Workout Wednesday: New Shoulders & Back.

Mentally last week, in the gym for my leg day, I was at odds with how I wanted to approach the workout of the day. I wanted to do what I call an “eyeball” workout routine that day. Switch it up a little. But, sometimes when we’ve been at it in the gym for a long time, the mindset creeps in of “I can’t do just body weight exercises, I’ll lose my gains.”

We’ve all been guilty of it from time to time, and I can admit that I have. Just as we don’t really want to drop our weight down (that’s called vanity folks, but really, don’t worry what others in the gym think, focus on you). In some instances, you have no choice. And pregnancy is one of those. So if you’re pregnant and in the gym: don’t reach for your max, or worry that you’re going to get looked at funny for doing a lighter weight. Remember, you’re growing a baby and you don’t want to do anything to harm him or her. It’s about their well being for the next 9-months.

… And back on track… An “eyeball” workout routine is when you walk into the gym, stand there and take in your surroundings. Free weights, bands, balls, machines, etc. You mentally perform each exercise in your head briefly, putting together a new combination that will accomplish what you want to do that day. Basically: You walk into the gym and wing it. No pre-planned exercise, no program. Just go for it.

My splits have been messed up my entire pregnancy. I think I’ve made it to the gym maybe three weeks total in which I could focus on my splits regularly as I did before getting pregnant. I’m making it to the gym three times a week, so my typical 4-day split has gone into the drain. I’ve contemplated doing three different full body workouts each day I’m in there, but I’m not fully to that stage yet, so I’ve set up my new split like this:

Shoulders & 1/2 of back day
Legs & Chest
Bi/Tri & 1/2 of back day

On the other days, I do yoga at home and when it’s nice, I’ve hit the water and done some kayaking.

Last week, I started doing the “wing it” in the gym. First with leg day, a light weight, mostly body weight workout. Damn did I feel it the next day. And since I had such a “glowing” result from that, that’s how I’ve been approaching my workouts lately. It makes it easier, because I don’t always know how I’m going to feel that day. The thing about pregnancy is: It’s a giant yo-yo. You just never know. So taking the time to put something together for x-amount of weeks just isn’t feasible right now. Yesterday was shoulders and half of my back day, and here’s what it ended up looking like:

**Tip for pregnant women: If you’re experiencing balance issues, use a seat or a bench for the raises and flyes. The face pulls can be done on a ball or even a bench if you need to grab one too. Be mindful of the weights you use, your posturing (and support), and remember to breathe through each rep of each set! And remember, it’s all about maintaining right now, you’re not in competition mode, She-Woman mode, or any of that business right now. Staying fit and healthy, but keeping baby healthy is key and priority.

**Everyone else: When doing drop sets, or multiple part sets, be mindful of that weight you’re choosing. With drop sets, sometimes you can go a little heavier than you would for a normal set, but still be careful. If you find that on that first round, that heaviest weight was a little too much, ratchet it back a smidge for the next round. Same with multiple part sets. If you do one rep and know that you won’t be able to follow through, executing the exercise PROPERLY for the remaining sets and parts, then don’t do it. Pick a different weight that you can execute the exercise with.

Sausage and cucumbers. Together?

I know I’ve got the category Foodie Friday. And I know I’ve tagged this post in it… But it couldn’t wait. This was just too yummy to keep to myself any longer (I made it two weeks ago).

Just because you’re pregnant, doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone out there who thinks you should be sitting on your couch, doing nothing, and eating bonbons. Gaining 100-pounds in the process.
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No. Being healthy is the most important part of pregnancy. Eating healthy and staying moving (as long as you can) is key. Not only does it make your pregnancy easier, but it will make labor and your “down time” afterwards a lot easier as well.

A friend of mine has just started venturing into the world of cooking. She found a healthy cookbook that she loves and she’s tearing up the pages cooking up a storm. I told her to just wait until she’s been at it for awhile, before she knows it, she’ll be just like me. It seems that the toss and cook approach to cooking after you’ve gotten the hang of it is the common way it goes…

I’m notorious for thinking throughout the day how this will taste with that. Or can I cook this and add that? There are times when I open my refrigerator and look at what I’ve got in there and go “If I take that jar of what’s left in that, add it to this and then throw in what I’ve got left of that… I wonder…”

99% of the time, I nail it. Then I have to struggle to remember exactly what I did and even a rough idea on just how much of what I put in. It takes me a few hours sometimes to remember remotely enough to make it again.

