Letting January Go

Oh January. I think there’s a reason why you’re considered the most depressing month of the year. I’m glad you are gone and I’m thinking positive thoughts for February.

If you’ve noticed my absence, it’s because January 2014 was a particularly tough month for me. The weather has been cold, blah and grey, complete with lots of snow days. I have self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder (Thanks Google!) and find my mood dips big time if I go too many days without seeing sunshine. In addition to the blahs, my doctor switched up my anti-depressant, which I believe was the right choice. However the taper from one drug to the other was less than pleasant. Picture me in bed more than a few times with terrible headaches. There’s currently no hope on the horizon on the job-front. And the icing on top? Our new health insurance listed zero chiropractors in this area as approved providers.* WHAT?

I tell you all of the above not to complain or have you feel sorry for me, but to share that we all have tough times.

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I love that quote and try to keep it in mind when I feel like my little world is spinning out of control. Tough times don’t mean you are a weak person. Tough times don’t mean you aren’t doing enough or trying hard enough… Tough times happen to everyone.

Luckily, February seems to be looking up. There’s a lot of possibility still hanging out in the remaining 25 days of this month and I’m going to do my best to soak all of that possibility up and do something positive with it.

Some cool stuff currently going on in my life:

  • I’m currently reading through the Bible with Lindsay. I’m a bit behind, but catching up.
  • Started a nutrition/food course today through EdX that is really interesting and will give me some continuing education I can use with my personal training clients down the road
  • Valentine’s Day is coming up. The husband and I aren’t doing anything super special, but it’s still a nice change of pace from our current daily routine.
  • I turn 27 on the 28th! Holy crap. I remember when 27 seemed so OLD to me.
  • I’m going to be applying for more jobs
  • *(Oh, and about that chiropractor business… my best friend found out that her chiropractor was going through the process of becoming in-network with my health insurance. So, I’ll be getting adjusted very soon to alleviate my back and neck pain.)

I’m also aiming to start exercising more consistently (the last two weeks have been pretty good) and eating a little more nutritiously this month.

Here’s to February and may it suck a lot less than January, which can go to Hell.

The 6 week focus

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Starting today, I am challenging myself to 6 clean eating, workout challenging, water guzzling weeks. It’s time to FOCUS. The holidays are over (and let’s face it—have been for some time). Spring will be here before we know it. And my bad habits aren’t magically getting any better.

Why 6 weeks? It’s long enough to kick into high gear and see results without leaving you wondering, “When is this going to end!?!” It’s also a good amount of time to establish some healthy principles that can be continued even after the challenge has ended.

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My goals for the next 6 weeks include:

  • tracking my food every day
  • following a 40/30/30 macro split
  • drinking a gallon of water every day
  • 5 days a week of scaled GPP workouts
  • completing a 6 week cycle of GPP’s Shaping Bias
  • HIIT cardio workouts 2x a week

Where did the motivation for this come from? I have been eating like crap, not working out consistently, and just generally feeling blah. I KNOW that working out regularly, clean eating, and drinking lots of water makes me feel good. But it sure can be hard to get back at it when you’ve been off track for a bit, can’t it?

I’ll be sharing my progress with you, along with my meals and some workouts.

Brain Dump 1

What I’m thinking about today, in no particular order:

1. Being home all the time is driving me crazy. I need to get out of the house more often, but, being jobless, we are currently operating on a tight budget and should save as much gas money as possible.

2. I had a job interview today. It went well and the manager I met with said he would be calling for a second interview. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, but it seems like it could be a good fit for me.

3. I’m PMS-ing. I want all the chocolate, ice cream, soda and pizza I can fit in my body.

4. Tomorrow’s GPP workout looks awesome! I’m so excited to hit it hard, which is nice considering my motivation is still a little low these days (see number 1).

5. Last night I suddenly got an intense desire to go running. It was dark and we don’t live close to any sidewalks or trails, so I wasn’t able to fulfill said desire. But it was interesting that I wanted to run so bad… I haven’t ran once this winter. I’m not sure if I’ll end up running soon or if this is a passing thing.

6. I’m working on becoming a better morning person. It isn’t easy. I’ve never been a morning person. I’ve been waking up 15 minutes early every 3-4 days. It has been a little easier than suddenly resolving to wake up at a specific early time. I’m hoping this helps, but I am skeptical at best.

