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!


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.




Staying healthy

February 5, 2013


Working hard at trying to feel more accomplished during the day. Not to mention keep a serious check on my health. This week is all about keeping track of how I’m eating and moving. Im trying to stay active during the day, that way if I dont get in a workout, I don’t feel too guilty. Also on tap is making sure I’m only eating when I’m hungry. Last week I’d eat when I was supposed to, not necessarily when I felt hungry, which left me feeling heavy and forever full. Very unpleasant. My current reading material (Michael Pollan) also has me truly reinvigorated about my eating habits. Last night I was in bed early, but tonight I got in a full set of lifting and an insanely delicious dinner of roasted veggies like asparagus, tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes and carrots, seasoned with some peri peri and the most amazing Spanish smoked paprika ever, tossed with some petite peas, whole wheat pasta and some olive oil. Absolutely addicting.


How are you staying healthy this winter? Xo

Today was weird

October 25, 2012

Not bad, but weird. 

Nothing a self-led workout couldn’t fix. 


After doubling up on lifting and yoga last night, I opted for an easier cardio sesh with some plyometrics and body weight exercises.

30 minutes of high resistance hill intervals on the bike, followed by
Propulsion squats 3×10 reps
Side lunges 3×10 reps per side
Toe taps, c crunches and bicycle crunch – 10 per exercise (per leg)
Stepups -3×10 reps per leg
Plank/hover – 60 sec, 30 sec, 20 sec
Pushups – 3×10 reps

In the end, I was pretty please with the way my workout rounded out.  Even though it wasn’t an in your face sweat bonanza, I’m glad I worked in my plyometrics tonight and lifting last night.

Time to get ready for tomorrows early morning body pump and core workout.  This week kinda flew by, no?


A thank you

August 21, 2012

This is the only evidence I have to share with you, of Sunday night’s perfect end to a great weekend.  Vegan Grilled Cheese with some spicy peanut eggplant soup, from Veganomicon  Well, sort’ve.  I adapted it a bit, the most obvious being I pureed mine with an immersion blender to make it “creamy”.  Its pretty amazing what eggplant can do for a soup without having to add any sort of milk to it.  But I digress.

The perfect ending to a great weekend.  And a tasty lunch addition for the next day 🙂

Also.  EXCITING NEWS – I finally have something to share in the world of workouts! Ready?




Profound, yes?

Seriously though.  I used the momentum of my satisfaction from this weekend and carried it into the start of my week this week.  Yesterday morning I was up and out the door in time to make it for my 6 am body pump class.  Getting up was pretty sucky, but being there was anything but.  Oh, i’m not saying I won’t pay for it – because I am.  S.O.R.E.    But its a good sore.  Its a satisfying sore.  Its accompanied by the complete contentment that comes with putting in  a great workout, starting your day and your WEEK off the right way.  Its the trade off for feeling bad ass in the morning and empowered and unapologetically happy for the rest of the day.   Don’t ever offer to take this sore away from me, it reminds me I can still work hard and it reminds me that I still have to work hard.

I’d like to say I got back to this point on my own.  I’d like to say that I never got away from this point.    What I WILL say is thank you.  Thank you for relentlessly going to the gym each day, for being proud of your workouts, for getting in those longest runs of your life.   You’ve truly been an inspiration.



Hiatus, Complete.

December 28, 2011

Long time no see guys!!  After a bit of a hiatus, I am back from Christmas holidays and sludging my way through a short week of work to make it to the long weekend for New Years Eve.  Pitiful? Yup.

The holidays were so busy this year for us.  Christmas Eve is my brother’s birthday, so there’s no rest for this gal!  But, with all of the running around and holiday food, I did my best to stay healthy and managed to chalk a few up in the win column.  One of the dangers (as I have found) with being so busy, is that you forget to take the time to do something healthy for yourself.  I told you guys I packed my workout gear with the intention of running because I wanted to, but that I’ve never actually worked out over a holiday break when I intended to.  This year, I changed that 🙂  With my newfound desire to run for running and not for losing weight or burning off the calories before I eat them, I found myself gearing up for a quick run during one of those brief stints of nothing to do.  It was a shorter run (3 miles, outside) but with a lot of hills.  My legs were pretty tired from the hill-a-thon I pushed through before leaving for home, so with that in mind and the time crunch, I was pretty happy with the run J  Besides, half of the accomplishment is just getting out there and doing it right?

