When they’re written on a page (or typed, whichever you prefer), you’re less likely to forget about them as you go about your daily routine.

If you wake up without any memories of dreams, that’s alright too! Just stay patient. Maybe you’ll wake up with only small snippets, like, “I was a prolific Yorkshire Terrier breeder, but when I bred them, they were pastel colors. I don’t know why.” Another thing I’ve started to learn is that the more you write down your dreams, the more likely you are to remember them in the morning (and that this is a semi-deteriorating skill).

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve personally had some strange dreams. Here are some that I’ve written down, for example (basically verbatim):

Basically, me and the boyfriend were Super Heroes. We were kind of like Iron Fist and Misty Knight. I ran into a woman who looked just like me so I freaked out, thinking it was my long-lost mother. (This was at a swanky house that some middle-aged suburban rich people might have.) I ran into a bathroom and freaked out with the boyfriend reassuring me.

They made a movie about us and I watched it with him and my parents.

He claimed he was man-pregnant with a hard-boiled egg, and then he ate it.

Yeah. That one was strange. I’ve also had an epic dream (that I wrote down but I can’t find) where the human race was enslaved by an alien race. After buying my freedom from a kind, elderly alien-dinosaur man through what can be described as a game of interstellar chess (using a game-winning move I had learned from my grandfather), I became an instrumental part of the human rebellion until I was finally able to find my siblings, who had found their way back to our childhood home, resigned to the idea that I was gone forever. I still think that one should become a movie.

Anyhow, you never know what kinds of fabulous adventures and fantastic revelations you may have unless you start remembering your dreams. And hey – you might get that dose of creative inspiration that you’ve been looking for.

Have you ever had a really memorable dream? Share it in the comments!

xoxo,

Tara