Monday, February 15, 2016

Apps for the Gym

Happy Monday!

Life has been crazy-busy (which I know is my excuse all the time). I have a day off today, though, so I wanted to make good on a promise from a couple of weeks ago and hook y'all up with the apps I use every. single. day. at the gym.

So, without any further ado, here are the top three things you need.


This one is free!

I first started using this app when I began my powerlifting journey, and I honestly don't know how I'd remember everything if I didn't have it.

Using the search function, I first find the exercise that I am doing. It is loaded with so many exercises, and if the one you're doing isn't there, you can "recommend an exercise" be added. In the screenshot below, you can see the exercises that I've done recently. (Because I do so many different lifts each week, I have to use the "search all" function fairly regularly, but it's nice to have some stored as recent, too.)

In this case, I clicked on "Barbell Bench Press." Before I start the day's routine, I can click on "History" and see the number of sets and reps and the amount of weight I lifted. This function goes all the way back to Day One, which makes seeing (and tracking) your progress really great.

When you hit "Finish" after the workout is over, it gives you a total number of points. At first I was bummed about the points not increasing every week, but I'm so over that now. I don't even know what the points mean -- or how you earn points -- so I don't really care about this function too much.

One of my favorite pieces about this app, though, is that it has explanations for all of the exercises and accompanying videos for most of them. There have been a few times where we have had to watch these videos in the middle of the gym, just to make sure we're doing the exercise correctly. It's a really nice feature that they're on the app for us.

If you are into lifting, I highly, highly, highly recommend downloading Fitocracy. It has made tracking my workouts so manageable -- and it's so much easier to carry around my phone than pen and paper.


This one cost $6.99. (Sometimes it costs $10, and other times the price drops. Follow her on Instagram -- @alexajeanfitness -- to know when to buy.)

So this isn't an app, but I do access it on my handy-dandy cellular device. I purchased the program using the link above. She then emails you a code with which to download the program. I saved it to my Dropbox and to my iBooks -- pretty much every place I could possibly save it.

As I've mentioned before, this is a 30-day ab program. There are four workouts per week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday), and each workout has five exercises, ranging from 30 seconds to 45 seconds. Between each exercise there is a 20-second break, and between each of the three sets of exercises, there is a one-minute break.

This is what the first day looks like:

This was tough for us when we first started, but now it's a piece of cake. This is the program, y'all, that whipped me into shape and gave me a tinier core than I've had in a very long time. See the progress pics here.

She has a Sore to the Core II out now, but we're going through the first one for a second time. In two weeks (when we finish Part I again), I believe we'll be starting Part II.


This one cost $4.99, but it's the best $4.99 I've ever spent.

When we first started doing Sore to the Core, we kept track of time using the stopwatch feature on our iPhones. Unfortunately, I was so focused on keeping track of when we started/stopped that I wasn't concentrating on the exercises, I was worried about messing up the time, etc.

I did some research and found Seconds. There are a variety of timers that you can use: HIIT, Circuit, Tabata, Round, Compound, or Custom. You can create folders of different workouts (like the "Sore to the Core" one I created below) and enter different programs into that folder. So as you can see below, I labeled each week as 1, 2, 3, or 4 and each day as 1, 2, 3, or 4. (So 4.3 would signify the third day of the fourth week.)

When we're ready to go, we simply click on the day that we want to do, and this timer pops up:

The woman will say, "Plank" and then let us do our thing. She'll count down "3, 2, 1, rest." And then the next exercise will scroll up. She does this all the way through our entire workout. There is NO keeping track, NO counting, NO messing up for us. It's all done for us.

It takes a minute to enter everything into the program, but it is so. worth. it. Seriously. Buy this app. Now.

And there you go, friends! Please let me know what you think of these apps!

Peace out!

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Whirlwind Weeks

Hi friends!

