A Wintry Walk

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We had our first snowfall on Monday. :( It’s early, even for Alaska. Usually we don’t have snow on the ground that sticks until around Halloween. You can see the frost on the ground and the snow in the mountains. Here we go. Just a short, teensy seven months more of winter.

Tonight a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go on a walk on one of my favorite trails and I jumped at the chance. It couldn’t have been more perfect weather – sunny and about 40 degrees. Well, I mean, sunny and 70 degrees is obviously better, but we have to be realistic.

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We talked running. We talked eating. We talked motivation. We talked life. Why is it that there’s something so different and fulfilling about a long talk with a girlfriend? A few miles later we were back where we started, which is one of my favorite views in the world. Every time I’m down here I think I’m the luckiest.

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Love. Except the part on the bottom that is the water starting to freeze. But I love the rest.

 

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Studs and Snow

So I’ve been feeling a little bit aimless lately in my workouts. I thought about registering for a 4K fun run this Saturday, but $30 seemed kind of pricey for a run that involved stopping to trick-or-treat every kilometer. I love candy and all, but if I’m just going out for a 2.5 mile recreational run, I could do that in my neighborhood, you know? Plus, in Alaska, weather in late October is always sort of a wild card.

As I’m agonizing over this decision to my husband, he can’t even wrap his mind around why I’m considering the 4K, which makes me really stop and think. Why am I even considering it? And I finally realize it’s because I want a goal. I want something to work towards, even if it’s a little race. And I get this little idea… the Turkey Trot.

When we lived in San Diego, our family did a 5K every Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful holiday tradition, and just a great way to start our Thanksgiving day. But since we’ve moved to Alaska, I’ve been too chicken to do a Thanksgiving run. Or really any run in the snow.

Many Alaskans stud their running shoes to make it easier to run without slipping and sliding. But here I am in my fifth winter, and even though I’ve been meaning to stud my shoes and run outside every year, I’ve never done it. So this is the year. The Turkey Trot is only a 5K, so the distance should be super doable, even though I haven’t been running a ton, and it actually ends inside (?!?), so I won’t instantaneously freeze upon finishing. The added challenge of getting me out there and running in the snow, getting my shoes studded, finding (maybe buying!!) an outfit for outdoor winter running, etc. should make it a fun new goal.

Runners in snowy climates – outdoors or indoors?

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Posted in Alaska Life, Goals, Winter | 2 Comments

Work Wins

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Good morning from Alaska! This was my view from my backyard this morning. Love it.

This week I squeezed in a couple of workouts, and dropped a couple of workouts. As a teacher, the end of the quarter is a crazy busy time, and I had to give myself a break. I was able to get about six hours of work in on Saturday, which felt bittersweet. I was so happy to get it out of the way so that next week can feel more relaxed, but it’s hard to give up that time on Saturdays. I truly think that flexibility is the key to balancing work, exercise, and parenthood though. As much as I would love to get all my workouts in, the truth is that sometimes other things have to take priority, and this was one of those weeks. I was getting crazed and stressed, and decided to drop a few morning workouts, get some additional sleep, and see if I could return to normal and get a grip on my workload.

I did make time on Saturday to start our parent/kid dates again. This little cutie asked me if we could go to Barnes & Noble and read books in the cafe. She knows the way to my heart, for sure. How could I say no to that?

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This week in workouts:
*I tried walking on an incline at the gym for the first time. Way harder than I thought it would be.
*Did a couple of Tone It Up videos at home before work. I am telling you, those videos are deceptive. They don’t feel so bad while I’m doing them, and then I’m sore for DAYS. I did this one on Thursday, and I am still sore. For reals.

*On Friday night my kids wanted to go to the park. They’d had the day off of school and hung out at home all day, so they had a little bit of cabin fever. We bundled up (getting pretty cold here already) and went to a nearby school. We played tag as the sun was setting, and even though I’d been reluctant to take them, and super reluctant to play tag, I had so much fun. I could barely run since my legs were so sore from the dumb Tone It Up video, so the kids and I were pretty evenly matched in tag.

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This coming week I’m being featured on the Moms Make It Work series – stay tuned!

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Back in the Saddle

I’ve been lacking in motivation lately. I had some nagging foot/Achilles/heel/everything issues over the summer, so I’ve been on a break from running. It’s been too rainy and cold for me to do much outside, and no snow for skiing yet, so I’ve just been in a funk. I’ve been doing the bike at the gym and strength training videos at home and I am BORED.

Friday I decided it was time to start running again, and boy did it feel good. I tell people all the time that I don’t actually like running all that much, I just like how it burns calories so efficiently so I can eat more, but I guess I was wrong. My body and my spirit both missed running, and I didn’t realize that until I was back to it. I did 2.5 miles on Friday and 4 on Saturday, and they both felt soooo good. I love you, running.

