Monday, August 8, 2016

Finishing Phase One of Nia Shanks's Beautiful Badass Strength Program - Challenge Notes

It's summertime! I haven't been posting. But I have been feeling fantastic through this summer. I got bored with my planned out fitness macrocycle, which gives me motivation to try to create one that's more interesting, but then my favorite fitness blogger released a six-month program that really called to me. I love Nia Shanks's no-bullshit approach to fitness, her encouragement to focus on the mental aspect of my journey, and her freaking workout programs. Her workouts are boss. The first month consisted of a four-day, upper/lower split, and holy shit I did it. I did sixteen strength workouts in four weeks! The phase one challenge was to focus on non aesthetic victories, which I thought I was pretty good at, but it's not always easy. I tried to stay mindful of my vanity - my desire to look at my body each and every time I pass a mirror or any reflective glass. Sometimes I'm looking at my body with joy and contentment, which is where I want to be. But sometimes I'm looking at it and screaming, "Why is that fat still there, Lisa?!?! Why don't you stop eating so much damn food and drinking so much damn beer so you can get SKINNY like you've always wanted?!?!" and that's not for me. That doesn't serve me. That won't be this Lisa.

Phase One helped me discover some pretty cool things:

  • I can lift a 30lb dumbbell over my head doing push presses! I can also safely lower it without disturbing a shoulder injury I experienced last fall.
  • I can do front squats! I can fold my arms and let the barbell sit on my shoulders and not choke!
  • Lifting regularly makes my job easier and more fun. I pushed a 1600 pound pallet from my warehouse to the next one over this morning, by myself. Yeah it was on a pallet jack but still... I'm telling you, it's amazing that my body can do this.
  • People sometimes like my point of view, even when it opposes the typical, "Pain is fat leaving your body! No excuses ever!" mentality. The Facebook group for this program has been so supportive, so friendly, and so fun. A month has gone by and no one has gotten into an argument over the merits of strength vs. cardio or white vs. brown carbs. This is glorious.
  • I still want to weigh myself sometimes, even though I've learned repeatedly that the amount I weigh does not at all correlate to how healthy I live and feel.
Phase Two switches us from a four-day split over to three total-body workouts per week. So I gain a day with no need to go to the gym, which is nice. There really wasn't much room in the first phase for me to do any of my favorite at-home cardio videos, like kickboxing, horribly choreographed but fun dancing, and more flowy yoga. We're encouraged to do thirty minutes of anything we consider ENJOYABLE or FUN on our days off from strength training. I'm definitely going to bust out Amy Bento's Rumble this week, and that's exciting!

The challenge from phase two is about nutrition, and I'm working this morning on trying to figure out which of her three tips to try to implement for the month. They're all great. The first one is to identify where things go off track with our eating habits. I already know that right around Thursday or Friday (hey, some weeks it's Tuesday), I stop giving as much fuck about what I'm putting into my body. The work week has me stressed, my meal plan only gets us through Thursday dinner, I want to drink. I've been taking some steps to combat this and am doing well on these.

The second tip is to only enjoy the "less than healthy" food that you TRULY ENJOY - don't snack on stuff just because it's around. I'm pretty good about this. I enjoy ice cream, cakes, cookies on occasion, and usually when we've prepared them at home with mostly whole foods. I'm good at saying no when I don't really want something. In most aspects of life, thankfully.

The third tip is to start over with a clean slate each time I "slip up" on these goals I'm already working. No beating myself up. No exercising it away. No dwelling. Just taking an honest look to investigate the why and how. I'm down with this one. I feel I generally need to focus on progressing from mindless eating to mindful eating. I might try to practice the chew meditation my therapist taught me a few times this month.

Anyways, I'm loving this program! Boss is out this week so I'm in charge of the shop and don't have much time, so dropping down to 3x/week at the gym is right on time woo!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Feeling Great Headed Into Microcycle 3

Hello, Becca!

My very dear friend told me the other day that she liked my last blog post. I was like, "Whoa! How did you know I posted?" Nobody reads my blog, and I don't do shit to promote it. I just like to write here sometimes. My blogs pop into her RSS feed though! So I do know that I have one devoted reader. She has a really cool Etsy shop - HERE is a link.

