Sahara smiling in front of green tree - white nike hijab with blue starry mask pulled under her chin. Wearing green adidas sweatshirt
would you look at that I match the trees

I've recently started changing some things around in my workout schedule. For a good reason -  I was getting too used to my routine, the ab workouts I was doing didn't feel like I was putting in much effort. That's not to say they haven't been a gift that kept giving, though. I've been doing Chari Hawkins 10 Day Challenge on loop - I started doing them 1 each day, then each video 2 times in a row, and then once I made it to the 10th video I'd take it from the top again but add an extra rep to do the video over. I did that until I got to doing each video 8 times in a row for an ab workout. Then I started to make my way to doing all 10 videos in a row for 1 ab workout.


I got stronger. I could hold a plank for longer, I learned how to do V-ups with better form. But I wasn't being challenged anymore.


I knew what was coming next for each workout. There wasn't an element of a surprise as there used to be in the beginning - and I felt like I wasn't gaining much from the workouts any more because I was moving the same muscles over and over again. And even for those muscles, I no longer felt the twang of them being worked out in crunches anymore. So I started trying to think of something new to sprinkle in that would challenge those same muscles and also wake up the muscles that I haven't been focusing on.


I started thinking should I search for other Olympian 10 minute ab workouts but that also meant I'd end up at the same spot - not being challenged anymore. Technically speaking Chari Hawkins was the second Olympian I followed workouts for, the very first one was Stacey Irvin Jr. And before anyone asks why I look out for Olympians (or Professional Coach/Trainer) specifically when it comes to workouts rather than I guess fitness personalities (is this the right phrasing? probably not but we're rolling with it.) it's because I feel that with Olympians the form they have is obviously top tier as this is their bread and butter since they are a professional athlete™/ this is their field so they know what they're doing. Another reason that ties into them being professional athletes with top coaches is that the workouts they are showing us are probably something they themselves mix and match in their own training or have done in the past.


I did come across a fitness personality (hi I'm still rolling with this term) aka someone who does not have a certification in personal training/no professional background in it and found that an actual coach had pointed out how their workouts could actually harm people in their fitness journey. From incorrect form to just a harmful exercise in general - so long winded train of thought to say I try to stick with professional athletes when it comes to exercising.


Sahara looking away from camera in front of green tree - white nike hijab with blue starry mask pulled under her chin. Wearing green adidas sweatshirt
would you look at that - me not knowing at all how to pose for a photo. as per usual.

ANYWAYS, as I was saying before I rambled on, I was trying to figure out what to do to add a bit of something new to challenge and strengthen my body.


So I dusted the metaphorical dust off my Nike Training App, and started scrolling through.


There's a massive selection all for free, we love free things, you can target specific muscle groups you want to focus on, or if you want your workout focus goal to be endurance, strength, mobility, or Yoga.


One thing I like now that I've added the Nike Training app into my routine is that I'm not only doing an ab workout/arm workouts that I have been doing - I'm strengthening each part of my body from legs, arms, abs - no body part left behind! I started to mix and match some of their workouts with Chari Hawkin's videos so I got to do something new but also having that I guess cushion of a base workout.


Sahara smiling in front of green tree - white nike hijab with blue starry mask pulled under her chin. Wearing green adidas sweatshirt
*shine bright like a diamond plays in the distance*

And then I decided to take it one step further and start a 6 week training plan called Burn with Kirsty Godso. 


This training plan focuses primarily with body weight which is great because I'm not about to go buy equipment.  So far, my abs are definitely feeling the burn as well as my arms and legs. In each workout I am being challenged, and wondering how long I have left till the time's out rather than just cruising on by. My heart rate definitely goes up, and I feel my body getting stronger too, a different type of strong compared to the 10 day ab challenge I was doing on loop before. And best part is that there's just a general structure to it all for 6 weeks - not me randomly choosing what to do. Also bear crawls are not my friend, just thought you should know that. And burpees, burpees can go and burpee off a cliff a-thank-you-very-much.


Back to focusing on one muscle group - so I only recently started to think of how wrong I was to do just ab work.


I did do some leg strength workouts but not as much as ab workouts for the past year. I still don't have abs visibly - which side bar any video that tells you you'll have abs in a week is just pure lies! okay thank u for your time! - but I do feel I have gotten stronger over the course of the year of doing those ab workouts. But, something I learned in recovery that I think can also apply here is: By only focusing on only one part of your body, you weaken the rest because it isn't given the same care and focus.


Here's how I think of it: Let's say my knee starts to feel a little tingly pain feeling (I am literally praying I am not about to jinx my running self with this imaginary scenario - hi future me editing this to say ya girl really went jinxed herself more on this in a future post) and I decide okay okay time to ice and elevate only my knee, and foam roll and start googling knee strengthening exercises. 


Is that the only thing I need to do? 


You would think but no - what's at the top part of your leg? Your hamstrings, glutes, and hips. You should also be foam rolling your glutes, and working on strengthening your hips too. Your whole body is connected, focusing on one part means you're leaving the rest of you behind. Focus on all of you and you bring all of you to that better version-non-injury self. 


In my scenario of only focusing on abs - well what's the one thing that leads me in my runs? My arms. So, that means I should also be focusing on strengthening my arms too. And what part of my body is the literal main function of running? My legs. I need my arms to drive strong back and forth, I need my core to be strong and tight as I balance from one leg to the other as I run to maintain a pace, and I need my legs to be strong to push my feet off the ground.


Sahara smiling in front of green tree, thumbs up - white nike hijab with blue starry mask pulled under her chin. Wearing green adidas sweatshirt
who would I be if I did not have a thumbs up photo


Focus on all of you not just part of you.


I am strong (and that's not be tooting my own horn, okay well I guess I sort of am), but I can be stronger in my running to maintain a fast but fun pace. If there's one thing the Nike trainers on the Nike Run App say it's that when you run fast you should be having the most fun - and it's true, when running my fastest I'm just like LOOK AT ME GO! THE PACE! THE FORM! but that's not to say I don't value my recovery-run-regular-I-just-wanna-go-on-a-run-and-not-think-of-pace type of runs.


Forward lean, arms drive, legs flying - that's my version of happy place.  And this Nike Training App Burn with Kirsty Godso 6 week training plan will no doubt get me to feeling stronger, even if I am a little out of breath after her workouts.


How's everyone's workout life going? Do you also only focus on core work and forget about strengthening the rest of you? Do you use the Nike Training App? Let's get chatting!

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We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal


So I've seen this book mentioned several times by one of my friends Rameela - or as you most likely already know her as https://starisallbookedup.wordpress.com/ or as her twitter @starshynebrite. (oh also if we're mutuals on any social media we're already friends in my mind hi Rameela if you're reading!). And after seeing her mention it last month on my Twitter timeline, I moved it up in my to-read list and made it my next book to jump into. 


