Half Marathon Challenge: 13.1 Miles Done!

Well folks, to quote the wise and gorgeous Jason Mraz, “I f*ckin did it!” This past Sunday I ran my first half marathon and despite the 5 a.m. wake up, I had an amazing time.

It was the perfect day for a run through Rhode Island. Well, more like a small beach town in Rhode Island. The sun shine made the mansions and beaches look more beautiful, while the ocean breeze kept me cool during the 13.1 course.

A mile in and feeling good.

A mile in and feeling good.

It wasn’t all easy though. At the 8th mile, my knees started screaming in pain. It felt like a million knives were stabbing my muscles. I so badly wanted to stop and call my dad to pick me up. But the cheers from the crowd, combined with the beats of Girl Talk and Rolling Stones, pushed me through those last 5 miles and across the finish line.

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon!

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon!

As far as my half-marathon goals
1. I FINISHED as evident by the photo above.

2. I did not run the entire time, because I didn’t want to risk injuring my knees to the point where I would be out of commission for weeks (or months).

3. I FINISHED IN UNDER 2:30:00. To be more specific, I finished in 2:21:39. Not bad for a first timer.

The one question everyone keeps asking me is whether or not I will do another half marathon? The answer: Absolutely! That being said, I need to give myself some time off before running down that rabbit hole.

I do know I wouldn’t have been able to complete this race, or have the motivation to run any future races without everyone’s support. To my parents, thank you for encouraging me to join the cross-country in middle school and for being at every finish line. To my boyfriend, thank you for listening to me complain about my aches and pains and for massaging them away. To my family and friends, thank you for those texts of good luck on race day; you don’t know how much it meant to me.

Surprise support from my high school cross country teammates.

Surprise support from my high school cross-country teammates.

The friends that race together stay together.

The friends that race together stay together.

Our boys woke up early to cheer us on.

Our boys woke up early to cheer us on.

The biggest and best cheerleader -- my dad!

The biggest and best cheerleader — my dad!

So now that I completed my half marathon challenge (and knocked an item of my 24th Year List) I need to set my sites on a new goal. That’s where you come in!

Send me some challenges through Twitter or the comment section below, and watch me complete in through the blog. And if you don’t, I guess I can try that 30 day ab challenge again!

What do you dare me to do? Leave your challenge in the comments below!

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Happy Birthday to Me! 24 Goals for My 24th Year

Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday Miss Leah
Happy Birthday to me

Birthday, Challenge

I case that little diddy didn’t give it away, today is my birthday! Ok, really it was yesterday! But since the festivities continued into today then it’s ok for me to fib. I’ve always preferred other people’s birthdays to my own. I’d much rather shower friends with baked goods and gifts than receive them. I also feel like there are always expectations surrounding birthdays that, quite frankly, I never feel like surpassing. As a child, you have to have the coolest theme, the tastiest cake, and the most pimpin’ party favors. As an adult, you have to book a table at the trendiest restaurant or best bar. If you don’t, you’ve failed. And who wants to fail on their birthday?

This year, however, I was actually excited for the big day. On Friday, my boyfriend took me to Olives where we dined  an assortment of rich, fall foods. He followed it up with homemade lemon cake — my favorite and his least favorite. A guy has never made me a cake before, let alone one that he hates. It was the perfect pre-birthday celebration.

Our dinner of artichoke salad, chicken meatballs, and rabbit tagliatelle.

Our dinner of artichoke salad, chicken meatballs, and rabbit tagliatelle.

Yesterday, the actual big day, I went to Yankee Stadium and watched the Red Sox destroy the Yankees. And I got to do it from mac-daddy suite filled with food, drinks and sweets. Today, I went to see Matilda with my best (and newly engaged) friend.

Even though I hate them, the Yankees wished me happy birthday.

Even though I hate them, the Yankees wished me happy birthday.

Our suite, the view, and Joe Girardi chilling with my dad.

Our suite, the view, and Joe Girardi chilling with my dad.

A Broadway birthday!

A Broadway birthday!

Yes, it was a bad ass birthday, I won’t lie. But the festivities were a small reason I was excited for the big day. For me, turning 24 means a chance to start over. As you know, 23 was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year. Heartbreak, unemployment, and illness were only some of the things I struggled with this past year. Turning 24 gives me a fresh start and a chance at being completely happy with my life and myself.

So this year, instead of making a wish on every candle, I made a challenge for each one. And with all the cake I’ve consumed, I have the energy to tackle each of them!

24 Goals for My 24th Year

1. Say something positive every day.
Fact of life: Some days are f*****g terrible. But by saying something optimistic about myself before I go to bed, I can turn the bad day into a good one.

