Saturday, February 4, 2017

METASHRED EXTREME - MY REVIEW

At some point last year, I started following BJ Gaddour (of Men's Health) on social media.  His posts always caught my attention because I liked his personality and his video clips motivated me to add certain movements to my routine.  I found myself creating entire split routines molded around some of his innovative exercises.  So, I eventually got sucked-in and was somehow convinced that I needed his latest home workout offering: MetaShred Extreme.  I bought it.  I tackled it.  And guess what?  I loved it!

METASHRED EXTREME - WHAT IS IT?


MetaShred Extreme is a 5-DVD set containing four 40-minute lower-body workouts, four 40-minute upper-body workouts, two 10-minute Warm-ups for both upper and lower body, two 5-minute Finishers for both upper and lower body, and three 20-minute workouts for Core, Mobility, and Stretch.  Wow, that's a lot!

THE GOODIES
There are two different ordering options with MetaShred Extreme: the Standard Package and the Ultimate Extreme Package.  The only difference between the two is that the Ultimate Extreme Package includes The MetaShred Diet book and meal plan.  Both packages include the workouts, 3 mini bands, 2 Fat Dumbbell Grips, 2 big bands, a mobility peanut lacrosse ball, and occlusion bands for blood flow restriction training.  

THE DEETS
Each MetaShred workout contains an upper- and lower-body workout option as well as the Warm-ups and Finishers.  Below is a brief description of each workout.

Disc 1 - MetApocalypse
Lower-Body 1 contains 14 exercises and you will do 30 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds of rest.  In between each exercise, you will complete 30 seconds of Bench Jumps (known as a MetaSet).  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include Skater Jumps, Glute Bridges, Box Squats, and Bulgarian Split Squats.  
Upper-Body 1 contains 14 exercises and you will do 30 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds of rest.  In between each exercise, you will complete 30 seconds of Step-up jumps (MetaSet).  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include Front Raises, Triceps Extensions, Drop Set Push-ups, Overhead Carry, and High Pulls.
Disc 2 - MetaGainz
Lower-Body 2 contains 14 exercises and you will do 2 minutes of work followed by 1 minute of rest.  The rest period includes a MetaSet of Mountain Climbers.  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include One Leg Hip Thrusts, Bulgarian Hip Hinges, Front Squats, One Leg Box Squats, and Skier Swings.
Upper-Body 2 contains 14 exercises and you will do 2 minutes of work followed by 1 minute of rest.  The rest period includes a MetaSet of Seal Jacks.  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include Fat Grip Dumbbell Push-ups, Batwing Rows, Kneeling Fat Grip Zottman Curls, Eccentric Triceps Extensions, and One Arm High Pulls.
Disc 3 - MetaCardio
Lower-Body 3 contains 64 exercises that are separated into groups of 8.  After each set of 8 exercises, you will complete a MetaSet of Plank Taps on the Step.  Each exercise is performed for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest.  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include Leg Hops, Band Jacks, Single Leg Hip Thrusts, Running Lunges, and Speed Squats into Hover Holds.
Upper-Body 3 contains 64 exercises that are separated into groups of 8 (some segments are 8 different exercises while other segments are 2 different exercises that are repeated 4 times each).  After each set of 8 exercises, you will complete a MetaSet of Shimmies.  Each exercise is performed for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest.  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include Band Pull-Aparts, Dynamic Hammer Curls, Delt Raises, Plyo Push-ups, Seesaw Rows, and Plank Variations.
Disc 4 - MetaMatrix
Lower-Body 4 contains 3 minutes of work followed by 1 minute of rest.  You will complete a MetaSet of Running in Place as part of your 1 minute rest.  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include Hip Thrusts, Seesaw Lunges, and Box Squats to Jumps.  This workout concludes with a brief series of "continuous interval training".
Upper-Body 4 contains 3 minutes of work followed by 1 minute of rest.  You will complete a MetaSet of Carioca as part of your 1 minute rest.  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include Band Pulls, Overhead Presses, Fat Grip Carries, Cuban Presses, Rotational Presses, and Burpees into Bear Crawls.
Disc 5 - MetaRecovery
This disc contains three 20-minute workouts that are considered "optional".
MetaCore contains 20 exercises and you will work for 40 seconds followed by 20 seconds of rest.  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include Mini Band Quadruped Fire Hydrants, Side Plank Archer Rows, and Russian Twists.
MetaMassage contains 9 exercises and you will use the peanut lacrosse ball (included with purchase) to give your muscles a deep tissue massage.  You'll tackle everything from your feet and outer thighs all the up to your forearms and pecs.
MetaMobility contains 18 exercises and acts as a stretch routine to compliment the tough metabolic workouts in this series.  Examples of exercises completed in this workout include Elevated Prayer Stretch, Lying Morpheus Pose, Elevated Pigeon, and Assisted Deep Squat Stretch.

