The Best Parts of 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sitting at home, thinking about my goals and ambitions for the upcoming year, I thought it would be nice to review 2013 for its strong points. It's a good way to get perspective about accomplishments and abilities, as well as to remember travels and other memorable events.

The best parts of 2013:

  1. I entered my 30s.
  2. I studied for and passed the NASM personal training exam and became certified for my 30th birthday.
  3. I purchased my domain name and started setting up my personal training website.
  4. Traveled to our cabin getaway.
  5. Sewed my very first and second quilts.
  6. Designed five free workouts.
  7. Tried Crossfit for the first time.
  8. Took a few summer boat rides and even saw a bald eagle.
  9. Attended our annual Perseid Picnic.
  10. Traveled to Mackinac Island.
  11. Met a few celebs.
  12. Traveled to Door County, WI.
  13. Traveled to Chicago.
  14. Chaperoned my first field trip for Peanut to Sullivan's Woods.
  15. Traveled to Elkhart Lake for a retreat weekend.
  16. Bought and conquered my new moped.
  17. Ran a 5k in April and Peanut even raced too.
  18. Became a manager at work.
I know 2014 will hold even more surprises. We're already gearing up for our next trip to Florida in March, and I have a whole lot of things in the works for this blog. I can't wait to see what else is in store!

Celebrate with me this week as we enter a new year. Jot down a few of your best moments for 2014, what you learned, where you traveled, what you crossed off your bucket list. Take a moment to remember how far you've come and how strong you are to galvanize you for the future. I'd like to hear what you favorite parts of the year was. Leave a comment here on the blog or tag me on Twitter so I can see what you accomplished too.

Happy New Year!

Visit to the Oshkosh EAA Museum

Monday, December 30, 2013

Our town has absolutely nothing for a small child to do in the winter, indoors, unless you are a YMCA member. Even our McDonald's Playland went away during the last round of renovations and a close-by kid-friendly cafe disappeared. We run out of ideas for keeping Peanut entertained in the cooler months sometimes. That is, until we stumbled upon the children's museum inside the EAA museum in Oshkosh.

You see, Oshkosh hosts the biggest aircraft convention in the world every year and so the aircraft museum is a signature part of our city. Since we live here though, we are all too used to that one week in July where our city is completely descended upon and consumed for the love of airplanes. Many of us try to get out of the city and rent our homes out to avoid the hubub of tourism.

Sure, we'd been to the museum before, but not in a long time. One day Hubster decided to take Peanut there for a visit just for something to do. Then, we happened upon the kid's section of the airport. And we discovered that the interactive play area beats out the Mickey D's Playland any day of the week! We immediately purchased a family membership and now enjoy the place as often as we'd like.

Since I've been off of work for about a week and a half with Peanut this Christmas vacation, mostly cooped up in the house with all our new Christmas paraphernalia, we decided to take a day out to the museum to burn off some accumulating steam.

Check this place out.

Test how many pounds of thrust you can generate on this mother of all exercise bikes.

Use this robotic arm to build and move around blocks.

Watch flight simulators

Sit inside a real cockpit with tons of controls and buttons and pretend you're a pilot.

Tilt and lean to maneuver a hang glider, and just across the way, a hot air balloon.

Sit in one of the rows of flight simulators and actually give your flying skills a try.

Then, sit in the viewing tower and see if you can see any action with the provided binoculars.

This place is awesome. It's like science and physical education and math all got together and made this awesome place. An interactive learning experience and boredom buster all in one.

All you adults out there, the regular museum is definitely worth the admission. There are several hangars' worth of aircraft to see and learn about, even for the person who isn't entranced by planes. Hubster and I like to peruse the exhibits once in awhile too and always learn something. If you're ever in Oshkosh, WI, you need to check this place out. And if you live here, especially if you have children, you'll be doing everyone a favor by purchasing a membership and enjoying the exhibits.

10 Ways to Get a Head-Start on your New Year's Resolutions

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again and again: if you have a goal, start it today! If you want to lose weight, start with your next meal--don't wait until Monday or New Year's. I myself started South Beach right in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, knowing full well what a treat hell I would be facing. Right now is the perfect time to get a head-start on your New Year's resolutions. Here's how:

1. Start Small: Break your big goals down into the smallest parts. For example, if you'd like to get out of debt, you need to make a checklist of all the strategies you need to try to do so such as cancelling credit cards you don't use, paying $5 extra per month on your highest loan, shopping for lower interest rates, etc. Start with just one piece of the goal at a time. Just check off one item per week until you're well on your way to financial freedom. It's easier to stick with small changes you incorporate over time versus implementing a whole bunch at once.


2. Practice your New Year's Resolution: Testing out some of the habits that you want to change will give you a feel for what types of obstacles you'll be facing. And if you know what obstacles you'll be facing, you can make a better action plan, helping you to solidify your final plans. Test the waters in the next two weeks. Maybe you'll find that outdoor workouts this time of year just aren't going to work for you. Good thing you found that out now, not mid-January! Maybe you'll find that you need to gather a few more resources. Maybe you're going to start a weight loss plan on Jan 1, but you don't know how to lose that weight. Check some healthy cookbooks and fitness magazines out from the library this week! Start listening to weight loss podcasts while you work. Plan out your workout schedule for the entire month of January in your Google calendar. This goes for any type of goal you wish to set for the new year. Gather all your supplies and test out your plans. Tweak from there so you are fully prepared once January 1 rolls around.

3. Establish SMART Goals: that SMART acronym is such a foolproof way to set goals. Your goals should always be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. For a refresher on what these all mean, look here. Your goals must be written and understood in a way that is trackable, has a time limit, and isn't beyond your realistic capabilities. Make sure every resolution you make follows the SMART guidelines.

4. Reward System: Put a reward system in place as soon as you reach those measurable goals. Knowing you're going to treat yourself to a massage or your new favorite book after losing 5 lbs just might give you that extra push you need. Just like in school, you deserve a tangible way to tell yourself "way to go!" Rewards also make the process of achieving your goals much more fun. Would you rather run 4 days a week for a month just to increase your speed or to increase your speed AND enjoy a massage? See what a difference that little reward makes?

