And so it goes – 2014

January 2, 2014

Ah.  The obligatory – “NEW YEAR NEW ME!” post.    In all honesty – these are some of my favorite posts to read that are written by others and some of my favorite to write.  I’m a New Years Resolution junkie and am constantly bugging my friends and family with “whatcha gonna change? How are you going to change it? Huh huh huh??”  – so here goes.

2013 was a tricky one for me, it took a lot from me and my family.  So, I’ve decided that 2014 is my year.   

In the spirit of rising to the challenge, I went to town on resolutions for myself, but since this is a lengthy post as it is – I’ve decided to break down the resolutions over the next week or so, hopefully interspersed with legit posts to get back on track.  So lets start with list number 1:  probably the easiest and most relevant to this blog.  Fitness resolutions.

Fitness:

1.  Be active each day.  Whether or not its a scheduled day of training or just getting out for a long walk, doing yoga or a hike – I want to feel like I’ve moved each day.

2.  Be committed to lifting.  This year I re-discovered my love for traditional weight training and I started to put some efforts into creating an at home gym that I could  workout in, in lieu of a gym membership.   I slacked off a bit over the holidays and worked through some confusion of how to eat and train in order to get the kind of body I want.  Its a work in progress and although I have a sneaking suspicion I used it as a coping mechanism this summer, I really do enjoy lifting and have great respect for female lifters.

3.  Run 5 miles a week – that’s 260 miles in a year.  A few years back, I opted to train for races as my goals and did fairly well.  Last year, I didn’t sign up for any races and my running dropped significantly.  This year, I’m trying a new to me tactic that I’ve seen floating around before, which is set a weekly mileage goal.  Its a concrete goal that I can work for, without having something to train for specifically.  I’ve kept my goal fairly small (cough cough: attainable and maintainable cough cough:), because I know my mind’s ability to overwhelm itself when I’m thinking about too stressful of a goal.   And  since I have a hard time admitting that a few miles and not 3-4-5 miles is worth the time, I’m trying to remember that its not how I get to the goal, but that I achieve it.   In preparation for this, I bought myself some fancy new kicks to start it off right.

4.  Put at least 20 miles on the bike a month – that’s 240 miles in a year..  We have bikes.  Mine is my baby.  We have not explored the trails nearly enough to make its purchase worthwhile.  Biking is something my husband and I both truly enjoy, both by ourselves and with friends.  So this year, in an effort to get out on the bikes more, I’ve set a monthly mileage goal.  Anyone who’s hopped on a bike, know that its definitely not a difficult goal to meet and I have big plans of crushing this mileage goal.  But at the very least it’ll get us out for a weekend ride 1-2 times a month and that’s really what is most important.

5.  Incorporate Yoga and Insanity into weekly workouts.   I have a tendency to have tunnel vision when it comes to my “training”.  If I’m weight training, then I absolutely cannot replace a lifting day with a cardio day or yoga day, etc.  I also have a really hard time saying “OK well, Wednesdays are Yoga only”, because whether I’m lifting or running, its hard for me to give up a day of training, period.   But I enjoy yoga, and damn it Insanity was expensive.  So as a tie in to goal number 1 – I’d like to include more flexibility to my fitness routine, which will go a long way for making it a lifestyle habit, rather than a training for a specific goal habit.

So far – its been only a day since yesterday, so I haven’t really gotten a chance to put these resolutions into practice, although I got a head start on a few and lifted at home on Monday and Tuesday, which while not a lot – was better than nothing.  I have plans to get in a workout tonight and am thinking that an easy little run is in order. I’ve got some shiny new Nike Frees and 5 miles to get in by Sunday, eh?

So there you have it, my fitness resolutions (give or take a few).  I tried to keep them concrete and obtainable, which I think is so incredibly important for tracking progress.    I’ve got a hefty list of other resolutions that include personal, foodie and work related ideas, but they can wait for another day.

