Category Archives: Uncategorized

Protecting the “Girls”

Ladies, this one’s for you.  Sorry fellas, reader discretion is advised. This may contain graphic information not suitable for all audiences. But this is a serious matter that needs to be addressed and I’m not afraid to stay abreast of it! Yep, right out of the gate I threw out the pun.  But seriously folks…

Women, no matter what size you are, have a challenge when it comes to working out- keeping the girls where the girls are supposed to be. It’s a real problem for some, myself included.  And we all handle it in different ways.  Some of us ignore it all together, some go above and beyond wearing multiple sports bras to keep movement to a minimum, but most of us fall somewhere in the middle.  Speaking for myself, my issues are three-fold: 1. I never feel like my sports bra fits properly, even if I buy the “right” size 2. I hate paying $50 for a sports bra even though I know it’s what’s best for me and 3. No matter how much padding the bra has and no matter what the temperature is or how much I am sweating, the girls just seem to want to stand out and say “Hellur” to everyone!  The worst part is, as an above average chested woman, sometimes when they are squished in the sports bra, they are cock-eyed and pointing in God knows what direction.  Awkward.Bra statistics

What made me really start thinking about this lately was my favorite store- Robert’s Running Store- was having a specific event on sports bra fitting, bringing in an expert and serving wine and chocolate.  When I saw this, I was so excited thinking that my problems would be solved! No longer would I chafe from rubbing or have the straps dig into my shoulders because I wanted them tight enough to keep gravity from taking effect.  But the dream didn’t last long.  When I looked at the schedule, it was completely opposite from mine.  When they were in the Huntington location, my schedule kept me in Charleston and vice versa.  I was truly devastated.  I even called them to let them know how devastated I was and that I hoped they would do another one soon. So with my hopes dashed, I started thinking that I couldn’t be the only woman with these issues…and a blog topic was born.

I want to talk today about why it is important to wear sports bras in general and also how to properly fit yourself for a sports bra.  These are the only boobs we are going to have and if we don’t want to end up looking like a Maxine cartoon, we need to take care of them.  Maxine- boobsThe “why” is pretty obvious, but we could always use a reminder. Physical activity makes breasts bounce up, down and even in a figure eight. Continuous and repetitive movements can result in soreness, pain and sagging.

Sports bras are made to reduce this movement. This is done in one of two ways- compression or encapsulation.  Compression is the most common.  We would refer to it a “squishing” them into the bra. Encapsulation means isolating each breast with cups, more like an everyday bra.  A bra which has a combination of the two is optimum, especially for the more endowed, such as myself.  Breasts have no muscle, so without proper support it can cause sagging and stretched ligaments. Once the ligaments are stretched, they ain’t going back ladies. It doesn’t matter what size breasts you have, everyone experiences bouncing during physical activity. Every woman, no matter what size she is, should wear a sports bra while running or exercising.

Now that we have established that wearing a sports bra for any exercise activity is a must, let’s talk about proper fit. You want a sports bra that fits well, both in the band and cups. Overall, your sports bra should feel a bit tighter than a regular bra, however, you should be able to breathe deeply and comfortably. Hook it in the middle and take some deep breaths. Is this comfortable? It should be. The band shouldn’t move. It should fit snugly and comfortably. Raise your hands above your head. Check the elastic band.  If it moved up your rib cage, try a smaller band. If the bra has straps, try adjusting them. Your breasts shouldn’t bulge, pay close attention to any bulging at the top or by the underarm. No one wants “muffin top boob” or “side boob”. Conversely, the cups shouldn’t have any wrinkles or gaps. If the cup fabric is wrinkled, try a smaller size. Make sure there is nothing rubbing or chafing around your arm holes, straps, seams, hooks, clasps or anything else. Many sports bras offer adjustable straps. Adjust them to feel supportive, yet not uncomfortable. Furthermore, make sure the straps aren’t digging into your shoulders. Luckily, most newer sports bras use high-tech fabrics, including moisture wicking. This can improve breathability and help remove excess moisture from sweat which can cause chafing. Cotton bras will stay wet, this can lead to uncomfortable skin irritations. Finally, jump up and down, jog in place, do jumping jacks. If it feels supportive, you’re set! If not, keep looking.

 

Bra meme 2From a design standpoint, I wish I could wear the “cute” sports bras.  You know the ones, they have no support and they pull over your head.  Are you kidding me?  Putting a D cup into one of those bras, working out and sweating and then trying to take it off.  Oh Hellllll No!  It is not happening.  It is literally a booby trap.  I’d have to be cut out of it. For me, I have to go with the hook in the back style.  And if I want a racer back bra, it has to hook in the front.  I’ve pretty much given up on those.  I just wear a regular one with my tank tops, even if they are racer back tops.  I don’ think I’m offending anyone. But if you see me at the gym and I am, please let me know.  Now, this is where I completely fall short.  A sports bra should last 6-12 months, or about 75 washes.  Um, I have sports bras from the Clinton administration.  But I am going to vow to do better with that….just as soon as Robert’s Running Store tells me what bra is best for me.

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What’s in a Name?

