Thirsty Thursday: Summer Drinks Edition

Around Christmas last year, I shared a post on how to DIY some favorite seasonal coffee drinks.  I’ve been getting even more creative with the beverages I’m mixing up this summer (on top of the usual copious iced coffee and iced tea), but it only recently hit me that I should share those so that everyone can raise a glass of summery goodness.  Like with all my smoothie “recipes,” these are really more of suggestions.  Add or omit ingredients and change up ratios to suit your preferences and make it work with what you’ve got on hand.  So if you’re thirsty, here are some tasty options to enjoy while you cool off!

“Mochanut” Frozen Coffee

mochanut frozen coffee

It’s like a drinkable Almond Joy candy bar, but without the risk of diabetes.  In other words, it’s everything you need in your life.

  • Starbucks VIA Iced Coffee packet (if you don’t have that, instant coffee powder + your sweetener of choice would work, too!)
  • cocoa powder (about 1 tbs will make it pretty chocolate-y)
  • crushed ice
  • almond milk
  • coconut milk (to taste…I used about 1/4 cup) or coconut extract (if you don’t have coconut milk)

Throw all that goodness in a high powered blender (I used my beloved Ninja with the personal cup attachment) and give it a spin.  Stick a straw in there, drink up, and pretend you’re on a tropical beach with a sexy bronzed cabana boy fanning you.

Jalapeno Iced Tea

jalapeno sweet iced tea (3)

This one sounds weird, I know, but I saw it on the menu at a local coffeehouse and gave it a shot.  To my amazement, it was actually really really good.  So good that I had to recreate it at home!  It’s not terribly spicy (although you can turn up the heat if you want!), and it’s not overly sweet…it just hits that sweet spot of being perfectly refreshing with a little “wake up” kick!

  • strong iced tea
  • jalapeno slices (fresh is ideal, just be sure to remove the seeds, but canned works if you drain it well)
  • sugar, stevia, or other sweetener (to taste)
  • lime juice (about 1 tsp per 16oz glass of tea)
  • lots of ice

Mix your tea with your sweetener of choice and the lime juice, then pop in a few jalapeno slices and stir things up.  Take a taste and be amazed.  Heads up, though – the jalapeno flavor will be stronger the longer it sits, so I like to make this ahead of time.  If you don’t want that much heat, wait until just before serving to add the jalapeno.

Coconut Iced Chai 

coconut iced chai

You could also make this a hot drink for the fall/winter (steam the milk and omit the ice), but something about the coconut + icy cold drink + summer heat makes it feel so right.

  • chai mix (powdered or liquid is fine, I usually use Tazo or Oregon brand)
  • coconut milk
  • almond milk (coconut milk can be really thick and a bit overpowering to drink straight, so I like to thin it out)
  • ice

Pour, shake, slurp.  Easy as that.  You could also blend this one to make it more of a milkshake-type deal.  That would definitely be a good idea.  Yes, do that.

 

Matcha Green Tea Iced “Latte”

coconut matcha green tea latte (3)

Matcha is incredibly good for you, as it’s chock full of polyphenols and antioxidants (long story short, those suckers keep you healthy and looking good).  Again, you could make this drink hot, but I prefer it cold.

  • matcha powder (you can find good deals online, like HERE)
  • sweetener to taste
  • almond milk, coconut milk, or a combo
  • vanilla extract
  • ice

Add everything to a jar/cup with a lid (I may or may not use my Blender Bottle for this…), shake it like you’re going for gold in the ShakeWeight Olympics, and get your drank on.

Mango Matcha Icee

matcha mango iceeSimilar to the “latte” above, but blended and fruity and more fun.

  • matcha powder
  • frozen mango chunks
  • sweetener to taste
  • almond milk, coconut milk, or a combo
  • ice (you won’t need a whole lot if you’re using plenty of frozen mango)

Grab your blender, get to blendin’, and then get to drinkin’.  This is seriously delicious, and I went through a phase where I made it 5 times in a week.  It was a wonderful season of my life.

 

There you have it…If  When you try these, be sure to share on instagram or twitter with the hashtag #summerslurpin…It will be like a virtual day-drinking (coffee and tea) party!

Cheers to summer! 

Discuss:

What’s your favorite summer drink?

Which is better – iced coffee or iced tea?

Monkeying Around: Trying Aerial Silks

Lately I’ve been working on getting out of my comfort zone more often.  It started with reluctantly taking a self defense class that sparked my love for fighting…well, really, when you think about it, it started way back when I put on a bikini for the first time in years and hopped in the pool, and then when I began practicing yoga regularly…but either way, I was back at it this past Monday when I took an aerial silks class with my friend Tricia.  I’ve never taken any kind of alternative fitness class, but Tricia is a studmuffin who can do silks, lyra (she recently did a beautiful performance – check out the photos HERE!), and pole, and is now preparing for a physique competition.  When she said I would love doing aerial silks, I decided to take her word for it and hauled my butt into a pair of leggings (who am I kidding, no one has to ask me twice to put on yoga pants) and then over to Alternative Fitness Studio in Roseville.  There were only two other students in class besides Trica and me, which was great because it meant we got more time on the silks, and it made for a more relaxed environment.  I wish I’d thought to take a couple photos of the studio itself, because it was beautiful – plenty of poles and silks to climb, a full wall of mirrors, and so much space to play!

silks class with Tricia 18 August 2014 (4)

