New Obsession: AchieveMint (or, how to earn free money for stuff you already do)

Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement nor am I being sponsored  by, or asked to promote, AchieveMint. I just think it’s a cool app and wanted to share it with the three people that read my blog. (Hello, faithful readers!) If you like it, great! And if not, that’s cool, yo!

Okay, and off we go!

If there is one thing you should know about me it’s that I love a good bargain. Paying retail for anything is hard for me to justify. If it’s on sale, or better yet, clearance, I’m all over it. Thrift stores are my favorite places since they are sustainable for the environment, the closet, and the wallet. Plus, thrifting in Boulder has its perks! There always seems to be great fitness gear in like-new condition just waiting for me.

 

Helly Hansen Tech Shirt scored for six bucks.

Helly Hansen Tech Shirt scored for six bucks from the Humane Society store. Recycling, supporting the local no-kill shelter, AND I look cute. WIN WIN.

The other thing you should know about me as a runner is that races keep me motivated to train. Yes, I appreciate running’s many benefits and I take satisfaction from them, but if I don’t have a race on the horizon, it’s easy for me to start skipping runs in favor of easier forms of exercise. Or doughnuts.  Or those chocolate mousse parfaits they have at Whole Foods. Bless my thighs that concoction will be the death of me.

As you know, races cost money. Hence, when my brother-in-law told me about an app he uses to earn money for doing his regular fitness activities and tracking them with his Fitbit, I thought, “I have a Fitbit. I use it every day. Please tell me more, awesome brother in law.” (FYI, you do not need a Fitbit to use the AchieveMint app, but more in that in a sec.)

So here’s what happens. First, you create a free account with AchieveMint, and sync the fitness and social media apps you are already using to your AchieveMint account. Then, AchieveMint gives you points based on the activity you track with your apps. So if you track your run using  MapMyRun or RunKeeper, AchieveMint might give you 66 points for a 2 mile run. After 50,000 they will send you an electronic VISA gift card for 50.00.

That’s totally one race entry. You could maybe even get two 5ks for 50 bucks. That’s TWO FREE RACES, people. And free is always better.

Case in point: free H/H Tech T I won from the BB10K for Instragraming a selfie at the race

Case in point: free H/H Tech T I won from the BB10K for Instragraming a selfie at the race

The beauty is that there are lots of different ways to earn points. If you check in at the gym using FourSquare, BOOM, 65 points. If you tweet a healthy article, that’s another easy 5 points. If you log your sleep with your Fitbit, that’s 20 points. You earn points for using apps like Facebook, Instagram, and FitnessPal, to name a very few. You get a big bonus for each app you connect with your AchieveMint account, and if you use a Fitbit device, the points rack up even more quickly. You can set weekly goals, such as running four times a week and cycling twice, and earn a big bonus if you complete them.

Points rack up pretty quickly, and the more you exercise, the more points you can earn. I’ve been using the AchieveMint app since 6/9/14 and I’m already at 8540 points. A good fitness week for me right now is running 6 miles, cycling 2 miles to work 4 days a week, walking 1-2 miles a day for my job, and squeezing in yoga or cross training once a week if I’m super lucky. If you’re training for a marathon, the points could rack really up fast.

 

Living the Colorado dream; mountain biking and golfing, and getting paid for it.

Living the Colorado dream; mountain biking and golfing, and getting paid for it.

I have a Fitbit One and I have it synced with MapMyFitness. AchieveMint connects with both to give me points for the steps I took and the walking I did in a day, even though it’s really the same activity. Check out the screenshot below to give you an idea of how points accumulate.

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So far, I’m loving it. I find myself constantly checking my point accumulation and wondering how long it will take me to get to 50k points. I don’t feel that the money is motivating me to be fit, but that it’s rewarding me for stuff I’m doing anyway. I plan to reinvest my ‘winnings’ back into myself by paying for races and whatever else I need to stay fit. That includes cute, functional gear. Priorities, man.

