Weekend recap: Beetles, and roaches, and spiders, oh my!

This weekend was pretty gluttonous overall. It seemed to have an air of celebration about it. Which normally I would still keep pretty focused through, but it seemed like a nice time to adopt the ‘treat yo’self’ motto and go all out.

Friday night, hubby and I went on a date night to try out a new (to us) local restaurant. It was delicious but very indulgent – the meal ending with a slice of tiramisu cheesecake if that’s any indicator. We had big plans for Saturday, but wanted to enjoy his Father’s Day dinner celebration the night before.

Saturday, we headed to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. This is one of our favorite local activity spots since moving to the area. We loved it so much that we got season passes because it’s such an excellent value, and we try to go at least once a month. The indoor area has interactive science exhibits for kids, but unlike most museums, they really cover all age ranges – from preschool to adults. Most places seem to skip or just gloss over the preschool age range, but this museum has it all.

The outdoor area is huge and has playgrounds, a small farm to see livestock, a water misting park area, butterfly and insect house, train that loops around the park, dinosaur exhibit, mini zoo type section with various animals, and the newest feature is a giant outdoor tree-house play area called Hideaway Woods. So needless to say, we try to make it out to the museum as much as possible. Recently, they sent a short survey asking about how we liked the museum, what features we enjoyed, etc. It mentioned the opportunity to win a prize for completing the survey but I mainly filled it out as I’ve recently had to distribute surveys as part of my regular role and am amazed by how few people actually reply. The survey was short and we happen to love the museum so I was happy to fill it out. Well, shortly afterwards, I received an email stating that we won the membership survey prize. Woohoo! Oh wait, it’s a private insect encounter? Um, is there an option B?

Butterfly bench in front of the butterfly house.

I’ll admit, critters are not my thing. Unless they’re cute, furry, and respond with a ‘meow’ or ‘woof’, I generally try to keep away. But, I decided that the boys would probably all really enjoy it and I could learn a thing or two about the bugs in our new home state. This weekend also happened to be exactly three years from when we relocated from California to North Carolina. It seemed like it would be a fun way to celebrate at a local attraction hanging out with local insects.

Petting the rhinoceros beetle.

I coordinated times, everything was set in place, and we arrived at the museum for our  insect encounter. They radio’d the butterfly house when we arrived at the museum to let them know we were on our way. We were greeted at the front entrance by Uli who manages the butterfly house and surrounding grounds. He then introduced us to Annie who was one of the on-site entomologists. She instantly started showing Ian a bug (a walking leaf?) that was hanging out on her shirt and I knew I was in for quite the experience. They took us directly into the back room that housed quite a few insects that would typically be on display in their front room… a room I will admit, I generally avoid. I tried to keep cool when a huge (in my opinion) rhinoceros beetle was suddenly being held out in front of us. I’d never seen one in person and instantly hoped Ian would be able to relate it to his Bugs Life movie and not freak out like I was doing in my head. He was skeptical but Graeme was all over it. He instantly wanted to poke at it and grab it. It was a pretty cool looking bug and I even gave in and touched it.

Annie with the roaches.

Next, they brought out a big tank of roaches. Ok, now we’re really getting into a ‘not my thing’ territory. But the way they were handling them so easily really made them seem a lot more harmless than I play them out to be in my mind. Still, I’d rather not see them in my house, but maybe I’ll be a little bit calmer if I ever do (probably not). Annie showed us a few more bugs including more walking leaves and walking sticks, as well as another large beetle. Then it was on to the big guns: the tarantula came out. Uli held it like it was nothing and let it hang out on his leg. We were all given the chance to pet it though it had just molted so they didn’t want us poking and prodding too much (don’t have to tell me twice). We did get to see the leftover ‘shell’ of the tarantula… pretty sure I would move if I ever found that lying around my property.

Uki showing the freshly molted tarantula.