The Warm-ups & Finishers
MetaShred Extreme includes a 10-minute Warm-up for the upper-body as well as a 10-minute Warm-up for the lower-body.  Both Warm-ups are included on each Disc.  The lower-body Warm-up utilizes a mini band with Glute Bridges, Low Lunge Abductions, Box Walks, and Overhead Box Squats.  The upper-body Warm-up utilizes both the mini band and the long band with External Rotations, Band Pulls, Bear Crawls, and T-rotations.  The series also includes two 5-minute Finishers using the black bands (included with purchase) for blood flow restriction.  The lower-body Finisher is Split Squats and the upper-body Finisher contains Bicep Curls and Lying Triceps Extensions.
Here's a peek at the schedule using all of the discs


I LIKE ...

OMG!  There are so many things about this program that I like ... where shall I begin???  Let's start with the cast ... I love them.  I really do!

BJ Gaddour's sense of humor is awesome and, unless you're offended by continuous sexual innuendos, you'll be giggling throughout each routine.  But let's talk about the sexy bodies who are doing all the work!  They're so motivational!  Hannah ... I have the biggest Girl Crush on her!  Head on over to @hannaheden_fitness on Instagram and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Her physique is amazing!  Then there's quiet Jeremy Scott who you could just drool over all day long.  His shoulders looked earned and awesome!  His Instagram content is also impressive.  Check him out at @jeremyscottfitness.  Finally, there's the "Queen of Workouts", Alexia Clark (@alexia_clark).  She may be modeling the exercise modifications but you can tell she's capable of doing the most-challenging of exercises.

Speaking of exercise modifications, I like how this program showcases three different levels of difficulty for all of the exercises.  This will allow me to recommend this program to nearly all of my clients who are at different fitness levels.  So, even if you're new to exercising, you can follow along with this program by shadowing Alexia who demonstrates the "easiest" way to complete each exercise.  

One of my favorite components of the MetaShred Extreme program are the two Warm-up routines.  Each Warm-up is 10 minutes in length and they both elevate the heart rate while also prime your body for perfect mind-muscle connection.  Why is this so important to me?  It's because I complete my workouts first-thing in the morning so a proper and effective warm-up is non-negotiable!  The MetaShred Extreme Warm-ups utilize a mini band (resistance loop) and trust me, these simple exercises turn up the heat and get your muscles burnin'!

I also like the length of each workout (40 minutes).  The 10-minute Warm-ups plus the 40-minute workout allows me additional time for Core work or for stretching.  I will often hop on Instagram and see what BJ, Hannah, Jeremy, and Alexia have posted recently.  They always have great exercise videos on there!

I like how the workouts are scheduled and arranged.  You alternate each day with Upper and Lower body splits (my preferred method of training).  I also like how the MetaSets (cardio bursts throughout each workout) allows you to rest the working muscles while keeping your heart rate elevated.  For example, during MetApocalypse Upper Body 1, you do 30 seconds of Step-up Jumps in between each upper body exercise.  The MetaSets tie in a total-body approach and ensure that no muscle gets by untouched.  

Finally, I love the Fat Grips that come with your order.  These are great for building your forearms and they fit perfectly on any dumbbell, barbell, or resistance loop.  I plan on using these often!

I DON'T LIKE ...

I had high hopes for the MetaRecovery workouts.  I was slightly disappointed with all three of them.  For me, there are a handful of exercises that I really liked and that I will incorporate into my regular routine but I doubt I will ever complete all of them together (or individually for that matter).  Recovery Days are optional in the MetaShred Extreme program (although two Recovery Days are scheduled).  I usually take a Rest Day after completing six workouts so I agree that recovery is important, I just didn't love these particular routines.  If I had more time to exercise each day, perhaps I would appreciate them more.  

Each workout ends rather abruptly (right at the 40-minute mark).  There's no Cool Down segment.  I've been working on my flexibility and mobility for a long time and I understand (and appreciate) the importance of stretching at the end of each session.  But, for those who don't know about the benefits of stretching, you're sort of left hanging.  I'm afraid that some people who follow this program precisely may be doing their bodies a disservice by not cooling down or stretching after each workout, simply because it's not included in each workout. 

The jury is still out regarding the blood-flow restriction Finishers.  There are two 5-minute Finishers included on each disc of MetaShred Extreme - one for lower body and one for upper body.  These Finishers utilize the black bands that are included in your purchase.  You will use these bands to restrict the blood flow in the working muscle.  I have done ZERO research on this topic so I'm completely unfamiliar with the risks or benefits associated with this type of training.  I have, however, seen comments 'here and there' regarding blood flow restriction training and there seems to be a lot of different opinions, both good and bad.  Until I've studied up on the topic, I will refrain from completing these Finishers.

EXTRAS
If you order the Ultimate Extreme Package, you will get a nice and shiny hardcover book, The MetaShred Diet.  This book probably has a lot of great information in it.  I don't know for sure though since I haven't read it yet (and, let's be honest, I probably never will).  But, there are some interesting recipes in the back of the book so there's a slight chance I may try out a few of those.