One exciting event over the weekend is that I decided as a reward for working out regularly for a few years now (something I had previously struggled with for many years), I would buy myself a cute new storage container for my running clothes. I went from this broken down old cardboard box….

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… to this cute new basket. Definite upgrade – makes me happy each time I look at it.

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Tonight we went over to my aunt’s to pick crabapples. It’s a yearly tradition that we raid her tree and then cozy up inside for hot chocolate, and then my husband makes apple butter and apple jam which we then share with my aunt. This year it actually wasn’t horribly cold, and we haven’t had a cold freeze yet so the apples were in great shape. My kids LOVE picking the apples (and pelting each other), and I love watching them hang out with my aunt, uncle, and grandma. Family is the best.

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Parting thought for the week – trying to decide whether to go with a personal trainer or swimming lessons to shake up my workout routine a little. Anyone had experience with either one?

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5 Ways Night Owls Can Convert to Morning Workouts!

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I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve thought it too. “Oh, maybe she can work out in the morning, but I could never do that. I’m a night person.” Well, my friends, I am here to tell you it is possible.

Last year I was so frustrated with fitting in my workouts. After being on my feet all day, I would absolutely DREAD putting on my running shoes and heading to the gym after my kids were in bed. There were constant conflict with school activities, events with friends, working late, etc. I had been debating the idea of working out in the mornings before work for several years, but always nixed the idea because I love those late night hours so much, and I just cannot seem to get myself to bed before midnight.

Finally I turned to my trusty decision-making logic of comparing myself to other people. Whenever I come to something I don’t think I can do, I ask myself if other people do it, and if so, how. So I asked myself, “Do other Night People work out in the mornings?” Of course the answer is yes. “So how do they do it?” And the answer, sadly, was just sheer willpower.

I started my morning workouts one year ago. My best workout buddy (my aunt) and I decided to work out 4 mornings a week, two days of cardio, and two days of strength training. I knew I would HATE getting up in the morning. I knew I would be exhausted all day. I knew it would be torture to drag myself out into the freezing, winter mornings when I could be sleeping. And did that happen? Of course – sometimes. But to my amazement, I also came to love my morning workouts. Me. The person who absolutely hates starting my day before 8am, and would prefer to get up at 10am if I had my way. If I could do morning workouts, you can do morning workouts.

So here are my top 5 reasons why I am now a complete convert to morning workouts. Next week I’ll share some of my best tips for maintaining the habit.

1. There are no conflicts.
In the hour before you normally wake up, you do not have any other obligations. Whereas workouts during the day or evening can be derailed by any number of legitimate distractions, you most likely haven’t scheduled anything while you’re supposed to be sleeping. If you eliminate “I’m tired” as an excuse, there really aren’t too many others at that hour.

2. Better sleep.
I have always had a hard time putting myself to bed at night. I cherish the night hours, and even though I’m exhausted, I have a hard time actually going to bed before midnight. When I get up at 6am and exercise, however, I really have no choice. My eyes are closing by 10:30 at the latest, whether I want them to or not, and I end up getting a full, restful night’s sleep every night.

3. More energy during the day.
Really. While sleeping from midnight to 7:30 and regularly drinking caffeinated soda, I was always exhausted. For some reason, just shifting my sleep to 10:30-6 (and mostly drinking water), has helped me to feel so much more awake and energetic during the day.

4. It’s precious alone time.
While I do cherish my family, from time to time I get overwhelmed and, honestly, annoyed by having another body next to me from sunup to sundown. Someone wants to follow me into the bathroom. Someone wants to look over my shoulder when I’m on the computer. One brave soul even wants to follow me upstairs at night and sleep next to me! But you know when NO ONE wants to touch me or talk to me? 6am, baby. Just me, in a quiet house. Me, getting ready in silence. Me, alone with my thoughts and able to actually complete them. It’s sacred.

5. It’s easier to make healthy choices throughout the day.
When I work out in the mornings, it’s easier for me to keep my fitness goals in mind throughout the day. I’ve already taken the first step and worked out, and it makes me want to stick with my goals the rest of the day. This actually only works sometimes. But every little bit helps. :)

I loved this quote from Michelle Obama in an article I read:

“I just started thinking, if I had to get up to go to work, I’d get up and go to work,”Michelle said in an interview for O Magazine in 2009. “If I had to get up to take care of my kids, I’d get up to do that. But when it comes to yourself, then it’s suddenly, ‘Oh, I can’t get up at 4:30.’ So I had to change that. If I don’t exercise, I won’t feel good. I’ll get depressed.”

So take it from Michelle, and take it from me. YOU CAN DO IT. Seriously. If I can, then you can. Give mornings a try.

