Embracing un-routine

With just days left before I close one door and open another, career-wise, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of change….particularly when it comes to routine, something I gravitate towards, crave, even.

With my new job will come some work travel, not a ton, but enough that it’ll get me out of my comfort zone a bit, and well, WAY out of my routine.

My normal response to lack of routine is to get anxious and annoyed that my nice little happy routine is flying out the door. But instead of going that route – and in the name of my no limits mantra for 2012 – I’m going to embrace un-routine.

…which is a huge about-face for me – a self-professed Type-A die hard and someone who loves structure and schedules and plans.

So what’s a girl to do when faced with un-routine? 

Well, you guessed it: I’m going to create an un-routine that will become my go-to when I’m traveling for work. So I’m kind of *still* being my usual Type A/plan-y self, but I’m doing it in a new place, with very few familiar faces, and no boundaries.

What I’m digging about this new job is that it’ll force me to go into uncomfortable situations and just go for it, as fearlessly as I can. So to me that means trying new things, avoiding reverting back to comfortable habits and meeting new people.

And, here are a few ways I plan to do just that, un-routine style:

Stick to my running ways, but in a different format – Maybe I’ll use the gym at the office in CA after I’m done with work for the day vs. hiding out at the gym at my hotel. Might be a great way to interact with my new co-workers in more casual environment, and it’ll give me a chance to try out what I hear are some pretty swank gym digs at that office! Plus, this coming year will be huge for me in terms of keeping up my run-durance, even when traveling. I’ll be in half marathon, and soon, marathon training mode and can’t let work travel interfere with that…at least as much as I can avoid it. So that may mean more treadmill running than I’d like, and maybe even exploring some running routes in a foreign (to me) city…which scares the pants off me…but, again – this is me embracing un-routine, right?

Explore the studios in the area – Sure, I can feed my barre obsession with Core Fusion DVDs in my room, or self-made barre n9ne workouts, but they don’t compare at ALL to the in-studio experience, let’s be honest. But why not explore a few area studios to see what they’re about? There’s a Pure Barre and Dailey Method studio nearby the office – I’ve never tried either…but when in Rome, right? Plus, it’ll give me an excuse to make dates at the barre with blog friend Naomi (the one familiar face I know I’ll see a lot of when I visit the area!!) – bonus!!

Put my food logging ways to the test – This will be a tough one for me. Work travel invariably means far less control over your food – but it can still be in my control if I plan for it. For the plane rides to/from – I’ll be packing lots of healthy snack options (think: 1 oz baggies of almonds, apples with packets of single-serve PB, homemade trail mix, etc.). For the hotel,  I’ll hit the grocery store once I’m settled for lots of water, fruit, quick breakfast options (I’m not usually a fan of protein bars but in this situation,  it works), etc. It would be a dream come true if the hotel room had a fridge in it so I could buy yogurt and stuff, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. Lunch and dinner will be more difficult to plan for, but again, not impossible. The office café will no doubt have a salad bar where I can create a healthy and yummy lunch and I’ve already google mapped my hotel to see how far Whole Foods and/or Trader Joes is, as an option for lunch or dinner too. 😉 And I’ll be damned, there will be one night per trip where I’ll order a glass of wine for the room – or even be a rebel and drink a glass all alone at the hotel bar…that would be a huge step for me, so this one may take baby steps.

Of course – I will do my best not to be antisocial when traveling to the office in Cali – if co-workers want to go out to dinner while I’m there, I won’t turn down the offer. I want to get to know these people as much as I can especially since much of our interaction when I’m remote will be on the phone or via email. But, there’s also something to be said for a quiet night in my hotel room with my homemade dinner from Whole Foods, a glass of wine, and my laptop for blogging fun, right?

And yes, all of these un-routine tips, tricks and ideas largely stem from what my sis has learned and experienced while she’s been at this work travel thing in a much bigger way than me this past year. She has some awesome tips I know I’ll be referring to OFTEN in the next few months. I hope she doesn’t mind. 😉

But all in all? Despite the lack of routine that comes with travel, I’m oddly really excited for this change of pace (aside from the sad goodbyes with Scott at the airport…I can’t help it, I love him so!!). I know I need this stage of “discomfort” to grow and change and evolve. And, given that this is my year of no limits, I may as well put it to the test as often as possible, in as many scenarios as possible. So this is me, hanging on for dear life, for what will be a wild ride, but one that I am more than ready for, embracing un-routine and all.

Weight training, I promise it’s not scary

After last week’s round of comments on my post about weight lifting, I had to write a follow-up post (or two or three!) on the topic of weight training for women.

