Monday, June 29, 2015


After years of wondering why it hadn't, it finally happened. 

Congratulations to everyone impacted.  I couldn't be happier for you.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lazyman Ironman Summer 2015

I suppose it's about time that I remind folks that Lazyman Ironman starts in 4 days.  Won't you join in the fun with me?

Register here.  And don't worry, all are welcome (Chaska resident or not).  If you live out of state, you can opt to have your finisher's prize mailed to you!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Marketing, Positive Body Image & Being Accountable for One's Self

So, there's something I've been kicking around in my head for awhile.  For the last two or three years, actually.  I've been debating in my mind if it was really an issue or not.  And then, a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine posted this article on Facebook.

If you don't want to jump to the article using that link, I'll save you some time and tell you - the article essentially discusses how the shift in marketing towards positive body image, regardless of what you look like, is great ... but we need to remember that marketers are only changing their tune because at the end of the day, they want us to buy their crap.

And shortly after reading the above article, I came across another article via James Fell - Body for Wife.  Rather than summarize that article, I'll steal a quote: "I don't believe anyone should be shamed for their body, but ‘body acceptance’ is tricky ... Accepting (or even glorifying in some cases) obesity and unhealthy lifestyles isn't something we should make trendy.”

That right there. 

"Accepting (or even glorifying in some cases) obesity and unhealthy lifestyles isn't something we should make trendy.”

That's what I've been worried about for awhile.


Before I get too far in this conversation, I feel like I should remind you all about my history.  Most of you might remember, but if you don't, it's no secret that I struggle with my weight.  Growing up as a kid, I was always the fat one.  And even now into adulthood, I have a hard time keeping my weight in a healthy range. 

That being said, when I first started seeing "real" or "normal" models being used in marketing campaigns, I literally blurted out: "It's about FUCKING TIME!"

Seriously, I was stoked.  Because for years and years, our media has inundated us with images like this:

60s/70s fashion icon, Twiggy

90s fashion icon, Kate Moss

More recently popular, model Cocoa Rocha

I've always agreed that images like these obviously do not portray healthy or attainable body types.  And that's not even getting into the whole Photoshop thing, which is a discussion for another day.

Then, to make matters worse (as if the above wasn't enough), our culture somehow started coupling unattainable beauty standards with bulling.  Which meant it became more and more common to hear some snide comment if you weren't the right weight, or wearing the right clothes, or smelling of the right perfume.  Ah, brings back the good old days of coming home crying because someone at school called me fat, again.  Or picked me in gym last, again.  Or whatever short end of the stick I was suffering that day.

So when I saw my first ad like this, I was like ... yeah!  Finally, some acceptance that other body types are OK, too.

But it wasn't just me that got excited about this shift.  The overall media buzz surrounding the use of more "real" looking models in the last few years has been HUGE.  So things started snowballing.  All of the sudden it wasn't unheard of to see a physically handicapped model, or a plus sized model, or a model with downs syndrome gracing the "front & center" of an add campaign.

One of my favorite current campaigns, by the way, is Desigual's choice of Chantelle Brown, who has a rare skin pigmentation disorder.

So for the last few years, I've thought the growing acceptance of diversity in marketing was great!  Coupled with the concept of positive body image, it seemed like things were really starting to turn around.


But, somewhere along the way, things started to seem off to me.  It wasn't right away.  It wasn't in the first year or two of this being a trend.  But somewhere in there, I started seeing ad campaigns like this, and comparing them to each other ... it just felt like something wasn't right.

So I started researching.  And Immediately I got frustrated.

Why?  Well, until just a short time ago, Lane Bryant - the "no angel" add makers above - were owned by the same parent company as Victoria's Secret: Limited (L) Brands. 

Hm.  Isn't that interesting?

Parent Company - Limited Brands
Subsidiary - Victoria's Secret, ad slogan: "The Perfect Body", models known as "angels"
Subsidiary - Lane Bryant, ad slogan: "#ImNoAngel, product line marketed to plus sized women

A parent company letting two subsidiaries market against each other?  That' doesn't seem right.  They wouldn't let their brands slaughter each other, would they?  Well ... you can bet your ass they wouldn't ... unless it was going to make them good money.

