Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Be the Change You Wish to See...

In the age of lightning-fast internet, social media, and 24-hour news networks, it's easy to get the story wrong. The infamous quote, "Be the change you wish to see in the world," has been attributed to Gandhi, time and again. But a New York Time's article tells us his words have been slightly tampered with. The closest quote follows:  

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.

It is no secret that my husband and I have gone through substantial personal change and growth within the last year. I completed a half-marathon before kicking the running habit in favor of a new CrossFit bandwagon, which hubby gladly jumped on board, and we completely changed our diets in favor of a Paleolithic lifestyle for a 30-day challenge which has managed to stick around for the last six months. We've seen physical improvement, both in appearance and in gym performance, as well as psychological improvements, constantly challenging ourselves to do more than we ever thought possible, gaining confidence along the way.

But our reasoning for making these changes in our lives isn't purely selfish. Like Gandhi, we recognize that change starts with us, but it doesn't end with us.

Okay. I'm not trying to compare myself to Gandhi. Those shoes are way too huge for my tiny, feminine feet to fill. "Peace on earth and fitness for all mankind" wasn't exactly Gandhi's credo, but it's a worthy one, nonetheless.

While we make these changes in our own lives and learn about the benefits of an alternative lifestyle, we try our best to educate and encourage those around us, without infringing on their own free will, obviously. How exactly do we do this? By dragging everyone we know into the box (CrossFit to English translation: the gym), buying several copies of The Paleo Solution and sharing them with friends and family, sharing recipes to encourage others to give them a try, and talking about CrossFit non stop.

So far, we've made a few converts of friends and family members, but why stop there? Lately, I've been working on a few co-workers and random people I pass on the street or in stores. True story. It helps to wear CrossFit Lakás gear when out and about, and approach anyone who tries to read your shirt.

It's a family thang.
Today, we convinced my brother-in-law to complete a travel WOD with us, called 20 Pieces of Angie:
20 Rounds for Time of:
5 pull-ups
5 push-ups
5 sit-ups
5 squats

We did jumping pull-ups, as I'm fairly certain I'm not quite capable of completing 100 strict pull-ups just yet. Results follow in order of performance:
Me: 14:43
Bro: 27:34
Hubster: 13:45

Not too shabby for his second CrossFit WOD in the history of ever, second only to an AMRAP 7:00 of Burpees that we talked him into back in July. He felt much more encouraged by completing this workout than he did after burpees. Best of all, he told me he couldn't have made it through the workout without me coaching him and cheering him on. Best. Feeling. Ever.

In keeping with my commitment to accountability, I am again making my New Year's resolutions declarations publicly. Hey, it worked for 2012, so let's give it a go.

In 2013, I will continue to try to improve upon myself and effect positive change in those around me. I will do my best to educate myself and those I care about in health and fitness. I will continue to nurture my relationship with God by spending more time in Church and worship. I will continue to cherish the time I spend with my family members, especially the elderly ones who have been through so much in the last year. And lastly, I will continue to challenge myself in adventures and endeavors that I previously thought unfathomable, starting this spring with another CrossFit related challenge. More on that to come!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Crab Cakes and Paleo - That's What Maryland Does?

Alright. I've come out of hiding. By request. And by force.

Lately, I've been hearing a lot of the question, "so what CAN you eat?!" Um... seriously?

ANYTHING I WANT! ...but prepared differently.

I said it. My hubby and I eat all the same foods those "regular" people eat, only we eat it grass-fed, free of antibiotics and growth hormones, and gluten/dairy free. Simple enough, right?

Here are a couple simple recipes to prove how easy it is to create a comfort meal that won't cause you to feel completely guilty after you eat it.

Fried Chicken - Paleo Style
The Colonel's got nothing on this recipe!
1 cup Almond Flour
Iodized Sea Salt
Dried Parsley
Garlic Powder
Cayenne Pepper
Ground Mustard
Salt and Black Pepper
Coconut Oil (For Pan Frying)
1 Egg
2 lbs of Cage-free, Grass-fed Chicken Breasts (sliced thin)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put a dollop of coconut oil in a frying pan on the stove at medium-high heat. It should be enough to coat the bottom of the pan, so adjust your amount based on the pan size.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. I never measure the herbs and spices when I make this recipe; I just kind of wing it and season it to taste. The mixture should be slightly reddish if you like it with a little kick.
  4. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl.
  5. Dip a chicken breast in the egg.
  6. Toss the chicken with the dry ingredients, taking care to completely coat with flour and spices.
  7. Place the chicken in the hot oil, and cook for 2 minutes per side, until browning.
  8. Remove the breasts (ooh la la) from the hot pan and place them on a cooling rack on a baking sheet.
  9. Bake the chicken in the oven for 10 minutes to cook through.
  10. Eat hot and crispy!
I served the fried chicken with some sugar snap peas, which I boiled on the stovetop, and some organic cinnamon apple sauce (with no sugar added, the apple is plenty sweet on its own!).

Maryland Crab Cakes
1 lb Wild-Caught Crab Meat (I prefer lump)
1/3 cup Almond or Coconut Flour
2 tbsp dried Parsley
1 boat load of Old Bay Seasoning (to taste)
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 Egg
2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup of Spicy Brown Mustard
Juice of 1 Lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Whisk the egg in the bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, excluding the crab meat.
  4. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add the crab meat to the bowl, and use your hands to mix, careful not to break up the lumps!
  6. Form cakes with your hands and place on a prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. When they begin to set, I like to turn on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the tops.
  8. Sprinkle the tops with dried Parsley and Old Bay and serve!
I served the crab cakes with a side of sugar snap peas, boiled on the stovetop again, and some stovetop Butternut Squash. I put 1 tbsp of organic butter in a pan with some olive oil, tossed in the squash, and sprinkled with parsley and Old Bay Seasoning. I swear to promise you, it tasted like I was eating grilled cheese. Not sure what that was about, but it was delicious.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Curried Scallop Kebabs

Oh the deliciousness!

I have an obsession with scallops. They're kind of my go-to seafood. They're super simple to cook, and quick too. You really cannot go wrong ordering them at a seafood restaurant because, really, how can you mess them up?! (Provided they're wild caught, of course)

I don't have a picture of this recipe because it was way too delicious to let stand on the plate for a photo, but I guarantee you they look as delicious as they taste.

Curried Scallop Kebabs
2 lbs Sea Scallops (Wild Caught)
1 Zucchini (sliced in 1/4-1/2 inch thick rounds)
1 Yellow Squash (sliced in 1/4-1/2 inch thick rounds)
Dozen Grape Tomatoes (or more)
2 tsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
2 tbsp Olive Oil

  1. Skewer all the ingredients and brush with olive oil.
  2. Mix all the spices in a small bowl and sprinkle over the skewers.
  3. Grill those beauties until cooked (about 5 minutes per scallop side)!
I let my scallops char up a little bit for some extra flavor. To tell the truth, I have a rogue flame in my grill that decides what to char, regardless of my preference. (I could use a grill for Christmas. Hint, hint, Mom!)

Monday, July 9, 2012

My First Marathon (WOD)

So remember last week when I was waxing poetic about the year so far and I said that I had changed my goals and that I no longer had interest in completing a full marathon? Well, that changed the same day the post went live.

