Figuring Out What Works: My Nutrition Plan

I wrote on Friday about making your diet work for you instead of miserably slaving away to follow a diet just because you think you “should”. I mentioned that I have tried several different dietary styles over the past couple of years, a few for my own personal well being, and a few just so that I could provide some first hand commentary on the blog. Throughout this process, I’ve learned a lot about how my body responds to certain foods, how I feel with variances in food timing, and things that I just like and don’t like.

As I mentioned on Friday, this is not one set of hard and fast rules from one specific diet or plan. This is a mashup of foods and habits that make me feel by best, and also allow me to live my life without stressing too much about when and what I’m eating.

The basics of my personal plan are as follows*:

  • MOST of my daily intake comes from whole foods such as veggies, lean meats, cage free eggs, wild caught fish, nuts, some dairy and fruit. (And peanut butter. Because, let’s be real, I don’t go a day without the stuff). I eat a lot of salads (big, hearty salads), and dinner is usually a mix of meat/fish and veggies.
  • Keep bread products to once per day (if that much). Like I said, I don’t have negative symptoms related to gluten, but I do feel sluggish and get heartburn if I eat too much in the way of bread, grains, pasta, etc. If I have an english muffin for breakfast, lunch will be a salad and dinner will be a mix of veggies and meat. If I know I’m going out for dinner where there will be a delicious bread basket, I’ll skip the english muffin at breakfast. It’s all about balance, folks.
  • Include a significant source of protein at EVERY meal and most snacks. I have no carb-phobia, but a carb heavy meal with little protein will leave me crashing and hungry without a doubt. This is especially important for lunches — most of the time my lunch at work is a hearty salad (I’m not talking just lettuce here!) topped with a homemade turkey burger or grilled chicken. Rarely I’ll have just a piece of fruit as a snack if I’m not very hungry, but usually that will be paired with some nuts or nut butter to increase the protein and keep me full longer.
  • Intermittent Fasting on off days**. For the past few months I have been following a loose IF program on days that I don’t work out, and I’ve been loving it. It takes away the stress of following a strict timeline every single day, but also keeps me from snacking a ton on my off days. I’ll usually follow a 14-16 hour fast from the night before into the off day (say, if I eat dinner at 7 pm on Wednesday night, I won’t eat on Thursday until 11am). For the record, IF does not mean “skipping meals”. Even after a fast, I still get all my calories in for the day, just in a shorter period of time. For whatever reason, I really respond well to this, where I know some people do not. It’s all about knowing your body!
  • Carbs are not the enemy. Your body needs carbs, my body needs carbs. We all need carbs, just how much of them you need is entirely dependent on your activity levels and goals. If you go from sitting on your couch to sitting in your cubicle and back again in the course of a day, you probably want to eat fewer over all carbs. If you’re a highly active person or athlete, your body actually needs carbs to fuel all of that awesome activity. What type of carbs? I try to stick with grains such as rice (I eat both brown and white varieties), potatoes (more sweet potatoes but also white on occasion), fruit, and limited bread products. I strongly prefer sprouted grain bread such as Ezekial over other options, but if I’m out at a restaurant with some warm, freshly baked rolls, you better believe that I’m going to have some!
  • Time high-carb meals strategically. I try to eat my higher carb meals immediately pre and post workout, so that I can optimally time the influx of glycogen into my muscles. This is not a hard and fast rule that I stress over, just a general guideline that I follow. If I’m trying to lean out, I’ll follow this much more strictly.
  • Balance my indulgences. If someone brings me a delicious treat at work, I won’t also have dessert that night after dinner. I do occasionally go out to a delicious meal where I’ll enjoy both a drink and dessert (horrors!) but that is the exception, not the rule. Generally, an indulgence such as dessert or drinks is enjoyed on it’s own, without the others, and most importantly without any guilt.

