Renaissance Periodization and ALL the Food Math

Who loved math in high school?

Okay. I know that there are some of you that genuinely did, but I was not one of those people. I hated math. It didn’t come naturally to me. I had to work twice as hard to get a good grade and since high school I feel like I haven’t flexed any of those math muscles at all.

At least until I started doing Renaissance Periodization and doing literally ALL of the food math ever.

Let me rewind for a second and explain what I’m talking about. Renaissance Periodization, or RP, is a diet template (not a “diet” in the traditional sense, but diet like “the food you eat”) that is scientifically formulated to optimize nutrition and training.

Renaissance Periodization was founded with the understanding that science is the surest path to the truth, and in this field, to results. Our approach is the rigorous application of scientific principles to nutrition and training. Everything we do is built on a foundation of peer-reviewed literature and experimentally confirmed theory.

I’ve worked for a long time at making my body healthy and strong, but I know there is more I can do to be stronger and healthier. I’ve written before about my relationship with my body image and I’ve talked a lot about my philosophy on healthy eating. I generally do a pretty solid job of eating whole, nutritious foods, getting the right nutrients, and maintaining a healthy relationship with food in general. However, stepping on the scale showed me that I was still “overweight” (by BMI standards) and for as frequently as I work out and as healthy as I eat, I couldn’t seem to make that needle move even a little bit. I suspected my problem was, in fact, undereating.

I exercise 5-6 days a week, typically for 1-2 hours a day. Based on MyFitnessPal (where I was tracking my meals), I was only eating around 1800 calories a day. That is NOT enough, given my calorie output. However, I was in a food routine and it was hard for me to make myself eat more than that. Chronic undereating can really eff up your metabolism and ultimately tell your body to store fat because it thinks you need the energy.

That’s where RP comes in. A number of folks at our gym have used it to great success, and I’ve followed a bunch of athletes who also use it (olympic weightlifters and crossfitters). I thought that maybe following a template with a little more structure and expertise than I could offer myself may work a little better in my effort to lose some body fat and build strength. Clay, who has the opposite problem as me, wanted to use RP to do a muscle gain. We bit the bullet and each purchased our personalized templates.

According to RP:

Each diet offers the option to structure your meal timing for training days on which the training is done first thing in the morning and in every 3-4 hour interval later, all the way up to a late night session before bedtime. Non-training day diets come standard with every template.

Each fat-loss and muscle gain is designed to be run for approximately 3-6 months, with the programming to help you gain or lose anywhere between 5 and 25lbs in that 3-month span, depending on your body size, caloric expenditure, and goals.

The included maintenance diet (the base tab) that comes with both the cutting and massing plan can be run for as long as you want if your goals are to maintain your weight and improve your recovery and performance.

This is an example of the template I’ve been using

The best part about RP is the mentality. Yes, you are given a set of templates that dictate what your meals should be. However, the minds behind this business know that humans make choices and life happens and sometimes we fall off the wagon, sometimes we have life events we want to celebrate, and sometimes we mess up. There’s no penalty, there’s no guilt, they just say to get back on track tomorrow. That’s it. I love that way of thinking because I know that over the course of 12 weeks, I will be 99% compliant, but my birthday is next month, so is my anniversary. I want to celebrate both of those things and I will and I won’t worry or feel bad about it at all.

We started our respective templates at the beginning of the month and are currently in our fourth week. I’ve been doing SO much food math (lots of cross-multiplication) to determine the quantity of food I need to meet the required macronutrients per meal. So much math, that we’ve started to keep notebooks with our meals written out in grams and formulas that tell us what we need to make sure our meals are complete. Not to mention, our meal prep skills are ON POINT. Every Saturday, the fridge is packed to the brim with groceries, and every Sunday, those groceries are turned into 25 meals, neatly packed in tupperware.

So, yes. High school algebra has found a way back into my life. Much to my chagrin. But, this time, I’m happy to do it. I’ve seen small progress – which is appropriate given the time period I’ve been on the template – both on the scale and in the mirror, the latter being the more important of the two for me, honestly. I just want to feel confident in my body and know that I’m fueling it the best I can to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself.

