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! 

Why I Run

I get a lot of different responses when I talk about running. Some people think it’s really cool that running is something I do. Often times people get this look on their face like they want to say something rude, but are holding it in really, really well. Most of the time the response is “Oh, I hate running!” to which I always want to reply – “Me too!”

Truth is, I don’t feel that way about running. I actually love running a whole darn lot.

When I was sixteen I joined my high school’s cross country team because a friend wanted me to. The only thing I learned was that I was very bad at running. So bad that it would scar me for years and I wouldn’t even try it again until ten years later.

That time I was training for a 5K with some girls from work. I was at nearly my heaviest weight, but still trying. I never did manage to run a 5K without walking that time, but I still had some fun…I guess.

I feel like, with this story, the third time is the charm. I mentioned a little bit about it in my About Ash page, but I started running after I turned thirty. A couple of my friends and I started the Couch to 5K program and were keeping each other accountable through texts and Facebook. It was slow-going at first, but I remember the first time I was able to run five minutes without stopping. It was amazing. I was so impressed with myself and my body for doing something that I couldn’t even do when I was sixteen!

When the successes starting to pile up I got more excited about running. Being able to run 3.2 miles was a huge success for me and one that I would have proudly stopped at had I not had my friend Michelle pushing me to do more.

It’s not the distance that I love, though. I mostly run alone so I get to pick my distances. During the week I don’t run more than 2-3 miles simply because I’m pretty tired when I get off work. I know that’s a lousy excuse but I really love sleep.

When I’m out there, even if it’s a bad run, I’m still amazed at what my body can do and has already done. To me, running is not only physical, but also a mental sport. There are so many times I’m beating myself up, but also trying to beat myself, if that makes sense.

I love the feeling I get when I know I’ve pushed myself through the miles. I’ve been struggling with my runs lately, but I know that it will get better if I keep going.

I also know that I have to keep going. Honestly, running is good for my sanity! When I’m having a tough day at work and I just need to go– I run. Just me, music, and nature. Sometimes I’ll stop and just stand in nature. (Sometimes I take some really weird picture for Skirt Sports, too.)

The quietness and the peace I feel when running isn’t something I can really put into words. No matter if there are cars buzzing by or if I’m stopping to pet cats in my neighborhood. Not even if I’m struggling with the run and I just want to be home eating snacks…if I just take a deep breath and close my eyes everything goes away for just a moment.

Running keeps me balanced. It keeps me sane. It helps me know that I am capable of amazing things, but also that I’m not always perfect.

I run for me.

Why do you run?

Being a Skirt Sports Ambassador means I’m always on the lookout for secluded spots so strangers don’t see me taking pictures of myself. 😉

Princess Prep Fail

Way back in 2017 I signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. It truly seems like it was so long ago because of how far in advance you have to sign up. As a Disney Annual Passholder I get a couple of weeks’ advance access so, yeah, it feels like it was ages ago.

Flash forward about eight months later and Princess Weekend is this weekend! I’m super excited about it because I love all things Disney. I took the day off from work, my hotel is booked, my outfits are ready…it’s going to be great.

In 2016 I went for a Rapunzel look and I loved it! I’m really excited about my outfit this year!

Only I am really, really unprepared for this race.

On the other hand I am really excited about my outfits for park hours…

When I signed up to do my very first half marathon (also a Disney race) in 2014, I enthusiastically trained for it. The race was in January of 2015- the first time I met Mer and Brooke- and I felt so ready for it. Since that race I’ve done five other half marathons and they’ve all gone well.

Lately, however, training has been difficult. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses, though. I know all the fail has been on my part. I am good at a lot of things, most of the time. Training…not one of those things. Each time a race comes up I try to do better. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Obviously I’ve known about the Princess Half for a while. I haven’t found it in me to do a long run in the past few weeks. I know that I will probably suffer for that a little bit this weekend. Like a lot of folks, I started this year trying to be more healthy. I even decided to add something “health related” to my daily life for lent. Lately I’m struggling with it, though. I know it takes a while to create a habit, I just know that it this point it’s a little too late.