Countdown to the BolderBOULDER

I have many goals for 2014. I wrote them all down on a nice crisp sheet of college ruled notebook paper and pinned them to my inspiration board  beside my writing desk. Number three, below cultivating calmness and patience, was “run the BolderBoulder“.  I viewed this goal as the next step in my motivation to keep running since fun-run 5ks don’t hold quite the same charm as they used to. Plus, the BolderBoulder is my hometown race. It’s been around a long time, and as a native of Boulder I felt is was something I should do at least once in my lifetime. It’s my birthright. Right?

Apparently, I had no idea what I was getting into. Apparently, this race is legendary. Apparently, Runner’s World thinks the BolderBoulder is America’s best 10k. Apparently, 54 thousand people ran the BolderBoulder last year.  My assumption that the race would have maybe 20k runners was totally wrong. Silly native Boulderite that I am, I’ve never actually seen the race in person. All my life, I somehow managed to avoid Boulder like the plague on race day. When I was a kid living in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood, my family prepared for the race as if we would be under attack come Memorial Day. All our BBQ supplies were purchased by the previous Thursday night. Dad made sure to stock up on beer long before the crowds swarmed Liquor Mart. We tried not to lave the house all weekend. But this year I find myself repelling the teachings of my youth and following the herd into Folsom Field instead.

I started training in January, like  every good New Year’s resolution maker/goal setter should. Then, three weeks later, I injured my left knee as a result of careless clumsiness. It took eight weeks for my knee not to hurt when running, plus, it’s was winter and I had to face a hard truth. Colorado girl that I am,  I don’t like running in the cold and snow. I was legit worried about slipping and falling. All of this taught me something, though. Apparently, I’m a wimp-sissy-la-la who really just needs to buck up and order some Yaktrax already.  Winters here are beautiful, and draped in a soft, white, peaceful, quiet that you can’t experience at any other time. So, I can learn to ignore it when my nostrils freeze together and I can’t breathe, right? Sure I can.

I picked up C25K again 4 weeks ago and was feeling great. After a minor 2 week set back due to lack of time (stupid finals and overtime at work), I’m back at it again this week. The BolderBoulder is in six days. Am I ready? Meh, I feel ready enough. I’m not going to be as strong as I wanted to be when I set this goal in January, but I’m ready to set a pace to beat for 2015. I’m ready to see what all the fuss is about. I’m ready to participate in a homegrown event that is steeped in tradition with a passionate following and rich history. Mostly, I’m super stoked to be a Boulderite running in the BolderBoulder.

Sorry I have no photos for this post. Until I can take some of my own, I have none to share that aren’t copyrighted. I’ll be posting about my BolderBoulder race experience on the running blog Scootadoot sometime next week, and photos will be included!

5 Things That Scare Me About Running

Running is not something I ever thought I’d do (voluntarily). Being diagnosed with asthma at age 3 and forever being told not to run, ever, pretty much squashed any inkling or aptitude I may have had. As a result, I hated track and field day, and I was always picked last for team sports. Always. In jr high, I played soccer (goalkeeper) and volleyball, and pretty much managed to avoid running. I was more than happy to keep running out of my life.

What changed? Why on God’s green earth would I start running in my late 30s? WHO am I becoming?!?! Well, there are a few answers. At first , it was what all my cool friends, the Chicks over at Scootadoot, were doing. Since we are all spread out across the country, I thought running would be a good way to stay connected to my girls. Plus, it’s good for me, and that never hurts. Now that I’ve been doing it for a bit, I run for one reason, stress relief (but more about that later).

I still have some issues with running, though. There are things I’m still worried about, mainly because I’m a worrier. It’s what I do. Here’s the top five:

1. Losing my boobs. Because really, I can’t afford for that to happen. I have none to spare. I know, this is shallow and shitty, but it’s honest. I’m fortunate to have a healthy self-image and I’m proud of my body, but if my tiny ta-tas disappear I will be super sad panda.