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect going into class, but I was still surprised by a number of things.  For starters, silks is harder than I had expected.  I was actually starting to sweat at the end of the 60 minute class! I’m relatively strong and can do pull ups, so I didn’t think climbing the silks would be difficult.  Turns out I was right, and climbing wasn’t the hard part – it was holding on that was the difficult part, and my forearms and hands were on fire after a couple of climbs!  Of course, that may be partly due to a lack of technical finesse on my part, but my grip was shot and by the end of the night I pretty much just crumpled in a tangle of hand cramps and tangled silks.  I was, however, pleasantly surprised that my bad ankle felt great. On the other hand, my right foot (which I had used as my dominant foot during the class) felt really weird. I actually had to drive really carefully on the way home because it kept giving out when I tried to put more than a certain amount of pressure on the pedal.  Today it’s still felt off and the side of my right calf is pretty sore from knee to ankle, so I’m thinking I may have just pulled it slightly.   And obliques…oh, my obliques! I woke up today slightly sore in the midsection, and it wasn’t until this evening, when my sides were definitely sore that I realized it was from class on Monday.  Lifting your legs as you climb is apparently a great core workout – seems obvious, but I didn’t even think about that in class.  (I was a little more focused on not falling to my death, you know?)

silks class with Tricia 18 August 2014 (3)

 

Overall, I really enjoyed silks.  It was exciting to climb around, and hanging out upside down was even more fun than I had hoped.  It was exciting to see how much you could do once you mastered the basics of a footlock, and flopping around up in the air felt surprisingly graceful.  Of course, it may have felt graceful, but only Tricia looked graceful and elegant while in the air (I looked like a cheeseball).

While I definitely did not feel like any of it came naturally to me the way fighting seemed to, it was exciting to try something new and challenge myself.  It ended up being a good workout – now I understand why the instructor started off by saying that silks was the hardest of all the classes offered! – and I can see how you would build up quite a bit of strength from doing silks regularly.  If you’ve ever wanted to try an alternative fitness modality, I would highly recommend you give it a shot! (Local friends, you can check out Alternative Fitness Studio for $15 a class, or sign up for the $30-for-40-days deal they offer for newcomers.) I’m itching to try a pole class next…after all, after falling in love with calisthenics, mastering the iron-X has officially been added to my fitness bucket list.  Thanks again to Tricia for convincing me to give it a shot and showing me the ropes silks!

Discuss:

Have you ever tried any kind of alternative fitness? How did you like it?

What kind of class/competition/fitness-related-anything are you dying to try?

Can you do an iron -X? (And if you can, can you teach me???)

Stephanie’s Success Story: CrossFit and Consistency

Everyone has their own particular goals when it comes to health, and they face unique challenges on the road to achieving it.  Let’s face it – building those habits that produce a healthy life is not necessarily easy, especially at first.  One of the things I’d like to start doing here is celebrating each other’s victories in that regard by sharing success stories.  It’s important to recognize your accomplishments, and it’s great to also help others to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments.  You never know who you might inspire or encourage with your journey.  So in keeping with that spirit of celebrating each other, I’d like to share a little bit of my friend Stephanie’s story.

Steph is a CrossFitter.  She’s been doing CrossFit for nearly 2 years, and she loves it.  To someone who has never done CrossFit, that’s impressive.  (Those workouts are as intimidating as Rich Froning is beautiful.)  I asked Stephanie to tell us a little more about her journey with CrossFit, what she’s learned and how she’s changed over that time.  Reading what she had to say, I was impressed, inspired, and even tempted to go visit a box and check it out for myself.  Whether you’re a CrossFitter or not, I’m guessing you’ll feel the same way…

Stephanie CrossFit journey - handstand

1. What inspired you to make a bigger commitment to fitness, and to do Crossfit in particular?

Well I originally started to kick myself into gear with the full intention of joining the Navy. I needed to get my butt in gear if I even had a prayer of making it through basic training. So I needed someone or something to help get me there because I definitely could not navigate my way around a gym on my own. So I’d been looking into classes at the campus gym and stuff like that (which I would honestly probably have done for a solid week and then quit). But one day at the beginning of my senior year I stumbled onto a crossfit  YouTube video, and said that I was going to try it. School and work being what they were, it took me 6 months to actually try it and once I did I was hooked.  I had people invested in helping me get stronger and who made sure my technique was right and I had a huge community of people who liked to sweat it out just as much. My aunt and uncle generously paid for a full year at the box and that’s when I knew that I had no excuse not to go. So I made the commitment to go 3 days a week. That turned into 4-5 pretty quickly and that routine has stuck with me now for almost 2 years. (It’ll be 2 in December.)

2.  What was the biggest or most unexpected challenge in starting and sticking with CrossFit?

Getting out of your own way. You have to check your pride and ego at the door and be willing to learn and get better. When I started, I was nowhere near lifting anything close to heavy, and certainly was not doing the workouts the way they were prescribed. Most of the time I was just using the bar, but I was still working hard and making progress at my own capacity at the time.

Take my Snatch for example. (That’s the lift you see people going from ground straight to overhead with their arms in a wider grip) I couldn’t even get my brain to process that movement with a pvc pipe in my hands let alone do it with weight. My mobility in my hips was awful and I had to practice squatting pretty much every day. ESPECIALLY overhead squatting. It took me 3 months of skill practice to finally put weight on the bar and the most I could do was 55#. Then 5 months after that, I was able to stand up with 80# and I was ECSTATIC.

