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. Have your own Feel Good Diary to submit? You can do so here!
Today: A woman who believes in the power of a healthy work life balance.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Salary: $85,000 per year + about $150/a month from a side job as a spin class instructor
7:30 a.m. — I wake up, chug some water, and start brewing coffee. I’m working from home today, so I don’t have to rush to catch the bus downtown. My job is a normal 9-to-5 situation but has a lot of flexibility. I’m grateful for the days that I can work from home and also for the days on which I can adjust my schedule to make time for my side hustle, volunteer work, and just life in general. Work-life balance at a job is huge for me and I would not pick a company that didn’t provide that flexibility.
1 p.m. — I decide that I’ve been working all morning and getting so much done that it’s time to stretch my legs. I go down to my apartment’s gym (which I can access for free because I live in the building) and run on the treadmill. Running is such a great mental activity for me. I can zone out everything else and just focus on the music or the podcast I am listening to (I choose “Crime Junkies” today). I sit at work most days so I think it’s important to make sure I run and walk regularly throughout the day. I do 5 miles on the treadmill alternating between a jog and fast intervals. I am a sweaty mess afterwards but feel great!
5 p.m. — My boyfriend and I pack up and hit the road for a two hour drive to Baltimore to attend a wedding. We stop at his parents’ house and they pay for dinner. I get soup and chicken lettuce wraps and we finish the night by treating them to ice cream ($11). My boyfriend and I try to balance eating at home and going out. We usually set one night a weekend to go out to eat for dinner, but cook most of our meals at home. On Sundays, I meal prep the week’s worth of breakfast and lunches I bring to work. I love going out to eat and trying new restaurants, though. Philadelphia has so many good food spots I still need to try, so I make sure to balance my healthier weekday meals with my more indulgent weekend eating.
Daily Total: $11
6 a.m. — I have an early wake-up call to get to my friends house for hair and makeup for her wedding. I stop on the way to grab a cup of coffee ($1.05) and refill my gas tank. I get to my friend’s parents’ house to start getting ready for the wedding. The bridesmaids are drinking mimosas and in party mode, but I know for my well-being I need to refrain from alcohol until later or I won’t make it through the whole wedding. I’m also going to drive the two hours back home tonight, so I won’t be drinking throughout the day anyways. When I was younger the peer pressure to drink felt stronger, but now I take priority in how I feel and what is best for me.
5 p.m. — The wedding is well underway and we eat dinner at the venue and dance the night away. I have never been sober at a wedding, as I usually like to party and have fun. But I know I am going to be driving home tonight and I know that I need to be up tomorrow so I make sure to stick to water and then later some coffee. The food at the wedding was typical wedding fare — good, but nothing special.
Getting to spend time with my friends at the wedding was refreshing, especially since I moved away from a lot of them. I miss seeing them, so I cherish the times when we can all get together. Since moving away one year ago it has been difficult to make new friends in a brand new city (how do adults make friends?!). I have been trying to say yes to doing new things with people to branch out, even if it means taking an intimating new workout class, or getting dinner with a new friend, or texting a coworker to invite them to hangout. I have really been trying to make the effort to put myself out there to make friends in my new city.
10 p.m. — We make a pit-stop halfway home and grab Chick-Fil-A ($12.50). My boyfriend is pretty buzzed and I am sober but hungry from not eating much all day. I hardly ever get fast food, but this seems like a necessary stop. We split nuggets, fries, and a milkshake. No regrets!
Daily Total: $13.55
9 a.m. — I wake up, chug water, make coffee, and eat a small breakfast of cashews and an apple before heading out to teach a spin class. The Sunday class is an hour long and usually it is the driving force for getting me up and moving on a Sunday. I have been teaching spin for a few months now as a side hustle, but I love that I am getting paid to not only run the class, but to workout myself. I spend an hour teaching there in the morning with some awesome riders. As an instructor, I no longer have to pay my gym fees so I save $30 a month. Plus, I earn about $150 a month teaching classes.
I started to instruct because I wanted to make my own playlists and rides and fit a niche that I thought my gym was missing (it’s generally an older crowd with lots of 70’s music). I wanted to bring some new music and younger people to class. The added benefit of getting paid is just a bonus — I basically get paid to work out and get others to work out.
4 p.m. — Some friends come over for the football games and I make a bunch of pizzas and grab some beer and seltzers from the store ($67). I love cooking for a group of people. Not only does it save money but it’s nice having everyone over rather than in a crowded bar. I let loose a little and have a few beers throughout the game. I am usually pretty hungry after teaching spin so I also have a few pieces of pizza.
9 p.m. — I do my nighttime routine of brushing and flossing, wash my face with Aveeno Foam Wash ($10) and crawl into bed. I have always been an early sleeper. I’m usually in bed by 9:30 p.m. and I always try to get 8 hours of sleep. I usually read a little before bed, but this weekend was exhausting and with a few beers in me I am out like a light.
Daily Total: $77
7:30 a.m. — Time for the Monday grind! I am up and catch the bus to work. I bring four yogurts, four apples, some leftover salad, and some cheese sticks to work ($24). I usually bring in enough food on Monday to get me through the week. I currently have two leftover lunches from last week that I didn’t eat in the work freezer. I typically do all of my food prep on Sundays, but because we were gone for most of the weekend I’m just going to wing it this week with leftovers from our dinners.