I hope everyone had a wonderful set of holidays and that they stayed relatively healthy 🙂 and here’s to 2014.

xo

 

 

 

 

 

Deck of Cards Workout

November 18, 2013

I like working out, I really do (ok, maybe not cardio so much…).  But I also like my weekends and sometimes, a workout is the last thing on my mind on a cozy rainy Sunday morning.  Just like anyone and everyone else, I can definitely struggle with motivation.  So this Sunday – I definitely was not feeling the scheduled workout, but as the day wore on – my guilt settled in, especially knowing that I really wanted to get back into the swing of things and really see some gains and the key to that – is consistency, aka – NOT skipping a workout on Sunday just because.    But I definitely wasn’t up for a full fledged workout downstairs in the chilly basement…where there was no football watching to be had.  Priorities – I gots ’em.  So I reached back to when I first started working out pretty seriously and had to travel to a friend’s house that weekend.  One of the workouts I did was called a “deck of cards” workout.   They’re pretty standard workouts, with a ton of different ways to do them.  The first time I did them, I followed Jamie Eason’s deck of cards workout and did a set of plyometric exercises, totaling the number of 3 cards to get my “number per” exercise for each exercise.  I’ve also seen workouts that incorporate two moves (say, pushups and burpees) and you assign red or black cards to each exercise.  For my workout today, I borrowed from this workout and used a different exercise for each shape.  The original workout called for trying to get through as many of the 13 card sets as possible, each number on the card dictating how many of each move you do.  I chose to up the ante a little bit and add in a second set of exercises and switch between the two for each set of 13 cards, for a total of 2 rounds per workout set and added in 20 mountain climbers at the end of each set.  I finished up the deck of cards and was definitely winded, but strangely craving more.  So after a quick break, I came up with 2 more workout sets and went for a second time.    Here’s what my final workout looked like for today:

Picture1

For the sets that required weights (squats, curls, presses, etc) I kept the weights super light, since at any given time I could be doing 20+ lifts at a time.  The rest of the exercises I did with body weight only.   To give you an idea of how this works – one of my card draws for Workout 3 looked like this.

unnamed

I stuck to the original number values of

J= 11, Q = 12, K = 13 and Ace = 14 (there are no jokers in the deck for this!).  So that was 23 lunges per leg, 12 tricep extensions, 12 upright rows, 2 + 10 jumping jacks, 10 upright rows, 9 lunges per leg, 28 upright rows, 2 + 22 jumping jacks and finally rounded out the set with 20 mountain climbers.   After this workout, I pulled another 13 cards and did repeated for Workout #4, switching between the 2 for a total of 2x per workout (i.e. the entire deck of cards, sans jokers).   Excluding the small break, the whole thing probably took me close to 45-50 minutes.

It may not seem like a lot, but as you work through each set and keep the pace up, you are definitely winded by the end of workout.  Especially when you get the higher pulls like 23, 24, etc.

I finished up feeling proud  that I had at least put in some time getting my heart rate up and I especially appreciated the change of pace.  Not to mention a chance to catch some Football in the process 🙂

Hope ya’ll had a healthy weekend!

xo

disclaimer:  I am not a licensed fitness professional or trainer – this is a workout I designed for myself and felt comfortable doing given my level of experience with weight lifting.  Please only pursue workouts that YOU are comfortable with and are appropriate to your level of fitness.  The great thing about workouts is that they can be tailored to anyone’s skill level!

My 100%

November 15, 2013

I read somewhere once that you should always give 100% everyday to whatever it is you’re doing.  But the kicker, is that what is your 100% one day may be nowhere near your 100% the next day.

That, I have found – is so so true.

The good news is that my trip to the dentist was remarkably uneventful – I say remarkably, because the level of sensitivity and pain in my teeth was enough to have me double over at different points in the day.  If you know me, you know my tolerance for dental pain is also pretty dang high.  I’m not being a hero, rather the opposite.  I hate going to the dentist, so I have adapted to tolerate almost any level of pain in order to avoid it.  Case in point:  I let an abscessed tooth go for over at least a year – and I’m willing to bet longer than that.  So I put on my brave face and called up the dentist.  Turns out – the pain wasn’t an abscessed tooth, but in all probability a nasty sinus infection that I’d been fighting off for a few weeks now, that suddenly decided it wanted to be BFFs with the nerves running to my teeth.  Thanks for that.

