Monthly Archives: February, 2013

Fitness Class Review – Boot Camp

As you may recall, I recently tried a new yoga studio and then did a little review on the blog. Well yesterday, I went to my very first group fitness class at my new gym. I wasn’t sure at first if I should write a review, mostly out of my own insecurities. I was like, “well what do I know??” and “who’s going to care what I have to say??” or worse “what if I get a ton of hate comments about a review??” But then I sat up and I said, Hey Christina, you were a group fitness instructor for 6 years, a personal trainer for 4, you have a degree in health science, and if were worried about getting hate comments, why are you writing a blog?? As with EVERY review I do, I only do it in a spirit of constructive feedback. If I absolutely hate a place or class, I just wouldn’t mention it on the blog. I try to write reviews on the blog that I feel like will be legitimately helpful to consumers and to the “management” (of the gym, race, studio… whatever). Ok… here we go!

I am absolutely loving working with my trainer… even though he absolutely annihilated my legs in our first session! However, a great group fitness class is still one of my favorite things. I was a regular group fitness junkie during my college years. I usually taught 5 times a week, so basically group fitness was my life. I don’t do it with the same frequency anymore, but I do love to try new classes! This morning I tried the 6 am Boot Camp class at Fitness First Arlington. On top of Fitness First being ridiculously affordable… group fitness classes are all included! Sweet. They are really popular though (have tried twice to get into a spinning class… no cigar). Luckily, the 6 am start time made it not too crowded 🙂

So I walked into the room and noticed the instructor was busy getting her music set up. I know how that was when I was an instructor (I liked a little time to get set up before answering questions or saying hello) so I didn’t want to bother her. I was also feeling a little shy and nervous so clearly I picked a spot in the back. There weren’t too many others in the room but I noticed the guy next to me had a mat. I didn’t know what I needed so I just went into the back and grabbed one. Well other people started coming in and saw us with mats and starting getting them too. Then the instructor turned around and looked kinda confused and said “Oh, you guys don’t need mats” hahaha and then I died a little inside. Clearly this wasn’t a big deal to anyone but me, but I was super embarrassed that I helped start this erroneous mat trend. I was like, damn I better bring it in this class to make up for this.

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I thought the instructor was great, but I was hoping she would ask if anyone was new. I know I should’ve just gone up and told her I was new, but I was being shy and silly. I ended up being able to manage just fine, but I was confused about what equipment I needed (turns out in this class you do the warm up and THEN get your equipment). I totally understand that it was 6 am and no one was particularly chatty, but standing in the room before class started was a little awkward. Once things got going, the attitude definitely changed though… phew!

Class started with a warm up to get our hearts pumping, which I definitely appreciated! With a 6 am start time, I definitely rolled in at 5:53 am. Not a lot of of time to do my own warm up. The warm up was done to aerobics music which was a fun throw back for me. I was pleased to see I could still keep a 32 count in my head! The class broke down into 30 seconds strength, 1 minute cardio, repeat 2X for each muscle group. I wrote a post awhile back about a bootcamp style class I was going to at my old gym, but this is definitely my favorite way to do strength training. I liked the repetition of exercises because it made me feel much more fatigued. Since each strength move focused on one part of the body, I felt like I could really work that part to exhaustion. (My old class was somewhat all over the place, you never knew what was coming next so it was hard to judge if you should blow it up on a move or leave a little in the tank for later).

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The 45 minute class FLEW by and I really appreciated how the instructor worked her way around the room checking form instead of doing her own workout the whole time. It was helpful (and much safer!). I was dripping sweat and definitely breathing heavy at the end of each circuit… got a really good workout! This morning I was even a little sore in my chest (from doing “negative push ups“… I did one round full push ups and then switched to negatives which were actually REALLY hard) and my calves from all the plyometrics we did. I definitely needed heavier weights for a couple of the moves… that was my fault though. I always get nervous committing to higher weights. I need to just man up and go for it!

Questions for you guys:

– What do you look for in a group fitness instructor?? – I know I want a tough workout but someone who won’t call me out in front of the whole class. That’s my biggest pet peeve! I was super glad this girl didn’t do that. She came around and made a quiet comment to me about my form, which was helpful and I appreciated!

