Dads Run.

Lincoln Marathon2I remember the first time I thought, “Wow, dad runs a lot.”

It was 2002, I was in sixth grade, my family was stationed in Hohenfels, Germany, and we had just gotten quite a bit of snow.

He said it was a one of his long run days – like 16 miles or something – and he walked out the door despite the cold and snow and came back a few hours later with a red nose, sweaty and out of breath. I think it was that morning that I really first grasped the concept that 16 miles was a really, really long way to run.

Of course, my dad had good reason for running all of those miles. He was training for the 2003 Munich Marathon. It would be my dad’s third marathon, but, like I mentioned earlier, it was his first marathon where I actually understood that running 26.2 miles was a pretty big deal.

My dad, John McHugh, ran his first marathon on February 27, 1999. My family was stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama, at the time, and we took a weekend trip down to Pensacola for the 1999 Blue Angel Marathon – The Navy’s Official Marathon.

I don’t remember much about the experience except that my older brother won his age group (he was 10) in the Blue Angel Marathon’s 5k and that seemed way more impressive to seven-year-old me than my dad’s 653rd finish in the actual marathon.

But anyways, that experience, my dad’s first marathon, was key in building a culture of running in the McHugh household. For as long as I could remember, my dad would get up on Saturdays and go for a run. He’d get up early on weekdays and go to PT to run. He ran with his soldiers. He made my friends and me run – a lot – when he coached our soccer teams. I just thought running was a thing dads did.

My theory – dads like to run – seemed to be absolutely correct when he ran his second marathon, the 2000 Lincoln Marathon, with a friend of mine’s dad. While stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, together, our two families drove up to Lincoln, Nebraska, and spent the weekend eating spaghetti and cheering on our dads as they ran and ran and ran.

As I grew older, I began to enjoy running just like my dad. When I was in ninth grade we moved back to Alabama and, on occasion that year and in the years that followed, I’d join him for his morning PT run. I’d then brag to all my friends how sore I was because I woke up a 0500 and ran a whopping four miles around the U.S. Army post.

Throughout high school, my brother, sister and I joined my dad in running just about every 5/10k Fort Rucker had to offer, and like most military bases, there were A LOT of races. I’d spend the day following my 3.1-mile competition icing my legs, binge eating and lying on the couch. I loved 5k Saturdays, but I never thought of running marathons like my dad – until a few years ago, that is.

While most of you know my story I guess a few may not. My running-loving dad, Col. John McHugh, was killed in action by a suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 18, 2010. I was eighteen.

I ran the Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon in honor of my dad in May 2015 - five years after he was killed in action.

I ran the Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon in honor of my dad in May 2015 – five years after he was killed in action.

In the years that followed my dad’s death, as I continued college, graduated and began my career as a writer, I started to understand why so many people use running as means to cope with loss because I needed to run to cope with my loss.

During the summer of 2010, not long after my dad’s death, I’d often go run around Fort Leavenworth (where my family was stationed when my dad was killed; we moved a lot) and I’d always finish my runs at my dad’s grave in Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. Sometimes I’d do my ab workouts and pushups at his gravesite before cooling down on a walk to my on-post home. Running through and working out at the cemetery is frowned upon (actually it’s not allowed at all…) but I didn’t care. I ran there anyways.

In 2012, while I was a student at Kansas State University, I trained for the Fort Leavenworth CGSG Sprint Triathlon. It was a great race – the swimming and the biking went really well – but the finish line was located just past the cemetery. That last mile of the 5k, most of it spent running past the white tombstones, was one of the most difficult, emotional miles I’ve ever run.

In the past five years I don’t know how many miles I’ve ran to simply clear my mind. Race wise, I’ve run two Army 10 Milers and a half marathon in my dad’s honor around the 5-year anniversary of his death, but I know now it’s time to get serious and begin working towards the goal I’ve been talking about for quite some time.

It’s time to run the Lincoln, Pensacola and Munich marathons – just like my dad.

Since I’m currently living in Kansas, I’ve decided to run my first marathon, the Lincoln Marathon, on May 1, 2016. My first few weeks of training have gone well, but actually running 26.2…we’ll see how that goes. Following Lincoln, my goal is to tackle the Pensacola marathon before, one day, making the trip to Europe and running Munich.

I didn’t know it back when I’d join him for those early morning runs around Fort Rucker, but today I’d give anything to go running with my dad again.

Now I’m running in his footsteps instead.

My dad and me on Mt. Evans, Colorado, during his visit of his to watch me play soccer at Colorado Christian University (2009)

My dad and me on Mt. Evans, Colorado, during his visit of his to watch me play soccer at Colorado Christian University (2009)

A visit with my hero (May 2015)

A visit with my hero (May 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

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2015 Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund Gala

My sister and I after meeting Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and his wife, Linda Odierno, at the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund Greater Houston Gala Celebration at the Hotel ZaZa Thursday April 02, 2015. (Photo by: Dave Rossman)

My sister Kristen and me after meeting Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and his wife, Linda Odierno, at the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund Greater Houston Gala Celebration at the Hotel ZaZa Thursday April 02, 2015. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

I was lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Houston earlier this month for the first annual Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund Greater Houston Gala. If you’re not familiar with the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund, it began a few years ago when a group of my dad’s West Point classmates (USMA ’86) decided they wanted to help military children who have had a parent killed in the line of duty.

