Holiday Gift Guide 2014

How is it that we’re less than two weeks away from Christmas? I don’t know about all of you, but I feel like I haven’t even had a second to think about the holidays this year, and all of a sudden we are smack dab in the middle of the holiday season! Maybe it’s a product of getting older, but I guess it’s just the stereotypical “where is the time going?” feeling. Anyway, I have recently gotten a bulk of my gift shopping done, although I still have a few last minute gifts to seek out, and I’m not sure exactly when I’m going to have time to do this. If you’re in the same boat as me, and still have to figure out a few gifts for people, I wanted to throw out a bunch of gift ideas that could be great for any fitness/health minded person on your list. I’ve even thrown a few gift ideas in here that aren’t fitness related, just in case you don’t feel comfortable giving someone a gift that might suggest that they need to be more healthy. :)

Fitness Gear:

New Balance NB Glow 1400 -$100.  I saw these shoes on my last trip to the New Balance store, and I fell in love with them! These would make a great gift for anyone on your list who takes their workouts outside–  their glow-in-the-dark features helping to keep runners safe at night. These are available for both men and women, so they are perfect for any fitness fanatic on your list!

NB Glow 1400

NB Glow Beacon Jacket – $174.99. Yes, this is a little bit on the pricey side, but for any nighttime or early morning runners on your list, this jacket can help to keep them safe. I love the whole NB Glow line, but this is probably my favorite piece. Will has the men’s version, and if he were closer to my size I might just steal it. :)

product photo shoot    Camera Angles include: 3.Left 3Q,2.Back

NB Shadow Run Jacket – $115. Do you know someone who is training for a marathon (or any race) and is determined to get their training runs in rain or shine? This water resistant jacket can help them do that while still looking pretty cute. The main problem I have had with workout gear during wet weather is how jackets can cling to you and become unbreathable. According to NB, this jacket is made with technology that prevents that uncomfortable clinging. Win!

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Athleta Triangular Be Free Tight – $74.  I am loving printed crops and tights for workouts lately, and Athleta has some awesome prints (combine this with their great quality, and how can you lose?) I know for some people, the price seems a little steep for workout gear. But the quality matches the price for these, and they will last through many, many workouts without showing all of your underthings to the rest of the gym.

Triangular Be Free Tight - Deep Garnet Red

Athleta Upside Vest – $118. I love vests, and although this is a little pricey, it’s a sleek fit that can be worn for workouts or as a stylish part of your outfit. If I had this, I know it would get a LOT of use. With the unpredictable weather we have in Boston, it’s nice to have some un-bulky layers to throw on when necessary.

Upside Vest - Silver Shimmer

Fitbit Charge – $129.95. I’ve been looking at fitness trackers a good amount, and reading plenty of reviews. The one that catches my attention the most is the Fitbit Charge. Still in an affordable range for many people, this will track your steps, stairs climbed, and sleep. For someone who is just looking to get in touch with how much they are moving and motivate themselves to move more, I think this is a perfect fit. For a little bit more bang for your buck, you could go with the Fitbit ChargeHR ($149.95), which also tracks heart rate along with a few other additional features. This is probably the one I would want, just to get a little bit more out of the device. It’s not available quite yet, but will be available in early 2015. Package up a cute “IOU” in the form of a picture of this bad boy, and the recipient won’t even be mad that their gift will be late!

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Non-Fitness Related 

Athleta Feel Good Fur Flap Hat – $46. I mean, come on, how cute is this hat? Enough said. I think this could get me through the Boston winter with some toasty ears!

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All The Light We Cannot See – I recently finished this book by Anthony Doerr, and can not rave about it enough. I fell in love with the story on page one, and probably had tears in my eyes by page 5. I am partial to novels that take place in the WWII era, but this one had my heart more than any other. Any readers on your list will love this book, it’s impossible to deny the brilliance in Doerr’s writing and the emotions he conveys so clearly.

Unbroken – Can you tell I love WWII era stories? If there is anyone on your list who hasn’t read this Laura Hillenbrand book yet, please buy it for them. It’s an incredibly moving true story, one that everyone should read and appreciate. I finished this book a year or two ago, and still think of it often. The images it leaves you with are powerful and sometimes disturbing, but the inspirational story of Louis Zamperini is one to be remembered. That, and the movie is coming out on Christmas Day — and I’m a big fan of reading the book before I see a movie!

