Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good.
Today: One woman’s self-care routine includes long scenic runs, vegetarian chili, and restorative pilates.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: Creative Producer
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: Creative Producer
Editor’s note: This diary was written in January 2023.
8 a.m. — I’m getting over a cold so I’ve been sleeping a lot this week. Last night I got 10 hours in. It wasn’t fully uninterrupted given a few middle-of-the-night coughing fits, but I’m feeling decently refreshed. I shuffle to the kitchen for a cup of coffee from my trusty Nespresso machine (it’s my everything). I’m a caffeine girl through and through, so I typically drink at least one cup of coffee each morning, right when I wake up. I’ve been trying to hydrate a ton while I’m still feeling sniffly, so along with my coffee, I grab a BODYARMOR SportWater from the fridge. This is my favorite alkaline water, because it keeps me hydrated when I'm feeling run down. ($2.89)
1 p.m. — Thankfully, my cold is almost gone, but I’m not feeling up to exercising just yet. Usually, I’ll exercise at least five to six days per week, and on the weekends, I try to fit in longer workouts. Today is Saturday, and it’s about 55 degrees in Brooklyn (unseasonably warm, eek). I decide to meet a friend for a neighborhood walk so I can move my body and enjoy the weather without overdoing it. We wander around for about two hours, catching up and sharing goofy (and cringy) family holiday stories, before popping into a cafe for lunch. The cafe makes their own sourdough bread, so I opt for an avocado toast with some lightly dressed greens, plus another coffee. ($16.72)
5 p.m. — I hop on the subway and head home. I’m feeling fairly fatigued from being out and about while still on the mend from this cold. Time for some rest! At home, I take a shower, using an Aesop body scrub I snagged in a boutique while walking around earlier. The combo of the scrub and the steam help clear my sinuses and leave my skin smooth. I decide I’m too tired to cook and really just want to curl up on the couch and watch Love Island Australia. Comforted by the sweet sound of Aussies cooing about whose eggs are going into whose baskets (if you know, you know), I settle into the couch under a cozy weighted blanket that my roommate and I love. My go-to comfort food is shrimp papaya salad and vegetable pho from a local Vietnamese restaurant. Soup, season four, then bed. ($69.44)
Daily Total: $88.66
9:30 a.m. — After sleeping another whopping 10 hours, I wake up feeling fairly healthy! I make a fresh cup of coffee with whole milk. I like oat milk, I like soy milk, I like all of the alt milks that science has to offer, but nothing hits like plain old cow milk for me. There’s a creamy sweetness to it that simply can’t be beat. Until some sort of lactose intolerance catches up to me, I’m riding that train. I also have a few glasses of water, being careful to hydrate in excess, knowing I’m still recovering. I forgo breakfast, eager to go on a long run after a few days without exercise. I’ve been a runner for more than 10 years and I don’t like to eat before working out. I like to run on an empty stomach and then have a big brunch-like meal, featuring lots of protein, once I’m done. ($6.49)
11 a.m. — I’m running across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s my first time running in almost a week, which is quite a long time for me. In spite of a bit of congestion, I’m feeling pretty strong. I like to run while listening to podcasts and today is no different, so I tune into the most recent episode of Las Culturistas. Podcast-running is a habit I picked up while training for the NYC Marathon last year. I finish my run in the East Village and decide to take the subway back to Brooklyn. But first, I pop into a bodega for a BODYARMOR SportWater ($2.89) and a banana. I apologetically hand over a few damp bills to the cashier, hoping they don’t know that the moisture is…sweat. I tend to run with some cash, my ID, and house keys in a running belt when I go on longer outings, and sometimes (always) the paper money gets sweaty. ($3.89)
6:30 p.m. — Once I’m dressed and showered, my boyfriend comes over and we make a large dinner salad (it’s a thing! Just make it hearty) with lots of veggies, chickpeas, and fresh tuna. We’re catching up on some recent buzzy films after a busy holiday season packed with work and travel, so we decide to stream Banshees of Inisherin. Highly recommend, though be wary: It’s a bit violent. We’re about a week into January, so we’re both still feeling lingering fatigue from the recent holiday season. After weeks spent downing martinis and holiday cookies, we’re trying to pack in some more veggies and fruits to reset. Naturally, we’ve vowed to drink a touch less, as we’ve been drinking every night for weeks. I wouldn’t say there are any sort of Dry January vows being made in this household, we’re just trying to give our livers a breather. Despite all that, I love dessert…so we munch on a few Tate’s Coconut Crisp Cookies before heading to bed. ($36.45)