It’s no secret that I love my gym. They are like any gym with weights and cardio equipment and training, etc.  But I think they also make a big effort to get members engaged more in their workouts, as well as with each other.  I talk to my friends and they also love their respective gyms that have similar things.  I just think it is a matter of finding out what is a good fit for you.  I’ve found my fit at Anytime Fitness in Kanawha City.

When they added a new challenge, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.  I suggested it to Micah for my training session this week.  So I only have myself to blame really. They have posted the alphabet where each letter has a corresponding exercise.  The idea is that you follow your name and do each exercise. If your name is Sue Ward, you are golden!  That’s 7 exercises and done.  However, if your name is Maximilian Schwarzenegger… you’re kind of screwed! I fell somewhere in the middle.  Total of 12 exercises.

C- 30 Squats                                                      H- 20 Air Squats

H- 20 Air Squats                                              A- 50 Jumping Jacks

R- 15 Pushups                                                  M- 20 Burpees

I- 30 Jumping Jacks                                        R- 15 Pushups

S- 30 Burpees                                                    A- 50 Jumping Jacks

T- 15 Squats

A- 50 Jumping Jacks

Used 1-26-16 Alphabet workoutBefore I even started this, I did 2 miles on the treadmill (mixture of walking and jogging) and the Throwdown Thursday challenge, which this week was squats on the bosu ball.  You know I’m all about some squats.  However, balance is something that eludes me.  It all goes back to having no core.  So, squats on the bosu was a bust.  I only made it 30 seconds.  You should have seen how my legs were shaking.  It was comical, almost cartoonish. After the shaking stopped, I got started on the name challenge.

Micah timed me as I was doing it, including the rest time in between.  The only modification I did was that squats were supposed to be with weights, and air squats aren’t.  But I didn’t know that when I started so all squats were done without weights.  The first name I finished in just under 10:00 minutes. And the second name I did in 6:38.   There was a longer break in between the two names so I could catch my breath.  I did have to make a couple adjustments.  The first round of burpees I could only do 15 out of 30.  To make up for it I added 15 squats to my T.  I also added more jumping jacks to A in my first name because there was another woman training in the same room and she started doing jacks after I was probably about 30-35 into my 50.  I told Micah I wanted to go as long as she did.  So we did them together and celebrated with a “Woo Hoo” and a high-five afterward. Felt great for both of us.  And in the second round I could only do 18 of the 20 burpees in M.   I kind of hated myself for getting so close and stopping with only 2 to go.  But I truly didn’t have them in me.  Burpees are EVIL, plain and simple.  After I was finished, it felt awesome to have accomplished it, even though I was a sweaty disgusting mess. I wouldn’t say I look cute even before a workout. But no one can ever claim that I look cut afterward for sure! If you still look cute

As with the end of any workout, I thanked Micah for a good workout, grabbed my stuff and left.  That should have been the end of it.  But of course it wasn’t.  I should have known I was having a different reaction than to most workouts because I went to the parking lot to get in my car, only to realize the car I chose wasn’t mine. Oh it was a red Toyota, just not MY red Toyota. I was delirious. I make it home, shaking and feeling nauseous.  I know I need some food but can’t even imagine eating when I feel like I am going to throw up.  So I decide to shower first.  I can hardly breathe and raise my arms to wash my hair.   After the shower, there are two successful trips to the toilet, fortunately the south end because I really hate throwing up.  Finally I decided I had to eat something.  I chose some pretzels for the carbs and salt. Started feeling better and ate a turkey sandwich for protein and sustenance. After that I was good as new.  But I have to say that was the closest I have ever come to throwing up after a workout.  And it was a little scary, to be honest, especially because I was home alone and shaking.

But I think I know what caused that reaction. The workout was hard, no doubt.  But I’ve done hard workouts before.  No, this time it was my own doing.  I usually have a protein snack in the afternoon because I know I am going to be working out.  But this day I was traveling in Kentucky for work and after I had a healthy lunch of salad, broccoli and steak medallions, I decided that I needed a little pick me up in the afternoon.  Instead of eating the snack that I brought I got a high calorie, highly caffeinated, high sugar gas station cappuccino.  That was not a good choice.  I am sure my workout reaction was from a drop in my blood sugar and not having enough nutrients to get me through the strenuous workout.  I won’t make that mistake again!

That setback hasn’t kept me from wanting to do the workout again.  And this time do all the burpees and maybe beat my time.  Another challenge to add to my list.

This blog has several lessons. Find a gym you love, with a staff and members that support each other.  Challenge yourself to try new things and get out of the comfort zone.  Be sure to have enough in your tank to make it through the workout and if you think something is a bad idea, it probably is! And finally, once you complete the challenge, do it again and see if you can improve on your performance.

Since I have posted the alphabet list, I encourage you all to go through your name and see how you do.  If your name is Alex and you want to start there, go for it.  But maybe the next time you do Alexander.  And maybe when I do it next time, I will add my middle name- Maria- and see how those extra 5 exercises work out.  Keep being fierce and I’ll see you next week!

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The Next Big Adventure

I’m sure you’ve all been on pins and needles in anticipation of what my next challenge was going to be.  Well, wait no more!  It’s time to reveal the answer… (drum roll)… The Hatfield McCoy Marathon!  This race is in Williamson, WV on June 11, 2016.  Williamson is a rural area with a population of about 3,000.  I know you are wondering why I would want to do this race and how in the world can a town this small pull off an event like this? I’m going to tell you.

