Whole30 aka my month of bacon :)

I first learned about Whole30 a few months ago, overhearing my Pure Barre instructors talking about it.  For full details on the plan, click here.  But I will give you the quick and dirty, as well as give you a glimpse of my experience and impressions over the past 30 days.

 

What is it?

It is a diet reset, so to speak, where for 30 days, you eat only “whole” foods.  Similar to Paleo, with some small differences (no honey, agave nectar, or alcohol, which are allowed on a Paleo diet).  It is designed as a type of diet cleanse – to curb cravings and set new, and presumably healthy, habits.  Its primary goal is not weight loss, but healthy eating.

 

What can you eat?

Basically, meat, seafood, healthy fats, nuts, vegetables and fruit without any added sweeteners – and without counting calories.

 

What can’t you eat?

Dairy – cheese, yogurt, milk, etc

Beans – including peanuts and soy

Wheat and flour products – including pasta, rice, bread

Any added sugar – fake or real

Alcohol

 

Why did I decide to do this?

I keep active with exercise, but my diet over the past few months had basically become to resemble that of a 14 year old boy.  Seriously.  My occasional treats had become every day staples.  Although I was still counting calories, it had gotten to the point I could not remember the last time I had eaten a fresh vegetable.  Gummy bears, cookies, Rice Krispies treats and Twinkies had begun to have frequent appearances on my My Fitness Pal logs, and I drank more diet soda than water.  What really sparked me, though, was Pure Barre.  I was in the middle of the Pure Barre Madness Challenge (20 classes in 31 days) and although I was seeing performance improvements, I wasn’t getting any improvements on the outside…. and I realized it was my fault.  Despite all my hard work at the barre, I was basically throwing it in the trash can with my eating.  So, with 10 days left in the Challenge, I decided to go all in, and begin Whole30.

Here I am, Day 30 today, and here is my take…

 

Was it hard?

I remember after chatting with some of the Pure Barre Instructors about this that I thought, “Hell, no.  That sounds too hard.”  But then I realized.  There are certain things in life that are, actually, hard.  What Nelson Mandela did was hard.  Losing a loved one is hard.  Not eating a Twinkie or drinking diet soda for 30 days is not hard.  Did it require some planning?  Sure.  Did it require a change of habits?  Absolutely.  But that was really the point.  So once I got over thinking that this was hard, it made the process a whole lot easier… honestly.

 

How did I feel?

Well, it varied.  Days 1-3 I kept thinking, “what’s the big deal?”… I felt great, wasn’t craving sugar (although admittedly I went through a bit of a sugar binge the day before), and wasn’t that hungry.

However, the constant hunger started about day 4 and lasted until about day 10, when, after chatting with a colleague, I figured out I was still doing it wrong.  Although I was eating all “approved” foods, my proportions were jacked up.  I needed to be eating more fat.  Yep, you heard that right, more fat.  At the beginning, I was too reliant on carbs – fruit, dried fruit (no added sugar), etc.  After understanding more about what my body actually needs, I started to eat more guacamole, cashew butter (occasionally no sugar added peanut butter, see below regarding “cheats”), and more meat.  And, the hunger went away.

Days 13-15 were by far my worst.  I was craving cupcakes, candy, everything and anything.  It was not fun.  Of course, I didn’t plan this well and these days fell over Easter weekend.  Why is this a factor?  Well, because I love Easter candy with an unhealthy passion.  Any of it, and all of it – jelly beans, Cadbury eggs, and yep, even Peeps.  But I stuck to my guns, and didn’t have any…although I *might* have a hidden stockpile of said contraband

Starting around day 16, however, I started to feel great.  No cravings, a ton of energy, and a lot less obsessed with food.

One other physical change I did notice, was that my 3 pm almost daily headaches went away, completely, with no other changes in habits.  Not sure if this was due to dehydration or sugar crash or what, but this was a change that although was unanticipated, was very welcome indeed.

To see Whole30’s version of the timeline, click here.

 

How did I make time for it?

As many of you know by now, my work schedule at baseline is bad, and during this 30 day period it was even worse.  During this 30 day period I only had one day off.  Yep, unfortunately you read that correctly, only one.  The number of meals that I have actually cooked in the six months prior to this you could count on one hand.  Not going to lie, I hate cooking.  But, I knew that cooking was going to be a part of this adventure, so, I planned for two cooking nights a week.  During which, I would cook dinner, then put together a slow cooker meal to go into the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning, all my nanny had to do is empty the container into and start the slow cooker.  So that gave me dinner for the first night, with leftovers the next day for lunch, the slow cooker meal for a dinner and the leftovers from that for another lunch.  Then, the 3rd night it was every man for himself so to speak and I would throw something together just for myself – ex. bacon and eggs, shrimp and veggies.

 

What did I eat?

Some examples of meals –

Spaghetti sauce made with ground beef, mushrooms, onions, garlic, organic tomato sauce, and spices over spaghetti squash.

Slow cooker Korean short ribs with sweet potatoes oven roasted or pan fried with coconut oil.

Taco salad – ground beef with spices, over lettuce with guacamole.

Slow cooker carnitas pork served with over lettuce with guacamole.

Meatloaf without bread crumbs and using tomato paste instead of ketchup.

Slow cooker potroast with carrots, onions, and potatoes.

Slow cooker salsa verde chicken, again over lettuce with guacamole.

Pan fried shrimp and oven roasted cauliflower.