Everything is like that. Everything has taken time and practice and coaching for me. So after consistently practicing and working at it, I have made significant leaps in strength capabilities and I have a much wider skill set than I started with. We hear it all the time “there is no substitute to hard work.” So if you put in the work, the progress will come.

3.  What has been the most rewarding part of this journey besides the physical changes?

The strength!! The physical stuff is kinda whatever. To be honest the scale hasn’t moved for me in 2 years. I have remained at a constant consistent weight for 2 years. Which I guess is kinda cool in and of itself, but the cool part is that I can see and feel myself getting stronger.  Pretty much all of my lifts (with 2 glaring exceptions) are over 100# right now and I’m closing in on the 200s for squat and deadlifts.  But that has been incremental progress along the way.

Stephanie CrossFit journey - 2 years (2)

March 2013 — August 2013 — August 2014 [those guns!!]

4.  How has your body image/self-perception changed over the course of doing CrossFit?

I used to think that skinny was a goal. That skinny was this magical place that I had to be in order to feel adequate. And I’ll be straight up. There are still days I feel like that, and clothes shopping is still a disappointing and difficult experience (mostly because my arms and legs don’t fit in anything that isn’t athletic gear these days). That hasn’t changed, but I’m starting to realize that strong feels so much better. I feel more confident, energetic, and excited. I feel more capable of handling crazy things like rock climbing or stand up paddle boarding. While you may not see me shirtless in the gym anytime soon, I’m happy being stronger and I know that the rest will fall into place.

5.  What are your fitness/CrossFit related goals going forward?

I set some killer goals for myself this year.

1. Get a pullup. (OF ANY KIND) And I did :). Kipping for now. And I am not at the point where I can successfully string them together, but they’re there.

2. JOIN THE 200 CLUB. (Get 200# on my back squat. I’m currently sitting at 160, so that may not be realistic in 4 months, but I will be there soon) I WANT TO BE IN THE 200 CLUB SO BAD.

3. Rx one girl. OK this one will take some explaining. The “girls” are our benchmarks. They are killer workouts that serve as a metric by which you can measure your progress. They NEVER get easier. Take Fran, Fran is 21-15-9 Thrusters at 65# (for women) and Pullups. For time. My Fran time is sitting right around 9 minutes (because of my sad pullups). But doing it at the weight of 65# and completing the pull ups would be considered Rx. Normally I would be scaling the weight back or using a band for pullups.  BUT happy to say that I have completed this goal this year and right now have Rx times on more than one, which is pretty cool.

6.  Any recommendations for someone who is considering getting into CrossFit?

Just stick it out for a little while. When you start it is hard. It’s hard physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I know it’s not for everyone. But if you are willing to work at it, and be the person that isn’t that strong YET or isn’t that coordinated YET, then it will come. One of the coolest parts to see is just how far you’ve come. But starting is the hardest part. So you have to be willing to sweat for it.

Thanks again for sharing, Steph!  You’re a rockstar…maybe someday I’ll work up the courage to visit your box and give CrossFit a shot.  Keep on smashing those workouts, and be sure to let us know when you hit the 200 Club so we can celebrate with you!

Discuss:

Do you do CrossFit?  What’s the experience been like for you?

Do you have a fitness victory you’d like shared on the blog?  Shoot me an email if you’d like to be featured or to nominate someone else!

Crazy Calisthenics

The Merriam-Webster defines calisthenics as “systematic rhythmic bodily exercises performed usually without apparatus,” but I prefer Google’s definition:

“gymnastics exercises to achieve bodily fitness and grace of movement”

In short, calisthenics are bodyweight exercises.  No equipment, just you.  Who doesn’t love minimalism like that?  Calisthenics include everything from push ups and pull ups to jumping jacks to pikes to pistol squats to tuck jumps to handstands and pretty much any other kind of movement you might imagine.  Calisthenics (in the old-school sense) are where I started, way back when I was learning to do pull ups on my dad’s pull up bar in the garage and practicing sit ups and push ups with my siblings on the floor of our parents’ bedroom.  Over the past six months or so, I’ve begun utilizing calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) quite a bit more frequently – perhaps half of my resistance trainingworkouts involve weights and traditional lifts, and the other half are bodyweight based exercises (not counting running or conditioning, because 1) I’m a terrible runner, and 2) I can’t run too much these days anyway).  This is partly because of some chronic and acute joint issues that are aggravated by heavy lifts, and partly because…well, I just needed a change.  It’s not that I grew tired of lifting – although I was tired of being told I’d look like a man if I lifted heavy weights – but that I was no longer excited by it.  Frankly, life is too damn short not to exercise in a way that you love.  And I love to play.  It’s the fun factor, the balls-out joy that comes from doing something physical, the way that some forms of movement (or activity or exercise or whatever the hell you want to call it) just light up your soul.

Maybe that’s too “poetic” for fitness, but I think that’s life.  Yall know me (actually, most of you don’t…like whoever the bunch of yall are in Sweden that always show up in my stat tracking.  Don’t know a one of you from Adam…but, you know, bless yall for reading!) – I’m a firm believer that as holistic beings (physical/emotional/spiritual), our health is a holistic pursuit wherein the various parts work in synergy.  What benefits one part of your health should benefit the others as well, and when one part suffers, it becomes even more of a challenge to keep the others in peak condition.

All that to say, calisthenic workouts are my jam these days.  They’re engaging, they’re challenging, and they’re damn fun.

