Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ready to Breathe Fire

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!

 I have been on a "numbers hiatus" for some time now. I haven't weighed myself, tried to keep a certain pace on my runs or kept track of my strength training. Don't get me wrong, I'm still getting some great workouts in, but I haven't been focused on any specific result. I think it has been good for me. But yesterday, I started to get the itch  again.



Yesterday I decided to do 5x5 deadlifts. I have been doing deadlifts as part of Crossfit workouts, but since the workouts require high reps, I use a weight I know I can handle. It has been awhile since I tested my limit. I totally guessed how much weight to use for my first set and went with 85. My sets went like this:

Set 1 and 2: 85 lb
Set 3: 105 lb
Set 4 and 5: 115 lb

I felt really good, decided to keep going and did 2x3 at 135. That's the most I have ever done with that weight. At this point the CrossFit instructor came over to give me some tips and was surprised that was the most I have lifted. He said that weight is too easy for me. 

"Do you keep track of how much you lift?" 
"No." I sheepishly replied. 

He told me when I walk up to a bar, I should have a plan, know what I lifted the last time so I can have the confidence I need to progress. Up until now I've been waffling. Sometimes I fear I will get too wrapped up in numbers. But now I feel like I'm doing myself a disservice if I don't track my progress. If I'm going to do CrossFit, I should DO it and get the full benefits. 

After our little conversation he coached me through 3 sets (2, 2, 3) of 145 lb. I was tired at this point, but I did it. I think if I had started out with a specific plan, I could have gone higher. It's my mind holding me back, I know it is. The answer to that is to track. Let me see it on paper so I can stroll up to the bar and know exactly what I  capable of. I downloaded the WOD app to help me with this. It has preloaded workouts including the CrossFit benchmark workouts. You can also record personal bests for various exercises. It's set up in a way that you can easily compare your results each time. 


So that's my focus for September. Track my strength workouts. Specifically, I'm going to PR my deadlift again. After what feels like a long time, I'm feeling a spark again and I'm ready to breathe fire. 

It's time to light the match.

Do you record your workouts?
What variables do you track?
What do you use to track?

Don't forget to check out my fellow awesome #wowlinkup bloggers!

Until next time,
Michele 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Art of Letting Go

Today is the first day of school.  I don't have a picture of me in some kind of celebratory pose at the bus stop or the healthy lunch I packed for my son. If I had a picture to show, it would be of me trying to hold back tears as I cleaned up the kitchen after breakfast.

I cannot tell a lie: this summer has been fun and also trying at times. Yes, there were days that seemed so long and my patience ran thin. Some days it snapped. But as soon as I put my son on the bus and walked back in the house, I couldn't help but cry. It's still the closing of one chapter and the start of another. It's a still a day when I'm leaving him in someone else's hands. And perhaps today wouldn't sting as much if we were back in Maryland. But we are in a different country and even though he is at an English speaking school, it's still vastly different. I don't know all the parents and teachers. It's not around the corner.  And although he hopped on that bus without looking back, I could see on his face he was incredibly nervous. Yet somehow his 6 year old soul mustered the courage to go. And I'm so proud I could cry. Am crying. 


Image from JonesID.com
The thing that keeps going through my head right now is "Life is a balance of holding on and letting go" by the poet Rumi.  I think this sums up being a parent. You have to know when to hold on and when to let go. I remember when I taught my son how to ride a bike. I ran along next time him and was trying to hold his shoulders. At some point, I thought what if I just let go for longer? Sure enough, he wobbled so much but didn't fall - he zigged, zagged, tilted left and right but managed to balance himself. I was actually doing more harm by holding on to him. He needed to feel the discomfort of being off balance and figure out how to get upright on his own.


A still of him riding for the first time.
This art of letting go is a necessity in all walks of life whether you are a parent or not. It's becoming more apparent as I continue to learn more from yoga.  The tighter hold we have things, the more we try and control them, the harder life becomes. In yoga, that equates to holding your breath and forcing yourself into a pose. In life, it might equate to having some image in our head about how life is "supposed" to be and berating ourselves if we don't live up to it. But we have to let go of these images to truly live life. We have to accept the ways things are, even when it's the discomfort of being off balance. If we believe in a higher power, we have to have faith. 