5. Make your Goal Emotional: Emotional goals are much more compelling than more shallow, vain ones. Find a way to make your goal hit straight to the heart. For example, instead of losing weight to fit in a bikini, how about reframing your thought process? What will it feel like to be healthy? Will you feel light and carefree? Will you feel capable and strong? Use those emotions to propel you toward your goals. Run your miles for cancer survivors. Beat a medical condition before it even starts. Create a family bonding time with nightly walking rituals. Whatever you do, connect to your goal on an emotional level to make it that much more meaningful.

6. Start Over: Most resolutions fail by after about one month. In fact, only 64% of resolution makers even make it to the one month mark. Don't be one of those people! If you fall off, get back on. Start over. What I want you to do is to set your start-over dates right now. Start over on January 15, then on February 1, then on February 15 and so on. All-or-nothing thinking will only make you frustrated. Slip-ups are allowed, as long as you keep the forward momentum. If you allow yourself a little wiggle room and a few extra chances, you leave more room for goal achievement. Plus, tackling your goals in 15-day chunks seems much more do-able, right?

7. Join a Challenge: Find a challenge that begins on January 1 right now that coincides with your goal. Plenty of Diet Bets (with monetary rewards) and money challenges will be beginning in the new year. Find one now and get psyched to start!

8. Put it in Writing, in Public: Social support is one of the key factors to goal adherence. Make sure you post your intentions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or wherever else you'd like. Once it's out there, in writing, you are less likely to falter. You can't fly under the radar anymore, and that's a good thing! Simply posting your resolutions will give you another extra push to make sure they happen.

9. Join Forces: Does someone else close to you have a similar goal? Try doing the tasks with them, or at least check in with one another. Find a Twitter buddy--Twitter is teeming with fitness and money buffs that you can make easy friends with. At the very least, follow some of your favorite fitness, money or other related personalities. Checking their tweets every day will be a source of constant motivation. It's amazing what healthy pictures on Instagram and motivating quotes on Twitter can do for a person when they're running low on fuel!

10. Research: Wanting to save more money? Research your investment options beforehand. Lose weight? Read articles on fitness and nutrition in your free time. The more you know, the easier it will be to implement your plan, the more competent you'll feel, and the more pumped you'll be! Just don't get too overwhelmed with the details that you never start to begin with. Just start! You'll find that over time you start to absorb the information, so don't try to memorize every little thing. Just cultivate an awareness and understanding of what you're doing before you start so you can start strong! Sign up for a few newsletters and check a few headlines every morning to stay in-the-know.

I wish you the best of luck with your New Year's resolutions and have a wonderful holiday. Report back if any of these tips helped you create a resolution that stuck. I'd love to hear about it.

P.S. I'm really loving this list of resolutions from Huff Post. I think all of our resolutions should look more like this:)

Weekly Workout Rundown

Monday, December 16, 2013

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  • 40 min walk/run in the AM
  • 20 min run at lunch



  • 40 min interval run in the AM
  • 27 min run at lunch



  • 20 walk at lunch with mom


  • 45 min run


  • Rest

Not too eventful this week, when it comes to workouts. I started the week a little weak with that run/walk Monday morning. Not sure what my deal was, but I couldn't muster much more than that. But I was fine by lunch and pulled a strong week anyhow. Zuzka Light leaves me feeling sore the next day, just how I like it.

I am still doing ok on South Beach. Not much more movement on the scale, but I managed to maintain through a weekend filled with big dinners. We had a big dinner with some friends followed by another luncheon at church where I filled my plates. I was just happy to come out of the weekend unscathed, and sometimes that's the best we could ever hope for during a bustling holiday season:)

How was your week in workouts?

Weekly Food Prep

Sunday, December 15, 2013

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Upon entering Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet, I'd like to share what a typical menu looks like on this plan. No, I do not eat salads for every meal (hardly eat them at all!). And yes, I do cheat just a little bit. This week, I'm finally allowed to have a few carbs including one fruit and one starch, which will be quinoa.

Left to right: salsa meatballs over a bed of quinoa,
egg scramble and turkey sausage, broccoli/cauliflower, apples

Breakfast, 265 calories:

  • 5 egg whites + shredded zucchini, mushrooms, onions and a sprinkle of cheese
  • 3 breakfast turkey sausage links

Snack, 210 calories: 

  • Apple with cinnamon
  • 20 almonds

Lunch, 299 calories:

  • Quinoa + salsa meatballs with sauce (similar to this recipe, but with ground turkey)

Snack, 177 calories:

  • Raw broccoli and cauliflower with hummus
  • 1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese


  • Turkey chili dogs (minus the bun)
  • White bean chicken chili
  • Taco salad
  • Something with turkey bacon
  • Etc.

I'm really loving the variety I've found with the South Beach and low-carb recipes out there. I brought a stack of cookbooks home from the library, flagged pages like crazy, and saved all the recipes I knew I would actually use to a Google document. Then, when I sit down to plan my menu for the week, I just scroll through to see what looks good. I've been sticking with eggs and sausage in the morning and just change up the veggies in the eggs because I don't see myself getting sick of this breakfast. I try to keep the snacks easy too, usually along the lines of plain Greek yogurt with nuts, cottage cheese or veggies and dip. That way, most of the planning goes into lunches and dinners and prep time is still manageable. I also eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day to keep things simple.

Dinners, we typically plan like normal for the family, but I just switch things up a little bit for my diet. For example, this past week we had spaghetti on the menu. Instead of having noodles like Hubster and Peanut did, I used shredded zucchini that I roasted on the stove for a bit. I still eat hot dogs and burgers too, just without the bun or wrapped in lettuce instead. They still taste great! Really, you have to try it to dig it. We had pizza mozzarella burgers on the grill and it tasted so delicious wrapped in lettuce, I didn't miss the bun. All the great taste is in the burger itself, not the bun!