2. Scary stories my dad told me about running. My dad was a body builder and personal trainer at Gold’s Gym for many years. His favorite soapbox topic was how running was the worst exercise one could subject their fragile joints to. He would bemoan its benefits in favor of convincing me that runners destroyed the cartridge in their knees, hips, and ankles. “You don’t want to be hobbling around with a cane when you’re fifty, do you?” He also swore running was a definite boob-shrinker.

3. An asthma attack will finally kill me. Training in Colorado at a mile above sea level adds to this anxiety and certainly makes breathing difficult during running. However, I try to focus on the upside of the altitude problem by remembering that when I go to my next race at sea level, I’m going to KILL IT. (Or so the theory goes.)

4. I will lose too much weight. I know. Go ahead and grumble under your breath about how that must be a nice problem to have. I agree, generally it isn’t a bad problem to have. Generally. I happen to be one if those rarities who represent the other side of the weight spectrum. That’s the side that is never talked about, because there’s no reason to talk about us. However, on many occasions I have been asked if I’m anorexic or bulimic, and the answer is, was, and always will be, no. But lemme tell ya, it’s a super shitty feeling to try to convince someone you don’t have an eating disorder, and have to endure their pity filled looks of disbelief when you tell them you had chicken fried steak and eggs for breakfast.

5. Personal safety. I have a lot of fears about being attacked, raped, murdered, all of the above, or worse, sold into slavery. Most of it is ridiculous, and highly unlikely in my tiny town, but my unnatural fears may have something to do with that time I really was almost kidnapped as a child. There was a big scary van with no windows involved, and to this day those kind of vans creep me the eff out. To ease my fears when running, I went and bought some police mace last week. What I really want to have is a black belt in some amazing kick-ass martial art technique. Maybe that’s what’s next? I imagine myself like the women in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, utterly capable of subduing any threat with a thorough and decisive ass kicking, no sword needed.

Until then, I’ll carry my mace, be extra aware of my surroundings, and take my little dog, Coco, with me when I can. I’ll also carry my stupid inhaler on every run, just as I’ve carried it with me everywhere my whole life. I’ll be checking the mirror and scale more often, too, watching to make sure I’m not shrinking in all the wrong places. And I’ll be worrying. Worrying about whatever, doesn’t matter. You can count on it!

What fears did you overcome when you started running? Any advice for chronic worrying or addictions to fried food? Help?

Fit Post – Day 29

It has been twenty-nine days since The Color Run – Denver, and in that time, a few things have happened that I never would have imagined:

  • I fell in love with climbing
  • I chose to register for the Electric Run instead of buying Muse tickets
  • I added Pink and 3OH3 to my workout playlist
  • I bought a real pair of running shoes.
  • I flexed my biceps for my husband and was so surprised by the huge change I saw that I giggled uncontrollably
  • I bought a trail bike
  • I really liked riding said trail bike.

Fitness is becoming a major part of my life. I owe much of this shift to my participation in the TRUBLUE Reach Your Peak Training Program taught by Chris Wall. The impact climbing has had on my body has been HUGE. I started the program on June 11th and have lost six pounds, can see my belly getting flatter, and overall, I’m feeling more positive about my body. Climbing is fun. Really fun. And you don’t necessarily need a partner. If your local climbing gym has a couple of TRUBUE Autobelays you can climb alone whenever it’s convenient for you.

hearts_lock-normalIt’s taken me a long time to come around to climbing. I was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado. Therefore, one would think I was born knowing how to  belay. I mean, Boulder is the “epicenter of American climbing”  after all. I’ll be honest, after getting into a tussle with a cactus on a 5th grade class hike, I’ve been a bit of an ‘indoor girl’. Aside from tent camping as a kid and RV camping now, I steer pretty clear of the wilderness. The Rockies are amazing and beautiful and full of amazing and beautiful creatures too, like rattlesnakes and bears and mountain lions and…cacti.

