I survived days 1-7 of the 30 days slimming thighs challenge!

It has been an interesting week. As you know, I am taking on not one but two fitness challenges this month, which so far, has been pretty fun! I think it would be even more exciting if I had a couple of close friends who were also completing it, but sometimes you gotta reach your goals on your own.

week1My experience so far:

Friday- Ok, so yesterday I completed a realllllly hard (for me, anyway!) strength training workout so when I woke up, I could see feel it in my core and thighs. I was dreading this challenge even though it was only 3 moves with 5 reps but I also know from personal experience, that the more I move and walk around, the more that pain starts to subside. I waited until the evening to give my body some time to recover and completed it while I was watching a show. It did not take long, but it was painful! The balance required for leg swings surprised me and I am curious to see my progress with that exercise. I’m glad I pushed past it though.

Saturday- Today is another strength training day so I incorporated day 2 into my workout. I had to push myself to get through this workout today, but I know that is because I am using my muscles in a new way that I am not used to. It will take some adjustments but it will get better. I like the moves so far, and I feel that they are not hard on my joints. Today was 6 reps of plie squats, leg swings and side lunges.

Sunday- I went for a 30 minute walk today and then completed my 7 reps of the three moves listed above. Today did not hurt as much and it felt really good to get outside in the sun. I could not stay out for too long because it is really, really hot today and my pale skin just will not last! When I got back from my walk, I stretched and then completed a bunch of chores. I was not expecting to feel so ready to take on some cleaning tasks but no complaints here!

Monday- When I woke up, my friend asked me to go to the beach. I wanted to go but did not have a bathing suit, so we had to go shopping first. A couple hours later (no joke, I hate bathing suit shopping!) we set off. I mentioned the challenge to my friend and we both decided to complete today’s challenge of 8 reps together. Afterwards, we played a game of volleyball with some girls who asked us to join for even teams. It felt nice to be active outside and I am starting to get used to the movements more. Even though this was going to be my rest day, I still took part in some physical activity and that felt really nice.

Tuesday- Today’s challenge is 9 reps of the 3 movements listed above. I like plie squats better than regular ones because I feel the positioning is more “knee friendly” for me. One thing I am noticing is that my right side balance is more dominant than my left side, so when I try left side leg swings, I have to engage my core so much! I am hoping to increase more stable balance as I continue the challenge. Again, I incorporated this into my strength training.

Wednesday- My beach friend and I headed to a local trail and went for a light hike. The trail is for beginners, so it has some dips and inclines but nothing too rigorous. When we got to the midway point, we stopped and completed the 10 reps challenge for the 3 movements listed above. I am starting to get used to the movements and am concentrating more on engaging my core. I can really feel it when I am completing each move. We had a nice picnic lunch of mixed fruit and sandwiches before walking back.

Thursday- When I first started, I was not sure if I would keep up with this kind of challenge. It is my first time doing a monthly challenge. Today’s challenge involves the same 3 movements (10 reps) plus 5 side leg lifts. I was going to to the gym for my strength training workout but it was really rainy and gloomy today. I decided to stay home and complete some body weight exercises, along with the challenge moves. It was just one of those days. Afterwards, I curled up under a blanket and started binge watching Orange Is The New Black. OMG! I know I am late on that one, but I wanted to spread the episodes out a little longer and this was the perfect day to watch some episodes! Sometimes you just need a little break.

So there you have it! The challenge has been interesting and not too difficult, which is important to keep me going. I am starting to feel more confident with the reps and I can definitely feel the benefits of these exercises already. Stay tuned for next week’s updates!

Have you ever taken part in a monthly challenge?

Blogilates: Fitness Inspiration for Beginners

For the past year, I have been trying to get my health in check. After eliminating a few health concerns with the help of my doctor, I have slowly eased back into a fitness routine. I started very simply and just focused on getting some movement in, trying not to overexert myself. Now, I finally feel ready to jump into a more intensive program that is still approachable for a beginner like me.

I love to share useful tools that I stumble across on the interwebs and today is no exception! I do not know how I have not stumbled across this one before, but I am so glad I did. If you have not heard of Blogilates before and are looking for some fitness inspiration, check it out. It is worth your while. Why am I so overjoyed at finding this site? There are a few reasons, which I will list below.

