Tag Archives: bodybuilding.com

“Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes… how do you measure a year?”



Today my blog turns one!

This means that one year ago I become fully committed to reconciling my lifestyle with the needs of my body, and, to insure that I remained accountable and put my money where my mouth is, as the saying goes, I decided to make this attempt at better health and fitness a very public spectacle. One year later, I have a better understanding of what it means to be “fit,” a lengthy list of personal achievements, goals to work toward, a sense of belonging to a community of health-conscious, supportive people, and no regrets.

I have Jamie Eason and a too-tight dress to thank for getting me kickstarted on the road to healthy living, and while some things will probably never change (I still hate sweating even though I make sure to do it on an almost daily basis), I’m super proud of the things that have changed. I’m more confident in the things my body can do and I rely less on the mirror for feedback and more on how I feel. This is not to say that I don’t want to look good  or that I’m not checking out how my jeans make my butt look when I get dressed each morning, but I’m placing a higher emotional value on things like the fact that my rock-hard quads allow me to squat almost 75 pounds and that my overall fitness has improved so that I could conquer this workout (see below) on Tuesday than I am on whether or not I look like Emma Watson (FYI, I do not).

This comes to me from my Boot Camp instructor, Sarah.
Round 11: go into cardiac arrest in a pool of your own sweat. I snagged this bad boy from my Boot Camp instructor, Sarah. I felt like I was going to die, but I did it.

This year has presented some opportunities that I may not have chosen to accept in the past. I had always wanted to try a Spinning class, but had been too intimidated to actually do it because I was concerned that I wouldn’t be ‘good’ at it. I finally tried it and Spinning has become my favorite cardio workout, and, come to find out, it requires no special skills- it is riding a bike without the need for balance or steering, go figure. Prior to this year, I would not have considered signing up for a Boot Camp especially one that was advertised as means of “stepping up your average hour of hard work” (I have grass-burn on my elbows from so much planking), but I mustered up the courage to sign up (even before I found out that one of my friends was also signed up- I was willing to go it alone!) and have been grateful that I did. I’m learning a lot about proper form and getting quite a few ideas to spice up my normal workout routine on a day to day basis.

One year later, I’m still not a Fitness Freak and I doubt that I ever will be. I’d rather curl up on the couch with a good book than lace up my sneakers and do some sweating and if I could manage to live on a diet of cheese and cake without my arteries exploding, I totally would. I still look up to the Fitness Freaks in my life and see them as sources of inspiration in the way that people see Mother Teresa as a source of inspiration- we’ll never be exactly that committed to the cause, but it’s nice to know that someone is and that, if we were willing to put in a lot more work, we could maybe come close- but I’m not yet ready to declare a love for anything exercise related (although Spinning would be the number one candidate for a passionate declaration of love), and I’m still not interested in subscribing to a specific diet (I have learned the importance of eating sensibly, but I’m not bidding the bakery on the corner adieu any time soon).

I’m assuming the first year of making big life changes like the ones I’ve made is the hardest year. I have hopes that everything will become even easier, that I won’t have to remind myself that I’m supposed to eat nine servings of vegetables per day and not nine servings of Ben & Jerry’s, or that going for a jog outside will start to feel more natural and less like an excursion onto an alien planet where I can’t breathe the air or maneuver across the terrain. My goals for the past year were essentially to take control of my health and to trim down so that I could fit back into my clothes, and I can confidently say that those goals were attained. In the upcoming year, I’m hoping to make peace with running and to greatly improve the strength of my cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and I’m also hoping to continue to enjoy my workouts and feel as much pride for the small milestones as I do for the big ones.

When I look back over my year, I see how much progress I’ve made. It used to be a struggle to do ten pushups (even if I did them on my knees), and a few weeks ago I did a workout that called for 176 pushups and I did them all the ‘real’ way. I once measured my runs in minutes and could’t go much faster than a 12 minute mile, now I measure them in miles and average a 10 minute mile. I valued my body by how it looked compared to others and now I value the things it can do for me- the burpees, the lifting, the running, the cycling. I’m giving myself a pat on the back!



Progress Report

I realize that I am long overdue for some sort of update on my progress. I am not a person who likes to be photographed. I am not the friend on your Facebook newsfeed who posts endless selfies day after day, no, I am the friend who clogs your newsfeed with photos of her pets (pets that don’t change their looks and are doing pretty much the same thing in every single photo), photos of her food (bet you’re super jealous of the banana bread recipe I got from SmittenKitchen…), and photos of nature (because I’m certain that you have NEVER seen a sunrise as magnificent as MY sunrise) please don’t un-friend me!

While I realize that getting fit and being healthier is only partly related to my outward appearance, I also realize that a). at least a small bit of the reason most people embark on a journey toward better health has to do with aesthetics, and, b). seeing is believing. Today, I am going to share with you some updates on my personal progress, photos included, so you can see and believe in the wonders of the LiveFit program (I know I sound like I’m recruiting members for a cult, but I’m not- this program is totally free and the only thing you’ll have to do when the Apocalypse happens is outrun it, and you’ll be fit enough to do so! So c’mon, drink the kool-aid!).