It’s sad to me that there is such a big fear factor over weight training amongst women – because truly, it is so, so, so good for you on many levels (more on this later). And mentally – I have to say, it instills a sense of power and confidence that I can’t replicate with other workouts.

So, here are my tips for how to make weight training both approachable but also sustainable. I heard from you that it is scary or an “unknown” for you, or that you just can’t seem to commit to a regular weight training routine at all. You need a goal to work towards (like a race) to stick with something, but with weights, there isn’t necessarily such a tangible end goal or “end” at all.

Weight-training-I promise-it’s-not-scary-tips*:
*Remember – I’m no pro, this is just my advice from personal experiences only

  1. If you’re intimidated by the gym…consider starting out with weight training at home. All you really need to get started are a few dumbells in various increments (5 lbs; 8 lbs; 10 lbs; 15lbs is a good starting point for a beginner) and either a handy-dandy workout “borrowed” from your favorite blogger (hint hint!) or a workout DVD that takes you through the steps (like my friend Cathe Friedrich who taught me so much about proper form – all in a DVD no less!)
  2. Take a weight lifting class at your gym. This one is huge for those of you who LOVE the vibe of a group fitness class but typically gravitate towards cardio-based group classes only. This is equally huge for those of you looking for form pointers and are afraid of injury. You should get solid direction from your instructor, and in some cases, they’ll walk around the room and correct your form if needed.
  3. If you’re comfortable, even just a little bit with going to the weight room at your gym (I know some of you are) – consider starting out slowly with your own weight routine. Start with one body part a day after you get your cardio fix on. For biceps – start with bicep curls with a set of dumbells, then shift to a set of bicep curls done with a barbell (it works the muscle differently), and finish with a set of incline curls on a weight bench. It could be as simple as that. You can start going crazy with “drop-sets” and “trisets” and “supersets” later, but get comfortable with the weights first, and the exercises (note why is that word so hard to spell?!). Get them down first before going into the more advanced weight work (and I will do a post on all of these fun types of weight workouts next, I promise).
  4. For those of you who are comfortable with weights but just can’t figure out how to stick to it? Consider a one-month rotation. Create your own 3x/week weight workout that incorporates two days of upper body and one day of lower body work (I’ll create a sample schedule for you in a follow-on post) and map it out for the month, gradually increasing your weight little by little. And by the end of the month, check out those “guns” in the mirror – I can guarantee you they’ll be more toned and defined. Feel free to measure before/after if that’s your thing. Or take before/after pics if you need that for tangible motivation. For me – my motivation is more mental, I love how weight lifting makes me feel so strong and confident. And wearing a tank top with killer arms in the summer isn’t a bad mental image either, not gonna lie. 😉
  5. Above all else, figure out what works for you. For some of you – lighter weights with tons of reps may feel “good” for you. For others, going heavier but with less reps might be more your speed. You might hate working out in your gym but love it at home, or you might only want to take a group fitness class (like Group Power or Body Pump) because you like the group fitness atmosphere. Or you might find that you love Cathe as much as I still do, today! And maybe, just maybe you’ll realize that with consistent effort, you’ll find that sense of empowerment I mentioned above about weight lifting. At the end of the day though, this is about you and what makes you feel strong and fit and healthy and powerful. Am I right?

So yeah, this is turning into a series of posts from me. I’ve hinted at the topics I plan to cover here, but feel free to ask for others and I’ll add them in! This will be fun! 🙂

And if you’re wondering…last night I ended up with a mix of my “revised” workout plan of Core Fusion but added in a weight workout. Of the leg (oww) and shoulders variety.

Shoulders – supersets, endurance-style (my favorite – high reps, low weights)

Shoulders superset #1: shoulder presses (barbell-style)@27.5 lbs; followed by upright rows (barbell-style) @27.5lbs – 3 sets @15 reps each

Shoulders superset #2: Front raises @7.5 lbs followed by lateral raises @7.5 lbs – 3 sets @15 reps each

Legs – trisets, baby!

Triset #1: Squats w/barbell @40lbs, deadlifts @40 lbs, lungs (bodyweight only)

Triset #2: slide-back lunges with paper plates (bodyweight only); plie squats @30 lbs; calf raises @20 lbs

Followed that all up with some lengthening leg work  (10 min segment) and core work (another 10 min segment) from Core Fusion Lean & Toned, one of my favorites. Niiiice and toasty when all was said and done. Just the way I like it. 🙂

Step into my (home) gym, won’t you?

Well, it’s time.

I’ve procrastinated long enough, but per Heather‘s insistence (love ya, girl), I am *finally* getting around to my “this is my home gym” post.

