5 Commitments for Balance + Productivity

It’s Sunday night, and once again as we stand at the close of this week and the start of the next, I keep coming back to the same thought: the weekends are too short.

fuel sweat grow: weekend days

It’s not that I necessarily need more rest — I’m not sure if the weekends are actually better for that these days.  My focus has been on trying to do less constant gear shifting,  and getting into a better rhythm of taking things to completion without a constant emphasis on multi-tasking.

It sounds somewhat like an oxymoron, but what I’m really going for is organized and balanced structure.  Organization in my environment, structure in my schedule, and a combination of the two when it comes to my calendars and work streams.  Time blocking is my best friend, and OneNote is my deepest passion — the only thing that I’ve been putting a little on the back burner is the food part.

It’s really not common for me to ever cook anything that isn’t Paleo, whole30, or 28toLife friendly because I’m just so used to it by now that I don’t really even know what I would cook otherwise.  What I’ve been slacking a little on lately is meal prep and planning, keeping things interesting and not monotonous, as well as doing actual at-home cooking.  The emphasis on restaurants and my red wine security blanket to get through these last four weeks of winter brutality has thrown me and my system off a little — so it’s time to re-organize, re-structure, and re-energize ALL the aspects of my life(style) and not just the work pieces.

So here are 5 things I’m doing on Monday to kick off the week:

1.  Email Organization. By the end of the week my email is usually out of control, so it’s helpful to start off monday morning not only clearing out the lingering unread messages, but also following up on anything that may not have been urgent at the moment but needs to be actioned.

2. Create a list of 5 action items to tackle each day before the first meeting of each day.  They can all be small milestones towards a bigger task, or completely unrelated, but I always like to start with the things that I either keep putting off or struggle to remember once I get caught up in the day.

3. Set a sweat schedule.  My daily schedule doesn’t always appear conducive to a regular fitness schedule, but my lifestyle is intertwined with it, so taking the time to be intentional not only with my schedule, but also the balance, brings me both sanity and a structure I can work around.

4. Plan meals out + go to the store.  I usually do this on Sundays and spend the afternoon prepping a number of different meals for the week, but with the craziness that has been filling up my weekend days lately, this can sometimes fall onto a Monday. And that’s exactly what’s happening this week.  I’ve got a little ‘whole damn thing’ spin-off brewing inside my head, so stay tuned for those updates coming soon, and as always, please join me.

5. Commit to down time.  This is everything right here — it’s the thing that constantly gets compromised or squeezed out, and it’s the most important part of the whole.  When I’m not zoned in on getting something done, or hyper conscious of my every-loving and constantly growing to-do list, every thing seems to become more clear.  When I slow down my mind is able to wander, creativity is heightened, and ideas generate at a faster and more connected way than normal.  It’s a 2015 priority for me, and it certainly deserves it’s space in my week.

So here’s to the start of this week, of March, and the hopeful ascent in temperatures and vitamin D. It all has to circle back at some point.

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Welcome to Fall: Comfort Food + Charlottesville Weekends

It’s fall.  It’s a leaves changing, crisp air breathing, college football kind of fall, and I’m so in love with it.

fuel sweat grow: pumpkins and fall

I love warm weather just as much as the next winter-fearing southern transplant, but there’s some naturally ignorant draw to the changing of the seasons that fools my body and mind into thinking that there will be a favorable outcome, or at least a perpetual new reality where life is all hot-chocolate, boots, and pumpkin everything.  And listen, if there’s a world like that somewhere, please send me the coordinates.  I’ll be there….fully engulfed corduroys, a turtleneck and tall boots – because that’s my jam.

This past weekend, despite Saturday being unreasonably hot, was a beautiful first full September weekend in Charlottesville.  Football, the downtown mall, long sleeves and my first hot chocolate provided the perfect lead in to what I’m hoping will be a little calmer season than the last.

Sunday, outside of just football and the steep break in the weather from Saturday, was the perfect day of balance and organization.  The morning included my favorite Sunday activities – coffee, breakfast, and strolling the downtown mall, and in the process, seeing this sweet little love note on the door of Mudhouse downtown. [MUD + MAD = <3].

fuel sweat grow: charlottesville mudhouse downtown

Early afternoon kicked off at Citizen’s Burger Bar in tandem with the 1pm NFL kick off, and was followed up by a nap, a trip to HomeGoods and Whole Foods, and then an evening of food prep glory.  It was perfect.