The thing is, these are all things that I’ve found work wonderfully for me, and most are also things that I would recommend to people who are trying to clean up their diet. I would never tell people to avoid certain macronutrients or foods “just because”, as long as they are real, nutritious foods and not chemically processed crap. If you don’t have a negative reaction to gluten, there is no reason to eliminate it completely from your diet. Likewise, if you know that almonds give you a stomach ache, there is no reason to eat them just because someone told you that they are a health food! It can take a lot of work to figure out what works and what does not for your body, but in the end, the hard work is well worth it. Whether you respond well to IF or to another style of eating, it’s important to do what’s best for you and not what’s best for the people around you.

*Like I said before, these are general guidelines that I follow, they are not hard and fast rules. I do not beat myself up if I enjoy carb heavy meals for both lunch and dinner — I just take it in stride and try to balance out a little more the next day. I do not obsess over the restaurant bread basket, but I will generally make a decision on which indulgence is more worth it to me (bread or dessert? wine or bread?) But let’s face it — sometimes I just end up getting all of the above, and that’s okay too as long as it’s not an every day occurrence.

**I just want to clear up any misgivings that people have about Intermittent Fasting. This does not equate to “skipping meals”, but rather timing food within a smaller window throughout the day. If I fast until 11 am, I’ll eat breakfast at that time, lunch around 2:00 or 3:00, and dinner generally around 7:00. I still consume enough calories throughout the day, I really just eliminate the mindless snacking since my meals are a little bit closer together. I really enjoy doing this a few days per week; I find it helps keep me in better control of my hunger and my ability to control my hunger rage.

Readers: What are some general rules that you try to follow with your diet? Have you ever tried Intermittent Fasting or variations on your food timing? Does any of this sound totally crazy to you? 

Make Your Diet Work For You

There are so many diet and food plans out there, from juicing (don’t even get me started on this trend), to paleo, to the more extreme Whole 30, to Weight Watchers and everything in between, there is something for everyone to try. The hope is that you will find something that works for you, but what the experts don’t always tell you is that sometimes that takes a little — ok a lot — of hard work on your part. I would never recommend that everyone eat paleo, or that everyone follow in intermittent fasting type of diet, because I honestly don’t think that there is one style or plan that will work for every single person. Never mind food preferences, taking into account religion, culture, schedule, family, time and financial restrictions, it’s pretty ludicrous to group everyone into one diet category.

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One thing we can do though, through some sleuthing and (sometimes frustrating) trial and error, is figure out what works for you and your body. And when I say what “works” for you, I don’t just mean what makes you lose weight or lose body fat, what I mean is the diet and meal plan that fits within your lifestyle, making your every day better instead of creating more stress in the process.

If you feel like you have to eat paleo because all of your best friends are doing it and because so-and-so blogger claims that it’s the best, but it’s causing you more stress and financial strain to keep up with, is it really the best plan for you?

Don’t you think it would be more beneficial to find something that fits within your unique lifestyle, while still allowing you to be the healthiest version of you? I sure do. And that’s why I strongly believe that you must make your diet work for you. You should not feel like you are a slave to a certain dietary style, depriving yourself at every turn and feeling miserable all the while. Want to be mostly paleo but still eat bread or dairy once in a while? That’s totally fine in my world, as long as you’re doing so in a healthful way. The problem is that when people do something part-way like this, they tend to feel guilty, like they’re doing something wrong. There’s nothing wrong about making healthy choices for yourself, and more importantly, you should never feel guilty even if those choices don’t fit your prescribed “plan”. Because the plan has to fit you.

From a personal standpoint, I’ve tried a handful of dietary styles over the past couple of years, a couple purely out of curiosity or health reasons and a few really just to report back on the blog. I’ve tried gluten free, intermittent fasting, carb backloading, and a modified Whole 30. I’ve gone sugar free, grain free and dairy free at multiple points along the way. My biggest take away from all of these? There was not one complete plan that fit my life 100%.

