It's only Tuesday, but so far it has been a great week!  It actually starts with last week.  Last week: for some reason it felt incredibly long to me.  Perhaps it's because we spent the week prior at Disney World, so it was pretty hard to adjust to going back to work in cold, dismal Blacksburg.  We also seemed to experience all of the four seasons last week.  One day it was in the 60s, the next day it was icing and snowing.  One day it was a bright blue sky, the next it was dark all day.  Last week felt like a year.

BUT!

I worked out all five work days last week, and that made me feel awesome!  It's true that I think I only did a 10-minute high intensity interval thingy on the treadmill on Friday (that's all I had time for), but it still felt great just to make it into the gym each day and stay on routine.

So far, I've made it into the gym both days this week too, and I've had awesome workouts.  I haven't really had time to do more than 30/45 minutes each day, but I've packed a lot into each session.

The thing I'm most excited about?

I have a goal to do 1 chin up (unassisted).  Each time I'm at the gym, I go to the bar and try to do a chin up.  Usually I just sort of hang there and strain to pull myself up.  Well, today I managed to pull myself up just at tiny bit.  And that tiny little bit felt amazing!!

Also, I did 12 push-ups in a row!  This a pretty big accomplishment for me.  That was my first set.  The reps went down with each set, but each time I pushed myself to complete as many as I could before my arms felt like they were going to give out on me.

So I'm just feeling really good today.  The kids sort of stressed me out a little bit this morning, and mentally I wasn't in a super great place when I pulled into the gym, but once I got there and got into my zone, I worked some things out and am left feeling refreshed and recharged for the day.  Yay!

Here's my workout:

H-Squat Machine -- 50 lbs., 4 sets, 12 reps
Inverted rows -- body weight, 4 sets, started with 12 reps then did about 10, 8, and 6
Push-ups -- body weight, 4 sets, started with 12 reps then did about 9, 6, and 4
Prowler -- 180 lbs., 4 sets across the room and back
 
So now that this busiest of seasons is behind us, I am pausing to think about "New Year's Resolutions."  

Everybody is making resolutions right now, and it's something I enjoy doing as well.  A year to two ago, I started making resolutions that I knew I had a good chance of accomplishing: things like, try more new recipes, knit more, etc.  I think it's fun to pick things you enjoy, and then you do feel good about yourself when you do them, and you feel good from multiple perspectives.

I read a blog post recently about how making big resolutions about changing something you don't like about yourself or quitting something or giving up something or dieting or what have you -- a lot of these things set you up for failure, because (1) they are negative and (2) they are big changes that happen over a long period of time, and when people see them as just one "thing" they can accomplish, they get discouraged when that change doesn't happen right away.

I thought that was really insightful, and it made me thing about my own personal journey into fitness and health.

My journey started in January 2011, pretty much as a New Year Resolution, but the spark and the real change that took place was when Stephen was born and a mental switch was flipped.  That switch was simply believing in myself.  It seems like such a simple thing, but it is probably one of the hardest things that people struggle with.

I say this all the time, but it is just so true.  When Stephen was born, I believe that I was reborn.  I new confidence started growing in me that day in August, and by January it had learned how to walk and it was starting to contemplate running.  By January, I knew that I wanted to lose the baby weight from my *first* pregnancy.  I also was thinking about running the 3.2 for 32 Run in Remembrance.  It was at that point that I joined Sparkpeople.com and started hearing a lot about the Couch to 5K.  Right after that, a friend told me she was going to do the c25k.  I started doing it with her, and for the first time (ever!) I didn't hate running.

I think this new feeling towards running (I wouldn't go so far as to say that I *loved* it at that point), was due to the fact that the c25k is so gradual, and that relates back again to the fact that big changes actually have to take place gradually, over time.

And guess what!  I didn't lose any weight.  That's right.  I went for a really, really  long time without losing one damn pound.  Again, big changes = really gradual, over time.