And then there’s the whole falling thing. Falling scares the shit out of me. I’m not afraid of heights, but the idea of falling is panic inducing. I could never sky dive. EVER. Even amusement park rides that drop you twenty stories are utterly terrifying. And the possibility of falling into a cactus? No thanks. Been there, done that. Hence, the appeal of indoor climbing.

My Gym - The Boulder Rock Club

My Gym – The Boulder Rock Club

At the gym, I feel safe, I feel in control, and I am still challenged. The mental challenges are just as grueling and difficult as the physical ones, and the exhilaration of besting both is as rewarding as any sport I can think of. It’s an easy sport to pick up; you only need a pair of climbing shoes and a well-fitted harness to get started, and my gym has both available to borrow for free. If you want to score your own gear expect to spend $150.00 – $300.00 for shoes and a harness. I recommend climbing to anyone who hates lifting weights and wants fast results. It’s low impact but incredibly strength building. And it’s fun. So very, very fun.

As mentioned, I made some tough, grown-up decisions with my money recently. I registered for the Electric Run – Denver on August 30th because I decided Muse’s new album was kinda sucky, and I didn’t think $100.00 for a pair of tickets was worth it. A 5k, especially an ELECTRIC 5k , is a much better expenditure of my funds, yes? YES! I’ll be running with my homies, team Scrambled Legs, again and we are so gonna rock the costumes!

In preparation for this event, I started taking running a bit more seriously. I invested in some good socks and shoes, and I’m running at least once a week in addition to all the other activities I’m doing. I created a new playlist that keeps my head bobbing and the inspiration flowing via memories of my girls at Scootadoot.

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Brooks Pure Cadence Shoes and Injinji Socks – Both have been fabulous investments

Running isn’t going as smoothly as I would like. That old right knee pain that made me stop running before flared up right away, although I can tell my new shoes do help a lot. I know the solution is to strengthen my knees. With time I should be able to run a complete 5k, and really, that’s all the runner I want to be at this point. Plus, I found a way to strengthen my knees that feels heavenly while doing it!

The last newly discovered treasure in my fitness epiphany is my new city/trail hybrid bike that I just scored. There was a time, a decade ago, when my husband and I rode our bikes along a cement bike path near the duplex we were renting. It was alright, but my bike, a cheap Huffy that looked like a mountain bike but was too heavy to pedal up an ant hill, made the activity pretty labor intensive for me, and not in a good way. Well, said husband recently scored a Trek mountain bike from a co-worker at a steal and on the 4th of July, we rode about 7 miles together, he on his Trek and me on my heavy-as-hell Huffy.

I was working SO MUCH HARDER than him! But I enjoyed the view from the saddle, and I could feel  my bum knee getting a good, steady workout. It felt really good, and I wanted to do it more, but not on my slog of a bike. Coincidentally, there is a bike shop across the street from my house called Shalom Bikes, owned by a sweet and knowledgeable Peruvian man named Angel. He and my husband have gotten to be good friends over the years, they have ridden together many times and my husband bought his road bike from Angel a few years back. Well of course Angel had a sweet little hybrid ride that was the perfect size, and price, for me! I put the old slog out on the curb, and took my new 2012 GT Transeo 3.0 home!

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My new ride

View of the Indian Peaks from the East Boulder Trail

View of the Indian Peaks from the East Boulder Trail

This last Sunday, Rick (aka husband) and I tossed the bikes in the back of the Forester and headed to the Teller Farm Trail head of the East Boulder Trail. I drive by this trail head everyday on my commute to and from work and it looks so beautiful and peaceful. Although it was bit crowded by the time we got there at 10:00AM, the trail didn’t disappoint, and I got to test my new bike out on a gravel trail. It did fantastic, and boy do I love the disc brakes! Despite upgrading to a super cushioned saddle, my sit bones are really sore today but it was worth it. I know my bony ass will get used to that. It felt wonderful, but I was a bit surprised and sad when I looked at the gps and saw our ride was just over 5 miles long; it felt a lot longer than that! The views were amazing and the weather was absolutely perfect, in the mid 70s and overcast.