– Have you ever done bootcamp before? What did you think? Do you incorporate this style into your on-you-own workouts?

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Book Review: Blackberry Winter

The February Peanut Butter Fingers Book Club selection was Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio. I literally tore through this book with astounding speed. I would pick up my Kindle to read before going to bed and read a quarter of the book. One of the issues with reading on Kindle is, I have no idea how big this book is in real life (according to Amazon its 320 pages… I’m shocked it felt so much shorter). I’m super excited to finally be getting a post up BEFORE the PBF deadline. Hopefully I can figure out how to link up with her before Tuesday… wish me luck!

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First a brief synopsis: “Blackberry winter” is actually a meteorological term for a late season cold snap or storm – I’ve learned something new already! The book starts in Depression Era Seattle in May 1933. A single mother, Vera Ray, is forced to leave her son, Daniel, at home while she goes to work the night shift as a maid at a fancy hotel. A freak snow storm hits and when she returns home, her son has vanished. Jump ahead to Seattle in May 2011 and behold another freak snow storm hits on the exact same day. A reporter, Claire, is assigned to write a story about these two snow storms for her newspaper, when she discovers the unsolved abduction of Daniel Ray. Claire and her husband have recently suffered their own loss after an accident caused her to lose a baby. The two storys continue to unfold as you race to solve the mystery of Daniel Ray. I won’t give you any spoilers… but wow, it’s a pretty awesome ending.

My general reaction: I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast, easy read and I definitely felt myself emotionally connecting with the characters. It made me want to read more books set during the Depression. Not that I expect those to be exciting “light” reading, but I definitely don’t read much about that time period so I thought it might be time to expand my horizons. I was a little disappointed that it was another “mystery” type book, considering last month’s book, The Secret Keeper, was a similar idea of jumping between past and present to solve a mystery. Makes for a VERY entertaining read, but I’m hoping next month’s book has a little more variety.

How did this book make me feel? Hmm, well that is an interesting question. I guess it made me think a lot about love, relationships, and marriage (marriage is a pretty central theme in my life right now). Clearly Claire and Ethan are having major marital issues because they can’t seem to see the other person’s perspective. But it’s the Charles and Vera story line that intrigued me the most. I just felt like Vera was so hasty to run away, thinking she would ruin Charles’ life if she stayed. She gave him no credit, no chance to do the right thing, which is all he had ever done by her. I know she was supposedly doing the “selfless thing” but did she do the right thing by him?? It didn’t seem like it in the end. Did she really love him? That kind of suggested to me that, deep down, she didn’t actually trust him. She didn’t trust in their love and their ability to withstand obstacles.

It makes me think about my own relationship and my own impending marriage. I remember having a momentary doubt that perhaps we hadn’t been together long enough to know that we were right for marriage. But then I realized that I trusted Mike and our relationship so completely, that I had no doubt we could handle whatever life had to throw at us. Love isn’t always about knowing or being certain. Sometimes, it’s about having faith and jumping in with both feet.

On a slightly different note, I will start with a confession. The thought of having children terrifies me. I know that I want them, but I kind of want to have a panic attack when I think about actually having one. The Claire story line with her running while pregnant, getting hit by a car, and losing the baby hit WAY too close to home for me. I don’t have a lot of concrete feelings to articulate, but it just heightened my worry that if and when I ever am pregnant I will be so terrified I won’t be able to live my normal life. Any other lady runners out there have this same reaction??

So here are some questions for you:

– If you read Blackberry Winter, what did you think? How did this book make you feel?

– If you haven’t read Blackberry Winter, what are you reading right now?? I’m always interested in good book recs 🙂

Healthy Office Eats

I feel like a common sentiment is that working in an office makes eating healthy / living healthy harder. I notice a lot of people citing office parties or events as endless temptation of cookies and cake. I seem to work in a relatively healthy work environment… but I do work in the healthcare field (woah my first insight into what I do for a living on POTR) While I think working in an office provides interested and unique challenges, I don’t think it’s impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Today I thought I’d share some healthy office tricks and then some recipe ideas for easy pack and go breakfasts / lunches.

