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Posted on Aug 29, 2012 in Working Out | 14 comments

CrossFit Part Deux

I’d say “Guess what I did last night?” but I’m thinking the title of this post kinda gives it away, huh?

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Please ignore my heinous bug bite.

Yep, a mere six days after my first CrossFit experience, I made my (not so) victorious return to the “box”! The amazing people at CrossFit Annandale are generously providing me with a scholarship (free attendance) in exchange for me sharing my workout experiences, so I figured it was time to get back in the figurative saddle.

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That picture just about sums it up. On the bright side, I felt roughly 83% less throwy-uppy after this time. That means I’m already improving, right? Hahahaha.

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I think I ended up picking a really good class to make my second one, because the types of moves we did and the muscle areas we targeted were completely different than last time. I can see why CrossFitters claim that they never get bored doing this kind of workout, for sure. Yesterday’s workout was much more focused on arms, shoulders, and back, whereas last week’s was all about the quads and glutes.

We started with a warm up outside in the parking lot where we did high knees and butt kicks, then some walking stretches, then a quick round of push ups (on knees, for me) and squats (I’m getting better at these already!). Then we headed inside for the regular workout part, where we alternated between bench pressing and “toes to bar” crunches. Sorry there aren’t any actual workout photos, but I felt a little sketchball asking for someone to take pics of me again, haha.

Since I have never bench-pressed anything in my life (and it was only my 2nd time and all), Coach Tony spent a lot of time taking me through the proper way to do it. I gotta say, I’m really impressed with the amount of personal attention you get at CrossFit. I know that it’s probably different for me because I’m still such a n00b and need help with, um, everything, but still. I think I would liken the experience to group personal training.

Anyway, for the bench press I started with just the 45-lb bar, then added 10 lbs of weight after my first set. I was VERY wobbly, since I’m not used to having to hold up something that can tilt above me, but I think I have the basic idea down for sure. I really need to work on my breathing rhythm most, I think, since exhaling at the wrong time had a definite effect on my ability to push the bar back up.

The toes to bar things were NOT something I could do, however. They involved dangling from a pull-up bar and lifting your feet straight up until they touch the bar where your hands are. Er, yeah. I couldn’t even do the whole dangling from the bar part. So Tony had me do leg lifts on the ground instead, which works the same lower abdominal muscles (of which I have roughly zero, haha). At least I’ve done those before!

After a few sets of those two moves, it was time to move onto the Workout of the Day (WOD). Yesterday’s WOD was an “AMRAP”, which stands for “As Many Reps As Possible.” In essence, we had 10 minutes to cycle through the 3 different sections of the WOD as many times as we could manage.

The first part was to do 5 ring dips. This involves hoisting yourself up on dangling rings, dipping your body weight, and pulling yourself back up. Because my upper arm strength is about the same as my core strength (I’m weeeeeak!), I did dips on a bench instead, and did twice as many (10).

The second part was to do 10 pull ups. Again, can’t do them (yet!) so I did seated pull-ups using the rings that I didn’t use for the actual ring dips (confused yet? Hahaha). I also only had to do 5, which was good, because they were still really hard.

Finally, the last part was to do kettlebell swings! I’ve been seeing/hearing about kettlebells for a long time, so I was actually excited to get to do this. Coach Tony helped me out with my form for a while, and I did a lighter weight than the other girls (16 pounds instead of 35), but I did the regular number of reps (20).

So, ring dips, pull ups, kettlebell swings, repeat! I got through my modified-for-a-weakling cycle 4 times, plus an additional 5 shoulder dips. Whoo! Unlike last time, however, where I was able to do the same exercises as everyone just with lower weight, I did feel kind of lame having to modify so many moves, and by so much. I mean, I know that I’ll get there eventually, and it’s not like anybody made me feel bad about it (other than myself), but still. I guess that’s just something I’ll have to get over, eh?