I completed my very first marathon last Monday... a marathon WOD, that is.

Ok whatever it isn't the same thing. Except I'm pretty sure this 40 minute workout, 60 minutes for some people, was more intense than running a full marathon. I can certainly say it was more intense than the half marathon I ran in just over 2 hours.

So what all did this mammoth of a WOD (workout of the day to those of you who are unfamiliar with CrossFit) entail? I'm glad you ask, because I'm about to tell you!

2 Rounds for Time of:
26 Toes to Bar
200m Run
26 Box Jumps (24 in. for men, 20 in. for women)
200m Run
26 Kettlebell Swings (1.5 poods for men, 1 pood for women)
200m Run
26 Walking Lunges
200m Run
26 Push-ups
200m Run
26 Sit-ups (with ab mat)
200m Run
26 Air Squats
200m Run

That's about 1.75 miles uphill in addition to all the strength workouts for those of you keeping track.

Now I will admit, I did not do the workout as prescribed. I did 11 Toes to Bar in the first round and finished with knees to elbows, then did knees to elbows on the second round. I also did push-ups on my knees in the second round. Annnnnd I was also having problems with my shoulder so I did only .75 pood instead of 1 pood, but scalability is what CrossFit is all about.

Nevertheless, this workout kicked my butt.

I finished first in my class with a time of 40 minutes and 15 seconds. My hubby followed me, completing the workout as prescribed (he's a rock star) in 51 minutes and 17 seconds. We both went back out on that blasted hill to help one of our fellow gym members finish out her last 200 meters.

That's one of the things I like most about CrossFit is the camaraderie. The CrossFit gym has become like a second family. We see these people more often than we see our own families, so I suppose it makes sense. Everyone in the gym is always encouraging, never disparaging. We constantly push each other to do more, congratulate each other on our successes, and console each other on our failures. It's an atmosphere that you cannot appreciate or understand without being a part of it.

And thus I leave you with this little bit of inspiration and insight to CrossFit:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

On Independence day, we celebrate the birth of our nation and our Independence from the motherland.

I celebrated our independence by baking this beautiful trifle recipe from The Urban Poser.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Mid-Year Monday

Congratulations, folks! We have made it half way through 2012. Now, I don't want to get you too excited, but that means that there are only 175 days until Christmas! Be still my heart!

With that exciting news out of the way, I thought it might be nice to do a mid-year reflections post to see how closely I have followed my New Year's declarations that I made back in January. For those of you less inclined to click sketchy links in blog posts, here's a quote from my New Year's Reflections post:

In 2012, I will run my first half-marathon and my first marathon if all goes according to plan. I intend to run more, read more, and stress less. I am determined to spend more time with family and less time stressing over work. Much less time stressing over work. I will nurture my relationship with God and spend more time in Church and worship. I will be a better version of myself. The best version I can be.

Let's see how I've fared:

In 2012, I will run my first half-marathon and my first marathon if all goes according to plan. I intend to run more, read more, and stress less. I am determined to spend more time with family and less time stressing over work. Much less time stressing over work. I will nurture my relationship with God and spend more time in Church and worship. I will be a better version of myself. The best version I can be.

I did in fact run my first half-marathon back in March. It was a great success if I do say so myself. I hope that it isn't the last one I ever run, because I'd really like to crush that two hour time given the chance to do it again.

The first marathon hasn't happened, nor do I intend for it to happen. Having trained all through the winter for a half-marathon gave me some great insight into the time commitment and effort that goes into training for these great events. It is also a heck of a lot of stress on the body. I gained weight. I was constantly sore. And did I mention the time commitment?

Unfortunately, the marathon goal, like so many others, has fallen by the wayside (anyone remember when I wanted to go to culinary school?). I am not necessarily disappointed by this, though. This goal has been replaced by CrossFit, which, if you know me at all, has taken over my entire life and has encouraged many changes in my life for the better. How can you be disappointed by that?

Moving on.

With the new job, comes a sigh of relief and the ability to breathe easier. I no longer have to stress about office politics, finding work for myself to do, and proving myself among my peers. The new work environment has been positively uplifting thus far, and the quality of life that has been gained in simply a week from the lesser commute is a blessing.

Spending more time with my hubby and puppy and less time in the car contributes to the completion of my next goal. But even further, I have seen my in-laws on several occasions this year, met some of hubby's extended family for the first time this spring, and have seen my friends on a fair share of occasions and even have plans for a west coast visit later this year. I flew to Florida to spend time with my own family during a particularly trying time with my grandfather's brain tumor, and I have made plans to visit both of my sisters later this month in their respective locations. This has been a great year for fostering existing relationships and growing new ones, with the new family I've gained both in the gym and in church.

Which brings me to my next goal. So far this year, I am proud to say, my husband and I have been regular attenders and contributors at the Church of Christ. Though we attend on the regular, we have yet to make the commitment of joining. Baby steps I suppose. Luckily, the minister married us in October and knows the hubby likes to make well informed decisions, and when he makes a commitment, he makes it for life.

Notice how I sort of skipped over the part about reading more? Well, I haven't been breezing through as many novels as I would have hoped, but I have substantially grown my blog roll, especially in the regards to healthy eating and living. I finally finished the Harry Potter series and am currently in the middle of four separate books. New goal: Finish these four books by Christmas (which I must remind you is only 175 days away!).

All in all, 2012 has been a fantastic year. My family and I have been incredibly blessed. I thank God daily for all the ways He is working in our lives and pray that He continues to use me to carry out His plans.

I am very excited to enter into the second half of the year and move closer to, you guessed it, Christmas.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Quick Recipe Roundup

I think the reason I enjoy cooking on the weekends so much more than during the week is twofold:
  1. On the weekends, I have the focus and assistance of my favorite sous-chef, the hubster. He makes cooking complex meals a breeze, if he can keep up.
  2. I have so much more time on the weekends to focus on every aspect of the meal and I don't feel rushed to get it done.
All in all, weekend cooking is just more enjoyable and less stressful. I get to experiment and discover new recipes. I find it therapeutic to have an involved baking or cooking session after a hard week at work, or in the gym. Hopefully that will all change since I started my new job this week. More on that later...

It all starts with breakfast...

Saturday's breakfast before heading to the gym needs to be filling, full of fiber, but nothing that will sit heavy in our stomachs while we motivate our butts to get in gear. Enter my new favorite item on our breakfast menu, my super special smoothie.

Nom Nom Smoothie
1 cup almond milk
1 cup spinach (packed)
1/2 banana (sliced)
2 tbsp almond butter
handful of blueberries
2 strawberries (cut in half)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp honey
  1. Put the ingredients in the blender, in order, and liquefy! 

Super simple, and super nom nom. Great for a quick breakfast before the gym, or before work in the morning. The Almond Milk and Almond Butter provide the protein, the spinach provides the fiber, and the fruits provide lots of vitamins while covering up the spinach. Seriously, you wouldn't know the spinach was there if it weren't green.

All of the nutrients are more quickly and easily absorbed by your body in the liquefied form as well, but you may not feel full for very long. I recommend following up with a mid-morning snack of raw nuts (I like a mixture of walnuts, almonds and cashews).