7. There hasn’t been much to blog about this week, so I figured it better to stay quiet. Tonight I needed to get out of my own head, though. Thanks for listening.

What I’m Eating This Week

One of the perks of meal prepping is knowing exactly what you will be eating during the week ahead.

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I thought I would start sharing my meal prep/plans in case it might help out someone else. If you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, or bored, I hope these will help you. I also hope it will keep me motivated to not get into a food rut and to try new things.

Breakasts

breakfast meal prep oats and yogurt meal prep

I’ll be having yogurt messes for breakfast.

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon chia seeds
  • ground cinnamon (to taste)

Post-Workout

shake prep

After my workouts this week, I’ll be having fruit and veggie protein shakes.

  • 1 scoop plain protein powder
  • 1 scoop glutamine (optional)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 1 cup 2% milk

I use unsweetened, plain protein powder that can basically be flavored any way you would like. The frozen fruit alone won’t make this shake super sweet. You can add stevia if you prefer a sweeter shake.

Lunch

I’m making double-protein turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch, with a serving of fruit on the side. I’ll be making these daily because I feel like bread tends to get too dry when left in the refrigerator for a few days.

Dinner

chili family dinner

Below is our plan for dinners this week. We have done a lot of the prep ahead of time (cutting veggies, meat, etc.) and will be having leftovers a few nights, too.

Sunday: Chili (made by Jeremy’s dad)
Monday: Crockpot Nikujaga (Japanese beef stew)
Tuesday: Fiesta Skillet dinner
Wednesday: Crockpot Mongolian beef, served over rice
Thursday: chicken/fish, roasted broccoli, Annie’s mac ‘n cheese
Friday: Nikujaga leftovers
Saturday: Fiesta Skillet lefftovers

If you enjoy these types of posts, please leave a comment below and let me know. I appreciate all of your feedback!

Knowing when to cry Uncle

If you asked my husband, he would tell you that I choose to learn everything the hard way. It’s a trait of mine that drives him crazy.

One of the reasons GPP appealed to me when I first discovered it via Janetha’s blog almost two years ago was I was tired of being injured. As a runner, cross training and strength training bored me to tears and I’d do anything I could think of to avoid it. Combine that with my overzealousness and I dealt with my fair share of injuries and often needed to take time off to heal. I think I was injured just as often as I was healthy.

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Since starting GPP in May 2012, I’ve not been injured once. Not once. I attribute this change to a lot off cross/strength training (I’m not sure I would call myself a runner anymore) and learning when my body’s telling me to back off.

Where am I going with this?

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I got a new pair of Reebok Your Flex cross training shoes for Christmas. They’re pink, lightweight, and have a smaller toe-to-heel drop than my previous Nike Free Runs. I love them. But, in typical Maria-fashion, I got a little too excited to start using them and went at Hellth Week full-force this week in my new shoes, giving my calves little time to adapt to the lower heel drop.

I knew better.

I might have gotten away with it if every workout this week hadn’t involved some type of explosive movement. But Monday’s high knees, Tuesday’s burpees, Wednesdays side-step kettlebell swings, and yesterday’s box jumps caught up to me. My calves were extremely sore Tuesday and Wednesday, but seemed to be close to normal yesterday, minus a little tightness during a tough leg workout. I woke up this morning expecting to be so sore from yesterday’s shenanigans. But, surprisingly, I wasn’t sore at all. I thought I had somehow outsmarted Hellth Week and was about to emerge a Champion.

I was wrong. So wrong.

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Today’s workout involved burpees and pushups. I hate burpees, but was psyched to see it was only a 25-minute workout. Most of the workouts this week have had me going for 45+ minutes, which is pretty rare for GPP. As I began the workout, I noticed a weird pull in my right calf. I shook it off and kept moving, though. After a few more rounds, the pull had become a throbbing sensation, so I decided to forego the hop at the top of the burpee, in an attempt to complete the workout. A few more rounds, minus the hop, went by but my right cal continued to throb. Which immediately told me it was time to say, “Uncle” and stop for the day.

I’ve extended the life of injuries so many times by letting my pride get in the way. It pains me to start something and not see it all the way through. It eats at my very core. But I’ve learned, the hard way of course, that it’s a lot more painful to take weeks and weeks off because my stubbornness and pride caused me to keep going when my body was giving me clear signs to stop.

