fit

Fueling Up!

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Things have been going so well with my knee that I’ve stopped blogging my daily workouts and am going back to just writing about unique workouts and nutrition! It also doesn’t help that it’s school season again so my full-time job has ramped up and I’m once again at the mercy of teachers and students needing all things technical.

Yesterday I signed up for The Heist!! This is an all-women’s bouldering competition held at Central Rock Gym (my home gym) in Watertown, MA. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I heard about it after CRG’s Ring of Fire comp back in March. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to compete due to my knee, but I’m back in the gym twice a week and I’m feeling strong so let’s do this!

I’ll admit, I’m nervous. I’m still very much a beginner climber; my height to weight ratio really works against me in the gym. So even though I’ve been climbing twice a week since January, my techniques’ just so-so and I’ll be competing at a beginner’s level. This means I’ll be attempting 5 bouldering problems rated V0-V2 over the course of 3 hours. That is a LONG comp, much longer than the one I did back in March. I honestly rarely do gym sessions that are so long and while the length is really to give people time to rest between attempts, folks who need more attempts (as I might due to my level) will just end up climbing more. My goal is literally to not come in last. This is a real goal for me because in my last comp, well, I came in last. 

Due to the healing time for my knee I missed out on the chance to train with The Heist CRG Team so for now I’m on my own. I’m training by bouldering once a week to gain strength and skill and top roping once a week to help me with endurance. I also just treated myself to new shoes (I’ll blog about those another time) since my old shoes were starting to fall apart and really weren’t ideal for bouldering. On the days I’m not in the gym I’m doing a mix of cardio (biking for my knee), tabata/HiiT workouts, kettlebell strength training, and yoga.

It’s been interesting, as I work to strengthen my legs and upper body I’ve been gaining weight. A chunk of that is from new muscle, but if I’m honest with myself a larger chunk comes from allowing myself to drift into a summer junk food diet cheating more and more on my allergy diet. I’d still say overall I’m a very healthy eater, but I’ve had fried clams/oysters, lobster salads, bagels with lox, burgers and beer, Mexican and margaritas, and all sorts of things that are great once in a while but not once a week. It’s time to slim down, which means being strict about not eating foods I’m allergic to and keeping my portions reasonable with a paleo-tilt. Every pound in my body is a pound I’m dragging up the wall with me. Thankfully, this is also harvest season so my kitchen is FULL of local, organic produce, most of which from my or my Dad’s garden.

This week I’m trying out a few new recipes. The first one was Punjabi Baingan Bharta, which is an eggplant dish that I actually enjoy (I usually hate eggplant). I basically followed that recipe to a T except that I quadrupled the amount of garam masala, added a little turmeric and cardamom, and used an immersion blender at the end. Its was so good!

Last night though was INCREDIBLE!! It was adapted heavily from this recipe, but I’ll put my whole recipe here.

Grilled Chicken with Raw Peanut Ginger Lime Veggies

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Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, or an oil of your choosing
  • 3 large or 5 small carrots, spiraled or peeled into noodles*
  • 1 large zucchini spiraled or peeled into noodles*
  • 1 medium beet spiraled or peeled into noodles*
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (or almond or cashew butter if you’re strict paleo)
  • 4 tablespoons coconut milk (use canned or “cooking coconut milk”)
  • 2 tablespoons Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

*Note: I use the GEFU Spirelli Spiral Slicer but have my eye on the Paderno World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer. The GEFU works well for zucchini but for the carrots and beets I just used a vegetable peeler to make strips.

Directions:

  1. Preheat your grill (if it’s not grilling season you can pan-fry the chicken in coconut oil, ghee or an oil of your choosing). In a small bowl mix olive oil, salt and pepper and brush on chicken (note: if you’re pan-frying just sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken).
  2. In a medium bowl mix the nut butter, coconut milk, aminos, cayenne, garlic, ginger, and lime juice. 
  3. Begin grilling the chicken, depending on the thickness it should be grilled about 6 minutes per side to an internal temperature of 165ºF.
  4. Mix spiraled/peeled veggies with cilantro and stir in sauce.
  5. After chicken has cooled for ~5 minutes cut it into bite-sized chunks and mix in with the “pasta” until fully coated in the sauce.
  6. Serves two!

