10 Tips for New Runners

Happy Tuesday friends!

This post is long overdue, as I had meant to post it in January with New Year's resolutions. That said, today marks 1 year since my running journey began and I can't think of a better time to share than September when fall and cooler weather is right around the corner!

Prior to last September, I always called myself a seasonal runner. I'd find myself hitting the pavement each fall when cool weather would creep in and the leaves would start changing. As soon as winter came, the leaves fell from the trees, and temperatures dropped below about 50° my runs would come to a halt until the first warm weather of spring would creep in and the leaves would begin emerging once again. Last year, for reasons still unbeknownst to me, that changed, though. I found myself craving my runs and discovered that cold weather runs are by far my favorite. After running the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, I made a goal to complete a 10 miler by the New Year. Since then, I've run the Shamrock Half Marathon and the Monument Avenue 10k. I've run each and every month - some months more than others - and have logged a total 327 miles.

I've shared snippets along the way on Instagram, as a way to keep myself accountable, and have gotten many requests from you to share my tips. Particularly tips to take those first steps, so am compiling my top 10 here today!

My number one tip is to just go! My biggest running cheerleader is a best friend who's both a physical therapist and marathon runner. She always says "The first mile is a liar" insinuating that it's harder than the rest. Set your own pace and set small goals and milestones to celebrate along the way.

I'll be the first to admit that the last couple of months I've failed at this one. Between sickness, work, and heat, making running a routine has been tough. That said, when you're just getting started a routine is key. Commit to running at least 2-3 times per week, with recovery days in between. You'll be amazed at how quickly you build endurance and stamina as you make running a habit. 

As I mentioned above, set your own pace at the beginning. To expand on that, don't be afraid to stop and walk if you need. Your first goal may be to work up to a mile without stopping, but if the first few runs you have to stop at half a mile, do it! It's amazing what just a short 30 seconds, 1 minute, or 1 block walking break will do to reenergize you. If giving yourself a walking break or two means you can run 3 miles instead of 2, it's well worth it! 

Once you've been running a few weeks, pinpoint what feels like an easy distance to run (this can, should, and will change as you run more). Use this "easy run" to negotiate with yourself. For me that's 3 miles. On days that I'm really not feeling motivated, I use my easy run as a negotiation. I tell myself "I'll just run an easy 3 miles." More often than not once I get started, I get in a groove and run 4, 5, or even 6 miles...again, the first steps are the hardest, so bargain with yourself if you need.

This tip stems from my Type A tendencies, but I do think makes a difference when you're working to increase your distance. I have my running app (I use Map My Run) set to alert me at half mile intervals. I always stop on the mile or half mile for my cool-down. Once you've worked your way up to running 2 or 3 miles with ease, adding a half mile, which is about 5 minutes, doesn't seem so tough. Sometimes you'll even get to that half mile point and realize you've got an extra 5 minutes in you and can push another half mile. Once you get to running even longer distances, it can become a mind game and I even will equate half miles to songs. 10 minutes more is about 2 songs (give or take), so I'll tell myself "You can run for just 2 more songs!" if I've got a mile left.

Keep in mind that every run is different. I've worked myself up to a "normal" run being around 5 miles, and that even feels easy sometimes. There are days, however (if it's really hot, or, I ate a big lunch, for example) when just 3 miles can be brutal. I never beat myself up for those runs, though, and always tell myself that running slow or a short distance is better than stopping or skipping the run altogether.

For me, scenery is huge! I beeline it out of my neighborhood as soon as I can making my way to Grove Avenue, where I can loop in and out of all of my favorite Richmond neighborhoods admiring the pretty houses. Being surrounded with beauty, as well as other people and activity, makes my runs so much more enjoyable. When I get in a rut, I'll also switch up my route slightly, or run down a street I've never run before to keep things fresh. Similarly, whenever I'm out of town and run in a new place, I'm amazed at how far I can go, because the excitement of exploring a new place is a distraction from fatigue.

I prefer to run outside, which does bring risks. Bryce says he literally worries about me the entire time I am gone on runs. First things first, put your phone away! I've fallen twice during runs: Once in March 2018 and once last September. During the first fall, I skinned my knee really badly and also scraped my hands. During the second, I crushed my phone and had Millie with me. Both times I was looking at my phone to adjust something on my running app. After the second tumble, I immediately ordered this running belt. It's essentially a fanny pack, and not chic, but it keeps me hands free and is also waterproof! Buying shoes at a running shop recommended for your feet and gait, giving yourself recovery days, stretching and strength training will all help avoid injury. Don't run at night, but do purchase clip on lights and reflective gear for dusk runs, or times you may get accidentally caught in the dark. Wear sunscreen, especially on your face and chest!

Never underestimate the power of a race to hold you accountable. As mentioned above, in my Turkey Trot 10k training last fall, I loved that I had caught what I called the running bug. I was so nervous I'd give up my runs over the cold winter, so signed up for the Shamrock Half Marathon on St. Patrick's Day, because I knew it would force me to stick with it through the winter. I'm so glad I did, because winter runs became my very favorite. Not to mention, there's no feeling quite like crossing the finish line...especially when it's for a distance you never thought possible!