To children whose parent made the ultimate sacrifice, the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund gives back to them through educational funding.

As the original recipient of help from the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund (named after my dad, Col. John M. McHugh, KIA May 18, 2010) I was given the great opportunity to give a speech during the event before the nearly 500 people in attendance.

I was nervous. I wanted my words to represent exactly what my dad would want to say if he had the opportunity to speak in front of this tremendous crowd. I wanted my words to reflect how much my college education meant to me. I wanted my words to reflect my dad’s faith, his commitment to serving his country, his personality – all of that in five minutes!

Before the speech, I spoke with my pastor, a United States Marines veteran who is now also serving as a chaplain with the United States Navy National Guard, about adding my dad’s faith to my speech. As a military chaplain, he gave me great advice. He told me I should add a Bible verse that was close to my dad’s heart. I brought the idea up to my sister, Kristen, and, after a bit of brainstorming we came up with 1 Corinthians 10:31:

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

It was the final verse my dad gave to our family to memorize the month before he was KIA, and an absolutely telling verse about how my dad lived his life.

This picture of Kristen and me by Dave Rossman pretty much sums up the night.

Kristen and me watching the video created by Merkley + Partners during the event’s dinner. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

Fast forward through the event – Steve Cannon, my dad’s West Point classmate and President and CEO of Mercedes Benz gave special opening remarks, emcee Anthony Anderson, star of ABC’s newest show, “Blackish,” was an absolute blast, United States Army Chief of Staff Gen. Odierno was the keynote speaker, Merkley + Partners put together a beautiful video presentation about JMSF and, after my remarks, Tony Guzzi, another one of my dad’s West Point classmates and president of EMCOR gave outstanding closing remarks – and the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund had raised 1.4 million – MILLION – dollars that will go to help military children around the nation.

There were many, many tears shed at the event as we spent time reflecting back on and celebrating my dad’s life. He had a good one.

Among my favorite quotes from the event was one from my dad’s older brother, my Uncle Jim.

“For 46 years of his life, he did what he loved,” my Uncle Jim said in the video featured during the event. “He loved being a soldier, he loved being a dad, he loved being a husband. A lot of people go through life and they’re bitter; they’re not satisfied in what they do. He was satisfied beyond compare in every area of his life, he just didn’t have a long enough time doing it.”

More tears (a theme of the evening for me).

My dad was faithful, always, to what he believed in.

That’s why, after the gala, when I returned to Kansas completely humbled and amazed by the entire event and my pastor asked me how it all went, there were, yet again, more tears shed when he presented me with this verse:

“The righteous man walks in his integrity. His children are blessed after him.” – Proverbs 20:7

God fulfills his promises. My dad was, without doubt, a righteous man. His West Point classmates knew that at when they knew him during his college years and it remained true throughout his entire career and life. He made such an impact that, 25 years later, they haven’t forgot about it.

They started this incredible organization that – in its first event, mind you – made $1.4 million. My younger siblings are 16 and 10, and they will be taken care of and, because of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund, will have the opportunity to go to college wherever they want and become anything they want when they grow up. That’s simply amazing.

God fulfills His promises.

So, with all that being said, if you’ve made it this far in this post, here is a look at my speech from the First Annual Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund Greater Houston Gala on April 2, 2015:

“As I sat down thinking about what to write and where to start with this speech, I thought the words would come easy.

But I was wrong.

I’ve shared my story many times; I’m writer words come easily.

However as I prepared my words for tonight, it hit me that I’d be sharing before a group of incredible people.

In this group tonight are people who helped me through the toughest time of my life. People who cared for me and saw the importance and the impact a college education would have on my life, even when I couldn’t see it.

When you’re a freshman in college, nothing seems more difficult than finals week. But my freshman year, in the middle of my finals, I found out that there was something much, much tougher.

On May 18, 2010, my father, Col. John M. McHugh, was killed in action in Kabul, Afghanistan.

And I still had three more finals to take.

Just like taking those finals that week seemed impossible, so did the thought of continuing my education during such a dark time in my life.

I was in the middle of transferring schools, and I had planned on my dad helping me in making the decision of where I would finish my degree because in the years leading up to college, he helped me with everything: paperwork, applications, money, everything that goes into a college degree. Without him, I felt completely lost.

Not only did I lose the person who believed in me the most when it came to obtaining my college education, but on May 18, 2010, I lost my long-time soccer coach, my biggest fan, my best friend and my hero.

It isn’t because he gave his life for my freedom that my dad is my hero, no, he was my hero long before that. My dad saw the positive, the potential in every day and he lived his life in a way that his niceness, his genuine-ness was simply contagious.

Without saying a word, he set the best example a daughter could ask for in a father.

I was a lifeguard for the Fort Leavenworth pools the year my dad was killed, and I would often cover the 5 a.m. shift. My dad always had coffee ready for me and as I’d hobble out the door still half-asleep, he’d be sitting on our couch reading his Bible, wide-awake with a smile before he had to be at PT.

He would have our family memorize Bible verses together in the months leading up to his death. I thought the verse he had us memorize for May of 2010 – the month he was killed – was absolutely fitting for the way he lived his life:

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

It’s the little things, the little moments like that that I remember the most.