Finally, here are two of my favorite DIY workouts from the past two weeks. These are both core and lower-body intensive to compliment my climbing and knee recovery, but they are still full-body workouts (and both started with 30 mins on the exercise bike doing intervals and end with 15-20 mins of yoga):

8/22/2014 3 Rounds for Time (my time = 20 mins)

  1. KB backward lunge row and pass under x 20 (26lb KB)
  2. Weighted sit-up and butt-lift x 10 (15lb dumbbell)
  3. Single-leg lateral lift x 10 each side (5 lb ankle weights)
  4. KB Single-leg deadlifts x 5 each side (26lb KB)
  5. Single-leg kick-backs x 10 each side (5 lb ankle weights)

9/3/2014 – 2 Rounds for Time (my time = 22 mins) – I purposely lowered the KB weight for this per my Physical Therapist as I get back into weighted squats. I’d normally use a 26lb KB so choose your own weight that’s right for you.

  1. Weighted double-leg lifts x 15 (5 lb ankle weights)
  2. Single-leg lateral lift x 15 each side (5 lb ankle weights)
  3. Single-leg medial lift x 15 each side (5 lb ankle weights)
  4. 2 X 20 Kettlebell One-Arm Swings (15lb KB)
  5. Figure 4 Squats x 12 each leg (15lb KB)
  6. Weighted Deadlift kickbacks x 15 each side (15lb KB + 5 lb ankle weights)

Enjoy the beginning of the change of season and remember to eat those fresh veggies!!

 

Feeling Great!

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I’m continuing to find improvement with my knee! Next week I’ll only be heading to PT once and as long as things are still going in the upward direction she shouldn’t need to see me again for a month, woo!! I’ve learned a lot during this process and I’m thrilled that not only did I manage to not lose fitness during my recovery period, but I’ve actually gained a ton of glute, hip, core and leg strength. I can’t say this enough, if you’re in PT do your exercises. Seriously. Your recovery is your responsibility. They’re not giving you exercises for their health, they’re giving you exercises for your health. Do them.

With that said, here’s my week in review of exercise. It was my “hell week” at work as we prepare for students to return to school so that included rolling out new machines on campus, reimaging the entire campus, rolling out six new servers and completely re-doing the server rack. In other words, it was a very physical week at work for me. I adjusted my workouts accordingly.

Saturday:

  • This was my “rest day”. I took Toby for a short hike and a swim at Burgess Pond. It was probably 45 minutes of activity and much more of just lounging. 🙂

Sunday:

  • 30 minutes doing intervals on the recumbent bike
  • 30 minute Barre Pilates class

Monday:

  • 30 minutes doing intervals on the recumbent bike
  • ZuzkaLight’s Kettlebell Series Workout #1 – I was particularly thrilled to get back to working out with Zuzka. This was the first time since I’ve been injured. I did have to substitute one exercise, but this was a fantastic workout. I’ll post the workout here (with my modification) for posterity, but for the record if you like high intensity workouts I really recommend her ZGym. It’s paid, I have no affiliation with her, but I’ve been doing her workouts for three years now and I love them! You can find many free workouts from her on YouTube.
    • 2 Rounds:
      • 40 Side-to-Side Kettlebell Swings
      • 10 Warrior Rows (LEFT)
      • Standing single-leg kick-backs x 12 each side (wearing 5 lb ankle weights)
      • 10 Warrior Rows (RIGHT)
      • 20 Clams
  • 20 mins yoga, focused on legs.
  • This was the day we loaded out all the new machines, mostly desktops. It was 8 hours of lifting and being on my feet. If I knew in advance that’s what my day was going to be I would not have done the above intense workout. Thankfully, my knee made it through ok!

Tuesday:

  • 15 minutes doing intervals on the recumbent bike.
  • 45 minutes advanced yoga. I didn’t go into it expecting it to be as hard-core a class as it was. After Monday I needed some recovery, but this was intense!
  • Another full day of being on my feet along with some lifting but not as much as Monday.

Wednesday:

  • 30 minutes doing intervals on the recumbent bike
  • Double-leg-lift w/ crunch x 15 (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle)
  • Side leg-lifts x 15 each side (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle)
  • Standing single-leg kick-backs x 15 each side (wearing 5 lb ankle weights)
  • Completely redid the server room solo. LOTS of lifting, crawling, bending, etc.