Here’s to 8 more weeks of food math!

Gains and Gratitude

YOU GUYS. How pumped are you that it’s Friday? I am very, very pumped. Friday means rest day (best day!) and it seems like Spring has finally clawed its way here in Virginia. At least for the foreseeable future the weather looks warm and mostly sunny. Let me tell you, I am OVER this whole “winter” thing. 

I really shouldn’t complain, though, because my parents are getting hammered with another snowstorm in Wisconsin this weekend. I guess Winter will leave when it’s good and ready. 🤷🏼‍♀️ 

It’s spring here though, and things are looking brighter. This week has been a great one in the fitness department and I’m excited to be rolling in to summer making strides in the gym. 

On Tuesday, I PR’d my snatch, making a huge jump from 115 to 155. It’s amazing how repetition and accessory strength can help one feel comfortable catching a heavy barbell overhead. Snatching is such a technical lift and truly be an expert at it, it takes years of dedicated practice and drilling. I’m still learning and perfecting my form, but this week the barbell and I got along really well. I’m proud of how far I’ve come with something that until a few months ago I’d never done before. 

Last week, Clay and I retested our 1 rep max back squat and deadlift – and I made big gains there too. Up to 280 for my back squat and 315 for my deadlift. I may not be the fastest in our gym, but I am one of the strongest… I’ll take it where I can get it! (Under a heavy barbell, apparently.)

None of these gains would be possible without support though – and I’m very lucky to have a husband who is just as dedicated to my fitness as he is to his own. I know I always have a lifting partner and someone to suffer through a metcon with – and even when he’s not able to be in the gym with me, he’s still offering feedback and pumping me up (Facebook livestreams are great for that). Clay pushes himself in the gym too, and watching him make progress and improve skills alongside me is so motivating. I’m proud of how far he’s come and the habits he’s building in and out of the gym. Being surrounded by his energy keeps me on track, too. Simply put, he’s the best. 

When Clay isn’t around, I have some of the best peeps in the gym to keep me motivated – and honestly, my progress in the last two months would have been minimal without our little crew. Pushing me to try new skills, lift heavier weights, take new classes, get in extra workouts before class… we learn from each other and challenge each other every day. I’m grateful for all of it.

So, yeah. I’m looking forward to what the next few months bring – if the past few weeks are any indication, spring and summer 2018 will be great. Bring on the sun! 

Weekly Workouts (Or, “Why I Have to Go to Bed at 8pm Every Night”)

Okay. I think I’ve sat staring at this computer screen for about 30 minutes trying to come up with something to write about. I always struggle with this – I don’t feel like my life is particularly interesting at the moment, I’m not running and I haven’t run regularly in more than a year, I work out nearly every day doing CrossFit and I love it, but I never know how to talk about it. All of this is to say, I feel like I’m in a writing rut.

So today, we’re going to talk about this week’s workouts, because I can actually write about that.

Thursday

Currently, crossfitters are in the middle of the CrossFit Open – a worldwide competition that tests your fitness and your skills, and gives you a benchmark to compare your progress against. This is my first year doing the Open, though I’ve followed it for a number of years. Being a competitive person, I knew going into the Open that I wanted to push myself to do well. That being said, I also knew that if I let myself get too competitive, I would only end up getting stuck in the cycle of anxiety about the workouts, and then disappointment in my overall result. I’m relatively new to CrossFit, I’m still learning a lot of the higher skill movements, and I have quite a way to go to become proficient at many of the movements I can do. Things like handstand push-ups, handstand walks, muscle-ups… all things that I’m working on improvement and all things that have shown up so far in the Open. It’s been an empowering and humbling experience all at the same time. We have one more week to go and the last workout will be announced tomorrow. It will probably be some wicked form of torture, but it’s the last one, so I’m going to give it all I’ve got.

I did last week’s Open workout on Thursday as part of our gym’s Thursday Night Throwdowns – where, after the workout is announced, a handful of our athletes complete the workout in front of our friends and workout buddies. I was pretty amped and nervous about doing this because, like I say, I’m pretty competitive and I hate failing at anything. I was really hoping for movements that I could do and would have really preferred a heavy barbell. When the workout was announced, I was really happy – in nine minutes, we were to complete 21-15-9 reps of deadlifts (155 pounds for women) and handstand push-ups, followed by another 21-15-9 of deadlifts (205 pounds for women) and 50 ft handstand walks.