Healthy Office Tips (that work for me… you might be different and that’s ok!)

  • I bring breakfast and lunch to work pretty much every day. It’s cheaper to use groceries to make these meals and I have more control over what is in them. I make dishes like soups, stews, or casseroles that are really easy to pack and reheat. I don’t have time to eat breakfast at home in the mornings (my mornings are streamlined down to the minute to get up, workout, and get out the door in time) so I bring it with me and eat with my coffee at my desk. I have located a couple eating out options near my office that have healthy-ish options that actually taste good. I use those as treats. I can’t eat a salad every day for lunch… kill me.
  • I don’t keep snacks at my desk. I know several coworkers who keep snacks at their desks but not me. Gretchen Rubin talks about the importance of understanding if you’re an abstainer or moderator. In this way, I am an abstainer. It is easier for me to just not have them. If they’re there… I will eat them. I one time took down an entire container of wasabi almonds in two days. It was… gross. I try to make sure I pack a breakfast and lunch that will keep me through the day and either fruit or greek yogurt as a snack.
  • I stay super hydrated. This is lame advice because everyone knows they should drink water. But I find that it seriously curbs my appetite and decreases my urge to snack.
  • I just say no. See above about whether you’re an abstainer or a moderator, but I prefer to pick my splurges. I often walk into the kitchen to find someone has put out cookies or snacks. We always order a cookie / brownie tray for catered meetings. For those situations, I just.say.no. I’m not saying I’ve NEVER eaten a snack someone put in the kitchen or had a cookie at a meeting, because I totally have. But I’d rather save my treats to eat a pizza with Mike or get gelato on the weekend. Something that I’m really craving and really want, not just something that is there.

Work Recipe Ideas:

Breakfast

  • Whole wheat toast with some kind of protein topping (This is a staple for me. I do fat free refried beans, cottage cheese and sliced tomato, sunflower butter and jelly… anything!)
  • Overnight oats (easiest of the easy… I make while I’m cooking dinner and pick them up in the morning)
  • Smoothies (I make mine the night before, keep it in the refrigerator overnight, and when I get back from the gym pop it in the freezer so it lasts on the commute to work. I keep them simple with fruit / veggies, yogurt, almond milk, and protein powder)
  • Frittatas or Egg Bakes (I LOVE eggs but it’s hard to eat them during the week when I’m having breakfast at work. Frittatas and Egg Bakes are super easy to cook ahead of time and reheat at the office)
  • Crockpot Oatmeal (I make a large batch and put it into individual containers with different toppings. Then I just reheat it at the office!

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[Breakfast: Red Pepper and Artichoke Frittata with sliced banana on gorgeous office china]

Lunch

  • Soups (I make soup a lot. Throw it in the crock pot with a ton of veggies and protein and you’re guaranteed to be full all afternoon. The easiest thing in the world to pack and reheat at work too)
  • Salads (If I’m using leftovers from dinner for lunch but there isn’t quite enough to be a standalone meal, I throw everything on top of a big salad to beef it up)
  • Casseroles (Two examples: here and here. I often make casseroles that have 8 servings so between Mike and I we get 4 meals out of it. I space them throughout the week so I don’t get too bored. Mike doesn’t care he could literally eat the exact same thing every day and be happy!)
  • Sandwiches, Wraps, Burritos, Quesadillas (If you’re office has a toaster oven… use that bad boy! I bring fat free refried bean and mexican cheese burritos or black bean and veggie quesadillas all the time. They’re way healthier than pre-made frozen ones… even the kind from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. They’re also SUPER cheap… you’re welcome wallet)

What do you do to stay healthy at the office??