Bacon wrapped dates – which I have been in love with for years, and the fact that I could eat these kept me happy 🙂

Breakfast was usually eggs and bacon with fresh fruit.  So yep, I ate a lot of bacon.

Lara bars – not all of them are compliant, and they do pack a lot of sugar, albeit natural, in them, so I probably had maybe 4 bars throughout the 30 days.

Dried fruit, no sugar added.  Same comment as above, I was eating too much of this at the beginning, and kept it limited towards the end.

 

What did I drink?

Water only.

 

Big question of the day – did I cheat?

Well, yes and no.  Yes in the sense that soy sauce is off limits, and I did use some Worcestershire sauce at one point to marinate the Korean short ribs, and definitely not all of my bacon was organic.  Unfortunately, with my schedule, I just couldn’t prepare every single meal at my house, and I don’t know any hospital in the world that serves organic bacon… But if you find one, let me know 😉  In addition, due to the aforementioned ridiculous schedule, I did have a few scoops of no sugar added, all natural peanut butter.

 

Did I lose weight?

Okay, so this technically was another cheat – you are not supposed to weigh yourself at all during the 30 day period… but I did.  I did not lose any weight for the first week or so, but over the remaining time, I did end up losing about 8 pounds.  May not sound like a lot, there are multiple testimonials out there with people reporting 20+ pound weight loss, but this by far is the most amount of weight I have lost in 30 days in my life and I don’t actually have 20 pounds to lose for full disclosure.

 

What are you going to do on Day 31?

So, when I was perusing the Whole30 timeline about half way through the program, I got to the end, and it stated that most people feel a “twinge of panic” when their 30 days come to a close.  My initial thought, was Ha!  Panic?!  Yeah, right, I am going to not panic my face straight into a cupcake.  However, now that I am actually at the end, I am a bit unsettled as to what I am going to do next.  I don’t want to undo the past 30 days of effort, and I need to balance this with the desire to not go the rest of my life without a Cadbury egg.  Am I going to drop dairy completely?  What about gluten?  Should I designate “cheat days”?  In all honestly, I don’t have this 100% figured out quite yet.  But I have decided to make some changes permanent.  I have decided to drop diet soda completely and stick with water.  I am continuing to plan 2 nights of cooking per week.  I also will continue to eat breakfast every day, something that was pretty rare before starting this program.  My craving for sweets is pretty much gone – at this point, it is more of an emotional desire rather than a physical one, and I think understanding this is crucial to moving forward towards a healthier diet.

 

What are your overall impressions?

This was a great decision, and one that I really needed to make – I feel better, weigh loss, am healthier, without headaches, and have proven to myself that I can make time for some cooking.  I had been trying to lose the same 4 pounds for months, and regardless of any increase in activity, it just wasn’t coming off.  This program really drove the lesson home that weight loss and health in general, is 80% nutrition and only 20% exercise.  You just can’t go and exercise away bad eating.  In addition, my taste buds have definitely been reset – fruit that never tasted sweet to me before now tastes incredibly sweet.  Although this did require some planning, the experience was actually liberating because I wasn’t a slave to calorie counting or food weighing.  I proved to myself that my mind is stronger than I give it credit for, and that I clearly don’t have to give in to any and every food craving.  Overall, I think pretty much everyone could benefit from this, and I would definitely recommend it.

 

Now, I’m off to eat some bacon, and try not to panic about tomorrow, Day 31 😉

 

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My Barre-versary

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2 years ago, I was on a girls’ trip out of town, and my best friend from high school dragged brought me to my first Pure Barre Class.  It was not long after the birth of my child and I was getting back into the gym, eating better, and making positive changes to get healthy again.  In fact, I had been working out with a personal trainer and entered into my first class thinking it was going to be “fun”.  Ha.  A few excerpts from my brain during that first class…

Those weights are small.

Why are these weights so heavy?!

Wait, that was only the warm-up?!

Ummm, why are my legs having seizures?

My leg is supposed to go where?

Sweet, I’ve made it.  They just turned the lights down, that must mean class is over.

(*%!  Dang.  It’s not over.

My. Abs. Hurt.

I am definitely going to be feeling that tomorrow.

As you can see, this was NOT what I had expected.  In fact, after that first class, it took me two months to go to my local studio.  And when I did, I committed for one month only.  So, how did all this change?  How did I go from waiting two months before braving a 2nd attempt to now taking Pure Barre classes wherever I go and planning on taking my 500th class later this year?

 

1. Progress beyond the scale

It’s easy when trying to get back into shape to focus only on the numbers showing on the scale.  And, yes, with Pure Barre I did lose weight.  But, even before my clothes began to fit differently, I noticed other changes which kept me motivated … my flexibility improved – I could go further in my stretches and hold them longer.  I progressed from not being able to do a single full body pushup to completing all of them during the warmups.  My legs and shoulders started to show more and more definition.  My strength increased – picking up my child became easier (despite his rapidly growing size!), and I began to notice less backache at the end of a long day at work.  This workout changes your entire body, not just in pounds, but also in inches, in strength and in flexibility.

 

2. Inspiration outside of class

Pure Barre is challenging.  Okay, let’s be real, it’s hard!  And even though it seems unrelated, Pure Barre has really started helping my diet as well.  Yes, there are some days I still *might* eat a cookie in the parking lot before class (hypothetically speaking of course), but lately I have really been asking myself – do I want to throw away all that hard work I just did by making this not-so-smart food choice?  And let me tell you, after I have literally gotten my rear end kicked for the past hour, I want to make it count!