Rosebud Salve – $6. If you’re looking for stocking stuffers, look no further. This is the best lip balm out there, and you can also use it on patches of dry, chapped skin on your hands, etc. I swear by this stuff, and get irrationally upset if I misplace it. I should really have one of these in every coat pocket and purse I own, so that I always have it available!

Rosebud-salve

Readers: What’s on your holiday wish list? Do you normally buy fitness related gifts for people? 

 

Good Reads – Physique, Coaching, and Pain

Well hello there and Happy Friday! I apologize for my brief disappearance — Will and I have been on the beach in Mexico for the past week for our (amazingly perfect) honeymoon. I’ll talk more about that next week, but I just wanted to get a post up since it’s been a little while! I actually put this together before we left, and in the last minute scrambling before we left, forgot to post. And once we were in Mexico, this little blog was the last thing on my mind, so here we are a week later! Since this was written over a week ago, some of these are a little older, but if there are things on this list you haven’t read yet, please check them out! I’m off to readjust to the cold and daydream about my toes in the Caribbean– have a wonderful weekend everyone!

The Cost of Getting Lean – From the folks at Precision Nutrition. I love this info graphic so much. If I could, I would print it out into posters and plaster it all over the place! Many people think that if they just work out and tweak their diet, they should become as lean as a fitness model. It doesn’t quite work like that, and getting extremely lean actually takes a TON of work and commitment, and often sacrifice. Is it worth it?

Nobody Wants To Be The Girl On A Diet – NY Mag. My friend Meg shared this on her blog, and I loved it. The title of the piece is absolutely true, and this is a very good representation of the paradox between expectations of female appearances and the actual effort it requires to reach those expectations.

Pain In Runners: Why Do I Hurt? – Derek Griffin. I’ve been extremely interested in pain lately, since in my line of work, I deal with people in pain every day. What blows my mind though, is when someone can have a serious injury and feel no pain, and then months later feel pain with every little movement. Yes, I’ve seen this happen, and it blows my mind every time.

Understanding Pain is the Key To Being Pain Free – Breaking Muscle. Again, the pain thing. It’s a huge point of interest for me right now, if you couldn’t tell by the back to back pain articles! I think what people are starting to realize is that your neurological system plays such a huge part in pain, and that there is still so little we understand about the process.

Cressey Sports Performance Internship Diary Part 3 - Tony Bonvechio. Read parts one and two here. Tony is in the middle (or nearing the end?) of his internship at Cressey Sports Performance here in MA. Tony and I have connected over social media, and finally got to meet at the CSP Fall Seminar back in September. I’ve loved reading about his internship at the facility, and these posts are full of some brilliant insight into the world of coaching and personal training.

Why I’ll Never Be Embarrassed About Being A Woman With Muscles – Jen Sinkler. Normally I wouldn’t post something from Women’s Health Magazine, but this is Jen Sinkler! I was so excited when I found out that she would be writing a regular column for them — women’s magazines need more people like Jen, and less people telling us to eat no more than1200 calories per day.  If you are a woman who is proud of her muscles, or even if you are a woman who is admittedly a little scared of having muscles, read this!

Recipe: Almond Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Today I’m sharing with you a recipe I came up with for my new obsession: baked oatmeal.

I have heard a lot about it, but had never had it before until this weekend. The day after Thanksgiving, Will and I headed out to a local place for brunch. After all that I had eaten the day before, I honestly wasn’t too hungry and really wasn’t in the mood for my typical brunch choice of juevos rancheros or something similarly heavy. The small cafe that we went to, CafeMantic in Willimantic, CT, was having a special “Black Friday Brunch”, with lots of delicious options to choose from. As soon as I looked at the menu, the baked oatmeal option caught my eye, and then I couldn’t get my mind off of it. It seemed like the perfect warm breakfast on a cold morning, without being too much after the previous day’s feast.

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The baked oatmeal from CafeMantic. My inspiration!

