Surf City USA Day Trip – 7 Family Friendly Things To Do in Huntington Beach

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While you can definitely fill a full week relaxing in Huntington Beach, California, if you only have a limited amount of time to play in Surf City USA, no worries. We have the perfect itinerary for a full day of family-friendly fun in this casual and cool Pacific Coast community.

My family and I stayed in the beautiful Irvine and Costa Mesa areas while visiting Southern California this summer, the perfect home base for a vacation in Orange County. The Costa Mesa Marriott is 10 minutes from Huntington Beach, so we had just a short, 20-minute drive back to the hotel after a full day of fun. For information about things to do in the Irvine and Costa Mesa areas, be sure to visit my post: Family Travel – Fun Things to Do in Irvine, California #OrangeCounty.

Our friends at Visit Huntington Beach hosted our visit for the day and helped us coordinate a schedule that included a combination of water sports, good food and relaxation that was perfect for me, my 10-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son. If you are planning a girl’s getaway, romantic weekend or vacation with younger kids, they have a lot of other ideas about things to do in the area – so be sure to check them out for ideas before you arrive.

A DAY IN HUNTINGTON BEACH

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1. Learn to Surf – When in Surf City USA, you gotta surf! After all, Huntington Beach has the most consistent waves on the West Coast. If you don’t know how to hang 10, surf lessons from Toes On The Noes is the perfect thing to do in Huntington Beach.

Located at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in the Retail Courtyard, Toes On The Nose offers lessons for those of ages 6 and up with any level of experience. As first timers – we were so excited about the opportunity to hit the waves with a little help from the pros. 

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After putting on wetsuits (provided by Toes On The Nose), we walked across the street from the hotel to the beach with our two instructors, Brock and Paul. Our 2-hour morning lesson started with a brief explanation about technique and we practiced going from the paddling position to standing on our surf boards while we were still on the sand.

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Then we hit the water. Jackson went up immediately and Annie was soon to follow. It took a few more tries for me – but it turns out you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. I wasn’t going to win an award for style, but I had a blast riding a wave all the way in to the beach.

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Brock and Paul were so patient and nice. They’ve both been surfing for a long time, especially Brock who started surfing when he was just a little one in preschool. It’s clear they are in their happy place when in the ocean. Even though they are clearly very experienced, they seemed to really enjoy surfing with us rookies and were excited for us when we got up on our boards. We all enjoyed getting to know them…it’s always awesome to meet people who are living their dream.

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After a while, it was clear that Jackson was really progressing quickly. Brock took him out to work one-on-one with him so he could experience as much as possible before the end of our lesson. It was so fun to watch Jackson feel the thrill of catching waves on his own. While Paul and I watched him from the beach, Paul told me that he could tell he had the bug. Paul got it when he was 13 years old and has been hooked on surfing ever since. He could tell Jackson was heading there.

Jackson stood a little taller when Brock and Paul asked him to come see them next time we visited Huntington Beach so they could go surfing together again.

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While surf lessons are a bit of a splurge – it’s totally worth it if you’ve never done it before. I also felt so much more comfortable knowing the kids had experienced surfers with them who knew about rip currents and how to be safe while having fun. Our instructors really maximized our time in the water, giving us the chance to catch waves immediately by telling us when to pop up…timing is everything.

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Many thanks to Brock and Paul and Toes On The Noes for an epic morning.

Jackson said it was lit.

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2. Ride Bikes Down the Boardwalk – After your surf lessons, rent bikes at Toes On The Noes (they also offer hourly and daily bike rentals) and cruise down the Boardwalk. There’s an 8.5 mile paved beach path perfect for pedaling around. It’s a great way to soak in the sun, the views and the relaxing vibe of Huntington Beach and the Pacific Ocean. We worked up an appetite after hitting the waves, so we rode our bikes from the Hyatt to Sandy’s Beach Grill for lunch. Bike rentals come with locks and you’ll find bike racks all along the paved path, so you can stop to shop or eat or just relax on the sand.

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3. Have Lunch at Sandy’s Beach Grill – While on your bike ride down the boardwalk – stop in Sandy’s for a bite to eat. This casual restaurant serves authentic California cuisine and is right by the iconic Huntington Pier. We had delicious scallops and mushroom flatbread at a table with a great view of the ocean. It was so yummy and relaxing and we were able to lock our bikes up on a bike rack right outside the restaurant. Check out my full review of Sandy’s Beach Grill in the post, 8 Great Restaurants in Orange County.

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4. Stand Up Paddleboarding at Huntington Harbor with OEX Sunset Beach. We fell in love with Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) last year in Florida. So much so, that we bought our own paddleboard before we left Sandestine! We don’t get the chance to go out as often as we’d like in Houston, so whenever we are by the water – we always try to squeeze in some time to SUP. OEX Sunset Beach, a kayak and SUP rental shop only a short drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from Sandy’s Grill, is a great place to grab a board and get on the water.