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After the WOD was over, another coach helped me with stretching and mobility exercises for a good 15 minutes, which was awesome. He showed me how to foam roll my lats, do shoulder mobility using a long skinny PVC pipe, and use a lacrosse ball for my back. I think that this was crucial in me being less sore today. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still sore (which means I’ll be even MORE sore tomorrow!), but it’s not as bad as last time AT ALL. And again, this workout didn’t really make me nauseous or anything either. Hopefully that doesn’t mean I didn’t put forth the same amount of effort though!

We’ll have to see how long it takes me to fully recover this time, haha. ‘Til then, CrossFit!

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Posted on Aug 23, 2012 in Working Out | 45 comments

Introduction to CrossFit

My body.

It hurts.

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Yes folks, last night I had my very first taste of CrossFit in all its glory. Admittedly, I’ve wanted to see what CrossFit is all about for a while. Goodness knows I read about it on enough blogs, and everyone I know who does do it seems to be OBSESSED with it. After I posted my first HLS Recap explaining how I didn’t get a chance to participate in the CrossFit workout because of the timing of my presentation, blog reader Kiera emailed me and invited me to come check out the box where she does CrossFit: CrossFit Annandale.

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I have to say, after just one session I can already kind of tell why people are seriously drinking the CrossFit kool-aid. My entire body is sore today, but it’s in an I-feel-like-a-badass kind of way (though going to the bathroom is not really fun after all those squats and lunges, I tell you what). Granted, I did feel just a tiny bit throwy-uppy near the end of the WOD (Workout of the Day), but I can definitely say that I survived, and I even — gasp! — kind of had fun! What?

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So, let’s talk specifics. I went to attend the 7:00 PM class last night (the first one is free!) and got there a little early to check things out and speak with the owner, Jeremy. I got to see the end of the previous class finishing up the WOD, and when they had all cleared out, we jumped right in! Each hour-long workout is structured into three parts: warm up, skill/strength training, and finally the WOD. CrossFit Annandale does have two nights a week where they offer a WOD-only workout, too, for those who may be more crunched for time but still want to be able to “get after it” (that’s a CF saying, right? Ahahahaha).

We started out with a warm-up that consisted of about 3 minutes of various plank exercises. So obviously, considering my core strength (read: none), this entailed me holding a plank for about 8 seconds at a time, crumpling to my knees, then trying again. But hey, it’s about the effort, right? And it certainly got me warmed up in a jiffy.

After that, we moved into the strength/skill part of the class. We partnered up (I immediately grabbed ahold of Kiera, haha) and we alternated between sets of 5 front squats with a weighted bar (I did a 35 lb bar with 10 extra pounds on it, so 45 total), and 10 dumbbell external rotations, which I did with a 5 lb weight. Since I was still getting used to the moves and am totally new at this, Coach Jeremy said it was fine for me to keep my weight light. I had absolutely no problem with this.

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I need to work on keeping my elbows up, I know, but hey, I’m a n00b! I’m learning. 😉

I have some occasional issues with my left wrist (my dainty blogger’s wrists, ahaha), and after three sets with the bar pulling my wrist back, I knew I needed to change it up. Jeremy showed me a way to complete the set by holding an upside-down kettlebell instead, which kept my wrists straight. I had go to down to a 35 lb weight though, since 45 pounds on a bar and 45 pounds crammed into a kettlebell definitely feel different!

After we completed our last set, it was time for the WOD. Yesterday’s WOD was as follows:

1. Row 1000 meters.
2. 20 overhead walking lunges with 25/45 lbs (women/men)
3. 30 burpees

Because at this point I was already pathetic-looking (not to mention mega-sweaty), the supernice coaches modified the WOD for me. I rowed 500 meters, did the 20 walking lunges with a 10 lb overhead weight, and did 15 burpees. And still, even in exerting half the effort as the other people who were there, I still teetered on the “Am I going to throw up?” line for a little bit, hahaha. Guess I haven’t been working out as hard as I thought lately, eh?

