Workout buddy… Finally!

20140326-094736.jpgI finally have a workout buddy!

One of my best friends joined LA Fitness this week and I couldn’t be more excited to find a gym partner in her. Well, so far. We’ve only gone together once – this morning – but I have high hopes that she will stick with it.

We met at the gym at 5am this morning and I have to admit, I was unsure what to expect. She would always tell me that at her old gym she only did cardio and at home she would do workout videos for “abs in 30 days” or something. I wasn’t sure if she would humor me and try weight-lifting. Much to my surprise, she did everything I threw at her, no questions asked. When something was too difficult or she felt that she had done enough sets, she said so. But I was proud and psyched to see that she would at least give each workout a shot.

We started with a quick half-mile run, followed by deadlifts super-setted with push ups, weighted lunges, leg press, glute kick-backs, roman chair leg lifts super-setted with love handle ab bends, and ended with a short cool down on the stair climber.

She was very enthusiastic and excited about trying new things, and mirrored my love for getting it done early in the morning. While it’s hard to get up at that hour, working out before anything else is so refreshing and gives you such a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. “I’ve already squatted my own body weight and ran 3 miles, what have you done?”

It’s also nice to be held accountable to someone else, so that when you really don’t want to go, you don’t really have an excuse because you’re gym buddy will be waiting.

Our next date is tomorrow morning!

It’s interesting being the “teacher” instead of the “student” for a change. Sure, I am not an expert, but I definitely feel like I am at a point where I could whip someone into shape if they trusted me to do so and had the dedication necessary to make a transformation. Maybe she will be my new project.

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I WILL run a Half Marathon this year

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It’s time to find a balance. I struggle with finding a good combination of lifting time and running time. How does one become both a body builder (of sorts) as well as an accomplished distance runner?

I love a challenge – it’s when I perform my best. During the month of February, my goal was to run 35 miles. That won’t sound like a whole lot to the average distance runner, but for me it was a challenge since I spend just as much time – if not more – doing strength training. I met that goal and have set my next at 40 miles during the month of March. 

Somehow, it’s only the 6th of the month and I have already run 11/40. Off to a good start, I’d say!

First of all, I have upped my warm-up distance. I used to do a mild .3-.5 mile on the treadmill or the elliptical to get warmed up before lifting. However, I recently started to run a mile as fast as I could. This week I have accomplished some of the best mile times I ever have! Yesterday I did it in 7:29, which is a little less than a minute faster than my best mile time from just a month or two ago. Running the distance at a faster pace – whether it’s just the mile warm up or a longer run – is becoming easier and easier by the day. Even though a mile isn’t too long, the speed will help with conditioning and being able to last longer distances.

Usually I do the bulk of my running after I have lifted (unless it’s just a running day). By the time I get through with strength training, the majority of my energy is drained and I can’t put as much into my speed and mileage. This is why I need to find a balance. I need to find a way to give both types of workouts my best, rather than feeling exhausted for one or the other due to pushing it hard on the first.

I truly want to try running a half marathon at some point this year.

There is a race in Hartford, CT in October that has a great course according to some of my runner friends. I am confident that I can get there if I can find the right balance and training routine. My fear is focusing too much on one thing and losing on the other. I know that to an extent, my strength training will likely suffer during the heavier running months, but I guess that comes with the territory.

Another struggle will be pushing myself to increase my distance appropriately over time. The other day I ran 4.53 miles and felt like I could have gone further – I haven’t run that far since track in high school! I was getting so used to – and too bored with – running a certain distance on the treadmill and then telling myself “ok, that’s enough”. You can only cover so much distance on a treadmill before the feeling of not going anywhere just gets flat out boring. However, it’s too cold out and icy for me to get back to running outside.

A friend of mine sent me a suggested half marathon training schedule where you add a mile to your “big run” each week up until race day, and my brother told me that I need to be running 15-25 miles a week when it comes down to the serious half marathon training. So, while my goal for the month is currently 40 miles, I’m thinking I may need to reevaluate and set weekly goals instead.

Any suggestions?

One Year.

20140224-110238.jpgI never thought I would post this. It’s been a year since I began my weight-loss/fitness journey.

I am not much of a selfie poster; definitely not much of a personal photo poster. Every time I looked at the photo from last year and compared it to a progress shot, I thought hell no, I will never share this with anyone beyond my boyfriend and perhaps my mother. I hated, well… I hate looking at it. But then I thought, why not? You may not be comfortable with how you looked a year ago but that’s just it… it was a year ago. It isn’t today. You’re better today. Why not allow yourself to be proud of how far you have come rather than hide it?