When I tried Intermittent Fasting (IF), I found that I leaned out quite easily, but became stressed about such a strict eating schedule every single day, often having to bring all three meals to work with me. I liked it, but it was kind of a pain due to my work schedule. Carb Back Loading (CBL) was a total fail for me, leaving me one carb-free meal away from becoming homicidal. Gluten free is easy for me, but I’ve realized over time that gluten really has no ill effect on me, so there’s honestly no point in avoiding it all together. I’ve realized that I feel great when I’m sugar free, but it’s really tough (and no fun!)  to live a life of 100% sugar free-ness all the time, and I’ve also found that I feel better when I do include some grains in my diet, believe it or not! As you can see, there have been good and bad (with the exception of CBL, which for me was just bad, bad, bad) with each dietary style that I’ve tried, so what in the world tells me that I have to stick with just one?

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I think the more important thing is finding something that you can live with, that you want to live with, rather than eating in a way that you think you are “supposed to” but that makes you unhappy. To be honest, ever since I started paying attention to healthy eating and nutrition years ago, a lot of the things I used to find delicious just don’t appeal to me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still love treats and certainly eat my fair share of cupcakes, but I’m no longer drawn to the loads of processed junk that I used to eat on a regular basis. Maybe that’s a product of becoming older with a better paycheck, but I think it’s also a product of teaching my body over time how much better it feels when the foods going into it are actually nourishing, and not just chemical-laden flavor bombs that are found in every aisle of major grocery stores.

But eating to nourish yourself and to keep yourself healthy does not mean that there is one set of rules that you must follow. We all have unique tolerances to certain foods, we all have unique preferences. So why take that away with one standard set of food “rules” that we’re all supposed to abide by? Just because your friends are paleo doesn’t mean that you have to be paleo as well. Just because your friends are gluten free, doesn’t mean that eating gluten is making you fat. There’s a lot of confusion out there about what we all should and shouldn’t be eating, and besides some very basic guidelines (eat your veggies!), there is a lot of room for variation while still being healthy. It just might take a little bit of work to find your specific balance between nutritionally healthy and happy, but it’s worth it, I promise.

On Monday I’ll be back with a breakdown of my own dietary plan that I’ve come up with over time and how I got there. This is the plan that works for me and makes me feel my best, without making me feel like I’m living by a set of someone else’s guidelines that don’t even work for me.

Readers: Do you follow a specific diet plan? Have you ever strictly followed a plan such as Whole 30 or Weight Watchers? Do you find it easier to have strict rules regarding your eating or does that stress you out? 

What Am I?

I like to put myself into neat little categories. In fact, I like to put everything into categories. Ever since I was little, I’ve been putting things into lists (no joke, one of my favorite pass times when I was little was writing lists… ask my mom), into compartments, separating things.

I’m an athletic trainer. I’m a Mainer. I’m a Northeastern Husky (Husky pride!) I’m an Emerson Lion (Rawr). I’m an athlete. I’m a blonde. I’m a 30-something. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter.

I get frustrated when I can’t put myself into a category, like realizing that I fall somewhere in the middle of being introverted and extroverted. Why don’t I fit neatly into one or the other?

I’m a weight lifter.

I’m a runner. (*cough, cough*)

But I can’t really be both, can I?

I’ve been lifting weights seriously for about 4-5 years now, and I love it. I love everything about it, from the anticipation of a big lift to the feeling after completing a dead lift PR. I love the weight room, the strength progress, and the powerful feeling that comes from lifting almost twice my body weight from the ground. I love the feeling of the barbell in my hands, the weight of a heavy set of dumbbells. This summer, as I was running and training for Falmouth, I missed the weight room dearly. I was able to do some strength workouts with the equipment that we have at home (Kettlebells, pull up bar, rings, sand bag), but it just wasn’t the same as hitting the weight room.

And then this month I finally got back in there. I eased in with some upper body and full body lift days, nothing too heavy as I was getting closer to my race and needed everything in me to finish seven miles. Last weekend I finally put the bar across my back for some extremely light barbell squats, and I could hardly walk the next day. The pain was both exciting and humbling, as I was finally lifting again, but my work sets were done with a weight that is less than 50% of my max. (Yikes).