It's strange how I can usually relate what's going on in my fitness life to my household life. Perhaps they are just one in the same. Last night everyone went to bed early and I had extra time to practice. As I went into wide legged forward bend, I focused on my foundation. I engaged the legs, held the core tight and really just let everything up top go. I held on and I let go. And I finally my head touched the floor. For months I've been trying to force my head to touch the floor. But the key was focusing on my foundation and letting the rest go. 



So I guess that's what I should do today and other days when I'm feeling sad or out of sorts. Trust my foundation and let the rest go. With my son, I have to trust the foundation I hope we have built in him. And count the minutes until he comes running off the bus :)

I recognize this was a long post with random thoughts. But I needed it. And maybe someone out there can relate. Thank for sticking with me. 

Until next time,
Michele

Friday, August 22, 2014

Athleta Aspire Ankle Pant Review



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 week's theme is "5 Things I Love About. . ."  (We did this a few months ago and I wrote about 5 Things I love About My Running Route). I often look at pictures on my phone for inspiration, and I was scrolling through I noticed I'm wearing the same pants in a lot of pictures:  Athleta's Aspire Ankle Pant.  It's part of their City Pant collection and right before Spring Break, I splurged on this pair for $69.  I really wanted a pair of pants that were comfortable, stylish and would travel well (easy to care for).  That's exactly what I got.   I love these pants and wear them all the time. Here's why:

Shown here in Flint Grey.  I ordered my normal Athleta size. 

1) The material. It's called "recycled featherweight stretch" and is a polyester/spandex blend. It's silky, has some give, and works in every type of weather. I wore them during Spring Break in Southern California, which can actually be chilly by the beach. And I'm wearing them now in +90 degree weather. They breathe really well and don't wrinkle too badly. It holds up it's shape in the wash and dries really fast. 

My pants on vacation in California.  Can you tell me which Showtime character this house belonged to?

2) The cut.  I wasn't sure about the whole shape at first:  small at the waist, bigger at the hips and then tapered at the ankle.  I was afraid they would look like MC Hammer Pants!  But they don't look too baggy and that extra room really allows you to move around.   I also don't feel like I have to suck my tummy in, lol!

3) The details.  It has an elastic waist, but the band is thick enough so you don't get the "busted biscuit can" look.  Also, I like how the zippers add both detail and functionality.  You can actually use these pockets;  they are big enough for my iPhone 5, ID, money, and keys.  But because of the slant and where they are placed, it doesn't add too much bulk.  There are also loop drawstrings at the hems so you can infinitely adjust the pant.  However, I have large calves and the pants just can't go very high on me.  So they end up being ankle pants and not really capris.



4) Comfort meets style.  I can say this about every Athleta piece I own, but I really do wear these pants all the time.  I wear them on a run, at the grocery store, or on a run TO the grocery store.  I don't feel like I'm wearing my stinky workout clothes, although I might smell differently :)  I can also be wearing these out and about and drop into a yoga pose.  And that's just plain fun.

5) Versatility.  I wear these with sneakers and I wear these with flats.  I wear them to the gym, during yoga,  going a run, on a plane, and picking the kids up from school.   If I still actually went out and partied, I'd pair them with cute heels.  But I think a pair of wedge high tops in the fall is as crazy as I will get.  



I think subconsciously I wrote this post because I am trying to justify buying another pair in black!  I also have my eye on 2 other pants - tell me what you think!
1) City Jogger Pant - I'm not sure about the drawstring.

I am not claiming to be a fashion expert of any kind.  I'm just a mom who wants to be comfortable without having to feel sloppy.  I wish the term "yoga pants" didn't have such a bad name.  It's the term people use when describing a woman who doesn't care about the way she looks.  But I say we can be comfortable, put together, and #stopdropandyoga thanks to Athleta!


What's the one piece of clothing you always find yourself wearing?
Which pant should I get next?

Hope you all have a good weekend and don't forget to check out others in the linkup!
Until next time,
Michele  



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Flip Belt Review

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!

When you find yourself stuffing your sports bra with keys, ID, and money, it's time to buy something. Anything instead of your sweaty bra to hold things during your workout. For a long time all I carried was my phone in my armband, but lately I've had to bring a few other things on my run. I asked about Flip Belts on my Facebook page and got a huge positive response. (Okay, in my world, a huge response is more than 5 comments). Anyway, I finally decided to buy one from Amazon for $28.99.