One thing I love the most of books is the lessons I learn from the adventure between pages - and sometimes that lesson isn't really the lesson from the book but rather it's the way the characters carry themselves between the pages - whether it be the curious one who observes rather than speaks, or the one who handles stress by rolling a joke off their tongue being relaxed in the face of the storm. The thing with fictional characters that I think many readers can relate to is that sometimes the characteristics of characters become our own characteristics by the end of the book.


I know there's the saying that readers live a thousand lives, and it is true, really.


There's pre-reading-a-specific-book-us and then there's after-reading-specific-book-us. And personally, those two are completely different people. An example I can give would have to be The Hunger Games. After the series, there was increased interest in archery for young girls . And that's not me just handing a statistic on a silver platter, I was one of those young girls who took up archery because of The Hunger Games. Granted, I am not the best at it. Like if Katniss ever needed back up she should really never call me unless I am the last person on earth and there is no other option. The amount of focus needed to hit the bullseye is a lot - hi I would like to mention I hit a bullseye with a balloon and I'd like the applause - and as effortless as Katniss made it seem in the books and the movies, my arms weren't looking so cute after aiming at the target circle for an hour. But I will say it's also so gratifying to do something that a fictional character I admired did.


We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
can we all appreciate how great my mustard hijab WORKS with the gold lettering, this photo is *chefs kiss* a diamond in the ashes. ashes being the 50 photos I took for this blog post


So let's get chatting about We Hunt the Flame.


This has to be the first time I actually went out of my way to order the physical book online after reading a library copy and pre-ordering the next book in the series. Hi yes you read right, this is the first time in my existence that I've ever preordered a book. I am team library till the end of my days but I knew this book had to be permanently mine. If you'd like to take a look at the summary before I get started here is the goodreads link for it!


The book itself is set in Arawiya which the author mentions is inspired by Ancient Arabia. What I loved most about this book was that there was no white European/American vibe for the protagonists, or even a side character. In one phrase: this book had flavor that not a lot of books I've read have. In a few more words beyond a phrase: the books I've previously read were bland tasteless bricks of bread compared to this tasty hearty loaf of a book that is We Hunt the Flame.


I don't think you understand how happy I was to not see some white savior entering stage left.


If me comparing books to bread is any indication, I very much welcomed this breath of fresh air. There are two protagonists that the book flips and flops between,  Zafira and Nasir. Zafira is the Hunter disguised as a man because of a misogynistic state that devalues anything a woman does. She feeds her village by going into the forest - The Arz - that no one ever comes back from. Meanwhile, Nasir is the son of the Sultan who lives in Sarasin and is a skilled assassin killing those who defy his father - in short: he's the Prince of Death. Most books that have dual point of views can get confusing if the characters don't have an independent voice to distinguish them, but this book did it well enough that I was able to tell which view I was reading in.


Zafira's very existence as a Huntress rather than a Hunter quite frankly threatens the misogynistic caliphate (state) at its core. And the only way for a misogynistic caliphate to be brought to its knees is for the women of that caliphate to no longer let men take the driving seat on the road of their lives. Throughout the book Zafira's strength in confidence in herself grows. By the time she crosses paths with the second protagonist and the yin to his yang, Nasir and Altair, she's already on her way to becoming more confident than when she left her native misogynistic state Demenhur. 


We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

And here's the funny thing: all the men in this book need her.


She's the head of the table and as the book goes on, she knows it.  From Zafira, I'd say one of the many things I've taken from her character is to try and try again even if the odds seem impossible or people don't see things in the same way as you do. You don't need a guidebook to learn how to lead, be your own compass.


Most books that I've read with similar characteristics - fantasy genre, quest, we've-gotta-save-the-world-or-else-we're-all-gonna-die - the lead characters are always white. So it was refreshing for a change to see that it wasn't a white savior out to save the Kingdom. The first protagonist, Zafira, is noted to have pale skin due to the lack of sun in her Caliphate (state)- all snow in Demenhur - while our second protagonist Nasir from Sarasin - sun exists here -  is described as having deep olive skin. Also to note again - the characters live in a fantasy world inspired by Ancient Arabia. From the Goodreads QA section, the author mentions that the characters are Arab (not Muslim! just Arab! clear distinction here, Arab does not equal Muslim and vice versa).


The reason I mention how refreshing it is is because how often do we see a lead that's meant to ~save the world~ that is not a white American/European vibe? It's important that the protagonists aren't white people. Or even the side characters. What a person reads is what they ingest, and a topic that I am sure you may have heard of is the lack of diversity in most popular books. We readers are diverse, but are the books we read diverse too? Not really. Which was why when I started this book I was just like wait a minute! there's some flavor in here! I was not expecting that! Because since I was 12 years old the only protagonists I've read from The Hunger Games to Looking for Alaska were white.


In the same way that movies don't really represent Arabs accurately at all, we are also lacking in representation in the books we read.


And I know we are not the only ones lacking in representation. How often do we see Black leads in books? Those very same books where a character needs to ~save the world~? And why are they so hard to find - most books I get in the recommended section on Goodreads are by white authors, and books that are by Black authors I actually hear about from people on Twitter sharing what they're currently reading. 


So yes, first book I've ever ordered and bought since High School. As I was reading, I noticed that I actually could see myself in these characters, from the way they speak with english and some arabic sprinkled in, to the characters themselves which doesn't happen often.  I will mention that the arabic sprinkled in does include context to know what the word/phrases mean for non-arabic speakers!


We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
I call this photo: as moody as our second protagonist, Nasir

Let's talk about Nasir, our second protagonist.


Nasir gives off looks hard as a rock but is actually a must be protected at all costs cupcake vibes. Throughout the book he struggles with being an individual from his father, especially since the safety of those he cares for is on a very thin thread if he doesn't do what his father asks of him. Throughout the book we watch as he struggles with trying to think for himself on what he wants to do rather than what his father tells him/orders him to do. 


The way I think of him is that his heart had a steel cage around it, but on the journey away from his father, the cage begins to weaken until it no longer exits and he is forced with the realization that he doesn't know who he is if not for his father's orders. The longer he is away from his father the more he begins to have his own thoughts clouding his mind, not his father's.


From Nasir, I'd say the one of the many things I took away from his character is that your strength lies in your kind heart - don't allow it to harden, let it bloom. 


You've heard of Katniss Everdeen and Peta Mellark from The Hunger Games, now it's time for you to dive in to learn all about Zafira bint Iskandar and Nasir bin Ghameq bin Talib min Sarasin in We Hunt the Flame - oh and the second book in the series We Free the Stars comes out on January 19 - time for you to get reading!


Add We Hunt the Flame to your Goodreads here.

What books are you starting the new year with? Any recommendations? Let's get chatting!



Sahara walking, black bag in right hand, pink scarf, pointing with left hand to the left


If there's one thing I for sure haven't been doing, it's setting month work-related-improving-skill-set-goals. I'm not really sure how I fell of that wagon of doing that - I used to always create side projects to level up on my skillset to make myself marketable for jobs while I was searching. Well, I guess that's the answer to the how I feel off the wagon question. 


