Tag Archives: Holidays

Shifting Gears

Frosty the Snowman's cousin, Grainy the Sandman.
Frosty the Snowman’s cousin, Grainy the Sandman.

With the marathon now behind me- two weeks behind, in fact, and the holidays winding down, it is time for me to stop resting on my laurels and look forward to what fitness in 2016 will mean to me. The past few months have been incredibly busy ones; not only was I in the midst of a super-duper running regime with my eye on that marathon finish line, but after spending much of spring and all of summer unemployed, I started a full time job just before Thanksgiving. Having the structure of a running program already in place helped keep physical activity a part of my daily life as I made the transition from person-who-has-more-free-time-than-she-knows-what-to-do-with to person who now-is-required-to-sit-at-a-desk-for-eight-hours-a-day-and-is-struggling-to-find-time-to-make-gym/dog walking/cooking-priorities.

With the completion of the marathon comes a brief and necessary respite from an intense running schedule, but without the set-in-stone dates with my running group, I’ve been finding it a challenge to make my workouts a priority. The biggest problem I’m faced with is that I’m a morning person and I’d like to be both at work and at the gym in the mornings because it is when I am at my best. Because I am bound by the limits of science and physics and because I do not know where Hermione Granger stashed the Time Turner necklace when she was finished with it, it is not possible for me to be both at work and at the gym simultaneously.

I am fortunate in that my new workplace (at a job I am starting to really like for its mental challenges even though I wish I wasn’t sitting at a desk for hours on end) is flexible and I am allowed to set my own 8 hour workday schedule. This is a huge blessing, and I know it. Because of this flexibility, I have been able to get myself into work as the sun rises and be at the gym ready to go by 4:00 pm. This is, in theory, plenty of time for a normal person to fit in a good workout and still have enough time to make a healthy dinner, and this is where I must find a way to compromise between my laid-back, no hurry no worry, unemployed schedule when I had to be sure to stretch my daily tasks to fill all of my waking hours and my new schedule of one who is gainfully employed and there now seem to be more things to do in a day and, even though I wake up a full hour earlier, less time in which to do them.

For me, the solution, as always, is planning. I’m taking time this week to buckle down on my meal planning so that there are fewer spur-of-the-moment trips to the grocery store for a single item and I’m also trying to make sure I have a loose idea of what I want to accomplish at the gym each week. It is much easier to decide that I don’t have time to go to the gym when the gym is this vague idea of somewhere I will go to do something in order to get a little sweaty; it will be harder to talk myself out of going when I know that Monday is “arms” day and Tuesday will be “legs” day because on Thursday I want to go for a run which means “legs” day can’t be on either Wednesday or Friday. Having a concrete plan makes it much harder to say “no thanks, I’ll pass,” and that is a good thing especially when it feels like my schedule, as often happens this time of year, has wound itself out of control.

It’s mind over matter for us as we wind down 2015 and look forward to new beginnings. It is time to make a plan and give ourselves a hard time if we make excuses and don’t stick to it. Its time to find a goal to work toward- it doesn’t have to be a big goal, maybe you’d like to be able to stay on the elliptical for 20 minutes without feeling like your heart will burst, perhaps you’d like to start lifting weights and have your eye on being able to do some biceps curls with the 10 lb dumbbells without dropping them on your toe, or it might be as simple as dragging your tired, sweatpants-clad butt off the couch and taking a mile walk five days a week- these are good goals! I’ve set myself another big goal of running the Hapalua Half Marathon in April and hopefully improving my time, and having that looming on the horizon will help keep me from becoming fused with the couch (so will the awesome new running skirt my parents gave me for Christmas! I can’t wait to take it on its maiden voyage).

Remember, as you’re setting your post-holiday fitness goals, to set some simple, easy to attain goals alongside your bigger, harder goals. It can be overwhelming to work toward the goal of losing 10 lbs if you don’t have the gratification of first accomplishing the goals of eating more vegetables, walking at least 10,000 steps in a day, or making it to the gym three times in a week along the way. These smaller goals help you achieve the bigger goal and give you that nice feeling of accomplishment, and there is no better motivator than feeling accomplished.

Seeing double? Laundry just became less of a priority- thanks Mom & Dad!
Seeing double? Laundry just became less of a priority- thanks Mom & Dad!



Taking it Outside

I must confess that I haven’t been putting the beautiful Hawaiian weather to good use and have been working out inside since we arrived. Not only are the temperatures much hotter than I am used to, but our hotel is also in a location that isn’t very conducive to exercising outside. The hotel is next to a busy highway where traffic doesn’t stop (even for pedestrians in marked crosswalks) unless the light turns red, and where many homeless people have made their camps under the overpasses.

Part of the fun of going outside for a run is taking in the scenery, and since the scenery along the highway consists of fast food wrappers and broken bottles, I haven’t been all that motivated to take to the great outdoors beyond going out with Jack for his early morning walks. Since the small size of the hotel gym (I think it was converted from a suite into a gym as it is twice the size of our hotel room) and its limited equipment options were making me a little stir crazy, I was pretty psyched when Don had the long weekend off and we could go out and about on the island and do some fun things.

Koko Head as seen from Diamond Head
Koko Head as seen from Diamond Head

Our most ambitious activity was a hike up the Diamond Head Crater. Diamond Head is one of O’ahu’s most notable landmarks and this hike, while on a marked trail with hand-railings, is not for the faint of heart. As usual, the weather was hot and Don and I were glad to have packed our water bottles for the trek. We saw quite a few tourists hiking in flip flops, crocs, dress shoes and street clothes (dresses, jeans, stuff you shouldn’t be wearing on a hike), and by the time I made it halfway up the crater, I was feeling very sorry for them.