The other night, I saw the cukes and the package of sausage sitting next to each other and the gears began working. The end result was delicious. The other half went back for thirds, so that’s when I know I’ve done something right.

I’ve just gotten my “spicy” back in my pregnancy, so I attacked it head on with this recipe. The cukes were perfect because they give you a little bit of crunch, some juiciness and they absorbed the sausages spicy to that “just right” amount.

It’s a good one-dish kind of meal (which I clearly love), and it’s NOT packed with a lot of calories, but it’s packed with all of those good things you need for your body and your baby (or babies) need. It’s not heavy, so you won’t feel bloated after. And it’s great reheated for left overs!

_20140819_210729The question here is: Can you multitask at the stove? This is best done with both portions of the recipe cooking at the same time. The orzo will be done about the same time it needs to be a added to the sausage.

The “main” dish portion:
2 medium cucumbers (or one large), sliced, peeled and cut into 1/4s
1 package of Al Fresco Spicy Jalepeno Chicken Sausage
2 handfuls of chopped shiitake mushrooms
2 tbs of capers (with juice added in)
2 tbs of olive oil

In a large skillet, add olive oil and warm on medium. Add in cucumbers and shittakes. Let cook for 5 minutes. Add in capers and caper juice, then after about 2 minutes, add in sausage. Turning them temp up to medium-high, let cook for about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally to keep flavors cooking together and blending. Turn down to low.

For the pasta portion:
1 cup uncooked Orzo
2 cups milk (1%, whole, doesn’t matter, just don’t use skim)
3/4 cup salsa

Combine all ingredients into a pot and cook on medium until orzo is cooked. Once done, add to sausage and mix well. Let all contents cook on low for about 5 minutes.

The Ice Bucket Challenge.

Let’s talk the ice bucket challenge.

Ice bucket challenge? What’s that? Well, if you’ve been living under a rock or in a cave in the good ole U. S. of A over these past few weeks, this is the ice bucket challenge:

If you’re called out to the challenge, you have to either donate $100 to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or as baseball fans commonly know it as: Lou Gehrig’s disease) and call out five people to the challenge OR you dump a big bucket of ice filled water over your head and donate $10 (or more if you choose, many people are still donating the $100 and doing the ice bucket).

How did it start? Former college basketball player, Pete Frates who has ALS, started the whirlwind. It immediately took over the New England states, and in just two weeks, it’s taken over the nation.

Even Bill Gates has done it.

So what’s the big deal? Well, you have all of the Negative Nancy’s taking to social media, pitch forking slacktivism. There are better ways of going about it all, they claim. Telling people to “screw” the challenge and just donate. What’s dumping a bucket of ice water over your head got to do with ALS?

Wow. Way to forget to put on your big kid panties for the day, huh?

First, it’s raised awareness immensely for ALS. I remember a few years ago when I wrote a story about a local man who had ALS that won the car design contest for NASCAR’s Kyle Busch’s Toyota. When I did the story, it was a known disease, but it was still very UNknown to the masses. And at that, a lot, and I do mean A LOT of people were clueless as to what it really was.

I believe my younger sister’s words just last night at family dinner were: It kills you in a month after you get it. (Which she truly, heartfully thought was what happened).

In just two weeks, knowledge of what it is and what it does to a person, has increased probably a billion-fold.

In just two weeks, the ALS Association has reported that their donations are over $13-million, whereas last year’s donations at this time were $1.7-million. There are more than a quarter-million new donors on their list.

Call it “slacktivism” if you will, but shit, it’s working. People are educating and donating. It’s doing exactly what Frates wanted it to do: raise money and awareness. Frates knows, just like the rest of us know, the only way to change the ending of the story of someone with ALS is to raise the awareness of it, and money.

