Saturday, November 30, 2013

Raise The Bar: 60 Days

The 30 Day results of this challenge blew my mind.  I figured I'd see a few little changes, but nothing as dramatic as what I actually got. The numeric changes are a bit smaller than the 30 day changes, but I think the changes are still noticeable - especially in my shoulders and back.  It feels like days 31-60 was more about sculpting and defining the muscles that were built in the first 30 days.  So, without further's what changed and what those changes look like.

I certainly feel like the muscles in my back and shoulders are the most noticeable difference - and I like them a lot.  I've always wanted toned and well-defined arms/shoulders and it seems like I'm finally on the way to having them.  I think the final 30 days of this program is going to be about even more fine-tuning, but I guess we'll see...this program seems to have a habit of surprising me (in a good way).  I know how far I've come, but now I want to see how far I can get!

Day 0 /Day 30/ Day 60
Bring on the last 30 days!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cookies and Cuties

Whoa...that 60 day milestone is coming up fast!  Time to put my head down, work hard, eat clean, and hope it's enough to produce the results I'm looking for.

Day 50: Raise. The. Bar.
Today was a mini-milestone in this challenge. I've been doing this for 50 days! I "celebrated" by attacking yet another new workout: Pump Extreme.  This 55 minute workout was loaded with all the same goodies as Pump Revolution, but there were more sets, and it was much faster paced. Funny enough, the soundtrack for the bicep track was Pink's "Raise Your Glass" and the instructor changed the lyrics to 'Raise The Bar'.  I found it amusing and totally appropriate.
By the time I was done, I was creeping up the basement stairs like an old lady - an old lady in search of dinner because I. Was. Starving.  Mr. R&R was working late tonight, so I was on my own for dinner. Whenever it's just me, I get lazy about cooking.  I wanted food and I wanted it fast, so I threw together this little concoction:
1 Egg, 2 Egg Whites, 1/4 cup Low-Fat cheese, 2 Tbsp Hot Salsa, Whole Grain Tortilla
I rolled the whole thing up and added a few strawberries as a sweet contrast to the spicy salsa... and voila! Dinner in under 10 minutes.
Day 51: Grrrrr.
I really wanted to run today, but by the time I got home from work it was pitch black outside (no surprise there since it gets dark by 4:30pm these days) and it was freezing cold - and not just cold - damp cold.  The kind of cold that seeps through your coat and a wool sweater and chills you to the bone no matter how many layers you're wearing.  I really need to stop being such a wimp and just get out there and run. Instead I hit the trainer for just over 30 minutes and followed it with Hard Core Abs.

Day 52: In Which I Bake
It's been quite a while since I baked anything other than my No Bull$#!# Banana Bread, so after tonight's Pump and Shred workout and wolfing down dinner, I hit the kitchen to make a batch of Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. I've made these cookies before, but it's been a while, and since I'm planning on bringing them to a holiday get together on Friday night, I felt that a test run was necessary, and I know that my office mates don't mind being my guinea pigs!