Recently, a friend of mine was retelling to me something that happened to her while out to dinner with some of her husband’s work colleagues. Over the last several months, this friend of mine went on a fitness kick and worked her butt off at the gym (literally) and is in such great shape that when I first ran into her after not seeing her for a while, it took me a few minutes to recognize her. When she was at dinner, one of the colleagues, assuming my friend had gone on this kick because she was into “the health craze,” started to discuss the no-dairy, no-sugar, no-fun diet he is on and this new type of workout he was trying, when my friend interrupted him and said “I didn’t do this because I’m into fitness, I did it so I’ll look good; my motives were totally superficial.” We all have our reasons for wanting to get in better shape, and I applaud my friend for her frankness. Sometimes it seems almost shameful to admit that we work out for aesthetic improvement, but it shouldn’t be; any reason to exercise and eat right is a good reason. I can attribute 100% of my motivation to start the LiveFit program in August to being unhappy with how I looked, and, even now, 50% of my motivation to continue to go to the gym is aesthetic, the other 50% is how wonderful I feel when I eat right and exercise regularly.

Progress can be measured in many different ways, we know this, so I will be sharing more than just my ‘how do I look in this pic?’ progress with you. Unfortunately, but understandably, I couldn’t find any photos from when I was at my heaviest that contain my whole body- I guess I did a great job of avoiding the camera! Had I known that I would stick with the program I might have taken a few ‘before’ pictures for comparison, but, as they say, hindsight is 20/20; not to worry, you can see the difference in just my face.

November of 2012. I looked and felt bloated and doughy.
November of 2012. I looked and felt bloated and doughy.
February 2014. Aaahh, back to normal! Good bye, double chin.
February 2014. Aaahh, back to normal! Good bye, double chin.

You can see the difference, right? The really sad thing is that the first photo would be a good one if I didn’t look like I’d been inflated with helium and was about to float away. C’est la vie. I can’t accurately say how much weight I lost because I’ve shed fat and gained muscle, so its not an even trade, but I’ve lost at the very least 20 lbs. My clothes fit again and I feel more like myself.

A better measure of my progress is the improvements I’ve made in my workouts. When I first started the LiveFit program, it was a struggle to bench press or squat with just the empty barbell. Now, I can bench press the barbell plus 20 lbs added to it and I can squat with an added thirty-five pounds. It might not seem like a big difference, but it really is; my theory on increasing my workload is that I should be able to get through one and a half sets without a struggle, the second half of the second set should be a little work and the third (and sometimes fourth) set should be tough to accomplish. If I don’t feel a little sore the next day in whichever muscles the workout targeted, then I know I need to step it up a little. I think this is a good modus operandi for the non-fitness freak; I know that my workouts are effective because I can feel it the day after, but I’m not in danger of injuring myself because I’m not pushing too hard too quickly. I’m lifting more weight in all of my exercises, but the barbell is the most notable because it is a deceptive piece of equipment; it looks much lighter than it actually is, and, unlike dumbbells which all look the same, so, unless someone is close enough to read the weight etched on the end, nobody knows how weak/strong you are, you feel kind of lame using just the barbell because it feels like everybody is judging your weakness (even though, in reality, nobody gives a damn what you are doing, they’re too focused on their own stuff).

Another place I see a lot of progress is in my cardio workouts, specifically my nemesis, running. I’m stronger all around in my cardio; my lungs don’t feel like they’ve shrunken to the size of water balloons as soon as I pick up the pace and I have more endurance. At the middle of last summer, it was a struggle to run on a treadmill for fifteen full minutes at the fairly slow pace of 5 mph. If I made it to fifteen (or on the more rare occasion twenty) minutes, I gave myself a big pat on the back. Now, I measure my runs in distance and not simply time spent on the treadmill and if I push myself, I can do a ten-minute mile. I have on a few occasions run three miles in thirty minutes and the other day I ran four in fifty. These are not race winning times or distances, but they are a HUGE improvement over struggling to stay at a pace above walking speed for fifteen minutes, and, while I still get a bright red tomato-face when I run, it is after MILE two instead of MINUTE two.

Some other notable accomplishments include the ability to do real push-ups (I can do about 50 before I really want to cry) and real sit-ups (I did 75 the other day and could sneeze without wincing in pain the day after).

Am I on the short-list for the next Olympic weightlifting team?


Has Sports Illustrated contacted me to be in their next swimsuit issue?

Uh, no.

Is running a marathon in my near future?

Definitely, without a doubt, no.

Even so, things are looking pretty good for me. I feel great, I sleep like the dead and wake up energized, I look pretty fantastic if I do say so myself, and I am so far from the do-I-give-all-my-clothes-to-Goodwill-and-buy-a-new-wardrode-two-sizes-larger or do-I-go-on-a-starvation-diet-of-lettuce-and-water dilemma I was in about a year ago that it all seems like a horrible nightmare. If you have been toying with the idea of getting into a fitness routine but aren’t sure how to start or if you have been toying with the idea of starting the LiveFit program (which, incidentally, is the BEST place to start if you don’t know how) but need an extra kick in the pants to get motivated, consider this your kick. Get to it!