The c25k is not a very rigorous cardio workout.  For the majority of the time, you're alternating walking and running, and really don't do more than 30 minutes, including a warm up and cool down.  And there were some days when I barely made it to the gym.  There were days when I would go (with my totally awesome running buddy, Steph!) and would only do 18 minutes.  Some days it might have even been as few as 10 minutes.  Barely enough to justify going to the gym, changing clothes, etc, right?

But all of that c25k training was SO IMPORTANT.  Because it gave me the confidence to know that I could run 3.1 miles without stopping.  It was gradual and took a long time, and I wasn't seeing a difference on the scale, but it gave me confidence and it established a routine.

While I didn't see any freaking change on the scale (which I will admit was frustrating), I could see that my muscles were changing.  I had new muscle definition in my legs, which was a huge motivator.  I also knew that I felt better when I was running.  It had a huge impact on my emotional and psychological well-being.

I started running at a time when Stephen was experiencing horrible ear infections.  He was allergic to one of the antibiotics and the other ones were not very effective for him.  We went through about 3 month where he was waking multiple times a night, crying inconsolably.  It got so bad, the doctor injected him with antibiotics, a procedure that was pretty traumatic for me.  Needless to say, Bob and I were not getting a lot of sleep, and I was an emotional wreck.  Lack of sleep makes me a pretty angry person, and I wasn't in a very good place.

Something about the running, even as little as 10 minutes a day, helped me deal better with everything else that was going on.  It's hard to express how much it helped, but I can say that running was definitely better and cheaper than therapy for me.

So even though I wasn't seeing any difference on the scale, I kept running, because it facilitated for me, things that I quite possibly had never quite felt before: a strong sense of self-confidence and peace.  Certainly, I had not experienced these feelings in quite this way before.

It took over a year for me to lose 4 pounds.  I got back to my pre-Taylor weight in time for his 4th birthday.  I had to increase my running, and I had to change what I was eating.  It's just a fact of life: there really isn't enough cardio in the world if you are eating more calories than you're burning.  And I did not (and still don't) consider myself an unhealthy eater.  

I lost the four pounds with a lot of running and some fairly minor dietary tweaks.

Since Feb. 2012, I have lost more weight, but more importantly, I have shifted my focus and my energy into being a healthier person.  I'm not trying to diet.  

This past summer, I started strength training, and that has made a huge difference.  My body shape has really changed, I have more muscle definition than I've ever had in my life, and MOST importantly, I physically feel that best I have ever felt.  

I have tried to cut out a lot of processed foods from my diet, and I think it has had a major impact in every area of my life.  I think my moods are more stable, I have more energy, I tend to not get sick as often and when I do it's fairly short-lived, my digestive system is more stable.  It has just been such a positive change.

The strength training has also been a gradual process.  When I first started, I felt like a total weakling and like everyone in the room was watching me and thinking I was a fool.  But I just told myself, everyone has to start someplace.  Each person in here had to make a decision one day to walk into the gym and pick up a weight.  And then they made the decision to go back the next day.  And the next, and so on.  And each of these people has probably felt foolish on more than one occasion.  The only way for me to stop feeling like a weakling is to go back each day, and so that's what I do.  And I realize that this is a lifelong process.  There are still some days when I totally look the fool.  I mean, seriously, one time my awesome trainer had to come over and point out to me that I was trying to push the prowler backwards.  I couldn't get it to move, and I couldn't figure out why!  It's because it was backwards!  Luckily, I have a pretty good ability to laugh at myself.  You've got to be able to laugh at  yourself and say, yeah, sometimes I'm an idiot.  And I'm okay with that.  If you're now willing to make a fool out of yourself, you're going to miss out on a lot in life.

So anyway, this long and rambling post had a point, I think.

My journey started at about 10:45 p.m. on August 23, 2010, doing something I never thought I had the strength to do.  Sometimes, all you need is just to truly believe in yourself.  It's not something anybody else can do for you or give you.  You have to find it in yourself.