I would have to say my tech goals related to improving my skills are in two categories - the things I should be improving on related to what I do in my day to day and the things that I want to explore for the first time within my field. There is a feeling of wonder with the latter option - from Augmented Reality to Machine Learning, there's a lot I want to dip my toes into, it's like the tech field is an ocean and I am only currently just brushing against it from the shore.


When it comes to what I work in day to day - I know I have some things I need to get better at, in all honesty when I think about how many things I need to do I honestly feel imposter syndrome beckoning me like a grim reaper - it's not that I'm without a brain, even though it does sometimes feel that way, it's that there's a lot that I know I have to level up in.


The first step of leveling up though is acknowledging the level I am at now.


This is the hard part. I know a lot, but I sometimes feel I don't know anything at all. I have a Computer Science Degree, and two certifications to my name and still feel like I am without any of them. I don't know everything, and that's okay - I'm not Google. It's the embracing where I am that I have some difficulty with because I don't like that feeling of 'you're at X spot when you should realistically be at Y'. At the end of the day though, the sooner I embrace where I am, the sooner I can take that next stepping stone of getting to where I want to be.


So, this is where this blog post comes in. I wanted to set list of things I wanted to accomplish this November wise - yes it is the middle of November, the 15th to be exact, but that doesn't mean it's too late to make a goal list.


I know a lot, but there's so much I am in the dark of in my field - it's time to bring the light.


Work Related Skillset Improvement List


1. Get to middle of Bootstrap Course


Bootstrap is an Open Source Cascading Style Sheet framework that is focused in responsive Front End Web Development. I know what Bootstrap is, and I've done the section on Bootstrap on FreeCodeCamp, but there's still a lot that I don't know so this is where the course comes in. The issue I have with courses is more-so stemming from the way I learn. I don't want to get stuck in tutorial land, which sometimes feels like the vibe from courses. I was doing a React Course and that's exactly how it felt. 


My learning style is Kinesthetic (learn by doing) and Visual (learn by seeing). So a tutorial is great for me to visually learn, but things won't lock into place in my mind unless I do something on my own with it without the guidance of a tutorial.


2. Complete 1 side project


I want to create side projects related to the course to solidify what I'm learning but also, not related to the course because that's not fun. I want to learn in public, and share projects I'm working on every week with you all like I did in the past - from my Cryptography Project to my Augmented Realty Snowman. I haven't been doing a lot of side projects, but I want to. I miss it. 


3. Finish a few chapters from Eloquent JavaScript


I've seen this book in passing and feel I can learn a lot from it - I do know JavaScript, and have a certification in Data Structures and Algorithms - but that doesn't mean I know everything. There's some gap in my knowledge, and I aim to make this missing puzzle piece.


Fun things I want to do just because I can List


1. Make something in Unity


Unity is something I have downloaded on my computer but haven't nudged myself along to actually take a deep dive in just yet - and I want to change that. If you aren't subscribed to Jennifer Opal's newsletter and are in tech yourself, you should really consider subscribing! I was inspired by her watch project she created in Unity to give it a try, finally.


I just want to make something in it, and I welcome that learning curve.


2. Finish the Blendr tutorial on a Donut


Blendr is a 3D modeling software - this comes into play for Augmented Reality whether that be for games or for Instagram Filters.  The tutorial that I'm doing is from Blendr Guru - making a realistic donut. So this is more of a two prong thing: Once I finish the tutorial, then I will know enough to create my own 3D modeling object for an Instagram filter I've been sketching out.


I've never really made a list relating to my tech journey on things to tick off a list and I actually wouldn't have unless a friend mentioned it to me over on Twitter as a way to keep leveling up my skills. I think the importance of having a list of things to check off is to make sure that you're always increasing your knowledge and aren't just ~floating~ where you are. I'm hoping it helps with setting concrete things for me to accomplish. Yes, it's mid-novemeber, but that doesn't mean I can't get started on ticking these off my list. To be fair, nothing is as satisfying as crossing something off a list.


Anyone else set goals for November? Let's get chatting!


ps. I did take completely different photos for this but didn't like any of them, gotta love that natural lighting is now in very small windows of time with Daylight Savings!


sahara end logo

Sahara at lake, nike white scarf, nike black shirt, blue joggers - smiling at camera.


Towards the end of August, I was chatting with a friend about hiking and asked if they had any recommendations on where to explore. With several months behind us in the work from home life, I can honestly say the only outside I see is my house street - I run miles back and forth on my street. My neighbors are pretty much very in tune to my weekly mileage as they see me every morning around 7AM back and forth on my street from their windows/balconies. So you can say I wanted something new to see that wasn't the outside of my house. My friend mentioned a few trails that linked to the AllTrails app/website, I've never heard of the app before as usually when I wanted to explore nature I'd always just google hiking trails near me and see what came up. Guess who'll never be typing that into a google search engine?


This app is the gift that keeps on giving.


I really wonder how I haven't come across this app sooner. Google really failed me and my google searching when searching for hiking trails near me. When you make your account, in the app the homepage shows Top Trails nearby, Best views nearby, Trails less traveled, Dog friendly trails nearby, Weekend worthy, Best waterfalls, Top moderate trails nearby, and Best lakes nearby.


The best part is that there's also a scrolling toggle for you to choose based on suitability for Dogs, kid friend, stroller friendly, Wheelchair Friendly, Paved and Partially Paved. I really loved to see that because that means that families can choose a trail without worrying about edges, strollers won't be a hassle to roll, and Wheelchair users can equally find a trail that they are able to go through to enjoy hiking in nature.


There's also a section to browse by activity - Hiking, Mountain Biking, Trail Running, Backpacking, Walking, Road Biking, Off Road Driving, Camping, Bird Watching, Horseback riding, Nature Trips, Fishing, snowshoeing, Scenic Driving, Rock Climbing, Paddle Sports, Cross Country Skiing, Skiing, Bike Touring, Via Ferrata. Okay yes I sound like an infomercial but I literally couldn't leave anything out - this has been the only app I've been recommending left and right since I've heard of it - this also made me realize how powerful word of mouth was, my friend told me about this app, and then I in turn have told a handful of friends and then it carries on like a domino effect of people recommending the app which wouldn't have happened if I didn't ask my friend if he had any hiking recommendations. ANYWAYS.


One thing I really want to do is learn how to properly ride a horse, I do know how to ride a horse like I won't just tumble off it - yes I know how to ride a horse but I really would love to take lessons and this app was like a golden buzzer to show me where I could potentially live up my equestrian life. And Bike riding! I've been riding a bike since I was a kid, but haven't been riding it as of late. Yes, yes I know - HOW. I guess that would have to be because the bike lane by me is shared by cars so not a specific lane for Bikers so uh hello fear number 23457. But! With a place designated for bike riding, no chance of a car coming in swinging! Just a path and helmet protected bike rider waiting to ride.


I've also never done trail running before per se, more so just hiking. I think the first time I went on an actual hike was a 6th Grade field trip where I had to bear crawl down a steep decline. After reading Born to Run I have to say I am definitely considering going on potential trail runs - even if I do have a fear of like a misstep and my ankle doing that ankle thing randomly and suddenly falling.


