Tag Archives: LiveFit

Excuse Me: CrossFittin’ Off the List

Slip, slidin' away.
Slip, slidin’ away.

You guys, I’ve been negligent- both in my blogging AND, I’m sorry to say, in my exercising. It’s as if I took the 23 minute shave off my marathon time, gave myself a big pat on the back with it, and then rested my laurels upon it until one day, a few weeks ago, I realized that my clothes were once again getting a little snug.

I’m a little ashamed of myself that I fell into the trap of using stupid excuses to justify why I “JUST couldn’t work out right now, nope, uh-uh, no way.” Here is my list of stupid excuses, in case you want to try them out yourself (which I don’t recommend because eventually you will be in the passenger seat of a car as it drives by a park full of women doing some circuit/body weight training next to a playground while their children happily play in the Hawaiian winter sun and you will realize that if these women can find a way to fit a great workout in, then you should be able to as well, and you will feel very ashamed of yourself for falling into the excuse trap):

  1. I got home from work so late that it isn’t worth it to drive all the way to the gym for only a short workout (why this excuse is bogus: some is always better than none, this applies to both workouts and dessert)
  2. My dog looks so sad and he has been alone all day, I’ll take him for a walk on the beach instead of going to the gym (why this is bogus: you are an adult who can make her own schedule, walk the dog because he looks sad and then go to the gym)
  3. I’m hungry (bogus: eat a snack, then go to the gym)
  4. I’m tired (see number 1, do a smaller workout, some is better than none, and you’re probably tired because you didn’t sleep well because all you did yesterday was walk your dog and you weren’t tired enough to go to sleep at bedtime so you stayed up for two extra hours looking at Facebook)
  5. My leg/arm/insert body part here hurts (this excuse is not bogus, you should skip a workout or do one that does not involve the sore body part, see a medical professional if it doesn’t improve, and follow the medical professional’s instructions for recovery. BUT, don’t keep using this excuse when your leg/arm/whatever no longer hurts, get back to work when you’ve recovered)
  6. Ok, so I know some is better than none, but I got home from work too late AND I need to make dinner which has an effect on the other members of my family (salad counts as dinner and only requires about 10 minutes to whip up. Do a small workout and pick up some lettuce on your way home. Plus, you can delegate dinner duties to other family members, you don’t HAVE to make it all time, you control freak. Maybe Don wants to eat something made by his own two hands)
  7. I just got out of the car after a 40 minute commute home and I CAN’T get back in to drive to the gym (guess what time it is? PUSH UP TIME!!! Also, what about that idea you had to get up earlier to go to the gym before work? Its time to get back on track with that).

So, you can see I’ve been busier talking myself out of going to the gym than I have actually getting my daily dose of Vitamin E (E for exercise). In my defense (here she goes again with those excuses, amiright?), I was keeping up with the running, post-marathon, until a New Year’s Eve trail run on muddy footing gave me a shin splint which I tried to ignore, did not properly rest and then compounded into something more significant. I gave myself a mandatory two-week break from running while I let that heal, but, once it was all better, I kinda sorta forgot to get back into running and gym-ing. “I need a break!” was my justification, “my body needs to rest!”

At that time, the only thing I needed a break from was eating cookies and watching Fixer Upper marathons on HGTV (that Joanna Gaines, though, how ’bout that interior design wizardry she does? And, she’s so goddamn pretty that I just can’t look away). I started to get back into the swing of things when Half-Marathon training got underway, but I was still slumping in my non-running workouts. Getting up earlier in the morning for a pre-work workout is tough, but I much prefer it to having to get back into the car at the end of the day to battle it out for weight bench real estate with the post-work crowd, and I had started to revisit some of the Phase 2 workouts from the Jamie Eason LiveFit program I did a few years ago, but something was still missing. I had the time, I had the facility and equipment, I had the motivation, but I was lacking a very important part of working out: accountability.