2. Stand up for myself. 
Some say I let people treatment like crap. Sadly, I agree. No more! If I believe in what I do, then I will make others feel the same.

3. Do something that scares me.
Whether it’s defending myself at work or diving through the sky from a plane, this needs to happen. After all, we have nothing to fear but fear itself, right?

4. Find a cause and fully support it.
I’ve already begun this by working with half full, llc, but I want to do more to help!

5. Rediscover religion.
Despite over 10 years of Sunday school and altar serving, I am a horrible Catholic. I go on the Christmas and Easter, but to be honest I have a beef with God. Hopefully this will be the year we work out our issues and I find a reason to go back to church other than making my mom happy.

6. Reconnect with “lost” friends.
Keeping in touch with people is a huge challenge for me. I hate talking on the phone and a busy schedule keeps me from catching up over drinks. But there are many amazing friends that I have lost touch with over the last year that I hope to bring back into my life, provided they welcome me into theirs.

7. Learn how to apply makeup.
Even tomboys can benefit from some blush and lipstick.

8. Go gluten free(-ish).
As much as I love a eating loaf of fresh baked bread, I hate the aftermath. Hopefully this change can save me money on antacids.

9. Clean up my life.
Throw out the jeans that don’t fit anymore. Toss out pictures that remind you of sad times. Eat more veggies. And for God sakes Leah, keep clothes off the floor!

10. Learn to say “no.”
As a people pleaser, I agree to anything anyone asks me. Even if it means sacrificing my time, money or sleep. Unless I will enjoy or benefit from something then I shouldn’t do it.

11. Make time for myself everyday.
I have to make myself a priority, but to be honest I don’t know how. So I’ll start small. Whether it’s taking ten minutes to polish my nails or window shopping at lunch, it’s important to treat myself. If I don’t do it, who will?

12. Parlare più italiano.
I took 4 years of Italian in high school and another 4 in college, which came in handy during my two week tour of the country. Sadly I haven’t spoken much of it since that trip two years ago. I miss the sound of rolling Rs and want to bring it back.

13. Learn a new skill.
I can cook. I can snake a drain. I can (sort of) speak Italian. But there are a lot of things I can’t do that would be beneficial. Any suggestions? 

14. Stop spending and start saving!
To preface, I really don’t spend that much money. I only throw down for the essentials like food and transportation. And, ok, the occasional pair of jeans at Loft. But I want to make smarter spending decisions and start putting more money away for the future. I’m already starting by moving to a significantly cheaper apartment. How do you save money?

15. Take a first aid class. 
You never know when you’ll have to save someone.

16. Turn off my effing phone!
Ok, maybe not literally, because every time I do I lose my contacts. But I do spend more time on it than I should. When I’m out to dinner or having a girls’ night, my phone will stay in my purse.

17. Give more time to my family. 
When I’m in New York, I’m so busy I forget to call my godmother. When I go home for a weekend, I usually have a dozen doctor’s appointments and  forget to visit my aunt. But there are the people that will be there when the rest of the world walks out, so I should give them the time they deserve.

18. Stop planning every moment. 
There’s nothing wrong with staying in the weekend or taking an impulsive day trip.

19. Forgive myself for my “failures.”
I’ve made many mistakes in my life and still beat myself up over them. I need to realize that these things happened and I can’t change them. Time to move on.

20. Run a half marathon. 
Ok so this may be cheating, since my race is a week away, but it’s still on the to-do list.

21. Stop biting my nails. 
It’s so gross!

22. Cook more.
Now that I will have a huge kitchen, I want to whip up more amazing meals.

23.Cry less, laugh more. 

24. Blog more. 
Always a go-to-goal that I really need to work on.

Seems like a lot? Well, maybe it is. But even if I accomplish half of these goals I know I will come out a better person.


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Believing I’m Beautiful: My Challenge to Find Confidence

Pork Butt

I wish I could say that these words didn’t affect me. That these attempts to weaken me only made me stronger. But when people throw them at you on a regular basis, they tend to break you just as bad as a stone.

As a child, teen, and even young adult, I was picked on by my peers. They called me every name in the dictionary, and even some I didn’t know (who knew what a grenade was before Jersey Shore?). I tried to block out the hate, but it worked its way into my brain, leading to self doubt and, even worse, self hate. I’d beat myself up if test came back with a B+ instead of an A-. I’d obsess over every pimple or ingrown hair. I’d starve myself skinny, so I could meet society’s standards of beautiful. I’d tell myself I wasn’t good enough and needed to be better.