I have tried various running belts before but never found one I liked which is why I just use my armband (and lately my bra!).  Other belts I have tried had buckles that never seem to sit right or the belt would ride up. None of them sat close enough to my body and I always heard or felt things moving on the belt.  But What attracted me to the Flip Belt was it's sleekness. I like how there aren't any zippers or buckles. I like how it sits and is tight on the body so it holds things in place. Here's a sample of what I put in during a normal run: (not shown is money or my ID badge but they fit too!)
The phone shown here is an iPhone 5. I have an Otterbox on my phone and it also fits just fine. All you have to do is slide whatever you want into the slots and flip the belt over. That's it. 


If I dared to only wear a sports bra when I run, it would look pretty cute. But even under a shirt it doesn't look too bulky. This belt is also great just for running errands or taking the kids to the park. Now that I don't carry diapers or sippy cups I'm FREE! I can throw this on and be out the door.  It has held up just fine after numerous washes, fits true to size and the color choices are numerous. The one downside is if you like to look at your phone easily while running, this isn't for you.  But you can easily wear headphones and let the chord go through the openings.  I give it two thumbs up. 

It's so sleek I bet The Fonz would wear it!

The real indicator of how simple this is? Even my husband likes it! When I told him I was ordering this, he said "Like a fanny pack?!" Well, when he saw how basic it is, he wants one now too. 

Disclosure: Unfortunately I'm not a big enough blogger to get this stuff for free and do a review. I bought this with my own money, all opinions are my own and I don't benefit if you click on any of my links. 

What about you? Do you own a Flip Belt?
How do you carry things on your runs?

Love the #wowlinkup - please check out my fellow fitness enthusiasts!

Until next time,
Michele





Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Benefits of Varying Terrain

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!

Good old Suburbia

Back when I lived in suburbia, I ran pretty much the same route.  I knew where to turn to make it 1 or 2 miles longer, but the main loop was always the same.  I had some hills but it was all pavement.  These days, I'm dealing with more inclines and varied textures of surface.  I'm finally getting more used to it.  Translation:  I can actually move the day after a run, I'm not gasping for air after a couple of miles, and my time is getting a little faster. Although I'm trying not to put too much emphasis on pace (which is good because these streets are very humbling), I know this is overall good for my running and I'm embracing it.  Here are my reasons why I'm making it a point to take advantage of the various paths laid out before me:


1) Improved Strength. Whether it's sand, grass, stairs, or hills, anything besides flat asphalt is harder to run on.  If you spend just a few minutes of your run on grass, you're getting a little strength training done for your legs.  You'll also work different muscles, which leads me to #2.



2) Injury Prevention.  If you are running the same route, you are using the same muscles over and over again.  As a result, some muscles are remaining weak, causing muscle imbalance and ultimately injury.  By switching up your terrain, you will strengthen muscles you don't normally use.  When I run hills, my hamstrings and butt are more sore.  When I run on grass, my hips are less sore.  It's all good.    



3) Proper Running Technique.  When I run on grass or even a more slippery surface like smooth tile, I'm lighter on my feet.  I usually take smaller steps at a faster cadence - which is actually better running form!   



4) Mental Break.  Searching for different terrain will take you to new places and we could all use a mental break like that once in awhile!  It's good for us to see new places and take in our surroundings, instead of looking down at our Garmins all the time.  



And because I never miss an opportunity to relate running to life. . . 


A sample of what my feet hit on my runs.

Our path in life will have varied terrain.  Sometimes it's smooth, flat road.  Other times are quite bumpy.  And some days you feel like you might never get up that hill.  But trust that somehow this point in your path is making you stronger - if you take the time to accept that.  There is something beautiful and beneficial at every point in our path.  And if you can't see it now, trust that you will be able to look back on it one day and see it.



What about you?  Do you get a chance to run on anything but pavement?

Don't forget to check in with the rest of the #wowlinkup!  Thanks for reading!

Until next time,
Michele

Monday, August 11, 2014

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I feel lucky when someone actually reads a blog post.  It's a treat when the same people come back.  It's an absolute honor when you get recognized by a reader and fellow blogger.  Thanks to Lauren at Lauren's Glass Slipper for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award and for taking the time to read all of my posts!  If you don't follow Lauren already, be sure to head on over to her blog.  We've come to "know" each other in the blogging world over the past few months and I'm so glad we did!  