Waikiki as seen from Diamond Head
Waikiki as seen from Diamond Head

I think because the hike is only a mile and a half round trip, people underestimate how tough it is; by the time Don and I reached the summit, we had climbed 84 floors. Even though it is a short hike, it is a very steep one and the terrain is challenging because the trail, while marked with handrails, is a footpath created by the erosion of people walking on the crater so it is very uneven and narrow. When we reached the top, we were rewarded with wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean, Koko Head crater in the distance, and Waikiki. Working out with Mother Nature was a welcome break from the confines of the hotel Fitness Room. Although we were tired and sweaty by the time we climbed down (who am I kidding, we were tired and sweaty before we even reached the summit!), it was great to feel the sun on our shoulders and breathe in the fresh seaside air. I hope your long weekend was equally satisfying!

We're just a small island in the middle of a big ocean
We’re just a small island in the middle of a big ocean



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.

Box jumps! Even cats like them:

Holiday Haul: the gifts that keep on giving

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.

"Eat like you give a f@ck"
“Eat like you give a f@ck” ’nuff said.

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 FullSizeRender-8the 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…).

"Jump around, jump around, jump up, jump up and get down..."
“Jump around, jump around, jump up, jump up and get down…”

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?


What to Expect When You’re Expecting…. to Lose Weight Over the Holidays



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.

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time!

Dresden Striezelmarkt at night
Dresden Striezelmarkt at night

I know I’m not alone in this sentiment; I LOVE CHRISTMAS TIME! The lights, the boxes wrapped in shiny paper, the tinsel, the music (played ad nauseam in every store, but a good kind of nausea), the parties, the hot drinks, the cookies and candies… the holidays are the BEST… except that all of the rollicking festive cheer can sometimes hijack our schedules and, even with good intentions, we are sometimes forced to let our workouts slide.

Twice this week I found myself standing in line at the Post Office watching my gym time tick away while I waited to mail packages (TICK, there go the barbell 21s, TOCK, and there go the cable rows). As frustrating as it can be to have to forego planned workouts and improvise, it is still much better than not doing a workout at all especially at this time of year when it seems like the only fruits close at hand are made of marzipan and the only veggies being offered are the garnishes next to the baked brie.

On the days when I was really crunched for time this week, I made sure to do my (stress-relieving!) cardio first, and then fit in whatever weightlifting I had time for after, and on the days when I was ahead of schedule, I made myself do a full-fledged, ball-busting workout.

It's beginning to look a lot like…calories.
It’s beginning to look a lot like…calories.

Sticking to a healthy diet is the hardest at this time of year, especially in Bavaria where everything is bobbing in butter sauce or dusted with powdered sugar. At a dinner event last week, our table was discussing the inevitable weight gain that accompanies a move to Europe (almost thirty pounds in total for me!) and one man, who has lived here for a while,  says he calls it the ‘European Squishy’ which I found quite funny. In effort to avoid returning to my ‘Squishy’ state, I feel like I’m coming out ahead if I pass on a few treats and make it to the gym at least four days a week.

If the holidays are hampering your gym schedule, there are some at-home ways to get your workout in. Jumping rope is great cardio, and a jump rope is cheap and easy to store. I spotted this (painful sounding) strength workout posted on the bulletin board at my gym: 10 pushups, 10 jumping jacks, 10 lunges, 9 pushups, 9 jumping jacks, 9 lunges, 8 pushups. 8 jumping jacks, 8 lunges…all the way down to one of each exercise; this is something that can be done anywhere (even at the in-laws’ house if you are on the road for the holidays). Crunches, sit-ups, mountain climbers, squats, burpees, and long jumps (or jumps of any kind) are other things we can do without needing a gym or equipment, and, if your holidays are feeling a little too National Lampoon, going out for an afternoon jog is a fantastic excuse to snag some alone time! So even when you feel like working out is futile in the face of all the holiday goodies, remember that every little bit you do now will help you be healthier no matter what. Something is ALWAYS better than nothing when it comes to your health.

Tomorrow is the big day!

I made it through Thanksgiving weekend! Being in Germany, I had a bit of an easier time than most; in lieu of a traditional multi-course smorgasbord, Don and I, along with a few of our friends, went out to dinner in nearby Nuremberg. That is not to say I resisted all temptations, but, honestly, the holidays are for letting loose, enjoying time with friends and family, and enjoying the tastes of the season.

Me, enjoying some glühwein, the BEST taste of the season!
Me, enjoying some glühwein, the BEST taste of the season!

Tomorrow I will complete the FINAL day of the LiveFit Trainer! It has taken me more than twelve weeks (I believe I started on August 6th), but who is counting? I’m still very amazed that I have come this far; we’ve established the facts that I hate sweating and I’m not naturally graceful and that i’m a little on the lazy side when it comes to being physically active (I just asked Don to carry my computer over to me so that I did not have to get off the couch!), so I expected to make up some half-assed excuse part-way through the twelve weeks and quit, but I didn’t.

After tomorrow, I will be on my own again. It is tempting to start the program all over, as many have, but I think I’m going to try to fly solo for a bit. I will for sure be integrating many of the exercises that I have learned during this program (actually, I will probably be doing many of the exact same workouts, just in different sequences). I am making two promises to myself, and I am putting them out here on the inter webs for all to see so that I don’t skip out on them. Promise number one: I will do pushups at least once a week. I have to get better at these damn things; it is pathetic that I still can hardly push myself up after lowering only a couple of inches and I think it detracts from my credibility quite a bit. Promise number two: I will keep up with this ‘working-out’ thing.