After that, we headed to the back room of the butterfly area where we could hang out with the butterflies that were waiting to be released into the main butterfly house. It was really neat seeing the inside of the room and hearing about their prepping of the butterflies for release, lifespan, etc. Both boys were more interested in playing with the wet stones that were in the room to help with the air moisture. But afterwards, we went into the main butterfly house where we could see them eating and flying around a bit more freely. Finally, we made one last stop in the insect room and said bye to Annie, Uli, and all of the insects. They gave us a parting gift bag as a final part of our prize. It included a butterfly kit, a butterfly garden kit, a butterfly in glass, and a butterfly necklace. It really was such a wonderful treat and a great experience overall. We headed out after having a delicious lunch at the museum cafe. They have some fresh and healthy options so we always like to have lunch on-site before heading home for naps and afternoon activities.


In the afternoon, I headed to the Y to practice teaching a round of PiYo with a couple of friends, then met the family at the pool to wear us all out before the evening. I ended up going out to a Labyrinth and David Bowie tribute night at the local art museum. It’s one of my favorite childhood movies so I will take any excuse to watch it, especially in such a fun setting.

Sunday morning meant it was time for a long run. My first one since the Virginia half so we kept it simple. One 8 mile loop on our main Umstead drag. Hilly, but familiar, and it was nice to be out in nature (you know, especially now that the bugs and I are besties). The weather was perfect and it was great to catch up with Rachel as it had been a couple of weeks since we had run together. Afterwards, our two families indulged and had brunch at the local donut and biscuit shop that just opened up a new branch by us. It’s James’ favorite donut shop in the area so it was a perfect Father’s Day treat for him.

I took Ian with me on some errands in the afternoon so James could get a break while Graeme napped, and then we had some friends over for some BBQ and kiddie pool time in the evening. Now, it’s time for more PiYo Live practice as my first class is this time next week! It was a great weekend, though as usual I can’t get over how fast it flew by. I’m looking forward to tackling the week and getting back on track with my healthy habits.

Ian checking out the butterfly in glass that was part of our gift. Graeme took off with the tissue that you see scattered around the room.

My foundation

All of my posts about ‘my’ journey when really, I never could have done it alone. My husband has been my rock – my foundation – through it all. He is my biggest fan and supporter. He entertains our boys during my long runs, or watches the monitor if I have evening workouts when the kids are sleeping. He listens to me vent about bad workouts or hard runs, offered encouragement when I’ve had a rough day and just want to eat a pint of ice cream, and has more than once been my guinea pig as I test out new recipes or even as I practice my certifications. I could never have done it without his support.

On top of all of this, he also has been working on his own health and fitness journey. He has never been a fan of vegetables but he keeps the grumbling to a minimum as I add more and more to our meals. He has also been exercising on his own – doing cycle classes at a nearby studio and joining me on 22 Minute Hard Corps challenges and doing his own 21 Day Fix challenge. Since around this time last year, he has lost over 45lbs! I am so proud of him and so thankful that we have been able to do this all together, and set a good example for our boys by living an active and healthy lifestyle.


Happy Father’s Day, James! I hope you enjoy your day because you really are the best Father to our kids that I could ever have wished for. You are an amazing partner and best friend. Love you!

Self development and certifications

As  if last week couldn’t get any crazier, I spent all weekend getting additional certifications. So now, in addition to being AFAA group fitness certified, I am certified in PiYo Live and Schwinn classic indoor cycling.

When I first signed up for my AFAA certification, I also found that Raleigh would be taking part in the Empower! Weekend Fitness Celebration in June. I knew that I wanted to do PiYo Live, but after looking at the various course offerings, I decided to also do cycle certification. Running has been my ‘thang’ for the last year, but I couldn’t have kept it up if I wasn’t cross training with these two activities. While I was in the cycle certification class, we talked about the best types of exercises to compliment cycle (in terms of strength, flexibility, etc) and I was just doing a mental ‘check’, ‘check’ of how PiYo has helped me to cross train for my cardio heavy workouts. I do still incorporate all over strength training classes, functional fitness, and interval classes into my routine, and I love to mix things up, but I know more core focus has really been on running, cycle, and PiYo with the other stuff thrown in depending on my schedule.

Arriving at Lifetime Fitness in Raleigh bright and early for my certification courses.