Even though I’m not particularly “prepared” for this half marathon, I know that I’m going to have fun. This will be my fourth runDisney race (my second since November) and they are always a blast. From waiting in the corral at 4AM to crossing the finish line in Epcot. There are cheerleaders, signs, costumes, and park-goers that are there to keep you going. Disney races are always packed with participants and I never feel any pressure to be faster or better than anyone else. I love the camaraderie that you feel when running a Disney race and I’m so excited to see how creative the ladies (and dudes) get with their costumes! It’s my favorite part of a Disney race!

Michelle is my Best Friend/Best Running Friend. We do all our BIG IMPORTANT RACES together.

This will be my second time doing the Princess Half and I am seriously stoked about it, no matter if I’m prepared or not. I’m ready to have fun, to get lots of photos, and to maybe have a celebratory drink in Epcot after. No matter what, I know I’ll be getting that shiny Princess medal!

I’ll be Twittering and Instagramming for Princess Weekend if you want to follow! Also, hit me up if you’re running too! I’d love to meet up!

Stay tuned for my recap sometime next week!

2018 Race Plans

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my goals for 2018. I started laying them out in November, of course, because I love planning.

Give me a planner and I’ll conquer the world.

     My primary goal is one I’ve had for a long time. It’s a total cliché too. You know, it’s that one about finishing your novel. Yeah. That. I’ve wanted to be a writer all my life and I recently had a small success in that a short story of mine placed in a contest and was published. But my main goal is to finish the novel that I’ve been working on for many, many, many, years. So many years I can’t even tell you how many because it’s an embarrassment. So that is my primary goal in 2018, get my novel finished!

I did run the Yellowstone Half last year but it’s the Caldera medal that’s calling my name.  Plus, I fell in love with the Tetons when we drove through the park last summer. These races are back-to-back weekends in June, and my sister and I are taking a road trip there together. We’ll be camping and hiking the two national parks all week together and I’m super excited about it! I could really use a vacation.  Next week marks the start of half training for these races and I’ll keep mixing strength training into my routine as well.

Some of my favorite photos from the Vacations Races I’ve run over the years.

     I’m also doing the Rocky Mountain Elk Double again in August and it will be my fourth year participating. I’m super excited because Meridith is flying out to join me for my favorite race! I am so stoked because she’s bringing her whole family and I get to show them Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park. I openly admit my bias for Colorado, and I love showing off the state that I’m so lucky to live in and proud to be from. Those are my three races for the year and while it doesn’t seem like a lot, the Triple is two half marathons and a 5k in seven days. It will be a great challenge.

     Last week, I took a class at REI about cross-country skiing, and tomorrow, I’m taking another class there about snowshoeing basics. These classes are free, so check out your local REI for their offerings. I could even ice skate if I wanted to because there’s a pond less than a mile from my house that’s frozen solid right now. The variety and choices are endless! I just have to push myself out of my comfort zone and out of the gym and go give it a try. 2018 is the time to be fearless!

If you want to follow my writing pursuits, I have a Twitter and a website and they come with my undying devotion. You can’t pass THAT up. 

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!

 

No Sugar Challenge Check-In

I can’t believe it’s day 11, basically the halfway point, of our 21 day no sugar challenge! Let’s check in.

The first week was…rough. My cravings for baked goods was strong and persistent, but somehow I managed to not cry. I don’t know how, but I did it!

I was also STARVING the first week. SO. HUNGRY. Out of hunger, I did break down on Monday and get a bacon cheeseburger because the idea of another salad in winter chilled me to the bone.

I’m still living at my parent’s, waiting for my house to be built (another *challenge* I frequently cry over), and I forgot to tell my mom that I’m doing the sugar challenge. She went grocery shopping, as she does, (wonderful soul), and brought home allllll my favorite things. Like Plain Goldfish (yes, I’m 6), and Nutella, and Ice cream. She also brought home salad and fruit and all kinds of things I can eat, so yay, I’m not starving!!