So I started to realize, these people don't give two toots about body image.  They are only trying to get you to buy their shit. 

While the upside to that is we get to see healthier, more normalized models in the media; the downside to that is that marketers aren't doing it because of acceptance or wanting to promote healthier body types, they're doing it simply for sales dollars.


Feeling jaded by this realization, I started look down on many campaigns featuring "acceptance" - be it the Lane Bryant ad (which photo I feature above) or the Dove campaign (referenced in my original link at the beginning of this post) or anything in between. 

And I also started to wonder ... is it really a good thing to be so widely accepting?  Can marketers take this too far?

So for the last year or two, I've been wondering where marketers would go with this "acceptance" process.  And I started to worry a bit, because with obesity becoming ever the norm in the United States, I wondered - could it be possible that these campaigns could begin to feature even larger models?  And if so, what will this mean?

Sure enough, just a few months prior to me writing this post, a new plus sized model began gaining momentum in the media.  Because I do not mean to shame her, I am going to omit her name here.  But I do want to include her photo, because it is relevant to what I have to say next.

Seeing the above photo, my first reaction was - wow, what a beautiful woman.  She really is very lovely.  And naturally, being curious, I started reading articles about how she was getting some very good modeling contracts and such. 

Unfortunately, that's when I started seeing other photos of her as well, some of which featured her in a non-Photoshopped and non-ideal body positions.

I saw all these additional photos and I started to think ... are we going so far to accept people of all types that we're normalizing, or even idealizing (via media promotions), a physical appearance that could have some serious overall health and wellbeing impacts?

Before you light up and attack me for this question, I challenge you to think about how marketing works.  People today see messages and photos tied to various products.  We are bombarded all day long with messages on what to wear and buy and eat and do.  And whether we want it to or not, it becomes ingrained in our memory.

Case in point #1?  I can sing the McDonald's big mac song from the 80s/90s 'till the cows come home, but God help me if I need to recall the capital of Nebraska.  (It's Lincoln, and yes, I had to resort to Google.  Meanwhile, I still can't get the "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese ..." song out of my head).

This just goes to prove that media and marketing today is an innate part of who we are.  Regardless of how hard we fight it, those messages becomes an ingrained part of our personal self. 

And unfortunately, many people don't even fight those messages, they just accept them as fact.

Case in point #2?  In the last two months, I've been asked multiple times by people I work out with if they should start taking protein supplements via various advertised shakes ... because they help with weight loss or muscle build or whatever the advertiser claimed in their ad; never mind that the people asking me if they should take them already get plenty of protein in their daily diets and aren't trying to become body builders or "bulk up".

So I look at the influence marketing has had on just myself and those around me and I begin to wonder: how will the use of obese models shape us as it becomes more frequent in the media?  Will seeing these models begin to normalize obesity and thus create a crutch for those who want to justify their current unhealthy lifestyles?  Meaning, will this "acceptance" in marketing encourage people to accept their obesity rather than try to address it?


Thinking through this topic, I decided to reach out to a friend about this and discuss.  As I expected, she told me that this topic is a VERY slippery slope.

And yes, this is where I have to admit, there is definitely a very fine line in this discussion.  I can't go around telling people to be happy with who they are (and I definitely think that's a must), all the while saying we shouldn't use overweight models in advertising.  Not to mention, it is obviously IMPERATIVE to be kind and accepting of all people.  We should never talk down to someone or shame them - regardless of what they look like, what color they are, or even what kinds of clothing they choose to wear.

But my friend made an exceptional point.  She mentioned the "This Girl Can" campaign that came out some time ago, and said something to the effect of "that's an ad I can get behind because it's features all different body types, but not for the purpose of pointing out one is fat or one is skinny - it's simply to show them doing all kinds of things, and that they are all trying to do what is best for them".

Hm.  Good point.  There was actually a great message behind that ad campaign, and it featured all types of body shapes.  Granted, it was more of a PSA than a message to consume some sort of product, but still ... it did use all kinds of body types to portray its' message, and I didn't walk away feeling like it glorified obesity or anything stupid like that.


After thinking through how much media can brainwash us, but my friend mentioning how "This Girl Can" featured people doing what is best for them, I find myself stuck in the middle.