BOTTOM LINE
I highly recommend MetaShred Extreme program!  Because the program demonstrates easy, moderate, and difficult levels of each exercise, I can confidently recommend this program to my clients that cover all fitness levels.  If you exercise at home, MetaShred Extreme would be a great addition to any DVD library.  If you exercise in a gym or other public space, you can still use these workouts to expand upon your existing routines.  A definite must-have, in my opinion.  Happy Sweating!  

Friday, January 6, 2017

CHANGE IS A GOOD THING!

WORKOUT DVD'S
Up until mid-2016, I designed my exercise regimen around my vast Workout DVD library.  My workouts would be driven by amazing fitness celebrities like Cathe Friedrich and Kelly Coffey-Meyer.  They motivated me and drove me to push hard through even the toughest of routines.  Having access to a vast library containing some of the most fun and challenging fitness workouts on the market, I never got bored and I always felt that my need for variety was met.  


My Workout DVD Collection


So, you can imagine my surprise when I received some new workouts from my beloved Cathe and Kelly and they stayed in their plastic wrappings for weeks (actually, they're STILL in their plastic wrapping)!


My new DVD's ... still wrapped in plastic!


Why didn't I anxiously rip them open as I've done so many times in the past?  I mean, I DID pre-order these workouts months in advance!  Why didn't I pop 'em into my player and start writing my review?  Why didn't I switch up my current routine in order to fit these new gems into my workout schedule.  All legitimate questions since these are the actions I have always taken in the past.  

MY DRIVE
Just as my love for fitness was driven by sports when I was young --- which then transitioned to motivation by strict calorie burn (so much ridiculous cardio!) --- which then moved onto enjoying workouts through fun kickboxing --- and on and on and on ...

... at this point, it's easy to say that my workouts are now driven primarily through my love of lifting heavy things.  I hardly do any cardio these days and I get pure enjoyment from lifting heavier things over time and watching my range of motion increase.  Utter elation!  Can I lift weights using workout DVD's?  Yes, of course!  But, I realized that I wasn't going to get the results that I was seeking by following the same ol' videos that I've been doing for years.

If my goals were to burn fat and build muscle, following along to someone else's weight load, pace, or rep count would be fine.  But right now, I want to go beyond that.  I want to go further!  I want to lift weights that are heavy and I want to do so going at my own pace.  I want to focus on the specific exercises that target my weak zones or that help to improve my posture.  I want to be able to work on my mobility during my rest periods.  I want to slip in some Core work before attacking that 4th set of lifts.  The list is endless!

MY REALIZATION
Geez, it sounds like I want a lot, doesn't it?  Perhaps that's true but I realized in 2016 that I'm able to do all of the things that I WANT by designing my own workouts instead of relying on a workout DVD.  I realized that I could "lift to failure" or add a 4th set when I lift at my own pace instead of trying to keep up with someone else's count.

This realization may seem obvious (especially since I design workouts for my clients on a daily basis!) but I've spent many years being inspired by fitness personalities like Cathe Friedrich, Kelly Coffey-Meyer, Michelle Dozois, Patrick Goudeau, and many others.  It was hard to put their DVD's back on the shelf and exercise without them.  It was lonely at first.  But, I quickly learned that I could have the best of both worlds.

For the past 7 months, I've been designing my own split routine (most routines lasting about 4 weeks or so).  But, I will occasionally get my fitness-idol-fix by doing a segment or two from a DVD.  Just the other day, I designed a crushing lower-body workout.  I finished the workout with the Floor segment from Cathe's Great Glutes DVD (which is awesome!).  So, my DVD's do get used nowadays ... just not as much.  I suppose I'll pop in Cathe's latest cycle workout since I love my spin bike so much ... just not now.

MY POINT
Why am I sharing this?  If you're stuck in a workout rut or if you're getting bored with your current routine, consider other options that may spark your interest.  I found myself losing interest in doing workouts designed by others and found my motivation in constructing my own split rotation and combining exercises from some new (to me) faces like Zuzka Light, BJ Gadder, and Kaisa.  In exploring these new fitness personalities, I've been able to bring some fresh new workout ideas to my clients too!



Here's a pic of me with Fitness Celebrity Patrick Goudeau from a few years ago.  It showcases a change in focus from mostly cardio to heavy lifting - my transformation from "skinny arms" to "strong arms"


I expect 6 months from now to write a separate entry on what motivates me ... and I'm fairly certain it'll be something different than what motivates me now.  As much as I dislike change, I realize now that CHANGE has been driving my fitness motivation for many, many years.  And that's a good thing!





Monday, February 29, 2016

PHAT CAMP WITH NICOLE WILKINS!

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending Phat Camp with Nicole Wilkins in Burlington, NC.  For those of you who don't know, Nicole Wilkins is a 4x Figure Olympia Champion and she looks like this:
Amazing, right?  I've been following Nicole on social media for about a year now and I subscribe to her monthly membership where I can view Nicole's workout videos and Q&A Sessions.  If you're serious about building your physique (or you're passionate about fitness, like me), I highly recommend subscribing to her online membership (www.nicolewilkins.com).  