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Since we’ve been stand up paddleboarding before, we each got our own paddleboard – but two people can easily fit on one board if you are new to the sport and have younger kids. OEX Sunset Beach also offers lessons if you want to learn before you head out on your own, but SUP is really easy…you just have to find your balance. While it’s a lot of fun, relaxing and a great way to explore – it’s also a great workout. We went out around 3:30 p.m. so we had two hours to play. OEX Sunset Beach closes at 5:30, so all kayakers and paddleboarders have to be in by then.

The harbor is beautiful and there were a lot of kayakers and paddleboarders out on the water. We had fun exploring the area and looking at the boats and homes along the way. Paddleboarding is very calming to me. I love falling into the rhythm of paddling as I glide across the water. The kids love it, too. It’s a great way to see the water from a different perspective and while we didn’t talk a lot – it’s fun to experience SUP together with your family.

We went pretty far out, around several bends in the Harbor and before we knew it, it was time to head back. It was a little windier then we anticipated and because we were going against the wind on the way back, we made it back with only about 10 minutes to spare! With tired arms, tighter abs and full hearts – we turned in our equipment.

Tip: Parking is limited in their parking lot but you can park for free along the highway. You can also store your valuables in the shop (car keys, etc.) so you don’t have to worry about taking things on the paddleboard.

5. Shop at Pacific City If you have time and want to do some shopping, Pacific City is a fun place to visit. Right on the Pacific Coast Highway – they have big stores like Free People and LUSH (our favorite bath products!) as well as smaller specialty shops. We went after we finished SUP and before dinner and really enjoyed CherryHills Market. They also have restaurants and live entertainment. While we just visited for an hour, we could have been here much longer.

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6. Eat Dinner at Cucina Alessa – Just a short drive from the Boardwalk to Main Street is a delicious Italian restaurant, perfect for dinner. While you don’t want to wear a bathing suit or cut offs, it’s not too fancy. We were very comfortable. Jackson got lasagna, I ordered lobster ravioli and Annie had pasta with grilled shrimp and everything was delicious. We heard that all their handmade pastas are yummy – especially the Butternut Squash Ravioli. For a full review about Cucina Alessa, see my post: 8 Great Restaurants in Orange County.

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7. Bonfire on the Beach – While there are several public fire pits available for use on a first come, first serve basis on the beach each evening, there’s a special area across the street from and between the Hilton and Hyatt hotels where you can reserve a private bonfire. Waterfront Adventures, part of the The Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, allows you to enjoy watching the sunset on the beach and making s’mores by the fire without any of the fuss. They provide the beach chairs, fire pit, wood, soft drinks and water, and all the fixin’s for s’mores.

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This was an amazing way to end the day. We just showed up on the beach and checked in with the attendant at about 8:30 p.m. Our private fire pit was already set up. During the evening he continually checked on us and kept the fire going so all we had to do was get comfortable and curl up by the fire. We loved visiting together about our Huntington Beach adventures in such beautiful surroundings.

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Tip: Be aware that the beach closes for everyone at 10:00 p.m. Starting at about 9:45 p.m. police vehicles begin to patrol the beach – so be prepared to pack up or pay a fine!

The kids happily dozed off during our ride back to Costa Mesa after the Bonfire. Before they were out like a light, both of them smiled and said…”Today was the best day. Ever.”

So, yeah. This mom’s kinda loving Huntington Beach.

What is your favorite thing to do in Orange County?

As guests of  Visit Huntington Beach our meals and activities were provided in order for us to experience Surf City USA area attractions. No other compensation was received and, as always, all opinions expressed are my own or taken from input received from my kids.

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Family Travel – Fun Things to Do in Irvine, California #OrangeCounty

Family Fun Things To Do In Irvine, California

Are you planning a family vacation? If your travel plans include California, you don’t want to miss visiting Irvine in Orange County. During my recent 6-day trip to Southern California with my two kids, we found Irvine to be the perfect destination for family-fun as well as a great home-base for several day trips we took to the Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach areas.

Many thanks to the folks at Destination Irvine who set-up travel and coordinated some of the activities during our trip. I highly recommend visiting this site to prepare for your perfect Southern California family vacation.

At the center of Orange County and just minutes from John Wayne Airport, Irvine is a beautiful community filled with shopping, bike trails, good food and fun things to do. I’ll be covering details of places to eat and our day trips in future posts, but first I want to share some tips about what to do in Irvine proper….a fabulous destination in itself!

Where to Stay:

Embassy Suites Irvine

Our home away from home for two days was the Embassy Suites Irvine – Orange County Airport. A comfortable place to rest and relax with plenty of room to spread out, the Embassy Suites, with separate living and bedroom areas great for families, also provides all guests a complimentary made-to-order breakfast each morning (hello omelets!) and snacks and beverages in the evening. We loved playing cards in the atrium before dinner while enjoying refreshments.

Embassy Suites Irvine

Plus – if you are smart enough to schedule some down-time during your vacation (I need to do a better job with this) you can swim in their indoor pool or take advantage of summer programming like a painting class we noticed they were offering on Wednesday evenings. Very cool.

