Thursday, June 1, 2017

I Will Get There

Hello again!

It's been two days since the Return to Blogging, and I know you've been waiting with bated breath to see how my crazy fitness and nutrition plan has been going.

Well, friends, wait no more.

Let's start with Tuesday, the day that my "mission" started.

Breakfast: I made Poached Eggs with Tomato, Swiss Chard, and Chickpeas for breakfast this week. It reminded me of one of my favorite Nom Nom Paleo recipes, Uova in Purgatorio. But guess what, y'all? This was better. I loved it and am already excited to make it again next week.

Lunch: I brought a huge salad for lunch today. Hy-Vee (my favorite grocery store ever) has a great salad bar, and I threw together a bucket o' veggies, a sprinkling of blue cheese and slivered almonds,  and a couple tablespoons of sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.

What makes lunch a huge success is that it was our staff appreciation luncheon, and our administration bought us huge Subway sandwiches and delicious-looking desserts. I attended the luncheon but ate my salad instead of the other goodies.

Dinner: I made one of my new favorite recipes, Blackened Shrimp Tacos. I think I could eat queso fresco on everything. To drink, I had a kombucha, as I'm trying to up my intake of probiotics.

Snacks: I ate an apple and a Quest bar (my new favorite protein-packed treat).

Overall, I was right on track in regard to my macros.

Workout: I did a leg/butt workout that included deadlifts (starting with 135 pounds and working up to 165, as I'm still re-building my strength), good mornings, leg press (373 pounds), calf raise (on the leg press machine), two miles on the elliptical, and Week One: Day One of Sore to the Core.

Basically, I killed it.

Mini-Goals: I hit my 10,000 steps and drank four Camelbaks of water.

Tuesday was a success!

Breakfast: This could get boring. I ate the same thing I did on Tuesday.

Lunch: Again, this is pretty boring, as I ate my leftover tacos. But, I added some roasted asparagus.

Dinner: I forgot to take a picture of it, but I made one of my new favorite, easy, made-up recipes that I so cleverly call Chicken with Peppers and Queso Fresco. (I told you that I could eat queso fresco on everything...)

Snacks: I had an apple after my workout, and then things get a little trickier. I finished up some Good & Plenty that I had leftover from my weekend road trip. Then, J and I went to a show, and I had a beer (followed by soda water w/ lime) as well as a few of the steak fries he ordered.

But, all of that kept me within my macros!

Workout: Today was another kick-ass day at the gym. It was chest/back day, so I did bench (starting with 45 pounds and moving up to a formerly-easy but currently-difficult 85 pounds), close-grip bench (55 pounds), lat pulldown, machine back extension, seated cable row, Week One: Day Two of Sore to the Core, and two miles on the elliptical.

Mini-Goals: Yet again, I smashed my 10,000 steps and drank four Camelbaks of water.

Breakfast: You guessed it! I ate my last serving of Poached Eggs with Tomato, Swiss Chard, and Chickpeas

Lunch: Yep! I brought my leftover Chicken with Peppers and Queso Fresco -- but I also brought some asparagus.

Dinner: Tonight I made an oldie-but-a-goodie: Crab Cakes w/ Mango Avocado Salsa. I forgot just how amazingly delicious these are. I also had kombucha because, well, probiotics.

Snacks: I had a Quest bar and some Metamucil. (I'm not even ashamed to admit it, and I don't care that it makes me sound like an 80-year-old man: Metamucil is the best stuff in the entire universe.)

In order to fit my macros, I had a serving and a half of the crab cakes and salsa.

Workout: I took a day off of abs and lifting because wow, I am sore. My muscles are like, "Yeah! We remember this! But it's been a while, yo!" Instead, I laid by the pool for a bit. Because I was still short on steps, though, I headed to the gym this evening for an elliptical workout and ended up cranking out three miles.

Mini-Goals: I'm killing it, y'all. Those 10,000 steps had nothing on me, and I have been chugging water like it's going out of style.

I'm really digging this plan.

I am someone who needs routine, someone who appreciates guidelines. I have given myself both with this plan.

Nutritionally, I am eating a wide variety of food: veggies, meats, cheese, fruit, grains, etc. And while there have been moments of huh, I could go for a snack right now, they have been few and far between; my meals fill me up and keep me full for quite a while.

As far as fitness goes, it feels good to be a regular at the gym again. I have spent years poo-pooing the elliptical, but y'all, I am giving myself a damn good workout on that machine. I have a long way to go before I feel like I can compare it to running (which is a kick-ass core workout for me), but I'm not hating it as much as I had anticipated.

