Why I Love My Fit Bit One

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At the end of last summer I bit the bullet and jumped on the Fitbit Bandwagon. I surprised myself a little bit because I have long been a person who found the whole concept of pedometers and 10,000 steps just random and uninspiring. Plus, I just wasn’t that into tracking how much I…walked, you know?

As a CrossFitter I track my benchmark workouts, my lifts, my CrossFit Total. As a fitness enthusiast, I keep a workout calendar. All are things that show progress! So what was the point of tracking how many steps I take each day, I though — BOOOOOOOORING!

But then last year I kept reading about all of the data the Fitbit provides. And really, if you must know, I find metrics super-de-duper exciting. If something can be measured, I WANT TO DO IT! And I found all of this out at a time in my personal life where I felt like things were out of control and I wanted to get them in check. Obviously, I needed a baseline.

I had gotten a new job, I felt a little chained to my desk, I was exhausted all of the time, and my food intake was unstable and really not super satisfying. (This happens when you feel chained to your desk, don’t eat lunch, and then are too tired to cook a good dinner.) The data that the Fitbit provided sounded like it may help me in most of those areas, so I took the plunge and picked one up.

Fitbit One Basics

The easiest way to describe the Fitbit One is to call it a pedometer, but it actually does so much more — which we’ll get to. Let me tell you about the device itself first. It is about half the size of a chapstick and it easily attaches to your bra (my preferred method), belt or your pocket via a silicone clip. I’ve found the clip to be very durable so far, considering it’s in use all day, e’rrday!

Additionally it comes with a soft velcro band that you slide the device into at night and attach to your non dominant wrist for sleeping. The sleep band has not been quite so durable for me, but (as I found out) I am a pretty restelss sleeper, so that could be why. So far my very advanced sewing skills have helped me keep this band in tact (that was my sarcasm font) and luckily the Fitbit website sells replacement bands for like $10 on their website, so it’s not that big of a deal. This may be my only critique though.

The device comes with a tiny LED display which will advise you of various pieces of data when you press a button, it has a USB dongle for wireless syncing to your computer if you prefer to get your info that way, or it syncs wirelessly via Blutooth with your smartphone. (Yep, there’s an app for that!) I don’t really consult the LED screen for data much because it’s attached to my bra all day and that would be awkward. But I do look at my app all day long to get an idea of what my activity looks like. So hey — let’s talk about that.

So What Does It Actually Measure?

On a basic level, it constantly counts the number of steps you take. So is it a really expensive pedometer? No, I promise. Along with steps, it also provides altimeter readings that track when you climb stairs or hills. (And for the record, I do not find that box jumps at CrossFit screw up my Stair reading.) In addition, it measures how long you sleep (assuming you put it in sleep mode when you go to bed, which is super simple — I prefer doing it through the app) which includes a measurement of both the minutes you wake up in the night (which I find startlingly accurate) as well as the minutes you are restless.

My #fitbit has finally given me   visual evidence of what I already had an inkling of: I sleep TERRIBLY when I travel for work. (The top is from Sunday, bottom from last night) YIKES!
This is an example of how terribly I sleep in hotels. Have I mentioned that 2013 was the year of work travel? UGH

This has been one of the most eye opening parts of owning the Fitbit for me. I used to think “Oh I got 8 hours of sleep because I was in bed from 10-6 each night. But it turns out, many nights I’m restless or I am awake, and all of that eats into your actual “sleep time.” Some nights I am in bed for 8 hours, but I only get close to 6 hours of restful sleep. Of course some nights I am very cognizant of all of those variables and actually do get a good amount of sleep. And hot damn is it satisfying to see that in graph form!

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So haven’t all of this info isn’t just fun and pretty to look at. It has helped me experiment and troubleshoot what causes some of that restlessness (confirmed: DEFINITELY caffeine after noon) and just to generally be aware of how much sleep I am working with and tailor my day as such. I once hear working out when you get less than 6 hours of sleep does more harm (to the adrenals, hormones etc) than it does good. Monitoring the restfulness of my sleep has helped me even be more effective with my workouts, I think.

Hey Wait — It Does More???

In addition to all of that, the Fitbit also syncs with My Fitness Pal. If you haven’t used My Fitness Pal, it’s actually kind of an awesome app/website. It’s a general food/activity tracker and while I loathe the idea of counting calories, I do enjoy checking in with my macro nutrient ratios every once in a while, and I like that the two devices sync up. Important Note: the info only sycs from My Fintess Pal to the Fitbit, not the other way around, so I use MFP exclusively for tracking. (Here’s a great tutorial on how to reconfigure the MFP goals, because honestly the carb/fat goals are RIDICULOUS. I don’t think you need to change them to “low carb” in the tutorial, but the standard ones MFP uses are out of control, IMHO.)

How I Use It

So clearly it does many things I have found useful, but let’s get back to the baseline. When I purchased it, I spent a couple weeks just wearing it to determine what sort of patterns of activity I had going on. Surprisingly, being chained to my desk only had me taking about 4000 steps per day and 0 stairs. I wondered how dramatically low that was, and on the first Saturday when I just ran my regular errands, cleaned house and worked out and clocked in almost 20,000 steps — I knew. My inactivity during the work was dramatic. So I set out to get in 6,000 steps a day next. Then I worked my way up to an 8.000 step goal. Slowly but surely I am making progress.

After that I focused on stairs a bit. We don’t have stairs in our house so the only place I can walk those regularly is at work (or as I’ve recently discovered if I run bleachers at our local high school, which is actually super fun! Well, you know “fun.”) But I have the opportunity to go about 6 flights per day just because of where I park/where my desk is, so I became determined to do that. Then I realized I could walk a few extra and hit 10 a day. Now I think about that often.