Thursday:

Friday:

  • 30 minutes doing intervals on the recumbent bike
  • 15 minutes restorative yoga
  • Gave 2.5 hours of deep tissue massage
  • 1 hour gentle yoga practice
  • I’m hopefully also going to do a round of my PT exercises today. The day is still young. 🙂

You may notice I didn’t climb this week. That was more due to my energy level this week and the amount I used my upper body at work. I’m looking forward to getting back to the rock gym next week!!

Planting Your Seed of Fitness

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I’ve taken a long road to “fit”. Honestly, I was that kid who faked illnesses to get out of gym class and would gladly tell you the only time I ran was if something was chasing me. Now I’m on a regular schedule of working out for at least 45 minutes every day before work, alternating between high intensity interval training (HiiT), yoga and pilates. I hit the rock gym 2-3 times per week and attend yoga classes 2-3 times per week. I’ve fallen in love with kettlebells and weights. I take at least one day off a week for rest and ensure I’m alternating between exercising those fast-twitch muscles with those intense workouts with building slow twitch muscles and flexibility through yoga. Right now this is a good balance for me and I’m excited to see where I go from here. The things is, it was a long road to get here.

My partner has a favorite (non-original) line that he likes to use when I’m being self-defeating. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” He reminded me of this just this week as I was watching bouldering competitions on YouTube and lamenting that while I’m falling in love with climbing I will never be phenomenal at it. Excuses poured out of my mouth. “I’m too old, these climbing athletes started when they were kids.” “I’m too tall and heavy.” “I’m afraid of heights.” The list goes on and on, but I have to admit that after watching these athletes compete I learned new techniques and the next time I hit the gym I was able to do harder routes and I had more confidence. I don’t expect to be a rock star climber, but the point is that I’m getting better. I’m planting my seed today.

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“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

I mentioned my road to being fit was a long one. The first time I was even introduced to a type of fitness I enjoyed was when I was about 15 and my theatre teacher showed us yoga during our warmups. It was slow and gentle and I could get into it. I then found that I enjoyed the jumping parts of track and field (high jump, triple jump, long jump, pole vaulting) which was fun for a while but I quickly became intimidated by the real athletes on my team and I also loathed the warmups. So that didn’t stick.

It wasn’t until after college that I really started caring about fitness. I moved to Boston, found myself walking to work and eating better (honestly, anything other than fast food was better than I had been eating in college) and I started dropping weight without even trying. I decided to check out a local yoga class and quickly fell in love. But, I’d walk through the gym to get to my class and would shake my head at the crowd on treadmills, ellipticals, and the weight benches. In part I was intimidated, and in another part I just felt like I wasn’t in that crowd. I had terribly negative misconceptions that people were there out of pure vanity and that it was just some daytime sex club for post sorority chicks and frat dudes. Years later I would find out how wrong I was, but at that time it was just not my scene.

It wasn’t until I went to school for massage that I started to really get it. The body is an incredibly fascinating thing. On one hand, it’s fascinating because of the amount of abuse it can take and keep on ticking. On the other hand, when you care for it right the body is capable of amazing feats of greatness. What I had yet to learn was that even MY body was capable of those things. 

Practicing massage is a lot like dancing. It takes a good amount of coordination and balance. It takes a good understanding of body mechanics and physics to avoid self-injury. Practitioners also benefit from being fit and healthy and having a more developed upper-body. I was blessed to have some classmates that came from the fitness world and they coached me to try getting in better shape and eating healthier. 

I started with free weights. Small weights, high reps. The reason this worked for me is that it wasn’t painful to do, and I saw results very quickly. I enjoyed feeling strong and seeing my muscles develop. Naturally, I then wanted to eat foods that helped fuel my body so I also began learning about better nutrition; a subject I continue to explore daily.

