Review: Gainz Box

I don’t know about you, but I love subscription boxes. There’s just something fun about a box showing up on my doorstep with cool, curated stuff just for me. I’ve previously done Stride Box, I’m a frequent Stitch Fix-er, we currently subscribe to o the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Loot Crate, and I recently signed up to try gainz box.Gainz Box delivers a number of specially curated CrossFit and weightlifting products to your door – now, disclaimer, I don’t do CrossFit. I enjoy following CrossFit athletes and many of my workouts use elements, but I’ve never been to a box nor have I ever done a class. That said, I still felt like gainz box has products that were for me! I was thrilled to receive mine this week and was excited to see how the products could work in my gym life.

Each box could contain the following elements: apparel, supplements, equipment, snacks, collectibles, and since the boxes are curated by different experts each month, you also get a bit of their knowledge.

The February box was put together by Julian Alcaraz and Miranda Oldroyd – both well-known and seasoned CrossFit Games athletes. The products included are some of their favorites and the included write up gives you details about what’s included, as well as some discount codes if you want to buy more!

The first thing I pulled out of the box was WOD Welder hand cream. This moisturizer is supposed to increase the elasticity of your skin and help repair your callouses, ultimately protecting them from nasty rips and tears. I have some gnarly callouses from all of the barbell work I do, and I can tell you I need all the help I can get. Plus, it smells good and isn’t too heavy or greasy. That’s a win!

You guys. I love tea. A lot. I drink tea every day – usually hot, because it’s the easiest to make at work. But yeah, tea is great. I was super excited to see this in this box and I was even more excited to see that it was just that: tea – nothing extra added, tea and water. Paleo, no added sugar. I had this at work yesterday, and omg. It was awesome. I need to get my hands on more of these, because it’s starting to get warm in Virginia and iced tea is my jam. Gimme.

Also included? A shaker bottle. I probably have… six… seven shaker bottles? Clay and I use these daily, whether it’s for preworkout or protein shakes. One can never have too many. I threw this one in my gym bag, where it will probably live permanently, or get migrated to my office, so I have one there. 

Getting new workout clothes is maybe one of my favorite things ever – and this box had not only this v-neck tee from Wod Gear, it also included a pair of socks. I haven’t tried those yet (I’m picky about my socks), but I wore this shirt to the gym yesterday and it was great. Typically, I don’t wear sleeved shirts when I work out, but this one’s sleeves are short enough that I didn’t get too hot. It’s a nice add to my collection. All in all, I was really pleased with what I got this month. This box is a little pricey – for the month to month subscription it’s $32, but the value is great. You’re getting approximately $75 worth of gear for about half the cost. And with the coupon codes included as well? Yeah. I approve.

I’m going to keep my subscription for another month or two for sure – I’d like to see what other boxes look like and I definitely don’t mind getting some new swag in the process. I’ll say it again, you don’t have to be a crossfitter to subscribe to gainz box – honestly, I found everything in this box useful to me as someone who weight trains regularly. If you do, too, check it out! You’ll get some great products, and maybe you’ll be exposed to something you haven’t tried before.

 

Traveling? Modify Your Workouts!

Anyone who has traveled literally ever knows how challenging it can be to try to find time to exercise on a trip. Especially if that trip is one for work and your days are almost entirely consumed with work-related activities.

Between days full of meetings and education sessions, and evenings that have multiple events requiring your presence or attention, finding time to get even a 20 minute workout in can feel impossible.

That’s the situation I’m faced with this week. I’m on the road for the annual conference that the association I work for puts on. Fortunately, the hotel we’re taking over has a fitness facility and I’ve committed to working out at least three times during the five days I’m working there. Ideally, I’ll be able to make it happen all five days, but you know as well as I do that sometimes, you’re just too wiped by the end of the day.

