After a three-day holiday hiatus I finally got back into my workout routine (I was dragged to the gym by Don), and, since I’m still hanging on to this teensy little cold, we avoided the typical cardio heavy-workouts that are my punishment of choice after a few days of slothing around. I took this opportunity of having a gym-buddy accompany me to learn a few new tricks.
Today, Don taught me how to do box jumps. I have seen people doing box jumps before, but, with my well-known lack of coordination and natural athletic ability, had never attempted them myself, and now that I have, I can say they are much harder to do than they look. I chose the smallest box, one about 12 inches in height, and Don promptly- to my dismay- traded it in for one that was about 30 inches high.
It takes a little trust in yourself to do a box jump; you must jump from the floor onto the box without a). losing your balance and falling backward, b). knocking your shins into the edge of the box, c). losing your balance and falling sideways, d).missing the box or e). losing your balance and falling forward. I made all five possible mistakes but eventually got the hang of it (probably to the disappointment of the man running around on the indoor track that overlooks the workout area- I saw you trying to cover up your laughter!).
We spent the rest of our workout playing around with other new things- strength bags, wall balls, and some super tough leg exercises involving the boxes. It was fun to get out of the normal routine and try some new things and also fun to have a companion with me while I got back into the swing of things, and, now that my legs have been engulfed in flames, I can return to my blanket nest on the couch and continue binge watching season 2 of Nashville.
I just LOVE it when someone I know finds a new hobby as it makes gift-giving super easy. If that hobby requires the frequent replacement or upgrading of materials or tools- even better! I am an annoyingly practical person and prefer to gift people with things that they really truly want, will actually use, and also get some enjoyment out of. I call it the Gift Trifecta or Triple Crown of Presents.
When I started making fitness and overall health a priority; I began to get gifts that helped me keep up with my fitness goals, and this Christmas was no different. Yesterday’s present-unwrapping extravaganza yielded a bounty of health and fitness related items that I can’t wait to try out (although I woke up with a bit of a cold this morning, so wait I shall). I will admit that some of these gifts were on my list of requests for Santa and came to me through some serious hint-dropping (read: emailing of Amazon.com wish list to my husband), but not all of them.
A new cookbook was under the tree for me this year, and it was one I had never heard of but fell in love with as soon as I saw the title. The Thug Kitchen cookbook is built on the premise that we generally eat way more processed foods and animal products than is healthy (a premise that most experts seem to think is true). I started flipping through the book as soon as I unwrapped it (c’mon, who could ignore a title like THAT?), and had read it cover to cover by the time I went to sleep. The writing is funny, the photos made my mouth water and the recipes seem like just enough of a challenge where I won’t be overextending myself but will feel like I accomplished something important. In fact, after yesterday’s reading, there is only one recipe that I won’t make- the recipe for horchata because I don’t like horchata to begin with. I can’t wait until the holiday leftovers are eaten so that I can start working on some of these! I’ve since discovered the Thug Kitchen website, and you can too if you click here.
I received an enormous water bottle and a barbell pad from Don. Ever since the beginning of the summer when I failed to hydrate properly, I have become neurotic about my water consumption. At one point this summer, I was filling three normal sized water bottles to take with me to work everyday, and it became inconvenient because I would often leave them places and then not have enough water to get through the next day because I couldn’t find the water bottle to fill it. In order to make my life easier, I began buying the 1.5 liter bottles of water from the grocery store and bringing those to work with me, but I felt pretty guilty about the unnecessary consumption of plastic. My problem was solved yesterday with the gift of a 48oz Nalgene. I can keep track of one water bottle throughout the day and now I don’t have to waste our natural resources because it is reusable.
The barbell pad is a solution to another problem. Now that I’m using more weight, barbell squats have become, literally, a pain in the neck. My towel no longer provides enough cushion under the weight of the bar, and I’m left with a red mark (and pain!) across my shoulders and neck. This neoprene cushion that slides over the bar should help make squats more comfortable.
Other gifts received were a yoga mat (perfect for living room dates with Adriene), a headband that promises not to slip and will, hopefully, do a better job of keeping the flyaways under control than the ones I currently use (nothing ruins a workout like having annoying wisps of hair irritatingly sticking to your sweaty face and tickling you, can I get an amen?!), and a jump rope.
