Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Work it Hard: Make it Work

Crickets.... that's what I would have heard as I sat on my bike in front of an empty room today.

Yup. No one was there for class tonight.

Talk about a bummer. And I'm thinking, I spent time putting a kick-a$$ playlist together for WHAT?To turn up the speakers and work out by myself, apparently.


No matter. I loved tonight's playlist and I'm going to try really hard not to dwell because, after all, it's 2 days after Christmas and a lot of people are still in the throes of holiday travel. I guess I just kind of wish I'd known that no one planned on being there so I could have gotten my workout in much earlier in the day.

So I'll save my playlist post for next week. For now, I just want to say a word or two about a tradition a good number of us will take part in next week.

We're on the doorstep of 2012 and with that will come the usual and expected New Years Resolution. I have heard a good number of vague, half-assed, but also determined and out-right awesome resolutions from people. If there was one things I could tell anyone and everyone making a resolution this year it would be this: Instead of picking a lofty goal like working out 14 hours a week or losing 100 lbs by May, go for something more realistic and tangible. Ask yourself a few key questions to gauge your commitment level and, ultimately, how you want to feel a year from now. Is it really just a jean size you're striving for, or can you wrap your mind around setting a goal that will impact every aspect of your life? Just think, what if we replaced resolutions like "I will lose weight/get skinny/look hot this year" with goals like, "I will get fit/feel strong/increase my life expectancy"?

Because in the end, our time spent in the gym, on the road, on the field or in the water shouldn't only be about booties and six packs; we need to be focused on the bigger picture which is our bodies, and how we can work them and hold them up to the highest standard to which they can and should be tested. We are strong and were created to work. If we make our bodies work, they will in turn work for us, keeping us alive and well to inspire generations to come to.

What do you want to change/improve that can't be measured with a number?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

This is how we do it...

I'm not one for a holiday steeped in tradition. If we go somewhere different or see different people every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm totally cool with that. We're not religious but I've always enjoyed evergreens and twinkling lights. I still call it Christmas to keep it simple, but in my heart it's more like Yule. This year is the 2nd in a row that we've put up a tree in our humble little town house I have to say, I kinda like this being home for the holidays thing.

We're just having a few relatives over, making a little more food than we could all reasonably consume, and enjoying a relaxing weekend + a little extra (aka The Wrapping Paper Explosion). I made a huge batch of spaghetti with some homemade "fire roasted" marinara for the vegetarians, and the same sauce as a meaty version with beef and Italian sausage for us carnivores. It was like carb loading for a race, even if tomorrow the only racing we'll be doing is from the kitchen to the living room to retrieve and devour treats, or after our 2-year-old after she receives her first bike.

A few things about this Christmas:

I made stuff from scratch. Bread. Sweets. Sauces. Garlic butter (minus the butter- I did not milk a cow then sit around shaking a jar of milk solids for an hour to make it myself).
My Great-Grandmother's applesauce nut bread. I'd share the recipe but I haven't cleared it yet with the family whether I'm allowed to.
Mint brownie cake pops. Not from Starbucks. From my kitchen.

I listened to Christmas music. A lot. I had the Indie Christmas station playing on Pandora while cooking in the kitchen. I listened to Christmas classics while wrapping presents. And I already shared my Christmas playlist.

Through my patient silence about our scraggly fake tree, I got my husband to concede to putting up a real one.

Bad Camera. Awesome Tree.

I am not one for keeping up with the Jones' nor would I ever attempt to try. Although I don't know who this creepy person is who gets excited about lights and carols, it's kinda fun and for better or for worse (no matter how loudly my husband rolls his eyes) I think she'll be back again next year.

Merry Christmas!
Happy Yule!
Joyous Chanuka, Kwanza, and Winter Solstice!

And a wonderful, festive, safe and exciting New Year!

What old traditions have stayed with your family, year after year?
What new traditions have you begun with your family?
What is your favorite thing about the holidays?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin- Happy Holidays!

It's been a while since I've posted a new playlist and while I'm out of town and not teaching tonight, this is the list I put together for last week. In an effort to be somewhat inclusive, there is a Hanukkah song, but for the most part I found some great twists on Christmas classics. Don't worry, there's no Marriah Carey (although she IS looking awesome these days, I must admit). Most Christmas songs are only a couple minutes long, though, so I had to keep some of my usual songs in there for a few different drills. And there is such a thing as too many jingle bells.

