Taking on the Challenge–Trying a New Fitness Class

As part of the Elf4Health Holiday Challenge, today’s task was to try a new fitness workout. I worked ahead a little and attempted a new workout class at my LA Fitness.

For the past couple of weeks I had contemplated trying a new group exercise class called “Calorie Crusher,” so last night, after a 10 minute warm-up on the elliptical, I decided to bite the bullet and join in the class.

Calorie Crusher is a timed class–55 minutes of different sets, never stopping. Taped to the mirror in front of us were 10 different exercises. This week, we did “blue” so those exercises were (in order): Run (or march), Squats, Ski, Punches, Curtsy Squats, Burpees, V Sit-Up, Push-Ups, Mountain Climbers, and Jumping Jacks. You perform each exercise for one minute, then move onto the next. After completing the initial 10, you tore down the last exercise (Jumping Jacks) and started at the beginning again, without stopping. So you do 10 exercises at the beginning, then 9, 8, 7, 6, etc…you get the point.

The instructor, Stephanie, said she was aiming to burn 1,000 calories in the 55-minute class. I’m not sure if we made 1,000 calories, but I was pretty whooped by the end. My legs were still tired from cardio kickboxing Monday night, so I struggled with the multiple squats and burpees (though I love burpees). Luckily we were able to do our own thing with each exercise, so I’d do plank jumping jacks combined with my burpees to give my legs a little bit of a rest.

I loved the class, especially since she was flexible–I did different types of punches each time during that section, as well as the squats.

This morning my alarm went off at 5 and I made my way to the gym to meet a friend for a running date. When I got there, she was on an elliptical, saying she wasn’t feeling like the hard pounding of the treadmill, and for once I didn’t object and hopped on to an elliptical–my legs were exhausted. So for 45 minutes we chatted and sweated together.

Tomorrow’s challenge is to wake up 15 minutes early to meditate. I’m hoping to get in a yoga DVD before work.

Have you tried a new fitness challenge lately? Did you get hooked?

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Elf4Health – Day 2

It’s already been fun watching my TweetDeck #Elf4Health search column through the day, plus trying to keep up with the (ever-busy) Facebook group….and it’s only been two days!

I’ve been paired up with Annica for the first two weeks. She’s a FitFluential ambassador, recent college graduate, and a fellow social media addict (like myself)! She’s studying for her ACE personal training certification, which is an inspiration to me because I would love to get my certification. (It’s always been a dream in the back of my mind, but life keeps getting in the way, but that’s for another post another day.) Check out her blog: AnnicaNicole

Truth be told, I actually enjoyed writing our thank you notes from our wedding. I love personal touches like this!

Today’s challenge for Elf4Health was to send a handwritten note/card to someone. I took the “poke” to finish a thank you note for “Momma D”, my friend’s mom who drove in from Massachusetts to make my wedding cake and cupcakes. I had started to write it, then lost the card, and found it again. Today I finished the card and put in the mail, plus I was inspired to send a “thinking of you” card to a college friend whom I haven’t spoken with much since she had her baby.

I’m also going to work on a few notes and small packages to send through Anysoldier.com, which is a program that connects soldiers serving overseas who might not receive much mail or packages from family with citizens who take the time to thank them for serving our country. Considering I have many friends who served, and am married to an Air Force veteran, it only makes sense that I do so. I encourage you to take the time to maybe write a few notes and send them this holiday season to our men and women serving overseas.

I worked ahead and already completed Wednesday’s challenge of trying a new workout when I saw a class I was intrigued by at the gym. But I’ll fill you in on that tomorrow.

Are you doing anything out-of-the-ordinary when it comes to communication this holiday season? (Like sending more Christmas cards? I’m going to design our own this year, using photos I took of the girls under the tree tonight…I’ll share them when I finish them.)

Holiday Challenge – Elf4Health

In response to my post on gluttony yesterday, I took the bull by the horns and signed up for a fun holiday challenge that is sure to push me out of my comfort zone at least once a week–Elf4Health!

Awesome bloggers Elle (Nutritionella) and Lindsay (The Lean Green Bean) came up with this fun challenge of pairing up people with their own “health elf”. We get to know our elf for a couple of weeks and keep eachother apprised of how our daily challenges are going. We can share tips and inspiration, not to mention win daily prizes from some awesome sponsors! I figured it was a great way to be accountable throughout the holiday season, all the way into January.

