Today was an awesome day. It was seventy degrees in Minneapolis in November, which makes everybody sort of giddy and euphoric and brings everyone and their mother to the great outdoors. Kelly and Dan and Chewy and I went to Minnehaha Falls, and I tried to keep Chewy from jumping on people with his muddy paws and we basked in the sunshine.
Then, when we got home I busted open my new DVDs for the Core de Force program, which is my next Beachbody adventure. This program is based on mixed martial arts moves (think boxing, kickboxing, etc) and didn't sound AT ALL interesting to me, but I tried one sneak peak workout a few weeks ago and I was totally hooked. The workouts go by super quickly because I actually have to think about what I'm doing ("jab, hook, cross, knee...wait, what?") and I was dripping sweat by the end of the first workout I tried. I was totally hooked and couldn't wait to get started, so opening the package to start Day 1 today was a little bit like a kid on Christmas.
Since it was the start of a new program, I decided I should snap some pictures too. And after my workout I went back and pulled up the first pictures I took when I started with Beachbody over the summer, and I've got to say--I'm pretty pleased. Now, I know these pictures aren't in the same clothes (sorry, I can't be bothered to dig out those yellow shorts) but I'm pretty psyched about the changes.
Now, here are some key points: there are more than 100 days between these photos--nothing I've been doing is a magic overnight pill, but it's also TOTALLY achievable and manageable with the rest of my life. Here's what happened between the July and November photos:
1) I've been doing 30-minute Beachbody workouts consistently, in my house, most days. I started with 21 Day Fix Extreme in July, and for my first round I was also running to train for the Ragnar and some fall races, so I swapped running for 21DFX workouts some days did both throughout the week. After I finished up the Ragnar I focused more on the 21 Day Fix Extreme workouts, though there were some I didn't usually do (yoga and pilates--I hate yoga and the freaking resistance band pilates was not designed for tall people, I swear) and some non-Beachbody workouts I still did for variety because I enjoy them--walking/hiking/biking once or twice a week, etc.) This last month I've done a hodge podge of Beachbody workouts, some 21 Day Fix Extreme, some Country Heat (which actually deserves its own post, I'll write that soon) and some programs from the Beachbody On Demand streaming service--a few 25-minute workouts from T25, and a few from Turbo Fire. I do work out most days a week (probably 6, average) but it's almost always 30 minutes or less.
2) I've been drinking Shakeology every day, and I know this has played a big part in helping me build muscle. Shakeology is the only protein supplement I've tried that doesn't upset my stomach, and adding that extra protein every day helps get me through my afternoon slump (and avoid coming home from work hangry) and really fuels that muscle growth. When I started 21 Day Fix Extreme building muscle was my primary goal, and I'm really happy with the progress I've made!
3) I haven't followed the Beachbody nutrition program to a T. Beachbody has this container system that helps you to understand portion control and balance your nutrition for weight loss and overall health. It prescribes a certain portion of vegetables, protein, fruit, starch, and healthy fats depending on your current weight. This tool is AWESOME for people who are starting from scratch with nutrition, or who aren't getting the results they want with their current eating and don't know why. It's very close to the way I already eat, but it's not a perfect match. I eat a little bit more than the container system would dictate, but that makes sense because I'm not really trying to lose weight (instead I'm trying to swap some fat for muscle, which is what I've been seeing as my body changes). I also still eat a LOT of chocolate (like, I have a serving of something sweet most days) and I have other treats when I want them. It's not a lot--my diet is pretty clean--but I know I could get faster results if I really buckled down on my eating. I don't really want to. So slow and steady it is.
I work full time, in a job that's been especially demanding the last month, I cook for my family every day, I write this blog, I run accountability groups that help other women get fit, and I still have thirty minutes to work out. Anyone has 30 minutes to work out if they really want to do it. I don't care how busy you are, 30 minutes is a choice. And yes, for me it feels AWESOME to see results in the mirror and be proud of the progress I've made. But here are some important benefits that you can't see in a before and after photo:
-Exercise is huge for my mental health. Ever come home from work in a bad mood, or feel overwhelmed and frustrated and need an outlet? Uh, I do. All the time. I almost never leave my 30 minutes of exercise in a bad mood--no matter how I feel coming into it, the effort and the sweat is cleansing.
-My headaches are better. I've suffered from migraines since I was in grade school, and I still get them, but if I exercise when I'm just starting to get a headache, it will often go away. Exercise is usually the last thing I want to do when my head hurts so I haven't tried this much before, but thanks to my accountability groups pushing me to get my workouts done no matter what, I discovered exercise will actually halt the headache in its tracks. That's a little miraculous for me. Tiny miracles.
-Focusing on achieving my fitness goals and building my Beachbody business has made me up my game in all areas of my life. I'm more energized, driven, and excited because I've got these goals that I am in charge of, that only I can accomplish, and it's making me a better lawyer, wife, stepmom, friend, and human. Adding something to my plate actually multiplied my energy instead of taking some away, because building my business and working toward my health goals is incredibly energizing to me. Last week I got a promotion at work, and we donated money to charities that feed the hungry and drill wells for communities that don't have water, and I was focused on achieving those goals because of the lessons I've learned from joining the Beachbody community. It. Is. Awesome.
And, the cherry on top of all of that, is that I get to hear from women who are making changes in their own life and improving their own health and fitness because of what I've been sharing. I can't even tell you how good that feels.
So, I'm pretty happy with my impulsive decision to give Beachbody a try, and later to jump in with both feet and become a coach, and these first 100ish days have been awesome. And, if reading this makes you want to try working out in your house, give me a shout. I truly think you have nothing to lose and tons to gain.
Have a fantastic week, friends.
Happy Saturday, lovely readers. The Small Changes Series is back today, and we're talking about self efficacy. Before we jump in to what that is, I want to tell you WHY it's important. Any time we are taking on a new challenge, pursuing a new goal, or making a change in our lives, WE are the biggest factor in whether we will be successful. You are your biggest asset and biggest obstacle, in every endeavor. Self efficacy is your belief in your own ability to achieve a goal. When you say, "I would never be able to do that," you are right. When you say, "I'll get that done, come hell or high water," you are also right. But where do we find this belief in our own ability to succeed? I'm glad you asked--we build it over time. And that's why it's the perfect topic for the Small Changes Series. Let's proceed.
