Category Archives: Fitness

An Unexpected Break, and GRIT Results!

Well it’s been over a month since I posted on this blog and I have to say it was anything but a planned break. Work got absolutely crazy sort of out of nowhere and I ended up working almost 30 days straight, 10 hours a day – and with plenty of stress. During this time I definitely wasn’t myself, I wasn’t eating well or sleeping enough, I barely worked out (other than making it to my GRIT sessions) and just generally didn’t feel like myself. I barely had time to check my personal email, or read blogs – and I definitely wasn’t cooking anything blog-worthy! When I was cooking anything at all…

But on a happier note, I’m back! I’m not saying you noticed I was gone (though one lovely reader – Kristin – did and reached out – thanks again!) but I am so glad to be getting my life back on the healthy track after a not-so-great start to 2014.

Today was my last GRIT session and thankfully I’ve been working out and eating better over the past week and a half or so, but it wasn’t enough time to really get myself back on track. I’m disappointed with my weight/muscle mass/body fat percentage results but I know they were heavily affected by my January madness so I can’t hold it against myself too much (although it was mostly out of my control). But I am so grateful that my physical tests had better results. I reached my goal of doubling my push-ups by completing 35 push-ups this morning and it made me feel so strong and accomplished. While I can’t afford to do the GRIT program again (although I REALLY want to) right away, I’m hoping to try again over the summer and see what results I can really get with full dedication. In the meantime, I want to share my results for those who are interested! And I’ll be back next week with some great recipes to share! πŸ™‚

Here’s a picture of my amazing GRIT team:

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And my results from the program (trust me that most people’s are better as far as the numbers go! But I couldn’t be happier with my beep test/push-ups results!)

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Five Things I’m Loving Friday: Christmas Edition!

Happy Friday everyone! Isn’t Friday the best? Although I actually prefer Saturdays since there’s no work involved on Saturdays πŸ™‚

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This Friday I decided to do a Christmas gifts edition of ‘Five Things I’m Loving Friday’ to share some of my favorite things I got for Christmas this year – and that I think would make great gifts for other people! I tried to do a wide variety of both fitness and health related items, as well as just some unique gifts – it was hard to pick only five!

1. Gaiam “Everything Fits” Gym Bag

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I first read about this bag on PB Fingers and I’m so glad that she recommended it! It’s a good size bag – with a nice wide strap, lots of pockets and neat features like a separate vented compartment for your shoes and a strap on the bottom for a yoga mat (or I discovered my foam roller fits there too!). You can buy this bag in black or purple from Gaiam at this link. I’m super excited about this gift since before I was carrying my gym stuff in a free drawstring bag I got at the Run or Dye race last year. Also with GRIT starting I definitely needed more space to tote stuff around! πŸ™‚

2. Salt Cellar

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This seems like such a simple thing but it was one of the gifts I was the most excited about! This particular salt cellar is from Crate and Barrel and I love the natural wood with the sliding magnetic lid. It’s perfect for keeping kosher salt out near the stove and being able to grab a pinch to add into dishes. Prior to this, I was just pouring the salt into my hand from the big kosher salt container which was a less than ideal situation.

3. Cookbooks – ‘Super Natural Every Day’ and ‘Tidewater Table’

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I’m always excited for new cookbooks! You can see a few others in my collection lined up next to the new ones. My mom gave me a copy of ‘Tidewater Table’ which is a new cookbook written all about the cuisine of my hometown – the Tidewater area of Virginia! I’m really excited to try out some of these classic recipes – just flipping through it I noticed tons of seafood! The other book was given to me by my best friend that I’ve known for 12+ years – ‘Super Natural Every Day.’ I cannot express how much I love this book. I’ve already read it cover to cover and there are dozens of recipes I can’t wait to try! The cookbook is vegetarian and features some of my all-time favorite ingredients – like coconut oil, chia seeds, and quinoa! I can’t wait to try these recipes and share the results with you on this blog πŸ™‚

4. Origami Owl Necklace

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My mom gave me this necklace and I am absolutely in love with it. I had heard Origami Owl mentioned a few times in passing, but I had never really seen one before – it’s a really neat concept. It’s sort of a clear locket/pendent that you can buy and add charms to for your individual personality. My mom gave me three with the necklace – a cat paw, a running shoe, and a blue sapphire. So pretty! I don’t think I’ll add too much more than that – I think the simplicity is nice. I also love that the length of the necklace is a little longer so it sits really well on top of higher V-neck sweaters or crew neck sweaters. I’ve been wearing it a lot! πŸ™‚