Pinterest is Bullying Me… and other thoughts on being a bride

Mike and I have now officially been engaged for 4 weeks. Woah, right? I actually got a new laptop this week (thanks Dad!) and Mike obviously set it up for me because I don’t know how to do it myself. He made himself a profile on the laptop too and I jokingly said, “Who do you think you are??? Setting up a profile on my computer??” and he response was, “Um… like… your future husband?” That was so cute to hear. I’m such a wedding planning novice and I’m definitely feeling pretty out of my element. We haven’t set an official date yet and have only just begun looking at venues. However, I have some feelings and thoughts on being a bride that I thought I’d share with the internets 🙂

1. Pinterest is a bully. I don’t really do the Pinterest thing but I did set up a couple secret boards to share with my friend Elsa. It’s helping me keep track of a couple things I’m finding around the internet. But other than that I’ve really been steering clear of Pinterest for wedding ideas. All it does is make me feel bad that I’m not going to spend the months leading up to the wedding making handmade needle point handkerchiefs to hand out during the ceremony or serving rosemary infused pink lemonade in mason jars wrapped in burlap and raffia during my idyllic outdoor wedding ceremony. I obviously want a beautiful wedding and honestly have so much respect for those wonderfully crafty and talented people who want to do that. But it’s not who I am, and I really don’t want to get bogged down in comparing our wedding to what it “should” be.

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2. 90% of wedding dresses are strapless. I don’t know if you’ve taken a look at me recently but I have broader shoulders than your average lady. I look like a middle linebacker for the Miami Dolphins in a strapless dress. Thanks… but no thanks. Thankfully I am noticing somewhat of a trend away from strapless and a lot of really gorgeous offerings within my budget. I have no concept of what I think will look good on my figure, so I have a lot of trying on ahead of me.

3. I think a lot of Bridezillas are just really hungry. For someone who already has body image issues, being a “bride” is an emotional minefield. When I signed up for TheKnot.com, one of the first items on my “to do” list they gave was, “Get in wedding day shape! – eat right, join a gym, or even hire a personal trainer!” (To be clear, my post about getting Lady Ripped is not b/c I want to get in “wedding day shape” I just want to stop having this knee injury flare up). Do I want to look my absolute best for my wedding day? Absolutely! But I want to look my best, not starving. Emotionally, I have been all over the map on this issue for the past 4 weeks. Immediately after we started talking about the wedding, I started feeling my dumb inner voice telling me that I’m fat and I need to lose weight. Think of all the pictures they’re going to take of you! You’re going to look like a beached whale in white! Honestly, I’m nervous about this. I’ve shared these concerns with Mike, my mom, and my MOH because I need their support in the next year. I am committed to not reverting to old, very bad habits, but I’m definitely feeling the pressure. Any words of wisdom?

4. There are only a few things that REALLY matter. I’m thrilled to be planning a wedding with Mike. I couldn’t be luckier to have such a wonderful future husband and future family. No matter what happens on our wedding day, I get to spend every day for the rest of my life with Mike, and that’s the happiest thought of all. My approach to wedding planning is: focus on the things that really matter to me, be flexible on things that don’t, ask for help (especially from my mom), enjoy the process (I’m majorly type A so planning is super fun to me… let’s keep it that way), stick to the budget, stay grounded, simplify, and don’t sweat the small stuff. At the end of the day the only things that matter in the whole world are the four Fs.

This guy (my fiance):

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These three (my family):

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Her (my best friend):

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And these two (my faithful felines):

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Living Room Circuit Workout

As much as I love getting lady ripped in the gym… sometimes I need to be able to work out on the go. Running is such an easy go to exercise while traveling because I don’t need to bring anything with me but my sneakers! Wouldn’t it be great if strength training were the same way? I spent some time thinking about it and came up with the below “living room circuit workout”. This workout gets your heart rate up and gives a mean burn without requiring any equipment besides what you would find in your living room (carpet or mat and a couch or chair). Enjoy!

living room circuit

Fund Racing 101 and a Giveaway!

If you’ve never had the pleasure of Fund Racing… I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re already a runner, why not put all your hard work and effort towards something good? If you’re not a runner, maybe this is the motivation you need to get started? I wrote this post back in November for my friend David who was fund racing for Covenant House in the Philadelphia Marathon. Today, I thought I’d share just a couple tips and tricks for getting started with Fund Racing and then share a little incentive at the end!

1. Pick a cause you care about. Nothing is more transparent than asking someone to donate to a cause you A. know nothing about or B. don’t actually care about. There’s something that ALL of us can get behind out there and nothing comes through better than genuine interest.