Even though I’m pissed I didn’t finish that workout, I know at the end of the day GPP isn’t about RX-ing every (or any) workout. It’s about being fit and healthy enough to do all the other stuff in life outside  of the gym. And sometimes that requires knowing your own limits and crying, “Uncle.”

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I’m taking it easy for the rest of the day and RICE-ing (rest, ice, compression, elevation) in hopes of finishing out Hellth Week tomorrow with the rest of my GPPeeps.

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I’m sure these guys won’t mind the extra cuddles.

Head vs. Heart

Happy Hump Day, or, as it is known in my neck of the woods, middle of Hellth Week. 3 days of GPP’s Hellth Week down, 3 to go!

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The first few days of Hellth Week were extremely cold, but nevertheless I’ve been trucking on.

What’s Hellth week? Hellth Week is a week-long challenge where GPP throws its roughest, toughest workouts at you. There’s generally no programming behind this week, unlike normal GPP workouts. Hellth Week is designed to push you hard and help you tighten up ship on any bad habits that have slipped into your routine—we’re specifically targeting added sugar this go around.

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Hellth week (my second) has been tough for me. I took a workout break for a few weeks around the Holidays and just really got back into the swing of things last week. To jump head first into this challenge has, of course, been physically taxing. My legs are so sore.

But I’m surprised by how mentally challenging I’ve found the week to be. It’s me vs. me as my heart and head battle it out. My heart wants to persevere and stand strong. My head wants to quit. The two have been fighting it out during every single workout this week, with today’s being the worst.

Two rounds into today’s 10 round workout I wanted nothing more than to turn around and run (okay, maybe more like slow walk) home. But I kept moving by letting my head talk me into just completing 8 rounds. “That will be good enough,” my head told my heart. I completed all 10 rounds and let my heart give a nice, big “F You!” to my head.

You know what’s good enough? My best. And nothing less.

Truthfully I’ve been pretty afraid throughout Hellth Week, so far. Afraid of failing. Afraid of being the  slowest. Afraid of working out in the cold.

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My good friend Annie has taken to using this saying a lot lately. I didn’t think about it too much until this week, but it’s really been resonating with my soul as my head and heart collide.

Afraid to fail? How about getting out of the way of succeeding. Afraid of being the slowest? Applaud yourself for completing what you set out to do, no matter how long it took you. Afraid of the cold? Warm your muscles up before starting the workout to prevent injury and count your blessings you have the space to workout.

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Assume the best and only the best for yourself. Why automatically fear the negatives? All that negativity and fear do not put you in a place of success and motivation—they just drag you down. Choose to meditate on thoughts that will lift you up, even when you feel like the challenge ahead of you is impossible.

My goal for the second half of Hellth Week is to stay positive and assume the best. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge.

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I’ve also been working on foam rolling and stretching every day. Flexibility, in general, is one area of physical fitness that I am weak. I don’t have a lot of patience to sit around and stretch. I’ve been doing it before bed each night and I think it’s made a big difference in keeping the soreness level lower than it otherwise would be.

I’ll check in at the end of the week and let you know how it all panned out.

The How and Why of Meal Prepping

Meal prepping—long thought of as something only hardcore fitness fanatics like bodybuilders did—has gained a lot of attention and popularity in mainstream culture. It’s a smart choice for many different kinds of people and when done right can help add health and time to your day.

I started doing meal prep last fall when I realized that my poor eating choices were the biggest thing standing in the way of me and my goals. I was working very hard in the gym, but often got busy at work and just grabbed the easiest choice (read: mostly junky protein bars) or skipped meals entirely. Meal prepping helped change that because it was easy to grab something that was already prepared.

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Why meal prep?

Meal prepping can work great for a lot of different people and situations.

  • Those who hate to cook
  • The busy person who ‘doesn’t have time to eat healthy’ or cook
  • Someone who has a hard time making healthy food choices in the moment
  • Parents
  • People who want to lose weight
  • Those on a budget or wanting to save money on food

Personally, I find it hard to make smart food choices when I am really hungry, stressed, or tired. When I meal prep, the thought is already put into my meals and I just need to eat them. I hate wasting food, so 95% of the time, I will eat what I prepped.