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Soon, the Reach Your Peak training will wind down and Summer will come to a close. To replace it will be classes full Dickens lectures and Math homework. But I’m determined NOT to let that ruin the progress I have made. I feel good. I feel…hot. I was hit on by a twenty something guy the other day. As a late thirty something lady, I can’t lie, it felt good. He was a douche, but who cares? I’m almost 40, for Pete’s sake, I’ll take it. The point is I reached the point where I can see the changes happening. I never had the patience to get to this point before. It feels so right. These changes are for life, baby!

BRING IT, LIFE!

 

Fit Post – Crazy Week 1; Reach Your Peak Training & The Color Run

My body hates me right now.  After a serious backslide over the winter, I decided I should make up for at least a few months of that winter hibernation in the space of five days. Yeah, because I’m crazy. Or stupid. Either way, my body is rebelling. But that’s totally okay, because I had SO. MUCH. FUN.

This week was this first week of Reach Your Peak Training sponsored by TRUBLUE Auto Belays. I was determined not to sabotage my workouts by not eating well. I LOVE sweets and anything that is fried. And fried sweets? OMG. At the dogs shows, I can never resist the delectable smell of funnel cake and they always make me sick. I don’t care. It’s sweet. And Fried. I’m half Texan, so I blame it on that.

I did really well this week, taking my lunch 4 days out of 5 and eating salads and fruit. The hardest thing to give up is baked goods. I can’t believe how hard it is. I did break down and buy some raspberry oat bars. They were from a healthy bakery at a well-known grocer, so that’s okay, right? Right.  By the end of the week, it didn’t matter. I KNOW I worked them off.

Rock climbing is more fun than I expected, and I’m getting great results (which I write about on the blog linked above). After 3 sessions at the climbing gym this week, I know the program is going to help me build strength in all the areas I want to target.

And, because I hate my body, I ran the Denver Color Run today. It was a really happy 5k, and I ran it with really awesome people! We called ourselves ‘Scrambled Legs’.

Team Scrambled Legs!

Team Scrambled Legs! Nick, Steve, Laura, Beth, yours truly

My necklace and headband were a big hit!

My necklace and headband were a big hit!

There were about five thousand runners participating. We managed to get in line toward the beginning of the crowd, kinda, and ended up in wave sixteen. Luckily, the weather couldn’t have been better and the temperature was in the low seventies. We waiting for our turn, dancing and soaking up some color in true Color Run spirit!

Starting off!

Starting off!

I’m not going to lie, my calves were in pain in the first 100 yards. I am that out of shape. I was determined to get some idea of how fast (or slow) I was, so I pushed myself as far as I could without risking an asthma attack. It wasn’t long before I lost my teammates, but I kept a pace that I could manage. The course was crowded but beautiful. Denver City Park is full of gorgeous old trees that provide lots of shade, and the running paths are clean and well-kept. The route circuited the lake, weaving and back-tracking throughout the park.  The race energy was great,  the music was loud, and the color was flying!

Running through the Pink station

Running through the Pink station

Can't beat Denver's enthusiasm; people were rolling in the color!

Can’t beat Denver’s enthusiasm; people were rolling in the color!

I bumped into teammate Laura and ran with her for a bit as we entered the last mile. I had to take a break soon after and slowed to a brisk walk. I wanted to save some lung power to run across the finish line. After a few minutes and a few more switchbacks,  I could see the finish line. I felt a burst of energy and wove my way through the crowd. I crossed the line in 42 minutes; a time I will totally take!

Aaaaand DONE!

Aaaaand DONE!

There were still waves of runners starting the race when I finished, so I was really grateful we were in an early wave. The team did great, and everyone was pleased with their time and their runs. We were happy and thoroughly colored, but we still had our color packets to throw. Once the team was reunited it was time for MOAR COLOR!

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We had so much fun! I would do this race again in a heartbeat. The team is already talking Electric Run in August. Depending on other commitments, I may participate. My husband was wonderful for following us around and being our team photographer; he did a great job!