Easy to navigate website

Her website is well organized and covers a variety of topics, including:

  • cheap and healthy meals
  • monthly printable fitness challenges that are progressive
  • videos of specific exercises and programs
  • meal plans
  • and more!

The lady boss running the show is awesome

Cassey, is relatable and fun! She keeps it light and easy while at the same time providing the encouragement newbies, such as myself, need. All of her printables come with an easy to follow picture tutorial and she actively seeks feedback from followers on social media. If you are a beginner, she has a 30 program to get you started with all of the videos neatly organized in one place, making it super easy to implement. I like when the thinking is already done for me when it comes to workouts.

Variety

I like to switch things up but I do not feel creative when it comes to workout plans, so I love when that all comes together in one easy to navigate place. This could easily provide lots of options and ideas for anyone and could even turn into a fun challenge with your friends. Each month, a new printable is uploaded, so it could open you up to different workouts. Even better, Cassey asks her followers what focus they are most interested in for each month so that it is tailored to her followers’ interests.

Just browsing the website, I found a few things to jazz up my current routine that made me feel inspired, but also kept me feeling realistic. Sometimes, when searching for something, it can be easy to get caught up in a program that you may not be ready for. I have done this in the past. I just wanted something simple to focus on for when I am watching a TV show or to get me going in the morning. Blogilates offers exactly that.

Starting tomorrow, since it is July 1st (Happy birthday Canada!), I will be taking part in one of the printable challenges: the 30 day thigh slimming challenge! The reason I chose this challenge is because it starts simple with 4 moves a day, and then becomes increasingly difficult. To be clear, I am not expecting thigh slimming results, though I think I can definitely benefit from adding this to my current workout schedule. I am looking to increase my strength and to become more comfortable in mastering some exercises in this particular area. Next month, I hope to take part in another challenge. I’m thinking maybe an upper body/arms challenge for August.

For my own accountability, I am going to post updates each week of how this challenge is going. Tomorrow, I will check in early am to see my starting point and I will update on my progress at the end of the challenge. Wish me luck!

Would you take part in a monthly fitness challenge?

Calendar Budget vs. Dollarbird

Over the summer, my pay structure will change. Instead of getting paid semi-monthly, I will receive a large chunk mid July and a large chunk mid August. An important change like that stressed me out at first because I wanted to ensure that our rent is covered. Since my school district provides our first pay September 15th, this means I will have to cover July, August and September rent based on my summer pay.

I knew the only way to envision this would be to map it out. Since I benefit from visual aids, I went to my trusty Calendar Budget tool, which I like because I can repeat bills/transactions on a monthly basis and because it shows me how much money I will have left up until my next pay.

While I have had great success with Calendar Budget in the past, I have been finding more and more recently that it has been glitching. The totals are not adding up properly, transactions are disappearing and it just is taking more time to sort errors out than it is to input them manually. I tried playing around with it, but it just got me so frustrated. I did contact support, so hopefully, they can work this out because I do enjoy using it. My only complaint with Calendar Budget so far has been the colour coding system makes it difficult to read the transactions at times. I wish they were not so light! I like colour coding, but it just irks me.

Since I was frustrated with my most recent experience using Calendar Budget, I decided to check out Dollarbird, as per a friend’s suggestion. Dollarbird offers the same features that I highlighted above, so I was happy to switch to a free app that is similar. To use Dollarbird, you simply manually enter your transactions, bills and salary and it shows on a calendar how much you have spent vs. how much money you will have left before your next pay.

Reasons why this helps me stay on track:

  • It keeps me accountable for my spending. Having to enter in money spent on frivolous purchases makes me feel guilty. I feel much happier when I can find a creative alternative.
  • I need visual stimulation to track my goals. Saying I want to save x amount of money is not enough. I need to see the possibility, the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • I can show my husband our potential savings. If you think the light at the end of the tunnel is exciting for me, just wait until I show him what our possible savings could be. He is more frugal than I am, so when he sees us cutting corners in a realistic way, he gets on board too.
  • It helps me decide what is happening and when. For instance, we need to take our cat to the vet. This will be a slightly expensive trip, although we have an idea of the cost. We based our appointment on when we had the biggest cash influx, to account for any unexpected costs.