Most recently I made a goal I call #Operation50 where I try and make sure each week I’m walking 50 flights of stairs and going 50,000 steps. It’s arbitrary, yes — and I’ll continue to tailor it to a goal that is challenging, but it’s really kept me motivated to stay active at work, which is SO SO SO IMPORTANT TO ME. I don’t want to work the next decade only walking 4,000 steps a day 5 days a week, you know? I’d like to actually have some hip flexibility when I’m 80! :)

Finally some #operation50 success! 50k steps. 50 floors. Now I want to see 2 weeks in a row! #fitbit

Helpful Hints

*When I first got my Fitbit, I had a few close calls where I couldn’t find it and had to go digging in my hamper. To keep that from happening to you I’d suggest getting into a routine of when you put it on, take it off. I put a cute little dish on my nightstand and basically if my Fitbit isn’t on my body, it is in this dish. I never put it anywhere else. It may sound militant, but the habit has kept me from throwing a $100 piece of electronics in the washer.

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*Make your own goals. When I first got my Fitbit, knowing that generic “Get 10,000 steps per day” advice had me really wanting to hit that goal. When, day after day, I wasn’t even coming close to hitting it, I got a little unmotivated. But then I realized — hey, you are looking for trend improvement! Not to just hit an arbitrary goal. So I spent a couple weeks doing a baseline. Getting an idea of what was realistic for me. Then challenging THAT number. It’s been so helpful.

*Look at your goals from a weekly perspective, rather than a daily perspective. It’s helpful to look at the macro picture as well as the micro picture of each day. It can help keep that feeling of data overwhelm/demotivation from kicking in.

*And the last one may be TMI, but I’m just going to tell you anyway because we’re all friends here: If you are putting it on your bra and you have sensitive skin like me, maybe change sides every once in a while or that stuff’ll leave a mark! :)

My Overall Recommendation

Obviously, I love this little tool. It’s been eye opening for me in so many ways. It tracks data that confirmed for me areas that, if they improved, would contribute to my overall health. The interface is easy to use, there are many ways to access the information (iPhone, Computer, the device itself) and it helps me identify overall trends in my health/fitness/activity level. Plus it’s just convenient and fun. Toooooooooootally better than a plain old pedometer, right?

It is around $100, which to me is expensive for something if you don’t use it. But I think the ease of use, relevance of the information and motivation that tracking all of it yields makes it well worth the price. But the price fluctuates on Amazon — I think when I got mine it was about $87, which I’ve found to be super competitive — so keep your eye out there.

*****

I know lots of you already have Fitbits. Any additional thoughts to give someone who was considering buying one?

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Embracing The Suck

8 mile run with @homesweetsarah -- there was, ahem, a lot of embracing.

Tough work out at the gym last night.

For my ego.

The first 15 minutes? Pull up practice.

There was a time in the recent past where I was actually close to figuring out how to do an actual, legit, unassisted pullup. Last night I had to use the heaviest band and it was a complete struggle to do them strict.

The metcon? One I used to love:

15 Minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible)
10 Box Jump Overs (20 inch box)
15 Kettlebell Swings (53 lb KB)
25 Double Unders

For the record, these are some of my favorite exercises that don’t involve lifting.

Ok then.

I started the box jump overs on my 20 inch box and on the fourth rep I almost bit it. Like shin-goudging screw up. Luckily I was able to move in a way that saved me from that uglyness, but it was a really close call. The fifth rep I missed again. The 6th rep I barely got up there. I looked up at the clock and less than a minute had passed. I knew this was only going to get harder, so I made the call to scale it and do step ups for the box jump overs.

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Onto the Kettlebell swings. I LOVE A HEAVY KETTLEBELL!!! 53 is a good weight for me, but with the lower back stuff I’ve had going on in the last two weeks I wanted to play things conservative. I had grabbed a 45lb Kettlebell and figured I would bang out all the swings for recovery in this workout. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA WRONG. I did the first 10 and they were sort of exhausting. Then I finished the last 5 and moved over to my jump rope.

For some reason double unders are my thing. It took me a while to get them, but once I finally did I’ve just really never lost the rhythm. I think they are super fun and man, what a great exercise! Great cardio with all of the jumping, a great leg workout (and if you don’t believe that, just try jumping rope after 150 wall balls, OY! Clearly I’m having CrossFit Games Open PTSD. :)) And they are also an awesome shoulder burner. You don’t realize what a great shoulder workout jumping rope is until you do double unders, I don’t think. So these are my jam! I was ready to go! And then I could hardly string 5 together. The other fun thing about double unders worth mentioning of course, is that when you miss — you actually whip yourself.

So there I was, minutes in, totally failing and continuing to just whip myself over and over. And honest to god I have never seen 15 minutes move slower. The workout just went on forever and ever, and it felt like I was moving from one Station of Suck to the next. Each one was this painful reminder of what I *used to* be able to do. And it suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked.

The upside? I still got a good workout (OBVIOUSLY.) And I made it home with shins and lower back in tact (albeit with a few jump rope whip marks on my arms and legs.) But I spent most of the night trying to shake this ghost of Fitness Levels Past. I’m still not sure how to shake it. And it’s nagging at me like toddler. So I need your advice. Probably everyone who reads this has been through something like this. Whether you have gotten injured or had a baby. Whether you’ve put on a few pounds, or taken a break from your physical activity. I know that collectively, there is a lot of motivation out there about getting back on the horse. How do you do it? What works? How do you keep your ego at bay? WHAAAAAAT IS YOUR SEEEEEEEEECRET?

Will you share? For me, and for anyone else who may need some advice on this topic today? Because I am needing a good pep talk, friends.

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My Favorite Water Bottles

Craziness Confession: I am super particular about water bottles.

I realize it might be a little weird to have such strong opinions about what holds my beverage but I feel like the vessel MUST be up to the specific task! And all tasks are not equal.

