On the Road Again – First Stop: Charlotte

The snow is gone, the weather is warmer, and apparently, travel is also back in full swing.  This week I got back in my normal routine and made my way down to Charlotte for a full work circuit.  While the vibe is definitely a change up from my normal Charlottesville pace, it’s also familiar.  I’ve lived in Charlotte enough times now to have an easy routine to fall back into.

I’ve got my favorite coffee spots, my go-to restaurants, my fitness favorites, and of course friends that somehow put up with my constant state of being ever-present and elsewhere all at the same time.  I’ve got a sweet little sometimes life there that I love, and a great city where there is constantly something new to try, to explore, and new centers of community.  This trip had a little bit of everything.

While my first ‘real’ day involved my office and a baby shower for a sweet friend and co-worker, my second day (post-work ritual) involved some full-body core action at Carolina Barre & Core, followed by a little happy hour and catch up with my friend Erin at her brand spanking new jewelry studio that I’m in love with.

fuel sweat grow: erin mcdermott jewelry

If I’m wearing jewelry, you can pretty much just assume that it’s one of Erin’s pieces, and if it has an elephant, you’ll know it’s one of my favorites.

fuel sweat grow: Erin McDermott Jewelry

You’ll be seeing much more of Erin, and some special new pieces at b:core in Charlottesville early this summer.  We’re pretty stoked to have her and her new little girls (or little kids) jewelry line share our community.

Friday brought another early dose of Carolina Barre & Core (Barre Fusion class), and some out-of-town community love.

fuel sweat grow: carolina barre and core

fuel sweat grow: carolina barre

By the end of that second class in just over 12 hours, and the fact that every Amity class I take completely rocks my whole world, I was ready for a little lacrosse ball release as we made our way down to Charleston.  Seriously, with so much travel taking up our lives these days, a few lacrosse balls and some foam toys can make all the difference in helping to counter balance the travel tightness.  You’d think that by now I would have learned to not workout and then sit in a car for hours, but apparently I haven’t, and my schedule never seems to make those allowances.

fuel sweat grow: little spoon CLT

So, after a quick coffee stop at Little Spoon, we were bidding adieu to Charlotte and en route down to Charleston to link up with our MAD coaches down here, check out the Bridge Run, and get the community juices flowing as we head into the spring season. Now, if I can just get my muscles to cooperate and stop whining over how dang hard the barre classes were….

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Convenience v. Efficiency: A Food + Fitness Story

I’ve been a little off-target over the past two weeks with planning my food and getting into any sort of consistent sweat routine.  It’s not historically in my nature to take long breaks from working out, but over the last year I’ve developed a (much) more balanced approach to letting go of structure when the stress of trying to force fitness in any given day is greater than the benefit.  I’m not sure if it’s a product of ‘growing up’ or just ‘getting old,’ but it’s a real need a couple times a year to slow down and I’m always so thankful when I allow myself to let it go.

Part of creating that balance has also been efficiency.  Convenience is something our whole world seems to be driven by these days, but somehow efficiency sometimes gets lost in the mix.  They’re not the same thing, in fact, they’re grossly different.

It’s the appeal of convenience that leads so many of us to drive-thrus, to processed foods and sugar addictions.  It’s what keeps us on the continuous (proverbial and literal) treadmill for years without seeing any significant change or improvement to our bodies or lives —  and in fact, it usually has the adverse effect.  Efficiency is completely different. It’s the ironic counter to convenience; it’s the most effective way to reach a goal or see a result, and without it, I would never accomplish anything.

So, let me talk clean to you for a second…  [clean + efficient meets food + fitness].

The most important part of eating clean (for me, in my crazy life) is preparation, and packaging.  When I cook it’s never for one meal – I’ll happily live off of leftovers for a week of work lunches and on-the-go dinners.   Example: on Sunday morning I made breakfast for my Charlotte family – 18 eggs worth of breakfast.

fuel sweat grow: steak and eggsZucchini, leftover chimichurri marinated skirt steak (a YUM from Fresh Market), and 18 full fledged eggs.

fuel sweat grow: egg scramble #paleo breakfast

I’m terrible about giving myself enough time for breakfast during the week, but I love breakfast on weekends, so having these leftovers is such a huge thing for me.

