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?

 

December Travel Workouts

This weekend was rough. I don’t know about you people, but there was a lot of football disappointment this weekend in my house. Between the Badgers losing to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship – for those curious, Clay and I are still speaking, even though he cheers for the Buckeyes – and Clay’s Cleveland Browns losing another heartbreaker (and Ohio State not making it into the College Football Playoff), there’s been a lot of frustrated sighing.

This time of year may be the most wonderful, but it’s also the most stressful when it comes to sports. Uff da.

I guess it’s also stressful because somehow my schedule for the next two weeks is non-stop. Between work travel and personal travel, I’m going to be spending just as many days away from home as I will be at home. Consequently, I know I’m going to be tired and it’s going to be difficult to get to my gym. Or any gym. That is, unless I make it happen. Typically, when I travel, I try to figure out ahead of time if there will be a gym of some kind available to me where I’m staying. My first trip this week will be to Las Vegas and I’m certain there will be a hotel gym – but there’s no guarantee I’ll have a variety of equipment to use.

In situations like this, I try to put together workouts that are simple body-weight movements that can be adapted to use weights or other equipment if available, but can easily be completed with nothing extra.

Thursday evening, after my meeting, I’ll probably try to find a half an hour to get this little burner in:

In 20 Minutes, do as many reps as possible of:

5 Pull Ups

10 Push Ups

15 Air Squats

If there isn’t a pull-up bar available, I’ll probably change this to 5 sit ups, 10 push ups, 15 air squats.It’s a pretty straightforward workout, no special or high skill movements… just straight conditioning and going balls out for 20 minutes. Similarly, this weekend, we’ll be in Cleveland to watch football (Go Pack Go!), and will have to see what the hotel gym has to offer and see if I can hit this one:

As many reps as possible in 15 Minutes:

50 DB Snatches (50/35)

40 Burpees

30 Pull Ups

20 Hand Release Push Ups

10 Jumping Air Squats

The following weekend, we’ll be in Florida visiting family. One of the cool things about CrossFit is that we can drop in at pretty much any gym anywhere. That’s our plan while we’re in Orlando… drop in to a couple gyms in the area, join in a WOD and call it a day. The CrossFit community is really awesome like that – and certainly makes some travel easier if you’re trying to get workouts in. For some folks, vacation means no workouts – and sometimes that’s me, too. When I’m on vacation, I try to listen to my body and do what feels right… workouts or not.

While this month may be starting out a little crazy, I am looking forward to some travel, getting to see my favorite football team play, and enjoying some warmer weather… and finding the gym when things allow. December might be stressful, but I’m not stressing about working out – I’ll do what I can, when I can, and the rest is whatever.

Do you workout when you travel? What are some of your preferred methods of breaking a sweat while on the road?

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?

Finally. CrossFit.

I’ve been reading fitness blogs for the past five years or so. Running, mostly, obviously. But, way back in 2012, I also stumbled across a few blogs that kept talking about CrossFit: sharing workouts, talking about weightlifting, looking totally jacked and badass and strong. As an athlete, I was immediately intrigued by these workouts. They incorporated so many movements and skills that it seemed impossible to get bored.

I immediately started looking for CrossFit gyms near me – unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to pay for a membership. So, I put it off. I continued lifting weights and running and following CrossFit from afar. Trying some of the workouts here and there, but that was about it.

This continued until, finally, this past July, I bit the bullet. Clay was on board, too. I’d suckered him in to watching a couple documentaries about it (on Netflix, The Fittest on Earth), and a whole bunch of YouTube videos of past Games’ events and competitions and he was sold.

We’ve been going consistently since July – and consequently my entire fitness mindset has changed. I wrote a little bit about it in my last post, specifically as it related to my diet. I feel like I’ve been able to stop worrying so damn much about what my body looks like (it’s so hard to escape that mindset) and just focus on working hard in class and fueling my body appropriately.

CrossFit catches a lot of flack for being a fad or being too dangerous – none of which I think is true. CrossFit is simply defined as “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” Functional movements performed at high intensity, from varying fitness modalities, such as running, olympic lifting, gymnastics, rowing, biking and more. Pretty straightforward. What I like best about it, is that any CrossFit workout can be scaled to fit an athlete’s skill level – literally anyone can do CrossFit. Whether you’re a collegiate athlete in peak shape, or you’re a 70 year old who just wants to be able to bend down to pick something up off the floor, CrossFit could be for you.

