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.

A Week in Charlotte: sweats, eats + great friends

We’re back from Charlotte and already hitting the ground running.  So you don’t miss out on the ‘fakecation’ week, here are the highlights split up in our favorite categories: sweat + fuel (with a little growth sprinkled in between).

Tuesday and Wednesday were the designated Fight Gone MAD days, and they were just as killer as ever.  The interval lengths and movement combinations are paired with serious intentions of making your whole body work, and the intervals are planned just perfectly to take you to that edge.  Both are constantly changing so adaptation is not exactly an option — in a good way.

fight gone mad

Thursday was a rest day for the whole crew, and then Friday was a Flywheel day for Dar, and a long awaited solo run for me.

I have not been running as much as normal lately, or really much at all, which I think has been great for my body, but I needed a little time with my music and some solo thoughts for a while.  It was exactly what I needed, and I took a round 2 run on Sunday back in beautiful Charlottesville.

I’ve got to say, I always have the highest (and most chaotic) planned workout schedule when I head into Charlotte, but this trip I took more time to unwind.  Even Bug got in the pool, despite her constant uncertainty about water.

bug pool

The rest of my time was filled with great food, friends, and meetings about exciting new ventures.  Among Thursday’s highlights was dinner at Soul Gastrolounge (one of my favorite local spots) with some of my favorite Charlotte ladies, business owners, and Fight Gone MAD addicts; Sarah, owner of Social Dress Shop, Carrie of Pink Toast Ink, and Erin of Erin McDermott Jewelry. We’ve got a few fun announcements and a new collaborative side business that we can’t wait to launch, so stay tuned for that.  Disclaimer: it’s not food or fitness – the only food is that which we consume while we meet, and the only fitness conversations are about Fight Gone MAD.  All that considered, it will still be amazing.

Since Soul serves a number of small plates and sushi options, here’s a look at what was enjoyed.  Which is to say, everything.

1. California Roll.

Soul sushi

2. Chimichurri Beef Skewer (with some amazing cilantro based sauce that I am yet to fully deconstruct to reconstruct)

chimichurri beef skewer

3. Guacamole Stack, which might just be the best thing I’ve ever ordered.  Anywhere. Ever.

guacamole stack

My dinner was accompanied by several awesome glasses of wine, and the brilliant conversation of this small think-ubator we’ve assembled, and was the perfect combination at the end of a long day.

Friday morning I stopped in to a local jewelry trunk show at Flywheel to check out Erin’s latest creations, and picked out a ‘congratulatory gift’ from her for our Fight Gone MAD announcement.

erin mcdermott

I love it (first of all) because it goes with my everyday style, but mostly I love it (the way that I love ALL of my Erin jewelry) because I always think of her when I’m putting it on.  Erin is one of the most generous and genuine people in the world (my world at least) and I am SO very grateful for her and all of the support that she has given over this last year of new life/career development.  It has been huge.

The rest of the day was filled with good food and friends, starting with a simple afternoon out by the pool, and a salad using the remnants of some other meal ingredients.


Dinner was a ‘business’ meeting with our partners at Roosters, which has to be another favorite of mine.  Great wine, plus amazing clean food options.  I took zero pictures of food, and only managed this one ‘team’ photo, sans the other 50% of the team, as we waited to be seated.


No food, just wine – the picture shows nothing but says it all.

I had the hanger steak (medium!) with a side of asparagus, beets, and string beans.  It was awesome (per usual) and was the perfect compliment to the ever-loving, ever-flowing wine that is vacation mandatory.

Saturday morning brought the much awaited Fight Gone MAD photo shoot with Dar (and cameo appearances by Matt and Cristina after the 10:30 class).  My good friend Courtney Linnehan was the Photographer (she’s legitimate, and awesome at what she does) and on top of getting some great shots, we had a damn fun time entertaining ourselves for a couple of hours.