So what about the ice and water? That’s kind of lame…

No, it’s not. It was Frates way of making it fun. Putting some light on an otherwise dark and sad illness. It’s like the woman who found out she had breast cancer and was going in for a double mastectomy and danced around like crazy in the operating room with everyone before she had her surgery.

When people have an illness where the end is clear, dark and final, but clear, most don’t want to think of the bad. They want to live life happy, and full as long as they can.

What has happened to this Nation, that we’ve become so negative, about everything? Look around at what’s happening. Ferguson, MO, school shootings, retired MMA fighter’s beating the crap out of, and almost killing their girlfriend… Seriously. There is so much bad going on, what’s wrong with a little fun and a little good?

So grab that damn bucket of water, that friggin’ bag of ice, donate money, call some friends out, dump that bucket on your head, then do your research and learn about the disease.

It doesn’t kill a damn soul to have a little fun, now does it?

It’s what Frates clearly wanted from the start, so STOP putting your negative light on it.

Oh, baby!

Just when you think you’ve reached the end of the road, you find that that Dead End sign you’ve seen is just a mirage. You actually have more road to go. Not just that, but there’s a fork in it to, taking you to a new, completely unexpected destination.

We had just started to really focus on wrapping our minds on the realization that children were probably never going to be a part of our future. Luckily for us, we have always been career driven, so it was easy to keep our focuses on that. Until that positive test came. Then the 10 more I took just to be sure. Because, well, after all of the bad news, tests, more bad news and so on and so forth… That test couldn’t really being saying “Pregnant +3 weeks”. Could it?

Welp, those positives were definitely positives and it was confirmed 100% with a sonogram at eight weeks. There’s a little baby Rebel inside, growing happy and healthy.

babyblog copySo naturally I stopped all workouts, kayaking, walks, etc. Right?

Wrong. And to be rude, anyone who tries to tell me that, I’m going to laugh at. My doctor not only approved of me sticking with my workouts, my summer kayaking adventures, walking with my dog, etc… but he strongly encouraged it. It has been my lifestyle for more than a decade. My focus for the pregnancy is to maintain. Obviously that 260-pound deadlift I was doing back in late May isn’t something I’m going to be attempting again until this time next year. Same with those 150-pound squats I was doing.

I have been dealing with rolling waves of never ending morning sickness, and much to my husband’s disappointment – it’s not slowing me down. I feel my best when I’m moving. When I’m walking Dunkin. When I’m in the gym. When I’m tending to my gardens. If it makes me feel good, obviously, I’m going to do it.

The first week in the gym was certainly a learning curve. I didn’t want to push myself, but I wanted to get a solid workout in. I’d grab for too-light weights, get frustrated and jump up in pounds only to realize before I even got back to my bench that I was being ridiculous and the ones I grabbed were too heavy for what I was intending to accomplish.

Once I got the weights, the reps and the sets down pat, it was rearranging my workouts so that by the start of my second trimester I wouldn’t be on my belly or on my back. That was actually the easiest part. I do monitor my heart rate, like I always have done. Not because of the old, now disproven 140-beats-per-minute thing once told to all pregnant woman, but because I want to know my accurate calorie burn. At the end of the day, I want to make sure I’m adding in what I’m burning off with exercise.

It’s going to be a constant learning adventure for me. I’m lucky in that my two favorite fitness pros are pregnant right now as well. I’ve been following Ashley Horner and Jessie Hilgenberg during their fit pregnancies, and it’s good to see what I’m doing mirrored in what they’re doing as well.

I’m keeping logs. Keeping track of my workouts, and if I can con one of my gym buddies, now that I’m back at the gym regular time because I don’t have to hide my bump anymore, to film snippets of some of my workouts, I intend to post everything right here to help other moms when their time comes :)

It’s in the shoulders.

wwCall me stubborn, call me hard headed, call me anything you want that describes sticking to my guns on something but, leg day is on Wednesday and will always be on a Wednesday for me.

Everyone at my gym does leg day on Friday. Thursdays I have classes and my regular day job, so I use it as a rest day where I take Dunkin on a nice long walk, or maybe hit the water in the summer for a paddle. Mondays and Tuesdays are a no go because of my regular day job. When I have coverage, I’m running up and down sidelines snapping photos. Constantly on the move. Key part in moving? Legs. I can’t be suffering post-leg day effects on those days. Coverage usually tapers after deadline days, so Wednesday has become the perfect fit.