And then what did I do the next day? I went for a run. I am no longer training for a race; I no longer have to run during my free time on the weekends. Yet this past Sunday, I woke up and headed out for a 4 mile run, because it just felt natural and felt like what I should be doing. What I had been doing all summer. I’ve realized that I kind of like running, to a certain extent. I like getting out there on a beautiful day to run 3-4 miles. I find it calming and energizing at the same time, which is pretty awesome. I’ve developed a new appreciation for it — maybe that will last, and maybe it won’t, but for now I’m enjoying runs every now and again.

And then this week at stadiums, I crushed my PR for a full-stadium run by almost 3 minutes. That was all due to the run training I’ve been doing all summer. I feel lighter, I feel faster, and I feel good. But I don’t necessarily feel strong right now, and I miss that.

This has all left me with a bit of a fitness-identity crisis. I’m not quite sure where I fit in, or where I want to fit in. I know very well that distance running takes away from muscle and strength gains, an I don’t want that.  But I also know that going back to just weight room workouts (which I pretty much need to do if I want to train for a powerlifting meet) may leave me feeling slow and labored at stadium runs, and I don’t want that either. So there’s got to be somewhere in the middle, but I’ve spent so long on the strength training end of the spectrum, it’s difficult for me to creep back toward the middle.

I’m never going to be a distance runner, training for marathons and casually going out for 10 mile runs, but as a weight lifter/future power lifter, is it ok if I occasionally want to go out and run 3 or 4 miles? I know that it’s okay, that there are no rules governing what I do for my workout, but this is a different mind set than I’ve had for the past few years. For me, running has been hill sprints and stadiums, that’s it. And I do love both of those, but I’ve had some fun adding in traditional running as well.

And as I said before — this feeling may not even last, not when the roads turn icy and my safest option is the treadmill. At that point, 4 miles probably won’t seem quite so appealing.  So while I’m not really sure what exactly I want to do at this point, I know that what I don’t want to do is pigeon-hole myself into one category just for the sake of it. I am a weight lifter. I also enjoy running sometimes. And until one severely takes away from the other, I think I’m ok with being somewhere in the middle.

I’m a fitness enthusiast. I’m a strong woman. I’m competitor.

One of these days, I may compete as a power lifter. And at that time, I might have to stop running to compete at my highest level. Then again, maybe next summer I’ll train for Falmouth again, and lean more toward the running end of the spectrum. I’m okay with leaving things up in the air, because in the end I think the most important part of fitness is doing what makes you happy. Doing whatever feeds my hunger for competition and success is what I will stick with. For now, that’s a combination of strength training and running. And that’s ok.

 

 

 

 

Race Recap: Falmouth Road Race

So… I did it! I ran a gorgeous seven mile race.. and actually enjoyed it! Last Sunday was the New Balance Falmouth Road Race, as I’ve mentioned on here a few times lately. Will and I were able to spend a beautiful weekend down on Cape Cod before the race, a perfect end-of-summer get away before the craziness of the fall season starts.

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The beginning of the weekend was spent resting my legs, enjoying the beach (you can’t go to The Cape and not hit up the beach!), checking out the race expo, eating lots of great food, and even enjoying a surprise late-night swag bag delivery to my room!

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Thanks for the swag NB! Race day outfit — Absolutely in love with these running shorts, despite being nervous at first to run in them! After buying them (I bought them in 2 colors), they quickly became a regular in my running outfit rotation. 

Race day began with an early start.  With 12,000 runners, I knew I would have to get to the drop-off area for shuttle buses to the start nice and early. I was up at 5:30 am for coffee, some breakfast, and a little walk along the beach to get my mind ready. My biggest problem here was timing– eating my breakfast at 6 am with the race at 9 left a much bigger gap between eating and running than I’m used to. I made a rookie mistake with this one, not bringing a snack with me to the shuttle bus to have about an hour before start time. Because of this, I was hungry before the race even started. Womp womp. If I do this again next year, I’ll know that even if I feel full after breakfast, I should bring a small snack with me to the start line, as sitting around hungry for an hour before race time does not bode well for a good race time!