I got through 70 reps that night, making it through 21 deadlifts, 21 handstand push-ups, 15 deadlifts, and 13 handstand push-ups. I love deadlifts, but while I like the push-ups, I’m still learning how to be more efficient at them as well as strengthening my shoulders to be able to lift my body weight off the floor.

Friday

Rest

Saturday

After resting on Friday, I decided to re-do this workout on Saturday, attempting a different strategy (breaking up the push-ups earlier and managing my rest better). The second time, I got 12 more reps – finishing the round of 15, getting 9 deadlifts and 1 more handstand push-up. I was ecstatic with that, especially given how sore my shoulders were from doing it two days before.

Sunday

Headed to the gym for SpinFit Sunday morning – this class is similar to spin, but uses a bike erg instead of a traditional spin bike. I followed this up with a 5×5 back squat set, working at approximately 70% of my max. My legs were pretty smoked by the time I finished.

Monday

4 rounds for time

9 power cleans

12 alternating pistols (one-legged squats)

48 double unders

I finished in 7:33

As Many Rounds as Possible (AMRAP): 5 minutes

1/1,2/2,3/3,4/4, etc.

Snatch (95#)

Box jumps (24 inches)

Rest three minutes

AMRAP 4 minutes

5 pull ups

10 push ups

15 air squats

Rest 2 minutes

AMRAP 3 minutes

D-Ball to Shoulder (70#)

Tuesday

4 rounds on the 4:00

12 thrusters (65#)

12 calorie bike

18 x 10 meter shuttle sprints

then…

Build to a heavy thruster. I worked up to 165#. I stuck around for the class, as well, and did that workout, too, as it was all skill work, specifically rope climbs. I can do these, but under fatigue, they get really hard. It was good to practice these with how tired I already was.

Rest day is on the horizon and I am SO looking forward to that. Clay also gets home from more than a month and a half away in a few days, so things are looking brighter for sure. Now, if winter would GTFO of here already, I’d be really happy.

#Read2018 Check In

Somehow, it’s March, Team. I don’t know how we got here, but we did and this month is nearly halfway over. The Ides Of March are upon us.

In the spirit of a little Shakespeare, I thought I’d check in on my reading list so far this year. You may remember that one of my goals was to read at least 15 books in 2018. As of March 11, I have finished nine books and have started my 10th!

My list so far has been a mix of memoir and make believe. Historical fiction and fantasy. I thought id give you a peak at what I’ve finished in 2018:

 

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Even at 19, she was already a better writer than just about everyone else. I’m grateful we have her words left to us.

Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden
It’s rare to find a book – by a politician, no less – that manages to eat at every corner of your heart. Joe Biden’s memoir of the last years of his son’s life, juxtaposed against the responsibilities and pressures of the vice presidency reveals a man who’s most important duty in life is to care for people around him. It’s vulnerable, it’s genuine, and no matter your opinion of him politically, it’s hard to deny the honesty with which he addresses tragedy and loss. Grief is a universal language and it knows no political affiliation. “Promise Me, Dad” is a meditation for those in mourning and a vision for a brighter future.

Thank you, Joe, for sharing your grief in such a beautiful way and for reminding us that we all have something to work and hope for.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
If you enjoy historical fiction, the WWII-era, and the complex emotions woven throughout our collective memory.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Can Celeste Ng just write all the things? Please? This was such a beautiful story to read. (Go read it and “Little Fires Everywhere” now.)

Fierce by Aly Raisman
I’m a sucker for sports memoirs, and Aly’s Fierce met all my expectations. I’m so proud to see the voice she’s found and the courage she’s shown, not only in the last few months surrounding the Larry Nassar trial, but also in her career. She’s an impressive young woman.