Cheers to Jamie Eason!
Cheers to Jamie Eason!


Weekend Warrior

Probably most people find that they have MORE time to hit up the gym on the weekends, but I am the opposite. During the week, my days are carefully scheduled (heads-up, control freak alert!) and I allow enough time to walk my dog, hit up the gym, and take a post-workout shower (in the not-so-clean looking gym showers, but whatever, I just make sure not to touch the walls or floor) before I head off to work, but weekends are different. Weekends are for lounging in bed with your kitty cat. Weekends are for taking a leisurely ride on your horse because you aren’t trying to rush so that you can make it to the gym before work. Weekends are for having spontaneous gelato dates with your friends; they are for lounging in the early spring sun on your back porch while reading your Kindle, and for staying up late to watch a movie. Generally, weekends are for having blissfully unscheduled free time and doing whatever you want- as long as it doesn’t involve putting on ‘real’ pants or make-up.

When the weather is not so gloriously spring-like (temps were in the high sixties all weekend long and the sun was out full-force), I try to drag myself to the gym for a quick workout on Sunday mornings, but I couldn’t make myself spend the time inside away from the sun this weekend, and, since my quads were still twanging from a pretty intense legs workout on Friday, I didn’t have the motivation to go for a run or do a Neila Rey workout either. I felt a little guilty about this, but upon doing a weekend recap, I realized that even though I didn’t do a structured, officially sanctioned “this is exercise I’m doing right now- hey, everybody, I’m doing exercises and they have names and target specific body parts and I can log them on my bodybuilding.com app” workout, I still did a fair amount of exercise.

Saturday morning started with a quick trip by bike into the city center to run a few errands. The bike ride back to my apartment involves going up a big hill which my twanging quads were not too pleased with. Then, most of Saturday was focused around yard work; I pulled a few weeds and planted my kale seeds (if all of the seeds I planted actually grow, I’ll be stuffing kale in my neighbors’ mailboxes to get rid of it, I really hope they all grow!), swept off the patio, inspected the buds on the cherry trees, and critiqued Don’s lawn mowing efforts. Saturday night, we had dinner plans with some friends at a restaurant overlooking all of Amberg from the top of an enormous hill, and we opted to walk (another hill!). Sunday, I had a nice ride with my equine buddy, I think he was really grateful for the perfect weather too, and did a little more yard work, chased Jack around with his toy and biked into town and back once again (that hill!) for a gelato date with my friend.

In hindsight, although I never actually set out with the intention of exercising, I did quite a bit of it. This was a good reminder that beneficial exercise can be found in everyday activities if I just remember to pick the better option; certainly we could have driven to dinner at the top of that overgrown hill/undersized mountain, but walking the 60+ flights up was healthier (and eliminated the guilt of rewarding myself with a tasty kristallweizen), and while I wasn’t doing intense cardio when working in the garden, I was at least moving around and not resting on my laurels watching the world go by (I did that after, while Don was mowing the lawn). This is good to keep in mind because now that the weather is perking up and there is more to actually DO on the weekends, I will be less motivated to drive to the gym and go inside, but that doesn’t mean that I will be shirking my duties. As long as I opt to walk to dinner or spend the afternoon on the seat of my bike instead of my patio chair, I’ll still be getting enough exercise. This is something we can all keep in mind as Spring reaches across the Northern Hemisphere; just because we aren’t on a treadmill doesn’t mean we aren’t being healthy!

These guys get it!: 



I spent most of last night awake while my stomach grappled with the decision whether or not to sacrifice my dinner to the Porcelain Gods, and around 4:00 this morning I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to carry out my plans for the perfect Sunday- an early morning ride followed by some time at the gym and maybe a post-workout brunch with friends. Sabotaged by a sneaky stomach bug and unable to do any physical activities beyond making the five-minute walk to and from the bakery for fresh bread, I have used my confinement to the couch to do a little exercise research.

As February begins, many of us find ourselves one month into our New Year’s Resolutions (If this is you, congrats! If you fell behind, now is your chance for a fresh start!), and we may  be struggling to find some variety in our workouts to keep us interested and motivated. I have been using the workout selection feature of the Bodybuilding.com Body Space iPhone app, and while some of the workouts have been a bust, most of them have been challenging yet accomplishable. Even so, I have been keeping my eyes open for other sources of inspiration to avoid (as the old adage says) putting all of my eggs in one basket.

I came across a book at work by Jan Endacott called ‘Weight Work for Women.’ And while I was initially a little put-off by the title (it seemed to suggest that maybe women can’t perform the same weight work that men can and that things need to be modified for us, nothing gets my pseudo-feminist hackles up more than suggesting that women are inferior), I pulled it from our shelves to add to the library’s January fitness display and promptly forgot about the book until I was switching displays on Friday. As I walked the book back to its rightful place in the non-fiction section, I paged through it and was impressed with the information inside. I think, since the guidelines and explanations within the book are useful for anyone who is just starting a workout regime, a better title would be ‘Weight Work for Those Who are Unfamiliar with Weight Work,’ but that is neither here nor there.