Ah yes, accountability. Why do push ups when you know your push up game is pretty weak and you’re embarrassed to do push ups in public? Why work on getting stronger at pull-ups when they are difficult and you don’t like them? Who’s gonna know if you just pick something easier to do? Usually, nobody, and for me, that’s a problem. I’ve got to start making myself do the things that are hard and maybe make me look a little foolish until I get stronger if I want to improve my fitness. I will admit that pride has lately had an effect on my workouts; I know it is stupid to let my concern over looking foolish keep me from improving my health and fitness, but some days it gets the better of me. The gym that I have the easiest access to is a gym that is frequented by Marines and if you ever want to feel bad about yourself, you should workout next to a Marine. As soon as I walk into the gym, I feel old (it seems to me the median age of the Marine population is 20), I feel flabby (I overheard a young man joyously claiming to the front desk clerk that he weighed 190 lbs and had a 29 inch waist and when I looked at him, I believed him), and I feel weak (whenever I have to ask someone if I can use those 5 lb weight plates, he/she looks astonished as if he/she was unaware that weight plates came in such small increments. Guess what guys, they also come in 2.5 lbs).

Ohhh...yay...
Ohhh…yay…

Last week, in a moment of serendipity, I saw an ad for just the kick in the pants that I need: a six week, ladies only, workout challenge class. There are a couple of problems with this class, the main one being that I will have to miss one of the six weeks because I am having laser eye surgery and have been advised not to do anything that involves sweat dripping into my eyes the week following (which for me, as an over sweat-er, means not moving out of air conditioning for a week, guess I’ll be sleeping at the office…), the other problem is that this is a CrossFit challenge. I don’t know the first thing about CrossFit and that is kind of on purpose. I don’t like fads, especially workout and diet fads. I think they have an air of cult about them (which we have enough of here in Hawaii anyway), and, at least as far as the diets are concerned, I don’t think they are all that effective, but, as the musical poet Ben Harper once sang, “before you knock it, try it first.” The other things that I have reservations about are the title of the challenge- it’s called the NEW YOU challenge, and I don’t need a new me, just an improved me- and the fact that there are group weigh-ins and measurements to be taken- those things are kind of personal and, if weight loss isn’t your goal, kind of beside the point, but, c’est la vie.

There are things about this challenge that are really appealing to me; I will be in a class of all ladies (hey ladies!) and I think that will make me feel less like I should just get out of the way so the beefcake can use my barbell, and it is structured so, not only will I be taught the correct form and function of these exercises, but I also won’t waste ten minutes wandering around the gym wondering what I should do today. The timing works out well with my running group, and I still have one day of rest each week (Friday, already the best day of the work week, now maybe the best day of the week). The challenge comes with a meal plan, which, as I suspected it would be, is based largely on the paleo diet; this doesn’t jive so well with my vegetarianism, but I was assured this wouldn’t be a problem. My first class is tonight, and I am looking forward to it with only a little trepidation (stemming mostly from the fact that I must wear my glasses all week in preparation for my laser surgery and my glasses make my face feel clumsy). I’ll let you know how crossing over to the dark side goes! Any advice for sore muscle relief is appreciated- squats (and I anticipate there being a lot of squats) make my running muscles cringe and I’ve got to keep up with the half marathon training if I want to have a great race in April.

Me, after laser eye surgery. These are the expected results, right?
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“Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes… how do you measure a year?”

cupcake

 

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!

 

Summer [Boot] Camp!

I survived the first week of Boot Camp, and between the crazy hot temperatures and a staffing debacle at work, it is actually kind of miraculous. Per the usual, I woke early on Monday morning to muddle through my daily dog walk, a little studying for my online classes, and a quick ride with my four-hooved friend before the start of Boot Camp, and I was getting a bit nervous about what to expect from the class. I’m probably not the only one who, prior to entering a new fitness class, is gripped with panic that she’ll be in way over her head and struggle to keep up with everybody else in the class who is on the same level of fitness as Demi Moore in G.I. Jane. Fortunately, that was not the case and the class is composed of moderately fit people who, like me, are looking for ways to stay engaged with exercising and become a little more fit.

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

The Boot Camp, so far, features circuits of body-weight strength exercises. I think that this was an insightful decision made by the instructor because not only are circuits great for strengthening your cardiovascular system without doing traditional cardio exercises like running or ellipticizing*, but these ones are also good take-away exercises that you can do anywhere. I think both of these things are important for maintaining a fitness regime; lets be completely honest with ourselves: cardio is boring. Unless you have deep thoughts you want to sort through, getting up the motivation to head out for a long run is kind of hard, so, on the days when you do not have any deep thoughts (or maybe don’t want to be left alone with the ones you DO have), circuit training is a great way to do cardio and strength training simultaneously, and the cardio is sneaky because, with the distraction of the exercises, you hardly notice you’re doing it. It is also important, in order to maintain a dedication to fitness, to be learning exercises that require only our bodies and about six square feet of space to accomplish; you can do these exercises when on vacation in a hotel room, in your office on a lunch break, or even in your house should another Polar Vortex snow you in this coming winter. No excuses!