I love the all inclusive, positive message of "This Girl Can".
I hate how the average person is so snowballed by marketing.

So where does that leave me?  I guess ... I don't know what else to say.

Maybe the best thing I can do is bring us back to where I started at the beginning of this post, with a James Fell article quote:

"Perhaps most important is not to listen to trends about what is allegedly hot and what isn’t, and instead do what you feel is best for you."

So I end this post by saying - please, everyone, wake up!  Stop doing what marketers want you to do.  Stop accepting their portrayals as truth, or acceptance, or whatever their message of the hour might be.  Instead, just ignore all that and do what is best for you.

And maybe, try turning off the TV a bit more often.  If nothing else, at least that will free you from some of the marketing to begin with.


What are your thoughts on this topic?  Start the discussion below.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Workout Trends - Then & Now

I don't know if I've ever mentioned ... that my husband is an investment nerd?  He kind of is.  He likes to watch investment shows and read business reports.  We even get a digital subscription to the Wall Street Journal.

I mean, don't get me wrong.  I'm not married to any Wolf of Wall Street or anything like that.  My husband just likes to follow what's happening.

Anyway, how does this relate to fitness?

Well, this:


I particularly enjoyed this part:


Because duh - teaching and such.  I mean - a 9.2% increase?!  Amazing.  Maybe that's why my classes have gotten so big in the last year or so.  Either way, let's hope that trend continues.

Happy Monday!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Product Review - Open Water Swim Gear

As I mentioned in a blog not too long ago, I recently purchased a wetsuit.  Since I learned that finding swim gear can be kind of overwhelming, and especially challenging for larger build women (and men), I thought I'd use today's blog to discuss what gear I purchased, and what I think of it.




Synergy Endorphin
Purchased at for $199
Also available (price varies) on, in case you want to read other reviews

Size selected based on Synergy's height/weight chart, which proved accurate for both myself and my husband:


Thoughts:  First of all, there is no comparison when it comes to getting this suit on (versus a TYR equivalent).  The stretch and cut of this suit is fantastic, and makes getting into it much more ... well, fun, if you can call putting on a wet suit fun ... which, just to be clear, it's not

As for function, so far I'm thrilled with the performance.  Not only do I feel like I get full range of motion, which I hear can be an issue in some full sleeved suits, I don't feel choked, which I also hear is an issue in many wetsuits.  It's possible that all of the above comments derive from the quality of neoprene used in the construction of the suit ... ?  Apparently other suits in this price point don't offer quite the engineering this one does:

I also feel very buoyant and secure when I have this on - for example, any time I feel like I want a break swimming, I can just flip over on my back, and this suit would practically let me float for hours. 

While I don't have any previous wetsuit experience, I would recommend this brand based on my first few trials of this suit.



TYR Alliance Splice Lycra Suit
Purchased at local swim shop for around $30

Thoughts: I bought this suit as an emergency/backup suit for the regular poly one I wear to lap swim 99% of the time.  Basically, I intended this to be the "my other suit is in the wash" option.  Since it was cheap, it looked ok on me, and it fit - I bought it (side note: I've got a long torso, so in TYR I found I had to size up one to make it fit me).  There's nothing special about this suit, and I wouldn't even particularly recommend it or not.  The only reason I now use it for open water swimming is that I knew this suit would definitely not hold up to constant chemical exposure at the pool, and as soon as I needed something available to "leave at the cabin" for lake swimming, I decided to sacrifice this one for that purpose.  Rather than buy this suit for yourself, I recommend you go to the local swim shop, try on some suits to see what size fits/feels good to you, and then buy whatever appeals to you.  As a side note, I did get my husband a $12 jammer at, so there are definitely budget options for everybody out there!



TYR Silicone Molded Ear Plugs
Purchased at for $3.49

Thoughts: I've actually been pool swimming with these plugs for over a year, and for me they work great.  Some people might say ear plugs are unnecessary, and maybe they are, but for me I found it at least took one stressor out of the mix (worrying about water going into my ear) and made it easier for me to focus on my swim.  Plus, I didn't have to deal with the pain of a water plugged ear after a swim session. They do take a little getting used to, since you have to make sure you position them in your ear properly, but once I got that figured out I never swam without them again.  Also, keep in mind everyone's ear is shaped differently, so I can't guaranteed they'll work for you.  However, for $3.49, there's no huge loss if they don't work out. 