Hatfield McCoy logo

In 2014 I did the half marathon.  And I asked myself the same questions. But from the moment I crossed the finish line from this great experience, I vowed I would be back to do it again. I was totally in awe of this event, the organizers, the volunteers, even the pasta dinner was the best I’ve had at any race to date! My guess is because it is made by down home West Virginia folks who have been cooking for their families for years and perfecting even the simplest meals like spaghetti.  Another reason I wanted to do this race again is because along the entire 26.2 mile course, there are signs nailed to trees, taped to poles, stuck in the ground encouraging the racers.  I know, signs aren’t anything new to races.  But, unlike any race I’ve done, these signs are made by the organizers of the race for repeat participants, using their names and how many races they’ve done with something like “Christa, you run better than the government” or “Run like you stole something”.  I smile every time I pass one (and there are dozens, maybe hundreds). Good stuff!

My sister and I showed up for packet pickup at the local high school.  The place was hopping with activity. Cars with license plates from all over the country lined the parking lot.  We met people from surrounding states, which you would expect, but also from Florida, the mid-west, Nebraska and even Canada! Ranked one of The Weather Channels toughest marathons, Road Runner magazine’s most fun races and Red Bull’s must have medals, this event has national recognition. In 2014, there were 1300 participants from 46 states.  It was something to see.  I couldn’t believe that all these people descended on this little town.  How would this ever go smoothly?  I started to get anxious about the next day.  I just knew it was going to be an unorganized mess and I was going to get lost on the back roads, never to be seen again.   Boy was I wrong! I cannot say enough about how wrong I was. The event ran like a fine tuned machine.  I’m pretty sure that every person within a 100 mile radius had a role to play.  They were encouraging, helpful and seemed genuinely invested in your success crossing the finish line, the epitome of West Virginia and Kentucky hospitality.

No Feudin just running memeThere are so many race options that there really is something for everyone.  Of course there is a 5K and a full marathon.  But from there it gets interesting.  They break up the course into two half courses- the blackberry mountain half and the river road half. You can choose to do one or the other. Or both?  I did the river road half the first time because although it was hilly, it didn’t have the word “mountain” in it.  That seemed a bit daunting.  To explain the both, you can choose to do the “double half” event.  And this is what sets the Hatfield McCoy apart from the rest, what makes them unique and brings folks in from all over.  The marathon course takes you through WV and Kentucky.  So the double half is the same course as the full marathon.  But for people we are attempting a race in all 50 states, by doing the double half you get credit for 2 states!  One registration fee, one race, two states.  Bam!

There are a couple challenges to participating in a race in such a small rural area.  First, there isn’t great cell service.  If you don’t have Verizon as your carrier, you are screwed.  Unfortunately, I have AT&T and didn’t know about this when I got there.  I always listen to Pandora when I train and do races.  Not this time, sister! I was high and dry with no tunes.  Again I was very anxious about walking 13.1 miles in silence.  It was going to be torture.  But I managed to get through it.  And I attribute that to the scenery along the course, the friendliness of the other participants who talked to you as you pushed through, the locals who were cheering you on along the way and the house we passed that blared the Rocky theme song from their porch encouraging everyone to keep going. The other challenge is since it is a small town and that many people are all coming at once, accommodations are in rare supply.  There are some hotels in the area.  They are clean but they are not fancy, sort of throwbacks to the 1990’s or earlier.  We stayed at the Sycamore Inn, which we will do again.  But this little town doesn’t let that obstacle stand in the way.  They promote cabins, RV accommodations, camping and two local fire departments turn their stations into “community lodging”.

Having done 5 half marathons and 2 full marathons I always wonder what would be a new challenge.  I’d considered doing a 50K (31 miles). But I’m really not sure if I have another 5 miles in me.  So I decided to just step up my game and push myself in another marathon.  The Hatfield McCoy Marathon has everything I’m looking for and it is right in my back yard.  No real travel, no time off work, no huge expenses, just a great experience. The other appealing thing is that there isn’t a time limit.  Sounds perfect!  But there is a reason a race wouldn’t have a time limit….because it is HARD!  My last marathon with hills was a 7 hour time limit and I finished in 6:36.  My personal goal for this one is to beat that time.  Doable, but I will have to work extra hard to make it happen.

In all the races I’ve done, there was only one half marathon that I did by myself.  One of my mental psych outs for this race was, can I really do this all by myself? Twenty-six miles, with hills, and no cell service, maybe up to 7 hours, all alone.  And then, my prayers were answered!  My gym husband, Angel, is going to do it with me.  When he told me he wanted to do it so he could mark off marathon from his bucket list, it was like the Angels were singing…..literally.   We started training officially this week.  It is game on!

I encourage all of you to pick your own next adventure.  Don’t just decide what it is, take action to make it happen.  And if you want to join me and Angel, check out the website http://www.hatfieldmccoymarathon.net/home.html

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The Teacher Becomes the Student

I started this blog almost a year ago for several reasons.  One was a way to stay active and engaged by being accountable every week to write about an experience.  Another reason was to try to be a role model of sorts for others.  I know there are a lot of people out there like me that just need a place to start, to just know that someone else is going through the same things they are or to ask for help and advice.  Throughout this first year, I have had several people approach me to be all of those things to them. It has been a blessing and honor for me and I hope I have been able to be helpful to them.