Throughout the year, Nicole travels around the world and brings together a large group of women who share the same passion for fitness.  These "Phat Camps" were originally created by fellow fitness celebrity Jen Hendershott and now Nicole Wilkins has taken the helm.  If you're unfamiliar with Phat Camp, perhaps this quick video will help explain what it's all about: Phat Camp Promo Video

The closest Phat Camp to me (I live in the DC Metro area) was in Burlington, NC (about a 4.5-hour drive).  One of my fellow fitness friends joined me on the trek to NC and we had so much fun!  Below is a layout of the weekend.

Friday
Registration began at 4:30pm.  We checked in at Get Phit Studio which happens to be where Jen Hendershott trains her clients!  I had no idea what to expect when walking into that studio but my nerves were put at ease quickly since Nicole Wilkins was right there at the registration desk ready to HUG each and every camp participant!  She was so friendly and personable!  Another bonus was all the freebies we received upon arrival...check out this loot:
I'm not a huge fan of supplements but I can always use a new bag (not really, but who doesn't love getting new bags?) and I'm so psyched over the food scale!  I now use it regularly and I'm wondering how I ever lived without it!

Once everyone was registered and gathered in the studio gym, we had a brief introductory session where we were introduced to Nicole's assistant (and best friend) Maureen Ashley (IG: @moefitness).  I also had a chance to get my picture taken with Nicole:
Then there was a Giveaway (yay!) that included t-shirts, 6-Pack Bags, and coupons from Egg Whites International.  Unfortunately, I didn't win anything but it was fun anyway!

Then it was time for Boot Camp!  We did about an hour of light group fitness - mostly agility work.  We were divided into 6 small groups and had fun with various fitness "games".  After Boot Camp, we were free to leave the studio.  This is one reason why it's fun to do these types of camps with a friend.  Not only do you save money when you sign up as a pair, but you'll also have a buddy to hang out with in the off-hours.  No meals are included in Phat Camp so my friend and I walked over to a restaurant right next to our hotel.  Overall, Friday was light and easy.  I barely broke a sweat during Boot Camp but I enjoyed the workout and basked all night in the glory of meeting Nicole. 

Saturday
Saturday morning started at 10am.  At this particular Phat Camp, there were about 60 women so we broke into two groups of 30.  One group did an hour of cardio while the other group did an hour of strength training...and then we switched.  One thing that I learned at camp was that Phat Campers hate cardio!  Wow, was there a lot of moaning and groaning!  Lol!  But there was also sarcasm peppered throughout the cardio session.  At the end of the hour, one camper asked, "Is sex considered cardio?" Another camper chimed in to answer, "It is...if you do it right!"  Nuff said.

The cardio was completed outside (hooray for nice weather!) and we did a lot of running.  I hardly ever go running so this was a little different for me.  Perhaps that's why I enjoyed it so much.  If all I did for cardio is run on a treadmill or exhaust myself on a step mill, I'd hate cardio too!  I'm so glad that I have a ton cardio options in my home including my spin bike and HUGE workout DVD library!

When my cardio group swapped places with the other group, we found ourselves inside the studio and did an hour of circuit training.  We were broken down into small groups and each group worked at their station for about a minute.  There were 6 stations and we did a few rounds at each station, with each round containing a different set of exercises.  The only downside was that there were limited hand weights available so if you wanted to do an Overhead Press with 20's, you may have been stuck with 10's if you didn't grab the heavier ones fast enough.  It was a fun hour though and I felt like I had thoroughly worked each muscle in a "Push" fashion.  In a Push/Pull rotation, all Push movements include Shoulders, Chest, and Triceps (Nicole added in some Core as well).

After an hour-long lunch break, we gathered in the studio for a Q&A Session with Nicole and if there's anything I can say about this part of the weekend, it's that Nicole is an OPEN BOOK!  I love how she's willing to answer ALL questions posed to her.  I admire her honesty and I found the session to be quite helpful.  While there were several questions asked about various training techniques, the majority of the session centered around Nutrition.

After the Q&A Session, we drove (in our own cars) to a local gym and focused on "Pull" exercises for Back and Biceps.  Again, we were broken down into two groups of 30 and while the cardio group used the various cardio machines, the strength group tackled every machine that we could get our hands on!  It was actually quite fun.  We each grabbed a partner and while one person worked on a machine (all Back exercises), the other person did Bicep Curls.  There were quite a few stations and our Backs and Biceps were thoroughly worked after an hour!  So, two hours of strength and cardio in the morning and two more hours of strength and cardio in the afternoon...yeah, it was an awesome day of fitness!

We finished up around 4pm and since this camp was a little smaller than most (actually called a "Retreat" instead of "Camp"), we were invited to join Nicole and her crew at a local restaurant.  We had enough time to return to our hotel to freshen up and then we took over a corner of the restaurant and got to know each other a little more.  Nicole also made a point to sit down with each table for a nice chat.  During most of the meal, my friend and I got into a discussion with some of the campers that are either in the midst of competing or are about to begin their contest prep.  It was amazing to see the amount of detail and effort that has to be placed on their diets.  It definitely requires a lot of discipline!