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Product Review: Jillian Michaels Body Revolution vs. Insanity

This post was originally written on my other blog, Simply Clean Living. However, I thought it would be more useful for this audience, so I’m posting it over here as well!

I know that many of us (myself included), make fitness-related goals around this time of year! I wanted to share a review for a product I’ve been using, Jillian Michaels Body Revolution, and compare it to the Insanity workout, which we did last year. This post was in no way sponsored by either company – I just wanted to share my experiences!

Images Via

Background

Body Revolution and Insanity are both multi-disk programs designed to last several months, which focus mainly on strength training, but also some cardio. Body Revolution is currently on Amazon for $90, and comes with 15 disks, while Insanity is $145 for 10 disks, and both have 4.5 star ratings on Amazon. They each come with an eating plan, which I did not follow for either program, so I won’t comment on that part here. I believe both are designed for people who already have a moderate level of fitness and want to focus on toning – I would not consider either of these to be programs for beginners. If you’re looking for a good beginner’s program, I would highly recommend Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred.

Difficulty Level

Body Revolution starts out easy, and gets progressively more difficult. In fact, the first few DVDs of Body Revolution seemed downright simple. It wasn’t until the day after when I could feel the burn! It was really easy for me to get in a routine and stay motivated when the initial routines weren’t too challenging, but felt effective at the same time. Every two weeks you move up a level and the exercises get more difficult. I am currently on disks 9 & 10 and the workouts are HARD.

Insanity had me struggling from Day 1. In fact, my daughter walked in while my husband and I were suffering through the first day and remarked, “Um, I think this workout might be too hard for you guys.” I work out fairly regularly, and consider myself to be in pretty good shape, so I thought I would be fine. For me, Insanity was hard to stick with because it was so difficult, and I ended up giving up eventually. I think I lasted about 4 weeks.

Length

Body Revolution – 30 minutes each

Insanity – 30-80 minutes each

Results and Final Opinions

While the built-in fitness test with Insanity helped prove that I was getting more and more fit, I didn’t really stick with it long enough to see noticeable results. With Body Revolution, I did not see a significant amount of weight loss. Part of this, I believe, was due to the fact that I was not adjusting my eating in an attempt to lose weight, and part of it was because I was gaining muscle mass. However, I did take measurements before I started the program, and a month into it, and I had lost a cumulative FIVE inches off my thighs, hips, and waist! I could also see noticeable definition in my arms, stomach, and booty.

While I know there are many people who are true devotees to Insanity and other Beachbody products, to me the time commitment and intensity level did not suit my lifestyle. On the other hand, with a quick 30 minutes at a time and so many DVDs to choose from, I can see myself continuing to use the Body Revolution videos for many years to come.

Bottom Line

Bite the bullet – the $100 for Body Revolution is totally worth it!

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Cross Country Jamboree!

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This past Saturday, as the leaves on the trees turned all the beautiful colors of fall, we were off to the annual Elementary Cross Country Jamboree.

My kids have done Cross Country every year, primarily because I want to help “coach” it at our school. Doesn’t getting paid to run sound better than sitting at your desk grading? I think so too. So, even though my kids were sort of reluctant this year, I wanted to do it, so they kind of had to as well. After practicing twice a week for a month, the day of the meet arrived.

No one wanted to get out of their nice warm beds to get up and run a race on a Saturday morning. I even contemplated not going, but knew we would all be glad in the end.

My youngest was particularly annoyed that we were making her run.

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But they perked up a little once we started the course walk-through.

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And they were off! This is the start of one of six races. My youngest ran first.

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She was extremely nervous, so I ran with her for about the first minute, after which she yanked her hand away and took off, shouting back, “You can go back now!”

IMG_4209.JPG And here she is at the finish, jogging in with a big smile and high-fiving our local 2012 Socchi Olympian, Kikkan Randall.

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One thing I love about Alaska is the support and push for active kids and families. It’s sometimes hard to keep your family active in a city with such a long winter, but there is a huge drive for kids to get outside, be active, and stay healthy. The city of Anchorage has a group of athletes called the Healthy Futures Ambassadors that support kids’ races and other active events, always dressed in superhero capes. These are well-known local athletic celebrities, who are still racing and training in their own races. It is humbling and amazing to me that they take time out of their busy schedule to come support kids’ running in Anchorage. They are always at the starting line leading warm-ups, running throughout the race giving encouragement, and in the finish chute helping each kid feel like a rock star. We won’t talk about how maybe I’ve shed a tear or two over the years watching them do their thing.

This is Marko Cheseto, a champion runner for UAA who lost both feet to frostbite a few years ago and still competes in local races:

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Here’s another one of the Healthy Future Ambassadors, cheering on my oldest daughter as she comes up to the finish line:

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And even though none of the kids initially wanted to leave their beds (a feeling I understand well), they all agreed it was worth it in the end.

