Dumbbell Diaries #1

So now that I’ve announced my goals to the whole world, it’s time to start documenting my progress towards those goals. Tonight was my first “after new goal-setting” workout, and I was excited to get started, even though I was tempted to just keep driving towards home after a long and busy day at the office.

As I pulled into the gym parking lot, I knew that I had missed the window where it wasn’t so busy, and this was confirmed as I walked in the door. I knew that I might have to do some exercises out of the order that I planned, but I wasn’t going to let that deter me from getting a good session in. Here are today’s stats:

Workout duration: 70 minutes
Calories burned (per Garmin HRM): 658
Average Heart Rate: 134 BPM 
Max Heart Rate: : 170 BPM

10 minutes on rowing machine

Weights: (# reps/weight in pounds)
-Deadlifts: 10/95; 10/105; 10/115
-Superman Back Extension: 10
Notes: I was supposed to do two more sets of back extensions, but there was a girl hogging the equipment and I was too sore to get all up in her grill and tell her to share. 

-Back Squat: 5/135; 8/105; 8/105
-Tricep dumbbell extension: 10/25; 10/27.5;  10/27.5
Notes: 135 shouldn’t be hard for me on the back squat, but I almost bit it tonight. Not sure if it’s still me coming back from bronchitis and being a little weak, or if my back was fried from deadlifts. Whatever, the reason, those numbers were a huge bummer – better luck next time.

-Dumbbell Bench Press: 10/32.5; 10/32.5; 8/32.5
-Decline Situp: 10; 10; 10
Notes: On the other hand, the dumbbell bench press looks really good! I have done this weight before, but only 20 reps, tonight I cranked out 28 before muscle failure. Progress!

-Lat pullover: 10/65; 10/65; 8/70
-Shoulder dumbbell front raise: 10/10; 10/10; 10/12
Notes: Not much to say here. I really need more lat work if I’m ever going to be able to do an unassisted pullup.

Closing thoughts: A pretty good workout, considering how tired I was from my long day. I need to talk to my trainer to find out why my back squat numbers tanked today, and have him check my form on the deadlift again to make sure I’m doing the move correctly.


Coming Out Of The Closet: End Of Year Fitness Goals

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing some interesting things that probably merit some posting.
In fact, it has been a pretty full Summer so far. I’ve been busy taking fun day trips, working out, attending concerts, checking out new restaurants, and of course, working my day job. But I just haven’t been able to discipline myself to sit down and write with any regularity, especially now that beautiful weather has arrived in Oregon. I want to spend ALL of my free time outside.

However, it’s time to return to blogging more frequently – I enjoy the activity of writing, I enjoy looking back on old entries to see where my head was at during different periods in my life, and I enjoy “meeting” the people who happen to stumble across my blog and are kind enough to leave a comment.

Since my day-to-day job isn’t terribly interesting and I don’t have the time or money to travel all the time, I’ve decided that I’m going to start writing about my fitness journey on a more frequent basis. Not only will it help me to stay accountable, but I’ve also found great inspiration in reading other bloggers’ workout journals, and perhaps I can return the favor by inspiring one of you!

Today, I’ve got goals on my mind.  

When I first started working with a personal trainer, he asked me to fill out a goals worksheet. Although I admittedly rolled my eyes at what I perceived as silly busy work, I figured I was paying a lot of money not to do things his way, and so I dutifully filled out the worksheet and shared it with my trainer.

My primary goal at the time was to acheive a body fat percentage below 24% before my birthday on June 20 of this year. It seemed almost impossible, being that I started my journey at 32%! But, by faithfully lifting weights three times a week without fail and eating a clean diet, I acheived my goal of 23.8% on my birthday this year. It was an amazing feeling, and having my goal written down and shared with my trainer definitely kept me going during those times when I found my motivation lacking.

No, this isn’t me, but it will be some day.