 

3.  Classmates

I love my studio.  I can’t say it enough.  I’m sure some of this is because I work with a bunch of men for the most part, and it’s kinda nice to have some girl time, but I really do appreciate my time with the instructors and classmates.  Bonds are made at the barre.  Trust me, when you are pulling off of the barre, tucking, lifting, and shaking, the best person to understand what you are going through is standing next to you!  These bonds carry over into “real life”, and I am now proud to count several of my classmates as friends.  Plus, who else is going to help you glare at the instructor to start calling out “Final 10”?

 

4.  Anti-ADD

Every class is unique – the exercises, the music, your classmates.  This keeps the workout new and fresh and never boring.  Plus, honestly, I’m not sure how you can get bored when you are sweating so much 🙂

 

5.  Always something…

to work on.  Whether it is going deeper into thigh work or working on the splits or building up to the 3 pound weights, there is always something to improve upon, become better at, or a new goal to set.  And these new goals provide continued, new motivation to stay consistent both at the barre and at the dinner table.

 

So, here I am, celebrating my barre-versary, and thankful to my best friend who introduced me, the instructors who continue to push and inspire me, and my classmates who sweat with me.

Holy $#!% That Barre Class Was Waaaay Harder Than Running 10 Miles

It’s no secret that the traumamamas love trading in our heels and our kicks for grippy socks. sock_lrg_1

While I am no veteran Pure Barre client like @surgeoninkicks who is already well past her first 100 classes, I do have her to, ummm, thank for introducing me Pure Barre and I have returned time and time again (having tested out some of the competition) whenever I can.

So today, my barre hopping brought me back to PB River North in Chicago.

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I felt good heading into today’s class. I was joined by a friend who lives nearby (and was originally inspired to try Pure Barre by this very blog); I always enjoy workouts with friends better than solo endeavors. I was still on an endorphin high from the two road races I ran over the weekend. And, though I sometimes go months between Pure Barre classes, I had squeezed in a class at PB Boston just one week earlier during yet another work trip. You see, the moves and the music change about every 4-6 weeks or so (the flow of the class from warmup to abs, to upper body, to seat and thigh, back to abs, and then finally to cool down, back work, and stretching stays the same); so I find that having been to a recent class (even if it is in a totally different part of the country) prepares me to be a much better Pure Barre pupil.

So yes, I was feeling really ready when I headed to PB River North this morning, warming up with a brisk half mile walk from my hotel.

But you know, I still always feel pretty pathetic at Pure Barre as I compare myself to those who attend more often than I do. They hold their planks with precision while I am biting through my lower lip to keep from buckling, thinking “Ugh, my abs are sooooooo weak!.” They wield the 5lb weights while making their triceps jump while I am examining my arms lifting 2lb weights wondering “Is that my tricep?” They have just the right amount of shake without stepping away from the barre during the seat and thigh work but this is when I start audibly cursing, question myself “What the F… possessed me to do this again?!” Their abs snap back so efficiently that their gracefully straightened legs rise up to the ceiling; meanwhile my stupid tight hamstrings make my legs look like giant claws and no matter how much harder I squeeze my abs nothing seems to happen. At this point, I am praying “Dear lord please let it end.” I somehow fake my way through the floor based ab work with my legs once again entirely unable to cooperate with being straight thus exacerbating my abdominal failings. And then, finally, we get to the back work and (thanks to all the pilates I have also done) I am a back dancing queen so I start to feel good about myself again, “Woot, I rock!” But then we get to the stretching. The time has come to “bend yourself in half” says the Pure Barre teacher and all I can think of with my still nearly upright torso despite my maximally stretched legs and back is “Well at least it’s over. Bring on the disinfecting wipe.”

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I am thinking “Holy $#!% That Barre Class Was Waaaay Harder Than Running 10 Miles!” but you know what I felt great (and was soaked in like 5 times as much sweat as any run I have ever done even in warm weather). This is a fact about every Pure Barre class I have ever taken. No matter how inadequate I feel during class, no matter how much I curse through the lift, tuck, and burn, no matter how much I ache in parts of my body that I didn’t even know could ache, I always feel fantastic after the class.

I am already lamenting the fact that I may not be able to get to another Pure Barre class for quite some time. I would laugh at myself for all the self-deprecation during class except, well….., my abs still hurt too much to do that.

More Barre Hopping

I was back on my Pure Barre National Tour this past week while away for a much needed girls’ weekend with some of my college roommates in Denver. When I can’t go to my local Pilates studio, PB is a great way to keep the core from devolving and to offset travel related caloric indulgences.

Not all of my travel companions were interested in PB. So as to not interfere with any group bonding activities and to get the calorie burn done well before indulgent brunches, I booked three 6am classes at the Highlands studio. It’s such a treat for me that I had no problem getting up (if only I could do that more often at home).

As is always the case, the instructors were very welcoming. And, unlike past experiences, the PB Highlands instructors spent of lot of time correcting during the class. This is perhaps due to the relatively small class size (it seems that the people of Denver like to sleep in since every other studio I have been (Chicago River North, Naples FL, Memphis TN, Boston Newbury St) to has been packed or so filled that I couldn’t even get in (thanks for nothing PB Philly and DC)). Anyway, through I have done PB enough now to anticipate the next body part to go into tetany, I don’t know the exact moves so the special hands on attention was much appreciated.

