Category Archives: Fitness

Less Than 8 Months … whaaaat

Less than 8 months to go, and I’ve really been coasting with this wedding business. Eric and I are very excited, but we’re also very busy … with normal life stuff. We did get some incredible engagement photos taken a couple weekends ago, courtesy of our good friend, the multitalented Evan Valentine (evanvalentine.com). He and his wife Jaime (one of my very best friends) ate at Ray’s Hell Burger with us in Rosslyn. Then we made visits to some favorite Arlington spots: Dark Star Park, Gravelly Point Park (out by Reagan Airport), and the rooftop garden at our apartment building. Finally, we got some shots on the balcony of our apartment, where Eric proposed to me. We had a good time and the pictures came out really nice, with some hilarious outtakes, too!

I’ve been to some fun places and done some fun things lately, so maybe I’ll eventually write something about that. I’ve made all these rough drafts that I just left sitting. I have also been writing an entirely new book. The idea just came to me one day and I went nuts with it and wrote 20,000 words in about a week. I wish I’d had that same motivation when I wrote my last book during NaNoWriMo! I’m now up to nearly a full 25,000 words. This novel has been much more fun for me than the last because I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen. Every time I start working on it the characters spring to life in my head and show me what’s occurring as I type. So right now, I only have the vaguest idea of the denouement. I could stand to do a little travel around the country to strengthen some of the storyline (due to locations I’m not familiar with), but basic research will have to do for now. Now, I’m truly not that good of a writer, but I enjoy it and it’s a great stress-reliever and fun hobby. I could probably better spend my time on more pressing matters, but it’s hard to stay away from the keyboard. I have another friend working on a novel, so we may try to meet up at coffee shops and have “writing nights” in the near future.

I went to my first Body Pump class last Friday; it’s a lifting class – you use a mat, a step (to lay on, like a bench), and the bar with weights. It was very difficult but so much fun that I greatly enjoyed the challenge. At the end of the class, the instructor announced, “Congratulations, you’ve just done 800 reps!” I intend to keep going, although it will require me to get up at an ungodly hour. Ugh!

Coming up soon (but don’t I always say that?) … more wedding stuff, a couple book reviews, recommended beauty products, some travel articles from all over, hotel review, and a disgusting, hideous exploration of the life of the house centipede and his many apparent benefits … ugh. And I think I might have a giveaway for y’all as well. 

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Working Out at Work with Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Continuing my guinea pigging of workouts you can supposedly do in your cube or office, today I went through a small routine by Tracey Anderson, found in Bloomberg BusinessWeek‘s September 22 “How To” issue. If you don’t have a copy, you can view most of the same article here. Keep in mind that the purpose of these routines is not to get you in the kind of shape that Ms. Anderson is in, but rather for your good general health – as recent studies have discovered that even a small amount of sedentary time is very bad for your body, regardless of how fit you already are. And obviously that is definitely not good news for us desk jockeys.

This workout has little going for it compared to the Washington Post workout I reviewed last week. With just four moves, it’s decidedly faster than a full set of WP moves. Which is a good thing, because presumably you have to get actual work things done in the office, too, right? But the moves don’t include the number of reps to start out with. I found I was more likely to injure myself or bump into something with these moves – the first one in particular means balancing yourself on your rolly chair with both legs off the ground. The second exercise means you better wipe down your germ-laden workspace before planting your snoz on it. The third one is confusing – what is a “flick kick”? (“I don’t know, is it a kind of movie?” said my sister when I texted her with this question.) I did find the last move pretty satisfying; it’s a good stretch, and anything that gets us moving more during the day is a good start. With this one, that’s about all I can ask for.

Working Out at Work with The Washington Post

One of the latest fads, although I hope this one has more staying power than others, is the office workout. In the past few months I have seen articles in magazines and newspapers on this very topic along with new products designed to facilitate such workouts, such as “standing desks”. I have even heard of meetings conducted while everyone is on a treadmill. (That is pushing it too far. The only thing that could possibly make a boring meeting even MORE torturous is bringing a treadmill into the equation.)

A few months ago, The Washington Post presented 12 office exercises tested by their infographics department. The result is this clever presentation on their website, complete with awesome (and somewhat funny) drawings of office workers demonstrating how to do each exercise. You can read pros and cons of each move and rate whether or not you would actually do this exercise in your own office. There is also a small link you can select to download and print a useful cubicle poster of the exercises.