The best thing that I’ve noticed is that my taste buds are starting to reset. I ate some strawberries the other day and they really did taste like candy. I was great. And seeing, or in this case, experiencing, a noticeable difference like that was encouraging. Eating more fruit will help me get over my cravings, so that’s the plan for the rest of the challenge.

 

Up until Tuesday of this week if you had asked me how I was doing with the no sugar challenge, I would have answered with “Fine, dandy, couldn’t be better!”

And then, I fell hard on the ice (while being a responsible human and taking out the recycling).

We’re big fans of BibRave orange!

As such, my life has been a bit of a slip sliding disaster. On Tuesday night, after I got my cast, I demanded ice cream.
Yesterday I went back to smarter decisions and skipped the cookies that were offered to me. I’m an emotional eater and this has definitely put A BIG OL’ WRENCH in the works. I have more to say but as I am typing this one-handed, I’ll just stop here.

Oh sugar.

I think I’m somewhere along Meri’s line with this. I’ve been doing well, until I found the Christmas chocolate in the pantry yesterday and the PMS whispered in my ear “you NEED this.”
It was right. I needed it.
But, beyond the small snack of chocolate here and there, stepping back from the sweets has been pretty a-okay. I’m fortunate to eat pretty healthy most of the time anyways, and aside from the sneaky chocolate in the pantry, there isn’t any junk in our house to speak of. It’s pretty easy to avoid sugar when you don’t have any crap food around.
We’ll just keep chugging along… only a couple weeks to go!
It’s not to late to join our challenge and giveaway! Click here to enter.
How are you doing with the challenge? Only 10 days left, tell us all about your struggles and triumphs! 

21 Day No Sugar Challenge

Today, we’re kicking off our 21 No Sugar Challenge! I decided to do this for myself when I discovered my glucose levels were wonky after my annual routine blood work. Diabetes doesn’t run in my family, but my addiction to baked goods is likely to blame. I knew it was time to cut back on the processed sugar, and I knew the best way for me personally to do that was to go cold turkey. I’m not doing any sort of program, I’m just going to do my absolute best to cut sugar from my diet for the next 21 days.

Tears are being shed for all the future donuts I will not eat.

I know this is going to be super hard for me. But I also know this is crucial for my health. I’m 41, and it’s now or never to kick my sugar addiction.

Here’s my strategy:

  • Continue drinking more water to help flush my system (thanks, Hydration Challenge!)
  • Drink more hot herbal and green teas that don’t need sweetener
  • Chew sugar free gum when I get a craving
  • Eat more fruit
  • Cut white sugar and white flour food items

Here’s what I hope to gain by day 22:

  • A shift in my taste buds toward less sugar cravings
  • More stamina instead of the crash and burn from glucose energy
  • Overall feeling of increased health and wellness
  • A new perspective on diet
  • Lots of yummy new recipes!

This ain’t gonna be easy, folks. I expect there will be tears. Especially when my severe PMS cravings kick in. Some of the challenges I’m expecting are:

  • Not having my morning tea routine
  • Not eating chocolate in any form
  • Not having scones with my tea
  • Making sure I carefully read all labels

Speaking of Labels…

I know what I’m getting into, and I know my body. I quit smoking thirteen years ago, and to this day that was the hardest thing ever. After years of trying to quit with everything from medications, patches, and gum to sunflower seeds, toothpicks, and learning to knit, I learned that the only thing I really need is motivation and determination. I’ve never been so motivated to change my eating habits as I am now.

Are you motivated too? No matter what your fitness goal is for 2018, it can benefit from eating less sugar. I’d LOVE to have you join me on this journey. It’s free. I’m not selling anything, it’s all about accountability and commiseration. It’s going to be hard and challenging, but fun and oh so worth it. There will be a giveaway at the end, too, and we all love winning stuff! So come along with me on this sugarless trip, and tell me what you’re motivated to change in 2018. Together, we can do it!