Here's the high-level plan for building self efficacy: you set small, achievable, consistent goals, and then you hit them no matter what. By achieving those goals, no matter how small they are, you build your confidence and belief in yourself that you can achieve goals. Here's an example: if you are someone who believes you will never be able to commit to a consistent fitness routine and get healthy, a great way to build self-efficacy is to commit to exercising a tiny amount, consistently. Like walking around the block every day for the next week. Will walking around the block every day have a huge impact on your health? No, probably not. But if you want to accomplish this goal, there is no way to tell yourself that you can't. You don't need a lot of time, or energy, or anything special to accomplish walking around the block. You can do it in eight minutes, in whatever clothes and shoes you're wearing, at any time of the day. So you don't have any excuses not to get it done. And when you DO get it done, you can and will feel proud of yourself that you actually stuck to a plan and accomplished a goal that you set. You are a goal accomplisher!
Realizing that you are a goal accomplisher and feeling proud and confident in yourself allows you to set slightly more ambitious goals. Maybe you're going to walk a little further. Maybe you're going to run around the block. Maybe you're going to try fifteen minutes of sun salutations or some squats/planks in your house. I don't know what the next baby step is, but the point of building on self efficacy is that you choose goals that are achievable, they shouldn't be too big or too terrifying, and then you just do the damn thing. No matter what, you're all in and you're going to get it done. If you doubt from the beginning that you're going to be able to follow through, lower the bar. Seriously. Walk to the end of the block and back if you have to. Because the point of getting started is just proving to yourself that you're the kind of person who can stick to the program, no matter what the program is.
If you are someone who often finds yourself saying things like: "I wish I could make myself do that," or "I wish I had as much drive as she does," or "I want to do X but I can never stick to it," you are in need of some self efficacy boosting. Because the truth is that you can do anything you set your mind to, and if there's anything standing in between you and that truth, it's yourself. You need to move yourself out of the way, and building self efficacy is the way to do that. Here are some ideas for starting to build self efficacy:
-if you struggle with committing to fitness, commit to a tiny amount of exercise every day (i.e. the walking example above)
-if you struggle with making time to cook, commit to adding an easy-to-prepare vegetable to your meals (like salad from a bag or broccoli/green beans/brussels sprouts that you can steam in your microwave)
-if you struggle with cutting down on junk food, cut one serving of your worst habit out of your day (drink one less soda, have one less donut/dessert)
-if you want to create a mindfulness practice but struggle with meditation, try sitting quietly for two minutes every day (set a timer and breathe deeply for two minutes, stop when the timer goes off if you want to)
-if you struggle with managing your finances, try moving $5 or $10 each week into a savings account that you don't touch.
And then here's the real kicker: once you decide to do it, YOU HAVE TO DO IT. There is no hedging here: you are your own boss, and you need to be stern with yourself. These are small goals, my friend. FOLLOW THROUGH! You owe it to yourself to prove that you are a successful human who can accomplish a thing. Once you realize this about yourself, the possibilities are limitless. Truly. Give it a try.
P.S. It also really helps to tell someone else about your goals and have the added push of knowing another person is aware that you committed to do a thing. So share your goals! This is why I'm so in love with fitness accountability groups--they keep me and everyone in them going, because you know the group is watching and waiting for you to get your workout in. If you want that push, hit me up and let's get you into next month's group.
Hi friends, and welcome to a new and wonderful week. Today’s blog post is one that I thought about writing a long time ago but never really got down on paper. It’s an idea I think a lot of my posts dance around, but it’s time to dive deeper. And, in fact, I’ve decided this topic deserves an entire series. So this is your introduction to C&C’s next (first?) series: Making small changes over time to end up with BIG, life-changing changes.
You’ve heard this idea before. Changes that really matter are small and sustainable, because it doesn’t matter what you do for a day or a week or a month, it matters what you do every day. The little choices you make every day shape your life. Your routines actually DECIDE who you are, what you accomplish, what your life looks like. This is true for every area of your life: your career, your family, your relationships, your health, your finances, your fitness, your sanity. And I want to talk about all of those things. That’s why Cocoa and Cotton doesn’t have a singular topic: I want to talk about ALL. OF. THE. THINGS! And conquer them. Together.
So here’s what we’re going to do in this series: I’m going to talk about small changes to my routine that have added up to be BIG changes over time. I’m also going to talk about new things I’m trying, new ideas I’m hearing, and even some things that didn’t work out for me but might be a great fit for you. I’m going to give you ideas of small changes that YOU can try adding to your day, and we’re going to stay committed to the fact that meaningful changes don’t happen right away. They happen slowly, and cumulatively. That’s why you always hear people say “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” (and it’s totally ok if you want to punch those people in the face, but they’re right. Sometimes the people who have the right idea are the most annoying.)
Here’s what I’d love for you to contribute to this series: give the ideas a try and let me know how they work for you, and share your ideas for small changes that have added up to big things in your own life! I’m stoked about this, and I hope you are, too. Happy Monday.
Greetings from Boston, lovelies. I’m here for a women’s leadership conference put on by my company, which means I’ve spent the day hearing incredible women speak about becoming better leaders, what they’ve learned along the way, and what they wish they had known sooner. What a gold mine. I could, and likely will, write several blog posts about things I’ve learned here, but there’s one that is just jumping from my fingertips to the page, so that one goes first. The concept is about energizing and depleting.