5. Fitness Gear!

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So I cheated a little on this one – it’s more than one item! I told you choosing just five was hard! My best friend Heather gave me an awesome pairing for Christmas – a “Strong is the New Skinny” shirt from the Strong Girl Clothing Etsy shop. I’ve been coveting this tank-top for a while and I have to say that it’s just as nice in person as it looks in her shop! I know with “homemade” stuff you can really be taking a chance on quality but I love everything about this shirt – the fit, the color, and the fabric! Definitely check out her shop because there’s lots of other awesome fitness apparel! Heather also got me a water bottle with a built-in infuser for fruit/herbs and a built in core to keep the water cold! I’ve been wanting one of these since water with lemon is one of my favorite things! I’m excited to try it with other combinations too – like cucumber and mint!

The Start of GRIT

Last week was the first week of the Les Mills GRIT program that I signed up for a month or so ago. Although the program is a little pricey ($350) for 7 weeks, I truly loved the demo classes I had taken and knew that this program would get me to the next level of fitness.

For those who don’t know, GRIT is a new program from Les Mills (the same company that does Body Pump, Body Step, all those “body” classes) that focuses on high-intensity interval training in a team atmosphere. You meet with the same team of participants at the same time, twice a week. Personally, my GRIT team consists of 7 people who meet at 6 am Wednesday and 6 am Friday with our two coaches – Colleen and Arnold. The idea is for your group to become a team – and I’m really loving the atmosphere so far!

For those who are interested, I am taking the GRIT series at Arlington Health and Wholeness which is a great personal training studio. Or if you don’t live near DC, look for a GRIT program in your area!

The first GRIT session (last Wednesday) was the pre-test (and the last session will be the post-test). The pre-test consisted of getting on a very neat scale that measures body weight, body fat percentage, muscle mass, hydration levels, bone density, and a few other things I can’t remember. Then we did three physical tests – a push up test (as many as you could do), a vertical leap test, and a beep test (50 m sprints). We documented our results so we can see how we improve over the 7 weeks. My body fat percentage was just 1% higher than the “healthy” range so my goal is to bring that down into the healthy range for sure – and hopefully build some muscle mass along the way!

But the most important thing to come out of the pre-test was this – I smashed my ‘Fitness Bucket List’ item to do 10 “real” push-ups in a row. I was reluctant to ever count this as completed before now, because I never feel like I’m getting my chest low enough — but with my coach Colleen counting reps for my pre-test I did 17 solid push-ups, on my toes, before collapsing. I. Am. Ecstatic. And looking to smash even more on my post-test!

Friday’s session was our first “real” session with was a pylometrics session. The GRIT series rotates between three different types of classes: plyometrics, cardio, and strength. Plyometrics was the only one I hadn’t tried before and boy was it hard! I felt like I was dying the whole time (pretty standard for GRIT) but boy did I feel accomplished afterwards!

In addition to two GRIT sessions a week, I am maintaining my two Body Pump classes a week with a yoga and/or cycling class thrown in as I can. I can’t wait to continue this journey and report back to you! πŸ™‚

Goals for the New Year

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to making 2014 a year filled with health and happiness! πŸ™‚

And how are we going to do that? By setting goals! I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions because I feel like they have the connotation of being some vague goal like “get healthier” or “lose weight” that’s forgotten a few short weeks into the year. So instead of making resolutions, I’m going to set some goals for 2014.

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My first, and largest, goal is hard to put into words – but I’m going to try. This year I’m going to find out what I can do with my life that is going to make me happy. I’m going to “figure out what I want to be when I grow up.” Whether this means leaving my current job entirely, transitioning to a part-time position so that I can pursue other interests, or sticking with my current job but adding in more meaningful extra activities – I’m not sure. But I’m going to take this year to figure it out. I think a big part of this will involve me moving back to my hometown this summer. My lease is up at the end of July and I’m hoping to finally make the move back home (this is VERY contingent on me finding a job in that area, so it sort of dovetails nicely with my search for work-life happiness). I also hope to train to become a Body Pump instructor early this year, which I think could lead to a “job” that I definitely enjoy more than my current one.

More specifically, I want to actually make time to read this year. I have a HUGE collection of books – it’s legitimately out of control – and books have always been a joy and a passion for me. I probably easily own a hundred books that I haven’t even read. So I stole my mother’s idea to read one chapter every night before bed. So far, I’ve already finished ‘Orange is the New Black’ doing this (which is already more progress than the rest of the year!). This allows me to set aside time to do something I truly enjoy – reading – as well as breaking my terrible habit of falling asleep to Netflix. Both of which will add health and happiness to my life! πŸ™‚

What about you? What are your goals and/or resolutions?