The introduction includes a good, brief overview of the benefits weight lifting provides, like improved bone density, increase in metabolism corresponding with an increase in lean muscle, etc., and it also has simple graphics that show where the muscles you will be working on are located on your body. This is quite helpful because how will you know if you are doing the ‘Triceps Toner’ correctly if you aren’t sure where, exactly, on your body you are supposed to be feeling the burn?

Where my muscles at? Pg 7 of Weight Work for Women.
Where my muscles at? Pg 7 of Weight Work for Women.

The  book proceeds in a logical order; as you are introduced to the book, you learn why working with weights is important to your health, some basic anatomy, how to analyze your fitness before beginning a program, and how to select appropriate exercise equipment. Next, you learn how to stretch specific muscles before and after you exercise, which is important to avoid injury and unnecessary stiffness (always stretch when you a finished with a workout!!!!!), and then you learn how to do a series of exercises (broken into categories based on what region of the body they focus on) before you are given some workout templates combining the various exercises.

What I like most about the book it that it provides a lot of variety in workouts with minimal equipment. For many of the exercises, you need only your body, and for the others you need simply an exercise ball and/or a pair of dumbbells. This makes ‘Weight Work for Women’ the perfect resource for someone who might feel self-conscious about trying these things in a busy gym with what feels like the entire Fitness Freak Nation looking on, or for someone who’s day got away from him and is stuck trying to squeeze whatever exercise he can into the one hour of free time he has while dinner is baking in the oven.

Another FANTASTIC resource for no-excuses-because-you-can-do-this-at-home-in-your-undies workouts was passed along to me by Don. I’m not sure how he stumbled across NeilaRey.com, but I’m sure glad he did. This website, like many fitness websites, features information on nutrition, recipes, workout programs and fitness challenges, and motivational tips for everyone from the beginner looking to dip a toe in the water to the seasoned athlete looking to stay motivated. What is unique about this site is the uncluttered, fresh layout and the easy-to-view info graphics.

When visiting many fitness sites, I am distracted by all of the ‘stuff’ going on. Why all the photos of people with veins bulging on top of their bulging muscles? Why all of the ads for protein powder? Where is the stuff I actually came here to read???? I don’t have a lot of patience for sites that are too busy; I find them distracting and hard to navigate, and, often, I tire of having to weed through all of the crap to find the information I’m seeking and I give up (this is my main complaint with the BodySpace app, too much stuff going on in one tiny space guys. How about the social media part of it be under its own optional tab? I have friends already, I’m looking to you for fitness help!).  Neila Rey’s site is a minimalist’s dream come true.

The color scheme is simple, and the graphics are easy to understand and feature a nondescript cartoon man who demonstrates the exercises instead of a bodybuilder with abs on his abs who makes you feel inadequate. The site is easy to navigate, and Neila’s programs (with accompanying menus), like the 90 Days of Action, can be viewed in your browser, downloaded into PDF format or saved to your Google Drive. The only way Neila Rey could make it easier for you to exercise would be for her to come to your house and do it for you.

If you aren’t ready to commit to a program (and if you are, Neila Rey and Jamie Eason are your gals), the site features a multitude of daily workouts to do. Not only are they things you can do outside of a gym, but the workouts feature clever titles like ‘You Had Me at Bacon’ or “the Hunger Games Workout’.  There is even one appropriately named the TV Workout that is designed to be done during commercial breaks without leaving your couch! Let me say that again: a workout that you do while sitting on the couch during commercial breaks. Like I said, it could only be easier if Neila came over to do a live demo.

Easy to read and understand.
Easy to read and understand.

Each workout is explained in a simplistic info graphic and at the bottom of the graphic, Neila tells how many sets of the workout to do based on the level you are aiming for. In her Workout Manual, Neila ranks the levels as 1 being normal, 2 being hard, and 3 being freaking murder. If you are new to this, it’s probably best to start with normal or hard and work your way up to murder. Be sure to head over to the site and check out all of the great tools offered (for FREE, I might add). My advice is to start with the Motivation Tips and the Nutrition tips before you go on over to the workouts; I think Neila has some good advice that is easier for the average schmo (like me) to follow than is found on other fitness sites that often set the bar higher than the normal person wants to go.

