Don’t Worry, You Won’t Look Like Me

Recently, someone commented on this picture of me:

GNO7

Showing off the guns AND the bum! 

Their comment was something along the lines of “This picture makes me NOT want to lift. So unflattering”

Now, let’s take a second to think about the picture itself.

I had posted it at the end of this blog post. The whole point of the post was talking about a killer spin class I had taken, and then had followed up the next morning by doing an insane stadium workout with a 15 lb kettle bell in my backpack. To say I felt like a total beast that day would be an understatement.

When I asked someone to take that picture of me following my stadium workout, I knew that I looked like hell. I knew that I looked like, well, like I had just run stadiums with a weighted backpack on. I knew I had a red face and sweaty hair, and to be honest, I really didn’t care.

But when I saw the picture that a very kind stranger took for me, I’ll be completely honest and say that the first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t flattering.

My arms looked big.

But after half a second of that stupid thought, a much more important thought came to my mind. Who CARES what I look like in that very sweaty moment. My arms look big? My arms look STRONG! I had just crushed an awesome workout, and I was proud of what my body had accomplished. To me, that is what that picture shows. Pride in myself and in my capabilities. Pride in my strength and my endurance. Pride in being me.

But let’s go back to the picture and the commenter.

What is that picture, exactly? It’s a very small moment in time. In fact, it’s a screen capture of one shutter click. One fraction of a second. If I had moved my arms one inch up or down, would it be more flattering? If I had held my arms in a different position, and let my booty pop just a little bit, would it be more flattering?

Maybe, but that wasn’t the point.

The point of that picture wasn’t for me to look sexy. It wasn’t to show all my Instagram followers how cut and lean I looked first thing in the morning (I don’t). It wasn’t to show that world that I think I’m perfect.

It was to have proof that I kicked ass that day. 

It was to show myself that I made it through one hell of a workout at a time when I wasn’t sure I’d be physically capable of finishing. 

It was to remember the feeling of exhilaration I had while finishing those stadium stairs knowing that I had put every last ounce of energy I had into that workout. 

It was to show myself that I can, I did, and I will do it again.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at that picture I can see in my face how happy I was at that very moment. I actually love that picture, even though it’s not the most flattering fitness photo I have of myself, and I love showing it off because of the emotion that I think is conveyed. If that makes you not want to lift, than that’s your prerogative, but I’m sorry I just don’t get it.

The thing is, trusty commenter (and I mean this with the most respect), you will not ever look like me, and that I can promise you. Lifting weights will not make you look like that picture. Heck, most days I don’t even look like that picture.

But that picture is about so much more than that singular moment in time. If I took one look at that picture and deleted it because it was “unflattering”, somewhere down the line I would forget about that day. I would forget what my legs felt like on those last few stairs, and I would forget my pride in that very moment. Flattering picture or not, I’d rather remember moments like this rather than just the ones where I looked my best.

Because truthfully, in the times that I look my best, I’m probably not training hard enough. 

Yes, sometimes there will be unflattering pictures of you, but if you can find the workout that makes you so gosh darn proud of yourself that you don’t care? That’s what it’s all about.

Fitness is power. And whether you want to “look like me” or not is no concern of mine, but what you should want is that hunger, that pride, that inner strength. That is worth more than any picture could ever be. 

Think Outside The Box: Stadium Workouts

First off, I just want to say that I think it’s a little ridiculous how little I’ve been posting lately. I’m not going to make any excuses except to say that I’ve just been enjoying my summer, and blogging regularly has been very low on my priority list! I figured that when I had this time away from work I would have more time to blog, but it just didn’t turn out that way. Maybe it’s because my life is less structured during the summer, which makes me much less disciplined to sit down and write, or maybe it’s just that summer time gives me too many awesome distractions (beach days! lake days! camping! getting engaged to my love!) to waste time sitting in front of my Macbook.

Either way, it turns out I’m not very good at blogging during the summer. So sue me.

Anyway, today’s post comes to you from a recent google search that led someone to my blog. I can see google search terms and links that lead you all here, and from time to time those google searches either make me giggle (people find me through searching “fat ass” quite often…) or give me ideas for a new blog post. Today is the latter, and comes from a search of “what exercises can you do at a stadium”. I talk a lot on here about stadium runs, and really it’s the only form of cardio I do besides kettlebell swings and the (very) occasional straight sprints/hill sprints.