2. Work with staff at the organization. Get materials, attend an orientation, or just ask a bunch of questions. People may have questions and, again, if you’re asking them to donate money to your cause you should be informed about it.

3. Start with a simple ask email. Craft an email to friends and family who you feel comfortable asking for a donation and make it really personal. Explain what the organization is and how their money will be used. Then make it clear why YOU are running for this cause. Include relevant links to the organization and a clear link to your fundraising page.

4. Talk to your employer. Many organizations match charitable donations. This is a SUPER easy way to up your fundraising numbers.

5. Get creative. If your company doesn’t match funds, would they let you sell baked goods or little trinkets? Do you have a community service club at your job or school? Get them involved! It never hurts to ask and explore every avenue. Talk to your running club too, maybe you can do a team effort!

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Now for a little incentive! I am fund racing for Back On My Feet (The DC / Baltimore Chapter) in the Rock’n’Roll USA Half Marathon. I would like to sponsor one person completely, which means I need to raise $1,800. I am committed to making that happen! SO… in the interest of shameless self-promotion please consider making a donation on my behalf:

http://www.active.com/donate/BOMFDCUSA2013/christinazimmerman

And to sweeten the deal… I am going to host my VERY FIRST giveaway on Pennies on the Run!!

If you make a donation (regardless of size) to my cause by March 1st, PLEASE leave a comment below.

I will randomly select one reader (from the comments on this post) on March 2nd, and you will receive a special gift of gratitude from me!!

I believe in this organization and this cause. Together you and I could change the life of one homeless man or woman in the DC / Baltimore area. Let’s give them this chance!

First Wedding Post – The Proposal

I thought I would start off by telling you guys how Mike popped the big question!

The lead up: To be clear, I was completely surprised that he asked me that day, but I knew that he was planning to ask me at some point. We had really been talking about it a lot since the summer. At that point it was more like, this might be like … it? And by the end of October, we were both certain. We talked about it and decided it was the right decision for us.

The Ring: I’ve honestly never really given much thought to my engagement ring before. I’ve thought more about the wedding, but haven’t spent time conceptualizing what kind of ring I wanted. I also felt pretty uncertain about buying a diamond. I feel pretty uncomfortable about the diamond industry worldwide and wasn’t sure I wanted to buy into it. I was just really undecided about it… which is really unusual for me. Then Mike had the perfect solution. His mom, who is potentially one of the most wonderful women I have ever known, offered him her engagement ring if he wanted to give it to me. It had belonged to Mike’s grandmother too, so I am the third generation to wear it. He showed it to my best friend for her seal of approval and she loved it. She also verified it was the right size.

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He asked my dad: I know some people don’t believe in this tradition anymore. But Mike and I had talked and he knew it was important to me that he talk to my dad before proposing to me. Unbeknownst to me, Mike asked my dad one morning over Christmas. I went out for a run and he talked to my parents while I was out. He said he wanted to ask my dad in person while he had the opportunity.

The proposal: Ok so you have all the back story. Wednesday night before my birthday (which was on Friday) Mike and I had planned to go out to a nice dinner just the two of us. We like to celebrate holidays just the two of us in some small way. Looking back, some people were acting a LITTLE weird (My best friend asked me twice what I was wearing… which was unusual haha but I didn’t think of it at the time). I met Mike at 6:30 at La Tasca in Chinatown for a glass of sangria. I immediately noticed that he was SUPER dressed up (like slacks, button down, jacket, and a pair of black dress shoes I’ve never once seen him wear). He said he just dressed up because it was my birthday, and I believed him. We went to dinner at Graffiato. Over delicious food and great bottle of wine, we had this amazingly gushy conversation about how happy we were and how much we loved each other. Then he gave me THE SHOES (and a really beautiful birthday card).

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After dinner we got frozen yogurt for dessert. I thanked Mike for an amazing birthday celebration and he said “well I have another surprise waiting for you at home”. I was totally shocked! But we took the metro home and Mike asked me to wait in the hall while he checked on his surprise. When I walked into the apartment all the lights were out and there were these awesome electronic candles on (our cats are not exactly candle friendly). There was a huge bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, and another card. I thought this was the surprise and thought it was so romantic! Then Mike told me to open the card. On the front it said “I Love You” and the inside said, “I Love Us” and Mike had just written “Forever” in the card. Then he said “I want to be with you forever. So, Christina, will you marry me?” He got down on one knee and had the ring and it was just… perfect.

