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I recently started my second season of TRX training.  Not exactly ground breaking news – until you consider the fact that two weeks into the last season of TRX, I had decided that there had never been anything on this Earth that I hated more than TRX (ok – it still isn’t ground breaking news, but maybe it is at least slightly more interesting?).

I started January really excited about TRX and was really looking forward to the classes.  But to my surprise, I really struggled with the first couple of classes.  The workouts were so much harder than I expected (which I know is a good thing – but it can be hard to remember that when you are rolling around like a fish out of water trying to get your heels into the TRX straps).  And despite the fact that I had an awesome trainer helping me through the class (thanks Tracy!), I felt demoralized after the first few classes.

But I decided that TRX was something I really wanted to do and I made myself stick with it.  I formulated a strategy to get myself through those first couple of weeks and I’m really proud that it worked.  Now, I still have a long way to go before I master the TRX (I love the TRX motto of “Make Your Body Your Machine”!) – but I happily signed up for a second season and now when I’m done with a TRX class I leave the gym inspired (well – inspired, sweaty and tired).

I’m sure someday I’ll face a new fitness challenge (like when I finally work up the courage to take boxing!) and I’ll end up feeling like I did after those first few TRX classes.  So I decided I should document my strategy – and I thought I’d share it with you.

  1. Do not pay attention to or compare yourself to anyone else in the class.  Every person is at a different fitness level and has different strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Remind yourself that no one else in the class is paying attention to or judging you – and if they are, then they aren’t working hard enough (so they don’t count!)
  3. Once you get over any hang-ups you have about how you are faring in comparison to the rest of the class (or am I the only one that neurotic?), remind yourself that you are most likely in the company of some awesome women (shout out to Tracy’s TRX team!).  Support them and let them support you.
  4. Talk to your trainer/instructor and don’t be afraid to ask for (and use!) modifications.  I probably should have put this one first.  Tracy helped me few modifications I could make when I was having trouble with certain exercises.  Once I used them (a got over feeling weak for needing them), things became much less frustrating.   We have amazing trainers – we shouldn’t forget to use them (even if I do occasionally roll my eyes at them when they ask me to do burpies…).
  5. Set a date for yourself and commit to continuing with the workout (no matter how much you think you hate it) until that date and then give yourself permission to never do it again if you get to that date and still hate it.
  6. When all else fails, fake it until you make it…

I feel like I’ve spent the past couple of months lacking focus and motivation (to put it politely) when it comes to nutrition and working and out and, well, pretty much everything.  I have no problem blaming part of this on the weather – when even walking to the bus starts to look like a scene from the Iditarod, it is hard not to take comfort in the arms of pizza, red wine, my couch and a good book.  Add to this the fact that I’ve found myself working a fair amount on the weekends and my fitness goals were starting to take a back seat (which is so not where they belong).  So I jumped at the chance to participate in Healthwork’s Drop 10 Challenge. The promise of accountability and some friendly competition seems like just the kick in the (maybe fitting just a little too snug) pants I need.  I had my initial assessment on Saturday with Lauren and we got to sit down and talk as well.  It was great to be able to set some new goals and also to articulate some of the struggles I’ve had recently, as well as some of the things I’m really enjoying (TRX!).

I highly recommend sitting down every few months (no matter good or bad things are going) and taking stock – I left the gym feeling better (and more focused) than I have in months.  I realized (or maybe just admitted) that my biggest problem lately is that I’m not taking the time I need on the weekends to do proper meal planning and preparation, which means I end up eating crap throughout the week, which makes me feel like crap, etc., etc. (As an aside, my favorite part of Saturday’s conversation went like this:  Me:  “I’ve just been eating so much crap lately” / Lauren:  “I’d rather hear that you have been eating too much, but still eating healthy food” / Me:  “Well, I’d rather be able to tell you that – but I would be lying”).

I know that I do really well when I spend time on Sundays doing all my meal planning and preparation – but I’ve been letting other things (work, helping friends, bad TV) get in the way.  So this weekend found me with my recipe collection and my calculator planning out all of my meals for the week.  I then spent a few hours Sunday afternoon doing all the cooking.  And oh my, I made a new recipe from Eating Well for a healthy version of tuna noodle casserole – after the first bite (also, in the interest of full disclosure, after I made a second batch due to ruining the first one with my broiler), I remembered why it is worth it for me to take the time on the weekends to do this.