I’ve recently hit a bit of plateau. so my trainer and I decided it was time to write down and commit to a new set of goals. In order to help keep myself focused and accountable, I’m sharing them here. So, here we go!

By December 31, 2012, I will achieve the following:
Appearance/Health Goal 
-Reduce body fat % to 20%, which is at the top end of the “athlete” range for
women. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_fat_percentage)
Current body fat = 23.8%
Performance Goals 
1. Lift the following amounts of weight, for 6 repetitions, using good form (no cheating!): http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/BenchStandards.html
Assumes body weight of ~ 148 pounds and “Advanced” level of strength per above table.
Bench Press: 135 pounds
Back Squat: 185 pounds
Front Squat: 135 pounds
Deadlift: 240 pounds
Pullup/Chinup:at least one pullup or chinup, unassisted
2. Take the Adult Fitness Test (President’s Challenge} and score at the 90th percentile for my age/gender group: http://www.adultfitnesstest.org/
Aerobic Fitness:
—1.5 mile run
Muscular Strength and Endurance:
—Half Situp – how many performed in one minute
—Pushups (full body) – how many to failure
—Sit and Reach test – record measurement
I will achieve these goals by doing the following:
-Lifting weights 3x per week, using programming designed by my trainer
-Incorporating as much “slow movement” into day as possible, including
walking at least 4 miles 4-5 times per week
-HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) 1-2x per week, either as part of weight training or separately (can incorporate sprints into walks, also)
-Continue eating Paleo diet – emphasis on meat, fish, fresh veggies, low glycemic
fruits. Add variety with small amounts of nuts and fermented dairy (kefir or yogurt)
—AVOID: grains, legumes, sugar, anything processed
-Smart supplementation with EPA/DHA (fish oil), multivitamin, Vitamin D3,
magnesium. BCAA’s and whey protein on lifting days as needed.

I’ll be writing more about the how and why, but for now I wanted to get my goals documented in a public place.

So, what do you think? Have you found that having documented goals helps you to achieve them? I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on the topic.

Race Report: Run For The Roses 5K, Saturday June 30

Race: Run For the Roses: 5K, 10K, 15K
Distance Ran: 5K (3.11 miles, but Garmin said 3.36)
Time: 30:27
Splits: 8:05, 9:42, 10:33
Age/Gender Group Ranking: 5/7 (jeez there were some fast women there!)

This was probably the most unusual race I’ve ever run, not because of the race itself, but because of my attitude leading up to it.

As my five readers know, I’ve recently put running on the back burner in favor of weight lifting and high intensity interval training, and the benefits have been spectacular. I’ve lost a few pounds, sure, but more importantly, I’ve gained a lot of energy and self-confidence.  At the same time, I still enjoy running shorter distances – particularly outside in the fabulous mild Portland Summer – so I decided to sign up for this 5K to see how I’d do with almost no running training.

I was excited for the race and had a time to beat in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t worried about it. I wasn’t worried about negative splits, pacing, or anything. I just didn’t care. My main objective was to just get out there, have fun, and see how far my “power” could carry me. Answer? About one mile.

I clocked in at 8:07 for the first mile, which for me is FAST. My legs felt super strong and I could feel my glutes and hams powering me down the road. I felt awesome! However, I soon reached the limits of my endurance and for the rest of the race I alternated between running a decent pace and walking when I needed to get my heart rate down to a manageable level.

My absolute FAVORITE thing about every race I’ve ever done is the finishing kick – the last 100 meters or so before crossing the finish line. Even if I’m completely worn out, I’m always able dig deep and cross the line at what is – for me – a superwoman pace. Anticipating the energy I would need for that finishing kick, I stopped to walk a bit about 500-700 meters from the finish line. I wasn’t walking for 10 seconds when a young woman tapped me on the shoulder and said
“C’mon. You’ve got this”.

“You’ve got this”.

How many times has my trainer said that to me, when I was faltering on the last few reps of a heavy weight, or when I was feeling completely exhausted at the end of a Prowler session? I had busted through my limits then, so why not now?