Basically, stadium runs are the bees knees.

bees

But when you go to the stadium, you don’t have to just run up and down the steps. There are lots of other things you can do to get in a varied and well rounded work out! This is especially true if you have access to the field that goes along with the stadium, but even if all you have are stairs, there are lots of options to keep you busy all summer (and throughout the winter if you can brave the cold and snow!)

Granted, when I head to the stadium, I’m usually going to run the steps, because it provides me with incredible conditioning and because I get plenty of strength work elsewhere. But like everything else this summer, my schedule is all over the place, so some weeks the stadium is where the majority of my work out time takes place. Running over and over again would get boring, so below are some of the other things that I have thrown into the mix to change things up a bit from time to time.

stadium

  • Push Ups – Push ups are probably the easiest way to vary your stadium run routine. Set a plan and a number – and go. Sometimes if I’m feeling a little slow or not up to a continuous run, I’ll throw in 10 push ups after every 5 stadium columns (five times up and down the steps, followed by 10 push ups, and so on). It’s a great way to add in some upper body strength work, as well as giving your legs a little bit of a break every few minutes.
  • Sprints – Instead of doing a continuous up-down-up-down stadium run like I usually do, sometimes I’ll go there and do a much lower number of sprints. These will be all-out sprints to the top, as fast as my legs can propel me, with plenty of recovery time in between to allow for maximal output during each sprint. When I do these, I’ll do something like 10 sprints instead of 20-25 total sections, or I’ll do a lower amount of sections (12-15) at my regular speed, with a handful of sprints at the end. Remember to give yourself plenty of recovery time between each one – about 2-3 minutes should be good. This is much less of an endurance workout and much more of a strength/power workout, especially if the stadium you run in has giant steps like Harvard Stadium does.
  • Side stepping – Running steps doesn’t have to be all forward motion. You can get a great workout in by alternating forward running up the stairs with sideways stepping. For instance, run up and down 3 sections, followed by side stepping (leading with your right foot) all the way up one section, and finishing by leading with your left foot. This will give your glutes and hip musculature a much different workout than the forward run, and is a great way to break up the monotony!
  • “Box” jumps – Instead of running up one foot at a time, why not use the stairs to do some double leg plyo work? Jump with both feet in the same style of a box jump. Take one or two stairs at a time, depending on the stadium or set of stairs you’re working at. But remember to do these safely! I never do double leg jumps once my legs are already too fatigued — the last thing I need is a tumble down concrete steps due to wobbly legs on my landing. **I only recommend doing these forward however. I recently watched two guys at the stadium doing backwards double leg jumps up the steps. To me, it looked like a recipe for disaster, not to mention an inevitable face plant down the steps if the jump is not landed absolutely correctly.
  • “Boot camp” moves – You know all the things you dread doing in boot camp? Burpees, planks, etc. Try adding some of these in, but you’ll usually want to shorten the training session if  you do so. Try adding in 5 burpees for every stadium section you run. You’ll be toast before you even know what hit you, but effective cardio sessions do not have to be long cardio sessions!

Boston7

Of course there are a million other things you can do to spice up your stadium run, but these are just some of my favorites. And as I’ve said before, access to a stadium is not necessary as I know not everyone is lucky enough to have access to a place like Harvard Stadium where you can work out pretty much whenever you want.  All you need is a tall set of stairs, and you’re good to go! And don’t worry if you’re running on public stairs and you get some funny looks – those people are just wondering how they can be as awesome as you are. 😉

How do you change up your cardio workouts? Do you enjoy running hill sprints and stairs or flat terrain more?

Happy Summering!

Strong For A Girl

I’m NOT Strong “for a girl

I’m just strong.

I’m strong because I can deadlift 155 pounds from the floor.

I’m strong because I can squat with 145 pounds on my back 

I’m strong because I can do 6 unassisted chin ups

5 unassisted parallel grip pull ups

and 2 unassisted traditional pull-ups

Strength.

I’m strong because I can run 19 sections of Harvard Stadium in 20:04

I’m strong because I can run all 37 sections of Harvard Stadium in 43:45

I’m strong because I get up at 5:45 am to run Harvard Stadium every Wednesday…

…in the cold, dark, rain, and potentially snow.