I’m kicking off week 2 of my fit re-vamp with enthusiasm and great soreness. I plan to renew my commitment to yoga, too, as I am missing its many physical and mental benefits. That’s my goal for this next week!

Fitspo Week 1 – 3/2/13

3/2/13

I  have a lot of baggage associated with exercise, which is probably pretty normal, right? Probably. I’d wager that most people have their exercise challenges. I have some challenges.  Thanks to my steroid-riddled, personal trainer father, I was exposed to a very narrow view of what fitness is. Weightlifting is good. Jogging is bad. Because it makes your tits sag (or something like that). In the summers, I’d stay with my dad and go to work with him everyday at the gym. I watched him teach his wealthy female clients the proper way to bench press and lecture them on cheating on the StairMaster. But at home, the side effects of his steroid abuse were always there, just below the surface, like a fucking crazy violent bomb, and anything could light the fuse at any moment. Steroids are bad for you, kiddies. Stay away from that shit.

Couple that with moderate to severe childhood asthma and I simply didn’t exercise. I wasn’t encouraged to be athletic. Running gave me an instant asthma attack. I loathed track and field day. I always got picked last for kick ball. I did play on my junior high volleyball team and soccer teams, but on the field, I was a defender and told to stay in front of the goal.

Suffice to say that I have some resentment toward exercise. The absolutely ridiculous thing was that for most of my life, I let it control me. I allowed these memories and uncomfortableness and insecurities to prevent me from taking care of myself. I finally let go of the association between fitness and my father. I also felt secure that I wouldn’t immediately need to reach for my rescue inhaler, either.

This epiphany still didn’t get me out the door and active. It took going to yoga class with my little sister (thank you, Carla). I didn’t notice the physical affects until a few days later, but the mental affects were immediate. The calm focus on breath and movement helped me center my busy mind, and spoke to my naturally high-strung nature. I was hooked. For about eight months, I went to class regularly. I’m naturally (and freakishly) flexible, so I was able to do the more advanced poses right away, even when maybe I shouldn’t’ have. I still haven’t done a headstand since falling over and breaking my toe (roll into it, people). And by the way, Yoga, when done correctly, will kick your ass.

My goal is to physically and mentally be healthy and fit. Toned. Strong. Maybe a little tough. Able to run a 5 k with my friends a few times a year. Living and breathing yoga and being mindful every moment, every day. Plus, I have all the awesome stuff in my basement. I need to use it, there’s no excuse! It’s all right there, free and available any time.

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I have two 5ks coming up; one The Strides for Strength 5k & Fun Run on April 27th, and the Denver Color Run  on June 16th. It’s time to put a wiggle in it.

C25K Week One, Day One – Ran 1.1 On the elliptical. I’m starting here and we’ll see where I go.
Day 2 Stupid homework is stupid.

Day 3
Breakfast oatmeal is so good, but can’t eat it fast enough before it turns to glue.

Day 4 – C25K Week 1, Day 2 – Ran 1.7 miles on my elliptical. Did 20 leg curls each leg, lying and seated. 20 sit-ups and 20 lunges with 30 pounds. My husband said adding the weight was super dumb and that I’ll be sorry tomorrow. I didn’t tell him I was already sorry coming up the stairs after my workout. Besides, what does he know? He’s only been playing hockey all his life and is a natural at every sport he tries.

Anyway, it felt good to work my weak knee. I’m hoping it will get stronger quickly, but I won’t push it either. I would rather be running outside, but I know my knee will be pissed at me if I run on a hard surface right now. The elliptical is working great for me; my heart rate gets going, and I’m diligent about increasing the resistance. The drawback is I’m convinced that it doesn’t track distance accurately. I miss the GPS accuracy of the outdoor run!

Day 6 – The soreness kicked in. OUCH. Week one has ended with a valuable reminder of overexertion, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Sigh. As my favorite heroine/villain loves to say, tomorrow is another day.