For this week in food, a few things went into production to prevent any meal driven panics, starting my favorite Spaghetti Squash Bolognese. As far as clean eating goes, it’s one of the best cold weather comfort foods you can imagine, and might be even better reheated (so make a LOT and pre-package lunches for the week if you can).

The squash was already roasted, so I took some ground beef from Whole Foods, simmered with squash (zucchini and yellow), and then added in the ‘spaghetti’.  The sauce was my favorite (at least favorite store bought), Keswick Gourmet, made locally in Charlottesville.

fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash marinara

fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash bolognese

While this was happening on the stovetop, SO much more was happening all around it to make my new favorite pack and go snacks, including chopping, grilling, and even more stove-topping.  The result: amazing spring rolls.

fuel sweat grow: hand rolled spring rolls

I made a batch of these last weekend in Maine with my Aunt, and immediately got all of the necessary ingredients to bring them back to my everyday life.  Stay tuned for the full scope update with recipe options and process.  I’m obsessed.

I guess the cliffs notes version of all the above is: welcome fall, you’re beautiful.  The rest of the week is promising to be pretty awesome as well with the cool air sticking around, amazing sweats, happy hours, live music, and food throughout.

Sweet Home Cville: Friends + MADness

When the surroundings of your hometown look like this, and come with amazing food and constantly flowing (and delicious) local wine, there’s really not a lot to complain about.

fuel sweat grow: pippin Hill

I’ve been in a little bit of a home-sweet-cville fog for the last two weeks, not to mention an absolute crazy circuit of life trying to get ready for all of the big things that have been happening in MADville.  Tack on home construction, and the pieces of my own life that need attention and balance now and again, and you better believe I had a pretty full August.

Last weekend (yes, 9 days ago) we extended our Saturday morning MADness and went off-site to Pippin Hill Vineyards, just outside of Charlottesville proper for a relaxing, community rich, and beautiful afternoon in the blue ridge.

fuel sweat grow: pippin hill

Not much else could beat that view, and there’s nothing that can beat a sweet Saturday with friends.  There’s an endless list of things that I just adore about our MAD community in Charlottesville (including the fact that they are such active community builders, which certainly makes our jobs easier), but what really stands out is just how blended the group is in terms of age, experience, interest, involvements and friend groups.  Despite having such a broad spectrum among all of those areas, when everyone comes together it is always a seamless and awesome time.  That’s a really challenging thing to create, and replicate, and I’m always in awe of our community and the amazing people that find their way into my life.

Case in point: the night before our wine-ventures I had the great fortune to align schedules with one of my favorite humans, and pseudo out-of-towners, for a happy hour walk downtown.  Also a UVa alum and business owner, Erin’s life mimics the same crazy travel mine does, between Charlotte and Charlottesville, our work/home cities.  It’s always a special day when our schedules overlap in the same place and we can do a real life check in.

She’s one of the sweetest humans ever, but she’s also an amazing jewelry designer,  and creates beautiful jewelry that is slowly pushing out anything else I ever owned, acting as constant staples in my life.  She brought me these sweet treats when we met up for our walk, and you better believe they perfectly made their debut on Saturday at Pippin, merging two things I love together into a little weekend bundle of love.  [Check out her website here.]

fuel sweat grow: Erin McDermott

The weekend was then completed with a post-wine trip to Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie (conveniently across the street from Pippin’s driveway) and Sunday afternoon kickball with our MADabolKick team.

fuel sweat grow: MADabolic Kickball

All in all, my return to Cville was exceptional, and everything that you could hope during August in this sweet town; and despite the constant grind of work and business ownership, there were even more beautiful days and MAD events that followed.  Definitely stay tuned for those updates, with special emphasis paid to our 1st Birthday Party for MADabolic Cville, the end of the kickball season, and a very exciting ‘official’ announcement and celebration coming up this week.  It’s all happening – and it’s all awesome.