If my gym schedule shifts and somehow my leg day is supposed to fall on a Tuesday or even a Monday? Nope. I will swap my days around. No hesitation. I’ve got Wednesdays on lock.

Which is why yesterday was a shoulder day.

Shoulders are my sucky weak point. It wasn’t until I hit a Jessie Hilgenberg workout, followed by Shortcut to Size, that my shoulders started “appearing”. My arms looked good, my back looked amazing, but I didn’t have much by way of shoulder size and definition. It has taken me about seven months to “grow” them and develop the shape of my traps, but I’m doing it and I couldn’t be happier to have a cohesive look to my body for a change.

Although something that has popped up over the last few weeks may be very quickly playing a role in that. But that’s a post for next week. crumpled-paper-887785

Last week I started this shoulder workout from none other than Hilgenberg, and I love it. I won’t lie, I did struggle at first with getting through it and staying consistent. I try to keep my rep range the same for each set and exercise, as well as not have to change my weight mid-set.

Because I’ve been pushed into “maintenance mode” currently by my doctor, I haven’t really pushed myself in weights. I’ve picked weights that I’m comfortable with and will still challenge my muscles. The first day I did this, I did 4 sets of each, about 10-12 reps each of the lighter weight. This week, where I felt more than comfortable with what I was using for weight last week, I bumped it up a little and did only about 8 reps for each set.

Leaves my body feeling worked and great, and the next day, I won’t lie… There’s some tenderness there. It was a struggle getting my hair in a ponytail the morning after the first swing through. This morning? A little better. Although that hairspray can to tame my fly-aways was a little heavier than usual ;)

She ran a 5k.

I have two sisters. An older and a younger one. Smack dab in the middle I am. For the longest time, my older sister and I were super close (after 12 years of her hating my guts). I even lived with her for seven months of my life back in my 20s. We’re still close, but as I’ve gotten older, I do my own thing more and more and I hang out at her place less and less. We still talk every day, and we still have the same train of thought – something proven in the random texts we send one another throughout the day that somehow oddly say exactly what the other was thinking. It’s almost like we live far apart, even though we’re only a 10-minute drive away from one another. Such is life.

My younger sister and I? Not so much. Two completely different personalities. Clashing. Hard. I call it a difference in life experiences. To be honest, I’ve experienced a lot of crap, in a short amount of time. Things that most people will never experience in their lives. But that’s a different story for a different day. I matured very quickly, and I’m independent. My younger sister? Sheltered, by her own choice. Quiet. Unsocial…

When she said she was going to run her first 5-kilometer road race, ever, I was curious to see if she’d stick with it. She’s notorious for starting and never finishing anything. Typical trait of the “baby” of a family.

Being the always and forever athlete that I am, I never quit and I hate seeing people stop doing something. Especially over “I don’t want to do it alone.” I’ve done so many things in my life alone. I’ve traveled out to Foxboro for New England Revolution games all by myself. I’ve gone on trips by myself. I go to the gym solo. Work out solo. I ran a marathon solo. The life of an independent person.

It also means that when someone says “I don’t want to do it alone, so I’m not going to do it” (regardless of all of the training they put into it), I find myself completely baffled.

This time, I wasn’t going to let the person saying it, get away with backing out so quickly and easily.

When I asked my younger sister if she was still running the race she was training for, and she gave me that answer, I immediately hopped on the web and signed us both up. I’m not a regular runner, I’m a sprinter, thriving on HIIT workouts. But I run, and at any given time, regardless of how long it’s been since I’ve run 3 miles to race, I know I can lace up the shoes and go. I jog a little over 3 miles every day. Between that, my weight routine and the HIIT, I know I can hit the pavement and pound out an average 22-minute 5K.

The text I received from my sister in response to telling her I signed us both up, I wasn’t letting her quit this time, was priceless.

“I hate you so much right now, but thank you.”

My response back? Thank me after you finish the race.