It was the little things he did, the way he treated the people around him – my mom, his soldiers, our family – that made his example so powerful. It was the way he lived his life that, even five years later as now I’m just figuring out this whole “adult thing,” I can still look back at him and I am incredibly impressed by the life he led.

He was humble. As you all know, he was a West Point graduate, and I, back when I was a kid, didn’t know the significance of that accomplishment because he never boasted it or wore that on his sleeve. He was a Colonel, and I didn’t realize just how impressive that was either because he never, ever acted better than anyone else.

But I know it now. I can see now how hard my dad worked for every accomplishment in his life. As a college graduate, I can see now the significance of earning a college degree and can understand just how very impressive and difficult it must be to obtain that degree at West Point. I work in collegiate athletics, so every day I see now how difficult it is to be a student-athlete.

To be a student-athlete at West Point – which my dad was and he still holds the record for most saves by a goalkeeper in a single season, by the way – that must have been tough.

But I never heard about what an accomplishment that was from him. I didn’t know he still held records with the West Point soccer team until recently. He was just that humble.

All I knew growing up was that my dad was the best dad in the world, and that was all right with me.

So, when he would talk about the significance of earning a college education, I listened. I listened to him, but I don’t think I fully understood what he meant until May 18, 2013 – yeah, three years to the day that my dad was killed – when I walked across the stage at Kansas State University and received my diploma.

I can see it now. My college education has helped me fulfill my dream of becoming a writer. With the help of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund and its recent partner, Children of Fallen Patriots, I had the ability to work not one, but two internships that both prepared me for my career.

Because of these organizations I didn’t have to worry about having a job to get me through school, so I was able to give one hundred percent into focusing on my studies and obtaining real-world writing experience.

The result? I graduated from Kansas State University and walked right into a job writing, doing what I love, for the K-State Athletics department.

Today, I am a writer. I work in sports, but I am following my passion of writing about people who are, just like my dad, simply passionate about life.

Education, knowledge – it’s the greatest gift a person can give because it is a gift that never expires and never runs out. It’s a gift that can never be taken away and lasts a lifetime. I’m grateful for my education, and I am grateful that, through the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund, children, veterans and families like mine will be given the same opportunity to follow their dreams.”

To view the video by Merkley + Partners that was featured at the gala, you can click here.

Anthony Anderson, star of the TV show "Blackish," introduced me before my speech.

Anthony Anderson, star of the TV show “Blackish,” introduced me before my speech. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

Sharing my story before an incredible group of people.

Sharing my story before an incredible group of people. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

President and CEO of Mercedes Benz Stephen Cannon, me and Ken Enders of Mercedes Benz of Sugar Land. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

President and CEO of Mercedes Benz Stephen Cannon, me and Ken Enders of Mercedes Benz of Sugar Land. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

 

MaryEllen Picciuto is one of my favorite people. As the president of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund and a West Point classmate of my dad's, she was the mastermind behind this event. Can't thank her enough!

MaryEllen Picciuto is one of my favorite people. As the president of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund and a West Point classmate of my dad’s, she was the mastermind behind this event. Can’t thank her enough for not only an absolutely perfect evening, but for everything she does behind the scenes! (Photo by Dave Rossman)

Enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and chat with Gen. Odierno and his wife, Linda. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

Enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and chat with Gen. Odierno and his wife, Linda. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

Okay, more of my favorite people. Jennifer Cimmino of Merkley + Partners, my dad's West Point classmate and childhood friend, Jim DiOrio and my Uncle Jim. Was so glad to see them all at the event. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

More of my favorite people. Jennifer Cimmino of Merkley + Partners, my dad’s West Point classmate and childhood friend, Jim DiOrio and my Uncle Jim. Was so glad to see them all at the event. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

All the gals with Anthony Anderson. Was an absolute blast sitting next to him during the event. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

All the gals with Anthony Anderson. Was an absolute blast sitting next to him during the event. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

General Odierno giving his speech during the event. Powerful. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

Gen. Odierno giving his speech during the event. Powerful. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

I'm glad I had the opportunity to share this evening with my sister, Kristen. She is one of the strongest, most beautiful - inside and out - people I know.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to share this evening with my sister, Kristen. She is one of the strongest, most beautiful – inside and out – people I know. (Photo by Dave Rossman)

Writing.

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”  – Thomas Mann

I stumbled across this quote on the @AdviceToWriters Twitter account not long ago and it’s really stuck with me.

As a young writer there are times I question why I chose this career path. In my day-to-day job, I write seven stories every week. The second I close a week of writing, I’m already preparing for the next….and the next. I’m writing a book. I freelance. I like to post on my blog. I even wrote a speech this week.

I write more than I ever thought I would and it’s tough. It’s tougher than I thought, especially when the writing part just doesn’t come easy.

In a world where, through social media, we see people post story after story after story, with so much content circling around at such a rapid pace, I think it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one who sits in front of a blank computer screen, knowing the potential your story has, but unable to get it down.

It’s not writers block. No, I don’t like that choice of words.

That’s why I like this quote.

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

It’s not like when I was in college and I had to write a paper for a grade and just couldn’t think of the good words, the words to get you by. That’s writers block.