Seriously, go ahead and try to tell me this doesn’t look fun.  And badass. And fun:

breakdancer one-hand handstand pushup

I can’t even.  And I know people say that a lot, but I mean it – I literally can’t even, because I’m not physically capable of that kind of tom foolery…yet.

breakdancer one-hand handstand pushup

Watch the full video and be amazed (and then mildly depressed when you try to imitate one of those movements and realize that you are not nearly as strong as you thought you were).

(If you’re interested, you can see the full article on this guy – who happens to be a professional breakdancer – HERE.)

If you’re interested in getting into calisthenics of any kind, I would highly encourage you give it a shot!  I enjoy working out so much more now that I’ve incorporated plenty of bodyweight workouts, and I’ve found myself getting stronger for it.  THIS bodyweight ladder workout (courtesy of Jen Sinkler) is a great one that will test your strength and conditioning.  One of my favorite training books is You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren.

You Are Your Own Gym - book cover

He has more bodyweight exercises in that book than most people could probably imagine (including progressions for working up to those more challenging), and it’s a fantastic resource for anyone getting into calisthenics.   There’s also the corresponding “You Are Your Own Gym” app, which I’ve not yet downloaded can see being very helpful, especially for those who workout primarily in a gym setting where it might feel cumbersome to bring a book along.

This Progressive Calisthenics page from Bodyweight Training Arena is a great one to bookmark.  They share a number of different progressions for achieving “benchmark” calisthenic movements, such as pistol squats, muscle ups, handstand push ups, front levers, and the like.  Convict Conditioning is another excellent resource to have in your arsenal, especially if you like some guidance when putting together calisthenic movements into a full workout.

The Gymnastic Bodies programs are something that I would love to try when I can afford it.  The various programs (Foundations I, II, II, Handstands, etc.) look incredible, and they appear to be very thorough so that even if you are starting at square one, you come away equipped with everything you need to master the various calisthenic movements at hand.

And finally, when it comes to sources for motivation, inspiration, or just jaw-dropping feats of strength and coordination, I’d suggest following Kenneth Gallarzo of World Calisthenics Organization and Jen Esquer.  Fantastically talented humans doing some fantastic (and fun-looking stuff).

…Don’t know about yall, but I’m heading off to do some handstands now.

Discuss:

When it comes to strength training, do you prefer calisthenics, lifting, or both?

If you could wake up tomorrow with exceptional talent in either gymnastics (i.e. calisthenics) or something like strongman/powerlifting (i.e. weight-lifting-based sports), which would you pick and why?

Going On Vacation and Not Getting Fat

I’ve said it before and I very well may say it again, but here it is once more:

It’s the habits that will make you or break you.

Vacations will not make you fat.

Ice cream dates will not make you fat.

Skipping a workout will not make you fat.

By the same token…

Juice cleanses and detoxes will not make you lean.

A week of strict “clean” eating will not make you lean.

The world’s most intense workout will not make you lean.

What determines how you look and how healthy you are is the habits that you live by, day in and day out.

Small deviations simply can’t  shake the foundation that healthy habits build.  

So you enjoy a weekend away filled with bottomless French toast and mimosas for brunch and lounging on a sandy beach the rest of the day? Good for you.

So you spend an unplanned week out of the gym because you’re exhausted, or because you’re on vacation, or because you’re dealing with a crisis?  Good for you.

So you dive headfirst into a chocolate dessert so rich it makes you moan with each bite? Good for you. (And save some for me!)

So you cut a workout short in order to have time to wash and dry your hair for a first date with really hot fellow?  Good for you. (And if things don’t work out, go on and give him my number.)

 ****

I just spent 5 days out of town, much of it sitting on my prodigious ass as we drove hundreds and hundreds of miles to and from and around Southern California.  I packed no food, planned no meals, and had no idea what kind of workouts I would have the time to squeeze in, let alone the kind of facilities I’d have available to me.  It was me, my bikini, a pair of sneakers, and a belly that’s always hankering for something.

I got in a couple workouts (including THIS one and THAT one) at the hotel gym and a glorious base gym.  I drank more hotel coffee than I should have.  I ate Lay’s potato chips and more tangerines than I can count while rolling around La Jolla beach in a bikini.  I had dairy (in the form of a free Core Power protein shake) against my better judgment for the first time in ages.  I slept in, I sat a lot, I swam a little, and I went so hard at the buffet that I left dinner with crumbs down my dress.

Souplantation (1)

Not pictured: cornbread, bruschetta-focaccia (not sure that’s a real thing, but it’s what the label said), and some delicious-but-probably-carcinogenic sugar-free chocolate mousse. I’m telling yall – mama goes HARD.

And in all honesty, there were times that I felt “fluffy.”  There were moments that I even considered trying to squeeze in an extra workout in hopes of making myself feel better.  But I ignored those feelings because I knew it was the habits, not the little deviations and indulgences, that determine how healthy, fit, and lean I will be.  I did not eat less or eat “cleaner” or exercise more or exercise harder in attempt to “atone” for any of these treats and deviations from my normal habits.  Sure, I could have made better choices.  I ate a couple of things – like dairy and artificial sweeteners – that I know make me feel ill and bloated to the point of looking like I’m in my 3rd trimester (no joke…remember the beans?).  But I don’t regret it too much, because I know there’s no long term damage.  In spite of  eating zero home-cooked meals for five days (aside from semi-homemade pizzas at my godmother’s house…I had 4 or 5 slices) and precious little food that would be considered “clean,” I woke up like this the morning after vacation:

post-vacation body -- August 2014 (1)

no filter and no makeup, just trashy sweatpants, bed head, and an awkward attempt to smile in spite of feeling like the hugest douche canoe west of Texas.