I’m strong because the barbell is my favorite accessory.

I’m strong because I ride my bike to work even when it’s 30 degrees (or lower) outside.

I’m strong because I gain strength from my mother, who never gave up.

strength!

I’m strong because I’m a d’Orsay woman and that’s just how we do.

I’m strong because my heart is strong, both literally and figuratively.

I’m strong because I know that I can handle whatever life throws at me.

I’m strong, even if my tears tell you otherwise.

I’m strong because if you tell me I can’t, I will. 

I’m strong because if I’m not, no one else can be strong for me.

I’m strong because I always want to Be Better

I’m not strong for a girl. 

I’m strong because I AM a girl.

strength & dignity

Why are YOU strong?

Motivation Monday: Strength In Numbers

I’m not one to have a workout buddy. I train solo, and I like it that way. In fact, it’s a running joke around my office that I really don’t tolerate people talking to me during my workouts… it gets a little dangerous.

WHY must you talk to me when I’m in the middle of a back squat?

I’m not sure why I am that way, but I always have been when it comes to gym time. I hate to socialize while I’m lifting; I get in the zone and I stay there. So then why, when a friend of mine asked me to join her for a large group stadium run did I say yes? I have no idea. But I’m glad I did.

Last Wednesday, I joined a group called the November Project. It’s an exercise tribe, as they call themselves, that meet up for 3 workouts per week. Monday is a “destination deck of cards” workout, Wednesday is a stadium run at Harvard, and Friday is death hill sprints in Brookline. To quote from their website, from the two dudes who started this shindig:

During our involvement at highly competitive Division I collegiate rowing program we realized that no mater how tired, cold, sad or hungry we were, somehow we always showed up for practice. The reason? We didn’t want to let down the other seven guys in the boat. Using that model we started scheduling workouts that we knew we had to show up for because we didn’t want to leave the other guy hanging.

It’s brilliant, really. A tribe, a cult, a group of crazy fitness freaks, whatever you want to call this thing, it’s brilliant.  

I had actually heard of the November project about a month ago through a link on Twitter or something just as arbitrary. I read about the Wednesday Stadium day, and although I do run stadiums on a regular basis, (and love/hate every second of it), I was scared to joint this group. Why? 2 reasons:

1. The early start time. These people meet at 6:30 am, which, granted, is only about a half hour before I normally get up, but that 30 minutes snuggled in my bed is valuable.  Getting my butt to Harvard for a 6:!5 warmup means I would have to be out of my house at 6:10 (I ride my bike)…. Meaning I would have to wake up, oh, WAY EARLIER THAN I LIKE TO.

2. These people seem to be a little cray cray. Seriously. If you look through the website/blog, you’ll see postings of times from the weekly stadium runs. The most badass of the November Project folk run a full stadium in the time it takes me to do half, and I’m not going to lie, that was intimidating.

So what happened? Why did I change my mind?

I grew a pair (not literally…thank God. That would be awkward), and realized that the only thing that was really holding me back was my own fear. And if I can go in the weight room and sling around iron heavier than my body weight, I sure as hell am badass enough to train with these people right? So when my friend Meg suggested that we go, after a couple days of wishy-washy, back and forth, “ok maybe I’ll go once” thoughts, I thought to myself:

“Let’s do this!”

(Never mind that Meg bailed on the day we actually went.)

Sorry dude, called you out. 

But two of my other friends were there with me on that cold Wednesday morning. We met, hugged it out (as is apparently customary at the November Project workouts), and proceeded to get our butts kicked for the “newbie” workout of the day.

The verdict? It was incredible. There were so many other people there; people of all ages, body types and fitness levels. I heard grumblings of being “so hungover” (really? On a Wednesday morning?), I heard a few other mumblings of “dude this sucks”… But besides the few negatives, I heard a whole lot of cheers, whoops, hollers, and words of encouragement. I saw high fives, hugs, and tons of smiles. And you know what? When I finished, I had a smile on my face too.  The energy and positive atmosphere was kind of intoxicating, and made it a completely different experience than I’ve ever had running the stadium by myself.

Here’s just part of “the tribe” getting their Stadium on. Like ants huffing and puffing up and down the concrete. But AWESOME ants. 