Sunday afternoon I followed right up with a bulk-cooking marathon to get ready for a week in the office with my favorite Thai Chicken Stir-fry (with spaghetti squash).

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

To compliment (and balance out the days) this salad came to be — and is always a consistent favorite of mine. It’s definitely more of a summer salad, but it was 80 degrees in Charlotte this weekend, so I’m going to give it a seasonal pass.

fuel sweat grow: fall summer salad

Efficiency is also what I look for in my workouts.  Well, that, and a little escape once in a while.  I still run when I’m feeling inspired — its one of the most freeing actions, and sometimes the only time I have to be in my own head.  I still crave yoga + stretching because it feeds my body and soul.  And I still love sweating for the sake of sweating, when that’s what I need, but for my actual fitness, strength, and total body change, I go for efficiency – and that’s the theme of the week.  So here’s how I’m hoping to balance it:

Monday: Run + new playlist

Tuesday: Carolina Barre + Core: 30/30 Cardio Barre

Wednesday: MADabolic

Thursday: Walk with a friend + Run/body weight circuit

Friday: MADabolic

Saturday: MADabolic

Sunday: a day of REST (or maybe a hike with the 4-leggers)

And the reality is….if somewhere in there life gets a little too jammed and my sanity depends on a little lunch time yoga or childs pose in my office, then so be it.  Sometimes being effective is just about being still.

Sweating + Working and Celebrating America

I keep thinking that it’s Saturday, but alas, it’s just Thursday so nobody panic.  We still have 3.5 sweet days left in this weekend and I, for one, intend to use them all.

Since getting back from Charlotte last week I’ve been a catch up and settle in cycle that can only be described as organizational chaos.  Thankfully I’ve squeezed in enough sweats to keep my brain functioning and my body awake.

Sunday required planning + body testing Tuesday’s bootcamp workout, which I was more than happy to oblige to since I needed a little circuit to get myself going in the morning.

The time table looked like this:

  • 45 seconds on / 15 seconds off (rotating through each station once per round)
  • 1 minute of rest in between rounds
  • 5 full rounds of high intensity pace

And the menu was:

  • Kettlebell RDL (option of 12, 16, or 20 kg kettlebells)
  • Medicine Ball Thrusters (holding ball at chest squat full down, drive up through heels extending arms and ball overhead while fully extending hip flexors)
  • Kettlebell twist (using 10 or 12 kg bells – slight dip with hips twisting to one side + pop up to extend hip flexor and twist bell to opposide side of body.  All while keeping an engaged core + strong back)
  • Turkish Getup w/barbell
  • Slamballs (12 or 20lb)

After testing this Sunday, Monday was a welcomed day for a long run + walk around town to slow things down a little and lengthen out the soreness in my glutes and hamstrings.

Tuesday morning was a boocamp morning which means a bright and early 5-something in the morning wake up, and kicking off the day with the 6 + 7am classes.  Per usual everyone rocked it, and we shot this picture of part of the 6am gang after the workout.

fuel sweat grow: 6am bootcampers

Usually I’ll try to swap coaching times with Dar if I can convince her, and I’ll take the 6am and she can take the 7 (if we feel so athletically inclined in those early morning hours) but Tuesday I happily delayed my activity until the afternoon and took a quick 2 mile warm up run before doing the circuit for the second time in three days with the 5:30pm group.  (I’m not pictured because apparently I have the most superior photo-taking skills – or at least that’s the reason I give myself.)

fuel sweat grow: 5:30pm boot campers

Meals this week have also been slightly chaotic, and have involved far more restaurant food than home-cooked, which is something I don’t usually like to let happen.