Embassy Suites Irvine

We’ve stayed at Embassy Suites hotels in other states before. In fact, Annie still remembers staying at the one in Dallas when I took her to the American Girl Doll Store for her birthday when she was just five years old. Embassy Suites does a great job of providing consistently great service across their chain of hotels and the Irvine location just went through a $12 million renovation – apparent by the modern furnishings located throughout both the guest rooms and public areas.

Fun Things to Do:

Orange County Great Park and The Great Park Balloon Ride

The Great Park Balloon - Irvine, California

We made a stop here Sunday evening – the first night of our trip. Open Thursday – Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., The Great Park (once a Marine Corps Air Station) is now home to sports fields, a carousel, a farm and food lab with interactive fruits, flowers and vegetable displays (open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.), a historical hanger with cool exhibitions including two World War II airplanes, a play area and visitor’s center, and probably the most recognizable attraction – the Great Park Balloon.

The helium balloon goes up 400 feet offering views of Irvine; however, wind prevented us from riding it while we were there. Because of this fact (we learned that it hadn’t been able to go up for several evenings the week we were there) and more activities offered earlier in the day then in the evening, I recommend going to The Great Park in the morning/early afternoon.

The Great Park Farm and Food Lab

If I was lucky enough to live in Irvine, I would be out here. A lot. They have a farmer’s market on Sunday mornings and host classes including sports and dance, yoga, photography, art, sustainable gardening, cooking and wellness throughout the year. They also offer activities like movies on the lawn and family craft and play programs. While we were there, a fencing organization was outside practicing. We heard they are building a new ice skating rink including a practice facility for the Anaheim Ducks there as well as well as fields for many different sports. My kids, who both play lacrosse, were happy to hear that lacrosse facilities were included in the plan.

The Great Park, Irvine CA

We were bummed we weren’t able to experience the 15-minute helium balloon ride, but we checked out a frisbee and soccer ball from the visitor’s center at no-charge and had a great time enjoying the sunset and beautiful evening playing together on the lawn.

We are slowly learning that when we travel, we have to be flexible and deal with the unexpected…making the most of the journey as it unfolds naturally. You can plan (and boy do I plan!) but certain things, like the weather, just can’t be helped. Getting stressed out doesn’t make things any better. We ended up having a great time doing something that wasn’t on the itinerary.

Tip: Bring a picnic and make a day at the park if time allows. Visit them online to see about free classes and activities that may be going on during your stay and take advantage of the Farmer’s and Artisan market with food trucks and live entertainment on Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Irvine Spectrum Center

Great Wheel - Irvine Spectrum Center

We learned pretty quickly that there’s no lack of shopping in Orange County. The Irvine Spectrum Center is an outdoor shopping center with two department stores (Nordstrom and Target), many full service and casual restaurants, tons of popular stores, and entertainment including a movie theatre, ferris wheel, carousel, kiddie train, Dave & Busters, and a comedy club.

Great Wheel Irvine Spectrum Center

Since we didn’t get to ride the Great Park Balloon – we were very excited to get a bird’s eye view of Irvine from the Giant Wheel, a ferris wheel in the middle of the shopping area with 52,000 energy-efficient LED lights. On a clear day when at the top, look towards the Santa Monica Mountains (53 miles away) and Downtown LA (40 miles away).

For the record….I was never scared. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Honey and Butter, Irvine

Tip: Visit Honey & Butter for the best darn macarons. Our friend Rob at the fabulous Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails restaurant recommended this to us. (I promise I’ll fill you in about Andrei’s later!) The character macarons are even more delicious than they are adorable. Annie was thrilled to get a Pig macaron – she is nuts about pigs. Other flavors to die for: milk and honey, sea salted caramel, thai tea and matcha. We bought a bag of assorted flavors to take back to the hotel to enjoy later but they were gone before we got back to the car.

Don’t judge….we were on vacation!

Pedego Irvine Electric Bikes

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

One of the absolute, hands down, top highlights for all of us during our week in California was our tour of Irvine with Bob at Pedego Electric Bicycles. I used to want a Vespa, now I want an electric bike. Bob, the store owner, is awesome. You couldn’t meet a nicer guy who truly loves SOCAL and Irvine.

Amazing bike trails begin literally outside Bob’s store’s door. One of the reasons we all fell in love with Irvine is because it’s truly a bike friendly city. We only experienced a taste of what the area has to offer in terms of trails….it left us wanting to experience more.

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

These bikes have heavy frames compared to the road/race/triathlon bikes the kids and I are used to – but they are extremely easy to operate. Unlike Houston, Irvine is very hilly so riding up some of the inclines, especially on long rides, can be challenging. On a Pedego, you can either pedal like on a regular bike, stop pedaling and let the electric bike do all the work or do a combination of both. Pedegos can go up to 20 miles per hour and operate with a throttle. These are particularly wonderful if you are recovering from a sports injury (like my recent tendon tear in my leg).