Sunday
On Sunday, we were back at the studio but our hour-long cardio session took place on a shortened outdoor track.  It was actually quite fun since I don't normally train on a track.  But, as mentioned earlier, there was a bit of grumbling from the campers.  Very anti-cardio!  As we all know, cardio plays an important role in a well-rounded training program...so it must be done ladies!

Usually Nicole inserts another Q&A Session right after the morning cardio workout but we were all on a high after the track runs so she decided instead to lead us through an hour-long workout for LEGS!  We all grabbed one heavy weight and did Squats, Lunges, Curtsy Lunges, Glute Bridges, etc.  It was a great way to conclude the workout portion of the weekend.  After a quick lunch break, Nicole conducted a tutorial on competition posing.  This was an optional session that utterly fascinated me.  I did not participate (happy to be a spectator on the sidelines) but posing is more difficult than it looks!  It was nice to see so many women stand in front of a large group with complete confidence and allow Nicole to mold their bodies into the perfect pose.  Kudos to all of the women who will take their improved poses to the stage this year!

One final Q&A Session wrapped up a fun and exciting weekend.  I have so many positive things to say about Phat Camp.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in fitness.  You don't have to be a competitor to benefit from a program like Phat Camp.  There were quite a few campers who came alone and while you will indeed meet other fitness friends, I would suggest you grab a friend and have them join you!  One thing is for sure, when you gather a bunch of women together in a fitness environment, like a Phat Camp, you are surrounded by the most supportive and inspirational women!  There's no bitchiness, cliques, or cattiness.  Nothing but positive vibes floating around Phat Camp!

Do I have anything negative to say about Phat Camp?  Yeah, I do...but nothing that would deter me from attending another Phat Camp.  I was a little disappointed that the studio where we spent most of our time only have one bathroom.  Yes, ONE.  For all 60+ of us!  I think future camps at the Burlington location should include a Porta Potty (or two).  There was also only one microwave which brings me to the food situation.  Upon registering for Phat Camp, we were encouraged to order our meals from Icon Meals.  Unfortunately, the ordering process wasn't very clear and some campers didn't receive their food (because their orders were shipped to their homes instead of to the studio).  I actually liked the Icon Meals that I ordered but I don't like their Customer Service nor did I like having to wait in line for 30 minutes to use the ONE microwave available.  Even though the Icon Meals themselves are relatively inexpensive, the cost of shipping is ridiculous ($30+). If I attend another Phat Camp, I'll just bring my own meals (perhaps the kind of meals that can be consumed without needing any re-heating).  But seriously, those are my only complaints.  The fun had over the weekend far outweighs the inconvenience of bathroom or microwave use (or lack thereof).

So, if you're considering Phat Camp with Nicole Wilkins, I say GO FOR IT!  You'll meet one of the most amazing women in the fitness industry and I'm so honored to have had the opportunity to workout with her.  And how hilarious is her assistant, Maureen?  Trust me - she's VERY entertaining and I enjoyed chatting with her as well.

Here are some more pics from the weekend:



Monday, February 1, 2016

TALES OF ANXIETY FROM A CATHE ROADTRIP SIGN UP

Last week, I had the opportunity to sign up for the 2016 Cathe RoadTrip in Glassboro, NJ.  What?  You've never heard of a Cathe RoadTrip?  My Goodness, where have you been?  You need to click here so you can see what I'm talking about!

Okay, all caught up now?  Great!

Did you notice all the fun that was had in that video?  Yes, it's an awesome weekend and it's something that I have grown to look forward to each year.  Only problem is that signing up for said RoadTrip produces more anxiety than this pictures does for someone with severe OCD:
You see, Cathe Friedrich opens up her gym in Glassboro, NJ to 105 of her loyal followers (known as Cathletes), which is GREAT!  But, there are about 10 gazillion of us who want to go and we're all ready to sign up at exactly the same time.  At 1:00pm (exactly!) on Sign Up Day, Cathe's team adds a "Buy Ticket" button to her website.  Then it's an all-out race to see who can input their contact and payment information (and t-shirt size!) the fastest.  The first 105 Cathletes to sign up successfully are guaranteed a spot for the fun-filled (and sweaty) weekend.  Still confused on why so much anxiety?  Perhaps this clip from Big Bang Theory will give you an idea of what Cathletes go through at 12:59pm on Sign Up Day.  Click here to see the video!

Now do you see what I'm talking about?  It's completely crazy and the anxiety produced in the hours approaching 1pm is downright ridiculous!  Allow me to share with you my (ahem, embarrassing) experience that eventually lead to my successful registration for the 2016 Cathe RoadTrip.  Oh, and have I mentioned that this RoadTrip SELLS OUT IN MERE MINUTES???!!!  Hence the anxiety...and the NEED FOR SPEED!

It's important to note that when registering, you need to use a credit card that doesn't expire before June of that year (Sign Ups are processed in two payments, the second of which goes through in June).  About two weeks ago, I received a new business credit card in the mail since my previous credit card was about to expire.  I use this card for all business expenses like office supplies, workout DVD's, and RoadTrips.  I was happy that I had a new card with an expiration date reaching into the next decade but that's when the anxiety began.  Will the new card work?  What if there's an issue?  I knew I had activated it but it hadn't been USED.  I couldn't afford to risk it.  So, an emergency shopping excursion was planned immediately!  Thankfully, I needed some new fitness equipment so those purchases were completely justified.  I'm so glad that you agree!