And boy was I right! It was absolutely delicious with flavors of cinnamon and brown sugar, and walnuts to add a little heartiness. Whenever I had heard of baked oatmeal in the past, I always just assumed that people ate it by itself, but this was served in warm steamed milk, which was absolutely delicious. I knew I must make this, and did as soon as we got back to Boston later in the weekend.

I searched the internet and read through several different recipes to start thinking about ratios of ingredients. Through my internet search, I saw that traditional baked oatmeal is made with a mix of milk and butter, but I knew that I wanted to use almond milk for mine, since we don’t often have cow’s milk in the house. I also wanted to make mine a bit less sweet than the restaurant version; it was a wonderful treat at the time, but I didn’t want to have something as sweet as theirs every day. I traditionally make my own oatmeal with just banana cooked in, no extra sugar, so I wanted this to be a similar level of sweetness.

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Ingredients

2 C Organic Old Fashioned Oats

1/3 C brown sugar

1/4 C almond slivers

1/4 C walnut pieces

1/4 C raisins

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon (+ extra for serving)

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

2 C Almond Milk (unsweetened)

1 large egg

2 Tbs unsalted butter (melted)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 large apple, chopped into small cubes (I used Gala, Honeycrisp would also be great here)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8×8 baking dish OR a deep dish pie plate.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix together almond milk, vanilla, and egg. Add in melted butter at the end, mixing constantly until fully incorporated.

Pour wet mixture over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add in chopped nuts and dried fruit and mix until incorporated. Fold in apple pieces, and spread mixture into baking dish. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until top is golden brown and the oats feel “set”. The final consistency of the middle will be similar to a bread pudding. Keep watch after 35 minutes to make sure that the top doesn’t get too crispy (unless that’s what you’re going for)!

Cool on a wire rack to desirable temperature.

Serve warm in a bowl with warm almond milk, sprinkled with a little bit of additional cinnamon on top.

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Notes

This is also delicious straight out of the refrigerator, so it’s perfect for a quick breakfast during the week that can be made ahead of time. A serving heats up in about 30 seconds in the microwave, and one batch will make about 6-8 servings — perfect for Sunday meal prep for all of you folks who are too busy to make breakfast each morning.

As I’ve mentioned before, we make our own almond milk, which I prefer over most store-bought varieties. For instructions on this, please read here. Also note that making your own almond milk is extremely easy, and I definitely recommend trying it at least once if you’re an almond milk fan!

Simply use certified gluten free oats to make this gluten free, and you could probably substitute coconut oil for the butter if you wanted to make it dairy free.

 

Enjoy!

Two Workouts Under 30 Minutes

Hi everyone!

I hope all of my US readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Will and I spent time with his family down in Connecticut and enjoyed lots of visiting, lots of laughs and an exceptional amount of pie and stuffing. I didn’t take any food pictures, just because I really don’t feel comfortable interrupting a family dinner to take a lot of photos of my plate, but let me just say that the food we had this weekend was amazing. Will’s older brother raised the turkey that we ate, and it couldn’t have been more fresh or delicious! But beyond the food, we were able to spend a lot of time with family and friends, and that is what the holiday is all about, so I’ll consider it a highly successful Thanksgiving weekend here in the Rondeau household.

apple pie

I contributed this apple pie, which may have been my best yet! 

Today I wanted to share a few quick workouts, for those times when you don’t have hours to spend in the gym but still want to get a good session in. This time of year, things tend to get a little bit crazy, and some people unfortunately get rid of their workouts all together when they realize that between the holiday parties, gift shopping and gift wrapping, they don’t have time for their usual 1-2 hour training sessions. This is where workouts like this become as valuable as gold — you don’t have to have a ton of time to complete an effective workout.

If your holiday season is anything like mine coming up, you might not feel like you have any spare time to work out. But there is always something that can be done, so if you can take a half hour out of your day to try these out, you’ll be happy that you did! Both of these workouts can be done in 30 minutes or less, and depending on what type of workout equipment you have at home, you may not even need to trek out into the cold to get to the gym.

Barbell Complex:

I’ve been doing a lot of barbell complexes lately, mostly because I love training with barbells, but I haven’t quite gotten back up to ultra heavy lifting since my concussion. I am working the weights back up, but in the mean time, I try to do a complex at least once per week, to keep my body used to the movement patterns and weight distribution of having the bar on my back.