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

Bob sells bikes as well as rents them and offers guided bike tours. We went out for about 1 1/2 hours and experienced spectacular views along Shady Canyon Trail, University Trail by Quail Hill, Woodbridge Trail, and Turtle Rock Trail. We rode by beautiful homes, water, a golf course and even saw a road runner while we were out. Bob gave us a lot of background information about Irvine during the ride. If you really want to know a city, get out of the car and get on a bike. Irvine trails and Pedego bikes make it easy.

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

Tip: If you’re shorter than me (I’m 4’10” – about the average size of a 5th grader) then you’ll probably have trouble riding these bikes on your own. But no worries. They have tandem bikes and my 10-year-old daughter, Annie, rode one with Bob (and loved it).

ChocXO Chocolate Factory

ChocXO

I may or may not be in love with chocolate.

Wait. Yes – definitely, yes. And Irvine is home to one of the best Chocolatiers, ChocXO…the only Bean to Bar Chocolate Factory in Orange County.

ChocXO

In addition to a shop full of goodies, ChocXO on Irvine Center Dr. offers 45 minute to 1 hour tours of the factory. For just $10.00 a person you can learn about how they make their specialty chocolate and the tour includes three, free chocolates from their chocolate case as well as samples of raw cacao pulp, cocoa nibs and cocoa liquor. Sasha, our guide, walked us along the educational wall of the factory with windows where we saw the machines they use to make chocolate. She told us what happens before they get their fine flavor cacao beans from Central and South America and what they do with them to make their products.

This tour was especially interesting for us since we just returned home from the Dominican Republic with Fathom Impact Travel were we worked at Chocal, the women’s chocolate co-op in Altamira. Many of the activities we did by hand to assist production at the co-op, like discard the bad beans and separate the shells from the chocolate nibs after they were ground up, are done by sophisticated equipment at ChocXO. It was eye-opening to see how chocolate is made here versus in an undeveloped country. While there are many similarities, ChocXO certainly has the advantage of technology and the chocolate we sampled was unbelievably delicious.

I highly recommend just about any of the chocolate squares and truffles in their chocolate bar. My favorite flavors: birthday cake, lemon meringue, spicy PB&J, salted caramel and creme brulee. You can purchase them while you are there as well as order them online, but sadly – cannot find them in stores in Texas. Sigh.

ChocXO

Tip: Request tour guide, Sasha. She’s fabulous! She’ll give you a ChocXO quiz at the end of the tour and you can score two more free chocolates if you turn it in…especially fun for the kids.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Irvine and Orange County?

Be sure to visit StillLivingTheDream.com again soon for posts about fabulous places to eat and details about our day trips to Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

As a guest of Destination Irvine, some of our travel related expenses were covered in order for us to experience Orange County area attractions. We also happily paid for some of our own travel, food and activities during our journey. No other compensation was received and, as always, all opinions expressed are my own or taken from input received from my kids.

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Hydrating with BODYARMOR SuperDrink

still living the dream - BODYARMOR

My kids participate in a lot of sports. Lacrosse, soccer and swim team are a few outdoor sports they are involved with right now. Living in Houston, where it stays hot and humid most of the year, we have to be mindful about keeping hydrated during these activities. It’s an ongoing challenge for all of us.

I have a hard time keeping down fluids when I run, so I struggle with finding a balance between staying hydrated and keeping cramps and nausea at bay. My kids…well – they are just lazy! They get pretty warm at lacrosse games, especially my son who wears chest pads and a helmet, but “forget” to drink fluids. I’m usually on the sidelines screaming “Hydrate!” as much as I’m yelling “Go team!”

still living the dream - lacrosse

We usually stick to water because I’m not a big fan of all the artificial ingredients in some sports drinks and my kids really don’t like the way they taste. I mean, if I’m going to the trouble of working out to keep healthy – I’d rather not load up on a bunch of chemicals while I’m actually doing it! Sometimes water just isn’t enough though. During one a sprint triathlon last summer when it hit record high temps in H-Town….heat was a real issue. I realized during that race that I needed electrolytes in a big way so I alternated between drinking water and the sports drink they gave out at all the water stations.

I was recently given the opportunity to try out a new sports drink line by BODYARMOR. SuperDrink by BODYARMOR has natural flavoring (no artificial sweeteners or color) and provides hydration with a combo of potassium blended electrolytes, 10% coconut water and B vitamins. Sounded good to me, but would the kids like it?

At last weekend’s swim meet, my son and daughter both gave them a try. BODYARMOR SuperDrink comes in 8 flavors. We tested 6 of them: Strawberry Banana, Mixed Berry, Orange Mango, Fruit Punch, Blackout Berry and Tropical Punch. The verdict? They loved the taste (and I did, too!)

They are light and refreshing. Sweet…but not too sweet. After I drank one I felt – well…hydrated! My daughter’s favorite was Strawberry Banana. Jackson liked all the berry flavors. I’m partial to the Orange Mango.

still living the dream - swim

I don’t always say this after trying out a new fitness related product, but BODYARMOR SuperDrink is going to become a staple in our house. The 16 oz bottles are perfect for throwing in the gym bag and I think it’s cool that they are also gluten free and don’t contain caffeine. I did a search online at DrinkBODYARMOR.com and they carry these sport drinks at Kroger, Target and HEB, all places close to my house. Check out the site to see where to get them by where you live. And while you’re online, be sure to print this BODYARMOR coupon (I did!) so you can save some cash while keeping cool this summer.