Do you use a budgeting tool? If so, what do you use?

Make the Most of your Time

If you are one of those people that is always busy and constantly on the go, or you juts really value your personal free time, then you know what making the most of your time is so important. Here are some things that I do to ensure I am using my time more effectively so I can concentrate on other areas of my life.

Cleaning

I always make sure to have a few tasks going on at once that are simple to manage. For example, the dishwasher or laundry cycle will be running while I am taking care of other cleaning tasks. This allows me to get more done by simple planning my time in a smart way. Knowing that my wash cycle will run 40 minutes, I will spend 10 minutes cleaning the bathroom, 10 minutes cleaning the kitchen area and then 20 minutes for general tidy, including taking the recycling to our outdoor bins in the parking garage. While I am doing this, I keep my motion tracker on, which after detecting 30 minutes of active movement will count towards one of my PACT workouts for the week. See, in those 10 minutes, I am not moving at a snail’s pace. I move at fast pace. Not only does it motivate me to keep my living space tidy, but it also frees up more time for me to pursue my personal interests. I may not get to everything in the house, but it helps me to target the immediate areas and then the next day while the dish cycle is running, I will target another spot.

Groceries

I set aside 1 day a week to meal plan. By setting aside a specific time, I find that I am much more focused on the task. My process involves checking the flyers, Checkout 51 offers and PC Plus offers. If I see any offers that appeal to me, I jot it down, along with meals for the week. I take into consideration the following: price per serving, time we have to prepare a meal, quick meals in case of unexpected situations and balanced meal options. A couple days before our next grocery shop, we check the fridge and the pantry to remind ourselves of what we have left. We make meals out of what we can before it spoils so that we can stretch our dollar a little. This helps to eliminate food waste. Then, before we head out, we clean out the fridge.With my jotted list, we head to the grocery store and purchase only items on our list. This helps to cut down shopping time because we know what we want and we stick to it. When we get home, we unload our groceries. This may seem like a lot, but we have it down to such a routine that it really cuts out a lot of time in our day.

Organization

We keep any and all important papers in a file system in our office. Before tucking it away in the appropriate file, I make sure to scan it onto our computer. This way we have more than 1 copy in case it gets misplaced. This extra step takes a maximum of 2 minutes and in doing so has saved our butt more than once after one of our files got misplaced in a move! Another strategy we use is to have a “communication board” ie. a large dry erase board, where we write important upcoming events, bills, etc. This gives both of us a clear image of what we need to be prepared for. Being proactive with organization can save time in the long run.

Car

I do not know what it is, but it seems that our car is a collector of stuff throughout the week. One guilty habit I have is that I end up bringing things to school for lessons and they do not always make it back right away. Rather than stress about it, I just let the week roll by. On Fridays, before I head up to our apartment, I gather all items that do not belong and take them up with me. We also keep Lysol wipes in the car for emergency spills and a mini garbage can for any loose wrappers. On Fridays, I also stop by the garbage receptacle in the parking garage, which again takes care of a cleaning task quickly.

Finances

This is one of our biggest time-saving tasks. Once a week, we sit down together and take a peek at our finances. We look at our short-term and long-term goals and try to find ways to reduce spending. Sometimes, we are very disciplined with our goals and it only takes 5 minutes. 5 minutes set aside, both knowing our upcoming bills and savings… yeah, definitely worth it! Sometimes, we have a more in-depth conversation because we are looking at a more complicated situation or we are looking at multiple angles to overcome an upcoming financial obstacle. Both of us are able to walk away with minimal stress because we are on the same page and we know where we stand. It also allows us to determine if we have any spare change for social activities.

These are just some of the ways we put in a little time to open up more time. What are your “make the most of it” time strategies?

4 Ways to Reduce your Hydro Bill in the Summer

Usually when we rent, we seek out a place that includes all utilities. This helps making our budget more consistent because we do not have to account for unspecified utility bills. This time around, it was much more challenging and we had to make some compromises on what our rental included. This time, we focused more on a dishwasher and laundry to save on costs (and time) in other areas, and now find ourselves responsible for our hydro bill. Here are a few ways we are lowering the cost of our hydro bill this summer.