Monday night I did manage to pull myself together before too late and used the last of the fridge contents to make this meal.

fuel sweat grow: dinner at home

Ground local (Wolf Creek) beef with zucchini, onion, and mushrooms all sautéd together, plus a salad with romaine, almond slivers, blueberries, cucumber and avocado.

fuel sweat grow: guacamole and carrot chips

A side of my homemade guacamole and sliced carrot chips (for dipping and eating) also doubled as the salad dressing.  I’m not sure if it was just a really filling and great meal, or if I was so craving something home cooked, but it was exactly what I needed to kick off the ‘work week.’

There were multiple mornings turned ‘breakfast meetings’ at LaTaza this week, and I finally converted over to Dar’s full-time ‘regular’ order of scrambled eggs with veggies and extra avocado.

fuel sweat grow: eggs and avocado

This used to be my go-to for healthy (@28tolife style) breakfast out, but lately I had fallen into a pattern of getting the same thing, just wrapped up in a burrito.  I highly recommend both from a taste standpoint, but my body is thanking me for cutting out the gluten-full wrap.

Wednesday, which happened to be an off day for my body started with a LaTaza breakfast and began celebrating America a little early with an afternoon bar business meeting in Richmond.

fuel sweat grow: tequila snack time

It’s pretty uncommon (outside of such holiday events…) that I’ll decide on cocktails in the middle of the day, but somehow yesterday fit the bill, so I went for it.

After a full afternoon of meetings, and a quick trip over to Short Pump for a little retail tour, it got too late to think about going to the grocery store and cooking and when we got back to Charlottesville around 8:45, Dar and I settled on the idea of an extended post-business meeting business-meeting at The Local.

The one single change to my usual order is that I ventured over to the House Salad, forgetting my usual goat cheese favorite, and lived on the wild side of choice, even for just one meal.

The Local: House Salad

I’m not someone who can eat the same thing every single meal, or even every single day for that matter (outside of coffee and wine) but I have a hard time diverting from my favorite dishes at certain restaurants, especially if they’re local and real food oriented.  Therefore, once again I got the Tenderloin Special, and unlike Dar I opted to keep the potatoes rather than getting double vegetables.

The Local: tenderloin special

We’re celebrating America here people, and America (apparently) is about starches and butter, not vegetables.  [Disclaimer: I do not actually recommend that choice model or mentality any days of the week or year outside of some select holidays, and in moderation…].

This morning (Thursday — yep, still Thursday) since everyone was off work for the 4th, bootcamp turned into 1 group class with everyone still in town and moved to the park at 9am.

In an effort to push a little more cardio, and account for a larger group, the workout was structured a little differently.

4 people per station: 4 stations (each station had 2 exercises)

1. speed balls (modified wall balls)/breakdancers

2. jump squats/plank

3. slam balls/walking lunges

4. KB swings/star jumps

We started at each station for 2 minutes (1 minute of each exercise + then switch), with one minute of transition rest in between.  It may have been the heat, it may have been hangovers, or it may have just been much harder than we thought, but after the first round of 1 minute for each exercise, we took it down to speed rounds with round 2 having 45 second intervals, and round 3 pushing through at 30 second max effort intervals.  Regardless, there was heavy breathing, lots of sweating, and three full rounds of work.

Fuel sweat grow: boot campers

The rest of my day consisted of catching up on work, stocking up at Whole Foods (updates on that to come later), and this:

Fuel sweat grow: Ball Jar Mimosas

So far I’m enjoying my celebrations of both Freedom and America, but I’m ready for a nap, and still hoping to squeeze out a little more work.  Two contradictory forces working there, but I’m optimistic.

Salads, Sweats + A Little Too Much Celebration

Welcome to the end of the busiest week ever.  Well, not ever, and probably not even close when compared to how this upcoming week is looking like it’s going to roll out.  Regardless, here are some of the amazing highlights of what went down.

