Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Balanced Isn't Perfect

It's Wednesday!  Time for the WorkOut Wednesday linkup (#wowlinkup) with Femme Fitale Fit ClubThe Frugal ExerciserEat Hard Work Hard,  Comeback Momma and Mean, Green, Clean Eating Teen!  Each week a group of bloggers link up at the hosts' sites to bring you all kinds of posts about fitness.  Check it out!   

Our move is complete, landing us overseas. It's been a whirlwind week, but I have been able to keep up my workouts better than I thought I would. I'll have more to write on that later. For now, let's just say that although it's a different place, different time zone and different language, rest assure some things stay the same:

One of my first stops was Starbucks.  How sad is that?!

This week I want to share my thoughts on a Facebook post I read recently. I wish I had marked the post but for the life of me I can't find it in my News Feed. So I'm going off of what I remember; it may not be exact but I remember how the article made me feel. The author said  someone commended her for having a "balanced" life and although she was flattered, she basically said her life was just as hectic and crazy as anyone else's. She then went on to say the word "balance" is thrown around too much and has become the new meaning of perfect. It had become the latest word to make women feel bad about themselves. 

Now, seeing that this word is so important to me and is even part of my blog title, I had to think, is this what I'm conveying to people? I sure hope not. 

Photo source: Balance Wines

To me, balance is in fact the opposite of perfection. If you had a perfect life, you would have everything you want, give the exact amount of attention to things that you want to and everything would be even keeled - every day.  Balance can be misinterpreted to mean "having and doing it all" - having an awesome career, being a great mom, friend or coworker, being a loving wife, keeping an orderly house, participating within the community, being in shape, all with a big old smile on your face. Truth is, on any given day you can have a few of those things while others will be lacking.  In my humble opinion, a balanced life is one of acceptance and sacrifice. It's about accepting your imperfections and making do with the good things you have. It's about prioritizing your wants and sacrificing the things toward the bottom of your list so you can tend to those at the top. If you're balanced, you won't be happy with that decision every day, but you know that unhappiness can be eased by achieving the things most important to you. 

Balance is a constant state of ebbs and flows.  This has become even more evident to me as I've progressed through the Yoga Challenge #independencearmy with Beach Yoga Girl, Kino Yoga and Laura Sykora. Each day has been a new arm balancing pose, and let me tell you I can feel it in the shoulders and core!  Great strengthener which I'll dive into more in a different post.  But if you look at my videos (on Facebook or Instagram) and even those of the experts as we go into the pose, you will see us shaking.  It takes extreme concentration of the mind and every body part to get into the poses. The mind has to relax while some muscles contract and others are stretched. It's a constant state of back and forth. If the poses were perfect, we'd be completely still. But no, balance is actually a state of constant movement between give and take. 


My shoulders are sore after doing these poses - will cover that next week!

I don't mind the word balance and I certainly hope my blog isn't the type that makes people feel bad or the need to be perfect.  My goal is totally the opposite. I want people to accept their imperfections while focusing on all the good in their lives. Balance is something I always think about to keep myself motivated and moving forward, and I think it's healthy for us to seek it. It's actually a source of comfort when I feel like I'm lacking in any sort of way because it reminds me that I'm stronger in some other aspect.  We are all a balance of strengths and weaknesses.  



What do you think?  Is the word balance used too much?  What does it mean to you?

Don't forget to check the link up, there are always great posts on workouts, motivation, and nutrition!

Until next time,
Michele




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From a Different Angle

It's Wednesday!  Time for the WorkOut Wednesday linkup (#wowlinkup) with Femme Fitale Fit ClubThe Frugal ExerciserEat Hard Work Hard,  Comeback Momma and Mean, Green, Clean Eating Teen!  Each week a group of bloggers link up at the hosts' sites to bring you all kinds of posts about fitness.  Check it out!    

*Note:  I wrote this post last year, long before I did link ups, had a Facebook page, or shared my posts outside of Facebook friends.  I'm linking this up for #wowlinkup since I'm still on a blogging hiatus :)


I was feeling a little under the weather this morning and wasn't up to the hour bike ride on my training plan. I decided to make this an off day and spend some quality time with the foam roller.  But while checking Facebook,  I saw a picture from Body Rock TV of a woman in 8 Angle Pose.  I have always thought I "should" be able to do that pose.  The few times I tried, I gave up because I wasn't even close.  But for some reason, today I thought, maybe I'm not doing it right.  Maybe I should look at it from a different angle.  After all, there are 8 of them!

