Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Raise The Bar: 30 Days

When I started this challenge, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  I was hoping to maybe lose a couple pounds, build a little muscle, and look a little better in my swimsuit on the beach in December.
It's been 4 weeks and I'm starting to notice changes. They're small, but they're definitely there - at least from my perspective.
What do those changes look like?  I promised to share my progress photos, so here they are (my face is blurred/cropped for the same reasons as before):

 I feel as though my legs are more toned, my butt is lifting a little, and I think I might actually be seeing the beginning of defined abs! My clothes definitely fit better. These small changes are enough to make me want to keep going. I want to see what I can do by the 60 day mark - which happens to fall on Thanksgiving Day.  Guess I'd better do my weigh-in and measurements before I go anywhere near the dinner table that day!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fuel The Burn

I can almost see the finish line of Phase 1 of my Raise The Bar challenge and it's motivating the hell out of me to work out hard, eat well, and do everything I can to maximize my results. The best part of all of it? I get to eat food that tastes good and is good for me!  Rather than just listing my workouts for the week, I thought I'd share some of the meals that are fueling those workouts as well.

I tend to feel a little queasy if I eat too soon after waking up, so I don't eat breakfast during the week until I get to work.  Fortunately it seems like most of my co-workers follow a similar pattern, so it's not unusual to chat with someone over their morning coffee/cereal/bagel/etc.  My breakfast of choice these days is 1 cup of high fiber cereal (Fiber One Honey Squares) and 1/2 cup of skim milk.  I make up five individually portioned bags of cereal every Sunday night and stash them in my desk drawer for consumption over the course of the week.

I tend to be a creature of habit with my weekday lunches as well.  I usually alternate between two options each week as it minimizes how much stuff I have to buy at the grocery store, but also keeps me from burning out from eating the exact same thing every day.  This week's choices are a Turkey Bacon/Lettuce/Tomato Sandwich on whole grain bread (with an option to add 2 teaspoons of light mayo/Miracle Whip based on your own taste) and a Veggie Burger Pita. Both sandwiches require minimal prep the night before, minimal prep at the office, and seem to withstand hanging out in my little cooler pretty well.

For the TBLT, I microwave 3 strips of turkey bacon and break each one in half so they fit in a container with the lettuce (I use a 50/50 spinach and spring mix blend) and tomato, pack 2 tsp of light miracle whip in a separate container, and bag two slices of whole grain bread the night before.  When I'm ready to eat, I just toss the bread in the office toaster, smear the Miracle Whip on both pieces of toast, and arrange the turkey bacon, lettuce, and tomato on top. Lunch is usually ready in about 3 minutes.
The Veggie Burger Pita requires even less advance preparation. I slice a whole wheat pita in half and throw it in a bag, layer a few slices of tomato, some mixed greens, and a slice of reduced fat cheese in a container, and grab my veggie burger (this week I'm using Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burger) out of the freezer in the morning.  When lunch time rolls around, I microwave the veggie burger, slice it in half so it fits neatly in the pita, cram the cheese, tomato, and greens in the pita and I'm all set.

Regular snacks are part of my day as well.  Well-timed snacks keep my energy level up and my hunger level down, so I like to mix these up a bit so I don't get bored.  I usually have a banana or an apple (especially since my favorite apple, the Honeycrisp, is in season right now) every day.

 Other snack possibilities include: turkey slices with low fat string cheese and a side of berries or a whole grain bagel thin with a tablespoon of low fat cream cheese. 

Monday night's workout of 1 1/2 miles in the freezing cold (seriously, it was in the mid-30's) and 30 minutes of Pump and Burn were followed by a delicious dinner courtesy of Mr. R&R.
4oz ultra-lean burger with low fat cheese on whole wheat bun with a side of oven "fries"
 I was a still a little low on calories after dinner, so I made one of my favorite "night time snacks" a whole grain waffle with 1 tbsp peanut butter and 1/3 of a sliced banana. The salty/sweet combination of the peanut butter and the banana was exactly what I was craving.  I also like this snack as a weekend breakfast.