Sporti Antifog Plus Goggles
Purchased at for $4.55

Thoughts: Wow, for under $5, I had some serious doubts about these goggles.  But, that was all for naught  These goggles are great!  Once I adjusted the sizing for my head, they suctioned right onto my eyes without a single leak during a 1 hour swim.  I did have a brief moment where they started to fog (maybe 15 minutes into my swim, max), but I think that was because I was quite hot from putting on my wetsuit and swimming, and the water/air temps were sub 70.  A quick swipe of my finger inside each lens to remove the build up, and the rest of the swim I was just fine.

Swim Socks


Vincere Sports Sand Sock in lime green/purple
Purchased at for $24.75

I selected my size based on feedback written by swimmers on Amazon's reviews page (this is technically a volleyball/sand sock, so you need to consider that these will behave differently when used for swimming); feedback suggested sizing down one from Vincere's size chart based on street shoe size

Thoughts:  Eeeehhhh ... I want to love these, but ... sigh.  Despite sizing down, these still end up getting a little loose & sloppy when you swim.  They're not terrible, but if a pair of loose-ish socks flopping around your feet will make you crazy during a swim, they may not be for you.  For me, with my "don't want the lake crap to touch my feet" phobia, they're at least an option for keeping my feet covered.  I'm debating sewing a little elastic into them around the ankle or something to help them stay put.  If I ever engineer an option that works, I'll let you know.

Swim Cap


Quite honestly I have a shit-ton of these things, some of them I paid for and some of them I got free
Since it will likely get questions, I purchased the tiara one above at for $6.45

Thoughts: It's a swim cap.  Need I really say more?  Since I find the thinner caps less stretchy and more difficult to put on, I prefer the thicker style caps made of silicone.  Also, I feel like the thinner kinds might rip when I'm putting them on, so I feel like the thicker caps are more durable.  Then again, I guess I've never ripped a cap, so maybe I'm just being paranoid about that whole thing ... ?  My only word of advice here is to pick whatever appeals to you and don't waste a bunch of money on whatever you pick.


Total spent (since this wasn't a cheap endeavor): just shy of $270.00

Wetsuit - $199.00
Swimsuit - $30.00
Earplugs - $3.49
Goggles - $4.55
Swim Socks - $24.75
Swim Cap - $6.45

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How to Polyvore & Win Some InkNBurn

If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you likely know that:

(1) I am an InkNBurn Ambassador
(2) I love being wildly creative

So when InkNBurn announced their latest Polyvore contest, which is centered around their new Liberty collection that launched just in time for 4th of July, you know I absolutely had to jump into the competition.  (Well ... the $30 InkNBurn cash prize might have served as a bit of a motivator, too.  Heh.) 

Right away I ran over to Polyvore, wiped the dust off my 6 year old account, and whipped up a "set" to enter the contest.

But of course, once I got my creative juices flowing ... I just couldn't stop.  With InkNBurn in hand, or rather in Polyvore, I started entering every contest on the site, prize available or not.



Of course, I was having tons of fun while doing this.  But, while I was cranking away on my Polyvore creations, I started noticing on the InkNBurn fan page that others were struggling to just get up and running. 

So I thought ... why not help everyone out with a basic Polyvore how-to tutorial?!  Seems easy enough. 

OK!  Let's do it!

(PS - Polyvore works best on a desktop computer.  Try your first go using that, please.)


Step one (this may seem obvious): create an account at  Here's my account, just for fun:

Note: I'm not going to bore you with how to create an account, since I figure most of you have at least created an account or two on the internet before - be it at Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever other social media site is out there.  Hopefully you can manage with me omitting this info!

Second, follow my profile

LOL!  Just kidding.  Actually, though, I do want you to follow InkNBurn's profile so you can enter their July 4th contest too. 

Following InkNBurn is pretty easy to do.  Just go to their profile page, and click on the button that says "follow".  I've pointed it out below with a red arrow.

By the way, in some of my other screen shots below (like ^that one above), look for the red arrow.  I'll use that as a flag for the harder to see stuff from here on out.