Sahara, on road in between road on yellow part
annnnd let's get our explore on - there weren't cars on the road for like 5 minutes so took this and then a car came a minute after so good timing on my end!

A few other sports that I would love to focus on are basically everything on that list because clearly sports make my world go round.


As I have settled into the normal of Working From Home life, spending time outside has shrunk - time for commute back and forth aka time spent outside went poof. Although I personally run and exercise outside my house I feel like I just needed a change of scenery. Obviously the summer was spent indoors without the usual summer fun, which can kind of feel like we're sort of trapped in our homes until Carona decides to pack up and go - well technically speaking, we are.


One creator that I've really been enjoying on Instagram is HelloMissJordan. If you don't follow her, hi you should probably fix that here is her account linked again. She's a travel, fashion, and lifestyle blogger - as COVID has meant a halt on traveling, that's meant she had to get creative and explore where she currently is. Although she hasn't been hopping on planes, she has been putting out amazing content - all exploring the places around her that she hasn't explored before as her priority previously was outside of the U.K not in it. There's everything from castles, lakes, and viaducts near her that she previously hadn't sought out before.


So rather than the travel bug, I guess you can say I got the explore bug.


I want to see more of where I lived. There are so many places I haven't been and that's mainly because I've never sought them out before. I spend majority of my 9-5 staring at a screen so any time spent away from a screen and in nature, you can sign me right up for that. So this is where the AllTrails app/website comes into action. For my first adventure, instead of living up my equestrian life or Mountain Biking, I decided to do one thing I've always done from time to time - hiking. 


Choosing one place out of all the ones I saw was the tricky part - if I could I would be heading out to a place every day after work and through the weekend but realitically speaking wow that sounds like a lot of driving so guess I'll settle for weekend hiking adventures. I ended up choosing a hiking area that led up to a lake and continued on through the trails. There's just something about walking on a trail through trees that really is a spell for calmness and also excitement. Obviously since it was a trail I've never been on I was curious to see how many twists and turns it took to get to the end goal of the lake - and also how many times my ankle did that twisty thing was actually interesting. And by that I mean I was saying a silent prayer that this hike won't twist my ankle and put me out of running.


On the way going, I did pass a few people making their way back to the start and funnily enough my sister and I were asked how far until back to the start. At that point we were maybe 20 minutes in so hearing that meant we had to buckle up for the long ride that was this trail. We finally managed to get to the lake we saw in the photos and I'm not even joking when I say that water was clearer than my skin ever will be. You could quite literally see the sand underneath - it was clear blue like I've never seen before. And there's reason for that - it's a protected lake. That means no motor boat or swimming is allowed which then meant that there's no pollution entering the water which means hi crystal blue water that is shinning bright like a diamond.


crystal clear lake, trees on the side
no filter! can we talk about how clear this looks!!
We were able to touch the water and it was actually pretty lukewarm - and while we were standing looking at the water some people actually had one of those filter things where they could dunk the bottle/bag inside the lake and then when they take it out, the filter cleans the water for people to drink from it. Basically do I need that in my life? Yes, Yes I do. To be fair one thing I want that when I googled found was a bottle that takes moisture from the air and converts that into drinkable water. Now basically the magical lake filter and magical moisuture-to-drinkable-water-filter are on my wants list.

We always speak of hidden gems when traveling to a new country or town, but do we know of the hidden gems of where we live?


I used to think I knew my area inside and out but based on scrolling through this app there's a lot I didn't know- starting with the amount of waterfalls by me. When I clicked through the app I discovered so many beautiful places that I've never heard of before - all about an hour or 2 drive. Some were as low as even a 30 minute drive. I personally just love being in nature in general - so this hike was really what I needed after spending so long inside. 


The best part is just seeing the shift in trees from vibrant green to warm toned leaves, like an ombre effect on the trees while driving to the hiking area. It often feels like the road goes on forever with trees at either side. If anything, exploring nature definitely increases the quality of air I'm breathing - I once went to a greenhouse and I am 90% convinced the air we breathe is a cheap knock off version of actual oxygen.

If there's one thing I felt like doing when I hiked up to a protected lake a few weeks back it's curling up on a log, and reading a book - it was just such a peaceful hike and exciting too because wow! a new place to explore! after several long months of nothing! While hiking avoiding bumping into people wasn't too difficult, for the most part if I saw someone up ahead I'd move out of the trail path to let them pass and we'd exchange hello's as we passed one another.


Sahara at lake - peace sign
ah yes, me in my natural habitat - peace sign at the ready

There's a lot more to discover near me, so I guess you can say I'll just be here in my corner being the Sherlock Holmes of hidden pockets of peace. Or should I say Enola Holmes?

Now I turn it over to you - hidden gems everywhere, do you really know the place you live? Have you heard of the AllTrails App? Planning to download it? Let's get chatting!

ps: 

Alltrails website: https://www.alltrails.com/
AllTrails App Store: https://alltrails.io/QIH5RaBfOP
AllTrails Google Play: https://alltrails.io/mtsb5iMfOP

AND no - I was not paid to promote this app/website, I literally just wanted to share the app because I love it and it's a great way to explore where you live KK THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME




A few months ago, I participated in a RunChat chat on Twitter - if you don't know RunChat is a twitter account that hosts chats on Sunday's and runners come together and chat about all things running - depending on the week there's specific topic. During this one week I participated in, it was all about books. Of the several screenshots I took from the chat to remember all the books, and the ones I've added to my goodreads want to read list, one book stood out to me - Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.


Basically everything I know about running is a lie.


I feel like the runner I was before I read this book vs after I read this book are actually two different people. What I liked about this book is that it was a story of the author learning about the Hidden Tribe of super athletes - the Tarahumara - with a lot of history on running that I haven't read about before. So it was a nice balance of wow-new-running-infomation, everything-I-know-is-a-lie, and how-on-earth-will-this-story-end. So in one phrase I'd say I was having a running existential crisis.


Let's talk sneakers.


Now from the dawn of time we have been shown that if you get sneakers with X amount of support you will fly, never feel any sort of pain, will run faster due to how much support/bounce feedback and all that good stuff. And I am here to tell you that that is all a lie. Sneakers are actually the cause of most of our foot and knee injuries.


A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had much lower incidence of knee injuries. - Chapter 25, Born to Run


So now that we're all on the same page of having a running existential crisis, if you skimmed over that quote because wow that's a chunk of text: Your shoes are most likely causing you to be injured more than your actual running is. The book goes on to explain that the reason for this is because we've shielded our foot from their natural running bare-foot position by providing more and more support- when you try to fix something that doesn't need to be fixed, other things break (hi leg related injuries, how are you doing on this fine autumn afternoon).


The more I read the source for our injuries the more I realized my entire viewpoint of running is shaped by these mega corporations that actually aren't a magical fair god parent for my running. In fact, according to a study done in this book,  there is no evidence that running shoes help at all with injury prevention. 


on running - cloudswift sneaker on track, one foot up one down
my running children at the track, good times good times

The best shoes are actually the worst.


