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Posted on Mar 24, 2014 in Dear Diary, Working Out, Yelp | 11 comments

Ommmmm (Nom Nom)

To all those who think that my job pretty much just means I eat all the time (and, to be fair, I do eat a LOT for this job), I want to set the record straight. Not errrrvery single event that I throw as the Yelp Northern Virginia Community Manager is totally food-centric. I mean, sure, a lot are (and I love ‘em!) but yesterday I actually got to do my job AND get some fitness in at the same time, thanks to the yoga-tastic event that went down!

Yelp’s Mind + Body Bender took place at Mind Your Body Oasis in Crystal City, a wellness center and yoga studio that gave Yelp Elites the chance to try out many different kinds of massage therapies (Thai! Mysokeletal! Full-body! Chair! Reiki!) as well as participating in yoga and bellydancing classes!



It was a full event with lots to see and do, and I even got a chance to be thrown around by MYBO’s Thai massage specialist for a few minutes. I’ll, a-hem, go ahead and let those photos speak for themselves…





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Being of the no pain, no gain persuasion when it comes to massage, I actually loved it, and it was over far too quickly for me! I guess I’ll just have to go back and get pretzel-fied again. :)

In other news, you should be happy to hear that I totally cheated on my weigh-in once a week rule and checked myself out on the scale yesterday. I can happily report that I am blessedly — amazingly! — back to my pre-San Francisco weigh-in weight. So those 2.5 gained libbies are officially gone! I’ll wait until Friday to officially report in, but I just wanted you all to know that I am most definitely working it!

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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 9, 2013 in Dear Diary, Fashion, Working Out | 39 comments

Now and Then

So, alas, this post isn’t about the absolutely marvelous 1995 movie, Now and Then.

No, sadly (though we can get into all the various ways in which that movie changed my life when I was 7 another time) this post is simply about, well, me. And I would apologize for that, only I’m pretty sure that if you didn’t like to read about me talking about myself, you probably wouldn’t be on a blog that literally has my name in the title. I mean, just scroll back up to the header if you need a reminder, haha. There’s a picture of me, too. Just saying.

Anyway, one of the things I like best about this blog is how it enables me to have open (and thoughtful and intelligent and generally awesome) conversations with you guys about topics that are really near and dear to my heart. These also tend to be topics that not everybody really likes to talk about. So when I was able to submit myself for an opportunity to sample ON’s new line of Activewear and discuss how my workout wardrobe has changed over time, I jumped. Like, seriously, jumped right out of my desk chair. Not just because I was so excited to get a $50 gift card to go pick up some new Activewear items (don’t get me wrong, I was totally excited for that — $50 goes REALLY far at Old Navy! I got FIVE things and only went like $8 over!) but because I was also immediately inspired to re-open and re-discuss one of those hard topics. But one of those really necessary ones: body acceptance, body image, and body confidence.

Let me paint you a word picture. I went to James Madison University for college. JMU is a beautiful little (well, not really so little) school down in Harrisonburg, VA–the furthest south I have ever lived. It’s a really gorgeous place, with the old (er, historic) campus on one side of highway 81 and the newer part of the campus on the other side, bridged by… uh… a bridge. And when I first enrolled, as a wee young Freshman, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and totally naive to the concept of skipping 8 AM classes (oh, how quickly that changed) one of the shining gems of the newer part of campus was–and I’m assuming, still is–UREC. The University Recreation Center.

Actually, I just realized I don’t need to paint you a word picture. I can show you a real picture. Heh.

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Pretty nice, right? And it was–er, is. It’s got tons of machines, an indoor track, raquetball and basketball and whateverball courts, group fitness classes… and a ROCK WALL. Sweet, right? Only, I never got a chance to test out the rock wall. Not once in my four years there. In fact, I could probably count the number of times I actually ventured into UREC on both hands. (Well, okay, maaaaybe it would take three hands.) ‘Cause here’s another thing you should know about JMU. We have a widespread reputation throughout the state of Virginia (perhaps further than that?) for having really hot girls. I know. I’m so proud.