Now, what might seem like a challenge is figuring out whether or not I’l be able to continue with my current workout routine. Currently, I’m doing a lot of barbell work – front and back squats, cleans, push jerks, thrusters, bench press, deadlifts… Without a barbell, these things seemingly become more difficult.

But that’s just how it seems. What’s cool is that al of these moves can be scaled or adjusted to be performed with Dumbbells or kettle bells. And some can even be done with body weight alone (I’m looking at you squats).

So, this week, depending on the equipment available to me, I’ve been doing my normal workouts or body weight workouts, based on the following:

Monday – bi tri/cardio
Row – 50 cal warm up – The likelihood that the hotel has a rower is slim, so I’ll probably just jog for five minutes or so
Standing curl – 4×8 (20)
Hammer curl – 4×8 (17.5)
Ez bar curl – 4×8 (35) – All of these cable-related lifts will be dependent on equipment. No cables? Tricep push-ups and kickbacks instead!
Tricep pushdown – 4×10 (55)
Rope pull down – 4×10 (38.5)

4 rounds
10 KBS (20)
10 burpees

Tuesday – legs
Back squat – 4×8 (185)
Box jump/air squat superset – 3 rounds, 10/15
Sled push – 1,2,3,2,1

Pull-up/box jump/push-up superset.
6/10/6

Wednesday – back
3:00 AMRAP (3 rounds)
Deadlift/push-up super set 185/135 – Deadlifts can be done with Dumbbells or kettle bells easily enough. I won’t be able to get up to my normal working weight, so I’ll probably up my AMRAP time to 5:00.

Barbell row 4×8 (135) – Dumbbells, lower weight, higher reps.

Cable row/lat pull down superset
4×10 (121) – If there’s no cable machine, I’ll add to my pull-up reps in the next movement.

Pull-up/box jump/push-up superset.
6/10/6

Thursday – chest
Straight bench – 4×8 (135-7,6,6,5) – Will sub with Dumbbells if necessary. Or push-ups if no Dumbbells are available.
Seated Fly – 4×8 (30×4)

15 min EMOM
18/12 cal row – If no rower, I’ll run!
18/12 air squat
18/12 dips

Pull-up/box jump/push-up superset.
6/10/6

Friday – shoulders
Thrusters – 4×8 (85) – Modify this with Dumbbells if necessary
Push press – 4×8 (75) – Modify this with Dumbbells if necessary

6 min EMOM
Wall ball thrusters max
Jump squats max

Pull-up/box jump/push-up superset.
6/10/6

Saturday – rest
Saturday is a travel day, so working out is a maybe. If I have time to do a short workout in the morning, I will, but I’m not going to scramble to make it happen.

Having a workout plan and schedule for the week should make my goal of working out while at Conference easier to achieve, but as well all know, things happen. In the event I can’t stick to my schedule, I’ll improvise, and that will be good enough. Because as long as I get to move my body and zone out for a little bit, I’ll be in a good spot.

New Year’s Resolutions? More Like Life Resolutions.

Now that we’re a month into 2017, those resolutions we made a few short weeks ago might have already fallen to the wayside. Or, you could have been like me and not made any resolutions at all, in which case you might still be trying to figure out what you want to do in 2017 and how you’re going to accomplish it.

We hear so much talk about #newyearnewme that is almost seems like a requirement that we all resolve to be skinnier or stronger or whatever. I have a hard time with that, because 1. The me that I am right now seems pretty okay, and 2. Shouldn’t we focus more on being a better human being and making meaningful changes in our lives than just the superficial?

Similarly, I don’t think the beginning of the year has cornered the market on when we’re allowed to set goals. Who says you can’t make resolutions at the end of January, or in May or in August? No one, that’s who.

Given that, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks really evaluating some *life* things and have made pledges to myself and to others. Some of these pledges are fitness related, others are more broadly applicable in my life. All are aimed at growing into a better person and maybe bettering the word around me, too.