Reading the ‘Practical Guide to Healthy Eating‘ reminds me that it is resolution check-in time! One month in, and I am holding true to my goals of eating healthier (except for today, a stomach bug leads to a carb-fest of buttered toast). Breakfast still needs some improving, it is usually a bowl of cereal and tea so I need to add protein, Lunch is healthy, a big salad and some sort of carb to rebound after my workout, and Dinner features lots of veggies, some protein and very few (if any) extra carbs. I have been eating fewer sweets and cheese (sometimes I go an entire day without eating either, if you can believe it). Now that I have drastically cut back on sugar, things, in general, taste sweeter; earlier this week, Don was making himself a PB&J for the next day’s lunch, and I stuck my finger into the peanut butter jar for a quick taste (we have separate peanut butter jars- he prefers crunchy and I prefer creamy) and was shocked by how sweet it was! Don tried to tell me that I was imagining things, but when we did a comparison of the nutrition labels of our peanut butters, we discovered  that his has 3 grams of sugar per serving while mine only has 2. Now that I have stopped dulling my tastebuds with a steady influx of sugar, they are more sensitive to the sweet stuff. Go figure. I hope everyone else is having success with their resolutions, and if things aren’t going exactly as planned, pick up a copy of ‘Weight Work for Those Who are Unfamiliar with Weight Work Women’ or head over to NeilaRey.com to get yourself back on track. Now that you know there is a TV Workout, start tonight during the Super Bowl- you have no excuses!


Go, go gadget…

We are well into the first month of the year, and many of us have begun our journey to better health. While the downside to the ‘New Year-New Me’ fitness craze is that gyms worldwide seem about 200% busier than normal, those of us who have been going to the gym faithfully year-round will get used to the increased gym traffic in time and those of us who are familiarizing ourselves with the gym for the first time will get our sea-legs soon enough and navigating the maze of machines will become second nature.

Over the last week or two, I have heard some of my gym acquaintances muttering about looking forward to the Resolution drop-off that will start in February. While I am tempted to agree with them when I have to change my workout plan on the fly because each dumbbell from 10-25 pounds is in use, the squat racks and Smith machines are all occupied, and every treadmill is whizzing away underneath a pair of sneakers, I am actually glad to see so many people committed to their health and I hope everyone is able to stick with their resolutions.

If you have resolved to be healthier and more fit, bravo for you! As you continue on your journey, remember that starting is the HARDEST part. The first day is awful, the first week is brutal, the first time you run a mile is excruciating, and the first time you try a new type of exercise is difficult. You wouldn’t want to have to start all over again, so stick with your resolution and don’t give up; if you can take that first step and walk a mile or do ten push-ups without your arms giving out on you, you can keep up with your workouts for an entire week. If you can make it to the gym for a whole week, you can surely do it for a month, and if you make it a month, you can do it the following month, and the one after that….until it is January 2015 and you need to find another resolution to make because you stuck with this year’s!

While I generally abide by a ‘less is more’ life philosophy, I find it extremely helpful to have things that keep track of my exercise and hold me accountable as I try to become healthier. There are probably a million gadgets and gizmos out there to help you become more fit; I wish I had the time and money to try each and every one of them, but I do not. The following is an overview of some things that I find useful and are worth it for you to consider trying. Some of these things I have mentioned previously, but I think they deserve to be mentioned again.

Go, go gadget…

Part of the main interface for the iPhone FitBit app
Part of the main interface for the iPhone FitBit app

FitBit: This company has something for everyone when it comes to pedometers. I call them pedometers because that is basically what they are, but they are pedometers on steroids, they are the Incredible Hulk of pedometers. I have had my FitBit One for about a year and LOVE it. With it, I can track my daily steps, flights of stairs climbed, distance travelled, calories burned and activity level. Online or in your smartphone, you can log the food you eat and activities the FitBit can’t track (like swimming) and you can seek out friends who also have FitBits to see how many steps they have. Aside from the One, FitBit offers another pedometer called the Zip and two that you can wear around your wrist, the Flex and the Force. Their products range in price from $60-$130 which seems pretty steep for a pedometer, but I sent mine through the washing machine this summer and it still works, so sometimes paying a little more has its benefits. What I like most about the FitBit is that it is an activity tracker and food log all in one and I like the social media aspect of it. A little friendly competition encourages me to be more active; currently, my Dad is leading my friends in steps. He is even beating a guy who ran a full marathon last weekend!

See how your steps compare to your friends'
See how your steps compare to your friends’ with FitBit

Bodybuilding.com: This website is great for people who are just starting to focus on strength training. Here you can find many programs (including the LiveFit Trainer, hint hint, nudge, nudge) designed for different needs, you can learn how to do various exercises by watching helpful videos, get nutrition advice and recipes, buy supplements, learn how to properly stretch, and even read informative articles like this one about stepping into the gym for the first time (coincidentally by my fav gym guru, Jamie Eason).  Everything except for the supplements is free. That’s right, FREE gym advice, FREE workout templates, FREE nutritional programs, FREE demonstration videos. It doesn’t get much better than that, right?

Home screen of the Bodyspace app
Home screen of the Bodyspace app

Bodyspace App: This free app is another facet of bodybuilding.com. You can access the app online through their site or you can download it for your smartphone. The app can help you find workouts and exercises specific to whichever muscle groups you want to focus on and you can track the workouts that you have done so that you can see your progress. You can search for specific workouts to track, for example, if you are thinking of starting the Live Fit trainer (do it! do it!) you can type ‘Jamie Eason’ under Find a Program and track your workouts as you go. I could do without the social media aspect of this app because I find the interface very cluttered especially when compared to FitBit’s, but otherwise the app is a convenient way to keep tabs on yourself. If you don’t have a smartphone or don’t feel like using fancy apps to track your workouts, invest in a notebook so that you can track your progress.