It continues with lunch...

One of my new favorite foods is avocado, in any form. Avocado has become its own food group in my eyes. I have been finding ways to incorporate it into almost every meal. I'm like the old lady in the Frank's Red Hot commercials, but with avocado. I put this ish on everything.

Now that we are full-speed ahead into the summer heat, a nice cold lunch is in order. Avocado, being the versatile fruit that it is (for real, y'all, it's a fruit), is the perfect ingredient for a cooling, summer lunch.

Shrimp and Avocado Salad
1 avocado (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1 pound of shrimp (cooked and cooled)
juice of 1 lime
cilantro to season
  1. Toss shrimp and avocado in a bowl. 
  2. Pour lime over mixture.
  3. Sprinkle with Cilantro.
  4. Toss to coat.

Tada! Super simple, and scrumptious for a summer day.

And now for your paleolithic pleasure...

One thing that people seem to be really fond of and unable to let go of is their pasta. Sure it may hold the cause for many modern day diseases that could very well put you in an early grave, but it's still delicious, and as addictive as cocaine (Don't believe me? Ask Dr. Oz).

My dad called me the other day and asked what I was making for dinner. "Spaghetti," I casually replied. **screeeeeeeech** "I thought you don't eat pasta anymore!" he shouted on the other end of the line.


Paleo Spaghetti with Mushroom Sauce 
2 zucchinis (cut julienne style)
1 lb ground (grass-fed) beef
1 can organic tomato puree (no sugar)
1 medium sweet onion (chopped)
5 sliced mushrooms (or more, whatever tickles your fancy)
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp olive oil (this is an estimate, I really just pour it on)
Italian herbs and spices to season (parsley, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, black pepper)
  1. Brown the meat with the onion and garlic in a large skillet.
  2. Place the zucchini in a separate skillet and pour olive oil over to lightly coat. Toss the zucchini until it becomes soft, like a limp noodle.
  3. Meanwhile, when the meat has cooked fully, add the tomato puree, mushrooms and spices to taste.
  4. When the noodles (by noodles, I of course mean zucchini) have softened, add them to the sauce and stir all to coat.
  5. Serve hot!
Hubby mentioned he was missing pasta, so I surprised him with this dish. He was not disappointed, and I'm fairly certain you won't be either!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

If You Can't Stand the Heat...

Everyone has heard the saying, "If you can't stand the heat, try, try again!" What?! Did I mess that up? Well I'm going with it.

Unless you live under a rock somewhere other than the East Coast, then you know the entire eastern seaboard has been under severe heat advisories and, in some cases, heat warnings during these first two days of summer. A reasonable person would heed these warnings and stay in their plush, air conditioned home.

That's me on Tuesday. I sweat. A lot.

However, nobody has ever accused me of being terribly reasonable, and, as a CrossFitter, I find it my duty to push my limits.

Well I found out what my limits were yesterday regarding the 100+ degree heat indices and I was a little disappointed in myself. But disappointment does not come without its lessons learned. And what kind of a blogger would I be if I did not share this wealth of knowledge in disappointment with my readers so you don't have to share the same disappointment.

Despite the extreme heat and my history of heat exhaustion, I decided to push through with my WOD at my regularly scheduled 5 pm class yesterday. I was feeling great after my warm-up. There was a breeze on the run and I was feeling confident. I did a few warm-up cleans to prepare for the WOD (The Chief), and found myself lifting my heaviest weight yet. The 78# cleans were a breeze once I worked out some technique issues. But I digress...

3...2...1... GO!

I pushed through my first two rounds of the WOD feeling strong, but going into the third heat (you like that pun?) I began to feel dizzy and even a little bit faint. I muscled through the cleans, nearly failing on the third, and struggled through my push-ups. It was the squats where I lost it.

Lesson 1: DO NOT CLOSE YOUR EYES: During my fourth squat, I closed my eyes for only a moment and was overwhelmed by the loss of one of my senses. My head was reeling trying to recover from the dehydration and from the loss of balance from closing my eyes.

Lesson 2: KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO: I still had nearly a minute left in my round after those squats but knew there was no point in pushing through. I made the decision to add that remaining 53 seconds to my minute of rest. This seemed like a brilliant idea and would have made my recovery much better if only...

Lesson 3: DO NOT SIT IN THE MIDDLE OF A WOD: Sitting down in the middle of the WOD is pretty much the equivalent of jumping on the bus that picks up stragglers when you aren't keeping pace at a race. It says, "I GIVE UP!" Your body, despite your best efforts to convince it, will not come back from that. I am convinced that if I had not sat down, I could have gotten through at least one more round, but at what cost?

Lesson 4: LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY: After the failed workout, and my subsequent return to what is considered normalcy by my standards, my trainer reminded me that everyone has their off days and that I had already done more than other people had done just by showing up. Take that, cherry pickers! Jk. It was encouraging in light of the fact that I was really kicking myself at this point. But had I pushed myself too far yesterday, and made myself sick, would I be as amped up to get back in the gym today or would I head home after work to curl up with my dog and hide under the covers in my bedroom with the AC cranking??

Hmm, I definitely see the appeal of the second option...
Getting back into the gym today will hopefully help me build up a tolerance for the heat, although it did come on rather quickly. I may push back to the 7pm class until this heat wave breaks. I am still undecided on that final point, but I have a few hours to make up my mind.

If you haven't already, please go like the new Fit For Life Wife fan page on Facebook. This gives me the opportunity to interact more with readers and to share on the go!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Simple Summer Supper -- Paleo Style

Happy Summer Solstice! Today the sun will be at the highest point in the sky, we will experience the longest sunshine-filled day of the year, and we enter into the summer season. When it comes to cooking, there's no better way to represent summer than by grilling.

Oh, how colorful!

Grilling is one of the easiest ways to create a simple, summer supper -- Paleo style! So grab your skewers, any number of (organic) vegetables, and your cage-free chicken, and let's get grilling.

These particular chicken kebabs feature onion, green and red bell peppers, squash, mushrooms and pineapple. Once the veggies are on the skewers, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle your spices. I use a blend of cumin, pepper and sea salt.

We marinate our meats in homemade marinades to avoid any preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, or any other additives we find not delightful. These chicken breasts were marinated in freshly squeezed lime juice, garlic, and cilantro.

Leave the skewers on the grill with the flames just licking at them (to give them a charred flavor) until the chicken is fully cooked. Depending on the desired texture of the squash, you may want to put them on the grill before the rest of the kebabs as they take a little longer to soften than the other veggies.

And voila! You've got a delicious, nutritious, summer meal that any caveperson would enjoy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Not Dead Fred, and other fun tales!

And like a phoenix, I rise from the ashes... or something like that. This blog is more similarly aligned with "Not Dead Fred" from Monty Python's Spamalot. If you're still around, thank you for not removing me from your blog roll during my extended absence from writing.

It has been a busy month for me, and there are a lot of changes in my life. Mostly for the better, as far as I can see.