I made this salad. (You’re captivated already, I know.) In the spirit of my summer berry salad obsession, and because I had all the ingredients left over, this salad had romaine, spinach, avocado, cucumber, blueberries, and sunflower seeds.

fuel sweat grow: berry avocado salad

Roasted more cauliflower paired with grilled flank steak.

fuel sweat grow: roasted cauliflower

I’ve been making this a lot the past few months and started to feel a little bored with it, but have found that changing up the seasonings, adding it to the salad, and even adding it to scrambled eggs (with my usual zucchini and some sort of meat) is amazing.  I definitely recommend it for a little crunchy add on.

On the sweat side of things I actually took two days off to let my body recoup, but in between did the bootcamp workouts that Dar coached on monday/wednesday/friday.   Here’s one of my favorite workouts from the week (and a sweet pic of my new kicks) in Dar’s garage gym.

fuel sweat grow: interval workout

It has been awesome to to the bootcamp workouts (I usually do the 6am), but I have been craving a run here and there lately.  With all the rain happening this week it was tough to time an outdoor run, and during the one single hour I had on friday to get a run in, I found myself at UHall, the old (pretty empty) basketball arena at UVa.

When I was rowing at Virginia we worked out in this building through most of the winter, and would frequently run the stadium.  I don’t remember ever being excited about stadiums then, but somehow, on Friday, it was exactly what I needed.

fuel sweat grow: UHall stadiums

There were a few facilities guys playing some pick up basketball on the court, but for the most part it was a complete escape from everything else going on in my world — the perfect setting for running stairs.

fuel sweat grow: UVa UHall

In other news, social events have been a little too easy to come by this week with a summer kick off neighborhood party on Sunday complete with grilling, pot luck, and a moon bounce.

Thursday was the 4th grade graduation at the elementary school next to our development, so we went to support one of our favorite 4th grader, Asha (Uday + Anita’s oldest daughter) as she said goodbye to elementary school.

fuel sweat grow: asha graduation

Her mom (the amazing Anita behind Maliha Creations) put together this unreal dessert table for the grads and their guests.  I’m not sure what we had for my 4th grade graduation, but I assure you, the dessert table didn’t look like this.

fuel sweat grow: Johnson elementary 4th grad graduation

Now skip ahead to Friday night, and we’re faced with another amazing creation, a la Anita, for Asha’s 10th birthday party which completely upstaged any party I’ve ever had.

fuel sweat grow: Asha's birthday

It was a spa party complete with pedicures, make your own bath bombs, and scented oils.

fuel sweat grow: spa party

Dar chaperoned.  Kind of.

fuel sweat grow: dar mask

Uday got to work grilling steak, chicken, and tofu kabobs on the grill, and they were all amazing.

fuel sweat grow: kabobs

Seriously, they were so good that they made today’s Whole Foods shopping list.  Uday’s were actually had made, but today I was feeling a little too overwhelmed to even toy with that idea.

Once the pedicures and gift opening wrapped up (or unwrapped I guess?), the kids were contained in the living room, fully equipped with sleeping bags and 10-year old chatter, and one-by-one the bootcampers started to stroll in from varies places around town.  That being said, I’ll leave you with this inspiring series of pictures.

IMG_3821 IMG_3822 IMG_3823 IMG_3824

I made the pilgrimage down to Charlotte today and have lots of fun updates for the rest of the week, including but not limited to the borderline obsessive meal construction that happened before I left so that week 1 of craziness transitioned a little easier with full fuel and clean eats.

Quick Sweats + a FemCity Locavore Dinner

It has been a long last two weeks, which is only supported by the look of complete contention on Bug’s face.  She goes to day camp three days a week at Pampered Pets, which is probably her own personal disney land, but with people she loves instead of humans dressed as animals (she doesn’t love that).
bug stares

The unfortunate bit of her schedule is that on Tuesdays and Thursday’s she’s stuck at home and usually ends up watching me spend what she likely feels are her ‘best years’ doing work and checking emails.  These days have been especially bleak for Bug since the amount of work happening in the home office (and out of the house) is at a possible all-time high, and that is definitely saying something.

Somehow I’ve managed to fit in workouts most days, and try to take rest days when my schedule is just too full to rationalize creating another obligation.  I’m incredibly lucky to still be able to  go back to the weight room + athletic facility that I trained in when I was rowing for UVa.  All of the equipment is amazing, the strength and training staff is some of the absolute best out there, and it just feels like a second home to me.