So tomorrow is the first Drop 10 workout.  I’m looking forward to it.  My team is totally going to win.  (Hence the title of this post).  That is, assuming the results of my Drop 10 are more successful than my first attempt at that tuna noodle casserole…

I’m not talking about his certainty that we would someday find the rainbow connection (although I have my doubts on that as well) – I’m talking about classic Sesame Street number, “It’s Not Easy Being Green” (I am totally dating myself with my Sesame Street references here – anyone who was a toddler in the age of Elmo is reading this and wondering what I’m talking about.)  (To be fair, there is a good chance that *anyone* of *any* age that is reading this is wondering what I’m talking about).

With my most favorite Christmas present ever (that would be the Vitamix blender), I am find it very easy indeed to be green. To be more specific (and possibly start making sense), I’m really loving the spinach smoothies I can make with my new blender.

The first time someone told me about putting spinach in a smoothie, I looked at them like they’d just suggested I throw Kermit himself in the blender.   It sounded revolting to me and no matter how many times I heard people talk about them, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

To be fair, I must admit that I struggle with getting enough green veggies even under optimal conditions.  I wish I was one of those people that naturally gravitate towards fresh salads (they *do* exist – I’ve met them), but I’m not.  So the idea of pulverizing said green veggies and mixing them with a perfectly lovely fruit smoothie was slightly blasphemous to me.

But after using my Vitamix to make everything else under the sun (oh the soupy goodness!) and after reading Johanna’s “Sneaking In The Veggies” post ( from earlier in the month, I decided to give it a try.

I fooled around with some recipes and my calculator and came up with a 200 calorie smoothie that I could fit into my meal plan (spinach, half a banana, blueberries, light soy milk and ice if you are curious) and decided to give it a whirl (please excuse the blender pun!).

The first time I tried it, I grew weary as soon as I threw the ingredients in the blender.  It did not look very appetizing to me.

Things did not get any better after blending.  This just did not look like something I wanted to consume.

However, I fought my impulses and toasted to my health.  And it was quite simply a delight!  Despite looking kind of like the cartoon spinach Popeye used to squirt out of can, it tasted like the banana Laffy Taffy candy I loved last week when I was a kid.

I’ve fallen into a routine of having one every day (being a creature of habit, I haven’t tried any new recipes – but I will soon).  I go to the gym after work and then I have to trek out to Roslindale, so by the time I get home I am famished and likely to eat the first semi-edible thing I can get my mouth on.  This sometimes results in my snacking on string cheese or something similar (which I, ahem, sometimes forget to log) while I get my actual dinner ready.  Now I’ve been coming home and whipping up a smoothie as soon as I walk through the door.  I then sip it while I’m getting everything else ready.  And as a bonus, if I forget to throw a salad together to go with dinner, I’ve still consumed some fruits and veggies with dinner.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy my smoothie…

I’m feeling in need of pithy, clichéd sayings because I’m battling the impulse to throw in the sweaty gym towel.  Not when it comes to the gym in general mind you – just when it comes to my dismal performance in TRX TEAM training.  From a rational point of view, I know that it is perfectly fine that I’m struggling with TRX TEAM.  It means I have plenty of room for growth and I know that the challenge is good for me.  I know that if I stick with it, I will get better (and stronger!) and I will once again be in love with TRX TEAM.  However, if my rational point of view was always in charge, then I would be able to say that I have never once spent an entire day eating pizza and watching bad TV – and I can’t truthfully make that claim.

So I find myself battling the evil voices in my head telling me that I should just give up (side note:  why do the evil voices *always* manage to yell louder than the nice ones).  It has been so long since I’ve fought this impulse (that is, to just give up an exercise that is too hard) that I’d thought I’d totally conquered it.  When I first started seriously working out, I dealt with it a lot.  There was a six-month gap between my first and second BURN classes because I just decided I couldn’t handle BURN classes after the first one (and it took me six months to get back up on the horse – well in this case the treadmill).  And now, even when a BURN class leaves me wondering where the nearest AED is, I still love it.