Sometimes, you can find or create that confidence just by following through on something every day, even if it's the bare minimum of what you can do.

Small changes, gradually, over time, can amount to big changes.  They did for me, and I am still setting new goals every day.

I remember seeing a quote that said that goals are things you may not be able to accomplish.  If accomplishing them was guaranteed, they wouldn't be goals, they would be tasks.  That really resonates with me, because I think it emphasizes that feeling of confidence one can get from achieving a goal.  Achieving a goal is not a guarantee, and it means you've had to work hard to reach it.

I'm not quite sure what my goals are for 2013.  Here's what I'm thinking:
  • Accomplish 1 unassisted chin up (then do more!!)
  • Run a marathon (this is definitely one that is not a guarantee)
  • Run in a race with my brother (that would be fun!)
  • Scrapbook more
  • Make more progress in eating less processed (especially in terms of learning how to prepare and get my kids to eat less processed)
  • Actually, I really want to learn more about healthy nutrition for kids and really get my boys on the path to good healthy eating
 
So much has been going on!  The last ten days or so have been a total whirlwind, and I am still trying to orient myself.

The last post I wrote happened right before I heard the heartbreaking news about Sandy Hook.  After that, I was so sad it was hard to contemplate being able to write anything.  It's hard to contemplate saying anything that wouldn't fall horribly short of being useful, meaningful, or somehow express feelings of sadness and condolences.

The days went on, and we began to start the Christmas/holiday break.  Once I was home with the boys, it was hard to get anything done, much less write.

We had originally planned to be home for Christmas morning, but after some deep contemplation, we decided to go to Bob's parents' house on the 23rd and stay until Christmas day, when we traveled to Snowshoe for Bob's birthday ski trip.  We left Snowshoes on the 28th and spent one night in Blacksburg.  We then left on the 29th for my parents' house, enjoyed Christmas with my side of the family, and left on the 30th to spend New Years back with Bob's side of the family.  

I have to say, it felt really good to wake up in my own bed this morning!
I wish I had taken a picture of myself in all of my ski gear at Snowshoe.  I looked so totally hardcore!  It just so happened that Snowshoe was hit by a pretty big storm the night we arrived, and it seemed like the conditions the next day were close to that of a blizzard.  I'm sure it wasn't an actual blizzard, but it was frigidly cold, the wind was extremely gusty (50 mph), and the precipitation alternated between snow and ice.  If you were outside, you really could not have any skin exposed whatsoever, which we learned the hard way.

So as I prepared to my beginner's ski lesson, I had on my wool socks, my running tights, my warmest Brooks long-sleeve, and underarmour t-shirt, my snow pants, a total thermal face mask, goggles, a hat, ski gloves, and my North Face jacket with the hood all the way pulled up.  Again, I wish I had taken a picture, because it was intense.  The good news is, it kept me warm and safe from the elements.

I got up to the ski lesson place, and everyone who had signed up for the group lessons was rescheduling.  I was seriously considering it as well, but I knew that we were not planning to have Stephen in kinder-care the next day, so I wasn't sure what to do.  Right then, Bob came up and told me that the conditions were a lot better down mountain.  I thought, "I feel like a total badass right now.  Let's do this thing!!"  And off I went with my ski instructor, Shanti.  

The first thing he had me do was ski.  I was pretty freaked out, since I haven't actually been on skis in over five years.  I actually did pretty darn well, considering I wasn't all that good six years ago.  Shanti described me as "decent."  Hey, I'll take it! 

Since everyone else had rescheduled, I had myself a one hour, forty-five minute private lesson.  I really think the Snowshoe Green slopes are actually pretty tough.  They were fairly narrow and steep: not an easy combination in my book.  We started out doing simple S-turns.  I told Shanti I could spend the rest of the day just doing that, but he had other plans.  I'm not sure he realized what a MAJOR accomplishment it was that I hadn't gone flying over the edge of one of their steep embankments and impaled myself on a tree.  