(Side note: at the beginning of each period, I greet each class by saying, "Hi friends!" I try to avoid gendered language as much as possible, and calling my students "friends" has been pretty effective. On the rare occasion I greet my sixth-period class with something different, one of my little girls emphatically exclaims, "Um, hi FRIEND!" The little things kids notice -- and care about -- crack me up.)

Evidence that I do, in fact, sometimes wear real clothes, not workout attire.
So I obviously haven't written for a while -- 15 days, to be exact. This was totally not my intention. I have had dozens of ideas and updates brewing in my head every single day, but I have been so darn busy. I am done with work at 2:30 but often have meetings until 3:30, and then I go to the gym for an hour-and-a-half to two hours, and then I go home and put everything away (I hate clutter), and then I cook and eat dinner, and by the time I sit down to write, it's after 8:00, and I'm pooped.

I'd like to say that my lack-of-writing-regularly will change, but I cannot make any promises until life is a little less chaotic. Plus, I feel like I post most of what I would say here on Instagram, and I don't want you all to get bored.

Let's cut to the chase:


I am on Day 22 of my second Whole30. And it's been a struggle.

I loved my first Whole30 -- so much, in fact, that I did it for 58 days straight and only stopped because I went out of town for a bachelorette party.

This time, I am going to make it 27.5 days and then call it good. Whatev.

So let's compare what's different:

Then: I enjoyed cooking up a storm.
Now: I still enjoy cooking, but there are times that I just want to go out to dinner and not have to worry about analyzing the menu ingredient-by-ingredient beforehand.

Then: I truly loved the recipes.
Now: I still love most of the recipes, but I need some variance in my life. I am so sick of sweet potatoes, eggs, and slabs of meat.

Then: I completely overhauled my diet and therefore felt a drastic (and phenomenal) change.
Now: I don't eat like absolute shit on a daily basis, so I haven't felt much different. I can say that I am less bloated than I was, but that's about the only difference.

Then: I was sleeping better than ever.
Now: It still takes me forever to fall asleep, and I still wake up several times a night.

Then: I was eating huge meals.
Now: I know that I am not eating enough. I just haven't been hungry. That also may be why I'm not feeling the "Tiger Blood" or experiencing the amazing sleep that Whole30 promises.

Then: I was not exercising at all.
Now: I am kicking my ass with lifting and running at least 90 minutes a day. This does not leave a lot of time for cooking. In addition, whereas Whole30 was my obsession the first time around, I am now way more obsessed with the gym, and nutrition, while important, is a side factor.

So anyway, I just want to be done.

And I really, really want a glass of wine. And a burrito bowl with rice. And one of my mom's chocolate chip cookies. And cheese in an omelet.


Friends, I am killing it at the gym.

I am, however, still sucking at gym selfies.
I have been sticking with the schedule that I create every week. Here is this week's schedule:

If you've been keeping track, there are some new exercises this time around. I am switching up most of our accessory lifts so that our muscles don't get too used to doing the same movements. (Do you like how I pretend I know what I'm talking about? I actually have no idea, but it sounds good.)

Even when the "running" row is empty, I am still doing cardio work -- walking at a slow-ish speed on the treadmill in order to get all of my steps in. So far, despite technical difficulties with each of our trackers, my sister, my sister-in-law, and I have all reached 10,000 steps every day of our challenge. And all three of us have said that we are not going to stop after the 30 days is up.

This is what I look like after I run a reallllllllllly fast (for me) mile.

As far as the abs routine goes, Sunni and I finished Alexa Jean Fitness' 30-Day Abs Challenge (Sore to the Core), and we both have seen tremendous results:

The pictures on the left were from January 4th, and the pictures on the right were from yesterday, January 30th.

I am pretty damn proud of myself, and seeing this progress makes me really, really, really excited to continue. Sunni and I are going to do the first round of the program again, and then we are going to purchase the second round.
I used to be self-conscious in this top because it was skin-tight. Today, it was baggy.
I haven't stepped on the scale (Whole30 rules), so I don't know how much (if any) weight I've lost, but I know there have been some major changes taking place.