  1. Let there be light!
    Natural light, that is. We keep the blinds open in every room from the moment we wake up until as long as we possibly can to avoid turning on unnecessary lights. We have to be more conscious of our neighbors as our apartment faces another building, but this is not a big deal. We also remind each other of the lights if we do happen to need them (particularly on rainy, cloudy days) so that we only leave 1 light on.
  2. Unplug!
    I really did not think much of this one until we started tracking our daily usage. As an experiment, I unplugged the toaster, battery charger, coffee maker, laptop charger and cell phone charger just to see what the difference would be. I was astonished to see our usage drop from 30 kW to about 1/2 of that. I continued with this habit for another week and am seeing that consistently so we are much more aware of this step.
  3. Stick to the cheapest rates!
    This one may seem obvious but since I am on summer vacation for 6 weeks, I have a lot of free time at home. It makes me want to wash dishes and do laundry in the morning, which is what I would usually do on the weekends but I have to remember that the cheapest time is after 7pm. Instead, I try to focus my energy on other organizing and cleaning tasks that do not require much energy usage. I even vacuum in the evening!
  4. Beat the summer heat without the AC!
    This may not be possible for everyone. Where we live, the weather is breezy enough to not be overwhelmingly hot throughout the summer. Instead of using a energy sucking air conditioner, we keep the back door to our patio open and a window or two to allow for fresh air to circulate. That is usually enough to keep us feeling comfortable. We are not afraid to bust it out on the humid days though, like when we experienced a heat wave earlier this month!

What are your hydro-saving tips?

How Much Does a Teacher Really Move?

As you know, I have been tracking my steps using the Pact app to see if I can hit my daily 10000 steps. Mentioning this to a friend who is also using the app, he looked at me in surprise and said, “How much does a teacher move? Don’t you guys just sit at your desk a lot or sit with your students?”

This made me laugh… a lot! After tracking my daily steps consistently for over three weeks, I can hit anywhere from 11000 to 14000 while at school. How is this possible?

Well, when I am at school, I do the following:

*I teach in a portable. I walk from the portable to the school multiple times a day to grab photocopies, check my mail box, meet with other staff before or after school, take my students to the library/gym/music room/computer lab. While in the computer lab, I do not sit. I walk around the entire time, checking in on my students, verifying they are on task, picking an appropriate activity and answering questions. Often, I forget something back in my portable or the school, so this tends to add up fairly quick!

*I have supervision twice a week. During those recess blocks, I am again, circulating. Some teachers will stand in one general area but I just cannot do it. It is boring, so I greet students and solve problems while moving around. I need a body break too!

*In the classroom, unless I am evaluating a student or reading aloud a story, I am moving constantly. I will float around the room, checking in on students. I find this is an effective strategy for classroom management because I am buzzing around and my students know I will be circling back in a minute or two. The only time I really use my teacher desk is after school, when I need to revise my weekly lesson plans and even then, I don’t last long in my teacher chair. I think my students use it more than I do!

*I participate in PE or body breaks. My primary students love when I join in on their games or body break (sometimes yoga, sometimes dancing videos). It gives me a great mini workout and I get to have fun connecting with my students. Plus, my students do not care how silly I look trying to keep up with them!

*I am guaranteed to hit around 15000-16000 whenever I am involved in a special event because of all the preparation and tear-down. Carrying decorations, equipment, etc. from one spot to another adds up quick and then there is the circulating while delegating student responsibilities or sending groups to their stations. I love special event days because I can really put my energy to good use!

This does not account for my other walking activities outside of teaching. For instance, if I keep my tracker on before and after school, the number increases due to getting ready, chores, walking after school, errands, and the list goes on.

When I described all of this to my friend, he realized that his perception of teachers was a general comment. Not all of us sit at our desks all day, that is for certain! I know I’m not the only one in the hallways zipping along. It’s just another job perk!

Does your job help you get moving?

 

My experience using PC Plus at No Frills

Grocery shopping is an on-going challenge for us, as we are constantly trying to find meals that are inexpensive and tasty, while also adding variety. We know when we get stuck in a rut that we start getting lazy with cooking and that is when our healthier choices start to slide.

pcpointsAlways willing to try something different, we have started to dabble into the PC Plus points loyalty program. Last summer, we tried it out at Real Canadian Superstore but we did not earn much because the items we were purchasing were not heavy ticket items for points. Also, we found it too expensive for weekly shopping (our personal experience based on our budget). So, we just kind of forgot about it, along with a measly 190 points.