I looked up a couple of videos on You Tube, and found I was indeed approaching it all wrong.  Instead of putting my arms down first and trying to lift my butt up, I was supposed to get my legs up and then lean into it chest forward.  When I tried it this way, I got it the first time.  Then my core kicked in, and I thought, "Aha! So that's how it's supposed to feel."  I'm sure there are some yogi's out there who could get on my case about proper form, but hey, not bad for now!

How many times have you looked at a situation from another perspective, or from someone else's point of view and found something different?  In my former life (before kids), I worked in construction.  I always thought it was interesting to look at a space from all different angles.  There were the floor plans (looking down from above), elevations (head on), and cross sections.  You also had to look at a room from the electrical and mechanical point of view.  When you looked at the same space from different angles, you could see where things didn't jive.  You might find the solution from another drawing that had a different point of view.

I love that analogy for life.  It's all about perspective.  Things are what they are and we are the ones who put the spin on it.  What you might consider a problem could be improved from a different angle.  If you ask someone else's opinion, their point of view might provide a silver lining that you otherwise might have missed.   What seems difficult could be less daunting if you think about the approach.  Often, if we break that approach down, step by step, we'll find ourselves achieving the impossible.
Here's hoping I'm back up and running (literally) in the morning.

Until next time,
Michele

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Five: The Bare Essentials


Time for the Friday Five with Eat Pray Run, DCYou Signed Up for What?!, and Mar on the Run!   Each week, a large group of fantastic bloggers link up to bring you 5 things about fitness and health.  Visit the hosts' sites to check out the ever growing list of fitness enthusiasts!   

This is going to be my last post for a short period of time. For the past few months we have been prepping for a big move, like across an ocean and different SIM card big, and the time has finally come. I will try and keep up my Facebook page with scheduled posts, but I imagine it's going to take some time to get settled and figure out even a smart phone situation. 

I have moved a few times while I was in the military, but back then I was single and wasn't very attached to the communities I lived in. I have been in our "old house" as my son has already called it, for almost 10 years, and the Maryland area for 12. It's different when you leave the house your first brought your children into. *sob*

My empty living room :(

Besides the mixed bag of emotions (sad, excited, STRESSED), here's the thing about moving: it forces you to reevaluate the tangible things in your life, also know as household crap.  You wander around the house saying things like:

I still have this?
I was wondering where this was!
Why did we ever buy this?
Where is the gremlin that keeps multiplying all this stuff!
Do I need this, and more importantly do I want to carry this load with me?

Pretty soon you decide what's worth the hassle and your life is reduced to boxes. You look around and think, what if a box gets lost or damaged? Then quickly realize what really needs to be in your pack to survive are life's bare necessities and of course your loved ones. Well, and running shoes. Always running shoes.  The rest could sink and you would survive. You would be mad, but you would survive. 

OK, since this IS a fitness blog, let's talk business.  We'll be living out of suitcases for awhile and I don't know what the workout situation is going to be like. I'm guessing I will have to get pretty creative with little room and not much equipment. Here are a five things I'm packing as my bare fitness essentials:

1) Running shoes. Duh. I should have access to a treadmill and if not, all I need is some running shoes and a safe, flat surface. Stairs will do. I will also need this to do some HIIT body weight routines. Here is on of my favorites 12 Minute Madness 

 2) Furniture Sliders. I talk about this in my What's In My Gym Bag post. These are great to put under your hands or feet when you're in plank position. Slide around on these on a carpeted surface and you will feel it in the core. Check out my post for a short video




3) Yoga socks.  I don't want to carry a mat in my suitcase, so these will do. I can break out downward dog and warrior poses anywhere with these babies!


4) Resistance band from Runnerbanditz. If I'm lucky enough to find a pull up bar, these can assist me as shown in my Modified Pull Ups post. They are also great for squat press, bicep curls, or hip abductor work.  It can also double as a yoga strap. 

5) Lifting gloves. I'm fragile when it comes to my hands. I don't like calluses on my palms from lifting and I don't like doing push-ups unless I have my gloves on! So these are in my suitcase for sure. Hopefully I can quickly find some gyms with a good weight set!

If you could only pack a few things in a suitcase (as far as fitness is concerned) what would you bring?


In accordance with this week's theme of Fitness Photos, here's a quick recap of my week:

I'm scaling back on running and concentrating on flexibility for now as it will be easier to keep up with while traveling. Here are a few pics from the #intelligencearmy yoga challenge I'm doing with Beach Yoga Girl on Instagram. My body was craving a short run so I got on the old tready for 3 miles, including a walking warmup! And the whole time I stay hydrated with Ignite Naturals. Read my Ignite Naturals Review here. Use the code IN00385 for 10% off your order!