Every night before bed, I pack all the various pieces of my lunch in my big lunch bag and stash it in the fridge. The next morning, I literally only need to grab the bag and go. This food prep plan keeps me on time for work, fully prepared and allows me to fully adhere to my meal plan.

What are you eating this week? What are your best tips for meal planning?

Weekly Workout Rundown

Monday, December 9, 2013

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  • 40 min AM run, 3 mi
  • 25 min interval run at lunch, 1.93 mi


  • 50 min Piloxing in the AM
  • 25 min moderate walk with mom at lunch


  • 40 min 30-20-10 run in the AM, 3.04 mi (get the printable here)
  • 25 min run at lunch, 1.83 mi



  • 25 min fast incline walk at lunch


  • 30 min run
  • 20 min ZCut cardio workout


  • Rest

I'm down 5lbs from last week!!!! South Beach, how I love you right now. I'm finally winning this struggle with weight and reactive hypoglycemia and anxiety! It's truly amazing to be learning so much about how all these things are so interrelated. The reactive hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar after eating, can cause that anxious feeling. I intuitively knew that my panic was somehow related to blood sugar, I just didn't know how. I'm learning more and more every day, especially since I got this little tome in the mail.

The most difficult workout this week was that tiny little inconspicuous-looking ZCut workout on Saturday. Only 10 minutes of it was the workout and the other 10 was the cool-down. My heart rate was up to my max and my body was so sore the next day, it was incredible! Zuzka Light does not kid around. If you haven't found her page on YouTube yet, you must subscribe. There are plenty of free workouts there, or on BodyRock, which she co-founded. However, I got this little three-pack as an early Christmas present (thanks mom!) and it's amazing. I will definitely be taking these on road trips with me, along with Peanut's portable DVD player. I'll also follow up with a product review soon, once I try more of the workouts. Basically, you work all-out for 10 minutes, in addition to the warm-up and cool-down, and you're done for the day. And you will be done for the day, trust me.

How about you, how are you working out this week?

Sugar Shock

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Now that I've given carbs the boot temporarily, I can understand how our society is so sugar-crazed. Everywhere I look, it's carbs, carbs, carbs. We made a quick convenience store stop on our way home from Christmas tree cutting this past weekend, and I just stood back and looked around me. Everything in the gas station was a carb, from the fruit in the coolers to the aisle of chips and candy, to the ice cream shakes, boxes of donuts, cases of soda and shelves of bread. All that was left for a person like me to eat was a two-pack of hardboiled eggs and string cheese. Kinda depressing and eye-opening all at the same time.

Thanksgiving was another carb explosion. Other than the stuffed mushrooms I brought, I could have chosen only pickles and turkey to completely avoid carbs. I didn't pass on pecan pie just this once, but mashed potatoes, stuffing, chips, and desserts galore were like insulin hell. They tasted great, but their effects were immediate and detrimental.

This past week, I was faced with three shelves worth of specialty candies at work and a buffet with an entire section dedicated just to sweets--let alone the carbs everywhere else on the buffet tables too. Another luncheon at church allowed me a plate similar to Thanksgiving. Turkey and sloppy joe mix without the bun, pickles, and olives were all that were left for me. Even healthy-seeming carrots couldn't be had, along with the chips, potato salad and table full of goodies. Normally, I would love all those things, but right now they're presenting challenges while I'm in Phase One of the South Beach Diet.

Good thing buffets offer plenty of carb-less options like this and salad.
And good thing I really love all these things!

Gourmet treats at work. Thank goodness there were all sorts
of roasted peanuts. I settled on a vessel of pistachios.

I don't say all these things to complain. It is just really tough to take on a low-carb diet in this society. We are a nation hopped up on blood sugar, that's for sure. I think Dr. Agatston's work shows that it is plausible that all these processed foods and sugary things everywhere have been a major contributing factor to our country's obesity rates. Once you can't eat carbs, especially refined ones, you really notice how they've become our most major food group.

On top of the availability of carbs, incessantly within arm's reach, we are a society of sitters. My own job requires at least 8 hours of sitting in front of a computer. Although the job naturally presents a sedentary environment, there are ways to combat sitting disease. I myself hit up the gym three days a week at lunch and take walks the other two.

I also requested a prescription for a raised desk at work when I saw my doctor last. A lack of physical activity during working hours contributes to the problems I've been having. I do work out hard 6 days a week, but the hours of extended sitting during the day are not helping my insulin resistance problem any. This strategy of standing must be working, because I've been trying to stand for at least two hours every afternoon, and it almost makes me a little sweaty. I love being able to raise and lower my desk at will and get my butt off that chair!

I was successful in my diet this week, despite just a few tiny little cheats. I was able to bypass all the decadent goodies all around me for lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts and veggies. The recipes I've used this week have largely been the reason I've been able to stick so closely to Phase 1. They're tasty and satisfying, so I haven't really felt deprived. Plus, I think it's true what they say. After two weeks on Phase 1, you just don't have those frenzied cravings for carbs anymore. Sure, they look good, but you eventually feel like you could take them or leave them.

From the weight I woke up at on the day after Thanksgiving to the weight I woke up to today, I have already lost around 5 lbs--the same 5 lbs I couldn't get rid of no matter how hard I tried (6 intense workouts, calorie deficit, food tracking, etc) before giving up carbs. Hopefully I'll have another successful week to report back on when I update next. Until then...

Have you ever noticed the sugar and empty carbs everywhere? How do you avoid them?

Five Best Christmas Workout Songs

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I wanted to bring a little bit of holiday cheer to your workouts this week, since it's finally appropriate to do so. But the beats had to be fast, the message uplifting, and the song not over-played.

I have some bad memories of hearing Susie Snowflake and Mariah Carey over and over and over when I worked at JCPenney in high school, to the point where it hurts to hear them today. Don't worry, I don't want to listen to those anymore either. My picks today are fresh and uplifting, after hours spent listening to new releases and good ole classics on Spotify. Plug these into your playlist and let them take you away.