Find workouts by program and track them with Bodyspace. Too easy!
Find workouts by program and track them with Bodyspace. Too easy!

Map My Run, Map My Walk, Map My Ride: A few more free apps that help keep you moving. As their names depict, each app can help you track your running/walking/biking route and the distance and speed at which you travelled. Favorite routes can be saved and routes can be suggested for you. You can use these apps on your computer or smartphone, the only downfall is that the gps tracking really zaps your phone’s battery so it is not ideal for long bike rides.

Workout clothing: It is extremely important to have clothes that fit you well and that you feel comfortable in for exercising; you want to be able to move freely and not fidget with a too-short shirt or pants that are heading south. If you feel self-conscious about starting a workout program, it will only be intensified if you are uncomfortable in your clothing. Material is the second most important factor; pick material that is sweat wicking and lightweight so that you aren’t burning up while you are feeling the burn. If you want to get fancy-schmancy, some companies are now making things with antimicrobial materials to guarantee you won’t get swamp ass, but I’m not convinced this is necessary. At this point, my favorite workout clothes are the Under Armour Perfect Pant and the GapFit Breathe Ts and tank tops. I also like the Under Armour running shirts, but the GapFit Breathe material is super lightweight and super soft. I received a couple for Christmas, so we will see how they hold up compared to the Under Armour shirts.

Sneakers: With all of the innovative technology that goes into modern footwear, you really can’t go wrong choosing sneakers; basically they are all lightweight, breathable and balanced and it is really up to your personal preference as to which type and brand to buy. When shopping, be sure to try on a variety of pairs and take your time so that you end up with the best sneaker for you and ask for help from a sale associate who knows something about something.

I  hope some of this information is helpful, and I double hope that you are still hanging in there with your fitness resolutions. Remember to take things slowly at first so that you don’t rush off and injure yourself, and keep in mind that, at first, you may not see results when you look in the mirror. One of the easiest ways to get discouraged is to expect to see dramatic changes super fast. Instead of standing in front of the mirror every morning and hoping to see your face on Mary J. Blige’s body (she is super fit!), think about how you feel. Are you sleeping better at night because those workouts are zapping that anxious energy that usually keeps your mind ticking away? Do you feel more energized because you are filling up on fruits, veggies and nuts instead of coffee cake and Twizzlers? Are you getting less winded when you go for a walk or run because your body is getting stronger? These are the changes you’ll see right away and they are signs that your commitment to health is off to a good start. Keep going to those workouts and keep eating the right stuff! Next time, I’m hoping to piece together some of my favorite healthy recipes to share with you… expect to see some kale!

You Can’t Outrun a Bad Diet: It’s Resolution Time, Baby

As much as I love the holidays and all of the merrymaking that accompanies them, I am looking forward to not having to be on guard against hidden calories every time I put something in my mouth. Don and I have a friend who is an excellent baker and she gave us a basket filled with goodies that we have finally found the bottom of, our stash of chocolate that ‘Santa’ left in our stockings is dwindling, and our roaring schedule of parties, dinners out with friends and celebratory feasts has toned back down to normal. I admit to indulging over the holidays (you show me the person who claims to be able to resist a sugar cookie and I’ll show you a liar), but I was diligent about staying active as much as possible.

There were a several days over the last few weeks where I had perfectly legitimate ‘Get Out of Jail Free Cards’- the gym opened later and closed earlier most days, I had to work longer hours to accommodate for holiday closures, and the weather has been damp and dreary- but I didn’t use them! It would have been so easy to hit snooze and nestle back under my covers for another thirty minutes of sweet, sweet sleep or to use the spare hour I had in between work and a holiday party to blow-dry and accessorize, but I didn’t choose the easy route! Instead, I chose the healthy route; the sometimes-I-had-to-get-up-at-4:30-and-go-running-in-the-dark-with-my-faithful-husband-and-hound route; the I’m-sorry-I-showed-up-to-your-party-with-wet-hair-and-only-one-earring-but-I-managed-to-squeeze-in-30-minutes-of-cardio route, and while I didn’t always feel like I was getting in the best workouts, I was grateful for having even the teeniest bit of exercise to both ward off the Ghosts of Christmas Treats Past and help relieve some of the anxiety that accompanies the holidays for everyone over the age of thirteen (why isn’t the Post Office a 24-hour operation and why can’t I buy tape, wine and mittens at the same store?).

Now that the tree has been dragged to the curb (or, if you are from Vermont, placed in the bed of your pickup to be forgotten about until it is a skeleton shedding rust-colored needles and you need to take it out to make room for a deer carcass)*, it is time to start thinking about your resolutions for the New Year! Probably, since it is the 6th of January, many of you have already pledged yourself to some form of betterment and maybe you have even begun to act on this pledge (if so, you should make a resolution to be an over-achiever because you are well on your way, my friend), but for the rest of us, the time to make a resolution is NOW and what better thing than to resolve to be healthier?