So – while the dentist was thankfully uneventful (I did stay for my cleaning though! Gotta be better about these things.), i’m still left fighting off this sinus infection that isn’t symptomatic enough to warrant antibiotics, but pesky enough to make this blast of cold weather we’re having one of the most painful to date.  I try to keep my medication overload to a minimum, choosing instead to fight unhealthy with healthy.  But my efforts have certainly been a bit subpar to my normal standards.

So this week, my 100% looked like significantly lower intensity workouts and zero traditional cardio (the movement set my teeth throbbing).    I lifted far less weight than I normally would aim for.  But I worked out.   And I attempted to have nutritious and healthy balanced meals each night.  Sometimes, my 100% was a bowl of soup, but soup with greens and protein.  Sometimes, like last night, my 100% looked like a heaping bowl of pasta, a beer and NO workouts.  Turns out, I’d been blaming a lack of motivation and will power when it was probably my body saying “‘scuse me, but you’re sick, yo”, ok and maybe a little bit of lack of will power 🙂

Yes, I probably could have pushed a little more this week, but in the end – I would’ve been even more miserable than I already was.  I am proud that I got in my workouts and plan to keep on getting them in.  I’m ok that I have to modify them right now, because its not the end all be all of workouts and it feels better to do something than nothing.  And eventually, when I’m feeling better, the workouts will ramp back up.  But for now, this girl just wants to sleep! Its reassuring and kind of cool to be able to acknowledge a mental progression of sorts.  A year ago, I would’ve been so angry with myself for not putting in a full workout I had planned.    Growing up is cool.

Happy weekending y’all!

xo

 

At home vs At the Gym

November 11, 2013

Man is this post long over due….

I “recently” (cough cough: early October: cough cough) spent some time out in Salt Lake City, Utah for work and while I was there, I had the pleasure of some of the best vegan food I’ve had in a long time and even managed to not step foot in a Starbucks once the entire time I was there (A staple for conference goers everywhere…), choosing to explore the local breakfast and coffee options instead, a personal accomplishment of mine.

On top of all of that, I had serious first for me, which was being dedicated enough to a workout to take advantage of a hotel gym to keep up with my scheduled sessions.    Since it was the first time I’ve set foot in a gym other than my basement for the first time since February, I thought it’d be fun to compare my experiences between the two.

First things first: Cardio. 

I have a treadmill at home, but the week I was in Utah was the first that my training program was adding some medium intensity cardio back into the mix.   There are a few things that I came to realize.

1.  Never underestimate the value of a good quality treadmill.  I have my brothers hand-me-down treadmill in my basement, for which I am extremely grateful.  But its a rickity and wobbly machine that doesn’t have proper incline control (read:  none at all).  But I think the most important thing I realized while in Utah, is that good treadmills are a bit softer on the knees.   For 3 days in a row, I banged out solid cardio sessions which were enjoyable and a good workout and I was actually a bit sorry to see the time end.  Compare that to at home, where its painful, sluggish and slow.  Lesson learned, a) get outside and run b) save up for a decent treadmill (sure beats fighting for one at the gym!).

2.  Somewhat related to being on the treadmill, is the fact that I was willing to be on a treadmill.  One of the reasons I first started running is embarrassingly non-inspirational.  I waltzed into my apartment gym ready to elliptical my little heart out.  The only problem?  No ellipticals were free.  No problem, I’d just hop on a bike and work out (steadfastly avoiding that treadmill), but they were full also.  Strangely, the row of treadmills was empty, but people will milling about stalking ellipticals like it was their job.  So instead of wasting my time, I reluctantly got on a treadmill (and voila! A blog was born…).  The moral of this story?  Is I saw my previous self walk into that gym every.morning.   The amount of eyerolling, foot stomping and exasperated sighing that I witness simply because the ellipticals were occupied was both amusing and disheartening.  I was suddenly very grateful that I had the ability to work out in so many different ways.

Next up – LIFTING.