I originally stumbled on this recipe about a year and a half ago over on Peanut Butter Runner and it quickly became one of my 'go to' cookie recipes since a) they're ridiculously easy to make and b) a number of people in my life either have issues with gluten intolerance or have chosen to avoid gluten for other reasons.  It's nice to be able to provide a sweet treat that everyone can enjoy.  These little guys could probably even be adapted for vegans or those with egg allergies by using a flax or chia egg and carob chips (although I haven't tried this).  The only modifications I've made to the original recipe is to use mini chocolate chips instead of regular-sized ones as I've found they mix into the dough better and I don't dust the tops with salt since I think that the peanut butter is salty enough on its own. Also, I roll the dough into a tight ball before I put it on the cookie sheet and sort of tuck the edges back in after doing the criss-cross with a fork. They're already kind of crumbly since there's no flour in there to bind everything together, so I've found that tucking the edges back in helps minimize the crumbs!
You Know You Want One!
Day 53: Mane Wrangler To The Rescue
I think I may have mentioned it before, but I am really not good at some of the "girly" things in life. For example: I think I've painted my fingernails exactly once in the last 24 months. Why? Because I suck at painting them, I beat the crap out of my hands (dishes don't wash themselves) on a regular basis, and I have exactly zero patience for sitting still and doing nothing while they dry.  I'm also 110% hopeless when it comes to styling my hair. Seriously. I can't even blow it out and flat iron it.  99% of the time my hair is swept back in a messy ponytail and on the rare occasions when I leave it down, it's kind of a mess!  This means that the upcoming black tie wedding presents some unique challenges since I need to do something kind of fabulous with my hair (since evening gown + messy ponytail doesn't really work) and I have to be able to do it a reasonable amount of time, with limited tools, and in an extremely humid climate.  Fortunately my Mane Wrangler, K, was willing to work with me to solve this problem. I arrived at her studio at 7:30pm (bearing some of those flourless cookies since K recently went gluten free) and by 9:00pm I was fairly confident that I'm not completely screwed.  Of course it always looks easier when a pro does it, but I'm going to keep practicing and hope for the best. Now I just need to get out and purchase some of the recommended "tools" for this job and hope I don't drive myself nuts.

Day 54: A Lovely Afternoon
I still have a few vacation days to use up before the end of the year, so I took Friday afternoon off with the intention of getting a few errands done, hitting the pool, and stopping by to see Little Sis and Tiny Nephew.  I did exactly one of those things. I ended up spending the entire afternoon with Little Sis and Tiny Nephew!  It's hard to believe how much he's changed (namely being awake and alert more often) in just two short weeks. I found it extra sweet when he fell asleep in my arms and let his mommy and auntie spend time together.  And of course no visit to Little Sis would be complete without snuggles from my favorite "Fur Nephew"!
I made it home from my visit with just enough time to cram in Hard Core Abs and Flow before I rushed off to an appointment - still wearing my yoga pants!  That appointment was followed by a nice, quiet night at home with Mr. R&R and the bunnies since the holiday party I was supposed to attend was cancelled when the hostess was diagnosed with pneumonia.

Day 55: Lunges Still Suck
I'm kind of learning to love the Pump Extreme workout - except for the lunge track.  I'm getting better at them and they hurt less than they used to, but they still hurt and I hate them. I also discovered that I'm probably going to need to think about increasing my weights for the squat track soon since my legs aren't screaming loud enough anymore when I do them.

Day 56: Calorie Bomb and Chicken Parmesan
Is it just me, or does the time between 5pm on Friday and 10pm on Sunday seem to move twice as fast as it does during the week? Today was filled with errands, laundry, workouts, food prep for the next few days, and a whole bunch of bunny-cuteness!  I know they're always cute, but Walter was just insanely adorable today.
Silly Rabbit...Coffee Is For People!
While Mr. R&R and I were out running errands this afternoon we stopped by our favorite coffee house for a little mid-afternoon pick me up.  Normally I avoid coffee drinks like the plague because I a) prefer my coffee black and b) I don't like to drink my calories, but their seasonal Spicy Mocha caught my eye and after confirming that there was a light option available, I went for it.  It was delicious, but it turns out that even though I had it made with skim milk and passed on the whipped cream, that medium "light" Spicy Mocha packed a caloric/fat wallop like you wouldn't believe  It contained 430 calories and 16 grams of fat!  Talk about an unexpected calorie bomb.  There's nothing wrong with a treat now and again, but that was a little more of a treat than I had in mind.