He worked with me on parallel skiing, hockey stops, and more.  I definitely feel that my skills improved as a result of the lesson.  Not to mention, I managed the lifts every time without falling!  This was also another *huge* accomplishment.

I really had a blast and then spent another couple hours in the afternoon skiing the Greens with Bob.  

The biggest accomplishment for me was just that I enjoyed myself, something that doesn't always happen when I ski.  

I did have a couple major wipeouts, but Bob says that if you don't wipe out a little bit, you're not challenging yourself.  If that's the case, then I really challenged myself! :)
 
Ugh!  I had a couple paragraphs of very deep thoughts, and I just accidentally deleted them!

The gist of it was that I was having some very deep thinking regarding the joy I feel right now for life in general and how, for me, it is very connected to health and fitness.  I feel amazing, and I also have this strong desire to share this feeling with others.  I don't want to change careers at all; I just wish that everyone could feel this amazing feeling that I feel.

I've become increasingly interested in health and fitness, diet and exercise, and right now I feel the best that I ever have in my life (this was written better the first time!).  Most days, I feel like I have boundless energy.  My spirits are usually very positive, my digestive system seems to be in a really good place, and in general I just feel, physically and emotionally, the best I have felt in a long time.
And then I started thinking about what this transformation started occurring for me; it's so connected with the birth of my second son.  The birth of Stephen truly brought about a rebirth for me.  I am a different person now.  What an amazing gift that was bestowed upon me!

And it hit me: this is why I've never stopped thinking about the possibility of having another child one day.  It's not that this has never occurred to me before -- I remember having a conversation along these lines with Bob when Stephen was about 6 months old.  But, I think I had sort of forgotten that this was such a powerfully motivating feeling for me.
That event was earth-shattering, life-changing for me.

It's like I've been on the most amazing drug ever since Stephen was born.

Who wouldn't want to go through that experience again?  Who wouldn't want another "hit," so to speak?

I guess the question boils down to, is it enough for me?  Do I need to go through that experience again to continue feeling the effects of this amazing drug that has never worn off?

I'm not sure that I do.  I tend to think that I can channel that energy into being the best possible mother to those two boys.

It's important to remember that there have been, and continue to be, a lot of ups and downs with this whole thing, too.  Motherhood hasn't always been rainbows and endless cups of fro yo.

But I've fallen in love with Taylor, and it was love at first sight with Stephen.  I cannot deny that there is still love in my heart to give.  Now it is just a matter of understanding and figuring out what to do with that love.
 

Quick update: I have not succeeded in doing the house cleaning 15 minutes a day thing.  Not succeeded in the least!  I never even started!  Oh well.  I suppose there's always next week, although, who am I kidding -- it's not going to happen :)

In other news, though, eating well and as healthy as possible has been going along swimmingly.

The majority of my lunches have been packed from home and the dinners have primarily been very healthy.  The image to the left is some of the best hits: lunch that was leftover chicken kabobs (with pineapple, green pepper, and cherry tomatoes); southwest ground chicken stuffed red peppers, healthy chicken nuggets (with zucchini tots), and chicken parm meatloaf muffins (that was ah-maz-ing!!).  These dinners have been so good, and the kids have been eating them up!


Last week, I made the Philly Stuffed Peppers, and Taylor actually asked for more green peppers!  Who are you, and what have you done with my four year old?!  It would be safe to assume we'll be eating a lot more green peppers at our house.  

And he ate two (two!) of the chicken parm meatloaf muffins.  In fact, we didn't have any leftovers of the meatloaf muffins; they were that good.  The plus side of the meatloaf muffins is that they cook up fast (in 20 minutes), which is much better than waiting around for an entire loaf to bake.  We served them with raw carrots, since Taylor loves raw carrots, so there was very little clean-up.

It really has occurred to me that (mostly) clean eating can be so much faster, easier, and (sometimes) cheaper than I ever thought it could be.  I think part of it is that you kind of have to commit to figuring out an easy way to make these healthy meals.  There's "easy," and then there's EASY.  And you've got to figure out what "easy" means to you.