Girl at War by Sara Novic
Sara Nović’s Girl at War is an incredibly vivid account of the Balkan Wars of the early 90s. I’ll admit, I know shamefully little about this period of history, and this story gave me some incredible perspective. For as much literature as there is about the Holocaust, it’s easy for us to say “but that was so long ago…” – the same types of things were happening in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and the other nations that made up Yugoslavia not even 30 years ago. The same things are happening now in Syria. In Myanmar. We still have so much to learn.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
I decided I wanted to read some Shakespeare that I haven’t read before, and somehow I graduated with an English degree without having finished Macbeth. Done and done. I enjoyed this one, though not as much as King Lear, if we’re picking favorites.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
This book made my heart happy and sad at the same time. It takes place in Alaska and reading it felt like home. But the characters’ experience made my heart ache. It’s a beautiful story about the wilderness and the wildness of Alaska and humanity.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Again, not sure how I have an English degree because I only just read this book. I loved it. A young female protagonist saves her family? Yes please. I so badly want to see the movie now, too.

Number 10 is Leading with the Heart by Mike Kryzewski – one of my favorite coaches and sports minds. I figure March is the perfect time to crack this one open.

I’m well on my way to meeting my goal, but I could always use more suggestions! What books are you currently reading?

What’s In My Gym Bag?

Since starting CrossFit, I’ve managed to acquired a bunch of new swag. My gym bag is full of some gear that I definitely could not do without – and I want to share some of it with you!

Because CrossFit is made up of so many different movements and skills, it’s important to make sure that your body is taken care of – especially when a workout includes a high rep scheme or heavy lifts.

I was hesitant at first to just go out and buy gear, primarily because I hate buying things just to be a cool kid. I want to know that if I’m buying gear, it’s because I know it’s something I need, that will protect me in some way, or support my performance. For example: I have yet to buy olympic lifting shoes. These shoes are specially designed to assist ankle mobility and help athletes lift heavier weights by allowing their bodies to get into optimal position. Knowing that my ankle mobility is pretty good and that I’m still very much learning and improving in my olympic lifts, I don’t feel like it’s necessary that I drop $200-$300 on shoes just to look good.

After a few weeks, though, I did some evaluating and determined that there was one thing I could definitely use: grips. The volume of pull-ups, toes to bar, hollow holds, and other bar work that we do results in some gnarly calluses and puts me at risk of ripping my hands. Anyone who has done gymnastics knows just how AWFUL hand rips can be. They are the literal worst. Clay and I did a lot of research (the CrossFit market is flooded with products… not all of which legit), and found Victory Grips. These are designed by a former gymnast, are durable, provide great hand coverage, and are really easy to break in. Since using them, my hands haven’t ripped once. I started out with their leather grips, which I liked, but didn’t do well with the bars in our gym, and have since switched to the stealth grips (pictured), which are synthetic. I love them.

For Christmas, Clay filled out the rest of my gym bag needs. He hooked me up with a weight belt – something I’ve wanted for a while, but like Oly shoes, I didn’t want to use it as a crutch for bad weightlifting form. Belts provide more core stability when lifting heavy loads – but if you don’t take the time to learn how to brace your abdominals and low back properly, even a belt isn’t going to help you. I use mine when lifting heavy or when the volume of a workout is pretty high and I’ve found that it’s helped make me even more aware of keeping my midline tight and consciously working to protect my back.

While I wish I looked as badass Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, I do have those knee sleeves she’s wearing, so that’s close enough for now. Clay also grabbed me these Rehband knee sleeves for Christmas and I’m really glad he did. Now, I’ve never had knee problems, thankfully, but in the past year or so I’ve noticed that my knees crack and pop a lot more than they used to. I also find that they get sore a lot easier – which is probably the result of me becoming decrepit. These sleeves are made of some sturdy neoprene offer compression and support when I’m lifting heavy. We found new 1 rep maxes last week for our squat cleans and hang snatches… I was definitely glad I had my sleeves on when I pulled 205 from the floor and caught it in a front squat!

I generally try to be judicious about what gear I buy – I want to make sure that the equipment I’m spending money on is going to help me improve as an athlete and ensure that my body is protected and can stay in the game for the long haul. Each of these items has so far proven to do just that.