Winter Fitness Hibernation

Is it just me or does winter weather make you want to hide inside under the covers and not go anywhere until spring?

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I know some people are winter people, so even though I may not understand you I have to accept that some people actually like the cold weather. But I seriously can’t handle it. I’m more of a baby about it than most people, as the minute the temperature drops below 60 I’m complaining pretty much constantly. I could be bundled up in a coat, gloves, warm socks (double-layered), boots and a scarf and I’m still cold when I go outside. I don’t like it – and therefore I stay inside until it goes away.

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Yep, pretty much my winter
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A bad side effect of the cold (and the fact that it starts getting dark at like 4 in the afternoon) is that my motivation to get to the gym is waning. Fortunately, my undying love for Les Mills Body Pump (and my badass instructor) gets me out of the house twice a week but the other days I’m seriously struggling. Does this happen to anyone else? What do you do to stay active in the winter months?

My plan (so far) is to find some ways to keep active without leaving my apartment. I’m usually pretty terrible at working out at home, because it just feels awkward to me. The weird stares my cats give me when I’m doing burpees don’t help at all. But I’ve downloaded a few fitness apps that came highly recommended (Sworkit Pro, Blogilates, Popsugar ACTIVE, and the Nike Training Club – all free except for Sworkit) and I’m still working on my Hundred Pushups challenge (another app). I’ve tried out the Sworkit Pro app so far and I’m really liking it – and don’t worry, I’m planning on sharing a full review once I use all the apps! πŸ™‚

In addition, I borrowed the ’30 Day Shred’ DVD by Jillian Michaels from a friend of mine. I’ve heard great things about this DVD so I’m hoping it’ll keep me motivated (at least for a month) to work out at home, on those days when I just can’t pry myself out of the comfort of my house. Also, the next round of GRIT training starts in January and I am definitely signing up this time! I really enjoyed the demo of GRIT that I tried out a few weeks ago and I wanted to sign up for the last round but finances and a busy work schedule just wouldn’t allow it. I’m super excited for it to start up again in January, and I think this program will be just what I need to stay active this winter and to help get my fitness to the next level!

Question of the Day Season:
So seriously, what do you do to stay motivated and fit during the winter months?

Quest & Ignite Naturals

I hope everyone has been having a great week so far! This is “busy season” at work for me, so I’ve been working longer hours, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is look at a computer screen. Although I haven’t been posting as much, I’ve been sticking with my routine of Body Pump classes, yoga, and lots of home-cooked meals! With the change in weather, I’ve become more of a hermit than usual and I’ve spent much of the past few weekends hanging out at home, watching some shows/movies, and working on going through stuff around the house to find stuff to donate to the Salvation Army.

A few times a year, I like to dig through my clothes, shoes, purses, etc and donate things that I’m not using to the local Salvation Army. It’s a habit my mom instilled in me when I was younger and it continues to this day. Lately, I’ve taken this habit to a new level as I’m trying to declutter and simplify my entire life. I’m making a conscious effort to cut down on the material stuff around me in favor of more important things. Basically, if something isn’t being used around my house then it’s getting kicked to the curb (literally, in some cases). I’ve made some ruthless cuts to my movie and book collections, and I’ve steadily copied all my CDs into iTunes and gotten rid of the hard copies (seriously – when was the last time I played a CD?!). Some of the CDs are being donated, but a good chunk I was able to sell on the website Music Magpie which I have had a very positive experience with. I didn’t get much for the CDs (about $.50 each) but it’s better than nothing! My next big step is to get rid of my stereo. I’ve had the stereo since high school, and probably haven’t turned it on in 4 years. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just sort of outdated in our MP3 and Bluetooth culture. I haven’t decided yet if I should try to sell it or just donate it to the Salvation Army. I have a feeling selling it would be more trouble than it’s worth – does anyone buy stereos anymore? Thoughts?

Stereo Issues

On a completely different note, I wanted to share my thoughts on two companies with you: Quest, and Ignite Naturals.

Recently, through my affiliation with Sweat Pink Ambassadors, I got a chance to try a free sample of Quest bars.

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I was super excited for the opportunity because I had seen Quest bars before, but never stopped to read the label and realize that they are some pretty clean bars! These protein bars are made from real ingredients, with the addition of protein powder (which I think of as processed). I tried the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough one after Body Pump on Tuesday night and really enjoyed the flavor. The texture was a little on the chewy side, but it wasn’t unpleasant – just not what I was expecting. I prefer to get my protein from whole-food sources, but these bars could be a great (portable!) addition in a pinch!