So, I can't really express how insanely amazing I've been feeling lately. Things in every aspect of my life have been smooth sailing. My marriage has never been better. My husband told me the other day that since I went off of oral contraceptives a little over a month ago (no, we are not trying to conceive), my moods and demeanor have been so pleasant and easygoing. We were both terrified that the hormonal adjustments would wreak havoc on my moods and sanity. I have a history of, well, just being kind of crazy sometimes. As a teenager, I tried at least three different types of birth control before finding one that didn't worsen my PMS symptoms - particularly, making me batshit insane for at least two weeks out of every month. I mean, I was a teenage girl. Teenage girls are batshit insane half the time. Also, I had terrifyingly painful cramps before and during my period, diagnosed as dysmenorrhea. It was a struggle to find the right pill for this chick. Once I found one that didn't send me into a tornado of bitchy, screaming in agony, throwing chairs at my parents insanity - I stuck with it. For eighteen years. More than half my life. Thus, I was afraid that stopping would lead to some of the issues from my past. I can't say that some issues won't pop up, because it's only been a month and a half of adjustment so far, but holy hell this is great! The only negative effect I've noticed is that the first couple of weeks, my face went from dry to oilslicked, but it kind of evened itself out.

Mindfulness has been easier to come by lately, too! It's been a while since I've been meditating this regularly, about five days out of the week. The things in my life that are not going swimmingly right now, like issues at work, dealing with tenants when I really just want to be alone in the evenings, worries about the financial future, etc... these things are existing in the same manner that they were before, but I am relating to them differently. I'm doing really well with knowing what I can change and what I cannot - and how to respond with compassion to the things that I cannot help. I'm doing metta, or lovingkindness meditation at least once each week, and that seems to have helped reduce some of my general annoyances during work and my commute (such a feat! I even let people in my lane sometimes!).

And fitness - wow. I'm still continuing on with my lower intensity program design, which I thought would be torturous, but it's great! I'm actually meeting all my planned goals for strength, cardio, mind/body, and nutrition each week. I promised myself I'd buy some new sneakers if I met all my goals in April, and I freaking did it! So now I have to guy new sneakers which should be exciting, but I'm dreading it. My last pair of Asics was incredible and lasted half a year, but then I bought the same style, same size from Amazon - and they hurt my feet. I've dealt with it since November and worn the hell out of them, so it's time for new shoes regardless... but I don't want to choose a new brand. Brand loyalty is so comforting because, hey! no decisions to make. I need to just head to the outlets in Williamsburg on my own one day and try on several pairs from several stores. I have weird, smelly, ugly foot issues so other peoples' reviews on Amazon don't do much good. I gotta walk in 'em before I commit this time.

Moving into week 5 of my self-designed program, here are the general goals:
- Strength - complete 3 strength sessions per week (exercises listed below)
- Cardio - increase weekly Session RPE to 380 (from 350 last week) and weekly minutes to 100 total, coming from at least three different sessions
- Mind/Body - log at least two hours total per week (can be yoga or meditation) and finish Chapter One of a Yoga Anatomy book I've been "reading" for over a year haha.
- Nutrition - keep at least ONE freaking weekend day (Fri, Sat, or Sun) free of alcohol and sodas. I usually don't like restrictive goals (I prefer something like, "add a bowl of greens daily" because yay adding food), but I would like to see myself be a little more mindful on the weekends, and have my actions mirror my intentions for my self-care. At this point, I usually stop at The Office on my way home from work Friday for my Legend Brown, pick up a 12 pack before getting home, and sometimes pick up more beer or wine on Saturday because we've already killed the 12 pack. I freaking love beer.

Here are the strength exercises I've come up with for this third microcyle. I'm moving from the stability/mobility training into movement training, and aiming to really solidify my form on some basic movements before I add weight back to my routine. Focus has shifted from endurance to general fitness, so there are less sets and slightly longer rests, but still high reps.