I must confess that I made it to only two out of the three Boot Camp classes I had hoped to attend this week (I mentioned a staffing debacle at work; it also made me miss my Tuesday morning Spin class, is this a situation where I should use a hashtag? #firstworldproblems), but the class has a Facebook group where Sarah, our teacher, can post the daily workouts, and I was able to complete the one I missed on my own although it wasn’t as fun as doing it in a group (no one to commiserate with). Overall, I think I’m doing alright in the Boot Camp. I was reintroduced to my archenemy the burpee (I haven’t done a single one since it was mandated by Jamie Eason) and found them more manageable. Pushups I’ve come to terms with, and we were introduced to squats of all shapes, sizes, and colors. There were jumping squats, there were power squats, pulsing squats, wall-sits, and walking squats, and my buns were super sore the next day. On Fridays, we do a fitness test so we can keep track of our progress, another great motivator, and this Friday, Sarah treated us to some water with an inspirational message taped to it (see photo above) to celebrate the end of week one.

Post-Boot Camp lunch, salad bar with tofu I brought from home. Protein me up!
Post-Boot Camp lunch, salad bar with tofu I brought from home. Protein me up!

Another thing about the Boot Camp that I really like is Sarah’s teaching style. She demonstrates all of the exercises and makes sure to give us pointers on our form when we get sloppy, and she doesn’t say stupid things like “think about that bikini” to motivate us. When you are far away from the size you feel like would look good in a bikini, comments like that can be deflating. Instead, I’ve heard her say “this is YOUR workout, make it count”, and this is great because it puts the onus on us. Even though we may feel like our biceps are about to burst, why not do two more push-ups? We’ve carved out this bit of time during our day to devote to our health, why not make the most of it?

Taking rest day to the max.
Taking rest day to the max.

Last week’s classes have me really looking forward to the weeks to come. I’m excited to see how much progress I make, particularly in running (yes, we did do some traditional cardio because, well, it’s necessary and some weirdos people really like it). Running outside is not my forte, and last week it felt extra hard, so I’m hoping it starts to feel a little less hard. This weekend, I had a super duper, much needed rest day on Saturday (complete with some Bourbon Slush Punch from Smitten Kitchen) and today I spent some time at the pool and got some good laps in. I feel ready to take on Monday and whatever Sarah has in store for our Boot Camp class.

 

*I might have made this word up

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?

No.

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!

 

One (very slow) foot in front of the other

The treadmill is probably the machine I dread using the most of any of the machines in the gym. Running is in the league of burpees and push-ups for exercises I really, REALLY would rather not do (I’ve been keeping my pledge to do push-ups at least once a week, by the way, but I have not done a single burpee since the LiveFit trainer ended, I just don’t see the point), but I have been trying to subconsciously incorporate more running into my weekly workouts.  As I have discovered, it is very difficult to subconsciously add something to your own routine, but I’m trying to do more running and I’m trying not to notice that I am doing it!

I guess it really isn’t the treadmill I dislike so much as the actual act of running itself. I’ve discussed before how running is a unique form of torture that involves collapsed lungs and buckets of sweat, and I’d actually rather run on a treadmill than in the great outdoors. Call me a control freak, but I like to be able to adjust my speed according to my current lung capacity and I find running outside, especially on a non-paved surface, more work than being on a treadmill (and higher potential for twisted ankles if you are uncoordinated like me).

Despite all of my complaints, I’m actually getting better at running! I am able to go farther and faster- don’t get me wrong, I’m no match for Usain Bolt and I’d never consider entering a marathon (or even a 5k to be perfectly honest!), but its getting easier. I find that adding variety helps so I try to increase or lower the speed every few laps (this also helps to allow me to catch my breath, double bonus!), and, I’m trying to run on my toes which requires extra concentration.

This is not me. He is going so fast that one of his shoes seems to have caught on fire.