I carry water with me all the time, but what I’m doing will dictate the container I use and some of my favorites are pretty great, so I thought I’d share my three favorites in case you are a Particular Patty too.

 

1. The Aqua Zinger

Aqua Zinger

So I LOVE LOVE LOVE to drink lemon water, but lemon water in any old container just won’t do! The Aqua Zinger is completely bad ass because it is a regular stainless steel water bottle (with a straw!) that has a small strainer section at the bottom where you can add half a fresh lemon (or any other fruit infusion — I also HIGHLY recommend canteloupe and strawberry — YUM!)

All you do is add your fruit to the bottom, fill your bottle, and screw on the lid. It’s good for hot or cold beverages (infused tea, anyone?) and it is just about perfect! The mess is contained, you don’t accidentally end up drinking seeds or pulp, and you can use one half of a lemon (or a small amount of fruit) all day long and the water stays super flavorful. Aqua Zinger, will you marry me?

If I could change one thing:
It would be just a little bit bigger. I usually use this at work, so I don’t really mind getting up and walking to the water cooler, but it would be even better if it fit 24-36 oz of water.

 

2. The Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide Mouth Bottle

klean kanteen
When I’m out and about I like to keep water with me, but my big pet peeve is a water bottle that gets condensation all over it and ends up being a sweaty mess. Also: I like my water to stay cold. What I love about the Insulated Klean Kanteen is that when you put cold water in there it stays cold for TWENTY FOUR HOURS. You guys, do you know how amazing this is in the summer when it’s 100 degrees outside and I’m running errands or hitting the grocery store and I can literally leave it IN MY CAR and it is still icy cold when I return? It is a thing of (refreshing) beauty!

In the winter I also use this for bone broth because it also keeps things hot for up to EIGHT HOURS. I can heat up my broth at home, pop it in the Klean Kanteen and take it to work and drink it whenever I am ready or throughout the day. It holds 24 oz, so it is quite a good amount! It’s also super great for workouts, and they make a sport top version as well (but that one isn’t insulated as far as I know.)  The sport top is still cool, but just not quite as long of hot/cold control.

If I could change one thing:
I would make this NOT a $40 water bottle. It is definitely a splurge and I had to talk myself into this for a long time, but ever since I bought it I’ve never looked back. You guys this is an AMAZING water bottle. High quality material, crazy good temperature control, no leaking or sweating, works like a charm, AND it’s good looking — I LOVE IT. Yes, I just called a water bottle amazing. Yes, I’m aware my life is small. :)

 

3. Contigo Auto Seal Bottle with Storage Compartment

Contigo Water Bottle With Storage Compartment
When I CrossFit I always have my gym bag with me because it’s full of shoes and wrist wraps and jump ropes , OH MY! I’m not packing a suitcase, but I carry a lot of crap, ya know? I usually throw whatever water bottle I feel like in the gym bag water slot and call it good. When I go to hot yoga though, I usually travel light: a mat, towels and water are about all I need, so this water bottle with a storage compartment is kind of a life saver. I can throw my ID and credit card in there and not have to bring my entire purse (which is kind of a gym bag in itself, according to Garrett – HA!) and be ready for whatever enlightenment awaits in that 100 degree room! :)

If I could change one thing:
I would make this NOT plastic. At least it’s BPA-free?

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It may seem a little extreme, but hey — water is a big part of my life and I like having the right tool for the job. Feel free to call me crazy, or confess that you are similarly particular. And if you’re the latter, share with me your favorite bottles. LINKS PLEASE! :)

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The Lost Year

It's been almost a year since my last 5am workout. Hoping to make a habit if it because being done at 6am FEELS GREAT!

I planned to workout at 5am this morning, and when my alarm went off — well, it hurt. But I got up, put on my workout clothes that I set out the night before, made myself a cup of coffee, squeezed in a couple snuggles with the pooch, brushed my teeth and headed out the door. The workout was HARD. I felt slow. I swear I can feel every single stress related pound that I have gained this year and it sucks. (Especially when doing wall balls and box jumps and HEY LOOK AT THAT, both have been programmed in my last two workouts. BOO.)

But when I was done, it felt AMAZING. And it is literally the best decision I’ve made today, and I am so so happy I dragged my ass out of bed. I know it’s cliche to say you never regret a workout, but man — I don’t think I ever have.

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Years ago, when I started blogging about my fitness journey and when I seriously committed to CrossFit — I used to workout in the morning regularly. It is my preference, and it just sort of became a non-negotiable. Getting up and getting it done was just what I did — and I experienced some great results. I can’t remember exactly when I stopped doing that, but I can tell you why. I mean to be honest there are a million reasons — some are flimsy excuses (But it’s so much more fun to workout with Garrett! And he is definitely a night exerciser) but some reasons are legit (when I was CRAZY STRESSED at the beginning of the year with my job, the nicest thing I did for myself was give myself permission to just focus on SLEEEEEP!) But the fact is, the last 6 months have been a roller coaster of commitment when it comes to my fitness. And as you can imagine, that has yielded its own set of results. grumblegrumblegrumble

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I’ve been thinking A LOT about how to right this fitness ship lately. Mentally and Physically.

For the record, I think it is worth mentioning that I am not spending any time beating myself up over it. Life is long, and seasons change, and this has been a big year for me professionally and something had to give. This year it was fitness. I am a firm believer in the idea that we can have it all but we can’t have it all AT ONCE, and honestly, if I could go back and change the way this year has played out, I wouldn’t, so I’m not really coming from the perspective of “Where did I go wrong?” This has been a learning year and I am so 100% happy with the investments that I’ve made in my job and in my life, and the struggles I’ve had this year have honestly taught me so much. And one of those things I see so clearly now is I am SO MUCH HAPPIER in my life when I ensure that fitness plays a major role in my life. So I am coming from a place of prioritizing happines.

self care

I’ve realized this year that my fitness routine goes beyond getting to the gym because I should. It goes beyond wanting to “look good naked.” It even goes beyond what the scale says or how my pants fit or how much weight I’ve lost or gained and how much I have left to lose. For me, the act of having fitness goals, pursuing them, trying hard, doing it with a community, giving and getting support, seeing my friends succeed, experimenting with results, tracking my progress, celebrating that progress — all of those things are things that I truly ENJOY! Things I NEED, even. That hour every day is this little gift that I give myself above and beyond all the stuff that I am REQUIRED to do in life. Sure sometimes it feels hard, or there are things I’d rather be doing — but more often than not it’s my sanity saver. My happy place.