I included the beat counts after plugging the songs in to Double the beats in the songs with the 70-80 bpm range to hit your pace.

Here are 5 Great Christmas Workout Songs:

1. Leona Lewis: I wish it could be Christmas Everyday. 3:52, 74bpm. This song has a great beat in the chorus. It would make a good treadmill song for intervals. Run fast during the chorus and slow it down during the verses.

2. Kelly Clarkson, Underneath the Tree. 3:50, 80 bpm. Has some great hooks in the music. I was toe-tapping listening to this song, which means it makes me want to move. I hope it makes you want to move too. Plus, it's a new song, so it sure isn't worn out yet.

3. She & Him, Sleigh Ride. 2:44, 106bpm. I always love the S&H sound. They do a fun job on this classic tune. Plus, the fast beat is definitely workout-worthy.

4. Glee Cast, Deck the Rooftop. 2:30, 97bpm. I've never watched the show, but this tune sure is catchy and it blends several classic numbers into one upbeat song.

5. SheDaisy, Deck the Halls. 3:50, 119bpm. This has always been one of my favorite renditions of this song. Whenever it comes on my playlist, I get all excited and stuff. That excitement should come out in a stronger push through runs.

Bonus: Straight No Chaser, Hey Santa. 2:47, 200bpm. Love the swing-y sound this group has, and their amazing a capella sound. This song is really catchy. Their entire Christmas Cheers album has great beats, so check them out.

I added a bonus so you have a solid 20 minute workout playlist. Let me know what you think. What songs would you add?

Weekly Workout Rundown

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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  • 50 min run in the AM
  • 25 min run at lunch, 358 calories


  • 30 min moderate walk with mom at lunch
  • 30 min PM fast walk




  • Active rest


  • Active rest

We'll just call last week the South Beach practice week, alright? Thanksgiving fell in the middle of the week, and although I brought a carb-less dish to pass, aside from the turkey, everything else was a carb. And I didn't want to think about, so I just ate until I was somewhat, but not overly, full. Then Friday left me with a weird headache that I couldn't run with, so I took a little time off from working out. In fact, that 30 minute walk on Wednesday was all I could manage with my stressed-out heart rate. I was in my normal HR range, just at a much slower pace.

I'm calling Saturday and Sunday active rests because I wasn't a complete couch potato. With 3 hours of mall walking on Saturday and Christmas-tree hiking on Sunday, I still felt pretty active, just not enough to get sweaty.

South Beach, here I come. This week's menu includes Jamie Eason's turkey meatballs and turkey chili, along with cucumber salad and cottage cheese for snacks. I'm soooo ready for this midsection baggage to be gone. I am completely mesmerized by Dr. Agatston's work now. Before, I wouldn't have given him a chance, because this seemed like another fad diet. But for someone with insulin resistance such as myself, the research behind it is convincing, compelling and fascinating. Now that I've read a little bit more, I feel like I'm now better prepared to tackle the first two "strict" weeks as well.

How are you staying fit during this holiday season?

Headaches and Christmas Trees and Shopping, Oh My!

Monday, December 2, 2013

These past four days off were such a thrill ride. I started with not feeling too well and ended up with some great memories.

My head felt weird on Thursday night and Friday. I even tried to run on my treadmill, and my brain felt like it was bouncing and made me kinda dizzy. I was having some anxiety about it, debating about visiting the walk-in or not, but sometimes a headache is just a headache. A few Tylenol later, and we were bowling at the local lanes. My FIL is in a bowling league, and we've had the pleasure to help him get his practice in. We've gone bowling probably 4 times in the last 3 weeks. Such a fun, active experience for the entire family.

Thursday was all about turkey, pecan pie and being thankful for our family. I hope yours was too!

Did you try my Burn the Bird challenge? This li'l workout burned me some 262 calories in just 18 minutes. And I had some achy muscles to contend with the next day. Hurt so good. And it hardly felt like 18 minutes!

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Friday, with a revisiting headache, I laid low, read through some of my South Beach Diet books and hung out with my nephews. My sister dropped them off amidst the Black Friday shopping so I could spend some quality time especially with the youngest one, who usually runs away from me. Without his mom there, I finally got some good solid snuggle time with him. I just love those boys!

Saturday, I had had it with sitting home, so Peanut called grandma up to see if she wanted to go shopping, because Hubster had put in two long days and he just wanted to relax. We hit the mall the day after Black Friday, and I have to say, it wasn't that bad. Peanut was an angel child. We broke up bits of shopping with a Build-a-Bear run and a stop at the indoor play area. We just had such a good time. Knocked off some Christmas shopping and even made a refresh to momma's wardrobe just a little.

Sunday, we made a trip to cut down our Christmas tree. The place we usually go to has gotten quite picked over in the last few years, but we managed to find this gem in the jumble of half-dying, balding and Charlie Brown trees. The experience is always complete with a tractor ride and apple cider and popcorn afterward. We took my FIL along for the trip too. The weather was perfect for tree-cutting. Some years we have to trudge through a foot of snow and face sub-zero temps. This year, it was mild and snow-less. Perfect!

On our way home, I saw some odd things in people's yards. Don't know if I just never paid attention before, but only in Wisconsin... Remember those old Burger King playgrounds with the hamburger jailhouse? Totally saw one in someone's yard. Hubster thought I was crazy to want to stop, so I don't have pictures, but I totally remember hiding in these back when I could fit, circa the 1980s. Such great memories!

Another yard had an actual Ferris Wheel in it! Again, asking Hubster to pull over was futile, but I'll get that picture someday. I mean, a Ferris Wheel! That's like a grown-up kid's dream backyard right? Cue Phineas and Ferb music. Haha!

What a fun few days off!

I have a longer stretch of days off coming up real soon that I'm really excited about planning, the days around Christmas. I'm going to start my to-do list now, so that I'll be prepared and ready to take on new projects and memories when the 23rd rolls around. Right now, I'm dreaming up Advent calendar activities. I realize it's already December 2, so I need to get on that already. We might have a 15-day countdown to Christmas instead of the standard 25, but that's ok with me:)

What are you planning to do on your holiday vacation?