Since I have gone through this Sign Up process twice previously, I knew that my Game Day environment needed to be top-notch!  My computer had to be fully charged and connected to the Internet, my clunky bracelet had to be removed and my hair tied back (no distractions allowed!), and my son (home from preschool by that time) had to be completely occupied and aware of what was about to go down ("hey buddy, would you mind leaving mommy alone for the next 30 minutes so she can prep, process, and recover from the most stressful experience of her life?").

Think I'm exaggerating?  Well then, let me share with you some of what my fellow Cathletes were going through as they began their Sign Up prep (and by the way, I DO NOT recommend checking Facebook right before registering as it will just compound your already-existing anxiety levels).

"Is anyone else getting nervous?"

"I keep having this sudden panic in my gut that I'm going to forget and miss the 1pm registration time.  I forget lots of things these days.  On Friday I will be pacing around like a caged animal, setting alarms everywhere and setting up three devices to the registration page.  Should be a wild day!"

"I'll be at a conference in Orlando - I don't care who's speaking at 12:55pm (oh, who am I kidding, I'm out of there at 12:45pm) to find the perfect spot with the best wifi for my laptop, iPad, and 4G signal for my iPhone...just in case."

"So Friday I had a hair appt at 11 to get my hair colored.  The snow came and we cancelled.  Stylist asked if I can do next week at the same time and I said sure.  Now mind you this is a 2 hour process.  The next day I realize the Friday if RT sign ups!!  WOW, I cannot believe I did that.  But disaster was thwarted."

See what I mean?  I'm not alone in my insanity!

So, as I was driving home just after 12:00pm, on my way back from my son's preschool, I couldn't help but notice how strong the wind was blowing (please, please, PLEASE don't blow too hard and knock down a tree and cause our power to go out!).  I had all my alarms set on my phone - you know, the standard ones: 12:45pm, 12:50pm, and 12:55pm.  You can never "over alarm" as each one serves a purpose in my preparation!  As soon as I had my son settled (and informed of the silence needed), I had some time to kill and the countdown was driving me nuts!  I occupied myself with folding a load of laundry and emptying the dishwasher.  But then it was time.  Time to REFRESH that Cathe website over and over and over again.  Not sure what I'm talking about?  You watched the Big Bang Theory video clip from above, right?  

REFRESH     REFRESH     REFRESH     REFRESH     REFRESH     REFRESH

Any moment now.  It's going to pop up at any moment.  Any second.  The next time I click REFRESH, it'll be Game On!  Any minute now.  

Holy Crap, IT'S TIME!

The moment that "BUY TICKET" appeared, it was as if my limbs left my body and I couldn't control them.  My fingers were shaking and there was sweat dripping down the side of my face.  All of the breathing techniques that I had practiced to help stay calm weren't helping and my mindset of "I'm not going to stress about signing up this year" flew out the window.  It was like the toughest cardio workout ever, complete with elevated heart rate!  But I made it through and up popped the most beautiful screen shot I had ever seen:





"Your Payment has been made successfully!  Please check the confirmation mail for the ticket number".  Beautifully written, yes?

But don't assume that the anxiety ends there.  Where is my confirmation email?  Why haven't I received it yet?  Did I really get in?  Was there a glitch?  Was my credit card charged?  How will I know if I'm confirmed?  Facebook exploded with fellow Cathletes announcing their acceptance and joy.  I begin to see that others have not received their email either.  Wait, did that person just say that she DID receive an email?  Oh no!  WHERE'S MY EMAIL???

As the stress turned into pure excitement (I did eventually receive my email confirmation - but only after I contacted Cathe's support team), I couldn't help but notice that my sweat-soaked sweater needed dry cleaning, my heart rate was still racing, and I was wondering if it was too early to pour myself a glass of wine (I know, I know ... it's NEVER too early!).

I can't even begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to working out with Cathe and to seeing all of my fellow Cathletes again.  There's nothing in the world like working out with over 100 friends from around the world.  This year's RoadTrip sold out in less than 6 minutes and now that it's over, I can say that all the sweat and stress was totally worth it!  Here are a few snapshots from the 2014 and 2015 RoadTrips.  Stay tuned for pics from THIS YEAR'S ROADTRIP!








