All About Stretching

One part of exercise that is not my expertise is stretching. I do not do it enough. I’m big enough of a woman and personal trainer to admit this. I do urge my clients to do this, especially when they come in talking about lower back pain and other various aches. Stretching is important to keeping the body limber because whether you’re sitting, standing, or a mixture of both all day, odds are, your body is feeling some kind of pain. This appears only to worsen as you age.

When to Stretch?

At the end of your workout! The best way to warm-up the body to prepare for an exercise routine is to start moving. I’ll dive further into this in another post, but take 5-10 minutes at the beginning to jump on the treadmill, a bike, or loosen up with some jumping jacks or squats. Get that body moving through a dynamic- movement- stretching period.

Once you’ve made your way through your cardio and/or your strength training, take another 5-15 minutes and stretch. The body will be nice and warmed up and ready to relax after all it just endured.

Why Stretch?

Stretching helps alleviate all those aches and pains. The body, as does the mind, tackles a multitude of obstacles during the day that leads to soreness and strain, especially if you add a workout on top of it. The muscle is tight and needs to unclench. Another excellent way to do this is by foam rolling, which I can get into further at another time.

Stretching also helps the body get better. The way strength training works is the effort breaks down the muscle and rest helps it repair, allowing the muscles to strengthen. It helps the blood to flow better and prevents injuries.

My Favorite Stretches

As you can see, I was able to complete these stretches in the comfort of my own home, crazy cat and dog included!

Biceps and Triceps

Back and Chest

Shoulders

Quads

Hamstrings

Hips

My Left Side Is Rebelling Against Me

I just came back from my first massage in a year (almost to the day) and it made me realize how much has changed. It’s funny what triggers those thoughts! Last year, I got a massage with my mom and sister right before my sister’s wedding. I happened to be at a job that was stressful and that I didn’t love and I had to ask the massage therapist to stop touching my neck because it hurt too much from where I carried my stress.

A year later and I’m in a position I love, I know exactly the muscles that are being affected by the massage, and the tension in my body isn’t from stress, so much as physical labor. As I suspected from recent weeks, my left side has been taking a beating, from my foot to my upper trapezius muscles. No idea why the tension is primarily on one side over the other, especially considering that I’m right-handed, but it happens!

Note to self, get massages more regularly.

This is the face of a happy beach-goer.

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The only decent selfie that was snapped of the four of us celebrating Katie’s birthday!

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My breakfast is already anticipating the July 4th holiday, thanks to the delicious fruit!

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In other news, I’ve been grinding at the gym with total body workouts, including a day of intense HIIT and plyometric strength training so as to rev up the metabolism and burn fat. I also upped my running to three times a week, altering mileage, speed, and incline to mix things up (especially if it’s raining and I’m stuck on the treadmill). I’m still going easy on the lower back exercises- deadlifts, rows, and bridges in particular- but my back isn’t quite as sore as before. In exciting personal gains, I’m getting so much better at the hanging leg raises, and my body is no longer swaying, but is stabilized by a stronger core. Practice does make better!

According to the body fat calculator at work, I’m down 3% since the last time I weighed in, around a month ago. I don’t know how accurate body fat calculators are, but it has showed similar numbers in the past, so I’ll take it!

Like most of the world, I am also obsessed with Hamilton and I’ve been listening to the Original Broadway Cast Recording on repeat all day, every day.

I’ve had to tear myself away from this new book I’m reading thanks to my mom’s recommendation. It’s called Two Truths and a Lie by Katrina Kittle and it’s fascinating. I sat down in my backyard Monday afternoon expecting to get through a chapter or two and ended up reading for the next three hours. Whoops.

It is summer, so it’s almost time for my annual Harry Potter reread! Someone didn’t believe me that there was a July 31st and the only reason I knew for a definitive fact that yes, 100% there was indeed a July 31st was because it’s Harry Potter and JK Rowling’s birthday. Let’s not eliminate such a blessed day!

Writing time! Happy Wednesday, folks!

What Exactly Is The Color of Chicken?