Me being me, I had to guinea pig these things, just for you! And now I do them most days of the week. I’m kind of cheating as far as the embarrassment factor goes because my cube has a privacy door on it and not a ton of people work on my floor anyway. But ultimately I found this routine pretty easy to do, although I would recommend changing out of your work shoes into sneakers first. It involves a lot of marching and stepping, so if you’re in a quieter atmosphere, your cube mates will probably hear your repeated steps and wonder what you are doing. And if you work in a cube with a low-wall, people will see your arms swinging around on some of the moves. (Consider grabbing an empty conference room if you’re in a busy area and just can’t stand people looking at you during the day.) Regardless, this is a quick workout that will keep you energized and is a good way to take a brief break. It’s even kind of fun. Just be very careful when doing the ones that require you to lean on your desk – sometimes cubicle tables are too flimsy.

Bonus points if you attempt to make the same faces shown on the people in the WaPo article as you do each exercise. 😉

Personal Training Update

A couple of weeks ago, I had to get a new trainer after my old trainer left under somewhat abrupt circumstances. Based on a conversation I had with her during our last session, I knew it was just a matter of time and wasn’t surprised at all to receive the phone call she was gone. So, now I’ve had to get a new trainer. The coordinator originally planned to assign me to a male trainer, but I explained to her that while I think male trainers are great, I would feel more comfortable training with another female. She was happy to fulfill that request even though I think it made things more difficult schedule-wise. My new trainer is high-energy and hilarious. I have really enjoyed working with her thus far and I find her more on my wavelength than the last trainer. I also appreciate how involved she is with the sessions. Rather than just standing there waiting for me to finish, she keeps on chatting, doing exercises with me, and joking around. She recently had me RUN for several minutes on the treadmill which is my ultimate nightmare and she stood there next to me telling me all about her day and cracking jokes which made it SO much more bearable. In some ways she reminds me a bit of myself.

It has been hard to adjust going from one trainer to another. I like both girls but the old trainer’s style was different and more strict than the new one. That was useful because I knew someone would be paying attention and would give me a hard time if they saw I hadn’t been in the gym often enough. However, I find I actually look forward to coming to the gym and working with the new trainer. During my first session, I told her I hadn’t been in to the gym for five days because I’d been enjoying my four day holiday weekend. She just said, “Oh psssh, whatever. It was a holiday. Who wants to work out on a holiday?” Also, whereas the previous trainer had gently suggested a couple of times that I might be “looking” to lose as many as 40 pounds, this trainer started me off by saying, “Well, you don’t really need to lose any weight or anything” and was appalled when I told her what my old trainer had suggested. New Trainer clearly didn’t approve of my being given a target weight amount to lose. So that’s kind of been an adjustment in focus for me as before I was thinking I must look really heavy.

The new trainer also seems to have a better sense of humor about life in general. I figured out long ago that a good sense of humor can be essential for both day-to-day life and dealing with real hardship, so I can appreciate that. When you look for the lighthearted or fun side of every day situations, you’ll find hard times can be easier to step back and examine more calmly, because you’ve already had the practice looking at everything else from a different angle. Or at least, this is true for me.

So far I’m still doing well. I felt proud last night when the trainer said, “You were awesome! I couldn’t find your lesson plan so I threw all kinds of crap at you and you took it like a champ.” She’s right – that was probably the hardest workout I’d had but I wouldn’t give up. (The lesson plan thing wasn’t her fault by the way – the gym re-organized the trainers’ office.)

I’m doing *mostly* fine with nutrition although my motivation has completely flagged lately! You know what I can’t avoid all of a sudden? MILK. Real milk! I gave it up nearly two years ago in favor of plant-based milks because dairy doesn’t help my breakouts. I love almond milk, but man, does real milk taste good. I let myself have a cup at my parents’ house a month or two ago and now I help myself to Eric’s 2% all the time. NOM. I can’t help it; I have always loved dairy! I would drink pint after pint of plain white 2% all day if I could.

The Summer So Far

First of all, it’s SUMMER BEER SEASON! What are your favorites? I’ve been asking everybody! I can’t wait to get over to Westover Beer Garden and enjoy a few along with some live music and barbecue!
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It’s also summer blockbuster season. Last October, I took Roelof’s brother Johan and fiancee Xaviera by the Air Force Memorial where a scene for the third Transformers movie was being shot. That movie will be out in early July.

Other movies I’ve seen in the theaters recently, and my ratings for each (based on how much I liked the movie, not how well it was made, acting chops, etc.):

Fast Five. 4 out of 5. I was surprised by how much I liked this. It was more like a heist flick a la Ocean’s Eleven than the silly racing movie I was expecting.
Bridesmaids. 4 out of 5. Hilarious and surprisingly heartwarming, this raunchy flick showcased the skills of some of today’s best comediennes.
The Hangover Part II. 4 out of 5. The sequel molded in the exact same pattern as the first, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Super 8. 5 out of 5. I LOVED this movie. Set in 1979, it felt like a cross between ET and The Goonies, or The Manhattan Project and Monster Squad. Well-done.
Thor. 4 out of 5. The latest Marvel comic book-turned-big screen adventure.
Kung Fu Panda 2. 3 out of 5. I haven’t seen the first one. This one felt surprisingly dark for a movie aimed at children. I hear the first one is better. Still enjoyable.