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The gorgeous area around the starting line 

Anyway, the starting area of the race was absolutely beautiful, which was a perfect preview of the rest of the course. The first three miles of the race were pretty shaded, along narrow streets with repeating rolling hills, plus a gorgeous stretch up to a classic New England lighthouse. The final four miles opened up along the coast and made for some breathtaking views — there were a few times I just wanted to stop and take a picture! Starting out, I felt pretty good despite being hungry. It was hot that day, about 80 degrees and mildly humid. The shade throughout the first few miles helped though, and I actually felt excellent throughout the hilly section. My splits were a little bit slower than I wanted at that point, but I figured that I would speed up a little bit once I got to the flatter section of the race.

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One of the first wonderful views, heading up to the light house — and the only time I took my phone out to snap a pic. 

Boy was I wrong. Once the course opened out onto the flats along the coast, the shade was 100% gone, which left the sun beating down directly onto the runners. It definitely could have been worse, but the sun was not my friend that day. Throughout almost the entire race, my legs felt good and strong, I just could not physically make myself move any faster. I saw Will and my good friend Amanda at about Mile 5.5 which did give me a bit of a boost, but I nearly hit a wall about 5 minutes after seeing them. Around the 10k mark, the heat really started to get to me, but I was able to finish strong, and my legs even felt pretty good with the final big hill that sits right before the finish line.

I ended up with a time that was not what I was hoping for. At 1:10:44, I was a little disappointed seeing as my best training run time for seven miles was 1:05. Despite the slower time, throughout the race I was confident that I had trained well — my legs felt great on those hills! I really think it was the sun, heat, and my food mistake that did me in. I’m still proud of my time, since I’m a very inexperienced runner, but I know that if I do this race again next year, I can do better!

Overall, the race was awesome. The course was beautiful, and the fans along the course were full of energy which definitely helped me through some rough points. There were people playing live music, some great signs, and just a ton of positive energy to help the runners through. If I get the opportunity to do this race again next year (and I hope I do!), I will definitely jump at the chance. And not only was the race itself awesome, but the entire weekend was great as well. The town of Falmouth had an adorable little downtown area where Will and I enjoyed some wonderful meals, and New Balance had some great events set up throughout the weekend to keep runners pumped up for race time. The best thing about the Falmouth Road Race is that it’s not just a race, it’s a whole community event with a lot of history and pride surrounding it, and it’s something that I’m proud to say that I’ve been a part of!

And now it’s time for a photo dump. :)

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5:30 Sunrise on race day! 

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Pre-race beach selfies of course 

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Will took these pictures along the course (I’m not in here). Look at that view! 

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Done.. and happy to be done! 

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Mile 5.5… A happy High Five, a creepy blown kiss to Will, and some smiles! 

Disclaimer: New Balance provided me with my bib number and provided lodging for the weekend, as well as the goodie bag mentioned above. I was not otherwise compensated by New Balance for this event or for my training. The decision to train and race was my own, as are all opinions about this event. 

Random Thoughts: Race Edition

Well here we are, finally at the weekend of the New Balance Falmouth Road Race! I never thought I would say that I’m excited to run a seven mile race, but I really am. After dedicating myself to training for the past 8 weeks, I’m excited to see how much my hard work will pay off. Do I expect it to be easy? No, I know it’s hilly and probably has little shade, but I feel ready and that’s all I can ask for, right? It’s supposed to be a beautiful day, if not a little on the warm side, so I’ll do my best to stay hydrated and keep from over heating. My goal is not to run super fast — because that would just be ridiculous — my goal is to run and enjoy it, plain and simple.  With my excitement for race day though, I do have a lot of random thoughts running through my head (some totally unrelated to the race itself). Read on for a glimpse into my brain:

One day doesn’t matter.

