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My First “Murph” June 2, 2015

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When I visited my cousin in Chicago recently, he gave me a hard time (in the most loving way possible, of course) for talking about CrossFit so much.  As much as I try to keep that sort of thing under control, I’ve started to realize that the reason for all of the CrossFit talk is that it constantly inserts itself into your life and puts things in perspective.  Prime example?  My first Memorial Day Murph.

I knew that CrossFit did “hero workouts,” but I hadn’t yet encountered one until a few weeks ago.  We were doing a WOD my coach called “interval Cindy.”  He took the regular Cindy workout – a 20-minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 squats – and broke it down into 5-minute intervals, after each of which we got one minute to rest.  I wound up getting through 14 rounds, and I really enjoyed the workout.  So, coach said that if I liked Cindy, I should come out for Murph on Memorial Day.  When I looked it up later, my jaw dropped: Murph consists of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and then another one-mile run, all for time (meaning, as quickly as possible).  Holy cow!

Then, it occurred to me – coach wouldn’t have told me to come out for Murph if he didn’t think I could do it.  Right?  Sure, I would have to scale it – I don’t have a real pull-up yet – but could I do it?  The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I could do it, and that I really wanted to prove that to myself.

Learning about the workout wasn’t enough for me – I had to learn about Murph himself.  After all, the hero workouts are named after fallen soldiers and first responders, so what better way to motivate myself than to understand more about Lt. Murphy and his ultimate sacrifice?

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Rather than trying to paraphrase, here’s the best information about Murph:

http://www.navy.mil/moh/mpmurphy/

Clearly, Lt. Murphy’s actions during Operation Red Wings were more heroic than anything I will ever accomplish.  As I got ready to head to the box on Memorial Day, I knew that keeping Murph in mind was the only way to focus my energy, complete the tough workout, and honor all of those who gave their lives in service to this country.

After some stretching and strategizing (I decided to break up my Murph like interval Cindy – 20 rounds of 5/10/15), we were off – the first mile didn’t feel super fast, but when I got back up to the box, I saw that only 8:30-ish had gone by.  I started in on the ring rows, push-ups, and squats – and I had set up a little squat station (consisting of a wall ball atop a 45-pound plate), so my form wouldn’t suffer when I got tired.  The first 5 rounds flew by – there was so much activity, and the coaches were all cheering us on, so it was a chaotic but encouraging environment.  Once I got to rounds 10-15 or so, I started to really “feel the burn,” as they say.  The push-ups were starting to get very challenging (everyone said that would be the case), and I had a pesky crampy stitch thing in my side.  I kept thinking about Murph, certain that a lousy little side stitch wouldn’t have even registered for him.

When I finished round number 20, I grabbed my sunglasses and headed outside.  I tried to run, but my legs just wouldn’t cooperate.  So, I decided to walk quickly for a lap or two until my muscles loosened out from all of those squats.  My first half mile was pretty slow, but then I knew I was almost to the finish line, so I tried to go as fast as I could.

I knew that I had lost some time during the workout, so I had no idea what I was going to see on the clock when I got back upstairs.  When I yelled “time,” I got super excited – I had finished in 56:53!  Not only did I finish the Murph workout, but I did it in under an hour.  Yippee!

I am so proud of everyone who participated in the workout – it really brought an added sense of purpose to the Memorial Day weekend.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to complete 100 real pull-ups, and who knows?  Maybe I’ll eventually be able to do the workout while wearing a 20-pound vest, which is technically the full Rx.  The greatest part about CrossFit is that it makes anything seem possible, as long as you are willing to work hard and push yourself.

And in my mind?  That’s worth talking about.

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Progress April 20, 2015

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Noun:

* movement forward or toward a place

* the process of improving or developing something over a period of time

Progress is one of those funny words – based on its definition(s), it is a completely positive concept.  But somehow, in this time and place in which attention spans are short and instant gratification is the goal, progress has been belittled.  Just think about it – if you asked someone how they were doing on a task, you’d be less than thrilled if they said “I’m making progress” (instead, you’d probably hope to hear that they were finished so you could move on to the next thing).