McCue Center

Despite the amazing platforms and equipment, since I’m no longer training on a high level I try to avoid olympic lifting at all costs. I typically make an appearance when it’s too hot (or cold, or rainy) to use the Woodway treadmills – they are amazing pieces of machinery.

Last Thursday I stopped in and did a quick workout with a run + a small circuit:

  • 4 mile run
  • 25 wall balls
  • 25 sweepers (laying on the floor holding a bumper plate right above your chest + lift your legs taking toes to plate working on your lower abs)
  • 25 burpees
  • 25 air squats.

Normally I’d shoot for 3 – 4 rounds of this, but I was running out the door to get ready for our FemCity event, so I cut myself off at 2 rounds. It still started the big muscle engines though, I assure you.

Which brings us to the next item on the menu, literally: the FemCity Charlottesville Locavore Dinner Series.  One of the main purposes of Femfessionals, and our FemCity community here in Charlottesville is to connect, promote, and support women in business, across all industries and professional levels, to create a dynamic and powerful group of women actively changing and developing our city.  That being said, we love to have business (and human) connection events where members and future members can meet other women in the community.  The purpose of these events is to connect and share the passions, projects, and businesses that they put their time and energy into, hopefully increasing interest, support, and awareness for their work.

Last Thursday we launched a new dinner series to do just that, with a hyper-local focus that not only reflects our FemCity community, but also Charlottesville as a whole.  The event was limited to a small group of local women and was a dinner event where everyone was able to sit together, around the same table, connecting personally and professionally over a locally sourced dinner.  For this first one, I cooked, in the spirit of representing this very blog as well as many of our local bakeries, markets, and food vendors to keep things, well, local.

local asparagus from FEAST

It’s not too terribly difficult to accomplish an entirely local meal in Charlottesville, but it is somewhat expensive if you’re really committed to a tight radius.  I found some amazing asparagus, strawberries, and a local pesto at Feast! that cost a pretty penny but could not be beat in freshness and quality.

pesto

While I was at Feast! I grabbed some cheeses, including but not limited to, a great cheddar that I used to make some little grilled cheese appetizers, with local Breadworks bread (of course) in two flavors: 1) pesto + cheddar, and 2) granny smith apples + cheddar, all done directly on the grill.

the makings for grilled apple-cheeses

There are no pics of the finished project, but in full disclosure I did break from my typical no-bread stance and indulged in the apple and cheddar sammies, and it was TOTALLY worth it.  They are probably my favorite little treat snacks from recent memory.

I scored an amazing amount of produce from C’ville Market for less than $80, which always seems to be the case there, and had more than enough for all of the dishes, including the salad.

fuel sweat grow: salad

Mixed local greens, topped with avocado, cucumber, local strawberries, blueberries, and last but not least: sliced almonds.

fuel sweat grow: salad

I’m on a fruity salad kick right now, and have definitely been appreciating the surplus of local greens available at the market, so it pretty much just created itself with only a little help from my hands.

For one of the main dishes I went with my favorite veggie topping (zucchini, yellow squash, red + yellow peppers) all sautéd in coconut oil and served over amazing local fettuccine from Mona Lisa Pasta.  Even though they don’t have a gluten free variety yet, this pasta is made fresh in house, and is absolutely amazing.  This dish had half spinach fettuccine and half basil fettuccine to give everyone a little bit of choice in the matter.

fuel sweat grow: mona lisa pasta

In addition to the pasta we had gilled chicken from the Organic Butcher, marinated in either the local pesto or honey dijon, with a side of tomato mozzarella.

fuel sweat grow: chicken and tomato

The meal capped off with some SweetHaus cupcakes (and wine of course).

fuel sweat grow: sweethaus cupcakes

We had amazing conversations, a number of brand new faces, and an awesome night all around.  I could not be more excited for what is to come in our little FemCity, as well as all of the exciting projects and upcoming plans that all of our Fems brought to the table.  It was incredibly inspiring.