But, I'm likely not hating it because I'm pushing myself like crazy. What I've been doing this week is starting with a super-fast mile -- and pushing myself to beat that super-fast time the following day. So far I've significantly smashed my records. After my super-fast initial mile is done, I do another mile or two at a moderate pace to keep my heart rate elevated and to get those steps in.

Tomorrow is Pedal Pub Day, so as I previously mentioned, I am not going to stay within my macro guidelines; I am going to have a nutritionally-sound breakfast, lunch, protein-packed snack, and four Camelbaks of water, but then I am going to have a few adult beverages and likely dinner out. And that's okay.

And aside from pedaling around Northeast Minneapolis, I'm probably not going to workout. The original plan was to get up super early and workout before school, but I foolishly had a coffee with my friend at the pool, and now I'm wide awake. While I'll set my alarm for 5:00, waking up that early is not likely. But, I'll still get my steps. 

This is my new "everything in moderation." And I'm really excited (and amazingly motivated) to see where it takes me.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A New Mission

It's been a while. Like, a long while. Like, six months a while.


Life has been incredible the last six months. Some highlights include celebrating Christmakkuh with my family and my boo (J) in Omaha, celebrating New Year's with J and his daughter in St. Paul, road-tripping with J on our first family vacation to Florida and to Ohio, flying to Santa Fe with J and wandering around the city while he worked, being selected as one of ten teachers to participate in the Bridging Cultures Initiative, being asked to present at big conferences in Des Moines and St. Paul, finding an amazing group of like-minded friends and colleagues, and I could go on and on.

Overall, life has been ridiculously amazing.

J and I jet-skiing in the Gulf of Mexico. 

What hasn't been amazing, however, is my focus on healthy living.

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been battling a foot injury. Yes, you're reading that correctly: have been battling, not battled. You may think that it should be back to perfect now; after all, I was in a boot for a collective six weeks (minimum, probably longer), went to physical therapy for another six-ish weeks, received a cortisone injection, and followed every single one of the doctor's orders (for once) for seven months.

But you would be wrong.

I finally went back to the doctor at the end of April and had another MRI. The talus bone healed (yay!), but they didn't know what was wrong (boo!). So they sent me to a specialist -- which is what I wanted them to do back in October.

The appointment with the specialist was by far the best, most productive orthopedic appointment I have ever had in my life. He ordered more x-rays, gave me some shoe inserts for my semi-flat feet, injected more steroids into the joint, and gave me a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel treatment option: surgery to break up the scar tissue (from a horrible ankle sprain I got in a soccer game seven years ago) that was likely impinging on stuff it shouldn't be.

(Fun fact: the specialist knows my brother! They both trained in Michigan! Small world.)

I am hoping that the injection and the inserts help, as I'm not super excited about a surgical option. (I've never had surgery, and that terrifies me.) However, it's been pretty uncomfortable over the past week, so I'm not sure how lucky I'm going to be in that regard.

As you can imagine, this has been extremely frustrating. At this time last year, I was prepping to run a half marathon -- a half marathon that I would end up PR-ing by almost 20 minutes. I was powerlifting crazy amounts of weight, and I was two months out from running 17 miles of a Ragnar relay.

I was in the best shape of my life.

And now, I'm far from it. I have gained 20 pounds in the last year. Just typing that makes me want to puke. Twenty pounds. How does that happen?!

Actually, that's a silly question. This is exactly how it happened: I have been eating (and drinking) whatever the heck I want and have not been able to run or lift like I want to. My cardio has been limited to swimming (puke) and cycling (fun -- with the right spin instructor). My lifting has been limited to upper-body and weight machines (that do nothing for my quads, hammies, or booty).

I want to look like I did last summer. I want to rock my jorts and slinky tank tops. I want to look smokin' in whatever sundress I throw on. I want to live in my bikini at the pool. Yes, I realize I can do all of those things now. But I want to do all of those things and feel like I did last summer; I want to be where I was a year ago both physically and, more importantly, mentally.

So, I made a plan.

I am going to print this off every week and record -- in pen/pencil -- my plan and how I accomplished each daily goal.
I'm not anal-retentive. Not at all.

Let's break it down, shall we?

The top portion of the document is clearly my meal plan: what I am going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

While I love Whole30 and Paleo and believe that they are excellent nutritional plans, they are not realistic for me at the moment (I like tortillas and rice), so I'm trying something new: IIFYM.

I put all of my information into the IIFYM calculator and determined the number of grams of carbs, fat, and protein I should be eating in order to gain muscle and lose fat most effectively and efficiently.

