Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Over the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the feeling that a tidal wave is coming and I’m going to be washed away without a life raft or cute lifeguard to save me.  I don’t know what is causing it.  Perhaps it is the fact that my “To Do” list is accumulating faster than the National Debt, or that on Friday it will be June and I’m just not ready for all of the appointments, meetings, and events that will consume my summer.  Maybe I’ve just been drinking too much coffee.

Whatever it is, I’ve been lying awake staring at the ceiling, trying to convince myself that the bug bite on my leg is the work of a mosquito, not a Black Widow spider, that the pain in my hamstrings is from yoga, not a ruptured disk or surgery-requiring back issue, and that somehow I will survive the next few weeks and end up not under the wave but over it, resting happily on the beach with a cocktail in hand.
(Mike would totally wear that hat, by the way)

I’m used to a busy schedule.  Usually sleep and a good workout are enough to keep me sane, along with a few prayers and some cheesy television.  Maybe that is why this latest bought of anxiety has caught me off guard.  Normally I eat my veggies, call my mother, and eventually my patience is rewarded with a break in the action-- preferably by a pool or on a massage table.  This time I don’t seem to have any easy answers.  I don’t have a plan.  I feel rushed and restless.  My normal tricks just aren’t working their magic.  I want a break.  I want to slow down.  I want to hit pause.  I want to take a breath.  (Something I have to remind Clyde to do anytime we give him a frozen yogurt sample.)

Then today on the treadmill, I had a thought.  If the treadmill feels fast, then I need to run faster, not just hold on for dear life.  If I try to stop, I will fall on my face.  Instead of begging in vain for the madness to stop, the wave to dissipate, the merry-go-round to stop turning for just. one. second. I need to speed up, let go, and enjoy the ride.  I need to be the girl on the surfboard on top of the wave, cruising along like a bat out of hell with a big fat smile on my face. 

The fact is, I can’t stop time.  I can’t slow my life down right now--at least not if I would like to remain gainfully employed.  I can fight the madness, or I can spend all of the energy I would use pumping my fists in the air to speed up and go along with it.  If nothing else, the effort alone should wear me out more than enough to fall sound asleep at night.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cardio Queen

For years, I believed that a workout didn't "count" unless I did 45 minutes to an hour of hard-core cardio.  I loved being able to watch the calories click up on treadmill or the elliptical machine, providing instant validation that yes, I worked hard, and yes, I deserved to feel good about what I'd accomplished.  (And maybe yes, I absolutely did deserve that second helping of ice cream.)  At the end of that time I feel simultaneously worn out and energized, and I could mentally check off another work out box for the week.

There were only a couple of problems with my "workout plan."  #1, spending 5 plus hours a week on the treadmill or elliptical was boring, #2, I totally plateaued on my speed, distance, and fitness level, #3 I'd dread each and every workout, #4 by the end of my cardio I just wanted to get onto my next activity so any stretching, weight training, or core work was out of the question.

Still, I was a dutiful little exerciser and I showed up day after day, watched the little green numbers tick up on the screen, counting down the seconds until I was free again.

That isn't me by the way...just wanted to make that clear...

Then six months ago I discovered Barre Amped, which busted me out of my cardio rut by showing me that you can get results (and in fact, much better results) without boring yourself to death.

In other words, I'm a strength training convert.  Each week I've tried to incorporate at least two strength workouts into my routine, whether it is Barre Class, TRX, or some seriously intense circuit training.
It took me a little while to change my brain into believing that spending 30 minutes doing push ups, sit ups, wall sits, mountain climbers, squat jumps, burpees, etc. should "count" in my mental workout log, but when I realized that I could barely breathe between sets and my heart was racing like a young Twihard in the presence of Robert Pattinson, it became harder and harder to deny that my inner-athlete was getting her money's worth, treadmill or not.

Yeah, he's cute and all but not really my type...

Best of all, I feel myself getting stronger.  I'm not bored because every minute I have a different exercise to focus on, and I've learned that working out can actually be a fun challenge to test my mental and physical limits instead of merely being a test of my patience.