If you're interested in running, just keep at it - never give up! As I shared, I was a seasonal runner for years, and every time I would start it was with the intention of going beyond the season. Until last fall, though, it just never stuck. I still am not sure what it is that hooked me last year, but once I was hooked, I decided to embrace it! When life happens and you fall out of the habit, do give yourself grace. For example, I only ran one time in May, then the next month in June, I ran more times than any other month during this year of running. August was a really demanding month, and likewise, I only ran once. This September is a new start, though! Never give up!

And on that note, I need to figure out my next race! My birthday falls on the Turkey Trot (also Thanksgiving) this year, but I'm not sure yet if we'll be spending Thanksgiving in town or the country this year. I'm been considering signing up for the Richmond Half Marathon, also in November, but am still working through some issues where my left hamstring meets my IT band, so am not sure 13.1 miles is the smartest, or safest (see Tip #8 above) choice at this point. Regardless, though, I know I'm not giving up!

Are you a runner?

If so, what are your tips for new runners?

Have a great day!


Thoughtful Baby Shower Gifts...even at the last minute!

Happy Hump Day...thank goodness for short work weeks!

Our season of life has changed and we've shifted from weddings to babies. We haven't been to a wedding since December and during that same time, I've been to probably five or six baby showers! A couple weekends ago, as I prepared for one such shower at the last minute, I posted on Instagram Stories sharing my tips for baby shower gifting, registry guidelines, and adding thoughtfulness to gifts. I received such good feedback, as well as additional good tips from followers, and also thought of a few more ideas myself since posting. All that said, I thought it may be helpful and worthwhile to post the content here, too, in a place where it's easier to reference later and for me to direct you to some great gifts online.

First things first, let's talk registries:

  1. They exist for a reason!
  2. When it comes to baby registries, in particular, new mamas spend a lot of time researching, asking friends and family, and choosing what they think is best for their new baby. So, be mindful of the registry and respect their choices.
  3. If you think a registry gift is impersonal or boring, my favorite tip is to select something to gift from the registry, and then select something off registry that complements it. More on this later, but it is the number one way to take your registry, especially last minute registry, gift to the next level and make it feel special.

There are a few exceptions to my "Respect the Registry" rules:

  1. Heirloom Baby Gifts: When you really want to go above and beyond with a baby shower gift (think, a gift for your expectant best friend or sister), you may want to choose an heirloom gift that will be cherished for years to come and even passed down in a family. Top picks for these would be a monogrammed Beaufort Bonnet Co. bonnet, an engraved baby cup, or pewter rattle.
  2. Those Gifts that "Scream" the Mama-to-Be: These gifts are again, reserved for those friends or family members you know so well. They're the gifts that you spy, get giddy about, and say to yourself "That is SO XYZ mama." 
  3. Your Own Tried & Trues: If you're a mama yourself, gifting your tried & true, can't live without baby items, is a great way to "pay it forward." At the most recent baby showers, I've been to, this has been the top "tried & true" gift.
  4. Gifts to Spoil the Mama-to-Be: You won't often find things for the mama on registries, but items that can bring comfort or joy to her during the moments where she feels least comfortable make for very thoughtful gifts.

To avoid completely boring you with more words, let's take a look at some examples, with more detail and explanation provided below.