As for the rest of the holidays, there was!  My brother’s birthday dinner is the same every year.  Ham and Mac&Cheese (homemade).  Christmas dinner is the same (turkey, and the fixings).  Christmas evening is the same (cold cuts, shrimp cocktail, chicken salad).  Are we sensing a pattern here?  Welcome to Lancaster County, a very meat centric group of people.  I don’t expect anyone to cater to my dietary preferences (vegetarian), so a lot of times, I tend to eat less healthy than desired.  Happily, this year, my family was extremely accommodating.  You should’ve seen my plate for Christmas dinner:  Brussel sprouts, stuffing (with veggie stock!), roasted tomatoes, corn pudding, mashed sweet potatoes, mashed regular potatoes, roasted broccoli, cauliflower and garlic.   YUM.  I was stuffed by the end, but not overly full that I felt sick.   So I definitely didn’t go hungry this weekend, but I wasn’t always eating either, which was really nice.  My only worry is that I didn’t get enough protein.  I can’t wait until all the leftovers are taken care of for this short week (short = no grocery shopping) and the holiday goodies are finally cooked and eaten and I can try out a few of the recipes I’ve already starting marking in the new cookbooks I got for Christmas this year.   But for now, I’ll settle for some thawed out veggie soup (leeks! Zucchini! Squash! Corn! Peas! Carrots! Tomatoes! Yum yum yum yum yum!!!!!)

I haven’t made it out for another run since my Christmas Eve jaunt, but I did manage to nab some fitness goodies with some Christmas money, which include a few reflector items for running outside and finishing up my current desires for a home gym.  Someday, when I’m not living in a complex that has a gym included, I’d like to get a treadmill, but until then – I’ve settled for adding to my collection of weights! I’ve rounded out my set of 15 lbs (lifting with one 15 lb weight is awkward).  So now, I have a set of 5s, 10s, 15s, and 20s PLUS, my new baby 🙂 🙂 🙂  a 30 lb kettle bell!!! This thing has me going “ooof” every time I pick it up and swing it around, but I cannot wait to see its results on my core (note to self: look up kettel bell workouts…!)  I could hardly wait to test them all out and knew I was in for a workout, when yesterday morning I woke up and was pretty sore, JUST FROM CARRYING THEM UP THE STEPS the night before. Oops.  Time to get back to the gym, Hebs 🙂 It was a nice lifting workout, hitting the biceps, triceps, delts, and lats, and all the major leg muscles, plus my abs.  Happily I wasn’t as sore this morning, but my muscles are definitely tired.   Hoping to fit in a nice run tonight (at the gym, boooo) and get myself back on track for the new year.  Speaking off – is everyone working on their goals and resolutions for the year?  I’ve been thinking hard about mine and am excited that this year, I can use the word “maintain” rather than “start” when it comes to a healthy lifestyle.  That leaves me room to focus on some other things that are just as important, I think.  I can’t wait to share my goals with ya’ll and hear about yours!!

Until then, have some mid-week smiles and power through! 🙂


Lets play a game

November 7, 2011

First up – Food!  Who doesn’t love food?

Tonight, in an effort to pre-empt my insatiable craving for bagels the day AFTER my run, I fixed up a pasta dish, the night BEFORE my run.  Will it work?  We’ll find out…

I wanted to make an old staple, but try out a new recipe in my “Veganomicon” book.  This is supposed to be one of the best Vegan cookbooks around.  A lot of the recipes seem a bit intimidating though.  But, that’s the goal of this right?  To learn to get better so things aren’t so intimidating.  So, with Brandon’s eye roll blessing, I tried my hand at “Spaghetti and Bean Balls”.  These people should come up with better titles…  I know I know, messing around with the meatball is darn near criminal.  But, if we keep in mind that we’re not trying to make a vegan meatball that tastes like a meatball and stay open to the idea that there can be something else with our spaghetti that may also taste pretty good – maybe it won’t be so bad?  The beanos came together as such:

Bean Balls, ala Veganomicon

20 oz red kidney beans, drained and “smashed”.