Remember a couple weeks ago when I said I had a struggle of a 6 mile run when I was getting sick? Well the weekend following that, I ran a heavenly seven miles, and it was the closest thing to a runners high I’ve ever accomplished. The run felt like a breeze, my legs were light and springy, and I felt like I could have gone on for days. Talk about a confidence booster for race day! Then the next week, following a 500 mile drive the day before, I once again ran seven miles. This time it was hot. This time it was tough. This time I finished, but five minutes slower.

But you know what? It was that day that I realized that one day really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. One day’s run could be thrown off by sleeping too little the night before, not eating well the day before, mental stress, dehydration, over heating — the point is, there are so many factors that can affect one day of training. It’s so easy to beat yourself up about one bad day, but the truth is that it’s just one day. And when it comes down to it, the outcome of my race isn’t going to rest on that one bad training day, it’s going to depend on the 8 weeks of training that I’ve put in. So despite my tough run last week, my confidence is high going into this weekend, and I only hope I get that springy feeling back on Sunday morning!

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I’m so excited for this gorgeous finish! [Source]

I need some crickets.

Yep, you read that right. I recently heard a story on NPR about companies that are making products (cookies, protein bars, etc.) out of cricket flour. As in ground up crickets. At first it sounds really gross, but I really think as long as I’m not seeing them in “cricket” form, I would be totally okay with eating these products. There were a couple of companies mentioned (Exo is the only one I can remember off hand)who make these products, and I really want to get my hands on some. Cricket flour is apparently a very high quality protein source, and it just seems like something that you, readers of my blog might be curious  about, no? I’m more than willing to be a guinea pig and eat some cricket flour cookies if it means introducing you all to some new, healthy (and crazy) foods!

I’m running with Meb!

Ok, so I’m not really running with Meb, because he runs approximately 10x faster than I do, but it’s pretty cool to be running a race with some of the world’s most elite runners, even if I’ll never see them. :) Especially after Meb Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon this year, the fact that he’s here to run the Falmouth Road Race is pretty awesome. Despite not being a marathon, this race attracts some of the best runners from all around the world, and I’m excited to be a part of it! I may not be  as fast as Meb, but maybe running in his (super fast) footsteps will give me a little bit of race magic.

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Here’s Meb about a mile away from winning the 2014 Boston Marathon! 

I guess I should stop saying I’m not a “real” runner.

Because if I’m not real, and this race isn’t real, than all of this training has been for nothing, right? Running may not be my passion, but I really have gained an appreciation for it through my training this summer. And I guess that running 3-4 times per week for the past 8 weeks means that this summer, I have actually kind of become a runner. I am anxious to get back in the weight room, but I have really enjoyed training and proving to myself that I can do something that I never thought I’d be able to do. I may not run marathons or even half marathons, but after all of the miles I’ve logged this summer, and the fact that I’m heading into a seven mile race means that I think I can actually start calling myself a runner. Temporarily at least. ;)

Readers: Are any of you heading to Falmouth this weekend? Have you ever/would you ever try a food made out of cricket flour? 

 

It’s A Love Hate Thing

If you’ve been reading here for any amount of time, you’ll know that I am pretty in love with most aspects of my fitness routine. I’m not one of those people who hates the gym but goes anyway because I know I “should” — I truly, honestly love working out. Most of the time.

As with anything, there are ups and downs, and things that I don’t love quite so much. There are also things about lifting/training that I down right hate, if I’m going to be totally honest. Today I thought I’d do a kind of fun post about those things about training that I love, hate, and love-to-hate. I’m not going to take complete credit for this, by the way, as I remember reading a blog post similar to this a year or two ago. But unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember who did it, and I can’t find it.. so if it was you, give me a shout in the comments so you can get proper credit!