I told you mid-May about my husband and I embarking on a paleolithic adventure. The 30-Day Paleo Challenge has ended at our gym, and proven to be much easier than we originally thought it would be. I did not win the challenge officially among the contestants in the gym (I got a little crazy at a wedding towards the end of the challenge and gave up my running for third), but both my husband and I consider ourselves winners in that we have discovered this new, amazing and healthy lifestyle of living.

Shh... he's taking a nap because he is sleepy from eating wheat.
Never before have we had as much energy, confidence, and zest for life as we have this passed month. Not to mention, we tried to re-introduce some grains and high-fructose corn syrup into our diets over the weekend to clean out the house of non-paleo friendly foods, and well, the resulting digestive anomaly was enough to make the energizer bunny take a spill.

If you are unfamiliar with the paleo lifestyle and how to rid yourself of indigestion, acne, diabetes and other modern diseases, read this book. It will change your life.

The competitors in the challenge performed three baseline workouts prior to the start of the challenge to repeat upon completion and compare results. Here are my pre-paleo results:

Max Deadlift: 163 lbs
Mile Run: 8:31
Helen: 15:01;.75 pood Kettlebell, #4 & #1 Band on the Pull-ups

Here are my post-paleo results:
Max Deadlift: 173 lb (10# PR)
Mile Run: 7:50 (41 sec PR)
Helen: 15:09; .75 pood Kettlebell, #3 & #1 Band on the Pull-Ups

Check out that set-up!

As you can see, my strength and stamina have improved across the board over the last month. What's that? You say I did not improve on Helen? Tsk tsk. My time went up by eight seconds, but my power output actually increased. I still woefully use bands to assist in my pull-ups. Try as I might, my max effort pull-up still requires a #1 band, but I digress. I went down in resistance, but managed to keep a time about par to my pre-paleo workout, thus having a greater power output, and thus, improvement.

Not only have I seen changes in strength and energy, but I have gone down two pants sizes, making my closet seemingly bare. I purchased all new pants for work and a few skirts,  but unfortunately I'm that awkward height between petite and regular pants length where petite is too short, and regular is too long, so my pants are currently at the alterations shop.

Warning: Paleo is not kind on your wallet. Eating organic foods and grass-fed meats will cause you to have more energy, which will cause you to work out more often, which will cause you to build muscle and burn fat, which will cause you to look incredibly sexy naked, but terrible in all your clothes that are now too baggy for you, causing you to have to go on shopping sprees and check yourself out in the fitting room mirrors (purr you sexy kitten!), causing your credit card bill to be unbelievably high for the first month or so. Your husband may also experience a rise in sex drive when you bring home your new mini skirts that you bought for work. Just sayin'. TMI?! You'll get over it.

For anyone who thinks the paleo lifestyle is too difficult, I will say this: It is easily done if you make it a priority.

So many people tell me it's not possible with their busy lifestyle. I work full time and have a two hour commute daily and I seem to be doing just fine with it. I do not have kids, but I have a very needy dog who comes pretty darn close to having a child. He even talks back. Frequently.

Kutless puts it plainly in the song "What Faith Can Do": It doesn't matter what you've heard, impossible is not a word. It's just a reason for someone not to try.

If you try paleo, you will see the benefits and you will likely stick with it. My husband and I are now fully committed to living an 80/20 lifestyle, where we maintain 80% paleo diet but allow ourselves cheats and treats 20% of the time. I track all of my meals in BeyondTheWhiteboard to keep me honest. It's a really great tool for CrossFitters.

Speaking of that two hour commute, I have more good news. I got a new job. Locally. THANK THE GOOD LORD! I start Monday. Many blessings over this last month and so many exciting things coming in the future. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Week in Food Photos

So I am obsessed with food. No surprise there.

It nourishes the body. It comforts you when you feel low. It gives you the fuel you need to get through a long run or a tough workout.

Food. Is. Awesome.

As such, I figured I would show you a little of what I have been eating this week, the second week of the Paleo challenge, with a few recipes sprinkled in.

Please remember, I am not a photographer. But I hope these photos make your mouth water anyway.

I started my week with these beauties: Dairy Free Almond Flour Pancakes (with blueberries)

Photo Credit to The Urban Poser

These pancakes freeze and reheat later in the week marvelously, so prepare generous portions!

Sunday evening's dinner left me with leftovers to reheat for lunch. Hubby prepared the stuffed peppers from the book Paleo Comfort Foods.

Photo Credit to Paleo Comfort Foods

I also sampled a crust-less quiche from the same book.

Feel free to get creative with the vegetables you include.

Cut into 12 servings and serve or freeze.

It, too, freezes and reheats nicely throughout the week. Pair it with a few strips of Sunday Bacon or some sliced ham.

While I was preparing the quiche, I had some scallops sizzling in a pan and I steamed some green beans, topped with Paprika, garlic powder and a touch of sea salt.

Those of you who know me well, know that scallops are a staple in my diet. It just so happens that Giant has the best wild caught sea scallops to sustain my Paleo lifestyle.

And finally, the grand finale...

Gulf Shrimp grilled in Coconut Oil.

Served over a bed of greens and tomatoes.

Topped with avocado and squeezed lime juice.

I am considering changing my blog name to "An Ode to the Avocado." I visited a friend in San Diego a few years ago and caused a scene over the fact that every restaurant we went to ruined my favorite dishes by adding Avocado to them.

Seriously, if you wanted a BLT, you had to request a BLTA without the A.

Obviously, my taste buds have become much more sophisticated evolved since then.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Run for Trophies!

Every year since we moved down to our little corner of the earth, Hubby and I have run the Leatherneck 5K to benefit the Semper Fi Fund to support injured Marines. If you have the time to click that link, you will learn that the Semper Fi Fund is an amazing foundation and you will see why we run each year.

This year, I made it a goal to set a new personal record on the course. I also privately set the goal of placing in this race; Not necessarily this year, but at some point in my lifetime. Going into this weekend, I had no idea, and even doubted, that this year I would achieve both goals.

The Leatherneck 5K is a smaller race; nothing compared to the tens of thousands of people I ran with at the Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon series back in March. The draw for the race is the cause and the beautiful scenery.

The 3.1 mile course begins at one of the finest Naval golf courses in the nation and wraps down and back along the Chesapeake Bay. Many of the runners are active duty or retired military, which makes the run humbling to say the least.

My time last year was a solid 30:32. Not too shabby, considering this was well before I decided to train for a half-marathon. This was back when I considered myself a graduate of the Couch to 5K Running Plan.

Since then, I have obviously added to my mileage significantly, having trained for and run a half-marathon and other races. Following the half in March, I began training for the Sole of the City 10K, which unfortunately we were unable to race due to a death in the family.

During this time, Hubby and I also joined a CrossFit gym. Between running and training at the gym, my body was going through the most intense physical training it has seen since climbing out of the womb. Furreals.

As I grew to love CrossFit, I began to focus less on my running training. I was still getting my interval sessions in on Wednesdays, but the rest of my planned training nights were dominated by CrossFit. Eventually, I fell off the running wagon all together. Our gym recently began a Paleo Challenge where you are rewarded extra points for extra workouts. Seemed like a no-brainer! Ditch the treadmill for some heavy weight-lifting aerobics.