Toe-running involves changing your running form a little bit, and at first it feels very strange. When most people run, they land heel first and in doing so, place a lot of strain on their joints and hamstrings. Landing heel first is also a less efficient way to run as the entire foot must break-over in order to complete the stride, and (especially if you have big ‘ole feet like mine) this can take a little bit of time. Instead of landing heel first, I make an effort to land toe first. Not only is there less wear and tear on my joints (and therefore less chance for injury for any of you super dedicated runners who go long distances), but I’m actually a lot faster because I don’t have to wait for my size 10s to finish breaking over; instead of breaking over in a fluid motion from heel to toe, my foot actually acts sort of like a spring: I land on my toe, the rest of my foot briefly touches down and I’m on to my next stride. Because I’m not working as hard to get my feet off the ground, I am able to stay taller with my upper body while I run which opens my ribcage and helps with breathing, and, maybe this is purely coincidental, I’ve not had any of those awful side stitches in a while. I’ve been working on my running form in earnest for a few months and I can now do most of my run on my toes. When I first started to work on my form, It felt very strange- almost like trying to write my name with my left hand, but I progressed slowly and feel comfortable enough to go a few miles now. The next time you’re out for a run, give it a go for a few minutes and see how much easier running feels, its ALMOST enjoyable!

Science says its the better way to be!

Inspiration

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!

 

Hey Good-lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?

Don is away (dog-sitting for friends) for the long weekend, so I’m having  bachelorette time. Gossip Girl marathon! Painting my nails! Eating a dinner of diet Coke and Ben & Jerry’s!… maybe not that last part. When I was younger and had a metabolism faster than the speed of light, ice cream for dinner might have been a regular thing, but I’ve reformed now.

Part of the problem back then was that I did not know how to cook (the other part was that Ben & Jerry make delicious ice cream). I used to jump on Google to find out what a recipe meant when it asked me to do things like sauté and once I called my Mom to ask her how to make spaghetti (since the sauce came from a jar, I was pretty much asking her how to boil water and heat up liquified tomatoes). Until about a year ago, I felt like Derek Zoolander trying to get files from a computer whenever I tried to make something from a recipe.

Early last Spring, I came across a book in the library, ‘The Kitchen Counter Cooking School’ by Kathleen Flinn, that really helped me expand my culinary horizons beyond making couscous from a box. In the book, the author, who graduated from the Cordon Bleu in France, chronicles a year-or-so long project in which she teaches a handful of people who have no culinary skills (like myself) how to make food on their own. Even if you are proficient in the kitchen, the book is worth a read because the writing is thoughtful, the story is a good one, and the book includes some yummy recipes. Armed with some of those recipes and the advice given to the novice cooks in the book, I began to experiment in the kitchen and have become more proficient.

A lack of proficiency (or feeling like you lack proficiency) in the kitchen is why many of us eat meals that come from a box or out of the freezer; not only are these meals super easy and quick to make, but they taste the same EVERY SINGLE TIME you make them. You don’t have to wonder if the sauce is going to be salty enough when all you have to do is open the envelope and add water and it is the same envelope you open and add water too every Tuesday night. This kind of consistency is comforting to those of us who are overwhelmed in the kitchen, and, while we realize that things like Hamburger Helper may not be the best tasting, at least we know they will be palatable because it is foolproof.  Foolproof may be simple, but it generally isn’t very healthy (think about it, when has your doctor ever recommended that you eat more neon orange ‘cheese’ powder), and it doesn’t offer much variety in flavor.

Variety is very important when you are trying to eat healthy. If you are hoping to eat more vegetables and the only way you know how to cook them is to steam them, then pretty soon you will be dreading your veggies; and sometimes, it takes a few tries before you find a way to make a vegetable taste good. For example, the dining hall at my college used to serve an eggplant panini and it was not good. It smelled strange, had a funny, rubbery texture and tasted like I imagine formaldehyde would. Not having grown up eating eggplant, I attributed this undesirable  flavor to it and I decided that I hated eggplant. It wasn’t until six years later when I bought an eggplant on a whim and roasted it with some other veggies that I realized it was the marinade and the way the eggplant was sliced that made the panini so gross, and that I actually love eggplant!

