Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My First 30-Day Fitness Challenge

I used to think those 30-Day Fitness Challenges (unless they were for prizes, which I don't count) were not for me because I found out about them from blogs of people who already work out pretty much daily and were trying to find additional reasons to exercise or go on some kind of diet.

However, as someone trying to get back into the habit of exercising, the idea was really appealing.  This way, even on the days when I didn't make time for a proper workout, there would still be something to work toward, something to break up my sedentary state.

I chose a 30-Day Squat Challenge for a couple of reasons.  First, it popped up on my Facebook feed from one of my connections.  Second, my legs have definitely lost a lot of muscle tone, and since those are some of the largest muscle groups of the body, I figured it would be the most bang for my buck.  Finally, squats are pretty easy to do anywhere and can even be done while carrying the little one.

There are many squat programs online, and some of them max out at 250 squats.  The thought of that many reps made my head spin, so I modified the program to max out at 100.  I used this app to tell me what my daily squat count should be and to remind me to do my set for the day. I had to tinker with it a bit so that I was doing 100 by the end of the month, because it pretty much sets the month based on how many you could "initially" do (I put 50, which seemed reasonable).  Technically, you don't have to do them all at once, but it was way easier to just get them done at once.

I started on June 1, and now that the month is over, I can definitely say I've gained a lot of strength back in my lower body!  My running (or what little I do) and Insanity-doing is getting much more do-able, too.  From a vanity standpoint, although my legs definitely aren't where they have been and were kind of getting out of hand from all my inactivity before, they do seem to have toned up a bit, as well.

So, will there be other fitness challenges?  I have a couple of considerations, so we'll just have to see!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

CEP Dynamic No-Show Compression Socks

When I was first contacted to review these CEP No-Show Compression Socks, I wondered... how could a compression sock be no-show???

Years ago, I purchased the CEP Compression Sleeves, and to this day, they are pretty much my go-to compression gear with the best tightness without being too tight.

These CEP Dynamic No-Show Compression Socks are pretty much what's missing from the sleeves, namely, the sock!  In theory, you could wear these socks and the compression sleeves and let your ankles breathe.  They come in male and female varieties in several different colors, although I usually default to black to remain low-key.  Okay, so I might have also had an ambition of wearing them to the office, but that hasn't happened yet.

They also come in a few different sizes -- after all, if you are going to find a good fit for your foot, there must be some choice in the matter (especially if you have wider feet like me, size up!).  They also are foot specific (left and right) to get the best fit possible.

The socks are supportive indeed.  I don't have much of an arch, but what I do have needs support.  Also, since the sock fits really well, I don't need to worry about blistering as much with these.  Also, you won't find little sweaty cotton bits on your foot.  It's middle-of-the-road when it comes to thickness, so it's neither too thick nor thin, with just a bit of cushioning.

Speaking of compression gear and all that, I'm happy to update that I've still been meeting my exercise goals for now.  Although there are still nights that I'm up for an hour or more, overall, setting aside that brief time on most days has helped me feel more balanced, sane, kind, happy, [insert pretty much every other positive feeling in here] and in general has helped me sleep better when I'm given the chance.  I can feel myself getting stronger, and I find myself maintaining better eating habits automatically in the process.  A little activity is worth its weight in gold!

FTC Disclaimer: I was provided a sample of this product but was not otherwise compensated to provide a positive review.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jane Rider Stroller Review

My first attempt at exercising after baby was going on afternoon walks with the stroller while Baby Tuesday napped.  Even now, when I'm pushing around a far less sleepy baby, I think back to the early days with some nostalgia.

The first few months, I was clipping the car seat into a very heavy stroller that I will probably review later.  Even as the baby got bigger, I didn't want to eliminate the extra weight of the car seat because otherwise, he'd have to face forward, and I was (and still kind of) not ready for that.

Enter the Jane Rider.

For full disclosure, I am a Jane Brand Ambassador, so I was sent one of these guys to try out.  I really love this stroller because it's light and can face in or out (with adjustable inclines for each mode).  It is made out of quality materials without extra flame retardant chemicals, and I can imagine it lasting through multiple babies if I ever get over the trauma and go that route.  Plus, it folds easily and is shock-absorbing, which is very important for stroller naps!