I still think cardio is important...I want to run another marathon this Fall and qualifying for Boston is on my bucket list, but I genuinely believe that expanding my fitness horizons will only help me be stronger and faster in the future.

In an effort to "unplug" my daily workout, today I completed the following routine this afternoon.  I had to take way more rest breaks than suggested, but I finished and cooled down with an easy mile walk.  I thought this workout would be easy.  I thought wrong.  If you try it, let me know what you think!

Hope it's a great day!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Home *Sweet* Home

I started feeling pretty lousy yesterday afternoon, so I decided to lay low today and try to catch up on things around the house.  In other words, I spent 5 hours cleaning and then baked gluten-free Whoopie Pies for my husband and sister.  (I may have had to sample one myself too...)

I am generally a pretty clean person. I'm not a big fan of clutter and love my clothes way too much (and ironing way too little) to leave them out and let them get rumpled.  That said, there never seems to be enough time to do all of the other cleaning... the dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms, countertops, kitchen floor, mirrors, and everything else.  

I also blame my nutty schedule for the fact that our walls are almost completely bare, we have yet to pick out our wedding photos for an album although we've been married for almost a year, and I haven't managed to pull the porch furniture out of the garage even though we've lived here for a year and a half.  I just don't understand, how do other people do it all?

I don't mind cleaning, I would love the opportunity to decorate our house and really make it feel like a home, and we have a gorgeous porch that I can totally envision having summer BBQ's on with friends if we could just give them a place to sit.  Sometimes it all just seems too overwhelming to even get started on.

So instead, I am sitting here staring at the Pottery Barn catalog hoping to win the lottery so I can buy everything in it.  Oh, and also a house.

I mean, really... how do the Pottery Barn marketing folks make me believe that if I could just have this office, I could write the Great American Novel?

Well done Pottery Barn, well done.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


I know, I've been a bad blogger.  Between work. working out, and my not-so-new Scramble addiction, I haven't had a lot of writing time.  Fortunately, I haven't completely fallen off the wagon and I can now share with you a few awesome workouts that I found online and tried this week.

The first one is not for the faint of heart.  I tried it last Friday and could barely walk on Saturday morning, which proved to be a little bit of an issue because I ended up having to trek through a huge field in a wedges (and a yellow sundress and giant hat) but that's a different story for a different day... or for never if you are particularly attached to horses.

I found the ridiculously hard workout on this lovely website. and it seemed like such a great challenge that I wanted to try it, just to see whether I could get through it.  I had to split some of the exercises into smaller sets (there was just no way I could do 50 push ups or burpees in a row) but eventually I got through them all.  If you want a hard, satisfying workout and have plenty of time to do it, I highly recommend this one.  The author says it is like Crossfit and Body Pump, but since I've never tried either, I can't say.  What do you guys think?

The rest of my workouts were all cardio based.  At work I'm really limited to the treadmill or elliptical in the gym, and getting on them day after day can be rather monotonous.  I thought I was being clever by changing my pace on the treadmill every five minutes, but both of the workouts below were far more interesting than that.  I spent so much time paying attention to getting the speed changes right that I had very little time to think about how hard I was working.  Both days I completed 5.5 miles.
The first is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats

32-354.0 (break time!)
Total:5.6 Miles
That’s 5 minutes @ 6.0mph, 4 minutes @ 6.5, 3 minutes @ 7.0, 2 minutes @ 7.5 and 1 minute at 8.0. 
I really enjoyed the workout and felt super sweaty afterward.  The best part was how easy 6.0 mph felt after 8.0 mph.

The second workout was much simpler.  After a brief walking warm up, I would run 9.0 mph for 20 seconds and 6.0 for 40 seconds.  I repeated 10 times and then walked for 5 minutes, then started all over again.  I did three rounds and finished out 5.5 miles by the time I cooled down.  I have to admit, I felt a little self conscious rocking out the 9.0.  My feet were pounding so hard on the treadmill that things in the room were shaking.  Not exactly a delicate, graceful female as sweat streamed down to my face and into my eyes.  In the end the satisfaction was worth any embarrassment.  Running that fast made me feel great, and every time I hit 9 or 10 mph on the treadmill now it seems a little less intimidating.