January Wellness Challenge Wrap-Up

Okay. I know everyone on the internet has been convinced that January was the longest month in the history of ever…. and while I can kind of agree, it’s also hard to believe that February is already here. Like, what?

Anyways. During the 74-day eternity that was apparently January, Clay and I participated in a wellness challenge put on by our gym. This week, we wrapped up the challenge (Clay had a few more pull-ups to complete to get his full 500 for the month), and I think it’s safe to say that we are definitely better for having participated.

Our week four goals were centered around mental health and mindfulness. I generally try to be pretty good at taking time for myself and making sure my head is right, but this time of year always, always, stresses me out. At work, we’re preparing for our annual conference and there are so many balls in the air that it inevitably feels like one (or more) will drop and things will explode or catch on fire or collapse.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get my drift.

I’m also heading into the time of year when Clay is gone for a month-and-a-half for work, which isn’t so much stressful as it is a bummer.

All of this is a long way of saying spending a week focused on destressing and self-care was a good thing.

Week Four – Mental Health and Mindfulness

  • Complete a de-stress activity at least twice this week. I make time to read every day and it’s my chance to slow down, turn my work-brain off, and just relax for a bit. Some days, I relax so much that I fall asleep in the middle of a chapter. Other days, I stay up too late and finish a book. Either way, I enjoy taking the time to quiet my thoughts.
  • Write down one thing or person you are grateful for each day of the week. This was easy – I have a lot to be grateful for.
  • Eliminate the words “I can’t” or “never” from your vocabulary for one week at the gym (1 burpee penalty for each time you say either). Fortunately, I have a pretty positive attitude in the gym. I try my best to approach each workout with the mindset that I can do what’s put in front of us. It might hurt, it will definitely be hard, but I can do it. Being aware of not using the words “I can’t” or “never” just made me more determined to push and challenge myself instead of worrying about what other people were doing.
  • Be in the moment. Turn off the phone during dinner for the entire week and engage the people you are with. Clay and I are notorious for spending dinner and the remainder of our evenings with our noses in our phones. Reading Reddit, catching up on social media, reading articles, general mindless blather, etc. Putting our phones down while we ate dinner last week was a nice change. It didn’t help me eat any slower, but it did allow us to have more conversation time, which is never a bad thing.

This month has been a good one, in spite of the stress of work and other nonsense – doing this challenge has helped bring that into focus. I think many of the activities we participated in are actually going to be positive habit-forming experiences. 33 days without alcohol (so far) and 8:00 pm bedtimes have been really, really great. I’m hoping that we continue to see improvement over the next two months, too, as we enter into a less regulated schedule and a busier period of work for both of us.

Happy February!

Wellness Challenge Check-In

Week three of my gym’s Wellness Challenge is well under way. I thought I’d pop on in to give a quick update on how things are going and what’s on the docket for this third week.

Over the weekend, Clay and I made big progress on our goal to row a marathon this month. Between Saturday and Sunday, we cranked out 16,000 meters. That worked out to be just under an hour and a half on the rower.

Surprisingly, my butt wasn’t as tired as I thought it would be.

Week Three’s theme is Recovery and Mobility – two things that I think EVERY athlete can work on. Particularly the recovery part. It’s easy to underestimate how valuable rest is in order to reach our performance goals.

Week Three – Recovery and Mobility

  • Attend the Airrosti Mobility Seminar – we’ll be attending this seminar next week and I’m looking forward to hearing what tips and tricks there are to helping my body move and recover better.
  • Complete a ROMWOD session at least three times this week – ROMWOD, or Range OMotion WOD, is a company that provides mobility and recovery workouts daily to subscribers. I haven’t ponied up for a subscription to this in the past, but I’m looking forward to using the free week-long trial to test it out.
  • Sleep a minimum of 8 hours per night for one week – this goes hand in hand with my goal for the year of prioritizing sleep overall. I can’t guarantee that I will actually stay asleep for 8 hours every night, but I can ensure that I am in bed with plenty of time to settle down with a book and fall asleep and *hopefully* sleep through the night. Unless it’s a night like last night, where I have choir rehearsal and I don’t even get home until an hour and half after my bedtime. Uff da.
  • Choose one day this week for active recovery – I don’t do enough active recovery. Typically, my rest days result in couch time after work. Which, while important, really only serve to help my muscles get stiff. This week, I’m going to get some yoga in – one of my favorite ways to recover.