It wasn't until Friday night before the race did I begin to doubt my ability. It had been a couple weeks since my last run greater than 1 mile. Was I even capable of completing the race without stopping at this point? (Yeah, seriously. I asked myself that.)

We arrived at the course Saturday morning to the most beautiful day a runner could ask for. Sun shining as it climbed into the sky. A cool breeze coming off the bay. It was perfect. Hubby and I did a lap around the parking lot to get warmed up after collecting our race numbers and souvenir t-shirts. We chatted with a friend from the gym, then took our places at the starting line.

The officials counted us down and we were off. I mean really off. Hubby and I shot across the start at a pace of 7:30. Slowly, I started trying to pull us back. It wasn't until about a half mile in that we settled at a comfortable 8:45 pace.

I cannot say how proud of the hubster I am for keeping pace with me as long as he did. It wasn't until a quarter mile after the second mile marker that he had to pull back his pace.

On my final mile, I was starting to struggle a bit. But my CrossFit training has taught me not to stop until it's done.

On the turn, I was the 10th female in line. Yes, I counted.

On my final stretch, I passed one of those women, making me the ninth female finisher overall. I was trying desperately to catch any other female runner, hoping it would be enough to get a taste of running glory. Unfortunately, the only other people I passed on my way to the finish line were men. That's right. I was passing men on the final stretch. Grown, military-trained men. I can live with that.

My final tenth of a mile was an all out sprint. I must have looked like a gazelle coming across the finish line because a lot of people started cheering really loudly when I began my sprint.

If only I looked this majestic.

I wish I could say it was a beautiful moment when I crossed the finish line, but I was handed a Popsicle stick and told to go stand in line to record my time as I was choking back vomit. It happens.

Thankfully, I was able to hold my composure and grab a water bottle on the way to the judge's table. No Gatorade for this cavegirl. 

We hung around for a while to hear the results at the awards ceremony. I was sizing myself up against the other runners who placed before me guessing at who was in my age group, shaking with anticipation while I waited. When they called the third place runner's time in my division, I was thrilled! I was a full 3 minutes faster than the person who placed third in the women's 19-29 year old division.

My time of 26 minutes and 53 seconds won me this little beauty right here. My first running trophy! And I couldn't be more proud.

Who cares that there were only about 300 people who ran the race... =)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Slow Cooker Wednesday is Back!

So for a while, when I was planning our weekly meals, Wednesday became known as "Slow Cooker Wednesday" in our house. Since living a Paleo lifestyle is kind of a full time job and takes oober amounts of food prep (at least for me anyhow), I decided to bring Slow Cooker Wednesday back, Paleo style!

Holy delicious pork loin!

I don't have a picture because, well, I ate it already. My plate anyway. (The food that was on it, not the plate itself) And it's not amazingly attractive in the slow cooker itself.

So, just, I don't know... use your imagination!

I found the original recipe here. Sounds yummy, right?

Too bad I really, really, really, was not in the mood for more tomato based foods.

The meatballs we had earlier this week were delicious, but I did not want that acidity three days in a row. P.S. Those meatballs have some heat to them! Hubby made them earlier this week and I questioned his ability to follow the recipe, but apparently it really called for all that spice. Yowza! Super yummy though.

Back to that pork loin...

I adapted that recipe a little bit to make something a little milder for our mid-week meal.

Here's what I came up with...

Kelly's Paleo Crock Pot Pork Loin
Pork Loin (obviously)((less obviously, I used about 1.75 pounds and it fed Hubby and I and we have plenty for leftovers)
1 large zucchini, sliced
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cups of Chicken Stock
Dried basil, garlic, pepper and salt to taste

And here is what I love about slow cooker Wednesday...

1. Throw all ingredients in the crock pot. Set that bad boy to high for 7 hours, and sit back and enjoy the magic. 

I served this meal, errr, rather hubby served this meal because I was at the gym this afternoon, with a side of green beans. I'm already looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Make sure you put some of those zucchini and celery on your plate as well! If you don't, you're missing out!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kickin' It Old School

Monday starts the new challenge of kickin' it old school. 2 million years-ish old school to be more exact descriptive.

I'm talking about the 30 day Paleo Challenge that just began at my CrossFit gym.

"What is paleo," you might be wondering. The word Paleo is short for Paleolithic, as in the paleolithic era.Think cavemen.

The Paleo diet is more than just a fad diet (it has to be, it's been around for more than 2 million years). It's a way of living.

Man, as he has evolved today, has survived for millions of years (I know, I know, I'm repeating myself, but seriously if it's been around this long it can't be bad) on a diet of food items that can be hunted or gathered. Basically, if you can kill it, pick it off a tree or pick it up out of the ground, you can eat it.

The video below does a pretty good job of describing what foods are Paleo friendly.

Another part of the Paleo diet is exercise. Cavemen didn't run 26.2 miles a day to get their exercise (unless being chased by a predator). More likely, they got their exercise in short spurts by hunting their foods, climbing through perilous terrain, lifting rocks, etc. I am not recommending you go out to a local rock quarry and start throwing rocks and granite slabs around. I like to think we have evolved a little over the last two million years...

CrossFit is perfect for the Paleo lifestyle because exercise is based on high intensity, functional movements. In short, you get a bad@$$ workout in a short period of time.

The 30 Day Paleo Challenge is based on a point system. Meals, exercise and sleeping habits all have an impact on the outcome of the challenge. Additionally, there are three baseline workouts that are performed to compare your level of fitness before and after the challenge.

Max Deadlift: 163 lbs (Current)
Mile Run: Completing on Wednesday
Helen: 15:01;.75 pood Kettlebell, #4 & #1 Band on the Pull-ups

To prepare for the challenge, I've purchased two cookbooks (Paleo Comfort Foods and The Paleo Solution); a boat load of raw nuts; grass-fed, organic beef, pork and chicken; cage free eggs (which I already ate, anyway); and a bunch of organic fruit. It actually wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be!

Then today on my way home from the gym, I stopped by the Good Earth Natural Foods Company and grabbed some more organic, farm fresh vegetables that I couldn't find at BJ's or Giant. How awesome is that? I get to eat healthy and support the local farmers. I love it!

I cannot wait to share some of my favorite recipes with you and my progress and how amazing I feel on this new part of my healthy journey.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Your Body is Your Temple

It takes a lot of energy and hard work to follow a healthy diet and exercise routine. Aside from making decisions that impact your daily routine, sometimes your diet affects those around you.

Sometimes it means offering up a new healthy dinner item that a family member or friend had never previously tasted and rocking their world at the possibilities of healthier food. Or sometimes it means putting off spending time with the puppy to put in more time at the gym. Or it can even mean asking your family to change their choice of restaurant for dinner so you have healthier options.

It is not hard to imagine that spending all this time and energy on yourself can make you feel a little selfish, and even a burden on others, but it is important to remember why you expend these efforts.

My reason? Aside from wanting to be healthy and stick around to love on my hubby for a long, long time and produce beautiful babies to love and care for...

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God 
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
- 1 Corinthians 3:16

If you cannot find the motivation or dedication to workout and be healthy for yourself or your family, do it for God and the holy Spirit that dwells within you. Just sayin'.
Now isn't that just a divine reason?