Saturday morning, I showed up to Lifetime Fitness in Raleigh bright and early. My PiYo Live Master Trainer was Kara Buono and she was ah-mazing. She gave us an intro to PiYo and how it has evolved over time, and I met a great group of ladies who had varying levels of knowledge of the program. Some had been practicing it regularly as PiYo Live, some had just finished a Beachbody Challenge Group of the at-home program, and others had just heard of it but had never actually taken a physical class for it. Then Kara taught a PiYo Live Master Class that kicked our butts! It was so much fun though I was dripping sweat the whole time.

Some of my study materials during the PiYo Live certification.

Afterwards we broke down parts of the class, went through individual moves, and then broke into groups to ‘teach’ our peers sections of the program. It was great practice and helped us to develop awareness of what we needed to focus on and tips on how to remember various parts of each class section.

Class breaking out to work on various sections of the program.

We ended the day by going up in front of the class, giving a brief overview of ourselves, PiYo, and then taught a section of the round to our classmates.

With Master Trainer Kara Buono at the end of a busy day.

Sunday was an even earlier morning and I have to say that everything hurt. My legs, glutes, and core were SO sore from Saturday. The thought of hopping onto a bike was not really appealing but I was excited to get a better understanding of indoor cycling.

Cycle room pre-certification

Our Master Trainer was Keli Roberts who came in from California to teach us. Similar to Saturday, we went through the training manual and learned the fundamentals of cycle. From every aspect of an indoor bike, to properly fitting class participants, and the overall components of a cycle class. Both the core and the ‘frame.’ It was so interesting and what could have easily been ‘dull’ material was fascinating. Keli also took us on two great rides that left me drenched in sweat.

Keli demonstrating proper bike fit.

I met some more awesome people with all levels of cycle class experience. By the end of the day, my lower body was ready for a break but I felt so good overall. I couldn’t wait to get home and play with the kiddos, but then also work on everything I learned over the weekend. It was an early night so I could get some rest but not before I worked on a little PiYo and reread some of my cycle class info.

With Keli after a sweaty ride and productive day!

Now, I’m officially certified, I just need the practice teaching and leading classes! My friends have been so supportive and have been offering to be guinea pigs, and my PiYo challengers are going to get some firsthand practice sessions, even if just virtually. My next fitness event isn’t until DCAC in August, but it was just a great feeling overall to be surrounded by likeminded individuals with a passion for these various fitness programs. Once again, I’m excited to dive in!

I’m now a member of the ProTeam for PiYo Live as part of my certification.


Will run for wine

So much has happened this week that last weekend already feels so long ago. But I had such a fantastic time that I wanted to relive it.

Last weekend, I took a trip to Virginia for the Destination Races Wine Country Half Marathon. It was my first time in Virginia, and I was looking forward to seeing out their wine country, especially being from Northern California and missing any sort of wine country since we moved to North Carolina.

Not only that, but this was planned out to be an epic girl’s weekend away. 8 out of 9 of us had little ones back home and we were excited for a relaxing weekend (ok, well, there is the run aspect) of wine, sitting pool side, some pampering… and oh yeah, back to that run. This was going to be the first half marathon for some of the ladies in our group, and we had been cheering each other on virtually and sometimes doing runs together when possible as were were scattered all over the East coast.

Early Friday morning, my girlfriend Stephanie and I began the 4.5 hour drive to Virginia. It’s so much different than my previous drives from NorCal to SoCal! While not necessarily much to see, the trees and highway headed north was beautiful. My first observation upon entering Virginia was the giant ‘Virginia is for lovers’ welcome sign. My second was the huge amount of highway patrol on the road. Wow, they’re not messing around! Thankfully, it was a fairly uneventful drive aside from minor traffic around highway interchanges.

We made it to the hotel around noon, and were able to check-in, hit up the race expo, and get to the pool for lunch in record time. We had to kick it off with a celebratory drink while we waited for everyone else to arrive.

Hanging out poolside with Stephanie

Several hours later, the rest of our group trickled in. The timing was perfect as we had to leave the pool area due to some gloomy weather headed our way. Humidity was high and so was the chance of lightning and storms. We went back to the expo to meet with our friends and picked up some awesome race swag. Afterwards, we hit the gym for a short run on the treadmill, just to get our blood flowing after being trapped in the car for so long. Then, our first group dinner.