There you have it. Week three. On its way. Thank goodness for Melatonin.

January Wellness Challenge

I’m not usually one for resolution-ing in the gym. I have fitness goals for the year, don’t get me wrong, we all know about those. But I don’t typically buy in to the #newyearnewme thing.

This year, however, I decided to jump on board with something that my gym is doing – a month-long wellness challenge. Over the course of four weeks, participants are asked to complete at least four of the listed challenges and each week has a different theme.

What I love most about this particular wellness challenge is how holistic it is. Yes, there are fitness-related items (complete 500 push-ups or pull-ups in the month, row a marathon by the end of the month, etc.), but there are also items related to mindfulness, nutrition, recovery, mobility and even water intake!

Clay and I both wanted to get more involved in the community at our gym as well as take the opportunity to improve our overall performance in workouts. We’re more than a week in and so far, so good! I’ll be checking in a couple more times this month to update you on our progress, but here’s a rundown of what we’ve done (or pledged to do) so far:

Week One – Performance

  • Row a marathon (42,000m) in the month
  • Track workouts for a week (we use the myWOD app)
  • Set two performance goals and share with a coach – mine are to improve my overall gymnastics skills with the endgame being to be able to do muscle-ups, and to be able to string together big sets of doubleunders.
  • Partner skill work – Clay and I stayed after class a few times to work on our doubleunders.
  • 500 push-ups in the month. So far, i’ve completed 204/500!

Week Two – Nutrition

  • Eliminate one of the following items for the entire month and keep a journal to describe how are feeling: Alcohol, sugar, soda, dairy, gluten. We chose to eliminate alcohol – and Clay is actually attempting to eliminate it for the whole year. I will probably do the same, as I just don’t feel my best when I drink and my body doesn’t recover well at all.
  • Consume half your body weight in ounces of water per day for the week (e.g. you weigh 150#, you would consume 75 ounces of water.). Do not exceed 100 ounces per day.
  • Prepare or cook all of your meals this week. No fast food or prepared foods.
  • Track and record your food intake for one week and share it with a coach. I use MyFitnessPal regularly, so this one is pretty easy for me. I am trying to be more accurate in my logging, though.

So far, so good! We’re chugging along on our month-long items (we have MANY more meters to row still), and we’ve set our goals. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish in the next couple of weeks!

 

Goals on Goals on Goals

Here we are again. Somehow, the end of the year is here and a new one is upon us – I’m not sure where 2017 went. In some ways, this year has been the BEST and in other ways, 2017 can go die in a fire. Probably right up there with 2016 in the realm of “eff you”. Here’s hoping 2018 has its shit together. Fingers crossed.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed my 2017 goals and checked in on my progress on each one. I was doing pretty well on some and needed to keep working on others. Consequently, my 2018 goals will probably seem pretty similar.

1. Make Sleep a Priority

While I’ve gotten more sleep over the past year, I’m still not great at prioritizing sleep the way I should. As I get older, I notice more acutely how much slower my body is to recover – and I think sleep plays a big part in that. If I’m not sleeping well, I stay fatigued and sore much longer, and I’m just not motivated to do much of anything. Sometimes, making sleep a priority means that I don’t stay up late to watch football, or go out on the weekends very often – both of these go hand in hand with drinking a LOT less alcohol. Drinking less (I rarely drink at all anymore) also helps me sleep. Wine doesn’t put me to bed the way it used to… it mostly just makes me feel like butt when I wake up. So, in 2018, I shall sleep more and drink less!

2. Weekend Water

Karen Walker is generally #goalz, but swap the vodka for water

Generally, I’m very good at drinking water throughout the day. I keep a water bottle on my desk at work and I’m constantly getting up to fill it during the day. At home, we drink lots of sparkling water, but on the weekends, when I’m not working, I don’t drink nearly enough. I did get a fancy new water bottle for Christmas, though, so I’ve tried to be more diligent about using it throughout the evenings and the hours when I’m not working. I’m along with Jenn for the ride of upping water intake.