This went on until my senior year in college, when things suddenly went from shitty to not-so-shitty. I removed the toxic people from my life and stated hanging out with friends who built me up. I started focusing on my happiness rather than the happiness of others. I began to believe I was beautiful, inside and out.

Moving Forward: Rediscovering Your Inner & Outer Beauty

After my long road to rediscovery, I wanted to help other women find their way to confidence and happiness. Until now, it’s mostly been through blog posts and talking to women who are dealing with difficulties. This summer, however, I have teamed up with half full, llc, a company that specializes in building the best version of oneself. Through the video series “Beautiful Women of the Northeast”, half full shares the stories of women who have overcome insecurity in hopes that those who struggle will follow their lead.

But then, half full took it one step further by bringing these women together to talk about the struggles they face and how together, they can make things better. My dear friend Nichole May and half full’s founder Rebecca Twitchell have planned Rediscovering Your Inner & Outer Beauty, an event that will bring out every one’s beauty and give them the tools to move forward with confidence.

While I’ve arrived at a more confident place, there are still days when I struggle. Days where I feel like life if getting the best of me. Days where I feel like that little girl that everyone picked on. But I can get through them with help from those who love me, care about me, and relate to me.

I am smart. I am beautiful. I am moving forward. Will you move with me?


Have you move forward from insecurities? Interested in learning more about half full, llc? Let me know in the comments below!

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Half Marathon Monday: Two Weeks Till The Race

Happy Labor Day CA readers! I hope you all had an amazing three-day weekend (or four if your bosses were as generous as mine). I spent mine relaxing in Rhode Island with my family and amazing friends. If only I had some sunny days to spend at the beach. Oh well. . .

With the end of summer comes September — my favorite month. First off, it’s easily the most beautiful month. The temperature transitions from unbearably hot to breezy but sunny. The leaves change from bright green to burnt reds, oranges and yellows. Girls trade in their skankly short shorts for colorful cords and warm sweaters. It’s a sight that makes anyone smile.

Second, it’s my birthday month (September 7 for those who care). Granted, it sucked as a child, since my birthday often fell on the first day of school. But knowing there was a cake waiting for me at home make it more bearable. Now, as an adult, I can plan fun events on my special day, no matter where it falls in the week.

Usually those two reasons are enough to make me happy, but this year there is a third reason to love September. In two weeks, I run my first half-marathon! After nine months of early morning runs, painful days, and icy nights, the big day has almost arrived. I’ve already tackled 13 miles, the idea of putting on the bib doesn’t scare me as much.

Half Marathon Training

As the day draws near, I’ve also started to think more about my goals for this half-marathon. When I first signed up, my goal was to get back into running and run a race with my best friend. Now, however, I realize there are a few other things I can accomplish during this 13 miler.

Half Marathon Goals
1. Finish
Now this may seem simple (and even stupid), but for the past two weeks my knees have been in major pain. I don’t mean a tiny twinge, I mean a searing pain to the point where I can’t walk.

2. Run the ENTIRE Time
Again some may wonder why this is a goal, but everyone has told me to walk when the pain becomes too much to handle. Which I’ve had to do several times. On the day of the race though, I hope the adrenalin and cheers from the crowd push me through the pain and get me to cross the finish line.

3. Complete Under 2:30:00
If you asked me in January for my ideal completion time, I would have said 3 hours. At the time, I was running 10:30 miles and struggled through a three-mile jog. Flash forward to September, where a three-mile run feels like a warm-up and I’m breezing through at 9:30 a mile. I’m feeling confident and know that I can finish in this faster time. At least, I hope I can.

To those who have sent words of encouragement, I thank you for all the support! Even the smallest “best of luck” gets me through a hill workout, tempo run, and 13 miler.

What were your goals for your first race? Have any half-marathon tips? Leave it in the comment section below!

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30 Day Ab Challenge: An Ab-Solute Failure

If you came here to read a success story, then you’ll be dissapointed.

When I started this challenge 30-something days ago, I had a ton of free time and planned on using it to tone my stomach. But a lot of things can change in a month, as they did for me. A new dance season started, which takes up 3 of my 5 weeknights. I picked up a few freelance gigs, which means more late-nights by the computer. I also took on a special project (which you will learn all about tomorrow), and that takes up more spare time. Throw in several social obligations, and my schedules left little time for 6-pack perfection. But I came across a few, well, challenges that made it more difficult for me to complete the 30 Day Ab Challenge.

Issue 1: Space
I know this may sound like a lame excuse, but it actually makes a lot of sense. After giving up my gym membership to save some money, I was left working out in my 12-by-8 room. Given my full-sized bed and decent sized dresser, I hardly have enough room to stand let alone lay down for crunches. Maybe when I make the big move to Astoria (or, even better, make more money and move back to the gym), things will be a little easier.