There are only three rowing machines and there were at least 10 of us in the class, so we went in heats. I watched the first two heats go before jumping in. Extremely unflattering photo barrage in 3… 2… 1…

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Newflash: I already hate burpees. I got through the rowing and the overhead lunges fairly quickly, but the thought of having to crouch, then flatten, then crouch, then jump (and clap!) afterward made me literally nauseous. I got through one burpee before I had to sit down and take a breather. After a little water (and a little whining), however, I finished the rest of them. My total time for my modified WOD was 9 minutes and 10 seconds.

So there you have it! The workout was definitely rough, even modified for a beginner like me, but it also was a lot of fun. I know, “rough but fun” sounds a little oxymoronic, but it’s true! The other attendees and the coaches were all crazy friendly, and spent a lot of time with each individual person: correcting our form, encouraging us, joking around, etc. I can understand why people enjoy CrossFit so much — it’s a very communal workout, and socialization automatically makes things more fun (and lessened the intimidation factor by about 1000 for me).

Once my muscles stop screaming every time I sit or stand or turn or walk or reach for something or, you know, do anything at all, I will definitely be going back. I know I don’t have the best track record with sticking with one particular kind of exercise, but who knows? People must be fanatical about CrossFit for a reason, right? It’ll be interesting to see how my own relationship with exercise, as well as with my body in general, changes as I continue. I’m really not used to such epic strength training, even when I was doing weight training at the gym, so I feel like this will either do wonders for my weight loss, or throw my body into a state of total and utter chaos. Either way, I’m excited to see how it goes!

Do you do CrossFit? Have you thought about it, if you don’t?

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Posted on Feb 25, 2014 in Dear Diary, Working Out | 9 comments

Aerial Yoga

Alas, I fear I must now face the stark reality that I will never, ever be a Cirque du Soleil-style aerialist.

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My coworker Kimberly and I went on a fitness adventure by trying out Aerial Yoga at Spark Yoga in Arlington.

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As you can see, aerial yoga is yoga that utilizes aerial silks in all of the moves. The description on the website reads:

Ready to fly? Decompress your spine and your mind by practicing yoga from a hammock suspended above the ground. Classes may include inversions, upper body exercises, and adventurous tricks using aerial hammocks.

Now, I’m no yoga pro, but I’ve been to enough classes and done enough at-home DVDs to know my way around a sun salutation or two, and my understanding was that this “beginner’s” level aerial yoga class would actually make things a little easier because the silk helps to support your weight and whatnot.

Plus, hello! It just looked fun!

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Weeeeell, as it turns out, my assumptions were both true and not true. But mostly not true. Sure, certain stretches were made simpler (and deeper!) by utilizing the silk. It was cool to do things like put your foot into the fabric while sitting on the ground (so it was kind of like up in a sling) and stretch, or putting the silk under your arms and falling leaning forward into a cobra pose. Plus, doing child’s pose while sitting in the “bucket” felt pretty fab.

But all the other stuff we were expected to do? Nottttt so much. As it turns out, putting a strip of fabric underneath your pelvic bone and downward-dogging on top of it actually kind of hurts. Not to mention the part where the instructor told us to then lift our legs off of the ground, so ALL OF OUR BODY WEIGHT was being balanced on our pelvic bone. And since I obviously have quite a bit of weight on me still, I couldn’t really do that (it REALLY hurt!), so then I started feeling pretty bad about myself when I saw all the other girls in the class suspended over the ground with ease.

I think the biggest problem with the class as a whole was that the instructor is so advanced in her aerial abilities (she was — is? — a professional aerialist and pole dancer) that I don’t think she considered giving out any modification suggestions. I mean, even when I did CrossFit and P90X and all that ridiculousness, there were always modifications for folks who weren’t as strong or as fit, and I didn’t get any of that at aerial yoga. And, hey, maybe it’s just that there aren’t really modifications possible with aerial yoga, but if that’s the case they should probably advertise that the class is for those who are already a little more advanced in yoga to begin with, right? I mean, throughout a large percentage of the class, I just kind of sat/dangled there not really knowing what to do (and feeling worse and worse about myself) while all the other girls got their Cirque du Soleil on. Womp womp.

