Find a Reason to Keep Going: Whatever the Challenge

Last week I was in Charlottesville, sweating side-by-side with our clients, as we introduced a few new intervals.  This weekend, we blindly took on the newest combination of time + pain, I found myself wondering at the half way mark how I was going to make it to the end.  I was being challenged, mentally, by both the interval and myself.  During the short breaks between intervals, I took stock of the faces around me; the wavering levels of commitment in some, and the determination on the faces of those who were totally in it.  As I stood there getting ready to take on the second half of the interval, I started to think about the choice.  Just like like anything else in life, what I was experiencing in that moment, and what I would experience in future moments was my choice.  It wasn’t just about deciding to walk in the doors, or to participate; it was about deciding to actually be in it.  Instead of creating excuses and thinking of reasons to give up and quit, why not just decide to execute.  Decide to get the most out of it, to actually challenge yourself and push the limit of what you think is possible, guts and all.

I kept this conversation going with myself throughout the rest of the interval, but slowly, over the next day or so, the thoughts tapered off and drifted out of mind.

On Monday I made a game-time decision to go to Flywheel after an especially long day at work.  Five minutes in to the class I knew I wasn’t in it;  I didn’t love the instructor, she talked to fast, the mic was too loud, her resistance was too low, and we seemed to be climbing a never-ending hill (that I decided she wouldn’t understand since her resistance was half that of ours).  I was spiraling.  I spent the first 30 minutes of the class being annoyed that I was there ‘wasting’ my time, subconsciously depriving myself of the opportunity in and of itself.

It wasn’t until after the short weights section that the torq board finally came on and I had my moment of truth: I wasn’t leading.  For the first time in the last year and a half of classes I wasn’t winning the class.

The thing is that I’m not crazy competitive – at least not these days – but that board is my one true measure of progress.  I know what I typically average in a class, and what my baseline for power is.  It’s how I track improvement in my own strength and endurance, objectively, and how I keep myself honest.  Somehow I had lost sight of why I was really there and got lost in an entitlement of experience.  I expected a certain level of x, y, or z from my ‘experience’ and amidst all of the external factors that I was suddenly hyper-aware of, I completely lost sight of what I needed to bring to the table (or bike, if you will).

When the torq board flashed on and I found myself in second place by 7 points. After the half second it took me to realize that I had failed to make the choice to be in it before class started, I finally checked back in.  I knew I had two, at most three, songs to rebound so it was game on.  After the first song I had closed within 3.5 points and my heart was pounding along with me.  The last song finally took us into 30 second sprints and I remembered again not only why I came to class, but also why I needed to show up.  It fed something in me, and for the first time in a while I was reaching for something that was out in front of me and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to attain — but I wasn’t going to stop chasing it.

When we finished class I was just under two points from the leader, having closed the gap on the previous 5 points.   I was at my threshold point – my lungs and legs were burning, my heart was pounding, and I was completely out of gas.  The last 30 seconds of sprinting gave literally everything that I had, and it was without a doubt the most satisfying feeling I may have had after any ride in recent memory.  In the end,  and as always, it came down to finding a reason to keep going – a reason more compelling, appealing, and powerful than any possible reason to give up, and it made all the difference.

So, a big shout out to Anna79 for keeping me honest, and for your similar sentiments after class.  You gave me a reason to be in it, and to take control of my experience.  I remembered again what I was there for, and more importantly what it felt like to really chase down the experience that I want and am fully capable of creating for myself.

[On another less related, but just as (if not more) important note, thank you to my friend Jen who actually convinced me to sign up for class with her, despite her raging post-bachlorette party ‘headache.’   You’re a much braver soul than I am.]

There are a lot of ways to spin the experience and to interpret the general theme — all of which could be applied directly to fitness, or more broadly in all things life — but today I just want to focus on the choice.  On choosing to show up, choosing to get the most out of the experience and most of all choosing to wake yourself (myself) the H up in every moment where I begin to lose the drive to choose my power.

The Last of the Adventures in Chicagoland

Here we go:  part II of the Chicago chronicles.  Friday was an awesome start to the weekend, and thanks to the beautiful 80 degree weather and some amazing people, Saturday and Sunday were even better.

Since bootcamp (and work) has my body programmed to rise with the sun, Saturday morning kicked off pretty early with some coffee and a little romping around the city before settling on a breakfast spot: Eggsperience.