Clearly I’m not exceptionally lean and no one will mistake me for a fitness model, but I look the same as I did before.  (I might even look a little leaner than before I left, but that’s just those dang lady hormones doing their thing.)  I rarely weigh myself, but when I did a few weeks ago, I weighed 140 lbs.  That picture doesn’t look to me like it could be more than 5 lbs off from that.  Habits got me to where I am, and vacation and the accompanying indulgences didn’t change that.  They just can’t.  (If they do, then it’s because they’ve become habits instead of indulgences.)

Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not saying that my habits will make anyone ultra-lean like a bikini competitor or even that I’m the healthiest example to follow.  (Trust me, I really ought to sleep more, stress less, and eat more vegetables.)   I’m healthy, I’m relatively strong, and I’m ok with how my body looks most of the time..but  I’ve still got a good amount of extra “fluff.”. Maybe some folks would mind that, but I don’t.

post-vacation body -- August 2014 (2)

still no filter, because I have belly fat and I don’t even care about it.

The point is that it’s the same fluff I had before I left for vacation.  It’s the same abs, or lack thereof.  It’s the same body, built from the same habits day in and day out, and a little vacation with a lot of less-than-healthy food did nothing to change it.  And here’s what I want yall to remember: Bodies work the same way.  You’re not an exception in that regard.  Your habits (in combination with your genetics, to a degree) build the foundation that will determine your health and your body composition.  Indulgences and treats and off-days and vacations can’t shake that foundation.  So enjoy them. Live it up. Make the most of your vacation/brunch/ice cream date/week off/what have you.  And the rest of the time, work on building and maintaining habits that support your health and enhance your life.  Eat what you want, move how you like, and get on with living.

Take care of those habits, and they’ll take care of you.

The Base Gym – MCAS Miramar

Like I mentioned before, I spent the past few day in Southern California to see my brother when he got back from Afghanistan and to celebrate his homecoming with family.  It was great to see my brother again for after so long (as well as meet his sweet girlfriend and see extended family!), but another major highlight was getting to enjoy base housing while we were there.  I absolutely love being on military bases – no matter where they are, driving onto base always feels a bit like coming home.  One of the perks is trying out the various base gyms.  I was very impressed by the facilities at the MCAS Miramar Fitness Center and Sports Center.  The fitness center was within walking distance of where we stayed, and I was highly impressed by what they had to offer.

Naturally, I took some stealthy creeper photos to share.  The operative word is “stealthy.” (That’s why these are blurry…not because I had a seizure, but because I am not the most adept at taking creeper pics.)  First of all, outside the fitness center was a huge field with a track that had to be at least 1/2 a mile around, and scattered around the track were little fitness stations with standard chin up bars and dip bars, but also things like outdoor “exercise bikes” and “ellipticals.”  At first I thought they were the coolest kind of kid’s playground equipment I’d ever seen, but then I read the sign and realized they’re actually intended for adult use.  I saw a few folks using them during our stay, and I thought it was a cool option to have available.

base gym - MCAS Miramar - 12 August 2014 (26)

 

They had a large main room with free weights, selectorized weight machines, about 20 different cardio machines, and a couple cable towers with a pull up bar in the middle.

base gym - MCAS Miramar - 12 August 2014 (25)

It was a bit crowded, but so well-equipped that I didn’t care.

base gym - MCAS Miramar - 12 August 2014 (2)

  They even had Woodway treadmills, which I had only heard of before.  I was even temped to try a quick run on one, which says a lot for someone who is not a runner.

base gym - MCAS Miramar - 12 August 2014 (5)

 They also had a group fitness room, which was pretty standard.  I did not sneak a photo there because there was a group of older Asian women in there sitting on Swiss balls, and it felt really weird to interrupt their gabfest.

There was a really beautiful basketeball court at the other end of the gym.

base gym - MCAS Miramar - 12 August 2014 (9)

That big, shiny floor made me really want to run some suicides…but I didn’t, because even more than that, I wanted to put their kettlebell selection to good use…in the wonderland that was the badass room…

base gym - MCAS Miramar - 12 August 2014 (6)

At least, I’m calling it the badass room.  It had rowers (my favorite), a spin bike, a rope pull machine, an ab chair/pull up bar/dip stand combo, a heavy bag, a soft mat  for floor work or grappling (plus gloves and pads), med balls and Swiss balls, a closet filled with Bosus and ab rollers and the like, and a lifting section complete with barbells and bumper plates and a padded “platform” so people could drop weights without ruining the floor.  (You can see the guy standing on the “platform” in the photo.  He was working on some Olympic lifts while I did my kettlebell circuit.  Man, it had been too long since I heard the sweet sound of weights being dropped.)

This was the beautiful view from the little corner where I staked my claim:

base gym - MCAS Miramar - 12 August 2014 (22)

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been in a commercial gym in over six months (since I left my job at the gym and my complimentary membership ended), but it was glorious to work up a sweat at the base gym.