The five basic movements that we make are bending/lifting, pushing, pulling, single leg movements (like walking - yeah, we shift from foot to foot... walking is so much more complex than we think about!), and rotational movements. I tried to include some exercises to address all categories.

Microcycle Three Strength Routine:
- Bodyweight squats 2x15
- Single leg kick extensions 2x15
- Forward lunge 1x15
- Triceps dips 2x15
- Band lat pulldowns 2x15
- Pushups 2x15
- Band side crunches 2x15
- Plank tucks 2x15

Some notes:
- I only included one set of lunges because I freaking hate lunges. However, after finishing up the moves on Monday, I felt great and threw in another set of ten lunges because I wanted to! I flippin' wanted to!
- I tried using one chair for my tricep dips on Monday but felt some shoulder discomfort, so I did a set of tricep extensions with the band instead. This afternoon, I plan to grab a second chair and do the dips between them. Such a tough exercise but so strengthening!
- I can still only do three perfect pushups, but I finish the set with incline pushups using our kitchen table.
- Plank tucks are what I call it when I hold plank and alternate slowly moving one knee towards the opposite elbow - kind of like really slow, focused mountain climbers.

I hope anyone reading has a phenomenal May!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Scapulothoracic Stability and Glenohumeral Mobility

Microcycle Two in my personal journey to re-establish foundational stability and mobility is focused on stabilizing the scapula and thoracic spine, enhancing mobility in the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint, building better knee stability, and increasing ankle mobility. This is in line with the progressions taught in the ACE Personal Trainer manual to use with complete beginners to fitness. I'm experimenting with these workouts to see how challenging they seem, how easy they are to show up for, and to ensure that I've got my foundation strong and balanced.

One of my favorite benefits of regular physical activity is that it brings a heightened awareness about my body and the way it moves, my mental disposition towards fitness, and my strengths and weaknesses in all areas of my life. It increases mindfulness, which is a goal I'm always working towards. I've practiced mindfulness training for six years now, but it's still so easy to not think about it for a few days and then suddenly end up with a shoulder injury because I was thinking about fireflies while doing barbell overhead presses. Or suddenly snap at my husband for bringing home girl scout cookies, when I could easily just NOT EAT THEM and am actually just snapping because my hormones are so, so, so annoying right now.

Working through the first microcyle at the beginning of this month, I struggled with guilt for "not doing enough." Jesus freaking christ. I'm doing enough. I actually wrote a workout plan and am testing it out to possibly use with future clients. I woke up at 3:30am nine times during those two weeks to complete a strength workout or just to get some yoga and meditation time. Bird dogs, dead bugs, bridges, and planks are really great exercises for strengthening my core. Still, guilt. So lame. I tried to be mindful of it, give the feeling attention, but not validate the feeling. Because it's invalid. I am enough.

This week, however, I strayed from my well-designed, minimalist program to try a sandbell class after work on Tuesday. I had already done my strength workout before work and had a pretty strenUous day in the warehouse, but I'm itching to do more group fitness classes for the camaraderie. Part of it was the guilt reminding me that only six months ago I was deadlifting and squatting, so why shouldn't I be able to throw around a 6lb sandbell even though I'd already done a strength workout that day?

I am so, so, SO FREAKING SORE! I definitely overdid it. Soreness is to be expected with a new modality, but this almost has me unable to walk. My DOMS is always the worst on day 2 following the workout, and this time it has worsened into day 3. I'm foam rolling, doing some dynamic stretching, and taking it easy, but whoo-whee! I've learned that a) when my plan is to take it easy for four weeks, take it easy and b) I enjoy group exercise fitness, but I need to learn to work at my own pace and ability rather than try to keep up with the rest of the class. Alternate some reps when I need to. Stop trying to be every god damned thing in every god damned area of my life.

The soreness led me to skip my second strength workout in this microcyle, and honestly, I plan on doing it after work today, but I know myself. Myself wants to stop at the bar and get a cold beer on her way home from work today, because myself has has another pretty rough week at work. Myself will only be adding onto the Pile O' Guilt, but that's going to be okay.