The Rules for this Award

1) Thank and link to the person who nominated you
2) List the rules and display the award
3) Share seven facts about yourself
4) Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated
Optional: display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you

Seven Facts About Me

1) The race that turned me into a runner was MCM 1997, but the first race I actually ever ran was the 1987 Leprechaun 5k. It was a race in my hometown on Long Island, New York. I was in the fifth grade and I ran so slow my friend next to me was practically walking. I can't remember what my time was, but I remember something took over my legs as I rounded the corner to the finish line and I sprinted to the end. I know we have it on VHS somewhere because my older brother watched it over and over with me. He was so stinkin' proud! I wish the running bug had bit me back then, but it took me another 10 years to discover my true introverted athlete.

2) I was homecoming queen or "Miss West Islip 1994". Ha! Wait, don't leave, it's not what you think! I wasn't nominated, I didn't hand out cupcakes or make signs that said "Vote for Michele, she's swell."  I think I had to put my name in for it and it was more of a talent show. I played the piano and sang "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" from Phantom of the Opera and...wait for it...TEACHERS were the judges! So I was really more of a nerd and not Miss Popular or a mean girl (I swear). 

My sister made me this picture years ago because, well, that's what sisters do to each other. 
3) I was in the Navy. I went to the Naval Academy and was commissioned in 1998. I served as a Surface Warfare Officer, which means I was stationed on ships. On one of my ships, I was in the Engineering Division and was in charge of propulsion. I had 20 Machinist Mates/Boiler Technicians working for me and let me tell you, I think engineers are the hardest working people on those ships. We were the first ones on and the last ones off everyday. It was a steam ship, which means these guys worked in a hot steamy engine room at the bottom of a ship, sometimes not seeing the light of day all day. I still think of that time whenever I see a Navy ship on the water.



4) I met Jay Leno.  He has a very large head in person. A friend had tickets to his show and we got a very brief moment with him to say hi and he thanked us for our service.

5) I dislocated my shoulder during a triathlon - my FIRST triathlon!  It was in 2002 and I lived in San Diego at the time.  It was an open water swim and the swim was almost cancelled because the water was so rough that day.  We actually had the option to run a duathlon instead.  But I was stubborn and walked right into the water.  I got hit hard by a couple of waves - like slammed down to the ground and tumbling backwards under water hard.  Somehow I must have hit my arm on the ground and as I was swimming I felt like I couldn't move my left arm correctly.  As I got up out of the water, someone said - "I think you dislocated your shoulder!"  I did, and off to the emergency room I went.  I think it was Divine Intervention and God's way of protecting me.  I was NOT ready for that swim and probably would have hurt myself even more had I continued.

6) I HATE birds.  I've been to Trafalgar Square and it was a nightmare for me!

Trafalgar Square - been there, did NOT do THAT.
Photo source: Seattle's Travels

7) I gained 40 pounds during both of my pregnancies.  After my first son, I went on Weight Watchers and got back down to my normal weight.  After my second son,  Weight Watchers just didn't cut it for some reason.  I used My Fitness Pal instead and joined a friendly neighborhood weight loss contest. I didn't win, but it was just the push I needed to get back into shape, and I haven't looked back.  I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life right now, both mentally and physically.  I have a very different perspective of a healthy lifestyle than I did years back.  It's not about what I weigh, what size I am or even how fast I am.  I keep the long term picture in mind and want to be strong for my everyday life now and for years to come.

Left: August 2010, the day I went into labor with my #2.  I thought it would be a good idea to
take a bumpy ride in an armored vehicle 2 weeks before my due date.
Right: August 2014.  Puh-leasse!  I can change a 41 lb water jug by myself.  Boom. 

And now my nominees.   I'm breaking a rule here and I hope the Blogging Board of Directors (is there one?) doesn't come after me for it.  Not all of my nominees are "bloggers" as in they don't have a separate blog.  Some of these people have Facebook pages that really inspire me and I want to recognize them!  So here it goes:

3) Chaitali @ Running and Enjoying
4) Lara and Kerry @ Uptite Mamas
5) Lindsey @ One Mother of a Day
6) Angie @ A Mother's Pace
7) Tony @ G Force
9) Michelle @ Onemoremile
10) Miranda @ The Cupcake Triathlete
11) Sharon @ Run-Hike-Play
12) Haley @ Running With Diapers
13) Jenn @ Hands Free Fun
14) Nick @ Short, Round and Fast
15) Meghan @ Fitness CrEATures

So tell me one random fact about you!