3. Read *At Least* 15 Books

Last year, I said I wanted to read 30 books. HAHAHAHA. I got through 12 books this year – which is significantly more than I read in 2016, but not even halfway to my goal of 30. So, for 2018, I want to hit the 15 book mark, and if I can go beyond it, then great! I’m always looking for recommendations, too, so hit me up. I got Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened,” Joe Biden’s “Promise Me, Dad,” and Carrie Fisher’s “The Princess Diarist” for Christmas, so I’ll be starting with those. I’ll probably cry through two of the three. Whatever.

4. Practice CrossFit Skills More Regularly

Since starting CrossFit this summer, I’ve learned so many new skills and have improved my movements in a lot of other areas. I can do double-unders now, I can snatch, I can clean almost 200 pounds… but there are many movements I am not proficient in. In 2018, I’d like to work on my ring work (dips, muscle ups), bar work (chest to bar pull-ups, muscle ups), and handstands. Basically all of the gymnastics things. Strength-wise, I’d love to hit new PRs on all of my lifts – which just means lots of reps. I want to try to make it to open gym to work on this skills and hopefully improve as an athlete.

5. Move More – Scroll Less

I spend a lot of time on social media. Like, a lot. Between work (I manage social media there) and home (my evenings often involve Netflix and Instagram scrolling), it’s kind of an all day thing. Now, I’m not here to be all “social media is a poison and it’s rotting our brains” because I think that’s patently untrue. I think social media is great. It offers an incredible platform for people to connect and engage all over the world. It allows us to meet new people and stay in touch with family and friends. But, if we’re not careful, it can be a trap – whether that be politics or body image or otherwise. Mostly, this goal is just to be more cognizant of how many times I’m picking my phone up or sitting and scrolling instead of going out for  walk or finding something to do around the house. Just trying to be more aware and bring more balance  and presence to this area of my life.

Obviously, these goals aren’t time-stamped, and they certainly don’t have an expiration date. My next steps are just to keep on trucking and make a little bit of progress every day. I would like to keep a small journal, just to help keep track of some of the measurable items and to help remind myself of these goals throughout the year.

How do you set goals for yourself? Do you buy in to New Year’s resolutions?

 

Chick Chat: Christmas Movies

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the time when we get to watch ALL of the best Christmas movies. The only problem? Deciding which ones to sit down with. There are so many good holiday flicks out there, so to help you narrow your list down, we’ve pulled together some of our very favorites. When we decided to do this post, I told Kyle and Meridith that there was no way I could pick just ONE favorite holiday movie. I mean, who can, honestly? I’m wagering no one. I did, however, force myself to limit my selection to three favorites. It was super hard, y’all! Someone fetch me some eggnog!

Numero Uno for me is and will always be A Christmas StoryI remember the first time I watched it in 1985 when I was in fourth grade. It was a cold Christmas, and although I don’t remember what I asked Santa for that year, I will never forget watching it for the first time. I sat next to my deaf grandmother, and her full body belly laughs when Randy shows mom how piggies eat were contagious. Being deaf, grandma couldn’t understand what was being said (we didn’t have a closed caption machine, it was an actual machine you hooked up to the TV back then), but boy she thought that kid sticking his face in mashed potatoes was the funniest thing ever. My grandma had the best laugh, and I think it was because she was deaf. When you can’t hear yourself to be self-conscious, you let it rip full gusto! It was infectious. This movie is such a staple in my family that we have a tradition of watching it while we decorate our tree. I even have my very own leg lamp.

Number two for me is an old movie, Heidi staring Shirley Temple. It’s colorized so it has a special charm about it that can’t be duplicated. It started my forever unfulfilled wish to travel solely by horse drawn sleigh throughout December. My mother loves this movie and we watched it often growing up. Most folks won’t think of it as a Christmas movie, but Christmas is sprinkled throughout the film with the film’s climax taking place on Christmas Eve. The story is a bit rough, involving kidnapping and child abuse, but it’s a Shirley Temple movie, so you know things aren’t THAT bad and there’s of course a happy ending. It’s hard to find, but look, someone uploaded the entire movie here on Youtube. Yay!