Anyways, here are the exercises from my Microcycle Two. The focus is on endurance for these joints and smaller muscles, so I'm completing each high-rep set with less than thirty seconds rest between them. I'm doing this three times a week on alternating days.

2x20 - Band shoulder stacking (holding onto the ends of an anchored resistance band while stacking my shoulders back and down, really focusing on the isolation)
2x20 - Incline pushups off my kitchen table
3x15 - Band internal shoulder rotations
3x15 - Band external shoulder rotations
2x20 - Thoracic openers from quadruped position
3x15 - Chair squat
2x20 - Ankles rock back and forth
2x20 - Bird dogs
3x15 - Dead bugs
3x45seconds - Planks

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

2016 Update

I don't have any excuses available for why I haven't blogged in over a year. So I won't provide any. Jump to the update!

I earned my ACE Personal Trainer certification last month, which provided the CECs (continuing education credits) to renew my Group Fitness Instructor certification. Both are good through spring 2018! This is so exciting to me! I might not even use the certifications to earn money or provide services, but I will definitely use the information in my own fitness and health programming. I think it's a good thing to push myself to continue to learn new things, especially new things with tests that I can take to prove to myself that I'm comprehending the information. And prove to myself that I'm not worthless, stupid, or pointlessly taking up space on this planet.

Major fitness goals this year are to quit smoking (Jesus freaking Christ, smoking is against everything I have become) and to do a pull-up. I also included in my macrocycle goals that I'd like to be able to bust out ten real push-ups on the floor. I've done several weight training programs, but push-ups remain my nemesis. Currently I can do three or four before I use an incline to crank out the rest (I read in New Rules of Lifting that this is more effective in training for pushing movements than doing push-ups on my knees.).

Married life is still fantastic. We're both still balancing our demanding jobs and commutes with precious hours of time together in the evenings and on weekends. I wish we could travel more this year, but we're still blessed. We have a camping trip to Asheville, NC planned in May and will be flying to Denver to visit my sister-in-law at the end of the summer. I've never been to either city before, and both are well-known for having amazing beer, so I'm pretty stoked on our destinations for 2018. I'm just pouty because I want to plan a cruise. Which is ridiculous, because I couldn't see straight while driving for a week after my cruise last fall, and I'm always just pushing away the thoughts about how lame crew life must be and all the waste being dumped at sea. 

There are still a lot of areas in life where my actions are not matching up with my values and intentions. But that's okay, because I see the same thing in every single person I know. We're all doing the best we can in each moment.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

February Bucket List Update

I'm here today to give a quick update on some progress I've made on my yearly bucket list so far in 2015. If you'd like to read the full list or get some inspiration to make your own, go read my last post. After all, time is continuous. Just because it's January 1st doesn't mean a person needs to set some goals. Just because it's not the new year doesn't mean a person might not be itching to write out a fun list of things to see/do/accomplish. Lists are fun year-round. Here are the months in which lists are fun to write:

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

See? Lists are fun.