But what happens when the person that is supposed to be the motivator, setting good examples and being a source of strength to others finds themselves struggling and needing help.  As the title suggests, sometimes the teacher becomes the student.  And that is where I am right now! I have written a little bit about it in the recent weeks.  But it has escalated to a level that has gotten me very concerned.  As you know I have been on and off Weight Watchers for several years.  There is no doubt that the program works!  Each time I am successful with my health and weight loss.  But my typical cycle is to stay on course for 8-12 months and then fall off course….fall HARD!  Once I got within 3 pounds of my goal weight and gained it back.  This time I got within 10 pounds of my goal and have gained about 20 pounds since August.  The downward spiral has gotten worse throughout the holidays.  I have literally eaten everything in sight.  I never let myself get hungry before I eat again.  Conversely, I never seem to get full.  Always thinking about when, where and what my next meal is going to be. And I eat very fast, which is also unhealthy.  Not too long ago there were commercials about binge eating disorder.  It got so bad that I actually went to the website, researched it a little bit,  took the test and found out that my behavior was borderline binge eating. That’s scary! And yet, it still didn’t stop me or change my behavior. Dear body meme

By the grace of God I am still active and I still drink at least a gallon of water a day.  Without that, I can’t even imagine the shape (literally and figuratively) I would be in right now. There are a couple of things that finally got me to open my eyes.  This is the time of year that everyone is making resolutions and talking about fitness and health.  Every time you turn around there is a new meme about health, motivation or strength and I wanted to get those things back for myself. Back to being healthy and strong, where I know I can be and where I have been before.  I know how to do it.  I just need to find the will and desire again.  The other reason, and the one that really makes it real, is that none of my clothes fit!  And if I have to wear the same 3 outfits to work for much longer because my fat ass doesn’t fit in anything else, I might go out of my mind.  I was even struggling with the changes to Weight Watchers.  I don’t like change, in general.  And I felt like the changes would make the program harder to follow and stick with. Not to mention that I blamed Oprah for all of it.  That is actually still the case.  If I have to see her or hear her one more time tell me “honey child”, she just wants 2016 to be her best self, I am going to throw something at the TV.  But the truth is no one, not even Oprah, is responsible for my actions, decisions and health except ME!

So, here I was at the fork in the road.  I can take the road that keeps me on this destructive path or I can take the road back to health.  I am choosing to take the road back to health.  I just needed a little jump start to get there.  Hearing other people talk about how great their eating day was, or how they stayed within their points or how they chose carrots over cake was only pissing me off. So where do I turn for help?  I found my answer in someone I knew had been in my shoes, that is successful in her journey while juggling her career, two kids and husband, that understands we are all human and not perfect, that only wants what’s best for me and will be my friend no matter what.  That person in this moment, at this time is my friend Jennifer.

I needed to be re-educated on things I already knew, but have been just out of my grasp.  And I wasn’t ready to go back to the formal structure of Weight Watchers just yet.  Also being on the program, Jennifer was the perfect person to ask for help.  We made it a social event. She came to my house Friday night and we talked about things that worked for her, worked for me in the past, recipes she’s tried that were great and some that were not so great. I told her what my obstacles are, the biggest one being my work travel to somewhat rural areas without a lot of healthy food options.  We worked through a plan to overcome that obstacle.  When I can I will eat lunch at home or at one of our two office locations.  When I can’t do that, I will eat a healthy salad at Subway or Wendy’s.  The key is to pre-plan and look up point values before its 11:30 and you are so hungry you could eat your own arm off.  The other obstacle is my car’s natural pull into a gas station in the afternoon when I am traveling.  It starts out innocently enough, with just needing a restroom break.  Then it goes to thinking about a healthy snack to tide me over. Then it goes immediately south to a sweet treat, sometimes two! And I go at it like a starved animal. It’s ridiculous and gross.  So we decided that jerky is a great “all weather” snack that can be kept in the car- high protein and low carb.  That’s the plan for when I’m on the road.  The only adjustment is that I will need to drink even more water because it is high in sodium.

Food for the week

I went to the store and bought $109 of food for the week that included fruits, vegetables, chicken, turkey and cheese. The key to that is food prep.  Prepare as much as you can so it’s ready to eat when you are.  I washed all my fruits, roasted my veggies, made taco turkey meat and baked chicken.  I’m ready to get back on the right road again, with a weigh in later today to know my starting point.  It will be ugly, but necessary.

These are all things I know I should do.  But sometimes you are just too close to it, or too deep into the ugly cycle to bounce out of it without a little help.  Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need.  Those who truly want you to succeed will be there for you.  I want to thank Jennifer for spending her Friday night with me talking about food.  You gave me a renewed confidence that I haven’t had for months.  And thank you to the other people in my life who encourage me every day. They know who they are. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will have good news to report on this journey.