Here’s the basic concept: different activities will not “use up” equal amounts of your energy. Some activities may actually add to your energy (“energizing” activities) while others will use up your energy, some much more than others (“depleting” activities). The same activity can be energizing to one person and depleting to the next. When you realize and consciously notice which activities are energizing, and which are depleting, you can dramatically increase your satisfaction, stamina, and productivity in a few ways .The first is to deliberately plan your day around energizing and depleting activities so that you never drop too far down into a depleted, burned-out energy zone. So, if you start your day at a normal, mid or high-range energy level but you have several difficult things to do that day, instead of knocking them all out in a row (taking a difficult phone call, followed by completing a difficult task, followed by a challenging meeting) at which point you are completely burned out and essentially useless by the time noon arrives, you can be more strategic. Start your day by knocking out the difficult phone call, but the plan a fun lunch, or a workout, or a task that you enjoy to bring your energy levels back up to a mid or high point before you tackle the next difficult thing, so the trajectory is more up and down (but generally all still in the mid or high zone) rather than down, down, and more down until you are totally fried.
Of course, to do this you have to be self-aware enough to know what things are energizing and what things are depleting. I suspect that if you take a moment to think about it the answers will be evident, but if you’ve never heard this idea before it might be a revelation to you. The first time I consciously thought about energizing activities it totally changed the way I pursued work—that wasn’t today, but it was a huge moment for me. Because I realized that there are activities in my professional life that might be equally as “valuable” to my job and to my clients, but one is energizing to me while the other is completely exhausting and depleting.
Today, as we were having this conversation, I was thinking about coaching. In the last month, my energy, drive, and excitement have been extremely high—not just when I’m working on my coaching business, but throughout my personal and professional life. Adding an activity that stretches and challenges me in so many ways has improved my performance as an attorney, even though the two are seemingly completely unrelated. Beachbody coaching requires me to put myself out there in scary ways (talking frankly about my personal fitness journey and my decision to start this side business) and it requires me to push myself physically and try new things on a daily basis. When I said yes to coaching, it scared the crap out of me to talk about it in a public way. I need to post about this on social media!? Noooo thank you. What will people THINK about that?? But feeling the fear and doing it anyway pushed me to a new level. It taught me that doing something that I wanted to do, even if it was scary and even if people judged it, felt amazing. And I can’t even tell you what a difference that has made in my personal and professional life. Game. Changer. Coaching is also an added activity, that I would have thought could be draining. But the hours I’m putting in as a coach—exercising, checking in with my challenge groups, learning from experienced coaches—are adding so much more to my day than they take away. I honestly think that the benefit to my professional life as an attorney is so great that it wouldn’t really matter whether I ever found success in my coaching business.
BUT, as an added bonus, today I did achieve the first milestone in my coaching career. The broader team of coaches that I am on is led by an amazing woman who was a sorority sister of mine in college, and she has built a team of more than 175 coaches in the last two years. Every week, she recognizes the top ten performers from her team, and this week I was one of them! This was a big surprise to me, and I saw the notification on a break during our leadership session—what an incredible feeling. Talk about energizing!!
When I started coaching, I knew that I loved the workout programs Beachbody offered and that Shakeology didn’t make me sick (I didn’t yet know if I loved it, which I now do, but at the time I just knew I didn’t hate it and that was enough). But I couldn’t really answer the question of what I wanted out of it or where I saw myself going with it. I knew I didn’t want to quit my job as a lawyer, and many of the women who are really successful at coaching do quit their jobs. Extra income is nice, but I really didn’t get into it for the money. So…what did I want, exactly? It dawned on me during a run last weekend that what I really want is to be a kickass corporate leader, who also has an army of wellness warriors on the side. I totally want to find and grow my fitness tribe with bright, enthusiastic people who want to help others improve their health and their lives. YES! Yes to that. And I also want to keep doing my thing as a corporate attorney and continue to improve myself as a leader in that area. And what’s truly amazing about that is that each activity makes me better at the other. The leadership skills, and confidence, and energy that I build in one area spills over into the other, and elevates every role that I play in my life. Because it’s energizing, and that energy goes into everything I do...as a wife, a coach, a lawyer, a stepmom, a dog mom…so I’m THRILLED with that. And if it reading that gives you an excited butterfly feeling that makes you want to join my tribe, I’m hiring. Get at me.
But even if coaching isn’t your thing, you need to think about what your thing is. What makes you feel excited? What wakes you up when you’re lethargic? What GIVES you energy instead of taking it away? And how can you work THAT stuff into your life, knowing that the time you spend doing that will actually come back to you twofold because the energy it creates will allow you to be more productive in other areas of your life? Think about it. Talk to me about it. I’m dying to know.
So, I'm a little bit nosy. I love it when bloggers write about their daily routines and what they eat and do throughout the day, because it's a socially acceptable form of stalking. So, I decided I'd write a post like that myself. Maybe you're not as nosy as I am and this will be completely boring for you, but we're doin' it anyway. Because this is my blog so I'm the boss.
This particular day was a pretty typical workday--obviously every day is different, but this one is a decent representation of my workweek schedule.
5:30 wake up, procrastinate getting out of bed, cuddle with Chewy.
6:00 make breakfast--I actually eat the same breakfast basically every day, because I love it. It's a green smoothie with spinach, avocado, collagen, fruit (today I did a nectarine, I usually also do banana and maybe some frozen berries or peaches) some orange juice, and water. I make a big smoothie and Dan and I split it, and I also have two hard-boiled eggs. This breakfast really starts my day off well--the nutrients from the fruits and veggies in the smoothie and the protein from the collagen and eggs keep me full and energized, and if I miss the smoothie for a day or two I can really tell a difference in my energy levels.
After breakfast I get dressed and ready for the day and make coffee (with maple syrup and nutpods creamer) and drink that on my way to work. I left for work about 7:00. Lately I've been listening to podcasts on my commute, which is a great way to fit in some time to learn about topics I'm interested in, but it also means that I DIDN'T KNOW JUSTIN BEIBER HAD A NEW SONG OUT because I don't listen to the radio and that is UNACCEPTABLE. I heard that song on my drive home today. I really like it.
10:00 I made these gluten free zucchini muffins over the weekend and ate one this morning for a snack. I don't make or buy baked goods very often (and now that I don't eat gluten I have to go out of my way to get them) so this was a treat, and it was totally delicious.
12:00ish Lunch time! Lunch was a big salmon fillet (with maple-mustard glaze--scroll down to Fueled Up Friday if you want that recipe) garlic green beans, and blueberries.