The way my head snapped when I read this line in the book you'd think I needed an ice pack for my neck. Let us all have a nice sit down for this running tea:


Runners wearing top-of-the-line-shoes are 123 percent more likely to get injured than runners in cheap running shoes,... Runners in shoes that cost more than $95 were more than twice as likely to get hurt as runners in shoes that cost less than $40... Wearer's of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional features that protect (e.g. more cushioning, 'pronation correction') are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing inexpensive shoes (costing less than $40).- 171-172, Born to Run


So basically for over twice the price, we get over twice the amount of running related injuries. You can imagine the math I was doing in my head for my sneakers I've had since I began running all those years back. What really stumped me was that as much as the latest Nike sneaker is shown as the best in the market, it is the best in the market but not technically the best for the sport.


The more protective cushion - hi hi hi Nike Zoom I'm looking at you - the worse it actually is for you. But then there's me - flat foot human - thinking about my shoes with extra support. I always need more support due to not having a regular arch in my foot like normal people do. And having that extra support definitely does help me bounce back on the ground like I'm on a puffy lil cloud of running heaven - so how does a shoe that I think helps me be bad for me?


The way I think of it is that the additional cushion being added doesn't allow for our natural foot to move the way that it was supposed to. And by stopping my foot from it's natural running movement -  flat foot and all, my foot would run differently barefoot vs living rent free in cushion-y sneakers-  the cushion surrounding it leads to potential long term injuries. It's a barrier from the actual ground my foot should be adjusting to running on.


So feels great in the moment of running but take the adrenaline out of the equation, give it a few months and you may be saying good morning to shin splints or a knee injury. I'd say that it's fair to say that all our running related injuries stem from our shoes are fixing a problem that doesn't exist which then creates a problem that very much exists in the form of knee injuries or even the dreaded shin splints. The more you support an area, the weaker it naturally becomes on its own without the protective cage of cushion.


Running should be Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast.


This is easier said than done. There are some days when you really feel that run. If you're a runner you'll know the type of runs I'm talking about - the ones where you're doing a mathematical equation to see if there's a way to finish your run by skipping miles in between from the start to end. A run being easy doesn't mean slow, it just means an effort that is easy to give and you're not straining to give it. No huffing and puffing, just chilling in the run with the effort that is easy for you to maintain.


I would say all too often we tend to think of we should be running faster like XYZ person, and it's like uh no. You are your own person, run your run at your easy to maintain pace that the run calls for. That's not to say you shouldn't visualize yourself running faster - I definitely do this, visualizing how much faster future me will be because I am putting in the work to get there - but don't live in the comparison of what your 8 effort is compared to an actual Olympic athlete.


Sahara running on trail, trees around path, mask in hand
the most unphotogenic runner in motion is ready for her closeup

The feeling of a run being light is a feeling I didn't know I was chasing for a long time.


When the run doesn't feel like a run and you can just keep going - not caring about the miles and just being in tune with the run- that's the best feeling, and last week, that was me. I was just running my 4.5 mile run and I was just in one word: chilling. Like I was at a easy to maintain pace on that given day, and I just felt like I was in touch with my inner running self - not caring how far I have to go, or how many loops in front of my house I have until I hear the voice telling me I've completed the mile I was running [hi about 6 loops - 12 straight away's in front of my house makes 1 mile], just feeling like I was running for the sake of running not for the sake of a pace to meet.


And that's when smooth sailing enters the chat.


When the run feels easy, when your feet don't feel like you're dragging them to the end of the run and you feel light - that's when you find your rhythm. You are in tune with the ground you're bouncing off of, you are smooth sailing. And once you find your rhythm, the fourth component of a run - FAST - is in the rearview mirror. And you know what they say about rearview mirrors - things in the mirrors are closer than they appear. Once you have Easy, Light, Smooth down, you will be fast.


So once we get to that feeling of being in tune with our running selves, what about what we're fueling ourselves with?


Now let's talk about about Scott Jurek. If you've been under a rock like I have, he is an American Ultra-marathoner. He is a living legend - named one of the greatest runners of all time - he has finished first in nearly ALL of ultrarunning's elite events. Can you just compute that for a second - he has finished first in nearly all races he's raced in! But it wasn't always like that for him, he didn't use to be the fastest runner in high school, he'd be back at the pack, ringing in at last place. As someone who was a mid-pack runner for most of my high school and middle school running I don't know - it's just felt like this was a perfect reminder of no matter when you finish the race, you are still a runner and high school is not the be all end all of the athlete you were meant to be.


Let's get back to food.


During the book, there's a section where runners are stopping under a tree waiting for water. All the other runners pulled out a granola bar or some fast energy goos to fuel. Scott on the other hand took out some pita bread and hummus. The way my middle eastern head snapped at this specific part, I was like hold on did you say pita bread? Hummus? BREAD?


"I like real food," Scott said. "It's just as portable and you get real calories, not just a fast burn." - 191, Born to Run

He didn't always used to be like that though - he used to eat junk food all day every day - lunch for him was two McChickens and large fries. So what changed? Well he did some research on traditional endurance athletes. 


In his research he found more vegetarians than he thought he would - as a Nordic skier and cross-country runner in high school, his coaches always preached about lean meat to rebuild his muscles after a tough workout. In the beginning he wasn't sure why meatless diets were the key to a lot of history's great runners, but decided to do this lil experiment on himself - go vegetarian and see how it changed him and his running. Rather than packing Snickers or PowerBars during his long runs, he instead packed rice burritos, pita stuffed with hummus, Kalamata olives, and home-baked bread smeared with adzuki beans and quinoa spread.


When he sprained his ankle he also didn't take ibuprofen and instead relied on wolfsbane and large portions of garlic and ginger.


The idea that rice and bread together to make rice burritos, and pita bread being such a staple for him in his running life was a bit mind-blowing to me - those are the two foods that for the most part are a no-go zone for runners. Bread is practically preached as avoid, and rice? I'm pretty sure swapping it for quinoa is a norm for most runners/people aiming to make healthier choices.


While going through this transformation a lot of people told him that he'd be weaker and wouldn't recover all that great in between workouts, get stress fractures or anemia. But the thing is they were all wrong - he actually felt a lot better during his runs because he was eating foods with more high-quality nutrients.


By basing his diet on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, Scott is deriving maximum nutrition from the lowest possible number of calories, so his body isn't forced to carry or process any useless bulk. And because carbohydrates clear the stomach faster than protein, it's easier to jam a lot of workout time into his day, since he doesn't have to sit around waiting for a meatball sub to settle. Vegetables, grains, and legumes contain all the animo acids necessary to build muscle from scratch. Like a Tarahumara runner, he's ready to go any distance, any time. - 192-193, Born to Run

I wouldn't say I eat processed things - I tend for the most part to snack on fruits, and eat vegetables with every meal. But the one thing I've actually avoided for most of my life was bread. I'd avoid it all costs - Pita Bread? Nope, I wouldn't eat it. It was only recently this year after about 8 years of being strict that I actually don't mind eating bread anymore. And here's Scott being a living legend all while eating a bit of Pita Bread on his runs too.