Also I realized last Friday — after a workout that felt especially BRUTAL, mostly because my last two weeks of gym attendance had been spotty — that it is SO. SO. MUCH. EASIER. to just show and up and do this regularly even when it is hard, than it is to find the time and energy to make a “come back.” When I am committed to what I am doing in the gym, it helps me focus better on my commitments OUTSIDE the gym. And without that over the last year I have truly felt a little bit lost. I was missing this essential piece of self-care.

I’ve been rolling it over in my mind comparing what I *was* doing when my workouts were just going off without a hitch and what I’ve been doing. And there were two main observations that kept popping up.

1. I used to be COMMITTED to working out mostly in the mornings.

AND

2. I shared a lot more about my workouts.

crossfit-ecard

The morning workouts are an easy fix. I’m going to set my alarm early a couple days a week and just GET IT DONE. The second one, well – I haven’t quite found that solution yet. Somewhere over the last year I started feeling a little self conscious about talking about workouts. I mean, I’m the first one to roll my eyes about That Guy’s Instagram and Facebook feed with 500 hashtags talking about his squat PR. Enough already! But there is also something so motivating about sharing and connecting with like minded folks who are trying to take care of themselves in that same way that you are. There is a fine line in overshaing and while I’m not sure I always stay on the right side of it, I have to say: blogging, tweeting, instagramming, facebooking about fitness goals and successes have kept me super motivated in the past. It may seem like a cheesy little thing, but I am going to commit to doing a little bit more of that in the coming days too.

I’m determined to get my groove back, friends. And I hope you don’t mind if I talk a little incessantly about it for a minute. :)

I don’t know that it will be easy, but I definitely learned this past year that the alternative sure isn’t a cake walk either.

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My Best Tip For Improving Your Health

2011 Run to Feed the Hungry

One of the things you hear people just go on and on about when they are talking about why they love CrossFit is the commuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunity. Of course the fun workouts, fat loss, and extra energy are also super awesome, but today I want to talk a little bit about the element of community. If I had to pick one thing that has had the most impact on the changes in my health over the last three years it would be finding that community.

The Single Best Thing I Have Done For My Health + Fitness Is Find Friends Who Are Healthy + Fit

This may sound like no big deal, but having healthy it has helped me in so many ways.

1. Giving in to Peer Pressure has helped me try new things

I have tried so many awesome things at the suggestion of some of my super fit friends: Running my first 5k (and my second and my third) happened because a bunch of folks at my gym were doing it. Running my first half marathon was because Sarah suggested it might be fun! I push myself to lift heavier and heavier because I have other awesome lady friends who are doing it, so why wouldn’t I try?

2. Healthy Friends Also Usually Have Healthy Habits

Every once in a while I have a wild night out with friends that goes a little too late with a little too much wine. But you know what? The bulk of my friends get up early, don’t want to feel like shit on a Saturday, and make time to exercise. So their socializing? Has to support that. It’s pretty awesome to have a core group of people to do fun things with that don’t force me to choose fun or fitness.

3. Who Can’t Use A Dose of Healthy Competition?

There is nothing I love more than seeing friends succeed at goals they’ve been working toward, and a consequence of that is that it lights a fire under me. I have always had a competitive streak, so there is nothing more motivating to me than having friends who are LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than me! It gives me inspiration to set and crush my own goals. And nothing feels better than that!

4. You Always Have A Partner in Crime

Sometimes I want to try new things that sound scary — a new spin studio, a new yoga class, a Relay race — and it’s nice to have pals you can call on who like a good fitness adventure.

*****

The thing about improving your health is that a quick fix won’t work, right? You have to find something that works for your LIFESTYLE. So to me, mixing my fitness life and my social life has been the thing that has kept me going and motivated through all of my hurdles in the past few years. I can’t imagine I’d have the same success doing it alone! What do you think? Does an element of friendship and community motivate you in your efforts to maintain your health?

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The Week In Workouts

The Week In Workouts

I’ve been switching up my fitness, so I thought I’d pop in on Sundays and share what my workouts have looked like each week. This week it’s a Monday, what can I tell ya? :) I’m on a mission to find a balance of things I love, that make me healthier, and that overall just feel right.

Here’s what happened last week while I was on the road:

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Sunday

I spent last Sunday snuggling my dog and packing my whole life into a carry on. That was a workout in itself. ha!

Monday

Monday my only workout involved running around airports. It was a long day! I didn’t get into my hotel until almost 6 so I just took it easy. I was bummed to miss the last workout over at my gym home away from home, CrossFit Primal. It was snatch balance work, which I NEED to be doing, but I just got in a little too late.

Tuesday

Wod on the road

Squats and a fun metcon were on the menu:

5 rounds for total reps of:

1 min. Max Effort Weighted Step-ups with a 65lb barbell on your back. Alternating legs (that part was HARD! One leg, so so much stronger than the other!)
30 seconds Rest
1 min. Max Effort T2B (I did raises)
30 seconds Rest

This was a good workout and I was happy to squeeze in something hard while I was on the road.

Wednesday

The workout at CrossFit Primal was 100 Burpees for time. I skipped it. You can’t blame me, ca you? :)

Thursday

Nothing like the smell of BBQ'd quads in the morning! 6 am Fight Gone Bad to start the day!