My thoughts: I couldn’t be happier with how the proposal went. I had made it clear to Mike that I really didn’t want a big production. I definitely didn’t want scoreboards lighting up or skywriting or anything. Plus, Mike is adorably shy sometimes, so if I made him do a big embarrassing spectacle in public he probably would’ve died. This was perfectly us…simple, personal, and private. And the cats were there! But they were terrible celebration partners. I cried SO much after saying yes. It was like it finally hit my like a tidal wave of emotion. I couldn’t believe this moment I had thought about for so long had actually happened. I am also obsessed with my ring. I love the history of love and family that comes with it and the design is gorgeous. Very “my style”. I also love that he involved so many people in our lives. My parents knew, his parents knew, and he planned it with my best friend Sarah. Everyone came to celebrate that weekend too. It was… amazing.

Next Steps: We took a little time just to soak up the engagement moment. But we would like to get married in March of next year, so we really do need to start getting moving on finding a venue. Right now we’re making contacts, setting up appointments, and doing all of that! I am really looking forward to getting a venue. Then I feel like I will be able to start visualizing the event. I’m hopelessly lost on “colors” so I will definitely be looking to the more creative people in my life, like Mike’s mom. My mom and I are all business planner types so we’ve got that logistics on lock down 🙂

I’d love to hear other proposal stories! Please feel free to share them!!

Book Review: The Secret Keeper

Let me start by saying… HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to all the lovers out there. Life is a funny thing. I had my first proper “valentine” when I was 17 and then not again until I was 24. Talk about a dry spell right? Before Mike, love was a cruel game of disappointment and heartbreak. I prided myself on never wearing black on Valentine’s day or spending the day hating love and couples. I, somehow, remained relatively optimistic. But then I met Mike and he changed my world. He gave me my first valentine’s day in seven years and this year he gave me my first engaged Valentine’s day 🙂 So I wanted to share a song that is really ringing true for me this year (It’s from the Nashville soundtrack which I have been shamelessly listening to on repeat all week):

So I once again missed the deadline to link up with the PB Fingers book club. But for the fourth month in a row, I actually did read the book in time! Whatever, I got engaged… I was busy! But I did want to still do a book review because this book REALLY made me think.

So January’s book club selection was “The Secret Keeper” by Sarah Morton. I actually listened to this book on audio through Audible.com. I totally loved it! I listening on my commute and when I was running. I wasn’t sure how I would like running to an audio book but it totally rocked! I got a new book this month called “Going Clear:  Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” which is really interesting (I have such a thing for non-fiction books). But I digress. The Secret Keeper is basically the story of a girl named who at 16 years old witnesses her mother, Dorothy, stab a man to death in the garden of their idyllic farmhouse in England. The family dismisses the incident as a matter of self-defense, but Laurel clearly knows there is more to the story. The rest of the book switches between present day where Laurel is desperately searching for answers about her mother’s mysterious past, and WWII London where Dorothy’s story is playing out. Let me just say that, despite a pretty slow start, this book keeps you on the edge of your seat. I was desperately trying to work out the mystery in my head. And the twists just kept on coming, right up to the final chapter. I literally gasped out loud when I realized the final twist (I was running on the Mt. Vernon Trail at the time so I’m sure I looked pretty ridiculous).

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But for our purposes, this book made me think a lot about my own life. I found myself wondering, what secrets have I buried in my past? I really do believe in leaving the past in the past. I don’t regret any part of it, because that is a worthless emotion. It has made me who I am now, so for that I am grateful. I am equally as grateful to have moved on from it. On most days, I really don’t think about it. But while reading this book, I found my thoughts occasionally wandering back.