It’s thinking of the right words, the telling words, the words that will give your story the justice it deserves because you were there.

It’s a responsibility. In my line of work, I tell stories about other people. You don’t want to mess that up. I tell stories about great people. People I often admire.

Words are powerful and, I believe, the longer you write, the greater this realization becomes.

For me, while it’s made me love writing even more, it hasn’t made it easier.

I overthink. I overwrite. I over-edit, delete and rewrite before realizing the lede I started with was the most telling. Then I usually go back to that lede anyways. It’s a crazy, messy, process, but, through it all, I love it.

And this quote tells me that maybe, maybe I’m not the only writer out there like this.

– Kelly

Things I learned from my AdvoCare 24 Day Challenge

This is TWO 24 Day Challenges. I took this picture the day before we started the Challenge :)

This is TWO 24 Day Challenges. I took this picture the day before we started the Challenge 🙂

I just completed my first AdvoCare 24 Day Challenge and it was great, but even with great results, there were plenty of things I wish I knew beforehand! There were things I figured out along the way that I wish I would have known from Day 1, so I put together this list to, hopefully, encourage others and help them make the most of their own 24 Day Challenge.

Everyone is different, but these are things I learned during my 24 days that worked for me and helped me achieve the results I wanted. Overall, I lost a total of 4.5 pounds and five inches while my fiancé lost a total of 10 pounds (he hasn’t measured his inches yet!).

Don’t know what the 24 Day Challenge is? You can click here to watch a quick video from the AdvoCare experts about the 24 Day Challenge.

Here are my tips:

1. Have someone to keep you accountable

I did the 24 Day Challenge with my fiancé and he was a huge help in making sure I was sticking with it every day. We would text each other reminders, talk about it and we integrated it into our lives. Along with my fiancé, I had my AdvoCare coach texting me every other day reminding me when to take certain supplements or congratulating me for making it through the 10-day cleanse. It made it easier knowing there were people rooting for me to do well and reach my goals.

2. Set things up beforehand

This is something I wish I would have done before I did my first challenge and something I will do in the future. I was looking on Pinterest and found a blogger who used 24 different Ziploc bags, one for each day on the 24 Day Challenge. This is a great way to stay organized and know exactly what to drink/take and when to drink/take it each day. Definitely wish I had done that!

3. Drink water …a lot of water

With any cleanse it is important to flush your body of impurities by drinking water. The challenge says to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day, but I always tried to add a few ounces. This is something I took very seriously during the first 10 days, the ‘Cleanse Phase’ of the 24 Day Challenge. My advice would be to get a water bottle, mark it at 16 oz, 24 oz and 32 oz and try to drink three of those bottles each day. This will help you remember how much you’ve drank while also providing a convenient way to carry your water around with you wherever you go. Never leave home without it while on the challenge! Also, set a reminder a few times a day (your phone is great for this!). Eventually you’ll be drinking water like a pro and you’ll miss it if you skip a glass here and there!

4. Make a meal map/plan and follow it the best you can

This is something I really enjoyed while on the 24 Day Challenge. Disclaimer: my fiancé and I are busy people, I work in collegiate athletics, he is an engineer, we’re planning a wedding and refurnishing a house on top of working out and attempting a social life, but somehow we figured out a way to make sure we’d have a healthy dinner every night. If we can do it, I know you can too! Here’s what we did: Meal Prep Sundays. Meal prep sounds like a hassle, but it has seriously made our lives so, so much easier. I’ve added how we did our weekly meal map at the bottom of this piece!

5. Make the Meal Replacement Shake Pancakes

Getting tired of sipping a shake for breakfast every morning? Try turning your meal replacement shake into easy, tasty, quick pancakes! Click here for the recipe!

6. Ask Questions

I was lucky to have an AdvoCare coach who helped me out even when I didn’t know I needed help along the way. One of my favorite things about AdvoCare is that the people who are involved are passionate about helping others see great results, so they are always willing to help. If you need something, ask your AdvoCare coach! You’ll probably get your answer and more. Don’t hesitate to call or text them…that’s what they’re there for.

7. and finally Enjoy it!

This is the most important advice I can give you. Doing the 24 Day Challenge may mean partaking in a different lifestyle than you are used to, but it’s helping you, day by day, become a better you. That sounds cliché, but it is so true. Regardless of the reason for doing the 24 Day Challenge, whether it’s health, weight loss or a bit of both, remind yourself every day why you’re doing it. In the grand scheme of things, 24 days isn’t that long, but it is just enough to push you to your goals and help you get back into a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Don’t forget why you’re doing it. Write down your goals and let AdvoCare help you reach them! Hope this helps!

– Kelly McHugh

AdvoCare site: https://www.advocare.com/150152735/default.aspx

My fiancé, Mark, and me after finishing our first 24 Day Challenge! Thumbs up for AdvoCare.

My fiancé, Mark, and me after finishing our first 24 Day Challenge! Thumbs up for AdvoCare.

My Meal Prep How-To

On Sundays we COOK ALL THE FOOD!