It’s so easy to get caught up in ‘work’ and the demands of every day life, and it was so great to have a casual reminder of just how energizing and productive it can be to sit down and share with no particular objective or necessary outcome.  We’ve got great programming coming up, so check our FemCity Charlottesville if you live here, or whatever Femfessionals community is close to you – they’re all amazing.

Easy at Home Workout: Barbell Circuit

Bug is pretty much summing up the ‘it’s been a long week’ sentiment that has been lingering in the air.  I’m not sure if last weekend just blended into the week, or if this week has been that non-stop, but I found myself being slightly jealous of her ability to throw down and nap, anywhere, anytime.  It’s an enviable skill.

tired bug

Since end-of-week workouts can be sort of blah when you’re drained, here’s one that I did with Dar last week for a quick and dirty garage gym workout that was felt for days.

circuit workout

This is a barbell workout, so anywhere you can find a 25lb, 35lb, or 45lb barbell, or just a really big stick (kidding!), you’ll be good to go.  While I love all the awesome toys that we have these days to make workouts more dynamic and varied (i.e. wall balls, medicine balls, bands, kettlebells, etc), sometimes it’s nice to keep things simple and just crank out a workout with one tool only.

barbells

This workout was TABATA style, 45 seconds on/15 seconds off, cycling through all the exercises and repeating the circuit for 4 full rounds. It did change a bit from how I wrote it out (note: ad-hoc arrows), so here’s how it works best:

1) composite rows: starting with the bar at/against your shins with feet hip width apart, and knees slightly bent. Drive through your heels to drive the bar straight up, standing tall, finishing with a high pull and returning all the way back down to the initial set-up and repeating the pull in a continuous cycle.  These are tough (essentially a narrowly set up sumo deadlift high pull, simulating the full body rowing motion). These were my nemesis circa 2002, thanks to Jim (GYM) Ferris.

2.  Back Squat: just what you think it is – standard back squat.  Feet about shoulder width apart, drive through your heels to keep your glutes and core engaged.  Since there’s no extra weight on the bar emphasize rhythm, sticking with a consistent speed and getting a full range of motion (hip crease drops below knee level). Think about pressing your knees out as you pull your hips towards your heels.

3. Push Press: Feet hip width apart, bar resting high on (in front of) shoulders.  Grip slightly wider than shoulder width, elbows in front (pointing at 45 degree angle), fingers wrapped around the bar.  Bend from hips and knees to initiate the dip, keeping your core engaged, drive through your heels to straighten your legs (and extend through hips). Finish by pressing the bar overhead right in line with your shoulders, hips and heels.  Just tilt your head back so the bar doesn’t hit you as you press it straight up to the ceiling (arms fully extended).

4. RDL : for this one you’ve got the bar in front, set up similar to the composite rows – feet hip width apart, slight bend in the knees, back straight (core engaged) and hinging from the waist.  The movement here is keeping your core engaged, weight in the heels, hinging forward until barbell comes to mid-shin, and standing straight up keeping the bar close to the body, and hinging back down to repeat.  This is one of my favorite moves of all time because it feel so good like a hamstring stretch while you’re doing it, but always leaves the glutes and hammies screaming the next day.

5. Front squat: Just like the back squat you’re keeping your weight in your heels and squatting until your hip crease is below knee level, but the bar is resting on the front rack position (on shoulders).  Arms are in front, elbows pointing forward and high, with the bar resting and balanced on your fingertips.  Unlike the back squat that emphasizes gluteal and hamstring work, this will light up your quads and tops of your thighs.

Like all interval workouts, the key here is really setting a consistent, and challenging pace.  If you push it during the work time, you are guaranteed to get your engines going.  If you just survive it, you’ll still be sore but you’re missing most of the benefit.

Give it a shot, and even modify whatever you’d like (time, weight, sequence) and let us know what works or doesn’t work for you.  We’re always playing with different combinations and love to change things up.

Happy Squatting!