Later that day, my dad showed me the sports center, which was maybe half a mile down the road from the fitness center.  Needless to say, I got twitterpated all over again.  They had all the cardio machines in the front/middle room (the standard treadmills/stepmills/elipticals), plus a small room to the side that looked like it was meant for circuit workouts and/or martial arts, with heavy bags, mats, and the other usual suspects.  But to the left and down a few steps was this mecca:

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It was the playground of my dreams.  The part that sealed the deal was the chalk bucket and the fact that they had a trap bar.  (This is the first gym where I’ve ever seen a trap bar.  Told yall I love base gyms.)

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I swooned real hard at that.  On the walls, they listed bench press records, which was neat.

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They take this benching stuff seriously.

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That little sign to the left, above the water fountain, reminded gym-goers to that spitting in the fountain is prohibited because it can spread illnesses like cold, flu, and herpes.  (Thank you, MCAS Miramar, for doing your part to eliminate the threat of the herps.)  Outside things just got better and better.  They had a standard field with a track, along with some tennis courts, but they also had tires lining the track and a trailer full of barbells and bumper plates.  So you can put together a circuit that involves tire flips, sprints, barbell lifts, and even pull ups (on the many, many pull up bars they have beside the track)…is that great or what?!  You can see a couple guys taking advantage of just that in the photo.  One of them is actually pressing a log overhead.  An actual wooden log.  Not sure if he found that in the equipment trailer or, you know, in the woods.  But still, pretty badass.  The only thing they were missing was a set of rings (which they do have at the base gym at MCRD…)

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And when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the guy working the front desk gave us free Core Power protein shakes.  I love food, and I really love free food.

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MCAS Miramar, you sure know the way to this broad’s heart.  Today, working out in my garage was fun as usual, but tinged with a longing for greater things, like the base gym facilities.  I consoled myself by wearing the shirt my dad bought me at the sports center, and it helped a bit…

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But still, I miss the base gym already.  I miss base life.  And I miss seeing men in uniform everywhere I go.

Maybe I ought to just enlist…

(Kidding.  Maybe.  A little bit.)

Discuss:

Have you ever worked out in a base gym?

What’s the best gym you’ve ever visited?

10 Tips for Vacation Fitness

My brother arrived home from Afghanistan this past weekend, so I’ve been in San Diego the past few days celebrating with my family. There has been quite a bit of hotel coffee, (as evidenced by my compulsive Instagram documentation), late nights, driving (oh the driving….), and family time.

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Somewhere in there I’ve squeezed in a couple workouts, and if realized that my approach to fitness on this vacation has been different than usual. I packed zero food aside from road trip snacks and had no pre-planned workouts or workout schedule. We’ve stayed at a couple different military bases (which always feel like home) as well as one civilian hotel, but no matter where we’ve been, the freedom and flexibility have been surprisingly nice. I thought I would shares few suggestions for those of yall who might be on the road this summer, too.  (For more vacation fitness tips, check out THIS post.  For some quick bodyweight/no-equipment workouts – perfect for on the road! – check out THIS post.)

10 Tips for Working Out on the Road

1. Minimalism is your friend. See THIS little AMRAP I did to start off a workout in the world’s tiniest hotel gym. You’ll be surprised with how many good workouts you can get in when you’re creative with what you’ve got!
2. But make sure to pack enough socks…learned that the hard way.
3. $1 beef jerky is not your friend. It sounds like a good idea when you see it at the commissary while in the throes of lunchtime “hanger,” but there is a reason it’s only $1. And if you eat a whole bag for lunch, you might almost see that lunch again during your workout.

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4. Your routine will not be “normal”and that is ok. It’s good. You’re on vacation! Embrace the chance to shake things up and rest a bit more.
5. Make the most of your surroundings. By the beach or in the mountains? Enjoy some kind of outdoor activity.  Staying at a hotel with a nice pool? Go for a swim. If you’re staying on a military base, check out the base gym. Some of them have really nice facilities! (I took advantage of their beautiful kettlebell selection and did the strength circuit from THIS post.  I was sweatin’ hard but smiling even harder.)
6. Don’t neglect your mobility work. After a lot of time crammed in a car or on an airplane, your body needs to be rolled, stretched, and prodded (aka trigger-point therapy) more than ever.
7. Give yourself the rest you need! It’s easy to go-go-go till late at night, and then want to wake up at the crack of dawn to maximize your vacation time, but you’re not going to be maximizing anything if you’re exhausted, worn out, over-stimulated, or grumpy. Taking a night to stay in, decompress, and get some extra sleep might be just what you need (especially if you’re an introvert like yours truly…).

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8. Enjoy all the delicious “vacation foods,” but do try to get some good quality protein in there too! This is especially important if you’ll be working out on vacation.
9. On the bright side, vacation treats like gelato, brick oven pizza, and stroopwaffels make for some great workout fuel, so take advantage and eat up! (Carb loading done SO right.)
10. Sometimes playing hard is even better than trying to crank out a workout.

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Discuss:

Do you usually try to squeeze in workouts while on vacation?

Is vacation or time on the road usually stressful for you, or enjoyable?

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken?

Stop Taking Things Personally

I was cogitating the other day (as introverts are wont to do) on the poison that is perfectionism.  More specifically, I was reflecting on my own struggles with the beast and attempting to outline (as type-As are wont to do) the actions that had been most helpful in taming it.  While I absolutely still battle perfectionism – sometimes hourly – I am a far cry from the girl that I used to be.  One of the most crucial things in this process has been learning to stop taking things personally.  That includes both criticism and praise.