I even did my first class today with these doohickeys. 20140722-125537-46537113.jpg
No my hamstrings don’t do that and yes some parts of if were definitely channeling the reformer. It was a great workout that definitely challenged my strength and flexibility while getting my heart rate up. I left feeling lean, cinched in, and powerful.

Most of all it felt good to be doing this for myself despite the late nights, indulgent eats, and outdoor activities (which some might use as an excuse to not keep up the core and seat work) of this girls’ weekend.

Avoiding a Vacation Set Back: Day #5

DURING MY 2 WEEK VACATION, I HOPE NOT TO GAIN MY TYPICAL 5-7LBS. MY GOAL IS A DAILY POST ABOUT WHAT I DID TO AVOID A VACATION SET BACK.20140722-091936-33576986.jpg

Yesterday got away from me so this post is a little late. It was a day filled with lemon (the color), relaxation, art, culture, and food–especially food–lots and lots of yummy amazing delicious food which obviously had to be balanced by some physical effort. The day started with Pure Barre. I was especially excited because one of my friends decided to join me and I was wearing my new favorite summer work out outfit. Here I am in the Athleta Stride Capri in what they call Aloha Yellow and the record breaker tank in white.

After barre, three of us went for an easy 3mi run along the Cherry Creek Path. I have run before Pure Barre before but never after. With the altitude that I am not used to and the muscles that were still sort of in tetany it was tough but I got her done. We chatted while we ran so it wasn’t the fastest pace ever. I can’t recommend running with friends/partners along new routes while traveling enough. You get in your workout (so more food later), you get to bond, and you get to explore the locale.

And then there was brunch. We went to a local chain called Snooze where there is always line out the door and a long wait. We waited 45 min on a Monday and it was so worth it. I am pretty sure a single pancake there (which you can get in multiple varieties including the familiar chocolate chip, blueberry, etc. and the more far fetched cinnamon roll, strawberry malt, etc.) is like 3000 calories. I opted for an omelette with a single sweet potato pancake on the side. So I was totally indulgent but I did exert some control by choosing the omelette as my savory item instead of the hollandaise and sandwich options that would have the added high carb bread and I did sub the hash browns for fresh fruit. My god it was amazing. The 10 block walk back and forth also helped temper the yummy in our tummies.

After an afternoon at the spa (nothing like a massage to soothe the Pure Barre worked muscles), we took in the Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens.  This allowed the opportunity to work off a bit more of the pancakes with more walking. Chihuly is always fun. I ended wearing one of my favorite Pleione tops from Nordstrom.  It’s super comfy and a great bright yellow. So there I was again donning lemon.

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Finally, we ended up at a very highly reviewed restaurant built into a former service station called Root Down. We have eaten very well this trip but this was hands done the best meal and definitely a contender for one of my favorite foodie finds ever. We ate tapas style and the flavors and textures were so amazing. They call it “globally influenced seasonal cuisine.”  This just might be my new favorite type of cuisine. We ate something called Devils on Horseback and seared Colombian arepas and amazing meatballs with balsamic blueberries and several mor20140722-092315-33795218.jpge amazing dishes. Sadly we ate so much that we left no room for dessert.  Sitting on a patio on a mild night with a view of the city from up on a hill was also a treat while treating ourselves to a totally indulgent meal. And yes, without really planning it, I wore my go to summer dress that I have had for years and it is lemon yellow.

 

The Fitbit logged 20,054 steps yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoiding a Vacation Set Back: Day #2

 During my 2 week vacation, I hope not to gain my typical 5-7lbs. My goal is a daily post about what I did to avoid a vacation set back.

So, yesterday was such a fun day that I didn’t get to write this post until today.

20140719-055047-21047776.jpgDespite a late arrival and hitting the sack at 1:30am, when my alarm went off at 4:4
5am so that I could find my way to Pure Barre Denver Highlands by 6am, I bounced out of bed. It’s hard to be away from my local pilates studio when I travel and I love, love barre so I try to make Pure Barre my tourism treat. It was a tough work out but I loved it and can’t wait to go back for two more sessions during this trip. What was especially awesome was being able to noodle around such a cute neighborhood afterwards where I had my choice of nearly half a dozen local conveyors of iced coffee. That’s me with a much deserved post-Pure Barre iced coffee in granite grey Be Free Knickers and a glass blue Record Breaker Tank from Athleta. And, no I am not barefoot but it’s hard to tell because I recent scored the perfect nude (for me) thong-style sandal from Tory Burch (the Miller sandal, they call it sand, I call it nude for me).  (I wish the nice lady who took my picture had not caught me mid-speech but since I also promised to share some fitness looks I will post my post-Pure Barre iced coffee pic. Ugh.)