18 Minute Thanksgiving Workout

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Take time to relish in those meaningful family moments, thoughts of thankfulness, and tables full of tasty fare. Allow yourself this one meal on this one day this week to indulge without remorse. That's what I'm going to do.

But before you stuff yourself with all the familiar fixins, get in this quick 18 minute workout. You'll feel better, and likely make a few better choices, if you get a little sweat going on this national holiday of food. It's completely equipment-free, so you can literally do this anywhere. I'm going to be doing this very same workout before heading out to our family potluck on Thursday, so I'm right there with you:)

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Enjoy! Let me know how you do!

Weekly Workout Rundown

Monday, November 25, 2013

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  • 50 min 12WBT run in the AM

  • Tuesday:

  • 45 min Jillian Michaels Hard Body in the AM

  • 30 min casual walk with mom at lunch

  • Wednesday:

  • 50 min 12WBT treadmill interval run in the PM, 4 miles

  • Thursday:

  • 30 min Quick Fix strength workout: 10 min abs, 10 min arms, 10 min legs

  • 30 min moderate walk at lunch

  • Friday:

  • Active rest

  • Saturday:

  • 60 min 12WBT run 

  • Sunday:

  • Rest

  • We are officially finished with our 4 week sneak peek at the US launch of the 12 Week Body Transformation. I really loved the resources that this program provided. And even though I didn't lose the weight I should have (due to medical reasons), I really think that Michelle Bridges did a top-notch job putting together this program.

    Friday was the only day I kinda "skipped." It was reserved for yoga, but became an active rest day instead. I took a 1/2-day at work and went to the park with Peanut instead. We jogged and played and although I didn't stretch out like I should have, I still had a pretty active day.

    This week I'm moving on to the South Beach Diet, because it's what the doctor ordered. Today was the first day on the plan, and I'm doing ok so far. I'm thinking ahead to Thursday--Thanksgiving--and hoping there are lots of veggies to go with the turkey. I'll bring some of my own with my dish to pass--cheesy stuffed mushrooms, so at least there's that. In the big picture though, it's only one meal on one single day, so if I have a little pecan pie, I'm not going to worry about it, because pecan pie is the jam!

    A girl from work graciously offered me her stack of dust-collecting South Beach diet books, which I told her would be put to good use. Type A that I am, I scarfed up a handful of low-carb cookbooks from my library too, and have been typing the recipes that I actually liked and know I would make into a Google document. I'm so ready! This week, I prepped egg whites with veggies and sausage for breakfast, a big salad with toppings and creamy feta dressing for lunch, roast cauliflower and cottage cheese for snacks, and meat- and veggie-based stuff for dinner. And it all sounds really good to me! So let's just pretend there never was such a thing as carbs, ok?

    How was your week in workouts?

    What the Doctor Ordered

    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    Disclaimer: this post is pretty personal. Please be gentle with me.

    I've been having an issue with my weight lately that I think I can finally get off my chest. I've not been discussing it on here too much because of my uncertainty about the root cause and the risk of sounding like a hypochondriac or someone all too concerned about weight.

    But I have been having a real issue. Something that actually started to worry me. I was averaging about 1500 calories per day and working out for at least 50 minutes, 6 days per week--you can see exactly how I'm working out here on the blog. Even with my diligence at measuring and tracking everything, I was not losing weight. In fact, there were a few upticks in weight here and there over the past two years. Not enough to be too alarming, but enough to make me want to throw my hands up. Ok, I'll say it, I even cried a little. Hubster knew how upsetting this was to me that something just wasn't adding up, and he's been super supportive this entire time, even coming to my appointment with me.

    planner pages photo P4211448_zps4082adc0.jpg
    I went to my appointment with about 15 pages of food tracking 
    and my agenda book with all my workouts recorded in it. I was
    determined not to have my problem be dismissed.

    I can assure you that none of this was about vanity or body image issues. It was completely about health at this point. I was genuinely concerned that something might be wrong. I just wanted so badly to be in the "healthy" BMI range, so I wasn't headed towards a life of chronic disease.

    I'll lay the rest of it all out there too, because this is no place for being guarded and discreet (I want this to be a place for honesty and connection). I haven't done a whole lot with my personal training certification yet. To be brutally honest, I felt like a complete hoax. How could I help other people lose weight when I couldn't even help myself lose weight? Even though I knew something had to be wrong health-wise, I still didn't feel qualified. But, as my doctor pointed out, now I will have even better insight to help others because of my own experience. I have an even harder time losing weight than most normal people, so if I can do it, certainly everyone else can. And certainly I will be able to help them do it.

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    So, what's happening?

    I am most likely in the pre- pre-diabetes stages. Not far along enough to warrant a diagnosis, but just far enough for my insulin to play mean tricks on my body. We did some thyroid testing too, just to rule that out (no results yet). What's happening in my body is a vicious cycle. When I eat carbs, they cause my body to go crazy pumping out insulin. Later, when the excess insulin piles up, I will then have a low sugar crash--the shaky, nervous feeling from which my anxiety problems are originating. The insulin causes my body to store more fat, which causes my body to produce more insulin, which causes my body to store more fat and on and on. Awesome.

    In short, I need to follow a low-carb diet. I will be adopting the Atkins/South Beach style diets and following carb restrictions per my doctor's instructions--not just to lose weight but to heed off a full-blown diabetes diagnosis in my future with all my might. I am really excited to get started, mostly because I want to learn as much about this as I can to help other people, including my own family, and because I just want to feel better. You'll probably find me in the low-carb recipe section at the library really soon.

    So, here I am on a trip down the low-carb highway. By the way, I love carbs, so this feels like a carb funeral. But anyway, I'm scheduled to check back in with my doc in three months. If I've successfully lost a certain amount of weight on this diet by then, we will have isolated the problem. Although this diagnosis isn't the best news a person could hear, it's certainly not the worst, and I can't tell you how relieved I am to finally have an answer to a few of my most disconcerting health problems. Now, I can tackle them proactively because I actually know what I'm up against. And it's not a giant growing tumor--haha! Sorry, I had to.