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The Squat Challenge… The Results

Gosh!  I don’t even know where to begin.  At the risk of sounding like a smartass, I guess I should start at the beginning.  As you know, I decided to begin a 30 day squat challenge on December 1st.  The goal was to start with 50 squats the first day and be able to do 250 squats on December 30th.  The schedule was laid out for me.  All I had to do was follow it.  Now let me be clear, its 250 squats at ONE TIME, not doing them throughout the day at your leisure.  As you also know, I originally tried a plank challenge in August and failed miserably.  So the first obstacle I had to overcome was the mental, “you already failed once, what makes you think you can do this”, stuff.  The only way I knew how to do that was to look at my history.  The one thing I have consistently been good at is walking, doing races and having strong legs.  I used that to overcome the negative thoughts.  The second thing I had to overcome was being able to commit to it and do it no matter what. If something gets a little tough, I’ve always been able to find a way to get going and I can justify it like a champ. But this time I was committed to doing this and staying dedicated to the process. Typically, I did the squats in the evening after work when I would do my normal workout.  But, there were a couple days that wasn’t feasible.  For those occasions I came home and did them on my lunch break.  Yep, I came home from work, changed into workout clothes, banged out the squats du jour, grabbed a quick bite at home, changed back into work clothes and went back to work.

I started out wanting to always do the squats with a witness.  One, to prove that I had done them and two, to make myself accountable and not have any reason to cop out.  And that worked in the beginning.  My friends Angel and Claire were doing it with me.  We would meet at the gym and get them done together. Then everyone’s schedules got crazy with the holidays and we weren’t able to do that anymore.  I started making a new routine…and it was awesome!  I would go in my garage where it was cooler (with the door down so no one could see me), turn on my 70’s funk Pandora station and squat my ass off, literally! The whole time I am staring at the front end of my car.  Each time I would giggle a little bit to myself. I felt like I was back in an episode of Knight Rider. I kept waiting for my grill to light up and start talking to me!   When I was done, I would immediately shake out my quads, open my garage door, do a couple laps around the building to get the muscles moving again and stretch.

Each day added anywhere from 5 to 30 more squats than the previous day.  There were rest days and I took them.  At first I didn’t want to because I was on such a roll.  But I realized that in order to have the stamina and strength to finish, my body needed the rest. But sometimes I switched which days were rest days to accommodate my life a little better. Fifty became 100, then 150, then 175.  Seemingly I was busting through this without any problems at all.  At this point it was taking about the length of one funky song to get them done.  I really started feeling them after 175.  My quads would be on fire and my breath would be a little labored.  And when the schedule jumped from 190 to 220 with a rest day in between I thought there was no way I could jump 30 squats at a time! Not when I felt like my quads were going to literally combust into flames, they were burning so much.  But my trainer and constant support, Micah, assured me that it was likely that at this point my body was on “auto pilot” and once you hit a certain point you just do it.

 

He was right.  When the day came, I rocked the 220! Still with the burning quads but I had come to accept that and treat it like my badge of honor- no pain, no gain. At this point I was confident I could complete this challenge.  As a matter of fact, I actually looked forward to my squats every day, like it was a part of me. Then it was day 29, 240 squats.  For some reason, 240 was tough.  Afterward, I went through my usual routine, stretching it out, walking around, shaking out the legs.  But the rest of the night my body was shaky.  I went to bed knowing that the next morning, bright and early, I was meeting Micah at the gym for the grand finale.  I couldn’t sleep all night.  I was a bit nauseous and while sleeping, my whole body shook a little bit.  I woke up and thought there was no way I could do 250 just hours after doing the 240.  But I immediately shook that thought off and told myself I wasn’t coming this far to let 10 squats and my own mental bullshit be my demise.  So off to the gym I went.

Squat finale- squattingSquat finale- standing

Micah was there to greet me with encouragement and enthusiasm.  We went into the workout room, I mixed it up a little and turned on my 80’s cardio station this time.  He set the timer and it was Go time.  As I got up into the 200’s, the pattern was that the first 10-20 were a little rough as your body gets in the zone, the next 100 are nothing, I felt 150-200.  And around 200 you just go into auto pilot mode and think of nothing but getting them done.   245-246-247-248-249…..250!!  I HAD COMPLETED THE CHALLENGE!!  Damn it felt good. I asked Micah to be honest and tell me how my form was throughout and how he would grade my performance.  He knows me well enough to know I don’t want it sugar-coated.  That doesn’t help me improve.  He said my form was good, for most of them I was at least 90 degrees or lower, but some didn’t quite get there.  So he would give me an A but not an A+.  Are you kidding me? For my first rodeo, I will take the A!!!!

(Watch the video of the last 15 squats, Squat finale- video)

Let’s look at it by the numbers:

5 = Number of people that started doing the challenge with me

1- Number of people that actually completed it with me (Props goes to Angel Cinco Jr. for his dedication and success as well)

30 = Number of days for the challenge

50= Number of squats on the first day

250 = Number of squats on the last day

6:38 = Amount of time the 250 squats took

And my personal favorite: 3295 = TOTAL NUMBER OF SQUATS DONE IN THE MONTH OF DECEMBER!!

A friend of mine asked me if I could see a difference after doing all these squats.  And the answer is yes! Definitely in my quads and hamstrings, even my calves.  I told him that by looking at my naked butt in the mirror I wasn’t sure if it had lifted any.  But if you feel my ass you can certainly feel the muscle strength in my glutes.  Unfortunately, I can’t go around asking people to feel my ass.  So you will just have to take my word for it.