I should mention that in between all of this eating I'm working. You know, lawyering and stuff. You don't need to hear about that, but it's happening. It's not all just eating.
4:00 as my meetings wrap up for the day I grab my Shakeology from the fridge--I usually make it with a banana, a spoonful of peanut butter, almond milk, and a bunch of ice, but this day I was out of bananas (because we eat ONE BAZILLION bananas and apparently eleven was not enough for the week) so I threw some oats in instead. I was getting a little hungry at this point and this was the perfect bridge between lunch and dinner.
4:30 leave work, and head to Target to buy bananas and a few things for dinner. Kelly is always asking me to make tacos, and I don't make them nearly as much as he'd like. So, I did today. I grabbed some grass-fed ground beef, tortillas, and shredded cheese for the boys. I also bought pico de gallo, bananas, and some clearance workout gear (SCORE! Have you guys checked out Champion's stuff lately?? They've really stepped their game up.)
6:00 get home, greet all of the various human and canine boys, and start making dinner. Dan and Kelly had their tacos on flour tortillas, and I had mine on a salad--I used tons of pico so I didn't need any dressing.
After dinner the boys took Chewy for a walk and I headed to the basement to get my workout in--today was Cardio Fix Extreme. I'm on week four of 21 Day Fix Extreme (so, I guess round 2 since it's a 3-week program) but I haven't done the cardio workout every week. I'm swapping out some of the 21 Day Fix workouts for running, so skipping cardio makes sense, except that the cardio workout is KILLER so really it's worth doing. I can't even tell you how much sweat dripped off me during this workout...I didn't know it was possible, to be honest.
After everyone is worked out and walked, it's family movie time. Netflix and chill. Then we all get tucked in to bed and I read for a while before I turn the lights out.
If you guys like posts like this, let me know and I'll do more. Or, stay silent and at my mercy and I might do more or I might not. Difficult to say. The odd thing about this day is that I didn't eat any chocolate--I usually have something sweet at some point in the day (which I guess that muffin does count in that category). Lately I've been pretty into eating a toasted marshmallow after dinner, because how good are marshmallows?? We bought a bag when we went to the cabin and I've been roasting them on our stove. It feels important that you know that, even if I didn't do it on this particular day. Alright, that's enough sharing.
Ok, we need to talk about short weeks. They are harder than full weeks. I don't know why, but it's true. And here we are at Thursday already and I sat down to blog and I have so many feelings and so many things to write about. So we're going straight to Fueled Up Friday, because it's basically Friday and that's the only format that will accommodate all of these different topics. And next week, there will be more blog posts because I'll be back on my game. Let's just start with the weekend and work our way forward.
I. Visiting Friends
We spent one of the three days in last weekend in Rochester, visiting a friend from college and her husband. Dan and I are lucky to have a lot of close friends, and catching up with them for dinner and drinks always recharges our batteries. Especially when we go to lovely restaurants that serve things like this board. The pear jam was so freaking good (with/on/in-and-around all of the meats and cheeses) that I'm going to have to figure out how to make it and post the recipe this fall (you should be excited for that, because it is YUM.) Plus, our friends have a new puppy so Chewy had a playmate and came home exhausted, which is such a cherry on top.
II. Wild Alaskan Salmon
It's the time of year where you can buy wild Alaskan salmon in your local grocery stores, and everyone should be doing that. I made two beautiful, huge fillets this week and ate the leftovers for lunch. The salmon was melt-in-your-mouth tender, which I sometimes have trouble achieving, but I think I've finally figured out the right temperature and time combo.
Here's what worked: Preheat your oven to 425. Rinse salmon,* pat dry, and set on cookie sheet skin-side down (I like to use tin foil for easy cleanup). Our favorite glaze is one part mustard to one part maple syrup with a splash of rice wine vinegar (about 1/4 cup each maple and mustard, whatever mustard you like) spread that over the salmon and sprinkle with fresh rosemary. The other filet just has avocado oil and salt. Bake for 20 minutes and put your broiler on for the last three-ish. Let it rest for a few minutes and then use a spatula to separate the skin from the bottom.
*A friend pointed out to me that you don't actually need to rinse salmon, because it just spreads bacteria around your kitchen and any bacteria that's on the salmon is killed when you cook it. I laughed out loud when I read her comment, because I am ALWAYS telling Dan that exact thing about chicken, but it never occurred to me to apply that knowledge to salmon. I did sort of think you needed to pat it dry to get the crispy outside, though...I'm honestly not sure. But I did rinse and dry these guys, and they were delicious.
III. Love Warrior
Phew. Friends. You likely already know by now how much I love Glennon Doyle Melton (and her first book, Carry On, Warrior, and her facebook posts, and her blog, and her facebook live videos...) and I've been looking forward to Love Warrior's release since more than six months ago, when I ordered this signed copy WHICH ARRIVED TODAY. But the book was released Tuesday and obviously I've waited long enough, so I downloaded the audio book and binge-listened to it Tuesday and Wednesday. I had already started listening a second time through when I finally got the hard copy in my hands.
The book is excellent--it's really raw, and really heavy, and really densely packed with truth. You should read it. Probably more than once.
IV. Mantra Bands
I ordered this lovely little bracelet online and it's giving me so much joy. It's thin and pretty and it says "Have Courage and Be Kind." I actually think Mantra Bands might be the answer to preventing myself from getting more tattoos, because I want nothing more than to tattoo all the wisdom on myself but maybe I could just wear it on these pretty bangley bracelets instead. I think I'm going to order "Be Still and Know" next, but I'm debating between sticking with the silver color or adding a yellow or rose gold to the stack. Also, I'll probably still get another tattoo.
See how I snuck Chewy in there? Didn't even see him coming. I'm tricky like that.