So without further ado….step into my (home) gym, won’t you?

That would be my weight bench, along with what could be the best purchase ever – the pull-up tower from Cathe, that doubles as my rack for my barbell. Comes in mighty handy during bench presses, lemme tell ya!

A shot of my step, free weights (the barbell is in the corner) and various medicine balls and stability balls.

The dreadmill treadmill I am learning to love in the winter, but that gathers lots ‘o dust in the spring/summer. Treadmill…I love to hate thee.

A sh*tload ton of workout DVDs ranging from lots of Cathe videos to my latest Core Fusion challenge DVDs. Wouldn’t you love to have that butt?? 😉

And finally, a dated but still quite workable TV to watch all those videos (except those that need tons of space to move around, those I do in the living room) and to keep me occupied during those interval workouts on the treadmill. And yes, that *would* be a water fountain for my cats beside it. 😉

So there you have it – my home gym. And yes, I realized after putting this post together that I am downright lucky to have all of this equipment at my fingertips. Trust me, I do not take it for granted whatsoever. And for the record, I acquired these goodies over time, so a home gym like this *is* feasible if you build it up over time versus handing over a big chunk ‘o change right out of the gate. Just sayin’.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a return for more Core Fusion Challenge updates…into week two we go!

At home, at the gym – is there a difference?

I’ve been mulling something over since this weekend where “Kimmie” our Kick fitness director mentioned something that really got me thinking. She mentioned to my sister during practice on Sunday that her arms were looking great (and by default, mine too, ha!). Jolene mentioned our obsession with STS and the great results we’d both seen in the past year of doing the program before taking time off to switch it up with Power at the gym.

Her reply? Well, for one, she’s skeptical of workouts like STS (she mentioned P90X first, to which we both exclaimed that that workout is nothing in comparison to STS). Her view is that those workouts just aren’t as effective.

She pointed out that we’d done STS for an entire year and saw results, but what kind of results?  She pointed out that since we started Kick training in December until now, three months later, the results we’ve seen have been pretty noticeable. Her point is that Group Power, Group Kick, etc. have been the real “it” workout that’s done us the most good.

So two things are rolling around in my mind now.

1 – Can I really say that Power and Kick have done MORE for me than a year of STS training?

2 – Or, was the past three months’ worth of results really just a result of seriously kicking up our training regime and less a result of WHAT we’ve been doing, but how MUCH we’ve been doing it?

I want to say that it’s a combination of things that have proven the most effective for me, and for my sister. And I think I’m right here (but I’d love your collective two cents). In the past year, let alone the past three months, I’ve really taken my workouts up a few notches and that’s what’s made the biggest impact. I’ve also been better about eating balanced and “cleaner” for about 75% of the time (can’t be 100% perfect, right, how boring would that be??) which has also helped.

My other question, and the basis for this very blog post is this:

Working out at home?

Working out at a gym?

What’s better? Is there a difference?

I actually think that it doesn’t matter so much the environment in which you’re working out but the intensity of your workouts (i.e. how hard can you and will you push yourself). Looking back in retrospect on the past year of STS training, I think that I could’ve probably pushed myself harder, paid closer attention to how I felt with each rep, within each mesocycle, than I probably did at times. And that is NOT a ding against STS because I firmly believe in the program (and duh, in Cathe!) and will continue to weave it into my workouts. But, I think that working out in a group setting has forced me to look at my workouts differently, especially now that I’m an “instructor” I feel like other gym members look at me differently, with a higher bar, than before. So I push myself harder to meet and exceed that bar.

Long story short, I don’t think you have to do one or the other to be successful at reaching your fitness goals. I think it comes down to personal preference (where are YOU most comfortable working out?), what motivates you to push yourself (group classes where you’re sort of “competing” with others in the room? or feeling like your own personal drill sargent in the privacy of your own home?), and how you want to balance working out with your personal ife, professional life, etc. (is it easier for you to squeeze in a workout during a busy day by going to the gym at lunch? Are you a morning person but hate hitting the gym that early?).

What do you think? Is there a difference in workout environment that’s most responsible for the results you achieve? Or are other variables involved, like I mentioned? Do tell. 🙂

A method to the madness

There’s something to be said for doing what you love, regardless of pay, versus doing what you do because it pays the bills.

Now, let me preface this by saying that my “PR Goddess” day job does indeed pay the bills and is something I think I’m pretty darn good at, don’t get me wrong. But, I am struck by how much I’m loving this Kick experience, regardless of whatever pay I end up making as a result.