Another upside to doing more ‘freestyle’ cooking and relying less on boxed meals is the ability to control the ingredients going into your dinner. What if your doctor has suggested you eat a lower sodium diet, and you are making yourself some Kraft Mac & Cheese? You aren’t adding any salt to it, so no problem, right? Well, if you glance at the nutrition facts, you’ll notice that it has twenty percent of your daily value of sodium in one serving, and you can’t really change that because you have no control over the ingredients in that little envelope. If we want to eat healthfully, we need to have a lot of control over the things that go into our meals, so, if walking into the kitchen makes you break out into hives, pick up Kathleen Flinn’s book, browse the internet for helpful sites, and start with a recipe that makes sense to you (try Smitten Kitchen, it is a food blog and the recipes are written well with clear instructions, and if you have questions, Deb will answer them in the comments). Here are some recipes that I have been into lately:

A Vegetable Minestrone Soup, sent to me by my sister-in-law, Alice, when I was pleading for more kale recipes!

2 med. onion, 4 lg carrots, 4 celery stalks, 3-4 garlic cloves, 2 cans canellini beans, 3 zucchini, 2 bunches greens (ie. kale, chard…), 2 qts broth, 28 oz diced tomatoes, 1 bay leaf, oregano, thyme, a dash of cayenne, 6 oz pasta

Sauté onions, garlic, carrots, celery. Add tomatoes and beans. Season (to taste, you can always add more later) and add broth, cook for 15 minutes. Add zucchini and greens, cook 10 mins. Add pasta, cook 10 mins

This recipe is quite tasty and made an enormous amount of pasta; in total about 14 generous bowls. A word of advice, use the biggest pot you own. Even my biggest pot couldn’t hold everything and I had to cook the pasta separately and I could only fit 1 qt of broth in the pot so I had to add more later in the week. This soup is great because there are a variety of textures and flavors so it is interesting to eat and, since there was so much of it, we ate it for dinner all week long! Thanks Alice!

Vegetable Minestrone, with an egg on top for added protein.
Vegetable Minestrone, with an egg on top for added protein.

Kale Calzone! You could, in theory, put whatever you want in the calzone, it doesn’t have to be kale, but if you are just acquainting yourself with kale, this is one of the yummiest ways to eat it. The crust recipe I think came from Smitten Kitchen originally.

Calzone crust: 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp yeast, 1/2 c warm water, 1 TBsp olive oil.

Mix dry ingredients. Stir in wet ingredients until doughy. Dump on a floured counter and knead until uniform consistency. Put in oiled bowl and allow to rise 2 hrs. Dump on floured counter and knead again. Return to bowl and allow to rise 20 mins

Calzone filling: Kale, spinach, onions, garlic, feta, salt and pepper.

Use equal parts kale and spinach (about 10 oz of each). Boil the kale 4-5 minutes so it is more tender. Use onions and garlic to taste, brown the onions in olive oil so they are tender, add the garlic for the last few minutes. Mix the greens, onions, garlic and feta in a bowl, salt and pepper to taste. Stretch out your pizza dough on a pan or pizza stone, dump the filling on half of it, fold the other half of the dough over and mush the seam together to close. I usually cut a vent in the top of the calzone but I’m not sure if it is necessary. Bake for about 10 mins on your oven’s highest temp. Basically, you are waiting for the crust to brown since the filling is already cooked.

Kale, boiling
Kale, boiling

Give these recipes a try, the soup in particular is a good late-winter meal, and all of them are pretty healthy. Sure pizza dough isn’t necessarily good for you, but the bulk of what you are eating in the calzone is greens, and if you are trying to go lower carb,  leave the pasta out of the soup and maybe add in more carrots. For more yummy goodness, check out this kale salad recipe that my friend Amy found online and sent along, it is very good, and this tofu stir fry (I’m eating it right now for dinner, fantastic) from a fun-to-read blog, Fitness on Toast. Don’t be afraid to keep going back to healthy options that you may not like on the first try and also don’t feel pressured to eat something you really can’t stand. If eating celery no matter which way it is cooked(I HATE CELERY!) makes you feel like Ron Swanson eating a banana, it might be time to throw in the towel.

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!

Better check yo’self before you….pants yo’self?

The past week was a super duper hectic one and my time at the gym (however short it may be some days) has been sweet respite from all of the standing in lines, running errands, and counting down to Santa that has filled the largest part of my days.