I’m a bad little food blogger. I’ve been terrible at snapping pictures lately and so sorry, you’ll just have to use vivid imagination. Really, I’m just trying to help you strengthen your mental capacity.

Let’s see…yesterday, I worked my biceps, shoulders, chest, back, and core- it seems like a lot, but the sequences were fast- and did some cardio on the stair master, which is pretty much hell on earth. No one likes to climb stairs, but damn, it’s effective.

For lunch, I threw together a stir fry using a combination of ingredients. I had leftover grilled chicken and ground turkey, which together equaled my protein. For veggies, I had baby spinach, zucchini, and red peppers. All were simmered and stirred together using a sauce I made of garlic, mustard, and soy sauce and poured over brown rice. Pret-ty delicious and colorful, think greens! Reds! Chicken-colored! Would that be yellow? Charred? Peach? Flesh-colored? (I just threw up a little). You know, for your imaginative purposes, I’m just trying to be helpful.

I am one month away now from my Personal Training certificate test, so I’m at the point where I’m reviewing lots and lots. I feel good about it because I’m not just memorizing, I’m absorbing. Any free time has been engaged by studying and some writing. Unfortunately, the writing gene kicks in just around 11:00 PM when I should be sleeping. Can’t stop the flow!

Oh, and dinner was a takeout salad with honey-barbecue steak tips. The steak tips and dressing were fabulous. The salad, I could have made better and fresher myself, but such is life when you order out.

This morning, I was up and at ’em for a spin class. For breakfast, I fueled up on an egg and 2 egg white scramble with cheese and one slice of whole wheat sour dough toast. Feeling strong during class, I don’t think I’ve sweat so much in a long time. After, I did three circuits that focused on my triceps, legs, and core.

My post-workout meal was another piece of toast, this time topped with peanut butter, a banana, and a halo. That brings us to this very moment as I finish sipping on my cup of coffee.

I hope everyone enjoys the day and the weekend! Make it a full one with lots of time with the people you love, being happy and kind and good.

 

I Do Not Enjoy Raw Fish

Someone went blonde and forgot to mention it. At least, if I have mentioned it, I forgot that I did, so I’m reiterating. I’m sure many of you have already seen the pictures and suspected, but if not: yay! I was a blonde baby and for whatever reason, I’ve always wanted to be again. It matches my non-existent eyebrows!

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Someone also thought they liked sushi, but it turns out probably not so much. At least last night, I was not feeling it! I picked up some from my supermarket, but by the time it came to eat it, there was nothing I wanted less. Okay, there are quite a few things I’d want less, but let’s be realistic here. My stomach was just not having it.

I don’t think you should force yourself to eat raw fish, so I passed it off to someone else. Thankfully, my parents rock the universe and brought me a salmon salad instead, which hit the spot!

This morning, I had work early so I got my day started with a workout. A peanut butter wrap got my metabolism revving, which took me through a strength training workout that consisted of circuits for biceps, back, legs, and core. I’m feeling my muscles unlike I have in a long time and the workouts are fun! To top things off, I cycled through a few intervals.

To recover, I ate a hard-boiled egg, cheesestick, and a banana. A little while later, I enjoyed a trail mix  I threw together- almonds and raisins.

By the time I got home, I was ready for lunch and craving a sandwich. I put together a ham and cheese and grilled it to enjoy with a salad for my veggie hit.

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Now it’s time to study and listen to more angsty music!

Weddings, Birthdays, and All Hallows Eve

Oh, boy what a weekend! A long weekend for me as Thursday kicked off my friend Erin’s Wedding Weekend! After a doctor’s appointment on Thursday morning, I met Erin at a local nail salon to get a pedicure. Not quite worth the money on my end as there wasn’t much more than just the painting of the nails, which by the way, smudged that night after plenty of dry time!

Thursday night’s agenda was the Rehearsal. Erin’s sister and two of my other friends from college, Katie and Stephanie, rounded out the bridal party. We practiced the ceremony a few times before it was time to head to the party for some wine and dinner. IMG_4165

That night, the intention was to watch Bridesmaids, but everyone was sleepy and headed to bed before the movie ended. It’s okay, we’ve all seen it before.

