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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:



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:


And like this:

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!


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.


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:


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.

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 Jun 25, 2012 in Dear Diary | 19 comments

Go Ape!

On Saturday, my friend Rachel and I headed up to Rockville, MD to take part of a fun outdoor adventure called Go Ape. It was part rope course, part zipline, and a TON of fun. I’m not awesome with heights, nor with forcing myself to jump off of high ledges, but I had a total blast! I was a little concerned about the weather, but since the entire course takes place in the shaded woods, it was actually not bad. I still got super sweaty (what else is new?), but definitely didn’t overheat.


They have start times every half-hour, so we signed up for the 12:00 group. Once you get there, they have you fill out a liability form (duh), and then they take your entire timeslot through a little safety session. They saddled us up with sweet and totally flattering (HA!) harnesses, told us the most important rules (always stay attached!), and had us perform a demonstration on a little 4-feet-off-the-ground practice area.


If we passed the test, we were sent off to do our thing! There were probably four or five different stations, all of which began with you climbing up a rope ladder into a tree. This was actually the most physically demanding part of the course, in my opinion, since I’m not very coordinated. Still, once you made it to the top of the platform, everything else was mostly just a matter of balance and fear-conquering.


Once you were actually up and going through the course, there was a whole variety of obstacles and ways to cross: tightrope lines, swinging platforms, a swinging tunnel, etc. Some were fairly challenging, and some were pretty easy.

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I’m not the most balanced person in the world, but I found it all very do-able. At some points you were also given the option to take an easier or harder path forward, so everyone was able to get through each course at the level they were comfortable.


One thing that I really liked about Go Ape is that even though you start at the same time as 8 – 10 other people, you don’t all have to stick together. You and whoever you came with can go at your own rate (the instructors don’t lead you through the course). Since it was just Rachel and me, and we’re both relatively fit people, we went through each course pretty quickly, and thus got stuck waiting behind other people fairly frequently. Our instructor told us to treat it like mini-golf, where if there are people behind you that are moving more quickly, you let them go ahead of you. So even though we tried to go the longer/harder ways almost every time, at one point we got stuck behind a really big group, so we cut ahead via the “easy” route to save time and jump ahead.

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The last thing you did at each station was zipline down to the next area! The ziplining was definitely my favorite part, although I didn’t accomplish it particularly gracefully because I was always landing sideways or backwards. At one point, both of my shoes flew off when I was trying to stop myself, hahaha. Only me, right?


The only time I really started to freak out and contemplated not doing an obstacle was near the very end. They had a couple of “Tarzan Swings”, where basically you are literally just strapping yourself onto a rope and jumping off a ledge. The first one was kind of like a practice one, so it was okay, but the one near the end was REALLY high up. Rachel had to do a little bit of coaxing to get me to do it, but — be proud of me! == in the end I took the literal leap of faith. Well, I guess it was really more like a crouch-down-and-step of faith. But still! For your entertainment, she also filmed it so you can all hear me screaming like I’m about to be murdered. Totally normal reaction, right?

You’re welcome for that. I’m pretty sure my face in the next photo just about sums up my feelings about that entire experience:



So yes! Go Ape was super fun, a great “secret” workout (since you’re not thinking about all the muscles you’re using until they remind you the next day, haha), and I definitely recommend it. They have a few different locations — the one here in Rockville, one in Williamsburg, and one out in Indianapolis — and I’m sure there are other companies out there that offer something similar. I think the total price ended up somewhere between $55 and $60 with tax and whatnot, which was fair in my opinion because the staff was great, the equipment was clean and seemed fairly new, and they had water stations at the start of every course.


Three cheers for adventure!

Do anything adventurous with your weekend?

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Posted on Jun 4, 2012 in Working Out | 21 comments

What I’m Doing at the Gym

A week or so ago I received the following tweet:

While I assured her it was absolutely not a dumb question, and gave her the 140-character-limit version of my gym routine, but it occurred to me that some of you might also be interested in hearing about what I’ve been doing during my sweat sessions lately. I knew ahead of time that after the relay, I would be putting running by the wayside (for now) and concentrating on other, more currently interesting means of fitness. In addition to videos and workouts at home, right now that means a big emphasis on strength training!

So when I joined my gym as part of my Lenten resolution to bring an end to my lackadaisical and sporadic attempts at exercising regularly, I also signed up for three personal training sessions to help me get an idea of what moves to do, and how to maintain good form with them. I really wish I had the budget right now to continue with personal training, because it was so immensely helpful! Fortunately, my trainer, Jordan, and I established a great rapport from the get-go, so he still stops by occasionally to see how I’m doing and give me pointers. I pretty much follow variations of all the moves that he had me do during those initial sessions.

I’m at the gym at least twice a week, either attending a cardio class (there’s this Dance Cardio-X class that is SO ridiculous and SO much fun) or doing strength training. I’m lucky enough to have found an awesome workout buddy, Kate. The stars aligned when I met her at a party (through Sean, actually) and she told me she was a fellow Falls Churcher and was thinking about signing up at the same gym as me. Having someone that I’m accountable to meet with, whether it’s a friend or a personal trainer, has been integral in helping me establish a regular routine.

Generally, my weight lifting routines consist of a combination made from some of the following free-weight moves: bicep curls, tricep curls, walking lunges, squats, crunches, leg lifts, shoulder lifts (I’m not sure of the official name, but it’s where you have a weight in each hand, fully extend your arms, and pull them up the side, in to the front, back out to the side, then down), barbell curls, the move where you put one leg up on a bench and use that side’s same arm to pull up a weight (targeting your back muscles), etc. I generally do 3 sets of 10 reps each, though I’m very bad at not losing count, haha. It’s nothing groundbreaking, for sure, and as of yet I don’t have specific workouts that I follow each time (though perhaps that will develop as I put more planning into my strength training, haha).