What I cook: 6 chicken breasts, 4 sweet potatoes (I just pop them in the oven on the rack above the chicken breast for 1 hour), cut up all veggies for pot roast/snacks, boil 10 eggs (we use a lot of the eggs for lunches) and, before I go to bed, I put my pot roast on low in the crockpot with a diced onion. Then, on Monday morning, I split the pot roast in half, save half for our BBQ beef later in the week and dump the pre-cut veggies in the crockpot with a bit of beef broth. By dinnertime on Monday evening the pot roast will smell (and taste) amazing!

So here’s a look at our week of meals:

Sunday – Chicken breast, sweet potatoes, mixed vegetable bag (the frozen kind) Monday – Pot roast with pre-cut up red potatoes, carrots, green beans, celery and onions Tuesday – Big, fun salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, nuts/seeds, low fat dressing/cheese, avocado, eggs, mushrooms, dried cranberries, etc.), add Sunday’s leftover chicken breast Wednesday – leftover pulled beef with BBQ sauce on 1 slice of Ezekiel Bread (frozen in the organic food section of your grocery story), deviled eggs, baked sweet potatoes. Thursday – Fish, another veggie bag (Asian Medley is pretty good…) and brown rice (I don’t precook the fish, just have to find one night I’m free to cook and Thursdays are usually my least-busy)

Friday – leftovers!

Saturday – we leave one night per week to either eat out, have a quick meal (tuna sand which, salads) or run to the grocery store that day and pick up the ingredients to make a ‘fun’ meal (chili, omelets, vegan sloppy joes, tacos, ect.)

Eating like this has not only kept us to a healthy diet, but I have also noticed it has helped our budget. While on the 24 Day Challenge we didn’t eat out. On average eating out comes to about $30 for Mark and me…and that doesn’t count drinks (add at least $20 for those!). Thirty dollars per week adds up pretty quick and, before you know it, you’re spending $150 a month on top of grocery shopping.

Obviously everyone likes different kinds of food, but I think that’s the best part of meal prepping, it allows you to be flexible! It took us a while to really make the most of our grocery trips and shop for exactly what we need for meals so we don’t allow food to go bad. It’ll probably take a bit for you too to figure it all out, but, let me tell you, once you do, life is WAY easier. Because we cook almost everything on Sunday, a healthy dinner on the week nights takes about 5 minutes to prepare.

Now that’s a game-changer.

AdvoCare Pancakes, guys.

One of my favorite things about AdvoCare just got even better.

Today, I turned my Meal Replacement Shake into three delicious pancakes! It was quick, easy and they tasted oh so good that I couldn’t help but share!

Although I’m a writer, I know no one has time to read a lengthy blog about pancakes (let’s be real) so I took photos of my pancake-making journey this morning.

Ingredients:  1 AdvoCare Meal Replacement Shake 2 Egg Whites 1 tsp Baking Powder 1 Banana

Ingredients:
1 AdvoCare Meal Replacement Shake
2 Egg Whites
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 Banana

Step 1: Get all the things together. Get a bowl and mix 1 Packet of Meal Replacement Shake (I used the vanilla flavor), two egg whites and 1 tsp of baking POWDER (not SODA, sorry I told you baking soda, Jenn) together. Then mash in one banana.

I decided to throw in some of my Army Brat roots and use my Polish Pottery bowl. That doesn't matter though, you can mash that banana in any bowl.

I decided to throw in some of my Army Brat roots and use my Polish Pottery bowl. That doesn’t matter though, you can mash that banana in any bowl.

Put it in a grease pan (I used Pam) just like you’re average, every day pancake, but remember this is NOT your average every day pancake! 🙂 IMG_5146

Flip it.

Flip it.

And then, after I cooked up my first pancake I had an idea…PB2.

Could they get any better, yes, yes they could. I mixed in one spoonful of PB2 to the remaining batter.

Could they get any better? Yes, yes they could. I mixed in one spoonful of PB2 to the remaining batter.

And there you have it, folks. A lovely breakfast to kick start the work day and keep you energized and focused. IMG_5150 I already wrote one story today, but I have the energy to now knock off two more! (and put together this blog post).

I'm enjoying this AdvoCare journey more and more every day...

I’m enjoying this AdvoCare journey more and more every day…

I am currently on Day 15 of the AdvoCare 24 Day Challenge and have been seeing phenomenal results. I’ve been feeling better, have more energy and of course, have lost a little weight (three pounds!). Before I decided to try the 24 Day Challenge I had been trying to lose just five nagging pounds, but regardless of how good I ate or how hard I worked out  I just couldn’t lose the weight. Five pounds quickly became ten pounds and I knew if I didn’t begin living a healthier lifestyle and make some changes those ten pounds would quickly escalate.

AdvoCare has helped give me a jumpstart into living the lifestyle that I not only want for right now, but that I want for forever.

Not only has the 24 Day Challenge been helpful, but the AdvoCare Performance line is pretty great too. I tried just about every pre-workout in the book before I tried AdvoCare’s Arginine Extreme (premiere workout supplement packed with nutrients that help you make the most of endurance workouts) and it helps me make the most of my long distance running days.