Our daily challenges are pretty simple. Today, for instance, was Meatless Monday–create meals throughout the day without any meat. It was fun seeing all the different meals fellow elves were posting!

The rest of our challenges for this week:
Tuesday – Send a handwritten card or letter to a friend.
Wednesday – Try a new workout today!
Thursday – Get up 15 minutes early to meditate and reflect.
Friday – How many colors can you eat today? Challenge yourself!
Saturday – Clean out your closet! Fill out a bag of clothes to donate!

Throughout the challenge I’ll do my best to keep you updated with how I’m doing!

If the challenge intrigues you, there’s still time to sign up for the second round, which starts in a couple of weeks!

Gluttony

The Thanksgiving holiday is typically the start of the holiday season…a season of many nights out on the town with friends and family, parties, cookie swaps, etc. More than 30 days of food, sweets, drinks…pure gluttony.

All that baking only comes around once a year, so surely it can’t be that dangerous…right??

I spent the past four days at my parents’ farm relaxing and celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with family. Don’t get me wrong–I love spending time with my family. It’s always great being on the farm, able to ride my horses and spend time in the barn, helping out where help was needed. But I tend to go back to my old ways of excessive eating. There are always temptations around my parents’ house with cookies, etc. For some reason, what little willpower I had flies out the window and I have a hard time stopping the continual snacking. Whereas when I’m home in Lexington, I’m better about eating because I’ve limited the temptations. (I subscribe to the “if it’s not in the house, I can’t eat it” notion of willpower.)

My drive for working out snuffs out when I’m home as well. I don’t know what it is–my parents live out in the country, so the roads would be pretty quiet for a run, but I’ve never really gone on a long run. I’ve wanted to go hiking with my husband on a home visit, but the best place is more than an hour away. My sister is on a funky work schedule, so we don’t ever workout together…

I know…they’re all excuses. So why are these excuses alright when I’m visiting home?

And the excuses just continue to grow as we near the holidays. It’s dark and cold after work, I don’t want to run… Dinner with friends or spin class at the gym?… But Christmas cookies only come once a year….

So how do you deal with the gluttony of the holidays? Amp up the workouts at the gym? Add more veggies on the days you eat them? 

Gratitude

It is Thanksgiving, so that means a time of reflection…

I’d like to start off with my family. Some times we take our loved ones for granted, though we don’t do so intentionally. We just assume they’ll always be there because, well–they’re your family. But in the past few months, I have been quite aware of the support my mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law have provided for me. They have had my back, listened to my cries of frustration and fears, provided advice knowing I might or might not take it, and they’ve spent countless of hours and money to help put on the wedding I was hoping for. I can’t tell you how much I needed them to be there for me, and they were without question or hesitation. It is because of my parents’ love and support I have become the woman who I am because they never once questioned my efforts. You can’t top that.

I’m thankful for my wonderful husband. Things haven’t been easy for us lately, but he has kept his head high and trudged on, trying to do what’s best for both of us. He has been one of my biggest cheerleaders, but still does his best to keep me grounded and remind me of the our potential future. We’ve had a lot of fun in our almost 4 years of being together, and I can’t wait until to see what lies ahead of us.

I’m one of the lucky ones to still have a job and a great boss who inspires, encourages, and supports us. She has our backs. She definitely knows her stuff about the business of the web and it’s refreshing.

Without my animals, I wouldn’t stay sane. No matter how horrible the day has been, when I come home and I see the little faces of Dally and LaMesa (and occasionally a cat or two) in the front door, it warms my soul and I smile again. They are always so happy to see me and to spend time with me, they love their walks and love to be active, which encourages me to stay off the couch. Dally has been my rock in the 7 tumultuous years of moving around, etc. I’m still floating on cloud nine after earning our agility championship two weeks ago.

They’re always so excited to see mom when I come home, which makes my day better no matter what.

I’m grateful for the ability of being able to run and work-out. There are many that, for some reason or another, that can’t enjoy the freedom I feel when I’m out on a flat road, feet pounding the asphalt, lungs taking in the fresh air. I’m so happy I have found this wonderful retreat.

I’m sure there are many more things not listed that I am thankful for: our warm house, my horses at home (how I wish they were closer to me now), friends, etc. I have always been one to appreciate the things that I have, and I hope that I come off that way every day, not just on Thanksgiving Day.