Thankfully, the last 10 minutes of the class were somewhat redeeming. You end with savasana, but you do it inside the silk, so it’s basically like lying in a hammock/being wrapped up in a little cocoon. The instructor comes by and swings you gently back and forth, and you get to just lay there. Unfortunately, while I think the goal of savasana is to clear your mind and get into a good mental space, all I could do was fixate on how crappily I performed throughout the entire class. It was still nice and comfy though.

Anyway, as you can tell, aerial yoga really didn’t end up being for me, but I think a seasoned yogi or just folks who are lighter and more flexible might have a more enjoyable experience. And I guess for now, I’ll just stick to regular on-the-mat yoga whenever I need a fix. Blessedly, while I was whining to Kimberly after the class, she reassured me that she faced a lot of similar problems, so it does help to know that I wasn’t alone in my misery, haha.

Have you ever tried aerial yoga?

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Posted on Jan 13, 2014 in Dear Diary, Weight Loss | 21 comments

Le Plan D’attaque

Well, the battle lines have been drawn. I’ve opened up my feeble, ashamed soul and admitted to you all that I have regained a huge, huge percentage of the weight I once worked so hard to lose. Le sigh. But, as I should have expected, you are all amazingly supportive (and wonderful to commiserate with), so I guess there’s nothing to do now but formulate my plan of attack.

And, yes, the title of this post is Google’s answer to “What is “the plan of attack” in French?” I have no idea if it is grammatically accurate, but I do like the ring of it. Why does it have to be in French? I dunno, I guess I just think it sounds cooler. As most things do.

Anyway, I’m not going to be revealing anything groundbreaking here, I’m sure. My plan pretty much echoes everything that I’ve done in the past, with the hopeful exception that it’ll actually stick this time. So, it breaks down a lot like this:

1. Count calories Yes, this accursed-yet-necessary proverbial thorn in my side is back with a vengeance. I’ve got the My Fitness Pal app on my phone, my food scale on my counter, and am ready to annoyingly log every morsel that passes through my lips.

2. Eat breakfast. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that eating breakfast is pretty much a necessity for me when it comes to eating well and losing weight. It’s far too easy for me to fall into the trap of not eating anything at all until I’m so ravenous and have to eat something OMGRIGHTNOW that I end up falling into the grasp of the nearest fast food hut. So I picked up a billion-packet box of instant oatmeal from Costco, and I have a lion’s share of bananas, nut butter, and other breakfast goodies stashed away.

3. Make good food choices, especially when eating out. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my job with Yelp, I can’t make any bold declarative statements like, “I will only eat out twice a month!” And I know it sounds like an excuse, but it really is true that my job essentially requires me to eat out fairly frequently. Plus, you know, there’s the fact that I do LIKE eating out. So sue me. Of course, just because I’m eating food someone else prepared for me, doesn’t mean it has to spell the end of my weight loss efforts! Just the opposite, in fact. I’ve always been a proponent of the fact that you can still go out, eat out, and absolutely enjoy having a life even if you’re on a diet. You just have to make good decisions when you do. I am well-versed in navigating a menu and making healthy choices — I know all the tricks. I just have to actually, you know, DO it.

4. Cook more at home. Of course, all that being said, it’s still part of le plan d’attaque for me to cook healthy meals at home whenever I can. Backsliding over the past year has rolled me right back into my bad, lazy habits of ordering in, even when I don’t have any plans to eat out. Which is pretty crazy, since I actually LOVE to cook! I will be doing my best to resist the siren call of our local Domino’s at all times, and instead come up with cool, crafty culinary concoctions (say that 5x fast) that will satisfy my tastebuds AND my waistline.

5. Work out. Of course I had to save the worst for last. I make no secret of the fact that I hate working out. I hate being sweaty, I hate being short of breath, I hate feeling weak, I hate how it forces me to shower, I hate how everybody else in the entire universe is better at it than me, and pretty much the only good thing about it is that workout clothes are really comfy. And thus my impressive arsenal of workout clothing means I can spend like 83% of my time in yoga pants. BUT! I know that it’s good for the body and for the mind and for the soul (probably), so I’m gonna actually do it this time! But don’t worry, I’m sure I will complain about it every step of the way, hahaha.