Energy, focus, performance, weight loss, maybe even some extra $$…what can AdvoCare do for you?? Obviously this is something I’m passionate about and interested in, so at any time, shoot your questions my way and I’ll get them answered whether it’s through what I’ve already learned or by picking the brains of my amazing AdvoCare leaders. Below is the link to my AdvoCare distributor page. They give you your own website too. #perks.

https://www.advocare.com/150152735/default.aspx

AdvoCare – Building a Better Life

A NEW JOURNEY

Since getting engaged to Mark Stewart on Aug. 31, 2014, he and I decided we wanted to be in the best shape possible for our wedding. We began working out harder, eating better and even ran the Army 10 Miler in October! I thought we were on track to be in the best shape of our lives.

AC_horizontal-swooshWell, fast forward to January 2015, and instead of losing that weight we had hoped to lose we both realized we had been gaining weight. We bought a house, basketball season started up (my busiest time of the year for work), the cold weather hit and don’t even get me started on the holidays. Life was just being life, and every time I thought we could get back into shape something new got in the way.

I’m only two years out of college, and staying fit isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be. I wanted to start something now to ensure that five years down the road I wasn’t trapped in an unhealthy lifestyle.

I had began researching AdvoCare – a company dedicated to building relationships through improving health, wellness, improved performance, energy, weight loss and income – because, from what I saw, the people who used the products were losing weight, staying in shape and living the happy, healthy lifestyle I wanted.

I knew I wanted to try these products but just wasn’t where to start. That’s when I met Stef and Andrew, my new AdvoCare mentors, at a bridal show. They gave me a few products to try and I was hooked!

I had my first “mixer” (a get together with friends to learn about the products) a week later and sold a ton of product without doing anything at all (hello, first paycheck!). I decided to try the “24 Day Challenge” and become a distributor of the products right then and there.

As a distributor you get a 20% of discount from the start, but it quickly grows and Mark and I are almost to the 30% discount level. The best part about AdvoCare? No one has pressured me to buy or sell. These people are seriously interested in just helping you get to where you’re going health and fitness wise, and they are confident their products will get the job done. They care. That’s what I like the most.

I’ve never been interested in selling things, but, let me tell you, these products simply sell themselves.

If you’re interested in getting healthier, losing weight, having more energy or just curious about the products please let me know! I don’t want to pressure anyone into buying, that’s not my goal, but I do want to share what I have learned, because AdvoCare has been awesome for me and I’m very excited for this new, healthier lifestyle journey Mark and I are now hooked on.

HALF WAY THERE

24dayChallenge_FINALMark and I are currently on Day 12 of our first 24 Day Challenge. We both feel better than ever and the weight loss (I’ve lost two pounds while he has lost almost four) is pretty great too. Of course, the 24 Day Challenge isn’t just magic a pill you take and get fit, you have to put in some work (healthy diet, exercise and drink A LOT of water!), but it is a lot easier to lose that weight and get in shape when your body is cleansed and your metabolism is boosted.

Like I mentioned earlier, AdvoCare people truly care and, when you do the 24 day Challenge, you not only get a book/app to guide you a with meals/supplements along the way, but you also get a coach. Andrew and Stef have been there for Mark and me every step of the way. They’ll text us and ask how it’s going, let us know when we add a new supplement or shake to the routine.

It’s like they have a calendar with our names on it and know exactly where we’re at – and they don’t have to do that. They just care.

The 24 Day Challenge has been a fun journey so far, but it definitely helps having someone to go through it with you. I started the challenge with not just Mark, but my brother and good friend are also on Day 12 as well!

Here is a link with a video about the 24 Day Challenge, since I’m still new to all of this, the AdvoCare people explain it a little better than I do:

https://www.advocare.com/150152735/24DayChallenge/

Here’s to a healthier, happier lifestyle thanks to AdvoCare!

A closer look at our AdvoCare/24 Day Challenge Journey:

Happy day! My distributor kit came in the mail two days after I ordered it...and it filled with SPARK.

Happy day! My distributor kit came in the mail two days after I ordered it…and it filled with SPARK.

Then we got the 24 Day Challenge...

Then we got the 24 Day Challenge…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The products (this is for two challenges)

The products (this is for two challenges)

SPARK Buddies. Mark likes Watermelon, I like Fruit Punch,

SPARK Buddies. Mark likes Watermelon, I like Fruit Punch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiber drink during the Cleanse Phase. Not my favorite part of the challenge, but, in reality, wasn't too bad, and it was so worth it!

Fiber drink during the Cleanse Phase. Not my favorite part of the challenge, but, in reality, wasn’t too bad, and it was so worth it! 

If I could do the little emoji with the heart eyes on this blog, I totally would put it under this picture. Meal replacement shakes...I'm continuing these even AFTER my 24 Day Challenge. Delicious.

If I could do the little emoji with the heart eyes on this blog, I totally would put it under this picture. Meal replacement shakes…I’m continuing these even AFTER my 24 Day Challenge. Delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating healthy snacks is crucial. I made snack baggies to keep things quick and easier to eat well while on the go during the day.

Eating healthy snacks is crucial. I made snack baggies to keep things quick and easier to eat well while on the go during the day.   

One cup of veggies.

One cup of veggies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally out of the cleanse phase! Now onto taking the MNS (Multinutrient Dietary Supplement) every day.

Finally out of the cleanse phase! Now onto taking the MNS (Multinutrient Dietary Supplement) every day.