So anyway, here I am, just one of thousands of faces, enrolled in a school that is literally known for the hotness level of its female students. Talk about pressure. And, of course, we all know I had my eating issues, and my body issues, and those led to my weight issues… and by the time I started realizing that my weight was getting out of control, by the time I actually wanted to DO something about it, well… things didn’t go very well.

See, at first I thought, Okay, here we go. I’m going to go to the gym every day and eat super well and things will work out, you’ll see! Except I was already ashamed of my body, ashamed that I had gained so much weight, and comparing myself to every Jessica and Lindsay I passed certainly didn’t help (seriously, there were, like, six Lindsays living in my Freshman dorm). Because you know what those girls spent their spare time doing? Working out. Doing yoga. Going running. At UREC. In spandex capris and tight tank tops, and sometimes just in their sports bras. To say it was intimidating is like calling a jaguar a cat. UNDERSTATEMENT.

So each admittedly infrequent time I would actually get up the nerve to go to the gym, I was so afraid. So afraid that someone would see me, that they would judge me, that they would know I don’t belong. So I’d put on my baggy t-shirts and my loose-fitting sweatpants thinking that they hid my bulges, and I would pull my hair back and stuff headphone in my ears and pretend like I wasn’t watching the taut-bodied, long-legged girl reading Glamour on the elliptical. I’d huff and puff for maybe 10 minutes and then would get too discouraged to keep going, because I was so certain that SOMEBODY was going to look at me and think, “Ew, why is she even here? It’s not like it’s going to help…” and then I’d make sure I grabbed a grilled cheese sandwich from D-Hall on my way home.

Yeah, I know. It was messed up.

But the point of this story isn’t to dwell on the sad-sack Gretchen. Eventually she found in-office gyms and home workout videos and a diet that finally worked, and she ended up pretty okay. The point is to focus on the things that made her feel like she needed to cover up, to hide, to feel ashamed. Because even though, yes, I was overweight, it’s like there was a rule that said I wasn’t allowed to like the way I looked, or wasn’t allowed to associate with the skinnies, or wasn’t allowed to look cute at the gym. It was all self-imposed. A symptom of my complete lack of body confidence. And the ironic part is that before my senior year, I wasn’t even “that bad.” I didn’t reach my highest weight until 2009, the year that I graduated. I’m sure that I think I’m still heavier now than I was when I started college. (I graduated from high school around 185.) But, man, 197 pounds feels really different on this side of the void, that’s for sure.

I wish I had some photos of myself in “gym clothes” from back then. (But of course I don’t. I would never have let anyone take that photo, haha.) I wish I had something to really show you how low I thought of myself back then, how I thought I needed to hide, that how I looked was somehow offensive. How I hid my curves and rolls and completely HUMAN imperfections under unflattering giant t-shirts and old pairs of stretched out Soffe shorts.

So I don’t have photos of exactly that, but I do have a couple of photos that might help show what I mean:

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These photos are unrelated to gym apparel, obviously, but they make a point. Here I am, in giant, oversized sweatshirts–which I wore A LOT in the hopes that that they would fool the world into thinking I was smaller. Silly, right? Because in reality, all that wearing big, baggy, oversized stuff does is make you look oversized. Which makes you feel oversized, which makes you not want to show off the goods that God gave you. And the cycle continues.

So. We thank our lucky stars that those days are done, and we revel in the fact that the same girl who used to think like that and hide her body, well, now she wears stuff like this:

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And like this:

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I got a camera remote for Christmas and I am SO EXCITED but still figuring it out, haha. Can you tell?

And she doesn’t just wear them, she feels legitimately awesome in them. Confident. Unashamed. And yes, it helps that she’s lost a lot of the weight she put on during college and beyond. But her stomach still bunches up when she does crunches and things still jiggle when she’s on the treadmill and–gasp!–her thighs will always (ALWAYS) touch. But who cares? She doesn’t. And neither should you. What she does care about is the fact that the sweat-wicking technology in her tops helps keep her cool, and the spandex in her bottoms help her stretch and bend and reach without showing the world her buttcrack.