I usually start out with a couple of minutes on the elliptical or treadmill just to loosen up, and I also will generally throw just a couple of weight machines into the mix as well. My favorite is the leg press, but I also will do a couple of the arm and shoulder machines as well. The free weights I use are generally 10 or 15 lbs if they’re dumbbells, or 20 or 30 pounds if it’s a barbell. On the machines, for arms/shoulders/back the weight is usually somewhere within the 40 – 50 lb. range, and for legs it’s usually within the 75 – 115 lb. range.

Anyway, that’s about all there is to it! There’s still a lot I have yet to try out (I’d like to learn how to use kettlebells and resistance bands better) but for now I’m enjoying feeling like I’m getting just the slightest bit of definition in my still rather floppy appendages, hahaha. If any of you have questions about my gym routine, or if you have any tips to offer, I welcome both! I’m definitely still new to strength training in general, but I love how it makes me feel like I’ve worked hard without feeling like I want to die, the way straight-up cardio does. And for those of you who were utterly bored with this post, I have a delicious recipe coming your way tomorrow!

What’s your favorite strength training move?

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Posted on Nov 15, 2010 in Weigh Ins | 8 comments

No-Frills Weigh-In #13

No frills, as in I’m not going to beat around the bush:

212.0 lbs this morning.

A .2 pound weight loss. And you know what? I’m okay with it! It’s still a loss (even though .2 pounds is like, a glass of water and a cracker) and I already had made peace with not losing this week, so the fact that anything came off the scale is cause for celebration. This make a total loss-to-date of exactly 34 pounds! And if you average out last week and this week, in fact, I’m still doing really well with well over 2 lbs/week! And I had a major fitness accomplishment over the weekend as well, so I’m not feeling too shabby.

I do know, however, that I could probably have lost a lot more if I had been more diligent with my eating. Pigged out at the potluck, had drinks and greasy snacks when I went out on Friday, etc. Sigh. I’m slipping back into some bad habits, folks. Looking in the fridge when I’m not hungry, snacking just because I’m bored. I think that it’s a big step for me that I can identify that I’m doing these things, but at the same time it’s not really stopping me from doing it.

Yesterday I made a batch of brownies just because I had the mix sitting in the pantry, and then proceeded to eat four of them throughout the day. (Granted, they’re small brownies, but still, four is too many.) I think that my issue is that if it’s there, I want to eat it. If there’s a bag of chips in the pantry, I’m probably going to grab a handful. If there are cookies sitting on the counter, it is highly likely that I’m going to snag one every time I pass by. So the conclusion one must draw from this is, of course, don’t let it be there to eat.

There’s only so much I can do since I live with three other people, but if I can at least make sure that none of the food I keep around is of the junk variety, I can help lessen the problem, if not remove it completely. That’s why I was so successful in the beginning – I was so excited about eating healthy that I never even thought about having the stuff around even for “treating myself” or whatever, but now I’m getting bored and complacent and it’s so easy to jump off the wagon. And I know these things. But I’m still not doing much about it. Knowing is half the battle, but the other half involves action. So here’s my action plan for the week:

1. Go running 3 times in the gym this week, and complete another outside run over the weekend. My goal is to get up to 2.5 miles on the treadmill, and be able to repeat this past weekend’s run of over 2 miles outside (since running outside is way harder than running on a treadmill!) I already have my gym bag ready and waiting on the floor next to me in preparation of this afternoon.

2. Bring my lunch to work every day this week. I think this is a big pitfall for me. When I don’t bring my lunch, I usually buy something from the deli downstairs in our building, which does have some healthy choices but I rarely opt for them. If I can just abstain from visiting the deli at all, I won’t have to muster the willpower to pass up the trays of mac and cheese and chicken wings. It becomes a non-issue, which is my favorite kind of issue. Today I brought some leftover whole wheat Thai noodle salad with bean sprouts, carrots, and homemade peanut sauce. Yum! Sidenote: this will hopefully also help with my budget which is beginning to become more of an issue for me as the holiday season approaches… oy vey.

3. Utilize the pupsters to combat boredom. Having identified that I’m slipping back into bored-eating patterns, I’ve decided to use my loving puppydogs to help me out. Whenever I feel bored and catch myself wandering into the kitchen even though I’m not hungry, I will take one of the dogs for a walk. Since I definitely don’t walk them enough at all, this will be super beneficial for them. And it will be super beneficial for me because it’s replacing eating with activity. Plus, I need to start walking them individually more often anyway since they’re still not that great on-leash (and the trainer said the only way to fix their bad leash-habits is to work with them individually anyway.) Two birds, one stone!

What do you guys think of my action plan? Any additional tips or pointers having to do with either the 5K or getting my eating habits back on track are more than welcome. Do you think I should be aiming for more than 2.5 miles on the treadmill this week? The 5K is NEXT WEEK, so I worry that I’m not ramping it up enough, but I also don’t want to hurt myself or psych myself out by putting a goal that’s unattainably high.

As you can see, my actual weight loss isn’t really my primary concern at present moment, which is kind of a good thing, I think. It’s not good to only measure my journey in sheer numbers, as many of you have said before. I just want to make sure I’m not completely letting it slide in light of other things I’m concentrating on fitness-wise. Balance, balance, balance. Ideas and opinions welcome!

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