If you don't want to work out to any of these songs, at least add them to your party shuffle for your holiday festivities. I mean, "Punk Rawk Christmas" by MXPX? How could you NOT play that for Grandma and Grandpa??

Festivus For the Rest of Us Spin:
1. warm up, flat road, alternate left and right leg - "Deck the Halls" Manheim Steamroller
2. 3 position warm up continued, add a gear, alternate pos. 1, 2, and 3 every 30s. - "Gettin in the Mood (for Christmas)" Brian Setzer Orchestra
3. jumps, 8/4/2 count - "Jump" Flo Rida ft. Nelly Furtado
4. begin 1st climb, medium resistance, sit and climb with standing bursts in pos. 3 - "Siberian Sleigh Ride" Trans-Siberian Orchestra
5. 3 position climb, add a gear in pos. 3 for each chorus and leave it on when you sit until you can't add any more while pedaling smoothly - "Ready to Go" Republica
6. flat recovery - "The Dreidel Song" Sister Hazel
7. alternate 30s. running, 30s. recovery, running at 80-85%, add a gear if needed for control - "Punk Rawk Christmas" MXPX
8. medium resistance, stand and climb in pos. 3 for the verse then sit and run on a flat road each time the music picks up - "Seven Nation Army" White Stripes
9. seated endurance climb, add a gear from medium resistance, maintain 70% effort (aching, not gasping for breath) - "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" U2
10. hovers, light to medium resistance, hover on each chorus just barely grazing the saddle (try to keep a flat back and limit bouncing) - "Santa Drives a Hot Rod"
11. heavy climb, add it in over 30s. intervals 'til you have to stand, add more 'til you're as steep as you can get and still pedal smoothly - "Christmas/ Sarajevo 12/24" Trans-Siberian Orchestra
12. downclimb, back off the resistance 2-3 gears (still hard but not steep), pos. 1 for the verse, 2 for the bridge, out to 3 taking OFF a gear and pick up the pace for the chorus, repeat - "The Dog Days are Over" Florence and the Machine
13. runs on a light hill, short heavy climb in the middle (add it in, max out to a steep climb, then gradually take it back off for the last standing run) - "Lancaster Gate" Enter the Haggis
14. flat n' fast, run it out to the end, 85-90% - "All I Want for Christmas is You (And Maybe You)" Xmas Massacre
15 + 16. flat recovery, followed by no resistance, followed by stretches - "Somewhere Only We Know" Keane - "Be Like That" 3 Doors Down

Merry Spinning!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How To Not Kill Someone and Other Important Social Skills

Yesterday, I turned into a bitch.

Well I've always been one. But the level of bitchiness that rears its ghastly, sleep-deprived and under-caffeinated head is usually kept under some amount of control.

Essentially, I've only run 6 miles since the half marathon, and my foot hurt like a mofo afterwards, leading me to decide to stay off the pavement and commit to a week or two of bike and elliptical only. Well 2 days ago it hit 62 degrees. Yesterday, 68. My foot has still been acting up from work so I was really sour about the weather beckoning me to venture outdoors when running still seemed like a bad idea.

But when the thermostat hit 72 today, enough was enough and I set out with the daughter in tow; my foot taped up tight and a 1.5X dose of ibuprofen in my system. I am happy to report that not only was the short 3.5-mile jaunt around Piedmont Park relatively pain-free, but Alexis got her wiggles out on the playground afterward and napped like a champ. So I guess I can say that Mission: Post- Undiagnosed but Probable Injury Run was a success. And I feel a million times better.

Pre-run Jen: Angry, spitting fire, wanting to chuck drinks and half-eaten food at rude customers.

Post-run Jen: Happy, refreshed, able to face the world without doing anything that might lead to an arrest.

I'm thinking I might try another 3-4 miles tomorrow to preemptively improve my attitude before work has a chance to ruin it. More on that another time... all I'll say is that holiday cheer does not seem to spead to that little line where people are supposed to leave a tip. In fact, I'm seeing worse tips than I've seen all year. I want to wear a button that says, "Excuse me, but I'm trying to afford gifts for everyone on my list, too."

Switching gears.