Old Navy has always been awesome about providing clothing that fits almost every shape and size of woman. It’s why it was one of my favorite places to shop THEN, and it’s still one of my favorites NOW. Because I appreciate the fact that they make it so that you can look good, no matter what number is stitched on the inside label of your jeans. I’ll go into detail about the actual utility of the pieces I’m wearing in a later post (for your reference though, I’m rocking the Active GoDRY Mesh Tanks and Active Fold-over Yoga Pants in both pics, with the Active GoDRY running top added in the second). The point is, workout apparel like this — clothing that clings and is fitted and has technology that helps make us better and faster and stronger… that is what’s important. And the fact that it all comes in awesome colors and flattering shapes and helps us look cute even when we don’t have that perfect body yet? That’s just gravy, man.

AdvertisementThis post is sponsored by Old Navy. Check out Old Navy’s Active wear in stores or at oldnavy.com. Active by Old Navy is 40% off until January 16th! I received a gift card and stipend for my participation but my words and opinions are 100% my own. #GetYourActiveON

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Posted on Sep 27, 2012 in Working Out | 33 comments

Jelly Legs

So last night I made my (not so) triumphant return to CrossFit. I’ve been admittedly lax in my workout efforts since my car accident(s), citing my whiplash injuries as the reason I wasn’t trying very hard in that department. Well, while it’s true that I do still have some soft tissue injuries that I’m getting treatment for, I am certainly not completely debilitated. And shoulder/neck tension and discomfort considered, it’s no excuse for a total lack of exercise. So with a little bit of (necessary) prodding from my coach at CrossFit Annandale, I saddled up.

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Please ignore the atrocious mess that is my room.

At least it gave me an excuse to try out some of the new CrossFit-targeted workout clothes that my awesome friends at New Balance sent me!

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They hooked me up with a couple of Getback Racerback tanks. Not only is the back of this tank pretty flippin’ sweet, but the built-in shelf bra was surprisingly supportive. I didn’t wear any kind of additional sports bra with this tank and I felt totally fine jumping rope and whatnot at CrossFit. Kind of crazy, considering my rather ample front-end. I was definitely impressed!

They also sent me the Fitness 8-inch Shorts, which are seriously like the most unflattering length ever but are also CRAZY comfortable. And the length, while I don’t feel it does anything for my leg aesthetics, was pretty perfect for working out. No ride-ups, plus it has pockets! They’re also high-waisted, so I didn’t have to worry about my pooch or muffin top spilling over when I was squatting or anything. Hahaha, I am so attractive.

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And, of course, what NB ensemble would be complete without shoes? They sent me a pair of their Minimus 20V2 Cross-Training shoes to try out. I am way in love with the color, and was blown away when I picked them up because they are SO light. Lighter even than the Reebok RealFlex shoes I received at the Healthy Living Summit.

In comparison to those Reeboks, however, the NB Minimus is also less flexible. Which I guess isn’t really a terribly important component of a CF shoe, but it is something that I guess I like. I was also just a smidge disappointed in the craftsmanship of the Minimus. They fit well and were great to use during CrossFit, but there were some manufacturing details that looked a little messy: puckering where the sole meets the upper, loose threads, and whatnot (as pictured above). Regardless, they are light on my feet, though I’ll definitely need to wear them more than, um, once, in order to give a full review on how they feel.

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As for the one non-New Balance item I was wearing? My sister gave me this awesome Under Armour triple-band headband (she gave me two, actually), and I loveloveLOVE it. I provides the hair coverage of a thick headband without making me look like a thug or a seller of bavarian cookies. And even if the third band slips back because it’s too far back on my head (which I need to keep my bangs fully slicked back), the first two stay firmly in place.

But okay, enough product shilling, hahahaha. Onto the actual workout:

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So evidently I made the poorest choice in the history of choices and returned to CrossFit on like the worst possible day. Because the WOD was RIDICULOUS. It was a three-part WOD, which I had looked up on the website previously and thought we had a CHOICE of the three 8-minute WODs: A, B, OR C. As it turns out, NOPE. I WAS WRONG. We did them ALL. IN A ROW (with a 4 minute rest in between each part).

I didn’t really end up doing the same workout as anybody else because the coach was super attentive to me and modified pretty much everything so that I wouldn’t strain my neck/shoulders. Basically, this meant turning everything into some variation of a squat. Ergo, jelly legs today.