Be well. Be safe. Be fierce.

I was given samples of BODYARMOR SuperDrink for free in order to review. I received no compensation for this post and all opinions stated are my own. 

 

 

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Mind, Body, Spirit…Be Determined

Be determined

I’m driving to Galveston tomorrow morning to attend the 2016 Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce 9th Annual Celebrating Women: Mind, Body, Spirit Conference. Initially I was motivated to attend because of the keynote speaker, author – Gretchen Rubin. I met her several years ago and am a big fan of her books, especially The Happiness Project.

Several of my colleagues are attending and I’m excited to see them, too. The energy and support I receive simply by being around them always helps me along my journey towards personal and professional development.

But after diving into the rest of the agenda for tomorrow, I think what I am really looking forward to learning about … is finding out what I need to learn more about.

Does that make sense?

I’m intrigued by sessions like Caring – Let’s Get to the Heart of It, The Food and Mood Connection and Living From the Heart. I feel like these topics are speaking to me right now. I don’t know exactly where each of these sessions will lead me – but I know I want to go there.  I suspect I might just scratch the surface of some topics that I’ll want to dive deeper in to. I’m determined to learn more.

And that’s pretty exciting.

There are also a couple break out sessions for physical fitness (hello hip, hop cardio – I’m coming atcha!) and a session lead by Jentry Kelley, owner of Jentry Kelley cosmetics where I’ll learn her quick, eight-step makeup process. I need this in my life! I’m 45 years old and I still don’t know how to put on eye make up. It’s embarrassing, ya’ll.

I hope you’ll follow me tomorrow on my social media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn along the journey.

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Massage Envy Spa (Giveaway for 1-hour massage in Cypress, Texas!)

Did you happen to see my Sprint Tri recap post last year? I talked about how a massage helped me prepare for the race. I’ve competed in several triathlons since then, and massages are such a huge benefit to help me prepare and recover from these athletic events.

But I’m learning that massages are really a good thing for me to experience on a more consistent basis. I was reminded recently why I love Massage Envy and how I need to sign up as a member so I can take advantage of the therapeutic benefits (relieve stress, relax muscles and improve range of motion) at a cost so much more wallet-friendly then other spas.

massage envy

The Massage Envy Cypress location off of 290 invited me to see their newly renovated space and treated me to a fabulous hour-long massage. It was incredible. They recently moved a stone’s throw from their previous location into a much bigger facility; a 15-room, 4200-square-foot spa which includes four upgraded spa rooms, two couples’ rooms and a large tranquility room.

When I arrived, I filled out paperwork so my therapist, Jessica, could understand exactly what I needed and wanted to get out of the session. My wellness coordinator, Kathy, asked further questions to be sure I knew all my options. I wanted a deep tissue massage with some stretching. Kathy suggested the Deep Muscle Therapy, warming and cooling thermal products to provide deep muscle pain relief from injuries and chronic conditions or limited mobility due to athletic training, to enhance my experience. 

I was relaxed the minute I walked in, so I didn’t take many photos – but I did get a couple of the tranquility room. Look at that beautiful stone wall.

massage envy

Jessica brought me back almost immediately and the session was amazing. The Deep Muscle Therapy was wonderful and so worth the extra $12.00. She made sure the pressure was comfortable and immediately found the spots on my neck that needed to be worked out and helped stretch my legs and arms. I felt like a million bucks when I was finished and I can’t wait to go back to see Jessica again. I felt like she really cared about my health and both Kathy and Jessica were so helpful and caring…it was like I had my own wellness team!

Massage Envy offers members a great rate of just $59.99 for a monthly massage and additional massages during the month are only $39.99. They also offer Murad Healthy Skin Facials, which I would love to get sometime soon!

Do you leave in the Houston/Cypress area? Want to win a free one-hour massage at Massage Envy to try it out for yourself? Be sure to enter the giveaway! For more information about Massage Envy in Houston, check them out on Facebook!

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I was given a complimentary massage in order to write a review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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Color Fun Fest 5K – November 1st in Houston (Discount tickets!)

color toss with logo

I love attending local fun runs and have participated in many over the last several years. I can’t believe I haven’t had the opportunity to experience a color run yet. I was going to go to the Color Fun Fest last spring, but the event date conflicted with the kid’s swim team meet, so I couldn’t go.

I am so excited that the Color Fun Fest 5K is coming back to Houston this Fall for a Halloween Edition on November 1st and that they invited me to be their guest to join in on the fun.

My kids participated in two triathlons this summer and Jackson is on his school’s cross country team, so you could say that races are starting to “run” in the family. (I know, I’m terrible. I just couldn’t help it!) So we are all going to do the Color Fun Fest together. The best part is, kids 12 and under participate for FREE!