In the book of Romans 12:1, Paul encourages us to think of our bodies as a "living sacrifice," that is "holy and pleasing to God." When God asked His believers to sacrifice a goat, did they offer up the weakest goat in their flock? I think not.

All too often, the question is asked, "How do you stay motivated?" The best answer is to make it a priority. Make it a priority to take care of yourself and to put God first, and your actions will follow.

Now that I've shared my motivation, share with me what motivates you?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

TOS - Thoracic Outlet Syndrome or The Only Snag?

When I was about 14 years old, I was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS), a condition wherein excessive pressure is placed on a bundle of nerves that pass into the arm from the neck causing pain and weakness in the arm.

I was a fast pitch softball pitcher and first noticed symptoms of TOS after pitching at an all day tournament. My arm swelled to the point that I could not bend my wrist, and although it's my favorite color, it turned a very unpleasant shade of purple.

My parents took me to a specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, but little was known about TOS or its treatment at the time. They simply told me to remedy the situation by quitting sports. I played softball for another year after that, relinquishing the position of pitcher and taking on second base so I wouldn't have as much strain on my arm, but eventually I gave up softball all together.

Three years ago, my younger sister found she had the same problem while playing softball in high school. Unfortunately, having seen that I had to give up softball, she didn't vocalize that she was having pain, and ended up in the hospital with blood clots.

Knowing more about TOS now than they did over ten years ago, and taking into account the severity of her situation, the doctors recommended surgery to remove the top rib on both her left and right sides to reduce the obstruction of blood flow. She spent quite some time in the hospital first to eliminate the blood clots, then for her surgery. She was restricted from certain activities after her surgery, softball included. She has since recovered; she has two less bones and is all the more cheerful for it. For every ounce of bone she lost, she gained an ounce of sunshine and inspiration.

When my sister was diagnosed, I went back to Hopkins and had a sonogram of my right shoulder to revisit my own TOS. They found I still had restricted blood flow, but not to the extent of my sister's prior to her surgery. The doctor recommended Physical Therapy and wrote me a script.

I did physical therapy for about three months to build up my upper body strength and regain some range of motion in my arm. I am always playing it safe cautious in my workouts so as not to agitate the problem.

I have not had any pain or difficulty with it since my physical therapy... until today.

I was so excited for today's WOD (Shoulder Press, Push Press, Press Jerk),  I didn't even begin to consider whether or not my shoulder was capable. The thought never even crossed my mind until my trainer pointed out that my left arm was carrying most of the weight and I was not locking my right arm.

The little Kelly I used to be would have made excuses and would have quit right then and there. I would have cited pain in my shoulder and headed for the car. Somewhere along the way, whether watching my sister go through surgery for the same condition that plagued me, whether through pushing myself to run further than I ever thought possible, pushing myself passed all reasonable exhaustion in CrossFit, or if it was just a natural progression, I can't say, but somewhere I grew up.

I put on my big girl panties and I got mad. I got mad at my shoulder for having held me back from pursuing my favorite sport in college. I got mad at the doctors for not knowing how to help me sooner. I got mad at myself for not pushing to do more sooner. And I pushed. And better still, I failed.

That's right, I failed. And I'm proud of it.

I maxed out at 58 pounds on the press, 78 pounds on the push press, and 88 pounds on the push jerk. I failed at 63 pounds on the press,  88 pounds on the push press, and 93 pounds on the push jerk.

So why am I so proud that I failed? Because it means I tried.

I cannot know what my limits are without pushing them. Sometimes that means I have to fail. But I cannot tell you how good it felt to throw down that 93 pound bar knowing that I had given it all I have got. After all these years of being too afraid to push myself, I have finally accepted myself for who I am and have become comfortable with where I am, and comfortable with pushing myself further. And I'm going to keep at it.

This is the sexy face my husband gets to come home to everyday.
Isn't he a lucky guy?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What I Love About Sundays

There are so many things I love about Sundays.

Starting with Church. What better way to start the day than by spreading the word of God.

Followed by groceries and flowers. I love keeping fresh flowers in the house! Hubby is a huge fan of protea (pictured above). I've made it a new habit to pick up fresh flowers every Sunday to brighten the entryway throughout the week.

Photo and recipe courtesy A Couple Cooks.

Another thing I love about Sundays is having time to try new recipes. I saw this Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese featured on Sacramento Street earlier this week and pinned it right away for Sunday lunch. It was subsequently re-pinned about 100 times.

I love having a little extra time on Sundays to spend on crafts. This artwork featured above is a gift for a very special little baby girl named Blair. A tutorial for this craft and others like it can be found here.

And last, but certainly not least, I love spending Sundays with my itty bitty family.

What do you love about Sundays?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nothing Says BAMF like Neon Pink Chalk

So I wanted to write a quick post to talk about tonight's workout because I felt like a bad@$$ superstar!

See those numbers written in HOT pink chalk on the gym floor? Those are my reps. There is something completely primal about etching your workout on the gym floor in pink chalk. Ok, so cavemen may not have had pink chalk, but there was red pigment around more than 15,000 years ago, so it's kind of the same thing.

Cavemen probably also never did overhead squats. They were missing out.

Remember my first CrossFit workout post? My first official workout involved overhead squats. I can lift weight over my head, but when I have to squat too, it adds a new degree of difficulty. My technique was awful. My max weight was 40 lbs for a single rep.

Today's workout was as many reps as possible in a single minute, rather than as much weight as possible in a single rep. So naturally, my trainer thought my best form was with an 18 lb bar. I realize that isn't much weight, but I can still celebrate that I successfully stuck out both my butt and my chest for today's squats, and didn't fall on my face. 

Huge improvement in nearly one month!

The"B" stands for Burpees. As in Bob Harper's favorite form of torture exercise. My husband gets pumped up when we watch Biggest Loser now and he recognizes the workouts that Bob prescribes. Don't tell him that I told you he watches the Biggest Loser with me...

The secret to burpees (which a fellow gym member let me in on last week) is to not stop moving. Burpees are just like running. The second you stop, it's over. You lose your momentum and your brain starts to tell you that you can't go on, even when you're body is eager to keep moving.

You. Just. Don't. Stop.

Last, but not least (unless you're counting my reps), was toes to bar. Theoretically, you hang from the pull up bar and lift your toes to touch the bar. But if you're me, it looks a little more like this:

Hey, nobody is perfect. Looks like I have my next exercise to improve upon picked out already.

(Side note: Unfortunately, hubby and I had to miss out on the Sole of the City 10K. We had to attend a funeral instead. If you're looking for a recap of the race, pop on over to Shoulda Ran Faster.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Death by Feather Duster!

Yesterday was a long day. A very long day.

I was ultra productive this weekend, getting in a 5.5 mile run, a lunch with friends, lots of Outlet shopping, Sunday morning Church, grocery shopping, car cleaning, laundry, and some arts and crafts... what I didn't get was ample amounts of sleep.

Monday afternoon included a nice trip to the salon after work. It was a quiet trip, as there were only three stylists working at the time. I enjoyed a nice glass of wine and some good conversation with my stylist (the one who introduced me to CrossFit).