I’ll be honest, now that it’s been over for about a week, I feel a little lost without it, like “now what?” You know I’ve got to find something to get into. Stay tuned to see what the next chapter is going to be.

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Happy Holidays!

In observance of the holidays, Walk Fiercely is taking a two week hiatus.

Look for the results of the squat challenge in the January 5th blog.

Merry Christmas Happy New Year- bigger for FB

 

In A Rut…Mix It Up!

When I am training for a race I tend to focus all my activity on the training, which means walk, walk, walk.  It can get repetitive, tedious and boring.  But, I knew there was a goal I was working toward and that made it worth it.  And the decision to focus only on walking was solely my own.  I absolutely could have added other activities.  But with my never-ending neck and back issues, I was always too paranoid to add too many other things to my routine to avoid injury.  Not sure if that is the right tactic or not.  I just know it has worked for me.  Like they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

But what happens if it is “broke”? What if what you’re doing is getting stale or not yielding results or, like me, you just can’t take another step after the race is over.  I know when I am done with a race the last thing I want to do is walk.  I literally go at least a month before I take another walk.  That doesn’t mean I can take a whole month off from doing anything.  So, why should you change your routine? And how do you know when it is time to switch it up?

There are lots of reasons for why, but the most common are:

  1. You’ve hit a weight loss plateau and need to do something new to increase your metabolism again.
  2. Preventing overuse injuries. If you are injured doing something and continue to do that same thing, the injury will not go away. Change the exercise and the injury should subside.
  3. Build new muscles. If it were up to me I would work legs 7 days a week. But for as strong as my leg muscles are, my upper body is equally as weak.  I need to mix it up to build upper body strength.  Boxing (see below) helps with that a lot.
  4. Beat the boredom. Can’t say it any better. The treadmill bores me to death. If for no other reason, I do new things just to keep from having to get on that thing again.
  5. Meet new workout partners. This might sound silly. But some of my best friends I have met at the gym.  It’s like you already have a little bit of a bond just being at the gym together.  One conversation is all it takes to make a new workout partner and friend. The comradery is awesome, like-minded people doing like-minded things.
  6. Get excited about exercise again. About every 6 months I need this. I get lazy and unmotivated no matter what kind of workout I’m doing.  Sometimes you’ve got to shake it up just to get excited again.

Going hand in hand with why to change is when you should change in the first place. The top reasons for when to change are your workouts are boring you, your workout is no longer giving you any results, your workouts leave you more tired and sore than it used to and finally, your workout is no longer challenging.  I fall into 3 out of 4 of those categories.  The only one that doesn’t really apply to me is my workouts leaving me more tired and sore.  The other three are spot on!

I look to my “gym family” for advice and guidance because I know for me to be successful I need the support and encouragement that they give me.  That family includes not only the friends I work out with but also the trainers and advisors that I trust to point me in the right direction.

My latest “mix it up” has included things I never thought I would do, specifically boxing!  Yes, you heard me, BOXING!  Two of my friends had been doing it for several months and kept asking me to try it.  They swore by it.  Said it was the best workout they ever had and they are were exhausted after each session.  At first it just sounded dreadful and not something I was interested in.  But because they are part of my trusted gym family and are very persuasive, I figured I’d give it a try and get them off my back.  Funny thing happened at that first class.  I was addicted!!  It was like a drug.  You are moving, boxing, jumping rope, gasping for air, sweating your ass off and at the end of the hour you feel incredible! The time goes by so fast and you feel so accomplished, like if you were in the ring with Ronda Rousey you could take her down. Well, that might be a bit of an overstatement.  But you get my point.  To give you an idea of how quickly the obsession kicked in, after the first class I ordered my own wraps and boxing gloves! Boxing gloves meme I do this class once a week on Monday and from the moment I walk out of class, I am looking forward to the next one. It’s a powerful way to start out the week.  I want to give a shout out to the owner and instructor-  Freddy Frye at Boxing Fit in Cross Lanes, WV (shown below). He is awesome and if you have the chance to try the class you won’t be sorry! Boxing Fit- Freddy

Tuesday and Wednesday are usually flexible days.  Right now, as you know, I am doing the squat challenge and then I will walk it out for a while after those.  But I don’t have anything specific scheduled. Thursday is another group training at my gym. Anytime Fitness.  This is a new type of training called Alloy.  To be honest, I’m still not sure how to describe it.  I just know that it is also an hour of intense activity and at the end I am drenched and drained.  But, damn, it feels good!  Even though you might all be at different levels, it is structured so you can go at your own level.  The reality is that being with my friends and having Micah, our trainer (shown in picture), encouraging me, makes me want to push as hard as I can. Micah flexing With the exception of walking, I always do better with someone challenging me.  If left to my own devices, I rarely hit it at 100%.  With boxing and Alloy, I am always 110%.

There is no specific time frame for when you should change your routine.  And each person is different.  If you aren’t experiencing any of the above reasons, don’t change.  Do what is working for you.  But when you do need to make that change, think outside the box, ask others for ideas and what works for them.  And when you find the next thing that rocks your world, share it with us so we can all experience it too!