Sahara, in running rain coat with nike cap smiling head tilted away from camera; side profile
I call this the I-think-I-see-my-neighbors-car-moving-rowards-my-general-direction-act-casual / is that a neighbor walking as I'm taking a selfie


Throughout Born to Run I feel like there was a lot of unlearning from my end.


I did speak on diets in my post Counting Calories (spoiler alert: I do not believe in counting calories or dieting at all for that matter) - and I spoke on supplements/powders on how I'd need to do more research as personally I preferred naturally eating the food to be energized. (Not supplements in the sense that you're deficient in XYZ, supplements in the sense of instead of eating XYZ, I'll have this powder!) And, based on this book from Scott Jurek himself, this was the right decision. I don't have any plans to start taking supplements or energy goos - just to fuel myself with real food.


Would I ever try barefoot running?


And back my sneaker existential crisis - I would say I'd love to get to that stage of my running life to go barefoot running/like barefoot running with those specific shoes. But I also can't go cold turkey. My feet have been in running sneakers since the dawn of time, I can't chuck those to the wind and just run barefoot - hi potential injuries.  I'd have to ease myself slowly into barefoot running - the first step for me is to work on my arch that I don't have as a flat footed person. Yes, I am here to tell you what my foot specialist all those years back didn't tell me but this book did: it is possible for flat footed people to do certain exercises to have a normal arch in their foot.


In the book they mentioned Alan Webb, America's greatest miler. But he wasn't born with the so-called magical genes that made him great from the start. In high school he was a flat footed runner with terrible form, but his coach - what a literal golden human being - saw he had potential and worked with him to rebuild him to the runner that we now know as Alan Webb.


"I had injury problems early on, and it became apparent that my biomechanics could cause injury," Webb told me. "So we did foot-strengthening drills and special walks in bare feet." Bit by bit, Webb watched his feet transform before his eyes. "I was size twelve and flat-footed, and now I'm a nine or ten. As the muscles in my feet got stronger, my arch got higher." Because of the barefoot drills, Webb also cut down on his injuries allowing him to handle the kind of heavy training that would lead to his U.S. record for the mile and the fastest 1,500-meter time in the world for the year 2007.- 175, Born to Run


I actually never knew that it was possible to strengthen your feet with barefoot drills to the point of your foot having an arch and as a result going down a few shoe sizes. That was literally just absolutely mind-blowing to read, and is the first step I will be doing in my ~arch journey~ from flat-foot (literally no arch all) to having an arch. I've been taking a look at specific exercises to do and I'm excited to put it to work to see how what I thought was impossible can actually happen.


Sahara, bright orange long sleeve shirt, looking to side; side profile in image
a ongoing saga: is that a neighbor watching me

Now, let's talk about sneakers on more time and one specific thing that mega corporations aren't truthful about.


Sneakers. Now, we've all know the cycle of running so much in one shoe that the support is dwindling thin, you have holes at the bottom of your shoes, you've run 400+ miles in them, so that obviously means it's time for an upgrade right? That's something I've written about in my own How to Avoid Shin Splints post as well. Wrong. Here's the funny thing: the more cushioned the shoe the less protection it provides for your feet.


In the book it discussed a study that was done that reported that as shoes wore down and their cushioning thinned, runners gained more foot control - as the cushioning of the shoe hardened to literal nothing, runner's feet stabilized and became less wobbly. And as I was reading this, it did make sense when it was written out. For example, you know when you get a new shoe and you have to 'break it in' - well why would you have to break it in if it's perfect as is? You breaking it in wears down the cushion of the shoe therefore making it more comfortable for you when there is less cushion.


At McGill University in Montreal, Steven Robbins, M.D., and Edward Waked, Ph.D., performed a series of tests on gymnasts. They found that the thicker the landing mat, the harder the gymnasts stuck their landings. Instinctively, the gymnasts were searching for stability. When they sensed a soft surface underfoot, they slapped down hard to ensure balance.


Runners do the same thing, Robbins and Waked found: just the way your arms automatically fly up when you slip on ice, your legs and feet instinctively come down hard when they sense something squishy underfoot. When you run on cushioned shoes, your feet are pushing through the soles in search of a hard, stable platform.


"We conclude that balance and vertical impact are closely related," the McGill docs wrote. "According to our findings, currently available sports shoes... they are too soft and thick, and should be redesigned if they are to protect humans performing sports."- 173-174, Born to Run


So if you're like me and starting to think maybe we should just toss our cushioned shoes into the wind and go cold turkey into low support/bare foot running - I am here to tell you not to do that. Your foot has been in a protected environment for the entire duration that you've been in this sport, you can't just expect your foot to adapt to the ground that it's never felt before.


My plan personally to make my way to bare foot running includes foot exercises and drills to make the arch in my foot bless my flat footed existence, run in my current Cloudswift sneaker for longer than the designated 400+ miles, and slowly transition into lesser cushioned shoes. At the moment I also have the Cloud X for daily wear, so my plan is to transition from the cushion-y Cloudswift to Cloud X, and then from Cloud X to transition to an even flatter running shoe until finally making my way to Vibram Five-Finger's shoes.


A long process I know, but I can't jump from A to Z unless I want to be out of running for like my entire existence.


Sahara smiling at camera; trees behind
would you look at that! I eventually look directly to the camera to smile, love a good head tilt

I want to leave you with this quote:


Know why people run marathons? he told Dr. Bramble. Because running is rooted in our collective imagination, and our imagination is rooted in running. Language, art, science; space shuttles, Starry Night, intravascular surgery; they all had their roots in our ability to run. Running was the superpower that made us human - which means it's a superpower all humans possess.- 239, Born to Run


There's a lot I didn't discuss from the book - right after the above section they then discuss why so many people hate and some incredible data to support why, if it's possible for a human being to run down an antelope, long distance greats, and most importantly the Tarahumara tribe who never stopped running like it's their bread and butter that makes life click into place.


OKAY I LIED I HAVE ONE MORE QUOTE I WANT TO SHARE:


"The Tarahumara aren't great runners... they're great athletes, and those two things are very different." Runners are assembly-line workers; they become good at one thing- moving straight ahead at a steady speed- and repeat that motion until overuse fritzes out the machinery. Athletes are Tarzans. Tarzan swims and wrestles and jumps and swings on vines. He's strong and explosive. You never know what Tarzan will do next, which is why he never gets hurt.


"Your body needs to be shocked to become resilient," Eric explained. Follow the same daily routine, and your musculoskeletal system quickly figures out how to adapt and go on autopilot. But surprise it with new challenges- leap over a creek, commando-crawl under a log, sprint till your lungs are bursting - and scores of nerves and ancillary muscles are suddenly electrified into action. - 211, Born to Run


If you made it this far: THANK YOU and I hope you enjoyed my novella on the literal novel. Have you learned something new? Are you planning to make any running related changes? Let's chat!

sahara end logo
sitting on rocks, with NYC view behind, puffy sleeves
dreams as puffy and fluffy as my sleeves

I've actually tried writing this post 3 times. This is the third time, so I'm really hoping third time's the charm. I've been gone from blogging since January so I guess you can say I'm a little rusty. It's been a pretty zigged-zagged rollercoaster on my end. At the very end of January, I was offered a freelance role at a company that later on in July took me on Full Time. It was a long sought full time role for 2 years -  the constant jumping over hurdles and just wanting a hiring manger to believe in me as much as I did in myself and finally catching the wave that was meant for me to ride.