Since the event is the day after Halloween, costumes are encouraged. They have two runs; a day run at 5:00 p.m. and an evening run at 7:00 p.m.

This is a fun run so it’s not timed. The 3.1 mile course includes:

  1. 5 color stations along the run with thousands of pounds of color to shower runners (made of vibrant food-grade cornstarch that is safe and natural)
  2. High energy music along the course to keep families pumped up
  3. Night run features industrial strength blacklights and visual effects
  4. 2 water stations on the course
  5. A course with enough lighting to safely run at night
  6. Post run celebration with vendors, food and live entertainment

 

Color fun fest w-logo nighttime

Event Details:

November 1, 2014 : 2:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Day Run starts at 5:00 PM / Night Run starts at 7:00 PM. Event concludes at 10:00 p.m.

Sam Houston Race Park – 7575 North Sam Houston Pkwy W, Houston TX 77064

Discounted Tickets:

Join the fun and get your tickets now. Still Living The Dream readers can score tickets for an epic discount….just $20!

Use discount code: LIVINGTHEDREAM when you register here. 

Not in Houston? Color Fun Fest events are happening all over the country. Check them out online for a city and date near you!

I am receiving complimentary tickets to the race on November 1st in return for promotion of the event; however, I’m not receiving any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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#FitMadeFun – Healthy Lifestyle for Kids with CLIF Kid and LeapFrog LeapBands!

photo (2)

School is back in session and while it’s still hot (really, really hot!) in Houston, the Fall season is really just around the corner.

For the love of pumpkin bread, I heart the Fall! As the holiday season approaches, the temperatures will finally begin to drop which makes for much better outdoor running weather!

The kids and I stayed pretty active over the summer despite the heat. Now that they are getting back into a routine with school, organized sports keeps them busy – but we also try to have fun and keep moving around the house.

Which is why we were really excited to be invited by MomSelect to host a Fit Made Fun party sponsored by LeapFrog and Clif Kid. We received a party kit with free product in order to host the party. To inspire kids to get up and active, LeapFrog coordinated an event in Santa Monica, California, on September 6, 2014, where hundreds of kids and parents joined together to break several Guinness World Records with fitness activities.

We participated at home in Houston and while we probably didn’t break any world records, we had a blast!

Annie showed her friends her new LeapBand – a cool wearable activity tracker that encourages kids to move around throughout the day. Like my FitBit, the LeapBand tracks movement – but it also has several fun games, up to 50 fitness challenges you can take and even virtual pets you can create and rewards you can earn.

LeapBand

Instead of logging steps, you earn jewels which unlock even more fun activities. I really like that you are rewarded for your movement and also that parents can lock the device during certain hours during the school day and/or night so games won’t be a distraction during class or while sleeping  (but it can still be used as a watch and continues to track activity!)

For our Fit Made Fun party, we used the CLIF Kid 60 Minutes of Motion cards, a combination of 25 motion, activity, adventure and game cards, to inspire relay races and other fun activities. My friend Kelly and her kids came dressed for the occasion!

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends kids have 60 minutes of daily physical activity. This card deck, available to download for free starting September 15, 2014 here, is a fun way for busy families to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.  Star jumps, crab walks, nutrition tips and choose-your-own adventure prompts are just a few of what you’ll find in the deck.

After our activities, we took a break for a healthy snack including fruit, cheese and crackers, hummus and Clif Kid Zbar Protein Parfaits. We crumbled up the Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Chocolate Mint flavored bars and the kids used them as toppings on vanilla yogurt. It was a huge hit!

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We are already fans of Clif Bars for grown-ups. My older son, Jackson, eats one before races and early morning cross-country practice. I always have one before a long run or triathlon. They are easy on my stomach and provide the nutrients I need to keep going.

Clif Kid Zbar Protein are great for kid’s growing bodies with calcium, vitamin D, iron, Zinc and 5g of protein. I also like what they DON’T  have – no partially-hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, synthetic preservatives and artificial flavors.

My kids just like that they taste good!

After we played (even the moms got into some of the hula hooping fun!) we gave away a LeapBand to one of our friends! Annie was so excited to draw the winning ticket and her buddy Michael was even more thrilled to win a LeapBand of his own!

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The LeapBand can be found at stores like Target, Walmart and Toys R Us for just $39.99.

What do you do to help keep your kids active?

How do you track your progress throughout the day/week and what helps keep you motivated to stay active?

I received free products in order to host the LeapFrog and Clif Kid sponsored MommyParty but did not receive any other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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My Triathlon Experience

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Success!

Tanya and I finished the Cypress Sprint Triathlon last Sunday. We’ve been training all summer and crossing that finish line was such a rush…an amazing feeling of accomplishment.

Any time I finish a race, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon (I ran the Hawaii marathon in 1999), I celebrate the fact that I finished. While I always aim to better my time, just being in the race and finishing is the most important thing to me.