1. Get more sleep.
This is a fitness goal if I’ve ever seen one. Having a history of troubled sleep or simply not getting enough has meant that I haven’t allowed my body the appropriate recovery time. In the last month and a half, Clay and I have prioritized early bedtimes in favor of getting the most sleep possible. Consequently, we’ve been feeling a lot better physically and been more successful in the gym.

2. Read more books.
This seems like a gimme, but it’s ones that I’m really excited about! I used to be voracious reader as a kid, but since graduating college, the time I’ve dedicated to reading has dwindled. However, now that getting to bed early is a reality, so is making time to read a little before falling asleep. My goal is to finish at least 30 books this year – I’m already two in (one of those being Game of Thrones. Go big or go home amirite?)
3. Balance my workouts.
Weightlifting has been front and center for more than a year, but I want to make sure I’m balancing that with cardio as well – I feel better physically when I make time for a run or a Kaza class or two during the week. I want to stick to this, especially while Clay travels for work and my gym partner is gone.

4. Get more involved in my community.
This is a goal that has grown out of the atmosphere of the past few weeks – I feel that to best do my small part to fix what is so broken, I first need to get to know my neighbors and our community. To better understand what challenges we all face and what our priorities are.

5. Adjust my five year plan.
Following the last goal, this one is broader. My new five year plan includes going back to school and getting my law degree, so that I can really make bigger moves in advocacy and political action. But, in order to make that happen, I need to make some other adjustments and allowances. I’m grateful to have a partner who supports and encourages these dreams – and who understands that they may take time to achieve, but they are still possible.

More than new year’s resolutions, 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.

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

A Few of My Favorite Things

With the beginning of the new year, I’ve got yet another new fitness regimen. We’ve worked up some new strength programming and have put a new focus on some HIIT-inspired movements.

Sweating for the wedding is real right now.

In an effort to stay inspired in the gym and feel good about the work we’re putting in, in conjunction with Clay’s new role at work being very focused on helping lead PT for his unit, our workouts have started to look very different.

It’s awesome.

What’s even more awesome though, is that Christmas meant new fitness accessories – and consequently better workouts. Its always interesting to me how having the right equipment can make such a big difference in how efficient your movements and lifts are. I feel so much better in the gym now that I’ve solved a couple of workout woes.

So what am I loving right now?

Nike Metcon 2

These shooooesssss you guys. If you’re doing weightlifting and cross-training workouts, these shoes are going to be your jam. I’ve read about them for a long time (I read a lot of fitness blogs, okay) and many athletes have shared how much they love this shoe. It’s an ideal cross-trainer, because while it’s the tiniest bit weighted and flat-soled for lifting stability, it also have a flexible forefoot, which means running and agility drills are comfortable. (I was going to say no sweat, but that is not the case at all. There is a lot of sweat.)

I’ve been using these bad boys for a couple of weeks and I’ve already noticed a significant difference. Squats, thrusters, push presses, and deadlifts all feel better – the flat sole of shoe connects me with the ground, and the solid heel helps keep my form correct. Workouts have gotten harder, but my feet are happier.

Nordic Lifting Wrist Wraps 

Originally, I bought wrist wraps and straps for Clay for Christmas. He was about them and has used them pretty much every day he could since then. Of course, his raving made me want to try them… and I borrowed his wrist wraps on days when we were bench pressing and immediately I noticed the difference. I’d never really thought I needed or wanted more wrist support, but the added stability has really helped me to continue to move heavier weight at higher reps. My wrists feel safer all around.

Qalo Ring

I’ve written about my Qalo rings before, but I can’t stress enough how much I love them. Qalo offers silicone rings to wear in place of your wedding or engagement rings while you workout, work or play outside. Throwing around weights and barbells can do gnarly damage to your jewelry AND your fingers if something gets caught wrong. Not to mention all that sweat. No good can come from that. I have a couple of these rings and I wear them a lot – always when I’m at the gym, sometimes when I go to Kazaxe and on days when I’m doing a lot of cleaning or hiking or playing outside. They have a ton of fun colors and styles, and even some rings whose proceeds go to charitable organizations.