Thursday I was up early and hit up the 6am class at CrossFit Primal. It was a Fight Gone Bad style workout only substituting Double Unders for Rowing.

3 rounds for Total Reps
Wall-Balls (14 lb)
Sumo Deadlift high-pull (55 lbs)
Box jumps (20 inch)
Push-Press, (55 lbs)
DU’s

Thursday night AndreAnna was in town and we also ended up pumping some serious iron in the hotel gym. 😉

How much can you lift, bro? Part Two.

Friday

Since Thursday night had been a fun night out and since the weather looked like this when I woke up…

Well Iowa, I guess this means it's time to go home.

…there was no walking down to the gym in the morning. And I was on a plane all afternoon/evening.

Saturday

Holy crap I was tired this morning and Garrett + I had planned to go to Barbell Club, but man it had been a long week. Plus we had a road trip to pack for. We headed up to Oktoberfest at Sierra Nevada which meant the only workout was lifting beer steins.

How NOT to cap off a whole 30. Kids, don't try this at home. #oktoberfest

But man, THEY ARE HEAVY.

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This week was all over the place as far as workouts. Looking forward to getting back into my routine now that I’m not going to be traveling for another month at least. Any big PRs for you this week?

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Learning to Live

Learning to Live

I had a conversation recently with a mentor of mine at work after a particularly rough day. Mid conversation he sort of did an evil cackle and asked me if I this job I signed up for was the job I thought I was signing up for and I was honest in my answer: Yes and No. The highs this year at work have been so much higher than I anticipated, but the flip side of that coin is that the lows have also been so much lower. It’s no secret to anyone that I have been working to balance that all year long.

“The key is not to measure your progress” he said to me, “but choosing when to measure your progress. If you come home each night and compare yourself to your goals, you will always feel like you are on a roller coaster. But if you look at your efforts year over year and you are learning and also living, you are succeeding.”

I’ve been chewing on that ever since.

Whenever you embark on something new you can never know how it is going to work out. You can plan and act and have the most noble of intentions, but ultimately the outcome can only be influenced, and never controlled. The feeling of control is an illusion. I say this to myself multiple times a day lately and depending on what is going on it either helps me relax a little or it makes me want to punch myself in the face. Regardless I keep repeating it.

For a while I was trying to talk myself into letting go of my expectations — of myself, and of others — thinking that was causing me the stress and anxiety that I was feeling during the early months of the year. But then my mom made an insightful observation one day while we were chatting after a particularly successful day. She said, “It’s not the expectations you’ve got to let go of, because clearly it’s important to set them, but you have to let go of your desire to control all outcomes.”

I still want to set expectations and measure the outcomes, right? I mean, this is me we are talking about and I am someone who wants to always be learning. This year hasn’t changed my DNA. I haven’t had some sort of zen religious experience and now all of a sudden I want to show you that YOU TOO can give up thinking about progress and just embrace this single solitary blissful Moment of Now. OH NO NO NO. But I keep thinking about this idea of learning and living. And also just WHAT to measure. I am experiencing it in my professional life as well as my health + fitness life.

One of the constant tropes we are faced with in the media today (especially as females, but that is a whole other post) is this idea of working to stay on the wagon, right? More accurately, avoiding the inevitable fall off. It’s all over the blogs: the tips and tricks for keeping your diet in check. The strategies for staying motivated. Instructions on how to do things the right way. How to stay on the straight and narrow and not go off course. The Wagon is just one iteration, but we all know what it represents: this mythic place of hallowed self control. In this moment I’d bet every single person reading this has an opinion about whether they are on or off of their own version of the wagon, and could come up with myriad reasons for why this is the case.

We spend our days patting ourselves on the back for our relation to the wagon, beating ourselves up, reminding ourselves we shouldn’t be beating ourselves up about being on or off the wagon, going round and round about whether the path we are on is the right one. But the entire time we do this, we are ignoring the most glaring and most fundamental flaw about this wagon: THE WAGON DOESN’T EVEN EXIST. There is no wagon. The wagon is also an illusion that we are controlling an outcome. And if we come home each day and considered our lives in relation to this illusion, would that really be productive? That’s not even living, that’s just riding a roller coaster.

Getting comfortable in the present, for me, has been what is keeping me the least anxious and most effective. The Universe has sent this message to me in so many ways this year that I finally just stopped counting and started listening. But what that conversation with my mentor that day reminded me of is that the living and learning portion is just as important as the measuring portion. As kids we learn to walk and talk and read, and no one bats an eye when they go stumbling and struggling through those phases — sometimes making steps forward and sometimes back. But I sometimes think as adults we forget that we are also still learning. We are learning to live. And it’s okay to take two steps forward and three steps back sometimes. It is part of the process. It ain’t just about waking up everyday breathing, right? If we want to make any progress in life, we’ve got to make some room for the stumbling.

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8 Books That Helped Me Take Charge of My Own Health

8 Books copy

What should I eat? How do I exercise?

Should I count calories or not? How can I deal with all my stress?

Should I meditate? See a Chiropractor? Take a pill? Talk to a Naturopath? Never see a doctor again?

When is it time to give up?

What does health mean for me?

*****

The only one of those questions I can actually answer is the last one. Health, for me, is like happiness — it is a constant journey and not a destination. Some days it seems like the easiest thing to manage, and some days it is hard fought and I am still not successful.

There is no magic recipe I can tell you that will make you Wake Up and Be Healthy. It is something that will always take work, and also strangely enough will evolve as you pursue it — but mostly because WE evolve. And this is the most frustrating as well as exciting thing! Sometimes what worked yesterday, isn’t quite so relevant tomorrow.