V. 30 Days of Shakeology!
This week I hit thirty days of drinking Shakeology, and I'm a total believer. No one is more shocked about this than me. In thirty days, I've had not ONE upset stomach from the shakes (I had a few sort-of-upset-stomachs from other things, like too much cheese, but even those were few and far between). I've never been able to take a protein supplement without stomach issues before. And this one is a delicious afternoon treat that I look forward to every day. I've gained a noticeable amount of muscle between drinking the shakes and doing the 21 Day Fix Extreme workouts (I especially love the weights-focused workouts, and have been thrilled with the results) which is AWESOME. "Gain muscle" has been on my to-do list for...years. I'm truly terrible at consistent weight training. Beachbody may have solved this problem for me. Can I get a hallelujah??
Super strong flexing pictures to come, probably.
Aaaaalright, that's enough for one Friday. Does that almost make up for the fact that there were no other posts this week? Almost sort of? Love you.
Hi friends! It's Wednesday. That means it's the halfway point of this week and THANK THE GOOD LORD because this week is testing my patience. I just want credit for the fact that I have hit zero people in the face despite the fact that many more than zero people have deserved a good hit to the face. I know. I am the picture of grace and self-restraint.
It's also the halfway point in the 21 Day Fix Extreme, and frankly that is going much better than the rest of this week. I love these workouts. I mean they make me a sweaty, sore mess but in a good way.
There are so many sweaty selfies on my phone now, beachbody has turned me into someone who takes makeup-less, smelly, sweaty photos of myself. So, ok. The Fix. There are three main parts of the program to discuss, so I'll let you know how they're all going: the first is the workouts, the second is the portion control containers, and the third is Shakeology.
Let's start with the workouts. I love them and I hate them all at the same time. Upsides: they're only 30 minutes (so basically I never have an excuse to skip them...I can always find half an hour to work out. It's thirty minutes. Make it happen.) But that 30 minutes...it's hard. I'm sweating and breathing heavy and working every single muscle ever and I am FEELING the BURN. I really like the way the workouts are structured--they're all sets, so you end up doing 3 or 4 sets of 2 or 3 exercises in each set, and you do each set twice through. Each exercise lasts for 30 seconds or a minute, so basically you're focusing on one movement for a small period of time, repeating that movement and a few others twice, and moving on, and it really does make the whole thing go pretty quickly. Also, I'm definitely building muscle. Not only am I sore, but also I can see more definition in my arms and legs already. After ten days! I'm hooked. There are seven different workouts that you do on each day of the week, so this week I'm repeating the workouts I did last week. I'm also seeing improvement in my performance of the workouts after only a week, which is super exciting. And those results make me want to keep going! I love it.
I have still done some other workouts in the last ten days--today I went to my spin class at work over lunch and didn't do the 21DFX workout, and I've gone on a few runs as well. So far I'm just moving the Fix workouts around to accommodate that--doubling up if I feel good, or skipping one if I'm tired. My legs have been getting a lot of work between running/spin and the full body workouts, so I skipped the specific leg day last week (don't worry, my lower half still got PLENTY of work with the plyometric jump workout, and others) and I didn't do yoga on Sunday because I biked instead...and because I hate yoga. I'll try the Fix version at some point for sure, but it's just not my favorite way to exercise.
The portion control containers. So, a huge reason people see results on 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme comes down to these portion control containers. The challenge pack comes with containers for fruits, vegetables, protein, carbs, healthy fats, and sauces/dressings, and there's a calculator that uses your current weight to determine how many of each container you should eat in a day. This is GREAT for people who are new to clean eating, trying to lose weight, and don't know how to do it (or have been doing extreme or yo-yo diets where they cut out entire food groups, or replace real foods with fake diet foods). But I'm gonna be real with you--these are not for me. I would have LOVED this plan when I was 20 and trying to lose the 15 pounds I gained my first few months in Europe (instead, I basically ate exclusively Chobani yogurt and fiber one bars, which was not the most balanced diet) but that's not where I'm at right now. First of all, I'm not really trying to lose weight, so the calculated amount isn't quite enough food for me. Also, I don't eat many grains and I don't always eat potatoes, so I find myself eating more fruit than recommended but less of the "carb" containers (which probably about evens out, but isn't exactly following the rules).
I think the portion control containers would be awesome for a lot of people. They're just not really what I need at this point in my life. I've spent the better part of two years figuring out how to eat well for my body, and it's not that far off from this system but it's not exactly on, either. And that's ok.
Shakeology. I'm LOVING shakeology. I think I'm finally getting enough protein to build substantial muscle, and having a go-to afternoon snack has been kind of a game changer. Before, I would often end the work day pretty famished and end up eating a huge snack when I got home that sort of ruined my appetite for dinner (often not the best stuff, either--like crackers and peanut butter, or cereal, or dates and peanut butter...or peanut butter on a spoon...) but when I drink my shake at 3 or so I'm good until dinner and then I have the appetite for a balanced, healthy meal at dinner time. It's really improved my routine. I do blend the shake in the morning with a little peanut butter and a banana, so it's a decent mix of protein and carbs to keep me full for a few hours.
So there you are: the halfway thoughts. I actually think I'll keep doing this workout program through September, and just keep mixing it with running and other stuff. I want to see how strong my arms can get! :)
Friends, I have some exciting news to share. And I'm nervous to share it, just like I was SO nervous to share Cocoa and Cotton for the first time. What will people think?! What will they say?! It's funny to think about that now, because I love C&C and I don't spend any time worrying about what other people think of it anymore. But putting yourself out there in new ways is scary, and that's what I'm doing today. I've found that the things that give you butterflies in your stomach, and make you feel a little nervous but a lot excited, are the things you've just gotta jump into with both feet. So, I'll stop dragging those feet and tell you the news: I've decided to become a Beachbody Coach. In this post, I want to tell you what that means and why I've decided it's a good fit for me.
So, what is a Beachbody coach? I wrote about Beachbody in this post recently, but to recap, Beachbody is a company that puts out high quality home workout programs like P90X, Insanity, 21 Day Fix, and others, along with some complementary supplements, nutrition plans, and workout equipment. Beachbody coaches are people who use and love the programs, and they facilitate communities of people who want to try the Beachbody programs and products, to help acquaint people with the fitness programs, answer questions, provide tips and insight, and above all provide accountability to people who are looking to improve their fitness. Coaches run accountability groups where their clients check in with workouts and nutrition to stay motivated and work together toward their goals. So, why would I want to do this? Glad you asked. There are four answers to that question.
