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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 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 spent the Christmas and the New Year at my parents’ house in Omaha (and lest you think that Omaha is not a very glamorous place to holiday, consider the fact that none of than Lady Gaga also spent Christmas in Omaha and the local paper splashed all over the front page on December 26th).  Thanks to the fact that my parents belong to a wonderful gym and the fact that preparing healthy meals is a breeze when you have nothing else to do, the vacation was very compatible with healthy living.

Of course, the New Year often turns thoughts towards resolutions.  I’ve never been one for “diet” resolutions – I tend to make the same two resolutions every year (master both French and the guitar- neither of those things have yet to happen.  Maybe this year…).  But this year I decided to think about things to which I’m looking forward.  There is always a bit of a letdown at this time of year and winter can seem long and bleak (even for winter lovers like myself).  I’m hoping that by focusing on a couple of things that I’m excited about that I can keep myself from slipping into hibernation mode.

So here goes…..

1.        TRX!!!!  I start my TRX Season next week and I can’t wait.  I actually took a TRX interval class at my parents’ gym and realized just how much room I have for improvement on the TRX.  That is my nice way of saying that I’m really not that good at it – and I am so looking forward to getting better.  I think it is going to be a great way to jump start some serious fitness gains this year.

2.       Vita-Mix!!!  I got a Vita Mix for Christmas and I’m really excited about all the different ways I can use it for healthy eating.  I’m particularly looking forward to the fact that I can make soup right in the blender because the motor generates so much heat (I’m pretty sure that is how it works – maybe it is just fitness magic).

3.       Dolphins!!!  My family is all meeting up in Florida in December.  I’ve never been to Florida (fun fact:  it is one of only four states that I have never visited) and I haven’t seen my brother in over a year, so I’m really excited.  But back to the dolphins….My brother, sister-in-law and I are going to spend the day at some resort where we can snorkel and swim with dolphins.  I realize this is incredibly dorky, but I don’t care – I can’t wait to the whole cheesy dolphin kiss thing.  Also, you have to wear a wet suite at this resort.  If that isn’t incentive to hit the gym, I don’t know what is.

4.       Enell!!!  I got a new sports bra last week – and I splurged and got an Enell Sports Bra.  It looks like a girdle and it costs more than I normally spend on sports bras (or on shoes, for that matter) – but it was 100% worth it.  I hope I’m not just in the honeymoon phase because I’ve had other sports bras that I thought were amazing at first and then ended up feeling like they weren’t that great.  But this time it feels like true love.  I’ve already put it through the paces – and through all my jump roping, running and jumping jacks it kept everything where it was supposed to be.  The thing is so supportive, I’m pretty sure it actually makes me stand up taller!

All those exclamation marks have exhausted me, so it is time to sign off.  I hope everyone has a happy and health New Year!

One of my biggest goals for the new year is to eat more vegetables.  I’m lucky, in that I really like most veggies, but in order to hit 5 servings a day you really have to plan and think about things.  This week, I have no plan (oops).  We got home from vacation on Sunday night and I had to hurry up and get some groceries for our bare cupboards.  I couldn’t handle the thought of one more meal out and I really wanted to cook something that wasn’t beige, the food color of choice in my holiday travels, so I ran to the store.  FYI, not having a plan is expensive.

So yesterday I knew I was going to have a salad for lunch.  That was my husband’s request and I am too lazy and uncreative to think of something else for myself, so that settled that.  But the rest of the day was a mystery.  I made up for it by throwing veggies at myself at every turn.

For breakfast I had a standard bowl of oatmeal with some canned pumpkin stirred in.  According to this website, pumpkin has a ton of nutrients and vitamin C.  Heading a cold off at the pass with breakfast that tastes like dessert?  Yes, please.

For dinner I made my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe, from Rachel Wilkerson.  This uses skim milk and a smallish quantity of good cheese, so the calorie count is not out of control.  And it also uses a whole bag of spinach, so Popeye would be proud.  I love macaroni and cheese almost as much as I love my husband, and he loves this recipe too.  Win-win.

Before bed, I was still kind of hungry.  Because I brilliantly decided on our 6 hour road trip home that we were going to institute meatless Mondays, and because I forgot the key ingredient for the meatless meal I had intended to make, I wound up making the mac and cheese that I usually serve as a side dish and calling it dinner.  I needed something else to fill me up, so I pulled out the blender and made myself a green smoothie.  Check out if you have no idea what I’m talking about.  I combined coconut milk, frozen peaches and pineapples, a few ice cubes and a big handful of kale in the blender.  I would have used spinach, but we ate it all for dinner.  When you make one of these, as bizarre as they look, you can’t taste the greens that you throw in there.  I swear.  I tried to take a picture of me and my green monster, but after all of that traveling, I looked worse than my smoothie did.  This is one of the best ways to sneak some greens into your life.  Make it taste like fruit!  My husband always claims that if they could make broccoli taste like apples he would eat it; now I just made kale taste like peaches.  He still didn’t want it, but I didn’t want to share anyway.