You know in track when hurdler's hit the hurdle instead of jumping over it? Yeah, that is the best way I can describe the two years of searching for a full time role. But the thing is the more you keep trying to jump and keep hitting that hurdle, one day you're going to jump that hurdle, and then the next one that follows, even if while you're hitting that hurdle you're thinking the exact opposite.


About a month into freelancing for the company, Covid-19 entered the chat.


I went remote after about a month into freelancing, and as much as I used to think I was all about that ~office life~ I genuinely don't think I want to go back to the office - the amount of time saved from no commute, not having to wake up extra early to catch the morning bus. I now use that time for my morning runs. Of course, there's the one small tiny thing of not chatting to people, I wouldn't say I'm a complete social butterfly but I do like chatting to people throughout the day. So 50% social butterfly? And the other small thing is not knowing when to turn off from work and actually separate my work self from like my actual life.


And this is where the burning question from your end is: Why did you stop blogging?


I didn't do that intentionally - if there was one thing I was adamant about it was that I didn't want to chip away parts of me until the only thing that had roots in the ground was my profession. But, I guess as I am typing this in September 2020  - a full 8 months since my last post - that is what happened. 


I knew I had to get used to the work environment  - up until this point most of my freelance clients were either 1-3 months or several weeks with no indication of possible full time role. This was the first one where it was freelance and possibility to hire. So I had a lot to learn and catch up on to make sure that I did everything I could from my end to cement that full time role into my future. 


Blogging took a backseat mainly because I wanted to be sure that I was 100% focused - I didn't want to lose an opportunity I sought for so long because I didn't give it my all. So that's what I did - I gave it my all and even stopped running and exercising for a solid couple of months to focus (hi this was singlehandedly the worst decision I could ever make in my entire life) and in July the full time offer came like a Christmas wrapped gift with a sparkly bow in my email inbox.


sitting in small barn entrance
you can't tell but I'm smiling under my mask


It's September now.


And it's been a hectic couple of months. I ended August pretty much up to the brim with work and deadlines met, and in all honesty I missed me. I missed actual me.


The lifestyle, fitness, and history crash course blogger, the crocheter who gets too excited about projects and ends up having 253498 unfinished projects and wants to start a new one anyway, the avid reader who lives through numerous adventures on a page monthly, the duolingo novice trying to learn Danish when in reality I should be attempting to learn to speak Arabic more fluently or maybe dabble into Spanish, the piano player who's trying to reteach herself the notes, and most importantly - the athlete who loved to move.


I started running after taking 2 months off so although when written ~short time off~ it felt like a millennium.  For reference, I've been training 6 days a week for the 2 years of my funemployment. Currently - I've been running consistently back and forth in front of my house to minimize bumping into anyone while running, so that's my new normal in my running life. I did actually take a week and a half off in August due to not getting a lot of sleep and having a bit of discomfort in my shoulder, but I'm back up and running. Literally.


But still I feel in terms of movement I could be doing more.


I sit down all day and stare at a laptop + monitor for more than 8 hours per day (you honestly don't want to know how many hours a day I spend on my laptop) and worry about eyesight. A week ago, I was sitting in my kitchen after a long working day and my eyes were just in one phrase: tired of focusing. The time on a my stove was blurry to me - it was 5 feet away from me. 


That's also one reason why I stopped blogging - I couldn't stand a computer screen in my ~free time~ because I was spending so many hours staring at a screen for work, my eyes couldn't handle screen on both my work time and free time.


sitting in small barn entrance
that moment when you don't know if a random small child will interrupt your photo shoot



Getting back to the sitting down all day - In the beginning of remote work everything hurt.


My hips hurt. My thighs hurt. All from sitting for so long without getting up. That continued for at least 2 months, and then my body adapted to my sedentary lifestyle of sitting in one spot for 10 hours. And this worries me. My body adapted to no movement although I am well and able to move throughout the day - in office life there's the walk for lunch or coffee/tea, but at home there is none of that walking. I sometimes don't even take a break for lunch because I prefer to just keep working instead taking a break to recharge my energy. 


When someone says 'tell me about yourself' I do not want the only thing to leave my lips to be my profession.


I've been here before though. The not blogging and slicing my hobbies away part. If you've been here long enough, you'll remember my internship 2 years ago where I tossed everything about myself away and made my work my life. I swore I'd never do that to myself. And I want to keep that promise to myself even if it is late. 8 months too late. 


There's something a coach says on the Nike app during a speed run I do - when doing a mountain workout where I would be doing mile pace, 5K pace, 10K pace, and then make my way back down the mountain with 5k, mile pace: 


You've been here before, you've just got a little more running in your legs.


And that's true. I have been here before. But now, rather than me turning to an advisor to see what I should do I (and also my family pitching in) am making the decision to not allow my work to continue to consume me like it has been. My runs don't run themselves in the same way my blog posts don't write themselves. 


I don't know if it's a ~junior~ thing but the feeling like I need to be working all hours of the day in order to prove that I am worthy of a position that I already have is a mindset I have to break. Is it a junior thing to constantly feel like I have something to prove? I love to learn new things, whether that be a new coding environment, or improving on a coding language I already know.  I love that feeling of learning. But I also don't have to be learning/working all hours of the day as much as one half of my brain likes to try to convince me otherwise. That's the quickest way to burnout and I very much want to veer as far away from the path of burnout. 


I do have a lot to learn but that does not discount what I already know. Even if at times I feel it does. I have courses that I want to do and technologies I want to improve on, but that doesn't mean I spend night and day burying myself in knowledge because I've managed to convince myself that every waking moment must be spent working towards something, and anything not meant to further me in my profession must go.


standing in front of small barn entrance


What I am hoping to ingrain in myself in the next few months is that I don't always have to be attached to my computer whether that be for work or for courses/tutorials to be better at what I do at work.


There will always be more to learn, months from now I'll be telling myself the same thing even if I learned XYZ new technologies, there will always be that feeling of I could do more. I just don't want my life to be consumed of I could be doing more rather than appreciating where I am now. 


I guess, the end of my ramble of a post is to say: Your life is yours, not your employer's. Own it.


How has quarantine been for everyone? Going on runs/exercise or learn a new hobby? Working from home? Let's get chatting!


sahara end logo
sahara holding purple colored laptop with stickers 'women who code', 'brunch.code.repeat', 'built by girls', and 'educate a girl change the world'

About a month ago, I decided to give TopResume a try. I kept getting emails from them after uploading my resume to Glassdoor when I applied to a role on there months ago. For reference, this was prior to my ZipRecruiter Misuse post where I dissected terms and agreements of all popular job board sites. They have some sort of deal with Glassdoor when someone uploads their resume to apply for a role, you can opt to have your resume looked at by them for free. After you let them look at your resume for free, they keep emailing you. Constantly.

