dare to be different, fitness and nutrition

Have Fitness, Will Travel

“It’s okay to live a life others don’t understand.” -Jenna Woginrich

The older I get, the more that quote rings true. Today’s example: Time away from home. Vacation, business trip, whatever it is. Many use this as a break from their regular exercise routine. Not this girl.

With fitness, consistency is the name of my game. I rarely go a day without intentional exercise. Some might scoff at this. But, I know I am happiest when I get it done, first thing in the morning if possible. It improves my stress level and mental outlook immensely. Those things need to be on point whether I am home or not…(even vacation travel is stressful!)

How do I make this happen? First, I pack exercise shoes. For a recent road trip, I packed CrossFit shoes, running shoes, and hiking shoes. Second, plan for some equipment if possible. On this stretch, I knew I had several nights in hotels with fitness centers. I packed a 25# dumbbell for other days. That’s about all I needed. The rest could be improvised.

Fast forward to my first night on the road. Reliable Hampton Inn. Saturday morning. Up early for coffee and a quick sweat before my daughter’s lacrosse games.

Walk to the hotel fitness center only to find it is closed for COVID. But the sign on the door says we can get in to the LA Fitness next door. Score, since I have my swimsuit and need to train for a triathlon anyway. Until….LA Fitness doesn’t open until 8:00 am on Saturday and we need to leave for the field by 7:30. What to do…go back to bed? Pout? Nope. Open up the Compass trunk and grab a dumbbell, start a timer, and away I go.

Pulled up a “travel” workout from Street Parking that I hadn’t done before. Pushups on pavement or overgrown grass were a no go. So, elevated pushups against a light post would do. Goblet squats with the dumbbell and some taps against the curb. Got sweaty. Got my heart rate up. Did something. Forty-five minutes later, I am good. The next morning, another parking lot workout with hang power snatches and some air squats. Is it perfect? Nope. But I moved and made myself a priority. Mission accomplished.

The rest of the week was a hodge podge. 5 bike miles to a local coffee shop, then back. Kayaking, running, and a couple of actual hotel workouts with pretty nice equipment to boot. Moved every day and felt much better than I would have otherwise.

Would this work for everyone? Surely not. But making my health a daily priority through movement is one of the ways I honor and love myself. Although some in the hotel lobby or parking lot might raise an eyebrow when they see me, perhaps there are others who feel inspired or encouraged to do what others may not. No matter what, I’m doing what feels best in my own skin.

celebrations, family

Last Time for Everything

Country music isn’t necessarily my favorite, but I listen to it pretty often since my youngest daughter is a fan. I have a handful of artists I admire. Miranda, Maren, Dolly, and then there’s Brad. Brad Paisley. He may not have the most soaring lyrical voice, but his lyrics are witty, smart, and insightful.

Just a few weeks ago, my youngest daughter, the country girl, started her farewell tour, her victory lap, her senior year of high school. Tomorrow we will leave on a 10-day road trip bookended by two lacrosse tournaments, sandwiched around reunions with family, roller coasters, beautiful scenery and other adventures. Time with friends, time with each other, time doing new things, time doing what she loves.

It’s her last hurrah of youth. Last summer playing travel lacrosse. It won’t be long until senior year begins with all its fanfare and festivities. College choices will be made. Dreams will turn to plans.

And so begins a season of lasts. Here’s where Brad comes in with Last Time for Everything. It’s a song that plays over and over in my head. Last time hitting the road to the northeast. Last time taking the field. Last Spring Break. Last, last, last…

Some I will see coming. Some will catch me off guard. Some I will be prepared for. Many I won’t even notice until they are gone and done.

Sure, she will always be my baby. Just like the older two, she will always come home and open the refrigerator and look for her favorites. Bring her laundry and her dog. Get some advice on how to fix her car or choose insurance or ask questions about saving money. Maybe she’ll even curl up and take a nap while someone is cooking in the kitchen like I did at my parents’ house. Even after I was long gone, it was a safe place to just relax and be taken care of for a bit.

So I will enjoy each moment with her as she prepares to take a step out on her own. I will try not to overthink it and get ahead of myself, but instead just be in the moment, relishing this last trip around her childhood sun, all her hard work, ups and downs, accomplishments, and celebrations.

May I treasure this sweet season of lasts while it lasts.

challenges, fitness and nutrition, health

The Verdict

I’ve shared a bit about a recent health challenge I participated in. It was multifaceted, but I mainly focused on cleaning up my nutrition.

After 4 weeks of retooling and refocusing, here’s the verdict.