Because we have a 10K race this weekend, this week is a fairly timid week as far as training goes. My intentions were to run an easy two miles when I got home from the salon. At least, those were my intentions pre- drinking a glass of wine at the salon.

When I returned home, I was ready to hit the hay. But as I pulled up to the house, my hubby was sitting on the front porch. Straight away I could tell something was off. We will call this sign number one.

He greeted me pleasantly, and assured me everything was ok as he helped me carry my things inside from the car. Sign number two that things were not right.

As I took my stuffed pepper out of the oven that he had warmed for me from the weekend's leftovers, he offered to get me a glass of water. Sign number three, for those of you who are counting.

And then he dropped the bomb.

"I have a surprise for you," he said. Go on...

Last week, we found out his uncle, who has been ill for quite some time, passed away. We knew his mother would be coming and staying with us as she passed through for the funeral, but I assumed (foolishly, apparently) that it would be later in the week. False.

She is coming today.

**pause for face melting**

After regaining my composure from the initial shock, I shouted, "CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!" I shoved the stuffed pepper into my mouth and leaped from the table to start cleaning.

Now, we by no means have a dirty house. We usually straighten up on the weekends: I dust about once a week just because I can't stand seeing dust on our dark furniture; the toilets typically get cleaned every other weekend; and we recently (about a month ago) did a deep cleaning of the kitchen where I even scrubbed the stove clean.

That being said, with all the running around we have had with just starting CrossFit, cleaning out the cars, and visiting friends and family out of town the passed few weekends, it was a bit of a sty.

Thankfully, the hubster sprung into action as well. I picked up everything off the floor and starting putting items in their rightful places while he and the vacuum roared to life. I started by cleaning off the breakfast bar, then cleaned the bathroom in the basement, then returned to the living room to take down our Christmas wreath (yes, there was still a golden Christmas wreath hanging in my living room ;don't judge, I haven't had time to hang our new Pottery Barn mirrors).

In short, there was no method to my madness. If I had to go somewhere in the house to put something away and I saw something else out of place, it got put in its place. If I was passing by the bathroom on my way to put towels in the laundry, that bathroom got cleaned.

About thirty minutes in, he dropped another bomb on me. His aunt was going to be coming as well.

**more panic ensued with a rejuvenated cleaning effort**

Finally, after two hours of running around and shouting like a crazy person, the house was spotless. We put the two sets of guest sheets in the dryer as we headed out for work this morning. After work, hubby will dress the beds while I am at CrossFit, and then we'll be ready to greet our guests.

Why all this madness to prepare the house, you ask?

I cannot help but feel like how well we keep the house is a representation of how well I care for my husband, or at least I feel that is a possible perception. If the fridge is stocked with healthy food, I motivate him to stay in shape, and the house is clean, I am taking good care of him.

There may or may not be a direct correlation, and I may be crazy a little off center, but I felt like this was a bit of a surprise inspection!

I love my mother-in-law and I really want to impress her and show her that I am taking good car of my hubby. She did such a wonderful job raising him, I feel like anything less would be an insult to her.

On that note, I got very little sleep last night. And while the feather duster wasn't able to kill me, today's CrossFit workout might finish me off. Today's WOD is "Death by Kettlebell."

     2/1.5 pood Kettlebell
     1 kettlebell swing the first minute
     2 kettlebell swings the second minute
     3 the third, continue until you are unable to complete required amount of reps in the minute.
     Score is the last full round of minutes plus number of reps in final partial minute.

See you all on the other side!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I decided to bring back the Wednesday weigh in this week to check my progress since starting my CrossFit regimen. As always, I give the disclaimer that you should not restrict your fitness goals to a number on the scale. In fact, I am including my measurements (**gasp**) with this post because I have seen a drastic change in just a little over a week!

For best results, always measure yourself at the same time of day as your body may fluctuate as many as five pounds throughout the day based on dieting and exercise habits. I choose to take my measurements first thing in the morning as a good baseline.

Along with our CrossFit gym membership, we get access to the website, Here, you can become affiliated with your gym, post Workout of the Day (WOD) results, track your dieting habits and sleep patterns, and keep tabs on your overall health. If you are obsessed with counting calories and keeping a journal of your progress like I am, this is a great new tool to become obsessed acquainted with.

After completing my fundamental sessions and becoming a full-fledged member, I created my BeyondtheWhiteBoard account and got started. One of the first things my hubby and I did was take each others' measurements (height, weight, abdomen, hips, neck, upper arm, squat height, etc.) to accurately track our progress along this journey. The website also allows you to set goals for yourself, whether it be to achieve a result in a specific workout or to obtain a weight loss goal.

Now, I have mentioned before that running is not necessarily the best means to lose weight, especially when training for long distance runs. It is important to give your body the nourishment and energy it needs to function at full capacity. That being said, I had put back on about five pounds through my half-marathon training.

When I weighed in for the first time on April 2, I weighed 132.4 lbs with a body fat percentage of 24.2 percent. Based on those results, I set what I thought was a timid goal weight of 128 pounds (for a BMI of 22) and a lean body fat percentage of 20 percent by June 9 (the day of a dear friend's wedding).

Imagine my surprise when I stepped on the scale this morning to find that not only had I already achieved my weight loss goal, but I had passed it, and I am darn close to achieving my body fat percentage goal as well!

Here is a look at how far I have come since the start of my journey in 2010 at my peak of 154 lbs:

Measurement 1/9/10 4/2/12 4/11/12
Weight (lbs) 154 132.4 127.8
Body Fat (%) N/A 24.2 20.6
Neck (") N/A 12.5 12.5
Abdomen (") 30.5 28.5 27
Hip (") 38 36 35
Upper Arm (") 10.5 10.25 10.5

As you can see, my neck and upper arms have not changed throughout the process. But I can see a difference visually. My upper arms used to be soft and flabby. Now, the 10.5 inches on my upper arm looks lean and toned. I cannot say I have seen much difference in my neck, but when was the last time you looked in a fitness magazine and thought, I wish I had her neck. Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

As for goals from here on out, I will continue to try to build muscle and bring down my percentage of body fat, but I am not terribly concerned in the weight department. So long as I keep a healthy diet (with a few beers and glasses of wine here and there, and let's not forget cake when it's warranted) and stay active, I will measure my success on how I feel and how fabulous my butt looks in my jeans. Just kidding. But seriously.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A New Adventure

Confession: I started writing this post nearly two weeks ago and it's just getting posted. It is not easy to find the time to commute, work, workout, cook, clean house, and write a blog. Oh and let's not forget sleep! It's all about making priorities. And like I posted earlier this year, I plan to spend more time with family (especially in light of recent family illnesses), spend more time focusing on myself and my health, and more time nurturing my relationship with God. So far so good. I'm sorry that my blog has been neglected in the process.

The hubster and I recently started a new chapter in our lives. Chapter one of our married life began with a commitment to getting in better shape. I took that idea and ran with it. I ran 13.1 miles with it. He took that idea and cheered me on from the starting line, to mile 7, to the finish line where he greeted me with flowers. I kid, I kid.