Complexes are a great way to combine cardio and resistance training, and also a very effective way to get a killer workout in a very short amount of time. For most people, especially during this time of year, efficiency is key. If you can get a killer fat burning workout done in 20-25 minutes, that leaves more time for other important things in your life. To do a barbell complex, start out with a weight much lighter than you’d do any of these exercises at — if you’ve never done one before, you probably want to start with just the barbell.

Complete 10 reps of each exercise (yes, that means 10 each leg with the rear lunges), and don’t rest in between exercises. I transition from the rows to the OHP with a clean, but if you don’t know how to do that you could always re-rack and reposition yourself. Remember to breathe throughout — this will get your heart rate up and will leave you breathing heavy by the end of one round, so get ready!

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 25 Minute Spin Workout

Please excuse my lingo here as I’ve been to a spin class exactly twice in my life. I do really like spinning though, and the last class I went to left me feeling like a pile of goo on the ground. My gym has a couple of spin bikes that can be used on your own outside of group classes, so I’ve been using those a lot lately, just for something different. The workout below is probably better for someone like me who is not quite a spin expert, but is just looking for a good, quick cardio interval session.

Also, if you don’t have access to a spin bike, you could always adapt this to other pieces of cardio equipment, such as the treadmill or stair climber.

This workout is grouped into zones. For the first few minutes, keep the resistance low and focus on getting your legs loose and warmed up. Due to the nature of spin bikes, I can’t give you an exact number of resistance to shoot for. Instead, gauge this by your RPE, or Rate of Perceived Exertion.

Minutes 1-4 – This should start out very easy, and increase to about 5/10 on your exertion scale as you get more warmed up.

Minutes 5-9- This should be a little harder. Your 30s of moderate resistance/speed should put you at about a 5-7 on the exertion scale, while the 30s recovery periods should go back down to about 3-5. You can moderate this with both resistance and speed.

Minutes 10-19- Again, the 30s moderate intensity should put you at about 5-7, the 30s standing period should be about 7-9, and the recovery period back down to 4-5. I keep the resistance low for recovery period, turn it up a bit for the moderate intensity, and turn it up again for the standing portion.

Minutes 20-25- Back down to recovery speed/intensity. I’ll usually keep this a bit higher than my initial warm up, about 5 for RPE.

Spin_workout

Readers: What is your favorite go-to workout when you’re short on time? Have you tried barbell complexes? 

A Mini Thanksgiving

This past weekend Will and I had some of my family down for a nice meal before Thanksgiving. For the past few years, Will and I have spend Thanksgiving day with his family, and then Christmas Day with my family. It is a trade off that has worked well for us, but I also want to make sure to get in some quality time with my mom and grandmother at Thanksgiving time! We didn’t do a full turkey dinner, in fact we didn’t do a turkey at all, but we just wanted to invite them down for a nice meal and a nice day together before the craziness of the holiday season goes into full swing. We wanted to make it a delicious meal, but still stay true to the types of ingredients and foods we enjoy in our daily lives.

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This was the biggest meal we’ve ever prepped together (not sure what that says about us), so planning and timing was a bit up in the air — we did end up serving about 45 minutes later than planned, but I guess that will help us learn for next time!

Our menu for the day was a perfect medley of fall flavors:

Roasted Chicken – This was delicious, a locally raised (giant) chicken that we bought a couple of weeks ago. We bought two at the time and did a test run last week — I must say, that this one turned out even better!

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Butternut Squash Soup – This is something that Will makes throughout the fall, but I think this was his best batch yet. He followed this recipe, and we actually “cooked” it in our Vitamix. That thing really is a miracle! The soup was delicious and extremely flavorful, it was a huge hit with my family.

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Green Beans with Caramalized Onions and Almonds — For this I followed Tyler Florence’s recipe, and it was my first time cooking green beans this way. If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional (and very heavy) green bean casserole, this is absolutely wonderful! Also a huge hit with my family, we’ll definitely be making these again. Next time, I’d probably use yellow onions instead of red, and would make sure to slice them thinner.