I also hate cooking. “But wait… don’t you still need to cook?” Probably, but that will depend on the meals you choose. I still cook, but I do so once a week, rather than every day. Which is a great trade off, if you ask me.

Things to consider

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The first, and most important, step is to sit down and decide what you will be eating and how many days you will be prepping for. I typically prep on Sundays and prepare enough meals and snacks to last the entire week.

Think about the foods you like, but also think about the foods you don’t like. It doesn’t make any sense to bake fish for lunches if the smell of fish makes your stomach turn. I’ve learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter how badly you want to eat something. (It’s good for you… you should like it , right?) If you don’t like it, you won’t eat it. Or, maybe you will eat it, but you will hate it and that defeats the purpose.

After you’ve planned your menu, you will need to grocery shop and buy all the ingredients. Take the time to read the labels on everything you are putting into your cart. One of the best things you can do for your health is learn to read food labels and learn what the claims (like ‘all natural’ or ‘trans fat free’) mean. Labels make your head spin? Check out this article on how to read food labels to get started.

Another item you might consider purchasing is some good quality food storage containers. If you’re taking the time to prepare food for the week, you want it to still be fresh and delicious when you are ready to eat it. The key to that will be your storage containers. I don’t advocate a certain brand and it’s an individual choice whether you will choose plastic or glass containers. Think about the meals you will normally be prepping and buy containers that make sense size-wise. Consider how easily the containers will stack to save room in your refrigerator.

how to meal prep

You’ve made it home with your groceries and your food storage containers. Now what?

Sit aside all ingredients you will be using for your meal prep. Choose one meal to start with and move on from there. Start cooking the ingredients (if necessary) or emptying them into the food storage containers. Think of ways you can save time and energy. For example, when making frittata muffins for breakfast, I’ll go ahead and get the eggs in the oven before setting out the containers they will be going in. While they are baking I will start chopping vegetables for another meal.

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Magus tries to supervise and watches carefully for dropped food.

Think about all the things you can do ahead of time to make your week run more smoothly and make meals as easy and hands-off, during the week, as possible. Sometimes I will feel lazy and not prep some meat that I’m using for dinner, telling myself it won’t take much time or effort the night I’m making it to prep the meat then. Inevitably I regret my decision and wish I’d went ahead and taken care of the prep.

If you are having yogurt mixed with fruit and oatmeal for breakfast, go ahead and portion out the yogurt, oatmeal, and fruit into your containers. If you’re worried about food getting soggy (like the oatmeal), you can always portion it into a small, separate container.

There’s no way to plan what might pop up during a day, but we can plan our meals and be prepped for whatever comes our way.

other considerations

  • You don’t necessarily have to prep the same meals every single week. Sometimes I will get into a rut of doing this for a while, but as soon as I get sick of a meal or start to dread “having” to eat it, I take that as my sign to switch it up. Most of the time, though, I switch up my meals from week to week depending on the season, my current preferences, or any cravings I am experiencing.
  • If the idea of prepping a lot of food feels overwhelming, start small. Try prepping just your lunches for the week. Once you get the hang of prepping one meal, add in another.
  • Enlist help—my husband helps me with any dinner prep I do. He doesn’t personally meal prep, but as a fellow cooking hater, appreciates anything that makes the chore easier, quicker, and more efficient.
  • Remember what you like and don’t like. I like having a sandwich or lunch most days, but realized that even in decent storage containers, the bread often dried up on me in the fridge. I remembered that and started packing the bread separately and leaving it out of the fridge.
  • Always keep food safety in mind. Not everything is safe to store and eat days later. Here are some basic guidelines for storing meat in the refrigerator.
  • Use your freezer. The freezer can be a great helper and even save you money. Store freezer-safe meals that you’ll be eating later in the week and pop the in the fridge the night before to thaw. Consider whether you will be freezing meals when you are selecting your food storage containers.
  • There’s no wrong way to meal prep—learn and do what works for you and your family. I prep as much as I can, but a lot of my husband’s and my dinners are not prepped. This is what generally works the best for us.

Resources

Mealprepmondays

Fitmencook

Ripped Recipes

Dashing Dish

If you have any questions or tips on meal prepping, please leave them below. Also, feel free to share any resources you have found helpful.