Friday, January 22, 2016

STEEL CUT OATS (A.K.A. MY FAVORITE BREAKFAST FOOD)

WHAT DO YOU EAT FOR BREAKFAST?
"What do you eat for breakfast?"  That's one of the most common questions I get asked and I always respond with an enthusiastic "Steel Cut Oats!"  Ever heard of 'em?  You may be more familiar with rolled oats or instant oats.  Steel cut oats are the unprocessed form of oats in which the entire oat groat is used and they require a much longer cooking time.  Since it takes longer to cook, I use a mini slow cooker so my steel cut oats cook while I'm working out in the morning and my breakfast is ready for me to enjoy before I head out the door for the day!
Mini Slow Cooker (slightly larger than an apple)

HOW I USE MY MINI SLOW COOKER
There's really no "recipe" here - just an idea for you to consider if you are able to plug in your mini slow cooker first-thing in the morning.  If you follow me on social media, then you know that I wake up rather early (4am) and my workouts last about 90 minutes.  So, when I rise, I place 1/2 cup of steel cut oats into my mini slow cooker and then fill the remaining space with water (all the way up to the tippy-tippy-top).  Cooking time can vary and it should be based on your taste preference.  If you cook the steel cut oats in the mini slow cooker for less than 2 hours, the oats may taste very chewy.  I prefer to cook my steel cut oats for about 3 hours.  This works for me because I have a small snack as my post-workout fuel and then I'm able to enjoy my official oatmeal breakfast once I'm showered/dressed and the kids are ready to leave for school.  Instead of wasting time by cooking my steel cut oats on the stove, I let my mini slow cooker do all the work!

WHAT TO ADD TO YOUR STEEL CUT OATS
Perhaps you're wondering what I add to my steel cut oats to make the extra tasty.  Well, it varies by day (and by workout) but I do believe there are endless possibilities!  I almost always add cinnamon and raw cacao powder.  From there, I'll alternate among chia seeds, ground flaxseed, almond butter, and hemp seeds.  You can also add some fruit like bananas, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries.  If you like your oatmeal extra creamy, you could add whole milk, goat milk, almond milk, or coconut milk.  If you are looking to sweeten-up your oats, you could add some dark chocolate, shredded coconut, real maple syrup, or perhaps some dried fruit as well.  I even know someone who adds bacon and shredded cheese to their oatmeal!  I have no intention of ever adding bacon to my oatmeal but...whatever floats your boat!

A HEALTHY START TO YOUR DAY
If you're looking for a hearty breakfast that fills you up and is an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates, I encourage you to dust off that mini slow cooker and fill it with steel cut oats!  Don't have a mini slow cooker?  Then use a standard slow cooker, increase the amount of oats you cook, and simply portion off a week worth of breakfast.  Yummy!
Thursday, March 5, 2015

I'M TIRED OF BEING TIRED...SO, GOOD-BYE MORNING WORKOUTS (AT LEAST, FOR NOW)!

I'VE BEEN FEELING TIRED
REALLY tired!  For almost three years, I have started my day with a workout.  I would rise n' shine at 4am and my workout would begin promptly 10 minutes later.  There are several things wrong with this "schedule" (mainly the cold muscles and lack of alertness at that hour) but this blog entry is about SLEEP...and my desperate need for more of it!!!

FACED WITH SOME DECISIONS
I simply wasn't getting enough sleep and after several years, the deprivation had caught up to me.  I'm amazed that I lasted almost three years!  In an effort to increase my nightly hours of sleep, I was faced with some decisions.  What was going to have to 'give' in order to add more sleep to my day?  Want to know one thing that I was NOT willing to give up?  Yeah, my workouts!  So, I realized that I could either exercise first-thing in the morning before anyone else was awake or I could workout late at night after everyone has gone to bed.  Since the morning option had seemingly run its course, I spent last week working out only at night.  In doing this, I discovered a few things.  Some things were good...and some things were not-so-good.  First, the GOOD!

WHAT I ENJOYED ABOUT WORKING OUT AT NIGHT
I loved the flexibility of exercising for 90 minutes (which is about 20 minutes longer than what my workout routine would allow in the morning).  This meant that I could add more stretching and yoga to the tail end of my workouts which is something that I've wanted to do.  I also enjoyed the return-to-sanity that took place when my workout was interrupted by something (or someone).  In the mornings, a child who woke up early meant that my workout was cut short whereas a highly-energetic child who refuses to go to bed just means that my workout starts a little later than planned.  As for the extra sleep, I could go on and on about how great it feels to get at least 1.5 hours of MORE sleep each night!  That equates to 10 additional hours of sleep each week!  Also, instead of sleeping-in on just one morning of the weekend, I got to sleep-in on BOTH DAYS!  Can you hear the angels singing 'Hallelujah'!!!  Yeah, it felt THAT good!  So, in this respect, my goal of getting more sleep this past week was achieved!

THE NOT-SO-GOOD-STUFF
My main-issue: rushed mornings.  When I would workout in the morning, I would get up so early that I could exercise, shower, prepare breakfast, pack lunches, and THEN get the kids up.  By sleeping-in a little later, I had to 'put myself together' while the kids ate their breakfast.  Yes, I could leave the house in my PJ's and exist makeup-free but that's just not me so...not gonna happen!  We still left the house on-time but I'll admit that my overall appearance suffered.  Although, given my pleasant disposition (due to more sleep, of course), I'm willing to overlook this issue.  Another obstacle is nighttime activities.  Last week, we went out to dinner one night which meant that we got home later than usual...which trickled down to a late-night workout...and my workout suffered due to a stomach full of food.  I also used to get some work done after the kids went to bed so obviously my to-do list doesn't get any smaller in the evenings if I'm working out instead.  Fortunately, these not-so-good problems just didn't seem to override the relevance of my increase in sleep.