Daily Total: $48.94
8:30 a.m. — Back to work after a few days off! My inbox is flush with
cash emails, and to make the clean-out process more pleasant I head to my favorite cafe around the corner for a little breakfast and business. Sitting down with a large coffee (with milk) and a scone packed with scallions and cheddar, I get to work answering emails, paying invoices, and creating my to-do list for the week. I work remotely 90% of the time, except on days when I’m on-set for a photo or video shoot. I like to break up my at-home work days by hitting different coffee shops around Brooklyn for a change of scenery, but today I’m about to embark on four hours of Zoom calls, so I decide it’s more respectful to torment my roommate with my work chatter than innocent cafe-goers. I pay for breakfast and head home. ($11)
6 p.m. — Work is winding down and I have a SoulCycle class booked for this evening. SoulCycle is my guilty pleasure. The price of the class — a whopping $38 for 45 minutes on the bike — is a bit difficult for me to justify, so it’s usually just a once-per-week indulgence. As a runner, where my workouts are basically free most of the time, I’ve always hated paying for classes. That said, SoulCycle is fun — and it’s a great break for my knees. Pushing through the studio door, I strip off my many protective winter layers and shove them into a locker, then pay for my $3 shoe rental. Yes, shoes are not included in the (already exorbitant) price of the class. I tell myself that one day, I’ll own spin shoes, but that day is not today. For those yet to join the cult, SoulCycle is a dramatically lit spin class, with stationary bikes packed shoulder to shoulder, and lots of choreography. It’s an amazing cardio workout — but it also feels like 25% party and 10% spiritual release. I always leave dripping in sweat. ($41)
8 p.m. — By the time I leave class, it’s getting a bit late, and I’m in desperate need of a hot shower. That said, I know my fridge is basically empty, so I pop into Trader Joe’s for some easy dinner provisions before I head home to bathe. I don’t have a Trader Joe’s super close to me, so whenever I happen to find myself near one, I love to stock up on some favorites. The pre-made salad kits taste great, travel well, and are very inexpensive. I opt for a Southwestern Salad, and a few other necessary pantry/freezer items, then head home for a quick meal, shower, then bed. ($20.88)
Daily Total: $72.88
9 a.m. — I slept at my boyfriend’s apartment last night, so I need to skip home before taking some morning work calls. After downing a quick coffee and my favorite on-the-go yogurt, Sour Cherry White Moustache (it’s divine), I hop on a Citi Bike and ride ~20 minutes home. I dock my bike and quickly pop into my neighborhood health food store to re-up my probiotics. I started taking probiotics a couple of years ago, per my gynecologist's recommendation, and they’ve massively helped my digestion and vaginal health (it’s a win-win). They’re a bit expensive, but the benefits are certainly worth the price: $45 for a 30-day supply. I keep them in the fridge so all the healthy science happening in those capsules doesn’t degrade over time, and I do my best to take one with a big glass of water before bed each evening. ($56.13)
2 p.m. — My morning calls are finally tapering off so I get dressed for a midday run. Since I started working remotely in the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve made a habit of using my “lunch break” to go for a run, whenever I need some air. Today, the temperature in New York has dropped a bit, so after getting into leggings, a few top layers, and my Asics, I add a cozy running fleece. I have a discontinued version of this Outdoor Voices quarter zip. Post 45-minute run around a few adjacent neighborhoods, I roll out my cork yoga mat and grab my pilates ball for a 15-minute length and reach session. I started doing Lia Bartha’s B The Method Pilates about three years ago and it has rocked my world. The practice centers around low impact, strength-, cardio-, and stretch-driven pilates, which is the perfect complement to pavement running. I use it to recover from tough runs, but also to build muscle, tone, and for the occasional sweaty cardio workout at home when the weather is too gnarly for a jog. ($18)