This is especially true with triathlons. With three different events combined in one, it’s the chance to exercise many muscles and mental strength. I love the challenge! Even though I participated in a Sprint Tri (Towne Lake) for the first time last year over Labor Day, I had my doubts about whether or not I would be successful this time. The swim was 550 meters, 150 meters longer than the race I did last year. Plus, I didn’t spend a lot of time running during my nine-month work contract from September 2013 (right after my first triathlon) to June 2014. I did cycle a bit in the spring (Ed and I trained for the Houston to Austin MS150 but we didn’t end up participating because the event date conflicted with our trip to Disneyland) but I didn’t exercise much between April and June.

With only a short time to train, I really focused on swimming. It’s my weakest link and the part I fear the most. It took a bit to build my endurance in the water back up. Since I don’t have a strong freestyle stroke, I end up swimming breast stroke for a lot of the race, which is fine but a lot slower than if I was able to do an even freestyle. After we attended the pre-race clinic the weekend before the race, I was more fearful of the open water swim then ever before. I’m not sure why, but I got in the lake and choked. Eye-level with the top of the water, the distance between me and the last buoy seemed an ocean length away and I felt exhausted before I even started.

I spent some more time in the pool the week before the race and while waiting in line for my wave to start, I was nervous, but a little more confident. It helps me when I concentrate on getting to each buoy (this course had one at every 100 meter mark) instead of focusing on the swim finish. I like that it’s the first part of the race so I can get it over with and not spend time worrying for the entire race!

While I had some people lap me from the wave that started after me (waves started every four minutes and there were four waves after mine), I held my own. While people swimming over you can be a little unnerving, knowing what to expect helps calm your fears when it happens!

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I look pretty serious in this picture, but I was very happy that the swim was behind me when I got out of the water. I was concentrating on catching my breath and making up time during transition. I love to cycle and I was gearing up for the ride in my mind already.

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After I finished the 14-mile bike ride, I started the last leg of the Tri…the 5K run. I didn’t do any brick workouts this year (i.e. alternating between running and cycling in one work-out) so my legs were like lead. It took me about a mile to work out the heavy filling in my thighs, so I ran a little slower than I normally do. The crowd support was so good at the end of the race, I was inspired to sprint to the finish line even though I was completely spent.

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For me, training for running and triathlon events keeps me focused on staying active everyday. It’s so important for me to have a goal so I can keep motivated and keep moving forward! Since losing a lot of weight two years ago, it’s so important to me to stay as healthy as I can.

I’m already looking forward to my next Sprint Tri! I’ll be working on bricks and swimming to try to improve my time as well as re-focusing on nutrition for overall health.

I highly recommend participating in a Sprint Triathlon. While there are incredible triathletes at these events, the community is very supportive of first-time folks and those, like me, who have a goal to finish the triathlon, not win. There are athletes of every shape and size (although at 4’10” I’m usually one of the shortest!) and ability level. I’m a pretty competitive person, but with triathlons, I truly believe that everyone who finishes is a winner.

There’s a great Tri coming up in Clear Lake that I wish I could attend. The 7th Annual Clear Lake International and Sprint Triathlon is on August 23, 2014 in League City, Texas at South Shore Harbor and Resort. It offers both an International Course with a 1.5K Swim, 28.8 mile bike and 10K run as well as a Sprint Course with a .5K swim, 14 mile bike and 3.4K run.

The Sprint course has a shorter run, great for those who are new to running or not as strong in this area. I love that this event takes you over the Kemah Bridge and provides views of Clear Lake and NASA Space Center. It sounds like so much fun and I’m definitely putting this event on my list for next year! Who knows, by then maybe I’ll be ready to take a stab at the longer course?!

Is participating in a Tri on your bucket list? What are your fitness goals this year? Do you participate in running, cycling or swimming events? Do you have any tips for training? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thank you to New Creative Media for sponsoring this post and supporting my health and fitness goals. While I was provided compensation, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Why I Run

The other day I had the worst. run. ever.

I started too late in the morning. By the time I hit the road it was already way too humid and hot for me and even though I know better, I also ate before I left so I started cramping right away.

My legs were like lead. Each stride was painful. I even tripped on the sidewalk and almost fell flat on my face.

So I stopped to walk. A lot. And I felt generally bad and I wondered the same thing I get asked a lot by others.

Why do I run?

The simple answer: for exercise. I lost a lot of weight through healthy eating and exercise a couple years ago and I won’t go back to where I was. I just can’t. (I’ve chronicled my weight loss journey on my blog. A good starting point is here.)

But it’s more than that.

I have trouble calling myself a “runner”. Real runners (to me) are fast, fit…they make running look effortless. I don’t “look” like a runner. I’m slow and haven’t ever felt a “runners high”, that kick of endorphins that makes running painless. I’m guess I’m just someone who often goes outside and moves awkwardly in a running like motion!

But I’ve been running all my life.