Honestly, this is one of my favorite breakfast spots, ever. There were a million options, tons of ways to substitute and create your own, and everything that came out looked delicious.

Since eggs are one of the easiest clean eating options for breakfast, that’s what I got – three eggs scrambled with broccoli, mushroom, and turkey sausage.

eggsperience: egg scramble

This breakfast was both the best and the worst idea we had all weekend.  It was great because I was starving and needed food (fuel) to get through the 10:45 Flywheel class – and it was bad for the same reason.

Last October Dar and I took our first ‘scouting’ trip up to Chicago and took two classes at Flywheel with Candy.  We didn’t know her at all, or what we were getting ourselves into, but she is Awesome, with a capital A.  Since our visit we’ve kept in contact with Candy and made sure (with her help) that we made it into her class.  That being said, her class was an hour of complete intensity and probably the highest energy class all around that I’ve ever been in — but half way through eating seemed like it might have been a mistake.

flywheel gold coast

Regardless, we got a killer ride in before 12pm,  just in time to make it to lunch with a good friend, and rounded out the afternoon with a short(ish) shopping tour of the city.  That’s about the point where I lost Dar’s interest and ventured solo around the best Nordstrom Rack I’ve ever been to (after the standard trip into the lululemon on Rush Street of course).  I almost don’t want to share the primal experience that shoe and jeans shopping for me at a place like ‘the rack,’ but I have no problem saying this: it was something to behold.

By some miracle I managed to make it back to the hotel and get ready for another dinner out with the Charlottesville crew (me, Anita, Dar and her best boyfriend Uday…) at Cantina Loredo.

cantina loredo

This was probably my favorite meal of the weekend- amazing drinks, awesome food, and a great atmosphere.  It’s the kind of high end mexican food that provides awesome food choices and modified options for clean eating.

That being said, we started out with some really great guacamole and chips, per the requirements of any good vacation, alongside the obligatory margaritas and mimosas.


Our entrees were equally as good – salads, tacos, and the like.


cantina loredo

After dinner we headed out for a few more drinks at Fado, which I was psyched to see since it was a bar I really loved when I was living in Philly.

chicago: dar val anita

After Fado we made our last and final stop at RPM where we had the classic vacation late-night snacks.

Zucchini chips and a pepperoni pizzetta.  So, so good.

zucchini chips

RPM italian

It was our last night in the city, and an awesome way to cap off the urban portion of the trip.

Sunday I went with Dar out to her cousin Jeff’s house for the last day of the trip, and had an awesome time hanging out in the pool, watching movies, and pretty much just relaxing with the whole fam damily.

cusibians in chicago

It was an awesome trip, and a pretty tough place to leave, but it was time to get back to real life, and all the work that has to happen in these next few weeks to get Fight Gone MAD open in Charlottesville.

CLT Revisited: Friends, Food + Fitness

I’ve been back in Charlottesville for over a week now, which means it’s (obviously) due time to circle back to my Charlotte trip and squeeze in a few things that got left out of the few-and-far-between updates as of late.

I have a ton going on right now with my attention being pulled in a million directions, so when I’m in Charlotte (especially when I’m in Charlotte) I know it’s important to emphasize sweats and structure in my day to stay focused and have the energy to knock the to-do’s off my list.


From a sweat perspective, I spent most of my time bouncing between Fight Gone MAD and Flywheel and loved every second of it.  That being said, since both are pretty intense, every 3-4 days I would take a day to myself to run or walk (especially during the beach trip) giving a little solo time to myself and my body.  The most key piece of that experience for me is always music, and new (at least new to me) songs and playlists.

I managed to fill my adventures with some new choice songs that are definitely going to be deemed the ‘Summer of ’13 Soundtrack’ for my life, but none more frequently played (in its entirety) than the Delta Rae ‘Carry the Fire’ album.  I would not necessarily recommend it for high intensity workouts, or anything where you’re looking to really find increased motivation and energy, but it’s awesome for a walk, long run, or just basic listening.

If you want to test your own willingness to be vulnerable and do a little at-home therapy, lay on the floor and shut your eyes while you listen to their single ‘If I loved You,’ and let your mind wander to the past, or present, and the many complex and heart breaking layers of relationships, life, and trying to do the right thing.  The song is about as powerful as it gets and could probably bring the strongest of souls down to their knees- so listen at your own risk my friends.