7 p.m. — I’m meeting a colleague for drinks at a wine bar a couple of miles away. I opt to ride my bike, which keeps me from indulging in more than a glass or two over the course of a few hours. I love biking through Brooklyn on winter evenings. The streets are quiet and the cool air smells piney and fresh. The downside, however, is that my hands can get super cold, so I usually wear my winter running gloves to keep my fingers from going numb. My coworker and I have a couple of glasses of red wine and share a few snacky plates of bread, cheese and olives before we head home. Once I’m warm and in bed, I pull out my computer for a quick writing session. I’ve been trying to write for at least 10 minutes daily (though usually more) during my early morning, pre-work window (“morning pages”). This past week has been a bit jumbled, though, so I didn’t get a chance to write this morning before diving into work — but this evening, it turns out to be a pleasant, meditative pre-bed experience. ($53.22)
Daily Total: $127.35
8 a.m. — I’m feeling a touch sluggish from last night’s wine and cheese, so I decide to kick my morning off with a run. When I wake up hungover or groggy, as long as I have the time and means to do so, I try to push myself to run so I can sweat out last night’s debauchery. I would say this works 98% of the time. It’s a great rapid healing tool to have in your back pocket. This morning, I run for almost an hour, enjoying the fresh air and buzzy energy outside. There’s a school across from my apartment and as I finish my run, I see the kids playing in the schoolyard in their puffers and mittens. It’s cute, corny, and uplifting. I get home and fill my Only NY Nalgene. It holds 32 ounces of water so it's a good way to ensure I stay hydrated. ($2)
2 p.m. — I have a brief break between work calls, so I pause to stretch my hips and joints after sitting at a desk for so many hours. I queue up a 15-minute Lia Bartha workout focused on hip opening and mobility. My body is creaking and cracking the whole way through. I take that as a sign that the stretching is working, especially because I feel limber and rejuvenated when the workout is over. I make a chopped salad filled with tuna, carrots, celery, apples, and some arugula for a filling but light lunch. I’m meeting a friend this evening for dinner at a fancy restaurant in lower Manhattan and I want to save my appetite for that. ($15.32)
10:30 p.m. — After dinner, I Citi Bike home over the Williamsburg Bridge. The food was elevated New American (whatever that means) and featured lots of dressed-up veggies and seafood dishes. We ordered a bunch of shared plates to get the full experience and I’m definitely feeling stuffed so the bike ride feels like a welcome, digestive activity. By the time I get home, I’m sweaty and exhausted, so I throw myself into bed with a cup of decaffeinated ginger tea and a BODYARMOR SportWater to hydrate before sleep. ($114.95)
Daily Total: $132.27
7 a.m. — I wake up a bit earlier than usual because I have a bunch to get done this morning. My boyfriend, some friends, and I are leaving for a ski trip this evening and we’ve got lots to pack and prep before we embark. I’m also tackling a couple of freelance production projects in addition to my full-time job, so I need to focus on those briefly before I get back to my day job. I make a cup of coffee and pull together a quick bowl of yogurt, berries, and peanut butter before sitting down at my desk. After about two hours of work, I have a 30-minute window to get dressed for the day and take inventory of my ski clothes. This is my first time skiing since last winter, so I want to make sure my gloves, pants, helmet, goggles, and jacket are all where I remember stowing them away. I squeeze the gear and some cozy clothes into a duffel along with my toothbrush and a deck of cards. Any other packing will have to happen this afternoon. ($9.20)
2 p.m. — Taking a pause from my workday, I change into leggings, socks, and a sports bra to do a longer pilates workout. My legs are feeling tired from all of the running and biking this week, and some restorative, sweaty movement sounds like exactly the active recovery I need. I queue up a 60-minute B The Method class on my laptop, pulling out my cork mat, pilates ball, and Bala Bangle weights. The Bala weights are one pound each and can be added to any workout, conveniently and comfortably strapping around your ankles or wrists. They bring a slight added challenge as I go through the pilates movements and help to engage my muscles on a deeper level.