So I know that I can work through this.  It is just really hard to focus on that fact when I’m struggling to get the TRX straps around my feet and then I’m barely able to do even one atomic pushup or when I fall out of the TRX while trying to do a one-legged squat (oh yeah, did I mention I fell flat on my butt in the middle of the gym?  That was awesome).  And it is especially hard to keep the proverbial “can do” attitude when I start comparing myself to the awesome ladies that are rocking the TRX on either side of me.  That kind of comparison I something that I firmly believe should be avoided in pretty much *any* circumstance – but this time I just can’t help myself.

Luckily, the TRX instructors at Healthworks are amazing and Tracy manages to keep me in the game even when I feel like my only option is flee the gym and never look back.  And I was so excited about starting TRX TEAM that I know all of the amazing things about it. And I know, to bastardize Eleanor Roosevelt, that no workout can make me feel inferior without my consent.  So, I’m going to keep at it.

My plan for this to not pay attention to how well anyone else is doing (unless I’m doing it to be inspired by their awesomeness) – I’m just going to focus on my own progress (no matter how incremental it is).  And I know that in a few weeks, I’ll be writing a post about how I can’t believe I ever thought I wanted to give up on TRX.

I’ve been struggling lately with my enthusiasm level when it comes to working out.  Usually, I genuinely look forward to my time at the gym and my mood suffers noticeably if anything gets in between me and my workout.  But this fall (aside from my constant love of my Making the Cut classes), I have found myself having to really force myself to go to the gym.  And then when I get there, I sometimes end up slacking off quite a bit.  Last week I remedied this situation by meeting up with a fellow Healthworks member and working out together.  And this week I attempted to shock my workout life back into action by shaking up my actual workouts.

First up was an old friend that I hadn’t visited in a while – Burn.   For me, Burn is still the hardest workout around (this probably has something to do with the fact that no matter how much I try to love running, I *hate* it).  That being said, I pretty much never feel as good as I do after taking a Burn class (once the feeling returns to my legs and I stop seeing spots, that is).

On Friday, I tried something brand new and attended one of the TRX demo workouts.  I had done a few TRX exercises here and there while working out with trainers, but this was the first time I tried a whole workout with TRX.  I watch the TRX video on the Healthworks site during lunch on Friday.  It both inspired and frightened me.  I had the sound off, so I’m not sure I totally understood everything – but based on the exercise I saw the people in the video performing, I think that TRX has the ability to turn people into superheroes.  I couldn’t believe some of the things I saw people do. Turns out my inspiration was called for, but my fear was misplaced.  The demo class was amazing  (unbelievably hard, but amazing) and I really like the kind of workout you can get with the TRX (I also loved some of the stretches we learned using the TRX – after a week of dead lifts, the hamstring stretch I learned on Friday night quickly became my new favorite thing).  I loved the demo class so much that I’m going to do it again this week!

And the third kick in the pants of the week came from yoga.  I have never done yoga.  It intimidates me.  Based on what I’ve seen, people that do yoga are bendy and graceful.  I am neither of those things.  But after taking a yoga class – well, I’m still neither bendy nor graceful.  But I’m really glad I tried it and I very much appreciate the fact that the instructor just encouraged me to try what I could and stick to what felt right to me.  I may have been right about my lack of grace, but I was wrong to be intimidated by yoga!  So I’m calling this a successful week.  There is a unique pleasure that comes from trying things that are intimidating and I feel like I’ve hotwired my workout enthusiasm back to its appropriate level.  Let’s just hope this continues!

I have never been one of those people who doesn’t like to be alone.  In fact, I am the opposite.  I’ve gotten off trains to avoid people I know (and quite like!) just because I’m reading and don’t feel like having a conversation.  I spent this recent Thanksgiving Day alone at my house (after spending the day leading up to Thanksgiving with family out of state) and although I got sad stares from people when I mentioned this, I had a perfectly lovely day.