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My injured weakling substitution props

Here is how my workout broke down:

Part A: I used a PVC pipe instead of a barbell to mimic the movement of thrusters (5 reps), then did 10 goblet squats by holding a kettlebell upside down and squatting to replace the power cleans. Then I did 15 box dips instead of pull ups. I made it through 3 sets with two extra thrusters in 8 minutes.

Part B: Instead of kettlebell swings, I did another set of 10 goblet squats, which at this point were nearly impossible. My body has never felt so heavy. Then I did the 30 walking lunges that were prescribed in the WOD, and did 20 single unders (er, regular jump ropes?) instead of 40 double unders. I made it through 1 set, plus like 5 extra squats. I felt really lame.

Part C: Instead of burpees (my nemesis!), I rowed 150 meters. This was the part I was most excited about because it meant I didn’t have to do burpees, hahaha. Then instead of push-ups, I did box dips again (20 this time). And then instead of sit-ups, I held a 30-second plank. I was actually really proud of myself for being able to hold a plank for 30 seconds! I know it sounds CRAZY weak, but my max plank time from before was like, 12 seconds. I am not lying. Core strength has never been my (literal) strong suit. I made it through 2 sets and like, 2 extra squats. Again, felt very lame.

So, there you have it. I know that I’m not at my best right now, that I’m “injured” and “recovering” and stuff, AND that this was a particularly ridiculous workout for me to jump back into. But while I still got my butt handed to me by this workout (I’m thinking that post-CrossFit nausea is just going to be a thing I need to get used to, since evidently it’s going to happen every time, haha), I felt kind of pathetic that it did. Especially considering it was so modified. I know I shouldn’t beat myself up too badly (my lower body is hurting enough on its own today, haha), buuuut I may or may not have cried a little in the car once I left the gym. Only for like, 15 seconds though!

Ah well, once I have regained control of my quads and as my injuries continue to heal, I’m sure it’ll get easier. Or, you know, at least I’ll get used to being so bad at it.

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Posted on Sep 4, 2012 in Dear Diary, Food, Working Out | 17 comments

Weekend Update: Labors of Love

Howdy folks! I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, mine has ended with me picking up a(nother) little cold, but prior to waking up with my head feeling like it needs to be popped (seriously, cannot even hear out of my right ear right now) the weekend was pretty rad! Let’s flashback to Friday for a hot second.

Shocking though it may seem, I actually did start my weekend off with a workout. I know, who am I? I ventured back for my third CrossFit class and it totally kicked my ass.

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Coach Jeremy was cruel kind enough to document the experience for me. The warm-up this time was actually really fun. We grabbed a partner and a medicine ball (ours was 15 lbs) and went out to the parking lot.

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Then, one of us would throw the ball as far as we could, then the other would sprint from their position to where it landed. Then the second partner would throw the ball while the first stayed in place, and so on, and so forth.

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Turns out that just because something is shaped like a ball does NOT make it easy to throw, hahaha. 15 lbs is a lot to toss forward!

After the warm-up we spent 10 minutes working on a particular CrossFit skill that we have a hard time with (note how it’s phrased on the whiteboard in the first pic, hahaha). Since ALL of the skills are new to me, I didn’t particularly know where to start. Jeremy suggested I try working on my jump ropes, since “double unders” are a pretty standard CF move. I’m pretty sure that 11-year-old Gretchen would be VERY disappointed in how my jump rope skills have lapsed. I could barely make single unders happen. Oh well, something to work on, I guess!

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Then came the Workout of the Day itself. Just like last time’s, this was an “AMRAP”, or “As many reps as possible” in the allotted time (10 minutes). The WOD consisted of 5 power cleans, 5 thrusters, and 10 burpees. Since I had absolutely no clue was a “power clean” or “thruster” was, the coach spent a good amount of time going over the movements, and then gave me a little extra practice time, too. I practiced with a PVC pipe at first to get the general motion, and then did the actual workout with a 15-lb practice bar (rather than a 45-lb + weights bar like everyone else). At first I thought that 15-lbs was totally lame, and almost asked if I could use a heavier weight, but in the end I’m sooooo glad I didn’t try to get ahead of myself.