6 p.m. — Four of us pack into my boyfriend’s car, Vermont bound, and we arrive at our rental home fairly late — but we all decided it’d be worth it to wake up close to the mountain and ski first thing in the morning, rather than waiting to drive up. My boyfriend gifted me a seasonal ski pass for my birthday this past fall, so we’ve made a pact to go skiing a bunch this year to maximize the pass’ value. I grew up going skiing with my cousins maybe once a winter, if that, so my skills aren’t awesome. My boyfriend grew up pretty far South so he’s not a life-long skier either, but as a kid, he skateboarded, surfed, and rollerbladed, all of which seem to make him a natural on the slopes. For the last couple of winters, we’ve taken a handful of weekend ski trips, either just the two of us or with groups of friends. As we creep closer to Vermont, someone in the car spots the golden arches, and we pull into a McDonald’s drive-thru. This is a recently appointed ski trip tradition. McDonald’s isn’t the easiest menu to order from for a pescatarian, but a French fry-milkshake combo on a road trip is never a bad thing. We reach the cabin at around 11 p.m., sip some whiskey, play cards, and then head to bed. ($183.80)
Daily Total: $192.50
6:45 a.m. — We wake up early to get ready for a big day of skiing. After a cup of drip coffee and a banana, I head to my room to layer up. Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to acquire more and more of my own ski gear. Instead of a rental helmet, I have my own sage green one, and a matching set of goggles. That said, I still don’t own skis. It’s a major expense — and frankly, they’d be near impossible to store in my cramped NYC apartment, anyway. I rent ski boots, poles, and skis themselves for the next two days. I still wear the size large, teenage boy ski shelI that I’ve had since I was 13. I pair it with a cozy Patagonia puffer underlayer and black snow pants. The Patagonia is new, a holiday gift from my boyfriend, and it’s the perfect lightweight layer for outdoor winter sports. ($146.15)
12 p.m. — The group of us are swinging our tired legs, sitting on the lift, creeping up to our last run before we break for lunch. We’re passing a flask of whiskey back and forth for the sake of warmth (and fun). Before I scooch off the lift, I shake open a couple of hand warmers. It’s 13 degrees on the mountain and my fingers have started to go numb. The hand warmers will keep my fingers mobile until I can de-glove and indulge in some lodge cafeteria vegetarian chili. One we make it down, we park our skis, and head in for a hearty lunch. Along with the chili, we share fries, beers, and warm chocolate chip cookies. Skiing makes me hungry! ($40.50)
5:30 p.m. — Back at our rental cottage, we lay on the floor, ski gear flung aside, enjoying the dry warmth coming from the fireplace. While sipping a bit of wine, we decide the easiest group dinner is a big pot of spaghetti with some dressed up jarred sauce. My boyfriend sacrifices himself to the dinner-making task, boiling water for the pasta and preparing pan-seared shallots, garlic, red pepper, and herbs to be added to the tomato. I am super sore, given that I haven’t skied in about nine months. The tops of my thighs, lower calves, and deep underarms are particularly achy. It’s a reminder that skiing targets a lot of micro muscles that running, biking, and pilates don’t utilize to the same extent. Dinner is followed by a few games of cards, before I climb into bed, too tired to shower. I read three pages of my book before falling asleep. ($5.25)
Daily Total: $191.90
Weekly Total: $854.50
Reflection: I carve out a lot of time and funds to maintain my physical and mental wellness. But truth be told, I derive loads of joy from my wellness routine. Running, biking, pilates, and skiing are all activities that make me happy, so practicing them doesn’t feel burdensome or obligatory. They also help to balance out all of the sedentary hours I spend working a remote desk job, or drinking and dining with friends. Looking at my total expenses this week, I definitely realize I’m spending more than I usually do (and honestly, more than I would ideally like to). The price seems to be driven up by rarer, special activities like eating at restaurants or embarking on a ski trip — which aren’t necessarily everyday activities. That said, I still think these occasional indulgences are important. They add variety to my week, and that feels worth the spend.