Oh man. I didn’t think I’d ever miss weight lifting machines as much as I have in the past few months.  I love free weights and will forever believe they are the best form of lifting.  But lately I’ve felt a bit limited with the exercises I can safely do (like heavier weights for squats), or even think about about doing (lat pulldowns, leg press, etc).  There are some quick fixes, hamstring curls/leg extensions with dumbbells etc, or front/hack squats to replace the quad targeting for leg extensions, but I have been absolutely missing targeting my back muscles or incline exercises.  Funny though, while it was really nice to use those machines (and do a proper pull up/chin up, I managed to eek out 3-5 each time (leg kicking and all), after which a separate gym goer promptly walked over and banged out about 30 without breaking a sweat – sigh.), I found I missed simple things, like my squat bar (seriously, what gym doesn’t have a barbell.   I also had the pleasure of a workout partner for the week.  Which came in VERY handy after spending hours wandering around a city and eating delicious food.  Sometimes a little outside influence is necessary 🙂

I came back thoroughly proud of my workout dedication and extremely burnt out.  As I worked through some minor jet lag and general conference/travel exhaustion, the last thing I wanted to do was prep meals, wander downstairs after work and lift  heavy.  I took a glance over my workout logs (another reason I am super glad I kept them) and realized that it had been about 7 weeks straight of very intense lifting, 5-6 days a week.  For someone who’s used to those workouts, it starts to be second nature, but for this little gal, it was definitely time for a breather.   I also glanced over my food logs and was a bit skeptical of the amount of calories I was taking in (and with the lack of cardio in the first part of the program, not burning off as much).  I did a few more calculations and reading and came to the conclusion that I was probably taking in about 500 more calories than I truly needed, which would explain my overall discontent with body image and feeling sluggish.  I was so focused on protein and carb ratios, that I completely overlooked my veggie intake also.  Instead of my clothes fitting better, they were beginning to feel a bit too tight.  Oops.  So for the 2 weeks or so after my conference, I worked out moderately, but really focused on not focusing too much on the diet. I ate what felt healthy (and much much lighter).   My natural caloric intake came back down to a far more reasonable intake amount and I now feel a TON better.  After a few days of 100% no workout rests, I kept up my workouts, but instead of 5-6 days a week, I cut back to 3-4 days a week and kept the weights a little lighter.    Slowly but surely I’m working myself through the burnt out phase.  I’m keeping an eye on inspirational sources and trusting my food instincts a lot more, instead of focusing just on numbers.  Certainly nothing groundbreaking, the body is this crazy thing that requires a lot of fine tuning when it comes to workouts.  So its just a general moving forward and tweaking as I go.  Which I’m proud of doing, rather than saying “nope! not for me, peace out, workouts!”

Now that I’m starting to feel a little more inspired, I’m beginning to pay a little more attention to my at home gym.  I’m still not convinced that I need a gym membership, so I thought I’d give a peek into how I’m getting through some hurdles I’ve found.

The Squat Rack

The Squat Rack

My biggest concern  when working out at home is safety, especially since I workout solo without spotters.  As my weights for squats went up, the need for a “squat rack” became pretty apparent.  I have two sets of 10 lb weights, a set of 5s and a set of 20s.  And anything above 25 lbs it gets a little sketchy trying to clean and press the bar on to my neck (body pumpers will know this move).  So the solution, was this rack.  It puts the bar just below shoulder height for me, so that I can easily get under the bar and not have to worry about getting the weights up and over my head.

My "incline" set up

My “incline” set up

One of the staples of weight lifting, is to target the same muscles from different angles.  Think, regular bench press vs an incline bench press. The above set up is my quick fix for any incline exercises until I get a bench that can be adjusted for different angles.  Its just my exercise ball propped against an old fridge (or wall, etc) in the basement.  Its definitely not perfect, but it works for now.

Exercise bands

Exercise bands

My last quick fix so far is the use of exercise bands for exercises like tricep pushdowns or seated rows.  The above set up is what I use for the pushdowns, if I’m doing a row, I wrap the bands around a pillar instead of a ceiling beam (which incidentally is also where I try to build up to some efficient pull ups).   The obvious downside to this fix is the lack of added weight resistance.  I do find with the tricep pushdowns that if I’ve worked my arms out hard enough previous to this exercise that the bands will be extremely sufficient in fatiguing the muscles.  But for the rows, lat pull downs, etc, I usually end up wishing I had more weight to pull.  I usually try to find different exercises that target the same muscles that use dumbbells instead.