I’ve learned a lot about how to be proud of progress by doing CrossFit.  More importantly, I’ve started celebrating even the smallest steps in the right direction – progress doesn’t have to be monumental to be meaningful.  When I started going to the box, I couldn’t do a proper push-up, and the thought of lifting weights was enough to send me into a panic.  Now, after 2-3 months (of 3x weekly workouts), I am still (usually) the slowest/least talented athlete in the room, but I am better than the day before.  Or, as my husband told me when I got started, “CrossFit doesn’t get easier – it just starts to suck a little bit less.”  Ha!

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So…what are you doing to be stronger than yesterday?

Seriously, Mother Nature??? March 28, 2015

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This blogger is dreaming about maxi dresses, taking my dog swimming, strappy sandals, running outside, and patio drinks.  How about you?

Cross(fit) my heart, hope (not) to die March 9, 2015

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Over the years, I have tried a lot of different exercise methods and classes and programs and whatnot.  I always attempted to be open-minded, but the one genre I never warmed to was the boot camp/CrossFit style.  Even though my husband loved his experiences, I chalked that endorsement up to his military background – after all, having been in the Air Force, he was used to being yelled at and “motivated” to action in less than positive ways.

When we moved to Hill East at the end of 2014, we noticed that there was a CrossFit studio less than 3 blocks away from our house.  Since we had fallen very much out of shape, and since the convenience factor was high, I finally relented and signed us up.  You know what?  I am woman enough to admit when I am wrong…and I was definitely wrong about CrossFit.

CrossFit Inc. defines itself as “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad modal and time domains.”  Whiiiiiich basically means that you do a little of everything!  The hour-long workouts are intense and can include everything from jump ropes to indoor rowing machines to barbells to resistance bands, and everything in between.  Oh, and speaking of the workouts, there is some CrossFit lingo to know – for example, “WOD” means “workout of the day,” which is only one component of the session (the highest-intensity component).  There’s also generally a warm-up, a skill development segment, strength work, and some stretching.  It’s a lot of work for one hour, but it’s varied and interesting and slightly different every time.  CrossFit facilities aren’t called gyms, they’re called “boxes” – and each box has its own personality.  Thankfully, I found a box that is small, encouraging, and fun!

The great thing about CrossFit – which is one of the major things I didn’t know – is that it is scalable.  I thought you had to be a super weightlifter, or be able to do 300 pushups without a break, to be able to handle CrossFit.  But, thankfully, that’s just not true.  The components of each workout have a prescribed (or Rx) level, and then there’s always an option for less than prescribed (or Rx2).  Can’t even do Rx2?  That’s okay, too – you just do what you can and try to push yourself to YOUR limits.  It’s competitive, but in the right way (for me, at least) – it encourages me to compete with myself.  It’s nice to be able to see improvements in your time/reps after you have practiced movements for a while.

Right now, we’re pretty routinely attending CrossFit 2-3 times a week, and hopefully soon we’ll be able to bump up to the full 4.  Regardless, it’s safe to say that this CrossFit convert will be WOD-ing for a long time to come.

Who else out there does CrossFit?  What do you like best about it?

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Grocery shopping in the modern age December 22, 2014

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When we chose our apartment, a big factor was how convenient it was to the grocery store.  The Harris Teeter is literally right downstairs (we don’t even have to go outside to get there, if the weather is crummy), so I’ve gotten pretty spoiled.  Unfortunately, when the store was closed down by the health department recently – yes, you read that right – I was faced with the challenge of finding another option.  Thankfully, this article had recently stoked my curiosity about some new delivery options in town, so it was a perfect opportunity to test some of them out.