There are plenty of movies still to come including the final installment of Harry Potter! I’ve been considering going back and re-reading the first four books, which are my favorites in the series.
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Personal training and the new way of eating are mostly going well. I say “mostly” because I think I could be doing a lot more in that department. I haven’t been making the best effort toward my cardio, lazily drifting in the gym maybe twice a week. Also, sometimes I don’t follow the rules I set for myself during the week and eat too many “bad for you” foods. Going out to a restaurant is pretty much a bust every time; even the low-calorie items are either way TOO small portions and those are that are decent size are guaranteed to be packed full of sodium. I find that eating at home during the week and brown-bagging it for lunch works the best for me. This week I didn’t do too well however. Eric took me to a movie and dinner on his night off earlier this week which was excellent; I ordered the reasonable grilled salmon, shrimp, and steamed broccoli but neglected to ask what the dish was grilled WITH. Sure enough, it arrived liberally covered in oil. Come on, is that REALLY necessary? It doesn’t taste good enough without the liquid fat oozing out of it?! We were running too close to movie time for me to send it back, so I ate the broccoli first, then all the shrimp, then about half of the salmon. Then the other night, we had a party for a professional club I help run complete with pizza, cake, and champagne. I was careful to only eat so much of each item, but still way more calories and fat then I normally take in. Of course, if I would work on my cardio a wee bit more, it wouldn’t be a big deal that I ate two little slices of pepperoni pizza! (They really were little – still way high in the fat grams department, but I’m not going to give myself a giant guilt trip over it!)

With the PT, it’s fun to see what I will have to tackle each session. No two sessions are the same and lately we’ve been doing increased “circuits” which involve me rotating through different sets of exercises. I learn new exercises and weight routines every single time. I like my trainer. She’s spunky and sweet and makes me work hard, but at the same time, she can tell when I’m genuinely getting too exhausted (as opposed to just resistant) and she’s careful to make sure I keep proper form so I don’t get hurt.
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Sumo is still diabetic, as well as nutty and mischievous. I have to keep adjusting his insulin doses and monitoring bathroom habits so I can administer his glucose tests. He’s at a healthier weight and he’s no longer vomiting every day, a great sign. He’s recently taken to curling up on top of my laptop case. Maybe he would like to earn his keep around here.
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Eric and I hoping to go on another drive-in tour soon! We’ll either hit up Hull’s Drive-In in Lexington or head to Baltimore and visit the Bengies.
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My 30th birthday is coming up fast! I have put a deposit on my second tandem skydive for the occasion, this time with a different site who seem WAY more organized. 🙂
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I’m becoming more domestic! I’ve been embarking on various cooking, cleaning, baking, decorating and organizing projects and enjoying myself. And I’ve even tending to a tomato plant I got from my coworker. Here, let me help you pick your jaws back up off the floor.
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And finally, the brand new GIANT is having its grand opening tomorrow morning at 6 AM! I can’t recall ever being this excited about a grocery store opening (or a grocery store, period) in my life. I mean, I’m even considering getting up early and heading over there so I can walk in when the doors open and enjoy my free coupons, samples, and wine and tapas tastings along with other opening day festivities. But I’m hardly alone in my enthusiasm. For WEEKS people have been walking and driving around the new Penrose Square development. A lone bored security guard reads a magazine inside the locked-up store while Giant trucks load the new groceries, as neighbors stand around gossiping and circling like vultures, peering in the windows and leaving breath marks all over the glass. Some days it looks like zombies crowding around. You have to understand that losing the previous Giant (in the same spot) was miserable for ALL OF US. For TWO YEARS we’ve had to either battle nasty traffic and fearless life-gambling jaywalkers all the way up the Pike to get to the Falls Church Giant for the best selection and prices, or take the slow ride through Arlington Ridge neighborhood for the far less well-stocked Glebe Road Giant. Or hey, we can always pay the mega-high prices at our Pentagon Row or North Glebe Harris Teeters, or head all the way over to Rosslyn for the Safeway. Hah, well now I’ll just walk over to my Giant and back, thank you! I’M SO EXCITED.