20140719-055046-21046101.jpgI was then lucky enough to spend the day noodling around Denver by bike along the Cherry Creek and Platte River Trails and through the Washington Park neighborhood. We rode at a leisurely pace about 2 hours. And let me tell you, riding to lunch sure makes it easier to enjoy a giant sandwich on french bread. We found Vert Kitchen tucked away in a cute little neighborhood. Such a gem. My fig, goat cheese, turkey sandwich on a crusty roll with champagne vineger was so delicious. I paired with a melon soup that was very good but surprised me with it’s savoriness when I was expecting sweet. That’s me somewhere along the trail in casual chino shorts in cactus pink from Caslon (a Nordstrom house brand) and a super light weight black and white striped tee I picked up at Marshall’s. It was a great choice for a casual, active day.

littemanicecreamdenverThe friend I am traveling with and I also did a lot of walking. This included walking with hand made waffle cone in hand (containing a simply indescribable form of deliciousness called salted oreo) from Little Man Ice Cream and walking to a very indulgent dinner at Lower 48 with a few friends from our past who happen to live in town. Having such an active day meant I could simply enjoy multiple tapas style apps and family style plates along with a great almond butter bread pudding soaked in maple butter for dessert. Foodie heaven.

The FitBit captured 20,576 steps yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

13.1 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Thought I Could Never Run a Half Marathon

I used to think I could never be a runner but yesterday I ran my 4th half marathon. I didn’t place in my age group and my official race pace was a slow and steady 11:16/mi but I am still a proud runner.  I wish I hadn’t been such a doubter for so long. So, here are a 13.1 things I wish someone had told me when I thought I could never do this.

1) You never feel good until mile 2-3, so don’t give up. I promise you, you will feel invincible by the time you hit the halfway point whether it is mile 2.5 of a five-miler or mile 6.5 of a half. Bottle that feeling and take it with you during the first few miles of every run, long or short. That’s what got me started yesterday and kept me going as the heat went up and the muscles started aching as I hit the midpoint of the figure-of-8 loop at mile 7.

Stott SPX Home Reformer

Stott SPX Home Reformer

2) But even if that feeling propels you to hit the road, the trail, or the treadmill day after day, you cannot be a runner unless you build up your core. For me, I have done this with pilates (mostly Stott reformer) and Pure Barre (whenever I get the chance). A strong core will help your stride and prevent injuries. My choice of core training also works on the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the hips, thighs, and butt all of which make for a stronger, more efficient runner.

3) Modern life is filled with distractions; running allows you to be alone with your thoughts. People ask me how I find time to write the occasional blog post with my hectic schedule. Honestly, I mentally compose many of them on my runs just like I often compose specific aims for my research or household to-do-lists while running.

4) Running with you significant other is a great alternative to high calorie, sedentary date night. Though we often run together listening to our playlists or podcasts, that time we spend together, just the two of us out there, whether or not there is conversation involved, allows us to bond and stay fit.

5) Running is a great way to make new friends and stay connected with old ones. I have made new friends and mentors running while travelling for work. The race I ran yesterday has been a way to connect with my best friend from residency at least once a year in person and even more frequently has we text or phone each other on how the training is coming along. (Different specialties, different cities, surgeon schedules = little if any chance to see each other but planning a race together is a great solution, and has the added bonus of not letting our surgeon schedules be an excuse not to take care of ourselves.)

6) There is no such thing as a runner’s body. Look at yourself in the mirror. Think you’re not a runner because of your size or your shape. WRONG. Yesterday, I ran alongside, in front of, and behind other 5’3″ women who easily weighed 100lbs more than more or 40-50lbs less than me. There were men and women of all shapes and sizes. From the kind of bodybuilder physique that one would think is incompatible with running to the tall, lean supposedly quintessential runner’s body, to (and this encompassed just about everyone there above age 30 I would venture to guess) the love handles, spare tires, muffin tops, touching thighs, beer guts, and saggy arms that are a reality of middle-aged life no matter how much we run.

7) Even if it won’t transform your body, running has health benefits that you may not have thought of. Running outdoors means more VitD conversion. That alone with improve your energy levels but then there are also the endorphins that both improve energy levels and mental well-being whether you activate their secretion outdoors or on a treadmill. And (though it may gross out some of my readers) a little bit of long-run colon ischemia is a decent remedy for constipation (except when there are port-a-potties involved–eeeeww, now that grosses me out). Weekly long runs while training for a long race is what I think of as the Runner’s Cleanse–who needs kale shakes!

8) Running outside brings opportunities to glimpse the world from another perspective. There is so much architecture, so much greenery, so much wildlife that you would miss if you weren’t a runner. Yesterday, as we approached mile 10, I made eye contact with a gigantic brown bear just 4 feet away from me. As I ran by (and boy does a bear siting make you run faster!) (s)he padded across the course behind me. There were plenty more vistas of bucolic farmland and beautiful (though potentially fear-provoking) animals along the Iron Horse Half course in lovely central CT yesterday.

9) On a related note, running outside makes you feel outdoorsy even if your are not. I mean, come on, I stared deep into the eyes of a giant bear and lived to tell about it. Need I say more?! 

Newtons Distance U

Newtons Distance U

10) If you have a shoe thing (like I do), being a runner gives you a whole other category of shoes to covet. Yesterday I ran in my Newtons. Super cute pink and neon yellow…wait yes of course the lugs…awesome lugs for an easy forefoot motion made for my PR for a half. (You shouldn’t buy running shoes for aesthetics and colors but I won’t lie I sometimes do and it’s what started this running thing for me in the first place).

11) Long run days and race days are perfect justification to eat with reckless abandon. My pre-race farm to table meal with my fellow runners was one of the best meals I have ever had. In my quest to be healthy, I am often limiting how much I can indulge at these types of places. Sharing an appetizer (or skipping them altogether) or splitting an entree and definitely passing on dessert. But, on the night before a race you have have an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert and, as I did, have ice cream for lunch two days in a row.