1) I want to benefit from a community of like-minded, health-focused folks
Part of this is totally selfish--coaching is going to hold me accountable and keep me working toward my fitness goals, and I want that. I've encountered so many confident, happy, inspiring women that are BB coaches and this gives me an excuse to hang out with them. Guys, let me sit at your table. I love you all.
2) I want to bring other people into that community and share everything I've learned (much like I do on this blog)
The scary part about deciding to coach is that people might think I'm trying to sell them things or push programs on them. That makes me nervous, because I don't ever want my friends, family, or readers to think that I want to pressure them to buy BB products or join my groups. I'm not getting into this business to make money off of my friends, or because I want to quit my job (I don't want to quit my job. I'm going to keep doing my job, for many, many years.) But the other side of that coin is that this gives people who might be interested in the health and fitness stuff I love to talk about an opening--it's an easy chance to reach out and say, "Hey, I might want to try that." And that makes me giddy with excitement. So let me just lay this down right now: if you aren't interested in trying Beachbody programs or joining my challenge groups, we're still cool. Pinky swear. And if you ARE interested, I'm psyched out of my mind because that means we get to talk about goals, and cheer each other on when we keep up with our workouts even though life is so busy, and learn more about getting stronger and healthier and happier together. How cool is that??
3) The positivity, energy, and excitement that I've found in the BB fam is unmatched and makes me want to run towards them at full speed
You guys, I can't even tell you how many awesome new girlbosses I've connected with through my very short time with Beachbody. Before I tried a challenge group, I was looking around thinking, "I need to find a Lean In circle." I was looking for young women who are out there slaying and taking names. And I found them! What's awesome about Beachbody is you have coaches who have other full time jobs, coaches who make coaching their full time job, and everyone in between, but all of them are super committed to becoming better leaders, better businesswomen, and leading fuller, happier, healthier lives. Personal development is a huge focus in the BB coaching program, so everybody is out there listening to podcasts and reading books about how to hone their leadership skills, and improve their mindset, and focus their energy on reaching their goals. Everybody's goals are different, and the community supports its members in reaching their own milestones. If I never work with a single client or make a single dollar off Beachbody coaching, it will still be worth it just to have plugged into this awesome group. Not kidding.
4) I love their products
My biggest hang up with Beachbody was definitely Shakeology--I've never tried a protein shake that didn't upset my stomach, and I was really hung up on drinking powdered shakes instead of eating real food. Ten days in to drinking the shakes, I'm totally converted. First of all, Shakeology hasn't upset my stomach once. That's miraculous in itself, given that I struggle with getting enough protein in my diet to build significant muscle (a long-time goal of mine). Also, Shakeology has probiotics in it, and it's the only type of probiotic I've been able to tolerate in the last few years without my system completely overreacting. I used to eat yogurt all the time, but since I cut dairy I've tried probiotics in pill form and in non-dairy yogurts, and all of them have hyper-stimulated my digestive system. Not so with Shakeology--no nausea, no digestive upset. Honestly, I'm shocked.
Second of all, it's delicious. I drink the café latte flavor and blend it with almond milk, peanut butter, a banana, and ice, and it's like drinking a milkshake (except without the stomachache I would get if I drank an actual milkshake). Third of all, it's made from high-quality, real food. The ingredients list is stellar--it's protein and plants. There's spinach, and kale, and spirulina in there, along with all sorts of other fruits and vegetables and fungi and nothing weird or artificial. Ok, fungi is maybe a little weird but very natural. It's obviously still a processed food, there's no avoiding that (let's be real here, it's a powder). But it has lots of vitamins and minerals that I need (I finally don't feel guilty about forgetting to take my multivitamin most days) and it's getting me protein and probiotics that don't make me sick, so I can live with the fact that it's more processed than the raw spinach I put in my other morning smoothie. (Yes, that's right, I'm now drinking a green smoothie for breakfast and Shakeology as a morning or afternoon snack, which gets me one step closer to my goal of only drinking my foods. I'm kidding, eating food is important and good, but I LOVE smoothies. So this is working real well for me.) Finally, I'm still eating my normal real food diet, Shakeology is just a great supplement for me. I've been drinking it to replace a morning or afternoon snack, or on days when I eat a salad from the cafeteria at work, I'll skip adding chicken to my salad (WIN, I hate salad bar chicken but without it my salad just won't keep me full on its own) and will have a vegetarian salad with Shakeology instead. Honestly, this makes me want to do a happy dance. Delicious shake, happy tummy, fresh veggies with no gross salad bar chicken.
On top of Shakeology, Beachbody's workout programs are awesome--which is why I tried a BB challenge group in the first place. There's a huge variety of programs available, so I can plug into something lower-impact (like PiYo, the pilates/yoga combo that still makes my muscles shake) or something that makes me sweat buckets (anything 21 Day Fix, because the creator Autumn Calabrese is an evil genius) or something a little more upbeat and fun (like Cize or Country Heat, the dancing workouts that I'm going to try next!) or something really hardcore and badass (Insanity, P90X). I can do the workouts at home, in half an hour, any time I feel like it.
An Important Note
There's one thing that makes me a little uncomfortable about getting into this business, and it's really important to me to be clear about my position on this from the outset. I don't believe that chiseled, toned, cover-of-a-fitness-magazine bodies are better or more valuable than any other bodies. When a group of people focus on improving fitness for a living, it can be really easy to slip into the habit of putting toned, chiseled bodies on a pedestal and assuming that a "before and after" picture can tell you something about someone's health or worth. This makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to help my clients build a body they can be proud of--I want them to know that the body they have RIGHT NOW is one they can and should be proud of, and I also want to help them to become stronger and feel better and continue working toward their goals. This doesn't mean I don't believe in progress, or that I have a problem with taking photos of physical changes in your body--I find my own progress pictures to be motivating and I love seeing other people share their journeys through photos, too. There's room for improvement in all of our health and fitness, and I have no qualms with helping people get fitter (whatever that means to them) and be healthier and happier. If your goals are aesthetic (I want to be able to fit into this pair of jeans), great. If they're functional (I want to be able to go hiking with my friends or chase my kids around), great. But I won't get on board with the idea that there's anything wrong with you the way you are right now. You are fine as you are, and there is room to improve from where you are today. That is true for absolutely every human on the planet, and it's a key starting point for me as a coach (and a person). I don't think this is counter to the Beachbody platform, or I wouldn't be getting on board with them, I just think Beachbody suffers from the same influences that the rest of our society suffers from--we're told that thin, muscular bodies are better than other bodies. And I want you to know that I don't believe that. I think all bodies are good bodies, and I also know that being active and fit and healthy and strong will improve your quality of life. It can be hard to hold both of those beliefs together, because we get some messed up messages from society. But we can do hard things.