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp tomato paste or Steak sauce (I used a whole little tin of tomato paste and a tbsp of Steak sauce, i liked how the tomato paste gave a good flavor to the bean balls)


2 cloves garlic (lets get real guys, I added more garlic than this – at least 4 big cloves)

Thyme (oops, forgot this)

Lemon zest

1/2 cup bread crumbs


To prep:  smash the beans until their broken up, but not completely smooth.  For this reason I used a fork and my hands and skipped my beloved food processor.   Add the liquids and the spices and mix with a fork.  Roll into little balls and either bake or pan fry.  To bake I did the following:  popped them in the oven in a sprayed down dish at 375 for about 20 minutes.  Flip them when the bottoms are brown and repeat.  Add some spaghetti sauce of choice to the balls and bake for 5 more minutes.  Serve with pasta and sauce.

Here are my thoughts:  You have to be really careful not to mash up the beans too much, I think this helps keep the balls together better.  I also added a bit more liquid than called for, in addition to the steak sauce and tomato paste, I added in some worsteschire sauce.  Because of this, I feel like more bread crumbs probably would’ve been helped keep them in ball shape also.  Also, in an attempt to make them like mom’s meatballs, I added a ton more oregano than called for AND some onion powder.  I think the onion powder with the added tomato paste really helped bring the flavors together.  Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the results, they DEFINITELY kept me full.  And the shocker of the night?! Brandon said “welp, I’m burping up meatball burps, so they worked for me- I liked them!”.  Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor.

In the end – I still ended up with a pretty tasty dinner.  And room for improvement…

And so…Happy Monday night!  Today I woke up determined to be strong, smart, confident and productive! I kept that mantra in mind all day and managed to keep a fairly upbeat outlook on the day and power through.  There were definitely moments of self-doubt, but with the help of friends – I managed to turn those moments into a far more productive practice of self-reflection.

I love how now, even more than ever, I am able to smile and find the good in the day.  Which brings me to a fun little game I’ve been seeing pop up here and there and I’m pretty sure I remember it from last year.  Its November, which means Thanksgiving is coming up.  So the goal is to list something we’re thankful for each day.  So my goal is to list something I’m grateful for each day, no matter how grumpy or cranky or bad of a day i’m having.  There’s always good in something somewhere, right?  I’d love if you guys would join! We’ve got a few days to catch up on as its already November 7th! So here goes…

1.  I’m grateful for the people in my life who take on the brute force of my random anxiety/panic attacks, cranky mood swings and general snapping.  No matter how outrageous, ridiculous, repetitive or wrong I am, these people let me work it out, yell, scream, cry, worry, freak out, you name it.  Then they’re always willing to hug me at the end, to calm me down, to talk me through it. And mostly, i’m grateful that these people have not ONCE refused to go through it again.  So thank you.

2.  I am grateful for this blog. Its become an outlet for me and a motivational tool all at the same time.  Each day a few more people read and sometimes the same people come back.  You guys keep me honest and remind me never to give up.

3.  I’m grateful that I never achieved that body I was always wishing I had for those past 4 years.  I have a strong powerful (short) body that is perfect for me.  It pushes for that last set of pushups, the last 0.5 miles of a workout.  It does what I ask and it looks pretty ok too.

4.  I’m grateful that in this economy, I have a job that I actually enjoy going to in the morning.  It may be hard and there is always a chance to learn something new – but so many dont’ have even that.  I’m newly determined to be productive and an asset to my lab.