This top is a size medium -- AND IT FITS.
And although I don't have a photo of me in them (yet), the jeans that I haven't worn since 2012 fit -- with no muffin top!

These are the jeans -- that you can't even see. I just like this picture. :)

Although I am so ready to be done with Whole30, life is obviously going pretty darn well. I think I have turned into a gym rat, and I am totally okay with that. It's clearly making a positive impact -- both physically and emotionally.

Many of you have asked -- either in person or via Facebook, Instagram, or text -- about the Sore to the Core program and other apps I use for workouts. Fear not, friends. I am about to drop some info on you in a pending post. Stay tuned for that to come later this week.

Much love to you all!

Question: should I continue the blog, or would you prefer to keep updated on my not-super-interesting life via Instagram? If you would like me to continue writing, what kind of material would you like to read? Give me a topic, and I can talk for days. :)

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

So Much To Say, So Much to Say

And now you have Dave Matthews stuck in your head. You can thank me later.

Side note #1: speaking of Dave, Katie and I saw him in Des Moines this past summer. We also saw him in 2009 at a -- very fragrant -- outdoor event.

We looked so much younger -- about six years younger -- in 2009!

While I had a blast both times, I don't think I need to see Dave live again.

Side note #2: Katie and I are going to the Mumford & Songs concert in St. Paul in April. I can't wait. I love live music (and Katie) so much.

Okay, so back to -- or to start, actually -- the actual post: despite all of my best intentions, I have not blogged for nearly two weeks. I have so much to tell you about, and I don't even know where to start. It's been a super-busy few weeks (hence the lack of writing), and everything with which I have been busy is totally applicable to this blog. Let's get started, shall we?

First, I have been to the gym every day since December 29th, the day that I re-emerged as a human (from Stomach Flu 2015) and that I returned to Minneapolis from my Chrismukkah vacation in Omaha.

I cannot even tell you how much I love this place. I wrote a lengthy Instagram post about it, but essentially, this place is my second home, my refuge. Time flies when I'm at the gym: my mind is clear, my body is focused, my sweat is on.

I think it also helps that I am most often there with Sunni:

Sunni, too, is addicted to the gym. This doesn't surprise me at all since we're basically the exact same person.

We have been killing our workouts. It is so helpful to have Sunni with me -- and my beautiful sister-in-law Aly with us from afar -- as we bust our butts with Alexa Jean's Sore to the Core 30-Day Ab Challenge.

Here we are after a particularly tough abs workout. Sexyyyyyyyy.

You guys, this ab routine is working wonders. We are now done with two weeks of ab workouts, and I have noticed some major change. I posted on Instagram yesterday that I had a non-scale victory with my skinny jeans not giving me muffin top (woo hoo!), and this morning I woke up feeling extra lean, so I decided to take some photos.

This is TWO WEEKS into a 30-day program (that will likely become an every-week-until-I-get-sick-of-it program for me):

In addition to doing an ab workout four days a week, Sunni and I are doing a lot of lifting and cardio as well.

Here was this week's workout, for instance:

On the days that I didn't run, I still headed upstairs to the treadmills to get some steps in, as I am doing a 10,000 steps challenge with Aly and my sister, Erin. So far, we are 14 days into the challenge, and all three of us have reached our goal every single day. (Admittedly, though, I still have 4,000 steps to go today. There may or may not be a lot of marching in place happening in my apartment tonight. Or, who knows? Maybe I'll head back to the gym for some more treadmill work. I am, after all, still sitting in my sweaty workout clothes -- because I'm a classy lady, you know.)

As you can see by the workout calendar, I have it pretty well divvied up so that we're only working each muscle group once a week. (I am pretty proud of myself, by the way, for figuring out this plan all by myself.)