Being healthier means different things to people. Over the last five months, I have made a huge commitment to my health and have been impressed with myself for both finishing the LiveFit program and sticking with my workout routine after the program; a year ago, I would never have gone running in the wee hours of the morning unless I was thrown into some weird sort of Hunger Games scenario and my life depended on it. Even so, there are still things I need to work on and one of the biggest components for good health is a good diet, so I have resolved to eat better. I have been saying that I am trying to eat better for months and months and months, but as a wise Jedi master once advised a young Luke Skywalker “Do, or do not, there is no try.”

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

We’ve all heard the sayings: ‘You are what you eat’, ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’, ‘abs are built in the kitchen’, ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’, etc. It is a sad situation we have created for ourselves; we have an abundance of food available to us at all times of the year conveniently packaged in cellophane so that it stays fresh pretty much forever, but unfortunately all of that food is crap. It is tasty crap, it is convenient crap, but it is crap just the same. My first order of business was to trade pre-packaged processed fake food  for real food whenever possible. Why grab a can of overly salty soup from the store shelf when I own a knife, cutting board and a crockpot and can make my own soup? Why buy a tube of pre-made pizza dough that stays fresh for a suspiciously long time when I can dump flour, water and yeast in a bowl before I leave my house in the morning and have pizza dough waiting for me when I get home at night? Before I grab a package of something with vegetable flavoring from the grocery store shelf, I consider whether I have the skills and time to use the real vegetable instead, and if I lack the time, maybe I can do it tomorrow instead and eat something else tonight? I have been exploring new recipes (especially recipes for kale, if you have any of those, pass them along) so that I don’t get stuck in a boring health food rut.

In order to start eating better, I also had to identify the worst parts of my diet and the best parts of my diet.

The Worsts!: Cheese, bread, sugar

The Bests: kale, fruit, tea/water

What I have going for me in my current diet is that I love fresh fruit, I drink mostly tea and water and never soda, and since Thanksgiving, kale has been abundant in the grocery store so we have been eating it about five nights a week (hence the request for kale recipes, my husband has not uttered one protest about the month-long kale parade but I’m reaching the end of my creativity). My weaknesses are cheese (the stinkier and creamier, the better!), anything made in a bakery but particularly the German Weißbrot that I can get fresh from the oven at my grocery store, and, as always, sweets. My plan, and it is working so far, is to simply reduce the amount of the ‘worsts’ I eat and substitute more of the ‘bests’. When I have a hankering for something sweet and crunchy, instead of reaching for a divine chunk of hazelnut and raisins Ritter Sport, I grab a handful of juicy grapes. I have also been making plans for my meals so that I don’t get caught starving at dinnertime in a grocery store and snacking on a mozzarella ball as I wander the aisles wondering what I am going to make for dinner.


Eating healthier doesn’t have to be a big challenge. It seems like an overwhelming task and one that involves depriving yourself of treats, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m still treating myself to cookies, chocolate, beer and glühwein, I’m just not treating myself to them every day, and I’m keeping in mind what little I know about human biology and evolution. We are an animal that once spent its days wandering in search of food sometimes finding it, sometimes not. We evolved and developed a storage system (hello fat cells) for the food that we did not need at the moment but were able to consume so that we could use it later when we couldn’t find food, and then we evolved some more and developed ways to store food for longer (hello freezers and preservatives) so that there would never be a time when we couldn’t find it. My diet philosophy is this: eat when you are hungry, stop when you are not. If your sweet tooth is calling, see if fruit will satisfy before you reach for the Snickers. Fresh is best, frozen or canned is ok, chemical flavoring is to be avoided whenever possible. Fill your plate with veggies, leave a small space for protein and an even smaller space for carbs. And please, send me your kale recipes!

*I joke about Vermont because I love Vermont. Born and raised on the shores of Lake Champlain, I recognize that there are a multitude of things we Vermonters do well (pretty much everything), but getting rid of things we are finished using is not one of them.

No more training wheels, uh-oh….


The last day of the LiveFit trainer was sort of anticlimactic; it was simply one hour of cardio, and the fact that I had actually completed all twelve weeks didn’t sink in until the NEXT day when I got to the gym and flipped open my notebook to….an empty page.

Instead of a carefully constructed agenda for my day’s workout complete with asterisks and stars marking the supersets and active rests, I had no plan whatsoever. The possibilities were endless, and all that wide-open space to roam free was a little bit daunting. At first, I thought, “haha! See you suckers, I don’t have to BE here, I can just leave if I want, I FINISHED my twelve weeks!”, but that was a stupid thought. Why, oh WHY, would I skip out on my gym routine when I just put all that work into establishing it? Well, honestly because deciding what to do in the gym is not easy. I felt overwhelmed by all of the choices and just when I started to panic, I thought WWJD (Jamie, not Jesus)?

I realized that it was, in theory, a Legs day, and I flipped back through all of the previous Legs days and pieced together my workout based on my favorites of Jamie’s exercises, I call it Legs: Greatest Hits. While definitely not original, I ended up with a good workout and hopefully I will get more brave about designing my own. The rest of the week was much the same; I picked exercises from the LiveFit Trainer based on which body part I was focusing on each day and tried to do forty-five minutes to an hour of lifting and thirty minutes of cardio.