I love being challenged every day when I go to the gym. Granted, I sometimes read the workout and crap my pants for half a second thinking about how smoked I’m going to be afterward. But. I still enjoy the feeling of being humbled by something as simple as box jumps. Or rope climbs. Or, as we did on Saturday, a 5K row paired with a gnarly barbell complex.

I’ve learned a ton of new skills since starting CrossFit – and improved many others. I’ve surprised myself. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve been nervous. I’ve overcome fears.

All in the confines of a gym, surrounded by other sweaty people going through the same progressions I am.

I still have so much to learn, so many skills to develop and improve – but I’m so glad I’ve finally made myself CrossFit legit. There is just so much opportunity for growth and I can’t wait to see where this takes me.

 

Recipe Box: Thai Red Curry

Shortly after our wedding, Clay and I decided that we wanted to change our diet. Again. Not entirely surprising, if you know us at all (I write about food a lot)… but this shift was definitely bigger than any we’d done before.

We’d been watching Food Inc., which we’d both previously seen, and it reignited our concerns about factory farms and agribuiness’ negative impact on the environment. Since ultimately we vote with our dollar, we decided to try being vegetarian – choosing not to buy meat, and really looking into where our food comes from.

This shift has been really eye opening all around. Since we also pay pretty close attention to our macronutrients to ensure that we are still getting the appropriate amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates, we’ve had to really consider carefully the types of vegetarian food we depend on. Turns out it isn’t as difficult as you might think to get plenty of protein with vegetarian food sources. We end up eating a lot of tempeh, tofu, and tofurky sausages to help us hit our numbers – and truth be told, everything is super versatile and very tasty.

We still try to eat pretty clean: no added sugars, lots of vegetables, very little processed food. While now we eat a lot more carbohydrates than previously, I’ve found – and I think Clay would say the same – that my body appreciates a more carb-heavy diet. I find myself with more energy, which is vital to fueling my workouts. I also find myself feeling lighter. Figuratively, if not literally. Being vegetarian has allowed me to eat much more intuitively, which has allowed me to feel significantly less stressed about food. I still track everything in My Fitness Pal and eat clean, but I also allow myself to enjoy cookies or Halo Top or pancakes. Consequently, my body feels good and so does my mind. This works for me – and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly fulfills my desire to have a positive impact on the planet as well as a healthy lifestyle.

Three cheers for finding peace with food.

One of our favorite go-to recipes while on this vegetarian venture has been Thai Red Curry from Cookie and Kate.

This recipe is super easy (we modify it a bit to cut out the sugar and the rice (sometimes we make it and sometimes we don’t). To make the prep easier, we’ll often split up the tasks: Clay will cut all the veggies beforehand so when it’s time to make dinner, all I have to do is assemble the pieces. We also add tofu to bump up the protein content, and it’s super delicious.

Give it a try!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ¼ cups brown jasmine rice or long-grain brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • Pinch of salt, more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (about a 1-inch nub of ginger)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin 2-inch long strips
  • 1 yellow, orange or green bell pepper, sliced into thin 2-inch long strips
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into ¼-inch thick rounds (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can (14 ounces) regular coconut milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups packed thinly sliced kale (tough ribs removed first), preferably the Tuscan/lacinato/dinosaur variety
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coconut sugar or turbinado (raw) sugar or brown sugar (we don’t do this)
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce (we use coconut aminos)
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar or fresh lime juice
  • Garnishes/sides: handful of chopped fresh basil or cilantro, optional red pepper flakes, optional sriracha or chili garlic sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To cook the rice, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the rinsed rice and continue boiling for 30 minutes, reducing heat as necessary to prevent overflow. Remove from heat, drain the rice and return the rice to pot. Cover and let the rice rest for 10 minutes or longer, until you’re ready to serve. Just before serving, season the rice to taste with salt and fluff it with a fork.
  2. To make the curry, warm a large skillet with deep sides over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the oil. Add the onion and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, while stirring continuously.
  3. Add the bell peppers and carrots. Cook until the bell peppers are fork-tender, 3 to 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the curry paste and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk, water, kale and sugar, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the peppers, carrots and kale have softened to your liking, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and season with tamari and rice vinegar. Add salt (I added ¼ teaspoon for optimal flavor), to taste. If the curry needs a little more punch, add ½ teaspoon more tamari, or for more acidity, add ½ teaspoon more rice vinegar. Divide rice and curry into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, if you’d like. If you love spicy curries, serve with sriracha or chili garlic sauce on the side.