Which made me think – there must be a reason being a group fitness instructor isn’t exactly a well-paying side gig (at least from what I’ve heard).  And the reason I’ve come up with? To commit to teaching a group fitness class, you have to love it regardless and not be looking to make an extra buck or two. Good thing I very much fall into that camp!

As my sister pointed out on our commute to the office this morning, teaching a group fitness class involves so much more than just that hour or two each week you’re in the gym actually teaching the class. There are countless hours practicing each week, prepping your tracks and amping yourself up for the big show. Never mind all of the training that goes into being a fitness instructor to begin with (as you all have witnessed right here with me!).

So while it might appear that gyms are just cheap and not willing to pay much for group fitness instructors, the truth is, I think there’s a method to the madness. I think that’s how they find those passionate, energized and motivating instructors that will pass that passion and energy on to their students. THAT is what makes a good instructor a great one.

Anyway, that’s my take but I’d love your opinions too, especially if you are a group fitness instructor. I’m wondering if pay varies by gym or if its pretty standard that pay rates are pretty low. Again – I don’t want this to sound like I’m in it for the money because I’m very clearly not, I would honestly teach Kick for free because I love it that much and it feeds my need to share my passion for fitness with others (along with this blog of course!). My convo with my sis this morning just got me thinking, that’s all…

A word about home gyms

In a word, I LOVE mine!

I mean, I do also LOVE my gym – I wouldn’t be doing Group Kick if I didn’t love it there too, but there’s a time and a place for both IMHO.

Today was DEFINITELY a home gym workout day. It’s utterly freezing today in New England. We just had our first major snowstorm of the season and I woke up at 5:15 to the sound of the wind HOWLING outside while my husband snoozed away. I just couldn’t fathom getting out of bed and into my freezing cold car to hit up Group Power today, it was just out of the realm of possibility. So THIS is why I love my home gym. It not only gives me lots of variety and lots of room to do the dozens of Cathe workouts I have at home, but it gives me ZERO excuses not to workout, even in the dark, cold winter mornings like today. How can I possibly rationalize not being able to get up and up the stairs to my home gym?? No excuses in my book!

My advice to anyone considering starting a home gym of their own – it’s not as much of a commitment as you’d think. You can start slow with just a few dumbells and resistance bands, throw in a few Cathe DVD’s (or Exercise TV workouts – Jillian Michaels anyone?) and you’re golden! At this point, I’ve accrued quite the stash of workout equipment including a full set of dumbells (the Bowflex SelectTech kind to save space); a barbell with weight plates, a weight bench, treadmill, assorted resistance bands, and other Cathe fun stuff like a weight vest and weighted gloves. Yes, I’m obsessed. And no, I didn’t buy all of this stuff at once, I built it up slowly, I promise! 🙂 And I didn’t even have a gym membership at all until about a year ago when I joined my gym to add spinning to my routine, I tried it once and was hooked. Well worth the $50 bucks a month considering I now go to the gym for spinning as well as other classes and such.

So anyway, back to this morning’s workout, I managed to do one of my FAVORITE Cathe workouts – butts & guts. It’s the best lower body and abs workout ever. It kills me everytime and I love it!

Speaking of Cathe, I cannot WAIT to get my STS Shock Cardio series! I got my shipping notification over the weekend so hopefully it’ll be here by Christmas. If you’re curious, check out the video clips for each workout on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/CatheTelevision

Exercise: It’s like giving yourself a big bear hug

So one of the blogs I follow is aptly named “Fit Bottomed Girls” or FBG’s, for short. It’s a great site and falls right in line with the focus of my blog and my outlook on life – balance being a key part of that equation. Well, this weekend’s post was about a study that found a strong correlation between exercise and increased confidence in women.

Now, this may seem like a no-brainer type of connection but to me, it’s not. I think some women avoid working out or find excuses for not getting to the gym because they are afraid they won’t stack up to their fellow gym-mates. It’s innate that us women are bound to compare ourselves to one another and the gut-instinct is always to pick out our own flaws first versus focusing on the things we like about our bodies. But, the last place we should be doing that is when we’re working out. A workout, as I’ve mentioned before, is the one hour of your day that is ALL YOURS so why waste it beating yourself up because you don’t think you look as cute in your yoga pants as the girl next to you does?

So, my fitness tip of the day today? Quit focusing on what you don’t like about your body and instead focus on what you do like. And definitely don’t let those negative self-image vibes ruin your “me time” at the gym. Instead, focus on how every step on the treadmill or every turn of that spin bike makes you feel strong, energized and alive. I’ve been focusing more and more on how I feel during my workouts using the strong/energized/alive mantra and its amazing how much more driven and confident I am by the end of the workout.