5.  I’m grateful that I have my little fluffball of a cat to lick my nose, no matter how crummy I feel about myself.

6.  I’m grateful for heated mattress pads at the end of a long day.

7.  I’m grateful that I can drive to work and enjoy the beauty of a tree in the fog…

So lets see, in the end – today I was productive, I identified some things about myself that were better than the things I WANTED for myself.  I learned some new things at work and I tried out a recipe for dinner.  On top of that, the workout I designed was pretty fun too. Check it out.

Squats into curls (3 x10), DB rows into tricep kick backs (3 x 10), calf raises, russian twists (both 3×15), dead lifts into DB Shoulder press (3 x 10), DB bench press on the medicine ball (3×10) and finally, Lateral raises, side and front on the medicine ball (3×10).  The best part about this workout?  Is a) I’m definitely feeling it.  and b) a kid, no more than 5 came in and decided to be like the grownups and show his mom how he could lift weights.  Not only did he do some bicep curls, he also did some shoulder presses with me, he also dropped and laid down some pushups.  See?  If I wouldn’t have gone tonight, I would’ve missed that.  And who wants to miss something thats so adorable?   So I guess that’s a bonus something I’m grateful for today.  How about you? What are you grateful for?


Yesterday I mentioned that I was prepping a delicious filling for what promised to be an equally delicious lasagna.  And aside from the fact that none of my food photographs aestically…

Seriously – it may look like a hot mess.  But it was a hot mess of AWESOME – this baby did NOT disappoint, it was so good.  Layers of lasagna noodles, sauted mushrooms, zucchini and yellow squash, marinara sauce and that insane tofu/spinach blend.  I may have lied forgot and said that this lasagna had cheese in it to the boy.  He MAY have believed me.  He MAY Have eaten two helpings and said it was good. The only thing he said he missed was the meat.  NOTHING about the cheese.  Once I TOLD him it was tofu and not ricotta, he got all grossed out and claimed he KNEW something didn’t taste right.  Such a stigma.  Ignorance is bliss folks… when they ask “is there cheese in this?” – LIE.


Ok guys.  Week two of training is almost to an end and I know I keep saying this, but MAN I am exhausted.  What’s going on body!?  This morning I slowed down my run because my attempted race pace run was just too much for me to struggle through this morning.  I think i’m fighting off a cold, because I spent the next hour after my run coughing up snot. Yaaaay.  This gross fact of the day, brought to you by yours truly.  But seriously.  I’m taking my rest days (on Fridays) and I’m making sure to keep my cross training not as strenuous.  I think this week is just a rough week, mentally and physically.  My body is trying to get used to this new training schedule and i’m trying to make sure I know how to nourish it the way it needs and wants in order sustain this pace.  I also know I could be sleeping a little better too.  New goal.  Sleep better, drink more water (and tea!).  Eat more clementines! Did you guys know, that 2 clementines can pack up to 2/3 of an adult’s DV for Vitamin C??!  Excuse me while I go wolf down the entire bag I purchased this week… So my question is this – when is it ok to take a break from the training?  I know that missing a day here or there isn’t going to hurt my progress, and I know that sometimes its more helpful to let my body rest more.  But how do you know the difference between being tired, but able to work through something but decreasing the intensity, and being tired and parking your butt in bed or on the couch to not push it.  I’m really bad about deviating from routine, I don’t like it.  So of course, I marched back down to the gym this evening with Brandon in tow to do some weights. For the record, Brandon doesn’t lift weights, and even though I designed what I thought was a relatively easy workout (ok, a little heavy on the arms), it was somewhat satisfying to hear “holy jeez” under his breath more than a few times, while I powered through.  He may be bigger and “stronger” than I am, but my working out, even just in this past month has really paid off and that gave me a pretty big push.  This stuff is working, there ARE results. They may not be visible yet, but changes are happening.  And that vindicates me for pushing myself to go, even when I don’t always want to.

And because its Thursday and I”m a sucker for cheering for the underdogs (and my alma mater), Coz and I are going to go celebrate a long hard week of training and watch the UVA football game!

 d’awwww she’s such a good buddy.  Go Wahoos!