A rainy stroll.
Mine came with a rain cover -- super useful! -- and a diaper bag, which is currently being used as a laptop bag because our diaper bag is packed for the apocalypse and would not transfer.  It also comes with a bassinet attachment for naps and smaller babies.  We also have an adapter that we can use to put the carseat in the stroller for the few times we do need to do a non-disruptive transfer.  I definitely default to this stroller whenever possible, because it folds up nicely, even in the house.

The Jane Rider retails for $750 (the older models are a couple of hundred bucks cheaper if you can find them), so yes, it's on the higher end of the spectrum.  Thinking back, our lug of a stroller before was over half the price, and I can already tell it isn't built to last like this one is.  As a European company, they are building their U.S. presence, and their products are starting to appear in places like Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us.
FTC Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for this company and received a product free of charge but was not otherwise compensated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I am officially starting to feel consistently sore from working out.  I wasn't doing it consistently or hard enough to feel this before, but it makes me feel ambivalent. 

The positive: something (not sure what) is happening and that I'm on my way to progress.  The negative: things that were a breeze for me before are causing days of soreness, meaning that I've fallen off the wagon... and the wagon backed up and made a second round.

I've been trying to stretch, eat more protein, and better things in general, though it's a work in progress.  For example, I've had this bottle of greens at my desk forever, and I finally started drinking it.  It tastes okay, pretty grassy and a tiny bit sweet due to Stevia, and I think I need some time to work up to the full teaspoon dose.  Still, it's a great way to start off the morning and the virtue of greens keeps me from diving into something totally unhealthy for breakfast.

From their representative:

PINES truly provides the closest alternative to a fresh green vegetable in the marketplace today. They’ve been leading the way for almost 40 years, unsurpassed in quality from the seed to the shelf. All PINES products are:
  • USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, RAW, Gluten-Free, OU Kosher.
  • Harvested at the optimum growth stage, below 10” tall (jointing stage), to ensure the highest nutrient levels (many other competitors offer “flag grass” which is harvested after the jointing stage and literally drained of its nutritional content).
  • Grown in mineral-rich glacial soil using natural rainwater – NOT irrigation water, which can be contaminated with non-organic farm chemicals and animal waste.
  • The only wholefood wheatgrass producer to use stainless steel milling equipment resulting in an extremely clean product.
  • The only wheatgrass superfood packaged in oxygen-free, amber glass bottles with specially designed metal caps to remove oxygen and provide food as fresh as the day it was made.
  • 5-year shelf life.
  • ONLY Non-GMO Project Verified Alfalfa current available anywhere!

Anyway, I bet you're wondering what I've been doing that has been making me sore, and the short answer is, pretty much everything from 2/3 mile runs, Insanity, squats, the ab machine... everything.  I remember walking at the zoo with Baby Tuesday in the carrier, and even THAT did it.  Okay, so it was a hilly zoo, but still.

Instant squat weight.

Given that I don't think my workout duration will increase, I can only work on intensity and variety... and maybe frequency.  I'm not sure what kinds of fitness gains I will make, but I still have about 5 pounds of pregnancy weight to lose... probably more like 10 because of muscle loss.  That's pretty intimidating, but I think it's a more attainable goal than, say, running a marathon. ;)

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of this product and was not otherwise compensated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Week of Steps

You know that whole "a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step" saying that runners often like to throw out there to motivate them to go on a run?

Well, there have been times in the past year when that "single step" felt like "a thousand miles."

I'm trying really hard to re-establish some baseline of activity in my daily routine.  I've been diligently getting myself to the gym 2-3 quick times a week and walking around during the day as possible... and required, since my parking at work is separate from my office.

I was curious to see how much or little I actually walk each day.  When Baby Tuesday was smaller, I remember many days (most days?) when my butt hurt from sitting on it so much.

But soon, I think I'll be chasing him around....

The guideline I keep hearing is that people should aim for 10,000 steps per day, or about 5 miles.  This is how my week went (I used the Omron Pedometer to measure):

  • Monday - 9094: ran about 2 miles at the gym and was up from my desk a lot
  • Tuesday - 8002: did about 30 min of elliptical at the gym
  • Wednesday - 4287: was busy at work and did not leave my desk for lunch besides getting food
  • Thursday - 7338: ran about 2 miles at the gym
  • Friday - 5983: ran errands during lunch
  • Saturday - 6983: walked to the farmer's market and back 
  • Sunday - 2031: stayed at home

As you can see, there is a lot of variability, but it looks like I'm at least getting to half of the recommendation on most days.  I know that's probably nothing to laud myself for, but it's better than I suspected.  At some point, I might try wearing the pedometer for another week and hope that my results are better.  It's all about the small steps toward progress, though!