Fortunately tonight's dinner, Chicken Parmesan, was one of those meals that seems indulgent, but really isn't bad for you at all.  It's a bit messy to make, but it's definitely worth the mess. 
If you want to make it for yourself, here's how:

The Stuff:
(makes 2 servings/approx. 335 calories per serving)
  • 8oz boneless, skinless chicken breast (split into to 4oz pieces)
  • 1/2 cup marinara/spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2oz whole wheat linguine
  • Assorted spices (garlic powder, black pepper, oregano, etc.)
  • non-stick cooking spray

 The Process:
Start by turning your oven's broiler setting on low and setting a pot of water on the stove to boil.  Then heat a saute pan over medium high heat.  When the pan is hot, coat it with non-stick cooking spray, toss the chicken in and season liberally.
Let the chicken cook about half way through before flipping it over to sear the other side.  Try not to move it around too much between flips.
Your pan will look a little gross, but trust'll be fine.  Once you've flipped your chicken, your pasta water should be ready, so toss in the pasta and cook according to your taste/package directions.  Mine took about 12 minutes to reach the desired texture.  If your chicken is cooked through before the pasta is done, just turn off the heat and let it rest.

Spray a couple of oven-proof bowls with a little cooking spray and divide the pasta evenly between them.  Top each pasta pile with a piece of chicken.
Pour 1/4 cup of  marinara/spaghetti sauce evenly over each piece of chicken and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of low-fat shredded mozzarella.
Pop the bowls under the broiler and watch them carefully (unless you like charred cheese) until the cheese starts to brown and the sauce starts to bubble.  Yank 'em out of the oven and set the hot bowls on a smaller plate so you don't scorch your hands or your table top and you're ready to eat!

What's your favorite meal to make when you have a little extra time on your hands?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Obsessed With A Dress

Another week down in the Raise The Bar Challenge.  Yet somehow, my primary focus wasn't my workouts. I spent the last 7 days obsessed with evening gowns - which is not at all normal for me.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy dressing up a little and going out, but the last time I wore a floor-length dress (other than my wedding) was my high school prom!

Day 43: Pay No Attention To The Basket Case In The Mirror
Sooo...remember when I mentioned that upcoming beach vacation? The real reason behind that trip is to attend a wedding - which turns out is a black tie event. Cue: Me scrambling to find a dress that a) fits b) looks good on me c) is age appropriate and d) will travel well.  Mr. R&R and I hit the mall...for what would turn out to be a total bust.  It seems that my only options were to look like someone's grandmother or to look like I was desperately trying to be 16 again.  I even cried!  Fortunately there's the wonders of the internet and after another good cry, I placed a few orders and two dresses are on their way to me.  Hopefully something works out!

Day 44: I Don't Wanna, But I'm Gonna
I went back to work after four days off...predictably, my mind and body wanted to still be on vacation.  After work I hit The Cave for 30 minutes of Pump and Burn followed by Hard Core Abs.  After the Pump and Burn abs track, I struggled to get through Hard Core Abs.

Day 45: Half Way There!
Today marked the half way point in my Raise The Bar challenge.  I can't believe I've been doing this for 45 days and that I'm actually looking forward to seeing where the next 45 days take me.  I've been feeling stronger and leaner every day.  Tonight's workout was a new one for me: Pump Revolution.  It was a 55 minute suffer-fest. There were squats, lunges, chest presses, clean and presses, more dead rows than I could count, a shoulder track, a tricep track, a bicep track, and of ab track. Oh, and one of my two possible dresses arrived today...and it fit like a glove (except for needing the hem taken up, which I knew going in since I'm ridiculously short)!

Day 46: Hurry Up and Wait
Why is it that when you need something in a hurry it always takes forever? Case in point: My second dress hasn't arrived yet, but I have an appointment with a seamstress on Saturday morning - the last possible date I can take a dress in and still have it ready in time.  After a few phone calls and way too much time sitting on hold I discovered that Dress #2 is due to be delivered tomorrow afternoon, but still...I just want it to get here already!  I hate not knowing what I'm going to be wearing.  It's making it difficult to figure out what kind of jewelry, etc. I need to find.  In the mean time, I did another Hard Core Abs workout - which hurt like a beast after surviving the Pump Revolution ab track from the night before.