Squat baby memeSquat Challenge Update: Today will be Day 15 and I am scheduled to do 140 squats.  I am still on track. And I still feel pretty good as far as my legs.  But I’ve noticed that my shins are hurting more than my quads and glutes.  I found that odd so I asked my trainer about it.  He explained that because they are smaller muscles and they will fatique much quicker than the big muscle groups.  I felt better knowing that instead of thinking I was doing something wrong.  As for my “Squat Force” of five that were doing it with me, I checked in with them all.  Of the ones I heard from, one dropped out because it was too hard on her knees, one is staying consistent with 50 a day because of her knees as well.  I am pretty sure one of them is still on track or really close.  My childhood friend dropped out, but in her defense she just started training for a half marathon so she is still pushing herself to achieve new goals.  I’m proud of them all.

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The Struggle is Real!

It’s the holidays. And that means family…food, friends…food, fun and… FOOD! When I think about the bad food choices I make, the portion sizes I eat and the joy I get from it, it actually makes me think of another “F” word that isn’t family friendly.  Truth be told, if I am going to blame this struggle on the holidays, then the holiday that kicked it off was my birthday- in August.  Yep, I’ve been on a bender for about 4 months.  Since then I’ve gained about 12-15 pounds.  It’s unacceptable, but I don’t make excuses for it.  I own my actions, the good ones and the bad ones. I did this, no one forced me to overeat or make bad choices.

Sticking with this holiday theme, let me sing you a variation of a classic: “Cream cheese on bagels and ranch on my fries, pizza with the works and ice cream with pies, multiple sauces on a dozen wings…these are a few of my favorite things.”Junk Food Meme

The funny thing is that I actually like healthy food.  I love my veggies, fruit, salad, chicken, fish, grains, etc.  My downfall is two-fold.  First, there’s convenience.  I am single (and looking, tell your friends) , work a full time job and workout regularly.  By the time I get home, I don’t want to cook.  And it is hard to cook for one.  So, I grab whatever is handy or stop and pick up something.  In addition to those actions contributing to my expanding waste, it is also contributing to my shrinking bank account.  From an economic standpoint alone, I should stop doing this.  Second, I am super social.  And every event, get together, girl’s night, etc. involves food and often times the empty calories of drinks.  If I am in a restaurant, looking at the menu, 9 out of 10 times (who am I kidding- 10 out of 10), I make the unhealthy choice.  It’s just so damn good!

Healthy Food Meme

Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I am spot on, healthy, energetic, losing weight and doing great.  As a matter of fact, I am a long time Weight Watcher member since 2012.  The program works!  But you have to be diligent enough to stay on the program.  And when I fall off the wagon, I don’t just fall off.  The damn wagon runs over me, backs up and runs over me again! As I am writing this, a fellow WW member text me to see if I was going to weigh in this week.  I told him no.  Logically, I know that I need to go and stay accountable and let that encourage me to turn things around again.  But, from a self-preservation standpoint I just can’t face getting on the scale and being told the ugly truth.  I keep telling myself that I will get it under control and when I do, THEN I will go back, face the scale and be able to hold my head high when I am given the results.  That is an unlikely and unrealistic scenario.  But sometimes that’s what you need to tell yourself to get through.

I know I am not the only person that goes through this.  I actually have a handful of friends that struggle with the same thing.  We try to support each other and cheer each other on.  But I feel like there are many other people in my life that struggle with this as well.  If you are one of them, know that you aren’t alone.  If not you, I guarantee there are people in your life that experience this.  Try to be supportive and not critical.  That is the worst thing!  Negative comments and judgment are the fastest way to push that person further down the hole.  As an example, when I was at my heaviest (each time) my mom would be very passive/aggressive and ask me what I had for dinner.  Translated that meant “I’m sure you had something for dinner that was bad for you or you wouldn’t be so fat.  Why can’t you just eat a salad?  How did you get so fat?”  So, my answer was always very sarcastic and counterproductive.  Whatever I  did have was irrelevant at that point.  My answer was usually, “a whole pizza!”  That really made her mad.  Then she shouldn’t ask such an inflammatory (and stupid) question. And all it did for me was make me want a whole freakin’ pizza!  In the end, no one wins.

I guess if I look for the positive in my current situation, it would have to be that from an activity/exercise standpoint, I have actually stepped up my game quite a bit lately. In a typical week I take a boxing class, spin class, an hour workout with my trainer and a walk or two on the treadmill.  And for the next 25 days, I’ll still be doing the squat challenge.  Thank God for that!  Even with the extra calorie burn, I still consume way more calories than I am burning.  So you can imagine what shape, literally and figuratively, I would be in without the activity.

I know that one day, hopefully soon, I will be able to get all  the positive things aligned again- food, exercise, positive thinking, etc. It’s happened many times in the past.  And when it does, it is the greatest feeling.  I feel happier, more confident, more attractive and almost invincible.  Even writing that makes me hopeful that the day is coming soon.  The only one that can make it happen is ME!

If this sounds like you or someone you know, let’s work through it together.  Let’s support and empower one another.  Tell me your story, through the site or confidentially.