More importantly though, this book really demonstrated to me how critical it is to be satisfied with the good things in your life. I’m not different than most 25 year olds out there. I spend way too much energy asking questions like, “Am I where I should be at 25?” “Where is my career going?” “What if I never get all the things I thought I should get?” “Am I a failure?” Sometimes I find myself forgetting to count my blessings, forgetting to be grateful for the health, stability, happy family, loving relationship, and super cool cat I do have. I felt like Dorothy’s downfall was a direct result of her thinking she was “meant for something better.” She had this amazing man who loved her and she sabotaged it with delusions of grandeur.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and trying to practice gratitude daily. How do you practice gratitude?

Lady Ripped

Since moving out of the district into Arlington, I’ve purposely left myself uncommitted to a fitness establishment. I was working out my new budget, training for a marathon, and getting my bearings in a new area. I didn’t want to commit to a yoga studio or gym before I was really settled. Plus, as a runner, sometimes it’s hard to justify the expense of a gym. Our apartment building has a fitness center that is very adequate with treadmills and free weights. I was just using that for the little bit of strength training I was doing and for bad weather days I didn’t want to run outside. However, with my knee injury flaring up again and my decision not to run the full marathon in March, I’ve been spending some time reflecting on my workout schedule.

The truth of the matter is that I need to up my strength training game. My knee injury is a result of insufficient strength training, I know that. More than that though, despite being is great cardio shape, I’m not in great strength shape. It was time to join a gym and get serious about getting lady ripped (I credit this term to Sarah J, and I love it. I’ve really taken recently to modifying all my activities with the word “lady” because it’s a cool word).

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The perfect solution for a budget conscious runner… Fitness First. For the exceptionally reasonable price of $29 per month I have access to a large facility with great cardio equipment, group fitness classes, and a really sick strength training set up. I can also go to any of their other locations free of charge… sweet! They have free weights, machines, kettle bells, and a functional training area. I was sold about three minutes into my facility tour. At that price, I won’t feel bad if I’m only in there 3 days a week and running outside the other days.

One of the other perks of a new membership is a free fitness evaluation with their head personal trainer. I signed up immediately. I used to be a personal trainer, but I haven’t had a proper fitness evaluation since my friend Haley and I used to practice on each other while studying for our exam.

I was a little nervous about the fitness evaluation. It’s the same reason that I get nervous when I go to the doctor. It’s no secret that I have issues related to my body. For some reason, I always think that doctors or fitness professionals are going to tell me I’m morbidly overweight and putting my health at huge risk. I also hate being weighed. I feel like a cattle being sized up for slaughter. Weighing myself is something that I do at home, ALONE, and when I’ve had enough time to prepare myself mentally. Regardless, I manned up and went to the fitness evaluation. As to be expected, it wasn’t half as bad as I imagined.

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I did, however, find out that my body fat percentage is slightly higher than ideal (about 3%). That wasn’t shocking information, but it was a semi-tough pill to swallow. I’m not unrealistic about my body. I’m not a small person… facts are facts. But I do want to make sure I’m as healthy as I possibly can  be! After chatting with this PT about my current exercise routine, she made some really interesting suggestions. First she suggested that I cut back on cardio. I’m sorry… Come again? She explained that if I’m running 4 days a week for 1 hour (or longer on some days) that is plenty of cardio for the week. She suggested I cut out my other cardio days and devote those days to strength training. As a self-proclaimed cardio junkie, this clearly blew my mind. She argued that I could cut my time in the gym and still achieve optimal fitness. I was very intrigued by the idea of streamlining my workout routine to be more time efficient and achieve better results.

Then we went and did a physical evaluation. The first thing she noticed was a strength imbalance between my hips. My right hip is MUCH stronger than my left, which is likely the source of the recurring knee pain while running. This wasn’t shocking though… I did spend 2 months in physical therapy working on my hips. I also have stronger quads than hamstrings / glutes. This was also something I knew from physical therapy (apparently my stride is very “quad dominant”. I blame that on spending my entire young life from age 8 – 18 crouching behind the plate in softball.)

Another interesting piece of information I learned is that I have a strength imbalance between my chest and back. I can hold a full arms-extended plank for at least a couple minutes, but when I do them on my forearms I’m ready to die after one minute. I always thought this was because my core wasn’t strong enough. Apparently, it’s actually because my back isn’t strong enough. The full arms-extended version of the plank draws more on your chest strength, which is why I can hold it so much longer.