I definitely brought my introverted tendencies to the gym when I first started working out.  I heard people talk about the benefits of having a workout buddy, but I felt strongly that the only company I needed (and indeed could tolerate) was my iPod.  But over time I’ve learned that when it comes to working out, there is indeed power in numbers.  If I’m planning a strictly cardio workout and I’m just going to get on the treadmill for 40 minutes, I still want it to just be me and my headphones.  But for other workouts, I find I do much better if I’ve got company.  Things began to change when I started working out with trainers and then started the small group training like Making the Cut.  If I know that I am expected at the gym by at last one person, then I am far less likely to think of an excuse to skip a workout.  And when I’m working out with other people, I find it much harder to (for example) just give up in the middle and lie on the gym floor for awhile (not impossible mind you, just harder).  So when my normal Making the Cut class was cancelled last Thursday, I did something that what have surprised my former self and asked if anybody wanted to get together and work out on the day of the cancelled class.  I’m so glad I did (and I’m glad that someone took me up on it – thanks Jolie!).

So I offer you a piece of advice during this hectic, festive season.  If you find yourself struggling to get to the gym, see if you can find someone to agree to meet you and make a date or find a class and reserve a spot in it.  Or if you find yourself getting to the gym but feel like you aren’t really pushing yourself as hard as you could, try working out with other people and see if it shames inspires you to kick it up a notch .  Or if you just find yourself getting bored while you are at the gym and cutting out early, try making a friend work out with you so you can discuss, oh I don’t know, whether or not Taylor Swift is too young to be dating Jake Gyllenhaal (not that that is what we discussed on Thursday.  We discussed the situation in North Korea and the chilling effect it could have on strained the US-China relationship.  I swear.) Now if you find yourself craving beer and pizza while you are working out, I have no advice for you – but if you figure anything out, please let me know!

This is a photo I took at a statue park outside of Budapest where a bunch of old Communist-era statues are now displayed.  This statue celebrates the awesome power of working out together (I’m pretty sure they are in the middle of some jump squats).  Or maybe the power of the proletariat.  Or maybe both.

Nope – this isn’t a super late post about Halloween.  I’m taking about the holiday season and the endless party that kicks off at Thanksgiving and goes until January 2nd.  Fake blood and ghosts are nothing compared to the terror that lurks in these weeks.  It seems that this time of year there is no shortage of the pitfalls that await people (ok, me) who are trying to stick to nutritious eating and an ambitious workout schedule.  Between the cold weather, the busy schedules that just beg you to skip the gym, the gluttonous and delicious treats that pop up everywhere,  and the “it’s the holidays – who cares?” attitude, it’s like the perfect storm of weight gain.  Throw in those heart-warming holiday moments like your second-cousin twice removed (or something like that) stating that you have (and I quote) “fat legs” and then asking why you aren’t married and frankly I think it’s a miracle that I don’t just spend the last part of the year in a dark room with a box of wine and multiple packages of raw cookie dough (luckily for the offending relative, he happens to be a super cute four-year-old who also made me a car out of construction paper and wrote “I love Jen” on all of his drawings – but still!).  I read somewhere that the average American gains something like 6 pounds in the last two months of the year.  And frankly, I have above average talents in this area.  This all leads me back to my original point:  the potential for backsliding on my fitness goals at this time of year truly frightens me-  give me zombies and vampires any day!

In an effort to combat this fear, there are a couple of steps I know I need to take right now and I’m putting pen to paper (metaphorically, of course – but cursor to word document just doesn’t have the same ring) to make sure I follow through.