For me, I am lucky in that I am just experimenting with different foods and I don't have a vital need to follow any kind of strict diet or restrict too much of anything.  I don't really know what "clean" eating is.  I just know that right now I am trying my best to eat less processed foods, which necessarily puts me in the way of eating more veggies and fruits.  I'm trying to choose lean meats and also looks for more natural and/or low-fat, low-sugar type options.

And I'm doing all of this with a very specific priority of not buying a bunch of expensive, gourmet ingredients or supplements or anything crazy.  Plus, I need to have meals that can get on the table between the time we get home and 6:15, which doesn't always leave very much time.  So raw carrots?  Hell yeah!  They are easy, healthy, and don't really dirty any dishes (unless you serve them in a bowl, which is still super easy to clean).  Bag of microwave broccoli?  Hell yeah!  Cook it a little under, so it's still a little crunchy and can add it to any dish or reheat for leftovers all week.  Shredding the zucchini for the zucchini tots?  I'll use a food processor next time.  But still, the family loved those things!  Taylor ate more than one, and IT HAD ZUCCHINI IN IT!  I am a happy mom and will give myself carpel tunnel shredding veggies if it means my kid will eat zucchini or beg me to make sweet potato fritters.  Hell to the yeah.  Philly stuffed peppers?  Meat, cheese, onions, mushrooms, and green peppers, and the kids ate everything on their plates (I left out the onions and 'shrooms for the little guys, but they got applesauce).  Me = one happy mom.  And those things cook up in no time.

So, I think it really comes down to finding what works for YOU.  For me, that means really going back to the "roots" of some ways to prepare healthy meals.  Sticking with food that's in as "natural" a state as possible usually ends up in less prep and less clean up for me.  So I shall continue to explore these options for healthy eating.  I have to say, Pinterest has really helped me in this area.  All of the above meals were Pinterest finds.


 
One day last week I had the chance to enjoy a relaxing walk with a friend.  The skies were crystal blue and the company was perfect :)

We explored a place that is not new to Virginia Tech but was new to me: the Hahn Horticulture Garden!  Very serene and beautiful.  Thank you, Sam, for helping me learn something new.  I really loved the hidden courtyards and benches, as well as all the little butterflies flitting along.  It was all so very tranquil.

 
A couple interesting things happened on my run this morning.

First, while I was running uphill, I was passes by a (very fit) mom running with a double-running stroller, which had two kids in it (larger than my own children).  I was kind of upset to get passed by someone pushing a stroller up a hill.  She really smoked me, too.  I went through a series of thoughts/emotions:
  1. tried to catch up
  2. hated myself
  3. hated her
  4. thought, not only am I a bad runner, but I'm also a bad mother since I'm not running with my children
  5. reminded myself not to compare myself to others but to focus only on myself
  6. felt pride over my own accomplishments
  7. finally, felt pride for this woman, for being able to have kids and still be able to kick some serious ass running up a hill.  Good for her!


So that was my own little emotional battle whilst running.

And then, as I'm nearing the end of my run and really just chugging along trying to get it over with...

I swallowed a bug!  

Yes, I swallowed a freaking bug.  But it didn't happen quite that quickly, no.  It was a bit of a spectacle.  First, I'm running along, minding my own.  Then, a bug flies straight in to the back of my throat.  I stop and start to try to hack it out.  This then gags me, and I start to wretch, like I'm going to throw up.  This then makes me feel like I'm going to pee my pants.  I end up crouched on the ground, trying desperately not to pee myself, hacking, and swearing.  I finally realize the only thing for me to do is to swallow that damn bug.  So I did.  Not without shouting out a few more obscenities.

So that was how my day started.

The good news: I got in an awesome run.  About 5.5 miles in about 50 or 55 minutes.

Later today I'm going to take the boys to Krogers so that Taylor can look for a "squishy killer whale thing" that he "hid" somewhere in Kroger the last time we were there (which was at least two weeks ago).  This should be an interesting experience.