Next, click on the items tab on the InkNBurn profile page and start liking InkNBurn stuff. 

To like an item, simply click on the heart next to it.  I recommend that you at least "heart" anything in the July 4th collection so you have options once you start playing with a design.


To review - so far you have set up a profile, followed InkNBurn, and hearted at least a few of their items.  These three things are all important steps, so be sure you have completed them prior to continuing on.  Ok?  OK!


Now, let the fun begin!

From your main profile page, click on the "create" button in the upper right.  You want to select the option called "set".

Doing so will bring you here. 

*queue singing angels* 

As you can tell, this is obviously my favorite part of the entire site.

From this point on, it's all about you adding whatever you want.  The world is your blank canvas, and InkNBurn wants you to decorate it! 

I recommend starting by pulling your InkNBurn items onto the canvas, just so you have your basics covered.  For their current contest, they require 3 pieces of July 4th items.  So, let's cover those bases first.

Click on your "My Items" tab and find the InkNBurn pieces you want.  Then, click on them and choose "Add to Set".

There!  We've got the basics of the contest covered, three pieces of July 4th themed product are in the set. 


Hm.  What next? 

I know!  Let's cover another basic Polyvore feature - adding text to a set.  This is optional, but it is kind of a fun way to add interest and direction to your design. 

Clicking on the "Fashion" tab, head on down to the "Text" option.

Scroll around until you find a font you like.  I'm going to choose this option since it reminds me of fireworks.

Now, this is where I can show you a few tricks.

If you're still with me and are working on a set yourself, you probably noticed when you added your text that Polyvore added a generic quote in black text, "I Love Polyvore". 

As you'll see below, I'm going to change that text to red via the drop down box. 

And just next to the color drop down, in the box marked "Text", I'm going to make it say July.

Make sure you click on the word "Update" after you make your color and text selections, by the way.  If you do those things, you should end up with this:

Yep, that looks good! 

But ... now I want another word in the same font ... with a different color. 

Let's use the clone tool and make that happen.  (Note, the clone tool works for everything in your Polyvore set, not just text).

You may have noticed I skipped a few steps after cloning, editing the color and text in the above as well.  When you clone, it only gives you the exact same word in the exact same size/color.  You have to choose from there what you want the new word to be.  Since we already covered how to do that, I'm skipping that part and saving you a repeat lesson.


At this point, with a few images and text added to your set, you've got the basics.  Now you can start dragging around your text and images to get them wherever you desire.

You can also scale and rotate items, tweaking them to better fit your layout.  To do so, just click on an item (like the word FOURTH above) and pull from one of the four corners to enlarge/shrink.  Or, go to the top center point (above the OU in FOURTH) to rotate.

Using the scaling/rotating options, here's where I am so far:

Now, to emphasize that I'm head over heels for InkNBurn, I'm going to opt to flip the capris upside down.  As you can see in the above, I'm working towards that by choosing the flip tool.  (There's also a flop tool, but I don't need that right now.  Feel free to play with it on your own).

With the flip complete, I'm ready to start searching for some items to help fill out my set.  Let's get to searching!

Notice above how I've keyed in "American Flag" in the search bar?  When I do that and click search, I get a whole slew of options to add to my set. 

After paging through a few options, I found something that caught my eye, so I want to add it to my set.

This is where I have to say ... finding stuff on Polyvore is all about patience and trial & error.  I'll show you one search trick I've used in a minute, but I have to emphasize that the art in Polyvore really comes from your ingenuity in searching.  Unfortunately, a good set is usually a result of diligent searching, and that just means time spent on your end.

That being said, hopefully at this point you've found something you want to add to your set. 

Go ahead.  Add it.  You know you want to.

Once you've added some things, start dragging those items into place, scaling and rotating as you wish. 

If, like the below, you find you have some layering issues and need to move something above/below another item: click on the "offending" item and use the backwards (or forwards) tool to put the item where you want it to be.  Each click will move your item up or down one level in relation to the other pieces of your set.  That means, if you have 10 pcs in your set, you may need to click the tool a few times before you're happy with the layer position.


Ok.  So now we've covered the basics of design, including layering.  How about a couple of ... we'll call them semi-advanced tips? 