So I took up the younger lady’s challenge. That whippersnapper wasn’t going to beat me! I think I said “I am gonna die” and she said “so am I” and we laughed, knowing the finish line was getting closer and closer.

As we rounded the corner and hit the track, I could see the finish line. Some force took over me and I hit a 5:42 pace. It felt amazing, and I beat the whippersnapper by few seconds, too.

That’s me in the black, just edging out the younger woman. Heh.

After I got over the urge to vomit and regained my breath, I walked over to her and thanked her for her motivating gesture.

And then I never saw her again, which made me a little sad.

I really do love the running community. I’ve always felt so welcomed, even though I’m hardly an elite with my 1o-minute miles. I think all of us just share a love for movement and it makes us happy to see others out there feeling it, too.

Gluten-free, high protein pizza crust

Before I dive into the recipe, a bit of background on why I would make something as weird as a chicken crust pizza may be in order. 🙂

In September 2011, I read a book called “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf. I was overweight and out-of-shape despite being a cardio junkie and years of following a low-fat “whole healthy grains” approach to eating. Looking around at my fellow Americans, I knew I couldn’t be the only one who had been failed by conventional diet wisdom.

As I read the book, it immediately made sense to me. on a very basic level. The way of eating recommended in the book was almost exactly how I remember my grandmother eating: meat with fat on it, real butter, whole milk, lots of vegetables, nuts, and fruit. No margarine, soy-this-or-that, nonfat milk, nonfat fruit-flavored yogurt, or anything like that. Just reasonable portions of real foods, combined with an active lifestyle that at her age meant lots of walking. She did eat grains, but not large servings and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t GMO wheat brought to you by Monsanto back in the day.

Overall, the transition to “Paleo”, or as I prefer to call it “Grandma style” eating has been very easy. I don’t miss pasta at all, bread only occasionally. I never was a big fan of dairy and still do allow a serving of greek yogurt every day because it has a lot of health benefits. I never drank soda of any kind, and my sweets cravings are satisfied with a piece of dark chocolate every day. My diet now revolves around vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat, and a small amount of full fat dairy. By eating this way I’ve been able to lose fat, add a lot of lean muscle, and generally just feel better with plenty of energy throughout the day. I have fewer headaches and skin problems eating this way, also.

I do have my moments when I crave my “old” foods, however, and that craving is probably strongest for wood-oven pizza. I *love* a super thin pizza topped with mozzarella and fresh basil, or perhaps some amazing soppressata. I have indulged a few times in the past several months and I’m always sorry the day after. Not only do I have a headache from the gluten, but my belly looks bloated and it takes a few days to work through that. Not a good feeling!

Imagine my joy when I came across this recipe for a wheat-free pizza crust made with, of all things, chicken and cheese! It sounded as odd to me as it probably does to you, but I’ll try anything once! I headed out the store and picked up some part-skim mozzarella, a can of chicken breast, and some fresh basil.

I will respect the wishes of the blogger and not post the recipe here, but you can get the recipe and step-by-step instructions, here. It really is easy, and takes just a handful of ingredients, so it’s totally doable for a weeknight meal.


The crust after it finished baking. Mine took about 20 minutes instead of the 12 listed in the recipe.


The finished product. Pizza Margherita, protein style. 🙂


Two slices of this pie gives you about 400 calories and 49 grams of protein!

The verdict? While the crust didn’t have that crackly quality of a very thin-crusted wheat crust baked in a wood oven, it was WAY better than a lot of pizza crusts I’ve tried. It was fairly crisp, and held up well to eating with the hands. I could still taste the chicken a little bit, but that wasn’t a bad thing, and I think the chicken flavor could be pretty much masked by a spicy meat like
pepperoni or soppressata. But since my toppings were cheese and basil, the chicken was definitely a complimentary flavor.

I’ll definitely make this again, and will keep tweaking the flavors to see what I like best!

If you try the pizza, leave a note in the comments and let me know what you thought!