It’s important to remember, thought, that at the end of the day, fitness equipment is just that – equipment. It doesn’t work unless you do. It’s not meant to turn you into a super athlete, its meant to help you be more efficient, more effective and safer in your workouts so that you can get the most out of them. So, lace up, strap in and get going!

 

Recipe Box: Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies

Bake. All. The. Cookies.

We all know I love to bake. I’ve been baking all summer, working on finding the perfect recipe for my wedding cake. I instituted #FridayBaking at my office, and often bake Pinterest finds in our office kitchen. So, it should be no surprise that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I end up baking A LOT of cookies.

This probably has something to do with the nostalgia that baking Christmas cookies carries. As a kid, I can remember enjoying many a cookie-baking day with my mom and my sisters, yelling “OVEN’S OPEN” any time we had to put a new batch in or take a done batch out. Frosting cookies with my Girl Scout Troop. I’ll be home for Christmas this year for the first time in five years, and my mom is already planning what cookies we’re going to make. I can’t wait.

ANYWAYS. When we were invited to a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner, I offered to make a side (Brussels Sprouts with Bacon), but I also decided that I would contribute a dessert. Typically at this time of year, I stick to some family favorites: peanut butter blossoms, candy cane cookies, pecan balls. But, I wanted to try something a little different.

Some Pinterest searching later, and I stumbled upon a recipe for gingerbread cookies from If You Give a Blonde a Kitchen. My interest was piqued. I love gingerbread, but somehow, it doesn’t make it’s way into my regular holiday cookie rotation. As I threw these cookies together, all of the spices and smells got me super stoked for more cookie baking and Christmasing with my family.

Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but still cool, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

  1. With an electric mixer (either hand or stand) stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and add the butter pieces. Mix at medium-low speed until the mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and, with the mixer running, gradually add the molasses and milk. Mix until the dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.
  2. Scrape the dough onto a work surface; divide it in half. Working with one portion at a time, shape the dough into two round disks. Cover them in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, 20 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, refrigerate the dough 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and begin rolling the dough into balls, about 2-inches in diameter. Be careful not to overwork the dough as it will lose its chill and get too warm. Roll each dough ball in the granulated sugar until coated. Transfer ball to confectioners’ sugar and roll again until coated evenly. Place the coated dough balls 1-inch apart from each other on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake the cookies until set in the centers, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake. Cool the cookies on the sheets 2 minutes, then remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

What are some of your favorite Christmas cookie recipes?

#WeddingWednesday: DIY Wedding Day Music

I’m DJ-ing my own wedding.

roomba

I wish DJ Roomba would play my wedding.

I thought this would be pretty easy – I’m a musician, Clay is really a musician, we love a wide variety of tune-age. Finding songs that we like should be no problem, right?

Well. Kind of.

As it turns out, we both have pretty strong criteria for our playlists and while we like many genres and styles of music, it’s hard to sift through that many songs! And, we don’t want any of our ceremony music to feel cliched – because as pretty as Pachelbel’s Canon is, I am not walking down the aisle to it. Nope. (Not judging anyone who has used that piece, I’ve just played it one too many times, and the cello part blows.)

It’s also tricky to pick all of your own music for not only the ceremony, but also for dinner and dancing. That’s a lot of moods and styles to figure out and balance. (And let’s be honest, I really just want to dance.)

Basically, the Bravermans are #goals

Basically, the Bravermans are #goals

Needless to say,  I have a large spreadsheet mapping out our current favorites and ideas. The dancing and dinner portions of the evening don’t seem to be giving me as much trouble as the ceremony part – which isn’t really surprising, as it is the most personal and is when people will be the most tuned-in to what the music says and how it makes them feel.

