Fitness & Feta Turns One!

Today is a fun day!  It’s my one year “blogiversary!”

Or maybe I should call it my blog birthday?  Presents welcome.  😉

Can you guys believe that I’ve been blogging for a full year?  I guess time flies when you are having fun!  I started this little corner of the healthy living blog community exactly one year ago today (July 12, 2011) with this post called “Giving It A Go.”

I started Fitness & Feta for a few reasons:

  • First of all, I like to write.  I consider it a hobby.  I find it fun.  It relaxes me.  Just like a lot of people like to go home and relax by watching TV, I like to come home and blog.
  •  Second, I was becoming more and more obsessed with reading other healthy living blogs out there.  I kept thinking to myself that I wished I had my own!
  • I also started loving my part-time work (fitness instructing) more and more.  I knew that fitness was something I felt passionate about, along with other aspects of wellness.  I wanted to share this passion with people, help inspire, help motivate.  I’d often get a lot of questions from people about what kind of workouts do I do, what would I recommend for them, what do I eat for breakfast, how do I stay motivated, and so on.  Why not put all this stuff in one centralized place for people to come back and refer to?

And one day, it just clicked.  I needed to start this blog.  I had two “blogs” in the past — one was literally a diary chronicling everything in my life (remember that stupid live journal?) where I shared way too much personal information.  The other was a blogspot and focused on awkward moments because I thought I could make it funny, but it just fizzled.  Instead, as you guys know, I have a little corner on here where I share my awkward moments because, well, why not?  From everything I read about starting a blog, the key to success was to find a niche — something you feel passionate about, but something specific enough that it really catches people’s attention and can reach out to others that share the same passion.  I knew that healthy living was mine.  Tina’s “So You Want to Start a Blog?” post and Meghann’s Blogging 101 Series really helped me as I got started.

So!  I had the ideas.  I had the determination.  The hardest part for me was coming up with a name, probably because I’m the most indecisive person in the world.  I remember one day my coworker and I sat in a conference room after a meeting and literally wrote down every possible word we could think of that had to do with healthy living or, well, me.  (Don’t tell the boss).  We mixed and matched all those pieces of paper until I was staring at the words “Fitness” and “Feta” in front of me.

Fun fact:  I almost called this blog “For the Health of It.”

And so it began!  I played around with WordPress until I figured it out.  I by no means have an impressive design, but I told myself that I would blog for a year, make sure that I stuck with it, make sure I liked doing it, and make sure that others actually liked reading it before I put in a lot of time and effort into monetizing, design, photography, etc.  ….that will be this year’s goal, because I’m there!  Check, check, check to all the above.  🙂

Some fun facts about the past year of blogging:

  • Fitness and Feta has received over 82,000 all time views.
  • When I started blogging last July, I was getting around 800 views a month on average and now I’m getting over 15,000.
  • I have written 427 blog posts.  Do I really have that much to say!?!  YES!!
  • And 740 people like to read what I say.  🙂
  • I’ve grown both my Facebook page and my Twitter account since they started this year.
  • I used to care SO MUCH about these numbers.  And I still care, obviously.  But I used to do end of the month recap posts to gauge how I was doing with the blog, and after a few months of that I realized that’s the numbers are not why I blog.  I blog for you all, obviously, but more importantly, I blog for me. 
  • The majority of my readers live in the United States, but the next most popular countries people are reading Fitness & Feta from include Canada (thanks Jen!), the UK, and Australia.
  • Search engines are the number 1 way people find my blog, followed by Facebook, Pinterest, and Google Reader — in that order.
  • The most common search terms used to find my blog (besides Fitness & Feta, of course) are:  “Strong is the new skinny,” “fitness motivation,” “baked oatmeal casserole,” “shoulder muscles,” and “greek flag.”  haha!  The funniest search terms ever used to find my blog?  “Awkward massage moments,” “i hate burpees,” “what’s the big deal,” “food on fork,” “cranky when hungry,” “pantyhose kickboxing,” and the best one — “got poop.”  I love it!  Seriously, this is the best WordPress stats feature.
  • I have partnered with 14 different companies for lots of fun giveaways!

Whew!  A lot of fun facts, huh?

I also thought it would be fun to recap my most popular posts.  Not sure what it is about these ten that makes them my most popular, but here they are!

  1. Strong is the New Skinny
  2. I Love, Love, LOVE
  3. ACSM Certified Personal Trainer Q&A
  4. A Must Try!  Baked Oatmeal Casserole
  5. Words for the Weekend (And Happy Birthday Brother)
  6. Shoulder Strain
  7. Tone It Up – Upper Body Pyramid Circuit
  8. DanceFIT Studio:  Free Giveaway
  9. Pita Christmas Trees + Free Chobani Giveaway
  10. Spin Class:  Sprint Intervals

A huge THANK YOU to all of you who check in every day to read what I have to say.  Each of your comments, emails, tweets, likes, and conversations motivate me to not only continue blogging but to also constantly try to better myself!  Your readership means a lot to me!  Keep it coming.  Cheers to a fun first year and a great second to come!

What do you like the best about Fitness & Feta?  What’s YOUR favorite post?  What would you like to see more of in year two?  Less of?  Any ideas or feedback, please send them my way!