Sure, my lungs were screaming from the early-morning cold fall air, and my legs were shaking like crazy, but I finished with my friends, and also alongside about 100 other people that were there that morning. 

After we finished. Feeling good!! 

Like I said, I’m not someone to have a workout buddy. I don’t generally do group fitness classes, and I don’t belong to a running group, or anything of that sort. I never really understood why people talked about the group atmosphere of Cross Fit. But now? I get it! Pushing through an insanely hard workout was way more fun with all of those people working towards the same thing. Even if it was just a silent head-nod in passing on the way down the stairs, there was a common understanding that we were all in it together. We were all having our asses handed to us by Harvard Stadium, and we liked it. 

Needless to say: I will be back. I’ll be back this coming Wednesday, as a matter of fact. So who’s with me? Any Boston area peeps that want to join in? I can’t say I’ll be joining these dudes for the Monday and Friday workouts, because my time in the weight room is precious to me. Maybe every once in a while when I need to switch things up, but for now I think I’ll stick with the stadium days.

Do you usually work out with friends or solo? Do you enjoy a group atmosphere? Is there anything in your town similar to the November Project, or if you live in Boston, have you thought about joining up? 

Pyramids and Planks

I don’t have a ton of time this week so you’re probably going to get a couple of quick posts.

It’s ok, nobody likes words, anyway. You’re all just here for the pictures.

And I don’t even have very many pictures for you today! What a jerk.

Anyway, today I want to give you a couple of fitness ideas that I’ve been using in my routine lately. The first is a method of hill sprints, which I Know you all love, and the second is a new way to spice up your old planks.

I actually did the following at the stadium last week, and it thoroughly kicked my ass. But since I know not everyone has access to a stadium, this would be just as effective as hill sprints. I would just recommend finding a good sized hill — one that is about 50 yards long and steep enough so that you can still run up it, but that it’s a challenge to do so.

Just remember to push yourself through the entire workout! If you’re working hard enough, the smaller sets of 2 and 1 shouldn’t actually feel easy despite what you may think. If you push hard enough through the longer sets, the last 2 and 1 should be all you’ve got left in the tank.

Moving on to everyone’s favorite exercise: The Plank! (and even better, combining it with the side-plank).

I’m going to be totally honest with you here. Planks bore me to death. I hate them. So I’ve figured out a way lately to incorporate them into my routine, reaping the benefits but without the mind-numbing static-ness of it all. (Static-ness? I don’t know. I couldn’t think of a real word that would work there).

Here’s the deal on why you might like this: You are not required to hold one plank for more than 20 seconds. Here’s the deal on why you might hate it: It’s much harder than you would think.

No rest in between positions! 

Trust me, the final 20 seconds is no piece of cake, and you might be cursing me at that point. But hey, you’re planking for 3:00 straight, with the added degree of difficulty from the position shifts. Win!

Just make sure that on your planks you’re staying straight like a board. No saggy mid-sections or tent-butts please!

And with that, I’m out. Well, not before I show you this:

IT’S A PUG IN PUG SLIPPERS! Can you get any cuter?!?

Do you ever use a pyramid scheme in your workouts? What’s the longest you’ve ever held a plank? Do you do planks or do they bore you too much? What’s in your fitness plan today?

Stadium Workout and a Smoothie

I’ll get to the workout and recipe in a second, but I just want to start off with a little update on my angry muscles:

After being off for 5 days straight, I woke up Tuesday morning feeling pretty good and thought I would stay out of the weight room but do some lighter work at the stadium.  When I got there though, my legs felt like they were stuck in cement and I had zero energy.

Long story short: I still felt like poo. I was clearly not as rested as I thought, and it definitely was not a great way to start out my day.

Tuesday, however, was a different story. I decided to still stay away from my legs besides biking to/from work, and just did a quick (20 min) upper body day including:

Neutral Grip Pullups

Cross-Body Corner Barbell Press

Single Arm Corner Barbell Press

Bent Over DB Rows

Standing Barbell Overhead Press

And you know what? I felt GREAT! I think it was smart of me to stick with a shorter, lower volume upper body day, but at least it got me back in the weight room and finally feeling good again. I still haven’t done a heavy leg day yet this week, and it’s not looking like today will be the day. I think giving my legs a little bit more rest is exactly what I need, and I’m already looking forward to some killer squat sets next week.

Yay for happy muscles!