(Side note: I abhor counting calories and macros, but I need to do something and am excited to give this a go.)

The bottom of the top chart is where I will record how well I did macro-wise for the day. (I use MyFitnessPal to track nutrition.)

The workout section is where I plan what workout I am doing when, and the miscellaneous section is where I note what kind of outside-of-work activities I have going on that day so that I can plan accordingly.

The bottom half of the page shows my targets for the week: I want to hit 10,000 steps per day (which I am finding to be difficult when I can't run), do four days of Sore to the Core ab work (so my tummy can be back to its flat-ish self), do four days of lifting and four days of cardio (which can be on the same day, obviously), and drink at least three liters of water each day (which equals four of my Camelbak bottles, hence the four boxes).

And that's it.

I know that it's not just a couple of goals. I know that this won't be easy. But I also know that I can do it.

(I should also add that there will be some days of exception to my brilliant plan. After all, summer is coming up, and lots of fun, celebratory adventures happen during this time. For instance, I will be partaking in a "pedal pub" on Friday, so while I will workout in the morning and have a nutritious breakfast and lunch, I know that I will be drinking beer and eating not-super-healthy food for dinner, and I'm okay with that.)

The one goal that did not make it on my chart (but may in the future) is blogging. I really like writing. And I really like how it keeps me accountable. I can't promise this will be an everyday activity, as I have a lot of amazingness in my life right now and blogging takes more time than you may believe, but I hope to write at least a few times a week -- definitely more than once every six months.

I look forward to y'all (hey, Mom!) joining me on this journey.

Peace and love, yo.

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Monday, November 28, 2016


I was kicking so much butt this spring and summer: I was working out like crazy (literally six to seven days a week, often for two hours at a time), and I was eating relatively healthfully.

And then I wasn't.

A few things happened: first, I ran two huge races and, while I did really well, also injured myself pretty greatly. Finally in mid-October, I went to the doctor and discovered that as a result of a severe sprain six years ago, a fragment is off my tibia, and now I have fluid in my talus bone, which is causing the bone to swell. I have been in a boot since then, and while I have had it off for two weeks, I have realized that that was a poor choice and that I need to keep wearing it until I can start physical therapy.

Try not to be tooooooooo jealous.
Second, I was working out so much because it gave me something to do. Since I was still relatively new to Minnesota, I knew so few people, and being at the gym gave me human interaction, built-in friends, and again, something to do. Now, I have friends (and the most phenomenal partner), so the gym has become less of a time-filler, for lack of a better word.

Third, I got lazy -- not necessarily with working out (although I haven't been going as much as I would like) but rather with food. I have been quite busy lately, and I have found that Qdoba or Panera are much easier and faster than cooking. Also, my sugar dragon reared its ugly head, and I became addicted to Hot Tamales and all things sweet.

Needless to say, while I was looking (and feeling) utterly amazing this spring and summer, I am looking (and feeling) less-than-stellar now. Because it is starting to affect my mental health and self-image, I have decided that things need to change.

Deciding this in the middle of the holiday season is, admittedly, probably not the most solid of choices. While I really want to do a legit Whole30, I am not going to commit to that right now (and Melissa Hartwig, the founder of Whole30 does not even recommend doing so). Rather, I am going to eat mostly Paleo during the week and allow myself to "indulge" if the occasion arises on the weekends. In addition, I am going to set a workout plan for myself and actually stick to it rather than just go to the gym and "do whatever."

So, here's what this week looks like:
This organized table/spreadsheet should surprise none of you who know me.
In addition to having a specific menu and workout plan to follow for the majority of the week, I am going to restart Sore to the Core. While I think the majority of my stellar results came from eating super well, I also know that my core needs a heck of a lot of work; I generally rely on my cardio (specifically running) to shape my abs, but since I can't do anything of the sort right now, I need to actually do some targeted ab work.

The other goal that I have for myself is to drink more water. This spring, Aly (my sister-in-law) and I did a gallon-a-day water challenge, and I felt so good while doing that. Lately, I have been drinking hardly any water and have instead been surviving largely on coffee (and maybe some wine). So, starting tomorrow, I am going to try and drink five Camelbaks a day. The only difficulty I see with that is school. (And yes, I realize that is a big difficulty.) We have one water filter in the building, and it is quite a long way from my classroom. And I also have limited opportunities to use the restroom (something about not leaving 33 teenagers unattended...). 

But I think I can do it.

I know my skin will thank me.

I really enjoy drinking a glass of wine at night. I have yet to decide how I am going to handle that part of my "lifestyle change." Right now, I think I am going to say it's a-okay, as long as I drink my gallon of water first.