While October is still with us for another week, I wanted to remind everybody that it is still Breast Cancer Awareness month. Healthworks is teaming up with four great organizations in their Learn, Give, Hope campaign to support the fight against breast cancer. I just bought a Mel’s Bracelet from the Friends of Mel Foundation, which does amazing things for women living with cancer – including providing retreats so that women can get away from the day to day pressures of dealing with the disease.  I was particularly touched by this idea, as I watched my mother fight breast cancer for twelve long years, and I know first-hand the emotional toll that it can take in addition to the obvious physical effects.

Last month marked ten years since I lost my mother to breast cancer.  She was one of the best, kindest, funniest, most amazing people I have ever known, and she was a fighter to the finish.  I try to live my life each day in her spirit, helping people, sharing love, and creating joy.  (This is a photo of me with my mom.  I still have not quite learned how to smile for the camera.) If you have a few minutes, please go look at Healthworks’ Learn, Give, Hope page to learn more about the organizations they are working with and how you can support them.  Or drop a donation in one of the collection bins at your Healthworks!  So many lives have been touched by breast cancer; there is something we can all do to help.

These days, one of my favorite reasons to get to the gym is to make it to a BodyPump class.  Sometimes I have trouble making myself get off of my couch and out the door if I plan to go after school (even if I have my gym bag in the car first), but when I log into the Healthworks website and reserve a ticket for BodyPump with Toni, I get motivated.

First of all, BodyPump makes you feel like a badass.  They have posters of scary looking sweaty people that look like this:

And slogans like “Pressure Makes Diamonds.”  They make you feel like you’re going to do something really tough, and drip sweat on the floor, and be really sore the next day.

But even though it’s really, really tough, it’s also really easy.  The instructors always take the time to explain how much weight you should be using, what your form should look like, and things you should remember.  There is good music playing to keep you from getting bored (and if you’re lucky, teachers who sing along with the lyrics) and routines that are simple enough to master but hard enough to keep you working.

After my weight training hiatus due to my summer of sloth, I am back into a BodyPump routine.  I told Toni a few classes ago that I was sad to have had to cut back on the amount of weight I could lift and she assured me that I would be back where I was before in no time.  Three weeks later, I don’t feel like my arms are going to fall off after the biceps track and I don’t have to take a break during the lunges.  I’m not exactly mastering the decline pushups during the chest track yet, but I have hope.  Add to that my delusional/obsessive desire to get arms like Michelle Obama’s, the joy I get out of ostentatiously complaining to my co-workers that I’m so sore because I worked out so hard, and my continued journey down the path of weightloss, and I’ll be at BodyPump tomorrow night.  See you there?

I realize I’m not off to the best start with my blog posts, but I’ve been too cheap to pay for an internet cafe here in Prague.  I finally broke down and did it, so I wanted to send a quick dispatch.  I was a journalism major in college and dreamed of being an international correspondant, filing important stories from exotic locations.  I guess a quick blog post from Prague will have to do!  Anyway, Prague is even better than I thought it was going to be (you can’t say that very often!).  The only bad thing is that I had hurt my ankle before I left Boston and I’m still having some trouble with it – so getting in workouts and walking around all day have been a bit challenging.  I have a great little gym in the hotel and I really like it, but my ankle has been too sore to use it every day like I planned.   On the upside, I have walked an absolute ton.  And I never miss a chance to walk up hills or take the stairs, so I feel like I’m kind of sneaking in extra activity all over the place.  My food choices haven’t been 100% fantastic.  I’m keeping myself so pleasantly busy that I don’t snack – which is sometimes a huge problem for me on vacations.  And being in a country that has sane portion sizes is also very helpful.  I splurged and got ice cream today and didn’t even really feel guilty because it was such a delicate  (I’m trying desperately to avoid saying “small” because it was really just normal) serving.  But it was still awesome and satisfied my craving.  A good lesson to bring home with me (along with a whole bunch of dirty laundry…).  I’m off to Budapest tonight – hopefully I will get to check in again soon.