The final workout was an interval workout for the elliptical machine, which I had never seen before.  For me, I usually just set the Crossramp at 10, the resistance at 8 and try to keep my calories per minute above 13, and then distract myself until I feel I've gone a sufficient distance.  This was much more interesting.  By the 15 and 16 resistance I felt like I was wading through mud and my legs got heavier and heavier.  I finished up with some stretching and some abs.  

With that, I'm off to do some very serious reading.  Don't judge.  Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Butt Doesn't Move That Way...

Today I tried Zumba for the first time.  Going in all I knew about it was that the classes dimmed the lights and had a colored-light machine on the floor.  I expected it to be pretty low key, perfect for the day after a six mile interval run.

As I waited for the class to start, a couple of women started to gather outside in raggedy t-shirts, baggy hoodies, cropped stretch pants, and scuffed sneakers gripping water bottles like they were the fountain of youth.

Then I saw the instructors, who actually made 80's neon look good.  They looked like sexy highlighters.  As they stripped down to knee-length sweatpants and florescent sports bras and the rest of us stumbled into the classroom behind them

I couldn't help but remember an episode of Oprah when Elle MacPherson showed American women how to properly use an eyelash curler, as if it was just a couple of coats of mascara that stood between us and the supermodel selves we were destined to be.

I scouted out a place toward the middle where I could still see the instructors (there were three supermodels, spread across the front of the room for easy viewing) but far enough back where I could remain inconspicuous and have less people around me when I showed my absolute lack of coordination.  I was a little surprised then, when more women continued to pile into the room until I could barely lift my arms without poking someone else in the eye.

The instructor welcomed us and asked if it was anyone's first time in Zumba and after a long pause, I sheepishly raised my hand.  I was the only one.  The instructor mocked me, lifting her arm to her chin, slumping her shoulders, and repeating, "Me."  I was off to an awesome start.

Then the instructor screamed, "Let's loose some weight!"  The music began to thump from the speakers, the lights dimmed to the level of a dive bar around 3 a.m., and the light machine started spewing red, blue, green, and yellow spots around the room.  With no stretching or warm up the instructor started immediately into a high-energy dance routine, complete with butt shaking, swaying, and thrusting.  I shook my head and sighed with the realization that my butt just doesn't move that way.

I had expected to have the instructor show us a move, have us repeat it a few times, and then add on to it until we had a good routine going.  That wasn't how it went at all.  The instructor moved from our first fast-paced Latin Salsa song into a techno version of The Bengals, "Walk Like an Egyptian" quite literally without missing a beat.  She gave hand cues to tell everyone to go left or right, but didn't wear a microphone or shout anything out.  Everyone just seemed to know to follow along.

As we jumped, slid, wiggled, kicked, and generally gyrated I came to realize that just like cars in traffic I just had to trust the dancers around me to stay in their own lane and not come crashing into me as we moved forward and backward and left and right in awkward leaps and spastic grape vines.  The system seemed to work, and I noticed that everyone was so busy trying to figure out where to put their feet that no one would have the chance to judge me, even if they wanted to.

The hour-long class flew by, and although I don't think I burned as many calories as I would have on the treadmill, I did break a good sweat.  The instructor told me that she repeats a lot of the choreography from class to class, so it gets a lot easier if you come regularly and it also allows you to spend more time having fun with each move and less time trying to figure out which way you're supposed to be facing.

I will definitely go back, and I would highly recommend this class for a group of girlfriends who aren't afraid to make fools of themselves and laugh the whole way through... especially if you can rehash the class over some Mexican food afterward!

I'm going to go mourn my lack of butt mobility...

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Motivation is a funny thing.  It can come and go in the blink of an eye, seemingly controlled by a greater force, operating under rules we will never understand.