But just because I haven’t been going hard this week doesn’t mean you cant! Since I haven’t posted a workout in a while, here’s a stadium/stair workout that will work your entire body in a relatively short time. I have designed this for stadium reps, but you can also find a long set of stairs or even a steep hill to sprint up instead.

For the side steps, alternate your lead foot for each column. For the sprints, go all out! Rest for 1 minute in between sets. Repeat 2x if you complete this on a hill or on a smaller set of stairs. 

Now lets get on to my favorite part of this post: a new smoothie recipe!

If you ask my coworkers, I’ve been playing around with smoothie recipes for the past couple of weeks. This particular one started as an epic fail on Tuesday, but a little tweaking here and there has turned it into a new favorite!

Mint Chocolate is one of my absolute favorite flavor combinations, and is almost always my go-to when it comes to ice cream. So I figured, why not try it as a smoothie? As it turns out, it’s pretty darn good.

Give it a try and tell me what you think!

I know whole milk makes a lot of people shy away, but I think in this case it adds a great creaminess to offset the strong flavor from the cocoa powder.  Also, if you don’t want a strong chocolate flavor, stick with 1 Tbs of cocoa powder. The extra 1/2 Tbs really kicks it up a notch. And on that note,  I might just have to make another one right now…

Happy Friday everyone!

Do you like mint-chocolate as a flavor combination? What’s your favorite smoothie flavor? Do you enjoy doing hill/stair/stadium workouts? Anyone have any awesome plans for the weekend? 

When The Going Gets Tough

…The Tough Get Tougher

As I mentioned last Monday, I had a long, tough week this past week. I’m not saying this so anyone will feel bad for me, because I love my job and I know it just comes with the territory. But I just wanted to pop in quickly to let you guys know that although it was a week filled with uber long days and endless amounts of stress, I managed to still feel pretty good during most of it.

How did I do this?

  • I rode my bike to work every day except one (because it was raining and I was being a big whiny baby). Never mind that riding my bike actually cuts my commute time in half, the fact I get an automatic 10 miles of cycling in per day is a definite WIN.
  • Even though I had to be at work extra early all week and didn’t have time for the gym, I was determined to get a few good heart pumping workout sessions in. I did this by squeezing in hard work where I could, no matter how little time I had. Twice last week, I stopped at the stadium on my way to work and ran 10 stadium sprints. One other day I stopped at the outdoor fitness area along the Charles River mid-ride and did a body weight/plyo circuit. Each of these workouts took only 12-15 minutes, but they all thoroughly kicked my ass.

  • I practiced my pull ups whenever I got the chance. Even though I didn’t have time for the gym, I did have time to hop up on my pull up bar at home a few times per day. Reps are reps right? And doing 5 pull-ups is more physical activity than doing none!
  • I prepped some homemade snacks at the beginning of the week, so that I would have a little extra energy for the longer days at work. Keeping myself from getting famished in between meals was key to my sanity, and having home made snacks made me feel better about what I was fueling my body with.

  • I tried my hardest to keep up with a good sleep schedule. I didn’t get quite enough sleep every single night of the week, but I was able to get a consistent 7 hrs/night, except for one. Without enough sleep, my mood and brain power go downhill extremely fast, which is not good for me, my co-workers, and certainly not my patients!
  • I relaxed when I could and took some “Me” time every day. Yes, this meant stepping away from the blog for a few days, but I think you guys understand. I read a little each night, lounged around on the couch a little more than I should when I got home from work, and spent some much needed time with Will. Sometimes you just have to let yourself relax for a little while, you know?

So that’s how I survived my hell week at work. I’m not saying that these tips will work for everyone, but they helped me to feel healthy and energized through some very long and stressful days. I know that not everyone can ride a bike to work, and certainly not everyone has access to showers at work (Trust me, if I didn’t have access to a shower, those stadium runs pre-work would make for an ugly, smelly day in the office!). But even when you simply don’t have the time for your normal workout schedule, and the last thing you want to do after a 13 hour work day is cook dinner, there are always little ways that you can help yourself. Find the things that keep you energized and add a little positivity to your day, and battling the stress gets that much easier.

Do you have any tips or tricks to get through stressful times? How do you keep yourself energized and positive when life gets in the way? How do you fit in physical activity when you don’t have time for the gym?