12) With running, especially for slow, unathletic types like myself, the only competition is yourself. You set the goal (pace, distance, runs per week, etc). You achieve that and “Yah! You’ve won.” There’s no score, no one upmanship, there’s only you to improve. Yesterday, I was hoping to finish under 11:05 but a mile 4 port-a-potty break and some heat and fatigue on the back half slowed me down. Still, I was 3 sec/mile faster than my last half pace so yah!, I won. Go me!

13) Signing up for races is a great motivator, especially if you can make a weekend of it. If you are not a natural athlete (like me) and if exercising (not matter how much you blog or tweet about it) still feels like a chore, signing up for a race gives you reason to keep getting out there to train. And, if you sign up for an out of town race, book a room at an inn, find childcare for the weekend, etc. I promise you you will not just skip the race because you are not ready. You will make sure that you are ready because, quite honestly, that post-race feeling (see 13.1) and the chance to hit an amazing farm to table bistro that you might not otherwise be able to enjoy are totally worth it.

13.1) Running 13.1 miles will totally make you feel like a badass no matter how slow you ran, or how low in your age group you ranked.

 

Barre Hopping

It’s been more than 8 months since @surgeoninkicks introduced me to Pure Barre. As you may have read, I was both cursing and rejoicing in a new found love. Meanwhile, she had reached the hundred club and I had gone to four, yes only four, classes–all in different zip codes.100photo

As someone who has been working on strengthening my core, improving my posture, and just overall feeling leaner and stronger for a couple of years now, I immediately took to barre. It is a fusion of the music driven aerobic work that first drew me to group exercise classes years ago (yes, back then there were steps and grapevines involved!) and the focused core/seat work and long muscle sculpting of pilates which I started less than two years ago (yes, as gift to myself on the morning of my 38th birthday I tried reformer as an initial foray into being fit by 40).

As you also may have read, I really struggle (and have struggled for years during which school, and work, and a growing family–not to mention lack of any inherent athletic ability– made for easy excuses to neglect myself) to make time to exercise. Getting in a 30-60 min workout is hard enough without lead time. So, I have tried to make it easy–I have a home gym with professional grade cardio equipment and a Stott reformer, I belong to the gym at work with 24 accessibility so I can sneak in exercise while on call, and I am a short 7 min drive from my local pilates studio where, if work cooperates, I can take a variety of group classes ranging from mat pilates to Zumba as well as reformer classes (oh and I own a pair of running shoes). Sadly, I live 35 min away from the nearest dedicated barre studio. And no matter how motivated I am, no matter how I try to finagle the work and life schedule, that >1 round trip plus a 55 min class is just not going to happen.

So, I do what I can with my available resources while at home–cardiovascular fitness with running, cardio equipment, or Zumba and core/seat work/toning with reformer and occasional Barre Fit or Total Barre classes at the studio. Interestingly, as much as a struggle to maintain regular fitness while at home during the my usual work schedule, for years now I have been able to make time to exercise while traveling for work. So, instead of heading to the hotel gym, nowadays I get my Pure Barre fix when I am on the road for work.  purebarre-threepics After all, I was 3000 miles away from home when I first tried barre in San Francisco. Then I took another class in DC. Then Boston. Followed by Naples. Somehow, every conference hotel I have stayed at since that first foray into barre has been within 10 minutes by foot or by car of a Pure Barre studio. And so when I travel, I pack my grippy socks and I try to get into at least one barre class. I think of it as Barre Hopping. I can’t tell you how thoroughly disappointed I was this past March when during trips to both DC and Philly with Pure Barre an easy jaunt from both hotels (and yes even some fairly well known competitors and some further out Pure Barre studios) I was denied. If you haven’t tried it yet, this workout is just that addictive, that popular, that every possible class that I could have taken was sold out and had a wait list 6 deep. Drop in classes are typically $23 per class which, for the workout you get and the fun you have compared to the hotel gym where you might have paid a $10-$15 fee anyway, is totally worth it in my opinion to get a Pure Barre fix.

I learned from the DC and Philly experiences that one must plan ahead to be Barre Hopper so I looked ahead and booked a class for each each day of my two Chicago trips. I signed up for three 6 am classes and one 4pm class. The first trip I was 5 blocks away from the studio. The second just 7 blocks. I was so psyched. With this round of Barre Hopping, I doubled my Pure Barre experience in 8 days compared to what I had been able to snag in the past 8 months. I got to take classes from three different instructors which sort of felt like Barre Hopping within Barre Hopping.sock_lrg_1

I wish I had had some company as with my first foray into Pure Barre but I got over my stranger anxiety and my fear of looking like an inflexible, jelly-cored, saggy-butted fool and just went all in. It was my first Pure Barre since January and I loved every minute of every class even though the routines were unfamiliar and the hamstrings were unforgiving. The burn still made me curse under my breath but I did it for the entire 55 minutes and felt great when it was over. Just great. Longing for the next time.

So, if you don’t have a local Pure Barre to frequent, I highly recommend Barre Hopping. I only wish they offered a pre-paid passport of sorts to road warriors to use as Barre Hopping Guests at studios nationwide for slightly less than the $23 drop in rate. I would love to get into the hundred club myself one zip code at a time.