I know, I know, you’re all like, “Just find something that you like doing! Then it won’t feel like working out!” But girl, believe me, I have TRIED. I’ve tried CrossFit and Zumba and Yoga and Pilates and BodyPump and running and swimming and P90x and Jillian Michael’s 21-Day Ab Shredder or whatever, and no matter how optimistic I was at first, or how much I tried to convince myself I liked it, in the end, I still hated them all.

So, I’m basically just resigning myself to the fate of doing it because I have to, and for no other reason than that. And on the bright side, I’m sure that eventually I’ll get to a point where, whether it’s because it’s just a part of my routine, or because I like the results so much, or because I’ve had a lobotomy and someone has re-programmed me to not be such a lazy SOB, I will probably stop complaining… as much.

And there you have it! My fancy French plan. Obviously there are a few other things that factor into each point, but I think this is a pretty good overview. After all, these are the basic guidelines that led me to losing 60 pounds before, so why wouldn’t they work for the next (er, same) 60? And hopefully beyond!

So, with that, I leave you to start mentally preparing myself for the physical training appointment that I have scheduled this afternoon. And I want it ON RECORD that, since I worked out yesterday, this means I will actually be going to the gym two days in a row. Miracles do happen, people!

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Posted on Feb 19, 2013 in Food, Giveaway | 115 comments

Protein-eriffic (Giveaway!)

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. To see the winner announcement, please click here!


The following post is sponsored by Pure Protein. I am receiving a stipend for my participation in this campaign, but all content is–as always–100% my own. Check out great ways to Eat Good and Look Great at their website.

So, protein. Admittedly, as a self-professed carb lover (addict?) for, ummmmm, my entire life, protein has never been at the top of my diet priority spectrum. I mean, sure, I always knew it was important in a “duh” kind of way. And, sure, I like to eat steak and chicken and tofu and all that good stuff. But before starting this blog (and my weight loss/health journey in general), I never really gave a lot of consideration to how much protein I was really consuming. Nor did I consider how much I SHOULD be consuming. And even now, two and a half years into my journey, I still struggle. Despite my best efforts to make my plate balanced, I find myself constantly falling back into the pattern of a VERY carb-centric diet. And that certainly isn’t conducive to my weight loss: protein is proven time and time again to be critical for weight loss–helping elongate your periods of satiety, keeping your blood sugar stable, and generally just being a good USE of your calories.

So when the opportunity presented itself to try out some of Pure Protein’s products, I had a kind of curiosity epiphany. After all, I am constantly trying to better my understanding of the nutrients my body needs, as well as what my body responds to, so I figured this would be a good way to test those waters. Now, granted, protein supplements are not, at least in my opinion, a crucially necessary thing to add to your diet. I don’t think anyone is going to make the argument that supplements, shakes, and bars are better than obtaining your macronutrients directly from your food. But there are also plenty of reasons why that’s not always going to happen. For many, it may be as simple as being too busy to think about protein when making dinner, since it’s just faster to make spaghetti. I figured, why not give these things a go and see if they would be a fitting addition to my lifestyle, especially now that I’m getting back into going to CrossFit and upping the fitness ante in general.

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Enter the protein supplement. Pure Protein sent me a package including a big ol’ tub of protein powder, a few bars, and some protein shakes as well. So I spent the holiday weekend taste-testing the products and seeing if I felt they helped me stay fuller throughout the day, kept my energy up for working out, and the like. Verdict?

Mixed, definitely mixed. Pretty evenly split, actually, in terms of the good, the bad, and the meh. For the sake of ease, I’ll break this up into reviewing the three different products I was sent.