Tuesday was a full rest day. No active recovery. No anything.  I know I need to rest and recover, and I usually love a good rest day, but for some reason this one made me twitchy!  Dinner was a twist on last week's Chicken and Veggie Pita Pizza - Barbecue Chicken Pita Pizza! Can you tell I'm a big fan of anything to do with pizza?

Wednesday was a tough one at the office. I barely had time to eat breakfast and lunch. Snacks? Forget about it - and raging hunger ensued. Tonight's Pump and Burn workout was just what I needed. I didn't have time to go for a warm up run, so I felt confident in increasing my weights for the squat track, and it hurt so good!  The workout was followed by Pork Stirfry with Brown Rice.  Yum!
I was still in need of calories after dinner (since snacks didn't happen today) so Mr. R&R was kind enough to whip me up one of his delicious Berry Protein Milkshakes - and we accidentally discovered that if you leave it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes, it ends up the texture of soft serve ice cream!

Thursday night brought an awesome 30 minute trainer ride followed by HardCore Abs.  I felt incredibly powerful on the bike and I managed a few more walking hovers than usual during HardCore Abs, so the whole night was a win.  The bike workout put me in a big caloric hole and I'm sick to death of eating an extra snack after dinner so after a little math it was determined that mac 'n tuna topped with a slice of low-fat pepper jack was on the menu tonight.  It definitely wasn't the healthiest thing I've put in my mouth lately, especially with my 30 Day weigh-in and measurements looming so close, but it got the job done and it was good! 
I was going to swim on Friday before I did my Pump and Burn workout, but my legs were killing me all day and I didn't think that kicking for 30-45 minutes before doing squats and such for another 30 minutes sounded like such a bright idea.  After all, I'd like to be able to walk tomorrow! So I settled for just the Pump and Burn workout.  I actually struggled to complete all the reps in the squat track tonight - testament to how hard I rode the bike last night.

After the workout, Mr. R&R and I set about making dinner.  We like to use the weekends to make slightly more complex meals since we're not as time-crunched as we are during the week.  This meal  was a twist on a burrito we've been eating weekly since we started our respective programs and damn, it was good!  I guess you could call it a "deconstructed burrito" since it used all the ingredients that would go in the burrito, but just . 
Grilled baja citrus tilapia, black beans, cheese quesadilla, salsa and spicy guacamole
I didn't even realize how much I wanted this until I sat down to eat.  If I didn't know better, I'd think it was horrible for me, but in reality, it was roughly the same amount of calories as Monday's burger and oven fries!  This one will definitely be going into the regular rotation.

Saturday morning's pool plans were scrapped when I realized that instead of HardCore Abs or Flow, I was slated for another 30 minutes of Pump and Burn - and my arms really hate the chest track after I swim.  Mr. R&R and I enjoyed a lazy morning enjoying a hot breakfast and hanging out with Walter and Spot.

Poached Eggs with Whole Wheat Bagel Thin for Dipping

We did a few assorted chores and before we knew it, it was time for lunch!  Both of us love tuna melts, but neither of us want to subject our co-workers to that smell, so it's the perfect thing to have on the weekend.

We both knocked out our workouts, hit the grocery store to restock the refrigerator, and got to work making dinner: Feta Primavera Pasta.
Whole grain pasta, mushroom, red onion, garlic, spinach, lemon, and feta
Sunday brought our 30 day weigh-in, measurements, and photos (that will all be in my next post) a hike on the Ice Age Trail (I'm hoping to update our hiking blog some time in the next week). It was a perfect day for hiking. The weather was cool, but not cold. There were a few people around, but not too many. And the colors were at there peak, so there was lots to look at.
Of course hiking burns a ton of energy, so Mr. R&R and I worked up quite an appetite on our 7 mile adventure.  We discussed possibly going out for a late lunch/early dinner, but then realized that we could make a healthier version of what we were both craving at home - and for less than what we would spend going out.  We knew our entree would take a while to cook, so we also picked up a little appetizer to hold us over.