Fitness goals update, oh how they’ve changed!

Wow. It’s been one month since my last blog post, and about 6 weeks since my return from Spain. I still think about that experience every day, and how much I miss that beautiful country. I know I will return, MUST return, but in the meantime I’ve been focused on work and self-improvement. But my definition of self-improvement, at least from a physical standpoint, has changed dramatically in the last six months.

When I started this blog almost a year ago, I was in the thick of training for my second half marathon. All I did for exercise was running, and I preferred it that way. In October I ran that half marathon, not as fast as I’d like, but it still felt like an accomplishment nonetheless. It was, after all, 13.1 miles!

At some point during the race, I injured my knee. In the weeks following the race I tried various means of rehab, with no improvement. I got really depressed, and had several crying episodes to which my husband was witness to at least a couple. After one such episode he suggested that perhaps I needed to find something different to do, and recommended that I start resistance training at the gym we belonged to. I resisted the resistance training. I HATED WEIGHTS!!! Why on earth would I want to lift dumbbells repeatedly when I could do CARDIO? But deep down I knew he was right, and so I signed up for some personal training sessions in early December 2011. The sales rep who sold me the package said my new trainer was a perfect match for me, as he was also a runner who had dealt with injuries. I was skeptical but forked over the bucks and made my initial appointment.

My fears were unfounded. My trainer and I hit it off right away, and he soon started pushing me beyond my self-imposed limitations, which was exactly what I needed. I’ve now been lifting weights 2-3 times per week religiously for the last six months, and oddly, I LOVE IT! I love seeing strength gains almost every week. I’ve lost 13 pounds of FAT and gained 8 pounds of lean muscle. My body fat percentage has dropped from almost 33% to 24.8% (as of this writing). My clothing size has dropped from 8/10 to a 4/6. But most importantly, I feel strong, healthy, and better than I did 10 years ago. I am not overstating matters when I say that lifting heavy things, plus my Paleo diet, have completely changed my life.

But I’m still not done. I have some fitness goals and some body fat % goals, but I have no idea what my goal “weight” is and I don’t care. Yes, I still jump on the scale a couple of times a week just to keep an eye on what’s going on, but it’s no longer my focus.

By the end of this Summer, I want to:

-Do an unassisted pullup
-Run a 5K in under 27 minutes
-Acheive 22% body fat or lower, which would move me from the “normal” to “fitness” level of body fat

Will I achieve these goals? I believe I can. I’ll keep you posted!

A One Night Fling With Sevilla

(I’ve been back from vacation for 11 days now, and while my body is back in Portland, a significant part of my heart and mind are still in Spain. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about our time there – four days in Madrid, followed by seven days on the beautiful Costa de Luz. But nothing haunts me more than Sevilla, a magical city where we only got to spend one night.  Following are some photos and impressions of this fascinating and beautiful little city.)

After two very busy days of driving to Arcos de la Frontera and the Rock of Gibraltar, Mallory and I spent all day Wednesday relaxing in the sunshine on our balconies – the back one first for morning sun, and the front one last for afternoon sun. The most taxing thing we did all day was wander down to the beach for a little rock skipping, picture taking, and playing in the water.

Our wonderful apartment, in the yellow building on the top floor.

The next morning, however, we had to face the reality that our time on the beach was over (just as the weather was starting to get nice, too) and we had a 90 minute or so drive ahead of us to our last night’s destination – Sevilla.

We made it out of El Puerto fairly easily, thanks to Mallory’s navigation skills with the iPad. Once I hit the highway, I again began to enjoy driving in Spain – the freeways are really the nicest I’ve ever seen, and the scenery is beautiful. As we pulled into Sevilla, however, I started to tense up again. Driving in foreign cities is still intimidating for me, but we made it to Santa Justa train station and the Hertz car lot none the worse for wear.