Day 47: Indecisive
As promised, dress #2 arrived on my door step today.  I ripped open the package, tried it on, and still couldn't decide which one I liked better, so since Mr. R&R was out for the night, I did what any sensible girl would do: I packed up both dresses and the shoes (which I'd decided on a while ago) and made a beeline for my mom's house!  45 minutes later I was on my way home with Mom voting for dress #2.  For the record, I think her bird also voted for dress #2 based on all the excited little peeping noises she made, but she may have just liked all the sparkly stuff around the neck! :)
I made my way home and down to The Cave for 45 minutes of Pump and Shred.  I was convinced that my arms were going to fall off by the end of the shoulder track after 2 days (Pump Revolution and Hard Core Abs) of walking hovers.  I'm pleased to say that my arms remained attached and allowed me to make myself dinner and a berry protein milkshake while I waited for Mr. R&R to come home and give me his opinion on which dress to keep.

Day 48: Ow!
I woke up this morning and the first word out of my mouth was "Ow!" My arms, particularly my biceps, were so sore that it hurt to move my arms. The soreness made doing every day tasks rather interesting.  I guess you never realize how much you use your arms until it hurts to move them!  It certainly made putting on my dress (I ended up keeping Dress #2 after both Mom and Mr. R&R weighed in) at the seamstress' interesting. 

Fortunately as the day wore on, the soreness subsided enough for me to do the prescribed HardCore Abs and Flow workouts.  Of course that brought back the soreness (damn walking hovers), so Mr. R&R and I enjoyed a little indulgence of cheese and wine to go with my whining. 

Day 49: Mother Nature Needs A Calendar
I woke up with a little bit of a wine headache (totally my own fault) this morning, but that was quickly pushed aside when I heard the tornado warning sirens going off! Tornado season usually runs from late spring to late summer around here, so hearing those sirens in the middle of November confused me a little.  One quick peek at the Weather Channel later found Mr. R&R and I putting Walter & Spot into their carrier and heading for The Cave.  All told, we were in the basement for about 30 minutes and fortunately the storm swung out over Lake Michigan and missed us entirely.  Walter seemed to enjoy the field trip to The Cave since he spent the majority of the time scooting between us and checking out this strange, new environment.  Spot, on the other hand, came out of the carrier for about 5 minutes before ducking back into it and refusing to come out until we were back upstairs.  What can I say? He's not a fan of change!
We want to rename this place "The Bun Cave"
 I had originally planned to spend some time at The Track today since I haven't been running much and a bunch of my friends from the tri team were talking about making an appearance there, but the rather ominous forecast (tornado warning in the morning, tornado watch for the rest of the day, severe thunderstorms all day) made it seem like a bad idea to be away from home, so I settled for some time on the trainer instead.  I really need to start running more often. It's actually my favorite form of exercise once I'm out the door.  The problem seems to be getting out the damn door!  Hopefully I can remedy that problem soon.

Has the weather been unseasonably weird where you are?  What's your favorite way to motivate yourself on cold, rainy days?

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Really Random Week

Phase 2 of this challenge is in full swing. The workouts are longer, the intensity has increased, and I'm making a concerted effort to add more "bonus" cardio to each week.

Day 36: It's A Great Day For A Run
Phase 2 of the Raise The Bar Challenge kicked off with a 2 mile run (it was in the 50's when I left work!) followed by 45 minutes of Pump and Shred. I did 100% of the squat, back, and chest tracks.  I didn't make it through 100% of the lunge track, but I managed to do more than usual. And the shoulder new goal is to get strong enough to do all of my pushups on my toes.

And there was an ab track...of course there was an ab track.

Day 37: Speed Demon
Who am I? Where is this coming from?