For most of my life, I was extremely sensitive to criticism.  If anything about my performance or person was pointed out as being less than perfect, I spiraled into an inward catastrophe. (Of course, none of this was supposed to be evident on the outside…appearances had to be kept up perfectly, you know.)  It was not until I realized that criticism has no bearing on my inherent worth or my identity that I learned to not only accept it like emotional flagellation as penance for my fallibility, but to use it for improvement.  Only when I could take criticism without taking it personally was I able to actually learn from it.  These days, I welcome criticism because it can be used constructively, even if it is not meant that way.  That’s not to say that criticism is not sometimes painful to take, because at times it is.   Rather, much like deep tissue massage, if you lean into it even when it hurts, criticism can undo the knotted up areas of life and help you to perform, feel, and live better.

By a similar token, I have learned to stop taking praise and compliments personally.  As an oldest child/type-A/achievement-oriented person, I tend to thrive on praise.  If my performance or achievements were lauded, I would feel that I had achieved something worthwhile.  If criticism destroyed my sense of self-worth, words of praise gave me a sense of identity.  I was the good girl.  I must be, since other people found me praise-worthy.  As expected, I eventually realized I was on a hamster-wheel of people-pleasing and praise-seeking, drained from the effort to seeking my worth in affirmation from others and terrified to get off the wheel and see just who I was when not scrambling in circles.  Sure enough, once I stopped basing my worth and identity on praise, I found a freedom I had not known before.  I could be happy with my achievements even if no one else thought them noteworthy.  I could be amused by my sense of humor even if no one else found it funny.  I could be content with my appearance even if no one else found me the slightest bit pretty.  That’s not to say I don’t appreciate affirmation and praise, and find it encouraging, but I don’t take it personally and see it as confirmation of my value as a writer/artist/athlete/woman/human.  Like criticism, I look at praise as objectively as possible and learn from it.  Someone praises an athletic feat? I examine the actions I took in order to accomplish it, and see how those actions could be applied to other areas of athletics and life.  Someone praises my writing? I review what I did – content and style of the piece as well as motivation and methods during the writing process – and keep those things in mind the next time I sit down at the keyboard.

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Health is holistic – it encompasses the entire being, spirit and mind and body.  If one part is not well, the other parts will inevitably suffer in some way as well.  This is why psychology is such a critical part of fitness – if mental health or emotional health are compromised, physical health is going to be affected.  If you are putting in 100% effort at the gym but not giving a second thought the the fitness of your mind and emotions (or your spiritual life), you’re missing at least 1/3 of the equation.  My own experience has proved this much to be true.  If you struggle with perfectionism in any way, I would really encourage you to work on letting go of that.  Your worth does not lie in your perfection or lack thereof, and your worth cannot be diminished by criticism or increased by praise.  None of us are perfect and we never will be, but each of you are priceless because of the One who made you.  You can rest assured in that.

“Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Luke 12:7

 

Plyometrics Pyramid Workout

My work schedule has been all over the place lately (although I have a full week off right now for some family stuff, which is wonderful!), which means my workouts have been all over the place.  Some days I work out early in the morning, sometimes it’s in the afternoon, and other days I don’t get home (or just don’t get around to it…) until the evening.  As someone who thrives on schedules and routines, this has kind of thrown off my mojo.  To counteract that, I’ve been doing a lot of new workouts and trying to spice things up.  This plyometrics pyramid was something I did as the second half of my workout earlier in the week.  I remembered doing a plyo pyramid workout about 6 months ago, but couldn’t find it for the life of me, so I improvised and came up with my own.  It takes less than 25 minutes, but it’s still challenging and will get your heart pumping nice and fast.

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Plyometrics are explosive movements – think squat jumps, box jumps, burpees, and the like.  These exercises activate your fast twitch muscle fibers (simple explanation of muscle fiber types HERE), which allows you to build explosive power, strength, and muscle mass (although plyometrics alone are not going to elicit  any kind of extreme hypertrophy – you would need more focused resistance training for that to happen).  Your fast twitch muscle fibers have the least endurance of all the muscle fibers, which means that they are best worked with short, intense intervals interspersed with recovery periods.  Because plyometric exercises also tend to be high impact, they can present problems for people with injuries or joint issues.  I’ve included lower-impact modifications for each of the exercises in this ploymetrics pyramid workout, so that those of you who need can substitute accordingly.  (Note: Never feel bad about modifying a workout.  It is far, far better to modify a movement and complete the workout safely and with good form, rather than to do the workout exactly as Rx’d and end up injuring yourself and being sidelined for weeks.  Trust me on this one.)  If you want to sub in other plyometric exercises for the ones I have listed below, feel free (more plyometric exercise ideas can be found HERE, and THERE, and EVERYWHERE.).  As always, your workouts are your own, so make them work for you!

Plyometrics Pyramid

5 exercises x 5 rounds

You’ll be completing 5 rounds of intervals using 5 exercises, and the length of the intervals follows a pyramid format (increasing to a max time and then working back down).