I’m still following along the same sort of plan that Jamie’s workouts outlined as best I can: a day each for legs, back, biceps, triceps and shoulders, and throwing in some abs and cardio. I also had  the opportunity (due to my car being in the shop and missing the early train to work, oops! Nothing makes you miss your mechanic Dad like having to defer to the schedule of an auto shop) to do an at-home workout. Lacking weights and any equipment other than my own body, I found the at-home workout to be less satisfying than going to the gym, but still felt better having done something. It was also funny to have my cat ‘help’ me do pushups. I ended up doing a facsimile of a workout I outlined last week: a circuit starting at 10 jumping jacks and pushups, subtracting one each time until down to zero, twenty mountain climbers, and 15 crunches (which I swapped for 15 reverse crunches half way through the circuits) for a total of 55 pushups, 55 jumping jacks, 200 mountain climbers and 75 of each type of crunch. The workout took me about 45 minutes to complete and I had the reward of showering in my own bathroom sans shower sandals which is probably the biggest motivator to do an at-home workout. If you are in a bind and can’t make it to the gym, head over to pinterest and type At Home Workouts into the search bar and take your pick!

Drop and give me twenty! Then scratch my ears...
Drop and give me twenty! Then scratch my ears…

I had a pretty difficult time with my cardio workouts this week, specifically the days I ran on the treadmill. I try to alternate between the elliptical, treadmill and stationary bike so that I don’t get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Usually this plan works out fine, but lately whenever I try to run (and sometimes on the elliptical too) I get a terrible side stitch; it seems like such a silly thing to complain about, but some days it forces me to stop and switch to the bike or simply call it a day. I’m not even certain what a side stitch actually IS (and neither is anyone else, definitively, it seems); is it a cramp or simply your body’s way of telling you that cardio is a stupid option when there are couches to sit on and cookies to eat? Whatever they are, they can really throw a wrench in your plan.

Sometimes I can get rid of my side stitch by walking for a few minutes and stretching. Friday was one of those days when I was able to take a break and resume my running pain-free, but, alas, I then experienced a problem of a different kind. Like many people, I have favorite workout clothes (I’m looking’ at YOU super slimming UnderArmour yoga pants) and not-again-I-just-wore-you-last-week-and-you-totally-sucked-why-can’t-I-remember-to-do-laundry-so-that-I-never-have-to-wear-you workout clothes. I found myself wearing the latter on Friday; a tshirt that is a little too short and a little too tight in the shoulders and a pair of yoga pants that used to be my absolute favorite until they started to shirk their duties.

These pants just will.not.stay.UP! I learned in Phase Two that they travel south when I am jumping rope, and I have noticed lately that they shimmy lower than I want when I wear them to walk my dog, but I was attributing that to my bulky winter coat pushing them down and did not realize the severity of this problem until I tried to run in them on Friday.

I started out at a slow jog, hiked up my pants as they slid down and continued  my run…only to have to hike them up again and again. After maybe the tenth time I yanked them back up, I started to time them and my pants were falling down enough that I was concerned about mooning the poor guy who was on the treadmill behind me every fifteen to twenty seconds! I’m not sure if any marketing research has been done in this area, but I’m certain that 100% of people polled would not list ‘slides down until you are showing off some sexy plumber’s crack’ as a quality they seek in exercise attire.

The faster I ran, the faster they fell down, and the higher I pulled them up. Ten minutes into my run, I was dangerously close to Steve Urkel/camel toe territory, and my pants would still not stay put. When I relayed this story to my husband and my Mom, they both thought that my pants falling down must be a good sign because maybe I’ve lost THAT much weight and they are too big for me. While that is a nice thought, there is no way that these pants should be too big for me and I actually think (as embarrassing as it is to admit) that, since I wore these pants as frequently as my laundry schedule would allow when I was at my heaviest last winter, I stretched the elastic out and it no longer has the ability to fully contract. Basically, I turned a fantastic pair of yoga pants into ‘fat’ pants and they have never been able to recover! Needless to say, the pants have been retired as lounge wear; they deserve it.

Despite my wardrobe malfunction, I powered through my run deciding it was better to look like I had a really strange nervous tic than to waste a day when I had overcome my side stitch. As Kenny Rogers, wise man that he is, once sang: you’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em, and I wasn’t going to fold on a day when pretty much everything was lining up so that I could have a great run, but I sure did do a lot of holding onto my waistband.

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.