    I'll keep you updated on my progress, as I hope my experience might be able to help others.

    Anyone have any advice/resources for low-car/diabetic diets? Send them my way.

    How to Pass The NASM Exam

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    First of all, let me just clarify that this post doesn't guarantee that you will pass the exam. This is just a friendly, helpful post with the best tips and tricks that I myself used to successfully pass the exam, one of the most challenging in the industry. What worked for me might not work for you and you have to do the necessary work and take this seriously enough to pass; I can't do that for you.

    With that being said, I want to offer as much help as I can to anyone out there thinking about or just about ready to take the NASM exam. It's tough, but it's so rewarding to be able to walk out of that testing center with a "Congratulations, You Passed" letter in your hands and a ginormous smile on your face.

    I had wished there was a comprehensive post like this out there, but only came across bits and pieces through extensive searching. So, I decided to write exactly that for you:

    Study Plan

    1. Read through the textbook at least twice. The first time, I took diligent notes like I learned and always did in school. I take down important notes in a notebook with highlighted, clearly-designated headlines and subheadlines. I write and underline all terms from the book in the notebook. For one, the act of writing helps cement ideas in the brain. For another, putting things into your own words--just the act of thinking about how you want to explain it to yourself--helps you understand the concepts so much more clearly. For even another, it's much easier to study out of a succinct, organized notebook than the entire textbook.

    NASM study spread photo P2231287_zps4a599612.jpg

    2. Go back and read the book again. This time, take extra time to study the things you're struggling with. I also made my flashcards during my second reading of the book. By now, I had written and rewritten so many terms that they were becoming quite familiar by repetition. Also, follow along with your study guide and make sure you understand the concepts outlined in there and have them written in your notebook or flashcards.

    3. Use every online resource offered to you. The textbook comes with login information for thePoint software. Test yourself with the questions there after each chapter. Your NASM login will take you to a whole different set of helpful information and video modules. Play all the videos, try all the self-tests. Go back later and playback the ones you're struggling with. The quizzes on the NASM website and thePoint website are quite unlike what you'll find on the actual test, but do them anyway. I think they're actually harder since they're application-style questions, which will only help you in the long run.

    4. Now, actually use those flashcards and notes. I had a stack of flashcards that consisted of at least two packages of index cards. Every time we went visiting family or sat in a car, I had my notebook and flashcards with me. I didn't have to lug the whole textbook with me because my notebook offered a much more condensed, digestible source of all the critical information. Instead of playing Farmville, use your work breaks to shuffle through your flash cards. Make sure they're not in any specific order so you don't memorize things based on their location in the book.

    5. Start right away! There is no way you will be able to complete all of the above things in your last month or week. You have 180 days from when you register until test day. Crack that spine the day you receive the textbook. I used my entire 6 months to prepare, and I suggest you do so as well. Pace yourself. However, you don't want to forget everything you read in month 1 by month 6, so make sure you're continually reviewing older content as you go. That's why flashcards and notes are so great!

    6. If you can, attend a workshop: I think I intended to take the exam prep workshop, but signed up for the training workshop instead. No worries! The workshop I attended really helped me to understand how to put what I learned into real-life context. And the instructor used only terminology and concepts true to NASM text, so you're never left trying to sort out and apply what they're teaching to what you're learning about in the book--it all coalesces. We also talked so much about reps, sets, progressions/regressions, tempos and that sort of thing that I was easily able to remember it for the test. I don't think you necessarily need a workshop to pass the exam, but it's a cool way to meet other new trainers and increase your understanding. Plus, if you've never trained a soul before, you get hands-on practice to make you less unsure of yourself.

    7. Get excited! I love the world of health and fitness, so it was easy for me to be excited about becoming a certified personal trainer. That also made me into quite the information sponge. I love this stuff! I love learning about every aspect of it. And that excitement and passion were the reasons why I could digest all of that information. I simply wanted to!

     photo P2231289_zps5f3175f5.jpg

    Hearts in notes photo P2231288_zpsd9bcc6a7.jpg
    Have a little fun and draw hearts when studying the heart.

    What to Study

    Off the top of my head, I'm going to spout off what I remember to be pertinent for the exam (i.e. this is NOT an exhaustive list and this is only based on the version of the exam that I was given):