But we'll see.

I think in January I may do a legit Whole30, in which case the wine would be a no-go.

That's a whole different conversation, though. When I did a Whole30 last January, I do not believe I did so in a super healthy way, which makes me hesitant to do a Whole30 again. We'll see how this amended plan goes this month.

Stay tuned.

For now, my ultimate goal is to just feel better. I felt so freaking amazing this spring/summer. I physically felt super good, and I also felt like I looked the best I ever have. While I know that looks are not the ultimate goal, feeling confident and strong is -- and honestly, some of that comes with how I feel I look, how my clothes fit, etc.

I just want to get back to where I was a few months ago. And I know that I can.

Peace, friends.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hello Again


It's been quite awhile. It's been over nine months, in fact. (No, I did not conceive and/or birth a child. I just didn't blog.)

In those nine months, I have been very busy. Here's what happened:

In March, I ran the Get Lucky 7K with MS, a family friend from years ago. Fun fact: she used to be my babysitter! Now we live in the same city again, which is super awesome. I am looking forward to running with her more once we're both healthier (more on that later).

Also in March, SH and I drove down to New Orleans (!!!) and headed on a cruise to Mexico. We hit up Cozumel and Progreso. I love the ocean so much.

In April, I worked out -- a lot.

Straight-up Beast Mode.

I have no idea.

In May, I ran -- a lot. And I looked super buff doing it.

Even though sometimes I literally wanted to vomit. I was running fast, y'all!

In June, I ran the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (the 13.1 version of Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota). I went up there with my assistant principal and her friend, and we had so much fun together -- and stayed in an old brothel! I kicked major ass at this race, PRing by nearly 20 minutes. After, though, I was a hurting unit. But it was so worth it.

I also started working at the gym. I loved it so much that I told them I wanted to spend even more time there. And they let me!

Also in June, my sister came to visit me, and we helped the Twin Cities kick off Pride with the Beer Dabbler. We had so much fun, and I think we're hoping to make it an annual event. (I'm not sure my sister knows this yet, though.)

For the Fourth of July, I celebrated with Jay, one of my very first Minnesota friends.

How cool is this photo?!
Also in July, I headed to Des Moines for 80/35, an annual music festival. I hung out with my best friends in the entire world and had entirely too much fun -- like, entirely too much fun.

In August, my best dude friend came to Minneapolis, and he took me to the Chelsea vs. AC Milan game, the first event at U.S. Bank Stadium, home to the Minnesota Vikings. It was my first big soccer match, and it was so much fun. I'm now a Chelsea fan?

Also in August, I ran Ragnar, a 200+ mile relay race. I accidentally signed up for this after an afternoon of being on a pedal pub. While I was super nervous and knew virtually no one, it turned out to be one of my all-time favorite experiences.

Team Never Trust a Fartlek

Also in August, I went to Omaha/Lincoln, Nebraska, for my sister-in-law's sister's wedding. (Confusing, right? We're all pretty much family.) It was so great seeing my whole fam.

Me and my bro -- digging the aviators. I don't think we've looked this much alike since we were way younger.
In September, I headed to Chicago with two of my best friends in the whole world -- one from Michigan and the other from Massachusetts. We met there for a girls' weekend -- and to celebrate the wedding of one of our dearest Freedom Writer friends. It was such a wonderful time; we only wish KW could've been with us.

Posing in front of the Chicago River, noting how many people were hating on us for being the prettiest people on the planet.

Stuffing our faces with the best pizza imaginable.
Also in September, my boo and I headed to Iowa for a weekend. We hit up the World Food Festival (where a cute little guy called us the "beautiful teacher couple" and J officially asked me to "go steady"), and then we drove down to Knoxville for Peace Tree's annual Brews & Muse (and my sister's birthday party). We had so much fun.

In October, my boo and I won a costume contest.

Look at me I'm Sandra D.

Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson (I didn't know that was her last name until just now).

A week ago, my best Minnesota friend and I flew to Atlanta to present at the National Council for Teachers of English Annual Convention. We had such a wonderful trip to an amazing city, and we kicked so much ass at our presentation.

And just a few days ago, I hosted Thanksgiving. My mom and dad, my aunt and cousin, and my boo and his daughter all joined me. It was such a beautiful day with some of my favorite people in the whole wide world.

So there's a recap of nine months of 2016. This is not at all what I intended this blog post to be about, but if I write the actual entry, this post would be like 1,000,000 times longer than it already is. So, stay tuned for an actual blog post tomorrow morning. :)

Peace, friends.

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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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