The jump rope was definitely on my wish list because I am pretty bad at it and I want to practice out of the public eye. I see people at the gym who are really talented jump ropers, and I want to look like them. I’ve actually been envious of anybody with talent for rope-jumping since my Jump Rope for Heart days in grade school; there were always a handful of kids who could spring spring spring with a steady cadence and made it look so easy, but I spent (and still spend) most of my time just barely hopping off the ground and snapping myself in the shin with the rope. It is my hope that, with some practice, I will be able to look more natural jumping rope since it is a good way to get a quick cardio workout, and it will be a very useful option to have in the weeks to come (we are, after all, approaching New Year’s Resolution Season) when the treadmills and ellipticals will be much busier than they have been of late (earlier this week, I was one of only eight people working out. The calm before the storm…).
As nice as it is to try out new stuff at the gym, these things are equally as practical as they are fun. Some of them will provide me with ways to make sure that I can still squeeze in some exercise when I can’t make it to the gym, and others will just make my workout experience a little easier no matter where I’m doing it or will maybe make sure that my health is still taking priority when I’m doing things other than exercise. The best part about gifts like these is that they keep on giving and not just in the sense that I’ll use them again and again, but in that they give me so much more than what they advertise. They give me the gift of good health, better self-esteem, and, essentially, a longer life, and who wouldn’t want to unwrap those things on Christmas morning?
I’m not being pessimistic here, I’m being realistic. During this long season of festivity*, it’s a difficult enough task to not get sucked into the black hole of holiday goodies, and to think that we can try to avoid the goodies enough to actually lose weight is crazy-talk. My goal this year, and I’ve been told by my friends at the Wellness Center that it is a good goal, is to simply maintain.
This is a challenge that is compounded by the easy availability of all things deliciously associated with this time of year and by the generosity of my co-workers making and bringing sugary goodies to work and plunking them down on the communal table which is inconveniently located NEXT TO MY DESK (although, upon opening a box of chocolates for investigation, I discovered that they were shaped like bunnies and eggs. When questioned, the coworker who brought them confessed that they had been kicking around her house since Easter (she evaded my question of WHICH Easter) and they became immediately easier to resist). The challenge is not to turn down all treats, but to have enough presence of mind to eat only the ones you truly enjoy, and only in quantities you aren’t embarrassed to log into your MyFitnessPal account.
‘Tis the season to celebrate, and if you are going for total abstinence where the holiday cocktails and cookies are concerned, not only will you miss out on some really tasty things that maybe aren’t available year-round, but you will also probably not be invited to many holiday outings next year; when the goal is to eat drink and be merry, having a teetotaler around is kind of a downer. Save that stuff for the New Year, but do what you can to avoid blowing up like Violet Beauregarde a la “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
To get me to the other side of Christmas without packing on the pounds, I’ve been employing a few key strategies. The most important of these strategies is that I’m still making my workouts a top priority. Even if I can’t make it to the gym, I’m setting dates in my living room with Neila Rey, I’m trying to walk instead of drive whenever possible, and I’m setting my alarm so that, on days when I have time for the gym, I’m not tempted to sleep through my workout.
Another key to making sure I’m staying healthy through the holidays is eating a good breakfast. Sure I’d save myself twenty minutes by grabbing a pastry and coffee-to-go at the bakery on the corner, but my oatmeal with banana helps ease me into the day and makes sure I’m staying fuller longer than the pastry could and for half the calories. I’m also saving the treats for truly special occasions. While I could happily sip glühwein all by my lonesome as I work on chores around the house, I save it for when I’m out with friends. The same goes for my meals; when out with friends to celebrate the season, I’ll indulge, but for the quick lunch I grab at my desk or for a normal weeknight dinner with Don, I’m making healthy, veggie-laden meals.
I will not be fifteen, ten or even five pounds lighter on January second than I was at the start of the holiday season, but I’m confident that I also will not be five pounds heavier. Do yourself a favor and let yourself off the hook a little bit over the holidays; it is the time to indulge and celebrate the spirit of the moment. Stick with your workout routine as much as you can (and if you don’t yet have a workout routine, maybe you should try adopting one now instead of waiting until 1 January so it will be that much easier to kickstart your resolutions), eat a good breakfast, keep the treats as treats- don’t make them an all-day-every-day affair, and remember you are not obligated to eat a piece of fudge that somebody brought to the office unless you really, truly want to eat a piece of fudge.
*This long season of festivity extends from 31 October (or whatever the date is when you buy and begin to “sample” the candy for trick-or-treaters) to when the last of the leftovers are eaten sometime at the beginning of January. It is, as they say, not a sprint, but rather a marathon.