On the day of the race, she said over and over again how she was going to have to walk some of it. She still couldn’t run a steady 3.1-miles yet despite all of the training she had done. As much as it was going to kill me, I was going to stick it out and stay with her. I put her into the middle of it, I was going to stay by her until she waded out to the edges. She is my sister after all, I couldn’t just leave her.

I told her that it didn’t matter, finishing the race was what mattered. Even if she was dead last (which, she would be, because in the end, I’d sprint across the finish line to finish line, second to last. Nothing wrong with a little sisterly competition, right?).

So she strapped on her Camel Back water backpack thing, and off we went. Curious to see how far I could push her, I started to pick up my pace a little. We started passing people, and the thought of not finishing last got to her. She kept her pace steady with mine (I didn’t push her too hard, I’m not that mean. I kept her around an 8:50/9:00-mile pace), and we began passing all of the 30+ minute 5k runners.

At the marker for mile one, she checked her running app on her phone and was shocked. She had run her fastest mile ever. Ever. At 9:17. After mile marker #2, she shaved a few more seconds off. Quickly was my sister learning that it’s a world of difference not only running with someone who is faster than you, but running competitively.

When we crossed the finish line and she saw her time was just over 27-minutes (probably my slowest 5k in about 5-years), she just looked at me and said “Okay, I guess I don’t hate you anymore.”

Always pushing someone to do something, even if it’s stick to the goals that they set for themselves, isn’t a good idea. It creates and harbors resentment. It makes that person more determined to not succeed, just to spite you. However, once in awhile, doing what you can to “gently” nudge them back on path towards their goal can help them stay on track and attain the goal they set for themselves, and once they’ve done that, set more goals and work better to achieve them.

In this situation, it worked. Not only did she run her first 5k race (and shock the crap out of herself by running the full 3.1-miles and being faster than she’d ever thought she’d be), but she just ran in her first 10k race, finishing faster than she thought she would do in that. One successful goal attainment led to another.

Gentle push. Light guidance. It works in the end.

(And yes, I did sprint the last .2-miles. I stuck with her until the end, I wasn’t going to let her beat or tie me. It’s a sibling thing.)

Comfort zone.

Definition: (noun) a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.

Ex. “Times when we must act beyond our comfort zones”

About two months ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I do it a lot in my attempt at success throughout my life, so this wasn’t any different for me. The only difference here was: I was taking on a client who I felt may have been almost beyond my range. Yes, I had studied senior fitness during my certification, but I wasn’t know-all about it. I explained that to my client during our consultation, and he said he had faith in me, still hiring me.

Two months later, and both he and I have made leaps and bounds. No, I’m still not know-all about senior fitness, and there is still the slight uncertainty I face when I pull into his driveway every Monday or Wednesday to work with him. But self-doubt is common when you have taken yourself outside of your comfort zone. And it’s surprisingly pretty easy to shake off.

He has become stronger in eight weeks. Small gains, but they are gains. He has improved his balance immensely from the start. And his flexibility has improved. Since I watch my clients as they work out, keeping an eye on form, movement, facial expressions (you can tell me your okay, but I can read your face and if I see otherwise on it, we stop and take a break or call it quits for the day), etc… I typically notice the improvements before my clients do.

My 83-year old client is mostly on a stretching, light weight and light band work out. When he started, rising to his toes had him wobbly. His shoulders and chest were so week, 5-pounds was too much. Core band stretching was almost impossible.

Now he is rising straight up and steady to his toes, his shoulders and chest have started to become stronger, the movement in his core has loosened. I watch him go through his workout with a smile on my face seeing the change. And I smile even more when now, before each session he is telling me how strong I have helped him become. Things he struggled with before, he can do easier now.

He has told me he is doing this for his wife, his children and his grandchildren. He knows his health is important and he wants to stay active and strong in hopes he can enjoy them all longer.

His mindset is, without doubt, in the right place.

His mindset is what had me stepping outside of my comfort zone, hitting the books and doing my research on proper fitness for seniors well over the age of 60. His mindset is what had me wanting to work with him and help him.

Sometimes you are rewarded greatly for taking that step.