Balancing my plate:

There were a lot of different choices in this challenge. You decide for yourself what goals and approaches would be worthwhile. For nutrition, I chose what was called the “balanced plate” approach. Every time I ate, I had a protein, a carb, a fat, and a vegetable. And yes, there was a detailed list for each category.

What was different: no more grabbing a handful of almonds over and over again throughout the day. Same with beef jerky. And cheese. All meals were actually meals. This took planning, but I am used to meal prep. Just shopping a bit differently and making sure I had all four components ready to mix and match. I didn’t really attempt recipes combining them. Bags of rice, boiled eggs, cooked chicken or ground turkey with seasoning, lots of veggies both raw and roasted, fruits, bags of nuts or avocado. All pretty simple stuff.

There was a “leveled up” approach where you weigh and measure food but I just didn’t want to get bogged down with that. Making sure I had all four and tipping the balance toward veggies and proteins seemed manageable for this transition. I ate rice or certain kinds of bread almost every day which felt strange as these were carbs I hardly ever chose in my macro-counting heyday (I’d rather have Pringles or Captain Crunch.) I usually only had rice or bread once a day but technically I could have them at every meal.

Honestly, this was a really satisfying way to eat. It was a busy month so I did end up eating while working which in some ways is bad, but on the other hand it meant I was eating more slowly. By the time I was done eating, I often felt full and fine. Plus, three boiled eggs with cucumbers, almonds, and blueberries is a lot more than a 90-calorie low fat yogurt. It felt like I had the fuel I needed so I wasn’t grabbing for snacks in between.

Sometimes this 4-element eating made for some strange bedfellows. I generally ate three meals and a smaller Greek yogurt bowl at night. I learned from the community that frozen riced cauliflower mixed with plain Greek yogurt was largely unnoticeable except for a little crunch. Add some fresh fruit and almond butter and that was maybe the strangest thing I ate on this challenge, but I enjoyed it every day.

Bye bye, friends:

There were some things in this challenge that I knew were going to be hard to give up. First, all added sugar and artificial sugar. When I first read this rule about sugars, I was really unsure how much I could do. And, like the plate approach above, I could be as serious as I chose to be about it. Some people just reduced one or two sweetened items from their diets. I decided to go big on this one and see how much I could get rid of.

Telescoping back and getting a sense of the sugars in my diet was eye-opening. From that 90-calorie yogurt in the morning to my dark chocolate chips each night, both regular and artificial sweeteners were a staple in my daily habits. Diet Cokes had crept in a couple of times a week, or coffees with sugar free creamer. I had a pretty ridiculous (and kind of nasty) sugar-free gum habit, chomping on piece after piece every day. Of course now I had to read labels in the grocery store and cabinet and realized that even my flavored almonds and Greek chicken seasoning had sweeteners hidden inside. I knew sugar was everywhere but seeing new places where it was hiding was eye-opening. Going from the macro breakdown to the ingredient list made a big difference. This month, most of what I ate didn’t have an ingredient list at all.

Dairy was going to be another hard thing to give up. The only dairy items permitted were heavy cream and fat free Greek yogurt.

I’m taking a moment to just honor my love of cheese. Cheese is a way of life for me. It’s almost like a hobby or a lifelong friend. An entire food group. I eat cheese all the time! But life went on without it. In a big salad, avocado and egg gave me the creaminess I needed. Seasonings took the place of a pinch of parmesan (ok, I usually had many pinches, often eclipsing the vegetables it was supposed to add flavor to.) While many in this challenge enjoyed a few drinks the day before saying a temporary farewell to alcohol, I went out of my way to eat a lot of cheese. At the other side of the challenge, there were several times I missed it. But, life went on without it.

And how did it all turn out?

In my workouts, I honestly didn’t have some of the power I feel I often do. My energy was different. I noticed I felt tired or had to take breaks. But like an engine that is switching to a new kind of fuel, I don’t think it’s uncommon to have some sputters. I also dropped quite a bit of weight this month, (over 13 pounds) so I had to remind myself that I was at a calorie deficit. It shouldn’t surprise me to be a little tired. Overall, though, I felt better throughout the day. My gut was a lot happier.

I am pleased with the changes I can see in the mirror. I am definitely fitting better in my clothes. Less bloating and fluff. I didn’t take pictures but of course I wish I had. (This is a broken record story). A friend told me she could tell the difference. I wonder if others notice, but as I was reminded recently, it may not be good to comment on other people’s body changes unless you know what they are up to. Maybe it’s illness or something else going on that isn’t necessarily needing a compliment. In the end it only really matters what I think, anyway.