Thanks again Lauren for nominating me and for always reading my posts.  It really does mean a lot to me!

Until next time,
Michele


Friday, August 8, 2014

5 Favorite Race Memories



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 week's theme:  5 Favorite Race Memories.  It's funny - I am one to sweat so much about how fast I'm going to run a race.  Yet,  when I thought about what 5 races I felt the best about, none of them had anything to do with time.  Here are my 5:

Fun and 21 :)
1) The Time I Got Hooked.  We never forget our first race.  It may not be the first chronologically, but it's the one that officially started my love for running.  For me, that was the Marine Corps Marathon 1997.  I was a senior in college and ran it with a couple of girlfriends.  I knew NOTHING.  Really.  I did not know how to properly build mileage, eat or drink while running, or how to stretch to prevent injury.  But I guess when you are 21 years old, you can still crank out a marathon without really knowing what you are doing.  However, I paid for it big time.  My IT band was shot and I couldn't run for months afterwards.  Even through all the pain, I thought to myself "I ran 26 point freaking 2 miles".  And so it began.  

Sorry for the blurry pic, but I still love it.

2) The Time I Redeemed Myself.  After MCM 1997, I ran some smaller races and half marathons.  But in 2002 I decided I wanted to redeem myself and run another marathon properly.  I joined the local Team in Training group for the 2002 San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon and couldn't have made a better decision.  Not only was I running for a good cause, but I actually learned how to train.  I learned a lot from that group, which just reinforced my love for running.  My dad came out to see the race which made it that much more special.  After the race was over, I was VERY sore, but not in pain.  Imagine that!

Me and my workout buddy :)

3) The Time I Coached Someone.  "You might be a runner if. . . " a friend texts you on a Saturday night and asks if you want to run a 10 mile race the next morning, and you say YES.  Earlier this year, that's what happened.  My friend Kristi had an extra bib for the Cherry Pit 10 Miler.  I had run a half marathon the weekend before, so I was physically ready for it.  I told her sure and I would pace her for whatever time she wanted.  It was nice to show up to a race without any pressure on myself.  But it was even better to run alongside someone and coach them along.  It was the absolute BEST to watch that someone give it their all and meet their goal.  Hmmm. . . if I'm this excited about it months later maybe I should consider coaching!


4) The Time I Surprised Myself: I am a triathlete, but I can't say I "love" the open water swim portion.  However, I don't dread it as much as I used to because I forced myself to do it more.  This was the main reason I signed up for the Chesapeake Bay 1 Mile Swim.  I wanted to face my fear and reduce my anxiety over the swim.  I didn't just face my fear, I chased it down with a vengeance.  This was the race when everything seemed to line up just right and I felt fantastic in the water.  I swam so much faster than I anticipated and it was more proof to me that our bodies can achieve so much more when our heads are in the game.  

Proud parent moment

5) The Time That Proved I'm Doing Something Right.  This year my son ran his first Fun Run.  He was 5 at the time and he tends to be my shy one, so I wasn't sure how he'd fare on race day.  It was a mile, and we practiced a couple of times before hand.  He ran 1/2 mile at the track and complained of cramps.   Then we ran a mile close to the house, but he stopped a bunch of times to look at stuff as any kid would do.  The night before the race, he was actually sick.  I told him he didn't have to run the race, but he said he really wanted to.  He was fine the next morning so we showed up to the race.  He blew me away.  He ran the whole mile and I was right there beside him.  He made sure to keep up with one of his friends and he even sprinted to the finish line.  My little man ran a 9:30 mile and I was AMAZED.  I saw heart during that run and couldn't have been more proud.  I knew he was so excited to get that medal and it's a memory I will always cherish.

The next time I worry about my time before, during or after a race, I'm going to think of this post.   Sure, it's always nice to get a PR and know you are physically improving.  But racing can also give us the things we can't measure - personal growth, friendships, and a lifetime of memories.

What's one of your favorite race memories?

Don't forget to check the linkup and have a great weekend!
Until next time,
Michele