I am also doing a fairly good job of listening to my body. I was supposed to run 1.5 miles on Wednesday, for instance, but as soon as I got up to the treadmill, I was not feeling it. I did my "long" run on Sunday followed by a really-fast-for-me mile (9:10) on Monday and a heavy leg day on Tuesday. I started off my run on Wednesday at a 6.0 pace and then dropped down to 5.5 and then finally to a walk; I tried to up it again to run, but my body was like, "Heck no," and I ended up walking the rest. I have been killing it with my runs lately, and apparently I just needed a break. So I walked on Wednesday and ran on Thursday. And that was just fine.

Please notice my "extra" workout last Sunday. Yes, friends, I did a pole dancing class. Laurie, one of my besties from work, asked me to go with her. This is the same friend with whom I attended an aerial fitness class a couple of months ago.

The website said that we should wear shorts and heels. I don't ever wear shorts, y'all -- never to work out and very, very rarely in the summer. I don't even know why I had these itty-bitty spandex shorts in my closet, but I did. I put them on with my four-inch heels and my are-you-kidding-me face and immediately snapped a picture to send to Laurie.

Thankfully, my heels stayed in my gym bag for the entire hour-long class. But you guys, that workout was incredible. We went to Dollhouse Pole Dance studio in Northeast and had the toughest -- and most empowering -- workout of our lives. Both Laurie and I were sore for days after the class, and despite our aching muscles and bruised bodies, both of us were raring to go back immediately.

Lucky for us (i.e. my bank account), there's a Groupon available for the studio now.

If you haven't tried pole fitness, I highly recommend it and promise that you won't be disappointed.

In addition to working out like a madwoman, I am on Day Six of my second Whole30. This one is going a bit differently than Round One a couple of years ago.

First, I am not having difficulty at all with the eating plan. I am not craving non-compliant food, and I'm not sick of eggs, meat, etc. I really don't feel like I've had to change much about my nutrition, so that's good. I haven't experienced the carb flu, major fatigue (other than the pure exhaustion from my crazy-busy week), or bloating like many do in the early stages of the challenge.

Second, I have not done a great job of meal planning this go-around. I need to be much better about that this week and will likely spend a chunk of tomorrow figuring that out. I epically screwed up Thursday: I didn't eat breakfast until about 9:00, and then because the day was so busy, I didn't eat "lunch" until around 6:00. As a result, I didn't eat "dinner" and woke up hungry in the middle of the night and slammed a Larabar. That shouldn't happen again, obviously.

I have had some delicious meals:

Uova in Purgatorio -- Nom Nom Paleo

Thai Chicken Curry -- Home in Disarray
Both were very easy and will certainly make appearances again during this challenge. Uova in Purgatorio, in fact, might be a weekly occurrence because it's just as good for breakfast as it is for lunch and dinner.

I do foresee a few challenges with this Whole30, and those mainly revolve around events that are coming up. (I did not schedule this well.) I have a friend in town this weekend, a friend in town the following weekend, and I have a trip to Des Moines scheduled the weekend after that. That whole "no booze" thing is really going to suck. But, I can do it.

Whew! If you've made it this far in the post, congratulations! And thanks for hanging in there with me! I hope to start blogging more regularly.

What content would you like to see on this ol' blog?

How are your New Year's resolutions coming along? Any wonderful meal/workout plans you'd like to share?

Stay warm, friends!

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Week One of Working Out & Healthy Eating

It's January 3rd, and I am three for three with workouts for the year.

While I was a bit over-served on New Year's Eve, I still managed to make it to the gym to mooch off their ESPN to watch Iowa get clobbered in the Rose Bowl to run on January 1st; I ran a mile, walked half a mile, and then ran another half a mile. It was a slow pace and an easy workout, and it felt good to sweat out the toxins from my NYE celebration.

You can almost smell the Coors Light and champagne wafting from my pores.
Yesterday, Sunni (my MN BFF) and I headed to the gym together, and while she went upstairs for some cardio, I made leg day happen: squats, pause squats, and lunges. I am feeling it today, friends. (I think I'm still feeling some residual soreness from our NYE dance party, too: shakin' my groove thang to a 90s hip-hop cover band is a killer leg workout, let me tell you.)

Today, I headed back to the gym for arm day and a two-mile run.