Dude, this ish be hard! I had a really hard time getting the proper form down for the power clean. A power clean is where you take the bar (from the floor for the others, from my knees for me — like in the picture above) and lift it up under your chin with this kind of jumpy/jerky move. It’s really hard for me to explain in words, but I found it very difficult to do correctly without leaning back and doing all sorts of weird stuff with my posture. I actually think it’s one of those things where it would have been a little easier with more weight on the bar, because I would have had more resistance keeping me in place.

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The thrusters I did okay on. They involve starting in a squat position with the bar under your neck, then standing and thrusting (get it?) the bar over your head and back (keeping your head “through the window” that your arms make).

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Then… came the burpees. 10 of them. After doing them at the first CrossFit class I attended (in which I was supposed to do 20 burpees), I thought that 10 would be no problem! Boy, oh boy, was I ever wrong.

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I don’t know what it is about this move but it is basically like an instant recipe for me to become nauseous. I don’t know if it’s all the bending, or just the fact that they’re always in combination with some other hardcore movement, but seriously. It is awful. I had to take like a 5 minute break after my second set because I suddenly felt so terriblw. Wtf, burpees?

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This face is all for show. (Also, apologies for the cleav shot, hahaha.)

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There we go. That’s a little more accurate as to how it felt.

In the end, I ended up making it through 3 full sets, plus an additional 7 (5 power cleans and 2 thrusters). Each class I’ve been to has been so different from the last, I still feel like an uber-n00b. That said, I can’t lie: the variety does make it kind of fun. And at least the fact that I started off the weekend with such a hard workout made me feel slightly less guilty for eating out so much over the weekend. I promise I had good reasons to though!

Saturday night my bestest best friend Bethany and her husband Colt came into town. Bethany and Colt have been living in Texas for the past two years and just moved back to Charlottesville. I couldn’t be happier! It’s hard to believe it’s been over TWO YEARS since I’d seen them last (at their freaking wedding!) Bethany and I were roommates throughout almost all of college (we were hallmates Freshman year), and we definitely have one of those friendships where it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, we just kind of pick right up where we left off. Sean & I took the two of them to Dogfish Head and spent the night chatting away. We had such a great time I literally took 0 pictures. Oops! :)

But, much to my other friend Lara’s chagrin, I more than made up for the lack of picture-taking Sunday night.

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Sean & I met Lara and her new fiance (!!) Dan for dinner on Sunday at the Vietnamese restaurant Four Sisters.

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I’d been hearing rave reviews about this place for a long time but had never gotten a chance to go. Lara said she was in the mood to try something new, so I immediately suggested it!

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We started off sharing an order of fresh summer rolls (the best!) and fried shrimp wontons. When it came down to ordering, the menu is HUMONGOUS. Like, of Cheesecake Factory proportions. Luckily, I already knew what I was in the mood for:

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Pho!

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With all the appropriate accouterments, of course.

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Theeeere we go.

I thought it was really good. A lot of the time Pho broth can be way too strong for me, but Four Sisters’ was very balanced. I got it with beef and meatballs, which was kind of a weird combination but I dug it. The meatballs reminded me of the fish balls that my mom puts into soup noodles sometimes, so it was nostalgic for me. Next time I go to Four Sisters I’ll want to branch out a little for sure, but it had been so long since I had pho that there was no reasoning with me. The caramelized fish in clay pot is particularly well-reviewed on Yelp…

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Since Four Sisters is located right in the cute new little shopping center in Merrifield, we walked right past a Coldstone on our way in. Both Lara and I agreed that we couldn’t just pass up the opportunity!

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Sean and I shared a mint chocolate chip ice cream in a waffle bowl. Sadly, I think it’s the last bit of ice cream I think I’ll be seeing in a while. Good thing it was delicious!

Monday was spent primarily bumming around the house. There was one ill-fated trip to Target that I mildly regretted (Target was CRAZY on Labor Day!) but other than that, it was just a lot of Guild Wars 2…. as well as a lot of Virginia Tech Football talk, haha. I guess that since Sean and I didn’t really start dating until college football season was almost over, I didn’t fully understand what I was getting into dating a Hokie! As someone who is almost entirely apathetic when it comes to sports of any kind (especially including my own alma mater, JMU, ahahaha), I guess it’s a good thing they won last night?

Have a great day!

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