On a much more upbeat note, I was also able to catch up with some amazing friends in Charlotte that I don’t usually get to see, and loved getting to catch up with over sweats, eats, and even a little jewelry.

I met my friend Cara for a walk around her neighborhood (and a ‘surprise’ walk to Harris Teeter to buy a few kitchen items she was out of  – coupons present a sense of urgency people.  We’ve always walked together, and use the time to get in a little physical and mental therapy.  It’s probably one of my favorite friend sweat rituals because it helps restore balance to my whole being and gives us a chance to reconnect, a process that takes all of about 5 seconds.   I have a number of larger take-aways from our conversations that will be part of future blogs and would be far too minimized to squeeze into a paragraph here.

The day after my walk with Cara, and post-Fight Gone MAD class, I ventured over to reconnect with my favorite little bulldog – Suki.

fuel sweat grow: suki Mcdermott-White

Suki is the four-legged fur baby, and jewelry model, of my friend Erin McDermott (White) who is one of my absolute favorite people on earth (and the only person that I seem to buy Jewelry from anymore).

Erin is in Charlottesville every couple of weeks so I do see her pretty regularly, but it had been almost a year since my last smooch from Suki so I took the opportunity to catch her at home while I could.  Suki has crazy awesome energy and calmed down on my lap only when it meant full neck to belly button rubs – oh and when we put a necklace on her.  Like any good model she knows when its business time and sat still(ish) in her chair for the photo op.

While I was there Erin handed me some earrings that were the nearest replicas to old favorites that I had back in college and lost somewhere during my journeys.

Erin McDermott earrings

I had sent her pictures several months back asking for re-creations, even though they were not the typical style she normally makes.  I had actually forgotten about it totally, but she had remembered and when she was working with another jewelry designer that had the right scraps and tools, they gave them a shot.  They are perfect.  I think they’re going to try and team up on some different sizes and variations which I could not be more excited about (and you should be too).

Since I can never get out of Erin’s without making additional purchases, I picked up a few extra tidbits including an elephant necklace that had been waiting for me to get it.

Erin McDermott: elephant

And some more droplet earrings to go with my collection of the similar items in Erin’s line.

Erin McDermott Jewelry

My last two special friend-visits were happily done over lunch, one with my amazing friend Lauren who is always sweating towards some goal – this time the Baltimore + NYC marathons in the fall.  She and I hit up Bad Daddy’s which is one of my all-time favorites, and lunch was a CYO salad of romaine, mushrooms, apples, cucumbers, walnuts, avocado, and grilled chicken with a vinagrette on the side.  No picture to share, but the combination is awesome for summer.

While Bad Daddy’s is a go-to spot, I think I found a new winning salad when I grabbed lunch with my friend Cadie at Nolan Kitchen.  I got the house seasonal salad which is typically a kale salad with beets, tomatoes, herbed goat cheese, pistachios, pita croutons and a honey-sumac dressing.  I added Chicken and some additional (spring) greens to mine, and can say with all honesty this is my favorite salad, probably ever.

fuel sweat grow: nolans seasonal salad

So, those were the fringe updates on my trip to Charlotte with a few more sweats, eats, and suki/jewelry treats.

All of these things were awesome and made me happy in my heart, which is really all I could have hoped for and totally completed the trip.  And best of all? Erin is now a Fight Gone MAD addict (like so many of us) and I can’t wait for her to workout with us in Charlotte at the South End location, and when she’s up visiting in Charlottesville.  Suki is welcome too, of course.

Charlotte Recap: sweats + eats

After we finished sweating out the friday night branding celebrations at Fight Gone MAD, and after we kicked off the prelude to our ‘Real Food Freedom’ at Cristina’s ’28 to Life’ seminar, Dar and I beelined to Whole Foods immediately to feed our own personal hunger games.  In the spirit of keeping things in line with not only our normal clean eating efforts, but also the re-doubled guidelines of the challenge, we went for the staples.

whole foods cart for 28 days

Within the first 5 minutes we came across the product testing table for Tessemae’s all natural salad dressings, which were ah-mazing.  The ingredients were all A) words we can pronounce and B) on the list of approved items from Cristina.  Double win. So, we bought 4 bottles… and a few other bottles of beverages that are not relevant to this post.

whole foods: 28 day challenge

Just kidding.  We’re not starting the challenge until Monday (the 11th) so drinking is still allowed, and it’s a good thing because if it weren’t this weekend would have officially (and forcibly) ejected us off of the wagon.