Baked Tortilla Chips with Salsa and Spicy Guacamole
After about an hour of cooking time, our dinner was ready - and it was so good!
Baked Buffalo and Devil's Spit Wings with Yogurt Ranch Dressing - and a BEER!
I was inordinately excited about the beer (Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat). I first had this beer when we were in North Carolina over the summer and absolutely loved it. It wasn't quite as good as I was anticipating - probably because everything tastes better on vacation - but it was still pretty damned good since I haven't had a beer in a month!

I also opted not to do the Flow workout that was on today's workout schedule in favor of doing a yoga sequence of my own (including all the poses from Flow) and some additional stretching since the hike really did a number on my legs and hips after 2 days in a row of Pump and Burn.

So there you have it...a week's worth of workouts and the yummy food that fueled those workouts. Eating healthy food can be tasty!  If you have any questions about any of the meals, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pumpkin and Burn

Day 15: Run and Burn
Mr. R&;R and I were up bright and early so we could drop my car off at the body shop (finally getting the damage fixed).  Of course this little detour in our morning routine meant that Mr. R&R had to put off his workout until after we got home from work. While he was occupying The Cave, I decided to go for a short run to warm up before my Pump and Burn workout.  I originally planned on running 3 miles, but my Garmin spent 20+ minutes attempting to lock onto its satellites, so I cut it down to just over a mile. Pump and Burn once again lived up to its name and my legs were toast when it was over and I was dying for dinner!

Day 16: Well...That Wasn't Good
I had a breakfast meeting this morning at a local restaurant. I played it as safe as possible, ordering one of the smaller items on the menu (2 eggs with hashbrowns) with a side of dry wheat toast, not wanting a repeat of that slow, sluggish feeling I got after eating out for my brother's birthday. Unfortunately the restaurant interpreted "dry toast" to mean "drench with butter", so after one bite I knew I wouldn't be eating it.  Despite my best efforts, the meal left me feeling like I had rocks in my stomach all day. This might have been worth it had the food at least tasted good, but it didn't - which made me even more annoyed at the boulder sitting in my gut all day!

That poofy stomach feeling made Hard Core Abs feel like a 10 minute death march, but at least I finally had some desire food again once I finished it.  On deck tonight, Chicken and Veggie Pita Pizzas!

These little guys are awesome, quick and easy to make, relatively low in calories, and packed with protein and vegetables.  If you want to try it for yourself, here's what you'll need:
  • 1 whole wheat pita split in half
  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 8oz sliced mushrooms 
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 4oz boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup low fat mozzarella cheese
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Slice the pita in half to create two discs (try not to stab too many holes in either one)
  • Throw the mushrooms in a dry non-stick saute pan, season liberally with pepper, garlic, basil and oregano. Cook them until they release their water. If they start to stick to the pan before that, add a splash of water to the pan to create some steam.
  • In another non-stick saute pan, season and sear the chicken until it's cooked through.
  • Once the oven is preheated, toss the pita halves in the oven until they get a little crispy.
  • Pull the pitas out of the oven, top each one as follows:
    • 1/8 cup marinara sauce
    • half the mushrooms
    • 2oz chicken
    • 1/4 cup green pepper
    • 1/4 cup red onion
    • 1/4 cup mozzarella
  • Put the pizzas back in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the veggies are heated through and the cheese is melted.
Day 17: Anniversary Sushi
9 years ago today, Mr. R&R and I got married!  Neither of us really felt like going out for dinner, so I picked up sushi on my way home from work. Of course, before I could enjoy it, I needed to get my workout in. I hopped on the trainer for 20 minutes and followed it with 30 minutes of Pump and Burn. For some reason, the chest track killed tonight, but the sushi was delicious!

No time for clear pictures!

Day 18: And On The 18th Day...She Rested
It's always a good thing when there's a planned rest day when you need to do something about 2 inch roots! After work, I spent a few hours with the Mane Wrangler (and drinking wine) and by the time I left, I felt fantastic.  When I got home, I discovered that Mr. R&R had dinner ready to go so that left me with a little free time.  I noticed some near-death bananas sitting on the kitchen counter and decided to whip up a little treat to take into work on Friday morning.
No Bull$#!& Banana Bread
Day 19: Crunch and Stretch
Friday's workouts seemed to be a metaphor for the week: a whole lot of suck followed by some relaxation!  I got home from work, ran some errands, and then pointed myself in The Cave for Hard Core Abs followed by Flow. I accomplished absolutely nothing else, but I did manage to get to sleep early enough to get 8 solid hours - a small miracle in my world.