The fact of the matter is, hubby would join me on most of my long runs and would run as far as he could, but running just is not as thrilling and motivating for him as it is for me. I also noticed that while I was enjoying a great aerobic workout, I had slacked off on my strength training that I enjoyed so much in losing weight for the wedding. I was becoming a little soft around the middle and losing some of that muscle definition in my arms I had gotten used to seeing.

So the new goal became to find a workout that would inspire both of us and push us beyond any bounds we had come close to crossing before. Enter CrossFit. A program developed by experts in their fields, "designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience," according to the umbrella website.

If you've never heard about CrossFit or are unsure of what exactly the workouts entail, this video should give you an idea of what we're working with.

I had heard about CrossFit on fitness forums, and I had been curious, but as far as I knew, there were no gyms in the immediate area. Flashback to the end of February. I'm getting my hair done at the salon when a patron asks my hairdresser why he has not seen her at the gym lately. "Oh, I've been doing this thing called CrossFit instead."

HOLD THE PHONE! CrossFit, you say? Where?! I must know!

Apparently, one of my hairdresser's clients and her husband just opened a certified CrossFit gym out of their home in early February and my hairdresser was one of their first clients to sign up. So of course, through the natural progression of band-wagoning, I signed my husband and I up for our fundamental sessions following the half-marathon.

CrossFit workouts are based around nine functional movements. Our three fundamental sessions were taught around these functional movements and the theory of CrossFit, followed by a workout demonstrating the skills we had just learned. Our trainer had warned us before our first workout that CrossFit workouts have been compared to the feeling of being chased by a lion, but you really cannot understand the feeling without trying it for yourself.

As a fair warning, my hubby nearly turned green at our first workout. To top it off, there is a bucket in the corner of the gym etched with names of people who have been so privileged to use it after a workout. On such occasions, their workouts were deemed "Pukie" workouts.

Have I painted a bad picture of what CrossFit is? Because really it is the most traumatic amazing workout experience I have ever had. My favorite part of the whole experience so far has been the camaraderie and social aspect of the gym and its members.

Our classes are small, with a maximum of 4 to 6 people at once. On a few occasions, it has been just my husband and I. But that means specialized attention and critiquing from the trainer. And trust me, my squats can use all the attention they can get.

In addition to specialized support from the trainers, you get the spirit of competition and cheering each other on. There is nothing more motivating during a workout than the thought of passing my hubby during situps and finishing my workout in a faster time. (I should note, I only beat him during the first workout, the one where he nearly turned green, and he has crushed me ever since.)

Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying CrossFit. The workouts are challenging (it really does feel like you've been chased by a lion afterwards) and I am pushing myself to do things I never thought possible. Hubby is getting his cardio and strength workouts in, in a motivating environment where he too is pushing himself outside his comfort zone. And I am still running.

How long I can keep up with my running training schedule and three days a week of CrossFit is yet to be seen, but I have proven to myself that I like a challenge. And I love being told I can't do it, because it makes me try that much harder to prove that I can.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Clarity in Clearwater

For the better part of the last week, I have been in the sunshine state, praying for a miracle; and God has answered those prayers.

My 80-year-old grandfather discovered a Meningioma tumor in his brain in November. At the time it was considered benign, as are most meningiomas, and the diagnosis was to observe the tumor's growth over the next year and see how it was progressing.

Unfortunately, my grandfather started showing symptoms of the tumor shortly thereafter, having seizures that were taking a toll on his fragile body. After more MRIs in mid-March, the tumor appeared to have grown in size by about 20 percent. Surgery was now a necessary reality.

So how did I take this news? That my grandfather, whom I very rarely get to see because he lives in Florida half the year and two hours away the rest of it, was going to be having life-saving surgery? I packed my bags and booked the last flight out on Friday evening after work.

It's not really as heroic as I make it sound. I didn't perform the surgery. I didn't NEED to be there I suppose, but I certainly wanted to be there to give any extra strength and support that I could to my family.

My dad, my sister, my uncle and I flew down Friday evening. We spent the weekend in the sun at the ball field with my grandfather, playing games and enjoying meals together in the evening, and celebrated my grandmother's birthday with a Sunday brunch. You wouldn't even know he was sick or that this roughly 4x4x3 cm monster was slowly wreaking havoc on his brain, aside from his limp and need to walk with a cane.

But when Monday morning came, my aunt showed me pictures of the tumor in his brain from November and from now, and shared with me her research she had done on the tumor type, the hospital where he was to have the surgery, and the surgeon who was to perform the surgery. It made it all very real.

We took my grandfather to a few more appointments that day, to prepare him for the surgery the following morning. We said a family prayer the night before the surgery, all of us in Florida gathering around the phone while other members of my family made a conference call from Maryland. Hand in hand we prayed around the phone.

That phone became the center of my world the following day. Once my grandfather was taken off to surgery, all we could do was wait and pray. A nurse called from the operating room every hour with updates. She would call at quarter to the hour, every hour. It became a habit to sit and stare at the phone at x:45, each hour. When the nurse would be late making the call, I was willing the phone to ring, fearing what it would mean if she didn't call. We were told the surgery would likely take 5 hours, so you can imagine our surprise and anguish when the five hour mark came and went and the doctor was still carving away at the tumor.

Eight hours passed before his status on the waiting room television changed from "OR In," to "OR Out," and then finally to "Recovery In." I about jumped out of the waiting room chair when I saw the status finally change. The doctor successfully removed 95 percent of the tumor, and said my grandfather won't see the tumor again should he live for another 15 years. It was all over, and it has all just begun in so many ways.

We were able to see him about 90 minutes after the surgery. To our delighted surprise, he was already coherent and talking and recognizing our faces as we greeted him in pairs in the Neuro ICU. He was a vision. He was holding our hands and telling us he loved us and that my aunt was his hero and savior.

My aunt who lives in Florida has been his caretaker from the beginning. She did all the research and made all the decisions for his treatment, consulting with the family and keeping everyone informed of the goings-on while we all prayed from afar. She handled the entire thing with such grace and patience, being the beacon of hope for the family, and the rock which my grandmother needed to lean on throughout this entire process.

I learned so much from her over the few days that I was able to spend with her and the stolen moments and conversations about my grandfather, ourselves, and life in general. I came away from this trip with a sense of calm and clarity. A new outlook on what really matters in life. All the stress I put upon myself for things that don't matter... pressure (or a lack thereof) at work, pressure to live up to the expectations of my peers and society, the opinions of others... those things do not matter in the end. Family is what matters. Having things does not matter. Having a sense of purpose in what you do, matters. Giving yourself to those around you that are important to you, matters. Prayer matters. God matters.

Of course I didn't want to return home. My grandfather is making great progress in the hospital, and I would have loved to have seen him make his trip home before I returned to my own, but with my vacation time run out, it was time to return to work and my regular routine.

While I was away, I missed 20+ miles of training, my dear friend's bridal shower, and my husband and puppy; but I know I was in the right place and I was where God wanted me to be. I thank my family, my friends, and mostly my husband for supporting my decision to be with family during this time. Now the next step, or goal as it were, is finding out God's purpose for me and where I should go on from here with this new-found clarity. I have years and years to figure that out, and blessedly, my grandfather will be around for quite a few of them.

Myself, my sister, and my cousin on the boat on our way to our grandmother's birthday brunch.