 

Babies, Mothers, Sun and Home Cooking

There’s something to be said for weekends of constant motion — the kind that can take you so far out of the day-to-day that you actually get a break from  the routine.  That was this weekend in Charlotte, and as I sit here wrapping up the last few hours before I check in to next week I’m so aware and grateful for the last 48 hours of reprieve.

Saturday morning started with an early walk with a friend, and party preparations for baby shower brunch. In between the chaos of getting the house ready and getting myself ready (I was all kind of messy by that point) I inhaled some eggs scrambled with a left over zucchini, carrot, mushroom, and ground beef sauté.

fuel sweat grow: Saturday Breakfast

The shower was beautiful (and the company, amazing) but if you know the party hosts and their combined personalities, this would not be at all surprising.  The party favor is just a mere detail, and adorable at that — OPI nail polish aptly named ‘it’s a girl.’

fuel sweat grow: baby shower gifts

My typical Saturday morning routine involves working out and spending the greater part of the day in what seems like a spandex uniform so it was a great change of pace to be productive and dressed in real clothes before noon.  The afternoon was spent talking, eating, gifting, and generally appreciating the good company.

In a complimentary and lucky sequence of events, thanks to today being Mother’s Day, the opportunity presented to have yet another great break from reality.  With our Charleston MADabolic location opening soon and more than enough work happening on all fronts, simplicity and ease on a Sunday was exactly what was needed.

I had a few logistical to-do’s to get done in the morning, which happened even more smoothly and easily than I ever could have hoped, and by 1pm I was headed back to Casa Moertel for an afternoon of sun, aka my perfection.

fuel sweat grow: weekend leisure

Sunday dinner is kind of my thing, and this weekend proved no different so we brought forth a very clean menu to close out the weekend and get this next week started right.

There was salad with Romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and chopped almonds.  Simple, classic, and exactly what was needed.

fuel sweat grow: summer salad

The big salad bonus was a vanilla balsamic vinegar that Billy had mingling in his collection, which gave a very unique flavor to the simple ingredients.

fuel sweat grow: vanilla balsamic

To go with the salad Dar grilled everyone Ribeyes, and cauliflower was broiled with olive oil and salt until aldente.  It was perfection.

fuel sweat grow: broiled cauliflower

fuel sweat grow: sunday night dinner

All in all the weekend was a great reprieve from the every day, and the perfect prelude to what will be a week of work, travel, and an actual vacation (I hope).   It’s also a week back to working out with a long anticipated and planned new playground in Charleston, so let’s get this all started.

 

Weekend Workouts, Events, To-do Lists & Relaxation

This weekend was a mix of everything.  Seriously, I think I did everything.  I worked, I played, I worked out, I relaxed, I soaked in the sun, and was soaked by the rain.  As I mentioned in my last post, this week was the first Friday’s After Five, which pretty much signifies the start of the summer season in Charlottesville.

charlottesville-pavillion

 For those of you who don’t know much about Charlottesville, it’s an amazing town that has an intense focus on community, a love for live music, and an absurd amount of amazing local beer and wine vendors that come together every friday from spring through fall to present a free concert series at the n’telos wireless pavilion on the Downtown Mall.  It’s amazing, fun, and completely taken for granted by those of us who no longer remember a life without Fridays.   Friday was sunny and beautiful, so needless to say the live music only made it perfect.

Saturday was a windows and doors open (but screens closed) kind of morning.  With coffee in hand I was able to get work done at a relaxed and pretty enjoyable pace.  I love having time to relax in the morning and use the weekends to prioritize my to-do list and schedule for the next week.  Since this week is shaping up to be particularly crazy (read: exciting), it was invaluable for me to have the time to get things organized.  The rest of the afternoon was pretty low key including dog walk + hill sprint adventure in the park that doubled as Tank’s 7th Birthday outing (and the best shot at tiring Bug out, even if just for a second).

bug says IMG_3262

Both dogs have 50′ leads instead of short leashes so they can have more freedom to run, but not enough slack to take off towards the street (or an appealing looking dog).  While the main purpose is to give them exercise and expend some of their pent up energy, let me assure you, it never fails to leave me winded as well.  As someone who typically prefers longer distance running (at least 3 miles), the short bursts chasing the dogs helps me to get in the sprints intervals that don’t make it into my routine nearly enough.