While I've done a good job of focusing on powerlifting moves (i.e. squat, bench, and deadlift), I have neglected other areas of my body, namely arms and upper back. I decided that if I want to look smokin' in a tank top this summer, I needed to change that.

The arm workout was totally outside of my comfort zone. I get a lot of anxiety about trying new things at the gym, worrying that I'm not using the weight/machine correctly, that my form sucks, that everyone is judging me, etc. But today, I put on my big girl panties, did some research prior to hitting the gym, and convinced Sunni to do the workout with me. We figured everything out and got a kick-ass arm workout. (Seriously, how we're supposed to write on the board tomorrow at school is beyond me.)

After the arm workout, you guys, I killed my run. I ran two miles in less than 20 minutes. That is fast for this girl. I was so stoked. I then cooled down by walking for another three-quarters of a mile.

This morning, my sister-in-law and I also decided on a couple of other goals for the next 30 days: we are going to meet our 10,000 step goal each day (along with my mom and sister), and we are going to complete Alexa Jean's Sore to the Core Ab Program. Because I now have approximately 25,000,000 goals going on right now workout-wise, I decided to create a little calendar for myself:

This looks like a lot, I know. But it's really not.

See, I am already doing most of this. Like I mentioned previously, since I joined the gym, I have gone nearly every day that I have been in town and have either lifted, run, or done a combination of the two. This calendar is simply adding in an ab routine and two additional days of lifting. If I find that the arm and back exercises are too much or are not effective, I will simply modify (Sunni and I already found a couple of things we want to change about the arm workout for next week) or remove them completely from the plan. It's a trial and error right now.

In addition, I will be getting those 10,000 steps every day. So while I may not be running on Tuesday, I'll likely do a bit of easy walking on the treadmill to ensure I hit that target.

As I also mentioned previously, a group of friends and I are going to be starting a Whole30 on January 10th. (Again, please let me know if you'd like to participate, and I'll add you to our secret Facebook group.) While I am not officially starting earlier, I am going to be doing a sort of "warm-up" for the next week. I mean, I'm kicking ass in the gym, and it kind of defeats the purpose to come home and eat Kraft Mac and Cheese for lunch.

So here's that plan:

As you can see, I left off today as well as next Saturday. Today, I had sugary cereal for breakfast and Trader Joe's sushi for a post-workout meal, and I am going to make the sausage and potato soup for dinner. I will also spend the evening making the quiche that I'll have for breakfast every day. Next Friday night and Saturday, I want to allow myself the option to go out to eat, to have a couple cocktails, etc. since I'll be officially starting the Whole30 next Sunday.

I would say that 2016 is off to a good start. I'm pretty proud of myself and am super excited to see the gains I make. My motivation right now is off the charts.

Finally, I want to wrap up with a picture I saw on one of my friend's Facebook pages. She said that she did not make any resolutions this year but that this sentiment will be in the back of her mind. I love it.

Have a great rest of your day and an even better week, friends!

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Friday, January 1, 2016

Infinite Possibilities

When I look back on 2015, I will remember it with mixed emotions. It was absolutely one of the toughest years of my life, but it was also the year that taught me many invaluable lessons and brought me great growth. And, it brought me to the Twin Cities, a place I love more than words can say.

As I did in previous years, I created a Pinspiration board for 2016 and wanted to jot down some of my goals for this new year, this fresh start.

Really, I just have one goal for 2016:


As with all plans, however, this needs to be broken down in order to be manageable and therefore achievable. So without further ado, here are my five smaller goals for the new year:


Allergies aside, I never felt better than when I ate according to the Whole30. Starting January 10th, a group of friends and I are going to be delving back into the world of meats, veggies, healthy fats, and fruit. If you are interested in joining us, please let me know, and I will add you to our top-secret Facebook group.

Even after the Whole30, I plan to eat mostly clean. One of my most favorite friends does a Whole7 every month as a time to reset. I like that idea and think I may give it a go as well.