Love: 

  • Deadlifting. If this one wasn’t obvious, I don’t know what is. If I had to choose only one lift to do for the rest of my life, this would be it. It’s essentially a full body lift, working almost everything from your head down to your toes, and I think it’s the only lift that I actually love maxing out. Personally, sumo style works a little bit better for my build and hip structure, so that’s my favorite, but traditional and trap-bar deads are pretty high up on my list as well
  • Battle Ropes: There’s no better way to end an upper body day than with a battle-ropes-finisher. I absolutely love using them, even though they kick my ass every time. There’s just something that feels bad ass about swinging around some huge ropes, although I can’t quite figure out why.
  • Kettlebell Swings: I love KB swings because they are one of my favorite tools to combine a strength and cardio workout into one. 100 heavy KB swings in 5 minutes? You bet my ass will be on the floor, and I’ll be panting like a dog as well. As long as you’re doing them correctly and really firing those glutes to create the explosive swing movement, these are an excellent move for your entire posterior chain, which means that they are an excellent accessory move for my number one love, the deadlift. Anything that can help my DL is a-ok in my book!
  • Hill Sprints: Yes, it’s true, I really do love hill sprints. The steeper the hill, the better. I think I just really love that I can get so much work done in so little time — efficiency is a priority when the schedule gets too busy. Not to mention, hill sprints are a pretty amazing workout for your back-side too.

Hmmm… I think I see a booty theme in this “love” section.

Hate: 

  • Bench: Yup. I said it. I hate bench press. I hate it. I do it, and I do it pretty well, but it’s not a lift I enjoy. Maybe if I get a good coach and train for a powerlifting meet, I can develop some fonder feelings for this lift, but for now, it’s not ever something I look forward to. And my numbers on bench aren’t that bad, I really am not sure why I hate it so much. It might have something to do with the fact that I see progress much slower with bench than I do with squats or deadlifts, and that can certainly get frustrating. Whatever it is, bench day is probably my least favorite day in the weight room. I’m so not a bro.
  • Step Ups: I hate weighted step ups so much that I probably haven’t done them in a couple years, except for when I am forced to in a boot camp class. These are something that I have always hated — no matter how hard or easy I make the weight, I just can’t get over the tediousness of them. One set always feels like a hundred sets to me, which is why they never end up in my own programs.
  • Bulgarian Split Squats: I hate these almost as much as step ups, but unlike step-ups, I do include them in my own programming because they are such a valuable lift. So I guess I should amend this to say, I don’t hate them in their entirety, I just really hate doing them myself. Throw a barbell on my back, and it’s even worse torture, but I do try to include these in my lifts once per week because of the benefits of single leg lifts.

Love To Hate: 

  • Stadiums: Stadium runs are a special kind of beast. While I’m doing them, I hate life and everything about it. But the second I’m done, the feeling of accomplishment takes over all of that torture and pain and turns it into pride. Running stadiums is pure torture, plain and simple, but it honestly is one of my favorite workouts. I think one reason I love them so much is that they never get easy — sure, I may get faster, but never have I ever had a stadium run where I left and said “Boy, that was an easy day!”. This is quite possibly the reason that I hate them as well.
  • Burpees: I have a really strange relationship with burpees. When I’m doing them, I want to be doing anything (and I mean anything) else, but at the same time, it’s kind of fun in a sick kind of way. It’s kind of similar to my love of stadiums — for some reason burpees never get easy, no matter how fit I am, and for that, I respect them.
  • Barbell Hip Thrusts: Barbell hip thrusts actually make me angry sometimes. I’ll sit and think about how miserable they are in between sets. But they build the gluteus like nothing else, and in my opinion, strong glutes are a girls best friend. They are tough, no doubt, but it also feels pretty darn good to be able to lift some serious weight with these hips. Torture with great results? Sign me up.

Readers: What parts of your workouts or training sessions do you love? hate? love-to-hate? Does anyone else have some sort of sick love for burpees like I do? 

 

 

Being Humbled Again: New Balance Girls Night Out #2

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending another New Balance Girls’ Night Out event. If you’ll remember, I attended the first one back in May, and there was a second event in June which I was supposed to go to, but I ended up having to cancel due to personal reasons. So this month, I was excited to be able to make it back for the July NBGNO event. (To read more about what GNO is all about, check out my last post about the May event here.)