Issue 2: Time
Here’s my typical day: I wake up at 6 a.m. to run. I work from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. I dance from 8 till 10 p.m. I get home at 11 p.m. By the time I’m back in my apartment, I want to lay in my bed, not on the hardwood floors. And 3 sets of 150+ exercises takes up too much time. Sure it sounds lazy, but if an extra 30 minutes of sleep gets me through my busy day, then I’ll take that over a trim tummy.

Issue 3: Variety
I’ve diagnosed myself with Workout ADD. When I repeat my workouts, I get bored and lose the motivation. It’s why I can’t run on the treadmill without changing the speed or incline every 5 minutes, or why my workout DVDs collect dust. So repeating these 4 exercises every day was not fun. Not to mention, these exercises tackled the same area of my stomach, making it more difficult to tone my entire stomach. If I tackle this for a third time (which I hope to do) I’ll need to find one that changes daily, or at least weekly.

Photo Credit: Lolbrary.com

Photo Credit: Lolbrary.com

But just because I failed, doesn’t mean you did. If you managed to get through the 30 Day Ab Challenge, then you have till this Saturday, August 17 to send me your before and after photos. The person with the most transformed tummy will receive a $50 Kohl’s Gift Card.

As for me, I’m hoping the third time will be a charm for me and my abs.

How did you survive the 30 Day Ab Challenge? Share your success (or not-so-success) in the comments below!

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30 Day Ab Challenge: One Week Down, Three To Go!

If you are reading this post, then congratulations: you have not died during this hell-like heat wave! Then again, perhaps the sweat-heavy walks to work have gotten you one step closer to a toned tummy.

I also want to congratulate everyone who has joined me in the July Ab Challenge! Let’s be honest, the last thing we want to do after a long, hot day is get on the ground and sweat. to be even more honest, we probably want to blast the AC and dive into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. But instead, we’re trying to stay in shape. So whatever your reason to taking on the challenge, whether you’re trying to trim down for a special event or just want something to do while watching TV, you deserve a huge pat on the back (and a scoop of ice cream too).

I realize I forgot to post a picture from my first week, so this week you get two shots of me. Lucky you! (And for anyone who wants to bash my body, get the hell off my site!)

Week 1: Can't wait to see some transformations.

Week 1: Can’t wait to see some transformations.

Week 2. It may not look like it, but I feel a little slimmer.

Week 2. It may not look like it, but I feel a little slimmer.

So with one week down, I have gotten a few comments asking me how to do some of these exercises. Specifically, what’s the difference between and sit-up and a crunch. While I’d love to shed some light on your burning ab questions, I’m not a fitness expert. So instead of me faking some sort of instruction, check out Scott Herman‘s step-by-step videos below. After all, if you don’t do these exercises correctly you won’t reap any of the benefits.

Make sure to keep these tips in mind (and to keep a water bottle close by) as you power through week two!

How has your Ab Challenge been? Have any other questions? Let me know in the comments below!

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Challenge Reblog: Accepting Your Natural Beauty

Challenge Accepted is more than a motivator for me to spice up my life, so to speak. It’s also a platform to inspire others to challenge themselves and improve their lives. At least, that’s how I want people to see it. So when I see or hear about someone who has taken on a particularly difficult task, I plan on telling you all about it.

As you all know, I’ve dealt with my fair share of body image issues. Most of them related to the number on the scale, but I’ve also battled with an acne-filled face and a head of frizzy, hair (I won’t even mention my four-eyes phase). I slowly learned to love myself, from the curves to the curls, but I still struggle every once in a while. So when I come across people who feel positive about themselves, I use it as a reminder that I am beautiful…no matter what they say.

Enter Chasity Cooper— a 20-something millennial that I greatly admire who recently celebrated her three year natural-versary. For most of her life, Chasity relaxed her hair with semi-permanent chemicals in order to make it straight and society’s version of sexy. During her junior year of college, however, she decided to ditch the crap and embrace her natural hair.

Chaisty returns to her roots (via http://chasitycooper.wordpress.com)

Chasity returns to her roots (via http://chasitycooper.wordpress.com)

It hasn’t been the easiest journey (the occasional second-guessing and knotted locks would drive anyone crazy), but in the end Chasity has embraced her natural looks and grown more confident in every aspect. I highly recommend you read about her journey and, hopefully, learn to love yourself a little more. If you like what you read, you should follow Chasity on Twitter (@ChasitySCooper) for some daily sage advice.

Have you ever challenged yourself to change your looks? Let us know in the comments below!

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