From pre-game shows to post-game stories, I've loved the focus and energy SPARK has provided for my countless hours spent in Bramlage Coliseum.

From pre-game shows to post-game stories, I’ve loved the focus and energy SPARK has provided for my countless hours spent in Bramlage Coliseum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Took love to the next level with this Valentine to my sister.

Took love to the next level with this Valentine to my sister.

A look at a few our products (mostly the 24 Day Challenge). The Arginine Extreme canister is an amazing pre-workout - and I've tried just about every pre-workout out there.

A look at a few our products (mostly the 24 Day Challenge). The Arginine Extreme canister is an amazing pre-workout – and I’ve tried just about every pre-workout out there.

K-State Sports Extra Top 10 of 2014

Interview with Philadelphia Eagle's and former K-State running back Darren Sproles on April 26, 2014 (Photo by Scott D. Weaver Photography)

Interview with Philadelphia Eagle’s and former K-State running back Darren Sproles on April 26, 2014 (Photo by Scott D. Weaver Photography)

Last week, in the K-State Sports Extra, I had the opportunity to share my favorite 10 stories of 2014! It has been an exciting year working with K-State Athletics as I’ve conducted more interviews than I can count and met numerous awesome K-Staters along the way.

Here’s a look at the story posted to the K-State Sports’ blog:

The K-State Sports Extra Top 10 of 2014

December 26, 2014 | By Kelly McHugh

First off, a late Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Wildcat fans. I hope you have had an enjoyable holiday season!

Looking back at 2014, it’s been a good year for me with K-State Sports Extra.

Through this daily story, readers have been taken inside 100-plus K-State athletics events and read interviews from more than 150 current and former student-athletes, every head coach at K-State, K-State Athletics’ staff and passionate Wildcat fans from around the nation in 2014 alone.

This year, through the daily happenings of K-State Athletics, I had the opportunity to chat with former student-athletes now working and competing around the globe, and I met numerous wonderful K-State fans along the way who I have truly enjoyed getting to know.

Each and every day on the job is a new adventure and, as I hope you look forward to reading a different story each day, I look forward to sharing them with you.

Every story written has a unique backstory, and through today and tomorrow’s K-State Sports Extra I will be sharing a few of those stories with you.

Here are the first five of my top-10 favorite stories from 2014. Stay tuned tomorrow for the completed list!

10. Conversations with National Media

At the Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Texas, earlier this summer I spent some time chatting with media from national sports news outlets. It was a neat opportunity to hear these writers and reporters’ thoughts on K-State football, as it is often a little bit of a different outlook than one would find in the Midwest. As a young writer, I always enjoy having the chance to talk with national media.

Because of the unique opportunity to talk with people such as CBS’s Dennis Dodd, FOX Sports’ Joel Klatt and ESPN’s Holly Rowe, I have the story I wrote from my conversations with them on this Top 10 list. You can click here to check out National Media Talks K-State Football published on Aug 10, 2014.
I also interviewed ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Ponder during her visit to Manhattan for the K-State football vs. Auburn game, similar to the national media story. I thought that one was pretty interesting too.

9. Gene Keady’s K-State Roots
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When I was asked if I wanted to interview Coach Keady while he was visiting Manhattan, I didn’t have to think twice before saying, “Yes.” Though he was in town for a sad reason (the funeral of his cousin who was “the closest thing he had to a brother” Keady said), he had the opportunity to check out a K-State men’s basketball practice and visit with old friends.

The reason Keady’s story has made it on to my Top 10 list is, not only because he is a legendary college basketball coach, but also his interview was a lot of fun. Since he was watching the practice, I wanted to keep the interview quick so he could get back out there, however, much to my surprise when I finished the interview, Keady laughed and said, “Surely there’s more we can talk about!” and we spent another 20 minutes chatting. I always enjoy spending time with people who are passionate about their K-State roots, and Keady was just that. Click here to read Kansas Roots Close to Keady’s Heart published on Dec. 17, 2014.

8. Partnerships with Ft. Riley
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One morning earlier this summer, I rolled out of bed at 4:30 a.m., grabbed my recorder and a notebook and headed to meet up with K-State football for its trip to Fort Riley. Growing up with my father in the Army, I always enjoy having the opportunity to cover stories where my two worlds collide. Though an early morning, it made for one of my favorite stories of the year. It is exciting for me to have the opportunity to work with K-State, because both the athletics department and the university as a whole truly care about their military neighbors. To read Football Works Out with Fort Riley published on June 6, 2014, please click here.

7. Pickles and Watermelon

It’s not often that I have the opportunity to use silly titles, but I couldn’t resist this one. Not only did this story have a fun title, but it was also fun to write because I learned so many new things. I learned how many calories a football player should eat during a two-a-day-schedule (4-6,000!) and also learned how important it is for student-athletes to fuel their bodies correctly for training and competition.

K-State Athletics’ nutritionist Scott Trausch is both passionate and extremely knowledgeable in his field, and I enjoyed sitting down and chatting with him one evening earlier this year in the Ahearn Fund Student-Athlete Performance Table.  To read Pickles and Watermelon, published on Aug. 16, 2014, please click here.