I continued with yoga and weights and naturally I had several lapses where I just slowly got out of my routine, only to pick it up again months later. But every time I got back into it I tried to take things further. I explored different types of yoga; some extremely challenging. I walked more and began hiking. I found summer activities, like paddling, running and swimming, that kept my attention and kept me active. It all started building. I was exercising because I wanted to be in shape for massage, and then the type of exercise I was doing demanded different parts of my body to be more fit so I started doing other exercises to support that. For example, when I found I enjoyed paddling it only made sense that I was continue with my free weights to build upper body strength. And in continuing with free weights I would need yoga to help me stretch those muscles for recovery. The combination of strength and flexibility came back into my massage sessions and I had more stamina.

It was about two years ago that I started getting into HiiT by following some videos online. For me, this was a perfect fit because I get bored easily if I’m doing a “routine”. The HiiT workouts I was doing were different every day. Similar to crossfit, I faced a new challenge and often didn’t know in advance what it was going to be. All I knew was that by the end I would be sweating my butt off and I would feel like She Ra. I suppose you can say I became addicted to the adrenaline; I definitely enjoyed the challenge.

I have to give the caveat that in most cases I do not recommend starting a new type of exercise by watching a video. It’s important, especially with intense workouts, to use proper form. By this point I had been working with a personal trainer, had studied anatomy/kinesiology and felt I was body-aware. Even still, I quickly transitioned to going to a kickboxing class that also did circuit training and I found it extremely helpful to have someone there who could call me out if my form was poor.

So I planted that seed back in 2003 that I wanted to be fit and my tree is still growing. I’m not a super-athelete, but I also feel like I could hold my own during the zombie apocalypse. The trick is to stick with it. Find new challenges that keep you interested. Listen to your body and know it’s a-ok to start slow. I started with walking and now I’m climbing three stories in the air and swinging around 25lb kettlebells like they’re kittens.

Also, did I mention the health benefits? Once upon a time I had “bad knees”, was on meds for acid reflux and insomnia, got colds regularly, and I had exercise induced asthma. With the right diet and exercise routine those have become vices of my past. I thought those illnesses were just part of who I was. Now my immune system is bangin’ and I feel stronger than I ever have!

I do have to say from my own fitness progress and from watching the progress of my clients over the years, it is imperative that you start at a level that’s appropriate for you. Diving head-first into a fitness routine that’s too strenuous for you is a great recipe for failure. For one thing, there’s a high chance of injury, which can start a terrible cycle of having to stop working out to heal, only to jump back in, overdo it, and re-injure yourself. So please listen to your body and take it at your own pace. The next issue is that if it hurts or you end up so sore you can barely walk the next day, you’re probably not going to want to keep going. Yes, it’s normal to have some burn, especially when you’re just starting out, but you can get in shape without pain. Seriously, I did it. If I was in constant pain I would not have made it this far. If you’re unsure of your fitness level and where to start I highly recommend working with a personal trainer. But if you can’t afford that it’s not a good excuse to not exercise. 😉 Look for community classes, beginner videos or just start with something really basic like long walks and a little jogging.

Finally, remember there is no finish line. Fitness is ongoing. Plant your tree today and keep growing!

Want some motivation? I just recorded my first virtual yoga class! Please check it out and let me know what you think:

For those of you who enjoy HiiT, I created two new progressions this week. It’s been a while since I’ve posted these but I’m hoping to make it a habit again. If you try them let me know how you did! Remember to warm up first!

Full Body, Cardio Focus (2 rounds, 45 sec activity, 15 sec rest)
  1. KB Swings (my reps 24/25)
  2. High knees 
  3. Side-plank leg-lift R (my reps 14/14)
  4. Side-plank leg-lift L (my reps 14/14)
  5. High knees
  6. KB snatch R (my reps 8/7)
  7. KB snatch L (my reps 7/7)
  8. High knees
Bicep Buster (3 rounds for time, my time 16:50)
  1. 10 reverse pull-ups in a pyramid (6-10-6 seconds) (for this, start at the top of the pull-up position and slowly lower down while counting out the seconds; for those who are proficient with pull-ups you can do regular pull-ups at the slow pace; for those who are new to pull-ups, try using a strap and modify as necessary to avoid injury)
  2. 15 R side crunches
  3. 15 L side crunches
  4. 30 bicycle reps
  5. 30 air squats
Now go shovel a foot of snow. 😉 Hehe, those on the East Coast may know what I’m talking about. I shoveled a good 14″ after this workout, and then did my cool down.