After the photo shoot (pics to come soon) we grabbed lunch with 28 to Life guru and Fight Gone MAD original, Cristina at Bad Daddy’s.    The best thing about Bad Daddy’s, aside from the tater tots and sweet potato fries, is the amazing salad menu and create your own salad options.  Dar and Cristina ordered the same salad with mixed greens, nuts, avocado, tomato, apples, olives, and a burger on top.

bad daddy's big salad CYO with a burger

I also created my own, but went a different route: romaine, mushrooms, cucumber, avocado, walnuts, and chicken with their lemon-greek vinagrette.

bad daddys big salad w/chicken

They were all awesome, and if you’re trying to eat on plan (28 to life, or just clean in general) they are amazing options. A total example of how to successfully eat at a restaurant, without over indulging or leaving hungry.

Saturday night was a big stay-in dinner with some good friends, old and new, including our hosts for the week: Bill and Gwen.  We brought some of our favorite grass-fed, local, beef filets down from Charlottesville which were awesome with Gwen’s cucumber salad, tomato avocado, and a dab of rice.

dinner spread

We spent several awesome hours sitting around the table debating, discussing, and most importantly spending time with each other. It was the perfect last night in Charlotte, and one of my favorites of the whole week.

dinner table

Sunday morning we packed up after breakfast, and made it back to Charlottesville just in time for me to get in my second run of the week (outside, yeah!) and a trip to the grocery store so there is food in the fridge.

It was an awesome week away, but I am so happy to be back home.  There are tons of tangents and additional updates to come — all worth the wait!

Cville Runs + Training Tips

Hey all, it’s Vanessa your ‘run ambassador!’ In the spirit of pending (hopefully…) spring weather, it’s time to talk running in Charlottesville!

Charlottesville is a running town. On a sunny spring (or summer, fall, or winter) day you can spot at least 4 runners on your way from the corner to the downtown mall. Are they training for something? Maybe, maybe not. If they are, there’s a good chance it’s the Charlottesville Ten Miler. An iconic Cville race, it runs from John Paul Jones Arena, through UVa grounds, into downtown neighborhoods and on the mall, and back to Uhall. With over 1500 runners, the ten miler is the go-to spring running event in this town.

Vanessa Runs

The first year I ran the ten miler, it poured. I mean, serious, serious, rain. There was even a guy running in a speedo. I remember mile 5, attempting to run up the hill of Lexington Ave, thinking to myself, I will NEVER do this again. Except I did, every single year after that. I look forward to the ten miler now, trying to beat last year’s time, waving to the spectators, tackling the tough hills around Scott Stadium. It’s like a high school reunion with sweat and blisters instead of bad music and too much booze.

This year, I rocked the ten miler. New PR, placed 3rd in my age group, and felt great as I finished. I felt mentally and physically prepared, and the light drizzle at the beginning of the race was just enough nostalgia from my first year to pump me up and get me going. I encourage everyone who wants to claim to be a charlottesvillian to partake in the Cville Ten Miler once.  It’s a rite of passage, and just as important to this town’s culture as Bodo’s Bagels and Fridays After Five.

Thinking about running next year? Here are my top 3 tips:

1. Train with hills – don’t spend your time on the treadmill with a zero incline. There’s always one more hill to conquer on this course, so spend your training tackling some incline.
2. Don’t go out too fast – I actually bought a watch this year to make sure my adrenaline didn’t push me to a 6 minute first mile, and it paid off when I was able to bring it in strong at the end.
3. Ditch the headphones – Think of it as a happy hour, there’s historic Cville sites along the way, people to talk to, bands playing, and of course, the pink ladies cheering you on by the stadium. Soak it all in.

Check out the Charlottesville Ten Miler, and if you’re feeling ambitious, check out the Charlottesville Marathon and Half Marathon (it’s April 6th, so you can get involved THIS year at a water or cheer station along the course).

Happy Running!

Meet Vanessa: Run Ambassador + Sweatworker

Vanessa Run Ambassador

Vanessa is a Charlottesville native, cardio sweat junkie, fitness and wellness leader.  Fun-loving mama to Everly (aka Munchkin), chocaholic vegetarian, and wahoo for life.

Vanessa has lived her whole life in the heart of Charlottesville. From back road short cuts and local bands, to the best restaurants and UVa traditions, she knows her Charlottesville stuff. Her best day is spent running and people watching around UVa, taking in the scenery on the back country of ridge road, or headed south to the trails at walnut creek.