Lastly is my very favorite version of the Dicken’s Classic, Scrooge. Why is this one my favorite? I’m a bit of a sucker for Golden Age musicals, and although this was made in 1970, it has great songs, lush costumes and sets, and superb acting from Albert Finney as Ebenezer. It’s a wonderful traditional telling of the classic holiday story. It also has one of my favorite songs in musicals ever, one that reminds me of the humor of Gaston andLes Poisson, called Thank You Very Much. It’s a sad day when all of London comes out to say “thanks for dying, jerk!” Ebenezer deserves it, though. It’s also a hard one to find. Youtube to the rescue again!

ELF

You guys, any movie that has a NARWAL in it gets an automatic A+ from me.

Elf is one of those current classic movies that just makes me laugh and laugh. My entire immediate family can apply so many great quotes from this movie to every moment in our lives. “YOU DID IT! CONGRATULATIONS! World’s best cup of coffee!” for example, is great any time of year, not just during the holidays.

Plus, blonde Zoey Deschanel singing “It’s Cold Outside” gets me every time.

The Polar Express

I love this one because my kids loved this one when they were younger. We used to watch it over, and over, and over.

Sure, the book is better because the book is always better, but I love the songs in the animated movie like Hot Chocolate and When Christmas Comes to Town. Honestly, it just reminds me of when my boys were little. They’re not super little anymore but they still enjoy watching this one with me, so I can pretend.

Love Actually

I’m sure someone else is going to mention this one but I can’t not say it. Because, to me, it is perfect.

Okay, since I’m the one putting this post together, I had to put myself last, because I didn’t want to repeat a movie that was already mentioned! Meridith and Jenn both talked about a few of my faves, but because I have a lot of favorite Christmas movies, I have plenty more to choose from.

Home Alone
This movie typifies early 90’s everything. From the John Williams soundtrack to John Candy to Macaulay Caulkin, Home Alone is a classic. Far better than its sequels, the first story of “Kevin mouths off, gets sent to the attic and accidentally gets left behind” is implausible in all the best ways. The highly adept 8-year-old buying fabric softener and milk is questionable at best, but the running away from the scary neighbor and accidentally stealing a toothbrush in the process is totally believable. The Wet Bandits are delightfully dimwitted and the booby-trapped house is every kid’s dream. It almost goes without saying that Home Alone was second on my list of Christmas movies watched this year.
The Santa Clause
Another 90’s Christmas classic that far exceeded its sequels (seriously, don’t bother watching them). I will never not love the premise of the clause that ropes Tim Allen’s Scott Calvin into becoming St. Nick after the latter falls off a roof and disappears. Allen – at the peak of his ‘Home Improvement’ fame – is fantastically funny. But what I really love about this movie is the emphasis it places on the idea that “seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing” – even grown-ups, for whom Santa is just an idea, can believe in the spirit of the season. The juxtaposition of real life with magic is well thought out and this particular imagining of the North Pole may be my favorite of all time. Two thumbs all the way up.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Twenty-five years ago, the best version of the Dickens classic was brought to life by some of the greatest actors of all time and Michael Caine. Complete with singing and dancing rats, Gonzo as Charles Dickens and Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit. It’s hard not to like the Muppets – except for that abomination of a song (if you know the one to which I am referring, points to you). I think I watched this movie on repeat for most of my childhood Christmases, a tradition that continues to this day. I haven’t yet watched this year, but because I’m 99% sure that Clay hasn’t seen it, I’ll be remedying that soon. After all, there’s only a few more sleeps til Christmas!
Christmas Vacation
“Why is the carpet all wet, Todd?”
“I don’t KNOW, Margo.”
“Merry Christmas. Shitter’s full.”
“HALLELUJAH, HOLY SHIT.”
That’s all I have to say about this one. Thank you, National Lampoon, for gifting us the Griswolds.
What are your favorite Christmas movies? Do you have any family traditions that involve watching the 24-hour ‘A Christmas Story’ marathon?