That is exactly why the books that have helped me the most aren’t “Here is the magic secret” type books. Rather they are books that have given me solid strategies that I have relied on all along the way. Rather than telling you to run and out in buy a book that will give you a road map, I thought I’d share 8 books that may help you become a become more of an equipped adventurer!

In some ways these books have really anchored me over the years of my adult life. Some might not even seem directly related to health! But all have shaped my philosophy on personal wellness, and also being human — which in turn has allowed me to take responsibility and positively affect my own health. Maybe one or two will meet you wherever you are on your own healthy journey?

*****

You can heal your life1. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

Book Jacket Line That Drew Me In:

> Life Is Really Very Simple. What We Give Out, We Get Back

When I Read This

In my early twenties while living in LA, naturally.

Major Takeaways

This book is hippy-dippy and touchy-feel TO THE MAX. But it honestly helped me have one of the biggest realizations that I have ever had in my life: You are the only person who ascribes meaning to things in your life. Think about how powerful that is, really. Louise Hay is such a powerful proponent of personal healing, and while the book is a little left of center, she has absolutely been a beacon of light in some dark times in my life. Times where I may have let stress get the best of me and my health. Definitely worth reading if you need a pick me up.

 

taking charge2. Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler

Book Jacket Line That Drew Me In:

For any woman unhappy with her current method of birth control; demoralized by her quest to have a baby; or experiencing confusing symptoms in her cycle, this book provides answers to all these questions, plus amazing insights into a woman’s body.

When I Read This

When deciding to ditch hormonal birth control since I had a nagging feeling it wasn’t helping my pursuit of good health.

Major Takeaways

It is one thing to not want to have a baby at a particular time, and it is quite another to mess with your body’s natural cycles to do so. I’m not saying that hormonal birth control is a terrible thing (IT’S NOT) but I took it continually for 15 years without really having any idea about my own body worked and that there were other ways. This book was so informative to me. I always thought fertility was only relevant if you wanted to have a baby. When I put this book down I really understood what a HUGE indicator of health our fertility is. I wish I could have known and understood that my entire life, instead of learning in my early 30s.

 

anatomy of the spirit3. Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing by Caroline Myss

Book Jacket Line That Drew Me In:

Based on fifteen years of research into energy medicine, Dr. Myss’s work shows how every illness corresponds to a pattern of emotional and psychological stresses, beliefs, and attitudes that have influenced corresponding areas of the human body.

When I Read This

I read this book when I was 20 and still reeling from my father’s death. (Also, living in LA. Yep, my crunchy phase again! Who knew all those experimental ideas would resonate for so many years!) When I first heard of energy medicine, I laughed. And then because I was 20 and not world-weary or cynical yet, I saw an energy practitioner in a small office in Santa Monica. I can’t believe I’ve never told this story. In a one hour session she basically did a head to toe rundown of what she could “feel” and she was startlingly on point. She was also a “Psychic Healer” (OMG you guys, I just cringed writing that) and I didn’t buy it AT ALL until right toward the end of my appointment when she said she had a message from my dad, and then proceeded to rattle off an inside joke that he and shared. Energy Medicine Believer over here ever since.

Major Takeaways

Caroline Myss has a less mystical, more practical approach to energy medicine, but this book really clearly outlines how the energy centers of our bodies (chakras) can be in or out of balance. I think that is something all of us feel on a regular basis whether we are attuned to it or not, and this book gives you a roadmap of how to tune into that, and what some of the consequences are if you don’t in a really easily digestible and non “Out There” kind of tone and format. There is even a guide in the middle of the book about symptoms and what energy centers they tie back to. I have found it to be 100% accurate. It was a game changer for how I approached what ailed.

 

lights out4. Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival by T.S. Wiley

Book Jacket Line That Drew Me In:

When we don’t get enough sleep in sync with seasonal light exposure, we fundamentally alter a balance of nature that has been programmed into our physiology since Day One. This delicate biological rhythm rules the hormones and neurotransmitters that determine appetite, fertility, and mental and physical health.

When I Read This

After a long discussion with my Naturopath where he said to me “If you don’t learn to sleep, it WILL kill you.” YIKES. I’ve written before about my experience with a Naturopath and how, most notably, that led me toward a Paleo approach and to losing 100 lbs, but probably the most influential thing he did for me and my health was to help me understand how sleep affects your body, physiologically.

Major Takeaways

Sleep isn’t just a nice to have. It is actually the foundation of hormone health, mental health and muscle recovery — and if you don’t have those things — well, ya don’t have much! And when it doesn’t come naturally or if you a person who just “doesn’t need a lot of sleep” that is your body waving A GIANT RED FLAG. Sometimes sleep takes effort, and it behooves you to put in the work.

 

it starts with food5. It Starts With Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig

Book Jacket Line That Drew Me In:

It Starts With Food shows you how certain foods may be having negative effects on how you look, feel and live – in ways that you’d never associate with your diet.

When I Read This

Right when it came out, obviously. :) But most notably, after I did my first Whole 30

Major Takeaways

I think when you are a person who has struggled with health and weight and all things related, it can be really confusing to know what to do or where to turn. What I love about this book is that it gives you the tools to understand YOUR body. It is easy to understand science, and very basic facts about the human body. Unfortunately it is the kind of basic facts that most people never learn, and so when it comes time to troubleshoot it is very easy to get going down a dirt road that isn’t going to take you anywhere. This, again, is a book I wish I would have read in my 20s. But I’m so glad I’ve read it now. It’s not condescending, it doesn’t tell you what you NEED to do, it just arms you with information about the human body. After that, you are left to connect the dots about your own health.

 

hormone cure6. The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried

Book Jacket Line That Drew Me In:

All too often women are told that feeling moody, asexual, tapped out, dried up, stressed out, and sleep deprived is just a part of being female.