Day 20: Restock
This morning I picked up my car from the body shop (looks as good as new) before tackling Pump and Burn.  Since I didn't have time to go for a run beforehand, I was able to increase the weight I used on the squat track. By the time I was done with squats, I'm pretty sure my legs had turned to jello - which made the back and hamstring track interesting since I had to do it on legs that had lost the will to stand.  After that it was on to breakfast, cleaning the house, doing Walter and Spot's laundry (which Spot had fun with when it came time to fold), and grocery shopping.

I also took pictures of Walter since he was in the mood to pose
Grocery shopping is a hated task in the Rabbits and Runs house, but it's been getting slightly less painful each week as each of us gets deeper into our new workout programs.  We're both getting the hang of what we like/want/need to eat and it's getting easier to march past the cookies in the bakery on the way to the hummus.  We capped the night off with Mr. R&R's delicious creation: Chocolate Berry Protein Milkshakes

Day 21: A Full Day
Mr. R&R and I were up bright and early this morning to go for a hike at Howler Monkey Haven Lapham Peak before our afternoon plans with his parents and brother/girlfriend.  It may have been the temperature (upper 30's when we started), but the trails were blessedly free of Howler Monkeys.  We crammed in 5 miles in just over 90 minutes before hightailing it for home.  We spent the afternoon at his parents house carving pumpkins.  Mr. R&R's brother always has the best looking pumpkin since he's got a serious artistic streak, but I was pleased with my effort...a cat.
Mine's in the middle
Before bed tonight I need to: do laundry, iron, join Mr. R&R for his Power90 cardio workout, prep my food for tomorrow, and squeeze in a Hard Core Abs workout.  I need to be as prepared as possible this week because Hell Month is reaching its pinnacle in the next 10 days and Day 30 of my Raise The Bar challenge falls in there too.  Since Day 30 will fall on a week day, I'll likely be taking my 30 photos and measurements this coming weekend, so I'll be focusing on pushing hard in all my workouts and eating as clean as possible - to ensure maximum results! Having everything ready to go should make it a little easier to stay on track.  Guess I'd better get cracking!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

2 For 2

Day 8: Feel The Burn
I woke up feeling like a total zombie this morning and in true zombie fashion, I arrived at work and discovered that I'd forgotten most of my snacks for the day at home.
Fortunately I had an extra little baggie of dry cereal in my desk drawer, so the furniture wasn't in danger of being gnawed.  When I got home it was time for a new workout from the Les Mills Pump series - Pump & Burn.  It definitely lived up to its name because it BURNED.  The squat track was almost 8 minutes long! It doesn't sound like much, but my quads were quivering like jello by the end.  The ab track was a burner as well (although I may have made it harder by laughing when the soundtrack to it was 'Save a Horse. Ride a Cowboy.).

Day 9: Spinning My Wheels
Today was one of those challenging days. I needed to workout, wanted to eat clean, and was scheduled to make an appearance at Little Bro's birthday dinner - at a restaurant that does not have anything remotely healthy on the menu and always leaves me feeling far too full to workout afterward.  So what's a girl to do in this situation?  Here's how I handled it: I worked through lunch and brought a bunch of work home with me so I could leave work early and hit the bike trainer (and the shower) before dinner.  I was on the bike for one hour and managed to ride almost 18 miles - and scorch off a ton of calories.

Between the workout and some careful food choices during the rest of the day, I was able to enjoy a little bit of everything on the table without feeling like I'd totally fallen off the nutrition wagon.  I will say that after a week of very healthy eating, that dinner left me feeling really sluggish and kind of queasy.