Except it wasn’t the Hertz car lot anymore. Where there had been Hertz spaces a week ago, there were none now. I thought perhaps I was losing my mind, but no – we were in the exact spot we had picked up the car a week ago. We finally found an employee of another rental company who told us that Hertz had “moved”, and so we drove around looking for new Hertz spaces that we never found. Finally, in frustration I just parked the car and we walked with our suitcases through a deluge of rain and up about a thousand steps to Santa Justa.

We get inside and find that there is a different car rental company where Hertz used to be. Or where I thought it used to be? I was really starting to wonder what was happening to my brain. I stuck my head inside the door and inquired “Donde Hertz?” and was given some vague directions to go out the door and to the left. Still no Hertz. We finally called the number and found out that they were now located in what was essentially a trailer ACROSS THE STREET from the train station. Of course it was pouring buckets and my cute new wedges got soaked as we hauled our suitcases over to the new Hertz office, but we finally found it. Such relief!

Our relief didn’t last long. We were stuck behind an extremely high-maintenance American couple, asking all manner of stupid questions, and I was wondering if I would ever get to turn the keys in and enjoy our limited time in Sevilla. Finally, a woman came out of an office and helped us, and it didn’t matter that we had parked the car in a space that wasn’t theirs – I think she could sense my frustration at the run-around we had been given – so with a quick signature and drop of the keys, we caught a cab to the Hotel Amadeus located conveniently in the Barrio Santa Cruz.

A beautiful retreat in the heart of Sevilla,

Walking into the lobby of the hotel provided an immediate sense of relief. Friendly front desk personnel who spoke excellent English, oh and by the way, we had a cancellation so we upgraded your room – for free! Our room was a beautiful retreat – spacious and inviting with a comfy king bed, claw foot tub, and a rain shower, and a ton of space. There was even Mozart playing softly on a CD player when we arrived – perfection! But as tempting as it was to linger, it was already afternoon and we had some shopping and exploring to do.

We set off with a map but without a sense of direction. As such, we spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to get to the sights, but we soon set off in what we thought was the right direction. But first, a stop in a little tapas bar for some cervezas and a light lunch. As we ate, the downpour stopped and we continued our exploration.

The Metropol Parasol, the world’s largest wooden structure, houses the central market and an underground archaeological complex.

The appealing Plaza de San Francisco.

After shopping at a couple of clothing stores (including Zara, of course!) we stopped at an adorable little spot on the Plaza de San Francisco, where we shared a couple of amazing desserts.

Delicious Tarte Limon.

And a decadent Coco Loco.

After getting our strength back with the infusion of caffeine and sugar, we tackled the larger sights of the Sevilla Cathedral, the Alcazar, and the Plaza de Toros (bull ring).

I have no idea how this hottie snuck into my photo … they are just EVERYWHERE in Spain!

The Cathedral is so big, it’s impossible to capture in one photo.

The Plaza de Toros.

Walking around Sevilla, I was extremely sad that we only had one night there. It was tempting to walk around for the rest of the night, but we were getting tired and hungry and so walked back to the Hotel Amadeus to shower up and change for dinner.

After getting cleaned up, we headed for the lovely rooftop bar, where we enjoyed a cheese plate, some cava, and some conversation with an older couple from Canada, and later an older couple from Vermont. Both couples were quirky and cute and interesting to talk to, and we got an excellent tip on dinner from the Canadian couple.

Hunger barely addressed by the cava and cheese, we walked towards Bar Europa for some inventive tapas and a celebratory bottle of – you guessed it – cava! We sat at a sidewalk table since the rain had long since turned to sun, and enjoyed watching Sevillanos and tourists as they strolled by. Our waiter was very friendly and brought us each a glass of dessert wine – on the casa! I could have lingered forever, but we had a 5am wakeup call for our journey back home.

On the short walk back to the hotel, we encountered a group of two dozen or so men, playing guitars and singing in harmony. They were incredibly good, and the atmosphere was electric. I was somewhat mesmerized and could have stood there forever, but we tore ourselves away and headed back to the hotel. The 5am alarm came way too quickly, and we reluctantly packed up the rest of our belongings and headed for the airport. It truly seemed as if our two week adventure was over as soon as it began.