When I Read This

Earlier this year when I was really struggling to manage my stress. After hearing the author on The Balanced Bites podcast I basically had an instant girl crush. I felt like she was talking DIRECTLY TO ME.

Major Takeaways

All roads lead back to cortisol. Ha! Well, not exactly, but this book outlines the delicate hormone balances and imbalances that cause common “Female Symptoms” that sometimes just get brushed under the table and considered part of being a woman. I really appreciated the depth of information she provided and the wonderful advice about where to start to help get yourself back to vital again. She makes a very complex topic easy to understand, and gives a voice to something that I personally think is sort of marginalized in the realm of health care. Her advice is actionable from the moment that you put the book down and I LOVED THAT.

 

how to eat7. How to Eat, Move + Be Healthy by Paul Chek

Book Jacket Line That Drew Me In:

The way we respond to food, exercise and stress varies person-to-person just as much as our fingerprints. This book will identify YOUR individual needs and teach you how to address issues that may be preventing you from looking and feeling your best.

When I Read This

About 6 months ago after hearing the wildly popular Paul Chek on the Underground Wellness Podcast while I was digging through the archives. Holy Moses is he an entertaining wild card of a character. He’s so passionate I would probably buy anything he sells, but man is he sort of uncensored!

Major Takeaways

There is not a singular blueprint for wellness, and actually different people have different dietary and exercise needs (the book has a GREAT thorough quiz in it that help you determine what your needs are.) But there are some smart strategies that all people can benefit from, and if you are a person concerned with your own health, you really MUST at the very least have a strategy. I like Paul Chek’s zeal and his Live Your Life On Purpose kind of attitude. He is also just a phenomenal wealth of information and this book is so densely packed I imagine I will use it over and over in the years to come.

 

simple abundance8. Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort + Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Book Jacket Line That Drew Me In:

In the past a woman’s spirituality has been separated from her lifestyle. Simple Abundance shows you how your daily life can be an expression of your authentic self … as you choose the tastiest vegetables from your garden, search for treasures at flea markets, establish a sacred space in your home for meditation, and follow the rhythm of the seasons and the year.

When I Read This

When I was 19, living at home and really kind of depressed.

Major Takeaways

The most valuable lesson that this book, a daily meditation on gratitude, taught me was that we are all standing knee deep in water dying of thirst. Sometimes you have to look up or down to find joy, but it is always there. I have found that the purposeful ability to cultivate gratitude in my life has been a key part of my own resilience as I’ve gotten older. I’m not sure I have ever learned a more value life lesson or one that has impacted my overall health so dramatically.

******

They aren’t all Paleo-centric and some of them won’t even tell you, specifically, what you should be doing to “Get Healthy.” But I promise you this, every single book above is filled with infinite wisdom. And if you are in the market for some, I’d highly recommend you get reading! :)

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The Week In Workouts

The Week In Workouts

I’ve been switching up my fitness, so I thought I’d pop in on Sundays and share what my workouts have looked like each week. This week it’s a Monday, what can I tell ya? :) I’m on a mission to find a balance of things I love, that make me healthier, and that overall just feel right.

Here’s what happened last week:

******

I managed to squeeze in 3 workouts before Garrett’s Week Of Sickness got the best of me.

Sunday

I haven’t been going to yoga lately and I really miss my Sunday afternoon class. The studio I go to is in the process of moving and I need to decide on a new membership level and BLAH BLAH BLAH – no Sunday afternoon yoga for a while. I’m gonna try and figure that out this week.

Monday

Skipped the Monday workout because I had a long day at work and had to bring a ton of work home. Unfortunately I had to do that 3 times this week and I ended up working til 10 or 11 on all 3 nights. It was on a specific project though and that is done, so this week should be much mellower. Thank god!

Tuesday

The Skill today was Seated Box Jumps. Basically you do a box jump from a seated/squat position. Unfortunately that movement gives me a little PTSD since I absolutely RUINED my left shin doing it last year on vacation. (PS – That link is not a photo of my shin. It’s a blog post. Promise.) Anyway, I wasn’t feeling real brave or like pushing myself so I did it on a 20 inch box and a 24 inch box and then called it quits. Shins in tact.

The metcon was the Open workout 13.4

AMRAP in 7 minutes:

3 Clean and Jerks (95lbs)
3 Toes 2 Bar
6 Clean and Jerk
6 Toes 2 Bar
9 Clean and Jerk
9 Toes 2 Bar

Continue adding 3 reps to each set until the 7 minutes are up.

Oh Toes to Bar, my nemesis. It’s still not something I’m doing comfortably in a workout so I modified it doing knees to elbows and got through the 12 rep set. Still a good workout.

Wednesday

Ah yes, the day of the sand bag.

You know what always puts weight loss in perspective? Running with a 40lb sandbag on your back! OOF!

First we did the lift portion which was:

5×3 Push Press I worked up to 125lbs and honestly I surprised myself a little.

Then we got to the metcon. OY!

3 Rounds For Time:

200m sand bag run (40lbs)
25 sit ups with plate (15 lbs)
200m run with med ball OH (14 lbs)
25 sit ups with plate
200m run with plate OH

Here were my two main thoughts about this workout:

1. That’s a lot of awkward running with your triceps flapping in the breeze. Ah well, what can ya do. I just kept telling myself “You are here to get some less flappy triceps” whenever I started feeling awkward. :)

2. Sometimes I get down on myself for not having lost more weight, you know? Anyone who has pursued long term weight loss can relate I’m sure. But man, as I ran with a 40 lb bag of sand on my back multiple times, I just kept telling myself “Girl, you’ve lost more than twice this. GOOD FOR YOU! Who cares how long the rest of it takes. Life is long. Enjoy the ride.” Seriously. Perspective is running with a 40 lb sand bag, man. I feel like I should do that like once a week just to keep my head right.