After moving, we discovered we were within walking distance of a No Frills. Now, I know some people turn their nose up in the air at the sight of this obnoxiously yellow store, but I like the deals I can find at this store. I do not see the point in paying double for the same item, simply due to a trendy brand or a location. I was doubly thrilled when I discovered that No Frills is accepted in the PC Plus program. Good deals and loyalty points? That’s my jam!

The downside to the program at No Frills is that there are no in-store offers. Your eligible points are based solely on your personalized digital offers. This means that Superstore shoppers have potential to earn more points. However, it works for me because we buy a lot of produce and frozen veggies, so our digital offers align with that.

For those who are curious, this has been my experience so far:

For the first two weeks, it was really easy to earn points. Since we were just starting out, we had the same offer 2 weeks in a row: Spend $50 (or more) and earn 10,000 points, which amounts to $10. We did 2 weeks of our regular shopping and earned 20,000 points. Fair enough.

Since then, we have had regular offers based on our purchases. One week, we did not use any of the offers because we forgot to load them, which is very important!! Since we do not purchase a lot of meat, I have found we have had a lot of smaller offers (Ex. 100 points for every $1 spent on bananas). We are okay with this, but I know my friends have earned some pretty big offers on meat purchases. It just means we will earn points slowly.

An example of this week’s earnings:

To give an idea of our offers this week, here are the ones we purchased:

  • 100 points for every $1 spent on bell peppers
  • 200 points for every $1 spent on celery
  • 100 points for every $1 spent on PC frozen vegetables
  • 100 points for every $1 spent on bananas
  • 400 points for every $2 spent on Campbell’s soup broth
  • 700 points for Jet Dry rinse aid

Total points earned this week: 2000

Total points earned since consistently using it: 24, 390

Will we stick with it?

For now, yes. We are only purchasing what we would normally, so it can’t hurt. We are hoping to have saved enough for a nice Christmas meal or some stocking stuffers (gift cards). We are getting closer to earning $30 just from regular purchases so it seems to be helping over the long term.

Do you use PC Plus points?

 

Need to Move More? Become a Walking Tourist

Looking for a way to get outside more as the warmer weather is greeting us? Why not become a walking tourist in your local area?

A quick Google search prompted me to learn about multiple parks, gardens and hiking trails that are within my city. I did not realize how many trails there are close-by!

What a great way to get moving more, which has been my most current goal, health wise. Now that I have gotten myself back on track with my gym routine, I want to find other ways to keep myself moving. I used to love walking and I was known to walk for hours on a sunny day. Somehow, I lost that after hitting some rough patches.

Knowing that I would not commit to this alone, for sake of it being more fun and interesting when you have a buddy, I begged my friend to join me. Our goal is to become a walking tourist of a different trail each week. We plan to reward ourselves with a coffee date afterwards, once we have stuck to our plan for four weeks. It is nice to have someone to keep you in check for accountability. Plus, it will be a great way to blow off steam.

I am looking forward to getting to know my local surroundings and best of all, it’s a free activity! I’m always looking for inexpensive ways to prevent boredom.

Would you explore your local surroundings as a walking tourist?

Summer Munch Lunches

As the warm weather hits, it seems that my appetite starts to disappear. Goodbye hearty soups, hello light crispy fruits! Since I know it is important for me to regulate my blood sugar and to ensure I continue to eat balanced meals throughout the day, I like to prepare “munch lunches”.

summerlunch

What makes a munch lunch so appealing:

  • You get to eat a variety of small things, which adds interesting flavours
  • They are colourful. Who doesn’t love a visually appealing meal?
  • They are satisfying with out feeling heavy and sustain my apetite
  • They encourage me to eat more fruits and veggies
  • I do not like my food touching and I like dipping things. Munch lunches are great for both of these preferences!
  • They can be a way to control cravings

A munch lunch is not a super creative meal. In fact, anyone can throw one together. The term really just came from Mr. Lolobunny, who says that I look like a rabbit munching away. I just throw together items in my fridge that I do not want to go to waste and then add whatever else I have lying around. They are easily transportable, which is also a plus, because as the warm weather hits, I often bring them to work. It is also one of the many ways I use my silicone baking cups, which I am obsessed with! I found mine at Ikea, where we also recently purchased a ceiling lamp on the ceap.