Squat Challenge Update:  I am 7 days in and so far…so good! I’m up to 80 at one time.  But today is 100, triple digits!  Wish me luck. It is getting tougher.  As I am doing the squats my body doesn’t really hurt.  But afterward it seems to be a bit more stiff with aches and pains.  I’ve also checked in with the folks who said they were going to do it with me.  Two are definitely still in the hunt, because we are doing them together. One is a little bit behind but motivated to get caught up and I am proud of her. Another has gotten behind because her business gets very busy at the holidays. But she says she will get back on track.  And I can vouch for her fierceness and have no doubt she will!  I haven’t heard from the other yet.  But wherever she is in the process, I support her as well. Stay tuned for next week’s update.

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Squat Challenge…Bring It!

I know the title sounds a little over confident considering we all know how well my plank challenge worked out a few months ago. Epic fail!  But, I have two reasons for feeling confident this time.  First, I’m using mind over matter.  If I don’t go in feeling like I can accomplish the challenge, then I won’t.  So I’m going in with confidence and determination.  Second, I should have known better than to make my first challenge something core related, like planks.  That is my weakest area. My mistake.  Legs on the other hand….that’s my strongest area.  For these two reasons, I say “Bring on the squat challenge!”Squat Challenge

Seems like just in the last year or so you can find a fitness challenge of any kind on the internet.  This is no different.  I found this 30 day challenge on the internet as well.  It will take me from 50 a day to 250 a day. Lofty goals. And if I didn’t have to do them all at once, it wouldn’t be any problem at all to do 250 squats in a day.  But, I do have to do them all at once.  Today is day one, 50 squats.  I invite you to join me and let’s support each other through the challenge.  Comment or post about your progress or if you need an encouraging word or just a kick in the ass.

One thing to keep in mind with this or any other challenge is the importance of proper form when doing the exercise.  For squats, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart with toes turned out at a slight angle. I am typically a little more than “slightly” wider. Lower yourself by reaching back with your butt while maintaining a strong lower back. Keep your knees aligned with your toes. Keeping your weight in your heels will help automatically keep you in this position. Sometimes I even lift my toes up a little bit to be sure my weight is on my heels. Chest up, belly button pulled in toward your back for a tighter core, upper back tight, eyes looking forward and slightly down, head in a neutral position. Maintain a nice cohesive line along your spine. Go just below parallel, so that your butt drops below your knees. Come back up by pushing through the heel and add a little butt clinch at the top. These pictures try to help demonstrate the form.  You can’t tell from the pictures, but right before these were taken I had just finished a 45 minute spin class. Legs felt like Jello. Glad it wasn’t a video or you would see them shaking. Squat- front view Squats- side view

If you’re wondering why you should even care about squats, the vain answer (and let’s face it, the one we all really care about) is that squats are the best exercise to give you a nice, round, firm, “take a bite out of this”, BUTT!

There are many other great benefits of doing squats as well.

  • Tones the Legs: Squat exercises thoroughly engage the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles, which helps to tone and strengthen the legs. Slowing the motion down makes the workout that much more intense.
  • Strengthens the Core: Squats engage the core muscles of the body. Abdominal and back muscles are needed to keep balance during the movement. The result is a tighter, flatter abdomen and a stronger lower back. Make a conscious effort to hold in your abdominal muscles while squatting down to increase this effect. This is the hardest part for me. Sometimes it is a choice between holding in my abs and simply breathing.  I tend to choose breathing. Call me crazy.
  • Increases Flexibility: Doing squats increases joint flexibility. The ankles, knees, hips and lower back are all utilized in the squatting motion. Be sure to maintain proper form to avoid injury. If you feel any pain in these areas, stop doing the exercises until the pain is gone. And let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger and if we can keep our joints from creaking and cracking when we stand up, I’m all for it.
  • Upper Body Workout: Adding weights to your squat routine engages the muscles of the upper body, essentially giving you a full body workout in one exercise. You can accomplish this with the use of a barbell, dumbbells or a weighted vest. When adding weights to your routine, start with lighter ones and build as your strength increases. I wouldn’t recommend this for the challenge. However, I do suggest you add weights to your regular workouts when doing squats.  You can even hold a kettlebell in front of you for extra weight it that is all you have.
  • Lifts the Butt: As previously mentioned, just in a more colorful way, doing squats gives the glutes a powerful workout, helping to tighten and lift the butt. To increase this effect, give your glutes an extra squeeze when returning to a standing position.

It’s also important to note that if you have any physical limitations or health issues that might be affected by doing this challenge, talk with a professional to make sure it is okay to do it. I have back and neck issues. So, I checked with my trainer and my chiropractor.  Micah, my trainer, told me to just be diligent in keeping good form, listen to my body and if it starts to hurt my back, stop!  My chiropractor basically said the same thing.  But recently he has been more concerned with things that would affect my neck than my back.  Seems like the more activity I do, the better my back. We are both a little surprised by that. But, I’m not complaining.  With both their blessings, it’s all systems GO!

Again, I invite you to join me in this squat challenge. Comment and post your progress. Together we are going to not only kick ass, but firm and tighten it too!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

happy-thanksgiving

In honor of Thanksgiving week, the Walk Fiercely blog will not be posting a typical blog.  Instead, I want to wish you all a blessed and safe holiday with family and friends. We will continue with our regularly scheduled program next week.

Thanksgiving is a time to gather around loved ones …to be grateful for all that we have been so abundantly blessed with and also to spare a thought for those not so lucky. It is a season of bountifulness and a reason to share the same ….true Thanksgiving is in actually doing that – Giving !!!