*Quick note: Keep in mind that plyometrics are an advanced type of exercise, and you should have a solid fitness base (both strength and cardio) before you give this or any other plyometrics workout a shot.  Don’t be afraid to take more rest time or do fewer rounds if you need to.  This workout should be hard, but you shouldn’t be feeling dizzy or on the verge of losing your lunch.*

Here are the plyometric exercises you’ll be doing:

  • Squat Jumps [modification: speed squats]
  • Burpees [modification: plank jacks or mountain climbers]
  • Skaters [modification: stationary lunges]
  • Push Ups [modification: push ups from knees, on bench, or against wall]
  • Tuck Jumps [modification: high knees]

Here is the interval format you’ll be using:

  • 1st round: 10 seconds work, 10 seconds rest
  • 2nd round: 20 seconds work, 20 seconds rest
  • 3rd round: 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest
  • 4th round: 20 seconds work, 20 seconds rest
  • 5th round: 10 seconds work, 10 seconds rest

For example, the 1st round would look like this:

  • Squat Jumps – 10 seconds
  • Rest – 10 seconds
  • Burpees – 10 seconds
  • Rest – 10 seconds
  • Skaters – 10 seconds
  • Rest – 10 seconds
  • Push Ups – 10 seconds
  • Rest – 10 seconds
  • Tuck Jumps – 10 seconds
  • Rest – 10 seconds

Then you would rest a couple minutes and repeat, but the work and rest intervals in this 2nd round would be 20 seconds.  Rest a few minutes, repeat with 30 second intervals, and so on as you work your way back down to 10 second intervals.  As with any intense training, make sure to give yourself at least a day or two between this or any other plyo-centric workouts. You muscles – including your heart – need time to recover and rebuild!

If you want to really mix it up, you could try doing this workout in the water (I’d probably switch out the burpees and push ups…).  The water provides additional resistance, which will make the movements more difficult and elicit more strength gains, but it will also greatly decrease the impact of the movements.  Definitely worth a try, and if I had access to a pool, I would be all about it!

As for me, I’m off to go give this bad boy another shot right now…As my Marine brother and his friends would say, “Embrace the suck.”  Good luck, and enjoy the endorphin rush after this plyo-madness!

Discuss: 

Do you do plyos regularly?

What are your favorite plyometric exercises?

Would you rather do a plyo workout or do moderate steady-state cardio (running, swimming, etc.)? Both have their place, but most people prefer one over the other.

For more fun bodyweight workouts, check out these quickies!

If you’re in need of a timer, I highly recommend the Tabata HIIT Timer app.   It’s free, has no ads, and lets you customize the number of rounds and length of each work and rest interval, as well as designate a prep interval in the beginning to give you time to set up.  And did I mention it’s free??

The Biggest Problem with “The Biggest Loser”

The general American population is not necessarily known for their glowing health and vitality, and The Biggest Loser is making them even more unhealthy.   Ironic for a show that is supposedly about helping people become healthier…but, unfortunately for viewers and contestants alike, it’s true.

The Biggest Loser franchise is built on sensationalism and instant gratification.  You need to first understand that the show’s ratings are its bottom line. The show may revolve around health-related matter, but the ratings are the heartbeat of the show – bad ratings (those that are not remedied by a “new and exciting” twist on the show, such as a new trainer who makes Jillian Michaels looks more docile than a house cat) mean the end of the franchise.  The entire premise is to structured to determine how fast these morbidly obese contestants can lose weight.  Obviously, being morbidly obese is unhealthy, and these folks would do well to lose weight – it would improve their health, quality of life, and likely their self-confidence, too.  But the show does not measure how well the contestants improve any of those factors.  All that is at stake is weight, and how much of it they can rid themselves of in the 8-week season.  So  the contestants lose weight – some of them lose an enormous amount of weight, getting close to half their starting weight.  I have no doubt that the contestants employ an incredible amount of discipline and fortitude in their publicly-televised weight-loss endeavors.  Changing your habits can be trying and painful, and habits of diet and exercise are often all the more so. I commend Biggest Loser contestants for taking a step to improve their health, and I admire their willingness to give their utmost effort and change themselves so drastically.  But the means by which they accomplish this is profoundly unhealthy.  Starvation diets, hours upon hours of exercise each day, and public humiliation and shaming (such as shirtless weigh-ins on national television) are the tools that The Biggest Loser contestants receive to help them achieve dramatic weight loss in a very short time.  These tools are effective, but only at the cost of the long-term health of those who use them.

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The  real problem with the show is that these damaging habits (starvation diets, excessive exercise, and shaming) are not only taught to the contestants, but to everyone watching.  It feeds the “diet culture” that is so prevalent in our society.  “Diet culture” promotes restriction and uses punishment/shame as the motivators behind health habits.  On the contrary, true wellness (including a healthy bodyweight and composition, but also a healthy mindset) comes about from healthy habits that are focused on abundance and getting plenty of “the good stuff,” rather than restriction and getting as little as possible of “the bad stuff.”  Diet culture breeds fear, healthy habits breed freedom.

Ultimately, The Biggest Loser is not about health, or even losing weight.  It is about training contestants to adopt destructive habits of thought and action with headline-making results…and making headlines is not always a good thing.  Nothing about the lifestyle is sustainable.  After all, why else would so many of The Biggest Loser contestants (including winners) have gained back all of the weight they lost within two years of their time on the show?None of the dietary tactics will work in the long term unless someone is willing to compromise their health in order to maintain a diet with as few calories (and as few nutrients) as possible.  None of the training would be feasible when someone also has responsibilities such as a job, family, home/property, and so on.  The only people who train for hours and hours upon end each day are elite athletes, or those with eating disorders.  The Biggest Loser is not in the business of building elite athletes, but it sure does seem to do its best to create disordered habits of eating and exercise.

And that’s the biggest problem of all.