I did something about it, that’s what matters.

Today I am far more comfortable and confident in my own skin, I am healthy, I am fit, I am 40lbs lighter and I feel that I earned the right to post a damn selfie.

This is a year’s worth of hard work. This is a year’s worth of not only undergoing a total body transformation but a lifestyle transformation as well. I committed myself to a regular workout routine (that I once considered an obligation and now I consider a want and a need), and I have also changed my eating habits drastically.

It’s true, what they say, about eventually not craving the crap once you stop eating it. People tell me to splurge, let loose a little and go ahead and “let yourself” eat some cookies – everyone else is.  But that’s the thing… it’s not a matter of not allowing myself anymore. I just don’t want it. I don’t crave it. I don’t need it.  I prefer a yummy smoothie over a plate of bacon for breakfast; I prefer a nice salad topped with all of my favorite vegetables, egg, chicken, you name it… over a burger and french fries; I prefer to snack on blueberries, cherry tomatoes, and hummus and carrots instead of a bag of chips.

Now, I don’t deprive myself of a “treat” that doesn’t fall within my regular diet if I do occasionally  want something like that; I know I am allowed to and I don’t cheat myself. I just no longer have the regular taste for it and that’s just fine.

Additionally, I exercise regularly. The gym has become my home away from home. When I’m away on a break day or something, I miss it. People look at it as obsessive, but I don’t. I wake up in the morning and yearn for the exhausted feeling of accomplishment that I get at the end of a great workout; I crave the endorphin high I feel from a run, especially ones that are faster and further than those previously; I stretch and get excited when my muscles are so sore that I struggle walking to the bathroom or removing my clothes for the shower because I know that the soreness is a sign of a killer workout.

I also look forward to signs of progress. To me, there are few feelings better than noticing your progress – no matter how small. The little changes in your body that sometimes even happen in just days, that the average person wouldn’t notice (if they do, they’re looking too closely), but you do. It’s the best. I get excited when it’s time to try a new workout routine, and it’s thrilling to me when I give a new meal plan or exercise a shot and can notice the changes that occur with it.

Learning my body has been interesting, difficult and exciting all the same.

So yes, I will flaunt that selfie and I won’t feel an ounce of shame about it!

Can’t Stop Me, Pax!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not going to let something as silly and inconvenient as a Nor’Easter stop me from getting my workout in!

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Living in New England has always made for an interesting time in terms of weather, and yesterday was an absolute mess! Storm Pax plowed it’s way through Massachusetts from Thursday morning through the wee hours of Friday morning, leaving behind tons of snow covered in a thick layer of ice. The conditions on the roads were bad enough throughout the day that it  would have been extremely difficult to leave the house at all yesterday.  So, not only did I have to work from home but I had to workout at home as well. Time to improvise!

Having equipment to workout at home with is key. You don’t need a squat rack, you don’t need a bench and you don’t need a treadmill in order to get a good workout in. In my opinion, you can really get by with a decent set of dumbbells. They are well worth the small investment and they get the job done. I have a couple of pre-weighted dumbbells as well as a cast iron set that comes with two bars, screws and plates allowing me to set my own weight. Additionally, I have a yoga mat and a stability ball. Having a few things at home leaves no excuses!

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I have kind of been on a circuit/super-set high, so I put together a workout of my own that is challenging in that I was quickly hopping from one workout to the next in order to complete a set. For example, one “set” in circuit 1 consisted of 10-12 push ups, followed immediately by 12 v-leg crosses for abs, a 45 second plank, and 10 dumbbell push ups into a row lift. Overall, the goal was to target a few different muscle groups in a short period of time and to not only focus on strength but to also perform each workout rapidly enough that I could get my heart rate going… “cardio,” if you will. Each circuit was performed 3 times, with just a minute or two break between each set.

After I finished all of the circuits, I tacked on two additional workouts – 5 sets of a side lateral-front raise combo with dumbbells and 4 sets of love handle ab bends with a heavy dumbbell.

If you’re stuck at home for whatever reason, I would definitely suggest giving my workout a shot, and maybe even add on a few of your favorites! Also, if you have any questions about any of them, feel free to shoot me a message – I know that some of the names may be a little confusing (like the Stability Ball Pull-ins, which I should have called “Stability Ball Leg Pull-ins”).