The theme of this one was “Self Expression”, basically doing whatever it is that YOU love for fitness — not being tied down by what you think you “should” be doing. There were three workouts offered before the social aspect of the night: a Flywheel Spin class, a signature group class from Equinox (this was a rooftop bootcamp..how swanky!), or a fun-run. Since I have gone to a spin class exactly once in my life, I thought it would be fun to try out the Flywheel class. The fact that it was held on the sidewalk outside of the New Balance Store in Copley Square (one of the busiest parts of the city) was both awesome and terrifying. Being watched by perfect strangers as they walk by on their way home from work? Okay, cool. :)

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Here we are, right on Boylston Street during the evening commute rush hour! 

My friend Meg came with me again, and we both decided to do the Flywheel workout along with Athena (of Fitness and Feta — if you don’t read her blog, do it!). Setting up for the class was actually pretty funny — like I said, I am not a regular at spin, and thus had no idea how to set up my bike or where everything was supposed to be. At one point there was one instructor working on my pedals while another was working on my seat.. so… yea, who’s the new kid? Awkward. Anyway, once we got going, I realized that all of the strangers walking by were not only going to see us work out, but they were about to see me get my ass kicked. Big time.

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All smiles with Meg, pre ass-whooping! 

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Getting ready to warm up with Athena! 

I’m not sure if it was the time of day (I’m a morning exerciser and tend to have a harder time with evening workouts), if I was dehydrated, or if I hadn’t eaten enough that day, but it was pretty clear to me immediately that this wasn’t going to be easy.  Did I make it through the class? Yes, just barely, honestly. Every time the instructor told us to bring the bikes to a certain torque level or a certain speed, I felt like I couldn’t physically make myself do either. My legs felt like they were made of cement, and I’m sure I didn’t look too great to anyone walking by! I even found myself getting dizzy and nauseous during the end of the workout and thought for a minute that I might have to get off my bike. Embarrassing, no? The thing is though, I kept smiling through (almost) all of the workout. As much physical torment as I was in, the Flywheel instructor we had, Christina, was absolutely amazing. She had incredible energy and found a way to make even the most torturous 35 minutes seem fun. I would definitely head to the Flywheel studio for more classes just to have her as an instructor — there are certain people that just have motivation and passion in their blood, and she has it.

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See? What did I say..Smiling through my pain :) [Photo Credit: New Balance Back Bay]

After we got off the bikes, we went back inside the store to meet up with the bootcamp group and the run group. As before, the store had basically turned into a party with snacks, drinks, swag bags, a DJ and some great speakers. It was a blast! Again, it was so great to catch up with some Boston blogging friends, as we are all so busy and usually these types of events are the only times we see each other!

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Catching up with Athena after our serious sweat sesh! 

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Some of the awesomeness in our swag bags.. They were screen printing these towels with whichever slogan you chose! 

 

New Balance has really got a good thing going on with these Girls Night Out events, and I strongly encourage you to check out the website and figure out if there are any of these in your area! Building social connections around fitness events is such a wonderful way to bring women together, and when you follow it up with delicious snacks and cocktails, how can you beat it? The summer Girls Night Out events are over, but I’ve heard word on the street that they’ll kick back up in the fall. I’ll keep you all up to date when there are any more Boston GNO events coming up in the future, but in the meantime, you can always use the Girls Night Out website to set up your own fun runs and group fitness events where you are, no matter where you live.

And I am proud to announce that despite my dismal showing at spin that night, I did show up to my November Project workout the next morning and complete 27 sections of Harvard Stadium with a 15 lb kettle bell in my pack. I like to think I redeemed myself with that one. :)

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November Project Pack Day. Excuse my bum. 

So with that, happy Monday everyone! How do you combine fitness with your social life? Or do you keep the two totally separate? Have you ever tried a Flywheel spin class?