On a side note a description of the workout and why I liked the mini Barre Hopping experience in Chicago:

I don’t know what it’s like for the regulars out there who are lucky enough to have a Pure Barre Studio nearby so that they don’t have to Barre Hop. Do they always try to stick with the same instructor or the same time of day? Do they do a class a week or 3-4x a week? So in my most recent experience, I took 4 classes with 3 different instructors. They all basically used the same set of tunes (and they are just awesome poppy remixes that just fire you up) which they would repeat or move through depending on exercise. They also adhered to the same general flow–1) a quick standing arm/leg warm-up, 2) quick “hundred” series with light weights 3) plank 4) back work 5) arm work 6) thigh work 7) seat work 8) abs, and 9) some low back work all with some quick stretching in between. So you got a sense of what was to come but it didn’t seem like same old, same old, since other than #1, #2, #8 I found that the instructors mixed up the other components just a little bit to keep it interesting. For example, they might vary how much thigh work is done at the barre vs on the floor or with the little red ball vs without. So it never felt boring or redundant. Most importantly, the tiny little muscles that I was certain could never do that again were fooled into doing it again because it wasn’t the exact same move.

10 Reasons To Cure Myself of Not-A-Morning-Personitis and Conquer Morning Workouts

I am decidedly NOT a morning person. I have often thought that this was a key factor in my career choice since trauma and acute care surgeons are often expected to be on their A-game in the middle of the night. I am a pretty amazing middle of the night person and, if that night stretches into chronological morning, I can keep the A-game going. But, if allowed to put head to pillow, dawn will yield a very cranky person.

In college I avoided classes that started before 11am. I am pretty sure I showed up at that one 8:30a Tu/Th class only for exams (physics 1a/b anyone?). Med school started every day at 8am during pre-clinicals and I often struggled with that arrival time choosing to put forward my best effort for labs later in the day (thank you lab mates who were excellent note-takers!). On clinical rotations I figured out how to show up for 4:45a pre-rounds, but I am pretty sure that only worked because it was still technically the middle of the night so my body was okay with that.

Even now, as in every day during residency and fellowship, when there are patients waiting at the other end, I can make early am arrivals happen albeit with a fair bit of crankiness as my poor husband kicks me out the door with coffee in hand. Honestly, it’s a miracle I ever chose a career where 5:30a rounds, 6a meetings, and 7a pre-op times are the norm. And on the days when there are no patients waiting at the other end, I continue to struggle with human functions in the morning. People at work often ask me why I am angry as they pass me in the halls at 6, 7, 8am…. I’m not angry. I’m just a cranky Not-A-Morning-Person.

Unlike my college and early med school days, these days an 8:30a start of anything (signout rounds, soccer games, flights…) would be welcome. Eleven am is shockingly late to me now; so in that regard my Not-A-Morning-Personitis has abated somewhat over the years.

But here I am. It’s the life I have chosen. Most of my work days start well before 8am and last well over twelve hours. Typically, I work 26 such days a month. And the Not-A-Morning-Personitis is still severe enough that I have been unable to incorporate pre-work early morning exercise into my daily regimen. Interestingly, when I travel (both with and without family) I am somehow able to swing pre-dawn jaunts at the hotel gym or outdoor runs. Perhaps this is due to the unfamiliar bed causing less restful sleep or the fact that even most surgery meetings don’t start until 8a or the allure of a new venue to run or the proximity of a Pure Barre studio or the late nights at the bar with colleagues (remember Vegas friends? I still got my money’s worth from the $15 gym fee)…

But, in the past I have not been able to recreate this early morning motivation in my home environment. Until last week, I could count the number of my non-weekend off morning workouts on the fingers of ONE hand.

Last week I was jet lagged; and since the current me is actively trying to dispel excuses to not exercise I channeled my wide awakeness at 3:30a into several morning workouts in a row. The jet lag dissipated eventually, but then I found myself angling for a morning workout anyway. This was, in fact, a miracle.

I could hardly recognize myself. Six morning workouts in a row including a post-call workout on my first week back in the country. They weren’t always hard workouts but I was up and I was moving. And my Fitbit was congratulating me for all the extra steps squeezed into my day. I have now exercised in the morning on 9 of the last 10 days with an evening workout on the off-day.

Here’s why I think I have to make this work and rid myself of my chronic Not-A-Morning-Personitis for good.

1) I don’t spend the rest of my day with my inner voice badgering me about how I have to swing an evening workout only to feel bad when I don’t make it happen.

2) I save my hair and the environment by cutting down to a shower a day since the post workout rinse doubles as the morning rinse.

3) I get to catch up on DVR’d episodes of House Hunters because, let’s face it, the 10p weeknight airings of new episodes are just too late for someone who is as tired and as cranky as I am.

4) I don’t have to have the difficult inner debate between choosing ME and my workout to be healthy vs choosing being available for the kids’ bedtime routines to be a good mom.

5) My morning crankiness dissipates during the workout so fewer people are frightened by me when I finally get to work.

6) Post-workout endorphins, which propel me into a happier rest-of-the-morning after am workouts, tend to result in undesired sleeplessness after pm workouts.

7) However, sometimes I still feel like working out again in the evenings and I like 2-a-day workout me much better than Not-A-Morning-Person me.

8) It propels a cycle of positive self re-enforcement; I find myself more likely to engage in healthy work day behaviors like taking the stairs or skipping the bowl of Twix in the ICU when I already feel good about having conquered a morning workout.

9) Who wouldn’t want to see Fitbit’s crazy happy face before dawn; it is one of the few positive digital messages I ever get these days.