On Friday, we were up bright and early to enjoy breakfast made by Erin’s mom, as well as to get ready for the big day! The bridesmaids had to run a few errands first, which included the ultra important task of grabbing coffees! By the time we got back, it was time to get our hair done! I was obsessed with the way the stylist did it, but I can’t find any pictures of the back on my phone! Sadness. Here’s a peak at the full picture.

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And some more scenes from the wedding itself, which was beautiful! I’ll be honest and admit I got teary eyed as Erin walked down the aisle. Even though we’ve graduated three years ago, it still feels out of sorts to realize that we are now doing actual adult things! Maybe I’m out of sorts because I’ve “retired” twice already from different careers (it’s okay though because I’m on the right track now).

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Some bridesmaid hang time.

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The beautiful bride!

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Terrible angle for some of us, but it was the only picture of the four of us I got! Thank God for the professionals!

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I won this lantern, which was the centerpiece thanks to having the birthday closest to the day of the wedding.

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And here we are the day after the wedding, recuperating at a brunch.

It was a wonderful weekend and I know Erin and her now HUSBAND Stephen got their marriage and rest-of-their-lives-together off to a great, happy, loving start!

The day after the wedding was of course Halloween and all this girl did was put on a tiara (just a typical Saturday) and hand out some candy. I had high hopes for some study time but I was exhausted and all I could muster was some writing, while watching the classic Reese Witherspoon movie Sweet Home Alabama. Saturday also happened to be my sister’s 29th birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAUREN!

As we welcomed November on Sunday (ok, wait, where did August-October go!?!?), we also entered Caitlin Birthday Month! It’s a big deal, everyone! I’ve got super exciting plans to celebrate my birthday weekend coming up that I will divulge after the fact! Woohoo! Even though 26 is only famous (or shall I say infamous) for being the date I get kicked off my parent’s health insurance, I still like to celebrate and to be honored.

We did start the celebrations on Sunday afternoon with my sister, her husband, my brother, and his girlfriend coming over for a family dinner. I like to think I was Lauren’s greatest birthday present she ever received as we were born 9 days (and 3 years) apart. We often celebrated our birthdays at a joint party, which I don’t mind. On the menu were short ribs, chicken wings, macaroni and cheese, spinach, and a roasted veggie medley of Brussels sprouts, carrots, and red peppers. It was divine!

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For dessert, my mom made us an ice cream cake with coffee ice cream, hot fudge, marshmallow sauce, walnuts, and crushed oreos. Happy birthday to us! This just means the celebrations have begun NOT ended!

Having anticipated such a meal, I headed out for a run earlier that afternoon. On doctor’s orders, I had to keep it light as she believes my feet are going numb due to excessive muscle tension. That means I have to stretch, wa-ay more than I ever make time for. I know I’m terrible. But! I did just finish the portion on Flexibility Training in my textbook, so I’m in an excellent position to move forward.

I also noticed that I tend to lean forward during my stride, so I’m wondering if I’m placing too much tension on my ankles and that might be cutting off my circulation. Ugh.

Now that we’re all caught up, I’ll share one last picture of this morning’s breakfast before I head out for a workout and a productive day of studying/work. Just some scrambled eggs and egg whites, waffles, and a sweet bowl of berries!

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Welcome to my birthday month, friends! When all else fails and the days turn into darkness, remember, I’ll be getting presents and you’ll be getting Thanksgiving soon!

Weekend Catch Up!

Time for a peek back at the weekend!

Friday morning, started off with a strength workout before work. I ran through a dumbbell circuit before finishing up with a plyometric workout. My breakfast of choice was this egg, cheese, and chicken sausage sandwich with blueberries and pineapple on the side.

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After work, I met my friend Bobby in the city for a concert. On my walk over to the restaurant where we had dinner, I had to stop and capture this moment.

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It was absolutely mesmerizing, this moment where city meets nature.

Dinner before the show was a little unimpressive considering how delicious the dish sounded. I opted for mani mani in a tomato based sauce with peppers, but the fish didn’t have a ton of flavor. I could definitely recreate this at home with the right spice mixture! Sure did look good, though.