First, I decided to grab some basics from Safeway via Instacart.  Instacart gave me the option of about 6 nearby grocery stores, including Whole Foods and Costco (for which you do NOT have to have a membership, as it turns out).  You can get things as quickly as within one or two hours, but I chose a later delivery window since I wasn’t in a huge hurry.  The website is super easy to navigate, so ordering was a breeze.  Some items were marked up, but overall, I didn’t feel like I was getting completely robbed (especially considering the time and energy I saved).  My delivery was free, but it generally ranges in the $4-$10 range, depending on how quickly you need your items.  My courier texted me a couple of times with questions about substitutions, and I appreciated the desire to get things right.  I can definitely see myself using Instacart for parties or other time-sensitive moments, but I like grocery shopping too much to give it up completely.  🙂

Then there’s Postmates.  Postmates isn’t just groceries – it basically turns every store and restaurant in the area into a take-out joint.  When I used it first, I opted to get some of my favorite items from Trader Joe’s.  The actual items on the app (no website here – you have to do everything from the phone) were more limited than in the store, but it saved me a schlep to TJ’s, which was awesome.  There is a delivery fee (which varies) and a 9% service fee, so the charges can add up.  But…Shake Shack, delivered straight to my door?  Worth the premium, especially when I’m in the middle of a move and have no plates or silverware.

Next service to try – delivery booze from Klink!  Anyone tried it?

And the leaves that are green turn to brown November 16, 2014

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Fall in DC really is beautiful, though it tends to be short-lived.  It seems like this fall will be no exception.  Frankly, it didn’t even feel like fall until right around Halloween, and then this weekend, less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, felt more like winter.  The leaves are in big crunchy piles on the sidewalk, it is dark when I leave for AND come home from work, and folks have broken out their scarves and knee-high boots – so, I guess there’s no mistaking the season.

Some animals prepare for winter by hoarding.  In our household, we seem to be doing just the opposite – we have decided to buy a house, so we are thinking about what we can eliminate, reduce, and streamline.  While that process unfolds, I find myself looking and feeling a lot like the many neighborhood squirrels – like I have packed on extra heft to protect myself from the impending cold.  I have been exercising less and less – not only because other things have been more pressing, but also because I seem to have lost the inherent drive to better my body.  Is it unreasonable to think I might get that drive back during the short, cold days of winter?  Past patterns do not give me hope in that regard.

In any case, I will write here when I can – about training, yes, but also about life in our new neighborhood, as we put down real roots and try to become a part of a larger community.  Perhaps our neighbors will turn out to be running partners, or I will find that biking to work is more rewarding on the new route.  Who knows?  Anything is possible.

And, of course, there is always spring to look forward to…

Pucker Up, Buttercup July 29, 2014

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Who knew?  Today, July 29, is National Lipstick Day.  In the past, I was very leery about lipstick, especially in the summer – but with today’s super-moisturizing, super-long-lasting shades, why not put a pop of color on your lips in July?

My favorite shade these days is from NARS, and it is called Heat Wave:

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Fun, no?  It’s a really punchy orangey-red, and you should not let the strong color out of the tube scare you away!  It wears beautifully, and you can even run some clear gloss over it to lock it in and give it some shine.

Of course, anytime I think about lipstick and icons, I think of Miss Marilyn.  Girl could rock some red lips!

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And, no mention of lipstick in the modern era would be complete without an homage to Claire from The Breakfast Club.  Happy National Lipstick Day, everyone!  🙂

56734 Molly Ringwalk lipstick

The Travel Bug – Lewes, DE July 22, 2014

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Originally, my summer travel plans consisted solely of my August trip to California (to see my amazing sister and ADORABLE nephew).  But…sometimes I just get that bug, ya know?  When the walls I’m used to just won’t do, and when I’m dying to explore something new and different and exciting.  And it’s great when the travel itch can be scratched by driving just a few short hours away.  That’s exactly what happened when we spent July 4th weekend in Lewes, Delaware – and now I am completely enamored with “the first town in the first state.”

The real reason we chose to go to Lewes for the holiday weekend was…beer.  🙂  I found out the week before that Dogfish Head was opening a beer-themed inn in Lewes, which is more or less halfway between the brewery in Milton and the brewpub in Rehoboth Beach.  Hubby and I didn’t need much convincing, let’s just leave it at that.  But if you do, there have been a few articles written about the Inn – and Jason and I (and Jack!) really enjoyed our stay.  It is pricey, but the location can’t be beat (short walk to both beach and town), and the hospitality was top-notch.