Speaking of steps and progress, I was recently sent a neat Journal Menu journal in the mail.

The site allows you to design your own cover, use their templates, or a combination of both!  The curly spine allows you to jam a pen on the side for convenience, too.

There are different types of journals on there -- for people who do a variety of workouts, runners, and there were a lot of Crossfit ones, too.

You can track your stats and food in there, as well.  It's a fun compact way of keeping track of everything.

This one has 5K, 10K, half and full marathon training plans within.  I have a 5k next month and have just started to run a little again, though I think I'd benefit from sticking to a program like the one in here.  I think so far, I'm more or less where I need to be according to the schedule.

It is nice to be able to focus on my own health again, even if life is otherwise crazy and I can't spend nearly as much time on it as before.  A little is better than none! 

FTC Disclaimer: I received a sample of this journal but was not otherwise compensated to provide a positive opinion.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lunch Hour Workouts

Well, so far, it's happening.  It has only been a short time, but it's happening.

I've been able to go to the gym a couple of times a week so far.  It involves a mad dash out, going from work to workout mode and back, and cramming food into my pie hole afterward -- including those Quest bars that I've tried before and didn't like, but well, I'll probably be updating my review soon! 

I've been getting in about 30-35 minutes of workout time in so far, though realistically I might be able to push that to 40, maybe 45 if it's not super sweaty, as I get more efficient with my clean-up routine.  So far, it has just been a couple of miles of running here and there and elliptical (which I haven't used in like two years!), some squats (I'm doing a Squat Challenge that I'll update on later), and abs/arms/back (just one of those) if I have time.  There isn't a lot of space in there nor much set-up to do exercises without a machine -- or maybe I'm just new an intimidated -- but maybe I can do them at home.  I just haven't had a lot of time to figure it all out since I'm re-learning how to work out efficiently without a guidance of a workout video.

As I mentioned, I've been trying to insert normal activities back into my life outside of work and baby.  I finished a (non-baby) book already and have started another, which has definitely helped me unwind a little bit.

The fitness front just became more urgent, though, because besides the 5K that I'm going to "wing" next month, I am also participating in the YMCA Stair Climb again this September.  I was able get by without much training the first time because my base fitness level was pretty good.  I had to skip out last year because I was seven months pregnant, and now, I have a little less than 3 months to condition myself to climb 75 flights of stairs.  Even a few flights is enough to make me feel dizzy these days!

Sometime in the next month or so, I'm going to start using the stairs more in my building to train during lunch.  I guess if I can't raise my baseline fitness to what it used to be, I can at least work on doing the specific activity, right?  Meanwhile, I will try to stick to my lunch hour goals and hopefully chip away at my sleep debt and fitness debt.


On a related topic, I've been lugging around two small backpacks to carry my gym stuff.  I leave most of it at my desk and only bring in what I need to replace like clothes and socks.  This way, I'm not having to carry my purse, pump, laptop, AND gym bag across town when I walk from my car to my building every morning.  I've been looking at some bag (backpack) that might help me consolidate some of these things, but they are both kind of pricey.

I saw this Aer Duffle Bag, which just came out.  It seems to have space for everything, including shoes that even has ventilation.  It seems to be marketed toward men more, but besides that, it's like $150 and maybe a bit more than I need?

The second is this bag, the Work-Play Gymwise II bag (it comes in a grey color, too).  It also has a shoe compartment, though not ventilated.  It is sold from the UK and will run about $100.  Separate compartments are critical, because of, well, smells.

Maybe I'll get one of these as a reward to myself if I stick to my fitness commitment for a while?  Maybe my haphazard bags will be enough?  I already feel better in terms of feeling more balanced and being in a better mood overall, so I guess I don't need other motivators.  Oh, I guess there's the physical health aspect, which recently became more urgent than in the past when "health" was vague.  I might elaborate on this later.