  1. I need to make sure I have a workout schedule in place.  I do very well when I know I have to go to the gym for a particular class/task/workout/etc.  I’ve been struggling this with September (I’m slow) when I lost my Wednesday and Friday workouts with Shauna.  I still have Making the Cut (which I erroneously always call Boot Camp) on Tuesday and Thursday – but I need to fill the gaps.  I either need to write out a plan for my non Boot Camp days every week or enroll myself in another class (I’ve been trying to work up the courage to take Spin classes and I also have my eye on those TRX contraptions they just put in upstairs at Healthworks Back Bay).
  2. I need to limit the holiday parties.  This one won’t be that hard because there really are not that many people who want me to come to their parties.  But my work party is a perfect example of something I should probably avoid.  It’s huge and loud and I never talk to anyone – I just eat my way around the room (whilst also skipping the gym) and then go home.  Now I know there are people that would tell me that in a perfect world, I would be able to go and limit my food choices to healthy options (or at least healthy portions).   I don’t think that’s true.  In a *really* perfect world, I could eat whatever I wanted and not have to worry about it.  And I would also have a job that somehow paid me to travel and read books – so I probably wouldn’t even have an office Christmas party to attend anyway.
  3. As kind of an addendum to point two, I also want to pick out a few events that I *do* want to attend and maybe allow myself a small splurge.  Keeping these in mind will make it easier to say no to the other temptations.  I’ve already got my eye on my friend’s Parisian-themed Christmas party and dinner at my favorite restaurant at my parents’ house (because nothing says Christmas like tacos in Omaha).  Of course, I’m not taking about going crazy – I just want to know where there a few occasions where I can indulge just a *tiny* bit.
  4. I need to make sure I continue to make time to do all my food planning and preparation on Sunday nights so that I have a week’s worth of healthy food ready to go.
  5. And perhaps the most fun….Find the joy and celebration of the season in places *other* than the bottom of a vat of mashed potatoes.  Even if it is just putting up some lights in my living room!

Stay safe out there….

This morning started out promising when I stepped out of the house and saw the sun for the first time all week.  However, it quickly went downhill.  It bottomed out during a two hour lunch meeting when I ended up eating the lunch that was provided (giant chicken parmesan sandwich, chips, cookie – and a mint).  I then spent the rest of the afternoon feeling guilty and bloated (and I think we can all agree that those are two of the more unpleasant feelings).  To add insult to injury, eating like that did simply not provide me with the fuel to face bootcamp (the bloat and the guilt didn’t help either).  I couldn’t jump rope to save my life, my pushups were horrible and one point I found myself just standing and staring into space instead of doing jumping jacks (luckily Lauren didn’t see me!). So instead of leaving the gym feeling invigorated, I left feeling defeated.  Making poor eating choices is like the prank gift that keeps on giving.  And you know what a (very evil) part of me thinks the solution to this is? Ordering pizza (you know theory, right?  The day is shot to hell anyway, so I might as well enjoy some cheese and

pepperoni).  This is one of those times when I need to sit myself down and have a serious talk with myself.  It would go something like this:

Me:  Why on earth do you think that pizza is going to make anything better?

Other Me:  Um, because it tastes good? And it tastes even better with beer?

Me:  Look, we ate crap for lunch and then felt like crap all afternoon.  And then felt even worse after our  pathetic  performance in bootcamp.   Can you not see the cause and effect going on here?

Other Me:  Whatever.  It was a TWO HOUR meeting with a 67 page PowerPoint presentation and the sandwich smelled awesome.  What was I supposed to do?

Me:  Not interested in your excuses.  You were supposed to NOT eat it and instead eat the nutritious lunch we brought with us and then be ready for bootcamp.

Other Me:  Um, can we finish this later?  I think the pizza place stops delivering at nine.

Me:  Sigh.  You are not getting it.  Eating pizza is just going to continue the crap feelings.  It is a very dangerous road to travel.  This is stupid – every pre-schooler in world knows that two wrongs don’t make a right and that is exactly what you are suggesting we do, thunder thighs.

Other Me:  Ok, ok.  I get it.  But by the way, every pre-schooler also knows that you aren’t supposed to call people names.  The thunder thighs thing was out of line.

Me:  Point taken.  I feel we’ve really grown tonight.  Now let’s go have a good dinner.

So I successfully avoided compounding the error of my ways with pizza and beer.  And I’m trying not to be too hard on myself for the transgression (no more name calling!).    Struggling through sprints in bootcamp was punishment enough – I just hope I remember that the next time I’m face with food I shouldn’t eat! Whenever I am on the fence about working out, I always tell myself that I have never once regretted *going* to the gym, while I have many times regretted skipping it.  Similarly, I have to start reminding myself that while I have many times regretted what I’ve put in my mouth, I don’t think there has ever been a time when I got to the end of the day and said “Damn, I should have eaten that sandwich.”