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The beach at Lewes was another big draw for us – unlike the other area beaches, they allow dogs (before 8 AM and after 6:30 PM during high season, and all the time in the off-season).  I have never seen my puppy happier, or sleepier!  He and his mama had fun splashing around and chasing tennis balls in the waves – while daddy stayed in ankle-deep water, of course.  What can I say?  Jack and I are definitely the water babies of the family.

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There were tons of dog-friendly restaurants and shops, and even though there were obviously a lot of out-of-towners (it was July 4th weekend, after all), the whole town had a very relaxed, welcoming vibe.  But, there was still plenty to do – we opted for an afternoon of kayaking the Broadkill River, followed by a tour and tastings at the Dogfish Head brewery.

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Even in holiday traffic, Lewes was only about 2.5 to 3 hours away from DC.  It was also a pretty drive, between crossing the Bay Bridge and going through some quaint Delaware farmland.

I can’t believe it took me so long to “discover” Lewes and the surrounding beaches.  This fan of sand and surf is awfully glad to have them nearby!  I am already plotting my next trip…

Going Gaga for Yoga June 18, 2014

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After eating my way through San Francisco, I needed a pretty big reset on my (lack of) fitness routine.  Fortunately, my local Bikram studio was running a promotion for 30-days of unlimited classes for $99.  Ideally, they wanted the purchasers to try the 30-day challenge – at least one class every day for 30 days.  I felt like I could at least give it a try (and even if I didn’t take 30 classes, the per-class cost would be less than usual).

For those unfamiliar, Bikram yoga is a particular genre made popular by Bikram Choudhury in the early 70s.  Bikram Yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises, practiced in a hot room (generally 104 degrees and 40% humidity).  The instructors typically use a standardized dialogue to lead students through the postures, but of course each teacher’s style varies.

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I had practiced Bikram off and on over the past few years, but this would be my first attempt in taking back to back (to back…to back…) classes.  During the first class, I felt exhausted and completely out of shape (but, it should be noted, that was all me – yoga is not about everyone being at the same level, and there is no judging).  I concentrated and tried to watch some of the more seasoned students, and even by the third or fourth class, I noticed significant improvement.  It’s just like anything else – the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Even though I noticed steady improvement, I had one particularly bad class where I felt like I was going to simultaneously pass out and throw up – blargh.  Because of the heat and the strenuous nature of the workout, you have to be very well-hydrated AND very well-nourished to sustain a serious practice.  That day, I hadn’t eaten nearly enough at work, and it showed almost immediately.  I didn’t make that mistake again!

Even though I only made it through 8 days of the 30-day challenge (that sounds a lot worse than it is – I just decided to vary my workouts and spend some quality time walking with my pup and biking), I definitely plan to make Bikram a regular part of my exercise routine.  When my marathon training starts in about a week, I can definitely see one or two classes a week being helpful in terms of flexibility and stamina.

And, of course, I want to eventually look like this in Standing Bow Pose:

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A girl can dream…right?  🙂

California Eatin’ June 7, 2014

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I’ll probably be writing a lot more about my fitness pursuits in the upcoming weeks, because holy cow did I eat a TON in California.  I feel like all we did was bounce from meal to meal to meal.  Not sayin’ it’s a bad thing, but after four months of business travel, it was the straw that broke the very overweight camel’s back.  Here are just a few examples of the deliciousness…

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Xiao long bao (soup dumpings) at Yank Sing

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Fried soft-shell crabs over a spring pea salad, cooked at home by my very talented chefly brother-in-law.

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Ridiculously awesome sushi goodness, including the best uni I have ever tasted, at Akikos.

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Dinosaur-sized sandwiches from The Deli Board.  Yes, we cleaned our plates!

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Lemon tart and eclair from our (second) trip to Tartine Bakery.

And that is only the food that stuck around long enough for a photo.  🙂  Trust me, there was more…

I’m going to back for a couple of weeks in August, so I guess I’d better get my ass in gear now!  Anyone want to go for a run?