6. Bruce Weber Gives Back

As I continue on this adventure of writing K-State Sports Extra, there is one thing I have found to be true regardless of where you look: K-State people are generous. They care. They give back. Bruce Weber epitomizes this attitude. After a practice one afternoon last season I had the chance to chat with him a little about why he does what he does. His story was an inspirational one of hard work and remembering where you came from.

I was reminded of this story when, just last week, I covered K-State men’s basketball Holiday Clinic for Fort Riley’s 1-7 Field Artillery Brigade. Though Weber didn’t say anything about it in our interview, I found out later that week that he personally donated to the Army’s Operation Christmas Child program that night. Because of his continual generosity, this story remains one of my favorite from 2014. Click here to read Bruce Weber Gives Back published on Feb. 12, 2014.

5. A Chat with the Voice of the Wildcats

Wyatt Thompson had the day off the morning I set up my interview with him, but he met me in his office anyway. In his K-State sweatpants and sweatshirt, he said he didn’t mind coming in to talk K-State.

Because of his always friendly personality, Wyatt is one of my favorite people to work with. You can tell he loves his job, and you can tell the student-athletes and coaches he interviews on a daily basis love him as well.

Though I was writing about Wyatt winning the 2014 Kansas Sportscaster of the Year Award, our conversation began with him telling me about the story of his road to K-State. He told me how he began by calling high school games in Western Kansas and worked his way up. Twelve years later, and he’s earned the title “Voice of the Wildcats” and made numerous friends along the way. As always, our conversation was light and enjoyable as I learned what his typical day looked like and learned about his fondest memories on the job. It was, and probably always will be, one of my favorite interviews.

To read A Visit with the Voice of the Wildcats published on Feb. 24, 2014, please click here.

4. Dog Day at the Toint

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Not only was this one of my favorite stories of 2014, it was one of my favorite stories to write. All-time. Ever. I wrote this K-State Sports Extra through the eyes of my 3-year-old black Labrador, Jack, after he spent his first afternoon at Tointon Family Stadium for its annual Bark in the Park Day. I adopted Jack two years ago around the same time I began writing K-State Sports Extra, so he’s been with me through it all. He’s a big-time K-State fan, and though he watches all the games from the couch, he and I were glad when he was finally allowed to come to a game.

To read dog Day at the Toint published on May 11, 2014, please click here.

3. Western Swing

From May 19-24, I spent the week traveling around Western Kansas. With numerous K-State employees, coaches and student-athletes, I traveled from city to city attending new Catbacker events every day.

On the trip rightfully dubbed “The Western Swing,” it was the first time I had ever spent time in the western part of Kansas, and I loved every minute of it. I loved the purple passion displayed uniquely at every event and I loved that these Western K-Staters opened their doors and welcomed us. I met many, many new friends along the way and am already working on my golf game for next year’s Western Swing.

From Dodge City to Scott City to Hays, America, the Western Swing was one of a kind. I wrote quite a few stories that week on the road, but here are the links to a few:

Scott City Catbackers Remember Doornbos

Kids Funzone Provides Fun for Wildcat Fans

Sports Extra Heads West

2. K-State’s Home Win Over KU

There’s nothing more exciting in sports than a bunch of excited fans rushing the court or field after a big win, and that’s exactly what happened on Feb. 10, 2014, when K-State defeated Kansas, 85-82, in overtime, in Bramlage Coliseum. Not only was it an exciting, exhilarating game to watch, but it made for a good story afterwards, too. Will Spradling – a Kansas kid – played the game of his life while freshman Marcus Foster continued his dominance and scored 20 points.

Who could forget the image of Thomas Gipson helping ESPN reporter Holly Rowe up onto the scores table where the team was standing so she could get her interview? That was priceless. Not only was the postgame environment awesome, but the game itself was among the most exciting K-State basketball games I had covered.

From start to finish, from hosting the pregame show on K-StateHD.TV that evening to covering the press conference afterwards where head coach Bruce Weber addressed the media smiling ear-to-ear, it was among the most exciting games I have ever covered. To read Home Court Magic, published on Feb. 11, 2014, please click here.

1. Kaiden Strong

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While I had the opportunity last year to tell the story of K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller and his friend, 9-year-old Kaiden Schroeder, this summer I had the chance to update Wildcat fans on that story.

Kaiden, who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 2009, spent June and July at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where he underwent a new T Cell Treatment. He became one of only 30 children at the time to use the new method of leukemia treatment and, on July 3, was reported in complete remission – 100 percent cancer free.

During Kaiden’s time at CHOP, Ryan took a visit out there. The two ate Philly Cheese Steaks and ran up the Rocky stairs. Jenny Schroeder, Kaiden’s mom, sent me photos from Ryan’s visit, and the two just looked like they were having so much fun!

While no one is completely certain what the future holds and Kaiden will be heading back to CHOP for more treatment after the New Year, when I heard Kaiden was cancer free earlier this summer, my heart melted. I couldn’t have been happier to hear the news and share it in my story, A Special Bond. To read the story of Ryan and Kaiden’s friendship, published on Sept. 4, 2014, please click here.

To read updates on Kaiden and his family, you can visit his Caring Bridge page by clicking here.

2014 was an exciting year filled with some great moments to cover Wildcat sports! Thank you for joining me along the way!

I’m looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store.