P.S.  The Boston Bruins are playing in Prague tomorrow, so I have seen a bunch of Bruin jerseys.  I think I might have also seen an actual Bruin (a player – not the bear-like creature).  I feel like I brought a small piece of Boston to Prague with me…

– Jen

Rain, rain, go away…I think I can safely say that the weather this week has been kind of a “downer” for everyone. A few nights ago, I decided to take a much-needed pampering break by booking a facial appointment at Healthworks Back Bay. I saw the wonderful Nina, who I’ve been to on several occasions. I love that she never pushes products on me, and that she offers really simple, sage skincare advice: “Do less.” Her own beautiful skin is proof that she knows what she’s talking about!

It seems that every time I come in there, I’ve managed to stray since my last visit, and wound up with a too-harsh skincare regimen. This time, she showed me in the mirror how the glycolic cream cleanser I’ve been using has been sloughing off too many skin cells, leaving my skin too thin, and exposing blood vessels to the surface. I’m increasingly paranoid about developing wrinkles as I get closer to my 30s, and as a result, I have been totally overdoing it.

Nina’s recommendation was to wash my T zone with a gentle, milky cleanser, using a cotton ball, and only using exfoliating maybe once a week. She offered to have me come back in a few weeks for a free 15 minute  skin consultation, to decide what to do from there (this is something that is available for free to all Healthworks members!)

            I love her refreshingly simplistic attitude, and it’s always a good reminder to me that sometimes pushing yourself harder – whether its by using a harsh skin product, working out extensively, or just overbooking your time – usually has the opposite effect from what you want. 

– Jean

With the first very cool morning of autumn, came the reminder and inspiration to slather my body, including my flip-flop wearing feet, in the richness of Nivea. My skin soaked in the luxury and has been thanking me since. Today was day 3 of the post-shower ritual and already I feel different. My routines are far from routine, and yet this simple and quick practice makes such a difference. I wouldn’t dream of or be able to skip this step on my face, and yet I neglect the rest of my skin on a regular basis. An eye doctor recently told me that I had the kind of complexion that loves and responds well to exfoliation. In his view, I would look so much more attractive if I remembered that small truth. After many laughs about this salient advice, not from my dermatologist but from an eye surgeon whom I hadn’t before met, I pulled my exfoliant from the linen closet and have been using it since. He was right, my skin does indeed look healthier and more vibrant after a season in the sun. And so, as I considered myself from the neck down, I pulled the almost-new pump bottle of lotion from the archives of the very same linen closet.
Like my shower curtains and linens, I like to change my bathrobes and lotions with the seasons. I reach for the lightness of a citrus scented, silky lotion and a cool cotton short robe for the post-day-at-the-beach shower. In the fall and winter months, I veer more towards the thick and healing formulae of the Nivea and Keri labels, donning the more fleecy, full length robe. By springtime, I dapple with the comfort of a spa style waffle and sesame oil, the nutty base sensual in an Asian cuisine kind of way.

As I slipped into the coziness of my bathrobe this morning, I enjoyed the scented hint left from the balm of yesterday’s Nivea treat. That simple smell urged me on and I felt compelled to hit the pump again today. Years ago during an Auyervedic cleanse, I learned that the skin, a partner of the lungs, is one of our largest and most important organs for detox and health. At that time, I regularly used a body brush on my dry skin before stepping into tepid water and bathing with a wonderfully light lavender castile soap. All of that dusty knowledge is now reemerging into my days. It all started with a squirt of lotion. Perhaps it’s time to buy myself a fresh new brush. I’ll surely remember to direct the long arm of the scrubber towards my heart so that as I slough the dead skin, the energy and lymph systems will be manipulated and massaged by the strong bristles of the head, offering an extra bonus.

Each time I bathe my boys and dress their delicious little selves into pjs, I savor the smells of the lotions and oils that seal in their innocence, purity and loveliness. Memories of our lives together float by as I steal a whiff of the familiar. The marriage between nose and scent is powerful and even, at times, transcendent. One afternoon years ago, I crossed paths with an older woman in an elevator. I was immediately transported back to my grandmother’s side and home, even though she had died when I was but a rising seven year old. When I thanked the stranger for the sensory gift, she smiled and in her Irish brogue told me that she had been using Ponds and Jergens since she was a young girl. And so a bridge to my grandmother was built in a single, unexpected moment.

This October, and ideally beyond, I will allow myself the luxury of rejuvenating my skin. I once heard that it takes a mere few days to solidify a habit. In that case, may this renewed discipline be unforgettable by month’s end. May I enjoy those extra few moments in my bathrobe as my body drinks in the added moisture. The forced pause that insinuates no force. Interesting, isn’t it? That body lotion could actually be linked to the speed at which we travel through our days?
Whatever the mood, the skin type or the age, let a lotion of choice offer some youth, some relaxation and, ultimately, some comfort as you acknowledge yet another call to action from your body.