To elaborate on the above, and provide more gift ideas:
Bonnet and Rattle: These are both great examples of the heirloom gifts I mentioned, and are worth the splurge because they stand the test of time. For something a little more fresh (and also affordable), but still very personalized and special, check out these plates for baby girl and baby boy.
Lamb Blabla Doll and Dalmatian Lovie: As mentioned above, a great way to elevate a registry gift is with a gift that complements, or just adds the cuteness factor, to an otherwise practical gift. I love how whimsical the Blabla Kids line is, and the lamb is a great gender neutral option.  At a lower price point, but still equally sweet, are Angel Dear lovies. We've gifted both of these as congratulatory gifts, as well, when friends have told us they're expecting. Sophie the Giraffe is another great option, here, as is this adorable Avocado Stroller Toy.
Welcome Little One and Birds of a Color Board Books: Similar to the animals above, board books are another great "cherry on top" to add to your otherwise practical gift. I avoid classics, because it's more likely the recipient will receive duplicates of classics. In addition to the two I love and mentioned above, I also really like Press HereI'd Know You Anywhere, My Love, and Jellycat's Touch and Feel board books which come in a whole zoo of animals to fit any theme!
Nose Frida: Practical items, while not always as fun to gift, are guaranteed to be not only used, but appreciated by new mamas! Consult the registry for these, or if you're a mom yourself, gift some of your go-to items! Moms swear by this Nose Frida, which is guaranteed to generate conversation and laughs at showers. Water Wipes are another recent favorite, and Boudreaux's Butt Paste is also quite popular. I like to mix a few inexpensive practical options like these from the registry in with more fun gifts, and they're pretty much always still available at the last minute.  
Baby's Initial Necklace, Charcoal Mask, and Pearl Headband: These gifts are all about spoiling mama! I love the delicate initial necklace that can be worn all the time and layered with other necklaces. I chose to include this one, in particular, because it comes in five length options, as well as in silver, gold and rose gold finishes; can be personalized with multiple initials and symbols like a heart; and also comes in metal options ranging in price from $29.75 to $238. A mask, or other "spa" items like this candle, encourage self care and relaxation during pregnancy. I've been enjoying this charcoal one myself lately, and am also still obsessed and using this rose face cream from my holiday gift guides. Finally, I chose the pearl headband (under $20!) as it has become my go-to for dirty hair days, or days when I just need a little pick-me-up...both days expectant and new mamas are likely to encounter!
Pom Pom Canvas Bin: Finally, presentation is everything. Home Goods is my go-to for gift wrap and bags, but with baby gifts, I often will opt for a basket or bin in lieu of wrapping...bonus points if it's from the registry! Pehr has tons of cute options like the pom pom bin above, which I've actually gifted in the rainbow version from a registry before, filled with "boring" practical registry items like wipes and diaper cream. I also love this woven pom pom option, this diaper caddy, and splurge cloud basket. At the most recent shower I attended, I used this pretty blush pink plastic bin that was just $3.99 and also have had good luck finding options at the Dollar Tree. Fill your basket with tissue paper, or (my personal favorite) crinkle filler, wrap it in a basket bag, and top with a pretty bow! Finally, if you don't have monogrammed enclosure cards, I highly recommend them to save yourself from having to buy cards!

Here's a photo of the formula above in action for the most recent shower I attended (all bought last minute the day of, no less)!

What are your go-to baby shower gifts?

Any dos and don'ts you abide by when gifting?

Have a great day!


Late Summer Supper Club

Hello friends, and happy Labor Day!

It's been quite some time since I've posted here on AlexandraBeeBlog.com, but my heart has been longing for more of a creative outlet, and the blog seems like the best place to flex my creative muscle at the moment.

If you'd like to read more on this, check out my "On Hospitality" highlight reel on Instagram. In short, though, I've been musing over this idea of Southern hospitality - or graciousness, warmth, welcome - in all aspects of life, not just entertaining. I'll be experimenting with some different ways to bring you content (with a good dose of my usual "lifestyle" content mixed in) in this area over the  next few months. As I find myself reading blogs less and less, I'm not sure where to strike the balance between here on the blog, and micro-blogging, a new term I learned which is essentially blogging via Instagram. (Any thoughts?) Stay tuned.

Being that Labor Day is the unofficial last day of Summer, I wanted to share a recent supper club dinner party before shifting gears to all things Fall. When it comes to entertaining, one detail is often the jumping off board for all others for me. For this particular evening, these beaded placemats "Millie" found at Home Goods and gifted me for Mother's Day were that one detail.

Because of their coral design, I knew a seafood meal was in order, and other coastal details like shells might have to play a part on the table. I also knew, I wanted pink to be the other main color on the table and toyed with the idea of pink candles, napkins, peonies, or glassware.

I really wanted pink peonies for the table, but wasn't able to track any down, so opted for my other go-to: white hydrangeas. They have such a simple elegance, require no floral arranging skills, and last forever (our party was 3 weeks ago, and they're still going strong on the table!). Pink glasses gave a dose of pink to the table, as did my tobacco leaf china. 

The Staffordshire dogs had been moved from our mantle to the table while we had painters in the living room earlier in the week, so ended up on this tablescape somewhat by accident. I loved the way they looked mixed in with the shells and other decor, though. 

With all the colors and other elements on the table, I decided to stick with classic white linen napkins. These from our wedding are a favorite to use at dinner parties. One napkin is embroidered with my monogram and another is embroidered with Bryce's. I put these at the heads of the table, and the remaining napkins are plain. I never bother to iron my napkins. I think the wrinkles have their own kind of understated elegance and put people at ease and keep things from getting too stuffy. 

For menu, we started with a simple cheese and charcuterie board, thanks to Trader Joe's. Their apricot stilton and marcona almonds are two of my musts for cheese boards!

For the entree, I knew grilled shrimp over twirly pasta would fit the coastal theme. One of our guests is dairy free, so we opted for this dairy free pesto over angel hair. We topped it with grilled shrimp, charred cherry tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts. We also served my go-to arugula salad and bread.

Finally, for dessert, we served this Molten Chocolate Cake with Coconut Whipped Cream and Pistachios. In addition to being dairy free, it was also gluten free, paleo, and oh so delicious!

A wonderful night was had by all, and the marvelous company and pretty table, made all the dishes the next day well worth it!

Are you in a Supper Club?

What are your favorite summer eats?

Have a great (short) week!