 After graduating from UVA, and dabbling in magazine editing and marketing, she settled in at ACAC downtown, where she is currently the Personal Training and Fitness Director.  She is an ACE certified personal trainer, with specialty certifications from AFAA, AEA, and Kettlebell Concepts. On a daily basis you can find her training clients, teaching a multitude of classes, or rewarding her sweat sessions with the chocolate stash in her office.  She has an amazing 2 year old, Everly, who makes every day brighter and teaches her to laugh and love the simple things in life.

Vanessa & Everly : fuel sweat grow blog

 You’ll hear from her on creative running routes, trips on training for your charlottesville races, and ways to sneak a little more cardio into your life.

Building Strength in Kids: Body + Mind.

If there’s one thing that we feel more passionately about than health and fitness in our own lives, its health and fitness in kids’ lives.  There’s something so raw and rewarding about empowering a kid to be active and believe in themselves, and giving them the tools to develop the habits for healthy active lifestyles.

Meet Lex, he’s 7, and views Dar as is best friend, sister, and sometimes even his brother (it’s complicated).

Dar + Lex
Lex’s before picture

Last October Lex came to the bodybuilding show that Dar promoted through Main Stage Muscle, and saw first hand some of the most fanatical lifters and bodybuilders in the state of North Carolina, and beyond.  What may have borderline been a terrifying experience for a 40 lb kid, Lex took in and now makes it a priority to work out with Dar whenever she comes to visit.  Even more importantly, he fills the gaps working out with his mom for some extra special bonding time.

check out those guns! Got (almond) milk? Lex’s after picture.

Can’t beat that outfit.  Ever.  Lex might regret that kodak moment 15 years from now when we show all of his girlfriends, but for now, it’s the best thing we’ve ever seen.

Seeing the Biggest Loser take a more active role in working with kids this season was awesome, focusing on the child obesity epidemic, but healthy eating and exercise habits are still important for string beans like Lex.

Almost 2 years ago I was fortunate enough to, so very randomly, start talking to a stranger checking out running shorts in the lululemon in SouthPark Mall.  The woman I met was Lori Klingman, who happened to be integral in developing Let Me Run, and acts as the Vice President of the organization.  It was only about 45 seconds into our conversation when I realized I wanted to needed to know more about this organization, so I met Lori for coffee a week or so later to do just that.

let me run logo

Here’s what I learned: Let Me Run is a nonprofit organization, providing 7 week fitness and personal development  programs, for boys from 4th grade through middle school.  The program is centered around running practices with mentors and small teams to prepare the boys for a 5k fun race.  Their mission is ‘to inspire young boys through the power of running to be courageous enough to be themselves, to build healthy relationships, and live an active lifestyle.’

Let Me Run has grown out of (and seemingly outgrown) Charlotte and is spreading quickly throughout other states so be sure to check out their site on upcoming coaches trainings, or sign up to create your own team on their website. It’s a little bit of an ‘if you build it, they will come’ model, so no matter where you live, don’t hesitate to contact them about starting a team simply because of a little thing called ‘geography.’ There’s a solution for that.

Let Me Run has amazing programming developed by renowned psychologists and fitness + physical therapy experts, all powered and brought to life by their super active board members, parents and volunteers.  I have friends who have coached their son’s team, and with complete transparency have enjoyed the experience just as much as the kids did, so it’s a win-win.  Check them out + get involved! Charlottesville, this may be my community appreciation gift to you and all you crazy runners.

what's amazing about this picture? everything.
what’s amazing about this picture? everything.

In other news from the fuel.sweat.grow. team, we want to highlight some of these amazing organizations on the blog that are changing the landscape for health and fitness for kids, going beyond mandatory gym class, providing kids with the positive and supportive experiences they need to develop healthy habits and a strong sense of self.  That being said, please let us know any other great organizations you love and support and we’ll share it in our kids fitness posts.  Dar has some pretty awesome fitness tip footage (yes, we’ve taken to video) coming at you from her buddy Blue later this week.  You don’t want to miss it, and that’s a promise.