I think I will retain a lot of what I have learned. I can do without things that seem hard to give up. I can pick and choose what to indulge in. I need to eat vegetables a LOT. And carbs aren’t the enemy, but I do better when I am focusing on less processed, less sweetened stuff. I have a lot of travel in the coming weeks, so that will present some challenges and opportunities to eat some amazing things that I don’t want to miss. With that in mind, I don’t plan to be strict with this way of eating going forward, but an 80/20 balance would be good. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of most of my meals. Now the challenge is to learn how to prepare differently and on the go.

All in all, a successful challenge. Lots of learning and a step forward.

adventure

24 Hours

There are 24 hours in a day. We all get to use those 24 hours as we wish. Or depending on your age you may have some limitations.

What can you do in 24? How much fun can you pack into those hours? How much could you complete of anything? How much stress would you have? How much food? How much heartache? How many memories?

Each 24 hours is different for sure. Sometimes when I put my head down to rest at night I think did I really just do all that in 24 hours? Sometimes I even surprise myself. That’s the beauty of my life. Every day is a challenge. It’s up to me to overcome obstacles and make strides. Then rise again for the next 24 hour episode.

The current 24 hours is road tripping, rest, work, eat, plan, tennis, parent, grocery shopping, and a bunch of other mundane tasks. Some I like more than others but I’m going to add my twists and personal touches to the day to make it exciting. I will also have some first-time memories tucked in the hours.

My last 24 hours were memorable. Time with the mini. Time with friends. New sights. New adventures. New places to eat. So many memories. What I reflect on is that I changed my normal. I changed my scenery. I let go of the have tos and did the want tos.

I’m looking ahead to a week of work and have tos and saying I’m going to get all this done and more because at the end of the week I have a new 24-hour time with a different group of people. A different destination. A different kind of adventure. I already know there will be memories made. I already know it will be fun or I wouldn’t have said yes. 

As I look back to think about 24 hours the week before I can truly say I had yet another experience in a different location with different people doing different activities and being equally happy. There is a common theme surfacing.

Take 24 hours a week and make them momentous. Change the scenery some way some how. Engage in activities that are fresh and new or repackaged for a different outcome. Visit with others. Some may have you giggle one way while others make your belly hurt you laugh so hard.

Take the walk with a friend. Whisper to your confidant. Jot down the memories in a journal. Smile a lot. Tell somebody how much they are valued and/or loved. Cherish the memories today as they may not be available tomorrow.

Life is precious. Time matters. You are important. Living my best life while avoiding anything and everything (including people) who want to snatch the life out of you. My 24 hours of happy time has no room for sour attitudes.

mental health, perspective

The Ugly Return to Accountability

Although they say we are not out of the woods yet, it seems like we are on the downslope of the pandemic here in the US. Infections are trending downward. Restrictions about masks and movements are loosening. We are seeing more and more people out and about. Although once in a while crowds make me a little nervous, for the most part it’s exciting to see these changes.

At my job in an elementary school, this excitement is definitely there in the students. Spring fever happens every year, regardless. They can feel that summer is coming. The weather improves. There’s a restlessness that starts to permeate the building. The noises change. This has happened this year right on cue, even with continued mask requirements and social distancing. We are holding limited versions of field day in the coming week. Students will have a graduation celebration. Family picnics will be held. Although the extra precautions make these events more challenging than usual, there is still an excitement that we are doing them. Normal is peeping around the corner.

Also lurking in the elementary school hallways is quite a bit of tension. Modified state testing. Meetings about how to handle learning losses. Inventories. Meetings about teacher evaluations. Drafts of calendars to maximize learning minutes. Plans for robust multilevel testing next year starting right off the bat. Accountability. Accountability. Accountability.

These other things bubbling up are harder to handle. They suck the life out of us. Not only are we trying to just make it to summer, there are nearly constant reminders that some of the things that were most challenging about school life pre-pandemic will be the things that rise to the top of the priority list next year. You can see the weariness in my colleagues’ faces when the accountability rhetoric resurfaces. These are not the things that bring joy into our schools. I can already sense the feeling of needing to fix everything, all at once, as fast as possible come next school year. Can we focus on a return to joy first?

Pretty early in the pandemic, this quote, posted by many, stuck with me: “in the rush to return to normal, consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to” (Dave Hollis). The work ahead to rebuild is large and urgent. We will have to prioritize. I hope my school leaders take this to heart. For kids and colleagues, I think our mental health takes precedent. Making us all feel safe and included, happy to learn and come to school as part of a community. So much of our community ties have been weakened by masks, distance, and even the political climate in this country (which does play out in our children). I need to keep these priorities top of mind as I plan the days and years ahead.