I am already off to a good start with this one. On December 14th, I joined the gym that is basically right across the street from my new place. Despite being out of town from the 22nd through the 29th, I managed to get in eight trips to the gym -- and did a bodyweight workout while I was out of town (and prior to getting the stomach flu). In order to earn the insurance kickback, I have to go to the gym at least 12 times a month, and I know that I will handedly exceed this requirement.

The first thing I am doing at the gym is lifting. As I mentioned previously, I have really gotten into powerlifting lately -- specifically squat, deadlift, and bench. I definitely want to continue this trend and increase the weight on the barbells. I also want to add in accessory lifts, especially those that will strengthen my arms, upper back, and abs.

The second component to my exercise plan is running. I impulsively signed up for the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (the 13.1 component to Grandma's Marathon in Duluth), which takes place on June 18th, 2016. I have 168 days -- 24 weeks -- six months to get in tip-top shape.

I would also like to run Dam to Dam, my favorite half marathon, a couple of weeks prior. I pretty much just like to overextend myself as much as possible.

My ultimate goal is to break 2:30. I strongly believe that this is more than achievable given my current fitness plan, the six-month time frame, and my strong motivation.

Finally, I want to continue my yoga practice. It has been spotty lately, but I would like to go at least once a week. It really is mind-clearing and centering, and nothing compares to how I feel afterward. Plus, I can tell a great difference in my flexibility and strength (especially in my lower back), and those benefits are going to become increasingly important in both my lifting and my running.


Like most working adults, I get super busy (and exhausted) during the week. I leave for school before 7:00, and I head to the gym immediately after. I generally have a couple of hours in the evening to do whatever, but often those get filled with various commitments. Or, I zone out with Words With Friends or Facebook and realize the night is over.

I want that to change. There are a few things that I want to make sure I do nearly every day:

I want need to read more. I have only read a couple of books in the recent past, which is far too few for this girl. I have piles upon piles upon piles of books (just ask my friends and family who helped me move) that are just waiting to be read. I would like to read at least 30 books in 2016, and I think that'll be super easy, especially since I'll have all the time in the world this summer.

Additionally, I have really gotten into calligraphy lately -- thanks to my mom, a beautiful calligrapher. (Seriously, check her out on Instagram: @cathyboll.) I have always been into hand-lettering and have created all of the posters in my classroom. I then started doing chalkboards in April for Maggie's wedding and even opened an Etsy shop (that currently doesn't have any listings). Recently, though, I have focused more on straight-up calligraphy. And I'm loving it.

Finally, I want to write more. I'm not going to say that I'm going to write every day or that I'm even going to update this blog every week. I know that I have said those things before and have failed miserably. I just know that I love writing and that it is such a great outlet for me, and I want to be sure to do more of it this year.


I have always been blessed with amazing girlfriends, and I am indelibly grateful for that. In 2016, I want to not only maintain but continue to build and foster relationships with all of my girlfriends -- those in Minneapolis with me, my besties back in Des Moines, and my beautiful friends that are scattered across the country.

It is hard moving to a new city. First, it's so sad to leave behind such a wonderful family of friends. I miss The Sugar Donuts with every ounce of my being. Thank goodness for group texts and Facebook. But I wish we were closer so that I could invite them over for Hoppin' John tonight or join them for a movie this weekend. And second, making friends as an adult can be a difficult task, as many people already have close-knit circles. Thankfully, I have made some truly amazing friends up north and honestly believe we were all brought together for a purpose.


As most of you know, I am a super positive person by nature and view life through a lens of optimism (and often idealism). I want to continue to do so: so much of our lives depend solely on our attitudes and our perspectives.

Relatedly, I want to treat everyone with kindness and compassion. I believe I do this 100% of the time when I am at school with my students, and I am really good about doing this in the "real world" as well. But there is always room for improvement, and I want everyone with whom I come into contact to feel listened to and valued.

And on that note, friends, I am going to sign off. I wish you all nothing but the greatest in 2016. Happy New Year. :)

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