At this point, I did get call backs but they never went anywhere, so I gave TopResume a try.


You'd think my soul left my body when the $149 went out of my bank account. I was just scared - was it going to be worth it? Based on their reviews, they were top tier a blessing for job seekers. But then again, websites that offer a service to job seekers usually make it sound like they are the light at the end of the tunnel. My neighbor talked highly of them - I'm not sure she ever used them, but it just felt like I was going nowhere with what I had so I had no other option but to have a professional resume writer to take a look.

So, what package did I get?


The cheapest one - I paid for the Professional Growth and Resume Writing Package for $149. Except, here's some quality tea: Remember how I said they kept emailing me after that ~free~ viewing of my resume? Yep, so here's the funny part. They sent an email saying with a specific link sent to my email there was a sale on the package with $179 crossed out and $149 as the new price. So, I purchased it and then 3 hours later as my parents were asking about the price, I was going to show my parents the price crossed out and the price I paid only now that I clicked the link the discounted price was $139. The very same link I clicked on 3 hours earlier had a $10 cheaper price after I used it to purchase.

I emailed their customer support about the issue, they were no help on there.


I even sent a video recording of me clicking the link from my email  - the regular price now on the website was $149 rather than $179,  and the discounted price when I clicked my link was $139. Their customer support via email kept saying essentially too bad, not our problem. So I called the next day, explained to the person on the phone what happened, she saw the email thread as well, and agreed that I have to be refunded because the discount came after I purchased via the link a few hours earlier. The opposite of how a discount link should work.

What did the service offer?


A professional resume writer in your field to look at your current resume and basically give it a makeover content wise. You go back and forth with the resume writer for 7 days only - in those 7 days the back and forth edits only stop once you say you are satisfied with the resume.

How was the service, honestly?


In all honesty, I wouldn't recommend them unless you yourself are an english native and personally know a wrong sentence structure when you see one. Also, if you read a lot that's also a plus because sometimes the resume writer used words wrong.

I don't think that it's a professional resume writer in your field, that bit - from my experience - couldn't have been further from the truth.

My first revision - I sent in my one page resume - came back to me in the form of 2 pages with the following:

  • Chunks of keywords thrown in with no sentence structure
  • Incomplete sentences that didn't read well
  • A massive paragraph (if we even want to call it that - it was just a lot of keywords thrown in with no periods) at the start of my resume
  • My name and title in my profession were centered awkwardly in a way that didn't visibly make sense
  • My technical abilities (the coding languages and frameworks I know) was all the way at the bottom
  • She eliminated my Personal Interests section which lists my blog and the fact that I am a USATF Track Athlete; 5000M.

Overall the format didn't make sense, and it was just too much on the eyes - there was no whitespace! I get why she wanted to put as many keywords as possible so that companies that use artificial intelligence to screen through resumes won't put me in the No Pile but just chucking in keywords isn't the answer.

You can kind of think of it when using keywords in your blog post: Google will notice what you're doing if you keep using your keywords to get a better ranking on google, so you have to use them smartly throughout your post.

That's the mindset that you should have with your resume:  You can flurry in all the keywords you want but make it make sense. Don't start getting generous and sprinkle your keywords all over your resume like you're Rupert Grint* handing out free ice cream. If Google's algorithm is smart enough to know what you're doing when you keep using keywords to get a higher ranking on Google, don't you think the algorithm the company uses to screen through the resume is too?


_____

* Actor who plays Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter Series. 

_____

I will be getting back to the importance on the Personal Interests section in a future post, but I will say this: Keep This On Your Resume! Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. I have some stories that I'm going to get into in a future post of 'mentors' degrading my interests and equating listing my blog and being a USATF Track Athlete on my resume to writing 'I like Ketchup'.

I let the resume writer know I was dissatisfied with this edition and essentially wrote a whole 6 paragraph essay picking apart what was wrong with it. I guess you can say I became an english teacher for these 7 days, I had to explain proper sentence structure format, provide alternative words due to words they used weren't used correctly, and also edit a lot of sentences entirely. I didn't want to be rude picking it apart, but I was also paying for this service. $139 to be exact.

It's a two way street between you and the TopResume Writer.


You give the resume writer feedback and they make the changes to get that much closer to the resume that you are going to be satisfied with. You can't say you don't like the revision and not explain what it is that you are dissatisfied with. There were some occasions where the way she edited a section - compared to my resume I sent in - it sounded too simplified technical-wise and I would redirect her to my resume I sent in and the technical language I used.

As we kept revising it, the amount of things I pointed out became less and less; we worked together bouncing back and forth via email on what changes to make. Each resume revision was sent in a Word Document, so you can easily edit it on Google Docs once they send it through!

Tip for Resume Writing: ADD COLOR. Do you know how boring it is to look at a document with no color at all, all resumes just start to look the same (if a person is looking through them not Artificial Intelligence). Change your name, and heading for each section to a neutral color. I chose a dark-ish blue - not sky blue but also not navy, kind of like jeans colored?

In terms of the sentence structure, did that ever get better?


Not really. I had to really dissect each sentence and line to make sure that the structure made sense and it wasn't just random words thrown together to make it look intelligent when in actuality it made no sense. I mentioned this earlier but I read a lot, and obviously as a blogger write a lot, so I was well aware of an incorrectly structured sentence when I saw one. If English is not your first language, or you are not fluent in it, RUN.

How would I rate the service?


⭐⭐☆☆☆ 

2 out of 5 Stars

In the end I did end up with a resume I was satisfied with but the process was a lot of me pointing out my industry's standard as if she wasn't a professional in my field as advertised on the TopResume website. I am rating the process, not the final product.

Everything is now written better than what I had previously, and as for call backs has it changed? Well, in some ways its the same, but in other ways it's not. I attended an interview last week and the person interviewing me said he took one look at my resume and knew he had to see me, so I will say that the changes made were most definitely needed for my resume.

According to their terms and conditions they say that if you don't get an increase in calls in two months or so then you can tell them that and they will go through the whole resume revision process again, free of charge.

This 2 out of 5 star rating is mainly because for the reasons I listed above:
  • The resume writer wasn't a professional in my field as advertised.
  • Sentence structure was poor until I had to continuously point it out and offer alternatives.
  • The format of the resume was all wrong in the beginning.
The only reason we ended up on a resume format that was satisfactory was because I did my own research on resumes in my field to get some inspiration and edited the resume writer's sentences to actually be complete sentences- it was clear I needed to pull more weight in this revision than I originally thought.

Okay so where should you go if your resume is in need of a glow up?


Luckily for you - and unluckily for me - I came across this tweet a few days ago detailing websites that offer free resume revisions - Free Resume Help List + some extra stuff tweet!

Have you recently fixed up your resume? Would you give TopResume a try?