Testing My Limits: Day Trip to Gibraltar

It is now Sunday, May 6, and I’m writing this from the comfort of my couch at home near Portland, Oregon. I’m still feeling tired and jet-lagged from  26 hours of travel between Sevilla and Portland, but I wanted to finish this write-up on our amazing day trip to Gibraltar while the details were still fresh in my mind.

Very out of character for us during our trip thus far, Mallory and I were up and out of the apartment well before 11am on Tuesday to make the 2+ hour drive to the Rock of Gibraltar. After eating a hearty breakfast of fruit salad, greek yogurt, eggs with manchego cheese, jamon, and loads of coffee we set off on the long drive to the very Southern tip of Spain.

As we drove through the Spanish countryside, we were again blown away by how beautiful it was. The natural beauty of the green hills and wide-open meadows were enhanced by hundreds and hundreds of graceful white windmills, gracefully and quietly performing their honorable job of generating clean power for the citizens. I didn’t get any photos, unfortunately, but Mallory did capture a short video of the windmills, here.

Our first peek at the Rock of Gibraltar came a full 30 minutes before we arrived at our destination, and every now and then we would receive another peek at it – taunting us as we wound along the twisting coastal highway. But, soon enough, we rolled into La Linea, the Spanish town just across the border from Gibraltar, and parked the car. This turned out to be an incredibly smart move, as the backup of traffic to cross into Gibraltar had to be at least a mile long.

The Rock as seen from La Linea.

Backup at the border.

Besides, by walking across the border to Gibraltar, you also get to walk across the runway of the Gibraltar airport – how many people ever get to do that?

Runway model.

Crossing from Spain into Gibraltar (which is an overseas territory of Great Britain) we had to show our passports, but disappointedly did not receive a stamp, only a wave-through.

It was a good 15-20 minutes walk from the “frontier” before we reached Casemates Square, an overly commercialized circus of mediocre fish-and-chips shops and tacky souvenirs. However, we were famished from our trip, so we plopped down at a free table on the square and split an order of fish and chips which we washed down with a couple of small beers. Definitely nowhere near the best meal we’ve had during our travels, but it gave us the necessary energy to walk up Main street to the other end of Gibraltar to catch the cable car to the top of the rock. It was not a fun walk at all, unless you count watching thousands of sunburned and overweight tourists buying a bunch of crap they don’t need as an interesting anthropological study. Also, Mallory and I seemed to be the only people headed towards a destination, and thus exerted a lot of energy swerving around large groups of people ambling aimlessly side-by-side in the middle of a crowded pedestrian street.

We finally arrived at the cable car station and bought our tickets to the top. Although I was anticipating the experience would be great, I was not fully prepared for how amazing it turned out to be.

Gibraltar town and La Linea.

Looking South, you can see the continent of Africa in the distance.

Two of the Rock’s furry residents.

The cable car ferries visitors to and from the top of the Rock.

After a couple of hours of admiring all the views but mostly spending way too much time ogling the adorable monkeys, we took the cable car down and had an enjoyable conversation with a couple of retired British gentlemen who looked to be in their 70’s, who had stopped in Gibraltar as part of a 6 week holiday trip they were on. One of the men had last been in Gibraltar in the late 1960’s, and was saddened by all of the commercialization. I could see where that would be depressing, but at least the primary reasons for coming to Gibraltar – the “apes” and the incredible 360-degree views – remain unchanged.

We made our way back down Main street, crossed back over the runway (after a brief stop for a couple of small military plane exercises), and into La Linea. We popped into McDonald’s for quick refreshment in the form of chocolate sundaes, and then made the long trek back to the car and drove back home. It was an exhausting 4+ hours of driving and lots of walking crammed into one day, but it was an experience I will never forget, and one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.