To join the challenge, enter our giveaway by clicking the picture above or here and interact with us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I’m here to support you as you chase your goals, so TELL ME ALL ABOUT THEM. Let’s do this!

December Hydration Challenge Kick-Off

Today is day one of the 21 day hydration challenge, and we are all in on this one! I’m excited to commit to this goal and make it happen. I’m not the best at consistency or discipline so accountability is a good thing. I hope we can be that for you, too, if you join us for the challenge. It’s tough to stay healthy and fit as we struggle to meet commitments and are tempted by the rich foods and treats of the holidays, but this goal is maybe more easy to achieve for some of us (me) than sticking to a diet. In prep, I hopped on the internet and did a wee bit of research to find a few tips that might help us navigate this a bit more easily, and track how awesome we are as we slay this. I said SLAY.

Intake Tips

Measure Up! This one is a tad obvious, but make sure you’re using a bottle or jar with units of measure clearly marked on it somewhere, somehow. Most plastic bottles have this, but now is a good time to make sure yours haven’t worn off over time.

Set a timer It might help to set a timer to remind you to drink water. Especially at first until you establish a few days of consistency, and even more especially if you’re the type of person who keeps you moving all day. When time is flying by and you’re being pulled in every direction, it’s helpful to have a reminder to take a water break.

Form a Small Habit First Try drinking eight ounces before you eat meals or snacks. Or swap out one cup of coffee for hot water with lemon or green tea. Find an easy way to work hydrating into your schedule and life, one that you think you can stick with permanently.

Make Time for Bathroom Breaks Expect to spend more time in the restroom and that it might be annoying. I mean, what else can I say? Just remember that every time you’re in there, you’re getting rid of toxins. I plan on tapering my intake after 4 pm so I’m not up a lot in the night, and I plan to stock up on toilet paper. Good things to keep in mind!

Green Tea I’m addicted to Earl Grey tea like many people are addicted to coffee or soda. I’m still allowing myself to have it once a day, but when I can I’m going to swap it out for green teas and hot water with lemon. Green tea is a super food. If you find yourself needing a little flavor or variety, consider herbal and green teas. You won’t have to feel like you’ve cheated.

Alternate Beverages Alternating between water and your other drinks of choice is one way to up the hydration game. Try mixing it up by switching between water to whatever else you enjoy. If you’re me, that means one glass water, one glass chocolate milk, one glass water. If you find yourself struggling, this might be a good way to fight it.

Fruit and Veg Infused Water I’m excited to try this because fruit is one of my favorite things, and this should be a great way to add some flavor and variety. I like plain water just fine, but something tells me it will get old quickly. The great thing is that there are so many flavor combinations out there, Pinterest is full of recipes. I’m dying to try this Raspberry Rose Vanilla water!

Tracking Methods I plan to track my daily intake as well as how I’m feeling so I can get a better idea of my progress as time passes. For me, being able to see on paper how the challenge has changed my health will motivate me to continue good habits. While I plan on using my bullet journal, there are lots of ways you can track your water intake.

Fitbit or other device I have a Fitbit, but I’m guessing most fancy fitness trackers have some way to record your daily water intake. There are also a multitude of apps out there for this purpose. The Fitbit makes it easy to not only track, but set intake goals. I’ve used it in the past and liked it.

Journal If you have any kind of journal or paper planner, you can track your hydration there. If you’re into bullet journaling like me, make a graph layout and be sure to include your goal in your daily tracker, too. Set reminders and intentions for intake each morning, and ground yourself in your goal before you tackle your day.

Calendar This is probably the most simple way to record of your intake for each day. Whether electronic or paper, all that matters is that final daily total.

 

Finally, be sure to choose methods for intake and tracking that work for you and your lifestyle. Maybe you’ve tried this in the past and weren’t successful. It helps to be honest with yourself about your habits and personality, and reflect on what you need to succeed. We’re all here to support each other, and together, we can do it!