I'm going to miss the Friday 5 Crew! Hopefully I won't be off the grid too long. If you would be a dear and still like/comment on any schedule Facebook posts that would be grand! Don't let Facebook bury me forever! 

Thanks and until next time,
Michele

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Benefits of Food Journals

It's Wednesday!  Time for the WorkOut Wednesday linkup (#wowlinkup) with Femme Fitale Fit ClubThe Frugal ExerciserEat Hard Work Hard,  Comeback Momma and Mean, Green, Clean Eating Teen!  Each week a group of bloggers link up at the hosts' sites to bring you all kinds of posts about fitness.  Check it out!   

While I was decluttering some drawers, I came upon this little gem:


Yep, I was a Weight Watchers Lifetime Member. After my first child was born, I quickly learned that I couldn't just run the weight off anymore. I had to (gasp!) watch what I ate. Oh, the horror. But after being pregnant and nursing for a few months, I had to learn to eat like a normal person again. Weight Watchers helped me do just that. It was the jump start I needed to shed the baby weight.

After my second child, the "new" WW points system was introduced and it just didn't work for me.  So I tried the MyFitnessPal app and loved it! I liked seeing the actual calories in versus what I burned at the gym. It was such a good tool for me and I managed to get back to a healthy weight again. 

These days I'm in maintenance mode and I try to focus on the quality of my food, not so much the quantity. As long as I am eating fairly clean with little grains or junk, I am okay.  But if I really feel myself slipping, I will go back to logging my foods for a week or so to get myself back on track. Personally I think food tracking is extremely beneficial to weight loss and here's why:

1) Reinforces portion control. When I'm tracking, I pay more attention to serving sizes - and find they are a lot less than I would typically throw on my plate.  The extra 1/2 serving here and there can really add up. It's important to keep sensible portions in mind. 

2) Accountability. There is something very humbling about logging "2 Krispey Kreme Donuts" as a snack. Yep, I've done that and thought, what in the world am I eating that for?! If you are embarassed to write it down, you probably shouldn't be eating it. 

3) Social motivation.  With apps like MyFitnessPal, you can share your food diary with others.  I actually never did this, I thought it was a little too close for comfort. But for some people, the social aspect provides an extra source of motivation and inspiration...and a healthy dose of competition!

4) Makes meal planning easier.  It might take some time, but you will find your "go to" meals that are satisfying, easy and within your calorie range. When I was on Weight Watchers, I rotated between a few of the same meals all the time. My food journal helped me focus on the foods I knew I could have which made meal planning a lot easier. 

5) Identifies the culprits. Once you track for awhile, you will see patterns. You might see you actually take in a lot more sodium than you realized or you rarely meet your protein goal for the day. You might realize you are more inclined to crave the bad stuff at a certain time each day. When you find out exactly what is sabotaging your progress, you can take the steps to improve those specific areas. 

Tracking doesn't have to be hard or elaborate. It might be as simple as writing your meals down on a post it note in the kitchen. But it will certainly give you some perspective on how you are fueling your body which is the first step toward weight loss or a healthy lifestyle in general. 

What about you?
Do you track what you eat? How so?

Don't forget to check out the link up!

Until next time,
Michele

Friday, July 4, 2014

Friday Five: Squat Variations


Time for the Friday Five with Eat Pray Run, DCYou Signed Up for What?!, and Mar on the Run!   Each week, a large group of fantastic bloggers link up to bring you 5 things about fitness and health.  Visit the hosts' sites to check out the ever growing list of fitness enthusiasts!   

Right now I don't have any races on the horizon. It's kind of a weird feeling; I'm somewhat relieved because I can do whatever kind of workout I want without having to get any certain number of miles in. But then I also feel a little lost without something to train for. I will take this "break" as time to focus more on strength and flexibility and put beloved endurance on the shelf for a bit. Specifically, I want to hit legs harder at the gym. Here are 5 different squat variations I will be working into my strength routine during my "off season":

1) Goblet Squat:  You can do this with either a dumbbell or a kettlebell.  Take a wide stance and hold the weight at chest level as shown.  Squat all the way down until your hamstrings touch the calves. 


2) Overhead Squat: Hold a barbell overhead as shown. Squat down while keeping the chest up. The bar should feel like it's almost behind you as you squat - keeping it in line with your shoulders and hips as you go down. I love this move because it works the core and the upper body as well. You have to hold your core in super tight to maintain posture and to prevent the bar from tilting you forward. 