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Now, onto Ignite Naturals. A while back (like 6 months ago), Ignite Naturals contacted me and offered me a free sample of their product Ignite Naturals Refresh in exchange for me filling out a survey about the product. I fell in love with both Refresh and Ignite Naturals, and have been buying their products ever since! The company is dedicated to whole food, non-GMO, healthy nutrition for active lifestyles. I love them so much, I also joined Team Ignite – which basically means that I get to share an awesome coupon code with all of you! Using code IN0690 will get you 10% off any Ignite Naturals purchase. Disclaimer: while my first sample of Refresh was free, I received no compensation for this post, I wasn’t required to write it as a part of my partnership with Team Ignite, and all opinions are my own! I just truly love these products!

Ignite Naturals Refresh is an electrolytes powder meant to help refresh and rehydrate your bodies. The best part is – it’s made from real food ingredients! I’ve tried the Tangerine Passion Fruit and Prickly Pear flavors and really enjoyed them both although Prickly Pear is more my speed since it’s not sweet at all. It easily dissolves in water, and is perfect for those super-long sweat sessions like Body Pump or Cycling class where you just need something a little more than water. In addition, the company makes gels, protein powders, and other nutritional aids so definitely check them out! πŸ™‚

Don’t forget: coupon code IN0690 gets you 10% off any Ignite Naturals purchase.

Fitness Update: GRIT, Yoga, and Hundred Pushups!

Yesterday morning, bright and early at 6 am – I had the opportunity to take a free demo class of Les Mill’s newest offering – GRIT. (Just an FYI: Les Mills is the same company that offers Body Pump, Body Jam, Body Step, etc) GRIT is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) style workout. Fortunately for me, my Body Pump teacher’s husband just recently got certified to teach GRIT and his gym was hosting a few demo classes to get people interested in the program. Heather and I reported to Arlington Health and Wholeness around 5:45 am to meet up with the group and get started.

There are three styles of GRIT classes: cardio, plyometrics, and strength. In our 30 minute demo class, we did a cardio based workout – although there was plenty of plyometrics involved! We did a series of intervals involving various exercises – high-knees, push-ups, burpees, jumping squats, jumping lunges, and sprints in between. We finished off the class with an abs track. It was intense! During the class, I felt like I was going to pass out but in a “working really hard” way – and I felt great after class ended! I should have grabbed some pictures, but I was too busy working out! Although about half-way through the push-ups I had to drop to me knees (we did A LOT of push-ups) and I have some very bruised knees from doing push-ups on a basketball court floor.

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They are seriously gross. And it definitely hurts to kneel.

Today I actually wore my calf compression sleeves to work under my dress pants because my calves are so sore. I was sort of hobbling around before I put them on. I think it was all the plyometric work that really got into my calf muscles – a muscle group that I think was seriously underworked before now!

For a quick look at what GRIT is all about – check out this video:

Speaking of push-ups, I mentioned in my Fitness Bucket List post that push-ups are sort of my nemesis and one of my goals is to do 10 full “real”, all the way down to 90 degree push-ups in a row – and I think I’m getting really close! Based on some recommendations, I downloaded the ‘Hundred Pushups’ app from iTunes and I started it this week. It’s a three day a week program that builds you up to doing a bunch of push-ups in a row. While I have no delusions about being able to do a hundred push-ups, I’m really excited to make working on them a weekly priority.

Finally, this past Sunday I had an amazing yoga class. It was only the second time I’ve been to yoga since I started my half-marathon training plan, and now that I’ve abandoned that idea, I’m so excited to get back to yoga. I’ve truly missed it. I was worried that I would have lost all the gains that I had built up going twice a week. Fortunately, I had a really spectacular class. I held Bird of Paradise (albeit with a bent leg), held Crow for a few seconds, and even got into full Wheel pose! I was so shocked. I remember being able to do this move (referred to as a back bend in my gymnastics class) when I was in middle school, so I was shocked when I started taking yoga and found I couldn’t push up into this position. This past Sunday, I just decided to go for it and I popped right up! It was such an amazing feeling. I think it’s really a testament to the strength I’ve built up in my shoulders and arms that I was able to pull it off. It reminds me of a quote I saw on Pinterest about falling in love: “You fall in love the way you fall asleep – slowly, and then all at once.” I think the same thing is true for yoga poses – you work and work on getting them, and then all of sudden you take a deep breath – and you’re there.