 

Next week, we’ll have giveaway news to share. Until then, remember these tips as you set out on your first weekend drinking crisp cool water and taking many trips to the bathroom. And please share your comments or struggles with us below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

December Hydration Challenge

If you need a bit of help maintaining healthy habits this holiday season, join our Hydration Challenge! I’m kicking it off on Friday with a goal of drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day. Check back Friday for the kick-off and giveaway news, as well as some tips on how to track your intake and be successful.  Maybe we can’t stay off sugar this time of year, but at least we can make sure we stay hydrated (because champagne)!

2017 Goals: Revisited

It may seem a bit premature to be revisiting my goals for 2017 and beyond, knowing we still have a month and a half left of this year. However, I like to think of this review as a last-ditch effort to accomplish as many of my goals as possible before 2017 ticks away and we welcome a new year.

TO REVIEW. I wrote about my goals in this post.

“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.”

My mindset now is pretty much the same as my mindset back in January. I’m still working on being a better human in general – a process that I’m pretty sure should never end. It’s always a work in progress.

Some of the goals I set for myself are super easy to measure. Others are a little more subjective. But, let’s see where I’m at, so that I can see what I can work on through the holiday season.

Goal #1: Get More Sleep

I would love to say that this has been a rousing (or not?) success. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. I haven’t been terrible at sleeping, but I haven’t been nearly as dedicated to achieving 7+ hours of sleep a night as I probably should be. I’m always working on this – this weekend for example, I was in bed at 8pm on Saturday night. Mind you, I didn’t go to sleep until around 10, but I was allowing my body to relax and that felt good. As it starts getting darker earlier, getting to bed earlier will be easier. I will do my best to use this to my advantage.

Goal #2: Read More Books

Going hand in hand with getting to bed earlier was making time to read more – I used to be a card-carrying bookworm as a kid, but since college, I haven’t made as much time for reading as I should. I had a goal of reading 30 books in 2017. I think I’ve read… *counts* eight or nine. Fail. Well, maybe not a total fail – I still technically have read more books in 2017 than I read in 2016, so that’s a win. Of those eight books, three were Game of Thrones books, and honestly those should count for at least three books… each. They are effing long. Great, but long. Oof. I’m in the middle of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere right now and I’m really enjoying it. Happy to be back on the book train and totally riding it into 2018.

Goal #3: Balance My Workouts

I definitely worked on this one all year – mixing up my weightlifting with running and Kaza, and now making the jump to CrossFit. CrossFit has definitely given me balance without my having to think about it. Since each workout incorporates cardio work along with strength, I feel like the hour I spend in the gym nearly every day is well-spent and I feel a lot less guilty about missing a workout or taking a rest day (or two) because I know that my body needs the break.

Goal #4: Get More Involved in My Community

Ugh, you guys, this one is a hard fail. I hate admitting that. After the election last year, and after the Women’s March, I was so jacked to fight back through activism and involvement. But, aside from keyboard activism, and voting in my local elections, I have yet to really get involved locally. I can make excuses, but that’s all they’d be. I’ve been educating myself a lot in the last year. Time to turn that outward.

Goal #5: Adjust My Five Year Plan

This goal just makes me laugh out loud. Literally. I think I’ve changed or adjusted my five year plan about four times, significantly, in the last 10 months. Some of that has been because my priorities have changed, but mostly it has to do with external factors dictating some of that five year picture for me. Military life, you guys, it’s a bucket of surprises. Planning anything becomes an exercise in extreme patience and flexibility – something I’m not always good at, but am constantly trying to improve. Perhaps a new goal would be to work on being more tolerant of things that are not within my control. Yes. I think that’s it.

As I said in my post from January, these goals aren’t necessarily time-stamped, and they certainly don’t have an expiration date. I’ve just been trying to mindfully working on them little by little all the time. I will continue to do so through the next month and a half and as 2018 begins, I will have more goals to add, I’m sure.

Did you set goals for 2017? How successful have you been at keeping them? What challenges have you faced?