Your turn: What are you most grateful for this Turkey Day?

2 Half Marathons in 30 Days? Am I Crazy?

A year ago I was toying with the idea of training for, and running in, my first half marathon. Friends and family were surprised when I announced I had registered for the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon, but I was excited, and nervous, and ready to tackle the training.

My proud accomplishments from running in 2012 include: Competing at the AKC National Agility Championships, running in my first half marathon, completing the Warrior Dash, finally running in the Bluegrass 10K, and finally earning an age-division placement w/first place!

Training for that first half was one of the most physically challenging things I will ever do, I believe. But it was also the most rewarding. There were injuries along the way, and speed bumps that couldn’t be avoided (like my trip to Reno 30 days out from the race), but I plugged on and eventually came away with a finisher’s medal and complete runner’s euphoria.

So now it’s time to start thinking about the 2013 calendar and what I would like to accomplish in the coming year. I had already been thinking about running in the Kentucky Derby Half again, because it was a fun experience, but then an announcement was made that the local half marathon, formally called the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon, was now a Rock N Roll Half Marathon. I’ve heard a lot about these races, so I was excited to see it coming closer to home. Last year I was thinking about running the Run the Bluegrass Half, but when Dally and I qualified for Nationals, it was during the same weekend, so I ran one month later in Louisville, instead.

So now the quandary begins: Do I run in the Derby Half like last year, a course I’m now somewhat familiar with, or do I attempt the (extremely hilly) Rock N Roll Half? So while making decisions is hard for me, I came up with a brilliant thought one night during cardio kickboxing–why not run both? The races are 30 days apart, with the Rock N Roll on March 30 and the Derby Half Marathon April 27. That could give me a week to recover from the RNR, plus a couple off weeks of long-ish runs to build back up for the Derby, and then taper.

The RNR is on a very hilly course through Thoroughbred horse farm country, while the Derby is relatively flat through Louisville (including around the racetrack at Churchill Downs). So the harder race would be done first, which could be a good thing…or a bad thing, if I end up getting hurt running it. (Remember my IT band and tendonitis in my foot issues earlier this year?)

I don’t know if you’d consider me a novice runner any more, but I’m definitely not an expert. The farthest I’ve run since my half was a 10K on July 4, but I’ve tried to run 3-5 miles 2-3 times a week and stay active at the gym.

I know I’ll have a busy schedule the first part of the year, with agility trials, plus Nationals, but surely there are ways I can fit in my long runs. (Oh yeah, one kicker for the RNR race? I’ll be in Tulsa competing at the American Kennel Club National Agility Championships two weeks prior, so there’s a week of relatively no training…)

I’ve also considered changing up my training program, with maybe less running and more cross training to save my foot and IT band (maybe run 1 short run for speed, 1 medium run for tempo, and then my long training run a week). Would that be a better plan?

I really need the advice of my running peeps, so please share. Is it feasible for someone like me to run two half marathons within 30 days and not kill herself?

Turning the Big 3-0

Today is my birthday. It’s not just any birthday, but the big 3-0…30…goodbye twenties, and perhaps the your last decade as a carefree young adult. To some, your 30s mean it’s time to get serious about life.

Now that I’m married and we’re looking to settle down some place, once M gets a new job, it’s starting to hit me that…hey, I am an adult and I need to plan accordingly. I’m not just working my 8-5 job just as a “job” but as a means to build a career. I took a big leap in my career earlier this year, and I’m hoping to continue learning to put me on the right track towards an actual career, not just a job.

And then there’s the whole “Life Plan” push that everyone starts to ask as you get older and get married. For someone who is typically OCD and have to have a plan for some things, it’s shocking that I don’t have a life plan. I didn’t know where I wanted to be when I turned 30. Did I see myself married, competing in dog agility, and living in Lexington? Honestly, no. When I was turning 20, I was a junior at Murray State University and all I was focused on was getting my equestrian journalism career started and still training and showing horses.

Is it true that gone are the days of “easy living” like the days at Murray, where late nights were spent at the barn roping hay bales and drinking a beer (or two)? Those first years of my 20s were so much fun.

Now that I’m turning 30? I’m a (happily) married woman living in Lexington, working for a publishing company as a web producer while freelancing for a few magazines here and there, and training and showing dogs instead of horses. On one hand, it seems like I’m doing well for myself, especially considering the economy right now, but then there are those “Shoulda, coulda, woulda” moments that I’m sure everyone has as they near their birthdays.