Some combinations I like:

  • Pretzels, yogurt, fruit/veggies of my choice
  • Trail mix, dark chocolate, peanut butter, apple slices
  • Feta cheese, watermelon, veggies, hummus, crackers
  • Grilled chicken, avocado slices, veggies

Do you have any weird eating habits, like not wanting your foods to touch?

 

How Scheduling a Financial Date Can Do Wonders For Your Budget (And Your Marriage!)

One of the most important lessons I have learned in the five+ years Mr. Lolobunny and I have been together is that if we are not on the same page, our life becomes disastrous. I am not saying we have to agree on everything. We are opposites in many ways. However, when it comes to finances, if we are not on the same wave length, the spending and saving could make or break us… but more likely, break us!

time-273857_640In the past, when I was in control of all the finances and we were struggling with some debt in a time when both of us were not making much, I was making the awful choice of prioritizing what was going to get paid and when. Late payments were becoming a habit and it was driving Mr. Lolobunny nuts. It was embarrassing to say we could not afford certain things, so I would try to cleverly make it happen without actually being clever at all. This was four years ago and luckily, I got over myself. I have developed much better habits since then, but it was an adventure to get where I am today.

Our saving grace was to schedule a financial date. A place to meet, in public, where neither party could become upset or raise their voice so we discuss our financial situation calmly and look at it with open eyes. We had to rip the band-aid wide open and expose every dark corner to each other. From our first financial date, Mr. Lolobunny considered ways of increasing his income, while I explained more clearly what our monthly expenses really added up to so we both knew what we were dealing with. In this situation, both of us felt like we were contributing without a rack of guilt.

Part of the fun of a financial date is it involves communicating with each-other outside of the home. We treat it just as seriously as a romantic date. We usually pick a place to get coffee, although sometimes we prepare a picnic and go to a park or find a place with happy hour specials. Since we rarely go on dates, we set aside a small amount of money for this.

We started slowly and let our financial dates develop from there. Before meeting, we always have a goal in mind so that we do not shift our focus. We discuss our current goal and how we will achieve it, our budget or an increase in income, a wish item, a need item and so on. Sometimes, we even call emergency meetings for when one of us feeling overly stressed (ie. me!). I always take notes to remind us of what we discussed and in case we may need to refer back to the numbers.

On our most recent date, I showed my husband a great budgeting tool called CalendarBudget. If you have not used this tool yet, it’s a great one to check out! It is free and allows you to enter your current balance, all your pre-authorized payments, deposits, etc. Then, it will display on a calendar exactly how much will be in your account each day until your next pay. I love this because it gives me a visual way of tracking our spending. I can schedule in my budget for gas, groceries, etc. and see how it will allow me to make extra debt payments or contribute to savings so that every dollar is assigned a home. This is important because every time Mr. Lolobunny wants to make a small purchase, I whip out my phone to add it into my calendar budget and he carefully reflects on whether he would like to proceed. There has to be a buy-in on both sides.

The time before that, I showed him FoundationsU, so that we could calculate paying off our car loan earlier, which we did successfully! I was unsure how he was going to take it, but we ended up playing around with the program for almost 2 hours… no joke! We carefully played with the numbers to see which debt we would pay off next. It was not boring or painful, it was nice to feel connected and to have a shared vision.

Knowing that we are fully aware of what is in our bank account and that we have chosen goals together has been such a strengthening exercise for us. It has brought us closer together and has also helped us to skip quite a few arguments over money. Lastly, it taught me more about my spouse on a personal level. While I tend to stick to a vision of ourselves within 6 months to a year, Mr. Lolobunny often shares great plans for our future within the next five years. Knowing he is the more positive and optimistic cheerleader for our future has made me appreciate his suggestions in this entire process so much more. I would not be where I am financially without his support.

If you are unsure of how to propose the idea of a financial date, be sure to set the tone. Putting emphasis on a safe space in a public area can help to alleviate pressure. Also, keep it simple at the start. Pick 1 thing you would each like to discuss and be sure to listen wholeheartedly.

How do you approach the finances situation with your spouse?