Here's some of what I've done so far from my list:
  • Read fifteen fiction books. I've read two. 
  • Read four nonfiction books. I've read one. It was the New Rules of Lifting for Women book and it is amazing.
  • Cook a new recipe for Jeffrey six times. Once! I made some cheeseburger quesadillas. Mmm.
  • See my sister's kids once every other month. I've seen her girls TWICE already this year! I still haven't seen my elusive nephew, but he's 18 years old so that's normal. 
  • Go to six movies in the theater, one alone. I haven't been on my solo trip yet, but Jeff and I saw the Game of Thrones IMAX experience last weekend and it was so good! Each little detail and every little noise was so much bigger!
  • Try the New Rules of Lifting program and track for one month. Success! I've tracked for just over a month, and I've been able to increase weight or progress the movement almost each time I've done the workouts from phase 1. I'm still sticking with the program, though my workouts are more often 2 per week than the 3 suggested by the authors. The objective is to gain strength and I'm meeting that objective, so it feels great!
  • Write 10 thank you notes to friends and family. I wrote one. To my sister. For bringing her kids to see me. 
  • Write in my journal once per month. I think I actually wrote in my journal like three times last month, which is a lot. I've been using the journal to reflect on the virtue study practice I'm engaged in and just to scribble. It's been a couple of weeks though, and I can hear it calling to me. Well, I can hear all the voices in my head that start to get louder and busier until I finally take care of or accept what's been bugging me.
  • Eat at Eckhard's. Finally! We've lived around the corner from this highly-rated German restaurant for several years and never tried it out, since we heard it was expensive. It is pretty expensive. But the portion sizes are HUGE, the beers offered are impressive for our rural area, and the taste of everything we ordered was phenomenal. I had a baked salmon dish that ended up being like a big salmon wellington, wrapped in pastry paper and everything. So good! This was our anniversary dinner a few weeks ago.
The next things I want to focus on from the list are pushing myself to go to more group fitness classes for the camaraderie and challenge, more thank you notes, the language and hip hop podcasts, and continuing my core value/virtue study. This week's virtue focus is gratitude and contentment, so I'm sitting around appreciating what I've got and trying to resist some of my more consumerist tendencies. 

Blessings and love to all!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Screw Resolutions. Here's My 2015 Bucket List!

I don't do resolutions, because I don't like to fail so concretely. I fail softly enough on a day-to-day basis. I do, however, make a small bucket list every year, and I really wish I could remember where I got the idea. I know it was from another blogger several years ago, but google is not helping me out. Anyways, so this idea is not mine. No credit to me for this.

36 goals for 365 days! Like I already mentioned, I think of this list as more of a bucket list than a list of goals. I like to fill it with things that get me excited about the next twelve months. Some of the things are just for fun, like this year's plan to start and finish three cross-stitch projects. Some of them are fun but also push me a little outside of my comfort zone. I've got a goal to get to the movie theater six times this year (I think I only went twice last year! It's so expensive and I fall asleep hrmph.) to include one trip by myself. I have a ridiculously illogical fear of going to the movies by myself, and I've never done it. Gonna do it! Some of the goals are really not fun at all, but they're small things that I know I'll take pride in completing and will lead to a greater overall sense of fulfillment. The biggest example of this is my spring and fall cleaning goal. Groan.

I'll post my list here, and I'll try to check in on the blog every once in a while to report my progress. I've already gotten a few of my items take care of, and am feeling energized and optimistic about the new calendar year beginning!

  1. Attend a session at Ekoji in Richmond once.
  2. Go camping three times.
  3. Go on one overnight trip by myself.
  4. Read fifteen fiction books.
  5. Read four nonfiction books.
  6. Cook a new recipe for Jeffrey six times.
  7. Teach a fitness class to someone.
  8. Obtain my personal trainer certification.
  9. See my sister's kids at least bimonthly.
  10. Hand write three love notes to Jeffrey.
  11. Go to six movies in the theater, at least one solo.
  12. Go on three day hikes.
  13. Walk the Noland Trail six times.
  14. Track steps per week and miles per month with the Fitbit.
  15. Get rid of three bags full of clothes.
  16. Follow the core virtues practice twice through.
  17. Spring clean in April, Fall clean in November.
  18. Finish three cross-stitch patterns.
  19. Complete my first quilt just for myself.
  20. Try the New Rules of Lifting program and track for one month.
  21. Write ten thank you notes to friends and family.
  22. Visit Philly family.
  23. Find and subscribe to a decent hip hop blog.
  24. Participate in four races, at least one 10K or longer.
  25. Walk down the driveway with Jeff twenty times.
  26. Write in my journal once per month.
  27. Obtain liability insurance for fitness instructors.
  28. Eat at Echard's.
  29. Visit three new breweries and three new wineries.
  30. Try a comedy routine at an open mic night.
  31. Visit the mountains in the fall with Jeffrey.
  32. Consolidate daily stuff from the tote to the planner.
  33. Download some language learning podcasts and listen.
  34. Read a Rumi poem once each month.
  35. Sew myself a pencil skirt.
  36. Try two new yoga teachers.