10) I will occasionally catch a pretty sunrise.

The 10 that got me to 100

On May 27th, 2013 I committed to Pure Barre for one month only, with their New Client Special.  A little over six months later (and with 6 inches less of me) on December 6th, 2013 I took my 100th class.  Here are the top 10 reasons/people/things that kept me shaking and burning to number 100.

1.  My husband.

Having a wife that sometimes works over 100 hours in a week isn’t easy for my husband, to put it mildly.  Then, to have him support me spending some of the little free time I do have taking these classes just exemplifies how selfless he is, and how lucky I am.

2. The workout.

I am officially ADD.  I fast forward movies because they move too slowly, I can’t fill out any sort of paperwork from start to finish, and if I’m not doing 3 things at once, I’m “bored”.  Pure Barre combines the perfect combination of both predictability and variability.  The overall structure and flow of the classes are the same: warmup, upper body weights, thigh section, seat work, abdominals, and cooldown.  The great thing about this predictability is that I can really focus on the muscles being worked instead of constantly wondering what is next.  On the flip side, the individual exercises within each section change each and every workout.  No two classes are exactly the same, I am constantly challenged and never bored.

3. Fun workout clothes.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can easily find a reason to buy new clothes.  But, buying barre workout clothes taps into my inner little girl who always wanted to be a ballerina.  In what other workout can you wear a fabulous draped top with a cutout in the back and a pair of leg warmers?

4.  My classmates.

I love it when you are in the middle of a killer thigh section, and you and your neighbor share that look of “oh my gosh, how much longer?!?!?”.  Any of you who have taken Pure Barre know what I’m talking about.  And if you haven’t taken a class yet, I encourage you to do so.  You will quickly find out …  and your thighs will thank me later ;).

5.  The 100 socks.

Seriously.  In my first class, I saw one of my classmates wearing socks with the big red 100 printed across them.  I asked her about them, and that is when I first heard about the 100 club.  And, as someone who feels the need to try and get into any and every club possible, I knew I had to have them.

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6.  The music.

It’s loud, it’s fast and I can lose myself in it.  I hear Chris Brown and Lil Wayne sing, “I can transform you”, and I know that I am transforming myself, with Pure Barre’s help.  The music is current and fun.  It’s harder to dwell on how badly your abs are burning when you hear “What does the fox say?” come over the loudspeaker!

7.  The knowledge that I can do anything for 10 times.

When I was a resident, it was a pretty common sentiment that you can do anything for a month, which is how long many of our rotations were.  Annoying attending?  Terrible co-resident?  Didn’t matter, you can do anything for a month.  This same mantra is applicable to Pure Barre.  Your legs are burning?  Your seat is shaking?  No worries, I just heard “final ten”.  Those are the magic words.  Once I hear those two words of saving grace, I know I can’t quit, I know I am in the homestretch.  Because, I can do anything 10 times.

8.  Constantly updating my goals.

Another great aspect about Pure Barre for my ADD self is that there are so many components of the workout for me to improve upon.  A goal for one class may be to get my leg perfectly straight and closer to the barre during the abs section.  Or, it might be to not let my arms drop at all during the weights series.  Or, to get my upper leg off the ground during side planks.  The list goes on and on.  There are always to many points during the entire class to keep myself interested and challenged throughout.

9.  The instructors.

The instructors at Pure Barre Carmel are awesome.  They are supportive, encouraging and challenging.  They get to know your name, and give personal attention and technique advice during each class.  In the middle of a tough push-up series, it is so great to hear an instructor telling you personally, “Great Job” or when your thighs are shaking beyond what you thought was humanly possible to hear, “Beautiful technique, we are almost there, hang onto it!”.  Even outside of class, the instructors are equally friendly and enthusiastic.  I work in a field with almost entirely men.  I am the only full-time academic female surgeon in my large 1000 bed hospital.  I have begun to look forward to my time at Pure Barre, not just because of the incredibly effective workouts, but also for my “girl time”.  The chats about our husbands, our kids, what foods broke our diets the night before, etc probably don’t sound like a big deal, but to me this is much needed time with other females that my daily life usually lacks.

10.  The results.

I could come up with another 50 reasons as to why I love Pure Barre, but the bottom line is that the results are indisputable.  I have muscle definition I haven’t seen since high school.  And virtually for every month I have been taking classes, I have lost an inch off my body – from my hips, my waist, my arms, and my thighs.  This is by far the most effective exercise program in which I have participated.  You do the workout, you get results.  And, the best part is, because it is low impact, I can do this everyday without worrying about any overuse injuries.  I have had 3 knee surgeries, and when I started this, I was concerned about how frequently I would be able to take a class.  I can only run about 4 times a week because any more than that, my joints start to revolt.  Pure Barre, on the other hand, I have taken up to 6 times in a week with absolutely no joint pain.  In fact, all the strengthening of my core and thigh muscles have made my knees noticeably stronger during my runs.  These results have not only resulted in a smaller jean size, but a huge boost in body confidence.  Is my body perfect?  Absolutely not.  But it is smaller, toned, and most importantly, I’m proud of all the hard work that has gone into it.

I have now burned, shook, and tucked my way to 100 classes, thanks to reasons #1 through #10.  Now, the only question I have left is, is there a 500 club? 😉

of note, I have not been paid or reimbursed by Pure Barre in any way.  This was written purely out of appreciation for Pure Barre and how it has affected my life!

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