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Bobby and I have been fans of Idina Menzel for a long time now. It was great to be able to see her in concert!

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The highlight of the show, and there were a ton of amazing moments, had to be when she called up all the kids to help her sing Let it Go. I seriously almost started to cry. I think I’m going to have to go with this moment, magnified by watching someone so talented do something incredible with that talent, as my Friday moment of strength.

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I was up Saturday morning to work early. I had poached eggs over toast and a banana for my breakfast but didn’t get a picture. For lunch, I munched on a large salad and a turkey and cheddar wrap.

After work, I headed out as the sun began to go down for a magnificent run around a local lake. I don’t know why I don’t do this route more often. Sticking around my neighborhood is more convenient, but this area is still hilly so the terrain prevents a nice challenge, yet it’s not so extreme that I can elongate my run. The lake is five miles around on the nose and I felt strong throughout. It’s strange because running hasn’t left me feeling great after for the past few months, but recently things have improved and I’ve loved it again!

Extra points for running this route…this view after. Not one ounce of alteration.

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This would absolutely constitute as my Saturday moment of strength, sitting on a log and looking out into the water as my body rested.

I had a waffle with a smear of peanut butter right when I got home, then feasted on a salmon salad for my dinner. Later, we went over my neighbor’s house for some s’mores and conversation before an early to bed call for me.

Sunday was busy! I had to open at work so it was a bit of a shock to be called out of bed by my alarm. I had enough time to make eggs and some waffles for my breakfast, which helped me wake up and be okay in the alert world. Right after work, I drove to my friend Erin’s bridal shower, for whom I am honored to be one of her bridesmaids.

Erin is my first friend from college to be getting married. It’s kind of strange for the four of us to be celebrating this momentous occasion, but wonderful too! We had a great day and I think Erin enjoyed herself.

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We didn’t have time for many pictures, but here is a nice one of me and my friend/college roommate Stephanie.

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The rest of Sunday was spent at my sister’s house having dinner and watching Father of the Bride. I cannot get over how young the entire cast looks in that movie, especially Steve Martin. With the grey hair, I used to think he was so old! Not to mention how young the marrying couple are makes me feel very old. Lauren and I ordered an Indian food spread that included vegetarian samosas, garlic naan, chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, and basmati rice. It had been awhile since I had Indian and I had a real hankering for it. The food was decent, but lacking in spices like my dinner on Friday! It was nice to spend some sisterly quality time together regardless. Sister bonding made up my moment of strength on Sunday- both in regards to my actual sister and my college friends!

I kicked off Monday with another morning workout. I love my morning workouts, though it’s hard to justify waking up so early on days that I don’t have to, which is why they haven’t been happening on a consistent basis. I did a dumbbell strength workout including bicep curls, tricep extensions, alternating front raises, shoulder raises, weighted lunges, and high pulls. For my core workout, I ran through a circuit of kneeling kickbacks, tricep push ups, alternating ankle grabs, crunches, Russian twists, and side plank push ups. For cardio, I did some plyometric work that included box jumps, high knees, skater jumps, and jump roping. To finish my workout, I did a little Yoga with planks, shoulder stands, and a bridge.

My breakfast was delicious! I scrambled two eggs and two egg whites with some cheese, toasted a piece of whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread, and chopped up some strawberries and banana for sweetness.

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I packed a great lunch for work too! It consisted of a vegetable laden salad with chicken and a cup of plain Greek yogurt and oodles of red grapes. Red grapes are huge in my family right now.

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I snacked on a few celery and carrot sticks for an extra veggie kick later in the day.

For dinner, I enjoyed grilled salmon, roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, and buttered, cheesy pasta.

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My moment of strength came during my studying time as it really hits me how complicated and beautiful the body is. The particular moment of clarity was reading about muscle spindles and how they protect the body from overextending its muscles when stretching. There is a stretch reflex that kicks in as you simply lift your leg. I mean, this is simple stuff, but it never occurred to me as to how impressive it all is!