I hope someone out there gets any kind of inspiration from my list!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fitness This Week 12/17/2014

Hello! Much has been going on. I was a bridesmaid to my gorgeous sister-in-law at the beginning of November, and had a blast at her wedding! The following weekend, we attended Jeff's friend's wedding at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. It was such a neat experience being able to browse the exhibits with no one else there. Then, I got to see Atmosphere for the ninth or tenth time, and it was a fantastic show as usual. I always love seeing folks play at The National in Richmond.

The last week in November, Jeff and I finally got to go on our long-planned eastern Caribbean cruise! We drove to Port Canaveral and hopped aboard the Carnival Sunshine to visit Nassau, Saint Thomas, San Juan, and Grand Turk. All except for Nassau were new ports for both of us! The level of beauty once you get farther east into the Caribbean is unparalleled by anything I've seen in real life before. Just random rock islands jutting out into the sea, waves breaking and spraying against them... it was so lovely. We realized when we got home that we'd done a great job at being in the moment while on vacation. We didn't worry about work, chores, or guilty feelings about the amounts of food we were eating. We just savored each flavor as it blessed our tongues. It was heavenly! There are a ton of contradictory remarks out there in ship reviews about Carnival Sunshine - it's marketed as a new ship, when it's really just the Carnival Destiny with a huge refurbishment and overhaul. It's a pretty old ship. My overall impression is that the ship is still in great shape, the staff were pleased to be aboard the Sunshine, and that areas that get too crowded can just be avoided. There was always so much going on that if we got to a comedy show and the line looked too long, we just figured out a more quiet place we could people-watch or catch some live music. We spent a ton of time in the Red Frog Pub, because not a lot of other folks did, and because there was trivia there! Trivia that we were actually kind of good at! We almost won three times - but only truly won once. Our prize was a giant 101oz tube of Thirsty Frog beer!

Most folks struggle with fitness on vacation and right afterwards. I am no exception! I actually felt lazy, and slightly guilty last week when I realized my husband had done more workouts than I had... this is just such a drastic reversal from the past few years! I'm so proud of that man. He really works it when he's got the energy. I, however, have been full of excuses: Mom is still visiting, and she might get mad if I don't spend more time with her instead of going to the gym every day. It's December, so my body wants a few extra pounds to keep me warm this winter. I put on ten pounds every winter and then lose it again, which is totally fine and healthy (no, it's not.).


Anyways, this week I'm trying something new. I'm following my first major rule when it comes to building new habits (or building them back up, because sometimes you just go back a few steps): START SMALL! I really just want to have more active days than nonactive days, but having checklists or plans that dictated which workout I'd do on which day have sometimes been more of a problem for me than an aide. It's easy for me to get frustrated with missing a planned workout, and then frustration easily morphs into self-loathing, which sometimes triggers very self-destructive things. Usually beginning with skipping MORE workouts.

So this week I've decided I've just got a "magic number" of workouts that I'd like to hit. I want to get in eight workouts. This is still a lot by many standards! My fitness interests are so widespread, and I like to include a lot of variation each week to avoid boredom. I intend to get three strength workouts completed (working on week 1 of a Weider X DVD system I picked up super cheap on a Walmart Rollback deal), three yoga sessions, and two cardio sessions.

We'll see how this goes. So far I am doing great! I did the second of three Weider workouts this morning, got a great hour of self-guided yoga in yesterday, and have already done one of the cardio sessions. So all that remains is one more strength, two yoga sessions, and one more cardio workout which should occur after work today at the YMCA. I'm hoping that seeing the little checklist will motivate me to check the items off quickly, and then I'll have some leftover energy for bonus workouts over the weekend. But there's a huge possibility that I'll see the last little checkmark and think, "I can wait until Sunday to do that last yoga session, I'm relaxing now!" For now, I'll just try to stay in this moment on this day, and hope that I make it to my cardio date at the YMCA. The hubby and I have big plans to go out for Northern Neck Burgers tonight since they're donating part of tonight's proceeds to the local high school's wrestling team... whatever, it's an excuse! Haha :-)