    • You are really going to need to understand flexion/extension, concentric/eccentric phases, planes of motion, etc. If you understand these and can clearly picture what's happening during various exercises, a lot of things will be much clearer. You will have application questions related to these that you'll be able to answer if you have a solid understanding of what's going on with these.
    • Related to that, you'll need to memorize the eccentric/concentric and agonist/synergist/stabilizer/antagonist contractions during the specific examples given: squats and overhead presses.
    • You will have one question from the Code of Professional Conduct. How many years should you keep files (four)? How many CEUs do you need within how many years to recertify? That sort of thing.
    • You will need to know how to progress and regress the various exercises in the book. For example, you need to know how to progress and regress with stable/unstable surfaces and two feet/one foot.
    • You should definitely understand the parts of the heart and their functions, including but not limited to:
      • Sinoatrial node is the "pacemaker of the heart."
      • Understand the functions of the left/right aorta/ventricles
      • The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and heart
    • The structure of skeletal muscle: you might even want to make a copy of the picture of this and tape it in your notebook. You'll need to know about all the various parts like the epimysium, endomysium, sarcolemma, and all the rest. You'll have to understand these, know their location, know their function, etc.
    • Golgi tendon organ: understand function and how it works. Know the difference between autogenic inhibition and reciprocal inhibition and how it relates to stretching. This is a great article for understanding the difference. I had a hard time with this concept and this resource finally helped me make sense of it.
    • Understand flexibility exercises and the stage of the OPT model they are associated with: static (phase I), active (phase II), dynamic (phase III).
    • You'll have to know the various strength, core and SAQ exercises and which Phase of the OPT model they are appropriate for. Notice that many of the stabilization exercises are on a stability ball and many of the power exercises involve throwing a medicine ball. Recognize those patterns to help you remember those. Endurance exercise have more reps than strength. Hypertrophy has fewer reps. You shouldn't need to know rest periods, etc, just a good solid knowledge of reps, sets and tempos.
    • Core: what are the parts of the local stabilization system and what are the global stabilization?
    • Be pretty darn familiar with the processes of ATP-PC, glycolysis, and oxidative systems and at which point in exercise they kick in.
    • Have a clear understanding about how the sarcomere works and the function of myosin/actin.
    • Memorize how fast-twitch (Type II) and slow-twitch (Type I) muscle fibers work.
    • Familiarize yourself with the general adaptation system: from alarm reaction to resistance to exhaustion.
    • Resistance training systems (supersets, pyramids, etc): know the difference between them and when they're appropriate to use.
    • Memorize the number of and types of essential, nonessential and semi-essential amino acids.
    • Know the carb, protein and fat recommendations as well as their calories per gram.
    • What are the water recommendations for various populations?
    • Understand the stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. 
    • Know your acronyms, such as SMART goals: what's the difference between Attainable and Realistic?
    • I think I had a CPR question on my test. Not sure if it was a research question or not, but you should have a pretty good idea what the answer is because it's pretty self-explanatory.
    • Know how to identify and know what muscles are lengthened and tight in upper crossed, lower crossed and pronation distortion syndromes.
    • You must know the stretches that should be performed for different compensations on the overhead squat assessment table. You will have lots of questions pertaining to these corrective-type exercise. In fact, you should pretty much know the overhead squat assessment table by heart.
    • Know how to perform and understand what you're testing with the various assessments: Shark Skills, Davies, Rockport Walk Test YMCA step test, etc. Know how to perform them and what you're actually testing.
    • What is the different objective vs. subjective information you'll be getting from clients?

    NASM flashcards photo P2231305_zps0bfb5613.jpg

    This list is by no means comprehensive, these are just the things that are fresh in my mind and were covered on my specific exam. Make sure you don't hone in on only these specific things to the detriment of other important concepts.

    Some amazing resources:

    1. Yahoo Body Maps I didn't actually find this amazing tool until after my exam, but I'm pretty sure that this would've helped me immensely. I printed off muscle maps online (Anatomy Man), but this Yahoo one is interactive and 3-dimensional and explains muscles in laymen's terms. You almost feel like you could play doctor after looking at all the bones, tendons, nerves, muscles, etc.

    2. NASM Trainer Exam App (by Upward Mobility): the NASM app is the same price but offers only a fraction of the questions that this one does. The Upward Mobility app is really great at making you aware if you understand certain concepts or not, since they kind of go in order by chapter. It's great to pull out when you're stuck by a train or waiting for your kids to get out of school. Not that I know anything about that!

    3. This Bodybuilding forum: This forum is extremely helpful with what to study and what to pass over. Take this guy's advice and learn the muscles as "groups." For example, the muscular system appendix groups muscles by location in the body. The hamstring complex concentrically accelerates knee flexion and the various muscles of the quadriceps concentrically accelerate knee extension. Group your muscles and know which muscles are part of each group. It will save you so much time and overwhelm. Many of the questions mentioned in the forum also seemed to be on my test, so add them to your flashcards. (The only caveat is I think the page numbers mentioned in the forum are for a previous version of the textbook.)

    4. Use some learning strategies from Holistic Learning: This is kind of abstract to explain, but I visualized and made up pictures in my head about certain concepts. For example, the right side of the heart receives blood low in oxygen and high in CO2 and pumps it to the lungs to be oxygenated. The left side pumps blood high in oxygen and low in CO2 to the rest of the body. So, I visualized two rooms in my heart, a right room and left room, with a bunch of smokers in the right "room" and healthy runners in the "left" room. The right room is filled with carbon dioxide (cigarettes), and the left side brings oxygen (from strong lungs) to the body. Get it? Visualization and metaphor-type learning is very powerful. I betcha you won't forget the smoking/non-smoking one.

     photo P2231311_zpscc5a65fe.jpg

    5. Kim at Fittin Pretty has generously offered a FREE download of her entire document of notes. It's over 100 pages, but it looks similar to my own handwritten notes in my basic college-ruled notebook. I still think (and it's proven that) there's great value in taking your own handwritten notes, but Kim has done all the work for you.

    One more piece of advice: the night before the test, give your mind a break. Don't study into the night. Just allow all the information that you know just synergize in your brain as you sleep. Get your 8 hours of sleep and do the test in the morning, or whenever your brain is the sharpest. Set out your ID and CPR card the night before so you don't worry about or forget them. Then, decide on what you'll reward yourself with when you successfully pass the exam. It really is worth celebrating--you deserve it! I'll share what I rewarded myself with in a post soon, because they're paying themselves off in dividends (business cards, a domain name and an Arc notebook).

    I wish you all the best of luck with your exam! If you are on the fence about becoming a personal trainer, I say go for it, if you have the resources to do so. NASM is always running sales, so don't ever pay the full price. Sign up for their emails and you'll soon get incentives in your inbox. Although I haven't taken on any "official" clients yet, I have absolutely no regrets for diving right in and getting certified. I could've gotten bogged down in the details about the PT job market in my area and wondering about liability insurance and on and on. But the best thing you can do is just go for it and worry about those details later.

    Let me know if you have any other specific questions, and I'll see if I can answer them. If these tips helped you pass your exam, I'd be more than honored to hear about it! Leave a comment to let me know how it goes.

    Yo Yo Dieting Versus Challenge Seeking

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    Definition of YO-YO DIETING

    : the practice of repeatedly losing weight by dieting and subsequently regaining it

    If you haven't noticed, since I publish all my workouts publicly, I enjoy a good workout challenge. So far I've tried Supreme 90 Day, LiveFit Trainer, and 12WBT. I've also worked out with the Insanity, Turbo Jam and Turbo Fire series workouts. I really enjoy finding these types of regimented plans to challenge myself and change up my fitness routine.

     photo P9090935.jpg

    But a comment in the 12WBT forum gave me cause to pause a moment between plan hopping recently to think about whether or not what I was doing was on the level of yo-yo dieting. Isn't that what I was doing jumping right from one plan to the next? With a little reflection, it's easy to see the difference between this type of challenge-seeking and yo-yo dieting. But what exactly is the difference between what I'm doing and yo-yo dieting?