I got my hair cut on Saturday morning, and as I was leaving the salon, the receptionist wished me a Happy Thanksgiving.  I can’t believe we’ve reached the point in the year where it is acceptable to wish people a Happy Thanksgiving.  This realization inspired me to make the most out of the dwindling opportunities for outside fall fun.  I actually tried my hand (feet?) at jogging in the Arboretum on Saturday afternoon (actually, it was more like evening as I found out once I got to the side of the Arboretum furthest from my house and it quickly got dark.  Oops.).   Honestly, I probably did as much walking as jogging (lots of hills in the Arboretum and as I wrote about last week, I’m just getting back into running) – but it was a lovely autumnal jaunt.  The air was just brisk enough (it stayed on the side of invigorating without crossing the line to chilly) and the scenery was beautiful (although past their peak, the leaves were still putting on a show).  On Sunday, I ventured out my neighborhood and went for a hike in the Blue Hills.   Hiking is probably my favorite outdoor activity.  It is easily customizable (in a place like the Blue Hills with lots of interconnecting trails, you can go for as long as you’d like and you can opt to get your heart pumping with elevation gains or you stick to flatter trails) and it doesn’t really require much (although I’m a firm believer in a good pair of hiking boots and I use trekking poles).  And you get treated to moments like this:

Now, no one loves their gym more than I do.  And I know that I get the best workouts at my gym (especially with a trainer breathing down my neck) – but I also like having my weekend workouts be more focused on an actual activity.  In the summer and spring, this is pretty easy to pull off (hiking, biking, swimming, tennis, etc.).  But it gets hard as it gets colder.  And even harder still when the snow starts.  So I’m really glad I made an effort to take advantage of the fall weather this weekend.  Hopefully there will be a few more weekends like this to enjoy before winter takes over!

Today I got back up on the horse, if by horse you mean treadmill.  Due to a chaotic September followed by a sprained ankle, it has been far too long since I did any running.  I might be fighting against biology (let’s just say if anyone ever makes a sports bra out of titanium, I’ll be the first in line to buy it) and suppressing my knee-jerk loathing I have for running – but I’m determined to one day be a runner.  I’m not sure why I’m so obsessed with becoming good (actually, I’d settle for competent)  at something I hate – but I suspect that this fact says chilling things about my inner psyche (hence the title of this post).

I live next to the Arboretum and I get so jealous when I see people jogging there, especially this time of year when they get to jog under the radiant fall foliage and wrap themselves up snuggly against the growing autumnal chill.  I’m like the loser kid trying to hang out with the cool kids at the back of the bus whenever I try jogging (which involves a lot of walking when I’m doing it) in the Arboretum – it is very obvious that I don’t belong.  And while I have always proudly embraced my misfit status, for once I *really* want to belong with this crowd.

For one thing, I love the portability and the ease of jogging.  You can pretty much do it anywhere (especially outside!) and you really don’t need to haul a bunch of heavy stuff around in order to do it (unless someone comes through on the titanium bra front).  I do a fair amount of traveling and I would love it if instead of worrying about the hotel gym I could just go for a run.  And when I do actually run, I love how it completely clears my mind of any daily stress – my mind actually has to get rid of those thoughts because it is too busy pointing out the fact that I suck at running and that I might die soon.

So despite the fact that all signs point to me not being a runner, I’m going to keep trying.  I did a 5K in the summer (with some walking it must be said) and really enjoyed it.  I would have enjoyed it even more if I had been able to run the whole race, so I’ve already got my eyes on next year.  After two months of not running, it kind of felt like starting from scratch today, but I’m going to keep trying.  I made a new “run” mix on my iPod with tunes to inspire me and I keep daydreaming about rolling out of bed and being able to go for a long run in the Arboretum (yes, I realize that is an odd dream).  When I was browsing in a bookstore last week, I came across a book called “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”.  It is by an author I love (Haruki Murakami) and he started running when he started writing novels to help balance the sedentary lifestyle required by lots of writing.  Now he has compiled his thoughts on running and I think that reading it my help keep me inspired (note to Santa – gift idea).  I should probably admit that I am a total nerd AND I have a masters in library science – so I tend to ascribe books with actual magical powers.

Anyway, these are all thoughts on ways that I hope to keep myself motivated with my challenge.  I did better today that I thought I would (once again, low expectations are my friends!).  And I felt great afterwards.  So I’m just going to keep trying…and maybe investigate my idea about titanium sports bras.