I Made My Own Chili! and Other Healthful Developments

I rarely cook, because I’m often too disorganized, impatient, and slothful. I’m working on changing all three of these to make life easier, and this week I successfully cooked my own healthful ground turkey chili! It really took no effort at all. Eric helped by chopping some of the veggies, showing me his easy garlic trick (which was simple for me to replicate) and then stirring the turkey and onions while I mixed up the final ingredients. I used a recipe I found at Allrecipes.com to help me figure out how I wanted to make it, but the final product was my own. I put a big pot on the stove, sprayed the bottom with Pam Olive Oil, and then stirred the turkey around till it was browned. Next I dumped in the onion that Eric chopped. I waited too long to use it so it didn’t have a lot of flavor. While Eric stirred the pot, I smashed a can of kidney beans, then mixed it with a can of diced tomatoes. I got out a clove of garlic and Eric showed me how to easily peel the skin off the clove – just put the knife over the clove, then pound on the knife a few times, then lift it up and the skin comes right off … no Slap-Chop required 😉

I minced a couple of those garlic cloves and mixed them in with the mixture and then I threw it all into the pot along with a cut up New Mexico chili pepper (and just a few of the seeds) and two cups of water. I added salt, black pepper, and some chili powder. Then we covered it and let it sit for 30 minutes. When it was done, we tasted it and it was good but needed a tad more flavor. I’m supposed to be keeping the salt very low during the week so I just added a pinch more and that really did it and brought out all the flavor. It was good enough that Eric delayed going to bed to eat a bowl and then I have two more bowls for ready-to-eat meals! Yay, me! I’m looking forward to cooking up some other goodies; lord knows I have tons and tons and TONS of recipes in this place.

Fitness is going well. My latest personal training session involved more of those horrendous camel walks but I did better this time, although I still hated it. I also had to do a bunch of lifts on these machines where you lie with your chest down and then pull up the weight toward you. I came in there again yesterday and worked on the elliptical for a full hour, burning well over 400 calories at a medium pace. I had my earbuds in and was enjoying the music so I thought, why not just keep going! When I got off I went over to the weight machines and did just a few overhead lifts with 10 pound weights and then a bunch of those standing stomach crunches with that machine. I wanted to do more but there were all these buff dudes over there using the machines and I felt intimidated. I know that was stupid because I’m there for the same reason they are and they probably weren’t even paying any attention to me, but I felt really silly. I’d been there long enough anyway so I just left. I’ll come back today after I run some errands. I need to get an iPod shuffle already. I currently use the Pandora app on my iPhone and it’s great, but I can’t clip it to my waistband and so I have to put it away while I do the strength-training portions. That in turn gets rid of a vital distraction and makes me more aware of all the people around me who look and perform much better than I.

Another Personal Training Update

Tonight’s exercise was much easier, though still no picnic. After my usual warm-ups, my trainer got out this stool and had me step up on it with one foot, then hold it stable as I pulled the other foot up, lifted my knee all the way up, then dropped that foot back down, and lifted my arms while stepping back down from the stool. You’re supposed to do it really fast, one rep after another on each side. Other new exercises include assisted tricep dips on the same machine I used for assisted pull-ups, and then my new least favorite … I don’t even know what to call it, but it makes me feel like a camel. You bend all the way down, walk your hands out into a push-up position, then keep your legs straight as you walk your legs up to your hands, then walk your hands back out … basically you’re somewhat like a human inchworm. I also did an exercise she had me do in my first session that I had since forgotten about – standing push-ups, where you lean forward with your hands on a low bar (I think about waist-level when standing straight up).

I bought lots of fresh ingredients today and I’m hoping to make some delicious spicy turkey chili either tomorrow or Sunday. I bought lean ground turkey, kidney beans, and some fresh dried New Mexico chile peppers. I’ll see what else I can throw in there and get it simmering on the stove soon, then make portions for all of next week. But first we really need a chopping knife and a good mortar and pestle! I’m hoping to start cooking a little more; I’m quite desperate to remake some more of the recipes we learned from the sweet lady in Cozumel a couple months ago. That was good food with 98 percent fresh ingredients.

Nutrition Tip of the Day: I know a lot of people don’t like cottage cheese, but if you do or even if you only like to eat it with fruit, check out Breakstone’s Cottage Doubles. This is a new product that I was pleased to sample for free through Kraft’s First Taste program. (Sign up for First Taste right here, and get coupons to try new products for FREE as well as money-saving coupons to pass to your friends.) It’s delicious! You get a 100 calorie serving of lowfat cottage cheese and fruit topping in each container. You can get a four-pack of little containers (think yogurt containers) with the fruit already mixed in, or get a bigger container with the fruit in a separate section so that you can mix it in yourself. I am in LOVE with these things. My favorite flavors are Apple Cinnamon, Pineapple, and Mango, but there are many more.

Bonus Nutrition Tip: If you are craving a crunchy salty snack and tempted to grab some chips, make some fresh jicama slices instead! Jicama, also called yambean, is a root vegetable that’s in a lot of Mexican as well as Asian recipes. In Cozumel, the most excellent home-cooking expert Josefina showed us how to eat a typical Mexican jicama snack: cut raw jicama slices and brush them with lime juice, then sprinkle them with chili powder. And that’s it – that’s all you do! Crunch on a plate of those rather than some potato chips and you are golden! Jicama works with many other wonderful recipes too.