It's gotta be from all the strength training - or I need to shut up and quit looking a gift horse in the mouth!
Mr. R&R usually works out in the mornings before work while I prefer to workout after work. Who am I kidding? I'm just lazy and hate getting up earlier than I absolutely have to. However, he's had brutally early meetings for the last two days and has had to move his workouts to the evenings, so tonight  I hopped on the trainer for my bonus cardio and got to watch him to his crazy Power 90 cardio workout while I pedaled.  I seriously think I would collapse in a heap on the floor about half way through it if I tried it!

Once he was done, I hit the floor for Hard Core Abs. I don't know what got into me tonight, but I made it through all the walking hovers.  Tonight's workout was definitely D.O.A....because I KILLED IT!!!!

 Day 38: Bottomless Pit
I really don't know what's up with me today. I'm like a bottomless freakin' pit!  All I wanted to do when I got home from work was curl up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and stuff carbs in my face.  I think, perhaps, it's some primal urge to insulate against the coming winter.  Whatever the case may be, I forewent the couch/blanket/carbs and hauled myself down to The Cave for 45 minutes of Pump and Shred.  I also brought along Mr. R&R so he could critique my form during the various moves since we don't have any mirrors in The Cave.  Of course, crafty creature that he his, he took it up a level by using his iPad to take video of me so I could see what I was doing right and what I need to work on.  I can tell you that my pushup form sucks right after a million chest presses, my legs look 1000x better during the lunge track than they feel, and I looked like a BEAST during part of the shoulder track. 

After the workout, I got my couch, fuzzy blanket, and carbs - in the form of brown rice in my really spicy chicken stir fry!

Day 39: If You Want Fate To Laugh At You: Make Plans
I was supposed to have dinner with Little Sister tonight.  It was (likely) going to be our last chance to hang out and do 'the sister thing' before she was due to have her baby.  We even joked as we made our plans, that this would probably guarantee that she'd go into labor and have to cancel even though she wasn't due for another week and a half.  Sure enough...I got a text message this morning that my nephew was born at 9:46am today.  Little Sis and Tiny Nephew are both doing well...and Mr. R&R and I threw all forms of workout plans out the window in order to meet the newest addition to the family. As expected, he was even cuter, and tinier in person. I won't be posting pictures of him here due to privacy issues, so you'll just have to take my word for how sweet he is!

Day 40: Vacation Day
The end of 2013 is rapidly approaching and I've found myself with a handful of vacation days that need to be used up, so I took today and this coming Monday off.  A four day weekend?  Yes, please!  I've been in dire need of some time to relax, recharge, and get a few things done that always seem to get shoved aside. I took full advantage of today by doing absolutely n.o.t.h.i.n.g. of use - other than 30 minutes on the trainer followed by Hard Core Abs and Flow.  I usually enjoy the Flow workout, but today it just made me rage-y. I couldn't relax and find my breath, so it was a 20 minute exercise in frustration - not what you want during a yoga practice.

Day 41& 42: Shred and Shed
After my Pump and Shred workout and Mr. R&R's Power 90 workout we began the herculean task of going through both of our wardrobes and purging all the things that were: worn out, no longer fit, or were always being pushed to the back of the closet because we didn't like them any more.  Apparently I'm some sort of clothes hoarder because I think I lost about 50% of my wardrobe.  I had pants in my closet from when I started changing my life and getting fit - 8+ years ago! I also unearthed a sweater I've had since high school in there. It was cathartic getting rid of all that stuff, but I'm down to about 3 pairs of pants that I can wear to work in the winter!  The closet project carried over into Sunday, causing us to cancel our hiking plans, but I still managed to cram in 40 minutes on the trainer while Mr. R&R did his Power 90 cardio workout for the day. 

Have you ever gone through your closet and found stuff that should have been gotten rid of long ago?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Every Day Is Abs Day

I think this sums up the last 7 days..oh...and OUCH!
Okay, not every day is abs day, but it sure feels like it this week!