Trust me, I fall into the self-loathing mode all the time (my husband can definitely attest to that!) and I know I have a ways to go to quit the negative body bashing. So today, I’ve picked out a positive trait about my body that I noticed today after my shower that I’m going to focus on. Here goes:

DAMN – do I have pretty darn shapely and strong calves.

How’s that for focusing on the positive (versus the negative – wow do I still hate my thighs!!).

Ok – your turn! Pick a positive and focus on it today. Pick another tomorrow (preferably while en route to or at the gym for motivation) and go from there.

As FBG’s says: “Exercise: It’s like giving yourself a big bear hug.”

Be strong, Live strong

On the way to the gym this morning, I noticed a sign posted out front that said “Be strong, Live strong” and it totally stuck with me during spin class. I paid more attention to how strong I felt during the class. I started thinking back to when I first started taking spin class and how hard each stroke of the pedal was, so much so that I thought I’d never make it the full hour. Now? I spin like a fiend and really took notice of how hard I pushed myself today, glancing around the room, I (well and my sister of course!) was probably working the hardest of nearly everyone else in the class this morning.

I don’t say this to brag (seriously!) but to make a point. I feel strong. And I’m so proud of that feeling. The “be strong, live strong” mantra is a good one for me because it describes where I am in life currently. And I’m not only talking about physical strength but emotional strength as well. This past year has been an emotional one for me as I rode quite a rollercoaster with my sister as she went through what was probably the most difficult period of her life to date – she went through a divorce. Now obviously it was her that experienced the divorce, not me. But, it was very painful for me too for a few reasons. For one – my sister and her husband were like me and Scott’s “other half” – we spent all sorts of time together and really created a mini-family within our family, as a result. So when the slap of reality hit that all of this was crumbling apart, I felt her pain so deeply. My heart literally ached for her everytime I saw her because her pain was so strong in her eyes (especially from my perspective since we are so close, it was written all over her face, though she put up such a strong front for others, it was incredible to watch).

Looking back on the past year, from that perspective, it’s been an amazing journey and I’m so proud of my sister for how far she’s come – she’s like a new, incredible, powerful, and strong woman. To me, she defines strength. I wrote about it more on her blog recently when she asked me to guest blog recently.

From the physical strength perspective, it’s been a year of total and complete commitment – for both of us really. She threw herself into her workouts as the one constant in her life and I was happy to join her on that mission. I am not afraid to admit that I’m proud of where we are today vs. a year ago. It’s been so much fun – from spinning, to our fabulous group of running gals, to STS and now, in just a few weeks, the Group Kick certification.

Now, going back to this morning and seeing that sign at the gym. On the way back from the gym, amidst a very rainy and windy cold day in New England, I heard a song that always inspires me on the radio. It’s Nickelback’s “If today was your last day” which I love – it’s a good slap of reality when you’re feeling down and woe-is-me about the mundane aspects of life that we all complain about (job woes seem to be a biggie for many in my circle lately). On that note, take a listen – the lyrics are awesome – and have a great, inspired Saturday!

In a previous life…

…I swear I was a personal trainer, workout instructor or some kind of fitness guru.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m good at what I do..dare I say even pretty darn great at it. I’m a PR Manager for an agency that specializes in high-tech PR. In other words, all of my clients talk about things like speeds and feeds, cybersecurity attacks and so on and so forth. Sounds pretty dry, right? Well – it’s not, it has it’s moments like every job – not gonna lie – but its been a great learning experience and it does pay the bills (including those tied to gym membership fees, home gym equipment, Cathe gear, etc.) so I’m not complaining.

But – had I known what I do today about my love of everything fitness, I’m fairly certain I’d be in the fitness industry in some some shape or form.

The reason I bring this is up? Well, I have an opportunity to train to be a Group Kick certified instructor. It would be my first taste at being on the “other side” of the room. Not an active participant in class but the instructor. It scares the life out of me…but also totally piques my interest. It would require a lot of work and training for the next few months but I’m toying with doing it, if for no other reason than to get paid to workout! The catch is that after all that training, while I’d be certified, I wouldn’t be guaranteed a class at my gym (limited spots, blah blah blah). But hey – I guess I’d cross that bridge when I got there, right?

Hmm…as I face another Monday, I’m contemplating the challenge that this could/would bring. At the very least, I’m hoping it would satisfy my fitness cravings, beyond what I do on my own, but we’ll see. Regardless,  stay tuned for an update after my meeting with the Group Kick lead at my gym, hopefully in the next week or so.