Hope you guys are enjoying the guest posts while I’m away!

Guest Post: Find Your Motivation

As promised, I’m bringing you guys some great posts from some amazing friends and bloggers while I’m away on vacation.  This post is brought to you by one of my most dedicated Circuit Training class members, Jen.  Jen has recently accomplished some major fitness goals and is here with you to share her story today.  Thanks, Jen, for writing a guest blog in my absence!

Find Your Motivation

A few weeks ago Athena asked me to write a guest post while she was on vacation.  I was very excited to be able to share some of my motivations and successes!  I’m Jen Ryder, and if you take any of her classes at the Oak Square YMCA you have definitely seen me around, and have seen a lot less of me lately!  I work for a travel agency in Boston that specializes in group travel to marathons all over the world.  To say I am surrounded by fitness conscious people most of my day is an understatement!

Since the start of 2012, I have lost 28.8 pounds and gained so much in my fitness.  I consider myself to be an active person – snowboarding, scuba diving, and surfing to name a few.  I have lost weight before, most recently in 2009, but over the last two and a half years the pounds crept their way back on.  How?  Pretty simple: I realized I need to have a solid goal to reach to keep me focused.  I’m not talking about a number on the scale, but something I can work to achieve.  Here is a picture of me from last October cheering on my friend Aimee running the Hartford Half Marathon with her husband Ede:

Back in January, my friend Andrea brought up the idea of running the Fairfield Half Marathon in June.  I immediately thought no, since I’ve done two half marathons already and didn’t need to prove to myself that I could do one.  After a few more conversations, I decided to give it a go and signed up.  I thought this would be a good way to kick-start 2012 on a positive side.  Now I needed a goal.  I decided not only to run this race, but to run it and set a new personal best.  By a lot.  My previous best time was 2:34.  I want to do this one in 2:20.  I have never been a fast runner.  I can get through the miles, but speed has never been on my side.

I put my plan of action together:

  • I had started using the Lose It! website to track my calories and keep a food journal.  First step was to use this program everyday and know what I was putting into my body to fuel it for workouts.
  • Next I needed a training plan.  Andrea found one for us to follow for 18 weeks (the longest I have ever trained for a race).
  • Finally I needed to plan what I would do for cross training to supplement the running.  I had been taking Athena’s circuit training class once a week and decided to add some more classes to help with my strength training.  On day one of training on February 20th, while still recovering from an ankle sprain, I set out on a 3 mile run and began working towards my goal.  Generally, my weekly workouts looked something like this:

Mondays – Run and sometimes spin depending on the distance
Tuesdays – Kickboxing with Liz, and Circuit Training with Athena at the Y (Two A Day Tuesday)
Wednesdays – Run
Thursdays – Circuit Training with Athena in the morning and run
Fridays – TRX class
Saturdays – Long Run
Sundays – Off from training

I followed this schedule exactly for 18 weeks with increasing mileage, keeping track of everything I ate, and doing all the miles and workouts.  Was it easy?  No, but I loved doing it.  As the pounds started to come off I became more focused and motivated.  Training was getting easier, and to my surprise I was getting faster!  I took 4 minutes off my mile time from when I started to when I finished.  And then people started noticing the difference in me, which added to my motivation.  I was doing something on my own, for me, and I was succeeding!

Then came race day – June 24th.  It was warmer than I had hoped, but I knew I was prepared.  I put 18 weeks of hard training for this race and I was so amped and excited to run it!  My friends weren’t joking about the hills on this course!  Luckily almost all the hills and long climbs were in the shade.  I blew my previous times out of the water and finished in 2 hours and 24 minutes – a personal best by 10 minutes!  I had reached my race day weight goal too – about 4 days before the race.  I was so happy and proud of what I had accomplished!  I couldn’t hide my smile for the post race photo:

What I have always known is that it takes a sensible eating plan and a consistent workout routine to lose weight.  There is no magic pill or quick solution.  You have to put the time in – it is that simple.  I like having a race to train for and to keep myself focused.  I put all my workouts in my planner so I knew what I was doing at the start of each week.  I chose classes at the gym that I like, so my workouts never seemed like a chore.  I actually enjoy running now.  I never really enjoyed it when I ran my previous half marathons, but now I look forward to going out on a long run.  It gives me time to clear my head.   I am more conscious now than ever about what I put into my body.  I drink a lot of water (be careful not to drink your calories!), cut back on alcohol consumption considerably, and plan out my meals for the week.  Most importantly, I do allow myself to have something if I want to eat it, but just the right portion of it – whether it’s ice cream on a hot day, pizza, or Mexican Night with friends.

So what’s next?  I have another half marathon in less than four weeks – the Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine.  I hope to set a personal best by at least a few minutes and be about 10 pounds lighter.  I still need to lose another 17 pounds to reach the goal I set for myself back in January.  According to Lose It! I will reach that goal around Labor Day weekend!  Then it will be the Hartford Half Marathon in October.  I plan to keep a race on my calendar at all times.  The most important keys to what I have accomplished are that I found a plan that worked for me, I stuck with it, and I enjoyed it.

What are the keys to your fitness and weight loss successes?

(Keep rockin’ it, Jen!  You look amazing and are SO dedicated!)