In addition to some staples (asparagus, avocado, tomato, spinach/arugula mix and flank steak), we hit up the salad bar to build a quick salad since we had made afternoon plans for a family mall trip with Bill, Lex & Gwen.  The salad was exactly the right choice to fuel that adventure.

whole foods salad: fuel sweat grow

One of the big rules for the 28 to life challenge (and long term eating plan) is balancing carbs, fats and proteins. Since vegetables are carbs, we added turkey, avocado, and pecans to the salad to balance it out.   More on this later as we get in to meal planning, but just keep it in mind (you need all three, but you don’t need wheat or starches as carbs).

After we devoured the salad, the whole crew crammed into the big car and hit up the absurdly packed Southpark Mall.  As a short reprieve from the chaos, and because my body was already ‘thanking’ me for the Fight Gone MAD workout i did in the morning, we found refuge in the Brookstone massage section.  Dar and Lex certainly had no problem settling into the comfort.

fuel sweat grow: lex massage chair
he’s the best.
fuel sweat grow: dar brookstone
this is how we found her.

We made some pretty good time, in and out of stores that were part of the agenda, and then (of course) stopped in to visit the ladies + gents in the Southpark lululemon. We didn’t take pictures, but things were purchased, and worn on Sunday. Pretty par for the course since I don’t remember a time my uniform didn’t come entirely from lululemon.

fuel sweat grow: dar & lex
also, this happened. organically.

By the time we made it back home, we were all dragging, so we put our groceries to work.  The flank steak was (eventually) grilled to perfection by grill master Bill.

fuel sweat grow: flank steak

We then mixed together (thanks to Dar’s newly mastered chopping skills) tomatoes, avocado, and cucumber with garlic powder + sea salt, balsamic vinegar and light olive oil.  While that was being thrown together, the asparagus was broiled on high (6 minutes) with light olive oil, and the same ground garlic + sea salt seasoning.

fuel sweat grow: tomato avocado salad

fuel sweat grow: asparagusAdd wine to that combination, and you’ve got an awesome Saturday night dinner, and leftovers that will likely carry over into the next day.  And that’s exactly what happened here.

Sunday we had a 4pm sweat date with Gwen, out at Flywheel in Ballantyne, to ride with one of our favorite Charlotte fitness leaders: Jenna.  I’m yet to meet a Flywheel class I don’t like, and I try to take class in any city I find one, but  Jenna still remains one of my favorites.

I don’t know if it was the Saturday night dinner, or the warmup I got touring Ikea Sunday morning, but I somehow managed to rebound from my friday/saturday exhaustion to rock a total power output of 321, which is right up in the range of my personal best scores.  The last time I hit the 320’s was up at Flywheel Gold Coast with my other top fly lady, Candy.

Still on my endorphin high, we scooted up to the other Charlotte Flywheel to stop in for our good friend Erin McDermott‘s jewelry Trunk Show with Social Dress Shop.  Erin is a great friend and fellow UVa grad, but more importantly (?) makes my favorite jewelry, ever.  So check her out, and I dare you to not buy something.  Just kidding –  go ahead and indulge yourself, you deserve it.

erin mcdermott jewelry

Social Dress Shop is also one of my new favorite addictions (thanks to Pink Toast Ink‘s own Carrie Barker who does their graphics/branding/ word of mouth peddling).  They’re pairing up with Fight Gone MAD and Cristina for a full fledged Bridal Bootcamp package that looks amazing, so if you’re in Charlotte, check it out.  .

When we got home we had one of my favorite dinners: leftover dinner!

28 to life challenge: fuel sweat grow

This particular version included the leftover steak and asparagus, which went on top of the spinach + arugula mix.   Avocado and our new favorite Tessemae salad dressing (seriously, it’s amazing) topped it all, restoring our energy levels to a borderline normal range.  It was exactly what we needed to recover from the weekend, and prepare for what turned out to be a week of chaos.