So there you have it – that’s the current state of my at home gym, with a pretty decent set of dumbbells to go with.  I’m happy with what I’ve pulled together so far, but next up on the list is definitely a proper pull up bar, a bench and I’ve seen a few online tutorials for putting together a lat pulldown machine.  I also think I’d like to seriously look into a decent treadmill or elliptical machine.  Its definitely not perfect and I absolutely miss the amenities of a fully equipped gym, but I also don’t miss waiting for a machine (cardio or otherwise) and the added few steps of working up the motivation to get out of the house and to the gym.   Plus, you can’t beat having 2 four-legged furry workout buddies to keep you company!

Happy Monday ya’ll!

xo

p.s. How is it the 2nd full week of November already?? I’ve been doing my daily “I”m grateful for…” but keeping it private, in a little notebook that I carry with me everyday.  I’ve really been enjoying the practice and plan on keeping it up even after November is done.

p.p.s.  Thank you so much to whoever nominated me for the Mobbies ( A Baltimore based Blog award).  I’m super sorry I haven’t been too timely with posts lately.  The above mentioned burnout recovery involved some nights of complete self reflection.

 

 

Is that a loofah?

September 6, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILjjRCdfOyI

Because its Friday – and really, who doesn’t need a little bit of ghost buster/gagnam style mashup to start their weekend off right?

Also of note this week

This insightful article about Vegans and B12 supplements.

I am two days into the Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 dvd and 1 day into her killer buns and thighs workouts.  Both sets had my muscles burning during the workout, but again, didn’t leave me overly fatigued afterwards.  One of the things I enjoy about the format so far is that by repeating the workouts for a set of 7-10 days at a time, I can really gauge my increase in strength and endurance for the moves.  Not to mention enjoying learning a few new moves to incorporate into my routine sans dvd workout.  I also managed to sneak in another outside run where I shaved off some time from my slower run this past weekend.  Going forward, I really want to complete all 30 days of each DVD, since I know consistency is key for any routine.  But I’ve also been morphing my goals and ideas for what I want my next personal challenge to be.  I’m hoping to maintain my running better than I have in my past, although I may not be looking at major distances right now, I firmly believe that running can be a good health maintenance workout.

Secondly, my friend is starting Insanity in the next few weeks and as a motivating factor, I offered up       challenge that I would complete it at the same time.   Anyone I know who has done it and based on reading about it, reviews etc say make it clear it is an intense workout, one which I’m looking forward to, but also nervous about.  It’ll be a good exercise (no pun intended) in self-motivation and pushing myself to the max.

Thirdly, watching all of the insanity videos, etc – really makes me crave the non-fitness competition esque abs and nice toned muscles.  I don’t expect to walk around looking like my stomach was chiseled out of marble, but the women in those videos are certainly something to aspire towards.  This goal will require a careful look at my eating regiment and figuring out a way to incorporate some heavier lifting alongside the bodyweight style workouts of Insanity.

And finally:

The budlight commercial from last night’s football game.  “What’s Queen-No?”

Enjoy your weekend friends! We are off to a fun little beer festival and looking forward to some time with family and friends.

xo

Keeping Motivated

August 21, 2013

When I first started running and was serious about getting back into a workout schedule, I found the motivation to be a lot easier than it is today.  I signed up for races and had a training schedule that told me when and for how long to run.   I joined a gym that had a class schedule that I followed in order to make my monthly payments worthwhile.  Since then, without a training or gym class schedule to follow, I’ve been trying to figure out different ways to get myself motivated to put in the miles.  The recent move and tough summer resulted in completely undisciplined workout schedules and basically getting it in when I could-so on top of trying to figure out a good routine,  I was also working against my lack of motivation and definite loss of endurance – i.e. the idea of putting in even a few miles on the treadmill was enough to make me want to quit before even starting.   So I started out slow, focused a bit more on lifting, which I honestly enjoy and took an active re-interest in creating fun and nutritious meals, while slowly working the cardio back into piece by piece.   