The next morning, we were up WAY too early. Like creeping on the 4am range. Yuck. But we were staying at the host hotel, Lansdowne, so we luckily were on the main bus route to the race start line. We were on the shuttle by 5:30am and at the race start line at almost 6:30am. Race jitters were upon us so we were pretty awake by that point. The race start and finish was at the beautiful Doukenie Winery. I was so excited to be done with it just so that I could sit back and take in the views (um, and wine. Obviously).

Met Dorothy from Mile Posts and creator of #irunthisbody

We split into our various pace groups. I was going to run with Alex as long as possible and try to stay in front of the 2:15 pacer. That ultimately ended up being too challenging. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t keep up, but I know it was going to be a hilly course. What I did not plan on was the humidity. Yuck. I felt like I was eating the air. It was hard because I felt like the overall temperature was PERFECT! It felt strange to say ‘I’m hot’, but I was drenched with sweat. I didn’t realize it until I started looking around and noticing I wasn’t alone in that. Everyone else seemed to be on the struggle bus, too, so I was glad to not be alone. Alex and I split around mile 6. I didn’t want to hold her back and I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the 2:15 pacer. A couple of miles in, I turned on my music and just ran. Everything felt good. The mile 9 marker came up and I could so very much relate. I went to take a picture of it… and my phone died. Apparently it had set itself to take pictures of my pocket. Like, 400 pictures. So the battery drained itself. My music… gone. Now it was just me and my brain. Oh, and the hills and humidity. Awesome. But I kept on chugging. I took a brief walking break at mile 10 so I could get in some electrolyte jelly beans. I felt like I needed the boost. But then I told myself I just had 5k to go and I was off.


Surprisingly, it wasn’t too hard. I made small talk with people around me, though we all were pretty focused on just finishing by that point. The final stretch to the finish was a welcome sight. But it was also probably the longest mile ever. I had thought my Garmin was off when I first saw the drive approaching but nope, it really was that long. I sprinted (ok, it was probably more like a faster jog) to the finish, and ultimately made it in 2:18:11. My original goal was to be around 2:10 like RnR Raleigh, but I knew pretty early on that it wouldn’t happen. Part of me was disappointed that I took the walking break which probably kept me from the 2:15 mark, but at the same time, eh, it was just one of many events I do at this point. There’s always next time and I still had a lot of fun. And the medal? It’s massive! One of my biggest yet. It’s a wine bottle coaster with the Virginia half design engraved on it. It’s so darn cool! So yeah, totally all worth it. Where do I sign up for the next one?

Showing off our new bling

I met up with Alex at the finish and we immediately went and picked up our post-race wine glasses and went to watch the rest of our group cross the finish. It was great to be able to see them cross the finish line – most for the first time in a half marathon!

Group pic – just missing one person who was in line for the wine glass

We took a bunch of pictures (obviously) to celebrate the occasion and started to head over to the wine festival. The wine tasting was nice, though the lines were pretty long and we were all pretty exhausted. We hung out for a while and then headed back to the shuttle area. Once we got back to the hotel we met up pool-side for lunch, then most of us hung out at the spa (the jets of the hot tub on our legs was heaven!), and finally, a last night out as a group for an amazing dinner at the Wine Kitchen.

Last dinner out


It was an amazing weekend. It was so great to spend the time with girlfriends, get our run in, but have so much fun in between. Well, and yeah, the run was fun too, but you know… 😉

Working on my fitness… instructor certification

When I started exercising and losing weight in 2015, I began with Couch to 5k. But after a few months, I realized that I needed to cross train. I had started going to the Y regularly for my Ramblin Rose training and they had recommended some group fitness classes to incorporate into our training. I had always wanted to like group exercise but felt so awkward when I would go into these classes. I didn’t know the moves and routines. I didn’t know how to pick the right weights or setup equipment. I was very critical of myself and worried that I would be in over my head. But I decided to give them a go.