Thursday

Today I had to go to an all day off site meeting for work so there was no time for me to squeeze in a workout. The upside though was that the meeting was over at the Sac State Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma. We did a number of “Team Building” events where everyone had to publicly look like an asshole, ya know? But it was fun and there were some physical parts to it: a kayak race, a water bike race and then there was a “Wipeout” style ropes course that we got to participate in if we wanted to. It was fun and silly and a nice day overall. Plus we also had to do a scavenger hunt where we had to take creative/funny photos while doing silly things like handstands. I think my team was pretty surprised I had that in me. haha (TOTALLY never thought I’d have to use that skill at the day job. Thanks American River CrossFit!)
Never thought I'd have to use this skill at a work function. Thanks, @arcfit

Also, the entire day I kept thinking about the Watch What Crappens podcast episode where they talked about the “Sexy Corporate Retreats” show they think they should pitch to Bravo. If you are a Bravo fan and not listening to that podcast: GET ON IT!

Friday

Skipped that shizzzz cuz I was tiiiiiiiiiired. And apparently getting sick. Too bad I wouldn’t realize it fully until Saturday afternoon.

Saturday

I slept for like 13 hours on Friday night. I’m embarrassed about that, but it was sort of epic. At around 10 I decided it would be fun to go work on my snatch at Barbell Club at the gym. Every other Saturday we alternate between 90 minutes of Clean + Jerk work or 90 minutes of Snatch work. Today it was all Snatch.

We worked a number of progressions including snatching from the high hang position which basically forces you to have explosive hips or the bar just won’t get up. Upside: it’s a huge help! Downside: It gets your thighs nice and bruised up. Bummer. Then after all the high hang work we moved on to finding a heavy 1 rep. We weren’t looking to find a 1 rep max since we had already been working for 90 minutes, but when I got to my prior 1 rep max (105lbs) I threw the bar up like it was no thing! I was pretty sure I was going to go home with a nice new PR, but despite like 30 attempts I could not stick 115lbs. I probably should have tried 110, but that involved too much math so I just kept attempting 115. Whatevs. Another goal for another day!

Went home and took a bubble bath and an epic nap and woke up the next day and realized all that shoulder pain wasn’t from snatches, I was actually getting sick. WOMP WOMP.

**********

Any new PRs for you or awesome workouts?

PS – Don’t forget to enter the Green Mountain Coffee Giveaway — it’s still open!

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The Week In Workouts

The Week In Workouts

I’ve been switching up my fitness, so I thought I’d pop in on Sundays and share what my workouts have looked like each week. I’m on a mission to find a balance of things I love, that make me healthier, and that overall just feel right.

Here’s what happened last week:

******

Last week looked a lot like this:
Work. Workout. Cook. Eat. Work. Sleep. Work. Repeat.
I only worked out 4 times, but I tried to give my all while I was there. Overall it was a good week, but things at my job and cooking for our Whole 30 made for a quiet week on the blog. Hoping this coming week will be a bit more mellow on all fronts (MY LEGS ARE STILL SORE! :))

Monday

The workout was all rowing. Uh, I skipped this one because I rarely put on workout clothes to show up to the gym and only row. Sorry.

Tuesday

LIFT

Push Press:

1 @ 80% 1 Rep Max (95lbs)
1 @ 85% (105 lbs)
Max reps @ 90% — I ended up using 105 lbs for this one and did 10 reps.

METCON

For Time:

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
Wall balls (14lb)
Burpees
Pull ups

Wall balls, burpees and pull ups. OH MAN! Basically some of my least favorite things! But Garrett and I worked out together because these are some of his FAVORITE things. Actually this workout ended up being pretty fun, although I sort of wanted to off myself when Garrett called time because I was only on round 5. :) Everybody has their strengths!

Wednesday

LIFT

Back squat:

5 x 7 @ 80% of 1 Rep Max

Uh, yeah…so that is 35 squats at 80% of your 1 rep max. The weight that I can do ONE TIME. 80% of that but THIRTY FIVE TIMES. Yikes! That was a heavy day! I did 175lbs and managed to eek out 34 reps. Just couldn’t get that last one up. Also scored a nice bruise on my ass from dropping the bar. Ouch! :)

METCON

3 Rounds For Ttime:

400m run
5 deadlifts (165lbs)
25 deficit push ups (on 15 lb plates)

I did this workout with a bunch of fire breathing folks and there is nothing worse (FOR ME) than doing running workouts with young, spry dynamos. :) But it was still a great workout, even if I was slow as molasses. I ended up scaling the pushups (which made them SIGNIFICANTLY easier) so that I wouldn’t finish like 10 minutes after everyone. Clearly my ego got in a workout as well. I kind of wish I would have just tried SOME unscaled pushups. Maybe my ego will take this week off.

Thursday

Woke up today and my legs were CRAZY sore from those squats. And the workout involved FIVE HUNDRED double unders. And I had worked until 10 the night before and had to be in before 7am.

Call me lazy, but when I got off work at 4:30 I just said HELL NO and I skipped it. :)

Friday

LIFT

EMOTM for 12 minutes:

1 power clean @ 95% of your 1 Rep Max

Ha. That’s A LOT of heavy ass power cleans. Clearly this was a heavy week. Yikes! I started at 140lbs, but only got in 2 reps before I had to drop it down to 135, which is where I stayed for the rest of the minutes. I love cleans!

METCON

Friday the 13th AMRAP in 13 minutes:

13 push press (75lbs)
13 Chest to Bar pull ups
13 Med ball cleans (14lbs)

Med ball cleans are my favorite thing! Chest to bar pull ups….are not. This was a fun workout though!

Saturday

Skipped open gym and slept in instead, so I did a little outdoor workout in my backyard with our 53lb kettlebell:

100 KB Swings
100 KB Sumo Dead Lift High Pulls
100 KB Swings

And that was enough. :)

*********

How were your workouts this week?

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