Starting as an awkward 6th grader in upstate New York, running gave me something to focus on. It wasn’t an expensive sport which was good because we didn’t have much money back then. When I moved to Houston in 8th grade, I continued running on the cross country and track teams, but it never came easy to me and I wasn’t particularly good. Plus – I discovered I had trouble sweating properly to effectively cool my body down, so I struggled with heat exhaustion.

In college and in my early twenties, I stopped running, But after gaining weight in the late 90’s, I started back up again. To get back in shape, I trained to walk a marathon in 1999. I ended up running it.

I ran for awhile after that, but I stopped again. And then a couple of years ago I found myself at the heaviest and unhealthiest point of my life.

So I changed my eating habits and I started from scratch with the help of the Couch to 5K plan. (I can’t speak highly enough about this if you are just getting started!) It was as if I had never run before and I remember literally cussing out loud for the first couple of weeks as I started running for only a minute or two at a time.

But after a month I was able to complete a 5K without stopping and I felt proud. I signed up for several more 5Ks then some 10Ks….even a sprint triathlon last summer!  Running events give me a goal. My goal is always to finish. If I can run faster than I ran the last time, even better. But running a race, for me, is never about winning.

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Warning: I’m about to get a little sappy – bear with me. I’ve got a point and I’ll get to it quickly…I promise!!

Here’s the deal. I come from a long line of those who run away from problems. My biological left us when I was 7. My step-dad also left many years later.

I don’t run away physically, but mentally. My MO is to shut down when things get tough…too painful to deal with.

Running gives me something to run TO. When I make a goal to complete an event, I run towards meeting that goal. Along the way I have little goals: just make it to that corner, just make it to that stop sign (and in a race in Brenham) just make it to the cow! Running, for me, is extremely mental. Working through something physically challenging and seeing it through to the end…finishing, that’s when I get my reward…my “high”.

I’m  a little frustrated right now because during the last nine months I was on assignment and wasn’t able to run that much. So lately it’s been like starting over. Again.

And it’s hard. But it’s healing.

So while my run the other day was bad, I got up a little earlier the next day and ran again. And I didn’t eat before I left. And I did better.

Why do I run?

Crazily pursue this thing that I know I’ll never really be good at….that will always be a challenge and will never come easy?

I think I run because of just that…because it IS hard. And that I’m blessed with air in my lungs and two legs to move me forward.

I’m not graceful, nor fast – but I’m a runner.

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Do you run? What keeps you going? 

 

 

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Moving Forward Past The Goal

I’m a little nervous.

This weekend I’m signed up to run a 10K. I haven’t been running as much as I should and I haven’t been watching my diet as closely as I should. It’s so easy to become misguided when there’s a great Mexican food restaurant on every block and a new gourmet cupcake bakery pops up daily!

So Monday morning I laced up my running shoes and forced myself to hit the track. My music on my phone wasn’t working and I was mad. I was mad that I hadn’t been working harder and now I was going to have to run in silence.

With all that silence comes reflection and the conversation with myself wasn’t all that positive.

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“Why don’t you have more will power? Why do you still struggle with making good choices with food? Is it always going to be so challenging? Will I ever get ‘good’ at this? Will I ruin everything I’ve worked so hard for?”

There comes a time after you get to your “goal” when people stop telling you that you are doing a good job and that you look good. I knew it was coming and I knew it was going to be hard. Because comments like those gave me strength to do well….to continue working hard.

And I wonder, no I actually worry… do I have what it takes to keep this up – by myself?

I know I have to. I know it’s up to me whether I sink or swim. But there’s that girl that’s still 55 pounds heavier inside me and she says, “you CAN’T do it Jenn, so just stop trying…just GIVE UP.”

And when I hear her I know two things for sure:

1. I don’t want to be that girl again

2. This will be an on-going journey for me. I will struggle, sometimes more than other times, but I will have to work hard at this. For. Ever.

So running on the track Monday I worried that I wasn’t going to be ready for the 10K on Saturday. I thought maybe I would just run the 5K with my family and that would be ok.

But then when I finished one lap, I told myself that surely I could run two. And when I hit two, I told myself that I was almost at three. And then three laps turned into 4 1/2 miles. It wasn’t pretty….but I did it. And If I ran 4 1/2 miles on a track without music or people around to motivate me, that it’s possible that on Saturday I could run two more miles. It’s possible and that’s progress.

And while I was stretching afterwards…I realized that I needed to tell the heavier me who thinks I can’t do it to shut the hell up. That today I did it and maybe I will tomorrow, too. And I’m going to have to take it day by day like that for awhile. Because while I haven’t gained any weight on the scale, I don’t feel as strong as I did – so I need to rededicate myself to this journey.

And I’ve got today, this moment, to make a good decision. And then I go on from there.

I said my mantra several times on the track. I’ve got to remember to say it at other times too.

Be Brave. Be fierce. Believe.

Believe. Because I have to continue on this journey for me and my health and my future.

I can’t go back. I just. can’t.

Do you struggle with weight issues? Have you met a goal and regressed? What do you do when the positive comments stop coming from others and your forced with just the thoughts you’ve got running a muck in your own head and they aren’t particularly positive? 

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