But this post wasn’t meant to be depressing or to downplay my life now. I’m very lucky that I met M and he accepts me for who I am, because I knew that would be a hard task to accomplish. I’m lucky that I’m still working in the area in which I got my degree (not many can say that).

The best friends will “age well” with you (rather than “grow old”) and continue to be there, from the frat house parties to the fancy patios at jazz bars in downtown Louisville.

I’m lucky that I have found new loves with dog agility and running. Never would I have thought I would have run a half marathon before I turned 30 (or that I’m considering running two half marathons within a month of each other, but more on that in a later post). Never would I have thought that I’d embrace social media as much as I have (I can’t live without it now) for work and for life. Never would I have thought I’d be settling down as much as I have.

When I was turning 20, you couldn’t convince me that my “horse life” would be replaced with my “dog life” as I neared 30. But who can resist this face??

My 20s have been a roller coaster, with finishing college and meeting friends for life, to moving to Texas, then Oklahoma, and then Kentucky for work and finding a place where I was happy, to losing something very close to my heart while gaining another unconditional love. I’ve been built up, crushed, and built back up these past 10 years. I’ve lost weight, gained, and thankfully lost weight again and found a healthier lifestyle, that I just hope I can make healthier for both M and myself as time goes by. I’ve learned a lot about finances, food, life, and myself.

Where do I see things going in my 30s? Like I said, I don’t really know. I hope there are a few more half marathon finishes in my future, as well as maybe a few more health goals to accomplish. I hope M and I embark on an exciting marriage and continue to find ourselves more in each other as we grow older together. And I hope a few circumstances will be cleared up and life can be less stressful.

I might not be sure about the direction my 30s will go, but I’m happy I have my partner by my side for the trip.

So here’s to my 30s!

What insights do you have to pass on?

A Hodge Podge of a Meal–Zucchini Fritatta

On election night, I wasn’t feeling like going all out for dinner. I knew we had some eggs to use up, as well as zucchini and a few other items. So I made a hodge podge meal. I love fritattas, so I figured, why not?

First I sautéed the leftover zucchini with some frozen Southern potatoes and fresh spinach in a little bit of olive oil. While that was going, I whisked together four eggs with 1/4 cup of skim milk. I poured the eggs into my pan, then covered it for seven minutes to cook. After the eggs were cooked through, I sprinkled a little bit of cheese to melt.

Leftover zucchini, frozen potatoes, and fresh spinach sautéing in olive oil.

I meant to add some deli sliced chicken and mushrooms, but I forgot. The original recipe I used called for zucchini and cubed ham with onion. So basically you can make this any way you want with anything you have on hand.

Yummy and easy!

I served up the wedges with a small salad and some easy pumpkin muffins I made while I was waiting for things to cool. (So easy–1 box of spice cake mix and 1 can of pumpkin, add some water to help the mix and some cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice. Bake in muffin cups at 350 for 15 minutes.)

A simple, healthful meal!

Hodge Podge Fritatta

4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup non-fat milk
1 medium zucchini
1/2 cup frozen Southern style potatoes
1 handful fresh spinach
1/4 cup low fat shredded cheese mixture (I used colby and monterrey jack cheese)

1.) Saute the veggies (plus whatever you want to add) in a pan with some olive oil.
2.) Whisk together the four eggs and milk, then add to the veggie mixture. Cover and set on medium low for 7 minutes.
3.) Sprinkle cheese on top and re-cover for two more minutes.
4.) Cut into wedges and serve.

The Honeymoon, Part 1 (Getting There)

Due to M losing his job a few months ago, our original plan of going to an all-inclusive resort in Florida had to be cancelled. The poor guy then spent hours on the computer looking for a Plan B that we hoped involved the ocean, but he wasn’t very lucky on his own. So we settled for a few days in a cabin in Gatlinburg. That is until a co-worker sent me a link to a place in South Carolina that I promptly forwarded to M and then promptly forgot about it.

So flash forward to our wedding, and there were quite a few people who knew where we were going…except for me. See, M told me he changed plans and we were no longer going to Gatlinburg, but he wouldn’t tell me where exactly we were going–just to pack a good selection of clothes for 70-degree weather. Sunday, after cleaning up the farm where we had our wedding/reception and sending our families on their way home, we hurridly drove back to our house and unloaded the car and truck of wedding supplies, unwrapped gifts, and then packed for our trip. (Mom and dad were gracious enough to take the pups with them for the week and our friends down the road were watching the cats for us.)