Here’s the good news though. I’m actually not THAT bad with overall strength. She also told me that I was very good endurance (SCORE!). Basically, I don’t have many problems. I really have two problems (hips and back) that express themselves in various ways in my workouts. Apparently, they are very, very common issues for runners too. Running is extremely efficient for cardio and conditioning the front of your body. It does less naturally for the back of your body. I expressed an interest in working with one of the personal trainers, but I was nervous about making the investment. She offered me a follow up session with her to see what a full session with a trainer would be like. I readily accepted.

I joined her for a 30 minute session last night after doing a quick 15 minute warm up. I’m sold. The workout was awesome. It totally kicked my butt, but in a really good way. It felt really good to switch things up (I’m starting to get bored with just running). I’m even a little bit sore, which I haven’t felt in a WHILE. So, I signed up to work with one of the personal trainers. I’m going to work with him once a week for the next six months. It was an investments, but after giving it careful consideration, I think it’s an investment I need to make. I want to be running and exercising for… well… forever. I need to learn how to condition my body to protect it from injury. I’m SUPER pumped.

Plus, I think this could some really awesome things for my body. With running, I’ve really reached a plateau point. I love it, but my body is just used to it now. I’m looking forward to seeing how (if at all) my body changes by changing up my workouts. So be on the lookout for many more strength training workouts to pop up on POTR! Let’s get LADY RIPPED!

Turkey Meatlo…. uhhhh Burgers!

Call me old fashioned but I love a good Sunday dinner. Especially right now, because Downton Abbey is on Sunday nights! If you follow me on Twitter (sorry Amy) you know I am obsessed with that show and engage in some very excessive live tweeting. They’re not particularly good or funny tweets… but I did get a couple retweets on one particularly snappy tweet haha. VICTORY! Anyways, this Sunday I wanted to make a yummy, comfort food dinner to enjoy before the two hour event at 9. My intention was to make SkinnyTaste turkey meatloaf. I even got all the ingredients out and mixed up the ingredients.

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However, my over was preheating during this time and I turned around to see THIS. Smoke was billowing out of the stove! Initially, I panicked. Nobody wants to be THAT girl that sets off the fire alarm in the building. But then I remembered that the night before, in a completely misguided attempt at domesticity, I had sprayed over cleaner all over the place inside the oven. I was supposed to wipe it out with a wet sponge in the morning. Clearly… I forgot. Moral of this story… don’t clean your oven.

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So the oven was out of commission for dinner. I had to let it cool down completely and wipe it out before we could use it. I was also getting really hungry. Even letting a meatloaf cook for an hour was looking daunting. So I changed gears and turned my meatloaf mixture into turkey burgers. Thankfully my awesome brother bought me this super sweet Cuisinart 5 in 1 griddler for Christmas this year. I intended to use it mostly as a griddle for pancakes but it can also function as a grill(something I have always missed about apartment living)!

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We closed the top for quicker cooking and look at those grill marks! I probably used more onion than I needed some pieces started jumping ship, but that was ok.

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Topped it with some shredded cheese (because burgers without cheese are un-American) and served it with a side of sauteed zucchini and steamed kale with garlic salt. I normally HATE frozen greens like spinach. I think they just do not taste good. But Trader Joe’s Frozen Kale is the jam. If you haven’t tried it… please do. I always keep a bag in the freezer just to have on hand. The greens are still crunchy and full of flavor.

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In addition to believing in Sunday dinner, I also believe in a Downton Abbey treat. This week Mike used our Vitamix to make banana soft serve. If you haven’t made this before, seriously stop what you are doing right now and make it. I am a total ice cream nut. I could eat such massive quantities of it, it’s embarrassing. This recipe is just two frozen bananas processed in the Vitamix (food processors are also apparently great, but we don’t have one). It was just like soft serve ice cream!! Amazingly creamy and delicious. I can’t recommend it enough. I added a scoop of Trader Joe’s Speculoos Crunchy Cookie Butter, because it is a treat after all 🙂

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