I was tired, satisfied and proud of myself for not taking a lazy day just because the snow was trying to beat me!

It’s a journey

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This graphic speaks a thousand words. It is so spot on in regards to the journey that is weight-loss and becoming fit. There are so many obstacles we must face along the way that might steer us away from our original plan, but that’s what makes it an adventure. If it were simple, we wouldn’t appreciate our successes as much. If we didn’t hit any road-blocks, if we didn’t have any bad days, and if it were all smooth sailing, everyone would do it… right?

Back in the Game

I am finally back in the swing of things and am slowly but surely starting to feel strong and healthy again. After having a bit of a set-back from an invasive  surgery, I wasn’t able or allowed to workout for two straight weeks. I also wasn’t sleeping well at all due to the discomfort. During the week following that “red zone”, I started to ease myself back in to a regular gym routine, however, I wasn’t able to do much lifting. I started small doing a little cardio here and minimal and light lifting there, avoiding anything that would cause pressure on my surgery area.

Let me tell you, it was rough! All I wanted to do was lift something heavy and run run run. I’m glad I listened to my doctor, family and a few wordpress followers (thanks, guys!) by not jumping into anything that was too heavy, too soon. If I had given in to my crazy need for a good workout, I could have lengthened my recovery time, thus resulting in more laying-on-the-couch misery!

20140130-090917.jpgWhile I was recovering, I focused heavily on my diet. I always eat well but figured that if I was going to be forced into temporary laziness, I might as well cancel out some calories that I would have otherwise burned at the gym. I tracked what I was eating on MyFitnessPal to get an idea of the number of calories I was taking in, and have continued to do so ever since.

I eat small and often – usually every hour and a half to two hours, depending on what I have. I feel like I eat non-stop but the frequency and portion size helps prevent your body from having the opportunity to store additional calories as fat. For example, 2 large egg whites and some blueberries is only about 75 calories, but for me, it is filling enough to keep me comfortable for the small length of time between that meal and the next.

I also drink a TON of water. I did a small test the other day to see how much water I drink on a typical day. My water bottle is 30oz and on a regular work day I drink at least 2 – 2 .5 of them. In the morning I have a glass and at the gym I have at least one full bottle. At home after the gym I have a couple of glasses as well. So, I figure I am consuming about a gallon (128oz) – if not more – a day. Drinking water throughout the day and with each meal helps make you feel more full, thus preventing you from over-consuming your food. The mind has a sick way of making you feel more hungry than you are, and before you know it you have consumed about twice as much as you needed to feel full, and about twice as much as your body can successfully digest before storing the rest as fat. I also usually have lemon in my water which is great for cleansing the body, digestion and boosting your metabolism.

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My diet consists of lots of fruits and veggies, low carbohydrates, and high protein. I even started to do a little bit of my grocery shopping in the gluten-free/vegetarian section at the market, where I found this new granola that I am obsessed with – KIND Healthy Grains! It’s relatively low in calories (1/3 cup for 120 calories) in comparison to other granola brands that I have had. It’s also rich in Omega-3 and is 100% whole grain – made with quinoa and has chia seeds! I have it almost every morning with low-fat greek yogurt and some kind of fruit mixed in – blueberries and/or bananas is delicious with it.

Now that I am out of my awful no exercise phase, I am weaning myself back onto lifting heavy. My surgery was almost four weeks ago and the discomfort I felt on my first days back at the gym is slowly starting to go away. If I feel any at this point, it’s usually only after the gym rather than during my workout.

I am going to visit my boyfriend on the beach in just two weeks – got to get bikini ready!!

Don’t Give Up

20140123-115001.jpgI have been rather down on myself since I had my surgery a little over two weeks ago. My body did exactly what I had feared during the time that I wasn’t able to exercise. I put on a few pounds, I felt gross and I was extremely unhappy with how I looked.

All I wanted to do was ignore what my doctors told me and go to the gym. I am visiting my boyfriend in a few short weeks and I needed my beach body at its best! However, a few little birdies reminded me that doing so would hinder my recovery and make my wait even longer. Longer? Hell no!

I know this meme is in reference to not giving up on your workout when it gets tough – but I thought that it fit how I have been feeling lately. Despite the set-backs I have experienced, in the end you are better off not giving up on yourself and your body no matter what circumstances you might be in.