Alright, I know you're here to read about the Ragnar, but can we detour for a second and talk about the fact that it's August 15th already? You guys, WHERE did the summer go?? I've been excited about this race for months, and all of a sudden it's over. And that's for the best, really, because that means I survived. But I just don't know where the time goes.
So, the Ragnar. Quick summary to get everybody on the same page here--the Ragnar Great River is a relay race where teams of 12 (or 6, if you're out of your freaking mind) run 200ish miles between Winona and Minneapolis, non-stop, which took our team about 29 hours. That means we started at 11am on Friday and finished just before 4pm on Saturday, and someone from our team was running consistently (yes, through the night) during that time. Your team splits up into 2 vans, with one van's runners actively running at any given time (and the van leap-frogs the runner to get to the exchange points where runners switch off). The van that's not actively running finds somewhere to stop and eat/sleep, change clothes, and maybe take a shower. The first big twist came when Ragnar sent out a notice on Thursday that part of the race course had to be closed due to flooding, so some of our runners' first legs were canceled. I wasn't one of those runners, so I ran all three legs, and instead of canceling my miles Ragnar tacked on an extra half mile to my last leg to run around some flooded areas. Thanks a bunch.
I was runner 4, and with the extra distance on my third leg my total mileage came out to almost exactly 16 miles. My first leg was 6.6, second leg was 3.4, and last leg was 5.9. With our start time, I ended up running at about 1 on Friday afternoon, midnight between Friday and Saturday, and 9:30ish on Saturday morning. Luckily, our van was led by two wonderful Ragnar experts, who had run the Great River several years in a row and completely ran the show (pun intended). They got us to the exchanges on time, knew where to stop for food and rest time, and told us what to pack. Plus, they did all the driving, like superstars, while the newbies sat in the back wondering whether we should eat or sleep or try to stretch something.
This race really is unlike any other I've ever run in basically every way. To give you a sense of what I mean, here are some of the oddities about Ragnar-ing.
1. You're almost alone on the course. At any other race, everyone starts at the same time and you're running near at least a few other runners at any given time. With Ragnar, they stagger the starts throughout the day on Friday so that everyone's vans aren't all trying to park at the exchanges at the same time (with about 500 teams that would be impossible) but for me this meant I was running alone for a lot of the race. On my first leg, I didn't see anyone until the last half mile of the leg.
2. You're running three times in less than 24 hours. I had a really hard time figuring out how to train for this race...my longest leg was 6.6 miles, which isn't a big deal, but my total mileage was 16 miles in 24 hours, which is a bigger deal (to me, anyway). I ended up focusing on doing training runs on consecutive days, and the week before the race I did three runs between Saturday and Sunday, just to get a feel for it, but I didn't do any training runs longer than 5.5 miles. That ended up working out fine, but I wasn't nearly as confident about my training plan for this type of race.
3. Your eating, sleeping, and all other normal habits are completely disrupted. When you're not running, you're in the van (or having some downtime somewhere else, but mostly in the van). According to my FitBit, I slept for a total of 2 hours and 42 minutes between Friday and Saturday (and they were glorious minutes, every one of them) so we weren't exactly well-rested. We stopped for food at a few restaurants when Van 2 was running, but mostly we ate things that could be kept in a cooler or not cold, and I ate a lot of peanut butter, crackers, bananas, and rice cakes. Plus, you have nervous race stomach the whole time, but you need to keep your energy up because the race lasts more than a day. Not super ideal.
4. I wasn't that worried about my time, which was great. First of all, our team was not caught up in being super competitive (thank goodness). But also, in the course of a 29-hour race I just felt like a few minutes here or there didn't really matter. This really came in handy when my last leg turned out to be all hills and I had zero energy left, because I didn't hesitate to switch to power walking when I needed to. And I did need to....a lot.
5. The course is beautiful, and changes a lot between the legs. My first leg was partly along a highway and partly along the river, and was mostly really pretty. Although, a semi did drive by and blow my running hat off at one point, and I had to run back and climb into the ditch to retrieve it. That was not awesome. My night run was on a gravel road through corn fields, and it was really still and beautiful and there were one bazillion stars shining. There was also an insane manure stench at one point, but just keep running, you know? ALSO, it occurred to me in the middle of that run that I could easily be grabbed by a serial killer and pulled into the cornfield before anyone could notice. It didn't happen, but it could have happened. I don't know, maybe I shouldn't have watched The Lovely Bones before the race.
My last leg started in Afton, Minnesota along the roads there and turned off into a state park, where we ran along the hiking trails for the last three miles. There were lots of hikers in the park with hiking boots and poles, looking at us like we were insane (because what are you guys even doing here??) That's a fair reaction. I can admit that. This leg also included a hill that spanned an entire mile. From mile 1 to mile 2 was straight hill. I mean, come on.
6. There aren't mile markers. This was alright for me because I use Map My Run, but if you don't use GPS not having mile markers can be really disorienting. The only markers along the route are these "one mile to go" markers that make you want to do a celebration dance, because they mean you only have one mile left on your leg. My last leg didn't have a one mile to go sign, but again, thanks to Map My Run, I knew I was almost done. My teammates who didn't use GPS lamented seeing signs giving directions (i.e. "Ragnar Relay turns right here") that they mistakenly thought were the One Mile To Go signs, only to realize as they got closer that there was...more than one mile to go.