3) Sumo Squat: Take a very wide stance with your toes pointed out.  Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground and as you come up, pull the weight up like in an upright row. This move is good for the inner thighs and shoulders. Love the multiple muscle group moves!

4) Front Squats:  It's interesting to see how shifting the load placement really changes a move. In the front squat, hold the bar so it's resting on the front of your shoulders as shown. You need to stabilize your core to hold the bar in front and prevent yourself from tipping forward.  My elbows need to stay parallel in the way down, I'm still working on that! 

5) Pistol Squats:  These are the most humbling for me. They are tough and take a lot of balance, core stability and strong glutes!  I need a chair to squat down even halfway. The whole move is to go down until the hamstrings touch the calves but I have a long way to go. It also takes flexibility to keep the leg out in front straight! But go down as far as you can, you will still feel the burn!

Whether it's shifting focus between strength and endurance or trying variations of your favorite exercise, it is good to switch things up and challenge our bodies in a different way. Remember,



Have you tried any of these squats?
Which will be the most challenging for you?
Don't forget to check out the linkup and have a great weekend!
Until next time,
Michele

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Kettlebell Swings


It's Wednesday!  Time for the WorkOut Wednesday linkup (#wowlinkup) with Femme Fitale Fit ClubThe Frugal ExerciserEat Hard Work Hard,  Comeback Momma and Mean, Green, Clean Eating Teen!  Each week a group of bloggers link up at the hosts' sites to bring you all kinds of posts about fitness.  Check it out!   

These days I'm really loving kettle bell swings. For my Cross Fit workouts I like to follow
Crossfit Scranton. I'm not even from there but a fellow fit mama turned me on to the site a couple of years ago and it just stuck. Here are a couple of workouts I have done recently:

1) Kettlebell swing and sit up couplet:
50-40-30-20-10 
Start with 50 swings then 50 sit-ups.
Next round do 40 swings and 40 sit-ups and so on down to 10.

2) Kettlebell Challenge:
1 swing during the first minute
2 swings during the second minute
3 swings during the third minute and so forth.  
The goal is to make it to 30 minutes (complete 30 swings in one minute at the 30th minute).  Using a 30lb dumbbell, I made it to 22 minutes.  It's deceivingly easy at first and you stand around during the first few minutes.  But it got pretty tiring after the 10th minute.  





The key to the kettle bell swing is understanding the hip hinge.  It's not a squat, it's a hip thrust. You should be driving the weight upward using your hips and stopping the weight at the top using your core. (I even feel it on the shoulders.) I didn't really understand the kettle bell swing until I worked on hinging at the hip. You can practice this by standing straight up with your back against the wall. Next, take a small step forward just a couple of inches. Now stick your butt out and touch the wall, only with your butt. Move a little further from the wall and do it again; think about driving your butt back to the wall while keeping your chest up, not just bending forward.The hip hinge is important for other moves like the squat and deadlift as it keeps the your weight in the heels and prevents your knees from going out past your toes. 

Here is a great kettle bell tutorial.  It's a few minutes long but worth your time if you really want to get this move right. 



When I first tried this move I definitely treated it like a squat and tried to pull the weight up. I'm still conscious of my form and like to take videos so I can improve on it. My gym doesn't have kettle bells so I just use a dumbbell and hold it as shown. I like kettle bells better but these work just fine. 



The kettle bell swing is just one exercise that works the posterior chain (back, hamstrings and glutes). As a runner, it is vital to strengthen these muscles to prevent muscle imbalance and injury, yet they are often ignored. I know I didn't pay attention to them much until a couple of years ago. Once I did, my running improved tremendously. For more advice on the posterior chain, check out Annie Brees Top Picks for Posterior Chain Exercises. If you aren't following Annie already you should. She knows her stuff AND how to explain it!

Have you added kettle bell swings to your workout?
Please note:  I'm a gym rat, not a personal trainer.  I share information that I have come across and found to be useful - if you have more or better advice I would love to hear it in the comments!

Don't forget to stop by the link up and see what other bloggers are saying this week!

Until next time,
Michele

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Whole 30 for the Whole Family?

During the month of May, I participated in a Whole30 Challenge with Lindsey from One Mother of a Day.  The Whole30 program is known as a "nutritional reset", where you eat only real, unprocessed foods for 30 days.  (Check out this post from Lindsey on how to prepare for the Whole30 program.)  I did this challenge alone.  But as a mother I couldn't help feel a bit guilty for not making it a family affair - shouldn't everyone benefit?   Read more in my June post for We Know Stuff:  Whole 30 for the Whole Family.  

Until next time,
Michele