The rest of the night included dinner at Bella’s with great friends, and then the most entertaining parking lot event that I’ve been to in quite a while: CLAW.  I have heard about the Charlottesville Ladies Arm Wrestling group for years, but somehow never actually made it out to witness it first hand.  It was nothing like what I had imagined and was, in fact, amazing. 

CLAW

I had imagined pairs of super serious arm wrestlers sweating it out at tables, fully engrossed in the fiercest battles of strength.  And I imagined it was going to be scary, like sumo-wrestling scary.  It was neither.

CLAW is mostly theatrical, and fiercely entertaining with each competitor fully engrossed in their own special ‘persona.’  The wrestlers are escorted by full entourages of complimentary characters that tell a story sparing no cheeky (or blunt) innuendo or four letter word.  It’s fantastic.

The event always benefits a cause, this time supporting Common Ground Healing Arts, and was followed by a full fledged dance party.   There are 20 different leagues across the country now, all spin-offs of the original group here in Charlottesville (co-founded by Jodie, pictured on the right with the cowboy hat), so if you don’t live here, check to see if there is one near you.  It is more than worth your time.

Today was just as grey as the forecast predicted, which actually helped me to buckle down and crank out a few more of the tasks on my to-do list before getting in a short workout in the late afternoon.

DAR TABATA

Dar had done this workout just before I got out there, so those are her numbers for each round written in under each exercise.  Per usual I made a few changes to the program, this time simply using both arms for the swings, and replacing the Turkish Getups with plank variations keeping little to no transition rest in between variation changes or intervals.

One thing to remember with swings (which I don’t have the best or most complete or professional pictures for from today) is that it’s a hip hinge and extension.  It’s a common misconception to bend the knees to a near squatting position rather than focusing on the hinge and keeping an engaged and stable core.  It helps to start with the kettle bell in front of you just far enough that you can reach it from that hinge position without a deep knee bend.

KB swing setup

If you train with Dar on kettlebell technique, she usually refers to this position as the football hike position.  For girls that’s usually met with a sort of blank stare, but for guys it’s more like a perfect english translation to their understanding.

KB swing

To start the swing keep focus on the hinge and swing the KB high between your legs and then drive your hips forward to a full extension position, keeping your arms straight (holding ON TO THE KETTLEBELL) launching them up to eye level as you snap your hips forward.

KB swing KB swing

Dar is working on a series of kettlebell posts to help translate common misconceptions into proper technique, so hang tight, it’s coming to you soon.  As someone who didn’t start using kettlebells to train until the last two or three years, I have to say it is my favorite and most versatile tool for everyday workouts.  (If you don’t own one already, get one.  You can get them for cheap at target, and they fit in your closet.)

While Dar loves the turkish getup since it falls into her beloved ‘kettlebell movement’ category, I love planks.  I love lots of planks, for long periods of time, with little rest and lots of variations.

standard plank

Maybe it’s my pure barre background, or maybe it’s the plank holds we used to do in my ‘younger’ days, but forearm planks are a happy comfort place for me, relatively speaking.

side plank 1

I started to love side arm plank variations when I got into yoga.  My alignment isn’t quite perfect in these pictures, and my spirit fingers are sub-par, but the basics are there.  Since I was holding the plank series for nearly 4 minutes straight I transitioned through center with a slight rest in a straight arm plank until I was ready for the other side.

side plank 2

For the last 45 seconds I played around with a borderline mountain climber prep position, alternating sides for a knee to elbow movement that really helped to keep a more than steady burning through my core.

mountain climber

All in all this weekend somehow managed to be productive and relaxed, while also being activity laden and highly social.  I’m not sure exactly how that happened, but I’m not complaining.  The week starts for me bright and early tomorrow morning at the 6:15 bootcamp class, followed by a full day of task mastering so it’s time to shut down and scoot to bed.

Tomorrow we’re going to kick off a new (modified) real food challenge, so expect a little more nutrition talk complete with grocery lists and meal planning.

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.