7. The weather is bizarre. In past years, the race has been unbearably hot (apparently the heat index last year was close to 110) and even though the days were not outrageously hot for us, it was still about 85 degrees with considerable humidity. It didn't feel awful when you were standing still, but as soon as you started running it was HOT. And then, once the sun went down, the weather was pleasant for running but freezing for standing still. I was wearing sweatpants, a sweater, and wrapped in a blanket shivering in the van while my teammates ran their night legs.
All in all, the Ragnar was exactly what you'd expect it to be: a fun and insane experience that I'm proud to say I finished, and I'm happy to not do every weekend. Or maybe ever again. We'll see.
I hope everyone's weeks are off to a great start. I think it's going to take me several more days to catch up on the rest I missed this weekend, so mine is dragging a little. Wish me luck.
I have such a hot tip for you today. You guys, two of the very best people in the health and wellness world are making a podcast together. It's called The Living Experiment, and it's coming to you every week from Dallas Hartwig, co-creator of The Whole 30 and owner of one of my most favorite Instagram feeds, and Pilar Gerasimo, creator and former Editor In Chief of Experience Life Magazine and owner of one of the best voices on the planet. I listened to the first episode tonight while I ran my LAST RAGNAR TRAINING RUN and I took these two beautiful photos (because Minneapolis was showing off so hard) and life was good. Also I was sweating so much that sweat kept forming droplets on the end of my nose, which was very distracting. Obviously I took a picture of that too, and I'll even share. You're welcome.
There. Don't ever say I only showed you the flattering sides of my life. But, ok. So. The Living Experiment. I love the podcast globally because I think Dallas and Pilar bring very grounded and fresh voices to the health and fitness world. They both grew up in non-urban, sort of separated-from-society settings for some portion of their childhoods (Dallas on a homestead without electricity or running water, Pilar on a farm that was only slightly more modern) and have definitely joined the mainstream media and world as adults, Dallas putting forth the Whole 30 program and all of the speaking and writing and engagement that came along with that, and Pilar working on the Experience Life magazine that Lifetime Fitness puts out to all of its club members. I respect them both immensely because I think they do a great job of engaging with the modern world and speaking to everyday Americans while pushing back on the modern American lifestyle, and somehow they don't seem judgmental or snooty about any of it. That's not easy.
Specifically, the first episode of their podcast made two points that I love deeply. The first is that they'd like to engage with people who are interested in becoming healthier and happier, but they want those people to know that: 1) you're fine as you are right now, and 2) there's room for improvement in where you are right now. I slowed down in my run at this point and momentarily searched for a pen (none to be found on the lakeshore path, obviously) because this was one of those statements that made my soul scream, "YES!" and I wanted to write it down. This is exactly how I feel about engaging with people about health and fitness and wellness. You're fine as you are. You're whole and there's nothing about yourself that needs fixing. But of course you could be healthier. You could be more well. There's room for improvement in all of us humans, on the fronts of nutrition and fitness and wellness and all sorts of other things. I think improvement in those areas is important and I love nothing more than to engage with others that are also seeking improvement. But it's so important to recognize at the outset that this is not about fixing. You are not broken. You're fine as you are right now, and there's also room for improvement.
The second point is that the "experiment" part is really important, because no one set of rules works for everyone. This is the most important essence of the Whole 30 to me--the point of the Whole 30 is to eliminate foods that might be causing less-than-desirable reactions in your body, and then to reintroduce them to see if they are, in fact, having negative effects. The point of the Whole 30 is NOT that grains or dairy or legumes are evil. They aren't. The point is to find out how YOUR body tolerates different foods, because there's no way for you to know that without experimenting on yourself.*** And relying on nutritionists or doctors or researchers to make generalizations about food, exercise, or any other aspect of your individual life is missing the point that you are an individual person with individual needs. The approach that Pilar and Dallas propose, then, is to take this information as a suggestion and introduce it into your own personal experiment. For example: I recently wrote about dietary collagen supplements. I read about the potential benefits of collagen, and I introduced that supplement into my diet to see how my body responded to it. This allows me to assess whether something that is beneficial to others is also beneficial to me personally, but doesn't assume that a study on the general population would always predict my own personal results. This mindset is important: when I hear about stretching after exercise, for example, and read about a study that found that 15 minutes of stretching after strenuous exercise drastically improved some health metric, instead of thinking, "Ugh, another thing I don't do when I should" I might think, "Maybe after this week's runs I'll add some stretching and see how it makes me feel." Because I already feel pretty good, and I don't stretch...almost ever, but I acknowledge that there may be some benefits to that activity that I'm not realizing, and I'm willing to give it a try and see how I personally react to it. This approach is empowering, because it takes the responsibility away from the experts and puts it back on you, the person most knowledgeable about your own self. And I think it's liberating, because instead of committing to an idea that might seem overwhelming to you, or getting bogged down by all the things you "should" be doing, it lets you take a let's-just-try-this approach. Just see how it goes. See what you think, and go from there. I love that.
So, listen. Subscribe to The Living Experiment. It's free and it will enrich your life, and I want more people who I can talk to about the episodes. Thx.
***I need to embark on a small rant here, but I'll do you the courtesy of separating it from the rest of the post. This point is exactly why I get really ragey when people complain about the "stupid trend" of gluten free diets, or belittle people who avoid gluten because they believe such diets are a fad or are not healthier or better. Listen: I am wholly committed to a gluten free diet and I don't think gluten free diets are universally healthier or better. I don't think gluten is evil and I don't think it's intrinsically bad or unhealthy. It's a protein and many people seem to tolerate it just fine. I don't. It makes me violently ill, and I do not have celiac disease. But listen, folks, we are all different. My digestive system is a little bit of a diva, and she doesn't like gluten. I wish she felt differently, because baguettes, but I REALLY wish we could accept that it's ok for people to make their own choices when it comes to what they eat and how they move, based on what they've learned works best in their personal living experiment. You don't have to eat the way I eat. You don't have to exercise the way I exercise. And vice versa. If we could all accept those ground rules I think we'd be a lot better off interacting with one another.