Day 10: Mixed Double
Today's workout called for a combination of two DVDs from the Les Mills Pump series: Pump Challenge and Hard Core Abs.  I was originally planning to throw in a 2 mile run as a warm up, but alas, I didn't come crawling in the door from work until almost 6:00. So, in the interest of eating dinner, getting a few things done, and going to bed at a reasonable hour, I headed straight for The Cave and got to work.  The 20 minute Pump Challenge workout almost felt easy now that I've experienced the leg burning pain of Pump & Burn.

Day 11: A Good Stretch
Yoga never felt so good. I enjoyed the stretch immensely and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't nice to have a little break in the action!

Day 12: Paddle and Burn
I think the last time I went for a swim was some time in early August, so I was almost afraid to see how much of a disaster I was going to be when I hit the pool on Friday night.  I've definitely lost a lot of my endurance in that area, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, so I'm not starting completely from scratch. I swam 1000 yards in just over 30 minutes and then headed home and down to the Cave for a 30 minute session of Pump & Burn.  My arms and shoulders were not happy about the chest track after the swim.

Day 13: Hikin' Solo
Mr. R&R was off camping and kayaking with WhoHa this weekend, but I still wanted to get outside for a while so I drove myself out to Lapham Peak (in a downpour) with the goal of hiking the 7 mile Moraine Ridge trail. Fortunately the rain stopped and the woods were quiet and peaceful when I set out - punctuated only by the occasional trail runner.
About an hour into my hike the sun came out and for a moment I felt like I was walking in the woods of Washington instead of Wisconsin.
I pressed on with the leaves crunching under my feet and my iPod on low (I need to make a more mellow playlist for these sorts of adventures), planning to stop at the half way point to snack on a pb&j and stretch my legs.
Standing between me and my sandwich break was a series of steep hills - including The Wall.
It doesn't look terribly imposing from the photo, but let me tell you...standing at the bottom of it, it looked like a wall of earth in front of me. By the time I made it to the top my legs and glutes were screaming and a sandwich never sounded so good!  Unfortunately when I arrived at Homestead Hollow, my appointed rest stop, I discovered a huge group of adults and their poorly supervised pack of little howler monkeys.  These kids were horrible. Screaming at the top of their lungs, throwing rocks, hurling handfuls of dirt at each other, brandishing sticks...and their handlers (or parents, if you can call them that) seemed perfectly content to let them run amok.  There was no way I was stopping there, so I pushed on up the aptly named Asthma Hill.  The noise from the howler monkeys faded and I had the woods to myself again.  I passed the Observation Tower, but didn't climb the Stairway to Heaven (about 200 shallow steps) to reach it. I've been up there once or twice, but generally avoid it because it's usually crowded with people.

Finally I reached the part of the trail I've always loved to run: Big Slide.  It's a long, gentle, downhill stretch bordered by hardwood trees.

Just as I got to the bottom of Big Slide, I noticed that the sky was beginning to fill with ominous looking gray clouds, so I ended up taking a short cut back to my car via the Plantation Path (lopping about a mile off my hike) instead of continuing up Hoot Owl Hill.  It turns out that I made the right call since it began to rain when I was about a quarter mile away from the end. I tightened my pack and ran like hell for the trailhead - making it back to my car just as another downpour hit. Talk about good timing!

Day 14: Stubborn
I woke up this morning to some stiffness in my hips and legs from yesterday's adventure in the hills of Lapham Peak, so pounding the pavement for a few miles was out, but I stubbornly insisted on doing some form of lower-impact cardio, so I joined Mr. R&R for the first 30 minutes of his Power 90 cardio workout (power yoga followed by lots of high knees, jumping around, and kickboxing movements) before tackling  Hard Core Abs. By the time it was over, I. was. spent.

After 2 weeks of following the Les Mills Pump program, it's starting to feel like I've been doing it for longer - working out daily is starting to feel normal again. I still crave junk food on occasion, but the few times I've given in, it just hasn't tasted as good as I've anticipated - which is never a bad thing.  I also continue to feel much better, both physically and mentally.  I've been sleeping better and my mental focus has been unbelievable.  If this keeps up, I'm really excited to see how I feel by the end of the 90 days!  On that note, I'm off to do the mountain of laundry that has accumulated this week.