Some people are motivated by health... by feeling good, sleeping well, having low blood pressure, and small waistlines.  Others are motivated by bad behavior... guilt over one too many margaritas or chips loaded with guacamole.  All of a sudden your favorite pants feel a little more snug than you'd like and the treadmill starts to look less like a prehistoric torture device and more like a means to an end.

Sometimes sticking to a routine builds motivation.  We get up at 5:30 a.m. every morning (OK, you get
up, there is noway I could ever do that) to head to the gym and after a while you get used to it and it's not that big a deal anymore.  You do it because you always do it, but then you go on vacation for a week and all of a sudden getting up at 5:30 a.m. seems totally crazy and masochistic and harder than magically growing another head.

Or maybe you don't go on vacation, but after months of 5:30 a.m. trips to the gym listening to the same muscle men grunt as they do their 15th set of bicep curls you start getting burnt out.  You feel like if you have to spend one more minute staring at the little green bars on the elliptical machine you might run out of the gym screaming, hop in your car, and drive straight to Canada.

I have been feeling a little burnt out lately, and after a long day of work watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother in bed has felt a lot more appealing than changing my clothes and going for a run.  My usual lunchtime workouts have seemed like a huge pain... changing, showering, changing again... and Barre class has felt like a cruel reason to put on yoga pants.

Considering what worked for me clearly isn't working anymore, I figure I have two options. #1 Give up, give in, and spend my new found free time molding the perfect impression of my butt in the couch, or #2, find something new to get me going.

Here are my ideas to motivate the unmotivateable:

1) Recruit a friend.  Exercising with a buddy is way more fun and you can't back out without letting them down.
2) Enroll in a class--particularly one that you have to pay for.  If you don't show up  you pay for it anyway and have double the guilt for wasting your money!
3) Sign up for a walk, run, ride, or race.  You have a built in deadline and it's easy to find a training plan for just about any distance or challenge online.
4) Go On Demand.  There are a million different options, lengths, and intensity levels so you're bound to find something that won't make you cringe.
5) Try the 10 minute rule.  Workout for 10 minutes and if you still want to stop, then you can stop.
6) Bribe yourself.  Pick a number of workouts until you've earned a pedicure, a new shirt, or a long nap.
7) Watch TV.  Wait until your favorite show comes on, then find a great workout online that you can do in your living room, or head to a gym where you can watch TV on your treadmill.
8)  Think ahead.  Focus on how great you will feel when you are done.
9) Update your music.  Create a new playlist for your workout with songs guaranteed to get you going.
10) Keep track.  Write your workouts down on your calendar.  Sometimes the reward of being able to jot down your success is enough to get you going.
11) Get competitive.  Challenge a friend to see who can do more push ups, join a sports team, take Cross Fit classes, copy the workouts of your favorite blogger and see if you can do them faster or with more weights.
12) Invest in some new gear.  Trying out a new pair of sneakers, workout outfit, gadget, or app can be enough to get you out on a day when you'd rather stay in.
If all else fails, take a day off.  Enjoy it.  Sometimes you really do need a break.  (Just remember, tomorrow you have one less excuse to use.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Advice for Recent Grads

The start of May means soon a new crop of college grads will be let loose into the world, free after 17 some odd years of enforced education, ready and willing to make their way into the world.  As someone who is now almost a decade away (ouch) from my own college graduation, I started thinking about the advice I most needed to hear when I was trying to find my own way in my new post-graduate life.  Here are a few highlights:

Be Careful with Credit Cards
Assuming you are one of the lucky ones in this day and age job market, you will soon have a "real" job, which comes with a "real" salary.  Naturally, you might believe that that means you will have more disposable income than ever, perfect for spending on fun nights out with friends and the corresponding cute outfits.  That said, living in the "real" world comes with a lot of "real" expenses.  Rent, groceries, insurance, cable, cell phone bills, electricity, water, heat, internet... all of it adds up in a hurry.  Not to mention the fact that your new job might require transportation (train tickets, a car payment, car insurance) and a new professional wardrobe that does not consist of Uggs and sweatpants with writing on the butt.  All of this adds up, and if you're making charges on credit cards and not paying the balance off every month, it will add up a lot more quickly than you think.
If you already have a balance on your credit card, pay it off as quickly as you can.  Call your credit card company and ask them to lower your interest rate.  They usually will, and if they don't you can always threaten to transfer your balance to another credit card with another company.  Avoid just paying the minimum balance.  Interest rates on credit cards can be as high as 28%, meaning that the $500 you spent on that new bag that you just had to have can actually cost you $640, and that assumes you don't start with any other balance and pay all of your bills on time.

Do It Now
Whatever it is, whatever you have always wanted to do with your life, do it now.  If you want to travel, buy your ticket.  Sure, you might not have the money to stay at amazing hotels and it might be hard to get vacation time while trying to get your career off of the ground, but things will only get busier when you get older.
If you want to live in another city, pack up and move.  There will be plenty of other people your age looking to meet people, and after 4-years in college you're totally wired for a new experience.
If you want to try a certain career path, go for it, even if you have to start with an internship or wait a little longer to find a job.  When you graduate it's easy to worry that you'll never find a job and feel like you need to jump at the first opportunity that comes your way, but it's OK to be a little picky.  That doesn't mean you're allowed to sit on your butt waiting for the right job to magically come to you though.  Pound the pavement, do your research, and find a position in a field that you can be excited about.  It's far easier to make a career change when you're younger and don't have to give up the paycheck and credibility that come with experience in one field to start fresh with another, and when no one else (a spouse, child, or dog) is depending on you to have a steady income.

Take Care of Your Health
You will have less free time now than you did in college, and fitting in workouts between a full-time job, happy hours with coworkers, and new episodes of The Bachelor can be daunting.  Not to mention the fact that your college probably gave you access to a free gym with a plethora of classes, equipment, and resources to help you every step of the way.  Now it's up to you to find a routine that you can get onboard with and stay motivated even when life gets busy.  Whether that means meeting up with friends for a run instead of dinner, or trying every class at your gym until you find one that you get excited about, do it.  The routine will keep you healthy and sane, which will help you make better decisions in every other area of your life.  Get sleep, take your vitamins, wear sunblock every day, make regular doctors' appointments.  Your health is the biggest investment you can make in your future.

Stay Close to Your Family
Mark Twain once wrote, "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."  
Your parents and family members are your best resource for any questions you have as you navigate your new world, and they always have your best interests at heart.  Whether you're trying to decide between potential love interests, car insurance companies, or new employers, family members make great sounding boards, and they are much cheaper than a therapist.

Know What You're Willing to Sacrifice
Remember the scene in The Hills when L.C. chose her boyfriend Jason over her dream job in Paris?  As a viewer it was easy to think she was a moron, sacrificing her professional dreams for a personal dream that seemed like it should be right there waiting when she got back.  Of course, she could have gone to Paris, lost Jason, and always wondered "what if."  The point is, you need to know what your bottom line is, what your priorities are, and what you are willing to sacrifice to get where you want to be.  What are your deal breakers in a relationship?  In a friendship?  In an apartment?  In a job?  Know what you want, choose your battles, and fight for the things that are important to you.

Take Risks
In my career I have the privilege of meeting a lot of very successful people, and in talking to them about how they got to where they are, one theme seems to come up time and time again.  All of them saw an opportunity and when the right time came, they took a calculated risk.  Not a totally reckless, impulsive risk, but a calculated risk.  They started their own business, bought a franchise, changed career paths, invented something, quit something, or tried something totally new.  When you get older the stakes get higher and you have more people counting on you.  If you have something that you believe in and think you can be successful in, take the leap.  Even if you fail, you'll have plenty of time to dust yourself off and start again, and at least you won't have any regrets.

Finally, take pride in what you have already accomplished.  College isn't easy, and you survived.  Now is your chance to make your dreams come true... you just have to go out and do it.