WHAT'S THE VERDICT?
So, will I continue to workout at night?  For now, YES!  I'm an advocate for overall health and I can't possibly promote such a lifestyle when I spend most of my day yawning and living in a state of complete exhaustion.  I recognized that my body was trying to tell me something.  I enjoy my workouts so much and I'm glad that I've been able to find a solution that allows me to continue exercising while also improving my health with MORE SLEEP.  Let's face it - more sleep for me means that I'm more pleasant to be around...which means everyone wins.  Yay!

*UPDATE: June 2015*
Now that summer is in full-swing, I no longer have to prepare for rushed mornings.  That means...I'm back to my morning workouts!  I'll admit that I've missed them.  Getting extra sleep was great and was definitely needed.  But, I've always enjoyed starting my day with a workout and now that my evenings are free, I'm able to schedule a ton of summer-time activities that won't impact my workout schedule.  I hope to continue this throughout the summer and during some vacations that we have planned over the next two months.  Will it continue into the next school year?  Who knows?  I'm just enjoying my flexibility at the moment.  Stay tuned!! :) 
Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MY THIRD TRIP DOWN COLONOSCOPY LANE

FOR THE THIRD TIME
In a few days, I will be undergoing a colonoscopy...for the third time.  You may be wondering why someone my age, who seemingly lives an outrageously healthy lifestyle, would need a colonoscopy.  Well, in 2008, I was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease and thus began my journey to a healthier lifestyle.  This medical condition must be monitored regularly through a scope. It's been almost 3 years since my last colonoscopy.  So, it's time for another one.  

IN MY PREVIOUS LIFE
Before starting a family, I exercised regularly but I didn't pay as much attention to other aspects of my health.  I ate fast food (a lot!).  I took over-the-counter medicine at the slightest sign of a headache (which was often).  I drank alcohol frequently.  I never paid attention to the quantity or quality of my sleep.  The list could go on and on.  All of these things occurred before my eyes were opened to the side effects of living such an unhealthy lifestyle.  

SINUS INFECTION AFTER SINUS INFECTION
After my daughter was born in 2008, I started experiencing SEVERE sinus infections.  Always reluctant to go to the doctor, I would overdose on every sinus medication that was available in an effort to reduce the pain.  Each time, however, I would end up in the hospital because the pain was so debilitating. Each hospital visit would result in powerful (and damaging) antibiotics and pain medication.  Every few weeks, I would be hit with another infection.  It became a vicious cycle that, over time, began to damage my digestive system.  

A DIAGNOSIS
Then the bleeding started and let's just say that when you notice blood coming from places in which it shouldn't originate, you take notice!  I visited with a gastroenterologist and was promptly scheduled for a colonoscopy.  The result of that initial scope came a diagnosis: Ulcerative Colitis.  Yep, my large intestine was full of ulcers.  These ulcers, I later learned, were caused by excessive ingestion of over-the-counter and prescription medications.  

ULCERATIVE COLITIS
If you choose to Google "Ulcerative Colitis" you may end up feeling very sorry for me. According to the experts, people with UC suffer severe abdominal pain and spend half their day searching for (and running to) the nearest bathroom. I'll spare you the pity though as I fortunately do not experience any traditional symptoms of the disease.  I'm quite lucky actually because I don't really suffer from any symptoms at all these days.  I suppose that's due to my extra-healthy lifestyle.  But, because Ulcerative Colities can be progressive (often leading to Crohn's Disease and the possible surgical removal of the colon), I have to undergo a colonoscopy every 2-3 years.  This is to ensure that the disease has not spread to other parts of my digestive tract.

NO MORE SINUS INFECTIONS
Once I learned of my Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis, I stopped taking any over-the-counter medication.  In the beginning, whenever I felt pressure in my sinuses, I used a neti pot to rinse things out.  It was difficult not to reach for pain relief at first but after a few short months, I stopped having sinus infections.  In fact, 7 years later and I haven't had a sinus infection, stomach ailment, cold, flu, or even so much as a headache!  I no longer feel the need to rely on the pharmacy and instead eat a diet rich in whole foods.  These positive lifestyle changes didn't happen overnight but it makes having a colonoscopy a lot less nerve-wracking because I know that I am living the healthiest way possible and I don't go into the procedure full of worry.  

MY THIRD SCOPE
So, as I begin to prepare for my third trip down Colonoscopy Lane, let me remind you all of a few things.  First, don't ever ignore your body when it is trying to tell you something.  If something doesn't seem 'right', there's a reason for it.  Simply plan a visit with your doctor to discuss it.  Also, when you're with your doctor, be sure not to omit any pertinent information that can help him/her treat you as needed.  Finally, if you're 'of age', please don't be afraid of getting that initial colonoscopy.  They're really not that bad.  Okay, so the prep work that needs to be done beforehand is no walk in the park...but it's worth the time and effort to ensure your health!  So, just do it!