    1. I do not give up three days into the plan.

    We all know people who start new diets and go hard the first few weeks and then peter off. They pay all that money for weight loss memberships, they sound super diligent about how "this time will be different" and then, after about two weeks, they just can't keep going for one reason or another. That's the biggest sign of a yo-yo dieter. A challenge-seeker on the other hand does not give up unless something is really wrong or unbalanced with the plan. I have been known to go off of a plan or adjust them to my own needs when I feel like something isn't working for me. For example, I couldn't follow S90Day completely, because the intensity was literally making me sick--my immune system was suffering. And on the 12WBT system, I know that 1200 calories are not enough for me, so I'm adding a little extra lean protein and greens to fill out the plan. However, most of the time, I complete what I start--mostly because I don't start anything that's just a fad or a short-term solution.

    2. I am consistent. 

    Not only am I a consistent exerciser and have been for over 11 years straight now, but I am also a pretty consistent eater. I don't try any diet tricks or crazy supplements. I don't go on and off diets. I eat almost the same type of thing every day. I love to try new recipes and such, but I consistently eat pretty clean. And I try to keep my calorie range pretty consistent--no crazy variations or fasts for me. A yo-yo dieter on the other hand will try diet after diet after diet. They might undulate calories, restrict calories, make crazy diet shakes, etc. And when they're off the plan, they're really off the plan, often binging or returning to their old ways of unhealthy eating. They rarely truly learn what it means to have a healthy sustainable diet.

    3. I follow sound medical advice.

    My alarms go off when I hear about diets that restrict you to 500 calories a day or require shots of some special serum. I've never tried a "detox" or "cleanse," because those are just hype. And in many cases, those types of diet plans are detrimental. I even shy away from swallowing anything other than a multivitamin and an Omega-3 supplement (because I don't eat fish). You have to convince me with sound scientific proof before I'll put anything else like that in my body. Sound medical advice states that fitness is healthy. It states that eating foods closest to how God made them is healthy. Medical advice doesn't say carbs or gluten are bad. Those are the guidelines that inform my choices.

    Yo-yo dieters are often the victims of marketing hype. I mean, those late-night infomercials can be pretty tempting if you listen long enough. And if Dr. Oz says it, then it must be true, right? Even the great and powerful Oz has been known to be wrong. These people and programs have major money and marketing teams behind them, so it pays to do a little of your own research. If WebMd says that there's no real benefit from drinking apple cider vinegar, then don't drink it!

    Yo Yo Diet

    4. My weight doesn't fluctuate that much.

    I've had some episodes of unexpected weight gain for reasons other than the yo-yo effect, purely medical. Other than that, my weight stays pretty much within a 2-3lb range. I can tell each day what I should weigh when I get up in the morning. Yo-yo dieters typically lose a bunch of weight when they go all gung-ho over a diet plan, but the second they stop the plan, they often gain all the weight back and then some. I've never fallen into this pattern, so I've never had to experience those fluctuations.

    5. I'm not obsessive.

    Ok, I admit, I'm obsessed with the health and fitness industry, but that's a whole different subject. It's my passion, so I love to live and breathe it. However, I don't get obsessive about food, working out or tracking my progress in a way that's unhealthy. I follow judicious exercise guidelines and only track my food if there's a reason to (a few extra pounds, an upcoming meeting with a nutritionist, etc). Since my weight and diet don't fluctuate that much, I don't obsess about standing on the scale. If I miss a workout--most often because I'm listening to my body--I don't worry too much about it or try to make up for it. Yo-yo dieters and other disordered eaters, on the other hand, can become quite obsessive about what they're eating and are often constantly thinking about food.

    6. My intentions are different.

    I like to try new recipes. The 12WBT is by far the best when it comes to clean recipes. I gobbled this stuff up. I also join these plans not as much for weight loss as for a challenge. As a trainer, I know that my body will just adapt to whatever I put it through, so these types of challenges help keep my body guessing. My intentions are never to drop a bunch of weight and then consider myself happy. I am happy. I am not intent on getting to a crazy end result, I'm intent on changing and challenging my body in new ways.

    7. I don't consider a "healthy diet" to be synonymous with "being on a diet."

    When people talk about "diet," they may be referring either to what they eat normally or what they eat temporarily. That "diet" word is pretty troublesome and wrought with conflicting meaning. As stated, I am pretty consistent with what I eat and consider how I eat to be how I will eat for the rest of my life. I will never go back to eating rows of Oreos at a time or downing a Mt. Dew with every single lunch. Nor will I ever eat cabbage soup every day for a week. I eat a pretty normal, balanced diet. I hardly ever consider myself to be "on a diet." Yo-yo dieting is very much a temporary solution. You have six weeks to change your body or three weeks of this soup and two weeks of that. A dieter will often put themselves on a diet for a specified amount of time, after which they revert to not being on a diet. They never really establish a lifelong, sustainable healthy diet.

    Regaining even a few pounds of lost weight is more than frustrating—it could be unhealthy. Stop Yo-Yo Dieting for Good

    8. I don't believe in quick fixes.

    There is no magic diet pill that will strip away layers of fat overnight, as we're all aware. Losing weight takes effort. I know exactly how hard that is, because I've lived it! In order to lose weight, you must do work. Yo-yo dieters often look for simple solutions or someone to do the dirty work for them. The mindset of a challenge-seeker is quite the opposite of a yo-yo dieter. They're seeking challenge, not seeking the path of least resistance, so to speak. I enjoy new challenges because they push me in a way that I sometimes can't push myself. They're motivating to me, not like fad diets that sound a little more like torture.

    What do you think?