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First up: the protein bars! I was sent both the peanut butter and a chocolate flavors. I actually only ended up trying the peanut butter one, because I felt like the chocolate-chocolate one might end up being a little too close to an actual chocolate bar, and I gave up sweets for Lent. The bars have 20g of protein (!) and 200 calories, and I actually thought it tasted pretty good. Chewier than your average bear bar, but pretty good. I was actually pretty surprised that it only has 2 grams of sugar (although I’m sure it has other non-sugar sweeteners in it). In terms of satiety, the bar definitely filled me up and made it so I didn’t feel like snacking on anything else between meals. I think for someone with a serious grab-and-go lifestyle, this kind of thing could almost work as a breakfast replacement (after all, you’re getting about 20 grams of protein more than you’d find in a pop tart). They’re also gluten-free, if that sort of thing matters to you (obviously it doesn’t for me, haha).

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Moving on, let’s talk about the shakes next. Pure Protein’s shakes come in different flavors and different protein amounts. I was sent the 15g of protein shakes in Vanilla Creme, which is actually the lowest protein amount (they also come in 23g and 35g). Soooo, I won’t lie, I really did not like this one. Maybe it was the flavor or the consistency, but I’m pretty sure I actually made a face when I first tasted it. It reminded me of watered down Slim Fast, which has negative connotations for me given how many of those things I drank back when I was in middle school and thought I was too fat (oh, if I’d only known then…!). Maybe this shake would be better in a different flavor, but as I was only given one flavor to sample, that’s all I’ve got. The shake is 170 calories for the whole bottle, and includes the aforementioned 15g of protein, but there’s also a LOT more sugar than in either of the other products (25g!). It was definitely the most disappointing of the three products for me.

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However, I have better news when it comes to the protein powder. Now, confession, this is literally the first time I have ever used protein powder before. I’ve seen a lot of other bloggers that use it, and I’ve seen lots of smoothie recipes that include it, but I’ve just never gotten around to trying it for myself. Well, I have to say, I’m pretty pleased with my first experience! Pure Protein sent me a big ol’ honkin’ thing of Whey Protein Powder, also in Vanilla Creme. Thankfully, I enjoyed the flavor MUCH better this time (possibly because there were other flavors involved). I made myself a smoothie that included a banana, almondmilk, ice, and half a scoop of the powder, and it was really good! If I’d had some spinach laying around, I would have totally turned the thing into a green smoothie.

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The protein powder is 150 calories for a full scoop, with only 2g of sugar, and adds 25g of protein to whatever you put it in. So, with my half-scoop, I ended up with a 75 calorie, 1g of sugar addition to my smoothie, which was about 120 calories with the banana and almondmilk on their own. I can definitely see myself utilizing it to add extra protein to smoothies, which I tend not to make a lot in the past because I don’t find them filling enough to warrant the A) calories or B) time spent cleaning my blender. But this concoction absolutely worked for me as a breakfast smoothie.

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So, my feelings overall on the products? The powder itself is probably the only one of the three I can see myself adopting into my lifestyle, since I really enjoyed both the flavor it added to my smoothie, and the flexible utility of it. I also really like the suggestions on the back of the tub for how to use the powder other than in smoothies. They suggest adding it to oatmeal or pancake mix, and since you know I’m all about finding ways to boost the nutritional impact of foods that are otherwise not super-nutritious, I think those are both great ideas.

As for the other products, you already know how I felt about the pre-made shakes (read: not good), but depending on how much convenience food you eat anyway, or if you have a specific reason to really amp up your protein intake (are working out heavily, weight lifting, etc), I can see how the bars could be a viable option for some. And Pure Protein does produce “natural” versions of all their products, if all the fakey ingredients are a problem for you. But why take my word for all of this, when you can form your own opinion? I have a Pure Protein prize pack to giveaway to one of you, which includes several full-sized versions of all the products mentioned in this post!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post answering the question: What role does protein play in your life? Is it something you already take care of, something you know you should have more of? Do you find it difficult to get the required amount of protein in your diet? I’d really love to know where everyone else stands!

As always, extra entries are granted for those who follow me on Twitter, Like me on Facebook, or blog/Facebook/tweet about this giveaway! Just make sure you leave separate comments for each thing you do to ensure your extra entries are all counted. The random winner will be selected on Monday, February 25th!

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