We set on down the interstate, with me constantly prodding M for information about where we were going. We ended up driving about 4.5 hours and stopped in Asheville, N.C., for dinner and for the night. Monday morning we set down the road for the rest of the trip.

As we got off the interstate somewhere in South Carolina, I started really pestering M for answers–it was rainy and gross and there wasn’t much else to do. I even started following us on the GPS on my phone…until he took it away from me for “cheating.” When I started to see signs for Myrtle Beach, I said, “We’re going to Myrtle Beach.” M: “No, we’re not.” Me: “Yes, we are, I see the signs, where else would we be going?” M: “Not Myrtle Beach.”

So flash forward a few more hours and we finally pull into this little town and in front of this hotel. I have to admit, at first I was a little skeptical about the hotel and the area. But as I waited for M to check us in, I told myself to not judge and to just wait and see.

We loaded up all our stuff and went up to our room on the second floor. M went in ahead of me…the room was very nice. We had a king suite with a little kitchenette with a full-sized refrigerator and washer/dryer, couch, king bed, and then the best part of it all… M walked up to the curtains and opened them up, announcing “Hey babe, take a look…” as he opened up the curtains. My jaw dropped. In front of me was the most gorgeous view I could have asked for (well, I had an even more gorgeous view when it wasn’t raining…)–the ocean was right outside our balcony! We had a nice private balcony that looked right out on the Atlantic Ocean.

It might have been a dreary day, but this was still a beautiful first view of the ocean from our room!

After unpacking, I made M go to the beach with me. Even though it was gray and chilly out, I wanted to go out to the ocean–I wanted to take it all in immediately. See, this was my first time ever seeing the ocean and ever being on a beach. My family didn’t really do vacations  when I was growing up–our “vacations” were horse shows and rodeos. I didn’t mind, I loved it, in fact I miss it.

I made M roll up his jeans and do a “toes in the water” photo with me as soon as we got to the beach the first day.

I know M was quite proud of himself for making this such a surprise and trying to make it the trip of a lifetime for me.

Corny? Yes, but I’m sure every couple does it when they get to the beach!

In my next post I’ll share some of the fun activities we did while in South Carolina!

First Age Division Placement!

Over the weekend I ran in my first normal 5K of the year…not my first race, but first regular 5K–no climbing over walls or battling through mud, not as long as a 10K or a half, but a simple 5K at the Kentucky Horse Park. I signed up for the Alltech Countryside Canter 5K, which was part of the Alltech National Horse Show. It’s the first year for the race, and the proceeds was going towards the All Glory Project, which helps wounded soldiers make a comeback with animal-assisted therapy. So it was perfect for me!

The morning was very brisk! When M and I headed to the Horse Park (he was my “cheerleader from a distance” while sitting in my truck with the heater one), it was 36 and the sun was just starting to rise. I’m still new to dressing for cold weather running, but I thought I chose the right outfit–Nike cold gear running capris, a short-sleeved tech shirt with my Brooks pull-over, and a fleece pullover with gloves and headband for the ears. I warmed as well as possible, then went into the indoor arena to stretch before the race started. It was a small race (not advertised very heavily), so they didn’t have chip timing, but that was OK because I had my phone with me to use my RunKeeper app.

The course was a simple out-and-back around the back of the Horse Park. If you’re a horse lover (and even if you’re not), you would love this scenery–horses and riders hacking in the early morning midst, the smell of expensive horse-flesh–I didn’t need my headphones to keep me going!

The route was hilly, with long, gradual inclines and declines–at first I thought I was pushing too hard going uphill, but then I worried that maybe I wasn’t pushing myself enough. But either way, when all was said and done, I went into my last gear as we neared the finish, determined to PR in the race. I came in 8th place for the women, and checked my phone–a 27.32 5K (8:50 pace)!! Not bad for a hilly course on a freezing morning!

I decided to stick around for the awards (I never have for any other race), because I figured with the small number, I at least placed in my age division. When they got to the females 20-29, they called my name as first! I was totally surprised, but so happy! I turn 30 in a week, so it was a nice to make my first age group placing in my last effort in my twenties a win!

Now to work on that 2013 race calendar….but more on that one later….

Do you remember your PR and your first age group placing?