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Mashed Potatoes — An old classic, nothing special about this dish. Boy were they good though! We used both white and red potatoes, and kept the skin on as usual. That’s the way that I grew up having them, and I really love the texture of the skins mashed into the flesh of the potatoes.

Cranberry Sauce — Will made this, and the great thing about this recipe is that it’s made with honey, not a ton of refined sugar. Yes, honey is still sugar, but we also use organic, pure honey so it makes me feel a little better about eating it. This was not your traditional super-sweet cranberry sauce, so if you like something a little more tart, this is a great option! We ended up adding in a little bit more honey at the end, and it was perfect.

Apple Crisp – I always follow the classic Betty Crocker recipe when I make this, and it has never failed me. I like to use a mixture of Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples in crisp, which I did here (4 honey crisp and 2 granny smith). The recipe only calls for 4 apples total, but I decided to plump it up a little bit more! This was served with vanilla ice cream, of course!

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 Readers: What’s a unique item on your Thanksgiving Menu? Do you host or do you travel elsewhere? Happy Thanksgiving! For my non-US readers, I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be away with family and won’t be posting again until next week.

 

 

Should You Foam Roll Before or After Your Workout?

Foam rolling has become a pretty popular part of people’s fitness routines over the past few years. Rollers are stocked in every gym, in most athletic training rooms, and most fitness minded people even have them in their homes these days.  While they have become a very trendy fitness tool, there seems to still be a little bit of confusion about how they should be used. I have had several people ask me the exact same question: should I foam roll before my workout or after?

The answer, much like anything in the fitness world, doesn’t have to be set in stone, but I want to give you my thoughts today, based on my own experience and everything that I’ve read on the matter.

Why foam roll in the first place?

If you ask a lot of people why they foam roll, they’ll tell you that it helps them stretch. They are wrong. Foam rolling is not a replacement for stretching, although the importance of stretching is a different argument altogether.

I also overheard one of my student athletes recently tell a teammate that foam rolling was to help “get the lactic acid out”, which is also untrue (and to which I gave a super sassy eye roll).

What others will tell you is that foam rolling is a type of “myofascial release”, essentially loosening the adhesions between the connective tissue (fascia) and the underlying muscle tissue.  And I think that this can be both true and untrue. So with all of these misconceptions about why we are using this tool in the first place, what the heck are we actually doing? Whether or not the foam roller is actually loosening adhesions or providing a form of myofascial release has yet to be proven. However, Thomas Meyers, author of Anatomy Trains (an amazing book if you’re a manual therapist or anatomy geek like me!), describes foam rolling as a way to help lubricate the fascia to help muscles glide a little bit better throughout movements.

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What is fascia?

Fascia is a type of connective tissue that covers every part of our body. It is basically woven network of tissue, seamlessly connecting each body part to the next. Fascia runs between muscles, within muscles, around tendons and beneath your skin. You could actually remove all of the fascia from a human body and have a true 3-D replica of that person — true fact. So to ignore the integrity of your fascia and go straight to treating/stretching muscles seems like a pretty big oversight, wouldn’t you agree? It’s this network of connective tissue that can often determine your quality of movement, or lack thereof. If the fascia is dehydrated and fibrotic, it can become “stuck” in certain places, restricting movement and causing pain. This can begin an unfortunate cycle of restricted movement and muscle shortening that leads to a more permanent movement limitation, and this is what we must try to avoid as much as possible as we grow older.

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[Source]

So…Back to foam rolling…

Right. The reason why we’re here! The theory is that foam rolling can help lubricate this fascial system, breaking up adhesions and moving fluid throughout, helping our bodies to glide through movements more easily. If you think about it in this context instead of “stretching” muscles, it seems pretty obvious that foam rolling and mobility work should be done before a workout. A workout, whether it be a run or a heavy session in the weight room, is much more effective (and safe) if your movement quality is better, and foam rolling can help achieve this.

Whether you are training in the evening or first thing in the morning, foam rolling before a session is always a good idea.  Think about this: if you workout first thing in the morning, your fascial system is likely dehydrated and stiff from lying still for 8+ hours. On the other hand, if you’re working out in the evening, certain parts of your body are probably stiff and/or shortened due to extensive sitting throughout the day. When it comes down to it, most people can use a little bit of help in the movement quality department, no matter what time of day it is or what type of job they work (sedentary, active, etc.), although some more than others. When it comes to working out, proper movement will not only help you perform your exercises correctly, it can also help to prevent injury.