Day 29: Pump and Shred
This week began with a sneak peek of what I'll be facing in Phase 2 of this challenge.  Pump and Shred is a 45 minute workout that features squats, lunges, lots of dead rows, clean and presses, a shoulder track, and an ab track that left me whimpering on the floor of The Cave.  Getting good at this one is definitely going to take some work!

Day 30: Hit the Floor
My abs were already sore from Monday's workout, but I dragged myself down to The Cave and did the prescribed workout. I normally don't grunt and groan out loud during workouts, but tonight was an exception. I had to keep reminding myself that the results of this challenge are 100% worth the pain.

Day 31: Feel the Burn
Another day. Another workout (Pump and Burn). Another ab track. I usually crack a smile during this one because of the soundtrack - not tonight.

They're the keys to my success...but tonight they felt like torture.
Day 32: I SURVIVED!!!
Hell Month at work officially ended at 4:30pm today...and I'm still alive and sane! I usually celebrate the end of this annual torture by making a beeline to my favorite bar and chugging multiple beers.  This year was different. I came home, hit The Cave for another round of Hard Core Abs followed by a 20 minute flow workout, and then handed out candy to the few brave kids who came around trick or treating (it started pouring rain about 30 minutes after trick or treat started).  My favorite costumes were a little lion and a tiny pink dragon. For some reason, toddlers in costumes seem extra adorable to me.

Day 33: You're Really Going To Need To Breathe Through This
Finally a Rest Day!!!! I know...last time I had a full out rest day I was twitching. Tonight I was more than content to be face down on my massage therapist's table for an hour instead of working out.  My back and shoulders usually have a lot of tight spots, but tonight was just silly! At one point my massage therapist paused and said, "You're really going to need to breathe through this." before digging his elbow into a massive trigger point in the back of my right shoulder. Holy $#!* that a good way. I could actually feel the muscles twitching as he released them! I was a little more prepared when the process was repeated on my left side. I'm almost afraid of what he'll find in my back next month!

After our massages, Mr. R&R and I stopped at the awesome wine shop next door to the massage place.  We chatted with the owner for a few minutes about what we liked, what our price point was, and were quickly directed to a Chardonnay from Napa Valley that he swore was amazing. The wine guy even admitted that he'd never heard of this particular winery before, but fell madly in love with this incredibly inexpensive ($20) wine when he tried it in their tasting room.  Of course we bought it - and a bottle of white Bordeaux that he'd recommended last year when we got back from France.  We swung by Trader Joe's on the way home for some prosciutto, brie, gouda, and crackers and we were all set for an awesome night of celebrating our first 30 Days and the end of Hell Month.  I think the wine and cheese tasted even better after not having had them in so long!

Day 34: That Wasn't Smart, But It Was Worth It
I woke up Saturday morning with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and feeling like a heavy, bloated mess.  I guess that's what happens when you eat a bunch of cured meat, rich cheese, salty crackers, and drink 3/4 of a bottle of wine after abstaining from those things for a month.  I don't care. It was delicious...and totally worth it.

I had initially planned on hitting the pool before tackling another Pump and Shred workout, but the thought of swimming while mildly hungover made my stomach heave, so that was out.  Pump and Shred was tough enough!  The lunge track sucked (yep, still hate lunges with a passion)

Day 35: 
Mr. R&R and I hit the trails again today - this time tackling the 6 mile long (3 miles out/3 miles back) Monches Segment of the Ice Age Trail.  Although this section of trail is really close to our home, we'd never been there before.  We're used to hiking in the Southern Kettle Moraine (which is pretty hilly) so we were pleasantly surprised that the trail was both beautiful and relatively flat!  On a somewhat related note, I finally updated our hiking blog (with last week's hike)!
Monches Segment

And of course my day wouldn't have been complete without an ab workout. Hard Core Abs is tough enough, but it's even tougher when you've already done 2 hours of physical activity!

Phase 2 of the Raise The Bar Challenge begins tomorrow morning - hopefully it's not all abs all the time!