My schedule has gotten a little wonky with all of the festive gatherings of the holiday season, so I am taking two or even three days off from the gym in the coming weeks. In order to be consistent, I will continue to pick ala carte from Jamie’s workouts and follow her schedule as best I can through the holidays, and then I may do Phases Two and Three over again, we’ll see what the New Year brings.

This first week after finishing LiveFit was more difficult than actually doing the program. While I like having the freedom to change things around if, say, the leg press machine has a line of twenty people waiting for it, I am apprehensive about being able to design a workout that gets the job done without overdoing it. Thanks to Jamie, I have some guidelines to help me out.

Now that I’ve moved away from the circuit training featured in Weeks 11 and 12 and gone back to doing fewer reps with more weight, I realize that I have become much stronger even within the last month. For the first time, I put weights on my barbell to bench press (no joke, up until today I used only the barbell, my arms are about as useful as a T-Rex’s) and I added an extra five pounds for my squats. Even though I enter the gym feeling uncertain about the choices I have made for my workout, I usually leave feeling like Wonder Woman, and that, my friends, is pretty badass.

Sometimes, Ignorance is Bliss

I now know what a burpee is.

It is not, as I previously thought, a cutesy way to describe a belch (“Oh, excuse me! I just burpeed!). It is, in fact, a particularly puzzling exercise that can only have been thought up by a Fitness Freak (who am I kidding?  All exercises were thought up by Fitness Freaks!). There are a couple of things that are puzzling about this maneuver; one being who can execute this exercise without worrying their arms are going to give out and, in one instant, years of orthodontic work will be undone as their face smashes into the floor? That was a big concern for me when I attempted to burpee (can burpee be a verb?), but what is most puzzling is how in the world does anyone do a burpee well?

I am not a very coordinated person, and this probably is easier if you are coordinated, but this exercise seems to defy physics. If you do not have the misfortune of knowing what a burpee is,  it is a combination of a pushup and a jump. I know what you are thinking, you are thinking that there is no WAY a pushup and a jump can be combined, and you are thinking this because you are a rational human being who understands the physical limitations of the human body. Unfortunately, someone, maybe as a joke or a dare, decided to fall from a standing position onto their hands, kick out their legs behind them, do a pushup, and pop back up into standing position again. It’s pretty hard to do when you have gravity and your level of tiredness working against you.

Thirty burpees was the assigned amount to do on Day 59, Chest & Shoulders day. I got through ten of the them before I felt I was in serious danger of losing my front teeth, and then I finished the last two sets as plain ‘ole pushups. The best thing about the burpee is that it makes pushups feel comforting and almost easy by comparison. If I had to rank them, burpee would now come in as my least favorite exercise and pushups my second least favorite.

What is my all-time favorite exercise? I’m so glad you asked! The hands-down BEST exercise is a yoga position that I call ‘Starfish out of Water.’ For this exercise, you simply lie flat on your back with your legs and arms flung about you and your chest heaves up and down as you gasp for breath. I composed this exercise myself and I demonstrate it daily (usually when I’ve had enough of the active rests) in hopes that it will catch on as the newest craze.

Week Nine is super-intense, and I am very proud of myself for making it through. I had to step out of my comfort zone quite a bit this week, most notably on the day I could not fit a morning workout in and had to go to the gym after work. This unfortunate circumstance happened on Day 2 of Week Nine which was the looooongest workout of the week and the first workout that required running on the treadmill.

Not only is it difficult to find ANY motivation at 6:30pm when it is dark outside and I should be home eating dinner, but the gym is quite busy at that time. I was overwhelmed when I walked into the fitness center and felt the burst of hot, sweaty air. It seems that 6:30 at night is prime time for the muscle-bound 18-22 year olds to hit the gym. And I mean MUSCLE BOUND- guys with rock-hard C-cups and tendons that looked like Rebar bulging out of their necks. At one point, I had to ask a guy to return my barbell because he snatched it while my back was turned assuming nobody was using it because there wasn’t any weight on it. These dudes were serious about their weightlifting and that helped motivate me quite a bit; maybe I couldn’t add any weight to my barbell, but I gave 100% effort in every single one of my sets and I rocked those active rests. In hindsight, my Monday night workout was the best of the week. The biggest upside to being at the gym with the entire cast of WWF wrestling is that I was the daintiest person on the treadmill. I looked like a graceful little goat prancing along in a sea of bulldogs.

After the high-impact routines featured in Week Nine, I was thankful for my rest day yesterday, and I used my time away from the gym to invest in the coming weeks by treating myself to a pair of new sneakers! Today I began Week 10 and my feet were feeling fantastic in my shoes. Make sure you are rewarding yourself for all of the good work you are doing, whether it be a new pair of workout pants (most likely in a smaller size!), a sweet treat, or even just five minutes of ‘Starfish out of Water’ on the gym floor.

My new sneaks!
Life is good in my new sneaks!