All of this to say, that even though I’m not motivated to just run 3-4 miles straight as my workout, I AM getting in my mileage.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with running intervals and breaking them up with a lifting set.  Not only is this helping to keep me from losing focus or getting bored, its also a good way to incorporate lifting and work on endurance/speed.  It’s a lot easier for me to sprint a shorter segment than try to maintain a faster pace for a whole run.  Plus, it lets me focus on certain muscle groups on different nights.  So, I started out with running quarter mile segments between lifting sets, and tacking on a mile or so afterwards, then I upped it to half mile segments with a walk to finish.   Last night, my workout looked something like this:

Run:  1 mile

Lift:  Squats + calf raises x10

        Lunges x5 forward and rear lunges per side

         DB Bench press + butt lifts  -x10

        DB leg curls – x10

Repeat for 3 miles. 

 See?  Still getting in my mileage and still working hard.  Even though I didn’t get in a solid 4-5 mile run, (or hell, even a 3 mile run) – I sprinted the last few minutes of my final mile and enjoyed that exercise high that you can get when you push yourself pretty hard and you break that peak of endorphins.  Its moments like that, that I remember why I’m working so hard to get back into a schedule, on top of all the other benefits – sometimes it just feels good to kick some ass 🙂

 xo

Gymrat no more?

February 14, 2013

So yesterday was the beginning of Lent.  A day my husband likes to jokingly call a 2nd chance at some New Years Resolutions.  I have to laugh, because generally that’s true.  Most people give up something unhealthy and last year for Lent, (we’re not Catholic, but I enjoy the idea of Lent) I cut out dairy and eggs, essentially starting a Vegan lifestyle.  Which I have been able to continue through to the present time, with no plans to change!

Its funny though, because this year, I did something very different.  Without realizing the day, I actually ended up giving up my gym membership on the same day as Lent starts.  How strange is that, that on a day where most people are trying to reboot their healthy habits, I went ahead and did something silly like that.  It was initially a hard decision for me, but I broke it down and came to the following conclusions:

1.  I love my gym – but I’ve only been going for yoga classes once a week.   But I’ve been revamping my at home gym weights, etc.

2.  The cost of the gym, is about the same as going to a yoga studio (probably less!) once a week, so I justified the cost.

3.  I love love LOVE my yoga class.

4.  I haven’t actually been consistently going to yoga lately.

5.  We’re saving up some money for a house, so even when the amount is trivial, its still money saved and not spent.

So I opted to not resign my membership for another year.  We’re not sure if we’ll be living in an area that its convenient for me to even be a member at this gym and I can always resign up later.  But truthfully, i’m in no rush.  I’m grateful for the gym and what it helped me accomplish last year, but like with a lot of things in life, I seem to have grown out of the gym routine.  When I submitted my membership cancellation request last night, I was almost relieved.  Even though yoga was only one night a week, that one night had me feeling roped into a schedule with levels of guilt and stress related to working out that just shouldn’t be there, in my opinion 

So I gave up my gym membership for Lent and I’m hoping to use this as an opportunity to develop a stronger workout rotation at home, with more variety and different challenges.  I’ve also kicked around the idea of giving up alcohol (except for maybe special occasions, but a beer or glass of wine is sometimes just so good!) or maybe added sugars (but, Valentine’s day!?).  Its funny to me, that giving up dairy and eggs didn’t seem like a big deal at all,but a month without a drink or some added sugar?  That’s debilitating!  But one of my best friends used to always say that she gave up the hardest things for Lent, because it was a reminder to her of how important the practice was.  It sort’ve puts my excuses to shame, eh?

Anyhow – a rambling post for a lovey dovey Holiday! HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY YA’LL!! We’re celebrating by my working a little later (d’oh), having some takeout on the couch and watching As Time Goes By, our favorite British Comedy. 

ps – did anyone elses’ hallmark envelope flap taste like chocolate when you licked it shut? Well played Hallmark, well played…

xo