As I started various group fitness classes, I told myself that I needed to try each one at least 2-3 times before writing them off. What I came to find, was that after giving those classes a few chances, I soon started to enjoy them. They started to dictate my schedule and I tailored my runs around them. Some of my favorite classes were Zumba, PiYo, Cycle Beat, and Total Body Strength.

I have since made these classes part of my routine. A few months ago, I started to think… why not try to get certified in group fitness myself? I began doing research and talking to my regular instructors. I decided to go ahead and get AFAA group fitness certification.

Studying poolside while in Virginia for the race this past weekend.

I signed up for the certification program that included the full course materials (textbook, lecture videos, study guide, practice test, and final exam), and set a target date of the beginning of June to complete my certification. I picked that date because it would mean that I could also get certification in PiYo Live and cycling that was being offered in Raleigh around the middle of the month. This way, my certification credits for those programs would count to the regular AFAA continuing education credits that I would need to eventually start to obtain.

I started slowly with my studying. Primarily reading the textbook, then watching the videos as a cluster to supplement what I had just read, all the while filling out the study guide. I’ll admit, it was hard. I haven’t really studied since college which has been years now. I also never really did a lot that involved knowledge of human anatomy so a lot of the beginning chapters felt pretty new to me. Thankfully, as I progressed in my studying to the actual class formats, setup and design, and functionality, I was able to relate it to exercises that I regularly took. Information became more like ‘common sense’ based on what I had experienced.

My studying primarily took place evenings, for just one or two hours a night, a few times a week. As you’ve probably guessed from previous posts, I keep pretty busy between two young kids, family life, my career, and then on top of that, my regular exercise and running schedule. But where I could, I would study. I found the subject interesting and I felt like it was information that helped my own workout routines and healthy lifestyle.

Evening study sessions. My cats liked to keep me company.

Throughout it all, I also had the amazing support of my husband, several friends that knew I was working on it (I didn’t want to broadcast it because I was nervous of failing), and my own fitness instructors that I saw regularly. The latter were so supportive at offering to test me on the course materials, giving me tips on the exam, and telling me I could co-teach with them as I got started or just pick their brains on how they run their classes. I really didn’t have an end goal in mind in terms of ‘I want to be an instructor of xyz’, but I knew I wanted to go for the general certification and get a couple of specialized ones because they happened to be what I enjoyed, and thought I could possibly personally teach. Growing up, I was painfully shy, but I think maturity and circumstances like moving across the country with my family and having to start ‘over’ and build up a new community for ourselves has really made it where I am not as scared in situations that would have terrified me before. Don’t get me wrong, the thought of being in front of a group of people doing a presentation or leading a class is totally nerve-wracking and overwhelming to me, but I’m trying to remind myself that it’s just like when I work out on my own, I’m just sharing the experience with other people and hopefully inspiring them like my own instructors did for me.

Anyways, back to certification. About three weeks ago, I had the (dreaded) realization that June was fast approaching and I didn’t feel anywhere near ready to take this test before my PiYo Live and cycle certification weekend. It was time to crack down. I rearranged my evening workout schedules, and put down the remote control. I spent every evening in front of my textbook and computer watching the lecture videos. Last week, I went ahead and committed to a final exam date and scheduled it for this past Tuesday morning.

I’m happy to report, that I passed.


So, now what?

Well, this weekend is my big certification weekend for PiYo Live and cycling. I’ll be doing those in person, which will be great because I’ll get more of a hands on experience with the routines (as AFAA was all digital) and human interaction. My understanding is we’ll be breaking up into groups to try out cueing, leading through the workouts, etc. So I’m really excited to get that under my belt. From there, it’s just going to be practice, practice, practice! I’m already starting to work on some ideas for cycle class routines based on what I love when I attend a class, and I’m starting my PiYo challenge group this upcoming week. In addition to that, I’ve been going to every PiYo class I can physically make it to in person, so I think that’s really helped my practice. I’m also working on recruiting friends and neighbors to be my guinea pigs while I get used to leading people in a workout. It’s all for fun, and an added bonus onto my already busy life, but I’m excited to share the joy that I find in exercising with others.