On average, I spend about $100 a week on groceries. I pay for both my boyfriend and myself. When we go out to eat (about one or two times a week) my boyfriend pays.
12 p.m. — I walk over to the gym which is right next door to my work and I get a quick hour long cardio/strength class in. Since my gym membership is free because I instruct there, I try and take advantage of as many classes as possible. I love the midday classes because it gets me up and moving. I also tend to skip the gym if I wait until after work to go, so this is a good way to get in a workout. The class is cardio strength training so lots of squats, jumping jacks, lunges, and push-ups so it leaves me sweaty and my muscles tired. Always a good sign.
6 p.m. — I walk home from work today instead of taking the bus. Its about two miles but it’s a nice enough day out today that the walk is pleasant. I walk home the majority of the time, but now that it’s getting dark and colder earlier I’ll probably start taking the bus home more often.
Once I walk home, my boyfriend and I make dinner together. The end of our days spent catching up with each other and cooking is something I cherish. We make lean ground beef taco salads with pico, gauc, cheese, rice, and mixed greens from ingredients we already had in the fridge. So good.
Daily Total: $24
6 a.m. — I am up and at work early today. I do this twice a week so I can leave early (flexibility, woo!) to volunteer. I catch the bus again and eat one of the yogurts I brought into work with me.
Flexibility at work is important to me because I volunteer as a coach with Girls on the Run Philadelphia. I need time to get out of work and over to the school twice a week. I have been doing this program for a year and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of my company.
3:30 p.m. — I walk over to the elementary school to coach. The school is a short five minute walk away from where I work, but I stop at a store on the way and grab some snacks for the girls ($6).
I love being able to coach after work. It’s so fun to see through the eyes of a young girl again. They are all spunky, funny, difficult, and sweet. The program involves running and character development, so I also usually get a little run in during the practice. However, I treat these days as my off days from the gym.
6 p.m. — I take the bus home after coaching because I am way too tired to walk home. When I get to the house my boyfriend is searing some steaks and making roasted broccoli.
My relationship is so important to me now because my previous boyfriend was terrible to me. I have prioritized what is important to me in a partner for my happiness and found the best man. He is supportive of my activities, understanding of my time commitments, and above all else happy for me. Acts like making me dinner when he knows I will be too tired to cook for myself mean the world to me.
Daily Total: $6
7 a.m. — Up and at ’em for another grind at the office. I work in engineering, so some days can be mentally taxing when I work on difficult projects. My bosses are a great support system, and I truly love working there. I take the bus into work today and bundle up for the cold.
I’d like to start walking to the office now that it’s getting lighter out in the morning, but the warm bus is too tempting when it’s cold and windy out.
4:30 p.m. — I walk about ten minutes to a HIIT class I booked through ClassPass ($42 per month). The ClassPass package I have gets me about four classes per month at more “boutique” studios. I do the lower level of ClassPass because it is more realistic for me to go one or two classes a week, and the plan is cheaper than the membership options at my favorite studios.
The class is one of my favorites — it’s half done on the treadmills and half done on the floor with weights. It’s exhausting, but in the best way. I love a class with pumping music, great coaches, and a good workout. Today was chest/shoulders in the weight room and I will definitely be feeling it tomorrow. I don’t like lifting weights, so these classes are a great way to get me to actually do strength training.
6 p.m. — I take the subway home and make dinner tonight. We grill chicken thighs from the fridge in our cast iron pan and make a salad to go with it. I always try to eat one big salad a day. If I eat a salad with mixed greens and spinach, I at least feel like I am making a big dent in my veggie goals. Chicken thighs are my favorite — way better tasting than chicken breasts — and they are usually on sale at the grocery store. One of my goals it to prioritize the quality of meat (grass fed, no antibiotics, etc.) moving forward.
Daily Total: $42
6 a.m. — Today is another coaching day, so I’m up early. I take the bus and drink the coffee at work. I eat my yogurt I brought in earlier this week, and pack an extra snack of nut butter and oatmeal to eat later in the day.
I coach today and teach spin after so I make sure to bring something carb heavy that I can eat later in the day to carry me through. Oatmeal is so cheap and easy to make that it is usually a winner. I add some nut butter to it for taste and berries if I have them.
3:30 p.m. — Off to coaching again! We are practicing a 5k today with the girls, so they are going to try and run and the entire thing in preparation for their end of the year race.
It feels so good to see the girls finish the 5k. Most end up walking at some point, but the entire program is based on character building and the running is supplemental. Coaching is about 3 hours a week and adds to my days, but I have found it to be an amazing way to have fun and to give back to the community. The other coaches have become friends of mine, and the girls are hilarious.
6:15 p.m. — I walk over to the gym I teach at and get ready for my spin class. My work, gym, and school where I volunteer are all within a few mins walk of each other to make it easy. I set up my playlist and get ready for my ride.
Teaching spin has been a great addition to my routine. I love seeing people progress and it makes me feel so good to see the class having fun while exercising. I usually only teach one class a week, so I don’t over-commit myself, but I sub for other instructors as needed if I have the availability. I try to balance my activities to make sure I can still enjoy each of them individually — I can always adjust as needed.
Daily Total: $0
Weekly Total: $173.55
My overall wellness and wellness routine is just part of my life now. I don’t have an end goal, but rather want to incorporate working out, eating healthy, and having a social life into the rest of my life. I enjoy exercising and I love to cook healthy meals. I also love to spend a lazy day watching football and eating pizza, so it is all about balance in my book.
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