It was a happy Monday and a wonderful weekend. Any moments of strength, joy, food, or exercise you want to share?

Working Out Is Hard To Do- Except When It’s Not

It’s hard to come up with new posts on exercise because I do a lot of the same things over again. We’ve heard a lot about my running successes and woes, which I was discussing with my mom earlier. Both her and my dad have taken up running and they have noticed how one day you feel phenomenal, while the next day you feel awful. You just have to keep going. Obviously if the awful feeling is born from pain that is physically hurting you, then you should skip it, but otherwise, the type of exercise that makes a difference is the kind you do when you don’t feel like getting it done. Running is the most fickle form of exercise because it can be affected by water or food intake, temperature, or energy levels.

Strength training is similar but not as bad because you can do a lot of improvisation and take breaks in-between sets. When I’m not feeling my strongest but I know I have to get through a workout, I’ll focus on fewer sets and reps, working through the moves slowly and feeling how it affects my body. I notice the effects of rest days best when it comes to strength training. A day of rejuvenation helps to repair muscles and I come back feeling stronger and get through a longer, harder workout.

When I get to the gym or hit the streets, I can tell almost immediately what kind of day it will be. At my strongest, I can safely push myself, try new exercises, and go for a longer or harder routine. Then there are always the days where I’m going through the motions and counting down the seconds. When this happens, listening to music helps to focus the mind away from exertion or I will come up with story ideas that I play through my head. This will occur more frequently during my running, swimming, or other longer cardio sessions because I am doing the same thing for so long. With strength training, I move so quickly from one thing to another and do a variety of different exercises and using different equipment that I easily stave off boredom. I’m lucky because I’ve reached the point where I do genuinely enjoy working out, but I am still human and prone to having those days where even thinking of exercise makes me UGH.

Pleasure from exercise for me is born from a feeling of productivity, strength, and stress-relief. I am a natural organizer, attached to my planner, love making to-do lists, but love checking items off that list even more. Knowing that I am going to exercise and that I have one definite bullet off of my list checked off gives me a weird sense of satisfaction in the same way that I love having folded and put away my laundry, cleaned my room, or organized my desk.

When I first started my exercise plan, I knew I had one great thing in my arsenal, mind strength. There was a moment where it all clicked and I knew I could do it. That courage helped a lot when it came time to starting exercising and trying out new routines. Realizing that your body is so strong should not be surprising, but the truth is, we spend so much time out of check and focused on other things, that we don’t always allot enough energy to ourselves. I may not love doing Burpees, but I love knowing that I can. Push-ups are also a pain in the ass, but I had a deep moment of pride when I transitioned into doing them full out. Exercise is a way for me to better connect and understand my body that I have otherwise ignored. It’s similar to how you have to listen to the signals your body sends you when eat, what foods work, what doesn’t. You may not agree, especially if you despise working out, but exercise is also a gift. It’s taking the time to, as Parks and Rec declares, “treat yo self.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again 1000 times. I would not have gotten through my Fellowship without exercise. I’ve seen a lot of people cut working out from their daily plans when things get busy because it’s the obvious thing to step away from, especially if you don’t love it. Trust me, I get it. There are so many things that go into a day and not enough time if you actually want to sleep, but dedicating thirty minutes to an hour out of a day to exercise shows that you are still taking care of yourself, keeping your energy levels up, and will help you focus. I was lucky to fit my exercise in during the hour between my work day and my classes starting. Whether I had a horrible day or a great one, lifting those weights, performing those moves, or going for a run was my saving grace. I was able to let it all go (ELSA COSTUME YAY), give my mental muscles a break, and bust it out physically. It worked. It worked. It worked. My number one word of advice, fit in exercise in any capacity for any amount of time in any way that you can because it will make you stronger mentally and physically.

That being said, I can feel my body adjusting to my current exercise plan. As much as I’ve been enjoying it, I know that I have to mix things up in order to keep my body guessing. It kind of stinks sometimes that just making the effort to exercise doesn’t always get the job done, but creating a new work out plan can be exciting and up your motivation to get it done. Hopefully I’ll take the weekend to develop a new plan and share it with you next week!