Consequently, that means that I am over-thinking this portion like whoa. Because I want to avoid cliche, and I want the ceremony to be true to our music style, I’m finding myself wading through all of my favorite music and getting seriously distracted. “Oooh, I like that!” “OH! I like that too.”  “Dave Matthews needs to be in here somewhere” “Also probably Paul Simon?” “HOW COULD I FORGET JOHN WILLIAMS?!”

You see my problem.

Fortunately, the lovely folks at Wedding Paper Divas have a super helpful tool to help with this kind of indecision. Their Wedding Song interactive is categorized by event within the wedding day, and then browse-able by genre and decade.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-8-58-46-pm

I spent about twenty minutes poking through their selections for processionals, as that’s where most of my indecision has been, and I was pleased to find a song I didn’t know existed that now I want to use! Who knew that John Mayer covered Beyonce’s “XO”? Okay. Clay knew. But I didn’t, and I’m kind of obsessed with it.

I’m really looking forward to continuing to play around with this tool as we build our playlists for Wedding Day – there’s still a lot of fine-tuning to do and this will be a great resource to inspire us.

What are some of the most unique wedding songs you’ve heard? Best? Worst?

We Found Love in a Hopeless Place

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When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown
When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown

I think Petula Clark was on to something – because last weekend, when I was still deep in the dark place, the fiance and I took a quick little jaunt down to Charlottesville, VA (not exactly “downtown”) to spend some time together outside of our normal routine.

It was a short trip, but it was just what we needed.

Between crazy work schedules and travel and extracurricular commitments, finding time to be together and just enjoy each other’s company has been a challenge, because when we are together, we’re usually running errands, or cleaning the house, or hosting our friends for Sunday football, or collapsing on the couch after a long day and zoning out in front of Netflix. And trying to save money for the wedding has meant that we have been keeping things pretty low-key.

So, we planned a weekend away. But what was supposed to be a two-night stay became a “less-than-24-hour excursion” because, wouldn’t you know it, work happened and we needed to get back in time for that. That said, we managed to capitalize on all of our time there and it was just what we needed.

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Friday morning, we hopped in the car and drove back country roads to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate just outside of Charlottesville. We spend lunch and the early afternoon there exploring the grounds, enjoying the unseasonably warm sun, and touring Jefferson’s house. Consequently, I think we also managed to get Hamilton songs stuck in everyone’s heads if they were following us on social media.

Following Monticello, we had planned to visit a winery, but we were tired and hungry, and decided that checking in to our hotel sounded like a better plan. Because that involved stopping for snacks and then laying in bed watching tv and napping without any reason to move.

(I know. I vacation hardcore.)

One of the big reasons we wanted to visit Charlottesville is that it is the birthplace of the Dave Matthews Band. Dave was living and working as a bartender in Cville when he formed the group and there are a number of DMB landmarks there. Clay really wanted to see a few of them, so we spent the evening on a DMB mission.

It was important to Clay for us to stop at Leroi Moore’s gravesite – Moore, one of the founding members of the band, passed away in 2008. He, and the band, have meant a lot to Clay over the years, and getting to pay his respects was something Clay had wanted to do for a long time.

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Afterwards, we decided we needed a drink and some dinner – and we needed to pour one out for Leroi. Or shoot whiskey. Same thing, right? I thought so. So, we headed to Miller’s Downtown – the bar that Dave Matthews was tending at when he put the band together. Yes, there was fangirling. No, we’re not sorry. The burger and the wings were awesome and downtown Charlottesville is the cutest. They’ve taken a few blocks of the downtown area and closed them to vehicles, so it’s just a pedestrian mall. We walked up and down it after dinner and explored that little corner of the city before retiring to bed.

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When you try to get the Miller’s sign and your faces in one picture… with little success.

Saying goodbye to Charlottesville the next morning happened early and cold – but we left feeling rejuvenated and energized and, honestly, more connected. That sounds so sappy, but it’s true and I’m grateful that in the midst of what has been a very uncertain and emotional week, we were able to find time to focus on each other.