So is it bad to foam roll after a workout?

Even though I do feel that it is important to foam roll before, that’s not to say that foam rolling after a training session is a bad idea. You just have to be aware of what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re trying to remove built up lactic acid from your muscles, you’ll be trying forever because that, I’m afraid, is a myth.

I have not read anything that proves that foam rolling post activity can help with muscle recovery, but if it makes you feel better after working out, than by all means go ahead. It’s not hurting anything.

The only caveat here would be the type of foam roller you are using. If you just annihilated your muscles with a heavy squat day, your muscles have already undergone micro tearing (damage). Subsequently digging in there with a “Rumble Roller” or PVC piping will only add more damage to those muscles, and could potentially delay recovery. On those days, I would recommend a dynamic cool down, some light stretching, and maybe a light foam roll post-workout.  Most massage therapists who perform deep tissue massage recommend aggressive soft tissue work only once per week, maximum. Digging in there with a Rumble Roller is essentially deep soft tissue work, and should be treated accordingly.


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The Rumble Roller… More pain doesn’t always mean better results! 

Long story short…

Foam rolling is not going to cure all ailments, or improve your lifting mechanics over night. It is not the be-all, end-all that some people would have you think it is. It can, however, be a useful tool to add into your routine, especially during your warmup for a training session. That being said, when used within your warm up, foam rolling should not replace an actual dynamic warm up that readies your central nervous system for the workout you are about to endure. Remember, movement quality is just as important (if not more) than movement quantity, so taking the time for a proper warm up and mobility work before each training session will help to ensure that you get everything out of your workout that you’re putting into it. Poor movement leads to poor workouts, which will leave you with poor results, or possibly even injury. Take the time to help your body move correctly before your workout, and it will thank you with less pain, more effective training sessions, and better results.

Perspective

Yesterday I decided to take my workout outside, since it was one of the nicest fall days we’ve had around here in a while. I walked up to the park near my house with the intention of walking my four mile loop that I ran quite often this summer. Once I got going though, the nice day got the best of me and I decided to do some jogging intervals with my walk. Since my injury, I haven’t run a lot, and higher intensity running still makes my headache pretty bad. So I took it easy and decided not to push too much, but just to run as much as I wanted without pressure.

I ended up running about half of the 4.5 miles, which felt great! It had been quite some time since I ran outside, and although  it wasn’t my most impressive “run”, it still felt wonderful. When I reached the entrance to the park at the tail end of my loop, I decided to keep the workout going with some moderate body weight exercises. I did some box jumps, elevated push ups, and rear-foot elevated split squats. During this, I was kind of upset that this is the level of intensity that I’m at right now — it’s frustrating to be so far away from where I was just months ago.

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At one point, after a set of box jumps, I turned around and saw an older couple who was in the middle of a walk. As I turned in their direction, the man started pumping his fist in the air, and yelled to me “You’re doing great! Keep up the great work!”. I smiled and waved, and then as I got into position to do some split squats, I overheard him say to his wife “Do you think you can do that?”

I then turned, and saw his wife, who must have been in her 60s at least, try some hops onto a smaller stone slab nearby. As I watched, smiling, the man started doing them too! Here they were, two people at probably retirement age, congratulating me on doing this workout and then giving it a go themselves.  I gave them a round of applause as the man exclaimed that they were “harder than they look!” and they went on their way.

It was such a funny moment, as just before then I had been frustrated with where I’m at. In my own eyes, I was doing less than I wanted to be, but in their eyes, I was strong and inspired them to try something new.

It’s all about perspective.

You may not be where you want to be in terms of your health and fitness, but to someone else, you are an inspiration. You may not have reached your goals yet, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is unimportant. I’m not going to be where I want to be for a while, and I’m just going to have to learn to be okay with that. I need to ditch the ideas of what I “should” be doing, and the goals that I “should” be reaching, and accept that things might move a little slower than originally planned.

Happy Monday everyone! Have you ever had a funny fitness interaction when working out outside?