This is my life.  Kroger squishy whale scavenger hunt.  I really hope we find it; otherwise, this little boy is going to be very disappointed.  Oh well.
Picture
Taylor posing with a time capsule, downtown.
 
Monday's Session (June 18)
  • Bear Squat machine (cool name, huh?!).  (45 lbs. on each side) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • stiff legged deadlifts (50 lbs.) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • chest presses (12.5) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • dead rows (30 lbs?) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • lat pull downs (50? 60? lbs.) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • The Prowler (45 lbs. on each side) (3 sets)
  • push out ab thing (30 lbs?) (12 reps, 4 sets)
  • arm raises (5 lbs) (12 reps, 4 sets)
 
Picture
We got about a quarter inch of snow yesterday, so we all went out to play.

Yesterday was bitter cold, but we managed to have some fun in the snow, and Taylor got his hot chocolate.  We also braved the elements to get our traditional Sunday Fro Yo from the Frosty Parrot (Fro Pa).  It is a Sunday treat that I love, but I do wonder how we will be able to continue consuming frozen goodness as the temperature continues to go lower and stay lower through the winter.  Poor Taylor was an icicle about the whole way home. 

Picture
One downside to the whole weekend was that I was fighting a stomach bug.  Actually the whole family seemed to be dealing with something, but I think it hit me the hardest.  It's no fun being sick on the weekend!  At least we all seem to be doing a bit better today.

We did enjoy some tasty stew last night (at least, Bob and I enjoyed the stew) and we have plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week.

Here's to hoping for a calm week ahead!

 
Picture
Yesterday we kept Stephen home from daycare, since he was ill the day before, so I did what I always yearn to do when I'm home and practically alone: I rearranged furniture!

I've been craving more organization in our kitchen area -- the clutter on the counters has been driving me crazy.  So yesterday I moved a writing desk that had been in the master bedroom and put it along the main wall in our kitchen dining area.  I managed to get the entire table downstairs by myself and my fabulous sis-in-law helped me get it over the baby gate (which I couldn't figure out how to take down).

I think this little center of organization looks very nice, and it has already proven to be super useful.

I know that Bob is not in love with it, but he has been very open and supportive of my desire to do something organizational with that space.  He agreed that the table, when in the bedroom, was not doing much beside gather dust.  He does feel that it is too big for its new space, but I think overall he's okay with it.

I made a pretty organizer for paperwork, and Stephen helped with a bit of the crafting.  You can't see it so well in the picture, but there is a pretty metal box on the table and I used craft paper to make dividers labelled FILE, OUT, and COUPONS.  I also used more paper to create little pockets in my dividers.  I would like add a nice framed family picture there once we finish our picture project.

In other news, I have not gone running for the last two days, and I am craving a run.  I brought my gear and plan to go this afternoon.  I just ate lunch (an English muffin with deli chicken and cheese, portion of Garden Salsa Sun Chips, two cookies, and one caramel chew), so now i need to let everything digest and then try to time my run so that my food is mostly digested but I'm not too hungry again.  The timing can be so tricky.  That's one major plus about morning runs -- my tummy is always virtually empty, save for my pre-run banana.

It is currently 28 degrees and feels like 18, so I am not particularly excited about the cold nature of the run, but at least there's no question as to what I should wear...EVERYTHING!  I will plan to wear tights, sweatpants, t-shirt, long sleeve, hoodie, fleece head/ear band, and running gloves.  I'll probably be a sweaty mess by the time I'm done.  I have to say, I'm really not loving the winter running.  At least in the summer, there's one temp: hot.  You basically go light shorts and tank top every time and try to get out as early as possible.  Winter time is like, cold at the beginning, hot at the end, lots of layers, so much more STUFF.  And I find myself running in the afternoon because it's warmer, but then I'm either digesting food or hungry, and it's just not ideal.

Oh well, at least I get to run!