Let's start with a more advanced search method.

In the main "Fashion" tab, click on shoes.  Because shoes.  OMG shoes.  And also, I think this set could use some.

Since this set has a lot of blue, and I'm not particular which shoes I end up with, I'm going to focus on finding something red.  Using a similar color drop down like we did when we changed our text color, let's filter our shoes for red.

Ta-da!  Look at all those red shoes. 

In this advanced search method, you can add additional search terms to filter further if you want - IE style of shoe (maybe you just want a sandal), brand of shoe (I'm partial to Saucony), etc.  I won't use those methods here, but know that they are available to you if you wish to try them.

Anyway, I think I found a pair that will work.  But ... hm.  As you can see below, the positioning of the second shoe in the image seems odd when I place it into my set. 

Don't you think it would look better without that second shoe in the shadows?

So, let's do something about that 2nd shoe. 

As you can see above, when I clicked on the shoe, a toolbar appears on the right and gives me three options: with our with out a white background, or the third option titled "Custom". 

When I click on custom, I get a ton of other pre-set options to choose from.  One of those options is the shoe without it's so-called shadow.

That's exactly what I'm looking for, so I select it and click on OK.  Then I head back to my set, where the shoe has been added ... with it's partner deleted from the picture.

But that's when I notice my set still has one last hole, just to the right of the sunglasses, and I need to add another image to my set.  Hm.  What do I use to fill that last hole?  I mean ... what goes good in a hole? 

Oh, I know!  Cake. 

Mmm.  Cake.

Going back through the search options, I find a cake that I like, but unfortunately ... I really don't like the background it's on.  And when I click on the custom option, none of the preset crops are what I want either.


Going back to the shoe image above ... notice all those little gray squares around the shoe?  Below, I'm going to play with those little gray squares on my cake and create a truly custom image crop. 

For this example, I started with someone else's work where they cropped out just the cake.  Then, I drug the points out to include the blue plate:

You could also choose to start totally from scratch, dropping dots all along the edge on your own.  If you choose this method, you have to be sure to connect your end point to your beginning point prior to clicking "OK".

When you settle on how you want your cropped image to look, click on OK and add it to your set.  (And don't worry, if you realized you made a mistake on your crop, you can always click on the image and get back into that screen to make adjustments).


So, at this point, I'm pretty much done with my design. 

Where does that leave me?  Well ... publishing.  Which seems pretty straight forward, given the "Publish" button.

When you click on publish, make sure to choose a name and category for your set (I usually choose fashion as my category).  You may get a few additional options here to post to Facebook or whatever.  I typically don't do that and just click on the black X to opt out, because if I did publish all my designs, I'd be spamming everyone I know with about 100 Polyvore sets a day.  Yeah, you're welcome.

Anyway, once you are done publishing, click on your profile to view your sets.  There you should see your finished work appear.

Usually, after the design is done, I go in and add a comment to it that says: @InkNBurn.  It may seem silly, but I do that because sometimes the staff at InkNBurn comments back on a design, so it's kind of fun to know they looked at your work.


So, now we've created and published a set.  But, of course I haven't forgotten the entire purpose of this blog: contest submission. 

To enter the contest, you need to join the InkNBurn design submissions page.  Once you do that and are approved as a member, you can access the page fully. 

That's when you'll see, on the far right, open contests.  You click there to enter your designs. 

Selecting the contest brings you to the next page, where you can opt to submit your set.  Many people miss this part, so I'm going to highlight it here.  (Again, accessing Polyvore from a desktop is key for this part - many people accessing from an app or mobile device claim they cannot see this option.)

And once you click on "Submit a Set", the rest is pretty easy. A pop up window comes up that lets you select which set you want to submit.  Then - you click on the set you want, and you click on enter contest.  Bing-bang-boom, you're in the game.


And well ... I guess that's about it.  I hope you found this how-to guide helpful.  I know I'm no Polyvore expert, but if I can at least get you up an running ... then my job is done!

Now - go forth and design some sets!

Don't forget, by the way, to check out my profile and see what July 4th entries I submitted.  Or, share with me what YOU designed by pasting some links in the comments below.

I can't wait to see what you make!