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Having kids in sports and activities is a lot of work. Sometimes they want to quit, and sometimes I do. But I need to frame this picture to remind me that working toward a goal, staying healthy, exploring hobbies, those proud smiles – those things make it worth it.

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River Walk

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Tonight after a full week of rain, the weather turned gorgeous and we had to get outside. One of my favorite things to do with my entire family is to take walks along a creek in our neighborhood. It has a paved path that runs for miles through the city, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

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One kid was on rollerblades, one on a scooter, and one wore a skirt that didn’t work so well with her scoot bike, but she made it happen anyway. She was quite determined.

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My dad and stepmom were in town, so we brought them along on our walk. Love spending time together as a family, being active and enjoying this amazing state! I feel so lucky to have this awesome place literally one mile from our house, where it feels like we are out in nature. Such a great night together.

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Posted in Alaska Life, Family Fitness Fun, Family Hikes | Leave a comment

Week 4 of the Challenge

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My progress in my Challenge is starting to lag. I know one culprit – I’m doing what I always do, which is this script. “Oh I’m doing so good, and it hasn’t been that hard. I’ll just have a little bit of XYZ today. It doesn’t matter if my calories are a little bit higher than they have been, I shouldn’t have to stay so low every day…” And then that mindset starts to repeat on a daily basis.

And unfortunately, for my body, a little bit higher on the calories does make a difference. If I go too much higher than the 1200-1300 range, I don’t lose weight. And then I get mad about that because it seems incredibly unfair, and start to eat more junk because I’m mad about it, and then quickly start gaining.

So anyway, I shot up about a pound and a half earlier this week, and it’s staying put for now. It’s frustrating – I want to end on a good note, so I’m trying really hard to make good choices for myself here in the last few days.

One thing I’ve really been loving is this Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato soup, available at Costco. It’s delicious, and only 110 calories for a cup. I usually pair it with a small baked potato or salad, and can easily get a filling lunch for under 250 calories. It’s way easier to keep this at work than packing a lunch every day too.

Roasted-Red-Pepper-Tomato-450Speaking of food, I think the other culprit is candy. With Halloween around the corner, it’s starting to appear everywhere. I have just a little here and there, but it’s adding up, I know. I think I’m going to try to cut candy for three weeks and see how it goes. I wish I didn’t love candy so much. :( The most ridiculous thing is that in recent months, as I have tried to eat an overall healthier diet, regular candy like Hershey’s doesn’t even taste very good anymore. The good chocolate like Ghirardelli still does, but regular candy now tastes waxy and weird to me. But yet, I still eat it, because I still want it to taste good. I still want the happiness a Twix bar used to bring to me. So I’ve decided to go cold-turkey for a few weeks, and at least break the habit of having something sweet after meals. We’ll see how it goes.

Working out has been going well this week. Still doing a stationary bike at the gym for cardio, and the Jillian Michaels Body Revolution videos at home for strength training. Thinking my body may be used to those, and possibly time to get something new, maybe one of the newer Beachbody workouts. I don’t know. I’d love to hear suggestions for any at-home strength series workouts that you’ve enjoyed.

Challenge ends tomorrow – wish me luck on my final weigh-in. Also, on a more exciting note, tomorrow is our school district’s Cross Country Running Jamboree, and I’ll have all three of my kids running in it for the first time! Can’t wait!

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Unexpectedly Sunny Saturday

Oh, I was dragging my feet this morning. Usually I can get up and just get my workout done, but it just looked so COLD outside, and I dreaded the thought of going to the gym. On Saturdays I really like to get in an hour workout, since that’s challenging to fit in during the week between my schedule and the kids’, but today the prospect of an hour in the gym was just depressing to me. The clouds were supposed to clear, so I waited and waited, but no dice.

Finally, a mere FOUR short hours after I put on my workout clothes, I headed to the gym, finally resigned to the fact that the dark gray clouds were not going to go away. I decided to do what I call Cardio Sampler, which is 15 minutes on 4 different cardio machines. I started with a bike and an issue of People magazine, and ended up just spending 30 minutes on the bike. I was feeling really good, and enjoying my magazine, so I just stayed put. Then I switched to the treadmill, and did another 30 minutes there.

I felt amazing. And I don’t understand it. Earlier this week I was struggling to even run at a 6.3 on the treadmill (9:30/mile), and today I did all my miles at a 6.5 (9:13/mile), and felt great, AFTER 8 miles on the bike! I wish I knew where the great runs came from, and how to channel that energy all the time.

And of course when I came out of the gym it was sunny and beautiful. Of course.

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