Food. It's a common talking point this time of year. We all eat it. We tend to eat more of it between the last Thursday of November and the first of January. Combine the increased caloric intake with the lower mileage many of us face thanks to either winding down from marathon season or commitments take us away from our usual routines, and you're quickly in a surplus of consumed energy that can lead to added pounds. Since we all want extra pounds as much as a kid wants to find coal in his stocking, it's important to keep our eating habits in check. No need to go on an extreme diet; just make sure you've got apples within closer reach than the sugar cookies.

Since I've been laying off the miles (still spinning away furiously, but it's just not the same) and spending a lot more time in Target than the gym, I want to try to get back to fulfilling my daily fruit and veggie requirement. Not an easy feat, but I've found ways to make it a bit more bearable:

yes, those are Goldfish
Normally, after a workout I only want to eat salt and carbs in one combination or another. Today, I decided to make a salad. But I don't just eat greens, so I added grape tomatoes, granny smith apples, golden raisins, pistachios and Goldfish (yummier than a plain old croutons). It's dressed with Trader Joe's Low Fat Parmesan Ranch. Haven't put Goldfish on a salad before? Try it. You're welcome :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How a REAL Real Housewife of Atlanta does Xmas

Ah, that blissful time of year when everything is decked in red and green, bells chime and tinsel rustles in the breeze, all of your favorite songs are playing on every audio system everywhere you go, and lights twinkle from every tree, bush, awning and window (hopefully they're LED lights).

Hahahaha, yeah, it's that time again, folks. Put on your helmets and guard your loins because it's Christmas and if you truly wish to tackle this holiday with a shred of sanity left over, you had better be prepared.

There are a number of seasonal survival guides out there, from how to smile politely through eight nights of receiving socks and calculators to the most tactful way to handle Aunt Janice when she gets belligerent after 5 too many egg nogs. There are gift-giving guides, decorating tips, and of course - best of all - Pinterest.com (I signed up for an invite, by the way, and I still haven't gotten one, *harumph*).

I have my own set of tips and secrets that I think would be valuable to anyone with multiple children and/or animals and no hired help - in other words, the 99%.

1.) K.I.S.S. You know what that means. Every time I've orchestrated an elaborate menu with multiple courses and flavors to suite different palates and dietary preferences, I wind up with leftovers coming out my ears. If you're keeping your celebration to just family, limit yourself to 1 cooked appetizer and 2 "cold" snacks (think crackers and cheese, veggies and hummus), 1 cooked entree with 2 sides (cooked vegetables and rolls work for me, and a purchased dessert. Of course, if you really love to make dessert, just swap out that one prepared dish for another to save yourself some time, effort, and energy.

2.) Start early. Not just with shopping, but with cleaning. I mean, if you care. Maybe you don't and that's fine too, but I have a sister-in-law who's terribly allergic to cats so I need to be pretty detail-oriented. A few weeks ahead of time, start focusing on areas you don't have to clean too often, but require attention once in a while. Declutter that dump spot where you toss your junk mail (we all have one), wipe down the baseboards to pick up anything your vacuum misses, and maybe move furniture to get to areas you typically ignore (like under the sofa). Unless you live in a farm, it's unlikely these spots will get so dirty that you'll have to do them again before your guests arrive, so knocking them out a couple weeks ahead of time will help you focus on bigger cleaning tasks.

3.) If you don't notice it in someone else's house, don't worry about it in yours. What that means is that if you've ever been to a friend's or relative's house and they said, "Oh, please excuse the mess," and you find yourself looking around and thinking, What mess? then know that your house does not need to be Pottery Barn catalog material. Likewise, if you walk into a place and you immediately notice grubby hand prints on the wall or a peculiar funk in the air, make sure you pay attention to those details in your own abode. I'm not in the business of trying to impress anyone, but I don't want my guests to worry that we don't do laundry or wash our hands.

4.) Just do you. I say this a lot when it comes to running and working out, but it applies to this time of year as well. Every TV show, movie, magazine and store will drill it into your subconscious that you will never be prepared. There are so many decorations! The Jones are hosting a fondue holiday party and you should, too! Just one more lawn ornament! WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU DON'T HAVE CHRISTMAS THEMED BATHMATS?! ARE YOU STUPID?!

Don't buy into it. Just because you did things a certain way growing up or you worry that the neighbors are doing more for the holiday than you are doesn't mean you should succumb to the pressure of doing things exactly the same way yourself. Develop you own traditions and rituals. Forgo some others. Christmas is already a month long, you don't need to add to the stress by setting unrealistic expectations on yourself.